Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Milestones Passed

Sic transit gloria mundi! 
For those of you who don't speak Latin, "Thus passes the glory of the world.” 

Mikhail Kalashnikov was not a man you could easily pigeon hole. He wanted to be a poet but his love of country lead him to serve first as a tank mechanic and later as a tank commander. Despite his skill at weapon invention and improvement, he continued to write and publish several books and poems. 

Mikhail Kalashnikov has died but his ideas remain. You may not recognize the name Kalashnikov, but we all recognize his legacy, the AK-47. 

Two AK-47 on wood floor
I stole this photo from the Internet.  These two might be the nicest AK-47s  I've ever seen.  The wood furniture looks nice and the metal has a nice finish.  The gun's real glory is it's simplicity and reliability. 

I remember seeing those ugly, crude-looking semi auto rifles at gun shows in the late 70s when they were selling for well under $100. Why would I want that piece of Russian junk I asked myself? Later with more wisdom and 20/20 hindsight I wish I had bought several.

You'll probably never see an AK punching holes in the X-ring at 600 yards without extensive re-work. But if you need a rifle you could drop in a river, shake it out and shoot all day and hit a man-size target at 200 yards, an AK would be a good choice. 

America often found AKs in the hands of our enemies, with good reason. The rifles are robust, durable, easy to repair, easy to make and easy to use. And they require little training to fire. It has been said that Mikhail Kalashnikov's genius was not in making an easy-to-manufacture rifle, but in making a rifle that allowed an untrained man to become an effective fighting unit with 4 hours of training. 

Tactical content? 
Simple is good. Any weapon that performs in cold, dirt, rain, muck and mire and still gives you a minute of man groups at 200 yards is better than that ultra precise, highly tuned weapon that delivers four-leaf clover groups at 200 yards, but jams if you look at it sideways.

If you think you might be going to dangerous places in this world and you know you might have to pick up a weapon and use it, you would be wise to spend a little pre-trip time getting to know the AK-47.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Random Thoughts

Every year I announce my firearms training schedule to the people I work with.  I’m often very surprised by the people who want to know more but aren’t interested in actual training.  Most of the time all the questions that could be resolved, or at least clarified, by a visit to the range are asked after the northeast Ohio outdoor shooting season comes to a screeching halt.  This year’s Christmas party was no different.

Sometimes you realize that all some people want is your blessing to confirm what they want to do is tactically sound, practical and will not land them in jail.  These ideas, in my experience, are seldom correct and often impossible to dispel.  In some cases all I want to do is change the subject as not to be connected with some scheme. 

So when the conversation wound down to their proposed plan that she would use a sawed off shotgun loaded with buck shot, I just wanted to change the subject.  I knew this wasn’t the time to discuss stopping power or the legal and civil liability problems with using an illegal weapon. 

I took the coward’s way out and asked her if she thought she could shoot someone.  Several adult beverages changed “I don’t know if I could shoot someone” to “I’ll shoot anyone in my home who threatens me.  I’ll empty the gun into’ em.”  This despite the fact she wasn’t sure about how to load a revolver, which is how I got into this wacky conversation.  It was an interesting and scary look into the mind of the untrained gun owner.

Last weekend also found me I with a table of knives at a gun show and I overheard a transaction at the table next to mine.  Table owner was selling an IverJohnson .32 caliber revolver to an older gentleman accompanied by his son.  These guns can be over 100 years old and the buyer was warned about shooting modern ammunition this gun.

I thought that was very nice of the seller.  You can shoot these revolvers with thin wall chambers from the late 1890s if:
  1. You’re crazy;
  2. You’re desperate;
  3. You’ve got the low pressure ammunition which was designed for that gun.

The son assured the seller that dad wasn’t going to shoot the gun, but shortly after the two of them walked off dad slipped back and asked the seller where he could by ammo for the gun.  The seller smartly claimed ignorance. 

As Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves....”

I’ve recently seen an abundance of SS109 both as reloading components and complete cartridges.  I’m surprised at this; many ranges forbid the use of steel core SS109 penetrator rounds for several good reasons.  They can bounce back from hard targets and injure the shooter or other people on the firing line.  They also have the potential to damage steel targets. 

SS109 damage to steel plate
Stolen from posted by PD shooter in 2006.  The left, if I understood the notes is an impact from  SS109 while the right is Wolf steel jacket  I don't have any information on the actual steel.

So I was wondering if the survivalists, doomsday prepers and followers of the Mayan calendar were preparing to duke it out with post-apocalyptic Mad Max armored survivors.  Never mind that they would be someone else’s Mad Max armored survivors.  Such a demand for SS109s would be noticed by manufacturers, who would flood the market.  It’s just simple demand and supply economics.
The big ammo sellers report they haven’t seen an up-tick in SS109 sales.  They did volunteer that bulk sales, in general, are down.  Their reasons fall into two possible alternatives.

