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Jun 12, 2017 3:31 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East End Regulators Answer The Call

One East End Regulator finishes off a round with a shotgun hit.  COURTESY Marzena Grabczynska ThruMarzenasLens.com
Jun 15, 2017 7:57 AM

Sure, they could shoot paper targets at the range, and they pack some firepower, too—a .22-caliber rifle, or, with the necessary license, a Magnum handgun.

But this is just more fun.

“It’s just like playing ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ but we get to use real guns,” said Andy Laudano, 71, of Holbrook, though, around the range, he’s better known by his nickname of “Diamond Rio.” “It’s like being a kid again.”

Mr. Laudano was sporting a pinstriped black button-down shirt draped by a cherry leather belt that houses his shotgun cartridges as he spoke about the East End Regulators during a recent interview at the Pine Barrens range near Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. Mr. Laudano is one of approximately 40 members of the Regulators, the East End chapter of the Cowboy Action Shooting Club.

Cowboy Action Shooting is a competitive sport that started in southern California in 1981. Participants take turns shooting at a series of steel-plated targets—set up at staggered distances—as quickly as possible, using mid- to late-19th century guns and rifles.

The aesthetic is purely spaghetti Western, and participants must dress the part. Stetson hats, western or plaid button-down shirts, some faded Levis and classic leather boots will typically do the trick, although some shooters are not limited to those threads, and can take it as far as they like. And, of course, protective eyewear and earplugs are required for safety purposes as real guns are in play.

Members simulate situations that look like they’re straight out of old-time western movies, from robberies of poker games to shootouts in front of saloons.

“Shit happens,” said James Passarella, 57, a Ronkonkoma resident who is known around these parts as “Sheriff A.B. Dupree.” He’s also been designated as “mayor” of the Regulators.

Group members also must adopt an alias—and then do their part to fill the role. They can follow Mr. Pasarella’s lead by basing their character off a real person, such as Sheriff A. B. Dupree, an old western sheriff that Mr. Passarella learned about while skimming a historic text. Or they can select a fictional character, such as the supporting actor from an old western movie.

Each marksman tries his hand at five rounds, a consecutive series that requires them to fire two different pistols, a rifle and a shotgun. (Those requirements, however, can be changed in states like New York where it is more difficult to acquire pistol licenses.) The requirements of each round are always decided during the group’s weekly Thursday get-togethers at the Hauppauge Diner, where five scenarios and safety considerations are hashed out.

A miss adds two seconds to your time. Accidentally dropping an unloaded gun on one’s draw forfeits a round. Accidentally drop a loaded gun, or send a stray bullet flying over the range? Pack your saddle and come back next week.

The matches are held every weekend, on either Saturday or Sunday, at the Westhampton range. Many members also travel to compete in regional and national tournaments, such as the Single Action Shooting Society New York State Wild Bunch Championships, which were held in Ballston Spa, New York, this past April.

In a recent scenario at the Westhampton range, the Regulators simulated a poker game robbery. The course featured a replica of a saloon front that is stored in the group’s shed on the range so it can easily be pulled out.

And theatrics are important to these folks, many of whom are acting out gunslinging fantasies that have been brewing for decades. For many, those dreams started when they were children, soaking in the whispered narrations of “The Lone Ranger” radio show, or reenacting, with the finest finger guns, scenes that built Clint Eastwood’s acting career.

Now, as adults, they find nothing more satisfying than the hollow ring of steel-plated targets after they’ve been pelted by a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun.

“Long Colt Tommy”—who, at all other times, goes by his given name of Tomasz Loren—finishes the course in 22 seconds flat, good enough for the best time of the afternoon.

The 49-year-old Glen Cove resident, who immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1984, is perhaps one of the most mild-mannered Regulators—though, when it comes to the competitions, he’s always in it to win it.

“Some guys shoot really fast. Some guys come to have fun. He shoots fast,” Mr. Passarella said, referring to Mr. Loren.

Mr. Loren is fast enough to don a “Cowboy Championship Top-16” badge on the backside of his holster, right where his frilled leather chaps meet the blood orange button-down shirt, a memento won at a nationwide tournament in Arizona.

As is the case with most members, the attraction of the Cowboy Action Shooting club is the nostalgia.

