A shooting sport is a competitive sport involving tests of proficiency (accuracy and speed) using various types of guns, such as firearms and airguns. Shooting sports are categorized by the type of firearm, target, and distance at which the targets are shot.
The National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom (NRA) 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".
For similar reasons, 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. 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 NRA 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 NRA. The NBPRP (now known as the Civilian Marksmanship Program) also participates in the National Matches at Camp Perry.
Girls' rifle team at Central High, Washington, DC. November 1922.
In 1903, the NRA 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.
The Olympic Games continue to provide the shooting sports with its greatest public relations opportunity. The 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.
Having originally established shooting as an organized sport in the USA, the NRA was the obvious choice to administer the United States participation in the Olympic games. The NRA dutifully managed and financially supported international and conventional shooting sports (i.e., National Matches) for over 100 years until the formation of USA Shooting.
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. There are also several other lesser-known and historical forms, as well as archery novelty games. Note that 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.
The International Crossbow Shooting Union (Internationale Armbrustschützen Union-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; 30m Match-crossbow, 10m 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.
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.
- 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 or 50 or 300 metres (33 or 164 or 984 ft).
- The two Running Target ISSF shooting events consist of rapid shooting at a target that moves sideways from distances of 10 and 50 metres (33 and 164 ft).
- Biathlon is an Olympic sport combining shooting and cross-country skiing.
- The CISM Rapid Fire match is a sped-up version of the ISSF 300 m Standard Rifle event.
- Muzzle loading and Cowboy action shooting are 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. Depending on equipment class, international benchrest competitions are governed by either the World Benchrest Shooting Federation or World Rimfire and Air Rifle Benchrest Federation.
- 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.
- Project Appleseed is a rifle marksmanship program by The Revolutionary War Veterans Association that teaches both rifle marksmanship and oral history regarding the American Revolutionary War. It shoots 3-position (standing, sitting, and prone) at 25 meters at reduced scale targets, simulating shooting at 100, 200, 300, and 400 yards. The techniques taught easily apply to transitioning to High Power Rifle.
- Long range shooting competitions, including:
- Precision Rifle Competitions, a relatively new long range competition format which seeks to find a balance between speed and precision, often involving movement and shooting from unusual positions with a time limit, at both known and unknown distances.
- Fullbore target shooting is concerned with shooting at targets at ranges of 300-1200 yards.
- F-Class Rifle Shooting (The 'F' honours Canadian shooter George Farquharson). Shot with Fullbore Target Rifles at ranges up to 1000 yards, the rifles being fitted with telescopic sights and the use of fore-end and butt rests being permitted. This is a fast-growing variant of Fullbore Target Rifle.
- T-Class Shooting Sport Competitions. Practical sniping with precision rifle systems is a shooting sport, which gains tremendous popularity worldwide over a short period of time. It concentrates on shooting onto static or dynamic targets of various distances (known and unknown), from different positions, under artificially created, but realistic stressful circumstances. It proves to be extremely interesting both for implementation and observation, due to its demanding level of difficulty. The International T-Class Confederation (ITCC) is a non-profit organization, which is founded in 2014 for the purpose of promotion of the T-Class shooting sport internationally, with headquarters residing in Bulgaria. It offers a Set of Rules for designing and managing T-Class Competitions.
- Field Target is an outdoor air gun discipline originating in the United Kingdom, but gaining popularity worldwide.
- There are many nationally recognized sports, including:
- Full bore and small bore rifle shooting in the United Kingdom.
- Three position airgun competitions, popular in the United States.
- Field shooting, often at very long distances, popular in Scandinavia.
- Running target shooting at 80 metres (260 ft), on a target depicting an elk, popular in Sweden as a hunting exercise.
- Summer biathlon, with skiing replaced by running, popular in Germany.
- 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 Small Bore Rifle (Hunter, Silhouette), High Power Rifle (Hunter, Silhouette), air rifle and black powder rifle.
- Military Service Rifle is a shooting discipline that involves the use of rifles that are used by military forces and law-enforcement agencies, both past and present use. Ex-military rifles, sniper rifles (both past and present) and civilian versions of current use service rifles are commonly used in the Military Service Rifle shooting competitions. It is popular in the United States and culminates each year with the National Matches being held at Camp Perry in Ohio. Some countries have outlawed civilian shooting at human-silhouette targets; silhouette targets are not used in the National Match Course of Fire. Bullseye targets are used. High Power Rifle competition often is held at the same events as Service Rifle, such as the U.S. national championships each year at Camp Perry. High Power competitors generally are civilians using whatever rifles they prefer within the rules, whereas Service Rifle entrants are limited to current or previous U.S. armed forces weapons. Although according to NRA rules only certain matches allow optical sights, normally those conducted at ranges over 600 yards.
