Getting Started

For those of you who are considering getting involved in Cowboy Action Shooting we suggest you first visit a CAS match, watch the show and meet the competitors.  Be sure to bring proper eye and ear protection, and be sure to stay in the areas designated for spectators.  This sport involves real firearms, shooting real bullets, and staying safe is important for everyone.  Also, it is a good idea not to handle anyone's gear or firearms until you ask first and receive permission, this is a safety concern as well as just polite behaviour.  You will find that CAS shooters are very approachable and talkative, our favourite subject is Cowboy Action Shooting.  We have no secrets, we love to hand out our sage advice to anyone who will listen.

The SASS website has a list of all the affiliated clubs, most of them have their own websites complete with directions and dates of their matches.  You should be able to find at least one club near you. 

For those of you in the Maritime Provinces take a look at our Local CAS Events as well as our Maps & Directions.  You will find it is quite informative regarding the local clubs.  If you plan on visiting us at the Double B Ranch we appreciate it if you contact the Match Director for that particular match first so we will know you are coming.  Plus it will give us an opportunity to answer any questions you might have.

If, after watching a match or two, you are curious but still not 100% sure you want to commit to the sport, you may try your hand at Cowboy Action Shooting by attending one of our New Shooter Clinics.  There you will receive one-on-one instruction and supervision from a certified Range Officer while you learn the basics of Cowboy Action Shooting, afterwards we will run you through a couple of stages to simulate a CAS Match.  There is a small fee associated, simply to cover the cost of the ammunition you use.

Once you decide to be a Cowboy Action Shooter there are a few things you will require.  And a few extra things you may want to add.

Firearms Licensing:
The sport of CAS involves both LONG GUNS and HANDGUNS, therefore, a PAL (Possession And Acquisition) Firearms Licence for both non-restricted and restricted firearms is required in Canada.  If you don't already have one you may find the information necessary to acquire one on the RCMP website.
In order to get an ATT (Authorization To Transport) for restricted firearms you will be expected to join a local firearms Range/club, (here are some more found on the NB government website). There are many to choose from, it's a good idea to join the one where you will do most of your shooting.  For information on local ranges/clubs that are home to CAS clubs click here.

Membership costs tend to add up, and for people starting out we realize that keeping the cost down is important.  Most shooters join SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) when they start competing simply to be part of the SASS community, however, as far as memberships go, there is no absolute rule stating that you have to join SASS or any other club in order to compete in CAS.  You may shoot at any of the CAS matches in the area (Double B Ranch, Deadwood, South Mountain, RT Mack Trading Post) without actually joining the BBRR or any other CAS club. However, for insurance purposes you may be expected to show proof of membership at an approved range/shooting club, if unable, you will probably be charged an additional fee for the insurance. As far as ATTs go, you are responsible for that.  Each club will have their own requirements before allowing an inexperienced shooter to compete at one of their matches but those are not too strict.  The BBRR is probably the strictest.  With us you will be required to demonstrate an acceptable level of proficiency with your firearms as well as a reasonable understanding of the SASS rules. Also, we restrict competitors from shooting duelist or gunfighter style for their first 5 matches, but that's it. You could attend one of our New Shooter Clinics if you want to receive proper instructions and training.  All this is done in the interest of safety. With all that in mind we would like to point out that in an effort to promote the local clubs, and SASS, we would appreciate all CAS shooters eventually join up at some time.  The membership fee for joining the BBRR is currently $40/year and we have a minimum age restriction set at 14.  For details on the other clubs in the area you will have to contact them directly.

