Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Reading List

BTW, I'm in the process of re-reading George R. R. Martin's FEVRE DREAM, the single best vampire novel ever written and a moving study on friendship. This is a perfect book to read during the holiday season, and if you don't tear up at the end, you have the heart of a...stone.

SAF Weighs In on Wisconsin

Check out my pal Dave Workman's response for the Second Amendment Foundation on the Wisconsin murders.
"Keep this in perspective: The Wisconsin case is about six alleged homicides and two attempted murders. It is not about gun politics, and it should not be shamelessly exploited toward that agenda. Let’s focus on prosecuting one individual for a horrible crime, not penalizing a million gun owners for the rifles they own."
Dave is lucid and, as usual, thoughtful, but I think he's cutting NSSF's Larry Keane too much slack. Still, you can never accuse Fox Butterfield (who never forgave me for repeatedly calling him Fox Butterworth, as in the pancake syrup) of the New York Times of objectivity. But saying that Butterworth...oops, Butterfield...took Keane's comments out of context is like saying the sky is blue...duh! We can get an even shake from Iver Peterson, NYT's other guy on the gun beat, but Fox is about as partisan as they come.

When you walk into a S&%T-STORM, you ought to do it woth your eyes open!

The Incredible Disappearing Gun Owner

Well, the election hangover have cleared up, the pundits moved on to other issues and, once again, gunowners have simply disappeared from the media and public radar.

We disappeared quicker than usual this election cycle, because the media pundits were focused on Red State voters focused on gay marriage, moral issues, religion, etc. The fact that we gunowners and sportsmen turned out in unprecedented numbers and had a profound effect on the election, especially in swing states like Ohio and Florida, went largely unnoticed and unremarked upon, except in our own media and from a few sports columnists.

Well, you say, so what? We won. Big time. That is true, and I am certainly glad not to be strategizing about how to survive four years of a Kerry Presidency!

However, our quadrannaul disappearing act has some serious effects on what we're actually trying to accomplish. Because the election buzz was all around evangelicals, the morality vote, etc., politicians being politicians and all, I suspect they'll be a bit less beholden to us gun voters. I wonder if we can arrange to have Bubba Clinton do another interview in USA Today and claim Kerry lost Ohio, and the Presidency, because of us pesky gunowners? That'd help.

More importantly our lack of visibility in the media hurts us on numerous levels. Our sports receive no coverage, because, to the media, we don't exist. The Big Bad Gun Lobby exists, and its number is NRA. But what about the shooting sports, which are among the fastest growing sports in the country? What about the successful defensive use of guns? I could go on and on.

From a gunowner's standpoint, invisibility is a good thing. You still get invited to parties; your kids friends' parents don't turn you in to the local constabulary; everything is back the way it was.

That's too bad. The first time I talked to the media spinners from the Pink Pistols, the largest gay self-defense group, they made an interesting comment.
"If we had as many people as you guys, as large a percentage of the population, we'd be untouchable. Here's a free piece of advice: Out of the closets and into the streets!"
Invisibility = having to fight the same battles over and over again!

Monday, November 29, 2004

French Fried

Hot French chick reporter with gun...what's it all coming to? (Instapundit on top of it...so to speak).

Media Bias Check

Here's the weekly Second Amendment Media Bias check from http://www.alphecca.com/mt_alphecca_archives/000729.html...

Nice WT Commentary on Wisconsin Incident

Here's a thought...hunting is actually pretty safe...at the very least, safer than driving my Jeep in the snow! From the Washington Times:
"The most conspicuous fact about hunting in America is how safe it is. There are more than 15 million licensed hunters in this country, all armed with weapons that can easily kill a duck, a rabbit, a deer or a human being. All it takes is a split-second misjudgment or lapse of concentration to produce a lasting tragedy. But such tragedies are very much the exception."

Bad Blogger! Bad! Bad!

Well, what can I say?

One 12-hour day filming, followed by a lovely travel day (Sunday) on the busiest travel day of the year--"Sit down ! Don't throw the leftover turkey! We've only been standing in this line an hour, so what's your problem!"--followed by the news that, post snowstorm, my Jeep was "in a ditch and the four-wheel drive doesn't seem to work."

