Oct 31, 2009

A crossed line

I stopped on my way to work this evening and took a couple pictures. They're just cell pictures, but I'm using them to make a point.


A country road at sunset. Cornfields on either side, occasional farm houses, barns, trailers, etc. What makes this road special?

If I stand on this road and look east, this is the sign I see:


And if I look west?


So what's the difference? I've moved my residence from one side of the line to the other, when we purchased our house. Earlier this month our governor signed a bill that allows me to hunt with my .270 or AR on one side of the line, but only with my shotgun on the other. (It had been shotgun-only for both before.)

Thanks to NY's bizarre pistol permitting process, a permit from one side of the line takes 3-6 months and will always be stamped "HUNTING AND TARGET USE ONLY". The other side? No restrictions; true "concealed carry".

One other little bit... one is red on the map, and the other is blue.

Imagine that... and guess which side I moved to. Then tell me what the real difference is from one side of that road to the other.

Oct 27, 2009

Semper Fi...

Every picture tells a story - but this one has a much longer story to go with it.

Go read it. Please.

And have a box of kleenex handy.

On Self Defense

Most of the bloggers have already read about Caleb's adventure this weekend. If you haven't, hie thee there and do so.

Those who read my old blog on Livejournal (now lights-out) may have seen my post about self defense and situational awareness, which I'll re-post below. Meantime, though, my own thoughts on what happened to Caleb...

He handled the situation as well as anyone could have. He went home without extra ventilation and with all of his property; there is no need for a lawyer or a stay in a cell. This is a Good Thing.

A few commenters have bashed him about the caliber choice (.25ACP), the carry method, the decision to no-shoot, etc.

Addressed individually:
Caliber: .25ACP is marginally less powerful than .22LR. That said, it's a personal choice and Caleb is well aware of his own situation - moreso than the rest of us are. Would a Tomcat in .22LR be more effective? Not particularly. A 1903/.32ACP? Perhaps. LCP/.380? Undoubtedly. But Caleb has his Jetfire... and it worked.

Carry method: those of us who have to worry more about printing than ease of access acknowledge the limitations. A pocket holster for a pistol is a touch slower than an OWB anything, and maybe slower than an IWB choice. For me, carrying means IWB and *tucked*, which is the slowest thing out there... but I don't want folks knowing I'm carrying.

Decision to no-shoot: this is likely the reason Caleb didn't at least get the nickel tour of the Greybar Motel. Carrying for self-defense means that you protect yourself from threats. When Goblin dropped the knife, he STOPPED being a threat. Caleb managed to perceive that and ease off the trigger in time to not ventilate this Choir Goblin. Gamer's reflexes? ;-)

We've all seen the "Rules of a Gunfight":
(1) Never bring a knife to a gunfight. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. check
(2) Bring all of your friends who have guns. not an option
(3) Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive. not needed
(4) Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss. gamerboy would do just fine, methinks
(5) If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun. not an option
(6) If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and moving. with who?
(7) Always cheat, always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.coffee ain't cheatin', it's winnin'
(8) Have a plan. go home alive
(9) Have a backup plan because the first one won’t work. but it did
(10) The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get. don't get shot by a knife

Any questions?


Now, my tale of woe: (this happened in January 2009)
When I got my pistol permit, one of the things I started reading and processing more was works on self defense. There is plenty of good information out there. Massad Ayoob and Col. Jeff Cooper are two of the better-known names, but there are lots of folks with their own views and ideas. Some of it is internet trash, some of it is excellent advice, and some of it contains a few pearls mixed in with the slop. I won't tell you which is which; everyone out there parses and processes things differently and has different priorities.

One of the light-bulb moments for me was the Color Code. It's very simple, and is more of a mental trick than anything else. There are four levels: White, Yellow, Orange, and Red. NONE of these levels require the use of any kind of tool or weapon: the greatest self-defense tool ANY person can EVER possess is located between their ears. Training with that tool is the key. So, the colors:
White: You are relatively un-alert. Complacent. Familiar surroundings and so forth. In one sentence: "It won't happen to me."
Yellow: This should be a constant level if you're serious about self defense. It's not overly taxing. You aren't looking for any particular problem, but are aware of the people and happenings around you. "It could happen to me."
Orange: Someone or something has tweaked your attention. It may or may not be an active threat, but until you have decided, you are more aware and need to be looking for options. "It MAY happen to HIM."
Red: To borrow a phrase from LawDog, it's gone rodeo. Feces have met the impeller and you have decided to actively defend yourself. "It IS happening. NOW."

