Sharps Shooter

Sharps

Sharps Shooter – Magnolia, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/8 for 1/200th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Sharps Shooter Sequence
Click on the images below for larger versions.

Sharps Sequence A

Sharps Sequence B

Sharps Sequence C

Sharps Sequence D

Slow and Steady

A Cold Start
I shot my third SASS match with the great folks at Thunder River Renegades in Magnolia, Texas last weekend. The day started out bitterly cold and most folks wore their normal costumes with authentic 19th century long underwear or old west “dusters” to keep them warm. My heavy canvas range coat and lambskin gloves were just enough to keep me from freezing until the sun came out and began to warm us all up a bit.

I’ve never shot a match in forty degree weather before and my fingers were chilled to the bone during the first few stages. It’s a strange feeling to grasp a freezing cold single action pistol and each round that I fired jolted my hands and arms. The first shotgun round I put down range jammed the Stoeger’s butt-plate deep into my shoulder and felt like I’d been kicked by a mule. I shot the first stage “clean” (no misses or procedural errors) but felt like I was moving through molasses.

Hammer

Hammer – Magnolia, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/8 for 1/80th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Warming Up
There are no “warm up” stages in cowboy action shooting so everyone greets the first stage with the same sense of trepidation (for me it’s still terror, for others just nerves). On a cold February morning like this I knew I had to go “slow and steady” until my muscles (and mind) began to thaw out. I began to understand why the Civil War slowed down so much in the winter. I’m sure most Confederate soldiers hated fighting during those long winter months when just shooting your rifle in that bitter cold hurt like hell.

Speed

Speed – Magnolia, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 95mm, f/8 for 1/20th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Speed or Accuracy
I would love to be one of the many fine shooters I saw last weekend that could shoot both quickly and accurately but my days of being “fast on my feet” are long gone. I decided to see if a slow and steady course of fire would serve me better and shot four of the six stages clean with only one miss in each of the other two stages. After my nerved racked performance last month I was overjoyed to see my match “rank” climb into the bottom third of the group. I was also quite surprised to see that my overall time was not much slower than that of my previous match. Best of all, I had shaved off almost two minutes by shooting each stage as cleanly as possible.

Straight Shooting

Straight Shooting – Magnolia, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/8 for 1/125th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Reload

Reload – Magnolia, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/8 for 1/200th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Intensity

Intensity – Magnolia, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/8 for 1/200th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Enjoying Myself Completely
I guess my nerves have settling down a bit since I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of last weekend’s match with the fine folks at Thunder River Renegades. There’s nothing better than getting together with fifty friends to enjoy a bit of outdoor fun and competition.

Next weekend, Bristlecone Jan has something special planned for us at the Willow Hole Cowboys match in North Zulch, Texas. Having the ladies design the stages should add an interesting twist to our colorful sport. Can’t wait to get some photos of her to post. I’ve taken so many images of Fairplay John’s great costumes and black-powder shooting that it seems only right to embarrass Jan just a little. ;-)

Where There’s Smoke . . .

Photographing the “black powder” shooters in action is a treat. These replicas of 1873 Winchester rifles shoot black powder cartridges reminiscent of the days before “smokeless” (modern) gun powder was invented. The percussion “open-top” pistols are even more interesting since there is no modern “cartridge” as we know it. Just a cap, ball and black powder! KaBoom…

Hammer Down

Hammer Down – North Zulch, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/7.1 for 1/160th of a second at ISO 400. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Smoke

Smoke – North Zulch, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 70mm, f/7.1 for 1/320th of a second at ISO 400. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Shooting Duelist

Duelist – North Zulch, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 73mm, f/7.1 for 1/160th of a second at ISO 400. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro filters.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

The Winchester Model 1866 Yellowboy

Yellowboy Short Rifle

Copyright © 2011 A. Uberti Firearms
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Quick History Lesson
In 1848, an inventor named Walter Hunt patented his “Volition Repeating Rifle” which used a tubular magazine to hold multiple rounds and was operated by two levers and some very complex linkages. Hunt’s invention had numerous shortcomings and in 1849 Lewis Jennings purchased the patent rights and developed a functioning “repeating rifle” which was produced in small numbers.

Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson acquired the Jennings patent as well as shop foreman Benjamin Henry. Smith made improvements to the Jennings design and in 1855 Smith, Wesson and Oliver Winchester formed a new company, the “Volcanic Repeating Arms Company” to manufacture the Volcanic lever-action rifle.

This became the famous 1860 Henry Rifle which was used in considerable numbers by certain Union army units during he Civil War. Confederates called the Henry “that damned Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week!”. After the Civil War, Winchester renamed the company, the “Winchester Repeating Arms Company” and improved the design of the Henry rifle to create the first Winchester rifle: The Model 1866.

Yellowboy Loading GateThe Winchester Model 1866 was famous for its rugged construction and lever-action mechanism that allowed the rifleman to fire a number of shots before having to reload: hence the term, “repeating rifle”. The Model 1866 was nicknamed the “Yellow Boy” because of its “brass” receiver.

The 1866 Yellowboy lever-action rifle was a marked improvement over the Henry rifle. It was the first true cowboy lever-action rifle, and the first rifle widely carried in a cowboy-style saddle scabbard. The Yellowboy had a convenient new type of loading gate, devised by Winchester plant superintendent Nelson King. The gate passed cartridges through the side of the receiver. This improvement made the lever action more functional and allowed for the installation of a wooden fore-end.

The handy carbine version of the 1866 Yellowboy was a hit worldwide. Chief Sitting Bull had one; the forces of Benito Juarez used the rifles in Mexico; and the Turkish Army used the new Winchester Yellowboy against the Russians.

View the video above for more information.

Modern Day Replicas
The three most common lever-action rifles used in cowboy shooting today are the Winchester Model 1866, Model 1873 and Model 1892. However, most shooters would never dream of running an actual Winchester since these rifles have incredible historic and collector value.

Luckily, A. Uberti S.R.L. of Italy is very well known in the trade as a producer of fine replica rifles and pistols including the Model 1866 “Yellowboy”. Three of the most popular models have been recreated as Uberti rifles: The Yellowboy Carbine with 19″ barrel and carbine-style brass buttplate; the Yellowboy Rifle with 24-1/4″ barrel; and the Yellowboy Short Rifle with 20″ barrel.

Yellowboy

Copyright © 2011 A. Uberti Firearms
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Cowboy Action Shooting
I’d been looking for a second cowboy rifle for several months now and spied several gorgeous models last weekend in Rawhide’s gun cart at the Thunder River Renegades match. An old friend from up north traded me his for my Winchester Model 94 hunting rifle and I walked away with a beautiful 1866 “Yellowboy” Short Rifle assembled by Cimarron Firearms in Fredericksburg, Texas. Cimarron imports Uberti firearms and then adds their own special cowboy shooting features including removing unneeded safeties, smoothing the action and generally improving the fit and finish of the rifle. Normally, a Cimarron firearm is fully functional out of the box but in the case of the Model 1866, a few “tweaks” were needed to make this rifle “competition ready”.

I love working on firearms, especially during the winter months when I have to put my landscape photography on hold. There’s something very satisfying about taking apart a historic weapon like the 1911 pistol or 1866 rifle and learning to put it back together correctly. Unfortunately, my knowledge of historic weapons is limited to the venerable Colt 1911 pistol. Luckily, there are several great sources of information on the Internet including Marauder’s Old Irons Page which includes detailed instructions and parts diagrams for working on your Model 1866 rifle.

Clean, Deburr & Polish
Most factory firearms need a little tender loving care before they become reliable enough for competition or personal defense so the first thing I do to every new firearm is “clean, deburr and polish” the key components. This is generally all that is ever needed to make a firearm fully functional and it’s a step that I never skip BEFORE taking the firearm to the range. You’d be surprised at the number of folks that skip this step and find themselves with a jammed firearm after the first few rounds have gone down range.

Carrier Upgrade
Aluminum CarrierThe “carrier” on the Model 1866 is the most important part in the entire rifle and with the exception of the barrel, it’s also the heaviest. It’s machined from a solid block of “gunmetal”, a high copper content bronze alloy and moves up and down to “carry” the cartridge in and out of the barrel. Considering how old the design is, this wonder of engineering does its job with amazing reliability.

