Posts Tagged "shooting"

Safety Tips for the New Shooter

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Getting Started

Getting Started – Safety Tips for the New Shooter

By:  Smith n’ Jones

Are you just getting started in cowboy action shooting?  If you are, here are some safety tips that are definitely important for a new shooter, as well as a friendly reminder for the experienced shooter:

·     It is advisable to use the same caliber for both your rifle and your sixgun.  This ensures that you don’t load the wrong caliber in your firearm.  You may not think this could happen, but it has, even to experienced shooters, and usually with the rifle.

·     Make sure the safety glasses you wear have sides so back splatter does not get into your eyes.

·     Keep the barrels of your rifles and shotguns pointed up at all times, except at the loading and unloading table.  If you do not have a gun cart and have your firearms cased, then take the cases to the loading table to remove them and recase the firearms at the unloading table.

·     Refrain from talking at the loading table while you are loading.  If you don’t concentrate on the job of loading, it is easy to load the incorrect number of rounds for the stage, or slip the cylinder on your sixgun so that the empty chamber is not under the firing pin.

·     When shooting the sixgun, hold it tightly.  This doesn’t mean that one should squeeze it so hard that it is shaking, but tight enough to have a solid hold on the grip.  This tighter grip will improve your accuracy and will also give you more control.

·     Move through each stage slowly, concentrating on where you put your feet and hands, and how the rifle and shotgun are picked up and restaged, as well as how you draw and holster your sixgun.  Don’t worry about speed, for this will come as the process of shooting the stage becomes smoother and more comfortable.

·     Always keep the thumb off the hammer when drawing your sixgun, regardless of what class you are shooting in.  The hammer should not be pulled back until the firearm is pointed safely downrange.

Hope this helps all you shooters, both new and experienced. Lock up you guns in a gun safe when not in use. Here are a few to choose from:

New Zealand Shootout

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Shooting Events

New Zealand Shootout
WASS 3rd Annual Cowboy Championship & New Zealand End of Trail

By:  The Hangman Will Lynch, SASS #7623, WASS #15

The Western Action Shooting Society, Inc. (WASS), New Zealand (NZ) 3rd Annual Cowboy Championship and New Zealand End of Trail was held October 22-25, 1999. WASS is the organizing body in New Zealand for Western Action Shooting and, as such, assists clubs throughout the country to run CAS style events. This year the Rifle Rod and Gun Club, in Palmerston North, was the chosen club and the WASS County Rangers organized a fair dinkum, full on, cowboy weekend.

Out of about 2,500 total pistol shooters, New Zealand has about 300 dedicated cowboys. Forty-five of these arrived at the range Friday evening for a Bar-B-Q and drinks social night.

Saturday was a magnificent morning with brilliant sunshine. The bacon beans and eggs were sending out the required message and soon all shooters were in the dining hall, fed and rearing to go.

The group was formed into three posses of fifteen and, although initial thoughts were they were too big, the numbers proved to be an asset when chores were needed to be done. Every competitor did their job and not one person shirked the responsibility of scoring, resetting targets, picking up brass or the other countless tasks that require teamwork to ensure the day ran smoothly.

The courses of fire followed a theme. Saturday, the scenario involved Ralph Sutton, a one-time gunfighter who had long since hung up his guns. Each competitor took on this persona and was challenged by present day gunfighters and desperado gangs.

The first stage was the Shoot up at the Saloon. The shooter began in the doorway rolling a candy imitation cigarette. It was then placed in the mouth, and a knife was thrown into a gunfighter before all hell broke loose.

The second stage, Outhouse Blues, involved being occupied on the dunny (down-under terminology for outhouse) and through the cracks, Red Thomas and his gang were seen approaching the house. Ten pistol shots, six shotgun rounds-while on the run, and nine rifle shots saw to it that Red and his boys didn’t bother you again.

After lunch it was onto the third stage, Hang Tough Gus. Gus was sitting on his horse about to be lynched. The shootist surprised four bad guys with his/her shotgun and Gus was left swinging after his horse bolted. A well-aimed rifle shot cut the rope to let Gus drop. The rest of the shots, including the handgun, were directed at the swinging target in the doorway, which was activated as Gus fell.

As if that weren’t enough, Seth Harris had kidnapped Jamie in the last stage of the day and had held him in the local jail. Ten pistol shots through the windows saw those inside dispatched. Grabbing the necessary key, shooters were to race around the corner and unlock the jail door (which, I might add, came from a genuine jail). Six shotgun rounds were sent into approaching baddies and then Jamie had to be dragged into the street and thrown over the horse. Using the nearby wagon as a rest, ten rifle shots made sure nobody dared to follow.

On Saturday afternoon, the ultimate challenge took place. The man-on-man pistol event set shootists up against Flash Conover: the slickest gunfighter of them all. The man-on-man is a regular part of all competition in New Zealand and involves shooters who stand side by side each facing four targets. On the signal, each shooter has the five rounds in their pistol with which to drop all plates. Only one miss is afforded. Payden Kash proved the deadliest and after eliminating all of the shooters, went on to become “Gunslinger of the Year”.

For the first time, man-on-man shotgun was included as a championship event. This is almost identical to the pistol stage, except shooters have one more target and six rounds. This is a pure adrenalin rush with two reloads against another competitor as well as the clock. The spectator appeal is outstanding. For crowd participation, this event could have been run constantly over the weekend and nobody would have stopped shouting for their own champion at the line.

After the Gunslinger Competition on Saturday, Ralph Sutton was eliminated and the story took a novel twist. The scenario now told us that Ralph’s younger brother, Jamie, was the lead character. Flash Conover had

gunned Ralph down and Jamie’s mission was to hunt him down and put an end to his killing. Each stage had Jamie confronting Flash in a different situation and each time it appeared that he escaped by the skin of his teeth.

Sunday brought the shooters out in droves even though it was a miserable and overcast day, the complete opposite from the day before. Doc Cavendish and Goldie got up early to put breakfast on. Coats, blankets, and the closest canopy were the most sought after items on the agenda. Loading and unloading tables were brought under cover and for a while it looked like the only action was going to be defending the bar from an early opening.

The new day began with A Pair of Colts Beat Four Aces, which was set inside the saloon. Moving through, you needed to alternate between ten pistol and ten shotgun rounds to deal to the card-playing desperadoes.

The Ambush hardly seemed fair when shooters had to fire into a group of Pinkertons with a rifle and a pistol, then mount a horse, and shotgun the rest during the wild ride downhill.

When lunch arrived, there were forty five cold and wet shooters intent on an indoor gunfight which may well have happened had it not suddenly brightened up outside.

The third stage was Heads You Lose, but that was only if you had a good arm. Shooters began behind the wagon and threw a full bottle of rum at a snoozing guard (we could see this being a popular stage, so we substituted the rum for a bowling pin). Many variations of the throw existed and many different expletives came out as the bottle whistled within inches of the target. I think hitting the guard was more important to some than the following pistol, shotgun, and rifle shots.

As the event came to a close, observers watched Jamie chase Flash all over town in the final stage, Purgatory. What began outside the saloon and shooting over the batwing doors moved along quickly to the Drapery next door. As Flash disappeared out the back, so did Jamie, shooting all the way. With his shotgun in hand, he chased and shot down the alleys as he went. Unable to catch him, Jamie used his rifle on Flash as he rode out of town. Cutting his horse from beneath him, he could only take careful aim and hope to get Flash as he fled into the abandoned mine never to emerge.

The cloudy afternoon skies cleared up by dinnertime, and people turned up in all their finery confident that another night of revelry was not going to be dampened by the earlier bad weather. Maybe it was something in the water, but by now, half the gang thought they were rattlers. Some even began to look like them and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

As if we lived in some Jekyll and Hyde land, Monday was as clear and warm as anybody could hope for. The competition had finished and all that was left was the enjoyment of fun pot shoots, the suspense of the event results, and the anticipation of the team event.

New Zealand is a two-island country divided into the North and the South Islands (there are a couple of other small ones, but they don’t count in a situation such as this.) The sad thing is that us Northerners believe we are a better breed of folk than our Southern countrymen. This is fine until you have a North versus South log chop and them Southerners are there in person. With dozens of steel chickens, bowling pins and the like littering the grass, a huge log buried in the ground with a smaller one on top, the two teams of twenty or so set off to annihilate everything in sight. The teams had identical targets and the ground huggers had to be cleared with shotguns and pistols until nothing remained standing. The top log, which was ten inches in diameter and three feet tall, had to be knocked to the ground before any shooting was allowed on the main trunk. For several minutes I thought we had gone overboard on the logs. They were 16 inches thick and stood six feet tall about 25 yards away from the bunch. What we didn’t see initially, and it was only picked up by the eagle eye of the video camera, was that the South had two rifle shooters ‘stitch’ a line across the log at the beginning for the rest to aim at. They cut the top off a good three minutes ahead of the North. I estimate that between 2,000 – 3,000 rounds went downrange in the space of about 12 minutes. It was certainly an impressive sight made even more so by the fact at least half the shooters were using black powder. Barrels glowed and so did the smiles of satisfaction.

The results were the only thing left to analyze and trophies were duly given out. The winner of the Third Annual Cowboy Championship was Payden Kash. Payden is a relatively new cowboy shooter from the Golden Downs Rangers who shoot out of the Nelson Pistol Club and we all congratulate him on a fine effort and consistent shooting.

Hornady’s Lock-n-Load AP Press

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Ammunition

Cowboy Reloading with Hornady’s Lock-n-Load AP Press

By: Jesse Edward

If you have been reloading with a single-stage press, you will find that usage of the Lock-N-Load AP will improve your reloading time significantly.  You might ask, “Why is that necessary.”  The answer depends on how you value your time.  Being able to load 200+ cartridges in an hour is valuable to me.

The Lock-N-Load AP is a multi-stage press that can accommodate up to five operations simultaneously.  Your usage of the five will depend upon what you are loading and additional accessories you may want to take advantage of.  Additionally, the “AP” nomenclature refers to the “Automatic Progressive” feature of automatically indexing (turning) the shell plate to the next stage at the end of each pull of the handle.  This “indexing” feature provides two benefits that I like: I can insert the next case without having to manually index the shell plate, and the odds of doubly charging a case are significantly reduced.  I also installed the optional “Powder Cop” that indicates powder level after the powder is dispensed, and before the bullet is inserted.  This gives an additional measure of safety.

