Monday, October 31, 2005

In the late 1850’s Benjamin Henry designed a lever action repeating rifle using .44 caliber brass cartridges. The rifle revolutionized military weapons and many soldiers during the Civil War saved and spent their own money to purchase a Henry Rifle. In 1866 the Winchester Company released their “improved” Henry Rifle which quickly became one of the guns that won the west.

The “improved” Henry became known as the Winchester Model 1866. It was brass framed as the Henry, but had a side loading plate which was a tremendous improvement over the tube loading Henry. It also incorporated a fore-end which made shooting the rifle comfortable. Due to its brass receiver it was nicknamed “Yellowboy” and even though it’s 2005 I just picked up my new (used) rifle this week.

Jose and I attended the Indiana State Shoot this year and even though I didn’t plan on winning, I still thought I could put in a good showing. Well my Rossi Puma 92 locked up on me and jammed with 9 rounds in the gun. That’s 45 seconds worth of penalties and I swore I would have a new gun by the first of the year. I’m not a great shooter, but the design of the Winchester Model 1892 copies have a “speed limit” the faster you go the greater chance the gun will malfunction. So I started looking at the alternatives.

First there were the Marlins. The Marlin 1894 is an excellent gun, and pretty reasonable even though the price keeps going up. Right now you can have a new one for about 550 to 600. You can short stroke the Marlin and make it a real slick shooter. The only real drawback it that it can not be used to compete in the Classic Cowboy category.

The next rifle was the Winchester Model 1873. This gun was perfect. It could be slicked up to shoot amazingly and it could be used in any category. The only problem was it ran at about 900 bucks. And, of course there was the 66 Yellowboy. The Yellowboy was the same as the 73, but with a brass receiver. It ran about 800 bucks and was probably going to be out of my price range, just like the 73. Both guns are made by Uberti and imported into the US by several different companies.

So I looked everywhere for guns and nobody had them in stock and everyone wanted crazy prices for the guns. Jose found one on Gunbroker so I gave the guy a call. He lived only 2 hours from my place and was selling a used Uberti Model 1866 Yellowboy Sporting Rifle with a 24” barrel in .45 colt. It was exactly what I was looking for and in a price I could afford. I drove up and picked it up from the guy and was even happier once I held it. The rifle looked brand new and couldn’t have had more then a couple of dozen rounds fired threw it. I haven’t had a chance to shoot it yet, but the action is smooth and it cycles cartridges just fine. I’ll report back after I’ve had a chance to shoot it. I will also put up a picture of the gun when I figure out how to add pictures to this thing.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Thought I'd start linking to the Carnival of Cordite. A weekly roundup of gun blogging.
Buying and selling online is a wonderful thing, I just love the idea of being able to sit at home or work, browse around until I find just what I'm looking for and at the right price and purchase it (like the new drover coat I ordered Tuesday). Then there's the whole anticipation thing too, you wait anxiously until the delivery guy or gal pulls up to your house and drops off your package, its just like christmas!

Why bring this up? Because I think that the internet may be about as important to CAS growth as anything. I'm lucky enough to live an hour away from a really nice cowboy store called Tonto Rim where I can buy all the duds and stuff I need for shooting cowboy (except guns). They make custom hats and have a really nice selection of boots as well as all the clothes you need. But then, not everyone is so lucky. Most cowpokes are going to have to order their stuff and that's where the internet has to of really changed this sport. I can't imagine trying to find all the cool cowboy stuff by browsing through the Chronical and calling the merchant to request a catalog, then waiting, browsing the catalog and ordering by phone, you get the picture.

You can find any and everything you need on the internet to go shoot and have it delivered to your door or to your FFL dealer. Yes, you can buy guns online via merchants or by individual classified or auctions, just ask Judge as he's just got a purty 66 yellowboy that I'm jealous of. Buying stuff isn't the only benefit to CAS that the internet offers, you can go to one of the forum websites and discuss CAS topics, rule changes, techniques and just find other friends if that's your thing. I like to visit the SASS Wire to read about the various guns and gunsmithing/reloading related stuff as well as get suggestions on more places to buy gear. Clubs can post or email scores, you can check weather forcast to decide what to wear, get directions to a new range, register for shoots and much much more.

It isn't all sunshine and lollipops, there's some aspects to the internet that I don't like. I think people say things when they are hiding behind their computer and the distance it provides that they wouldn't say face to face. I try not to say anything that I wouldn't say in person, but Its really easy to do and its one of the things that turns me off on the wire. That and I think some people just post on the wire to see their own posts, they're probably the same kind of folk who talk just to hear themselves, you know?

