Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Opening Day...

...of dove season, and I've got nowhere to hunt.

My friend and hunting buddy has control of a year-round hunting/fishing lease not far from town, and I've been hounding him about getting on it since last year. It's a great spot for dove, duck and the occasional hog, and has a sizable tank for fishing.

A spot came into question this year after one of the members of the lease hadn't contacted him for renewal. It came down to the wire and was looking good... but I found out today that the last member renewed. So, I'm back to hunting as a guest this year.

It's not all bad, though. My hunting buddy and I are hitting up the lease tomorrow, so we should get some good hunting in before the birds get too skittish. Also, my girlfriend's brother-in-law and sister recently moved back to town, and he's got some family land out east that's got good hunting on it. He has promised a weekend trip out there for some hunting this season. It's unfortunate that I won't be able to reciprocate with local trips.

The new Stoeger is going hunting with me tomorrow, so I should have a report and some photos to post here. I'll also be hitting up the skeet range over the weekend, so I'll have some decent trigger time with the gun before next week.

I finally got around to completing the hunter's education course this past weekend, so I'm now legit to hunt on my own, if I ever get the opportunity. I took the online written course, so only needed to take the 4-hour field course to get my certification. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the instruction. My course was taught by a TPWD volunteer named Sean, and it was obvious that he loved giving his time to help others become responsible hunters and conservationists. My hat's off to you, Sean.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Stoeger Condor

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I'd purchased a new shotgun while out of town in San Antonio. As some of you may already know, last year marks the first time in my adult life that I've gone hunting. It started out dove hunting with a coworker, and worked its way into duck hunting and finally a white-tail deer hunt.

While I did have a shotgun of my own for the hunts last year, it is not exactly suited for the purpose. I call this shotgun the EBS (or Evil Black Shotgun), and it's outfitted for a specific purpose: self defense. Sure, it can take a dove (and has, several times), but with no choke and an 18" barrel, it's outfitted for taking down two-legged critters at close range. Those of you who saw my last post will have read about my new shooter Jennifer firing one, with a photo as testament to the event. You will also see it (though somewhat obscured by a posterized inkblot effect) in my "Obamicon" post early on in the blog. I suppose it does need its own post, and I'll have to remember that for the future. However, today we'll be taking a look at my new shotgun.

So, for about the past year I've been wanting to get a proper bird-hunting shotgun. My previous job, as it were, left me very little money to put towards any purchases of significant price. In such a predicament, I made do with what I had and hunted dove with the EBS, or borrowed a shotgun for duck. Once I procured a decent-paying job, the possibilities opened up.

I had a several options jostling around in my skull, and slowly I began to narrow them down. While a pump-action shotgun is certainly economical and a very suitable weapon, I already have a pump-action and I'd prefer something more elegant.

I also crossed out semi-auto guns from my list for a couple of reasons. From my limited hunting experience, semi-auto shotguns are the biggest pain when it comes to stoppages or failures. Aside from short-shucking on pump-action guns (which is really a user error), every failure I've seen in the field (light strikes, hard jams, etc) have all been on semi-auto guns. I've also come to learn that if I don't hit the bird with the first two shots, I'm not going to hit it with the third. Capacity is nice on a defense gun, but I've decided two is all I need for taking out feathered critters.

This narrowed my search down to two options: Over-and-Under (OU) or Side-by-Side (SxS) double-barreled shotguns. Now, we've forayed into an area of the firearms industry that still leaves me wondering.

A little background on me first. I do not consider myself a cheap person. I appreciate quality and fine craftsmanship. I do, however, believe in the right tool for the right job. When that job is dirty, I don't wear my nice, new, expensive clothes to do it. Life is a balance of trade-offs, and luxury is never on my list of needs.

With that said, I'm going to talk about the double-barreled shotgun market - specifically why I don't understand the near-ubiquity of high-dollar guns. I have no problem with finely-crafted firearms and those who buy them. What I do not understand is why it is commonly percieved that a double-barreled shotgun is no good unless it's approaching $1000 or more on the price tag. I know it wasn't always this way. My dad has a 1930's production Stevens 16ga SxS shotgun that he bought when he was a teenager, and teenagers living on farms don't have piles of money to spend on shotguns.

Seriously, a break-open shotgun is the simplest you can get when it comes to a firearm. Why do we not have utilitarian double-barreled shotguns readily available from every manufacturer? In fact, none of the major manufacturers make inexpensive shotguns. Remington imports them from a Russian manufacturer called Baikal, but from my experience you're not going to find them at any major retailer, or even on the Remington website itself without some serious googling. As I said a couple posts ago, it's as if Remington is ashamed to put its name behind these guns.

Anyhow, there's a few options I've found when it comes to a utilitarian double-barreled shotgun, and none of are manufactured in the USA. I decided on an O/U, as that configuration seems to be better-suited for dual duty with skeet and bird hunting. My budget was set at $500 or less.

As mentioned above, Remington imports its Spartan series of guns from Baikal in Russia. I decided to avoid them partially on principle because Remington seems reluctant to put its name behind them, and partially because I wouldn't know where to buy one anyway.

Yildiz shotguns are imported from Turkey, and it appears that Academy Sports & Outdoors is the sole importer of these guns. I've heard relatively good reviews about them. I decided against these guns mostly because there is no dedicated firearms importing company associated with the brand, but rather a large retail box store.

TriStar Sporting Arms, from what I can tell, are also manufactured in Turkey, but do have a dedicated importing company, located in Kansas City, Missouri. I've seen them in a couple different retailers, but seem to be lower quality design and manufacture than I'm comfortable with. Also, the models I see in stores that run in the $300-$400 range seem to be absent from the website, similar to Remington's Spartan offerings.

The final option is Stoeger Industries. Stoeger is actually owned by Benelli, which is an encouraging fact in itself. Also a plus is that it has a nicely put-together website where you can find all the specifics of the guns that you see in the store. Also refreshing is that the company seems very up-front about its offerrings. Searching the website, you will find the specifics of each gun, with highlights on what each series does and does not include. The guns are manufactured in Brazil. I read many reviews on the gun, and they seemed to be mostly positive. The only naysayers I really came across were guys who insisted the guns weren't up to par for serious amounts of skeet shooting - as in the tens of thousands of rounds. Since I'm not buying this gun for competition shooting, I'm OK with that.

As you already know, I went with the Stoeger Condor. More specifically, I purchased the A-grade Condor in 12ga with 28" barrels. This model includes Improved and Modified screw-in choke tubes (one of each) installed. Sighting is done with a single brass bead.



For the $350 price tag, you get a low-frills, but well put-together gun.

The first thing I noticed when I assembled the gun was how very tight it was. Initially, it takes quite a bit of effort to open and close. I gave it a little gun oil, and it loosened up a bit, and I imagine it will become easier with use. Better tight than loose is how I see it. All the surfaces mate up beautifully.

The A-grade models lack ejectors, but rather come with an extractor instead. This means that after firing and opening the action, the shells are pulled out from the barrels far enough to be pulled by hand rather than automatically popping out.

This grade also uses a single-trigger mechanism that I've never seen before. When I first got the gun home and assembled, I tested the trigger in dry fire. The first pin fired just fine, but the trigger wouldn't set to fire the second barrel. Worried that I'd bought a defective gun from a store 100 miles away from home, I hit Google to see if anyone had experienced the same problem. Sure enough - yes. Apparently, the trigger mechanism uses the recoil from the first shot to set the trigger for the second. Weird, but as long as it works, I'm OK with it. Incidentally, you can get the trigger to set for the second barrel in dry fire by cycling the safety.



The Stoeger came along for my range session with Jennifer from the last post, and functioned just fine. I patterned it at 15 yards (see photo above, taken by the lovely Jennifer), and the loads I brought along look perfect for dove.

I'm quite satisfied with my purchase and the performance of the gun so far. If you're looking for an enexpensive O/U for basic shotgunning, I'd call this one a winner. Once I get some trigger time into the gun, I'll post another review on my experience.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Shooter Range Report

As promised, I've got a new shooter range report from this past Saturday.

Jennifer is a coworker of my girlfriend, and hadn't fired a gun since her preteen years. She has a nice little Browning Semi-Auto .22 Short given to her by her father when she was 12, and wanted to get back into shooting. My girlfriend referred her to me (apparently the tales of my gun-nuttiness reach far and wide), and we set up a range date. She had an interest in shooting different guns, so we planned on taking a selection of different guns for her to try out.

We met beforehand to go over safety rules and the operation of the different weapons. Unfortunately, she had managed to misplace a retaining spring for her Browning while assembling it at home, so it stayed behind for this trip.

