Air Rifles

Air Rifle Silhouette was the third Silhouette discipline to be offered by the NRA starting in the 1970’s. Air Rifle Silhouette was very popular since this discipline can be shot in much smaller ranges, in your backyard (where ordinances allow) and even in your basement! It is also a low-cost practice alternative to live firing of Smallbore and Highpower Silhouette rifles.

For more information on Silhouette Air Rifles Pellets and Scopes, click on the links below:

Evolution of Air Rifles for Silhouette

Air Rifle Silhouette was largely made possible in the early 1970’s by the marketshare battle between Feinwerkbau, Walther and Anschutz to produce early models of the first true accurate commercial spring-driven target air rifles. The rifle ergonomics largely mimicked the L’Union Internationale de Tir (UIT) Smallbore Standard Rifles used in 3-Position competition and provided a great alternative to dry firing. UIT 10-meter air rifle competition then began to flourish, making it to a sanctioned Olympic sport in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Spring-Driven Air Rifles:

The Feinwerkbau FWB 300S, (plus the FWB 300SU and FWB 300RT variants) was the ultimate winner largely due to their “Sledge System”, a set of receiver rails that dampened the spring recoil and gave it excellent accuracy. The very first FWB 300S was produced in 1972 and remained in limited production until 1998.

Single-Stroke Pneumatic (SSP) Air Rifles:

The Walther LGR, introduced in 1974, featured a single-stroke pneumatic design, something that other gun makers didn’t pick up on for another decade. While the Walter LGR immediately broke both the individual and team UIT World Records, it still could not overcome the commercial success of the Feinwerkbau 300S. The Walter LGR was ahead of its time, and eventually Feinwerkbau and other manufacturers abandoned optimizing spring-driven air gun in favor of their own single-stroke pneumatic designs.

Feinwerkbau introduced their first 600 series single stroke pneumatic design in 1984 and Walther and Anschutz quickly followed with similar uipdated single-stroke pneumatic models. All these guns featured a side cocking lever for single shot loading of pellets.

Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP) Air Rifles:

Single stroke pneumatic air rifles would themselves be obsoleted by modern PCP air rifles. A PCP air rifle is preferably charged by “breathable” air using an integral air tanks that are typically compressed to 2700-3000 pounds per square inch (psi) via a hand pump, carbon fiber tank, or scuba tank. After the integral tank is filled, you can screw on the tank to the PCP air rifle and you are ready to go. The trigger actuates a valve and measured amount of compressed air propels the pellet out the barrel.

Silhouette Air Rifle Regulations

Within the USA, the NRA Silhouette Rifle Rulebook establishes uniform standards for NRA sanctioned air rifle Silhouette competition. The Silhouette Rifle Association of Canada (SRAC) utilizes the NRA Silhouette Rifle Rulebook for their sanctioned matches. The Mexico air rifle Silhouette community is currently creating new Air Rifle Silhouette rules that will be compatible with the USA and Canada with the ultimate goal of conducting NASSA-sanctioned matches between, Mexico, the USA and Canada.

The three classes of Silhouette air rifles within the NRA Silhouette Rifle Rulebook are Target Air Rifle, Sporter Air Rifle and Open Air Rifle. The Silhouette Rifle Association of Canada (SRAC) also uses these same three classes of Silhouette air rifles.

The following Information is a quick summary of the NRA Air Rifle Silhouette Rulebook on what defines each of these three air rifle classes:

  • The Target Air Rifle is defined as any unaltered factory target air rifle designed for U.S. and International 10-meter competition. (i.e., as produced or sold by Anschutz, Beeman, Crosman, Daisy, Feinwerkbau, RWS, Steyr, Walther and others). The use of scopes or iron sights, including diopter sights is allowed. These air rifles cannot be altered beyond the original factory specifications in which they were produced.
  • The Sporter Air Rifle is defined as any unaltered factory sporter air rifle that is or was a catalogue item, readily available over the counter to the general public, weighing no more than 11 pounds, with a scope and mounts. Rifles utilizing pre-charged systems of any kind other than 12.0 gram disposable CO2 units are prohibited.
  • The Open Air Rifle is defined as any air rifle weighing no more than 16 Ibs. with scope and mounts. Length of barrel and action measured from the rear of the metal action or air chamber to the end of the muzzle, including any extension, must not exceed 40”. Rifle may utilize any self-contained or externally-charged compressed air system, but such system must be completely self-contained at time of firing. Hook buttplates are prohibited. All air rifles not meeting Target or Sporter Air Rifle requirements will be fired in the Open Air Rifle Class.

