Photo by Michael Meyer
Mark these dates: June 24 and 25. On those days the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) invites the public to visit the largest cowboy action shooting competition in the world. And you won’t have to travel far to enjoy it: the event, known as End of Trail, takes place at Founder’s Ranch in Edgewood.
Founded in California in the early 1980s with a mission to preserve and promote the sport of cowboy action shooting, the now international organization is headquartered in Edgewood and has grown to over 100,000 members, ranging from young children to octogenarians.
“You come for the shooting, but you stay for the people,” says CEO Misty Miller (a.k.a. Misty Moonshine.) Why the alias? Members are required to adopt an Old West-style name. No two can be similar. Sorry, but Annie Oakley, Rooster Cogburn, Doc Holiday, and Wyatt Earp are already taken. Big Nose Kate and Josie Wales appear to be available, though. Outfitting oneself in period-correct clothing and accessories is also a requirement for participants.
“The names kind of level the playing field,” Moonshine explains. “It encourages people to check their egos at the door and concentrate on the full experience and fun of our events.”
There are over 500 SASS-sanctioned clubs nationwide that hold monthly shooting competitions, but End of Trail is the big one, the official World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting. Now in its 35th year, the competition has been held in June in Edgewood since 2005. Moonshine estimates that over 1,000 competitors come from about 12 countries to compete every year.
While there is a spirit of camaraderie among the participants, it’s a serious competition. “We have a wide variety of events for all ages and genders,” Moonshine says. “Some are fun and some are really serious, but they’re all for bragging rights. We don’t award cash prizes. The only way you leave End of Trail in a Cadillac is if you came in a Cadillac.”
Kids compete as Buckaroos and Buckarettes, while the older folks can exhibit their skills as Grand Patrons and Grand Patronettes—and a number of events feature varying shooting styles and weapons. The weapons used must be single action, whether they be pistols, rifles, or shotguns, and all are required to be of an Old West style. There are also horseback riding and costuming competitions. All the events are designed to simulate well known historical incidents or movie scenes. Shooters are judged based on time and accuracy.
In addition to the competitors, End of Trail also draws anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 visitors. “It’s kind of an Old West version of a Renaissance Festival,” Moonshine says. “We have vendors, plenty of food, and good entertainment.” Admission is five dollars and children under eight years old are free.
SASS began their move from California to New Mexico in 2004, when they bought 480 acres on the outskirts of Edgewood. Since then they have built a full-scale replica of an Old West town, 18 shooting bays, a shotgun competition area, and a horseback shooting site. Construction and improvements continue, with new buildings popping up every year.
Even though SASS is all about Old West traditions, shooting, and fun, their primary focus is, and always has been, gun safety.
Members can obtain range master training, and a certified range master oversees each shooting event.
The SASS record speaks for itself: no serious injuries, ever. “We have a motto that we all agree to adhere to,” Moonshine says. “‘Be safe, have fun, be safe.’ We’re proud of what we’ve created, but we’re just as proud of how we’ve kept things safe all these years.”
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