Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Olympics guide: Shooting


Shooting things without getting into trouble is a luxury afforded to a lucky few. Like Silver medallist Matt Emmons who in the last Olympics, shot the wrong target! If the second best gunman in the world shoots the wrong target it makes us seriously question the safety of this sport...

Athletes: 390

Golds up for grabs: 15

Olympic presence: Men’s events: 1896–present, except 1904 and 1928. Women’s shooting arrived in 1984. Up until Barcelona 1992, men and women competed together.

Olympic Format: There are five competitions with each of three types of gun – rifle, pistol and shotgun. Pistol and rifle competitors shoot at small fixed targets. In the shotgun events competitors shoot at clay pigeons flying through the air. There are five events for both sexes (10m air pistol, 10m air rifle, 50m rifle three positions,trap and skeet), four events for just men (25m rapid fire pistol, 50m pistol, 50m rifle prone and double trap) and one event for just women (25m pistol).

Contenders: In Beijing, five out of fifteen golds went to the Chinese, who remain the strongest shooting nation. In recent World Championships the Americans and Russians have shown strength and a number of new shooters have come on the scene, including Italian Niccolo Campriano in the 10m air rifle and the rising star of Indian women’s shooting, Tejaswini Sawant.

Past Champions: USA : 50 | Soviet Union/Russia: 23 | China: 19

Watch it: 28 July–6 Aug 2012, Royal Artillery Barracks , Woolwich. Catch the BBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games across 24 dedicated channels on freesat



In rifle and pistol competitions, shooters aim at a fixed circular target divided into rings, with the centre circle worth 10 points. The format is similar for all rifle and pistol events. In the qualifying rounds, shooters have a limited amount of time to fire their sighting shots and a fixed number of competition shots. The top shooters then progress to a final round, where the inner zone of the target is itself subdivided into concentric rings so scores from 10.1.to 10.9 are possible rather than just 10. The scores from this round are added to those of the qualifying round to determine the winners. In the event of a tie, a shoot-off is held – a sudden death, shot-by-shot competition. Both disciplines have events for guns firing bullets and air-powered guns firing smaller pellets. Shotgun events use a similar format but competitors are shooting at flying targets released from traps, which is an either-or business. Each shot scores either a hit or a miss. The guns are double-barreled and fire sprays of pellets.


50m three positions: In the men’s event the competitors fire forty shots in a limited time in each of the three positions: standing, kneeling and prone (lying down). In the women’s event competitors take twenty shots in each position in the qualifying round. In both competitions, the top eight go into the final where they have ten standing shots at the target. The target they are aiming at is just over 15cm in diameter and the ten-point ring at the centre a minuscule 1.4cm across.

50m prone: A men’s event in which sixty shots are fired in the qualifying round and ten in the final.

10m air rifle: Male competitors shoot sixty times in the opening round; women forty times. In both competitions, the top eight go into the final for the usual 10 shots. The target for this event is even smaller, just 4.5 cm in diameter with a bulls eye of 0.5cm diameter. That is really very small – smaller than a 5p piece!


50m pistol: A men’s event in which shooters have 120 minutes to fire sixty shots at a target that’s 5cm across and 50m away.

25m rapid fire: A men’s event in which shooters fire six rounds of five shots, within time limits (4, 6 or 8 seconds). There are five different targets, slightly larger than those used in free pistol shooting. In one of the series of shots all five targets must be aimed at.

25m pistol: A women’s event that combines free and rapid fire shooting. The qualification round consists of thirty free shots and thirty rapid fire shots. The final round is just rapid fire.

10m air pistol: Men have 105 minutes for sixty shots, women 75 minutes for forty. The final eight in each competition fire a further 10 shots each. for forty. The final eight in each competition fire a further 10 shots each.


Trap: Competitors move round five shooting stations, taking two shots at a single target at each. Men shoot five circuits (25 targets), women three (15 targets). The top six progress to the final, in which they shoot at the same number of targets as in the first round but this time have only one pop at each.

Skeet: Competitors move round eight shooting stations (pictured, below) and take it in turn to fire at two targets, one thrown from a high position and one from a low position, with a random gap of zero to three seconds between their release. The first target mimics an oncoming bird approaching swiftly overhead, while the path of the second approximates to the flight of a grouse launching itself from the heather.

Double Trap: This event is contested only by men; the women’s version was dropped from the Olympic programme after 2004. Shooters fire one shot at each of two targets released simultaneously on set paths. They rotate through five shooting stations, firing thirty shots from each. Six finalists shoot an extra round of fifty shots and add their score to the qualifying round score to determine the winner.

(Image: Rex Features)



How to watch the Olympics


Olympics guide: Rowing


Olympics guide: Triathlon



Anthony Joshua wants to fight on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard

The big showdown just got bigger

by Dave Fawbert
22 May 2017

Power and Pain: The incredible loneliness of being superhumanly strong

What drives a person to gain super strength? We travel with strongman Laurence Shahlaei to find out...

by Matt Blake
19 May 2017

We have a contender for the greatest own goal ever scored

Move over Jamie Pollock

by Dave Fawbert
17 May 2017

Conor McGregor has agreed a deal with the UFC to fight Mayweather

Terms have seemingly been arranged

by Dave Fawbert
16 May 2017

Anthony Joshua's next fight has been pencilled in for October

And it won't be at Wembley

by Dave Fawbert
16 May 2017

Spurs fan leaves farewell note to pillar that blocked his view

So long, White Hart Lane

by Dave Fawbert
15 May 2017

Football is on a journey to finally dealing well with mental health

Aaron Lennon's recent situation has led to other players approaching the PFA about their own mental health, but the sport still has a long way to go

by Tom Victor
10 May 2017

Kings of Leon's bassist learnt the hard way not to slag off wrestling

Don't go after WWE, because it'll come back at you much harder

by Matt Tate
09 May 2017

Leo Messi lookalike in trouble for looking too much like Leo Messi

Carnage on the streets of Iran

by Matt Tate
09 May 2017

Angry manager Nelson Vivas has the best reaction to getting sent-off

A manager ripping his shirt off in anger is everything we never knew we needed from football

by Dave Fawbert
08 May 2017