American Team Selection and the Amateur Rifle Club

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Written by: David Minshall

When, in November 1873, Irish riflemen issued a challenge to the riflemen of America, it was accepted by the Amateur Rifle Club of New York. With a major competition ahead and keenly aware of their ‘greenness’ in long range shooting, in March 1874 the Amateur Rifle 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, and the appeal was published in newspapers throughout the country. Conditions of the match were outlined and it was explained that in accepting the challenge “the Amateur Rifle Club do not claim that they include among their members the best riflemen of America, but only assume to act as your representatives for the purpose of placing the matter in such a shape as to permit all, who prove themselves competent, to compete, irrespective of their residence or membership.”

Native-born Americans interested in rifle shooting, and desiring to be considered for the team, were requested to forward scores of fifteen consecutive shots made at each distance named in the programme, on or before the 1st day of July 1874. Despite the publicity, the renowned ‘riflemen of the plains’ failed to materialise.

Since the frontiersmen, with all their vaunted skill, could not be induced to attend, it became evident that the Club would have to fight single-handedly. Six competitions were held at Creedmoor during July and August 1874 to shoot for places in the team and less than thirty men took part. The twelve highest were all members of the Amateur Club and these formed the team and reserve.