TARGET, a mark to shoot at, so called from its resemblance in shape to the " targe " or small round shield, particularly the round wood and leather buckler, with metal bosses, and long spike protruding from the central boss, which was carried by the Highland clans; at the back was a leathern sleeve in which the left arm was inserted. In the 17th century, as body armour ceased to be used, the infantry soldier often carried a light shield of various forms which was known as a " target," which is a diminutive of targe; such soldiers were known as " targeteers." " Targe " is a word that has been the subject of much etymological discussion. On the one hand is found the O.E. targe, with hard g, a shield, cf. Icel. targa, shield, target, and O.H. Ger. zarga, frame, side, border; on the other is Fr. targe, Sp. and Port, tarja, Ital. targa, buckler, shield. The soft and hard g's point to two distinct words. In Sp. and Port., is found adarga, a square target or buckler, which is an Arabic word, al darkat or darakat, a leather shield. The O.E. and Icel. words can hardly have come from an Arab, source, and the relation between the two words is an etymological puzzle (see Skeat, Etym. Diet., 1910). The target as a mark to shoot at is, for archery, a circular canvas-covered frame stuffed with straw and marked with concentric rings surrounding the centre or bull's-eye. For shooting with the rifle the target is usually square.
In the days of the smooth-bore musket, and for many years after the introduction of small arms of pfecision, the targets used in musketry training were of a " match " and not a " service " character. The target was white with a black bull's-eye (counting 5 points) and two rings, invisible to the firer, called the " inner " and the "magpie," and scoring 4 and 3; the rest of the target was called the " outer " and counted 2 points. This system was the basis of all match shooting, whether with match or service rifles, and (with the trifling difference that the bull counted 4, the inner 3 and the magpie and outer alike 2) it was followed in military range practice. For collective fire regular rows of black silhouettes on white screens were employed. These were a compromise between bull's-eye and service targets which possessed the virtues of neither. But after the S. African war bull's-eye practices were eliminated from the musketry course of the British army, and in the musketry regulations of 1909 they were restricted to the earliest stages of recruits' training and trained soldiers' " refresher " courses. The use of the bull's-eye to-day is to teach the soldier to shoot uniformly, that is, to " group " his shots closely. The position of his shot group with reference to the bull's-eye does not matter; if his group is comprised within a 6 or 1 2-inch ring (at 100 yards range) he is passed on to more advanced practices at service targets. The latter are no longer coloured black-and-white, but are of the dull colours which are met with in the field, either brown head-and-shoulders painted on a green-grey canvas background or brown silhouettes held up against the face of the stop-butt. The National Rifle Association in 1910 followed the lead of the War Office to some extent as regards the targets used at the Bisley meeting in " service- rifle " competitions. For collective practices at the more important military stations large areas of ground are prepared with silhouettes in entrenchments, dummy guns, etc. Mechanical " running-man " and " disappearing " targets are also used for training in snap-shooting and rapid fire. The target used in naval gunnery is a large floating frame of timber either fixed by buoys or anchors or towed at a distance by a vessel (see ORDNANCE: Naval Gunnery).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)