Target shooting is one of the oldest organized sports in Australia with records dating back to British Marines at Sydney Cove in 1788. Early competitive matches were often conducted in the grounds of local hotels with substantial prizes offered by patrons.
Australia's First Marksmen
Australia's first marksmen were convicts and marines who landed at Sydney Cove with the First Fleet in 1788. During the famine year of 1790, Governor Phillip selected the best marksmen from both the marine guards and the convicts and organised them into hunting parties. While weapons were strictly controlled in the colony, he appointed convict John McIntyre as the official hunter for the settlement. McIntyre and others were granted a licence to carry firearms, originally the ' Brown Bess' Rifle Short Land Pattern Musket which had a 42" barrel and a range of 100 - 200 yards. The marksmen kept the colony supplied with fresh meat from kangaroos and emus until a relief ship arrived. Thus began a long tradition of partnership between military and civilian rifle shooting in Australia.
In 1860 the National Rifle Association of New South Wales was formed to encourage general rifle proficiency in the community and give permanency to the Volunteer Corps. The Associations first home was the Paddington Rifle Range where there were local competitions organized for a quarter of a century. In 1890, due to the opening of Centennial Park and safety concerns over the boundaries of the range, shooting ceased. A replacement range was established at Randwick, near the present day Maroubra Junction.
During the First World War Rifle Clubs flourished as they were seen as ideal training grounds where men were taught to shoot and drill. The Government supplied ammunition free and rifles could be purchased very cheaply. After the Great War ended many of the returning soldiers rejoined the local rifle clubs and shooting as an organized sport thrived.
By 1923 the township of Maroubra had grown and once again the range was surrounded by an expanding suburban sprawl. The range was closed and the Association moved to the Anzac Rifle Range at Liverpool.
In 1968 the Liverpool Range was closed as once again the land surrounding the range was needed for housing. The New South Wales Rifle Association as it was then called moved once again. This time to the Maroubra Rifle Range that was renamed Anzac to perpetuate the name.
At the present time the only other major rifle range in the Sydney Metropolitan area that can cater for long range shooting is in the northern Sydney suburb of Hornsby
History Of the Queens Prize
In order to increase the ability of Britains marksmen following the Crimean War, Queen Victoria inaugurated the first Queens Prize Shoot by offering 250 pounds to the best marksmen in Britain. The first long range shooting match was held at Wimbledon in 1860 and other Commonwealth countries followed suit soon after.
Teams competed in the National Rifle Association matches in England at Wimbledon for the first time in 1886 and at Bisley in 1902. In 1876, Australia competed for the Centennial trophy in the first world long range championships at the Creedmoor Range in the USA, using muzzle loaders at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. The Palma match, as it is now known, is believed to be the oldest international shooting match in the world.
Fullbore first began in the mid 1800s and the first recorded Annual Prize Meeting was held by Sydney Rifle Club, NSW, on the 1st January 1845. Around 1860 the individual colonies started forming what are now termed State Rifle Associations. Following in the footsteps of Britain, the Queens (or Kings) Prize came into being shortly after.
History of Target Rifle Shooting in Australia undefinedBy Meredith Nestor
Target shooting is one of the oldest organized sports in Australia. Records date back to the British Marines at Sydney Cove in 1788 and, in December that year, the Commandant of Norfolk Island ordered his free male settlers (numbering six) to practice musketry on Saturdays.undefinedExhibition shooting contests were conducted by free German settlers in South Australia as early as 1840. Organized club shooting began in 1842 with the formation of the Sydney Rifle Club in New South Wales.undefinedIn 1854, when England sent troops to war against Russia in the Crimea, colonists grew apprehensive that British regular troops would be withdrawn from Australia. Later that year, authorization was given for the establishment of volunteer corps in some colonies. Informal rifle clubs also formed around this time.undefinedundefinedBy early 1860, most suburbs and towns in Australia supported a volunteer unit, usually a rifle corps. Documents in the Australian War Memorial archives dated 17 October 1863 include an informal group photograph taken during a rifle shooting competition between men of the Hobart Town Volunteers Artillery and the First Rifles. The men are all holding pattern 1853 .577 inch Enfield rifles. Volunteer forces were eventually replaced by Militia as British regiments were withdrawn and the famous slouch hat was adopted in 1885.
State and Territory Rifle Associations undefined
New South Wales
The New South Wales Rifle Association (NSWRA) was formed in 1860. Its first prize meeting was held at Randwick Racecourse in September 1861 between military competitors; civilians first competed in 1866 at Paddington. The first Queens Prize was won by Sergeant Sherring in 1879 and the first chairing of the winner took place in 1907.
The Victorian Rifle Association (VRA) was formed in 1860 and conducted its first prize meeting for the NRA Silver Medal in the same year. The first Queens Prize was won by Gunner G.A. Hanby in 1881.
The South Australian Rifle Association (SARA) was formed in 1861 and the first Queens Prize was won by Private C. Milne in 1879.
The Queensland Rifle Association (QRA) was originally formed in 1861, then reformed in 1877 and the first Queens prize meeting was held on the Brisbane Rifle Range, Victoria Park in August 1878. The event is the oldest Queens Prize Meeting in Australia and it was first won by Sergeant T. Ferguson.The Colony of Queensland was divided into two Military Districts in 1885, and in 1887 the rifle clubs in the north were granted permission to form the North Queensland Rife Association (NQRA) in Townsville.
