Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS, also known as Western Action Shooting, Single Action Shooting, or Cowboy 3-gun) is a competitive shooting sport that originated in Southern California, US, in the early 1980s. Cowboy action shooting is now practiced in many places with several sanctioning organizations including the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), Western Action Shootists Association (WASA), and National Congress of Old West Shooters (NCOWS), as well as others in the US and in other countries.
CAS is a type of 3-gun match utilizing a combination of pistol(s), rifle, and/or shotgun in a variety of "old west themed" courses of fire for time and accuracy. Participants must dress in appropriate theme or era "costume" as well as use gear and accessories as mandated by the respective sanctioning group rules.
CAS requires competitors to use firearms typical of the mid-to-late 19th century: single-action revolvers, lever-action rifles chambered in pistol calibers, and side-by-side double-barreled shotguns (also referred to as Coach Guns – with or without external hammers, although automatic ejectors are not allowed), or pump-action shotguns with external hammers (similar to the Winchester 1897). Winchester 1887 lever-action shotguns and Colt Lightning slide-action rifles are also allowed in competition. Both original and reproduction guns are equally acceptable. All CAS handguns must be "single-action", meaning that the hammer must be manually cocked before each shot can be fired.
Competition in a CAS match generally requires four guns: two revolvers, a shotgun, and a rifle chambered in a centerfire revolver caliber of a type in use prior to 1899. Some CAS matches also offer side events for single-shot "buffalo rifles", derringers, speed shotgun, and other specialty shooting. Replica firearms are available from companies such as Ruger, Colt, Uberti, Pedersoli, Chiappa, Pietta, Armi San Marco and U.S. Fire Arms Mfg. Co.
One variant of CAS currently sanctioned by SASS is Wild Bunch Action Shooting, inspired by the famous Western film. According to SASS, this form uses "firearms typical of those used in the taming of the Old West just after the turn of the 20th century". The revolvers used in normal SASS events are replaced with 1911 pistols; lever-action rifles remain in use, while only 1897-style pump-action shotguns are allowed. As in traditional CAS, originals and replicas are acceptable.
In SASS Wild Bunch matches, pistols must be chambered for .45 ACP, rifles must be chambered for pistol cartridges of .40 caliber or greater, and shotguns must be 12 gauge. All ammunition for pistols or rifles must also meet a minimum power factor of 150, calculated by multiplying the bullet weight in grains and the muzzle velocity in feet per second and then dividing the result by 1000. Additionally, maximum muzzle velocities are limited to 1000 ft/s for pistol ammunition and 1400 ft/s for rifle ammunition.
Competition involves a number of separate shooting scenarios known as "stages." Stages are always different, each typically requiring ten revolver rounds (shooters generally carry two single-action revolvers), nine or ten rifle rounds, and two to eight shotgun rounds. Targets typically are steel plates that ring when hit. Sometimes reactive targets such as steel knockdown plates or clay birds are used. Misses add 5 seconds to the competitor's time; safety violations and other procedural violations add 10 seconds. Competition is close and contested with the national and world championships attracting over 700 competitors.
Shooters compete one at a time against the clock. Most matches are scored simply by "total time" minus bonuses and plus penalties. Other matches are scored by Rank Points.
Shooters are timed using electronic timers which record the duration for each stage to one hundredth of a second. The timer starts when the Range Officer pushes the button which beeps to signal that the shooter may proceed. The timer has a built-in microphone and records the time when each loud noise (shot) happens. When there is no more noise, the timer continues to display the final time which is the raw score.
Each shooter's "raw" time for the stage is increased by five seconds for each missed target and ten seconds for any procedural penalty incurred. The fastest adjusted time wins. Targets shot out of proper order incur a procedural penalty, though only one procedural penalty can be assessed per shooter per stage.
In "Rank Point Scoring" the top shooter of a match is determined by adding up each shooter's ranking for each stage, with the lowest score winning. For example, if a shooter places first in every stage in a 10-stage match, the shooter's score would be 10 (a 1 for each stage) and would be the lowest score possible. There is some controversy as to whether "Rank Points" or "Total Time" is a better system.
Every stage at a match is intended to be different. Sometimes only two types of guns are used or perhaps even only one. Occasionally a shooter is required to reload a firearm while being timed.
When he comes to the line, the shooter will place his guns as required by the stage description. When the competitor steps to the start position, the Range Officer conducting the stage will ask if the shooter understands the course of fire and clarify any questions the shooter may have. The Range Officer will ask if the shooter is ready, will tell the shooter to "Stand By", and will start the timer within 2 to 5 seconds. When started, the timer gives an audible electronic tone and the shooter will begin the stage.
An example of a stage might have the shooter draw his first revolver and engage five steel targets then holster his first revolver and move to his left to where his rifle is staged. He will retrieve his rifle and engage the rifle targets, which are set farther away than the pistol targets. These might be nine separate targets, or perhaps three targets which the shooter will "sweep" three times. He then lays his rifle back down on the hay bale with action open and chamber empty and runs to the right where his shotgun is staged. Since shotguns are always staged open and empty, the shooter will retrieve his gun and load it with a maximum of two rounds (regardless of the type of shotgun) and engage two knock-down targets, reload and engage two more knock-down targets (which must fall to score.) The shooter will then lay his open and empty shotgun back on the hay bale and draw his second revolver. This time the shooter engages three revolver targets in what is known as a "Nevada Sweep" (left, center, right, center, left) for a total of five rounds.
After the competitor is finished shooting, the Range Officer will tell him to take his long guns and go to the unloading table where another shooter will supervise the unloading and verify that the guns are unloaded. The shooter's time is then recorded and any misses or penalties added. Targets are scored by three observers who count misses.
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