What was the United States Revolver Association?

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In the early history of competitive pistol shooting, the Massachusetts-based United States Revolver Association was a major entity. The USRA experienced a slow decline in prominence as NRA-sanctioned pistol sports grew exponentially in the early 20th century. Below is an excerpt from the 1978 book, Olympic Shooting, written by Colonel Jim Crossman and published by the NRA.

The American Revolver Association
By Colonel Jim Crossman

You wouldn’t expect the United States Revolver Association to be founded by French people, but it’s surprising to learn that it was founded because of French people.

In the 10 years leading up to 1900, the French were very active in handgun shooting. One of the sights of Paris was the famous Gastinne-Rennette shooting range, which, by the way, was still operating 50 years later. The American shooters who visited the gallery were very impressed with some of the French shots and they went into informal matches with great interest. Walter Winans and Reginald Sayre were among the Americans who visited the gallery at the turn of the century, while Lieutenant Sumner Paine, who was stationed in Paris at the time, was a regular competitor. The result of all this was the idea of ​​​​arranging a match between the handgun shooters of the two countries. Gastinne-Rennette proposed the idea to Captain James Conlin, saying the French had already formed an organization and were ready to go. Conlin owned a shooting range in New York, and he and Sayre called a meeting of interested pistol shooters.

As a result of this meeting, the United States Revolver Association was formed in 1900. Sayre served as an officer for many years, including several years as president in the early 1920s. The new organization held up well with the French and beat them hands down. Instead of being preoccupied with international matches, the USRA turned to promoting pistol shooting in the United States. In 1903 he published the Rules of Pistol Shooting and Record Setting, and accepted handgun records which had been kept for many years by AC Gould, editor of Shooting and fishing.

The United States Revolver Association selected, trained, and funded Olympic pistol teams from 1908 through World War I, including those in 1908, 1912, 1920, 1924, 1932, and 1936. Since then, however, the influence of the ‘USRA declined and went to play a secondary role in Olympic activities.

Early in its existence, the National Rifle Association of America was primarily concerned with rifle shooting activities, and its officers encouraged the formation of the United States Revolver Association. Later, the NRA became more active in gun games, and for a few years at national games there were USRA-sponsored handgun matches and other gun matches from fist sponsored by the NRA.

When World War I ended, the United States Revolver Association was in trouble. Most of his matches were postal events rather than side-by-side; it had no national headquarters or publication. For a few years the NRA magazine ran a news page for USRA shooters.

The NRA pistol program, based on neck and neck matches, grew steadily over the years and eventually overwhelmed the efforts of the United States Revolver Association.

The interests of the USRA and the NRA were often the same, and many people belonged to both groups. Leaders of one organization were often – or had been – leaders of the other organization.

The USRA still existed in 1978 and had many supporters. It still organizes postal correspondence in a modest way and publishes a periodical publication. Headquarters is in Springfield, Massachusetts, long the USRA’s shooting center. It is not a member of the ITU, but it remains a Group C member of the United States Olympic Committee and has a small influence on Olympic shooting, although the NRA is the sport’s national governing body.

Note: By the 2020s, the United States Revolver Association was no longer an active organization, although at least one historian retained information about the USRA for many years after its demise – Ed.

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