Enfield Rifle Team Shooting: Bristol vs Staffordshire

By the mid-1860s the Volunteer Movement in Great Britain was well established and rifle shooting, thanks also to the establishment in 1859 of the National Rifle Association, had become a popular pastime.

On 8 April 1865 there was a hugely supported ‘simultaneous Enfield rifle match’ fired. Volunteer Battalions and/or Companies throughout the country had opportunity to compete, shooting on their own ranges and submitting scores. Details of the competition were published in January 1865.

The arm to be used was the “Long Enfield rifle” (Pattern 1853, commonly referred to the 3-band Enfield today) or the “Short Enfield three-grooved rifle (two-band Enfield), of Government pattern, with a minimum trigger pull of 6lb and Government ammunition.” Targets were the Wimbledon 1863 pattern. Ranges were 200, 500, and 600 yards, with seven rounds at each range; firing from the shoulder (i.e. standing) at 200 yards, and any position at 500 and 600 yards. Competitors were Battalion teams of 20 and Company teams of 10.

One hundred and eleven battalions in their squads of twenty members each, and two hundred and ninety eight companies of ten members each, entered the competition, so that in all, and allowing for some double entries, there would have been over 5,000 Volunteers engaged in this remarkable undertaking. Towards the end of April results were published. The £100 first prize in the Battalion competition was won by 1st North York Volunteers, and the £50 Company prize by 8th Aberdeenshire Volunteers. Ensign Coutts of 8th Aderdeenshire won the £25 prize for individual firing.

War Office, Pall Mall, May 12, 1859

On 12 May 1859 the Government issued a circular sanctioning the formation of Volunteer Corps. The date on which the first company of Volunteers was formed within a county determined the county precedence. In 1881 the British Army was reorganised into territorial regiments with regular, militia and volunteer battalians.

Her Majesty's Lieutenant for the county of _____ _____

Her Majesty's Government having had under consideration the propriety of permitting the formation of volunteer rifle corps, under the Act of 44 George III., cap. 54, as well as artillery corps and companies in maritime towns in which there may be forts and batteries, I have the honour to inform you that I shall be prepared to receive through you, and consider any proposal with that object, which may emanate from the county under your charge.

The principal and most important provisions of the act are -

That the corps be formed under officers bearing the commission of the Lieutenant of the county.

That its members must take the Oath of Allegiance before a Deputy Lieutenant or Justice of the Peace, or a commissioned officer of the corps.

That it be liable to be called out in case of actual invasion, or appearance of an enemy in force on the coast, or in case of rebellion arising out of either of those emergencies.

That while thus under arms its members are subject to military law, and entitled to be billeted and to receive pay in like manner as the regular army.

That all commissioned officers disabled in actual service are entitled to half pay, and non-commissioned officers and privates to the benefit of the Chelsea Hospital, and widows of commissioned officers killed in service to such pensions for life as are given to widows of officers of Her Majesty's regular forces.

That members cannot quit the corps when on actual service, but may do so at any other time by giving fourteen days' notice.

That members who have attended eight days in each four months, or a total of twenty-four days' drill and exercise in the year, are entitled to be returned as effectives.

That members so returned are exempt from the militia ballot, or from being called upon to serve in any other levy.

That all property of the corps is legally vested in the commanding officer, and subscriptions and fines under the rules and regulations are recoverable by him before a magistrate.

The conditions on which Her Majesty's Government will recommend to Her Majesty the acceptance of any proposal are -

That the formation of the corps be recommended by the Lord-Lieutenant of the county.

That the corps be subject to the provisions of the Act already quoted.

That its members undertake to provide their own arms and equipments, and to defray all expenses attending the corps, except in the event of its assembled for actual service.

That the rules and regulations which may be thought necessary be submitted to me, in accordance with the 56th section of the Act.

The uniform and equipments of the corps may be settled by the members, subject to your approval, but the arms though provided at the expense of the members, must be furnished under the superintendence and according to the regulations of this department, in order to secure a perfect uniformity of gauge.

The establishment of offices and non-commissioned officers will be fixed by me; and recorded in books of this office; and, in order that I may be enabled to determine the proportion, you will be pleased to specify the number of private men, which you will recommend, and into how many companies you propose to divide them.

I have only to add that I shall look to you, as Her Majesty's Lieutenant, for the nomination of proper persons to be appointed officers, subject to the Queen's approval. I have the honour to be, &c, your most obedient servant.