Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Buddy asked why the sudden interest?

Recently, My Buddy the Gun Enthusiast asked me why the explosion of firearm interest. Good question. I’m not sure. Why now? Why am I trying to go deer hunting so late in life, too? Part of it is because I can, now. I now have a range to shoot at, I have enough disposable income, I have reached a level of maturity that is more than adequate. I think part of it making up for a developmental deficiency that I should have put behind me much earlier in life. I am comfortable in the woods, but I am not master of the woods. The hunting rite of passage was skipped over. And MBtGE is more than happy to help guide me through the hunting phase of my goals.

I don’t want to be a victim, in my home or on the street, and smallarms are the ultimate equalizer. But it is not enough to POSSESS smallarms, it is a duty and responsibility to operate a weapon effectively and properly, to myself prepare mentally, as well as by improving the skills involved. The recent flurry of activity helps correct that deficit. There is still a long way to go, naturally. A thousand rounds of .308 and a thousand rounds of .357 down range, constantly trying to do better, and then I’ll be getting closer to readiness. At least they complement each other. And improvement on trigger squeeze on one side will translate to improvements on the other. One is not a replacement for the other, sure.

All this goes toward my first goal of the Jovian Thunderbolt, but it still doesn’t speak to the timing.

Victories in the Second Amendment front in State Houses across America have been inspirational. Even in my home state where a so-called Assault Weapon Ban was defeated, And the Parker decision turned Washington DC’s gun ban on its head. I doubt Maryland will adopt Castle Doctrine laws or Shall-Issue CCW anytime in the near future, but you never know. A little sanity, even if it is forced on the gun-grabby types, is always refreshing.
It might be serendipity, this timing. The final alignment of all the stars necessary to get started down this road just happened to happen this year. I hope I can maintain the level of enthusiasm. I’m having fun.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gotta be Safe

Now I have 3 long guns and a handgun. They don’t fit in the closet anymore, propped up in the corner. And I want to actually, you know, keep ammunition with the guns. I live alone so I COULD just keep the handgun in the bedside table, but that is so trite and over-done. And with my luck, the first time a niece or nephew comes over they’ll head STRAIGHT to the drawer it’s kept in and start playing Cowboys and Indians with it. I’m not happy with trigger locks, either, despite their enthusiastic endorsement by the Nanny State. The ex-wife insisted I have a trigger lock on the ’03 before I knew what type of cartridge went in it. And I noticed how you could dry fire the rifle even with the lock on there. And a closet is the first place a burglar looks for guns after he has all your electronic spirited away and has looked under the bed for goodies. So I wanted something more secure. 2 things actually.

I bought a lockable hard case for the Smith and Wesson revolver when I purchased the gun. Inside the gun was unloaded, but I did have two
Speed-Loaders in the case. The key was well hidden but easily accessible by me. Still, the delay in getting the case open and the gun loaded in time to greet a goblin bashing down my front door with a baseball bat at 3 AM was excessive. 20-30 seconds on a good day. The solution to keeping the gun concealed in the bedroom, secure from visiting nephews and nieces even if they find the box, resistant to burglars, and ready for instant action was one-gun combination safe.

It screws to the wall and takes 2 seconds to access. I leave the revolver loaded in there, and I feel much better. I’d prefer to meet prowlers with the shotgun, but I must compromise here. If, in the future, I become a large caliber semi-automatic pistol enthusiast I may swap out the revolver for a .45, but that is way in the future.

For the other guns I got an 8-gun gun safe from
Stack-On. Well, it isn’t REALLY a safe. It’s a cabinet. Same gauge metal that they make school lockers out of, but the lock is better. A safe has MUCH thicker walls and usually a high quality combination lock. Mine is burglar resistant as I have screwed it to the floor and wall studs with lag bolts. I say ‘resistant’ for both safes of mine, as a burglar that finds the safes and really wants them can go at it for a little while with a crowbar and get them out. The same is true for the more expensive safes, it would just take him more time and be heavier to get out of the house. Even if I cemented a safe into the wall, anchoring it to the very foundation and turning it into a gun VAULT, even then, a determined burglar will always get through.

It sounds like I am reassuring myself, doesn’t it? They are good systems, and appropriate, and they were well within my budget, and any very expensive upgrade wouldn’t secure everything TOO much better. I just hate the thought of some reprobate rooting around in my house while I’m not there.