The plan was to make a quick stop by Cabela's on the way to the range, on the off chance they actually had ammo, and failing that hit up Wal-Mart in Lockhart as a last-ditch effort to keep my 9mm stock from completely evaporating. Then, go to the range and have some barbecue in Lockhart afterward.

So we get to Cabela's, and the place is hoppin'. We find ourselves waiting for people to step out of the way to check the shelves. I get to the 9mm shelf and see the usual overpriced carry ammo but nothing else. Lo and behold, Jennifer spots some stacked 50-round boxes 9mm on the shelf behind me.

*INSERT HALLELUJAH CHORUS HERE*

It's Winchester, but a box I've never seen before. Upon closer inspection, it's marked as 9mm NATO. It looks like the Iraq stand-down put some excess 9mm stock on the market, and Winchester is selling it. We grabbed 6 boxes to add to the back of my rotation and also some 9x18 Silver Bear stuff for the PA-63. Still no luck on finding Estate #4B 12ga, though.

As Jennifer had never been to Cabelas, We took a bit of time so I could show her some of the scenery and the fish tanks, then headed out. By this time it was already 11:30, so we decided to head to town first and have lunch at Black's. Delicious.

We arrived at the range, she filled out the requisite first-timer paperwork, and got ready for some fun. The pistol bays were both a little busy, so we started off on the rifle range with the gun most similar to her Browning - the Marlin Model 60.



We went through the fundamentals of posture, sighting, and trigger control shooting 10" paper plates at 50 yards. She did quite well and we went through several magazines of .22LR.

Since I don't have an intermediate caliber rifle (yet), we stepped up to the next rifle - the Mosin-Nagant 91/30. Like every new shooter with a powerful gun, she got to learn about flinch. We worked on consistency and relaxing, and she put 2 magazines through the rifle before she was done with it - much longer than most new shooters will go with that gun.



By now, the pistol bays had mostly cleared out, so we headed over for some work in the moving/shooting and shotgunning bay. While waiting for the last shooter to clear out, we did a little bit of work with the Marlin again, this time at 25 yards. We used Dirty Bird targets, which give much better visual feedback on shots. Once we got the bay to ourselves and could move to handguns, we started out with the Walther P22, again shooting at paper plates from about 5 yards. We talked about stance, grip ergonomics, and bringing the sights to the eyes. She had taken the safety lessons to heart, and paid close attention to muzzle control and keeping the finger off the trigger until she was ready to shoot, as you can see below.



Several magazines later, we decided to try out the Hi-Power. She was quite surprised at the difference in report and recoil, but also found the Hi-Power more natural to shoot. We worked on some more Dirty Bird bullseye targets, improving her consistency and technique.


(Now that is a real Texas woman!)


After putting a couple of mags through the PA-63, we took a short break from handguns and moved on to a little bit of shotgun work. Also, I wanted to try out my new Stoeger, and this was a good excuse to do so. I had explained to her the purpose and function of the Knoxx SpecOps stock on the EBS before we left, but it's not really something you can appreciate until you actually try it out. We loaded up some 2 3/4" #4 Buckshot loads for a practical comparison. Jennifer was quite surprised at the tameness of the recoil on the EBS, and that impression was affirmed when she tried out a round with the Stoeger as a comparison.



We moved back to handguns for a while and tried out the Ruger LCP. This is not a gun I go into a range session expecting a new shooter to put more than a magazine through. It seems like most folks don't like it, with the small grip and significant recoil. Personally, I could shoot all day with it, if I could (1) find and (2) afford the ammo for it. For some reason it fits in my hand like it was made for me. I only know one other person who likes shooting the LCP - an occasional shooting buddy from a gun forum. Well, I now know two - Jennifer actually liked working with the LCP.



We did a little more work with the Hi-Power, and then did clean up, gathering a couple of take-home targets. Unfortunately, I forgot to do my normal new-shooter smiley target photo, so I'll just have to make do with a happy trigger time photo instead.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hiatus, inturrupted.

I apologize for the dearth of posts for the past 2 months. After acquiring gainful employment with an awesome company, I've been acclimating to my new work environment and schedule. All of this job searching and orientation has left me with little time for creativity in the way of food, photography, or guns.

More specifically, on the gun front (the biggest focus of this blog), I've been on a tight budget due to prolonged unemployment, not wanting to put myself completely out of money prematurely. Imagine my irritation once I had money again to find that there is no range ammo to be purchased, unless you're shooting 7.62x39, .223, or a more obscure caliber. As I shoot mainly 9mm (and to a lesser extent .380) in my handgunning sessions, I'm out of business.

Wanting to get a range session in a couple of weeks ago, I searched my local big stores (Wal-Mart, Academy, Cabelas) without success. I finally broke down and went to the range with the 2 boxes of 9mm I had remaining. I couldn't bring myself to deplete my stock further, and grudgingly paid the $20 for a single box of Blazer Brass at the range. I rotated it into my stock and used a box of Monarch instead. I also tried some .22LR rounds from the one bulk box I was able to find, in a brand I've never tried and will be writing a review in the next several days.

As you may know from previous posts, 50 rounds is simply not enough to get back up to speed when I haven't put in range time in months. My range therapy didn't go so well that day. To add to my disappointments, my range has implemented a new rule that folks can no longer pick up spent brass. It seems that there were people abusing brass-pick-up policy and culling large amounts of brass they didn't shoot, so now no one is permitted to pick up spent brass. The only way to police your brass now is to put down a blanket/sheet or employ a brass-catcher of some sort. Neither are practical options when it comes to moving and shooting sessions, so I'm screwed out of my brass until I can figure out some other arrangement.

Things aren't all bad, though. I've been out of town for work, and visited a Bass Pro Shops for the first time. My first impression was that the place was exactly like Cabelas, down to the lanterns indicating a checkout lane is open. After walking around the store, I noticed a couple of key differences. First, there is a better selection of goods. As an example, when compared to the Cabelas in Buda, there's about quadruple the number of duck calls availble. Secondly, Bass Pro Shops is cheaper - and from what I can tell, this is pretty much across the board.

As hunting season is coming up, I've decided that it is time for me to purchase a proper bird shotgun. While the EBS will work, it's certainly not purposed for hunting - what with the lack of a choke and having to deal with that silly foot-long plug. So... I'm off to Bass Pro on my way back to Austin to buy a Stoeger Condor. I realize that my choice may disappoint some of you die-hard shotgunners. I honestly cannot understand why the common belief is that an Over/Under shotgun, one of the simplest designs possible, needs to command a price tag of over $1000. Hey, I can certainly understand and appreciate the quality of a finely-crafted firearm. What I can't understand is the reluctance of manufacturers to produce utilitarian-grade O/U shotguns. Were I a competition shotgunner or a prolific hunter, a $1000+ price tag would certainly be understandable. But I'm not. I shoot skeet a few times a year and go bird hunting only a bit more frequently than that.

Remington has actually put its name on a line of inexpensive shotguns and rifles (including an O/U) called Spartan, but it seems almost as if they're ashamed of it. They import them from a Russian manufacturer, and you won't find any detail or pricing info for the line on the Remington website; It took a Google search for me to even find them, as they're not listed in the normal product navigation menus. So... inexpensive O/U shotguns are currently made by a small niche of companies, Remington (who is afraid to really own the line), Yildiz (Turkish guns who seem to only exist at Academy), and Stoeger - which is owned by Benelli. All things taken into consideration, the Stoeger Condor appears to be the best choice for me.

Also in good news, I've got a range session with a coworker of my girlfriend. She's got an old Browning .22 Short that her father gave her when she was a child, and hasn't been shooting since those days. I'll be bringing a sampling of rifles, handguns, and shotguns for her to try as well. I'll have a range report to follow.

And with that, I'm off to go purchase my new Stoeger.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blogroll updates and meh.

Sorry for the lack of posts. It's been a rough and busy few weeks, so I've been busy dealing with other issues. I don't have anything to post of substance quite yet, but I do have some long-awaited blogroll additions in the queue, so go check them out. I'll see what I can do about getting a real post up soon.

Politics, Guns, and Beer - a delightful lady blogger named Laurel from Idaho. Her blog is about politics, guns, and beer (as you might have guessed), as well as some family topics. Good reading.

Another Gun Blog - as you guessed, another gun blog. Mostly political/gun stuff with some new shooter range reports and other random commentary.

The Eclectic One - Another guns/politics blog, with some random entertaining posts sprinkled in for good measure.

