Bullseye (Precision Pistol) Shooting

This page is a collection of information about shooting bullseye pistol competitions.  While traditionally called "bullseye", it is also sometimes referred to as "Conventional Pistol" or "Precision Pistol", to distinguish it from the newer, "action" shooting events, as found in IDPA or USPSA competitions.  Bullseye is technically different from CMP EIC, Distinguished, or Service Pistol competitions, but many bullseye shooters also shoot those, so it can get VERY confusing.

Matches and Events

NJPistol.com Calendar  - If you want to sign up for bullseye competitions in the New Jersey area, NJPistol.com is the place to go.  If you click on an event, you'll get the sign-up page with relay times, etc.  For more information about the match itself (how many shots, what distances, what calibers, etc.), click the link to the "match bulletin".  The NJPistol.com website has lots of other good information, besides just the calendar of events, so check it out.

Outside of NJ, some websites to check for lists of matches would be PistolMatches.com and BullseyeMatches.com and PrecisionShootingMatches.com.

Forums and Blogs

Bullseye forum   - One of the best sources of a wide variety of information about bullseye shooting
TargetTalk.org - Bullseye Forum - Another forum for target shooters
Tony's bullseye blog

NRA Rules, Records, and your NRA classification/history

The NRA Pistol Rules (PDF)  ... if that link is out of date, try the NRA rulebooks page  (where, as of 2016, it is listed as "Precision Pistol")
    NOTE: Bullseye is NOT the same as CMP pistol competition.  See also:  CMP Competition Rules for Service Rifle and Pistol

The NRA website is very disorganized, but you can try the NRA Competition Page or the NRA Competitive Shooting Page for links to several different useful things, including
    A Primer on Scoring Gauges - Excellent information about scoring gauges (types, usage, official sizes, etc.)

Tutorials, Fundamentals, and New Shooter Information

The Encyclopedia of Bullseye Shooting
    U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) - Pistol MarksmanshipTraining Guide
    The Encyclopedia of Bullseye Shooting's Introduction to Pistol Competition
    BullseyePistol.com article on strength training

Ed Hall's series of articles on fundamentals
Ed Hall's articles for Pilkguns

Shooting Sports USA has published many articles of value to bullseye shooters, but they can be hard to find.
    Find many of them with a search for precision pistol

Brian Zins Training Page - contains workbooks of drills to improve your bullseye shooting
    Brian Zins articles about Precision Pistol Shooting in Shooting Sports USA magazine - Part I and Part II

NJPistol's page for new shooters - tons of links to great information on bullseye shooting

Bullseye Primer by Mike LaVoie

US Marine Corps Pistol Team Workbook - a series of training drills to become a better bullseye shooter
    NOTE: That workbook is the basis of this spiral-bound printed book entitled The Progressive Method for Precision Pistol.  

Don Nygord's Notes

Warren Potter's articles at Pilkguns

USA Shooting - Pistol Shooting Page
    USA Shooting article about stance (posture and position)
USA Shooting article about dry fire practice
USA Shooting from July/August 2009 - page 15 is an article entitled "The Lateral Dumbbell Raise for Improving the Pistol Hold",
        and page 10 has an article about the trigger pull process and a dry-fire practice for it, called "Not Shooting Not Tens"
    USA Shooting page entitled "Common Mistakes of Junior Shooters"
USA Shooting News - includes an archive of past issues of USA Shooting magazines

Igor's Blog - Vital Problems in Pistol Shooting Part 1, and Part 2

Targets: Target PDF Generator

Targets and Accuracy

My webpage about how accuracy affects scores in bullseye competitions (Warning: contains numbers and may be thought-provoking).

Are 50ft targets really harder than 25yd and 50yd targets, or is it just a mental thing?  Someone named indecorous did some calculations and concluded that yes, they are actually harder.

What to know for your first Bullseye Tournament

You have to be able to do 3 things... (1) 10 shots in 10 min for slow fire, (2) 5 shots in 20 seconds for timed fire, and (3) 5 shots in 10 seconds for rapid fire.  The whole tournament is composed of just those 3 things, over and over... with different guns, at different targets, and at different distances, but just those 3 things.  The guns, distances, and order will be described in the tournament bulletin, and if you get confused during the match, you can look at the score card to see what's coming up next.

You almost always shoot 10 shots at each paper target, and score the target after all ten of those rounds have been shot.  For slow fire, you score after the 10 shots in 10 min.  For timed and rapid, you score after shooting 2 strings of 5 shots (for a total of 10 shots) at one paper target.  If you need to score after only 5 shots, it will be obvious... just score when everybody else is scoring.

