Cowboy Action Shooting
Guns and Equipment
Wagon Box Willy
aka Bill Esposito
If your gonna shoot CAS your gonna need some six shooters, a rifle and a shotgun. You don’t have to get these all at once because if you show up a your local club you’re bound to find plenty of friendly pards that will be happy to let you shoot one of their spares.
In my case I got the pistols first and showed up at a match with my pair of Remington 1875’s. Folks were offering me their long guns but since I had never shot a lever gun in my life before and hadn’t shot a shotgun in a good 40 years I didn’t want to have that first experience in front of everyone so I politely passed on the long guns and shot all the stages with just my pistols. I had a good time and came home without any extra holes in my body. That was March of 2011 and by July I attended my second match with my new Uberti 1866 in 45 Colt and a TTN hammered double.
You’re going to need lots of accoutrements besides just the guns but let’s start there.
You’re going to have to pick your guns partially based on the class you want to compete in. I chose Frontier Cartridge Dualist which means black powder cartridges and shotgun shells and I fire with one hand. The guns also have some bearing on your speed. I chose an external hammered double which is slower than a hammer-less one which cocks when you open the breach.
I decided on 45 Colt because that is pretty much the only caliber I ever heard of as a kid and I am reliving my childhood. While growing up the most familiar pistol on TV was the Colt 1873 Peacemaker and while I had an Colt 1860 Army toy gun for most of my childhood in my old age I don’t like to be using what everyone else is using. I looked around for other pistons and fell in love with the look of the 1875 Remmys. Aren’t they perty? 🙂 They are Uberti’s and were purchased at EMF Company.
Next I needed a rifle. Everyone uses a Winchester 1873 so that ruled out that rifle. I thought long and hard about the 1860 Henry but finally settled on the “improved Henry”, the Winchester 1866 Yellow Boy short rifle. Again made by Uberti.
And if you’re a smart cowboy you’re gonna bring some close in firepower. I selected a TTN 12ga external hammer double barrel coach gun. These guns have very good quality at a reasonable price and the new ones come standard with lightened springs and a big brass bead on the barrel.
My new 12 ga addition, a Coyote Cap IAC Winchester 1887 lever action 12 gauge shotgun. This has the “drop two” mod so two can be loaded at a time. I’m working on making this my main match gun though I am faster with the side by side.
Now you will also need some leather to stick those six shooters into. I went to Springfield Slim for a custom made rig. Slim does some great work and I fell in love with a Slim Jim holster that I saw he made with incised tooling rather than the normal stamped. Here’s the rig he made for me. The badge holder on the belt is from JM Leather.
In addition to the pistol rig I asked Slim to make me some slide on holders for shotgun and 45 cartridges. Slim accommodated me and I wore them for a couple of matches but because I wear my gun belt low the extra bulk made it very difficult to bend down without popping open a snap or two. Additionally, because I bought my gun belt with bullet loops there really wasn’t much room to to use the slides. That’s when I contacted Johnny at JM Leather and sent him a picture of my rig and asked him to try to match the color as close as he could and make me a shotgun belt.
Below you can see the original slides that I used from Springfield Slim and the full shotgun belt from JM Leather. Notice how the shotgun shells are in pairs. This way I can grab two at a time for loading into my double. You might ask why one would need so many shotgun shells, all I can say is that the last stage of the last shoot I attended this year was all shotgun and required 11 rounds not counting the makeup round if you missed the birdie. I had a similar stage when I was using the slide and had to keep 5 shells in my breast pocket….the next week I ordered the belt.
Now here’s what I wear when I go to a match. I do fill up the bullet loops on the belt as well but I have them removed now for the off season.
Oh yea, and what self respecting cowboy would show up to a fight without a knife 🙂
The two below shooters are cap and ball revolvers and while I have not brought them to a match yet they will be shot in the Frontiersman category.
The first pic is of a Uberti Colt 1847 “Walker” revolver and was given to me by my work mates as a retirement present.
The next two photo’s are of the Walker and my 1858 Remington. Both are 44 caliber though the Remmy as pictured here has a 45 Colt conversion cylinder installed.
Notice how much larger the 4-1/2 pound Walker is. It can shoot 60 grains of black powder vs about 34 grains for the Remmy.
I am not going to provide a reloading tutorial here but rather just show you the equipment I’m using.
As I said above I choose to shoot Frontier Cartridge Dualist (FCD) and that means loading with Black Powder rather than Smokeless powder. Black powder or gunpowder as it was called before the advent of smokeless powder is an explosive and as such bust be treated with respect. If you don’t smoke and don’t have a source of open flame or spark then there isn’t anything too special you have to do to keep safe. It’s probably not a good idea to store 25 pounds of the stuff in your house but many people keep a couple of pounds near the reloading bench. There are lots of articles and discussions about static electricity and black powder, read them and make up your own mind. If you’re going to do a lot of black powder shooting then you are going to use a lot of powder. There are about 7000 grains in a pound of powder. At 70 grains per shot gun load you’re going to only get about 100 rounds (4 boxes) per pound. Or in a 45 colt at 38gr you’ll get about 185 rounds per pound. You can go through 120 rounds of 45 in a 6 stage match and easily 25-50 shotgun shells. My last match had one stage which was 12 shells minimum not counting extras for misses. So bottom line you’re going to need to buy more than a pound at a time. Real black powder can be had with some economy over buying it from your local gun shop by purchasing it mail order. Powder Inc and Maine Powder House have very good deals on shipments of 10 pounds. I’ve bought GOEX locally but prefer not to shoot it as it is very dirty and really fouls up my guns quickly. I just tried a 5 pound batch of KIK and I am very impressed with it. I may also try Schuetzen as it is rated very good for a medium priced powder. Swiss is supposed to be the best but it is by far the costliest.
So here’s my reloading bench. It is a re-purposed bench which I also used for my sharpening station (woodworking, another hobby). In this first pic you can see the single stage Lee Challenger press on the left and the progressive Lee Loadmaster press on the right. I started out with the single stage press, cost about $150 to get set up with the dies etc. I then moved up to the Lee Progressive press.. With this press I can load much faster and I use it to load all my 45 Colt cartridges. Just to the left of the Lee Loadmaster progressive press you see another powder measure with some white stuff in it. That’s the Lee Perfect Powder Measure and the white stuff is Cream of Wheat. I use CoW as a filler for my pistol loads. I find that full strength pistol loads cause the trigger guard to smack into my fingers and that gets really bothersome after a while so I load 24gr of black powder (15gr is the minimum load for competition) and fill the rest of the space with CoW. I can tell you that my rounds still go BOOM and belch lots of flame and smoke and nobody I shoot with has any idea that they are not full loads so don’t be afraid to do this because you think you’ll be ribbed. Nobody will know unless you tell them and 24gr is still a pretty stout load. My rifle rounds get the full load and a tight crimp.
In this picture the tool at the far right is a bench mortiser which has nothing to do with reloading. To its left is my Ebay special MEC 600jr which I use to load my Black Powder shotgun shells. The tube with the funnel on it is a drop tube which is used to load my 45/70 rounds for use in my Winchester model 1885 BPCR rifle.
I will keep this page updated with my progress