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.
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.
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This fall, Pyramyd Air will host its first-ever major air rifle competition. The Pyramyd Air Cup will be held October 24-26 at the Tusco Rifle Club in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Air gunners from all around the world, amateur and professionals alike, will compete for glory and valuable prizes. The weekend will feature field target and silhouette competitions, with four divisions: Pro PCP, Pro Springer, Sportsman PCP, and Sportsman Springer. Cash and prizes will awarded to the best shooters in each division.
Free Air-Gun “Test Drives” at Pyramyd Air Cup
During the Pyramyd Air Cup Weekend, visitors can try a variety of air guns for FREE. Airguns, ammo, and accessories from leading manufacturers such as AirForce, Hatsan, H&N, Crosman, Air Arms, Umarex, and Gamo will be available to test, at no charge. Airgun expert Tom Gaylord will be on hand to answer questions: “Come see what field target and silhouette are all about. Compete in the matches or just observe. Pyramyd Air will also provide the airguns and ammo for anyone to try out on the open ranges, and I’ll be happy to answer your airgun questions.”
Big Cash Prizes Up for Grabs
Prizes and cash will be awarded to the first, second, and third place finishers in each division, with the top prize valued at $750. The grand champion — the individual with the highest overall score — gets an additional $1,000 cash prize. For the PayDay Challenge, the winner gets $200 from a mere $5 entry fee!
The Pyramyd Air Cup will take place over two days. Each competition will have its own set of guidelines. Competitors will shoot in either the pro or sportsman division with classes based on airgun type: PCP or springer. The Field Target portion of the event is governed under the rules of the American Field Target Association. The silhouette portion will consist of two competitions: off-hand and gunslinger.
Story tip by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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About 24 miles east of Oceanside, California (near the Camp Pendleton Marine base) is the Pala Reservation. On that Native American land you’ll find a Casino Resort, plus an excellent shooting range. Each month, shooters come to Pala for the Varmint Silhouette Match hosted by the North County Shootist Association. Normally the match is held on the first Sunday of the month. But this October, the match will be held Sunday, October 20th. Matches start around 9:00 am and finish around noon.
Course of Fire: Five Yardages, 50 Critters
At five different yardages, ten steel “critter” targets are set as follows: 200 Meters – Field Mice (“pikas”); 300 meters – Crows; 385 meters – Ground Squirrels; 500 meters – Jack Rabbits; 600 yards – Prairie Dogs. The folks at Pala run a tight ship, cycling multiple relays efficiently, so everybody gets to shoot 50 targets (10 each at five different yardages), and the show is usually completed by 1:00 pm. A one-hour sight-in period starts at 8:00 am, and the match starts at 9:00 am sharp. Newcomers should definitely arrive no later than 7:45 am, because you may need the full sight-in period to get good zeros at all five yardages. CLICK HERE for full match INFO.
What to bring to Pala
You’ll need an accurate rifle, plus at least 80 rounds of ammo (bring 100 rounds if you have no idea about your come-ups at these distances). You can shoot either rested prone (F-Class style), from bipod, or from a portable bench with front pedestal and rear bag. Most guys shoot from benches. Any rifle 6.5 caliber or under is allowed (max bullet weight is 107 grains). With no weight restrictions, any good varmint rifle, bench gun, or F-Class rifle can be competitive. Muzzle brakes are permitted. Spotter assistants are allowed, so bring a friend along — he/she can shoot in a different relay. Bring cleaning gear if your rifle can’t run 80+ rounds without losing accuracy. Pastry snacks are often provided, but bring water, and a lunch. You’ll spend some time in the sun helping to set targets, so bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
Fun Weekend for the Whole Family
There is a deluxe Indian Casino/Spa a half-mile from the range. So don’t hesitate to bring the wife. If she’s not a shooter, she can enjoy a fancy brunch or spa treatment while you’re having fun mowing down metal critters. Pala is a 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean and beautiful beaches, so you can make this a weekend holiday for the whole family — kids love sand and surf.
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This 8-minute video, filmed at the Ojai Valley Gun Club in California, shows a 200m metallic silhouette match for handguns. Noted IHMSA shooter Jim Harris describes the course and shooters demonstrate their technique. With these iron-sight, single-shot centerfire pistols, when shooting “freestyle”, most shooters prefer the lying down, feet-first Creedmoor position. This allows them to steady their pistols along the side of the front leg. In the 1800s, long-range rifle shooters also commonly used a Creedmoor position, sometimes resting the barrel on the toes of their boots.
