Metallic silhouette shooting

Metallic silhouette shooting is a group of target shooting disciplines that involves shooting at steel targets representing game animals at varying distances, seeking to knock the metal target over. Metallic silhouette shooting can be done with airguns, black-powder firearms, modern handguns, or modern rifles. A related genre is shot with bow and arrow, the metal targets being replaced with cardboard or foam.[1] The targets used are rams, turkeys, pigs, and chickens, which are cut to different scales and set at certain distances from the shooter depending on the specific discipline.

Metallic silhouette shooting
Highest governing bodyInternational Metallic Silhouette Shooting Union (IMSSU)
Team membersYes
Mixed genderYes
TypeShooting sport
EquipmentPistol, revolver or rifle
VenueShooting range
World ChampionshipsYes


Metallic silhouette is descended from an old Mexican sport called "siluetas metalicas", dating back to the early 1900s, where live game animals were staked out at varying distances as targets. By 1948, metal cutouts of the animals were used instead of live animals, and the first metallic silhouette match was held in Mexico City. Because of the sport's Mexican roots, in the United States the silhouettes are often referred to by terms from several varieties of American Spanish, namely gallina (chicken), jabali (pig), guajalote (turkey), and borrego (ram).[2]

The first silhouette range constructed in the United States was in 1967 at Nogales, Arizona. Growth was steady until 1973 when the NRA become involved in the sport. By the mid-1980s it was the fastest growing gun sport in the United States.[3] It is a sport that appeals to hunters, plinkers, and serious target shooters without the financial barriers of some other competitive shooting sports. Jim Carmichel called it the "common ground on which to unite".[4]

Governing bodies

The International Metallic Silhouette Shooting Union (IMSSU) is the international federation controlling metallic silhouette competitions for both rifle and pistol. There are also two major US-based bodies; the National Rifle Association covers all types of silhouette shooting in the United States, and the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association (IHMSA), founded in 1976.[5] There are some minor differences between the international federation's IMSSU rules and those of the NRA and IHMSA, but it is generally possible to compete in all with the same equipment.[2]

Silhouette shooting is growing in popularity in Canada. Silhouette Canada (S.R.A.C.) is the governing body for rifle metallic silhouette target shooting in Canada. S.R.A.C. sanctions the Canadian National Rifle Silhouette Championships hosted each year by one of the participating provincial silhouette associations. The Canadian Nationals adhere to NRA silhouette rules and regulations.[6]

Course of fire

Targets are set up in groups of five of each kind, with a silhouette's width between targets, laid out at the required distances for the given match. Each group of targets must be shot left to right; if a target is missed then the next shot is taken at the next target. Any target hit out of order is considered a miss. Targets are engaged in order of distance: chickens, pigs, turkeys, rams. The target must be knocked down or pushed off the target stand in order to score a hit; even a shot ricocheting off the ground in front of the target will count if it takes down the correct target. Shooters are allowed to have a spotter with them, who watches where the shots land and advises the shooter on corrections to make.[2]

All disciplines require a minimum of 10 shots at each type of target, for a minimum of 40 shots per match; normal matches are 40, 60, 80, or 120 shots. To score a hit, the target must be knocked off its stand, so each cartridge used must provide sufficient momentum to knock the heavy metal targets over. Scores are recorded as the number of hits per rounds fired, so 30 hits with 40 shots is a score of 30x40.[2]

A tie can be broken in one of two ways: a sudden death shoot-off, used at all national and large regional competitions and for the overall match winner. Master Class and AAA shooters shoot at turkeys, AA Class shoot at rams, A Class shoot at chickens and B Class shoot at pigs. To save time and effort, a reverse animal count can also be used (number of hits on hardest animal to easiest), with whoever hits the most turkeys being the winner. If a tie still exists, whoever hit the most rams is the winner. This continues to chickens and finally pigs.[2]

For IHMSA competition, tie scores are broken by either reverse animal count, or by shootoffs, as determined by the match director, however, for state, regional and international championships, shootoffs are used to determine the winners in all categories and classes. For reverse animal count, scores are compared starting at rams; the shooter with the most rams is the winner. This procedure is used sequentially down through turkeys, pigs and chickens. If a tie still exists, a shootoff is used to determine the winner. Shootoffs are in banks of five targets and can be any type or size, placed at any distance out to the maximum ram distance for the competition. Shooting strings continue until all ties are broken. Sudden death shootoffs are not allowed.[2]


Rifle silhouette shooters generally shoot from an unsupported standing position, though black-powder rifles may use shooting sticks in some competitions.[7][8]

Handgunners may be required to shoot from an unsupported standing position (two hands may be used), or from a "freestyle" position. Freestyle includes some unusual positions, such as the Creedmoor position, which is shot lying on the back, legs bent and feet flat on the ground, with the pistol resting on the shooter's right leg. In a freestyle position the pistol may only contact the shooter's body, no rests may be used (not even, in the case of the Creedmore position, the top of a boot).[9]

