Shoot 'Em Up: Old West Style


A scene straight out of a 1920s Tom Mix shoot 'em up Western movie unfolded Memorial Day weekend at the Payson Event Center.

The Old West spectacle featured about 50 members of the Mounted Shooters of America (MSA) who were in Payson to compete in the "Beat the Heat Memorial Day Shoot."

Their targets were not the bad guys and outlaws soundly booed by audiences in the Hollywood cowboy Tom Mix classics, but red and blue balloons posted in the arena throughout the days by a group of Payson teens.

MSA president T.C. Thorstenson recruited the youngsters to replenish the balloons that served as targets for the mounted marksmen.

In the competition, the shooters usually raced onto the grounds from the arena's west end with their six shooters blazing. As soon as one pistol was emptied, they'd draw another from their belts and continue to fire.

Some negotiated the course well and broke each target balloon. Others had trouble urging their steeds through the course and left some targets intact.

The mock revolvers each rider carriedere replicas of pistols manufactured prior to 1898.


Members of Mounted Shooters of America must be expert marksmen and skilled riders.

Most were single-action Colts, Ruger Vaqueros or Smith & Wesson Schofields.

Although the gun shot sounds were realistic, the pistols did not fire bullets, but spurts of gunpowder from the barrels that burst the target balloons.

The winners were riders who negotiated their way through the course the fastest without receiving any penalties. Judges assessed penalties for missed targets, failure to follow the course, knocking over barrels and lost hats.

MSA rules required the competitors to dress in the spirit of the Old West and many took the requirement to heart donning the finest in 1800s Western attire.

According to Thorstenson, mounted shooting is the fastest-growing equestrian sport in America, attracting participants from all walks of life.

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