Last week I became aware of a YouTube video of a fellow shooting himself in the leg after making ready during a match. He starts the video off by proclaiming that it wasn't his fault - it was his gun which malfunctioned and was in the hands of the maker's service department for analysis of the "failure".
I knew, ten seconds into the video, that it wasn't the gun. I knew, just due to the fellow's demeanor, that he'd had his finger on the trigger as he holstered the gun. No, I couldn't see the gun or his trigger finger; I came to the conclusion just from his emphatic denial of culpability.
It wasn't long before someone dug up other videos of this guy at other matches, videos which clearly show his finger on or near the trigger when reloading, moving, and even picking the gun up. The simplest explanation - that his finger was on the trigger when he put the gun in the holster - is, as it almost always is, the most likely explanation, particularly when the fellow in question has a habit of doing so.
Unfortunately the fellow in question apparently doesn't want to believe that, hence his insistence that it wasn't his fault. In a sense, it isn't. Not the accident itself, you understand, but his unwillingness to own up to it. We, as a community, have created a culture which doesn't use accidents as learning opportunities, but rather as chances for shaming.
Todd Greene over at pistol-training.com has an excellent article on the incident and this subject. He points out that the way we handle safety in the shooting world is so irrational that it leads to an atmosphere in which we never question what or why we do certain things. He uses the contrasting example of airplane accidents, where investigations are done so that other pilots can learn from the misfortunes of others. This leads to better pilots (and, in some cases, better aircraft.)
We don't have that in the shooting world. In fact, it's just the opposite.
Many years ago I started considering the need to reconsider our safety rules, particularly because the set of four most commonly used contains both logical and linguistic errors - particularly in the first rule, “treat all guns as if they were loaded” (and all variations of that.) My best friend (and ace instructor) Georges Rahbani and I wrestled with the subject for quite a while before we decided that there needed to be three truly useful, internally consistent and understandable rules instead of four disjointed ones. I’ve been writing about those rules, and the changes in them, ever since.
We weren’t the only ones who saw the problem and the opportunity; I was surprised and delighted to find, for instance, that our criticisms and practices were paralleled by people like Rob Pincus. Other progressive folks came up with their own ideas and approaches, all aimed at the same end: get people to be safer with firearms. The three rules I use today have evolved and incorporate elements from many others, but the goal remains: safety rules should be clear, unambiguous, universal, and self-reinforcing - and always open to change and modification as the need arises.
The reaction of large segments of the shooting industry to this view has been less than enthusiastic. You'd think, from some of the knee-jerk reactions, that we'd collectively blasphemed Holy Writ! I've personally been demeaned by other writers and bloggers because I've dared to question the orthodoxy. In fact, one blogger has gone to great lengths to concoct a convoluted and complicated restatement of what I call Traditional Rule One simply because I pointed out its flaws. This, rather than simply admitting it is useless at best (and counter-productive at worst) and getting rid of it altogether.
As Todd correctly points out, it's this complete unwillingness inside the industry to examine our beliefs and practices - and our simultaneous propensity for deification of certain members of the shooting fraternity - that results in our never being able to learn from the mistakes of others. I've said this before, and Todd's article compels me to repeat: if all we do is bleat "Rule One! Rule One!" every time an accident occurs, or argue incessantly about whether it should be called an accidental or a negligent discharge, we'll never make any progress.
Everything we do, including how we approach gun safety, should be subject to evolution. Actively resisting that process does nothing to help the rest of the fraternity and should not be accepted as the norm.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Ian over at Forgotten Weapons has done it again: come up with a gun I didn't know existed. In this case, it's a revolver I'd never heard of.
He recently posted a picture of the three commonly known automatic revolvers - that is, revolvers that rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer after every shot, as opposed to having the shooter's trigger finger do that work. Most people have heard of the Mateba Unica, or the Webley-Fosberry, but far fewer know about the uber-rare Union automatic revolver (the picture is the first time I've actually seen a Union.)
Turns out the Spanish firm of Zulaica y Cia made one as well, and of course he managed to track down a picture. (Surprise - it’s even a decent-looking piece!) But that’s not the end of the autorevolver story, Ian says; it seems there might be a Belgian self-cocker, and he's investigating.
If you don't read Forgotten Weapons regularly, you're missing out on the best historical information in the world of firearms.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I'll admit to occasionally being surprised, but when I saw a headline over at Forgotten Weapons about a Savage revolver, I scratched my head just a little. I couldn't recall any revolver made by Savage; autoloaders yes, and of course rifles, but a revolver?
Turns out that the Savage Model 101 isn't really a revolver at all; it just looks like one. The ‘cylinder’ is fixed to the barrel, and the entire assembly pivots out from the frame to access the single chamber for loading and unloading. In this regard it’s very similar to the Colt Camp Perry Model, with the exception of the ‘cylinder’ - on the Colt, they removed the unused material and made the ‘cylinder’ the same width as the frame. (They did, however, flute the thing so that, from a distance and directly from the side, it could be a little difficult to tell the difference.)
Have a look at the video Ian made of his time with the Model 101. I'm not sure just why, but I want one!
-=[ Grant ]=-
As I mentioned in my SHOT Show 2013 recap, I ran into Ian from Forgotten Weapons at the show. We only talked for a very brief time, but he mentioned that he was putting up a "revolver" video just for me - and then laughed.
No wonder! The video in question is him firing one of the Colt 1877 Bulldog Gatling Gun reproductions (which I covered in my SHOT Show 2012 report last year!) Neat video, neat gun, and I wish I could afford one.
He followed that up a few days later with a great article on Gatling Gun feeding systems. I'm amazed at the number of different ways the Gatling could be fed, a testimony to its adaptability and design.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Some things that have crossed my path over the last few days:
- My publisher, Gun Digest, is having a Twelve Days Of Christmas Giveaway - a different prize every day! They're giving away a lot of neat stuff this week; on Friday is a drawing for a Gerstner pistol case! If you haven't seen one, they are gorgeous. Gerstner, of course, is the old-line wood tool chest manufacturer renowned for their quality. They're still in business, still making great stuff, including the aforementioned case. I'm not eligible to win, sadly, but you certainly are - go enter! Here's the link the the Giveaway.
- James Yeager is a fairly well-known instructor who's also something of a bomb-thrower. He's been all over the net lately challenging people who call him 'coward' to do so to his face - and has issued threats about what would happen if someone did. Now I know people who've known him for a lot of years, and they insist he's really a nice guy and that this is just a publicity stunt for his school. Perhaps, but he's doing a great deal of harm to the image of gun owners and shooting instructors in a time when we really can't afford that kind of nonsense. Please go read PDB's assessment, whose opinion in this case mirrors my own.
- I recently found this piece by Terrell Prude Jr. Mr. Prude** is a self-professed liberal who is also a Second Amendment supporter and a member of the NRA. If you've been following the blog, Facebook, or any of the podcasts I've been on lately you know that this is a hot issue with me. I don't believe that someone needs to be of a certain political persuasion in order to be a gun rights advocate, and I certainly don't believe that just because someone voted for President Obama immediately means that he or she is my sworn enemy. Please read Mr. Prude's essay for the other side of gun ownership, one that we're far too eager to dismiss. Take the time to read it, especially if you’re not a ‘liberal’.
-=[ Grant ]=-
( ** - In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that many years ago I did business - and a bit of socializing - with Mr. Prude's father, who he mentions in his essay. One might suggest that this would predispose me to agreeing with him, but given my public stance I think it's clear that I'd agree with him even if I didn't know his Dad.)
No matter who wins the election tomorrow there will be large numbers of people who will feel disenfranchised. Twitter has been abuzz with users claiming to be ready to riot if the President does not win re-election, and even if he does the "Lakers Effect" (so named because of the propensity of Los Angeles Lakers fans to riot when they win) may come into play with nearly the same results.
As I noted last week, the slowly improving mess in the northeast will not help matters, and in fact may prove to be the flashpoint for anything that does happen. I still believe that the potential for the spread of violence to other urban centers around the country remains very high.
Because of this I think it's prudent for those who live in urban areas, or who may find themselves in an urban area over the next few days, to think a bit about how to deal with mob violence. Given the increasing probabilities I feel it’s something that you should spend a little time getting to understand.
It must be said that I've never been in a riot. I've seen them on television, certainly, but they've not been something that this good ol' country boy has had to contemplate. Luckily for us, Greg Ellifritz has been in a riot. More than one, actually, and he has some great tips for staying safe.
Go read Greg's article right now - you might thank me come Wednesday!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Richard Rohlin writes a neat blog called The Gentleman Adventurer. (Great name; I feel all tweedy just reading his masthead!)
A week or so ago he put up a post titled "Excelsior: A training manifesto". Aside from the fact that I'm mentioned in the post (thanks Richard!), it's a good article about his personal evolution in defensive shooting.
(For those of you who have not yet Googled "excelsior", he explains the word and why he's chosen it for his manifesto.)
It's a superb article, and I highly encourage you to go read it right now.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I was going to share this with you last week, but then the whole RECOIL mess came up and pre-empted my planned programming!
Over at the Vuurwapen blog is the entry "Why I Don't Care If Military Or Police Use Certain Items", and it's all about the silliness of picking a gun (or anything else for that matter) because a particular police or military group uses it. It's a good read.
There are a bunch of logic failures associated with that kind of aspirational marketing or consumption, but unfortunately people fall for them constantly:
- Let's say you've got one police agency using a specific gun (like, oh, the Kimber) and you make your decision based on that. What if another agency that picks, say, the HK P7? They can't both be "best", so how do you make your choice with such contradictory endorsements? What usually happens is that people actually end up arguing about which agency is the best/toughest/most respected, as if that somehow validates their choice - and therefore yours.
- Use of a specific product by any group isn't proof that it is superior to any other choice under all conditions. In fact, it isn't even proof that it's a superior choice for any specific conditions! The testing and procurement process is byzantine in complexity and subject to many kinds of coercion and meddling, from kickbacks by vendors to top brass intervening in the process to influence the selection of their personal favorites. That a product manages to survive that process isn't proof of any intrinsic superiority. Our cops and our troops often end up with inferior gear and supplies, but for some reason the private sector looks upon the failures as having the same stamp of quality as the successes. (CLP, anyone?)
- The presence of an NSN doesn't even mean the product is even being used by the people who are presumably using it. Lots of products that have an NSN aren't actually wanted or needed by the people on the front lines, but they're invariably sold to you as being "the choice of our brave men and women!" Look at the marketing of gun cleaning and lubrication products; when any product claims to be in use with Navy Seals, complete with the NSN, it's probably bunk. And even if it were true, that still doesn't mean it's the best choice for THEM, let alone you!
- Finally, remember that the procurement process (when it works) is designed to get a product that is minimally acceptable for its purpose at the lowest cost to the agency. It's useful to remember what the late, great Alan Shephard once said: "It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract." Not very reassuring, is it?
You need to make your purchasing decisions based on an honest assessment of your needs and the product's suitability for your purpose, not internet loudmouths going by names like Geck045 who drone on about how their gun "must" be the best because "LAPD don't buy junk!"
Yes, they do. Very often.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Over the weekend a major firestorm erupted over RECOIL magazine's review of the HK MP7A1. In the article, the editor of the magazine - one Jerry Tsai - penned this:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands.”
Sounds just like something from Sarah Brady herself, doesn't it? Of course it does, and it caused more than a few Second Amendment stalwarts to go nuclear, like in this open letter to RECOIL from Rob Pincus (who first alerted me to the debacle whan I was on the range teaching a Combat Focus Shooting course - ah, the power of the iPhone!):
“DEAR RECOIL MAGAZINE,In reference to: “Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of…”
To say I disagree with your thoughts on the MP7 would be a gross understatement.
In fact, the ignorance of that statement is amazing to me. In case you didn’t notice, the only reason Glocks, M&Ps, and probably most of the guns that are paying for advertising space in your rag are built is to put down bad guys.
People may find “sporting purposes” for them… but gun games aren’t why they exist. If Wired or Maxim had said what you did, I wouldn’t care. You should’ve known better.
The vast majority of firearms that have been designed and built in the history of the tool have been built for defensive or offensive use. Regardless of the intended role, military, law enforcement or civilian, the overwhelming majority of firearms on shelves in gun shops and shown in the pages of your now incredibly disappointing magazine are designed for use by people against people. While the “shooting sports” label may be a banner that has hung over our industry for political and (sometimes) marketing reasons, your young magazine hasn’t exactly catered to the waterfowl or skeet crowds.
Personally, the MP7 is one of the few guns on the planet that I would rush out and pay H&K Retail Price for, if it were ever offered for civilian sale. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting them many times and training teams that use them. It is a great tool, but didn’t possess any magical power that made it reckless, dangerous or inappropriate for any responsible firearms owner to possess…. for whatever reason they desire.
I had high hopes for your publication. Now I expect people to stop reading it, advertisers to fade away and your writers to submit their work to other publications that actually understand the industry they are covering.
-I.C.E. Training Company”
For his part, Jerry - sensing an imminent backlash from readers and advertisers alike - came back with what he perceived to be damage control on RECOIL's Facebook page:
Hey guys, this is Jerry Tsai, Editor of RECOIL. I think I need to jump in here and clarify what I wrote in the MP7A1 article. It looks like I may not have stated my point clearly enough in that line that is quoted up above. Let’s be clear, neither RECOIL nor I are taking the stance on what should or should not be made available on the commercial market although I can see how what was written can be confused as such.
Because we don’t want anything to be taken out of context, let’s complete that quote and read the entire paragraph:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands. It comes with semi-automatic and full-auto firing modes only. Its overall size places it between a handgun and submachine gun. Its assault rifle capabilities and small size make this a serious weapon that should not be taken lightly.”
Let’ also review why this gun should not be taken lightly. In the article it was stated that the MP7A1 is a slightly larger than handgun sized machine-gun that can be accurately fired and penetrate Soviet style body armor at more than 300 yards. In the wrong hands, that’s a bad day for the good guys.
As readers of RECOIL, we all agree that we love bad-ass hardware, there’s no question about that. I believe that in a perfect world, all of us should have access to every kind of gadget that we desire. Believe me, being a civvie myself, I’d love to be able to get my hands on an MP7A1 of my own regardless of its stated purpose, but unfortunately the reality is that it isn’t available to us. As a fellow enthusiast, I know how frustrating it is to want something only to be denied it.
Its manufacturer has not made the gun available to the general public and when we asked if it would ever come to the commercial market, they replied that it is strictly a military and law enforcement weapon, adding that there are no sporting applications for it. Is it wrong that HK decided against selling a full-auto pocket sized machine gun that can penetrate armor from hundreds of yards away? It’s their decision to make and their decision they have to live with not mine nor anybody else’s.
I accepted their answer for what it was out of respect for those serving in uniform. I believe that we as gun enthusiasts should respect our brothers in law enforcement, agency work and the military and also keep them out of harms way. Like HK, I wouldn’t want to see one of these slip into the wrong hands either. Whether or not you agree with this is fine. I am compelled to explain a point that I was trying to make that may have not been clear.
