Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recycling: Redneck Style.

I've always said the secret to a good marriage is to marry a woman who loves God, likes guns and motorcycles as much as you do, and has a tolerance for all things John Deere.  I'm blessed with a wife who has her priorities straight.  She appreciates a healthy family, debt-free living (or as close as we can get), a new or old gun, an evening or weekend motorcycle ride, an afternoon shooting, a good book or movie, an afternoon nap, or a gift from the heart more than most things money could buy.  This is a good thing because I ain't much more than an "edukated redneck" who tries to provide for my family, which brings me to recycling: redneck style.

Some folks think recycling is sorting and hauling off your garbage for a few cents or to save the earth, but recycling for me can mean a lot of different things.  Occasionally, I'll run across some items that I can recycle into something useful like my red scoops I make from plastic STP Gas Treatment bottles.

We recycle almost all of our cans out back on the shooting range.  I still have buckets of brass from the range out back that came from others shooting with us who didn't want their old brass and it's in sizes we don't reload so I'm still thinking about how to recycle it.  This is all to say that this year for Mother's Day (a little late, but it's the thought that counts - right?), my friend - Farmer Phil - and I made the wives some redneck daisies for their porches and yards.

Haul out an old, rusty rotary hoe that was way back in Phil's woods, gather up some old rusty pipe and field-disk blades, find a few cultivator shovels... pile it in the barn... get out the grinders, cut-off saw, and welder... apply a little spray paint... and "Sha-Bang!"  Old farm implements recycled into Redneck Daisies... and a wife who appreciates them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My first gun.

Most shooters have an affinity for their first gun.  It may be the first gun they had ever shot or the first gun they owned, but most people I've met speak fondly of that first gun, no matter what it is or was.  A friend of mine has has been diligently searching gun shows, dealers, and online sources for his first gun, or at least one just like it, for several years.  Fortunately, my first gun is still with me and has its own special place in the gun safe among it's many siblings.

The first gun I ever remember shooting was Pappy's (my grandfather was always known as Pappy) Winchester 61.  The 61 was a terrific little pump-action .22 with an octagon barrel that showed some wear, but with a cheap box of .22s, it would keep us kids entertained all afternoon behind the barn or in the woods.  There are pictures of me at around age five shooting that gun, but as fate would intervene, it ended up being passed on to my uncle, then to a cousin.

The first gun that was actually my very own is the Marlin Model 60 pictured above.  A gift to me from Pappy when I was nine, it is still one of my favorite guns.  My Marlin 60 is nothing special to anyone else, just a semi-automatic .22 with a 22" barrel and a tube magazine that would hold 18 rounds (better known as a New Jersey assault rifle these days).  It came with a plain wood stock, metal blade sites, and an instruction manual in a cardboard box with "Marlin" printed on the outside and a Kmart price sticker of $59.97.

Endurance and reliability testing seems to be all the rage these days in gun reviews, but I can attest that few guns have been tested like this Marlin 60.  Oh, it had misfires, and jams, and failures to extract which were all probably more a combination of cheap ammo and the hundreds of rounds fired between cleanings, but this gun probably has somewhere north of 50,000 rounds through it over the years and it still holds a nice, tight group of ten shots at fifty yards off a bench rest you could cover with nickel.  Must be that Marlin Micro-Groove rifling.  Whenever some money came my way from a birthday, baling hay, or mowing yards; I'd pick up a few boxes, and sometimes a couple of "bricks" of .22s, and shoot... and shoot... and shoot.

Long before zombies became such a problem, I helped save America by eliminating extreme radicals in rural areas and farm country such as crows, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, and various targets-of-opportunity like tin cans, bottles, and even a few ABBA and Styx albums.  I also became a pretty good shot facing away from my target and firing it over my shoulder using a mirror like trick shooters did in the old days.

The reason this rifle was on my mind is because of the new scope mounts I recently installed.  After purchasing and mounting a Weaver K4 4x scope back in high school, I've tried several sets of mounts on the dove-tail or "tip-off" scope rail - all of which have seemed to slip or move over time no matter how much you tightened them down.  I recently ran across some B-Square dove-tail to Weaver-style adapters at MidwayUSA that seemed purpose-built to eliminate my perpetual scope shifting problem.  After installing them along with an inexpensive set of Weaver one-inch scope rings, I went out back to the range, sighted in the scope at 50 yards and then proceeded to dispose of 400-500 rounds of Federal .22 bulk-pak ammo.  The scope never moved or shifted and held zero the entire time.