Kind of ironic really, this sport that harkens back to the days of yore is thriving in large part to the most recent of innovations, the internet.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

One of the cool things about shooting CAS is the comraderie with the other shooters. I've not been a participant in any of the other shooting sports, but I would find it hard to believe that the IPSC and IDPA shooters are as friendly and helpful as the CAS shooters. Case in point, our local bad-ass shooter Vaquero Hayes has offered to take his own time to teach a class to the local shooters for a very nominal fee. I mean he has to drive 2 - 2 1/2 hours to get to the range and he's teaching it on the off weekends (one time on his and his wife's anniversary). This level of dedication to SASS and his fellow shooters should be commended, but it is hardly a rareity in the SASS community. That makes an impression on me and makes me want to help other shooters out.

Another way this comraderie manifests is the post match BS session usually held at the range owner's garage (Redneck Rebel). We pull up a bunch of chairs in a circle and chew the fat and kill some beers (some like whiskey or other beverages). We can talk about the shooting, complain about stuff we don't like and pat others on the back for good work or shooting. I'm convinced Redneck Rebel could open a cantina and do a heck of a business on the night after a shoot. Sometimes we steer a little far off course and the discussions sometimes get heated when discussing rules or some of the less likeable characters in SASS, but we all leave as friends. This past weekend the discussion turned to the proposals put forth by the TG commitee and what we thought of the rules and what direction SASS is headed. I'm really glad to have an active TG that really really cares about SASS and more importantly, me and what I think.

Speaking of what I think, I thought I'd address the equipment race issue that seems to have been thrust to the forefront by Tex and some of the TG items (I'll let Judge continue an item by item account). I tend to agree with Tex in that the problem isn't with the manufacturers and I don't forsee it being with the gun manufactures because they have to build a gun that works and is safe and they're building them for general consumption and some people use these guns as collectables, hunting or just plain like having a cowboy gun. The problem arises when the aftermarket products come to the table, they provide us with drop-in parts or smith modifications that significantly modify how the gun operates. When you have a model 66 winchester clone that only requires a couple of inches of lever travel to cycle, that's pretty significant and probably the most wide-spread major modification in existence. That's not to say Ruger short-strokes, 93/97 shotguns and lightning rods aren't significant, just not as plentiful nor obvious when in use.

I feel that if a modification breaks my suspension of reality, then I've got a problem with it. That goes for the cowboys themselves, if I see a cowboy with something obviously not cowboy on him, then I have a problem with it. A couple of shooters a while back had used some sort of substance on their hands to help grip their pistols (dry day), the only way I noticed was that it made their palms white. No it wasn't chalk, I asked what it was and one of them said it was a tube of "stuff". I didn't really say any more, but you know, that kind of bothered me not because it gave them an extra advantage, but because it a) interrupted my suspension of reality and b) he wouldn't tell me what it was either because he didn't want his secret getting out or because it was illegal.

So with that in mind, I really don't mind the short stroked rifles and pistols, I do mind the thought of a lighning rod, because it'll look out of place. Coyote Cap's proposed 93/97 shotguns are a joke because they are simply a 97 with a larger ejection port. Sure the 93 was an actual gun, but manufacturing it with 97 internals is crossing the line. The 93 is not safe in original form and should be outlawed by SASS as well as this abomination. Similarly, the 1873 percusion pistol is a similar lark although it was never even made.

I really don't know where you draw the line on this stuff, its kind of like governing pornography in that I can't really tell you what I wouldn't allow beforehand, although I would certainly know it when I see it. I know, big help, but making a rule that anything that can be seen "during normal handling" would elliminate a lot of the guns that are used in SASS legally right now. That would do away with all short strokes, lightning rods, alloy 66/73 lifters, 1887 drop two mod and the like. Maybe that's a good thing though. We need something so that we don't have to vote on every single mod as to whether it is legal or not. What I don't want to see is a rule governing the internals that you don't see, that's just too draconian and nye impossible to govern when the officials are volunteers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Saturday was the Main Match at Thunder Valley, and the weather could not have been nicer. Bright sunshine, slight breeze, low humidity, and 70 degrees, but as nice as the day was, the shooting was just plain ugly.

Jose won third place in Duelist and even though he didn’t shoot great he had only 1 blowup and that was mitigated by some of the worst spotting I have ever seen. So overall he didn’t do to bad and got the third place ribbon.

