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Airgun competition: Which sports exist?

by B.B. Pelletier

I’m writing this post to clear up some confusion about airgun competition. Airgun competition is not as formalized as firearm competition, and there is a great deal that we still lack in the way of competitive sports. Today, we’ll see what’s there and what’s not.

At the top: 10-meter
Ten-meter target shooting began to formalize in Europe in the late 1950s. No doubt, there was some incentive because of a lack of firearms ranges. By the late 1960s, air rifle and air pistol were both world-class competitions, though they did not get added to the Olympics until 1984 and 1988, respectively. Today, the governing body is the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF).

Ten meters is 32.808 ft., so we say 33 ft. Both air rifle and air pistol competition are held at this distance. The targets are small enough to make the short distance a real challenge, and the guns that compete have to be first-rate in every respect. Velocities are held below 600 f.p.s. for the rifles, while the pistols usually shoot just above the 500 f.p.s. mark. The pellets used are diabolo wadcutters and competitors buy them by the tens of thousands to maintain lot consistency. Precharged pneumatics dominate in both categories, though a few single-stroke pneumatics are still competing. CO2 and spring guns no longer compete beyond the regional level.

Beside the 10-meter target guns, there are a number of five-shot semiautomatic pistols and a few rifles that can be used for sport pistol. There are also several five-shot semiauto and flip-bolt rifles that are excellent biathlon trainers. The sport of running target (which used to be running boar – and running stag before that) is still hanging on by the skin of its teeth.

International BB Gun Championship Match
Since 1965, Daisy and the U.S. Jaycees have held the annual International BB Gun Championship Match as the culmination of a youth shooting education program. To date, over seven million kids have been taught to shoot. Daisy even created a special BB gun, the 499 Avanti Champion, for this competition. While the title says international, the focus is on U.S. kids who have participated in the Daisy/U.S. Jaycee Shooting Education Program.

Airgun silhouette
Far down from the world level of competition, airgun silhouette is the next most popular formal airgun competition. Although there is a rifle component, handgun silhouette is by far the more popular component of the sport. That’s due to the promotional efforts of the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association (IHMSA). The pistols used for this sport are largely 10-meter pistols and their derivatives.

Field target
Field target is a wonderful proving ground for sporting air rifles, optics and pellets, but it is not a world-class sport. That’s not to say world competitions are not held, because they are. However, there’s no governing body that controls the rules at the world level. The countries involved have to negotiate the rules every time a world-level match is held. In the U.S., the American Airgun Field Target Association (AAFTA) is the governing body. This sport refines marksmanship to a degree never seen in any other shooting sport. I have seen local SWAT team snipers who could not keep pace with the leaders of a match. I’m not trying to denigrate professional snipers – just to point out that the best field target competitors are the finest rifle marksmen anywhere.

Airgun sports we lack
There is no formal action pistol sport, similar to those conducted by the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). This is sad because there are a number of air pistols that could compete if there were. There is also no air shotgun sport. That’s not as difficult to understand, since air shotguns are not very capable. Even the best of them cannot hold a candle to the lowly .410 shotgun. If there were capable guns, the shotgun sports are the crown jewels of all the shooting sports.

There is no airgun component of Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS). Granted, the required airguns are also lacking to a large extent at this time. If a sport were available and had participation, the guns would be there quickly. This is an extremely popular firearm sport and hobby because of the clothing and the roll-playing that goes with it, but perhaps airguns are too quiet and clean to break into CAS.

Last of all, there is no real formal benchrest sport for airguns. Despite the thousands of airgun shooters who shoot only from a bench, there has never been a popular, widespread organized benchrest following. BR-50 and BRV never really caught on, though they did have a small, loyal following among airgunners as long as they lasted.

Airguns have plenty of room to grow
What airgunning needs is a sport that is interesting to as many people as possible. It must be simple, yet very intriguing. The 10-meter sports have a huge following worldwide, but they are for individuals. They lack the social attraction of CAS, the excitement of action pistol shooting and the broad appeal of International Clays. What we need is a new sport that shooters find compelling on several levels.

A final shot
In 1898, a national shooting festival was held on Long Island. Prize money of $25,000 was awarded for the various matches, plus other prizes, cups, medals and premiums were given in each of the categories. The nine-day event had a total budget of $200,000. That was in 1898. The winners of that competition were as celebrated in their day as top professional sports stars are today. More than a century has passed and money has inflated many times, yet you cannot find that level of competition, even ignoring inflation, anywhere in the airgun world in 2006.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

19 thoughts on “Airgun competition: Which sports exist?”

  1. Hi BB:

    I been looking at the fx cyclone and want one so bad,but I did not see any reviews by you about it.Without your opinion on it I can not risk that much money,but it is such a beautiful gun.HELP HELP HELP

  2. CYCO,

    Get it and don’t think twice. I may not review that particular rifle for a long time, but any FX air rifle is going to be okay! They have Lothar Walther barrels, so the accuracy is built in, and FX is a leader in PCP technology. Everything they make is good.

    Fredrik Axelsson (FX owner) is the man who invented the high-pressure hand pump. He knows his stuff and his company only makes quality airguns.

    And, if you have any problems at all, you have Pyramyd AIR standing beside you to make things right. Your risk is as low as it gets.


  3. BB,

    I just got my order from pyramidair.The leapers 30mm 3-12×44 mil dot illuminated reticle is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I want to know if I have to put the scope stop on it since I bought medium mounts.I dont think they will fit.Still,do I need it with this scope?
    And what do I do to prevent it from sliding back and getting scratches like my bsa 4×32 scope?

