The SASS® Organization
A few of SASS’ own members have recently stated, “What does SASS do for me?”, “What does SASS do as a “parent” organization… and even the statement “We don’t need SASS to play Cowboy Action Shooting™”…
While the latter statement may be true in the short term, it wouldn’t remain so for long without SASS® - and Cowboy Action Shooting™ wouldn’t be the recognizable or respected discipline it is today in the Shooting Sports and Firearms Industry if it weren’t for the direct efforts of the Single Action Shooting Society®.
At this critical time in our organization, I think it is important to illustrate what your membership in SASS means on a global scale- and list just some of the achievements SASS has championed on your behalf over the years. While being humble is an admirable quality, I think it is time to outline some of SASS’ accomplishments.
SASS® membership means different things to different people, and membership in SASS has both tangible and intangible benefits. In many ways, those intangible benefits outweigh the tangible benefits of a registered alias, a shooters badge, and member discounts.
Did you know?
- Colt SAA’s and their clones would be illegal in California if not for the direct efforts of SASS on your behalf.
- Without SASS, members in California would only be able to have rifles that are limited to hold 10 rounds only.
- SASS represents its members interests to protect gun rights:
- Testified before the California Senate Judiciary Committee on Firearms related legislation
- Testified before the California House Public Safety Committee on Firearms related legislation
- Testified before the United Nations General Assembly on the Treaty for Regulation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (currently titled The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT))
- Today’s wide variety and availability of Single Action Revolvers and Lever Action rifles is directly attributable to SASS and its success as an organization.
- SASS created and still creates and maintains a visible market that influences manufacturers.
- Ruger Vaqueros
- Marlin Rifles without a “micro-grooved” barrel
- There would never have been a need or desire for a .38 bullet weighing less than 158 gr.
- SASS members would have a difficult time finding competent gunsmiths to work on their guns (there were only a very small handful in the early 80s)
- Winchester quit putting the cannalure in their .45 LC brass and made it a smooth walled case so it would last longer.
- The quality and design of those firearms is immensely superior to those of yore- and while that’s largely due to the efforts of Boyd Davis (EMF) and Val Forgett (Navy Arms), their efforts would’ve been fruitless without the visible market that is the SASS Organization of members.
- Many retail giants in the industry (Midway, Dillon, Cabela’s, Brownell’s) stock and market Cowboy Action Shooting accessories, parts, etc. – a direct result of SASS’ influence.
- Internationally, many countries are signing on to the UN Arms Trade Treaty. Those countries will be expected to conform to the mandates of the treaty. SASS stands as the organization that invokes protection to ensure that SASS members and affiliated clubs are protected by definition- meaning their guns are protected.
- SASS membership affords members in many foreign countries to possess firearms that they otherwise could not legally own.
- SASS has had a profound effect on the way firearms and the shooting sports are viewed by many, including the press. Men, women and children dressed in 1890s clothing, shooting old time firearms presents an aura of FUN. That in turn has influenced other shooting sports, which have adopted the public approach of “shooting is a FUN, SAFE, pastime.” Even the National Shooting Sports Foundation advertises their First Shots program with an emphasis on FUN.
- SASS has been a member of the National Shooting Sports Foundation since its inception, and has helped develop many of their range programs.
Today we are seeing many of our traditions, much of our history, and many of our core values denigrated, devalued, and in some cases, simply erased. SASS stands for and promotes the preservation of those valued elements. If you think not, ask yourself why you like your SASS pards. Why do we all say you’ll “come for the shooting, but stay for the people”?
It is our mission to ensure SASS continues for many, many years. Not the least of reasons is our ability to pass on the history, the values, the camaraderie and good will exhibited in our game. SASS has worked diligently to provide a sport and an organization that your entire family can enjoy together. Steeped in core values you and every member of SASS teach the young ones by example. The core qualities of free men and a free nation should not be allowed to die. Every single SASS member should be introducing friends, family, and neighbors to SASS and influencing them to join. There is strength in numbers, and the larger we are the stronger and more influential we are. Every member should swell with pride to be part of SASS.
On behalf of the Founders of SASS and Cowboy Action Shooting- The Wild Bunch-
PROUD member of The Single Action Shooting Society
======== What is CAS ? =========
Well, rather than writting this myself and with CAS being so popular, there are many sites that have this subject covered very well. I found one in particular that stands out included here....(I copied only the text, ref site is complete with pics and video) like many CAS sites, they are in constant flux, so give Purgatory Smith's site a visit.
Below pic from 2011 GA State Championship
Link to below data
What is Cowboy Action Shooting?
