Here are five things you may not know about the historic Leech Cup. The trophy is awarded at the NRA National Matches during the Long-Range Championships.
The Leech Cup dates back to 1874.
Maj. Arthur Blennerhassett Leech of Ireland presented the Leech Cup to the Amateur Rifle Club of New York for the historic 1874 U.S.–Ireland International rifle match at Creedmoor, New York. In 1873, the Irish Rifle Association challenged U.S. rifle shooters to meet the following year in the United States for a match at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards. The challenge was issued via letter, which was published in the New York Herald, as the Irish were unaware of the budding National Rifle Association of America. After learning of it, the all-NRA Amateur Rifle Club of New York accepted the Irish challenge. (The U.S. issued a challenge of its own more than 100 years later.)
New York Club members were inexperienced long-range shooters.
By accepting the challenge, the Amateur Rifle Club of New York was taking a risk. Not many U.S. rifle shooters at the time were experienced at long-range. According to the terms, Americans were to use American rifles, and the Irish would use Irish rifles by John Rigby. But there were then no U.S. rifles suitable for the match. Remington and Sharps stepped up to the plate and quickly produced “Creedmoor” long-range match rifles, named for the Creedmoor Range on Long Island where the match would be held. Tryouts were held to determine the six-person team, with each member attempting 15 shots each at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards.
One of NRA’s founders accepted the Leech Cup from Maj. Leech.
The U.S.–Ireland Match at Creedmoor was held September 26, 1874. There was a festive atmosphere, with trains hauling in 8,000 spectators. During the lunch break, Maj. Leech, captain of the Irish team, presented the Leech Cup. It was a pitcher of Irish silver, wrought in Ireland, heavily engraved and “surmounted by a little silver tower, representative of the famous old towers of Ireland.” Col. George Wingate, a co-founder of the National Rifle Association of America, accepted the trophy, and it has been in competition ever since (just as Maj. Leech intended). After lunch, the U.S. won the match by three points.
The Leech Cup had a 14-year absence.
The Leech Cup disappeared after the 1913 National Matches and was not recovered until 1927. For this reason, the NRA trophy collection is generally only put on display during the NRA National Championships.
The Leech Cup is the oldest trophy in shooting competition today.
In 1901, the Amateur Rifle Club of New York presented the Leech Cup to the National Rifle Association, and it has been contested annually ever since. The current course of fire is 20 shots, slow-fire prone at 1,000 yards.