Monday, December 7, 2009

Hsoi brings us more on the debate of Pump vs. Semi-Auto for defensive shotgun. Take a look as he makes some fine points that I did not cover in my previous post.


Shotguns, the Defensive (Offensive...?) Kind....

At the BBOD we deal almost entirely in sporting grade shotguns, but we also sell a few personal defense guns, so let's talk about them for a minute...

The personal defense shotgun is probably the most often thought of, but least understood firearm for defensive and offensive use. We can start by defining the personal defense shotgun, what is the PD scattergun? The one you have on hand or the one you buy to use to protect yourself. Barrel length is not the criteria, let me repeat that, barrel length is not the criteria, you need to be concerned with. What you need in a respected defensive gun is reliability and the ability to hit what you are aiming at.

With that said, let's talk about preferred options of the defensive shotgun:

-Short(er) Barrel, generally 22" in length or less, typically an 18.5" or 20" barrel is found. Personal defense guns come in all shapes and sizes, but the guns that are designed and marketed as such are found usually with a 20" or shorter barrel length. The shorter barrel allows you to wield the gun more effectively inside your home, especially if you live in a smaller or more confined space. I recommend the longest barrel you feel you can effectively swing and get through doors for house clearing (I do NOT advocate house clearing, but if it has to be done, do it with your long gun!). The longer the barrel, the longer the sight radius, the easier it is to aim and hit with. Also, many of the defensive guns on the market are fixed cylinder choke barrels, if you can purchase a gun with screw in chokes. Screw in chokes will increase the versatility of your shotgun exponentially. Fixed Cylinder works okay with some buckshot loads and some slugs, but you need to experiment with loads and patterning to find the most accurate. Being able to adjust the choke, might allow an even tighter pattern or more general accuracy from your chosen ammo.

-Safety you can use; this one just makes sense, right? Yet, so many buyers out there buy shotguns and figure they will leave them in "Cruiser Ready" mode, or fully loaded with a round not chambered and the safety set. Guess what? If you can't work the safety, you're going to be in a world of chambered with a loaded shotgun that still doesn't work. When milliseconds count and you are fighting for your life, don't try and remember where the safety is and how it works, know it. I'm an advocate of the top tang Mossberg-style safety, because it works universally right and left hand and is easy to use and see, with a traditional stock. That said, there is nothing wrong with the position of the Remington safety for a right hander and many companies make left handed safeties for the Remington series of guns.

-Controls you can reach without having to adjust your grip drastically (I.E. can you reach the slide lock without having to take your main shooting hand off the gun?) This goes back to the safety argument above, if you are running a pump, can you hit the slide lock with your off hand, what about one handed? Again the Mossberg camp wins this with their behind the trigger guard on the left setup, versus the Remington in front of the trigger guard setup. How about the semi-auto guys, can you hit your bolt release or bolt lock back button without sacrificing control of the gun? It's critical, weapon control is as critical as hitting your target. Maintain it and pick a gun that has controls where you like them and where you feel like they should be.

-Semi-Auto vs. Pump vs. Non-Reciprocating Action Guns: This debate will rage until the end of time. Lets get down and dirty and quick. The Mossberg 500 and 590 guns, the Remington 870, the Benelli Nova and SuperNova, are all exceptionally reliable and functional pump shotguns. With a pump you do run the risk of short stroking the gun. If you are concerned about this, my suggestion is to buy a Remington. The Mossberg and Benelli guns are smooth, but not the same level as the 870 series of guns. The smoother gun will be easier to run and generally result in fewer operator errors, but the only way to be truly good is to practice. Semi-auto, gas guns will have a reduced felt recoil to pump guns and inertia driven guns, gas guns typically are more picky about loads, a pump will generally feed and shoot anything that fits in the chamber. Inertia Driven semi-auto guns, the Benellis, Berettas, and Stoeger guns are all super cool guns, but just not what I think it takes for personal defense. The Inertia Driven system is a super recoiling system and limits the ability to make fast follow up shots with defensive type shot loads. Non-reciprocating action guns, single shots are cheaper, but not necessarily any better than a quality pump gun, if it's what you have, learn it and love it, if you are in the market to buy, go pump if you can.

-12 or 20 gauge; another great debate. 12-gauge 00 buckshot has the record, 000 might be even better. 20-gauge has #3 buck in 2 3/4" shells and #2 in 3" shells, in my opinion, opt for 2 3/4" shells, the recoil vs. increased amount of shot or shot size, is not worth the trade off. It doesn't matter which you choose if you pick a good quality buckshot load AND you learn to aim.

-Ghost Ring Sights vs. Bead vs. Fiber Optic, now the truly important bit on this subject, sights. Gun sights are there for a reason, racking the shotgun and pointing in the general direction will not guarantee hits with the shots. You need to aim and the best way to do it, is to use the sights. Ghost Ring or Rifle type sights are all the rage these days with many of the "tactical" shooters and while I generally agree that Ghost Rings are faster and easier to focus on, I don't necessarily agree that they are the only choice in shotgun sights. A bead sight and vented barrel rib works well for tracking small, quickly flying game like dove, it can work equally well on a shorter barrel, for tracking a much larger, but still quick, human target. In this case, the Ghost Ring sights are advantageous in they help the shooter focus on the front sight and aim, but they are not the end all be all. If you have them on your gun, love them, learn them, shoot them, if you don't, spend your money on buckshot and range time.

