Target Rifle Marksmanship - A Proud Tradition
While the topic of firearms will continue to be the subject of emotional public debate, the members of the target rifle shooting community will always remain proud of the historical origins of their sport and of the opportunity to uphold all its traditions which are deeply rooted in nation defence and preparedness. It was following the Crimean War that Queen Victoria inaugurated the first Queen's Prize Shoot in order to increase the ability of marksmen in Britain. Then, the sum of 250 was offered to the best marksman. The first long range rifle shooting match in britain was thus held at Wimbledon in 1860 and the first shot was fired by Queen Victoria herself. Along with other Commonwealth Countries, Australia followed the tradition of long range rifle shooting and the Queens or Kings Prize.
The development of the rifle shooting movement is intertwined with Australia's history and that of nation building during the war years.
"Although the ordinary course of rifle shooting competitions has been suspended for the time being, members of rifle clubs are kept busy in one way or another in connection with matters associated with the war. The latest, and perhaps the most important function they are called upon to perform, is the giving of instruction in rifle shooting to the many members of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force, who are recruits or neophytes, in the use of the service weapon.
The Williamstown ranges will practically be a school of musketry instruction as long as the Expeditionary Force is in camp. As near as possible there should be an instructor to each man, so that no one of the force who requires initiating shall go away without having a well-defined and well-grounded idea of how to use his rifle to the best advantage whenever it comes to being face to face with the enemy."
The Age, 17 August 1914
A new range at Williamstown was opened in July 1876 and this 220 target facility remained the focal point for target rifle competition in Victoria until its closure. The first civilian rifle club was formed in 1885 and many others soon followed. After Federation in 1901, Rifle Clubs came under army control, but in 1921 they were reconstituted as a purely civilian organisation, where they have remained ever since.
After the Great War, a system of national training was embodied in the Defence Act and the Rifle Clubs reverted to their purely sporting role. Nevertheless by 1939 Victoria had 313 Rifle Clubs and 12,232 members.
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