One.  The bulk ammo market is saturated.  Too many shooters are waking up and wondering what to do with 50 thousand rounds of some caliber they don’t have a gun for.

Two.  It's political, of course.  Everyone is worried about what will happen in January 2014 under Obamacare.  As a result, they are slipping that extra cash aside in case they have to purchase health insurance.  Uncertain times do reduce unnecessary spending.

Is there a tactical content here?  
Probably not.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Pun

This is a visual pun

Puns are sometimes described as the lowest form of humor.  Most puns are verbal and depend on words with different spelling having the same pronunciation, or words that have similar sounds.  Pearls before Swine has used puns in many of the strips.

This is my visual pun.  That's a re-sized .223 Rem case hanging in that rather forlorn tree.  What Christmas carol does this remind you of?

If you think you know the answer, e-mail me.  Sorry, no prizes, just the fact that you're a little craftier than the next guy.

Merry Christmas!

Let me mention one of the blogs I follow and recommend.  It's called "the things worth believing in" and you can find it at

The author, a NY police officer, is currently covering NY law dealing with self-defense.  Now, normally I would suggest you stay away from NY, but I believe the better we understand the complications of law and self-defense the more capable we will be in both knowing when force is justified and dealing with the aftermath. You many gain some insights from his discussions.

After all, you'll be the one discussing your trial with your lawyer.

I got a comment and an image from a friend.  I'm posting the image for your enjoyment.

Thanks Marty!!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Annie, Get Your Printer!!

Printable guns just don’t want to go away, do they ?

Remember the hubbub over the high tech printers that let you prototype gears, parts, scale model buildings and cars?  It was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to print a working 3-D gun.

Parts of a printable gun
Parts needed for a 3-D printed gun.  They don't look very robust to me.

It happened much sooner than later and the cry went across the land, “It’s not detectable by metal detectors!  We’ll have children printing out guns and shooting each other!”  These, of course, are the gun banners’ touchstones: children and the fear of invisible stealth guns.

When I first saw the articles a good 3-D printer cost $30,000, not counting resin.  That’s a price little above the range of all but the most ardent hobbyist and companies.  The programs to print these firearms were free on the internet.  The State Department has forced Defense Distributed to remove the downloadable software and they have done so.

Of course the cat is out of the bag.  Outside of nude pictures of what’s-her-name, that software was one of the most frequently downloaded programs.  If you need a copy, I suspect all you need to do is ask enough teenage boys.  They may not have the printer but they got the software.

Even Europe is in on the act.  Austria claims they bought a 3-D printer for around $1400 and printed out a gun in 30 hours.  They also claim they fired four 9mm rounds into tissue stimulant or gelatin.

No information on the actual bullet was made available.  We don’t know if it was a reduced load, if the gun was all printed plastic, or if it contained a metal chamber.

I saw a video of a printed gun and it looked like the hammer served as the breach face and held the cartridge in place during firing.  The gun was a single shot and you needed a pointy stick to poke the empty brass case out before loading another.  Other articles suggest the short, smooth bore barrel shown in many of the pictures and videos is necessary to prevent internal pressure building up and blowing the gun up.  Yeah, a reduced 9mm load, called a 9 Kurz or .380 sounds reasonable in Austria’s experiment.

BATF has tested these guns and found ABS plastic works better than most, but they warn 3-D printed guns are fickle.  Sometimes they’ll fire and other times they’ll blow up in your hand.  No surprise here.  I suspect each round fired pushes the gun to the very edge of plastic and design failure.  I do find it strange that BATF would suggest using ABS plastic if these guns were a problem.

So what are 3-D guns?
  • Tools of terrorists?
  • The perfect murder weapon?
  • A guarantee that guns will be available no matter what the government does?
  • A rich man’s toy?

I haven’t decided, yet.

I grew up with the idea of making zip guns from a section of a telescoping car antenna, a .22 short and a piece of springy steel all taped to a wood block.  I’ve seen examples of single shot devices made under crude conditions that killed Japanese during WWII.  It seems anyone with a little know-how and access to a modest machine shop could make a very reliable six shooter or semi auto.  Something that can fire a bullet will always be around.

The uproar over 3-D plastic guns seems to be centered on two things: non-detectable and non-regulated.  Both are, in my opinion, non-starters.  These guns are massive and difficult to conceal.  

Assembled 3-D gun
Here's a 3-D gun assembled.  It looks pretty chunky to me.  Note, the trigger seems snapped off, never a good thing with a gun. 

They have to be big to resist the pressures of even feeble .22 shorts.  And as I understand it, anyone can legally make themselves a gun without government oversight.  It’s only when you sell them do the Feds get involved.

