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Historically, these associations originated in late medieval autonomous towns as a form of citizens' militia aimed mainly to defend the town's privileges against the local princes.
Today these kinds of clubs are present with this name in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and in the Belgian East Cantons. The members practice a shooting-sport on strict rules, mostly according to Olympic rules without attaching any military importance, and the most used weapons are air-rifles, air-pistols, small bore weapons and crossbows.
The biggest head organisation in Germany for a "Schützenverein" is the "Deutscher Schützenbund" (DSB), originally founded in 1861 in Gotha and refounded after World War II in 1951 in Frankfurt (Main). It has about 15,000 clubs with about 1,500,000 members (Schützen), which makes it the third largest sports organisation in Germany. Legally recognized alternative head organisations include the "Bund Deutscher Sportschützen", "Bund der Militär- und Polizeischützen" and the "Deutsche Schießsport Union". These offer a wider variety of shooting styles and competition types than the DSB, particularly in the field of large-bore firearms.
In the Americanised spelling, schuetzenvereins were also quite popular for generations of German-Americans. These social facilities were the German community's version of a country club, featuring guns instead of golf clubs, and where a hole-in-one had a very different meaning. Some facilities resembled little more than a neighborhood bar, while others were strikingly similar to a modern day amusement park.
Each of these facilities featured at least one target range for rifle marksmanship. In addition to the shooting and target houses, they sometimes included an inn, dance hall, music pavilion, zoo, bowling alley, roller coaster, refreshment stands, athletic field, picnic grounds, and other amusements. It was common for tens of thousands of people to attend a major event.
The popularity of these facilities began to decline in America around 1917, when the anti-German sentiment from World War I restricted the activities of German-Americans and led to the prohibition of the use of the German language in public. Many businesses and organizations changed their German names or dissolved. The American Schützenvereine were dealt another serious blow in 1919 when the "Prohibition Act" outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, the consumption of which was casually mixed with shooting activities.
- Deutscher Schützenbund (German head organisation)
- Österreichischer Schützenbund (Austrian head organisation)
- Schweizer Schießsportverband (Swiss head organisation)
- Deutsch-Amerikanischer Schützenverein (United States)
- National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom (Great Britain)
- Koninklijke Nederlandse Schutters Associatie (The Netherlands)
- Königlischer Schützenbund Malmedy - Sankt Vith (East Cantons - Belgium)
- ESC - European Shooting Confederation
- ISSF International Shooting Sport Federation