“For Excellent Gunfire” breast badge was instituted by the Order of the People’s Commissar for Defense of the USSR No.150 of August 14, 1936 that discontinued decoration with its predecessor, “For Excellent Combat Training”. It was Nikolay Efimov (хх.05.1897-14.08.1937), head of the Main Artillery Department of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA), who initiated introduction of that decoration, thus trying to enhance the prestige of military service in artillery units. The badge was presented to commanding officers and the ranks of artillery and aviation artillery units of RKKA.
Commanding officers of artillery and aviation artillery units were decorated with the badge “for “regular excellent achievements in battery, divisional and group combat firing practice”, NCOs – “for personal proficiency in gunfire”. Decoration was also issued to gunlayers for “exceptional achievements in anti-tank gunfire”. Excellent preservation of hardware, power and horse traction as well as other combat equipment in the artillery unit commanded by a candidate for decoration were indispensable conditions for presentation of the badge.
Badges were awarded by orders of top military commanders of military districts upon nominations of artillery unit commanders transferred through artillery commanders of military districts. Decorations were announced by orders issued by military districts commanders and presented by commander of the RKKA artillery. The latter was authorized to award the Badge without nominations of artillery unit commanders.
Commissioned staff decorated with the Badge possessed advantages during promotion, granting of furlough and admission to military academies. NCOs and lower ranks possessed advantages during reenlistment, promotion, admission to military schools and granting a furlough.
Awardee could be deprived of the badge in case of evident deterioration of weapon training performance, either personal or that of the unit he commanded; detected negligent preservation and maintenance of artillery hardware and equipment. Deprivation procedure was carried out in the same way the decoration had been done.
Two-piece badge had a shape of the square placed on one of its angles and bordered with a wide frame bearing an inscription “For Excellent Gunfire” (“За отличную артиллерийскую стрельбу”) in capital gilt letters. Stylized image of an artillery firing chart filled the whole background. Large five-point star with divergent rays under red enamel and silver framing was superimposed on a chart and attached to the base with short prongs. Two crossed silver grey gun barrels of a M1902 76,2 mm divisional gun were superimposed on the star. Field artillery binoculars were placed at the bottom of the badge, just below gun tubes.
Badges manufactured before 1946 had flat reverse. Early pieces bore serial numbers engraved by burin. Although statute of the decoration described it as being manufactured of silver, in fact it was made of brass. “For Excellent Gunfire” breast badge measured 39,1-39,5x39,1-39,6 mm and weighed 14,5-14,9 g (without nut). Production of the badges was established at All-Russian Union of Cooperative Associations of Workers in the Visual Arts (“Vsekohudozhnik”).
Post-WWII decorations differed from pre-war pieces in several details, such as larger letters on obverse; shape of gun barrels that became simplified and thus non-identifiable; gilt colour of gun tubes and star framing; oxidized surface of binoculars. Post-war badges had counter-relief (mirror) reverses and bore no serial numbers. Those badges measured 38,5x38,6 mm and weighed 12,8-13 g (without nut).
Decoration was attached to the uniform with screw soldered to its reverse and round nut. It was issued together with an award document, several patterns of which are known to exist.
Initially the badge was worn on the left side of the breast. However, according to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR that was announced with the Order of the People’s Commissariat of Defense No.240 of June 21, 1943, “For Excellent Gunfire” 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.
The very first decorations with the badge were made on October 19, 1936 according to the Order of the People’s Commissariat of Defense of the USSR No.171 based on results of artillery exercises that were held at the Luzhskij firing ground (Leningrad region). During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) “For Excellent Gunfire” breast badge was mainly awarded to students of artillery schools and rear military districts personnel. Decoration with the badge discontinued in April 1962 according to the Order of the minister of Defense of the USSR No.82 of April 04, 1962 “On breast badges for Soviet Army and Military Maritime Fleet military personnel”.