Now, fiber optic sights, many new guns have them, especially sporting guns, bright red and green inserts certainly allow you to spot the right sight and keep a good eye on things. I personally, really like the Tru-Glo setups that are meant to attach over your standard bead sight and allow you to see a fiber optic tube. I prefer this setup to a fiber optic only setup, because the fiber rods do occasionally fall out. If that were to happen to you, you'd at least still have a front bead to focus on and shoot from.

-Other Accessories like butt cuffs, side saddles, and flashlights; Spare ammunition is good, having it on the gun is good, because we will probably fight with the ammo in and on the gun, but there is too much of a good thing. Choose one system and use it, use it, use it, until it is second nature to reload your shotgun from the butt cuff or side saddle. Personally, I opt for butt cuff, because I'm on a low budget and side saddles don't ever seem to come cheap. The stretchy spandex like butt cuff that holds five shot shells will fill all your needs. You do need to do one thing, secure it to the stock. I did this, by using marine grade velcro, the hook side on the cuff and the loop side on the stock, held on by marine grade waterproof adhesive. The cuff does not move around on my gun and allows me a platform to use.

On flashlights, just do it. You don't have to go for a Surefire flashlight fore end, but there are many setups out there on the market. Find one that works for you, use it, learn it, love it. Personally, my setup is pretty redneck, opting for a positive 'clicky' tail-capped LED Mini-Mag Light, that is secured to the fore-end via duct tape and more marine grade velcro. It's very ugly, but extremely functional, it does not effect the ability to use the fore-end nor does it move around while the gun is in use. Again, pick a system and practice with it, until it is second nature.

~Whew~ Let me take a breath, are you confused yet? Well, lets get back to basics. For personal defense, the shotgun that is for you, is the one with controls that you are familiar with and feel comfortable with. Your next big issue is picking a gauge that works for you, if you are recoil sensitive, don't buy the hype that 20 feels less than 12, because many 20-gauge guns are also lighter in overall weight. The lighter the gun, the more felt recoil, period, in this case, if the guns weigh the same, yes 20 will have a little lighter recoil, but 12-gauge will still be managable. Next, you need sights you can use and perhaps you should consider spare ammo and a flashlight on your gun. The later two items can help in a fight but aren't necessary, the sights are. Pick a sighting system that allows you to aim and hit. Finally, whatever you pick, practice, practice, practice, and train, train, train. The shotgun might be an extremely powerful and versatile tool for personal defense, but you need the ability to wield that power.

Defensive shotguns are extremely useful and should be part of everyone's toolkit. Selecting a gun is not hard, pick the gun that fills your needs with the least amount of compromise and practice with it. For those wondering about my top picks for defensive shotguns the list is as follows: Remington 870, particularly the Express Series "Defense" Models in 12-gauge, the Mossberg 500 and 590 in 12-gauge, the Remington Express 870 20-gauge "Youth" gun, the Mossberg 500 20-gauge "Youth" gun, and then the Benelli series of guns. The Benellis come last, because parts for the Mossberg and Remington series of guns are literally a dime a dozen of anything you need.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

Several years ago (about 5 of them to be exact), I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a WWII Marine Corp Veteran about his service time and his time on the island of Iwo Jima and then following that his time during the occupation of Japan, Nagasaki to be exact.

This Marine, was part of the second wave on Iwo Jima and lost multiple friends and comrades on that rock in the South Pacific. He stood on the beach and watched the flag being raised at Mt. Siribachi, he explained to me, that he could not explain, the feeling that he felt that day. He told me the story of his life, a boy who grew up during the depression, a teenager who came of age during the war. A boy of 15 in 1941 who waited to do his part for Uncle Sam until he could enlist in 1944, just weeks shy of graduating from high school.

He went as part of the occupation force to Nagasaki in 1946 and 1947 and drove for the occupying general. For his efforts, the fallout from the nuclear blast caused him to be sterile. This fact was something that he would discover later in life when he and his first wife would attempt to have kids. Later even though they adopted, it would still cause a rift in his marriage and she left. This Marine went on, married another, beautiful, caring, and loving woman, who he is married to, this very moment, some 40 years later.

He doesn't live in a fancy house, or drive a fancy car, he doesn't ask anything of anyone that he wouldn't do for himself. He is retired now and makes his days pass by collecting antique pistols and growing vegetables in his garden, but he is MY hero. He is the hero of an ENTIRE generation, he and millions like him. Those who fought, those who died, those who were injured in ways we can't understand. MILLIONS of soldiers who have lived, fought, and died, for you and I. He is my hero, he is my Marine, and he is your hero too.

To him today, I dedicate this post, for the life of service to this country and a willingness to leave the glory of life, for death, to protect it.

Thank you Marine, Semper Fi.

Thank you Vets, your service is more invaluable than you will ever know.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Meditations on Rule 1

Tam made a post earlier on the useful(less)ness of loaded chamber indicators. She pointed out that the LCI is one of the most useless features of a firearm, right up there with a magazine safety (I agree with this, which is why the one in my carry gun is going away). This gave me pause and a wonder.

