SPRINGFIELD, MASS. - After nearly 10-hours of coaching me through my first International Defensive Pistol Association Nationals, world shooting champion and Smith & Wesson Team Captain Julie Golob left the range with a smile on her face, and I did too. My first shooting competition was an overwhelming success. I shot pretty well for my first go-round, but more importantly, I got to spend time with incredibly special people who really care about sharing their sport.
The match Wednesday morning started early with registration at 7 a.m. All I had to do was show up with my ammo, eyes, ears and belt. Julie took care of the rest. Not only did she let me borrow her M&P Pro, but she also kept my magazines full all day. We made our way through thirteen stages, each providing a different real life scenario. She guided me through each stage, encouraged me to focus on the task at hand, taught me new things about cover, reloading, IDPA rules and was a tremendous help when it came to explaining which targets to shoot first in order to have the greatest tactical advantage.
“When the light goes on, when someone has that aha moment, when they have a great stage and see their potential, it’s really fun to be a part of that,” she tells me after a long day on the range. It’s clear Julie’s generosity and personal dedication to mentorship have benefited the shooting sports a huge deal. Not only does she share her knowledge at the range, but wrote an entire book to help newbies get acclimated to the sport.
“You look around and you see the camaraderie,” Director of Marketing and Communications for Smith & Wesson Paul Pluff says. “We’ll have about 390 people over the next four days that will go through and there’s not one of them in here that wouldn’t give their shirt off their back to help people when they needed help or to cover your back when you needed it covered.”
Smith & Wesson has been the sponsor of IDPA matches since they started nearly two decades ago. Originally, this particular match was called the winter championship, but four years ago the competition became big enough and important enough to prompt the change to a national championship. Bill Wilson, owner of Wilson Combat, started IDPA with a group of five of his friends back in 1996 when they held an invitational match in Columbia, Missouri. His wife, Joyce Wilson, now runs the organization.
“At the time, they were going to be really excited to have five or six people or you know, more than just themselves come and shoot this match and in the 17 years we’ve now grown to 23,000 members in the U.S. and in over 50 foreign countries. Right now we’re the fastest growing shooting sport out there and truthfully we haven’t even begun to tap some of the markets I’m looking to tap hopefully in the next year or so,” Director of IDPA Joyce Wilson says. “I don’t know where we’d be without Smith & Wesson’s support.”
In the past four years, IDPA participation has grown by 58 percent. Wilson credits the success and expansion of IDPA to shooter friendliness, fulfilling a need for self-defense training and an overall welcoming attitude from fellow shooters already in the industry.
“They’re [new shooters] welcomed with open arms, we’re very friendly, we’ve very women friendly and junior friendly,” Wilson says. “The most important thing I think, for women especially in today’s day and time, it’s a dangerous world out there and granted IDPA is a sport but it teaches gun handling skills that could save your life.”
“People are starting to realize not only can this be used for self-defense and to protect yourself, but it’s a whole lot of fun to shoot these matches so this has become their social life, this is becoming their fun, this is like their golf…It’s a kick in the pants,” Pluff added. “It’s fast paced and we’re seeing a whole new generation of shooters coming in and this is what they like, this is their activity, this is their fun time, their social life.”
“For the person getting ready to go to their first match I say buy more ammo because once you go to the first one, it’s like a Lay's potato chip, you can’t just have one,” Wilson says.
Stay tuned to Townhall for updates in the next few days. Tomorrow I'll be writing in detail about the stages of the event, which included a duck blind and nail salon, in addition to posting photos and video.
Photo Credit: IDPA’s Paul Erhardt
RELATED: My First IDPA Match: Training For Self Defense Through Competition
Katie Pavlich is the Editor at Townhall.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiepavlich. She is a New York Times Best Selling author. Her latest book Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women, was published on July 8, 2014.