Nobody is going to print a plastic gun so they can shoot someone.  It will make great fodder for mystery writers.  Oh, wait it has.  Check out Eastwood’s “Line of Fire.”

Hollywoods 1993 idea of a plastic gun
Hollywood's idea of a plastic gun in 1993 from "Line of Fire."   Fiction looks a lot better than the current printable guns!

Here’s a thought.  Maybe it’s a good thing.  Let me tell you about a science fiction short story written after the atomic bomb was born and before lasers.  It made an impression on me years ago but I can’t find the author or title.  If the story sounds familiar, send me a reference.

Called to testify in front of a televised Senate subcommittee hearing on western land use, a rancher takes advantage to tell the Senators and everyone listening about a new tool.

The rancher invented it, after some trial and error, out of ordinary household objects.  He explains using this tool powered by a 9 volt battery, ranch hands are able to cut wood, start fires and bore post holes in the ground and break up large rocks that need to be moved.  The details go out across the world on live TV in this pre-internet fictional world. 

The Senators question him about power and range and he tells them with sufficient power, say a car battery or two he believes you could poke a hole in the moon.  He also reveals that should he be arrested and unjustly imprisoned, he believes that his ranch hands and all his self-reliant neighbors would use their tools to free him.

That’s when our fictional Senators realize power will shift from them and the government back to the hands of everyday people.   

The Senators decide to repress the information, but the rancher reveals that complete plans and construction details have been mailed sometime ago to quite a few radio and electrical hobbyist magazines, most of which are outside the North American continent.  The genie is out of the bottle and isn’t going back.

The Senators demand the cameramen turn off their broadcasting system, but the power has already started to shift.  No dice they say.  We are master electrical technicians they reply and nobody tells them what to do.

Free plans, which will get better, better building materials and the price of 3-D printers coming down.  Hmmm….is this a shift in power?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


It was almost the perfect night for moon watching last Monday.  By 7ish, it was dark and in the clear, pre-winter air the waning moon seemed so sharp you could cut yourself on it.  The road, a rural one lane country road near her house, has little traffic anytime, but it was especially deserted that evening.  Supper could wait.  There are only so many nights perfect for moon watching so she slowed the car even more.

What is it about the moon that fascinates us?  I’m told in a million years the moon will be closer and tidal forces will grind the moon into Saturn-like rings.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful to see?

A true full moon lasts but seconds before it is gone, reminding us of our own mortality and the cycle of nature.  All things come into existence, wax fat and then wane to nothing.  Even though the moon seems eternal to us, it shows its long history of change in the craters, rills and lava plains.  The moon is an amazing mystery.

Little wonder she slowed her car to ponder the moon.  There was also a second reason.  Two men walking on the side of the road.  She didn’t want to hit them.

Something was off kilter about them.  Maybe they looked over their shoulders once too often; maybe it was the infrequency of seeing pedestrians on this road at this time of year.  She doesn’t know.

Whatever the reason she chose to pull her purse closer to herself and open it.  She has a CCW and she had her 9mm.  That’s was a good thing, a very good thing.

As she passed the two men one suddenly grabbed the car door handle and started jerking on the handle.  If it hadn’t been locked he would have been in the car.  She doesn’t know where the other person was.  All she knew was her gun was in her hand and now visible to the man trying to get in.

Her attackers decided there would be another, easier victim to find.  They ran off.  Forgetting about the moon, she sped off to the safety of her home and family.

Two days later she’s still suffering from the attack.  She can’t get the event out of her mind.  She doesn’t remember the decision to reach for her gun or of actually grasping the gun, just the gun in her hand.

It bothers her that her reaction to those men was to make her weapon available to herself.

She’s willing to talk to me. I teach CCW and believe in the armed good citizen.  I might be the only person at work who shares her values.  She wants to know if she should have called the police.  “It happened so fast,” she tells me.  “I don’t know what to say.”  I suggest some verbiage, add encouragement and tell her she’d be helping everyone by filing a report with the local gendarmes.  I also believe that.

I tell her, be honest.  Tell the police what happened and you didn’t know if you should make a report because you had so little description and information.  I tell her it will help.

She’s still a victim.  She’s still dealing with the aftermath of the attack.  That road will never be the same nor will the simple pleasure of looking at the moon ever be the same.

Tactical content?
Almost too much to remark on:
  • Escalation up and down the color codes of awareness.
  • The Gift of Fear, that little voice that says something isn’t kosher.  Listen to it.
  • Get the professionals moving as soon as possible.  Create a paper trail to help demonstrate you’re the victim.  Especially if these two show up again.
  • Be aware of your surroundings; bad things happen at light speed.
  • Be prepared to respond.  Make the criminals change their plans while you continue to adapt and dominate the situation.

