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

Food, Fun & Guns

Cowboy Action Shooting is much more than just another shooting sport. Yes, we keep score and the competition can be quite stiff at the State or Regional level, but cowboy shooters always compete with a positive and friendly attitude.

The folks that get involved in cowboy action shooting are truly a different breed. They are generally conservative in nature, always respectful and never let their ego get the best of them. Cowboy action shooters are warm, friendly and honest. They are the type of folks that have many friends, few enemies and believe in God and country. Folks that you’d be proud to call friend.

Shooter’s Meeting
Each match begins with the shooter’s meeting and here in Texas we stand tall, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and Honor the Texas flag. We also pray together for a safe and fun filled match.

Shooter's Meeting

Shooter’s Meeting – Willow Hole Cowboys, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/10 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.


The Posse System
Everyone that participates in a cowboy action shooting match is expected to be part of the “posse” when not loading or shooting. Safety is our number one priority and everyone is a range officer. One member of the posse will also man the loading table to make sure folks safely load the correct number of rounds for the stage. In cowboy action shooting, we never holster or stage a weapon with a live round in the chamber and the posse member that mans the loading table plays a vital role in our sport.

Another vital member of the posse is the “Timer” as shown in the image below. This member of the posse stands the closest to the shooter and watches every move he or she makes during the stage to insure everyone’s safety. In cowboy action shooting under SASS rules, the Timer is the shooter’s best friend during the 30 or so seconds of live fire.

There are also three independent “Counters” in a SASS match. Each has the responsibility to count “misses” and “procedurals”. The three Counters along with the Timer keep track of how a shooter is doing during a stage. They are also there for the safety of everyone involved and most folks will help out a shooter if he or she looks to be confused about the order of fire or type of sweep being called for.

Reload Time

Reload Time – Willow Hole Cowboys, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 80mm, f/8 for 1/125th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.


Friendship and Fellowship
Many SASS clubs will offer a picnic style lunch after the match. This is where folks can relax after a match, enjoy some good food and get to know they’re fellow shooters a little better. It’s also a great time for newbies to learn from the more experienced shooters.

What a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning!

Food & Fun

Food & Fun – Willow Hole Cowboys, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/9 for 1/125th of a second at ISO 200. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

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!

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!

Getting Started in Cowboy Action Shooting

A Brief History (provided by SASS)

Cowboy Action Shooting (TM) began in 1981 when Harper Creigh (aka Judge Roy Bean, SASS #1) had a brain storm after watching old western movies on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Harper was an avid sports shooter (IPSC, USPSA) and he called shooting buddies, Gordon Davis and Bill Hahn and presented an idea to shoot their next match using western type guns.

Single Action Shooting Society

Cowboy Action Shooting began at a shooting range in Coto de Caza, California. In the beginning, very loose rules were adhered to. But before long an assemblage of rules began to take shape and the new shooting sport evolved into what it is today. In April 1982, the first END of TRAIL was introduced. Sixty-five registered shooters competed. It wasn’t until 1987, however, that SASS, The Single Action Shooting Society was formed.

Cowboy Action Shooting is the fastest growing outdoor shooting sport in the country. Attracting competitors from around the world, Cowboy Action Shooting is not only a sport that tests the shooters accuracy, but also a forum that brings back the days of the Old West in a veritable celebration of the cowboy lifestyle.

Find a Local Club

To get started, visit the SASS web site and find a club or two near you. Here in Texas we have dozens of clubs throughout the state. Go watch a match and talk with the shooters between stages. You’ll never find a more welcoming group of folks in any shooting sport. Everyone wants more cowboy shooters! Most folks will even loan their firearms and leather gear to help you get started.

Required Firearms

Like most other shooting sports, cowboy action shooting does have some specific firearms requirements. What you choose to spend on this sport is completely up to you but it really doesn’t have to break the bank. Many cowboy shooters start off with the basics and borrow the rest to get started. The SASS Handbook lists all the firearm requirements for competition shooting.

Two Single-Action Revolvers

Uberti Cattleman Revolver

The first firearm you’ll want to look for are a matched pair of single action revolvers like the original Colt Single Action Army (1873 Model P) revolver made famous in the western movies of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Most folks won’t shoot an actual Colt but several firearms manufacturers make high-quality clones that work just fine. You can find a list of these in the links area of this blog.

Choosing the style, barrel length and caliber that fits you best can be quite a challenge so I strongly recommend reading Captain Baylor’s wonderful article Getting Started in Cowboy Action Shooting, especially the parts about gun selection.

