Cowboy Mounted Shooting


September 30, 2023


Cowboy Mounted Shooting is a speed and precision based equine sport. The California Desperados began in 1994 and held their first competition (Shoot) in 1995.

At the time, the ammunition and everything else about the sport was being developed. Rules were changing regularly and competitors were inventing the techniques. Early "Shoots" we often held in open fields or desert meadows. Today, rules of the sport and the courses engaged in competition are defined in rule books. The championship level shoots are held at some of the premier equestrian facilities, such as the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mounted contestants compete in this fast action timed event using two .45 caliber single action revolvers each loaded with five rounds of specially prepared and certified blank ammunition. This special ammunition will pop balloons consistently at a range of 15 feet but will not pop them consistently at 30 feet. There is a dress code: you may either dress in traditional western style or you can dress in the old time style of the late 1800s. Traditional style includes a long sleeve western shirt, five pocket blue jeans covered by chinks or chaps, western boots and a cowboy hat. If you prefer "rolling back the clock" to the late 1800s try to look as authentic to the period as possible, by wearing shirts without collars, and high-waist pants with buttons, no zippers and an old style cowboy hat, for example.

Mounted Shooters use .45 caliber single action revolvers like those used in the late 1800s. Single action revolvers must be cocked each time before firing by drawing the hammer back. 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 Men's and Women's Divisions, with Classes 1-6 within each of those divisions. There is also a Wrangler Class for those 11 and under. All riders start at Class 1. When a rider gets a qualified win as a Class 1 four times, they advance to Class 2, and when they get a qualified win in Class 2 four times, they advance to Class 3. Four wins at Class 3 and on to Class 4, 5 wins at Class 4, etc. 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 10-25 seconds, so penalties can really hurt. Safety in horse training and firearm handling are emphasized at all times. Many clubs sponsor clinics to assist new shooters in starting their horses and learn the basics of safe firearm handling. Range masters are in the arena at all times during competitions to ensure 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. A competition may consist of 3 to 6 patterns a day. Each pattern consists of 10 balloons. To give you an idea of riding a pattern, let's say that there are five white balloons and five red balloons. The five white balloons may be grouped together in one place or spread out over the entire arena. The rider shoots all 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 the red balloons, which are usually five in a row straight toward the finish line. This is called "the Rundown."

They will be at the "Rain Check" Rodeo on Oct. 14 at the Tehachapi Rodeo Grounds.


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