The Tasmanian Rifle Association (TRA) was formed in 1887 and shortly after hosted the Intercolonial Matches on the Sandy Bay Range. The first Kings Prize was won by W.H. Cutler in 1924.
The National Rifle Association of Western Australia was formed in 1890 and in 1901 the West Australian Rifle Association (WARA) was formed in the Goldfields. The two came under one constitution in 1906 and eventually merged. The first Kings Prize was won by W. Minett in 1902.
The Darwin Rifle Club has a history dating back to 1900. In 1980 the Club hosted the first Northern Territory Queens Prize Meeting which was won by Phil Thompson. The Northern Territory Rifle Association (NTRA) was formally admitted to the National Rifle Association of Australia in 1987.
Australian Capital Territory
The Canberra Rifle Club was formed in 1914 and hosted the National Queens Prize Meeting from 1972 - 2003. In 2000, the Club, trading as Australian Capital Territory Full Bore Target Rifle (ACTFBTR), was recognised as a State Association. In 2004 they ran the inaugural Canberra Queens Prize which was won by James Corbett.
The Imperial award of the Kings Medal to the Champion Shot of the Military Forces of Australia was first won by Hon Captain W.C.G. Ruddock at the Williamstown Range in Melbourne in May 1924. undefinedWO1 W.H. Hackfath became the first Army shooter to win the King's Double, the 1929 Western Australian King's Prize and the 1930 King's Medal. The Kings Medal was replaced with the Queens Medal in 1952 and, in 1988, a new medal for the Champion Shots of the Australian Defence Force was struck in its place. Army teams began competing in the National Teams Matches in 1975. The Australian Army Rifle Association (AARA) was formed in 1982 and conducted the first Australian Army Skill At Arms Meeting (AASAM) in 1984 at Malabar.
The National Rifle Association of Australia
The first Intercolonial Teams Match was fired on the Sandridge Range in Melbourne on 3 November 1862 and was won by New South Wales from Victoria. The NSW Team returned from Melbourne on the City of Sydney. At about 2 am the ship sailed into heavy fog, ran ashore and became a total wreck; fortunately all passengers and crew were rescued. The members of the team lost almost everything they owned, including their rifles, except for two men, who saved theirs by running below when the vessel was fast filling and snatched their rifles up just in time to escape in one of the lifeboats.undefined
In 1887 the inaugural Intercolonial Rifle Meeting was held in South Australia during the South Australian Exhibition. During this competition, military representatives from the colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia attended a meeting to begin formation of a central body to promote both intercolonial and international matches. The meeting was unanimous in its approval of the formation of such an organisation, and a resolution was passed to adjourn until the Centennial Rifle Matches in Sydney in February 1888, in order that each State Association might discuss the matter and then send accredited representatives to this adjourned meeting with the power to act.undefinedThe meeting reconvened on 15 February 1888 in Sydney between officers representing New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. After animated discussion and a second adjournment over several days, it was decided to form the Federal Council of Rifle Associations of Australasia. The Council consisted of two representatives from each Colony and General Meetings were held in conjunction with the Intercolonial Match in the colony where the match took place. The New Zealand Rifle Association accepted an invitation to join the Council, withdrawing some years later.undefinedWhen the Commonwealth of Australia was inaugurated in 1901, Major General Sir Edward Hutton, the first General Officer Commanding the Commonwealth Forces, provided for the constitution of the Council under the new Defence Act. The name was changed to the Commonwealth Council of Rifle Associations of Australia and it was made an advisory body to the Minister of Defence in all matters affecting rifle shooting except the training of troops.
In the early years, iron targets were replaced with paper targets and the original Martini-Henry rifle was replaced with the MLE (Rifle, Magazine, Lee-Enfield). Targetry continued to evolve and scoring rings were reduced in size as ammunition and scores improved. The introduction of the sliding wind arm for the sight contributed to higher scores although it was highly contentious at the time.
Financial assistance from Army funds and free ammunition, which had been made available to the States for prize meetings, was gradually withdrawn from 1959 and formal connections between the rifle shooting Associations and the Department of Defence began to diminish.
Various models of the .303 calibre SMLE (Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield) were in service for many years and the No 4 was widely popular. When the Army introduced the 7.62 mm SLR (Self Loading Rifle) in 1959 to replace the .303 rifle, the No 4 was modified until a new rifle could be approved.
Omark of South Australia produced a solid action single shot rifle which was permitted by the Council and the Angel action was produced in New South Wales. Black Mountain barrels were made at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory in New South Wales and stainless steel barrels were produced in Queensland by Maddco, and by Tobler in New South Wales.
After World War II, the Council evolved into the National Rifle Association of Australia (NRAA) and the first national Queens Prize Meeting was conducted in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory in 1972. Robert Richards-Mousley won at the McIntosh Rifle Range where it continued until moving to the Belmont Range, Queensland, in June 2004. Today, Queens Prize Meetings are conducted annually by the NRAA, and by every State and Territory Association, a total of ten championships on the shooting calendar across Australia each year.