In this second video, Jim compares two “Unlimited” pistols, one in 6.5 BR and the other in 7mm BR. Jim explains the pistols’ features and chamberings. Then the video offers a “shooter’s eye” view of Jim and Scott Mann firing the pistols at half-size pig silhouettes. Watch Jim and Scott both “clean” all five of their respective targets at 100m.
Shown below is an Anschütz Model 1416 MSP E Silhouette pistol, similar to the custom pistols you’ll see in the video. The Anschütz 6836 rear sight was specifically developed for handgun silhouette competition. The folding rear sight cover and anti-glare front sight tube greatly improve the sight picture. This 4.1-lb, single-shot pistol has a trigger pull weight of about 300 grams, roughly 10 ounces.
Jim Harris (“Gunzorro”) has posted many other shooting videos, which you’ll find on the “related videos” section of the YouTube page to which we’ve linked. Jim Harris has won several NRA National and IHMSA International championships in metallic handgun silhouette competition. He is also active in High Power Rifle Silhouette and Black Powder Cartridge Silhouette. In the silhouette arena, he helped popularize the 6.5BR, 6.5PPC, 6.5TKS (improved BR), .260 Remington and .22 PPC, and pioneered the use of Vihtavuori powders in the mid-90s. Jim is also a successful professional freelance photographer, specializing in commercial photography and architecture. Contact Jim at JimHarrisPhotography.com.
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Pala, California Multi-Stage Varmint Silhouette Shoot
About 24 miles east of Oceanside, California (near the Camp Pendleton Marine base) is the Pala Reservation. On that Native American land you’ll find a Casino Resort, plus an excellent shooting range. The first Sunday of every month, shooters come to Pala for the Varmint Silhouette Match. At five different yardages, ten steel “critter” targets are set as follows: 200 Meters – Field Mice (“pikas”); 300 meters – Crows; 385 meters – Ground Squirrels; 500 meters – Jack Rabbits; 600 yards – Prairie Dogs.
There’s a North County Shootist Association Varmint Silhouette match this Sunday, October 2, 2011. You’ll need an accurate rifle, and 80-100 rounds of ammo. You can shoot either rested prone (F-Class style), from bipod, or from a portable bench with front pedestal and rear bag. Any rifle 6.5 caliber or under is allowed, with no weight restrictions. Muzzle brakes are permitted. There’s a one-hour sight-in period starting at 8:00 am, and the match starts at 9:00 am sharp. The folks at Pala run a tight ship, cycling multiple relays efficiently, so everybody gets to shoot 50 targets (10 each at five different yardages), and the show is usually completed by 1:00 pm. (Then if you want… head over to the Pala Casino for gambling fun, or a spa treatment.) CLICK HERE for Match Info. Your Editor has shot with the folks at Pala, so I can assure any first-time participants that this event is well worth attending. The Fun Factor is very high.
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In the Utah backcountry, a group of avid shooters turned entrepreneurs have created an exciting new shooting sport: Rifle Golf. We kid you not — this is not a late April Fool’s story. Here’s how it works — north of Salt Lake City, at the 8,400-acre Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf facility, 30 realistic wildlife targets have been set up set at distances ranging from 175 to 1,200 yards. Shooters engage targets in numbered sequence as they progress through four covered shooting stations. Hits are scored on each of the 30 full-size metallic animal targets, with bonus points for “bulls-eye” hits to the vital zones. A single session of Rifle Golf (4 stations, 30 targets) costs just $50, with a small fee for ATV rental. The game is challenging yet fun, and it allows hunters to practice their shooting skills at various distances, with both up-angle and down-angle shots. The YouTube video below shows the action at all the shooting stations — definitely watch the video.
ATVs Haul Shooters to Four Different Shooting Stations
Marksmen test their long-range accuracy on multiple targets set up at different angles and slopes along a 6-mile course. ATVs are used to travel to each of the four stations and shooters can choose from the classic course for newcomers or the more challenging masters’ course. Each hole or target is assigned a par value depending on the degree of difficulty. Shooters can cut strokes from their score by hitting the life-size wildlife targets in the vitals area. Successful shooters are rewarded by a “dinging” sound when they hit the steel target fitted to each silhouette.