Most first timers are just as nervous about scoring as they are about shooting.  You will score someone else's target, and a third person will score yours.  Just score the target as best you can.  If the shooter disagrees with your scoring, they will talk to you about it (nicely), and if the two of you cannot agree, a jury will decide the official score.  Your job is simply to score it the way you see it.  Score first, then check your target.  When scoring, the first count shots to make sure all 10 are there.  Start in the middle and work your way out, recording shot values on the score card from high to low.  Record X's with an 'X' (not a '10'), and record misses with an 'M' (not a zero).  Although they are not official, you can (and should) use scoring overlays to identify holes made by multiple shots, and to verify whether a close shot contacts a scoring ring (and thus gets the higher score).  Don't pull your target down unless/until you agree with the shot values the scorer has recorded on your scorecard.  If you disagree with the shot values, talk to the scorer, but be nice; it was probably an honest mistake.  The cardinal rule of scoring disagreements is: Ask for all of the points you earned, but not more than that.  Also, don't stress about doing the math correctly, only the list of shot values matters during the match.  The math can be figured out (and fixed) later.

If you have an alibi (i.e. a gun, ammo, or target malfunction, or any other condition/situation that prevents you from shooting safely) during timed or rapid fire... (1) Safety first, keep the gun pointed down range and take your finger off the trigger, (2) Do not try to fix the problem until the RSO (Range Safety Officer) has looked at it, to determine if it's an acceptable alibi or not, (3) While the others are shooting, keep quiet, just put your non-shooting hand up and wait for the match director to ask if there are any alibis (then make sure you get their attention).  As for shooting the alibi string, they will tell you what to do and when, just follow their instructions (note that alibi strings will typically be shot after everyone shoots the second string of 5 shots at the current targets).  In slow fire, you should try to fix your gun/ammo problem on your own, and continue firing your 10 shots in 10 min, but if it's a time-consuming problem, let the RSO know, and they should give you extra time.  You can only have one alibi per "match", but that can get confusing, so don't sweat it for your first time (this could conceivably hurt your score a little, but you probably shouldn't be too concerned with your score for your first tournament... and, if you're having multiple alibis per match, you should be much more concerned about the fact that your gun/ammo is not working reliably).  There are no shooter alibis allowed during the shooting of the alibi string (if you cannot get the shots off, they will get scored as misses.)

Bring 2 magazines for each gun you are using, and load 5 rounds into each of them after firing, but before going downrange to score.  Once slow fire has begun, you can load the second mag at your discretion, but for the start of slow fire, and for all strings of timed and rapid fire, do not insert the magazine into the gun until the command to load has been given.  The "load" command means make your gun ready to fire, so that is the time to insert the magazine, rack/drop the slide/bolt, and disable any safeties, etc.

Between the "line is safe" command given before going down to score, and the "you may handle your gun" (or "shooters to the line") command to begin the process for the next string, you cannot touch your gun.  You can touch (and insert ammo into) your magazines, but you cannot touch the gun, or anything attached to the gun (i.e. you cannot adjust your sights, or put oil on your gun, replace your red battery, etc.).  If you need extra time to touch your gun, ask the RSO, and they will give you time to do so when it is safe to do so.

Bring 100 rounds of ammo for each 90-round section.  For a 2700, that means 100 rounds for your 22, 100 rounds for your centerfire gun, and 100 rounds for your 45 (or 300 rounds of 22, if you are shooting the whole 2700 match as 22-only).  That allows for a couple alibi strings per gun.  If there are extra matches (such as a "team" match or "fun" match), bring additional ammo for those, too.  The tournament bulletin will tell you about extra matches and how many shots they are.

Aside from the obvious things (guns, magazines, ammo, ear and eye protection), you need a pen or pencil, an empty chamber indicator flag, a stapler, 120+ staples, target pasters (i.e. a roll of masking tape), money for the entry fee, drinks, and snacks (there will be food/water/bio breaks between guns).  The range will provide the targets.  It's best if you have a small clipboard, too, so you can write on the score card legibly.  If it might rain, bring a large ziploc bag to keep the scorecard in (like a 1 or 2 gallon bag... big enough that you don't have to remove the clipboard from the bag while writing the scores).  A spotting scope or binoculars can be helpful, but is not required.  A brass catcher is helpful (and courteous if your brass would be hitting the shooter next to you), but is not required.  Things like tools, oil, ramrod, extra battery for your red dot, and so on, are nice to have, but as a first timer, in a pinch, you can probably borrow those items from other shooters.

If you're not sure what string you're about to shoot, or which target to put up, or whether or not you can touch your gun right now, just ask. Most bullseye shooters are very nice to new shooters (we want you to come back and keep shooting bullseye with us; otherwise, our sport will die).

