Shooting, a history

Shooting at a mark (target), had been used to test the skill of archers long before firearms were invented. The first documented shooting match was held at Eichstäat, Bavaria, in 1477, the competitors, who are thought to have used matchlocks, competed at a distance of 200 metres.

Target shooting with rifled arms (rifled arms are those which have spiral grooves cut on the inside surface of the barrel to make the bullet spin), was a popular pastime in many European countries by the 16th century. In Germany, many museums have 16th century wooden targets which were made for wedding guests to shoot at before they were presented to the host.

In 1737, the Russian Empress Anna established a target shooting range at court. Royal shooting matches, with live birds as the target, became a tradition with the winners being presented with gold and diamond studded cups. Target rifle shooting was popular in the UK before 1800, the first book about it in English, Scloppetaria; or, 'Considerations on the Nature and Use of Rifled Barrel Guns' by a Corporal of Riflemen (pseudonym of Capt. Henry Beaufoy), was published in 1808.

In the 19th century, a number of shooting clubs and societies were established in Russia, including, in St. Petersburg in 1834, the first for rifles or handguns, where the public could shoot for a low fee. In 1897 the Imperial Society of Reglemented Hunting published rules for rifle-shooting competitions.  In the early 1850s the UK saw the formation of volunteer rifle brigades for long-range shooting with targets at a distance of more than 550 metres (600 yards). These attracted some of the best shots and long-range shooting became so popular that Queen Victoria fired the first shot at the first prize meeting of the National Rifle Association in 1860.

Although there was a world championship in 1897, subsequent world championships came under the supervision of the international governing body, the International Shooting Union (ISU), formed in 1907.  The ISU was reorganised in 1919 and again in 1946, before changing its name to the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) in 1998.

Shooting has been an Olympic sport since 1896 with early competitors taking part in events for army rifles and service pistols, as well as shooting running deer, boar and live pigeons.

Pistol shooting was added to the National Rifle Association championships in Great Britain in 1893.

In 1921 the International Olympic Committee decided that shooting events at the Paris Games in 1924 would be governed by ISSF regulations. Shooting was excluded from the 1928 Amsterdam Games because the ISSF World Championships awarded cash prizes which was against the strict IOC amateur standards. At Los Angeles 1932 there were two shooting events, one rifle and one pistol. 41 athletes from 10 countries competed, but many of the world’s best marksmen were excluded because they had accepted money prizes in other competitions.

In 1936, Hungarian, Károly Takács, a sergeant in the Hungarian Army, was denied a place at the Berlin Olympic Games because only commissioned officers were eligible to compete. That rule was changed in 1936 and he was expected to excel at the 1940 games. However, during a training exercise in 1938, a faulty grenade exploded taking Takács right shooting hand with it. Takács practiced with his left hand and won the 25m rapid pistol event at the 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki Olympics. In 1966 the ISSF made all of its open events “mixed” so men and women competed on equal terms. The IOC applied this standard to Olympic shooting events from 1968 to 1980.

Shooting, a Paralympic sport

Shooting has been an event at the Paralympic Games since Toronto 1976. The events in Paralympic shooting mirror the Olympic target shooting programme, with the addition of prone events in air rifle. Since 1996 the classification system has been functional ability rather than impairment orientated. Eligible groups - all physical impairment groups, no athletes with visual impairments. There are 12 Paralympic shooting events, six are mixed - open to men and women - and three competitions for men only and three for women only.

The Great Britain team has a good record of winning medals.

GB Shooting Team, athletes and coaches at London 2012

Great Britain Shooting Team at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

Seated left to right: Natalie Lejeune, Nathan Milgate, Richard Davies, Ryan Cockbill, Matt Skellhon, Karen Butler, Adrian Bunclark, Deanna Coates, Mandy Pankhurst, Jo Hipkiss
Standing left to right: Kapila De Alwis, Jonathan Katz, Louis Minett, Albert Cockbill, Pasan Kularatne, James Bevis, Benjamin Jesson, Adam Fontain, Georgina Callingham, Nick Badger, Steven Copestick, Andrea Zakor, Robin Taylor

Shooting at the Paralympic Summer Games

  • 1976 Toronto, Canada - 3 events, 10 countries and 39 athletes (35 men and 3 women; 1 unknown) participated. In mixed rifle shooting 1A-1C, mixed rifle shooting 2-5 and mixed rifle shooting amputee.
  • 1980 Arnhem, The Netherlands - 11 events, 15 countries and 59 athletes (50 men and 3 women; 6 unknown) participated.
  • 1984 New York, USA/Stoke Mandeville, Great Britain - 29 events, 20 countries and 114 athletes (94 men and 20 women) participated.  
  • 1988 Seoul, Korea - 23 events, 22 countries and 139 athletes (111 men and 28 women) participated.
  • 1992 Barcelona, Spain - 16 events, 26 countries and 131 athletes (100 men and 31 women) participated. 
  • 1996 Atlanta, USA - 15 events, 32 countries and 133 athletes (101 men and 32 women) participated. 
  • 2000 Sydney, Australia - 12 events, 36 countries and 139 athletes (107 men and 32 women) participated.
  • 2004 Athens, Greece - 12 events, 35 countries and 142 athletes (101 men and 41 women) participated.
  • 2008 Beijing, China - 12 events, 44 countries and 140 athletes (96 men and 44 women) participated.
  • 2012 London, Great Britain - 12 events, 44 countries and 140 athletes (99 men and 41 women) participated.

