In 1957, the National Rifle Association’s headquarters was in Washington, D.C., on 16th Street.
As we celebrate 150 years of your National Rifle Association, it’s important to recognize how the NRA has evolved to meet the needs of an ever-changing America. Since it was chartered in 1871 with the goal of improving marksmanship, the NRA’s competition, educational and safety programs have remained the gold standard in firearms instruction and the foundation of modern marksmanship training around the globe.
During its youthful years, the NRA focused on improving military marksmanship after the woeful inadequacy of Union troops in the Civil War. At the time, large rifle tournaments conducted by the NRA—Creedmoor, Sea Girt and Camp Perry—became hotbeds for rifle innovation, as well as improving scoring procedures. By the early 1900s, NRA programs set the standard for military rifle training, even inspiring the War Department to create the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice to promote military and civilian marksmanship. NRA’s commitment to competitive shooting continues to this day with the National Matches at Camp Atterbury, plus state, regional and sectional matches held across the country.
Prior to World War I, NRA recognized there was no time to waste in teaching citizens how to shoot. Its training programs became more important than ever. Mobilizing its resources, in 1915, the NRA started a drive to promote civilian marksmanship at large factories, organizing clubs at large firms such as General Electric, Goodyear Rubber, Willys-Overland and more. Recognizing the potential, the War Department supported the NRA’s program by providing awards to civilian rifle-club teams in national competitions.
Later, aiding police officers in their training became another major focus of the NRA. NRA programs at Camp Perry in the 1920s set training standards for not only local-level police, but also FBI agents and military police. Police departments around the country modeled their training ranges after the famous “Hogan’s Alley” course at Camp Perry, providing realistic tactical situations for participants. By the 1960s, NRA’s specially designed training and qualification courses had trained thousands of law-enforcement officers in the use of their sidearms, keeping the public—and themselves—safer from criminals.
In the post-war years, NRA training programs across all groups exploded in popularity. Instructing more than 1 million people in the U.S. every year, today’s NRA firearm training courses help students unlock their true marksmanship potential. And with a growing network of 125,000 instructors, 8,000 coaches and 2,200 training counselors, finding a course is simpler than ever.
Safety has always been paramount for NRA’s programs. In 1963, the NRA debuted a revolutionary home firearms safety course that taught thousands of citizens how to avoid unsafe conditions when keeping a gun in the home. In addition, NRA hunter safety education courses taught by state fish and game departments across the U.S. and Canada help make hunting one of the safest sports around.
Fostering a love for the shooting sports in young people is crucial to preserving America’s heritage. NRA’s youth programs are popular for a reason—there’s something for everybody. From the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program and junior competitions, to the Youth Education Summit, Youth Hunter Education Challenge and the Youth Wildlife Art Contest, getting kids involved in the fun has never been easier.
As I always say, the NRA is nothing without its members. Working as volunteers at the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, Friends of NRA auctions, NRA-sanctioned matches and countless other events, our membership has been the backbone of the organization since the beginning. We should always remember that we—NRA members—are the country’s number one defender of Second Amendment rights. Rest assured, your NRA will continue to work tirelessly to keep America safe and free for another 150 years and beyond.