This weekend at KR Training, Karl Rehn, the proprietor, pointed out that the LCI on the Springfield XD was a nice feature, because you can check to see if the gun is loaded while in the holster or drawer at night. This gave me a great pause, not enough to interrupt him, but it did cause me to pause. Now, don't get me wrong, I think Karl has a point, to an extent, a tactile feel for a round in the chamber is a nice indicator and I believe he meant it in the following way. He meant that you can check for the little tab, if it's up, you can reasonable assume that you do not need to chamber a round to make the gun function. However, he did then point out that a press check is a prudent thing to do, to confirm that status.

For me, the part that had me staring into space and thinking, was the thought that my gun might be unloaded. Anyone who has read this blog more than once (or just once), would realize that by now, there is only really ONE rule for gun safety that must be followed at all times. If THE rule is followed, then we can remember to not break the other rules and act accordingly. We all know what the rule is, THE *%@#%!$^% GUN IS ALWAYS @$^%@*^%*^ LOADED. So for me, Karl pointing out that an LCI can be used to verify a round in the chamber seems ludicrous, OF COURSE there is a round in the chamber, I put it there and have been in control of the gun ever since. And that's why I agree that an LCI is a useless feature on the gun, it's always loaded, we don't need no stinkin' indicators to tell us that.

Now, I must admit, I do press check the semi-autos and open the revolver cylinders twice a day on the guns I carry. Why? This is to confirm that while the gun was in the safe, the little ammunition fairies didn't come and remove the Gold Dots from my chambers. Then, I verify again, when I get home, to make sure that the elves making pocket lint didn't remove my Gold Dots, either. So far, I've never found an unloaded gun, I'd like to keep it that way.

It may seem counter intuitive, but if we all remember, all the time, just mantra it to yourself in your sleep. All loaded, all the time. All loaded, all the time. Mix that together with other good mantras. All loaded, all the time, front sight, squeeze, front sight, all the time. This way you've got it down...


Sunday, October 25, 2009

I am exhausted. I've been pretty tired for more than a week now, since last week I had to go out of the country to present my research at a conference. Then school has kept me pretty busy all week, but I looked forward to today. Why? Because today was KR Training day, Defensive Pistol Skills 2, and Low Light Shooting Skills. Today though, I am a good exhausted. When you are tired and stressed is a great time to actually use your shooting skills and build them up. I'll be honest, I almost never get to shoot, I went last months with a friend for an hour and it was mainly to let him shoot my guns to help him decide on a CHL weapon, it wasn't for me to practice. Prior to that, the last time I had extended range session time was months ago. It's a good time to practice, because when we're tired, stressed, and not doing our best, we'll not only work harder, but our mistakes will be more apparent. So, enough with that stuff, let's get to the meat and potatoes.

My gear: I took to the class my regular carry gun a Smith & Wesson 3913LS. The gun has normal 3-dot Novak sights, it is traditional double action, which some seem to poo-poo, but I've been running TDA guns for so long (more than a decade now), and double action revolvers for the last 5 years, that it just doesn't bother me. I work on getting the first shot as a good hit, is it easier with a single action or striker gun? You bet, and I recommend them for almost everyone, but me, I like what I've practiced a lot with. I took only 3 magazines, this is mainly because the extra 2 I ordered haven't shown up yet. My belt my every day wear Wilderness 5-Stitch with polymer insert (known as Combat Shooter's Model or C.S.M), and my holster/mag pouch made by Lobo Gun Leather ( Everything worked great and no complaints for gear, just a wish for more magazines.

DPS2: Since I did Defensive Handgun at Thunder Ranch last year, most of what Karl covered was review for me, but it didn't hurt to get back to basics. Also, I'm using a new gun and working with it has resulted in not the same level of accuracy that I was used to with my other guns. Also, this was the first time I had worked through one of these classes with a semi-auto, so the reload and malfunction techniques, while I was familiar with them and I regularly run tap-rack drills in my dry practice, it was still nice to incorporate them into range time. It's essentially 5 hours of drills which is great, because trigger time is absolutely critical, I certainly had dusted the cobwebs off and found myself moving faster and shooting cleaner by the end of the day. The class incorporated many elements from reloads, one handed shooting, malfunction drills, to use and shooting from cover, which was an excellent portion of class. Overall, I'm very glad I took the class and I was pleased with the results, I didn't experience many missed during the day and found that with a little work, I could make the S&W run perfectly.

LLS: Low Light Skills seems like an entirely different beast. Ultimately, I found the class extremely informative and thought provoking. First thoughts, gear, I brought a Steamlight TL-2 LED to the class and used the "Tiger Ring" or Thunder Ranch O-ring retention system on it, instead of a tradition lanyard. First, this ran absolutely top notch and I had no problems with the light. It ~might~ be too bright as Hsoi pointed out while shooting, unfortunately to "stay with the times" Steamlight has turned up the juice. I actually don't care much for the super bright light, but it's not because it is reflective or causes major splash back (it's bright but not overly intrusive to the shooting, for me at least), no the issue is, it's really too bright for every day use. Checking my range bag or magazines for fullness, resulted in almost blinding myself over and over again. Yes, there is such thing as too bright, but I've been a firm believer for that for awhile now.

