Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lever Action

 I recently bought a 10-round .357 magnum lever action rifle from Henry. 

My Henry Rifle
.357 Mag/.38 spl lever action rifle

I had an old BSA dot laying around and the rifle’s receiver was already tapped for a scope mount, so I prevailed on my friend and master air gun mechanic, Derrick, to cut and drill a Picatinny-style rail to fit my gun.

After a few minutes of “You want a what on a what?” he took a look at it and told me it’s a piece of strudel cake.  I’m happy to report he did a nice job on it.  I’m very pleased with it.

After blue loctite-ing the rail’s screws in place and mounting the scope on it, I took it out to the range.   I zeroed the rifle at 25 yards.  I’m not sure I’ll leave it there, but it’s a good start.

Henry rifle sight in
Sighting in the rifle is just the begining process of owning the rifle

Two things I don’t like about the gun.  One: no mechanical safety.  I usually carry it hammer down with an empty chamber.  Two: lack of a loading gate.  It’s fed from a tubular magazine under the barrel.  If you want to top it off, you need to pull the magazine plug and drop the rounds in one at a time.  It’s not the slow that bothers me, it the direction of the muzzle while I’m reloading it. 

What did I want it for?

I always wanted lever action rifle.  I didn’t want a rifle caliber.  My right shoulder is too screwed up for a lot of shooting of .30-06 or .300 Win Mag.  But there is another reason too.

I like the idea of having a rifle and pistol group that fires the same ammo and .357 magnum fills that bill just fine!

The HP is my reload, I need to get a little better crimp.  You never want a pointed bullet in a tubular  magizine for centerfire chartridges.  The flat top is factory.

We tend to think of out-the-door-in-to–trouble rifles as tactical guns.  If you are serious about the possibility of civil unrest and defense you should be thinking rifle.  There isn’t a serious instructor who doesn’t think of the pistol as something to fight your way to your long gun.  Most of us think of that rifle as a military style rifle (I’m using rifle as short hand for rifle or carbine) like an AR or AK.

Dot on Lever Action Rifle
BSA dots tend to be dark.  I need to buy a better one.

What is it we want out of a rifle?

Most people would say increased firepower, more rounds, longer distance, better accuracy.  I’m not mentioning stopping power.  Stopping power is a function of shot placement.  While some rounds perform better than others, shot placemen is paramount. 

Before I constrict this discussion by eliminating high capacity military weapons with detachable magazines, let me remind you many battles have been won by motivated men with 8 round rifles.

I didn’t have any problem with head shots at 50 yards, something I see few people trying with a handgun.  The lack of ability to reload with a feeding gate is probably the biggest drawback to claiming it’s a tactical weapon.  This may well be overmatched by the ability to be prepared with just one type of ammunition for both weapons.

Lever action rifles tend to be seen as ordinary, routine.  Something you hunt with, take care of nuisance varmints with, something out of your childhood movies.  Not intimidating at all, unless you’re at the open end of the barrel.    

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Fitting The Gun

Some of the California sheriff’s departments have switched from the Beretta 92 to the S&WM&P

With three different size adjustments to the grip any shooter would have a better chance of getting a proper fit.

On the surface it appears to be largely a move to enable officers with smaller hands to customize their duty gun to fit better.  The M&P has an adaptable handgrip that can be swapped out for three different sizes.  Shooting scores have improved, especially for officers with smaller hands.  This includes many women.  About 18% of sheriff's deputies are women.  I couldn’t find any stats on smaller statured men.  The smaller frame gun has allowed the department to retain their standards, but increase the passing rate and decrease the number of cadets that need remedial pistol training.

I’m in total agreement.  Equipment should not be a Procrustean bed.

My first centerfire semi-auto was a Beretta 92.  It came with flat wood grips and I hated it.  I was actually wondering if I wasted my money.  Fortune smiled on me and I replaced the grips with plastic that had a slightly curved surface.  Suddenly the gun was a winner, I still find it one of my best shooting sidearms.

I can see how changing the grip width and curvature would make the gun easier to shoot accurately for different size hands.

I also replaced the hammer spring with a Wolff spring that gave me a consistent 10 lb double action pull and an equally defendable single action pull.

