I stumbled across a very interesting website dedicated to the history of long range target shooting today. It is called Research Press: Firearms, Long Range Target Shooting & Associated History. It comes from the United Kingdom.
A mailing list to which I subscribe had a link to an article on it about the .45-70 Springfield and a 2 mile shot made in 1879.
THE SHOOTER at the heavy bench rest squinted as he aligned his .45-70 Allin-Springfield Model 1873 Army rifle on the distant target. The rifle fore-stock and barrel was cradled in a rest; the butt was supported by his shoulder. The rear sight was flipped up to its full height, so with no stock support for his head, the rifle tester from Springfield Armory worked carefully to align high rear and low muzzle sight on the speck that was the target – a surveyed 2,500 yards distant.
Holding his breath, he squeezed the 7-pound trigger. The rifle fired, and some 15 seconds later, signals from the target indicated that his shot had struck well inside the 6-foot diameter bullseye on a target well over a mile away!
The website has a lot of history dealing with the growth of rifle marksmanship and long range shooting in Great Britain. The growth of it was spurred by a fear in 1859 of a potential invasion of Britain by the French. Volunteer groups promoting marksmanship were raised across the country and eventually were merged with the yeomanry to become the Territorial Army which is the reserve element of the British Army.
Local and regional rifle matches become commonplace and by the end of the decade of the 1860’s Great Britain, with no prior tradition for rifle marksmanship, had thousands of trained riflemen.
Great Volunteer reviews before large crowds of spectators, and sometimes royalty, were held throughout the country where the men demonstrated their skill at drill and skirmishing.
The original arm of the Volunteers was the muzzle loading Enfield rifle. In September 1870 this was replaced by the Snider, a breech loading conversion of the Enfield. The adoption of the Martini-Henry breech loading rifle by the Volunteers was commenced in 1879 but not completed until 1885. The issue of the Lee-Metford magazine rifle was authorised in 1895.
This is just skimming the surface. If you have an interest in the history of organized rifle shooting, I’d suggest taking some time and perusing the site. It will be worth your time.