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Western sport rides into Stettler for finals

A first for Stettler
Darren Stoneman riding the pattern. (Photo submitted)

A sport reminiscent of the Old West rode into Stettler in the early part of September.

The Alberta Mounted Shooters Association (AMSA)hosted its finals in Stettler on Sept. 9 and 10 in the newly refurbished riding arena, a first for the facility.

Mounted shooting is a combination of target shooting, barrel racing and pole-bending.

“The sport has been around since the mid-1990s in the U.S.,” said Darren Stoneman, an AMSA member.

In mounted shooting, competitors run one of a number of pre-determined patterns and shoot at targets using two single-action .45-calibre revolvers shooting canon-grade black powder with no projectile.

The AMSA borrows heavily from mounted shooting in the United States and has 70 different patterns to choose from in competition, with any five being chosen to run on a weekend.

According to Stoneman, while the cartridges used in the firearms are sufficient to pop the balloon targets, with no actual projectile in them the danger area is limited to an area of “15 to 20 feet” and the sport is completely safe to watch, even in an in-town setting.

“We promote safety,” said Stoneman.

Competitors in the sport are required to have their Canadian restricted-possession and acquisition (R-PAL) licence for firearms, special permits need to be obtained for travel to the shoots around Western Canada, and safety equipment such as eye-wear and ear protection is encouraged.

AMSA has two different levels of competition, an open division for competitors from age 18-plus, and a Wrangler class for youth aged seven-18 years old.

In the Wrangler class, youth shoot from the ground, standing beside the range master; eye and ear protection must be worn. The firearm is passed to the youth by the range master, who then shoots, passing the firearm back to the range master when they are done.

Stoneman says that the sport attracts a wide variety of competitors; there are competitors in Alberta at both ends of the age spectrum, with some still competing into their 70s.

An interesting note, according to Stoneman, is that there seem to be more females than males in the sport.

“It’s more female-dominated than male,” said Stoneman.

There are currently “15-20” competitors in the sport around the Stettler area, 60 or so around Alberta, and around 150 total across Canada, with the AMSA introducing the sport to the country in 2006.

Several clubs operate in Alberta in addition to the AMSA.

AMSA is already scheduled to return to the Stettler arena on the second weekend of September 2024, for next year’s finals.

In the meantime, the local competitors will keep their skills sharp practicing at the indoor arena through the winter.

For more information about the AMSA, check out its website at

In mounted riding, competitors need to hit the target balloons with their pistol as they ride past. (Photo submitted)
A mounted shooter runs one of 70 pre-defined patterns. (Photo submitted)

Kevin Sabo

About the Author: Kevin Sabo

I’m Kevin Sabo. I’ve been a resident of the Castor area for the last 12 years and counting, first coming out here in my previous career as an EMT.
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