Getting Started

Cowboy Action Shooting

With the Kings River Regulators

So, you’ve looked around our website, seen all the pictures, surfed the web for other information, looked online at vendor equipment ads and videos, and now you are pretty well hooked; envisioning yourself dressed out in cowboy or cowgirl getup, looking like Sundance Kid, or Cat Ballou, and applying your skills to this challenging sport of Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS).  Welcome to the KRR Getting Started Guide.

So, What Is Next?

If one thing is unanimous among Cowboy Action Shooters, they will tell you that your FIRST STEP should be driving out to a nearby Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) range on an event day, to simply watch the game being played and enjoy the nostalgia and camaraderie that is so magnetic at CAS events.  The friendly competitors will acknowledge you and will likely try to interest you in becoming a part of our CAS game.  They can answer your questions, or introduce you to someone who can.  They are likely to deluge you with advice about equipment, rules, historical costuming, different clubs, events, and much more.  Chat with as many folks as you can.  You’ll find them personable, and helpful.  You will see our western town cowboy range and various shooting stage layouts.  You’ll also see the guns and other equipment typically used by experienced CAS shooters.  That background will be very useful as you consider your initial equipment outlays for your own CAS shooting. 

So, take a look at KRR’s monthly match schedule and pick a day to hitch up your buggy and come out to our Auberry Road Range (see the map).  You don’t need to make any advance arrangements and all you will need to bring is personal eye and ear protection and an appetite for asking questions and having fun. 

Your Cowboy Alias

Our Club is a sanctioned member of the world-wide Single Action Shooter’s Society (SASS).  Most of our members are also members of SASS, although it is not required.  When you join SASS, you will select a Cowboy Alias which will be the name you will use for all of your cowboy Action Shooting involvements.  Aliases are often clever combinations of things out of the old west and/or things from our individual lives.  Many are quite entertaining.  As you meet our people, hearing their Aliases will suggest ideas for your own name.  For SASS members, the name is permanently registered to you and protected from duplication.  For non-SASS members, their names are usually unique, but not being registered means that someone might later use your Alias.  The process for joining SASS and registering your name or confirming availability of an Alias is available on their website (sassnet.com.)

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Rules:

Cowboy Action Shooting is exactly that -- ACTION. 

A loud “STAND BY”, followed by a timer beep kicks you into action.  You move to different shooting positions, shooting against a timer with multiple guns through a “stage” scenario of usually 20 or more pre-set targets, following a set of written Stage Instructions.  Each stage requires use of usually four different guns shooting live-fire ammunition.   That obviously involves potential hazards.  So, as you would expect, there are established and strictly enforced safety and other rules that are uniformly applied.

 All CAS clubs play according to rules that are developed for the sport by SASS.  The rules are published in the Shooter’s Handbook that is available for download on the above SASS web site.    They address shooting categories and styles, equipment (Firearms, ammunition, holsters, clothing, footwear), match consistency, firearm safety requirements and penalties, overall competitor behavior, and other subjects.  If you are interested in playing the CAS sport, you will need to learn those basic rules.  In addition, most individual ranges have local rules that also must be followed closely.   You will also need to have at least a working knowledge of rifle, handgun and shotgun safe operation and handling, including loading, unloading, carrying, and safe use on the firing line.  KRR matches are competitive contests.  They are not intended to be training grounds for basic firearm handling or safety.   People at our matches can and will help inexperienced shooters to find basic firearm training courses.

Equipment

CAS shooting involves competition shooting scenarios, called “Stages” that usually require shooters to sequentially fire a pistol-caliber rifle, two revolvers, and a shotgun.  SASS rules require all of the firearms to be safe-operating originals or replicas of American made firearms, that were available for sale in the United States prior to 1900.  You will also need a set of SASS compliant pistol holsters, ammunition belts or bandoleers, a cart or other means to carry all of your equipment, and you will need to have cowboy attire consistent with the SASS categories in which you choose to shoot.  You will find many such categories in the Shooter’s Handbook.