Lever Action Rifle in Pistol Caliber

Rossi Model 92

The second firearm you’ll need is a lever-action rifle in a pistol caliber to match your single-action revolver. This could be an authentic Winchester but most folks use a clone from Henry, Rossi, Cimarron or Marlin. Rifles must be in a caliber commonly available in revolvers including .32-20, .32 Magnum, .357 Magnum, .38 Special, .38-40, .44-40, .44 Special, .44 Magnum and the famous .45 Long Colt.

Shooter’s Hint: Buy a rifle that matches your pistol caliber like the .38 Special / .357 Magnum to save hundreds of dollars in ammo costs. BTW – Your WInchester 94 in 30-30 is NOT legal for cowboy shooting except for the long distance matches.

Period Correct Shotgun

Stoeger Coach Gun

The final firearm you’ll need is a period correct shotgun and this is where the fun really begins. Any period correct (1860 to 1899) side-by-side or single shot shotgun with or without external hammers, having single or double triggers is allowed by SASS rules. The only slide action shotgun allowed is the Model 1897 Winchester, whether original or replica.

Most newbies here in Texas choose the Stoeger Coach Gun since it is both inexpensive and very easy to operate. It’s also the most “fun” shotgun I’ve ever owned and the classic old western side-by-side (SXS) design sure raises a few eyebrows at the practice range.


Cowboy Action Shooting is unlike most other shooting sports in that it’s a combination of historical reenactment and a Saturday afternoon western movie . Folks may choose the style of costume they wish to wear, but all clothing should be typical of the late 19th century, a B-western movie, or Western television series.

CharacterSASS puts a great deal of emphasis on costuming because it adds so much to the uniqueness of the sport and helps create a fun and festive atmosphere for competitors.

SASS members have selected their alias and adopted a variety of “personas” from lawmen and gunslingers (the most popular) to storekeepers, gamblers, blacksmiths, barkeeps, both U.S. Army and C.S.A. Army cavalry and darn-near every famous B-Western character.

To get started just put on something “cowboy like” and show up ready for some fun. If you live here in Texas, you’ll most likely already own cowboy boots, blue jeans (no designer labels please), a long sleeved shirt, and a cowboy hat. Heck, most of us dress like that in the winter months anyway. Cowboy Action Shooting is where we can all dress up like John Wayne in Rio Bravo without feeling the least bit embarrassed. How cool is that?

Gun Leather

El Paso Speed Rig

As a cowboy action shooter, you’ll need a good 2 holster “rig” which generally consists of the holsters, a wide (stiff) gun belt, and a shotgun belt or cartridge slide. As with most shooting sports, shooters tend to go through a considerable amount of leather gear before they settle on a rig that really works for them.

Shooter’s Hint: Go to a few matches and ask folks what they like before making any decisions on gun leather. You can start out with two inexpensive leather holsters from Triple K Brand and a 2-1/4″ leather utility belt from Sears before you dive in and spend hundreds of dollars for a competition rig.

Gun Carts

Pioneers in the old west had horses with saddlebags or horse-drawn wagons and carried their guns, ammunition and supplies in them. Cowboy shooters today don’t have this “luxury” but we do need something to haul around our long guns, revolvers, ammunition, food and water during the matches so the “Gun Cart” was invented.

Gun Cart

Shooter’s Note: This idea was rumored to have been “stolen” from bird hunters who have used gun carts for years to haul around their gear while in the field. Most cowboy shooters will vehemently deny this rumor and few dove hunters will question a man with two six shooters strapped to his sides.

There are about as many different gun carts today as their are cowboy action shooters hauling them around. Some are simple and some are ornate. Like your gun leather, most folks start off simple until they find a gun cart that suits their style (and wallet).

Next Steps?

If you’re still reading this rather long-winded post then you’re probably “hooked” at this point and can’t wait to shoot that first match. Like me, you probably have some of the required “gear” already and know some folks that you can borrow the rest from to get you started. So all I want to say is “remember to have fun” when competing in a cowboy action shooting event. You’ll meet some of the nicest folks and make some great new friendships that will last for years to come.

Here are a few steps you can take while waiting for my next post:

  • Join the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) and pick out an alias for yourself. Choose a character from your local history or someone from a western movie.
  • Do a little research on single action revolvers, lever-action rifles and shotguns starting with the links on the right side of this page. I highly recommend shooting in .38 Special / .357 Magnum caliber and NOT in .45 Long Colt. You’ll save hundreds on ammo!
  • Buy a cowboy hat and boots if you don’t already own them. Don’t worry what your “Yankee” friends think, cowboy boots are the most comfortable footwear ever invented. Go to Sears and find an inexpensive leather gun belt. Search online for the best deal in lost-cost leather holsters to get you started.
  • Find a local club and go watch a match or two. Most clubs in Texas shoot on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Talk with the folks you meet and tell them you’re interested. You’ll never find a more friendly and helpful bunch of folks than at a Cowboy Action Shooting match. I promise!