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A friend of mine, Brian, has been shooting
a Military Silhouette Match, on
every third Saturday for quite a while now.
The Sacramento Valley Shooting
Club, that we
belong to, has a very nice 500 meter silhouette range and
NRA sponsored Military Silhouette Matches. I had watched
the matches from a distance over the prior year and had heard Brian
talk about how much fun the matches are to compete in.
I decided to go out and accompany Brian and
see if this is something I would like to try. The rules are fairly
Total shots for record 40 (bring at least 20
more for sighters and potential shoot offs)
Course of fire
Prone 200 meters 10 rounds (chickens)
Prone 300 meters 10 rounds (pigs)
Prone 385 meters 10 rounds (turkeys)
Prone 500 meters 10 rounds (rams)
Slings, shooting jackets and shooting pads can be
used - bipods, monopods, tripods, etc. cannot be used.
Front support such as bedroll, sand bag, duffle
bag or similar rest can be used. No rear support (other than your
hand) is allowed.
Time limits for each stage: 10 minutes –
The time limit is for "sighters" and all shots for record. Once
the "record run" has begun, there will be no more sighters.
Rifles: Any stock military rifle can be used.
Iron sights must be original i.e., no Alley aperture fronts for
M1 Garands. Triggers and barrels must also be original military.
Slip on recoil pads or stock extenders are okay. M1A’s or AR-15’s
aren’t "stock military".
Ammunition: Bullets must be hollow point
or softnose. AP and FMJ’s are not allowed. Ammo will be checked.
Rifles must be at least .24 caliber. First time shooters will be
allowed to use FMJ’s if they weren’t aware of the hollow point/soft
Classes: are based on the two highest
scores – New shooters will be put in AA until classified
Master (35 - 40)
AAA (29 – 34)
AA (21 – 28)
A (15 – 20)
B (00 – 14)
Open Class – For rifles that aren’t fully
original sniper rifles. Scores fired in Open Class
will not determine classification.
Target Setting/Resetting: You’re responsible
for resetting what you knock down. Targets will be fully placed
on the designated pads. Targets will not be "soft set".
rams are placed out at 500 meters and I really have to tell you
that 500 meters is quite a distance. Take a look at figures 8
and 12 to get an idea of what I am talking about. You really
need a powerful cartridge to go the distance and still have enough
knock down power to send the Steel Silhouette off of the
rail, that it sits upon.
The shooters compete in teams of two. One shooter shoots while
the other shooter looks through the spotting scope, giving shot
by shot calls to the shooter. Then they swap places.
Most spotters uses a clipboard with a cork sheet, with an outline
of the silhouette animal the shooter is targeting. As shown
in figures 4 and 10 the spotter uses colored stick pins to
show the shooter where the point of impact is, so the shooter can
adjust their elevation and windage accordingly. If you do not have
a partner, then you will be assigned one at the beginning of the
was shooting a Swiss Schmidt-Rubin, K-31 in Swiss 7.55x55mm. He
is in the "A" class of shooters. His partner, Bill, was shooting
a Swedish Mauser, m96 in 6.5x55mm with modified sights. The modification
placed his Swede in the "Open" class.
Figure 7, shows Brian set up
and taking his first "sighter" shots.
Both shooters started the match, shooting at the pigs placed
all the way out at 300 meters. Both team members took turns shooting
and spotting. Bill ended the round with a score of ten, while
Brian ended with three pigs knocked off of the rails.
Next in the match came the rams
placed out at 500 meters. Both shooters took their sighter shots
at the sighter silhouette (as shown in figure 8).
Each silhouette type has a sighter silhouette for the shooters to
sight in on. The sighter silhouette is supported by a steel post
and will not fall off when hit. Brian fired 5 sighter shots while
Bill called out bullet impact points so Brian could correct his
point of aim. Bill recorded each of Brian's sighter shots
and showed him the results on the cork clipboard as shown in
figures 9 and 10.
Brian was satisfied that all was well and the command was given
to start recording shots, he slowly fired his first recorded shot
at ram number one. While watching, I could barely make out the outline
of the targets/silhouettes with my bare eyes. Brian's were against
a light colored landscape background. This fact made the silhouettes
very difficult to make out at such an extreme distance.
His first shot
hit the rail below the ram's hind leg. Brian adjusted his aim and
fired again, this time at ram number two. His second shot rang clear
and ram number two fell down behind the rails. After all ten shots
were fired; seven rams lay dead behind the railing. It seemed Bill
and Brian had swapped positions in this round - Bill only shot one
ram out of ten. Bill was noticeably unhappy.
