History Of Shooting Sports
The history of the shooting sports has its roots in ancient communities preparing their men for national defense. Contests with bow and arrow were held to sharpen the skills of warriors. However, ancient Greek philosopher Homer records the fact that many nations used these contests as a form of religious ceremony. By the tenth century, shooting matches had evolved into recreational events.
Shooting Clubs began to form in the 13th and 14th centuries. The first clubs were predominantly among German-speaking people using bows and muskets. By the 16th century, guns with rifled barrels were introduced and the Club Competitions featured one-shot matches with painted wooden targets. Many matches were held on religious holidays. Payouts of gold were frequently awarded.
The long history of the sport has contained many developments. Guns and targets have undergone quite a transformation. In ancient times the contestants shot at pigeons at the top of tall poles. Brightly painted wooden targets were used in the 1700’s and these gave way to glass balls filled with bird feathers. Around 1830, the first official Trap Shoot was held in Cincinnati, Ohio. In this period the targets evolved from glass balls to clay targets. Surprisingly, matches used large numbers of the glass targets. . In a one-day exhibition, Adam Bogardus broke 5,681 glass balls before missing, while Annie Oakley once shot 4,772 of 5,000 glass balls released from 15yard traps.
The type of gun used has evolved tremendously over this time. Smooth bore muskets have been replaced with rifled barrels. Black powder gave way to percussion caps. Overall rifles, pistols and shotguns have undergone a huge transformation. For today’s events rifles are purchased out of the box or from gunsmiths producing high quality precision models. This writer can remember working the trap houses at the Grand American Trap Shoot when in Vandalia, Ohio. A favorite hobby for many was to walk up and down the trap line and look as contestants displayed expensive shotguns, some of which had come in from other countries including Italy. The prices were high according to that generation’s standards. The quality and price of these guns has gone up exponentially over the years.
The nature of shooting sports has changed dramatically and the changes have been in terms of social norms and organizational complexity. In the beginning the contests were for men only, but that has all changed. What once consisted of a number of small disconnected clubs has evolved into large, well organized organizations and sanctioning bodies which publish rules, policies and keep monthly and annual records. The Olympic Games have included shooting events for men and women since 1896.
Here are important events in the history of Shooting Sports:
- 1710 German and Swiss rifle makers in Pennsylvania began producing flintlock rifles suitable for use on the American frontier.
- 1790 the first match rifles were developed using 38” barrels and target sites.
- 1825 Percussion caps were developed greatly increasing accuracy.
- 1830 the first organized Trap Shoot was held in Cincinnati using live pigeons.
- 1860 the first organized pistol match was held with 9-inch china plates as targets.
- 1910 skeet shooting originated.
- 1896 Shooting games were added to the Olympics for the first time in Athens Greece.
- 1897 the first World Shooting Championships were held. Women’s events were first added in 1958.
- 1871 The National Rifle Association was founded in America by Colonel William Church and Captain George Wingate of the New York National Guard.
- 1907 Eight nations combined to form the International Shooting Union (UIT) recognized today as the world governing body for shooting events.
- 1978 the US Olympic Committee selected the NRA as the sole national governing body for Olympic-style shooting in the United States.
- 1987 The NRA begins to organize shooters into year-round teams. In this way shooting athletes would stayed connected throughout the year to train and plan for events and possible Olympic competition. This resulted in the USST (United States Shooting Team).
- Mid 1960’s United States develops a powerful rifle team which stole the Olympic dynasty away from the Soviet Union’s team.
- American shooters have won more Olympic gold medals than athletes in all sports except track and field and swimming.
- 1991 – US International Shooting Hall Of Fame was instituted.
Important people in Shooting Sports:
- Lones Wigger- Former director of the USST (United States Shooting Team) and considered by many to be one of the best shooters of all time.
- Margaret Thompson Murdock- first markswoman in history to win an Olympic medal.
- Pat Spurgin- first markswoman in history to win an Olympic gold.
- Stars in the early Olympics - Alfred Lane (pistol) and Morris Fisher (rifle).