Exhibition shooting

Exhibition shooting

Exhibition shooting or trick shooting is a sport in which a marksman performs various feats of skill, frequently using non-traditional targets. Exhibition shooting tends to stress both speed and accuracy, often with elements of danger added.


Exhibition shooting has a very long history. Some of the first recorded exhibition shooters were Mongol warriors, who would show off their equestrian and archery skills by shooting at targets from the back of a galloping horse. A similar cavalry game that survives today is tent pegging, a test of mounted skill with the saber.

With the advent rifling came accurate firearms, and many exhibition shooters turned to these, forming the beginnings of western exhibition shooting. The most famous exhibition shooter is Annie Oakley, who toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. While she could shoot well with handguns, rifles, and shotguns, Oakley's preferred firearm was a .22 caliber rifle. Standard tricks of Oakley's included:

  • Cutting a playing card in half with a rifle bullet at long ranges
  • Shooting cigarettes in half while they were held by volunteers
  • Shooting a dime tossed in the air, at range of 90 feet
  • Shooting long strings of targets tossed in the air; in one instance she hit 4472 out of 5000 in a single day

The "Fabulous Topperweins," a husband and wife pair, were exhibition shooters in the early to mid-20th century. Adolf, or "Ad", began shooting as a boy, and held many positions as a professional exhibition shooter. When he married his wife, Elizabeth, later known as "Plinky", she began to shoot, and soon eclipsed her husband's not inconsiderable skills. Together, they worked as professional shooters for Winchester for over 40 years. Common tricks were Plinky shooting cigarettes out of Ad's mouth, or shooting buttons off of his vest. Ad's closing act was to draw an Indian's head on a board with bullet holes. Both Topperweins held aerial shooting records, with Ad shooting at more than 72,000 hand thrown blocks 2-1/2 inches in diameter, and missing only nine--his longest run without a miss was 14,540. Plinky's record, the first recorded for a woman shooting aerial targets, consisted of hitting 967 of 1,000 clay targets with a .22 semi-automatic rifle. Plinky was also the first woman to shoot in the Grand American trap shooting tournament, and she shot 100 straight targets over 200 times in her career, and 200 straight targets 14 times. Ed McGivern was an exhibition shooter and firearms trainer who specialized in the revolver. He still holds a number of speed shooting records (a number of which have been challenged, and some broken, by modern IPSC champion Jerry Miculek) and was known for shooting aerial targets. Common tricks included:

  • Throwing a tin can in the air, and firing six shots through it before it hit the ground
  • Throwing a dime into the air and shooting it
  • Throwing a playing card into the air, and splitting it with a bullet

In 1959, champion Tom Frye of Remington Arms Company broke Ad Topperwein's aerial shooting record for shooting 2 1/4 inch cubes of wood thrown in the air. Over a period of 13 9 hour long days, using several Remington Nylon 66 semi-automatic .22 Long Rifle rifles, he hit 100,004 of the 100,010 blocks thrown in the air. Also among Frye's accomplishments was a run of 800 straight singles in trap, set in 1963.

In 1987, at the age of 50, John "Chief AJ" Huffer shot 40,060 consecutive 2 1/2 inch square pine blocks over a period of 8 days without a single miss, shooting blocks he himself tossed into the air, for 14 hours a day. Huffer accomplished this using 18 .22 Long Rifle Ruger 10/22 rifles, which he cycled through as assistants loaded them for him. Huffer also markets a special "Chief AJ" branded Daisy BB gun, based on a modified model Huffer uses for daily practice, and an instruction manual and video for his style of point shooting.

All-American trap and skeet shooter; twice National and twice International duck calling champion; Adolph Topperwein's protégé and successor; Trapshooting Hall of Fame, Cody Firearms Museum and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame inductee; Herb Parsons (1908-1959) of Somerville, Tennessee, was Winchester's SHOWMAN SHOOTER for 30 years. Considered by many to be the greatest exhibition shooter of shotguns and rifles in history, his signature feat was throwing by hand and individually breaking seven clay targets with a Winchester Model 12, 12 gauge pump shotgun. Able to eject and shoot the hulls of a Model 61, .22 pump rifle, Herb was the behind-the-camera shot maker and technical adviser for Jimmy Stewart's 1950 movie "Winchester 73". Additional information about Herb Parsons, SHOWMAN SHOOTER, including film, is available on the internet.

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