Air Rifle Shooting Disciplines

A summary of the main Air Rifle Shooting Disciplines in South Africa

Three Position – 3P

Three-Position Air Rifle Shooting is the most popular and fastest growing form of shooting sports competition for youth of high school age or younger. Two different Three-Position Air Rifle events are available. Precision Air Rifle is modelled after Olympic-style shooting and allows the use of specialized target rifles and equipment. Sporter Air Rifle is designed for new competitors or those who desire to compete with a minimum of equipment and expense.

In both types of shooting, competitors fire at targets at a distance of 10 meters in three different positions, prone, standing and kneeling. Three-Position Air Rifle provides young competitors with competitive shooting sports opportunities that can be offered on a wide variety of easily accessible or easily constructed ranges, with equipment that is commonly available at affordable costs.

In South Africa the main organizations promoting 3P Sporter and Precision classes in school sport shooting programs are SAARA and SANSSU

Field Target – FT

Field Target is an outdoor air rifle discipline originating in the United Kingdom, in the early 1980s, but has gained popularity worldwide.

The World Field Target Federation ruled on 22 February 2007 on adding to the “core rules” an official limit of 12 ft·lbf (16 joules) for all competitions under their organization and ruling. The WFTF has more than 33 member countries spread across all 6 continents.

Targets may be placed at any distance between 8 meters and 50 meters from the firing line. Targets are often placed at about the same height as the shooter, but it is not uncommon for them to appear high up banks or in trees, or down steep slopes.

Points are scored with 1 for a hit (resulting in the faceplate falling), and 0 for a miss (whether it strikes the surrounding faceplate, misses it, or “splits” on the edge of the kill but fails to down the target). The highest score of a competition forms the benchmark for all the other scores – they are calculated as a percentage of this score rather than the total number of targets. This means that competitors attending a shoot on a windy day will not necessarily affect their average score over a season, as the highest score of the day will probably be lower.

Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP) airguns are more popular than spring guns as the much lower recoil provides more confidence in aim for most people. There are some FT shooters who compete at a very high level with a spring gun, and a well-engineered spring gun, shot with some skill will be no less accurate than a PCP. There are some “dedicated” FT designs available, with the main features being a deep stock or adjustable platform (“Hamster”) to rest on the knee while shooting seated, a high or adjustable cheek-piece to suit the large telescopic sights, and often an adjustable butt or butt hook. Many experienced shooters have chosen to use made-to-measure custom stocks for their rifles.

Telescopic sights are favoured for obvious reasons – it is often difficult to see the kill zone of the furthest targets clearly with the naked eye. Another advantage of high-magnification scopes is their ability to act as a simple range-finding tool. At very high magnifications, most scopes have a very shallow depth of field, and one can accurately focus on a series of targets at known distances and mark the scope for future reference. In competition you simply focus on the target and deduce the distance from the marks you made on the scope’s focus control. Some scopes use a side-wheel parallax adjustment to control focus (rather than a camera-like focus ring on the objective bell of the scope), and this allows the use of large diameter wheels to increase the distance between range markings and effectively improve ranging resolution.

For the elite FT shooter it is possible to gain Protea colours and shoot in the annual World FT Championships.

Sporter Field Target – SFT

SFT has been introduced as a FT discipline aimed at bringing newcomers into FT shooting. It differs from normal FT rules only as follows:

Any PCP or springer airguns up to 18 ft/lb / 24 joule and up to 5.0mm calibre may be used;
A target knock back scores two points and a hit scores one;
Shooters under the age of 13 may use bipods or any other means to stabilise their air rifles;
Minors under the age of 14 will only be allowed to participate under supervision of a parent or guardian.
SFT shooters will be paired/squadded together at league shoots.
Clubs may decide on the minimum age for SFT participants at any shoot .

Hunter Field Target – HFT

Hunter field target (HFT) is a target shooting sport derived from the air rifle disciplines of field target shooting and hunting. Primarily an outdoor sport, shot with air rifles (rated at a maximum of 12 ft·lbf / 16 joules), a typical HFT course is made up of 30 lanes, with each lane consisting of a peg and a metal “knock down” target placed in a position to simulate a hunting scenario. The peg marks the shooting spot and the shooter must touch the peg with part of his or her body or gun for the shot to count.

The targets are mainly based on typical quarry such as rabbit, rat, crow, magpie and grey squirrel. They are made from metal and mimic their counterparts in both shape and size. Each target has a circular “kill zone” that varies in size, (typically 15–45 mm in diameter), and are set out at varying ranges (typically 8-45 yards/7.3-41.1 m). A direct hit to the “kill zone” triggers a mechanism that makes the target fall back flat, simulating a “kill”. Successfully “killing” a target rewards you with two points and the target is reset by pulling the “reset cord”. “Plating” a target (hitting the target anywhere but the “kill zone”) rewards you with one point. Missing the target altogether results in a zero.

