Saturday, December 18, 2010

Greatest Glock 19 review of all timeses.

A link to this vid was posted on one of the forms I frequent, and it was too entertaining not to share. He was doing really good with making it sound like he was clueless, until he went into just a little too much detail. In actuality, if you take every sarcastic remark he makes and reverse it, you get a really good overview of the 19. Kudos to Mixflip for the most entertaining thing I've seen on YouTube this week.

Monday, December 06, 2010

10-8 Pistol Test 1: where your skills at?

Matt E. and I shot this course of fire on Saturday. There's nothing ground breaking or outrageously technical in it, but it's a very good test of skills. I should have known that it couldn't be as easy as it appeared because the 5 second time standard is what Hilton Yam says a good Master class competitive shooter can do. Silly Haji. Most of my times were a bit on the plus side of 7 seconds, this first time through.

Click the JPEG, print it and try it. I think you'll find it a very good test of skills, and if you have holes in your game, it'll show those, too! It did for me.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wisdom from Brother Borebrush

This was posted on LF in an AAR from last year by my homeboy Chad. I was tempted to copy and paste the whole post, but this quote really stuck out for me:
Getting mad never wins a fight. It’s the ability to keep that fire bottled up and in its rightful place, which wins today’s fight. It might be the very fight of your life.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There's trained and untrained...but how do you get there?

Despite being an American male, and contrary to public opinion and Intardweb common knowledge, nobody comes into the world knowing how to run a handgun. Rifles are pretty intuitive, and most people can do acceptably well with them with little training. That's not the case with the handgun. The fact of the matter is that pistols are hard to use really well. If you think of the Grand Master pistol shooters in the world, and how many of them there are as a percentage of the country's population, they are indeed a rare breed. Because most female shooters are saddled with instruction from their Paw Paw/old man/brother/uncle/boyfriend/husband (those are all supposed to be different people, and are except in certain states), they're already fighting an uphill battle, and that there are so many that can shoot so well is a testament to their will to win.

I've seen some really wacky things happen at the range. I've seen some folks trying to teach their pals or wives/girlfriends to shoot and doing them a total disservice in their instruction. The "why" of that is that the gun owner isn't trained, either. They're passing on what they think they know about shooting, but which they picked up from movies and TV. Unfortunately, they're watching The Shield instead of Street Kings, and not being able to tell the difference. Why? Because they have no formal training. Even Larry Freakin' Vickers didn't get to where he is by making it all up on his own. He got training.

Yes, you can attend a LAV (the "A" is, I think, the initial of the Latin root word for "Freakin'") class, but if you don't have some existing shooting skills, a base of knowledge and safe gun handling skills, you'll spend the whole time behind the curve and slowing the rest of the class down, making you That Guy. Even if you're female, you'll still be That Guy. Pat Rogers gives a hat with That Guy on the adjusting tab as a memento to That Guy in his classes. Often, that's a previously trained shooter earning it, which means that there wasn't enough training already. it ends up being a bit of a Catch-22: if you're not already trained, how do you progress in training? How do you get trained enough to get trained more, to get better and do so safely? How can one afford it? I'll explain some of how I got to where I am now (which is nowhere near as far along as I want to be), which will hopefully help and perhaps generate some ideas for both the readers of my blog.

I started off like most people do: I got my first rifle for Christmas when I was 16. I still have that rifle, and I wish I'd kept track of how many rounds it has through it; it's a significant number, as a brick of .22 was only about $10 in those days, and we rarely took less than 500 rounds out, every time. That wasn't shooting, though. That was plinking, and there was scant actual shooting going on. I shudder to think where I'd be if I knew then what I know now...

I owned a fair number of guns-most of them middle quality, none duty quality guns yet-and was OK enough that I shot better than most of my friends, and read a lot more magazines than they did. That made me the defacto expert, sad to say. I did realize that I needed some actual schooling to get better, so I started looking around at where I might get some training. I found that the local Community College had an Administration of Justice department, and that there were firearms classes available through that department, with the only prerequisite being the Introduction to Administration of Justice 110, which turned out to be a very informative, fascinating class. Those classes started with the building blocks of marksmanship: sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through, with an SnW 686 revolver. All courses of fire, which didn't go further back than 15 yards, were from the low ready, and always double action.

