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The Early Days of IPSC

Patrick Sweeney

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Herb shot a matched pair of S&W .45s, I forget if they were 25-5 (.45 Colt) or 25-2 (.45ACP) with 8" barrels. He'd modified the front sights by milling off the blade and drilling and tapping the base, so he could screw in a shotgun sight: orange plastic, a prehistoric fiber optic sight.

For those wondering how a wheelgun could be competitive, Second Chance had slighlty different rules: autos were limited to eight rounds in the gun. If you needed more, you had to reload your auto. The revolver shooters could do a "New York Reload:" drop the empty and draw a loaded wheelgun. If you look closely at the photo, you'll see Herb has another S&W ready to go.

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That picture is classic Herbie. We still shoot together at the PSA Shootout and the East Coast Revolver Race. Herb's a hell of a guy and an even better shooter. I bought a Model 14 off of him when he was cleaning out his safe and man, what a trigger job he does. I was dumb enough to turn down the 625 he was selling and let my Brother-in-law pick it up. Now every time I see it I'm reminded of how sweet a shooter it is. Thanks for the picture.

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OK, very early in the IPSC 3-gun biz, we're trying to figure out stages. We tried the long range stuff (350 yards back the railroad cars, 425 in the woodline) we tried the handgun hoser ("I'm melting, I'm melting!") then someone suggests the Second Chance Light Rifle Pop n Flop.

You have two minutes to run downrange and set 15 bowling pins on top of their stands. Time starts whether you're back or not. If you're done early, you can try to catch your breath. On "Start" you load and knock them all down. I race down, set them up, and have plenty of time to catch my breath and sling up. (I had a 28 inch waist then, too.) I spend 16 shots from my match-conditioned M1 Garand, and post the best time.

Then a portly fellow steps up. His equipment: a Universal carbine, with telescoping wire para stock and dual (fore and aft) pistol grips. He has a Weaver scope of unknown vintage in a sidemount. His magazines are a pair of 30-rounders jungle-clipped and duct-taped. He barely gets back in time to load, and then hoses the pins with around 45 shots. And beats my time easily. The assembled shooters all turned and looked at each other, each wondering who would be next to show up at a match with a carbine or an AR. Until then, we'd all worshipped at the altar of .30

I tried to get something smaller, but a great deal on an M-1A distracted me. All that practice was to no avail for Second Chance. Richard changed it to falling steel plates, no running, the next year. He could envision someone running back, loading, and then having a heart attack while holding a loaded rifle or shotgun.

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The time I met Rudy Waldinger is a whole other story...

I remember the first time I met Rudy, at the first FGN in 2002 in Barry. My first ever National event of any kind. I was in the Arkansas squad with a few oddballs thrown in. BJ Norris and his family were the other oddballs. :P We start at the chrono (also a 2002 thing, every match in 2002 I started at the chrono), and we are waiting for the last member of the squad. The chrono guy is getting anxious and starts without him. He asks if anyone has ever heard of Rudolf Waldinger, I don't think anybody had, maybe the Norris's, I don't remember. Moments later another guy on our squad said, "what do we have here?", pointing to a man walking up the hill. He was a big man, with a huge cowboy hat, the loudest western shirt I have ever seen, and COWBOY BOOTS! We were rolling, and I joked this guy is definitely shooting Revolver. When he got to the chrono, he pulls out a wheelgun, and we all chuckle. We get to talking to him and he is amiable enough, but we are still wondering about his attire. We get finished with the chrono and walk up to our first stage, one that has a bed start where you grab the gun off of the shelf and run to ports, windows, doors, and I believe up a flight of stairs. Rudy is the last shooter. He complains of getting old, LAMR, and gingerly lays on the bed. We are all still kinda chuckling at him, and then the buzzer goes off. 12 jaws hit the ground. :o Rudy was 2nd overall that year behind Jerry, shooting 85% of his score.

Jerry told us after the match that he never saw him coming and had no idea who he was until after the results. Rudy almost got him in the shootoff and Jerry told us that next year Rudy wasn't going to sneak up on him like that.

Good times. :)

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I acquired some late-80's copies of Front Sight the other day. There's no end of potentially embarassing photos of TGO or BE in there, except the photo process stunk back then and except for the cover shots almost all resemble grey-black darked-out woodcuts printed by third-graders with poor-quality potatoes.


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Your Rudy experience was almost identical to mine. I met Rudy at the shooter's meeting at the 2002 Summer Blast. Big straw cowboy hat, big belt buckle, the works. All I could think was "look at this joker with the wheelgun, thinks he's at a cowboy action match". Then I saw him shoot, and man, did he set me straight!

