The Crossroads of the Aether
Back in June I purchased a Charles Daily M1873 Peacemaker at the gun show and, now with a single action pistol, I started thinking about Cowboy Action Shooting. Years ago I did a little bit of action shooting and enjoyed running around and shooting at steel plates. It was much more satisfying and practical than putting holes in paper targets at one of two range choices.
But one of the things that held me back from jumping into Cowboy Action was the requirement to have four guns. Every stage has you firing 10 rounds from a rifle, 4 rounds from a shotgun, 5 rounds from a pistol and then 5 rounds from another pistol. There is some variation to that but it’s pretty much the same and, with the requirement to have four guns, for me to participate I would need to buy three more guns or borrow them. Pistols start at around $400. Shotguns start around $300. Rifles start around $1200. One can get a deal on used guns but expecting to spend $2000 to start this up is the first hurdle.
So, the plan was to get my feet wet. Go to a couple of shoots. Meet people. Borrow some guns and try it out and decide whether I want to go in on this. The first place I looked was the Logan’s Ferry Regulators in New Kensington. They meet on the second Saturday of every month, which conflicts with my science fiction club meeting. For August, though, the sci-fi club moved their meeting date to the third weekend for a picnic and so the second weekend was open except that the Logan’s Ferry club had canceled that shoot and all their others for the rest of the year. Wasn’t sure what was with that.
The other club I looked at was the River Junction Shootist Society in Donegal. They meet the third Saturday of each month which conflicted with the sci-fi club picnic in August. The September event was one of their big annual 2-day events and I contacted them about participating. Chuckwagon Sam responded that trying to participate in the Ambush at Indian Creek event probably wasn’t the best opportunity. It was much more of a tournament setup and, being competition heavy, I would be less likely to get enough opportunities to borrow the guns I would need to compete. I ended up just paying $9 for the dinner.
When I was asking about things earlier, I had sent links to my website so when I arrived a few people recognized me from my online pictures. There was the requisite standing around and talking while more people arrived but eventually things got underway with side matches.
Most rifle shooting in Cowboy Action is done with pistol calibers. The 45 Long Colt cartridges in the single action revolver are the same ammunition you use in the lever action rifles. They do this because you are firing at short ranges at steel plates. Even a lightly loaded rifle cartridge can punch through a steel plat under those circumstances. However, they had a side match for full power rifles firing at a large steel plate at what looked to be 150 yards.
I have a Francotte patent Martini-Henry M1878 that could be used. Well, probably. While this is a western sport, I believe the rules do not limit you to American guns. The rifle I have is a French redesign of an English rifle manufactured in Nepal sometime between 1878 and 1888. I probably should have repaired the stock problem I have with it and brought it along.
I did get one opportunity to shoot a side stage. The Vegas Kid offered to loan me his guns. I had a second holster and put his revolver in that. His rifle was a lever action and I loaded that up. His shotgun was a pump, which is very late period for western shooting. He had a belt with loops for the shotgun shells but even on it’s tightest it was still much too large for me. I ended up just putting the shot shells in my vest pocket.
The stage plays out like this: you begin at a station with the shotgun sitting on the table and the rifle at port arms. When the timer starts you fire 10 rounds from the rifle at a single target. You put the rifle down, pick up the shotgun and move to forward to a second table. There you load the shotgun and fire at two nearby targets. Then, put the shotgun down, draw one pistol and fire five rounds alternating between two targets. Then, holster the pistol, move to the right and forward to another station where you draw the second pistol and fire 5 rounds at a single target.
My first problem was that half way through the rifle stage I had a misfire. What I should have done was just ejected the unfired round and taken the miss. Instead I hesitated, pulled back the hammer and tried again. And then, to add insult to injury, I did it again. I may have wasted 6 or 8 seconds doing that. The shotgun round went well and I loaded the shotgun, fired, ejected, reloaded and fired again. My original intention was to draw my own pistol on my hip first so that I could quickly reholster it before moving on. I was familiar with my own holster but my second holster did not stay open. I would need to use my left hand to change the shape of the holster and I thought that would slow me down. Well, when I drew the dun I naturally went for the crossdraw holster. Then, I fired the second round before getting on the target because I wasn’t expecting so light a trigger pull. When that was over I moved over to the final stage, emptied my own gun, missing one round, and ended the stage.
All told I missed three rounds and completed the stage in about 60 seconds. I don’t think that was too bad considering I was using three unfamiliar guns and had never done any Cowboy Action shooting before. Most everyone else was running in the 30-40 second range and occasionally dropping one round. If I had my own guns and, with a little practice, I could see myself improving my performance significantly
Once the tournament stages got under way, I was just a spectator. While the place you stand and the order you shoot was mixed up, the two revolvers, rifle, shotgun pattern was pretty much the same. I should think that if they had some stages that went forward with only a single gun, people like me with only the revolver would be enticed to participate. As it is, having to spend $2000 on guns or beg fellow shooters to borrow theirs every time I want to shoot is a bit off-putting.