Those classes progressed from Beginning to Intermediate to Advanced, the difference being that the advanced class added some moving targets and moving to targets, as well as such things as 25 yard shooting and using barricades. It was more tactics based than marksmanship based, but those principles of marksmanship were there through all three classes. These were every Friday for three hours, for four months; a full semester length class. The fundamentals and safety rules were pounded into my skull and seared on my soul. Or something like that.

From there, I did some competing and shot with as many people that knew more than I did as I could find. About three years ago, I started shooting regularly with Matt E. and Paul J. Matt is a very well trained shooter (he's at a class right now, as a matter of fact), and Paul is one of the most naturally gifted shooters I've met. He's one of those guys that can do everything wrong, but his trigger control is so good he still gets tiny little groups. That's when I went from shooting to training. Working on specific drills, keeping track of times, trying to make every shot a perfect repetition. Now if only it always was a perfect repetition...

The NSSF recently started a new program aimed specifically at the new gun owner with little to no experience called First Shots. I don't know why it took so long for an organization to develop this idea, but the NSSF has done an excellent job with it. The whole point is to be able to get some classroom and range time under very controlled, supervised conditions. The site can be searched to find a club or range near you that is doing this program.

What do you do if you can't find a club doing that program near you? I've talked to a couple range owners that like the concept but have some differences in how they train new shooters, and don't want to be affiliated with an organization. By all means, contact the local range and inquire. It's possible that they don't know about First Shots, and may very well want to be a part of it.

Gun shops can be hit or miss on this topic. For every shop that has a squared away staff that knows what's going on around them, there are a whole pile of 'em that pass on really bad information. I don't really know how to get to the good ones. One must be discerning. If you hear something weird that doesn't jibe with what you've heard elsewhere, try to verify it. If you can't, file that bit of info away. Eventually patterns will emerge and you'll be able to tell who's straight up and who's full of crap. Remember though, it's in a shop's best interest to steer you right, so once you find a shop that can get you good info from, patronize them. Many times you will find a knowledgeable employee that has the ability to teach, who can get you started in the right direction. Grab your yellow pages and/or Google, and start with Gun Ranges. If that doesn't prove fruitful, try Gun Shops next. Don't leave out Rod and Gun Clubs. If they are to continue to exist, they need new members. They're a good resource for this sort of thing, as are local USPSA or IDPA clubs. The NRA does a lot with training, with a network of certified instructors all over the country. Their programs can be found here.

Expect to travel. Think about it: if you're buying a gun to trust your life to, how much is that life worth? You may have to drive to get to a class, but it's a small price to pay. Consider it an investment, and a savings in ammo not spent reinforcing bad habits and TV technique. Having to drive a couple hours is a small matter in order to get started off right.

If worse comes to worst, consider hosting a class. This is a lot of work and will be much easier when you've got some experience and have networked within the community, because hosting involves contacting the instructor and arranging the times and dates with a local range (can be private property, Police ranges, rod and gun clubs, stuff like that) as well as getting the word out to prospective customers. It's a lot of work, but it's not impossible. The instructors will have a lot of ideas for accomplishing the tasks.

Once you have that base of knowledge, you can move on to the more "high speed" courses, but you have to have decent gun handling skills and some shooting skills to be safe and to not be drinking from the fire hose the whole time you're in the class. I have to tell ya, though: quality training is addicting! Let's face it. Getting better at shooting is just plain fun. Go get some training!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Setting Up the AR Carbine-A Way and some Reasons

AR's are probably the best assault rifle-based rifle available right now. The upside of the AR is that there are an incredible number of options and ways to set 'em up. The downside of the AR is that there are an incredible number of options and ways to set 'em up. Any site on the web that has the capability of posting pics of guns almost certainly has photos of AR's on it. Some are set up well...and some are better termed Football Bats than carbines.