Monday, October 28, 2013

IPSC Sniper or Miss Faster, Faster You Fool!

I shot a sniper team match recently at Greenport Tactical.  Each team consisted of a spotter and sniper.  Most of the spotters shot an AR platform in .223.  Most of the snipers used a .308 bolt action with lots of optical glass.  A few snipers used a .308 or .223 AR platform.

I had a lot of fun.   I didn’t anticipate winning but my partner and I weren’t in last place either.  This match brings out a lot of very good shooters. 

One of the advantages of shooting these matches is to find areas I’m deficient in.  These problems can be skill set or equipment based.  Once I discover the problem I then have to decide if I want to resolve it.

What, live with deficiencies?  Sure.  Here are two examples.

One stage called for the sniper to shoot through several different canted slots in a barricade at a 4x6-inch steel plate 126 yds away.  
Shooter has to tilt rifle to line up shot
The shooter has to tilt the rifle and the sights to line up on the target.  Times of 300 seconds were not uncommon, but a miss was only 2.5 seconds added to your time!
Canting the rifle and sights causes a serious change in impact points.  You could learn to apply a correction factor based on experience and training over several distances or simply accept the fact that you’ll miss the center of mass but hit the man.  I’d like to improve that skill set.

4 by 6 inch steel target  sniper match
Here's the target she's trying to hit.  A white 4x6-inch steel plate at 126 yards.  After a hit the plate twists, rocks and moves in unpredictable ways.
Another stage had you spotting playing cards at 76 yds.  My 10X 50mm binoculars didn’t have enough oomph to clearly resolve the cards so I wasn’t much help to the sniper. I could cure this problem with more magnification, which is harder to hold steady.  Another solution to this problem would be better optics with the same power and a larger front lens to gather more light and improve resolution, which is more expensive. 

This is not a problem I’ll attempt to resolve.  I just can’t see the need to identify your target based on name badges worn at 100 yards.  I just don’t anticipate having to solve that problem.

And what about the match itself?  That’s a sticky wicket as the Brits say.

Sniping of the roof's peak
Shooting off the 'dog house' roof at 260 yards.

the sniper targets at 260 yards
Each sniper had to put 5 rounds in their numbered target.  After everyone shot, the targets were scored and replaced. Oh, you can't see the targets?

better look at the doghouse targets
Here's a better look at the targets.  Teach team had their own number.

One of the contestants, before a single round was fired said, “They have taken a rifle match and turned it into a pistol match.”  I have to agree.  
the sniper shoots 8 paper targets and then the turns to a six position plate rack
The team starts at the blue barrel left edge of image.  Both move to the first barricade where the spotter shoots 2 body and one head on each of the 5 IDPA targets against the berm.  Both move to the second barricade where the spotter repeats the CoF.  As soon as he finishes, the sniper, who isn't carrying his weapon 'cause it's not needed, draws his sidearm and runs up to the mid-field IDPA targets and shoots each with 2 rounds from any distance.  The sniper then moves to the red barrel and has to hit each of 6 plates on the plate rack with his sidearm.  That finishes it.

The sniper fired more shots from his sidearm than he did from his rifle. The scoring was based on IDPA so low time won.  A miss was 5 points or 2.5 seconds added to your raw time.  The impact of this scoring system is tremendous.

One safety officer put it this way.  “Look, this isn’t sour grapes.  I’m not competing, but the misses have no impact on your score.  Time is what’s important.  You can shoot fast enough to win simply by throwing all your rounds away on most stages.”

He was right.  One of best shooters scored nine hits in just under 70 seconds on one stage.  Given the distance and shooting scenario, this is tremendous shooting.  With my AR and the 5 round sniper limit in the magazine, I could have emptied the magazine, reloaded and done 4 more rounds in 30 seconds.  All misses.  My penalty?  The match director/statistician would have added 22.5 seconds to my score giving me a world beating 52.5 second score.  If all I wanted to do was win a plaque, I could have done that by missing every target and shooting fast.

What about the failure-to-do-right penalty?  It’s very hard to give to someone dumping rounds when they claim they are just missing.  If I remember correctly, IDPA now allows you to dump rounds.

Fortunately, nobody on my squad was a gamesman and we all shot it with the intention of hitting the target as best we could.

The tactical content?
That’s easy.  Matches and the resulting pressure lets you discover where your weaknesses are and what equipment works under what conditions.  One of the spotters had a sweet system and a great plan.  He mounted a green indicator laser on his tripoded spotting scope.  The plan, and I liked it a lot, was to find the playing card and illuminate it for the sniper.  With the two of them working together they could have saved a lot of time and racked up points.  They had tried this on a nice summer night and it worked quite well.