Thanks for reading,
– JT, Editor, RECOIL
Naturally, this looks-like-an-apology-but-really-isn't-when-you-actually-read-it-and-won't-someone-PLEASE-think-of-our-brave-boys-in-blue did nothing but stoke the fires, causing several prominent shooting industry partners, including Silencerco, ITS Tactical, and Panteo Productions, to publicly cancel all their ads in the magazine.
Tsai, now realizing that the survival of his emerging empire is in serious jeopardy (“Zumboed”, I believe, is the operative term) penned another apology on the RECOIL Facebook page that says he Really, Really Means It This Time:
I’d like to address the comments regarding what I wrote in the MP7A1 article in RECOIL issue 4. First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any offense that I have caused with the article. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand the outrage, and I am greatly saddened that it was initiated by my words. Especially since, I am an unwavering supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights. I’ve chosen to spend a significant part of both my personnel and professional life immersed in this enthusiasm, so to have my support of individuals’ rights called into doubt is extremely unfortunate. With that said, I retract what I wrote in the offending paragraph within this article. It should have had been presented with more clarity.
In the article, I stated some information that was passed on to me about why the gun is not available for civilian purchase. By no means did I intend to imply that civilians are not responsible, nor do we lack the judgment to own such weapons, if I believed anything approaching this, clearly I would lead a much different life. I also mentioned in the article that the gun had no sporting purpose. This again, was information passed on to me and reported in the article without the necessary additional context. I believe everything published in RECOIL up to this point (other than this story), demonstrates we clearly understand and completely agree that guns do not need to have a sporting purpose in order for them to be rightfully available to civilians. In retrospect, I should have presented this information in a clearer manner. Although I can understand the manufacturer’s stance on the subject, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.
Again, I acknowledge the mistakes I made and for them I am truly sorry.
Basically, it's an "I'm not a bad guy, just horribly incompetent and lack basic reading comprehension skills" sort of passing-the-buck
Many people, including yours truly, might have bought it - except for this a little bit of information a reader over at The Truth About Guns uncovered: RECOIL is owned by Source Interlink, an investment firm bankrolled by one Ron Burkle. Burkle is described in an article at Mondotimes.com as "...a prominent Democratic party activist and fundraiser. He is a close friend of former President Bill Clinton, and investments in Yucaipa made by Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton have generated millions of dollars in income for them. “
Now it must be pointed out that I'm not a supporter of either political party; I despise all politicians equally. And, as I've reminded some of my more myopically partisan acquaintances, the "R" in "NRA" does not stand for "Republican." Still, one has to wonder about those ties.
My only knowledge of RECOIL comes from poking around on their website; the editorial direction is much too young and "extreme" for my tastes. However, I think it's important for the shooting community to have fresh outlets like this magazine to which the under-40 generations can relate. What appeals to me, as well as those before me and those just after me, is very different than what appeals to the 25-to-35 demographic. We don't need to push them away with the fuddy-duddies in Guns & Ammo or Shooting Times; they need THEIR magazines, with writers who talk to them in terms they're used to hearing. RECOIL was very obviously aimed at doing just that, and I think it's great - even if I'd never choose to read it myself. (I've got to admire their graphic sense, however!)
But at only four issues into its life, and given the nature of its ownership, I have to wonder: does the magazine really exist to get a certain demographic to think of guns not as something to aspire to owning, but rather to admire from afar in movies and videogames? Has anyone read all of their issues with a keen eye, looking for that kind of subtle editorial manipulation?
Perhaps Tsai's mistake wasn't what the magazine wrote, but rather a lack of subtlety in writing it. Discussion in the comments is encouraged, particularly because I've admitted to having never paid attention to the magazine until now. If you've read RECOIL, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
-=[ Grant ]=-
In a heartbeat.
Ian over at Forgotten Weapons came up with another interesting gun, and this one is so freaking cool that I'm seriously entertaining the idea of reverse-engineering the thing.
The gun is the Hotchkiss Universal, and if you think the crappy Kel-Tec folding carbine is neat just wait until you see this!
Be sure to watch to the end when he deploys the thing at speed. ME WANT!!
-=[ Grant ]=-
The Truth About Guns alerted me last week to the new Taurus ad campaign. It’s the gun industry version of the sappy and vaguely patriotic campaign commercial, complete with an insipid soundtrack and earnest voice-over by the candidate. Well produced, but it’s going to take more than glitzy PR nonsense for me to take Taurus seriously as a defensive handgun maker.
Instead of telling us how they’re going to be great, I’d be more impressed if they just went out and did it. As much as I admire Jessie Duff, her presence doesn’t tell me anything about whether the guns actually work. I am, however, keeping an open mind. With me, it's all about the quality: if their guns get better, I'll recommend them. If not, I'll continue to tell people to stay away from them for any serious use.
In his blog over at American Rifleman, Wiley Clapp gives a nice review of my Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver. I'm very pleased that it continues to garner great reviews, and to have someone of Mr. Clapp's reputation appreciate my modest contribution to the shooting world is immensely gratifying.
-=[ Grant ]=-
The other day over at Forgotten Weapons, Ian wondered why there isn't more garage gun-building going on. Not in terms of putting together Franken AR-15s from parts kits - that's not "building", it's merely assembling - but actually constructing guns from scratch, inventing new ways of approaching the mechanics of firearms function. It's legal for an individual to do (you should research the laws yourself, but it boils down to not building an NFA weapon and not selling what you make), but very few people actually do it.
I really liked that article, and I was stunned to realize that I'd not thought about it before. He's right: this country has a proud history of the lone inventor working in his or her garage, and guns certainly are a part of that history. (To the men that Ian mentions I'll add that Karl Lewis, one of the country's most prolific and yet little-known gun inventors, came up with the idea and early prototypes of what would become the Dan Wesson revolver in his garage.) There are lots of amateur gunsmiths and hobbyists out there with pretty impressive machine shops tucked away in garages and basements, and yet we're not seeing new designs or concepts emerging.
Firearms aren't like automobiles, in the sense that they've become so sophisticated that a single person couldn't possibly design one. Guns, even the most complicated variety, are still relatively simple mechanisms. An individual - heck, even a pair of individuals - would have no problem engineering a new design. Putting one into mass production entails far more people (metallurgists and polymer engineers, just for starters) but prototyping can still be done without hordes of people.
Although he mentions CNC equipment, even that's not needed if you're doing prototypes. The price of manual mills and lathes has dropped like a rock in recent years, to the point that they're actually worth nearly as much in scrap value as they are as working machines. Even a modestly-heeled enthusiast could easily acquire all the equipment needed to craft an idea in metal.
Me? I'm not nearly creative enough. I probably possess the machining skills, but I'm not good at coming up with original ideas. (All of mine look suspiciously like Colt Pythons. Go figure.) Somewhere out there, however, there are no doubt people who can - but for some reason don't. Like Ian, I wonder where they are and what they're doing instead.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Over at the Schneier On Security blog, Bruce Schneier talks about the concept of risk in relation to the Aurora movie theater attack. I found his analysis interesting, inasmuch as gunnies everywhere are talking about how they'd respond - and how they're changing their response preparation - to such an event.
Some of the blogs, Facebook posts, and some forum discussions I've seen in the wake of the Aurora shooting are almost comical. There are people who suggest that concealed handgun carriers change their ammunition, their carry gun, and their training regimen to reflect the possibility of facing a crazed gunman in a movie theater through thick smoke. Some are suggesting carrying extra backup guns to arm other movie-goers, some are recommending spending more time on long-range handgun shots, and some are considering trading in their "low capacity" guns for something that will carry 15 or more rounds - all based on an event which is extremely rare, even considering its conditional probability.
Remember that none of us has the unlimited time, energy, or money to train for everything that could possibly happen; we have to make choices to most effectively apportion those resources, and not understanding the nature of risk can lead us to making inappropriate choices. The Aurora shootings may have slightly expanded the range of possible risks we might encounter, but it really hasn't changed the likely (probable) risks of everyday life.
Read Bruce's article, and remember that your chances of being mugged or car-jacked in the theater parking lot are still far greater than facing a lone shooter with smoke grenades bent on wholesale destruction. Prepare by spending your limited resources accordingly.
-=[ Grant ]=-
P.S.: I'm waiting for the first training facility to buy a smoke machine and include 75-yard shots in low light conditions as part of their "vital skills" curriculum. It will happen.
I recently learned of a blogger and wanna-be instructor, a member of the disturbingly superficial "I'm cute and have a gun - read my blog!" trend, who wanted to have her picture taken with a well-known trainer who was visiting the area. Note that she didn't want to take the excellent class that he was teaching, she just wanted a picture to post on her blog to make people think that she had a connection with a Famous Gun Instructor!
At least she was honest about her intent; not everyone is.
Somewhere in the last week I was directed to an article titled "Races, Journeys, and Certifications”, written by one Jacob Steinman. While intended for a martial arts audience, it's very applicable to those of us interested in defensive shooting: it talks about people who take classes for reasons other than learning.
I've seen this in action, instances where people attended a defensive shooting class (either as an end user or as an instructor candidate) only to get the paper, not to actually increase their knowledge or to develop new skills. It's diploma chasing: acquiring yet another geegaw to hang on the wall, another piece of external validation that serves to impress the impressionable, without actually absorbing the material. (As it happens, some of the worst teachers I’ve known have had the most impressive diploma walls!)
The ultimate manifestation of this would be the ditzy blogger referenced above: not even pretending to go through the motions but getting the benefit anyhow. Is she really any different than the person who acquires the certificate without having bothered to actually learn anything? Only in degree, I would argue. The result is the same.
The "money quote" from Jacob: "The certification process should not be an end point; it should not be something you do so that you can say it's done. It should be a marker--a waypost along the journey."
Read the whole thing. It's pretty good.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Perhaps it's my background in watchmaking, but I've found myself gravitating to Swiss products over the years. The vast majority of my precision measuring tools are Swiss, as are many of my screwdrivers and assorted precision hand tools. Their products are not frilly, but purposeful and built to an incredibly high standard. Though my Austrian Emco-Maier lathe is a perfectly serviceable machine, I still lust for a Swiss Schaublin 120-VM (or, dare I say, an SV-130 Mk. III ?)
Given my fetish for fine machinery, you can imagine my delight that Forgotten Weapons is doing "Swiss Week" - a multi-part look at Switzerland's lesser-known entries into shooting history.
Take, for example, the LMG25. This magazine-fed medium machine gun is chambered in 7.5x55 Swiss, the same cartridge used by the (relatively) common Swiss Karabiner Model 1931 (K31). Like the K31, the machining of the LMG25 is exquisite - which is readily apparent from the photos. I can't stop staring at it.
Ian even did a tear-down video. Even the magazine port cover is precisely made and nicely blued. Listen to the action sound as he cycles the bolt - smoooooooth.
Now I want a Schaublin even more. Damn you, Ian!
-=[ Grant ]=-
You can read a nice review of my book, the Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver, over at the Sigspace blog. (And no, the name isn't what you think it is.)
Ian at Forgotten Weapons (one of the coolest gun blogs going) has started a new blog: GunLab. In his words, it's about "firearms design, engineering, and fabrication." He's decided that his ultimate goal is to build reproductions of some odd and rare guns, and to that end he's started taking classes to become a machinist. GunLab will chronicle his journey, and along the way look at how guns are invented and produced. If it's half as good as Forgotten Weapons, it's going to be terrific.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I'm not creative enough to be a criminal. Whenever I study their behavior, the ways that they invent to bilk or attack the innocent, I'm often impressed with their originality - and occasionally just a tad frightened that I didn't anticipate the tactic.
This is one of those instances. On Greg Ellifritz's blog this week he has a primer on the ways that criminals can use shopping bags to conceal weapons, and the ways to spot them. It's definitely worth your time to read.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Forgotten Weapons is rapidly becoming my favorite firearm blog, simply because they cover neat stuff - usually, stuff that I've never before encountered. Take the Treeby Chain Gun, for instance. How else would you increase the firepower of a rifle during the era of muzzleloaders?
What struck me about this design (other than how close they got to the centerfire self-contained metallic cartridge) is the resemblance to a belt-fed machine gun. The chain is nothing more than a connected belt of linked muzzleloading cartridges, and they could have easily designed it to use a longer chain length - or even a split chain, giving them in effect a belt fed muzzleloader.
If the Henry was the rifle "they load on Sunday and shoot all week", Imagine the reaction to a 100-shot repeater!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I got two very nice compliments on my book (the Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver, in case you're just tuning in) this week.
The first was from a lady who chose a revolver for her own personal defense needs, and was pleasantly surprised to find that my book helped her learn how to handle her gun when her auto-shooting CHL instructors fell short. She said some very kind things in her email, and I'm glad that the book was available to help her in her quest for self-reliance. Knowing that I've been able to help someone from afar is a great motivator!
The second came in a book review from Greg Ellifritz, over at his Active Response Training blog. Greg's been writing for a while now - though his entry into the blogosphere is relatively recent - and is one of the few people who isn't afraid to buck conventional wisdom. His "Alternate Look At Handgun Stopping Power" made waves when he released it last year, as it dared to attempt to quantify something that a lot of us have suspected all along: there isn't a whole lot of difference in effectiveness between the major handgun calibers. His conclusion? There isn't, and he's got the evidence to prove it.
In short, he's my kind of guy. His review was quite complimentary, and I'm gratified that someone of his experience and standing in the industry appreciated what I had to say.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Not sure how I found this civil war blog (Uncle? Tam? Someone else?), but it has a great article on Moore’s Patent Revolver - the first revolver with a swing-out cylinder (though not quite of the kind we're used to.)
It's also interesting in that it was one of the many guns which violated Rollin White's bored-through cylinder patent. History buffs may recall that White was a Colt employee who first presented his idea to allow a revolver cylinder to chamber metallic cartridges to his boss, Colonel Colt. Colt rejected it out of hand. White knew he was onto something, and left Colt to market his patent.
Messieurs Smith and Wesson, enterprising and astute gentlemen that they were, knew a good thing when they saw it and licensed White's patent. This agreement was really the foundation of their new handgun company, and they used it to produce their first revolver - the Model 1. That patent made Smith and Wesson rich, allowed them to grow like crazy relative to Colt, and should have made White rich too. It would have, if he'd bothered to consider the fine print.
You see, the licensing agreement required White to pursue all litigation against infringers himself. Moore, like many others, used White's patent without license - and White was obligated to go after his revolver and his company. White would sue, win, and then Smith & Wesson would somehow end up acquiring the infringing guns - which they would sell themselves. (I've never read the licensing agreement, so I can't be sure exactly how that transpired, but Moore's case isn't the only example.)
Ironically, Moore's company survived and was purchased by White's old employer, Colt, in 1870. More ironically, while Moore survived White's fortune didn't; his defense of his patent cost him nearly everything he made in royalties.
I'm thinking of a writing a firearms industry soap opera: "As The Cylinder Turns."
-=[ Grant ]=-
- Not sure where I got this, but it's pretty interesting: a three-barrel revolver. What will people think of next?!? (<--that’s humor, people.)
