Handgun Silhouette Wildcat Cartridges

On another thread, IHMSA80X80 showed you some very collectable cartridges used in Handgun Silhouette competition. Some of you may wonder exactly what Handgun Silhouette shooting is so I’ve put together a brief background description for you, along with some more cartridges.

In the 1960s, shooters in the Southwestern United States became interested in a shooting discipline in Old Mexico that consisted of shooting at steel plates shaped like different animals. It was called Siluetas Metalicas, or Metallic Silhouette. The targets were Gallina, Guajalote, and Borrego, for Chicken, Turkey, and Sheep. The targets were placed at 200, 385, and 500 meters and you had but one shot at each, and the hit only counted if the target was knocked over. When the first competitions were held in Tucson they added a fourth target, the Javelina, or pig, at 300 meters. A complete course of fire was 20 of each target for a total of 80 shots. (Now you know where his moniker IHMSA80X80 comes from)

Since most rifle ranges did not have the capability to shoot much beyond 200 yards, proportionally sized and weighted targets were designed for 50, 100, 150, and 200 yards. It didn’t take the pistol shooters long to realize that 200 yards was well within their capabilities and the Handgun Silhouette craze was underway. Hitting the targets was easy. But knocking them over? There’s the rub. The first handgun cartridges were the existing magnums - 44, 41, and 357. But wildcats began cropping up all across the country. I was shooting mostly NRA Bullseye competition in those days and the pistols I was shooting were hardly adequate to knock those steel targets over. So, I built myself two Silhouette revolvers, a Ruger Blackhawk and a S&W Model 29 both chambered for my own wildcat, a hot loaded 45 Long Colt (sorry Ron) shooting 300 grain bullets at over 1100 fps. Other wildcatters were working along the same lines, but remember, there was no Internet in those days and we were mostly ignorant of what other guys were doing.

The TC Contender pistol became very popular and it started to appear in many different wildcat loadings. That was back in the quaint days when TC would sell you an unchambered barrel and you designed your own cartridge, had a reamer made, and voila, a new wildcat was born.

Both the Remington XP-100 bolt action and the Auto Mag gas operated pistol were popular. The XP-100 in wildcat chamberings and the Auto Mag in it’s original two cartridges.

Siluetas Metalicas grew like an octopus and just about everyone who owned a firearm tried it. I have shot it in the original Hi Power Rifle version along with Handgun, Black Powder, Cowboy, Cast Bullet, and 22 RF. The only one I have never tried is Air Rifle.

Many organizations grew out of those beginnings including IHMSA in 1976 with it’s entire line of cartridges. Maybe IHMSA80x80 can fill you in on what has happened in the later years. I shot my last Silhouette match in 1990.

I have a drawer full of different wildcats cartridges used by me and others and will show you a few of them here.



Nice collection of cartridges Ray, and a good writeup of my favorite shooting sport. I have a lot of silhouette cartridges in my collection also.

Handgun silhouette has evolved over the years since Ray stopped shooting. Originally, it was a game for centerfire cartridges out to 200 meters. The game required iron sights only from the very beginning. As shooters aged, and could no longer see the sights well enough, they began to drop out. A trial scoped-gun class was added in an attempt to get the older shooters back into the game. It turned out to be so popular, that it has the largest number of shooters at most matches.

Some felt the normal rifle-size targets out to 200 meters were getting too easy, and a new class called Half-Scale has been added. Targets are still placed at 50-200 meters, but are half the normal scale. Simple math shows that a 2-dimensional object that is reduced 50 percent, results in a target area of only 1/4 the original size. Air Pistol competition was added in 2003, and 2006 saw a new half-size game for the .22’s. Although not official as of yet, several ranges are shooting the rifle silhouette targets set at the full rifle distances out to 500 meters.

With all the new competitions, there is virtually no gun that can’t be used somewhere at a silhouette match. Many of today’s advancements in accuracy and long-range shooting were the result of experimentation by handgun silhouette shooters in the 1970’s and 80’s.

A little more info on some of the cartridges Ray showed.

The 27 REN, also called the .270 REN, is a .22 Hornet blown out to a straight case.

The 7mm TCU is a necked-up .223 Remington, improved with a 40-degree shoulder.

The .308x1.5 was an early favorite, a .308 Winchester case cut back to 1.5" case length.

Both the Herrett rounds were modified .30-30 cases, originated by Steve Herrett and Bob Milek for hunting in the Contender.

The Auto Mags were originally made from cut-down .30-06 or .308 brass.

The .45 Silhouette is a shortened .45-70 Government case.

I’m thinking I should write an article for the Journal about silhouette wildcats. Any interest?


DO IT! I know Chris P will welcome it as much as he welcomed my Benchrest articles, right Chris?

I’ll be glad to help in any way I can.

Looks like I got out the game at the right time. 1/2 size targets! Wow!

BTW, in 1998 we held the first 100/200 yard Pistol Benchrest Match in Phoenix. Some of the groups that we shot then and since then are unbelievable. You’d think I was lying if I told you how small they were.

Oh yeah, the 257 Super is the 222 Rimmed necked up to 25 in a TC.


Thanks Ray. I wasn’t sure what that 257 was made from.

I’d look forward to reading it.