"I said give me all the money," yelled Buckskin John as he picked up his rifle, firing eight shots before grabbing a money bag and rushing to saddle up his horse. He proceeded to unleash four shotgun blasts, followed by 10 pistol rounds, during a mock bank robbery scenario for the Juneau Gold Miners Posse's monthly cowboy action shooting competition at the Hank Harmon Rifle Range.
Kirk "Buckskin John" McBride said the Juneau Gold Miners Posse, which is one of the shooting disciplines of the Juneau Rifle and Pistol Club and a part of the Single Action Shooting Society, attracts 12 to 19 shooters during cowboy action events held on the third Saturday of each month. He said the shooting society is the fastest-growing shooting sport, with about 35,000 to 40,000 members nationwide.
"We've got lawyers, we've got police officers ... we've got a pretty good selection of people," McBride said during a Nov. 16 event.
Don "Jack the Farmer Colton" Brand, a new community officer for the Juneau Police Department, said he appreciates people keeping the Wild West's history alive by holding cowboy action shooting competitions.
"I just think it's a lot of fun," he said "It's a good chance to come out and play cowboy with real ammo ... Some kids just never grow up."
When joining the shooting society, each person chooses an alias of his or her choice.
"An alias can be adopted from fictional characters or historical characters," said McBride. "There's some really interesting names out there."
Treadwell Lightly, Lucky Bullet, Ready Bouillon and Horse's Itch are several of the names McBride mentioned.
Before each competition the group spends time going over safety procedures and Single Action Shooting Society rules and regulations. Eye and ear protection is required for those participating, and heavily encouraged for spectators.
"Safety is paramount," said Art "C.W. Knight" Pilot. "This is to have fun, but we want to be safe."
McBride said safety is "well respected and enforced" during competitions.
"It's primarily to have fun, to spend time with like-minded people," said Pilot. "Even if you don't win, or don't shoot well, you still have fun."
The Juneau Gold Miners Posse was assembled after a group of local gun collectors decided it would be fun to get together with other firearms enthusiasts to shoot and share common interests.
"A lot of people get into it because they say they enjoy the old weapons," said McBride. "A lot of people say they get into it to keep history alive."
The group had its debut competition in March of this year, a second competition in June, and has been getting together on the third Saturday of each month ever since.
McBride said some of the weapons used during the events are authentic 19th century guns, and they try to keep their costumes and firearms as authentic and "period correct" as possible.
"I enjoy handling firearms, or being around firearms," said John "Snakebelly Jack" Leque. "They were very much involved in the development of our country."
"To this day, the whole cowboy action shooting is representative of a lot of the (frontier) values that are still present today," he said.
During their Saturday shootouts, posse members usually compete in two rounds, each with a different scenario and target placement. On Nov. 16, the first scenario was being cornered in a barn with "some bad hombres riding" their way, shooting eight rifle rounds, four shotgun rounds and five pistol rounds. The second scenario involved escaping after a bank robbery, shooting eight rifle, four shotgun and 10 pistol rounds.
"It's not about being extremely accurate," McBride said, "it's more about having fun and playing cowboy."
The winner of each round depends upon the accuracy and speed of the competitors.
"One of the real nice aspects of this competition is it's not based on how you shoot, but it's a lottery for the prize," said McBride. "Everyone brings a prize, puts it on the table, and the best shooter gets first choice. If you bring a prize you take home a prize ... You can almost look at it as a swap meet."
The winner of the competition is determined by the sum total time of the two rounds, with 5 seconds added for each target missed.
McBride, whose wife and son also participate in the competitions, said the group is always looking for more members.
"The events are open to the public," he said. "Everyone is welcome to come out and shoot. Most people are more than willing to let people shoot their guns. We do have some loaner hats, if people want to come out and have some fun with us."
The Juneau Gold Miners Posse will conduct a free shooting clinic at the Hank Harmon Rifle Range off Montana Creek Road on Nov. 30. For more information on the clinic or the posse, McBride can be reached at 321-4032, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric Morrison can be reached at email@example.com.
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