What is Olympic Shooting?


Expertise marksmanship has existed for thousands of years with people originally doing archery to show their skill. However, with the advent of guns, shooting has become a popular sport that demonstrates expert marksmanship. Shooting as a sport involves firing at various types of targets with rifles, handguns (pistols and revolvers), and shotguns to show an expertise in marksmanship. Shooting is an Olympic sport with the main events being a part of the Summer Olympics, and also is a part of the Winter Olympic Biathlon in which athletes ski and shoot.


Shooting History

Marksmanship began with archery long before guns were invented around 1300, and firearms at first were only used in warfare and hunting. While there isn’t an exact date that target shooting began it is known that the early history involved shooting with rifles. The earliest recorded shooting match was held in Eichstäat, Bavaria, in 1477. The contestants used matchlock rifles and competed at 200 meters. After this, target shooting quickly became more popular and by the 16th century target shooting became popular in a lot of Europe and especially Germany. Shooting continued to evolve as a sport in the American Frontier, Great Britain, and Russia, with National Rifle Associations formed in both the United States and Great Britain. Shooting has been a part of the Olympics since they began in 1896, and the first world championship was held in 1897, with future ones being held by the International Shooting Sport Federation.


Shooting Equipment

The guns in Olympic shooting are different in each event even if the same type of gun is being used. For rifle events (3-position and prone) a small bore rifle is used that is 5.6 millimeter caliber, and for the 10m air rifle event the rifle shoots a pellet with compressed air. For the pistol events (50m pistol, Men’s 25m rapid fire, Women’s 25m pistol) the 50m pistol is .22inch caliber with no restrictions on its length, width or weight.

The rapid fire and women’s pistol event has limitations on its weight, length, and width along with specifications for the trigger and grip of the pistols. Additionally, there is also an air pistol event which has limitations on its length, width, weight and is .177 caliber.

After this there is the shotgun category (trap, double trap, and skeet). For the trap event, the shotguns are double barreled, weigh nine pounds, and have a barrel length of 32 inches. Double trap shotguns are similar to trap shotguns, but there is more pellet spread. Skeet shotguns are different as they have a shorter barrel length, weigh about six and a half pounds, and shoot a more open pattern of pellets. 

In addition to the specific types of guns that are used there is other equipment that is also typically used by shooters. Sights are one common type of equipment, but in the olympics only metallic sights can be used on rifles (nothing with a lens), and for pistols only open sights can be used. 

Also used is ear/eye protection which includes a specific type of glasses to protect your eyes while shooting, and ear muffs to protect your ears from the noise the gun makes. Side blinders are also used by shooters which go along the side of your glasses taking away your peripheral vision. Finally there is also special shooting clothing including a shooting jacket, pants, and gloves. These items reduce the stress from firing a gun multiple times and are tested for thickness and stiffness.


Shooting events typically have two rounds, the qualification round in which every athlete participates, and the final round which the top shooters in the qualifying round advance to and compete for the medals. In each discipline the shooting process is different with competitors firing from different positions, firing from different distances, firing at different types of targets, firing a certain amount of shots, and firing at a certain number of targets. Which is why many competitors specialize in one type of gun or event instead of all of them as they are so different.

Rules and Regulations

Shooting Rules and Regulations

The basic rules of shooting are that the athlete hits a target (either still or moving) with as much accuracy as possible, and the athlete that is the most accurate or hits the most targets within the amount of shots allowed wins the round. Much of the regulations for shooting involve making sure the targets are of regulation size and distance and making sure that guns are of proper specification (length, width, weight). 

Besides this, range commands issued by the range official are another important rule as they instruct the athlete to load, start, stop, and unload their gun. If an athlete ignores these commands and does any of the actions before the range command is issued then they may be disqualified.

Officials and Electronic Scoring Systems

Shooting Officials

In shooting events there are three range officials: the Chief Range official and two assistant officials. They are responsible for safety by giving the range commands to the athletes. Range officials also give warnings (yellow card) if athletes aren’t following the rules for foot positioning, taking too long to shoot, or improper gun position. 

Judges are the other type of official and they have responsibilities including an equipment check, a cartridge control check, making sure targets are up to specifications, and setting the order of the shooters. However, the actual scoring of most of the events involves using the electronic scoring systems that are used in the Olympics. These systems give precise information on where the bullet struck the target allowing for the most accurate scoring. 

Lingo and Terminology

Shooting Lingo and Terminology

There are lots of different terms to use when talking about guns, especially regarding the type of gun or bullet being used.

  • Caliber: Size of the bullet being used, which is determined by the diameter of the gun barrel (.22, .44)
  • Ears on: Competitors should put their ear protection on when they hear this command.
  • Bull/Bullseye: When you hit the center of a target; a perfect 10 score.
  • Count Back: The system used to break a tie between two competitors with the same score, by determining who had the most 10s (bullseye).
  • Are you ready?: Is the term that is used by officials right before they start the timing in timed fire events.
  • Accidental discharge (AD): Is the term used to describe any firing of the gun that isn’t deliberate by the shooter.
  • Lock and Load: A range command used by officials telling the athlete to close the breach, and chamber (put in) a cartridge prior to shooting.


