Getting Started In Cowboy Shooting

Cowboy Action Shooting™

is a multifaceted amateur shooting sport in which contestants compete with firearms typical of those used in the taming of the Old West: single action revolvers; lever action rifles; and side by side double barrel, pre-1899 pump, or lever action shotguns. The shooting competition is staged in a unique, characterized, Old West style. The truly unique aspect of Cowboy Action Shooting™ is the requirement placed on authentic period or western screen dress. Each participant is required to adopt a shooting alias appropriate to a character or profession of the late 19th century, or a Hollywood western star, and develop costume accordingly. American history buffs and serious shooters alike agree the use of vintage firearms, authentic costuming, unique targets and fast action make Cowboy Action Shooting™ one of the most interesting of all shooting sports for both spectator and contestant.

[Single Action Shooting Society-Shooters Handbook]


Competition involves a number of shooting scenarios know as “stages”. Targets are steel plates located 5-20 yards from the shooter. Typically a stage requires ten revolver rounds, nine or ten rifle rounds and two to eight shotgun rounds. Shooters compete one at a time, against the clock. Matches are generally scored as “total time” minus bonuses and plus penalties with lowest time winning. Shooters are timed using electronic timers which record the time for each stage.


SASS requires competitors to use firearms typical of the mid-to-late 19th century. Competition in a SASS match generally requires four guns: two single action period revolvers, one lever action rifle chambered in a centerfire revolver caliber of the type in use prior to 1899 and one side-by-side shotgun without ejectors or an external hammer pump shotgun (Winchester ’97 or replica) or lever action shotgun (Winchester 1887 or replica).


Original single action revolvers manufactured prior to 1899, their approved replicas and SASS-approved single action revolvers. Shooters must use a centerfire pistol cartridge, .32 to .45 caliber or percussion .36 to .45 caliber.


  • Must be in a centerfire pistol caliber, .32 to .45 caliber, including the .25-20 and the .56-50 (not .30-30, .30-06 or .45-70).
  • Open, iron sights or original style tang mounted peep sights are required.
  • Barrel must be over 16” in length.
  • Rifles with box magazines cannot be used.
  • Rifle ammunition must be loaded to a muzzle velocity less than 1400 FPS.
  • Only lead bullets are allowed. No jacketed, semi-jacketed, plated or copper washed ammo is allowed.
  • All rifle ammunition must be of single projectile design. No duplex, triplex, or other fragmenting loads are allowed.


Any side-by-side shotgun typical of the era with extractors but without automatic ejectors, with or without external hammer, with single or double triggers may be used.

  • Any lever action shotgun may be used.
  • No larger bore than 10 gauge and no smaller than 20 gauge.
  • All shotguns must have a barrel 18” or over in length
  • Number 4 lead shot or smaller must be used.
  • Magnum loads are not allowed.
  • Pump and lever action shotguns are allowed to load no more than two rounds at a time in the main matches.

Gun Carts

Guns and ammo may be carried in a saddlebag or a gun cart which may be built or purchased. Gun carts can be 2, 3 or 4 wheel design and made of wood, canvas or nylon. Horizontal gun carts are not allowed in some clubs.

Gun Leather

You will need two holsters, a belt and a shotgun belt or slide. Leather requirements may vary with the category being shot. A buscadero belt or drop holsters with grips below the belt and two strong side holsters are required for B Western but not allowed in Classic Cowboy. In Classic Cowboy, at least part of the grips of the pistol must be above the belt and may be two strong side or one strong side and one crossdraw holster. In all other categories, the grips may be even with or below the belt. Crossdraw holster angle may not exceed 15° as worn. SASS is picky about guns pointing outside of the 170° “downrange” portion of the range. Thus crossdraw shooters have to “do the dance” to make sure the gun comes out of the holster and goes back in pointed downrange, not behind you. Several leather manufacturers are now making cowboy action shooting rigs specifically designed for women-curved belts with buckles in the back and sewn shotgun loops located on the pistol belt. Before buying any rig, it is best to talk to other shooters.

Shooting Categories

Cowboy Action Shooters are divided into basic categories determined by age, propellant used, shooting style and even costume worn.

Age-Based Categories

Age based categories may use any shooting style except Gunfighter, any propellant and any main-match revolver.

  • Buckaroos-13 years of age and under
  • Young Guns-14-16 years of age
  • Cowboy-17 years of age or older
  • Wrangler-36 years of age or older
  • Forty-Niner-49 years of age or older
  • Senior-60 years of age or older
  • Silver Senior-65 years of age or older
  • Elder Statesman-70 years of age or older
  • Cattle Baron-75 years of age or older
  • Gran Patron-80 years of age or older

Shooting Style Based Categories


  • Requires a SASS-legal traditional style single action revolver.
  • The revolver must be fired one-handed, unsupported.
  • Smokeless or blackpowder propellant may be used.


  • Requires a SASS-legal traditional style single action revolver.
  • One revolver must be fired right handed, unsupported and the other must be shot left-handed, unsupported.
  • Smokeless or blackpowder propellant may be used.

Black Powder Categories

Frontier Cartridge

  • Requires a SASS-legal traditional style single action revolver.
  • Only blackpowder or blackpowder substitute propellants may be used.
  • Cartridge ammunition or cap and ball revolvers may be used.


  • Only cap and ball revolvers with traditional style sights may be used (no adjustable target style sights).
  • Only blackpowder or blackpowder substitute propellants may be used.
  • The revolver must be fired one-handed, unsupported.

Costume Based Categories

Classic Cowboy

  • Must be shot Duelist style.
  • Pistols must be .40 caliber or larger and rifles must be 1873 or earlier vintage.
  • Period clothing requirements include chaps, scarves, cuffs, etc.
  • Smokeless or blackpowder propellants may be used.


  • Any main-match revolver and SASS-legal 1884 or later vintage rifle may be used.
  • Any shooting style may be used.
  • Any SASS-legal propellants may be used.
  • Shooters wear clothing inspired by the B-Western films of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, starring Roy Rogers, William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd and others. Buscadero-style holsters, fancy shirts, pants and boots are required.


Cowboy Action Shooting™ is the only shooting sport with a dress code. Competitors wear an Old West costume of some sort.

[All competitors must wear safety glasses while shooting and hearing protection is recommended.]


Shooters are required to adopt a shooting alias appropriate to a character or profession of the late 19th century or a Hollywood western star. Your SASS alias is exclusively yours. In the tradition of the Old West cattle brand registries, SASS prohibits one shooter duplicating another’s alias. There is only one Tex, one Josey Wales and one Loophole Pettifogger.

Contact Us

We're here to help you learn more!

130 Adolph Stieler Rd
Comfort, Texas 78013

Driving Directions

From IH-10 take exit 523 for US-87 Bus and US-87N/Comfort/San Angelo.
Proceed North on US87N for 8.1 miles.
The Stieler Hill Ranch home of the Texican Rangers is located on your left