Ever dreamed of getting duded up like Wyatt Earp and walking the boardwalks of Tombstone, guns ready at the hip with an urge to fling lead? If so, Cowboy Action Shooting may be the sport for you.
Every weekend, groups of shooters trade their everyday attire for clothes, hats, and boots straight out of the historic Old West, with shooting irons to match. Competitors shoot single-action revolvers, pistolcaliber lever action rifles, or oldtime shotguns, and use ammunition filed with “cowboy loads,” which use less gunpowder to help shooters stay on target with minimal recoil. And it doesn’t stop there. Participants also adopt an alias to fit their character— it’s a liberating feeling to be known as Lead Dispencer or Halfa-Hand Henri (both of whom are World Champions).
The rules are straightforward: On a shooting line, a contestant is given a timer signal and then fires at a series of steel targets arranged in patterns at specific distances.
The twist is in the execution.
The stages, as they are called, are usually based on Western movie themes or historic incidents, and employ props and elaborate designs to add to the fantasy. They often begin with a shouted line from a movie, such as “You tell ’em I’m comin’. And Hell’s comin’ with me, ya hear?!” (from Tombstone). When the smoke clears, the shooter with the fastest time and fewest number of misses wins his shooting category, which are organized by gender and age group.
Cowboy Action Shooting is also a social sport, with elaborate festivals and parties based around events. The biggest festival is the annual End of Trail World Championships, which attracts hundreds of shooters, vendors, and spectators. The event takes place at Founders Ranch in Edgewood, N.M.
The shooting match for this year’s End of Trail, June 22-28, is based on scenes from Sam Peckinpah’s action-filled classic The Wild Bunch.
The Single Action Shooting Society, better known as SASS, is an international governing organization with more than 500 clubs in the United States alone. Visit www.sassnet.com for information (and to choose your unique shooting alias).
Ken Amorosano is publisher of Western Shooting Horse magazine (www.westernshootinghorse. com).
LINKS TO THE PAST
Single Action Shooting Society: www.sassnet.com
National Congress of Old West Shooters: www.ncows.org
Wild West Mercantile: www.wildwestmercantile.com