- Seems that Kim Rhode, ace Olympic shotgunner and ambassador for the shooting sports, has a blog. Hope she finds time to post more often. (Who knew she was a fan of bacon-wrapped meatloaf?)
- Speaking of Kim: I'm still a little miffed that they removed her original event - women's double trap - from the Olympics, but left the men's division. Why? No one knows for sure, but likely because some of them uppity females were beatin' the menfolk. There are lots of countries represented on the Olympic Committee, not all of them known for their enlightened attitudes regarding a woman’s place in society.
- An article in The Economist (a magazine which often displays a raw anti-American bias, yet is revered by Americans who somehow consider themselves unbiased for having read it) talks about gun ownership in the U.S. It states that while gun sales are way up, the number of households owning guns has declined steadily since 1973 - the implication that guns are being purchased only by those evil "gun nuts." Their position doesn't square with my observations, and I've yet to find any corroboration for it. Can anyone comment authoritatively on their claim?
-=[ Grant ]=-
Yesterday The Truth About Guns published a piece about the new Taurus CEO, Mark Kresser. I found his avowed commitment to change at the company interesting, especially since reports are that he replaced quite a number of the "old guard" folks when he took up his new position. To quote a line from my favorite movie, "that could be either good, or bad."
Good if it brings new thinking and new dedication, bad if it scuttles existing industry relationships. From what I hear, there's been some of the latter - and aside from their formation of a new shooting team with Jessie Harrison, we've yet to see much of the former.
The TTAG piece is something of a coincidence because just a couple of days ago I was looking at the traffic reports for this site, including the search terms which bring people here. A HUGE percentage of the people who come here from Google do so because of a search about Taurus guns. My piece "Why I don't work on Taurus revolvers" has become the single most-read page on this site.
In fact, if you Google "Taurus gun reviews", this site is #6 in the result. Same for "Taurus revolvers". "Are Taurus revolvers any good" has me in the #2 spot, and "Taurus revolver reviews" puts me in first place!
This shocked me, because when I wrote that piece I wasn't thinking about search rankings - just addressing the very real issues of Taurus quality and why it's not worth my client's money for me to work on the things. The comments on that blog entry are a mix of "I think they're great and you're an idiot" to "you're right and I'll never spend another dime on one of their products."
We don't really know what Google's algorithms for search results are, but one speculation is that they adjust over time to reflect (among a whole host of other things) those sites that are the most often visited for any given search term. If that's true, Taurus definitely has an image problem in the marketplace - an image problem that isn't wholly undeserved.
It should be clear, based on my comments over a long period of time, that I have something of a love-hate relationship with Taurus. I like some of the unique things they do (except the freaking Judge line, of course), but I'm continually let down by their random quality control and indifferent engineering. Their revolvers are probably the best thing they make - I've heard very little other than horror stories about their autoloaders - but even those need serious attention if they're going to be considered in the same league with Ruger and Smith & Wesson.
I hope Kresser can make headway at Taurus, as I'd like to someday be able to brag about having one in my holster.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Over the last month or so I've started following a new blog devoted to security.
Though his focus is on information security and the technology behind it, Bruce Schneier also has some very interesting thoughts on security in general. His perspective is pretty intriguing, and so his Schneier on Security blog has been added to my daily RSS feed.
Not many blogs make that grade, but his is good enough that I look forward to reading it regularly.
A recent entry deals with the idea of bomb threats as a denial-of-service tactic. This hits home, as a local college faced just this scenario a few weeks ago.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Forgotten Weapons recently featured some pictures of an extremely rare Japanese autoloading pistol: the Hino-Komuro from 1908. It's intriguing because of its blow-forward design (the only other examples of which I know are the Mannlicher of 1894 and the Schwarzlose of 1908), but not a lot is known about it. There were only 1200 made, and only a handful survive.
Until this post, I'd never seen a picture of one - only line drawings in Pistols Of The World (Hogg/Weeks.) When I saw the image I was intrigued not just with the rarity, but with the obvious quality of the gun's manufacture (and the incredibly good condition!) Head over to FW and look at the great pictures.
Note how the grip screws fit precisely into their ferrules; how the wood of the grips mates with the contours of the metal, and the precision of the checkering pattern. The bluing is very nice, and see how the grip safety fits into the frame. There was a lot of care and talent that went into making this pistol.
It's easy to look at late-war examples of Arisaka rifles, with their poor machining and fitting, and forget that the Japanese were quite capable arms makers when they had the resources. This is a beautiful example of what they could do.
-=[ Grant ]=-
From a new-to-me blogger comes the story that a woman in South Carolina was 'accidentally' shot by an off-duty sheriff's deputy during a class to get her concealed weapons permit. The deputy was the instructor.
What's interesting to me are the blogger's comments: Jeff Cooper's rules, he says, "are not flexible". Oh, really? I'll refer you back to my original article on the detestable Rule #1 for clarification. I think they’re tremendously flexible, which is precisely the problem.
There are three issues with his conclusions: 1) Labeling rules with meaningless numbers (rules need to be in words for people to be able to understand and follow them); 2) deifying those rules by reverently invoking the name of the person who wrote them (‘appeal to authority’, a logical fallacy), thus preventing criticism; and 3) doggedly hanging onto the first rule which does nothing - repeat, NOTHING - to make anyone safer and in fact leads to exactly the accident covered in his story. That's because, as I keep saying, people feel free to do stupid things with guns that they THINK are unloaded.
Safety rules that actually work:
- Always keep the muzzle pointed in a generally safe direction ("generally safe" means that should the gun unintentionally fire, it will not hurt or kill you or any other human being.)
- Always keep your fingers outside the trigger guard until you are actually ready to fire.
- Always remember that you are in control of a weapon, and if used negligently it may injure or kill you or someone else.
No equivocation, no ambiguity, and if all anyone remembers is the first one they (and everyone around them) will still be safe. The same can never be said for Traditional Rule #1.
Respect the man, challenge the material.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Over at Sharp As A Marble comes the revelation that gun safety was front-and-center on a primetime broadcast show. I'm glad to see shooting becoming more mainstream, or more precisely returning to the mainstream status it enjoyed when I was a kid.
Funniest thing I've read this morning, from Tam on the subject of Whitney: "I'm also waiting for the first spotting of a Velvet Elvis portrait of MJ and Whitney side-by-side, busting beatific poses, à la a Byzantine icon, perhaps with Dale Earnhardt and Lady Di at their shoulders and the mighty host of Celeb Heaven gathered behind them..."
Soon to be seen at all the better streetcorner vendors, no doubt.
Recently a county right here in Oregon produced a quality video that aims to reduce misconceptions about officer-involved shootings. Titled “Hollywood vs. Reality”, it counters many of the common misconceptions about shootings in the line of duty. When you remember that some of those misconceptions often persist in private sector self defense, the value of a myth-busting video like this one should be clear. Definitely worth watching!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Over the weekend I came up with a topic for today's blog. Unfortunately I didn't write it down at the time, and have now forgotten what it was! Trust me on this - it was great.
I did want to comment on this, however: a couple of weeks ago, The Firearm Blog did a review of a Taurus .454 Casull model that sports a ported 2" barrel. They've got video of the gun being shot, which leads me to wonder why they didn't try a rapid fire sequence? Heck, I tried it with a very similar gun - a Ruger Alaskan in .454 - and I lived to tell the tale. My elbows hurt for a month afterward, but I did it! (No, I'm not doing it again. I may have a crazy streak, but I'm not stupid.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
Then, perhaps instead of using GunsAmerica, resolve instead to use one of the quality gun auction sites like GunBroker (my personal favorite) and AuctionArms.
But hey, I’m just a nobody. What do I know?
-=[ Grant ]=-
P.S.: Here’s the link to the original article. You have to read the comments, as Mr. Helinski puts his foot in his mouth more than once. My favorite quote: “You’ve never heard of us, and we are the industry leader in internet readership, after 15 years of hard work and dedication. Why should I have to wait for you to finish taking a video with your phone at range day?” - Paul Helinski, GunsAmerica
Kelly Muir at the Instructor Revolution blog put up an interesting post the other day. She was at a shooting class* and saw someone she knew, a martial arts instructor of some renown. She was impressed with the fact that this fellow enrolled in a class where he was a real student, amongst students (and probably an instructor) who didn't know who he was or what he did.
The reason she was impressed goes well beyond the "always a student" phrase so many instructors use (and mostly don't really mean.) It's one thing to be a shooting instructor and go to another shooting class; it's a very different thing for a shooting instructor to go to an archery class, or a Tai Chi class, or perhaps a calligraphy class as an absolute beginner.
It's not so much what is learned, though that may be beneficial, but rather the attitude that is developed. It keeps us honest; it keeps us from believing our own bovine excrement.
Kelly puts it beautifully:
The idea that we as instructors need to place ourselves at risk for looking silly, making a mistake or simply not knowing, is a critical component to our own effectiveness.
I've more than once watched in horror as a shooting instructor, being asked a question to which he/she simply did not know the answer, made up something stupid on the fly to quell the inquisitive student. That's the kind of hubris that develops if one is not open to admitting that one is not infallible. It’s bad for the teacher, it’s bad for the student, and it’s bad for the rest of us who are tasked with cleaning up the resulting mess.
Unbridled conceit is an inhibitor of growth, either as a teacher or simply as a human being. Putting ourselves into a position where we actually are a student, learning something about which we don't really know anything, is a great antidote for that conceit.
Go read the whole thing. It's worth your time.
-=[ Grant ]=-
* The class was the first ever interactive simulcast shooting class which I talked about a few weeks back.
Gavin Gear, who runs the terrific Ultimate Reloader website, sent me an email recently about his new venture: Northwest Gun Magazine.
It's an online magazine especially for shooters and gun enthusiasts in the Northwest part of the country. (For those east of the Rockies, that generally means Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Montana.) Of course interest in firearms knows no state boundaries, and people from all over the country will probably find something they like. People in the Northwest, however, will find shooting topics specific to our area a prominent feature of nwgun.com.
Gavin's planning on showcasing news, product information, and resources related to all kinds of shooting in the Northwest. I’m looking forward to seeing it grow like Ultimate Reloader did!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Those of us who know Massad Ayoob chuckle at his self-proclaimed aversion to technology. My favorite "Mas-ism" is his oft-repeated line "to you it's a computer...to me it's a typewriter with a suppressor." Yet his supposed technophobia hasn't stopped him from writing a pretty good blog over at Backwoods Home Magazine.
(I’ll digress just a bit to tell you that he also writes a monthly column for BHM. BHM is a magazine about country living, but without the shallow yuppie poser crap -- pardon my French -- of Mother Earth News. My wife and I have subscribed to the magazine since before we even knew who Mas was, and today it remains one of the few we still look forward to getting. If you're a country type, or perhaps aspire to being one, you should subscribe. End of commercial.)
Anyhow, this week Mas starts off his Christmas gift guide with the Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver, and says some very nice things about it too. Thanks, Mas!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend - ours was filled with windstorm destruction and a blown head gasket on my primary vehicle. My spare time for the next couple of weeks will be filled with hauling debris and fixing an engine. Why can't these things happen in summer, when it's nice to be outside working?
Thanksgiving weekend seems these days to be filled more with thoughts of football than of peaceful coexistence with one's fellow man. Here in Oregon we had our annual Civil War Game - Oregon State University versus University of Oregon, the prize being the opportunity to play in another game of some sort. (No, I don't follow college football - does it show?) I personally find it rather sad that folks can tell you who's playing, why they're playing, who the head coaches are, and even the names of a couple of ousted coaches from a college clear back in Pennsylvania - but can't name five of the top physics programs in the country.
(Just for the record, this is not age-related curmudgeonliness - as my siblings will gleefully tell you, I had precisely the same opinion as a kid.)
Someone (could have been Tam, but I’m not absolutely positive) recently turned me on to a cool gun blog: Forgotten Weapons. Lots of great stuff about guns you may not even know existed, presented with a decidedly scholarly bent. Immediately became one of the few in my daily RSS feed.
A couple of days ago I found out that my new book, The Gun Digest Book of the Revolver, is being sold in the U.K. by Amazon. As of this morning the folks across the pond only had two copies left, which sounds as though it's a big seller over there. Then again, they may have only ordered three copies total - this realization serving to keep my ego in check!
-=[ Grant ]=-
It's odd, really. This is the time of year that I pine for the long days of summer that are sure to come, and in the heat of that season I wish the early darkenings of winter would get here sooner. I guess I'm just never happy with the here and now!
The whole zombie schtick has long since jumped the shark, and my thoughts on the utility of a .410 shotgun revolver are well known. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that someone would combine the two, and likewise it won’t be a difficult task to figure out what I think of the thing. (Thanks to Tam for ruining my breakfast with this news.)
Trying to catch up with emails, snail mails, parts orders, and everything else around the shop isn't being helped lately. You may remember that my wife decided I needed someone to keep my company during work hours, so she brought in Shop Kat. Turns out that SK is a girl, which we learned when she finally grew up enough to go into heat. When that happened I decided to take her in for a little surgical modification, but as it happens that can't be done until she's out of heat. I thought that if I kept a close eye on her during her infrequent and short outings during that time things would be under control, as I'd seen no stray cats in the neighborhood. You can guess what happened next.
I now have a pile (seven, to be precise) balls of fur who are about six weeks old. They're constantly underfoot, seem to think everything exists for their own amusement, and are generally making the shop difficult to work in. I wear an apron while I work and they seem particularly amused by the parts of it that they can reach. Anyone want a free kitten (or two?)
I've got a couple of interesting articles by Ed Harris which I'm going to run on coming Fridays in place of the Friday Surprise. Ed's got some great stuff and addresses areas of the shooting world that aren't in my normal purview. I think you'll find them interesting.
In the next month I'll be working on my teaching schedule for 2012. If you'd like to book a class now's the time to start the process!
Of course I'll be teaching my flagship Revolver Doctrine course; if you liked my book, you'll love this class! I take you through the revolver, showing you how to shoot it, reload it, manipulate it with one hand, and more. It's a one-day class that can be held on nearly any range, and doesn't require drawing from a holster. It's a great introduction for anyone who is new to the revolver, regardless of their past shooting experience.
I'm also available to teach Combat Focus Shooting classes, both one- and two-day. CFS teaches you the most efficient ways to defeat a threat, ways that work with what your body does naturally. CFS classes are open to revolvers and autoloaders (much as I hate to admit it, I do know how to run an auto. Let's just keep that between the two of us, OK?)
A great combination is what I call the Defensive Revolver Weekend, which combines Revolver Doctrine on the first day and Combat Focus Shooting on the second. RD teaches you how to operate the revolver, while CFS teaches you how to use it to protect you or those you love. This is a great way to take these classes, as there is some overlap which is eliminated when they're back-to-back. The result is that we get in more material than we would if the classes were separated. (This combined version of Revolver Doctrine does require drawing from a holster.)
I’m available for classes all over the western U.S. How do you go about booking a class? It's easier than you might think, and you can train for free just by hosting at your local range! Email me for the details.
