Saturday, January 26, 2019

PDWs and a Decent Cherry Cake!

I think I'm going to bake today.

What I have in mind is a Kentish Cherry Cake, because I have a bunch of sweet and tart cherries and I think they need a happy home. It would also taste good for breakfast tomorrow with clotted cream.

While I'm working on the cake, I'm going to be thinking about PDWs and whether they're a coming thing or an interesting but small branch of the family. It's probably fair to say that this year's SHOT was a Year of Precision Rifles. They were everywhere, like head lice. I've got've got some...all God's chilluns got some, or at least will have as soon as some room opens up on Ye Olde Visa Carde.

But just under the surface of thousand yard plinkers was the rise of the "civilian" PDW, an itsy bitsy teeney weenie usually AR-patterned, folding or collapsable pistol braced backpack-sized blaster...usually, but not necessarily,  in a pistol caliber.

The prototypical version of the wee beastie is the SIG Copperhead, the shrunken 3.5-inch barreled version of the Rattler, with an overall length of 14 1/2 inches and in 9mm. In a flat market, the interest in the Copperhead is predictably off the charts.

Probably the Belle of the Ball at SHOT was the Maxim Defense PDX, an 18 1/2 inch 5.56 or 7.62 X 39 pistol that grew out of the military solicitation for PDWs. It's beautiful, it shoots just super and people are already queuing up to buy one at a couple of grand a pop, deliverable in April.

Other versions abound — the Sol Invictus TAC-9, the Fightlite MXR interchangeable pistol caliber pistol, CMMG's Banshee, the Angstadt Arms SCW-9 (currently in subgun or SBR configuration, but a pistol is coming), the CZ Scorpion S2 Pistol Micro, several B&Ts, and on and on. I could even make a case that the current crop of MP-5 clones in pistol config fall into the same category.

Why? Well, there are both trite and serious reasons. On the trite side of the equation, they're cute and — say what you will — cute sells. Americans have always had a fascination with subgun-styled guns...paging the MAC 10! The difference between the earlier generation little subgun-styled guns and what is now available is that today's versions are much lighter, much more refined and — dare I say it — useful.

for the last couple of years we've all been saying that, should you stumble into a worst case shooting situation, say an active shooter, regardless of what you have in the trunk of your car, you are going to fight with what you have on your person..excepting, of course SAS troopies in 3rd World counties. But what if you, as a paranoid person a la Mikey, has a backpack on your person, and that backpack has a PDW? Far-fetched, to be sure, but not totally beyond the pale.

Plus, expect even smaller iterations. The Flux Defense "Flux Brace" system that adds a brace-equipped extension to a Glock G-17, or the several systems that utilize the SIG 250/320 fire control cradle to drop into a brace-equipped or properly papered SBR.

We should probably also add in the RONI-type "conversion units," which allows one to stick a handgun into a cradle that gives one a brace-equipped bigger pistol or an NFA gun. I always thought they were putting much gimmicks until I ran one at longer distances. Hey, an additional point of contact helps when you push out past 50 yards.

Given the huge success and prevalence of Polymer80 and the flood of Glock-ish frames, I suppose it it only a matter of time until we see dedicated PDW "uppers," a la the old Mech Tech carbine conversions, for aftermarket Glock frames, skipping the intermediate pistol stage altogether. Heck, maybe such a thing exists and I just haven't stumbled on it yet.

Time to go sift flour!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Trump Derangement Syndrome

I'm a single issue voter, as I'm pretty sure you guys know by now. My rationale is and has been that a person's stance on the individual ownership of firearms and their views on the personal responsibility of carrying firearms tells me -- quite literally -- everything I need to know about that person. I realize this causes heads to explode, but that's not the point of this post.

As a small-L libertarian, I voted GOP as the lesser of 2 evils. In terms of social construct, the social conservatives' platform generally makes me ill. I do not believe in "free trade," because I am Southern-born lower class white (often referred to as "trash"), and my people -- to borrow a phrase from former Attorney General Eric Holder -- have ALWAYS paid the price for the coastal elites' grand trade schemes.

I care nothing about "spreading democracy."although I have traveled extensively,  I am not a "Citizen of the World." I am an American, and I care deeply about America. What you do in your shithole is your business, right up until the point that you impinge on America, at which point I think the function of the American military is not to win your hearts and minds, but to kill you dead in such a way that it will be remembered for 10,000 years.

I don't even own a bow tie.

SOOOOOO, hard for me to feel much sympathy for Republican elites who feel they can't live in a Trumpian World. I don't recall them feeling much sympathy for me when the pendulum was at the other side.

"Civil Discourse!" You ask?

Ha...the concept of civil discourse is and has always been just another tool to keep the slaves on the plantation, another way the elites keep the rabble in line.

Screw it.

NUT GRAF: "But does he really think the Democrats are less corrupt than Trump and his cabinet? Would America be better off run by a party that is ruled by identity politics and intent on promoting racial division and class warfare? Does he think, for all of Trump’s faults, that civil political discourse is the specialty of the party of Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Keith Ellison, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Is Trump alienating any more U.S. allies than Obama did when he largely abandoned both Israel and the Sunni Arab world, leaving them to the mercy of the Iranian dictators whom he sought to appease, enrich, and empower?"

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Cuddly Baby Giraffes, or Something Like That last post seems to have disappeared from Facebook...probably a technical glitch...LOL! So here it is on the Blog. Hey Facebook...Happy Independence Day, you fascist bastards!

