Small Talk

Modern Cowboys

December 31st, 2013

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Video link at


"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

*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!

20 Responses to “Modern Cowboys”

  1. HiloBilly:

    Happy New Year, Deadline Di!

    Sounds like a fine bunch of people having fun!

    Growing up in Hilo, when TV first appeared, all of us hurried home to be sure to catch Sheriff Ken & his posse & all the other cowboy shows of the time (Kit Carson, Hopalong Cassidy, Wild Bill Hickok, Tom Mix, John Wayne, etc, etc). My mom was from Waimea, & there was just something to the whole cowboy culture. We all wanted to be cowboys, Indians, or GIs.

    Great innocent fun time of our lives...

  2. Diane Ako:

    HiloBilly, What a nice memory! Thanks for sharing! Happy New Year.

  3. KevinA:

    On AMC every Saturday morning, while sipping coffee and having started an early morning load of laundry I sit back and watch re-runs of Chuck Connors as the "The Rifleman." The amazing thing about these 1960's dramas is how much action and emotion they could capture with so little high tech manipulation. Immediately following the series, "The Rifleman," AMC continues with re-runs of "Rawhide," starring a very youthful Clint Eastwood. Again, lots of drama, action and great storytelling which relied on very little high tech CGI effects which were non-existent at the time.

  4. Tom B:

    What a blast! That looks like a lot of fun. Thanks!

  5. Tom:

    Great report! Fun to watch!

  6. HI-sailor:

    Very nice story.

    And, as much fun as the Single Action Shooters Hawaii are, it would also be nice to see more features on other aspects of the Koko Head Range activities.

    But this is a wonderful start!

  7. Joe Mancinelli:

    Thanks for the wonderful coverage of the shooting event.

  8. mike S.:

    What a great video, looks like such a blast......

  9. punaperson:

    Mahalo Diane for a humorous and informative report on gun owners and gun activities that doesn't portray gun owners as "gun nuts"... well, not in a bad way! I hope you get a chance to show more of the public the law-abiding gun owner side of things and maybe even wake up a couple of Hawaii's hoplophobe legislators. Thanks again!

  10. chris mann:

    Thanks for the great story and video. We do need more coverage of events like this.Shooting sports have been unfairly shelved as politically incorrect. Your story just goes to show shooters are just regular folks like you and me.

  11. Tom G:

    What an enjoyable story! It's refreshing to see the shooting sports featured in such a positive way. I'd like to see you offer more profiles like this. There are many clubs that hold various activities at Koko Head!

  12. Gary:

    Hi Diane,
    Nice story piece. It would be nice if in the future you could cover the shooting range operations (pistol, rifle, skeet, IPSC, etc.) that aren't "special events". In this way, you'd show how safety is ALWAYS the priority at the KHSC. With all the "bad press" recently about stray bullets making it over the mountain, one has to wonder if it was truly from the range itself or if it was on some person's anti-gun agenda to make the range seem unsafe.

    If the stray bullets did come from KHSC, then perhaps the city should consider making a new range on the Leeward side against the Waianae mountains, where it's be a miracle for any bullet to get over the mountain and land in a residential area.

    On another note, perhaps you could also have a story covering the need for concealed carry permits to actually be issued here in Hawaii. The state of Oregon, long an example used by politicians for everything from the rail system to who-knows-what, has had a concealed carry program since the mid-90's. If lawfully armed law-abiding citizens created a problem, wouldn't you think that the state would've rescinded the law? More than 3/4 of the states issue permits to carry firearms to any mentally-stable, law-abiding citizen without a criminal record, who can show proficiency in the safe handling and operation of their firearm. We should do likewise so that our citizens can be protected against the predatory vermin that targets the weak and elderly. After all, I've never heard a police officer ever say that it was "their job to protect us".

    Aloha & Mahalo for a great story!

  13. Jon:

    I've been wanting to get into something like this for a fun day with my family. Thanks for the great article!

  14. Wannabe Cowboy:

    What a great story! I loved it! Who would have thought Honolulu has its very own cowboy reenactment club devoted to paying well deserved homage to the brave men and women of the old west and having a heck of a good time doing it? What's not to love? And kudos to Diana Ako and Tracy Arakaki for finding these colorful and fun-loving folks.

  15. Diane Ako:

    Thank you, everyone, for the nice comments! I appreciate also the suggestions for other story ideas. Since Tracy and I do this on our spare time a hobby, after our day jobs, we'll do our best to accommodate the other ideas, too. He love this topic so I'm sure he would be totally open to it.

    The SASH club was so nice and accommodating and on behalf of Tracy, we want to both say thanks again to the club for having us, Phil for setting it up, and Ken Ito for his referral and for taking the time to talk about it in depth to me.

  16. Tracy Arakaki:

    That was a lot of very great posts. To the folks who say we need more stories like this portraying the shooting sports communities and its activities in a positive light? I say, yes we do. As a matter of fact a show covering all aspects of the Hawaii shooting sports community has been in the works for over 2 years. It will be coming out this year, in a few months as a matter of fact. We had wrapped shooting the bulk of the first 2 episodes and I am now in final editing. Expect to see firearm builds and stories on MPPL, Koko Skeet Club, Ed Masaki, HRA, HDF, legislative updates on bills that will affect the shooting sports community, hunting, archery, etc., etc., etc. The show will be called 'Shooting Sports Hawaii'. Of course the stories will be of the same style Diane and I had put together on SASH. You can follow the new show and other shooting community subjects on our shows Facebook page, Shooting Sports Hawaii. Be watching for the shows promos shortly. Thanks for all the nice comments and if you have story ideas for our new shooting sports TV show please contact me @

    Tracy Arakaki
    Executive Producer
    Shooting Sports Hawaii
    PunishUM Motorsports

  17. Marty Humpert:

    This was a great video. I loved the fact that women and guns are a sign of a good time with ol geezers of the west. As they say in the movies... "Keep yer powder dry, and yer eye on the target." Drop me a line if you are coming to Maui. We have some real shooting over here. Our range allows "bump firing" and no magazine restrictions. When it comes to throwing lead fast and furious, Maui is the closest thing to a full auto range in Las Vegas that you can find in Hawaii.

  18. Brett:

    Cool story. I think I might have to stop by with the kids!

  19. Tracy Arakaki:

    Marty, email me. I head to Maui now regularly for a job. As a matter of fact I will be there later this week. Maybe we can get together to plan me coming back to do a story for Shooting Sports Hawaii on an upcoming episode.


  20. Howard Murai:

    Great story! One of the few positive re gun ownership and shooting sports. Thanks very much.

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