International Postal Matches At The National Matches

posted on October 5, 2017

Above: Elaborate efforts were often tried to ensure a good score for the U.S. Dewar Team. In 1927 the team fired between two warehouses at the Erie Ordnance Depot in an attempt to minimize wind conditions.

International Postal Matches have been a feature of the National Matches for more than 100 years. In these matches teams from several countries, by the invitation of the sponsoring nation, fire their scores in their native lands with compilation of scores and announcement of the winner by the organizing country.

The Dewar Team

The oldest of these international postal matches is the competition for the Sir Thomas Dewar Challenge Trophy. The Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs (now the National Smallbore Rifle Association, the NSRA) in the United Kingdom, no doubt encouraged by the success of the British riflemen in the 1908 Olympics (where they swept the board in the miniature rifle, i.e. smallbore rifle matches), issued a challenge to the United States for an indoor team match comprising 50-man teams firing 30 shots each at 25 yards, from any position with the smallbore rifle with metallic sights. Sir Thomas Dewar (of Scotch fame) donated a large trophy and a great tradition began which continues to this day.

The United States accepted the challenge and a three-way match emerged with Australia as the third team. The American response was to try-out invitations had been disappointing so the NRA invited on the team those people who would have doubtless made the team had they tried out. The U.S. team was a Who’s Who of American shooting with such luminaries as Walter Hudson, Harry Pope, P.J. O’Hare and Arthur Hubalek being selected.

Nonetheless the British team won that first match but the United States won in 1910 (the only year that telescopic sights were permitted). There was no match in 1911 and when the competition went dormant for World War I the United States was in possession of the Dewar Trophy having won in 1913 and 1914 following the British win in 1912.

Dewar Match Trigger Weighing
Until 1966 trigger weighing before firing was part of the Dewar Team procedure. Here, in 1965, team members line up to verify that their rifles’ triggers will lift a three pound weight. That’s the late Paul Nordquist using masking tape to keep the barrel channel dry during a rainy day.

After World War I, beginning in 1919, the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs re-instituted the competition as an outdoor match: each member of the 20-man team was to fire 20 shots at 50 yards and 20 shots at 100 yards (a course of fire that quickly became known as the Dewar Course) with metallic sights fired then as now with British rules and targets, with individual coaching permitted. The U.S. team was selected and fired during the first National Smallbore Championships held at the Navy’s Caldwell, NJ, range. The conditions under which the 1919 contest was fired remain the conditions of the International Dewar Team competition today. The USA won that first of the modern International Dewar competitions with a significant side light: a firing member of that first team was Blanche Crossman, wife of the match director, E.C. Crossman, and she thus became the first woman to fire on a United States international shooting team.

The USA dominated Dewar competition in the first two decades of the modern matches; the early matches were well-reported in American Rifleman and there were many articles dealing with team strategy and coaching. Additional nations that have competed are Australia, Canada and India.

1948 USA Dewar Trophy Team
Fifty-one shooters who won paid invitations via nine smallbore rifle and eight pistol Regionals, competed for National Smallbore Rifle and Pistol Championships at the USMC range in Quantico, VA. This was part of the 1948 NRA Annual Meetings in Washington, D.C. One special event of the meetings was a tour of Quantico to observes this competition. Harry Reeves of the Detroit Police Department bested Sgt. Huelet Benner, USA for the pistol crown, while local shooter and Olympic gold medalist Art Cook took the smallbore rifle title. During the smallbore rifle competition, the competitors formed and fired as the 1948 team in the Dewar Rifle Team Postal Match. The above photo is of the U.S. Dewar Team.

Today the U.S. Dewar Team comprises the high 22 (20 firing members plus two alternates) in the metallic sight aggregate in the Smallbore National Championships. To make the team the shooter must use equipment legal under British rules. The captain and coach are selected by the NRA. As one might imagine, the posting of the scores in the metallic sight aggregate is closely followed by those in contention for the team.

The Randle Team

In 1952, Thurman Randle, an accomplished smallbore marksman and former NRA President, donated an impressive trophy to be awarded to the winning team in the international women’s postal smallbore match heretofore run by Eleanor Dunn and the match quickly became the Randle Trophy International Women’s Team Match. The team comprises 10 firing members, two alternates plus captain and coach, all of whom must be women. The course of fire is the metallic sight Dewar course under NRA rules and targets with individual coaching permitted (the coaches must also be women); the match to be fired during the national championships of the respective nations.

