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Cowboy action shooting help

Discussion in 'Competition Shooting' started by jhf, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. jhf

    jhf Member

    Hey, looking into getting started with CAS and was interested on some input for the following. I would like to get a revolover in a 45lc and am curious as to what models are available with any recommendations. would like to be budget consious so I am looking for the best bang for the buck. 'sorry about that one'. also interested in general loading info for 45lc and specifically should you use a factory crimp die? thanks for the help
  2. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    There is no shortage of choices for .45 Colt cowboy revolvers. Probably the most popular is the Ruger Vaquero. It is as rugged and reliable as they come, and reasonably priced at between $400 and $500 new. Reliability is important in cowboy action shooting (CAS), because a broken gun will end your match right quick. The Ruger also uses a transfer bar safety, so you can safely load all six chambers, if that matters to you (you never load more than 5 at a time for CAS).

    The big knock against the Vaquero in the past was that it was a little bigger and bulkier than the most classic of sixguns -- the Colt Single Action Army. Ruger recently addressed that issue, however, with the "New Vaquero" model that was just released this year. It is about the same size as a Colt. It is quickly becoming the "hot ticket" for CAS. Demand seems to be far ahead of supply right now, though, so they are hard to find and kind of expensive.

    Another good option is the Blackhawk from Ruger. The only real difference from the Vaquero is that the Blackhawk has adjustable sights. The sight picture is much better, but adjustable sighted guns are limited to the "Modern" category in CAS. With a Vaquero, you can shoot in any category.

    Your other choices are basically the Colt Single Action Army and a plethora of Colt "clones." The Colts are pretty, but expensive. Street price is around $1,300 each.

    Lots of companies make lower priced replicas of the Colts. At the low end of the price spectrum are various Italian imports that sell for around $400-500 (about the price of a Ruger Vaquero). Some of them include transfer bar safeties like the Ruger, while others have the classic hammer-mounted firing pin (meaning you can only load 5 rounds at a time). There are lots of variations, including copies of specific historical models in a wide variety of finishes.

    There are a few other options out there, but they tend to be more expensive and not very competitive in CAS. These include the various top-break replicas (Smith & Wesson Schofield and Russian models), Remington 1875 Army replicas, etc. They are used in CAS mainly by people who like them and want to be a little different. The top competitors all use Rugers, Colts or some of the better Colt clones.
  3. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    Get load data from published reloading manuals. There is plenty of data out there. Many of the newer ones even list "cowboy" loads, which is what you want. They are low recoil loads designed for CAS. In general, you want loads that will run around 700-800 fps out of a revolver. With .45 Colt, the standard bullet size is 250 or 255 grains, but you can use lighter pills for CAS. 200 grain .45 bullets are becoming common, and I've even seen some 180's.

    I do recommend the factory crimp die. It's not strictly necessary, as the .45 Colt headspaces on the rim, but it produces a nice result. If you're shooting smokeless powder, some crimp will be necessary to prevent bullet subsidence under recoil. A light roll crimp will work just as well if your dies are set properly and your bullets have cannelures.
  4. Souris

    Souris Well-Known Member

    My suggestion for you would be to go to a CAS match and talk to the people at the match. Most of the people there will be friendly and want to entice you into the sport. There will be many different guns there and if you let them know that you are curious about different brands the owners may let you fire a cylinder of ammo through the guns. Bring your own box of ammo to be polite (You probably won't need it).

    My best friend shoots older Vaqueros and he loves them.
    Another friend shoots Berreta Stampede Marshalls with birds heads grips and she loves them.
    I shoot Blackhawks and 1858 Remington replicas and guess what? I loave them.

    Try different guns and calibers and come on out and play.
  5. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    Yup. Lots of variety out there. I started out shooting USFA Rodeos in 45 Colt. I loved them. I picked up a 44-40 Remington 1875 at a gun show and started fooling with it. I enjoyed shooting it, especially with black powder. Then I got another. Now my primary CAS pistols are a pair of long barrel (7.5") nickel plated 1875 Remingtons in 44-40, and they get nothing but a steady diet of black powder loads. I also have a pair of .357 Blackhawks that I use mainly for new shooters (with .38 special factory cowboy loads), but they are certainly fun guns.
  6. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    Excellent advice. At the clubs I shoot with, they'll do more than "let you fire a cylinder of ammo." If you show any interest, and are familiar with basic firearms safety, someone will strap a gunbelt on you, stick some revolvers in the holster, hand you a rifle and shotgun, and say "go get 'em, pard!" As we like to say, "it ain't a spectator sport, so if you're here, you're shooting."
  7. 1875 Remington and BP

    I have wanted to shoot 1875 Remingtons using BP in SASS events, but have only heard that using BP the cylinders foul so bad you cannot get off your five shots! Tell me it ain't so!!
  8. cane

    cane Well-Known Member

    It Ain't So!!!
  9. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    sort of

    It ain't so! Sort of....