Tin cans and zombies beware, I'm sighted-in, loaded, and ready.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Optimists, Pessimists, Analysts, and the Revolver.

My wife would likely tell you, "He's not an optimist or pessimist, he's an analyst."  It's just my nature to keep an open mind and make decisions based on an analysis of facts, past performance, hands-on experience, qualitative data, and quantitative information.  Once the analysis is done, I usually choose the most practical solution and when all options are fairly equal, then my passions and biases will kick in and affect the outcome.

Now when it comes to guns, I never saw a gun I didn't like or find interesting.  The design, the mechanics, the finish, and the style all fascinate me.  That doesn't in anyway imply that I would be happy with any gun for our personal collection or use, but then again, the first rule of the gunfight is to have a gun.

During an Ohio Concealed Carry course I was teaching a while back that incorporates the NRA Basic Pistol Course, one of my students asked me about what gun she should buy.  She had come to class with an M&P 40 Compact that belonged to her husband.  She had the opportunity to try a number of different guns during the course, and after some questions and discussion... I recommended what she had pretty much concluded herself - a revolver.

She went home and asked her LEO husband about going with her to look for a revolver which resulted in me getting "The Call".  "The Call", also known as "The Discussion" when done face-to-face, is usually a pointed conversation where one party discusses my incompetence, lack of manhood, and my head placement in dark places, among other things.  He did make some interesting points including: The .40 is a man-stopper causing "perps" to do double back-flips when hit and anything less is equal in ballistics to a Daisy Red Rider BB gun; His wife was smaller in stature and had small hands so the compact version of the M&P 40 was the gun for her... besides, it was a smaller version of what he carried every day.  The only problem in his decision process was forgetting to include his wife in determining the answer.

As I observed, conversed, trained, and assisted this gal in my course; I learned a few things about her and used that information for my recommendation.  Here are some pieces of information I gathered:
  • The first time she had shot a gun in 17 years of marriage was a quick session with her husband a week before the course.
  • She noticeably winced every time she started to touch the trigger on the M&P 40 compact, a remnant from her experience shooting it the previous week.
  • She had no interest in shooting or practicing on a regular basis after the course - I appreciated her honesty even though I recommended otherwise, she just wanted a gun in case something happened and her husband wasn't home.  Her shooting during the course was likely her last handling of the firearm (until that day her life depended on it, I'm guessing).
  • The beginnings of arthritis in her hands made operating and cycling the slide on the semi-auto difficult.
  • After handling a dozen or more guns during the course and firing a Glock 26, Ruger SR9, Ruger SP101, Ruger GP100, S&W J-frame, and a Ruger Mark III .22, she really liked the fit, feel, and operation of the revolvers.
  • She was very comfortable and confident with operating the revolvers.
  • The M&P 40 Compact is a terrific gun, but this gal just didn't have the physical ability and confidence to operate it safely and reliably.  Could she with practice, possibly, but I appreciate her honesty in saying she had no interest in practicing.
When I try to make a decision or recommendation, I find it is always best to educate myself and all those involved.  If you provide the unbiased information, experiences, empathy, and education to all involved, you'd be surprised at how often everyone comes to the same or at least a similar conclusion from their analysis (although I still have some friends who buy tractors without the John Deere logo).

So, yes, after my analysis, I recommended a revolver for her and after providing her the training, knowledge, and education about firearm basics and concealed carry, she recommended a revolver for herself too.  While ideally, I'd like to see every gun owner and student go on to practice regularly, participate in shooting sports, and enjoy guns as much as I do, that just isn't the case.  I know there are students who go through the course and then go home, put their gun in a drawer and forget about it.  All I can say is, "I ain't your mama."

Some will take me to task about the virtues of the semi-auto over the revolver and that is why I often carry a semi-auto over a revolver, but when it comes down to basics, revolvers are easy to operate, easy to load, and easy to check if loaded, and less susceptible to human failure of operation in a stressful situation - especially those that don't regularly practice - or ever - with their firearm.  I've seen folks countless times in courses and on the range who pull the trigger on their semi-auto only to hear... (crickets chirping).  They forgot to load the magazine, or they loaded the magazine, but forgot to cycle the slide, or they loaded the magazine and cycled the slide, but forgot the safety was on.  On a revolver, for the most part, when you load the cartridges and close the cylinder, you're ready to go.

