February 13, 2017 was the fortieth year of the founding of IPSC in Canada. Over that time frame, many colourful and exciting people and events have come and gone. In order to celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of the founding of IPSC Canada, I thought it would be interesting to set down the history of the founding of our sport. Of necessity, this will be a multiple part presentation. As I was involved, I have written this piece in the first person.
How did we get here? Who was involved? What got it started? What influenced us? This encompasses a collage of faces, targets, leather, guns and accessories.
Written by: Murray “The Doctor” Gardner
It began in the Fall of 1974 with an accident at the corner of Knight & 25th in Vancouver between a truck and a red custom Honda 750cc motorcycle that I was riding. While recovering from a second place finish to the truck, I took up handgun shooting with an Armenius .22 LR six shot revolver at Duncan’s Trap Club in Delta, BC.
The Range Warden, twenty year old Blair Molsberry, first taught me firearms safety. He then taught me not only to shoot but also that good manners and etiquette on the range are as important as hitting the paper.
As time went on, Blair introduced me to PPC shooting as someplace I could use my S&W 66 4” revolver. This was a novelty.
I had added a satin nickle Colt Government .45ACP to my growing collection. Three months and $4,000 later I was hooked. This was GREAT!
At Christmas of 1975, the now famous “Red Book”, “Cooper on Handguns”, by Jeff Cooper, caught my attention. Blair and I discussed its value. After convincing Blair that semi-autos could be used to “Point Shoot”, he bought a Commander. We then developed a Jungle Lane at the back of the trap fields in Burn’s Bog and started shooting field courses from the Red Book.
FYI, today these sell on Amazon for over $100US.
We started shooting different events from the “Cooper Red Book” with revolvers and semiautos. This included a nickle S&W Model 29 with 8 3/8” barrel, S&W Model 39 in 9mm, Colt Commanders and Governments in .45 ACP and all kinds of handguns. It was catch as catch can as there were no official rules to the new game.
About this time, Ken Rooney came on the scene. Ken became an important promoter for IPSC in later years, but wait, let me keep this chronological.
Prior to Duncan’s closing in August of 1976, Rod Philipsen began to show interest in this new game. Rod had been a customer of mine in the custom built motorcycle game and now he was hooked on shooting. When Duncan’s closed in September of 1976, I, Blair and Rod had already moved to the new Thompson Mountain Sportsmen Association in Pitt Polder. Being the new kids on the block, we shot quietly and watched.
Then one day, a black powder fanatic we were talking to said, “Have you guys ever heard of Jeff Cooper?” Todd Birch had just started a long association with practical shooting. Now we could start back using holsters.
We built a pistol range at Thompson, a jungle lane and we worked to open the indoor range for night practice. Names such as Jack Bodnar and Bill Storness-Bliss came and went. By now, Rod was shooting full time.
Then, as usual, a curve. In a dispute over the lease, TMSA lost its rifle range and the new pistol range we had built. All that was left was the indoor range and the rest of the property where it is today. That August of 1976 looked bleak, but little did anyone realize what a disguised blessing it was going to be.
In late September of 1976 Guns & Ammo magazine published an article about the founding of a new sport, the International Practical Shooting Confederation at the Columbia Conference in Columbia, Missouri. There were 16 countries represented by shooters from all over the world under the guidance of Jeff Cooper.
When that article came out on the formation of IPSC, I tried to contact the author, Rick Miller, at Guns magazine. He was not in. Rather than wait, I tried to contact Jeff Cooper at Gunsite to find out how to get involved. He was only available by radio telephone, which was a big deal in 1976 but virtually impossible to make work.
By calling the magazine back, I was able to get the number of Bert Estes, the sheriff in a small town in Texas. Bert put me onto the North West Section where they were going to have their North West Sectional Championships in two weeks to qualify for the first US Nationals in Denver CO in June 1977. The North West Section was headed by Keith Hamilton in Gridley California just 55 miles north of Sacramento California.
