The United States has always had a love for archetype characters. They serve as national models for emulation. While the histories surrounding these individuals and groups may be a bit sanitized or exaggerated, depending upon the needs of the audience, their ultimate purpose is to serve as guides both for our youth, as well as adults. From the romantic minuteman of the Revolution, to the brave citizen soldiers of the Civil War, to the great generals of WWII, we have always looked for guidance in the stories of others.
Above all, though, stands one group that fundamentally defines and inspires us in what we hope is our national character: the migrant agricultural worker.
How is it that our country has placed this odd demographic group into a category that is akin to a knight errant? Perhaps because they were? (or are?) Or, perhaps it is because we want them to be.
Of course, I am talking about the cowboy. (Sorry, cow person… hmmmm… that sounds faintly derogatory doesn’t it?) Perhaps we should set the stage now and take the gendered descriptive and just accept it for what it is: cowboys and cowgirls. There is a simplicity in that, that speaks to the underlying message of the cowboy: simplicity in a complex world.
Back before the toilet paper wars of 2020, there was this thing called SHOT Show, our firearms industry convention held every year in Las Vegas. We went dark last year due to COVID, but the powers that be suggest we will be reinstating the event this January. Each SHOT Show is different, in an Adam Smith, informal system of order, hidden-hand kinda way. Manufacturers throughout the year forecast what the public will want to buy, and then debut their ideas at this gunslingers rendezvous. That is, in my mind, the most interesting part, as many of these gun companies tend to study the same data. As such, a “theme” emerges at each of the shows. A few years back everything was “black, scary rifles”. Then they decided that women wanted guns, so the next year they took all those “black, scary rifles” and painted them pink (sigh). Then they decided people wanted suppressors (which, frankly, we kinda do). The last SHOT Show was completely different however. Throughout the halls, the most prolific firearms on display were six-shooters and lever-actions. Cowboy action shooting had taken hold.
Most of you are already familiar with, if not participants in, some of the competitive types of shooting that exist out there, from IPSIC, to IDPA, to simple trap and skeet. One of the lesser known variants exploding in the marketplace is SASS, formally known as the Single Action Shooting Society, or better known as “Cowboy Action Shooting”.
This structured, competitive event has chapters throughout the world. Folks competing in SASS have a completely holistic experience. When you shoot in a SASS event you don’t just show up to the range with your gear bag… you enter a new parallel universe, complete with a new personality and nom de guerre.
No one in SASS refers to you by your given name. Once you don your costume (yep… you shoot in costume), you are formally referred to by your cowboy or cowgirl name. Many friends and acquaintances in SASS don’t even know the real-world name of their comrades.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
Back to SHOT. While I was perusing the booths, I stopped by the Taylor and Sons set-up to gander at their guns, beautiful Italian made single-action revolvers and lever-actions. As I was inspecting the workmanship of a pearl handled .45 long colt, a couple came into the booth and was approached by a sales woman. From my distance I could easily overhear their conversation.
“Can I help you?”
“Hi, we are just stopping by. My wife and I own a gun store and we actually carry your products.”
“Oh, that’s great! Do you shoot cowboy action?”
The gun store owner chuckled at the question.
“No, not really. I’ve thought about getting into it, and probably should. We can’t keep your guns on our shelves. Someone comes into the shop to buy a Glock for self-defense, and then takes a couple of shooting classes. Next thing we know they have discovered SASS and now they are buying two single-actions and lever-actions.”
“Yep. Cowboy Action is the fastest growing segment of the shooting sports. Most people start out buying guns for defensive use, but they want something more social, and more entertainment oriented, while still maintaining core competency with firearms use.”
This little dialogue was fascinating to me. My friend Dave (aka Razorback Red) was my older daughter’s lacrosse coach and a vice-principal at a local middle school. I knew he was heavily vested with the SASS and competed regularly. His costume alone probably cost more than most of my traditional guns put together.
I know we have had a couple of people at Artemis who have expressed interest in Cowboy Action shooting and I usually just send them to Dave… er… Razorback Red.
I texted him from the booth:
Hey Dave… You here in Vegas for SHOT?
Nah… couldn’t make it.
I was thinking… you want to do a presentation on how to get into Cowboy Action shooting for our clients at Artemis?
DONE!!! I’ll bring my crew! We’ll come in full costume and bring all of our toys! WHEN?!?!
Well… we started coordinating dates around his competition schedule, then someone in Wuhan either walked a virus out of a lab or munched on a boiled bat. Regardless, everything got put on hold.
Razorback Red and his posse are coming to Artemis on July 8th for a free presentation on SASS. It will be from 6pm till… pretty much whenever. You can sign up online at artemishq.com to reserve a seat or call (949) 305-6586. I may even finally acquiesce to Razorback Red’s pestering and join up myself. I just got to come up with a cowboy name. Chaparral Rabbi just does not seem to have the gravitas I’m looking for.