It is not recommended that you go out and buy the best equipment to see if you will like NRA Smallbore Rifle Silhouette competition. In the beginning, the equipment will not be the biggest problem, it will be your ability to hold on target and pull the trigger smoothly enough to hit it. It is a very difficult sport and if you decide you do not have the patience it takes, you will not have invested much to try it. If you have a decent 22 LR just bring it. You should not feel like you need a new rifle to try this sport. Take it to the range and if you can get a 1-1/2 group or less at 50 yards it is good enough to start with.
Be sure to see the "Important Information About Scope Mounting" in the Rifle Scope section.
I do not recommend Semi-Auto's for this sport at all. They definitely are good enough if it is what you have now and want to try out Smallbore Rifle Silhouette. There are a few people that shoot them (Ruger 10/22) regularly at our local matches. If it is all you have and you want to try this sport, by all means bring it. The biggest problem with them is they are not acceptable for accurate target rimfire ammunition. The good target rimfire ammunition is wax coated. That wax gums up the action and it will quit firing. The target rimfire ammunition is lower velocity. This is another drawback to getting the action to work properly. I would not want to be screwing around with the action on my firearm in a timed match such as this. I know there are some 10/22 fans that would disagree with my opinion and that is fine with me. Out of the 108 rifles listed in the equipment survey as being used at the 2007 NRA Smallbore Rifle Silhouette National Championship only 2 were Ruger 10/22. The remainder were all Bolt-Action rifles the most chosen without question (77 of the 108) were Anschutz rifles.
CZ 452 American $400 - If you are needing to buy a rifle to start, this is highly recommended. I still own one and use it to practice. The first match I ever won was with this rifle and, the Arizona State Championship in AA Class Hunter Rifle. These are very accurate rifles and probably the most accurate for the $$ out of the box. There only downfall is the trigger. It is adjustable to get the pull weight down to about 3 pounds or less, which is good. They have a lot of creep in them, which is bad. That is you can feel the trigger move on the sear while you are putting pressure on it and it does not fire. The sear can be worked on to fix it. I have left mine alone because it is good practice. If you can hold on target with this trigger, your shooting will be even better when you use a rifle with a quality trigger on it. I have excellent success with it in practice.
If you are on a budget There are many cheap bolt action rifles such as Marlin 925 for about $200. They will not be as accurate as the CZ listed above but, they will do for a starter rifle.
Kimber HS $900 - These are very accurate American Made rifles with excellent triggers.
Anschutz Various Sporter Rifles $800~$1000
My Favorite Hunter - Anschutz 1710 & 1712 $1,600
My Favorite Standard - Anschutz 1808 MS (no longer available)
Anschutz is a world class target rifle manufacturer. At the 2007 Smallbore Rifle Silhouette National Championship 71% of all of the Standard Rifles were Anschutz rifles, 67% of the Hunter Rifles were Anschutz rifles.
Remington 40x - Resale or special order Another very accurate American Made rifle this one made especially for accuracy.
There are a number of quality centerfire rifle manufacturers which make suitable rifles for NRA High Power Rifle Silhouette shooting. Rifles with the Remington Model 700 action are very popular. Most people have custom barrels mounted for the Standard Rifle. At the highest end are custom made actions with custom barrels. A big question would be what caliber of rifle to use. There are several numerous smaller caliber wildcat cartridges being used which require modified brass to use. I am not familiar with them. The most cartridges are in the 6mm - 7mm range. The main reason is the recoil one endures shooting offhand 40 times in a match. Personally I use a Remmington 7mm-08. I use a Tikka T3 for my Hunter Rifle and I have a Remmington Model 700 I have on a custom stock I use for the Standard Rifle. Other popular standard calibers are the 6mm BR, 6.5x55 Swede, 260 Remington & 308 Winchester.