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Benefits of Cowboy Action Shooting

It’s true. Single Action Shooting is one of the most exciting and fastest growing shooting sports today. And this is not just in the United States. Australia, Germany and many other countries are also joining the Old West bandwagon and having a great time honing their shooting skills.

If you’ve heard of Single Action Shooting, also called Cowboy Action Shooting, here are some of the awesome reasons why you should give this sport a try:

Relive the Old West

Single Action Shooting is all about the Old West. This shooting sport celebrates the culture and way of life back in the early 1900s. You might call this ‘The Cowboy Way’.

It’s Fun, Exciting and Very Interesting!

Do you know the topmost reason why a lot of people join Single Action Shooting clubs and organizations? It’s not actually the shooting.

It’s the dressing up!

Getting to dress up in cowboy clothes, particularly those with the style of the early 1900s, is one of the coolest things ever! Attending a Single Action Shooting is just like stepping onto the set of a Hollywood western movie.

Learn More about History

Joining a Single Action Shooting organization lets you choose your own character and alias. Delve into the rich history of the Old West or watch re-runs of Old West movies and choose a name.

Simulated Stages

The best thing about Single Action Shooting? It’s never, ever boring.

You’ll get to play out a part and shoot targets that are part of a simulated stage. Shoot the bad guys, secure the bags of gold and save the fair maiden from hooligans! It’s pure fun!
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The Single Action Shooters Firearms Checklist

Single Action Shooting, similar to other shooting sports, also have specific firearm requirements. If you’re still starting out in this sport, it’s time to learn what guidelines there are when it comes to your western style firearms.

Here is the single action shooters firearms checklist:

All Firearms:

  • All firearms to be used in Single Action Shooting must have an impact mechanism such as centerfire primers, rimfire primers or percussion caps. Any other type of firearm is illegal.
  • Internal modifications to your firearm is allowed granted that it cannot be seen when your firearm is at rest and do not affect the external operation (on conflict) with any other modification.
  • Modifications that change the process from an entirely manual operation to another style are illegal. This applies to all firing, coking, chambering or levering mechanisms.
  • All firearms are allowed to be repaired or restored to their original condition.
  • Replacement parts need to be the same as the original parts. Replacement parts that are otherwise are strictly prohibited.
  • Lanyards for hand guns and slings for long guns are allowed.


  • Hammers can be replaced with hammers of the same frame size.
  • Internal parts of the hammer can be changed.
  • Hammer stops are allowed.
  • The hammer travel distance is allowed to be adjusted.
  • Rear right notches on the revolver can be widened.
  • Hammer spur grooves may also be adjusted.


  • As long as industry limits are maintained, it is allowed to rebore, line or sleeve your barrels and chambers for approved calibres.
  • Original barrels may be replaced with new barrels of correct style.
  • Barrels are allowed to be shortened or crowned.
  • Rifle barrels must be at least 16 inches.
  • Rifle barrels can be adjusted to add mounting hardware.
  • Barrels may be altered to be similar to period-style sights.
  • Shotgun barrels must be at least 18 inches.
  • Internal choke tubes for shotgun barrels are allowed provided they don’t extend beyond the muzzle.
  • Heavy competition is allowed on revolver caliber firearms only.
  • Only barrels made of iron or steel are allowed.
  • Counter-weighting devices visible are not allowed.
  • Compensating ports are not allowed.


  • Triggers may be profiles.
  • Their position may be adjusted.
  • Trigger stops are allowed.
  • Shotgun trigger guards must be wrapped with leather or other similar materials.
  • Bending the trigger guard is not allowed.
  • Trigger shoes are not allowed.