The Old West may be gone, but it is far from forgotten, thanks to an ever growing group of Old West enthusiasts known as Cowboy Action Shooters. This group of modern men and women are keeping the spirit of the Old West alive across the U S and the world. Not to be confused with Old West reenacting, where actors shoot blanks, Cowboy Action Shooters use period or working replica firearms to fire real ammunition at steel targets. It's a competitive timed sport, where speed and accuracy can earn you notoriety in the shooting community. But most folks aren't in it for glory. They do it because of a real love for what was once a simpler time in American history. Ask any Cowboy Shooter why he is there, and you'll almost always get the same answer. For the comraderie, the friendships, and some good old fashioned fun. It's also a time where you can dress up in your best cowboy clothes and get to role-play, where your friends know you only by your alias name. You won't just see cowboys either. There are lawmen, gamblers, miners, drifters, well bred ladies, and soiled doves... Virtually every type of character from the Old West, and they're all packing heat.
Groups of shooters are divided into posses, and shoot scenarios called stages, based around a story or plot. Competition is made more challenging with often complex shooting patterns on targets, and time penalties are given for shots that are missed or out of order. It is a highly addictive sport, and for some, the adrenaline rush of being on the time clock is just the same after many years of shooting as it is for the novice shooter.
Cowboy Action Shooting appeals to men and women, old and young alike, and there are competition categories for people of every class, from Elder Statesman, to Buckaroo.
All monthly and sanctioned matches follow SASS rules. For an in depth look at safety rules and SASS guidelines please see the Shooter's Handbook on the SASS website. Also on the SASS website you will find information on clubs and matches in your area.
Getting Started in Cowboy Action Shooting
The question I hear the most on the range by someone who is wanting to get started is, "How much is this going to cost me?" To be realistic, Cowboy Action Shooting is not a cheap sport. You can get started on a budget, you can go all out, or you can settle somewhere in between. Most shooters I know are not even using the gear they first started with, they are shooting completely different guns and using different holsters as well. You are going to grow as a shooter and what you start with may not work as well for you down the line as you gain experience.
That being said, do a lot of research and go to several matches to see what other shooters are using. Talk to the shooters about guns, gear, ammo, and reloading. If you're going to shoot more than one match a month (like most shooters do), you are going to want to look into reloading your own ammo. Reloading can be expensive, but buying pre-loaded ammo for any gun is going to set you back much more.
The key here is to do a lot of research before you buy anything. I am sure you will find that many shooters at your local club will be happy to let you try out their guns. At our clubs here in Oregon we embrace new shooters and always try to help and educate them on acquiring new gear. Don't be afraid to ask what people are shooting, about the holsters they use, or for reloading tips. You will find that Cowboy Action Shooters are about the friendliest and most approachable bunch of people you will ever meet.
Once you've done all of your research and you are ready to buy your gear I suggest that you buy "up" a little if you can. Although there are a lot of inexpensive alternatives out there, especially leather, I've seen so many people waste valuable time on the clock fumbling with their gear, for example with an uncomfortable draw and/or trying to get their gun back into a cheap holster that collapses.
As for guns, there are a lot of different ways you can go. Keep in mind, though, that you are only as good as your gear. Ideally, your gear will always be a little bit better than your skill level. That way you are not fighting your gear (just fighting those pesky brain fades that we all have on occasion).
Finally, the last big tip that any top shooter will tell you is this - buy good brass. When you buy old, used, or cheap brass it is going to give you feeding problems in your rifle. I prefer and only use Starline, but Top Brass is good too.
For more detailed information about guns, leather, reloading, and just about everything else from transitions to good western books and movies, check out the rest of my blog.
Cowboy Action Shooting is a whole lot of fun and is highly addicting, so don't blame me for your new addiction. You've been warned, Pard!
Main Match Guns: Introduction
So you're just getting started and you're thinking, "Wow, there are so many guns!" or "What makes this gun different than that one?" Maybe you are an experienced shooter but you have never shot in a competition enviornment before and aren't quite sure what things to consider when buying guns for speed and durability. In this three part series we are going to talk about pistols, rifles and shotguns. I've heard many shooters say that matches are lost with the pistols and won with the shotgun. But having the RIGHT gun for YOU - whether pistol, rifle or shotgun - can go a long way toward improving your time and ultimately winning your category and/or the competition!
Main Match Guns: Shotguns
There are so many makes of shotguns, you are pretty much guaranteed to find one used at a pawn shop or gun store at a good price. Almost all side by side shotguns will have two triggers, one for each barrel. There are also single trigger side by sides which are much quicker and easier to shoot, but generally cost a bit more.
Price Range - Low
If you are on a budget these shotguns are a good way to get started without spending a lot of money:
Stoeger Coach Gun - The Stoeger Coach Gun comes with a short barrel, making it quick and easy to use for shooting through store fronts on the range. Stoeger is now offering the Coach gun with screw in chokes and recoil pads. This is a really good shotgun for the price and will get you shooting at a value.
Stevens 311 - There are a lot of Stevens 311's out there. These shotguns usually have a long barrel that can be cut down to a coach gun length. Most shooters cut the barrel to 22" or 20" in length. Adding a large bead for the front sight gives you quicker target acquisition. This shotgun is a tough old gun at a great value.
A couple of quick modifications will make these shotguns a lot easier to use in competition. One major mod is to hone out the cylinders so that your shotgun shells can be shaken out easily. You can also remove the butt stock and clip the safety mechanism so that it will not reengage every time you open and close the shotgun. This can save valuable seconds on the time clock.
