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History of Shooting in Australia

Rifle Shooting Sydney 1884

The Intercolonial Rifle Matches, Paddington Range, Sydney, 1884

 

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History of Target Rifle Shooting in Australia
By Meredith Nestor, University of Queensland Rifle Club, last updated 14 Sep 2011
Target shooting is one of the oldest organised 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.
Exhibition shooting contests were conducted by free German settlers in South Australia as early as 1840. Organised club shooting began in 1842 with the formation of the Sydney Rifle Club in New South Wales.
In 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sent troops to war against Russia in the Crimea, colonists grew apprehensive that British regular troops would be withdrawn from Australia.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, authorisation was given for the establisment of volunteer corps in some colonies. Informal rifle clubs also formed around this time.

By 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 Volunteer forces were eventually replaced by Militia as British regiments were withdrawn and the famous ‘slouch’ hat was adopted in 1885.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
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 Queen’s Prize was won by Sergeant Sherring in 1879 and the first chairing of the winner took place in 1907.
Victoria
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 Queen’s Prize was won by Gunner G.A. Hanby in 1881.
South Australia
The South Australian Rifle Association (SARA) was formed in 1861 and the first Queen’s Prize was won by Private C. Milne in 1879.
Queensland
The Queensland Rifle Association (QRA) was originally formed in 1861, then reformed in 1877 and the first Queen’s prize meeting was held on the Brisbane Rifle Range, Victoria Park in August 1878. The event is the oldest Queen’s 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.
Tasmania
The Tasmanian Rifle Association (TRA) was formed in 1887 and shortly after hosted the Intercolonial Matches on the Sandy Bay Range. The first King’s Prize was won by W.H. Cutler in 1924.
Western Australia
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 King’s Prize was won by W. Minett in 1902.
Northern Territory
The Darwin Rifle Club has a history dating back to 1900. In 1980 the Club hosted the first Northern Territory Queen’s 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 Queen’s 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 Queen’s Prize which was won by James Corbett.
Army
The Imperial award of the King’s 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.
WO1 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 King’s Medal was replaced with the Queen’s 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.
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.
The 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.
When 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 Queen’s 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, Queen’s 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.

Australian International Shooting
The first Australian rifle team to compete overseas ranked 4th in the Centennial International Long Range Match, in 1876 at Creedmoor, USA. The event subsequently became known as the Palma Trophy Teams Match, and Australia has won it twice, in 1979 at Trentham, New Zealand and in 1988 at Malabar in Sydney, Australia. In 2007 Australia won a bronze medal in the Palma Match in Connaught, Canada.
A team of united Australian Riflemen competed in the Rajah of Kolopore’s Imperial Challenge Cup on the Wimbledon Range, England, in 1886, coming 4th. The first Australian to win a Queen’s badge at Bisley was A. Carter in 1897. The first Australian team to compete at the Bisley Range in 1902 won the Kolopore Cup and two members also won King’s badges. Lieutenant Walter Addison was the first Australian to win the coveted King’s Prize at Bisley in 1907, defeating 1470 of the best shots in the world.
The Empire Match was inauguated by the Council in 1907 and was first won by Australia against teams from New Zealand and Great Britain at Randwick Range in New South Wales. The top scorer for Australia was A. Cutler, the father of a future Governor of NSW, Sir Roden Cutler. The Empire Match was renamed the Australia Match in honour of the Australian Bicentenary Full Bore Rifle Championships in 1988.
Shooting was first included in the modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens however it was not featured in the Commonwealth Games until 1966 in Jamaica. In 2006 in Melbourne, the Australian Commonwealth Games Shooting Team ranked third in all sports with 23 medals won, (Gold 9, Silver 8, Bronze 6). Brigadier Bruce Scott won a Gold medal for Australia in the Individual Full Bore Rifle Match and a Silver medal in the Pairs Match, with team mate James Corbett who won individual Bronze.