I can keep all my long guns in the cabinet, easily, and have room for anticipated future purchases. In my wildest dreams I anticipate, at most, 5 more long guns and 3 more handguns acquired over many years. The wish-list should be a subject of another post… But those acquisitions could all be crammed in there. Barely. No much room for the ammo and cleaning kits and spare clips and other accessories I have in there now. I need to get some dessicant to inhibit rust in there, soon.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

4 Rules

There are 4 rules to gun safety. If you never violate them you’ll never have an accident except from mechanical failure. And mechanical failure is exceedingly rare and not usually as dangerous as a Negligent Discharge from a 4 – Rules violation. The four rules are:

  1. All guns are loaded always

  2. Never point or pass the muzzle over anything you do not intend to destroy.

  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target.

  4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it. Don't fire at shadows and remember your bullet can go through your target and hit things behind it

Memorize them. Practice them. If you are lax, as I am sometimes, work at making yourself LESS lax. When I say 'lax', I mean 'not perfect'. You have to me tight and disciplined always. I made a little memory device of my own to help retention. I go over it before every gun session. It’s the 4 “B’s”: Bullet, Barrel, Bang-Switch, Bad-Guy. Easy enough.

I try to pay careful attention to adhering to rules 1 and 3 lately. Rule 3 is just a bad habit, from childhood cap-gun days. Keep that trigger finger straight out, always always. Rule 1 is a problem for me, or was, in that I ignored it with new gun purchases because I KNEW there was no ammo anywhere around so I never checked on guns because I never bought them ammo. And that lead to issues with pointing the barrel at stuff I shouldn’t, but inadvertently. I never aimed an unloaded weapon at anyone, even when I was careless with #3. Regardless, I hope I never fall into THAT habit again or I will have to kick my own ass or something. To not follow the rules is stupid.

When inspecting a gun or giving the gun to someone else to inspect you point in a safe direction, open the action and leave it open, insuring there are no cartridges in the weapon. Safety on is a bonus if there is one and you can engage it with and open action, but never rely on the mechanical safety, ever. The most important 'safety' on any gun is the one located between your ears. Keep that one engaged all the time. If you put a gun down after inspecting in and want to pick up again, even if it was down for a couple seconds, go through the whole process again. Point in a safe direction (not the sky), open the action, and be sure there is no round in the chamber or the cylinder/magazine.

You see evidence of violations of rule 3 all the time at gun ranges. Look at the ceiling. See those bullet holes? Someone had a finger on the trigger. Ever heard of a cop shooting himself in the leg? The newspaper says the gun “went off.” They call it an accidental discharge. Right. Someone went to draw his weapon and put his finger on the trigger and pulled up. When you hear someone say accidental discharge, 99% of the time he means negligent discharge.
Another thing. Alcohol and firearm don’t mix. I try to never even touch one after even one beer. And that’s hard at MBtGE’s house as he has lots of beer there for after work and after shooting relaxation. I don’t touch them at home after even one beer, ever, though. To shoot or load any firearm while drinking is unthinkable, at least.

Guns shouldn't go off when you drop them. Not modern ones at least. Those that COULD have mechanical failures from a worn sear or trigger release, or they have a poor design where the hammer is in contact with the primer. A gunsmith can help you out inspecting a gun for wear that could lead to an unsafe condition and he can tell you if the design is sound, too. But a gun sitting on a table will not go off. It is not a wild animal with a will of its own. It is very remote that it will go off if you drop it. Here's a tip, though: Don't DROP it. Even if it would never go off it is still bad for the gun.

Baseball bats don't kill people. People that take a baseball bat hit other people in the head kill people. Same with guns. You'd never swing a bat around wildly in a room full of people, it's just not safe! Don't violate the four rules either as that is like swinging a baseball bat around in a room full of people, even if there is no one else around. (well YOU are around, you don't want to hurt yourself.)

Finally: Firearms ownership is a massive responsibility. Everyone knows that, but people need to remind themselves more. Be Responsible. If you are not prepared for that heavy a burden you are not mentally prepared to have of handle a firearm. I read on Ten Ring blog about a public range where someone shot holes in the Porta Potty. And everyone has seen peppered road signs. That’s childish and irresponsible and it casts other gun owners in an ill light. Peppering a road sign is like donating $100 to the Brady Campaign. And the part of the Brady Campaign that will go after hunting iron as well as so-called Evil Black Guns (wooooooooooo, evil. EVIL!).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Model 11

So I got a rifle I like, a handgun I like, what am I missing? I need that SPAS back! Well, maybe not. They have gone up in price by quite a bit. I like the whole semi-auto shotgun concept, though, but was not against pump style. The sound of a pump is intimidating for home invaders and shotguns themselves are perfect for home invasion if you load it with small shot. I figured it would be a while before I bought anything anyway, but a shotgun was next on my list.
I checked out what was available in the world.
Remington Model 1100 and 10-87 tactical shotguns were nice. The first is semi-auto. Mossberg’s tactical line is also nice, like hte model 590. What I really like is the old style Browning design. The FIRST tactical semi-auto shotgun. Winchester and Remington made a version, and also some Belgian company. 100 years ago. Remington stopped making them by 1947. So that appealed to me and my love of antiquities and pre-war industrial design. I had 2 old rifles and the revolver concept is 150 years old.