According to Jeff Petersen, Spirit Ridge guide: “Rifle Golf is an ideal way for hunters to practice their shooting skills. You’ll become a better shooter and identify your limits regarding how far you can accurately and consistently shoot.” We think this kind of multi-target, multi-location shooting experience should be fun for tactical shooters as well as hunters. Offering ranges from 175 to 1200 yards, the Spirit Ridge ‘course’ mimics real-life hunting experiences for riflemen of all abilities. Each station features multiple targets, and the shooters must, at times, make steeply angled shots — just as they would on a real hunt. The reactive targets, complete with ‘vitals’, let you know when your shot is dead-on.
Spirit Ridge — There’s No Other “Shooting Range” Quite Like It
Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf is located in scenic North Central Utah hill country. Groups of four to six shooters are accompanied by a guide who assists with locating targets and scoring. Each shooting station sits on a concrete slab covered by a metal awning. All stations are equipped with shooting benches, a picnic table and chairs for participants, guides, and spectators. The Club House features meeting space, restrooms, showers and other amenities. You’ll find lodging and restaurants in nearby Tremonton, Utah.
“We’re a one-of-a-kind shooting facility,” Petersen said. “While there are plenty of places to shoot targets, there’s no other operation like this. Nobody else has a range of this size and variety.” AccurateShooter.com is impressed with what the folks at Spirit Ridge are doing. They have put together a nice facility in a great location. Having been in business since 2005, they have refined and improved the “product”, and customer feedback has been very positive. As the organizers explain: “It’s Golf with a Gun, an ATV, and NO Dress Code.”
We think Spirit Ridge’s $50.00 “single event” fee is very reasonable, and for $175 you can get a four-session “Punch Pass”. To learn more about Spirit Ridge visit www.spiritridgeriflegolf.com. To reserve a “Tee Time”, or request a group booking, call 435-764-6980. For those of you in the Utah region — a day of “Rifle Golf” would make a perfect Father’s Day gift for an active hunter or shooter.
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Whether you’re on the East Coast or West Coast, you can have fun this weekend at an outstanding varmint match, shooting reactive targets for fun, glory (and maybe a little cash). Easterners — head down to Virginia for the Roanoake Egg Shoot. Westerners — navigate to the Pala Range near Oceanside in Southern California.
Roanoake Egg Shoot, Saturday April 30th
In Virginia, the Roanoake Egg Shoot will be held Saturday, April 30, 2011 at the Roanoake Rifle and Revolver Club in Hardy, Virginia. This is a real test of shooter and equipment. You want challenge? Try hitting an egg at 500 yards. That requires a skilled triggerman (or woman) and a very accurate rifle. In addition to the 500-yard egg event, Roanoke also offers long-range plate shooting. There will be three classes this year: 1) Factory Guns; 2) Hunter/Tactical; and 3) Custom Benchrest. The custom gun class will shoot 2″-diameter steel plates at 425 yards while the Factory and Hunter class guns will shoot 3″ plates at 425 yards. All shooting is from a 20-bench covered firing line. The entry fee is just $20.00 per gun/class entry. Pay $60.00 and you can shoot all three classes. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top shooters. For more info, contact Mark Schronce (540) 980-1582 email@example.com or Epps Foster, (540) 890-4973. The club is located at 1305 Gun Club Drive, Hardy, VA 24101. GET DIRECTIONS.
Pala, California Multi-Stage Varmint Silhouette Shoot
About 24 miles east of Oceanside, California (near the Camp Pendleton Marine base) is the Pala Reservation. On that Native American land you’ll find an impressive Casino Resort, plus an excellent shooting range. The first Sunday of every month, shooters come to Pala to enjoy a challenging Varmint Silhouette Match. At five different yardages, ten steel “critter” targets are set as follows: 200 Meters – Field Mice (“pikas”); 300 meters – Crows; 385 meters – Ground Squirrels; 500 meters – Jack Rabbits; 600 yards – Prairie Dogs.
There’s a North County Shootist Association Varmint Silhouette match this Sunday, May 1st. You’ll need a very accurate rifle, and 80-100 rounds of ammo. You can shoot either rested prone (F-Class style), from bipod, or from a wooden bench with front pedestal and rear bag. Any rifle 6.5 caliber or under is allowed, with no weight restrictions. Muzzle brakes are permitted. There’s a one-hour sight-in period starting at 8 am, and the match starts at 9 am sharp. The folks at Pala run a tight ship, cycling multiple relays efficiently, so everybody gets to shoot 50 targets (10 each at five different yardages), and the show is usually completed by 1:00 pm. (Then if you want… head over to the Pala Casino for gambling fun, or a spa treatment.) CLICK HERE for Match Info.
