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A Beginner's Guide to Cowboy Mounted Shooting

A Beginner's Guide to Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Cowboy mounted shooting is one of the fastest-growing equestrian sports in the U.S. But what is mounted shooting exactly? This beginner's guide will walk you through all the basics, including how to get started in mounted shooting, essential cowboy mounted shooting supplies and much more.

What Is Cowboy Mounted Shooting?

Cowboy mounted shooting is an up-and-coming sport that mixes riding and shooting like nothing else. You'll feel like you're back in the wild west when you participate in this high-spirited competition. In a nutshell, mounted shooting consists of a rider on horseback racing around a track while shooting at targets.

However, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. Read on for details on how to get into competitive shooting.

A Beginner's Guide to Cowboy Mounted Shooting

How Does Mounted Shooting Work?

Each contestant shoots targets using two .45 caliber single-action revolvers while running around a track on horseback. But don't worry — each gun is loaded with five rounds of special ammunition so there is no risk of injury due to gunfire. There are over 50 different courses, and each event is timed. Scoring is based on the accuracy of the shots and time.

How To Get Into Competitive Shooting

If you think that this sounds fun, the first thing to do is find a local competition. There, you will experience the thrill first hand as you watch the riders compete. After you fall in love with the sport, as we're sure you will, it's time to get yourself and your horse ready and take the next steps in your journey as you learn how to become a competitive shooter.

How to Get Started in Mounted Shooting

Once you have decided to try cowboy mounted shooting, you'll need to learn the rules and start practicing. The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) offers all levels of competitions from beginner to professional. They have specific requirements that must be met and are a resource for local trainers, clinics and events.

The Horse

First of all, you need a horse. But not just any horse — one that's been gun broke so they won't spook during the competition. Acclimating your horse to the noise prior to getting into cowboy mounted shooting is essential.

The Attire

When participating in cowboy mounted shooting contests, you must dress Western. You can choose from modern-day traditional Western-style or you can dress in the fashion of the late 1800s. Examples of appropriate clothing include:

  • Traditional — long-sleeved Western-style shirt, five-pocket jeans, chinks or chaps, Western boots and a cowboy hat.
  • Late 1800's — shirts without collars, high-waisted pants with buttons or saddle seat pants, suspenders, vests and an old-style cowboy hat.

The Guns

In most competitions, two .45 caliber single-action revolvers are used. The revolvers must be designed prior to 1898 but can also be reproductions. In some more advanced competitions, rifles or shotguns can be used. Instead of live ammunition, each handgun is loaded with five rounds of special blank ammunition that can pop a balloon but can't injure people or animals. In keeping with the 1800's theme, the brass cartridges are loaded with black gun powder.

The Courses

There are more than 50 possible course patterns in cowboy mounted shooting. Each pattern includes ten balloons: five each of two colors. One color of the balloons will be spaced out throughout the course. The rider starts their ride by shooting all of the balloons of that first color. After those have been eliminated, the rider then heads for the Rundown, the final five balloons arranged in a straight row leading to the finish line.

The Competition

Each competition consists of between three to six patterns per day. Cowboys are scored based on a combination of time and accuracy. Penalties are incurred for missed balloons, dropped guns, an improper run and falling off of the horse.

Accuracy is more important than speed. Typical patterns can be run in only about 15-35 seconds, so penalties will really hurt your score.

Cowboy Mounted Shooting Supplies

The gear for mounted shooting is pretty simple. Besides the usual tack and your western attire, the main items you need are guns, ammo, holsters and targets. At NRS, we have a wide selection of the best mounted shooting supplies for all your practice and competition needs. The basic gear consists of:

Earplugs for Horses

Earplugs protect the horse's ears and help to acclimate the animal to the sudden loud sounds that are found in the arena.

Pistol Cases

Pistol cases for cowboy mounted shooting are designed so the rider can holster one gun and draw the second with incredible speed. Because of all the action during the ride, they are made to hold the guns very securely to prevent them from falling out.

Blank Ammunition

We only carry CMSA-certified competition pistol blanks. Each brass cartridge is filled with black powder and adheres to maximum allowed distance standards.


Our 9" competition balloons are 100% biodegradable. They come in packs of two colors. Quantity discounts are available.

* The exact featured products may not currently be available, but don't worry — we always have cowboy mounted shooting supplies in stock.

Give Cowboy Mounted Shooting a Shot

So now that you know what cowboy mounted shooting is and how to become a competitive shooter, all you need is the right gear and some practice to get into the sport of cowboy mounted shooting. Shop our selection of essential cowboy mounted shooting supplies today!

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