Competitive Shooting

We Shot Our Way Out of That Town…

Photo courtesy of Barrie Gun Club

Say, pardner, so you wanna get into cowboy action shooting do ya? Well, you have made a good choice. Cowboy Action Shooting is a fun sport designed to be family friendly and enjoyable for the expert and novice shooter alike.

Photo courtesy of Barrie Gun Club
Photo courtesy of Barrie Gun Club

The sport of Cowboy Action Shooting started in 1981 when IPSC-style shooter Harper Creigh aka “Judge Roy Bean,” decided to shoot his next match with Western-style guns. Inspired by the movie The Wild Bunch, Creigh and his friends Gordon Davis and Bill Hahn created the first Cowboy Action Match in Coto de Caza, California.

Photo courtesy of Facciam Bang blog
Photo courtesy of Facciam Bang blog

The founders of these matches formed the Single Action Shooting Society in 1987. They laid down rules and started competing immediately. The Single Action Shooting Society Web site sets the precedent for the game of Cowboy Action Shooting, and you can find all the rules and types of competitions online.

The heart of Cowboy Action Shooting is a have fun attitude. Members of the Single Action Shooting Society must pick a western themed alias and all participants must wear period clothing. There is a name registration on the Single Action Shooting Society’s Web site, because there are no duplicate names allowed.

The sport of Cowboy Action Shooting is similar to 3-Gun and steel matches. Participants use three different guns to shoot at targets in different stages. All guns must be manufactured or replicas of prior to 1900. You can only use a single-action revolver, a lever-action rifle chambered for a pistol caliber with an exposed hammer and a lever-action or a non-modern, pump-action shotgun. Shotguns cannot be larger than a 10 gauge, nor have a barrel smaller than 18-inches. There are strict rules on modifications, sights, and stocks. Besides the guns, ammo and holsters must be regulation as well. Revolver and rifle ammunition must be reduced-velocity and lead. Many ammunition manufactures make specific cowboy action loads.


Organizers base the scoring partially on time, and judges give shooters penalties for missed targets, mistakes, and safety infractions. The different stages at a Cowboy Shooting Action Match are generally Western-themed and replicate famous incidents or Western movie scenes. Some matches are more elaborate than others are, and include full-sized Old Western towns and stagecoaches. Targets are steel, reactive steel, or cardboard.

Photo courtesy of NRAblog
Photo courtesy of NRAblog

To keep the game fun targets are usually big and close, with a limit of 50 yards for rifle. This way, even the most inexperienced shooter can enjoy themselves. Shooting rounds repeatedly and missing isn’t fun, and it can be discouraging! The Single Action Shooting Society has 75,000 members and over 500 clubs nationwide. Shooters compete in the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting in 18 different countries! SASS promises to protect the Second Amendment, and encourage and promote the competitive shooting sports and uphold the traditions of the Old West.

This Code of the West promotes hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land. Players openly demonstrate the code at each event.

It is easy to get started! Don’t worry about dressing to the nines your first time, a cowboy hat, a cowboy rig holster, some old jeans, a Western shirt, and some cowboy boots will be about all you need. Those folks are pretty darn friendly, so they will be willing to help you out and guide you in the right direction.

  • Cimarron is a gun and holster manufacturer devoted to the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. They sell replica shotguns, revolvers, and derringers designed specifically for Cowboy Action.

  • Taylor’s and Co. have also designed guns specifically for the Cowboy Action Shooter, like the Runnin’ Iron revolver in

    .45 Long Colt and in

    .357 Magnum.

  • Taylor’s and Co. also make a replica

    Winchester 1873 lever-action rifle in .357 Magnum, which is a favorite among Cowboy Action Shooting competitors.

  • Shooters recommend that you get your rifle in the same caliber as your revolvers to save time and cost on ammunition.
  • Rossi makes an affordable option lever-action rifle in .45 Long Colt, the

    Model 92.

  • Another favorite of the Cowboy Action Shooters is the

    Ruger Vaquero.

  • Cimarron and

    Norinco make affordable shotguns approved for Cowboy Action Shooting.

Remember when you are shopping for revolver and rifle ammunition, it must be of reduced-velocity and be lead. Many trusted ammunition manufacturers, such as Winchester, Hornady, Magtech, and Cor-Bon make a cowboy load in all the Cowboy Action Shooting calibers.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (2)

  1. I need to know where I can get a western style holster that will hold an old .22 cal nine shot revolver and hold the rounds like the old western days. My family and I tried to find one in the gun shops and they said nobody carries them that I would have to order one. It was supposed to be for my birthday present and I’m an over the road trucker so I’m hardly ever home so I can’t really shop around. Please get back to me A.S.A.P so I can get one ordered.

  2. This game is the most fun you can have with your clothes on!
    If you think people can,t shoot single action pistols ,lever guns and sxs shotguns have never seen a cowboy action shooting match!Check out You tube or the
    S.a.s.s web page for a club in you area.
    Shoot fast-shoot strait
    Diablo Slim “Shootist”

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