View Full Version : Cowboy action weapons

February 21, 2002, 06:48 PM
To coin the phrase from Sgt. Schultz "I Know Nothing". Well almost. I am leaning towards cowboy action shooting and could use some friendly advice and guidance. First hurdle is I can't afford $1200 Colt's as I have that Italian affliction called Mafunzalow. :D
Thought a pair of .357's with a .357 rifle and a used 12 ga.double should be a good start for a novice. Thinking that shooting .38s should be the least costly. However I am open to caliber for the right reasons. I don't plan on traveling to every shoot on the East coast so I believe the abuse is going to be limited. I would like to know is how the cheaper guns like the Dakota or Rodeo. I don't mind getting a good revolver and a mediocore one. Any suggestions for leather??

Nanaimo Barr
February 22, 2002, 12:16 AM
a pair of Ruger Blackhawks in .357 (or the Vaquaro for a bit more money) and a Rossi Lever in .357 will have you good to go in a short time for a LOT less money than a Colt (you can all that for less than the price of a Colt).

and a good side by side can be had if your not to fussy about external hammers.

also, I sugest looking at reloading.. that will save you a LOT of money in the long run.

February 22, 2002, 02:22 AM
Try .44-40 if you want to move up to blackpowder. Many of the Colt clones can be had in .44-40 and there are the Marlin lever-action rifles chambered in .44-40 as well.

Be sure to get into handloading, it will save you lots of money.


W Bell
February 24, 2002, 02:58 PM
You have 357's (read .38) why not go with that?
I like .45 Colt. But I have to have a real good day to stay with
the .38 crowd. I have a Vaquero in .38, and it teaches me that .38 is faster, but I'm hardheaded, and I love my .45's.
Its the recoil time that makes the .38 faster.

Good Luck

February 24, 2002, 09:39 PM
Gee I have a 4.5" EAA BountyHunter in .357. They are fairly cheap and seem to be a good compromise. Acuracy is better than I am. Fit and finish are real good, Transfer bar saftey and fairly beefy cylinder for saftey. Size is medium. It is right between a colt and a ruger, but a little cheaper than a ruger. I love my super blackhawk, but my bountyhunter is my favorite carry. Aroud here they go for around $300 so I think reasonable. My2 cents worth. Oh and if you can find it my only regret is blued frame the Case Colored look alot better.

February 25, 2002, 09:08 PM
A bit more info. I'm heading towards 60 so I don't need guns to last all that long, unfortunately. My wife may also want to use them(younger than me of course). We don't plan on going to very many shoots, just local. I don't want junk cause that can take the fun out of things. Laying down hundreds for Colts, et al. just doesn't seem to be the way to go but I will if it comes to that. Also the .38/357 route was so both of us could shoot. The bounty hunter seems reasonable. Can they be "tuned" and is it worth it on those guns?? Waiting around for someone to sell their guns is not favorable either. Appreciate the feedback.

Jim Watson
February 25, 2002, 11:42 PM

I'M headed toward 60, too.
That means my guns have to be good. I am too old and cantankerous to fool with junk. Looking at the other cowpokes at CAS, I might have 20 good years there, too; so they do have to last.

I recommend starting out with Rugers. They are as trouble free as any, better than most. You will not wear them out. Your grandson will not wear them out. Nothing wrong with .38-.357. Low cost, low recoil, easy to reload if you are set up.

Your wife might find them a bit heavy, even two-handed. If so, she could certainly handle the Vaquerito - .32 H&R on the Single Six frame. And she should really have guns of her own, anyway.
Manageable sixguns and rifle and shotgun with stocks short enough for her.

Blackhawks with adjustable sights put you in Modern category. Vaqueros with fixed sights can be shot in Traditional (two handed), Duelist (one handed), or Gunfighter (gun in each hand, looks good, takes a LOT of practice; safety examination a lot of places.)

Lots of folks do good shooting with Colt clones from AWA, EMF, Cimarron, Uberti, and USFA. You might need to get to know a good gunsmith for a bit of tuning, but that is not complicated or terribly expensive. Real Colts are just horribly expensive and are a luxury, no advantage but the name.

Marlin rifle.
Winchester 94s in revolver calibers are a little spotty. I don't know how the 92 clones are doing with the current makers and importers. Uberti clone 73s are very nice and can be made amazingly slick, but are more expensive.