The Anarchangel - There's too much to say about this blog really. Chris and Melody have been had a rough time in courts due to a vindictive ex bent on sapping them dry with legal costs. They've received some great support in their times of need from the gunblogging community, and are determined to pay their own way in true American entrepreneurial style rather than continue to rely on the generous charity of others. Bayou Renaissance man has some backstory rundown of their predicament with some links, if you're interested. If you're able, consider making a purchase of their cookbook and help support them in their fight.

The Arizona Rifleman - Enjoyable reading, with topics of guns, politics, life philosophy, and plenty of insight into the practical use of firearms by ordinary people in daily life. Plenty of good range reports with new shooters.

That's all for now. Go read the links!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

UNIX Humor

WARNING: GEEKY HUMOR AHEAD. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

I don't show it a lot here, but I am a geek. I do UNIX systems administration work, and if you don't know it yet, those who work with UNIX have a special humor when it comes to their work. You can find evidence of this in the source code comments of just about any independently-developed open source software project. Running a grep -Ri [enter your choice of colorful word here] * in the Linux kernel source tree for example, will present you with a long list of interesting and exciting commentary on the code or hardware the programmer was working with. This will provide hours of entertainment for the right kind of geek. My personal favorite was a comment, probably typed out of frustration, by whomever was writing kernel code for the Sparc platform eons ago. Sadly, that part of the kernel appears to have gone away in the more recent 2.6 versions. I actually went and downloaded a 2.4 kernel just now to find it. I won't post it here verbatim, to keep the blog family-friendly, but it involves tender intimate relations with a chainsaw. For those of you geeky enough and curious, it's located in arch/sparc/kernel/ptrace.c of the 2.4 source tree.

Anyhow, some of this humor will occasionally spill over into error messages seen by sysadmins like yours truly. I came across one today that had me laughing out loud. Part of my duties of recent involve getting some of the servers to keep proper time, implementing ntpd to accomplish the task. The internal clock on the particular server I was working on had drifted forward a bit since it was last synchronized, so I ran ntpdate to get it current. Some software isn't written to handle a backwards time shift, and I soon found out that this was the case with our ssl-enabled POP and IMAP daemon. It had crashed when I changed the time, and since I wasn't yet very familiar with the server, I had to go and figure out which daemon I needed to restart. A quick check of the logs informed me that it was dovecot, so I went and started the service up again. Now, the nice developers of dovecot added the handy feature that if the service crashed previously, the error message indicating the likely cause will be printed out for you when you start it back up again. I also found that the dovecot developers have a sense of humor. And apparently, dovecot is emo.

Behold:

[root@mail ~]# /usr/local/etc/rc.d/dovecot start
Starting dovecot.
Warning: Last died with error (see error log for more information): Time just moved backwards by 418 seconds. This might cause a lot of problems, so I'll just kill myself now. http://wiki.dovecot.org/TimeMovedBackwards


I'll leave you with that. :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Search Engine Shenanigans

Taking a cue from Marko over at The Munchkin Wrangler, I thought it would be fun to compile some of the interesting search terms that lead people to my blog. I can't fathom the amount of traffic Marko gets in order to compile such an awesome list of search terms WEEKLY, as it has taken me since January to get what I have below. Even with all that time, my search engine hits can't compare to the awesomeness he gets. This will definitely not be a weekly thing - more like every few months. It is fun, though.


overheard in austin

This is the most popular search result in my logs. People who got to my blog via this search end up at this post. The origins of the "overheard in" sites come from the blog titled "Overheard in New York", a collection of funny, interesting, and disturbing quotations overheard and submitted by folks going about their daily lives in New York City. It has produced a number of copycat sites featuring various cities, but I'm unaware of a site specifically dedicated to conversations "Overheard In Austin", rather there seem to be only smatterings of blog entries on the subject, such as mine.


"open carry california!"

Being that you can only open carry an unloaded gun, the magical buffer zones surrounding the areas that are "protected" from such an activity are ridiculously large, and the fact that California has some of the more ridiculous gun laws in the country, I'd say it's more trouble than it's worth. Then again, pretty soon the state won't have the money to pay for police to arrest you for doing so anyway, so perhaps it won't matter. I'm not going to knock anyone that wants to do it, I just don't see the point.

Actually, I'm aware that this is actually the name of someone's blog. I have no idea how a google search for that term landed someone over here. I don't recall ever discussing open carry or California.


against gun control

Yup.


all i really need you in my life

This sounds like either a gospel song, or an emo cry for help. I haven't decided which it's more likely to be yet.


blackhawk shotgun cheek rest pad shell holder reviews

If you're referring to the BLACKHAWK! PowerPak made specifically for the SpecOps Stock... It functions well. I have no need for the high pad, as I don't have optics or rifle sights mounted to my shotgun. The low pad is really just some thin plastic over the top of the stock (like a saddle) that holds everything else on. It is the perfect height for using bead sights with the SpecOps, much better than the stock that came with the 870. The PowerPak includes a 5-shell saddle and a small cylindrical watertight container on the opposite side, supposedly for spare batteries for your mounted light or something. I have no real need for the little compartment, and haven't found a use for it yet. If I ever want to keep something quite small from getting wet while toting my shotgun, then I'm ready.


browning hi power argentina matte finish

Yeah, that's pretty much the only finish they come in.


clothing that i really need blog

Well, that's not really what this blog is about, but I would suggest checking out 5.11 Tactical's line. I heartily recommend the Holster Shirt and the Tactical Shirt. Both are great for concealed carry, and the Tactical Shirt has many nice features, such as secret pockets and multiple places to stash a pen.


fm hi-power grip removal

It's the same as with any other Hi-Power. There are two screws about halfway up rear portion of the grip. Take those out, and it comes right off.


is that a pistol in your pocket

Yes. Yes it is.


liberals in austin

They are many, but they are not necessarily like those in the Northeast or West Coast. See the link in the first item on this list for more details.


model 444 ultralite 44 magnum revolver

The first gun I ever considered buying. I was cured of the urge by a good friend who directed me to something more sensible. Unless you have a very specific need for it or would like to bruise your hands and develop a serious flinch, you probably don't want to get one.


pachmayrs that fit feg pa-63

I'm not sure such a thing exists. Honestly, I'd take the money and put it towards getting a better gun. I love my PA-63 and all, but they aren't the most comfortable guns to shoot, and the slide bite tends to draw blood after a while, unless you have small hands. If it's all you've got, work on adjusting your grip, which helped me considerably.


what are the negatives with knoxx specops shotgun stock?

Compared to a normal shotgun stock, any pistol gripp long gun stock is going to be slower to shoulder from a normal carrying position. Many folks experience a loosening of the bolt that holds the stock to the receiver, though I'd venture to say that these folks probably didn't use the recommended blue locktite mentioned in the installation instructions. Beyond these two things, I can't think of anything negative about the stock. I absolutely love the thing.


who are you really?conclusion

Just a guy in Texas.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Shooter Range Report

I mentioned yesterday morning that I was heading out to the range with a young lady who has been a friend of the family for over two decades. We'd not talked much in the last couple of years, so when she said that we should do something together, I naturally suggested going to the range. She accepted, and told me about her only previous shooting experience with her then-boyfriend. It was reminiscent of some of the "What NOT to do" posts I've been reading recently. From her descriptions, he'd set her up with some sort of .40 S&W handgun, gave her no proper instruction, and let the recoil do the rest.


So we set a range date for Saturday morning, with barbecue to commence afterwards in nearby Lockhart (the barbecue capital of Texas). Saturday came, and I arrived at her family's house. We reviewed the Four Rules together again, and I with started a familiarity lesson in the use of the firearms I brought along for the day. A good hour and a half later, we prepared to head out.

She hadn't expected us to spend anywhere near the time we did working on safety and operation lessons, and as it was nearing noon by the time we approached Lockhart, we opted for lunch first. We picked Smitty's Market, and had a nice meal of brisket and pork ribs, topped off with cones of Blue Bell ice cream for dessert.

Once we were sufficiently stuffed full of meaty goodness, we headed to the range. We started out with the Walther P22 at a range of 5 yards, using paper plates as targets. Going into this, she'd let me know that she was afraid of guns mainly due to inexperience, and that her previous experience had not helped. Knowing that the best way to remedy such a problem was to provide a safe and fun shooting experience, I looked for a more secluded part of the range for better personal interaction.