When you are getting ready before the match, don't be afraid to tell the match directors and/or RSO folks that this is your first match.  That way, they know to keep an eye on you, and help you out.  They can do little things, like double-check that you put up the correct target, remind you which string is next, remind you to adjust your sights for distance changes, explain the alibi process in detail (if you have an alibi), or help you with the nuances of scoring procedures (like scoring alibi strings, cross-fires, or skidders), and so on.

Otherwise, just watch what everyone else is doing, listen to the match director, don't talk or do distracting stuff while others are shooting, and don't be afraid to ask questions (when no one is shooting).  Oh, and if you're not too nervous to do so... HAVE FUN!

How does a typical Bullseye tournament work?

Bullseye shooting is done with pistols only, with only one hand, and only from a standing position.  Typical distances to the target are 50 yards (a.k.a "the long line"), and 25 yards (a.k.a. "the short line"), although 20 yards or 50 feet are also used.  The scaled-down targets for shorter distances are often used in indoor ranges that are not long enough for the regular targets.

Normal bullseye matches are referred to as "2700" matches, because 2700 is the maximum possible score (no one has ever gotten the maximum score, though). A typical 2700 match is shot with 3 different guns (but is not to be confused with modern "3 gun" competition, which is a completely different action shooting event).  You shoot 90 shots with a .22 caliber pistol.  Then you shoot 90 shots with a centerfire pistol that is between .32 caliber and .45 caliber (inclusive).  Then you shoot 90 shots with a .45 caliber pistol.  So, you shoot a total of 270 shots.  Since each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points, each 90-shot part has a maximum of 900 points, and the whole match has a total of 2700 points.  

There are many possible variations for matches, but with each gun, you typically shoot 20 shots "slow fire", 30 shots "national match course", 20 shots "timed fire", and 20 shots "rapid fire", for a total of 90 shots.  Slow fire is 10 shots in 10 minutes at 50 yards, repeated twice.  Timed fire is 5 shots in 20 seconds at 25 yards, repeated four times.  Rapid fire is 5 shots in 10 seconds at 25 yards, repeated four times.  The "national match course" is made up of one slow fire string (10 shots), two timed fire strings (10 shots), and two rapid fire strings (10 shots).  You almost always shoot 10 shots at each physical paper target, which means you shoot timed and rapid fire twice at one paper target before you score the target and replace it with a fresh one. (In slow fire at 50ft with a .45, it can be very difficult to score 10 shots of people who are good, because they just make one ragged hole in the middle, so the match director can opt to score and replace after only 5 shots, but that is just to make scoring easier and more accurate, it doesn't change anything else.)

Note that a .45 caliber pistol is also a valid centerfire pistol, so you can (and many people do) actually shoot the whole match with just two guns, a .22 and a .45.  Using only two guns has some advantages... you only have to buy, modify, maintain, and practice with two guns instead of three, and .45 holes are bigger, so they might reach a higher scoring ring than a smaller bullet centered at the same point.  The disadvantage of using a .45 in centerfire is that a .45 has more recoil than a smaller caliber gun, so it's more difficult to control in timed and rapid fire, and it's more tiring.  The general consensus seems to be that, unless you have a lot of time to dedicate to practice, and the extra money to spend, the advantages of using only 2 guns outweigh the disadvantages.

Beginners often start with only a .22 caliber pistol.  Most of the matches (at least in New Jersey) will allow you to shoot 22-only if there are ports available.  Sometimes you only shoot 90 shots with the 22, and you are essentially only competing against everyone else for that third of the match.  Sometimes you can shoot the entire 2700 match with 22-only, in which case you're competing against the other people who shot the whole 2700 match with 22-only.  Either way, my experience has been that both match directors and fellow competitors are very accommodating to the 22-only shooters, because we know that many people start this way, and we WANT to grow our sport by bringing in new people.

There are other types of bullseye matches, such as a "Sectional" match, which is .22-only, and only 90 shots, but with a slightly different course of fire.  A "Sectional" is also a postal match, which means that the targets are mailed (via the postal service, hence the term "postal match") to a central location, and your scores are compared to people who shot at different locations and on different days.  There are also "Service Pistol" matches, and "Distinguished Revolver" matches, and CMP EIC matches which have slightly different rules, and more.

