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Dig'em Deep's Points of Cowboy Shooting 10 Main Points

The intentions of this paper are to help reduce the time it takes to shoot a stage. Never take a shortcut on SAFETY. This sport has the potential of being harmful if you shortcut safety. Please don't do it!

Practice will help reduce your time! I have heard that "I practice at the matches" or " this is my practice". If you do not have the time, then this is fine. There are some points in this paper that you only have to think about at a match that should help reduce your time. If you do have the time then you will get better, faster. One twenty minute practice session should equal 2 ten stage matches. I find that if I go to a match and have had practice time, everything goes better and I actually have more time to enjoy myself. I am confident in my ability and I actually concentrate less on the shooting portion of CAS. I do not worry about how well someone else is doing. I concentrate on how I am doing. My best stages are when I come off the line and I can say that I shot that stage to the best of my ability. That is what I shoot for. Not to win, or place high in the standings, nor for other people to take notice. I enjoy testing my ability and measuring that against my expectations. If you can do this, then I believe you will have more fun shooting. Maybe not, but again, this is my opinion and how I feel.

Practice should be used as a stress reducer. The opportunity to practice should be fun. I enjoy the practice because I learn new things about cowboy shooting. I also enjoy being able to get better at our sport. I have heard several times, "I don't have time to practice". This comes from people that will spend a couple hours a day watching TV. A practice session can be as short as 5 minutes. Maybe just working on drawing and holstering pistols, or just bringing your rifle up and working the lever properly. For most the best practice is working on your shotgun loading techniques. In my opinion this can result in more time being taken off a stage than anything else. I enjoy the challenge of preparing myself for the matches. Testing myself and putting the skills I learned in practice to use in a match.

When you go to a match, watch the other shooters. You may be able to pick up something from them. If you are shooting with someone that you think is an excellent shooter and want some tips, ask them. Most top shooters will not offer tips without being asked. They don't want to impose their beliefs in CAS on someone that doesn't want them. Another thing that I have noticed about most of the Top Shooters that I have shot with are, they all work very hard on the posse. They are in the middle doing what ever that needs to be done. For me working on the posse helps control the jitters and nerves. The Top Shooters have a large stake in the sport. They have invested a lot of time and money in getting good and they want to help the sport grow. Most will be glad to help, just ask them.

Something else you will want to do, is to shoot as many monthly matches as you can. Shoot as well as you can, and have fun. Remember to think about the things in this paper that you feel will help your shooting. Also after the match think back on it. What do you feel your strengths were? What do you feel that you need to improve on? Once you answer the first question, you should feel a little better about your shooting, as you should be improving. The answer to the second question will help determine what you need to be practicing more on. Progress is slow, but you will see results with thought and practice.

Another aspect of practice. If I am going to a major shoot somewhere, I feel I owe it to myself to do as well as I possibly can, and have as much fun as I can. You have a fairly large investment in going to a large match. You have gas, lodging, eats, match fees. If you are going to pay this much money, don't you want to do as well as possible?

Most of my success in matches has been because of my techniques in firearms transfers. These skills can be learned at home. No need to go to the range, and you do not need the expense of practice ammo.

Not everything that I do will be right for you. These are the things that work for me. Experiment, and maybe you can find something that works better for you. These techniques work for me, but I am sure that they can be improved upon. One more note. You will never know how good you can be if you don't apply yourself and practice. One more rule to cowboy shooting, "movement equals time". The less movement you can get by with, the smoother your actions, the faster you can be. Never sacrifice speed for accuracy.

I saw an interesting tag line on the internet the other day and I want to share it with you. It goes to the heart of practicing and doing well. "When you aren't practicing, somewhere someone else is…and when you meet him, he'll win. Rusty Gunn"

These points are the 10 basics firearm transitions that you will be doing in CAS.