The next major thought is on technique. Here is my thought, whatever works and allows you to index the FRONT SIGHT, properly. This really became clear to me, when Hsoi and I ran through a scenario, I shot at a plate 5 times and missed every shot. FINALLY, I got the light repositioned and "saw the sight" (pardon the pun), and nailed the plate. A VERY frustrating experience, since I HATE missing (we miss in practice so we don't miss in life, right? Right.). The problem was my grip on the light was causing it to shadow the sight, so I was ultimately not seeing the sight, just what I ~thought~ was the sight. This happened a couple of times and has caused me to pause, wonder, and think about what to do and what to practice from now on. It also got me thinking, I know that some do not like tritium night sights. I've never been the world's biggest fan of them either, but I think that this gun will get, ONE, on the front sight, and that it will be the brightest, loudest, color that Novak's can install. I think this coupled with a widened rear sight notch, will provide the indexing I need, that way, if the light is less than perfect, I will still have a bright point to shoot from.

The final thoughts on low light shooting, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. I can't believe how crappy I shot at night, it's just dark, hell it's not ~THAT~ much harder right? Wrong. Trigger control went bad, sight alignment went bad. Combine this with attempts to understand and work a flashlight, it became clear to me, quick, that I not only need to shoot more in low light, but I need work a lot more low light stuff into my dry practice as well.

Now, a thought on "inside the house scenario". It was a training scenario that I won't describe in too much detail. The first thing I will say is this; if you think someone is in your house or your business, the best thing to do is stand outside and call the cops. Don't go in, it will only cause problems. Now, with that said, I called the cops and walked away from the house, but then I took a house tour, just to see what was going on. Once inside, I encountered a potential threat, when the threat refused to follow commands, but I realized he wasn't a bodily threat, I simply backed out of the house and got out of there. Two things, I stood too long trying to get compliance, I wasn't getting, and the other I did not make a hasty retreat, I should've and I used the light while retreating far too much. I did feel pretty good though, because I didn't close distance with the threat AND I called for compliance which wasn't happening, then I decided okay, time to go. I also feel good about it, because despite a very distracting threat, I continued to scan and look for other potential threats.

All in all, I found both classes extremely useful and thought provoking, low light more so than DPS2, but DPS2 was extremely helpful class in terms of knocking the rust off and getting the bullets back on target. Low light was thought provoking and stimulating and it was a lot of fun. I will probably take it again, simply for the excuse to practice it more and work with more tactics.


PS: Will H/T Hsoi and KR Training

Friday, September 25, 2009

Footwork, footwork, footwork...

This semester, I decided to take Beginner's Fencing: Introduction to the Foil, as part of my never ending attempt to complete my desired renaissance man persona. That just meaning that over the years I've made a conscious effort to learn a valuable skill every 3 to 6 months. Some skills, I continually work with, others get filed away and come out when needed, yes they are a bit rusty, but there are only so many hours in a day.

So, I thought maybe it was time to try my hand at something a bit more physical. I won't lie, most of my skills are academic, some or hands on, but none, besides shooting, and a bit of martial arts, are physical or fighting. Fencing is exactly those things, fighting, physical, and academic. Footwork, many think fencing is a focus of bladework, but it's not, it's a focus on footwork and good footwork at that. It is a three to one ratio of footwork to bladework for success. The very first thing you learn is your on-guard position, which after 45 minutes of standing in has your begging for mercy. Then there is advance and retreat, and these two are the things I really want to focus on. The extension of the weapon arm makes an attack, but without being able to advance or retreat on a target, we are nothing.

Advance is made by picking up your forward, dominant, leg, kicking it out and down, then stepping forward with the back foot. If this sounds dramatic, it isn't, you should be able to do a proper fencing advance without making a sound. Also, the step you take is SHORT, and this is the key, you can take lots of small steps without losing your balance easier than you can take big steps back. You follow a similar method with retreat, where the back, non-dominant, foot leads and the front foot follows. Again, completely silent and with some practice taking steps the length of your own foot, you'll discover you back up 40 feet of fencing platform in less than 3 seconds.

The retreat is very useful, I feel, in a shooting situation that might require you to back away from the target and it is, I feel the number one reason to use Weaver over, Isosceles, stance, because your feet are splayed and your body slightly bladed, in Weaver, your ability to use short, backwards steps while facing forward is greater. As a test, I retreated from contact distance with a training partner, in my house, down my hallway which is a measured 21 feet, exactly. We engaged and I retreated, using fast, short, fencing style retreats, while he continued to come forward. Before you ask, yes, he did manage to stay virtually on top of me during that time, but, he was unable to knock me backwards, or, land what I felt was a fatal blow, in that time.

Two reasons for this, first, it turned out that I moved faster than I thought I would, backing down 21 feet in less than a second, but also, it turns out once he was at arms length, I could keep him there. His advances were fast powerful, but unbalanced motions, that were easily redirected. After several goes, his attacks were predictable and we knew the test was over, when after taking four retreats, I made an attempt to disengage that had my training buddy on his ass (basically he kept coming and I bounced him off a wall and knocked him down, by redirecting his motions, don't try this at home folks!).

