Manitoba provincial rifle association
The Manitoba Provincial Rifle Association was formed in 1872. An extract from the Manitoba Gazette of August 10th, 1872, describes the first meeting of the Association: “A large and influential meeting was held in the mess room at Fort Garry. Col. Robertson Ross. Adjutant General of Militia in the Chair, for the purpose of forming a provincial rifle association, for the encouragement of rifle shooting amongst the Militia and inhabitants of Manitoba)."
The annual rifle competitions began September 25th, 1873. The first trophy was a sterling silver cup presented in that year by the Hudson’s Bay Company, which is still competed for to this day. The first ranges were located in St. Boniface just north of where the CathedraI now stands. The rifle used at that time was the .577 Snider. The weight of the bullet was 530 grains, and the propellant was black powder. It is no wonder that matches consisted of only live shots and the distances fired were 200, 300 and 400 yards. The position taken up by the first firer was standing at 200 yards and any position with “head to the target” at the other ranges.
In the early days of the Association’s competitions, it was customary to have a grand opening ceremony. Many of the meetings were opened by a distinguished lady firing the first shot from a rifle fixed in a rest. One of these occasions was in 1876 when Mrs. Morris. wife of the Lt.-Governor of the Province fired this opening round. It was reported that a bullseye was scored at 500 yards.
The M.P.R.A. has had to move ranges many times due to the expansion of Winnipeg. Beginning in 1911, St. Charles Rifle Range would become the site of many impressive annual Provincial shooting competitions and is still used to this day.
The rifle used since World War 1 has been the .303 No.4 Lee Enfield but this rifle was later re-barrelled and used with the 7.62mm (.308) cartridge. In the 60′s the “target rifle” was adopted which meant any rifle of .308 calibre could be used in competition. In the 90′s the 5.56mm calibre (.223) was added. A new era began in 1996 when hand-loaded ammunition was introduced.
Present day notables that have represented Manitoba on Canadian Bisley Teams. Larry Clavelle, Ron Dawson, Joe Gribben, Paul Gutnick, George McCartney, Don Sewell, Mrs. Doran Sewell, John Whitecross, Gordon Paetkau, John Chapman, Murray Sloane, Bruce McDonald, and Leo Poulin. In the smallbore discipline, Henry Gerow, Monica Fyfe, and Conner Deneka have represented Canada in International competitions.
We have four Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame inductees, J.W. Houlden as a Builder and Doran and Don SewelI, and Henry Gerow as athletes. In 2021, Doran and Don Sewell were recognized as Sport Manitoba Decade Gallery Sponsors.
As the Association reached its 150th birthday in 2022, the majority of the membership is civilian or ex-service and by deleting only two words from the slightly archaic language of the Manitoba Gazette of August 10th, 1872, we find its present purpose – “for the encouragement of rifle shooting amongst the inhabitants of Manitoba.”
The Association continues to promote rifle shooting and continues to work closely with Cadet Corps throughout the Province.