Unfortunately, all of this equipment can be expensive.  The four guns and quality holster rigs are usually the major expense in starting out.  Family members sometimes begin by sharing equipment, which is usually workable, except for holsters, which rarely fit multiple people properly.  As a general guide (at the time of writing this) New replica rifles generally cost from $600 to $1,500.  Pistols will EACH usually cost from $500 to $800, depending upon type, caliber and manufacturer.  SASS compliant shotguns generally can cost between $350 and $1500.  Holster rigs range between mass produced sets for $150 to custom reinforced leather works-of-art that will cost upwards of $600 or $700, but will last for a lifetime of CAS shooting.  In addition, most shooters find that many new guns don’t come from the factory CAS-ready.  Often, their operation is very stiff or rough and needs to be smoothed or “slicked out” by someone who knows gunsmithing for CAS purposes.  Club members can help you to locate those services. 

 In all of these major equipment items, you definitely get what you pay for in terms of both appearance and functionality.  There are products on the consumer market today that are advertised as “Cowboy Action Shooting” equipment.  Not all of it is SASS compliant, and in many cases, the equipment itself is cheaply made and does not hold up to the rigors of our sport.  So ultimately the purchasers of these items end up shopping again for different equipment.  And if for any reason you later decide to switch to another caliber or gun model, good equipment will be much easier to re-sell than equipment that has a cheap reputation.  For those reasons, it is always best to attend some matches, chat with shooters and see what they actually are shooting.  Sometimes, very serviceable, properly “slicked out” used guns or other equipment can be found at very substantial savings.  So, try to control that natural urge to rush out and buy equipment quickly from general sporting goods vendors. Take time first to go to a few matches and let folks know you are shopping.  Let experienced shooters help guide your selections.   You’ll be glad you did, later on.

Cowboy guns and holster rigs get worked very hard – much harder than most.  Over a few years of use, they can see thousands or even tens of thousands of rounds passed through their actions and see pistols drawn and re-holstered thousands of times; particularly if the shooter becomes serious about the sport and practices often and/or competes in a lot of matches.  So, we recommend buying quality equipment that will hold up to your intended level of use. 

Cowboy ammunition is, in itself, a huge topic.  Few shooters fire exactly the same ammunition, based on gun individuality or just personal preferences.  Many CAS shooters hand-load their own ammunition to save cost and to customize loads for best performance.  SASS Rules are specific about the calibers and load performance required for SASS affiliated match shooting. The rules may be found in the SASS Shooter’s Handbook.  KRR adheres to those requirements.   A wide variety of SASS-compliant calibers is available to suit the age, size and capabilities of shooters.  Again, we strongly recommend talking with experienced CAS shooters before making those gun and ammunition choices. 

Kings River Regulators Club Membership and Fees

KRR has no membership pre-requirements or restrictions, other than the person having interest, acting respectfully to others and generally behaving as a good citizen.  To become a member, you simply need to arrive at one of our events during the scheduled registration time and let the registration folks in the window know that you wish to join as a new member.  You’ll fill out a membership application, sign a risk disclaimer, and be asked to pay your $20/year KRR Club Membership dues.  For each match in which you compete, you will be asked to pay an additional $15/day Shooter Fee.  Membership will include you in club emails and notices, and give you an opportunity to participate in membership meetings.  

KRR Membership is not a requirement for shooting in our matches.  Like most CAS clubs, non-members or members of other CAS clubs may compete simply by registering at the match and paying the $20 daily Non-Member shooting fee.   

KRR is located at the Fresno Rifle and Pistol Club.  If you plan to practice on the KRR range you must be both a member of KRR and FRPC.  If not an FRPC Annual member you can purchase a Day Membership.   Before each practice shooting session you must check in at the FRPC Range House and show your KRR and FRPC I.D.   

First-time CAS shooters are required to receive a Safety Orientation Class and be cleared for competition before they may compete in KRR matches.  The class is arranged by contacting us well in advance of the first match in which you wish to shoot, to scheduler the Class.  You should plan for the class to take about two hours.

Whether or not you choose to join, you will find that you won’t need to be an outreaching personality to get to know our friendly folks.  From your first minutes, you’ll start to meet people and become a part of the KRR extended family.  That is a part of the magic of Cowboy Action Shooting.

Your First CAS Match – What to Expect

As above, prior to shooting your first match, if you have never competed in a CAS match, KRR will require that you receive a Safety Orientation Class, in which a SASS Certified Range Officer will go over applicable operational and safety rules and observe/help you to shoot through a practice stage or two.  After completing the Class successfully, you will be cleared to shoot our matches thereafter.   This is usually both fun and seriously informative, even for shooters with prior experience shooting in other shooting sports.  Many SASS Rules are unique to our sport.

