Messenger photo by John Matuszak
It’s not a hold-up or a shoot-out at the Drexel East theater in Bexley, but members of the Scioto Territory Desperados Cowboy Action Shooting Club—(from left) "Deer Creek Dick" Colburn, Stagecoach Hannah, Col. Cord McNalley (Lloyd Smith) and Lucky Levi Loving (Jerry Swank)—are ready to take on any bad guys that mosey along. The members were invited by theater owner, Jeff Frank, to celebrate the opening of the new Western, "3:10 to Yuma."
A bit of the Old West moseyed into the Drexel East theater in Bexley Sept. 9, as members of the Scioto Territory Desperados Cowboy Action Shooting Club rode in to celebrate the historical era and the opening of a new Western movie, "3:10 to Yuma."
The members—with aliases like Deer Creek Dick and Stagecoach Hannah— remember when Westerns were regular fare in movies and on television from the 1940s through the ‘60s, and kids played cowboys and Indians.
The sagebrush sagas are much less common these days, but the Desperados and other clubs affiliated with the Single Action Shooting Society still live by the Code of the West and still have fun playing cowboy.
"Once they see cowboy action shooting, they’re hooked," explained Col. Cord McNalley, a.k.a. Lloyd Smith of Whitehall.
Every shooting club member—85,000 world-wide—is required to take on a Western persona and a period costume when taking part in competitions.
Smith has always liked shooting guns, and he grew up watching the movies of John Wayne, Gene Autry and other Western stars.
Lucky Levi Loving (Jerry Swank of Logan) grew up around horses and was interested in cowboys, so it was natural that he join the club when it was founded in 1996. Swank is also a leathersmith who creates holsters and other Western gear.
Members try to be as historically accurate as possible, according to "Deer Creek Dick" Colburn of Mount Sterling.
Two members visiting Tombstone, Ariz., were mistaken for historical re-enactors and then were offered jobs at the OK Corral.
The members are bigger sticklers for authenticity than some of the old movies.
Colburn, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of firearms, notices when movies that take place in the 1870s feature weapons that weren’t introduced until the 1890s.
Getting dressed up in Western gear is half the fun. And then the shootin’ starts.
During monthly competitions, would-be Wyatt Earps are required to fire four weapons, including pistols, rifles and shotguns, at targets set up at different stations. The scenarios often re-create famous movie shoot-outs or historical events.
Smith considers a time in the high 20s to low 30s a good score. Some shooters can get off their 24 rounds, while moving from station to station, in a blazing 17 seconds.
The weapons have to be fired in the right order, and there are penalties for shooting them out of sequence or missing a target.
There are eight categories in which the shootists compete, from traditional to B Western, with participants donning the fancy boots and outfits of cowboys such as Roy Rogers.
Western-style camping is also part of the draw for the members. They circle the wagons on weekends and hold shooting matches on the third Sunday of the month at a place called Desperadoville, near Chillicothe. Other shooting clubs hold matches on the first Sunday of the month at Big Darby Creek shooting range near West Jefferson.
While many of the members grew up during the golden era of the Hollywood cowboy, the clubs also attract members as young as 8 in their Buckaroo division.
Some of the teens, with their quicker reflexes, are faster than the old timers, Colburn admitted.
And what Western outpost would be complete without the ladies?
More women are taking part in the sport, offered Stagecoach Hannah (who declined to provide her real name). They now make up about 20 percent of the Single Action Shooting Society membership.
Life wasn’t easy for women out on the frontier, Hannah said. "You were either hard-working or a working woman."
Teaching safety is a big part of the club’s mission.
And, like latter-day Lone Rangers, they have been known to do a good deed. Club members have raised more than $11,000 for local charities and have donated to Children’s Hospital.
Recently, they gave the West Jefferson Police Department trauma kits to treat shooting and stabbing victims.
They adhere to the courtesy of the bygone days and keep the competition fast, friendly and fun.
The romance of the Old West is not ready to ride into the sunset, and there are nine Cowboy Action Shooting Clubs in Ohio.
Colburn thinks audiences want to see more Western movies, but the studios "don’t give a hoot what people want to see."
He may be right. "3:10 to Yuma" opened to positive reviews and was the number one movie at the box office for the weekend.
The Scioto Territory Desperados Web site is www.sciotodesperados.com.
Information about the Single Action Shooting Society is at www.sassnet.com.