Cowboy Action Shooting–So Much More Than Guns

Well–I did it. Or, I should say, we did it. My husband and I joined The Single Action Shooting Society, or SASS. It is an organization full of folks who love the Old West and want to relive just a little of it while making and enjoying new friends.

Last Saturday was our first “shoot.” We’ve been gathering old west-style weapons–two revolvers, a rifle and a shotgun. There are guidelines about which weapons are eligible to be used in SASS. Here’s a picture of me, “Ozark Belle,” with my (reproduction) .38 caliber lever-action Winchester 1873 rifle, “saving the railroad.” I’ll get into the guns in later blogs, but… notice anything unusual?

Cowboy Action Shooting isn’t just about the shooting. Participants must wear “cowboy” or old west style clothing–in my case, there are drawstring bloomers, a petticoat and a bustle under that skirt! And a chemise under the blouse. (At least I stayed warm when the rains started—mostly.) The boots are reproduction and the hat is a good old American cowboy hat. I can now attest to why the cowboys preferred that style. When the rain started, my face and shoulders stayed dry. It wasn’t until near the end of the day that I tipped my head forward and water poured out of the brim that I realized how much it had kept off of me. That’s rain, not frost, on my hat while I’m standing at the loading table waiting my turn to shoot.

Safety is always the first priority at any SASS event. The hat is recommended — and a really good idea when hot brass is flying around. The ear and eye protection is required. And we start every shoot with a safety briefing, then at each “stage” the timer and all shooters remind each other of the rules of the range.

The day was spent moving from stage to stage where the range officer chose varying patterns for us to shoot.  That my DH in the background working with our shotgun with the timer in the foreground reminding him of the pattern. We don’t really worry about the time, but it’s an event and they keep scores. Me? I’m there for the fun and exercise. <grin> Standing on my feet for three+ hours with short bursts of walking and pulling triggers is my idea of a great workout!  Here’s me (on the right) with the shotgun blasting away at a rather good likeness of an ornery bull.

Beyond the shooting, there is a real sense of friendships and family among this group of like-minded enthusiasts. We hoot and holler for every shooter and offer tips and advice when a stage doesn’t go as well as we’d hoped. And sometimes, when it’s cold and wet, we offer ourselves to our friends as a wind block. <big grin>

Check out and look for a club in your area. You don’t have to shoot – just take your ear plugs and some eye protection and go watch. Walk the stages with the shooters. Ask questions. There’ll be someone who will show you their weapons and probably let you hold them. And I’m guessing, after you watch for a while, your fingers will start to itch for a chance to shoot those weapons.

For those of us who love all things Old West, it’s an experience you don’t want to miss.

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14 thoughts on “Cowboy Action Shooting–So Much More Than Guns”

  1. Tracy, That sounds like so much fun. My husband shot with some friends in a Black Powder (Mountain Man) group. I made the clothes and some for other members of the group. I loved going and camping out and talking with those that really go into it. Some days we could not go because we were not as primative as needed. Would love to check out the SASS.

  2. It sounds like the Mountain Man group is very similar. SASS isn’t as stringent on the costuming although we all try to stay in period. Some of the members shoot black powder or cap and ball. They aren’t hard to spot–the amount of smoke is amazing. lol

  3. I love the clothing. You look good in a bustle, Tracy! 🙂 I’ve never shot a gun (unless you count the Nerf rifle my son has), but I might just want to if I could dress up in authentic 19th century garb and put myself into one of my heroine’s shoes. Great stuff, Tracy!

  4. Tracy, that looks like so much fun! I’m glad you and your hubby are enjoying it. Who knows what kind of inspiration you’ll get from the experience. Hopefully, good tidbits to add to your next book. Fun post!

  5. Love this, Tracy. It looks like a blast (both literally and figuratively). What a great way to have fun. And it’ll give you a real feel for what it was like to use those old west guns.
    My hero writes for shooting magazines and is a world-class gun expert. His pet peeve is authors who write unrealistically about guns and make dumb mistakes. You for sure won’t do that.

  6. Hi Tracy – great pics. I’ve always wanted to learn how to shoot. Going to the shooting range at Disneyland was always one of my favorites! Of course, I couldn’t hit those moving targets, but I liked to try. I’ve never heard of SASS, so I learned something today!

  7. I expect that in addition to your western wear you and the hubby were also wearing pretty big grins all day. I so glad you enjoyed your day!

  8. Hi Fillies! Thanks for dropping by. I can tell you, Karen, that putting on and living in authentic clothes for a day gave me a new appreciation for what those 19th century women went through. I was exhausted just getting into all that stuff.

    Elizabeth, I’ll try to never disappoint your hero. My dh is my gun expert–he makes sure what I write is accurate and possible.

  9. Since you last posted about SASS, I wondered how long it would be before you joined. Looks like you and your husband fit in well and will have a great time. I checked, and there are a couple of chapters in our area. I don’t see us joining. Among other things, we are involved with too many other things. If anyone in our extended family, it would be our middle daughter and her husband. Perfect for them.

    It really is nice that there are so many opportunities for reenactment of historical periods and events for those who are interested. The same middle daughter is involved with Civil War reenacting. We participate in many events, but as observers.

    Enjoy your time at SASS.

  10. Hi Tracy! What a terrific hobby, and it must be fun to share it with your husband. Is this the same as black powder shooting? My husband and sons did that once and had a blast–literally!

  11. I LOVE this Tracy, or Ozark Belle!! SASS sounds like so much fun from the clothes to the guns to just being around so many others with a love for the Old West!


  12. Hello Tracy, this is Kay’s husband,I do read some of the posts when Kay happpens to leave them open or over her shoulder, anyway the SASS certainly looks enjoyable, and it definitely soulds like you two had quite a time of it. Thanks for bringing this SASS to my attention.

  13. Patricia B, I hope your daughter and s-i-l check it out.

    Vicki, some of our club members shoot black powder, some of us shoot smokeless powder. You can always tell by the cloud of smoke who’s shooting black powder. 🙂

    Kirsten, it is a blast. You really should check it out.

    Paul, thanks for stopping by! Check out There’s some great — and fun — info there.

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