There are informal matches for special classes, like cowboy rifles and pistols and vintage military surplus rifles.[10]

Target layouts

All rifle shooting is done standing, with the firearm unsupported. The exception to this is black-powder rifles; the ranges are the same as large-bore rifles, but only chickens must be shot unsupported; all other targets may be shot from any position, including crossed sticks, a bench may not be used. Pistol shooting, unless in a designated standing event, can be shot from any unsupported position. Like the any-position pistol shooters, standing pistol shooters adopt odd positions in their quest for the most stable possible shooting position. Standing pistol is the most difficult discipline; no one has yet shot a perfect 40x40. Standing big-bore any-sight pistol matches are often tied with perfect scores, and decided by a tiebreaker.[2]

Silhouette sizes
Width 13 in (33 cm) 22 in (56 cm) 19 in (48 cm) 32 in (81 cm)
Height 11 in (28 cm) 14 in (36 cm) 23 in (58 cm) 27 in (69 cm)

To allow shooting at ranges which may not have space for a full target layout, NRA rules allow the use of reduced scale pigs, turkeys and rams placed at the same distance as chickens. The scale is reduced proportional to the change in distance, so the targets will cover the same angular distance as they would if set up at full range. Reduced scale matches fired at paper targets are also popular for informal competitions, especially for Internet-based matches where the shooters may reside in different countries. These are generally fired with rimfires or airguns.

Targets for large-bore use are 3/8" to 1/2" thick steel; small bore targets are 3/16" to 1/4" steel, and airgun targets are 1/8" steel, although some aluminum targets are produced.

Ranges are measured in meters only. The exception is the new IHMSA air pistol discipline, which is in yards only.

Standard ranges (measured in either yards or meters)
Large bore rifle 200300385500full
Small bore rifle 4060771001/5
Air rifle 203036451/10
Cowboy rifle 50100150200Full
Cowboy pistol caliber and small bore [11] 4050751001/2
Large bore pistol 50100150200Full
Small bore pistol 2550751003/8
Field pistol 2550751001/2
Air pistol (yds. only) 1012.515181/10


Clothing - Commercial-type trap and skeet vests (sleeveless) and shotgun shooting shirts are permitted as well as clothing normally suitable for existing climatic temperatures. Shooting coats, unnecessarily heavy clothing, or anything that would provide artificial support such as clothing having excess padding or stiffening material or which restricts or supports the body in the shooting position may not be worn. In black powder cartridge rifle competitions only period costumes are permitted.[12]

Ear protection, eye protection, spotting scopes, gloves (only for warmth when conditions require). [13] NRA rules for high power (silhouette and hunter) A rifle, caliber 6mm or larger, provided no belted cartridges or magnums are allowed.[14] Common calibers can be thought of as in the deer hunting, target shooting and bench rest range. .243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, 6mm BR, .260 Remington, 6.5mm Creedmoor, 6.5×55mm, 6.5x47, 6.5 TCU, .270 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, 7mm BR Remington, 7mm TCU, 7x57mm, .30 TC, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield. The limiting factor is the balance between amount of recoil and the ability to retain enough energy to knock the rams over at 500 meters.

High power silhouette rifle - A rifle, caliber 6mm or larger, provided no belted cartridges or magnums are allowed. Generalized specifications: (Maximum weight 10 pounds, 2 ounces, including sights Any sights, telescopic or metallic may be used. Scopes may not be more than 2 inches above the rifle as measured from the top of the receiver to the underside of the scope tube, nor may the scope be offset from the top center line of the receiver. Any sighting device programmed to activate the firing mechanisms is prohibited. Stock: The stock must be traditionally styled and may not be bent or twisted so as to deviate from conventional configurations such as factory rifle stocks or silhouette stocks as manufactured by Fajen, McMillan, H-S Precision, and others. The barrel may be no longer than 30 inches. (Exceptions: U.S. rifle caliber .30 M1, M14 and M1A. These rifles only may exceed the weight limit. Telescopic sights are not permitted. The magazine of the M1A or M14 may not be used as a palm rest.[15]

High power hunting silhouette rifle - A hunting style rifle having a maximum weight of 9 pounds, including sights and if applicable, an empty magazine or clip. The intent is to describe a common hunting rifle. Caliber: 6mm or larger, provided that no belted cartridges or magnums are allowed. Sights: any telescopic or metallic sight may be used. Scopes may not be more than 1.5 inches above the rifle. Exception: for rifles that eject the empty cartridge case straight up and that normally use an offset scope, the scope may be offset. Any sighting device programmed to activate the firing mechanism is prohibited. Stock: A hunting style stock; thumbhole-type stocks are not permitted. Trigger: Trigger pull is no less than 2 pounds. Rifles must be equipped with a functional safety. All safety features, including any manual safety, must be functional. Barrel: A hunting style contoured barrel that tapers from chamber to muzzle. Bull barrels are not permitted. A factory tuners that do not act as a muzzle brake or compensator are permitted. Maximum barrel length is 26 inches, including tuner. Magazines: Magazines may not be loaded with more than five rounds.[16]

