Howdy pardners, and welcome to the cyber-home of the Jefferson Outlaws.
The outlaws do their shootin' in the town of Leadville, situated on the back forty of the Jefferson Rifle Club, 5209 Snyder Mill Rd., in the rolling hills of Spring Grove, PA 17362. Leadville features permanent stage fronts for a real cowboy experience. There's a livery stable, a train depot, the Midnight Star Saloon and more in the planning stages.
We are a SASS affiliated club and follow all of the SASS rules. We'd like you to be a SASS or Jefferson Rifle Club member to shoot with us, but as long as you can handle a firearm in a safe and responsible manner you'll be welcome. Our sheriff is easy to get along with and as long as you play safe and responsible there won't be any trouble. If you're new to the sport,
we shoot on the third Saturday of the month from March through November. You can come as early as you want but make sure you're here before about 9:00 AM so we have time to fit everybody into posses. There's a ten-dollar registration fee. Lunches are no longer available, please bring a lunch with you".
We appreciate you stopping by to see us. If you have any questions you can send them to Red Eyed Kid (firstname.lastname@example.org). See you in Leadville!
What Is Cowboy Action Shooting?
For everyone except the most dedicated bench-rest shooters, it can get pretty boring going to the range every weekend just to put holes in paper. During the 1980s a small group of Californians with an affinity for the old west and its firearms decided to liven things up a bit. Combining imagination with reactive steel targets, they added a story line to the shooting order. They began dressing the part from the tips of their cowboy boots to their tops of the cowboy hats and began referring to each other by their new "cowboy" aliases.
The idea caught on and within a few years the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) was formed. SASS is an international society that governs the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting with the purpose of promoting and preserving the original concept of the sport. (The Jefferson "Outlaws" is a SASS-affiliated club.)
In Cowboy Action Shooting contestants compete using firearms typical of those used in the taming of the Old West: single action revolvers, pistol caliber lever action rifles, and old time shotguns. Shooters can use original firearms, or choose from a variety of modern re-creations.
The competition is a timed sport in which shooters compete for prestige on a course of different shooting stages. There is no prize money involved in SASS shooting, even at the world championships.
"Action" is an important aspect of cowboy shooting. A typical scenario might require the shooter to move from one place to another along the firing line, rather than doing all the shooting from one spot. The more imaginative scenarios involve props and other kinds of movement, such as roping a "calf," and there's no shortage of humor.
In the last few years, SASS has also started a mounted-shooting category, with participants shooting either from horseback or a buckboard.
One of the unique features of SASS approved Cowboy Action Shooting is the requirement placed on costuming. Each participant is required to adopt a shooting alias and develop a costume. Many participants gain more enjoyment from the costuming aspect of our sport than from the shooting itself. SASS events provide regular opportunities for fellowship and fun with like-minded folks and families.
SASS produces a Shooters Handbook, which sets out all of the rules and guidelines. Affiliated clubs are required to follow these guidelines at all Cowboy Action Shooting matches. The emphasis is on safety, fun, and participating in the spirit of the game; not on winning. Visit the SASS website to find out more.
In the years since SASS got its start, other old-west action shooting sports have gotten started.
To get started in Cowboy Action Shooting you should be proficient in shooting pre-1900 style single-action handguns and long guns. You don't need to be a crack-shot: just experienced enough to be a safe shooter. In fact, precision rarely comes up at a match. All of the targets are big and not too far away. We count only hits and misses, although you are shooting against the clock. A hit is a hit, whether you’re dead center or barely winged the target.
A cowboy match is not the place to learn how to shoot. If you are new to firearms entirely, please enroll for basic shooting classes or individual lessons with an NRA certified instructor.
All matches require you to shoot two revolvers, a rifle, and a shotgun--all made before 1900 or a replica of a gun from that era. All ammo must be unjacketed lead, without gas-checks, and there is an upper limit on muzzle velocity. Your pistols must be single-action revolvers in a period-correct caliber, such as .45 Long Colt, .44, .44-40, .38 or .32. Rifles must be in "pistol caliber," which means that 30-30s and the like are not to be used, because they are too powerful Most folks use a rifle in the same caliber as their pistols, to help keep things simple. Shotguns are typically either a side-by-side or a Winchester Model 97 type (pump-action with exposed hammer an no ejectors). Refer to the SASS Shooter’s Handbook for more specific requirements.
Before you spend money on cowboy guns, it's wise to attend a new-shooter clinic, and then observe a match or two. Most cowboy shooters are more than willing to let you handle, and even shoot their guns, so you can get an idea what works best for you, within your budget.