Gosh, what fun!

Jeep now out-of-ditch; front transaxle reduced to a pile of metal chips in oil suspension. Not worth repairing.

I gotta go buy a new/used/whatever SUV, which I was going to do in March, when I had a little time.

Still, dealing with car dealers--may they all rot in hell--ought to provide hours of funnies!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Cowboy Mounted Shoot-Em-Up

Spent all day today at the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) World Championships in Scottsdale, AZ, for the first season of COWBOYS.

I've got to confess, I've never really been a horsey person...I've always thought of horses as proto-motorcycles, without a kill switch. I did, however, once do an eight-day cattle drive (pre-CITY SLICKERS, I might add) in Montana for the Chicago Tribune News Syndicate years ago, and I liked it a lot more than I expected. My horse, Jeff-The-Couch, couldn't actually meet the eight criteria for a living organism...sort of like Mr. Ed on thorazine. The wrangler assured me that J-T-C really liked me, which I could tell by the fact that the horse hadn't tossed my butt down the side of a mountain. After a few days, I got to thinking that I could really get to like ole Jeff, if only he'd learn to kneel so I could easily dismount. And maybe get the optional tape player installed.

Mounted cowboy shooting is pretty straightforward--ride like a crazy person through a convoluted course defined by pylons and barrels while blasting away at balloon targets with sixguns loaded with blanks. Paging Quentin Tarantino...your next movie idea is here!

The horses of CMSA could convince me that I really *need* another whacky animal. They're sort of uber-horses, the kind of horses you might find in John Ford westerns. Whenever we were doing interviews with the cowboys and cowgirls, the horses mugged for the camera. A couple of them--I swear--stared at the camera as if they were considering a purchase on their own and were weighing Panasonic versus Sony.

And that's to say nothing of the cowgirls! To watch these women thundering along on horseback through a complex stage, firing their single actions at the balloon targets, trips a whole series of fantasies that probably lodged in my head when I was seven or so, plastered to the television. Gee, Dale, I'm glad you think I'm special...

Could be the chaps, too.

Maybe it's simple jealousy...that the men, women and horses can perform this complex ballet of balloons, barrels and black powder at 40 miles-per-hour, and I still look like a dweeb in a cowboy hat. In any case, hit the CMSA website and see if there's a club or event in your area. You owe it to yourself to go watch a match. Then watch the episode of COWBOYS, and you'll be shopping for oats in no time.

As a matter of fact, I couldn't help but notice your spurs...

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Okay, a lot of people refuse to come to my house unless I swear I'm making dessert (so, apparently, all those cooking classes weren't for naught!).

This Thanksgiving, I decided to make something different. I took my patented-works-every-time filched-from-the-Silver-Palate-Cookbook Amaretto Chocolate Mousse recipe, replaced the amaretto with framboise, cut out the sugar, soaked two pints of fresh raspberries in a mixture of framboise and very good tequila (anejo), then laddeled the mousse mixture into individual cups over the marinated raspberries, addiing 1/2 teaspoon of the framboise/tequila mix to each cup.

Guaranteed to send you into hypoglycemic shock before you can get to the door! And NO calories! Honest!

In the spirit of the current ecumenical political partnership, I have decided to name my creation after...well, you guess:


One Turkey Saved...

Am presently striving to survive a relatively innocuous Thanksgiving...a couple of friends are coming over and we're going to feed them halibut. If they don't like it, hey, there's always Denny's! Strictly BYO-Green-Bean-Casserole!

Before I settle into a long stretch in the kitchen, I thought I'd send you all out to get a new Democratic t-shirt. My personal favorite is:
One Party to Rule Them All,
One Party fo Find Them,
One Party to Bring Them All,
And in the Darkness Bind Them
A friend e-mailed me this AM and asked about my most memorable Thanksgiving. The one that popped to mind was when my Mom sent an entire Thanksgiving dinner party, except me, to the hospital with food poisoning, courtesy of a canned English pea, Velvetta and warm, unrefrigerated mayonnaise casserole. I wisely fed my serving to the dog, who later hurled. Bon Appetit!

