Sights Set


Competitive rifle shooter Erin Schnupp hopes to one day compete in the summer Olympics

“Oh, that’s not a real sport.”

Erin Schnupp is accustomed to this reaction when people learn she is a competitive rifle shooter, but the 16-year-old is quick to politely point out, “It’s in the Olympics.” In fact, competitive shooting is one of the oldest Olympic sports still contested today, and Schnupp has her sights set on competing during the summer Olympics someday.

Not to be confused with biathlon (a winter event combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting), competitive shooting is done from a standing, kneeling or prone position taking aim at the center of a bullseye that’s one-half millimeter wide (approximately the size of the period at the end of a sentence). Schnupp first started training for her sport at age eight during a 4-H program on proper gun safety and handling. The Maine Girls Academy student now practices four days a week at Scarborough Fish and Game to prepare for local, regional and national competitions.   

Erin Schnupp, 16, practices shooting four days a week at Scarborough Fish and Game and competes at local, regional and national competitions. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

“I like how it trains your mind in a different way than most sports,” says Schnupp, who estimates shooting is 10 percent physical, 90 percent mental. “You’re in your own zone, you have to make the right decision right then and there whether you take the shot or you put it down. That comes with training, confidence, patience and commitment.”

Not only is there commitment to practice, there is a financial investment in the sport. Schnupp estimates all her gear—leather and canvas jacket and pants, stiff, flat boots, small-bore and air rifles and ammunition—to ring in around $20,000.

Schnupp follows in the footsteps of her older siblings. Her sister Sarah is studying at University of Akron on a scholarship for competitive shooting. Their brother Patrick also accepted a scholarship to attend University of Akron starting this fall. Their dad, Joe Schnupp, says watching his kids at national matches is interesting.

Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

“When you have a firing point, you could be beside someone with a gold medal,” he says, adding that competitions are not divided by age, gender or ability. “You’re judged on that moment in time when you pull the trigger.”

“It’s all about your mental attitude going into the day,” says Erin Schnupp. “You also have to be able to wipe away each shot, good or bad. You have to be able to move on to the next shot.”

“As long as you learn from it and had a good experience, there’s always the next match, the next practice,” she says. “You get better and learn.”

Emma Bouthillette authored “A Brief History of Biddeford,” about her hometown. She is a yoga instructor and a corgi mom. (

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