How to shoot American-style metallic silhouettes

Ray Garner explains the sport of metallic silhouette shooting and its rules…

Watch out for the turkey silhouettes – they’re notoriously difficult to hit!

Q. I was recently given a set of American-style steel silhouette air rifle targets. I don’t know anything about this particular shooting discipline; can you advise any further?

A. The sport of metallic silhouette shooting, as it is known, started in Mexico during the last century, where tethered live animals were shot at range with centrefire rifles! Understandably this practice was soon abandoned in favour of steel plate cut-out targets (metallic silhouettes) formed in the shape of various animals. The sport quickly caught on across the border in the United States, where competition rules were set out for shooting with centrefire and rimfire rifles and pistols, and with airguns too.

The animals represented by the metallic silhouettes are the chicken, javelina (desert pig), turkey and ram. The targets are free-standing and set on stands at prescribed ranges. A full course of fire for air rifles consists of 40 silhouettes (10 of each animal type), with one shot allowed at each target. The silhouettes are one-tenth scale of the centrefire targets, and the shooting distances are scaled accordingly. Chickens are shot at 18m, pigs 27m, turkeys 33m and rams at 41m. The objective is to completely knock down each target. Telescopic sights are allowed, but all targets must be engaged from the standing position, with support only from the shooter. This is a challenging sport, especially as it’s shot outdoors, often through the wind and in changing light. It is also great fun: a square hit on a reactive target is always a joy. The full rules may be obtained from the International Metallic Silhouette Shooting Union (

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