My intention is not to dwell too much on brands, as I intend to rant on the set up rather than on the particular model. Up front, I have to state that my carbine is what I would term a Frankengun, and I have blogged against parts guns for best reliability. I do need to make a couple of comments on this subject, though: first, "just as good as" doesn't exist unless you're comparing guns built on or as close as possible to the TDP (Technical Data Package). Gun prices don't exist in a vacuum, and Daniel Defenses, BCMs, Colts, LaRues, LMT's, Noveskes, Knight's's...'s, and their brethren aren't just more expensive to be more expensive. Not all parts are created equal, and quality isn't free. Are you paying for a name with Tier 1 and Tier 2 brands? In a sense you are, insofar as you're paying for what the name represents. Reputations are built, not awarded. You're paying for the name that is based on the reputation built on quality. A Bushamster or DPMS or other commercial spec gun isn't the same. It can't be; it's not built to the same standard with the same quality parts. How to determine which is the right gun for you is a blog for another time.

For simplicity's sake, assume that the base gun is a duty-quality carbine with properly staked gas key, staked castle nut, Mil-Spec parts, and the like. That way, I can limit this epic tome just to set up and external parts and accessories. And of course, this is a way, not the way. OK, it is the way, but there are other ways that are the way, too. And there are lots of ways that aren't the way. Don't do it with the not the way. It's called "not the way" for a reason. Not the way often has plastic parts from one of the 78,000 Israeli companies that make crappy parts for the AR, which falls under the blessing/curse clause of the AR mentioned in the first paragraph.

If you're starting from scratch, consider the 14.5/permanently attached flash hider (to make it a 16", non-NFA legal barrel) and mid length gas system. There's nothing wrong with the carbine gas system, but the mid length is a little smoother, softer shooting, and probably wears parts slower. In terms of front sights, I'm a believer in the Front Sight Base rather than rail mounted folding sights. The "why" is that if your optic goes out due to failure or the battery going dead, you can make surprisingly accurate hits using the front sight post. Your rear sight becomes a giant aperture sight at that point, meaning out to about 25 yards, put the front sight post on what you wanna shoot and press the trigger to the rear. At that distance, you may or may not have time to flip up your back up sight. If you have time, do it. If you don't, put the front sight post on your target and nail it. The reason I prefer the FSB to rail mounted sights is that as long as the barrel is properly indexed, there's just less involved with a pinned FSB vs. other screw-on sight systems. Pins are a big enough deal that I've become a believer in grinding down the FSB rather than using a set-screw low profile gas block.

The great thing about fore ends is that there are a ton of great choices now, and where there were lots of choices of the 7" rail before, now it's possible to go longer with a few different choices. There are two advantages to going to a longer rail, and 12"-13" is the magical length. The "why": those two advantages are that you can grab the fore end further out. The closer you can get your hand to the muzzle, the better you can control recoil. The other advantage is that you can get your light further out, which means less shadow caused by the barrel. Some lights can even be mounted in front of the FSB, which means less leaning out from cover to get the light shining where the target is. In terms of rails, I'm a huge fan of Daniel Defense. Their stuff is always in spec and are the lightest rails going. I don't recall ever hearing about one being broken under normal circumstances. There are, of course, other quality rails, but I always recommend DD. Light, strong, in spec and easy to install. How can it get better? Their 12.0 FSP Lite rail is the standard of excellence for rails.

However! Now there are some options for fore ends other than full rail systems, and they're less expensive to boot. There are tubular handguards that can still mount lights by adding sections of rail where they're needed. Note the light on my home boy Paul J.'s VTAC fore end:

The VTAC is really light, slim and comfortable. Troy makes a nice 13", called the TRX Extreme, and it's MSRP is only $189, which means that it can be had for less "on the street". Like the VTAC, it can use bolt on rail sections. Ignore the vert grip in this pic, it's in the wrong place. The pic is Troy Industries's...'s:

As I said, that's not my preferred sighting set up, but it beats the hell out of no front sight at all, and there are advantages to having a clear sight picture, too. For Pete's sake, run that vert grip out to the end of the rail!

I very much prefer the Surefire M300 Mini Scout with theSR-07 switch. This system keeps the light and the switch out of the way, and means I have to move my thumb about a half inch instead of changing my grip to reach the light.

Previously, I've used the tail cap and actuated it with my support hand knuckle. This allows me to use the thumb over grip without much other change. Changing as little as possible makes everything easier, smoother and more consistent. Related to all this is sling placement, which I'll address a bit later.