The first problem was a 50-degree day was too cold for the laser to operate.  They solved that by keeping the laser in an inner pocket until it was needed.  Then the laser was too dim to see on a playing card in the bright sunlight.  No good solution seems available unless you move from a low power class three laser to a class 4, 1 watt or better laser.  That’s takes a lot of power and most diode lasers don’t have the tight beams you need to select one playing card.  Sounds like you need military grade equipment.

My friend may not choose to solve that problem, but at least he’s aware of it.  To be fore-warned is to be fore-armed and that’s tactical.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Armed Intervention

One tactical topic that keeps raising its head is the question of intervention, or extending your mantle of self-protection to a stranger.

It must be the John Wayne gene in many of us.  We want to help society.  We want to be the hero.  We want people to look up to us and say, “He’s the guy I want on my side when the chips are down.”

Let’s look at what Evan Marshall has to say about it.  Evan is a 20-year veteran of the Detroit Police department and the author of three books on handgun stopping power based on actual performance.  He has kindly given me permission to condense and paraphrase his article, THE DANGERS OF INTERVENTION, from his website

Let me be perfectly frank.  Those who think that intervention will bring fame, honors, glory, etc are delusional.  If the rescued individual doesn’t make life miserable for you in the courts, they just might kill you.

Evan goes on, I’m aware of four instances where officers responding to a domestic violence situation and when the wife realized the breadwinner was going to jail, she assaulted and killed her would-be rescuers.

There’s a couple things Evan wants you to realize.  The first is: things are never what they seem.  (That sound like excellent tactical advice to me)

The other important item applicable to all of us is the law is what the local prosecutor says it is.  So do you really want to spend 7 years in jail waiting for an appeal to be heard and your conviction overturned?

Twenty years as an LEO in Detroit would give anyone scary stories and some of them are applicable to us.  Evan once got sued for more than 100 thousand dollars for legally handcuffing a suspect.  Fortunately it was job related and the Detroit footed the bill and settled out of court.  But listen to what he has to say.  “Had I been acting as a private citizen I would have subjected my family to DECADES of poverty in order to pay the judgment and attorney fees.”

Are you counting on the media coming to your aid and championing you as the white hat good guy?  Citing another example Evan explains he and his partner were accused of being blood thirsty, trigger-happy and racist.  The media conveniently forgot they had intervened in the severe beating and robbery of an elderly woman.

So would you?

Would you jeopardize everything you own, your family’s security for a total stranger? 
Would you let everything, your home, your car, your retirement be taken away to play Knight of the Round Table?

So if you decide to extend the mantle of your protection to a stranger, do it on your terms.  Evaluate, carefully and with your eyes wide open to the consequences, the totality of the circumstances.  And if you decide to respond you should do so at the lowest level of necessary force.  Options include command voice, cell call to the professionals (the police), OC spray and lastly, the firearm.  If you think that the mere display of a weapon will stop hostilities you are extremely naïve and in great error.

What more could I add to Mr. Marshal’s comments?  Maybe a little.

If you think that because you’re not a LEO and not backed by deep city pockets you’re okay from predatory law suits?  Think again.  You may not have much but it’s better than having nothing.  The police at least have a support group.  The armed citizen has nothing.  

If that isn’t enough, remember, when the police do arrive, they don’t know you from the bad guy.  Your Simon Templar halo will not be visible to them.

I know a lawyer in the Youngstown area who claims to have been taught how to shoot by a member of the mob.  He likes to say,  “Nothing good comes out the barrel of a gun.”  Think about that before you rush in to save the princess.

For more on my perspective :

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Condition White

I never thought I’d have to say this:  Be tactical.  Be aware of your surroundings. 

San Francisco rail commuters on phones didn't notice gun before killing, police say

Published October 09, 2013
The man drew the gun several times on the crowded San Francisco commuter train, with surveillance video showing him pointing it across the aisle without anyone noticing and then putting it back against his side, according to authorities.
The other passengers were so absorbed in their phones and tablets they didn't notice the gunman until he randomly shot and killed a university student, authorities said.

Before that moment, footage showed the man pull out the .45-caliber pistol and once wipe his nose with the hand holding the weapon, "These weren't concealed movements -- the gun is very clear," District Attorney George Gascon said. "These people are in very close proximity with him, and nobody sees this. They're just so engrossed, texting and reading and whatnot. They're completely oblivious of their surroundings."  My emphasis.

Even if you’re not carrying you are always armed.  You need to be aware of your surroundings so you can take action to protect yourself.

Huh?  I’m armed even when I’m without gun or knife?  Even when soaping up in the shower?

Let’s slow down here.  Your mind is your weapon.  Everything else is a tool, including your body.  So yes, you’re armed even when soaping up in the shower.

Let’s review the levels of awareness.  I prefer the five-color escalation because I think you need to separate the last two.

