by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Scoring field target is really what the game is all about, because every shooter is in it for the score. And, all of you know by now that successfully knocking down a target gives the shooter a point, just as leaving it standing earns no point. What could be simpler than that?

What if the target falls halfway back, or not even halfway, but the paddle moves out of the kill zone? What if the paddle falls all the way back, but the target continues to stand? What if the paddle goes back as if to fall, then comes right back to where it started? I’ve seen all of these things in a match and had to make a decision or ruling about them so the match could continue.

The alibi
When a target doesn’t behave as it’s designed to, or whenever a shooter thinks it isn’t behaving as it ought to, he can call the shot an alibi. He marks his scorecard with an alibi for that target and, if possible, tells the match director so he can get a ruling and possibly a fix. If he’s shooting twice at every target, he can mark the number of times the target misbehaved. It may have been fine for one shot but an alibi for the other.

When there’s an alibi, the match director must decide what to do about it. If the target seems to be malfunctioning and there’s a replacement available, he can stop the match and swap targets; but that slows the match, and the people who shot before the swap will feel slighted if they didn’t get a perfect score. Or, the match director can declare that target to be out of the match and nobody will get credit for shooting it. That’s the best way to handle it in most cases. However, beware of “Alibi Ike.”

Alibi Ike
Alibi Ike is an age-old shooting nickname for that shooter who seems to have more problems than anyone else. Run a few matches, and you’ll meet him. He takes longer to shoot, has problems with just about everything and will always have the most alibis in a match. Once I figured this out, I learned to let other good shooters have a go at the “bad” target before knocking it out of the match. I was lucky in having a half-dozen nationally-ranked shooters at my club, any one of whom could prove or disprove the alibi with one shot.

Beware of the intermittent alibi
When a target is emplaced poorly, it may have marginal performance. This is especially true for targets that use gravity to operate. A 20 foot-pound gun may smack it down, while a 12 foot-pounder may not. I test every target with a 3 foot-pound air pistol after emplacement, but constant tugging on the reset string can move them around after awhile.

The scorecard has a place at the top to record the shooter’s name, his rifle, scope and pellet (people always want to know this after the match) the date and the lane his squad starts on.

The scoring section has a place to register hits and misses for every target and lane, as well as the total hits for that lane. At the bottom of the card or sheet is a place for all the lane scores to be totaled. I had shooters mark their alibis with a note in the margin on the same line as the lane where it happened.


This is what my scorecard looked like. We had 12 lanes with three targets on most of them and two shots per target, so each had a row like this. This is lane 11, which is worth as much as 6 points.  Near, middle and far refer to the targets on each lane. An X means a hit and an O means a miss.

We put the three scorecards for each squad on a clipboard with a pencil for scoring. They received the clipboard at the match director’s briefing. It was up to them to keep their own scores. At the end of the match, they turned in the clipboard and the scorecard was checked by the match scorer (usually my wife). She would count all the hits for each lane and found a surprising number of errors in every match. Once they were confirmed, the scores were entered on a tally sheet for the match and then prizes were awarded.

I found that shooters around the country were very interested in the results of our match, because they wanted to track certain shooters. Getting the scores up on our website was another important task. I tried to get them up within a few days of the match. If I didn’t, the phone started ringing.

That’s about it for running a club. There’s a lot more, of course, but they’re the kinds of things you learn by doing. Next, I’ll discuss the use of scopes in field target and the pros and cons of adjusting the elevation for every shot versus holding over.