Straight Shooter

Apr 142011
 

Jim and Charlene Sanders, a couple in their mid 40s, advertised a diamond ring for sale.  Nothing too unique about that. Among other people who called to express interest in the ring were Kiyoshi Higashi and Amanda Knight, who arranged to visit and view the ring.  Still a perfectly normal event.

But, upon being admitted to the Sanders’ home, Higashi pulled out a gun, let two more cohorts into the house, tied up the Sanders and also their two sons and proceeded to ransack the house, while beating Mr & Mrs Sanders and threatening to kill them.

Jim Sanders managed to break free, only to be shot dead when struggling with the four attackers.  The attackers then fled, sparing Mrs Sanders and their two sons.  Here is one report of the incident.

Now ask yourself – how often have you advertised something for sale?  Maybe not jewelry – maybe a car, a boat, sports equipment, even a gun.  How often have you had people come to look at whatever you were selling?  And – most of all – how prepared have you been to defend yourself if the potential buyers turn out to be bad guys?

Even if you are just having a garage sale, some people might use the garage sale as a chance to case your property and your preparedness.  And some people might visit you normally one day while pretending an interest in something you are selling, then return the next day to burgle your property.

There’s a moral in this story.  Be wary any time you allow any strangers into your home.  Don’t be paranoid, but there is just as much reason to be concealed carrying while relaxing at home as there is when out in public.  Sometimes the most threatening types of danger occur in the safest seeming situations (which is of course what makes them such major threats).

Additionally, home invasions have the benefit – to the bad guy – of being out of public view.  This empowers and enables them to do nastier things, over a longer time period, than they could in public.  Your house, rather than being your castle, could potentially become your deathtrap.

Most of all, remember the color code of situational awareness.  It applies just as much when your front door bell rings as it does when in a strange part of town.

Don’t let Jim Sanders’ death be for nothing.  Learn from it, so you don’t repeat his mistakes and suffer the same consequences.

Mar 262011
 

Here’s an interesting story of how a woman fell victim to a rape.

Surprisingly, I’m not citing this to you as an example of something that could have been prevented if the woman was armed; indeed it is unlikely that she could have done anything to save herself if she was armed.  Being as how this was in Britain, there’s no way she could be armed anyway.  But this was, nonetheless, a 100% avoidable rape.

The woman’s own account of how she got trapped by the rapist reveals a classic example of someone who failed to maintain even the slightest amount of situational awareness.  Furthermore, the story also shows how even safe seeming places, and one’s familiar routine, can suddenly transition to the gravest of experiences and the nastiest of outcomes.

In particular, this is what she said

“I don’t remember seeing him on the train. But he had spotted me as a lone female. I was distracted by my mobile phone, I was carrying heavy bags and because the lift was not working at the car park I would soon fall behind the other commuters who got off the same train.

“I was a middle aged woman getting off a train in a statistically safe, pleasant town.

“The offender was behind me on the stairs in the multi-storey car park. I spoke to him on the way up, saying he should have sprinted past me. But he did not pass. I got off at the wrong landing.

“I still didn’t get it. Only when he walked towards me up the exit ramp from another floor of the car park, holding a knife, did I realise I had got it terribly wrong.

Ask yourself the same question – could this happen to me, too?

And in such a situationally unaware situation, even if you were carrying a weapon, there’s no way you could have got to it in time to protect yourself.

The lesson of this story is as simple as it is tragic.  You need to always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.  You don’t need to be paranoid, but you do need to be prudent.

Perhaps paradoxically, the need to be situationally aware is doubly pressing if you are armed for self defense, because in such a case, you need one, two, maybe even three seconds to be able to draw your weapon (depending on how you carry/conceal it).  If the bad guy gets to you before you have a chance to draw your weapon, you’ll quickly discover than a still holstered firearm is no use at all, and may well end up being taken by the bad guy and used against you.

