Long Range Target Rifles

By: David Minshall

The 1850s was the decade when Long Range shooting really took off. It opened with the MiniƩ Rifle, proceeded via the Enfield Rifle and closed with the introduction of the Whitworth Rifle and the founding of the National Rifle Association (GB), the Final Stage of whose First Meeting in 1860 was fired at 1,000 yards.

Breech loading rifles had been a feature of NRA competitions from the first prize meeting. The earliest breech loaders used self consuming paper cartridges and were discharged by the use of a percussion cap and external hammer; however, by the late 1860's rifles using metallic cartridges and carrying their own ignition were appearing on the ranges.

The success of the American team using Remington and Sharps breech-loading rifles against an Irish team using Rigby muzzle-loaders in the international match at Creedmoor, Long Island, USA, in 1874 marked the beginning of the end for the muzzle loading match rifle. The death knell came in 1877 when a British team with their muzzle loading match rifles was defeated, again at Creedmoor, by an American team using breech loaders.

British breech loaders developed in two classes for target shooting in line with NRA competitions: "Any" rifle and the Military Breech Loader (MBL). Metford barrelled rifles dominated particularly in the latter class. Many makes found favour including Deeley-Edge-Metford, Farquharson-Metford, Field, Fraser, Henry, Ingram, Rigby-Banks, Webley-Wiley.

With the popular success of US rifle teams in international competition manufacturers there were quick to respond. Long range rifles were introduced by such as Ballard, Maynard, Peabody, Remington, Sharps, Wesson. Such rifles are often referred to as 'Creedmoor Rifles'.

This golden era of black powder match rifle shooting came to a close in 1896 when the NRA(GB) limited the maximum calibre of the "Any" rifle to .315 and the rifles were required to be somewhat more military in character. At this time also the NRA in America was fighting for survival and for most of the decade of the 1890s had become dormant.

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