The Honolulu Rifles were a volunteer military company composed solely of caucasian citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The company was organized in the spring of 1884 with the approval of the cabinet and King David Kalakaua who gave the group its name. The organization's first use was on April 26, 1885 at the death of the Dowager Queen Emma, to stand guard at her residence after her passing. There was another volunteer company of the same name that had consisted of caucasian and part caucasian men that had disbanded after the election of King Kalakaua.
The organization held little prominence until after 1886 when the company came into the leadership of Volney V. Ashford, who had extensive military experience with the United States during the Civil war and later with the Canadian Army. The company began its rise when it won a drill competition at Kalakaua's 50th birthday celebration. The Rifles were a part of the social community of Hawaii and in 1887 hosted an exhibition and dance for the community, attended by most of the political figures of the day, where the king presented them with the flag of the Kingdom.
The ranks of the organization grew extensively after January 1887 when the group adopted a resolution to become subject to an act of 1886 "To organize the military forces of the kingdom". By March of that year they split into two companies forming a battalion Consisting of companies A and B. The following month, Portuguese residence formed another company that became company C by May 25. The act of 1886 required a Commander-in-Chief of the rank of lieutenant general to oversee the military forces of the Kingdom. John O. Dominis was given this position while The King himself, under this act, was the Supreme Commander, referred to as Generalissimo. Eventually the act of 1886 would be deemed unconstitutional.
At what point the Rifles became part of the Hawaiian League known as the Committee of Safety (Hawaii) is still somewhat confused. More than likely the expansion of the company coincided with the formation of the Hawaiian league.
- Dukas, Neil Bernard (2004). A Military History of Sovereign Hawai'i. Honolulu, Hawai'i: Mutual Publishing. p. 156. ISBN 1-56647-636-4.
- Ralph S. Kuykendall (1 January 1967). The Hawaiian Kingdom: 1874-1893, the Kalakaua dynasty. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 352–. ISBN 978-0-87022-433-1.