So for both your own safety, and to prevent firearms falling into the hands of bad guys; if you’re willing to carry, you must accept the responsibility to be aware of your surroundings, and to be appropriately anticipating, rather than inappropriately reacting, to situations as they unfold.

Back to the specific example of the woman referred to here.  She had so many chances to change her behavior, starting from noticing the guy on the train before it stopped, continuing on to allowing herself not to be part of the group of commuters all leaving the train and going to the car park at the same time, extending on to being friendly and exchanging words with her soon to be assailant and not noticing his unusual response, and concluding with getting onto the wrong level in the car park.

The good news is that these are all very simple behaviors to modify, but only if you’re aware of your situation and yourself.

If you Google the phrase ‘color code of situational awareness’ you’ll find a lot of excellent articles about how to have a sliding scale of alertness in your life all the time, easing up and down the scale depending on what is going on around you.  This is one of the better articles – it is lengthy and not very approachable, but force yourself to read it.  My only beef is that it has only four colors – white/yellow/orange/red.  It leaves out the most important level and the biggest decision you have to make – the ultimate condition ‘black’ where you must use possibly deadly force to defend yourself and/or your loved ones.

Then think about the lady who was raped.  She was in condition white, all the time, wasn’t she.  She should have been in condition yellow on the train and once she got off and then the strange behavior of the guy on the car park stairs should have pushed her up to condition orange.

A little situational awareness would have made all the difference, and would have saved her.  It can save you too.

Mar 132011
 

There’s more to do than merely adjusting your clocks

Some people advocate making the switch to/from daylight savings a trigger event for checking the batteries in your smoke detectors.  That’s a good idea, even though probably all smoke detectors these days have low battery alarms that make annoying chirping sounds when the batteries get low.

It is barely conceivable that the low battery alarm might have failed, or that the battery died while you were out of town, so a formal test every six months is a good routine to get into.

But I’m not writing today about smoke alarms, as important as they are.  Let’s think about some other things you should do maybe every six months, maybe every year.  And if you’ve additional items to add to this list, share your thoughts with us in the comments, below.

1.  Check, Clean and Oil all Guns

This isn’t essential, but it is a good thing to do – to renew your familiarity with your weapons, to give them a bit of tender loving care, and to check, clean and oil them.

Depending on how and where you store them, maybe they’ve got some dust on them, maybe even mildew/mold (I find that even with a heater bar ‘dehumidifier’ in my gun safe, I still have problems), and maybe you might have forgotten to clean them after the last time you used them, or maybe someone else has touched/tampered with them, or who knows what else.

I’d put this on a six monthly cycle.

2.  Replace Critical Ammo

By ‘critical’ ammo I mean the ammo you keep loaded in your self defense and carry guns, and potentially in the spare magazines you keep loaded with them.

Sure, ammunition can last decades if stored properly, but the ammunition in a carry gun is stored anything but properly.  It is is a warm humid environment, and when there isn’t sweat seeping in through the seals and into the propellant, there’s gun oil or who knows what else.

Plus, if you ever find yourself needing to pull the trigger ‘for real’ on a carry gun, you’re in a critical situation where you have to be 110% guaranteed that you’ll hear a ‘bang’ rather than a ‘click’.

So – and I put this on the six monthly cycle too – go to the range once every six months, and shoot off the ammo in the guns that you keep loaded 24/7 and replace it with fresh out of the box ammo.  This also gives you ongoing feedback that your ammo is good and feeding reliably.  Which leads to my next point.

3.  Range Time

No matter how much you have practiced in the past, the skills you’ve mastered at handling your weapons erode quickly, and need to be freshened up from time to time.  The good news is that if you’ve been formally trained to a high level, you’ll find it easier to quickly do a self-administered refresher course.

So once every six months, do some dry firing practice at home (rapid presentation from concealment using the actual holsters you carry in, trigger control, and malfunction clearances), and then go to your local range and shoot some rounds through each of your primary self defense guns (yes, I am using the plural, because you do have multiple self defense guns, don’t you?).

