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Silhouettes in the crosshairs

Sunday’s event at the La Grande Rifle and Pistol Club drew 14 shooters. - DICK MASON / Observer photos
Silhouettes date back to the stone age.

Moviegoers, though, did not see animated versions until the 1920s when producer Lotte Reiniger added them to her silent films.

The metallic silhouettes set up at the La Grande Rifle and Pistol Club Sunday were not animated. Their “voices,’’ though, gave shooters reason for animated reactions.

Silhouettes could be heard continuously pinging at the club’s Charles F. Smutz Range Sunday morning, providing shooters with immediate feedback.

The shooters were participating the La Grande Rifle and Pistol Club’s monthly .22 Silhouette Shoot. Marksmen fired at silhouettes of chickens, pigs, turkeys, rams and bears. The silhouettes, set up at distances of 25, 50, 75, 100 and 125 yards from shooters, are propped on rails for each shoot. Marksmen receive a point when they knock one off.

Each time the “ping’’ of a bullet hitting a silhouette is heard, the target falls over. Shooters know instantly whether they were on target. They do not have to walk out and examine a paper target to determine their accuracy.

“It’s fun to watch them fall over. There is instant gratification,’’ said Darrel Plank, a member of the club.

Courtney Rynearson of Union takes aim at a target during Sunday’s shoot. Her brother, Wade, is on the left.
Shooters take 25 shots per round and are ranked based upon their best 25-shot segment. Alan Guttridge of Union won Sunday’s shoot with a top round of 22.

Perfect rounds of 25 are rare but not unheard of. Plank is among those who has had perfect rounds.

Sunday’s shoot drew 14 competitors. Some shoots, though, have attracted up to 25. One reason for the popularity of the shoots is that .22 caliber rifles are used. The rifles are quiet, provide little recoil and use inexpensive ammunition, noted Gary Langlitz of Summerville, a regular participant in the silhouette shoots. Langlitz placed second at Sunday’s shoot with a top round of 21.

At most silhouette shoots in other areas, marksmen never have to fire at targets more than 100 yards away. The LG Rifle and Pistol Club’s 125-yard targets make their event exceptional in terms of distance.

Future silhouette shoots at the club may become even more challenging since 140-yard targets will be added, said Dave Bingner of La Grande, director of the .22 Silhouette shoots. The targets at 140 yards will be metal buffalo silhouettes.

The shoots are conducted the first Sunday of each month between December and April. Results are being posted on the club’s website, www.lgrpc.com. It seems unlikely that shooters will spend much time comparing scores, for the tenor of the shoots is relaxed and anything but cutthroat.

“We get together for fun,. There is a lot of camaraderie,’’ said Richard Carter of Pendleton.

Carter was one of five shooters from Pendleton who participated in Sunday’s shoot. Each relay or round consists of five, five-shot segments that take about two minutes each.

There are no time limits.

“This is not a rapid fire event,’’ Bingner said.

Metallic silhouette shooting dates back to the 1940s when it started in Mexico, according to wikipedia.com. Today the metallic animal figures at some shoots in the United States are referred to by their Spanish names in honor of silhouette shooting’s roots.

The .22 Silhouette shoots at the La Grande Rifle and Pistol Club have been conducted since the mid-1970s. Initially one was always held Jan. 1 and known as the “Frozen chicken shoot.’’

The next .22 Silhouette Shoot will start at 9 p.m. Feb. 7. The entry fee for each shoot is $5. Juniors and children shoot for free. Most competitors use .22 rifles, but .22 pistols can also be used. For more information call Bingner at 963-2440.

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