A History of Shooting Sports


Source: 1995 USA Shooting Media Guide

The History of Shooting Sports

Formal target shoots involving the bow and arrow and the spear were first used as military training activities, but Homer’s “Iliad” indicates that Greeks also held archery contests to shoot pigeons on top of tall poles in honor of the gods. Indians, Persians, Slavs, Celts, and Germans engaged in similar activities.

By the tenth century, marksmanship evolved into a social and recreational sport. Regarded as the progenitor of great shooters, Swiss hero William Tell gained honor during the 14th century after successfully shooting an apple off his son’s head. A tyrannical Austrian bailiff forced Tell to use a crossbow to perform the legendary feat.

The First Shooting Clubs



High School Shooting Range: 1950s and today

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Back in 1960, 28.7% of the total NRA membership maintained skill Classifications in competition and there were almost as many Qualification awards recognized as total members (89.5%)

Today, only 2% of the total NRA membership maintained skill Classifications in competition and 0.2% participate in the Qualification program.

Despite a ten-fold increase in membership, less NRA members hold a Classification today than did in the 1960s. Part of the reason for less organized shooting activity in public schools is gun owners are less interested in participating in organized shooting activity.

Some stats:




Golfing and Shooting Demographics

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Golf Week magazine reported on golfing participation numbers.

Bowling and Shooting Demographics


In an Ernst and Ernst study, it was determined that an average bowling alley derives 65 per cent of its income from bowling itself. Even with additional attractions or services, such as a pro shop, restaurant, and bar, two-thirds of a bowling alley’s income comes from participants. Getting bowlers to actually bowl is key.

Among participants, league bowling is the principal source of income and patronage. The same study showed that patronage by percent of yearly lineage was:

  • League bowlers, 52.6%
  • Tournament bowlers, 4.3%
  • Junior bowlers, 3.3%
  • Open bowlers, 39.8%

Of participants, nearly two-thirds of income comes from those involved in organized events such as leagues and tournaments and just over one-third is from open, non-enrolled participants. Note, this is gross income. Consider the ease of marketing to those involved in league play, who visit regularly, offer contact information, and want to hear from the alley because they want to see scores, league standings, upcoming events, etc. Consider this active group is also smaller and easier to communicate with.

According to research reported by the Bowlers Journal International, 70% of a bowling alley’s total income is derived from regular, organized events such as leagues, arriving at an even higher figure of the importance of league play than that reported by the Ernst and Ernst study.

What does this have to do with shooting and why should you care?

Bowling companies recognize the value of organized participation. Consider AMF and Brunswick both list directories of active leagues. It is rare to find a firearm manufacturer doing anything similar.

Worse, organizations that are supposed to organize this, don’t. The NRA reports that 98% of its card-carrying membership have never participated in an NRA sanctioned (approved or registered) event.

Sports and activities that can’t depend on financial success via spectators must drive participation. They must find ways to get people that own the equipment to use it in an organized fashion on an on-going basis.

Award-winning Pennsylvania high school rifle team left out of yearbook


Emmaus High School is a rarity in that it actually has a shooting team as a part of its athletic department. The school caused a bit of an uproar when its 2013 yearbook omitted any mention of this team.

Golfers vs. Gun Owners

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Golf Week magazine reported on golfing participation numbers.

Target Shooting

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A note from a reader at American Gunsmith


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