Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cowboy Action Shooting - Let's Talk!

Over the last few years, I've added my two cents here and there on a few discussion boards on the net. Most of the time, it had to do with politics, TV shows, the News, or some shooting sport or another. And usually, well, I'd just read something that didn't sit well, and I'd just have an urge to tell someone what I thought. Imagine that!

I remember the day that I first got the chance to get out to the range and shoot my first match. It was a great day. One of the other shooters lent me one of his pistols and a hundred rounds just so that I'd be able to join in on the fun and shoot that day.

After that, it was all a matter of time before I picked up what I needed to start Cowboy Action Shooting. I found out that I needed to join the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) to shoot with that club as it was a SASS affiliated club. So I looked SASS up on a Google search and found their website at SASS.

Once there, I found out what I needed to do to join. And yes, I saw on their website that they have an Internet forum called the Wire.

Actually, they have more than just one forum going at once. They have the SASS Wire, the SASS Saloon, a SASS Wire for Mounted Shooters, a SASS Wire for Classifieds, a SASS Wild Bunch Wire, and a SASS Wire for the Territorial Governors if I'm right. And all are geared to their members.

I'd have to say that the SASS Wire is their mainboard. This discussion board has many great topics and is really a great place to go if you're just starting in Cowboy Action Shooting. You can get a lot of questions answered. And yes, that was my initial reason for joining that forum.

I remember how I got bitten by the Cowboy Action Shooting bug. I was so eager to learn as much as I could about this new type of shooting. And yes, though I'd been shooting all my life, this was new to me.

I had already had a taste of the fun and the great fellowship at the range, so now I needed to know the rules and the "how comes" of the sport. The SASS Wire came in very handy.

The big reason that I liked the Wire being there at the time was that I really didn't want to be a PITA (pain in the ass) out at the range by asking people a whole lot of questions about this and that. That's why I was happy to find out that SASS had a discussion board.

Once I was on there, there was no getting off of it for the longest time. I read a lot, and I have to admit that I asked every dumb question that a new member could think of. No kidding, it was great.

I read about what members were talking about with the hopes that they were talking about some of the questions that I had and wanted to ask. And yes, I found great information. And friends, all sorts of subjects are talked about.

From shooting tips, gun talk, and good conversation to just about anything under the sun; from the advantages and history behind shooting two-handed versus one-handed shooting; to Custer's screw up at the Little Big Horn and other Old West history; from shooting sweep sequences and patterns to the pluses and minuses of using different calibers, different guns, and different powders; from talking about the latest assault from the Liberal Left on the 2nd Amendment to news about recently introduced guns; it's all there. 

Sometimes the talk gets heated. And frankly, I can do without that when it's supposedly a social forum -- but that happens anywhere -- especially when people may read what someone didn't explain what they were saying correctly when they typed out their comment. Trying to figure out what someone is saying simply reading very cryptic comments is one of the drawbacks of such forums. 

A few weeks ago, a member posted a link to another shooting forum talking about our sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. The discussion ranged from who those guys were, to why these guys talked about our sport since they have never shot with us, to let them go and talk because there may be one or two who might be interested in joining us at a match.

I took a look at the other website and thought that some of these guys would probably enjoy shooting with us. And, of course, it was obvious that some wouldn't. After all, they were just jerks who wouldn't be happy no matter what they were doing.

Sure, as with any organization, SASS has a few shooters who are not as friendly as one would hope. And yes, I can attest to meeting a few from time to time. And granted, some ranges are sort of "cliquish." But frankly, that happens in any sport, club, or organization.

If you don't think so, you obviously hadn't gone to a few VFW Posts where the cliques are so bad that a fellow veteran can feel totally unwelcome. 

As for the SASS forum, the Wire, some come off like "know-it-alls," and a few can be taken as "mean-spirited" or "forum bullies." But all in all, SASS folks are good people. And really, that's why I was surprised at that other forum?

Frankly, I have to say that I was amazed that many folks on that other forum talked about shooting in a way that made them sound as if they never shot before. It was as if they really never get out to a range much, or any range at all ever as far as that goes.

All had certainly never been to a SASS match, either a local monthly match or one of our bigger annual matches. Anyone in this sport could tell that by how they were talking. Many of those guys sounded sort of odd, almost as if reading a prepared script. It was more as if they were just reading what they knew out of a book. It didn't sound like first-hand knowledge.

