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19th Century Riflemen

The 19th Century saw a huge growth in interest in rifle target shooting. Queen's Prize winners were hailed as hero's and thousands of spectators turned up to witness the long range international matches. Who were these riflemen that attracted such public attention....?

The firearms and gunmakers of the 19th Century are often the feature of study, but today the riflemen are for the most part forgotten. These pages attempt to redress that and record some of the men who pioneered the sport of target rifle shooting from the muzzle loading and into the black powder breech loading era.

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Articles

  • The Woe’s of Corporal Peake - Controversy surrounding the award of the Gold Medal for the 1868 Queen's Prize.
  • On Riflemen - Observations via a US magazine on the nature of American and British riflemen [1887].
  • Record Breaking (Long Range) Scores - Several riflemen in the 19th century shooting with breech loading black powder target rifles at 800, 900 and 1000 yards made the outstanding score of 224 x 225.
  • The Long Range Riflemen’s Reunion, 1901 - Many of the long range rifle veterans in the USA gathered together for a reunion in December 1901.
  • The Record Long Range Score - Contemporary insight into long range rifle shooting in the US during the 1880s by rifleman Maj. Charles. W. Hinman, providing a rich resource for detail on practices of the time. [1915]

Riflemen Index

Riflemen Indexes by nation include brief information about those featured, and link to more extensive biographic detail where available.

Biography

Where more extensive biographic detail is available than featured in the Riflemen Indexes, it is featured in this section. Biographies are included in alphabetic order, irrespective of nationality of the rifleman. Special collections feature:

 

Record Breaking (Long Range) Scores

In 1878 Joseph Partello made the outstanding long range score of 224 x 225, shooting at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. Partello’s score was made at practice, experimenting having decided to change the method of loading the cartridges for his Remington rifle. However, and irrespective of Partello’s obituary statement in 1934 that his record score has “existed since 1878”, it was equalled by others. 

Read more: Record Breaking (Long Range) Scores

The Woe’s of Corporal Peake

The year 1868 saw Corporal Peake of the 6th Lancashire finish 30th in the First Stage of the Queen’s Prize. This was enough to secure Peake £15 in prize money and advancement to the Second Stage where the top sixty riflemen were issued with Whitworth rifles to compete for the honour of the Queen’s Prize and its £250 prize money. The competition took place on Tuesday 21 July, during which Peake fired the then highest recorded score in the event. When news of his winning achievement spread he was carried off accompanied by a band and feted by his fellow Volunteers. The celebrations were however short lived.

Read more: The Woe’s of Corporal Peake

On Riflemen

Long-range experts find a perennial source of enjoyment in the rivalry and keen competition of the rifle field. They do not think they have exhausted all the pleasure a good rifle can bring when a single season’s shooting is over. Each opening year brings a new zest for the sport, and each closing season only brings a determination to be ready, prompt, and early for the following year of pleasurable duty.

Read more: On Riflemen

The Long Range Riflemen’s Reunion, 1901

The Amateur Rifle Club of New York, whose members had made notable victories in the short series of international long range rifle matches in the period 1874-1877, never formally dissolved, although by the later 1800s it had faded away. Col. Leslie C. Bruce, a member of the USA Team that beat Great Britain in 1877, gathered many of the long range veterans together for a reunion in December 1901

Read more: The Long Range Riflemen’s Reunion, 1901