Helice: A Difficult, Fast, and Pricey Shotgun Game

The game has been popular in Europe since the 1960s, and is now catching on in the U.S.

The targets are called ZZ Birds.
The targets in helice are called ZZ Birds.photo from gardenandgun.com

Have you ever heard of the shotgun game helice? It's pronounced hell-ees and it's starting to catch on in the United States—and Garden & Gun called it the best thing next to live birds.

Calling the game new would be a little disingenuous, as it was first developed in Europe in the 1960s, as a replacement for live pigeon shoots.

Here’s how it works:

The targets in helice are called ZZ birds and they’re more than clay pigeons with fins.

An oscillating motor on the target launcher spins the ZZ bird at 5,000 revolutions per minute or more, giving the targets their unique action when they fly.

The ZZ birds themselves consist of a round plastic “witness cap” affixed to a propeller. When pellets strike a ZZ bird, they witness cap separates from the propeller, signaling a scoring hit.

“See a flash and a blur and pull the trigger. Stop to think about it and you’re screwed.”

- — Michael B. Higgins, president of the U.S. Helice Association

A helice course is called a ring and can include five or seven launchers arranged in a semicircle in front of the shooting post.

The story in G&G says the launchers are voice activated, and they go off in a random order.

Just hitting the target isn’t enough though. To score, a shooter must knock the witness cap from the propeller, and it must land within a fence 21 meters beyond the launchers, so you can’t take to long to fire.

"The disk will pick up every little breath of wind and change direction, jink left, juke up and down, flutter, and dive," says Michael B. Higgins in the story. He runs the Long Straw Range shooting preserve in North Texas and serves as the president of the U.S. Helice Association, the story says. "It is very, very fast. You have a second to make the shot."

As you may have guessed, with all this fancy equipment, the sport isn’t cheap.

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The story says shooting a round of 30 ZZ birds can top $90, not including shells.

When it comes to guns, the story says helice shooters favor over-under shotguns, since both barrels can be fired in sequence rapidly.

And even though the sport is just catching on in this country, the U.S. team holds the current helice world championship.

"Helice tends to appeal to folks who are field shooters and used to live birds," Higgins said in the story.

But high scores are not easy to achieve. The story says that, over a year, the number of perfect 30 scores shot on a given helice course can usually be counted on one hand.

To learn more about trying helice, check out the full story from Garden & Gun here.