Looking even further ahead, I'm considering teaching a master class on Colt revolver gunsmithing. This wouldn't happen until at least 2013, but I'd like to throw out some feelers now to see if anyone might be interested. If so, drop me a note; if I have enough interest, I'll develop the course tailored to your interests.
Well, I think that's enough for one Monday. I'm going to return some emails then go do battle with some very intimidating kittens!
-=[ Grant ]=-
A personal item: I hate this whole getting older thing. This last week I stacked our winter's firewood supply in the woodshed - all five cords - and managed to do some soft tissue damage to my right elbow. The last time I remember doing this was about five years ago, when I was doing a lot of hammering during a kitchen remodel. My wife, however, tells me I did the same thing last year when I stacked wood for the winter. That's another part of getting older I can't stand: the memory lapses!
Anyhow, my elbow is quite painful and I'm none too happy about it.
Last month a Colt Paterson revolver sold at auction, setting a new record for the price of a single American firearm: $977,500. Yes, you read that right - within spitting distance of a cool million. Somehow the S&W I'm carrying at the moment seems tawdry in comparison.
My new book - the Gun Digest Book of the Revolver (Gun Digest Books) - is due to be released this week! If you haven't gotten your order in at Amazon, click the link to go to their site!
For those who have asked, the Kindle version of my book is available NOW!
Just as I was going to press with today's blog post, The Firearm Blog put up news of a new rifle: Advanced Armament Corporation's "Honey Badger", a subsonic .30 caliber rifle built on the AR platform. Tacticool rifles are getting common enough to bore me to tears, but I'm glad they named it what they did because it gives me the opportunity to link to one of my favorite YouTube vids: the (famous) "Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger"!
Have a good Monday.
-=[ Grant ]=-
The Firearm Blog (one of the few blogs I read religiously) brings us good news: Alexander Arms (AA) has decided to stop gouging people who want to make 6.5 Grendel rifles! Apparently Hornady submitted the cartridge to SAAMI to be standardized, but AA refused to relinquish their trademark. That recently changed, and now the 6.5 Grendel is available to anyone who wants to use it.
This is great news; I'd once considered building an AR-15 in 6.5 Grendel but was put off by the insanely high price tag that AA had attached to all things bearing the name. Les Baer, miffed at that very situation, essentially duplicated the round and named it the .264 LBC-AR (try saying that three times, fast!) It didn't catch on.
Now that the 6.5 Grendel can be made by anyone, without paying royalties, I hope to see many rifles so chambered. The round would make the AR platform more usable for a wider range of shooting activities, and the availability of factory ammunition should speed its acceptance. With proper bullets it would make a nice deer round with good accuracy and downrange energy. Though nothing is ever perfect, the 6.5 Grendel is as well-balanced a round as exists in the AR platform.
Take a look at this old LIFE photo essay about a gun safety class in an elementary school back in 1956. I wish to call your attention to frame numbers 5, 6, and 7 - can you identify that rifle? (I can, because it was the rifle I used as a kid. I still have a very soft spot in my heart for it.) Make your guesses in the comments!
It's a tricky task to attach a sling to a rifle where any alteration could adversely affect the value. For instance, what if you have a very old but heretofore unaltered Winchester lever action which you want to take hunting? How do you attach a sling to the butt stock without drilling a hole? I'd never thought about it, but the answer appears to be a butt stock cover such as those produced by these guys. (I could personally do without a lot of the embellishment, but the workmanship appears to be first rate.)
In response to my recent paean to the lever action rifle, Ed Harris sent some of his thoughts. As always, interesting reading from one of the most knowledgable guys in the shooting world:
If I had to “bug out,” riding my mountain bike around EMP-killed vehicles, getting out of Doge carrying only what I could in my ruck and pockets to get beyond the moderate damage radius before the fallout starting coming down, a lever-gun and revolver combo isn’t the world’s worst choice.
I have no plans to stand and fight off the whole world. If you attempt that by yourself, in the words of the late clandestine operator, Harry Archer, who ventured in dangerous climes on behalf of our country and lived to retire and die peacefully in front of his TV, “you’ll never live to shoot-‘em all.”
I just want to protect myself and my gear, put time, distance and shielding between me and any threat, escape, evade, “shoot and SCOOT” if needed, put meat in the pot and get the job done.
A compact, sturdy, fixed sight, double-action .357 revolver such as the Ruger SP101 is an affordable compromise. It is simple for anyone in the family to use. It is accurate enough within 25 yards, “hell for strong,” rugged, highly portable and has impressive ballistics for personal defense. It can use either .357 Magnums or lower powered .38 Special ammo.
Round out the package with a Marlin 1894C carbine in .357 Magnum. It offers adequate combat accuracy for “short range” (less than 200 yards in the infantry sense) and ten rounds magazine capacity. The magazine tube can be topped off without taking the gun out of action. Rapidity of fire is good. It is a natural pointer. The carbine is light in the hand, quick to the shoulder and fast to the first shot and follow-ups come easily. Teamed with a sturdy, concealable revolver, the combo is hard to beat.
The sad truth is that back East it is difficult to find someplace to practice with a military caliber assault rifle. Sure you can get a .22 LR upper for your AR, but it just isn't the same. Most indoor ranges will let you fire any rifle chambered for handgun ammo, so my most-used center-fire rifle these days is my Marlin 1894C carbine in .357 Magnum.
A .357 lever action is manageable by females and youngsters. It has low recoil and is fairly quiet when used with standard velocity lead .38 Special ammo. It is a fun camp gun which works great for small game, feral dogs and groundhogs. When firing .38 Special standard velocity (non +P) lead bullet ammo from a rifle, velocity remains subsonic, producing a mild report little louder than a .22, which has advantages for discreet garden varminting.
Its potential for home defense with .357 ammunition, is nothing to sneeze at. A .357 levergun with proper ammunition is fully adequate for deer within 100 yards and with peep sights is more accurate on silhouette targets out to 200 yards than your average AK. But leverguns are familiar and nonthreatening in appearance, so they "don't scare the natives" as a "black rifle" often does.
The Marlin lever-gun requires better sights, but you can install these yourself. The most rugged iron sights are the XS ghost ring peep. If cost-conscious stop right there and you will have a good outfit. If you have trouble seeing iron sights well, or want to improve your longer range and low light performance, add a XS Lever-Scout rail. This accepts a variety of quick detachable optics, such as a hunting scope or military reflex sight, leaving the peep sights available for backup.
New leverguns cost less than "black rifles." Use the money you save to buy a Dillon RL550B to load your ammo! Used .357 lever-guns sell for about 60% in stores of what a similar rifle would cost new. In most places the Marlin 1894C .357 Microgroove rifles sell for about $100 or more less than a similar used "Cowboy" model with Ballard rifling, because people think that "Microgrooves won't shoot lead."
In my experience of over 25 years, the 1894C with Microgroove rifling shoots lead bullets just fine, as long as you stick to standard pressure or ordinary +P .38 Specials at subsonic velocities.
Microgroove barrels handle jacketed bullet .357 Magnum loads best. The 158-gr. soft-point is what you want to use for deer from the rifle. The 125-grain JHPs are best for personal defense from the revolver, or for varmint use in the rifle. Jacketed bullet .357 magnum rounds are expensive. You will actually need and use very few of them, so just buy a several boxes of factory loads for contingencies.
Standard velocity .38 Special, 158-grain lead semi-wadcutters are the basic utility load for both rifle and revolver. This is what you want to set up your RL550B to assemble in quantity. Bulk Remington .358 diameter 158-grain semi-wadcutters assembled in .38 Special brass with 3.5 grains of Bullseye approximate the velocity, accuracy and energy of factory standard velocity loads. Velocity is about 750 f.p.s. from a 3 inch revolver, and 950 f.p.s. from an 18 inch carbine. Ordinary lead plinking loads shoot into 4 inches at 100 yards from the Marlin. Jacketed soft-point .357 magnums shave an inch off of that. If you buy powder and primers in bulk, component cost to reload free gleaned brass that you have saved with a plinking load is about 10 cents per pop. If you cast your own bullets from free scrounged scrap lead you will save a nickel. Jacketed bullets cost 15 cents eachInstead buy a good quality 4-cavity bullet mold such as Saeco #358. Buy only a few boxes of full up magnum factory loads for serious hunting and conserve them.
My “Cowboy assault rifle” has a Trijicon Reflex II sight Model RX09 with A.R.M.S. #15 Throw Lever Mount fitted into an XS Systems Lever Scout rail. XS mounts are dimensioned to accept Weaver bases. Fitting the military M1915 rail base requires that you to determine which cross-slot you will locate your optic onto. You want the optical sight at the balance point of the rifle.
After you have located the proper cross slot to position your sight, adjust the slot width and depth with a square Swiss needle file to enable the mounting clamp crossbar to press-fit snugly into it. Retract the thumb clamps and slide the A.R.M.S. mount over the front of the rail. The rear mount clamp tightens against the angled sides of the rail only. You want no “slop” after you have fitted the crossbar slot depth and corners.
After fitting, the A.R.M.S. #15 thumb-lever mount offers quick-disconnect with perfect return to zero. I can use the tritium illuminated, no batteries required ever, combat optic or backup ghost ring peeps at will. I zero 158-grain .357 magnum loads to coincide with the pointed top of the Tritium-illuminated chevron at 100 yards. Standard velocity .38s hit "on" at 50 yards. Holding the legs of the chevron tangent to the top of a 12-inch gong at 200 yards I can hit with magnums every time. Placing the chevron across the shoulders of an Army E silhouette I make repeat hits out to at 300 if I do my part.
Maybe I shouldn't have watched, "The Road" again...
-=[ Grant ]=-
This morning I read the news that Governor Moonbeam Brown in California signed off on legislation that prohibits the open carry of handguns (even if unloaded) by the general populous. Given that some of the more vociferous proponents of OC were from CA, it would seem that their “in your face” methods may have backfired.
While I don't live in that state and thus may not be intimately familiar with the timelines involved, it seems that OC came onto the legislative radar when local news outlets got wind of the movement via confrontational videos posted on YouTube. From there it was a short step to getting lawmakers to deal with this major "problem".
Despite my general objection to the way that OC is promoted in certain circles, I take no pleasure in their predicament. It seems to me, though, that if you poke the bear hard enough sooner or later he's going to bite - and the bite is sadly predictable.
It will be interesting to see if those OC advocates who arrogantly compared themselves to Rosa Parks will actually dare to do what she did now that their opportunity is at hand.
As my Dad once told me: nothing good comes from frightening the herd. I just hope this doesn’t spread to other states. (Even as I write this I know the absurdity of that statement.)
On the opposite end of the spectrum...who would think that firearms would make an appearance on a seemingly left-leaning design blog?
Over the weekend I had a talk with a relative who was interested in the possibility of rechambering his rifle to something a little more potent than the .30-06 it currently fires. I found myself recommending the .35 Whelen. His eyebrows darted skyward, amazed that I wasn't recommending some sort of SuperTinyShortenedUltraPowerful Magnum.
Though I've never owned one, I have passing familiarity with the Whelen. It is just a good, effective caliber that's not going to beat the shooter up nor destroy half the animal being shot. Someone once told me that it was "superbly balanced", which I understood to mean that it occupied a serendipitous intersection of power, accuracy, and shootability. It's capable of taking any North American game and doing so without excessive chamber pressure or throat erosion.
(The short-action version, the .358 Winchester, shares those same attributes and is one I've wanted for a while now. Someday I'll find a Savage 99 in .358, though I'd settle for a Browning BLR.)
This is evidence that I've come full circle on rifle calibers. When I was younger and convinced that more power was the answer to everything, I thought fire-breathing Magnums were the way to go. As I've grown up and gotten some experience under my belt I've come to appreciate the cartridges that have been well tested over many years and lots of game: the .30-30 Winchester. The 6.5 Swedish Mauser. The .30-06. Yes, the .35 Whelen.
There are more, but you get the idea. As I said recently on my Facebook page: Sometimes newer is in fact better. Sometimes not. The key is knowing why.
-=[ Grant ]=-
On Monday, Rob Pincus posted a note on the I.C.E. Training Facebook page about his opposition to open carry (OC). This is one of Rob's personal 'hot button' issues, and he doesn't shy away from the debate. (Rob doesn't shy away from much, actually, but particularly so with regards to this topic.) It garnered a lot of attention, making the cut at both Gunnuts and Say Uncle (amongst others.)
Given my association with Rob and I.C.E., it wasn't terribly surprising that I should receive an email asking, in essence, if I agree with everything he says. Sometimes yes, sometimes a little less so, but not for the reasons you might think.
On the self defense aspects, I think OC when concealed carry (CC) is available (which is darned near all of the country these days) is silly. I won't debate that point of view at this time, but for now I'll just say that I don't believe OC has any advantage over CC from a tactical standpoint.
On the social and political fronts the situation is a little less clear. I often wonder if the civil rights activists of the 1960s and the gay rights activists of more recent memory would have made the gains they did without their open and sometimes controversial exercise of their rights. Just fifty years ago restaurants and theaters were routinely segregated; thanks to the confrontational activities of civil rights advocates, today integration is so normal that we don't even think about it. The same could be said for abortions and being openly gay.
Whether you agree or disagree with those subjects isn't important to this discussion - what is important is that what was normal was changed, thanks to people who were willing to stand up for their rights and risk ridicule and arrest to mold society's opinions.
To say that such activity was acceptable for them, but not for Second Amendment advocates, seems on the surface to be a little inconsistent.
OC activists insist they're doing the same things for the same reasons, and it would seem to be a hard argument to dismiss. I do think, however, that there is a big difference between open carriers and civil rights marchers: the rights being defended here are already well established (if not in fashion), and are subject to a different standard of comportment. It's called "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
Rosa Parks was doing something that the law said she couldn't. Open carriers are doing something that the law already says they can. That doesn't seem like a huge difference, but it is.
If OC advocates were carrying guns in areas where laws unjustly say they can't, then I'd support them fully. The problem is they're not, and in my opinion that removes the civil rights rationale from their argument. Carrying a gun openly in a city like Portland, where it is against the law, is advocating for change and pushing people to recognize other's civil rights. Doing it in an area where it's allowed, even if uncommon and misunderstood, is usually just grandstanding.
I understand the argument that rights which are not exercised are ripe for abrogation, and that OC is a strong exercise of Second Amendment rights. That doesn't mean one needs to do so from a posture of defiant confrontation, which seems to be the norm for open carriers. We already possess those rights, and it's incumbent upon us to exercise them responsibly and intelligently. Like it or not, that means not scaring the public.
Yes, people who are scared of the sight of guns are irrational. I agree. Yes, cops who don't know the nuances of the law are ignorant. I agree. Getting belligerent in public isn't going to change either of those. Want to advocate for actual social change? Open carry in a city where it's illegal; get arrested like the civil right marchers did, then use that to help publicize your case for the repeal of unjust and unconstitutional laws.
That's real political activism. Being a contentious loudmouth on YouTube isn’t.
-=[ Grant ]=-
When you were growing up did you have a classmate who was, well, uptight? You know the type: boring, unimaginative, establishment, voted "most likely to become an accountant"? I sure did.
He was me.
