Shotgun Shannon takes aim at the Steel Target Gang!
by Alan “Cholla” Garbers
My eyes were squinted against the Arizona sun as my thoughts raced on what was to come. I heard gunfire in the distance and knew the time to draw iron was coming. They were all there; Bronc, The Butcher, Lead Feet, Tramp, and even the notorious prince of the outlaws, Kid Earp.
Suddenly I was firing as fast as I could get my guns in action. My Model ‘73 rifle spat lead. My shotgun bucked against my shoulder, but still, I needed more. My revolvers flashed in the sun like a rattlesnake’s tongue. Then it was over. Bronc yelled out “Thirty-five and clean! Good job Cholla!”
Welcome to the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting, the game in which the shooters dress the part and shoot guns from the pre-1899 cowboy era. In some ways, it’s like modern tactical shooting competitions. We shoot targets in a pattern and gun sequence as given by the stage writer. But, the guns are replicas of those used in the Old West. Ruger Vaqueros, a copy of the Winchester Model 73 rifle, and a CZ hammer coach shotgun are my tools of the trade.
The Single-Action Shooting Society (SASS) is the largest cowboy shooting organization in the nation. Categories are age-based and sex-based, but they can also be broken down into shooting style, and costume style. While there are minimum clothing requirements, a shooter doesn’t have to dress full cowboy (or cowgirl) to compete.
Yavapai County is blessed with three SASS clubs. The oldest and best known is the Whiskey Row Gunslingers which shoots at the range by Wilhoit. The Yavapai Rangers shoot between Cottonwood and Sedona. The newest club is the Granite Mountain Outlaws. They compete at the Compass Training Center in Chino Valley. Each club has one match a month on different weekends, which allows shooters to compete three weekends a month if they want a little lead therapy.
One unique feature of SASS is there are no monetary prizes or sponsorships. This fosters an environment where the top shooters help and cheer on the bottom shooters. Shooters can range from nine to ninety, and generations of family members often shoot together.
At SASS matches the targets are big and close and the time used to shoot the stage is the score. A match is generally six stages. Revolvers must be single-action. Rifles must be of pistol caliber.
If this sounds like fun, go to a match and watch. Ask about new shooter clinics where you can try the guns and shoot some stages. Some “cowboy” guns are not suited for CAS competition, so please, don’t buy anything before seeing what other shooters use.
Interested? Come see us.