On a whim, I stopped at my local gun store. They had both Remingtons there for me to inspect. Neither has a ghost ring sight and I sorta wanted one. I looked up at the rack. “What’s THAT one?” “Just got that one, I don’t even have a price on it. It’s the Browning designed Remington Model 11. Five shot, semi auto, 12 gauge. The German’s hated going against it in WWI and argued that shotguns should be against the Geneva Convention. Our guys called it a ‘Trench Broom’ because it swept the Bosch right out of the trench.” Damn. I thought it was. Well, it spoke to me, and had to come home. No sights, no sling, but the price was right, and it’s in great shape. He gave me a good price on it, too. The Browning version was called an
Auto-5 and it was popular with Bonnie and Clyde, too. Sawed off. It's also called a humpback because of the bump at the rear that gives room to the reciever action to do its thing. A few weeks later and I am at Clark Brothers, shooting at clay pigeons with it. I say shooting-at rather than just shooting, because I missed more than I hit. It was my first time powdering clays. I was happy to get 10%. But the gun is FUN! It even attracted the Range Master. He wanted to try and let me try his Italian shotgun. The trick, besides aiming right, to hitting clays with that Model 11 is to hit them early in flight. I don’t think the shortish barrel on the Model 11 is good for long range hits. Next time at the range we’ll shoot at targets and see if it patterns in such a way that it’s appropriate for any deer or duck hunting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Garand test

After the mixed results with the ’03, I switched to my Garand. Now the sights on the Garand are different from anything else I’ve ever shot. The previous rifles, pistols, and BB guns had a notched rear sight. A little peep sight in the rear and a pretty fat forward sight. It's much easier to line up with this configuration. I thought I’d be better with the 03 because of the very fine notch and blade up front on that rifle, and that the Garand would give me middling accuracy, at best. First shot with the venerable Garand, chambered in a round different than originally intended for the rifle (.308 - pronounced Three Oh Eight, vis .30-06), at 50 yards is a bull’s eye. Now don’t think I’m some sort of prodigy, some M1 savant. I’ve had beginners luck before with shooting. The rest of that clip wasn’t in a quarter-sized hole. But it was in the kill zone for a deer thorax. All 8. I switched to the 100 yard line and the front site was as wide as the paper targets, but again, for the most part, in the kill zone. The others were in the paper or definite faults on my part that made it the round a flyer. Ok, now I’m hooked.

I went to range that day hoping to make a bolt-action hunting rifle and semi-auto, fun, neighborhood defense rifle. Like clubs in a golf bag. One driver, one pitching wedge. The concept was sound. The bolt action didn’t work out and now it’s not going to get a scope, but my thought process starts churning. What if I make the Garand my go-to rifle for everything? People did just fine hunting with iron sights for decades. I probably can’t reliable shoot anything at 200 yards, but I have no business shooting a deer that far away WITH a 10x scope. With lots of practice, yes. MBtGE has bagged more deer than he can count. I ask him at what range he shoots deer. Half, says he, are at 50 yards. Hmmmm…. I need to think.

Now at this point, I had been reading the
Jeff Cooper chronicles. That man was a crusty old guy, but he knew how to express himself with the written word, and was indeed, a shottist’s guru. He had forgotten more about shooting than I would ever learn in TWO lifetimes. His authority with the subject certainly influences my thinking, and his philosophy appeals to me. The man really liked the M1 Garand, so I figured my instinctive purchase was on the right track. (Plus General Patton called it the greatest battle implement ever devised, so if Patton AND Cooper endorse it, it has a lot going for it.) Cooper was a pragmatist. If you showed him something that worked better than what was done before, he’d check it out. Convinced of the efficacy he’d not hesitate to adopt a better way. It’s how he arrived at his Modern Technique for pistol shooting, influenced by a then novel new stance Jack Weaver figured out and showed him. So Cooper was no romantic fantasist, sticking to the old ways just because they were new. But he did stick to many of the old ways because they WORKED. For instance, he was not a big fan of the .223 round (aka NATO 5.56 mm) shot out of battle rifles, he thought the .308 (NATO 7.62 mm) better, and the old .30-06 better still. If Colonel Cooper were alive and advising me personally, he’d tell me to get a bolt action Scout rifle when I could afford it, but a Garand would do just fine until then.