I spent the first half (actually, more like the first two-thirds) of my life making Alex P. Keaton look like an anarchist. Hippies? Hated 'em. I liked symmetry (LOVED symmetry), predictability; I couldn't stand the new, the non-conforming, the different. (My fourth grade teacher could tell you stories...)
Somewhere along the line I snapped and tilted a little toward the wild side. While I'm still anal retentive about many things, I've learned to embrace my adventurous tendencies. I'll always love opera, but I also like to listen to The Fratellis. These days I'm a little less enthused with staid decoration and architecture and more interested in the crazy and creative ways some people find to enrich their personal environments.
That's why I found a recent entry on the Salvaged Grace blog most interesting. It profiled a fellow named Jesse Hartman and his site Shift Build:Industrial Reclamation. Jesse's passion is making interesting things out of non-interesting things. He's very creative, something I try to be but rarely manage to achieve. At least, not at his level!
Check out his reclaimed oak wall - then click on the '11' in the timeline to see its secret. Cool! I've GOT to do something like that, but I haven't figured out just where.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a junk pile to explore.
-=[ Grant ]=-
My wife and I trekked up to Firearms Academy of Seattle yesterday to spend a little time talking about revolvers, books, and assorted nonsense. Massad Ayoob and Gail Pepin were there, along with Marty and Gila Hayes, Jennie Van Tuyl, and several dogs. We recorded a rather raucous round-table edition of the ProArms Podcast (wherein I actually say some nice things about Taurus, and try to say some nice things about the Chiappa Rhino but fail miserably.)
Marty gave us a status report on the Armed Citizen's Legal Defense Network as well as a sneak peek of what's to come. As I pointed out last week, the ACLDN is unique in the field; it's the only place where the armed citizen can get high-level education and legal assistance in the event he or she is involved in a self defense incident. Glad to hear that they're growing and expanding their programs.
Jennie Van Tuyl and her husband Bill own Rivendell Sales, a rather unique gun store. Among other things they specialize in customizing the Remington 20 gauge autoloading shotgun for defensive use, an activity which I wholeheartedly applaud.
I'm a huge fan of the 20 gauge as a defensive tool. No matter how well you shoot a 12 gauge, you'll shoot a 20 gauge better simply because of the huge reduction in felt recoil. The only difference between them is the payload; they both throw their pellets at the same velocity, it's just that the 12 throws a few more. As Mas Ayoob is fond of saying, if you shoot a bad guy the only person who'll be able to tell whether it was a 12 or a 20 is the coroner, and only then by counting the white specks on the x-ray.
(One point I think is often overlooked: many 12 gauge owners use the lower-velocity "tactical" buckshot loads to help tame the recoil of their gun. It's my firm belief that those loads have less effectiveness than a full-power 20 gauge with the same recoil. Any way you slice it, the 20 gauge is the best balance of lethality and shootability that exists in the shotgun world.)
The Remington autoloaders are slim, trim, light shotguns that are a joy to heft after lugging around one of the same guns in 12 gauge. Many years ago my wife and I standardized on the 20 gauge and picked up a Remington 1100 LT-20 Youth Synthetic model. The youth guns had a shorter stock than the regular line, a feature which both of us appreciate. Since there was no one who really worked on the 20 gauges back then, I installed a 20" smoothbore barrel with rifle sights, reamed the forcing cone, and generally spruced it up as a home defense gun. Today the Van Tuyls can handle all that and more, giving you a superb handling, easy shooting shotgun without having to become your own gunsmith.
Check out their site. (I’m jealous of the wood in their stocks.)
Over the weekend Tam exposed us to yet another questionable training organization. Their video actually made me simultaneously cringe and laugh, which when you think about it is really a pretty good trick. pdb also picked up on their shenanigans, giving us his typically humorous critique.
I think, however, that both Tam and pdb wasted a lot of effort actually analyzing the video. They could have simply used my theorem: quality of instruction in a video is inversely proportional to the sound pressure level of the cheesy heavy metal music used on the soundtrack.
Correlation seems to be high.
-=[ Grant ]=-
You've probably heard about the flap MKS Distributing caused last week. MKS, a former promoter of Charter Arms, is the primary distributor for Chiappa guns - including the Rhino revolver.
Chiappa disclosed that starting in 2012 all their guns would carry an RFID chip. The chip is attached at the time of manufacture, and presumably contains information such as the gun's serial number, place of origin, lot number, and that sort of thing. Because it's applied at the factory, it can't contain any data on the eventual purchaser.
I can see why Chiappa would want to do this, even if their government wasn't requiring them to: it makes for more accurate inventory of a controlled item. While a barcode on a box ensures that the box is present, it doesn't say anything about the contents. The RFID tag allows inventory of actual units, as opposed to the boxes which surround them. Were I in that business, I'd probably consider something similar to prevent what is termed "leakage" - mysterious disappearances from stock.
RFID inventory tags are not new, but their application to firearms is. It's this novelty, the potential for abuse, and how their distributor has handled the news which is causing problems.
When the news hit the blogosphere, some of which contained rampant and ill-informed speculation, the distributor (through their PR agent - with whom I am familiar and not all that fond) sent out a scathing release belittling not just the public's fears but also the blogger's concerns. It was that haughty and scornful statement which has turned the public against Chiappa and, by extension, MKS. The release, obviously intended to quash rumors, contained some erroneous information of its own.
There are, as I see it, two relevant facts. First, the RFID chip contains information about the gun, and only about the gun. It contains nothing about the purchaser or user. Second, an RFID chip can in fact be read at a considerable distance, although the extent of such reading is a matter of debate. I think it's generally accepted that a read distance of a few yards is easily doable, much more than the “2-3 inches” that MKS/Chiappa insists.
Beyond those two facts, nothing is clear. Could an RFID chip be used in the future as some sort of marker for a concealed weapon? Possibly. Could they be used to track a buyer? That might be a bit overblown, but the technology exists. Is it happening now, or could it in the near future? Not probable. Could legislation be introduced tomorrow requiring all guns without an RFID chip be destroyed to facilitate some draconian tracking scheme? Extremely unlikely. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, mind you, but I don’t think it’s worth your or my time to worry about. At least, not at the current stage of implementation.
It's the attitude, the dismissive manner in which the concerns of the buying public were addressed that's really at issue. Many people are calling for a boycott of MKS/Chiappa for that reason.
I find this amusing, inasmuch as Smith & Wesson - through their owners, Saf-T-Hammer Inc. - foisted a dubious internal locking system on the public and similarly (though far more politely) dismissed buyer's concerns over the efficacy and reliability of the mechanism. Many people, including yours truly, called for a boycott of S&W. It didn't happen, at least to any meaningful degree, and today their business is booming. What's more, you can go to any gun forum and find lots of people who proclaim in the face of evidence to the contrary that the locks are just fine. That’s what happens when corporate blunders are well handled.
People will find a reason to buy what they want to buy; giving them that reason is the job of the PR people, but sometimes that effort backfires - like it did here. Based on my past interaction with all three parties involved, I’m not surprised.
MKS and Chiappa are very small companies and I doubt that they can easily weather the storm that their inept PR has brewed. This faux pas may be the end of their aspirations in the American market, but I think it's a little silly for us to manufacture a reason not to buy their products when the flaws of those products should be reason enough to avoid them.
-=[ Grant ]=-
The Firearm Blog reported last week that Ruger is now chambering their Model 77 bolt-action rifle in .357 Magnum. I'm quite excited about the announcement, as I'm a fan of the .357 in longer barrels.
I believe (though I can't find it right now) that I've written about this before: the .357 Magnum coming out of a rifle is a very different beast than the same round coming out of a handgun. One 158 grain load I tested a while back gained nearly 400 fps velocity out of an 18" Marlin rifle barrel compared to the same load in a 4" Dan Wesson tube, traveling nearly 1600 fps.
I've actually used it on animals, and within its range -- say, 75 to perhaps 100 yards -- it's quite effective up to deer-sized game. I've heard some claim that it's suitable for elk "with proper shot placement", but I'd say that's more alcohol-fueled optimism than ballistic fact.
Regardless of such speculation it does make a great small to medium game round, though I've found it difficult to get bullets under 158 grains to hold together at the velocities the rifle can generate. Forget the light hollowpoints; the absolute minimum I'd consider would be a 158gn jacketed softpoint, and even that often disintegrates when it hits flesh.
Someone once told me that the .357 turns from Jekyll to Hyde in a rifle. That's not terribly far from the truth!
Up to this point the only rifles chambered for the .357 have been lever actions from Rossi, Marlin, and Winchester. The lever action is a great platform for the round, but I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one of the Ruger bolt actions. If nothing else, the stainless construction and synthetic stock would be a better choice for our damp Oregon weather than walnut and blued steel! Fitted with a decent 2.5x scope it could be a great all-around rifle for the farm and ranch, one that I wouldn’t need to worry about when the elements turn against me.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Here's how things work around here: I collect interesting snippets of information that are relevant to the topics of this blog (namely revolvers, shooting, and self defense) and write posts inspired by those snippets. Sometimes it's a news story that sets things in motion, sometimes it's my own experiences, and occasionally it's a remark by another blogger.
I usually write something up and hang on to it for release when I have room. For instance, Fridays are always devoted to an off-topic surprise so I hold any topical things for the following Monday. This week the CenturioGroup nonsense about lumens popped up and I was so excited to comment that I bumped the article I'd planned to today. It was based on a post last month at another blog, but there was no hurry because it wasn't any sort of current event.
In the meantime several other bloggers jumped in to comment, making me look like a Johnny-come-lately. This isn't the first time I've been scooped, though; I've lost count of the number of times I've thought "I'll get to this next week", only to have the entire blogosphere jump on the topic while I was busy doing more important things -- like earning a living.
Just so you know: I wrote the following last week. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Miguel over at The Gun Free Zone recently wrote a piece defending the 'shoot me first' vest -- that item of clothing, usually attributed to photographers, which is often the choice of the IDPA crowd. I don't like the things. Not necessarily because a bad guy will target the wearer of such a vest (there is no evidence either way on that assertion), but simply because they are an affectation. They always have been.
Back in the early 1980s I was working in a camera store and selling gear to actual working photographers. We had 'photographers vests' for sale, but rarely sold any -- and never to a real professional. Everyone considered them a mark of the dilettante, and no one I knew would be caught dead in one. Flash forward to 2011 and they still look silly.
That's not to say that you can't wear one (it is, after all, a semi-free country), but it's advisable to do so only if it's not out of place in your environment. I'm a big believer in blending in whenever possible, of not calling any more attention to oneself than necessary, and the 'photographer's vest' is almost always anomalous. Off the top of my head I can’t think of an environment where one wouldn’t stand out, save an IDPA match.
The funny part is that if one is fixated on concealing via a vest there is almost always a style that will look right at home. Here in the Northwest, wool vests from Filson hit just the right balance between casual and business formal and look right at home in a wide variety of settings. For women, a patterned vest of some type usually looks good with just about any pants outfit. Canvas work vests are common in the trades, and in the trendier areas one can still occasionally find an argyle vest (though I think of them as quite hipsterish.)
When you get asked if you're a photographer or a fisherman that's not proof that you've pulled off some great feat of concealment; it's a sign that you've stood out enough to make people question your presence. I remain (while admitting that my Stetson occasionally puts me in that situation) of the opinion that such an event is not a Good Thing.
-=[ Grant ]=-
If you think your logistics problems are daunting, go and read the list of ammunition that Tam keeps in her bedroom. (Disclaimer: I don't know for a fact that it's all in her bedroom, having never been to her house. She might keep some there, some in the basement, some on the bottom shelf of the Lazy Susan in the kitchen, and who knows where else. My point is that...well, I forgot what my point is. Humor me and keep reading.)
It's a daunting list, and I understand the almost irresistible urge to collect guns in odd -- and even not so odd -- chamberings. I myself have rifles in both 7.5mm x55 Swiss and 7.5mm x 54 French MAS, so I'm not entirely free of the affliction, but beyond that my calibers are both few and common.
Though never approaching her staggering list, at one time I did have a much wider selection. Over the years I've whittled down my inventory primarily because of the headaches of storing and reloading a sufficient quantity of each. I decided that rather than reload a hundred rounds each of eight or ten calibers, I'd rather spend that same time and money reloading five times that much in each of two calibers.
Over the years I've gotten rid of a bunch of guns in calibers that I didn't shoot often. The Dan Wesson .445 SuperMag, for instance, was a heck of a lot of fun (especially with the 3" barrel on a dimly lit indoor range) but didn't have a lot of utility for me. Even more mundane chamberings, like the various .44 Magnums and Specials I've owned, went out the door; I didn't shoot them often enough to justify loading a whole bunch of rounds for them.
The last such gun was a neat little Detonics CombatMaster in .38 Super. I like the cartridge, but a sober analysis showed that it really didn't do anything the 9mm doesn't already do better. We turned it into something more useful.
I admire her list, and am actually quite envious, but it's not for me. The less complicated my life is, the more I like it.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I've never made any secret of the fact that I'm basically just a dumb ol' country boy. Being from a farming and ranching family (with a smattering of logging thrown in for good measure) I look at the world a little differently than people who don't share that background. Certain things that the city folk do just amuse me to no end.
One of those things is the current 'green' movement. Particularly here in Oregon, this is a Big Thing; folks flaunting their green credentials and one-upping each other over their sustainable lifestyles. Trouble is, they can't see the forest for the trees.
Take, for example, an article I saw recently about how to remodel one's kitchen. Emphasis was placed on such things as making sure the cabinets were made of sustainably grown bamboo and picking appliances based on the energy used in their manufacture. Sounds great, except the article completely ignored the very greenest solution of all: not remodeling the kitchen in the first place!
Simply continuing to use those things which have already been made is far more green, far more sustainable, than gutting the place and starting over -- no matter how much one frets over the carbon footprint of the floorcovering. Replacing perfectly serviceable (though no longer fashionable) items with new items that must be manufactured from scratch isn't ecologically sound, but don't tell that to the people who desperately want a guilt-free way to keep up with the Joneses.
If one wants to truly live sustainably, one does what us poor country folk have been doing for ages: make do with what you have. Part of that is finding new uses for old items that might otherwise be cast aside, and here's where I must admit a certain lack of ability. I'm just not all that creative; I don't look at things and see new ways in which they might be used.
Luckily there are creative people in this world from whom I can steal ideas. One of my favorite sites for repurposing ideas is called Poetic Home; the author is more into the yuppie-chic aspect than the hardcore saving-money-while-not-contributing-to-the-landfills bit, but I'm cool with that because the ideas are pretty good.
A redneck like me reading an urban design blog -- what's this world coming to??
-=[ Grant ]=-
I've been chided just a bit for ignoring the growing field of revolver competition. It's not that I dislike competition, it's just that it's not my focus these days; self defense topics are what I'm most interested in and tend to write about.
When I want to know what's happening in the world of revolver matches, I read Paul Erhardt over at DownrangeTV. This link will take you directly to his treasure trove of ICORE news and articles.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Years back I remember being taught never to shoot someone else's reloads. I violated that rule only once, when I bought some "factory reloads" from a vendor at a gun show. Luckily I didn't damage anything with the shoddy 9mm fodder, but I still have the remainder -- in a sealed ammo can labeled "Dangerous Ammo - Do Not Shoot!" -- somewhere in the garage.
