Thursday, June 19, 2008

Invitation to a BBQ

A colleague (named "Ross") sent this around the office today, which was a bright bit of sunlight to The Great NorthWet.

Yeah, it's powerpoint. And it's a 3mb download.

But go ahead and do it, anyway. You know you wanna.


Of course I accepted.

You're all invited to join us. Please send me your RSVP, so we have an accurate head count, and we know how many "guest quarters" to prepare.

Hey, what are friends for?

The Agony and The Ecstasy: Part 1

The Agony
Last weekend, at the ARPC Club Match, I sort of appointed myself the 'reset the steel' guy on the last stage ... "Up You Go".

If you've looked at the video, you see that there is a nice little array of five Pepper Poppers and one US Popper. Not too much for one guy to reset, and often someone else would come along to help me with them. We had an enthusiastic squad of workers, more than enough to tape the cardboard, so since I had been the first shooter I figured I could just do the steel and nobody else would have to worry about it.

I should have worried about it.

Somehow, I managed to pull, or sprain, or strain a shoulder muscle. I didn't realize it at the time, but when I got back to town I complained to SWMBO that I was a bit achy and I believed I would take a dollop of The Recipe to relax my muscles.

At bedtime I took a couple of ibuprofen (2oomg each) so I could sleep, and I was sawing wood after no more than five minutes on the pillow.

I really enjoyed that nap, but that was all I got.

Two hours later, I woke up with cramps and what we he-men like to call 'some discomfort'. In real-speak, "This hurts like a summbitch!"

I spent the rest of the night, and all the next day, sitting on the couch wrapped in a heating pad and downing ibuprofen like it was candy. Not that it did much good.

Sunday night I went to bed about 7pm. I got about three hours sleep, even with the heating pad, and the ibuprofen, sleeping on my stomach so I wouldn't put weight on my back.

Monday night I went to bed at 6:30, and didn't get any more sleep than the night before. What was worse, I woke up with a back ache. Apparently I had been compensating for the shoulder and caused some strain to my backstraps.

It was at this point (Tuesday) when SWMBO began gently suggesting that "You ought to go to the doctor and see what he thinks about that". You know, in that whiny wheedling voice that Wives and Lovers use when they know what's good for you, even though they know you're not ever going to go to the doctor while there's breath left in you.

"Oh, I'll be okay. I'll see how I feel tomorrow."

That night I got another four hours sleep, even though I had gone to bed at read my new Lee Child book until 1am, and when Wednesday morning rolled around I dragged myself into the office late and was absolutely worthless. I was so distracted by my back and shoulder, I couldn't even think straight. You know what SWMBO had to say about that.

I should mention that I had been stuffing so much ibuprofen down my gullet that I had heartburn and could barely stand to eat.

"Okay, if I don't feel better by tomorrow, I'll think about going to the doctor."

That night (last night), I finally said to heck with coddling myself, I'm back on my natural biorhythmic schedule. I worked until 7pm, spent four hours on the computer (fueling the muse with a couple of Large Whiskeys), ate a late dinner and watched "The Pink Panther" video tape until 2am. And I hadn't had any ibuprofen for 36 hours.

I slept like a baby. I woke up with the alarm, turned it off, and went back to sleep until 10am. Sure, there were a couple of twinges during the day, but I was alert and awake and full of energy. In fact, I actually was 'productive' for the first time this week. I went for a couple of walks during my breaks, and was generally as active as a desk-bound Geek can be.

If there's a moral to this tale, it must only be that when old fat Geeks baby themselves, they only slide down that slippery slope of self-indulgence. The pain doesn't go away when you spend 10 or 12 hours in bed.

The Agony and The Ecstasy: Part 2

The Ecstasy
When you've been in pain some discomfort for a while, the absence is as if an incredible burden has been lifted from your shoulders.

I feel so much better tonite than I have for the past four or five days, I have definitely decided to take The Hobo Brasser up on his invitation to join him at the "Tactical Three Gun Match" this Sunday.

This is a part of the regular "Tactical Rifle" presented at Tri-County Gun Club in Sherwood, Oregon. I think. Or, it's a special match; I never really understood where it fit in with the program.