British shooting medal winners

  • 1976 Toronto, Canada
    No medals
  • 1980 Arnhem, The Netherlands
    No medals
  • 1984 New York, USA
    Ann Picot - silver in women's air rifle integrated
  • 1984 Stoke Mandeville, Great Britain
    Isabel Barr - gold in women’s air pistol 1A-1C. 
    Deanna Coates – silver in women’s air rifle kneeling 2-6, silver in women’s air rifle standing 2-6 and bronze in women’s air rifle 3 positions 2-6.
    Peter Haslam - gold in men’s air rifle kneeling 1A-1C, silver in men’s air rifle prone 1A-1C, silver in mixed air rifle 3 positions 1A-1C and bronze in men’s air rifle standing 1A-1C.
    Jackie Hepburn, Gerry Mills, Peter Thompson – silver in men’s pistol team 1A-6.
  • 1988 Seoul, Korea
    Isabel Barr – bronze in women’s air pistol 2-6
    Deanna Coates – gold in women’s air rifle standing 2-6
    Keith Morris – silver in men’s air rifle sitting LSH1
    Gill Middleton – bronze in women’s air rifle prone 2-6 and bronze in women’s air rifle standing 2-6
  • 1992 Barcelona, Spain
    John Campbell - bronze in mixed English match SH1-3
    Deanna Coates - gold in women’s air rifle standing SH1-3
    Robert Cooper - bronze in men’s air rifle standing SH1
    Kevin John Hyde - bronze in mixed air rifle 3 x 40 SH4
  • 1996 Atlanta, USA
    Deanna Coates MBE – gold in women’s air rifle standing SH1 and silver in women’s air rifle 3 x 20 SH1
  • 2000 Sydney, Australia
    Deanna Coates MBE – bronze in women’s air rifle SH1
    Isabel Newstead (Nee Barr) MBE – gold in women’s air pistol SH1
  • 2004 Athens, Greece
    Isabel Newstead (Nee Barr) MBE – gold in women’s air pistol SH1
  • 2008 Beijing, China
    Matthew Skelhon – gold in mixed 10 m air rifle prone SH1
  • 2012 London, Great Britain
    James Bevis – bronze in mixed 10 m air rifle prone SH2
    Matthew Skelhon – silver in mixed 10 m air rifle prone SH1
    Matthew Skelhon – bronze in mixed 50 m rifle prone SH1

Disclaimer -
Some information from earlier Paralympic Games (i.e. 1960-1988) such as relay and team members are not presented in the IPC source data. Therefore, final results, medal standings and derived statistics may not be complete.
Important note on the definition of participants: Only athletes that appear in the official results books in the section of final results are included in the database and counted towards participant statistics. Data for 2014 and 2016 are accurate. Statistics for previous Games are under review by the IPC.
Important note on competition partners: Competition partners eligible for medals are included in the combined participant statistics until 2014. Statistics for 2016 and beyond consider athletes with an impairment and their competition partners separately. 

How shooting has evolved

In 2010 the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the ISSF agreed to work together to develop the sport.

In 2016, the sport was renamed from IPC Shooting to Shooting Para Sport and the international federation renamed as World Shooting Para Sport. The IPC acts as the International Federation for Shooting Para Sport through its’ World Shooting Para Sport, Sport Technical Committee and Management team.

Rules of shooting

There are three sport classes for athletes:

Sport Class SH1 (Pistol)
Athletes with upper and/ or lower limb impairment for competition in Pistol events.

Sport Class SH1 (Rifle)
Athletes with lower limb impairment for competition in Rifle events.

Sport Class SH2 (Rifle)
For rifle events only, athletes with upper limb impairment (which necessitates them to use a shooting stand to support the rifle), all or not in combination with lower limb impairment.

Sport Class SG-S (Trap)
Athletes with poor balance and/or trunk stability, competing from a wheelchair in a standard seated position. Athletes have an impairment in the lower limb(s), but no functional limitation in the upper limbs.

Sport Class SG-L (Trap)
Athletes with good balance and trunk function, competing from a standing position. Athletes have an impairment in the lower limb(s), but no functional limitation in the upper limbs.

Sport Class SG-U (Trap)
Athletes with good balance and trunk function, competing from a standing position. Athletes have an impairment in the non-shooting arm. 

Disabled shooters use the same firearms and clothing as able-bodied shooters, with adaptations available for specific equipment.

The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) rules apply with additional specific information in the World Shooting Para Sport Technical Rules and Regulations.

Targets which vary in size depending on the event, consist of 10 concentric scoring rings, with the central ring worth 10 points and the outside ring worth one. In the 10m air rifle event the whole target is only 4.5cm in diameter, with a central ring just half a millimetre wide. 

Each competitor takes a specified number of shots at the target in a set time period, 40 shots in women’s air pistol and rifle, 120 in men’s three position and 60 in the other events. 

After a qualification round the top eight progress to a 20 shot final. In the final, shots are scored to one decimal place, with a top score of 10.9. After the first eight shots the lowest placed competitor is eliminated, this is repeated after every second shot until only two competitors remain for the final two shots.

Governing bodies

The national governing body for disability shooting in the UK is Disability Shooting Great Britain (DSGB).

Regional clubs

The BPA have created an online directory, Parasport, where you can search for and find out about sport and physical activity in your area.

UK Wide




  • IPC Historical Results Archive

Shooting stories

Head and shoulders photo of Isabel Newstead with her gold medal

Isabel Newstead Biography

Isabel Newstead competed at seven Paralympic Games in diverse events including swimming, discus and air-pistol shooting.   She was awarded the MBE in the 2001 New Year Honours for services to Disabled Sports. Read more about Isabel's story here.