If you have any further questions, please click on the link below to the Official NRA Rifle Silhouette Rulebook (Revised January 2020)

Air Rifles for Silhouette Competition

Please be patient with us!

We are working on this section as fast as we can.

Target Air Rifle:

If you attend an air rifle Silhouette match, you will still see vintage target spring and single stroke pneumatic target air rifles such as the Feinwerkbau FWB 300S being used successfully to compete with modern PCP target air rifles. Their lower cost in today’s market make it easier to be able to afford to compete in the target air rifle class discipline. That is why the Feinwerkbau 300S, the 300SU and 300RT variants are still sought after in the Target Air Rifle Class. Proof of this is a Feinwerkbau 300SU, produced in 1979, was used to win the NRA National Target Air Rifles Championships in 2016 against the PCP air rifles!

Regardless of the make, model and. pellet propulsion system, all target air rifles can be a challenge to shoot in the wind due to the pellet speed being optimized for 10-meter shooting, typically in a range of 570-600fps (174-183mps). It is quite common in a 10mph wind to have to hold off the animal and float the pellet into the target! If you want to get better at doping the wind, then shoot a target air rifle in gusty conditions!

The older Anschutz 2022 SuperAir SSP and the newer Anschutz 9003 S2 Precise Target Class Air Rifles shown below are at the extreme end of affordability and technology curve as designed to compete in the 10-meter Air Rifle Olympic Event. Fortunately, we are not shooting one-hole groups at 10 meters, so both rifles are competitive shooting rams in the wind at 40 meters.

Anschutz 2002 SuperAir SSP
Anschutz 9003 S2 Precise Target Class Air Rifle

Sporter Air Rifle:

Sporter air rifle which is your spring powered airguns such as break barrel rifles and under lever rifles such as the TX200 and HW97 K


Air Arms TX200 Sporter Class Air rifle
Weihrauch HW97 K

Open Air Rifle:

The third class is Open class. Any air rifle weighing less than 16 lbs. is allowed with few conditions. Air rifles that are deemed powerful enough to damage the targets can be banned from the match by the match director. Any air rifle legal to compete in field target matches can be used in the open air rifle class providing it makes the 16 lb. weight limit. Many open class rifles exhibit many of the same shooting characteristics of PCP field target rifles. Many are modified and souped up 10m target guns like the AZ Steyrs that many shooters use in field target. Target or sporter guns can be used in open class which allows shooters with a target gun and a sporter gun to compete in all three classes. An open class PCP gun on the other hand may only be legal for open class.

Boosted and Field Target Open Air Rifles:

Feinwerkbau P70 Boosted Open Class Air Rifle

Field Target Open Air Rifles:

Walther Dominator
Feinwerkbau FWB 800 Basic Field Target Model
Steyr LG110 Field Target (Custom Stock) Open Class Air Rifle

New Kids on the Block:

Fortunately for air rifle Silhouette shooters, there are many new options to buy an open air rifle. Numerous new air rifle brands are coming onto the market to challenge Feinwerkbau, Walther, Anschutz and Steyr, the traditional dominate makers of air rifles for ISSF 10-meter Air Rifle International Competition. Tow of our favorites, the FX Crown and the Air Arms HFT-500 are sown below.

FX Crown (Laminate Stock) Open Class Air Rifle
Air Arms HFT-500 Open Class Air Rifle

For more information on the Air Arms HFT-500, click on the BLOG LINK below: