Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

We're in your southern fly-over states, making your money.

Traditionally, the nation's economic engine rooms have been on the coasts.

Not so much lately. Seems that the economy is favoring the warmer parts of the country. Texas showed to have a surprisingly high number of booming cities on this list of the best local economies in the U.S.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Want!

The Terrafugia flying car.
Most gunny folks that I know are into aviation. I don't know why, but it's true.

I'm one.

Typically, when people ask me how to get from my area to Fort Worth at about 4:30PM, I answer "By helicopter." This might well give a different answer. It's funny to see highway mpg listing on the performance specs of a plane. (30 mpg, b.t.w.)

I'd be terrified of a minor fender-bender, though. Get side-swiped in the parking lot, and you can still drive home, but flying would be a Bad Idea.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Laughing. Out loud.

My wife keeps a file on her email of things that genuinely make her happy when she opens them. Links to funny videos, digital audio recordings of our children when they were toddlers, and funny pictures and stories. We all trade these kind of things around on our email, but my wife actually keeps them in her Yahoo account in an Awesome file.

Today she sat down at the computer, and brought it up. She added the University Of Quebec's amazing single-take video (that would make Robert Altman proud), and then just picked one at random to read or watch. A few seconds later, she started howling. I mean to say that my spouse of almost 12 years sounded like a howler monkey as she read this.

Sure, I had read it 6 years ago. But damned if I didn't laugh again.

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Kids ask the darndest things.

It's a tired cliche, but it's a fact that children are quite capable of posing some pretty profound questions, that most of us don't have the chops to answer.

Since most of my readership is brighter than the average person on the street, I now direct you to a list of some of those questions, so that you might answer them.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The fact that this is newsworthy is a good thing.

Do you have a cell phone with a camera in it? I do, and I was about the last guy to get a cell phone. My phone was $50, and was one of the "feature phones" at the AT&T store, which means that it's cheap.

But it's got some features, not the least of which is a video camera. I actually use it a lot. I video'd my daughter's karate tournament. I video'd a cottonmouth water moccasin that I caught, before dispatching it. It's easy, takes one hand to use, and I only push two buttons to make it happen. In short, I can be video taping recording something with about 2 seconds' notice. And I'm a blundering technophobe.

Just about everyone has one of these things, these days. My wife has one, my daughter has one, my mother, my father, and my stepmother have one. And if you're under 30, live in the United States, possess a camera that is in any way capable of recording video, then you know how to utilize that feature. It's a given.

So you can bet that really interesting things that happen around college students in this nation get video recorded. How could they not be? By definition, an American college student has the equipment, the knowledge, and probably the opportunity. So it is that we get YouTube videos of drunken youngsters doing things that their mothers would not approve of.

Now, let me ask you-- if your buddy was getting an unfair beat-down by the police, wouldn't you want to document that? And if you're a youngster with a camera phone, it's dollars to donuts that you'll whip it out, begin recording, and then send it to your friends in a fit of outrage.

Or, if you're a bright boy like one Dimitri Masouris, you'll sell it to the first high bidder you can find, like the attorney representing his beaten buddy, Mr. Phuong Ho. (Stop and think about that. Masouris took the tools he had, and turned them into something valuable and fungible, with his own hands and his savvy. Free enterprise at work. Gawd Bless America.) The video has been released to the media, and shown to the San Jose Police Department, who employ a couple of cops who got a bit frisky whilst arresting Mr. Ho for brandishing a steak knife. Reportedly, the video shows that at least one SJPD officer beat the unarmed Mr. Ho with a baton, even after he was handcuffed. Not good!

It's bad, and I'll expect to read about charges on the officer, if the video actually shows what is said to have happened. And that, friends, is GOOD. I want the idjits who beat up handcuffed prisoners to leave my profession. I want them charged, and convicted. I don't want it swept under the rug, with people muttering "cover-up." Good solid video gets convictions, and that's a good thing.

Here's the thing, though-- if this were common, we'd see a LOT more of it. There would be reality TV shows with nothing but footage of bad cops beating down helpless citizens, illegally. Because remember-- camera phones are everywhere. And most police cars have video cameras. And that weird guy on the corner always keeps an 8mm video camera handy. And there's surveillance cameras on every other corner. And... and....

