When Tom and Pam Crawford got married, they didn't dress in a tuxedo and flowing wedding gown. No, they dressed in western-style clothing from the 1890s and got hitched at the Sandusky County Sportsmen's Club in Gibsonburg.
"I came in on horseback and my wife came in on a carriage," Tom said. "I had a lot of cowboy shooters there and they wore their guns. It was basically to re-enact an 1890s wedding. We had almost 300 people there and it went off very well. They all said they've never seen anything like it."
|Cowboy Action Shooting, a take-off on the
Old Wild West, at Sandusky County Sports-
men's Club in Gibsonburg. (Photo by Carol
The Crawfords, who live in Martin, Ohio, are members of the 800-strong SCSC, which started in 1950 and features a modern clubhouse, trap houses, firing ranges, 3-D archery trails through the woods, and a cowboy town.
Tom, 66, has been involved in the increasingly popular sport of Cowboy Action Shooting since 1990. Cowboy Action Shooting involves competitors dressing Old West style and shooting at targets using only period piece pistols and shotguns.
"Cowboy Action Shooting started in 1979 or 1980," Crawford said. "It really started to take off in the mid-80s out west, and it's worked its way east. It's a part of the Single Action Shooters Society (SASS), which is a worldwide organization now. It's pretty popular. We're over 100,000 members and counting."
SASS endorses regional matches conducted by affiliated clubs, promulgates rules and procedures to ensure safety and consistency in Cowboy Action Shooting matches, and seeks to protect its members' Second Amendment rights. SASS members share a common interest in preserving the history of the Old West and competitive shooting.
"The gun I'm shooting now is a traditional-style handgun called a Ruger Vaquaro," Crawford said. "We require two pistols and I wear strong-side holsters, meaning both guns are butt to the rear. With a cross-draw holster, the left gun is facing forward and you have to twist your body in order to draw it. I shot that way, right and left, for a year but I went back to double dualist, meaning I shoot the right pistol with one hand unsupported and with my left hand unsupported."
Cowboy Action Shooters use slide- or lever-action rifles, side-by-side barrel shotguns, and single-acton handguns.
"They are square steel targets," Crawford said, "but sometimes they are different shaped targets for different ways the stage is set up. Each stage will have anywhere from 1-5 targets for the handguns. They have to be shot in a specific order. You might have one where you go left to right and go back to the left. We use a lot of different scenarios.
"The pistols are (shot) from 5-7 yards, so it's not really that far. It's a speed game as well as a cowboy dress-up game. It's the old version of cowboys and indians we used to play as kids."
Crawford said his wife has become pretty proficient with a gun.
"She shoots trap and skeet with me," he said. "She does very well at it."
"I'm pretty good," said Pam, who added that she is a big fan of the Cowboy Action Shooting community.
"The people make the big difference with Cowboy Shooting," she said. "You shoot for the fun of it. It's wholesome and all about being good to one another."
Cowboy Action Shooters compete for different clubs and in different divisions. Crawford's group is called the Sandusky County Regulators, which has an old western town set up on the SCSC grounds.
"There is a modern class, a traditional class and a frontiersman class (black powder revolvers), and we have senior divisions," Crawford said. "They've added some classes this year. Basically, the revolver determines what class you can shoot in."
There are clothing requirements in Cowboy Action Shooting. Classic cowboy requires boots and spurs, chaps, a vest, a pocket watch, a kerchief and wrist cuffs. Every shooter is encouraged to select an alias for competition purposes.
"My alias is Two Dogs," Crawford said. "When I joined SASS, my alias (became) protected. I just registered Pam's alias, Two Cats, two years ago."
Shooting matches are conducted on the second Saturday of every month, from April through November. Sixty-eight shooters competed at the SCSC event in Gibsonburg on April 14; the next competition is May 12.
"On average we have between 68-80 shooters every month," Crawford said.
Gene Swartz calls himself "Dakota Jack" during Cowboy Action Shooting competitions. He got that name by combining the name of the Dakota pick-
"Jack also happens to be my middle name," Swartz said. "And, it sounded like a cowboy name and I just stuck with it. You have to have a western alias to shoot. I wear a sheriff's badge and I have the basic (western-style) pants, shirts, suspenders and hat. I'm not as big into my costume as a lot of the other guys are."
Swartz, 55, who lives in Curtice, has been Cowboy Action Shooting for more than a decade but he is not a member of SASS. He is a member of the Ottawa County Conservation League.
"I just kind of heard about Cowboy Action Shooting from a friend and decided it would be fun," Swartz said. "I enjoy shooting and I just went and tried it on a whim. I was basically hooked. I had a lot of fun, and you meet a lot of nice people with the same interests you have. I like the guys. It's kind of like being in a golf league. People have the same interests as you and it's fun to do. It's like going to a race."
Swartz competes in the gunfighter class and said his shooting prowess is "about middle of the pack."
"In the gunfighter class, I draw both pistols out at the same time and alternate shots left and right at the targets," he said. "A lot of other ones, they shoot two-handed. I like gunfighter class. It's fun. I think it's cool and it seems to be the class I have the most fun in. It took me two years to get proficient with my left hand and be fast. You have to be as fast as you can. You just point 'em and shoot 'em. If you're aiming, you're losing time."
To learn more about Cowboy Action Shooting, visit www.scsclub.org and www.ourcowboys.org.