Different disciplines of 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 of shooting and the high (and often lethal) impact energy of the projectiles, shooting sports are typically conducted at either designated permanent shooting ranges or temporary shooting fields in the area away from settlements.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A rifle is a long gun with a rifledbarrel, 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 round shooting target with several hits in the center, which is called "bullseye".
Bullseye shooting is a term used to describe 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 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 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 each other 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.
Bullseye shooting with handguns
The six ISSF shooting events with pistols (four Olympic events plus two 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.
NRA Precision Pistol, also called conventional pistol shooting, is a bullseye shooting where up to 3 handguns of differing calibers are used. 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.
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.
Military Service Rifle shooting 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, 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.
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.
Full bore and small bore rifle shooting in the United Kingdom.
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.
Precision rifle competitions, like the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), is both a field and long range shooting discipline where rifles with intermediate or battle rifle cartridges are shot in the terrain at varying distances from about 10 to 1000 meters.
Field Target is an outdoor air gun discipline originating in the United Kingdom, but gaining popularity worldwide.
Nordic Rifle Field Shooting in Sweden during the winter in 2012.
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.
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. But unlike Cowboy action shooting, Fast Draw is done 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.
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:
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.
Multigun 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.
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 standardized courses of fire, and a special "stop plate" must be shot last to stop the timer.
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.
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.
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.
An Open division practical pistol shooter during a stage.
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.
Fullbore target shooting is concerned with shooting at targets at ranges of 300-1200 yards. The sport is internationally governed by ICFRA, and is popular in the UK, USA, Germany and Commonwealth countries. Similar disciplines called bullseye and field shooting are popular in Scandinavia, although fired at shorter distances.
Palma is an ICFRA fullbore competition format that 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.
F-Class is another ICFRA fullbore competition format 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. The 'F' honours George Farquharson, the Canadian inventor of F-Class.
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.
National Rifle League (NRL) is a 501(c)(3)non-profit organization dedicated to the growth and education of precision rifle shooting in the United States. Their match format allows any caliber between .224 to .308 and not to exceed 3,200 feet per second (980 m/s), involving at least 50 shooters with each firing minimum 140 rounds in at least 12 individual stages, over the course of at least two days. Since its debut in 2017, currently 11 clubs from eight states are involved in the league.
National Rifle League 22 (NRL22) is a sub-league under the National Rifle League dedicated to .22 Long Riflerimfire rifles. It was established to address the fact that most localities do not have access to 1000 yard ranges, but nearly all localities have 100-yard ranges and most shooters own .22 rifles. Their championship match consist of minimum 170 rounds fired in at least 15 individual stages. Currently 68 clubs from 31 states in the US participate in NRL22 matches, with addition to two overseas clubs from UK and Australia.
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.
An Anschütz 1903 rifle in caliber .22 LR used for benchrest shooting at 50 meters.
A BCM Europearms single shot benchrest rifle.
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).
Chicken, pig, turkey, and ram. The different targets are placed at different distances, and in this image the targets are scaled to how they would appear to the shooter in angular sizes (mil or moa).
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.
Cowboy mounted shooting, also called Western Mounted Shooting or simply Mounted Shooting, is a competitive equestrian sport involving the riding of a horse to negotiate a shooting pattern. Rule sets vary between shooting sport organizations, it can be based on the historical reenactment of historic shooting events held at Wild West Shows in the late 19th century. Modern events use blank ammunition instead of live rounds, certified to break a target balloon within twenty feet.
Para shooting with a rifle sitting in a 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 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.
A woman plinking with a Hi-Point pistol in .40 S&W in Alaska.
Plinking with a Ruger 10/22 rifle in Burro Canyon, Arizona, USA.
Plinking on a Saturday in Burro Canyon, Arizona, USA. On this range firearms must be kept unloaded in the rack, except when on the firing line.
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. 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.
Anna Sushko of Russia, 2006 Junior World Champion, holding an ICU 10 m Match Crossbow
A competitor at the 30 meter event at the 2008 ICU Match-Crossbow World Championships in Sulgen, Switzerland.
Biathlon is a Winter Olympic sport combining cross-country skiing (normally freestyle skate skiing) and shooting with .22 LR rifles. In Scandinavia the discipline is simply known as "Ski Shooting" (Swedish: skidskytte, Danish: skiskydning, Norwegian: skiskyting).
Summer biathlon, with skiing replaced by running, popular in Germany.
Ski Field Shooting (Norwegian: DFS skifeltskyting) is a Norwegian discipline arranged by the National Rifle Association of Norway which is based on the origins of modern biathlon. It is normally held in a classic (in-track) format, but competitions can also be held in a freestyle skate skiing format. Furthermore, the shooting is done with fullbore calibers and usually in the field from temporary shooting ranges. The discipline is considered as a near precursor to modern biathlon.
Field running (Norwegian: DFS skogsløp) is a Norwegian discipline arranged by the National Rifle Association of Norway combining running with shooting. It is considered the summer edition of Ski Field Shooting. Running distances are usually between 2 and 3 kilometers with 2 to 3 shooting series.
Moose biathon is a variation of biathlon comprising cross-country skiing, range estimation and rifle shooting at paper targets of moose. Moose running is a summer variant where the skiing part is replaced with running.
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.
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.
National Xball League is the United States' professional paintball circuit. The league consists of a Professional Division, consisting of the best players the sport has to offer, that extends down to the beginner ranks of "Division 5" for those newer to the tournament atmosphere. The league hosts five national events across the country in places such as Las Vegas, Dallas, Nashville, Cleveland, Chicago, Atlantic City and Orlando throughout the year, starting in March and ending their season in early November. The league's largest event each year is the season finale known as the World Cup, with the 2016 World Cup hosted 3,554 players from 35 countries.
View of a course during a speedball game in progress.
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 smoothboreair guns called airsoft guns. It is different to 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.
Three airsoft team members defending an aera during an indoor CQB game.
From an outdoor airsoft game.
Three airsoft team members during a field game.
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.
Zone Laser Tag World Championships were international tournaments among professional/semi-professional teams from North American, Europe and Australia, hosted every few years since 2003.
Bi-lateral international championships have included USA vs. Australia and Australia vs. South Africa.
National tournaments in various countries including Australia, USA, Sweden, Finland, UK, etc.
Private club-level events such as TagCon (annual in UK and USA), Tagfest (annual in USA), Dropzone (annual in UK), LaserStorm (annual in Australia), etc.
Soldiers equipped with professional laser tag training equipment
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.
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