Much to our benefit, it was a somewhat hot day and range traffic was sparse. We happened to come up just as the last CHL shooting qualification test let out, and got the entire bay to ourselves. We started at a relaxed pace, and assured her that I would be there to help her with anything and to answer whatever questions she had. We got our targets stapled to the boards and placed, and she took her first shot. The first piece of brass came back and hit her in the chest, reaffirming why I recommended not wearing an open-top shirt to the range. I'm glad I remembered that little piece of advice. She was obviously nervous, so we spent time discussing specifics of the guns and ammo, and what they do and do not do. Apparently the myth that guns just "explode" is alive and well. I explained what conditions would cause such a thing to happen, and than it is almost entirely an ammunition problem, most often associated with improperly loaded handloads or squibs. As time went on, she got a little more relaxed.



We moved on to shooting a Marlin Model 60 .22LR rifle at 10 yards. She found immediately that she liked the rifle much more than the pistol. Aim was much more natural (as I would expect), and her consistency improved the more she shot. We worked a bit with grip and stance, and moved on to working with the Browning Hi-Power. While the loud report and recoil was a bit daunting at first, she found that the larger and more complete grip made it easier and much more fun to shoot. After she was comfortable with the gun, I grabbed the camera and got some great shots with brass in the air, such as the one below.



Time flew by, and before we realized it, the time was nearing 5:00. It's a ways back to Austin, and it was election day for the local mayoral and city council elections (I needed to be back before the polls closed at 7:00), so I put up a couple of Dirty Bird targets to give her something to take home. She shot her favorite gun - the Marlin Model 60 - again from 10 yards, and got all 17 shots inside the 9 ring. We wrapped it up and headed back. She thanked me profusely for taking her out and having the patience to help her work through everything. It was definitely my pleasure. She had a great time and is already wanting to go out again, even arranging to bring her brother and sister along for the next trip.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Heading to the range.

I've got some range time arranged with a family friend today. I've seen several posts in the past couple of weeks about guys who think it's funny to take their girlfriend to the range for the first time with little or no instruction, give her some hand cannon and let her beat herself up with the gun. My friend is one of these unfortunate ladies. What's worse, is that he knew full well that she was afraid of guns in the first place.

Fortunately, she's no longer involved with that bastard, and has the courage and will to take steps to overcome her fears. We're going to have a proper safety briefing and familiarization with all the weapons she will be potentially operating before heading out today. I've already tasked her with memorizing the Four Rules as her homework, so we've got a good start already.

We'll be starting out with the Walther P22 and Marlin 60, and move on from there if she's comfortable doing so. I took note of JayG's methods and went out and bought a package of paper plates - 80 for $2,59. Sure beats targets for cost. I am bringing along some "Dirty Bird" splatter targets, so she has something to take home and/or show off, but we'll start off with the plates first, for simplicity's sake.

I'll post a range day report this evening.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blast from the recent past.

A friend posted this 2003 IBM commercial recently. It's kind of creepy/eerie , especially the personification of Linux as a child. One of the things that might be immediately concerning are the somewhat socialist undertones.

There is, however, a distinct difference between the open source software movement and political socialism. Specifically, participation in OSS development is completely voluntary with the goal of creating something for the sake of meeting a need, or within capitalist structures - namely companies like IBM who benefit financially from its development on the whole. Open Source Software by its very nature is transparent, and anyone who wishes may modify it to fit a specific need or preference. Linux is a beautiful example of what can be created when a large community gets together with the aim to create something to fill a need without a corporate or government bureaucracy handing down edicts to benefit its own narrow goals of obtaining money and power.

Here's the video.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Status update and blogroll additions.

I apologize for the lack of original posts as of late. I have been attending to the business of securing new employment, and simply haven't had time to do much here. The discussion in the preceding posts hasn't really progressed, simply because I haven't had time to pay attention to it. I may get back around to it eventually, but not right now. Too much to do. I have secured gainful employment once again, so once I normalize my routine, I'll get back to the serious business of writing new entries.

I've been collecting new blogs for a blogroll addition over the past couple of weeks, so I'm going to go ahead and post them here.

Confessions of a Gun Toting Seagull is the writings of a private charter pilot and fellow gunblogger conspirator, aepilotjim. I've been meaning to add him for a while, but the notion has always escaped me when I did blogroll addions in the past. Now that's remedied.

Brillianter.com has a lot of practical tips for self-defense and use of force. Good reading when you're thinking of "what if" scenarios.

Sipsey Street Irregulars - lots of good political commentary, gun-related and otherwise.

Shangrila Towers - a geeky fellow whose writings are interspersed between technical gadgetry, movies, music, and guns. Sitemeter informed me of my addition to his blogroll, and I was flattered at his description of my blog: "He posts less frequently than I do, but the posts are much longer and more detailed - nice for grabbing a mug of coffee and pondering.". Welcome to the blogroll, Mulliga.

ricketyclick is a good mix of political and gun-related content and interesting oddball entertainment pieces. Whee!

Ballistic Deanimation - an almost exclusively gun-related blog, with the occasional saddening or funny story regarding the state of society. Appears to have BOFH tendencies, which makes my SysAdmin self giggle.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Followup commentary on my last post

There has been some extended discussion over in the comments section at Aunt B's blog. Dolphin has replied to my commentary, so I have posted a response there. I'm posting his response and my followup below, for your reading pleasure.

UPDATE: dolphin has once again responded, and so have I. Additional entries added below.

dolphin wrote:

John the Texaner,

For not wanting to make a partisan argument, you sure are trying your best to do just that.

You ask why there are no Texan cities on the list? Good question, why not any New York cities, or Maine, or Virginia, or Illionois, or Maryland? The reason is simple. Because it’s a list of 15. There are over 10,000 cities in the US (according to the 2000 Census, a little outdated I know), so it’s obvious that ALOT more will be left off the list than included on it.

I think you’re dismissing the very logical conclusion of higher population = higher crime rate, while jumping to embrace conclusions that are far more dubious. You can’t simply dismiss the correlation between population and crime on the basis that the 6th highest population missed the list. I’m not suggesting that high population is THE factor that causes higher crime rates. I’m suggesting that it is a major one that interacts with a near infinity of other factors.

If a person who is willing to rob my house is walking down the street in the city and sees a 50″ HDtV sitting in my living room through my window, I’m likely to get robbed. On the other hand, if the exact same person is walking down my street in the country, they are far less likely to walk an acre and a half to my house just to see if there might be something inside they want to steal. I don’t think they care whether I am “dependent on government assistance in their everyday lives,” it’s a matter of convenience.

Then of course the question is whether that person would be walking down my street in the first time. If, for math simplicity, we assume that 10% of the population are potential criminals, then in a town of 1000, there are only 100 people who I’d have to worry about, where as I’d have to worry about 10,000 in a city of 100,000. And because of population density, I’d be even more likely to come in direct contact with 1 or more of those 100,000 in the city.

All of these make far more logical sense in explaining higher crime rates than wild speculation on people’s political views or attitudes towards the government.


--------------------------

John The Texaner wrote:

dolphin.

As I noted at the beginning of my post, I was exploring Jim's suggestion that the violent cities were democratic-leaning. They were. I left that argument where it ended.

I do admit that I didn't look at all the specific reasons for why Forbes listed the cities as "most violent", and it's likely an over crime/accident indicator they're looking at. Reviewing it now, the list includes both violent crimes and property crimes such as theft and larceny - which don't seem to me to be an accurate indicator of "danger" as applicable in this discussion.

As a note, you will never find Chicago on any of these lists. The reason for this is that Chicago does not report rape to the FBI, making it impossible to calculate a comparison to other US cities with regards to violent crime.

If we want to get more specific, we can look at murder rates per 100,000 as an indicator. Forbes has another list of most Murderous Cities, and it is a top 10 list. You can find the article here, and get a rundown of each city by clicking the "In Pictures: America's Most Murderous Cities" link.

Detriot (47.3) still tops the list by far, followed by Baltimore (43.3), New Orleans (37.6), Newark (37.4), St. Louis (37.2), Oakland (36.4), Washington (29.1), Cincinnati (28.8), Philadelphia (27.7), and Buffalo (26.4).

Still no Texas cities in there, but only one in the "South", being New Orleans.

I'm not dismissing that large cities tend to have higher rates of crime. In fact, I said that I do agree that it is a factor. I should have phrased it better. Correlation does not equal causation, and that was the specific point I was trying to make. While crime is higher in larger cities, there are plenty of large cities that lack the level of violent crime of smaller cities, so it is obvious that other factors come into play. I believe societal attitudes towards crime are a significant factor, and this was the point I was trying to make.

As for your HD TV example, you missed my point. In a society where criminals have little fear of resistance to the commission of crime, crime will flourish. If conditions exist that make a burglar or robber more likely to meet armed resistance, logically the risks to the criminal are higher and the criminal will be less likely to commit a high-risk crime.

