The NRA has released new, updated versions of Competition Rules, with changes that have been adopted for 2016. There are quite a few minor changes affecting rifle competitors in High Power, Service Rifle, Prone AR Platform Rifle, F-Class, and Smallbore Disciplines. There are also new rules for matches with Electronic Targets.
If your local shooting club wants to attract new members, and provide a new form of competition, consider starting a series of groundhog (varmint) matches. These can employ paper targets, metal silhouette-style targets, or both. Groundhog matches are fun events with straight-forward rules and simple scoring. You don’t need to bring windflags or load at the range, so a Groundhog match is more “laid back” than a registered Benchrest match. Normally there will be three or four rifle classes, so you can compete with a “box-stock” factory gun, or a fancy custom, as you prefer. Many clubs limit the caliber or cartridge size allowed in varmint matches, but that’s just to protect reactive targets and keep ammo costs down. In this article, Gene F. (aka “TenRing” in our Forum), provides a basic intro to Groundhog matches, East-Coast style.
Groundhog Matches Are Growing in Popularity
Though Groundhog matches are very popular in many parts of the country, particularly on the east coast, I’ve found that many otherwise knowledgeable “gun guys” don’t know much about this form of competition. A while back, I ordered custom bullets from a small Midwest bullet-maker. He asked what type of competition the bullets would be used for, and I told him “groundhog shoots”. He had not heard of these. It occurs to me that perhaps many others are unfamiliar with this discipline.
Groundhog matches have grown rapidly in popularity. There are numerous clubs hosting them in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, as well as other venues. They are usually open to the public. Most Eastern clubs have five to twenty cement benches, and overhead roofs. At this time, there is no central source for match schedules. If you’re interested in going to a groundhog match, post a query in the AccurateShooter Forum Competition Section, and you should get some info on nearby opportunities.
How Matches Are Run — Course of Fire and Scoring
Unlike NRA High Power Matches, there is no nationwide set of standard rules for Groundhog matches. Each club has their own rules, but the basics are pretty similar from club to club. Paper groundhog targets are set at multiple distances. There are normally three yardages in the match. Some clubs place targets at 100, 200, and 300 yards. Other clubs set them at 200, 300, or 400 yards. At my club in Shippensburg, PA, our targets are placed at 200, 300 and 500 meters.
The goal is to score the highest total. The paper targets have concentric scoring rings. The smallest ring is normally worth ten points while the large ring is worth five points. The course of fire varies among the various clubs. Most clubs allow unlimited sighters and five shots on the record target in a given time period. Only those five shots on the scoring rings are counted, so that with three yardages, a perfect score would be 150 points. Tie breakers may be determined by total number of dead center or “X” strikes; or, by smallest group at the farthest distance.
Types of Rifles Used at Groundhog Matches
The same benchrest rigs found at IBS and NBRSA matches can be utilized (though these will typically be put in a ‘custom’ class). Though equipment classes vary from club to club, it is common to separate the hardware into four or five classes. Typical firearm classes can include: factory rifle; deer hunter; light varmint custom (usually a limit of 17 lbs.with scope); and heavy varmint custom (weight unlimited). Some clubs allow barrel tuners, others do not. Scope selection is usually unlimited; however, some restrict hunter class rifle scopes to 20 power. Factory rifles usually cannot be altered in any way.
Good, Simple Fun Shooting — Why Groundhog Shoots Are Popular
Forum member Danny Reever explains the appeal of groundhog matches: “We don’t have a governing organization, or have to pay $50 a year membership just to compete in matches. Sure the rules vary from club to club, but you adapt. If you don’t like one club’s rules, you just don’t shoot there. It’s no big deal.
There are no National records, or Hall of Fame points — just individual range records. If you want to shoot in BIG matches (with big prizes), there is the Hickory Ground Hog Shoot among others. If competition isn’t your bag, many clubs offer mid-week fun matches that you can shoot just for fun. You shoot the same targets but with a more relaxed atmosphere with no time limits.
The best part is you don’t have to shoot perfect at every yardage. You always have a chance because in this sport it really isn’t over until the last shot is fired. Typically ALL the entry money goes to the host club, with much of the cash returned back to the shooters via prizes. Junior shooters often shoot for free, or at a reduced rate. The low entry cost also encourages young guys to get involved who don’t have $4000 custom rifles or the money to buy them.
