Rifle silhouette shooting is an import from Mexico. Like most other shooting games it originated as a shooting discipline to replicate hunting situations and improve the hunter’s marksmanship. The first metallic silhouette match was held in Mexico City in 1948 and the first national championship in 1952. Roy Dunlap, led the effort to bring silhouette shooting to the United States and the first match in the U. S. was held at the Tucson Rifle Club in 1968.
The targets are steel cutout representations of game animals. The chicken is shot at 200 meters, the javelin at 300 meters, the turkey at 385 meters and the ram at 500 meters. Smallbore targets are reduced in scale and are fired at 40, 60 75 and 100 meters.
The events normally consist of a 40-shot course of fire. The shooter begins at a squadded location and fires five shots at a bank of five targets in a row in a time limit of two and a half minutes. The targets are reset and five more shots are fired. The shooter then advances to the next bank of targets until all the targets have been engaged. Targets must be knocked completely off the stands to count. Competitors are divided into classes based on past performance in five classes from B Class to Master.
The National Silhouette Rifle Championships for both smallbore and high power consist of a 120 round course of fire and are held at different locations around the country. Local matches are normally 40-shot matches and regional and state championships are normally 80 shots.
The rifles used are divided into two classes, standard rifle and hunter class. Standard rifles can weigh as much as 10.2 pounds and can be highly modified to suit the purpose. Hunter rifles must weigh less than nine pounds and can’t drastically depart from their original factory configuration. Triggers must break at no less than two pounds. Almost all rifles in both classes use scopes, normally target scopes are used in powers from 16x to 32x.
Smallbore guns use the same parameters and fire .22 long rifle ammunition only. The minimum caliber allowed is .243 though most shooters shoot larger calibers to allow certain falls of rams at 500 meters. The .308 Winchester is the most common choice. Shooters may have a spotter with a spotting scope but slings and shooting coats are not allowed though shooters can wear a vest with a padded shoulder area.
Silhouette matches also are fired with black powder rifles. The gun must be a pre 1896 rifle or a replica or a military style rifle with an exposed hammer. The course of fire is the same but only iron sights are allowed and pigs, turkeys and rams can be shot on cross sticks. The most common caliber is .45/70.
Recreational silhouette shooting is great practice for hunters and encourages a steady hold in the standing position while under pressure. The longer range targets also require some wind doping skills. Silhouette shooting is particularly satisfying to many shooters because of the instant gratification of hearing the bullet clang into the target and seeing the target fall. At longer ranges, the target is often completely off the stand before the clang rewards the ears.
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