Condition White:  You’re like the people on the train.  Life blurs by you and you are so tightly wrapped in your own micro-comic world that you blunder into every dog pile life has.

Condition Yellow:  You’re aware of your surroundings.  That’s all.  No ninja breathing, no twitchy movements waiting for the attack.  You watch life and the people around you.  You hear interesting stories meant for others, you see things that would amaze the condition white zombies who stumble through life wondering “Where did it all go?”  You have the opportunity to see the dog piles and step around them.

Condition Orange:  Something seems out of place.  Something is different and you want/need to find out more about it.  You may be getting ready; you may be pre-planning your next move and are thinking about routes of access and egress.  It may not be clobbering time, as Mr. Grimm used to say, but you’re thinking about it.  Weapons are being made ready.

Condition Red:  Weapons are ready.  The police have been called if there’s time.  You have moved to a position of strength while attempting to place your adversary in a position of weakness.  You are about to challenge the situation.  Such challenges include: 
            Drop the weapon.
            Don’t move.
            Someone call the police.
All hesitation is past.  You are ready to escalate to lethal force if required to protect yourself.

Condition Black:  The time for talk is past.  You are fighting for your life.  There is no holding back, no doubt. You must win to protect your life.  

These colors describe your condition even if you don’t want them to.  You may not want to play, but you’re on the stage and the curtain is up.  When you’re not in the safe confines of your home you must be in condition yellow.

I’m not saying anyone on the train should have attacked Nikhom Thephakaysone.  I wasn’t there.  I would not fault anyone who observed the gun and left the car or exited at the next station.  You may be armed, but successfully engaging a second armed person in a crowded, moving transit car takes a high degree of skill.  I do fault anyone who observed the situation and did not call the police or alert the authorities. 

Did you catch it in the above article? 

Transit authorities refer to reviewing the situation on video tape from the security system.  Apparently nobody was watching the feed in live time or they were unable to get the professionals there in time.

Both point out the futility of depending on others to protect you. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pickin' Up Brass

Pick up almost any fictional story about cataclysmic existence (aren't they all fictional?) and they stress conserving and utilizing resources.  Metals are especially important to conserve.  If you need new iron, you might have to mine it, refine it, forge it and shape it all by hand. 

So now image a group of people committed to surviving apocalyptic events.  These events might mean something as simple as a winter storm and no electrical power for 78 hours or bacteriological terrorism in your backyard.

The group only allows people with specific skill sets to join.  That makes sense if you’re going to build a future community from the ashes.  You would want medical doctors, hunters, military scouts, weavers and leather tanners.  Farmers and carpenters would be welcome, maybe even a few accountants to help manage and insure sufficient supplies.  Web designers need not apply.  
close up of brass left on the range
Can you guess what this is?

Having a second skill like welding, candle making, rope making or bread baking might get you accepted especially if your primary skills aren’t that hot.  As you might expect, they get together to practice their skills and learn new ones like shooting, first aid, camping and working together.  Cooking over an open fire isn’t a simple skill nor is building emergency caches of supplies.  You need to practice both.

One person you would certainly want is the scrounger.  Even in modern life it’s nice to know someone who can find a new battery for an old laptop, the valve stem on a 14-year old frost free outdoor faucet, or a good truck inner tube on short notice. 

Of course part of his job would be to conserve resources and utilize them as best as possible.  If you anticipate the Twilight of the Gods then you know you will run out of arrow heads, that ammunition must be conserved and you better be able to substitute one material for another.

So imagine my surprise when I found that the local group was training at our range and left at least 19 pounds of dirty, wet, fired brass cases behind.  I also found a surprising number of unfired cartridges, mostly 9s and 40s.  I’m going to assume they are from clearing weapons at the end of an exercise and simply lost in the grass.

fired brass left as worthless scrap
The total pile of unloved, unwanted brass left by the survivalists.  Well, I have several uses for it. 
Wouldn't you want to recover the brass?  You could melt it over a coal fire in a cast iron pan and cast bullets, arrow heads, and knife and tool handles.  By flattening out a case and cutting it into a triangle the brass could make either fishing or bow hunting more efficient.  

If you've included a blacksmith or a metallurgist in your group you would know that the addition of specific metals to molten brass could turn the brass into a harder form of bronze.  Bronze has better strength and edge retention than brass.

Even failing that, the reloading potential is huge.  There’s probably a summer’s worth of shooting in the brass I picked up.  If scrap prices stay at $1.75 that’s at least 30 bucks they could use on heirloom seeds, survival gear, water purification or the yearly we-survived-another-one party.

Not bad for less than an hour of stoop labor by two people.

Is there a tactical message here?  I don’t know.  Maybe the message is that modern life is too complicated to successfully step back to the 8th century.  Maybe it’s camping out over a weekend isn’t a measure of your survival skills and planning for the zombie uprising is waste of effort.  Maybe the tactical message is that we can be blind to the flaws in our favorite plans.