As it was explained to me, it sounds something like the Pistol-Caliber Carbine match I shot there in May of last year.

But not quite. As The Hobo Brasser explained to me, it is very '3-gun' in that I will be using a rifle (the Mech Tech), a shotgun (the Mossberg 590 I bought last April in a "Buy-A-Gun Day" excess of testosterone, and haven't had a use for since), and a Pistol (the 10mm STI Edge, the front sight of which I haven't seen clearly since 2003.)

If all goes as as expected, there may be six stages:
  • Rifle only
  • Pistol only
  • Shotgun only
  • Rifle and Pistol
  • Rifle and Shotgun
  • Shotgun and Pistol
There may even be another stage: Rifle/Shotgun/Pistol. Who knows. I don't; I'm just making it up as I go along, based upon the description of previous matches I listened to with half an ear when The Hobo Brasser is talking.

This should be an interesting match. I've never done '3-gun', although I've done a grueling "All-Shotgun, All Day Long" match (and paid for it in Pain). Um, well, I'm use to that. (Note that the image shown on the left is much uglier in full-size, so don't click on the picture to see the bruising.)

Another point of interest is that The Hobo Brasser has offered to provide the shotgun shells if I attend. That's nice, but it's not fair. I bought two boxes of #6 Remington 2-3/4" and three 5-round boxes of slugs for the match, and I have various buckshot on the ammo rack in the garage. Surely it won't take more than that. Will it?

I also have 100 rounds of .45acp, and another hundred rounds of 10mm. And spare batteries for the archaic Pro-Point1 on the Mech Tech, and a semi-racegun holster for the STI Edge.

That holster doesn't always release right, though. It's hard finding a holster that will retain a pistol with a full-dust-cover. I hope I don't give myself a wedgie when I attempt to draw the pistol from the holster.

As for the problem with the blurry pistol sights, I will be wearing my bifocular reading glasses I had made up last year. They're specifically ground to allow me to focus on an object 4" from the end of my extended hands, and they incorporate "Phoenix" lenses, which is the improved Trivex (much like Polycarbonate, but better) as I mentioned in my boring series on Shooting Glasses.

Yeah, I think I've got it covered. Except that I need another chamber flag ... I only have one. Hopefully, I can buy one at the range.

I'm getting kind of excited about this. I'll definitely be re-reading my December, 2006 article on the Mech Tech to remind myself how it works. I don't expect to impress anyone, but I'll have a good time and take lots of pictures, and probably some video. If any of it turns out well, maybe I'll post some of it here so you can see what it Three-Gun looks like when performed by amateurs.

Or, as we say in the business:

Geeks & Geezers!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Just So You Know: Gun Rights & The Supremes

My Way News - Gun rights is biggest issue for court to decide

WASHINGTON (AP) - One momentous case down, another equally historic decision to go. The Supreme Court returns to the bench Monday with 17 cases still unresolved, including its first-ever comprehensive look at the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.

The guns case - including Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns - is widely expected to be a victory for supporters of gun rights. Top officials of a national gun control organization said this week that they expect the handgun ban to be struck down, but they are hopeful other gun regulations will survive.


Last week, the court delivered the biggest opinion of the term to date with its ruling, sharply contested by the dissenting justices, that guarantees some constitutional rights to foreign terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 5-4 decision, which Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for his four more liberal colleagues, was the first case this term that broke along ideological lines.

The conservative-liberal split was seen frequently last term, including in cases that limited abortion rights, reined in voluntary school desegregation plans, made it harder to sue for pay discrimination and prodded the Bush administration to combat global warming by regulating tailpipe emissions. Kennedy was the only justice in the majority in all those cases, siding with conservatives in all but the global-warming dispute.

It's hardly unusual that the cases that take until late spring to resolve are the most contentious and most likely to produce narrow majorities.

The dispute over gun rights poses several important questions. Although the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, the court has never definitively said what it means to have a right to keep and bear arms. The justices also could indicate whether, even with a strong statement in support of gun rights, Washington's handgun ban and other gun control laws can be upheld.

