A Cowboy Action Shooting class…

Busman’s Holiday
She got a .38 Special, but I believe
it’s most too light
She got a .38 Special, but I believe
it’s most too light
I got a .32-20, got to make
the camps alright
— Robert Johnson

“The .32-20 Blues” Since mostly what I do is travel, shoot, and film shooting, it only makes sense when I have a couple of days off, I … go shooting. Specifically, with a tiny break between THE BEST DEFENSE and SHOOTING GALLERY schedules, I snuck in a two-day Cowboy Action Shooting™ class with Evil Roy and Wicked Felina.

I’ve known Evil and Wicked roughly forever … they and granddaughter, Holy Terror, were instructors in the National Shooting Sports Foundation media education project, which I headed up, and you’ve seen them on numerous episodes of COWBOYS. In fact, next season Evil Roy will be a regular, handling our instructional segment. But, as many times as I’ve worked with them, I’d never actually taken a class.

So why do I need a class in something I do every available weekend (and most of the week days)? Same reason you should consider a class. A good instructor — and Evil Roy is far more than a good instructor — can see small details about your shooting that can make a huge difference in your results. The problem is our shooting “style,” for lack of a better word, is always evolving, and not always in a good way. As I’ve said repeatedly on my shows, shooting is a perishable skill, one that requires repeated practice. And, regardless of what the old saw says, only perfect practice makes perfect!

So how easy is it to pick up bad habits? Pretty much on par with picking up cat hair on a black sweater when you go visit the nice neighbor lady with 42 housecats and a broken vacuum cleaner! Back in the old days of IPSC, we used to say the sport was a way to learn how sloppy we could be and still hit the target … judging by some of the Cowboy Action Shooting™ shooters I’ve seen — including myself on occasions — there’s still a lot of that thinking around.

If you’ve been shooting for awhile, the function of an instructor is to “recalibrate” you to the straight and narrow. Here’s an example … one of the goals I wanted out of the Evil Roy class was speeding up my draw. I can reliably deliver an aimed shot in less than two seconds, which is nowhere near as fast as when I shot practical pistol. And drawing the gun means more in Cowboy Action Shooting™ than in some of the other sports — in USPSA or IDPA, I would normally have just one draw for a stage that might take as many as 20 or more rounds (hence the emphasis on speedy reloading in those sports).

In a 10 stage practical pistol match, there’d be 10 draws or less if the gun was staged on a table. On a high round-count stage, a quarter or even a half second off on a draw isn’t going to make that much difference. In a 10 stage Cowboy Action Shooting™ match with rank point scoring, there will likely be 20 draws, and shaving half-a-second off a draw yields a whopping 10 seconds off in that 10 stage match!

Evil Roy instructing a new cowboy action shooter at Tin Star Ranch in Frederickburg, Texas.

Evil Roy spent a disproportionate amount of time staring at my draw, then came up with not one, but two “a-ha!” moments. You’re gripping the gun like a 1911!” he said, which when translated into Normal English means I was establishing a dead-perfect grip on the gun before moving into the draw, a perfectly logical response if I were getting ready to shoot 20 rounds of IPSC Major .45 ACP loads from four different positions at small paper targets where a bad grip would have huge consequences in controlling the gun. Not so logical if I were shooting five shots of Cowboy Action Shooting™ .38s at large steel targets, where a less-than-perfect grip would have far fewer consequences.

The second a-ha was for the amount of rearward pressure my weak hand was exerting on the revolver, the correct amount being “none.”

There’s the half-second … all I need to do is repeat the draw four or five thousand times, and it’s my half-second. Ah, Little Grasshopper … I know what you’re thinking … does it really make that much difference? At least twice a week on the Wire there’s a thread about “having fun” versus “being competitive.” I never have much understood the controversy. I don’t know about you, but I believe in being better … not just in SASS but in all the important things I do in my life. I want next year’s episodes of COWBOYS to be better than this year’s episodes. I want my relationship to get better and better as each year passes. Heck, there’s even improvement possible in my chili recipe, although it’s darn near perfect.

The great thing about Cowboy Action Shooting™ is it is a tool to train us how to get better in many things. We learned in the Evil Roy class to move forward in quarter- or half-second intervals, to eliminate the unnecessary motions as we transition from gun to gun, to set small, achievable goals, and work relentlessly toward them. In short, while Gene Pearcey, Evil Roy, is providing the tips and techniques we think we need to succeed as a shooter, he’s also giving us a way to think, a methodology that will lead us to change. That is maybe the most important part of the class, because unfortunately Evil Roy and Wicked Felina can’t camp out in my living room to remind me of what I need to do on a daily basis. It’s up to me. I submit the same methodology will work for repairing your porch, starting a new business, building a relationship or anything else in your life where change seems impossible—small steps, achievable goals, elimination of time wasters, and commitment.

Think about it! And visit EvilRoyShootingSchool.com … tell him Wolf Bane sent you!

(Wolf Bane, SASS #13557, is the alias for Michael Bane, veteran shooter, gunwriter, and producer of the OUTDOOR CHANNEL series, COWBOYS, SHOOTING GALLERY, and THE BEST DEFENSE. You can find an excerpt of his most recent book, TRAIL SAFE, at: http://www.flyingdragonltd.us/trail-safe.htm.

This article is also published in Cowboy Chronicle, February 2010 Edition.


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