Saturday, September 22, 2012

What's in a name.

Back when cameras used film I was a camera nut, complete with darkroom in the basement for developing and printing.  I had no qualms about describing myself as a “camera nut”.  Even today it’s not unusual for someone to describe themselves as being nuts about something

 Take Jay Leno.  You can almost hear him describe himself as a car guy or car nut.

The descriptor ‘nut’ is often used in context of someone so involved with some aspect of their hobby they skip meals and sleep to continue with their obsession.  There are some magnificent obsessions and unfortunately some very unhealthy obsessions.

The problem with being a gun nut is one of political correctness.  

I hate PC.   But I have to admit that I really don’t want the association with the next malcontent nutcase who shoots up a women’s clinic or library ‘cause he knows nobody is able to shoot back.   While the media may describe him as a “troubled youth,” or suspected gunman, everyone else calls him a nut with a gun and that’s too close to gun nut. 

Describe yourself as a gun nut to a reporter covering any event, including the sack race at your church, in an attempt to put a human interest spin on your interest in firearms, and you’ll find yourself written up as “self-proclaimed gun nut”.

So what can we call ourselves?  It’s been suggested we try gunny.  It’s a nice term with no negative connotations and still conveys a degree of accomplishment with firearms.  Unfortunately it’s also the nickname for Gunnery Sergeant.  I’ve never been in the military and would not bestow an honored rank on myself.  It’s just wrong.

Gun Lover?  The term is just too oily and makes me feel I need a shower.

Jeff Cooper perused the Latin roots section of the dictionary and came up with hoplophile, or a lover of tools.  I like the concept of the gun as a tool because I see each gun as a self-rescue tool we use to stabilize the situation until the professionals arrive.  The professionals?  That’s the police.

I think I would spend too much time explaining what a hoplophile is.  Most of us do not have Jeff’s ability with words.

Gun aficionado has possibilities, but doesn’t reach the levels of commitment that some collectors and owners have. 

Gun geek.  I like that, but I remember when geeks were smart but socially awkward people.  This is nicely stereotyped by Big Bang Theory.  The socially adept character is clueless about science and math while the scientists live in a comic book graphic novel world debating who would win a fight between the Hulk and Superman.  Not the image I want.

Dilettante sounds too superficial.  

Dabbler sounds silly, like you’re unable to make a commitment. 
Gun junkie?  Well, only if you shoot only cheap guns like a Raven or some other pot metal frame guns.  

Connoisseur?  I like the way that’s sounds, a gun connoisseur.  I’ve known one who shot only classic 1911 .45 ACPs with pre-1945 magazines and only on sunny days with less than 64% relative humidity. 
I take that back.  Connoisseur sounds too much like someone who knows everything about something but does nothing with it.

I used to raise pigeons.  I still have a soft spot for those big, clumsy birds.  Several of my friends were also pigeon fanciers.  We had our own ideas about which blend of seeds and ground seashells made the best feed.  Bedding material, nesting material and not to mention the variety of pigeons and cross-breeds made for interesting and loud discussions.  In fact those conversations sound very much like the ones I have with other gun owners today.

I propose, if you need to identify yourself as more than a concerned gun owner, try pigeon fancier.  I mean gun fancier.  It’s a nice neutral descriptor with no negative connotations.

Why is this important?  

Let’s go back to the Russian revolution following WWI.  Lenin’s party called themselves the Bolsheviks or majority even when they were the minority.  People accepted it at face value and joined what they expected to be the winning side, the Majority.

That’s a fluke, you say.  I have a second example.

A former boss of mine was rewarded with a “personal size lab” for specialized analysis.  The lab consisted of him, his assistant and one microscope.  The central lab had about 20 different microscopes and a staff of 7 people.  We found it humorous and poked fun at it by calling the smaller, poorly equipped lab the main lab while the large more equipped lab was tongue-in-cheek called the satellite lab. 

Imagine our concern when management and our internal customers started calling the smaller lab the main lab.  I’m quite sure we lost resources and budget because of our language humor.
In our society names still have power and ability to shape public opinion. 

