Cowboy Action Shooting: Yippee Ki-Yay Partner!

Have you ever played Cowboys and Indians as a kid? Perhaps you wanted to be a cowboy or cowgirl? If you’re nodding in agreement and you know your way around a rifle, you just might qualify to compete in Cowboy Action Shooting! Yes, it’s a real thing!

In the early 1980’s, this competitive event commenced in South Carolina. Today, you can find Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS), in most parts of the country. To enter, all you need is a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved buttoned-down shirt and a pair of boots to complete the cowboy costume.


CAS Requirements

Cowboy Action Shooting, or CAS, is a gun match that employs different types of guns, such as a handgun or two, a rifle, and a shotgun in no particular order. It encompasses a slew of Old West matches which are timed and judged for accuracy. In addition, this event requires the following list of supplies (firearms required are from the mid-to-late-19th century):

  • Two single action revolvers
  • Holsters
  • Shell holster
  • Lever action rifle
  • Shotgun
  • Gun cart (for your items — think golf cart)
  • Included in your membership with SASS is a copy of their Shooters Handbook — chock full of information about rules, regulations and lots of shooting events.

Safety First

It all began when the administrative group, Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) was formed in 1981 to govern the activities of Cowboy Action Shooting, also known as CAS. Varied duties of SASS adhere to abiding by the 2nd Amendment, supporting competitions by state and internationally and regulating a safe operation of matches.

Image of SASS

Safety is of the utmost concern as these matches can get rowdy! By 1987 the CAS was in full swing and has grown even bigger and better in 2018. Additionally, each year a group of Territorial Governors is voted in by members of SASS branches to represent their corresponding clubs.


So You Want To Be A Cowboy/Cowgirl?

If you’re a western enthusiast, CAS is most likely something that interests you. But before you strap on your holster and dust off your cowboy hat, you’ll need to know some ins and outs of this exciting celebration. The whole conception of CAS is to safeguard the spirit of the Old West. When you join the SASS, you’ll be introduced to a whole bunch of perks.

As stated above, one really cool requirement is for members to wear a traditional cowboy outfit for the benefit of camaraderie. Besides the actual shooting event, there’s a costume contest! So if your sharpshooter skills aren’t up to par, you can certainly strut your stuff in Old West attire.

Costume ideas and props include:

  • Vests
  • Sombreros
  • Lassos
  • Corsets
  • Suspenders
  • Sunbonnets
  • Chaps … and the list goes on and on!

Moving on, each member is asked to assign themselves with an alias from a 19th century Old West character! This is where the fun starts. Most members claim that this aspect of CAS provides the most enjoyment —  even more so than the actual shooting! When you give the SASS directors your alias (SASS name), you will now be called that name by your cowboy action shooting family.

A member’s (alias) character can be a non-fictional figure or a fictional person from a western film. In addition, your alias can also be a name from one of the classic Old West professions such as a barkeep or a dancer.

No matter what your alias — make it your own, as it will associate you with your Western idol. Make sure to really think about this as you want it to be unique — you don’t want to be confused with another member’s alias!

Next step is to register your alias (it will be yours as long as you’re an active member).

Old-Fashioned Firearms and Shooting Matches

In the 19th century, firearms were mostly single action revolvers, lever action rifles, and old-fashioned shotguns. Moreover, the SASS requires that each member use one of these firearms, no matter if you’re shooting or part of your costume.

Now we get into the nitty-gritty of cowboy action shooting. If you’ve ever been in an Old West setting such as an amusement park where Old West shows were performed? Shooting competitions or matches, along with the gunsmoke, are held in these old-time surroundings. It’s just like what the Old West was like so many years ago.

The stage is set: shooters will be in their costumes, fully equipped with specific guns and timed for speed and accuracy. They are judged on not just one course, but various courses with all kinds of shooting sequences.

In addition, each shooting element will have the shooter in scenarios from real life or fiction. However, shooters are not competing against other characters. Instead, they’ll be shooting against targets (vintage soda bottles, etc.,) and stands.

The Heart of the Competition

Essentially, SASS wants each and every member to come together as somewhat of a fellow unit and really have a good time during each part of the day. Family involvement is very important and encouraged. The great part about CAS is that you can bring your kids — but they need to be over 12-years old to shoot and be a SASS member.

These wholesome events are also complete with food, vendors and all sorts of goodies — it’s a great time! And, cowboy action shooting strives to make sure each member follows the ways of the Old West, along with honor and conduct.

Make sure to “cop an attitude” of cowboys from long ago when you put on your cowboy attire. This means your gait and costume should be in sync with the spirit of the game.

CAS Membership Today

Presently, the SASS has over 100,000 members in the United States, plus 18 other countries. That’s quite a membership! In addition, over 700 member clubs adhere to SASS regulations and safety procedures — every CAS match is guaranteed to abide by these rules. Membership is growing, so saddle up!


Final Thoughts

Cowboy Action Shooting is all about having fun. From choosing your costume, firearm and your alias, to finally competing in the main event … you’re sure to experience a blast from the past! Don’t forget the family!

If you would like to become a cowboy action shooter or would like more information, be sure to check out SASS. There, you will learn more about this exciting sport and various member benefits and functions. Have you ever participated in a cowboy action shooting event? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear your story!

Alex Joseph is an avid bow hunter and father of two boys. Originally from Tacoma, Washington. Alex now resides in California.

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