Working backwards, we come to the upper receiver. Some people like to have AR's with carry handles, no lights and optics, and call them "KISS rifles". KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. The fact is, that's not simple, that's less capable. Flat tops are the only choice for a real fighting gun, because simple only needs to apply to the mount for the sighting system. Choices in optics are simple, too: get an Aimpoint. There is much to love about the Eotech reticule, with the dot and circle sight picture. However, on the whole they just don't last. Some can go to very high round counts, but most don't seem to be able to do that. I've got a friend who's XPS2 crapped out within 12 rounds, shutting off and not coming back. Another friend has about 7300 rounds on his, and his zero has started wandering. An 18B friend of mine DX'd (sent back as broken) 32 of them, on a 12 man team. Others have reported exceptionally high failure rate amongst their duty guns. I dig the XPS series, but they're not lasting a whole lot better than the older sights. If the gun may be used for serious purposes and not just a range toy, get an Aimpoint. My M68 (old style Comp ML2) has been on two deployments before it went through the DRMO system and given to me. Still works fine-now that there's a battery cap on it-and holds zero like a vice. Almost everyone I know that runs one has trouble free performance. It's just cost-effective insurance.

What about mounts? There are plenty of good ones, but LaRue Tactical is still the best of them. They have a new no-lever mount that saves about $25, so if you don't intend to move the optic, get the VFZ version. They're the best there are, no more expensive than other good mounts, and ya get a bunch of cool stuff with the order. Can't beat 'em. If you're using an M68 CCO mount, use the LT-150, which gives a 1/3 lower co-witness. One reason for going for the throw lever mount is that if your optic gets destroyed somehow, you can dump it and go to your BUIS. I mount the optic as far forward as the receiver will allow to increase field of view, while avoiding putting the optic over the barrel nut, which is the hottest part of the carbine. Heat and electronics don't go well together.

Why lower 1/3 co-witness instead of absolute co-witness? I don't want the clutter of having the rear sight in the sight picture. Just too much junk to deal with. I just wanna see the dot and the target. I zero my BUIS and optic separately from each other. Having them all lined up when they're not the same sight system doesn't make much sense to me. Since I run an Aimpoint, the chances of needing my folding Troy Battlesight are very, very slim.

We're in a time when there are better magazines than ever before. USGI aluminum mags get a bad rap, but I'm convinced that happens because there are a whole bunch of magazines still in service that shouldn't be. The latest generation of them has an improved spring and Magpul-like follower, and is a very high quality magazine. However, it costs more than the Magpul PMag does, which seems to beg the question of "why not just buy PMags?" PMags haven't been absolutely perfect and trouble free; there are stories of feed lip problems cropping up here and there, but that may be due to the polymer of different colors being a little problematic. The black NSN PMags have an enviable reputation, and are almost all I use. I have a couple green ones, a few tan ones, and some good aluminum mags from Colt, Okay, BCM, and DSG. The back PMag sees the bulk of the action, though. There are also excellent reports from the Tango Down polymer magazine, too. I know that doesn't narrow things that much, but use this as your guideline: avoid steel mags, they're heavy with no benefit, and in the case of HK, have a short service life. Stick to quality, GOOD CONDITION magazines, whether aluminum or polymer, and GET RID OF THEM when they need to taken out of service. That means destroy them before putting them in the trash bin. Don't bother with mags that aren't in wide distribution. Every now and then, something new comes out, has a huge buzz, and then fades away. Don't bother with being the Johnny Come Lately with magazines. If they're really better, they'll get proven as such over time, and if you need new mags, use them then. Till then, stick with the proven winners. You won't have to drill clearing a double feed as often.

What about stocks? My bro Matt E. put both a Magpul CTR and an LMT SOPMOD on the scale. We always thought the SOPMOD was heavier; its bigger, so it has to be heavier, doesn't it? Turns out it isn't, so it doesn't. They're roughly the same weight. I still like the cheek weld of the SOPMOD and Vltor Modstock, but the CTR is what's on my rifle because I like that it's slim while having some of the characteristics of the cheek weld of the others. One thing I wish it did was to be able to run the sling off the top of the stock as with the Vltor, but that's not necessarily a deal breaker. I don't have a problem with the "LE" style stock that most carbines come with these days, except that it doesn't have a thin pad on it. That pad isn't to tame the thunderous recoil of the 5.56 cartridge, although it probably does aid in that a little. What the pad is for is to keep the buttstock from sliding around in your shoulder pocket. Everybody who's opinion I care about is all about leaning on the rifle aggressively, so the Duostock is a non-starter for me. Probably works great for Camp Perry-type competition, though.