You probably know I unconditionally support Tess Thompson Talley in this manufactured controversy, as I support all forms of legal hunting. I also feel for her, coming off the hunt of her life, to be made to endure a social media lynching.

It's especially poignant for me, since I just returned last Friday from the hunting trip of my life, the Cape Buffalo, I hunted in South Africa. I guess a Cape Buffalo isn't cute enough to qualify for outrage (or, maybe since I'm already Great Satan, it's more effort than it's worth to make me Mo' Greater Satan).

I tend to think a lot about hunting after my various hunting trips. I'm especially curious about how we as hunters lost the philosophical center of our own argument. I see an analogy with the earlier days of our 2A fights. If one goes back to, say, the late 1960s/earlier 70s, our blood enemies, most notably Handgun Control Inc., had successes in driving wedges into our culture — hunters against shooters, shotgunners against handgunners, everybody against .50 BMGs, cop-killer bullets, Saturday Night Specials, etc.

What changed on the 2A front was that our leaders, especially such visionaries as Ronnie Barrett, Mike Phifer, Sandy Froman, Larry Keane and others, essentially solidified the culture over a simple (and often unstated) premise — All guns are the same; an attack on one is an attack on all. And we've done pretty well making that stick.

Hunting culture is all over the board, and it is being driven in all sorts of directions by ostensibly pro-hunting organizations, loud factions of the market (meat vs. trophy, bow vs. firearm, crossbow vs. everything, fair chase vs. fenced, etc.), and quite honestly, the hunting media, including the flood of hunting television (mea culpa, kids).

As we saw in the 2A battles, factions try to insulate themselves from attack by turning on their own...e.g. "Don't eat ME! I'm the GOOD ONE! Eat those OTHER GUYS first!"

Perhaps our biggest mistake as hunters (and this is in my own humble opinion; YMMV), was ceding the philosophical high ground to our enemies, especially by not calling out (as a group) the essential core hypocrisy of our enemies. An is Ms. Talley's giraffe different from a Big Mac? I would contend that there is no difference — both are, to be blunt, dead meat.

I would also contend that, hell, at least the giraffe had a life, and apparently a long and exciting life, compared to the factory farm-produced cattle that ended up covered in McDonald's Special Sauce.

What is the difference between a cuddly baby panda and the pack rat I trapped and killed yesterday? What is the difference between your Thanksgiving turkey and your pet dog? Aren't they all animals, God's creatures if you will, deserving of the same respect. Or is respect based solely on cuteness and proximity?

Granted, those are extreme examples, but if you think about it, the differences are all subjective and often based on cultural considerations. Anyone who eats meat, wears any kind of leather and uses animal derived products AND continues to oppose hunting of ANY kind is a rank hypocrite. And should be attacked as such.

In fact (to me) any kind of parsing of the killing of animals is both artificial and completely subjective. Whether it is the ground beef used by a fast food chain, the hot dog you ate at the last baseball game you attended, a trophy sheep from Somewhereistan, your newest motorcycle jacket, venison steaks in your freezer, or the cosmetics you use to make yourself really hot hot hot, you are directly involved in the killing and consumption of animals. There is no difference, aside from ignorance or willful selective blindness.

Our continued existence on this planet is based on killing, the Great Circle of Life...even DISNEY, the first monumental anthropomorphizer of animals great and small, got it! Be vegan all you want and enjoy that tofu...I'm a Southern boy who grew up next to big soybeans fields...killing that happens as a secondary side-effect of factory farming is, to my thinking, still killing; that is, the animal still ends up dead. Explaining that you neither consume nor use animal products is, once again, a function of ignorance and willful blindness.

Just some thoughts...and BTW, we're all going to die, and in the end something will eat us. That's the way it works, Simba!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Buffalo Hunt...South Africa...June 2018

Here's the lowdown on Africa 2018!

We were hunting at Ft. Richmond Safaris about an hour and a half from Kimberly, with Richard's and my very good friend Geoffrey Wayland doing the PH duty. The property we were hunting on was roughly 10,000 acres, with hills, acacia savannas and thorn thickets that proved to be a lot denser when you were stalking through it than it looked from the hilltops.

We filmed the whole hunt for SHOOTING GALLERY 2019...Director of Photography Brook Aiken and his assistant, Bat Mann (yeah, he gets it!) did an amazing job of capturing everything on video. I think you guys are going to be really surprised at how this looks compared to an "average" hunting show.

Here's the whys and wherefores...last year Richard Mann's and my Scout Rifler Safari was a huge success...for hunting...for television...for Richard's continuing research on the efficacy of a Scout Rifle as a utility tool.A minor thing I wanted to throw in here....both Richard and I have and shoot numerous AR-platform guns, and we really like them. Richard was once asked by Another Really Famous Gunwriter to name one thing...ONE SINGLE THING...that a bolt gun could do that an AR couldn't. Richard's response was simple, "You can take a bolt gun to Africa." Sadly. the rest of the world is not nearly so accepting of semi autos and the United States.

As the Scout Rifle Safari was wrapping up, Richard and I started thinking about "what next." Both of us are fans of the lever action rifle, and we pretty much spontaneously said, "Cape Buffalo with a lever 45-70." As soon as we got home, I contacted Carlos Martinez at the Remington Custom Center. We've featured the Custom Center on SHOOTING GALLERY before, and Carlos was on the show I think in Season 2 (long before he thought of going to work in the gun business) shooting IDPA, and he's been on numerous times since.

