Silhouette is a sport dating back to the 1950s in Mexico, in which competitors attempt to knock over a number of metal targets, each shaped as the profile silhouette of an animal. It is a relaxed-atmosphere sport that appeals to marksmen of all ages. It does not require any special shooting equipment, other than perhaps a shooting vest, usually a shotgun style vest. In many silhouette disciplines, firearms are used just as they come from the manufacturer with very little or no modification.

Typical shooting stance for rifles

Silhouette is traditionally shot from an unsupported standing position, but allowances are made for those unable to shoot from this position.


For a match, the range is separated into firing positions with two banks of five targets for each animal type at its corresponding distance. For each bank, starting from the left-most target, competitors take one shot per target in the bank within the alloted time to fire. In order to count towards the competitor's score, each target must fall off its stand.

Once both banks have been shot, competitors move to the firing position corresponding to the next-furthest distant animal for their next course of fire. For competitors finishing the ram banks, the next firing position corresponds to chickens.

The official NRA rulebooks for rifle and pistol catetories can be found here and here, respectively. These rules outline specific modifications that can be made to firearms, ammunition which is not permitted, and any limitations on other equipment and clothing that is imposed. You may want to look at these rules if you wish to start shooting in state, regional, or national matches.

Competitors shooting from firing positions.

What distance are the targets?

For lever-action rifle cartridge matches, the distances to each animal type are:

  • Chicken: 50 meters
  • Pig: 100 meters
  • Turkey: 150 meters
  • Ram: 200 meters
Rifle cartridge matches use the "full size" scaled targets.

For lever-action pistol cartridge and most smallbore matches, the distances to each animal are:

  • Chicken: 40 meters
  • Pig: 50 meters
  • Turkey: 75 meters
  • Ram: 100 meters
Smallbore matches use the "half size" scaled targets.

For scoped smallbore matches, the distances to each animal are:

  • Chicken: 40 meters
  • Pig: 60 meters
  • Turkey: 77 meters
  • Ram: 100 meters
Scoped smallbore matches use the "one-fifth size" scaled targets.

Our range is set up for all of the smallbore distances, plus the distances used for rifle cartridge lever-action rifles. Members wishing to come in to practice during the week will find this convenient, as you can set targets at the same distances used during the matches. You can see the layout of our facility here.

What is the course of fire?

The course of fire--the rules concerning the actual shooting process--are as follows:

  1. Once it is safe to shoot, the match director will call for the next relay (group of competitors) to bring their equipment to the firing line. Each competitor in the relay then proceeds to their firing position with their unloaded firearm, ammunition, and other shooting equipment.
  2. Once the relay is ready, the match director will give the "Load" command, allowing the relay to load ammunition and prepare to fire.
  3. After the time allotted for loading is completed, the match director will then give the "Fire" command, allowing competitors to shoot the targets in their bank.
  4. When the alloted firing time is completed, the match director will give the "Cease Fire" command, after which competitors set down their firearms make sure they are unloaded with the firing chamber open.
  5. If there is still a bank of targets remaining for the relay, the match director will call the relay back to the firing line, beginning another course of fire for the relay. If all banks have been completed, the match director will instead ask the relay to remove their equipment from the firing line and call for the range to be made safe for people to head down-range to reset targets.

How much time competitors have to load and shoot during the course of fire depends on the category being used for the match.

  • Off-hand centerfire and .22 LR rifle and pistol matches: 15 seconds to load; 2 minutes, 30 seconds to fire (bank of 5 targets)
  • Cowboy Lever-Action matches: 30 seconds to load, 2 minutes to fire (bank of 5 targets)

See our scheduled activities for information about when each kind of match is held.

What guns are welcome?

Creedmoor shooting position.
There is a competitive category for most kinds of rifles or pistols within Silhouette, so any rifle or pistol that can be safely fired from an unsupported standing position or pistols from the Creedmoor position is welcome at an El Paso Gun Club match. However, some kinds of ammunition can cause undue damage to our targets, so if a match director has reason to believe that your ammunition will damage the targets, you may not be allowed to use it in the match. In general, if you think your gun (or ammunition) can punch a hole through a thin steel target, you may want to bring something else.

If your gun doesn't fit the category of the match, you're still welcome to join us! Even for the NRA-approved matches, we allow an "open" category of firearms for anyone who doesn't fit the match's category. For the NRA-approved matches, shooting in the open category simply means the score won't be officially recorded. The object is to come out, have fun, and enjoy the company of fellow marksmen. You do not need to be a member to come out to any of our matches.

If you have any questions regarding whether your firearm or ammunition will be welcome at our matches, feel free to contact us.