Here in Connecticut we have a large number of pistol shooters who compete in the various indoor pistol leagues around the state during the winter. When spring comes around most of them put their guns and equipment away and don't touch them until the following September. Those shooters miss the best shooting of the year: Outdoor Bullseye Pistol Shooting. I feel a lot of these shooters do not shoot outdoor matches because they are not sure how to shoot them. I am going to explain in this article what you need and how to compete in an outdoor match.
Outdoor matches are fired with three guns. The first is the .22 caliber pistol or revolver. I have seen shooters do well with Rugers and Browning Buckmarks. Smith & Wesson model 41's and High Standards are the most popular. Some of the top shooters are using firearms made by Hammerli, Walther and an occasional Pardini. The trigger pull on the .22 must be at least two pounds.
Next the Center Fire Pistol is any center fire pistol or revolver .32 caliber or larger. Guns that fall into this category are .32 caliber pistols such as the Walther or the Smith and Wesson Model 52 in .38 special. Clark Custom Guns also makes a 1911 style pistol in .38 special. Most shooters use a .45 caliber pistol for their center fire matches. The trigger pull on center fire guns must be at least two and a half pounds, however if you are using a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol the trigger pull must be at least three and a half pounds.
The third gun is the .45 caliber pistol or revolver. Most competitors use a 1911 style pistol for the .45 matches. You will need one with a good trigger and adjustable sights to get started. However to be competitive in the upper classes such as Master and High Master you will need one that has been accurized by a pistolsmith. Shooters in these classes have pistols, which will shoot one to two inch groups out of a Ransom Rest at fifty yards. The trigger pull on the .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol must be at least three and a half pounds. The trigger pull on a .45 caliber revolver must be at least two and a half pounds.
There are some shooters who use revolvers for bullseye pistol shooting but the sport is dominated by semiautomatic pistols. There are a few people who have done well with revolvers but if you are going to purchase a firearm for bullseye pistol invest in a semiautomatic pistol.
For accuracy work on your target pistols use a pistolsmith who specializes in pistols for bullseye shooting. He will know what you need as well as how to do it. Do not go to your local gunsmith. They may be good with your hunting or other sporting firearms but good target guns require a top pistolsmith who knows the game of bullseye pistol shooting. A friend of mine brought his Gold Cup to his local gunsmith to be accurized and invested a large amount of money into the gun. As he got to be a better shooter he realized his gun was not shooting as well as it should. He sent his pistol to one of the top bullseye pistolsmiths in the country for evaluation only to find out the accuracy work was not done correctly. He then had to pay the pistolsmith to redo the work of the first gunsmith.
For sights most shooters use electronic red dot sights such as those available from Aimpoint, Tasco and Ultradot. If you use iron sights they will need to be adjustable. Some good scores are still fired with iron sights. I have seen several matches won in the last year or two by shooters using iron sights. Walking down the firing line looking at grips you will see everything from custom grips made from a drawing of the shooters hand to straight military type grips. I have seen shooters win matches with all types of grips so use whatever is comfortable. One word of caution, it does occasionally rain during a match and rubber grips get slippery when they are wet.
As far as other equipment goes you will need a gun box or case to transport your firearms. A spotting scope is helpful. Eye and ear protection is necessary equipment. Don't forget a screwdriver to adjust your sights and any other small tools you may need for your gun. Bring your cleaning equipment. You will need a light duty staple gun. And don't forget your rain gear.
For ammo any good quality standard velocity or match grade .22 caliber ammo should do. When picking out .22 ammunition you need to buy ammo that works well in your gun. Just because one brand of ammo works well or is super accurate out of your friends pistol does not mean it will work in your gun. Buy small amounts of different brands of ammo and test it to see what works best in your gun.
Factory loaded .45 caliber match ammo will cost about twenty dollars for a box of fifty rounds. The only way for most of us to afford to shoot the center fire and .45 match is to reload. The most popular loads for the .45 use 185 grain and 200 grain semi wad cutter bullets. Consult a reloading manual for proper loads for your firearm. Now that you have your equipment ready we will discuss the match. Most outdoor matches are what is called a 2700. Competitors fire 270 rounds, 90 with each gun. Each 90 shot match or 900 as they are called are of the same course of fire except they are fired with different guns. First competitors fire the .22 caliber 900, then the center fire 900, and lastly the .45 caliber 900. The 900 point matches are made up of four fired matches. First is the Slow Fire Match, which is 20 rounds slow fire. The second match is the National Match Course which is ten rounds slow fire, ten rounds timed fire and ten rounds rapid fire. The third match, the Timed fire match is 20 rounds timed fire. And the fourth match is the Rapid Fire Match, 20 rounds rapid fire.
All shooting is done ten rounds per target. After each ten round target shooters score and repair targets. All slow fire is fired at fifty yards. Timed and rapid fire is fired at twenty-five yards. For slow fire, competitors fire ten rounds with a ten-minute time limit. In timed fire and rapid fire, shooters fire two string of five rounds per target. Each five round string in timed fire is fired in twenty seconds. The five round strings in rapid fire are fired in ten seconds per string This may sound like too much shooting for some people but competitors must go down range to score and repair targets after every ten rounds. So shooters get about a five-minute break after each target while this is going on. There is also a fifteen-minute break between the .22 Match and the Center Fire Match. Shooters get a lunch break between the Center Fire Match and the .45 Match.
The 2700 I described is the most common type of outdoor match. Some matches may vary from this. Obtain a match program from the match sponsor, as this will describe the course of fire and match conditions for the tournament.
Also the Connecticut State Rifle and Revolver Association runs leagues for shooters who only shoot .22's. Also shooters can enter the 2700 and only shoot on or two of the 900's.
Competitors compete in one of five classes Marksman, Sharpshooter, Expert, Master and High Master. Shooters are placed in classes according to their averages so they are shooting against other shooters of the same skill level. The first match you fire you will have to compete in the Master class. Then you will put the scores from your matches in a temporary classification book and calculate your average and classification. You do this until you fire 360 rounds in competition and the NRA sends you a Classification card. If you have an NRA Indoor Pistol Classification you may use that classification for your first outdoor match.
The dates for the C.S.R.&R.A. matches are listed on the back page of the Marksman. Shooters who are interested in traveling can get a complete list of NRA Registered matches in Shooting Sports USA which is put out by the NRA.