Monday, January 13, 2020


I have a confession to make. I’m counting down the days until my odometer flips over the half century mark. That means I grew up and came of age in a time when revolvers and steel framed semi autos were still king. Heck, I took my driving test with a state trooper who was carrying what looked like, to my young eyes, a HUGE Smith & Wesson revolver. I couldn’t tell you which model it was, but it could have been anything from a Model 19 in .357 to a Model 25 in .45 Colt. It was all deep blue steel, walnut stocks, stuffed into a well-worn but cared for leather holster. He was HUGE too. It was my sixteenth birthday, I was a painfully skinny 6’4” and, at time, barely 145 pounds soaking wet. He was at least a couple of inches taller not including the Trooper Stetson and had 100 pounds of muscle on me easily.

Yes, sir. No, sir. Did I pass, sir?

It’s really a shame that kids today don’t have to take all or nothing driving tests sitting next to a humorless state trooper who is, in fact, armed and willing to defend him/herself if necessary from some snot nosed kid’s feeble attempt to commit vehicular homicide. I digress though.

I have written before about my love for the shooting sports and guns in general. After about 40+ years of exposure to the hobby in one form or another, I have reached an epiphany of sorts. It’s nothing earth shattering really, but I’m a sucker for the classics. I love revolvers and lever guns and 1911s. Before anyone gets their Underoos in a tizzy, I have nothing against the modern polymer semi-auto pistols or the somewhat long in the tooth AR-15 rifle platform. I have owned and/or currently own both. Each has their place and fill a niche.

I will readily grant credit where credit is due: the AR-15 is about as close to a do it all firearm as has ever been invented. It can do everything from door kicking combat to home defense to precision target shooting to plinking to hunting and a lot of other tasks in between. It can be a pistol or a rifle. It can be a .22LR plinker all the way up to a .50 Beowulf thumper. If you can dream it, someone has probably already tried it. If I could only have one gun, it would be an AR with an assortment of uppers to cover as many options as I could ever foresee. That’s cheating just a little, but the ATF defined the terms. So, it’s all fair as far as I’m concerned.

That’s not to say I don’t have a few hang ups with polymer pistols and the AR rifle platform. The main two are aesthetics and legality.

Aesthetics are really a deeply subjective issue. I’ve seen some really cool looking ARs and some that look worse than a hot mess of dog vomit. Even the really cool looking ARs all share the same bones which is lots of rails and angles and pins and buttons and lions and tigers and bears oh my. Functionally, it’s great. It’s one of the most ergonomic rifles I’ve ever handled. It’s just about infinitely adjustable for shooters large and small. But, put it next to a nicely stocked lever action, and suddenly it’s the ugly stepsister.

The same could be said of the (insert the name of your favorite polymer semi auto here). Up until recently, you could get them in any color you wanted as long as it was black. Now, you can pretty much get any polymer gun to look like anything you want. Heck, people are even customizing HiPoints. Want a red dot? Factory optics ready, gunsmith slide cut or dovetail mount? Lights and lasers? There’s someone that makes it. Caliber conversions? What do you want to shoot? To be fair, there are a few other pistols that can do some of those tricks (Sig P22x, EAA Witness, etc). But, it’s hard to beat the modularity of the modern polymer pistol (or the AR) except on a purely aesthetic level. A deeply blued 1911 or Smith revolver with a nice set of grips is a beautiful work of art.

The other hang up I have with ARs and polymer semi autos is legalities. This is normally a non-issue for me here in Texas, but that is not true for everywhere. Further, the changing demographics in Texas along with the constant drumbeat for more and harder gun control means that you can’t assume that won’t change. No one (so far) has threatened to ban revolvers and lever action rifles. But, magazine restrictions and “assault weapon” bans/restrictions are a thing in several states. We like to travel as a family, and I really don’t want to have to be concerned about committing an instant felony just crossing a state line while carrying a gun that is legal for me at home. The Constitution is supposed to address this, but over a hundred years of spineless jurisprudence has made it confusing at best to navigate the country while exercising your God given right to keep and bear arms.

In the grand scheme of things, my hang ups are really minor and do not outweigh the value and utility that ARs and polymer semi autos bring to the table in the slightest. Having said, that I have an irrational attachment to classics like the Smith & Wesson and Ruger revolvers, 1911s and lever action rifles. Put a Glock 21 next to a 1911, and I will pick the 1911 almost every time. Ditto for the AR next to a Marlin 1894. Likewise, I will generally take a .45ACP pistol over a 9mm pistol and a .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum lever rifle over a .223 AR.