Price Range - Medium
Colt 1878 Double Hammer Replica - As far as hammer shotguns go the Colt 1878 Double Hammer Replica scores a lot of style points, especially for black powder shooters. Unlike most hammer guns, the hammers on this shotgun are very close together making it very easy to cock the hammers simultaneously. Because of this hammer configuration many shooters find this shotgun really helps to improve their time on the clock.
Winchester 1887 Lever Action Shotgun Replica - The 1887 Lever Action Shotgun is another shotgun that ranks high in style. When the lever is open this shotgun loads from the top. The advantage of this method of loading allows you to load two rounds simultaneously. If you buy one straight from the box this feature can be rough at times, however with minor work on the ejectors and the action this feature becomes almost flawless. Coyote Cap Gunworks sells these shotguns with the mods already done, complete and ready to shoot. Alternatively, you can send him your own shotgun and he will do the work for you.
Stoeger Coach Gun Single Trigger - For a few dollars more than the standard Stoeger Coach Gun you can get the Stoeger Coach Gun Single Trigger. With the flick of your finger you can unload both barrels with one trigger. This is a really great shotgun at half the price of most single trigger side by sides.
Winchester 1897 Chinese Replica - In recent years there have been a few Chinese companies reproducing this shotgun. If the 1897 pump is what you're looking for and you don't want to shell out the rising cost of an original Winchester 1897, this is a great option. The majority of these come with a short barrel. A couple of modifications, such as a large front bead sight and minor action work, make this a great pump shotgun for the value.
Price Range - High
SKB Side By Side Single Trigger - Although recently discontinued, the SKB Side By Side are quite easily found, both new and used. This is a single trigger that features a low profile lock action. This gun is very attractive and is a higher quality shotgun than the Stoeger Single Trigger. Still, you may have to polish and/or hone the cylinders for smoother shell ejection. Most of these come with a longer barrel that you may opt to cut down to your preference.
Winchester 1897 (Original) - The popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting in recent years has really driven the price of original Winchester 1897s up. Being that it is the ONLY pump shotgun model that is SASS legal, these are in high demand. The Winchester 1897 is a labor of love. If you love to shoot these shotguns it is best to keep at least three on hand - one to shoot, one as a backup in the gun cart, and one in the shop! There are a lot of small parts on these shotguns and they tend to break quite often. In the right hands, however, this shotgun is very fast. Just throw a shell in the ejector port, hold the trigger down, and pump to slam fire. Slam firing is a feature built in to this shotgun by John Browning, which makes it very fun to shoot!
Browning Single Trigger - The Browning Single Trigger is my personal favorite Single Trigger Side by Side. This gun is not only of superior quality but it is also very attractive. Most of the receivers have engravings and the wood furniture has checkering and comes in a variety of colors. The shell ejector is even lower in profile than the SKB. Your shotgun shells will practically load themselves! In my opinion, this is the best side by side shotgun for competition shooting.
Main Match Guns: Rifles
Most shooters tend to be more accurate when shooting the rifle, therefore rifles can be the great time maker. You'll see some shooters fire them so fast that it looks like they threw all nine or ten empty shells in the air at once.
Price Range - Low
1895 Marlin Cowboy & Marlin Cowboy Competition
Marlin - Let's talk about the Marlin. Most shooters start out with this rifle. There are a lot of positives to using a Marlin for competition shooting. It's tougher than a Winchester 66 or 73. The Marlin ejects the round out the side and you can do a reload in the ejection port just like a 97 shotgun. With some minor modification you can easily smooth this rifle up. Rumor has it that it's also possible to install a short stroke on the lever, though don't quote me on that! On the negative side these guns tend to have what is commonly known as "the Marlin jam" (when ammo jams in the carrier). It does make a great choice for shooting the B Western category (B Western category requires that you shoot a 92 or newer rifle) since the Winchester 92 and 94, in my opinion, are best left in the back of the safe where I leave mine.
Winchester 92 & 94 - While I leave my Winchester 92 & 94s in the back of my safe they do make a good rifle for shooting Wild Bunch or the B-Western category. Let's face it, you didn't see Ben Johnson shooting a 73 in the movie "The Wild Bunch"! The 92 can be reworked and slicked up, however the 92 and 94 like to spit out live rounds form the carrier (so if you use these rifles make sure you carry reloads!). Truthfully, unless you really like the way they look it's best to steer clear of these rifles for competition shooting.
Price Range - Medium
Colt Lightning original & replica
Colt Lightning - Before we get into the higher end rifles (the Winchester 73 and the 66) let's talk about some of the other rifles that score points if you are looking for style and are less concerned with speed. One option to consider is the Colt Lightning. The Lightning made a come back a few years ago with CAS. Initially, shooters thought that it would be a faster action with the pump, however, they tend to kick out live rounds and pumping the action can bring you off target. I still have an original and a replica because I think they look cool. But in my opinion the negatives outweigh the positives for using this rifle in competition.