The other trick I've learned is the twenty-foot rule. Anyone within twenty feet of me can be an immediate threat. There are various studies on it; I won't go into details on those. What it comes down to is this: my immediate bubble is 2-5 feet in radius. That's MY space, and you best be staying WAY out of it unless I know you. From 5-20 feet, I am actively aware of you, where you're going, what you're doing, and where your eyes and hands are. Outside 20 feet, I've catalogued your presence and leave it at that.

So, with all that in mind, we'll get into yesterday's doing. Other Half had a game in Rochester, and I went along for the trip. After the game we went to the farm, where she did some animal-maintenance stuff, and then we headed out, into the midst of a pretty good snow storm. On I86, there's a rest area around Exit 41 (Campbell), and I'd been driving into the blizzard for about an hour and a half at that point. We'd been following the state plow the last twenty minutes and watching the rest of the morons on the road jockey for position and try to get around the plow. Being out of traffic and stretching for a minute sounded good. We pulled into the rest area, which was pretty empty. There was one other car in the lot, running, with at least two people in it. We parked a couple spots down and under a light, shut off the truck, stretched for a few seconds, then hopped out. Between the time I'd parked and getting out of the truck, someone had gotten out of the car and walked all the way around the back of my truck, stopping essentially right at the driver's rear corner by the bumper. The very first words out of his mouth were, "Hey, sorry to walk up on y'all like this." (1)

My first reaction was to get both hands out of coat pockets and turn my left side slightly toward him, while my right hand rested on my belt just behind my hip - essentially on the sheath for my Leatherman tool, but also precisely where I would carry a pistol. For someone who doesn't carry or shoot, it looks like a tired driver massaging a stiff back or working out a kinked shoulder. It's a relatively non-threatening movement but puts me in a better position for whatever might happen. This fellow had taken me from yellow to orange instantly.

He rambled on with a long story about being out of state (from Mississippi, but wearing an Alabama Crimson Tide hat), had a disabled vehicle down the road (conveniently just out of sight), and they were trying to get it towed to somewhere, etc. I kept half an eye on him, checked Other Half's position (between the truck and the other car, focused on the guy talking to me), and catalogued the car - at least two and probably three occupants, but silhouetted such that I couldn't tell race or gender. Driver's rear window half-down (odd, in a 15-degree snowstorm). Half-listened to the fellow in front of me, who had both hands up in front of him as he talked. (2) Eventually he got to the point and asked for "fourteen dollars". Kind of a random number, but the easy answer was, "Sorry, I don't carry cash." He started backing away then, apologized a couple more times for, "Walking up on y'all,"(3) and got into the car.

We went to the bathrooms, took care of things, and when I came out and waited for Other Half, they were just pulling out of their parking spot and heading back out to the interstate - medium blue or teal Buick sedan, older model, with New York tags. Not out of state at all, and no rental company would use a car like that.

I kept my eyes peeled for the next several miles, in case they really did have a broken-down trailer just down the road - I would have found a few bucks for them in that case. I never saw one, and I presume it was a sob-story scam. Yes, I'm a cynic and don't trust people. So be it. Was this guy an immediate threat? Possibly. I had four inches and fifty pounds on him, and I know he saw where my hand was. Could I have handled it better? I really don't think so. There are plenty of what-ifs to play out the scenario, none of which were favorable.

(1) Opened with an apology. It may be genuine, but it may also be a ploy to gain confidence.
(2) Hands up in front is frequently a sub-conscious defensive posture. My posture was a dominant one and he'd instantly switched to a submissive/defensive pose.
(3) Multiple apologies: please forget this ever happened and forget me.

After we left the rest stop, Other Half and I spent the next twenty or thirty minutes discussing self defense, situational awareness, pistols, and lightly touched on tactics. She had picked up quickly that something was twitching wrong, but didn't quite figure out what. Only thing I asked her to do? Next time, take three steps back or come around to my side of the truck so that she's not between me and targets*.

I don't carry all the time. (Yet.) Concealing a full-size 1911 can be tricky, even for someone of my size. Other Half is still not 100% comfortable with the pistols, and I respect that. However, I view a pistol as being in the same category as smoke detectors, seat belts, fire extinguishers, and insurance: you don't want to use it, but if you need it, you REALLY need it.

