If you are not familiar with the game of metallic silhouette, this is the article for you. It’s roots actually began with wealthy mexican ranchers shooting live animals at long distances as a form of entertainment at parties and sport.
Of course now the sport has transitioned to steel animals instead of the live variety which keeps the animal rights groups away and really simplifies clean up.
Rifle small bore silhouette is a true long range shooting challenge from a standing position with a rifle at small animal shaped targets from 25 to 100 meters.
What is the game?
Shooters are given 2.5 minutes to make 1 shot per target at a bank of 5 targets. The targets consist of chickens at 40 meters, pigs at 60 meters, turkeys at 77 meters, and rams at 100 meters. All shots are taken from the standing position. Each competitor gets 1 shot at each target at each distance.
A match can consist of 40, 60, 80, or 120 rounds. In order for a hit to count the target must be knocked down. The shooter who knocks down the most targets in that discipline and class wins. Here is a video with a look at how the game is played.
What equipment is needed?
Of course you need to bring your rifle and ammunition. A cheap plastic chamber open flag is also required. With only these items you can shoot a small bore match. The sport was designed so that anyone could complete with standard stock equipment.
That doesn’t mean you won’t see several custom rifle set ups but don’t worry, you’ll be competing against rifles like yours in a separate class. You will see most people using a spotting scope. The people you see manning those scopes are spotters who are probably other shooters that have teamed up with the person doing the shooting or just a friend that came along with the shooter.
The spotter’s job is to tell the shooter where he is hitting or missing the target to help fine the tune point of impact. Impact points on the targets are easy to see as all targets are freshly painted between round. When the bullet impacts, the paint is blown away in that spot. Easy to see, with a spotting scope that is.
Although you are not required to have a spotting scope to participate, I highly recommend getting one if you are serious at all about this sport. You won’t find a better price for the capability of this model made by Emarth. It has served me well over the years and can be used for target shooting or long distance hunting.
If you are into shooting and hunting, you will definitely get your money’s worth. As stated earlier, there is a class in small bore rifle for open sights but before going to a match, I would check with the director to make sure that class will be accommodated in the match you are attending. Most shooters at the match will have been shooting for a while and will be shooting scoped rifles.
When you get serious you will want a scope with external elevation and windage adjustments along with a mil dot reticle. This will give you the ability to adjust for the different distances and hold right on target. I adjust for elevation and hold dots in the scope for wind because the wind is variable and could change before you get the shot off.
The scope I use is a Vortex 4×12-40 variable power which gives you the ability to make sure the cross hairs are centered within the target area before squeezing off the shot. The clarity at 100 meters is outstanding. It is a second focal plane scope which works out just fine if you don’t have to use the scope to range targets.
It also has a 40mm tube for extra light gathering ability. These are all features normally found on higher priced scopes. Jump on this one now. Normally runs around $300. In the rifle community it is conventional wisdom that you should spend about as much money on optics as you spent on the rifle in order to match capabilities.
The Vortex above will accomplish that with just about any stock rimfire target rifle. If you are looking for a scope in the lower price range I have this one on a Ruger 10/22 and for rimfire long distance it does a fantastic job and the price is hard to beat. .
It is an Athlon which has been taking the lower priced scope market by storm the last few years. In small bore, all you need in my opinion is a good $100 – $300 scope that is repeatable. In other words it returns to zero when you move the external adjustments around and then reset them to zero. It should also hold zero with no shifting between matches unless you have made an ammo change.
Check out this article on how to select a long distance scope. As you progess and get more into the sport you will see many different items that could be needed at matches and will want to start a range bag. Instead of having one bag for all of my rifles, I just combine the bag with the case to carry the rifle.
This way, I never leave anything at home for the specific rifle I am shooting that day. Whatever is specific to that rifle is in the case. Typically you will see the need for tools, extra optics, cleaning products, range finder, etc. Check out the one I use here on Amazon.
Finding the correct ammo
Since we are only shooting 22 rifles we don’t have to worry about developing reloads that match our rifle and yield the highest level of accuracy, but we still have to find the best ammo for our rifle. All we need ammunition to do is deliver enough punch at 100 meters to knock a 1/5th scale ram down.
Most 22 rounds, even standard velocity will accomplish that. So the only chore we have left is to find the most accurate ammo for our rifle at 100 meters and in. The old saying, “you get what you pay for” is not always true when matching ammo performance to a specific rifle.
On some rifles I buy expensive match ammo because that is what they like best, but to honest, all of my rifles shoot CCI standard velocity really well so I buy that in large quantities. Try as many different brands as you can and do it from a sled if possible.
I know……, I’ve heard the arguments about how lead sleds are ruining our shooting skills. I’ll just follow up with this response. Bull. Learn more about lead sleds. When testing ammo to find the most accurate combination for your rifle, the human variable must be removed to be absolutely sure in your choice. Here is the sled I use.
This one easily accommodates ANY rifle, even ARs with long magazines and is adjustable in all directions with lock downs for each. Once you know what the right ammo is, then put the lead sled away and practice your offhand shooting. Take the wind into account when you are testing. Its best to test on a calm day.
