Bisley Shooting Competitions

The following information on Bisley shooting competitions comes from The Book of the Pistol and Revolver by Hugh B. C. Pollard. The Book of the Pistol and Revolver is also available to purchase in print.

Pistol competitions are held at most rifle clubs, but the great national competition is the National Rifle Association week at Bisley. For those to whom Bisley is accessible for Saturdays, the N.R.A. have provided excellent accommodation for revolver shots.

The best way of enjoying Bisley is to be a member of the N.R.A., or an affiliated club, such as the “Middlesex,” or the North London.

The standard range is the 20-yard stationary target, and the shot will find open-air shooting, with wind and light conditions, vastly different to shooting in a closed gallery with steady artificial light. Whatever the conditions of wind or light, always take the same amount of sight, and correct by aiming at a different spot on the target, rather than by taking a “coarser” or finer sight. Thus, if the shot strikes a little too high, or a little too far to the right, aim lower or more to the left of the bull to correct it for your next shot.

Before entering for a competition, fire a few practice cards to get used to the windage, light, and the “feel” of your pistol.

When cocking for single-action target work, touch the cylinder lightly with the forefinger, in order to make sure that it has come round into complete alignment with the barrel. The reason for this is that sometimes even with the best of weapons the cylinder does not come quite true, and the cylinder stop fails to engage in the slot provided for it.

This does not affect the safety of the weapon, but does interfere with its accuracy, as the bullet entering the barrel gets a shaving taken off its side.

This touch with the forefinger brings the cylinder round into locking position, even if the lifter does not, and after practice the trick becomes instinctive.

For Bisley a coarse front-sight and a good clear notch are advisable, particularly for use at the disappearing target.

This target is also at 20 yards range, and bobs up for three seconds, then disappears for three seconds.

You may not lift your pistol from the firing-rail before the target appears, and the weapon must be lowered again after each shot. Experts advise practice with a metronome in order to get into the way of the time if practising at a stationary target, but three seconds is ample time to get the shot off in.

Get used to the point where the target rises, and recognize the exact background in front of which it bobs up. Do not worry about its moving up and down, but imagine it to yourself as a stationary target always there.

If you do this you will find that when the target comes up you align on the bull naturally without any wavering about of the fore-sight to find the bull.

The 50 yards range is the long range and the hardest. Here fine sights are an advantage, and slow deliberate shooting with heavier charges the rule.

The Olympic Games (when held) have some pistol-shooting events, and some on duelling or silhouette targets, but these do not correspond with Bisley competitions.

The handbook of the N.R.A., issued some weeks before the great Bisley week, contains details of all competitions, and the standard rules and regulations as given for 1914 are as follows:

B. Revolvers, Pistols, and Their Ammunition.

169. No revolver or pistol may be used unless the makers have given a written guarantee to the Council that their revolvers or pistols, as the case may be, are suitable for use with the ammunition to be used with them, as set out in Regulations, paras. 172 and 175

170. Every revolver or pistol and all ammunition is subject to examination by an officer appointed for the purpose before it may be used by a competitor, and is also subject to any test which the Council or Bisley Committee may prescribe.

171. No revolver or pistol may be used in any competition other than one of the class named in the conditions of shooting or in the special conditions applicable to any particular competition. Revolvers and pistols allowed are classed as follows:

172. Any revolver complying with the following conditions:

Strength.—Must, in the opinion of the Bisley Committee, be suitable for military purposes, and capable of use with Government ammunition.

Weight.—Maximum, 2 lbs. 10 ozs.

Barrel.—Maximum length, 7 1/2 inches.

Calibre.—Minimum diameter of bore, such as will carry .44 ammunition.

Pull of Trigger.—Minimum, 4 lbs.

Sights.—Fore-sight: Must be firmly secured to the fore-sight lock or barrel, and incapable of lateral adjustment. The bead sight is allowed. The bead must not be less than .08 inch in width and .4 inch in length, nor must it be longer than any other portion of the sight. The narrowest, part of the neck must not be less than half the diameter of the bead, and the sight must be generally of such solidity and strength as to be sufficient (in the opinion of the Bisley Committee) to withstand rough usage. Back-sight: To be without screw adjustment, and of some simple pattern of sufficient solidity and strength to withstand rough usage, in the opinion of the Bisley Committee. It may consist of a sliding bar or of leaves affixed to the barrel by hinges, or of interchangeable bar fitted into a slot; and it may have a plain open notch, or open square, or open half-circle or section of a circle, or of buckhorn pattern or a plain bar. The interchangeable bars fitting into a slot may be adjusted with the aid of a hammer, but such interchange of bars and such adjustment of bar, with or without the aid of a hammer, shall not be permitted at the firing-point.