Taking this instance of robbery as an example and the two cities I cited earlier - Houston and Philadelphia, let's compare statistics. I'm pulling these stats from the FBI crime statistics for 2007, which can be conveniently found on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate. Numbers are again per 100.000 in population.

Houston is a city of 2,169,544, with an instance of robbery of 529.

Philadelphia is a city of 1,435,533, with an instance of robbery of 715.

Despite its greater size and a significant influx of crime post-Katrina, Houston still comes in considerably lower than Philadelphia in robbery statistics.

I find it significant that a violent crime against a person is less likely in an environment where the possession of firearms for self-defense is considered the norm, as opposed to Philadelphia, where it is actively condemned by local authorities. The essence of my point here is not the guns, but the accepted societal norm of defending one's self, family, and home.

Guns are simply the best tools for accomplishing these aims when faced with criminal deadly force. They are tools of last resort, and an equalizer when push comes to shove in a life-threatening encounter.

As for your static example of 10% of the population to be flawed. While there is certainly a portion of the population that will be inclined to commit crimes, you completely ignore the social influence on the choice of an individual to pursue a life of crime. Where the personal risk and consequences of committing a crime are more severe, an individual would be less likely to pursue those paths. Were risk is low to an individual, the rewards may outweigh the possible risks involved, making criminal acts more attractive. If we want to talk in degrees of severity, one may find the low risk involved in petty theft more attractive than the high-risk robbery or burglary. When a population has been conditioned to offer no resistance to a criminal involved in a severe or violent crime, the low risk versus high reward in such an act transcends that of petty theft, and a criminal would be more inclined to commit the act.

To use recent international events as an example, we have a situation off the coast of Somalia where the violent act of piracy has gone almost completely unchecked. The risk in such a venture has become nearly zero, while the rewards of the crime are incredibly high. We have an environment where shipping companies and entire nations have written off the payment of huge ransoms as a part of doing business, and effectively encouraged Somali criminals to engage in acts of violent and organized crime. In the absence of risk and the presence of great reward, the crime of piracy has flourished.


--------------------------

dolphin wrote:

John, unless I’m severely misunderstanding you, you’re still basing your entire argument on speculation about people’s motivations, which you have no way of knowing. That and the fact that Houston doesn’t happen to appear on a few lists of 10-15 of 10,000+ cities.

Here’s your (apparent) assertions that I’d either outright dispute or at the very least argue that we need much more information before we could argue the validity of them:
1. Guns are the only way (or even the most effective way) one can defend oneself against a criminal.
2. There are a higher proportion of people who choose to pursue criminal activity in the city than in the country.
3. That there are a lower proportion of people willing to defend themselves in the city than in the country.
4. The notion that widespread gun ownership has a deterrent effect on crime.

And here’s the thing, I’m not a gun control proponent. Own all the guns you want, I’m just opposed to drawing really shakey conclusions on not enough information just because those conclusions might fit into your preconceived notions and agenda.


--------------------------

dolphin,

I'm basing nothing on motivations. I'm talking about social influence. I'll give you a very simple example:

A person may be motivated to break into my house and commit robbery or other heinous crimes against me and my loved ones. When I meet him with my shotgun ready to defend my family, I act to influence him to choose another path or pay the consequences of his choice to persist against me.

I chose Houston as an example because it is similar in size to Philadelphia, and provides a contrast in violent crime trends. I also chose it to provide a conservative example, knowing full well that Houston has a crime problem.. If I had wanted to make a drastic example with a closer population number, I would choose San Antonio instead. Here is a comparison of statistics between San Antonio and Philadelphia, with data taken from the FBI 2007 statistics that I referenced in my previous post.

Population:
San Antonio: 1,316,882
Philadelphia: 1,435,533

Murder (per 100.000):
San Antonio: 9
Philadelphia: 27

Robbery:
San Antonio: 186
Philadelphia: 715

I was being generous with my Houston comparison. Other large cities in Texas fare as well or better.

I'll address the assertions you claim I make individually.

1. As I have already stated above, my assertion is not that guns are the issue. The issue is when governmental restriction serves to influence public perception on the social acceptability of defensive force, deadly or otherwise. What I did say is that the gun is the absolute best and most efficient tool in a specific set of violent encounters where other options are unavailable or ineffective. When the government disarms law-abiding citizens, it sends a message that we cannot be trusted to protect ourselves against crime and must rely on the police (who have no duty to protect us).

2. If we are to go by your HDTV example in your earlier comment, then rural living provides less opportunity, less likely reward for effort, and less frequent incidence in crime. And yes, I am saying that both violent and property crime rates are higher in urban areas. The U.S. Burea of Justice agrees with me.

To quote specifically:
"Urban residents had the highest violent victimization rates, followed by suburban resident rates. Rural residents had the lowest rates."
and
"Urban households have historically been and continue to be the most vulnerable to property crime, burglary, motor vehicle theft and theft in the United States."

You can find the report I pulled that from at http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/cvict_c.htm

3. That really depends on your city. If you want to go with your 10% criminal rule, obviously the cities with lower crime rates have fewer citizens who are willing to be victims. To more specifically address the assertion, it is not so much a matter of will than it is ability. As I've stated previously, rural populations are more self-sufficient by nature. The need for self-protection is a much more distinct reality, as police assistance is often immediately unavailable. City-dwellers (again, this varies depending on the city) have been conditioned to rely more exclusively on police response against crime - they are generally not as mentally prepared for the reality of a self-defense situation.

4. Yes, that is a correct assessment. The only modifier here is that owning a gun is not on its own an effective deterrent. To be truly effective, the gun owner needs to be proficient with the weapon and be willing and ready to use that weapon if the need arises.

For all your claims that my opinions are shaky conclusions and speculations, your own arguments in this thread have been based completely on supposition. You have yet to point out a single piece of data or study to support your position. Essentially, your side of the conversation has been "you're wrong, you make bad assumptions".

In effort to address your concerns, I've provided you with statistical data and my own observations as to why I think that data is significant. While these may be conclusions to fit into my preconceived notions, you've countered with your own conclusions with no data or even anecdotal evidence to back them up.

An agenda would imply that I have some specific goal in mind. I have no goal other than to live my life with liberty and in the pursuit of happiness. I'm flattered that you believe I have some sort of agenda, but in reality I'm just a guy in Texas who values his civil rights.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A liberal comes out against gun control.

SayUncle linked to a post by Aunt B about the recent addition of two Tennessee cities to Forbes' list of the top 15 Most Dangerous Cities. Her take on it was unexpected, and refreshingly she comes out against gun control. It is good to see a self-described liberal looking at the issue rationally. Of course, I am no stranger to this phenomenon, as famously liberal Austin is full of liberals (and even a self-described socialist friend of mine) who see the sense in firearms used for self-defense. Here is one personally-observed example I've noted in the past.

I posted a reply to her post and some of the commentary, but it seems to have gotten caught in a spam filter or is awaiting approval - I'm not sure which. I'm going to post it here in the meantime for your reading enjoyment, and hopefully it will show up there.


Aunt B: If the comments are moderated for approval, sorry for the double-comment post. I thought perhaps that it had not gone through. Not seeing any notation that comments were moderated, I attempted to post again.



Jim made the statement that the democratic-leaning counties are the ones where violence is worst, and said he may look it up later.

I took it upon myself to research the entire Forbes list you linked, and compared it against the recent 2008 election results by county. Red represented a majority of Republican votes, Blue represents Democrat votes. Want to guess what I found? Every single one of them went to Obama. Here's the list. I used the NY Times map as my source, and you're welcome to go look it up.

http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/map.html

1. Detroit, MI Blue
2. Memphis, TN Blue
3. Miami, FL Blue
4. Las Vegas, NV Blue
5. Stockton, CA (San Joaquin County) Blue
6. Orlando, FL Blue
7. Little Rock, AR Blue
8. Charleston, SC Blue
9. Nashville, TN Blue
10. Baltimore, MD Blue
11. New Orleans, LA Blue
12. Baton Rouge, LA Blue
13. West Palm Beach, FL Blue
14. Charlotte, NC Blue
15. Philadelphia, PA Blue

Now, far be it for me to make a partisan argument out of this. I don't identify myself with either the Republicans or the Democrats. I consider the pros and cons of each candidate in each election. It is nearly always an issue of who is the least despicable of the candidates. Both parties enjoy the lion's share of corruption and self-servitude. Gun control has been, however, a pet issue of our President and the current Democratic leadership in Congress, so for the purposes of this discussion, the data is corollary. After all, the only point Jim made was that the violent places are all Democrat-majority.

And please do not lump California in with the South. That is an insult to southerners. Also, Las Vegas would be considered "West", not South.