That doesn’t mean I can’t improve what I got. Make it better.

Now, mounting a scope on a Garand is problematic. The Enbloc clip that holds the 8 rounds shoots straight up into the air with a satisfying “CLANG!” when you run out. So a scope above the receiver is not possible. And the offset scopes to one side are not satisfactory in many shooter reviews. Plus I am left handed, so I’d have to lean WAY over to look through it. There is one last option, and it doesn’t require a gunsmith to install. A Scout scope mounted ahead of the receiver. Jeff Cooper, again, came up with the Scout concept and helped develop a design for what became, for him, the perfect rifle. The rifle he’d grab while running out the back door when bad guys were banging down the front. Basically, the concept is for a under 7 pound bolt action rifle, with a short barrel, iron sights AND a low power long eye relief scope mounted ahead of the receiver to help target acquisition, shooting a widely available, but strong enough cartridge for game under 400 pounds like the .308, and a good light trigger. There are some other requirements that slip my mind at this time. Steyr Mannlicher made this rifle for Colonel Cooper and it is a beauty. He ever tried to get them to make a lefty version, but they didn’t bite. Poor southpaws. Poor Steyr Mannlicher. I’d go into hock today to buy a lefty
Scout, so they lost a sale.

I’ll have to make do. When I DO get a bolt-action rifle, I don’t want to compromise. It WILL be a lefty. It WILL be a tack driver.

And by make do, I’m going to make the Garand a pseudo scout by adding a long eye relief, high quality ‘Scout’ scope forward of the receiver… Next Spring (Buriss and Leopold both make and market Scout Scopes, but it is essentially a fancy pistol scope with about a 2x magnification or so). Saving my pennies and practicing with the iron sights now. Gotta walk before I can run. I did make a purchase or two before the next trip to the Clark Bros. range.

There are lots of Garand accessories you can get online, and I found Fulton Armory there and did some shopping
. I bought a book about Garand disassembly and maintenance from them, some more clips, that sort of thing. I splurged on a muzzle break that I probably did not need, but also a thinner fore sight that I thought would help. (they also have a scope rail for that future scout scope purchase.)

And the thinner forward sight seemed to help. I shot even better the next time at the range. And the forward sight only covers half the paper at 100 yards now. It shot a little low at first because that front sight is taller than the last one, but elevation is easily adjusted via a knob on the left side of the rear sight. One odd thing. I got that muzzle break, made by
Smith Enterprises to help second shot accuracy and perhaps get me to flinch less from recoil. I didn’t notice a lot less recoil, some maybe, but I expect a muzzle break to increase the gun flash. MBtGE thought it was a flash suppressor because he noticed LESS flash. It’s a head scratcher. Have to remember to double-check that next time… If true… nice bonus.

I still shoot a little low and to the right. My muzzle drift just seems to like it there, from the 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock area. I can REALLY see it when I borrow a scoped rifle. The crosshairs see the printed circle, and if was a clock face it would move from 2:30 to 6:30, back and forth, back and forth. Next time I will go from 3 clicks up to 4 and a click once to correct left. Move the No. 10 coffee can lid shaped group to better straddle the bull at 100 yards. Then make that group No 5 can, or even Tuna can. Practice. Practice, practice, practice. And remember to Squeeeeeeeeeeeeze, til it surprises you.

It’s a good rifle.

Other Garand tidbits…. It’s easy to field strip for cleaning and maintenance. Just pop out the trigger and the thing practically falls apart into its component pieces. Unscrew a couple things in the fore end and twist the bolt in the receiver and you have taken apart just about everything that you can take apart. If you buy a Garand don’t do this until someone shows you, or if you are mechanically inclined pay close attention the first time. Better yet, buy a book about M1 Garands and their maintenance. I did have one problem with the receiver sticking when I first got it and before I took it to the range. No matter how hard I pulled on it, it wouldn’t go back. It gave me great consternation. I found out you need to lube up the metal-to-metal contact better than I had done (I had done next to none). Gun grease on the parts outside, a light oil is fine on the internals, so what if it splats around inside. That book about Garands and their maintenance will guide you on this. Another tidbit is: Be very careful when using a cleaning rod on this or any rifle. The muzzle end of the barrel opening is called a crown and the steel has a low Rockwell hardness, surprisingly. It is easy to catch an edge of the rod on this and knock the accuracy out into left field. I was lucky not to have hurt the crown before learning about it.

One more thing I noticed. Hot brass ejecting out of the receiver hits me in the right temple, cartwheeling across it in the blink of an eye. I am shooting left handed, after all. This leaves little semi-circular burn marks on my head. I must get a boonie hat to address this issue in the future.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Find a range to test!

