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Gun shooting has been a sport in Europe long before it became a sport in other world places. Currently, gun shooting is part of the shooting sports available in the Olympics, with 15 events for men, women, and mixed teams.

Overall, shooting is considered a sport because athletes need to master speed and accuracy using various guns. There are indoor and outdoor competitions that test the skills of athletes in different environments. This article explores all you need to know about gun shooting sports and other sports under the shooting category.

Shooting is the discipline of aiming and firing at a specific target using firearms or other equipment like bows and darts. Gun shooting sports have three disciplines that measure the skill of using a rifle, pistol, and shotgun. There are 15 events measuring an athlete's prowess under different targets, circumstances, and equipment.

The first governing body for the shooting was The National Rifle Association of United Kingdom (NRA) in 1860, and it regulated poaching among gun owners. In the United States, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was founded in 1871 by General Gorge Wingate and Colonel William C. Church.

The U.S. Congress created the National Board for Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP) in 1903 to be an advisory body and coordinate National Matches. The board was later renamed as Civilian Marksmanship Program. The NRA is the official governing body in the United States, and it is responsible for participation in the Olympic Games.

Overall, shooting sports are regulated by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), coordinating with national federations to ensure countries participate in international games. Also, the body enforces the international shooting sports standards to ensure that athletes meet them.

History of Shooting

Target shooting was a sport for the British elites back in the 1800s, and they had a rifle association in 1860 to monitor game poaching. It grew as the rifle association would encourage Volunteer Rifle Corps to join target shooting, which leads to an increase in the adoption of rifle-shooting across Great Britain.

New England Puritans and Scotch Irish settlers in the U.S. are responsible for spreading target shooting and training to America in the 1800s. Most individuals then used muskets and rifles for target shooting, with the target being a tethered turkey. Contests included shooting a tethered turkey, and individuals had to pay an entry fee to participate.

In the 1720s, a Pennsylvania factory began producing rifles that could shoot with accuracy up to 200 yards. By 1820, rifles had percussion caps to ignite the gun powder, but the system didn't increase their precision. The first sportsmanship competition was held in the U.S. in 1831 by a Cincinnati club, and it involved shooting quail and pigeons.

In 1860, loading guns were available in the U.S., and trap shooting was a popular pastime. In 1871, the NRA was founded, and the shooting range was established at Long Island, the Creed Farm, in 1872. In 1903, NRA established rifle clubs in major military academies, universities, and colleges. By 1906, the USA has a healthy number of youth programs with more than 200 boys participating in National Matches' shooting competitions.

1896 is the year shooting was part of the Olympic Games, with only five events. Since then, the number of shooting sports events has varied depending on technology and social climates. In the 2004 Olympic Games, there were three shooting disciplines and 17 events.

Competition Disciplines

The last Olympic Games in Rio, 2016, had nine shooting disciplines. Six of them were in bullseye completion, and three were for skeet and trap competitions. The next Olympics Games in Tokyo will have six shooting disciplines. Gun shooting competitions have three disciplines, namely rifle, pistol, and shotgun disciplines. Here is a breakdown of the events for the three gun shooting disciplines.


  • 50m rifle three positions- both men and women

  • 50m rifle prone — men

  • 10m air rifle — both men and women


  • 50m pistol — men

  • 25m rapid fire pistol — men

  • 25m pistol — women

  • 10m air pistol — both men and women.


  • Trap — both men and women

  • Double trap — men

  • Skeet — both men and women

Pistol Shooting Sports

A pistol is a small handheld firearm, and you can shoot one off-hand. Most of the guns people carry using a canceled gun license are pistols. They have a short shooting range, and they are not precise like rifles.

Pistols are categorized as pistols or revolvers, depending on the loading mechanisms of the equipment. In general, pistols are what people call guns nowadays. Pistol shooting sports include shooting with semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. The competitions are open to both men and women in different shooting ranges.

Shotgun Shooting Sports

A shotgun is a long gun with a barrel, but it uses bigger caliber bullets than a rifle. A shotgun uses a slug, which is a big caliber projectile. Alternatively, a shotgun can be loaded with shots, a shell containing sub-projectiles that scatter when the gun is shot.

Short gun sports involve shooting a target with either semi-automatic shotguns or break-action shotguns. It takes a lot of practice for athletes to handle the recoil that comes from shooting a shotgun. Shotguns offer accuracy but not much precision like rifles do.

Rifle Shooting Sports

Rifle sports measure the precision and accuracy of shooters up to 50m in the Olympic Games. The long barrel guns require the user to use both guns to stabilize them while shooting. A shoulder stock helps the shooter to stabilize the rifle when shooting from an upright position. Rifle shooting competitions measure marksmanship using bolt action or semi-automatic rifles.

General and Other Shooting Sports

Other shooting sports are not part of the Olympic Games but thrive and hold competitions internationally. They include long-range shooting, bench rest shooting, metallic silhouette, Paralympic shooting, and many more. There are Airsoft shooting sports use Airguns instead of regular guns. Airsoft shooting sport is available in countries where owning a gun is illegal, like in Japan and Taiwan.

International Competitions

There are several international shooting competitions, including the Olympic Games shooting competitions. Most of the international competitions happen annually, unlike the Olympic Games that happen every four years. International games give shooters a way to measure their skill against other skilled athletes.

The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) is renowned for holding 3-Gun matches that require the competitor to use a shotgun, rifle, and pistol in different stages to hit targets. You can find upcoming matches on their website and register to join the competitions.

The Steel Challenge is a championship competition that measures the speed shooting skills of contestants. It is organized by the Steel Challenge Shooting Association (SCSA), and it involves shooting steel targets.

Paralympic Games are international shooting sports for individuals with disabilities. The International Paralympic Committee organizes the competitions, and competitions are listed on their website.

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