In monthly match notifications, e-mailed to all KRR members and also available on the club’s social media site, you can find dates, registration and start times, and other useful information.  Then when you arrive at the match, you will register, pay daily match fees, and be placed on a “Posse” of shooters.  Posses usually have from 8-20 shooters, depending on match size.  You will remain with the same Posse throughout the match competition.  Each Posse will have a Posse Martial or Leader (P.L.), who will explain each stage and direct Posse work tasks, such as Timing Officers, Spotter/Counters (of misses), Loading or Unloading Officers, or to do tasks like picking up spent brass or resetting knock-down targets.  Everyone on the Posse is expected to contribute to getting the stage work accomplished.  

 

At the match, you will usually find from five to ten “Stage” scenarios set up with different target arrays.  Each stage has a set of written Stage Instructions.  They are usually posted at the area where shooters load their guns and prepare to shoot.  The P.L. will call the Posse to “Posse up”.  You will gather near the shooting positions and the PL will read and explain the Stage Instructions and direct posse tasks.  Then shooters will go either to their assigned posse task or to the Loading Table to load their rifle and revolvers.  All shotgun loading occurs only on the Firing Line, immediately before being fired.   All rifle or revolver loading must be overseen by a Loading Table Officer.  They will observe loading of rifle and pistols to be sure they are properly loaded with the correct number of cartridges. You will be asked to show your pistols for inspection to be sure only 5 rounds are loaded and the hammer rests on an empty chamber.  Loading Officer assistance is not a substitute for shooter responsibility, however.  Shooters remain solely accountable for any loading or other rule violations and for being properly prepared to shoot the stage.   The SASS Rules specify the required safe condition of all types of guns for carrying and movement.  They must be carefully followed to avoid accidents and/or incurring Stage or Match Disqualification penalties. 

 

After loading and when the range is clear, the Timing Officer will call you to the starting position.  You will place your guns, staged according to the Stage Instructions.  Usually the Stage Instructions have a fun cowboy line which you recite or read as a “shooter ready” signal to the T.O.  After you recite the starting line, the T.O. will call out: “STAND BY”, then after a pause he/she will press the timer start button and you will hear a beep, which sets you into motion.  Your total time, including miss or other penalties, per the SASS Rules, are recorded and are the basis for determining match final rankings

The job of the Timing Officer is to time your shooting on the stage and to assist you safely through the course of fire.  As a new shooter, you will receive substantial assistance, coaching and encouragement from the T.O.   But know that serious safety violations will receive no grace periods.  You will be disqualified if you violate safety rules.  A Stage DQ is awarded a 5-second miss for each target in the stage, plus a 30- second penalty.  A match DQ removes you from the match. 

 After shooting, all shooters are required to proceed immediately to the Unloading Table, where an Unloading Officer will check all four guns to be sure they contain no live or spent cartridges.  When guns are confirmed unloaded, the shooting stage ends for the shooter and the shooter returns his/her guns to their gun carts.  Then the shooter is expected to rejoin the Posse work tasks.

About Penalties:

Misses earn a 5-second penalty, and Procedural violations (like shooting the wrong target order) are 10-second penalties.  There are other penalties that are clearly outlined in the SASS Shooter’s Handbook.  Some are serious safety offenses that result in stage or match disqualification.  New shooters need to become familiar with those safety rules and penalties prior to their first match, and must observe them carefully.  

 

Hitting Targets:

Missing a sixteen inch or larger steel target at a distance of three to five yards seems pretty unlikely.  But the score sheets show just how easy it is, even for experienced shooters to miss, when shooting competitively under a timer.  Remember, with a 5- second penalty per miss and 10-second penalty for Procedural errors, the common saying among CAS shooters is that “You cannot miss fast enough to win a match”.  So slow down enough to get your shots safely onto the correct targets.  Speed comes with experience.  The sound of lead hitting steel becomes instantaneous positive feedback for shooting correctly and responsibly.  

SO  GIT  YERSELF  TO  MOVIN  !  

Ride yer pony out to some matches, download and read the SASS Shooter’s Handbook, gather up yer equipment, arrange for yer Safety Orientation Class, and----

 

COME ENJOY SHOOTING WITH THE KINGS RIVER REGULATORS,

OUR PREMIER COWBOY ACTION SHOOTING CLUB. 

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