In response to dolphin's comment, why are there no Texas cities on this list. Last I checked, Houston is the 6th largest city in the U.S., but somehow it didn't make the cut. While it does have its share of crime, especially post-Katrina, it still pales in comparison to the other much smaller cities on the list. I agree that crime does tend to increase with population, but it's not directly corollary.

An interesting side note, Houston is another blue city in an otherwise red state, comparable to Philadelphia. Texas has preemption laws governing the the regulation of firearms, where Pennsylvania allows its cities to create local ordinances banning possession and carry of arms. Somehow Philadelphia with its strict gun laws beats out Houston in this most dangerous places list.

Beyond the gun issue, I believe this reaches much further into the perceived role of government in the daily lives of citizens.

If the issue were proliferation of gun ownership, then it would seem logical that the most dangerous places to live would be more rural areas where gun ownership is highest. On the contrary, people living in rural areas are inherently more independent and self-sustaining - less likely to be dependent on government assistance in their everyday lives. Rather than turning to the police as a talisman against crime, these people have a personal interest in self-preservation against criminal acts, knowing full well that they are responsible for their own safety.

By contrast, city-dwellers have been lulled into the notion that crime against one's person is to only be dealt with by the police, and are largely mentally powerless against a criminal. This is only pushed further when conditioned by laws that prohibit citizens from possessing the most efficient tools for self-defense, making not only self-preservation difficult and often times illegal, but actions of self-defense themselves socially taboo as well. How many times have we heard public officials claim that if we just "give the person what he wants, no one will get hurt"? In practice, that doesn't work out so well, and we're slowly becoming a nation of victims with social convention running counter to our inherent instincts for self-preservation.

Aunt B, I appreciate your willingness to look at facts on this issue. Your post was quite refreshing.


[UPDATE]: My comment was indeed caught in the spam filters, and Aunt B. has graciously fished it out for me. Hats off to her for the quick response!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Superb addition to the blogroll...

...and an incredible source of information!

Clayton Cramer and David Burnett's Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog. They have gone and documented over 4000 accounts of civilians defending themselves with guns, starting in late 2003. The number continues to climb daily. Incredible.

Everyone needs to go read this stuff.

Thanks to Robb Allen over at Sharp As A Marble for linking to this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More blogroll additions for your reading pleasure.

Here's a couple of folks I'm adding to the blogroll:

A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver
I've known about AD for a long time, by way of LawDog (my first blog to ever follow, incidentally), so this add is long overdue.

Lucrative Pain
The adventures in the life of a Licensed Massage Therapist in Las Vegas. Christina is a regular over at the Gunblogger Conspiracy, who I somehow missed adding to the blogroll in the past.

Welcome to the blogroll!

Enjoy the reading, it's good stuff.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another addition to the blogroll

Via ASM826 over at Random Acts of Patriotism, I have been made aware of CmdrFenix. A hearty salute and welcome to the blogroll!

Where I've Been and Some Commentary

Via several folks on my blogroll, I have this nifty "where I've been" map generator.

First: States in the U.S.:


visited 34 states (68%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or jurisdische veraling duits?

And secondlly, Where I've been in the world:


visited 6 states (2.66%)
Create your own visited map of The World or Best time to visit Nakano

... Not nearly as extensive as my travels in the U.S., with the Asian countries from my early years growing up as an Air Force brat. Canada, however, was done via an extended road trip on a shoestring budget during my early 20s. Lots of great experiences during that trip, and much of the western US states from the first map were covered during that trip.

Some places I'd like to go:

Germany - The homeland of my ancestors. I can trace my family back to the 1790's in the Oldenburg area - the generation that left the Old Country. It appears that most folks with my family name in Germany still reside in that general vicinity. With some genealogy work, I'm hoping to find some very distant relatives and meet them. Fortunately, my last name is relatively rare. Every person I've encountered with it in the U.S. can trace their roots back to the same family in the midwest that I come from. Hopefully, the same is true in Germany. Acquiring a working knowledge of German is one of the things I want to do before this trip.

Switzerland - Renowned for its rifle shooting and marksmanship among the common population. Yes, I know they have skiing and good food, but the shooting is what draws me. My wish is to visit a hundreds-of-years-old rifle range, and do some target practice with a K31 (the first rifle I ever fired).

Thailand - This one is for the food, beautiful landscape, and culture. I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I'm a Capsaicin nut. Spicy food is the cat's meow for me. Thai Chiles are among my favorite peppers - lots of heat and good flavor. Thailand has beautiful mountains, monestaries, and people. I have no desire to visit the tourist trap areas along the coast. When I travel, I seek a route where I will encounter people as they really are, not a manufactured image for me to consume. A bicycle tour is a possibility here.

Belize - At one point long ago, I made preliminary plans for a road trip to Belize via Mexico. Now, such a plan would be foolish, to say the least. Mexico has become a very dangerous place to be a foreigner these days, especially away from resort towns. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of visiting Belize, but I fear there's no place to go anymore where I wouldn't get the tourist treatment. Still, it remains on the list, in case an opportunity falls in my lap some day.

Iceland - Its stark beauty and wilderness have been a draw to me for a long time. The prospect of backpacking through that kind of country has an entrancing quality about it.

Alaska - Yes, it's on my map of places I've been. My time there was limited to passing through as a toddler on the way stateside from Asia. There is a stamp on my old passport to prove it, but I have no memory of it. Alaska draws me for a variety of reasons. It is perhaps the only place that surpasses Texas in the qualities I value for living. Rugged self-reliance, a frontier spirit, and respect for the liberties and rights of men. The gun laws (or lack of) are icing on the cake. As I have alluded to in previous posts, I have made preliminary plans for a backpacking trip through the Alaskan wilderness. Specifically, it's my desire to travel across a large portion of the state, backpacking through Gates of The Arctic National Park and rafting the entire length of the Noatak River within the Noatak National Preserve. The Alaskan wilderness has the same kind of draw for me as Iceland. Being in a place where very few bother to venture is a desire that is simply part of my being. Visiting a remote corner of the world where people simply do not go to on a whim has some sort of profound value for me which I cannot explain - and the state is full of those kinds of places. Alaska is also a place I would be proud to call home.

Antarctica - Again, the remote, seldom-traveled road holds its appeal for me here. At one point in my life, I considered applying to work at McMurdo station in a technical capacity. The place is desolate and beautiful. Few people ever make the journey to Antarctica. Other life priorities prevented me from sending in the applications and making a serious run at it, so Antarctica will probably never be on my "Where I've Been" list. I'd still like to go if the opportunity ever presented itself.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

While there's still a few minutes left in the day...

Happy National Librarian Day to Breda!

To the the rest of you librarians out there, I salute you!

Austin's Tea Parties

The Austin Gun Rights Examiner has a review of yesterday's Austin Tea Party events, and it isn't overwhelmingly positive. Sadly, I'll have to agree with the bulk of Mr. Nemerov's sentiments.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it out to the event at city hall where the Governor spoke, but did make it to the Capitol for the demonstration at 4:00. This may have been a good thing - if the first protest was anything like the last one, I may not have bothered with the Capitol event. It wasn't all bad, so I'll start with the good.

A lot of people showed up. I heard the number to be estimated between 5,000 and 7,000, which seemed to be right from what I saw. I was surprised at the number of folks who made it. I got there a little before 4:00, and was able to get a parking spot at 14th & Guadalupe about 5 blocks away. I had intended to bring the Nikon along to get some photos for this post, but forgot it on the way out and didn't realize I had left it until I was halfway there.

There were a lot of flags flying, with the Gadsden Flag being the most prominent. There were a few Gonzales Flags as well, a US Marines Flag, and a few US Flags of different versions. A couple of other oddball flags few as well, including the Bonnie Blue Flag, perhaps meant to approximate The Burnet Flag.

Overall, the event was relatively disorganized. There was a semblance of a schedule, but none of the speakers or performers were visible to anyone beyond the first couple of rows in the crowd. There was a speaker system set up at the Capitol for the event, and that worked pretty well.

There was a disappointing partisan vibe that permeated throughout the Capitol grounds part of the event. This was reflected in the speeches as well, and it was evident that these folks were treating the Tea Party as a Republican rally, rather than the grassroots single-issue event that it was supposed to be. I'm sure I'm far from the only one to have noticed this, as I observed that when the talking points became increasingly partisan, crowd participation and cheers died off significantly. Given the Republican Party's recent departure from its core beliefs on spending with the Bush administration, it was a big mistake to turn focus towards the GOP during a protest against runaway government spending.