* - some folks are uncomfortable with the idea of a person as a target. I don't want to take a life, ever. I have had people die in front of me. It's NOT fun. The idea that I could be responsible for it is even more sobering. However, I subscribe to, "Your rights end where mine begin." Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If those are threatened, I will respond appropriately. My wife? She's an extension of me. Threaten her, threaten me. No one is a target until they prove that they need to be.

Oct 25, 2009

Ready for the season?

Those of us here in central NY got a small taste of winter last week, with three inches of the white stuff appearing one night and disappearing nearly as fast. There were some initial concerns of a much heavier fall, and the problems incident to that. Leaves still on trees means lots of stuff coming down and taking the power with it.

Our house is pretty rural. Yeah, we have neighbors, but the demographics lean heavily to "bovine". If there is a widespread power outage, our area will not be high on the list of priorities for the electric company. We have two primary methods of heating: the furnace (forced air from an oil burner), and a Keystoker automatic coal stove. Both require electricity. Our water comes from a well; the pump requires electricity. Seeing a pattern?

I dumped out my change jar(s) and started counting. I had a lot of change. Enough to purchase a small generator (1000W) straight out. I discussed it with MrsZ and laid out my reasoning: heat, refrigeration, and maybe water would be a Good Thing if we have an ice storm or blizzard, both of which seem to be good possibilities this year. We discussed power requirements, wattages, draws, starting load, and what we'd consider "necessary". The short list came down to: a couple lights, a radio, the coal stove, the fridge, and maybe the water pump.

A 1000W generator would run the fridge OR the stove, and a couple lights and the radio. No water pump, certainly. Some math and cogitation got me to a 3000W genset probably being the bare minimum; it would run the stove and the fridge and lights and radio simultaneously. Running the water pump would mean shutting down everything else while the pump started and ran, but that's acceptable. Water can be stored in bottles and pans.

So off we went to the local home improvement big box stores... neither Lowes nor Home Depot had anything that we considered reasonably priced and with sufficient power. We left it be and I did some more research at home. I looked through the catalog for Northern Tool, which had a couple "maybes" but nothing real obvious. The higher-end brand-name stuff was out of our price range, and the stuff we could afford generally didn't have the features (or reviews) I wanted.

I finally checked the web site for Tractor Supply, and they had a generator listed that looked like the right combination of features and price. I did some digging online and found the reviews were generally pretty good, and the ones that were negative were complaining about noise and weight. *blink blink* It's a damn generator. It makes power. It's going to be loud and heavy. I ignored those comments, and called our local TSC to see if they had one. They did, and I went downtown and picked it up. It's a Champion C46514, rated for 3500W continuous and 4000W peak.

Picked up oil and such from the local mart of Wal, and took the box home and set it aside. Fast-forward a week. This morning I lugged it outside, fueled it, started it, and threw a voltmeter on the terminals. It puts out a nice steady 124V on the 120 circuits, and 245V on the 240 circuits. I didn't try loading it yet, but that's next. I put a 1/2" eye bolt in one of the 6x6 poles in the garage and JB-welded the nut on - it'll take some dedicated effort to remove it. A 1/2" cable and a masterlock can secure the generator, and life is good.

The previous owner of our place built the (detached) garage right - it has a sub-panel for electric and he also pulled 6ga wiring separately from the panel with the express intention of putting in a generator. All I have to do is wire in a L14-30P and put an interlock on the main panel and I can backfeed the house, safely and legally.

Along with a generator comes the problem of fueling it... this generator runs on gasoline, and a full tank (4 gallons) will run it for about 10-12 hours at half load. We currently have 20 gallons of gas stored in the shed, which gets cycled through pretty regularly - the lawn mower, the car, the truck, etc. The generator got topped off with treated gas this morning, run long enough to warm up, and then shut down. Over the next few weeks I expect I'll add another 20 gallons of stored fuel; that will give us about 4-5 days of continuous run time... hopefully that's enough.

Oct 23, 2009

A bit of history...

Anyone else ever have a non-gun friend who gets hold of you and says, "I've got this old gun..."?

Just happened to me. A few weeks ago someone mentioned over dinner that they had inherited most of grand-dad's guns and didn't know what they really had or if they were even loaded. (!) I made it over to their place last night.

