Creedmoor and the International Rifle Matches

In the latter part of the 19th century the Creedmoor Rifle Range, Long Island, New York, USA, was the venue for a number of international long range rifle matches that received widespread public interest and much press coverage.

Events commenced with Ireland's win over England and Scotland for the Elcho Shield Trophy in 1873. Buoyed by this success Ireland wanted further laurels and a challenge was addressed to the 'Riflemen of America'. There followed a team match between Ireland and the USA at Creedmoor in 1873 and a return match at Dollymount, Ireland, the following year.

The Palma Trophy Team Match, still run today, was first held at Creedmoor on 13-14 September 1876 (although the trophy was then known as the Centennial Trophy) and competed for by Australia, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, and the United States. Ranges shot at were 800, 900 and 1,000 yards, with muzzle loading and breech loading black powder rifles used by the teams of eight.

In 1877 a Great Britain team travelled to Creedmoor to compete against the US. The 1877 match marked the end of an era. In 1878 no invitations were accepted for another international long range match, and the United States fired the Palma Match without competition.

In an effort to revive the waning public interest in long range shooting, Ireland extended an invitation to America for a friendly competition at Dollymount in 1880. This was followed by an unofficial match by an American team against a British team at Wimbledon, England, the same year. Another invitation to compete for the Palma Trophy in 1881 was declined by the NRA of Great Britain and the match now faded away until it was revived in 1901.

Despite the demise of the Palma Match, a competition with military rifles between the Volunteers of Great Britain and the National Guard of America was agreed to for 1882. In 1883 the American National Guard team had a return match against the British Volunteers at Wimbledon. Great Britain was again invited to send a team of British Volunteers to shoot at Creedmoor in 1885, against the US National Guard, however NRA(UK) were unable to accept the invitation.

With the lack of an international match to revive public interest, the Long Island Railroad facing bankruptcy and sponsors withdrawing support, the NRA of America was fighting for survival. In 1890 Creedmoor was deeded back to the state of New York although the NRA match program was permitted to continue at the ranges. The ailing NRA eventually put its records into storage and, following negotiation with the New Jersey State Rifle Association, transferred its matches from Creedmoor to Sea Girt. By 1900 however these matches had grown significantly and the Board of Directors of the NRA met in December that year, the first such meeting since 1892. One of the outcomes of that meeting was plans to resurrect competition for the Centennial or ‘Palma’ Trophy.
  • History - This article looks briefly at the origins of the National Rifle Association in America and the establishment of Creedmoor Rifle Range. It continues with an overview of the international long range rifle matches.
David Minshall