Writing Stages, templates, facades, and sweeps.

The table below provides links to various resources for writing SASS stages for the Northern Nevada Cowboy Action Shooting clubs. Depending on the software you use to view and modify the templates, the may appear jumbled. All of the elements of the stage are there for you to rearrange and modify. In most cases, you can highlight the information you want to work with, copy it, then past the copied information into you document processing software.

Stage Writing 101

Winter Range 2017 modified for Fernley

Tricks of the trade

Winter Range 2018 modified for Fernley

Fernley Stick Facades

Wild Bunch Match 1-2020

Fernley Photo Facades Template


Sweeps and patterns

Shootout on the Comstock 2014


Big Bore Optional 1 in Fernley

SSS Gulch Stages template

Big Bore Optional 2 in Fernley

SSS Grinch in the Gulch Match


SSS 9-19 JJ Match

Grinch in the Gulch Match

Stage writing is fun and really helps in understanding the flow of a match. My first attempt at writing stages was a total disaster. I made them way to complicated and so they were not fun. I now keep a list of stages I have shot at our clubs or other venues that were fun and challenging. I take these as the “root” of my match and modify them to fit our range and available targets.

The following information I have picked up off the internet from other SASS members that have far more experience than I do.

In my opinion, the goal of stage writing is to make the match as fun as possible for the maximum number of folks. We want all of the shooters to have fun and look forward to coming back to the next match. I am trying to mix fairly fast stages with some good challenges in each match. Each of you can select the flavor you want to have for your matches. 

   For SASS Cowboy Action Shooting    

Prepared By Chuckaroo SASS #13080

Writing Stages Preface

Stages can be prepared with a graphics program, a word processor or written by hand.

No matter how you produce them, they all will need the same attention.

Stage design is one of the most important aspects of a Cowboy Action Shooting match.

It is, after all, the initial reason we go to the match. Poor stages can make or break a shoot, create safety issues, will delay a match or cause a backup, and complicated designs can frustrate shooters because they become "Procedural Traps." Properly written stages are a lot more than just picking targets, making up a shooting order and choosing a prop or two.

Stages can have a wide variety of activity and shooting. The more complex the stage, the longer it will take to shoot. An annual or large match (150 plus) would suffer if stages were too lengthy. Complicated stage directions make it more likely there will be a high number of procedural penalties.

Clear, easy stage directions are a must. All potential questions must be anticipated and addressed in the stage description. Be precise. Where to start, what position to be in, where the hands are, shooting and firearm order, where to place the empty firearm, any motion, all verbal’s and when to speak. Also include if make up shots for shotgun are permitted and any local special rules. Remind shooters, in the description, if there are safety items to be aware of.

The format of the stage directions should be uniform from stage to stage and flow from beginning to end.

SAFETY is number one, fun is second. Do not compromise safety for any reason. We will cover the do's and don'ts later. If at all possible, have your club safety officer check the stages for potential safety issues. What looks good on paper might not be safe after it has been set up in real life.

Participants will be from 12 years old to 80 plus. Some are short and others are tall.

Many are seniors and cannot participate in an all day marathon of running and climbing.

Keep the stages fun for all potential shooters. Good stage design also balances the stages, as much as possible, for all shooting categories.

For annual and large matches, keep the shooting and movement equal between all of the stages.

A big backup on one stage can really mess up a great match.

The stage writer must be familiar with the club rules, targets available, props on hand, range layout, safety issues of the range and the amount of help available for set up and tear down.

Some ranges must use a common firing line and cannot have any movement downrange (this is our situation at Crown Point Gulch and at Railroad Flats.)