The main skill in HFT is the ability to range the target as accurately as possible. Ranging is either done using the traditional method of “visualising” the number of yards / meters separating you from the target or, more scientifically by using a telescopic sight fitted with a “mil-dot” reticule but also a 30/30 reticle. There is no dialing in for range finding, this is the domain of the normal Field Target discipline. Once the shooter starts the course he/she cannot ‘touch’ the scope i.e. change magnification, change the parallax setting or change the turrets. All assists such as windicators and bipods which exist in other target shooting disciplines are banned.

When shooting, contestants may adopt one of three stances: prone (lying down), kneeling, and standing. Sometimes contestants will be forced to adopt a certain stance, for instance a lane that has “STANDING ONLY” sign must be shot in the standing position. If the shooter fails to follow this rule, the score for the target will be marked as a zero, even if it was “killed”

Shooters from clubs all over the world participate in local and area competitions and also travel to the annual World Championship competition held under the guidance and rules of the UKAHFT.

Benchrest – BR

By Gert Van Wyk – Protea Team Member, Air Benchrest
Shooting is done outdoors at 25 or 50 meters using a separate front and a rear rest to stabilize the rifle. Due to the small size of the targets a telescope is used and in most cases the higher magnification telescopes are better suited.

A target sheet consists of 25 small scoring targets as well as 10 sighting targets that can be used for sighting purposes. The maximum score that can be achieved is 250 and 25X’s. It may sound an easy task to do but keep in mind that the wind can push the pellet away from the point of aim by as much as 30-40 millimetres.

The ability to “read” the wind and adjust the point of aim accordingly is at the core of benchrest shooting. Shooters also make use of the sighting targets to determine the shift in the point of aim and transfer this deflection to the next scoring target.

The Disciplines Which are Accommodated in Air Rifle Benchrest Shooting for the 2014 Season.

Light Varmint – 12fpe max energy, 10.5lbs max weight (scope incl) & any magnification scope. Shooting distance: 25m

Heavy Varmint – 20fpe max energy, 15lbs max weight (scope incl) & any magnification scope. Shooting distance: 25m

Unlimited Score – 30fpe max energy, 15lbs max weight (scope incl) & any magnification scope. Shooting distance:50 m and then 25m as from 2102.

Grouping – 30fpe max energy, 15lbs max weight (scope incl) & any magnification scope. 5 x 5 shot groups. Shooting distance: 50m

Any pellet type can be used in 4,5 or 5,0 or 5,5 millimetres.

The Air Rifles Used in Benchrest Shooting.
For many years the sport has been dominated by Air Arms rifles. Typically the S400, MPR and EV2 models. The CZ 200 is a good entry level rifle. Other brands are Steyr, Theoben, Hammerli, Walther and *Daystate. Although there are nothing wrong with springer air rifles, they are not really suited for competitive benchrest shooting.

*As per the WRABF rules with electronics other than the electronic trigger cannot be used in Light and Heavy Varmint classes. Such rifles are allowed in Unlimited Score and Grouping.

Air Arms, JSB, Crosman and Daystate are the most commonly used pellets.

How the Different Pieces of the Puzzle Fit Together:

Organized benchrest shooting in South Africa is practised by five provinces that in actual fact operate as the provincial clubs. They are:

– Western Province Benchrest Shooting Association based at Cape Town – Riebeek Valley Shooting Range
– North West Benchrest Shooting Association based at Klerksdorp – Schoeman Range
– Free State Benchrest Shooting Association based at Welkom – Excalibur Range
– South Gauteng Benchrest Shooting Association based near Meyerton – Sure Focus Range
– Gauteng Benchrest Shooting Association based north of Pretoria – Krokodilspruit Range

These five provinces affiliates their members to the South Africa Benchrest Shooting Federation (SABSF) who is in turn affiliated to the South African Shooting Sports Federation (SASSF). SASSF represents the sport of shooting at the South African Council of Sport. By the way, these are the guys who give the final nod in the awarding of national colours.