One pair of shooters had it worked out. Between the two of them they already had three of the guns they needed. One more gun and they were set to share the guns through every match. That works if you have a buddy. I’m pretty much on my own at this stage.
The batteries in my camera died during the first stage iof the tournament. So, as I was walking back to my car to see if I had any extras (I didn’t) I ended up talking to someone about having to own multiple guns. He said that there are a lot of internal sales that go on. People will no longer want a gun and sell it to someone else. When they upgrade, that gun will be sold again. In this case, a long time member had died earlier in the year and his wife had a few tables of things she was selling off.
I went over and she had a lever action rifle that caught my eye for a moment but it was 44 magnum. I have a 45 cal pistol so, to keep things a little bit cheaper, I’d like to try to keep to the same caliber. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make that work but because of that I didn’t even ask the price on it. The other thing that caught my eye was a Norinco Model 97 pump shotgun. Even though the 97 is a late period design and does not meet what I consider to be the cowboy aesthetic, it is a valid gun for competition and the $125 asking price was a very good deal.
“Buy what you want”
A few weeks ago I was at a gun show and a dealer had a cap and ball Navy 1851 for $100. It was a good price and a gun that I was interested in but what I really wanted was the 1851 cartridge conversion (although, to save money, I should probably be looking at something in 45 caliber. The cartridge conversion Navy 51 is 38 caliber). I was also tempted by a Russian Nagant M1895 which could probably be usable for Cowboy Action. The price tag was $140 which was a touch higher than I wanted. But in explaining my dilemma, Euphorbia said, “Buy what you want.” This is not a dismissive statement. Nor is it a directive to just buy what I want. It is a call to be discriminating. I am not so poor that I have to buy the cheapest gun. With a little budgeting I can afford to buy the gun that I really want. I will likely be unhappy with settling for something I don’t want but that is cheaper so really, to be happy, “Buy what I want.”
The Norinco 97 was not what I wanted. What I wanted was a double barrel hammered coach gun. That fits my vision of the cowboy aesthetic.
But, what had been said earlier, if I bought the Norinco 97 for $125, I could probably sell it again down the road for what I paid for it. For someone like me just starting out and not sure whether I wanted to make the investment it was a good starter gun.
I went back and forth all afternoon.
In the end I decided that I would make my decision at the end of the day just before I left for home. I would probably end up getting it since I had that much money in my pocket but I couldn’t be accused of making an impulse buy.
Turned out, that the decision was made for me. Someone else bought it.
I got the chance to shoot a Mare's Leg. In this case a production replica of a cut-down Winchester 97 chambered in 357 Magnum. Shooting from the hip I could not hit even a huge plate at close range. I had to use the sights. Holding it like a pistol was accurate enough because of the weight but that's a lot of weight to hold out there with an outstretched arm.
There was , of course, the explanation of steampunk. Some were familiar with steampunk. Most knew only so much as to recognize me and my goggles were steampunk.
At one point, again talking about steampunk, I pointed out that, while goggles are a steampunk mainstay, some other things are also somewhat steampunk. “For example,” I said, “You are wearing your corset on the outside. In the 19th Century, corsets were always worn under the clothes. Corsetry on the outside is a steampunk thing. That is, unless you’re a whore. Dance hall girls and whores wore their underwear on the outside.” Thankfully, my comedic timing was such that this was not taken as an insult.
Once all the shooting was over a number of people chose to dress down, trading their cowboy wear (required for the competition) for jeans, t-shirts and ball caps. I dressed for dinner, trading my frock coat for tails and my slouch hat for a my fez.
Dinner was catered. The president of the club also owns a catering business so I was well fed for the $9 I spent. I even got a container full of leftovers to take home. My mistake was that half of the cookies I claimed had raisins in them. Blech.
There was to be more competition on Sunday but I chose not to camp out or drive back the next day. It hardly seemed worth it just to spectate. The question is, will I be back to do more than spectate? Next months shoot has a cavalry theme and I have the uniform to do that. It will also be more likely that I will be able to borrow guns to participate in events. Beyond that, I can’t say for sure. It’s fun. It’s the kind of shooting I want to do. But the money is a big chunk of change.
I’ll go to the next shoot, maybe a few others, and see how things pan out. Maybe a deal like the Norinco 97 will come along on a gun that I really want.
Looking at the Logan’s Ferry website again I see that their October and November get togethers are back on. I’m busy in November but maybe I can go to the October event and see what they are like. Certainly closer than River Junction in Donegal.