Slave Lake Practical Shooters Guild member Keith Carlson describes International Practical Shooting as “the most fun you can have with a handgun in Canada. There’s also a great community of individuals who are there for the fun of the sport. It’s a great way to travel Alberta,” as there are competitions across the province most weekends in the summer.
The sport is governed by the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) which focuses on safety, says Carlson. The sport is played around the world and is especially popular in Europe and the Philippines. The few injuries that have happened are twisted ankles and pulled muscles, not gun injuries.
Carlson was instrumental in bringing IPSC to Slave Lake.
“I shoot this sport,” he says. When he moved to Slave Lake a couple of years ago, he wanted to start a club. He became involved with the Slave Lake Rod and Gun Club. Practical Shooters is a subgroup within this club.
To participate, members must own a handgun and the relevant licenses. In order to own a handgun in Canada, which is a restricted firearm, people need both a Canadian Non-Restricted Purchase and Acquisition License (PAL) and a Restricted PAL. Both of these require a training course.
There is no wait period between the PAL and restricted PAL application, says Carlson. Sometimes a person can do the PAL one day and the restricted PAL then next.
To compete at sanctioned IPSC events, shooters need even more training, he adds. They need to complete a black badge course and compete in one competition without any safety violations. Any competitor with two safety violations in one season is banned from competing for a couple of years.
At competitions, he continues, the range officer’s only job is to stand behind the shooter to ensure that the person handles the gun safely. Only one shooter competes at a time and scoring is done afterwards.
The competition targets are set up as a stage, says Carlson. This is made up of non-human silhouette targets. These can be at various heights and angles. The shooter draws their pistol, shoots and reloads while moving. This is the only time a civilian is allowed to wear a pistol in a holster on their hip in Canada. The stage can also include no-shoot areas, which the shooter must avoid. It can also include walls or small areas where the shooter must aim from.
Over the summer, Carlson says, the eight or nine members of the shooters guild met every other Wednesday night. This was their first year of meeting. They met from April to early October. Over the winter, they may do some “dry fire practice,” without bullets, and practice reloading and making bullets.
This year, Carlson competed at provincials, he says. He did well. Two other members finished their black badge and competed in their first match.
In the future, the group would like to hold some sanctioned matches, says Carlson.
Asked if the new Canadian gun laws affected the sport, Carlson answered, “with handguns it hasn’t yet.” There are rumours that handguns are next on the list. There’s another gun sport called Three Guns, which has been shutdown because of the new regulations. This sport includes handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Most of the rifles used are on the list of newly prohibited weapons.