History of Shooting

The Making Of USA Shooting

Before 1979, a year-round U.S. Shooting Team did not exist. Athletes trained independently and met once a year to try out for major events such as the Olympics and World Championships. Once the match was over the team disbanded until the following year.

Spurred by the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the National Governing Body for shooting at the time established National Teams and National Development Teams, a national coaching staff, year-round training programs, and a main training site for Olympic shooting sports.

In April 1995, USA Shooting as it exists today was formed and became the full-time National Governing Body for the international shooting sports in the United States.

History Overview of Shooting Sports

From the spear and the projectile throwing contests to the modern day Olympic Games, shooting has evolved into a competitive sport with nearly 20 million target shooters participating in the United States alone.

It can be said that shooting began with spears and sticks, but by the 10th century, marksmanship became a social and recreational sport. The first shooting clubs were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Germans, and membership was typically reserved for men only. In the beginning, bows and wheel lock muskets were shot from the standing position, but by the 16th century, firearms with rifled barrels were used in public matches.

These early club competitions were festive one-shot matches fired elaborately painted wooden targets. Usually matches and shooting festivals for one or more gun clubs were held on New Year's Day, religious holidays, or other special occasions where prized of gold and money were frequently awarded.

Shooting In America

The first forms of shooting competitions in the U.S. were called “rifle frolics” or “turkey shoots.” Prizes ranged from beef, turkey or other food items. The matches usually consisted of one-shot affairs which were fired from a distance of 250-300 feet from either the standing or rest position.

The first matches were developed between 1790 and 1800. These firearms featured 38-40 inch barrels, double-set triggers and target sights similar to those that were used for European target arms.

After rifle makers began to use new percussion caps in 1825, target accuracy greatly improved. Formal match shooting began shortly thereafter and competitions in all parts of the U.S. dre2w large attendance from shooters and spectators. One particular match in Glendale Park, N.Y., in the 1880’s attracted more than 600 competitors and 30,000 spectators for a one-day event. In 1898, a shooting festival at the same location offered $25,000 in cash prizes.

The trap shooting began in the U.S. around 1825. The first recorded match was conducted in Cincinnati, Ohio, just six years later, where American’s led the way in developing artificial targets for the trap competition. First glass balls containing feathers were used, but soon clay targets would be developed and become the standard for the sport. The greatest trap shooters of the 19th century included Adam Bogardus, Ira Paine and Annie Oakley. In a one-day exhibition, Bogardus broke 5,681 glass balls before missing, and Oakley shot 4,722 of 5,000 glass balls released.

In pistol, the first recorded match was in 1860 and it was a duel between two men who shot nine-inch China plates from a distance of 100 feet. The winner broke 11 of 15. In 1865, W.F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody produced shooting pistol exhibitions, which further promoted the sport of shooting throughout the rest of the United States.

Between 1910 and 1915, skeet shooting originated as a sport to stimulate upland game hunting. Competitors fired “around the clock” using a complete circle of shooting stations. This format was later modified to the present day half-circle with targets thrown from high and low houses on either side of the field.

World & Olympic Competitions

The first World Shooting Championships were fired in Lyons, France, in 1987. The local shooting club organized the international 300 meter rifle match to celebrate it’s 25th anniversary. Women’s events first appeared at the 1958 Championship event. Today, World Championships for men and women in all disciplines are held every four years.

French nobleman Baron Pierre de Coubertin orchestrated the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece. It began with nine competitive sports, including shooting. A former French pistol champion, de Coubertin supported the inclusion of four pistol and two high-power rifle events on the Olympic program.

Shooting events have been a part of all the Olympic Games except the 1904 Games in St. Louis, Missouri, and the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Individual and team events were fired until 1948, when team contests were eliminated by the Union Internationale de Tiro (UIT).

The number of Olympic shooting events has ranged from a low of two at the 1932 Los Angeles to a high of 21 events in Atwerp in 1920. Beginning in 2008 at the Beijing Olympic Games, the Olympic program now includes 15 events: six for women and nine for men. The athletes are divided into shotgun, rifle and pistol disciplines.

For a full listing of events on the current Olympic program visit the Olympic Games section of our web site.

Women In Olympic Shooting

Margaret Murdock’s silver medal in three-position rifle at the 1976 Olympic Games made her the first markswoman in history to win an Olympic medal. The event was open, with men and women competing against each other.

Murdock’s success blazed the trail for the inclusion of three separate women’s events at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California. Women’s air rifle, three position rifle and sport pistol were all added to the Olympic program. American Pat Spurgin became the first markswoman in history to capture an Olympic gold medal in women’s air rifle. Pistol shooter Ruby Fox and rifle shooter Wanda Jewell also won medals for the U.S. in 1984.

Separate men’s and women’s air pistol events were added to the Olympic program in 1988. The first women’s shotgun event in double trap debuted at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, but was cut from the sport listing after the 2004 Olympic Games. Women’s skeet and trap have been in the Olympic lineup since 2000.

National Shooting Sports Foundation