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The November 2010 digital edition of Shooting Sports USA has been released, and it’s definitely worth reading. The lead story explains the correct positions for 3-P smallbore and air rifle shooting. This is a well-organized, easy-to-understand article, packed with large photos from start to finish. If you are a three-position shooter (or want to be), you should definitely read this article.
Silhouette Competition History
In addition to the position shooting story, the current edition of Shooting Sports USA has an excellent article by Jock Elliot on Metallic Silhouette shooting. Elliot covers the evolution of the sport from its origins in Mexico, to today’s popular rimfire and centerfire silhouette programs that attract thousands of shooters throughout the USA. Elliot explains the silhouette courses of fire and interviews top silhouette shooters including 11-year-old Mallory Nichols, the youngest master in the history of silhouette shooting.
Traveling with Firearms — Helpful Tips
Both competitive shooters and hunters can benefit from Shooting Sports USA’s guide to traveling with firearms, found on pages 9-10 of the November edition. There, you’ll find short reviews of recommended travel cases, plus travel tips from experienced shooters. Carroll Pilant of Sierra Bullets explains why he now marks his ammo: “I color code my primers with a Magic Marker. I was on my way to Brazil for the IHMSA match and TSA dumped all my ammo into a pile to weigh it. If they hadn’t been all the same loads, I would have been in trouble.”
In addition to the November issue, you can read previous editions of Shooting Sports USA. Click on the “Archives” tab at the bottom of the page, after you’ve launched the November issue in your browser. Visit ShootingSportsUSA.com to request a free Digital Edition of Shooting Sports USA each month.
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Students from the Brownells-sponsored Third Year Gunsmithing program at Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) donated their time to help shooters at the recent Black Powder Cartridge Rifle National Silhouette Championships. The students repaired guns during the event, held at the NRA’s Whittington Center Range near Raton, New Mexico.
The TSJC gunsmiths-in-training worked on almost 40 guns belonging to the 200 competitors in the event. In the photo at right, John Cowell and Bob Campbell work on a firing pin problem for one of the shooters. The Whittington Center experience let the students practice their skills with the extra time pressure of helping a shooter get back to competition. “This is exactly [what] the 3rd Year Program was designed to do — get the students hands-on experience solving real gun repair problems,” said Brownells President, Pete Brownell.
Black Powder Cartridge Rifle Silhouette Basics
You’ll find a good summary of Black Power Cartridge Rifle Silhouette History, Rules and Equipment on the Outdoor Adventures Network website.
In Black Powder Cartridge Silhouette Silhouette (BPCRS) competition, shooters must knock down steel silhouette chickens at 200 meters (656 ft.), pigs at 300 meters (984 ft.), turkeys at 385 meters (1,262 ft.) and rams at 500 meters (1,639 ft.). As in high-power rifle silhouette competitions, the chickens must be shot off-hand, in the standing position. However, BPCRS differs in that the pigs, turkeys and rams may be shot in a prone or sitting position using a cross-stick rest. Ten shots are fired at each target, for a total of 40 shots per match. The challenge is in the equipment — BPCRS is limited to single shot, exposed-hammer, American rifles of the era preceding 1896. Only original or reproduction single shot rifles that shoot cartridges loaded with black powder or Pyrodex are allowed. Only original sights may be used –- no scopes.
High Power shooters have a bunch of gear to carry to the firing line–pad, shooting jacket, scope stand, spotting scope, ammo, log-book and rifle(s). If you’re shooting F-Class, add a heavy front rest and 15-lb sand-bag to the list. A range cart makes life much easier, particularly if the shooting area’s a long way from the parking lot. Creedmoor Sports makes a folding range cart that is very popular with the iron sights crowd. This unit features 14″ ball-bearing wheels and the frame is made from solid aluminum–not lightweight tubing that can bend or crack. Lift a simple locking lever and the cart folds. The cart can be completely dis-assembled, without tools, to fit in a suitcase (collapsed size 30″ x 17″ x 8″). The Creedmoor cart retails for $499.95, and that includes a rifle case, tray, and rain-cover. A handy side-mount rifle rack (item CRC-RACK) is a great $62.95 option that will be available in September.
