MORGAN — Every day, J.T. Wild holsters his Colt 1873 Peacemaker pistol and saunters out to subdue the Evil Roy Gang lurking near the barn.
To put it another way, local marksman Joel LaBorde walks to his backyard shooting range for target practice.
LaBorde is a member of the Single Action Shooting Society, a shooting organization that focuses on firearms of the mid- to late-19th century. Or call it a bunch of Belvideres and Calamity Janes out to have a hawg-killin’ good time; either way, it’s true.
SASS rules require participants to pick an alias, dress the part, use the right gun for the right job and respect the traditions of the Old West.
Those traditions come down to: Be polite, and avoid other uncivilized behaviors.
Those who can’t get into the spirit of the game should take their guns and go home; there’s no need to get all pesky.
“It’s a great family sport,” LaBorde said. “You’ll meet some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.”
LaBorde’s alias is J.T. Wild. The J.T. is for his first and middle names, Joel Timothy, and the Wild is because he was tired of hearing his last name mangled whenever a restaurant hostess called for his party. To save time, he said his name was “Wild.”
“I figured, ‘Hey! A wild party! That’s somewhere I’d like to be,” LaBorde said.
LaBorde dresses as a Wild man with his gray “Gus” cowboy hat with a mule kick dent in the back. He also dons suspenders and a red silk neckerchief like cowboys used to give to the bar girls. The leather holsters and the boots add to the picture.
Part of all that is that is fun, and some is symbolic of what the Old West was or should have been.
“The cowboy plays fair, plays hard and doesn’t take advantage; do what’s right,” LaBorde said.
Action shooting is shooting for its own sake. Besides his Colt peacemaker, LaBorde shoots an 1873 Winchester lever-action rifle and a 1897 Winchester 12-gauge pump shotgun.
The Winchester rifle and the Colt are chambered for the .38 Special cartridge. The old-time shooters wanted to carry one caliber so there was no risk of mixing up the bullets and loading the wrong round into a gun.
“Evil Roy” is what Provo-based manufacturer Action Target calls its line of portable targets.
LaBorde gives the Evil Roy Gang in the backyard a bad beating, but they never surrender. He resurrects the rowdies after each practice, when he spray paints the targets black.
It’s a lot of spray paint.
LaBorde wakes the snakes almost every day with his range war. Depending on the time of year and the weather, he practices for about 90 minutes a day.
LaBorde estimates he shoots 24,000 rounds per year, mostly at his home range. Because of the light loads in the cartridges and therefore less kick to the guns, those insanely high numbers don’t wear out his wrists and shoulder.
“This is what I do,” LaBorde said. “I shoot.”
Like LaBorde, the single-action revolver has its own aliases. It’s a cowboy gun, hawg leg, six-shooter, six gun or smoke pole.
A single-action revolver requires the hammer be cocked by hand. The hammer is that small, claw-like handle on the top rear of the weapon. This rotates the cylinder where the bullets are kept, leaving the trigger with only one “single action” left to do. Because of this, single-action shooters can manage a bit more accuracy.
LaBorde thrives on that tiny boost of precision. When he pilots aircraft, he prides himself on techniques that maximize fuel efficiency.
He reloads his own ammunition, which means he counts out gunpowder grains for entertainment. His enjoyment of putting a lot of holes in a small target is another aspect of how he prefers to focus.
“There’s a reason I do as well as I do,” LaBorde said. “With shooting and flying and many other things, you have to give it 100 percent concentration.”
This focus enables LaBorde to shoot a flipped quarter out of the air with his 12-gauge shotgun when he gives demonstrations three or four times a year to Morgan County Boy Scouts, 4H and church groups.
“I start with a clay pigeon, then go down to a charcoal briquette, then 12-gauge shotgun hull, then a .45 brass bullet casing,” he said. “Smallest I shoot is a quarter.”
Besides practice and concentration, LaBorde credits “Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game,” by Joseph Parent (2002), and “Mental Management for Shooting Sports,” by Lannie R. Bassham (2002).
The theme of both books is, whether it’s golf, shooting or any other sport, the key to winning is to clear one’s mind, focus and be confident.
“You’re not in a shooting game,” LaBorde said. “You’re in a mental game decided by shooting.”
Utah has 16 SASS clubs.