Jon Ossen fires his single-action rifle at four round-metal targets. The single-action rifle was one of three different guns used during a local gun club's event.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Jon Ossen fires his single-action rifle at four round-metal targets. The single-action rifle was one of three different guns used during a local gun club's event.

A throwback to the Old West

Local gun club plays cowboys and Indians

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Cheyenne Ossen, 13, readies her long-barreled weapons for the timed course.

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"Rebs by Durn" says Stacie Ossen, a.k.a. Sidewinder Sadie, meaning she is ready to begin the contest to Range Officer Bob Puck, or Cuz'm Dutch, on Saturday. The Northwest Colorado Rangers hosted its final shoot-out of 2008 at Bears Ears Shooting Range. About 17 Ranger members stepped to the line to shoot targets in the timed trial.

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Range Officer Andy Bullen readies his timer as Summer Ossen steps up to the firing line.

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Members of the Northwest Colorado Rangers pose for a photo during the last shootout of 2008 Saturday at Bears Ears Shooting Range.

Stacie Ossen, or "Sidewinder Sadie," as she's called by her fellow Northwest Colorado Rangers, wasn't trying to show off.

Sure, she had just nailed the bonus target during her round Saturday in the shooting group's season-ending event, but it wasn't because of her accuracy.

It was because a hot shell casing had ejected from her lever-action rifle and fallen down the back of her dress.

"It's still in there now," Ossen said laughing while trying to reach the inch-long piece of hollow metal. "This is too good of a time."

Ossen wasn't alone Saturday in failing to hide her enthusiasm toward the monthly event.

More than 20 residents take part each month in the Rangers' fun and games on the side of Cedar Mountain at Bears Ear's shooting range.

But, the Rangers do things a little bit differently than one would expect.

Each member wears throwback cowboy or cowgirl outfits from the Old West days of the mid-to-late 1800s, and they go by names like Colorado Hank, Exasparilla Summer, Rusty S. Pots and Soda Creek Jack.

The three different weapons they use during the single action shooting events - rifles, shotguns and handguns - all are from the same era.

To the Rangers, the Wild West still lives on.

"It's like being 10-years old again and playing cowboys and Indians," Rangers founder Jim Hasler said. "But with real guns."

In Saturday morning's "Yankee town stage," participants fired a lever-action rifle at three - four, if they went for bonus points - iron plated targets, switched to a single-action handgun and fired at 10 more targets, then finished off the round by knocking down four final targets with a shotgun.

"Every one of the guns has to be an original or replica gun from the 1860s to 1899," Rangers lieutenant Lois Stoffle said. "The whole idea is to be using original weapons from the cowboy and Indian times."

Participants are timed, with points deducted for missed targets. Henry Durkop, or "Colorado Hank" as he's known around the Rangers' shooting circle, breezed through the course in 54.26 seconds.

"It's a lot of fun participating in this," Durkop said. "I've been doing it for 15 years now. I really enjoy firing the old single action guns."

The Rangers don't have an age limit, as evidenced by the presence of 10-year old Veronica Mead, or "Broken Spoke Colorado."

Mead learned to shoot from her father, grandfather and sister, as a way to enjoy a new "hobby."

"It's just fun," Mead said. "I like shooting the rifle the best. It's quick."

"Quick" is an understatement when watching Hasler or "the some dense kid" fly through the Yankee Town course.

Hasler hit all 18 targets - including the bonus - in 32.74 seconds.

"Dressing up is where you get the most feel of the old days," Hasler said. "That, and firing a double-barrel shotgun. We've been doing this a long time now. It's a blast."

The 2008 shooting season now is behind them, but the Rangers plan to get back on the range in February, and Stoffle encourages interested participants to attend an exhibition called "Open Range Night," on Oct. 14 to try the sport out.

"We will have pistols, rifles, shotguns and safety gear here for anybody that wants to give it a go," she said. "We have a lot of fun out here. Come give it a shot."

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