Stage Writing Do's & Don'ts

  • Do not have shooter movement up range. It is too easy to break the 170 when coming back toward your posse.
  • If your range has uneven or poor footing, have limited or no movement.
  • Do not stage a shotgun loaded.
  • Do not design a stage where the shooter must use a "House Gun" as part of the shooting scenario.
  • Do not design a stage where the shooter must go up or down a flight of stairs as part of the stage movement.
  • Never permit drawing or holstering a cross draw holster while seated.
  • Never move with a cocked gun. Some movement with a rifle (with the hammer on a spent round), is OK but discouraged. It is a safety in the making. You will answer 20 posse questions about how they are supposed to do that properly.
  • Do not design a stage where the shooter is firing from an unstable platform, moving bridge or any prop that is not stable enough to support any shooter during the course of shooting.
  • Limit kneeling and do not have a shooter start laying down. Never have a shooter lying down with holstered guns.
  • Never design a stage that can jeopardize a spotter or posse worker. Everyone should be visible to the RO. This is a challenge on some building fronts. If there is no way around it, specific safety warnings should be included in the stage description.
  • Do not put targets at harsh angles from the shooter. If necessary, have a different shooting position so the shooter can be directly in front of the targets being shot.
  • When you do have movement, be specific about drawing, loading or handling firearms before they get to the shooting position.
  • Anticipate potential questions. If your description of a stage generates questions from the posse, it will add time to the stage. So, address items in detail. Where, when, which direction, how and how many.
  • Keep shotgun rounds no more than 6 and do not do that on more than half of the stages. Four is ideal but a few 6 shot shotgun stages are OK. This is easier on young folks, seniors and the ladies as well as a BIG time saver.
  • Do not have a five shot pistol reload. At the most, load one more rifle round.
  • Keep movement laterally, toward the unloading table.
  • As a writer, you must put your "intentions for the stage" into words so that everyone will understand your intentions. Writing must be very concise. It should include the exact staging location of all firearms. If it is the intent of the writer to have the rifle on the right side of the buckboard, then is should say that. If it says "In the buckboard," then it can actually go anywhere in the buckboard. If you do not want the shooter to start with a hand on their pistols, you must be specific as to where they go. "Both hands flat on the table" will do that.
  • If the writer starts a stage off by saying "Shooter starts behind the buckboard by their rifle. At the buzzer, pick up your rifle." If you don't want the shooter to hover over the rifle like a vulture with their claws out you need to be more specific. Have the shooter hold something with both hands or have their hands on their hips, touching their hat or resting on the pistols.
  • Balance shotgun targets for 97 Vs double barreled shotguns. An odd number of shotgun targets favors those shooting a 97. Have some shotgun target next to each other for the double folks and some separated for the pump users.
  • Have most stages (but not all) with the pistols back to back. This makes a stage fun for the Gunfighters and easier on the memory for the rest of the folks. An occasional split handgun stage is great for variety only.
  • Be specific on gun staging. Be equally specific as to where they go when you finish with them. This is important when pistols are staged outside of the holsters. If the intent is to holster the pistol when finished, say "Holster the pistol and....."
  • Do not make the stage a marathon run. Movement is part of the game however, short distances are better on the shooter, RO and spotters.
  • Do not design complicated shooting sequences. It will cause procedurals, and lots of questions. As each shooter comes to the line, they will ask the RO over and over what the sequence is. This can really slow down a big match. It has the potential to double the time the posse takes to shoot the stage.
  • On a stage with a building front, design the stage so that spotters can see the targets.
  • Be careful about ending a stage with the rifle, especially if you are shooting it through a store window or doorway. Many timers will not accurately pick up the shots from rifles with our lighter loads.
  • Do not design a stage where "Luck" will have an effect on the time it takes to shoot the stage or change the difficulty of the stage. For example, drawing an Ace from the deck should not allow the shooter to skip a target or to shoot an easier target.
  • Consider right and left handed shooters. Have duel gun rest, whenever possible, so the shooter has a choice.


