Benchrest/F-Class Smallbore Silhouette Comes to Texas!

USA SOUTH CENTRAL REGION – Benchrest/F-Class Smallbore Silhouette was introduced at the 2023 TSRA Texas State Smallbore Silhouette Championships held at Bayou Rifles on November 11-12, 2023. Based on the success we had here at our 2023 TSRA Texas State SB Silhouette Championships, Dustin has now committed to adding this discipline to the 2024 Louisiana State Smallbore Silhouette Championships!

What is Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette?

This new discipline was first trialed by Dustin Flint at smallbore silhouette clubs matches in Gonzales, Louisiana over the past year.

Course of fire is 10 chickens, 10 pigs, 10 turkeys, and 10 rams all shot at 100 meters with the same time limits. Targets sizes are 1/5 scale chicken, 1/10 scale pig, 1/10 scale turkey and 1/10 scale ram. When all these animals are put out at 100 meters, they are all proportionally the same size with the turkey once again being the most difficult one to hit!

Smallbore Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette is shot on the same relays as the Smallbore Rifle Silhouette shooters using the 2 1/2 minute time limit per five-shots intervals. In fact, Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette target frames are the same as the traditional silhouette targets frames at Bayou Rifles (Houston, TX).

From left to right, Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams at 100 meters. Scope power images shown are at 40x.

Benefits of Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette

Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette is an element of one of the (5) 2024-2025 USA South Central Regional Initiatives (listed below) to grow our Silhouette sport.

  • Develop New Complementary Silhouette Rifle Disciplines across the South Central Region to grow new participation in our club and championship matches. This shall be achieved by the solicitation of local clubs willing to test disciplines such as Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette, as well as trialing these disciplines at various 4-H locations in Louisiana and Texas..

The benefits of this new Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette to increase shooter participation are as follows:

  • We can fill more relays, overall match attendance is increased, and people have more fun.
  • Increased match attendance means more sponsors, better awards and more prize drawings.
  • A “gateway discipline” to draw in shooters from other disciplines such as F-Class, PRS, etc.
  • A great way to introduce, train and retain new and younger shooters to our silhouette sport.
  • Retention of our older silhouette shooters who may have health problems or feel they are “over the hill”.

After interviewing our Benchrest Silhouette shooters, we found that each one of the benefits listed above was frequently mentioned by them as commented on below.

Smallbore Benchrest/F-Class Silhouette Rifle Rules:

  • Smallbore Rifle Benchrest Silhouette is shot off the bench at steel chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams all set at 100 meters. F-Class can be shot off a mat or the bench.
  • The targets sizes are 1/15 scale chicken, 1/10 scale pig, 1/10 scale turkey and 1/10 scale ram.
  • Any shot that causes the correct target to fall over or fall off the rail is scored a hit and all other are scored as misses.
  • Rifle are required to meet the specifications set forth in the NRA Silhouette Rule Book for Smallbore Standard Rifle.
  • Each rifle must pass certification before it may be shot in competition.
  • The front rest may either be a bag, bipod, or traditional “benchrest rest” and the rest must be forward enough that the rifle cannot sit fully supported on the rest if the shooter is not holding the rifle. The rifle may not be clamped into the rest.
  • No rear bag/rest is allowed. The rear of the rifle must be supported by the shooter’s shoulder.
  • No part of the rifle may touch the bench. The shooter’s shooting hand/elbow, etc. may rest on the bench.
  • The non-shooting hand/arm may not support the rifle in any way behind the trigger guard.
  • Spotters are allowed as with all other silhouette disciplines.
  • All shooters compete with each other as a group until an increase in the number of benchrest silhouette competitors justifies developing a shooter classification system.

2024 TSRA Benchrest Silhouette Championship Results

First of all, we were pleased with the Benchrest Silhouette competitors’ turn-out with a total of 8 shooters participating. We had no entries for F-Class. This represented 14% of the total competitor turnout of 59, a record for this championship match! Threats of bad weather caused two Benchrest Silhouette shooters from Louisiana to cancel, otherwise we would have hit our target of ten shooters for the match.

A big congratulations to Jeff Shoalmire for winning the inaugural 2024 TSRA Benchrest Silhouette State Championship! His aggregate score of 95 (30, 31 & 34) exhibited some fine shooting. Jeff’s strong finish with his 34 was just enough to hold off the charge made by Merlin Orr’s 94 aggregate score (25, 35, 34) for an exciting finish. Keith Pruden came in third with a score of 73.

