What’s the deal?

Have gun, will compete. As many of the Olympic events were based off of military activities, it’s understandable that shooting is one of the O.G. sports (for men; women didn’t get to compete until 1984). There are 15 different shooting events in the Olympics, encompassing pistols, rifles and shotguns. The first two of these are target shooting competitions, with shooters aiming at targets 10, 25 and 50 meters in distance in a predetermined position, standing, kneeling or prone (lying on your stomach). The shotgun competition is outdoors and is a test of shooting airborne clay targets.

In target shooting, competitors are aiming at a 10-ringed target, with point values for each ring ranging from 1 (the outermost ring) to 10 (bulls eye). Rings themselves are each divided into 10 zones worth 1.0 to 10.9 points, depending on the zone you’re in.

For shotgun competitions, an electro-mechanical device flings clay targets into the air, and shooters have to hit them–effectively breaking them apart–before the clay hits the ground. It takes some quick thinking and reaction time to hit these babies, as they can run speeds of up to 88.5 km/hr.

So what’s the difference between trap, double trap and skeet?

  • Trap – The shooter moves around stations (men have five stations; women have three). One target is launched, and the shooter takes two shots to hit it (so 5-1-2/3-1-2, if it helps you to remember it that way)
  • Double Trap – Guys only (sorry, ladies–after Athens 2004, this was dropped from your schedule). They rotate through five stations. Two targets are released at the same time on a set path. Shooters fire two shots (i.e.–one per target). So, 5-2-2.
  • Skeet – Eight stations, two targets released simultaneously, two shots (8-2-2). Here’s the fun part: One target’s launched high, the other’s launched lower, and the gap between them is random.

Shooting encompasses six different weapons:

  • Air pistol
  • Air rifle
  • Pistol
  • Rapid-fire pistol
  • Rifle
  • Shotgun

Who’s competing?

Men shoot in nine events:

  • 10m – Air pistol – 60 shots
  • 10m – Air rifle – 60 shots
  • 25m – Rapid-fire pistol
  • 50m – Pistol – 60 shots
  • 50m – Rifle – 3 positions – 40 shots/position
  • 50m – Rifle – prone – 60 shots
  • Double trap – 150 targets
  • Skeet – 125 targets
  • Trap – 125 targets

Women shoot in six events:

  • 10m – Air pistol – 40 shots
  • 10m – Air rifle – 40 shots
  • 25m – Pistol – 30 + 30 shots
  • 50m – Rifle – 3 positions – 20 shots/position
  • Skeet – 75 targets
  • Trap – 75 targets

Why should I watch?

Well, if you’re American, this sport is a no-brainer because we love guns, right?! All kidding aside, shooting is really fun to watch, and you won’t need your whole seat–just the edge will do. Much like archery, target shooting events have the suspense of wondering whether or not someone will get a bulls-eye. Successful shooters are able to lower their heart rates in order to keep the weapon steady and aim straight.

Trap and skeet shooting are a constant question of “Will they, or won’t they (hit the clay)?” Which, by the way, is a flying object. That shooters quickly calculate the angle and trajectory of and shoot accordingly to blast it to pieces. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting down “for just a couple of minutes to check it out,” and get off the couch a couple of hours later.

Potential drinking game:

If a shooter completely misses a target or clay, take a sip.

The perfect snack:



The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) is the home for sport shooting, and you can learn more about the sport and competing at its website. USA Shooting also has a nice section on how to get started in the sport (for US residents). If you want to be involved with the sport in a different way, judging or refereeing (for shotgun competitions), might be the route for you. You’ll have to get started through your local/national organization in order to work up the ranks. See the ISSF’s rules and judges’ committee for more information. In the US, you can look at the Officials‘ section of USA Shooting as well.

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