SABU History


On 6th April 1652 Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape where he established a settlement and eventually built a castle.

On Monday, 5th August 1686, instructions were issued from the Castle, detailing the rules and regulations of a shooting competition to be held at Stellenbosch from the 1st to the 14th October, 1686. This is the first reference to an organised sports event in South Africa.

The origin of the shoot comes from Middle Age Europe when parrots, geese and probably other birds were used as targets for shooting events at village fairs. Later clay and wooden replicas were used instead of live birds and it seems obvious that Governor Simon van der Stel had this tradition in mind when he introduced the “papegaij” as the target to be used.

This proclamation from the Castle would give the citizens an opportunity to exercise their firearm skills and so encourage a state of military readiness in the event of any requirement in this direction. The rules of the match were numerous and fairly complex. The entry fees were 2 shillings (about 10 current South African cents) for locals from Stellenbosch and 1 Rixdaalder (40c) for others, whilst there were several prizes for shooting off various parts of the parrot’s body.

The person who eventually shot down the body itself received a prize of 25 Rixdaalders (about 10 SA Rand) together with entry fees and other emoluments, and was escorted home by all the competitors.

Of course, skill-at-arms competitions were also regular features amongst the indigenous peoples of South Africa. Fullbore shooting therefore claims to be the oldest organised sport in South Africa, and SABU grew from these origins.


It was, however, only since the beginning of the 20th century that rifle shooting in South Africa was placed on a somewhat organised footing. Rifle clubs were formed in the different provinces, regional and inter-town meetings were organised and technical improvements to both rifles and ammunition made target shooting in this country a most popular sport, drawing supporters from all quarters.

Since the days when the Brown Bess muzzle loader was used as a target rifle on several ranges in South Africa, followed by the breech-loading Enfield and the useful Martini Henry, fullbore rifles have undergone great technical changes. Today, with the conventional and magnificent .303 service rifle having being replaced by the remarkable 7,62 sporting rifles, rifle shooting is still a popular recreational activity in the sporting field all over the world.


SABU has four “birthdays” and opinion is divided on the date which should be regarded as its official birthday.
14th April, 1928. At a meeting chaired by Major-General Brink, the decision was made to recommend to the Minister of Defence that autonomous provincial associations be abolished and be replaced by the South African National Rifle Association.

1st July, 1928. After accepting the recommendations of the meeting held on the 14th April, the Minister of Defence issued instructions for the formation of the South African national Rifle Association, effective from 1st July, 1928.

16th January, 1929. The first official Council Meeting of the South African National Rifle Association was held and officials appointed.
7th October, 1929. The first National Championships under the control of the South African National Rifle Association were held in Cape Town.

18th August, 1930. The second National Championships were held in Bloemfontein.
Based on popular vote SABU turned 50 on 1st July, 1978 or on 16th January, 1979.

SABU Matches History from 1929