Between the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the Crimean War of the 1850s, some 800 years, the relationship between England and France frequently descended into war. Not surprisingly, Jersey’s proximity to France led to frequent threatened, attempted, and actual French invasions. This in turn generated a strong tradition of a local militia movement and universal marksmanship in Jersey.
Marksmanship training was predominantly with musket and subsequently rifle, but pistol shooting was also practiced by individuals, the Royal Jersey Militia and the English regiments stationed in the island. The Jersey Field Squadron, Royal Engineers, are today’s formal representatives of that militia tradition.
Major organised target pistol competitions in Jersey date back at least to 1892, when revolver competitions were part of the “Jersey Rifle Association” annual prize meeting, held on Gorey Common (now a golf course). These were grand, three-day Open events, which featured prominently in island life and the social calendar. In addition to trophies, large cash prizes were given, which could be £20 or more, equivalent to several thousand pounds today. In addition extra prizes were donated by town businesses and individuals, as was the custom of the time. Pistol competitions were usually shot at 20 yards with revolvers of an approved pattern and with a minimum calibre of .380.
Until the Jersey Pistol Club was formed in 1963, to concentrate specifically on the sport, target pistol shooting tended to be a relatively minor part of various rifle clubs’ activities. In the 1970s and ‘80s local interest in pistol shooting grew rapidly and during that time more pistol clubs or pistol sections of existing rifle clubs were formed, such as Regent, Leoville, the Muzzle Loaders, Modern & Military and St. John’s.
In order to co-ordinate the various clubs’ pistol interests and to organise island-wide competitions and selection procedures, the Jersey Pistol Association was formed in 1986, with the JPC as a founding Member. Since that time the JPA has organised many major meetings, including the pistol events in the Commonwealth Shooting Federation (European Division) Championships, whenever they have been held in Jersey. The JPC ranges, as the best pistol ranges in the Island, are always used for these bigger events.
The JPA also organizes Jersey participation in a wide range of events outside the Island, such as the Island Games. Pistol events have featured in every Island Games, with the Jersey team bringing back several medals every time – except 1989 when there was only Air Pistol and no Jersey pistol competitors. Indeed, they usually bring back far more Jersey medals per team member than any of the other 14 or 15 sports.
Jersey currently has three GB ISSF Pistol Shooting Judges (Derek Bernard, Mick Radcliffe and Terry Underwood), who have each completed the necessary training courses and tests.