Shooting is the act or process of firing rifles, shotguns or other projectile weapons such as bows or crossbows. Even the firing of artillery, rockets and missiles can be called shooting. A person who specialises in shooting is a marksman. Shooting can take place in a shooting range or in the field in hunting, in shooting sports or in combat.
Shooting technique differs depending on factors like the type of firearm used (from a handgun to a sniper rifle), the distance to and nature of the target, the required precision and the available time. Breathing and position play an important role when handling a handgun or a rifle. Some shooting sports, such as IPSC shooting, make a sport of combat style shooting.
The prone position, the kneeling position and the standing position offer different amounts of support for the shooter. Holding the gun sideways, as is sometimes seen in films and on television, is poor gun handling; it makes the weapon likely to jam as any ejected case may fail to leave the weapon completely.
The utmost consideration for many shooters is gun safety. Like many activities such as mountain climbing, skiing, or sky-diving, there is an element of danger involved. And especially here, this danger demands a sober understanding and respect for firearms and the specific rules for the safe handling of them. This is compounded by the fact that the danger can easily extend beyond the participants—a stray bullet can injure or kill people other than those actually firing or handling the arms involved. At public ranges, the safety of all participants depends on the knowledge of everyone at the range.
Shooting in the Olympic Games
Because shooting is an activity enjoyed not only by enthusiasts that do not own their own equipment or live in areas where firearms use is heavily regulated, an emerging solution is the entertainment shooting industry. For many years clay shooting with shotguns has been the primary entertainment shooting offering. Now, some shooting ranges in large cities, like The Gun Store in Las Vegas, rent machine guns to customers. Jackson Hole Shooting Experience in Wyoming is a pioneer in the luxury entertainment shooting industry offering their Multi-Gun Shooting Experience in Wyoming in which a shooting instructor provides personal coaching as clients shoot dozens of rifles and handguns.
Shooting sports have been contested at every Summer Olympic Games since the birth of the modern Olympic movement at the 1896 Summer Olympics except at the 1904 & 1928 editions. Men’s shooting was one of the nine events at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, in 1896.
In the Paris Games in 1900, live pigeons were used as moving targets. After the 1900 games, the pigeons were replaced with clay targets. In 1907, the International Shooting Sport Federation came into existence and brought some standardisations to the sport.
When shooting was reintroduced in 1932, it consisted of only two events. From this, the number of events have increased steadily until reaching the 2000-2004 maximum of seventeen events. The 2008 games had only fifteen. Events marked as “Men’s” were actually open events before the inclusion of separate women’s events in that discipline.
Two women won medals in such mixed events: Margaret Murdock, silver in Rifle 3 positions (1976) and Zhan Shan, gold in Skeet (1992).
The History of Modern Shooting
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, and the Scholastic Clay Target Program.
These programs have all continued to thrive despite political pressures to disband. The success of these programs is often attributed to an emphasis on safety and education that has resulted in an unprecedented scholastic and collegiate athletic safety record.
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. For example, 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 organised 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.
Because of its long heritage and broad appeal, the shooting sports are enjoyed by a large number of participants around the world. In recent years, however, the shooting sports have become increasingly threatened by social and political reforms. In some countries, voters have declared their disapproval toward the private ownership and possession of handguns. This is generally motivated by the perception that handguns are associated with violent crime instead of sportsmanship. Some governments, such as the British, have enacted restrictive gun control legislation that directly affects the shooting sports.
More recently, a rise in the number of concealed carry permit-holders in the US has led to a surge in interest in various handgun competitions that foster defensive skills, accuracy drills, and personal protection tactics.