The Association was formed in 1860 and held its first individual competition at the end of that year. The first intercolonial teams match, Vic vs NSW, was held at Sandridge Range (Port Melbourne) in 1862. The first "Queen's Trophy" competition was held in 1881 on a range at Emerald Hill in the Albert-Middle Park area. In 1876 an Australian Rifle Team, consisting of shooters from NSW and Victoria, was the first team ever to officially represent Australia in any sport in international competition. They toured Britain and the USA competing in various shooting competitions including the USA Centenary Celebrations and the inaugural Palma trophy. This tour was so successful that it was decided to send an official cricket team overseas the following year.
By 1876 the early Melbourne ranges at Emerald Hill, Sandridge and elsewhere had been closed and a new range at Williamstown was opened in July 1876. This became the focal point for target rifle competition in Victoria for over a hundred years.
In 1885, the first civilian Rifle Club (Melbourne R.C.) was formed with the blessing of the VRA. Many others soon followed. After Federation in 1901, Rifle Clubs came under army control, but in 1921 they were reconstituted as a purely civilian organisation, where they have remained ever since.
In 1901 a new range at Port Melbourne was opened particularly for the use of civilian Rifle Clubs. It functioned until 1937, when all activity concentrated on the 220 target range at Williamstown.