There are coaches and training courses at shooting ranges that are used to help people improve their skill and technique. Additionally, many countries have shooting academies to help prepare and train olympic shooters for the Olympics. An example of this is the USA Shooting Coach Academy located in Colorado Springs, Colorado that has helped dozens of American shooters in the decades since its founding. Moreover, there are also many online courses and programs that can help you improve your shooting.  

Skills and Techniques

List Of Shooting Skills

There are firing fundamentals that are good to use when trying to be as accurate as possible while shooting.

First, you want to try to perfect your aiming by keeping both eyes open to reduce eye strain and keep your aiming period as brief as possible. Another important skill is to maintain control of your breathing as your breathing can move the firearm enough to throw off your shot. Before you shoot you want to take a deep breath and then release half of it, then hold your breath as you pull the trigger to avoid the shot being changed.

When squeezing the trigger you want to avoid abruptly hitting it as that can be enough movement to throw off your shot also. To avoid this, grasp the wrist of the stock firmly, then position your fingertip comfortably on the trigger, then slowly squeeze the trigger until the gun fires. Finally making sure to follow through by continuing to squeeze the trigger and not making any jerking movements with the gun.


There are many drills that can be used to perfect your shooting, including some basic ones that can be done at shooting ranges to help improve your skill. One drill that you can do is the “checklist” drill which involves going through a checklist of fundamentals as you shoot. This includes maintaining proper grip, proper front sight focus, pulling the trigger straight without moving the gun, and reacquiring your front sight after every shot is fired. Another drill is the Switch Hitting drill designed by Todd Green which trains you to fire a pistol with one hand. 

Overall, there are many different types of drills that can be used based upon the type of gun and what skills you are trying to focus on as a shooter.

Olympic Shooting

Olympic Shooting

Olympic shooting is the biggest event for shooting competitions and has many different events and types of guns that are used. Shooting in the Olympics has existed since the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 and only hasn’t been an event in the 1904 and 1928 gamesOlympic shooting events have changed a lot since it first appeared in 1896 with it having only two events in 1932 and 15 today with many different events being added and subtracted during this time.

In the Olympics today there are 15 total events, 9 events for men and 6 events for women. These events involve the use of rifles, pistols, air rifles, air pistols, and shotguns. Additionally, for a long time shooting was an open event at the Olympics with both men and women competing with each other, but today the events are separated by gender. There also aren’t any team competitions like those that exist in the ISSF world championships where men and women compete on the same team.

Shooting is an important part of the Olympics with a rich history that is sure to only continue in the future.

Olympic Shooting Events

olympic shooting events
Rifle50m Rifle 3 Positions50m Rifle Prone10m Air Rifle50m Rifle 3 Positions10m Air Rifle
Pistol25m Rapid Fire Pistol10m Air Pistol50m pistol men25m Pistol10m Air Pistol
ShotgunTrapDouble TrapSkeetTrapSkeet

Olympic Shooting Countries

Just as there have been great shooters throughout the olympics there have also been countries that have done the best in the sport. 

  • USA: Dominated the early 1900s including winning 13 out of 21 gold medals in 1920
  • Russia/USSR: Since WW2 has been consistently winning medals every olympics
  • China: Has gotten a medal in every year since 1984 in shooting

Gun Brands

Guns have existed for centuries and whether for use by hunting or target practice there are many brands that are known worldwide for their products.

  • Smith and Wesson
  • Remington
  • Sturm, Ruger and Co

Youth Organizations

In the US there are a number of youth organizations that young marksmen can join to practice shooting.

Famous Shooters

Throughout the course of the modern olympics there have been many great shooters to have participated and achieved great success.

  • Carl Osburn (USA): Most medals in olympic shooting history with 11
  • Olie Lilloe-Olson (Norway): Tied for the most gold medals ever with 5
  • Kim Rhode (USA): Has the most total medal points of any female and 3 gold medals

Shooting Tournaments

Besides the Olympics there are a few other major shooting tournaments around the world.

  • Olympics: The largest tournament in the world has 15 events and hundreds of participants
  • ISSF World Championship: The second largest tournament in the world, the ISSF has existed for over 100 years
  • NRA World Championship: The NRA has existed for well over a 100 years in the US and Great Britain


What is Shooting?

Shooting is a sport in which the participants try to be as accurate as possible shooting at targets using different types of rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

Is shooting an olympic sport?

Shooting is an olympic sport having 15 total events (9 for men, 6 for women) that include rifles, pistols, air rifles/pistols, and shotguns.

What are the Olympic shooting events?

The shooting events in the olympics are divided by gender and by discipline. In the rifle discipline, there is the 50m rifle 3 positions, 50m rifle prone, and 10m air rifle for men and the 50m rifle 3 positions and 10m air rifle for women.

In pistol, there is the 25 m rapid fire pistol, the 10m air pistol, and the 50m pistol for men and the 25m pistol and 10m air pistol for women.

Lastly, in the shotgun discipline, there is the trap, double trap, and skeet for men and the trap and skeet for women.

What guns do Olympic shooters use?

Olympic shooters use various types of rifles, pistols, and shotguns including air powered pistols and rifles.

How do you qualify for Olympic shooting?

To qualify for Olympic shooting you first have to preliminary tryout sponsored by USA Shooting, then participate in the USA Shooting National Championships (USASNC), and then participate in the world cup and world cup finals.