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The Rudy stories get much much better; he is a very humble guy (particularly considering his shooting ability) but ask him sometime about the days back when he shot for Glock.

We were lucky enough to shoot with Rudy when he lived in Area 8; Rudy had a place out in the country where he could not only shoot on his land, he also kept a horse or two. He told me that often times, it was just easier to hit the nearest convenience store on his horse instead of taking the car. I can just imagine driving along a Virginia country round seeing Rudy in his usual attire - and since open carry of handguns has always been the law in VA, it would not surprise me if he carried that 625 to the store with him. He was & is my inspiration to soemtimes shoot revolver.

Rudy: we finally started shootng ICORE at Shooters Paradise; any chance we can lure you back from Texas?


D.C. Johnson

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A couple of club 3-gun experiences:

Ed was the club computer expert before computers were ubiquitous. He was working on a club safety manual back when we still did things in MS-DOS. He was using an FAL for 3-gun in the 1980s, (a primo Browning import which is probably now worth 4-grand or more) but got tired of the recoil. He picks up a Colt H-Bar and a case of ammo at a gun show. He does a basic zero, and then shoots the next 3-gun match. He posts a pretty good time on the stage (back then a 3-gun match was a stage of each) and we walk down to score his hits. Clean targets. Not a single hole. Ed is puzzled and dismayed. How can his new rifle be defective? I ask him what ammo he's using, and he shows me a box. "That explains the tracer effect I was seeing." He bought a case a 40 grain Blitz varmint ammo because it was cheap. in the 1-7" twist of the H-Bar, those bullets were coming apart after 30 yards or so. He did a basic Army Airborne zero at 25 yards, and got hits. He saved that ammo for close-in stages, and bought 55 grain ball for the rest.

Greg was our Treasurer for twenty years. He was a "gadget guy" someone who always had a firearm festooned with gear. He showed up once with an M1 Carbine with a compensator on it. I never knew there was such a thing. He later switched to an AR. At one match, he was going through a course with props and cover, and had to reload. He got fumbled up in the reload, and was trying to stuff the mag in nealry sideways. I was the RO. I let him fumble for a bit, and when I saw that his frustration and anxiety were starting to rise I spoke to him in my calmest Command Presence voice: "Shiny end up, pointy end forward." It was like magic. He flipped the mag end for end (he was at that point trying to load it baseplate first) snapped the bullets forward, and reloaded.

He was by then already going to be last on the rifle stage, so no one had any problems with my coaching him. For a long time after that, if someone had a procedural question, like as not the answer would be "Shiny end up, pointy end forward."

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Let's switch gears, and dip back in time to the Steel Challenge. I didn't start until 1990, and then got distracted after shooting the match a few times, but there were some wild times. Like Wayne Dickin, flying from England to shoot the SC. He rents a motorcycle in L.A. to ride while he's here. A honkin' big Harley. (I didn't even know you could rent Harleys. I thought you had to have a motorcycle license and a tattoo to buy one.)

He rides to the Lake Piru range for the first time, and almost loses the bike on the sandy silted-over road leading into the range. <british accent> "Dear Lord, I thought I was going to drop fifty stone of motorcycle on me, and be trapped until someone came along."

Judy Wooley had been sponsored the year before. Her main sponsor had told her she wasn't shooting well enough, and dropped her. So she spent the whole time from 1989 to 1990 practicing. In the warm months she shot. In the winter (in Montana) she dry-fired. She was the Ladies winner, and was the fastest women shooter on every single stage. Walking from the prize table, she held the stack of guns in front of her, and could barely look over them.

Me, I shot as well as you could expect from someone lacking plates to practice on at home, and who had spent years before shooting ammo from 185 to 215PF. I could hear the gun go off, but it just didn't seem to recoil the way it was supposed to. :o There was also a rifle sidematch. I did respectably there, and had a few ideas about how to finish building my killer AR by next year. It was a 16" with an aluminum tube handguard, with a Burris Scout scope on the handguard. Smokin' fast. That fall it went bye-bye when a round detonated and turned it into various shattered parts. The next one just didn't feel or run the same, and I could never get it through a course as quickly.

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1991, the Steel Challenge is now the 5-Gun World Speed Shooting Championship. Hey, I'm glacial with a handgun on steel, but I rock with rifle and shotgun. So I build the gear, load the ammo, and pack it all into my truck: A 1990 Ford Ranger, 2.0L 4 cylinder with a 4-speed manual transmission. Into it I pack:

Clothes for a two-week trip. Camera gear. Tools, water, oil, and other emergency stuff.


