California has some strict carry laws, but as the old saying goes, "I'd rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6".
One of my goals is to get my horse used to gun fire. I don't really want to compete, but if I did, Cowboy action shooting would be my event.
Think we'll ever get it to be an Olympic event?
At the risk of starting a descent into another "guns on trail" thread...
In a state like CA (or my own NY) if you fire a gun, you will likely have the "book thrown at you." You will probably be violating carry laws, discharge laws and animal protection/hunting laws. I agree with the "carried by 6" rule, but I highly suggest finding a different alternative that involves less legal ramifications.
I do cowboy mounted shooting and regularly shoot pistols, rifles and shotguns off horses. Some things to consider...
- When I shoot, I do so in a controlled environment. Both I and the horse know what is going to happen in the marked arena when we cross the timer and engage the balloons. It is not a random "one off" shot in the middle of a trail ride. That loud random noise could be enough to make even an experienced horse flinch or crow hop. Which could get a rider dumped.
- When I shoot, I am excited about the competition, but I think that is a different adrenaline level than when looking at a hungry cat. My horse also does not have the scent of a predator. Of note - I was at a competition about a year ago where a bear made a kill about a mile away (in the woods). It was a windy day and the horses apparently caught the scent. Almost all the horses were pretty edgy all day and there were some near wrecks.
- A long gun (rifle or shotgun) may get around the handgun restrictions, but they are also considerably harder to operate from horseback. To use effectively - especially if you have to aim at an animal at a comfortable distance) you will need TWO hands on the weapon and your horse to stay completely still. This is a lot harder than you might think, especially under these circumstances. Even then, you are going to be in for a heap of trouble with the local authorities/game warden.
- I shoot both target (ground) and mounted. There is a big difference between live ammo and blanks. Blanks have no recoil. Drop a live .45 round in the chamber and there is a big kick.
I'm not arguing against firearms as protection on trail. For those of us who shoot off and around our horse regularly, this may be a viable option. The less restrictive your local/state laws, the more viable it becomes.
I am a big proponent of shooting sports and mounted shooting in particular. I have a mounted shooting club and help introduce people into the sport. This experience has also taught me that not everyone is ready to ride with a gun (blanks or otherwise). There is no room for error when loaded with live ammo. It takes a steady hand, a level head and a lot of training.
The odds of most of us hitting a cat at a respectable distance while mounted is pretty slim. I am sure some of you can do it on a consistent basis and have nothing but respect for your skill.
Since the majority of us will only be able to use the "noise" factor of a firearm, let me suggest this alternative. Get a starter pistol.
Small. Lot's of noise. Cheap ammo (.22 blanks). Avoid all the legal problems of a pistol license, carry laws and hunting laws (make sure it is legal in your area). Plus, you get to train you and your horse to gunfire, so you can get into something like cowboy mounted shooting somewhere down the line.
Whatever "scare" tactic you decide to use on trail, make sure you train your horse thoroughly and regularly. When in any panic situation you (and your horse) should be able to fall back on training without having to think about it.
It's like the old story - when in bear country you only need a .22 and a friend. If the bear attack, shoot your friend in the leg and run like heck.
If your horse spooks on trail and you come off, he will run and you become the unfortunate friend. :)