The 1950s were a unique time in American history, as the country was recovering from World War II while facing new threats during the Cold War era. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Many American schools had shooting ranges on campus in the 1950s which students used for target practice with .22 caliber rifles.

This reflected the gun culture of the time and helped promote shooting as a sport and skill.

In this article, we will explore the history of shooting ranges in American schools during the 1950s. We’ll look at when and why shooting ranges became common on school grounds, what types of firearms students used, and the safety procedures and training students received.

We’ll also discuss the eventual decline of school shooting ranges in the later 20th century as views on guns and school safety evolved.

The Rise of Shooting Ranges in Schools

During the 1950s, shooting ranges in schools became increasingly popular across the United States. This trend was influenced by several factors, including the promotion of marksmanship and gun safety, the training of future soldiers, and the availability of military surplus rifles.

Promoting Marksmanship and Gun Safety

One of the main reasons for the rise of shooting ranges in schools was the emphasis on marksmanship and gun safety. Many educators and community leaders believed that teaching students how to handle firearms responsibly would help instill discipline and respect for firearms.

Shooting ranges provided a controlled environment where students could learn proper shooting techniques and gun safety rules under the supervision of trained instructors.

Organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) played a significant role in promoting marksmanship and gun safety in schools. They sponsored shooting competitions and provided resources for schools to establish shooting programs.

The NRA’s focus on responsible gun ownership contributed to the growing popularity of shooting ranges in educational institutions.

Training Future Soldiers

Another reason behind the establishment of shooting ranges in schools during the 1950s was the desire to train future soldiers. With the Cold War and the Korean War taking place, there was an increased emphasis on military preparedness.

Shooting ranges in schools offered an opportunity for young men to develop their shooting skills, which could later be utilized in military service.

By providing students with access to shooting ranges, schools aimed to create a pool of skilled marksmen who could potentially contribute to national defense. This training not only prepared students for potential military service but also instilled a sense of patriotism and duty among the youth.

Availability of Military Surplus Rifles

During the 1950s, there was a surplus of military rifles available in the United States. After World War II, the government sold or donated many surplus firearms to educational institutions. This abundance of rifles made it easier for schools to establish shooting ranges and provide students with the necessary equipment.

The availability of military surplus rifles allowed schools to offer marksmanship programs at a relatively low cost. This factor, combined with the prevailing belief in the importance of marksmanship training, contributed to the rise of shooting ranges in schools.

It is important to note that the presence of shooting ranges in schools during the 1950s was a reflection of the prevailing attitudes and societal norms of that era. Today, the practice of having shooting ranges in schools is not as common, and the focus on firearms in educational settings has shifted towards alternative forms of physical education and extracurricular activities.

Firearms and Safety Procedures

During the 1950s, shooting ranges in schools were a common sight, as they were seen as a way to teach students about firearms and instill discipline. However, strict safety procedures were put in place to ensure the well-being of all participants.

Types of Rifles Used

In these shooting ranges, students typically used .22 caliber rifles. These rifles were chosen for their smaller size and reduced recoil, making them more manageable for young shooters. The .22 caliber ammunition was also less powerful, reducing the risk of accidents.

Safety Training Requirements

Before students were allowed to participate in shooting range activities, they had to undergo extensive safety training. This training included lessons on proper handling, loading, and unloading of firearms. Students were also taught how to safely store and transport their rifles.

This emphasis on safety was crucial in preventing accidents and ensuring that students understood the responsibilities that came with handling firearms.

Supervision by Coaches

While students were given the opportunity to practice shooting, they were always under the direct supervision of trained coaches. These coaches not only provided guidance on shooting techniques but also closely monitored the range to ensure that everyone followed safety protocols.

Their presence helped to create a controlled and safe environment for students to learn and develop their shooting skills.

It is important to note that the practices and views on firearms have evolved over the years. Today, shooting ranges in schools are much less common, and there is a greater emphasis on gun safety education rather than hands-on shooting experiences.

If you are interested in learning more about firearms safety, you can visit the National Shooting Sports Foundation website for valuable resources and information.

Shooting as a School Sport

During the 1950s, shooting became a popular sport in schools across the United States. It was not uncommon for schools to have shooting ranges where students could practice marksmanship skills. Shooting was seen as a way to instill discipline, focus, and responsibility in students, while also promoting healthy competition.

Competitions Between Schools

One of the highlights of shooting as a school sport in the 1950s was the competitions between schools. These competitions brought together students from different schools to showcase their shooting skills. It was a chance for students to represent their school and compete against their peers.

The atmosphere during these competitions was filled with excitement and camaraderie. Students would cheer each other on and celebrate the achievements of their teammates.

These competitions were not only about winning trophies but also about building friendships and fostering sportsmanship. Students had the opportunity to meet and socialize with students from other schools, forming lasting connections that went beyond the shooting range.

It was a great way for students to learn about teamwork, perseverance, and respect for others.

Earning Varsity Letters and Scholarships

Participating in shooting as a school sport during the 1950s also had tangible rewards. Students who excelled in shooting had the opportunity to earn varsity letters, just like athletes in other sports.

This recognition added value to their achievements and motivated them to continuously improve their skills.

In addition to varsity letters, talented shooters could also earn scholarships to continue their education. Colleges and universities recognized shooting as a legitimate sport and offered scholarships to exceptional marksmen.

This provided students with the opportunity to further their education while pursuing their passion for shooting.

Shooting as a school sport in the 1950s not only provided students with a unique and challenging activity but also taught them valuable life lessons. It promoted discipline, focus, and responsibility while fostering friendships and offering opportunities for recognition and further education.

The Decline of School Shooting Ranges

During the 1950s, shooting ranges in schools were a common sight. They were seen as a way to teach students about firearm safety and marksmanship skills. However, over time, there has been a significant decline in the presence of shooting ranges in schools.

This decline can be attributed to changing attitudes towards firearms and increased concerns over school safety.

Changing Attitudes Towards Firearms

One of the main factors contributing to the decline of school shooting ranges is the changing attitudes towards firearms. In the 1950s, firearms were more widely accepted and viewed as a normal part of everyday life.

Shooting ranges were seen as a way to teach responsible gun ownership and instill discipline in students.

However, as society has evolved, there has been a shift in attitudes towards firearms. With an increase in gun violence and tragic school shootings, there is now a greater emphasis on gun control and stricter regulations.

This has led to a decrease in support for shooting ranges in schools, as many people now view them as potentially dangerous or unnecessary.

Increased Concerns Over School Safety

Another significant factor in the decline of school shooting ranges is the increased concerns over school safety. In recent years, there have been numerous high-profile incidents of school shootings, which have deeply impacted communities and raised awareness about the vulnerability of students.

As a result, schools have implemented various security measures to ensure the safety of their students. This includes limiting access to firearms on school grounds and focusing on preventative measures such as increased mental health support and threat assessment procedures.

Shooting ranges in schools are often seen as a potential risk, as they involve the presence of firearms in close proximity to students.

Furthermore, the cost and maintenance of shooting ranges can be a significant burden for schools, especially when resources are already stretched thin. Schools are prioritizing funds towards other educational programs and safety measures that have a more direct impact on student learning and well-being.


School shooting ranges were a unique part of American education and culture in the 1950s. While learning marksmanship and proper firearm handling were priorities, ranges also encouraged shooting sports and skills. As views around guns and school safety evolved, ranges eventually faded from campuses.

But for one period they served an important role in many students’ lives.

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