Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
I spent my weekend competing at the CRPA California State Smallbore Metallic Silhouette Championships. It was a heck of a competition with a strong showing of the best shots in the state. Many of the shooters shoot competitively in more than one discipline and skillz were brought both days. The competitors in every class were great shooters, really nice people and the equipment was pretty consistently of stunning quality so the gun-porn quotient was high.
Many of the shooters that were there I see a couple times a month at regional matches but a few of them I usually only see at specific venues so State is a chance to catch up with people and shoot the breeze, maybe learn a new trick or find out some info you didn’t even know existed. Also it’s a chance to browse an impressive for-sale table and drool over a bunch of things you by the psychosomatic pain your back pocket know you shouldn’t even be looking at.
State is also one of those big matches where the prizes are pretty cool and there are often door prizes or a raffle. Every entrant was put in for the raffle this eyar and one of the guys won a case of Eley Club .22lr ammunition which is one of those frighteningly expensive sorts of things that are amazingly cool to win. There were great prizes given to the winners in the form of trophies (for Match winner) and expensive coinage. Most of the field of winners got varying numbers of either silver dollars or other US coinage of the same ilk.
All in all it was 2 days. Each day was an 80 round match broken up into 2x 40 round matches with a snack break in between. Wind was pretty mellow to non-existent. Everyone liked that. Temperatures were also very mellow but bordered on chilly the 2nd day. I think one of the best parts of the match was the venue. Avenal Gun Club is a fantastic facility, especially for as remote as it is. Plenty of shade and seating and a challenging but not infuriating target setup on the smallbore line.
Here’s a pic of the range. The little black dots are the steel targets. The rams in the back are 4″x3″ in the body. The chickens up front are about 1″ across the body. Sorry the pic is so poor. Lighting was a major problem all day for photography.
Now about the hardware: Anshutz 54’s, Remington 40x and Sako’s pretty much ruled the roost as far as numbers but we did have a couple interesting if not ballsy choices. 1 guy used a nearly box stock ruger 10/22 with a Kidd trigger and shot in AA class and took second. 10/22’s don’t get a lot of respect in the sport because the available triggers are not normally very good. That shooter really did something doing that well with one even if it was modded. Another guy used what appeared to be a falling block Remington or replica thereof with a Lyman tang peep-sight and he shot a pretty amazing score despite not using the 16-36x optics that are the norm on the line. That wicked long sight radius must be pretty helpful.
Here’s a pic of some of the rifles in use. The bulk are Anschutz’s in custom stocks with custom barrels. Pretty high end kit.
Optics: Weaver T series, Nikon and Leupold target scopes were well represented. The average scope on the line is about $500-600 with some folks opting for much more pedestrian stuff and some (infrequently) going up over $1000. Chasing magnification is a little like an addiction and is very common for silhouette shooters to suffer from. They also need high quality scopes of high magnification with precise repeatable adjustments. That can make optics one of the more trying things to find just the right model of. Thankfully because of a very small necessary feature set it doesn’t drive the cost into the stratosphere.
A pic down the line during sight-in:
In other disciplines like F-class the players seem to chase price points as well as magnification and $2500-3500 scopes aren’t at all uncommon and I think that the tendency to compete with dollars might keep people out of games like F-class where smallbore silhouette can be done with pretty modest gear at a pretty high level and if you want to compete with dollars there’s only so far that can go. The equipment chasing is kinda kept down by the fact that we ALL use retail ammunition. The most you can spend there is to use Eley but there are other much more affordable ammo’s that do just as well like SK, RWS, Lapua, and even some bulk options in match ammo are out there. Point is, we’re all able to use ammo of the same capability. In highpower most everyone handloads and the skill that you use to handload directly affects the result. New shooters just aren’t going to have the badass ammo that old shooters do in highpower. I think that’s a huge reason to pick smallbore silhouette for your monthly dose of rifle competition. You can actually do it on a normal human budget.