The IGA/Stoeger Brazilian made double barrel shotgun can be smoothed up to do quite well. Otherwise look for a solid old rabbit gun. Avoid Baikal from Russia, the only one I have seen is still rough and stiff after work that would have left an IGA running smoothly. If you find a gun with ejectors have them disabled, SASS doesn't allow them. If you get a gun with an automatic safety, have it disabled, it will slow you down and you seldom need a safety at all. Shotguns are staged empty so you pick it up, load it, and immediately shoot, 90% of the time. Go ahead and get 12 gauge, the Winchester Low Noise, Low Recoil load - known as the Featherlight from the feather on the label - has less recoil than a 20 gauge in those lighter guns.

Me - I shoot a Colt and a Cimarron plus a Winchester 92. All in 44-40. Not a beginner's caliber. I took some learning to load good ammo. A Verney Carron double 12. French make about 1920, WW II Occupation loot.

The best shooters of my acquaintance shoot Vaquero (his) and Uberti (hers) sixguns, Marlin (hers) and Uberti (his) rifles - all .38s - with IGA (hers) and Winchester 97 (his) shotguns.

Check out the SASS Wire
There is a world of experience there.

February 26, 2002, 10:05 AM
Thanks Jim,
My wife and I are almost the same size(OK, I'm a little bigger around the waist:). She can shoot my .40 Sig P239 with no problem but prefers her Colt .380. Could you comment on what someone told me and that is the .38/357 loads were "screamers" meaning they make a lot of noise more so than a .44??

Jim Watson
February 26, 2002, 12:44 PM
"Screamer" .38s?
Not a chance. Ridiculous, even.
Full charge magnums are not allowed in CAS, +P is not necessary; the limit is 1000 fps revolver and 1400 fps rifle. I know one guy who loads .32-20 as fast as allowed. Nearly everybody else uses the lightest loads available. Like mid-range target loads except that wadcutters are not allowed (and probably wouldn't feed through a lever action anyway.) A 125 grain conical .38 at maybe 750 fps is not much louder than a .22lr. More like a .380 than a .40, comparing with what you already have in the house. A 200 grain .44 or .45 at the same velocity just kind of booms. You will be wearing ear protection anyway, and under that there is no real difference. A short shotgun has a heavy slam of report and is much the loudest gun there. In fact, you will usually shoot the shotgun last in the stage in case the timer has trouble picking up the sound of target loads in rifle and pistol.

Note: CAS matches are pretty much four gun events; two sixguns, shotgun, and rifle. The rifle has to be in a pistol caliber. Not necessarily the SAME caliber, although it is convenient. Some places are running a ranchhand category which only requires one revolver, to save expenses for new shooters. I have seen couples sharing a pair. He wears one, she wears the other, each with an empty holster for use in the stage. Most stages call for three guns, many for all four. So you will often be firing 5 from one sixgun, 5 from the other, 8-10 from the rifle, and 2 or more shotgun. Ranchhands have to reload their only sixgun on the clock. Otherwise, reloading rifle or pistol on the clock is uncommon. Sometimes you will have to load one extra shot to finish up. On the other hand, you will often fire multiple pairs from the shotgun. You can use a hammer pump - Winchester 97 or the Communist Chinese copy - but can load it with only two. The faster shooters usually shoot it single shot! There is a technique.

Uncle Jim
SASS badge 3879

Nanaimo Barr
February 26, 2002, 02:24 PM
if you reload, I HIGHLY recomend Bear Creek's Molly lubed lead Round Nosed Flat Point bullets, and for the shotgun, hunt around untill you can find the Winchester AA "Featherlights" shotgun shells. (the ones with the gold feather on the box), AA 12FL8. 50% less noise and recoil it says on the box, but when your shooting 10 or 12 or 14 rounds of shot in a single stage, that reduced recoil sure makes it more tolerable and fun with a side by side.

February 26, 2002, 07:38 PM
Personally I tend to prefer the .45 Colt and .44-40 cartriges. Mainly because they are more "period approperiate", lend themselves to using black powder quite well and still have a bit of thump to them on the other end. While Ruger Vaquaros and Blackhawks are pretty popular, I refuse to buy Ruger guns due to Bill Ruger's pro-gun control politics. With the Rugers out of the question I went with some of the Italian imports and have no problems with them at all. To date I have one Cimmeron .45 Colt, an EMF Hartford in .44-40 and one of EMF's 1875 Remington revolvers in .45 Colt. All of them are top-notch guns and not all that expensive either. Recently my re-enactment group was looking into getting a revolver to raffle off for a fund raiser and here's some of the guns we came up with and what the dealer price is on them:

EMF Hartford model (1873 Colt clone): In .45 Colt, .44-40, .357 Magnum, .38-40, .32-30 and .44 Special with either 4 3/4, 5 1/2, or 7 1/2 barrel will cost you $279.90

EMF Dakota model (1873 Colt clone): In .45 Colt, .44-40 or .357 magnum in the 4 3/4, 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 in barrel lengths are going for $235.00

EMF 1875 Remington: Comes in .45 Colt, .44-40 and .357 magnum with either 5 1/2 or 7 1/2 inch barrels are going for $319.00

EMF 1875 S&W Schofield: Probably a little more than you are wanting to pay but their break-open design makes for very fast reloading. They come with the 5 1/2 inch barreled Wells Fargo model or the longer 7 1/2 inch barreled cavalry model. These only come in .45 Colt though. Going price on these are $525.00

Cimmeron 1873 Custer cavalry model (Colt clone): These are the same 1873 Colt revolvers that EMF has but they come in a much more beautiful (though not as durable) charcoal blue finish on an old-model frame. Their big deal is that they have the correct markings for Custer's 7th Cavalry companies and only come in .45 Colt with a 7 1/2 inch barrel which is also correct for a cavalry model revolver. The going price on these are $349.00

Cimmeron 1872 Open-top: This is the predicessor to the 1873 Colt revolver that sort of bridges the gap between the cap-n-ball age and the newer Colts that came out the next year. They have the open top of the cap and ball revolvers but have a cylinder that can take metalic cartrige ammunition. Barrel lengths can be had in 5 1/2 or 7 1/2 inches. Ammo listings for this revolver are .44 Colt, .44 Russian, .45 Schofield, .38 Colt and .38 Special. Keep in mind though that you have to use low pressure rounds or black powder with these guns though due to their more fragile (though very eligant) design. Going price on these are $369.00 This by the way was the gun my cavalry re-enactment group went with in the .44 Colt/.44 Russian chambering.

As far as rifles go, you might want to check out one of the Rossi rifles or one of EMF's Hartford 1892 rifles if you are on a budget. I have one of Cimmeron's 1873 Winchesters in .45 Colt and another Cabela's Uberti 1866 rifle in .44-40 that are my favorites. Problem with those two rifles are that they are not cheap. :( Rossi makes a good gun and I have had one of their carbines for a few years. EMF is now importing a clone of the 1892 Winchester as well that is carrying a decent price to it as well.

As far as the 1866 Winchester clones from Uberti go, these are the brass framed Winchester rifles and can be had in .45 Colt, .44-40, .38 special, .38-40 and .44 Special. The carbines with their 20" barrels are going for $579 and the rifles with their 24" barrels are $20 more for $599.

The 1873 Winchester clones from Cimmeron are a little stronger with their steel frames and the side plates that are easy to remove make cleaning up after black powder the easiest ones to clean. Their calibers come in .45 Colt, .44-40, .357 Magnum, .38 Special, .44 Special, .38-40, and .32-20. Here you can get extra long barrels but the two most common lengths, the 20" carbine and the 24" rifle, cost $679 for the carbines and $719 for the rifles. They also have the short rifle that looks similar to the full size rifle but with the barrel cut back to the carbine's 20" length going for the same price as the full size rifle of $719.

The EMF 1892 Hartford models are clones of the Winchester 1892 rifle. It appears they only come in .45 Colt and can be had with either the 24 inch rifle barrel or the 20 inch carbine barrel. The prices on these rifles are pretty cheap and would probably make a VERY good entry level rifle into the sport. Here dealer prices are listed as $366.90 for the rifles and $267.90 for the carbines.

Jim Watson
February 26, 2002, 08:42 PM
Well, Ivalley, you can see everybody has his own ideas about what to shoot. What a surprise.

My next suggestion is to get yourself to a shoot and get acquainted. I bet you will soon find yourself with all manner of guns for you and the little lady to try out. Then you can buy with some assurance of getting what you want.

Has anybody talked to you about clothes?
Jeans, work shirt, boots and hat will get you by, but from there the sky's the limit.

Are you thinking of an alias? Can't go by your right name at these shindigs, it might be on a wanted poster.