That cemented my rule: no reloads that I didn't make, not even one round. Why? Because you don't know if that one round came from this guy's reloading press.
Could I accidentally make a reload that achieves a similar level of destruction? Yes, but I know what my reloading precautions are; I take great pains to make sure that the ammo I reload is safe. No matter how well I might know the person proffering his handiwork, I have no idea if his attention to detail is similarly sufficient to keep me out of the emergency room.
I once knew a fellow who was a great guy. Well educated, important white collar job, meticulous in everything he did. One day he took some of his reloaded ammo to the range with two guns, a Glock and a Hi-Power. His first magazine blew up the gun, at which point he switched guns and proceeded to blow it up, too. No matter how bright people may be in the rest of their lives, sometimes they're just not cut out to make ammunition.
Neither you nor I want to be one of their "oopsies". If you didn't make it, or it didn't come from a well known factory, don't risk it in your gun.
-=[ Grant ]=-
We need 100cc of Factual Information, stat!
This splashed onto several blogs last week, and it's just too good a train wreck to ignore. Do not be mislead: the advice this guy gives is a sure ticket to a jail cell. The ‘term clueless loon' comes to mind...
For years people like Mas Ayoob and Marty Hayes have been educating people on the realities of the legal side of self defense, but apparently this guy missed every freaking memo - or, perhaps as likely, willfully ignored them. Rest assured that if you follow any of his advice, you will go to prison.
Don't be this guy; learn about your rights and responsibilities, how shooting cases are investigated, and how claims of self defense are tested in court. The information is out there, it's readily available, and it can keep you from making stupid mistakes.
(This video also serves as a perfect illustration of why you should never take medical, legal, or self defense advice from anyone who hides behind a pseudonym on the 'net.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
I read recently that a minority of the grand kitchens that are a staple of suburban houses are actually used to cook. By 'cook', I mean making food from scratch, as opposed to heating up pizzas or 'making' cookies from frozen pre-made dough. Given the pressures of careers and overburdened elective activity schedules, people don't take the time to cook let alone learn how to.
When I grew up that wasn't the case. Way back when (exactly how far back I'm not saying, in order to protect the innocent) schools had classes where students could learn to cook. Yeah, most of them were girls, but in the ‘70s you could find guys taking those classes too. Even if they didn’t avail themselves of those courses, most kids had moms at home who could teach them the finer points of preparing for human kind’s most basic need: to eat.
As it happens one of the girls I knew in high school had learned to cook, and she was very good at it. She got married and had children, which further necessitated the need to cook. Seems those offspring-things like to eat; who knew?
Unlike most, however, she wasn't content with a small collection of favorite and endlessly recycled recipes. She was always trying something new, always expanding her repertoire. Her recipe file became less like a cute box and more like a four-drawer lateral filing cabinet. And that was in 1995. I shudder to think what it's like now, but if you'll recall the final warehouse scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" I think you'll get where I’m going with this.
Thanks to the magic of the interwebs she's now sharing some of her bounty with everyone. In The Kitchen With Mummsie is her new recipe blog, and though only a couple months old she's off to a roaring start. Her recipes have always been delicious; take her version of roasted chicken, for instance. It’s quickly become one of my favorites (though my wife substitutes raw honey for the sugar; I hope she’s not offended!)
I just wish our paleo/primal diet allowed us to indulge in her Overnight Banana-Walnut French Toast. Oh, the agony!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I keep my ear to the ground for new self defense blogs, and a colleague recently alerted me to this one: Kicking Sacred Cows. Written in a distinctive style, the author says that the blog is about change and evolution in self defense and martial arts training.
It presents some interesting ideas. I'll be checking it regularly.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Seems that Todd Green over at pistol-training.com caused a bit of a stir last week with his report that the newest Glocks aren't quite as reliable as we've come to expect. While his sample size (of two examples) isn't statistically meaningful by itself, it parallels many other reports of failure-to-feed and failure-to-eject problems with Gaston's latest models.
I've personally seen it happen to students in class, and I've received reports of many others with the same issues. Glock built their reputation largely on reliability, but it appears they may be resting on those laurels just a wee bit. Here’s hoping that they address the problems in a timely manner.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Sorry for not having a post on Monday. If you tried to check in, you probably found that the site was down. My hosting company, Dreamhost, experienced a system-wide outage on Monday which took down all of their client sites as well as their own. My site came back up, sporadically, sometime Monday afternoon. It wasn't until Tuesday night, however, that I could actually get access to upload anything. Everything seems to be back to normal (knock on wood.)
First things first: On Monday I taped an interview with Doc Wesson for the Gun Nation Podcast. He'll be playing it tonight on a LIVE streaming podcast episode he's calling "The Wheel Of Love". It starts at 9:pm EDT, and you can listen live at this link. He'll even be taking call-ins (which gives me an idea...)
Yesterday Breda over at The Breda Fallacy posted a little rant about lightweight snubnose revolvers for women. Tam picked it up this morning. I read both and agreed with pretty much everything they said, but I had this odd feeling I'd read it all before. Oh, now I remember! That's because I've written the same thing. More than once. More than twice. Great minds? Well, I don't know that I can claim to have one, but they certainly do. (If you listen to the Gun Nation podcast tonight, you'll probably hear me tell Doc that the snubnose revolver is an 'expert's weapon', not something for a beginner.)
In a previous life I dealt with police reports on a fairly regular basis, and I was always amused at the language and syntax in the writing. One Deputy, who was forever on 'the outs' with his supervisors for not playing the game, was once reprimanded for using the phrase "I watched him...” instead of the more official-sounding "I observed as the suspect..." This memory came back when I read a Miami Herald article about a Florida Highway Patrol firearms instructor who was shot in the derriere by her supervisor. The official report was that the supervisor was 'inspecting' the weapon, which is apparently FHP-speak for "screwing around with". Were I in charge I'd be sorely tempted to allow Trooper Mellow Scheetz ('Mellow'? Seriously?) a penalty kick at her supervisor's privates, just to bring home the lesson, then do some remedial safety training that doesn’t allow for the “but I thought it was unloaded!” defense.
That's it for today. Be sure to check out the podcast this evening!
-=[ Grant ]=-
David Friedman is one of my favorite bloggers. His posts, though few in number, are always thought provoking. (Just what you'd expect from "an academic economist who teaches at a law school and has never taken a course for credit in either field.")
This is a few months old, but it's worth reading. He wonders if, in the coming years, we will see the rise of yet another division in society: the real and the virtual. Which matters most?
-=[ Grant ]=-
Welcome to 2011! I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year's celebration.
Whether you're just tuning in, or you've been here for a while, I think it's worth pointing out the three things that make my blog different from every other in the firearms/self defense field.
First, I long ago made the commitment to writing a large percentage of original content. That is, things that I wrote myself, as opposed to taking from others. My goal was (and still is) to provide information to my readers that they may not find anywhere else. Many bloggers simply link to other's work, perhaps adding a few comments of their own along the way. Don't get me wrong - sometimes that commentary is insightful and adds to the enjoyment of the material. It's just not what I want to provide to my readers.
I want my readers to come away informed. Sometimes I'm forced to resort to linking to other's original work, namely because I don't have time to write lots of original content each week, but my goal is to have at least half of what you read be mine alone. I think over the past few years I've done a little better than that.
Second, I'm not attempting to monetize this blog. Monetization is the act of leveraging ones readers to generate income, and it's the big thing these days. There have been books, DVDs, websites, podcasts, and - yes! - blogs devoted to earning big money by blogging. Supposedly the way one does this is to write lots of short posts linking to other's work (bringing us back to that whole original content thing), which in turn attracts readers to the blog - the end game being to derive ad revenue from their visits.
That's just not 'me'. You'll notice that there aren't any Google ads, pop-ups, or resource-hogging Flash animations here. That's because I'm not trying to fund this blog; it rides for free on the website to which it's attached. The website carries the expense, leaving me free to deliver original, informative content in a way that doesn't try to extract money from my readers. Someone who just wants to read my scribblings can do so in peace and without ever venturing into the rest of my site.
Finally, I don't "hit whore". Hit whoring is the practice of writing something about a currently popular topic that raises the passions of the reader and virtually dares him/her to visit and respond. Entries sprinkled with phrases and keywords calculated to appeal to search engines also come under this classification. This is a very popular technique to use when monetizing a blog: one simply links to someone else's content, adds a few lines of emotional appeal to one side or the other, formats it in such a way as to mimic the likely terms someone might Google, and presto - the hits are a'comin!
For instance: this year you're going to see a lot of hit whoring related to the centennial celebration of a certain autoloading pistol invented by a certain gun designer who lived in a certain western state known for having a large population of a certain religious group. If I were hit whoring, I'd mention all of those proper names (and the gun's nomenclature, and its caliber, and the certain self defense teacher from a certain other western state who retired as a commissioned officer from a certain well-regarded branch of the military to open a certain training facility whose symbol was a certain black bird and who was famous for popularizing this gun during the '70s and '80s.)
Once I'd mentioned that gun, and it's designer, and it's caliber, and everything else a reader might Google, I'd make it hit bait by writing such things as this certain gun being "the best EVAHH!!!!!", and this certain designer "the greatest EVAHH!" and the caliber with which it was most identified as being "the best EVAHH!!!!" This would be carefully crafted to appeal to the myopic, die-hard fans of the gun/designer/caliber, and impressionable youth who can't spell.
I could also engage in reverse hit whoring. That's where I do the same kind of name-dropping, but instead of fawning praise I write things like this certain gun being an inefficient, unreliable example of design-by-committee (the gun's manufacturer and end user having significant input into the design) or how the gun's inventor was a hack with limited talent (after all, the guy couldn't even design a revolver.) That is, if I wanted to engage in such nonsense.
You'll kindly notice that I've not mentioned anything or anyone specifically, and because I was careful not to use any common search terms or proper names in any of the preceding no one is going to find this original post by Googling. That means I'm not a hit whore, which means I can't monetize my blog, which accounts for the fact that I'm not rich!
So much for virtue.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Two people I know have started new blogs in the last week or so, and I believe they're both worth your time to check out.
Fellow instructor Omari Broussard and I met at the Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Development course I recently mentioned. Omari's done a lot of training in armed and unarmed combatives, and he's kept a logbook (multiple logbooks, actually) of all the courses he's attended. His blog is called, appropriately enough, the Training Log Blog.
Keeping a training log is an idea endorsed by a wide range of instructors. Doing so gives you a legal record, a way of reminding yourself of lessons learned, a chronology of your development as a student, a chronicle of your evolution in thought, or perhaps just an opportunity to reminisce about good times and good people. A training log is all of these things, and more. So important is this process that Rob Pincus wrote the Training Log Book to make it easier to keep up with the task.
In my case I've been remiss about doing this. Despite my slightly OCD nature I've just not been as disciplined about this as I should be. Omari, however, has kept detailed logs over the past several years, and his blog is all about sharing those many entries with you. Expect to learn what's important to him, what he's changed his mind about, and how he's grown through what he's learned. Omari's blog stands a good chance of becoming the must-read blog for those who are serious about their training and personal growth. He's off to a great start.
Speaking of Rob Pincus (what a segue!), you're probably familiar with him from his articles in SWAT Magazine - or perhaps his television appearances, his DVD instructional series, or maybe even his books (the aforementioned Training Log Book, and his essential Combat Focus Shooting: Evolution 2010.) Rob's always in the public eye, but there's something you don't know about him.
He's homeless. By choice. He decided that would be a good name for a blog, and so it was born.
The Homeless By Choice blog details Rob's life without a permanent residence. Rob travels more than three hundred days a year, and a while back he decided that it was silly to maintain a home base that he never saw. He put all his stuff in storage and resolved to live on the road as a preferred condition.
I know that doesn't sound so unusual, as many people live full time in motorhomes and have no fixed residence, but Rob doesn't have an RV - he lives in hotels with what he can carry on his back! The HBC blog covers his life on the road: where he goes, what he does, where he stays, the people he meets and the things he sees.
If you ever wanted to read a blog where you could actually live vicariously through someone else, HBC is definitely it!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday - I was occupied with more pressing matters. The series on the Rhino revolver will resume tomorrow.
I couldn't let this pass, however. Seems that Alan over at Snarkybytes wants to do away with Traditional Safety Rule #1, "all guns are always loaded" (or variants thereof.)
Welcome to the club, Alan - I've been saying the same thing for over three years now, and caught the same flak that you're now getting.
The comments over at his place are very similar to the comments that I got (and continue to get.) For whatever reason, people are convinced that the more 'rules' they have to follow, the safer they'll be. (Of course they'll argue the opposite about gun laws, the irony being lost on them.) They present all manner of convoluted arguments and frantic re-wording to avoid the very thought of doing with fewer gun handling guidelines despite the logical probability that those fewer guidelines would prove more effective.
(There is that rabid subset of Cooper acolytes who oppose any change simply because The Colonel didn't approve of it, but their numbers appear to be dwindling.)
I have a couple of nits to pick: "Keeping the finger off the trigger" isn't specific enough for my comfort level; I prefer "finger out of the triggerguard", as simply ‘off the trigger’ does nothing to prevent stumble/grasp accidents. Second, while I understand his argument (and even agree with it to a great degree) about knowing your target and what’s behind it, I believe there needs to be something that addresses things like aerial shotgunning and proper backstopping for dry fire practice. Hence my third rule, though I’m willing to consider that I’m being needlessly redundant.
My modest proposal is that safety rules should be taught thusly:
Alan's chart is pretty good, though, and I wish I'd thought of it!
Never point a gun - any gun, loaded or unloaded - at anything you are not willing to shoot.
Keep your finger out of the triggerguard until you are ready to fire.
Know where your shots will land and what they’ll touch along the way.
-=[ Grant ]=-
When I talked about tools a couple of weeks ago, a regular reader emailed and said that his father had owned a service station in the 1960s too. He asked what brand, and I told him Texaco. He then forwarded a link to this shot of an abandoned Texaco station somewhere in North Dakota.
The picture is hosted at a site called shorpy.com, and that link encouraged me to spend the next hour looking at the historic photos that are Shorpy's raison d'être. Shorpy is sort of a cross between a photo album and a blog, and with thousands of photos in their archive I’m going to need a lot more spare time! All pics have a small preview like this one, and clicking on any of them brings up a high-res version. Neat!
Very cool site that has become one of the few on my "daily read" bookmark.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Sorry about the outage on Monday. I ended up spending the day rescuing my wife from a malfunctioning automobile. Wife and car are doing fine; my hectic schedule is not. Such is life.
Since I don't have a lot of spare time this week I'm just going to point you to Snarkybytes, where Alan yesterday put out his list of signs that you might be a Mall Ninja.
Funny stuff, especially the bit about HK.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I haven't done a Wednesday Wanderings post for a while, but since I took the holiday off what would have been posted Monday got shuffled to today.