Taylor & Co. 1883 Burgess - Taylor & Co. now offers the 1883 Burgess rifle. It is long and heavy and has a long lever throw which costs you time on the clock, but it really scores authenticity and style points.
1860 Henry Repeating Rifle - The 1860 Henry Repeating Rifle is another rifle with major style. It's great for black powder shooters who really want to look authentic. You can mod this rifle with an action job. As an inconvenience, the 1860 loads from the front of the barrel by twisting it to the side. With rifle reloads on the clock being more common than a pistol reload, this makes for a more time consuming reload, which is something to consider before buying this rifle.
Price Range - High
Winchester 1866 & 1873 - Finally, the 1866 Winchester (Yellowboy) vs the 1873 Winchester: both of these rifles are great! They are the rifles that shooters refer to (after all of the internal mods) as the "race guns". Some Cowboy Action Shooting champions can unload ten rounds from either rifle in about two seconds. From the box these are better rifles than the low and medium price range rifles. In addition, these two rifles have the most modifications available than any other Cowboy Action Shooting rifle. Both rifles can receive the ultimate short stroke kit, reducing lever throw which results in increased speed. After market carriers in aluminum or skeletonized brass are available to reduce levering weight. Also, lever slik springs can be installed to reduce lever slop.
The Winchester 73 has a few more options available for modification than the 66 at this time, which will increase durability and function.
For more information about available mods for the 66 and 73 check out Pioneer Gun Works (Joe Alves SR AKA Will Shootem and Joe Alves JR AKA Portugy Joe). These guys have great options with rifles as well as with pistols and most double barrelled shotguns.
Main Match Guns: Pistols
Price Range - Low
So lets start with pistols. I'll be going over a few different guns to give you a head start in your research. If you are on a budget Uberti offers an inexpensive pistol in the Cattleman. On the positive side it is very affordable for Cowboy Action Shooting. On the negative side parts may break if you are an active shooter. I personally went through three pairs of Cattleman when I first started.
Price Range - Medium
You can get some of the best Cowboy Action Shooting pistols at a mid range price level. They are tough and can handle a lot of use. The average Cowboy Action shooter will fire their guns more in two years than a non CAS shooter will in a lifetime.
Vaqueros - Ruger Vaqueros are the toughest and will last you a long time. The old model Vaquero is super tough. It's also easy to slick up with an action job. It is, however, bigger and heavier than the new Vaquero. New Vaqueros are smaller and lighter and also super easy to slick up, so it doesn't have to be as hard working the action as it would be straight out of the box. You can mod further by putting the new lower profile hammer on them. Ruger also has the SASS New Model Vaquero that already comes with the low profile hammer.
Colt Clones - Another great mid range pistol is the Great Western II. It's just like buying a Colt but at half the price. United States Fire Arms (USFA) Rodeos are really nice too and handle like a Colt.
American Western Arms (AWA) has really good mid-range priced pistols. If you keep your eyes peeled you can find an AWA Colt clone called a Peacekeeper that is so similar to the original that Colt sued them! Most people will look at these guns in your hands and be convinced that you are shooting a Colt. The only difference is in the embossment on the grip (the horse isn't rearing). AWA has other great pistols made after these as well.
Another option to consider is the Smoke Wagon by Taylor & Co. The Smoke Wagon comes with a lot of nice upgrades, and it is just an all around really great pistol.
Price Range - High
Just a few of my 2nd & 3rd generation Colts
Finally, there are the high end, more expensive pistols. USFA's are really nice and they are made by Colt machinery at the original Hartford Colt factory. They cost about as much as a new Colt does and are made here in the USA. These pistols come with a TON of options and upgrades that can make them truly a one-of-a-kind showpiece.
"God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal." Nothing epitomizes the Old West like a real Colt. If prestige is what you are looking for, then Colts are it.
Your First Cowboy Action Shooting Match
You've done your homework, you have your gear ready (maybe it's a mix and match of gear that you've borrowed), and you are nervous but excited about shooting your first match! Here are some ways you can prepare so that your first shoot will be awesome.
Before Match Day
Before match day get ahold of the contact person for the club you are going to shoot with. You can find this person's phone number in the Cowboy Chronicle or in the affiliated clubs links area on the SASS website. Some things to ask him or her:
•What time is the safety briefing? Show up early enough to introduce yourself to the match director. Even if you've already read and understand the safety rules it is still important to pay special attention at the safety meeting. Remember, safety first!
•How many stages are there and how much ammo should I bring? Bring extra ammo in case you have to re-shoot a stage or two. A good rule of thumb is to bring 50 extra rounds.
•What time approximately will the shoot be over? Give yourself plenty of time to help clean up if you are able and/or socialize a bit after the awards ceremony.
Most clubs will have an experienced shooter assigned to shadow you for your first match. Also, some clubs hold a new shooter's orientation where you can learn all about the sport and get some hands on practice before your first match. It's good to give them a head's up in advance so that they can be expecting you.
