New Zealand Shootout
WASS 3rd Annual Cowboy Championship & New Zealand End of Trail
By: The Hangman Will Lynch, SASS #7623, WASS #15
The Western Action Shooting Society, Inc. (WASS), New Zealand (NZ) 3rd Annual Cowboy Championship and New Zealand End of Trail was held October 22-25, 1999. WASS is the organizing body in New Zealand for Western Action Shooting and, as such, assists clubs throughout the country to run CAS style events. This year the Rifle Rod and Gun Club, in Palmerston North, was the chosen club and the WASS County Rangers organized a fair dinkum, full on, cowboy weekend.
Out of about 2,500 total pistol shooters, New Zealand has about 300 dedicated cowboys. Forty-five of these arrived at the range Friday evening for a Bar-B-Q and drinks social night.
Saturday was a magnificent morning with brilliant sunshine. The bacon beans and eggs were sending out the required message and soon all shooters were in the dining hall, fed and rearing to go.
The group was formed into three posses of fifteen and, although initial thoughts were they were too big, the numbers proved to be an asset when chores were needed to be done. Every competitor did their job and not one person shirked the responsibility of scoring, resetting targets, picking up brass or the other countless tasks that require teamwork to ensure the day ran smoothly.
The courses of fire followed a theme. Saturday, the scenario involved Ralph Sutton, a one-time gunfighter who had long since hung up his guns. Each competitor took on this persona and was challenged by present day gunfighters and desperado gangs.
The first stage was the Shoot up at the Saloon. The shooter began in the doorway rolling a candy imitation cigarette. It was then placed in the mouth, and a knife was thrown into a gunfighter before all hell broke loose.
The second stage, Outhouse Blues, involved being occupied on the dunny (down-under terminology for outhouse) and through the cracks, Red Thomas and his gang were seen approaching the house. Ten pistol shots, six shotgun rounds-while on the run, and nine rifle shots saw to it that Red and his boys didn’t bother you again.
After lunch it was onto the third stage, Hang Tough Gus. Gus was sitting on his horse about to be lynched. The shootist surprised four bad guys with his/her shotgun and Gus was left swinging after his horse bolted. A well-aimed rifle shot cut the rope to let Gus drop. The rest of the shots, including the handgun, were directed at the swinging target in the doorway, which was activated as Gus fell.
As if that weren’t enough, Seth Harris had kidnapped Jamie in the last stage of the day and had held him in the local jail. Ten pistol shots through the windows saw those inside dispatched. Grabbing the necessary key, shooters were to race around the corner and unlock the jail door (which, I might add, came from a genuine jail). Six shotgun rounds were sent into approaching baddies and then Jamie had to be dragged into the street and thrown over the horse. Using the nearby wagon as a rest, ten rifle shots made sure nobody dared to follow.
On Saturday afternoon, the ultimate challenge took place. The man-on-man pistol event set shootists up against Flash Conover: the slickest gunfighter of them all. The man-on-man is a regular part of all competition in New Zealand and involves shooters who stand side by side each facing four targets. On the signal, each shooter has the five rounds in their pistol with which to drop all plates. Only one miss is afforded. Payden Kash proved the deadliest and after eliminating all of the shooters, went on to become “Gunslinger of the Year”.
For the first time, man-on-man shotgun was included as a championship event. This is almost identical to the pistol stage, except shooters have one more target and six rounds. This is a pure adrenalin rush with two reloads against another competitor as well as the clock. The spectator appeal is outstanding. For crowd participation, this event could have been run constantly over the weekend and nobody would have stopped shouting for their own champion at the line.
After the Gunslinger Competition on Saturday, Ralph Sutton was eliminated and the story took a novel twist. The scenario now told us that Ralph’s younger brother, Jamie, was the lead character. Flash Conover had
gunned Ralph down and Jamie’s mission was to hunt him down and put an end to his killing. Each stage had Jamie confronting Flash in a different situation and each time it appeared that he escaped by the skin of his teeth.
Sunday brought the shooters out in droves even though it was a miserable and overcast day, the complete opposite from the day before. Doc Cavendish and Goldie got up early to put breakfast on. Coats, blankets, and the closest canopy were the most sought after items on the agenda. Loading and unloading tables were brought under cover and for a while it looked like the only action was going to be defending the bar from an early opening.
The new day began with A Pair of Colts Beat Four Aces, which was set inside the saloon. Moving through, you needed to alternate between ten pistol and ten shotgun rounds to deal to the card-playing desperadoes.
The Ambush hardly seemed fair when shooters had to fire into a group of Pinkertons with a rifle and a pistol, then mount a horse, and shotgun the rest during the wild ride downhill.
When lunch arrived, there were forty five cold and wet shooters intent on an indoor gunfight which may well have happened had it not suddenly brightened up outside.
The third stage was Heads You Lose, but that was only if you had a good arm. Shooters began behind the wagon and threw a full bottle of rum at a snoozing guard (we could see this being a popular stage, so we substituted the rum for a bowling pin). Many variations of the throw existed and many different expletives came out as the bottle whistled within inches of the target. I think hitting the guard was more important to some than the following pistol, shotgun, and rifle shots.
As the event came to a close, observers watched Jamie chase Flash all over town in the final stage, Purgatory. What began outside the saloon and shooting over the batwing doors moved along quickly to the Drapery next door. As Flash disappeared out the back, so did Jamie, shooting all the way. With his shotgun in hand, he chased and shot down the alleys as he went. Unable to catch him, Jamie used his rifle on Flash as he rode out of town. Cutting his horse from beneath him, he could only take careful aim and hope to get Flash as he fled into the abandoned mine never to emerge.
The cloudy afternoon skies cleared up by dinnertime, and people turned up in all their finery confident that another night of revelry was not going to be dampened by the earlier bad weather. Maybe it was something in the water, but by now, half the gang thought they were rattlers. Some even began to look like them and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
As if we lived in some Jekyll and Hyde land, Monday was as clear and warm as anybody could hope for. The competition had finished and all that was left was the enjoyment of fun pot shoots, the suspense of the event results, and the anticipation of the team event.
New Zealand is a two-island country divided into the North and the South Islands (there are a couple of other small ones, but they don’t count in a situation such as this.) The sad thing is that us Northerners believe we are a better breed of folk than our Southern countrymen. This is fine until you have a North versus South log chop and them Southerners are there in person. With dozens of steel chickens, bowling pins and the like littering the grass, a huge log buried in the ground with a smaller one on top, the two teams of twenty or so set off to annihilate everything in sight. The teams had identical targets and the ground huggers had to be cleared with shotguns and pistols until nothing remained standing. The top log, which was ten inches in diameter and three feet tall, had to be knocked to the ground before any shooting was allowed on the main trunk. For several minutes I thought we had gone overboard on the logs. They were 16 inches thick and stood six feet tall about 25 yards away from the bunch. What we didn’t see initially, and it was only picked up by the eagle eye of the video camera, was that the South had two rifle shooters ‘stitch’ a line across the log at the beginning for the rest to aim at. They cut the top off a good three minutes ahead of the North. I estimate that between 2,000 – 3,000 rounds went downrange in the space of about 12 minutes. It was certainly an impressive sight made even more so by the fact at least half the shooters were using black powder. Barrels glowed and so did the smiles of satisfaction.
The results were the only thing left to analyze and trophies were duly given out. The winner of the Third Annual Cowboy Championship was Payden Kash. Payden is a relatively new cowboy shooter from the Golden Downs Rangers who shoot out of the Nelson Pistol Club and we all congratulate him on a fine effort and consistent shooting.