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).
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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.
To 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!
Luckily, 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.