Shooting sports
From the final shoot-off at the men's skeet competition during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Highest governing bodySeveral organizations, see list
First playedSwitzerland in the second half of the 15th century[citation needed]
Team membersYes or no, depending on competition
Mixed-sexYes or no, depending on discipline
TypeIndoor or outdoor
VenueShooting range
World ChampionshipsYes

Shooting sports is a group of competitive and recreational sporting activities involving proficiency tests of accuracy, precision and speed in shooting — the art of using ranged weapons, mainly small arms (firearms and airguns, in forms such as handguns,[1] rifles[2] and shotguns[3]) and bows/crossbows.[4][5]

Shooting sports can be categorized by equipment, shooting distances, targets, time limits and degrees of athleticism involved. Shooting sports may involve both team and individual competition, and team performance is usually assessed by summing the scores of the individual team members. Due to the noise[6] of shooting and the high (and often lethal) impact energy of the projectiles, shooting sports are typically conducted at either designated permanent shooting ranges[7] or temporary shooting fields in the area away from settlements.


Great Britain

The National Rifle Association (NRA) was founded in 1859 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".[8]

United States

Target shooting was a favorite sport in colonial America, with the New England Puritans regularly testing their shooting skills for recreation and at militia training days. The Scotch Irish settlers on the frontier favored shooting matches sponsored by Tavern keepers. Turkey shoots were popular after harvest time. Contestants would pay an entry fee, and everyone who killed a tethered turkey at 110 yards for muskets or 165 yards for rifles could keep the bird. German gunsmiths in Pennsylvania began to manufacture Flintlock rifles in the 1720s, which became especially popular among hunters because of its long-range accuracy. It could be accurate to 200 yards. Along about 1820, percussion caps, and the locks that ignited them, became available, and nearly all new firearms began to be constructed using this ignition system. Many flintlock firearms were also subsequently converted to the percussion system, which was a relatively simple procedure that could be accomplished by local gunsmiths. Although percussion ignition did not add to the accuracy of the firearm, the time between when the firearm firing mechanism (or "lock") started the sequence that lead to the ignition of the propellant in the barrel, was shortened drastically. This made getting smaller shot groups on the target more attainable as the possibility of the firearm moving off the aiming point after the shooter pressed the trigger was lessened. This shortened ignition time, which is referred to as "lock time" was (and still is) a very important factor in target shooting. The closed design of the percussion system materially improved reliability of the firearm, especially in rainy or damp conditions.[relevant?] The faster "lock time" also made hitting fast-moving aerial targets with a cloud of tiny lead pellets ("shot") fired from a smooth-bore firearm a real possibility. Practicing for game hunting by shooting at artificial aerial targets launched from spring-powered launching devices ("traps") became highly popular and led to the development of the modern Trap, Skeet, and Sporting Clays shooting sports.

In 1831 a sportsman club in Cincinnati Ohio held a competitive shoot at pigeons and quail released from ground traps. German ethnic communities set up athletic clubs and shooting clubs, especially in the Midwestern states In the 1850–1917. period[9] Breach loading shotguns introduced in the 1860s, and the knowledge of rifles by Civil War soldiers, made trap shooting popular. However, there was human humanitarian opposition to killing live birds—and the passenger pigeon was dying out—so glass or clay targets were used instead.[10][11]

Concerned over poor marksmanship during the American Civil War, 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.[12] In 1872, with financial help from New York state, a site on Long Island, the Creed Farm, was purchased for the purpose of building a rifle range. Named Creedmoor, the range opened in 1872, and became the site of the first National Matches until New York politics forced the NRAoA to move the matches to Sea Girt, New Jersey. The popularity of the National Matches soon forced the event to be moved to its present, much larger location: 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, with a nearly identical charter to the NRAoA. The NBPRP (now known as the Civilian Marksmanship Program) also participates in the National Matches at Camp Perry.[13][14][15]

Girls' rifle team at Central High, Washington, DC, November 1922

In 1903, the NRA of America began to establish rifle clubs at all major colleges, universities, and military academies. By 1906, youth programs were in full swing with more than 200 boys competing in the National Matches. Today, more than one million youth participate in shooting sports events and affiliated programs through groups such as 4-H, the Boy Scouts of America, the American Legion, U.S. Jaycees, NCAA, The USA High School Clay Target League, the Scholastic Clay Target Program, National Guard Bureau, ROTC, and JROTC.


