League History

The league was conceived by staff-sergeant Gregg of the royal army medical corps and established in 1906, with major lord Heytesbury as president, with the object of encouraging marksmanship with the sub-calibre service rifle on miniature ranges. The league championship was open to the depot of the Wiltshire regiment, any detachment of the auxiliary forces with headquarters at Devizes and any rifle club within 6 miles and began that first season in 1906 with five teams. That year the Devizes rifle club secured the honour of becoming the first champions of the league.

Sub-Calibre Service Rifles - Pre Great War.

The inception of sub-calibre services rifles to enable training to take place on miniature ranges was brought about on 14th November 1883 by the approval of a removable rifled 23" calibre Morris tube for the Martini Henry .450" service rifles. This tube, in two parts, was chambered and bored for the Morris .297/230" centrefire cartridge which propelled a 37gn bullet. The chamber was inserted into the breech of the .450" barrel and the tube inserted from the muzzle and screwed into the chamber. A similar tube was approved for the LeeMetford bolt-action rifle 29. 12.1891 but differed in that it was made in one piece being inserted from the breech (with the bolt removed) and secured by a set nut and leather washer on the protruding muzzle. The .297/23 0" cartridge, being centrefire, enabled the rifle's existing breechblock or bolt to be used.

On the 29th November 1904 the black powder .22" rimfire cartridge and aiming tubes to suit, were approved for the Magazine Lee-Metford (MLM), Magazine LeeEnfield (MLE) and Short Magazine Lee-Enfleld (SMLE) rifles. This cartridge required a replacement bolt to be fitted to the rifle to allow for the offset position of the priming compound. One thousand .22 aiming tube SMLE rifles were issued for trial in 1905/06. The pattern for the .22 A.T. SMLE was approved 13.11.06 while the A.T. MLM and A.T. MLE were approved 19.7.07.

Aiming tubes did not produce satisfactory accuracy. were difficult to clean, easy to damage and susceptible to corrosion to the bore of the host barrel. On 13th December 1907 the .22" RF. Short Rifle Mk I using a new .22 barrel and bolthead was approved. It was based on a Lee-Metford Mk 1* action and forend, Mk I SMLE rear handguard and Mk Ill SMLE backsight to approximate as near as possible the .303 SMLE Mk III service rifle in weight and dimensions. There followed the .22" R.F. Short Rifle Mk 1* approved 13.10.11, the .22" R.F. Short Rifle Mk II approved 5.1.12 and the .22" RF. Short Rifle Mk III approved 9.8.12. The outbreak of War in 1914 increased demand for .22" training rifles and A. G. Parker's system of sleeving worn .303" barrels to .22" was adopted to allow Ordnance factories to concentrate on .3 03" barrel manufacture.

The blackpowder .22 R.F. cartridge of 1904 was replaced by the .22 RF. No.1 Smokeless Cartridge Mk I in 1915. Throughout this period and beyond, rifle markings were impressed on the butt socket. As rifles were recalled and modified from one marque or calibre to another some markings and dates were removed and replaced, some left intact thus the history of the action of a rifle can be tricky to ascertain.

Useful Definitions

Orthoptics:

Optically-flat sighting devices worn on the person consisting of an aperture which may be adjustable for diameter, integrally or by interchangeable elements. (Taken from National Rifle Association Historic Arms Resource Centre's August 1996 newsletter).

Single Action:

Requiring the hammer to be cocked by hand before firing each shot. (Taken from the 1985 New Collins Concise English Dictionary). This phrase was inserted in the 1964 reprint of the 1955 reprint of the rules. It had the effect of excluding from League Competitions rifles such as the self-loading 'Winchester Model of 1903' that utilized the inertia of the action on firing a shot, to cock the hammer. League records do not explain this rule change.