Officials at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said recently that they expect Washington's 32-year-old handgun ban to fall but believe that background checks, limits on large-volume gun sales and prohibitions on certain categories of weapons can survive.


Retirements typically are announced at the end of the term, although it would be a huge surprise if anyone decided to retire this year with a presidential election looming and little prospect of a nominee being confirmed before then.

Five justices, though, will be at least 70 by the time the court reconvenes in October. Justice John Paul Stevens is 88, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75, Justice Antonin Scalia is 72, Kennedy will turn 72 in July and Justice Stephen Breyer will celebrate his 70th birthday in August.

In the meantime, what is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence saying?

Here's an article from their website dated June 18:

A column in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer by the board president of Washington Ceasefire, Ralph Fascitelli:

This month the U.S. Supreme Court addresses the Washington, D.C., gun ban and with it, the Second Amendment, which deals with the rights of an individual to own a gun.

It is a moot point for residents of Washington, where state law clearly guarantees one’s right to own a gun without the ambiguity of a “within a state militia” qualifying clause. The question here is not whether individuals have a right to own a gun but whether they have a good reason and what rules and regulations should be applied.

The ongoing rhetorical battle over the Second Amendment should not obscure the immense problem we face with gun violence in this state. Each week we lose about a dozen people to gun violence and dozens more are injured. Since 9/11 more people have died in Washington from guns than died on that fateful day. Gun violence is everybody’s problem and has been estimated to cost the state $2 billion annually or more than $1,000 per household in higher taxes, insurance charges and health care costs.

Washington Ceasefire believes we can reduce the almost 600 annual gun deaths in this state in half over the next decade with a few common-sense measures.

First, think twice before you have a gun in the home, and know the facts. Households with guns have a five times greater chance of a completed suicide; consider that on average we lose one person a day in this state to suicide with a gun.
Let's look at this statement in detail:
The question here is not whether individuals have a right to own a gun but whether they have a good reason and what rules and regulations should be applied.
The Brady Bunch concedes the "individual right to own a gun", but questions whether (residents of the State of Washington) "have a good reason".

In essence, Brady is appealing to your moral values to determine whether you should own a gun.

The implied assumption is that you should have a good reason before you make the decision to own a gun; and in the same breath, the suggest that " ...rules and regulations should be applied."

So, even if you think you have a good reason to own a gun, Brady wants to impose rules and regulations which would limit your access to a firearm. No justification is stated; even though they concede that that you have a right to own a firearm, they still want to regulate your access to firearms.

It's difficult to understand what they're saying, isn't it? Go back and read the last paragraph. Their emphasis is not on your right to own a firearm; their emphasis is on rules and regulations. It's not your rights; it's about their control over your rights.

They're big on "losses", they're more than willing to talk about "suicide" by firearm; but there isn't a word about how violence is prevented by private ownership of firearms.

In the meantime, Brady has conceded DC v HELLER, but they are still looking forward to finding loopholes in their on-going effort to curtail your rights:

… “We’re expecting D.C. to lose the case,” Helmke said. “But this could be good from the standpoint of the political-legislative side.”

The D.C. ban prohibits residents from keeping handguns inside their homes and requires that lawfully registered guns, such as shotguns, be locked and unloaded when kept at home.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the D.C. gun ban, the Brady Campaign is hoping that it will reorient gun control groups around more limited measures that will be harder to cast as infringements of the Second Amendment.

The NRA [National Rifle Association] won’t have this fear factor,” Helmke said.

Brady Campaign Attorney Dennis Henigan said there are multiple gun control measures that would not run afoul of a Supreme Court decision striking down the D.C. gun ban.

Universal background checks don’t affect the right of self-defense in the home. Banning a super dangerous class of weapons, like assault weapons, also would not adversely affect the right of self-defense in the home,” said Henigan. “Curbing large volume sales doesn’t affect self-defense in the home.”

What are they saying here?

... the Brady Campaign is hoping that it will reorient gun control groups around more limited measures that will be harder to cast as infringements of the Second Amendment.
Assuming that the Supreme Court rules that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, Brady is still looking for ways to get around the ruling of the Supreme Court.

That means they will continue to support circuitous means to restrict your ability to keep and bear arms. They will support microstamping ammunition ... which is unproven technology and single-source technology.

