American Team Selection and the Amateur Rifle Club

In March 1874 the Amateur Club circulated an appeal to the riflemen of America. This was in anticipation that they would receive from the whole nation sufficient support to enable them to produce a creditable team to compete against a team from Ireland. The appeal was published in newspapers throughout the country. Native-born Americans interested in rifle shooting, and desiring to be considered for the team, were requested to forward scores on or before the 1st day of July 1874. Despite the publicity, the renowned ‘riflemen of the plains’ failed to materialise.

The Amateur Rifle Club Long Range Badge

On 30 May 1874 (#onthisday) competition began for the Long Range Badge of the Amateur Rifle Club of New York. Eighteen contestants were entered for the match, twelve used rifles by Sharps and six used rifles by Remington.

Amateur Rifle Club Gold Badge

On 12 July 1873, the Amateur Rifle Club of New York held at Creedmoor their first contest for the Club’s Gold Badge. The competition was fired at 500 yards, seven shots to count, and with rifles not over ten pounds in weight. Matches were to continue monthly, and once won by someone three times, the badge would belong to them forever.

To The Riflemen Of America

On 11 March 1874 a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Amateur Rifle Club was held to consider the programme of the proposed match with Irish riflemen. The Committee accepted the programme with a single exception. It was intended to organise an American team of picked riflemen, and the Secretary of the Club, Frederick P. Fairbanks, issued a circular to all native-born Americans.

Planning the International Rifle Match

In February 1874 Arthur Leech wrote to George Wingate, with the programme of the proposed international rifle match between Ireland and America. Leech confirmed that the 1,100 yards range had been omitted – owing to lack of such at Creedmoor. He also sought to reserve the right of limiting the team to not less than four men or more than eight.

Irish Challenge Accepted by the Amateur Rifle Club of New York

On 20 November 1873 the ‘New York Herald’ published a letter from Arthur B. Leech, founder of the Irish Rifle Association, with a challenge to the riflemen of America from the riflemen of Ireland for a long range competition. It was the Amateur Rifle Club of New York City that accepted the challenge on behalf of American riflemen.

Challenge from Ireland to America, 1873

Buoyed by their success in 1873 by beating England and Scotland in the Elcho Shield match, Ireland wanted further laurels. Unaware of the existence of the American NRA (established in 1871), a challenge to the ‘Riflemen of America’ for a long range rifle match was sent on behalf of Irish riflemen to the editor of the New York Herald. It was published on 22 November 1873.

Rifle Volunteers vs National Guard (1882 & 1883)

A shooting competition between the Rifle Volunteers of Great Britain and the National Guard of America was agreed for 1882. On 14 and 15 September the teams of twelve met at Creedmoor in the USA. The match was fired at 200, 500 and 600 yards on the first day, and at 800, 900 and 1000 yards on the second. In 1883 the American National Guard team had a return match against the British Volunteers at Wimbledon, England, on 20 and 21 July. The rifles used were of military pattern, although not necessarily one authorised for service. Each man fired seven shots at each distance, and no cleaning between shots was permitted.

Creedmoor and the International Rifle Matches

To trace the origins of the Creedmoor rifle range one needs to go back to the immediate post Civil War years in America. Understandably, at the time there was little interest in marksmanship or military matters from the general public, and although the US National Guard received plenty of drill and marching instruction there was scant, if any, marksmanship training. The impetus for the development of marksmanship skills within America’s National Guard units came from the pages of the Army and Navy Journal. The editor was William Church, and a kindred spirit was George Wingate, whose “Manual for Rifle Practice” appeared in six instalments in the Journal in late 1870 and early 1871. Reprinted in book form in a number of editions the manual became the standard work upon which rifle practice was developed in America.

‘Amateur Rifle Club’ Origins

The “Amateur Rifle Club,” of this City, has been organized to promote the introduction and use of the most improved rifles, and to encourage long-range practice without regard to any military organization. This body, composed of young men in business, will be subject to the laws governing the practice of the National Rifle Association, on whose grounds they will shoot next month on the opening day, when, it is thought, Gov. Dix and other prominent persons will be present.

Creedmoor, History of the Range

Though Creedmoor may be now well known to our National Guard and riflemen in the city and vicinity, still a thorough description of the same, its plan of organization, and the object to be obtained by having such a range for rifle practice in our midst, with full details of methods of shooting, &c., may be of interest to many outside of the city, and may help to develop more thoroughly a taste for rifle shooting in the United States.