The shooter's guide to training without guns or ammunition

"Everything comes from Europe so we only have a limited amount of ammunition we can fire" - Haniyeh Rostamiyan JOHANNA LEGUERRE/AFP/Getty Images

Japan's rifle shooting coach Matyas Szucsacs faced a unique problem when training members of the shooting team, a position he has held for the last four months. He wasn't allowed to touch any of their guns.

"Our coach can't touch our rifles because he didn't have permission. There's only a few people in Japan who are allowed to touch the guns without a license. That's the law," says 10m rifle shooter Naoya Okada.

"I can only talk to them. Or I can show what I want them to do with a diagram. But I can't touch their rifle. It's a bit strange but they seem to understand my point," says Szucsacs.

Okada's example is just one of the various hoops sports shooters from other countries have to jump through in order to practice their sport. While India's shooting success in recent years is a product of liberal import and licensing laws for air guns and a generous quota of small bore ammunition for top shooters, for a lot of countries, shooters have their tasks cut out - sometimes battling restrictive gun laws and in other cases, the effect of sanctions on their countries.

Japan's problem is more of the former. Guns, even those powered by a canister of compressed air, are tightly regulated.

"The vast majority of junior shooters in Japan shoot a laser rifle. It's only the very best who are allowed to apply for an air-gun license," says Szucsacs.

It was a long wait for Okada, who started shooting as an 18-year-old, too.

"It took three years of shooting with a laser rifle before I could get a license to buy an air-gun," he says. "I had to take a one-day written exam conducted by my police station. I was questioned about gun safety, handling and the correct transportation of ammunition. I had to clear the exam with 95% marks. A few months after that I got my gun."

The restrictions haven't eased even after he has become a competitive international shooter. Even pellets are in short supply.

"The only way to get pellets is by importing them from Europe and you can only do that from four or five gun shops in Japan and you can't import pellets directly. That's a problem because you don't get the kind of pellets you want to shoot with. And the ones we get are usually of a lower standard because the buyer doesn't really care which ones to get," says Szusacs.

Besides, importing is not an option for countries that are on the wrong side of embargoes by European countries. This is especially true for the shooters of the small bore event like the 50m 3 position or the 25m pistol that uses .22 caliber ammunition.

"Anything that fires an explosive round and the ammunition for that gun is impossible to get from Europe," says Ebrahim Alireza, coach of the Iranian shooting team.

That's why his team's weaponry comes from a combination of different makes and years.

"Every time Iran has better relations with the world, we can import a gun and ammunition. Otherwise it's not coming through," he says. Ebrahim sees the humor in the situation, though. "You know how Indians are able to find a way to make something out of all those old cars that are nearly scrap? We are like that with guns."

This isn't just an empty boast. The Iranian shooting team has guns of very impressive vintage.

"The latest guns we can get go to our senior shooters. But we have some really old rifles too. Four members of our junior team in Tehran are training with rifles we imported for the 1974 Asian Games. There's not much that's from the time of the Shah that's still in use but those guns are," he says.

Ammunition certainly isn't getting a pass from sanctions either. "Everything comes from Europe so we only have a limited amount of ammunition we can fire," says Haniyeh Rostamiyan, who won a bronze medal in the 25m rapid fire pistol on Monday. "We have around 1000 rounds which we can shoot through the year. It's only when we travel to competitions that we can buy rounds locally and then we can shoot a lot more."

Sergey Kaminskiy, who won a gold medal in the 10m air rifle on Tuesday to go with his 50m 3positions silver medal a day earlier, is familiar with both ancient guns and limited ammunition.

"Russia is always having some sort of embargo on it," he says. "So both guns and ammunition is limited. If you are a young shooter, you aren't likely to get a new gun unless you are very good."

Kaminskiy wasn't one of those precocious youngsters and that affected what he could shoot with.

"In Russia, you need to be one of the very best shooters to get the latest equipment. But the problem is that to get a good gun, you need medals and to win medals you need a good gun," he says. His first gun was anything but. "For five years out of the juniors, I was shooting with a gun called an Ural. It was made during the time of the Soviet Union, that's how old it was. Of course I didn't win anything with it."

Kaminskiy, though, lucked out when his military club imported a Walther rifle and lent it to him to shoot with.

"It's not my gun but at least I'm now winning with it," he says. Kaminskiy's main issue now is ammunition. "That's always been a problem. I can't recall a single time when we weren't shooting under some sort of restriction."

Kaminskiy's eyes boggles when he is told of the amount of ammunition available to Indian shooters (the quota was increased from 15000 rounds to 50000 rounds per year back in 2016).

"50000 rounds? That's incredible. I'm the No. 1 ranked rifle shooter in Russia and I've never had more than 10000 rounds to shoot in a year," he says. Sometimes it's even less than that. "There was a time when I was shooting only about 100 rounds a day or even just dry firing (mock firing) because if I shot more, I wouldn't have any ammunition left for a competition."

Kaminskiy isn't hopeful for the situation to improve anytime soon.

"I've heard that our (ISSF) president Vladimir Lisin is arranging the import of a lot of ammunition for the Tokyo Olympics but it's not going to come before March. I still don't think there's going to be too many bullets to go around."

Despite the restrictions they are dealing with, these shooters are managing to do the best they can. Okada made his first World Cup final in Delhi while Rostamiyan won her first ever medal. Kaminskiy, meanwhile, has only cemented his status as the premier rifle shooter in the world today.

Another Iranian shooter Ahmadi Elaleh, who is bidding for a third World Cup gold, equalled the qualifying world record with a total of 1180 in the women's 50m three positions event on Tuesday.

Short of ammunition, Elaleh had also been dry firing in the lead up to the World Cup.

"She only got a chance to shoot some ammunition in the practice sessions in New Delhi. At the start her shots were going very wide but she was able to adapt. And now she's equaled a world record. What she's done proves something. It's not just about the rifle, it's also about the person behind the gun." says Ebrahim.