French pistol champion and founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, participated in many of these early competitions. This fact certainly contributed to the inclusion of five shooting events in the 1896 Olympics. Over the years, the events have been changed a number of times in order to keep up with technology and social standards. The 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. At the same time, some events have been dropped and new ones have been added. The 2004 Olympics featured three shooting disciplines (rifle, pistol, and shotgun) where athletes competed for 51 medals in 10 men's and 7 women's events—slightly fewer than the previous Olympic schedule.[16]

In the Olympic Games, the shooting sport has always enjoyed the distinction of awarding the first medals of the Games. 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.

Competition disciplines

Shooting at the Summer Olympics (at last edition Tokyo 2020) includes fifteen medal events, covering seven disciplines. Medal events are evenly distributed between rifle, pistol and shotgun with five events each. Three Mixed Pairs events were introduced to ensure gender equity between men's and women's events. They replaced 50M Prone Rifle, 50M Free Pistol and Double Trap which were all men-only events.[17]


Gun shooting sports

High-speed photography of the smoke of burnt gunpowder and a .38 Special bullet fired out of a Smith & Wesson Model 686 revolver.

Gun shooting sports are shot with either firearms or air guns, which can be handguns, rifles or shotguns.

Handguns are handheld small arms designed to be shot off-hand without needing a shoulder stock. The two main subtypes of handguns are pistols and revolvers. They are much more convenient to carry in general, but usually have a shorter effective range and less accuracy compared to long guns such as rifles. In shooting sports, revolvers and semi-automatic pistols are the most commonly used.

A rifle is a long gun with a rifled barrel, and requires the use of both hands to hold and brace against the shoulder via a stock in order to shoot steadily. They generally have a longer range and greater accuracy than handguns, and are popular for hunting. In shooting sports, bolt-action or semi-automatic rifles are the most commonly used.

A shotgun is similar to a rifle but often smoothbore and larger in caliber, and typically fires either a shell containing many smaller scattering sub-projectiles called shots, or a single large projectile called a slug. In shooting sports, shotguns are more often over/under-type break action or semi-automatic shotguns, and the majority of shotgun events are included in clay pigeon shooting.

Bullseye shooting

A round shooting target with several hits in the center, which is called "bullseye".

Bullseye shooting is a category of pistol and rifle shooting disciplines where the objective is to achieve as many points as possible by hitting a round shooting target as close to the middle as possible with slow precision fire. These disciplines place a large emphasis on precision and accuracy through sight picture, breath and trigger control.[citation needed] Fixed and relatively long time limits give the competitors time to concentrate for a perfect shot. An example of bullseye shooting is the ISSF pistol and rifle disciplines, but there are also many other national and international disciplines which can be classified as bullseye shooting. The shooting distances are typically given in round numbers, such as 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 or 300 meters depending on firearm type and discipline. Competitions are usually shot from permanent shooting ranges and with the same target arrangement and distance from match to match. Usually the competitors each have their own shooting target and shoot beside each other simultaneously. Because of the relatively simple match format, beginners are often recommended bullseye shooting in order to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship.[citation needed] Bullseye shooting is part of the Summer Olympic Games, and a considerable amount of training is needed to become proficient.

Bullseye shooting with handguns

Bullseye shooting with rifles

Field shooting

Field-Shooting or Terrain-Shooting [20][21] refer to a set of pistol and rifle shooting disciplines that usually are shot from temporary shooting ranges in outdoor terrain at varying (and sometimes unknown) distances, rather than at permanent shooting ranges at fixed distances.

Field shooting with handguns

Field shooting with rifles

Rapid fire

Rapid fire with handguns

Rapid fire with rifles

Clay target

Main article: Shotgun (shooting sports)

Clay pigeon shooting are shotgun disciplines shot at flying clay pigeon targets.

Running target

Running target shooting refers to a number of disciplines involving a shooting target—sometimes called a boar, moose, or deer—that is made to move as if it is a running animal. Events of this type include:

Moving target

Shooting at the 1908 Summer Olympics – Men's moving target small-bore rifle

Disappearing target

Shooting at the 1908 Summer Olympics – Men's disappearing target small-bore rifle

Practical shooting

Practical shooting, also known as action shooting or dynamic shooting, is a generic term applicable to shooting sports where speed is of equal importance as precision. Many of the disciplines involve movement, and when using handguns they are often drawn from a holster.

Long range

Long range shooting is shooting held at such distances that sight adjustment based from judging atmospherical conditions become critical.


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. Depending on equipment class, international benchrest competitions are governed by either the World Benchrest Shooting Federation or World Rimfire and Air Rifle Benchrest Federation.

