Bandit ladies nab championshipsThe Black River Bandits are living up to their name, nabbing state and territorial titles at a fast clip.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The Black River Bandits are living up to their name, nabbing state and territorial titles at a fast clip.
The Cowboy Fast Draw group boasts the 2013 Wisconsin women’s champion, Deb “Lightnin” Stadin, and the top shot in Minnesota for the year, Stephanie Merrill, aka “Dame Quick.”
“I couldn’t be prouder,” said founding member Lori “Dusty Bottoms” Adrihan.
For Merrill, who started shooting last year, the Minnesota win is still sinking in. In the end it came down to a nail-biter shootout between her and Stadin, the 2012 Minnesota women’s champ.
“It was an amazing experience to shoot for the first time in my home state with just a little over one year under my belt and taking my first title,” said Merrill, who lives in Wrenshall, Minn.
The win also earned her “cool” points with her son, Danny. The 12-year-old is one of the youngest bandits.
“Danny didn’t believe I won at first,” Merrill said. “And now he tells all his buddies ‘my mom is a fast draw state champion, and she’s teaching me to shoot like that.’”
Cowboy Fast Draw involves shooting wax bullets from .45 caliber single-action pistols at a round target. Dressing up in character is another facet of the sport. A quick draw doesn’t ensure success. The key to Cowboy Fast Draw is accuracy, but according to Stadin luck also plays a role. Along with the 2012 Minnesota and 2013 Wisconsin titles, she shot to the top in the 2012 South Dakota championship.
“I never go to a shoot expecting to win it, so there is always an element of surprise to me,” said Stadin, who works at the St. Louis County Courthouse. “I cannot describe the feeling you get when you see your light blinking and realize you made the winning shot, the relief is immediate, but the excitement comes later for me.”
Each shootout is anyone’s game, she said. And it’s more than a competition. The Wisconsin championship in July, hosted by the Bandits in Superior, focused on the community. The group raised $835 through a celebrity match to be split between the Challenge Center and Veterans Transportation Fund. In addition, they donated $200 to Boy Scout Troop 221 for helping them set up and tear down for the competition.
“We are very proud of both of these accomplishments,” Adrihan said.
The group is seeking new members.
“I truly did not think this was anything I wanted to do and was content to come and watch on occasion,” Stadin said. But Bandits encouraged her and she’s glad they did.
“We promote gun safety and work with new shooters in that area, so if you are not familiar with a single action pistol, don’t let that deter you,” the Holyoke woman said. “I suggest just giving it a try and you may be surprised, it does not take long to get hooked.”
Merrill reached her goal for the year — to shoot in two championships. So when she earned a pass to the “Fastest Gun Alive” competition in Nevada, she gave it to Stadin.
“In the meantime I’ll enjoy holding this title for a year and practice more in preparation for 2014,” said Merrill, a mill worker at Sappi.
The Bandits meet for practice at 1 p.m. every Sunday in the 4-H building at the Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds in Superior. Anyone interested in trying the sport can stop by and shoot for free.
“When you shoot in a state championship you’re shooting among some of the best shooters in the country, if not the world,” Merrill said. “You will get that same level of shooting with the Bandits every week. It’s very addicting and the camaraderie is second to none. I’d encourage anyone to try this sport.”
For more information on the Black River Bandits, go to http://blackriverbandits.org.