I hate the A2 style pistol grip's finger rest, and I have big hands. I went with the Magpul MIAD to get the fattest grip I could. Most of the quality aftermarket grips have a duckbill or tab that covers the gap between the trigger guard and the grip, and that's a tremendous help if you're shooting 1500 rounds over three days. If you don't have that type of grip, stuff a foam ear plug in there or bust out some tape to keep that finger from being rubbed to the bone.

In terms of slings there's only one design to use: the adjustable two point. Blue Force Gear's Vickers Combat Applications Sling (VCAS) and Viking Tactics VTAC are both excellent. BFG's sling doesn't have a running tail when you adjust it and it's wider. The VTAC adjusts faster but has a running end on the adjusting strap. Both are excellent and both work. Get the padded version if you don't wear armor, and get the non-padded if you do. Padded slings with armor are just extra bulk that you don't get any benefit from.

There are two schools of thought on sling placement: the sling can be close in, using an end plate adapter or sling mount that attaches over the receiver extension and at the receiver end of the rail, or off the stock and at the end of the rail. The advantage to running it in close is that it keeps the sling out of the way of your hands when manipulating the carbine, and generally frees up the carbine to be put into position to be reloaded. Pushing the sling out to the ends lets it hang better on the sling and allows the sling to be used as a tensioning device against the forearm to improve steadiness for longer shots. I find more utility in the sling points being pushed further out.

That sling mount is the ACE 1.5" rail grabber mount.

I like that mount more than any other I've used, because all it does is secure the sling to the rail. The problem with most QD sling mounts is that they end up being bulky, or they're not rotation limited. Daniel Defense mounts are, and I've had good luck with them. I just like the lower profile of the Ace part. It's also only about $20, while most of the QD mounts are around $30, or more. Lots of people cite needing to have a QD to dump the rifle in a hurry if they need to. I guess, but are you training that? I found that the way I'll get the rifle off in a hurry if the need ever arises-and since the chances of me being in an armored vehicle, getting rolled over into a canal in the ME is pretty doggone remote-will be to lift the sling off, like I've always done. If you have a need for a QD, by all means use one. If you don't, save some money and simplify things.

As I said, this is a way, but it comes from those smarter and more experienced than I am. However you set up your carbine, do yourself a favor and use the methods of experienced people. If it doesn't work for you, don't do it, but be honest with yourself and your assessment of "not working".

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday to Blog

Well, it turns out I missed my own e-birthday. My first post here was Oct. 15th, 2006, a momentous day that will be remembered by both my readers. Oddly, the mayor made no note of it.

I was fairly prolific back then, probably because being online was more fun than work; it wasn't part of my job description like it is now. Additionally, much has changed since then.

Most of what would have been blogged about has been shifted to other outlets, such as Facebook. If you're a celebrity in dire need of telling the world you took a dump again, there's Twitter. I don't care how popular Twitter gets, its still gay. But if you think back a little, there was a time when all there was available was Myspace. That place was called a Digital Ghetto recently, and is most certainly in its decline. Despite being owned by some currently rich kid and having a movie made about it, FB will probably go that way too as something new comes along.

I dunno how much I plan to continue to post, but I'm not going away completely for some time yet. There will be a few more late birthday announcements, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Does this ass make my car look big?

Shamelessly stolen from my home boy Tatonka:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

There's no part as misunderstood as the vertical grip

For everyone that knows what a vertical grip is, there is an equal number that misunderstand it's purpose. Lots and lots of people want them, but there don't appear to be that many that understand what they do and what they don't do. A little understanding can go a long way towards maximizing its effectiveness...and may lead to doing away with it altogether.

The vertical fore grip, often times abbreviated as VFG, came into use in the SOPMOD kit. SOPMOD Block 1 was quite a while ago, and the standard of the day was a 7" rail-same length as handguards on a carbine length gas system-as well as the AN/PEQ-2 laser and a Surefire Millennium series light (not part of SOPMOD Block 1; that light was an Insight...sadly) was standard issue. With all that, there was no place left on the fore end to put the support hand, so the KAC vertical grip was born. It was a pretty elegant solution for a difficult problem.

