The National Rifle Association was founded in 1859 – twelve years before its better known American cousin – and has only recently added the suffix "of the United Kingdom" to its name. Its founding aim was to raise the funds for an annual national rifle meeting (now known as the Imperial Meeting) "for the encouragement of Volunteer Rifle Corps, and the promotion of Rifle-shooting throughout Great Britain".
The NRA's annual Imperial Meetings were intended to help ensure the permanence and effective marksmanship skills of the hastily formed Volunteer Rifle Regiments at a time when the British (monarchist) establishment felt threatened by the weakness of its relatively small standing army in the face of Napoleonic (republican) campaigns being waged across the European continent.
In 1890, Queen Victoria granted the NRA a Royal Charter of Incorporation. Therefore, as well as having the right to claim the title of the National Rifle Association (NRA), it is interesting to speculate that the original NRA might also legitimately claim the prefix "Royal".
2009 will mark the 150th Anniversary of the National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom. These days the Association is primarily concerned with civilian full-bore target rifle shooting (although retaining great pride in its military heritage and close links with the armed services).
This focus on governance of the UK's target shooting sports has led to the formation of a steering group (composed of representatives from the NRA and the UK's two other major governing bodies: the National Smallbore Rifle Association and the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association) with the aim of creating a single unified body that will best represent the combined interests of all target shooting sports in the UK. The new organisation will be known as the National Association of Target Shooting Sports, (NATSS). This move is intended to coincide with the opening of the UK's firearms register (see Gun politics in the United Kingdom) and the 2012 London Olympics.
Pistol shooting was also well accommodated with Melville, Cheylesmore and Winans ranges. The original Cheylesmore range was opened for the 1948 Olympic games. Recently relocated, it still facilitates 30 lanes at 25 metres. To cater for the increased popularity of pistol shooting, Melville range, also offering 60 lanes for shooting at both 25 and 50 metres, was opened in 1983 and Winans (now closed) with 20 lanes at 25 metres opened in 1993. The pistol ranges are now mostly used for gallery rifle, mini rifle and black powder competitions which have taken over from pistol shooting due to legal restrictions placed upon pistol ownership after the Dunblane massacre.
Clay shooting has taken place at Bisley since the early 1920s. The facilities were greatly expanded to accommodate the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, when the National Clay Shooting Centre was opened. The NCSC offers world class facilities for DTL, Skeet, ABT, Double Trap and Universal Trench.