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Target shooting is, as its name implies, the sport of shooting at artificial targets as opposed to live quarry. It is an international sport, featured at the Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games. The game is about marksmanship skill; the ability to repeatedly place shots in as small an area as possible in the centre of the target. Real guns firing real projectiles are used so the activity takes place on appropriately-designed ranges and safety is of prime importance. This focus on safety makes target shooting amongst the safest of all sports and shooting develops in its participants a strong safety culture with a self-disciplined approach to the handling of hazardous objects.

As in many aspects of athletics, shooters compete as much against themselves for the satisfaction of improving their own performance as to be 'the best on the day'. Shooting is both an individual and a team sport and is one in which people of both genders and a very wide age range can compete on equal terms. The sport can be enjoyed by wheelchair users and, with modified equipment, by the blind. Success in the sport involves learning fine control of the body and, less obviously, also of the mind in order to overcome the stresses of competition.

The most accessible form of the sport uses air rifles and air pistols and needs a range just 6 yards (5.5 metres) long. It is possible to set up a safe six-yard air gun range in almost any scout HQ. A greater challenge is presented by the more difficult targets used at 10 metres, still a distance which many scout headquarters can accommodate. The rifles and pistols used in this branch of the sport do not require any form of police-issued firearms certificate, making this the most straightforward type of target shooting to administer within the scout group or district (other than in Northern Ireland, where a firearms certificate is required). Scouting has a national scout air rifle championships and excels in this branch of the sport. Currently there are several scouts and explorer scouts in the Great Britain development squads.

There is a type of air rifle shooting, called field target, which takes place outdoors at targets set at a variety of distances. The rifles used will generally be fitted with telescopic sights. This may be pursued as a scout activity, either within Scouting or with a local club. Plain disc 'spinners' and circular targets set into plain geometrical shapes are available.

Target shooting is also carried out using 'small-bore' rifles firing 0.22 inch 'rimfire' cartridges at ranges typically from 15 yards (13.7m) to 100 metres. Usually, ranges of 25 yards and less are indoors and those from 50m upwards are outdoors, where the effects of the weather (most notably the wind!) present additional challenges. For this type of shooting the rifles used require firearm certificates (issued by the police) and the ranges need to be officially approved for safety. For these reasons the activity must be followed through a Home Office approved rifle club. There are a few such clubs established within Scouting, but in most cases scouts should contact their nearest rifle club. The National Small-bore Rifle Association offers a 'Clubfinder' service and will be pleased to put you in touch.

Long range target shooting takes place on outdoor ranges (generally those owned by the Ministry of Defence) at distances measured in many hundreds of yards and here the effects of the weather become really significant.

How to run/provide shooting

There are 2 ways of running Shooting in Scouting. These are:

  1. Scout-led activity - running shooting yourself or using someone else in Scouting

  2. Externally-led activity - running shooting using an external provider

Useful links

The National Governing Bodies for shooting are:

Factsheets on shooting

The following activity factsheets are relevant to this activity:

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