They will support Encoded Ammunition, which (like microstamping ammunition) is unproven and single-source, but also would impose such a huge financial and technological burden on the ammunition manufacturing industry as to price ammunition beyond the means of most citizens, and cause the manufacturers to close their doors because they are unable to meet the unreasonable requirements implied.

They will lobby for restrictions on the number of firearms you can buy every month (not every year ... so if you go to one gun show a year and find two guns you want, you can't buy them both.)

They will lobby for universal background checks: we already have background checks when buying from a dealer, but their proposal will regulate transfer of firearms within a family; between friends; and any other non-dealer negotiations.

They would identify 'super dangerous class of weapons' (such as the AR, the Evil Black Rifle).

In short, there are any number of schemes they can use to restrict your right to keep and bear arms.

Since they have already conceded your right to protect your home and your family, they will now go after the WAY in which you choose to provide such protection.

They'll fight you every step along the way to a true acknowledgment of firearms freedom.

You can ask: "What part of 'shall not be infringed' do you not understand?"

They understand it, all right. But they have their own private agenda, and they will not concede a single step.

They think they're right, and you are stupid and misinformed.

What are you going to do about it?

Jack Reacher: "Nothing to Lose"

Blogging was a little slow yesterday, because I received the latest "Jack Reacher" novel ("Nothing to Lose") in the mail from Amazon. When I got home from work I checked my mailbox, and there it was. So I took it inside, settled down in the Geek Chair, and read the whole thing. I turned the light out at 1am, meaning it took me about six hours to read it.

No, it wasn't an "I Couldn't Put It Down" situation. I put the book down about 9:30, so I could go down to the kitchen and pour myself a glass of milk. Then I went back upstairs and finished the book.

Lee Child is an excellent writer of action novels, and he didn't disappoint me until the end, when he got into his little American Politics rant. It doesn't matter whether or not I agreed with him, I didn't really want my reading pleasure interrupted with his opinions about the current Administration and how the War in Iraq has been mismanaged.

Well, I haven't experienced a war that hasn't been mismanaged, so as far as I was concerned this latter portion of the book was an indulgence by the author. I trust he will show a little more forbearance, if not discretion, in the future.

Still, Jack Reacher still remembers his roots: He thinks nothing of walking 20 miles to the next town; limits his personal possessions to cash, an ATM card, his passport and a folding toothbrush; and he can take any six guys in a bar brawl.

At least Child doesn't make Reacher (his protagonist) shoot his initial ("J") into a 6" Aspen at over a mile range using a .50 caliber Barret, as he has done in a previous book.

Do I recommend the book?

Oh yeah, sure. Reading books by Lee Child is a lot like eating Cracker Jacks.

Once you get started, you just can't quit.

PS: to the Hobo Brasser --
yes, I have all the first 11 Jack Reacher novels, and I will bring them to you at the TCGC Tactical 3-gun match this weekend.

But I want them back when you have read them!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Up You Go!

Last weekend's ARPC Club Match was a delightful 'Retro' experience.

MD Mike McCarter dragged out some tried-and-true stages from earlier days, and leavened the mixture with new stage designs which were both challenging and fun. (Match results here.)

Unfortunately, I was entered in the wrong division during sign-up; as this was the first match that I had shot in a long time when I shot 'clean' (no misses, no penalties), I would have preferred that I had been classified correctly. I had a lot of fun, I was squadded with all good people, so I don't really care. It's just that my posted results made me look better than I really was, considering that I was posted in "Limited 10" division rather than "Open". It has been a long time since I shot that well in L10.

One of the "Retro" stages was Stage 5: "Up You Go".

This basic stage design requires the competitor to engage some close cardboard ("Metric") targets, and some far. You must move a short distance on the level part of the stage, then move up a ramp to a platform which allows you to engage 6 steel targets (5 Pepper Poppers, on US Popper) around a barricade constructed of plastic barrels stacked three high. It's a test of balance, and figuring out your personal best way of choosing when and where to engage the paper targets.

This design has been included in at least two Single Stack matches, and a couple of club matches. It's not new to us, but the minor variations are sufficient to make each iteration a new challenge.