Revolver Ammunition.—Only smokeless powder may be used. “Man-stopping” bullets may not be used. Competitors may use their own ammunition, which must conform to the following specification, viz.:

Weight of case: Maximum, 75 grains; minimum, 65 grains.

Weight of bullet: Maximum, 265 grains; minimum, 215 grains.

Velocity (average at 30 feet from muzzle): Maximum, 725 foot seconds; minimum, 600 foot seconds.

173. The Association will provide .450 ammunition at the firing-point in exchange for ammunition tickets. These tickets can be purchased at the revolver ticket office, and each will entitle the competitor to six rounds.

174. No more than the actual number of rounds which the competitor is about to fire will be issued by the Association in exchange for ammunition tickets.

175. Any automatic or single-loading pistol, complying with the following conditions:

Calibre: Maximum, .44 inches; minimum, .22 inches.

Sights: Any, but must be affixed to the barrel.

Pull of Trigger: Single-loading, minimum, 4 lbs.; automatic, minimum, 4 lbs.

Pistol Ammunition.—Any ammunition suitable for use with the particular pistol used, except that the ammunition to be used with any particular pistol shall only be that which is covered by the guarantee given by the makers of the pistol, in accordance with para. 169.

  1. Targets for Revolver Competition are circular, mounted on square frames, and are coloured white, with a black bull’s-eye. These targets are divided by rings into six divisions. The dimensions of the divisions and the marks scored for each hit in the several divisions are set out in Appendix No. 5 (Given below.)

Target Dimensions, Etc.

Six Dimensions, etc.

Dimensions of targets

Click to Enlarge

 K. Revolver and Pistol Competition at Distances Not Exceeding 100 Yards.

432. All firing will be in the standing position.

433. Time-keepers are not allowed in individual competitions.

434. In vanishing competitions, the hand holding the revolver must be lowered to touch the table before each shot, and must not be raised until the target commences to rise.

435. Whilst loading, the muzzle must be held towards the target.

436. The revolver or pistol must not be loaded until the competitor is in position for firing, and the target has been run out to the butt.

437. Immediately after firing, and before quitting the table, every competitor must open his revolver and extract all cartridge-cases; after this is done, and not until then, the target will be brought to the firing-point.

438. A competitor who, when opening his revolver and extracting the cartridge-cases after firing, holds his revolver in any manner other than in front of and clear of the table, and with the muzzle pointing to the ground in front of the target, may be excluded from further competition during the meeting. Any violation of the regulation contained in this paragraph is to be at once reported by the range officer, who is to warn the competitor concerned that he has been reported.

439. When firing at a disappearing target, the shots allowed are to be fired at six consecutive appearances of the target, and not more than one shot may be fired at each appearance.

440. When more than six shots are to be fired at one distance, they will be fired in series of six.

441. The second and each subsequent series of six shots is to be commenced as soon as the target is clear, and competitors must complete their firing at each distance, or retire from the competition, before quitting the firing-point.

442. At distances under 50 yards a new target will be given for each series of six shots.

443. Should a missfire occur, then: (a) If the competition is one in which there is no time limit, or in which there is a separate time limit for each shot or each appearance of the target, the competitor will continue to fire the remaining chambers, and will then place his revolver or pistol on the table. He will then at once reload as many chambers as may be necessary to complete his firing, which he will do forthwith, and without quitting the firing-point, receiving, if necessary, an allowance of time or of appearances of the target for the shot or shots to be fired proportionate to the time limit or to the number of appearances of the target allowed by the conditions of the competition. This time will be counted from the word “all clear” by the register keeper, which will be given as soon as the revolver is reloaded. Or (b) if the competition is one in which there is a time limit for a series of six or more shots, the competitor shall have the option of counting his score as it stands, or of cancelling the target and shooting over again at a fresh target. Under no circumstances, however, shall a competitor be allowed under this regulation to compete more than twice in respect of one entry.

444.Should there be from any cause an interruption in the shooting, the competitor must at once lay his revolver or pistol on the table, muzzle towards the target, and will complete his shooting as soon as the target is clear.

445. Should the interruption be not caused by any fault on the part of the competitor, he is entitled to receive allowances as in the case of missfires.