Point 1 Pistol
  • A: Draw your pistol from leather. This is mostly used to end a position in a stage. Example, if the stage starts with you shooting one pistol and then holstering and moving to another position. In my opinion when you move you are only doing one transfer and then starting over by moving to another position. If, I have to move to my left, then I want to use my right side holster. This way I have more room to move before I even thing about getting near the 170 degree plane. Likewise, if I will be moving to my right, then I want to use my left handgun. After holstering the pistol safely, you then concentrate on what you will be doing next. If going to your shotgun, then pull shotshells in preparation for the shotgun. Moving to the rifle, focus on the rifle and getting there safely. If you are moving to another position where you will be using your 2nd pistol, get a grip on the pistol and be ready to safely draw and fire when you are in the proper shooting position.
  • B: Picking us a staged pistol. When picking up a staged pistol, look at the gun. Usually when you are looking at the gun, there will be less fumbling. Also, unless you are shooting duelist, scoop the gun up with both hands. After safely acquiring the pistol then focus on the target as you bring the pistol up into shooting position.
Point 2 Shotgun
  • A: Pick up shotgun from staged prop. This can be a stage starter, or more than likely it will be upon movement to another shooting position. Either way you want to have your hand on your shotshells. As you approach the gun, you want to bend down to the gun, not standing upright and reaching for it. As you bend down, place a shell in the open port of the 97, while reaching for the grip of the stock with the other hand. After the shell is placed into the gun, pick the shotgun up and safely acquire the target and close the action. Upon firing the gun, you can reload as you see fit. One loading technique that T. G. Reaper promotes is a single load with the weak hand and also picking a shell out of your belt with the pinky and ring finger of the strong hand. This sounds more difficult than it is. With a little practice it can be very quick and it is one less time that you have to go to your belt. After you have fired the round you placed in the gun while on the table you load the round that is between you pinky and ring finger. It sounds strange, but it works.
  • B: Start stage with shotgun in hand To me this is one of the slowest ways to start a stage. Also it is the most popular. Most stages call for both hands on the weapon. I will be supporting most of the weight of the shotgun with my left hand. My left hand will be at the rear of the forearm and where the barrel meets the receiver. My other hand will have all fingers on the stock. They will be cupped a little as into the position I will use to grab my shells, directly above the shells I am planning on using first. At the beep, I will reach down and grab my shells and load one into the port of my shotgun. Then I will bring my shotgun to bear onto the target, and break the shot. After this then you will load as is your custom.


Point 3 Rifle
  • A: Pick up rifle from staged prop This is used mostly in the middle to last of a stage. Most of the time you will have to move to the rifle. When moving to the rifle, concentrate on getting to the gun safely; make sure that you are looking at the rifle when you go to pick it up. As I stated earlier, there is less chance of a fumble when you are looking at the gun. As you bring the gun to your shoulder you can then start concentrating on the target. After the gun is at my shoulder then I lever the rifle and sight on the target and break the shot.
    Some tips on working your rifle efficiently is, never wrap you thumb over the stock of the rifle. This is extra movement and movement equals time. Your rifle should only be supported by your weak arm and the pressure that you use pushing it into your shoulder. You should reach as far out on the forearm as you feel comfortable with. The further out on the forearm you hold it, the better you can control the muzzle. Your strong hand is only used to work the lever and pull the trigger. Let each part of the body do its own work. Now depending on you hand size, you can either have your thumb next to your trigger finger and work the action of you can have your thumb sticking straight up, or have it anchored on the action. I anchor my thumb on the action and use is as a levering point. One more tip when using this method. As you are working the lever forward, don't take your finger out of the trigger guard. If you get going fast you can stick it back in a little soon and either pinches you finger, which hurts. Or you will touch the trigger a little soon and break the shot before you intend to. My suggestion is to make the trigger finger touch the front of the trigger guard on the way up and back. There is less movement of the finger and if you finger is near the front of the trigger guard, less chance of an early shot or getting it pinched.
  • B: Start stage with rifle in hand This is usually used to start a stage. Listen to the stage description as to what to do. If it calls for the rifle to be pointed safely down range then you can have it up to your shoulder. If it calls for port arms then hold it as such. One tip on port arms. Hold the rifle out from your body. You will have to move it out there anyway to get your rifle to your shoulder without breaking the 170. Also if you rifle is away from your body hold you hands on the gun as you would while firing it. Then at the beep you can snap the rifle to your shoulder and then work the action once the rifle is on your shoulder.


Point 4 Pistol-Pistol
  • A: Pistols from leather These points from here on will be talking about both bringing the gun to bear on the target safely and as quickly as possible, and putting the weapon back safely and efficiently as possible while getting into position to bring the next weapon to bear. These things if you try them will seem very clumsy at first, but for me, they will cut time off my stages. The main thing is to practice them until they come natural. OLD HABITS DIE HARD!

    Most of the time I will draw my strong side first. Just a habit I have gotten into. It works very well most of the time. If the stage has something in it that does not lend itself to drawing the strong side pistol first, then change. Always be able to change. Allow yourself that freedom to change, especially if it means you can shoot the stage safer and faster. As soon as you break the last shot and start holstering the strong side pistol, then quickly move your weak side hand to your weak side pistol. As you are doing this, watch your strong side pistol being holstered. As I have stated earlier, you are less likely to fumble when your eyes are on what you are doing. As soon as your strong side pistol is holstered, then grab your weak side pistol. The grip that I use is as follows. My weak hand index finger goes in front of the trigger guard. My thumb goes across the top strap of the grip frame. This is a very stable grip and leaves the rest of the grip open for you other hand to grab the grip frame. This way you don't transfer the pistol, you are merely adding an extra hand to it. After the last shot, holster using the same grip that you used in drawing the pistol. REMEMBER WATCH THAT PISTOL INTO THE HOLSTER!

  • B: Pistols staged on prop Pistols staged on props can be very difficult for some people. I think the solution is very easy. My suggestion is to scoop the first pistol up with both hands, watch what you are doing. After acquiring the proper grip then look at the target while bringing the pistol up. After the last shot, lay the pistol down with your weak hand. Use a similar grip as in holstering your weak side pistol. As you are laying the pistol down with one hand, reach and grab the other pistol with your strong hand. As you are bring that pistol up, your weak hand should be free to help and then look for the target and as soon as you line your sights up you can begin shooting.