So we started putting together the Lever Rifle Safari, based around the Marlin 1895  45-70.

Richard used a Marlin Custom Center "Modern Hunter;" Carlos a 24-inch Custom Shop version with a peep sight. My gun, as you know, is a one-off custom Worked out with Carlos at the SHOT Show this year — a 16-inch barreled Cowboy version fitted with Skinner Express peep sights, with the intent of using an optic mounted to that sight rail.

I've talked a lot about this little carbine, because it is simply one of the best-handling rifles I've ever shot. Five 45-70s in the tube plus the one in the chamber, which is impressive firepower in a short, light package. It is the best "stalking rifle" I have ever owned.

All of us — Richard, Carlos and I — took the Cape Buffalo hunt seriously...I think I've covered a lot of my training on Facebook. I did a lot of shooting with my Wild West Guns Marlin 1894 .44 Magnum, which also went to Africa with me, using .44 Magnum 240-gr Fiocchis. With the 1895, I trained with mostly Winchester 300-gr 45-70s, with Buffalo Bore dinosaur killers throw in as well. I also spent time on my "woods walk" course — which I designed after my first trip to Africa — with a Henry .22, working on positional shooting. Mostly I trained off sticks and offhand.

The ammo choice was obvious, Buffalo Bore 430-gr 45-70 "Magnums," at a little over 1800 fps out of the short 16-inch barrel. The 430-grainers comer recommended by Tim Sundles at BB, Max Prasac and Richard Mann, and they delivered. This round from the 1895 is one of the hardest-recoiling rounds I have ever put to my shoulder...if you decide to use this round, don't say I didn't warn you!

Before the trip I religiously studied Kevin Robertson's PERFECT SHOT AFRICAN EDITION, plus I read (or reread) Craig Boddington's BUFFALO!,  AN AFRICAN HUNTERS GUIDE TO NYATI, and, of course, John Burger's 1947 epic HORNED DEATH...LOL! I discussed the hunt beforehand with both Craig and Larry Potterfield, and they were enormously helpful.

As an aside, earlier I'd taken a pretty big warthog with the Marlin Wild West .44 Magnum, with a 197-yard shot using DoubleTap's 300-gr Nosler JHPs. I held over a few inches at that distance, and he ran a bit. The dot on the .44 is a Trijicon MRO.

In terms of gear, it's all pretty straightforward...the VERSACARRY Velco'ed ammo holder that Richard helped create worked extremely well. Easy to go from the belt to the gun. I used a set of lightweight Steiner binocs...not nearly as good as my Lucids, but about half the weight, and I got caught out on weight while I was packing. I carried my usual Leupold rangefinder and a Tim Wegener-designed folding hunting knife.

Richard and I went over the buffalo hunt very carefully with Geoffrey. Geoff's policy is that he doesn't shoot unless it has all gone to hell. "It's your hunt," he said. "You do the shooting, not me. I won't shoot unless it has gone very very badly." Which, of course, was our preference as well. Geoffrey backed me up with a Dakota 375 H&H bolt gun.

On the hunt itself, I am at a loss to understand how something the size of a friggin' Prius can just disappear into the thorn! We did 13 stalks over 2 days, about half of them in dense thorns, total of about 12-13 miles of hiking. We probably saw him on 5 or 6 of those stalks, but we either lost him in the bush, the wind was against us or he just refused to go where we thought he would go.

We ran him up on one stalk at about 5 yards, just the other side of a big thorn bush....a pucker-inducing event, BTW. He snorted, and his huge boss appeared above the thorn. Both Geoffrey and I got our guns up and probably could have gotten off a shot, but at 5 yards it would have been a moot point if the buffalo had decided to charge. Instead, he snorted again, turned and took off. Eventually, our heart rates got back to normal, and, to my credit, I didn't wet myself.

The final stalk was in the thorn, as, hell, it probably should have been. The buffalo had backed into the densest underbrush and was facing us dead on at about 60 yard. And yes, we'd been pushing him hard and he was pissed off snorting. I fired a total of 4 shots. First shot was head-on left side lungs, upper heart.

He went to his knees, and, as I h ad read in the books and had been warned by Geoffrey, in the case of a lungs/heart shot, the buffalo came out of the brush bucking and roaring. Second shot, within seconds, was the one Geoffrey and I were looking for, the point where the neck meets the spine. That shot literally knocked the buffalo off his feet. Geoff solidly held me back, as Mr. Stupid's immediate response was to close and finish it...a surefire recipe for getting a horn in the gut, as "dead" buffalos can and have killed people. The buffalo, as Geoffrey predicted, bellowed and, amazingly, came up a third time. Geoffrey instructed me to put the third shot directly through his shoulders, which I did, and he went down for the count. Fourth shot was an anchor, again through the heart, before we approached the downed bull.

I would not have had the hunt any other way. It was hard, scary and exhausting. My shots were all good. The Marlin performed perfectly, and in the video you'll see how quickly I was able to deliver the second shot with the lever action...that's what a decade of Cowboy Action Shooting will do for you! I partially short-stroked the gun between shots 2 and 3, but because I had PRACTICED dealing with a short-stroke, it was no big deal.