U.S. Representative Michael McCaul was probably the biggest speaker at the event, and reinforced this partisan rhetoric. In his introduction, he threw bone of a welcome to the Libertarians, a hearty welcome to the Republicans, and then went on to jokingly welcome Democrats, if there just happened to be any in the crowd. While his speech was good, it seemed to be more of a set of talking points to save his own hide - pointing out that he didn't vote for any of the pork "stimulus" bills. He went on to make some more partisan rallying points about taking back the congress "for the party". This is not what I came expecting to hear.

There was another speaker whose name I never caught after McCaul. The speech was well-delivered, though it strayed into the standard Conservative (and mainly Republican) talking points on a wide range of issues not related to government spending. It was mainly a "God and Guns" speech, with minor points on government spending. I'm in general support for the points made, but that's not what a Tea Party was supposed to be about.

In general observation of the crowd, the posters and banners and whatnot were generally on-topic. From what I could tell, there were a lot of folks geniunely interested in making a stand against runaway government spending. This made it all the more disappointing that the event played out like a Republican political rally. I could tell by the reactions (or lack of reactions) of several of the more independant/centrist-looking folks in the crowd that they shared my disappointment in the tone of the event.

In attendance were some of the more extreme right-wingers. I noted a spattering of "Vote From The Rooftops" shirts and other similar slogans. Apparently some of the black helicoptor conspiracy theorists thought it would be a good venue to try and have their voices heard, as we were treated to shouts of "9/11 was an inside job!" during the march procession.

The crowd was in significant enough size to warrant blocking off Congress avenue, and APD did an admirable job of facilitating the march. It was quite impressive to see the size of the procession. We walked a mile down Congress Avenue to 1st Street (aka Cesar Chavez), headed west, and went south on the South First Street bridge across the lake and ended up on Auditorium Shores. This is where things pretty much fell apart. No one seemed to know what to do once we got there. There had been mention of a dumping of symbolic tea crates from boats into the Town Lake (aka Lady Bird Lake), but no one knew when or how this was going to happen. People stood around, with the Veteran flagbearers occcasionally leading in a song, like the US Marine Corp hymn or the Army hymn. We all stood around for a good 30 minutes until the last of the procession made its way into the park. The veterans with the flags wandered over to the numerous news vans and made some news-worthy chants and cheers for the cameras.

The crowd was wandering and dwindling at this point, for lack of guidance or closure. After a while, people started leaving the park on the pedestrian portion of the South First Street bridge. I figured it was over, so joined them. It was on the bridge that we saw the tea crate demonstration going on in the water (no one seemed to ever announce that it was happening). Essentially, the demonstration consisted of the throwing floating boxes in the water from covered tourist boats, with some other folks manning canoes picking them up 30 feet away.

In the end, the event was anti-climactic and I left somewhat disappointed. Most disappointing, though, was the fact that a rather universal event was turned into a partisan Republican preaching pulpit. It could have been so much more.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Discussion on Home Defense Firearms

I started this post as a comment to Hsoi's post over on Stuff From Hsoi. I soon realized that the comment rivaled the original post in length, so it warranted a post of my own. You should probably read it first to get a context of the discussion.

For what Hsoi posted, I'll agree for the most part - with the stipulation that this deals with new shooters. Honestly, an optimal solution would be to make sure the new shooter gets enough range time and shooting experience to make a logical personal choice on his/her own. This not being an ideal world, we end up in a lot of discussions as to what weapon would be best for these new and inexperienced folks.

I've got a Remington 870 18" 6+1 shotgun as my primary home defense gun. I practice with it frequently, to the point where I am quite confident that I can put all my shots squarely on multiple targets while moving and shooting.

The rub of the shotgun for the uninitiated is the recoil, and practicing enough for its operation to assimilate it into muscle memory. Not long after I got mine, I took my girlfriend to the range so that she would know how to operate it if the need were to arise. Unfortunately, the only range option that day was Red's. As those familiar with the range know, Red's has the usual restrictive rules of typical indoor ranges, and I was informed that we could only shoot slugs. This does not make for a happy introduction to the shotgun for most first-timers. She only put a couple of rounds through it and decided that was enough. Not good when you want someone to be intimately familiar with a defensive weapon.

To deal with this problem, I later replaced the rear stock with a Knoxx SpecOps stock. The difference it makes in felt recoil is amazing. This particular stock provides an M4-type 5-position adjustable/collapsable stock with a pistol grip. Additionally, it has two sets of recoil compensators that take all the bite out of shotgun recoil. I tested it out at the range and found that 3" Magnum slugs approximate felt recoil of a 2 3/4" bird hunting load. It's really that spectacular of a difference. What's more, follow-up shot delay is shortened to however long it takes you to rack the slide - the normal muzzle rise and operator movement experienced with heavy defensive loads is marginalized to the point where the sights remain on target after recoil.



In addition, Blackhawk makes an add-on shell-holder/cheekpad kit that provides on-gun storage for an additional 5 rounds. The "low" cheek pad provides the perfect cheek weld height for shooting with the bead sight (the "high" pad is made for rifle-type sights or optics). My girlfriend has picked up on my enthusiasm for the recoil-reducing capabilities of the stock, and has promised to give it another try the next time I can get her to the range.

I've taken it skeet shooting, and found that quick sighting on moving clays to be very natural and effective. This was only my third time shooting skeet, and I managed to get a score of 14, shooting doubles.

As for the "racking the slide" deterrent discussion, I bought into this initially. After thinking about it logically, I came to the conclusion that this was tactically unsound. Any element of surprise I can get on an intruder benefits me and my loved ones. The shotgun lives with one in the pipe these days, and the only sound it's going to make is a little "click" from the safety disengaging.

I agree with Hsoi on semi-auto vs. revolver. Practically, the issue comes down to what a person is willing to shoot with. My girlfriend is much more comfortable with the idea of a revolver as a personal defense weapon, and has favored them at the range when trying them out. For her, the operation is straigtforward and easy to understand, so she's simply more confident with them. That's the most critical part of the equation - whatever your choice in defensive weapon, you have to be confident, willing, and ready to use it.

Personally, I agree that more rounds available is better. I do, however think that the devistating effect of 9-12 (depending on your load of choice) simultaneous 00 buckshot pellets in a defensive 12ga makes the shotgun my #1 pick for home defense. I am confident of this because I've put in the time and effort to practice with it in varying scenarios. I do keep a high-capacity semi-auto as backup, should circumstance warrant it.

As for new shooters, it really depends on the individual. Generally, I will recommend a shotgun for a few reasons.

Long guns in general are easier to be accurate with, and my experience has shown me that muscle memory learned on a long gun (and shotguns in particular) is retained far longer than with a handgun. This is helpful for the individual who wants a weapon for self-defense but doesn't go to the range all that often.

Secondly, shotguns are cheap and require relatively low maintenance. Ammunition is relatively easy to find, especially given the recent run on handgun and common rifle ammo. This means that a defensive shotgun and ammunition can be acquired quickly and more readily on a tight budget. These days, that's an increasingly important factor.

Lastly, there is the firepower factor. A shotgun is simply unmatched when considering how much damage it can inflict in a close-quarters defensive scenario with a single pull of the trigger.

I'm no expert, and just about any choice a person can make for a defensive firearm is better than nothing. Again, the weapon you're willing and able to use is what you should go with. If you think revolvers are the bee's knees, then by all means go with that. The universal suggestion I give anyone asking about a self-defense weapon is to practice with it, and know it well.

[UPDATE]

Hsoi has updated his post with a couple of points in response, and I'll address those here.

Just to clarify, the above mentioned range trip with the girlfriend wasn't her introduction to shooting. We had made her introduction something like a year prior, with a good friend and experienced shooter doing the instruction. For her first range trip, we started her on a Ruger Mk II (.22) pistol. She worked her way up to some revolvers and semi-autos in .38 and 9mm. We also touched on rifles with a nice little .22 he had. She'd also been to the range another time before the trip to Red's. As you noted, starting off with something light and easy to shoot is critical with new shooters, and this is my standard practice. I have a Walther P22 and a Marlin Model 60 that I purchased specifically for this purpose.

I also agree that indoor ranges are a bad place to introduce someone to shooting. I never have and will not take a new shooter to an indoor range for the reasons Hsoi listed. Also, they're no fun because of lane restrictions (which make it difficult to instruct), the noise, and time constraints due to hourly rates common at most indoor ranges. In fact, the only time I'll go to an indoor range is if I'm meeting up with another experienced shooter who can't make the long trip out to the outdoor range.