Another useful feature of the Lock-N-Load is its Die Bushing usage.  This allows you to remove and reinstall a die from the press without changing its setting.  This is most valuable, for example, when you decide to load a different cartridge size, merely remove the installed die set and install the new set.  The Lock-N-Load comes with enough bushings for one die set, so you will need to purchase additional ones for other die usage.  Bushings are required for installing dies in the press, unlike some other presses that the dies screw into.

Installation of the Lock-N-Load AP was simply a matter of following the directions for the most part.  It took me about four hours from start to finish.  Some of this time was due to not thoroughly reading the instructions and then having to back up and follow directions!  This was my first reloading press so I was very excited to load my cowboy action ammunition on my own press.

The first task was to mount the press on my bench.  This press is loaded from the left side, and so I mounted it on the right side of the bench (Figure 1).  This is contrary to the picture shown in the manual that shows it mounted on the left side.

Once the press is mounted, it’s time to insert the proper size primer slide, shell plate for the selected cartridge size, and the various dies, and then to make adjustments.  I first laid them all out on the bench to make sure I had everything and that I knew what each was (Figure 2).

My primary usage to date has been to load .45LC.  I use all five stages for this load.  The primer is removed and the shell casing is sized within the sizing die at stage 1.  An expander die is used at stage 2 that bells the mouth of the case out slightly to allow placement of the bullet.  A powder measure is installed on stage 3 that has been adjusted to the correct amount of powder for your load and drops into the case.  Stage 4 has the Powder Cop. The bullet is seated to the proper depth using a bullet-seating die at stage 5, which also crimps the casing so that the bullet will not push in or come out under recoil.    Note that the new primer is inserted in between stage 1 and 2 when the handle is raised to its up-most position.

The first die I installed was the sizing die, which also removes the old primer.  This was followed by the expander die, which puts a slight “bell” or flare on the case mouth.  I set it for a very slight flare to where a bullet could be positioned and not fall off.  To initially set the seating die, I placed a known loaded cartridge in the seating position (Figure 3) and raised the ram to its full height and adjusted the die until it was firm against the cartridge.  I then took an empty case and sized it (removing the old primer), skipped the primer insertion, expanded it, and then cycled it to the seating position, placed a bullet on it, and seated it.  I checked the bullet position in the case and adjusted the die until the seating was comparable to the known loaded cartridge.  I then set the seating die to also crimp the case. This took me about a half dozen cartridges to get right (note: I was not loading primers at this time, the primer tube was empty).  I then “locked” each of the dies so their settings would not inadvertently change.  This is accomplished with a lock ring on the die (Figure 4) that tightens against the die bushing.  The Hornady die wrench is handy for this and for removing dies with the bushing.  I loaded a half dozen cartridges without any primer or powder and checked their fit and function in my .45 pistols and my .45 rifle.  Everything was ok!  This is an important step to take.  Some firearms can be rather persnickety about cartridge sizing.  This is often more true with some of the old cartridge types (e.g. .44-40, .38-40, .32-20).  It’s not too useful to load a large number of cartridges and then find they won’t work in your firearm!

I was then ready to set the powder measure.  I used a clean used case with the old primer still installed.  I didn’t want to use a case with a live primer at this time.  One thing you will need in order to properly set the powder measure is a powder scale for measuring the amount of powder being dumped so you know whether to increase or decrease the setting.  This is primarily a trial and error process until you get it right.  The powder measure has a micro adjustment and it takes some getting used to (Figure 5).  After you gain some experience, you will be able to adjust it with fewer trials.  Since the powder measure is used for all cartridges, it must be adjusted each time you make a change, unless you decide to get another powder measure for each load you use.  In that case, you can remove one and install another just as fast as dies.

I was now ready to “load” some ammo!  I loaded a small number to assure myself that the press was working correctly.  Figure 6 shows the press with cases in all five positions, with the fifth being the seating and crimping stage. Figure 7 shows the Powder Cop.  The pin in the center with the white band rises when the powder-loaded case is raised in the position.  It is not a powder measure indication, but makes it easy to determine if no powder, the correct amount of powder, or a double load is in the cartridge.  I loaded the primer tube with a 100 primers and proceeded to load up 50 rounds. I then headed to the range to verify everything worked, and it did!!!

It was then back to the loading bench to load cartridges for the next shoot. I was loading away and suddenly I noticed powder on the press.  Yep, I had loaded another 50 plus cartridges and had run out of primers.  Powder was being placed in cartridges with an empty primer hole.  This press does not have a low primer feed sensor that some other manufacturers provide and that I had used before.  Thus, I found it necessary to keep track of how many rounds I had loaded in order to know when I was getting low on primers.  To do this I always start with a full load of primers (100) and an empty ammo box (100 rounds).  When I get to about 95 loaded rounds, I check the last five rounds for primer insertion before powder loading.  So far, that has worked just fine.  I have loaded about 1500 rounds of .45 with no problems.

My second type of cartridge to load was the .32-20.  I was glad that I could simply remove the .45 dies and keep their settings.  The .32-20 load gave me some problems with the standard Hornady .32-20 die set.  The problem was that the standard two-die set did not expand the cartridge neck sufficiently to insert a lead cast bullet, so that when seated it did not “shave” off some lead from the bullet.  This was solved through the use of a .32 S&W expander die to put a slight flare in the case.  The folks at Hornady technical support came up with this solution. One should always remember that the necks on bottle-necked cartridges are not as strong as straight-walled cartridges and the mouth of the case should only be expanded to allow the very base of the bullet to seat firmly, no more.  The 32-20’s are loading okay now.  My next cartridge to load is the 38-40 for my original 1889 Marlin.

It’s worthwhile to mention a few of the accessories that Hornady offers that I have used.  The Cam-Lock bullet puller (Figure 8) works with the press to easily remove bullets.  I used it to remove the bullets from the cases I had loaded in the setting up process.  The Case Trimmer (Figure 9) is used to restore cases to the correct length.  The Case Care Kit contains case neck brushes, a deburring tool, and primer pocket cleaning heads, along with a case lube pad and loading tray (some components shown in Figure 10).  There are a number of additional accessories available to make your reloading easier and to produce higher quality results.

I can’t end this article without stressing SAFETY.  Reloading can be an extremely rewarding aspect of shooting. However, just like shooting, it must be done within certain parameters to assure that it is done safely.  Like shooting, you will be better off to initially work with someone that’s experienced at reloading, a mentor.  There is plenty of literature about reloading as well.  Hornady, for example, has books and videos.


Antique Cartridges Part 1

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Ammunition

Antique Cartridges Part 1 – From the Shanty

By:  Dr. J (Photos by: George Warnick, aka Lone Gunman)

Editor’s Introduction:  We will be publishing a continuing series on Antique cartridges by Dr. J. for some time to come.  This first article is an introduction from Dr. J providing some insight into his expertise on historical items of interest, including the battle of the Big Horn.  In the next article we will be covering the Paper and Skin Combustible .44 Caliber “Army” Colt Cartridge.

At times, it is difficult to introduce one’s self and to tell everyone what you want them to know about yourself.  I was born in St. Louis, MO in 1940, a “half-breed” by bloodline with a keen interest in cartridges as early as 1944-45 while the Great War was going on.  Dad was a Navy Commander, and he and his friends brought home ammunition samples and specimens for me.  I was selling extras of those cartridges at shows as early as 1945, though I always managed to keep one of each for my collection.  My father was a well-known funeral director in St. Louis by the name of Jay B. Smith, and he went hunting in Africa every year giving me “Big Bore British” ammunition specimens.  In those years, a Spencer cartridge was worth 25 cents, a .54 Burnside could be bought with a 50-cent piece, and a .600 Nitro could cost as much as $4.00.

I was not going to collect a “reload” or altered cartridge of any form; factory originals were what I wanted.  Headstamps could even be the same if a different primer or a bullet variation was found. It did not take a very long time to discover endless variations of bullets, primers, cases, and headstamps in the same caliber.  An empty case was okay until a better specimen was found.  I soon had a line-up of shotshells that were all alike but all with different shot sizes marked on the top wad.  At the tender age of seven, Mother found me in the basement due to a new smell in the house.  I had a ruler taped to the wall and had discovered the flame height was different in a green Remington 12-gauge shell than in a measured thimble-full of powder from a red-paper Winchester 12-gauge shotshell, and still a different height from a Federal shotshell.  Mom let me know before bed I’d be killed by Dad due to my trying to “burn the whole house down.”

Dad and I had a talk about gunpowder, and how each had its own burning rate.  He knew of black powder from the big navy guns and went on to tell me about it having the same burn rate inside of a gun, as it also would have when laying out on the open ground.   He went on to say that all of the early shotshells (and other early ammo) were loaded with this very volatile black powder.  He clearly did not wish me to get hurt.  I was to be careful and not get hurt by any more “flame testing” or cutting into ammunition I knew nothing about.  He suggested that I check with him first.  From this point on, the “tests” came to Dad’s attention, or supervision, or we’d wait until we had a better idea of what we were doing.  Smokeless powder was a fairly safe item until it was inside a closed-up chamber.  Dad had friends he knew in law enforcement and a crime lab that I could make calls to.  In those years they did not just come to the house and take ammo from you.  They knew I was a cartridge collector and was very serious about it, so they took the time to provide me with detailed answers.

Powders of unknown origin were dealt with by using a longer fuse to light them.  Firecracker fuse in Missouri was available all year long.  Soon, the crime labs were giving me ammo specimens and I was giving them anything I had an extra of.  Many times, I had to buy a whole box of ammo to get one for my collection, but having leftovers, the balance of the box was used to sell or to trade to another collector.  In 1984, I was called by the U.S. National Park Service to help identify the last and largest of all the “digs” at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, a dig headed up by Dr. Doug Scott and Dick Harmon of Lincoln, Nebraska.  The dig was done by a number of University students from all over the U.S.A. and had many other volunteers involved with the project.