Why don't we see more of this? Because frankly, it just doesn't happen much. And that, my friends, is a damned Good Thing.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Who's surprised? Not you. Certainly not me.

Perhaps another kind of motivation poster should have hung in the boardrooms of those companies that have recently been bailed out by the United States federal government.

I'm thinking that the entire text of the Aesop's Fable about "The Dog And The Wolf."

Hmmm... perhaps there's a shilling or two to be made, printing, mounting, and framing them for sale to businesses teetering on the brink?

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"Now THAT would be something to go out on..."

From my favorite movie:
Gummere: [uneasily] You realize, of course, that if we fail in even the slightest way, we'll all be killed?
Adm. Chadwick: Yes, and the whole world will probably go to war.
Capt. Jerome, USMC: Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world DOES go to war! [raises glass as a toast]
Adm. Chadwick: The world at war!
Gummere: A world war? Now THAT would be something to go out on...
You know, if I've got to shuffle off my mortal coils earlier than I currently plan to, then I rather hope it's on a slow news day, and makes the news scrawl. Hey, if I've got to suffer through an early death, then you have to suffer through the retelling of it.

I just pray that my last acts are judged to be noble, and that they are not witnessed and triggered by a murderous semi-tame dancing skating bear.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wookiee-suiter.

"What the hell is a 'Wookiee-suiter,'" I asked Tamara today by phone.

She described this photo for me, which I vaguely remembered having seen.

A Wookiee-suiter (or "wookie-suiter," as most of us would type it, only to be corrected by Star Wars geeks.) is a term of art coined by one of Tamara's frequent commenters and contributors, who, according to Tam, basically applies it to anyone more libertarian than he is.

She and I agreed that this is a fine example of why Ron Paul and any other Libertarian candidate gets marginalized, when his most visible supporters will willingly dress up in hairy science fiction character costumes and stand out in the snow at the side of the road with a Gadsden flag.

"I myself use the term endearingly," she said kindly.

I thought it interesting that I had pretty much been to every single website that appeared in my Google search for the term.

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Firearms fashion issues.

Tamara notes fashion issues on open carry of firearms. Because I typically openly carry while in uniform, that's not a major issue with me. But occasionally, I do. This November, I am attending a wedding, in which I will be wearing an overpriced rented tuxedo with a mother-of-pearl bedecked Gold Cup. I've no intention of letting the Gold Cup be hidden, and am considering the question of how to effectively carry my wedding gun while tuxedo'd, in pants without belt loops. I don't own a black shoulder holster, and really would rather carry at belt level, anyhow. The trousers will be held up by braces.

I'm speculating on the concept of discreetly tacking a couple of temporary belt loops to the slacks, to be cut off at the end of the wedding. I have given some thought to creating a device to connect the belt to the suspenders, but I haven't the time or the materials or the patience.

We'll see how this goes.

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Another example of the difference between them and us.

The Japanese have LONG since had the market cornered on weirdness. We know that.

But think of how very wrong this little stunt could go, here. Or this one.

This is a sad commentary on the state of the land that was formerly the birthplace of Bushido.

The next time someone attempts to point out our nation's faults by comparing our assault rates with those of that now-defanged lapdog, consider if you really want to have your country neutered, to compare with other, already-sissified countries.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Olfactory masculinity.

Brett & Kate McKay bring us a list of 15 smells that are associated with Manliness. I don't know about the bowling alley, and I never knew my grandfathers, but the rest is spot-on.

I think I might consider adding the smell of a working automotive garage, with axle grease, solvent, and fresh tires. Oh, and an old-style tire store. I think also that I associate the mixed smells of gasoline and broken earth, perhaps with perspiration, as a manly smell.

Now, I know that some will protest that there's nothing inherently masculine about sawdust or shooting, or gasoline and broken earth or the like. That's certainly true. My wife the sculptor uses our table saw as much or more than me, and can weld (another manly smell?), while I can't. She mows our lawn as well, and I shoot with too many women to count.

But I associate some of these smells with men of my youth, and I can't ever release that. As long as I don't treat women inappropriately because of my associations, I believe that I can accept that about myself.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Goodbye to a legend.

