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Getting started in cowboy action. (Handguns).

C'mon, admit it. In your heart of hearts, you want to try this cowboy action shooting thing you've heard about. The word from here is: Go for it!

I've gotten to like this game. It's more about friendly folks just having safe fun with guns than it is about winning. You'll need a shotgun, either a double barrel, a Winchester '97 pump gun, or its affordable Chinese clone from Norinco. You'll also need a lever-action, revolver-caliber rifle. Or a carbine.

And, of course, you'll need a couple of six-shooters.

Sixgun Savvy

Most SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) stages require you draw one revolver, fire five shots, holster it, and repeat with a second gun, usually with the rifle and scattergun brought into play somewhere along the line. It's handy, but not essential, to have both revolvers chambered for the same ammo.

But if you've got a Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum and a regular Blackhawk in .357, it's not gonna be that much hassle to load the first with light .44 Specials and the other with .38 Specials. Or, since vintage cartridges have been reborn thanks to this sport, you can load the Super with ultra soft .44 Russian and the .357 with weak but correct-to-the-period .38 Long Colt. I shoot a lot of both in the Black Hills brand.

The adjustable sights of the Blackhawk series would put those Rugers in Modem class. I like shooting in that category for two reasons. First, my aging eyes pick up Ruger's adjustable sights better than any fixed sights I've seen on

factory produced single action revolvers. Second, Ruger has been producing the Blackhawk since around 1955, and there are lots of them on the used gun market. I got my pair, much worn on the outside but mechanically perfect inside, for $150 a piece.


Fixed sights are required for Traditional class, where you are allowed to use a two-hand hold. Ditto for Duelist class, where the six-gun must be fired one-hand only, though you can use the dominant hand for each one in turn. Fixed sights are also required for the newest class. In Gunfighter, you alternate firing one revolver in your left hand and the other in you right, with both drawn simultaneously.

Colt has two popular offerings. The best deal, I think, is the recently introduced Colt Cowboy, a popularly priced gun with a hammer bar safety. If your pocketbook is up for it, the original third generation Single Action Army is still available from the Custom Shop. There are countless clones of this revolver available at more reasonable prices. The nicest of these I've personally seen, in terms of workmanship, is the Hartford brand.

The single most popular flavor of "Peacemaker" seems to be the Ruger Vaquero. A tad bigger than the Colt sixgun, this Magnum-frame single action is proportionally correct in looks and is the most rugged revolver you'll find on the cowboy firing line.

An advantage of purchasing the Vaquero is that if you later find you don't care for cowboy shooting, once you've got the fixed sights trued up for your favorite hunting load, you still have a perfectly suitable woodsman's revolver. The price is very affordable, too. You can get these guns in standard or Bisley grip style, and as of 2001, in bird's head configuration as well.

Last year Ruger also brought out the smaller, handier Single Six in .32 Magnum, which is a really sweet shooter with Black Hills' new .32 H&R "cowboy load." I shot a pair of them in the local state championships and was happy with the performance, though shooting .32s makes you feel more like Dale Evans than Roy Rogers.

While the Peacemaker and its doppelgangers rule the current cowboy roost, you still see quite a few of the top-break Schofields. A few gunners pack Smith & Wessons exquisitely reproduced and subtly updated by the Performance Center. Most are more affordable copies by Uberti and Armi San Marcos. They're faster to reload than the SAAs, though that's rarely necessary in a cowboy match. But in my hands at least, they're slower to shoot.

Cowboy Leather

For the price of a concealed carry belt/holster/magazine pouch from a top custom house or a fully-accoutred police duty belt from the law enforcement equipment shop, you can get good, period-correct cowboy leather. In Gunfighter class, you need a southpaw holster on your left-hand side, and a right-hand holster on the right hip. In the other classes, most shooters have one revolver in a strong-side straight draw holster and the other in a high-ride crossdraw. When working that crossdraw rig, be careful to keep the weak-side hip, and therefore the muzzle, angled downrange during both the drawing and the reholstering process.

I use an inexpensive Old World rig for my battered twin Blackhawks when I shoot Modem class. I acquired one of Greg Kramer's superb rigs with mirror image holsters for the Colt Cowboy and the Ruger Vaquero .45s I have for the Gunfighter class. When you select your cowpoke leather, remember that safe drawing and especially re-holstering are more important than a fast draw.

There's a reason this shooting game is growing so fast. It's fun! The hardware doesn't cost that much, and neither does the cowboy garb. (Heck, our friend John Taffin can treat a cowboy match like a "Come As You Are" party.) For information on a match near you, contact the Single Action Shooting Society, 23255 La Palma Avenue, Yorba Linda, Calif., 92887. Or look them up at
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Author:Ayoob, Massad
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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