Tricks of the trade

  • After you complete the stage writing, review each stage for round counts, placement of all firearms, starting position (including the hands), where to put empty firearms, spelling, grammar, props needed, target placement, safety concerns and flow through the course of the action.
  • Whenever possible, mirror the pistol sequence with the rifle sequence. If the rifle is a double tap sweep left to right, then make the pistols a double tap sweep left to right. This tip alone will make your shooters come back next month. Target sequences, that are symmetrical in some way, are easier to remember. Try not to call everything some sort of sweep. Out of town folks may not understand.
  • A stage that has the rifle left to right, one pistol right to left, another pistol Nevada sweep and the shotgun center - center - outside - outside is NOT fun. It will result in procedural after procedural.  It can make many shooters decide to stay home next month.
  • Have the shooter say a short line before the buzzer to indicate when they are ready. This is a real time saver! At a big shoot, have the line posted at the actual starting position for the stage.
  • Avoid lines after the buzzer.
  • Have stage movement go toward the unloading table. It will speed things up.
  • If you can go downrange to reset poppers or clay birds, it takes a little extra time. Use of reset cables can speed things up.
  • Things that add time are reloads, more than four shotgun rounds, movement, complicated stage instructions, having to get up from a kneeling or sitting position on a horse and getting free from ropes or handcuffs, to name a few. Individually they are doable but when you combine several together, you are going to have a backup on that stage.
  • Format the stage instructions with the round count at the top, along with the stage title. Next have a drawn layout of the stage with the targets and major prop placement along with the location of staged guns. Below that, have the story line (keep it fun but brief). Next, write the round count and staging location for each firearm. Next paragraph should tell where the shooter begins and the starting position for their hands. Remember, if you don't say where the hands start, they can put them anywhere, including on the first gun. Next have the ready to shoot line. Finally, the shooting sequence. Show the shot placement under each target when there is a specific order.
  • Whenever possible, have long gun staging that is flexible for left hand and right handed shooters.
  • After your stages are written, go over them for safety. Then go over them for clarity and description of your intent. Then try to anticipate what another shooter might have a question on. Whenever possible, have someone else check them over as well. After looking at them for a long time, it is real easy to miss some items that are actually very obvious to new eyes. The three most often asked questions on the stage are "What is the round count?", "What am I supposed to say?" (Put the phrase, in italic bold letters to make it easy to find) and coming in a close third is "Where can my hands be?"
  • If your club is short on targets, you can design a stage with forward movement between the pistol and rifle rounds. You can shoot distant targets with the rifle, then move forward and shoot the same targets with the pistols.




 A Glossary of Sweeps

Compiled by

Crooked River Bob


For consistency, targets will be numbered from left to right. Multiple shots on a single target will be indicated by repeating that target’s number. Items in Bold Text have separate entries.

Abilene Sweep: Named after Abilene (SASS#27489, TX), who posted it on the SASS Wire. Nine shots on five targets, 1-2-2-3-3-3-2-2-1. This might also be described as a Progressive Nevada Sweep.

Arizona Sweep: From Old Scout (SASS# 323, CA). “Progressively place one more round on each target.” Ten shots on four plates, in the following order: 1-2-2-3-3-3-4-4-4-4. Also known as a Progressive Sweep, and sometimes as a Montana Sweep or a Lawrence Welk Sweep.

Arkansas Shuffle: Attributed to West Creek Willie (SASS#33394, IL). Five shots on three targets, engaged as 1-1-2-3-3. Compare to the Idaho Shuffle.

Bad Jack Abernathy Sweep: Described on the SASS Wire by A. D. Texaz (SASS#16339, TX). Nine shots on four targets, 1-1-4-2-2-4-3-3-4.

Badger Sweep: Attributed to Badger, SASS#3361. Old Scout (SASS# 323, CA) describes it as “Successive sweeps, firing one less shot on each sweep.” Ten shots on four targets, 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-1-2-1. Also called a Solitaire Sweep.

Cactus Buck Sweep: Submitted to the SASS Wire by A. D. Texaz

(SASS#16339, TX). Ten shots on four targets. 1-1-1-2-2-3-3-4-4-4. Same

as the Palindrome Sweep.