A single stack comped, iron-sighted .38 Super & 1,000 rounds

Springfield Armory M-1A, scoped, magazines, 300 rounds of ammo

2 ARs, magazines, 500 rounds of ammo

Remington 1100, Remington 11, 300 rounds birdshot, 250 buckshot

Remington 870

Luckily I had an extra spring leaf added when I bought the truck. But getting over the Rockies was an event. There's a downslope on I-70 in Utah that is miles long, awfully straight, and patrolled by the Utah Highway Patrol. Even downshifted and touching the brakes occasionally to keep me under the mach numbers, I was clocked by the UHP trooper in a Mustang, doing 80. (Back when it was still 55!) I showed him all my documentation, licence, registration, business card, CCW, and told him of my payload. He told me to be more careful, and that luckily the downslope was ending in a few miles. Then paced me to make sure my brakes held up.

When I got the rest stop on I-15 just north of the California border, I found they CHP was doing brake checks on all the buses and trucks going south. It seems they had a bus the week before lose control and crash in the desert, and were reminding everyone that while it may be flat, it was downhill and you needed good brakes. My brakes were still good, not that they cared about my little econotruck.

On to LA and lots'nlots of shooting.

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The Five-Gun Championship was a .30 cal rifle, a not .30 cal rifle, auto shotgun, pump shotgun, and handgun.

The .30 cal rifle was five steel plates, 18"x24" at 200 yards or so. I developed a special load for my M-1A: I pulled the bullets from a leftover case of .308 hunting ammo and stuffed 110 grain spire points on top of the factory powder charge. The load cycled the gun, and shot almost MOA. I got as much practice as I could, and did the calculations for a 200 yard zero.

I get to the match, and find I'm not the only one who's been gaming it. J. Michael Plaxco has a 30-round magazine for his rifle that he uses as a monopod. He goes prone and hoses like crazy. We immediately start pawing through the trash for plastic and styrofoam ammo holders to duct-tape to the bottom of our magazines. Me, I get slung up, drop fast into the dust, and smack steel, five shots in right around ten seconds each for my three runs as I recall. J. Michael is in the low 8's.

The old man of shooting, Ken Tapp, has an M-1A with pistol grips front and back. He goes prone by throwing his legs back, and flopping straight onto the ground in one motion. Every time he does it, we expect his heart surgery scar to pop open. Once prone, he pivots that M-1A between the pistol grips, and hoses the plates in the low 6's. Typically he has a hit on the third plate before his first empty hits the ground.

Needless to say, Ken wins the .30 cal Pro Division. I come in second or third in the Amateur .30 cal. (I don't remember who won, but I don't have the belt buckle so it couldn't have been me.)

We then move on to the not .30, which basically means ARs. Offhand at 100 yards. I miss winning Amateur Carbine on my last run, where I have to take an extra shot to pick up the last plate of the run.

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The next part of the 1991 SC involves a lesson learned: read the rules. As in, I did but some poor guys didn't. The shotgun events had more attendance than the rifle, so they were set up as qualifying runs to the shoot-offs. The top 8 went into the shootoffs. I looked the courses over, read the rules closely, and went out and smoked the poppers as fast as I possibly could.

Later the next afternoon, I'm standing there looking at the standings, and two guys are discussing the times: "Well, how'd you do?" "Fine, I made the shootoffs. I'm in X slot."

Oops. He hadn't read the rules. The shootoffs were a Protected ladder. I was in first place in both Pump and Auto, in Amateur. In a protected ladder, #7 & #8 shoot off. The winner goes up against #6. Then #5. If the #8 guy scrambles his way to me, he's going to be bloody from recoil. If the guy I face is #2, he hasn't had much more warmup than I'd get. When the shootoffs came, I just pulled a lawn chair out of my truck and watched while the rest duked it out. When it came time to shoot the Auto championships, the CRO gives me a warmup run. I step up and hose with my 1100, which promptly chokes. No problem, I go and get my crusty Remington M-11 out of the truck, run a mag of shells through it, and then smoke the guy waiting for me.

The same thing with the pump, I sit and watch. I warm up with my 870, then force the winner to go best two of three against me.

While I'm doing this, the Pros are shooting. Jerry Miculek and J. Michael Plaxco are both on Team Smith & Wesson. But shooting the same guns. When they get to the point where Jerry and Michael have to shoot against each other (for the cash prize) Jerry has no gun (he's using Michaels.) He's not too keen on using a loaner Mossberg (Mossberg sponsored the shotgun match) so I loan him my 870. I tell him "It will feel a bit strange. It has an extra-heavy mag spring in it, and you can feel the shells being fed. But you can't outrun it." Jerry goes up and promptly hoses Michael into the dust.

