So you want to play cowboy?
First things first…
Learn to shoot “the cowboy way”
The Antelope Junction Rangers provides free instruction to all interested cowboys & cowgirls. You will learn from one of the very best as she just happens to be one of the top lady shooters in the state and loves to teach and introduce new shooters to the “cowboy way” and our sport!
May Eye Rider will spend a Friday night with you and explain all of the basic things to do and of course, what not to do. She will also let you try your hand at shooting all of the basic western style firearms we use in our sport.
After a session or two with May Eye, you will move into our competition bay and start shooting with the rest of us on Friday nights. Don’t worry about equipment, we’ll let you use ours and even supply the bullets to get you started.
After trying different styles of revolvers, rifles and shotguns; you should have a better idea of what is right for you (and of course, your wallet!). For you new shooters or “Folk just thinking about it” here is some basic information about the hardware our sport of Cowboy Action Shooting requires. Your best information will come from actually watching a shoot. But this information will get you started. Before you know it, you’ll be hooked and ready for one of our monthly matches!
Watch the Video:
There is an excellent instructional video series posted online. It covers just about every aspect of our sport and will give you an excellent base on which you can practice. Here are some short videos by Bob Wolf entitled “Cowboy Action Shooting Tips & Techniques” to help get you started: Cowboy Action Shooting Tips & Techniques
Must be single action six-shooter (means you have to cock the hammer before gun will fire by pulling trigger). Adjustable sight pistols are legal in most “age based categories”, but many “style based categories” require “fixed sight pistols”. Pistol must look western and shoot pistol caliber ammo. Good examples are Colts (expensive), Colt look-a-likes (clones) made by Uberti, Hartford, EMF, AWA, etc., and Ruger Vaqueros which are very similar to colts but not a real clone. Most cowpokes are shooting Colt clones and Vaqueros. Caliber is in the .32 to .45 range. If you want to go fast, most will shoot .38/.357 for less recoil from smaller bullet. You can become a Soot Lord and shoot black powder loads (we call it “The Darkside”) as well as cap and ball (.36 cal. min.), though these shooters are usually in the minority, due to extra time and ability required. Stainless steel and nickel plate, as well as blued guns are fine. You will need two revolvers.
Must be Pistol Caliber (usually the same caliber as yer pistol). No high power rifles! Rifles are usually lever action (colt lightning pump O.K.) and are replicas of rifles between 1860 and 1899 (excluding the 1895 Winchester). Most cowpokes shoot Winchester 1894’s, 1873’s, 1866’s or their clones by Rossi, Uberti, EMF, etc., and many shoot the Marlin Cowboy lever gun. Some “style based” shooting categories may exclude certain rifles allowed in other categories.
Must be replicas of the 1860 to 1899 period and are usually double barrel types (by Stoeger, etc., 12 ga to 20 ga), the 1897 Winchester pump or their clones by Norinco and other Chinese manufacturers (12ga to 16 ga), or the rarer (and harder to use) 1887 12 gauge lever action shotgun. Most men shoot 12ga; .410’s are illegal except for Buckaroos, and 20 ga pumps are illegal. Automatic ejectors on shotguns are illegal, so make sure, if a double, it simply pushes the shells out to where you can grab them (extractor), but does not shoot them across the range when opened (ejector). Some doubles have external hammers (mule ears) but most cowpokes are concerned about their stage times and do not shoot mule ears (unless shooting in the Classic Cowboy Category) because it takes more time to cock the hammers. Half the cowpokes shoot the 1897 pump and most others shoot doubles. Some “style based” shooting categories may exclude certain shotguns allowed in other categories.
Ammo must be plain lead (no jacketed bullets or hollow points) and usually at least .32 caliber (most cowboys shoot .38/.357 and .45; .22’s are illegal except for Buckaroo category. Most cowboys shoot the same caliber pistol as they do rifle, so rounds are interchangeable. If you are going to shoot cowboy, you are going to have to reload yer brass shells. This is because it is too expensive to buy them, and if you do, they are loaded too heavy and have too much recoil. You can buy yer shotgun shells just fine, but get lead shot (7 1/2, 8, or 9, low brass; no steel shot) like Winchester AA or Remington at about $8 a box (the cheap $5 a box shells may not pull out of a double easy). You can get an inexpensive single stage reloading outfit from Lee, RCBS, etc. (which works fine) or more expensive multistage outfits. Gun shows are a good place to buy your reloading outfit as well as primers and powder. Ask your local cowboy shooters where they get their lead bullets for the best deal, and ask them to show you how to reload and to help you set up your reloading machine. It is simple to reload and anyone can do it with just a little practice! Brass cases can be reused many times and cowboys save their brass at matches for reloading. You can buy your brass from Starline for a reasonable price. After that, it will only cost you about 9 cents to reload a cartridge (powder, primer and lead). There are usually 6 stages in a monthly match and you typically shoot about 10 pistol rounds, 10 rifle rounds, and 4 to 6 rounds of shotgun per stage. So you’ll need about 120 to 140 pistol/rifle rounds and about 25 to 40 shotgun rounds at most cowboy matches.
You will need a two-gun leather rig. The most common is a double strong-side cross draw rig; meaning the left holster is angled toward yer right hand so you can draw both the right side gun and left side gun with yer right hand. (reverse if you are left handed). More accomplished cowpokes often use this rig but if you pull the cross draw pistol with the barrel pointing behind you, you will be disqualified from the stage. A good choice is just a standard double rig. You can draw your weak side gun with weak hand and transfer it to your to your strong side hand. Another type rig is the buscadero in which the holsters are dropped below the belt (gunslinger style). Careful with this rig ’cause pistols have a much better chance of falling out and causing a stage disqualification. However, the buscadero rig is required in “B” Western category and prohibited in Classic Cowboy category.
In addition to your holsters, you need a shotgun belt because some of our stages may be almost all shotgun. Get one that has 16 shot shell loops and then a spot for a few cartridges. It makes life easier and much quicker.
Like our posse picture on the home page, the dress isn’t too complicated. At a minimum, you should wear regular jeans (not with designer labels), a long sleeve shirt, boots and a cowboy hat. Please no tennis shoes. Everything else, (like vests, kerchiefs, chaps) you can add in time, if you wish. If you are just a spectator, you can wear anything you like. However, even spectators, like participants, are required to have earplugs and glasses of some type (prescription, shade or shooting) to protect the eyes from any lead “bounce back” from the steel targets. As for the ladies; dress in boots, hat, western pants/ skirts/dresses/blouses, etc.
Where do you find all this stuff? Start by joining SASS, because this is where you get your “alias” and they send you the Cowboy Chronicle once a month, which is chock full of ads for guns, leather, ammo, reloading equipment, clothes, etc. It is an unbelievable wealth of information on our sport. Get an old issue from a cowboy (you may have to shoot him first and then pry it out of his hand). They will also send you an official rulebook. Then go to a shoot (they often have used guns and leather for sale there) and find out how much fun it is! But be warned… you will be hooked after you do!