Twenty minutes sounds like a lifetime to get off five shots in a target-shooting competition, but when you have to load and fire an old-fashioned gun, that 20 minutes goes by in an instant.
Unlike regular target shooting, where all you have to do is shoot, participants in the muzzle-loading competition at the Show-Me State Games have to carefully fill their gun with powder, pack gun powder tightly in the barrel so that it will fire correctly and then place a small, bead-like bullet into their old-fashioned weapons. This sport is designed to show it’s participants what it was like to shoot before 1840.
“It’s all about nostalgia for the old ways,” co-commissioner John McCray said.
In the competition, the participants have 20 minutes per relay to fire five shots at a target of varying distances. According to Bruce Johnson, a participant and one of Saturday’s range supervisors, even though there is a time constraint, most of the competitors finish early because loading a gun is second nature to them.
Even though muzzle loading is a competitive sport in the games, most of the athletes see this weekend as an opportunity to get out and have fun. When they’re not focused on shooting, the athletes can be seen telling jokes to one another, making the atmosphere very friendly and easy going.
“There is a lot of camaraderie (among the athletes),” Johnson said “We all work together in a team effort to make sure everybody has fun. If someone is having a problem, someone else is always ready to jump in and help.”
This sense of camaraderie was evident in Saturday’s competition when 14-year-old Zack Coy, who is competing for the second time in the games, forgot to put powder in his gun. As soon as others around him realized he had a problem, there was no hesitation to help him fix it. Even after the mistake was realized, his fellow competitors were there to offer him support.
McCray hopes that having a supportive group of competitors will help get a younger generation out shooting muzzles.
“We always want to help younger people get into shooting. It makes us feel good when we help them,” he said “We encourage everyone who is new to the sport to give it a try.”