I found it most interesting that a total of 117 different calibers were dug up.  Oddly enough, the last I knew, Custer carried a new .44-40 Winchester Model ’73 and a pair of .44s that some folks say were of British origin, other records say French.  But no cartridge cases were ever found, or the bullets from either of the calibers Custer used.  It makes one wonder if he was “taken out” very early on.  Some books indicate he was one of the very first killed.

It’s not my role here to debate or argue either way, but rather to introduce a study of the many calibers and cartridges of the early west.  I also saw many .45-70 empty cases badly swollen from being fired in the chamber of .50-70 rifles the Indians had left over from the Civil War.  The .45-70 ammunition was probably stolen or traded to the Indians.  The recovered lead bullets only showed rifling marks on one side.  The body of the .45-70 case was swollen larger than the rim due to firing it in the .50-70 size chamber.  .44 Henry cartridge cases also out-numbered all the other calibers found from the dig.  Dr. Doug Scott also said, “Many people think the Indians may have had over a thousand Henry rifles in use that day!”  There were a lot of unfired cartridges that were dug up from being dropped in the heat of battle.  I also saw flat and square lead that Dr. Scott said was from Indians hammering lead bullets into shot for the shotshells they used.  Dr. Scott also told me that he had data and records from Fort Lincoln which showed that Custer may have shaved his head or cut his long hair very short before he left the Fort.  It was (some think) three years later before the Indians knew that they had, indeed, killed “ole yellow hair.”  This is debated, however, by the history books that tell us that Custer’s body was not cut up as almost all the others were.  The Indians did know him and who he was by the number of the bodies found.  I am only stating what I was told here.

I raised two children of my own as well as over 60 foster kids and worked most of my years with problem kids. In the early years, I worked with the “Scared Straight” program where kids were taken into the maximum-security prison to get to know the “cons.”  One kid I recall the most, Bernie, had over 300 prior law violations.  After six months of Scared Straight, he was never in court again, and today is a productive employee – – a changed life.  I retired in April, 1996, but some of you may remember me from the many gun shows with up to ten tables of original ammo and over 4,000 different kinds of ammunition laid out in one display — none of it made after World War II. Most folks told me it was the largest display of old ammunition they had ever seen anywhere.

I am now done with shows and all I want to be doing is cutting firewood, fishing, and shooting.  Most of my time is spent at what I call the “Shanty.”  It took over a year to make it happen, but it is a steel grain bin made secure with all an ‘ol rifle shooter needs in life to have fun — an antique wood stove for cold months, a 26,000 BTU Air-conditioner for the summer heat, a cement shooting bench, a window to shoot from with the shortest range being 205 yards, a huge backstop at 520 yards, and plans for dirt to be moved this summer so I can shoot out to 1,200 yards, all from the same shooting bench.  A full size iron buffalo sits waiting to be hung.

I own a three-digit serial number Shiloh-Sharps .45-.70, have over 58 die sets for reloading, and have bench rest guns made by Wally Hart of Nescopeck, PA.  No more having to pack the car up to go shooting and drive 20 miles to discover I forgot the ammo!  What I write about comes from the shanty’s desk, 57 years of books in front of me, and a fair size cartridge collection that’s never been shown to the general public.  It now can be shown with the wizard-like camera skills of George “The Lone Gunman” Warnick, who is able to produce some very interesting material.  All photo credit belongs to George alone.

I have always felt bad that the public never sees the “good stuff”; it’s out-of-sight in homes or locked up safe. Those who have it never show it for fear of loss.  Most museums lack it as well, or they lack the data on it to ever display it in a proper manner or identify it correctly.  This material remains in private collections and stays there forever, never to be seen and seldom ever available for resale. My hope now is to show it, present any data available, and have it available for study.

Many times over the years, I have been called an “expert” and have never felt comfortable with the term or such a title.  “Dr. Jay” was bad enough.   It came from years of shooting, the gun show years, and the ability to provide a few answers to the questions that some folks asked of me.  Fact is, I do not think there is such a thing as a person that has all the answers to every question he or she is asked.  Nobody has all of the cartridges ever made either, or the many answers for them.  I wish to make it very clear that I am only a “student” and learning (like you) each day if I pay attention!  The best example I can recall took place a few years ago when a 10-year-old came to me at a show with his entire cartridge collection inside a cigar box.  This kid had a couple of specimens in the box I had looked all my life to find, but had never seen in other collections.  He had dug most of his collection out of a 25-cent junk box.  One of his specimens was a .52 Sharps-Gardiner Explosive bullet of 1863 (Patent 40468) with a fuse nozzle projecting from its base.  These bullets were made of pewter, not lead.  It was a rare item worth $1,500 or more.  Only one such item is known in all the rest of the world of cartridges.  The kid bought it for 25 cents, the seller not having any clue as to what it was.  I then told the young man what I knew of it and it’s in his collection to this day.  I have given free ammunition to kids for many yeas to help and encourage the young collector, remembering how tough it was as a little kid to find different cartridge specimens for my collection.  How else can we make a mark, for the very short time we are here, to provide care and safety to the few old cartridges left?  In other terms, how can we pass on a piece of history and save it for the next generation?

One of the great mistakes many people make is to polish a cartridge.  A real collector will have no interest in it when this has been done.  Never put a cartridge into a drawer made of cedar or redwood, or have cartridges near these woods.  The wood contains tannic acid and will either promote corrosion to the cartridge or more oxidation to the lead bullet.  The old dry paper on old paper shotshells should never be touched due to moisture and oils in our skin.  Many paper items need a plastic cover or zip lock bag, glass vile, or something to protect it like a old golf bag.

A good buddy of mine lost his finger when inserting a steel-case 20mm Vulcan round.  He had drilled hundreds of brass-cased 20mm (live rounds) and had no trouble with it in the past.  This time, however, the steel-case round sent static electricity to the powder and it blew up as the drill press drilled into the powder.  To make a “cut-a-way” cartridge is very desirable, but it is very risky business, indeed, if you have no idea what you are doing.  I will have more of this in future articles.  That is enough for this introduction.

I am the fella on the left in the photo of the huge brass shell case.  The guy on the right is a good friend, collector H. Rogers Hopkins of Crossville, Tennessee, and we were on our way to the Atlanta, Georgia arms show – a thousand-table show.  The brass case weight is 135 pounds and was made in Germany in 1915.  It stands 36″ inches tall and the inside mouth diameter is 16-1/4 inches.  History says that the black powder charge was 600 lbs. and was stacked in wafer form past the case mouth up to the base of the 2200 lb. projectile.  Each projectile was serial numbered and a bit larger in diameter to allow for wear to the bore. “Wanna put this into your shell belt?”

I do promise that all other cartridges I write about will be of smaller caliber than the one in the photo shown, but I thought it appropriate as an icebreaker for the introduction.

Lastly, I do welcome “feedback” and/or questions and while I don’t make claim to have the answers to what may be asked, I will do my best.

Editor’s Note:  Questions may be sent in via e-mail to  Please include “Attn:  Dr. J.” in the subject line.

The First Modern Replicas

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Firearms

Great Western Single Actions – The First Modern Replicas

By: John Taffin, aka Sixgunner

The 1950’s had to be just about the greatest time ever for growing up.  We were not disadvantaged with 150-channel TVs, cell phones, VCRs, computers, electronic games, or adults who thought they had to coach us so we could play football and baseball.  Outside was for continuous activity; inside was for eating and sleeping.  Mom still stayed home and cooked three meals a day, seven days a week.  We never had to go out to eat.  Until McDonalds restaurants started, I didn’t know of anyone that ever went “out to eat.”

We did have one great disadvantage, and it is the only one I can think of, which was a lack of information available on firearms.  There were no gun magazines in the early 1950’s.  The outdoor magazines rarely published anything about handguns; in fact, the only magazine that did, and certainly not often enough, was the American Rifleman.  Paperback books started to show up from publishers such as Trend, and for 75 cents one could have “The Complete Book of Handguns.”  And even though it was complete, a new copy came out every year.

Then it happened.  It was the dead of winter, late December, 1954, and I had gone downtown to see a movie, a western of course, and stopped in at the newsstand.  There it was.  I had to blink to make sure it was real.  I know my heart skipped a beat, maybe two.  There on the rack was a new magazine called GUNS, and it was dated January 1955. I was a junior in high school and reading every book I could find about guns and hunting, and I made frequent trips to town just to check out the newsstands for any gun publications.  My search for knowledge had been rewarded.  GUNS was only the first magazine, and over the next few years it would be followed by Guns & Ammo (which began as a quarterly), Gun World, and Shooting Times (which began life as a newspaper).

During the first year of publication, GUNS carried an article entitled “A Six-Shooter For TV Cowboys.”  Westerns on TV were the rage in the 1950’s, starting with old B Westerns, which evolved into made-for-TV Westerns.  This created a demand for single-actions, not only to be used by the actors, but by shooters as well.  Colt had ceased production of the Single Action Army in 1941.  Since they had publicly declared that they had no plans to ever resurrect the old Peacemaker, the prices on pre-war Single Action Colts started to rise.

Now that Westerns had created a demand for single-actions (as much as Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry would do 20 years later for Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums), someone had to fill it.  First came the Single-Six.  Bill Ruger had been very successful with his relatively inexpensively priced semi-automatic .22 in 1949, and in 1953 he came back with a .22 single-action.  Everything but the grip frame, which was nearly identical to the old Colt Single Action Army, was scaled-down to make it an easy-handling, virtually unbreakable single-action chambered in a caliber that everyone could afford to shoot.  As with just about every other kid at that time, my first handgun was a Ruger Single-Six.  What wonderful times we had shooting .22 Marlin leverguns and Ruger Single-Sixes.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, another gun company was founded, Great Western Arms Co. of Los Angeles.  Shooters wanted real Colts and they couldn’t get them, but Great Western stepped in to fill the void.  That article in GUNS was about Great Westerns.  The Great Western looked so much like a Colt Single Action Army that they actuallyused real Colts in the early advertising.  I’m not sure exactly when Great Western began, but I think I saw the first ads in 1954 when I was a junior in high school.  They were smart enough to present John Wayne with an early matched pair, fully-engraved with ivory grips.  One of the owners of the company was Audie Murphy. Young Murphy lied about his age to get into World War II, became the most decorated hero of that conflict, and then went on to make Western movies.  Some thought that he wasn’t much of an actor, but we didn’t care.  He was a real genuine hero who could definitely handle a Colt Single Action .45 on the silver screen.