I've been reading opinions of federal court cases since I was in high school. One name that has kept coming up again and again was that of William Wayne Justice.

Mostly I've been aware of Judge Justice's work as a federal district judge in Tyler, TX. Before that, he was an east Texas federal prosecutor.

Many have hated Justice's rulings, which have led to desegregation across Texas, education for the children of even undocumented immigrants, and strict regulations for Texas jails and prisons.

But there's another side to those rulings, based in the strict interpretation of the law. I've heard many a jailer complain about the dictates pursuant to Ruiz v. Estelle, but I've never had it explained to me how the ruling was illegal or improper. [I know; I'm just a big stinkin' liberal. I think that even inmates (some of which are unconvicted) are allowed basic medical care, access to law libraries, and oversight of their holding facilities.]

He's passed on, still a senior federal district justice at 89 years of age.

So passes one of the great pillars of US and Texas criminal justice.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

A new face for an old name.

I assume that everyone does this, but maybe I'm wrong, so let me know:

Whenever I hear a name of a person that I've not yet met or seen, my mind categorizes them into a cubbyhole in my brain with a picture of the first person that I ever knew with that name stamped on it. When I hear of a "Jennifer," I think of an attractive young woman with long straight dark hair that looks like my first cousin Jennifer. When I hear of a Howard, I think of a broad-faced English fellow that I went to junior high school with. "Sean" is a wild-eyed blonde kid who was my best friend when I was 5. "Edward" is a skinny black kid I hung out with in the summers as a kid.

Sure, I have to translate them to adults, but you get it, right?

Well, I've never actually known an Earl. So I've pretty much just either put a heavy-set stereotypical heavyset Bubba figure into the picture slot, or Tom Petty (who tells us that's his middle name.).

My mother, shortly after she fired up her blog, called me and asked how to plug in an Earl. I asked her what she meant. Actually, I said, "Huh?!?"

"You know. That long computor code, showing where you find a file on a computer or on on the Internet," she said*, frustrated with me.

It dawned on me, finally. "Ohhhh. You mean the U.R.L. Heh. That's the Uniform Resource Locator," I said, cracking up.

"Yeah. The Earl," she responded, kind of grumpily, now.

So for the last two and a half years, I've been thinking URL whenever I hear the world "Earl."

Now I can see something else: This is Url.





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*I'm paraphrasing, here-- this conversation took awhile to parse out.

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Firearms Instruction School: Final Day

Sorry I hadn't posted this yet, but I was busy on Friday night and my computer was not working on Saturday.

On this day, we first took our written end-tests.

We then went to the range, and practiced administering qualifications.

We had, the night before, written three courses of fire. One was a basic TCLEOSE qualification course, to show that shooters had shown basic proficiency with a firearm. The TCLEOSE requirements are that the shooter must:
--demonstrate how to take down his pistol and clean it,
--display safe gun-handling skills at all times,
--fire 50 rounds (at least 5 of which must be duty ammo), scoring at least 70%, on a course of fire that includes:
  • --at least 20 rounds at a range greater than 7 yards,
  • --at least one string of fire at 15 yards, and
  • --at least one timed reload.

Are you already figuring up how EASY such a course could be made to be? Note that there is no specification for how LONG you may have to perform the reload. The variety of TCLEOSE qualification courses is wide. I've seen some that had 12 rounds (6 + 6), with a reload, to be fired at 50 yards in under 17 seconds. Then too, I've seen some that had just 5 rounds at 15 yards, 15 rounds at 10 yards, and all the rest at 7, 5, and 3 yards, with the super-slow reload stage at 3 yards. (These were called "the Chief's course of fire.")

For backup guns, that "Chief's course" actually makes a lot of sense, when you think of shooting sightless or near-sightless tiny mouse guns.

Most firearms instructors pride themselves on writing their courses of fire for main duty guns a little harder than the strict requirements by TCLEOSE. The host agency, for example, requires a 100% hit rate.

Then we had to administer a "Training" course of fire. I used this opportunity to train my fellow students on malfunction drills. I had them load up empty cases randomly into their magazines, some backwards, to make them deal with the ensuing problems under stress. I had their neighbors load their mags for them, and they had a GREAT time with it. I got a lot of grins and thumbs-up on that.