Metallic silhouette

Metallic silhouette competitors shoot at animal-shaped steel silhouettes (chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams) that must be knocked down to score. Banks of 5 targets are placed at up to 500 meters, with distance and size of target determined by firearm class. Classes include Handguns, Small Bore Rifle (Hunter, Silhouette), High Power Rifle (Hunter, Silhouette), air rifle and black powder rifle. Handguns used in the Unlimited Categories are rifle-like in appearance; Thompson Contender, Remington XP-100, and other pistols are chambered in rifle calibers with the power, aerodynamic efficiency, and external ballistics required for precise shooting at 200 meters. There are silhouette categories appropriate for virtually all types of adjustable sight pistols and rifles, only excluding high-velocity armor-piercing rounds that would damage targets. Targets for open sighted guns are placed between 25 and 200 meters, and are designed to provide a usable size of the hit zone of about 1.5 milliradians (or 5 minutes of arc).



Muzzleloading are concerned with shooting replica (or antique) guns.

Para shooting

Paralympic shooting, also known as "shooting Para sport", is an adaptation of shooting sports for competitors with disabilities. Paralympic shooting first appeared in the Summer Paralympics at the 1976 Toronto Games. Para shooting is internationally governed by the International Paralympic Committee. To help establish fair competition, a shooting classification called Para-shooting classification is in place for the Paralympic Games.[34]

The events mirror to some extent the shooting events at the Olympic Games. Air Pistol is typically shot from a seated position with the pistol unsupported. The amount of back-support permitted is determined by the athlete's level of disability. The Air Rifle events include Rifle "Standing", which is shot seated like Air Pistol, with variable levels of back support. "Prone" Rifle uses the basic prone shooting position utilising a sling for the supporting arm, but is shot rested on a table with the athlete seated either in a chair or wheelchair.

Competitions using factory and service firearms

Shooting competitions for factory and service firearms, usually called Service Rifle, Service Pistol, Production, Factory or Stock, describe a set of disciplines or equipment classes where the types of permitted firearms are subject to type approval and few aftermarket modifications are permitted. Thus the terms refer to permitted equipment and modifications rather than the type of shooting format itself. The names Service Rifle and Service Pistol stem from that the equipment permitted for these types of competitions traditionally were based on standard issue firearms used by one or several armed forces and civilian versions of these, while the terms Production, Factory and Stock often are applied to more modern disciplines with similar restrictions on equipment classes. Factory and service classes are often restrictive in nature, and the types of firearms permitted are usually rugged, versatile and affordable. In comparison, more expensive custom competition equipment are popular in more permissive equipment classes. Both types of equipment classes can be found within many disciplines, such as bullseye, field, practical and long range shooting.


Plinking refers to informal target shooting done for pleasure or practice typically at non-standard targets such as tin cans, logs, cartons, fruits, or any other homemade or naturally occurring objects like rocks (however, it is unsafe to shoot at rocks) or tree branches. The primary appeals of plinking as a sport are the broad variety of easily available locations, minimal costs, freedom in practice styles, and more relaxing and less restrictive shooting experience.

The flexibility of target choice is also why plinking is popular. A small, three-dimensional target in an outdoors setting is much more akin to a real-world hunting and varminting scenario, presenting a better simulated opportunity to practice shooting skills. A plinking target will also often react much more positively to a hit than a paper target used in formal competitions, either audibly with a sharp impact sound (hence the name "plink") or visually by bouncing, splattering or falling over. Steel targets used for formal action and long range shooting competitions are also popular for plinking due to the ease of setting up and confirming good hits.

Athletic shooting sports

Athletic shooting sports are hybrid events of normally stationary shooting sport competitions and the sport of athletics or other physically demanding non-shooting sports. Many were borne from military exercises and emphasize physical endurance.

Bow shooting sports


Modern competitive archery involves shooting arrows at a target for accuracy from a set distance or distances. A person who participates in archery is typically called an archer or a bowman, and a person who is fond of or an expert at archery is sometimes called a toxophilite. The most popular competitions worldwide are called target archery. Another form, particularly popular in Europe and America, is field archery, which generally is shot at targets set at various distances in a wooded setting. 3D archery, which differs from field archery in that the targets are animal models, is also quite popular in the same regions. There are also several other lesser-known and historical forms, as well as archery novelty games. The tournament rules vary from organization to organization. World Archery Federation rules are often considered normative, but large non-WA-affiliated archery organizations do exist with different rules. Competitive archery in the United States is governed by USA Archery and National Field Archery Association (NFAA), which also certifies instructors. Run archery is a shooting discipline connecting archery with running.


