Indian marksmen on the bull's eye in 2011
It is not just a sport. For Indians, it is a matter of pride.
In the last two Olympics, shooting was the lone discipline that ensured India a medal, the second bettering the first.
For a country used to winning team golds -- eight of India's nine gold medals thus far have come from men's hockey -- and individual bronze, shooting offered variety.
While Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's second place finish in men's double trap in Athens 2004 was India's first individual silver, Abhinav Bindra went a step ahead in Beijing 2008, winning the country's first individual gold -- after 108 years of participation.
And as the country gets ready with its challenge for London 2012, count on the shooters to contribute the most.
Bikash Mohapatra takes a look at the shooters who have already qualified for London and expected to swell India's medal tally in the coming Olympics.
Image: Abhinav Bindra
In August last year, Gagan Narang earned India's first quota spot for the London Games by finishing third in the 10m air rifle category at the World Championships in Munich.
The 28-year-old, a winner of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award this year, has as many as eight Commonwealth Games gold medals in his resume.
He also pocketed two silver medals in the Asian Games in Guangzhou (China) last year.
However, it is an Olympic medal that eludes the ace shooter.
London might just see him set the record straight. The Hyderabad-based shooter will participate in three events in the next Olympics -- 10m Air Rifle, 50m Rifle Prone and 50m Rifle 3 Position, thereby increasing his chances of a medal.
Hari Om Singh
A few days after Narang's qualification, Hariom Singh followed suit.
A sixth-place finish in the 50m rifle prone event at the ISSF World Championships in Munich helped him become the second Indian shooter to qualify for the London Games.
The Agra native, competing in his first ISSF event, finished sixth with a total of 700.9 points overtaking a clutch of Olympic and World Championship medallists.
In April, Sanjeev Rajput became the third Indian marksman to book a berth for London Olympics after winning the gold medal at the 50m Rifle 3 Positions Men Final at shooting World Cup in Changwon, Korea.
The gold helped him take India's third quota spot.
The Yamunanagar native had earlier won a bronze in the 50m Rifle prone in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
He contested the same event in the Beijing Olympics. However, he failed to reach the finals.
The 30-year-old will be looking to set the record straight in London.
Image: Sanjeev Rajput (left)
A total of 183 hits (144 in the in the qualifications, and 41 hits in the final) helped Ronjan Sodhi win a silver at the ISSF World Cup, at Beijing this year, thereby earning an Olympic Quota for India.
In October, the Delhi-based double trap marksman achieved something no Indian had done before him. He successfully defended his World Cup title, winning the gold in Al Ain (UAE) to cap a fine year that had him winning two World Cup medals, qualifying for the Olympics for the first time and also claiming the World No. 1 ranking.
The last achievement came earlier in the year, when a bronze at the World Cup in Slovenia put the 32-year-old shooter on top of the world double trap rankings.
The Olympic qualification also went a long way in healing the pain he endured three years ago when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who won silver in 2004 Athens Olympics, was awarded the quota place for the Beijing Games while Ronjan, despite having broken two world records, was not even awarded a wild card.
Annuraj Singh created history in May this year.
The 27-year-old shooter became the first woman from India to win a quota place for the 2012 Olympics.
The Aligarh-born scored 486.6 points at the ISSF World Cup 2011 in Fort Benning, United States, to secure the second place, thereby also winning a ticket to London for the women's air pistol event.
When Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games last year, Annuraj, had in partnership with Heena Sidhu, won the gold medal in women's Pairs 10 metre air pistol.
A few days after Annuraj Singh's achievement, another woman followed suit at the same event, the ISSF World Cup in Fort Benning (USA).
Rahi Sarnobat won another London Olympics quota for India by winning bronze in the 25m air pistol event.
The 21-year-old from Pune, who considers 50m rifle prone world champion Tejaswini Sawant as an inspiration, had won gold at CWG in Delhi in 25m pistol pair, along with Anisa Sayyed, while also claiming silver in the individual event.
London will pose a bigger challenge for the young shooter.
The ISSF World Cup in Fort Benning (USA) also witnessed a third Indian booking his berth for London 2012.
Vijay Kumar became the seventh Indian shooter to qualify for the Olympics next year when he clinched a silver medal in the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event.
The 25-year-old from Himachal Pradesh, who is a Subedar with the army, lost the final shoot-off 1-4 in a dramatic anti-climax to Germany's Christian Reitz, after having caught up with him with a perfect round in the last series.
Nonetheless, his effort was good enough to earn the multiple Commonwealth Games gold medalist, a shot at Olympic glory.
He is the original in the true sense of the term.
There was a certain doubt regarding the participation of India's first ever individual gold medalist in London.
However, Abhinav Bindra booked his berth despite finishing a lowly eighth in the 10m air rifle event of the Shooting World Cup in Munich in June this year.
The 29-year-old shooter, a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna winner, recently clinched the 10m air rifle title at the National Shooting Championship in Pune and will look to emulate his triumph in Beijing in a few months time.
In October, Shagun Chowdhary qualified for the Olympics in trap event in World Shotgun Championships held in Belgrade (Serbia).
A career-best 72 out of 75 not only helped her book a place in the final of the said event but also helped her become the ninth Indian shooter to book a berth for London.
The 28-year-old from Jaipur eventually finished fourth, missing out on a medal. However, she had done enough to ensure he has another shot at a bigger stage.
A total of nine shooters had represented India at the Beijing Games. A similar number has already qualified for London. With the Asian Shooting Championships scheduled in Doha (Qatar) in January, four quotas will be on offer in each event, thereby increasing the chances of more Indian participation in London.
Come to think of it, the likes of Rathore, Samaresh Jung, Mansher Singh and Manavjit Sandu are yet to qualify.
As we have mentioned earlier, if there is one discipline where India can expect multiple medals, it is shooting.