But what happened next was where it all went wrong. Photos came back from the war zones with Servicemen that had VFG's on their tricked out (for the time) M4's. Lots of people assumed it was a shooting aid, and started running them as the only thing on their rails (not everyone knew they needed a white light yet; this is still several years ago), figuring that was what they needed to shoot better...or at least look cooler in their minds. Then they started making things worse by running that VFG towards the receiver.

Thanks to America's best gunfighters (they're sometimes called The Artists Formerly Known As and Those of the Burrito Eating Moustaches) ending their time in the Service, a better way to use the VFG was developed. To understand what was better about it, one must first understand what the ultimate goal is: fast and accurate shooting. We're going on a slight detour here for a second. Trust me, it'll be OK. We're coming back to this.

What follows assumes the use of no VFG at all. Essentially, shooting fast and accurate is controlling the muzzle, and by extension, the barrel. So, in order to shoot in various positions as accurately as possible, minimizing movement-controlling the movement of the barrel-is The Key. How does that happen? By putting the support hand as far forward as possible, grabbing as much fore end as possible, and pulling into the shooter's shoulder. This does two things: first, it minimizes the movement of the muzzle, and secondly, it makes driving the gun between targets easier, faster, and more precise. For illustration, here's Kyle Defoor (a former SEAL amongst all the former Delta guys at Tiger Swan Training. He must know some things). Note his support hand placement.

And here's one of the winningest competition shooters that ever lived, Jerry Miculek. Note the similarity to how Kyle D is running his support hand.

I can post pics of this all day, as there are TONS of examples of this style of shooting. Control the muzzle, control and drive the rifle. We can safely call this fact. I can show more examples, but then this post becomes a book.

OK, so back to where we were before. Remember I mentioned that Those That Shall Not Be Named were running their carbines a different way from the rest of the world. What they were doing, and remember that this is several years old by now, was running the vert grip out to the end of their rails. There's some good footage of how they used to do it starting at about the 1 minute mark of this vid on YouTube:
Normally, I wouldn't put out a link like that, but it's been posted more times than I can count over the past two years, so I'm gonna call it pretty much common knowledge.

That's "how they used to do it", because equipment has changed. Notice the rather specialized lights integrated into the vertical grips...which are at the end of the rail. Seeing a pattern here yet? Also of note is that rails have gotten longer. Take a look at the photos that follow. All those fore ends are at least 12" long. Lengthening the rail and having lasers and lights get drastically smaller. That's made shooting better even easier. More on rails and handguards in a later post.

Hopefully, the short vertical grip has become fairly well known since it's introduction. What I don't think has become well known is how to use it. The shorty grips aren't meant to be grabbed in a chicken choking grip, and most people can't unless they have very small hands. They're meant to be a hand stop. Here's Chris Costa of Magpul Dynamics using one exactly that way:
Stickman takes great pics!
Costa uses a little less of the grip than many other users do; he's got his pinkie up against it, where others have the pinkie and ring, and occasionally middle finger against the grip.

That's how it works best. How's it work worst? Run it towards the receiver and chicken choke it. I will guarantee that two shooters of equal capability will be made to look like master and beginner by where they run that grip. Running that grip in and chicken choking it is the worst way to use it. When the goal is to control the barrel, hanging a lever off 90 degrees to it is not the way to make that happen. The closer to the receiver one gets, the more control is sacrificed.

I tried almost every version of VFG's that there are, by putting them to the timer. I set up at 7-10 yards, and shot at a 4" black dot at the beep of the timer, as many rounds as I could keep in the circle in one second. I was a full round a second faster with no vert grip at all vs. even running it to the end of the rail. What I found was that not using the vert grip at all made me both faster and more accurate. Give it a try. Your results will be very similar.

Getting rid of it altogether is where I am right now, although I have acquired another Magpul Angled Fore Grip that I may put back on...again. It doesn't hurt my shooting, but in messing with it, my crew and I found that it works better with a thumb forward grip, whereas I use the "thumb over" or "competition" grip, where the support hand thumb is wrapped over the top of the rail. I may still go back to it, but at this point all my training has been without it. I'm not in a big hurry to do that for myself, but I certainly encourage taking a look at it and seeing if it makes the shooter better. It's not that expensive, so it's a cheap experiment.

