The 1850s was the decade when Long Range shooting really took off. It opened with the Minié Rifle, proceeded via the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny and closed with the introduction of the Whitworth rifle and the founding of the National Rifle Association in Great Britain.

The heyday of the long range muzzle loading era for rifle marksmen in Great Britain was the first two decades of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) existence; broadly 1860-1880. Similar associations were established in Australia and Canada at this time and their riflemen came to Wimbledon, England, to compete in the NRA Annual Rifle Meeting. Target rifle competition was held at distances out to 1,000 yards (sometimes further) in local, national and international events. Whilst the sport has strong ties with Great Britain it was not an exclusively British preserve.

In Continental Europe shooting competition was not generally held at such extreme ranges as 1,000 yards, but huge shooting festivals did evolve where shooting was held at what are today referred to as mid-ranges (600 yards and less). American riflemen held competition at long range, one form of the disciple leading to the evolution of heavy bench rest rifles with its own special history. The NRA in America was established in 1871 and the famous Creedmoor range opened in 1873. While some riflemen there used British muzzle loading rifles in competition, a limited number of American gunmakers also made long range muzzle loading match rifles.

The legacy of this short period of rifle development and competition is a wealth of muzzle loading rifles for the student to study, and a record of long-range accuracy that is a challenge for todays shooters to match.

Whitworth military match rifle

Whitworth military match rifle

In 2000 the Long Range Muzzle Loader mailing list was established for those interested in the history of and shooting the percussion small-bore (.451) muzzle loading target rifle. Research Press is a useful resource with its primary focus on long range target shooting and associated history.

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