While you’re saving up to buy those guns you should be thinking about your costume. CAS shooters' clothing must look period-correct to the late 1800s, although there are categories for so-called B-Western cowboys. Your gun leather ought to be roughly appropriate to your costume. Most shooters wear a double-holster rig, and there are several distinctly different types. Refer to the Shooters Handbook for details, and don't be shy about asking questions!
With all this gear, you’ll need some kind of cart to hold your ammo and long guns while you’re not shooting. Gun carts can be fancy and expensive or basic and cheap; it’s all a matter of preference.
Finally, you'll need to pick an alias. Your alias will be what you are called at the match. In many cases you will never know another cowboy’s real name. Aliases can be from history, fiction, or just something you've made up. SASS keeps the official list of aliases and has the final say in granting them, it might help you decide on yours.
Your First Cowboy Experience
The best way to get a taste of this sport is to attend a New-Cowboy shooter clinic. These are inexpensive, all-day courses that include some background work in the classroom, and actual shooting experience. You don't need a costume or alias, and guns and ammunition are included.
Even after you've attended a clinic, it’s a good idea to go and watch a match before you actually participate in one. It's not impossibly difficult, but there is a lot going on at once, in addition to the need to handle three different kinds of firearm in the same shooting sequence. As Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot just by watching," and when you do, things don't seem nearly as overwhelming as when you're trying to safely load and shoot your own guns while watching all the other stuff for the first time. It takes at least six people to run a posse, because of the number of things happening simultaneously.
While someone is on the firing line, the timer operator is timing them, and watching to ensure all movement and action is safe. Three spotters watch the targets and keep track of the number of targets missed. One or more people will be loading their guns at the loading table, under direct observation. The shooter who has just finished will be unloading at the unloading table, with someone double-checking that the guns are cleared. Other posse members may be retrieving brass between shooters, or setting up props that get moved around during a scenario.
Just go to the range on the day of a shoot, dress up of course, and join up with a posse as an observer. I guarantee you will be welcomed!
When you arrive for your first shoot at Jefferson, you must register in the clubhouse, between 8 and 9 AM. Our monthly match fee is $10. If it's your first time shooting, be sure to let the registration person know, and they’ll pair you up with an experienced shooter. After you register you can go back to your wagon and start loading up your gun cart. This is a good time to strike up a conversation with some of the other cowboys. Once you're ready just head down to the range and wait for the safety meeting.
A safety briefing is held before every match, and at most clubs attendance is mandatory for shooters. The match director will go over SASS rules and any club-specific rules you need to be aware of. After the safety briefing and other announcements, the posse leaders will call out the posse assignments. The posse is the group of cowboys and cowgirls you’ll be spending the rest of the day with. You move from stage to stage and take turns doing the different jobs within your posse.
Before you begin a stage the posse leader will read out the scenario and describe the order which the targets are to be engaged. Usually someone will act out the stage along with the reading. Even if things seem a little confusing at first, after you've watched the first few shooters go through the stage the scenario will become easier to remember. Most folks will help you along while you’re shooting – calling out reminders like which target to shoot and with which gun. The scorekeeper will call out the shooting order and let you know when you should be loading, and once you recognize the cowboy who shoots just ahead of you, that part gets easier, too. Remember, the most important thing is to have fun, and be safe.
After you finish the last stage please hang around and help put away targets and do general clean up. Remember, this is a volunteer sport: nobody gets paid to set up or tear down a match. After cleanup is complete, you can load your gear up in your vehicle then head back to the clubhouse to share in conversation about the shoot while you wait for final scores. After the scores are tallied the match director will read out the finishing order. Some clubs offer door prizes before they read out the scores as an added incentive to stick around.
New Cowboy Shooter Clinic
Other Cowboy Shooting Organizations
The "Jefferson Outlaws" are affiliated with SASS and we generally follow SASS rules, but you might like to know about these other western-style shooting organizations. Many people shoot matches held by these organizations, as well as SASS.
Here's a list of some of the other organizations:
A good place to get acquainted with these other versions of the sport, and the people who shoot them is CAS-City.
Totally New To Shooting?
A cowboy match is not the place to learn how to shoot. If you are new to firearms entirely, you can enroll for basic shooting classes or individual lessons with an NRA certified instructor.
Some Jefferson Outlaws members are certified instructors. If you don't know of a convenient place to learn the basics, use the Contact page to inquire.
We can help you enroll in basic classes, usually at the Continental Arms range in Cockeysville, MD. Or we can arrange private, one-on-one instruction using the specific kinds of guns used in Cowboy Action Shooting, under NRA's First Steps program.