Yukon Mounties and Alaska State Troopers, the two storied defenders of northern law, faced off last weekend for The Shoot, an annual competitive display of law-enforcement shooting prowess.
Clouds of dust swirled over the Whitehorse Rifle and Pistol Club, mixing with the smell of exploded gunpowder.
As each round began, staccato ‘pops’ pierced the silence of Grey Mountain.
The hail of lead was directed at an unassuming row of paper targets, which were gradually rendered Swiss-cheese-ish by the fire.
A thin blue line of officers were the shootists — Canadian and American, young and old, guns drawn and eyes fixed.
“Remember to stay behind the firing line,” advised RCMP officer Cpl. Glenn Ramsey as volleys of bullets streaked across the short firing range, embedding themselves in the battered hillocks behind the targets.
The Mounties lost.
After holding the Team Trophy for two consecutive years, they were narrowly defeated by the Troopers over the course of the two-day event.
First held in 1960, The Shoot is the longest running international law enforcement firearms event in the world.
Begun almost immediately after Alaska achieved statehood in 1959, the competition was conceived in a bid to foster “friendly competition” between the two law-enforcement agencies.
Sharing a long, wilderness border, the two agencies maintain a very close working relationship.
The conditions of northern policing are far different than those in southern Canada or the US Lower 48.
As a result, a unique bond has formed between the two agencies.
“Friendly competition” seemed to be the word of the day.
“We’re all friends here,” said Hans Brinke, an Anchorage division officer who is attending his eighth shoot.
“But our team’s going to win,” he said.
The seven-officer teams ranged from all across Alaska and the Yukon.
The visiting troopers brought along their newest patrol car, a black 2008 Dodge charger.
Equipped with reinforced bumper and glistening in the mid-morning sun, it bore an uncanny resemblance to the “Batmobile.”
I asked the car’s top speed.
From the sidelines a Trooper said, “157.”
That certainly breaks the speed limit, even in Alaska.
“I was answering a gun-related call — shots were fired,” he explained.
At one stage of the event, competitors were required to compete with the pistols of the other law enforcement agency.
The Troopers were quick to brag their 40-calibre Glock was almost twice as big as the Mounties’ Smith and Wesson 9 mm.
Ah, but the Troopers’ bigger gun is merely a “compensatory façade,” noted one Mountie.
Wives and girlfriends of the police competitors even got in on the fun — a shoot tradition called the SO-SO, or Significant Other Shoot Off.
Handling the firearms of their partners, the significant others face off for a round of shooting events.
“Everybody brings their family; it’s just a lot of fun,” said Brinke.