Keith invited us to come down and compete in the match, eleven days away. He mailed us – pre fax machine days – the course of fire. It consisted of 3 stages to total 36 rounds. The El Presidente with a par time of 10 seconds, the Columbia Fumble with a par time of 8 seconds and Standard Exercises a part of which included one round in 2.5 seconds at 25 metres repeated 12 times. The course of fire was shot on Saturday and repeated on Sunday for a total of 72 rounds.
After confirming how to get to Gridley, I saw Blair and Rod at practice and asked them how would they like to compete in one of these “combat” matches we had been reading about. They thought it would be great, when did we leave. In seven days I told them. Of course, they replied. Ken could not make it.
We practiced like mad trying to get that El Presidente down to 10 seconds. We tried Government .45s, Pythons, Model 39s, everything. We were going to go south and kick some butt.
We loaded up Rod’s van with guns, holsters and about 1,000 rounds of ammo – each – and headed for Gridley on Thursday evening October 07.1976. Sixteen hours of non-stop driving later we arrived at Sewer Pond #6, the range of the North Valley Shooter’s Association. At first we missed the range and ended up at a sand bank which we feared was the range. Fortunately, we found the range and it was gorgeous. Fifty metres long by fifty metres wide set up for IPSC and PPC.
We met the local gang; Keith Hamilton, the leader; Craig his brother, Byron Smith with his Smython revolver, John Stowe, Gayle Teague, Ray Borgess and many more memorable characters who live on as the great influences in the founding of IPSC Canada.
Many of these guys had already cultivated what Ray Chapman describes as an “athletic build”. It was going to be cinch to beat these fat guys. Surprise! These fat guys could shoot and move quick as lightning. Blair took top novice, Rod and I got a hand shake, but there was a prize table. I still have the pictures from that match.
After a wonderful meal and great times we headed home on Sunday evening. Sixteen hours later we arrived back home. Were we ever pumped up about this game.
By now we had moved completely to the Thompson Mountain club. There were new faces joining our new shooting game: Elder Jeske, Steve Cropper, Bob Baccus, Flynn Marr, Bill Walker, Korky Roed.
In my journeys around BC, I came across a Mountie PPC shooter named Jay Rite who lived in Fruitvale in the Kootenays. In early November, I was on a business road trip to Alberta and wound up in Fruitvale outside Trail to spend the weekend with Jay Rite and his friends, Wayne Kimbel, Gordy Wright and Pete McNaughton. They had been shooting PPC and had shown an interest in IPSC. This was the beginnings of IPSC in the Kootenays.
On November 12.1976 we made our second trip to Gridley with a bunch of new faces including Jay Rite and Wayne Kimbel from the Kootenays and locals Elder Jeske and Flynn Marr. The epidemic was spreading. Now we were eight and growing. We went to the Hangtown Hassle in Long Grass outside of Placerville CA and shot with Walt Comstock, inventor of the Comstock Count form of scoring. The match was part skill, part luck and all fun.
On our return, we founded the Coast Mountain Combat Association which we later renamed the Coast Mountain Practical Shooters. I still have the original crests and pins from this group we founded.
Once more it was I, Rod and Elder off to Gridley on January 13.1977 for another shoot out at Sewer Pond #6. The weather was sunny and warm, for us. They were all wearing down jackets. By this time we had acquired an 8mm movie camera – pre video days. I recently transferred that film to VHS along with some other archival film. Look for it at matches near you.
That was it. We had run out of money and holiday time to travel to these matches. Now we had to make a decision. It was time to put on an IPSC match locally. I threw in $180.00 for trophies, hot dogs and miscellaneous on the gamble that we would get 25 competitors to the match. A small gamble for something we loved.
Two weeks before the match, January 1977, we were on a mission to Seattle to Warshal’s looking for components when we saw a notice from someone who was looking for “combat shooters” to start up this new IPSC game. We called a fellow named Don Morris and met him for coffee at a Denny’s in north Seattle. He was very excited about the game. After he left us, he was off to tell his friends about the pending match up in Canada.