Time passes from 2003 to 2007. 2nd Amendment successes highlighted in the news piques my interests again, and I am reminded how I’ve procrastinated. I start researching firearms online more thoroughly. Mainly I am looking for a range to do some shooting and perhaps get some instruction to get better. I also have deer hunting at the back of my mind. I find blogs like Alphecca, and Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries archives, and Armed Canadian, and Ten Ring and read every word.

My buddy, MBtGE, and I had a construction project for a camp trailer. He had recently moved farther out in Virginia. I suggest we go pistol shooting after we kick off working and start chatting guns because of all the reading I’ve done lately. He is, after all, a gun enthusiast and has done a bit of hunting, having grown up in rural upstate New York. He says he found a new gun store that is pretty neat and has a hundred yard gun range. I tell him I don’t want to shoot that far with a .357, and he drops casually into conversation, “No, that part of the range is the rifle section…”

BING! BING! BING! We have a winner.

MBtGE had no idea I was looking for a rifle area. He starts talking up this place called
Clark Brothers. They have an in-house gunsmith so I decide I’d take both rifles on our second trip out there. But this time we just take some of his long guns. He has a Ruger Mini-14s (.223 caliber), with a red-dot scope, a Ruger 10/22 (.22 Long Rifle) and his .308 hunting rifle with a scope, among others.

The way Clark Bros. works is, you don’t have to pay to shoot there, but you do have to buy your ammo there. Fair enough. And their ammo is not that much more expensive than Wal-Mart or Bass Pro Shop. I don’t begrudge them at all, that policy.

Yay. It’s a lot fun. And I can already self-critique myself. I am rushing the trigger and jerking it. I can see the cross hairs drift over the target and I want to nail it when it is near the bull, so I rush the pull. Despite this, I puzzle out, if I am shooting at a deer at 100 yards I have a decent size kill zone. I don’t have to hit the bull, I have to hit a circle about as big as the circle in the paper target. So if I get in the circle every time, excellent. When I start doing that, THEN I’ll concentrate on getting into a smaller circle. I concentrate on improving that trigger squeeze and patience now. Reading up on shooting after that first session confirms this theory. I learn about the “surprise break.” Squeeze the trigger in such a way that you are doing it so patiently and smoothly so that when it does fire it is a surprise and you don’t flinch, and that works if the site is drifting but still in the zone. I also learn that you must focus on the front site, not the rear or the target. Apparently this was instinctive to me when using iron sights (like on my revolver) so I don’t have to fix a bad habit I already have.

On my next trip my thought is to get the Springfield double checked on headspace and see the feasibility of attaching a scope. I want a scoped rifle to go deer hunting with MBtGE. Plus for fun target shooting. I take the rifle into Clark Brothers and ask the gunsmith. He takes a look at my ’03 and begs me not to put a scope on. He tells me I can pay him $200 to convert a $1200 rifle into a $400 rifle, and that my rifle is one of the best of its kind he’s seen in a long while. I know that plea. I like old woodworking tools and I’ve heard similar plaintative appeals over a classic piece of prewar industrial engineering that is a beauty in itself. But the headspace is good, he says. A little tight when I throw the bolt forward onto a cartridge, but in spec. Better too tight than too loose. And it wouldn't hurt the gun to shoot it. Great! I shoot it. Not so great. It pulls way to the left. 3 feet at 100 yards. I didn’t buy enough ammo at that time to properly zero it. Since I am not scoping it at this point, and it isn’t going to be my go-to rifle, I decide to worry about fixing it later. I am sure it is a sight adjustment problem attributable to user error, aka: Me. A good session working out it’s kinks and I bet I can get it shooting better than I can shoot it. I have no time this session because… I also brought the Garand along…

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Layoff purchase Garand

The company me and My Buddy the Gun Enthusiast (MBtGE) and I worked for was slowly dying. I didn’t survive a 9th wave of layoffs in the beginning of 2003. So what did I do on my way home from work? I bought a gun. No no no! Not for THAT reason. I was glad to be out of there, and the year before I was let go I was paid very well. On top of System Administration and Product Support duties, I was taking orders for the product. And they counted that as Sales, and paid me commission just to take down orders. I had extra cash. And I wanted to get a gun before it all ran out in the event I was unemployed for a long time. Now THAT might not have been the smartest reason or timing for a gun purchase, but no revenge fantasy crossed my mind. The company was good to me, and it was no one’s fault it was saddled with a poor business model. And even if it was someone’s fault, that is NO justification for shooting up the joint. Sheesh, you people.

