Who has the most gold medals in Olympic shooting history?

The following athletes are tied for the most gold medals in Olympic shooting history: 

  • Carl Osburn (USA)
  • Willis A. Lee (USA)
  • Ole Lilloe-Olsen (NOR)
  • Alfred Lane (USA)
  • Morris Fisher (USA)

In general, the U.S. has won the most Olympic medals in shooting, followed by China and Russia. Italy has also been on the rise, including when the nation won three gold medals and two silver medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

When did shooting become an Olympic sport?

Shooting joined the Olympic program at the 1900 Paris Games. In its debut, live pigeons were the targets for two shooting events in the Games, marking the only time the killing of animals was part of an Olympic event. 

What is the new Olympic shooting record?

Several new records were set at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics following a change in the format and scoring. Below is the new shooting record for each event.

Men’s 10m air rifle

William Shaner (USA) - 251.6 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Women’s 10m air rifle

Qian Yang (China) - 251.8 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Men’s 50m rifle 3 positions

Zhang Changhong (China) - 466.0 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Women’s 50m rifle 3 positions

Nina Christen (Switzerland) - 463.9 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Men’s 10m air pistol

Javad Foroughi (Iran) - 244.8 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Women’s 10m air pistol

Vitalina Batsarashkina (ROC) - 240.3 at the 2020 Tokyo Games 2020

Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol

Leuris Pupo (Cuba) - 34 at the 2012 London Games

Women’s 25m pistol

Kim Minjung (Korea) and Vitalina Batsarashkina (ROC) - 38 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Men’s trap

David Kostelecky (Czech Republic), Jiri Liptak (Czech Republic) - 43 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Women’s trap

Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova (Slovakia) - 43 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Men’s skeet

Vincent Hancock (USA) - 59 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Women’s skeet

Amber English (USA) - 56 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Mixed team 10m air rifle

Qian Yang and Haoran Yang (China) - 633.2 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Mixed team 10m air pistol

Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary (India) - 582 at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Mixed team trap

Alberto Fernandez/Fatima Galvez (Spain) and Gian Berti/Alessandra Perilli (San Marino) - 148 points at the 2020 Tokyo Games

Who is the best Olympic sharpshooter?

American Carl Osburn is regarded as the best Olympic sharpshooter. He holds the record for most medals won at the Games with 11 medals. He competed in the Olympics from 1912–1924.

Olympic shooting results by year

Tokyo, 2020 

No sport made a more drastic move toward gender equity at the Tokyo Olympics than shooting. Out with the men's free pistol, prone rifle and double trap; in with mixed events in air pistol, air rifle and trap. The new program suited the United States just fine. U.S. shooters claimed three gold medals, second only to China, and six total medals, third behind China and the ROC. Other countries with multiple medals included the Czech Republic, Switzerland and San Marino. Yes, San Marino.

Rio, 2016 

After the 2012 Olympics, the International Shooting Sport Federation implemented a number of new rules intended to help grow the sport's appeal. Among the most significant was that in the final, all scores begin again at zero, whereas previously, scores from the qualification round and final were combined to determine final standings. Italy and China led all nations with seven medals each in shooting in 2016; Italy tallied four gold and three silver while China had one gold, two silver and four bronze. Virginia Thrasher was the lone gold medal winner for the U.S., winning the women's 10m air rifle. 

London, 2012 

Matt Emmons of the United States won his third Olympic medal with a bronze in the 50m three position rifle event. He lost out to Italy's Niccolo Campriani and South Korea's Jonghyun Kim, who won gold and silver respectively. In women's skeet, American Kim Rhode won gold. With her victory, Rhode's career consisted of three gold, one silver and one bronze. China led all countries in shooting medals, winning seven, including two gold, from the 15 events. 

Beijing, 2008 

Heartbreak was the story again for Matt Emmons in the 50m three position rifle event. The American again found himself in position to take gold, just like 2004, but he fired his gun too early and finished fourth. He did, however, claim a silver medal in the men's 50m rifle prone. His wife, Czech Republic shooter Katerina Emmons, won silver in the women's 50m rifle three position and gold in the women's 10m air rifle. American Kim Rhode won silver in women's skeet, marking her fourth-straight Olympics with an individual medal. 

Athens, 2004 

American Matt Emmons fired at the wrong target with his final shot in the 50m three position rifle final, a shocking mistake that cost him a commanding lead and ruined his chance for a second gold medal. Leading by three points and needing only to get near the bull's-eye to win, Emmons fired at the target in lane three while shooting in lane two. When no score appeared, he gestured to officials that he thought there was some sort of error with his target. He was wrong. Officials huddled before announcing that Emmons had cross-fired - an extremely rare mistake in elite competition - and awarded him a score of zero. That dropped Emmons to eighth place at 1,257.4 points and lifted Jia Zhanbo of China to the gold at 1,264.5.

