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Shooting – Olympic Shooting

Olympic Shooting has been contested at every Summer Olympic Games since the birth of the modern Olympic movement at the 1896 Summer Olympics. Only exceptions are at the 1904 and 1928 editions. International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) is the governing body for international shooting competitions including Olympic Shooting.

The term Olympic shooting can refer to any of the following:

  • The actual shooting competitions at the Summer Olympics
  • The shooting events included in the Olympic program, or by extension all ISSF shooting events, even the non-Olympic ones (it is used in this meaning particularly in the United States to distinguish ISSF shooting from a large number of other shooting sports that may be more popular there)

Shooting – International Shooting Sport Federation

International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) is an organization that governs international shooting sports. While far from the only such organization, ISSF is the one that is a member of the International Olympic Committee and so it is in charge of the Olympic shooting events. Not all ISSF shooting events are Olympic, however. With 154 national member federations, ISSF has its headquarters in Munich, Germany. Its current President is Olegario Vázquez Raña and its Secretary General is Horst G. Schreiber.


International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF)

ISSF controls two kinds of shooting competitions:

  • The actual shooting competitions at the Summer Olympics
  • The shooting events included in the Olympic program, or by extension all ISSF shooting events, even the non-Olympic ones (it is used in this meaning particularly in the United States to distinguish ISSF shooting from a large number of other shooting sports that may be more popular there)

Shooting – Shotgun Shooting

A Shotgun is similar to a rifle, but typically fires projectiles that either contain many smaller sub-projectiles, or one large projectile. They are more often than not pump-action or single-shot-and-reload actions. Following are the popular Shotgun Shooting events:

  • The three Shotgun ISSF shooting events (presently all Olympic) are based on quick reaction to clay targets thrown by a machine
  • Other shotgun sports with (at least partial) international recognition include Sporting Clays, providing more variation than the standard ISSF events, and Down-The-Line. Five stand is also a shotgun shooting sport similar to skeet, but with more target variety. There are five stations, or stands. At each station there is normally a card that lets the shooter know the sequence of birds he or she will be shooting at
  • Cowboy Action Shooting also may involve shotguns
  • Practical shooting uses high capacity shotguns (usually pump or semi-automatic). It has emerged particularly in countries where handguns have been banned

Shooting – Handgun Shooting

Handguns, or Pistols, are smaller than rifles, and are much more convenient to carry in general. They usually have a shorter range and lesser accuracy compared to rifles and shotguns. Following are the popular Handgun Shooting events:

  • The 6 ISSF shooting events with pistols (4 Olympic events plus 2 events not included in the Olympics program but are contested in World Cups and World Championships), its roots date back to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, consist of both precision slow-fire and rapid-fire target shooting from distances of 10, 25, and 50 meters. The pistols are unique in appearance compared to normal guns and each events has its own pistols designed specifically for the job. Shooters must use one hand only to shoot at small “bullseye(s)” downrange. In the UK (except for Northern Ireland), it is no longer possible to practice for some of the Olympic events following the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997
  • Modern pentathlon includes timed shooting with an air pistol as the first of its five parts
  • The CISM Rapid Fire match is similar to the ISSF 25 m Rapid Fire Pistol event
  • The National Rifle Association (NRA) Conventional Pistol, shot with up to 3 handguns of differing calibers. Its history is almost as old as the ISSF Events. Shooters must fire the pistol one-handed at 6 and 8 inch bullseyes placed 25 and 50 yards downrange respectively. This competition is also commonly called Bullseye (shooting competition). As with ISSF “bullseye” Pistol Matches mentioned above, they are the forerunners of all handgun competitions and the foundation of ALL marksmanship, whether be it rifle or archery competiitons and not just relegated to handguns alone
  • Metallic silhouette shooting, developed to loosely simulate hunting, is shooting at heavy animal-shaped steel silhouettes that must be knocked down to score, typically at distances normally reserved for rifles. Handguns used in the Unlimited Category are unique and rifle-like in appearance; they are also chambered in rifle calibers to take advantage of power, aerodynamic efficiency, and external ballistics and are specially designed for long range shooting. With proper shooting skills and support techniques, the accuracy of these so-called “handguns” rival that of top-notch match rifles out to 300 meters

The following pistol sports are categorized under action shooting. With the exception of PPC 1500, field shooting, and ActionAirgun, all has its roots dated back to the Southern California combat pistol scenes in the 1960s:

– Practical shooting, governed by a number of bodies, the largest of which is the IPSC, was developed by former police and civilian marksmen and later used as a basis for military and police exercises. It is a variation where the shooter often moves during shooting, and hit scores and shooting time are equally important. Another major sanctioning body, IDPA, was created as a response to some IPSC competitors wishing to participate in scenarios closer to defensive situations which may arise in real life
– The Bianchi Cup, a fusion of IPSC (without the “run and gun” element) and Bullseye Competition (except shot with two hands and going prone whenever rules allow it) where accuracy under tight time limits in 4 different simulated scenarios, known as the “Event(s)”, is the basis of this competition. Shooters must start with gun in the holster on every strings of fire and distances range from 10 to 50 yards
– NRA Police Pistol Combat, also known as PPC 1500, is perhaps the predecessor of all practical pistol shooting sports. It began in 1959 as a police only match, i.e., civilians are not allowed to compete, that theoretically trains officers for better real life shooting confrontations
– Cowboy Action Shooting, almost identical to IPSC and IDPA stage design but with Western Cowboy themed props, shot with long guns and revolvers of the same era. Mere act of shooting itself is not enough. Competitors must choose and go by a cowboy nickname or alias and are required to look the part by donning authentic cowboy and cowgirl garments
– ActionAirgun is an indoor action shooting sport using semi-automatic airsoft pistols and courses of fire downloaded from a central hub. Shooters upload shooting times to a website to resolve competitions

Shooting – Rifle Shooting

A Rifle is a firearm or airgun with a rifled barrel, but commonly refers to long weapons that usually require two hands to hold and fire steadily. They generally have a longer range and greater accuracy than pistols, and are popular for hunting. Following are the popular Rifle Shooting events:

  • Four position small bore is a popular sport in the U.S.
  • The six Rifle ISSF shooting events (including three Olympic events) consist of long-time target shooting from distances of 10, 50 and 300 m
  • The two Running Target ISSF shooting events consist of rapid shooting at a target that moves sideways from distances of 10 and 50 m
  • Biathlon is an Olympic sport combining shooting and cross-country skiing
  • The CISM Rapid Fire match is a speeded version of the ISSF 300 m Standard Rifle event
  • Muzzle loading and Cowboy action shooting concerned with shooting replica (or antique) guns
  • Gallery rifle shooting is popular in the UK and was introduced as a substitute for many pistol shooting disciplines following the 1997 handgun ban
  • Benchrest shooting is concerned with shooting small groups with the rifleman sitting on a chair (bench) and the rifle supported from a table. Of all shooting disciplines, this is the most demanding equipment-wise
  • High Power Rifle (also known as “Across the Course” or ‘traditional’ High power) in the United States is a format that shoots 3-position (standing, kneeling or sitting, and prone) at 200, 300, and 600 yards. The term “Across the Course” is used because the match format requires the competitors to shoot at different distances to complete the course of fire
  • Fullbore target shooting is concerned with shooting at targets at ranges of 300–1200 yards
  • Field Target is an outdoor air gun discipline originating in the United Kingdom, but gaining popularity worldwide

Shooting – Shooting Sports History

The National Rifle Association (NRA) of the United Kingdom was founded in 1860 to raise the funds for an annual national rifle meeting “for the encouragement of Volunteer Rifle Corps, and the promotion of Rifle-shooting throughout Great Britain”. Veteran Union officers Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association of America in 1871 for the purpose of promoting and encouraging rifle shooting on a “scientific” basis.

The popularity of the National Matches forced the event to be moved to Camp Perry. In 1903, the U.S. Congress created the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP), an advisory board to the Secretary of the Army. A nearly identical charter was awarded to the NRA. The NBPRP (now known as the Civilian Marksmanship Program) also participates in the National Matches at Camp Perry.

In 1903, the NRA began to establish rifle clubs at all major colleges, universities and military academies. Today, more than one million youth participate in shooting sports events and affiliated programs through groups. French pistol champion and founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, participated in many of these early competitions. Internationally, the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) has oversight of all Olympic shooting events worldwide, while National Governing Bodies (NGBs) administer the sport within each country.

Shooting – Competitive Shooting

Shooting sports are competitive sport involving tests of proficiency (accuracy and speed) using various types of guns such as firearms and airguns. Archery is related to shooting sport but the difference is that it makes use of bows and arrows. Hunting is also a shooting sport, and indeed shooting live pigeons was an Olympic event (albeit only once, in 1900). The shooting sports are categorized by the type of firearm or target used.

Over the years, the shooting events have been changed a number of times in order to keep up with technology and social standards. For example, targets that formerly resembled humans or animals in their shape and size have are now a circular shape in order to avoid associating the sport with any form of violence.