Cowboy Action Shooting:

What is it?

How is it played?

How do you join in the fun!

By Bounty Hunter, SASS Regulator #1849

Three men are given credit for starting the development of this shooting sport in 1979. They are Harper Criegh, Bill Hahn and Gordon Davis. Little did these gentlemen know that when they formed the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), their idea of using the firearms of the American Frontier in competition events likened to those of the old west would be where it's at almost 20 years later -- with tens of thousands of shooters participating in hundreds of events around the world every weekend!

This is a game of fantasy gunfighting during the wild and wooley days of Wild Bill Hickock, Jesse James & Wyatt Earp. Not just the men either. Calamity Janes, Annie Oakleys and Belle Stars are right beside them. Hundreds of other colorful figures of the past are seen again at today's shooting ranges having the times of their lives.

Cowboy Action Shooting is basically a three type of gun competition. The firearms are those most typical of the American Frontier from about 1860 to just after the turn of the century.

Shooting scenarios are likened to an events akin to those of the old west. Match themes can come from actual incidents, movie scenes or the match designers imagination.

Cowboy Action Shooting is not a fast draw style of competition. Shooters' will find movement and plenty of action as they use all three styles of firearms during engagement.

This shooting sport was designed for all levels of shooters. Targets are generous in size and placed at such proximity that the difficulty or challenge competitors face is the speed they engage a course of fire. However, we all learn soon enough that no target is too big or too close that we can't miss it.

The great success of this activity can be attributed to many reasons. None are more significant than that it is a family oriented, recreational activity and that it is so much FUN. Shooters compete and enjoy the sport at any skill level, it is NOT mandatory to shoot well or to win in order to have FUN. This promotes the values often referred to as the "spirit of the game," and is perhaps best shown by the friends made while sharing a mutual appreciation of what is the legend of America's most colorful and exciting period.

Pistols used for main match competition are single action types. Separate classes for percussion (cap & ball), black powder cartridge and smokeless cartridge shooting allow broad use and choice of styles.

Traditional Class denotes use of fixed or iron sights. Modern Class brings into play single action pistols with adjustable style of sights. Up to eight separate classes provide all shooters' with excellent choices from which to choose.

Rifles and carbines are the lever or slide action style of the period. Main match competition requires use of a "pistol" caliber, typically the same as that selected for use in their pistols.

Shotguns used are any side by side common to the era, without automatic ejectors, with or without exposed hammers, with one or two triggers. Any lever action shotgun may be used. Any pump shotgun with an exposed hammer such as the Winchester Model 1897 and the Marlin Model 16 are used (except ones configured for military use).

Specific rules and explanations can be found in the SASS Shooter's Handbook.

One of the characteristics of this shooting sport is the costuming. Shooters have found this to be one of the most interesting and fun parts of the sport. Clothing and accoutrements from the old west era, the turn of the century and the silver screen cowboy films provide a wide variety from which to choose.

When you decide to participate in cowboy action shooting, you will have to choose a name, or alias to go by. SASS alias's are registered and an alias list is available through the SASS office. These names are chosen in many ways. They are usually representative in some way of the old west. A few examples of clever alias' are: Flint Westwood - Doc Hollandaise - Mild Bill Hiccup - Hans M. Stranger - Dunn Tawkin'. More traditional aka's are used, such as Buckskin Frank Leslie - Calamity Jane - Bat Masterson, etc. Humor is always welcomed. Black Bart Simpson - Dusty Bottoms - Justice B. Dunn - Pasture Patti - and the list goes on. It's up to you, from a movie to a movie star, a childhood nickname you had, or the one you wish you had. It's just another part of the fun folks have -- just ask the Some Dense Kid!

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© 2009 Eric Nelson