So, that's one of my cases for the purpose of footwork, footwork applies to shooting, especially, competitive shooting, as much as it does in other sports. The short step retreat found in fencing could and probably should, find its way into your repertoire of skills to have when training for engaging a target that we might encounter on the street.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meditations on TactiCool

One of the things that I've noticed seems to bother a lot of folks, is the increasing use of the word "tactical" to describe everything. I tend to agree with those who have voiced their opinions before me, that "tactical" is an over-used marketing term these days. TactiCool is just tactical on stupidity pills and it is...rampant. At the BBOD we carry a few "TactiCool" accessories that are just that, cool looking, not useful in any sense of the word. We carry some of the cheap ProMag accessories which should immediately be synonymous with the word, JUNK. Other greats are the BSA "Stealth Tactical" Laser/Flashlight/RedDot combination monstrosity for your AR.

Their are plenty of gadgets, widgets, and doodads that you can hang from your gun to make it more "tactical". The trouble comes not from the thing-a-ma-jig but from the word, tactical. The Oxford English Dictionary, gives one definition of tactical as, " 2. a. Of or relating to arrangement, esp. the arrangement of procedure with a view to ends." And that folks is the trouble with tactical and tacticool. When you chose your firearm accessories are you considering them with a view towards the end goal?

Good tactical decisions are based not on what looks cool or seems to perform well, but on what helps you achieve your final goal with maximum efficiency. So, for instance, I use three dot sights on my carry gun, some will disagree with me for it, but I have trained with three dots for so long that they make the most tactical sense for me. In another case, I also have a set of Crimson Trace Lasergrips on my S&W J-Frame that I pocket carry. Why? Because I find from a tactical stand point that they make the most sense for me. I focus on the front sight and have the laser properly sighted in, per CT's intructions. This allows me to have a glowing red front sight, even in the dark, that is extremely hard to not focus on (if you don't understand what I am saying, see end of the post)*.

The reason I bring up my meditations on tactical and tacticool, is because of a couple of recent discussions with some of my customers. One gentleman wanted to purchase an AR15 and one of the aforementioned BSA scopes. He asked me honest opinion of the combination and I told him, I wouldn't rely on the BSA scopes, simply because their battery life was atrocious. He said, "but the red dot is more tactical, right?" My question then was to inquire as to the needs of his rifle, ultimately we got to the root of the issue. He just wanted the gun to shoot it at the range and to show off to his buddies. That's a fine reason to purchase an AR, in my book, if he so desires and that wicked (ugly) BSA scope, fills the job of looking VERY tactical/tacticool.

On the flipside, another gentleman came in and purchased a Springfield XD handgun to use in a home defense scenario, he queried me on flashlights and ended up purchasing a Steamlight TLR-2, which is in my opinion, one of the best purchases a person can make for a night stand bound gun. The ability to light up a target, identify, see your sights, and engage, with the element of surprise garnered by a bright light, can be an important tool. In this case, he made a sound tactical decision, and even decided to seek training from a local academy to improve on his shooting.

In short, remember the definition and origin of the word "tactical". It is a word derived from tactic, and is supposed to pertain to military or navy tactics (of which gunfighting is one), and furthermore, a tactical decision or device, is to aid you in reaching your final goal, whatever it may be.


*CT Laser Grips should be properly zeroed at your choice distance (mine for instance is 7 yards), such that when you look down the sights, in succession you should see rear sight, front sight, and only a portion of the red dot, such that it is blocked by the front sight. This allows you essentially a super bright bullseye to focus on while squeezing the trigger. I've found that zeroing at 7 yards will allow you to accurately use this method out to 15 yards and as close as 3 yards, with hit derivation at 3 yards actually being more than at 15 (I.E. POA=POI at 7, POI at 15 is half inch low, POI at 3 yards is about 2 inches high). I personally feel that shooting out past 15 yards with a snub nosed J-Frame is an exercise in frustration, I do it, but only by force. At 25 yards the dot helps some, but not as much as at closer distances, in those cases, it is best to concentrate hard on the front sight and use a 6 o'clock hold on the target.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Revisionist History

One of the reasons I stopped pursuing history, first as a major, then as a double major, at my major state university, is because of so called "history" professors. For those who are not familiar with the current trend in history, it is tendency to blame and alienate all persons in history who might, by a previous generation, been considered heroes. This trend began in the early '90s and continues through today, common themes are biographies and histories written about great American Heroes. That includes Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin. Other great themes are the demonization of democracy the demonization of anyone who "conquested" among other things.

History, is supposed to be written based on the analyziation of primary and secondary sources and this is where the problem comes from, secondary sources. In Anthropology (my now chosen field), some would call us "revisionist", but the reality is anthropologists typically only examine and consider primary sources when discussing their work. Yes, we might consult secondary sources and histories, but our goal is to examine the culture as closely as possible, via primary sources and evidence, you know like archaeological evidence, diaries from people who were THERE. And at that we are looking for a different set of evidence anyway, because we are looking at what people did, versus what people thought.

I bring this subject up, because of a comment I read elsewhere by a history professor, "I teach US history. One lecture includes the settlement/conquest/theft/acquisition of Texas. For the beginning of that portion of the lecture, I found a nice shot of a Texas longhorn for my PowerPoint." And that folks, is revisionist history, being taught be an activist professor.

