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Yep, these cowboys do a bang-up job on the shootin’ range

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Troy Shantz

Once a month, a dusty posse of cowpokes meet at a firing range to affirm who’s the fastest gunslinger in the west.

Well, west Lambton, anyway.

Cowboy action shooting is a competitive game held at the Lambton Sportsmen’s Club. It’s a multi-gun match in which competitors are timed with pistols, rifles and shotguns as they attempt to hit targets on a wild west-themed course.

Clare McKellar, aka Carrot River Cal, fires off a lever-action rifle.
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Just as important as the competition is the mandatory period regalia, complete with nicknames like “Stoney Creek,” “Wyatt” and “Wrangler Smith.”

Russ McPhee, the co-ordinator and a regular shooter, said he only knows some of the competitors by their cowboy handles. Ten-gallon hats, bandanas and ammo belts complete a gunslinger look the late John Wayne would approve of.

“In fact, when you go to any of the main matches … you must dress appropriate,” said Sarnia competitor Mike Scott, who has been a cowboy action shooter for 18 years.

“And the boots, of course, period correct for that time. End of the 1800s.”

Another unspoken rule: everyone is smiling and at home on the range.

“Every time I do this it’s a new adventure,” competitor Dave Gorman said of the game, which originated in southern California.

“It’s fun, and for the couple of minutes before you go up you’re just so nervous,” added Lyric Allin, a 19-year-old competitor from Corunna.

Corunna resident Ed Allin congratulates granddaughter Lyric Allin, (aka Lady Lyric) after completing a round.
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“You’re heart’s pounding and you’re kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to do?’”

Many of the shooters at the Bickford Line club are local but some make their way here from Chatham, London, and even Ottawa.

Hugh Fraser, who rode in from Hamilton, has competed since 1990.

“You’d think I’d be better at it because I’ve been doing it for so long,” he said with a laugh.

“My motto is, ‘It’s never too late for a happy childhood.’”


Mike Scott of Sarnia, aka Cody Wales, runs to take up position during the shotgun phase of his round.
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It’s not all fun and games – missing a target results in costly time penalties. Dropping a gun or leaving your position with a loaded weapon also hurts your score and can lead to disqualification.
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Jim Smith lines up a shot during a round.
Troy Shantz

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