Underwater target shooting – A fascinating underwater sporting event

Most of us know about target practice, done either by a gun by shooters or by bow and arrow by archers. But have you ever heard of underwater target shooting? Underwater target shooting is a fun sport, which combines the fun of underwater diving and of target practice. Let us learn more about this fascinating sporting event in this article.

Origin of underwater target shooting

This unique sport originated in France in the mid-1980s. Underwater target shooting developed into a sport from the training activities done for spearfishing, a popular activity related to fishing in France. Over the years the sport has developed to its present form and has now spread over to the whole of Europe. The sport is known by two other names - Tir Sur Cible Subaquatique and Tiro al Blanco Subacuatico in French and Spanish respectively. The sport tests a competitor's ability to use a spear gun accurately under the water, without the use of any artificial means, other than snorkelling equipment to aid respiration. Neither can one use any aiming or telescopic device to enhance one's sight underwater. The event is organized in a large swimming pool with a minimum dimension of 25 meters by 10 meters. For an optimum experience the temperature of the pool is maintained to about 23 degree plus minus 5 degree centigrade. The event can however be played in any open water. But the advantages of a swimming pool such as better visibility and controlled temperature, make it suitable to be organized in swimming pools only. The events can be organized as a team event or as individual events. Both men and women can participate in the events. There are distinct titles for both men's and women's events.

Age criteria

For the international competitions, the minimum age of the competitors should not be less than 18 years. For national level competitions, for example in countries like France, there are two different age groups - classified as juniors and masters. Anyway, those who are well experienced with diving are only supposed to take part in this sporting event.

The necessary equipment

The equipment needed for competing in this sport is to be procured by the competitors themselves. Following are the equipment needed: a spear gun (which could be elastically or hydropneumatically operated), diving mask, diving or wet suit, snorkel, fins, pair of gloves and a weight belt. While vision correcting lenses and contact lenses are permissible to be worn, but aiming devices, underwater torches, telescopic and laser sights are not permitted for the competition. Other than the pool bottom the participant can also take the support of some ballast weight provided by the organizers.

How about the target?

The target is a 33 cm by 35 cm panel. The centre of the target is located 80 cm above the bottom of the pool, supported by a frame. The panel is made up of plastic foam. The foam is rigid enough for the spear to remain impaled in the panel. Just like in archery there could be a number of targets placed in a line. Each target is 1 to 1.5 meter away from the back wall of the swimming pool. Between each target there is a distance of 2.5 meter, so as to create a shooting range with a number of targets. Three lines are marked in the bottom of the pool. Shooting line, starting line and the third one is a line located 3 metres from the starting line. This third line demarcates the space for underwater preparation by the competitors. The remaining space of the pool can be used by the competitors for warming up. The distance between the shooting line and the target is 3 metres. The tip of the spear gun should not extend beyond the shooting line.

The various events

As mentioned earlier there are both individual as well as team events. Among the individual events are two events - Precision and Biathlon. The team event is known as Relay.
  1. Precision

    In this event, the participants dive from the starting line and swim underwater to reach the shooting line. Once at the shooting line, the participant stops to obtain support from the pool bottom and then fires the spear gun at the target. He or she then swims to the target, retrieves the embedded spear, surfaces and then swims back to the starting line. The participant has to reload the spear gun under the water itself and get ready for the next cycle. This cycle of events is repeated, until 10 shots are fired at the target in two rounds of 5 shots each. Each round is a given a time-frame of 5 minutes. The one who gets the most points is the winner. The scoring pattern is similar to that of other sporting events like shooting and archery.
  2. Biathlon

    It is similar to the precision event, except for some minor differences. Unlike in precision event, the participant has to return to the starting line after retrieving the spear, without surfacing. He or she can surface for breath, but only after returning to the starting line. This cycle is repeated until 5 shots are fired. For men the time-frame is 2 minutes 30 seconds and for women it is 3 minutes. The one with the most hits in the least time is declared the winner.
  3. Relay

    As in most other swimming and athletic events involving teams, the team event is also called as Relay. However there are only 2 or 3 participants in each team. The team can be a mixed team of men and women. 9 shots are to be fired at 9 targets and there is only one round of play. The time-frame given for the relay event is 4 minutes 30 seconds. Like in the Precision event, the team which wins the most points is the winner.

Safety aspects

Since this sporting event involves the use of a spear gun and is organised underwater, the aspect of safety is of paramount importance. The participants or the competitors have to follow the rules laid down by the organizers stringently. Lapses are not to be there by anyone. While the events are being held, the water behind the targets is kept completely out of bound for everyone. Other than the participants no one is to enter the zone where the underwater event is taking place. The organizers also ensure the availability of medical aid or a physician to provide first aid, in case of any accidents.


Even though the sport is a fascinating one, it is yet to make a mark outside the continent of Europe. The sport can get popular in our country too, if the necessary infrastructure in the form of swimming pools and the sporting gear are made readily available in the country to more and more sportspersons. Moreover there is a lack of awareness of this sport among the general population. If similar sports like shooting and archery can make a mark and be popular in the country, then why not underwater target shooting? The best thing about this sport is; it keeps you in the pink of health. Hopefully, more and more countries, including ours, will take a liking to the sport in the near future.

Article by Dhruv
Dhruv is an electrical engineer by profession. Apart from liking his job, he has a special love for writing and has often dabbled in writing scripts for skits and short plays. As a Content Developer at ISC, Dhruv is having a whale of a time, showcasing his writing skills.

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Author: K Mohan03 Apr 2016 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 1

To be frank for the first time I am coming across the fun sport called Under water shooting and surely it interests to me and many too. Normally inside the water we feel ourselves weightless and the activities what we do may also go wrong. That means if the bow and arrow shooting has to be done beneath the water the trajectory or the path of the same with timing may not be possible. The arrows are not heavier than the water and therefore the arrows has to be sent with lots of force so that it reaches the target , otherwise going some where is quite possible. I bet that chances of hitting the target may not be that easy and one has to have lots of experience and must be played daily. More over taking right position inside the water may not be possible for the new learners and therefore learning to take right position is the first and foremost important for water arrow shooting fun game.

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