In the late 1950’s, I bought my first Great Western Single Action.  I had great luck with the Single-Six .22, so I purchased a Great Western .22.  That turned out to be a mistake.  The 5-½” .22 proved to be a really poor shooting sixgun, and was definitely out of time.  Thirty-five years later, I picked up two more 5-½” Great Western .22s, which have proven to be excellent shooters and are also favorites with the grandkids.  In fact, the grandkids and I were just out yesterday morning shooting the guns, and we saved enough money shooting the .22s that I was able to fill them up with a late breakfast at The Cracker Barrel after we finished shooting.

Elmer Keith, in the first chapter of his book Sixguns by Keith (1955), commented that the test Great Western Single Action that he had received was “…very poorly timed, fitted, and showed a total lack of final inspection.  The hand was a trifle short, the bolt spring did not have enough bend to lock the bolt with any certainty, the mainspring was twice as strong as necessary, and the trigger pull was about three times as heavy as needed.”

I think the same guy made his test gun and my .22.  Later in his book, Elmer was able to say, “We are happy to report that Great Western has really gotten on the ball, and is now cooking on all four burners.  They overhauled their designed and inspection departments, put in some gunsmiths who knew the score, and are now turning out first-class single-action copies.  We have one in 4-¾” .44 Special, and it is a very fine single action in every way, perfectly timed, sighted, and very accurate.  It has performed perfectly with factory loads and our heavy hand loads, and is very accurate at extreme ranges, the real test of any sixgun.”

The Great Western Company was originally owned by a man named Bill Wilson.  These guns were totally American-made, and are not to be confused with the Hawes Single Actions, which came later.  Hy Hunter was an early distributor of Great Westerns, as was EMF, and he also later brought in the German-made J.P. Sauer & Sohn Hawes versions.  I have no idea how many Great Western Single Actions were manufactured in the less than 10 years they were in business.  It was not unusual to find them at bargain prices 10 years ago, however the prices have tripled and even quadrupled since then.  They are also not all that commonly found at gun shows.

At first glance, Great Western Single Actions look identical to Colt Single Actions with subtle differences in the hammer profile and shape of the trigger guard.  They show up on many TV Westerns, and are easy to spot when the hammer is cocked.  Colts have the firing pin on the hammer, while Great Westerns have a frame-mounted firing pin, such as that introduced by the old Christy Gun Works and picked up by Bill Ruger for use in all of his single-actions.  Unlike the Rugers, the Great Westerns have sort of an upside-down L-shaped hammer.

Great Westerns were made in the three standard barrel lengths:  4-¾”, 5-½”, and 7-½,” plus a 12-½” Buntline Special.  The standard model was a 5-½” .45 Colt that sold for $99.50 in 1960.  There was a slight additional charge for other calibers and barrel lengths.  In addition to .45 Colt and .22, the Great Western was offered in .38 Special, .44 Special, .357 Magnum, .357 Atomic, and .44 Magnum.  The “Atomic” was simply a heavily-loaded .357 Magnum and, believe it or not, the .44 Magnum was on the standard Colt-sized mainframe.  I have heard rumors to the effect that a .44-40 was also offered, and I do know that they did make some examples chambered in a .22 Hornet.

Great Western also offered both pearl and ivory grips, engraving, nickel-plating, and even the installation of adjustable target sights.  The Deputy Model was a 4″ barreled version with a full-length barrel rib, adjustable sights, deluxe blue finish, and walnut stocks instead of the standard issue B-Western-type imitation stags. The Deputy was offered in .22, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum, and also rumored to be in .44 Special.

The Great Western not only arrived at the time that the TV Western was king, but it also profited by the fast draw sport that arose.  For those that participated, Great Western offered a specially-tuned 4-¾” barrel .45 with a brass backstrap and trigger guard.  It was popular enough that they soon offered a “Professional Fast Draw Model” in all calibers and barrel lengths.  A copy of the Remington Double-Barrel Derringer was also offered, chambered in either .38 S&W or .38 Special.  The Great Western Cap-n-Ball Revolver looked much like the Old Army that came from Ruger in the early 70’s, but without the top strap.

Most of the parts of the Great Western Single Action are interchangeable with the Colt Single Action Army, except for the hammer, and the hammer, trigger, and bolt screws. The threads on these three screws were changed to help prevent them from loosening as the gun was fired.  Two years after the Great Western was introduced, Colt brought back the Single Action Army and, no matter how good the quality had become, Great Western’s fate was sealed.  In their advertising, Great Western gave 14 reasons for selecting their single-action instead of another:

1) Great Westerns are made of 4130 Chrome Molybdenum steel, the same as used for stress parts in aircraft and guided missiles.

2) Barrels are made of medium carbon steel of the finest quality overseen by the man formerly in charge of manufacturing Weatherby barrels.

3) Cylinders are made of SAE 4140 Chrome Molybdenum steel heat-treated to a tensile strength of 185,000 pounds per square inch. We have run .45 overloads at 100,000 pounds per square inch.

4) Both the bolt and trigger have been improved over the original and are guaranteed for 20 years, and a frame-mounted firing pin is used.

5) Stocks are imitations stag and are warp-resistant.

6) Late model actions are carefully fitted and assembled with the smoothest and softest actions ever incorporated into a single-action revolver.

7) Mainsprings have been designed for easier cocking.

8) The sear-and-bolt spring, which often failed in original guns, has been specially heat-treated and guaranteed for 50,000 movements.

9) There are no aluminum cast parts.

10) We offer a larger variety of finish including mirror blue, case-hardened frame, chrome, nickel, gold, silver, or combinations thereof.

11) Great Westerns are the only single-actions offered in a variety of barrel lengths.

12) Great Westerns are the only single-actions offered in all popular calibers.

13) Front sights are purposely tall to allow for individual sighting in, and adjustable sights are also available.

14) The hammer is made of SAE 6150 Chrome Vanadium steel, giving greater strength and wear resistance than any other.

Of course, much of the above is advertising hype, however, I have shot approximately one dozen Great Westerns over the past 40 years, and I have never had a spring fail or a part break.  I cannot say that about Colt Single Actions or current replicas.  I have purchased Great Westerns with broken parts, whether this was from use or abuse I do not know, but one .44 Magnum had a broken firing pin (cost $7.50 to fix) and a chrome 4-¾” barrel .45 Colt was found with a split forcing cone.  I replaced the barrel with a Colt barrel.  Even though the price has gone up on Great Westerns, they can still usually be picked up for less than the retail price of an Italian-made replica.  The problem, of course, is locating one.

John Taffin, aka Sixgunner, SASS #7517, NCOWS #177, The Shootists #1

Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Guides

SHOOT! Magazine’s Guide to Getting Started

Cowboy Mounted Shooter 2 Gun Dana did such a great job covering Getting Started in Cowboy Mounted Shooting in her series that was published in Shoot! Magazine, that we decided to include the four parts of the series for this section of our web site. Enjoy!

Getting Started in Cowboy Mounted Shooting Parts 1-4
“How the Turtle Wins the Race”

By: Dana Hillman, aka 2 Gun Dana

Part 1

Hello, my name is Dana Hillman, aka 2 Gun Dana in the SASS shooting world. I started shooting in 1996 with my first major match. Over the years I have built my shooting skills to a level that has enabled me to win two World Ladies Modern Titles, three World Mounted Titles, and two SASS World All Around Titles, as well as four National Titles. Thanks to the help of many wonderful cowboy action shooters, who took the time to show me shooting techniques and better ways to improve my skills, I have succeeded in this sport. Now I feel the need to reciprocate that assistance by giving back to anyone who needs my help or advice. To do this, I created a brief shooting seminar called “How the Turtle Wins the Race.”

It all started in September at my club’s annual Idaho State Championship shoot in Jackpot, Nevada . I asked Clarence Sparks, aka nobody, if I could give a free beginning shooting seminar for the ladies. He kindly allowed me to run my ideas and shooting philosophy past anyone who was willing to listen (this also included the men who showed up with their wives!!). I was quite surprised at the turnout in both male and female shooters. I was even more surprised that they liked what I had to say and wanted me to continue giving this seminar. At the end of my seminar, I gave my student certificates dubbing them members of the 2 Gun Dana Gamer Gang. I did this because of the narrow minded attitudes of some shooters who feel that being a good shooter is equivalent to being a gamer. The seminar was such a success that Chucky of Shoot! Magazine asked me to write this series in order to help both cowboy action and mounted shooters.

Like most beginning shooters, I started out in an area where cowboy action shooting was not really happening. My dad and I had no one to really show us the ropes, techniques, and bio-mechanics of the sport. I started out with 7 ½ ” Ruger Vaqueros, using factory full load .45 colt ammo, a .44-40 10 lb. Yellowboy rifle, and a double-barrel shotgun with heavy 12 gauge shot shells. I also wore chaps, spurs, vests, knives, and every accouterment that made me look like a cowboy. It only took me a couple of years (painful, of course) to figure out that for me, I was going about the whole sport wrong, and that I needed to figure out what I wanted out of the sport.

After experimenting with a variety of firearms, including several types of rifles, pistols, and shotguns, my father switched me over to modern Ruger Blackhawks with 6 ½ ” barrel. This slowed me down and taught me to aim at my targets before I fired a round (Good strategy, hit what you are aiming for!). My original rifle was too heavy, so I switched to a .357 Marlin Cowboy, for reasons explained further on. The double barrel used to beat me up. I had bruises constantly on my jaw and fingers; hence I switched to the ‘97 Winchester shotgun. This brings me to the basis of what I want to share with you. I have an outline for success as a beginning shooter. It took me 7 years to figure out what I can explain to you in a few articles.

