By Terry T. Mark

BRISTOL, Ind. — One of the leading events of the National Rifle Association’s competitive shooting championships will call the Bristol area home for at least five more years after successful events in 2014 and 2015.

The 2016 National Smallbore Rifle Championships will be contested July 9-18 at the Chief Wa-Ke’-De Outdoor Range, 16067 State Road 120, Bristol. The event is expected to draw around 500 competitors as well as their families and support personnel. The range will also be open for spectators during the competition.

The NRA cited the “excellent facility, improved logistics and availability of commerce to competitors and visitors” for selecting Wa-Ke’-De as the venue and Bristol and Elkhart County as the host site. The National Smallbore Rifle Championships was first contested at Wa-Ke’-De in 2014 after years at Camp Perry near Port Clinton, Ohio. The “overwhelmingly positive” reception from the Bristol area was also credited for the event’s return.

The Chief Wa-Ke’-De Outdoor Range is owned by the St. Joe Valley Rifle and Pistol Association. Aside from Wa-Ke’-De, the championships will also be utilizing the Essenhaus Inn and Conference Center in Middlebury for an awards ceremony and dinner. The Essenhaus Inn and Conference Center was recently named an honorable mention top hotel experience in the Midwest by Groups Today magazine.

Competitors are also expected to stay at local lodging and campground facilities and make use of Elkhart County’s extensive selection of restaurants and shopping options.

Doug Steinke, president of the St. Joe Valley Rifle and Pistol Association, said the group, an affiliation of five regional clubs, is excited to host the NRA event. Of the Wa-Ke’-De range, Steinke said, “It is possibly the best range in the state of Indiana.” He said competitors from earlier events were impressed by the quality of the range and the shooting conditions there, which helped them achieve higher scores than at Camp Perry.

“We’re excited to welcome back the NRA’s Smallbore Rifle Championships to the area through 2020. It should be a thrilling week in July for everyone involved with some of the top marksmen in the country coming to town enjoying Elkhart County hospitality,” said Sonya Nash, director of destination experiences for the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The National Smallbore Rifle Championships are one part of the NRA’s three major national championships. The 2016 event will be the 85th year the championships have been contested. For more information about the championships, go to For more information on the St. Joe Valley Rifle and Pistol Association, go to

Terry T. Mark is the director of communications for the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau.