Smokey Merkley

Smokey Merkley

When I was 14 years old, my cousin Jimmy offered to sell me a Remington 1911 .45 ACP that had been manufactured during World War II. He was afraid he would be in real trouble if his father found out that he had it, so he wanted to get rid of it. I offered him $7 and a knife and became the proud owner of a 1911 .45 ACP.

Jimmy was two years younger than I was, and there has been some confusion as to where he got the pistol in the first place. My aunt Doris was shocked when I mentioned it years later after Jimmy died in Vietnam.

I no longer have that old Remington, having traded it for something else and buying a new Colt Commander version of the 1911 in .45 ACP caliber. Later I purchased a custom 1911 manufactured by Kimber.

In the 1960s through the 1980s, competition with service pistols was mostly governed by the International Practical Pistol Association (IPPA), the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) or the late Col. Jeff Cooper’s leather slap matches.

The problem I and many others had with the IPPA and the USPSA was that to be competitive, one really had to spend thousands of dollars on race guns and special holsters, and the emphasis was on shooting several small circular targets as fast as possible.

That kind of shooting is fun, but doesn’t simulate what service pistols were designed for in the first place. Col. Jeff Cooper’s leather slap competition did simulate self-defense scenarios, but the competition was held in Arizona, California or South Africa.

Finally in 1996, the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) was formed, and anyone with a stock, out-of-the-box service pistol could use it to compete in simulated self-defense scenarios. As chapters of the IDPA were organized around the country, there was an IDPA competition reasonably close to where people lived that offered competition, fun and some really good instruction and exchanges of information between like-minded shooters.

In Texas, the IDPA grew like a wildfire, and many of the students that I trained in the Texas Concealed Handgun Certification Course immediately joined the organization and began to at least compete on a local level to stay proficient.

In the years since IDPA was first organized, some new divisions in competition have been added, such as custom pistol, enhanced service pistol, compact carry, revolver, backup gun and pistol caliber carbine. However, competition in the stock service pistol division is still the bread and butter of IDPA.

Competitors are classified as novice, marksman, sharpshooter, expert, master, distinguished master or unclassified. Competitors compete against others in their respective divisions instead of having to compete against those at a higher skill level. Those who compete at the higher levels as well as most of the competitors are usually willing to share information and techniques with everyone. That might well be the most important reason people join IDPA.

There are also plenty of officials present at IDPA sanctioned matches to ensure safety and to supervise the competition.

If you think you might be interested in IDPA, they have a website. Just type in “IDPA” and read about them. The closest IDPA-affiliated club in Southeastern Idaho appears to be The South Eastern Idaho Practical Shooters in Idaho Falls. Their website lists Doug Mckendzie (mcdoug595@centurylink.net), and William Orr (orrwd@cableone.net) as contact people.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He was a member of the faculty of Texas A&M University for 25 years. There he taught orienteering, marksmanship, self-defense, fencing, scuba diving and boxing. He was among the first DPS-certified Texas Concealed Handgun Instructors. He can be contacted at mokeydo41245@hotmail.com.