5 Things You Didn’t Know about Cowboy Action Shooting
Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS)! It’s the shooting sport for the kid who loved classic westerns and grew up to love guns. The sport is actually pretty similar to three-gun in practice; each competitor shoots two pistols, a rifle, and a shotgun at steel targets in a specific order. Your stage is timed (misses add time to your score) and the fastest time wins. The catch? You’re in costume, dressed as a 19th-century cowpoke. Oh, and your guns are 19th century too. Here are some things you might not have known about CAS:
The first step of becoming a cowboy shooter? A completely original alias.
One of the most unique parts of Cowboy Action Shooting is that each individual shooter has a completely original “alias” – a name that they have chosen to go by while competing. In fact, your real name will never appear at any cowboy match, except maybe on the check you’re writing to sign up. I’ve known many cowboy shooters for over a decade and I still couldn’t tell you their real name. Afraid you’ll pick the same name as someone else? Don’t worry, the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) the governing body of CAS takes care of that. When you register, you’ll be able to use their search engine to determine if your desired alias is available. If it is, you just found your cowboy name, and you’re well on your way to becoming a cowboy action shooter.
It’s not just nationwide, it’s worldwide.
Cowboy Action Shooting may seem like one of the most American things you’ve ever heard of. While the sport did originate in the U.S., SASS affiliated clubs and matches exist all over both the nation and the world. You can find a local cowboy match in all 50 states (that’s right, even Hawaii) and countries like Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Denmark, France, Finland, and more. Each year, states and regions hold large matches usually made up of 10-15 stages to determine the best of the bunch. Looking for the biggest matches in the world? Nationals are held at the Ben Avery Shooting Range outside of Phoenix, AZ every year, called “Winter Range”. World Championships, aka “End of Trail”, is held every spring in New Mexico – and these matches are open to all cowboy action shooters.
Cowboys put a lot of time and money into creating the perfect competition guns.
Shooting guns modeled after 19th-century firearms isn’t always easy. You don’t have the fancy red dots, lasers, or optics to help you hit your target. So what do you do to get ahead? Cowboy shooters everywhere pour money into creating the perfect competition guns. Shooters who are serious about competing get “action jobs” on their firearms, making triggers have lighter pulls and lever rifles have short stroke capabilities. The smoother and faster the gun is, the smoother and faster the shooter is. Most shooters go for the Ruger Vaquero .38 revolver, an 1873 Winchester model lever-action rifle by Uberti, and either an 1897 pump shotgun or a side-by-side “coach” shotgun. It’s not a cheap sport to compete in, but then again, what shooting sport is?
There are different categories you can compete in based on age, shooting style, and costume preference.
Cowboy Action Shooting has all different types of categories you can compete in at matches. When you register for a match, you’ll always choose a category to be scored in. Categories have different rules. For example, if you’re looking to shoot the “authentic” way by shooting your pistol with just one hand, you’d be in the “Duelist” category. Want to shoot with a pistol in each hand, alternating shots from pistol to pistol? You’d be what’s called a “gunfighter”. Maybe you’re less into the shooting and more into the frills of it all – you’d want to shoot in the B-Western category, where you have to wear spurs, roping cuffs, chaps, and plenty of fringe (think “Roy Rogers”). There are also categories based on age that are open for all styles of shooting, which are usually the most common categories.
Cash prizes don’t exist in Cowboy Action Shooting.
You’ll probably be surprised to find out that at the end of all this there is no money in Cowboy Action Shooting. If you’re looking to make a living as a pro-shooter, Cowboy Shooting might not be for you. Even the biggest competitions only have trophies for winners. So right now you’re probably asking yourself “Why do people pour thousands of dollars into costumes, guns, travel, ammo, and match fees for nothing?”. I can confidently say that you’ll never meet nicer people than the people you’ll meet while competing in Cowboy Action Shooting. ~ Emily
Emily is an industry professional who got her start in the gun world with Cowboy Action Shooting at the age of 10. Originally from Southeastern Connecticut, Emily traveled across the country competing with her family in state and regional SASS matches before winning nationals at the age of 16. She made the switch to clay target sports at the end of high school and was recruited to the top shotgun program in the country at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. After four national championships with the program, Emily received her bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Art History and made the move to firearm instruction at the Georgia Southern University Shooting Sports Education Center. She taught pistol, rifle, and archery classes in the state-of-the-art indoor firearms and archery facility for two years while receiving her master’s in public administration. Now, Emily works in marketing for multiple top shooting sports brands. She still instructs, still shoots clays, and of course still competes in the sport that started it all – Cowboy Action Shooting.