Bullseye Definitions

Alibi - An alibi in bullseye is a malfunction. Just like normal usage of the word alibi, it's an excuse for not doing something... in this case, typically an excuse for not getting all 5 shots off during timed or rapid fire.  In bullseye, alibis can be "allowed" or "not allowed". An allowed alibi is an acceptable malfunction, such as failure to feed, gun jam, or ammo that is a dud.  Alibis that are not allowed are shooter problems/mistakes like forgetting to insert the magazine, not being ready, forgetting to adjust your sights after switching from 50 yards to 25 yards, or simply running out of time because you didn't shoot fast enough.  There are alibis in slow fire... but generally if you have a jam or dud in slow fire, you can just fix it yourself, and still comfortably get all 10 shots off in the allowed 10 minutes (but you can request additional time for slow fire alibis, if needed).  When an allowed alibi occurs in timed or rapid fire, the shooter will be allowed to shoot an alibi string of 5 shots after the two normal 5-shot strings for that target are done.

For example, let's say that you are shooting a rapid fire string, and you get off 2 shots, and then your gun jams.  You stop, raise your hand (but do not clear the jam).  Once everyone is done with that string, they will ask if there are any alibis.  You get their attention, and a match official will come over and inspect your alibi (which is why you should not clear it immediately).  If the match official decides that it's an allowed alibi, you will be allowed to shoot during the alibi string.  Everyone then shoots the second rapid fire string.  Then you, along with any other shooters that experienced allowed alibis during this rapid fire match (from the first or second string) will shoot a third string of 5 shots (at the same pace as when your alibi occurred; in this example, at rapid fire pace).  Then, at scoring time, in this example, you should have 12 shots in your target... the 2 from the string where your gun jammed, 5 from the second string, and 5 from the alibi string.  You do not shoot just 3 shots during the alibi string, because that would give you an unfair advantage (3 accurate shots in 10 seconds is much easier than 5 accurate shots in 10 seconds).  So, when scoring your target, the 2 best shots are ignored, and your score for that target is the sum of the scores for your 10 worst shots.  Yes, that is harsh, and at first it seems unfair, but the rules are like that on purpose.  The purpose is to prevent cheating by faking alibis (it's easy to make most pistols jam on command by limp-wristing, putting pressure on the slide or slide release lever with your thumb, holding it sideways, using the decocker lever, etc.).  So, to prevent cheating, the rules are structured so that an alibi can never help your score, it can only hurt your score (but for honest shooters, it shouldn't really hurt your score by much).  It also encourages people to use reliable guns and reliable ammo, and keep their guns in good working order, which is a bonus for everyone in terms of both time and safety.  Note that there are also range alibis, in which there is a range malfunction, like your target fell over, or your target didn't turn, or the lights on your target went out in the middle of a string, etc.  In these cases, it's up to the match director to decide how to handle it, but they usually try hard to ensure that you are not unfairly penalized for something that is not your fault.

Match - The word "match" has two meanings when shooting bullseye.  A whole 2700 is technically a "tournament", but most often referred to as a "match", and this is how most non-shooters would use the term "match".  However, a typical 2700 is technically divided up into 16 official matches. For each of the three guns (22, centerfire, 45), there is a slow fire match (20 shots, 2 targets), the national match course (30 shots, 3 targets), the timed fire match (20 shots, 2 targets), and the rapid fire match (20 shots, 2 targets), constituting 4 "fired" matches.  Then the aggregate score (sum of scores from the other four matches for this gun) is considered a separate "non-firing match".  So, with 5 "matches" for each of the 3 guns, there are 15 "matches", plus the grand aggregate (total score, with a max of 2700) is the 16th "match".  The grand aggregate is simply the sum of your "fired" match scores from the entire 2700 tournament.

This technical definition of what constitutes a "match" has at least two important effects.  First and foremost, per the rules you are allowed only one alibi (malfunction) per match (this does not apply to the non-firing matches, which are just aggregate scores)... so you can have one alibi in timed fire and one alibi in rapid fire, because they are considered to be separate matches, but you cannot have two alibis in one rapid fire match.  The second effect of dividing a 2700 into 16 matches is on the prizes.  You can win or place in each match separately.  If you're really good at rapid fire with your 22, you might win the 22 rapid fire match, even though someone else has a higher aggregate score at the end.  Or you might win the aggregate score "match" for the centerfire gun, even though someone else in your classification had a higher grand-aggregate score.  Obviously the grand aggregate is what most people care about and remember, but winning the individual matches can win you some of the smaller money/prizes.

Making Grips

I haven't been too happy with the grips on my 1911, or other 1911 grips I've tried.  But I like the grips on my Buckmark, and there are other grips I've liked at least the initial feel of, including the grips on a Smith & Wesson 41 that I tried.  Made-to-measure grips are in the $180 - $400+ range, so I'm considering making my own.  I had a set of grips made by the nice folks at Precision Pistol Grips.  Lately I've been concentrating on practicing with the 45 (with the default slab grips) now that I've had it accurized. At some point, I'll go back to getting the grip situation fixed.

BullseyeForum.net Equipment Forum Post about Grip Fitting

Igor's Blog - 8 pages about making grips