There isn’t a sea of wind flags to shoot over or to put up and take down. If the range has a couple of flags so much the better, but after all it is a varmint match. No pits to spot shots and slow things down either. If you can’t see your hits through your rifle scope or spotting scope well you are in the same boat as everybody else. That’s what makes it interesting/ sometimes frustrating!
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We had a chance to meet with Jerry Miculek and his wife Kay at SHOT Show. These are very nice people who also happen to be superb shooters. They are great ambassadors for the shooting sports. We talked about Jerry’s many titles and match wins over recent decades. He explained: “It didn’t come easy… the winning comes after years of hard work”. Jerry’s name is synonymous with revolvers. But Jerry is also one heck of a rifleman, as he demonstrates in this video.
Three Shots Standing at 400 Yards in 4.37 Seconds
For those of use who usually shoot from the bench, hitting a silhouette target at 400 yards from an standing position (unsupported) would be a big challenge. Here Jerry Miculek makes it look easy.
In this video, Jerry hits not one but THREE c-zone targets at 400 yards. And — get this — he does this in under 4.4 seconds starting with his rifle laying on a support. It took Jerry two tries (on his first run he hit 2 out of 3 in 4.65 seconds). On the second attempt (see video starting at 2:19), it takes Jerry just 4.37 seconds to shoulder his rifle, aim, and fire three shots, each hitting a separate steel target. Wow. That’s truly remarkable. Most of us would need ten seconds (or more) just to get the scope on the first target.
Trust us folks, this ain’t easy. It takes remarkable marksmanship skills to shoot with this kind of precision at this kind of pace. As Jerry would say himself, “Not bad for an old guy who needs glasses”.
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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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With so much action going on at Camp Perry, Ohio this August (including the Fullbore Worlds), you might not realize that another NRA rifle championship was taking place simultaneously in Pennsylvania. The NRA High Power Hunter Rifle Silhouette Championship was held 6-8 August at the Ridgway Rifle Club, in Ridgway, Pennsylvania. This event attracted the nation’s top silhouette shooters.
At this year’s Silhouette Championship, Team Lapua shooters Cathy Winstead-Severin and Mark Pharr finished first and second overall. The match went down to the wire, with Cathy edging out Mark in a shoot-off for the overall title. Earlier in the competition, Cathy set a new Woman’s National Record in a 120-shot course with a stunning 97/120, breaking the previous record of 90 by seven points. Another record was broken by the Hunter Rifle Team of Cathy Winstead-Severin, Mark Pharr, and Mallory Nichols. This talented Team Lapua threesome set a new national record of 295, besting the mark set in 2004. Team Lapua also took second place in the Standard Rifle Team Division.
16-Year-Old Girl Finishes Fourth in Hunter Class
Team Lapua’s youngest member, 16-year old Mallory Nichols, was incredibly impressive as she entered the competition as an AA shooter and blasted her way through AAA into Master class in finishing fourth overall in Hunter Rifle. (She was in the running for third place overall, until a shoot-off with Eric Boos of Washington, who finished third). Nichols also set new national records for Long Run for Women and Intermediate-Junior hitting 18 pigs in a row. The previous Intermediate-Junior record was 14 set by Luke Johnson in 2011.
Winning Silhouette Loads
2015 Overall Silhouette Champion Cathy Winstead-Severin was shooting a 6-6.5×47 Lapua with 90-grain and 105-grain OTM Scenar bullets, pushed by Vihtavuori N135 powder. Mark Pharr and young Mallory Nichols were both shooting the regular 6.5×47 Lapua cartridge with 108-grain and 139-grain OTM Scenar bullets and Vihtavouri N140 powder.
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Ruger 10/22 owners should cheer. Victor Company USA has finally started shipping its new Titan 1022 stock for Ruger’s popular 10/22. We like Victor’s new stock, and we think it will be a great for tactical rimfire matches and cross-training. We bet a lot of varmint shooters will grab one of these Titan 1022 stocks as well. At just $169.99, it’s quite affordable. (MSRP is $189.99, but Victor Company’s website currently shows “Introductory Pricing” of $169.99.)
CLICK Image for full-screen version
Victor’s Titan 1022 Precision Rimfire Stock features a vertical-style grip and a wide, beavertail forearm with molded nibs for enhanced grip (max barrel diameter is 0.920″). In the rear, the buttstock features a cut-out for the user’s off hand with a deeper “keel” for riding the bags. With “Introductory Pricing” of just $169.99, the stock is available in two colors: Flat Dark Earth (above) or Matte Black (below). A Ruger 10/22 never looked so good. Visit www.victorcompanyusa.com for more details.