As you can see from the scores, Smallbore Benchrest Silhouette is not a cakewalk. We think we got the sizing of the animals right as the scores are proportional to other silhouette disciplines. With enough growth, a shooter classification could be implemented at a later date. You can also see that a 40 could be possible under the right conditions over the course of time.

So How Did The Shooters Like It?

From talking with all the Benchrest Silhouette shooters, looks like we met or exceeded their expectations in this inaugural championship! Here are a few quotes and some notes regarding our Benchrest Silhouette competitors:

I had the opportunity to shoot the first annual Texas Benchrest Silhouette Match and the experience was fantastic! Having shot smallbore in high school, this was a new adventure. I was not sure what to expect, but this really was a highlight moment. I’m hoping to bring this discipline home for the 4-H shooters that I am coaching. This provides a great opportunity to teach the younger shooters!”

Jeff Shoalmire – Texas State Benchrest Silhouette Champion

Jeff Shoalmire felt very strongly that this new discipline can be used in his coaching of Louisiana 4-H juniors. NASSA had this in mind as we were developing interactive junior training material. Through this collaborative effort, we now have synergies in working together with Jeff to further develop this training opportunity. He also greatly enjoyed the experience!

It’s Fun! Benchrest Silhouette allow a damaged or worn out body to continue to participate in a shooting match with friends. It is definitely NOT easy to clean a rack, but with concentration it is possible. Best of all, it allows me to continue to meet and interact with my friends and remain active in the silhouette community of shooters!”

Merlin Orr – Texas State Benchrest Silhouette Runner-Up

Merlin Orr is well know in our Houston Silhouette community and we have missed his presence at our matches over the past five years. When you read his quote, you know that our goals of retaining some of our senior silhouette shooters is achievable. In fact, Merlin is building a new Benchrest Silhouette Rifle as a result of some of our club matches where we beta tested Benchrest Silhouette prior to this championship match. Welcome back good friend!

Dusty Dumas is a wonderful Louisiana 4-H Coach and avid hunter who spends countless hours working with juniors and is well known here in the NASSA USA South Central Region. What was particularly satisfying was giving Dusty a chance to shoot with her daughter Kenli and other 4-H junior shooters from Louisiana. Did she enjoy herself? The expression on her face when asked said it all!

Parents and coaches are critical to getting more juniors to participate in Silhouette and stick with it after they turn 19. Sounds like we might have made it a little easier for parents & coaches to put in those hours at the range!

A Special Thank You To Those Responsible!

The North American Silhouette Shooting Association (NASSA) and our associated NASSA Regional Directors are all about promoting and growing Rifle Silhouette! Collaboration between our respective NASSA Regions and various gun clubs within those regions allows us to synergistically leverage our resources and take on initiatives to grow our silhouette sport. NASSA will continue to facilitate such collaboration!

One great example of collaboration has been the successful implementation of our Bayou Rifles Benchrest Silhouette Expansion Proposal created for this 2024 TSRA Texas State Smallbore Silhouette Championship.

We had Bayou Rifles Inc. (Houston, Texas), Golden Triangle Gun Club (Beaumont, Texas) and the NASSA USA South Central Regional Director all working together to make this happen.

A special thanks to the Bayou Rifles Board of Directors and Jack Shada (Bayou Rifles President) for funding the smallbore benchrest silhouette infrastructure for this match. Bayou Rifles is committed to building strong competitive shooting programs and is a supporter of NASSA.

NASSA designed & fabricated the benches and stools for the match. Plans for the benches will be forthcoming and posted at NASSA in due time.

Our friends Ronnie Page and George Melancon from Golden Triangle Gun Club fabricated and welded up the benchrest target stands shown here in record time to make our schedule.

Thanks to Calvin Byers at Quality Targets Inc. for working with NASSA to design/fabricate (robust welds and bases!) the smallbore benchrest animals and deliver in less than a month! These animals can be purchased from Quality Targets if you wish to start this silhouette discipline!

Thanks to Kurt Jones (Match Director), Steve Joens (Stat Office), Paul Freeeman (Chief Range Officer) and other volunteers for prepping the range and running this championship match. The BRI range has never looked so good!

Last but not least, thanks to John Jones (Assistant Match Director), Jeff Shoalmire, Merlin Orr, Dusty Dumas, Keith Pruden, Neil LaHaye, David Wilson and Scott Miller. You showed up with all the other silhouette shooters (record match attendance!) to support this Benchrest Silhouette Initiative in spite a gloomy pre-match weather report (weather turned out fine!) Best of all, you enjoyed yourselves and gave NASSA a confirmation on its sense of purpose.