December 31st, 2013
Video link at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry9hwWSydB0&feature=youtu.be
"Howdy, ma'am, I’m Homebrew,” smiles a genial looking white-haired gent.
“Good afternoon, I’m Whiskers,” nods another man who looks like he should be running moonshine in his off time.
They're just a few of a very colorful cast of characters that meet monthly at the Koko Head Firing Range in East Oahu. They could definitely be straight out of the Wild West - but they're actually modern day cowboys... and modern day American Indians.
As if on cue, a man with long braids greets me with, “My name is Silver Wolf. Aloha and how.”
They're all here to relive the glory of the American Frontier Days. Club president Branded Buck - also known as Phil Rapoza - explains. “We are called Single Action Shooters Hawaii. It is a local cowboy action shooting club that started in 1981.”
While there may have been no law on the original Western range, this club certainly has a code. Continues Branded Buck, “You pick guns designed pre-1899. You pick an alias according to how you feel.”
Above all, he says, they emphasize safety. New members take gun safety and training courses and register their firearms. Branded Buck explains, “What we want to promote is gun safety and have a fun venue for families to come out and shoot with us.”
About two dozen members meet monthly to shoot 'em up at Koko Head Firing Range. Elaborates Branded Buck, “We’ll do civil war themes, things like that.”
Club member Ashes to Ashes, a young woman, says, “I like it because it’s different. In this, we get to do piston, shotgun, rifle- all in the same setting- and there’s the background story to each set up we do, which is really cool.”
For instance, the scenario on this day was based on the plot of the Warner Brothers movie Searchers, in which a Caucasian woman was stolen by Native Americans. The shooting range is divided into two parts - one half represents the shoot out when the woman was stolen. The other half of the range represents the fight to take back the woman.
It also happens to be a milestone birthday for the club. Branded Buck says, “Today we celebrate the 106th birthday of John Wayne. He’s been my hero growing up. What we did was set up stages today in honor of the movie The Searchers that he starred in.”
Club member Ken Ito, also the State House Representative (D) for District 49, joined a few years ago. “After I saw what’s going on, I said, 'I’d like to try it.' I’ve been here for three or four years. I enjoy being among these type of people.”
Ashes to Ashes says, "It just makes it more challenging, a little bit more of a sport, more fun.”
She's referring to the metal targets shaped like western images - whiskey bottles, vultures, bison. They're not the usual bullseye target practice. The person who can hit all the targets the fastest will win bragging rights.
"Standby!" booms club member Eric Ako's voice as he prepares to time another competitor's round.
Why do they do this? Branded Buck speaks for the club when he says, “When they used to watch books or see silver screen movies about the Wild West and how exciting it was, the romance of it all - people want to relive it.”
It's like staging their own little Western drama every once in a while! Reporting from East Honolulu with videojournalist Triggerfinger Tracy, I'm Deadline Di.
For more information on the club and how to join, go to http://sashgunclub.com.
*Post script: the video accompanying this blog won first place in the Society of Professional Journalists - Hawaii Chapter "Excellence in Journalism" for Best Videography. Awesome work, photographer/ editor Tracy Arakaki!