So back to the match. Competitors came in from all over the state and from neighboring states and boy I mean to tell ya’, when they come that far they’re coming to win. They didn’t win but they sure put everyone else to task to make sure our CA state championship didn’t go to some other state’s resident.
At the end of the first day of competition I won the B-class Standard Gun. At the end of the second day my coach had won AAA-class Hunter Gun. My coach’s son won B-class Hunter Gun and High Junior. Here we are, 3 of the winners. There was also unclassified, A, AA and Master class for both Hunter Gun and Standard Gun each so there’s 8 more winners plus the overall match winner. There were plenty of competitors in each class to provide an exciting competition and everyone really had to work their mojo.
I shoot A class in Hunter Gun and shot 4th. To make nothing but excuses I was not with my coach in the Hunter Gun relays so I didn’t have my normal spotter. I was squadded with a squad-mate/spotter I’ve only barely met a couple times and it took us the first half of the match just to sync up and learn how to work each other’s strengths and give them the info they needed to make better shots (if my spotter watched me for stance and form problems and ignored actually spotting I hit 70%, if he spotted and ignored what I was doing with my body then I hit 10-30%). The first half I was hitting 10%. The second half I was hitting closer to 35%. The first half he was hitting 80% sometimes and 0% sometimes. By the second half of the day he was pulling a nice 70% average and had stopped throwing zeros.
The day before in Standard Gun I was hitting 32% overall and my weakest set was 25%. The 2nd day was also colder and had more wind early on. My coach and I didn’t bring enough snacks and Gatorade for the 2nd day either and that match was run faster and we all had to set targets the 2nd day (the first day my coach’s son wasn’t shooting and so became our designated target setter for our team) which meant heart rates were up and legs were more fatigued and blood sugar was lower. All in all the 2nd day was closer to an endurance trial than the first which was really quite nice as shooting days go.
I managed to get some great advice from Inez (shout out) which helped me pull through some fatigue and let me concentrate on the task at hand. After that worked and I wasn’t fighting my own body anymore I had time to think about what was going on now and to make some improvements to my form. I found a new way to mount the rifle and settle on target that exploits both natural point of aim and natural respiratory pause and settled my crosshair down from a 6-8MOA sort of area of jitter to a 3-4MOA jitter. That’s a huge improvement and means I’ve got my reticle on target almost the whole time I’m readying to fire instead of crossing the target and being able to hover on it only briefly if at all. It also means I’m fighting the rifle and gravity less and I’ll have much greater endurance for that. I’m hoping that this technique can help me pull up into AA class this year. Big thanks to Inez, Mark B., Chris, George, George and George, Luis, Tony, Edo, Dennis, Will and everyone at the match that helped with advice, good hearted ribbing and supportive words.
You can check out videos of me competing in metallic silhouette at my youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSvqgqVNtzcLFuQkGxh-Egg
Check out metallic silhouette shooting:
What’s stopping you from trying this sort of competition out for yourself?
Authors Note: I don’t compete to win though, I occasionally do. I compete to become a better shooter. I want to be a proper rifleman which means being absolutely proficient from all positions when the pressure is on. Shooting from a bench is not fun for me but I’ve gotten very good at it. It’s still just making holes in paper though and that’s not so much for giggles once you know how. Crawling on my belly and shooting so far I can’t see my target without optics is a bit more fun but stops being much of a challenge after a while and there’s not a lot of places you can go that allow you to launch bullets basically “that-a way”. Metallic silhouette shooting; specifically in the smallbore and highpower forms, forces you to stand up unsupported and engage 2-3MOA targets in such a way that it’s totally obvious when you hit and when you don’t and frequently what the quality of your hit was. It’s the ultimate in honest assessment of one’s ability. One tip for those on the fence: In the beginning you’ll usually be in a beginner class which makes it much easier to get to your first win. Wins are fun and so is graduating to a higher class. The point is there’s always going to be 1000 shooters that are 10x better than you and a few will usually be on the firing line at a match. They’re not who you’re competing against. You are who you are competing against.