I take true offense to the thought that Texas was "stolen". Someone could argue that Texas was taken from the native people who lived here, by the Spanish and other settlers, but I disagree. And that's because if you took the time to learn about the natives who lived here, before the settlers, you would discover that they "stole" the land from whoever lived here before. It's a cyclic thing, the changing hands of land and in my anthropologists/historian/academic mind, the land was settled by a new people and other people fought and died for it. They were noble and in that regard, maybe yes there should have been more attempts to settle peaceable among the natives as opposed to force them into missions, but everyone made their own choices. You cannot say that settlers "stole" Texas. Furthermore, you cannot imply that Texas was stolen from the Spanish, a War of Independence was fought. To imply that it was stolen, is to imply that the United States was stolen from Great Britain. It's simply being callous in the way you say things, it ignores all of the reasons why a War of Independence was fought and it diminishes those who fought it.

Now, onto the "longhorn" thing as part of the slide for Powerpoint. Let's talk STEREOTYPES among Academics for a reason. I have long thought that academics were supposed to be, educated, relatively free of bias, and capable of objectively considering multiple sides of an argument. I now know, after years within the higher education system, that this is simply untrue. Many academics rank as among the biased, self-centered, and wholly childish people, that I know. The stereotyping of Texas, via a Longhorn, is another thing that really gets me going. I'm a Texan, yes I own a gun, no I don't own a horse or a ranch, nor do I consider people of another color to be 3/5ths the man I am. I do not consider a longhorn to be by state emblem, the thought is just insulting. That somewhere, someone is being taught revisionist history, by someone who doesn't even understand the depth and complexity of my home state, illustrated by their inability to select an icon that represents us better than a longhorn. I might suggest the Alamo, but then that would require the discussion and understanding of the Texas War of Independence. In turn, I might suggest the six flags that have flown over Texas in an attempt to understand the diverse origin of the current residents of the state, I would probably throw in the discussion of the folks who still make up a portion of the state that did not even have a flag to fly. Maybe you could use pictures from around the state so that you can illustrate its great environment and diverse wildlife as well as populace. Another choice, might be the Lone Star, and discuss why this is an important symbol for Texans, because they remember learning and studying about Texas as a country, too.

But all of those things might be a bit tough for someone who doesn't understand the culture, the people, and the life here. So perhaps, and this is my genuine opinion, you could cut that portion of your lecture out, until you take the time to LEARN, like a good academic, about our society and history here. Maybe STUDY it and understand what I, an honest Texan, am so angry about. When you can objectively consider and not trivialize the history of Texas, then maybe you can teach your lecture again. I'm not saying that everything in Texas history has been "great", but it is worth studying and understanding in depth, then we can discuss and interpret what happened and even discuss our opinions about the subject. But I would prefer it, if you understood multiple versions of what really happened and actually did the job of reading and studying the primary sources in Texas's rich 500 year history, as we know it today. Then we'll talk...until then, pick a better fucking emblem than the Longhorn. ALSO, don't use the image of my state to cover up his testicles, way to subtly imply that Texas is only good for covering up bull balls.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Customer Service

With any retail/sales business, customer service is the key to staying in business. I admittedly, did not learn about CS in a retail environment, but in a service/construction industry. Before moving to go away to school and thus joining the retail world, I spent 5 years helping my father run his HVAC contracting business in Dallas. Since, I was home schooled, I had time during the day to work and study in the evening. With a more rigorous schedule you can get a lot done. Anyway, I learned about CS from my father, who has been a contractor, dealing with customers day in and day out for 50+ years now.

I make it a point to take care of all my customers. I'm reasonable and honest, which are key components to dealing with anyone on a retail level. I'm straight forward and prefer to give the simplest answer possible. Sometimes, there is a need for a complicated explanation to a question, but as a teacher, I do what I can. I have very many, very happy, customers.

With all of that said, there are two things that gripe me about CS. First and foremost, the customer is NOT always right. As a customer, I have been wrong, but I'm not dishonest. Dishonest customers are the worst, it brings out the very worst in me as a salesman. If you're going to be dishonest with me, then I will simply do my best to eliminate you as a customer. We at the BBOD do NOT want your business if you are dishonest. Nothing is worse than a customer who lies, then accuses you of lying and attacks you on your principles. Since I consider myself to highly principled, honest, and loyal, I find those attacks to be down right insulting. Second, there is never any reason to attack your sales person. Verbally assaulting or attacking your salesman, because someone else bought all the .45 ACP is not only unacceptable, it is childish. As an adult who is 21+ years of age, act like it, or get out of my store.

On another, unrelated note, I apologize for the lack of posting. I have two posts in the making, the second part of my Bargain Gun series, and another series coming forward after that. That series will be a two parter on tips and tricks for gun salesmen and gun buyers. After that, the blog will probably drift from the hot and heavy BBOD action to discuss the upcoming hunting season, shooting tactics, and shooting in general. Look in the future for a few more random posts as well, that may or may not be related to the BBOD.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Bargain Guns...

