As I wrote earlier, I spent the weekend at the convention of the Old West Shooting Society, the Italian branch of American SASS (the Single Action Shooting Society), a club/organization devoted to "preserving and promoting" the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. According to the SASS web site, SASS endorses:
regional matches conducted by affiliated clubs, stages END of TRAIL The World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting, promulgates rules and procedures to ensure safety and consistency in Cowboy Action Shooting matches, and seeks to protect its members' 2nd Amendment rights. SASS members share a common interest in preserving the history of the Old West and competitive shooting.The OWSS convention took place in a lovely hotel complex near Gualdo Tadino in the hills of Umbria. Saturday night there was a gala dinner (antipasto, tagliatelle with meat sauce, tagliata with rughetta and roast potatoes, semifreddo, lots of wine and spumante...), and Sunday there was a Cowboy Action Shooting match at a nearby shooting range high up on a forested hill.
The dinner was preceded by an awards ceremony, where trophy cups were presented to first, second and third-place winners of the various shooting competition categories.
Most of the 70 or so guests dressed up in some sort of costume inspired by the "old west" of the late 19th century. Me too, as below, posing with another guest:
Some of the costumes were merely suggestive of the period -- some men simply wore vests or long frock coats and/or cowboy boots. Others were very elaborate -- a couple of women had full, floor-length evening-style dresses. But some guests came in "normal" clothing.
Once again it was brought home to me -- as it has been during my visits with hobbyists and to festivals in Germany, France, Czech Republic, etc -- that men especially look terrific in this type of clothing!
OWSS was only founded a couple of years ago but now has, I was told, about 400 members and chapters in a number of towns in Italy. Most of them seem to be in the north, and I met people from Brescia, Treviso, Vittorio Veneto and elsewhere (including Florence and Naples). The group included people of all ages and from a wide range of professions. Most looked to be in their 30s or 40s. There were a couple of families with children, but also "seniors" and some who looked to be in their 20s. I met a guy who works for the state railway, a woman who runs a shop, a man who installs home appliances, a guy who works for the Telecom, businessmen of various sorts, etc etc.
I was surprised to recognize someone whom I had known in Rome years ago -- Federico Polidori, a fine leather worker who produces beautiful bags, saddles, holsters and other accessories.
Most members are men, and they seem to have been attracted to the club because of the sport -- most of those whom I talked with had already had been involved with target shooting or other shooting sports. The dress-up and general relaxed atmosphere also is an attraction. Everyone who joins OWSS (or SASS) has to choose a wild west alias, or nickname: "Bandito", "Old Bill," "Oversize," etc.
Cowboy Action Shooting (as I found out at the match on Sunday) has specific rules and disciplines, called "scenarios". Basically, it's general marksmanship combined with speed, based on "scenarios" that include a variety of targets -- and shooters both dress in period attire and use pistols or rifles that date from (or, actually, are replicas of) weapons from the late 19th century. Several Italian companies (Chiappa, Pietta, Pedersoli, etc) produce such weapons and sponsor the events. Competitions take place in several European countries, and people I met this weekend regaled me with stories of a recent trip to Slovakia and, most importantly, to the SASS "End of Trail" meet in the USA. The Italian group, in fact, had hosted the European "End of Trail" international meet this summer.
I signed up to join the OWSS (which automatically makes me a member of SASS.) And, as I anticipated in an earlier post, I based my preferred alias on my Texan grandmother's name: "Miz Flora."
On Sunday morning, I made my way to the shooting range, property of a local gun club. I watched the action for awhile and then said my good-byes. Before I left, one of the club officials showed me how to do something I had never done before in my life -- shoot a gun! He showed me how to load pistols, aim, fire and observe safety procedures. I fired full five shots from two pistrols -- and with the second, I hit the target four out of five shots.