Olympic pistol shooting is difficult, but, with discipline and training, it can be taken up by anyone. Olympic pistol competition is all shot one-handed with the shooter standing roughly perpendicular to the target. The shooters stand very still in his/her stance for up to an hour at a time, putting all their focus into their front sight as they fire each shot. The pistols that are used look strange and may even be compared to space guns. They are all made specifically for each discipline and every grip is molded for each individual shooter’s hand. There are multiple men’s and women’s disciplines.
Men’s Olympic disciplines include 50-meter Free Pistol, 25-meter Rapid Fire Pistol and 10-meter Air Pistol. Free pistol is shot at a target with a ten-ring diameter of 50mm or about two inches. The special type of single-shot .22 caliber gun they use has a feather-light trigger and a grip that often completely covers the shooter’s hand. This allows for extremely precise shots. They shoot 60 shots in 90 minutes not including their sighting and preparation time. Rapid Fire pistol is fast-paced and difficult to explain in so few of words. It is shot at 25-meters with a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol designed to have minimal recoil. The shooter is centered on five separate targets. The scoring is based on the shot being either a hit or a miss. For the shot to be considered a hit, the shot must be scored a 9.7 or higher which is within the diameter of a softball. They have eight seconds from a 45-degree angle off his side to raise the gun and shoot one shot into each target. They do this twice. Then the time goes down to six seconds, and finally, a stunning four seconds to shoot five targets. The shooter then repeats the entire series for a total of 60 shots. Last, but not least, is Air Pistol. An air pistol is a .177 caliber single-shot pistol that uses pellets rather than bullets. Men’s air pistol contains a total of 60 shots fired within 75 minutes not including preparation and sighting time. The target has a ten ring only 11.5mm in diameter (roughly the size of an eraser on a pencil).
Women also have an Air Pistol discipline. It is shot at the same target, the same distance, and with the same style of gun. Women’s air pistol differs, however, in the amount of time the competition is shot and the amount of shots taken. Women shoot 40 shots in 50 minutes. It seems like a large amount of time to shoot, with an average of a little over a minute per shot, but it goes by a lot faster when you are on the line taking each of those shots. The other women’s discipline is 25-meter Sport Pistol shot with .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Sport pistol has two segments; the precision stage, and the rapid fire stage. During the precision stage, the shooter has five minutes to shoot five shots into a single target with a ten-ring diameter of 50 mm, roughly the size of a golf ball. They repeat this series a total of six times, totaling at 30 shots. The next stage is rapid-fire. This stage is shot at a single target with the ten-ring diameter being 100mm or about the size of an orange. Each series contains five shots from the “ready position” of a 45-degreee angle off the shooter’s side. They hold this position for seven seconds, then raise the gun and take their shot in three seconds. Then they return to the ready position for seven seconds and so on. This series is repeated six times, totaling 30 shots. Altogether, the competition has 60 shots.
For each of these disciplines, finals take the top eight shooters (except Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol, which takes six). Each discipline has a different format for finals, but all are similar to the original competition. The scores start over at zero, and the finals decide the winner. It’s exciting, because, as long as you make finals, even if you come into finals in eighth place, there is still a chance of going home with gold.
Shooting is one of the most rewarding sports to participate in, especially pistol. The community is friendly, the skills of concentration and discipline are transferrable to everyday life, and unique experiences offered by the sport are extraordinary. If the opportunity to try any discipline of shooting is available to you, take it. It will be well worth your time.