National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom

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National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom
National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom (emblem).gif
MottoSit Perpetuum (May it last forever)
TypeShooting sports, gun rights
HeadquartersThe National Shooting Centre at Bisley
50,000 (Direct and indirect)[citation needed]
Official language
70 plus several hundred volunteers

The National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom (NRA) is the governing body of full bore rifle, shotgun (excluding clay pigeon) and pistol shooting sports in the United Kingdom.


The National Rifle Association was founded in 1859,[1] based on Putney Heath & Wimbledon Common, 12 years before its better known American cousin. 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 shield shot for by our great Public Schools, or the Annual Rifle Match between the Houses of Lords and Commons."[2]

The association has recently added the suffix "of the United Kingdom" to its website tagline. 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".[1]

In 1890, Queen Victoria granted the NRA a Royal Charter of Incorporation.[3]

In 2006, the NRA founded the National Association of Target Shooting Sports (NATSS) working group in association with the NSRA and CPSA, to explore the practicalities and benefits of a merger between the bodies. The project was shelved in July 2009.

2009 marked the 150th Anniversary of the National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom. These days the association is primarily concerned with civilian full-bore target rifle shooting, although retaining its military heritage and close links with the British Armed Forces.[4]


NRA arranges competitions within the following shooting disciplines.[5]

Match Rifle
From 1862 it is one of the oldest types of shooting matches. Usually fired at distances from 1000 to 1200 yards.
Service Rifle
Service competitors use current military rifles. Civilians also may compete alongside with their own rifles.
ISSF 300 meter
The only NRA discipline governed by ISSF Rules.
Sporting Rifle
Consisting of Running Deer, Running Boar, 10 m Running Target and Static 100 yd.
Practical Rifle
A course usually includes a physical element and fast reloading.
Gallery Rifle & Pistol Shooting
Short and medium distances shot with various handguns and rifles.
Muzzle Loading Pistol
Single shot flintlock or percussion pistols and revolvers fired at 25 meters.
Muzzle Loading Rifle
Shooting with smoothbore muskets at 50 metres, and sometimes out to 600 or 1000 yards.
Classic and Historic
Shooting with firearms of the pre WW2 era.
Target Shotgun
Several disciplines for semi-automatic or manual shotguns at paper, steel, clays and bowling pins.
Clay Shooting
Skeet, trap, down the line, and sporting clays.
Target Rifle
Prone single shot shooting at distances from 300 to 1000 yards. Rifles and components uses adjustable iron sights, and the components has to be readily available.
Prone single shot shooting at distances from 300 to 1000 yards. Often held at the same time and place as Target Rifle, F-Class differs in that rifles can be fitted with optical sights and bipods.

The National Shooting Centre[edit]

The original centre was 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.[6] Century Range provides 108 points at distances up to 600 yards.[7] Stickledown Range is the largest long range in the UK with 50 targets and firing points from 800 to 1200 yards.[7]

Walter W. Winans on the Running Deer Range, Wimbledon Common (Thomas Blinks, 1888)

There is also the Short Siberia Range with points at 100 and 200 yards.[7] There used to be a Long Siberia Range which was originally a 600-yard range. This is now used by Bisley Shooting Ground (a commercial sporting clay shooting organisation) as a sporting clay Range. BSG also operate Cottesloe Heath, which lies in the danger area for Century Range and thus is subject to time limitations. The Running Deer Range (operated by the British Sporting Rifle Club) has facilities for moving targets at up to 100 metres.[7]

Pistol shooting is and was also well accommodated with Melville, Cheylesmore and the recently refurbished Winans ranges.[7] The original Cheylesmore Range was opened for the 1948 Summer Olympics: and was relocated when various changes to the clay target ranges were implemented for the 2002 Commonwealth Games. It now offers 20 lanes for general use at 25 metres and two lanes of retrievable targets. Cheylesmore also has facilitates for secure section 5 and section 7 pistol shooting on electronic targets.[7][8] To cater for the increased popularity of pistol shooting, Melville Range, also offering 50 lanes for shooting at both 25 and 50 metres, was opened in 1983 and Winans, refurbished in 2013 as a general gallery rifle smallbore and centrefire rifle range,[7] was renamed from Gallery in 1993.

Clay pigeon shooting has taken place at Bisley since the early 1920s. The facilities were greatly expanded to accommodate the 2002 Commonwealth Games shooting, when the National Clay Shooting Centre was opened. The NCSC offers world class facilities for DTL, Skeet, ABT, Double Trap and Universal Trench. Bisley Shooting Ground, a commercial clay shooting operator, runs extensive sporting clay facilities on the Cottesloe Heath and Long Siberia ranges.[7]

The National Shooting Centre was one of three sites considered to host the shooting events for the 2012 London Olympics. However it was decided to construct a temporary venue at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich[9] as LOCOG preferred as many events as possible remain within London for a "compact" games despite a significant increase in costs compared with adapting and refurbishing existing facilities at Bisley.[10] Concern was raised over Bisley as a site from within the shooting community with regards to sustainability as some Olympic shooting events use firearms that are not UK legal and which were only possible under a government dispensation lasting the length of the Games. Facilities for those events would have been mothballed anyway following the Games, although renovated clay pigeon, airgun, and rifle facilities would have left a lasting legacy for the sport. Concern was also raised over the handling of legacy facilities as legacy facilities from the 2002 Commonwealth Games had proved initially problematic for some organisations due to high maintenance and running costs, and any legacy from the Olympics needed to be designed to be sustainable following the Games.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • MacDonnell, R. J. (1877), The National Rifle Association: A Sketch of Its History and Progress, 1859–1876
  • Martin, John. "The Transformation of Lowland Game Shooting in England and Wales in the Twentieth Century: The Neglected Metamorphosis." International Journal of the History of Sport 29.8 (2012): 1141-1158.
  • Osborne, Harvey, and Michael Winstanley. "Rural and urban poaching in Victorian England." Rural History 17.2 (2006): 187-212. online

External links[edit]

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