On Match Day
Plan on bringing water and snacks. In fact, it's good to always keep some non-perishable snacks in your gun cart, like protein bars, trail mix, or beef jerky. If you missed breakfast or the shoot goes longer than you expected you will be glad that you did. There is nothing more distracting than trying to shoot with a growling stomach! Good hydration is super important too, especially in the summer time.
Don't try to be fast right away. Safety is your number one concern. Take your time and watch your muzzle, keeping it down range. For your first several matches work on familiarizing yourself with terminology and shooting orders. Oh yes, and be safe. I can't stress this enough! Learning to shoot within the 170 muzzle arc in competition can take a lot of focus at first. Building speed takes a lot of work and time. Every one of the top shooters in SASS has worked hard to get where they are, so don't think you are going to come out and kick butt right away. Focus on safety, learning shooting orders, and hitting the targets. Once that becomes second nature you can progressively work on building up your speed.
While you are shooting, try to be aware of the Range Officer who is timing you. The Range Officer is not concerned with penalties or misses, only safety, so if he shouts for you to stop shooting for any reason, then STOP. He may have spotted a safety issue and resolving that takes priority over the competition.
Unless you have a pressing appointment try to stay for the awards ceremony. The shoot is not officially over until the awards ceremony, and this is a time when everyone is relaxed and feeling social. If you make a habit of leaving right after the shoot and not staying for the awards ceremony this may be interpreted as disrespectful. As a bonus - if you are the only one in your category you'll receive an automatic 1st place. This is often referred to as "choosing your category wisely"!
It doesn't matter how long you've been Cowboy Action Shooting, there is ALWAYS something new to learn - new transitions or tricks, ways to mod your gear, approaches to achieving mental focus... The learning never stops. Just remember that every level of shooter started exactly where you are right now. Whether it is your first round down range or your ten thousandth, the adrenaline rush is the same, and this is something that we all share in the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting.
Match Etiquette & the Spirit of the Game
There is an unspoken ethic, and old fashioned rule set that comes to mind when thinking of the "cowboy way of life". First and foremost, a cowboy can be trusted. He knows that his worth as a man is only as good as his word. The cowboy knows his job and does what he must to get it done. He is a leader, and leads by example, not words. His values are unwavering and are worth fighting and dying for. The cowboy can be consistently counted on and is not out for his own glory. He is loyal, passionate, and patient. He finishes what he starts, and is tough, but fair.
"Spirit of the Game" is outlined in the SASS handbook and should be read by all shooters. Although Cowboy Action Shooting is a competitive sport, it is friendly in spirit and positive in sportsmanship. Poor sportsmanship is not tolerated. Match etiquette is not really discussed in the handbook but it definitely has it's place on the range and should not be taken lightly.
Approachable and friendly attitude - You'll see an example of great match etiquette in seasoned shooters helping out new shooters. I've seen champions that are so approachable and are just a joy to shoot with. These people have cultivated a positive and helpful attitude that is admired by everyone around them.
Helping out on your posse - Helping any way that you can on your posse goes a long way toward making any monthly or annual shoot a great one. There are a lot of things that need to be done on a posse to make a shoot run smooth. You have a Range Officer (RO) running the time clock. There are counters designated by the RO to count misses and watch for other penalties and safety infractions. There may be targets that need to be reset or repainted during the match. There are score keeping duties that must be handled accurately. There is the need to pick up or sweep brass (as in a "Lost Brass" match). Sometimes overlooked is the need for someone to man the loading and unloading tables, ensuring safety and helping out.
Loading table etiquette - As the shooter in front of you moves down the table, make sure you move forward as well to make room for the shooter behind you. Don't be a table hog! When attending your first few matches you may notice the shooter in front of you studying the stage, going through the shooting order with their fingers or hands and even acting out some of the movements they will make during the stage. This is referred to as "ghost shooting". It is important to be polite and refrain from talking or distracting the shooter who is up next. If you need help loading or you need your guns checked for safety refer to the shooter behind you or ask for help from someone else on your posse. On a side note - once your guns are loaded and your pistols holstered, DO NOT leave the loading table, as this is a stage disqualification!
Remain positive - Sometimes your hands, fingers, gear, and most (or all) of your brain just won't cooperate the way you want them to. Murphy's Law doesn't care who you are and everyone has off days! The important thing to remember is to stay positive and not lose your temper. This goes a long way toward maintaining the "cowboy way" out on the range. Once, a very good friend of mine (who is a top shooter) dropped his loaded gun at a big shoot on the first day. Despite that, he stayed positive and even though this was a disqualifying factor he continued to help out his posse the rest of the weekend. That is the essence of match etiquette.
Keep horse play in it's place - It seems the longer people shoot together the more they tend to joke around and play pranks on one another. Pranks are a sign of affection and can build camaraderie amongst shooters. The important thing is to know where to draw the line, and always keep in mind safety and respect for the shooters around you. Basically, treat people the way that you want to be treated yourself. Our philosophy is that pranks are ok until they mess with a shooter's time on the clock.