I expected one or two old guns, maybe a muzzleloader and an old JC Higgins bolt-shotgun or something. BZZZZZT! WRONG.

Friend started bringing down guns and laying them on the kitchen table. Two at a time... until the table was nicely covered with long guns, without being crowded. A couple I was able to identify easily, but we just went down the row in the order they were out.

- a breech-loading black powder gun - the bore was so clogged with cobwebs and dust that I couldn't tell if it was rifled or not. Expecting not.

- a double-barrel ... thing. One bore was approximately 16- or 20-gauge, the other was rifled and looked like maybe .45cal or so. However, the action didn't resemble anything I was familiar with for blackpowder. Not centerfire, not percussion or flint. External hammers with a tiny notch under the hammer extending into the chamber. Simple but very well-done engraving. Lever to open the action was under the forearm instead of the more traditional place on the wrist.

- a single-shot marked ".410-.44cal". Nice gun, friend thought her grandfather may have carried that as his trail gun (long story).

- several muzzleloaders of various designs. Some were older than others, all were percussion cap, and condition varied widely. One may have been loaded, I dripped oil through the nipple and poured WD-40 down the bore and tried a ball puller. No joy. I marked it and suggested they have someone with more appropriate tools look at it.

- a Ruger 10/22 in "needs some TLC" condition. Light rust pitting, action was sticky, but it can be cleaned up and saved easily.

- an Ithaca 37 Deerslayer, same condition as the 10/22. I about had a heart attack with this one. As is my custom (and that of most other safety-conscious gun owners) I worked the action when I picked it up. And a slug came flying out. So I racked it again. And another came out. And a third time for a third one. That was all. My pulse topped 200. I'd love to know what my face looked like when that shell came flying out.

Then ... the "paperweights". A small firesafe appeared, and it contained:
- a blue-anodized Star .25acp
- a Ruger Single-Six in near-mint condition
- a Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless, .25acp

And last but not least ...

... a Volcanic Volition Repeater.

For those not familiar, either open the last copy of "American Rifleman" magazine and read the article about top ten pistols in history, or open the Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson (3rd Edition) to page 60. This is one of the earliest repeating pistols designed. It was a tubular-magazine-fed, lever-action pistol. The middle finger was placed through a loop below the trigger, and that was the lever. Just flick the finger back and forth.

S&W had trouble with the pistols and the rights eventually made their way to Winchester... who spun off the Volcanic Arms Company.

This one appears to be in excellent condition for the age, mild pitting on both sides of the steel, but the brass frame is nicely engraved and in fantastic shape. Bore is likely .30-.32ish. Without knowing how the action really works, I think this one may have a broken hammer spring, as the hammer moved freely independent of the lever. Regardless, this piece likely pre-dates the Colt Single Action Army (1873) and is of tremendous value to a collector. (Tam, are you drooling yet?)

I suggested they contact the local authorities in order to make their possession of these (functional) paperweights legal, get all the muzzleloaders and the Volcanic appraised by a competent authority, and then decide what to do.

Friend said they should give me something for my time and effort - I asked only for first refusal on the Single Six and the Colt 1903 if they should decide to sell them.

Apparently there may be more in another family member's house; I will be checking into those when possible.

This is a case where no sum of money could replace the excitement at holding and examining these firearms. Ever watch "Antiques Roadshow"? Know how the experts say things like, "I'm so excited you could bring these in..."? ... Well, now I really understand that. These were a THRILL to look at.

Friend was glad to have a somewhat experienced eye look things over; apparently someone had offered their father, "A hundred bucks for the whole pile, they're all rusty." When I suggested the Single Six was probably 2-300 and the Colt 5-800, the Ithaca another 3-400 ... well, friend was surprised.

I also strongly suggested they contact their insurance agency and put a rider on their homeowner's policy, since most policies limit firearms coverage to $500 or $1000 - total, not per firearm. (Good advice for all of us who own more than one gun!)

Oct 18, 2009

Lucky Day

My fire department did a "Sportsman's Raffle" this month. Nine of the ten prizes were guns and the tenth was a fishing setup. I sold a fair number of tickets and bought a few more of my own.

Today was the drawing.

I won a Mossberg 500 Combo. I chose to take it in 20ga.

Why 20ga? Isn't that a woman's round?