However it's approached, as long as the support hand ends up as far down the handguard as possible, that's the right track.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Handguns: How to Choose What to Bet Your Life On

I'm sure I'm gonna stir up a hornet's nest among some people by writing this, but so be it. There's really nothing here that I haven't said online all over the place already, but now most of it ("most" because my "stream of unconsciousness" style of writing will probably cause me to miss something) will be in one place to be roundly ignored.

I work in a tactical gear store that also sells guns, primarily in order to sell more holsters. Even with our very narrow focus, we still see a lot of first time gun buyers, or people looking for a home defense/carry gun who have limited experience with handguns. The right call for most of them is also the right call for a more experienced (or even supremely experienced) person, too.

The first question is "what is the job for this particular gun"? Is this a home defense gun or personal protection/carry gun? Why it matters: smaller guns are harder to shoot well, so don't choose a compact unless you need to. A full size gun will be easier to manipulate under most circumstances, so if the purpose is home defense, there's no need to be concerned about concealability. If the purpose is concealment, then a compact or subcompact will be in order. Match the choice to what the purpose for the gun is, and be honest while doing it.

Most people get very wrapped around the axle on caliber choice. It doesn't a point. There is no way to make smaller and lighter equal to bigger and heavier in absolute terms; it just can't be done. 9mm and .45 are never going to be totally equivalent. There are many accounts of people absorbing large numbers of smaller caliber rounds, while there are none that I've seen of somebody doing the same thing with ten rounds of .45 ACP hollow points. There are other factors that mitigate the question, though.

Here's where the trades are, using 9mm and .45 because they're the most common and disparate. .45 ACP is a big bullet in a big case. It takes up a lot of space. On top of that, it's very expensive, running roughly twice as much as 9mm does per fiddy round box. 9mm is less expensive, has less recoil, and as of right now, far more available. What that means is that a shooter will be able to get more ammunition and train more often with 9mm, making them more proficient. If the budget allowed and ammo was readily available all the time, I'd shoot .45 exclusively and be happy about it. However, ammo cost and availability have to play a part, because training and proficiency with the chosen gun are the most important thing. So, while I'm fully aware that my carry gun is a 9mm and not equivalent to a .40 or .45, I don't feel undergunned because I train weekly and have a lot of practice with it. Also in the "balancing factor" column is 32 rounds of 9mm in the same space that my 1911 would have 17. A .500 Zombieslayer is useless if you can't fight with it (defined as fast, accurate, effective hits). Get what you can afford to feed and can logistically support in order to be as good with it as you can be.

I used to feel like night sights were absolutely required. I don't really think that so much anymore. They're still good to have, but what having a front sight I can reference easily is a lot more important to me than having three glowing dots. As a matter of fact, my preferred sight systems these days are black rear sights with either a tritium or fiber optic front sights and going further, I like a .140" rear notch and a .100-.125" front. The reason for that is that if you're proficient with your pistol, you'll line it up correctly automatically because that's what you've trained to do. If you haven't, you need to, and I'd still suggest night sights for that shooter. Sights can always be changed, so don't choose your protective piece based on sights alone.

I wanted to get a couple other ideas out before I came to the topic of what system to choose and why, because here's where the controversy will come from. There are a whole bunch of different actions out there: DAO, DA/SA, SA, and striker fired. There are probably more, but those are the common ones. I'm a big believer in striker fired actions for a couple reasons: first, they've got a trigger that's the same every time it's pressed, and secondly because they don't make 1911's with strikers. Striker fired actions like the Glock and M&P are much, much easier to master than either the single action of a 1911 or a conventional double action/single action of something like a SIG, Beretta or HK USP or P30, for example. They make it easier for a shooter to get proficient in less time. Let's face it: mastering that initial long double action pull and a short second pull or the preloaded DAK type action of the HK P30 are harder to accomplish than a Glock's or M&P's. Shorter, lighter pulls are easier to shoot well. It's pretty cut and dried. There may be a nebulous "safety" advantage, but poor gun handling is poor gun handling. You're either safe or you're not; there's not much in between.

My recommendations are almost universally for an auto rather than a revolver because of the revolver's ammunition capacity penalty and that they're not significantly more reliable than a duty quality auto is. With a little training, there's no manipulation advantage, either. In fact, revolvers take more grip strength than autos do.