Watch how you describe yourself and your relationship to firearms.  You may find yourself hung with that name and its meaning.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Patriot Day - September 11 2012

September 11.   My calendar calls it Patriot Day(US), celebrated only in the USA.
September 11 may commemorate all American Patriots, but it’s best known as a wake-up call.  On September 11 2001 we woke up to discover the oceans that separate us from the other continents aren’t barriers to the conflicts in Europe, Africa or Asia.  Much to our rude surprise we also discovered that we are not universally like or feared to any great deal.
Following four suicide attacks by filled commercial airliners we momentary roused ourselves from our somnambulant trip thorough history.  We established new and often ineffective government organizations (TSA), gave up freedoms (unsigned search orders for our utility uses and GPS tracking of our vehicles) and subjected ourselves to base indignities (back to TSA groping us) just to get on an airplane.   
All in the illusion of security.
Despite the few voices lost in the desert calling for self-reliance and preparation, we are again sleep-walking through history.  We handicap our troops with rules of engagement that our enemies discard.  We confuse disruption with peaceful disagreement.  Our politicians pander to every voting block regardless of their stripe in a manner that would make a crack whore blush.
I don’t have an answer.  I don’t even have all the questions.   I see too many connections to expect a cookbook answer. 
I suggest society needs to re-engage with the political process.  Write your politicians and newspapers.  Tell them what you expect of them.  How else will they know what society wants?  Do you really think answering a poll carefully seeded with loaded questions tells them what we expect out of them.  No, it just reinforces the views of the special interest group that paid for the poll.
Each of us needs to send the world a message.  That message must be of self-reliance, of readiness and that we are prepared. 
But you need to step up too.  Demand your police practice terrorist responses at your schools, churches and local hospitals.  Get to know your neighbors and make sure they know they can count on you during a disaster.  Join the NRA and if you carry, practice with your weapon and develop your skill sets.  If you don’t carry, well why not?
Yes, this is going to take some of your time, maybe a weekend a month at the range.  Maybe you’ll have to give up a week’s vacation this year to get professional training.  But if you want to see a difference, then you have to be able to make a difference.  It all starts with you and me.
We will never defeat terrorism by promising them a chance at the American Dream.  We aren’t going to out produce them and crush their economy with luxury items.  They aren’t lining up to get the newest i-phone because Apple said so.  We can’t bribe them with our friendship or promises of foreign aid.
They are committed to dying for their cause.  They carefully and purposely cast themselves in the role of the underdog hero making the supreme sacrifice for people who love them against a bloated evil.  It’s a powerful image and motivator.
All we can do is demonstrate to them their deaths will be trivial, meaningless and unimportant.  That they will be fly specks on the pages of history.  September 11 might be a good day to start.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Shots over Perry

Practice is always a question in the mind of serious shooters.

Why do we practice?  What practice do we want?  What practice do we need?  How often do we practice?  How much practice is needed?

poor stance.
This is why we practice.  Poor stance, no front-back stability, bobs up and down between shots.  Really....Is this a bear taking a dump in the woods?

The why question is easy to answer.  Practice builds skills we want and may need.  It helps prevent the erosion of hard-earned skills.  It demonstrates both faults in our training and in our equipment.   It makes us aware of what we were unaware of.

I try to shoot the Camp Perry reactive targets every time I can.  Why?  Practice can be fun.  It doesn’t have to be the mind-numbing, drudgery-filled activity associated with memorizing the seven times tables. 
ORPA  runs a double header on Labor Day weekend at Camp Perry just west of Port Clinton (not named for the president).  Rifle on Saturday and pistol on Sunday, fun both days.  All the courses of fire consist of 40 reactive, pop-up targets.  

 I had a lot of fun out there.

I don’t have access to a 300-meter rifle range with pop-up reactive targets.  Playing whack-a-target with as many as three targets at a time is a lot more fun and challenging than clanging steel at 182 meters.

AR shooting at Perry Pop-up
I had an end slot so it was hard to see if the other targets were standing.  Why?  If yours are down and your neighbor's are standing, you know you've scored a hit.  I'm shooting the little blue guys out there.

How did I do?  Well, I’m happy with most of it.  I shot a 33/40, a dreadful 25/40 and redeemed myself with 37/40.  I need more reloading practice with my rifle and smoothing out my trigger pull.

The pistol match ran fast this year.  More than half the targets were singles with enough doubles to keep you from getting complacent.   I could only shoot two relays on Sunday and I’m happy with my results. 

I shot a 37/40 with my Beretta .380 ACP and 38/40 with its bigger brother, the 92F.  I just wanted to prove to myself that I can consistently hit with a smaller gun.  The .380 has reasonable sights and it’s all about watching the front sight.

Perry pistol targets staged waiting to start
Despite the overcast weather the little plastic guys were ready for action.  So was the shooter.

Should you shoot the Perry pop-ups?  Here’s what one shooter told me.

“I’ve been in the military for some time, mostly overseas in Europe, and this is the nicest military shooting range I’ve ever seen.”

The next pop-up match will be rifle (only) the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  I hope to see you there!