I then gave them my Transition/Familiarization training course of fire, in which I made them transition from their strong hand to their weak hand, and continue firing. In one string, I had them (for time) reach down with their weak hand and pick up the gun that they had theoretically dropped, and gun down the target weak-handed, one-handed. In another string, I had them shoot around one side of a barrier, then move to the other side, using weak-hand supported. Then they shot around the barrier using weak-hand unsupported. They liked these.

I had some strong opinions, by the end of the week, on how a mass qualification should be run.

While I LOVED the turning targets (I agree that in real life, the signal that will induce us to shoot will be almost certainly be a visual clue), with the preset times already dialed in, I had to be realistic about the qualifications that I would be running in the future I didn't use the remote to turn the targets. I used my whistle, instead.

Except in special exceptions, I told my class to keep their guns full. I HATE R.O.'s that insist on shooting me dry, only letting the line load when they're ready. This creates a lot more fiddling with their guns than is needed.

I told the line how many rounds were to be expended in a given string, and would tell them to load and make their weapons ready and snapped down, before I would give them the course of fire. Otherwise, shooters do like I do, and think, "Can I load now? Can I load now? Is he going to forget to tell us to load our guns up ?" I will then of course completely miss the range officer's instructions.

Demanding that the gun be shot dry on every course of fire sure does make for a longer qualification, and it demands a lot more administrative manipulation of the firearm than is needed. This does not actually prevent accidents. Keep it in the holster, and administrative reload in the holster, gang.

Likewise, I do NOT order "eyes and ears" on until after I have asked if anyone didn't understand the course of fire. Muffs and earplugs can really hurt your ability to understand.

I ask, "Is anyone NOT ready?" This seems to get those who are not ready to speak up a little more.

I tell the shooters that the only signal to fire will be a whistle, and that I yell "time!" at the end of the time period. (I don't like "Up," or "Threat," or half a dozen other firing commands. I especially hate "gun" as a firing command.) I want them to associate a single sound with the shoot command on my range. With people's ears muffled and probably ringing, I don't want shooters mis-hearing an innocuous phrase like "I'm tired" as "Fire!"

_______________________
Because I had some revolver ammunition leftover, I shot many of the courses of fire with the Model 10.

I also challenged the other especially gunny fellow to attempt headshots at 50 yards (I had a nice group, just left of the head, darn it. Only one in the head.)

The SWAT guy then challenged us to leave our field stripped pistols at the 5-yard line, and we ran from the 50 yard line to them, reassembled them, and fired 5 head shots. As I was fitting my recoil spring into my issued Glock 31, it occured to me that I had forgotten my hearing protection, and that I could hear the SWAT guy racking the slide. I quickly covered my ears while he shot, very near the concrete bullet trap, over a concrete floor, in a covered range. I then finished my reassembly, and fired my five shots one-handed, with my right ear pressed to my right shoulder and with my left hand pressed against my left ear. My group was certainly tight enough, but Second Place is first loser, you know? (Note: the SWAT guy had long since begun to put his pistol together before I came pounding up to the 5 yard line.)

We ended up shooting some fun guns that one of the instructors brought. He brought an H&K USP Match, and an H&K Mark 23 SOCOM. I was astonished at the ridiculous size of the Mark 23, which I had never fired before. But it was quite accurate at lobbing .45 acp rounds through the paper. The USP Match, however, wasn't wasn't just "quite accurate." It was a frickin' laser. Friends, I didn't want to shoot well with the pistol. But when you pick up a pistol for the first time, and can't tell where your second and third shots went at 10 yards, and only get the clue when the single little hole widens slightly from the fourth shot of brass-cased Blazer-- well that tends to give you some respect for what a pistol is capable of.

Oh, and why didn't I want to like the H und K? Because I suck, and they hate me. The firearms instructors at the host department told us repeatedly about how much it bites, dealing with HK customer service. For example, they got to realizing that some of their magazine springs were beginning to take a bit of a set, after 10 years. So they called HK, and asked about new magazines. They were told that replacement magazines would be $58 apiece. The firearms guy, stunned, said, "Look, we have 150 sworn officers. We only issue HK's. We buy a lot of parts and accessories. We want to buy 3 mags apiece, plus a few extra. Call it 500 pieces. Can't you give us a break on the price, here?"