New Shooter Clinics:
The BBRR matches are not designed to be a training ground for new shooters.  Every competitor who shows up at a BBRR match is expected to have a certain level of knowledge and competence in regards to the rules and firearms involved with a Cowboy Action Shooting match.  Our New Shooter Clinics are designed to introduce people to the sport and bring them up to an acceptable level of proficiency.  Some people who join Cowboy Action Shooting will have an extensive history with firearms, including handguns, either through other forms of competition or by their respective profession.  Some will have no experience what-so-ever, and a few will fall somewhere in-between.  We feel it is in the interest of everyone's safety, and peace of mind, that all new CAS shooters undergo some basic instruction specific to Cowboy Action Shooting.  We will review the SASS Shooters Handbook with you, plus any supplemental BBRR rules.  You will be given hands on training on the proper handling of all the firearms involved during all stages of a CAS match.  This includes, unpacking, carrying, loading, competing, unloading, watching from the gallery, and packing up at the end of the day.  We will then conduct a couple of stages to simulate a CAS Match.  After which you will be eligible to compete in one of our matches.  There is a small fee associated, this is simply to cover the cost of the ammunition you use.

Learn the Rules:
It is in your best interest to visit the SASS website and read the SASS Shooters Handbook.  This will give you a very good idea of the rules and the categories as well as the firearms and clothing requirements.  If you are planning on attending one of our clinics it will save some time if you read the SASS Shooter's Handbook prior to attending.  The other SASS handbooks are for the Range Officers and Match Directors.  They are not required reading but they are very informative and will give you further insight into the sport. Another "nice to know" bit of info is the various shooting patterns that you will encounter at CAS matches. We don't expect you to memorize all of them, however, there are a few terms that you should be familiar with to get started. Know the terms single tap, double tap, and triple tap. Also, Camden sweep, Neveda Sweep, and Progressive Sweep seem to repeat themselves a lot. Our signature pattern is the Double B Sweep, you'll see that a few times if you shoot at the Double B Ranch. Other than that it's learn as you go.

Pick an Alias:
Each shooter is expected to create an alternate persona, with an alias, that would be unique to them.  This alias will serve as your identity while you are at a CAS event.  There are some things to remember when selecting an alias.  If you are joining SASS, you will be subjected to their rules.  Check out the SASS Alias Lookup on their website.  It is not always up to date, so if the alias you want is not listed that does not mean it is available.  When you sign up online SASS gives you an opportunity to submit three alias choices.  Don't feel compelled to register this way, give them a call and talk to them personally.  They are very helpful and could provide you with options, or spelling variations, that you haven't thought of.

If you wish to pick an alias but plan on joining SASS later you may find your alias is not available when you try to join SASS, and you will be forced to change.  It's not the end of the world but, after a while we become known by our alias and it may be unpleasant to change.

If you wish to pick an alias and you have no plans on joining SASS, we suggest you check out the list of local shooters and choose accordingly.  It is best if there are no duplicates at the matches.  If we experience shooters registering at BBRR matches with duplicate aliases, the shooter with the SASS membership will have precedence.  If neither are SASS members then it's first-come-first-served.

Cowboy Action Shooting, like most shooting sports, has specific firearms requirements. The BBRR follow the rules found in the SASS Handbooks for all the firearm requirements, with a few minor exceptions. The purchasing of firearms is one of the biggest investments when starting up Cowboy Action Shooting. How much you decide to spend on this sport is up to you.  Many cowboy shooters start off sharing firearms with other shooters to offset the start up cost. 

Every CAS competitor will require:

two revolvers. (preferably single action)
one pistol caliber rifle. (lever action or pump action)
and one SASS legal shotgun. (side-by-side, 1887 lever or 1897 pump)

It is common for new shooters to have their own pistols and share the long guns, sometimes for a few years. It is also possible to share pistols, but this practice is cumbersome and creates congestion at the loading/unloading tables, therefore it is not recommended.

About the ammo:
At most of the CAS matches in the Maritimes, we shoot from 50-75 pistol rounds and 50-75 rifle rounds.  We find it is more convenient if your pistols and rifle both shoot the same type of ammo.  We use only lead cast bullets, no jackets of any type, and because the rifles use tube type magazines it is STRONGLY recommended that you only shoot bullets with flat points (ex. RNFP).  The SASS Handbooks list off a wide variety of calibers, however, here in the Maritimes our selection is hindered a bit, due to legal restrictions, availability, and shipping costs. 