This was the hunt of my life. The buffalo was old, much scarred from his battles, smart and dangerous, a beast that never in his long life knew fear. In truth, I am at a loss to explain the melancholia that descended on me after the aging warrior fell. Far greater talents than me have tried to explain hunting in a way than can bridge the gap between those who hunt and those who don't, and they have failed. Suffice to say that I have chosen to be a part of this world. I am not a spectator; I acknowledge that I bring death, but I do so in the sure and certain knowledge that the Great Hunter will come for us all, in His own time. Meanwhile, on the high veldt, life goes on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Great "Othering"

"Basically, to use their terminology, they’re trying to “other” us.

You see, when you successfully “other” a group, you’re capable of doing any horrible thing. You essentially classify a group as something other than human, thus it becomes easy to commit atrocities against those people. It’s how the Nazis were able to do such terrible things to the Jews. They’d already “othered” them to such a great degree.

The idea is to do the same to us."

LET's all adopt another bit of terminology from the Left -- "woke." When the left uses the term "woke," what they mean is to suddenly become aware of the reality around reality. My favorite definition is from the Urban Dictionary:

"Getting woke is like being in the Matrix and taking the red pill. You get a sudden understanding of what's really going on and find out you were wrong about much of what you understood to be truth."

FINALLY, gun owners are "getting woke" to the reality around the reality. What do I mean by that? Here's a handy bullet-point list:

🔴 The Left desires complete civilian disarmament...there are and never were "common sense" gun laws or "gun safety" laws.
🔴 Left wants disarmament because they want borrow phraseology from the brilliant Leonard Cohen, "Give me absolute control, over every living soul...come lay beside me baby, that's an order."
🔴 The problem for the Left is that the 2A message of personal responsibility, which will always be at odds with authoritarian fascist (but I repeat myself), is deeply rooted in the Gun Culture.
🔴 Q.E.D., that offending culture must be destroyed, completely eradicated, as the spiritual fathers of the Left -- the Nazis -- tried with the Jews.
🔴 The Left is now coming to the realization, as their spiritual fathers did decades ago, that to eradicate a culture, you have to destroy its people.
🔴 When you see calls like "Death to the NRA," "All gun owners have blood on their hands," NRA members/gun owners should be "hauled into the streets and killed" -- all of which we have seen in the last few weeks -- what you are really seeing is bloody chum being tossed into the water in the hopes of summoning a Monster to do their bidding.
🔴 But "Chumming for Monsters" is only the first step. Somehow, there are never enough monsters to go around and sooner or later the Left will have to get its hands they have in every single Leftist takeover in history. We can see the nascent beginnings of this phase in the Antfa and BLM movements, as well as the active and violent suppression of free speech on college campuses.
🔴 The call for "gun control" has metastasized from a difference of opinion between two groups of citizens to an all out culture war.
🔴Our enemies don't want our acquiesce, they want us dead.

PEOPLE, STAY "WOKE!" There's a reason the pill is "Red."

Monday, March 05, 2018

My Father's Gun

Things lost; things gained; the past, as always, remains.

The thing is I don’t remember the first time I had a gun in my hands. It seems like something I should remember, some profound milestone to mark the passing from childhood to the mysterious realm of the adults. But...nothing. I do remember my father and his brother, Uncle Sonny, sitting on the porch of my grandparents’ ramshackle house in rural Mississippi, not far from the crossroads where bluesman Robert Johnson made his much-noted deal with the Devil, shooting .22 Shorts at a coffee can filled with sand. It was high summer, blazing hot, and both men were in white James Dean t-shirts and skin-tight Levi jeans with the legs rolled up. My father, who had killed men on some nameless island in the South Pacific, and my uncle, who ran moonshine in a big Pontiac sedan, were particular about their jeans.
The can was about 10 feet away — an amazing distance to a little kid! — at the base of the huge oak that dominated the dirt front yard. With each “pop!” of the little .22 revolver, a Ruger copy of an old cowboy single action, the can would jerk.
“You want to let him do it?” my uncle asked, nodding toward me. I was aching to get my hands on that gun, to feel the smooth grips and the little shock of recoil, to watch that can shiver as the tiny slugs hit it. I must have been five, maybe six, years old, and I’d cried when Brandon de Wilde yelled, “Shane! Come back! Come back, Shane!
“Not yet,” my father said. “He can shoot just fine, but he can’t hit what he’s shooting at every single time.”
“Hell,” said my uncle the moonshine runner, “neither can I!”
Both men laughed, in the way I thought real men laughed when there wasn’t a mom around to tsk-tsk about profanity, a fellowship born of the blistering heat and the unmistakable smells of Hoppes-9 solvent and smokeless gunpowder. My father let me hold the little Ruger, but he didn’t let me pull the trigger. Even so, I’ve always counted that day as my initiation into the culture of guns...