The first point I make in my seminar is something we all have to decide in this sport. Basically you need to ask yourself “What do I want out of this sport?” Do I want to be a recreational shooter who enjoys spending time with my family, husband, or friends and am not really as concerned about winning as just participating in a sport? Do I want to be the best-dressed competitor on the range and focus all of my energies on playing a specific character or role? Do I want to be the best competitor in my class and be a consistent shooter? Whatever you decide, you need to structure your training program to this decision because it will have a major effect on the types of guns and gear you will purchase or acquire. As you all probably know, cowboy action shooting is expensive. As handguns, rifles and shotguns alone can cost hundreds of dollars each to acquire. Then you must purchase a functional leather rig for both your handguns and shotgun shells. After this, you need to purchase or make what you want to wear. In my view, the priorities in this sport are guns, followed by rigs, and then clothing. But remember I am a competitor, not a dresser.In my next article we will explore the types of handguns, rifles and shotguns I feel are best suited for a beginning competitor that will last for years and that you can grow with as a competitor. Now I would like to touch on the second half of my article concerning Mounted Shooting.
Mounted shooting is the ultimate thrill for a shooter. There is nothing like being on 1400 lbs of horseflesh and trying to shoot a gun at full breakneck speed and trying to hit moving balloon targets. Here again, you have to decide what you want out of the sport. For example, my father enjoys competing in this sport so that we can travel and participate in a sport together. He is a good competitor and has won a World Title of his own, but he realizes that there are limitations for him in this sport because of his age and health. Because of these limitations, he structures his training program around what he knows he is capable of doing and accomplishing.

The first and most important thing that you need to have is a horse (how could you do it without one?). Not just any horse will do. Your horse has to be intelligent, gentle, healthy, and have a quiet disposition. It takes a lot of time to find this type of horse. I was lucky that I had a horse that was willing and able to do this sport with very little up-front training. He was a six-year-old ranch gelding that had been used on a cattle ranch for roping and had done a stint as a college rodeo pickup horse so he basically had seen the “elephant” so to speak. The first shooting match we went to, he won the Montana State Championship. We only improved after that. I will admit that I have been looking for a backup horse, but have yet to find the right horse to replace him. I had my eye on a horse, but $10,000 dollars for a 4-year-old ranch horse run away seemed a little silly. Here in Idaho , you can still find a pretty darn good ranch horse for two to three thousand dollars, and by the way, I only paid $2000 for my plug Jack.

After finding the appropriate horse, it is important to start training him to be a mounted shooting horse. There are several instructional videos that you can purchase to help you learn how to be a mounted shooter and to teach your horse to be a good shooting pony. One such video is by Outlaw Annie, found in most shooting chronicles. Basically, aside from general agility, conditioning, and reining, you need to work with your horse to prepare him for the mounted shooting experience. The three scariest elements of mounted shooting for horses is the gunfire, the balloons, and the breaking of the balloons. Acclimating your horse to these elements is often frustrating work, but one simple thing you can do is to put balloons everywhere. I mean everywhere, around his food and water, in the barn, and along the fence. If you can acquire construction cones (legally of course – no stealing them) it will help you even more. Place them around your horse’s paddock and put the balloons in them with simple PVC pipe or sticks with alligator clips on them. Also use a variety of balloon colors, especially white as that seems to be the color that bothers the horses the most. In no time at all, your horse will get used to the balloons or he will starve.

The next step is training your horse to gunfire. This is the tricky one. Be prepared for a wild ride and to possibly dropping your gun in the dirt. I have yet to try this, but I have considered playing an audiotape with gunfire on it continuously for the horse to listen to. This may help him get used to the noise. What I did, and you can too, was buy a child’s toy cap gun – inexpensive with an unlimited supply of caps. Don’t laugh, it works. It makes the same type of popping noise, albeit not as loud, as a gun and looks just like a real gun (remember, horses have eyes in the back of their heads and great peripheral vision). You can also use an air gun with BBs in it. When you start shooting off of your horse, you want to make sure that you are shooting behind your horse so that he has a chance to move away from the noise. Allow him to either trot or lope, but keep him in control. Keep him along a fence line so that he cannot duck out from underneath you. Remember that you will be shooting off of both sides of your horse, so it is important to train him on both sides, not just your strong side. Keep doing this until your horse becomes used to the noise and you can gradually work your arm forward to be shooting at a 900 angle from your horse. You never want to shoot near his head if you can avoid it. It may also be useful to take a green horse to a local mounted shooting match and tie him to the fence to watch and listen to the commotion of the shoot (make sure to tie him up good and out of harms way).

When you are ready, set up a mock stage, such as the arrow pattern, with the balloons. Run your horse through the pattern (or trot) so that he can get used to seeing the balloons a few times. Then try it with your cap gun aiming at the targets. Never let your horse run away with you or get out of control. Remember your safety comes first, so drop the gun and hang on if you need to, but don’t let your horse get away without doing the pattern. If you need to, slow him down and walk or rein him in tight circles to make him do the pattern. Do this several times to get your horse used to the motions. Change the patterns around for varieties sake, and practice shooting off of both sides! Remember, there is no good reason to rush a horse that is not ready. You will ruin him to the sport of shooting. Also, remember that not every horse can or will be a mounted shooting horse. It may take time to find the right horse for your skills and ability. In my next article, I will discuss using live ammo off of your horse. This is a big step for both you and your horse to take, so be ready.

I hope that you have found this article both useful and info rmative. My next article will include the topic of gun selection for both action and mounted shooters. This is very important in either sport. For mounted shooters, I will also discuss moving to shooting live ammo off of your horse (Yee-Ha!). Remember don’t squat with your spurs on and keep a leg on both sides!

Part 2

A quick recap: the shooter needs to decide what they want out of this sport, for example being either competitive or recreational orientated. Once this decision is made, shooters can then structure their training, clothing, and firearms around what they feel they want and need out of this sport. For the mounted shooters, I discussed starting your horse out in the sport of mounted shooting. We talked about training your horse on balloons, gunfire, and starting some pattern work on horseback. This issue, I would like to continue on with a discussion on gun selection for both mounted and ground shooters. I would also like to talk to the mounted shooters about moving into live fire off of their horses.

As I said in my last article, gun selection is very important especially in the early stages of the game. Not only are guns expensive, but you do not want to be always replacing them. It is a good idea to find a gun that you are comfortable with, that fits you, and that you can continually improve with.

When selecting a handgun, there are several things you need to look for. These include durability, reliability, size, caliber, maintenance factors, and expense. Lets start with my story about handgun selection. I have been through about seven sets of guns for both my mounted and ground shooting. My biggest disadvantage is that I have very tiny hands. No kidding. I joke about it, but I seriously have a disadvantage, especially in mounted shooting where I have to shoot with one hand duelist style. I am only able to wrap my middle finger around the gun and I can barely reach the hammer. This was a big problem for me and really affected my gun selection.

If you are going to be a competitor in ground shooting and have small hands like me, you need to purchase handguns with a smaller caliber to reduce your recoil so that the gun does not slip in your hand as you fire it. Some great calibers for women in any shooting class are .38 long colt, .38 special, or .32 caliber guns. I shoot Ruger Blackhawks in .38 long colt caliber, and get my ammo from Blackhills Ammunition. From personal experience, I can tell you that this is a great brand of ammo that has low recoil.

After getting handguns that fit you, there are more things that you can do to them. I recommend that you use the gunfighter grips on your guns. These grips make your gun slimmer and fit a smaller hand better. I use them on both my mounted and ground guns. These are mainly made by Eagle Grips and are advertised in most SASS chronicles, and Shoot! Magazine. Action jobs on handguns are a good thing in moderation. They help smooth up the action for better cocking and make the gun easier to handle, requiring less effort to cock the hammer. But, you don’t want to get an action job that is more than you can handle (Trust me on this; been there, done that.) I also would not recommend having a light trigger performed done on your gun. This increases the risk of you misfiring or having an accidental discharge. Remember, you can always modify your gun further as your shooting skills improve.

The basic premise of my shooting philosophy is accuracy. I cannot stress how important accuracy is. This is key. It is more important that speed. Without accuracy, you cannot win a match. With this in mind, I recommend that you learn where your gun hits at a 30-foot range (this is called point of aim, or POA.) This goes for shooters in all classes. For traditional shooters, you can sight your gun in by using a sandbag and a file. Rest your hands and gun on the sandbag and fire at a target. This will give you stability for accuracy. If your fun shoots low, gradually file your front sight down until you can consistently hit the center of your target. Remember, once it is gone it is gone, so don’t take too much off of your sights. Modern shooters can do basically the same thing. You can adjust your sights as needed and even widen the rear sight notch and file down the front, if there is no elevation screw on your gun. By doing this, you will find your sight picture easier.

The next gun we need to talk about is the rifle. There are many varieties of rifles to choose from and it is a matter of personal taste or availability when choosing what you shoot. The most important thing in choosing a good rifle is weight, length and modifying the rifle to fit you. It is very important for you to cut the stock down to fit your arm length and shoulder. I realize that some of you may be sharing guns with other family members and this may not be possible, but try to do what you can to make it easier on you. Having a smooth action job on your rifle is also important so that you are not wasting time trying to work a sticky action. Action jobs also help in the feeding of the ammo and can speed up your shooting considerably. Having good ammo is also a key to your shooting success. I cannot count how many good shooters have lost a match (even me) because of bad ammo. The biggest problem shooters have is with reloaded ammo. Unless you are very good, ammo may not be sized right or may be too long or too short to feed properly and may not even clear the end of your rifle if there is no powder in it, a.k.a. squib loads. If you are going to use reloads, check them often and be careful with them. Finally, you are not going to believe this, but cleaning your guns can also help you win a match. Amazing but true, your guns have to be clean and in good working order to win. Also, keep all of the screws on your guns tightened and check them regularly.

The final gun we need to talk about is the shotgun. It is your preference whether you shoot a double or the ’97 Winchester . There are definite differences between the two. We will start with the double barrel. Some of the problems with shooting a double are that when you sight down the middle the shot may slide left or right of the target. This is a problem when you need to fire at knockdown targets. They also tend to close when you pick them up, making them hard to stage to your advantage. When you have an odd number of shots, it is hard to load just one and remember which trigger to pull. Also, there is the possibility of firing both barrels at once. I did this at my first match, knocking myself to the ground to the amusement of both my father and fellow shooters. Hence, I learned to always pull the back trigger first. This eliminates the risk of pulling both barrels at once. Also, if you are going to use a double, I would recommend that you hone out the chambers so that the shells can be extracted easier. Finally, and once again, ammo is key. Using a good brand with a smooth hull, such as the Winchester AA brand, will make your life a lot easier when using the double barrel shotgun.

