BERWICK, Maine — Cacti, rattlesnakes and double-crossing desperadoes are hard to find in the Pine Tree State. Wild broncos and bull-riding buckaroos are in short supply, too. You can even ride your horse from Portland to Bangor without seeing a single tumbleweed.

But none of that matters to these cowpokes.

They still strap on their spurs and six shooters once a month to try and settle the question: Who’s Maine’s quickest draw?

(Because, this town ain’t big enough for the both of us.)

Clockwise from left: Dean “Dapper Dan” Stanton wears his 2010 Maine state Cowboy Action Shooting champion belt buckle at a monthly event in Berwick on Sunday morning; Leo “Smokey Sue” Arsenault of Westbrook aims and fires during the meet; A pair of buckaroos await their turn. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The Maine Marshals is the state’s only official Cowboy Action Shooting club. It competes in timed events, shooting a set pattern of targets, using period correct firearms while dressed as authentic cowboys.

Ten gallon hats are encouraged but optional.

Cowboy Action Shooting is a combination gun sport and live action roleplaying.

The sport is governed by the 40-year-old Single Action Shooting Society, based in New Mexico. The Marshals, based at the Sanford/Springvale Fish and Game Club in Berwick, have been active in the sport for 20 years.

Jeff “Thirty-Thirty” Winchester dashes to the next station during a Cowboy Action Shooting meet in Bewick on Sunday. The event was run by the Maine Marshals at the Sanford/Springvale Fish and Gun Club. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Everyone taking part must adopt an alias based on a movie cowboy or other 19th century character, real or otherwise. Participants at Sunday’s shoot included the Toledo Kid, Dapper Dan, Tyler Tornado, Iron Horse Pete and Dueling Des.

In addition to an old west alter ego, participants must dress the part. It’s part of the official rules. Brimmed hats, spurs, vests, boots, pocket watches and arm garters are popular. Studded leather holsters, corsets and suspenders could also be seen on Sunday.

Firearms used have an old-timey flair, as well. Two single action revolvers, a pistol-caliber, lever-action rifle, and a shotgun are required. Firearms may be antiques from the cowboy era or modern replicas. Contestants bring their own arsenals, which can represent a significant investment in the sport.

From left: Desirae “Dueling Des” Lyle waits her turn at a Cowboy Action Shooting meet in Bewick on Sunday morning; Kelly “Two Pair” Parker fires his six guns at the meet. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The Maine Marshals hold a monthly competition in the warmer months as well as the state championship duel in September. Spectators are welcome.

To find out more, visit the Maine Marshals website or contact Tyler Tornado at

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.