The problem California has is finger-on-trigger resulting in too many accidental discharges.

This too I understand.  I’m gearing up for a 1911 only single stack match.  So I’m practicing with my .45 acp.  My CCW gun is a Kahr, which is Glock-like.  When I carry the Beretta it’s carried decocked and off safe.  Mechanical safeties, wot are dese thing?  I use the one attached to my brain.

Now I have to remember to off safe.  Having a 10 pound revolver-like-trigger adds a margin of safety to moving the finger into the trigger guard.  A 4.5 pound, breaks-like-a-glass-rod trigger has little room for error.

Simply switching to a heavier trigger isn’t the answer. The NYPD specifies a heavy trigger pull (11 pounds!) to reduce the risk of accidents.  That hasn’t necessary worked. NYC Officer Liang apparently had his finger on his Glock trigger while pushing open a stairwell door on Nov 20 2014.  He shot and killed Akai Gurley, who was walking down the stairs.

The answer?  It’s training.  Hours of training.  How many hours did it take you to learn to safely drive a car?  10? 20? 50?  Don’t you think that 10 hours of training/shooting are needed when you transition between drastically different gun operating systems?  It’s cheap insurance.

Tactical content?  All skills are perishable and decay.  From a discharging the weapon perspective you would benefit from shooting/owning handguns with similar systems so the same skill set is used.  I’d group them by external controls and trigger pull.  For example:

One group would contain Glocks, revolvers and Kahrs.  (No safety, every shot is the same.)

Another might be Beretta, Walther P-38 or SW 3913. (Carried decocked-off safe, first shot is different from the rest.)

My last example would be 1911s and Browning High Powers. (Carried cocked and locked, every shot the same.)

I'm sure you can think of other examples.

I wouldn’t hesitate to swap my 1911 for a Browning High Power based on operating systems, but I’d need some practice swapping a Glock for a 1911.

Yes, loading can be very different but from a function view these groups hold together nicely.  Changing between groups requires a little extra time on the range.  A few more repetitions of holstering and drawing, shooting another handful of rounds down range are clearly required.

Frankly, in a competition a failure to take a safety off, or discharging the weapon before you’re perfectly on target causes poor score.  An oops like that off of the playing field could result in your death or incarceration.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


We come to depend on them.  Juries like the testimony of impartial witnesses.  Unfortunately, eyewitnesses are remarkably fallible and prone to connecting events they never saw.

Our beliefs, our experiences, even the physical nature of our senses can and does affect how we experience and remember an event.

Here’s a good example.

“Officer Blanford pulled his cruiser up to the curb and confronted Manyoun on the sidewalk.

Witnesses told various media on Saturday that the officer approached the man aggressively, his hand already on his gun, and alleged that Manyoun never swung the pole at him.

But the video released Sunday refutes that: the officer stands still, his arms at his sides, as Manyoun waves his hands around. Manyoun turns and storms away, out of the view of the camera. Blanford starts to follow, talking into his radio, then stops suddenly and takes two steps back. He draws his gun as the tip of the flag pole emerges in the corner of the video. The pole had been propped outside a store, with a flag attached reading "open."

Manyoun sprints into the frame, the pole cocked back over his shoulder. The officer cowers back against his police cruiser as Manyoun swings the pole down toward him.”

Did the witnesses lie?  It appears they remember an event that never happened, so from that perspective they did lie.  As I write this, I don’t know who’s black or white, but my mental image is of a black or dark-skinned Manyoun and a white Blanford.  That’s a reflection of my bias, partially influenced by the belief that if the situation were reversed, it would be a non-story.  

Clearly, America has been struggling with clashes between race amplified by questions of the justification of police shootings and the interactions of politics and the news media with these cases.  Don’t you think this may have something to do with how people saw the event?

Is it any surprise that some people have memories of a non-event?

Even when your actions are justified, there will be people who are more than willing to use your experience as a springboard for their own agenda.

Chanelle Helm, a board member of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression, organized the community meeting Sunday where two dozen people gathered to question why a police officer needed to use deadly force to subdue a man believed to be drunk and wielding a pole.