The problem is, the “carrier” on the Model 1866 is darn heavy and this makes smooth lever operation a real pain in the butt. Luckily, there are aluminum replacement carriers available from companies like Pioneer Gun Works that weigh less than 1/4th of the original.

Lever Drag
Improving the action on some firearms is beyond my skill level but the Model 1866 is not one of them. Like many other lever action rifles, the “friction” between mating parts on the Model 1866 along with springs that are much too stiff, tends to create significant “drag” on the lever. It’s the one thing that most folks really hate about lever-action versus bolt-action rifles. The lever “drag” on my old Winchester Model 94 was so bad that I could barely operate it at shoulder level. Luckily, the lever mechanism in the Model 1866 is much simpler and with proper lubrication and some polishing, it smoothed up in no time flat.

Short Stroke KitFor even smoother lever action you could install a short stroke kit like this one from Pioneer Gun Works. The unique design of the links in a short stroke kit smooth the lever action considerably while also shortening the lever travel (stroke) by as much as 1-1/2″. For cowboy action shooters this benefit shaves precious seconds off their overall time.

At the Range
I’ll tell you this, the Cimarron Model 1866 “Yellowboy” is a pleasure to shoot. I ran fifty rounds of Sellier & Bellot 158gr LRN ammunition through the Model 1866 without a single failure-to-feed. The magazine tube held ten rounds almost perfectly although the final round was darn tough to insert.

Talk about accuracy! I was able to land all fifty rounds in an 8″ circle from 25 yards with this “short rifle” (20″ barrel) and that was from a standing position. The .38 Special rounds ran through this sweet little rifle with almost no perceptible recoil. The factory semi-buckhorn rear sight and all black front sight are not my preferred combination but they sure did get the job done!

My only complaint about the Model 1866 is the weight. This beautiful old rifle weighs in at a little over 8 lbs versus just over 5 lbs for my Rossi Model 92. Those old cowboys must have worked out a lot more than us old photographers do!

All in all, the Model 1866 “Yellowboy” is a fine cowboy action rifle for shooters of any skill level. It’s reasonable smooth & fast and very (VERY) accurate from 50 yards in. The Model 1866 looks great too with its distinct brass receiver, oiled walnut stocks and charcoal blue barrel. The best thing about using this rifle for cowboy shooting is that you’re holding a piece of history, “The Rifle that Won the West”.

Now That’s What I Call Fun!

Shot my first match with the Thunder River Renegades in Magnolia, Texas this weekend. Many thanks to John Ross (aka Johnny Morris) for the loan of his daughter’s Marlin carbine!

How the Hell Did I Get Here?
I’ve been searching high and low for a cowboy shooting gun belt that would help me transition from IDPA shooting to cowboy action shooting, with very little luck. Last week I was trawling the Internet, searching through dozens of site and happened upon simple web page from JM Leather in Alvin, Texas right down the road from Sugar Land. I try to buy in Texas if at all possible and the leatherwork displayed on this site was top notch, so I thought, “what the heck?” and sent Johnny Morris an email.

I had an idea in my head for a gun belt with three double shotshell loops on the left, just forward of my left holster (exactly where my spare magazines would be in IDPA) and five single cartridge loops on the right, just forward of my right holster. I really hate the thought of wearing a gun belt and separate shotshell belt and just wanted something simple, clean and light-weight. Johnny’s All-In-One Belt was the closest thing I’d seen but I wanted the buckle facing forward.

After a few emails back & forth, I asked Johnny if we could get together to discuss the project and he suggested I come and shoot this weekend with the Thunder River Renegades in Magnolia. Talk about “customer service”. Not only had I found someone local that did high-quality leatherwork, I’d also found someone to shoot with. Johnny even loaned me his daughter’s Marlin since my Rossi 92 is still being worked on. I don’t remember anything like this ever happening in IDPA.

Old Time Shooting

Old Time Shooting – Magnolia, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon Powershot G10 set on aperture priority (Av) using a circular polarizer. The exposure was taken at 32mm, f/4.5 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 80. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

A Case of Nerves
There’s nothing quote as nerve racking as your first time out in a new shooting sport. You walk up to that line. I remember vividly the first time I shot IDPA and darn near dropped my magazine on the first reload. The buzzer goes off and all those months of dry-fire & live practice got right out the window. Adrenaline kicks in and your once nimble fingers feel like you’re wearing a catcher’s mitt. You silently pray “Oh Lord, Don’t Let Me Drop This Gun”.