Remember the troops in your prayers, and be especially thankful we don't have to say, "I wonder what First Lady Heinz is going to wear to the Inauguration?"

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Charlie's Angels

While you're munching turkey tomorrow, give a thought to these three medics in Iraq, collectively known as Charlie's Angels. In fact, join me in giving thanks for all the guys and girls Over There, so we can have a quiet Thanksgiving dinner Over Here. A "thank you" hardly seems adequate! And a tip of the hat to Jonah Goldberg at NR for the tip and the cranberry sauce recipes!

Hunting Murders Update...

Self-defense or not?

Chai Vang says the other guys fired first. Well, that probably buys him one justifiable homicide and five murders, if it turns out to be true.

Here's a link to the original Wisconsin police report of the incident. Click on the "Hunting Homicides" link, then on the "Suspect Statement" to download a PDF of the scanned report. Apparently, I'm not blog-saavy enough to make the link work directly!

As civilians, we live in a world of civilian rules of engagement. That's an important point as more and more of us get advanced training that was originally crafted for police and military units. Under military rules of engagement, Vang's actions make perfectly good sense. He was an individual under attack by a group known to have firearms. But he wasn't a military man behind enemy lines when he acted. He was, and is, a civilian.

If the police report is accurate, the rifle was not an SKS, but rather a SAIGA, which is, ironically given the earlier reports, a sporterized hunting rifle built on the tried-and-true AK-47 action at the IZHMASH arms plant in Izhevsk, Russia. The gun has been imported into the U.S. for a number of years by European American Armory in Florida and sells in the $300-400 range with a number of options.

Read the antigun spin from the Violence Policy Center (VPC), which still includes references to the "SKS assault rifle."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More Murder...

This basically is how we shoot ourselves in the foot with the media:
"Some will immediately raise the issue of gun control. The SKS 7.62mm semiautomatic assault weapon, the kind of rifle Vang was carrying, is ill-suited for hunting deer. It is apparently too underpowered to kill a deer with a single shot, the goal of hunters who want to avoid needless suffering.

Former President Clinton, by executive order, barred SKS rifles manufactured in China and Russia. The Bush administration, according to a national gun control group, has specifically allowed their importation from some other countries.

Should they be banned by executive order altogether?"
You may recognize that phraseology...it come from us, from the people we trust to speak to the media in our behalf. While the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial didn't end up buying into the antigun line, they're only the first.

Everybody thinks they can do a good job talking to the media, just like every guy you meet thinks he's a world-class shooter, lover and car mechanic. Yeah, right. As somebody who has taught crisis media relations and who has handled media relations for the firearms industry, even I take a long, deep breath before I sit down to talk with someone from the New York Times, or the networks, or the cable news outlets. And I make damn sure my ducks are in a row before I pick up the phone.

The Wisconsin Hunting Murders...

I'm having a lot of trouble getting my head around the deer hunting murders in Wisconsin. The more I read, the less sense it makes.

There are some interesting commentaries on the Packing.org discussion groups, with most people as confused as I am.

The latest material I've seen is that the killer has a history of violent spouse abuse, which would be consistent with previous spree murderers. Still, a lot of questions still waiting to be answered.

A couple of points I'd like to consider:

Return fire. The victims were hunters; by defnition, they had guns. Was this (as one poster on Packing.org suggested) a failure of mindset on the part of the victims, the classic I can't believe this is happening?

•Diss'ing the gun. Check this out from the New York Times:

"The rifle that killed five Wisconsin hunters and wounded three more on Sunday was an SKS 7.62-millimeter semiautomatic assault weapon not normally used in hunting animals.

"This is not a gun you go deer hunting with," said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry trade association.

The reason the SKS is not used by hunters, Mr. Keane said, is that it is designed for combat soldiers and is therefore underpowered for killing an animal like a deer with a single shot, the goal of good hunters.

"The ethics of hunting are you don't want the animal to suffer needlessly," Mr. Keane said.

