SDPS History

The History of the Sacramento Defensive Pistol Shooters, as told by founding President Ed Vernon (A00041). This is a article is featured on the 2011 Second Quarter Edition of The Tactical Journal, The Official Publication of IDPA. For a copy of this article, you may find it on at or you may click here for a copy..

The Beginnings

It was 1996, and I was shooting USPSA on a regular basis, when I found out about the International Defensive Pistol Shooters. Although I really liked USPSA, I wanted a venue that was more oriented toward “self-defense.” Leon Williamson and I had started an informal club at the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center oriented more toward “real life.” Our matches were intended to be realistic and practical. Leon was a former police officer, and had a real “crime and punishment” mentality. Leon wanted penalties that were really harsh! He wanted a hit on a non-threat target to be a match disqualification! Failure to neutralize in Leon’s opinion was also a, “it’s over, go home” mistake. I convinced him that if we made the penalties too severe, no one would want to participate. I realized that if “reality” was too real no one would have any fun, and he and I might be playing by ourselves. We settled on a goal of encouraging “tactical” solutions to problems, and trying to stress accuracy over pure speed.

We held matches for a while with mostly USPSA shooters in attendance. Our make-shift matches were scored somewhat like IDPA, time based, with penalties adding time to the raw time. To make a short story even shorter, after a bit, the informal club became the Northern California Practical Shooters (our USPSA club) Limited Match. We began holding two USPSA matches a month, one open and one limited. It worked just fine for a couple of years, but began to evolve into just another open match using limited class guns. Eventually that club went to just one match per month, and the limited match folded into the open match. As much as I enjoyed USPSA, I still found myself yearning for a return to “practical.” I wanted to practice and shoot matches with the same guns I have, and carry, for self-defense. I don’t even remember how I found out about IDPA (at my age there are many things I don’t remember!). I received the application, and put it aside. I was not really sure I wanted to get involved, and I wondered if there would ever be a local club that would take up the sport. At that time it never occurred to me to get involved in starting a local club. About a month or more later I decided to send off the application, if for no other reason than to find out more about the organization, and this new “IDPA.” I received my membership, and my number was (and still is) A00041. I put the membership card aside, and for the next couple of years just read the IDPA Tactical Journal, and waited to see if anyone in Northern California was going to get a club started.

From reading the Journal, it seemed that all the activity was with clubs that were back east (I am from California; some of us think that anything on the other side of the Eastern Nevada border is back east!). Fast forward to late 1998 when I was attending a USPSA match. I was chatting with a fellow named Peter Bird about this IDPA thing. He had heard about it as well. He was interested in holding matches of some kind that were of more of a self-defense or tactical nature. He and I decided to try and start a club. We held the first organizational meeting at myoffice on November 18, 1998. Somehow we rounded up a few interested people. Besides Peter and me, attending were Ben Norman, Mike McGinn, Walt and Raeanne Burris, Dave and Joy Casner, and there may have been a couple of others (if I forgot to mention you, no slight is intended!). I fronted the money to buy some targets and some tape, hoping to eventually be reimbursed from match fees. We kicked ideas around for a name for the Club, and decided upon The Sacramento Defensive Pistol Shooters. We spoke with our USPSA club, and got their permission to use the props on the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center’s Action Pistol Range. The USPSA club was supportive of our efforts, if a bit skeptical. We held a few more meetings, and split up the duties. As I recall, I did the initial course design, and everyone pitched in with set-up, registration, scoring, etc. I seem to remember that I set up an Excel spread sheet for the scoring.

In March, 1999, we held the first match. We were shocked at the turn out! As I recall there were about 30 to 40 people at the match, which really sort of blew us away. We never even remotely expected such a large turnout. The first match was either four or five stages, all rather simple and straight forward. For the next couple of months we continued to hold matches and kept wondering if the turnout was just a fluke. However, the shooters just kept on coming. The Club continued to grow. Within a short time the attendance was generally up in the 50’s or higher. There was extensive improvising during those first couple of years. We were still learning the rules. There were a lot of consultations between us about what the intent of the rules was, and how any particular situation should be covered. We learned new lessons almost every match! The founders were very committed to the concept that we wanted to be “user friendly.” Our position was safety, safety, safety, have fun, and did I mention, safety? We pushed hard to make sure that our Safety Officers (in those days, Range Officers) tried to put the shooter first. We did not want the sport to be so rule dominated that it was an “I gottcha,” experience. At those early matches it was common for a shooter to do something and then ask, “Was it O.K. to do that?” Half the time we did not know, and after conferencing, we would make a decision, and if we were not sure, let the shooter have a reshoot (as long as they had acted in good faith). That founding group had a lot of fun, and even put up with my sense of humor. The group spent long hours putting on the matches and taking care of the club.

Typical of any new organization, initially just a few people did the bulk of the work. I was the club president for the first three years. There was a fellow shooter named Wayne Johnson who had started attending our matches in July, 1999. He was interested, capable, and willing to take over from me. Since I am self employed, I was not feeling that I had the time to do everything that I wanted for the club. Looking back, I realize that my particular skill set was organizational. Wayne was the perfect person to take over. He has the operational abilities to keep the club moving. He was also retired, and had the time available to do much more than I had been doing. Since he took over, he has spearheaded getting three new cargo containers for securing our growing list of props, set up great prize tables (all by random drawing), and led the expansion of the club membership to what it is today. Wayne is stepping down as president at the end of December, 2010, and we already have a capable individual, Duane Chinnow, to take over. We are averaging 70 to 90 shooters for each match, and have held several matches with attendance in excess of 100 shooters! We have had matches where the Sacramento County Sheriffs SWAT team participated, as well as other benefit matches. Of the original group that founded SDPS, only Ben Norman and I still shoot regularly. Ben is still on our Board, and handles passing out the award pins after each match.

Wayne Johnson emailed me and asked if I could do a brief history of the club, since more than 10 years had passed. It really shocked me when I realized that 10 years had gone by. I still love mentoring a new shooter at their first match. I still think that the members of our club are some of the finest people that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I have a sense of accomplishment that I was part of a group of people who had the foresight to begin a club that will, hopefully, outlast us all. It has been an honor to work with such nice, dedicated, and motivated individuals. My closing thought is that if you are contemplating beginning a club, go for it. It may be a chore at first, but the satisfaction of watching it grow is a huge reward. Be safe, have fun, and make great friends!