When it comes time to purchase or obtain a gun or anything, I recommend you work with someone who will teach you about what you need, rather than tell you what you need.  Don't make decisions out of optimism or pessimism, but analyze all the information you can, and make your own recommendation or decision.

Oh, and PRACTICE REGULARLY... it's fun!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Working at being a Proverbs 31 man.

Many in Christian circles are familiar with Proverbs 31 and it's description of an incredible, selfless, hard-working, intelligent, kind, loving, devoted wife and mother.  It's been used in Bible studies and classes for women for years, but I'd like to note that it should be studied by men too.  Slipped into that perfect description of such an incredible woman is this little verse:

"Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land"
~Proverbs 31:23

If you look at this verse in a historical context, this is the description of a highly respected man, who is intelligent, hardworking, well-respected, trustworthy, and wise.  He is a reserved and regarded leader.  This incredible woman that is described in Proverbs 31 is not the wife of an abusive, drunk, neglectful, wasteful, broke, perpetually-out-of-work, self-centered, or lazy jerk. 

I offer the observation that some men I know who complain about their wives and girlfriends may not themselves be worthy of what they think would make these gals better women.  I'm far from perfect, but I try to continually strive to be a better husband and father so that I am worthy of the incredible woman I am blessed with for a wife and the terrific young lady my daughter is becoming.

Guys, when it comes to guns you might want to trade your .44 for a .22, but when it come to gals, I'm keeping my 44.  That's why I'm working at being a Proverbs 31 man, at least from my gal's view.

You say fundamentalist like it's a bad thing.

When it comes to shooting, as with most things in life, I'm a fundamentalist.  After years of instructing and training hundreds of folks from ages four to eighty-seven, I have found that the shooters who master the fundamentals, or call them the basics if you want, seem to improve the most and have the best results.  Firearm safety fundamentals are the most critical to master.

The NRA has the "always" rules:
  • ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
I would tend to argue that you could potentially violate any TWO of those rules and nothing of importance would meet an unfortunate demise because of your gun.  Now I know there are additional gun safety rules including the next NRA rule of "Know your target and what is beyond" and some groups which precede all gun safety rules with "Treat every gun as if it is loaded at all times".  In Ohio 4H Shooting Sports we use the acronym MATEE which stands for Muzzle, Action, Trigger, Eyes, Ears.  No matter what gun safety rules you follow, I don't believe in accidental discharges from firearms.  Firearm accidents from unintended discharges are almost always from negligence or recklessness that can be traced back to someone not following the fundamental rules of gun safety.

So far (knock on wood and thank the Lord), I have never had a firearm accident in any of my courses or during the 4H shooting events I've instructed and participated in because the fundamentals of gun safety are reviewed, practiced, and drilled into everyone present.  We always remind our 4Hers that this is an adult activity so you will be treated as an adult and you will act like an adult, and that goes for the parents too... and because of fundamentals, we manage to send tens of thousands of rounds down-range every year and have never had an accident (just don't tell the liberal anti-gun nuts that we have kids shooting that much on a regular basis without any problems, it will ruin their day, along with their mis-guided theories).

When it comes to shooting, the fundamentals are the foundation of good results whether you are hunting, plinking, shooting in competition, or developing good self-defense techniques.  In the future, I plan to discuss the shooting fundamentals in more detail, but for now a brief reminder of those basic, foundational skills that good shooting is built on.

GRIP:  You need to develop good and consistent grips, yes grips - including one and two-handed grips for handguns.  I have found that a good, consistent grip will allow you to shoot well in most standard (weaver, isosceles, etc.) positions and stances along with many unusual positions such as prone, on your side, upside down (courtesy of the Top Gun series), and while moving.