So, what's going on in the world? Well, Tam continues her slide to a greener lifestyle. She's almost to the point where she could move to Portland and lobby for more bike paths to further clog traffic. (I'll bet she's developed a taste for tofu, too.)
The Firearm Blog recently posted a great old television commercial for the Mattel "Tommy Burst" gun. Someone I knew as a kid had one of these, though for the life of me I can't remember who it was nor do I remember the commercial. I do, however, remember the sound the bolt made as it was pulled back. Fun toy that would cause apoplexy of sold today. (Readers of a certain vintage will recognize the voice of the narrator and the face of the bad guy as both belonging to Hal Smith, the great character actor and voice artist.)
Gabe Suarez recently posted an interesting article of the value of simplicity in training. I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but his point about not having unlimited time to train is spot-on. That point alone deserves an entire article.
As if the Judge phenomenon couldn't get any sillier, I give you the Tactical Judge. Make of it what you will.
Rob Pincus recently returned from a teaching stint in South Africa, where he made this video of a Glock suppressor that he (and I) didn't even know existed. Square (of course), made of plastic (what else?), and disposable (!!), it fits on a special barrel that Glock also sells.
Cool stuff, but why in 'repressed' South Africa are these things freely available, but here in the 'free' United States are they demonized and heavily regulated?
Happy Wednesday, everyone!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Some time back I got an email from a fellow named Gavin who was thinking about starting up a reloading blog. I think I linked to it when he was just getting started, but In the intervening year or so he's really expanded his site.
Gavin's posted lots of instruction videos on various presses and equipment, including one on a product I'm considering: the Hornady Case Prep Center. I was happy to see that, because I had some questions about its operation and construction. The excellent video he made answered my questions.
He's serious about his project: note the picture of his reloading bench, where he has a lineup of all the 5-station progressive presses made!
(Holy cow. Look how clean and neat everything is. Not only am I jealous, I'm also embarrassed - my reloading bench bears no resemblance to the surgically clean facility he has. Mine is more akin to a junkyard that's really let itself go.)
Check it out: www.ultimatereloader.com
-=[ Grant ]=-
Several people emailed me about The Firearm Blog's picture of Jerry Miculek's 627PC. It would appear that his gun has had the locking mechanism disabled, leading to much renewed discussion about the incidence of accidental lock activation.
When the locks first came out there were a few reported cases of locks self-engaging. The wisdom of the internet held that the locks were just fine, that S&W would never knowingly introduce something that would put people at risk, that the reports were fabricated, and so on.
As time wore on it became apparent that the issue was real, but seemed to mostly happen with lightweight guns shooting heavy recoiling loads. Then I started getting reports of lightweight guns shooting normal loads experiencing the problem, followed by the "big boomers" and hunting loads. Most recently I've heard first-person accounts of steel guns (all J-frames, so far) shooting sane cartridges having their locks self-engage.
I've collected enough of these accounts over the last several years that I simply won't carry a S&W with a lock. The incidents are numerous enough, and the consequences dire enough, that I simply don't trust the mechanism. I recommend that all my clients seriously consider carrying a non-lock gun; if you tuned in last week you found that my usual carry revolver was a Ruger, partly because they don’t have such a mechanism.
(Just for the record: I have no financial stake in this debate, as liability issues demand that I do not deactivate a safety device - no matter how questionable - from a gun. I'm not making any money by suggesting that you carry a S&W sans lock.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
I spent this weekend assisting at a defensive rifle class with Georges Rahbani, and sometime during the weekend thought of a great article for today.
Then I forgot what it was.
My usual habit is to carry, in the left pocket of my shirt, a small pad and a mechanical pencil. When I have an idea I jot it down, thus preserving it for a time when I can make use of it. That's assuming, of course, that I remember to look at the thing!
The weather was pretty warm this weekend (about 90 degrees) and we were in the sun for most of the two days. I'd shed my normal pocketed button-front shirt for a more comfortable short sleeved Henley. My pad and pencil, of course, was in the regular shirt and when the aforementioned great idea struck, I was without a means to record it. Thus this morning's rambling version of "my dog ate my homework!"
Luckily Chris over at The Anarchangel posted something worthy of commentary. Go read it, then come back for a little discussion.
I tuned in for the first episode of Top Shot, recognized it as yet another overblown social manipulation festival common to reality television, and promptly turned it off. My spare time is quite limited and I have to make hard decisions about what I do with it. Even with guns and shooting Top Shot didn't make my cut, so I didn't know what transpired until Chris filled me in.
Those who live in landlocked states probably have no concept of just what the United States Coast Guard does. Here in Oregon, where Coast Guard helicopters and rescue crews are a common sight, we have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices those men and women make. Despite being ridiculed (or even worse, ignored) they go out and do their job to the best of their ability every day of the week.
Those in the other services are only in danger when they've been activated and deployed, and their tours of deployment are limited in duration (a good thing, do not misunderstand.) The USCG is always on deployment, whether doing rescue work, interdicting smugglers, or protecting our Navy's operations in foreign ports. (That's right - when the U.S. Navy needs help, they call the Coast Guard!) When I was growing up it was widely said that you were more likely to be killed in the Coast Guard in peacetime than in the infantry during wartime. While that may not be literally true, it serves to illustrate the tough job USCG does.
Much of that is because the nature of their missions requires them to always be in harm's way. One of their primary duties is to protect lives in America's waters, and here in Oregon they do so constantly. The USCG's rescue swimmers and helicopter pilots are the best that can be found; until you've witnessed a Dolphin SAR helicopter hovering nearly motionless just feet away from a cliff face, in high winds and torrential rain, you have little appreciation for the skill of those crews. I don't know where one goes to recruit such people, but they must have ice water injected into their veins upon enlistment. They are amazing to watch, and when they appear on scene there is a very strong feeling of relief - even if you're not the subject of their attention.
So, to Caleb and all the other past and present members of the United States Coast Guard, and especially to those stationed here in Oregon, thank you. We appreciate your service, your sacrifice, and above all your professionalism.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Though I’ve made reference to each of these in the past, it’s about time I actually plugged some of the people & organizations that have value to those interested in defense of themselves or their loved ones.
The U.S. Concealed Carry Association's purpose is to educate responsible armed citizens. Members have access to their full website, online forums and one of the best "gun" magazines published today. If I were forced to recommend a single resource for the person who carries a gun for self defense, it would be the USCCA. (Disclaimer: I do write an occasional article for their magazine. Since it's only available with membership, you can't read them if you're not a member!)
The Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network started a couple of years ago as a sort of "union" for gun owners. I've heard of many a self defense shooting in which the defendant was facing huge legal issues, and often wondered how they were going to get through the legal process and put their life back together. You've probably seen such cases in the online forums, accompanied by requests to donate to some legal defense fund. The ACLDN serves to pool member's strength to protect one another when one of them comes under scrutiny of the legal system. It's a unique organization, providing a unique service worthy of your consideration.
The Personal Defense Network aims to be the premier source of self-defense videos and articles on the 'net. Less than a year old, PDN is growing rapidly and already has a lot of great content available. The forums are dedicated to self defense issues, keeping the clutter to a minimum. (Disclaimer: I also write articles for PDN.)
The ProArms Podcast continues to have some of the very best in-depth interviews with people in the shooting world, usually focusing on self defense and training issues. If you missed their recent interview with Chicago cop Bob Stasch, a veteran of 14 gunfights, go listen. Now. It may be one of the best they’ve done.
It seems that every time I turn around I’m recommending Kathy Jackson’s website The Cornered Cat. It deals exclusively with women, guns and self defense, and is the very best resource on the ‘net for women who have chosen to arm themselves. I’m not exaggerating when I say “the very best” - there is no other site I’ve seen which even comes close to Kathy’s creation. If you know a woman who is interested in self defense or in firearms in general, but is a bit apprehensive and doesn’t know where to go to find other women with the same interests and concerns, send her to Kathy.
Finally, my interest in shooting and self defense has allowed me to meet some of the best (and most interesting) people. One of them is trainer Robb Hamic, who writes an interesting blog dealing with a wide range of self defense issues. In a recent post he had this gem, one I think that everyone with an interest in self-defense should take to heart:
“I walk around with a smile and I try to be happy but if someone crosses my path that wants to do me, my family or a person that I choose to protect harm; I will do whatever is necessary to keep us safe, based on my perception of danger. Up to and including taking another person(s) life. If it is the only option, I will exchange my life for my wife or children’s life. If I have to fight, I will use every once of aggression, decisiveness and intelligence in my body to overwhelm my attacker(s). ”
-=[ Grant ]=-
The Fear And Loading blog alerted me to this story from the Charlotte Gun Rights Examiner. Seems that with the NRA Convention in town, the local Marriott decided to take conventioneer's money and then slap them in the face for the privilege. Interesting read, and it looks like the Marriott manager has bitten off more than he can chew.
(This is in stark contrast to the Virginia Beach Resort in which I stayed a few weeks back. Not only did they host the Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Development course, the staff was completely at ease with a bunch of gun guys roaming the halls. I went so far as to store a gun in one of their safe deposit boxes, and the desk clerks didn't even blink. Great place.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
The Truth Is Out There: I've mentioned Kathy Jackson's CorneredCat site as the best resource on the web for those women who want to get involved in the firearms world. This week on the ProArms Podcast, Gail Pepin interviews Kathy about one of her all-time classic articles: "How to Make Your Wife Hate Guns." The interview is even better than the article, and is a must-listen for any man out there who wishes for his wife/significant to start shooting.
Guys, I'm not kidding - you need to listen to this podcast. Kathy's interview starts about 20 minutes in, preceded by Dr. Paula Bratich talking about concealed carry in Illinois.
Better Late Than Never: Prior to the SHOT show, The FIrearms Blog reported that Ruger was going to show a .357 version of the LCR. It was only slightly premature, as Ruger showed it off at last week's NRA Convention. Not for me, thanks, but I'm sure that there are those who will love it.
The Bad Guys Have An Advantage: An interesting article over at PoliceOne.com asks "Why do bad guys seem to do so well in gunfights?" Worthwhile reading.
-=[ Grant ]=-
The Firearm Blog alerted me to this post over at accurateshooter.com. A new sighting enhancement, making use of a “zone plate" optic, is due to hit the market soon. The device makes it possible to focus on both near and far objects at the same time, without the penalty of large, expensive optical systems.
I'll be anxious to try one of these on a rifle. My eyes cannot focus on close objects without optical help, and I disdain scopes in general. While I can still shoot irons on rifles with long (22" and up) barrels, the shorter carbines are next to impossible for me to use. It is those short, handy rifles that I must scope, which obviously negates the value of a short, handy rifle!
If the MicroSight works, I've got several favorite rifles that might just shed their pregnant guppy personas.
-=[ Grant ]=-
One of the people in the CFSID class last week was veteran trainer Robb Hamic. He posted a recap of the class on his blog.
Being fundamentally lazy (which I now realize to be 'efficient' - CFS students will get the joke), I'm just going to let you read his great thoughts while I attend to other matters.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I just returned from a visit to Virginia Beach, where I attended the Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Development (CFSID) course. I've been searching my brain for a one-word description of what the class is like, and this is the only thing that even comes close:
We spent 4 days and just shy of 60 hours learning the ins and outs of Combat Focus Shooting so that we could accurately and efficiently communicate the program to students. We spent the first of those day on the range...no, that's not quite right; for any other course it would have been the first day, but for us it was roughly half of the first day, as the entire session ran well past 9pm. The rest of the week was spent not on becoming better shooters, but learning to be better teachers.
We studied a little of everything: anatomy, physiology, neurophysiology, psychology, philosophy, and more. By the end of the fourth day, which is when testing was done, my brain was fried. I don't even remember the final written test, but I do remember nearly passing out somewhere on page three (serious blood sugar drop, complete with tremors and sweating.)
Apparently I finished it. At least, I think I did!
This isn't like most other instructor courses. Most of the time, an instructor certificate is a matter of showing up, shooting well, and having your check clear. CFSID is different; Rob Pincus is committed to producing good teachers, not just good demonstrators. That showed in the caliber (pardon the pun) of the people who were there, as I'd be confident in recommending any one of them as a competent and knowledgeable instructor.
There's a reason that, historically, less than 50% of Combat Focus Shooting instructor candidates pass the course. It's that tough, and takes a phenomenal amount of mental discipline just to make it through.
As it happens, my return trip routed me through Chicago, where I spent nearly three hours waiting for my next flight. Turns out that Tam was in Chicago at the same time. Wish I'd known, I'd have loved to finally meet her.
We also got to study some (unintentional) modern art, courtesy of an ancient video projector that refused to hold a sync signal with Rob's new MacBook:
Yes, that's Rob Pincus getting all Warhol on his students.
I don't usually plug local businesses, but this one deserves it.
The day before I left, I discovered that my old camera had died. It powered up, but none of the controls worked. (It will still take pictures, but the exposure control is fried and the autofocus appears to be only sporadically active.) We had planned to upgrade our camera later this year, but this forced our hand: we needed it now.
I spent that day not packing, but running all over Western Oregon to find the camera I'd decided on. I finally found the body, but the lens I wanted wasn't in stock anywhere. I decided to pick up a used optic as stopgap measure, while I waited (and recovered financially) for the one I really wanted. Trouble is that none of the camera stores I called carried much (or any) used equipment. About that time I remembered seeing a yellow pages ad for a little one-hour photo place located in a small town fairly close to us. I had it in my mind that the ad said something about used cameras, and since phone calls are free I dialed their number. A pleasant young lady answered the phone and said that yes, they had used gear and that they had several suitable lenses for me.
What I found when I walked into Focal Point Photography blew me away. This is a tiny shop, located in a small farming community in a rural area, and it is filled with photo gear. From Speed Graphics to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, these folks have a little of everything. Piles of used gear (literally), a surprising selection of lighting equipment new and old, even darkroom stuff, all stuffed (literally) into a two-story building in little ol' Dallas, Oregon. It was like going back in time, to what camera stores used to be before the age of big-box homogenization. I don't know if they do mailorder, but they're so accommodating I suspect they would. If you're looking for just about anything photographic, particularly if it's out of production and now hard to find, give them a call: (503) 623-6300.
I have no affiliation other than as a satisfied, if somewhat amazed, customer.
Now, I'm back to catching up on your emails!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Back To Work - Returned last night from a rare (for me) three-day weekend. I spent the time in the eastern half of the state (the desert part) to visit relatives and do some shooting. The last such trip was two years ago, and I'd forgotten what it was like to relax!
Somewhere Steve Wozniak Is Crying - The Firearm Blog brings us news that an Aussie company has developed a sniper moving target system using Segways as drones. I was pretty pumped about that - shooting a Segway would be almost as satisfying as perforating a Prius - but alas the little things are armored. Still, it's a neat concept. (I like the part where the Segways run for their lives at the sound of a gunshot!)
Shooty Goodness - One of the topics of discussion amongst my cousins this weekend was their desire to go to Knob Creek for the annual machine gun shoot. Turns out it was happening literally while we were talking about it, and Tam was there.