Victor Company 1022 Precision Rimfire Stock (CLICK photo for full-size image.)
Cross-training with a .22 LR
Shooters can improve their centerfire skills by cross-training with a .22LR rimfire rifle. In terms of wind drift, shooting a .22LR at 150 yards is equivalent to shooting a .308 at 330 yards. (See Chart)
.22 LR vs. .308, Distances for Equal 10 MPH Wind Drift
This table shows the corresponding distances at which a 10 mph full-value crosswind pushes a .22 LR bullet and .308 projectile roughly the same amount. Values are based on 0.130 BC for a 40gr .22 LR bullet, and 0.496 BC for 175gr .308 bullet.
22 LR 40gr 1050 fps
50 yd Wind 1.0″
75 yd Wind 2.2″
100 yd Wind 3.8″
125 yd Wind 5.8″
150 yd Wind 8.2″
175 yd Wind 11.0″
200 yd Wind 14.3″
.308 Win 175gr 2650 fps
130 yd Wind 1.07″
180 yd Wind 2.15″
230 yd Wind 3.68″
280 yd Wind 5.63″
330 yd Wind 7.98″
380 yd Wind 10.71″
440 yd Wind 14.56″
Along with the training benefits, rimfires are fun to shoot, with less noise, less recoil, and a much lower cost per shot. If you like competition, many clubs around the country offer rimfire tactical matches, or something similar (multi-distance matches shot from a variety of positions). With paper and/or reactive targets from 25 to 150 yards, tactical rimfire matches are fun and challenging.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
It was “Ladies First” at the 2009 NRA National Smallbore Silhouette Championships. Cathy Winstead-Severin shot brilliantly to win both the Rifle AND Hunting Rifle titles, as well as the High Woman title for both classes. We’ve always said women can compete head to head with male shooters and win. Cathy proved that convincingly.
This wasn’t Cathy’s first big victory. She won her first National Smallbore Silhouette title in 1998. Along with husband James Severin, Cathy operates Good Shooting Sales & Service in Joplin, Missouri, a shooting supply business specializing in rimfire and silhouette products.
Smallbore Rifle Championship Top Finishers:
First Place (and High Woman): Cathy Winstead-Severin: 111
Second Place: William Motl: 108
Third Place: Derek Greenaway: 107
High Junior: Tyler Kamp: 104
High Senior: Loren Peter: 96
Team Champions: Texas State Gold: 214
Smallbore Hunting Rifle Championship Top Finishers:
First Place (and High Woman): Cathy Winstead-Severin: 108
Second Place: William Zander: 105
Third Place: Laura Goetsch: 104
High Junior: Tyler Kamp: 98
High Senior: Bob Snyder: 85
Team Champions: Belgrade Air Shooting Sports: 205
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Roughly 130 competitors have gathered at the NRA Whittington Center for the NRA Smallbore Silhouette Championships held August 2-4. Today the final matches will be held for the Smallbore Rifle Class and Hunting Rifle Class Silhouette Championships.
This year, 13 shooters have traveled from Mexico to compete against some of the best Smallbore Silhouette shooters in the United States. Seven of these Mexican competitors made the 20-hour journey together. Surprisingly however, the Mexican contingent did NOT include Agustin Sanchez, Jr. this year. Agustin, the “Tiger Woods of Silhouette” has won the event for the past six years, but now someone else will take his title. “It’s up for grabs,” said NRA Silhouette Program Coordinator Jonathan Leighton. “There are a lot of good shooters here, so it’s anyone’s game right now.”
Above, Gabriel Guerra of Mexico shoots while Carlos Mercado spots for him. Guerra loves Silhouette shooting for the comradery and the challenge: “I enjoy the mental game, and it’s a very fun sport. You meet nice people, here and in Mexico. I like the friendship of the teams.”
Invented in Mexico, Adopted in America
It’s thought that silhouette shooting began in Mexico around 1914 as a marksmanship contest between Pancho Villa’s men. The sport spread throughout Mexico following the Mexican Revolution, eventually making its way to America in the 1960s. Silhouette shooting started as a centerfire sport, but over the years rimfire silhouette has become more popular. CLICK HERE to read about the history of silhouette competition.
