In May 1976, Murray Gardner and his buddy drove 16 hours one way from Vancouver to northern California just to fire 36 rounds from a handgun in a unique high speed pistol shooting sport.
Having never competed in the sport before, they were so enthusiastic about it, they returned again to sunny California in November and again in January.
Finally, after logging long distances on the road, Murray thought it was time to set a similar competition up at the Thompson Mountain Sportsman Association in Pitt Meadows.
"We had 42 people show up, that's better than the 25 we expected," said Gardner, now 67, who calls Port Coquitlam home and has competed in five world championships. "We came home (from that first trip) in California, we went 'wow.' It's a sport I'm legally addicted to. I've shot all around the world, and Canada and up and down the province."
That first match in Vancouver brought the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) to Canada and Gardner hasn't looked back since. There are now 3,000 members across the country from almost every province and territory. Every rod and gun club in the province has its own IPSC section, and in Prince George there are about 20 people.
IPSC is a fast high speed pistol shooting sport involving a variety of handguns such as old-fashioned single action revolvers to modern polymer semi-autos.
Andrew Tomlinson, the IPSC director for the Prince George Rod and Gun Club, said pistols vary from polymer to metal frames (polymer is lighter and quicker to handle, while those with metal frames are heavier) hold a 10-round magazine of 9 mm bullets, the maximum legally allowed in Canada.
Gardner's pistol is a red and black STI True Bore with an electronic sight that he used to compete in the open division in a two-day match this weekend at the Prince George Rod and Gun Club's Blackwater range.
Including Gardner, the weekend match attracted 46 men and women from northern B.C., the Lower Mainland and central Okanagan to the range who made their way through six separate stages that are timed.
Every stage varies with different layouts of targets. One by one, competitors step up and upon hearing a beep, draw their gun and fire two shots at each target that test their speed and accuracy.
Every target is worth a maximum of 10 points and if the bullet hits dead centre, five points are awarded. Those who completely miss the target, usually a steel plate, are deducted 10 points.
"They have to try and hit each target twice as accurately and as fast as they can go," said Tomlinson, adding points will then be awarded based on time. "The total points at the end of each stage will be divided by the time and that will be the score for the stage."
The sport, Tomlinson explained, focuses on three principles - accuracy, power and speed. Accuracy to hit the targets, and speed to safely hit the target as fast as possible. Power refers to competitors using the same standard ammunition.
About 20 participants from northern B.C. such as Terrace, Prince Rupert, Fort St. John and Prince George competed and Gardner, who's now a range safety consultant who teaches Canadian Firearms courses, said the northern zone, that also includes Quesnel and Williams Lake in the province continues to grow.