446. At pool, when more than one competitor is present, they must fire in turn, and each must fire a complete series of six shots before quitting the firing-point.

447. When a pistol is used, the following additional regulations apply: (a) A pistol is to be held over the table pointing to the ground in the direction of the target, and may only be loaded whilst in that position. The pistol, still held in that position, may be cocked, or in the case of hammerless pistols, the slide taking the first cartridge into the barrel may then be operated; after which the pistol, still held over the table, pointing to the ground in the direction of the target, must touch the edge of the table until the range officer or register keeper has given the words “ready-commence.” (b) A wrist-rest attached to the heel-plate may be used, but it may not be attached to any part of the competitor or his clothing, nor may it touch the ground, or table, or any other support.

448. The trigger is to be tested whenever a score of forty or over has been made with a series of six shots.

Few pistol shots are in favour of the standard of pistol shooting and competitions as extant at Bisley, and there is no doubt that there is room for improvement; but so long as the N.R.A. is the national authority on shooting, as distinct from the military authorities (whose ideas are, as far as is known, equally hostile to either practice or progress with regard to pistol shooting), their rules are absolute.

Among noted revolver competitions are those of the Army Rifle Association, which limits itself to members of the Regular Army and Special Reserve on the Active List.

There is the Army Cup, a competition shot for by members abroad.

Practice 1 (Right Hand).—20 yards. A kneeling figure with three rectangles described therein: inner rectangle, 4 inches wide by 8 inches high; intermediate rectangle, 6 inches wide by 12 inches high; outer rectangle, 12 inches wide by 16 inches high.

The rectangles are to be invisible from the firing-point, and drawn so that their lower sides coincide with the bottom edge of the figure. Centre of lower side coinciding with centre of bottom edge of figure.

Six rounds in twenty seconds. Rounds not fired to be forfeited. Scores: inner rectangle 5 points, intermediate 4, outer 2, remainder of target 1. Highest possible score, 30.

Practice 2 (Left Hand).—As for Practice 1.

Practice 3 (Right Hand).—20 yards. Six new cardboard squares, coloured green, brown, or grey, 12 inches square. An interval of 3 feet between each target. Six rounds, one at each target, in fifteen seconds; unfired rounds forfeited. Score: 5 points for each hit; not more than one hit will be counted on any target. Highest possible, 30.

Practice 4 (Left Hand).—As for Practice 3.

Practice 5 (Right Hand).—20 yards. A revolver target, circular rings on a square card, subdivided as under:

20-yard card: Bull’s-eye 2 inches in diameter; score, 7 points.
Ring 3 inches in diameter; score 6 points
Ring 4 1/2 inches in diameter; score 5 points
Ring 6 1/2 inches in diameter; score 4 points
Ring 9 inches in diameter; score 3 points
Ring 12 inches in diameter; score 2 points
Corners of card do not count. Six rounds in one minute. Rounds not fired to be forfeited. Highest possible score, 42.

Practice 6 (Left Hand).—20 yards. Same as Practice 5.

General Rules.—Dress, any. Position, standing—no rest or support, nor must the competitor’s body be touching anything.

Revolver.—Any pistol, including automatic revolvers taking Government ammunition. Trigger-pull not less than 4 pounds.

Ammunition.—Smokeless; bullets, the Government conical or cartridges, S.A. Ball, Pistol Webley, Mark IV.

Place.—Any that may be considered convenient and safe for revolver practice.

Method of Conducting.—An officer, duly qualified in accordance with General Rule 26, must be present to superintend at the firing-point.

The officer superintending will carefully measure the 20 yards range, and will satisfy himself before the competitor commences a practice that the target is (Practices 3 and 4, targets are) free from shot marks and of the correct size, also that the rectangles in Practices 1 and 2 are accurately drawn. He will give the command “Fire” as soon as the competitor has loaded and is ready to commence the practice, and will time the practice from that command to the first sound of the whistle for “Cease Fire.” The competitor will load and may aim before the command “Fire” is given. When the competitor has completed the practice, the officer superintending will proceed to the target and enter the number and value of the hits on the register. He will allow no signalling of shots.

The practices are to be fired in the order laid down above. During the match the competitor will remain at the firing-point.

Ties.—Ties in this match will be decided as follows; 1st, by the best score in Practice 2; 2nd, by the best score in Practice 1; 3rd, by the best score in Practice 4; 4th, by the best score in Practice 3; 5th, by the best score in Practice 6; 6th, by the best score in Practice 5.