POSITION: Sometimes referred to as stance or hold control, my views on position and stance have changed over the years.  Developing a good, consistent position or stance that is appropriate for your shooting situation is important, but when it comes to self-defense or hunting, you should also become adept at mastering and adapting to improvised and unusual shooting positions.  Too often when we practice our stances and positions, it occurs at a range or somewhere that is clear and level.  Sometimes when hunting I find myself on a hillside with brush and other objects to negotiate with.  You need to be able to adapt your stance or position to various conditions and situations you encounter.  Now with handguns, I began with and trained in the Weaver stance decades ago, but I'm becoming more of an isosceles fan in recent years.  The isosceles stance is used as a foundation for many handgun shooting sports and I've noticed in the day and age of Youtube and dashcams, many law enforcement officers trained in the Weaver-type stances default to an arms-straight-out, isosceles stance when the crap hits the fan and bullets are flying.

AIMING: Developing aiming skills that include quick and consistent acquisition of your sights, sight alignment, and/or sight picture will make you a better shooter.  It is also important to remember that one sight doesn't necessarily fit all.  You don't have to be stuck with the sights that came on your gun.  There are many sights and optics available for just about any firearm and you should try them and consider what types of sights work best for you, your gun, and your situation.  You combine good, consistent aiming skills with your grip and various stances and positions, draw from concealment and press out, or other techniques for putting that muzzle on the target and you will likely hit your target every time.

BREATHING: Two aspects of breathing that affect shooting are controlling your breathing and conditioning your breathing.  I have a friend who recently asked me to observe him at an IDPA shoot to see if I could offer any advice on how he could improve.  Now I'm not an expert at IDPA, but I do know the fundamentals of shooting pretty well.  One thing I noticed was his breathing, or lack there of, was very noticeable.  He was not breathing while shooting, then gasping for a big breath as he ran to his next station, then holding his breath throughout the shooting in that position.  He actually does pretty well in IDPA, but he's now working on fundamentals with his breathing and seeing improvement in his shooting.  Controlling your breathing is important, but so is conditioning your breathing - which means conditioning yourself.  Now I'm no expert on physical conditioning as my personal physical condition needs improved and I'm working on it, but the better condition your are in, the better breath control you will have.  You can't shoot well if you are "heaving" for air with each breath.

TRIGGER CONTROL:  A good shooter has to master the bang-switch.  Three things that really seem to help with trigger control are the placement of your finger on the trigger which is affected by how the gun fits you and your hand, developing a good, consistent, straight-back trigger squeeze, and for those who want or need to rapid-fire... developing the skill of allowing trigger reset with no more movement than is necessary.  If you can master the fundamentals of squeezing the trigger while keeping those sights lined up and on target, you will do well.

FOLLOW-THROUGH:  While traditionally, follow-through in the NRA Basic Course consists of continuing to do everything you were doing before you pulled the trigger, in many shooting activities follow-through involves a lot more.  Follow-through may involve acquiring the next target.  A few years back, I spent a lot of time going to bowling pin shoots and was doing pretty well.  I utilized a shooting cadence technique and as I practiced, I just increased the rate or speed of my cadence of shooting and the skill of acquiring the next target in my follow-through.  If you checked my times on the ol' Pact timer you would see pretty consistent intervals between each of my shots.  Sometimes in self-defense, follow-through involves acquiring a head shot after two shots to the center of mass, followed by a scan of the area for more zombies wanting to do you harm.  Determine what follow-through is necessary in your situation and practice regularly.

So my advice to folks who want to improve their shooting, as it is so often in many areas of life, master the fundamentals.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's all in the introduction...

Well, as this is the first blog post, it will be the introduction. Good introductions are important since they are often most folk's first-impression. Here are some examples of poor introductions:
Poor introductions to God: "You're going to hell if you don't quit drinking and smoking" or "God will strike you down if you don't ________."

Poor introductions to Gals: "Hey Baby, is heaven missing an angel" or "Oh, yeah... I forgot... this is my wife" and of course the sleeping-on-the-couch classic "Ya'll come over here and meet my old lady."

Poor introductions to Guns: "Never shot nothin' before? Well come here... try this 44 Magnum out 'cause anything smaller ain't worth having" or "You should get rid of the piece of crap and get yourself a real gun like a ________."

Poor introductions to Grub: "Try it, tastes just like chicken" or "That ain't spicy, now THIS is spicy" and "I've had better."
Often, final judgments are made during introductions. Some of you who are reading this new blog have already made a judgment, while others will take their time and see if what follows the introduction is worth exploring further... to the latter, thank you and welcome to:

God, Gals, Guns, Grub.