My first experience in cowboy action shooting was somewhat similar but with a really big difference, the people! The folks at the Thunder River Renegades couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful. Johnny hooked me up with Rawhide (in cowboy shooting, you are your alias) who ran me through the basics and checked me out on range safety, course etiquette and sweep definitions (we’ll cover these in detail later). He had me load each firearm (rifle, pistols & shotgun) and let me get my first taste of shooting steel plates. This type of immediate feedback sure beats trying to see a hit on an 8″ perforated circle in IDPA, let me tell you!

Once the stage began I waited my turn at the loading table and tried not to let the butterflies in my stomach carry me off. What’s to worry about? It’s just two pistols (single-action), a lever-action rifle I’d borrowed and a coach gun that I’d slicked up myself. The Timer said “Next Shooter” and I thought to myself, “Oh Lord, What Have I Gone and Done?”.  I stepped up to the platform, staged my rifle and shotgun and waited for the Timer to say “Shooter Ready”.

The buzzer sounded and I grabbed my rifle, brought it to my shoulder, levered a round into the chamber and squeezed off my first shot in cowboy action shooting. A clean miss! The Posse Marshal calls out “High” as I send another shot over the second steel target. I adjust my aim almost 8″ lover and am finally rewarded with that most beautiful sound in cowboy shooting, “Clang”. I continue shooting each target: “Clang”, “Clang”, “Clang” until the rifle is empty. I set it down and move quickly to the pistol targets, drawing my left revolver as I move towards the second position. “Clang”, “clang”, “clang”, “clang”, “Miss”. I draw my right revolver and cleanly sweep the same group of targets. I move toward the third position while holstering my revolver with my right hand and grab two shotshells in left hand.

I grap the shotgun just as I’ve practiced and load two shotshells, bring it to my shoulder and fire off my right barrel. I hear the “Clang” and the Timer says “Down” (shotgun targets have to “fall”, not just get hit). I quickly let go with my left barrel and hear that beautiful “clang” once again. I break open the coach gun, dump the spent shells just as I’ve practiced and grab another two from my belt. That’s when my nerves kick into high gear! I bring the two new shotshells toward the open barrels and miss both openings. After what seems an eternity, I load the two shotshells and open fire on the last two targets. “Clang”, “Clang”, Done!

I grab my rifle & coach gun and walk to the uploading table with a big grin on my face and a sense of wonder. What took these seven paragraphs to write happened in less than forty seconds of “real time”. The next four stages went just as fast and I shot one of them “clean” and with a decent time.

Girls & Guns

Girls & Guns – Magnolia, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon Powershot G10 set on aperture priority (Av) using a circular polarizer. The exposure was taken at 32mm, f/4.5 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 80. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Some Great Shooting
Cowboy action shooting events bring out the best in people and bring out the best shooters. This young lady, “Hey You” is a Ladies Traditional Texas State and Southwest Regional Champion. Watching her run that lever-action rifle with nary a miss was a joy to witness. Like all the folks I’ve met in this shooting sport, this young lady was enthusiastic, polite and friendly to everyone in the match. Unlike some other shooting sports, folks that come to a cowboy match seem to leave their ego’s at home. I’ve honestly never met such a warm and friendly group of folks before.

My thanks to Johnny, Rawhide, Miss Ellie and all the rest of the Thunder River Renegades for making this a weekend to remember. See you next month!

Required Reading for Cowboy Action Shooters

Cowboy Action Shooting like any other shooting sport requires a certain level of expertise in handling and maintaining your firearms. The web is full of misinformation, misdirection and downright foolishness when it comes to the proper use and care of firearms. I strongly suggest that you “study” your competition guns thoroughly before taking them to the range; “practice” with them until you feel confident in your abilities and “maintain” them as if your life depends upon them (as it truly may).

Uberti El Patron

Copyright © 2012 Benelli USA. All Rights Reserved
Click on the image above for a larger version.

