Cowboys and cowgirls were invited to the Hope Rod and Gun Club’s Cowboy Action Shoot on Sunday. The popular monthly event features shooters in traditional western garb and is targeted for families and anyone wanting to test their mettle in a series of old west themed courses designed for time and accuracy.
The once a month competition features shooters, who compete in various scenarios using firearms typical of the era. Single action revolvers, pistol caliber lever action rifles, and old-time shotguns were implemented as each contestant battled it out for top score.
There were three stages in the competition with each stage testing different skills and abilities, affording shooters the chance to improve upon overall accuracy and handling.
The Cowboy Action Shoot follows the sanctions of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS,) an international organization that preserves and promotes the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting.
To get in the old-time mood, participants were encouraged to dress in clothing appropriate to the 19th Century era. Shooters were able to choose a fictional character or to develop their own personal icon.
The club suggests that participants start with blue jeans, cowboy boots, and a hat. Costumes can be as elaborate or minimal as the individual desires.
Bankers, blacksmiths, lawmen, gunslingers, railroad engineers, saloon girls, schoolmarms, cavalry, mountain men, trail cowboys, prairie women and just about any imaginable character from the bygone era are conceivable.
Competitors were only male on Sunday (due to a smaller turnout for Mother’s Day,) but the club is home to both male and female shooters.
Costumes and accessories added to the fun and set the mood for taking care of business in the old west according to club member Louise O’Hara, who was on hand taking score for the day’s activities.
Fierce competitors with the aliases of Scofield Kid, Vest Windbreaker, Parson Pickaxe, Rooster and Appaloose Screw were reigning havoc on targets during the event.
Sunday was just one of many exciting things the club is up to.
Rod and Gun Club President George Preston, a retired RCMP officer with over 31 years in the force met with The Hope Standard to discuss some of what the prestigious organization has to offer.
“We are an active organization, there’s a lot of people in town who have an interest in firearms,” said Preston who teaches the PAL course. To be eligible to apply for the PAL, applicants must have already passed the written and practical tests for the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC.)
The PAL course teaches safety and how to handle a gun properly in accordance with the licensing system in Canada. According to Preston, a fire arm cannot be owned, unless the purchaser has obtained a PAL certificate.
There’s a prohibitive screening process that a candidate must undergo before they can even take the PAL course, which operates as a system to weed out the good candidates from the bad.
“It’s all about safety — I won’t pass someone unless I feel they are safe,” said Preston. I will meet with people beforehand to get a feeling about them and there’s a couple that I’ve refused because something was off.”
Preston begins his interviews by asking people why they want to own a gun, and if they can’t come up with a sufficient answer he red flags them. Any issues, like marital trouble, or psychological problems are par for preventing people from acquiring firearms or even completing the courses to obtain them.
The club consists of 170 properly screened members and because of the small size, members know other members and can discuss any issues amongst each other.
“So far we haven’t had to kick anyone out because we know who our members are,” said Preston.
There are many reasons that people join gun clubs, one of them being that a regulation to owning a small hand gun in Canada, is that the owner be a member of a rod and gun club.
“They have to comply with legislation, so some members join for that reason. We’re also a hunting society, everybody has a gopher story where they fired a round at gophers and groundhogs or hunted ducks with their Dad.”
Generally people have had a positive experience with firearms and they join because of the events and opportunities available to them at the club, including .22 Shoot, Tactical Shoot, Trap Shoot, Pistol Shoot and Cowboy Action.
Shooters can start as young as 12 under supervision and with core safety courses under their belts.
“People come out for the social aspect of it, and we also have a pistol league on Wednesday’s because there’s a lot of people in town with hand guns, who don’t know what to do with them and I teach them how to shoot in a course of fire.”
A course of fire involves shooting steel targets in a specific sequence according to Preston, who is adamant about safety briefings and range protocol for all shooters.
Newbies can try out a firearm at the .22 shoot under Preston’s supervision and instruction. He currently instructs the local RCMP in firearm training sessions at the RCMP Pacific Region Training Centre in Chilliwack and is a competitor in various firearm competitions on the national scene.
The club adheres to all Canadian safety regulations and has had quite a history over the years. It is home to a solid group of community oriented business people, who have undertaken many community initiatives like fishing derbies, and participating in last year’s Fraser River Clean Up.
Potential gunslingers are encouraged to find out more about the club’s many events and are invited to attend one of their scheduled shoots, where they can chat with members of the organization.
Please visit hbcrgc.org for more details.