Set up and clean up - If you are willing and able there is always plenty to do before and after the shoot. No one gets paid to set up, pull steel after the match, or help clean up. If you are able to help in any capacity it is greatly appreciated!
Get involved with your local clubs - If you're not involved in a local club and would like to be, you are welcome to go to a club meeting and see where help may be needed. This is a great way also to make new friends! If running for an official position is more your thing, some fresh blood may be welcomed as a lot of positions have been held by officers for a long time (Note - some club's bylaws require you to be a Range Officer II to hold certain positions).
Cultivating good cowboy etiquette on the range can really go a long way toward making long lasting friendships, rounding out your experience as a Cowboy Action Shooter, and ultimately giving you a deep sense of satisfaction.
Safety Rules (First, Last, and Always)
Cowboy Action Shooting is a sport enjoyed by old and young alike. It's not uncommon to see whole families at the range - men, women AND kids too. However this sport, by nature, has the potential to be dangerous. So with this in mind, it is very important to be reponsible for your own actions and to keep safety first. SASS takes safety very seriously, and these guidelines should become second nature to you if you plan to spend any time developing your interest in this sport.
Safety rules to live by:
1. All firearms will remain unloaded except while you are under the direct observation of a Range Officer.
2. All loading and unloading will be conducted only in the designated areas while under the observation of a Range Officer.
3. Long guns will have their actions open immediately at the conclusion of each shooting string and while being carried on the range, unless enclosed in a case or scabbard.
4. Handguns are to be kept holstered except when on the firing line, at the loading/unloading tables, in a safety area, or at the shooter's vehicle. Handguns will be re-holstered at the conclusion of the gun's immediate use unless the stage directions specify otherwise.
5. Eye and hearing protection MUST be worn by all competitors and spectators.
6. Cowboy Action Shooting matches are NOT fast-draw competitions. ANY unsafe gun-handling or fanning will result in a disqualification.
7. A dropped gun will result in a disqualification. The shooter will not pick up a dropped gun. A Range Officer will recover the gun, examine it, clear it and return it to the shooter.
8. No shooter will have his / her finger on the trigger of any firearm until the firearm is pointed safely downrange.
9. Breaking a 170 arc relative to the firing line with the muzzle of a firearm will result in a disqualification. SWEEPING anyone AT ANY TIME with the muzzle of any firearm will result in disqualification.
10. An accidental discharge impacting within 10 feet of the shooter or in any direction deemed unsafe by the Range Officer will result in a disqualification.
11. Moving with a COCKED & LOADED firearm will result in a Stage DQ. (basketball "traveling" rules apply)
12. Dropped ammunition will be considered "dead" and cannot be picked up until the shooter is finished shooting the stage.
13. The use of drugs or alcohol will not be tolerated on this range.
The number one rule is to be safe and have fun!
Ammo & Reloading Overview
Ammo is a whole world of it's own. Each area of Cowboy Action Shooting uses it's own form of ammo - action shooters shoot lead, mounted shooters shoot wax, and reenactors shoot blanks. Later in my blog I will show you how to clean / reload your brass and load blanks for reenacting. We'll also review some great reloading manuals and equipment, and much more.
As I mentioned in a previous article, if you plan to shoot more than one match a month you are going to want to start reloading your own ammo. Reloading equipment can be an expensive initial investment, but it is definitely going to pay for itself over time.
SASS has specific requirements for ammunition for competition shooting. A few important things to keep in mind when buying or reloading your own ammo are:
•All ammunition used in smokeless categories must have not less than a power factor of 60 with velocity between 400 fps and 1000 fps for pistols, 400 fps and 1400 fps for rifles.
•Revolver and rifle ammunition must be all lead.
•Shotgun shot size must be number 4 birdshot or smaller, lead only.
The full set of requirements can be found in the Shooter's Handbook at the official SASS website.
Until you get set up to reload at home, you can find cowboy loads from makers like Black Hills and Hornady through Cabela's online or reloads with lead at your local gun shows. (Georgia Arms)
Reloading Your Own Ammo
Reloading Presses - A great place to find reloading equipment is Cabela's online, Midway USA, or on Amazon. These places have reloading instructional books as well. For presses I prefer Dillon Precision. They have a no nonsense warranty. If something breaks, call them and they will send you a replacement part right away! Plus, the staff really knows their stuff about their presses. You can order direct from Dillon Precision online or check their current inventory on Amazon. Lee Precision Press
Lead - When it comes to lead you have a lot of great options to choose from. I prefer Badman Bullets. The owners are great people. Mid Valley Drifter and his wife, Buckshot Shell-E are both champion shooters and know their stuff about bullets. World Champion Long Hunter uses and endorses Bad Man Bullets and let's face it, he is an awesome shooter! (Here in Georgia - take a look at Georgia Arms)
Shotgun Shells - Shotgun shells are still relatively inexpensive although they are rising in price. You can shoot factory made light target or game loads, or you can load your own to reduce recoil and save yourself some money. I recommend Dillon Precision or MEC reloading equipment.