I prefer to shoot the ‘97 myself because it feels more like a rifle to me and I can aim better with it (remember, aiming is a good thing.) But ‘97s are not a utopia. Some of the problems with ‘97s are that they are temperamental. They can hang-up on you and if you don’t have good ammo, they don’t eject very well. Sometimes the shells don’t eject or they can flip around backwards and you waste time trying to get them out. If you don’t have good parts in the ‘97, they can slam-fire or not fire at all. Therefore, it is very important to keep up the maintenance of these guns.

The trend in shooting is moving towards knockdown targets and fliers. For this you will need some type of choke, preferably modified, in whatever shotgun you are using. You may also need to shoot heavy shotgun loads as well. Another important factor is fitting the stock of your shotgun to your shoulder so that you are not having to reach too far to load it, break it open, or to get your face down on the stock to aim (IMPORTANT!) Finally, clean, clean, clean, and tighten those screws.

In my next article, I will discuss with you the importance of gun leather to your shooting success. I will also talk about clothing and eyewear as well as practice techniques. Now I would like to devote some time to my mounted shooters.

Earlier in this article I discussed handgun selection for the ground shooters. Everything I talked about applies to the mounted shooters as well. You are limited in the fact that you must select 2 traditional, 45 caliber handguns to shoot. They do not have to be the same type of handgun. My father shoots a Ruger Vaquero and a Uberti Thunderer with a birds head grip and a 2″ barrel. It is a matter of preference. My preference runs towards Rugers. I shoot two Ruger Vaqueros with 4-1/2″ barrels, modified with Bisley hammers for my small hands, and fitted with gunfighter grips. They are virtually indestructible. Some of the problems with other brands of guns, such as a Colt or a Colt replica, is that occasionally they have fragile firing pins and the half cock mechanism in them, which doesn’t work well for me. When I tried these brands of guns, I had a tendency to misfire because of my small hands and I often short stroked with the half cock mechanism in the guns.

In my last article, I discussed at length the issue of training your horse to gunfire. When you feel that your horse is ready, you can start moving up to actual practice loads in your handguns. But before you do, there are some more issues that we need to discuss.

The first issue involves state and city ordinances concerning firing a gun within the city limits. I live in an area where you cannot fire a gun, therefore, I do not practice firing at my home. I have to travel to an arena that is located in the county to do any live fire practicing. Furthermore, you may want to alert your local police and neighbors as to what your are going to be doing if you can fire in your area or if you travel to another area. From experience, it is not fun to have to face the local SWAT team and try to explain what you are doing. It is easier to prepare them in advance.

The next issue involves the ammo that you use. Because of the safety issues involved in mounted shooting, specialized ammo is supplied for you at a match as part of your entry fee. When shooting at home, there are also many safety issues. I am not a reloading expert, so I purchase practice ammo to shoot with. There are only a few certified reloaders who can load ammo for this sport. There is a reason for this and it involves safety and bullet modification. Never take a chance on safety. Practice ammo is available at a reasonable price. Ollen Elliot out of Darby , MT can provide you with all of your ammo needs. You can also get a discount if you return the spent cases. I would recommend that you use safe ammo loaded by a certified reloader.

The final issue is not rushing yourself. If you or your horse are not ready, don’t move to the live fire stage. You don’t want to get hurt and you don’t want to backtrack on the progress that you have made on your horse so far. Just keep practicing and it will come.

When you decide to use live ammo, you may want to invest in a pair of earplugs for both yourself and your horse. This will preserve both your hearing and your horses hearing. They are easy to make if you need to. Just take an egg crate mattress cover and cut some of the triangles into individual sections. Horses do not really like to wear the earplugs so be prepared for a fight in putting them in. The horses will also shake them out, so tying them to a string on the bridle will keep them from getting lost.

Shooting live ammo is almost identical to what we were doing in our practice sessions. It is important to remember that we only load five rounds in each gun for safety reasons. The gun will always start with the hammer resting on an empty chamber. When you start your horse in the pattern, do not cock your gun until you are at the balloon. This protects both you and your horse from accidental discharges. When you fire that first round, remember that it is going to be pretty loud and may cause your horse to jump. Keep him moving and try shooting behind him. Don’t let him duck out of the pattern or run away with you. If you need to, work him on a fence and fire to his outside so that he cannot turn out on you. And remember to work and fire off of both sides of your horse, there is no avoiding it. Also, switch your patterns up to keep it interesting for both you and your horse and to acclimate him to different shooting patterns and speeds. If you need more information on this subject, Stoney Meadows does a monthly article in the SASS Chronicle that is very informative with many useful tips.

I hope that you have found this article both useful and informative. My next article will include the topic of gun leather and clothing selection for both action and mounted shooters. This is very important in either sport. For mounted shooters, I will also discuss saddle selection as well as the importance of holstering while moving. Remember, don’t squat with your spurs on and keep a leg on both sides!!

Part 3

While I was contemplating what I wanted to discuss in this series, I realized that most of you don’t know much about me. I am 27 years old. I like to consider myself very driven and dedicated to whatever I put my mind to. By the age of 11, I held a national title in Karate for sparring. I was the youngest person in Idaho to receive a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. By the age of 22 I had a Masters Degree in Business, graduating first in my class. I was also the youngest MBA graduate ever, the school actually tried to discourage me from starting my education so soon after graduating with a Bachelors degree (I showed them.) I now currently run two family owned businesses full-time, a large dance club with a sports bar and grill, and a tanning salon.

I come from a real Western family. I would like to tell you a story about my great grandfather. In 1902, a land race was held in the Pocatello area of Idaho . My great grandfather raced a Railroad train from Lava Hot Springs to Blackfoot, Idaho, a total of 56 miles, using a string of 12 horses spaced a little over four miles apart. He came into Blackfoot neck and neck with the train in a time of two hours. One of his horses gave out on him at Blackrock canyon and he had to carry his saddle a mile to the next horse. He was also a cattle rancher in McCammon , Idaho . He survived the winter of 1919, which broke most of the ranchers in the state when hay had to be shipped in at $100.00 a ton. My grandfather, Bob Hillman, has been inducted into the Idaho Horsemen’s Hall of Fame for his contributions to horse racing in the state of Idaho , and he was an early saddle bronc rider. In the old time rodeos, everyone had to circle their cars to make the rodeo arena. My grandfather won the calf roping and the saddle bronc riding on the same horse in one rodeo.

As with any endeavor, if you want to do well in this sport, you must be prepared for some sacrifices. These sacrifices may include financial issues, time spent away from your family, time spent away from work, and even time spent on school work. When I go to a shoot, I usually have to drive through the night to get there in time for registration. I then shoot for two to three days straight, doing both ground and mounted shooting at the same event. After I finish the last stage, my father and I usually load up because we have to get back home to work. It is highly stressful and exhausting. We try to make it to six major shoots a year.

But, enough about me, lets get back to the issue at hand. In my last article, I discussed at length the issues involving gun selection. These issues included choosing firearms that fit you and modifying them to get more out of this sport. In this article, I would like to discuss choosing or creating a holster rig that will fit your needs. I also want to touch on clothing selection and eyewear, as well as some practice techniques. For the mounted shooters, leather selection for both your saddle and gun rigs is very important. I will also discuss the issue of learning how to holster while on a moving animal.

Choosing a leather rig is the next step in becoming a successful shooter in this sport. As you have probably already figured out, there are a ton of different styles, colors, and creators of leather rigs out there. When choosing a rig, there are some specific things that you need to look for. Your holsters should be able to retain your gun when you are moving or running, but should not be so tight that it hinders your drawing and holstering capabilities. I prefer one cross draw and one strong side setup because it allows me to holster faster and draw faster. But with this rig, you have to be very conscious of safety issues, specifically the cross draw shuffle. The purpose of the shuffle is to prevent you from sweeping spectators with your muzzle. Two straight up and down holsters are becoming popular because it eliminates the risk of stage procedurals or disqualifications by not doing the cross draw shuffle. These holsters can be canted forwards or backwards, depending on what the shooter feels comfortable with. Using crotch holsters, two cross draw holsters together in the front, is also somewhat popular. For them to be legal, you must be able to place your two fists together between them. These are risky for new shooters to use until they can learn to control their firearms when both drawing and holstering.

Leather rigs are not just for your guns. You need to choose a good shotgun shell belt. I prefer having a belt around my waist. Some people choose to place their shotgun shells on their gun belts in holders or slides. It is all based on preference. For me, having them higher up on my waist makes them easier for me to grab while loading my shotgun. When choosing a shotgun belt, keep in mind that it needs to be near your belly button and close enough that you don’t have to strain to reach them.

Our next issue involves choosing the appropriate clothing and eyewear. Depending on what you decide you want out of this sport, you should choose your clothing with certain factors in mind. If your goal is to be a competitor, the wrong kind of clothing can bog you down. A vest can get in the way of your gun leather and may hinder your holstering abilities. Chaps can restrict fast, fluid movement. High heeled boots are hard to run in, add spurs to them and you can trip yourself easily (been there, done that.) Knives, pouches and other accessories can get caught up on stages and add more weight for you to pack around. Scarves can fly up in your face and blind you or get caught in the actions of your guns. So here again, we ask ourselves what we want out of this sport. Are we recreational shooters that dress to the max, or are we competitors? Competitors try to dress traditionally and at the same time try to minimize clothing that restricts or binds fluid bio-mechanical movements. In most shoots, you are on rough surfaces with rocks and empty shell cases on the ground. The flatter the sole and heel of your boots, the better your balance will be in order to move quickly. When I first started, you could only do a fast walk between your transitions, so I wore the biggest and highest boots I could find. Now it is a sprint and, believe it or not, the time saved moving between guns makes up for shooting a little slower and hitting your targets.

When I first started shooting and up until a few years ago, I wore contact lenses with a pair of safety glasses over them. My eyes were constantly giving me problems. If they were not dry they were getting something in them. And if the wind blew (as it so often does when we’re shooting,) you may as well forget about actually hitting your targets. I could not see a thing. Finally, I got smart and decided to get a pair of prescription safety glasses. Now I hardly ever have problems with my eyes. I would recommend that all shooters who wear contacts consider investing in a pair of prescription safety glasses. They are well worth it.