“We didn’t have many channels as a kid,” Mr. Loren said. “Bonanza was running on the TV all the time.”

Explaining that he was directed to the club by a gun salesman—“You like this cowboys stuff?” Mr. Loren said, recalling the conversation he had with the man several years ago. “There’s a club out on Long Island.”—Mr. Loren and his .45 Colt revolver have been mainstays of the Regulators for seven years.

“Some people come through the freezing cold while being mushed by dogs,” said Mr. Laudano, Mr. Loren’s roommate when they must travel for competitions. “Not him. He came on an airline sipping champagne and eating peanuts.”

“‘I’m not loaded, but I could stab you,” Mr. Loren responded while coolly brandishing his holstered knife.

Today, nearly 100,000 Rough Riders across the United States, as well as 18 countries, who have been bitten by the cowboy bug strap on their spurred boots—many with freshly clipped cigars in hand—on a weekly basis, according to the Single Action Shooting Society, or SASS, which sanctions the East End Regulators and also serves as the governing body of the Cowboy Action Shooting club. Following the SASS’s guidelines, members wheel their cedar gun carts to the nearest range and face off with one another.

On those carts, generally speaking, are at least four mid- to late-19th century firearms: a medley of single-action revolvers (meaning that the hammer must be manually cocked following each shot), lever-action rifles and double-barreled or pump-action shotguns.

Up next to the line on a recent Sunday in Westhampton was “Kandi,” or Keri Losee, 51, of Sound Beach, a seven-year veteran of the sport though, for the past year, she has not been a member of the Regulators. That’s because, these days, most of her free time is spent practicing her duties as a blocker for her roller derby team.

But, on occasion, Ms. Losee will trade in her fishnets and elbow pads for a pair of white pantaloons, a scarlet scarf and a shotgun.

“The people here are really amazing and supportive,” said Ms. Losee—a school bus driver by profession—while detailing her first experience with the Regulators. “I was so nervous. I kept fumbling, but they cheered me on. I’ve learned patience. Used to let it get to me when I missed. I’m getting better with that.”

Noticeably, Ms. Losee was just one of two women in the pack of 20 Regulators in attendance for their recent competition. But that’s not necessarily the case everywhere. Where gun restrictions are laxer and the cowboy ethos reverberates louder, a more diverse gang typically tumbles into that week’s makeshift saloon. Several local iterations of the “Doily Gang,” the Cowboy Action Shooting club’s all-cowgirl organization that strives to empower women, have emerged across the country.

“I like competing,” Ms. Losee said. “Coming down and putting a dress on.”

And children can shoot, too, and they are typically referred to as “Buckaroos” and “Buckarettes.”

“I’m in the cranky old man category,” said Eugene Orlando, 77 , of Manorville, whose nickname is “Waco Johnny Lane.”

Technically, he is an “Elder Statesman,” according to SASS’s website, or a shooter over the age of 75.

“First time I came, it was like a hypodermic needle—I was hooked” Mr. Orlando said. “An Italian kid from East New York is a cowboy.”

Others, like Mr. Laudano, are here to enjoy the hobby.

“I’m 71. I’m not beating a lot of these people. This is just a lot of fun,” Mr. Laudano said as his black, dimpled cowboy hat shaded the sun. “Nobody here is winning a Cadillac.”

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By pw herman (895), southampton on Jun 13, 17 7:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
***you still need more of a description of what they are shooting at here**
By Pacman (94), Southampton on Jun 13, 17 9:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
That's why there are photos accompanying the article!

Those who have eyes, let them see.

By Frank Wheeler (1775), Northampton on Jun 15, 17 11:07 AM
Great sport. In other states younger kids participate in the SASS. Good outdoor sport for all of the family.
By knitter (1135), Southampton on Jun 13, 17 10:01 AM
Very nice and refreshing to see some positive media coverage of firearms and shooting sports.
By astevens21 (13), Water Mill on Jun 15, 17 10:29 AM
Pacman, they shoot clay targets, steel targets that fall and other inert targets. They compete for time. Nice to hear the ring of the steel...
By knitter (1135), Southampton on Jun 15, 17 1:27 PM
Just like playing cowboys and indians?

By AL (61), southampton on Jun 17, 17 6:24 AM
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