FAQs about Getting Started

The South Carolina CMSA Club seeks new members. We are interested in helping you and your family get started in CMSA. Cowboy Mounted Shooting is a sport for the entire family to enjoy--ages 6 to well, ask 'Granny Oakley' about the and up part!

What is Mounted Shooting?

Mounted Shooting is like barrel racing with balloons in between the barrels. The rider shoots black powder blank cartridges from .45 caliber pistols, at balloons, and is scored on accuracy and time.

Are there clothing requirements?

You have a choice.  You can dress in either the "modern rodeo" or "old timey cowboy" look.  The modern rodeo look consists of western style hat or riding helmet, long sleeve shirt, and jeans with chaps or chinks.  If you want to be an old time cowboy, think in terms of rolling back the clock to the late 1800’s and you will have a pretty good idea of the look that we are trying to present. We try to look as authentic to the period as possible, by wearing shirts without collars, and high waist pants with buttons, not zippers, for example.  The ladies may either follow the cowboy rules or wear 1800's style long dresses appearing as either a respected lady of the town or saloon girl.

How about guns?

Mounted Shooters use .45 caliber single action revolvers like those used in the late 1800’s. Single action revolvers must be cocked each time before firing by drawing the hammer back. Chances are, if you have an old 6 shooter lying around, this won't be your competion weapon! Please talk to a member for help in making a great choice. Several manufacturers are making excellent 'out of the box models' for SASS or CMSA shooters.

Do you use live ammunition (lead bullets) or bird shot?

No! The cartridges fired are called .45 caliber Long Colts. The brass cartridge is loaded with black powder (like that used in the 1800’s) and then ‘topped off’ with either ground corncob or ground walnut shells. This load will break a balloon up to about 15 feet. Live rounds are strictly prohibited at competitions. Riders do not carry loaded guns outside of the arena or when not competing. Safety is of high focus at our shoots and practices!

What about gun leather?

Riders can buy “off-the-shelf replicas” of the old time gun belts and holsters. Or, you can have custom-made gun belts and holsters to suit your wishes. There are several custom “makers” that you can find in ‘old west’ magazines or on our CMSA Links page. The rule of thumb for holsters...they need to fit your guns. Many shooters like chest rigs, some like belt holsters. Bottom line, try several before making your purchase. Club members are always willing to let you try.

Okay, how about a horse? Are there requirements like breed, or registration?

No. You can use any horse or mule that you want. Some horses take to this sport easily, others do not. It is up to your horse’s temperament and your desire to train him or her to get used to shooting, turning, and going fast. Some riders will use earplugs for themselves and their horses.

What about safety?

Safety in horse training and firearm handling are emphasized at all times. We can help new shooters in starting horses and learning the basics of safe firearm handling. Range masters are in the arena at all times during competitions to insure safe riding and shooting is exercised. New shooters are usually required to demonstrate that they have achieved minimum acceptable levels of riding and shooting skills.

Is there a pattern to ride?

Yes.Unlike barrel racing, there are 60+ possible patterns.  Each pattern consists of 10 balloons. To give you an idea of riding a pattern, let’s say that there are 5 white balloons and 5 red balloons. The 5 white balloons may be grouped together in one place or spread out over the entire arena. The rider shoots all 5 white balloons first. Then, the rider holsters the first gun while riding to the far end of the arena, draws the second gun, and shoots t he 5 red balloons, which are usually 5 in a row straight towards the finish line. This is called “the Rundown”.

Are there levels of skill?

Yes. There is a Men’s Division, a Women’s Division, and a Senior’s Division, with Classes 1-6 in each of those divisions. There is also a Wrangler Class for those 11 and under. Under the new rules, Juniors (ages 12-17) can compete together OR they can choose to compete in adult classes. All riders start at Class 1. When a rider wins Class 1 four times, they advance to Class 2, and when they win Class 2 four times, they advance to Class 3. Four wins at Class 3 and on to Class 4, etc. There is also a prize for the best score overall where age or gender does not matter. Mom competes against Dad who competes against the kids. And, Dont forget jackpots! There are buckles,cash prizes, points and added money to make everyone have fun.

Kids? Do the kids ride and shoot?

Yes... and no. The riders in the Wrangler class (starting at age 6) ride the same pattern that the grown-ups do, but they may shoot Hollywood cap pistols, engaging each target as if they were shooting real blanks. They then shoot the real McCoy (.45’s with blanks) at balloons, from the ground while standing stationary with mom or dad at their side.

How about scoring?

The riders are scored on time and accuracy. There is a 5 second penalty for each missed balloon, a 5 second penalty for dropping a gun, a 10 second penalty for not running the course correctly and a 60 second penalty for falling off your horse. Speed is important, however, accuracy is usually more important than speed. A typical pattern can be run in 9-35 seconds, so penalties can really hurt.

*** If you want help with guns, leather or a great shooting horse, local shooters are happy to help you locate what you need. New shooters are welcome to try out our stuff (and horses) to get the feel of the sport and to see what fits them best. ***

Clinics and Practices

Club Application

 Free "Getting Started" guide from MountedShootingSupplies.com