1. Sports
Send to a Friend via Email

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

What is Olympic Shooting?

The Basics of Olympic Shooting


Franck Dumoulin of France in action during the Men's 10m Air Pistol Final at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

Franck Dumoulin of France in action during the Men's 10m Air Pistol Final at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

Hamish Blair/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Shooting is one of the most enduring, yet often overlooked, Summer Olympic sports. Some type of shooting competition has taken place at almost every edition of the Summer Games, since the first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896.

Rifles, shotguns, pistols, and airguns are used in the many varied shooting events, by men and women. Targets vary from moving clay targets in trap and skeet events, to stationary targets at ranges from 10 to 50 meters. Some events require shooters to assume different positions.



In the 2008 Summer Olympics, there are fifteen Olympic Shooting events; nine for men and six for women:

  • 10m Air Pistol (60 shots) Men
  • 10m Air Rifle (60 shots) Men
  • 25m Rapid Fire Pistol (60 shots) Men
  • 50m Pistol (60 shots) Men
  • 50m Rifle 3 Positions (3x40 shots) Men
  • 50m Rifle Prone (60 shots) Men
  • Double Trap (150 targets) Men
  • Skeet (125 targets) Men
  • Trap (125 targets) Men
  • 10m Air Pistol (40 shots) Women
  • 10m Air Rifle (40 shots) Women
  • 25m Pistol (30+30 shots) Women
  • 50m Rifle 3 Positions (3x20 shots) Women
  • Skeet (75 targets) Women
  • Trap (75 targets) Women


Air Pistol
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.

Air Rifle
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.

Rapid Fire Pistol
The rules of this event have done some heavy-duty changing over the years, including some drastic changes which took place prior to World War II. The rules were again overhauled in 1989 and 2005, reducing the average attainable score and necessitating the establishment of pre- and post-2005 world records.

Five-shot strings are fired from a 22-caliber pistol in time periods of 4, 6, and 8 seconds each, and each late shot counts as a miss. Upon presentation of the targets, the shooter must raise his or her arm from a 45-degree angle and fire the string before time runs out.

In Olympic terms, this event requires the use of single-shot 22-caliber pistols, and is a slow-fire event. It obviously differs from Rapid-Fire Pistol (described above).

Rifle 3 Positions
A 22-caliber rifle is used for this Olympic event. The three positions used are prone, standing, and kneeling. Slightly different rifle requirements exist for men and women in this event, but at the heart both men and women must accomplish the same thing to win.

Rifle Prone
This, too, requires the use of a 22-caliber rifle. The only difference being that all shots are fired from a prone position (lying on one's belly).

Double Trap
This is a shotgun event in which shooters attempt to break moving clay targets. In Double Trap, two targets are released at the same time from different heights and moving at different angles. The shooter's goal is to break both targets.

This is a shotgun event in which shooters attempt to break moving clay targets. Olympic Trap varies from other versions of trap shooting in that both the distance from the targets and the speed at which they travel are greater.

This is a shotgun event in which shooters attempt to break moving clay targets. Targets are thrown from two stations roughly 40 meters apart, and shots are fired at them from different positions along an arc. This results in constantly-varying shot angles, even though the clay-throwing stations never move.



To further define the three types of arms used in these Olympic events:

- A rifle is a shoulder-mounted gun. A stock is placed to the shooter's shoulder (the right shoulder for a right-handed shooter). The barrel is usually fairly long and contains rifling.

- A pistol is a handgun, usually fairly small as compared to rifles. Strictly speaking, a revolver is a handgun, but it's not a pistol, because the definition of pistol is that the gun's chamber is integral with its barrel (whereas the chambers in a revolver are in the cylinder). But Olympic-speak refers to all handguns as pistols, whether they are single-shot pistols, semi-automatic pistols, or revolvers. Like rifles, their barrels contain rifling.

- A shotgun is a shoulder-mounted long-barreled gun that much resembles a rifle, except that the inside of the barrel (bore) is smooth and not rifled. This gun fires a number of small pellets, known as shot.

There are two stages of shooting competitions. The first stage is qualification, the other is final.

During the finals, fewer shots are fired per relay... ten shots for pistol and rifle, and one round of twenty-five shots for shotgun events. In the finals, the number of shooters will generally be six to eight.

In some cases, scoring may be different in the finals. In presision shooting events, for example (rifle & pistol), points are counted to the first decimal place... and only one shot per target is allowed for trap.

If a tie should occur, the result is a shoot-off to determine a winner.

Shotgun events involving clay targets require that each target be visibly broken. Precision events such as rifle and pistol shooting employ printed targets with a series of rings for scoring. Ever-enlarging rings surround a center bullseye, each successive larger ring scoring fewer points.

Back to Olympic Shooting main page

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.