In February 1903, an amendment to the War Department Appropriations Bill established the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP). This government advisory board became the predecessor to today’s Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. that now governs the CMP. The 1903 legislation also established the National Matches, commissioned the National Trophy and provided funding to support the Matches. This historic legislation grew out of a desire to improve military marksmanship and national defense preparedness. President Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of War Elihu Root and NRA President General Bird Spencer were among the most important supporters of this act.
Pursuant to this Congressional authorization, Army General Order No. 61 was published in April 1903. It directed that the first “National Trophy Match” would be fired at Sea Girt, New Jersey on 8-9 September of that year. Teams of 12 representing the Army, military departments of the states, Navy, Marine Corps and state National Guard organizations competed for the new National “Dogs of War” Trophy. The new National Matches expanded to include their first pistol events in 1904. The National Matches moved to Camp Perry in 1907 and with few exceptions, Camp Perry has been the home of the National Matches ever since.
The National Matches celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2003 and the 100th anniversary of their first coming to Camp Perry in 2007. In the 107 years since the inauguration of the National Matches, they have been organized 89 times. Peak attendance for the matches was in 1962 when the matches were supported and conducted by the Department of Defense and 7,762 competitors participated. Defense Department support was withdrawn after the 1967 matches. The NRA and a cadre of volunteers successfully continued the matches, although with significantly reduced participation. Subsequent to that and until 1995, the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice secured federal appropriations to partially support the matches, but federal support for marksmanship created continuing political controversy. As a result, the U. S. Congress privatized the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the National Matches in 1996, while simultaneously enacting federal legislation that mandated the continuation of the National Matches under CMP leadership (Title 36 USC, §40725-40727). Today, the National Matches include the CMP National Trophy Pistol and Rifle Matches, the Pistol and Rifle Small Arms Firing Schools, CMP Games rifle events and the NRA National Pistol, Smallbore Rifle and Highpower Rifle Championships. The matches are now conducted by a partnership of the CMP, NRA and Ohio National Guard. In recent years, attendance has grown, with combined participation in the 2008 CMP and NRA National Matches events exceeding 6,500 shooters.