10 Metre Air Rifle is an International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) shooting event, shot over a distance of 10 metres (10.94 yards) from a standing position with a 4.5 mm (0.177 in) calibre air rifle with a maximum weight of 5.5 kg (12.13 lb). The use of specialised clothing is allowed to improve the stability of the shooting position and prevent chronic back injury which can be caused by the asymmetric offset load on the spine when the rifle is held in position. It is one of the ISSF-governed shooting events included in the Olympic games.
The course of fire is an unlimited number of sighter shots followed by 60 competition shots for men or 40 competition shots for women, all fired within 105 minutes for men or 75 minutes for women. During this initial or qualification phase, a maximum of 10 points are awarded for each shot. The top eight shooters follow this with a final 10 shots – each scored to a maximum of 10.9 – with the cumulative score determining the winner. The maximum of 10.9 is derived from an additional set of 10 rings within the centre 10-point circle, increasing in 0.1 point value as the rings approach the centre of the target. The competition is won by the shooter who reaches the highest aggregate score (qualification + final score).
Shots are fired from the standing position only, as opposed to some other airgun shooting disciplines such as for three positions (popular in the United States) or in disabled sports.
The major competitions are the Olympic Games every four years and the ISSF World Shooting Championships every four years (the Games and the Championships are held two years apart). In addition, the event is included in the ISSF World Cup series, the ISSF World Cup Final, in continental championships, and in many other international and national competitions. It is an indoor sport. In many clubs and ranges, electronic targets are now being used instead of the traditional paper targets.
Scores in 10 Metre Air Rifle have improved rapidly during the last few decades and today top competitors sometimes achieve maximum results (a “possible”) for the initial or qualification phase (600 for men and 400 for women). The majority of these full marks were achieved at non-directly ISSF supervised international and national-level matches and championships, where official ISSF recognized world records can not be set.This leads to many national records in fact being equal to the world records. The maximum achievable aggregate score (qualification + final score) is 709 for men and 509 for women. Up to 2011 no top competitor has achieved an official perfect aggregate score.
For the 10 metre air rifle and air pistol disciplines match diabolo pellets are used. These pellets have wadcutter heads, meaning the front is (nearly) flat, that leave clean round holes in paper targets for easy scoring. Match pellets are offered in tins and more elaborate packagings that avoid deformation and other damage that could impair their uniformity.
Match air rifle shooters are encouraged to perform shooting group tests with their gun clamped in a machine rest to establish which particular match pellet type performs best for their particular air gun. To facilitate maximum performance out of various air guns the leading match pellet manufacturers produce pellets with graduated “head sizes”, which means the pellets are offered with front diameters from 4.48 mm (0.176 in) up to 4.52 mm (0.178 in).
However at higher and top competitive levels, even these variations are thought too coarse-grained and match pellets are batch tested; that is, the specific gun is mounted in a machine rest test rig and pellets from a specific production run on a specific machine with the same ingredients fed into the process (a batch) are test-fired through the gun.Many different batches will be tested in this manner, and the pellets which give the smallest consistent group size without fliers (shots which fall outside of the main group) will be selected (small but inconsistent group sizes are not useful to a top competitor); and the shooter will then purchase several tens of thousands of pellets from that batch. Group sizes of 4.5 mm (0.177 in) diameter are theoretically possible, but practically shot groups of 5.0 mm (0.197 in) are considered highly competitive.Unbatched ammunition, especially if the air gun is not regularly cleaned, is generally thought to be capable of only 8.0 mm (0.315 in) diameter group sizes. Batch testing match pellets for a particular gun is not generally thought to be worthwhile until the shooter reaches a high proficiency level (around the 95% level i.e 570 for men, 380 for women).
The occurrence of full marks scores is mainly due to the continuous development of the employed match air rifles from spring-piston type designs into single-stroke pneumatic and pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) designs. Modern PCP match rifles from the leading manufacturers all feature fast lock times, shoot practically recoilless and vibration free, exhibit minimal movement and balance shifts and can be tailored by an adjustable aluminum stock and other user interfaces and various accessories to the individual shooters personal preferences to promote comfortable and accurate shooting from a standing position. Combined with appropriate match pellets these rifles produce a consistent 10 ring performance, so a non-maximal result during the initial phase can be attributed to the participant.