The National Sports Shooting Foundation spoke with Olympian Keith Sanderson at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to get insider input about Olympic shooting competitions.
We all have a pretty basic idea of how Olympic shooting works. The 10m air pistol event? Well, that’s easy. They take an air pistol and they shoot at a target that’s 10 meters away. Duh.
As you might expect, though, the Olympic have very technical and precise rules that affect the nuances of shooting sports. Most of these rules are lost on Olympic viewers, simply because we only get a chance to watch an Olympic shooting event every couple of years. Luckily, NSSF’s Bill Brassard spoke with US Olympic athlete Keith Sanderson to talk about some of the lesser-known aspects of Olympic shooting.
The 10m air pistol, Sanderson explains, is one of the most precise and delicate shooting events. The central bulls-eye is the exact size of the pellet being shot, so anything less than dead-center is worth fewer points.
The Free Pistol, which Sanderson called the “King of pistol events,” is probably the most difficult of the three pistol competitions. They fire at a target that’s 50 meters away (54.6 yards), but one of the advantages of the event is that the pistols have some of the loosest restrictions. In fact, Russian Alexander Melentiev broke the world record, which still holds today, when he brought a unique pistol that allowed him to “pull the trigger” with a remote control in his off-hand. The Olympic Committee was forced to change the rules on triggers after the 1980 Games.
Sanderson’s favorite is the rapid fire pistol, which pits athletes with the task of shooting five targets that are 25 meters away and spaced ¾ of a meter part. They shoot the targets in eight seconds, six seconds, and four seconds, going through two times each. You can catch Sanderson running through a Rapid Fire at 8:50.
For amateur shooters who want to improve their accuracy, Sanderson has three pieces of advice: “Dry fire, dry fire, dry fire… every single part of your technique can be improved by a dry fire.”
He admits, “It’s not fun, it’s not sexy, but it’s how you get better.” That may not be the advice that you want to hear, but coming from a guy who was ranked number one in the world, you kinda have to take his word for it.