Cajon Sweep: From Old Scout (SASS# 323, CA). Five consecutive shots on a single target, 1-1-1-1-1. Cowboy action shooters in general have a lot of fun with this one, and it is humorously known by a variety of names in various parts of the country.

California Sweep: From Old Scout (SASS# 323, CA). “Every other shot must be on the first target.” His example suggested eight shots on five targets, 1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5. See also Hermit Joe Sweep.


Chimney Sweep: From Piney Woods (SASS#29887, NH), who said, “Stack three targets one above the other (numbered 1-2-3 from top to bottom for ease of description) and shoot them 1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2-1… that’s right, up and down, up and down.” Think of a Continuous Nevada Sweep with a vertical orientation.

Continuous Nevada Sweep: Generally ten shots on four targets, 1-2-3-4-3-2-1-2-3-4. Same as the Idaho Sweep and the Zig-Zag.

Delta Glen Sweep: Authored by Delta Glen (SASS#39197, FL). Ten shots on three targets, 1-2-2-3-2-2-1-2-2-3, or 3-2-2-1-2-2-3-2-2-1. Similar to the Continuous Nevada Sweep, except you double-tap the center target on every pass.

Double Tap: Two consecutive shots at the same target.

Double Tap Sweep: As described by Hellgate (SASS#3302, OR) on the SASS Wire, “Sweep the targets but each is double tapped before going to the next target.” For example, ten shots on five targets, 1-1-2-2-3-3-4-4-5-5.

Hermit Joe Sweep: From Piney Woods (SASS#29887, NH), who said it was “… named after its creator.” In his words, “Take six rifle targets and shoot them 1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5-1-6 and you’ve done it.” Compare to the California Sweep.

Hooten Sweep: Cherokee Big Dog (SASS#17531, KY) said, “The Hooten Sweep ain’t a sweep a’tall. Set the number of targets equal to the number of shots and tell ‘em to engage ‘em once each, but don’t sweep ‘em.” As an example, Cherokee Big Dog suggested a sequence of 1-2-3-5-4, indicating there are “dozens of other variations” but the critical element is that the shooter “breaks up the ascending or descending sweep.”

Hoptoad Shuffle: Brought to our attention by Jim Bowdrie (SASS#55924, IL). Five shots on three targets, 2-1-2-3-2 or 2-3-2-1-2. The odd numbered shots are all on the center target. Same as the Inside-Outside.

Indiana Sweep: Five shots on three targets, 2-2-1-2-3 or 2-2-3-2-1. Doc Molar (SASS#18470, IN) came up with this one, and said, “3 targets, you start by double tapping the center target and then sweep across all three targets from either direction, for 5 [rounds].” He added that if you are “…doing this as a rifle sequence you just do it twice.”


Inside-Outside: This name was provided by Ranger Buffa Lowe (SASS#39172, BC, Canada). Five shots on three targets: 2-1-2-3-2.

John Wayne Sweep: From Fillmore Coffins (SASS#7884, CA), who submitted this on the SASS Wire. He described it as “Simple. Three targets, 10 rounds. The order is: 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3.”

Kansas City Sweep: The source for this one was Grizzly Skinner (SASS#23242, RI). Essentially a Nevada Sweep done with double taps. Ten shots on three targets, 1-1-2-2-3-3-2-2-1-1

Lawrence Welk Sweep: As suggested by Prof. Fuller Bullspit (SASS#57421, CA) and Ivory Jack McCloud (SASS#8534, CA). Requires ten shots on four targets, 1-2-2-3-3-3-4-4-4-4. Same as the Arizona Sweep, or Progressive Sweep.

Lousiana Swing: From the SASS Wire, submitted by Possum Skinner (SASS#60697, LA). Five targets are arranged in a “V” shape with the apex of the “V” (target #3) nearest the shooter, and the arms of the “V” extending back and out to the left and right. Six shots on five plates, 3-4-5-3-2-1.

Missouri Sweep: From Shoshone Slim (SASS# 31347, MO), who described it as “… all shots into one target.” This appears to mean all shots for the entire stage, same as for the Amigo’s Sweep and the Texas Sweep.

