Cowboy ready? Stand by… for a fast and fun shooting discipline, which is quickly becoming one of the most popular shooting sports in the world.
Single action shooting competitions are run by the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), based at (naturally) Cowboy Way, Edgewood in New Mexico.
Local and regional matches happen all across the world every weekend. Each year, competitors converge at End of Trail, the World Championships held in New Mexico.
So why should you try single action shooting competitions? Read on, friend…
1. Fill your hands, you son of a …
Er, so to speak. Single action shooting uses only types of firearm that were in use in the mid-late 19th century. Several manufacturers currently cater to the single action market, producing guns specifically for the discipline.
Original firearms are used if they are safe. There are black powder matches as well, for those who love to get dirty! For those fond of 1911s, the Wild Bunch match is for you.
2. Get your cowboy (or cowgirl) on.
It’s mandatory to wear period clothes from the Old West period, and many competitors embrace this side of competition, even making their own costumes from scratch!
You can find inspiration from documentaries, old photos and there’s even a category called B-Western, where competitors wear costumes inspired by western movies – past and present. There’s no need to feel self-conscious when everyone else is dressed up to the nines as well!
3. Shoot steel. Fast.
Single action is all about speed, and it’s a great opportunity to test your skill with multiple firearms.
Can you shoot two revolvers, a lever action rifle and a shotgun, all in rapid succession? That’s the challenge.
4. Challenge yourself.
Many single action matches require competitors to act out complex scenarios, which means you have more to remember than just pumping targets full o’ lead!
A typical stage might involve having to remember a phrase, which is spoken to start the timer, then engage numerous targets in a specific order, as the competitor moves along a façade, shooting through windows, doorways and around the sides of buildings.
You need to be able to remember which targets to engage when, and from where, where to pick up and put down each gun, all as quickly as possible.
Sound easy? In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember each step in the stage.
5. Everyone has a cowboy nickname.
Another requirement of the discipline, which only adds to the fun and novelty, is for each competitor to come with up their own “alias” – a nickname inspired by the historical figures, events, movies or culture of the Old West.
As long as names are unique and G-rated, the sky’s the limit. Competitors refer to each other by their aliases, so it’s important to pick one you’re comfortable with.
Here’s a few of my favorites: Little Miss Lead Lover, Miss Chevious, Rotten Ronnie, Dug Deeper, Rick O’Shea and I.D. Claire.
6. Buy four more guns!
To shoot the main match, you need two revolvers, a lever action rifle and a shotgun. SASS has strict rules about what modifications can be made, so the playing field is kept fair. No race guns here, pardner…
7. Side matches to suit every taste.
The major events usually run for a number of days, with a range of side matches shot in the lead up to the main event. There’s a long-range event, Derringer match, speed matches and quick-draw competitions. There’s even a cowboy clays event for shotgun lovers.
8. Embrace the Spirit of the Game
One of the guiding principles of single action is the Spirit of the Game. This basically means good sportsmanship: the aim of the game is not to look for ways to gain competitive advantage by seeking to bend the rules.
The intention is to create a safe, supportive and welcoming environment at every match, and it works. The range officer’s course teaches a code of conduct, which includes treating others the way you would like to be treated, giving the benefit of the doubt to the shooter, and keeping it fun.
The result is a friendly, encouraging atmosphere where everyone supports each other.
9. Weird and wonderful props.
Part of the novelty of the discipline is acting out a historical scenario as part of a match. This might involve shooting from a “horse,” a rocking chair or even an outhouse! Lots of reactive targets form part of the match, including the Texas star, drop-turns and swingers.
10. Shooting for whippersnappers and old coots alike.
Single action matches are designed so that shooters of any age can compete. Most people compete in their age category, and most targets are intentionally quite large and placed at relatively short distances, which means that older people who have poor eyesight or are a little slower on their feet can still compete.
Single action boasts many competitors who are in their 60s, 70s and even 80s!
11. Join a global family
The single action shooting crowd is one of the most friendly, welcoming communities in the target shooting world, but don’t take my word for it. Turn up to a local match this weekend and see for yourself!
Mount up and let’s ride…