The sport of metallic silhouette shooting came to us from Mexico, where it started roughly 75 years ago as a part of a culture of rural village celebrations. They used live animals in those days tethered to a stake, which made it a lot harder to hit them because after the first shot the animals tended to take evasive action. I guess it was considered politically correct in those earlier times because the match would be immediately followed by a rip-roaring barbeque (at which, of course, chicken, pig, turkey, and ram were on the menu). I learned all of this from a world-class metallic silhouette shooter named Jose Porras in the 1970s. Jose used to drive up from Mexico to shoot with us at Fort Bliss when I first got into the metallic silhouette game. He was the guy to beat, and I never did. I didn’t care. I just liked hearing his stories about the old days and the origins of the sport.
I last shot in a metallic silhouette match about 40 years ago. By then, the sport had morphed into shooting at metallic cutouts (silhouettes), like you see in the photo at the top of this blog. There were chickens at 50 meters, pigs at 100 meters, turkeys at 150 meters, and rams at 200 meters (this was for the handgun competition). For high power rifle (which we always shot with a scope back then) the targets were the same, but they were located at 200 meters (chickens), 300 meters (pigs), 385 meters (turkeys), and 500 meters (rams). Those are long distances, and all of the rifle shooting was offhand (no slings or shooting jackets). You could shoot from a sitting position in the handgun matches, but the rifle competition was all a stand up affair. It was challenging, and that’s what made it interesting. The winner usually connected with only about half the targets, and you either hit them or you didn’t. It was fun.
I’ve probably told you this hundreds of times before, but in the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association (IHMSA) national championships in 1976 in El Paso, I tied for 5th place and then lost a shootoff. I was out of the money in 6th, but I was still pretty pleased because I was using a bone-stock Smith and Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum with my cast bullet reloads, and everyone else was shooting custom XP-100 Remingtons. The XP-100 was a single-shot pistol based on a rifle action, and in those days, guys would have them custom barreled in 30×223. The 30×223 was a wildcat based on the 5.56 NATO cartridge blown out to take a .30 caliber rifle bullet. It ultimately became known as the 300 Blackout cartridge. Jose used one of these 30×223 custom handguns for culling coyotes on his estate in Mexico during the week and for winning matches in El Paso on the weekends.
Well, to make a long story slightly less long, I’ve been wanting to get back into metallic silhouette shooting for the last 40 years. Today, I finally did something about it. I broke the suction between my butt and the seat in front of this computer and I shot in the .22-caliber metallic silhouette rifle match at the West End Gun Club. I shot my Browning .22 A-bolt (a relatively rare and semi-collectible rifle)…
I didn’t know it when I went out there today, but they shoot two classes: One with scopes, and the other with open sights. The open sight targets are roughly four times the size of the scope targets, and for whatever reason, on the rams the targets for the scoped guns are set back an additional 10 yards (for the other three animals, the distances are the same). At all distances, though, the targets for the scoped guns are really, really small.
With apologies for the lack of focus, here’s a zoomed-in shot of the turkeys. The iron sight turkey targets are on the left; the scoped-rifle turkeys are on the right…
Like I said, the scoped-rifle targets are really tiny. You can see that in the photo above. They were maybe two inches tall. Shooting at these things offhand was a challenge, but I had a blast out there today. There were four guys shooting scoped rifles and 14 guys (and gals) shooting iron-sighted rifles (mostly lever guns; all with expensive aftermarket aperture sights). It was a good crowd…mostly older guys (my age and up) with a few folks in their 20s and 30s. Everybody was very friendly.
I could have started this blog by telling you I came in fourth in the scoped class and let it go at that, but the fact is I had the lowest score in the scoped class. I only got 14 out of 60 silhouettes, the next guy got 18, another guy got 20, and the highest guy got 22. It’s a tough game. I’m pretty happy with what I did, though. I had only zeroed my rifle at 50 yards (where I got about half the chickens). I got about a third of the pigs I shot at (these were the 65-yard targets, and every shot at them when I connected was at the low edge of the target). I only got one each of the rams and the turkeys (the turkeys are always the toughest), but like I said, I wasn’t zeroed and those were just lucky hits. Next time I’ll do better (and there will be a next time). This was all shooting offhand at teeny, tiny targets. I’d like to try the open sight class next time, too, just because the targets were a lot bigger. It all was a lot of fun.
In two weeks the club is having a centerfire lever gun silhouette match, and I’m thinking I’ll be out there for that one, too. Those distances go out to about 140 yards, it’s all open sights, and it’s all lever guns. They told me they mostly shoot .357 and .30 30 for the centerfire metallic silhouette competition. The bug has bitten and I am enjoying being back in the game. If any of you want to go with me, let me know (I can bring one or two friends in as guests).
Good times, folks, and this sure has been a great weekend…our awesome ride to the Rock Store yesterday, followed by a metallic silhouette match today. Life is good.