I can't think of the number of times I have been asked, "What's the best deal you've got on a gun?". I can never answer the question directly, it always has to be answered with a question. The best deal we have at the BBOD, depends entirely upon the deal and weapon you're looking for. Handguns, rifles, and shotguns are all available in a variety of shapes and sizes for a variety of dollars. The best deal for me, isn't necessarily the best deal for you. None the less, I do have some stand by "bargains" in the gun world, that I have had good success with and like to recommend.

Let me start by saying, a "bargain" gun, should not be a compromise of price and reliability. A firearm that you may have to use to defend your life or the lives of someone you love, is not a compromise. So, from the outset, buy the very best you can afford and if you can't afford it, then buy used. That's for those defensive firearms that are out there. For sporting guns, price and reliability are often traded. I don't want a lack of reliability in any of my weapons, personally, so I never compromise on that side of the equation. Paying a premium almost inevitably means you will receive a premium quality product, just do it, it just makes sense.

Handguns, there are many handguns in the world, as I mentioned in a previous post I have around 105 models in my case. We range in price from around $150 to $1100+. I'd say average price is around $500. For $500 you can purchase a real bargain of a gun, a Springfield XD, a Smith and Wesson M&P, Glocks, Berettas, and the Sig SP2022 are all in this range. For centerfire handguns your best selection is in the $500+ range.

For true bargains in these guns, my favorite recommendations are the M&P in all calibers, and the XD in all calibers. With the M&P you have some nice features, the interchangable backstraps, the grip angle that fits quite a few hands, and the steel Novak three dot sights (unfortunately, not night sights), as well as the Melonite finish on a stainless steel slide. It's a great deal at a good price, but it does have its own compromises, for that most part that is the general complaint of a vague trigger reset and the cost of spare magazines. For the casual buyer and shooter, I still feel it is the best bang for the buck. More serious shooters tend to pick the higher end of the price range anyway. The XD has also great features, the additional grip safety puts a lot of customers at ease, the grip angle that is very ergonomic and the excellent three dot sights. Unfortunately, the XD too has a bit of a trade off in the world, as it suffers from a high bore axis that really does increase muzzle flip and make the gun a bit harder to control, especially in the bigger calibers.

Some ask for bargains in the less than $500 category. I'm here to tell you folks...there really aren't very many. The Ruger P-series firearms still run in the <$400 range and the Bersa Firearms are also in that range. Both series are excellent firearms for the money. I have personally owned a Ruger P95 for so long I can't remember now. In that time, it has fired in excess of 10,000 rounds (I lost count a long time ago, I suspect it is closer to 20k these days). I've had a single stoppage in that time, last year, which prompted the replacement of the recoil and magazine springs (for the first time, Ruger recommends every 5k rounds). Since then, the gun has fired another 1000+ rounds without a single hitch. The trade off in terms of extreme reliability is unfortunately, the size of the firearm, it's big. However, it does have very usable three dot sights, and due to the size and weight is a pussy cat to shoot, even with hot +P loads. The Bersa series of guns built in Argentina, are also excellent guns for the money. The Thunder .380 has an excellent reputation for reliabilty and function, the only down side, in my opinion at least, is the push up Walther-type safety, and the current lack of .380 ammunition on the market.

Bargain rifles do exist. But the budget, the features, and the type of rifle are all critically important for a bargain. In center fire, non-semi-automatic, rifles the choices are clear. The greatest bargains in bolt actions are the synthetic stocked Weatherby Vanguards (running <$400), the synthetic stocked Savage 1xx series (often found new in the <$500 category and used in the $300-$400 range), and the Marlin XL7/XS7 series of rifles in the <$300 category. All these rifles tend to show at least MOA accuracy at 100 yards with decent glass and shooter. The Marlin XS7 series and the Savage rifles have adjustable trigger systems for fine tuning the feel and pressure to operate the bang switch. All the Weatherby's come with a test target, showing what most of the rifles are capable, many of them are sub-MOA and capable of less.

In the lever action world, the Marlin 336 reigns supreme, with Hornady's LeveRevolution ammo, my personal 336 is capable of sub-moa at 100 yards. The trade is the weight of the 336, being nearly three pounds heavier than the now defunct Winchester '94. However, the new contender is out and about these days, the Mossberg 464 lever action, it has a lighter weight than the Marlin, because it essentially used a Winchester '94 style action. However, it has the added feature of having a "semi-solid" top to the receiver as I like to call it. Essentially, it has two areas fore and aft of the ejection port that are solid steel and drilled and tapped for a scope mount. Meaning that you can scope your 464 much easier than you can your Winchester '94. I believe that Mossberg is thinking it is the best of both worlds, and I've sold a few and most people agree with that sentiment. If you are a reloader or don't mind shelling out the big bucks, the Marlins in .308 and .338 Marlin Express are worth the price of admissions. The .308MX is nearly a ballistic mirror of the .308 Winchester round and the .338MX mimics the old American deer hunter standby the .30-06.

For you non-repeating types out there. Harrington and Richardson, and Thompson/Contender have you covered. Pick a caliber, pick a rifle. H&Rs are the best bargin in centerfire rifles for those on a tight <$250 budget. T/Cs are out there for those of us who just can't leave well enough alone when it comes to calibers and customization.

I will address bargain shotguns and rimfires in a later post.

Remember, buy once, cry once, but enjoy it always.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

There are only four rules...

