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A General Guide to Shooting in International Competition

Shooting events at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games fall into three general categories - competitors shoot with either rifles, pistols or shotguns. The guns come in many different shapes and sizes, and the type of target also varies from event to event.

How the events unfold

Nathan MilgateThe air rifles are 4.5mm calibre, with a maximum weight for men and women of 5.5 kg. They shoot pellets propelled by air, which is compressed either by an external lever or more commonly by compressed air.

The small bore rifles are single loaded, with 5.6mm calibre and a maximum overall weight of 8kg for men and 6.5kg for women.

The calibre is the diameter of the bore (or barrel) of the firearm.

In the three events which use either small bore or air rifles, competitors earn points shooting at a 10-ring target.

Scores range from one point for hitting the outside zone, to 10 for a hit in the 10 ring.

If a shot hits the line between two zones, the higher score is awarded.

There is a qualifying round and then, in the final, the 10 rings on the target are sub-divided into 10 score zones, with the highest score for a shot 10.9.

The final round and qualifying scores are added together to determine the winner.

The Events

10m air rifle
The men complete 60 shots in 105 minutes and the women have 40 shots in 75 minutes. Shots are fired from a standing position 10m away from the target, which has a very narrow bullseye with a diameter of 0.5mm. In the final, each of the eight finalists has 10 shots with a time limit of 75 seconds.

50m rifle three position
Using a small bore rifle, men have 40 shots and women have 20. They shoot in the prone, standing and kneeling positions at a target 50m away. The final consists of 10 shots each in the standing position with a time limit of 75 seconds per shot.

50m rifle prone
It is 60 shots in the prone position. Using a small bore rifle, they shoot at a target 50 metres away. In the final, each of the eight finalists has 10 shots with a time limit of 45 seconds.

Want to get involved?

There are thousands of shooting clubs and ranges in the UK. Most clubs welcome anyone wanting to learn or to develop their shooting skills.

A good place to start is the British Shooting Sports Council website, which covers all shooting disciplines.


The British Shooting Sports Council is the umbrella group for shooting organisations throughout the UK. Includes aims, news, officers and links.


The International Shooting Sport Federation has good information covering the sport across the world.

National Shooting Centre

The National Shooting Centre is based in Bisley, England, and covers all disciplines. Its website has details on courses and plenty of contacts and links.


National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


National Small-Bore Rifle Association. Governing body for smallbore rifle, airgun and crossbow target shooting in Great Britain.