The most common centerfire calibers we use are:
.38 Special / .357 Magnum
.44-40 (44WCF)
.44 Magnum
.45 Schofield
.45 colt (.45 long colt)
shotgun - 10 gauge to 20 gauge (99% use 12 gauge) .410 allowed for younger shooters.
Shotgun shot size must be number 4 birdshot or smaller for all events
(all shotgun loads must be lead only, no steel or plated shot).
The most common size being #7 1/2 or #8 birdshot.

BTW – That 30-30 winchester lever rifle (or .32 win special) you may have is NOT legal for Cowboy Action Shooting except for the long distance side matches.  Currently there are no long distance side matches at any of the Maritime CAS competitions that allow 30-30 win or .32 win special rifles that we know of. (maybe Springfield)

Every CAS competitor will require a pair of revolvers. Double action revolvers are acceptable but not common. The preferred is single action like the Colt Single Action Army revolver made famous in the western movies of the early 1900's.  Actual Colt revolvers are available (new) but cost about $1500 each.  Due to the popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting there are several firearms manufacturers in business today that make high-quality clones that work just fine.  You can find these companies, and dealers, online or you can visit the local merchants, see our Cowboy Links page.  The Ruger "New Vaquero" has fast become one of the most popular pistols in CAS, and they retail for about $700-$900 each.  Another option is the Italian made Uberti and Pietta pistols, they retail for $500-$1000.  Choosing the style, barrel length and caliber can be a bit confusing, feel free to talk to some local shooters and ask their opinion on certain makes and models.

Lever Action Rifles:
The next firearm you’ll need is a rifle (lever-action or pump action) in a pistol caliber, (see the list of calibers above) preferably one that is the same caliber as your single action revolvers. These rifles range from $600 to $2000 new. Most can be slicked up to make them operate smoother, and some can be modified to make them run faster. There are many options to choose from, starting with Winchester, they have a model 92 that is good for CAS and now they offer a 1873 model specifically designed for CAS. Marlin makes a few model 1894 lever action rifles that are designed for CAS and are popular among the local shooters, they sell for $800 - $1000 new.  Be careful, some Marlins only hold 9 rounds in the magazine, these rifles are SASS legal but, we recommend buying a rifle that can hold 10 rounds IN the magazine (10+1). Henry Repeating Arms is another company that makes SASS legal rifles.  They are called "Big Boy" rifles.  They are not as common in the Maritimes but they work well and retail for about $900.  These rifles are not intended to be reproductions of the original Henrys, however, they do make a rifle that closely resembles the original 1860 Henry. Another company to consider is Rossi, they produce a version of a Win model 1892, starting around $600, this rifle is more than suitable for CAS. However, if you are looking for something more authentic to the "OLD WEST", like a Winchester 1866 or 1873, or maybe an Henry 1860, you could buy a clone from Pedersoli, Uberti, Cimarron or Chaparral. If you are looking for something a little more exotic, check out the replicas of the Colt Lightning rifles, also produced by Uberti and Pedersoli. It is also important to know that certain rifles are only eligible in certain categories.  Before you commit to buying any rifle check the requirements in the SASS Handbooks, or talk to some local shooters for advice.

Last but not least, you’ll need a period correct shotgun, this is probably the most fun gun of them all. Any period correct 1860-1899 shotgun is allowed. It must be in safe working condition.
Most types of shotguns must be center fire of at least 20 gauge and no larger than 10 gauge.(12ga is the most common)
These are: Side-by-side shotguns (SxS) are very popular, and may have internal or external hammers, also they must have extractors only, no ejectors. Another option are lever action (Winchester model 1887) shotguns. Also in this gauge category are the single barrel break action shotguns, these are allowed to have ejectors. They are not common among Cowboy shooters.
The final option are the slide action (Winchester model 1897 pump) shotguns that are at least 16 gauge and no larger than 12 gauge. These are popular shotguns.
A final note, 410 caliber shotguns are allowed for younger shooters. The BBRR have a category called Young Guns, ages 14-18 that uses .410 caliber shotguns. Currently we don't have anyone participating in this category.

