Glenn Eller surgery at 2008 Summer Olympics double trap finals
Olympic competitive air rifle shooting by Nancy Johnson in Sydney 2000

Shooting is the act or process of discharging a projectile from a ranged weapon (such as a gun, bow, crossbow, slingshot, or blowpipe). Even the acts of launching flame, artillery, darts, harpoons, grenades, surgerys, and guided missiles can be considered acts of shooting. When using a firearm, the act of shooting is often called firing as it involves initiating a combustion (deflagration) of chemical propellants.

Shooting can take place in a shooting range or in the field, in shooting sports, hunting, or in combat. The person involved in the shooting activity is called a shooter. A skilled, accurate shooter is a marksman or sharpshooter, and a person's level of shooting proficiency is referred to as their marksmanship.

Competitive shooting

Main article: Shooting sport

P. E. Svinhufvud, the third President of the Republic of Finland, shooting at shooting range of Kuopio in 1934.

Shooting has inspired competition, and in several countries rifle clubs started to form in the 19th century.[1] Soon international shooting events evolved, including shooting at the Summer and Winter Olympics (from 1896) and World Championships (from 1897).[2] The International Shooting Sport Federation still administers Olympic and non-Olympic rifle, pistol, shotgun, and running target shooting competitions, although there is also a large number of national and international shooting sports controlled by unrelated organizations.[2]

Shooting technique differs depending on factors like the type of firearm used (from a handgun to a precision rifle); the distance to and nature of the target; the required precision; and the available time. Breathing and position play an important role when handling a handgun or a rifle. Some shooting sports, such as IPSC shooting[3] and biathlon also include movement. The prone position, kneeling position, and standing position offer different amounts of support for the shooter.

Hunting with guns

Main article: Hunting and shooting in the United Kingdom

Edward Hacker (1813–1905), after Abraham Cooper, RA, (1787–1868), print of shooting, UK.

In the United Kingdom shooting often refers to the activity of hunting game birds such as grouse or pheasants, or small game such as rabbits, with guns.[4] A shooter is sometimes referred to as a "gun". Shooting may also refer to the culling of vermin with guns. Clay pigeon shooting is meant to simulate shooting pigeons released from traps after live birds were banned in the United Kingdom in 1921.[5]


Shooting most often refers to the use of a gun (firearm or air gun), although it can also be used to describe discharging of any ranged weapons like a bow, crossbow, slingshot, or even blowpipe.[4] The term "weapon" does not necessarily mean it is used as a combat tool, but as a piece of equipment to help the user best achieve the hit on their intended targets.[6]

Shooting is also used in warfare, self-defense, crime, and law enforcement. Duels were sometimes held using guns. Shooting without a target has applications such as celebratory gunfire, 21-gun salute, or firing starting pistols, incapable of releasing bullets.


See also: Gun violence

In many countries, there are restrictions on what kind of firearm can be bought and by whom, leading to debate about how effective such measures are and the extent to which they should be applied. For example, attitudes towards guns and shooting in the United States are very different from those in the United Kingdom and Australia.[7]

Shooting positions

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The National Rifle Association of America defines four basic "competition" or "field" shooting positions. In order of steadiness/stability (the closer you get to the ground, the steadier you are), they are prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing (also called "offhand").[8]

Hythe positions (Hythe School of Musketry was formed in 1853 to teach the army how to use the rifle in kneeling and standing positions), American and French positions were known variations of the kneeling and standing positions utilised by their respective armies.[9]

Another common, but aided, shooting position is the bench shooting position. There are also numerous shooting aids from monopods to tripods to sandbags and complete gun cradles.[8]


Athletes fires from the prone position at a Biathlon competition


An athlete fires from the sitting position at a Field Target (FT) shooting event


Sagen Maddalena kneeling in the 50m rifle 3-position rifle event at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games

Standing (or offhand)

