VRA

The History of Full Bore Target Rifle Competition in Victoria

The Association was formed in 1860 and held its first individual competition at the end of that year. The first intercolonial teams match, Vic vs NSW, was held at Sandridge Range (Port Melbourne) in 1862. The first "Queen's Trophy" competition was held in 1881 on a range at Emerald Hill in the Albert-Middle Park area. In 1876 an Australian Rifle Team, consisting of shooters from NSW and Victoria, was the first team ever to officially represent Australia in any sport in international competition. They toured Britain and the USA competing in various shooting competitions including the USA Centenary Celebrations and the inaugural Palma trophy. This tour was so successful that it was decided to send an official cricket team overseas the following year.

By 1876 the early Melbourne ranges at Emerald Hill, Sandridge and elsewhere had been closed and a new range at Williamstown was opened in July 1876. This became the focal point for target rifle competition in Victoria for over a hundred years.

In 1885, the first civilian Rifle Club (Melbourne R.C.) was formed with the blessing of the VRA. 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.

In 1901 a new range at Port Melbourne was opened particularly for the use of civilian Rifle Clubs. It functioned until 1937, when all activity concentrated on the 220 target range at Williamstown.

The Age of 17 August 1914 reports:
"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 being given 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."

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 12232 members.

Until 1933 the standard competition rifle was the standard military issue (long Magazine Lee Enfield). As military requirements changed, the target rifle diverged from the MLE, first with "heavy" barrels and vernier sights, evolving to today's single shot, Mauser (bolt) action, precision barrel, custom stock which eliminates the element of luck.