As I sit here writing this article, it is snowing outside, and I can’t help but think about how far away spring is. It is 16 degrees outside, and the thought of going to the range to practice gives me the chills. We don’t have indoor shooting ranges in my small town. Therefore, I have devised my own system of dry fire and transitional practice at home in my living room. My goal, this year, is to utilize the space in my nightclub, which is rather large, to set up stages to practice for Winter Range in February. I will utilize typical scenarios to practice drawing, dry firing my hand guns, holstering, moving to a staged rifle, putting the rifle down, and moving to a staged shotgun, all while using dummy ammo to practice my loading techniques (the key words there being dummy ammo, remember to be safety conscious.) Hopefully, if we get a couple of warm days before February, I will try to go to the range, which may still be snow covered, to fire live ammo at steel targets. You never know about the weather here in Idaho . You can do this yourself in your garage or living room. Just remember to use dummy ammo and snap caps in your pistols and shotgun.

In my final article, I would like to summarize all that I have discussed with you and continue on with a discussion of bio-mechanics, gun staging, transitions and overall attitude for this sport. Now I will continue my discussions for the mounted shooters.

In mounted shooting, the most popular types of rigs are two cross draw crotch holsters. The purpose of the two cross draw holsters is that you have to maneuver the horse with your left hand while shooting with your right hand (for you south paws, reverse what I said.) Other types of holsters include various types of single or double pommel holsters, combination chest and shoulder holsters or straight up and down holsters. I prefer two cross draw holsters located high on my waist. These holsters were specially made for mounted shooters by Wendy Willows. They were created to hold the butts of the guns away from my body for easy drawing and holstering. They also hold my gun steady to prevent bouncing out, but do not restrict my drawing capabilities.

Mounted shooting requires similar bio-mechanics to ground shooting techniques in being able to draw and holster your handguns without losing your line of sight and control of your horse (this takes a lot of practice.) You should not holster your handgun until you have made the turn around the end of the barrel and have line of sight on your next engagement of fire. Here again, holsters that grip but don’t grab the gun, making it hard to draw, are beneficial. Always try to get around the barrel first before holstering; you would not believe how much time this will save. Also, don’t become lazy while you are searching around for your holster. Keep it moving forward. Remember, any time saved will help.

As far as saddles go, you can spend thousands of dollars on reproductions of the old classics or originals, or you can use what is comfortable for you. My dad has been riding the same saddle that his father gave to him for over 50 years ago(WOW!!) I started out using my great grandfather Baker’s original stock saddle that is about 100 years old. It killed my knees. So here again, I decided what I wanted out of this sport. I decided that I wanted to walk at the end of the day. I now use a saddle that is lighter and more comfortable for me. I have also had to lighten the weight on my horse due to his bone spurs. Having less weight to carry around (I refuse to diet,) reduces the stress on his knees.

In my final article for mounted shooters, I will discuss where you can find a good horse to buy. Also, a topic we need to cover is clothing and accessories. Remember to cowboy up and write me with any questions or comments at: 2 Gun Dana, 4010 Yellowstone, Pocatello , ID 83202

Part 4

My goal when I started this endeavor was to give beginning shooters an edge and a step in the right direction while starting in this great sport of cowboy action shooting. Now I want to give a little more advanced overview on bio-mechanics and how they can affect your shooting. I will briefly discuss how you can stage your guns for better movement and transitions. For the mounted shooters, I will talk about my clothing preferences when I shoot off of the horses and where to find a good shooting horse and what to look for when choosing said horse.

Being able to move smoothly is important when you are drawing, holstering, firing, working your transitions, and putting guns down. Putting your mind in the zone, where you block out anxiety and stress, distractions, and competitors is the key to being a successful shooter. Ground shooters must learn the fundamentals of shooting stances, drawing your handguns, breath control, mental focus, levering your rifle correctly, shooting your pistol, and running your shotgun correctly. These techniques will only come with experience at countless shooting competitions and through practice. Again, I recommend getting the best shooter at your local match to help you with the fundamentals. It is hard for me to show you these techniques on paper. You need to see how they are used to understand their benefits and how they can affect your shooting game.

An important part of shooting well is being able to multitask during the shooting scenario. This means doing more than one thing at once, like walking and chewing bubble gum – difficult for some of us, but a necessary evil. For instance, holstering one handgun while drawing the other is a great skill to practice and perfect. Levering the rifle as it comes to your shoulder shaves time. Having a shotgun shell in hand as you come to your shotgun speeds you up as well. Anything that saves time is a bio-mechanical function and a good thing to work on.

One thing I would like to touch on is shooting rhythms. These are important. It is the ability to know when you need to shoot carefully at small targets or speed up on the larger targets. For instance, consider spacing between targets. Distant targets require a slower, more deliberate shot, while a close target may allow a faster shot. Similarly, two targets spaced close together may allow for faster sighting and firing. Again, take the time to aim at and hit your targets. It is better to take a nanosecond longer to hit your target, than make a reckless shot and take a five second penalty (a painful lesson that I have learned over the years.)

Staging your guns properly is also very important. I have learned to stage my own guns at all times, making sure that they are in the right shooting sequence the stage design requires. I have also learned to position them to my advantage, such as aiming my rifle at the first rifle target. The shotgun may be turned over if it is placed next to the rifle so that empty shells are not ejected into the shotgun action (take it from someone who has had to shake shells out of her gun on the clock). Also, always, always, always check to make sure that your safety has not been engaged on your rifle. I have seen this happen so many times to people, even me.

When I say transitions, I mean moving smoothly from my handgun, to my rifle, to my shotgun, saving as many steps and motion as I can. Remember that the extra time you spend to hit your targets can be made up by moving faster between guns than your competitors. Transitions also involve grabbing your long guns correctly and positioning them on your shoulder right the first time.

Learn to snap lever your rifle as it comes to your shoulder. Have your gun levered for the next round before you come to your next target. Lean into your rifle and shotgun a little bit and practice exhaling slowly as you fire. This will help in your accuracy and your solid stance or steadiness. This is something that I learned in martial arts. By channeling your chi energy you make yourself steady. Learn good stances. I shoot with a forward stance which I learned in martial arts. In this stance, 60 percent of my weight is located on my forward knee and 40 percent is on my rear leg. This gives me an aggressive shooting stance (I also like to growl at the targets, I feel this helps me focus as well, you know, kill it, kill it, kill it!)

I bet you thought you were done with school and homework, but let me tell you, you are not. The key to being up on the game is doing your homework. This means studying the stage designs and knowing what you have to do in your mind before the shoot. Study the stages, if you can, the night before. I like to list the order of guns that I will shoot and how I will shoot them. I also include any lines or movements that are out of the ordinary that I may have to do. The trend now in competition is to have many confusing combinations of sweeps to make you get procedurals. The best way to combat this is to have good coaching. Don’t be afraid to have someone remind you on which order you have to shoot your targets or guns. My dad and I coach each other all the time. It helps calm you down on the line so that you do not become flustered and, therefore, miss what you are aiming at.

Finally, we have an attitude issue. We have all been around shooters who are uptight, stressed, or are on a power trip and think they know everything. By making you feel incompetent, they feel that they are somehow superior shooters. That is not the cowboy way. Remember, you catch more flies with sugar than you do with vinegar. Treat everyone the same way that you would want them to treat you. Have respect and patience with new shooters. Enjoy your experience in meeting the many, many, many new friends from around the world that you can make in cowboy action shooting. Also, remember that you will not do every stage perfectly. Don’t be hard on yourself. Remember, it is how you do over the long haul that will determine how you do in the shoot. Eliminate misses. Don’t shoot as fast as you can, but hit your targets as fast as you can. Stay within your envelope. As you get better, speed will come.

For my mounted shooters I would like to end on a discussion on clothing. I personally like to dress well for this event, you may even call it flashy or even quite stylish! I like to wear bib shirts that I design with embroidered dragons on them. I like to wear silver spurs and my lucky hat (my dad wishes I would find a new lucky hat, he says mine is ugly.) It is an impressive sight to see how well-dressed people can be in authentic Old West attire. You can be whatever you want to be. Just remember not to bind yourself too much or wear anything that will interfere with your mobility or ability to draw and holster your firearms.

As for finding a good horse, don’t be lured in by the golden opportunity horse. I have been there and done that. My golden opportunity horse was actually golden in color and could spin faster than a tilt-a-whirl. The first shoot I took him to, we sat in the middle of the arena in one spot and spun circles around and around and around. I almost got motion sickness from the experience. After this experience, I learned all that glitters is not gold. With this in mind, I would advise you to go out to a ranch, a feed lot, a live stock dealer, or to 4-H competitions, team roping, rodeos, or any western events to scope out prospects. If you see a good prospect, ask if he is for sale. Remember to look for a horse that is calm, sensible, sound, gentle, broken and has a good eye. I would also recommend that you buy a good broken horse for this sport. It takes too long to train young or unseasoned horses to this sport, not to mention the pain and aggravation involved (I have the bruises to attest to this.) Age is not a great factor, 14 to 15 is not really that old for a horse. My dad won his world title on a 22-year-old horse. My horse is currently 13 years old and still going strong. Find someone you can trust to give you good advice on a horse. Don’t buy a horse because he has four legs, a tail, and two ears just because you are told he is a good horse. You can buy a good horse in Idaho for $2,000.00 that will go the distance. But remember, not every horse will make a good shooting horse. I have seen too many people show up year after year with the same horse and the same ongoing battle between them. It is sometimes better to cut your losses and find a new and better horse than to perpetuate the battle.

Throughout these articles, I have given out a lot of information. Let me tell you that this is all based on my own opinions and experiences. It is in no way all inclusive and I am sure that there are many who would disagree with me. But, this is what has worked and still works for me. My final advice to you is to find the best cowboy shooter in your local club and watch him, study him, find out why he is a good shooter, and what techniques he uses. Most cowboy shooters would be more than willing to pass on good shooting techniques to you if you ask them to. There are several good shooting schools, videos, or manuals out there to help you with your goals. I will always be available to talk to you if you see me at a shoot, or you can write me at: 2 Gun Dana, 4010 Yellowstone, Pocatello, ID 83202 .

