A GREEN-AND-WHITE STRIPED SHIRT, a red garter belt hugging the right sleeve just above the elbow, cream-colored, button-fly pants tucked into black custom-made boots, a battered black cowboy hat. Richard “Tequila” Young is looking good today at the regional Range War tournament at Tin Star Ranch, which sits in the shadow of Enchanted Rock in the Hill Country. And he’s shooting even better, the retort from his nineteenth-century replica guns and the sound of ammo hitting metal targets producing perhaps a dozen bang-plink bang-plink bang-plink successions in about eight seconds.
Tequila is the moniker of the 43-year-old Young, an industrial engineer and father of three who lives in Flatonia and happens also to be a cowboy action-shooter. Each of the approximately 45,000 members of the Single Action Shooting Society [ SASS] takes a different alias. As cowboy action-shooters, the members dress in vintage duds and fire the same kind of single-action pistols, rifles, and shotguns that were used in the Old West. Cowboy action-shooting is the least competitive of the seven major categories of shooting sports, and it is the only one that doesn’t offer cash prizes. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also the fastest-growing category and arguably the only one with much of a spectator following. Tequila, who has won five world championships in modern shooting (in the modern classification the gun has adjustable sights while in the traditional the gun has fixed sights) and one overall crown, was unsuccessful in defending his 2001 modern title at the competition in Southern California in mid-April. His 1897 shotgun broke. Prior to that, Tequila had dominated the sport like nobody had since “China Camp,” a Southern California pharmacist named Dennis King who won five traditional and overall titles in the eighties.
Cowboy action-shooters compete for fun and fantasy, and on one level represent just another segment of the many Americans who participate in nostalgic, historical reenactments of some sort. Or so it appears. Tequila talks of the Industrial Revolution breakthroughs he studied in college, such as Frederick Turner’s time-and-motion efficiency theory and Henry Ford’s assembly line, and how he applies them to his shooting. It quickly becomes apparent that this can also get to be serious stuff in its own way. And it can cost a pretty penny: Tequila figures he spends