by KATE SHUNNEY
Cowboy Action Shooting Sports and the Single Action Shooting Society held the 27th annual Appalachian Showdown in Largent last weekend. The event, which is the West Virginia State Championship for chapters in the state, ran from Friday, September 21 through Sunday, September 23 at the Singing Hills Ranch between Great Cacapon and Paw Paw.
Competitors in cowboy action shooting dress in period clothing from the “Old West” and use firearms typical of the time when settlers from the east moved into the western territories of the U.S.
Single-action revolvers, pistol-caliber lever action rifles and traditional shotguns are the weapons of choice for timed shooting events during the championship. Shooters also register and compete under aliases that make reference to cowboy culture, or their personalities – such as Sundance Sam, Buzzard Breath and Dusty Lady.
Multiple timed events challenged the 63 match shooters not just on their marksmanship, but their ability to switch between several kinds of firearms in a single stage and to shoot targets in a specific order – often more than a dozen shots are required in the right sequence.
At Singing Hills Ranch, shooters faced 10 stages built to look like scenes out of the Old West. In one, competitors started at the entrance to a mock gold mine, complete with a mining cart. At others, shooters were poised at a graveyard scene, or at a saloon, or had to face targets with a wooden wagon at their side.
Props and stages distinguish the cowboy action shooting from other firearm competitions, but speed and accuracy are still the measures of who wins the competition.
Shooters are timed at every stage, and take a penalty for every target they miss. Shooters can also be disqualified for any number of safety violations, like an accidental discharge of their weapon, or even pointing the muzzle of their gun – loaded or not — toward another person.
At the long-range rifle stage, shooters took aim at targets set 100 and 182 yards up on a wooded hillside. All their shots were taken without the aid of modern scopes.
Lucky, a shooter from Pennsylvania, said he’s been competing at the Appalachian Showdown for 13 years. He shoots in the Cattle Baron category – shooters over the age of 75. He said the West Virginia match is the only state championship he sticks with. The people in the sport are the best, said Lucky. Even when they’re competing, they’ll help other shooters out with ammunition, or even lending a gun to shoot if their own malfunctions.
Deputy Doran was in her 14th year shooting the event.
“It took me 13 years to get first,” she joked.
Her favorite weapon to shoot is a rifle, because of its superior accuracy. She said cowboy action shooting is a good hobby.
“It’s fun for a husband and wife to do together,” said Doran.
Deputy Doran finished this year’s match first in the ladies senior category.
The overall winner of the match was a Walker Colt of Virginia. Mad Dog Max was the West Virginia state champion and top in the 49er category.
The local chapter of cowboy shooting hosts the event. Dean Perry is the president and Todd Buzzerd is Vice President. Buzzerd said for many years, the local group hosted the only cowboy shooting event for several states.
Dennis Hiett saw the cowboy event while on a visit to California, and talked Buzzerd and others into creating one here in Morgan County. Now there are several cowboy shooting chapters in West Virginia, said Buzzerd, and in surrounding states. A group of about a dozen local “rangers” set up and maintain the stages, and prepare for the annual event, which is sanctioned by the national Single Action Shooting Society.
Competitors came from as far away as California, New York and Massachusetts to test their gun-slinging skills against Mountain State shooters.
B/Western – Rawhide Ron
Cowboy/Cowgirl – Sundance Sam
Frontier Cart Duelist – Dirt Slider
Wrangler – Sunshine Marcie (ladies) and Marshall Perry
Gunfighter – Walker Colt and Bdoc (ladies)
Frontier Cartridge Gunfighter – Jack U. Mist
Elder Statesmen – Geronimo Jim
Silver Senior – Jessie May Belle (ladies) and U.S. Sugarfoot
El Patron – Flatboat Bob
Senior Duelist – Chilliwack Buck
Frontier Cartridge – Yankee and Boston Lady
Classic Cowboy – Carolina’s Longarm
Duelist – Low Plains Drifter
Senior – Deputy Doran (ladies) and Cody Conagher
Cattle Baron – Shenandoah
49er – Mad Dog Max and Lena Ockley (ladies). Full match results are on the Cowboy Action Shooting website.