You think about it and see if there’s a message in here for you.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Low Light / No Light Shoot-Out

I recently had a chance to run a night shoot. 

That isn‘t quite correct.  I scattered IDPA targets and no shoots over the range and made sure each shooter had an empty gun when they finished.

CoF?  That’s simple.  From the start position each shooter was told there are people out there who have come to kill you.  Find them.  Stop them.  Don’t shoot the no-shoots!

We had a wide range of skill sets.  Some with TV and adventure movie training, others with serious professional training.  It gave me a chance to draw some observations.

I saw two different basic approaches depending on the shooter.  The IPSC-style shooters tended to select a path and never depart from it.  They moved in a straight line very fast.  While several of them used their lights sparingly, the straight line path made their location very predictable and a hidden troll would have had no problem ambushing them.

The IDPA-style shooters tended to move off the original path and continue along a new path.  They were required to use their lights more often, as their position relative to shoot/no-shoot targets constantly changed and they needed to confirm the target identity.  It took them longer to complete the CoF, but I believe the illuminate/identify/move-illuminate/confirm/shoot gives better survival options to the single good guy.

Most shooters, including myself, left their lights on too long.

All bets are off when moving with a squad and with targets that shoot back!

It’s quite amazing how moving among stationary cardboard targets gets your heart racing.  Engaging several armed individuals by yourself in the dark is clearly not for the faint of heart.  It also points out the advantage to be the hidden or ensconced shooter.

Low light - no light shooting
So what else is waiting in the darkness for you?  Illuminate, off light, move to different location!

Another observation I made was about the light used by each shooter.  No matter if shooter used a tactical or gun light, interesting differences were observed.  It’s very difficult to hold a light in one hand, a gun in the other and operate both independently.  Gun lights appear to be slightly easier, but most shooters still had difficultly.  In either case the shooters tended to look at the illuminated targets and not their front sights. 

Night sights/lasers.  Several shooters had them, but after using the lights, those glowing night sight dots became invisible.  Red lasers had their problems too!  Most people left them on too much and in the smoke and dark conditions they tended to point back at the shooter.   

At least one shooter using both light and laser was so conditioned to dot-on-target syndrome that he was unable to engage the target he had illuminated and identified as a shoot target.  Instead he froze in place trying to turn the magic dot back on. 

Another shooter had a light that it could have signed his position to a sniper on Mars.  It was so bright that it not only robbed him of his night vision, it reflected off surfaces and blinded him to shoot targets just outside the cone of illumination.  

Several targets are visible, but what else is there?
There's a shoot target behind the rear no-shoot.  It's a balance between little light and too much light.  

There is no question in my mind that anyone who found themselves staring into that light would have been blinded and confused, but it did make the shadows darker and deeper hiding places.  The shooter still has the obligation to his family to make sure there aren’t more than one of them.

Many of the shooters were using reloads; after all it was a practice night.  Other shooters used factory ammunition and some used defensive loads.  The difference in muzzle flash and smoke was impressive.  Some powders produces a feeble pale orange flash that the shooter scarcely noticed while others produced a blinding white flash that reminded me of flash photography. Some powders produced a significant cloud of smoke so much so I thought the shooter was fogging for insects.  

Not knowing what is what, my best recommendation is to have someone shoot your gun in darkness and evaluate the flash and smoke for yourself.  This is truly a case of little is good, none is best!

After everyone shot we got the road flares out.  Most of us thought we had moved the range to the gates of hell and were busy cutting crosses in our bullets.  It flashed through my mind that crosses were easier to carve in a bullet tip than a Star of David.  I digress….

The flare throws hellish light everywhere changing how anything looks
Flare light.  Did I say it was bright?
We found our eyes almost uncontrollably drawn to the incredibly bright red flare.  The irregular light made shadows move and change and that added to the complications.  Even with tactical and gun lights everything seemed harder: walking, shooting and especially hitting the targets.

I don’t know the tactical advantage of practicing by flare light.  Not too many of us will need to shoot it out against several armed intruders in a burning house or around a roaring camp fire.  It was however great fun.

I will say that mastering the ability to stay focused under these conditions makes staying focused under other less severe conditions appear simple. 

Maybe that’s the message of this blog.  Experience and mastery of a wide range of shooting conditions give you an edge when you need it.

Tip of the hat to Larry for the great images!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

At the Rifle Range

High speed – Low safety

I had a conversation with a high-speed-low-drag-real-deal shooter about our range.  Do you know the guy I’m talking about?  The same type of guy General Patton was talking to when he said “I don’t want you to die for your country.  I want you to make the other guy die for his country.”