My father’s guns were not particularly valuable. In firearms as in the rest of his life, he had an almost uncanny ability to seize the dross while letting the gold slip through his fingers. And in a way perhaps emblematic of the post-war years of the 1950s, he cherished a belief that more inevitably translated into better.
Still, the core of his collection — the guns I think of as my father’s guns — said a lot about a man who grew up in the northeast Mississippi woods, went to war and came back to a Memphis boomtown. There was, of course, a Winchester 30-30 lever action rifle, a direct descendent of the Gun that Won the West, the Winchester 1873 rifle, and the later Winchester 1892, made famous in the mitt-like hands of John Wayne in so many movies. Load the flat-point 30-30 rounds in the tubular magazine, work the lever just like a million cowboys movies showed you how, pull the trigger, and the small Tennessee whitetails fell. The “thurty-thurty” — no one in my family and maybe even the whole South actually called them “Winchesters” —  was a workingman’s gun, a harvesting tool that hung on the walnut gunrack in the living room of our suburban Memphis house until the oaks and maples started showing their fall colors.
Equally prosaic was the “squirrel rifle,” a pump Winchester .22 popular in the shooting galleries at the Mid-South Fair every year. The Winchester was my grandfather’s gun, passed down in the hallowed Southern tradition from father to eldest son. “Hell, it’s really your gun, son, but you just don’t get it for a few more years,” my father told me year in and year out. But those years seemed infinitely long, so every fall when the state fair rolled around, I gathered up allowance money, whatever small change I could scrounge, and determined that I would win my own gallery gun, the grand prize at the fair’s shooting galleries. Five shots for a quarter, and if you grouped all your shots together and completely obliterated a small red star target, you won the gun.
I managed to win enough teddy bears, stuffed animal and doo-dads to fill Graceland to the brim, and in truth won that rifle a dozen times over except for the errant finger of the carney barker, who found the tiniest hint of red star each time. After years and probably hundreds of dollars in quarters, one of the carneys, all tattoos and a dangling cigarette, took pity on me.
“Son,” he said, “the teddy bears and all that crap are from the fair, but this here’s my rifle. You win it and it comes out of my pocket, then what am I gonna give my boy? But damn it all, you can shoot!”
Then there was the rifle my father made with his own hands, a Swedish Mauser bolt action that saw service in his war. He’d taken the old military rifle and following the instructions in a paperback book called “Converting Military Rifles,” its red cover creased and stained with lubes and solvents from the workbench, had turned the old military rifle into a “sporter” with a new walnut stock in the high comb Weatherby style, a turned-down bold handle and a new set of sights. He’d inlet a silver half-dollar coined in the year he was born into the stock, then rubbed the stock with coat after coat of oil until the finish was a deep and dark as a well.
He loved the rifles and his Remington semiauto shotgun, with its fat Cutts Compensator and adjustable choke and it’s shoulder-pounding 12-gauge recoil, but from the first my heart was captured by the handguns. Part of that reason for my choice of obsession was prosaic…the long guns were hunting tools, and my father never asked me to go hunting with him. I waited, begged, longed, for the invitation; smart, nerdy kid that I was, I’d read the great hunting books, the Hemingways and the Ruarks, listened with rapt attention to grandfathers and uncles and assorted members of the extended family, understood the natural progression of things in the South. I’d cleaned rabbits and quail and dove when the hunters came home; helped clean and oil the guns and waited, because my time was coming.
But it never came. My father…lost interest. The fights between him and my mother escalated, and he was gone on the road more and more. Many years later, I would get a call from a nice woman who told me she was my sister, a planned child, part of my father’s other family, all of half a block down the street. The sheer logistic considerations of it staggered me…two families separated by three houses.
My father had three handguns, the little Ruger .22 revolver, a second Ruger revolver, a .357 Magnum single action Blackhawk, referred to as a “Flat-top” because the top part of the gun’s frame was flat rather than humped to accommodate a larger sight, and a Remington Rand 1911 .45 semiauto, marked “U.S. Property.” The Remington Rand was a dark gun, a heavy thing of war and a remembrance my father never talked about. It was always loaded, seven fat 230-grain thumb-sized .45 in its black steel magazine. “Can’t hit a damn thing with it,” he said, or, occasionally, “Hit you in the finger and knock you flat on your ass!” Depended on the day.
The Flat-top was clearly his favorite, and when he’d first gotten the gun in the late 1950s, he’d taken me out to his workshop and taught me how to reload the .357 cartridges. The Magnum was essentially a longer version of the aging .38 Special, designed to drive a bullet faster and harder than any earlier handguns. But the cartridges were expensive, so my father reloaded his own.
He’d take the fired brass, which had expanded on firing, size it back down in a special die in a reloading press, replace the spent primer, add gunpowder, then top it off with a bullet that he’d made from soft lead wire pressed into a copper cup. The bullet was seated with another special die. I made my first .357 round when I was eight, and I thought it was just short of magic.
The less my parents paid attention to me, the more attention I paid to the Flat-top. My father’s reloads, and mine at first, were predicated on the idea that if the reloading manual said five grains of powder, six would no doubt be better. Seven better still. The Ruger bucked and roared with the heavy loads, fireballs flashing out the barrel as the gun ripped upward in recoil. “You like that gun,” my father said one day. “I’m good with it,” I replied. He laughed.
I carried the Flat-top in the woods whenever I could, in a cheap leather holster from the hardware store. Hardware stores still sold holsters, and guns, and ammo in those days. My grandfather, a serious bass fisherman along the Tennessee River, had launched himself into the breech left by my father and was convinced that I would follow in his angling footsteps. I dutifully learned the ins and outs of bass fishing, which lure in the morning and which in the evening, reading rivers and lakes, the art of precision casting…I hated it
One day we were walking home, my grandfather and I, along the river after a day of many casts and no fish. It was Tennessee hot, the air as still and thick as a musty quilt, and my grandfather was talking about the Tao of Bass. We passed a shallow pool, and a lunker, call it four pounds or so, was laying up in the shallows, too sluggish to go deeper. As my grandfather started to say we’d have another chance at the old bass tomorrow, I pulled the Ruger, rolled the big hammer back and launched a 125-grain rocket into the pool. Then I plucked the very dead fish out of the water. My grandfather just shook his head.
“My son, I fear you are never going to a fisherman,” he said. “You and them damn pistols…” He let the thought dangle there, another ignored lure.

