Recently, I invited one of the Northern Virginia regular IPSC shooters to join me for a match in the “apple orchard.” He had no idea what or where the apple orchard was, so I told him the official name is North Mountain Practical Shooters and they are located near Lebanon Church, Virginia. I also told him that I thought it was the oldest IPSC club in Northern Virginia. This got me to thinking about the club’s origins.
By some happy fluke related to my PC illiteracy, I discovered Jerry Wisecarver’s email address. Jerry was one of the founding fathers of the club. He also was one of the founding fathers of IPSC in Virginia, and had been both a Virginia Section Director and Area 8 Coordinator, so I emailed him to ask about its age and origins.
Here is what he had to say about it:
“The first IPSC match was held in either April or May of 1981. I believe you are correct about it being the first club inNorthern VA. If memory serves, at that time there were one or two Richmond clubs, two near the Hampton, Norfolk area and one at Roanoke.”
Later he added a bit more history:
“You got me curious about the IPSC start up in the orchard, so I did some quick research through my pack-ratted files and found the official first match was May 9, 1981. They had two qualifier (new shooter) matches in April of that year. Total of seven autos and 8 revolvers shot the match.
“The guy who started the club was Dick Mckiernen and he was the orchard manager for Fred Glaize who owns the orchard. He was looking for a range location for the club, and they were just planting new apple trees there. They couldn’t plant trees where the range is now located because they would be apt to freeze in that low spot, so he talked Fred into leasing that 15 acres to us.
“The early years of the club did not have a specific match director. Club members each took a turn at running a match. We had club officers as dictated by the incorporation laws. In 1981, Dick McKiernen was President. Some of the charter members and match directors were John Kuhn IV, Gary Sargent, Jim Davis, Scott Funk, Jim Barbour, Ben Connor, John Markwell, Gail Harper, Rick O’Rourk, Dan Whitacre, Ken and Julie Furchak, Jerry Wisecarver. Other early officers include 1982 John Kuhn, IV-president; 1983-1985 Jerry Wisecarver, president and match director for most of the matches; 1986-1990 Larry and Peggy Brown were match directors. 1991-92 Greg Wodack, match director; 1993-98 Mike Martin and Mitzi Davis, match directors [Ably assisted by Ed Jones and Sue Finken. MRW].
“In 1999-2004 Bob Perdue became match director and the name changed from Shenandoah Valley Practical Shooters to North Mountain Practical Shooters. Then, 2005 to the present day Dan and Elaine Chandler have held the reins.
“You may want to check with Dan or Elaine for the accuracy of those dates, as I was not shooting there. A lot of the other is from memory and what paperwork I still have, but it is reasonably accurate.”
Well! The Shenandoah Valley/North Mountain Practical Shooters (SV/NMPS) not only is the oldest club in Northern Virginia, it is the oldest club in continuous operation in the whole state.
The SV/NMPS experience illustrates what makes a club great and what gives it longevity. Put another way, what does one need to hold outstanding matches?
Shenandoah Valley Practical Shooters started with some willing bodies and an unlikely place to shoot: a low place in an apple orchard. What North Mountain Practical Shooters now has includes different willing bodies, the same place, a Con-Ex storage container, a plate rack, some target backers, steel plates, pepper poppers, and a Texas Star. Even so, for 25 years it has put on outstanding matches, matches as good as any local matches available.
From this, it is obvious that what makes a club succeed is not great ranges, great berms, great equipment, or anything material. What makes a club succeed over a long period is great people, it is their sweat and effort that make great matches and make a great club. Great people.
And yet there is one more thing. Not just great people. As the above list of names shows, the great people, that is the club’s leadership often has changed over the years. Great people, even great people like the leaders of SV/NMPS do not last forever. They move on to other places, other jobs, other interests, and even burn out. But SV/NMPS has had one big advantage over other clubs; its ability to develop new leaders to take over. Its leaders could lead others to leadership. Wow!
Every shooter who ever attended a match at the apple orchard owes a great debt of gratitude to Dan and Elaine and all their able predecessors mentioned above. [And any we may have inadvertently overlooked.] If you see any of them, thank them for all they did to make 25 years of SV/NMPS a reality.
Finally, I believe that any club that succeeds for that long should get a gold star and their name on a Wall of Fame at USPSA headquarters.