The firing line during a match at the Connaught ranges (NCRRA).
Most of our shooting is classified as some form of "bullseye" shooting — that is, the shooter stands upright and fires the pistol (or revolver) using one hand at a stationary target. Ten shots are fired at a target, which is then scored out of a maximum of 100 points.
The shooter stands behind a bench on which they may arrange their firearm(s), ammunition and magazines, spotting scope, and accessories. The shooting is conducted in a structured fashion, under the control of a Range Officer, to ensure fairness and safety. Before moving down range to score any target, the shooters are responsible for making their firearms safe (unloaded, actions open, chambers empty, magazines empty). They must then step well back of the firing line and may not return to it until so instructed. The Range Officer inspects the line to ensure all firearms are safe, and after declaring it so, a light is turned to green (it is red while shooters are on the firing line), and the shooters may then advance to the targets to score and patch them.
Shooting usually involves two formats:
- Precision. This is characterized by a significant period of time allotted to fire the ten shots, with the gun commonly being rested on the bench between shots.
- Sustained fire. A series of five shots (called a string in NRA shooting) is fired in succession, without resting between shots, and in a short period of time. Timed fire allows 20 seconds to fire five shots; the gun is reloaded and this is repeated a second time to achieve the required ten shot total per target. Rapid fire allows ten seconds to fire five shots, and the gun is reloaded and this is repeated to get ten shots scored. Most bullseye matches consist of one-third precision shooting and two-thirds sustained fire.
Two types of bullseye shooting are shot at the range:
An OVPL match underway at Arnprior.
ISSF is the most popular form of bullseye shooting in Canada, and in the world.
Generally, the process begins with the Range Officer giving the command "Load!", after which shooters may load their firearm with five rounds. After a minute, the command "Attention!" is given and the targets edge away from the shooters (this command is given by the computer-controlled target system). Shooters prepare to fire, but must keep their arm holding their firearm pointed down at about a 45-degree angle without resting the gun on their bench. Seven seconds after the "Attention" command, the targets turn to face the firing line. Shooters may raise their arm as soon as the targets begin to face them, then aim and fire. After the required time has elapsed, the targets will automatically edge again and shooters must of course cease firing.
There are four types of pistol competitions (excluding air pistol, which is discussed separately), based upon the type of firearm and targets used:
- Standard Pistol: this uses a pistol chambered for .22LR (Long Rifle) and consists of precision (2 series of 5 shots per target, each fired in 150 seconds), timed fire (2 series of 5 shots per target, each series fired in 20 seconds), and rapid fire (2 series of 5 shots per target, each series fired in 10 seconds). All are shot at the same format target. A standard pistol match could consist of 2 precision, 2 timed and 2 rapid targets, for a score out of a possible 600 points.
- Centrefire Pistol: this uses a pistol chambered for a centrefire cartridge not less than .32 caliber and not more than .38 caliber. All shots are scored as if they are .38 caliber. There is a precision course (fired on the same format target as standard pistol) consisting of 2 series of five shots per target, each series fired in five minutes. There is also centrefire rapid (previously called duelling), where two series of 5 shots are fired at a target with much larger scoring rings and a much larger black centre. Each shot is fired during a three-second interval, beginning with the shooting arm angled down at 45 degrees from horizontal. During the three seconds, the shooter must raise, aim and fire the gun. Between each three second exposure, there is an interval of seven seconds. Because the range has turning targets, the targets are turned away from the shooters ("edged") for the seven-second interval, and the shooter can only raise their arm to aim the gun as the targets begin to turn back towards them ("faced") at the beginning of the three-second interval.
- Sport Pistol: this is identical to Centrefire Pistol, except that a .22LR pistol is used.
- Free Pistol: in this competition, ideally shot at the very long distance of 50 metres but with scaled targets used at shorter ranges, shooters are allowed to use .22LR pistols with no restrictions on their design ("free"). These are single-shot pistls and can be very sophisticated in their design, with grips that enclose the wrist and often with balancing arms attached, all designed to provide the maximum accuracy needed to compete in this sport. We don't normally practice free pistol as an organized activity at our range.
As with all competitions, there are a host of rules and procedures specific to shooting ISSF. You will become familiarized with these as you shoot.
Scoring an NRA 25-yard timed/rapid fire target during a match at Connaught.
NRA is far and away the most popular form of bullseye in the United States, but much less so in Canada. Official matches are shot with precision targets set at 50 yards and sustained fire targets set at 25 yards. The scoring rings are the same size in both targets, with the precision target simply having another ring coloured black so that the black centres appear visually the same size to the shooter at the different distances. Since ours is a 20 yard range, we use targets scaled down to the appropriate size for that distance. This is called a "gallery course."
NRA matches can have several structures, but all feature some combination of precision and sustained fire courses, one-third of the match being precision, one-third timed fire and one-third rapid fire. Matches can require the shooter use a .22LR pistol, or a centrefire pistol, and some require the use of a .45 calibre pistol. This last requirement is not common in Canada, since it normally happens only in what is called a "2700", referring to the total number of points possible in the match. A 2700 consists effectively of three 900 point matches; the first shot with a .22LR pistol, the second with any centrefire pistol, and the last must be shot with a .45 calibre handgun.
NRA differs from ISSF not only in the targets used, but also in its rules and procedures. Range commands are very different, consisting of a series of timed questions or instructions. After the command to load, and once the line appears ready, the Range Officer or target turning system will say the following:
Is the line ready? [pause] (this is the opportunity for anyone not ready to shout out)
The line is ready. [pause]
Ready on the right. [pause]
Ready on the left. [pause]
Ready on the firing line. [pause]
If turning targets are used, rather than saying "Commence firing!", the targets, which had been edged, turn to face the shooters.
Shooters are allowed to raise their pistols and aim any time after the command "Ready on the right." This means that at the start of the timing they are already aimed and ready to fire, unlike ISSF, where the arm cannot be raised until the timing begins.
NRA precision shooting also varies in that it is ten shots fired in ten minutes, with the shooter reloading their gun in their own time during the ten minutes, rather than two series of five rounds each in two-and-a-half minutes as in ISSF.