In 1890, with match enrollments down and state appropriations withdrawn, the financially crippled Creedmoor Range in New York was turned over to the state by the National Rifle Association. An agreement was reached whereby the NRA could continue to hold its annual matches there. Two years later, however, new policies enacted by Capt. B.M. Whitlock, New York’s Inspector General of Rifle Practice, sealed the NRA’s fate at Creedmoor. The NRA’s popular marksmanship badge program was terminated and increased military access to Creedmoor made it practically impossible for the NRA to schedule any range activity. In 1892, the NRA Board of Directors moved the annual matches to the Sea Girt Range where they were conducted under New Jersey sponsorship.
This photo of artillery practice on the beach at Sea Girt is dated around 1900
The Sea Girt facility was relatively new when it absorbed the NRA matches. The New Jersey State Rifle Association did have a shooting facility in its Brinton Range on Newark Bay, but the location rendered it popular only to flooding at high tide and mosquitoes. With Brinton essentially useless and nearby Creedmoor no longer an option given the circumstances that led to the range transfer from the NRA to New York, the Sea Girt Range was built in 1889 on 148 acres at the New Jersey State Camp near Sea Girt, accessible by rail and less than 60 miles from New York City. The Atlantic Ocean provided a scenic backdrop for the range’s 22 targets, which were the new Army canvas type with oval rings. There were two 1000-yard firing points that cut diagonally across the firing lines of the 10 short and 10 mid range firing points, but this did not detract from the sterling reputation Sea Girt quickly acquired.
Events like revolver and Schuetzen matches were held at the state-of-the-art Sea Girt Range to appeal to a wider variety of shooters.
In September 1903, the historic first National Matches opened on schedule and the range received editorial praise for its ability to “meet the work of the elements.” More than 1,000 competitors turned out for the various matches and it was quickly realized that even the capabilities of a range so revered as Sea Girt would be tested. The search for a new site to hold the National Matches began.
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