From the final Shoot-Off at the men's skeet competition during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
|Highest governing body||Several organizations, see list|
|First played||Switzerland in the second half of the 15th century|
|Mixed gender||Yes or no, depending on discipline|
|Type||Indoor or outdoor|
Shooting sports is a collective group of competitive and recreational sporting activities involving tests of proficiency in accuracy, precision and speed by using various types of ranged weapons, mainly referring to firearms, airguns or bows. Due to the noise and high impact energy of the projectiles, firearm sports are typically conducted at either designated permanent shooting ranges or temporary shooting fields in the area away from settlements. Different disciplines of shooting sports can be categorized by equipment, shooting distances, targets, time limits and degrees of athleticism involved. There are several national and international sanctioning bodies.
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.
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. Run archery is a shooting discipline connecting archery with running.
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.
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.
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 rifles are the most commonly used, and semi-automatic rifles are generally not allowed with the exception of a few small-caliber and practical shooting disciplines.
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 is a term used to descibe several 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. 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 disiplines, but there are also many other national and international disciplines which can be classified at bullseye shooting. The shooting distances are typically given in round numbers, such as 10 15, 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 eachother simultaneously. Because of the relatively simple match format, beginners are often recommended bullseye shooting in order to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. Bullseye shooting is part of the Summer Olympic Games, and a considerable amount of training is needed to become proficient.
Boris Kokorev from Russia during the ISSF 50 meter pistol 2007 World Cup in Munich.
Two shooters during an ISSF 300 meter rifle three positions (prone, kneeling and standing).
Field-Shooting or Terrain-Shooting  refer to a set of pistol and rifle shooting disciplines that usually are shot from temporary shooting ranges in the terrain at varying (and sometimes unknown) distances, rather than at permanent shooting ranges at fixed distances.
Nordic Rifle Field Shooting in Sweden during the winter in 2012.
The Norwegian Rifle Field Shooting Championship at the 2007 Landsskytterstevnet.
Field-like shooting competition in USA using an National Match M1.
Sketch of a Skeet shooting range.
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:
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.
A Norwegian practical rifle shooter at the 2017 IPSC Rifle World Shoot in Russia.
Three times practical revolver world champion Ricardo López Tugendhat from Ecuador.
Long range shooting is a term used to describe shooting disciplines 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.
An Anschütz 1903 rifle in caliber .22 LR used for benchrest shooting at 50 meters.
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 to 200 meters, and are designed to provide a usable size of the hit zone of about 1.5 milliradians (or 5 minutes of arc).
Scenery in a Western scenario.
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 in place for the Paralympic Games.
Para shooting with a rifle sitting in a wheelchair.
Factory firearm competitions, 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 with few aftermarket modifications permitted. Thus the terms refer to permitted equipment and modifications rather than the type of shooting discipline 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 similarly restrictions on equipment classes. Factory firearm competitions can be found within many disciplines, such as bullseye, field, practical and long range shooting. The types of firearms permitted are often rugged, versatile and affordable compared to custom competition firearms used in non-factory classes within the same type of shooting disciplines.
Team vs. team competitions do exist in shooting sports, but traditionally are confined to bullseye shooting and clay pigeon shooting contests where the overall group performance is assessed by summing the scores of individual team members. Confrontation-type games were not possible due to safety concerns as ranged weapons (even just bow and arrow) are generally too lethal and dangerous for sporting purposes.
However, with the development of newer air gun and infrared technologies, non-lethal ranged weapons that are safe enough to shoot at other people have been introduced. These allow the evolution of new confrontational disciplines of shooting sports, initially for recreations only, but now has become increasingly prevalent in contexts of gunfight training and professional competitions.
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 gas-powered air weapons 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 is developed in the 1980s and now is 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 weapons called airsoft guns. It is different to paintball in that airsoft pellets do not visibly mark the targets like paintballs, and thus 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. They are also much cheaper for casual players to participate than paintball.
The airsoft gameplay varies in style and composition just like paintball, and is also 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 uniforms and gears of real military and police organizations for sense of realism. The games are normally supervised (and sometimes umpired) by trained on-site administrators, and the 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 each events.
Laser tag (despite the name, laser is actually not used due to safety concerns) is a tag game played with gun-shaped infrared illuminators 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.
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 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.