These five provincial associations practice air rifle, rim fire and centre fire disciplines. South Africa is a founding member of the World Rimfire and Air Rifle Benchrest Federation. ( The WRABF World Championships takes place every four years. The next WRABF Championships will be held in July/August 2011 in Charleston, South Carolina in the USA. South Africa will be sending a team to this event.
Then there is the European Rimfire and Air Rifle Benchrest Shooting Federation ( who hosts the European Championships every four years, probably somewhere in Europe. So there is an opportunity to compete in an international event every two years.
How Benchrest Shooting Takes Place:
In South Africa each province are obliged to annually hosts four league shoots and one open championship. At all of these events/championships shooters from the other provinces can participate. Shooters who are not members of SABSF can also shoot but they are not ranked on the national SABSF ranking system.
Benchrest scores are ranked per discipline at and updated during the year. The ranking period stretches from one National Championship to the next and the Championship is typically held in April. Shooters are ranked by their best two league score of which each league result contributes 10% towards their ranking. A shooter’s best open championship result contributes another 30% towards their total ranking. At this point a shooter will have a ranking of up to a possible 50%.
Based on the score that a shooter achieved at the previous National Championships or the next National Championships he will be able to contribute another possible 50% of his ranking, which will give him a possible total of 100%.
A shooter’s score in each discipline at each competition is expressed as a percentage of the winning (top) score in the particular discipline on the day.
A typical example of scores expressed as a percentage:
Highest Score, First Place Score – 240 and 8X = 100%
Second Highest Score, Second Place – 239 and 15X = 99.61% (239.15 divided by 240.08 times 100)
Third Highest Score, Third Place – 237 and 2X = 98.72% (237.02 divided by 240.08 times 100)
Fourth Highest Score, Fourth Place – 235 and 10X = 97.92% ( 235.1 divided by 240.08 times 100)
(An X is where the pellet obliterate the inner circle)
This method of scoring will ensure that shooters who shoots the same score and X count will achieve the same percentage. As an example if one should shoot in a gale force wind and end up with a highest score of 200 that shooter will still be achieving 100% for that discipline on the day. Added to this is the normal position placement of first, second…. with tie break rules to determine the respective positions. When it is difficult to call a shot’s score a ,22 plug is used Currently “best edge scoring” is used.
In years when either a World or European Championship takes place the SABSF will select the National team based on the shooter’s overall percentage ranking in the specific discipline that will be shot at the World or European Championship. To ensure that the best team is selected senior shooters (18 years or older) must have achieved a total ranking percentage of 98% or more. Juniors need to achieve 97% or more. Protea Colours are only awarded if a team member participate in the actual international competition.

Metallic Silhouette – MSS

The sport of metallic silhouette shooting, or silhuetas metallicas, had its origin around 1914 when the rebel leader and strategist Pancho Villa and his men were raiding villages and ranches in the northern state of Chikupehua, Mexico. On one occasion, having put some distance between themselves and the pursuing Yankee cavalry, the banditos raided a well-stocked ranch in the north where they spent some fourteen days carousing.

Eventually a tequila-induced dispute arose between two of Villa’s followers as to who was the better shot. Normally such an argument would have ended in a gunfight. A squad leader, Juan Martinez, decided instead on a shootout using two live steers as targets. The unfortunate animals were tethered to trees at a suitable distant point and the contest began. The contestants were permitted to shoot alternately until one of them succeeded in killing his steer and was judged the winner.

The idea caught on and soon chickens, sheep and goats were literally “roped in” to serve as targets. After the revolution, the Villistas returned to their farms and villas throughout Mexico, taking with them a new sport to be practised at fiestas in the decades to come.

The practice of shooting at live animal targets continued and was refined with time, using rifles as well as handguns. All hits that drew blood were counted.

Shortly after the Second World War, metallic cutout silhouettes began to be substituted for live animals, both for humanitarian as well as practical reasons: there wasn’t much chicken left after a direct hit with a high-powered rifle! Even so, the original sport of shooting live animals would continue in the outlying areas until the late 1950’s, usually in conjunction with a fiesta.

In 1948, the first match using silhuetas metallicas took place in Mexico City. The gunners still shot turkeys, but metal ones now. The original feathered edition had its neck wrung prior to the contest, after which it was placed on ice and presented to the winner after the match.

The man who really got metallic silhouette shooting started in Mexico was Don Gonzalo Aguilar who was instrumental in staging the Silhuetas Metallicas Nacionales in Mexico City in 1952, four years after he had organized the first informal shoot. The targets were gallinas (chickens) at 200m, gualotes (turkeys) at 385m and borregos (sheep) at 500m. It was several years before the javelina (pig) target came into use.

By the early ’60s the sport was well run and controlled, particularly in the north where Le Liga del Norte (the Northern League) had been formed. Soon many Americans were regularly making the pilgrimage across the Rio Grande to participate in the metallic silhouette shooting competitions and before long, the sport was introduced into the RSA.

Match Format
All silhouette matches run according to IMSSU rules feature targets arranged in banks of ten, at varying distances. The closest targets are 10 chickens, followed with 10 pigs at the next distance. After that comes the 10 Turkeys which is followed by 10 Rams at the furthest distance. Although each target is different in size and each is placed at a different distance, these two factors combine to give all of the targets roughly the same apparent size. A different way of saying this is to state that all of the targets cover approximately the same minutes of angle.