I believe that shooting is sort of like a hangover. You can talk about it all you want, but unless you've actually experienced it, you're just guessing how it feels. As with many things in life, it really is that way with shooting guns of all sorts. Unless you've had a pistol, or rifle, or shotgun in your hand and actually fired it, then you're probably just going with what you've seen on TV, or the movies, or maybe read about, or something that you may have been told.

And being real honest here, that other discussion board is not alone when it comes to people who talk about shooting while not shooting very often. Some people on the SASS Wire talk a great game, yet they are the first to admit they simply don't get out to shoot as much as they would like to.

After reading some of the posts on that other forum, I was amazed at what some people were saying. They talked about things that they were just ignorant about. And yes, some people on there seem to go on and on almost relishing some crazy idea that we at SASS weren't growing as an organization or that SASS and Cowboy Shooting was a dying sport.

Well, to paraphrase someone else, the demise of SASS and Cowboy Action Shooting is greatly exaggerated. I don't know if our membership is getting older or not, but the fact is that we are also growing in number.

Want evidence? Here's some great evidence.

When joining SASS, we members pick an Alias, and we get issued a badge with a badge number on it. It is our membership number. It shows folks just how many members SASS has had, or roughly still has.

Since I'm originally from Hawaii, and I was taught to Cowboy in the old Paniolo style by my grandfather, my alias is Paniolo Cowboy. Yup, I'm him!

My badge number is 75875, and I started in 2007. SASS is now issuing badge numbers in the high 90,000 range. Friends, that's called growth.

One of the complaints that I read is that our members are aging. Well, aren't we all. And yes, it sure beats the alternative! But let's get real here and be honest, the fact is that everyone joining SASS is not only in the 60s or 70s age group. I'd say that we probably have a higher percentage of members in their 50s and 60's, but the fact is that we also have kids that shoot in SASS as well. Some aren't just "kids," as in "anyone under 70," but really are kids. Yes, they are kids.

They're called Buckaroos, and we're all really proud of them. Frankly, I have to say that watching them shoot is a kick in the pants. Those kids have a great time! So yes, I'd say that we have a pretty wide variety of ages represented.

Granted, the majority might be a little older, but that's just how life works. Especially when one considers that some of us didn't join in on the fun until after we retired and finally had the free time to get involved in something that we never had the time for before.

Another thing to think about is that our whole nation is aging, and as a result, it may be a sign of how much people enjoy SASS. Heck, no one feels like giving it up even if they are getting up there in years.

As far as the other people on that other shooting board talking about what size loads we use, our clothing requirements, or if we require hats, or if our guns are too expensive? Well, first off that all part of our sport.

We have minimum and maximum criteria for the size of acceptable loads. We also have dress requirements the same as some other sports do, and we like folks to look like they belong in the Old West if they are going to shoot Cowboy Action Shooting. 

I find it interesting that no one at the range gives a rip what the next guy is shooting, whether or not he or she is shooting light loads, or whether it goes pop instead of a boom. Although I do have to admit that someone once asked me if my loads were so heavy, they would screw up the targets because replacing or fixing targets cost clubs money. But that was only once, and I was shooting some very hot loads. So I understood his concern.

And actually thinking about it right now, I can honestly say that at the range, there is the occasional gut-busting laughter that comes from your posse as you just boomed away with a full load of BP (black powder).

And for you folks that have never seen it, well, BP makes a lot of smoke. When some of the guys and gals shoot BP, I think they actually enjoy the idea that they smoke out everyone around you. 

After those Black Powder shooters shoot, well heck, they have to wait a minute for the smoke to clear because they can't see the target to shoot again. And yes, especially if the wind hadn't swept the BP smoke away so that the counters could see if they really were hitting the targets or not.

Now, do I really care what some joker on another shooting forum says about Cowboy Action Shooting? Well, I honestly don't. For me, I take offense to some things in life but what someone says on another discussion board ain't one of the things high on my list of give-a-shit-items. As everyone knows, I do get a little steamed when misinformation is being passed around about something that may be near and dear to me.

In Cowboy Action Shooting, some of our shooters wear some pretty interesting clothing. Mostly we dress in the period that we're shooting, and just so happens we are shooting only guns from the years just before the year 1900.

