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The Outlaw Travis James
by on July 13, 2020

I shoot with CAS Clubs all over the Sunshine State.  I am from Southeast Florida where our mean winter low is 41° and, hence, why so many people retire to this area.  Summer dress code is always a hot topic down here which is debated in person, on social media, and the wire ad infinitum.  Let’s face it, Florida has an extreme blend of heat, humidity, and unrelenting sun not found in many other places.  Are there locales that are hotter temperature wise?  Of course.  Are their regions that possess a higher average relative humidity?  Absolutely!  But nowhere have I traveled across this country is there such a brutally oppressive mixture of all the above conditions and such a consistent Heat Index above 90°.  We shoot just as many matches in the winter months with temperatures above 85° with 95% humidity than we do below 65° with less than 80% humidity and, quite possibly, more.


How Hot Is It? Sweltering Heat Sets Records In Tampa Bay | WUSF News


Those who know me may find this article a bit surprising coming from The OTJ.  I am not one of those shooters who “dress to the nines” nor am I one who credits this aspect of our sport as one I particularly enjoy.  In fact, when I first heard about Cowboy Action Shooting in an NRA instructor course I was taking, my first reaction was: “I’ll be damned if I wear a cowboy hat and boots to shoot.”  Because of this very topic I am writing about now, I delayed my entry into SASS for over 6 months.  But luckily, my love of challenging myself and the nostalgia of shooting single action guns won out.  I will admit that I am a minimalist when it comes to my costume.  I wear a felt cowboy hat, long sleeve button down western looking shirt (with the sleeves rolled up most of the time), blue jeans, cowboy boots, and arm garters.  But I wear these year-round even in temperatures above 100° with heat indexes over 110° during this summer alone.


My typical minimalist costume.


There are several CAS clubs in Florida (and elsewhere) that allow “summer dress codes” due to excessive heat and worry for the health of their shooters.  I am not here to chastise those clubs, or anyone, for that matter.  Clubs have liability issues to worry about and each have specifics that dictate the likelihood of those liabilities becoming a reality.  I have personally witnessed 2 shooters collapse on the range in my short CAS career.  One due to heat and another for other reasons exacerbated by the heat.  I too, have had a heat related exacerbation and collapsed in the parking lot of a shoot.  So, I am speaking from my personal experiences, not from what I have heard.

This article is addressed to each individual shooter.  If a club allows summer dress, that does not mean that you must follow it.  I have shot at clubs that allow summer dress codes but I always show up in my costume.  Not because I enjoy being hot and sweaty.  And not because I am a costuming purist.  “Then why?” you may be asking yourself. 

Because the most noticeable facet that sets our discipline apart from others is our costumes.  Yes, we shoot single action guns, but a lay person will never realize that unless it is explained to them.  I have, many times, shot at a large range with multiple disciplines hosting matches at the same time.  But I always know where the cowboy match is because of the costumes.


It is easy to tell where the cowboy match is being held!


When someone sees us walking around in our boots and hats, they know that something is different about our discipline.  When they see someone walking around in a synthetic tee shirt that looks like a NASCAR racing suit they have no idea if that person shoots IDPA, IPSC, USPSA, Multi Gun, ICORE or all the above.  But when they see us walking around in our costumes, there is no doubt that we shoot cowboy.  It is an attraction for some and a repellant for others.  But it is the best first impression recruiting tool we have at our disposal.

The costumes also have the subconscious effect of reinforcing the “cowboy way” on the participants.  This may not be obvious, but you can see it in the friendliness of nearly everyone in costume.  How many times have you come away from the range with a less than spectacular match performance but still feeling a sense of contentment?  I feel this is due to the cowboy hospitality and comradery shown by our fellow cowboy shooters.  I have attended other disciplines to observe and both times, I was met with annoyance by the competitors at my mere presence.  They would not really answer my questions and made me pay just to access the bays to observe.  I also know that if your guns break, you are S.O.L. because they do not loan guns and gear as readily as we do.


Cowboy Ethics and the Rotary Brand | 5550opinions


Being a born and raised South Florida native, I have learned a thing or two about dealing with the heat.  I've worked in construction for over 20 years down here and in the Caribbean and was forced to learn to deal with it.  Even still, I have succumbed to heat injuries before.  It can happen to the best of us. 