    I shoot 1875 Remington replicas in CAS, and have done so for several years now. Mine are all chambered in 44-40, and I shoot nothing but black powder. So it CAN be done. That's the good news. Everything that follows deals with my experience with the 44-40 versions. All were made by Uberti, though the importers varied (Navy Arms, Uberti USA, EMF, American Arms, etc.).

    The bad news is that some work well with black powder, and some don't. As near as I can tell, the older ones (1970s) work great with black powder, while newer ones tend not to. The difference is in the length of the cylinders.

    Keep in mind that I've owned seven of these over the years. The two that worked well with black powder are the two that I still own. When compared to the other five, the only difference I can find is that their cylinders are a little shorter. The frame window is the same size, and the barrel/cylinders gaps are all about the same, too. That means that more of the barrel protrudes into the window on the short-cylinder guns than on the long-cylinder guns. The shorter cylinders also mean that I have to be careful when loading not to exceed 1.592 OAL, because anything longer results in the bullet protruding from the front of the cylinder, where it can hang up on the back of the barrel and cause a jam.

    My theory is that the shorter cylinders result in better black powder performance because it results in the barrel/cylinder gap being offset from the point where the front of the cylinder bears against the frame. This results in less fouling getting blasted into that area.

    With the older, short-cylinder guns, I can pretty much go an entire match (6 stages) without any noticeable binding and without having to clean or regrease the cylinder pin. The good news is that while the long cylinder guns tend to bind up and need cleaning mid-match, I can usually go two stages without cleaning, if need be. They'll certainly get through 5 shots without trouble, and then it's a simple matter of spraying some Ballistol around the front of the cylinder and periodically relubing the cylinder pin to keep things going. So while some maintenance may be required, you can make them work.

    Also, your loads will make a difference. I highly recommend the "Big Lube" bullets, such as the MAV 44, Snakebite .38, DD .45, etc. They carry a lot more lube than commercial bullets, and the lube is what helps keep the fouling soft.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2005
  10. Thank you for the info! As I am sure you can tell I am new at this. I know it will be worth the work to clean and grease up between stages...if that's what it'll take to compete (sort of) with these fine revolvers.

    Thanks again for passing along some of your knowledge to myself and anyone else reading. It helps to hear from some that knows...that actually fires more than 200 rounds through a weapon...and then tells you everything they THINK they know.
  11. GigaBuist

    GigaBuist Well-Known Member

    I don't do CAS but I toy with the idea... I just need a couple of pistols myself, truth be told.

    I saw a review in American Rifleman this month or last on the new Tauris "Gaucho" revolvers intended for CAS. They didn't have anything bad to say about them, but when does a gun rag ever put down sometbody that's buying ads from them?

    That said, CAS is the target market for these things... might be worth a look. I know I'll look 'em over before I buy a pair of Vaqueros for it.
  12. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    You're welcome!

    It really isn't much "work" to clean and grease between stages. After you shoot, you need to go to the unloading table to empty your guns and show they're clear. Just have your gun cart parked next to the unloading table. As soon as you're cleared by the unloading table officer, take your long guns and brass to your cart, but leave your pistols on the table. Grab a spray bottle of ballistol out of your cart and whatever grease you use (I use Thompson Bore Butter), and head back to the unloading table. Then take just a minute or two to pull the cylinders, spray some ballistol on the face and down the hole, and wipe some fresh grease on the pin. Put them back together, holster up, and you're ready for the next stage. It takes all of a minute or two -- that's all.
  13. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    Not really. CAS people are very friendly, and always looking for converts. Go to a match and look interested. Bring eye and ear protection and a positive attitude. Bring a couple of boxes of ammo in a CAS standard caliber (.38 special, .45 Colt, etc.), if you've got 'em. If you've already for an appropriate rifle (lever action, pistol caliber, exposed hammer) and shotgun ('97 pump or a side-by-side without automatic ejectors), bring those, too. If not, just bring yourself and a smile. I can pretty much guaranty that someone will strap a rig on you and loan you some guns to use.

