Shooter's Glossary: Cowboy Action Shooting

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Shooter's Glossary: Cowboy Action Shooting

Cowboy Action Shooting or Western Action Shooting, is a competitive shooting sport that originated in the United States.

Matches are scored based on time and accuracy, and in order to compete, one must have the right guns, gear, and ammo.

Inspired by the Wild West era, the sport requires participants to use firearms typical of those used in the taming of the Old West: single-action revolvers, lever-action rifles, and side-by-side double-barreled, or pre-1899 pump or lever-action shotguns.

Cowboy Action ammo is oftentimes loaded “light” so that competitors can place very fast and accurate follow-up shots.

Cowboy Action Shooting

Here's a deeper dive into Cowboy Action Shooting:

Historical Emphasis
Participants, also known as "cowboy action shooters", not only compete in shooting but also embrace the culture of the Old West.

This includes wearing period-appropriate clothing and adopting an alias fitting the late 19th-century theme.

Firearms Used

Single-Action Revolvers
Typically chambered in calibers popular during the 19th century, such as .45 Colt.

Lever-Action Rifles
Commonly in calibers like .38 Special or .45 Colt.

Side-by-side double-barreled shotguns without ejectors, certain "Model 1897" pump-action shotguns, and lever-action shotguns.

Competition Format

Shooters compete in staged shooting scenarios (called "stages") which are inspired by scenarios from classic Western movies or from actual Wild West history.

The goal is to hit a series of steel targets in a specific order in the shortest amount of time. Missed targets and procedural errors add to the shooter's time.


Lead bullets are used to avoid damaging the steel targets and to reflect the type of ammo used during the period.

Ammo is typically loaded to have a softer recoil, making it easier for competitors to shoot quickly and accurately.

Categories and Classes

CAS provides various categories for competitors based on age, gender, shooting style, and choice of firearms, allowing shooters of all skill levels and ages to participate.

Safety and Community

Safety is paramount in CAS. The sport has a strong emphasis on firearm safety protocols.

The CAS community is known for its camaraderie and the shared enjoyment of history, costuming, and competitive shooting.

Organizing Bodies

The Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) is the primary governing body for Cowboy Action Shooting, establishing rules and guidelines for the sport.

Cowboy Action Shooting Ammo

In essence, Cowboy Action Shooting is a blend of historical reenactment and competitive sport, celebrating the firearms, attire, and spirit of the American Wild West.

Participants relive the olden days, showcasing both their shooting prowess and their love for Western lore.