Bison Bud was on hand and from the very beginning I knew I couldn’t win gunfighter. That’s not the best attitude to have, but it was the truth. Bud’s pistol work doesn’t intimidate me, but his rifle is about as good as it gets, and with me still shooting a 92 I knew there was no way. So I figured it was between me and Rapid Lee for second. By the end of the first 3 stages Rapid Lee was clean and shooting in the low 30’s. I couldn’t seem to get in gear with times in the low to mid 30’s and I already had 2 misses. So after the break I made up my mind to shoot as fast as I could, and I did.

My first stage after the break was stage 7 and I managed to run 10 pistol, 10 rifle, and 4 shotgun in 29.?? seconds, clean. That’s only the second time I’ve shoot a stage under 30 as a gunfighter and the first time using a 92. I was pretty pumped after that stage and we moved on to stage 8, Stage 8 consisted of 10 pistol, 10 rifle, and 2 shotgun. I managed to run a raw time of 23.?? Seconds, with one miss! That was the best stage I have ever shot.

So now I had 3 mediocre to poor stages and 2 great stages so I moved on to the sixth stage of the day, and that one brought me back to reality. I was on a great pace, shooting fast and moving well, but I threw one of my rifle rounds, and when I transitioned to my pistols things got out of hand. I missed every pistol shot with my left hand, but with each shot instead of slowing down and correcting my error I kept speeding up, by the end I was laughing and whooping and so was the rest of the posse. If you gotta go down, go down in flames! I still ended up with a time in the low fifties, even with 6 misses (5 sec. penalty for each miss)!

Of course Bison Bud won first in Gunfighter, and Rapid Lee, who shot great all day, took second place. I ended up with the third place ribbon and against those two guys I guess that isn’t too bad. One of these days I going to put together a whole shoot, 7 stages of great shooting, and when I do you’ll all hear about it.

So the day had its good and bad spots, but most of the time it just felt like people had their head up their kazoo. Spotting was poor to nonexistent, people wouldn’t listen, a few wanted to argue, and the easiest scenarios seemed to cause the most confusion. Still I always say a bad day at the range is better then most good days anywhere else.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

SASS is a large group and it is governed by a smaller group known as the “Wild Bunch.” They were the original members of SASS who still decide the important matters of the organization. A second group known as the “Territorial Governors” is elected by the individual clubs and represents the clubs at the national convention. The following is a list of agenda items for the next convention and how I feel about them.

Should all SASS State and higher championships be required to honor all SASS categories even if there is only one participant? We are now requiring all sanctioned State and above championships to honor all categories with 5 or more participants.

I believe that SASS should be required to honor all categories. They made the damn things and charge each of the members yearly dues, so if I want to shoot in a category at a state level then I should be able to win a plaque if I’m the only one shooting or not.

Should all rule changes passed at the Territorial Governors’ Summit go into effect as of March 1st of the following year? With End of Trail moving its calendar forward to June of 2006, would it be best for SASS to initiate the newly adopted changes in the rules, following the SASS Convention in December, to an earlier date? With dates of matches varying, it would not be a good idea to attach new rules to a match date but rather a calendar date. March 1st, at this point, would precede all Regional, National, and World championships.

This one is a no brainier. How they got by for so long having the rules take effect at an event instead of on a date is amazing. It only makes since to say “rules go into effect on this date” I don’t really care if it’s May 1st or January 1st, as long as it is the same every year and there is no wiggle room.

Should all black powder categories be changed to add the following statement, Competitors will be required to produce this amount of smoke. Some types of black powder, or black powder substitutes, may produce this amount of smoke with less volume of powder. It is also recommended that there be an appeal procedure (three Territorial Governors) if it is suspected a competitor is not producing the correct amount of smoke and that base line loads be on hand to compare to the shooter’s loads. It is also recommended the penalty for such an infraction should be a Spirit of the Game Penalty (30 Seconds), removal from the black powder category and placement into a comparable smokeless category.

This is much ado about nothing. I won’t waste your time with the long history of this debate but simply say that if you think someone is cheating under the current rules you can spend 50 bucks and challenge them. If they are shooting duplex loads (black powder mixed with smokeless) then they are disqualified and you get your 50 bucks back. SASS doesn’t have the time or money to check everybody’s loads. And another thing about this stupid rule…If I catch you cheating then you get a spirit of the game penalty and moved into another category! I don’t think so. If you are cheating you should be gone, finished, fini! None of this crap about getting caught and then just switching categories.