Long sigh. "Okay. You can have them for $39 apiece. But ve only haff 18 in stock."

"Oh, really? How long until we can get the rest of them...?"

"Ve don't know. These are hand-made, in Deutschland."

They had a lot of stories like this.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Firearms Instruction School: Day Four.

Today, I went back to my car, feeling only slightly-- SLIGHTLY-- let down.

We had been scheduled to go to the range in the afternoon and put in a couple of hours of shooting and diagnosing problems of other shooters. But instead, we stayed in the classroom, and each student had to give a 15 minute presentation. Mine, on the familiarization with the various forms of the M1911, was well-received.

The former Marine and current SWAT officer who gave a 15 minute demo on the Marine method of disassembling the M16/M-4/AR15 platform was very well done.

The woman who taught the full familiarization with the USP .40 taught a great course.

They guy who taught methods of securing and unloading various esoteric guns, with props, was very well-received.

The guy who taught the safety lecture did a good job.

The fellow who taught on various common shooting errors had some insights, and good pictures.

Everyone used good props. Everyone was passionate about what they taught on.

The instructor pointed out our errors in teaching (mine was in time management-- 5 minutes on History of Adoption of the M1911 was a bit excessive for a 15 minute lecture in which I was going to try to demonstrate the safety differences, wouldn't you think?) We all learned from the topics, but more importantly, we learned How To Teach more efficiently.

Basically, I got paid to talk about guns all day, today.

Tomorrow, I'm slated to shoot 600+ rounds, as we each run each other through the qualification courses that we write tonight. Awwww.... poor me.

_____________________________________
Yesterday, we shot shotgun, and I found that my patrol 870 was shooting well to the left of center. At 15 yards, the center of my pattern was at the left edge of a sheet of typing paper. I asked if they had punches and a mallet, and I drifted my front sight left. I went to 35 yards and shot at a sheet of typing paper with a Federal Tactical rifled slug. On paper, but still left of center. I drifted it further left, and shot another slug, this time from 50 yards. Dead center. Perfect.

I found that Federal Tactical 9 pellet 00 Buck is a very comfortable round to shoot, and turns in decent patterns. That said, the Federal PREMIUM Vital-Shok 9 pellet 00 Buck turns in astoundingly tight patterns, by virtue of its shot cup, which seems to envelop the shot out to about 10 yards. Would you believe 2" patterns at 12 yards? No, I'm not kidding.

Our group had a long discussion on the relative merits and demerits of a sling on patrol long guns, and one guy, who is very knowledgeable about shooting, stated flatly that he doesn't like them, and doesn't need them. I was astounded, and made some transition demonstrations for him, and gave him scenarios in support of slings. Nope. They "get in the way." Ooooookay. Our instructor, who had sparked the discussion on purpose, made us justify our positions on slings, as we would to an admin person who knows nothing of firearms and police work.

The training that I'm getting is really quite good, here.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

No such thing as "Too Late."

Drill:

Load three magazines each with two rounds.

Load one into the pistol, chamber the top round, and holster and snap it down. Put the other two magazines on your belt.

At the signal, from 10 yards, draw, fire 2 shots, reload, fire two shots, reload, fire two shots, for a total of 6 rounds in 12 seconds.


After doing this on a sheet of typing paper, I was told to do it on the head of the silhouette target. I thought that I was ahead on time, and took a little long on squeezing off that LAST round before the targets flipped back to edge-on.


Can you tell which was my last round fired?

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Monday, October 05, 2009

It is not right.

It is not right to let a child-rapist go, after he is convicted of drugging and raping a child.

It was not right three decades ago.

It was not right when he fled to Paris.

It was not right that the French authorities refused to arrest a convicted child-rapist.

It is not right that a convicted rapist of any kind should get away without serving his punishment.

Three decades of decadence in Europe does not atone for such an act.

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First day of Firearms Instructor School.

First, I noticed that the class is small. Just 6 of us.

I was impressed that they gave full measure for this class. We did NOT go home early. We did NOT take a long lunch break.