It’s a memory I cherish, because that was my last normal summer. The next year my beloved younger brother would complain of a nagging headache and 12 agonizing months later the brain tumor would kill him. What I know of grace, I learned from him in those endless hellish months. On the last day, I went into his bedroom, a room we’d shared before he took ill, touched his hand and told him I loved him. He smiled at me. Then I went to my high school and sat numbly in class, staring at the black chalkboard and waiting for the call I somehow knew would be coming that day.
My family…exploded. I suppose my father’s other family exploded as well, but I wasn’t in a position to know. My mother, always balanced on a knife edge of savage depression and manic intensity — bi-polar, we’d call it now, and know how to treat it —  slipped off the edge into full blown crazy, rants and hysteria that even now I choose not to put to paper, all carefully hidden from the neighbors. Your mom’s cool, my school friends would say. My mom’s nuts, I would think in reply, but never say.
The guns were my refuge in those last years of high school, an endlessly fascinating study that took me away from the maelstrom my home life had become. I read the classics — Ed McGivern, Elmer Keith, Charles Askins, Skeeter Skelton — and poured over every word from Col. Jeff Cooper in the monthly Guns & Ammo magazines. In between Calculus and Advanced Placement English, I studied the art and science of pistolcraft — shooting and reloading, one hand versus two hands, the push-pull grip of the newly coined Weaver stance and Jeff Cooper’s radical Modern Technique of the pistol. Years later I would sit with an aged Col. Cooper in the basement gun vault at his home at the legendary GUNSITE Academy in Arizona, as close to a holy place as the mysterious alchemy of shooting would allow, and handle the blued steel icons of those times. “Hell, Michael,” the Colonel would say, “you were there for most of it.”
“But not the beginning,” I answered, remembering. “Not the beginning.”
My father simply disappeared into a world I could neither imagine or enter, a world of guilt and depression, alternating with epic battles with my mother. He worked for a pharmaceutical company, and the gravity of the “professional samples” and “courtesy prescriptions” held he and my mother in drug-induced thrall. I did what young men had done since time immemorial…I left. For college, for a career as a newspaper writer — “Your father and I so hoped you would amount to something,” my mother said when my first national bylines were appearing. “I guess we were wrong” — then magazines and on to books and eventually to television.
And I continued to shoot. I moved from plinking to formal competition; first “bullseye,” what people think of when someone says “target shooting,” trying to shoot small groups at concentric circles. But I was quickly drawn into the new sport created by Col. Cooper — “combat shooting,” an intricate dance of high-powered handguns, multiple shooting positions, targets at all ranges and athletic challenge. We shot modern copies of my father’s World War 2 1911 .45 pistol from swinging bridges, around complicated barricades, at targets as close as the muzzle of the gun and as far away as half a football field. We learned to reload on the run, to clear jams without ever breaking stride, to shoot from standing, kneeling, prone or any combination thereof, to analyze complex stages of fire and decide on a strategy in seconds. We fired more rounds in an average month than most people shooters in a lifetime.
I took as my mentors the last of the great pistol fighters, men who in law enforcement or the military had made their livings with guns, had faced other men with guns. I shot alongside legends, met my heroes, spent time with weapons designers and in factories, studied the history of firearms and the men who created them. I taught pistolcraft and self-defense, studied various and sundry martial arts from the Filipino knife dances to full-contact fighting — cold, damp mornings are a particular treat these days — participated in sports where the consequences of failure was death, then took those mindsets back to the range.
I remained cordial with my family, but distant. I suppose I could tell you about anger and recrimination and tears, ignored pleas for treatment and therapy, visits that ended abruptly, needles scattered around the house, all the bits and pieces of exploded lives; about the heart attack that took my mother as we were talking on the phone and my father’s third family and his all too brief journey back from, and the short slide back to, the lost world of the drugs and the depression, but I don’t suppose it matters all that much anymore.
Instead I’ll tell you one last story — indeed, the last story — about my father’s guns, and maybe about me. The inevitable call came when I was at a firearms trade show, signing autographs and studying the next year’s advances in weaponcraft…you may not know it, but guns are like cars, and there are new models every year, many of them still based on John Browning’s apparently ageless 1911 pattern.
My father had slipped into his final coma, and his new family said I need to come immediately. I fly to his bedside in a Memphis hospital, a nagging headache I can’t shake making the flight a endless misery. I go straight to the hospital, where I take his hand, shrunken and palsied from the hand I remembered on the little Ruger so many years ago. It’s okay, I tell him, I’m here, and you can go now. He dies that way, holding my hand. I do the things one does in times like that; shake hands with obscure relatives; stare at the body as if there is something to be learned, some truth I’ve overlooked…then I go to my father’s last home in rural Tennessee. By the way, my father’s wife casually mentions on the drive through the green, green fields of Tennessee in the summer, your father didn’t want you to have any of the guns. He gave them, she says, all to my grandson. 