Plus I bought a rifle. I had a home-defense gun with the revolver, but I had no neighborhood-defense gun. We were in the second year of the War On Terror, or the War on Jihadi Extremists or the War on Islamistic Caliphate Fantasists. Whatever you wanna call it. And I didn’t want them walking around like they owned the place if they came to my part of the Maryland suburbs. Krusty the Klown said on the Simpsons that a gun is to “shoot animals that are dangerous and/or delicious, to protect your family, and the keep the King of England out of your face.” I wanted a gun for this last part. Don’t need the King of England to start getting all uppity now. Plus I thought it would be fun if I could find a place to shoot it. The ’03 I owned had iffy headspace issues, and it was bolt action. I wanted semi-auto.

At the time I had rekindled my interest in WWII history and the weaponry was always fascinating. I wanted a BAR, but there was no way I could afford one. You have to get the permits and then pay through the nose for the weapon. Plus the thing weighs 20 pounds. But
M-1 Garands are cheap and plentiful. I got a Garand. It was in good shape and less that $600. It could be called Correct Grade by the Civilian Marksmanship Program . Mine is chambered for .308 instead of the original .30-06. The gun store I bought it at said the US Navy re-chambered a bunch of Garands to be .308 (or NATO 7.62 mm) but for all I know it was done by the Greek military or South Korean military or Whomever’s military. Doesn’t matter to me, because, the bore is clean, the stock is very good, the mechanism is either like new or has very little wear around the receiver that has lightened the bluing or Parkerizing. I bought a case, sling, and some en bloc clips to go with it. I never shot it or bought ammo because I had no place to shoot it. The serial number, after researching it, indicates the rifle was made in 1943.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

SPAS and ‘03

So after commissioning as an Ensign I thought it a good idea to get a weapon for home defense. My bride left the decision up to me. I figured a shotgun appropriate. The coolest gun at the pawnshop was a SPAS-12 12 gauge semi-automatic. Wow! A riot gun. A street sweeper. So I got it, having NO idea how it functioned, and no place to shoot it, and no one to teach me how it worked and no manual, all before the internet. It cost $500. My wife hated it. She was much more liberal than me, and expected a wooden stock shotgun. Not something that looked black and evil and scary. So not much was done with it. When I got out of the Navy our financial situation was such that we needed the money more than we needed a SPAS so I put it up for consignment sale. Sold it for $550. I sure wish I had it now. Ah well. When I was in military school in college we did rifle drill with Springfield ‘03s. Plugged barrel and certainly no firing pins. So I was familiar with that rifle, if only in close order drill. When dating my soon to be wife, I noticed a rifle up in the joists of my future father-in-law’s basement in a ratty and disintegrating fleece lined rifle sleeve. I took it down to look at it and found it to be a Springfield ’03 in good looking shape. I bought and donated a new case to protect that handsome bolt-action rifle. I oiled its action with fine machine oil, too, just in case, but it showed no sign of rust. It had been my Father-in-Law’s Father’s gun, a worthy old engineer and machinist who I only knew from his tools and his rifle. After returning it to it’s place in the joists I forgot about it, until my Father in Law gave it to me just after I got married. I didn’t want to fire it, no one there to show me how, and I wanted it checked out before I tried. I didn’t even know what size rounds it took. I knew .30 caliber, but there are lots of .30 caliber bullets. My Father in Law thought someone had fired it in his lifetime, but wasn’t sure. I had also heard that you need to check the headspace on old rifles, whatever that was. I took it a gunsmith in the Florida panhandle to ask. He told be the receiver was late enough that it wasn’t going to explode like some earlier rifles (good to know!) and the serial number indicates it was made in 1919. He also told me .30-06 is the cartridge it takes (pronounced Thirty, Ought Six). He showed me a mark on the barrel that indicated it was re-barreled in 1942 and the Springfield armory, but the headspace was too tight (and he explained what that was). Fine. I was too poor to explore anything about it further, much less take it shooting. It stayed in the closet.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Y2k purchase, after starting a new job.

