In the immediate post-war years Luton and its Airport were significant players in the U.K. aircraft industry with several Aircraft and component manufacturers operating from the Luton Airport site. In the 60’s the Aircraft Industry reduced and in 1963 the Luton Rifle Club was born from the remains of the Napier and English Electric Rifle Clubs.
This early club was small-bore rifle only and enjoyed the use of two ranges. An indoor range at a local T.A. Drill Hall and an outdoor range at Hunting Aircrafts sports ground at adjacent the airport. A couple of hardy souls with a taste for the exotic decided to spice up their shooting by forming a pistol section at the outdoor range. This section flourished, with keenness if not numbers and the club changed its name to the Luton Rifle and Pistol Club. It was at this time your writer joined the club as a pistol shooter. What happy days, winter, summer, sunshine, rain and snow. We were wet, cold, windswept and sometimes sun burnt but happy with our pistols. And at the end of the day there was always the bar in the pavilion
Eventually Hunting Aircraft also ceased operations and the sports ground was taken over by Vauxhall Motors Recreation Club who kindly allowed us to continue to use the range. The agreement for our use of the range was generous and simple we had free use of the range provided we cut the grass and maintained the range. This happy situation continued for several years. In time the range became increasingly difficult to maintain and when it became apparent that Vauxhall Recreation Club would eventually sell the site the Pistol Section transferred its operations to the range at the newly built Lewsey Community Centre. We continue to shoot on this range to this day.
The Club thus continued to function and maintain a steady membership as a small bore rifle and pistol club. Various ideas were considered to try to boost the membership and at this time it became apparent that there was a growing interest in Air weapons shooting. The air weapons section was born! This proved to be one of our better ideas. Under the excellent guidance and leadership of Geoff and Davina Timberlake the section became very popular. It was in terms of members the largest part of the club. It was particularly popular with youngsters and many were encouraged to try the other sections of the club with considerable success.
The section used the facilities at Putteridge Sports Centre and continued to flourish for several years. Eventually, even two stalwarts like Geoff and Davina, grew tired of running the section and decided to pass on the reins to someone else. In spite of the popularity of the section no one else was found to take over and sadly the section closed down.
Also at this time the lone voice of our current Secretary, Tony Cattermole, began to be heard preaching a new gospel in some of the darker corners of the club. Murmurs of revolution and heresy were heard. He had the effrontery to publicly suggest that we should consider shooting centrefire, fullbore pistols. We had always been a small-bore club, or was it a small boring club? Being a lone voice has never deterred Tony from saying what he thinks and gladly he persevered. Eventually the Full bore Pistol section was formed. At first, a very small group, totally funded by its founder members, it rapidly grew. It demonstrated that there was clearly a demand in our area for such a club and without doubt this section and its success ensured that the Luton Rifle and Pistol continued to exist.
During the late 1970’s it began to become apparent that the then National Shooting Associations did not really cater for the needs and aspirations of the growing body of full bore pistol shooters in Britain. The National Pistol Association was born. Shortly after its formation our then Secretary, Tony Cattermole and Chairman, Andrew Baldwin became involved in the running of the NPA. Thus a strong and lasting relationship between our club and the NPA began. Probably the greatest legacy that the NPA gave shooting was the Annual National Pistol Meeting held at Bisley over the late Spring Bank Holiday weekend. The meeting still lives on today as the Phoenix Meeting. The meeting became the largest pistol-shooting event in Europe and regularly attracted teams from Europe and individual shooters from all parts of the Globe
From the start LRPC were involved. We ran the prize giving, provided logistical support for provision of targets etc for all events and ran the Police Pistol 1 & 2 events. We also regularly provided competitors and range crew for the Annual Great Britain versus Germany match that formed the climax of the meeting.
We were still very much a Rifle and Pistol Club with several members regularly shooting long range target and service rifle disciplines. Sadly though by this time the support for the small bore rifle section had diminished to the point where it was no longer viable and it was wound up.
Thus we were a thriving club with a growing and keen membership. We competed regularly in National Postal Leagues and local and national matches. Membership was close to 100 individuals, we were financially sound, and were building a substantial fund towards providing our own range facilities. The future had never looked better, what on earth could happen to make it all go wrong?
Following the terrible tragedy of Dunblane media pressure and political opportunism resulted in the ban on handguns. As with many clubs all over the country our membership plummeted. We dropped from close to 100 to 12 members. Many clubs foundered in these circumstances and the NPA with no pistol shooters to represent closed down. The demise of the Club was very close, however we had three things going for us. A good financial base, those few hardy souls that had started the full-bore pistol section were still there, and not about to give in and a range that was approved for firearms using "pistol caliber" ammunition. We took the compensation given to us for our pistols and bought pistol caliber Gallery Rifles. There may only have been 12 of us but we were going to carry on, the future did not look good but we were still shooting.
The first couple of years were not easy but we persevered and perseverance brought success. The details of what we are and what we offer are better described elsewhere in this web site. We are active, we are growing and we are involved in more varieties of shooting than ever before. That we still exist and are growing is thanks to the small group of people who said "no, we are not giving up". I am not naming names as this would be unfair, I would be bound to forget someone. You all know who you are, and on behalf of all the other members of the club and hopefully, the people who will see this site and join us, I say thank you, without you all the Luton Rifle and Pistol Club would no longer exist.