The years considered the heyday of the Old West mostly. Guns from the 1860s to 1890s. Although SASS is trying out a category to allow people who want to shoot 1911 pistols, everyone still dresses Cowboy.

For some folks, they go all out, and some of the ladies look absolutely stunning.

 And then there are guys like me, who don't go so far and stick with the John Wayne School of dressing Cowboy for the matches.

Then again, I remember when one Saturday, my wife and I drove over to the range to see about joining in on the fun. It was a few weeks before my first match, and the range was clearing out. The shooters had just ended their match, and a lot of folks were already putting their stuff away and leaving.

I stopped and talked to a man about my age, in his 50s, and asked him some questions about Cowboy Action Shooting.

He was a nice guy who was soon joined by a friend, so the three of us stood there and chewed the fat for a bit about the guns that were needed when they met to shoot, and some other things like how there are all sorts of clubs that shoot there on other weekends.

Then one of the guys looks at me and says, "And hey, looks like you already have your Costume!" We all laughed, shook hands, and said goodbye.

Then once I got back in my truck, I looked at my wife and said, "Costume? They think I'm wearing a costume?" My wife and I laughed about that, really, because this was what I wear every day. I wear boots, jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and my Resistol hat in the winter. In the summer, I wear a straw "Cowboy" hat and have for more years than I'd like to owe up to.

So when some people say, "Oh, the guns and clothing are so expensive!" I couldn't help but say to myself, "Oh, come on, give me a break." My first thought is usually about my jackass ex-brother-in-law, who spent his family into a financial hole buying golf clubs and other recreational habits.

As for Cowboy Shooting? Friends, if you already dress casual "Cowboy" like most cowboys do on an everyday basis, then what's the problem?

But if you want to order $45 Wild Rags, and buy $65 special "era-correct" shirts, and go get a $300 pair of mule ear boots, along with a $250 Stetson hat, then have at it pard.

For me, well, I wasn't born rich and have never made that thing called "disposable income." In fact, while I made some pretty good money in my time, I never made enough money in my life to live extravagantly.

So for me, well I buy my shirts at Wal-Mart, and I wear jeans. I buy my boots when they're on sale. And unlike some folks, I really use my boots all the time and not "just for the matches."

As for hats, well, I have a few of them. And honestly, I've had Cowboy hats all my life. The one that I use when I'm at a match is the same one that I wear around daily. If I remember right, it ran me around $65 on sale at a Western Wear Store in Livermore, California.

As for guns, well, some sports cost more than others. Guns are not cheap unless, of course, you buy used guns. But heck, I have a nephew who owns Snow Boards that cost over $500 each. And he owned 3 of them. In fact, that's light considering my friend who bought his daughter a $2800 horse to ride once a month in a gymkhana. It cost him over $350 a month to board the horse and another $90 every 8 weeks to shoe that horse.

So let's be realistic here and agree that some things cost more than others -- as in the case of my friend buying his daughter a horse. Well, she used the horse four times and became disinterested in riding. He was going to sell the horse, but she begged her dad not to sell the horse. Imagine that. As for me, I have horses. And I thank God that I can keep them here on my property. If I had to board my horses, I wouldn't be able to own the horses that I have.

Shooting equipment can be a one-time investment if you want it to be. Or like anything else, if you can afford to go out and buy a rifle or pistol or shotgun every time you turn around -- then you just might do it. I have the guns that I need for Cowboy Shooting, and I'm happy with what I have. I actually got lucky in the respect that I had been collecting some of the guns over a long period of time. So really, when I wanted to go into Cowboy Shooting, all I had to do was buy a second Ruger Vaquero pistol -- and I was ready to go.

I had bought my first Ruger Vaquero when they first came out. Compared to my "New Model" Ruger Vaquero, I like the "Old Model" version much better -- but that's for another article later. Since I've started shooting Cowboy, I replaced the rifle that I am using after a few years.  I replaced my old Navy Arms Henry Rifle in .44-40 with a used Marlin 1895 in .45 LC to go along with my Ruger Vaqueros. And friends, I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Most of us who shoot Cowboy Action Shooting has the attitude that "you can never have enough guns!"  Luckily for me that my father-in-law Nickle Jim reloads ammo and cuts down my cost to a few dollars a match versus a lot more money a month for ammunition.

