View Full Version : About Metallic Silhouette Sports Shooting

CRPA News and Updates
04-17-2012, 9:50 AM
By Luis Bernardez, CRPA Silhouette Chairman

The sport of Metallic Silhouettes is a challenging and fun shooting discipline.

Unlike most shooting sports, which use paper targets, silhouette 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 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 use 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 shots are taken from the standing position.



Competitors stand next to high power chickens set at 200 meters and a high power turkey set at 375 meters.


Smallbore rifle silhouette can be thought of as a scaled down version of high power rifle silhouette. In smallbore silhouette competitions the shooters use .22 rimfire rifles. These rifles are typically bolt action fitted with scopes. The targets and distances are scaled to one fifth the high power targets. That means the chickens are at 40 meters, pigs are at 60 meters, turkeys are at 77meters, and rams are at 100 meters.


Black powder cartridge rifle uses rifles described as a hunting or military style rifle, being single shot, originally made for black powder cartridges, manufactured prior to 1896 and being typical of that era.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 (high power long Range), smallbore rifle, and pistol cartridge lever action. 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 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 position. The typical 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 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 21/2 minute and 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 silhouette 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 off hand shooting.

Smallbore Rifles
For smallbore silhouette, most .22 rimfire rifles and standard velocity ammunition are allowed. The most common rifle used is a bolt action rifle with scopes of 16 to 24 power magnification. However, there is no reason you should not come out with your semiautomatic and 8X power scope.

To get a little more technical, there are two smallbore rifle classes:

• Hunter class: A hunting-style rifle, maximum weight 81/2 lbs. including scope and empty magazine, minimum trigger pull 2 lbs. Popular choices include NS-522, CZ 452, Sako Finnfire, Anschutz 1710D, plus all sorts of model from Ruger, Savage, Remington, Winchester, Kimber, etc.
• Standard class: Typically a purpose-built silhouette rifle, maximum weight 10 lbs. 2 oz. including scope and empty magazine. The most popular choices are Anschutz 54.18 MSR (metallic silhouette repeater) and custom rifles built on Anschutz or Remington actions.

Because the targets are small, most people use a scope to shoot silhouettes. Eight to twenty four power fixed or variable scopes are adequate. Beginners will want to start with a lower power because it makes the motion of the crosshairs across the target less apparent and therefore less unnerving. Look for these features in a scope:

• Adjustable objective. You are shooting at four distances, so you want to be able to focus the scope at each distance. For air rifle, the scope must focus down to 20 yards.
• Target turrets. You need turrets that are easy to turn with your fingers and are clearly marked.
• Dot or fine duplex reticle

Popular scope brands:
• Inexpensive: Bushnell Trophy, BSA, Tasco, Swift
• Moderate: Weaver V16, Bushnell Elite 4200 8-24,Sightron SII 6-24x42D (all available with dot reticle)
• Expensive: Leupold 6.5-20 EFR, fixed 24X and fixed 25x

Most standard velocity ammunition is allowed. It is recommended that it function above well in your rifle and that it is standard velocity. (Standard velocity ammunition is between 1055 and 1100 ft/sec.)

Other Gear
You must wear eye and ear protection. Here are some additional items you will find useful:

• Pen or pencil and 6″ x 9″ clipboard for scoring
• Countdown timer, to see how much of the 21/2minute shooting period remains
• Three or four magazines; so you don’t have to reload between banks

Various Rifle and Handgun Events
All silhouette rifle events follow the same format. The difference is that 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:

• Smallbore (.22 rimfire)
• High Power
• Black Powder Cartridge Rifle
• Smallbore Cowboy Lever Action Rifle
• Pistol Cartridge Cowboy Lever Action Rifle
• Rifle Cowboy Lever Action Rifle
• Air Rifle
• Muzzle Loader Rifle

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
• United Sportsman’s Club – Concord
• La Gloria Silhouette Club – Gonzales
• West End Gun Club – Devore
• Chabot Gun Club – Castro Valley
• Avenal Gun Club – Avenal

Smallbore Rifle Silhouette
• Avenal Gun Club – Avenal
• United Sportsman’s Club – Concord
• Hat Creek Rifle and Pistol Club – Burney
• Sunnyvale Rod and Gun Club – Cupertino
• La Gloria Silhouette Club – Gonzales
• West End Gun Club – Devore
• Imperial Valley Rifle & Pistol Assoc. Range - Imperial
• Sierra Valley Sportsman’s Club – Portola
• Canyon Oaks Sportsman’s Club – San Fernando
• Los Angeles Silhouette Club – San Fernando
• San Luis Obispo Sportsmen’s Association – SLO

For information on silhouette events in California contact the chairman of the Silhouette Committee at silhouette@crpa.org.

CRPA State Championships
Currently the CRPA sponsors several rifle silhouette state championships.

• Smallbore (.22 rimfire)
• High Power
• Black Powder Cartridge Rifle
• Smallbore Cowboy Lever Action Rifle
• Pistol Cartridge Cowboy Lever Action Rifle
• Rifle Cartridge Cowboy Lever Action Rifle

Clubs wishing to host a state championship in any silhouette discipline should contact the chairman of the Silhouette Committee at silhouette@crpa.org.

04-17-2012, 9:57 AM
There is also an airpistol silhouette competition. I know, I shoot it every 3rd Sunday at Modesto! .22 rifle and pistol is the second Sunday.

04-17-2012, 11:36 AM
One reason why I laugh when ppl at the USPSA matches I shoot cringe when steel 8" plates are much past 25 yards... "I used to shoot chickens at 50 yards with my pistol.. 25 yards! BAH!!"

04-19-2012, 2:58 PM
They have also shot air pistol matches at Coyote Point in the Bay Area.

To have a State Championship we just need a club and match director willing to host the match.

If anyone is interested in hosting any silhouette match please contact me.


Luis Bernardez
Silhouette Committee Chairman