Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dave Arnold, R.I.P

I note the passing of one of my best, and dearest, friends, Captain Dave Arnold, from injuries sustained in a car crash in Virginia this weekend.

I don't even know where to begin...Dave, along with Walt Rauch, founded the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) after Dave's initial work with the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). Dave and his running buddy Lloyd Harper felt very strongly that the United States, as the largest participant in the fledgling sport of practical shooting, needed its own organization.

The "bones" of USPSA were put in place after the first Florida Invitational Pistol Tournament in, I believe, 1980. The sport of practical pistol, and IPSC itself, had been created at the 1976 Columbia Conference, called by Col. Jeff Cooper et all. "Combat shooting," as it was called back then, had grown like a weed in all directions, and some of those directions were pretty strange. I shot one combat match back then that, as soon as someone yelled "Go!," you dropped your gun on floor and kicked it down range, then ran to retrieve it to start the stage.

Following the FIPT, Dave, Walt, Jake Jatras (editor of the only publication about the fledgling sport, The Combat Shooters Report), Dave Churilla (who would go on to be the first head of the National Range Officer Institute (NROI), Tom Campbell (then with S&W and one of the sport's first top shooters) and me took a yellow legal pad to a strip joint called Thee Doll House in Orlando and created the outlines of USPSA.

Dave was adamant that the new sport become more formalized, especially on the safety rules. Remember, combat shooting was a major change from traditional position bullseye and gun was something totally new. At the end of the meeting, Dave and Walt became the formal founders, Churilla and I would work on range officer training.

After working on national rules and range officer training, Dave went on to found the International Range Officer Association for IPSC and was Match Director of major national and world competitions. As a law enforcement trainer he worked in training for line officers and elite operators as well. He took on the tough job of running the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, a job to which he bought not only toughness, but compassion. It takes a man's man to not only arrest a first-time drug offender, but help arrange for his education when he got out. Dave understood evil, but he believed in redemption as well.

He worked as my Chief Rangemaster in the NSSF Media Education Program, which was as much Dave's as mine and NSSF's. He was, as usual, flawless on the range, an example of what each of us strived to be. He was an early adopter of IDPA and helped me create the curriculum for the first IDPA Safety Officer class I ran, which I believe was the first one before the creation of the formal Safety Officer program.

In the late 1980s, after Florida adopted shall-issue, Dave and I began working together on concealed carry issues, and much of my current thinking on concealed carry was hammered together in those days. Heck, Dave even convinced me to try cowboy action shooting!

As one of Dave's rangemasters, I learned more than you can imagine. More than that, Dave became first my friend, then my brother. We stood beside each other during dark times in our lives and shared the joy of the good times. We shot side by side more times than I can remember. He never stopped competing, usually at law enforcement matches where he liked to "whip up" on the young officers. He once took a couple of years off shooting to restore a 1957 Chevy, but then sold soon after because, "It turned out just to be a car." He married his high school sweetheart and found joy.

He was a hero in Vietnam, but that was a story he chose not to tell in public, nor will I.

I guess the bottom line, if such a spectacular and wonderfully lived life can be summed up in a sentence, is that if you have ever stepped up to the line in a match, regardless of whichever branch of the practical shooting tree you've chosen; if you've ever taken any training and marveled about the standards of safety; if you've ever seen one of my shows, my friend Dave Arnold touched your life.

I always imagined that somewhere in our dotage Dave and I would be sipping good brandy and exchanging lies about the good old days. I will miss him more than simple words can express.

Go with God, brother.

"The world is a sadder place...but legends endure."
Nick Alexakos
International Practical Shooting Confederation


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