Rice paddy squat in rifle shooting

Main article: Squatting position

The rice paddy squat (or rice paddy prone) position is a moderate-stability position that supports both elbows, making it more stable than kneeling yet keeping a high level of mobility. Its higher center of gravity will still be less stable than sitting or prone. It was a traditionally taught marksmanship position but lost popularity after the Korean conflict.[12]

Back (or supine)

It was sometimes referred to as the Creedmoor position. There are a number of variations of the position. It was known in the latter half of the 18th century, and later revived by a small number of shooters in the 1860s with the introduction of competitive long range shooting at the NRA[which?] rifle meetings and continued in use into the 20th century amongst match riflemen. The position was really developed during the 1870s as a consequence of great interest in long range shooting associated with the international matches. Back position provided the most stable platform for the rifle in those competitions where no artificial support, including slings, was permitted. It was even superior to shooting prone unsupported.[13]

Lying on one's side

Lying on one's side is not a normally chosen position, but may be a position fallen into when reacting to a threat. In this scenario, it may be used behind a barricade to present a very small target since normally only the gun hand and a piece of one's face is exposed, with the rest covered by the barricade.[14]


When a shooter is leaning on something like a wall, a tree or post. The rifle barrel should not be rested against it because it is steadier to lean the body.[15] It's usually combined with standing and kneeling positions.


Shooting sling
A sling is visible around the athlete's left wrist, allowing the arm to relax and let the sling carry the rifle's weight

The sling is used to create isometric pressure to increase steadiness. While the use of a sling is of questionable value when shooting from the standing position, it is very much worth using from kneeling, sitting or prone. It was also used in back position in which case the sling is looped around the foot and it is this that takes the recoil.[13] Proper use of the sling locks the rifle into the body and enhances that solid foundation so critical to delivering an accurate shot.

Hasty sling

A type of shooting sling. All positions are strengthened through the use of a hasty sling. The formal tight sling is detached from the rear sling swivel and tightened above the bicep of the supporting arm. Almost any carrying strap can be used in the hasty sling mode. There is often a compromise between the most comfortable "carry" length for shooter's sling and the ideal tension for a hasty sling. The steadiness achieved is almost as good as a tight competition sling and it is a lot faster.[8][11]


In ISSF shooting events, 3 out of 7 shooting positions are used. Positions not used are supine, sitting, rice paddy squat and side position.

WBSF governs benchrest shooting.

IPSC shooting events use prone, offhand and supported shooting positions.

There are some competitions, such as felthurtigskyting, in which shooting position is freestyle. That means that the shooter decides which one of the four positions they'll use.

See also


  1. ^ Minshall, David (2005). "Wimbledon & the Volunteers". Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b "The ISSF History". ISSF. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Constitution of the International Practical Shooting Confederation" (PDF). IPSC. January 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Shooting". Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  5. ^ "The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (CPSA)". Clay Pigeon Shooting Association. Archived from the original on 10 September 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  6. ^ "Shooter". Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  7. ^ Casciani, Dominic (2 November 2010). "Gun control and ownership laws in the UK". BBC News. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Boddington, Craig (October 30, 2015). "Basic Shooting Positions Every Hunter Should Master". Petersen's Hunting.
  9. ^ a b Le Neve Foster, P.; MacGregor, John; Scott, Wentworth L.; Rule, Barrow (1861). "Journal of the Society for Arts, Vol. 9, no. 443". The Journal of the Society of Arts. 9 (443): 473–490. JSTOR 41334509.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Krieger, Aaron (October 2, 2012). "Four Basic Shooting Positions". Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  11. ^ a b Wilson, Jim (2016-03-24). "Getting the Most Out of Field Shooting Positions". Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  12. ^ "How to Shoot a Rifle in the Squatting Position". July 14, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Minshall, David. "The Back Position". Research Press.
  14. ^ C, Adam (November 7, 2013). "4 Unconventional Shooting Positions You Must Practice". Off The Grid News.
  15. ^ "Firing positions | Best Practice Guidance".