Wangaratta Small Bore Rifle Club

The Wangaratta Small Bore Rifle Shooting Club was established in 1954. The Army Drill Hall in Rowan Street, Wangaratta in 1954, on the site now occupied Gordon Gibson Nominees. The Club was formed in order to provide good training for new shooters and to encourage more members for the club shooting at the Glenrowan Range.

Most of the members were .303 shooters as well as field shooters who thought they would like to try their hand at Target Shooting. This proved to be a very popular Club and, on some occasions, there were as many as 100 shooters at the Army Drill Hall on Club nights. This rapid expansion of the Club brought pressure on club members to seek an alternative venue – hence the next move to the Old Grand Stand at the Wangaratta Showgrounds where it was possible for six shooters to shoot at a time over a distance of 25 yards.

This venue had the advantage of having a portable clubroom set up in one end. However, no Club equipment could be stored there and had to be taken home by members for storage each week. During the Annual Agricultural Show, all equipment including the stop butts had to be removed for the duration, and restored after the show in time for the next meeting. This venue was our home for 10 years during which time we were able to run prize meetings with plenty of car parking space and a place for visitors to camp!

In 1970, we were informed that the grandstand was going to be demolished and replaced with clubrooms for the Wangaratta Football Club. This proved to be a difficult time, as members had to travel to Myrtleford and Benalla, to finish Pennant competition cards for the season. At that time, Jack Trudgeon gathered together a group of interested sportsmen who had a vision of building a sporting complex,

Later to become known as the H.B Barr Reserve. From this group, we were able to glean the information that the Wangaratta City Council had a piece of land in the same precinct that would be suitable and available for a shooting range. After much negotiation, we were able to persuade them to allow us to occupy our present site.

Once the land had been acquired the huge task of building our range and club house began. Initially it was thought that using second-hand buildings such as Army-type igloos may have been an option. However, after much discussion, it was decided that Club Members would build their own range and Club Rooms. Thanks to the financial backing of members such as Frank Baker (now deceased), and other Club members, we were able to get our building completed with huge weekend input from our many dedicated members! With a donation of 17 trees from another member, the trees were felled, sent to the Rutherglen Sawmill, then once milled was carted back to Wangaratta for use in framing out the building. The office was the first room to be completed and then many weekend working bees saw the completion of the building and the concrete slabs.

Shooters often travelled long distances, to attend our Club nights, included shooters from some of these country towns of Springhurst, Oxley, Milawa, Tarrawingee, Greta South, Wangaratta, Wangandary and Peechelba.

Eventually the Club felt it could expand and start shooting 50 yards and 100 yards. The North Eastern Union was formed by Wangaratta, Benalla, Myrtleford and Yarrawonga Clubs, and a range was built at Mulwala. Shooters came from far afield to attend these monthly shoots – including a group touring from New Zealand!

Visiting other clubs was a highlight and a friendly rivalry existed between all the different clubs. The Bergman Cup was a sought- after Trophy and Myrtleford and the Bandianna Army Range were popular venues. These events were especially renowned for their delicious suppers!

From these beginnings, Small Bore Rifle Shooting has continued to evolve with the introduction of bench-rest as well as air rifle shooting. This adds increased interest, catering for all age groups from juniors the age of 12 through to many senior members enjoying the challenge of the sport.. The Club regularly hosts school groups as well as Scout’s and other community groups in the sport of Small Bore Rifle Shooting.

The Wangaratta Club has continued to be a strong and progressive club with expansion and development in recent years to accommodate the changing disciplines in shooting competitions and the growing interest of new shooters including many juniors. Projects the Club are currently undertaking include doubling the size of the 20metre range to allow bench rest, air rifle and prone shooting to be shot concurrently, as well as a new clubrooms and toilet facilities to provide a modern environment for the future.

The Wangaratta Small Bore Rifle has had many members represent our sport at State, National and International level including World Cup, Youth Olympics and Olympics. It is from these small beginnings at club level that champions are made.

We owe a lot to our predecessors through to our present members, for having the vision and input into developing the Wangaratta Small Bore Rifle Club as we know it today. Times are changing and we are now looking forward in supporting both our regular and new shooters to our Club. How exciting it is to see the large contingent of young, enthusiastic shooters who could quite possibly be representing our country in the future.

Special thanks to Chas Floyd, (a foundation member) for much of the background history of this article