And you are probably breaking at least two of them at any given time, well, the universal customer "you".

1) The Firearm is always loaded
2) Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire
3) Never aim at anything you do not wish to destroy
4) Know your target and what's behind it.

Once you have slung some steel and polymer across glass, you start to realize that more then half the people you show firearms to will point them at you and in your general direction within moments. If a person watches you clear a firearm, they will promptly point it at you and line up the sights or the worse alternative they will point it at the other customers. My quick and prompt response is, "Please point it this way." And motion towards myself, as the wall behind me is reinforced concrete wall with 60+ yards of open space behind it.

However, when I say, "Point it this way" That doesn't mean, point it at ME. Nothing will keep you on your toes like having someone point a 12-gauge shotgun at you and cycle the action. Now I know how all those poor innocent circles feel at the gun range.

The worst offenders are the know-it-all customers and those who "have been around firearms all my life". Yea, so have I and I know I'm guilty of breaking the rules at some point in time. With that said, just because "the gun is unloaded" means that you can wave it around and point at anything you like. Stop pointing it at people, what if that was your daughter or son? Would you want someone to point a firearm at them? Then there is the guy who, unintentionally, but does this none-the-less, sweeps his baby son/daughter in the shopping cart with the muzzle when he does his pretend quick draw. I hope you aren't doing that at home with a loaded gun, but unfortunately I'm afraid you might be.

I will give you an instance today that really had me riled. This afternoon a gentleman, who "I've been around guns all my life." was waving a new Ruger LCR all over the place and at one point ended up with the muzzle in the direction of a baby girl who was all of about 2. It was over then, I promptly asked the customer to return the firearm. That's when I got "the lip",

"What's the problem?"
"Sir, I've asked you three times to keep the muzzle pointed this way. I've had enough you've now pointed it at that little girl, with your carelessness."
"It's unloaded! Besides, I've been around guns my whole life."
~At this point the customer makes a wide waving motion, revolver still in hand, sweeping three coworkers, me, and another customer!~
"You just pointed that gun at five people sir, please hand it back to me."

The customer, turning and realizing that he was then pointing a gun at another man, promptly handed it over and walked out embarrassed, and he should have. I'm sure the corporate masters of the BBOD are not happy with me, for failing to sell a gun, but maybe in the future this gentleman will think twice before waving a gun around.

Perhaps, or perhaps the curse of the rose colored glass will strike again...


Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Squirrel

If you have ever worked retail, then you have been a victim of the squirrel. The squirrel is not an elusive creature, nor is it particularly desirable. Just like the fuzzy tailed tree rats who plague the trees around your home, and your gutters, your trash bins, your bird feeders, etc. A retail squirrel should be considered a pest, in the extreme.

The squirrel term was first given to me by a coworker after a particularly frustrating experience. I had been working at the Big Box 'O Discounts (BBOD) for a few months at this point. After a gentleman had wandered into my department and asked to see essentially every handgun in my case (at last count, that was 105 models), he then moved on to the long guns (that count is 185 models), then all the optics in our department (I don't even know how many). Needless to say, I spent a considerable amount of time answering the typical squirrel questions, "What caliber is this? Double action, single action, safe action? Why don't they have a Glock with a safety?" Followed by, "Which calibers do you have this in? Can you get .257 Fireball Magnum Mousegun?" Finally, "Wait, 3 by 9? You're talking about magnification?! Well hell, why don't I just get a 10 size binoculars? Why is this Leupold scope $400, instead of $100." I spent a considerable amount of time patiently answering these questions and more, before I wanted to lean across the counter and slam my squirrel's head into it. And then came the kicker, the true show of how much a pest the squirrel is...

After wasting an hour and a half of my time, asking dozens of pointless and moronic questions, just about the time I am fed up and about to scream. The squirrel who, thankfully, your livelihood is not dependent upon, states, "Well, I've got to be somewhere. I'll come back later and make a decision." And leaves. Leaving you, realizing that you answered a hundred or more moronic questions for no sale. That, folks is the true sign of the squirrel.

Just like its wildlife counterpart the retail squirrel comes in, takes you little nuggets of information, stashes them away to rot, and then goes off to pillage a bird feeder for an easier time. It is the squirrel who goes and gets a friend to find him a gun, to save five bucks, but is not ashamed to waste your time. After all, he is the customer, right?

Right. So, as a warning, Please Do Not Feed the Squirrels.


About the Blog

After several aborted attempts at blogging, I've decided to go whole hog in this venture. So a quick discussion of the theme of this blog. As the title alludes to, it has to do with mainly the antics and adventures of slinging guns across a glass counter for money. The blog also more generally applies to shooting, writing, and other things of interest. I tend to limit my political discourse to issues concerning the 2nd Amendment and 1st Amendment. And for anyone interested, I consider myself an independent who believes in mostly Libertarian ideologies, but I don't identify myself as anything. As a note: Commenting is on with moderation, I probably won't see fit to edit, unless I feel it needs it. Furthermore, don't bother starting a political debate in my comment section, I will ignore you and ban further comments.

About the author:

I am a retail sales clerk, a scientist, and a quasi-acceptable writer. I work for Big Box O' Discounts Retail. All names have been changed to protect the guilty.