What Is Bullseye?

Bullseye, or NRA Conventional Pistol, is a shooting at paper targets competition.
Competitors stand side-by-side and fire at their respective targets from a variety of distances
and with one or more different guns.
Competitions can be brief and finished in a couple of hours, or span several days and include hundreds of shooters assigned to different squads (for scheduling purposes).

The primary competitive event is a “2700” in which competitors shoot a total of 270 shots worth 10 points each. Target distance, gun type and the time allotted for each string of five or ten shots varies according to a set pattern during the event.

Target distance at an outdoor event is 50 yards for some targets and 25 for the remainder. (A “short course” event will have targets at 25 yards throughout the event.)

Gun types include .22 caliber, center-fire and .45 caliber weapons. Each gun must be used for a specific one-third portion of the overall event. Note, however, that .45 caliber weapons are of the center-fire type and may be “legal” for both segments. Many shooters, therefore, own only those two types of guns and use the .45 for both that and the center-fire segments. This is common.

The time allotted for each string of five or ten shots varies, also according to a strict formula. There are three such timed patterns, Slow Fire, Timed Fire and Rapid Fire. Target distance is also specified for each of these forms.

  • In Slow Fire, targets are placed 50 yards away from the shooting line. Competitors have ten (10) minutes in which to fire ten (10) shots. At the end of that interval, targets are scored (and replaced).
  • Timed Fire consists of two, five round, twenty second strings at 25 yards. That is, shooters ready five rounds and when the interval begins, they have twenty seconds in which to fire all five shots. After a brief interval, another five rounds are fired, again in a twenty second period. With ten shots completed, targets are again scored (and replaced).
  • Finally, Rapid Fire is like Timed Fire except the interval is shorter, only ten seconds. As before, two five-round strings are fired before targets are scored.

There are several competition forms that are shorter than the traditional “2700”.
One is the National Match Course, or NMC.

In the NMC form, thirty rounds are fired with ten in each of the Slow, Timed and Rapid Fire formats for a maximum score of 300 points.

The NMC form is so popular that it is incorporated into the longer “2700”.
In a full “2700” competition, competitors will fire two Slow Fire targets (10 rounds each) and then a National Match Course with its Slow, Timed and Rapid Fire targets, in that order. The “2700” will then continue with two more Timed and two more Rapid Fire targets. A total of ninety (90) shots are required, all of which must be fired with the same gun, and scoring a maximum of 900 points. Indeed, a “900” competition is just this.

A “2700”, on the other hand, contains three “900”s, each of which must be fired with the .22 caliber, center-fire and then the .45 caliber handguns.

Many informal “leagues” sponsor weekly competitions for their members. These serve to train new shooters and build skills, help shooters through the “competition jitters” and provide a forum for the exchange of information, mutual assistance and all around camraderie. Leagues may meet at indoor or outdoor ranges, in the evenings and on weekends, and commonly shoot a variety of events from the brief, 30-shot National Match Course up through a “900” in a single evening, or full but practice “2700” events within a single day on a weekend.

Formal Bullseye (NRA Conventional Pistol) competitions are sanctioned by the NRA (National Rifle Association) but, again, are usually sponsored, organized and staffed by local shooting clubs which must apply to the NRA and specify, among other things, how they will satisfy the event requirements laid out by the NRA. Such events may be either NRA Authorized or NRA Registered.

In NRA Authorized and NRA Registered competitions, a shooter’s scores are permanently recorded (by the NRA) and used to establish the shooter’s ranking. These are, from lowest to highest, Marksman, Sharpshooter, Expert, Master and High Master. Anyone can earn a Marksman ranking merely by firing 360 shots in a Registered or Authorized competition. Hitting the target is nice but not required. Simply having the score recorded at the NRA, no matter how dismal, qualifies the shooter for at least a Marksman ranking. Each successive ranking, however, has specific scoring requirements. Although the numerical score will depend on the number of targets in a given competition, these can always be translated into a percentage score. Sharpshooter ranking, for example, requires a score of at least 85% of the maximum over the more recently recorded shots. Expert, Master and High Master have successively higher and higher requirements.

New National Records may occur at any time and by any shooter. But they are recognized by the NRA only if they occur in Registered competitions where the rules are most stringent. This requirement guarantees the quality of the effort and that, when a new record is established, it really has been earned.

But to most shooters, the primary difference between Registered and Authorized events may be the fact that Registered events attract a higher skill level of competitive shooters. At a Registered competition, it is not uncommon to meet national champions as well as current and former members of the U.S. Olympic shooting team.

Who knows, maybe you will even get to score the target of last year’s U.S. National Champion because, in a competition, shooters score each other’s targets. “Pass left and score right” is one way in which this is usually called. Each shooter hands his/her score card to the person to their left and, down at the targets, they score the one to their right. You see the holes in their target, and you calculate their score, and someone is doing your target at the same time.

And because of this, many shooters do better in competition than in solo practice because the shooter knows that someone else will be looking very hard to see where the shots are landing. For some, this leads to competition jitters and the only accepted cure is to compete over and over again until it goes away. (It does.) It is also worth noting that, after the target is scored, the shooter is obligated to examine his own target to see if he/she agrees with that score or wishes to protest it. Once accepted or, if protested and the judge’s verdict rendered, the score is final.

Finally, it is important to note that shooting in competition is wonderfully inspirational. Almost from the very first shot, each shooter is aware of the intense concentration of his/her neighbor and, knowing that either the shooter to the left or right will be scoring their target, there is strong motivation to strive for excellence on each shot.

The level of concentration required to execute a good shot over and over requires utter single-mindedness. Shooters learn to dismiss all other thoughts and focus on the mechanical, and mental steps needed to release a perfect shot.

It is this level of concentration, not the shooting, that is the true reward of Bullseye shooting. It has been compared to meditation, Yoga and other practices that calm the mind and body. Many shooters report that, “when in the zone,” they are completely unaware of the shots of their neighbors and, in many cases, are barely even aware of when their own gun fires. And at the end of a competition, it is not unusual for shooters to feel a calmness and gentle euphoria for hours thereafter.

As odd as it may initially seem, shooting Bullseye is good for the body and mind.

Have you ever wondered why some Bullseye shooters are remarkably senior in years? Perhaps that’s the reason!

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