Doing this helps you combine the preceding point about replacing critical ammo, and then encourages you to do the first point, about checking and cleaning your weapons, too.

4.  Springs

I don’t know about you, but I never keep any magazine fully loaded to its capacity with ammo, except when I’m on the range and about to use it, or temporarily in an ultimately hostile environment.

All my carry weapons have at least one (single stack magazines) or two (double stack magazines) unfilled position, so the springs are never compressed to their maximum.

I also rotate magazines on a regular basis so that some are always kept empty and some are kept nearly full, to further reduce spring fatigue.

This is important.  Make no mistake – good men have lost their lives because they’ve been relying on a magazine that has sat, passively, with the spring fully compressed, perhaps for a year or more at a time.

I swap full and empty magazines over much more often than once every six months, but if you only do it twice a year, you’re still much better off than never doing it.

Now, let me tell you what I do do every six months.  I disassemble my magazines and check the springs to see if they still have enough tension in them.  This is easily done by simply seeing how far the spring extends out of the magazine once you remove its end cap.

Most gun manufacturers will tell you their specification for the minimum amount of additional spring extension outside of the magazine (usually expressed in so many zigs and zags of spring, or perhaps more simply in how many inches stick out).  If you can’t get this information, buy a new magazine and immediately disassemble it.  Take a picture of the spring sticking out the end of the magazine with a ruler alongside so you can see how many inches out it sticks.  Print out a copy and keep it in your gun safe with your spare magazines, and use that as a reference point.

You can allow springs to lose a small amount of tension compared to a new magazine’s spring, but if you see any magazine spring losing more tension than the others, you know it is time to replace the spring, and when they all have significantly deviated from the new magazine spring, it is again time to replace their springs.

5.  Batteries

What do you have in your ‘kit’ that uses batteries?  Several tactical flashlights, for sure.  Maybe a laser sight.  Goodness only knows what else.

Make the daylight saving switches a time to check batteries, and also to inventory your reserve of spare batteries.

Open up the battery compartment of everything that has batteries, and make sure the batteries haven’t swollen or started to leak.

If you have devices that use non-standard sized batteries, make sure you have spares, and make sure they are where you expect them to be.

And for all the things you have that use AA and AAA batteries, consider replacing the batteries ‘whether they need replacing or not’ in items that you occasionally use, and give a good test of the batteries in items you seldom or never use.

For batteries you’ve left in devices for some time, check their expiry dates.  If you’re within a year of the expiry date, why not replace them anyway.

Mar 082011
 

So, what do most burglars do when breaking into a house?  Yes, they start stealing things, right?

And if they become aware of the home owner returning home, what do they do?  Hopefully, they leave quickly!

But that’s not what happened when a man in Portland, OR, broke into a home there.  Instead of going for the family silver, he went for – the shower!  And in the process of showering, he somehow became aware of the woman who lived there returning home.  So, what did he do next?

Well, you’ve probably already figured out this guy is not your normal type of home invader.  Instead of hiding, or running away, he – yes, he dialled 911 and asked the police to help, for fear of what the woman might do if she discovered him, dripping wet and buck naked, in her shower.  For whatever reason (and hopefully correctly) he feared she might have a gun, and apparently, whether armed or not, she had one or possibly two angry German Shepherds with her.

For full details of this puzzling crime, read this report.  You might want to listen to the audio transcript of the various 911 calls placed by both the burglar and the home owner, too, for extra laughs.

But if you do listen to the audio – and you should – you’ll notice one other thing.  Here’s the scene :  Inside the house is the burglar, perhaps still in the shower.  Outside the house, on the porch by the front door, is the woman, her youngish daughter, and a growing number of neighbors.

The woman wants to go in the house to get a coat, because she is cold standing outside on her porch.  The 911 operator sensibly manages to persuade her not to go back inside.