The following video shows a half-dozen or so competitors who each choose their own way to shoot the stage. The greatest variable is whether they find a 'sweet spot' in which to engage six targets (four close, two far downrange) or to take the downrange targets from the ramp or the platform. It provides each shooter the option to shoot 'on the move' or from a static position.

And when you get to the top of the platform, all huffing and puffing out of breath, it's a test to see if you can get all six steel targets without having to make up misses. I required eight shots to knock down the six steel targets; the highest round-count shown here was 12 shots to knock down six, but that shooter missed faster than I could hit them. Only one shooter in my squad shot the steel 'clean', and Kevin R. has been getting better and better with his new Open gun.

Here's how it looks. You can see the shooters with limited magazine capacity, because they shot the stage much different from those who only have 10 rounds in their magazines.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Even more Shooting Wire: Cost of Competition

During the past month, I have been peripateticaly whining talking about the cost of competition.

Here is my original post, and here is my reference to Jim Shepherd's article in The Shooting Wire on the subject.

A few days ago, Shepherd asked for comments from his readers about how the rising costs of ammunition (and reloading components) has affected participation in the Shooting Sports.

Here is his June 16, 2008 resulting article, presented (for a first) with no apology for quoting his article in full ... for reasons which will be obvious:

Reader Feedback on Shooting Costs

The response to our three questions as to whether rising costs were impacting shooting have been, to say the least, overwhelming. As the general survey results recapped last week verified, although unscientifically, it seems a majority of the shooting public is tightening belts in order to continue their shooting hobbies. Unfortunately, a small minority is finding that shooting is simply out of the budget until the economy turns.

There's no future in preaching gloom-and-doom for our economy in general or shooting specifically, but it is no sweeping generalization or oversimplification to say that rising energy costs are impacting everyone.

How drastically was made obvious to me last week as I saw workers scrounging together their change in order to buy enough gas to get to work. They were going to worry about getting home later.

It was brought into absolute clarity afterwards when I parked my car in the hotel lot (in broad daylight) only to come out later to a fuel gauge that read three-quarters of a tank. Someone had lightened the fuel load by around five gallons, effectively stealing a twenty-dollar bill out of my pocket in the process.

Money is getting tight for the average American, and very tight for those who were already struggling to make ends meet.

That same frugality is obvious at shooting ranges, too. Where I shoot, people used to routinely police up their brass and toss it into a communal recycling drum. Not anymore. The question "do you reload" or quick comment "I'll take that" has replaced the laid-back attitude toward reloading components.

Last week, I asked you to share with me some of the ways you were being impacted - and reacting - to rising costs.

Today, excerpts from those responses. I think you'll see why we think the cost of shooting is another of those areas that must be addressed in next week's Shooting Industry Summit.


"I have been reloading for handguns since 1979 and for rifles since the 1980s. In that time I've built up a good supply of components so the big increases haven't hit my handgun and rifle shooting hard yet. I got some .38 and .45 bullets at a reasonably good price from a local bullet maker last fall and hope he still has some available this summer. Bought some pulled 9mm bullets so I can start reloading that caliber again sometime this year. I've been buying up all the "bargain" shotgun loads I can find and will get some more this payday. I put the word bargain in quotes because there aren't that many real deals out there at the moment. I can get though this fall with what I have on hand, after that it's going to get interesting. So far, high gas prices are doing more damage to my shooting than high ammo prices. If I wasn't a reloader..."

"I too have gone to shooting more .22. I all ready owned a conversion kit for my AR, but I use it more and more now. My next purchase may be another .22, instead of a concealed carry 9 mm pistol as I was originally planning to do. I am also thinking about getting a high quality BB gun to plink with-at least it is something I can afford to shoot."


"I read your article in The Shooting Wire, and while I don't have a solution, I do have a comment. You said a lot of people don't shoot regularly or at all anymore. I am one of those. Even though I handload, and budget all my money down to the dollar, I can no longer afford the gas to go out to the range. The range I normally go to is about 20 miles out of Edmonton, The Spruce Grove Gun Club. Suburbs are boxing it in and everyone is sure it will be closed down within the next year or two because subdivisions are now being prepped for houses within 2 miles. The next range closest to me is Genesee. This range is about 50 miles out of town. The cost to drive there and back exceeds the cost of the ammo I shoot. Going out to shoot is now like a small vacation. If I get out twice this summer, I will consider myself lucky."