Main article: Match crossbow

The International Crossbow Shooting Union (Internationale Armbrustschützen Union or IAU) was founded in Landshut, Germany on June 24, 1956, as the world governing body for crossbow target shooting. The IAU supervises World, Continental and International crossbow shooting championships in 3 disciplines; 30 m Match-crossbow, 10 m Match-crossbow and Field-crossbow shooting. IAU World Championships take place every two years with Continental Championships on intervening years. Other International and IAU-Cup events take place annually.[13] World Crossbow Shooting Association (WCSA) organises competitions in 7 disciplines: Target, Target match play, Forest, Forest match play, 3D, Bench & prone target and Indoor target.[39]

Dart shooting sports

Sport blowgun

There are several competition styles of sport blowgun practised around the world. A standardization of competition style is based upon fukiya, and governed by the International Fukiyado Association. It is a 10-metre target shooting, using a standardized barrel caliber and length, and a standardized dart length and weight as outlined by IFA. There are two more styles, both based upon the Cherokee Annual Gathering Blowgun Competition. The Field Style competition is similar to the winter Biathlon, where the shooter runs from a starting line to a target lane, shoots and retrieves the darts, and continues to the next station. The course length varies from 400 to 800 m with from 9 to 16 targets at various heights and shooting distances. The final style is the Long Distance target shoot. The target is a circle of 24 cm diameter, and the firing line is 20 m away. Three darts are fired by each shooter, at least one of which must stick in the target. All successful shooters move to the next round, moving back 2 m each time.

Confrontational shooting sports

Confrontational shooting sports is a set of relatively new team sports using non-lethal ranged weapons that are safe enough to shoot at other people. Previously such games were not possible due to safety concerns since bows and guns are generally too lethal and dangerous for human targets, but the development of newer airgun and infrared technologies allowed for the development of safe confrontational disciplines. While initially only for sport and recreations, professional sport competitions are now held. These type of games are also used for tactical gunfight training by military and law enforcement agencies to some extent.[40]

Olympic dueling

Olympic dueling is an archaic individual sport that sought to safely emulate the deadly practice of pistol duelling, akin to fencing emulating sword fighting. It involved the use of specially built primer-fired pistols to propel wax bullets.[41] Two versions of the sport were demonstration events at the 1906 Olympics and 1908 Olympics. It was also a popular sport in France.[42]


Paintball is a competitive sport in which players from opposing teams eliminate opponents out of play by hitting them with round, breakable, dye-filled oil and gelatin pellets ("paintballs"), shot from HPA/CO2-powered air guns called paintball markers. It can be played on indoor or outdoor fields scattered with natural or artificial terrain, which players use for tactical cover. Paintball game types vary, but can include capture the flag, elimination, ammunition limits, defending or attacking a particular point or area, or capturing objects of interest hidden in the playing area. Depending on the variant played, games can last from seconds to hours, or even days in scenario play. The game was developed in the 1980s and is now regularly played at a formal sporting level with organized competition involving major tournaments, professional teams and players.


Airsoft is a competitive sport similar in concept to paintball, in which participants from opposing teams eliminate opponents by hitting each other with solid round plastic pellets launched from low-powered smoothbore air guns called airsoft guns. It is different from paintball in that airsoft pellets do not visibly mark the targets like paintballs, and thus the sport relies heavily on an honor system where a hit player has the ethical duty to call himself out of play, regardless of whether anyone else sees it happen. Most airsoft guns are also magazine-fed (unlike the commonly top-mounting pellet loader of paintball markers) with mounting platforms compatible with real firearm accessories, and tend to more closely resemble real guns in appearance, making them more popular for military simulation and historical reenactments. The greater toughness of airsoft pellets also allows the use of better powerplants and apparatus such as hop-up device for improved external ballistics, making the gameplay more accurately resemble real gunfights. They are also much cheaper for casual players to participate than paintball.

Airsoft gameplay varies in style and composition just like paintball and is played in both indoor and outdoor courses. Situations on the field frequently involve the use of real-life military tactics to achieve objectives, and it is not uncommon for participants to emulate the uniforms and equipment of real military and police organizations for a sense of realism. Games are normally supervised (and sometimes umpired) by trained on-site administrators, and players' airsoft guns are usually checked through a chronograph to enforce power output restrictions.

There are currently no formal national or international governing bodies for the airsoft sport. Competitive tournaments are usually organized by private clubs or among enthusiasts and professional/semi-professional teams (often referred to as "clans"), with rules and restrictions varying from event to event.