Mr. Keane said he suspected that the man accused of the Wisconsin killings was not a trained hunter, since with the SKS he was carrying, he would have had to shoot a deer several times to kill it."
This is bad spinhe's not one of us because he used an evil rifle. The SKS is never going to win any beauty pageants, but it's a fine—and inexpensive—deer rifle. The 7.62 is on par with a .30/30, which has taken more deer-sized game than any other cartridge in American history. Here's what Ruger, which makes the Mini-30 in 7.62, has to say:
"[the cartridge and rifle] has proven itself as the ideal autoloader for deer-sized game at medium ranges."
While I'm not a big fan of the SKS (I'm a pissy gunwriter, and I've found the SKS to have the ergonomics of a mop handle duct-taped to a guitar), it's a standard-issue deer hunting rifle in much of the South--my father has used his SKS deer hunting in Tennessee. It's cheap, accurate at medium distances, reliable as dirt, *not* classified as an "assault weapon" by any standards, has tons of relatively inexpensive ammo available and can be upgraded by any number of aftermarket accessories. Heck, I'd rather have a 7.62 X 39 than, say, a .243 any day of the week.

Murder is murder. The type of gun used doesn't have anything to do with it.

Monday, November 22, 2004

NPR/Slate Story

Here's the link for the printed part of the NPR/Slate story I mentioned.


I actually DO live in Colorado!

Took yesterday off to go snowshoeing...there's not a lot of snow out there, but about 8 or 9 inches fell in the high country, which was enough to get out on the shoes. As usual, I was using my now-ancient Atlas 12-inchers and a pair of Columbia lite-hikers with gaiters. Once I get used to winter, I'll go to Gore-Tex sneakers and trick socks to get the weight off my feet.

The sneakers/soxs combo was the same one I used in my last (!!!) Iditasport race, where I discovered that, starting at about 20 below zero, my feet would freeze if I stopped longer than 5 minutes. I'd rather chain saw off my leg than do another Iditasport (3 was...sufficient). However, maybe the 20-miler in Leadville January 5 is not out of the question!

BTW, my current backcountry gun is an S&W 296 .44 Special 5-shot revolver. This Arlite Ti is, to me, the ultimate bellygun, the logical refinement of the old Fitz Special. It's a hammerless design, less than 19 ounces and built around the extremely effective .44 SilverTip round. Of course, it's out of production now--it lasted about 2 years in the S&W catalog. My theory is that no one bought it because it is BUTT-UGLY. Every time I look at the little gun, I am reminded of a comment a friend of mine's father, a Mississippi farmer, made upon seeing a classic Jaguar XKE+2 sedan--"It looks like a mule hunching over to take a dump." Recoil isn't awful with the SilverTips...at least, none of the fillings in my teeth fell out.

You can find them used in the $350 range now and then. If you don't want to wait, Taurus has a whole line of bellyguns, although I'm never sure what's in production and what's not.

My current holster choice for the backcountry is the weird-looking chest holster from Survival Sheath Systems. The gun hangs butt-down just below the breastbone. It's much easier to reach than a conventional shoulder holster--especially in winter gear, where the holster is accessible through the vertical vent zippers of most good shells. The holster doesn't get tangled up in packstraps or hydration systems, rides tight enough that you can run in the thing and is well enough designed that you don't even notice the weight of the gun. Plus, this will be proof positive to your friends that you've gone completely around the paranoid bend!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

[Fill in the Blank] Likes It!

From Paul Erhardt, who used to administer to the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Media Education Program with me and is now at the aforementioned SIGARMS:

"MICHAEL - Take a look at these links to find the audio from NPR. Emily Yoffe goes shooting and LIKED it...Very cool. Thank GOD she was shooting a SIG SAUER. PAUL
Guinea Pig: Guinea Get Your Gun
NPR's Alex Chadwick speaks with Emily Yoffe about her newest human guinea pig experience: learning to how to shoot a rifle.

Here are the links:


Hey, take people to the range...even NPR-type people...and they like it! Goes along with this story from NYC's very Blue-ish Washington Square News:
Busting some caps in lower Manhattan
by Sarah Portlock
Facing another four years of Bush, I realized it was high time to see what the Second Amendment crowd is so frothed up about. I decided to go shooting...

Yeah, she liked it, too.


