A clays rabbit target is sturdier than standard targets, and can be rolled along the ground without breaking.

These three shooting games are designed to make you sharpen your shooting eye by focusing on the fundamentals: shooting form, gun handling, concentration, and trigger control. It’s a great way to become a better shooter and have fun doing it. Even better, you need a friend for the second two challenges, so why not make it a competition?

The first two are designed to be used with rimfire rifles, the last with a .22 handgun.

Challenge 1: The Merit Badge

.22 Games
Earning a Boy Scout Rifle Shooting merit badge require you to shoot five three-shot groups at 50 feet, each of which can be covered by a quarter. author photo

There was a time when all that thousands of boys wanted in the whole wide world was a little circle of gold, brown, and blue thread. The official Boy Scouts of America Rifle Shooting merit badge patch carried the prestige of practice, marksmanship, and respect. It still does.

The question is: Could you earn one, right now?

Acing this merit badge test means you possess the fundamental skills required for shooting: breathing control, trigger control, body positioning, and follow-through. There’s a written essay test that leaves no doubt whether you know the difference between a squib and a hangfire. You’d better bone up on rifle cleaning, gun safety, and local laws, too.

That’s before you even pull a trigger. And pull it you will. The Boy Scout test involves 40 shots, and not a one can be a clunker. No wonder the test put many a young man in a cold sweat. It’s not easy, whether your scouting days have just ended or are only a misty memory. Mop your brow, and get started.

The Challenge:

Snagging the official merit badge involves a three-part challenge—shooting a tight group, adjusting the sights to zero, then punching high-scoring holes in an NRA bull’s-eye.

Decide on a preferred shooting position, either from a benchrest or supported prone, and set up an NRA smallbore or light-rifle target 50 feet away. You have to fire five groups, with three shots per group, each of which can be covered by a quarter.

Now adjust the sights
to zero in the rifle. Get ready to sweat.


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Then fire five more groups, with five shots per group. No fliers and no excuses—every single shot has to meet or exceed these scores:

NRA A-32 target: 9

NRA A-17 or TQ-1 target: 7

NRA A-36 target: 5

Advanced Challenge:

Stand up and man up. Get off the bench and shoot your groups from a standing position.

Challenge 2: The Scampering Squirrel

.22 Games
Have a friend bounce tennis balls on the ground, going away in front of you, so it imitates a squirrel bounding away. author photo

Given a solid rest and enough time to find a clear shot, most hunters can topple a squirrel from the treetops. The limb dancers that get away are the ones that aren’t in the treetops at all. They’re the squirrels that show up close and scurry along a fallen log at 30 feet.

These squirrels never stop long enough to offer you a stationary shot. They accelerate and decelerate like a pinball, and somehow still retain the ability to see you raise your rifle, which turns them into a speeding, vanishing gray blur. The trick is to shoot before that happens—meaning you have to hit a small, erratically moving target at relatively close range.

The Challenge:

Channel the spirit of a bocce ball champ, and bounce and roll a spherical squirrel-head size target along the ground. You’ll need a bucket of old tennis balls and
a buddy to toss them, and make sure there’s an appropriate background to absorb the bullets.

.22 Games
Hitting bouncing tennis balls with a .22 consistently isn’t easy—but that’s the point. author photo

The thrower, who stands a yard or two behind and at varying distances perpendicular to the shooter, starts tossing balls from about 25 yards down the line. These will cross in front of the shooter in near profile, just like an unalarmed but actively foraging squirrel.

Make the shots more difficult as the thrower stands closer to the gun. With the balls coming from beside the shooter, the shot simulates those all- too-frequent times when you’re busted by a feeding squirrel and he’s hightailing it to the nearest tree. Your goal: Three out of five hits on a bouncing tennis-ball squirrel.

Advanced Challenge:

Once you’re acing tennis balls, switch to golf balls.

Challenge 3: The Bouncing Bunny

A clays rabbit target is sturdier than standard targets, and can be rolled along the ground without breaking.

When I was young, a favorite pastime for my friends and me was walking up cottontail rabbits with .22 rimfire handguns. A good snowfall made it even more fun, because that would enable us to occasionally track a bunny right up to its bed. Still, a running rabbit is no cinch to hit.

The Challenge:

Buy a box of clay-rabbit targets, which have thick outer rims and can bounce and roll along the ground without breaking, from a shooting range that offers five-stand or sporting clays. Find a place to shoot with a safe backstop, and remember that the .22 rimfire is prone to ricocheting, so be sure to account for that. Team up with a hunting buddy and take turns shooting and rolling the targets along the ground. They are strong enough to resist breaking, and those not hit with a bullet can usually be retrieved and thrown until a slug does find its mark.


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The target is only half an inch thick, making it extremely difficult to hit when traveling straight away, but if the thrower (who stands slightly in back of the shooter) moves to the side and rolls the target across and
in front of the shooter, more of its surface is exposed. As the thrower moves farther to the side for subsequent throws, the angle changes and even more of the target is exposed to the shooter. The shooter should not begin firing until the target is directly out front or moving away from him.

After throwing several targets at various angles from one side of the shooter, the thrower moves to the other side.

Rabbit targets can be thrown underhand, but an overhand throw adds more spin and bounce, better simulating a bunny leaping from its bed and making tracks toward safety.

Use a leaf rake and shovel to clean up the broken targets.

Advanced Challenge:

Shoot two rabbits thrown quickly, one after the other.