Costuming & Accessories: Clothing, Boots & Hats
If you are new to Cowboy Action Shooting don't worry too much about your outfit. The point is to shoot, make friends, and have a GOOD TIME. Some shooters tend to keep things on a basic level and never really get much into costuming, and that is ok. However, clothing, boots and hats can be one of the most fun things about this sport!
Boots - When shooting weekly matches and spending long hours standing on the range your priority is to find comfortable boots to wear. Packers are comfortable and give good ankle support. Stove Pipe boots look great, but are less comfortable after long hours of wear, so I save them for reenacting and wear Packers for regular competition so my feet don't hurt. The good thing about Packers is that you can find them easily at your local western store. If you want Stove Pipes you will have to order them online.
Hats - Hats of the Old West were typically made of beaver felt. Top hats were commonly worn by well-to-do town folk. Bowlers and derby's were worn by town folk as well as lawmen, bankers and outlaws, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Cowboys and ranchers typically wore larger brimmed hats as this was sometimes their only means of shade from the sun. There are many different hats for many different looks, and the choice really is up to you which way you want to go. Being that a lot of cowboy shooting matches are held in hot weather, straw hats are commonly worn in the summertime and are acceptable at shoots.
Clothing - A great resource for finding cool vintage clothing are your local second hand stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. You'll be amazed at how much you can find there.
SASS provides a directory of links to retailers of clothing, hats and other cool stuff. If you have the time you can easily spend hours shopping through these links. Here I have collected together some of my top favorites of the best clothing, hat, and boot suppliers I've found to date.
Costuming & Accessories: Shotgun Belts
When it comes to shotgun belts, again you are going to find yourself with a lot of options. When buying a shotgun belt whether you are shooting a side by side or a 97 as well as how many shells you want to pull can be a deciding factor. Some shooters will opt to put a shotgun shell slide on their holsters instead of wearing a shotgun belt (see photo). The down side to this method is shotgun slides typically hold a fewer number of rounds, so if you have "fumble fingers" you may find yourself without enough rounds to finish the stage! Wearing a shotgun slide on your pistol belt also puts your rounds farther from reach than on a shotgun belt.
Two options for shotgun belts are:
1) Belts that hold shotgun shells in pairs
2) Belts with single loops that hold shells individually
Belts that hold shotgun shells in pairs - These belts limit you to only pulling in pairs. If you are shooting a 97, for instance, and you have six shotgun targets, many shooters will pull two sets of three shells, which is very difficult to do with this style belt.
Belts with single loops that hold shells individually - These belts are the most versatile. This configuration will allow you to set up your shotgun shells in any order or pattern that you wish. In my opinion these belts are the best for any shooting style. These belts can either be web and nylon, all leather, or my personal favorite - a leather belt with nylon loops.
One thing to look for in any shotgun belt is to make sure the shells sit high enough to be easily pulled. Ultimately, choosing the "right" shotgun belt is going to come down to personal preference and shooting style.
Costuming & Accessories: Holsters & Leather
There are so many holsters out there that it may seem overwhelming. The biggest thing to keep in mind is the wear caused by holstering and drawing repeatedly over time. You'll need holsters that are going to stay open and last you a good long while. I've been competing for 10 years now and I'm on my 4th rig. There are many things to consider when getting a holster rig, such as quality and thickness of leather, muzzle degree cant, if you want two strong side draws or a cross draw... If you are going to shoot gunfighter style you are going to have to have two strong side draws.
When it comes to leather this is an area where you could take a couple of different approaches. You can buy a less expensive rig to start out until you figure out what muzzle cant and other details will work best for you. In the meantime you may end up fighting your rig on the clock. The best approach is to do a lot of research. First, talk to seasoned shooters at your local club and talk to the makers before buying. Second, be willing to spend a little bit more for a better quality rig. When you have a good rig that suits your shooting style you'll be able to draw and reholster smoothly and naturally without any problems. Smoothness is speed in this sport.
Here you will find links to some of the top leather companies I see on the range worn by the top shooters:
Ted Blocker Holsters [website] - My top choice for holsters is Ted Blocker. My last two rigs are from the Line Rider Series. These holsters retain their shape time and time again and are very durable. On a personal note, if you've ever shot with Coho Kid and Brassy Shell (the owners of Ted Blocker Holsters), they are a lot of fun and are really nice people!
Mernickle Holsters [website] - Another top choice for cowboy holsters is Mernickle Holsters. They make great products for Cowboy Action Shooting, as well as Cowboy Fast Draw. Check out the Quick Cal Shooting System shotgun belt (model number QCSG1). In my opinion, this is the best shotgun belt out there. It allows you to set up your shells in any order of draw (see the next article in this series for more about shotgun belts).
Kirkpatrick Holsters [website] - Kirkpatrick Leather is my third favorite choice for cowboy leather. They offer the Long Hunter Shooting System, designed by champion cowboy shooter Long Hunter.