Anschutz is the manufacturer which totally dominates the smallbore silhouette rifle field.[17] At the 2007 NRA Smallbore Rifle Silhouette National Championship 71% of all of the standard rifles were Anschutz rifles, 67% of the hunter rifles were Anschutz rifles.[18]

Smallbore silhouette rifle - Identical to the description of the high power silhouette rifle, except that the rifles are chambered for only factory loaded .22 caliber short, long or long rifle rimfire cartridges. Hyper velocity rounds are not allowed.[19]

Smallbore hunting silhouette rifle - Identical to the description of the high power hunting silhouette rifle, except that the rifle may be a single-loading rifle, the weight may not exceed 8 1/2 pounds, the rifles are chambered for only factory loaded .22 caliber short, long or long rifle rimfire cartridges, and barrel turners or additional weights are not permitted.[20]

Cowboy lever action silhouette - Any lever action center fire rifle .25 caliber or larger with a tubular magazine of original manufacturer or replica thereof. Only rimmed cases loaded with round or flat nosed bullets are used. Exception: .30 Remington and .35 Remington are allowed.[21]

Smallbore cowboy rifle silhouette - Any lever action, pump, or semi-auto rimfire rifle with a tubular magazine. Only .22 long rifle ammunition is allowed. Hyper velocity ammunition is prohibited.[22]

Pistol cartridge cowboy lever action silhouette - Any lever action rifle with a tubular magazine. Only rimmed pistol cartridges loaded with round or flat nosed bullets are used, i.e. .25-20 Winchester, .32-20 Winchester, 38’s, .357 Magnum, .38-40 Winchester, .44s, .44-40 Winchester, .45 Colt, .45 Long Colt, .22 Magnum and .22 Long Rifle.[23]

High power semi-automatic military rifle - Any center fire, selfloading rifle, as issued for general service by the armed forces of any nation, or the same type and caliber of commercially manufactured rifle, having not less than 4-1/2 pound trigger pull, with standard type stock. In all courses, the standard box magazine is attached. Hinged butt plates, if installed, are only used in the folded position. Rubber recoil pads may be used. Gas systems, if any, are fully operational. External modifications are not allowed. The application of synthetic coatings, which includes those containing powdered metal, to the interior of the stock to improve bedding is authorized provided the coating does not interfere with the function or operation of safety features. The front and rear sights must be of original design, but may vary in dimensions of rear sight aperture and front sight blade. The internal parts of the rifle may be specially fitted and include alterations which will improve the functioning and accuracy of the arm, provided such alterations in no way interfere with the proper functioning of the safety devices as manufactured. (6mm or larger caliber. Any magazine may be used and may be included in the grasp).[24]

See also


  1. Athletic Institute (1983). Archery. Athletic Institute. pp. 81–84. ISBN 978-0-87670-086-0.
  2. James, C. Rodney (6 August 2010). Gun Digest Book of the .22 Rifle. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. pp. 192–193. ISBN 1-4402-1500-6.
  3. Blair, Wesley. The Complete Book of Target Shooting. Pennsylvania, Harrisburg: Stackpole Books. pp. 327–330. ISBN 0-8117-0427-0.
  4. Carmichel, Jim. The Modern Rifle. New York, USA: Winchester Press. pp. 277. ISBN 0-87691-206-4.
  5. David Steier (1 April 2007). Guns 101: A Beginners Guide to Buying and Owning Firearms. pp. 166–. ISBN 978-1-4303-1526-1.
  6. name=""|date= 5 Feb 2017
  7. Petzal, David (April 1989). "Time for the Double Deuce". Field & Stream: 122–123. ISSN 8755-8599.
  8. Fadala, Sam (3 November 2006). The Complete Blackpowder Handbook. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 327. ISBN 1-4402-2711-X.
  9. Sparano, Vin T. (20 October 2000). The Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia. St. Martin's Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-312-26722-3.
  10. Stephens, Charles (2001). Cowboy Action Silhouette Rifle: Winning Techniques for Western Competition. Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-58160-137-4.
  12. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  13. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  14. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  15. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  16. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  17. Blair, Wesley. The Complete Book of Target Shooting. Pennsylvania, Harrisburg: Stackpole Books. p. 338. ISBN 0-8117-0427-0.
  18. "Rifle Silhouette". Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  19. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  20. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  21. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  22. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  23. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  24. "NRA Rule book" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2017.
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