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Shooting is the act or process of discharging a projectile from a ranged weapon (such as a gun, slingshot, crossbow, or bow. Even the acts of launching/discharging artillery, darts, grenades, rockets and guided missiles can be considered acts of shooting. When using a firearm, the act of shooting is often called firing as it involves initiating a combustion process (deflagration).

Shooting can take place in a shooting range or in the field, in shooting sports, hunting or in combat. The person involved in the shooting activity is called a shooter. A skilled, accurate shooter is a marksman or sharpshooter, and a person's level of shooting proficiency is referred to as his/her marksmanship

Competitive shooting

Shooting has inspired competition, and in several countries rifle clubs started to form in the 19th century.[1] Soon international shooting events evolved, including shooting at the Summer and Winter Olympics (from 1896) and World Championships (from 1897).[2] The International Shooting Sport Federation still administers Olympic and non-Olympic rifle, pistol, shotgun, and running target shooting competitions, although there is also a large number of national and international shooting sports controlled by unrelated organizations.[2]

Shooting technique differs depending on factors like the type of firearm used (from a handgun to a precision rifle); the distance to and nature of the target; the required precision; and the available time. Breathing and position play an important role when handling a handgun or a rifle. Some shooting sports, such as IPSC shooting[3] and biathlon also include movement. The prone position, kneeling position, and standing position offer different amounts of support for the shooter.

Hunting with guns

In the United Kingdom shooting often refers to the activity of hunting game birds such as grouse or pheasants, or small game such as rabbits, with guns.[4] A shooter is sometimes referred to as a "gun". Shooting may also refer to the culling of vermin with guns. Clay pigeon shooting is meant to simulate shooting live pigeons released from traps, after doing so was banned in the United Kingdom in 1921.[5]


Shooting most often refers to the use of a gun (firearm or air gun), although it can also be used to describe discharging of any ranged weapons like a bow, crossbow, slingshot or even blow tube.[4] The term "weapon" does not necessarily mean it is used as a combat tool, but as a piece of equipment to help the user best achieve the goal of his/her activities.[6]

Shooting is also used in warfare, self-defence, crime and law enforcement. Duels were sometimes held using guns. Shooting without a target has applications such as celebratory gunfire, 21-gun salute, or firing starting pistols, incapable of releasing bullets.


In many countries, there are restrictions on what kind of firearm can be bought and by whom, leading to debate about how effective such measures are and the extent to which they should be applied. For example, attitudes towards guns and shooting in the United States are very different from those in the United Kingdom and Australia.[7]


Canting is an alignment issue that occurs in shooting.

Because scopes need to be mounted to a rifle in perfect parallel to the barrel and to ensure the cross hairs sit exactly where a bullet will go (POI), a small variation of even ¼ of one degree can cause great problems at longer ranges.

A locking bar holds the mount in a perfect 90 degree to the rail system whereas a non-locking bar system can cant to the left or right.

This canting (sometimes called jamming of surfaces) is caused by not matching the clamping surface perfectly to the rail.

When tightened down, stress exerted on the base can cause the scope to be off from the POI by as much as several feet at 100–200 yards and gets progressively worse the farther out the range goes.

Lower grade materials used in manufacturing of scope bases, inconsistent design tolerances from one manufacturer to another and other factors can cause twisting stress and cause the mount to move out of parallel with the rifle barrel.

The locking bar system allows for even stress to be distributed and prevent canting of the scope mount.

Another form of scope canting is caused by the rings themselves.

Some mounts either have two or four screws on top of the scope ring that hold the scope in place.

With the two-screw style, the ring usually aligns well but does not have the strength of the four screw system.

When tightening the screws of the four screw type, the scope can twist in place, causing misalignment.

Shooting positions

The four basic "NRA" or "competition" or "field" shooting positions, in order of steadiness / stability (the closer you get to the ground, the steadier you are), are prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing (also called "offhand").[8]

Other common, but aided, shooting position is bench shooting position.

There are also numerous shooting aids from monopods to tripods to sandbags and complete gun cradles.[8]


  • The steadiest by far and easiest to master.

  • When this position is done correctly it can be as steady as shooting from a bench rest.[8]

  • Will probably be the least used in the field because, all too often, vegetation gets in the way and obscures the view.[8]

  • Variations:[8] classic - it has the body at an angle (left for righties, right for lefties) modern - it has the body more directly behind the rifle with shooter's strong side leg slightly bent.