This trip was, however, her introduction to shotguns, and I was unaware of the restrictions on shotgun ammo in place. I'd brought along plenty of light #4 Buck loads for use on our trip, and ended up unable to use any of it. Being on a time constraint, I tried to make the best use I could from the situation. The result was negative, and I've learned from the experience. Put in the same situation today, I simply would not have gone to Red's at all and scheduled a trip to the outdoor range for another day.

As for our disagreements on what's best for a new shooter, I'm cool with that. As posted above, the weapon you are comfortable with and will practice with is what you should use. If someone is more inclined to get a revolver, pistol, or rifle over a shotgun, that's fine by me. I'll point out the strengths and weaknesses of any weapons system so that person is able to better make an independant and educated personal decision. As an example, while a M4-style rifle (as Hsoi suggests) is appropriate for some people, others who have apartment neighbors to consider might find that a rifle presents too high a risk of third-party injury or death; Handguns allow one-handed operation, so the weapon is at ready when opening doors or for defensive hand strikes at extremely close range, but are more difficult to make quick and accurate shots with under stress.

As Hsoi also noted, a plan is essential for effictively defending your home and loved ones. Evaluate your options, know where your line of fire will be in relation to where your family members and neighbors are. Come up with plans for as many possibilities as you can. I take these factors into consideration when running drills at the range. This can mean taking kneeling or crouched shots against an intruder, shooting from your weak side, shooting one-handed, transitioning to backup weapons, reloading, drawing and shooting from a seated position, failure drills, etc. The more you know and have trained for, the more options available to you under the stress of a life-threatening situation.

Thanks for the response, Hsoi.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blogroll Additions.

In response to my post about 20/20's most recent bit of investigative reporting fellatio for the Brady Bunch, I've gotten a lot of traffic and links from several better-known bloggers. My traffic has gone through the roof - relatively speaking - and many have been kind enough to add me to their blogrolls. I will do my best not to disappoint.

Here is a list of the many who have been added to my own blogroll over the past few days:

Bore Patch

extranos alley

Found: One Troll

Just The Library Keeper

Sensibly Progressive in Politically Correct America

Stuff From Hsoi

the munchkin wrangler

The Real Gun Guys

Women of Caliber

Give 'em a click and a read. Lots of good stuff is being written.

That is all for now.

[EDIT]

2A Musing and Alphecca have also been added to the blogroll.

I've also just found Random Acts of Patriotism and saw that it was good. Another add to the blogroll.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Solving the Pirate Problem

So it looks like the Navy bucked up and did the deed. Finally. Unfortunately, the hemming and hawing for the past few days isn't going give other pirates the impression that we're serious. Were it the clear and resolute policy of the United States to use overwhelming and devastating force against pirates whenever they are encountered, this problem would be resolved quite quickly.

Our government will tell you that there's too much international law and whatever else they worry about to adopt a policy like this. Stingray over at Atomic Nerds has a simple solution, and it only requires a letter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quite irritated.

I just wasted an hour of my life watching ABC News pimp the Brady Bunch and their drivel with their 20/20 "If I Only Had A Gun" special.

One of the more infuriating segments to watch was the "scenarios" played out, headed by a willing police trainer stacking the deck in a lop-sided argument. Here's how it went:

20/20 took some college-age kids, mostly unskilled with handguns, NONE of which had defensive handgun training, and set them up for a force-on-force scenario. They were given simunition glocks and some rudimentary training, then thrown into an unexpected force-on-force scenario. In this scenario, the student is planted in a "class" with nothing but unidentified police officers as other "students" in on the ruse. The student is given a Glock in a holster - supposedly for later use - and told to conceal it under a t-shirt in a holster. In the middle of the class, the plain-clothes police officer in street clothes bursts in and starts firing to test the response of the student. There are multiple flaws that set up these students to be the patsies of this lop-sided piece of propaganda. I'll list a few here.

(1) This was the most obvious to me. The officer immediately targets the student with a gun before the student gives any indication he is armed, because he knows who this person is already. This isn't how it happens in the real world.

(2) The officer immediately opens fire in a rapid fashion. If we have learned anything from school shootings (which this is supposed to emulate), mass murderers in these scenarios don't spray bullets. They take aimed shots and execute their victims one-by-one, usually starting with the closest person and continuing along at a calculated pace.

(3) When faced with armed resistance, the first things these murdurers inevitably do are either run or kill themselves (or both). This has happened at every mass shooting I can think of - both those that play out until the police arrive, and those where the shooter is met with an armed civilian. The officer running this program does exactly the opposite in these manufactured scenarios by continuing and prolonging a shootout against armed resistance. I doubt the officer would be so confident about not being hit and continuing the assault had that been a real gun he was facing.

(4) Regardless of how realistic they are trying to make this, these students still know that these guns aren't real. These students are untrained in any kind of self defense techniques, are not intimately familiar with their weapons, and their issued cover garments look to be specifically intended to cause a hang-up during a draw. While considering all of that, these students are also forced to make sense of a situation that they've been put in, delaying reaction time. They know they have training guns, they know the officer is using a training gun, and they have to think about what they're supposed to do in reaction to all this in the context of this "training" class. All of this before they're unrealistically singled out before even drawing.


The answer ABC News gives us? You shouldn't have a gun. The police trainer in this video comes off quite smugly as one of "the only ones". Us little people aren't fit to carry weapons because we don't train all the time like the police (even though everyone I know who carries gets more range time in than the average cop). No, the answer isn't to know your weapon and get training in self-defense techniques. The answer is to die while you wait for the police to arrive and barricade themselves outside while you and your classmates are slaughtered. Thanks for clearing that up, ABC!

I'd invite these same people to set up this same scenario with a shooter possessing gun-handling skills similar to the garden-variety mass-murderer (see very little), and do not let him know who is armed. Then put in an average CHL holder who has bothered to get defense training in the classroom seat, with equipment he or she practices with and carries daily. The outcome is quite likely to look very different from what these shills gave us. But we all know that's not going to happen.

Really telling were the defense success stories that were glossed over. They ran tape from a convenience store robbery where the clerk was armed. The only point made was that 14 rounds were fired by both sides (clerk and 2 robbers), and not one person was hit. Ya know what? THE CLERK LIVED, DIDN'T HE?

There was another video all of us in the gun blogosphere have seen. A thug walks into a motel lobby wielding a shotgun. The clerk responds by tactfully drawing at the right opportunity and shooting the guy multiple times, center-of-mass, without missing a single shot. But all of this was glossed over because there was a lady with a baby in the room, and they were in close proximity. What they FAILED TO MENTION was that the motel clerk was a very well-trained handgun instructor. Know what else? He didnt' hit the baby. HAD THEY SHOWN THE ENTIRE VIDEO, we would have seen that he didn't simply draw and fire, but positioned himself in a calculated manner to minimize risk to any of the innocent individuals present.

HEY ABC! DO YOU KNOW WHY NO ONE WATCHES 20/20 ANYMORE? IT'S THIS UTTER SHIT YOU FOIST UPON YOUR VIEWERS! Pre-determing your conclusions before you set out to make the story isn't journalism, it's PROPAGANDA. You made absolutely no effort to show even a single interviewee on the pro-gun side of the argument. You are shills, the lot of you.

[EDIT]

Adding a link to Eseell's play-by-play analysis over at Found: One Troll: http://blog.knotclan.com/2009/04/11/if-i-only-had-a-gun/. Eseell has also been added to the blogroll.

Caleb over at Gun Nuts Media (the Blog formerly known as "Call Me Ahab") has his own take as well: http://gunnuts.net/2009/04/11/set-up-to-fail/.

Additional commentary from the Virginia Shooting Sports Association here: http://virginiashootingsportsassociation.blogspot.com/2009/04/abcs-if-i-only-had-gun.html

Sebastian from Snowflakes In Hell expands upon the VSSA's commentary: http://www.snowflakesinhell.com/2009/04/11/abc-2020-hatchet-job/

Another good review over at Sensibly Progressive in Politically Correct America: http://sensiblyprogressive.blogspot.com/2009/04/abc-anti-gun-hatchet-job-on-2020.html. Another good blog added to the blogroll.

SUNDAY UPDATE:

The Denver Gun Rights Examiner has an article here: http://www.examiner.com/x-2944-Denver-Gun-Rights-Examiner~y2009m4d11-ABCs-2020--isnt-seeing-clearly

The LA Gun Rights Examiner has an article here: http://www.examiner.com/x-2323-LA-Gun-Rights-Examiner~y2009m4d11-If-I-Only-Had-A-Gun-misfires-for-2020-when-they-cannot-stay-on-topic

[MORE STUFF ADDED]

Women of Caliber has another detailed review: http://womenofcaliber.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/2020-shoots-blanks/