Point 5 Pistol-Rifle

Have fired pistol and pick up staged rifle. Usually when this comes up, I try and have shot my weak side pistol last. Again while watching your pistol being holstered you can start reaching for the lever and grip of your rifle. Close you hand on the lever and grip. Usually by this time your weak hand is free and it can help you bring your rifle to your shoulder. After the rifle is on your shoulder you can lever the rifle while acquiring the sights and start shooting. I recommend bring the rifle to your shoulder before working the lever for a couple reasons. One is safety. You are less likely to have an accidental discharge that leaves the range. Second is you are less likely to short stroke the action or in the case of a Marlin throw a round out of the gun or jam the rifle. With a little practice it becomes quite fast. In my opinion the chance of something going wrong out weighs the time advantage!

Point 6 Pistol-Shotgun

Have fired pistol and pick up staged shotgun. For me this has taken quite a bit of practice, but it can cut several seconds off your time. Again, I try and shoot my weak side pistol last. As I am in the process of holstering, I move my strong side hand to the shotgun. As soon as my weak hand pistol is holstered, I start going for my shot shell(s). By this time my strong hand is on my shotgun grip. Now I will grab 2 rounds with my weak hand, load 1 into the port while staged and hold the other round in my hand while working the forearm. This way the second round is out and I can load over the top. Some folks can't load over the top for a variety of reasons, so they can just pull one round. The quicker you can get a round into the gun and bring it to bear on the target the quicker the stage will be for you. As you are moving to grip the shotgun don't forget to bend your body and not reach for the gun totally with your arms. I didn't mention it, but you do need to shoot the shells as you put them into your shotgun.

Point 7 Rifle-Pistol
  • A: Have fired rifle and draw holstered pistol. This comes after the first of the stage. You have fired your rifle empty and you need to draw your first pistol. After firing your rifle you need to think ahead to the next gun you will need. If the pistol comes at the end of the stage then you need to lay the rifle down with one hand. While laying the rifle down you should be reaching for and acquiring a grip on your pistol. As soon as you stand up you should be drawing the pistol. Most adults are strong enough to safely handle laying a long gun down with one hand. If the shotgun comes after you need to think ahead to what you should do on the pistol-shotgun transfer. Thinking backwards sometimes helps you to visualize what order and what guns to put into play and when. The rest of the things you need to do are covered in the pistol part of this writing.
  • B: Have fired rifle and pick up staged pistol. This doesn't come up very often, but you need to be mentally prepared for it. As you finish with the rifle you will bend at the waist and lay the rifle down with one hand. I use the weak hand, and with the strong hand at the same time, pick up the pistol. Then grab with weak hand and acquire the target.
Point 8 Rifle-Shotgun

Have shot rifle and pick up staged shotgun. This move also takes a little practice to get used to. Again you want to lay the rifle down with one hand. I would use the strong hand to lay the rifle down. Remember to bend at the waist. As you lay the rifle down with the strong hand, you should be reaching for the shotgun shells with the weak hand. I like to have my 97 with the port side down; this is to prevent any brass from entering the action. With strong hand grab shotgun stock and with your forearm helping to support the weight of the gun, roll it over and bring it up to about belly button high. Another thing you can do is to put a round into the port of your shotgun while still staged on the table. I pull my shot shells as I do starting as a shotgun only move. Very important to watch the port very closely as your shotgun and ammo is moving at the same time. Drop shell in the port and bring shotgun to your shoulder and engage the target. Then load shotgun in the manner that best suits you.

Point 9 Shotgun-Rifle

Have shot all shotgun shots and pick up staged rifle Again you will want to lay shotgun down with one hand. While laying the shotgun down with one hand you want to be reaching for the rifle. At this point you will pick the rifle up and proceed as described in the earlier account of bringing the rifle up and into the stage.

Point 10 Shotgun-Pistol
  • A: Have shot shotgun empty and pick up staged pistols I know that I sound like a broken record but you need to lay the shotgun down with one hand. As you are bending to lay shotgun down, the other hand should be reaching for the staged pistol. Once you have a safe grip on it you can bring it to bear on the pistol targets.
  • B: Have shot shotgun empty and draw pistols from leather Again lay shotgun down with one hand. The other hand should be reaching for and acquiring a grip on the pistol. As you are standing up you can safely draw the pistol and engage the pistol targets.

The techniques that I have written about will help you with your Cowboy Shooting. If nothing else it will give you greater confidence going into the stage. Because you know that you have practiced these things. It has been said that Cowboy Action Shooting is 90% mental. These things will give you greater confidence and that translates into a better mental picture. How much time you cut off a stage with these techniques will vary from shooter to shooter, but they will help, especially if you are not doing them now.


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