Tactical input:
I have to wonder how long before everyone starts wearing a video camera with sound on a 24 hour loop just for legal entanglements.  I am reminded of a Bloom County cartoon, of a time traveling lawyer returning to the present to find civilization erased and the survivors living in portable anti-lawsuits metal cages.

  • It’s better to avoid conflict if possible.
  • Retreat to a stronger, more defensible position if possible and safe.  Moving backwards gave officer Blanford time to put his plan in action.
  • The more eyewitnesses the better!  This seems like a conflicting statement, but those with statements that match the physical evidence become important to your legal case.
  • Don’t be afraid to point out physical evidence to the police before you request a lawyer.

Do I even have to say never alter physical evidence?  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tactics and Strategies

Ernest Emerson has spent a lot of time thinking about fighting.  He has a few thoughts he’s willing to share.  Well, more than a few.  He’s written 4 books on the subject.  He doesn’t want to teach you a specific technique or combinations of techniques (…Grasshopper, block left with little-dragon-flips-his-tail followed by right needle-to-sea-bottom…) but the ideas involved with conflict.

To a large degree these ideas change only slightly depending on the tools you’re using, gun, knife or three-sectional staff.  The manipulations of each of these tools is different, but abstract concepts of How? Where? Why? have more in common than you might think.

Here’s a few ideas from Ernie’s presentation at the 2015 BLADE Show.

Ernest Emerson address at BLADE Show
Ernie Addresses a packed room.

Why should we study fighting and conflict?  Let’s jump in here. 

It really doesn’t take much effort to look around and realize that America is experiencing a violent time.  Look at the news sources.  It seems not five minutes goes by without someone being involved with an act of physical violence.

Police, politicians and the NRA will tell you the murder rate is down for reasons they espouse.  Emergency room doctors will tell you the real reason.  They are much better and saving critically injured people.  Unfortunately, we don’t track attempted murder rates which would give us insight into murders prevented by medical technology and the actual rate of violence.

Unfortunately, police will always be reactionary, and that’s a good thing.  Remember Minority Report?  Thought police arrested people based on predictions that they will presently commit a crime.  What a wacked out society that would be.  Not for me or you, I hope.

So that leaves our safety in our hands.

Here’s the top view, the god’s overview:

  • There must be plan to deal with the occurrence/event, whatever it is.
  • All strategies flow from the plan
  • Tactics flow from strategies
  • The plan has a goal and all efforts, techniques and tactics must support the goal.

Sounds like Zen crap?  Let’s try an example.

You’re driving home in a relatively desolate area in the country and you get a flat tire.  Here’s your plan: to get home.

What’s your strategy?  You might have three.
  • Replace the tire.
  • Get a ride.
  • Walk.

Tactics to bring your strategy to fulfillment and accomplish the goal are:
  • Call AAA.  
  • Call a friend. 
  • Change the tire.
  • Thumb a ride. 
  • Walk. 

Each of these tactics has advantages and disadvantages.  The advantages are easy to see, You get help to get home.  But some of them will not work for you because you didn’t put them in place before you needed them: 
  • Oops, no membership in AAA.
  • Damm, no cell service. 
  • I forgot to charge the battery last night.
  • Don’t know how to change a tire.
  • The spare is flat.
  • No traffic and let us not mention who might stop to pick you up.
  • Wrong shoes to walk in, it’s raining, it’s too far, bad weather, dark too soon, and so forth.

Proper planning will anticipate some of these problems.  You buy membership in AAA each year; you’ll know how to change your flat and your cell phone is charged.

Maybe it is Zen after all.  The flat tire flows into a call to AAA, which reveals a dead cell phone which flows into changing the flat yourself, which gets you home.

The same for self-defense.  You anticipate darkness with a flashlight.  You believe danger is in an alley and go around.  You’ll see the VCA stalk/approach and check if a second one is blindsiding you. 

Clearly this isn’t a complete list.  But the idea is to realize that we must study our options and develop skills with the tools.  The skill might be AAA membership and a charged cell phone, or it night be judicial use of deadly force.

So while you’re thinking of this, add this test question to your training and actions.  Does my behavior/activity support my goal?  If not, change your activity because you never want to:
  1. Do anything that is useless.
  2. Never do anything without a purpose.