When people think of “airguns,” they think of the iconic Red Ryder and plinking tin cans in the backyard. They seldom, if ever, think of college scholarships and Olympic gold medals. But that’s exactly where airguns can take our youngsters if they have the discipline and support needed to get them there.
US Takes Gold in Tokyo
In late July 2021, Will Shaner set out to do something never done before. He took the field to try and win the first-ever Men’s gold medal for the US Olympic Air Rifle Team. At the end of his journey, he stood at the top of the podium with a gold medal around his neck.
Will started competing at the age of 8, winning his first international competition at only 14. With his gold medal win, Shaner became the 2nd youngest men’s 10-meter air rifle Olympic champion. He was coming off a recent top-place finish at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup in Croatia just a month ago.
Explaining 10-meter Air Rifle Competition
Here’s what goes into a 10-meter competitive match. First of all, a shooter needs to qualify. Qualifying entails 60 shots from each eligible competitor, with the top 8 going to the final. Those who qualify move on to the final.
Shooters will shoot a total of 24 shots, starting with two five-shot series. Shots are taken by the shooter at their own timing. Each five-shot group must be fired within 150 seconds. Then, the next 14 shots are fired on command, with each shot taken within 50 seconds. With so much on the line, the mental disciple required to truly be competitive must be incredible. There are shooters from all over the world who train exhaustively just for the opportunity to participate.
Unlike some other Olympic sports with subjective judges, targets are scored electronically and measured in decimal scoring. In other words, you can score higher than ten based on how perfectly centered you are on the bullseye.
How big is the bullseye? It’s .5mm or about .02″. So, just getting a “10” is a low score at this level. If you’re not shooting 10+ for every shot, you won’t stand a chance in this crowd. At the end of the match, the player with the highest score wins. Will scored an amazing 251.6, an Olympic record, and only 1.2 short of a new world’s record. The competition was extremely tight, with 2nd place scoring 250.9 and 3rd at 229.4. As you can see, the separation between 1st and 2nd is “tight.”
But it’s only 10 meters, how hard could that be? Well, here’s a challenge for you. Take a piece of paper and dot it with a pencil. Make sure the dot is about the size of the ball in a ballpoint pen. That’s about the size of the bullseye. Now put that piece of paper at 32.8 feet and with your best airgun, free-standing, try hitting it. Oh, be sure to take off your scope and only run open sights. And, make sure that you are shooting .177 at under 600 FPS. Now, do that again for another 23 shots and see how you did? If you didn’t remove the dot with your first shot and follow up with each subsequent shot through the same hole, you don’t have a chance. This is the kind of precision Will brought to the Tokyo games to win the gold medal. To say the least, that’s some impressive shooting.
How to Shooting Competitively
There are still some great options for both youngsters and adults who want to shoot competitively. Connecting with the NRA, Boy Scouts, and 4H are good resources for getting started. The great thing about airguns is that you can do a lot of training right at home without the need for special gear or facilities.
If you have a youngster who loves shooting, you may want to consider getting them started with something like the Daisy Avanti 499 5 meter match bb rifle. From there, they can move to the Crosman Challenger, Air Arms T200, or one of the Daisy Avanti pellet rifles. For those who want to go further, maybe to the collegiate level, Olympic class airguns are readily available right here on Airgun Depot.
Will Shaner started his road to Olympic gold at the young age of 8. Do you have a future gold medalist at home? There’s only one way to know for sure! If you want to give competitive airgunning a shot, give us a call, and we’ll help get you started in the right direction.