The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Once more, following the strict instructions of Stan Bell I went gunning in Italy.
On my second Saturday in Torino my friend Signor Mario Vito Benevelli, owner and chef of the Ristorante Frandin de Vito located in San Mauro Torinese invited me for a new exciting experience in shotgunning at the Tiro a Volo (TAV) Carignano.
Being an avid hunter himself, Signor Vito is not that crazy about the more common clay shooting games like Trap and Skeet, which he thinks that do not present the challenges and emotions associated with live bird shooting or hunting, so he took me to an Elica ring.
The proper name for Elica is electrocibles (or electric targets in a very free translation from the French), and in the USA it is known as Helice or ZZ-Birds. This game was invented in Belgium in the early 1980’s due to increasing anti-hunting animal activism against live pigeon shooting (which by the way continues to be practiced in our rather stupid times in Ireland, Monaco and specially Spain.)
As the de-facto replacement for live pigeon shooting Elica takes place in a “pigeon ring”. The shooter stands 25 to 30 meters behind (depending on handicap) five traps (an electrical motor that can range from 0 to 10,000 rpm) spaced about 4.5 meters, and load two shells in any shootgun 12 gauge or smaller. The original rules allowed for 36 grams (1 ¼ ounces) of No. 6 shot,  but nowadays every body uses 28 grams (1 ounce) International Trap loads. At a distance of 21 meters from the traps there is a fence about 60 centimeters (2 feet) high.
The actual target is a two piece plastic contraption that does not ressemble a pigeon, but tries to be as impredicable as one when it is released by a voice command. The central portion, known as witness, is made of white non-frangible and reusable Polyethylene and has virtually the same dimensions of a standard clay pigeon. The outer portion is a two blade helice made of orange and very frangible Polystyrene.
In order to score a “kill” the witness must come completely out of the wings and fall within the fenced boundaries.
At € 1,00 (US$ 1.42) per target, Elica is not a high volume shooting game. At TAV Carignano a group of 15 to 20 shooters and observers would take turns waiting to step to single shooting post, ask “pronto” to the control house and then call for the bird with wichever word they wished. The voice activated mechanism is multilingual.
As in live pigeon the shooter loads the gun with two shells and premounts it before calling for the bird. During competitions the shooter will take no more than three birds from a five trap field (there are also fields with seven and nine traps). It is important to have good periferal vision to keep all five traps in sight before calling for the bird. The one help the shooter gets is that there is a metal place in front of the trap that drops down just before the Elica takes flight allowing for point the gun at that trap.
But then all hell brakes loose as the traps woble to a certain degree and the trapper can change their speed. The birds may go any direction except towards the shooter (some stupid safety rule about not wanting to be beheaded by shaps plastic wings spinning at several thousand rpm).
All shotguns were 12 gauge, and many of the Italian shooters were very curios about the use of smaller gauges in the USA, almost as if it was very eccentric. Over-unders were the majority, and Perazzi and Beretta were the norm. Most common barrel length was 28 inches and there were no ported barrels. On this shoot I saw at least one semi-auto and a very nice Bernardelli side-by-side sidelock game gun.
The traps were set for 4,500 rpm and I was told that during competition they may increase to 5,000 or 5,500 rpm, but not much more. Actually if there is a strong wind they will decrease the speed. I shot Signor Vito’s Perazzi, and did it very well Bill, even if you were not there to witness it. I shot 15 targets with only one miss and hit at leat 10 birds on the first barrel. I profuselly thanked Signor Vito for having trained his shotgun so well and was discreteally invited to show up for a garra (competition) where some people wanted to take on betting with good souls that were not present at my introduction to this new sport.
I really believe that an Elica ring would be a great addition to the Southern Michigan Gun Club, and I am sure that Liberty Moulds could engage on plastic bird manufacturing and make them quite affordably attracting would be “pigeon shooters” from all around (or at least as far as Mattawan, MI and Torino, Italy, provided side-by-side gentlemen’s guns are welcome).


  1. That's good to be with Perazzis,Bernardellis,Berettas.Italy nowadays is one of the best fine producer shot guns in the world.

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