Once you have locked in on the best ammo, then you can begin to study how the wind effects your shot. One of the benefits of shooting rimfire is you will get a really good understanding after a while how the wind effects your shot. Being able to shoot the wind is the difference between amateurs and the pros.
Determine your scope settings or dope for each distance.
Once you have your ammunition selection made it’s now time to zero your rifle at each distance you will shoot in the matches – 40, 60, 77, and 100 meters. Use the sled to make sure you are set up correctly. Once established at each distance, record the scope settings on tape with permanent ink and stick the tape to your scope or stock where it is easy to read.
As long as you stick with the same ammo and don’t change equipment, you will use these settings over and over. Understand though that on different days there will be variables that change in your shooting style, environment, weather, etc. which may cause slight changes to base settings.
Go with what works but always start with proven base settings.What are the rules The governing body for the sport in in the US is the NRA and there is an entire rule book available free here in PDF format that you can download or print for free. I won’t repeat the entire rule book in this article. I’ll just cover a few of the most frequently asked questions below for rifle small bore.
There are different classes within small bore with variations in rules so make sure you find your class in the rule book referenced above and check out any rules that might be specific to that class. The rules below are mean’t to be a general guide line to get you started.
- Maximum wt for any rifle is 10 lbs 2 oz.
- Any sight,iron or telescopic, can be used but must be 2 inches or less above the barrel
- Custom triggers are ok but must not be subject to accidental discharge and must be of standard design, no “fire on release” or other exotic types.
- Trigger pull weight must not be less than 2 lbs.
- Any rifle stock that is not modified from the traditional factory configuration by being bent or other major modification may not be allowed.
- Any magazine is ok but no magazine that extends below the line of the stock can be used to support the rifle
- Maximum barrel length is 30 inches
- Rifle must be chambered to shoot factory .22 caliber ammo only
- Hot loads like “Stingers” are not permitted
- Swivels and slings are permitted but slings cannot be used to help support the rifle.
- All safety features must be functional
- 2.5 minutes will be allowed to fire one shot at each target on a bank of 5 targets
- Targets are 1/5th scale
- Any competitor firing a shot before the “fire” command is given by the RSO will be disqualified
- Muzzle brakes and / or ported barrels are not permitted.
- All juniors ages 10-18 must have an adult with them
What is the challenge?
To most people the demanding part of rifle small bore silhouette is learning to shoot tiny little targets from a standing position. If you are like most rifle shooters most of your shooting has been done from a bench using a sitting position.
Growing up as a hunter, my shooting experience was no different. Shooting from a deer stand always from a sitting position using whatever I could find for a rest for the rifle is an example. When squirrel hunting with a 22, I never took a shot without using a nearby tree for support.
The only shooting I think I ever did without a rest was wing shooting which is another ball game that we won’t discuss here. In rifle silhouette you are required to have your feet be the only part of your body that touches anything other than your body for support.
Special clothing or anything else that helps support the rifle is off limits unless it is a part of your body. Once you set your rifle up correctly you will have a scope with enough magnification to allow a good sight picture on these tiny targets. The rifle will be the right weight, and that weight will be balanced, to allow you to be as stable as possible when aiming.
Of course the more magnification you have the more obvious any “wobbling” becomes in the sight picture. Most people are shocked at the amount of wobble they see when trying to shoot off hand for the first time. What they are seeing is the same wobble they have always had, it’s just magnified now. You will quickly develop a new appreciation for those who score well at this sport.
How to practice small bore rifle silhouette
If you have a place to shoot with at least 100 meters of room, purchasing a few silhouette target swingers to practice with is a good idea. Those pictured above are 1/5th scale , the same size as used in the matches. These are the ones I use for practice because I don’t have to walk to reset them. More practice less target resetting.
If you are looking to purchase targets for club shoots, I have found the best prices on Amazon for 4 banks of targets at what was a good price at the time of this writing.
Find the right position for you?
For a right handed shooter, the left arm contacts the body to form a solid wedge between the body and rifle. The second purpose of this method is to offset the weight of the rifle with the weight of the top half of you body. Notice that all of the people are in the same position.
This is the method that most good silhouette shooters use for rifle competitions. The only real difference is in how the left hand contacts the rifle. All three of the first shooters are holding the rifle differently. This hold is really governed by body shape.
Although one grip may be better than the other for stabilization of the rifle, the main reason for the left hand grip is to get the rifle to the correct height to get the sight picture. You will need to experiment to find the right grip for you.
Just remember when finding your correct method, the support elbow should be against your body preferably resting on top of your pelvis – this might be difficult if you have short arms but do your best. The support forearm should be vertical in order to use the least amount of energy to hold the rifle. Your grip should be adjusted so the sight picture is perfect and the rifle is stable.
As Lee Trevino (world famous golfer) once said, the more I practice, the luckier I get. The same thing goes for any sport, especially this one.
Where to find small bore matches
Ask around your local gun shops or google silhouette shooting in your locale. Call your local gun club and ask if they know where the nearest silhouette matches are held. You should be able to find one within a couple of hours max of your home unless your lucky and competitions are being held right in your home town.