Bandits of the Bay

BAB banner1Unleash your inner Wild West gunfighter with the Bay Area Bandits

Story by Robyn Pliscott, photos courtesy Bay Area Bandits


Gunsmoke and dust hung over the lower half of the arena, dimming the brilliance of the light poles. Ten rifle shots shattered the silence. Riders shouted for guns, holsters, and horses. It was eight-thirty on a Tuesday night and the Bay Area Bandits were ready to ride.

Across the arena, friends laughed, talked and teased each other. More experienced Bandits showed a newer rider how to handle his pistol, firing blank rounds into a bank of sand. I said ‘hello’ to the Hobbit horse, put my helmet down and studied that night’s course. Just another typical practice for the Bay Area Bandits.


What is mounted shooting? According to the Bandits’ website,, mounted shooting is “navigating a ten target course of balloons on a horse and shooting the targets with blanks from a pair of 45 single action revolvers.”

The course is timed, and riders are penalized for missed targets or for riding the course incorrectly. Five-second penalties are given for such things as missing targets, knocking over barrels, not following the course correctly, or dropping a gun. Ten-second penalties are assessed for things like not shooting targets in the right order or not following the course instructions. There are six levels riders can compete in, making the sport fun for the entire family.

Mounted shooting is a sport reminiscent of the Wild West cowboys. Courses are designed to test not only the shooting ability of the competitors but their horsemanship as well. After shooting the first five targets, riders holster their first gun, draw their second gun, shoot the next five targets, and holster the second gun. The course is ridden at any speed between a walk and a canter, and many riders gallop the rundown that is the ‘grand finale’ of the course.


Standard spacing for rundown targets is thirty-six feet. Most gates – two balloons set across from each other so that they are shot as the rider goes between them – are fifteen feet wide. An ideal arena is 200 by 300 feet, but sizes vary to both smaller and larger arenas.

Formed in March 2010, the Bay Area Bandits mounted shooting club is affiliated with and operated under the guidelines of the Cowboy Sports Association. The club currently meets for practice at the Double T Ranch (5206 Turkey Creek Road) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 PM. New shooters are welcome to all practices, even those without weapons, horses, or experience with guns. On the first Saturday of every month, they hold a match of at least three stages at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds.


The only requirement for shooting in a competition is a membership with the Cowboy Sports Association for insurance and safety purposes.



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Reporter, Robyn Pliscott, writes news and media reviews for The Brandon Beacon.  



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