June 4th, 2019

Quick History of Silhouette Shooting

Silhouette Centerfire high power history formation Mexico Ram Pig Chicken livestock

The NRA Blog ran an feature on Silhouette shooting by NRA Silhouette Program Coordinator Jonathan Leighton. Here are selections from Leighton’s story:

NRA Silhouette Shooting
The loud crack from the bullet exiting the muzzle followed by an even louder ‘clang’ as you watch your target fly off the railing is really a true addiction for most Silhouette shooters. There is nothing better than shooting a game where you actually get to see your target react to the bullet. In my opinion, this is truly what makes this game so much fun.

Metallic Silhouette — A Mexican Import
Silhouette shooting came to this country from Mexico in the 1960s. It is speculated that sport had its origins in shooting contests between Pancho Villa’s men around 1914. After the Mexican Revolution the sport spread quickly throughout Mexico. ‘Siluetas Metalicas’ uses steel silhouettes shaped like game animals. Chickens up front followed by rows of pigs, turkeys, and furthest away, rams. Being that ‘Siluetas Metalicas’ was originally a Mexican sport, it is common to hear the targets referred to by their Spanish names Gallina (chicken), Javelina (pig), Guajalote (turkey) and Borrego (ram). Depending on the discipline one is shooting, these animals are set at different distances from the firing line, but always in the same order.

Before Steel There Was… Barbeque
In the very beginnings of the sport, live farm animals were used as targets, and afterwards, the shooters would have a barbeque with all the livestock and/or game that was shot during the match. The first Silhouette match that used steel targets instead of livestock was conducted in 1948 in Mexico City, Mexico by Don Gonzalo Aguilar. [Some matches hosted by wealthy Mexicans included high-ranking politicians and military leaders]. As the sport spread and gained popularity during the 1950s, shooters from the Southwestern USA started crossing the Mexican border to compete. Silhouette shooting came into the US in 1968 at the Tucson Rifle Club in Arizona. The rules have stayed pretty much the same since the sport has been shot in the US. NRA officially recognized Silhouette as a shooting discipline in 1972, and conducted its first NRA Silhouette Nationals in November of 1972.

Now There Are Multiple Disciplines
The actual sport of Silhouette is broken into several different disciplines. High Power Rifle, Smallbore Rifle, Cowboy Lever Action Rifle, Black Powder Cartridge Rifle, Air Rifle, Air Pistol, and Hunter’s Pistol are the basic disciplines. Cowboy Lever Action is broken into three sub-categories to include Smallbore Cowboy Rifle, Pistol Cartridge Cowboy Lever Action, and regular Cowboy Lever Action. Black Powder Cartridge Rifle also has a ‘Scope’ class, and Hunter’s Pistol is broken into four sub-categories. Some clubs also offer Military Rifle Silhouette comps.

Here is a rimfire silhouette match conducted by the Sporting Shooters’ Assn. of Australia.
Silhouette Centerfire high power history formation Mexico Ram Pig Chicken livestock

Where to Shoot Silhouette
NRA-Sanctioned matches are found at gun clubs nation-wide. There are also many State, Regional, and National matches across the country as well. You can find match listings on the Shooting Sports USA website or contact the NRA Silhouette Department at (703) 267-1465. For more info, visit SteelChickens.com, the #1 website dedicated to Silhouette shooting sports.

Permalink Competition, Shooting Skills 13 Comments »
June 4th, 2019

Tuning Tips — Pressure, Powder Fouling, and Temperature

Pressure Temperature Fouling Tech Tips Tommy Todd Sierra Bullets

by Tommy Todd, Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician for Sierra Bullets Blog
I have shot several disciplines of shooting competitions over the years and have learned a few things regarding ammunition and bullet function during this time. Frequently the matches I shoot require 40 to 100 shots before a person gets a chance to clean his rifle. Just as frequently, a good shooting match rifle will still shoot very good scores and groups with that many rounds fired through them. However, those guns do not deliver the same accuracy as when they were clean, but the drop-off in accuracy is not a huge change unless a set of accumulative issues arise.

In one situation, very dirty powder created more serious problems…

Pressure Issues — Extraction Problems Caused by Bad Fouling

Problem: Pressures Increased as Powder Fouled Barrel and Carbon Ring Formed
Solution: Clean Barrel Every Ten Rounds.

I witnessed a set of problems that occurred with a fellow competitor’s rifle at a recent F-Class match. He was using a large case capacity cartridge for the bore diameter and he was shooting a powder that was burning extremely dirty. As the match progressed, the carbon buildup caused most likely a carbon ring in the throat of the rifle and pressures kept increasing to the point that the cases were hard to extract, bolt lift was excessive, and eventually he quit shooting the rifle due to these issues. Accuracy also suffered as could be evidenced by the gun’s performance on target. This load looked fine when he was developing it, none of the excessive pressure signs appeared when he worked the load up, but he was cleaning the gun every ten shots.

When he was shooting multiple, 20-shot strings during the match is when the issues appeared. He was able to give the gun a thorough cleaning and the issues went away, for several rounds and then the pressures started appearing again. These pressure signs were not due to ambient temperatures as it was a cool spring morning and the temperature was in the low 40° range.

Accuracy Issues — Tune Lost with Higher Ambient Temps

Problem: Accuracy Lost When Outside Temp Much Hotter than When Load Developed
Solution: Pull Bullets, Reload Ammo with Lighter Charge

A couple of years ago, I attended a match early in the shooting season and it was unusually hot for that time period. I heard a competitor worrying before the match about his gun “blowing up”. At first I was concerned, but after thinking about what he had said I realized that he meant his “accuracy” blowing up, meaning he knowingly had loaded his ammunition at the top end of an accuracy tune that he established via a ladder test. The next day I asked him how his scores were and he said the gun was not shooting very well initially, but he had found enough equipment from friends that were at the match and had pulled the bullets, reduced the powder charge by a few tenths of a grain and re-seated the bullets and his gun was now shooting normally. The temperature difference between his home range the weekend before when he established his load and the match conditions was about 30 degrees and that was enough to cause an accuracy change at 1000 yards.

Ammo cool storage

Bosch Insulated tool caseTo learn more about how ambient temperature (and primer choice) affect pressures (and hence velocities) you should read the article Pressure Factors: How Temperature, Powder, and Primer Affect Pressure by Denton Bramwell. In that article, the author uses a pressure trace instrument to analyze how temperature affects ammo performance. Bramwell’s tests yielded some fascinating results.

For example, barrel temperature was a key factor: “Both barrel temperature and powder temperature are important variables, and they are not the same variable. If you fail to take barrel temperature into account while doing pressure testing, your test results will be very significantly affected. The effect of barrel temperature is around 204 PSI per F° for the Varget load. If you’re not controlling barrel temperature, you about as well might not bother controlling powder temperature, either. In the cases investigated, barrel temperature is a much stronger variable than powder temperature.”

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading No Comments »