By Julian MarDock
Deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country is the oldest shooting club in America. New Braunfels Schuetzen Verein (shooting club) held its first prize shoot July fourth, 1849. It carries on a much older tradition. Shooting clubs in Germany predate the gun. King Henry I of Germany began sanctioning Schuetzen clubs the early 900. The tradition was not limited to Germany as other clubs were formed in Bohemia and Switzerland. These early competitors used crossbows as in the Swiss legend of William Tell.
The gun was invented in China, where the Ming rebels used the gun to overthrow some of the greatest warriors in history, the Mongols. When the gun was introduced in Europe, schuetzen clubs adopted the gun for their competitions. Germans then invented the rifled barrel around 1500 which was greatly improved by August Kotter in 1520 in Nuremburg.
The Schuetzen rifle arrived in America, brought here by German immigrants to Pennsylvania. Unknown to the military authorities of the day, the accuracy and utility of the “Pennsylvania” rifle was discovered by American frontiersmen. Rifles were made in smaller calibers with longer barrels to get more efficient combustion and greater economy of powder and lead in the wilderness, far from resupply. These were the Kentucky rifles that won the American Revolution and later the West. The first time the armies of the world saw rifles was when Daniel Morgan and his backwoodsmen brought theirs to help lift the siege of Boston in 1775. British and Mexican armies learned about the dangers of attacking Americans behind walls at New Orleans and Texas.
The New Braunfels Schuetzen Verein was chartered in Germany as part of the preparations for emigration to the wilds of Texas. Practice with rifle competition was deemed useful for defense and hunting.
In its 171-year history, NBSV members have competed with muzzleloading and centerfire cartridge rifles as they became available. There have been at least five ranges and clubhouses. In the early years these were located within the city limits. Today, the range and clubhouse are located just outside the city limits.
After World War I, .22-rimfire competition at 100 yards began along with the standard centerfire cartridges at 200 yards. Before 2002 it was iron sights only for those under 70. Today the club holds competitions for both scope as well as iron sights in .22 rimfire only shooting at 100 yard targets. There was talk this year at the annual scheduling meeting of having one competition with deer rifles offhand at a metal silhouette, 200 yards.
Shooters may enter either offhand or “rest” stances. Slings and shooting jackets are not permitted in offhand shooting although a palm rest is allowed.
The rest consists of a metal bar with two spikes designed to stick in a plywood board with different heights for the shooters. This might be said to be like shooting out a cabin window.
The club slogan is, “Where Friendly Shooters Gather”. The club holds practice shoots that begin at 2 PM on Sunday, late enough for church and a change of clothes.
Members may shoot modern competition bolt-action rifles as well as antique falling block rifles. Some of the antique rifles have been rebarrelled from centerfire calibers and many have been restocked and modified. Many of these older rifles have been passed down for generations or sold to newer members. Modern scopes compete with older Unertls. All of these combinations have found success. It is an ancient tradition of armed citizenship that has remained current through these changing times.
The season runs from March to October and visitors are welcome at all shoots. The website is www.nbsv.org. A calendar and club contact information is on the site.