High Power Rifle Silhouette
Rifle silhouette is an arcade-style shooting sport in which steel targets shaped like animals are fired on from four different distances. The silhouette sports all originated in Mexico in the 1940s or so when live animals were used and the prizes were the animals themselves. Eventually, for a number of reasons, the competitions converted to steel targets and the first metallic silhouette championship match was held in 1952 in Mexico City. By the late 1960s, the sport was gaining interest in the Unites States as well and in 1973 the NRA sponsored the first NRA Metallic Silhouette Championships in Tuscon, Arizona.
Modern high power rifle silhouette includes target distances that range from 200 to 500 meters and all shooting is done from an unsupported offhand position using a center fire rifle. Scoring is as simple as hits and misses – if the target falls, it is scored a hit. As you might guess, the sport is challenging but also quite fun and rewarding due to the instant feedback provided when a target is hit. It really is pretty awesome to see a target fall followed by the distinct CLANG! sound that lets you know that you just connected with your target from 500 meters… from the standing position!
There are several types of rifles that can be used for high power rifle silhouette but generally they are hunting type rifles most often with optical sights (scopes) attached. NRA silhouette rules specify that rifles must have a bore diameter of at least 6 mm and that magnum or other belted cartridges are not allowed. The idea behind these rules is that projectiles smaller than 6 mm might not have sufficient energy to knock the targets down and magnum or belted rounds could damage or even penetrate them. There is no requirement that optical sights be used but due to the relatively small size of the targets, they generally make the sport more enjoyable since they allow the competitor to clearly see the targets.
Normally, as will be the case for RBGC matches, the 40 shot course of fire outlined previously will be fired twice – once with a lighter rifle called a “hunting rifle” or “hunter gun” and once with a heavier rifle called a “standard rifle” or “heavy gun”. There are a few additional rules for each rifle type but in general, hunting rifles can weigh a maximum of 9 lbs. (including sights) and must have a minimum trigger pull weight of 2 lbs. Standard rifles can be a maximum of 10 lbs. 2 oz. and does not have a minimum trigger pull weight restriction (but it must be SAFE!). A number of competitors, particularly when just getting started in the sport, opt to shoot a rifle that meets the more stringent hunting rifle requirements in both the hunter and standard matches.
Course of Fire
There are several courses of fire that can be used for silhouette but the most common for high power is 10 shots at each of the four animals/distances for a total of 40 shots:
10 chicken targets fired at 200 meters
The course of fire is subdivided into 5 shot strings, during which the competitors are allowed a 15 second ready period to load and prepare (change sight settings, etc.) for the first shot followed by 2 ½ minutes to fire five shots. The line commands are “READY”, “FIRE” and “CEASE FIRE”. Depending on how many targets are available, this string of fire can be followed immediately (after a 30 second break) by another “READY” command for the second 5 targets or a time in which the range is made safe so targets can be reset.
Competitors familiar with other rifle shooting disciplines may notice that there are no sighting shots included in the course of fire – this is not an inadvertent omission! You must know your zeros for the four distances and make adjustments during the match. Normally ranges that hold silhouette matches have a sighting/practice period prior to the start of record fire. During this time, competitors are allowed to confirm zeros with an unlimited number of rounds but once the match starts, no sighting shots are allowed.
The silhouette matches at River Bend Gun Club are open to all competitors so you are not required to be a club member to participate. Shooters under the age of 18 are welcomed but must complete a waiver (available at match registration) including a parent or guardian’s signature. In addition, the young shooter must be accompanied by the parent while participating.
One of the great things about silhouette is that it does not require much in the way of specialty equipment so it is very simple to get started even if you have little experience with competitive shooting. Basically all you need is a rifle, ammunition and the appropriate safety/protective equipment. The list below includes everything you need to get started:
- Rifle (see Firearms section and/or NRA rules for additional details but generally any hunting type rifle that has at least a 6mm bore diameter and is not a magnum will work)
For the past several years, we have been holding matches on the first Sundays during the spring and fall months. This year, since attendance has been low and much of the consistent participation is from out of state competitors (that can’t make it to every single match), the number of matches has been reduced in an attempt to ensure enough participation. We would love for the program to grow to the point where matches could be held every month and even include registered matches (in the form of State Championships, etc.) so if you are reading this and are even slightly curious about the sport, come on out and give it a try!
The scheduled match dates can be found on the RBGC calendar as well as in the current match program posted separately on this forum. The program includes additional details but the short version is that practice/sight-in begins at 9 AM, followed by the hunting rifle match at 10 AM and the standard rifle match after completion of the first match (around noon).
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