Palma Team

The Palma® Team

In 1876, the National Rifle Association hosted an eight-man rifle team match as part of the 100 year anniversary of the independence of the United States. This international match later came to be called the “Palma®” Match, and the team selected to shoot the match for the United States is known as the Palma® Team. Prior to the official Palma® Match, held in conjunction with the World Individual and Team Long Range Championship Matches, shooting members may be known as the U.S. National Team or sometimes, the Goodwill Team in touring and international competitions.

 The “Palma® Match”

The “Great Centennial Rifle Match” 1876

The inaugural World Long Range Championship was held in 1876 as part of the centennial celebrations of American independence. The fledgling National Rifle Association of America sent invitations to rifle teams around the world, and shooters from Australia, Canada, Scotland and Ireland arrived in Creedmoor, New York on September 13-14, 1976 to compete.

Initially called the “Great Centennial Rifle Match,” the event was later nicknamed the “Palma®” match in reference to the grand trophy designed and crafted by Tiffany and Company, which featured an eagle holding a silver laurel wreath in its claw over which was a banner inscribed with the word Palma® . A second panel bore the words, “In the name of the United States of America to the riflemen of the world.” The rest of the trophy is a baroque collation of scrollwork, fasces, friezes, and fringes. A great chain, holding discs to be engraved with the winner’s names, was draped from both upper corners.

The course of fire required competitors to shoot 15 records shots at each of three yard lines: 800, 900, and 1000 yards with no sighters. The target was a six by ten foot frame of canvas that had a 36-inch black five ring (or bull’s eye), and a 54-inch four ring printed upon it. The remainder of the inner six by six foot section, outside of the rings, was worth three points. A two-foot wide panel ran down each side and was valued at two points. In the 1920s, a 20-inch V ring was added to the center of the five ring in order to break ties. This target would remain virtually unchanged until the introduction of the decimal target at the Centennial Match in 1976.

The “Palma®” Match quickly became the preeminent long-range international shooting event. These early events featured the pre-cursor to the prone firing position as many shooters fired from their backs! Lying supine, with their feet pointing towards the target, the shooters would rest the rifles upon their legs or feet and blast away. The long barreled rifles and the tall vernier sights of the time favored this ungainly, but strong position, making it a less formidable task to shoot than appears in sketch renderings from the times.

The American team fired breechloading cartridge rifles made by Sharps and Remington. The American rifles were chambered in .44 caliber with 95 to 105 grains of black powder pushing a massive paper patched 520-grain lead bullet.

In this inaugural match, the American team claimed the first of fifteen wins out of the 28 meetings held to date.

The Course of Fire

The Palma® Trophy Team Match is shot in three stages of slow fire in the prone position. The rifle may be supported by a sling. No other type of support is allowed. The first stage is two sighting shots and 15 shots for record per shooter at 800 yards. The second stage is two sighters and 15 shots for record at 900 yards per shooter. The third stage is two sighters and 15 shots for record at 1000 yards per shooter. Each national team consists of 16 shooters who form ranks and shoot on four targets at each stage.

The target is six feet square and has a 20 inch bullseye (10 ring). An aiming-black circle of 44 inches includes a 9 and 8 ring. A possible score of 150 points can be achieved by each team member in each stage of fire. The target also features a 10 inch center, or “X-ring”. The “X-ring” is used for tie-breaking and is worth a value of 10 points. This adds up to 7,200 (with 720 “X’s”) possible points for each national team per day of competition.

The Equipment and Gear

The Palma® bolt action rifles are 7.62mm NATO caliber (Winchester .308) and fire Match Grade ammunition that is supplied by each respective nation. The bullet weight is limited to 156 grains or less. Micrometer aperture (iron) sights are used for sighting.