And then the first police car arrives.  But what does the policeman do?  Get this :  He waits in his car for backup to arrive, waiting until it is ‘safe’ for him to go up to the porch.  The 911 operator is quite happy to have the woman, her daughter, and various neighbors standing on the porch, but the police officer will not approach them or the house until he has backup.

Does that sound right to you?

Let’s think in general terms about this as well.  What would you do if you returned home to encounter a burglary in process?

The correct thing to do is – assuming no-one else near or dear to you is inside the house – to immediately leave your premises, and retreat to a safe location where you can observe, and call the police.  But if you have loved ones inside and at risk, you’ve got some hard decisions to make; hard decisions we’ll talk about another time.

If the burglar leaves, don’t intercept him, and have no contact with him.  Keep your distance and allow him to safely depart the scene.

Still stay out of your property though – no so much because the police don’t want you disturbing ‘the evidence’ (sadly, and depending on where you live and what happened, the police may not do much at all in terms of fingerprinting or in any other way doing ‘detective’ stuff) but rather for fear that there may still be other burglars inside.  Have the police check out your property for you before going back inside yourself.

Remember – you don’t want to corner a wild animal, and neither do you want to corner a criminal.  You’re not paid to do these things.  Leave such dangerous actions to those who are.  And even they won’t do it without backup.

Feb 212011
 

F-14 Tomcat, 1970-2006, a glorious plane deservedly made famous in Top Gun

Okay, sadly there’s nothing particularly new about how all our armed services have shame-facedly capitulated to the overwhelming force of political correctness.

After all, the two main reasons the Fort Hood muslim terrorist was so successful (13 killed, 29 wounded) were :

(a)  Because soldiers aren’t trusted with firearms.  Yes, read that again slowly – we don’t trust our soldiers with firearms, even on their own base.

(b)  Because the terrorist was a muslim terrorist.  If he were a ‘white supremacist’ the authorities would have locked him up tighter than a drum, ages before he got close to the base with his weapons, but because he was a muslim terrorist, well, it was necessary to embrace diversity.

Anyway, read this article published by a reporter who can always be relied upon to take a strategic bit of leaking and play it up in the press.

It seems that the foundation set up to commemorate the Navy’s 100th anniversary of military aviation saw fit to celebrate the role of women fliers – such incredibly important events in naval aviation history as ‘the first female operations officer’ were featured much more prominently than things which they largely ignored (a little event in South East Asia, for example, or a slightly larger event all around the world which started at Pearl Harbor).

The ridiculousness of this is well stated by former Marine aviator Roy Stafford, who is quoted in the article as saying

The true facts are that women’s contribution to naval aviation has been minimal to nonexistent for 80 of the first 100 years.  The simple truth is they were not there, not World War I, not World War II, not Korea nor Vietnam.  Men who pushed the limits of mankind to levels never before reached, to relegate them to footnote status while elevating the social agenda is a disservice to all who went before them.

Well said, Roy.  Semper Fi.

Feb 142011
 

The Taurus Judge takes .410 shot shells and .45 Colt cartridges

Here’s an interesting couple of videos – the first being an interview with a homeowner in the Denver CO area who was forced to defend himself against three intruders who broke into his house one night.  At least one of the intruders was armed; the homeowner defended himself successfully with his own pistol, and subsequently was interviewed on a local news program.

The second interview is with the Denver District Attorney who explains why, according to Colorado law and the facts of that particular case, he decided the shooting was justified – note in particular how one of the two reporters was trying to feed him a line about it being a vigilante shooting, and his very reasoned and rational response.

His decision as to this being a justifiable act of self defense of course probably would not apply in other states and/or in other situations, but it gives you some insight into the way the legal mind works in reviewing a home defense situation, as well as insight also into how you may react and what you should expect.

Also on the linked page is some commentary from Front Sight founder, Dr Ignatius Piazza, on the situation, and about how it is generally better not to agree to a television interview after being involved in an incident such as this.

