Associations and clubs
The New Zealand Shooting Federation (NZSF) represents 250 clubs with 14,000 members, spread across the following associations:
- New Zealand Clay Target Association
- National Rifle Association of New Zealand
- Pistol New Zealand
- Target Shooting New Zealand.
NZSF is the governing body of target-shooting sport in New Zealand. Hunters are represented by the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association.
A 2007–8 survey found that 3% of New Zealanders over the age of 16 had been target shooting in the previous year, while 4.6% had been hunting (a very small percentage of hunters use bows rather than guns).
New Zealanders have won a number of international competitions, including 51 medals at the Commonwealth Games (15 gold, 16 silver and 20 bronze). Greg Yelavich, competing in pistol shooting events, won 12 of these (two gold, five silver and five bronze) at games held between 1986 and 2010. Ian Ballinger, a member of a well-known shooting family, gained a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympics for small-bore rifle shooting. A New Zealand women’s team won a gold medal at the 2004 world clay shooting championships, and team member Natalie Curtis won the women’s title. She repeated her win at the 2010 championships. At the Rio Olympics in 2016 Natalie Rooney won a silver medal in the women’s trap shooting final.
New Zealand’s oldest sporting competition is the national full-bore rifle championship, first held in 1861 and still going in the 2000s. In 1907 three-time winner Arthur Ballinger was entitled to keep the trophy (a black leather belt and silver cartridge pouch). Instead he donated it to the New Zealand Defence Rifle Association (later the National Rifle Association) for ongoing competition, at which point it was renamed the Ballinger Belt.
Live birds – pigeons, starlings, and sparrows – released from traps were more fun to shoot than clay targets mechanically flung into the air. The birds’ swift, darting flight was far more challenging than the predictable track of an inanimate target. Early competitive shooters voted with their feet – the first clay-target championship (held in Dunedin in 1908) attracted only 13 shooters, compared with fields of 30 or more for live bird shooting. Although many people disapproved of live shoots, some clubs continued to hold them until their abolition in 1954.
Unlike archery and fencing, shooting is a current military practice. The link is clear in the history of shooting in New Zealand – the national full-bore rifle championship was set up by the government during the North Taranaki war, shooting associations were linked to defence forces well into the 20th century, and rifle ranges were sometimes bought outright or contributed to by the government.
Newspaper reports of New Zealand's early gun clubs first appeared in the late 1860s. The New Zealand Rifle Association was formed in 1878 (and became known as the National Rifle Association in 1923). By 1899 the New Zealand Gun Clubs Association (for trap and clay-target shooting) had been formed. Small-bore or miniature rifles – .22 rifles and air rifles – were used by cadet and territorial army units in the early 20th century, and the first small-bore clubs were set up. The New Zealand Small-bore Rifle Association first met in 1924.
Pistols were not used for target shooting in New Zealand until 1962, when the Christchurch East Small-bore Rifle Association Club held the first such competition. By the 2000s there were several different types of pistol shooting, including six International Shooting Sport Federation events, four of which were Olympic competitions.