Participants ride through patterns shooting 10 balloons attached to sticks. There are a total of 64 different patterns that can be chosen for the runs. Before the meet, a lot chooses the four patterns that are rotated. Riders are armed with two single-action revolvers, which require the shooter to cock the hammer before the gun is fired.
The contest is timed and requires riders to fire five rounds from each revolver. The guns fire .45 caliber blanks loaded with black powder. The unburned residue of the black powder is powerful enough to break the balloon at a distance of about 5 feet.