Target Shooting and the Great International Rifle Match of 1874 Part 2

About the Great International Rife Match of 1874, which pitted the best sharp shooters of Ireland against the United States.

1874: THE GREAT INTERNATIONAL RIFLE MATCH

When the 800-yard stage was over, America led 326-317 and both teams retired to a large tent for a lunch complete with speeches and toasts.

At the 900-yard stage Ireland figured to overcome America's 9-point lead. Cheers resounded from the crowd when the marker at the target rose to indicate a bull's-eye as Ireland's J. K. Milner got off his 1st shot. But a murmur of disappointment soon followed when the umpire decreed that the bull's-eye must go for zero. Poor Milner had hit the wrong target. But then the Irish got a couple of breaks. The 1st one came when Dakin of the American team touched off a shot which fell far short of the target. The miss was caused by a defective load. Then clouds obscured the sun, giving the Irish the filtered light to which they were accustomed on their native sod. Firing accurately at 900 yards, they cut America's lead to 7 points.

Now for the final 1,000-yeard stage, Ireland's best distance. It was neck and neck all the way and when the Irish finished, the score stood 931-913 in their favor. But the match was not yet over. Major Fulton and Colonel Bodine still had 3 shots each to fire. Both had been shooting well but Fulton, feeling the pressure, could not find the bull's-eye and rang up 3 "centers." Now came Colonel Bodine, America's anchor man. If he did no better than Fulton the score would be tied.

Carefully sighting the target, the colonel scored one bull's-eye, then another. Ireland now led by one point and only one shot remained. If Bodine hit the target America would win, since the minimum score was 2 points. If he missed, Ireland would win. It was then that the crowd broke through the ropes and lined up on either side of the colonel's firing point, almost as far as the target. The elderly Bodine called for a bottle of ginger beer to steady his nerves but as he opened it the bottle broke and a piece of glass cut deeply into his trigger hand. Bleeding profusely, he wrapped his hand in a handkerchief and waited until the crowd quieted down. The colonel remained clam. Slowly he got on his stomach, sighted the rifle and inhaled deeply, then left half out. At last came the shot and the spat of the bullet on the iron target.

"He's on!" the crowd roared and the white disk rose to signal a 4-point bull's-eye. America had won, 934 to 931, and the rifle championship of the world was theirs.

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