Until I see you, remember it is not how you look, it is how you shoot. Be mindful of the cowboy way. Have respect for other people. And cherish our freedoms here in the great United States of America.

Cowboy Fast Draw

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Guides



Getting Started in Cowboy Fast Draw – What is it and how do you get started?

Cowboy fast draw is a relatively new sport having had its first World Championship in 2003.  Created out of the imagination and dream of Brad Hemmah of South Dakota , it is a sport that shoots wax bullets and is fast, fun, competitive, and almost anyone can do it!

If you want to feel like you’re part of the Old West, the excitement of standing on the shooting line next to your opponent, your hand shaking ready to draw at the first glimpse of the light in the middle of the target, and feel the adrenalin rush, this is the sport for you.  With the average shooting times of top shooters being a little over half of a second and measured in thousandths of a second from the time the light has come on until they draw, fire, and hit the target, each shot fired is over in the blink of an eye!  Many of the top shooters can do this in under half of a second and some even perform this feat in the high to mid three-thousandths (.330) of a second.  Not to worry though, the faster the shooter goes, the more likely he is to miss and you have to hit the target to beat your opponent.  I have seen many a top notch competitor lose to a shooter who is slightly slower but much more accurate.

Most matches are elimination events, usually 4X, which means that you can lose four times before you are out of the event. The random drawing of the poker chips or computer determines who your opponent is, so you never know who you will compete against on the line.  Young and old compete in these traditional fast draw events as the minimum age is 16.  An 85-year-old even competed at the National Cowboy Fast Draw Championship in Meridian , Idaho in 2005.  There are only two classes; men and women, though sometimes the host may give out additional prizes to the top seniors and juniors.  New clubs are popping up all over and taking part in this traditional fast draw sport.

There are different types of fast draw competitions and organizations.  Cowboy fast draw has rules that restrict the use of guns and gun rigs to more traditional styles.  The tricked out, heavily modified, fanning guns used in world fast draw competitions are not allowed, nor are the low-slung buscadero-type holsters you may be familiar with from shows likeBonanza and Gunsmoke.  Such tricked out and modified guns can cost well over $2,000, while the fancy steel-lined holsters of world fast draw will easily run $350.  You can get started in cowboy fast draw with a stock single-action replica for under $400 and a cowboy fast draw gun rig that looks good and works well for under $200.  Naturally, as with any other sport, you can always go up in price and most competitors will want a little action-job performed on their sixgun.

This is a great sport; it’s a lot of fun and filled with wonderful people.  Come on out and try it and if you have any questions, feel free to contact us at (800) 342-0904, or send an email to  You can also contact the Cowboy Fast Draw Association at (605) 642-2573,, or visit the CFDA web-site

Classes, Rules, Equipment, and Information


Men and women only.  The minimum age is 16.


1. Gunslinger: 15-feet from standing point to the target.

2. Gunfighter: 18-feet from standing point to the target.

3. Master Gunfighter: 21-feet from standing point to the target – All state, national, and world championships are conducted at 21-feet.


The only firearms allowed for this sport are stock single-action sixguns with a minimum barrel length of 4-3/4″ chambered in .45 Colt.  “Stock” means that you can’t replace the barrel or cylinder with a lighter one or replace the standard hammer the gun comes with, with a different style.  You can give the gun an internal action-job but can not do any external or frame modifications.

Gun Leather

Gun rigs need to have a traditional style to them.  Metal, kydex, or other stiff lining of the holster or belt (except leather) is not allowed.  The top of the holster can be no more than 3″ lower than the top of the belt.  The cut out in the front of the holster can be no more than 1-1/4″ from the cut to where the hammer meets the frame of the sixgun when the sixgun is in the draw position.  The angle of the holster can be tilted no more than 20°.  Tie down straps are not allowed, though tie down thongs are.  A small, external, metal plate at the bottom of the holster is allowed to protect the leg if one accidentally shoots through the holster “boot”.


Traditional western wear is recommended, but standard jeans, cowboy boots, and straw cowboy hats are accepted.  Tennis shoes and baseball caps are not allowed.  For ideas on clothing, visit the Shoot Mercantile or browse through an issue of Shoot! Magazine.


The targets are made of steel, usually 1/16th of an inch thick and are 24″ in diameter with a 3-1/4″ round circle of clear lexan or similar material in the middle of the target behind which is placed a light connected to the timer.  A metal box is placed over the light for protection.  Either a standard 40-watt light bulb is used requiring a power cord, or more recently a LED light system has been used which also connects to the impact sensor unit and has a sensitivity adjustment in it.  The sensor unit is usually a small box with a ¼” telephone jack.  The center of the target must be located at 50″ above the ground.  Targets can be made locally or are available on the Shoot! Mercantile (targets are sold separately and without sensors or LEDs).

Bullets, Brass, and Powder

Bullets are wax, usually of a proprietary mixture.  Two excellent wax bullet manufacturers are C&R Wax owned by Ray Thielke (541) 575-4241 ,,, and Bandit Supply owned by Don Valle (605)255-4509 ,  Both of these business owners are also excellent cowboy fast draw shooters, so they know what their product should do.

The brass used is normally .45 Colt Blank Brass which has a larger flash hole for the primer than normal brass so that primer backout is less likely.  This brass is available from Top Brass (719) 539-7242 ,, and Starline Brass (660)827-6640 ,  Special nickel-plated brass that use shotgun primers is also available from CFDA or Shoot! Magazine.  This brass is primarily used for practice by just slipping a shotgun primer in the primer pocket and pushing in a wax bullet in the top of the case.  It is easy to use, but depending upon the amount of head space available can lock up the cylinder when a primer backs out.

Powder used is black powder such as GOEX FFF or a black powder substitute such as Hodgdon’s 777.  Many people will just use large pistol primers without primers for practice.  This works well but you should clean the barrel of your gun after every 10 shots as the wax tends to build up and you could get a wax bullet stuck n the barrel.  The recommended amount of powder is five to six grains of black and four grains of 777 which produces higher velocities.  A 15-grain wax bullet with four grains of 777 behind it will attain velocities of 825 feet per second.


The timer of choice is currently made by Shooting Electronics, Inc. and is available through Shoot! Magazine  This timer is a duel competition timer that uses LED lights running on a single CAT 5 cable that also connects to the impact sensor through the LED and can run on batteries.  It will also function with Beamhit’s laser system with additional LED laser unts.  This new timer has replaced the Fast Track timer which uses a standard power cord, 40-watt light bulb, and a sensor cable which had essentially been the only one available up until the spring of 2005.

Backstops and safety

Safety is always the most important aspect of any shooting sport, regardless of what type of projectile is being shot.  All safety considerations that apply to standard ammunition should be followed.  If a wax bullet hits someone in the eye or throat, it could have very serious consequences.  Hits in the leg, which may occur when drawing too fast, can also be painful.  Guns should only be fired when pointed safely down range.  Heavy pants or skirts should be worn and chaps are even recommended.  Boots are a must to protect your feet.  Wax bullets sometimes bounce back and they shouldn’t hurt if they hit you in the body, but you don’t want them to hit you in the eye.  Eye protection must be worn at all times and ear protection is certainly recommended.

Shooting areas should have adequate backstops and side walls to protect spectators.  This is a sport that can be set up and shot in the middle of downtown as long as appropriate safety precautions are taken.

Event Operation

Events are conducted all across the country.  They could be sanctioned exhibition events or CFDA sanctioned match events. You must be a current member of the Cowboy Fast Draw Association to participate in a sanctioned event for which a minimum of 1/3 of the total prize package is supposed to be provided in cash.

The announcer controls the match and ensures that the range officer, score keepers, hand judges, and participants are ready.  Competitors stand next to each other.  Upon command they are allowed to load up to five rounds with an empty chamber under the cylinder and holster their revolvers.  You may put your hand on the gun to get ready wth your thumb on the hammer, but your trigger finger must be outside the trigger guard alongside the holster.  The commands: “Shooters on the line”, “Shooters (pause) set”, are given.  Upon the word “set” the timer is activated.  There is a two to five second delay before the light in the middle of each competitors target comes on.  You must wait for the light to come on before you draw, otherwise you may be called by your hand judge.  The person who hits the target first wins that shot.  It normally takes the best three out of five to win that round, though sometimes a two out of three match or portion of a match is conducted.  When you have lost a round you receive an X.  Primary contests are usually 3X or 4X contests while many secondary contests are 1X contests.

Here are come quick draw holsters to browse though:

Getting Started in Western-action Shooting

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Guides

SHOOT! Magazine’s Guide to
GETTING STARTED in Western-action Shooting

When was the last time you watched a western movie?  Have you ever thought you would like to play cowboy like you did as a kid?  Have you ever wanted to take your family or a friend out to an old-time town dinner and dance dressed up in Victorian clothes?  What about galloping on a horse with your sixguns blazing?  Well, now’s your chance!

Western-action shooting is the fastest growing shooting sport in the world.  It is friendly, family oriented, competitive, and really fun!  Come with us and enjoy the world of cowboy action shooting, buffalo matches, cowboy fast draw, black powder cartridge rifle silhouette, cowboy mounted shooting, and more.  Come play cowboy with real guns and ammunition in a safe atmosphere, and bring your family and friends along, too.

There are a variety of items that are required in Western-action shooting; however, the most important is your desire and interest, as any local club will be more than happy to help you out with the rest.  They will usually even loan you the sixguns, leverguns, shotguns, and other items needed to shoot!  So, the first thing we recommend that you do after reading up on the type of shooting you are interested in is to find a local match in your area, attend a shoot to see how it’s done, let them know you are interested, and ask for help.

We will briefly cover all of the subjects pertaining to how you can get started in this guide.  More in-depth information is provided in our magazine, as well as books and videos that are available through the SHOOT! Mercantile.  If you don’t find what you need here or have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (208) 368-9920 or e-mail us and we will be glad to help you.

Please select one of the Western-action Shooting Guides below to get started:

Getting Started in Cowboy Action Shooting

Getting Started in Cowboy Fast Draw

Getting Started in Cowboy Mounted Shooting