1. Sports
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Olympic Shooting Rules and Scoring

Learn About Olympic Shooting Rules and Scoring


Photo of Olympic Rifle Shooter Jamie Beyerle, member of the USA Shooting Olympic Team

Photo of Olympic Rifle Shooter Jamie Beyerle, member of the USA Shooting Olympic Team

Photo courtesy of United States Olympic Committee

Introduction to Olympic Shooting Rules and Scoring

The rules used in Olympic Shooting competition are established by USA Shooting (USAS), the national governing body for the Olympic sport of shooting in the United States. These rules apply to shooting events and activities recognized by and/or promoted by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), and rule changes made by ISSF will be adopted by USAS. USAS does in some cases recognize events not recognized by ISSF, thus USAS is the governing body for such events.

Like any governing body, USAS has many, many rules. I have dug through them and will highlight the important ones - general equipment guidelines, and methods of scoring. These ought to help anyone who wants better understand what you're likely to see at an Olympic shooting event. I have omitted tedious details such as restrictions on firearm size and weight.



  • In all of the rifle and pistol events, round targets are used. These consist of a series of concentric circles, with each successively larger circle scoring fewer points. Target size varies according to the distance from the shooter to the target. The center circle of such a target is what's usually referred to as a bullseye, and it's worth ten points. Scores are totalled to determine the winner of each event, which of course is the shooter with the highest score.


  • For shotgun events, clay targets are thrown into the air. The shooter's goal is to break each target. The winner is the shooter who breaks the most targets.


  • In double trap and skeet, the shooter is only allowed one shot per target.


  • For the trap event, two shots are allowed for each target.


  • An air pistol is a handgun that shoots lead pellets propelled by compressed air or carbon dioxide gas. The air pistols used for Olympic events are very different-looking from most other handguns. These pistols use 4.5mm (.177 inch) pellets. The gun must be loaded with only one pellet, and ported barrels/perforated barrel attachments are allowed.


  • Like the air pistol, the air rifle uses compressed air or carbon dioxide (co2) gas to propel a 4.5mm (.177 inch) lead pellet at a target. The difference is that the rifle is a shoulder-mounted gun with a longer barrel, and is usually much easier to shoot accurately than a pistol. For the 10M Olympic event, thumb holes, thumb rests, palm rests, heel rests, spirit levels, and bipods are prohibited.


  • The rapid-fire pistol event specifies that the handgun may not be single-shot, therefore semi-automatic pistols or revolvers may be used. In 2008 this event will apparently be rimfire only, meaning only 22-caliber rimfire guns will be allowed. No compensators or perforated barrel attachments may be used.


  • Equipment rules for pistol events differ from those for the rapid-fire event described above. 22-caliber rimfire single-shot pistols are the only type allowed.


  • For the "rifle 3 positions" event as well as prone, any action 22-caliber rimfire rifle may be used. Thumb holes, thumb rests, palm rests, heel rests, and spirit levels are allowed.


  • For shotgun events including double trap, trap, and skeet, any smooth-bore shotgun 12 gauge or smaller may be used. No slings are allowed. Compensators may only be used for the skeet event. Guns with magazines must be blocked so it will hold no more than one shell. Ported barrels are allowed (subject to jury approval), and optical sights are prohibited.

Read more at What is Olympic Shooting?

Back to Olympic Shooting Main Page

  1. About.com
  2. Sports
  3. Hunting
  4. Explore Guns and Shooting
  5. Olympics
  6. Olympic Shooting Rules and Scoring

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.