HISTORY OF THE NSRA
The Nova Scotia Rifle Association (NSRA or Association) has been in existence since the early 1860’s and has served the Crown for approximately 160 years by promoting marksmanship in the civilian and military communities in accordance with its mandate. For many of those years, the Department of National Defence (DND) was an enabling partner for NSRA and other Provincial Rifle Associations (PRAs) by providing access to its small arms ranges and other supplies/equipment. This support was provided to the PRAs to further the national strategic defence objective - to develop and maintain a high level of marksmanship within the Canadian military and civilian communities.
By the late 1980’s, the Association had foreseen the possibility of closures or access restrictions to the use of DND ranges that would have a detrimental impact on competition shooting and marksmanship development programs run by NSRA. At that time, NSRA established the goal of constructing a facility which would contain the ranges necessary for the continuation of all NSRA organized shooting programs, including firearms safety and marksmanship training, practices and competitions.
In 1989 the NSRA identified a tract of Provincial Crown Land which met the criteria established and began the lease application process with the Crown. In November 1990, a lease for 770 hectares (1,900 acres) of Crown Land was signed with the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests. The construction of the range began in 1991.
DND Bedford Range in the 1930's
Typical ROSS Rifle used on the Bedford Range by NSRA Members in the early 1900's
Construction of "B" Range - 1991
Construction of "B" Range - 1991
Construction of "C" Range - 1992
By late 1996, the project had reached a point of partial completion. "B", "C", and "D" ranges had been built and were in regular use. "A" Range, the proposed 900 m rifle range had been cleared, preliminary layout surveying had been done and some construction had been completed.
Construction of "A" Range - 1996
At that stage, it had been discovered that a predicted high (close to ground surface) bedrock condition in the designated target gallery location, was worse than expected. The estimated cost for completion (based on the bedrock condition) was prohibitively expensive for the funds available at the time. As a result, the project was put on hold for several years.
By 2002, the anticipated closures or access restrictions to the use of DND ranges had become a reality, seriously disrupting NSRA long range rifle shooting programs. It was evident that having a range controlled and operated solely by the Association was essential for the survival of NSRA and its shooting programs.
Renewed efforts led to further detailed sub-surface investigations at the site which revealed that a target gallery could be constructed in the location originally planned as the 100 m firing point location, without having to deal with bedrock and therefore at considerably lower cost.
The decision was made to modify the range design by pulling the target gallery back 100 m to the more favourable location, but reducing the range from 900 m to 800 m. The cost savings from this change were such that completion of this rifle range was achievable and still sufficient to handle the requirements of the long-range shooting program of NSRA.
On October 2, 2004, “A” Range was brought into service.
In 2005, NSRA moved its competitions to the Bull Meadow Range Complex. From 1980 to 2013, six Canadian Forces (Regular and Reserve) marksmen from Nova Scotia have won the prestigious Queen's Medal for Champion Shots seventeen times in national Service Rifle competitions. In 2011, NSRA celebrated its 150th anniversary and had the opportunity to host the Great Britain Rifle Team at its Annual Prize Meet.
In 1859 the National Rifle Association (NRA) of Great Britain was formed and from this the sport of organized target shooting within the Commonwealth was born.
The NRA of Great Britain held their first matches in 1860 at Wimbledon, a site now famous for international tennis matches. The first shot of this match was fired by Queen Victoria and as luck would have it Her Majesty scored a perfect bulls-eye.
In 1890 the NRA moved the site of their championship matches to a new range complex known as Bisley. Bisley is famous the world over as a place where international marksmen go to test their skill.
In "the Colonies" during the 1800's there was a real requirement for a militia and civilian population thoroughly trained in marksmanship. From this need sprang Colonial Rifle Associations. In 1861, Nova Scotia formed such a Colonial Rifle Association and affiliated itself with the National Rifle Association of Great Britain.
With the exception of the NRA of Great Britain, NSRA is the oldest Rifle Association in the Commonwealth. It has been in continuous operation for more than 150 years and is older than the country of Canada.
With Confederation in 1867, the Colonial Rifle Associations became Provincial Rifle Associations. In 1868 a national or "umbrella" organization known as the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association was formed.
The first prize meet of NSRA (then a Colonial Rifle Association) was held in Windsor, Nova Scotia on October 1st and 2nd of 1861. There were 106 competitors who took part in this match. The course of fire consisted of five-shot strings being fired at ranges of 150, 200, 250, and 300 yards. The first prize, a NRA (UK) Silver Medal, was won by Private R.C. Kinnear of the Chebucto Greys militia unit.
In 1862 NSRA's prize meeting was moved to Truro and in 1866 these matches were held in Bedford for the first time. At the 1866 matches some 400 competitors turned out. To put that is perspective, think how low the population of Nova Scotia was at that time.
The 1866 prize meeting was opened with a match fired at 300 yards and won by Lt.-Col. Lyons of 6th Kings Militia. Other matches were fired at 200 and 400 yards. There was also a team match for the prize of a Silver Bugle presented by Lady Mulgrave, the wife of the Lieutenant Governor of the Province. This match was won by a team from Dartmouth known as the "Mayflowers".
NSRA has a long history of running shooting competitions. It has hosted matches continually since its formation, with the only interruption occurring between 1914-1918 and 1940-1945, due to World Wars I and II.
One match traces its origin back to 1863. Prior to 1953 its was known as the Gold Medal Match and in 1953 it was won "outright" (as a result of two successive wins) by Major C.F. Kennedy, the Member of Parliament for Colchester. Major Kennedy then donated this medal to the Association for perpetual competition as the Kennedy Gold Medal.
Like the Kennedy Gold Medal Match many of the trophies associated with NSRA matches are rich with Nova Scotia heritage; the Laurie Bugle was presented by Lt. General J.W. Laurie in 1883; the Stairs-Borden trophy was presented by Sir Frederick W. Borden in 1899; the Irving Trophy, a magnificent Ram's Head decorated with silver and jewels, was presented by Col. J.D. Irving in 1904.
Nova Scotia has been represented at international shooting competitions by members of the NSRA on many occasions. The first Nova Scotians to travel abroad as part of a Canadian Rifle team were Captain P. Hickey and Private J. Larkin of the 63rd Battalion who were part of the Canadian Team to Wimbledon in 1872. Three NSRA members were present for the first matches at Bisley in 1890. Nova Scotia was represented by Captains H. Silver and W. Bishop of the 63rd Battalion and Captain W.A. Garrison of the Halifax Garrison Artillery. In recent years there has been continual representation by members of the Association in both competitor and administrative roles at Bisley.