Shooting Competition Offers Wild West Spectacle

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Unwary visitors to the Payson Event Center July 2 and 3 might have thought they had somehow been caught in a time machine that had transported them back to the Wild West.

What they were seeing, however, wasn't yesteryear, but rather the Mounted Shooters of the West competing against one another in an Independence Day celebration shoot.

The Old West spectacle featured about 50 members of the Mounted Shooters of America (MSA) who were in Payson to compete in a state championship showdown.

Their targets were not outlaws soundly booed by audiences in the Hollywood cowboy Tom Mix classics. Instead, they aimed at red and blue balloons posted in the arena throughout the event by a group of Payson teens.

MSA president T.C. Thorstenson recruited the young people 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 drew another from their belts and continue to fire.

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

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

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

Although the gunshot sounds were realistic, the pistols did not fire bullets, but spurts of gunpowder 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.

Each day of the competition, a Wild West show wrapped up the competition. Among those who appeared were Great Harvey Wallbanger, a performing buffalo, as well as the cowboy specialty acts, Trick Rider and GunSpinner.

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