We talked about the role of the instructor, and spent a goodly time on the issue of integrity. I was pleased with this. Integrity needs to be adhered to, when you're a lowly officer, qualifying chiefs and lieutenants and other superior officers (or buddies!) to carry guns. Sometimes you're going to have to tell them to re-shoot. And if they don't do it on the re-shoot, they have to take a remedial class. And if they don't pass after the remedial class, then what?

The pressure to pass someone who failed can be very strong. But you can't do it.

In my department, I work with a handful of men. I eat with their families. I know their children's names, and all their wives. That's a tough one to have to tell them that they didn't qualify, if we set a standard that they don't meet. But I may very well have to do that, at some point. I'll for damned sure keep the standard high. And I'll raise it.

After lunch, we took a pre-test, and went to the range. This was a nice indoor range, and the targets were computer-controlled. The range officer stood behind us with a remote, and rather than giving us an audible signal to shoot, would tell us to make ready, and the targets, which had been hanging edge-on to us up to that point, would turn 90 degrees and give us the alotted time to shoot at them before quickly flipping back to edge-on, at the end of the given time.

A typical instruction would be: "Six rounds, fired from the holster at 25 yards, in strings of two shots each over 5 seconds. Shooters ready!" Flip. Target is presented for 5 seconds while you leisurely draw your pistol and shoot it twice before the target disappears. "Reholster! Shooters ready!" Flip. 2 shots. Repeat.

We shot the same course with revolver as we did with our duty pistols.

Some of the people in there had rarely shot revolvers before, and had borrowed one.

Two of the guys with borrowed revolvers were SWAT guys that I knew from the County. I saw their revolver targets, and commented on how tight the groups were. Considering a third of our shooting was done at 25 yards, the fact that their timed, offhand groups were all under 6" was impressive.

They failed, and had to re-shoot.

"Huh?!? There's a mistake here!" I said. I pointed to my target, that had passed easily with two thrown shots and a "group" on target that looked like a shotgun pattern from a distant range. If my piddlin' efforts had passed the 90% requirement, then surely theirs had.

But no.

They reshot. I asked if I could reshoot, too, just for the trigger time. This time, I threw THREE shots, and my group was even wider, but I passed again. (I had also put all my shots at less than 15 yards into the head, which was fairly tight but for one that hung outside of the ear of the silhouette.) But this time, I had noticed something about how I shot, and how the others shot. Generally, I was reholstered with a loaded revolver as the targets turned away from us. Some others shot right up to the last semi-second. Sometimes I would have partially reloaded my speedloader before the targets turned away.

Their groups were small, but in the end, they were scoring low because they weren't finishing their strings before the end of the time limits.

I'm not a licensed instructor, so I let the chips fall where they may. Luckily, the guy who was in the most trouble managed (barely) to make 90%. I told him my theory. "In the spirit of this Instructor's Course, you want my diagnosis of what your problem is?" I asked. He nodded assent. "You're too much of a perfectionist," I began.

"Well, I didn't do perfect with the revolver," he said, dejected.

"No, you did great with it, and a borrowed gun, too," I countered. "The problem was that you can't bear to see your tight groups open up. How dead do you want your target to be, anyway?"

"Accuracy is important," he said.

"It is! And I admire that you're accounting for every shot. But a necessary shot not taken is a miss. Turn up the volume, shoot faster, let your groups open up a little, and WIN. You don't get scored for Closest To Center. You get scored for Hits on the A-zone," I said. "Don't forget that your only problem is that you're such a good shooter, you've been penalizing yourself for anything less than perfection."

"Thanks," he said, and smiled, and maybe some of that smile was genuine.

____________

We all asked to stay late and shoot longer than the time alotted. It's a motivated class.

I picked up about 200+ .38 Special cases.

The guy beside me shooting his custom Kimber picked up all his .45 acp cases, and all the auto cases were either .40 or .357 Sig; I didn't want them.

_____________

I challenged the guy with the Kimber beside me to shoot headshots during a followup round. The instructor heard this and got my promise to do 10 pushups for every dropped shot. My range buddy chickened out, and I still have thirty pushups to do. :(

More soon. Tomorrow morning is shotguns.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Giant ape displaced by a red dragon.

Apparently, somebody decided to put a little more Empire State into the Empire State Building.

I suppose that, come New Year's Eve, we'll be seeing a red star descend onto Times Square?

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