“B” Western has been a great success at END of TRAIL, The Shootout at Mule Camp, and several other State and Regional matches. It is time to make it “official”. Should we make the B Western category official? The following are the rules for the category. Handguns: All SASS legal handguns are allowed. Rifles: Any SASS legal rifle of 1884 or later design or a replica thereof (i.e. 1892, 1894, Lightening Rifle, or Marlin) Shotguns: all SASS legal shotguns Ammunition: All SASS legal ammunition is allowed Leather: Buscadero holster rigs or drop loop rigs. (All of the pistols must be carried below the top of the gun belt.) All belt and holster rigs must be embellished (fancy stitching, conchos, spots or tooling). All holsters must be of the “Straight Hang” type. No cross draw or shoulder rigs. Shooting style: Any non-gunfighter shooting style. Clothing: Shirts must be of the “B” Western style with snap buttons or any of the following, “Smiley Pockets”, embroidery, appliqués, fringe or different colored yokes. Shield Shirts are also allowed if it has piping or embroidery. Pants must be jeans, ranch pants, or pants with flap over the rear pocket, keystone belt loops and/or piping or fringe. Pants must be worn with a belt. Suspenders are not allowed. Felt hats only, no straw hats. Hats must be worn. All boots must be of traditional design with fancy stitching or multi-color fancy design with smooth, non-grip enhancing soles. Lace-up boots and moccasins are not allowed. Western Spurs with rowels are required for men. Ladies may wear skirts or split riding skirts. You must choose at least one or more of the following optional items: Gloves or gauntlets, scarves with slides or tied around the neck, coat, vest, chaps, cuffs. All costumes are expected to be fancy and flashy. The “B” Western costuming must be worn during the entire match and awards ceremony with exception of evening formal occasions. Costumes that depict leading role characters in “B” western movies are allowed as long as the costume is complete with all accessories.

This is another costume category like Classic Cowboy, so I say why not. It encourages people to dress up, and the flashier the dress the more fun they will have…not to mention the spectators.

There is a ton more agenda items that I will get to over the next several weeks, but I thought I would get started. What do you think Jose?
I think "B" Western is fine by me, not something I'd ever want to do, but I can't see why it shouldn't be allowed.

Rulz should take affect January 1st, that makes it easiest to remember and you shoot the whole season under the same rules.

There are a couple of arguments against requiring State and above to acknowledge a class with one person in it. 1) The expense of the awards (minimal) 2) you'd have people signing up for classes they know they'll win in just so's they'll get an award (like LFCD or something like that).

I've been a long time denouncer of the Black powder regulation. There's two camps that want this passed. One wants to keep black powder categories from getting too gamey and I can see the point here. The second camp just wants to make everyone a warthog and elliminate the .32 cartridges, usually whining about the .32hr being a modern cartridge (and .38/.357/.44mag aren't?). I've always felt the latter group were the ones crying the loudest and trying hardest to get this passed. If you don't want it to get too gamey, then establish a realistic and reliable method of enforcement, three TG's judging smoke ain't it. If you want to elliminate the .32 and make everyone in your own manly, he-man image, go away, far away, we don't want or need you. Besides, if you aren't shooting Walkers loaded with 60 grains gunfighter style, shut up.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My new shotgun is here! My new shotgun is here!

I’ve only been waiting for this thing since June so I guess I’m just a little over excited. When I first got into this sport I purchased a Ruger Vaquero in .45 colt. I then bought a Rossi Puma 92 in .45 colt. Jose got a Ruger Vaquero and a Norinco 97 pump shotgun. For the first several matches we shared guns and that worked pretty well for getting started and keeping the cost down. Pretty soon we were both ready for a complete set of our own guns and we both finished off with another Ruger and he bought a 92 carbine and I picked up a Stoeger Coach Gun. It’s a double barreled shotgun, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit.

I used the gun for almost 2 years. Jose worked on it and disconnected the automatic safety and honed the chambers. I decided I needed a little practice with the gun so I picked up some dummy shotgun rounds from Jose and did about 10 minutes of practice a couple of times a week in preparation for the Indiana State Championships. So one day in early June the shotgun wouldn’t close. It felt like something was binding up. I messed with it a little bit, and then finally took it over to Jose. After taking it apart we found that the locking lug on the bottom of the barrel was broken. This part is not supposed to break…ever!

So I contacted Stoeger and explained the problem. After having to repeat myself twice (I thought the lady on the phone didn’t understand guns at first, but she knew what was going on and was just as surprised about the break as I was) they said that even though the warranty was expired on the gun they would repair it under warranty because that part isn’t supposed to break. I was pretty happy with that so I packed up the gun and sent it back to Stoeger. Three months and a week later Stoeger sent my gun back…kinda.
Stoeger looked at the gun and decided it was unfixable so they sent me a brand new gun. Not to shabby even though it took forever. Now I just need Jose to slick it up for me before the Main Match on the 15th!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I never get to shoot enough. That’s my biggest complaint with regards to CAS. I’m a fairly decent shooter, and have been shooting firearms for a very long time, but I never have enough time to really get into practicing or shooting.