If you’re interested in getting involved in smallbore silhouette, a fun yet challenging discipline, you’ll find a Summary of Silhouette Basics in our Daily Bulletin Archives. You’ll also find more information, including current rules, on the Steelchickens.com website.
Smallbore Silhouette Course of Fire and Rifle Classes
At an official Smallbore Silhouette match, you’ll shoot at least 40 shots, ten each at four sets of 1/5th size standard High Power Rifle Silhouette targets. The smallest targets, the chickens, are set at 40 yards, Pigs are at 60 yards, Turkeys are at 77 yards, and Rams are at 100 yards. (Alternatively, metric distances are used.) Though the rams are the largest targets, hitting them is far from easy. At 100 yards, a little bit of wind will blow you off the target. Two classes of rifles are used in Rimfire Silhouette: Standard and Hunter Class. Standard rifles can weigh up to 10 pounds, 2 oz. (with sights) and have no restriction on trigger pull weight. The fore-end shall not exceed 2 1/4″ wide, and 2 1/4″ deep measured from the centerline of the bore.
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We’ve had an Anschütz model 64-R Biathlon to play with since the first of the year, thanks to Anschütz. This is a very impressive rifle. Accuracy has exceeded our expectations. Even with relatively inexpensive Wolf Match Extra and Eley Club Xtra, the gun has shot many 1/4″ groups at 50 yards from bipod. Our ace rimfire triggerman, Joe Friedrich, has shot some 50-yard groups with 4 out of 5 shots virtually through one hole, and the fifth maybe half a bullet width further out.
Originally, the gun came with a 2.2-lb (one kilo) two-stage trigger, suited for biathlon and silhouette. That trigger was nice, and certainly shootable, as we could get the second stage down to about 9 ounces. But Anschütz recently provided its 500 gram match trigger assembly, and that has made the gun even sweeter to shoot. The 500 gram trigger installed easily, and by adjusting two screws we got the total pull weight down to 1.13 pounds, with the second stage about 5 ounces. (Note: in the video, I said the trigger pull was about “one and a half pounds”; we later adjusted it down to 1.13 pounds, or 512 grams.)
The cheekpiece adjusts for height and cant angle. Length of pull can be adjusted by means of plastic spacers. With the spacers provided by Anschütz, the LOP is about 13.3 inches. That’s still a bit short for this Editor, but the gun was still very comfortable to shoot in all positions: prone, sitting, and standing. The near-vertical grip is very comfortable in prone and, with the scope positioned well forward, you can easily get your head in the right position for scoped shooting. With its built-in accessory rail, and a $6.00 track adapter, a Harris bipod attaches easily, and you can move the bipod position fore and aft.
With its excellent ergonomics and stellar accuracy, we think the Anschütz 64R Biathlon is a superb choice for tactical rimfire matches. Plus, it’s dead-nuts reliable. By contrast, at the rimfire tactical matches we’ve covered, we’ve seen a variety of misfeeds and/or mag failures with other brands of rifles. With the Anschütz 64R, mag feeding and function has been flawless. We’ve shot over 700 rounds without a single problem.
Does the rifle have flaws? Yes, a few. First, as noted, the LOP is short for someone with long arms, even with 3 spacers installed. Second, the barreled action and bolt are prone to develop rust if you don’t keep them well-oiled. We wish Anschütz offered a more durable, corrosion-resistent finish so we didn’t have to baby the blueing after each shooting session. While the magazines fed flawlessly, the mag well is recessed and the mag release is small. This caused some fumbling when we tried to do “speed reloads.” That’s it — the complaint list is pretty small, and you could easily apply a baked-on resin finish if you wanted.
Subjectively, this gun is a hoot to shoot, and I can honestly say I’ve had more fun with this rifle than any other rimfire I’ve tested. No, it won’t rival a tuned ARA rimfire Benchrest rig, but it is still exceedingly accurate, and the gun is truly versatile. It’s ideal for tactical matches, club fun shoots, and if you lock the cheekpiece in place and use the 2.2-lb trigger, most clubs should let you use it for silhouette. The gun currently retails for about $1200.00 IF you can find one. Anschütz isn’t building many 64Rs these days, and only a handful made their way to the USA. Hopefully, our report will spur interest in the rifle and Anschütz will decide to ship more across the Atlantic.
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