The National Rifle Association (NRA) of the United Kingdom was founded in 1860 to raise the funds for an annual national rifle meeting “for the encouragement of Volunteer Rifle Corps, and the promotion of Rifle-shooting throughout Great Britain”.
For similar reasons, concerned over poor marksmanship during the American Civil War, veteran Union officers Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association of America in 1871 for the purpose of promoting and encouraging rifle shooting on a “scientific” basis. In 1903, the U.S. Congress created the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (now known as the Civilian Marksmanship Program), an advisory board to the Secretary of the Army, with a nearly identical charter to the NRA.
In 1903, the NRA began to establish rifle clubs at all major colleges, universities and military academies. By 1906, youth programs were in full swing with more than 200 boys competing in the National Matches. Today, more than one million youth participate in shooting sports events and affiliated programs through groups such as 4-H, the Boy Scouts of America, the American Legion, U.S. Jaycees, NCAA, and the Scholastic Clay Target Program. The success of these programs is often attributed to an emphasis on safety and education that has resulted in an unprecedented scholastic and collegiate athletic safety record.
French pistol champion and founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, participated in many of these early competitions. This fact certainly contributed to the inclusion of five shooting events in the 1896 Olympics. The Olympic Games continue to provide the shooting sports with its greatest public relations opportunity. The sport has always enjoyed the distinction of awarding the first medals of the Games.
Having originally established shooting as an organized sport in the USA, the NRA was the obvious choice to administer the United States participation in the Olympic games. The NRA dutifully managed and financially supported international and conventional shooting sports (i.e., National Matches) for over 100 years until the formation of USA Shooting.
Because of its long heritage and broad appeal, the shooting sports are enjoyed by a large number of participants around the world.