The marksmen just got some added firepower to their armoury, with the Government finally granting their longstanding demand for free import of arms and ammunition.
From now on, all competitors who shoot the Minimum Qualification Score specified in the NRAI rule book at the National Shooting Championship Competitions will be exempted from customs duty on import of equipments.
The move comes as a major boost to the sport just ahead of the next year's Beijing Olympic Games.
"It has been decided that all the shooters who have participated in the National Shooting Championship, whether through Qualifying Tournament or from Wild Card Entry, will be treated as 'Renowned Shooter' provided they attain Minimum Qualifying Score," the Sports Ministry said in its letter to the NRAI.
World Champion Abhinav Bindra hailed the government's decision, saying it would make shooting more acceptable as a sport.
"It is a great step to make shooting more acceptable as a sport among the masses," the rifle shooter said.
Asian Games double gold medallist Jaspal Rana said the liberalized norms would be more helpful for the beginners.
"It would mainly help the beginners," said the pistol shooter and suggested that "the government also work on reducing the lengthy procedures for importing the arms."
The NRAI, which was pursuing the matter at various levels in the Sports as well as Home Ministry, has welcomed the decision with full enthusiasm.
"The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has finally accepted the recommendations of the NRAI and opened the import policy to the participants of NSCC," the NRAI said in a statement on Saturday.
"As per the policy, any shooter participating in NSCC will be allowed to import arms and ammunition, duty free, subject to achieving the minimum qualifying scores as laid down under rule 17.6 of the NRAI Match Book.
"The NRAI welcomes this gesture of the government and thanks the Honourable Minister of Sports," it said.
On the rider that the exemption would be given to only those who shoot minimum qualification scores, NRAI spokesperson Rajiv Bhatia said it was to avoid misuse of ammo.
"We always wanted that the exemption be given to only those who are really serious about the sport to avoid misuse of ammunition and arms. That is why we have recommended this MQS clause," Bhatia told
The Ministry has instructed the Directorate General of Foreign trade, Department of Revenue and Ministry of Home Affairs to "modify their notifications concerning import of arms and ammunition by Renowned Shooters and provision of Custom Duty Exemption thereon".
The shooters can now import 15,000 rounds of ammunition per year.
The Government had banned the import of arms and ammunition in 1988 to maintain the law and order situation in the wake of growing terrorism.
But it had relaxed the norms in 1993 for shooters, including medal winners in recognized international sports events, Arjuna Awardees, those who achieved up to 4th position in individual or team events in the open National Championship/National Games.
In case of junior players, the sportspersons must have achieved up to 8th position in individual events or up to 4th position in team events in the National Championship (open for the junior).
The norms were further modified in 2001 extending the benefit to top-25 national level shooters in senior, junior and sub-junior categories.