Laser tag

Laser tag (despite the name, laser is actually not used due to safety concerns) is a tag game played with infrared light guns and sensors worn on the body of the players. Since its birth in 1979, laser tag has evolved in both indoor and outdoor games, each with gameplay styles such as annihilation, capture the flag, domination, VIP protection, (usually sci-fi) role playing, etc. When compared to paintball and airsoft, laser tag is painless and very safe because it involves no projectile impacts, and indoor games may be considered less physically demanding because most indoor venues prohibit running or roughhousing.

More sophisticated forms of laser tag, such as MILES, are used (in conjunction with blanks) by militaries to allow for non-lethal combat training.

Archery Tag

Archery Tag is a form of combat archery sport where participants shoot one another using a bow with arrows with large foam tips. The game's rules closely resemble dodgeball. The game begins with a number of arrows in the center of the arena. At the whistle, players race to collect them, before firing them at one another across the playing field. A player is eliminated if struck by an arrow, and a player can bring an eliminated teammate back into play by catching an arrow. To avoid injury, participants wear protective facemasks and use bows with less than 30 pounds (14 kg) draw weight. It was invented in 2011 by John Jackson of Ashley, Indiana, and experienced a boost in popularity from the Hunger Games books and film series, which feature a bow-wielding protagonist Katniss Everdeen. Jackson staged Archery Tag games at local premieres of the films. By 2014, Jackson had licensed the game to 170 locations, mostly in the United States, but also in Russia, Peru and Saudi Arabia.

Battle gaming variants of Archery Tag also exist, such as Dagorhir, Amtgard, Belegarth and Darkon, where archers are pitted among melee players welding foam weapons to simulate medieval battles.


Esports is the competitive playing of video games, often referring to play at the professional level. While the term esports includes many types of video games unrelated to shooting sports, a major subset of esports are the shooters, namely first-person shooters and third-person shooters. Matches of these games can take a variety of forms but traditionally take formats similar to paintball, involving teams of players whose objective is to eliminate the opposing team in simulated combat, often while also focusing other key objectives. Major games of these styles currently in professional play include (among others) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Team Fortress 2, and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Organized play is done both online or in-person. While there has been serious interest to include esports in the Olympics and similar events, the inclusion of shooters has been less welcomed due to their often violent visual content.

See also


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  3. ^ "Shotgun Sports • NSSF | National Shooting Sports Foundation".
  4. ^ "Archery 101 by Archery 360". February 22, 2023.
  5. ^ "Archery | World Archery". August 16, 2023.
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  10. ^ "Pottery Pigeons" Timeline (March/April 1994) 11#2 pp. 22-27 identifies George Ligowsky of Cincinnati as an inventor of clay pigeons.
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  18. ^ "NRA Law Enforcement Division: Police Pistol Combat Competition". National Rifle Association of America. 2015.
  19. ^ Scott McDonald (April 15, 2016). "Your Comprehensive Guide To The 15 Olympic Shooting Events". Team USA. Archived from the original on April 19, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2022.
  20. ^ "Danish: Aalborg Skyttekreds af 1862 - Terrænskydning".
  21. ^ "Norwegian: feltskyting – Store norske leksikon". November 17, 2016.
  22. ^ "Swedish: Svenska Pistolskytteförbundet-Om pistolskytte-Fältskjutning". June 2017.
  23. ^ "Norwegian: Litt om feltskyting – Haugesund Pistolklubb (English: A little about field shooting - Haugesund Pistol Club)".
  24. ^ "Swedish: Fältskytte gevär förklarat | Sandvikens Skyttegille".
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  26. ^ """".
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  29. ^ "Palma USA". Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  30. ^ "PALMA TEAM TROPHY" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 26, 2014.
  31. ^ "Participating Clubs/Matches". National Rifle League.
  32. ^ "Clubs". NRL 22.
  33. ^ Taffin, John (September 28, 2005). Single Action Sixguns. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. pp. 299–300. ISBN 978-1-4402-2694-6.
  34. ^ "Shooting Para Sport Classification Rules and Regulations". International Paralympic Committee. Archived from the original on February 7, 2022. Retrieved November 21, 2022.
  35. ^ "Biathlon goes for spin in Bike-n-Shoot event – The Denver Post". April 23, 2007.
  36. ^ "Velo Biathlon Combines Cycling and Rifles | Complex". Complex Networks.
  37. ^ "UIPM Laser Run". Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM). July 15, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  38. ^ "Orienteringsskyting – enda en orienteringsgren? – Knut Edvard Helland".
  39. ^ stephen sommers (January 3, 2014). "World Crossbow Shooting Association Inc". Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  40. ^ "Police and US Military Using Airsoft Guns for Training Missions". Police1. December 12, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
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Further reading