I was poor for the rest of the 1990s but then I got divorced and a computer job in early 1999. I had disposable income and lived alone and wanted home defense again. One of my bosses befriended me and I learned eventually that he was a gun enthusiast as well as a System Administrator. He offered to take me to an indoor pistol range and let me test drive a bunch of his guns so I can get some practice and help me decide what to buy for myself. This guy wasn’t my boss the whole time I was with that small computer contracting company, but he remained by friend and advisor on all things firearms from that point forward and plays a major role in my further development. For purposes of clarity he will henceforth be referred to as My Buddy the Gun Enthusiast, or MBtGE for short. At the range he had a target pistol .22 by Ruger, a 10mm Beretta double-action semi-auto with a laser sight, a Smith & Wesson 9mm, and a S&W .44 magnum revolver with a reinforced cylinder so it could fire hot loads. I kept the target from that day. I didn’t like .22 at all. It jammed after every shot, so it was not semi-auto in any sense. At least I could shoot I accurately when it DID get a round in the chamber. The other semi-autos didn’t do well for me either. The triggers were pretty stiff. VERY stiff on the double action Beretta, as you’d expect. I hadn’t put much thought into pistols with double action only or the single-action double-action choice until this time or that anything but revolvers could be either/or. From that point on I’d never consider double action only. But MBtGE’s pistols all had pretty stiff single action triggers too, and my inexperienced shooting ability and unrefined trigger control was not very accurate. The .44 Magnum was another story. Double action was just as inaccurate as the others. But when I cocked the hammer it shot sweetly. I aimed for the head of the silhouette target, and hit it in the ‘nose’, the ‘bridge’ of the nose, both ‘pupils’ and shot off both ‘ear lobes’. It was a very fun gun to shoot. Powerful. I was already biased in favor of revolvers because of the simplicity of the action being easier to use effectively at 3AM when woken by the noise of a break-in, but this accuracy pleased me. The only problem with the .44 was the kick. It was impressive. And because of it, it took a while to line up a second shot, if needed. But I wanted something stronger than the .38 police special. So I bought a Smith & Wesson .357 the next week. Model 686 with a 6 inch barrel, used. I bought a locking hard case for it and a nylon holster. My ear protection was plugs from my Navy days that work great, and my eye protection was borrowed from one of my other hobbies… blacksmithing requires safety glasses more than shooting does.

In researching revolvers, I found something else I hadn’t known. A .357 can fire .38 Special cartridges too. Good. More options on ammo, and I can get something cheaper for practice if I want. And I practiced with it at least… once? A year. Sometimes twice. I need to practice more, naturally, and I have upped the frequency in the last couple years.

I did get it in 1999, and bought extra ammo before new years, what with all those question marks about Y2K. And that’s about the extent of my preparation for that ensuing disaster. A few of my neighbors were bragging about how many canned goods they had stored away. So if disaster struck and anarchy reigned I knew where to go “shopping”. These people were schoolteachers and loyal Democrats. They were known hoplophobes. If the feces hit the air-circulation device the cold hard reality of their folly would hit them square in the face.

I wasn’t gonna SHOOT them, fer Pete’s sake. Maybe barter sentry services for a bit of Spam. But you never know.

I kept the revolver locked in its case unloaded with 2 speed clips with it. I could get the key from its hiding spot and have it ready to fire in about 20 seconds. Certainly 30.

Navy .45

My first experience with a handgun came courtesy of the United States Navy. I was a midshipman on summer cruise in the Mediterranean aboard an underway replenishment ship. It’s a big ship and the ‘range’ was off the fantail on the helicopter flight deck. The ship was steaming at 20 knots and the Med was choppier than you’d figure. The swells moved the ship around plenty. Targets were man sized silhouettes suspended along a bungy line. So they bounced quite a bit. About as much as you’d bounce if you were running in place, so that added a bit of realism, I guess. It made them hard to hit. The rest of the military had the Beretta 9mm issued at this point,

but a supply ship was lucky to have riot shotguns, M1A’s and WWII vintage Colt M1911 .45 ACPs. The Master at Arms set up the people at the firing line, showing them how to load a magazine, how to release the slide so it will chamber a round, how to eject the magazine when you were out, and how that grip safety had to squeezed to disengage it and allow you to fire. If you shook the pistol it rattled a bit, the parts were so loose and worn. Then we had at it with a pile of clips. They’d watch from behind to be sure you weren’t doing anything stupid and to offer tips to help you out. It was probably a half dozen clips we went through. After some fits and starts with the grip safety I was up and running. The recoil wasn’t as bad as I was led to believe, and I started hitting paper, despite having a moving flight deck underfoot and a moving target bouncing around. The splashes in the water in our wake were spectacular. Somewhere in the middle of my clips I hit three in a row inside the center aiming point. It was very satisfying seeing daylight coming out of that black 3 inch circle over the heart of that target. They never told us our scores and even let us fire a couple more clips after we were “done.” At the end of the cruise they told me I had qualified, just not marksman or expert or anything. Thus is pistol qualification done in some parts of the US Navy in 1990. If more of my shots had been like those magic 3-in-row shots I would have been upset to only qualify and not get a little M or E to add to my ribbon, but they didn’t and I was satisfied.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Formative Years

I have lived in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC all my life. Even while I was in the Navy briefly, I still maintained my residence in Maryland for convenience. My dad is not a hunter, nor my grandfather. They aren’t/weren’t afraid of guns, but they aren’t really excited about their existence either.