Hell no. A nice 20ga shotgun is a joy to shoot; they tend to carry 60-75% of the payload (and energy) of a 12ga with about half the perceived recoil. And this one apparently has ported barrels for even less muzzle flip. It may become a truck gun, it may become my backup deer gun, or it may go to the trap range with me every now and then - but a good 20ga can do 80% of anything a 12ga can do - and I've already got a 12ga.

A 12ga really shines with steel loads, where larger cartridges mean carrying a reasonable load of the less-dense material.

I expect pictures will be forthcoming whenever the gun arrives and I pick it up... and then as I consider the various options and mods that I know will happen.

Oct 12, 2009

Farmer Fire Drill

It was cold last night; killing-frost kind of cold. I left work at the usual time and got home at the usual time. MrsZ was still up, so we headed to bed and curled up trying to stay warm (we're cheap and keep the house at 60-65 most of the time). Just as we were dozing off there was a blood-curdling animal shriek from somewhere outside. It was repeated a moment later. I looked out the windows with a flashlight but couldn't see anything... pulled on a robe and went to check on the goats. From the deck, I could see most of the pasture but no goats. They weren't answering my voice either, which is more unusual - they tend to blat or at least move around and jingle their bells when someone calls them.

Went back upstairs and reported to MrsZ, swapped the robe for jeans and a sweatshirt, and opened the safe while MrsZ pulled on her clothes. Grabbed her 870 (20ga) and followed her downstairs, then went looking for the box of buckshot I knew I had somewhere. It had been moved. I settled for slugs and made the gun "cruiser ready" - full mag tube, empty chamber, hammer down, safety on. To go from "cruiser ready" to "ready" requires only racking the slide, which is already unlocked by virtue of the hammer being down. As I was heading out the door I spied the missing box of buckshot and slipped it in a pocket and continued out - where I found MrsZ already coming back from the goat pen, reporting that they were comfortably ensconced out of sight behind their hut instead of inside, where I could see them.

Given that the critters were alright, I peered around the yard again and then went back inside ... where MrsZ explained that this was the "Farmer Fire Drill". Uh-huh.

Side note: we have electric mesh for the goat fence; it's high-voltage, sturdy, and easy to rearrange. MrsZ discovered on Sunday morning that about 50' of fence had been taken down. And in fact, not just taken down, but several of the strands were torn, and a piece of twine that tied a pole to a tree had been snapped ... and the fence had been dragged OVER a bush. Best guess is that a critter (my presumption is a deer) managed to get tangled in the netting and tore it up trying to get loose. A coyote may have gotten tangled but wouldn't have torn it out that far. The goats respect it and tend to keep away. A bear is vaguely possible but I don't think it's likely.

Oct 11, 2009

Hunting Minutiae

MrsZ and I spent a few days last week at her family farm. I was under the weather, so didn't try for coyotes, but did wander around looking for rabbits and squirrels for a while. Scared a few squirrels with the .17 and then bagged one. Reminder to self: .17HMR is overkill for squirrels. Entry wound is appropriate-sized, and the other side of the squirrel is just ... missing. A chest shot didn't destroy much meat, but it made cleaning messier than it necessarily needed to be.

I gutted and skinned the squirrel while MrsZ watched. She's a farm girl, not squeamish about such things, just hasn't done any hunting of her own. I determined that my usual hunting knife was not sharpened after last season (oops), and is also too damn big for squirrels. I've never dressed a squirrel before, so I was paying more attention to anatomy and guts than I would with a deer.

MrsZ asked if it was a boy-squirrel or a girl-squirrel - I hadn't even looked, so I flipped it over and it was quite obviously a boy squirrel. While dressing out the squirrel, I happened upon the baculum. In a squirrel, this is about ... oh, 3/8s of an inch long. I poked at it and examined it, because I haven't seen one before. MrsZ asked me what it was ... so I told her.

She paused, thought for a second, and said, "So you're playing with a squirrel penis?"


Yeah. Pretty much.

Oct 6, 2009

Coyote update

I've been out twice to the supposed hot spot and have neither heard nor seen anything resembling a coyote. A handful of deer, some ducks and geese, but no coyotes.

MrsZ and I are departing for her family farm this afternoon to camp and relax for a couple days. I'm taking along a couple rifles and will be trying for coyotes as well as trying to find some meat for the pot - rabbit or squirrel is a good bet out there.