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Cowboy Mounted Shooting Competitions

Updated on August 23, 2013
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.

What is cowboy mounted shooting? It is a new contest that combines horsemanship and marksmanship in one event. It is reminiscent of the early Wild West Shows with headliner stars like Calamity Jane, who demonstrated her shooting skills while riding at speed on her cowpony. The contestants of this modern-day contest are even dressed like the showmen and women of those famous circuses. In addition to a fun family oriented sport, mounted shooting is rootin' tootin' fun to watch if you are a spectator.

Fastest Growing Equestion Sport

A contestant at Double L Bar Shooters two day shoot, Raleigh Hunt Horse Complex, Raleigh, NC February 6/7, 2010
A contestant at Double L Bar Shooters two day shoot, Raleigh Hunt Horse Complex, Raleigh, NC February 6/7, 2010


“Cowboy Mounted Shooting is the Fastest Growing Equestrian Sport in the Nation,” claims The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association [C.M.S.A] founder Jim Rodgers.

Rules require contestants be dressed in Western garb of the Traditional or Classic Western Cowboy and their horses must be tacked in Western style gear.

Riders are required to shoot with a fixed sight single action Colt 45, one designed prior to 1898, or reproductions of that model. For safety sake they must use CMSA approved mounted shooting blanks that will consistently burst the helium balloon targets from a distance of not less than 10 feet and not more than 20 feet.

Contestants ride a prescribed pattern taken from the rulebook. They must shoot at ten helium balloon targets. Revolvers are used one at a time, loaded with five blanks each. With the first revolver, a competitor engages a random course of fire (the first half of the course). This random course shall be set in a safe manner in compliance with current rules and course design. Upon completing the random course, the competitor shall holster the now empty revolver, draw the second revolver and engage the second half of the course commonly called the “rundown”. Pistols must then be returned to the holsters.

While it is a timed contest, accuracy is a big part of the score. There is a 5 second penalty for each missed balloon, a 5 second penalty for dropping a gun, a 10 second pen­alty for being off course, and a 60 second penalty if the rider falls off the horse.

Cowboy Shooting contests are divided into various classes for different levels of experience, including classes for the youngsters. Any breed of horse or mule, purebred or not, can be used in this sport. Horses are trained to tolerate the sound of the gunshots so ones with even temperaments are desired, as well as being agile in sprinting, stopping and turning, and of course speed. These are qualities appreciated in stock horses that do ranch work and western contesting and stock horses, such as Quarter Horses, Paints, Appaloosas are the most common types of horses used.

Horse In Training For Mounted Shooting


CMSC founder, Jim Rodgers writes that mounted shooting contests date back to cavalry training for as long as there have been guns and horses. Mounted shooting exhibitions were popular events in the Wild West Shows like Buffalo Bill Cody’s in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The first organized Cowboy Mounted Shooting Competition was held at Winter Range the second week of February 1992, at Ben Avery Shooting Range north of Phoenix. To learn more about this fast growing equestrian sport visit he Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association website at


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    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      7 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Rebecca, it looks like so much fun! I am looking forward to the demo at the draft horse pull in Feb.

    • profile image

      Rebecca Falkner 

      7 years ago

      Great article! That is actually me in the second picture. I started about 2 years ago and have fallen in love with it!

    • profile image

      Cody McArthur 

      9 years ago

      Great Hub, I enjoyed hearing about it! I am a horse trainer from Canada and I happen to love my pistolarros i'd love to try this!

    • profile image

      Eddy Browning 

      9 years ago


      I continue to be impressed with your writing. This is an excellent and very informing article. I've only seen it on television or in the old western shows. I have always thought it to be my favorite event if I could see a real "rodeo". You created a "hunger" to know more and that is quite a feat. A great article that I enjoyed!!!

    • grannygoodearth profile image


      9 years ago from Midwest

      This is one of my favorite favorite events! I was able to see an exhibitition last March at the Illinois Horse Show in Springfield. It is amazing to see what they can do in such a short period of time! My friend and I laughed at the thought of our horses doing such work! Mine sometimes spooks at the sight of a mailbox and hers jumps in fear of the sight of those killer street signs!!! Great article!

    • JDove-Miller profile image


      9 years ago from YOUNGSVILLE

      Pretty strict rules... making the contest even more difficult than it looks.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 

      9 years ago

      Sounds great! Kind of like the playdays I remember as a kid, but with a very different twist. Enjoyed it.


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