Picture this: You’re out there on the range and you’ve got your kids with you (sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandkids, neighbor’s kids, step kids, etc…) and while you’re all having fun plinking around with .22’s or larger caliber handguns, you’re getting the feeling that for whatever reason, you’re just not getting all the principals through to them.
Oh, you’ve got all the safety stuff taken care of, and you’re pretty sure that you’ve conveyed the techniques that you know onto them, but there seems to be a limit to the improvement in their shooting. Even worse, you start to get the feeling that your own shooting skill set has reached its limits, seeing little to no improvement in your own target groups.
Or, your kids shoot better than you do. They can perforate a star pattern into a shoot-n-see faster than you can load the next magazine. At the last local Steel Match, older competitors gave you dirty looks as your kids broke club records and became bored from the lack of challenge.
For whichever scenario that applies to your family, what you should strongly consider is the challenging, educational and fun techniques of competitive bullseye shooting.
Bullseye shooting, aka “conventional pistol” as officially referred to by the NRA, is the grandfather of every handgun competition in the United States. Full matches using three guns for a total of 2700 points stem back to the matches started in 1904 and has become the standard for regional, state and national championships, as well as setting the format for most outdoor shooting tournaments today.
But what is Bullseye? What do you need to get started? How expensive is it and what are the stages? Let’s briefly explore these questions and give you some facts.
Everyone starts in bullseye shooting in a “900 match”. Ninety rounds shot with rimfire pistols. Can you use any rimfire pistol? Sure. Should you use something that has a proven platform of accuracy? Absolutely. Should you buy a new gun before trying your first bullseye experience? No way. A good place to start is with something reliable like a Browning Buckmark or a Ruger Mark III–two guns that not only have been proven accurate, but are so common that most people are not priced out of purchasing them. But, you can really try out with any pistol. Revolvers are fine too.
Here is the basic set up:
- Put out a target with a five inch circle at fifty yards. Yes, FIFTY yards.
- Load 10 rounds into your .22 or any pistol for that matter, and take it up in one hand. Correct, I said ONE hand.
- Shoot all ten shots into the center of the target. Take up to ten minutes, if you need to.
And there you have it. That is one-third of a competition Bullseye match, which is the first stage, also called “slow fire”. Ten rounds in ten minutes, with one reload (2 mags with 5 rounds each). Keeping all ten rounds within three inches is ideal in this situation. What’s that? “No problem,” you say? Very well. Moving on to the next stage then.
The next stage is called “timed fire.” This is where things get really “easy”. For the timed fire course, you get to move your target closer to you (laughing) at the 25-yard mark. You’re now going to shoot two, five round strings, with 20 seconds per string. Sounds easy, right? You bet (snicker). Moving on…
The final stage is called, appropriately enough, “rapid fire”. In this stage you are still shooting at 25 yards, and using same target you used in timed fire. However, now you are going to shoot the same two, five round strings of fire, but with only 10 seconds per string.
Right about now you are wondering where the challenge is? Why would anyone shoot such an easy and boring match when you could be out unloading a thousand shots in an IPSC tournament? My answer is simply this… Try it. You will both marvel, and at the same time, wipe away the tears, upon the realization of just how bad a shooter you really are. All boiled down, Bullseye is about accuracy through trigger control, breath control, grip, stance and discipline. Nothing teaches these fundamentals better than the techniques practiced in this sport. Why suffer the humiliation? You’re already “good enough” for action shooting and plinking? Let me explain why…
Speaking from personal experience as a bullseye shooter on an adult pistol league, as well as having had a youth of mine in a junior league, I can say with 100 percent certainty that shooters become much more controlled and improved marksmen while learning and perfecting these shooting techniques. I have watched adults and kids alike, shoot better at steel challenge matches, rifle matches, plinking, and, of course, at official NRA Bullseye Matches, all thanks to what they have learned and practiced with the noble art of bullseye shooting. Think you can’t un-learn bad habits? Think again. These properly executed courses of fire FORCE your bad habits away, which is an absolute fact.
One reason to consider becoming a bullseye shooter is that there’s not a lot of investment to get started. It’s easy to learn, challenging to master, but rewarding in your shooting style beyond description. The next time that piece of paper looks like a boring target to shoot at, move it to fifty yards out and shoot at it with one hand. As Sherwood Veith (champion bullseye shooter) once said; “You might find that you have the steely nerves, disciplined trigger finger, and the rock-solid hold of a bullseye shooter. Of course, you might have fun too.”
Resources: Bullseye gear, bullseyepistol, bullseyeforum.net