What is Cowboy Action Shooting?

What is Cowboy Action Shooting?

shootin1Ever watch a western movie on TV and wish you could spend a day as an old-west gunslinger?  Well, cowboy action shooting is as close as it gets.

We are a family-friendly shooting sport where participants dress in old-west clothing and compete in a shooting match with firearms typical of the late 1800s in the old west.  Each competitor comes up with a unique “alias” to use at matches. All levels of shooters are welcome and will have fun with us.

Our club is affiliated with the Single Action Shooting Society or SASS.  This international group provides the structure and rules for the sport.  SASS sanctions State, Regional, National and International championship matches.

The SASS website has essential resources like the Shooters’ Handbook and other rules documents, The SASS Wire (an online forum) and the Cowboy Chronicle magazine.  A membership in SASS entitles you to register your alias and claim it as your own.

How does a Cowboy Action Shooting match work?

We shoot at steel targets – some are stationary, some are reactive – which are placed between 6 -25 yards away.  Each “stage” usually includes a combination of rifle, pistol and shotgun targets to be shot in a particular order.  The stages for every match are different and provide lots of variety. At Oak Ridge, we shoot 5 or 6 stages at each match.

Stages are timed and then the time is adjusted to include a penalty for missed targets, for shooting targets out of order or for any safety violations. The times for all the stages are added together for a total score for each shooter.

Watch the following video to see some shooting from one of our matches.


The best way to learn about cowboy action shooting is to come out and visit a match. You can ask questions, handle equipment and see for yourself what we are all about!

Gun and Ammunition Requirements:

The guns needed to participate in a match are 2 single action revolvers, 1 rifle of pistol caliber (pump or lever action), and 1 shotgun (pump, side-by-side or lever-action) that fit the SASS rules.  Basic SASS rules can be found in the SASS Shooters’ Handbook.

Ammunition must be lead only!  No jacketed bullets and no steel shot are allowed. Generally for cowboy action shooting, participants use ammunition that is lower-powered/lighter-weight than standard ammunition.  You can use regular smokeless gunpowder or black powder.

For Oak Ridge Outlaws matches, you will need approximately 10 rounds of pistol ammunition , 10 rounds of rifle ammunition, and 4 or more shotgun shells per stage.  But always bring a little extra ammo, just in case.

cartsShooters may carry their guns and other necessities from stage to stage in a gun cart.  Generally any type of cart that will carry your long guns in a safe manner (upright with actions open) is allowed, but some folks get very creative with gun cart design. We usually have a gun cart available at the range to borrow if you need to.

Shooting Styles and Categories

The SASS Handbook describes the various shooting categories.  There are age-based categories as well as categories based on shooting style.  For example, in the age-based categories, you can shoot your revolvers using both hands on each revolver. In the Duelist category you cock and shoot the revolvers one-handed. There are costume-based categories as well. See the SASS Shooters Handbook for a complete description.

At Oak Ridge Outlaws, we also have a few local categories that are not recognized by SASS. You can find descriptions of these here.

Children who are proficient in gun safety are welcome to participate with parental consent and supervision. There are special equipment allowances for younger shooters.