A Short History of the Jamaica Rife Association 1896- 2002

The first Jamaica Rifle Association was formed in 1896. On the 25th of May of that year, there is a press record of a meeting of delegates from the existing parish rifle associations, to form such an association to permit rifle shooting throughout the island. Seven parish associations became affiliated and individuals also were eligible to become members. Affiliation with the National Rifle Association in England was approved.

It was not however, until the 20th of July 1897, that the first rifle meeting was held and this meeting took place at the ‘Bisley Range’ in St. Catherine. The site of this former range is unknown to present-day riflemen.

Local competitions continued to be shot annually, until the idea of sending a rifle team to Bisley, England was mooted. It was realized that the best riflemen from each Island to represent the West Indies on a whole would have to be selected to make a credible showing. Eventually in 1902, a team was selected to be sent overseas to Bisley and then again in 1908.

There is no record of the date when the first Jamaica Rifle Association became definite, but in the interim, between the years 1908 to 1920, and especially during the war years 1914 -18, not much rifle shooting was indulged in by the colonies. The enthusiasts of the sport waited patiently and were rewarded by winning the Swettenham Cup for Jamaica in 1920. Between the years 1920 and 1930 the teams representing Jamaica in the Inter-Colonial Competitions were mainly organized by the Staff Officer of the Local Forces and it was not until the early 1930′s that the Jamaica Rifle Club was formed, the nucleus of the present Jamaica Rifle Association.

The first wholly Jamaican team to visit Bisley was in 1937. The Colony of Trinidad had set the example with five previous visits and as British Guinea had also sent its first team that year, the rivalry between the three colonies was great. However it was not until the next year, 1938, that with the experience gained in 1937, Jamaica won the Junior Kolapore Cup. In 1939, a Jamaican team, mainly from the Police Force, did Well in the individual competitions. H. E. Vendryes and Cpl. OK. Chambers we got into the ‘King’s Hundred’ but did not Win any team events.

Due to the Second World War, Jamaica did not send another team until 1948, which though considered being Strong, was not particularly successful in the team events. In 1950, the first truly representative West Indies Rifle team Was selected with seven representatives each from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and British Guiana. This team was chosen based on performances in the various individual competitions at Bisley. Jamaica’s Sgt. Willie Sangster was outstanding, appearing in the prize list on twelve occasions, one of which was Gold with 553 points in the Junior Grand Aggregate, a score which would have placed fifth in the Senior Event.

The top three shooters from each colony represented the West Indies in the Senior Team events. The remaining four representatives took part in the Junior Team events. Jamaica’s Junior Team succeeded in winning the ‘Barnett Cup’ known also known as the ‘Junior Mackinnon’ and placed second in the ‘Junior Kolapord which had been won by Jamaica in 1938.

The second Jamaican team to go in 1953 under the auspices of the British West Indies Shooting Council (formed in 1948 to send team triennially for the four colonies) achieved no team successes but did fairly well in the individual squaded competitions, particularly our own W.B. Browne, who won many prizes and just failed to qualify for the last stage of “Queen’s”

It is now matters of record that we have shot at Bisley many times and have been a force to be reckoned with in the junior team events. We have Won the Overseas, the Kolapore, the Mackinnon and the novel on several occasions. In the individual events, shooting against riflemen from various parts of the Commonwealth, Europe and the U.S.A., we have won the Clock Tower (twice), the Young Riflemen’s, Falkland, Faunthorpe, Fletche, Loder, Sudan, Elkington and the Queen’s Prize- 2nd Stage. David Phillips (148/150) in the Elkington and Hugh Tomlinson’s 150/150 in the 2nd stage of the Queen’s were indeed supreme efforts, as was Stephen Harker’s 5th place (291/300) in the Queen’s 1972 and again Hugh Tomlinson’s 7th place (585.74) in the Grand 1992.

Our first team to Canada was in 1974. We have shot at both Borden and Connaught, but our skills have been less frequent not because of poor scores but due to lack of shooters to compete at Bisley, Canada and the Annual Regional Benson and Hedges Cup.

The Benson and Hedges Tournament, which was started in 1973 in Trinidad, is over ranges 300, 500 and 600 yds., with competitors initially from Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica. Bermuda joined the fray in 1989. We have been very successful in Wining this event eleven times of the 22 matches to date and recording the highest score of 1149/1200 in 1992.

We are more than happy to mention that it has been our good fortune to entertain overseas teams from the UK. and Canada over the years, including Queen’s Winners G.E. Twine, N.W. McCaW, A. SLG. Tucker, K.M. Pilcher and L.M. Peden.

In closing, mention must be made of the fact that we were the FIRST to include Target Shooting in the Commonwealth Games in 1966, in which Billy Machado Won a bronze medal in Centre Fire Pistol with a score of 571. His father Benito Machado had taken gold in 22 Prone in the Central American Games over a decade earlier.

Whatever successes have been achieved over the last 100+ years are largely as a result of the wonderful co-operation we have enjoyed with successive governments and supportive private sector organizations, but particularly form the Police Constabulary and the Jamaica Defence Force. We look forward to the future with confidence, feeling sure that their continued support will be given over the next 100 years.