Stocks and Grips:

  • It’s allowed to alter or replace the length or style of stock.
  • Carving, checkering or laser engraving is allowed on buttstocks, forestocks and revolver grips.
  • A permanent lace-on or slip-on recoil pad is allowed but only on the buttstock of rifles and shotguns.
  • Buttstocks are allowed to be changed but only to the style that was generally available from the original manufacturer.
  • Leather or any other similar material may be attached to the buttplate (for instance, the wrist or grip portion of the buttstock).
  • Leather grips or stocks are acceptable provided they follow the original shape of the grips or stocks of the firearm.
  • Contemporary grips, modern grips, grip tape and similar grips or stocks are not allowed.
  • Leather on a pump shotgun’s fore end is not allowed.
  • A slide on the leather cover is allowed provided it protects the offhand from barrel heat.
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What to Expect at a Single Action Shooting Match

Each stage at a Single Action Shooting match is different. Sometimes, shooters will be required to use one gun, and sometimes they’ll be asked to use both guns. There are also matches where a shooter is required to reload a firearm while being timed. This helps keep the whole sport interesting and fresh.

In a match, when the shooter comes to his/her line, they’ll have to place their guns as in the guidelines. When it’s their turn to stand in the start position, the Range Officer will approach the shooter and ask if there are any clarifications in the course of fire. This helps erase any doubts or questions of the shooter before commencing the match. If there are no questions, the Range Officer will ask if the shooter is ready. If the shooter is ready, the Range Officer will start the timer and the shooter will begin the stage after hearing the audible electronic call.

An example of a Single Action Shooting match might have the competitor draw the first revolver and shoot 5 steel targets, holster the revolver and move to where the rifle is placed. After getting the rifle, the next step would be to engage the targets which are set farther away than revolver targets. Rifle targets could be 9 separate targets, or even 3 targets which the competitor would have to ‘sweep’ 3 times. After doing this, the next stage would be the shotgun match. Given that all shotguns must be empty, the competitor would have to load it with a maximum of 2 rounds, engage 2 knock-down targets, reload another 2 rounds and engage the last 2 knock-down targets. If the targets don’t fall down, the competitor doesn’t score. The last stage would be the 2nd revolver match. This time, a competitor would have to engage 3 revolver targets in a ‘Nevada Sweep’ style (left, center, right center, left) 5 times.

Once all stages of the competition is over, the competitor would be asked by the Range Officer to take the guns to the Unloading Table where a designated person will supervise the unloading of guns and make sure that all firearms are unloaded.

After this, it’s all down to the total time and score.


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Themes in Single Action Shooting

Single Action Shooting, or Cowboy Shooting, is not like any other shooting sport. It is all about the Old West. Single Action Shooting relives the days of vaqueros and cowboys in the early 1900s. All the way from the type of firearms used, down to the cowboy boots you were.

If you’re a sport shooter with great love for the Old West, and would like to experience how it all was back then, you got to give Single Action Shooting a try.

Single Action Shooting is all about authenticity. All firearms to be used have to be period-specific. You can’t sport any modern modifications on firearms in Single Action Shooting. Neither can you wear your regular shooter’s attire. What you need is some spurs, a vest, worn-in leather jeans (or denim) and a vest. Oh! And don’t forget your cowboy hat!

Single Action Shooting employs various themes to make each shooting event as authentic and as exciting as possible. All Single Action shooters take great lengths to make, or have someone else make, their attires.

The event organizers make sure that the set is also the perfect backdrop for Old West aficionados. A western theme is adopted for all targets, props and stages to be used in the event. An example would be a match set in a bank where a competitor would have to shoot through a barred teller window and retrieve a sack of gold. Another example would be where a shooter will have to rescue a baby (doll) and carry the baby to safety all while shooting down targets.

Other props that Single Action Shooting events may use are stage coaches, chuck wagons, buckboards, jail cells, oak barrels, saloon doors, hitching posts and even horses (props).

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How to Choose Your Single Action Shooting Firearms

Single Action Shooting (SAS) is all about the Old West, right from the clothing, the firearms and all the way to your SAS alias. It embraces the general way of life as it was on the frontiers of America back in the 1800s.

Since you probably already know a little about SAS, the best place to start learning a little bit more is by getting to know the type of firearms used. Naturally, the firearms would have to be typical firearms that cowboys and ranch owners used to own back in the 1800s. This is mostly the reason why SAS firearms don’t come cheap. Not too long ago, you could buy a firearm of your choice for $2000. Today, you’d need at least double that amount to find a suitable gun.