I took the almost half a mile ride out
to the rams with Brian to help reset and paint his fallen rams.
When looking back at the shooting line (as shown in figure
12) I could barely even see anything other than a two story
tower at the center of the range.
The Shooting Club's range is in prairie country
with no tree cover and rolling hills as far as the eye can see.
The weather was getting warm, but the match would be over long before
the heat became too oppressive.
All of the silhouettes
are made out of steel and the rams silhouettes are the largest of
the four types offered at this range. They are very large and very
heavy as shown in contrast to Brian's size in figure 13.
I asked why the use of Full Metal Jacketed
(FMJ) bullets were not allowed on the silhouettes and was told that
they will go right through the steel. Brian was using Hollow Point
Spires, while Bill used Soft Points. As shown in figure 14,
Brian's rounds disintegrated upon impact of the silhouette. The
only trace left was the large black and grey impact mark.
After all of the
ram silhouettes were reset to their original positions, we walked
along and spray painted the impact marks with range supplied white
spray paint. We rode back to the line and prepared to move the gear
to the other side of the range, so we could shoot the turkeys and
The turkeys are set out at 385 meters.
So far, Brian had shot better at the more distant silhouettes, than
the closer (Rams 7 vs. Pigs 2). We hoped that he would shoot as
well on the turkeys and still pull in a decent score for the match.
The second half of the match began with the match master yelling
out "Commence Firing!".
started out first, shooting at the chickens. He had some interesting
issues come up with cases that had failed and had literally come
a part in the bore of his rifle. He said that had two Swedish
Mausers with different bore diameters. This fact forced him to full
length resize his cases. He believed this was what was causing the
Up and down the range you could hear spectators and spotters "ooohhhing"
and "aaawwwing" as their shooters hit silhouettes. Kind of a strange
chorus playing out in the middle of the Northern Californian prairie.
At the match, I saw the gambit of Military
Rifles - Yugo M-48s, Mauser 98ks, Garands, Springfields, Enfields,
K-31s and Swedes. The most common rifle had to be the Swedish (Swede)
Mauser m96 in 6.5x55 caliber. This is what has been known to win
the lion's share of Military Silhouette Shooting Matches out at
this range. I did not see any Finnish M-39s as I had expected to.
I plan on using the Finnish Nagant when I make my debut at the next
The setup that
I saw every one using was a standard shooting pad, a good sand filled
shooting rest on top of a .30 caliber ammo canister. You also need
a good spotting scope and I recommend a full height tripod. Everyone
I saw was wearing a shoulder pad of some sort. After firing 40+,
almost max loaded rounds in 4x10 minute intervals, if you don't
have a shoulder pad - my guess is you'll wish you had.
Brian scored four solid knock-downs on
the chickens as displayed in figure 24.
Reloading is just
as important to winning the matches as shooting is. Bill was using
140 grain 6.5x55 mm Match King bullets with 43.0 grains of IMR 4064
and Winchester Magnum Rifle Primers. This is a fairly hot load,
but required for the Mauser 6.5x55mm to knock down the heavy silhouette
targets at such great distances. Brian was shooting Swiss 7.5 with
42 grains of IMR 4895. Afterwards I asked Bill why he was using
Winchester Magnum primers in his 6.5x55 reloading and he told me
that he had found it had improved his accuracy and brought in tighter
Bill did well in the turkey silhouette
round with a total of seven knocked down.
He finished the match with a very respectable
total score of 27 (9 chickens, 10 pigs, 7 turkeys, and 1 ram). I
believe that if Bill had done better in the rams, he could have
placed first or second in the match.
between the chickens, pigs, and turkeys place him making a possible
33 to 34 (a 34 took the match). When Brian was finished he had shot
a total score of 17 (7 rams, 4 chickens, 3 pigs, and 3 turkeys)
hits. Usually Brian's average is around 19 to 20. I really hoped
that I had not made Bill or Brian nervous while I was snapping pictures
and asking questions between shooting sessions. I tried to make
sure they had their space and concentration was unbroken.
I definitely see this style Match as justification
for purchasing more Military Surplus firearms. The commitment is
minimal with only one match per month. To prepare, you should practice
shooting at longer distances than the average 100 meter paper target
range. Also you need to find the perfect combination rifle that
has: 1) a powerful enough cartridge to make the distance and still
be able to knock over the silhouettes, without causing punishing
recoil to you, and 2) is very accurate. I really suggest you
try this out! I know I will.