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Education / Training 10-meter pistol shooting – Part 4

10-meter pistol shooting – Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Do you want to learn how to photograph airguns?
Before we begin, I noticed on one of the forums that several airgunners were discussing how to take photos of their airguns. From the discussion, I could tell that this is a difficult for them. It was for me, too, back when I started writing The Airgun Letter. It took me several years to learn how to take these specialized pictures, and once digital cameras came along, I had a smaller second learning curve. Taking product and detailed photos is a very specialized branch of photography that is about as far from portraits and landscapes as it’s possible to get. I don’t mind passing along what I know to you, if there is interest, so please let me know if you would like to learn how to take technical and product photos.

Now, let’s resume our discussion of 10-meter pistol shooting by talking about light, shooting glasses and how the targets are scored

How the target is lit is very important to all kinds of target shooting, not just 10-meter. You need a bright target against which your sight picture can appear sharp and black. It’s essential that you see daylight on both sides of the front sight post, because a tiny error there will throw off your shot at the target much more than if your sights move to one side of the bullseye.


Although it is difficult to comprehend, the top sight picture will throw your shot wider to the left than the bottom sight picture. The spacing on both sides of the front post must be identical. To see it, you need a well-lit target.

Real shooting glasses
Real shooting glasses have only one glass lens, on the side of the shooting eye. They may have glass on the other side, but no prescription, because the shooter doesn’t use that eye to shoot. The frames are very adjustable, so the glasses can be fitted to the shooter’s face exactly.

Shooting glasses have an extremely adjustable frame on which all manner of optical shooting aids can be mounted. White blinder on the right (on left when glasses are worn) flips up for better vision when not shooting.

The shooting eye
The shooting eye has a lens ground to the shooters prescription for distance vision. It typically focuses from 18″ to infinity, but follows the shooter’s prescription. If the shooter wants no prescription, the glass can be clear. There is also an adjustable diopter over the lens that the shooter adjusts for the lighting at the range where the match is shot. The goal is to use as little light as needed to see the sight picture and the bullseye in sharp contrast. Because the light is reduced, the shooter’s eye acts like a camera lens and adjusts the depth of field (range of distances at which objects appear in focus) to the maximum. That’s what keeps both the sight picture and the bullseye in sharp focus, but the shooter wants the front sight to be in the sharpest focus, because it’s what he focuses on.

Iris on master eye adjusts from small…

…to very large.

The other eye
The other eye is covered with a flexible plastic blinder, so the shooter can keep both eyes open but only see through the shooting eye. Both black and white colors are available. I chose white to allow more light to get to that eye, which helps the other eye focus more sharply. The blinders are in front and on the side, so the eye is isolated from most of the light coming in. They’re made to flip up easily when you need to see to walk or to find something on your shooting table.

The benefits of shooting glasses
Shooting glasses really focus your attention on the target. They also cancel distractions from your non-shooting side. The thing they do best is sharpen the sight picture. I found they added about 10 points to my score when I was shooting at the 520/600 level.

How to score a target
There are two scoring systems in 10-meter pistol shooting: the American NRA system and the international ISSF system, which is harder. In the NRA system, a hit counts by the highest scoring ring the pellet touches. Because we use only wadcutter pellets, this is normally easy to see. Nevertheless, a magnifying scoring gauge will expand the hole to true .177 size, which is slightly larger than the hole left by the pellet. If you shoot matches in the United States, you’ll be scored this way.


This gauge is inserted in the hole, where it magnifies the relationship to nearby scoring rings.

International scoring
The scoring used by the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) is more stringent than NRA scoring, because they require the pellet to break through the scoring ring to get the higher score. Though that may seem like a trivial matter, it can subtract 2-3 points per match. At major international matches, the pellets are scored by sound rather than by gauge. Three sensitive sound transducers are positioned around the bullseye and they register the time of the tearing of the target from the pellet passing through. Then they triangulate a center position (where the center of the pellet had to be to produce the sound) and draw a pellet-sized ring around that center. That’s overlaid on the image of a 10-meter pistol target and the score is automatically entered into a database. The shooter has a video monitor at his or her shooting position that displays the image of the shot. Only one shot at a time is displayed.

Final 10 shots
At the end of every major international match, the top-scoring shooters (8 shooters in the Olympics) have a 10-shot shoot-off to determine their standings in the match. For these 10 shots, each scoring ring is given an additional set of decimal points up to 0.9. So the best possible shot will be scored 10.9. How much additional the shot gets is determined by how much of the scoring ring it cuts, which is where the sound transducers really come into play.


The 10 shot is solid and not in question. In a decimal scoring round, it would be about a 10.3. The 9, located at 10 o’clock, is also a solid hit in both NRA and ISSF scoring. But the shot at 6 o’clock is doubtful. By eye we would score it as an 8. but if that were my shot in an NRA-sanctioned match, I would ask for a re-score. With a scoring magnifier, that might be a 9. The magnifier shows the full diameter of the pellet, which is ever-so-slightly larger than the hole it leaves. The magnifier reveals whether the pellet that left this hole really did touch the 9-ring. In ISSF scoring, it is clearly an 8.


When the hole is magnified, the relationship to the nearby ring can be seen clearly. Frosted ring is the pellet and this one, which is not the same one shown on the target above, is out.

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

22 thoughts on “10-meter pistol shooting – Part 4”

  1. If you look at the edge of the pellet hole you will see a ragged edge. With wadcutters, this edge is very narrow, but it’s there.

    That edge is the actual size of the pellet, but it closed back in after the pellet went through. The scoring gauge expands the edge to find the true pellet hole. When there is a close shot like the one I referred to, sometimes a gauge reveals that the pellet really does touch the next higher scoring ring.


