Shooting Sports

What Are Shooting Sports?

Ginny Thrasher_credit Sam Greenwood
Ginny Thrasher is a long-time Ike and an Olympic gold medalist in shooting sports.

Shooting sports are competitive games in which the goal is to hit a stationary or moving target using a firearm, airgun, or bow. Becoming a shooting sports champion requires a combination of accuracy, precision, and speed.

Just as serious swimmers compete in backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle, serious shooting sports competitors practice and master different disciplines. A few examples:

  • In 3D field archery, competitors typically follow a trail through the woods, shooting at life-size models of animals as they come upon them. This activity used to be considered practice for bowhunting, but now it is a sport in its own right.

  • In cowboy action shooting, competitors dress up as cowboys, complete with period-appropriate firearms and a unique Old West alias. Each competitor then takes on a series of stages, in which they are required to use different firearms to hit different kinds of targets in simulated Wild West scenes. The competitor with the fastest time, after adding penalties for missed shots, wins the stage.

  • In clay target shooting, which is itself broken into different kinds of games, competitors attempt to hit and break clay discs that are launched into the air by throwing machines.
    • A round of skeet shooting involves 25 shots, over the course of which targets are launched in different directions and the competitor moves to different shooting positions, creating a variety of challenging scenarios.
    • In a round of trap shooting, a team of six rotates around the course and takes turns firing at targets launched in random directions.
    • A round of sporting clays sees a team of up to six move through a golf-course-like setting, hitting as many launched targets as possible at each station.

At the 2016 Olympics, 19 gold medals were awarded in shooting sports. One of those gold medals went to Ginny Thrasher, a long-time Ike who got her start in shooting at her local chapter's range. And more gold-medal Ikes may be on the way, as high school students across the country join trap teams and put in their practice hours at Izaak Walton League facilities.


Why Should I Try Shooting Sports?

Shooting sports are a hobby you can share with all your friends. It's easy to handicap experienced shooters by having them stand farther away from the target, so novices have a fair chance against old hands. And in community-level competitions, it's common for men and women to go head-to-head.

Shooting sports can be a lifelong passion. Kids are emulating Katniss and Legolas by taking up archery. And one world-class shooter joined a very small group of elite athletes by winning medals at six different Olympics.

Shooting sports encompass both individual and team competitions, so you can enjoy both personal achievement and all the benefits of team membership.

Shooting sports fund conservation efforts. When shooting sports participants buy gear – including firearms, ammunition, bows, and arrows – excise taxes on that equipment provide a critical funding stream for state wildlife agencies. The agencies use those funds to set aside land for outdoor recreation, improve habitat and re-introduce wildlife into these restored areas of their historic ranges, and educate would-be hunters about how to pursue game safely and ethically. Learn more.


How Can I Get Involved With Shooting Sports?

Shooting Sports_NSSFOver 100 League chapters across the country own and operate shooting sports facilities. Chapter members can take their first shots with an experienced mentor, practice archery and skeet shooting, or compete in a Steel Challenge. And chapters often make their facilities available to non-members for firearms safety training, hunter education courses, and youth shooting programs. Open-house events are great opportunities to check out the range or even try shooting sports for the very first time, with no commitment and low or no cost.

Many of our chapters' programs are endorsed by the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the Amateur Trapshooting Association – organizations that set the standards for the safe and responsible practice of recreational shooting sports. And every chapter with shooting sports facilities has safety rules and trained Range Safety Officers to make sure everyone can enjoy participating in shooting sports.

Find a chapter near you.


Shooting Sports Resources

Man shooting skeet

"25 Straight" Achievement Patches

Recognize excellence in trap and skeet shooting with our "25 Straight" patches. Get one for yourself, or get a whole bundle for the ace shots in your chapter. Order now.

Explore Bowhunting Instructor Kit

Explore Bowhunting Kit contentsInterest in bowhunting continues to grow each year, and bowhunters are the most avid archery participants. This new resource will help Izaak Walton League chapters take bowhunting classes to a new level and engage new audiences. 

Developed by the Archery Trade Association, the Explore Bowhunting Instructor Kit has the tools needed for any hunter education instructor, certified archery instructor, or avid archer to introduce new audiences to bowhunting. The kit includes:

  • Instructor Curriculum Book
  • Student Handbook
  • Anatomy Flip-Book
  • Archery Equipment Booklet
  • Crossbow Addendum
  • Curriculum Media Pack (includes ready-made PowerPoint presentations, graphics of hunt strategy maps, fact charts, bowhunting photos, audio recordings, and videos to aid you as you develop and conduct your own classroom presentations).

Order your kit today for the IWLA discounted rate of $75! (Price includes shipping and handling.)