Silhouette Handgun Shooting

This highly popular course of fire typically consists of life-sized metallic silhouettes of chickens, pigs, turkeys and sheep, arranged in banks of five each. This sport evolved from rifle silhouette competitions. Handgun silhouette shooters have adopted the rifle rules, using the standard centerfire rifle targets usually set at distances from 50 to 200 meters (165 to 660 feet). 

The attraction and spectator appeal of the sport is very evident at matches. Competitors engage the targets from left to right with one shot at each target. Any targets shot out of sequence count as misses. Only targets that are knocked over are scored as hits. Attending families and friends of shooters applaud as the targets crash to the ground and sigh when a cloud of dust signifies a near miss. Successful shooting depends on good technique, consistency in execution and equipment. As in all shooting competition, shooters must develop strong mental discipline.


One of the best aspects of this sport is that there is very little gear expense associated with it. National Rifle Association (NRA) rules allow the greatest variety of handguns dimensions and weights to be used in long range pistol silhouette, and follow very closely the rules established by the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association (IHMSA). The major point of departure being that scopes are allowed in some NRA standing competition, but not in IHMSA sanctioned events. 

NRA Long Range Pistol Silhouette rules have two basic pistol definitions and forms of competition: (1) Conventional, which permits minor modifications; and (2) Unlimited, which allows almost anything that can be done to a handgun, within the limits of a 15-inch barrel and 4.5-pound weight limit. 

NRA Hunter's Pistol is one the most popular silhouette sports. Since firing is done at distances up to 100 meters, only certain calibers are allowed as specified in the rules, with barrel length limited to 10.75 inches and weight to 4.5 pounds. NRA Smallbore Hunter's Pistol is fired with .22 rimfire cartridges at the same distance and the same size targets as in Hunter's Pistol. The targets, however, are composed of thinner material to permit reliable knockdown by the .22. 

Accessory items to consider include: a spotting scope (which can often be purchased for under $100) for use by a coach to spot shots; a shooting mat (costing upwards of $150) or a simple ground cloth is permitted in Long Range Freestyle competition; and gloves may be worn on either or both hands as long as they don't afford artificial support.

Rule Book

For more detailed information on the sport, it is advisable to obtain a copy of the rules. The Pistol Silhouette Rules book (catalog #CS16830) may be ordered for $2 each from: NRA Sales Dept., P.O. Box 5000, Kearneysville, WV 25430-5000. Telephone: 1-800-336-7402.

Further Information 

International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Assn., Inc.
305 N. Third Street, Suite 215
P.O. Box 368
Burlington, IA 52601-0368
Phone:  (319) 752-9623 

National Shooting Sports Foundation
11 Mile Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470-2359
Phone:  (203) 426-1320 

National Rifle Association, Competitions Division
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone:  (703) 267-1000

(Material courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)