Pest Control - The shooting part of my trip involved helping to rid my cousin's ranch of the dreaded sage rat. Sage rat hunting has become a Very Big Thing out here in the West, and despite hundreds of thousands of the things being dispatched every season the population continues to outbreed the hunters. Damage to crops from sage rat infestations is staggering, and it doesn't look like the problem is going to end any time soon.
There are a couple of schools of thought regarding the hunting of sage rats. One school likes to set up a shooting bench and snipe the things from long range with a .22-250. The other prefers to use a .22 rimfire, and just get closer. I belong to the latter group, as using a rimfire is significantly cheaper and still quite challenging. (In a good field it's not unusual to go through 500 rounds a day, and I'm just not wealthy enough to afford to do that with a centerfire rifle!)
Another benefit of using rimfires is that it's easy to get kids involved. It's important that children learn early the necessity of responsible wildlife management. The reason we shoot the sage rat is because a) the population is out of control, and b) poisons aren't an option in areas with large raptor populations. (How many of you have actually seen a bald eagle hunting prey? I saw a half-dozen just this weekend, which is the case every time I go out there. With poison, that wouldn’t be the case.)
Happiness Is A New Gun - My nephew Roman came with us on this trip, and I presented him with his first “grown-up” rifle. Up to this point he'd been using one of the little Chipmunk rifles, and it was time for him to upgrade. I gave him a Glenfield Model 25 with some special touches: I shortened the barrel to a more kid-friendly (yet legal) length, tuned the trigger just a bit to get rid of the horrendous grittiness, floated the barrel, and mounted a 3/4"-tubed scope. It turned out to be a fast handling, accurate little gun which he quickly put to good use, making some excellent shots in very challenging (windy) conditions.
Some Thoughts On Equipment - It's normal to think that a beginner doesn't need top notch gear on which to learn how to shoot. My nephew reinforced my belief in the opposite view: the novice is more in need of quality equipment than the experienced shooter. It's hard to learn all the nuances of good shooting when one is fighting with substandard gear, and good quality guns and ammo don't stand in the way of skill development. Regardless of the age of the student, If one is just starting out it's important to buy the best equipment one can afford. It is only after the basics are mastered is one able to rise above his/her equipment, but poor equipment can keep one from truly mastering even the simplest techniques.
-=[ Grant ]=-
It comes as no surprise to long-time readers that I'm a fan of the 6.5mm rifle caliber. Though I've only owned a single such rifle - a 6.5-284 screamer - the ballistic advantages of this particular diameter intrigue me to no end. It seems to be a "sweet spot" in rifle calibers, where drag coefficients and sectional densities combine to make extremely efficient cartridges. Their stability in flight, ability to resist wind, and deep penetration are the stuff of legend.
I've wanted a 6.5 Swedish Mauser for the longest time, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at the modern short-action version, the .260 Remington. I'd love to have a Mannlicher in 6.5x54 (with the full stock for which Mannlicher is most famous, of course) but have never been able to justify the high tariff. If I see a rifle, nearly any rifle, in 6.5mm I usually salivate! (Well, perhaps not for a Carcano. It's not the cartridge I mind, it's the rifle in which it is usually encountered. Mr. Whelen would not have found it at all interesting.)
Given this fascination, it should not be a shock to learn that I relish the idea of a 6.5mm cartridge chambered in an AR-15. I actually considered buying a 6.5 Grendel upper not too long ago, but held back because of the high cost. The Grendel is a proprietary cartridge, for which barrel, rifle, and ammunition makers must pay a royalty to the owner: Alexander Arms.
I'm all for free enterprise, but that particular enterprise is far from free. The royalties necessary to use the Grendel cartridge have kept prices much higher than, say, the unrestricted 6.8SPC round. I wondered why someone didn't simply clone the Grendel cartridge and give it a different name.
Someone finally did. As The Firearm Blog reports, Les Baer has cloned the Grendel cartridge and has released it as the .264 LBC-AR. (Who came up with that mouthful?) It is a functional equivalent of the 6.5 Grendel, and I hope it catches on. If it does, my AR may finally reach the 6.5mm nirvana I've long sought.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Today we have two tales of poor gun handling. Pharmacist Tommy sent me this story about a police officer who shot himself in the head.
From Carteach's blog we get the tale of an Army soldier whose buddy shot him. The young man is quite lucky to be alive.
What do these two incidents have in common? People do stupid things with guns they perceive to be unloaded. (The problem isn’t that the gun is or is not loaded, but that people are doing stupid things with them in the first place.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
DRAW FAST, HOLSTER SLOW: Tam alerts us to a ND that happened at a Todd Green class. In his commendable reporting of the incident, Todd says "Never be in a rush to holster your pistol. We all know it, we say it, we teach it. Not all of us do it." So true.
As instructors it's easy for us to forget that reinforcement, and sometimes enforcement, are necessary parts of our job. Especially when we're dealing with "advanced" students, we tend to go easy on the reinforcement of fundamentals for fear that we'll be resented for belittling their ability or experience. We have to resist that tendency, and we need to do so consistently. When warranted, enforcement (up to and including ejection from class) has to happen.
The only instructor I've ever seen who is absolutely consistent in this regard is Georges Rahbani (TBRIYNHO.) Even in his advanced rifle classes, which are invitation only and have stringent prerequisites, you will hear "safety on" and "finger in register" (index, if you prefer) commands at the end of a string of fire. He never wastes an opportunity for reinforcement at any level of training or ability.
When Georges encounters failures to heed commands or instruction, he has a way of bringing the point home to the student: he/she has to publicly deposit a dollar bill into a pot. (The students have a friendly shoot-off at the end of class to win the pot.) This has a non-confrontational, yet still very chastening, effect on both the offending person and the rest of the students; I've seen it work on countless occasions. I don't know where the idea comes from, but I'm giving Georges the credit.
THE PROBLEM WITH ELECTRONIC SCALES: I recently sat down to work up a new .308 load. I turned on my RCBS electronic scale, waited a couple of minutes, and starting weighing charges. Much to my surprise, the weight of the charges thrown by my powder measure increased each time! I'd forgotten that electronic scales need protracted warmup periods before accuracy and repeatability can be expected. After a half-hour of warmup, it settled down and gave correct readings. Word to the wise: keep your mechanical scales around to double check the electronic ones, or buy a set of check weights.
HERE COMES DA JUDGE: From The Unforgiving Minute comes this gem:
"The inexplicable success of the Taurus Judge still depresses the hell out of me. Taurus keeps cranking out new versions, each more grotesque, hideous and nonsensical than the last, and people KEEP BUYING THE GODDAMN THINGS. Just another sign that our culture is doomed, I suppose."
(The opinions of the contributor do not necessarily reflect the views of the Management of this blog. Then again, they just might.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
The Firearms Blog reports that KBP, the Russian arms maker, has introduced a "tactical" version of their MTs 225 revolving shotgun. (Basically, they took their standard sporting arm and added a folding stock.) You can make what you will of the revolving shotgun concept, but I liken it to the various revolving rifles which have come and gone: this is a good idea, why?
What's more interesting to me is to take a wander through their website. They make several unique revolvers, and the descriptions are worth reading too. "...for suppression of hooligan actions" ?!?
-=[ Grant ]=-
I now realize that I like looking at beautiful sunrises more than beautiful sunsets. I'm sure there is some deep psychological significance to that preference, but it as yet escapes me.
Everyone, it seems, is making a "tactical" pen these days. Benchmade, Schrade, Tuffwriter, Hinderer, Surefire - and now Smith & Wesson. Who will be next?
I have nothing against the concept, as it's simply a return to the roots of the familiar Kubotan (the techniques for which were originally intended for the common Cross-type pen.) These, though, all look like rejects from The Mall Ninja Outlet Store. I have half a mind to make one myself - classically styled out of real rust-blued steel, of course.
One of the better (most balanced) preparedness blogs extant is Jim Rawle's SurvivalBlog.com It's one of the few blogs on my morning "must read" list, and has been since I found it several years ago. This morning he posted the sad news that his wife Linda has died after a long illness.
He's shared the progress of his beloved in the blog, and while not a shock it's still depressing to hear. My wife and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Jim and his family.
It's necessary, if one is to maintain proper perspective, to learn from those whose experience is different from yours. Take, for example, an interview with a WWII Soviet tank crewman (thanks to Tam, who finds the most amazing stuff.) What he says about the Sherman tank, the Tommy gun, and the .45ACP cartridge are very interesting and definitely challenge certain widely held opinions.
(When you read what he says about the mighty .45, think back to the very similar stories regarding the .30 Carbine.) If you have any interest in WWII, armaments, or the nitty-gritty of battle, it's a great read.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Getting a late start today, and that means I'm already behind for the week. Sheesh - where does the time go?
Tam talks about the checkering on her gun. While this would seem to be an issue limited to autoloaders, sharp edges on the trigger and frame (particularly inside the cylinder window) have the same effect for wheelgunners. When people ask "what's the best modification I can do to my revolver?", I usually say round the trigger and dehorn the gun. It makes shooting much less of a chore.
Every so often a client will send me one of the S&W Scandium guns for work, and I'm always reminded of how much I dislike shooting the little beasts. Even with standard pressure Specials, the recoil gets to me very quickly. I can't imagine actually shooting one with Magnum loads, and I intend to never find out!
For me it's merely discomfort, but for others the experience could prove more serious.
I constantly encounter women who've been sold those guns, because the sales clerk wrongly assumed that "light" was synonymous with "best for the little lady." This weekend I ran into yet another such case: a thin, older lady. She wanted to know if the Magnum rounds the shop had sold her with the gun would be good for her to shoot! (My immediate thought was "only if you use them on the idiot who sold you this thing!", but I held my tongue.) I cautioned her that the combination of those rounds with her very thin, somewhat frail build could result in permanent nerve damage to her hands. I hope she got the message.
The best recommendation I have for such cases is a box of the 125gn Federal Nyclad standard-pressure Specials.
Serendipity...I wrote last week about a 2" Model 15 I'd recently worked on, and since then I've run into several of the things. The latest was yesterday, when buddy Jim Jacobe opened a case and said "weren't you just talking about how much you liked these?" I swear, if I wrote about a .577 Tranter he'd pull one out of his safe to show me...
Now it's time for me to get some work done. Happy Monday!
-=[ Grant ]=-
It appears that our spell of excessively hot weather has ended. Last week the digital thermometer at our house recorded a high of 111 degrees. (Yes, that's in the shade - who'd be stupid enough to go out into the sun on a day like that?) We set an all-time record for consecutive days over 90 degrees (9 and counting.) I'm just looking forward to being able to spend a full day (more or less) in the shop.
From The Firearms Blog comes the news of a(nother) special edition S&W 627 in .38 Super. This one should have a sticker on the box that says "Now With More Ugly!"
I'm pleased to note that QC at Ruger is improving - the last couple of SP101s I've seen, of recent production, are much improved over those of years past. Gail Pepin at the ProArms Podcast tells me that she's visited the plant recently, and their production floor has changed considerably. She credits their new emphasis on 'lean manufacturing', with its attendant focus on reducing waste and rework, for the quality bump.
The Firearms Blog also brings us happy news of Winchester's reprise of the Model 92 Takedown. I'd be tempted if they'd make it in .357 Magnum...
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to go to work!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I've been collecting conspiracy theories for the ammo shortage, and I recently heard a great one that supposedly came from a local gun store: FEMA has been buying ammunition companies, then shutting them down to eliminate all civilian ammunition sources.
One needs an awful lot of foil for a tin hat that big...
Uncle and I have something in common: here in Oregon, our legislature also passed a "no texting" law. We went further, though - we added that you couldn't use a handheld cel phone at all. Then we enacted $2 billion of new taxes and spending in the state with the second-highest unemployment in the nation. We're number 49! We're number 49! Go team!
I'm really excited about the rifles Savage has been introducing lately. I like this concept, though I'm not at all wild about the buttstock:
I'm more intrigued by this one:
If it's as accurate as expected, I may have to own one. (Sure, I could build one myself, but I'm too busy doing guns for other people. Remember the parable about the shoemaker's children?)
Now, if we could just get them to cease doing business with H-S Precision...
Dr. Helen brings us the story of a woman who fought back against her knife-wielding rapist. Read the comments - some insightful, and some very amusing (in a train wreck sort of way.)
From the Irish Times comes news that the powers-that-be want to ban "practical" shooting (i.e. IPSC, IDPA.) The Irish Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, had this to say:
“It’s simply not in the public interest to tolerate the development of a subculture predicated on a shooting activity which by the liberal standards of the US is regarded as an extreme shooting activity." He said any cursory research on the internet showed that these activities were marketed as being at the “extreme end” of handgun ownership and were “anathema to the tradition of Irish sporting clubs”.
Hmmm...such preoccupation with America leads me to suspect his national pride is still smarting from the shellacking his team took back in 1874.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Lots of linking to avoid thinking on my own!
Xavier recently posted a letter from - and his response to - one of his readers. The exchange (and the comments that follow) bring up important issues in the area of Second Amendment activism. It isn't always black-and-white.
When you've finished reading Xavier, pop over to Breda's place and read this related article she posted about a month ago. (I realize it's a bit late, and I'd meant to bring it up earlier, but just kept forgetting.)
Rob Pincus is one of the more thoughtful trainers working today. He's got a great post up on the Breach-Bang-Clear blog about putting techniques on pedestals. Highly recommended read.
Speaking of Rob, I discovered that he has a blog of his own. Good stuff.
Not just techniques get put on pedestals; equipment does too. There are the 1911 people, the Glock folks, the "any caliber as long as it begins with '4' " crowd, and so on. I suppose one could accuse me of doing the same thing with wheelguns (retro pedestal?), but I'm on record as saying - more than once - that the revolver isn't the perfect tool for everyone and every purpose.
For example, a number of years ago I was engaged in an activity of some risk. For that, I forsook my beloved revolver for a Glock and all the high capacity magazines I could fit under a suit coat. I believe in picking the right tool for the job; it just so happens that, for some jobs, the revolver is at least one of the right tools.
Rejoice! Tam has finally posted a new article over at The Arms Room. (I was beginning to think she'd given up writing about guns...)
-=[ Grant ]=-
Tam alerts us that today is the "official" birthday of the revolver - courtesy of The Great One, Samuel Colt. (I'm surprised, yet gratified, that she acknowledges someone whose last name is not Browning or Wesson!)
As long as I'm doing the link-love bit, over at Michael Bane's place there is something of a brouhaha regarding his assessment of the new Ruger SR9 pistol. Read the first part, then read Michael's response. (Be sure to read the comments on each - that's where the fireworks happen.)
One of the commenters has invoked Massad Ayoob's name as some sort of "proof" that Michael's opinions are "wrong." In the interest of full disclosure, I know Mas Ayoob on a personal basis, and I've done work for Bane. I've read their reviews, and what it comes down to is that they are both opinionated people with very definite tastes and preferences in firearms. That they have different points of view with regard to this particular gun is simply evidence that nothing appeals to everyone. I trust them both, and my feeling is that it's sad they couldn't find a new, innovative Ruger revolver to disagree about!
-=[ Grant ]=-