Sydney, 2000 

France's unheralded Franck Dumoulin, who had shot himself in the hand a year before the Olympics and been temporarily wheelchair-bound after a motorcycle crash, returned from his accidents to win the air pistol gold in Sydney. In 1991, when American Nancy Johnson was diagnosed with a mysterious nerve ailment that affected her arms and legs, her shooting career appeared to be over. But she recovered in time to compete in 1996 and after some time off, she was symptom-free for the two years leading up to the 2000 Games. There, not expected to contend for gold, she won in dramatic fashion, edging South Korean Kang Cho-Hyun by two-tenths of a point. In front of a boisterous home crowd, near-perfect Australian Michael Diamond became the second man to repeat as trap champion. After missing two targets in the first qualifying session and one in the second, he was perfect in his last four, including the final, easily winning with 122 points.

Atlanta, 1996 

Belying her age with poise and precision 17-year-old, high school senior-to-be Kim Rhode became shooting's youngest female Olympic champion -- and the sport's lone U.S. gold medalist at the Atlanta Games -- when she won the double trap event.

Barcelona, 1992 

One of Yugoslavia's most accomplished athletes ever was Jasna Sekaric, winner of four Olympic medals from 1988-2000. Her run began in Seoul, with a sport pistol bronze and an air pistol gold. In Barcelona, Sekaric almost became the first woman to repeat as Olympic champion in shooting, but finished second in air pistol by virtue of a tiebreaker. 

Seoul, 1988 

Great Britain's Malcolm Cooper, targeting a successful defense of his Olympic title in the small-bore rifle, three position competition, gave up alcohol in order to better prepare for the Games. After defeating teammate Alister Allan in the final, Cooper said he was "tired and thirsty" and celebrated by breaking his pre-Olympic abstinence.

Los Angeles, 1984 

Washington native Matt Dryke took up competitive shooting with a background as an entertainer, having performed rifle tricks while riding a unicycle. He entered the 1984 Games as skeet shooting's world record holder and favorite. The boisterous crowd he attracted rattled his opposition and saw him win gold.

Montreal, 1976 

At the end of the small-bore rifle, three position, Lanny Bassham and Margaret Murdock, both from the United States, were tied with 1162 points. Bassham was awarded the gold for scoring more 100s, but he didn't agree with the tiebreaker system. So, during the medal ceremony, he pulled Murdock -- the first woman to win a shooting medal at the Games -- up to the top step, where they stood together for the "Star Spangled Banner."

Munich, 1972 

North Korean Li Ho-Jun won gold in the small-bore rifle, prone position, and then explained, "Our Prime Minister, Kim Il-Sung, told us prior to our departure to shoot as if we were fighting our enemies. And that's exactly what I did." Li later tried to retract the remarks.

Melbourne, 1956 

Canada's Gerald Ouellette struggled through small-bore rifle's three-position event before deciding with teammate Gilmour Boa that both competitors should use Boa's gun for the prone event. This meant that the compatriots had to finish in the two hour, 30 minute individual time limit. Boa went first and matched his world record of 598; Ouellette then shot 60 straight bull's eyes for a perfect 600. They finished third and first, respectively.

London, 1948 

In 1938, Karoly Takacs was serving in the Hungarian army when a grenade exploded in his right hand, with which he'd already become a champion shooter. In a remarkable display of ambidexterity, Takacs learned to shoot left-handed and won back-to-back rapid-fire pistol golds at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. 

Paris, 1924 

The U.S. rifle team won gold, thanks in part to a perfect score from Lt. Sidney Hinds. Hinds' achievement was especially noteworthy given that during the competition, he was wounded when his gun accidentally discharged as a Belgian shooter next to him was arguing with an official. Eight of 55 competitors in the rapid-fire pistol competition recorded perfect scores, and shoot-offs were required to determine the medal winners. Round by round, they eliminated competitors, and American Henry Bailey -- a U.S. Marine sergeant -- was finally awarded gold after the seventh shoot-off.

Antwerp, 1920 

Oscar Swahn was 72 in Antwerp when he won his last Olympic medal. After his Swedish team finished second in the running deer double shot competition, he called it a career with three gold, a silver and two bronze. He remains the oldest medalist in Olympic history. Swahn's son Alfred won nine medals between 1908 and 1924.

Paris, 1900 

Live pigeons were the targets for two shooting events on the 1900 program, marking the only time the killing of animals was part of an Olympic event.