|In the UK the various shooting disciplines combine to make shooting one of the most popular participation sports going. Across the world participants number many millions. It is also a sport at which, over the years, Britain has excelled. Shooting's origins date back to the Volunteer movement in response to the perceived threats from Napoleon III's France. The formation of the National Rifle Association at Wimbledon in 1860, with the blessing of Her Majesty Queen Victoria who gave £250 for the annual contest for the Sovereign's Prize, was the precursor of the wider sport that has developed today.
Target shooting has grown to encompass fullbore rifle, smallbore rifle, air rifles and pistols, and clay target shooting and is a foundation Olympic sport with a full regime of world, European, Commonwealth and national championships. It was first included in the Commonwealth Games in 1966. It is a sport that, as much as any other sport, places the highest mental demands on competitors. They need iron will, determination, fitness, hand/eye co-ordination and absolute concentration.
Whether they are trying to hit a 24 inch bullseye 1,000 yards away or shatter the flying clay a fraction of a second after it is launched, the shooters know that their success depends entirely on their own will and skill. Shooting is one of the few sports in which women can compete on equal terms with the men in mixed competition, and unusually, provides opportunities for top honours to competitors of all ages. Indeed, a Commonwealth Games shooting gold medal has been won by a 68 year old.
The shooting disciplines divide between shotgun, in which the cartridge contains many small pellets to hit clay disc targets launched into the air, and guns which fire a single bullet at paper or electronic targets. The latter group divide between rifles and pistols, ranging from the fullbore (open) rifles shot at distances up to 1,000 yards and the centre-fire pistols, to smallbore rifles and pistols, and air rifles and pistols used at distances as short as 10 metres.
All the shooting events will be taking place at the National Shooting Centre in Bisley, Surrey. This historic venue has been commissioned by Manchester 2002 to provide the complete facilities. With the aid of a Sport England grant, Bisley will offer brand new world class shooting ranges and a magnificent new smallbore rifle and air rifle and air pistol complex.
The UK government has recognised that the handgun ban would end competitive target shooting with handguns in the UK. However, because of the importance of major international sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games, the government made a commitment to consider favourably any request to allow the pistol shooting events to take place at the Games in 2002. The government is honouring that commitment.
The Home Secretary has powers that will make this possible and arrangements have been put in place to allow it. Such arrangements will apply equally to competitors from Britain and overseas.