Long Range Target Rifles
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The 1850s was the decade when Long Range shooting really took off. It opened with the Minié Rifle, proceeded via the Enfield Rifle and closed with the introduction of the Whitworth Rifle and the founding of the National Rifle Association (GB), the Final Stage of whose First Meeting in 1860 was fired at 1,000 yards.

Breech loading rifles had been a feature of NRA competitions from the first prize meeting. The earliest breech loaders used self consuming paper cartridges and were discharged by the use of a percussion cap and external hammer; however, by the late 1860’s rifles using metallic cartridges and carrying their own ignition were appearing on the ranges.

The success of the American team using Remington and Sharps breech-loading rifles against an Irish team using Rigby muzzle-loaders in the international match at Creedmoor, Long Island, USA, in 1874 marked the beginning of the end for the muzzle loading match rifle. The death knell came in 1877 when a British team with their muzzle loading match rifles was defeated, again at Creedmoor, by an American team using breech loaders.

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British breech loaders developed in two classes for target shooting in line with NRA competitions: "Any" rifle and the Military Breech Loader (MBL). Metford barreled rifles dominated particularly in the latter class. Many makes found favour including Deeley-Edge-Metford, Farquharson-Metford, Field, Fraser, Henry, Ingram, Rigby-Banks, Webley-Wiley.

With the popular success of US rifle teams in international competition manufacturers there were quick to respond. Long range rifles were introduced by such as Ballard, Maynard, Peabody, Remington, Sharps, Wesson. Such rifles are often referred to as 'Creedmoor Rifles'.

The golden era of black powder match rifle shooting came to a close in 1896 when the NRA(GB) limited the maximum calibre of the "Any" rifle to .315 and the rifles were required to be somewhat more military in character.

Gun Makers Books from Amazon.co.uk
England Beasley, Benjamin Made a military pattern target rifle with Whitworth rifling under licence from Joseph Whitworth.

  Bissell, Thomas London gunmaker.
  Gibbs, George Notable for the manufacture of the Gibbs-Metford muzzle loader and the Farquharson-Metford breech loader.
  London Armoury Co. Manufacturer of the Kerr rifle. This rifle saw use by sharpshooters during the American Civil War.
  Richards, Westley The 'monkey-tail' capping breechloader was available as a target rifle. The later Deeley-Edge-Metford was a popular match rifle.
  Turner, Thomas His small-bore rifles were amongst the most popular into the mid-1860s.
  Whitworth, Joseph Approached in 1854 by Lord Hardinge to investigate 'the mechanical principles applicable in the construction of an efficient weapon,' Whitworth's experiments revolutionised rifle design.
Ireland Rigby, John Rigby muzzle loading and later breech loading match rifles were famously used by Ireland in international shooting competitions against America.
Scotland Fraser, Daniel D. & J. Fraser manufactured a falling block beech loading rifle for Match and Military Breech Loader competition.
  Henry, Alexander Maker of muzzle and breech loading rifles including the Henry Fraser two position rifle.
  Ingram, Charles His rifles were used at the first NRA(GB) Wimbledon Rifle Meeting in 1860. Some of the top Scottish shooters used his rifle when competing in the Elcho Shield.
United States Fisher, Homer Sold Fisher's Muzzle-Loading Long Range Match Rifle and other American breech loading match rifles.
  Overbaugh, Charles New York manufacturer and dealer, with former connections with Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company. He was instrumental in the design of Sharps Model 1877 Long Range Rifle
  Wesson, Frank Manufactured falling black long range target rifles from the later 1870s until c1882.


British Small-bore Muzzle Loading Rifles
Following the principles established by Joseph Whitworth in the 1850s, gunmakers developed a special class of 'small-bore' target rifle. The majority of these rifles were around .451 calibre, and the term 'small-bore' was used to distinguish them from the 'large-bore' service rifle of .577 calibre.


  • Army Rifles: Report of the Committee on Small Bore Rifles, and the various Systems of Rifling as tried last Year - War Office. UK, 19 March 1863
  • The Volunteer Rifles - Cleves H. Howell, Jr. Gun Digest, USA, 1955
  • The Muzzle Loading Small-bore (.451) Rifle 1855-1880 - D.W.Bailey and J.B.Bell. Guns Review, UK, June 1969
  • The Unknown .451s - D.W.Bailey and J.B.Bell. Guns Review, UK, December 1970
  • British Small-Bore Rifles - The 451 Muzzleloaders - DeWitt Bailey II. Gun Digest, USA, 1973
  • The Target Rifle In Australia 1860-1900 - J.E. Corcoran. Dolphin Press, N.S.W., Australia. ISBN 0 909089 0 1975. Reprinted by R&R Books, 1995. ISBN 1 884849 17 2
  • English Long Range Percussion Target Rifles and Ammunition - William A. Roberts, Jr. Muzzle Blasts, USA, February 1979
  • Long Range Muzzle Loading Rifles - Thomas D. Schiffer. Gun Digest, USA, 2003
  • Brunel's Polygonal Rifle - David Minshall. Black Powder, UK, Winter 2009

Additional references are included within the gun makers pages above.

"In November, 1873, the Irish team, whose success in winning the celebrated Elcho Shield at Wimbledon had constituted them the champions of Great Britain, published a challenge to American riflemen to shoot a match with American rifles against their celebrated Rigbys. Although the extreme distances, and the rules as to weapons and position were new to American marksmen, the Amateur Rifle Club, of this City, boldly accepted the challenge. Not only were they almost wholly inexperienced, but no rifles were made in America, which could compete, under the terms of the match, with those used by the Irish team. During the brief period which elapsed before the match, however, our manufacturers succeeded in providing them with the necessary weapons."
New York Times, 31 January 1875

The foregoing is from a letter by the Amateur Rifle Club (ARC) of New York seeking subscriptions in support of the US team to Ireland in 1875. It was the ARC that accepted the challenge from Ireland which lead to the 1874 match at Creedmoor.

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