National Rifle Association (United Kingdom)

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National Rifle Association
National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom logo.jpg
Headquarters of the National Rifle Association
Headquarters of the National Rifle Association at Bisley, England.jpg
SportFullbore target rifle
Founded1859; 163 years ago (1859)
AffiliationInternational Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Associations (ICFRA)
HeadquartersNational Shooting Centre
LocationBisley, Surrey, England
PresidentCharles III
ChairpersonD. Lacey
CEOAndrew Mercer
Official website
United Kingdom

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the governing body for full bore rifle and pistol shooting sports in the United Kingdom. Registered as a United Kingdom charity, its objectives are to "promote and encourage marksmanship throughout the King’s dominions in the interest of defence and the permanence of the volunteer and auxiliary forces, naval, military and air."[1][2] The formal purposes of the charity are to promote the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown, or the police, fire and rescue or ambulance services. The National Shooting Centre at Bisley is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the association.[3]


The National Rifle Association was founded in 1859, 12 years before its better known American namesake.[4] The Association was originally based on Putney Heath & Wimbledon Common. Its founding aim was to raise the funds for an annual national rifle meeting (now known as the Imperial Meeting) "for the promotion of marksmanship in the interests of Defence of the Realm and permanence of the Volunteer Forces, Navy, Military and Air".[4]

In 1860, Queen Victoria fired the opening shot of the first Imperial Meeting. The Whitworth rifle used and the target can be seen in the Museum of the NRA at Bisley.

NRA Secretary Charles Robert Crosse, caricatured in Vanity Fair's "Men of the Day" series in 1912.

The Imperial Meeting quickly gained significance in high society. In 1878 Edward Walford wrote "These annual gatherings are attended by the élite of fashion, and always include a large number of ladies, who generally evince the greatest interest in the target practice of the various competitors, whether it be for the honour of carrying off the Elcho Shield, the Queen's or the Prince of Wales's Prize, or the [Ashburton] shield shot for by our great Public Schools, or the Annual Rifle Match between the Houses of Lords and Commons."[5] Key matches such as the Elcho were significant social occasions on par with The Boat Race. Shooters and officials were often household names, and featured or even caricatured in society publications such as Vanity Fair.

The Association moved from Wimbledon to Bisley in 1890 after encroaching housing development around Wimbledon caused concerns about the ongoing ability to safely operate the ranges. In the same year, Queen Victoria granted the National Rifle Association a royal charter of incorporation.[6]

As a skill-based sport, target shooting became open to women from an early point. Participation was in open competition alongside men rather than separate events. In 1891, Winifred Leale of the Guernsey Rifle Club became the first woman to compete in an NRA Competition. In 1930, Marjorie Foster became the first woman to win the Sovereign's Prize.[7] A road on Bisley Camp is named in her honour.[8]

The Charity Commission gave the association formal regulatory advice in 2019 because it found the NRA had acted outside its charitable objects when it had promoted civilian recreational shooting. In 2020 the Charity Commission stated that the association had made progress but it is being kept under close regulatory scrutiny.[3]

The National Shooting Centre[edit]

The National Shooting Centre is a wholly-owned trading subsidiary of the National Rifle Association.[3] Through the NSC, the Association owns the freehold on "Bisley Camp", which covers the built areas including Club Row, other buildings and clubhouses as well as the extensive caravan and camping sites. The Camp area also includes some smaller, self-contained ranges such as Cheylesmore. The larger ranges (Century, Stickledown and Short Siberia) are held on a 99-year lease from the Ministry of Defence. Although these are operated directly by the NSC and are not strictly military ranges, they do utilise the MoD's Pirbright Danger Area (which serves the adjacent barracks and military ranges). Consequently, they remain subject to some MoD rules for civilian use of military ranges.

The original ranges for the NRA's Imperial Meeting were at Wimbledon, but in the late 1880s the National Rifle Association began searching for a new site. In early 1888 it seemed that Cannock Chase was to be selected from several locations under consideration. However, that plan fell through a few months later, and the other potential venues again put their cases, with the Middlesex Chronicle newspaper suggesting that a large site at Staines was a likely home for "The New Wimbledon". Eventually though, Bisley was selected. The principal ranges used at Bisley today are as originally laid out in 1890 to accommodate modern full-bore rifle shooting.[9]

Museum of the National Rifle Association[edit]

The Museum of the NRA opened in 1997, some 90 years after it was first proposed.[10] Located on the first floor of the NRA Headquarters on Bisley Camp, it occupies the former stats offices - which became available after the introduction of computers greatly reduced the desk and filing space required for collating competition results.

A working group of volunteers was formed in 1991. The decision was quickly taken to focus on Association history, rather than being a general firearms museum. As well as housing some of the Association's largest and most unwieldy trophies, the museum contains a reference library and picture gallery, along with exhibits of historic firearms, medals, memorabilia and shooting equipment. A further study-collection of historic rifles is maintained which are not on display but available to researchers.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Rifle Association". Charity Commission for England and Wales. Charity Commission. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  2. ^ "Welcome to The National Rifle Association". Archived from the original on 20 February 2020. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Decision: Regulatory compliance case: National Rifle Association". 7 February 2020. Archived from the original on 16 February 2020. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  4. ^ a b "National Rifle Association: From origins on Wimbledon Common". Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  5. ^ "Putney". Old and New London: Volume 6. London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin. 1878. pp. 489–503. Archived from the original on 2 September 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014 – via British History Online.
  6. ^ "Charter of Incorporation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Marjorie Foster (1893 – 1974)". Exploring Surrey's Past. Exploring Surrey's Past. Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  8. ^ "NRA History". National Rifle Association. National Rifle Association. Archived from the original on 23 March 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  9. ^ "National Rifle Association: The move to Bisley". Archived from the original on 31 May 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  10. ^ "Museum". National Rifle Association. National Rifle Association. Archived from the original on 23 March 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  11. ^ "Museum of the National Rifle Association". Surrey Museums Partnership. Retrieved 1 September 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°18′40″N 0°39′22″W / 51.311°N 0.656°W / 51.311; -0.656