Aiming high

Roy 'Big Timber' Stephenson wants to be the best shot in the Wild West

During the week, Roy Stephenson can be found fixing cars at Chapman's Automotive. But once a month when he pulls on his cowboy boots and straps on his holster, "Big Timber" is transported back to an old west shootout.

Stephenson is a member of the Single Action Shooting Society, one of an estimated 60,000 members worldwide competing to find out who is the best shot in the Wild West.

"It's basically playing cowboys and Indians," Stephenson said.

The premise is an Old West gunfight based anywhere from 1860 to 1899. Shooters have to dress up in attire appropriate for that era, and shoot live ammunition from either original or replica guns from that era. All have aliases (Big Timber, for example) from that time period, as well.

"It's a whole other world," Stephenson explained. "I have been shooting with people for five years and never know their real name."

Stephenson, a lifelong competitive shooter and a gun collector, said he got involved with cowboy action shooting about five years ago and is now addicted to it.

"It's the most fun I have ever had," he said. "Other competitions are straight-laced and serious. We will be serious for about 30 seconds and then we are back to having fun."

His local posse of 25 to 30 people call themselves the Northwest Colorado Rangers. They have competitions monthly at the Bears Ears Sportman's Club, and travel to state and national competitions.

Competitions involve shooting through four to 12 different stages with ordered targets using a variety of guns. The shooter with the fastest time overall wins, but mistakes, such as missing a target, add seconds to the score. Stephenson explained that a good shooter knows the balance between speed and accuracy.

Big Timber certainly knows about being good. In the 2003 state championship, he took first in the modern class. In the 2000 national championship he took seventh in the modern class, and in the 2003 national championship he took eighth.

Classes are dependent on the quantity and type of gun, and ammunition. Competitions also hold a variety of side shoots, and Stephenson won first in three and second in another at the 2003 state competition.

Stephenson's goal is to continue improving his national ranking. "I know I can rank in the top five percent in any match in the country," he said. "You have to have dedication to be good, but I want to be good."

The fun behind the competitions starts by designing interactive stages with steel targets, and scenarios for them.

Stages include detailed wagons, saloons, jails and even hotel rooms, Stephenson said. He recalled one scenario where a shooter had to lie down on a bed and shoot "cockroaches" (ketchup packets) off the wall.

"We watch old cowboy moves and think, 'We could do this!'" Stephenson said. "There is no limit -- just let your imagination run wild."

Stephenson's wife Patricia, a.k.a. Lady Bountiful, is part of the club, but enjoys the spirit more than competition. She dresses up and joins Stephenson at all the competitions and is his official scorekeeper.

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