I forgot to mention that you can start buying numerous tasteless items emblazoned with the SHOOTING GALLERY logo at www.cafepress.com/sgtv/. I personally insisted on the SHOOTING GALLERY lunchbox, because I thought it would go well with those nifty Kali Goddess of Destruction lunchboxes you can get from India and here and there. I also thought SG lunchboxes would give nerdy schoolkids a golden opportunity to shine (and, given the current "zero tolerance" idoicy in schools these days, probably do time).

Send me an email and let me know what sort of logo'ed stuff you want. The store link should be up on the SG site next week. Also, we're finalizing the deal to allow you to buy SG-logo shirts and concealment vests from SIGTAC. Yeah, SIG's a big sponsor of SHOOTING GALLERY and they give me the stuff. I would like to point out, however, that several other "tactical" clothing manufacturers made the same offer, and I chose SIG because the stuff is really good! The vest is hands-down the best concealment vest on the market. Yeah, yeah, you look nerdy, but so what? Unless you're Angelina Jolie or gunwriter Walt Rauch, who looks like he was born in one, you're gonna look nerdy in a vest. Get over it. I wore a pair of the SIGTAC BDUs all over Europe through days of filming, and they still looked good. The shirts are indestructable and designed by people who actually use this stuff. Plus, we'll whine and bitch until we get you a good deal.

Eventually, we'll have DVDs of past episodes for sale, but right now we're in EDITING HELL, trying to make the deadline for Season 1 of COWBOYS and Season 3 of SG.

For those of you nice enough to ask, you can get a copy of ALL NIGHT RADIO, my first novel and most recent book, from Amazon or directly from the publisher at the book link. The perfect Christmas gift!!! Buy 20; better yet, 200. Keep in mind that when you buy a copy from Amazon, I get, like $0.19; direct from the publisher, I get enough for a Happy Meal!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

SOCOM .308 Rocks!

BTW, I had a chance to futz (a technical term among gunwriters) around with a Springfield Armory SOCOM 16 M1A rifle today, and I have to say I was much more impressed than I expected to be.

I mean, the idea of a light (sub-9 pounder) .308 battle rifle with a 16 1/4-inch barrel conjured up images of my ill-fated 3-gun experience with an old HK-91, which apparently had been designed by an alien who had never seen a human body. At least, that was the only explanation the amazingly crappy ergonomics. The gun would probably feed and fire a tube of lipstick--depending, of course, on color--but it pounded the living hell out of your shoulder.

The SOCOM handled well; recoil was mild--heck of a muzzle brake, I'd say!

This is the first MIA-style rifle I'd really like to have...a pretty viable alternative to AR system rifles.

The drawback? $1727.



I haven't been out to GUNSITE in more than a decade, and it's amazing how much the old place has changed! Buzz Mills, who bought the most famous shooting school in the world a few years back and proceeded to pour $4 million into it.

The results are pretty spectacular--2000 acres of state-of-the-art training facilities, including two enclosed shoot houses, computer-controlled targets, ranges out to 1600 meters, a hunting simulator (you tell them where you plan to hunt, and they'll build you a training simulation) and a seemingly endless variety of Gunsite's signature jungle lanes. We spent the day with Giles Stock, Gunsite's ace senior instructor who has survived both the good and bad times, putting together a sampler of what the new Gunsite has to offer.

We were so impressed that we're working on a deal for doing several episodes every season at Gunsite.

And wait until you see the helicopter shots of the Rifle Scramble!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Nobody Weighs in on the Supremes

Well, for reasons I certainly can't grasp, nobody in the new Bush administration has called me for recommendations on nominations for a new Supreme Court justice, should one be needed. If they call, I'm going to throw my not-unsubstantial weight behind Judge Alex Kozinski, ringmaster of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California. Not only did he once write an opinion on an adult theater case composed entirely of titles of adult movies, but last summer he went to the mattresses to be recognized as an official judicial hottie (hey, I can't make this stuff up!). I was honored that he listed my profile of him as a source.