So as you can tell, it all depends on how you want to do it. There are ways of going into things without breaking the bank, whether it's shooting Cowboy Action Shooting, or Trap, or Sporting Clays.

Heck, I know two guys who are getting their gear together. They've decided to share the cost of the guns and will share their guns during a match. Since one is heavier than the other and has the waistline to prove it, they have to buy individual holsters and gun belts. When it comes to shooting a match, all they have to do is get on the same Posse and have one shoot early in the lineup. They can do it until they get their own guns.

Depending on how they go about buying their equipment, together they will spend close to $2000 for their two new single-action pistols, a side by side shotgun, and a lever-action rifle, and a gun cart. Spending is all up to how much spending you want to do. There are some excellent deals on holsters and gun belts out there. 

Remember that many of the Gun Clubs have websites with listings of guns and gear for sale, and used guns can save a Beginner a lot of money when they are just getting started.

After your gear and your guns, it's just a matter of getting ammo and going to the range to have some fun. And really, it should be all about fun. No matter what language you say it in, it should be about having fun!

Most people have a great opinion of Cowboys, and once they go to a match, they'll usually see how much fun it is. Fun is the name of the game for everyone. Fun is what it's all about. 

While some might cringe when I say this, but "fun is shooting fast and shooting slow." It is what you like to do. Fun is making a lot of smoke, trying to shoot clean with no misses, and just as it is out there booming away with heavy loads. Fun is the fact that you're among friends and pards and shooting "your game." It is the fact that you're outside soaking up the sun and fresh air. Well, OK, fun is the smell of gunpowder as well! Yes, fun is to be had in all sorts of ways.

It happens out there at the range all the time from someone like me who goes out there to strictly socialize with friends and pards who don't care if I shoot as slow as molasses, to someone who steps up to the stage firing line and shoots so fast that he or she is a blur of speed and accuracy. Everyone at the range has their own definition of fun.

I respect people, and I certainly respect folks enough to allow them to shoot their own game. I have seen more and more people coming to the range and seeing how much fun everyone is having, and then wanting to get in on the fun. Most folks really care if it looks like fun or not. And let's be honest, fun is almost always the bottom line when folks want to do things away from home.

As for the people on the other discussion boards, well, they really don't know what they're talking about. Honestly, if they went to a range and shot with any SASS Club, then they'd be welcomed and have fun. They should try it before knocking it.

I really don't like reading something when it's as plain as the nose on your face that that person writing his opinion really doesn't know what he's talking about.

As a friend once told his teenage son, who was always pretty opinionated, "You should learn to listen more and keep your mouth shut, so you never sound like an idiot, instead of opening it and erase all doubt from the minds of those around you."

Cowboy Action Shooting is a wonderful shooting sport, and the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) has members and club affiliations all over the world -- probably because it's an outstanding organization.

I can only recommend what I know is good for you and me, and I'd recommend joining the fun and shooting with the pards at any match anytime you get the chance. For me, today I'm talking about Cowboy Action Shooting on here.

But tomorrow, well, I will get to go out the range and shoot with the High Sierra Drifters, my home club. We are not as big as some clubs, but they are a great bunch of folks. In fact, I can honestly say that SASS members are some of the best people around. Everyone gets along, all are pretty much like-minded, and all are there to have fun. And why not, after all, it's the Cowboy way!

Tom Correa


  1. Great article Paniolo Cowboy! Thanks for sharin' ~

    Gunner Gatlin SASS# 10274

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  3. Hello.
    The interesting name of a site -, interesting this here is very good.
    I spent 5 hours searching in the network, until find your forum!

  4. Bravo Paniolo!

    I loved your write up about our beloved SASS.


    Allie Mo, SASS 25217

  5. I am very pleased to have joined up with the community forum and I am excited to meeting with everyone within here eventually

  6. Good day!
    Happy New Year!
    Health, luck and love!

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  9. When it comes to Cowboy Action Shooting, all you need really are two revolvers, one rifle, and one shotgun. The costume you wear should be period correct and they have categories. If I wanted to get into this sport, I would use two Ruger Wrangler revolvers, one Winchester rifle, and one Stoeger shotgun. This sport is a very fun one if you know what you're doing. Anybody can join in on the fun and everyone is invited to participate. In the end, Cowboy Action Shooting is a fun sport to be involved in. I wish I could do it.


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