Proudly Made In USA



Though shooting sports were at the first modern Olympics, held in Athens in 1896, the journey to securing a permanent spot has not been as straightforward. Issues with cost, lack of infrastructure, and local sports practices often made advocacy a requirement for athletes taking the range. Ahead of the Paris 2024 games, we look at the evolution of shooting sports in the Olympics from 39 shooters and 7 countries at its start to now over 300 shooters and over 100 countries participating.

Shooting Sports In The First Olympics

The journey for Olympic shooting sports starts with French nobleman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. A seven-time national pistol champion, he was an integral part of forming the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Thanks to his high level of influence, he was able to secure 5 shooting events out of the 43 events to be held in Athens, Greece. 

They were:

  • 25 Meter Military Pistol
  • 25-Metre Rapid Fire Pistol
  • 30 Metre Free Pistol
  • 200 Meter Military Rifle
  • 300 Meter Free Rifle, Three Positions

Out of the 61 shooters from 7 nations, the United States was able to take home 3 medals. John Paine, took home a gold in 25-meter military pistol while his brother Sumner took silver in the same event, and gold in 30-meter free pistol. 

The Beginning of Controversy 

Throughout its history, Olympic shooting has found its way to the center of controversy. The first eye-brow-raising event was the decision to include live pigeon shooting in the 1900 Olympics in Paris. This gore-filled event lasted only for one Olympics and it is hard to find a record of the IOC officially recognizing the sport, or its winner, Leon de Lunden.

Shooting Sports Disappears From The Olympics

The 1904 Olympics was one of the most unusual games with many historians fascinated by the head-scratching lead-up and carrying out of events. Among the shadow of the World Fair, shooting sports sat on the sidelines hoping for a return. “Was it the pigeons?” They might have wondered. There is not an answer. Only that this would be the first of only two times that shooting would not be included in the Summer Olympics.

The 1920 Olympics: Shooting Sports Gold Era

After returning to the Olympics in 1908, shooting sports continued to gain traction adding 7 events for a total of 15. This growth would continue with more shooters and countries taking to the sport. In 1920, Antwerp hosted the most shooting events in Olympic history, 21. The events were nearly split down the middle with 11 individual events and 10 team events. The United States dominated with 13 gold medals, 4 silver medals, and 6 bronze medals.

The International Shooting Sport Federation Takes Over

The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) was formed in 1907 to regulate international competition. It was not recognized as the governing body by the IOC until 1924 when ISSF regulations were declared as the Olympic standard. This was the first time the ISSF and IOC worked in unison, and this relationship has continued to this day.

Shooting Sports Misses The Cut - Again

Though the reasoning for shooting sports' first exclusion is largely unknown, it was clear in 1928, that the reason was money. Specifically prize money which was given out at ISSF world championships prior to the games. As the rules did not allow amateur athletes to accept payment, the biggest shooting athletes no longer qualified.

The ruling for shooting sports being excluded would be overturned, allowing shooting to return to the Olympics in 1932. However, the notion that athletes who received pay could not participate remained in place until the 1980’s when the ISSF changed rules to allow athletes who accepted prize money to attend the Olympics.

Women Get To Step To The Line

Up until the 1968 Olympic shooting sports were exclusive allowing only male athletes. The Mexico City Olympics welcomed 3 women to the sport which operated under a mixed gender format. It wasn’t until the 1984 Olympics that Women got their own events. Los Angeles hosted 3 Women's events, a 10-meter air rifle, a 25-meter pistol, and a 50-meter rifle in 3 positions. This was half the event field of the men’s events which saw 6 disciplines. Two mixed classes, skeet, and trap, remained.

Shooting Sports Nearly Misses Another Olympics

The historic moment of women getting their shooting class nearly didn’t happen. Not because of funding, or discontent with adding more events. It was because the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LLAAOOC) conveniently forgot about shooting sports. Failing to take the necessary steps to secure shooting venues and events, it took the IOC, ISSF, and LLAOOC president meeting for shooting sports to secure a spot.

New Technology Leads to Increase In Spectators

The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta ushered in new technology in the form of electronic targets. This allowed for quick scoring. It used to take an hour or more to determine a winner! Music, commentary, and television production added to the excitement. It’s estimated that 49 thousand spectators attended shooting sports, the highest attended Olympics to date.

Competitive Shooting Goes Back To Paris

Kicking off on July 27th, 2024, the Summer Olympics in Paris will feature 15 shooting events. Athletes from over 100 countries will compete over two weeks for a chance at gold. The United States looks to extend its metal lead going into the games with 116 as China stands in second with 67.

View Events & Broadcast Info


For a more in-depth look at Olympic History, Gary Anderson, former athlete, and ISSF chairman does a great job covering the full account.>