The sport of Metallic Silhouettes is a challenging and fun shooting discipline.
Unlike most shooting sports, which use paper targets, silhouettes uses reactive steel targets. Four different steel animal silhouettes (chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams) are set out at four different distances. A typical match will have 10 of each animal silhouette for a total of forty targets. Competitors take one shot at each target. If the target is hit and knocked over the competitor scores one point. Thus, a maximum score for a forty shot match is forty points.
The challenge comes from the size and distance of the targets and the off hand shooting position the shooter must use. The fun comes from the sight and sound of the targets falling when they are hit.
There is a silhouette competition for almost any class of firearm. The target shapes are the same but the size and distance of the targets are scaled for the type of firearm used. For example, matches are held using high power rifles, smallbore rifles, black powder cartridge rifles, cowboy lever action rifles, and air rifles. Many handgun events are also held.
Rules and equipment vary slightly between events, but the main concepts are the same.
For instance, High Power Rifle Silhouettes uses center fire cartridges, much like a hunting rifle. Typical calibers include .260, 6.5×47, 7×08, 7BR, and .308. The rifles are usually fitted with scopes. The targets are approximately life size and the target distances are challenging. Chickens are set at 200 meters, pigs at 300 meters, turkeys are at 375 meters and rams are at 500 meters. All of the shots are taken from the standing or off hand position.
Here is a competitor standing next to a high power chicken set at 200 meters and a high power turkey set at 375 meters.
This shooter is shown shooting from the off hand position. His spotter is watching the wind and calling the location of the shooters hit or miss.
Small-bore rifle silhouettes can be thought of as a scaled down version of high power rifle silhouettes. In smallbore silhouettes competitions the shooters use .22 long rifle rifles. These rifles are typically bolt action fitted with scopes. The targets and distances
are scaled to 1/5 the high power targets. That means the chickens are at 40 meters, pigs are at 60 meters, turkeys are at 77 meters and rams are at 100 meters.
The smallbore silhouette targets are one-fifth the size of the high power targets.
Black Powder Cartridge Rifle uses rifles described as a hunting or military style rifle, being single shot, originally made for black powder cartridges, manufactured prior to 1896 and being typical of that era. Chickens are shot off hand but the other animals can be shot off of crossed sticks.
Recently becoming very popular is Cowboy Rifle Silhouette. There are three “Cowboy” categories of firearms: Cowboy Lever Action Silhouette (High Power Long Range), Smallbore Cowboy Rifle Silhouette, and Pistol Cartridge Cowboy Lever Action Silhouette. Cowboy Lever Action events use iron sights only. Because the shooters use iron sights the targets are scaled larger.
Regardless of what kind of silhouette competition is being fired, the attraction and appeal of the sport is very evident at matches.
Competitors are classified according to their average scores. Thus, competitors only compete against people of the same ability. Shooter classifications are B, A, AA, AAA, and Master.
Course of Fire
Rifle silhouette matches are shot from the standing or off hand position. The typical silhouette match consists of 40 targets: ten each of the four animal silhouettes. One shot is fired at each target. If the target is hit and the silhouette falls off of its stand the shooter scores 1 point. Thus, a maximum of 40 points can be scored in a 40 shot match.
The silhouettes are shot in banks of 5 targets with a 2 minute and 30 second time limit for each bank. Shooters are allowed to have a spotter. The spotter monitors the wind conditions, watches where the shots land and advises and coaches the shooter.
The range commands are ready, fire, and cease-fire.
Target sizes and distances are scaled according to the firearm used. The following table shows some of the firearms and target distances for each.
One of the appealing aspects of Metallic Silhouettes is the simplicity of the equipment needed to shoot a match. A good quality off-the-shelf hunting rifle with a scope will get you into the game, enabling you to acquire the fundamental skills of offhand shooting.
For smallbore silhouette, most .22 rimfire rifle and standard velocity ammunition are allowed. The most common rifle used is a bolt-action rifle with scopes of 16 to 24 X magnification. However, there is no reason you should not come out with your semi-automatic and 8X power scope.
To get a little more technical, there are two smallbore rifle classes
Because the targets are small, most people use a scope to shoot silhouettes. 8 to 24 power fixed or adjustable scopes are adequate. Beginners will want to start with a lower power because it makes the motion of the cross hairs across the target less apparent and therefore less unnerving. Look for these features in a scope:
Popular scope brands include:
Most standard velocity ammunition is allowed. It is recommended that it function reliably in your rifle. And that it is Standard velocity. (Standard velocity ammunition is between 1055 and 1100 ft/sec.)
You must wear eye and ear protection. Here are some additional items you may find useful:
Various Rifle and Handgun Events
All silhouette rifle events follow the same format, the difference is the target size and distances are scaled to fit the firearm being used. Some rules and rifle classes vary. There is a silhouette rifle competition for almost any rifle or handgun. Some of the rifle silhouette competitions are:
Come on out and give it a try.
Check with the shooting clubs in your area for upcoming matches. Silhouette shooters are a friendly bunch and they will be more than happy to help you get started. The following clubs usually have regularly scheduled matches.
High Power Rifle Silhouette
Smallbore Rifle Silhouette
For information on silhouette events in California contact the Chairman of the Silhouette Committee at [email protected].
Current CRPA State Championships
Currently the CRPA sponsors several rifle silhouette state championships. They include:
Clubs wishing to host a state championship in any silhouette discipline should contact the Chairman of the Silhouette Committee at [email protected]
For details regarding the California Rifle and Pistol Association State Championships, Junior Marksmanship Programs or general information relating to the silhouette discipline, please contact: