“For Excellent Shooting” breast badge was introduced by the Order of the People’s Commissar for Defense of the USSR Kliment Voroshilov No.139 of May 21, 1938 within the scope of introduction of a new award system for the Red Army marksmen.
The badge was issued to soldiers and commanding officers of RKKA (Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army) and NKVD [People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs] for excellent achievements in machine gun, rifle, revolver or pistol shooting. It was also presented to military personnel already nominated “Excellent shooter” or “Excellent Gun Layer” according to the “Riflemen grading” section of a “Course of the Fire Training. Rifle and Machine Gun Shooting (KOP-38)” approved by Kliment Voroshilov on February 23, 1938. Excellent knowledge and preservation of hardware were indispensable conditions for presentation of the badge.
Come 1940, decoration with the badge was extended to the coastal defense personnel of the Red Fleet, according to the Order of the People’s Commissar of the Navy of the USSR Nikolay Kuznetsov No.387 of July 27, 1940.
The badge was awarded by orders of military councils of military districts or armies. Decoration together with award document was presented to distinguished soldiers and commanding officers during solemn ceremonies in conjunction with revolutionary and military holidays. Decorations were announced by orders of a day.
Constructively “For Excellent Shooting” badge consisted of two elements: miniature medal bar and medallion fixed with two steel chains.
Medallion had a shape of a white enameled round shooting target with large black enameled bull’s eye topped with red enameled five-point star bearing sickle and hammer symbol in its centre. Semi-circular inscription “For Excellent Shooting” executed in capital letters was placed at the upper portion of the target. The latter was flanked with a laurel branch on the left and with a red banner descending from a flagstaff on the right. Wrapping scroll bearing abbreviation “RKKA” was situated at the bottom of a target. It would be interesting to know that statute of the badge described the scroll as being covered with white enamel, while in fact it was red enameled. No badges with white enameled scroll are known to exist. The colour was most probably changed upon suggestion of artists from the Leningrad Mint who pointed out that white scroll merged into white target thus disarranging layout of the decoration. Two round eye rings for medal bar suspension were situated on each side of an upper part of medallion.
Rectangular medal bar with radial incisions was covered with red enamel.
Fragile construction of a two-piece badge often led to fracture of thin steel chains and loss of the miniature medal bar. Hereupon the latter is sometimes found being replaced with various self-made substitutes. Thus, pieces attached to the pre-1943 rectangular badge of rank of senior officers (so called “shpala”, meaning “sleeper” in Russian) measuring 18,5x9 mm are known to exist.
Moreover, some awardees cut off illicitly both eye rings of a medallion and wore the latter as a separate pin-back decoration.
The badge was attached to the uniform by two fasteners: screw soldered to a reverse of a medal bar and safety pin fixed to a centre of a medallion’s reverse.
Two types of the badge are known to exist. The first one was manufactured at the Leningrad Mint since its very institution until June 1941. Totally 291,115 pieces were made, each costing 4 Rubles 8 Kopeks. 8,206 badges were manufactured in 1938, 108,704 in 1939, 71,605 in 1940 and 102,600 during the first half of 1941. Central part of the medallion’s reverse bore manufacturer’s mark running semi-circularly in two lines: “Мон” (above) and “Двор” (below). Medallion of the badge measured 45,3х36,4 mm, medal bar – 12,5х6 mm, and the badge itself weighed 16,2-18 g. Nuts measuring 18 mm in diameter bore manufacturer’s marks, either “Мондвор” (1938-1940) or “Монетный двор” (1940-1941), both standing for “Mint”. Serial number of the badge is found at the lower part of each nut. Decorations with the badge discontinued in 1941 as the Great Patriotic War began.
Badge of the second type was supposedly manufactured at the Moscow-based “Metalworker Artist” artel. Those pieces had bull’s eyes covered with dark blue enamel instead of the black one and had no manufacturer’s mark on obverses. Medallion of the badge measured 48,5-49х37,7 mm, and the decoration itself weighed 16,1 g.
Leningrad and Moscow-manufactured badges differed in size, weight, font type of “For Excellent Shooting” and “RKKA” inscriptions, bull’s eye color and design of the joining portion between flagstaff and five-point star.
“For Excellent Shooting” breast badge was made of yellow colored alloy, i.e. brass or bronze with application of three colored enamel – white, red and black.
Initially the badge was worn above the left breast pocket of a tunic. However, according to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR that was announced by the Order of the People’s Commissariat of Defense No.240 of June 21, 1943, “For Excellent Shooting” as well as all the other badges since that date had to be attached to the opposite part of the tunic and would be worn to the left or below state awards.