The first Randle Team competition was fired in the USA as part of the 1952 National Smallbore Prone Championship held that year at Jacksonville, FL. The USA dominated early Randle competition but since 1985 the British and the U.S. have been evenly matched. Although teams from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe have competed, the only teams to win have been from the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa. In 1975 the U.S. team fired a 4000-303X to achieve the only perfect score ever recorded in the Randle Trophy competition.

The Mayleigh Team

In 1947 Mr. G.W. Cafferata of Newark, England presented to the NRA the Mayleigh Challenge Cup Trophy; this trophy is awarded for team competition open to 10-man teams (plus two alternates, captain and adjutant) from each nation invited by the NRA to compete. Teams fire .22 caliber pistols, 30 shots per competitor at 50 meters.

The U.S. team is selected from the total scores fired in the .22 slow fire match plus the 50-yard stage of the .22 National Match Course in the .22 National Championship Aggregate.

At various times teams from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Jamaica, Rhodesia and South Africa have competed, in addition to the USA, though Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and the USA have provided all the winners. The USA has dominated the match.

The NRA/USA Civilian Team

The NRA/USA National Civilian Pistol Team comprises the 10 highest civilian competitors in each class (High Master, Master, Expert, Sharpshooter and Marksman) in the National Pistol Championship Aggregate (possible 2700).

Each year the 10 highest scoring members of the previous year’s NRA/USA Civilian Pistol Team who are in attendance at the current year’s National Matches are invited to shoot this postal match. The match is fired over the International Shooting Sport Federation’s (ISSF) Standard Pistol Course of Fire: 20 shots slow fire (2.5 minutes/5 shots), 20 shots timed fire (20 seconds/5 shots) and 20 shots rapid fire (10 seconds/5 shots) at 25 meters using .22 caliber pistols with any sights. Competitors must begin the quick fire stages from the ready position—shooting arm lowered at a 45-degree angle.

This postal competition has been fired since 1987 and while the United States has won the match several times and Great Britain too, Finland has dominated the scene—probably because the Finns (and the Europeans generally) are more familiar with the format of the ISSF Standard Pistol match than are most American pistol marksman.

The high scoring member of the U.S. team is awarded the Frank I. Wyman Memorial Trophy commemorating the memory of Frank Wyman, a well-known and successful pistol competitor and Secretary of the NRA. The winning team receives possession of the Benton Trophy donated by Irma Benton in memory of her husband, Lou Benton, another well-known and successful pistol competitor.

These are the International Postal Matches currently contested at the National Matches. In past years there have been several others: in the 1950s the NRA conducted a three-position international smallbore rifle match fired at 50 meters; teams from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and West Germany were invited to compete.

In 1927 the Pennsylvania Railroad donated a considerable trophy for an international postal match all of whose 20 team members had to be employees of railroads; the Dewar course was called for and the United States, Great Britain and Canada competed.

In 1922 the German firm Rheinisch-Westfalische Springstoff, A.G. donated a trophy, the RWS Trophy, for postal competition between 10-man teams from the USA, Germany and Great Britain firing 40 shots per competitor at 50 meters with metallic sights on the international 50 meter target—a match that effectively introduced the 50 meter target to American marksman. World conditions were reflected when no score for Germany was reported in 1939 and the NRA renamed the trophy the American RWS Trophy and designated it as an individual award. The RWS Trophy is today awarded to the Intermediate Senior Champion in the Smallbore Position National Championship.

Also during the 1930s the Federation Interallice des Anciens Combattants (FIDAC) awarded a trophy to the winning 10-man team with each shooter firing 20 shots at 50 meters on the international 50 meter target. Team members had to be veterans of World War I and were selected by the National Headquarters of the American Legion—or its representative.

These international postal matches recognize high achievement (many regard selection to one of these teams as a kind of President’s Hundred in their disciplines) but have also given countless marksmen the privilege of representing the United States of America in international competition. They continue to be a valued part of the National Matches scene


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