This is especially true in cowboy shooting since the firearms we generally use are “period correct”, meaning they were designed well over 100 years ago before the advent of modern materials science and manufacturing techniques. Nowhere is this more true than in the world famous Colt Single Action Army Revolver (1873 Model P) and its present day clones and replicas. 90% of cowboy shooters use something resembling the Colt SAA, either a clone such as the Uberti Cattleman shown above or a Ruger Vaquero or New Vaquero.

Colt Revolvers Shop ManualTo get the most out of your competition gun it’s very important to understand how it functions (the firing cycle), how the parts all fit together and how to maintain it in peak condition. It’s also vital to understand how to troubleshoot issues that (will) come up during a match.

Unfortunately, most firearms manufacturers include little if any “real information” in their manuals. Most factory manuals seem to devote fifty pages to  firearms “safety” and less than three pages to disassembly and maintenance. It’s almost as if the firearms manufacturers prefer their customers to be ignorant rather than informed!

 

 

Ruger Shop ManualLuckily, there are some wonderfully illustrated reference books by noted gunsmith Jerry Kuhnhausen to help you better understand how your single-action revolvers really work. My two favorites are The Colt Single Action Revolvers – A Shop Manual and The Ruger Single Action Revolvers – A Shop Manual and yes, the inner workings of a Colt (and clones) are very different than a Ruger. Both shop manuals are available from Brownells but their inventory of these classic reference books is limited so you may have to wait several weeks for your order to ship.

The illustrations in both books are absolutely superb in both their detail and artistry. I can think of no better way to explain the inner workings of these incredible firearms. In many cases, Kuhnhausen also includes detailed dimensions for each part that can be used for inspection, troubleshooting and replacement purposes.

Once you begin to understand the inner workings of a single-action revolver I’m sure you’ll come to admire what a marvelous piece of “technology” this was back in the day. I’m often amazed by the design of these early firearms, especially compared to today’s crop of polymer framed (Glock = Ugly) handguns and think folks like Browning, Richards & Mason were inventors and gunsmiths far, far ahead of their time. Their contribution to firearms design is why we have so much fun Cowboy Action Shooting today.

The Stoeger Coach Gun

The “Coach Gun” is probably the most widely used firearm of the late 1800′s. Pioneers, settlers and lawmen alike relied on the double-barrel, side-by-side shotgun for everything from putting food on the table to close-quarters combat. The modern slang “riding shotgun” can be traced back to the days when stagecoaches played a big role in transporting people and cargo to destinations the train didn’t reach. The rough and tumble frontier of the “Old West” was such that these trips often necessitated a guard toting a short-barreled shotgun up front with the driver. Anyone that’s ever watched a John Wayne Western movie has seen just how effective the coach gun was back in the day.

Stoeger Coach Gun

Copyright © 2011 Stoeger Industries
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Today, the “Coach Gun” has found new life for both home defense and Cowboy Action Shooting. The most common shotgun for SASS shooters is the Stoeger Coach Gun at 6-1/2 pounds with a pair of 20-inch barrels. The Stoeger Coach Gun is a simple, effective tool for cowboy shooters. The barrels are short enough for quick handling and its break-open design allows it to be used by shooters of all experience levels. It’s also one of the most fun firearms I’ve ever shot!

View the video above for more information.

Originally developed as traditional, double-trigger models for Cowboy Action Shooters, the Stoeger Coach Gun now comes in single-trigger models for an even faster second shot. They are chambered for 2¾- and 3-inch shotshells in both 12 and 20 gauge and are offered in blued finish with traditional satin-finished walnut stocks. The new top-of-the-line  Coach Gun Supreme also features a blued finish with a corrosion-resistant, stainless steel receiver and stock made from AA-Grade American Walnut. Both 12-gauge and 20-gauge Supreme models come with improved cylinder and modified screw-in choke tubes and a choke wrench.

Stoeger Coach Gun Banner

You can learn more about the Stoeger Coach Gun in Captain Baylor’s great article Getting Started in Cowboy Action Shooting or by watching the video reviews from The Truth About Guns.

I’ll also be posting an article in the coming weeks on how to slick up your Stoeger Coach Gun for cowboy shooting with the tools you already own. So stay tuned!