The UJ Quigley Bucket Challenge

Monday, June 15, 2009

My wife, in an act of kindness, ruined me. One day she returned from a trip to Walmart and handed me a videocassette of the movie “Quigley Down Under.” “I thought you might like it,” she said. Little did she know.

It’s the story of Matthew Quigley, a Wyoming rifleman who answers a newspaper ad from an Australian rancher for “The World’s Best Long Distance Marksman.” Quigley shows up down under with a Sharps 45-110 with an extra-long barrel and a tang vernier sight. In his first interview with his would-be employer, Quigley hits a bucket repeatedly at a distance of several hundred yards, shooting offhand with iron sights.

When I saw that scene, something inside me responded: “That’s soooo cool; I wish I could do that.” Then another inner voice chimed in: “Maybe you can.” That, in a nutshell, is when I got ruined.

Roger Clouser, writing in Precision Shooting magazine, figured that Quigley was shooting at a 17.5 inch bucket at a distance of 550 yards. Not having a Sharps 45-110 or, in fact, any place where I might shoot one, I decided to duplicate Quigley’s marksmanship on an airgun scale; that is, shooting at a 1.75 inch bucket at 55 yards. Eventually I managed it with a .22 Career. Now it’s your turn.

Here’s what you need to participate in the Uncle Jock (UJ for short) Quigley Bucket Challenge:

· An air rifle or air pistol with NON-glass sights
· Some pellets
· The official UJ Quigley Bucket Challenge target (click to download)
· 55 yards of space

The rest is obvious: set up the target at 55 yards, try to hit it with three consecutive shots with your air rifle or air pistol, and report your results here with full details.

Some notes: First, this is for non-glass sights only. Sure, you can shoot at the target with your scoped rifle, but it won’t count for bragging rights in the UJ Quigley Bucket Challenge. After all, part of the challenge is an optical one; the target is going to look small compared to your front sight.

Second, I realize that some iron-sighted airguns won’t have the necessary accuracy. For example, I tried to hit the bucket at 55 yards with my Sheridan, but couldn’t get it done. If that is the case, try moving the bucket closer in small increments until you can hit it three times in a row. Frankly, I would love to hear from someone the maximum distance they were able to hit the bucket with a Sheridan or a Benji. Or try it with your match rifle, or your springer, or a Daisy Red Ryder. The point is to have fun and make like Matthew Quigley.

And if it turns out that hitting the bucket is just way too easy for you at 55 yards, feel free to move it back and amaze all of us with your skill.

Third, I will accept any shooter-supported position. True, in the movie, Quigley shot the bucket offhand, but later he shot from other positions, so I will allow prone, sitting and offhand. No benchrests, though.

Give it a try, and report back here. I look forward to your results. When you give an account of your efforts, I’d like to know: gun, ammo, distance, and position.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott


  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting article you got here. I'd like to read a bit more concerning this matter. Thanx for posting that data.

  2. Jock Elliott says:


    Aside from the excellent comments that have been already posted here, the only other information I can offer are the two chapters on "My Quigley Shot" in my book "Elliott on Airguns" which you can find here:

  3. Zihul says:

    Here in Mexico we recently start to train…. nice challenge…..

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Be sure to let me know how you make out with the UJ Quigley bucket challenge.

  4. JohnKSa says:

    Turns out that if you scale the target down significantly based on the range difference alone that it ends up being an easier shot than it should be.

    Think about it this way. You can “miss” the target by just a hair less than half the diameter of the bullet and still score a nick (which counts as a hit) on the target.

    So if Quigley was shooting at a 17.5″ bucket with a .45/110, he could miss by just under .458″/2 (0.458″ is half the bullet diameter of a 45/110) on each edge and still score a hit. Basically, the effective size of the target was increased by the diameter of his bullet (half the diameter added to each edge).

    Generally nobody thinks about such things because .458″ is small compared to 17.5″. The effective size of the target is only increased by a small percentage–less than 3%.

    BUT, if you scale down the bucket by a factor of 10, now it’s only 1.75″ in size. Shooting at it with a .22 caliber pellet gun means that you can miss by just under .11″ on any edge and still score a hit. Your effective target size is really 1.75″ + .22″. While .458 was a small percentage of 17.5″, .22″ is a pretty significant percentage of 1.75″–about 12.6%. Which means you’re actually going to be shooting at a target that is effectively 10% larger than what Quigley had to hit.

    BUT, you don’t want to scale the whole target down to compensate for the fact that the projectile is now relatively larger than it should be, because that would make it harder to see than it would have been for Quigley.

    My solution was to leave the target the same size and make a thin white scoring line an appropriate distance inside the target edges. That leaves the target visibly as big as it should be and allows the shooter to score a hit by seeing if the pellet cuts the white line or hits inside of it.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      That’s interesting. I find one of the biggest challenges is that, at 55 yards, the 1.75 inch bucket is just a spec inside my non-magnified front sight. If I am shooting off hand and holding my breath, as I run out of oxygen, the bucket gets dimmer and dimmer.

      Thanks for your insights.

  5. JohnKSa says:

    Sorry, just noted an error.

    The parenthetical “(0.458″ is half the bullet diameter of a 45/110)” should read “(0.458″ is the bullet diameter of a 45/110)”

    Yes, the target is very small and hard to see. When I did my Quigley bucket target, I scaled it down to 10 yards since these days I do most of my airgun shooting indoors. I noticed that it seemed easier to hit the scaled down “buckets” than it should be and wondered why.

    That was when I realized that the .177 pellets I was using were WAY too large compared to the scaled down bucket and I began thinking about how that might affect the results.

    By scaling the bucket down so much, I had really dramatically increased the relative size of the projectile. It would have been like Quigley shooting at a 17.5″ bucket with a 9.7″ diameter bullet. He could have missed by about 4.8″ on any side of the bucket and still score a hit. In other words, the target size was effectively increased by just under 9.7″–around 55%. My simple scaling made the target effectively half again larger than reality.

    So my next step was to scale the targets down, taking the projectile size difference into account, so that the feat of hitting them was comparable to what Quigley pulled off. But I couldn’t see the targets at all then–obviously a non-starter.

    So I left them the proper visual size and added the thin white scoring line inside the target. I actually have 3 target sheets, one for .177, one for .20 and a third for .22. Of course they all look the same size but the scoring line position changes.

    By the way, I watched the scene again and the horse gallops for about 45 seconds. Figuring about a 30mph gallop–a decent speed for a horse not bred for racing, that would put the bucket at about 660 yards from the target.

    Then again, I’ve seen some estimates that place it as close as 250 yards using a stopwatch to measure time of flight of the projectile and the muzzle velocity of a .45/110 blackpowder cartridge.

    Any way you cut it, it takes skill to pull the shot off and it’s definitely a fun test of shooting acuity.

Leave a Reply

nine + 9 =