Most new shooters choose the Stoeger Coach Gun since it is both inexpensive and very easy to operate. It is a classic old western side-by-side (SXS) design, and it really sets the mood for Cowboy fun.  They retail for about $600.  The Win 1897 pump action (or clone) also cost about $600 and are becoming more and more popular with local shooters however the side-by-sides are making a come back.  Like the rifles, certain shotguns are only eligible in certain categories.  Before you commit to buying one check the requirements in the SASS Handbooks, or talk to some local shooters for advice.

One of the special features of Cowboy Action Shooting is the costuming.  We place a great deal of emphasis on costuming because it adds so much to the uniqueness of the sport and helps create a fun and festive atmosphere for competitors and spectators alike.  All shooters must be in costume, and we encourage invited guests and family also to be costumed.  Each shooter is expected to create a unique persona with an alias that would be representative of the 19th century Old West. This could be an actual historical figure, a character from a "B" Western movie or Western TV series, or you could fabricate an original character all of your own.  The costume or outfit is then designed according to that persona. Many CAS competitors enjoy the costuming aspect of the sport more than the actual shooting.

To get started just wear something that has a “cowboy style” or anything with a western theme.  You can improve/accessorize your outfit as time goes on.  For example, most people in the Maritimes probably don't own a pair of cowboy boots, if you have some that's great.  An acceptable, but temporary, option is work boots or any other leather boot with a closed toe.  If you wear boots with laces please wear your pant legs over top so the laces are not easily seen and replace them with western style cowboy boots as soon as you can.  Cains offer a wide selection of boots, hats, and western clothing. Blue jeans are acceptable (no designer labels please), a long sleeved, button up shirt (without Company logos or any advertising) and a cowboy hat.  That's it. Check out our Cowboy Links page for more info.

Gun Leather:
Each cowboy action shooter will require a double holster “rig” which generally consists of 2 holsters, a wide gun belt, and a shotgun belt or cartridge slide to hold the spare ammo.  There are three basic styles of rigs, each with multiple variations, as well as shooting category restrictions.  A top of the line competition rig, with matching ammo belt, could cost as much as $800 once you add the shipping.  A less expensive option is buying two inexpensive leather holsters and a wide leather belt, or keep your eye open for a used rig.  If you are inclined to buy a top of the line rig check out our Cowboy Links page for online vendors. However, before you start flashing your credit card around it would be wise to go to a CAS match, or two, and see what the folks are wearing.  It could save you some time and money.

Gun Carts:
The cowboys in the old west had pack horses or wagons to carry their gear (guns, ammunition and supplies).  These days that's not necessarily the most convenient method, taking care of a horse is a lot of work.  Still, cowboy shooters today need something to haul around their firearms, ammunition, spare clothes, tools, eye & ear protection etc.  The concept of a “Gun Cart” was developed and became quite popular.  Today, there are many different designs and configurations.  The majority of the Cowboy shooters in the Maritimes don't employ gun carts (but the number is growing).  As a new shooter, you won't require one, the local ranges are laid out in a manner that gun carts are nice to have but not necessary.  If you choose to get one you can go online and research a style/design and build one yourself, or have it built (here's a good one).  Or, visit a CAS match and view one in person, chances are someone will have one there. By the way, there are no "gun cart" stores in the Maritimes. (YET)

So there you have it,  a basic understanding of what it takes to be a Cowboy Action Shooter in the Maritimes.  You probably still have a lot of questions.  The best thing to do is make arrangements to visit a CAS match and see for yourself what it's all about.  The cowboys there will gladly answer all your questions.  If you are reading this in the off season (winter) and wish to start buying your gear now, then contact one of us and we can point you in the right direction. 

Take our word for it, Cowboy Action Shooting is SAFE, it's FUN
and you will meet some of the NICEST people!   

See you out on the range!