A Historical Look at National Match Ranges

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posted on July 1, 2016
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Above: Shooting the 300 yard rapid fire stage at Camp Perry in 1923.

For practical purposes, NRA national championships of the last 150 years have been held at one of three ranges, but there have been a few exceptions.

Shortly after its founding in 1871, the NRA began work on the Creedmoor Range. The range at Creedmoor (now a part of Queens) was built on land owned by the NRA with financial aid from the state of New York, "pick and shovel" help from the U.S. Army Engineers at Fort Totten, and a promise by the Long Island Railroad to provide service. The range was originally intended as a marksmanship training ground for all New York militia organizations.

Use of Creedmoor for NRA championships got underway in 1874 when a rifle team made up of NRA members invited the Irish National Team to travel to the United States for an international competition. From then until the late 1880s, when the NRA lost its control over Creedmoor, NRA championships were fired there. Through the 1880s and 90s, interest in marksmanship dwindled and the NRA went into a period of inactivity. The Spanish-American War in 1898 rekindled the flames.

A resurgent NRA re-instituted its match program, both national and international, beginning in 1899. Having lost Creedmoor, however, NRA moved its competitive operation to Sea Girt, New Jersey, and to ranges operated by the New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Association. NRA national championships were held at Sea Girt until 1907 when, combined with matches sponsored by the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP)—"The National Matches"—they were moved to Camp Perry, OH.

The National Matches (the National Trophy Individual and Team Rifle and Pistol Matches, the President's Rifle and Pistol Matches, and the National Trophy Infantry Team Rifle Match) and NRA championships have been at Camp Perry ever since, except:

Between 1914 and 1920, War Department training schemes and U.S. involvement in World War I combined to keep the National Matches generally out of Ohio. In 1914, the War Department, in an attempt to increase training efficiency and encourage greater participation, scheduled four sets of "Divisional Matches." These matches, held at Sea Girt, at the state military camp near Jacksonville, FL, at Fort Riley, KS, and near Portland, OR, were disastrous in terms of attendance. Jacksonville and Sea Girt drew good crowds but the others did not.

In 1915, the National Matches were scheduled for firing at Florida's Black Point Military Reservation, eight miles outside Jacksonville. Jacksonville hosted the 1916 National Matches, as well. No matches were held in 1917, but Camp Perry did host the contests for 1918, and contemporary reports note that attendance was extraordinarily high.

In 1919, the U.S. Navy offered its newly constructed ranges at Caldwell, NJ, for use as a site for the National Matches and for NRA's championships. In 1920, and from that year until WWII interrupted the schedule, Camp Perry was the location for the National Matches. After WWII, the scenario was much like that of the 1914-1920 era.

Between 1941, when smallbore and pistol championships (but no high power championships and no National Matches) were held at Camp Perry, and 1953, when the full National Match schedule returned to the Ohio site, NRA held championships in a variety of locations. NRA smallbore and pistol championships were shot at Camp Perry in 1946 and 1947, and at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, VA, in 1948. In 1949, smallbore matches were held at Camp Dodge, outside Des Moines, IA, and the pistol championships were fired at Fort Sheridan, IL. There were no matches during 1950 because of the Korean Conflict.

In 1951, smallbore and pistol championships were held near San Francisco and the first high power rifle championships since 1940 were fired at Camp Matthews, north of San Diego. In 1952, pistol and smallbore matches were shot in Jacksonville, FL, and a high power championship was conducted at Fort Benning, GA.

In 1953, the National Matches returned to Camp Perry, OH. Since then, the NRA National Championships and the National Matches have been held there each year, with the exception of smallbore which moved to Bristol, IN in 2014.

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