If you’re interested in getting into Cowboy Action Shooting, you need to know the basics before you splurge on your first SAS firearm.

To help you, here are some tips on how to choose your single action shooting firearms:

  1. Go to a Single Action Shooting Club. Most clubs open their doors to individuals interested getting into SAS. Here, you’ll be exposed to the usual firearms that Single Action shooters are already using. Take note of the usual firearms for future reference.
  2. Ask to Try Other Shooters Firearms. Most shooters are very generous with their knowledge and secrets, especially if you join their club, and would even let you try out their firearms. Take advantage of this and try to use as many different firearms as you can. This way, you’ll get to know which one you’re most comfortable with.
  3. Choose Your Category. Single Action Shooting has multiple categories. Most shooters start out in the Traditional category. Here, you could opt for a pair of Ruger Vaquero single-action revolvers with a .32 to .45 caliber, a lever-action rifle 1894 Marlin Cowboy and a double-barrel pump action. If, perhaps, you were to join the Classic Cowboy category, you’d need a double barrel or lever-action shotguns with external hammers and single-action revolvers and rifles .40 caliber or higher. Be sure to know exactly what types of firearms are required in the category of your choice.
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The History of Single Action Shooting

Single Action Shooting, also called Cowboy Shooting and Western Shooting, is a type of shooting sports that relives the way of life in the Old West back in the 1800s. From the type of firearms used to the period-correct clothing – Single Action Shooting is surely one of the most interesting and fastest growing shooting sports today.

 When did Single Action Shooting begin?

In 1981, Harper Creigh, an avid sporting shooter, was watching old western movies one afternoon when he suddenly got the idea to use old western firearms in his next shooting match. He called up shooting buddies Gordon David and Bill Hahn and presented the idea to them. Harper Creigh is the first member of SASS (SASS member #1) with an alias Judge Roy Bean.

Where did it start?

Single Action Shooting first started at a shooting range in Coto de Caza, California. At first, there weren’t many rules that governed the sport. But as more people began to join the sport, an assemblage of rules began to take shape and Single Action Shooting gradually became the revered shooting sports it is today.

A year after Harper Creigh got the idea of shooting with old west firearms, the first End of Trail was introduced. It took place in April 1982 with 65 registered shooters. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that an official Single Action Shooting Society was formed.

Single Action Shooting Today

Single Action Shooting is now one of the fastest growing shooting sports in America. It attracts shooters from all over the country, and from all over the world. The beauty of this shooting competition is that it doesn’t just test one’s skills in shooting accuracy, but brings back to life the cowboy lifestyle once popular in the late 1800s.

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Single Action Shooting Categories

Single Action Shooting matches have different categories for the different types of competitors. Some are based on age, others are based on shooting skills. All categories are open for both men and women.

Here are the main types of Single Action Shooting Categories:

Traditional Category – This is the category where competitors can only use revolvers with fixed sights.

Cowboy – All ages

Wrangler – 36 years old and older

Forty-Niner – 49 years old and older

Senior – 60 years old and older

Silver Senior – 65 years old and older

Elder Statesman – 70 years old and older

Frontier Cartridge – Black powder is used in all guns rather than smokeless powder.

Frontiersman – Cap and ball revolvers are used duelist-style together with side by side double barrel or lever action shotguns.

B-Western – Competitors need to wear clothing inspired from the B Western movies of the early 1900’s. Gun belts, holster rigs and spurs are an absolute requirement for all the Roy Rogers’ and William Boyds taking part of this shooting match.

Wild Bunch – This category is based on the famous Western film, The Wild Bunch. Here, competitors will be using a Colt 1911 pistol instead of the standard revolvers and a Winchester 1897 instead of the double-barrel shotguns.

Duelist – This category is based on how guns are shot. In the duelist match, a competitor will only be using one hand to shoot revolvers.

Gunfighter – In a gunfighter match, a competitor can use 2 revolvers at the same time but only when allowed. If not, they can shoot their left-side revolver with their left hand and their right-side revolver with their right hand.
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