PANTHER RIDGE — At 9 years old, Laura Headlee didn’t have the strength, stamina or the mindset to fight back.
Bruises continually dotted her cheeks — a constant visual reminder of the battle she had yet to win. But it wasn’t long before Headlee overcame her nervousness and learned how to properly fire her shotgun.
“The first time I was a little scared of the shotgun,” Headlee said. “At first, I wouldn’t pull up close enough, so I had all of these bruises on my cheek.”
Now six years later, the Sarasota Military Academy sophomore is one of the most decorated cowboy action shooters for her age group, having won five Florida State Shooting Championships in either buckarettes (13 and under) or young gun girls (14 and up), as well as a Southeast Regional Championship as a buckarette.
Headlee began shooting with her parents, Kevin and Lynn, and older brother Steven. Her dad, a former IPC shooter, wanted to find a sport the whole family could do. A family friend introduced the Headlees to cowboy action shooting.
“Everyone loved it that a little girl was out there shooting,” Lynn Headlee said. “They want to get young people involved in the sport because otherwise (like anything else) the sport will die out.”
In cowboy action shooting, participants dress up clothes styled from the 1800s and use rifles, revolvers and shotguns from that same time period.
“I thought it was really cool and fun to dress up and go shoot guns on the weekend,” Laura Headlee said.
Each participant then picks a persona or alias, such as Pistol Packin’ Peanut, which happens to be Laura Headlee’s persona, and is given a Single Action Shooting Society number. There are more than 80,000 shooters across the nation involved in the society and no two personas can be duplicated.
Laura Headlee tries to attend one or two matches a month. During each match, participants are given a specific scenario to shoot. There are six stages within a match and the scenario changes with each stage. Participants are judged on both time and accuracy and are penalized for shooting the targets out of order or missing a target altogether. The winners in each age category typically receive a plaque or a ribbon and at the larger competitions a belt buckle or a badge.
“The people doing this sport really personify the cowboy way of honesty and (loyalty),” Lynn Headlee said. “They want everyone to go out and just have a blast. It’s all good fun.”
During the past six ye.ars, Laura Headlee has competed in a number of local competitions, but the Last Stand is by far her favorite. The event, which also is the Florida State Shooting Championship, draws 300-350 shooters every January.
Although Laura Headlee thoroughly enjoys the sport, finding time to practice has become increasingly difficult; and she admits there will probably come a time when she has to put her cowboy gear and guns away — at least temporarily.
“I probably won’t do it in college because I won’t have any time,” she said. “It’s a fun hobby to have though, so I might get back into it.”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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