I was interested in the handgun that was used – a Taurus Judge – a five chamber revolver that shoots either .410 shotgun shells or .45 ‘Long Colt’ (not regular ACP) rounds.  The shotgun shells need to be short 2.5″ long shells, rather than longer 2.75″ or 3″ (although Taurus now make a model that will handle the 3″ long shells too), and can have various different loads in them.   The 000 buck rounds hold just three balls (in 2.5″ length).

This review isn’t very positive about the Judge in terms of self defense, although it seems likely that it could be effective as at least a ‘scare them away’ weapon; perhaps loaded with the Number 4 shot, which very rapidly disperses to cover a large area.  I’ll try shooting one some time to let you know what the recoil is like – my guess is that it packs an awful punch.

Feb 132011
 

Charter Arms Pink Lady in .38 +P

So I was doing what I like best the other day – browsing through a gun shop.  As seems to so often be the case, it was busy with lots of people and too few store assistants, and I found myself chatting with a woman waiting to be served.  She was probably in her early 60s.

She was considering the purchase of her first ever firearm.  Her adult children were encouraging her in this and were also in the store, but they had been distracted and were looking at other gun goodies themselves, leaving her to look at a small light weight short barreled pink revolver.  Her son had recommended this would be a good gun for her.

I guess it might work as a carry gun, and it wouldn’t look out of place in a lady’s purse the way an ‘evil’ workmanlike blued steel creation might.  So I approached the matter cautiously and asked her what she wanted it for – a carry gun or a home defense gun.

She said she’d never choose to carry it.  She just wanted something for home defense.  There had been burglaries in her neighborhood, and after years of hating and being scared of firearms, her worries about her own safety overwhelmed her dislike of guns, and with the active encouragement of her adult children she was now about to buy her own gun for self defense at home.

Her sons had recommended this pink revolver to her, because it looked nice and because it was small and lightweight.

Which scored them a fail on all three points.

Listen up, ladies.  If you’re confronting a bad guy, you don’t want to show him a pink pistol.  The only way that would work would be if he died laughing.  If you need to present your weapon at a bad guy, you need to put the fear of God into him, and to immediately dominate and control the situation.  He needs to know, at a very basic primal level, both that the gun pointed at him could kill him, and that the person pointing the gun is ready and willing to do so.  Paradoxically, the more lethal looking your gun – and you – are perceived to be, the less likely you are to need to actually take a life.  A pink gun doesn’t have nearly the same authority as does a regular blued, or black, or even stainless steel gun.

Now next, let’s talk about size.  The heavier the gun, the easier it is to shoot, with less recoil.  The longer the barrel, not only the heavier it is, but the more accurate it becomes and the ‘nicer’ it is to shoot, with less muzzle flash and muzzle blast.

If you’re not needing to choose a small lightweight gun to carry with you, then choose the biggest heaviest longest barreled pistol you can find as a home defense weapon.  You’ll shoot straighter and better, and you’ll also dominate the situation much more with a big and ‘dangerous/deadly’ looking pistol than you will with a tiny ladies gun.

I tried to explain these issues to her, but her sons had told her to get a small pretty pistol, and I was merely a passing stranger in a gun store.  Who was she going to believe?

And possibly, for some of you now reading this, I’m similarly merely some guy writing some sort of blog.  That’s okay.  Because you don’t have to trust or believe me (or, even if you’re tempted to, take note of that famous line ‘Trust, but Verify’).  So, before you buy any gun, try it out, and also try out some other guns – bigger and smaller in size/weight; and of larger or smaller caliber.

You want to get a gun that you can fire a dozen times without it becoming painful to you, and which you can fire without flinching.  Any such gun, for sure, will be much bigger and heavier than what you might have first expected.

As for the issue of revolver vs semi-auto, that’s a really complicated topic and the subject for another discussion entirely.  And please don’t even get me started on the choice of caliber…..