The highest possible score for the Army Cup is 204. The scores were in 1913:

  1. Lieutenant A. V. Pope, 14th Hussars—196.
  2. Sergeant W. Plomer, 3rd K.R.R.—186.
  3. Lieut.-Colonel W. Chitty, 119th Infantry I.A.—182.

The Revolver Thirty Match is the second A.R.A. event, and the object of the match is to select the best possible team to represent the Regular Army in the N.R.A. Revolver Team Match at Bisley.

First Stage—Practices.—Five preliminary practices will be fired by competitors at places where they are quartered. Conditions as follows:

Twelve shots at 20 yards, followed by twelve shots at 50 yards, either hand being used at the discretion of the firer. Stationary cardboard targets as described in Practices 5 and 6 of the Army Cup, which must be provided by competitors; these need not be sent to the secretary with the registers, but are not to be destroyed before August 1. One minute for each series of six shots at 20 yards, and one and a half minutes for each series of six shots at 50 yards.

The 50 yards target for the Revolver Thirty and other N.R.A. and A.R.A. events:

Bull’s-eye 4 inches in diameter; score, 7 points.
Ring 6 inches in diameter; score 6 points.
Ring 9 inches in diameter; score 5 points.
Ring 13 inches in diameter; score 4 points.
Ring 18 inches in diameter; score 3 points.
Ring 24 inches in diameter; score 2 points.
Corners not to count.

Revolvers and ammunition must comply with N.R.A. regulations. Automatic revolvers may be used, provided they comply with the N.R.A. regulations as regards calibre, etc.

The standing position is to be adopted. No rest of any kind, natural or artificial, is allowed, nor may any competitor support himself against anything, or use more than one hand to steady his revolver. The whole of the arm with which the firing is carried out must be clear of the body.

Only one register may be filled in on one day by a competitor.

An officer superintending, who may belong to the same unit as the competitor, but must be otherwise qualified in accordance with General Rule 26, must be present at the firing-point during the whole of the firing. He will fill up and sign the register and will time the shooting at each distance. The competitor must declare before commencing to fire that he is about to shoot one of his five practices, which must then be completed without delay. The value of each shot must be entered on the register and the targets in ink. The register is to be posted by the officer superintending to the secretary on the day the practice is fired.

Second Stage—The Revolver Thirty.—The Revolver Thirty will be selected by the committee on June 15, as follows: First fifteen in order of merit of the averages of the five preliminary practices in the First Stage, and the remaining fifteen at the discretion of the committee.

The selected Thirty will then meet together during the A.R.A. Annual Rifle Meeting, and compete for the prizes shown below. The conditions will be as follows:

Twenty-four shots at 20 yards, followed by twenty-four shots at 50 yards, either hand being used at the discretion of the firer. Stationary cardboard targets as described in General Rule 27. One minute for each series of six shots at 20 yards, and one and a half minutes for each series of six shots at 50 yards. Revolvers and ammunition must comply with N.R.A. regulations. Competitors will provide their own ammunition. Any dress may be worn. Facilities for practice at Bisley by members of the Revolver Thirty on days prior to the match will be arranged for, competitors finding their own targets and ammunition.

Ties.—A tie for any one of the Jewels and the Money Prizes attaching to it, also for the N.R.A. Medal, will be decided, before leaving the range, by firing six shots at 50 yards, and, if still a tie, by repeating.

Special Rule.—Immediately on the conclusion of the match, the Captain of the Army team will select ten or other number of competitors, who will practise together as a team until the day of the N.R.A. Whitehead Cup match, under the supervision of a specially selected officer.

Prizes.—The three competitors making the highest aggregate scores will be awarded respectively the A.R.A. Revolver Gold, Silver, and Bronze Jewels.

The Bronze Medal of the National Rifle Association will be given to the competitor making the highest aggregate score who has not previously won this medal. Winners of this medal are entitled to compete for the Revolver Gold Medal at the National Rifle Association Meeting at Bisley.

The highest possible score is 336 points. In 1913 the highest scores were:

  1. Lieutenant Egerton, R.E.—278.
  2. Lieutenant Yeatman, S. Wales Borderers—277.
  3. Sergeant-Major Kempster, 2nd Jersey Light Infantry—275.

Click here to purchase The Book of the Pistol and Revolver in paperback

Bisley Shooting Competitions

Return to The Book of the Pistol and Revolver Table of Contents