February 27, 2002, 07:20 PM
Hey Jim Watson,

Yes, can't wait till they startup around here, another 6 weeks.
My object in asking about guns now is to start on seperating the wheat from the chafe, so when I do get to the shoots I have some perspective. Like I do believe the case hardened look is good but as of this moment I don't know if its "period" correct. Also, I know I won't be happy with anything that isn't a dead ringer for a Peacemaker. As of now I am leaning your way on quality of weapon, get the best I think can afford, then go up a notch. Cimmarons look good, if Vaqueros look and feel like a Colt that will be good on the pocketbook.
Clothes, I believe its gonna be close to what I got in the closet, check my profile:).
Believe it or not I have thought about an alias. I'll have to get acquainted with what is politically corrrect, can't use "Leadslinger Slim" if I get weird looks.
Thanks NODAKMARINE, you thoughts were welcome.
Well this thread is getting long, so Adios and Jim feel free to email.

Jim Watson
February 27, 2002, 08:11 PM
Aw, why not stretch the thread out a little longer.

Guns: My left hand gun is a Cimarron and is ok as a mate to my 3rd generation Colt. I polished up the action a bit myself, put on hard rubber grips to match the Colt, and had FLG square the rear sight and torque the barrel to roll the front sight for zero. It is an old one made by Armi San Marcos. American Western Arms bought out ASM and sells those guns under the AWA brand, now. Current Cimarrons are made for them by Uberti. Likewise older EMFs are ASM, later are Uberti. Then there are Taylor's, Navy Arms and I don't know who all else importing Ubertis. Oh yeah, Uberti USA. US Firearms - USFA (previously US Patent Firearms) got started assembling Uberti parts in the old Colt factory, but now claim to be making most stuff in house and the rest US procurement.
Color case hardening is fully authentic to the period.
Rugers are not direct Colt copies. Externally, they are about 15% bigger and heavier. Internally they are considerably different. They are virtually indestructable, but they do not feel just like a Colt.
Read up on the SASS wire - link in earlier post - you can find people for and against any make and model. Which might be confusing, but guns are mass produced items and you are just going to have to make the best choice you can. Hopefully after looking at and trying some.

Clothes: I see what'cha mean.

Alias: Nothing wrong with "Leadslinger Slim" (as long as it isn't take, which it might be with around 40,000 members) but the little lady has to have one too. Again, look at some of the signatures on the Wire. Note that there are plenty of conventioneers who don't shoot at CAS affairs, they just like to dress up and socialize.

March 18, 2002, 04:09 PM
Between my daughter and I, we have 4 Vaqueros, 2 Marlins, a Stevens 311 SxS and a Winchester 97. We have had no problems with any of them. I shoot all .44 and she shoots all .357 (both loaded down to CAS specs). Both shotguns are 12ga. All four Vaqueros have Bunkhouse spring kits, which I installed myself.

Alex Johnson
March 18, 2002, 05:07 PM
How about going the cap and ball route. A good pair of 1860's or 51's wouldn't set you back as much as one good vaquero and you'd certainly be authentic. I could walk across the street right now and buy a nice pair of 1851's from the local Cabelas store for under $200. Add a Rossi leveraction (or if your feeling more plush over the money your saving a Uberti Henry, or 1866) finish it off with a slightly worn 75 year old double 12 guage and you'd be in business.

March 18, 2002, 05:32 PM
I had the opportunity to shoot a few rounds out of some Colts, Cimmarons and Rugers at our local CAS last Saturday. I guess I couldn't stop grinning when one of the guys loaded up two Colt 45's and said "here try'em one in each hand". I have been leaning to the 38s or even 32s but later one shooters mentioned this: When you shoot one-handed, one or two guns, the recoil on the heavier calibers lift the gun up so you actually can recock quicker and easier. I really didn't think about it at the time. Does this really help?? I'm not planning on being competitive but "never say never".

Jim Watson
March 18, 2002, 08:14 PM
Well, it's a story. One I've not heard.
But the hot competitive speed shooters mostly shoot .38's. Less recoil means less disturbance of sight picture and delay in target acquisition. Cocking off the roll of a manly caliber looks and feels good, but faster it isn't.
The .32-20 is harder to load for and I don't know how the .32 H&R Vaqueritos are doing in high level competition. Great for the small statured, though. A .32 H&R Uberti SAA clone would be something to think about. There is interest in a .32 H&R lever action, if one of the companies can be convinced enough will sell to make it pay.
Me, I shoot .44-40. But it has been a while since I have won anything. Small calibers and younger guys practicing more have taken me out of contention.