Transitions

In a SASS event, nothing is more important that how you transition from one gun to another during a stage. Most shooters (myself included) lose more time in their transitions than they do in misses (which count as a five second penalty). If you could add up all the time spent transitioning from your rifle to your pistol and to your shot gun, you’d see that you actually spend more time in transitions that in actual shooting. That’s why the very best shooters practice their transitions more than just about anything else.

Coach Gun

Coach Gun – Groesbeck, 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 75mm, f/8 for 1/400th 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.

 

Transitioning to Shot Gun Sequence
Click on the images below for larger versions.

Transition A

Transition B

Transition C

Transition D

Transition E

Transition F

Lady Shootist

Don’t let anyone tell you that cowboy action shooting is just for old men. I’ve seen several young ladies at recent matches that beat the pants off the men. There’s just something about a woman and a lever action rifle that stirs the blood.

Just kidding ma’am. 😉

Lady Shootist

Lady Shootist – 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 1/160th 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.

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!

A Quick Introduction

Welcome to my new Cowboy Action Shooting blog.

As many of you know, I’m a commercial, landscape & nature photographer, blogger and author based in Sugar Land, Texas. My photographic work can be found gracing the pages of my first blog: Serious Amateur Photography where I share my passion for landscape and nature photography with photographers around the globe. I’ve published two books of Texas landscape photography, Hill Country Landscapes and Landscapes of the Texas Plains & Canyons that have been well received throughout the state and my next book, Big Bend Landscape Adventures is due out next spring.

I am also an avid shootist and enjoy recreational and competitive shooting with rifle, shotgun and pistol, which is what lead me to cowboy action shooting in the first place. I am a proud NRA member and fully support our constitution’s 2nd Amendment. Most importantly, I am a Christian, a husband and a proud father of four beautiful daughters.

Writing a blog is a labor of love. It is a way of sharing knowledge and giving something back to a community of like minded individuals. This will be my second blog and like my first, it’s purpose is to entertain you, enlighten you and inform you. So sit down a spell and come join me as I explore the world of Cowboy Action Shooting deep in the heart of Texas.

Regards from Texas,

Colonel Benjamin Terry (aka Jeff Lynch)
Terry’s Texas Rangers (8th Texas Cavalry, C. S. A.)
Fort Bend County, Texas
SASS #: 93751