“Whatever,” I say, my head now an agony.
At the house, I mention to my father’s wife that I should clear all the guns, since my father invariably left everything loaded. “Oh no,” she says. “He told me everything was always kept unloaded. That was his absolute rule.” Without answering I walk to the old gun cabinet from our original house, pick a rifle at random — a Marlin lever action rifle — work the lever and pop a fat 45/70 cartridge onto the floor. “Oh my dear lord!” my father’s wife says. So I sit on the floor and methodically unload my father’s guns for the last time. Strangely, the important guns, the guns of my abbreviated youth, are all gone…the little Ruger, the Flat-top, the Winchester rifles, gone and replaced with dozens of “best buys,” “gunsmith specials” and flashy gold-plated “collectors’ items.” As I work, my father’s wife keeps pulling more guns from places they’d been secreted, in case, I suppose, I had decided to stage a raid on the place. Finally, at the very bottom of the gun cabinet, wrapped in dirty oilcloth, is my father’s 1911. I drop the magazine and there are the seven fat .45 ACP rounds with headstamps from the 1940s, as dark and dangerous as I remembered.
“I’m going to take this one,” I say, slapping the magazine back in and racking the slide to put a round in the chamber, my fingers unconsciously flicking on the thumb safety. There was a long pause from my father’s wife, perhaps I think caustically, as she calculates the dollar value of the old and obviously neglected warhorse. 
“I guess that would be okay,” she says. “But nothing else.”
Back at my hotel that night, the .45 cocked and locked on the bedside table, I sit at the foot of the bed and hold my head in my hand. My right eye has swollen shut and the pain is literally nauseating. I think for a moment I am going to pass out from it. I finally decide to go to the nearby hospital emergency room, where I sit for four hours, waiting. When they finally examine me, a real doctor comes in and sits down across from my bedside. He looks worried.
“Do you,” he asks solicitously, “have a history of brain tumors in your family?”
No, I lie.
“The reason I ask is that your symptoms are consistent with a late-stage brain tumor, and we need to do an MRI immediately to see how far the tumor has advanced.”
I nod. After all, I’d heard it all before.
So they wheel me in and look inside my head. I sit in a small, cold examination room watching minutes pass, waiting for my death sentence. When I can bear it no longer, I call my girlfriend, my life’s partner, and tell her I am in trouble. “Why didn’t you call sooner?” she asks, in tears, and I can’t answer. “Just hang on,” she says, “I’m coming.”
At 2 AM a new doctor comes in. “You have a clean bill of health,” he says. “No tumor; you can go home now.” No harm; no foul. And he walks out. I stop him in the hall. “What about my head? The pain?” I say. “You’ll have to come back tomorrow,” he replies, handing me a prescription for painkillers. “The pharmacy’s closed, but there’s a 24-hour drugstore just down the street.” 
A 24-hour drugstore in an urban war zone, I think, taking the prescription. It just keeps getting better. I take the script, go back to my hotel, pick up the cocked-and-locked pistol and stick it in the back of my waistband, Mexican carry, it’s called. Then I throw on a jacket to cover the gun and go to the drugstore. It is still steamy hot, and I am the only car in the lot when I go in. Just as I step out of the drugstore with the drugs in a small white bag and turn the corner to my car, a sleek oil-slick black shark separates itself from flow of traffic and cruises into the lot, blocking my retreat back into the drugstore. The windows of the shark roll down, and the ‘banger on the passenger’s side grins. He has one gold tooth right in the front of his mouth and Snoop Dog corn-rows.
“Whatcha got in the sack, little white boy?” he asks. 
There are four of them, laughing, taunting. I feel the wall of the building behind my back, and the big pistol in my belt weighs a ton. Time begins to slow down, the highlights of the oil-slick black shark as sharp and unforgiving as hard, cold diamonds. The pain in my head is gone, and I can feel my breath, calm and measured. Not Snoop, I think absently in that time between seconds, the empty place between the stars. Snoop’s arm is hanging out the open window, and that’ll slow him down…Rear seat; driver side, because he’s leaning forward and I can’t see his hands…move left on the draw, toward the cover of my car…then Snoop and rear seat; passenger side…last rounds at the driver, because he’ll have to shoot around Snoop and he’ll be the slowest…
I am smiling; maybe I laugh, just a little. My right hand is in a firing grip on the 1911, but I still haven’t drawn. There is all the time in the world and here is where I will stand, all of us fixed in place, a simple urban tableau. Let’s do this, I say, or something like that. Let’s do this and go home. Snoop stares and finally breaks the spell. “You one crazy white boy,” he says, slapping the side of the black shark and laughing. “You have yourself a nice night, you hear?” And the shark pulls back into the flow of traffic.
I step to the car, breathing deeply as if I’ve been running hard; get in and lock the door; pull the 1911 from my belt. I start to put it on the seat next to me, and I am seized with a vision of a jungle, hot and muggy and smelling of decay…a terribly afraid young man, fresh from the country, trapped between his duty and his fear with the big .45 in his hand. He is shaking, and men are trying to kill him. He raises the 1911 and pulls the trigger, the gun bucking in his hand. A small yellow man clutches his stomach and bends over in pain. The young American pulls the trigger again and again, and tears roll down his face.
I take my hand off the .45, gingerly, as if it vibrates with a life of its own, as the flee-or-fight chemicals flood out of my body, and I finally find the tears for a man I never really knew.