- Palma competition dates from 1876, featuring long-range rifle shooting, out to 1,000 yards. The first Palma match was contested by teams from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Scotland and Ireland (with muzzle loaded rifles at that time). The matches continued to the late 1920s, and the trophy was eventually lost in Washington DC around the outbreak of WW2. The match was revived in the modern era in 1966 in Canada, and continues between teams from around the world. The PALMA bolt action rifles are 7.62mm NATO caliber (Winchester .308) and fire Match Grade ammunition using a 155 grain bullet using micrometer aperature (iron) sights.  The last two International Long-range Target Rifle Matches were held in Australia in 2011 and the U.S. in 2015, were won by Great Britain.
Indoor air pistol shooting.
Handguns 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. The two main subtypes of handguns, are pistols and revolvers.
- 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" target 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, legislation brought in after the Dunblane Massacre.
- 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.
- Bullseye shooting, also called conventional pistol shooting, uses up to 3 handguns of differing calibers. Its history is almost as old as ISSF events. Shooters must fire the pistol one-handed at 6- and 8-inch bullseye targets placed 25 and 50 yards downrange respectively.
- Metallic silhouette competitors shoot at animal-shaped steel silhouettes that must be knocked down to score. Banks of 5 targets are placed at up to 200 meters, with distance and size of target determined by weapon class. 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 designed to provide a usable hit zone of about 5 minutes of arc at from 25 to 200 meters.
A shotgun is similar to a rifle, but typically fires projectiles that either contain many smaller sub-projectiles called Shot (pellet), or one large projectile. They are more often over & under break-action or semi-automatic. The majority of shotgun events are included in Clay pigeon shooting.
Action shooting, also known as dynamic shooting or practical 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.
- The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) is the oldest and largest sanctioning body within practical shooting. IPSC is sometimes considered the "Formula One" of shooting sports, and is shot with handguns, rifles and shotguns. While the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) is the U.S. regional affiliate of IPSC, many of USPSA's rules differ slightly from those used internationally. IPSC was developed by former police and civilian marksmen and later used as a basis for modern military and police exercises. It is a variation where the shooter often moves during shooting, and hits scored and shooting time are equally important. Stage procedure is generally not dictated (freestyle) and the shooter is allowed to determine the order and manner in which he or she engages the targets.
- International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is an action shooting sport that uses semi-automatic handguns and revolvers with a strong emphasis on concealed shooting. Many aspects of stage engagement are dictated to competitors and penalties are given to competitors whom the safety officer determines attempted to gain a competitive advantage or engaged in a forbidden action with a "guilty mind" - that he knowingly failed to do right.
- 3-Gun (3G) or Multi-Gun (MG) are practical shooting events where each of the stages generally require the competitor to use and transition between a combination of rifles, handguns, and/ or shotguns or other types of firearms. 3-Gun has a lot in common with ordinary IPSC/ USPSA matches, having courses of fire where the shooter must move through different stages and engage targets in a variety of different positions.
- Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS), almost identical to USPSA 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.
- Precision Pistol Competition (PPC), was originally a police shooting program started in 1960 by the National Rifle Association.
- Steel Challenge is a speed shooting championship solely about shooting steel targets as fast as possible, and is governed by the Steel Challenge Shooting Association (SCSA). There are eight standarized courses of fire, and a special "stop plate" must be shot last to stop the timer.
- International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE) is an international community which promotes action shooting competitions with revolvers. Founded in 1991, the sport has elements from the Bianchi Cup, IPSC, and the Steel Challenge.
- The Bianchi Cup, a fusion of IPSC (without the "run and gun" element) and bullseye shooting (except shot with two hands and going prone whenever rules allow it) where accuracy under tight time limits in four 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.
- Felthurtigskyting (literally Field Rapid Shooting) and Stangskyting are a type of variable rapid-fire rifle competitions popular in Scandinavia.
- Fast draw, also known as quick draw, a form of pistol action shooting from North America, based on the romanticized art of the gunslingers in the American Old West, using traditional single action revolvers. Unlike Cowboy action shooting, Fast Draw is shot with special blanks or wax bullets. While some competitions are strictly against the clock, with the fastest time winning, many are set up as head to head single or double elimination matches.
- Bowling pin shooting (primarily shot with handguns) has the competitors race against one another to knock standard bowling pins from a table in the shortest elapsed time.
- IPSC Action Air follows the same principle of IPSC, using airsoft instead of real firearms. The ranges, paper targets and poppers are scaled down to suit airsoft, and the sport enjoys popularity in countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan where civilian ownership of real firearms are either illegal or extremely difficult to obtain.
- 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.