He doesn’t think certain range rules should apply to him.  Most of the objectionable rules are administrative:
  • Chamber flag in rifle when done with activity/drill.
  • Rifle must be under your positive control when bolt is closed.
  • Muzzle down range during reloads.  The range insists that the muzzle never points above the berm regardless of the rifle’s status or activity.  Most of the berms at this range are at least 20ft high.

I will not defend these rules.  They are the range rules where we shoot. 

I will say that preoccupation with safety is the hallmark of the professional.  Massad Ayoob told me that years ago and I’ve observed that in all the trainers I’ve worked with and the shooters I admire.

Carrying a gun 24/7 doesn't make you immune from gun safety
Rip Waywire knows that carrying a gun 24/7 doesn't make you  high-speed or safe.

Giving one person exceptions to the rules creates administrative problems:
  • Minor confusion (Why isn’t that person following the rules?)
  • Creates the circumstances for accidents (I should load because that person is loaded.)
  • Causes trouble (Why can’t I do what that person is doing?)
  • Discourages participation (I’m not going back if that person is there.)

Frankly, it’s the fable of one rotten apple spoiling the barrel.  It would be better if that one shooter found another range more favorable to his outlook.

When it’s your range, you can make the rules.  Remember the golden rule:  The guy with the money makes the rules.

Rifle Night
We finished up our last rifle night this week.  Once a month club members were invited to get together to practice basic rifle drills.  We’re having a sniper match next month in Oct, so people are getting excited.  The match will consist of teams of two people, the sniper and the scout/spotter.

My plans were (I’m the ringleader by default.  It was my fault they got me cornered and I couldn’t say no.) to spend the shooting season rehearsing some of the basic drills needed.  Reloading, knowing your zero and point of impact, clean, smooth trigger break, recoil management, moving with the gun, shooting from barricade.  Of course having safe fun is always one of our goals.

Our last night was focused on team activities and I told them the old James Bond story.  Fleming’s Bond gets his double-0 status by killing a Japanese business man. It was a team activity.  One shooter shot the window out of an office high rise and Bond shot the businessman.

The thing to notice was the first shooter didn’t just shoot the window and Bond watched the glass fall and then picked up his rifle.  The businessman would have been moving, taking cover.  What I suspect Ian had in mind was the first shooter fires and Bond is already on target.  As soon as Bond hears the bang he finishes his trigger pull.  In my mind’s eye I see Bond’s bullet a nanosecond behind the first.  Well, it is fiction after all!

With that idea of team work in mind, we spotted for each other, shot steel at different distances and if the first shooter missed the steel, the second shooter engaged it.  The two shooters traded back and forth until the steel was hit.  We had a lot of fun and some of the teams learned to work together better.  Hopefully this will translate into a better rifle match for them.

shooting by star light or were we?
It was darker than this.  And what were we shooting at?

When it got dark we put two old 30-minute flares out, one at 120 yards and the other at 200.  They were a little feeble at first but as it grew darker the flickering lighting cast strange shadows and called forth unusual vanishing targets.

The steel targets hang from a single cable and are free to twist.  A hit or near miss gets them turning.  The red illumination was reflected from the painted steel and it looked like pale, almost ghost-like targets were appearing and disappearing. 

Flares set at two distances light up the targets ever so faintly.
I should have had a tripod, but other than starlight the illumination came from two 30-minute flares at 200 and 120 yards.

Of course, they never went anywhere so the more patient would sit, locate a target and put their dot or crosshairs on it and wait.  When the steel slowed down they would reach out and smack it with a .223 Remington. 

As cool as that was, a hit with steel jacketed Wolf ammo would create a mini shower of orange sparks in the darkness followed by a clang.  Even at the speed of sound, it takes an instant for the impact noise to reach the shooting gallery.

It was the most shooting fun I’ve had in a long time.

As I noted before, we’re a muzzle-conscious range.  One of our members built a rifle rack so we could stop storing rifles and shotguns on picnic tables where we were loading and organizing gear.  Most racks have the muzzle pointing up with the butt on the base.  Some unknown shooter decided to put his unloaded rifle muzzle down in the rack.  When he picked it up and slung it, the muzzle was always pointing in the right direction, never crossing anyone. 

Well, who would have thunk it??  I was sure the rifles would slide out and end up in a heap.  But it worked.  Soon everyone was doing this. 

Nuzzle down rifle rack
Upside down AR's racked just fine.  Even the FN eventually got with the program.

I think we just stumbled onto a new range rule.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We'll never forget

Sept 11th 2001

I haven’t forgotten.

I haven’t forgotten those who died.

I haven’t forgotten who was responsible either.

We know you and your fellow ilk are still out there.

Pull your hole a little deeper.  We haven’t forgotten about you.

                                                            We're coming for you.