Missouri Hillbilly Sweep: Posted by Missouri Marshal (SASS#50682, VA). Ten shots on four targets, 1-1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1-1. Think of this as a Nevada Sweep, but with double taps on the end targets.

Nevada Sweep: Originated by Beans (SASS#316, NV), and sometimes described as “the most common of cowboy sweeps.” In a post on the SASS Wire, Beans said, “… it is always meant to be shot left to right unless the stage directions state [otherwise].” The Nevada Sweep always requires an odd number of rounds, and involves sweeping from one end of the row of targets to the other and back without double-tapping. Five shots on three targets, 1-2-3-2-1. Seven shots on four targets, 1-2-3-4-3-2-1. Nine shots on five targets, 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1.

Oklahoma Sweep: Submitted by McCandless (SASS#25723). In a post on the SASS Wire, he said “… an Oklahoma Sweep was simply shooting four targets with eight rounds, sweep from the left (1-2-3-4) then return sweep from the right (4-3-2-1) double tapping the fourth target.”


Oregon Sweep: From Wire Paladin (SASS#5954, OR). Nine rifle rounds on five targets, 1-1-1-2-3-4-5-5-5.

Ozark Sweep: From Red River Ralph (SASS#49760, AR). Ten shots on five targets, first 1-5-2-4-3. (Outside in)

Palindrome Sweep: Submitted by Palindrome (SASS#54445, WA), who credited the Black River Regulators for this sweep. Ten shots on four targets, 1-1-1-2-2-3-3-4-4-4. Palindrome said, “Triple tap the first, double tap the second and third, triple tap the fourth. However, a palindrome is defined as “…a word or sentence which reads the same backward as it does forward” (The Winston Dictionary, 1943), and a number of sweeps fit this description. Deadly Sharpshooter (SASS#35828, FL) wrote an entire stage comprised of “Palindrome Sweeps,” which could be shot from either direction.

Progressive Nevada Sweep: This interesting sweep was submitted to the SASS Wire by Abilene (SASS#27489, TX), who described a sequence of 1-2-2-3-3-3-2-2-1, but just called it “progressive from left.” We took the liberty of calling it the “Progressive Nevada Sweep” because it combines the increasing multiple taps of the Progressive Sweep with direction reversal as in the Nevada Sweep. However, the Abilene Sweep might be a better choice, in recognition of the individual who suggested it.

Progressive Sweep: As suggested by Cliffhanger (SASS#3720, CA) and Grampaw Willie (SASS#26996, MI). Ten shots on four targets, 1-2-2-3-3-3-4-4-4-4.

Rainbow Loop: From Old Scout (SASS# 323, CA). Hard to describe without a picture, but this involves three targets arranged in a triangle. The point of the triangle is nearest the shooter (target #1), with the other two targets farther back and to the left (#2) and right (#3). Engage the front target first, then the left rear, then the right rear, then the front. Keep going around in this fashion for the specified number of rounds, ending up where you started. For example, seven rounds on three targets, 1-2-3-1-2-3-1.

Sassie Sue Sweep: Submitted by Grampaw Willie (SASS#26996, MI), who described it as five shots on three targets, “middle, left, middle, right, middle,” or 2-1-2-3-2.


Texas Sweep: Submitted by Gold Canyon Kid (SASS#43974, AZ). He described it as “… all shots from every gun into one Texas size target.”

32/32 Sweep: This name was suggested by Grampaw Willie (SASS#26996, MI), who attributed the sweep to Sassie Sue (SASS#15005, IN). Ten shots on four targets, 1-1-1-2-2-3-3-3-4-4. (triple, dbl, triple, dbl )

Triple Tap: Three consecutive shots on one target.

Wyoming Sweep: Brought to our attention by Piney Woods (SASS#29887, NH). His example used ten rounds on five targets, 1-2-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1. Essentially the same as the Oklahoma Sweep. See also Pendulum Sweep


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