While the chicken targets are considered second easiest only to the pig, they are surprisingly difficult because of their odd shape. The eye tends to want to ‘centre’ the target, usually resulting in a low shot. The pig is considered the easiest target to hit based upon its relative wideness, regular shape, and the fact that it is close enough to the shooter to make wind less of a factor. The turkey is acknowledged as the most difficult of the silhouette targets to hit due to its irregular diagonal shape and because the wind really comes into play. It takes a good shooter to clean a bank of turkeys. Don’t let the ram’s large size fool you: this target places a premium on an accurate air rifle, an accurate hold, and an accurate determination of the prevailing winds.

During IMSSU sanctioned silhouette matches, such as the World, National or Provincial Championships, shooters are required to fire 40 shots shots at each type of target (2 banks of 5 targets at each distance). In league matches only 20 shots are fired (1 bank of 5 targets at each distance).

A sighting-in period is normally allowed before the competition begins, where the shooter verifies sight settings at the various distances. Once the match begins, all shots count towards the shooter’s score and no sighters are allowed.

When shooters are called to the line, they are given a couple of minutes to adjust their sights to the proper yardage. The relay begins when shooters are given a 15-second ‘heads up’ period to load their firearm, followed immediately and without a delay by a 2-minute, 30-second period during which they shoot at their 5-target bank, from left to right.

All rifle shooting is done from the offhand position, and no shooting coats, hooked buttplates, gloves, or slings are allowed. Some handgun events are done from a standing position, in others a “freestyle” position is allowed.

Targets must be shot in order – skipping a target results in an automatic ‘miss’ for that target and the following target whether or not the latter was hit. The shooter is only allowed one shot per target. The targets must be knocked over – targets that are merely rotated or nudged, count as misses.

Iron Plate Action Shooting – IPAS

Iron plate action shooting or I.P.A.S, is the action shooting discipline, designed specifically for the multi shot Co2 and Air cartridge pistols and is a different form of “speed shooting”.

IPAS is good for clubs wanting to shoot rapid fire pistol within limited space and with range equipment that’s easy to construct, set up and clear away/store, it also is appealing to the physically disabled as there is no movement required other than to draw the pistol.

Each stage is shot 5 times with the slowest of the times being discarded, the remaining four are then added together to give you a total time for the stage,this is your score. It’s fast, it’s furious and most of all, it’s fun. The discipline relies on two basic principles: accuracy and speed

Pistols and Ammunition

The following pistols are allowed in practice/open matches:
Multi-shot Co2/PCP Air pistols (min 5 shots). This includes higher powered 6mm/4.5mm BB pistols such as the KJ Works KP06 and Tanfoglio Witness 1911 using Co2 mags only. Pistols of this type need to meet the requirements regarding ammunition. See the Ammunition section in these rules.
TAC pistols. Only when said pistols are recorded on a valid firearms certificate held by the competitor using the pistol.

The following pistols are only allowed in Sanctioned matches:
Multi-shot Co2/PCP Air Pistols (min 5 shots).
TAC pistols. Only when, said pistols are recorded on a valid firearms certificate held by the competitor using the pistol.

The following pistols are not allowed:
Single shot.

The ammunition allowed is standard lead-based air pellets; no steel based pellets or BB’s are permitted. This is to ensure that the pellet is destroyed on impact with the steel plate.

Stages comprise of targets placed at various distances and angles. There are currently 20 official IPAS stages that can be used.

The targets are metal plates, the following sizes and quantity’s are used for IPAS:
a) 10” x 10” Squares,
b) 12” x 12” Squares, and
c) 12” x 18” Rectangles.

Each plate is mounted on a 2-inch square long post, held upright in a suitable base, the posts being of various heights: from 18” to 66” in 6” increments allowing for a vast number of stages.
All plates are painted white or grey, apart from the”Stop plate” which is blue or red and mounted on its respective post via a metal threaded stud affixed to the rear surface of the plate, alternately a bolt through the centre of the plate (offset on the rectangular plates)

Other than the pistol,the main equipment is the holster. All holsters must be mounted in the vicinity of the strong side hip, at waist level. All holsters must retain the pistol. Triggers may not be fully exposed with any holster. No camouflage or paramilitary style clothing or clothing with offensive slogans to be worn.

Each course of fire will consist of between two and five plates, (one of which will be a “stop plate”), competitors are started by a shot timer “beep” ,which will record the last shot fired by the competitor.

The plate distances will vary between a minimum of 5m and a maximum of 18m from the designated shooting box. Plate angles will also vary depending on the course of fire and range space limitations.

Unless specified in the course briefing all primary plates may be engaged in any order (the stop plate is always engaged last). The competitor may fire as many rounds as they deem necessary to complete the course of fire.