Match Etiquette & the Spirit of the Game

There is an unspoken ethic, and old fashioned rule set that comes to mind when thinking of the "cowboy way of life". First and foremost, a cowboy can be trusted. He knows that his worth as a man is only as good as his word. The cowboy knows his job and does what he must to get it done. He is a leader, and leads by example, not words. His values are unwavering and are worth fighting and dying for. The cowboy can be consistently counted on and is not out for his own glory. He is loyal, passionate, and patient. He finishes what he starts, and is tough, but fair.

"Spirit of the Game" is outlined in the SASS handbook and should be read by all shooters. Although Cowboy Action Shooting is a competitive sport, it is friendly in spirit and positive in sportsmanship. Poor sportsmanship is not tolerated. Match etiquette is not really discussed in the handbook but it definitely has it's place on the range and should not be taken lightly.

Approachable and friendly attitude - You'll see an example of great match etiquette in seasoned shooters helping out new shooters. I've seen champions that are so approachable and are just a joy to shoot with. These people have cultivated a positive and helpful attitude that is admired by everyone around them.

Helping out on your posse - Helping any way that you can on your posse goes a long way toward making any monthly or annual shoot a great one. There are a lot of things that need to be done on a posse to make a shoot run smooth. You have a Range Officer (RO) running the time clock. There are counters designated by the RO to count misses and watch for other penalties and safety infractions. There may be targets that need to be reset or repainted during the match. There are score keeping duties that must be handled accurately. There is the need to pick up or sweep brass (as in a "Lost Brass" match). Sometimes overlooked is the need for someone to man the loading and unloading tables, ensuring safety and helping out.

Loading table etiquette - As the shooter in front of you moves down the table, make sure you move forward as well to make room for the shooter behind you. Don't be a table hog! When attending your first few matches you may notice the shooter in front of you studying the stage, going through the shooting order with their fingers or hands and even acting out some of the movements they will make during the stage. This is referred to as "ghost shooting". It is important to be polite and refrain from talking or distracting the shooter who is up next. If you need help loading or you need your guns checked for safety refer to the shooter behind you or ask for help from someone else on your posse. On a side note - once your guns are loaded and your pistols holstered,
DO NOT leave the loading table, as this is a stage disqualification!

Remain positive - Sometimes your hands, fingers, gear, and most (or all) of your brain just won't cooperate the way you want them to. Murphy's Law doesn't care who you are and everyone has off days! The important thing to remember is to stay positive and not lose your temper. This goes a long way toward maintaining the "cowboy way" out on the range.

Keep horse play in it's place - It seems the longer people shoot together the more they tend to joke around and play pranks on one another. Pranks are a sign of affection and can build camaraderie amongst shooters. The important thing is to know where to draw the line, and always keep in mind safety and respect for the shooters around you. Basically, treat people the way that you want to be treated yourself. Our philosophy is that pranks are ok until they mess with a shooter's time on the clock.

Set up and clean up - If you are willing and able there is always plenty to do before and after the shoot. No one gets paid to set up, pull steel after the match, or help clean up. If you are able to help in any capacity it is greatly appreciated!

Get involved with your local clubs - If you're not involved in a local club and would like to be, you are welcome to go to a club meeting and see where help may be needed. This is a great way also to make new friends! If running for an official position is more your thing, some fresh blood may be welcomed as a lot of positions have been held by officers for a long time (Note - some club's bylaws require you to be a Range Officer II to hold certain positions).

Cultivating good cowboy etiquette on the range can really go a long way toward making long lasting friendships, rounding out your experience as a Cowboy Action Shooter, and ultimately giving you a deep sense of satisfaction.