Gun Cart Inspiration & Design
Before long it will become clear that a gun cart of some form is absolutely necessary for hauling around your guns and equipment. There are a lot of basic designs out there, but many shooters have used the building of their gun cart to really show off some personality and creativity. A gun cart can be both functional and a true work of art!
You can buy a gun cart kit online, find gun cart building plans online, or come up with an original design completely your own. You are limited only by your imagination! Some functionality you should try to incorporate into your design if you build your own:
Storage, lots of storage - In addition to space for your guns there should be drawers, compartments or pockets to hold smaller items - ammo, spent brass, snacks, drinks (possibly a built in cup holder), rags, personal score cards, cigars (if you enjoy a good stogie at the range), car keys, extra hearing protection, etc. With a little ingenuity you'll find it's easy to fit a lot of storage into a small amount of space.
Seating - There is a whole lot of standing around at matches while waiting for your turn to shoot, and standing on dirt and gravel can really be hard on your feet. Building a seat into your gun cart (or building a gun cart into your seat, see photo to the right) is a really good idea, and the space beneath the seat can always be utilized for additional storage.
Weather protection - Some folks like to add a holder for an umbrella that can be folded out for shade in the hot summer sun. This can double as protection for your guns from the elements on a wet day.
Large wheels - Large wheels with tires will let you push or pull a lot of weight over rough and rocky terrain.
Foldable or collapsible design - for transportation to and from shoots if you drive a compact vehicle.
About the author Purgatory Smith (SASS #26284 life, Match Director, Table Rock Rangers)
My given name is Jason Jeremy Jameson, and I was born on March 12th, 1971. Growing up on a horse ranch, I was always exposed to a western way of life, instilled with a cowboy sense of values, and an affinity for the Old West. Both sides of my family shot and collected firearms. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of shooting my Ruger Single Six at squirrels and cans, and just spending the whole day plinking on the ranch.
Later in life my grandfather, Richard D. Jameson, a World War II veteran, got involved in a sport called Cowboy Action Shooting. My granddad was always a hero larger than life to me. His service in the South Pacific and 42 months as a prisoner of war, taken at just age 17, was, to me and everyone who knew him, the essence of what a hero and legend was. To me, he was a real life American icon. When my granddad (alias Rogue River Ranger) told me how much fun CAS and SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) was it sounded like something that I just had to try.
So, in early October 2001 I found myself by the side of the woodshed at my granddad's ranch with a lever action rifle, a double barrel shotgun on a table, and two six guns strapped to my side. He had already purchased five steel targets on stands. By the side of the wood shed is where I would spend many hours practicing over the next few years. This is also where my granddad and I not only became best friends, but I found a kinship for what I consider to be the best sport in the world.
The next day was my first match. I was so nervous on the first stage that my adrenaline was pumping and my heart was racing. I felt like a kid at Christmas. By the "BEEP" of the first stage I was forever hooked and my whole life changed. I was totally obsessed!
My granddad and I bought guns, gear, and holsters... we also bought bullets, lots of bullets! After a tough match, if I had too many misses my granddad would hand me several boxes of ammo and a time clock, and to the side of the woodshed I went. This is joked about to this day amongst mine and my granddad's shooting friends.
Rogue River Ranger and Purgatory Smith
But the toughest part about getting into Cowboy Action Shooting was choosing an alias! Finally, after almost two months I had one - Purgatory Smith. Many people asked why I chose Purgatory Smith. It's a cool name, but it sounds kind of dark. Well, as a kid I was raised as an Irish Catholic and after watching the western Purgatory and Smith being a classic Old West alias, it just seemed right for me. I became Purgatory Smith.
I shot traditional style for about six matches and then moved to the "Gunfighter" category. Gunfighter was a perfect fit. We started with full load 45s, Marlin rifles, and Stevens 311 double trigger, double barrelled shotguns. Oh, how much has changed for me after 10 years and approximately 300 thousand rounds on the time clock! I shoot downloaded 38s and a 73 with all of the tricks you can get. I alternate shotguns between a 97 and a single trigger Browning, depending on how many shotgun rounds are on the stage and the order of the targets.
My granddad passed from his fight with cancer in 2008, but he remains the spirit behind every round and every match that I shoot.
In no way do I consider myself to be the best shooter in SASS. What I do consider myself to be is a true passionate enthusiast of Cowboy Action Shooting. It is my aim to share with the new (and seasoned!) shooter my irrepressible love and passion for the greatest sport on Earth (Cowboy Action Shooting), as well as Old West Reenacting, and just about anything to do with the Old West.
I currently live and shoot in beautiful Southern Oregon with my wife and co-conspirator, Vendetta.
A few of my shooting achievements:
2006 Oregon State Games "preliminary for U.S. Games" Overall
2007 Oregon State Games Gunfighter
2008 North West regional Champion Gunfighter
2009 Hell On Wheels High Plains Regional Champion Gunfighter
Several time Oregon State Champion Gunfighter, including 2010
Lead Daze At Linkville 2009 Overall
56 clean monthly matches in a row