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Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Minnesota Mounted Shooters?
We are a group of individuals who like to ride, like to shoot, and like the old west. Our association is a local one that is affiliated with the national association, Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association Or CMSA.

What is Mounted Shooting?
Mounted Shooting is a horse riding and shooting competition, with the theme of a western re-enactment. The rider shoots black powder blank cartridges from .45 caliber pistols, at balloons, and is scored on accuracy and time.

Are there clothing requirements?
Yes, but only at CMSA sanctioned events. Think in terms of “rolling back the clock” to the late 1800’s you will have a pretty good idea of the look that we are trying to present. We try to look as authentic to the period as possible, by wearing shirts without collars, and high-waisted pants with buttons, not zippers, for example.

How about guns?
Mounted Shooters use .45 caliber single action revolvers like those used in the late 1800’s. Single action revolvers must be cocked each time before firing by drawing the hammer back. A double action revolver can be fired by simply pulling the trigger, without cocking the hammer. Double action revolvers are not of the period, so we use only single action revolvers. A lever action rifle is used in the rifle event along with a revolver.

Do you use live ammunition (lead bullets) or bird shot?
No. The cartridges fired are called .45 caliber Long Colt. The brass cartridge is loaded with black powder (like that used in the 1800s) and then topped off with a paper wad. This load will break a balloon up to about 15 feet. Live rounds are strictly prohibited at competitions. At each event we have a person to load the riders guns as he or she enters the arena, and a person to unload the guns after the rider is finished. Riders do not carry loaded guns outside of the arena or when not competing.

What about gun leather?
Riders can buy “off the shelf replicas” of the old time gun belts and holsters. Or, you can have custom-made gun belts and holsters to suit your wishes. There are several custom “makers” that you can find in “old west” magazines or on the Internet. We have a few “makers” right here in the greater Minnesota area.
Okay, how about a horse?
Are there requirements like breed, or registration? No. You can use any horse or mule that you want. Some horses take to this sport easily, others do not. It is up to your horses’ temperament and your desire to train him or her to get used to shooting, turning, and going fast. Some riders will use earplugs for themselves and their horses.

Is there a pattern to ride?
Yes. There are 50+ possible patterns. The patterns everyone will ride are drawn out of a hat on the day of the competition. A competition may consist of 4 to 6 patterns a day. Each pattern consists of 10 balloons. To give you an idea of riding a pattern, let’s say that there are 5 white balloons and 5 red balloons. The 5 white balloons may be grouped together in one place or spread out over the entire arena. The rider shoots all 5 white balloons first. Then, the rider holsters the first gun while riding to the far end of the arena, draws the second gun, and shoots the 5 red balloons, which are usually 5 in a row straight towards the finish line. We call this the “The Run Down”.

Are there levels of skill?
Yes. There is a men’s division Levels 1-6, a Women’s division Levels 1-6, a Seniors division Levels 1-6 and a Wrangler division for those 11 and under. Rider starts a Level 1. When a rider wins level 1 twice, they advance to Level 2, and when they win Level 2 three times, they advance to Level 3. Four wins at Level 3 and on to Level 4, etc. Some shoots have a prize for the best score overall where age or gender does not matter. Mom competes against Dad who competes against the kids.

Kids? Do the kids ride and shoot?
Yes... and no. The riders in the Wrangler division (11 and under) ride the same pattern that the grown-ups do, but they shoot Hollywood cap pistols, engaging each target as if they were shooting real blanks. They then shoot (.45’s with blanks) at balloons, from the ground while standing stationary with mom or dad at their side.

How about scoring?
The riders are scored on time and accuracy. There is a 5 second penalty for each missed balloon, a 5 second penalty for dropping a gun, a 10 second penalty for not running the course correctly and a 60 second penalty for falling off your horse. Speed is important, however, accuracy is usually more important than speed. A typical pattern can be run in 25-50 seconds, so penalties can really hurt.

What does membership cost?
$25 per year for an individual, $35 per year for a family. Membership entitles you to a discount on CMSA membership, newsletters and association with a great bunch of people. An application form can be printed from this website under link.

Can I become involved in the MMSA?
Yes! The MMSA is a new association of rider/shooters that needs it members to shape it into what it will become. We keep our membership fees and entry fees low because of member participation.
Where can I get more information?

You can visit the web page for the national organization at

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