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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




On 19 October 1860 the House of Representatives asked Governor Gore Browne to recommend Parliament to provide £300 as prizes for the best rifle shots in the colony. Shortly afterwards Stafford stated “that shooting for the Prizes voted by the Legislature of New Zealand, for the best shots among the Militia and Volunteer Forces, will take place simultaneously throughout each Militia District, on 24 May 1861”. The best shot was to receive £140 in cash and a Champion Badge which would be again contested in each succeeding year. More comprehensive regulations were gazetted for the competitions, fired on 1 April 1862, when provisions covering distances, mode of firing, targets, and ammunition, were included. Cash prizes were awarded for the first 20 places in the competition, the champion receiving “£50 and the right to keep and wear the Champion Pouch and Belt for the Best Shot in New Zealand during the year in which he wins it”.

This arrangement remained in force until after the Maori Wars, when an association, on the lines of the English one, was formed. The new body was known as the New Zealand Rifle Association and, although not officially part of the Armed Forces, drew its members from the Militia and Volunteers. The association's aim was to encourage efficiency at rifle shooting, principally as an aid to defence during the Maori Wars. Although annual championships have been competed for since 1861, there was no central meeting until 1902 when the Trentham rifle range became available. Previously to that date the association arranged for the national championship events to be held in rotation with the district championship meetings. Until 1887 the NRA received an annual grant from the Government but, as a result of the retrenchment of the Atkinson Ministry, this was discontinued. But the association continued to receive a grant of free ammunition for the championship events, and competitors were allowed free passes on the Government railways. By 1899 it appeared that the NRA was becoming moribund and the Commandant of the Forces suggested that, because the association was composed almost exclusively of members of the Volunteer Forces, the functions of the New Zealand Rifle Association should be assumed by the Defence Forces. There were no national championships held in 1900 and, in the Defence Act of that year, provision was made for Defence Rifle Clubs to apply to become an integral part of the Armed Forces of the colony.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington and Squadron-Leader Ivan Sidney Rockell, M.B.E., Secretary, National Rifle Association of New Zealand, Wellington.