Wally Arida was the publisher of Gun Games, my top two favorite print gun magazine of all time.
Both are long out of circulation. As with most things I enjoy, neither achieved significant popularity. A regular magazine focused primarily on shooter skill and competition will never be popular among gun owners.
Here’s the story of how practical shooting, especially USPSA competition, developed its current run-and-gun flavor.
The Norco Experiment Story
by Wally Arida
Southern California invented IPSC with Jeff Copper and his buddies running practical shooting contests in the 1970s that became the SouthWest Pistol League in Piru CA. The Norco experiment in the late 1980s revolutionized the game and changed it forever.
Quite honestly, I was getting bored by the regular offerings of the club matches we were attending in the late 1980s. A typical match in SoCal then was a 25-40 round event. Typically three stages: a 6 rounds or so classifier stage, a standard stage of about 6-12 rounds and an assault stage of about 12 rounds or so. Me and my friends would go to more than one match a day, 2-3 total sometimes on the weekend, just to get our fix of shooting. And we still wanted more. So I started the Norco Running Gun program with the full blessings and partnership of Mike Raahauge who owned the property.
What started initially as a group of 10-12 people shooting IPSC in the cow shit berms of Norco soon took off like a brushfire. It would be normal to see over 100 to 150 shooters on an average Saturday.
And boy did we experiment with things. I offered a lot of shooting. 30-40 rounds stages were unheard of back then. 120-150 rounds per match. 6 stages per match. All field stages. Open-style think-your-way-through shooting stage designs. We had stages that required moving in and out of prescribed shooting boxes. And we had open field, no shooting boxes, shoot them where you can see them stages. I forced the shooters to think their strategies. I forced them to out think my stage design descriptions. And boy did they. :-)
These novel stage designs forced the shooters to adapt in order to max their scores. The Norco shooter learned to shoot on the move. They learned to move in and out of shooting boxes with minimum motion and times. They developed ways to approach, engage, and leave ports and shooting positions efficiently.
I challenged them with then unique shooting positions. I even perplexed them one day when I had them shoot while walking backwards – then a totally unheard of and untried shooting predicament – that is all too common now. They would come every week knowing and expecting another new and crazy shooting challenge awaits them. Shooter walk throughs in the morning were filled with oohs and aahs when the fresh challenges were described. And the way the shooting game of IPSC changed overnight. Running Gun was born.
The Norco experiment quickly became the Norco Legend. Every weekend was like a major IPSC match. Shooters would travel to Norco from San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona, Palm Springs, Bakersfield, even from Norway, Sweden, the Philippines, to play in our play ground.
Our shooters became so proficient, they started attracting the top shooters of the country to stop by and test their mettle against the Norco shooters. It would be normal to see GMs and Master shooters from all over the country – and the world – at Norco every weekend during our club matches.
Guys like Jojo Vidanes, Brad Griffin and Taran Butler and more joined us as newbies in the early days — even had their fair share of match DQs at the time — and moved on to become top shooters they are today. Top shooters like the then very young Jethro Dionisio and Valerie Levanza ,Michael Voigt, and more came to Norco and made it their home. Guys like Rob Leatham, Matt Burkett, and the AZ guys would pop up at Norco. Still do.
Most of the IPSC game as you see it being played today are blooms of the Running Gun seeds we planted back in the day. And I’m happy to have played a role in its evolution.