Dad owned a .22 target rifle he used as a kid, but he never fired it after I was born, to my knowledge. It’s a bolt action with a little 5 round detachable magazine and peep-through target sight. He gave this to my brother. My brother hasn’t shot it yet.

My grandparents lived in the country, on the Chesapeake pay in Southern Maryland on the Western Shore. No way we could legally shoot anything in the suburbs, but down thhere it was ok. Here is where Dad and Paw Paw set up a little BB gun shooting range for my brother and I in the woods. I was probably 9, my brother 7. We were small and the BB gun was old. It was hard for us to pump it between each shot. You filled a little tube with 50 BBs and set them in place with a spring. The hard part was screwing the tube back in the barrel. It was all stamped steel construction and looks like an old 12 gauge with the little BB tube out of the business end. The ‘range’ was 10 yards, maybe, a scrap piece of plywood as the back stop leaned up against a tree, and with an aluminum pan that some Swanson’s side dish came in. Probably Spinach Souffle. I still like Spinach Souffle, but they come in little black plastic microwaveable dishes these days. Grammy was a product of the Depression and she cleaned out good little aluminum pans like this. You could use it to reheat something later, after all. Or you could use it as a target for a BB gun. It was attached to the plywood with a push-pin and BBs made satisfying little holes in the thin aluminum when you hit it. Plus that “TACK” sound. My brother and I took turns shooting at it with strict adult supervision. Instruction consisted of: “Never point the gun at ANYTHING. Not even as a joke. Not each other, not anyone else, not birds or squirrels. Just that target. You aim by lining up the front sight even with the notch in the back sight. When you fire it, squeeze the trigger like a lemon, don’t jerk it.”

The only other BB gun I ever fired was at a buddy’s house in Junior High School, where we shot at his GI Joes against a wood pile with a forest behind it. Not smart. A BB bounced back and stung the buddy in the knee. It didn’t break the skin but it was a perfect “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” moment from A Christmas Story. Good thing no adults saw that happen. The GI Joes did not fare well at their firing squad.

Later, as teens, we were allowed to fire my grandfather’s 20 gauge single shot shotgun. He used it to kill rabbits that would get into his garden and eat his cucumbers. He had bought slug rounds and found them to be overkill on rabbits. A hit turned the Easter Bunny upside down. And inside out. He wanted to burn through the slug rounds and get something smaller like bird shot. So my brother and I got to have fun. It was Christmas time so there were no work or pleasure boats out on the Bay to our front, and this part of the bay was so wide you can’t see the far side most days, so we shot out to Sea. Supervised, again. Our targets were coffee cans filled with water set on a log at the top of the beach, so we sorta shot at a down angle. The slug round made impressive work of the coffee cans, and with no sights on the shotgun or rifling in the barrel we missed 50% of the time. You could see the splashes as the round skipped a coupla times on the water.

At Boy Scout Camp there was a .22 range and they demoed a .30-30 to show us. Again with the coffee can full of water. The range-master was gruff and like a drill instructor and was uninterested in teaching. He seemed to think his job was ensuring as few rounds as possible were expended, so I never got a chance to fire anything there. Crotchety old cuss.

That’s my shooting experience up til adulthood.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Commence Commencing

Lately I’ve become more interested in shooting and started to take it seriously. I’ve been reading gun blogs. I thought it might be interesting to others to put a neophyte's experiences on a blog. Chronicle the exploration like some sort of Himalayan expedition. So many blogs are from people that know their business, which is good. These people I can learn from. So I am a bit of a gun noob. At this point, perhaps I can be described as an advanced beginner. I don't know if anyone will learn much from me. I'd be happy if one person did, eventually. This is more so that I won't forget.

I need to hurry up and post what has gone before in my hoplophilic journey while it is still fresh in my mind, then I will post forward in real time, if I can stick with this bloggy thingy. My current goals for exercising my rights illuminated by the Second Amendment are simple….

  • To be confident and competent enough with a rifle to be able to hit anything I can see in a Jovian Thunderbolt kind of way.

  • To be able to defend myself with a handgun.

  • To perhaps harvest some tasty venison with either a rifle or a shotgun, any skin or antler is just a nice bonus, here.
  • To Defend the Ramparts of the Democracy from a Level 4 Zombie Outbreak or against the Jacobin Rampaging Godless Red-Commie Hordes (or their modern equivalent)

And this blog will chart my progress toward those goals. So lets begin. This may take a few entries before I start getting to the “confident and competent pursuit” part, but it’ll show you where I am coming from.