Why? The Glock and AR are objectively better in almost every way over their classic counterparts (though the 1911 generally has a better trigger than the Glock). Glocks and ARs have more capacity, are easier to reload, are at least as accurate if not more accurate than the classics. In a word, “because”. Because I like them. Because I prefer bigger bullets over smaller bullets. Because I’m too old to go kicking in doors or play Cowboys and dead terrorists in the sand box. Because I like my guns like I like my wife: beautiful with curves in all the right places. Because ‘MERICA!!!

None of this means I don’t have a use for a Glock or an AR. I generally shoot Glocks better than most other pistols. For a woods walking gun that you don’t have to worry about getting scratched up, it’s hard to beat a Glock 20 in 10MM for a balance of shootability, power and capacity. The AR was originally developed as a target rifle which makes it very accurate and suitable for a wide range of applications. Like the Glock, you can carry an AR in the woods and not worry about the finish getting dinged. These, to me, are tools. Function over form. The classics are also tools, but they are tools which form and function have been carefully blended into mechanical art.  

If high speed/low drag is your thing, knock yourself out. Long range gnat shooting float your goat? There’s plenty of options to suit your tastes. Cowboy action or fast draw gives you the giggles? Good for you. The gun community has never had it so good in terms of manufacturers willing to fill so many niches. You do you, I’ll do me, and we can all nod in appreciation that we all enjoy the same hobby in different ways.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

7 Seconds

I haven’t paid much attention to the mainstream media lately; but, from what I gather, the church shooting in White Settlement, TX has gone largely “under the radar”. The cynic in me would argue that it hasn’t gotten much press because it doesn’t “fit the narrative”. Whether that is the case or not, I don’t truly care. What I do care about are the lessons this incident can teach us if we pay attention.

First, if you haven’t already, go watch John Correia’s analysisof the video at Active Self Protection on YouTube. He gives a thoughtful, unbiased analysis of the incident which is worth anyone’s time regardless of whether you carry a gun or not. Here are some of my thoughts after thinking on this.

1: Evil can happen anywhere. Even in a “House of God”. This shooting took place in a suburb on the west side of Ft. Worth. According to Google Maps, West Freeway Church of Christ is 24 miles / 28 minutes from my house. This isn’t the 5TH Ward in Houston, the south side of Chicago or some other big city “bad” neighborhood. This is flyover country suburbia. It could have been anywhere. Tragedies happen every day and just about every corner of this old mud ball we call home. Sure, we expect tragedy in a war zone or even a “bad neighborhood”. A lot of us get complacent because we live in a “nice neighborhood.” If you want an eye opener, look up the police blotter for your area. You would not believe the amount of stuff that happens within walking distance of your front door. You can also plug your zip code and email address into, and you will get a daily email of the crimes committed within 5 miles of your home.

2: Evil happens fast. Go watch the video of the shooting. Go watch videos of any violent encounters that are out there. The White Settlement shooting went from a peaceful Sunday at church to full rodeo to over and done in less than 10 seconds (the seven seconds mentioned in the title). We can quibble about the reports that the church security team had concerns about the shooter before he pulled the shotgun and what they coulda shoulda woulda done; however, the simple fact is that no “civilian” in the congregation had time to say hello to a 911 operator much less give any detail before the entire incident was over. The police, even with an officer in the parking lot, could not have responded fast enough to handle this situation without even more innocent people being killed or injured. The only incident I can recall in recent memory where police stopped a shooter cold before they had a chance to do harm was the “Draw Mohammad” Cartoon Contest in Garland, TX where a police officer working an off-duty security gig stopped the would be shooter in his tracks before he even had a chance to get inside.

3: The only human being you can rely on to protect you is you. The US Supreme Court ruled in the 2005 case “Castle Rock v. Gonzales” that the police do not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm. This ruling affirmed a 1981 court of appeals case with the same finding. The police cannot be everywhere, nor can they be everything to everyone. They generally do not have legal justification to act until a crime has been committed. Even then, the old saying is true: “When seconds count, the police are minutes away.” This is not intended as a harsh indictment of the police but rather a statement of fact. Look up the average response time for police in your area. An active shooter situation will get the highest priority the department can give it, but the time between when dispatch makes the call to when officers arrive on scene will be more than a minute and likely more than a couple of minutes. As this incident shows, life and death is measured in seconds.

There is a quote I usually see referenced as Rule 23 for Combat that goes: “Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence and de-escalation.” I take this to mean that you cannot live in a bubble and expect everything to be just fine. You have to take an active role in your own protection. Walking around oblivious to the world around you is a recipe for disaster and tragedy. Look at the video again closely. How many people had guns out by the time it was all said and done? At least 5 that I counted and I’ve heard as many as seven.

