Proponents of air rifle silhouette will tell you enthusiastically that air rifle silhouette is the most fun as you can have standing up. In involves shooting at four types of metallic animal shapes: chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams. The targets are the same size as the silhouettes used in air pistol silhouette, but you shoot at them at longer distances: chickens, 20 yards; pigs, 30 yards; turkeys, 36 yards, and rams, 45 yards. Generally, you shoot at 10 of each target, and when you hit them, they fall down (in the case of resettable targets) or go flying.
What makes air rifle silhouette even more challenging is that all shooting is done from the standing (offhand position), and unlike 10 meter air rifle competition, the use of special shooting jackets, pants, shoes, and so forth is forbidden. Competitors must shoot in ordinary street clothing. The irregular shape of the targets adds to the challenge and the fun.
If you want to get involved in air rifle silhouette, you will need an air rifle capable of shooting, at a minimum, dime-sized groups from a rest at 20 yards. Since during competition you will not be shooting from a rest but will be shooting from a standing position, you – like all humans – will wobble. Given that all of the silhouette targets have narrow elements (the legs for example), you want an accurate rifle that will hit what it is pointing at, should you inadvertently wobble your aim over a small portion of the target. Naturally, whatever air rifle you use, you will want to shoot groups with a variety of pellets to discover which pellet is the most accurate in your rifle. You’ll want to check to make sure that the pellets you select group well at 20 yards and at the longest distance, 45 yards.
You’ll also want a scope. Although selecting scope magnification can be tricky – low magnification diminishes your apparent wobble but makes it harder to view the targets, and high magnification increases wobble while making the silhouettes appear larger – but folks in the know tell me that a 6-12x or 6-18x scope is a good place to start. You’ll want a scope with an adjustable objective to reduce parallax error, and, if you are shooting a springer, you’ll need a scope that is springer rated. In addition, because the trajectory of your air rifle can vary from 20 to 45 yards, you will want some means to compensate for the differing trajectory. Some shooters use target knobs to change the elevation of the crosshairs and others use mil-dot scopes, selecting the appropriate dot for different ranges.
Many air rifle venues offer different classes of competition. Target class is for any unaltered 10 meter target air rifle. Since many 10 meter target air rifles launch pellets at around 600fps, compensating for the wind, particularly at the longer distance, can be pretty “entertaining.” Sporter class is where you will find spring-piston, gas-ram, and CO2 powered air rifles. All air rifles and scopes must meet an 11 pound weight limit. Open class is where you’ll find precharged pneumatic air rifles that do not fall into the target class. There are other specifications for each class so always check the current NRA silhouette rules to make sure your air rifle will be legal to use. You can find the rules on the NRA web site here: http://compete.nra.org/documents/pdf/compete/RuleBooks/Sil-r/sil-r-book.pdf
For practice, I can recommend this target: https://www.airgunsofarizona.com/Beeman%20Targets.html
The last thing you’ll need is a place to compete. You can find out about air rifle silhouette matches by contacting the National Rifle Association. This website — http://www.nra.org/nralocal.aspx — will help you find local NRA-affiliated clubs in your area. Unfortunately, you will have to contact them individually to see which ones offer air rifle silhouette competition.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
- Jock Elliott