(MO) OK, Pardner, want to play Wyatt Earp?


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Drizzt
July 10, 2003, 11:21 PM
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)

July 7, 2003 Monday Five Star Late Lift Edition

SECTION: EVERYDAY MAGAZINE; Pg. E1

LENGTH: 1014 words

HEADLINE: OK, PARDNER, WANT TO PLAY WYATT EARP?

BYLINE: Jim Winnerman Special To The Post-Dispatch

BODY:
Our friend Jerry Garrett likes to surprise my wife and me by chaperoning us to unusual destinations or events around St. Louis without telling us where we are headed. "I like to judge how much I have surprised you by your expressions when we arrive," he always says.

As we turned into the Arnold Rifle and Pistol Club and passed several empty shooting ranges, this trip did not seem to meet Garrett's way-out-of-the-ordinary criteria.

Then we saw it. Our first impression was that a small town and its citizenry had survived 150 years without notice. The real explanation was related by Craig Hirsh, a friend of Garrett's who greeted us.

"In 1981, Harper Creigh, an avid gun collector and marksman living in California, was watching an old Western movie on television when he got an idea as to how to add fun to the shooting matches held at his gun club," Hirsh said.

"Harper suggested a friendly competition using Western-style guns carried by cowboys when the West was being settled. After he organized several matches, rules began to take shape, eventually evolving into a new sport called 'Cowboy Action Shooting.' Today, CAS is the fastest growing outdoor shooting sport in the country."

The guns used are antiques or replicas of those carried by the cowboys on the Western frontier between 1865 and 1899. Included are a .45 caliber single-action revolver, a pistol caliber lever-action rifle and an old-time shotgun.

"Most participants are not too competitive," says Hirsh, who is a government compliance officer. "Many of us just enjoy the opportunity to shoot at unique targets. Others are more interested in dressing up in period clothing, which we require to be worn."

Matches are based on a series of cowboy scenarios and are frequently taken from old movies or books. A scenario usually requires that three types of guns be used. It also puts participants in the role of main characters of a story, which they must act out as they shoot their way through the scene.

In one example, the shooter may be portraying a sheriff protecting the town when the James Gang tries to rob the bank. Or he may be playing cards when he has to chase an outlaw, caught cheating, out of the tavern.

In St. Louis, a match consists of five scenarios, each using a different set that opens out to a shooting range. Groups of 10 to 15 people (a posse) work their way one at a time through each set, being scored for accuracy and speed.

The sets include a jail and general store, a saloon, a blacksmith shop and cavalry post, a barn, a hotel and cantina and an open field. Lined up one after another, they look like the set of a Western movie.

Different props are moved from set to set to add variety to each match. Props include coffins, outhouses, fences and even a silhouette of a train engine.

"Of all the CAS clubs, our sets are some of the more involved," Hirsh says proudly.

"We also use creative targets," Hirsh says, pointing to targets in the shape of a grave, skillet, whiskey jug and a buffalo. "The targets are metal so they are easy to hear when hit. And they do not have to be replaced or visually checked like a paper target."

New members choose a name, or alias, to be used at CAS matches. The alias must be appropriate to a character or profession of the late 1800s or be from a Western movie or book. Names are carefully screened against a master index of the more than 38,000 other member aliases to ensure they are original.

Hirsh is Cripple Creek Craig at a match. Will Shortly, Railroad Bill and Billy the Kidder are some of Hirsh's favorite names among the 300 other members of the local CAS club.

With so many gun-toting cowboys together at one time, safety measures are strict. At each stage, guns are loaded at a designated table under the close supervision of a judge. Another judge accompanies the shooter to the range and remains standing directly behind him to ensure he remains pointed "down range" and to keep score. Once the guns have been fired, gun chambers are checked at a separate table under the scrutiny of another official.

"Although we use a reduced load of ammunition consistent with the black powder used in the old West, these guns are still dangerous if not properly handled," Hirsh says. "It is everyone's responsibility to point out anything unsafe. That is one reason we have never had an accident."

Between scenarios, members store their guns in carts that stand upright and resemble a rectangular wooden golf bag. Oversize wheels allow the carts to be pulled from stage to stage. Rifles and shotguns are kept in the carts in "open position" so they cannot be fired, while handguns are kept in holsters.

"Unfortunately, this is an expensive sport to get into," Hirsh says. "The guns, clothing, holsters and cart can quickly add up to an investment of over $1,000."

Despite the cost, there are 350 CAS chapters in 18 countries throughout the world. Membership is 20 percent women, and 10 percent are under 17 years old.

While the St. Louis club follows the original concept of CAS, other clubs have taken the idea in a different direction. Mounted cowboy action shooting is a new equestrian sport in the tradition of Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. Participants shoot targets from horseback while riding a specified course that follows a Western scenario.

Regional CAS matches are held each year, with the best shooters going to the End of the Trail World Championship and Jubilee, a five-day competition in April. In addition to shooting matches, the event features cowboy poetry, costume contests, a cavalry encampment, trick roping and a chuck-wagon cooking contest.

= = = =

Arnold Rifle and Pistol Club

When: 9 a.m. July 20 (CAS matches are held the third Sunday of every month)

Where: 8343 Metropolitan Boulevard

How much: Free

More info: 636-475-5900, or on the Web at: cowboygass.com. Be sure to take earplugs and some type of eye protection. The sound of several hundred bullets being fired at metal targets is loud, and, on impact, the targets can fling fragments of lead back toward spectators.

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Alan Smithiee
July 11, 2003, 12:07 AM
cool! no one claimed that the SASS Corperation was the governing body this time! (Like the article in NRA's Outdoor Women this month). if you haven't tried CAS, find a shoot and go, it is just way way way to much fun!

six 4 sure
July 11, 2003, 02:36 AM
I can't believe the Post Dispatch printed something positive about guns.

six

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