Ready... aim...

Range Master Ken McClure tests his skill against the 6-Gun Challenge with a Uberti Colt Walker converstion .45 Long Colt revolver at the Captain Aaron Shannon Cole Shooting Range during a recent Cherokee Rangers Old West Shooting Club event.

Old cowboys never die; they just ride into the sunset and join up with the Cherokee Rangers Old West Shooting Club “Company K.”

The club held its third event of 2008 on June 14 at the Captain Aaron Shannon Cole Shooting Range between Rusk and Alto.

Range Master Kenneth McClure is operator of the range and the founder of the shooting club, which he said was organized as a way for people to stay in touch with their Texas pioneer roots.

“We have some members who go all out and dress in historically accurate costume and we have people who are just interested in shooting old-west style guns in a safe and secure environment,” McClure said as he and other club members readied themselves to do a little target shooting.

The range is named in honor of McClure’s great-great-granfather, who served as a captain in the Confederacy during the Civil War. He once owned and farmed the land where their range is located and the land still remains in his family today.

“This is a very safe, secure range as it has 12-foot tall dirt banks on all four sides,” McClure said. “We have been shooting here for roughly eight years and have never had any accidents or incidents.”

The Cherokee Rangers are a family-oriented group that stresses firearm education and safety that focuses on shooting the classic firearms of the old-west era.

“Shooting safety glasses and hearing protection are required and no alcohol nor high velocity hunting ammunition loads are allowed, as we use only low- to medium-velocity target ammo as it has less recoil and is safer and much more pleasant for the ladies and kids to shoot,” McClure said. “This is not a speed contest as accuracy and safety comes first and everyone having a safe fun time is our top priority.”

The club boasts 26 members of all ages.

“The firearms safety education is a big point,” said Patsy McMichael, an Ironton resident. “Anyone who wants to learn about firearm safety can come here and get a first-class education, with no pressure and maybe have a little fun, too.”

Oakland resident Shawn Dean agrees.

“I’ve shot all my life,” he said. “The best thing about this club and clubs like these are what people learn about firearms and firearm safety. Guns aren’t bad. It’s people who are bad.”

Each range outing is opened with a prayer, a salute to the Texas flag and a review of the rules of the range.

Only one shooter at a time is allowed on the firing line and are not allowed to load their firearms until it’s their turn to shoot or before they’ve passed inspection by the range master. All shooters are always under the direct supervision of the range master.

The range features several stages of targets including the “6 Gun Challenge” that consists of six metal knock-down targets at 15 yards for the single-action revolvers; “Shotgun Alley” that offers two knock-down targets at 20 yards for the double-barreled coach guns; “Lever Action Lane” with 10 hanging metal targets at 30 yards for the lever action carbines; and various metal targets at 50, 75 and 100 yards for the big bore buffalo rifles.

There are over 40 targets total to engage at the range — built by Bo and Ronnie Blackstock and Don Folkes, all members of the club.

On Saturday, a wide variety of classic single-action revolvers reported to the pistol stage — everything from an old original Colt .44-40 to a modern Ruger Old Army and Uberti Colt Walker, both converted cap and ball revolvers that now chamber in .45 Long Colt.

There were even several old Remington and Colt .44 cap and ball percussion revolvers used as well.

On the intermediate rifle stage, several old lever-action Winchester saddle ring carbines chambered in .44-40 and .32-20 made appearances, as did a modern Uberti Henry .44-40 rifle and several modern Winchester and Marlin lever actions chambered in .38 and .44 special and .45 Long Colt.

For the long-range target stages there were many unique long guns on hand such as the famous Sharps falling block and Springfield trap door .45-70 caliber buffalo rifles, an original old Remington rolling block saddle ring carbine chambered in .50-70 and a modern reproduction of the famous Spencer carbine in .56-50.

“I just like shooting the old stuff,” said Cherokee Ranger Richard Bramlett of Jacksonville. “I’ve known Ken for 20 years and I think it’s great he’s opened up this opportunity for all of us and anyone else interested in the firearms of the Old West.”

On Saturday, all shooters completed their initial warmup stages around high noon and broke for lunch brought by members, complete with sandwiches, fried chicken, homemade cobbler cooked on location and plenty of ice cold drinks.

“It’s good to be a part of a group like this,” said club member Amy Buys of Maydelle. “It’s something fun to do and it gives us a good excuse to dress up.”

After lunch the group began the second round of stages and wrapped up around 4 p.m..They enjoyed fellowship and the big shop fan powered by a gas generator to cool down after a long hot day.

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