By the time the match rolled around, February 13.1977, we were ready. Instead of 25 shooters, we had 41. Names like Gary Lotterman, Dave Kurahawa (who ended up working for Milt Sparks, one of our dearest friends and sponsors), Don Aker and more were joining us from the US.
The month prior to the match, I was in Victoria on business where I met Stew Hamilton at Robinson’s. He eventually brought over Al Page, Neil Klassen and many more. We were a success. The game had started. It was about to explode across BC and Canada as well as around the world.
This match consisted of three stages. There were no covered areas at Thompson. There were no lime rock pads. There were only small areas dug out of what is now those ranges where we mixed targets amongst the alders and set up the shoot.
The stages are lost in the dim light of time but I remember we did the Standards and a field course on the indoor range and one other stage outdoors. A photographer, Marg Stephens, was organized to take pictures but all the rolls got ruined by the developer and there are no recorded pictures from this event.
Classification was assigned by “known ability” of the Match Director or your class if you had one from the California trips. Classes were A, B, C and Novice.
Statistics were done on calculators by hand with each card being checked by two people. It took hours to complete a three stage match. Computers did not come about until late 1980.
In the months that followed February 1977, CMCA was asked to do clinics in many places. On one such clinic in Seattle, we coached Don Aker, Ed and Sue Yorty, Henry “Sarge” Byerly and met the Detonics company staff who had just started up.
Once the first match was a success, it was time to grow.
At one of the matches in late summer of 1977, Rod and I were standing at the hot dog counter when we noticed the fellow behind us wearing a right hand kidney holster but on the left hand cross draw position. Cross draw had just become the hot setup. When Rod asked this shooter why he was wearing his holster on the wrong side, he responded with some inane comment which made Rod and I smile. Randy Fisher is still shooting today as one of our Provincial and National Team members. He started out with a fellow named Curt Moon who went on to some notariety in black powder.
One of our first woman shooters came into the picture about this time.
In the fall of 1977 there was now activity on both sides of the border. In Canada, we had developed IPSC Canada. In the US, there was not as much organization. To develop a system whereby we could compete North and South, we founded the Western International Practical Shooting League (WIPSL). This took place in my basement during a Saturday evening party after the first day of a two day match.
We had now infected the Island around the Victoria area with the IPSC epidemic. Out of Robinson’s Stew Hamilton and Gene ….. had a group shooting PPC. They wanted to add IPSC to their menu. After another seminar, they began to join the matches and started to host their own at the Juan de Fuca Gun Club out in Metchosin. Into the fold came Al Page, Neil Klassen, and others.
Blair, Rod and I rented a motorhome and went to the first US IPSC National Championships in Denver Co in June 1977. What an experience! The film from that is also on the video mentioned earlier.
This video, a very amateur production, includes such greats as Bill Wilson, Ken Hackathorn, Ray Chapman, Marge Kehoe, Jeff Cooper and others. The stages included a mover, a fixed time event and a three string Virginia Count, although it was not called that then as Virginia Count had not been invented (it took until the late ‘80’s before we went backwards).
That fall Henry (Sarge) Byerly and his group out of Ravensdale WA, held the first Northwest Championships. It was a two day match that ended in a tie between myself and Rod Philipsen. A shootoff was organized but the daylight was gone. To solve that problem, we pulled up the cars to the firing line and turned on the lights. The shootoff was an El Presidente. When the smoke cleared, Rod had second place tied up and I had won my first firearm in a shooting contest. This match was attended by almost 75 shooters. The IPSC game was starting to balloon.
In Canada, IPSC began moving Eastward to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the uncharted East.
The names that you should remember are, from Alberta, Vic Hatheway, Paul Marret; from Saskatchewan, Ken Kulach; from Manitoba, Cal Nordman, Zen Bogoslowksi; Ontario, Ted Ryzko; New Brunswick, Martin Topf; and Simon Messier, Quebec.