Shooters pay homage to real and cinematic versions.
By Sarah Linn / San Luis Obispo Tribune
In the little town of Chorro Valley, spurs jangle, wood smoke wafts through the air, and the clang of bullet on steel target is the sweetest sound any cowpoke could hear.
That's what hundreds of men and women will see, smell and hear this weekend when they flock to the golden hills north of San Luis Obispo for the John Wayne Shootout.
The event combines 19th-century weapons and classic movies in a Wild West setting.
Participants dress up as outlaws and lawmen with old-fashioned revolvers and rifles by their sides.
The shootout runs through Sunday with speed shooting contests, a shotgun elimination round and a .22-caliber shooting gallery. The event, organized by the Chorro Valley Regulators, is free and open to the public.
Now in its 13th year, the John Wayne Shootout started as an annual get-together for the Chorro Valley Regulators, local weekend warriors with a love of rawhide.
About 50 shooters meet at least once a month to shoot single-action revolvers, lever-action rifles and antique shotguns. They range in age from the teens to 85.
They're fans of cowboy action shooting, which features timed competitions using replicas of weapons that were popular from 1850 to 1899. Shooters don period personas and costumes such as leather chaps, 10-gallon hats, spangled suits and bustle skirts.
Forget Billy the Kid. For the Chorro Valley Regulators, it's names like General Delivery and BadDog NoBiscuit that count.
"It's kind of childish. We dress up in cowboy clothes, and we pretend to be someone from an old movie," said Los Osos shooter Larry Pozdolski, known to fellow gunfighters as Fillmore Coffins.
It's an expensive hobby, with guns and clothes costing thousands of dollars.
"We like to joke where this is a sport where women talk about guns and men talk about clothes," he said.
The John Wayne Shootout draws some of the top shooters in the Single Action Shooting Society, which boasts 75,000 members internationally. Some can pop off 10 rifle rounds in just over two seconds, organizers said.
At the heart of the shootout is American movie icon John Wayne. This year's shootout coincides with the 100th anniversary of the actor's birth.
"We tried to look back at who epitomized the West as we know it, the American way and patriotism," Pozdolski said. "John Wayne stood up as an icon, head and shoulders above the rest."
The action takes place at the Chorro Valley range, a row of plywood facades that resembles a Hollywood back lot. Shooters compete in three styles -- one-handed, two-handed and "gunfighter," firing a gun in each hand -- using lead bullets and birdshot.
Groups of 20 or so people work through 12 stages based on battles from John Wayne movies including "Rio Bravo," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "True Grit."
For instance, the "El Dorado" stage has gun-slingers shooting at church bells, nailing "bad guys" and knocking down a swinging sign -- just like in the movie.