He wins something like 2 or 3 Grand, cash. When I went to load my truck up, there was nothing I could carry. Jerry picked up anything I was trying to pick up, and put it in my truck. Including all the leftover Team S&W ammo. (rifle ammo, too.) Not only did I leave with two belt buckles, but more shotgun ammo than I arrived with. I didn't dare look at anyone else's guns or gear, for fear Jerry would have it stuffed in my truck before I knew it. (He asked me about that shotgun at next years' Second Chance. Yes, I still own it.)

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Jerry picked up anything I was trying to pick up, and put it in my truck. Including all the leftover Team S&W ammo. (rifle ammo, too.) Not only did I leave with two belt buckles, but more shotgun ammo than I arrived with. I didn't dare look at anyone else's guns or gear, for fear Jerry would have it stuffed in my truck before I knew it.

What a total class act. :D

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Yes he is. And Patrick too, for lending Jerry the shotgun.

Unlike one particular well-known owner of a large gunsmithing operation (just the sight of his name annoys me, so I won't mention it here), who many years ago established a "rule" that if you borrowed a gun from him, or asked him to fix something for you at a match, you had to agree that you would split any prize winnings with him 50-50. Real nice guy, huh?

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Did he ever shoot Second Chance? He wouldn't have had many friends with an attitude like that.

For those who weren't there, you could stand up in front of the grandstands and say to your friend "My pin gun just broke. Got something I can use?" and have half a dozen guns offered to you. And no one would feel neglected that you picked the one most like yours. the owner would probably even offer his ammo, too. After all "Its sighted in for this load" and everybody loaded hot. No need to worry about not making Major. :D Everyone loaded 195PF or higher. I shot between 205 and 215, and I wasn't using the heaviest loads known on the line. :blink:

Yes, my poor Ranger was so looking forward to the trip back, lightened from shooting ammo. I went home with more ammo and more guns than I arrived with.

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A brief history of Jackhammer, the 870. I bought it at the gun shop where I was working. The customer brings it in unworking. Since it isn't working (the slide won't slide) the retail division doesn't want to buy it. He wants a new one, he won't trust a fixed one. I figure I can fix it ("I'm a gunsmith, I can fix anyting.") so I buy it. He'd twisted the rails trying to reassemble, forced it, and the fix was easy: straighten the rails.

I slicked it up, put a Choate extension on it, and began practicing. And quickly got to the point where I could outrun the gun. We figured I was short-stroking it, so I worked on hammering the slide harder. Didn't help. So the late Paul Weaver videotaped me shooting a pin table in practice. Watching in slo-mo we can see that I'm not short-stroking it. But still, I'd close the action on an empty chamber.

The problem is the shells. They are retreating up the tube under recoil. We squeeze a spring for a ten-shot tube into an eight-shot extension and try again. The empty chamber problems diminish, but still happen. I get a ten-shot tube, and have Choate ship me a double length mag spring. That goes a long way to solving the problem, but not completely. I call Choate again and explain my problem, and they offer to custom-wind a spring of the next size up gauge wire.

They send it, and I carefully shorten this spring until I can fit eight shots in the ten-shot tube. (I'm using it only as a Second Chance gun, only eight shots allowed.) Wow! No problems with mis-feeding, and you can feel the shells being shot out of the tube when you cycle it.

But another problem surfaces. (Don't you love it?) Sellier & Bellot buckshot is the s**t for shooting pins. But the rims are too soft. The mag spring can launch them so hard the rims dent hitting the shell stop, and the stop can't release out of the dent. I have to use FedRemChester buckshot at SC, or my times really suffer. I use the S&B in my 1100, and shoot reduced load LEO buckshot out of the 870, for loot and glory.

That is the 870 Jerry borrowed.

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Everyone loaded 195PF or higher. I shot between 205 and 215, and I wasn't using the heaviest loads known on the line.  :blink:

My last several years up at Second Chance, I used .38 Special loads with the 230-gr. bullets at about 1050 fps. That year the pins seemed so heavy (supposedly they left the lids off the bins and they got rained on for months), I was REALLY glad to have those 240+ p.f. loads!

Shot them out of a S&W 27 (with a stock 8-3/8" barrel) I bought from Brian Enos.

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Patrick, hearing about your pump gun makes me think of all the great LGMBs at Second Chance....lots of good memories. I often ran a pump gun on 3-man-team (sometimes successfully, sometimes not!) and always enjoyed that sort of shucking around....

You might have heard the sad news that Terry O'Hara passed away this past year.