    Thanks.OHHHHHHHHH and the kodiaks really are that amazing!!!!!!!!!

    CF-X guy

  4. CF-X guy,

    Glad you like the scope.

    The scope stop doesn’t have anything to do with the scope – it keeps the rings (mounts) from moving. If you don’t use it they will slide backwards on the ramp.

    To keep your SCOPE from moving you must tighten the scope rings evenly If you have four screw rings, tighen the screws alternating front and back on each side (front ring, right front screw, left rear screw – rear ring, right front screw, left rear screw – then go back and tighten the screws you didn’t tighten before) of the ring. That makes them even.


  5. BB,

    I wish there was some airgun competition that was open to any airgun with some kind of handi capping system. A person could show up with any airgun and compete. The handicap system could be set for skill level and airgun. For instance a beginning shooter could show up and compete with a Crosman 760 against a master level shooter with a FWB match rifle, and through handicapping let them compete on a level playing field. This would let any skill level shooter compete with what ever airgun they already may have. This will keep the pool for potential players as big as possible. Just a thought.


  6. BB,

    Thanks for the info.I mounted the scope with the scope stop in the front ring since the other ring has like this integrated scope stop in the mount.For my first thoughts about the scope was that it is BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!.The scope goes from the back of the breech to the begining of the cheek piece!!!!!!!!!!!!.Still,I could only put it in one position because of the size.Im lucky because the position matches perfectly my eye relief.The illuminated reticle has 11 intencities.It can get real bright.I really like that feature.The looks of the scope is a tough and tactical scope like the ones swat snipers use.With the scope it looks like an m-24 sniper rifle.Tomorrow ill be sighting it in and tell you about the performance.Still,with out mounting it,today when I got it I went outside and saw through it and adjusted at max in the adjustable objetive and set up to 12 you can see very far away and dont lose the sharpness of the image one tiny bit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I wanna thank BB and dsw because they gave me the info on the scope and dsw even sended me some pics of his cf-x with the scope.I think that it is big but the think looks cool and tomorrow ill see if it works well.I know it will since BB recomends them and dsw told me his experience.Thanks and sorry for the long post :>[

    ill keep you posted.

    CF-X guy

  7. CFX Guy,

    I am glad that you got your scope and like it. I look foward to what you have to say about the performance of it! Don’t mind the nay-sayers.


  8. Jason,

    thanks for the support.Ill tell you tomorrow when I sight it in.And again thanks,people like you is what makes this blog great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    CF-X guy

  9. BB,Jason and all,

    Today I sighted my new leapers 3-12×44 and all went pretty well.I like it very much.When you look through it and adjust the scope for that distance with the side weel I dont think that you can get a better image than that!!!!!!!
    At 100yards I could see when the pellet hit in the target very clear.My other scope blacked out when you shoot but the leapoers does not.The feature I really love is the illuminated reticle.This week in Puerto Rico has been rainy and today has not been wet but kind of dark and I could not see the crosshairs,But when I turned on the illuminated reticle
    I could see it very well.The only thing that I will have to get used to is the weight.The scope mounted on the cf-x is heavy.One problem that I read whas that when you load with the cf-x with that scope it is hard to get used to,I always loaded my rifle like it had a big scope and I didnt have that problem.I really like the quality of the image.That is amazing.If I were going to buy another scope I would buy the same because I just love it.My friend mounted the same scope in his shadow 1000 and it is great too.The outside quality is very good.It is huge in the full size model.
    I got great groups when I got it sighted in.I will recomend this scope.Now I have to check for durability,but thats not happining any day soon
    If you guys have a question please tell me and I will check it for you.Sorry for the long post.

    CF-X guy

  10. CFX-Guy,

    Great report! I too have a scope with a illum. recticle. They are really nice, and help when shooting against dark backgrounds in low light. A tip is to use the lowest setting possible on the ill. recticle so the image in the scope isn’t washed out to much by flare from the glowing crosshairs. Although you say your rifle is a bit heavy, that can help the rifle shoot smoother. The weight will help to settle the rifle down quicker when shot. Just curious did you also buy the larger sidewheel? It will help you by giving you even finer adjustments of focus. Keep on shooting!


  11. hi everyone, one new and up and coming discipline of air rifle shooting is hft (hunter field target) has been formalised by the governing body called UKAHFT (united kingdom association, hunter field target.
    comprises of a 30 knockdown targets similar to FT but thats where the similarity ends!
    there are 30 pegs which must be touched by any part of the body, targets are simulated hunter scenarios where by 50% of the kill zone can be obscured, natural foliage is used to hinder the shooting and make it a ‘fun’ shoot as there are no designated positions. natural foliage and surroundings can be used to support the weapon, but tringger finger must not cross safety line.
    sitting is not permitted and bean bags are only available for knee protection, target sizes vary from 15mm to 40mm and the max dis=tance is 45 yds!
    scoring points is gained with either 2 for a kill, 1 for a face plate and 0 for total miss.
    differant classes for ‘springers’ ‘pcp’s’ and calibres.

    events are capped at 210 competitors over two sessions, these sell out within months and pre booking is well advised!
    very good for all classes of shooter and most imprtantly families!


  12. Hi I have just purchased an Avanti valiant.177 made in chechoslovakia , not co2 but filled with scuba diving gas . where do I find data on what I have and what is it worth

  13. BB.what a source you are , old african hunter still honing the skill of hitting what I aim at , what are the best pellets for the avanti aviant .177 cz 200 for non songbird pests ?

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