Of course, the most obvious thing is to stay hydrated.  But this isn’t the only action that must be taken in order to beat the heat.  Hydration is not something you can “catch up” on.  Meaning that if you were dehydrated the day before or even the morning of, you will not be able to get hydrated while sweating at a match.  You must start hydrating the day before.  I learned this from my race running days.  Another well known fact to racers is the need for a good meal with complex carbohydrates and electrolytes the night before a match.  More on electrolytes shortly.  Also, of great importance is the need to snack during matches.  Many vegetables, such as cucumbers, celery, and lettuce, as well as fruits, such as melons, strawberries, and apples, contain water.  And don’t forget those carbs for energy.  You want to stay away from excess processed sugars and caffeine because these will contribute to dehydration.



Drink Up! The Importance of Hydration


Something else most don’t think about is allowing your body the ability to cool itself naturally.  I am not referring to the use of fans or those special towels.  What I am referring to is your choices of clothing color, less layers, lighter weight fabrics, and looser fitting clothes.  Typically speaking, darker colors absorb heat and lighter colors reflect it.  Wearing loose clothing allows your body to vent excess heat.  Try and give yourself some time in the shade to cool off too.

So, what are electrolytes exactly?

From the Merck Manual:

” […] Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge when they are dissolved in a liquid such as blood. The blood electrolytes—sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate—help regulate nerve and muscle function and maintain acid-base balance and water balance.

Electrolytes, particularly sodium, help the body maintain normal fluid levels in the fluid compartments because the amount of fluid a compartment contains depends on the amount (concentration) of electrolytes in it. If the electrolyte concentration is high, fluid moves into that compartment (a process called osmosis). Likewise, if the electrolyte concentration is low, fluid moves out of that compartment. To adjust fluid levels, the body can actively move electrolytes in or out of cells. Thus, having electrolytes in the right concentrations (called electrolyte balance) is important in maintaining fluid balance among the compartments.”


Electrolyte Powder - Lemonade, Carb, Calorie & Sugar Free


Most everyone knows about drinking some type of sports drink like Gatorade or Power Aide to replenish those important electrolytes.  But some (myself included) do not like the taste or consistency of these drinks.  I prefer to add electrolyte powders to every other water bottle I drink.  Also, passed along to me from a more experienced shooter, is the use of electrolyte pills.  I typically take one when I wake up and then after the 2nd stage of the match to maintain a proper electrolyte concentration.  The more you sweat, the more water and electrolytes you need to consume.  If you feel thirsty, chances are high that you are suffering from some form of dehydration.  If you have a headache, you need to rest and cool down immediately.  This is the first sign of heat exhaustion and can have awfully bad consequences if ignored.

Some shooters have health issues that make their ability to physically deal with the heat impossible.  If that is case, then by-all-means come on out and shoot in your summer dress.  The more the merrier!  But if you do not, please do what you can to dress in your costume for the above-mentioned reasons.  With clubs that allow summer dress, each shooter should choose for themselves whether they dress in cowboy costume or not.  But, in my opinion, that choice should be made more so for health concerns and not comfort level.


The Outlaw Travis James
"The OTJ"
S.A.S.S. #: 107517
Founder: SASS Florida
OK Corral Outlaws - Okeechobee, FL
Gold Coast Gunslingers - Sunrise, FL
Lake County Pistoleros - Eustis, FL
Roughshod Raiders, Gainesville, FL
Fort White Cowboy Cavalry, Fort White, FL
"Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?"
I am not a medical professional and the advice here should not be construed as medical advice. It is my opinion based on my life experience.
Edited to add additional advice from Doc McCandless

Tips for ol' CAS cowplops shooting during the height of summer...

If you are taking heart or blood pressure meds, you are most likely taking a diuretic. Don't take the diuretic on match day.
If you are taking a diuretic, you are most likely taking a Potassium Supplement. Bring an extra one to the range.
Bring a Magnesium supplement.
Bring Salt in a little Tupperware container or salt tablets.
If you have afternoon meds, bring them.
Pack a cooler with Water and an Electrolyte replacement like Gatorade G2 (low sugar), diluted 1:1
Drink the equivalent of at least one water bottle of the mix, per stage.
By the end of the 3rd or 4th stage, take your supplements.
Take your afternoon meds on time.
If you have a heart arrhythmia like A-Fib, check your heart rate. A slow A-Fib rate is much better that a fast A-Fib. If your heart rate is climbing, STOP. Find some shade, cool down, and pack it in for the day.

Like (12)
El Hombre
Well said OTJ. There is nothing wrong with having summer dress at monthly shoots
July 14, 2020
Some great info thanks for sharing
July 14, 2020