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Pistol Shooter at Camp Perry
Pistol shooter at Camp Perry

Here in Phoenix we have a couple of small, but very active Bullseye Pistol groups. Phoenix Rod & Gun Club ( ) is the center of serious bullseye competition in Arizona but the Rio Salado Sportsman's Club ( ) has a well-attended Monday night league and a club up in Showlow runs a lot of summer matches.

Bullseye, as distinct from the various "practical pistol" matches (some of which are terribly impractical), consists of shooting at paper targets with a black bullseye and concentric scoring rings, scored base on the rings (closer to the center gets more points) rather than speed.

This sport emphasizes having a sight picture focused on the front sight (or dot), a consistant Natural Point of Aim, position, arm tension and grip, a smooth trigger squeeze, a perfect follow-through and the ability to repeat it shot after shot all day.

There are numerous sub-matches that fall into 2 major categories: US NRA style and International/Olympic style. The biggest difference being the target dimensions are inches or millimeters and the shooting distance in yards or meters, but there are other subtle difference in the procedures and qualifying guns.

Most matches specify one-hand hold, but other than championships and registered matches, the clubs allow beginners to use 2 hands as they are learning the sport.

There are events for .22 pistols, centerfire pistols, revolvers and air pistol.

Most events include a mixture of slow fire and "rapid" fire. Outdoor events are 25 and 50 yards or meters. Indoor events include 50 foot .22 pistol and air pistol at 10 meters.

Match types:

The common NRA match is colloquially called a "2700" since it consists of three 90-shot matches on targets with scoring rings up to 10. So 900 is a perfect score for each match and the three total a possible 2700 points. The three matches are assigned to: .22 only, .45 only, and any center-fire. Many shooters just shoot the same .45 for the centerfire match. That rapid-fire 10 seconds makes it tough to shoot a revolver, so nearly all shooters use pistols, but either can be used per the rules.

Most pistols have iron sights, but NRA 2700 rules allow red-dot sights to be used. A few CMP and Olympic events (described later) require iron sights.

The course of fire consists of 3 stages and a 4 stage which duplicates the first 3. There is a 20 shot slow fire stage (1 minute per shot) at 50 yards. There is a 20-shot "timed fire" stage (5 shots in 20 seconds, repeated 4 times) at 25 yards. There is a 20-shot "rapid fire" stage (5 shots in 10 seconds, repeated 4 times) at 25 yards. The 4th stage is called the "National Match Course" (since it duplicates a pistol match held at the National Matches). It is basically 10 shots of each of the above stages. The usual sequence (just for the convenience of moving the targets around) is to shoot 50 yards first, then NMC, then timed and rapid.

typically a new center if stapled to the target after every 10 shots are scored.

nice target
25 yd timed or rapid fire, looks like .45. Camp Perry I think

50 yard bullseye target
This is a 50yd target, looks like the .45 stage.

The target is a piece of paper about 2' square with scoring rings and a black bullseye, the scoring rings are the same at 25 yds as at 50yds, making slow fire twice as hard. To allow the sight picture to be the same at each different the black is the X, 10 and 9 rings on the 25 yard timed & rapid target but is twice as large going out to the 8 ring on the slow fire target. There is a special half-sized target allowing the slow fire stage to be fired at 25 yards at clubs without 50 yards or for night time shoots all held at a lit 25 yard line.

For timed and rapid fire, PRGC, like most dedicated bullseye ranges in North America, the target mount can turn, so the shooter only sees the target edge until time starts, then it turns to face the shooter for exactly 20 seconds or 10 seconds, then it turns back to edge. Clubs using a multi-purpose range without turning target bases often just use a timer with a buzzer.

A 1911 with a dot sight

bullseye guns

The best pistol for a beginner would be a full-sized .22 pistol, such as a Ruger or Browning. A High Standard or M41 on the used market might be even better. Adjustable sights are best but not mandatory. With this you can shoot the .22 900 match, usually the first event on a 2700 day, the "L" match and most of the olympic/international events.

When you decide to get into the .45 and centerfire events, you can start out using whatever full-sized pistol you have, but the striker fired" triggers are simply not very conducive to one-handed shooting. That is the reason why, in the center-fire & .45 events at big bullseye matches, about 100% of shooters use a 1911 and about 0% use Glocks.

Other useful equipment includes: Eye & Ear protection, a pen and stapler to set target and write down scores. A spotting scope to see scores between shots, several spare magazines, maybe a net to catch brass or block your neighbor's brass, and a box to put it all in.
Pistol shooter

The three most beginner-friendly events in AZ are:
Monday Night bullseye at Rio Salado.    
Tuesday Night bullseye at PRGC.  
Weekend "L" matches at PRGC.       
See the club calendars for dates.
Each of these are 90-shot events at 25 yards. The night time matches have lights on the range.

The "L" match is a modified version of the 900, but with an easier target, more generous time limits, all at 25 yards and specifically allows 2-hand hold. It is very beginner-friendly.

In addition to the 2700 described above....

NRA also sanctions some revolver-only matches. Typically for a .38 special with normal (non-target) grips and iron sights, typically just the 30-shot "National Match Course" described above.

CMP has "Service Pistol" matches, again, typically the 30-shot NMC, but limited to iron sights on the 1911 or M9 or the service pistol of other countries (have fun with that Glock!).

olympics at rio
Arizonan Jay Shi at the 2016 Rio Olympics

The International/Olympic events are:
Standard Pistol (a 60 shot slow, timed and rapid fire at 25m with a .22 LR)
Sport Pistol (a 60 shot with a slow fire stage and a 3-second exposure per shot stage at 25m, Women shoot it with a .22 in the Olympics, men shoot with a center fire, non-olympic).
"Free" Pistol, 60 shots slow fire at 50 meters with a .22 single shot pistol (dropped from the Olympics after 2016)
Rapid Fire, 5 targets, 5 shots, 4 seconds, repeated for 60 shots, a Men's Olympic event.
Air Pistol, an Olympic event with 40 shots for women and 60 shots for men. All at 10 meters, indoor, with a .177 air pistol.

Camp Perry Pistol
Scene from Camp Perry

Pistol at Perry
AZ shooters at Perry

The National Matches for Bullseye shooting have been held by the NRA at Camp Perry, OH for decades. In order to accomodate so many rifle and pistol events, in recent years the NRA has set up a National Championships program for rifle at Camp Atterbury, IN and in 2020 the NRA bullseye pistol championships will move there. CMP will continue with pistol events at Camp Perry, where they still hold the best attended precision shooting event in the western hemisphere, the National Trophy Rifle matches every year since 1907. The National matches for Olympic events are typically run by USAShooting at Fort Benning, GA with other majore events at held the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

PRGC sends the Arizona State Pistol team every year and several current PRGC members have been on the US Olympic Team.

PRGC The NRA is the largest governing body for precision shooting sports in the US including most types of Bullseye. is the governing body for Olympic and International shooting in the US, but NRA also sanctions identical matches. the CMP also sanctions various types of bullseye pistol matches.

There is a ton of great information at:
here are some good articles:

article about the 2019 AZ team
Bullseye-List group on FB: 

Welcome to the sport!

(photos shamelessly stolen from the internet, linked where possible)

This was written in Dec 2019, check club calendars and my main website to confirm everything is still up to date!

my old 2008 article on Bullseye.

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Last modified by: Bill Poole (05-Jan-20). (c)
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