  2. Yes please on the picture taking, both film and digital. You’ve got me to the point where I’ll need to get a 10 meter pistol and give this a try! I’ve found this whole series fascinating. Thanks

  3. J-F,

    I bought mine from Champion’s Choice. They have a very difficult website to navigate, but they have most of what target shooters want. I paid $100 for the frames about 8 years ago. The lens cost me about $50 at Lenscrafters in the mall.


  4. Everyone,

    I will do a multi-series report on how to take photos of guns. Bruce, I will add some info on film photography, but very few people still use film smaller than 4 X 5 anymore. Do you really still use it?


  5. B.B.

    It would be great if you could do the blog on taking technical pictures of ariguns (and mechanical internal parts maybe).

    I would definately like to know how you get those detailed pictures without glare etc…

    If you have the time and others show interest as well, it would be a nice blog…

    btw how is the Condor series of blogs comming along? I know you didn’t forget it, I am just reminding you that I haven’t lost interest in that MM tank matter we talked about. 🙂

    Thanks a lot

  6. Andreas,

    I should have said something before now. The Condor review is held up because AirForce is out of 24″ .177 barrels. But although they take 6 months to arrive, they are in the U.S. right now. I have to wait for them to arrive at AirForce, then for them to be ground and blued and bushed before I can borrow one.

    I truly have not forgotten you, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about this delay. I know how hard it must be living in another country and relying one me in the U.S. to do something. You can ask me any time you want how progress is on this matter.


  7. B.B.,

    Don’t worry, of course I understand. I am definately not in a hurry…

    I appreciate every little bit of information you have given me this far and thank you again for all your help.

    btw I have found this little trajectory calculating program:
    http://chairgun.com/ It has a free version that you can try indefinately. It’s simple and acceptably accurate.

    The only mistake I ve spotted is that when it calculates wind effect, it doesn’t take into account the pellet spin.

    So, take your time with the MM .177 test, no hurries…

  8. B.B.

    So that’s how poor Wang lost by half a point and freaked out. I suppose you’ve answered this but I was wondering why dome-shaped pellets leave a smaller hole than wadcutters even though they are are the same caliber. I suppose the dome shape removes a smaller amount of paper and allows the hole to close more after passage.

    The cantilevered hold is working so marvelously well that I’m eager to see if there is an equivalent for the 10m rifle. Part of my improvement is due to finally paying attention to trigger squeeze and follow through, but the hold plays a large part. I’m familiar with the smallbore rifle stance of slouching to place the lead elbow on the hipbone, and if cantilevered means skeletal support I guess this would be it. But I don’t know of any twisting of the arms and legs that seems so effective with the 10m pistol.


  9. Matt61,

    You may just be a pistol shooter instead of a rifle shooter. The rifle position I described works the same way as the pistol, only your body is turned in the opposite direction. For me, however, and possibly also for you, the pistol hold seems easier to achieve and more natural.

    Wang, incidentaly, lost by 0.1 point in Atlanta, which is why he collapsed. Forevermore, losing by a close margin will be known as “getting Wanged”.


  10. Yes B.B. I still do some print film. Got a whole bunch of screw mount Pentax lens etc. Still enjoy controlling the exposure myself. However, most of what I do is now digital. Off topic. Cleaning the barrel on a Benjamin Discovery–bore snake maybe, but how to use J&B paste? Again thanks

  11. Great blog !! Thanks. This 10-meter pistol series has really helped me up my score. I now pay more attention to the grip and the front sight. This has made a huge difference.

    How does the decimal scoring go? I have seen references to it but havent been able to find out how it is done.

    Like Matt61, I hope you also do a series on 10-meter air rifle.

    Thanks again.


  12. That picture blog post would be greatly appreciated. I’m guessing the same principles would apply to photographing other things at close range. I’m interested in documenting the vacuum tube guitar amps I build for future reference. It gets to be several years in between projects and I forget how I did things on a certain amp. Thanks.


  13. Stingray,

    Decimal scoring is based on how far into the scoring ring the pellet is. It’s a decimal fraction expression of how close you are to the next higher ring, except the 10 ring, which has no higher ring to go to. Then a 10.9 is the highest score possible.

    I did a short report on 10-meter rifles already, earlier this year, but it wasn’t as instructive as this report because I’m not a 10-meter rifle shooter. Ten-meter pistol is my sport, so I find it easy to write about.

    I have coached kids shooting 10-meter rifle and I’ve shot smallbore rifle (.22 rimfire) competitively in college. I suppose I could put a report together, but it won’t be as thorough as this one.


  14. Shawn,

    Yes, the product photography I will teach will help anyone with any kind of technical photograph where the subject has to be as clear as possible.

    What I will not teach is art photography, which is another kind of product photography in which the subject does not have to appear as clear as possible, in the interest of art. There are many books on that kind of photography, and I have most of them, but I’ve never see a book on my kind of photography.

    I call it technical photography, and it’s perfect for what you want to do.


  15. B.B.

    Thanks. I’ll bring a new awareness to the rifle stance. Poor Wang, the physical distance corresponding to .1 of a point must be practically nothing.


  16. B.B.

    By the way, I had not thought of myself as a pistol shooter instead of a rifle shooter, but I’m learning all the time. Today the Daisy 747 almost outpaced my rifles at the same distance.

    I’m reminded of one of my Dad’s buddies in basic training in 1960 who ignored all of the steady hold factors but broke the range record with the M1 without trying (causing the range sergeant to almost throw a Wang in the process). He said that it just seemed easy. My Dad caught up to him 30 years later and found out that he had continued on to an MOS in the military police where he was introduced to the 1911. His performance with this was so abominable that the instructor finally told him he had better throw it at the enemy.


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