Jose went to the Play Day on Saturday, but I had to stay home. Between work, a new baby, and of course the wife, it’s tough enough to shoot one day a month! A lot of the guys we shoot with are retired, and/or make CAS their life. I’m not to that point yet, but what a dream. I imagine myself shooting every weekend, traveling to all of the major shoots like Guns of August, Mule Camp, Winter Range, and End of Trail, shooting all day and sitting around passing the time with a good cigar and a beer all night. I could practice as often as I like and maybe even get competitive. You see, the people at the top of their game in SASS are shooting from 10,000 to 25,000 rounds a month. Of course they get sponsorships that pay for the bullets and therefore are being paid to shoot, but that’s a different argument all together. I don’t mind being a working man with a family, hell I like that, but I’ll just have to dial back my shooting expectations for now and wait for that blissful moment called retirement.

So once a month I get my gear together and travel on down to “Thunder Valley” for the day and forget all my troubles. Speaking of gear if you don’t know anything about this sport here is a quick rundown of what you need to shoot. First off are the guns. You will need 2 single action revolver style pistols which are reproductions or originals from the mid to late 1800’s. You will need 1 lever or slide action, tubular feed, exposed hammer rifle or carbine manufactured between 1860 and 1899 (reproductions are fine). Lastly you will need 1 side by side or single shot shotgun typical of the period from 1860 to 1899. Lever or slide action, single barrel, tubular feed, exposed hammer shotguns typical of the period are also allowed.

Now you’ve got the guns you need the clothes. To compete you must be wearing clothing typical of the 19th century, a B western movie, or a western TV series. A minimum of cowboy boots, Levi or Wrangler blue jeans, a button down long sleeve shirt, and a cowboy hat are required.

This sounds like a lot of stuff, and it is. You can spend as much as you like or as little as you want and get by. Jose and I started fairly cheep, but have already started spending more and more, and just like golf clubs, once you start competing you want better equipment.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Back from the range today. Today was a "play day" or "fun day" depending on where you're from. The match consists of shooting "side" matches and usually a shortened stage match, as opposed to a "main" match where we shoot 6-8 stages and no side matches. At Thunder Valley, we shoot the side matches starting earlier in the morning (9am) and then shoot around 5 or 6 stages. Shooting the side matches doesn't have a whole lot of interest for me, speed pistol/rifle/shotgun & long-distance match rifle are about all I shoot. Don't own a big-bore long distance gun and I just don't see dropping the coin at this point for one. Someday maybe. .22 and pocket pistol/derrenger hold very little interest for me because, while .22 whould be really nice to have and plink with, I don't have a place where I can plink. As for pocket pistol, well my big-ass hands won't have much of that! (Although I came in third at the Indiana State in single-action pocket pistol, heh)

We shot six stages besides the side matches which makes for a nice shoot. The weather was an absolutely perfect Southern Indiana day, mid 70's and not a cloud in sight, georgeous! As usual, I was the posse deputy-marshal and ran a timer for about half the shooters. It something I enjoy doing and get antsy when others do it because I'm used to being in charge and always like to think I do a better job when in reallity I think most people just don't want the headache. Either way is OK by me, I just like getting out and shooting for a whole day and leaving all the headaches at home, except for the shooting woes :(

My shooting was pretty typical of the way I normally shoot. I've got too many misses, something I'm honestly trying to get a grip on, but I just am not doing it this year. I try to go fast and keep up with the faster Duelist shooters and don't concentrate on my game. I have a theory that my timer operation and management of the posse also interferes with my concentration, that's my theory anyway :)

As a timer operator/RO, I tend to have pet peeves and let them get to me and I think today was a bad day for one of my peeves. Shooters who don't pay attention! The stage directions are read off and posted at the loading table at Thunder Valley, inevitably, I get a shooter (or 2) who gets to the line and says "what do I do?". I think that's just rude, the timer operator then has to spend yet another couple of minutes reciting the stage directions and answering more questions while everyone else waits. If everyone did that, we could only shoot 3 or 4 stages or need lights! C'mon, it isn't that hard to read the description or pay attention, the other 12-14 shooters managed! Whew! Glad I got that off my chest.

I think I really like this blog thing for giving a flavor of the shooting day.