Rifles of 1892 – 1916

The Historical Art of Target Shooting

The historical art of target shooting began in Switzerland and the Germanic states in the 1500s with crossbows. As time went on, it transformed into the use of firearms, primarily Flintlocks, and later into percussion arms.

With the large influx of German immigrants to America in 1820-1840, the sport of target shooting came with them.

However, it was the much larger immigration post-Civil War that brought the Schuetzenfest to its full potential in America. As early as 1865, Clubs or Schuetzenverins sprang up throughout the entire United States.  Nearly every major city had clubs with some having multiple clubs.  Cincinnati, for example, had 7 different Schuetzenverins during the 1880’s to 1910 period.  These groups throughout the country all shot at 200-yard offhand and bench-style shooting.  Huge matches had shooters traveling across the country to compete.

Schuetzen clubs had created large complexes that included dance halls, bowling alleys, and large ranges and attracted thousands of visitors during matches.  Being of German heritage it included a Beer Hall for refreshments.  Trolleys and trains were included to get shooters and visitors to the site.  The Walnut Hill Range in Boston, Mass., was probably the most famous in the U.S. during the peak of the Schuetzen shooting, attracting over 10,000 visitors and shooters during matches.

The Cincinnati Schützenverein burned down and the property was donated to the city of Cincinnati in 1912 to be used as a park, called St. Clair Heights Park

Other matches, such as in Indianapolis in 1885, had an aggregate purse of $10,000, drawing in 1,000 shooters.  But remember there were major clubs all over the country doing the same thing.  Out west San Francisco was a hub of the great shooters and clubs.  The Midwest had large shooting centers in Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois.  The East saw significant interest in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.  These were impressive and important events at the time.

After WWI many of the German sports were curtailed due to prejudice and the advent of newer and different shooting sports such as pistol, modern high power, and trap & skeet shooting.  But the sport of Schuetzen still goes on.

Today there are clubs across the country that still shoot Schuetzen matches.  These are still 200-yard offhand and bench matches using traditional single-shot rifles, with plain lead bullets from 22 cal. on up.  Hundreds of matches are held across the country year-round.  The National Matches are held at the Beeson Range near Etna Green, Indiana.  Three centerfire and four rimfire matches are held annually.  This is the Home Range of the American Single Shot Rifle Association (ASSRA); it has 50 covered benches, a clubhouse, and a campground for shooters.  If you want to see some of the best shooters in the country or the finest Single Shots still being used today, plan a visit to one of the matches.  Events are listed on the ASSRA website https://www.assra.com/.

New Braunfels Schuetzen Verein going since 1849 in Texas founded by German immigrants, the oldest continuously operating shooting club in the United States.

According to historian Chris Pederson, the Alma Schuetzenverein (Buffalo County Wisconsin) held a shooting contest on June 19th, 1887. The winners of the ladies’ shoot were Clara Tester (1st place), Emma Protz (2nd place) and Julia Protz (3rd place). This image was likely taken to document the three winners of this event.

Greenville Gun club 1880-1889

Greenville Gun club 1880-1889

Modern Schuetzen Fest Poster