In addition to saving civilization, as the bestselling book by historian Thomas Cahill famously outlined, the Irish also apparently saved the National Rifle Association.

This is according to an article published this past St. Patrick’s Day by the NRA publication American Rifleman, which details how “the Irish played a key role in the National Rifle Association of America’s formative years.”

In 1871, journalist and Civil War veteran William Connant Church, who would go on to co-found the NRA with George Wood Wingate, published an editorial in The United States Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular Forces and Volunteer Service. In addition to the formation of a rifle practice association, it also called for a rifle range in the US similar to the one used by British rifle enthusiasts at the time.

The NRA of America was granted an official charter by the State of New York later that year, and then in 1873 opened their first range, Creedmoor, in what is now Queens Village, NY.

They began holding annual matches, and in 1874 the Irish Rifle Team, then the champions of the UK and Ireland, considered the best in the world, traveled over to participate in a long range rifle match. Their presence was a huge coup for the tiny organization.

The Irish team was led by Major Arthur B. Leech and also included John Rigby, who started the famous rifle company in his own name. The Irish team used Rigby-made rifles, and the American team used then-new Remington and Sharps rifles, which had been made specifically for the event.

To the surprise of all, the American team won the day as well as an ornate silver cup Leech had brought to the competition, which became known as the Leech Cup and remains a coveted trophy in American rifle competitions today.

Interestingly, last October, a team of snipers from the Irish Defense Forces snagged the title of Best in the World at the United States Sniper Competition in Fort Benning, GA winning the overall and international categories, and making history as the first international team to take home the gold.

 

The Irish team that competed with the fledgling NRA team in its first International Rifle Match at Creedmoor in 1874American Rifleman