If $499.95 isn’t in the budget, or you’d like to build your own range cart with a lockable storage compartment, you should look at the carts used by Cowboy Action shooters. These wooden carts are heavy, but they provide a stable platform for multiple guns and a nice, solid perch for sitting. There are many do-it-yourself designs available. One of our favorites is the GateSlinger cart shown below. This well-balanced design breaks down into two pieces for transport. Click Here for cart plans, and read this “How-to Article” for complete instructions with many photos.
Hand Dolly Conversions — Not Fancy, But Effective
The least expensive way to go is to purchase a Dolly (Hand Truck) at Harbor Freight, or a large warehouse store such as Home Depot. Make sure to get one with wheels at least 10″ in diameter, or you’ll have problems in rough terrain. The bigger the wheels the better, and solid . Normally you can find dollies for under $30.00. Just bolt a large box or milk crate to the bottom, and voilà, instant range cart. You can clamp a piece of wood at the top with slots for barrels on one side and a flat tray for ammo on the other. Use bungee cord or leather straps to hold the barrels in place. Having built a couple all-wood range carts (both collapsible and one-piece), this editor can assure you that starting with an inexpensive welded hand truck is the cheapest, simplest way to go overall. You can buy oversize, spoked wheels from NorthernTool.com. (From the Northern Tool home page, search for “spoked wheels”.)
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Here’s a colorful new target that’s ideal for rimfire or centerfire silhouette shooters. Birchwood Casey’s new Dirty Bird™ Multi-Color Splattering Animal Pack target features correct shapes of NRA metallic animal silhouettes. That way you can practice your marksmanship without having to haul around a set of metal targets.
When a Dirty Bird animal silhouette target is hit, the color associated with each animal shape creates a ring around each bullet hole. Chickens burst in yellow, pigs burst in orange, turkeys burst in red, and rams burst in pink. Each target sheet is 8″ x 8″. Suggested retail prices is $12.20 for a pack of 20 targets (item 35822-MCA-20). These targets can be shot at 25 yards with iron sights, or at longer distances with scoped rifles.
Birchwood Casey Sues Battenfeld
In related news, Birchwood Laboratories, Inc. has filed suit against Battenfeld Technologies, Inc. over the recent issuance of a patent to Battenfeld for their reactive targets and method of target manufacturing. “We feel the United States Patent Office was given insufficient information by Battenfeld during the application process, which resulted in the patent being awarded improperly,” said Mike Wenner, Vice President, Birchwood Casey.
“Shoot-N-C® targets have been in production since 1996 and have been the #1 name brand target on the market since their introduction. We intend to vigorously… protect our business model.” Shoot-N-C and Dirty Bird® targets feature a special coating that flakes off during impact, leaving a bright halo ring around each bullet hole on the target.
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The High Power Silhouette Championships at the NRA Whittington Center (Raton, NM) started Thursday morning (August 6th) with many Smallbore Silhouette competitors taking to their big guns for High Power. Match 1 went well but extreme afternoon winds were blowing silhouettes off the rails so Match 2 was halted. That means the remaining two High Power Hunting Rifle matches over the next two days will jump to 60 shots rather than 40 to close the gap. The top shooters in Match 1 were Joy Cox (35), Defending Champion Angustin Sanchez, Jr (34 – 9 turkeys), and Laura Goetsch (34 – 8 turkeys)
The High Power Silhouette Championships are similar in format to the Smallbore Silhouette Championships held earlier this week. The Standard Silhouettte High Power Rifle matches are shot in the morning with the Silhouette Hunting Rifle Class shot in the afternoon. The main differences between the disciplines are obviously the type of rifle (Centerfire vs. Rimfire) and the distances. For High Power, targets are set at 200 meters (chickens), 300 meters (pigs), 385 meters (turkeys), and 500 meters (rams), while in Smallbore, targets are set at 40, 60, 77, and 100 meters.
A variety of chamberings are popular in the centerfire Silhouette game, including the .243 Win, 6.5 BR, 6.5×47 Lapua, 260 Rem, 7 BR, 7mm-08, and the .308 Winchester. In selecting a caliber, shooters must balance between knock-down power and recoil force. A 6.5mm or 7mm bullet in the 130gr range running 2900 fps is just about ideal. You also need a caliber capable of serious inherent accuracy.