July 16, 2014 - Hot lead was flying through the air faster than a cyclone moving across the plains as cowboys and cowgirls gathered Monday afternoon for the First Annual Silver Bullet Shoot-off.
John Rose, of Lapeer, was using a .45-caliber blackpowder six-shooter that put on quite a show when he fired. (click for larger version)
Held at the Bald Mountain Shooting Range in Orion Township, the Lone Ranger-themed event offered participants the chance to show off their marksmanship, compete for bragging rights and have some old-fashioned fun.
Fifteen competitors faced four different shooting scenarios. They were limited to five shots per scenario.
But they weren't all typical scenes from the Old West.
Competitors had to "save the day" – and earn points – by shooting mutant flies, spiders and monsters.
In the end, the shooters faced targets representing legendary outlaw Butch Cavendish, the Lone Ranger's most fiendish and deadly foe.
But in true Lone Ranger fashion, the competitors couldn't shoot to kill.
They had to shoot the hat off Cavendish's head and the gun out of his hand, so he could be arrested unharmed and brought to justice.
Paul Butkis, who's lived in Oxford for 35 years, won the shoot-off by scoring a whopping 65 points with his Colt .38 Special made around 1925.
'It feels great, really great," he said.
He was awarded a trophy specifically created for the competition by the Oxford-based Merge Studio & Gallery.
When asked if he expected to win, Butkis replied, "No, not really . . . I just came out here for fun today."
"I thought it was great," he added. "I'm coming back next year."
Butkis spent 23 years as a reserve officer for the Oxford Police Department.
He also spent five years as a full-time officer for the Detroit Police and worked a combined nine years as a reserve cop for the Warren Police and Oakland County Sheriff's Department.
Shooting since age 9 when he began with a .22-caliber rifle, the 73-year-old chose to use the Colt for this competition for one simple reason – he didn't want to dirty another gun. "I just shot it last week and I hadn't cleaned it yet," he said.
John Morrison, of Oxford, used his Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver to take second place with 64 points, while Oxford resident Mike Ward used his Colt .38-caliber single-action to place third with 62 points.
Of the shoot-off, Ward said, "I thought it was very well done. I enjoyed it very much."
So, what's the secret to being a good shot?
Butkis, Morrison and Ward all said the same thing – practice.
"You can't beat that," Ward said.
"That's the only way you're going to learn how to do it – practice all the time," Butkis said. "Very few (people are) natural shots."
Morrison noted it's also important to be safe and just have fun on the range.
Although he didn't win anything, Oxford resident Nate Hall thoroughly enjoyed the event with his replica of an 1875 Schofield .45-caliber calvary model.
"I love it," he said. "It's a real hoot . . . I don't expect to win. I just love to shoot and have a great time."
Hall, who was born in 1943, grew up following the Lone Ranger's adventures.
"I listened to him on the radio all the time and watched him on TV," he said.
Back when Hall was listening to the radio program as a young boy lying on the floor, the voice of the Lone Ranger was Oxford's own Brace Beemer.
Beemer portrayed the iconic masked lawman from 1941-54 and lived in Oxford from 1942 until his death in 1965.
Hall, a longtime Oxford resident and 1961 OHS graduate, preferred the radio Lone Ranger to the television version because it allowed his imagination to create the images as the stories were told.
"I think that's always better," he said.
Proceeds from the First Annual Silver Bullet Shoot-off will be used to help fund Oxford's Lone Ranger parade along M-24 on Saturday, Aug. 2.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.