Two .45 revolvers are needed to take part in the sport. The guns must be single action revolvers like those used in the late 1800s. This means the gun must be cocked each time before being fired, which adds to the difficulty but also makes the sport safer for both the rider and horse. Revolvers start at about $550 each and can go up to $1,400.
Specially designed holsters that have sight lock are needed so the guns don’t come out too easily, or else the gun could bounce out of the holster while the shooter is riding through the course. The average price for a pair of holsters and a belt is between $450-$600.
Live ammunition is not used in cowboy mounted shooting for safety reasons. Instead, competitors load their guns with blanks containing Fg black powder. The course powder comes out of the barrel burning, and can pop a target balloon up to 15 feet away.
Ten red and blue target balloons are set up in patterns within a horseback riding arena. Competitors receive a five-second penalty if they miss one of the balloons.
The most important piece of equipment for a mounted shooter is easily their horse. Each shooter needs a horse (like Justin here) that's specifically trained for mounted shooting and can stay calm during gunfire. For added protection, riders can purchase equine earplugs for their horses. Competitors are recommended to start out with a horse that is already well broken.
There’s no restriction on what type of saddle mounted shooters use, but generally a western saddle that’s comfortable and has a fairly deep seat is recommended. Shooters will need it when they’re moving fast through a pattern and making hard turns.
Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association founder and Chairman Jim Rodgers explains what mounted shooting is all about. Jim Rogers tells us about mounted shooting
If you're going to be a cowboy mounted shooter you need to look the part! Participants dress up in full western garb which includes a cowboy hat, chaps, cowboy boots and a collared long-sleeve shirt that's buttoned down around the wrists.
If you're going to be a cowboy mounted shooter you need to look the part! Participants dress up in full western garb which includes a cowboy hat, chaps, cowboy boots and a collared long-sleeve shirt.
To purchase a set of guns for mounted shooting, competitors (who must be at least 18) will need a possession acquisition license that must have a restricted endorsement on it. Participants will also want to have an ATT (acquisition to transport), which will allow them to travel with their guns to practices and competitions throughout Canada. When travelling to an event in the U.S., mounted shooters will need a permit from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) to transport their guns over the border.
Cowboy mounted shooting is an equine sport similar to barrel racing. Riders are equipped with two single-action revolvers and are timed on how fast they can navigate their horse through a pattern of balloon targets, firing along the way. There are 64 different target patterns in the sport. While riding as fast as they can, competitors shoot five balloons with one gun, holster it, and draw their second gun to take out the remaining five balloons on the run down. Each of the guns is loaded with five blank cartridges. Competitors are handed a five-second penalty for missed targets, failure to follow the course or procedure, or knocking over barrels or target stands.
Watch Cain Quam run through a pattern while firing at target balloons outside Kendal, Sask. Cain Quam, a member of the Saskatchewan Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, runs through a balloon target pattern outside Kendal, Saskatchewan on Aug. 16.
The very first cowboy mounted shooting competition took place on February 1992 at a range just north of Phoenix, Arizona. There were just three competitors. The event was organized by Jim Rodgers, who is credited with conceiving mounted shooting as a competitive sport. Rodgers was initially involved in cowboy action shooting, and although he pitched the idea of mounted shooting before, his friends felt it was too dangerous. During the summer of 1990, Rodgers experimented with firing from horseback at several Arizona cowboy shoots. Since using live ammunition wasn’t safe, Rodgers eventually began using blank rounds and balloons, an idea he got from an aerial mounted shooting exhibition. After starting out as a guest spot during different cowboy shoots and old west events, the sport eventually grew enough to support its own organization. In 1998, the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) held its first world championships with 91 competitors. The CMSA currently has 13,000 members worldwide, with clubs across North America, as well as in Europe, Brazil and Lebanon.