Running Single Actions

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posted on April 23, 2010
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I’ve been shooting single-action revolvers for a long time. Fact is, the first handgun I bought was a Colt New Frontier .22 LR/WMR. Since then there has been quite a few thumb-busters that have gone through my hands. So I kinda figured I knew my way around single actions. And I do, provided it’s for hunting. Recently, however, I’ve taken up cowboy action shooting, and it has been—and continues to be—an interesting experience learning how to really run a single-action revolver.


Cowboy action shooting is a speed game. Accuracy is also a factor, but since the targets are relatively large and close, the ability to hit them isn’t too difficult—until the pressure of the clock is introduced. Shooting two-handed using a modern technique, it isn’t too difficult to dump five rounds onto as many steel targets in about 4 to 5 seconds. But I have decided to shoot “Duelist,” which means one-handed. That’s a different matter.

Take a single-action revolver—ensuring that it is empty, of course—and go through a dry-firing exercise slowly. You should see a fair amount of extraneous movement and manipulating of the pistol in order to position it for cocking, cocking it and repositioning the pistol to shoot accurately. Add recoil recovery, and there’s a whole lot going on in your shooting hand. Now do it faster, and make dang sure you don’t drop the pistol in the process.

Hurry too much and you’ll miss, even at 3 to 5 yards. I’ve done it. Thankfully, I haven’t dropped a gun during a match—a transgression that will get you DQ’ed—but I have when trying to run the gun faster than my hand is capable of while practicing by myself. If you really want an education in gun handling, try one-handed point-shooting—no sights.

True, cowboy action shooting has little that directly applies to hunting. However, gun handling does have direct applications to hunting, and I would argue the better one’s gun handling abilities, especially with a variety of firearms, the better his performance will be in the field. Too, the speed games require us to sharpen our target acquisition skills. Anyway, it’s all fun, and it’s all good, even with my shooting ego bruised.

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