Cowboy Action Shooting and Becoming a Better Old-West Author

How does a writer become more adept at storytelling in his primary genre? As you might suppose, there are lots of ways. But when it comes to writing fiction rooted and grounded in history (even if the stories regularly wander into fanciful territory), it may help an author to experience what his characters are supposed to have dealt with. With that end in mind, I've recently delved into the fun and exciting realm of Cowboy Action Shooting.

Visiting surviving or restored Old West towns is certainly beneficial to Western authors. It really gives a person the flavor of the times and the conditions folks encountered during the settling of the West. Periodically saddling up and going about on horseback will also teach a person a thing or two about the lives of folks out West in the nineteenth century.

But if an author is going to describe gunfights or other use of firearms, either between

"good guys" and outlaws or settlers and varmints, then Cowboy Action Shooting can certainly put the writer in his characters' boots, heart-pounding adrenaline rush and all.

In Cowboy Action Shooting, each participant must typically hit an array of steel targets using replicas of guns common in the latter half of the nineteenth century--a pair of single-action revolvers, a repeating rifle (lever guns, usually), and a shotgun (double barrel or pump action). Each stage of a match is timed, and participants must shoot the targets in the order specified ahead of time. An ordinary match generally consists of six stages, each with its own scenario (such as an approximation of a classic scene from a Western movie).

Cowboy action shooters also dress the part, donning period-accurate apparel...or outfits typical of B-Western TV shows and movies, or Spaghetti Westerns. And most take on an alias from Old West history or fiction or simply a clever moniker with a cowboy or cowgirl ring to it.

I'm pleased to say I've been warmly welcomed into the Single Action Shooting Society (the official governing and sanctioning body of the international sport of Cowboy Action Shooting™) and two of its locally affiliated clubs--the Belton Bushwhackers and the Greenville Gunfighters. "Slippery Stew" and "Abe E.S. Corpus," the point riders of the two respective clubs, have gone out of their way to provide pertinent information, guidance, and encouragement to help me get started. And they've gone way beyond that. Stew loaned me one of his lever-action rifles and some ammo when my own long gun failed me in my first match, and Corpus gave me a box of shotgun shells, just in case I came up short in the course of the same match. All the participants at my first outing were as friendly and supportive as could be.