Mounted Shooters Vie For State's Top Slots

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Scenes straight out of yesteryear and reminiscent of 1800s gunfights and Tom Mix movies will unfurl Aug. 30 and 31 in the Payson Event Center.

The occasion will be the Mounted Shooters of America Arizona State Finals.

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In Mounted Shooters of America competition, which will be held Aug. 30 at 31 at the Payson Event Center, entrants must ride their horses through a predetermined course firing two revolvers, one at a time, at a series of colored balloon targets.

In the competition, which begins at noon on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday, entrants must ride their horses through a predetermined course firing two revolvers, one at a time, at a series of colored balloon targets.

As quickly as the balloons burst, workers -- usually Payson teenagers recruited by MSA president T.C. Thorstenson -- race into the arena to replace them.

The shoot winners are the riders who can negotiate the course in the fastest possible elapsed time without incurring penalties.

The top 10 finishers will compete Saturday evening in a special appearance of the Bares, Broncs and Bulls Rodeo to also be held at the Payson Event Center.

It begins at 7:30 p.m.

When competing in Mounted Shooters of America events, riders do not know which of the 16 possible courses they will be required to negotiate. The courses sport a variety of names such as Big Dice, Run-N-Gun, The Fish and Double Barrel-Double Gate.

In the Double Barrel-Double Gate, riders enter the arena and must ride through a gate, shoot a blue balloon then ride through a second gate and shoot another blue balloon. After rounding a barrel, the competitor is required to shoot five red balloons in succession before ending at the original start line.

Participants compete in go-arounds much like tie-down ropers do in professional rodeo. At the Payson competition, each rider will have three "go's" and there will be a single-elimination extreme shoot-out at the conclusion of each day's events. It is called a 20X match.

Judges assess penalties for missed targets, failure to follow the course, knocked over barrels and lost hats. MSA rules require participants to dress in the spirit of the Old West by wearing Western-style shirts, boots, hats and pistol holsters.

The mock revolvers -- each rider carries two -- must be replicas of pistols manufactured prior to 1898. Most are single-action Colts, Ruger Vaqueros or Smith & Wesson Schofields. The guns do not fire real bullets but bursts of gunpowder from the barrels that pop the balloons.

Riders compete for prize money in one of five pro classes based on their skills, past experiences and successes.

The admission to Bares, Broncs and Bulls is $15.

There is no admission for MSA daytime performances.

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