Have you ever watched a movie cowboy galloping along on his trusty steed, shooting at threats as they charge past? Scenes such as this have been captured in movies for decades, allowing viewers the chance to sit on the edge of their seats as the action plays out. It is not just in movies that such scenes occur; mounted shooting actually dates back to the cavalry in the 1800's when being able to shoot from horseback often meant the difference between life and death.
These days mounted shooting is making a comeback in the form of a sporting activity. By combining two .45 caliber single action revolvers loaded with blank ammunition (black powder loads capable of breaking a balloon at a distance of about 15 feet) and a horse, mounted shooting has moved from the movie screen and off of the pages of books into the modern world. In this growing sport, riders must dress in western clothing, either traditional or old time in style which includes five pocket jeans, chaps or chinks, cowboy boot, a long sleeve western shirt, and a cowboy hat. You will also need to find an appropriate gun belt and holster. This could be something mass produced that you can buy straight off the shelf or you may wish to have yours custom made.
Photo: Orschel Farm Home
Once you are outfitted and ready to go, you will need a horse that is or can be trained to become accustomed to gun fire. This is a very important step in the success of a mounted shooter; horses are naturally easily startled so it can take a bit of time and positive reinforcement to get them used to the sound of shots being fired. Hiring an experienced trainer is your safest bet, or you can purchase a finished mounted shooting horse that already knows his job. If you prefer, a mule can be used instead, but regardless of the equine you choose, the animal needs to be athletic and even tempered as well as compatible with you as a rider. The horse is likely the most important component of a successful mounted shooting team and not just any animal will suit this purpose.
Photo: Horsemen Online
When it comes time to select a gun, you are going to need two .45 caliber single action revolvers modeled after designs from the 1800's. A good weapon of choice for the sport of mounted shooting is the Ruger Vaquero Montado. This gun is a single-action revolver and it meets the requirements for use in cowboy mounted shooting competitions. Chambered in .45 Colt and bearing a 3-3/4" barrel, the weight and size of this gun has been reduced to make it easy to handle for mounted shooters, which is especially helpful as you draw and holster with a possibly 1,200lb animal thundering beneath you which still requires concentration and control to maneuver. The frame of the Vaquero Montado is made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel and the gun itself is modeled off of the same frame used on the Ruger New Vaquero. It has a wide hammer spur to enable easy cocking on the move and grips designed to give you an optimal hold as you move about, shooting at targets from horseback.
Photo: Spokane Gun Trader
There are several different mounted shooting associations (Mounted Shooters of America, Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, and others) and various patterns you may be asked to shoot, but the concept always remains the same. You move as quickly and safely as possible, maneuvering your horse around a course where you will shoot balloons with penalties for mistakes such as dropping your gun, missing balloons, or even falling off your horse, which brings up another point; in addition to having a good horse that is well suited for the job, you are going to need to have to know how to ride. Riding lessons from a qualified instructor can provide a solid foundation for the type of riding you will do while shooting from horseback.
Photo: Blog Chron
If you're interested in a fun activity to entertain the whole family (child participants have different competition rules than adults) that is kept safe by range masters and event organizers, mounting shooting just might be calling your name. Should you want to travel back in time and be the cowboy you dreamed of as a kid, here is your chance.
Are you a mounted shooting participant? Do you use the Ruger Vaquero Montado or another firearm? Let us know about your experience and preferences in the comments!