"Jim, those "no lead" video deer and big game hunting games are pretty fun. Outside of the initial cost, no more ammo to buy! Kids love 'em, too."


"One of my ways of coping with the rising cost of shooting is to buy two rounds for every round I shoot. Aas [sic] the cost rises, I get some protection. It also allows me to bank against a Democrat takeover of our Federal government."


"As for coping with the high price on ammo, I usually look for sales. Cabela's usually has some in-house sales. Because prices are high and people are not buying as much, some stores do run specials. Second, I shop around on websites for closeouts, bulk purchase, etc. I usually try and keep a handle on prices so I know if something is a good price, I can buy in bulk or case quantity. I also go to gun shows and buy reloads for good reload sources. However this ammunition I only use for range purposes. The third thing I did in my purchasing of firearms was to limit myself to specific calibers. I own a 9mm and .45 in handgun and .22, .223 and .308 in long guns. Again when I find good prices I stock up and do not have to spread my purchases over several calibers. I look forward to see what you hear from other shooters."

"In your June 11 article, you asked about "sharing [my] suggestions". I'm not certain that this would be applicable or even feasible for many of your readers, but I'm in an unusual situation: Most of my close friends compete, and reload to keep the costs down. One of our members is a "dealer" and is able to float the costs of quantity buying. We buy bullets, powder and primers in large lots and split the expenses. We buy Montana Gold Bullets, for example, in shipments of over 11 cases. Each case weighs about 85#, which constitutes 4,000 115gr .355 RN bullets. I take a case every 4 to six months (it use to be a case every other month). In those quantities, shipping is free.

We buy powder (Vihta Vourhi) in minimum 100# lots. I bought 16# this month, which will load about 15,000 rounds and should last me a year ... at $85/#. (*)Primers we buy in 5,000 primer 'sleeves', which early last year cost $85 but now ... I don't know. We can't get large shipments anymore. Primers which use to cost $15/brick (1,000) cost over $20 last year; now it costs $30, in the retail store.

The math seems hazy, because our Dealer friend can no longer afford to 'front' large shipments and most of us are still relying on reserves we bought last year. By the end of this year, we will all be re-evaluating our dedication to competition, and will doubtless have to pony up the price of components at least 2 or 3 months before our expected need. And of course, the cost of new brass has doubled in the past year ... when you can get it. This is the best arrangement we can make, and it is definitely not satisfying. Too-many of us are not shooting as much, or not shooting at all any more. With each participant falling by the wayside, the options of 'bulk purchase' are decreasing.

However, I am happy to inform you that the sport is attracting new shooters every month, who seem willing and even eager to absorb not only the cost of buying ammunition at retail prices but at the same time budgeting for new pistols, holsters, magazines, magazine carriers, and all the other accoutrements of competition shooting. Unfortunately, I predict that they too will soon be overwhelmed with the increasing costs of ammunition, and too many will fall by the wayside.

It's a shame, really. We in USPSA have worked for decades to 'grow the sport', and it is reaching new levels of interest. Now, just when interest is at a new high, we're bracing ourselves for the gloomy near-future when we can only expect that all the eager new faces will discover that it costs as much to shoot for a year as it costs to buy a new pistol.

Not everyone -- not most of us -- can afford this. That means that people who are likely to increase demand on retail products will leave the 'customer base' because the market cannot provide us the means to practice our skills at a bearable price.

This is becoming too depressing to continue. (Sorry for the pun.)

EDITOR's NOTE: The last comment comes from Jerry ("The Geek") *******. Jerry's among our favorite bloggers (and not because he occasionally quotes us) you can check his blog out at:

--Jim Shepherd

* NOTE: The "$85 /#" quote for the price of VV gunpowder is accurate, in that this is what I wrote; however, it is not the cost incurred. It should have read "$85/4#", which is considerably less! I apologize for the misleading information.