Metallic silhouette is descended from an old Mexican sport called "siluetas metalicas", dating back to the early 1900s, where live game animals were staked out at varying distances as targets. By 1948, metal cutouts of the animals were used instead of live animals, and the first metallic silhouette match was held in Mexico City. Because of the sport's Mexican roots, in the United States the silhouettes are often referred to by terms from several varieties of American Spanish, namely gallina (chicken), jabali (pig), guajalote (turkey), and borrego (ram).
The first silhouette range constructed in the United states was in 1967 at Nogales, Arizona. Growth was steady until 1973 when the NRA become involved in the sport. By the mid-1980s it was the fastest growing gun sport in the United states. It is a sport that appeals to the hunter, plinker, and serious target shooter without the financial barriers of some other competitive shooting sports, Jim Carmichel called it the "common ground on which to unite".
The International Metallic Silhouette Shooting Union (IMSSU) is the international federation controlling metallic silhouette competitions for both rifle and pistol. There are also two major US-based bodies; the National Rifle Association covers all types of silhouette shooting in the United States, and the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association (IHMSA), founded in 1976. There are some minor differences between the international federation's IMSSU rules and those of the NRA and IHMSA, but it is generally possible to compete in all with the same equipment.
Silhouette shooting is growing in popularity in Canada. Silhouette Canada (S.R.A.C.) is the governing body for rifle metallic silhouette target shooting in Canada. S.R.A.C. sanctions the Canadian National Rifle Silhouette Championships hosted each year by one of the participating provincial silhouette associations. The Canadian Nationals adhere to NRA silhouette rules and regulations.
Targets are set up in groups of five of each kind, with a silhouette's width between targets, laid out at the required distances for the given match. Each group of targets must be shot left to right; if a target is missed then the next shot is taken at the next target. Any target hit out of order is considered a miss. Targets are engaged in order of distance: chickens, pigs, turkeys, rams. The target must be knocked down or pushed off the target stand in order to score a hit; even a shot ricocheting off the ground in front of the target will count if it takes down the correct target. Shooters are allowed to have a spotter with them, who watches where the shots land and advises the shooter on corrections to make.