The year was 1906, Edward VII was the reigning monarch, Australia was just five years old, a massive earthquake hit San Francisco and, on January 13, formation of the Bungendore Rifle Club was notified in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. One hundred years later, the club is still going strong.
In 1885 Mr Watson Steel transferred from the Bank of New South Wales in Temora to the Bungendore branch. That year, Steel volunteered to serve in the Sudan where British troops were sent under General Gordon to quell an uprising. The New South Wales Government politely declined his offer and suggested that Steel could alternatively serve his country by raising a volunteer corps of local men. The corps was duly formed and established a rifle range, located on “The Gib”, about three kilometers east of Bungendore. The range was operational from the foundation of the club until the later 1970s. With the exception of the periods 1914 – 18 and 1939 – 45 where virtually all rifle club activity ceased, records indicate that the club has functioned continuously. Members volunteered for service in WWI, from which three members did not return, WWII and Vietnam. Many members have since served in the Army, Navy and Air Force.
During the 1920s and 30s, the club thrived with a membership of over 30 riflemen. A smaller group of dedicated shooters kept things going during the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s the range was deteriorating and the stop butts collapsed after heavy rains. Numbers declined and remaining members shot at the McIntosh range in Canberra. The Minutes of the 1974 Annual General Meeting included proposals to wind up the club or merge with another in the district. At one point, the wives of members were enlisted to keep numbers above the minimum requirement set by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Club members rebuilt the stop butts on the Bungendore range in the early 1980sbut a change in ownership of a neighboring property led to access problems. This, coupled with the steady expansion of the town near the safety zone, left members with no option but to continue shooting on Canberra’s McIntosh range.
During the 1980s and 1990s the club was reinvigorated under the captaincy of Alan Rolph and his committee. Membership expanded to over 30. His bus trips to regional prize meetings and his role as Coach Captain are legendary. Rolphie at one time or another performed most of the executive functions in the club as well as coaching junior members, participating in if not organising working bees and undertaking the role of chief butts officer at major prize meetings. Alan amassed over 25 years as club captain and was made a life member in 2001. The RA Rolph lead up series to the ACT Queens Prize is named in his honor.
The year 2000 saw the club leaving the NSWRA to join Canberra Rifle Club under the umbrella of the Australian Capital Territory Full Bore Rifle Association or ACTFBTRA.
Members are as determined as ever to maintain the Bungendore name and traditions. Under the captaincy of David Daniel, the club supports healthy competition in Full Bore and F Class and encourages men, women and juniors to participate. Currently there are 34 members with a solid core of about a dozen regular shooters who participate in weekly competition, target maintenance, working bees, general administration, and provide support for prize meetings and all the other duties needed to run a successful organisation. We like stability in our club and between them Rolphie and David have amassed over 30 years captaincy.
The past 100 years have witnessed many changes to the club: black powder rifles, Martinis, Metfords and .303s, the move to 7.62mm and 5.56mm rounds, modern propellants and projectiles. We are now experiencing the technical wizardry of custom-built rifles with scopes, rests and so on. With all these developments the club still maintains links to the past. We encourage many types of shooting, with 7.62mm fullbore the mainstay. Some members bring out their .303s on special occasions others indulge in all manner of high tech equipment. Who knows what developments may unfold in the years ahead? The club looks forward to a long and active future.
Author by: Mr Stephen Sharp
Historical Information provided by: Mr Alan Rolph and Mr Paul Fox.
Published in: The Australian Target Rifle Magazine.