shooting box

Bullseye (shooting competition)

Bullseye, also known as Conventional Pistol, is a shooting sport in which participants shoot handguns at paper targets at fixed distances and time limits. A number of organizations have established rules and keep records for these sports. Emphasis is on accuracy and precision. The sport is primarily popular in United States and Canada, although it was also the inspiration for the international 25 m Standard Pistol event.


Bullseye specifies three classes of pistol; a .22 caliber rimfire, a centerfire pistol of .32 caliber or larger; and a .45 ACP pistol. Since the format includes a rapid fire stage, a semi-automatic pistol or revolver with a capacity of 5 rounds is needed.

Shooting Box

A shooting box isn't required but helps organize your gun(s), spotting scope and shooting accessories. Generally, the lids provide a stable mount for your spotting scope. Most boxes can accommodate the needs of the competitor.


Any type of sights can be used; many competitors use iron sights, but the recent trend has been towards red dot sights, which many shooters find easier to use. Telescopic sights, while legal, are rare, as magnification is not considered an advantage. Iron sights tend to be adjustable Patridge type sights, carefully treated to reduce glare that might impact sight alignment.


While most moderately priced rimfire pistols are accurate enough to fire perfect scores and are suitable for bullseye competition (the Ruger MK II being a common starting gun) the Smith & Wesson 41 and the Hämmerli 208 generally dominate the top levels of competition. Precision has recently come in to the arena with their conversion kit which allows the competitor to keep the same M1911 feel.

The centerfire pistol is another matter; most pistols of this type are designed for defensive use, a use which requires far less accuracy. The most common centerfire pistol is the M1911 design, usually built or accurized by a gunsmith who specializes in bullseye pistol work. All areas of the operating mechanism must fit tightly enough to allow the required consistency, while remaining reliable enough to not jam during a match.

While many shooters use the .45 for the centerfire stages of competition, some shooters prefer a third gun. European models such as .32 S&W automatics from Walther and other makers are a suitable choice, as are M1911 variants in smaller calibers, such as .38 Special or .38 Super The smaller calibers have significantly less recoil than the .45 ACP, but that advantage is offset by the cost of buying and learning to shoot proficiently with a third gun.

S&W revolvers are most common among shooters who prefer revolvers; S&W makes suitable double action revolvers in .22 Long Rifle, .38 Special, and .45 ACP. Custom gunsmithing is common here as well, to increase reliability and usability.


In addition to accuracy work, including trigger modifications, many bullseye guns use anatomical grips made to fit the shooter's hand. These grips provide increased support to allow a more consistent grip, a rest for the thumb to allow better control of recoil, and a shelf to isolate the trigger finger from the fingers gripping the gun. In addition to providing better support, the grips can also position the hand to allow better positioning of longer or shorter fingers on the trigger, and also allow cross dominant shooters to better align the sights with their dominant eye. An adjustable shelf at the bottom of the grip helps maintain a consistent grip.


For the rimfire pistol, shooters use high quality target grade ammunition, ideally purchased in bulk so all ammunition comes from the same manufacturing lot, since even minor changes can result in changing point of impact.

Centerfire ammunition is often handloaded, with very careful selection of components to allow the maximum precision. Lighter weight bullets and lower velocities than standard are normally used to minimize the recoil.

Courses of fire

All courses of fire are fired from a standing position, using a one handed grip. This is a significantly more difficult shooting position than the two handed grips used in action shooting, at "bullseye" targets significantly smaller and farther, although time restraints are relatively more generous.

Three courses of fire are followed: Slow Fire, in which ten rounds are fired in ten minutes, Timed Fire, consisting of two five-round strings with twenty seconds for each string, and Rapid Fire, which has a ten second limit for each of the two five-round strings. All shooting is done one-handed, standing, with no support.

Depending on the match format, the competitor may be required to shoot as many as 90 rounds from each of three handguns. Each shot scores a maximum of 10 points. Hence, a one-gun competition is often referred to as a "900" whereas a three-gun competition is a "2700". A shorter form is the National Match Course consisting of a single Slow Fire, a Timed and a Rapid Fire target, 30 shots for a maximum score of 300. Single gun competitions using only the rimfire pistol are common, as they provide an inexpensive entry into the sport.

Outdoor competitions are typically fired at 50 yards (slow fire) and 25 yards (Timed & Rapid Fire) using the same target. A "short course" will shoot only at 25 yards and use a reduced-size target for the Slow Fire segment. All courses of fire at an indoor competition are typically fired at 50 feet with appropriately scaled targets.


The annual National Rifle and Pistol Matches take place at Camp Perry, Ohio in July and August. Competing shooters are registered with the National Rifle Association and scores are officially recorded. Registered matches (Regional, Sectional, and State championships and local matches) are held at various locations throughout the year and are often sponsored by local shooting clubs. Authorized matches are also recognized by the NRA. Scores at all of these competitions are recorded by the NRA and used to rank a shooter's abilities.

Recorded scores are used to rank shooters into Tyro (no scores on record), Marksman (360 recorded shots but below the 85% mark), Sharpshooter (85-89.99%), Expert (90-94.99%), Master (95-96.99%) and High Master (97% and above) categories. While 300 point stages have been shot in all stages, no shooter has ever scored a 2700 in a sanctioned match; the current record is 2680-159x, held by Hershel Anderson That is a score of 2680 out of 2700, with 159 of 270 shots hitting the "X" ring, which is half the size of the 10 ring. "X" ring shots still count 10 points, but in the case of a tie in points, the higher "X" ring count wins.

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