Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) is one of the fastest growing and arguably the most fun shooting sports around. Where else can you dress up like a cowboy and shoot real old west style six-shooters, rifles, and shotguns in a fun, friendly and competitive atmosphere? If you are just starting out in the sport you’re going to need a few things. First and foremost are the guns and leather. If you don’t already have what you need in your collection then this will be a pricey but very necessary proposition. The other thing you’ll need is to look the part and to do that you have to have a costume. If you’re in the process of saving (or spending) your money on the shooting irons then chances are you’re going to want to be a bit more frugal on your clothes, at least at first.
1. Watch an actual CAS shooting match. You will get a good idea of what goes on and what you’ll need to have in order to participate. Introduce yourself and ask questions. You’ll find that CAS shooters are some of the friendliest people around and most will be happy to answer and offer advice. Some may even offer to let you try out their guns. If you aren’t sure if there is a club in your area you can check by visiting the website of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) and looking at the “Affiliated Clubs” link (see Resources below). While you’re poking around the SASS site be sure to download and read the Shooter’s and Range Officer’s Handbooks. These will explain your equipment and clothing needs, shooting categories and their requirements, as well as safety and match rules.
2. Start with a basic shooting costume. With the exception of two shooting categories, in most cases your costume can consist of a cowboy hat, long-sleeved work shirt, blue jeans and boots. If you’d like to go a little farther you can add a bandana and/or cut the belt loops off of the jeans and add suspenders. At most clubs and under most circumstances this will be all you need with regard to clothing and many shooters are happy to leave it at that. Many are not. If you’d like to take your costume beyond the basics you can without spending a fortune.
3. Spend some time looking at western movies and western pictures. Look around on the Internet. Search for websites related to CAS. Follow some of the links to clothing vendors on the SASS site. The goal is to get an idea what the cowboy clothing should look like.
4. Start at Goodwill, Salvation Army or other thrift stores. Long-sleeved banded collar shirts–that is, button up shirts that have no collar–are ideal for CAS use and usually sell for around $3 at a thrift store. If you can’t find banded collar shirts then regular dress shirts can work by carefully cutting off the collar at the seam. Look for shirts with pleated fronts. Check out the pants selection. You can’t go wrong with solid black, brown, olive or khaki. Depending on the look you’re going for, herringbone or other small patterns could work too. If you’re going for the work-a-day typical cowboy look then heavier twill style work pants will look better than dress trousers. Look for vests, button-style suspenders, bandanas and sometimes you’ll even get lucky and find hats and boots.
5. Stop at discount retailers such as Wal-Mart. Comb through the clearance racks for anything you can use. If you’ve been lucky so far and have found pants and button-style suspenders then head to the sewing and fabric section and look for metal suspender buttons. Sometimes they’re called bachelor buttons. Each button is in two pieces. One side presses through the fabric of the pants and the other side secures it in place.
6. Check Internet auction sites such as eBay. You can search directly for CAS related clothing but often you’ll have better success treating it like a trip to the thrift store and looking through general sections for something that will work. This is a good source for hats, boots, vests and some other items like dusters that can be more difficult to find locally. Once you have the main costume together you can start dressing it up with some finishing items like pocket watches with chains and match safes which are also readily available on eBay.
7. Make some minor modifications. Probably the most important thing you’ll want to do is to CAREFULLY cut the belt loops off of the pants then install the suspender buttons at the waist. Look at pictures for guidance and it helps to wait until you actually have the suspenders you’ll be using so you’ll know exactly where to place the buttons.
8. Put it all together.
9. Shoot safely and have fun!
10. HAVE FUN!