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INTRODUCTION TO SMALL BORE RIFLE SILHOUETTE

By Ron Swor

Silhouette shooting is a simple, fun and challenging sport. Simple because you either hit or miss your target for a point or no point. No 9 points for this shot or 6 points for that one. Fun because it is a kick-in-the-pants to hear a hit “ping” and watch the target go flying.  Challenging because the targets are small, you shoot at longer distances than most people would normally shoot and from a standing position.  Your crosshairs or sight will not stop wandering around your target! You’ll learn to time your trigger pull to when the “sight” is on the target as it moves through it.

All Silhouette shooting started as a large caliber Rifle contest shot in Mexico.  It is believed that in 1914, two of Poncho Villa’s men had a contest to see who was the better shooter. They used the local livestock as targets and presumably that night’s meal. The animals were staked out at various ranges.  After WW II, the targets were changed to steel Silhouettes of animals. Around 1960, shooters from the United States were crossing the border to shoot the competitions in Northern Mexico, which lead to the sport being shot in 1968 in Arizona.  The NRA recognized the sport in 1972 and started sponsoring Matches.  From this, several versions with modified Distances are now shot.

Small Bore Rifle uses 1/5 scale targets at 1/5 the distances that the Large Bore Rifle uses. Small bore is any .22 Rimfire using ammo that has a Muzzle Velocity of 1300 ft/sec or less.  Most hyper-velocity ammo is Ok but CCI Stingers or Remington Vipers and the like are not.

Small Bore Rifle Silhouette Course of fire

          There are 4 different Metal Animal Silhouettes and Distances to shoot.  For now, Sage distances are in yards but NRA Rule says the distances can be in yards or meters.  Chickens are shot at 40 yards, Pigs are at 60 yards, Turkeys are at 77 yards and Rams at 100 yards.  All are shot from a standing position with no help from slings or supports of any kind. Four shooters approach their station at the firing line with unload rifles and place their rifle, ammo (magazines loaded with 5 rounds) and other equipment on the table.  These shooters are called a “Relay”.  When everyone in the relay is ready, the command “load” or “listo” is given.  This is the start of a 15 second period to set or check your sights/scope and to load, then aim at your first “bank”.  A “bank” is a set of 5 targets, i.e. 5 chickens, 5 pigs, 5 turkeys or 5 rams. At the end of the 15-second period, the command “fire” or “feugo” is given. You then have 2 minutes 30 seconds to fire 5 shots and only 5 shots.  The first shot must be at the left most target in the bank.  Whether you hit or miss that target, the next shot must be at the next target in line to the right. You keep doing this until you have fired one shot at each target or the time has expired and the command “cease fire” or “alto” has been given.  For every target you shoot off the stand, you get a point.  If the target is still on the stand, whether from a miss, a hit that failed to knock off the target or you didn’t have time to shoot at it, it is a “miss” and you get no point for it.

At the Cease Fire or Alto command, you safe your rifle and place it back on the table and either get ready for the next bank at that animal or remove your equipment, go reset your targets for the next relay to shoot and wait until your relay is up again at your next animal silhouette station.  A typical Match will have you shoot 40 rounds, which is 10 rounds or 2 banks at each of the 4 animals.  Matches can be as short as 1 bank of each animal (20 rounds/points) or 4 banks of each animal (80 rounds/ points).

Equipment

          Any .22 cal rifle will work. There are two classes of rifle. First is the Hunter class. Hunter class is any factory production rifle.  It can be a single shot or semi-action, bolt, lever, or auto loader.  It can have iron sights or scopes.  I recommend a scope but you don’t have to have one. The barrel must have a taper.  No “heavy” or “varmint” barrel or barrels over 26 inches.  The trigger pull must be a minimum limit of 2 lbs.

          The other class is Silhouette Rifle class.  These are usually high cost rifles with modifications and different limits to the firearm.  Barrels are limited to 30 inches or less.  There is no limit to trigger pull as long as the rifle is safe.

          There are other rules about both classes of rifle but unless you spend a ton of money for a souped up trick rifle you will most likely be in the Hunter class.

          Scopes make shooting easier.  Whether you use a scope or iron sights, you need to know what your settings are for 40, 60, 77, and 100 yards.  Be able to change to those settings as you shoot those ranges.  Some people do visually adjust for the different ranges, i.e. aim 6 inches high at 100 yards or 2 inches at 77, but your best bet is to adjust your setting to aim directly at each range.  Just don’t forget to change the setting between ranges.

Targets

          As if it’s not bad enough that the targets are small, it is entirely possible to shoot between the legs of the Rams and Pigs - which will result in a miss.  In ranking the difficulty level, 1 being the easiest and 4 being the hardest, I would rate the Rams as 1, the Pigs as 2, the Chickens as 3, and the Turkeys about 10!

Chickens are only about 2 inches from the tip of the tail to the tip of the beak and 2- inches top to bottom.

          Pigs are about 4 wide and 3 tall with a 1 by 1 inch “hole” between the legs and the body and base - plenty of room for a .22 cal bullet to go through.

Rams are about 6 wide and 5 tall with a gap 2 inches between the legs and 1 inch between the body and base, once again, plenty of room for a .22 cal bullet to go through.  Believe it or not, I have heard that a .22 can and has passed through the hole in the rams curved horns.  Sounds like a sorry excuse for missing if you ask me.

          That leaves the Turkeys, which is what you look like trying to hit these stupid things. They are 4 inches wide and 4 inches tall, BUT, diagonally they are only about 2 inches across and that is tough at 77 yards. 

          The sizes of these targets make it challenging but when you hit one, that “ping” is its own reward. And when the wind comes up, it’s a free for all.

Finally, these are really fun low-key matches to shoot.  It’s simple and easy to get into and not very expensive to shoot when you start out.  Ammo for .22 is cheap and you only need a box of 50 for a match (sighting in will take more). The 2- minutes may seem a short time but that averages 1 shot per 30 seconds.  I saw a person with a semi-auto shoot five targets in 10 seconds or less, he hit most of them too.

These are the targets used for Silhouette shooting - Chicken - Pig - Turkey and Ram - with a soda can used for reference.

A view of the target banks downrange.   Chickens at 40 yds.  Pigs at 60 yds.  Turkeys at 77 yds.  Rams at 100 yds.

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