Firearms were first used in warfare and later in sport shooting, and because of the shadowy early history of firearms, it is not known when target shooting began. The early history of the sport is largely that of shooting with rifles. The first shooting clubs were formed by German-speaking peoples in the 13th and 14th centuries. The earliest recorded shooting match is one held in Eichstäat, Bavaria, in 1477. A Swiss painting from 1504 shows a rifle shooting setup that is quite modern. Many German museums have wooden targets dating to 1540. In Russia shooting at a mark was recorded in 1737 when the empress Anna established a target-shooting range at her court.
Target rifle shooting was a popular sport before 1800. During the 19th century, earlier forms of organizations such as shooting clubs developed into national shooting federations. The Société Suisse des Carabiniers was founded in 1824 in Switzerland, Queen Victoria inaugurated the British National Rifle Association in 1859. Duke Ernst II of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha founded the Deutscher Schützenbund in 1861, military leaders established the National Rifle Association of America in 1871, and the Federation Francaise des Societies de Tir was formally established in 1884. In 1907 the L’Union Internationale des Fédérations et Associations nationals de Tir (now the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF)) was founded in Zurich, Switzerland.
French pistol champion and founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, participated in many of the early competitions. This fact certainly contributed to the inclusion of five shooting events in the 1896 Olympics. The first World Shooting Championships were fired in 1897, when Lyon, France’s shooting club organized an international rifle match. Shooting events have been a part of all Olympics but the 1904 Games in St. Louis and the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. Early Olympic shooters were men, but women were not banned, and in the 1976 Games Margaret Thompson Murdock’s silver three-position victory made her the first markswoman in history to win an Olympic medal. In 1984, however, three separate events were created for women.