    The Gauchos look good. They're just one of about a dozen options in replica Colts Single Action Army revolvers. The Vaqueros, however, are still generally considered the best, and are the most commonly used, simply because of the inherent durability of the coil spring actions, and their ready availability. The Vaquero isn't any faster or more accurate than Colts or Colt clones, but the more modern design is less likely to break a spring on you in the middle of a run.
  14. Rem700

    Rem700 Well-Known Member

    The ruger Vaquero can be used in any class except the modern catagory in that catagory at least one of your two pistolas must be of modern design.
    Unless you hand load the 45 is pretty expensive to buy ammo, might be better with 38s-357 go to a shoot and ask ?s. Where do you hail from?
  15. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    There are three basic classifications of pistols in cowboy action shooting: modern, traditional and cap-and-ball. The only difference between a "modern" and "traditional" is that "modern" pistols are those with adjustable sights, while "traditional" pistols have fixed sights. Thus, a Ruger Blackhawk is "modern" while a Ruger Vaquero is "traditional", despite the fact that the only difference is in the sights. Similarly, a Colt New Frontier or Flattop Target is "modern", while a Colt Single Action Army is "traditional."

    You can shoot in the "Modern" category with one modern and one traditional pistol, or with two "modern" pistols. Every other category other than the age-based categories (49er, Senior, etc.) requires two "traditional" pistols.
  16. That sounds so easy even I can think I manage to keep an 1875 Remington going! Saw one today (a new EMF) for $309.00 with another 10% off of that price.

    While I have you here...I also saw a Winchester Model 1893 (blackpowder only) 12 gauge in excellent condition. I am thinkin' I'd like to shoot BP only anyway....what do you folks think of this shotgun? Anyone out there shoot one? Been around anyone who shoots one? Any info would be a great help!
  17. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    Forget it. Under SASS rules, the blackpowder categories (Frontier Cartridge, Frontiersman, etc.) require use of a side-by-side shotgun. Pumps are limited to the smokeless powder categories, and or course the 1893 Winchester isn't safe for use with smokeless.

    There are plenty of good used 1897 Winchesters around if you want to shoot a pump in a smokeless powder category. If you want to shoot black powder (as you should!), then pick up a side-by-side. There are plenty of decent new ones available for $300 or so from the likes of Stoeger, Baikal, etc. Remington is now importing the Baikal line under the "Spartan" brand name. Used doubles are even cheaper.
  18. Concerning the '93...you're right. I remember now about the side by side and blackpowder. Thanks for reminding me.

    I think I have a plan fleshed out that goes like this concerning CAS.

    - Blackpowder only.
    - 44/40 Remingtons (Uberti's)
    - TTN's 1878 side by side.
    - 1873 Winchester 44/40 (Uberti's)

    Comments and suggestions are welcome!
  19. Buck Nekkid

    Buck Nekkid Well-Known Member

    Here's the best advice for a greenhorn


    All the folks here on THR are tellin' ya some good stuff, but if'n ya wanta get it from the horse's mouth, so to speak, wander over to www.SASSnet.com Tha't the official site of the Single Action Shooting Society.

    We've got a number of forums that ya might find interestin'. You can ask all the questions ya got about yer shootin' irons and ya can wander over to the Classified section and see what Cowboys got fer sale.

    I'd strongly recommmend that ya do yer research first before ya buy anything. When I started in CAS nigh onto 10 years ago I got off on the wrong foot with my holsters and that ol' rig is sittin' on a shelf totally useless.

    I was lucky that the pistolas/lever gun/scatter gun that I bought were competitive with other new shooters when I started, but they, too are now sittin in the safe. I advanced some and so did my hardware.

    Feel free to contact me off line. I belong to 3 different local clubs, am a life member of SASS and a Territorial Governor. I won't steer ya wrong!

    Buck Nekkid
  20. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Well-Known Member

    Excellent choices. The Uberti 1873 is one of the most popular CAS rifles, and for good reason. If you're shooting black powder, you want your rifle chambered in 44-40 or 38-40, so you've picked the right cartridge there. I've never used the TTN 1878, but it gets uniformly excellent reviews. Of course, you know how I feel about the Remingtons.

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