POSTSCRIPT: The headache proves to be an attack of shingles, a legacy from childhood chickenpox, that takes much of the vision of my right eye, robbing me of the visual acuity that is the difference between a shooter and a marksman. And so I begin again, teaching my left eye to pick up the front sight, forcing my stance to adapt to the changes. Sometimes I think about the closing quote from Edmund O’Brien, Sykes, in the great western “The Wild Bunch”…Well, me and the boys here, we got some work to do. You wanna come along? It ain't like it used to be, but, uh, it'll do. 
True enough.

— 30 —


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Driving a Stake in the Heart of 2017!

The complete rig, two Taylors 1872 Open Tops on 1860 Army gripframes, in .44 Russian, completely overhauled by Jeff Ault at Munden's Six-Gun Magic and Will Ghormley's"Flames of Hell" holsters from 3:10 TO YUMA. To say the actions are now "good" is a vast understatement…they are some of the best single action triggers I have ever felt, period. In fact, the trigger is as good as the action/trigger on Wild Bill's 1860 Richard Mason Conversion 1860 Army .44 that I handled at the Adams Museum in Deadwood a few years back.

I thought this was a good image to end the year on. 2017 was not a vintage year. It was a year of business successes and some notable personal losses. That is, I suppose, life.

If you've listened to DOWN RANGE Radio over the years, you know that I'm loathe to do New Year's Resolutions, and I don't think I'll be changing that for 2018. I'm usually spectacularly depressed on December 31, then irrationally exuberant on January 1. A whole new slate! A blank chalkboard! I new piece of paper I haven't doodled all over! A fresh roll of toilet paper…or something like that.

I have big plans for 2018, including the significant expansion of SGO, SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE (Marshal and I have some surprises in store for you!); the launch of John Carter, Max Prasac and my handgun hunting series; the best season of THE BEST DEFENSE ever…Producer Jeff Murray and I have been cooking up some spectacular "big box" ideas.

Of course, SHOOTING GALLERY will begin filming for Season 19 – imagine that! John Carter and I are already doing some preliminary planning. Competition-wise we're looking at going heavy on the Aguila Cup clays/3-Gun and RIMFIRE CHALLENGE match in Texas, with Jeff Cramblit as one of our crash test dummies. We're also reaching out to the organizers of the big Second Chance bowling pin match in June, headed up by no less than Richard Davis…we've never covered a bowling pin match on SG, even though you can argue that pin shooting was in many ways the true precursor of the practical shooting sports. Watch for our 10mm special and a couple of foreign trips…hopefully, I can take you inside the spectacular Wallace Collection in London, which I visited 2 weeks ago.

I'm going to be continuing along the big bore handgun path on SG. We're also looking at some of the challenges of long-range handgun shooting. Lots of other cool stuff.

Personally, I'm shifting directions a little and getting back to cowboy action shooting. 3-Gun has really died off in Colorado…there doesn't seem to be nearly as many matches as there were a couple of years ago. I know some of the local match directors, and the complexity of 3-Gun matches has just burned them up.

After a couple of years of focusing on my rifle shooting, I'm looking at more of a focus on revolvers, boomers for hunting and DAs for competition. A lot of my personal projects you'll see on SGO.

Richard Mann and I, the Abbott and Costello of the hunting community, will be heading back to Africa in June for Cape Buffalo with 45/70 Marlin Guide Guns, guided by our great friend Geoffrey Wayland at Ft. Richmond Safaris. There's a couple of slots left on that trip if you'd like to join us. Trust me, it will be the experience of a lifetime. I'm scheduled to spend a week at GUNSITE in the spring working with my GP-100. I suspect I'll go back in May and tune up on the African hunting simulation course. As I think I may have mentioned, the guys at Wild West Guns in Vegas are building me a "training rifle," a Marlin 44 Magnum set up like the 45/70 Guide Gun, which uses Wild West parts. I've always got lots of .44 Magnum/Special around the Secret Hidden Bunker and I'm always set up to reload it. Give me a chance to try out some optics options for the Africa trip…again, as I think I mentioned, I'm leaning toward either a tube Aimpoint or the new low magnification Nightforce 1-8X illuminated. With my ass on the line, my inclination is to go with something I trust implicitly.

I have several custom guns in the pipeline in addition to the Wild West Marlin. Hamilton Bowen has a 10mm Ruger Blackhawk withe the spare 40 S& W cylinder. The main cylinder is being rebored to 10mm Magnum, a pretty interesting cartridge, with the other cylinder being cut for 38-40, one of my long-time favorite cartridges. J.D. Jones at SSK Industries is putting a T'SOB scope base on my Ruger Bisley .454…I just didn't like the other options for scope mounts, especially against a heavy recoiling .454. I've used the T'SOB base, and it is bullet-proof. I suspect my old .500 Magnum S&W will end up going to him as well.I have an FN .308 with Short Action Customs being turned into a 6mm Creedmoor.

Despite the repeated encouragements from my pal John Snow at OUTDOOR LIFE, I do not have a 22 Nosler in the works! OTOH, I've reached out to JP at JP Rifles about a .224 Valkyrie, as I have a 6.8 SPC that has been sort of sidetracked. We got it years ago for a specific show, and because the show got delayed we ended up buying the thing. 

I just picked up the full-house Wilson Combat Glock 19, which you'll be seeing pretty soon on SGO. It is a VERY NICE GUN!

Of course you'll see a lot about RIMFIRE CHALLENGE for all the obvious reasons.