4: Your mind is the weapon. Everything else is just tools. Train your mind to use any tools you can to defend yourself. There was an Air Force fighter pilot by the name of John Boyd who came up with the concept of the OODA loop. An OODA Loop is not an aerobatic maneuver, but rather a tactical and strategic concept that can be applied broadly in a variety of endeavors. OODA stands for “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act”. Jack Wilson, knowingly or unwittingly applied the OODA Loop to great affect in less than 7 seconds. You’ve probably heard people say there is no timer in a gunfight. The truth is there is a timer, and it is the aggressor who starts the clock. You, as the defender, have to “get inside the aggressor’s OODA Loop”. You do that by implementing your own OODA Loop that will hopefully throw off the aggressor’s plans enough for you to gain the advantage. If that means taking a shot, throwing a book, tackling the aggressor, etc., you use the tools at your disposal to eliminate the threat.

5: Evil will find a way. Felons don’t get their weapons legally. Very few mass shooters in recent history obtained their weapons through legal means. When guns were not available, rocks, sticks, cars and other weapons do stand in duty as the tool of choice for those intent on committing murder. 9/11 proved that a box cutter is all that is required to take control of an airplane and turn that plane into a flying bomb.

6: Evil isn’t always easy to identify. The White Settlement shooter reportedly walked in wearing a trench coat and a fake beard. I’d call that a tad odd but not necessarily evil. As odd as that is, very few people have the ability to read the mind of another human being and know their intentions. Two innocent church goers paid the ultimate price because it was not possible to discern the shooter’s intentions before it was too late. Could they have handled the situation differently and avoided unnecessary blood shed? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. I am sure they believe they made the best decision they could at the time with what they knew and saw, and I am equally sure the survivors will second guess those decisions for the rest of their lives.

7: Skill training is important. As Wyatt Earp said: “Fast is fine. Accuracy is final.” Do not ignore basic marksmanship skills. Shot placement is critical, and putting shots where they need to go on demand when it counts is literally life and death in a situation like this. You cannot expect to “rise to the occasion”. Here’s a simple test: go to the range, no warm up/no practice, set up a life sized silhouette target at 10-15 yards, put a 3x5 index card in the head of the target, set a shot time for random start and find out how long it takes you to put one cold bore shot in the index card. Did you even hit the index card? If you did, was it less than seven seconds? Now, add adrenaline and movement into the mix. Did you still hit the target? Now, add in some “no shoots” between you and the target, some sweaty palms and a bunch of chaos and noise. Some of this is impossible to practice, but any training is better than no training.

The people in White Settlement suffered a terrible tragedy, and it would be a shame not to learn everything we can from the incident.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Shooting Gloves

Almost as long as I've been shooting, I've been looking for gloves that work for me. I know that a lot of guys like Mechanix gloves, or 5.11s, or really any "tactical" glove available on the market. I know people who buy a pair of generic gloves and then cut the tip of the shooting finger off so they can still feel the trigger.

I've tried everything that's been suggested, from the designated shooting gloves, to altering other gloves, but I've never found anything that worked. I eventually gave up. After two decades of dicking around with gloves, I just quit even trying. The only time I wanted to wear gloves anyway was during the winter, and I just avoided shooting outside in the winter. I figured I'd done my time shooting in cold, crappy weather and I could choose not to. In fact, I made a rule: I didn't shoot outside if the temperature was less than my age.

And then I joined the Posse. I knew my horse and I would have to attend training during the winter, so one day, while at a horse expo I picked up a pair of riding gloves. They weren't super warm, but they fit well and I was able to tack up my horse and ride in them.

Sometimes I'm a little slow, I'll admit it. It wasn't until months later, when I was packing to attend a week-long pistol instructors' class, and realized that I'd need gloves that it occurred to me to try the riding gloves. Since I'd completely given up on trying to find gloves to shoot in, it never crossed my mind to try them.

I used those gloves the entire week of class, in rain and snow, day and night. I was able to effectively manipulate my gun, including our outage/malfunction drills, without a problem. Two years later, I'm still using the same pair, though they're starting to show some wear. The thumbs on each glove are looking abused from wearing them while loading mags, but otherwise they're still in great shape.

Everything that makes them great horse riding gloves translates into them being excellent shooting gloves. The leather on the palms helps with grip, the reinforced area between the thumb and index finger helps protect from slide bite, and they come in actual sizes, not just small, medium, or large.

They're not going to protect your hands as well as tactical gloves, but they've worked beautifully for me. I really only wear them during the winter to help keep my hands warm and to protect them from all of the little cuts and dings that tend to happen when you're hands are too numb to feel, but they're comfortable enough to wear year 'round if shooting in gloves is your thing.

This pair is from Noble Outfitters, and cost me around $20. If you're like me and have trouble finding gloves that fit for shooting, maybe take a walk through a tack store. Stay away from the work gloves, and look for the show gloves. They come in a ton of different colors and are designed to be abused by riders and their horses, so I think you'll find they hold up to gun handling pretty well.