  • Test for correct body position: Wrap your arm into the hasty sling and drop down into prone, sighting at the target.

  • Close your eyes.

  • When you open them you should still be aiming at the target.

  • If you aren’t, then your position is off.

  • Also, if the shooter's sight picture returns after the firm kicks to each muzzle, then body alignment is good.

  • If not, adjustment is needed.[8]

  • Usual advice is to use a sling for this position[9]

  • Aided prone position - prone with pack or bipod


  • This position is relatively easy to get into, but more difficult to get out of quickly and provides clearance for low to medium height obstacles that would interfere with the prone position.

  • Proper sitting position is extremely difficult to master.[8]

  • Variations:[8] open leg cross leg (aka pretzel style) - the steadiest sitting position.[8]

  • The test for correct body position is the same as prone.[8]

  • Usual advice is to use a sling for this position.[9]

  • Aided sitting position - sitting with tripod


  • Best for times when shooter needs to shoot quickly, but it is a bit too far (or he is breathing a bit too hard) to risk a shot from the standing position.[8]

  • A lot steadier than standing position.

  • For most people it is not nearly as steady as sitting but it is a lot faster to get in and out of.[8]

  • For some people this position can be almost as steady as the prone position.
  • Strong-side knee is on the ground, weak-side knee and foot are pointing at the target while weak-side knee is supporting the elbow (It is important that the bony tip of the elbow not be planted on top of the knee cap - bone-on-bone contact allows for too much movement or it can slip.)

  • Variations:[8] sitting on strong-side foot with strong-side foot flat sitting on the strong-side foot's heel with the toes grounded

  • Usual advice is to use a sling for this position.[9]

  • Aided kneeling position - kneeling with crossed sticks or tripod

Standing (or offhand)

  • The quickest position to assume and is useful for quick shots and for shooting over objects.[9]

  • By far is the least steadiest of all positions.

  • Common trait is a bit of sway in this position.

  • The trick is learning to control the sway and fire when shooter is at his steadiest.

  • The most difficult position to shoot from and to master.

  • Stock fit is essential in standing - perhaps more than in any other position.

  • Shooter needs to have his cheek firmly welded to the stock.

  • Variations:[10] squared toward the target - advantages of this technique are that it allows the shooter to absorb the rifle’s recoil much more effectively, to run the bolt and get back on target quickly.

  • It also places the shooter in a more aggressive stance that allows him to move, in just about any direction, as his target requires.

  • Usual advice is not to use the sling for support in this position.[9]

  • Aided standing position Standing with sticks and stones Three-legged shooting sticks are almost universal in Africa. Whatever shooter's comfortable range is for offhand shooting, sticks should double it.[8]

Rice paddy squat in rifle shooting

The rice paddy squat (or rice paddy prone) position is a moderate stability position that supports both elbows, making it more stable than kneeling yet keeping a high level of mobility.

Its higher center of gravity will still be less stable than sitting or prone.

It was a traditionally taught marksmanship position but lost popularity after the Korean conflict.[11] The heel-down squat/kneel combination has also been used to fire weapons – see image.


Shooting sling

The sling is used to create isometric pressure to increase steadiness.

While the use of a sling is of questionable value when shooting from the standing position, it is very much worth using from kneeling, sitting or prone.

Proper use of the sling locks the rifle into the body and enhances that solid foundation so critical to delivering an accurate shot.

A type of shooting sling.

All positions are strengthened through the use of a hasty sling. The formal tight sling is detached from the rear sling swivel and tightened above the bicep of the supporting arm. Almost any carrying strap can be used in the hasty sling mode. There is often a compromise between the most comfortable "carry" length for shooter's sling and the ideal tension for a hasty sling. The steadiness achieved is almost as good as a tight competition sling and it is a lot faster.[8][10]


In ISSF shooting events, 3 out of 4 shooting positions are used. The only positions not used is sitting position.

WBSF governs benchrest shooting.

IPSC shooting events use prone, offhand and supported shooting positions.

There are some competitions, like felthurtigskyting, in which shooting position is freestyle. That means that the shooter decides which one of the four positions he'll use.

See also

  • History of the firearm

  • Shooting targets


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