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Which leads me to the next story. For years at Second Chance, we had been agitating with Richard for a separate shotgun event. We wanted more than just the three-man event. He finally relented, in stages.

First, it was all heads up, with pumpguns getting a full second off their times, and women getting a second off. Yes, a woman shooting a pump got two seconds off.

While it was a start, the "second" was clumsy and not good. The best women, Connie Gabrilska and Terry's wife Alice didn't need that second to get on the prize table. For the rest, a second wasn't enough. Ditto the pump shooters.

Richard ended keeping the women's second, but splitting the pump and auto. The pump times ended up in the high threes, and the auto times ended up in the high two's.

Terry is the offical holder of the auto time record. I got there first, shooting a 2.7 second time. (From start gun to last of the eight pins hitting the ground. I saw a videotape of it later that day. If anyone has a copy, I'd love to get it.) My tiebreaker was some wretched 12.5 or something. In the optional events,your second-best time was your tiebreaker. When I posted my 2.7, the closest time to mine posted by another shooter was something like 3.5, so I didn't worry. As the days went by, no one got closer, and I had other events to shoot.

The last day, Terry goes up and shoots a 2.7. I'm out of time, ammo, energy and entry fees. And Terry's tiebreaker beats mine. So he wins the event and goes down in the recordbooks as the holder of the fastest time for the Auto shotgun Optional. (Good for him.)

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but I did the same damned thing with the Pump record, too.

What was a real scream was the winning times with shotguns in the individual events was more than a second faster than the three-man times winning scores. So after you shot the individual, you had to gear-down to shoot 3-man, or screw up. After shooting a 3.7 for Pump Individual, I had to slow down to shoot a 4.7 time in 3-man. (3-man teams wanted consistency, as all three had to have a good run on the same table, to post a winning time.)

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Back in time, to the early days of IPSC. Our club was holding our State league match. Back then, our State's clubs decided we were going to be like the Southwest Combat Pistol League, and have a rotating series of matchs through the clubs in the State. We'd keep track of scores, and offer plaques to the league winners. (What eventually happened was the same with all such endeavors: when the few people doing the work got tired, it faded out of sight.)

That's when I saw The Ugly Gun. After the club's league match, someone comes up and hands me a pistol case. "Found this on Range Two." Inside was a Colt 1911A1. The ugliest gun I'd ever seen.

From top to bottom: The rear sight was a Micro, a bullseye sight, that someone had fitted to the slide by hand-filing a new, deeper dovetail. The sight had been hammered in, with a few hammer hits missing the sight and striking the slide. Up front was a large sight (to match the Micro) which had been staked in place. The staking tool hadn't been padded, so there was a big dent in the middle where the locking bolt had held the sight in while it was being staked. It hadn't been straight, so the "builder" had clamped the sight in a vise and levered the slide to straighten the sight.

The thumb safety had been built up by copper-brazing a chunk of steel to it, which had then been ground into something vaguely resembling a Swensen. (Kinda like Rosie resembles Angelina.) The frontstrap had skateboard tape on it, peeling on the edges. The grip safety had been dehorned by what looked like a belt sander. the grips were cracked, and held in place with a big rubber band. The Wilson plastic mag funnel had cracked, and was held in place with superglue.

No two parts had the same finish. It was parkerized, blued, nickeled, painted, rusted and chromed. But the piece de resistance was the mag button: The builder had drilled the button, and forced a large, flat-headed sheet metal screw into it.

It was so ugly I didn't want to touch it. I had no idea who owned it, but as the club President and MD, it was now mine. I took it home, expecting a call that night. When I didn't get a call, I figured I could use it to clean up the reloading "oops" bin: all the too short, too long, wrong bullets, canted bullet reloads that get tossed aside. To my surprise, the gun had a decent trigger and hit to the sights. And it fed everything. I could keep all my hits in the A zone clear out to 50 yards. That gun never failed to function 100%. I cleaned up the oops bin, chewed through a case of ugly surplus, and began wondering if I'd inherited a real prize.

A couple of weeks later, I get a phone call. "You might have found my gun." Sure, what's it look like? "Well, there is this sheet metal screw...." It's yours, where do I ship it?

After the Ugly Gun, I had a whole new take on what mattered. Pretty was nice, but what really mattered was function and accuracy. I won't say I uglified my guns from then on, but I spent more time on function and less on cosmetics.

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Thread drift on your statement......

..... had a whole new take on what mattered. Pretty was nice, but what really mattered was function and accuracy. 

I have been in a 4 day ongoing conversaton with a friend over the way different gunsmiths approach the idea of what a competition gun should be. I kind of balance over into the above camp. :)

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