Not only that, but he's screaming brilliant; hanging around with Judge Alex is sort of like standing next to a blast furnance of brain cells. His dissent in the Silveira case, where the Ninth ruled against an individual interpretation of the Second Amendment, is truly a thing of beauty. Let me just quote his conclusion:
"The sheer ponderousness of the panel's opinion -- the mountain of verbiage it must deploy to explain away these fourteen short words of constitutional text -- refutes its thesis far more convincingly than anything I might say. The panel's labored effort to smother the Second Amendment by sheer body weight has all the grace of a sumo wrestler trying to kill a rattlesnake by sitting on it -- and is just as likely to succeed."
If the Bush administration calls you, now you'll know who to recommend. Also, if Judge Alex calls you to go snowboarding with him, wear a helmet!

Slippery Slope Redux

Hit the title link, then ponder this: I mean, first the Aussies lose most of their guns, and now the government's going after their cowboy hats. In a couple of years, the universal image of the Australian Outback will be some embarrassed-looking guy in red Valentine heart boxer shorts and bedroom slippers, twirling a hypoallergenic reconstituted hemp rope.

NOTE TO MY LIBERAL FRIENDS: Potential relocation area!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Here's a shocker...

Everyone's favorite New York Times hysterical liberal columnist, Nicolas Kristof, has just discovered
"Nothing kills Democratic candidates’ prospects more than guns. If it weren’t for guns, President-elect Kerry might now be conferring with incoming Senate Majority Leader Daschle."

Read his whole column here, then give it some thought.

This is probably the shape of the anti-gun movement over the next four years. Note that the usual nonsense statistics from Brady and the VPC are missing in this commentary. No "10 children a day" or the other obvious spin numbers. Also notice that at least several of Kristof's "steps" are old news...public safety campaigns to keep guns locked up? Try NSSF's Project Childsafe, which has given away almost 20 million gunlocks since its inception.

I'm still trying to get a grip (yes, that's a pun!) on his comment
We routinely make aspirin bottles childproof, but not guns, even though childproof pistols were sold back in the 19th century —they wouldn’t fire unless the shooter put pressure on the handle as well as the trigger.
Old S&W Lemon Squeezers with grip safeties? 1911s with grip safeties? Maybe he should just get a new Para-Ordnance LDA--grip safety, drop safe (like all modern firearms), high capacity, now available in colors.

John Ross is Cool!

I like John Ross, author of UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES (even if if does have totally overwrought cover art). He and I got to talk a bit a couple of SHOT Shows ago, and he seemed like a good guy to share a beer with. I just stumbled across his eloquent answer to novelist Jane Smiley's wildly over-the-top post-election rant on Slate. Check it out here.

Finally! He gets off lazy butt and posts...

Okay, right, so what's the point of a blog if you don't post to it? Trees falling in a forest; nobody hears, etc.

In truth, we've been in an absolute frenzy of travel to get the thirds season of SHOOTING GALLERY and the first season of COWBOYS ready for January 2005. I tallied it up this weekend and figured out we've filmed 21 shows since the first of August, which has left all of us relatively shell-shocked. Four more shows to film this year, then it's a few weeks off and we do it all over again. Still, it definitely beats hanging drywall.

Wednesday, I head to Gunsite to film a piece of the Urban Precision Rifle class. I'm taking along a couple of lever-action .44 Magnums, a Marlin Cowboy and one of the new Legacy Model 92 clone carbines. I firmly believe the lever-action carbine is one of the most overlooked "urban rifles" out there. My definition of an urban rifle (a term I believe popularized by the ubiquitous Clint Smith at Thunder Ranch) is a short rifle/carbine that can be used for self-defense in a home setting. Notice I didn't mention anything about black helicopters, the imminent collapse of civilization as we know it, bug-out bags or aliens. Snore, nod. Civilization does not seem on the brink of collapse, but a rifle still has a huge place in a home self-defense setting. Why? Well, it's easier to shoot WELL than a handgun is, a big issue if the Spousal Unit isn't as enthused about Gun World as you. Handgun-based cartridges like the .44 and .357 benefit from the longer barrel of the rifle. Not as damned noisy as a 5.56...

Rural dweller that I am, I have a Winchester M-94 Trapper (16 1/2 inch barrel) .44 in the bedroom closet, in case I'm set upon by evil cowboys.

I'll post more...I promise!