A pistol needs support equipment. That means a duty-quality gun with holsters and magazine pouches for them. The typical shooter will probably want, if not need, more than one style of holster. I wear a belt slide, a Safariland 529, and I also use a Peters Custom Holsters Hold Fast inside-the-waistband rig for more concealed carry, for places like church.

Polymer is preferred. The "why" is simple: the guns cost less and the frames last longer than steel and aluminum do. That equates to a longer service life. Todd Greene shot an MnP to 65,000 rounds before the slide developed a crack and retired it. Glock 9mm's typically go to 35,000 rounds with no significant wear other than springs, which have to be replaced on any gun as they wear out. Glock has some test pistols that have gone to 100,000 rounds. Having a steel or aluminum framed handgun go that long is a rare thing.

Support gear limits choices more drastically than just about anything else, basically trimming the choices down to two: the Glock and the S&W M&P. Every new holster made comes out for the Glock first, and by a huge time margin. The M&P has come along very, very quickly in that respect, whereas all the other guns are a very distant third in release times and new development. The XD, while in the conversation in other areas, falls way, way behind in this respect. When you add spare parts to support gear, the choices really single out.

Are there other quality guns out there? Of course. HK makes probably the most accurate out of the box polymer guns twice the price of the Glock and MnP. I'd still consider it if they made a striker fired auto, even with the price disparity. Their triggers are just too hard to run at the same level that the Glock and MnP are. What about 1911's? That's a topic for another time, but my friend Doug came back from Larry Vickers' 1911 Operator's Course, calling it what most do: The Glock appreciation Course. They're specialist, enthusiast guns now, not duty guns.

Reasonable cost in the reach of most, easy to master, accurate, long service lives, easy parts availability, and accessibility to support gear all add up to the Glock and MnP as the duty guns of choice. They are the dominant duty pistols for a reason, and those reasons also make them the choice for defensive purposes for the individual, too.

Now, that said, let me go on record with this statement: I don't "love" either one of these guns. The guns I love can be counted on one hand, and one of the pistols on that list is my old friend Elle, my 1911A1 custom. When something better comes along, I'll be all over it, and may sell my MnP and Glocks to have it. If I was just starting out, I might have gone with the MnP first, but since I'm old the Glock was already there. I think it's a little too late to switch it all now.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I didn't really want to go this direction: Haji's thoughts on stuff

Let's face it, other than going to the range and working out, there's not a lot to do in Western KY, especially with the Division deployed. As such, there just isn't that much to blog about...except my opinions on stuff, which are pretty well set, because I'm gettin' old and increasingly grumpy.

I was trying to avoid going this direction, but I've noticed a couple things. First, I see a lot of people posting stuff on the Intardweb that makes it clear they need some help. Why should they listen to me? Because most of my information comes from people much smarter and more experienced than I am. Basically, you're not getting my word, you're getting theirs.

What do I plan to cover? Well...I really need more of a plan to determine that. I have a couple topics I want to go into: a (notice I didn't say "the") proper way to set up an AR, vertical foregrips, polymer framed pistols, the Taurus Judge, training and trainers, why or why not a 1911 and why all 1911's aren't the same, and a few more topics. I haven't determined an order yet; I'm going to have to ponder that and see what comes up.

What can I say? It's either this or no blogging at all. Both my readers rejoice!

I am, of course, opinionated. I am convinced I'm right, until proven otherwise.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ouch. Sore. This better be worth it.

I'm a big, fat bastard, and I know it. That's not a really big deal until I come up against something that proves it to me. For me that was Pat Rogers' Carbine Operator's Course. I ran into a couple things I was physically unable to do, and I didn't like that. I started changing my diet in an effort to move towards being able to do what I couldn't do before. I will do them sometime in the future, after more work is done.

To that end, I started on Sunday working out with my home boy Sean. He's much stronger in the upper body than I am, but he's been shot in the leg and has a messed up hip from it, too, so there are things I can do more easily than he can. When he was a full time Infantry guy, he was working out a lot and got pretty doggone big, and crazy strong. Since he's been rehabbing his injuries, he's gained some weight and lost some strength, and wasn't happy about it. He really wanted to start working out again, but it's a lot easier to do that when there's somebody else to do it with. We decided that we were gonna get into this craziness together.

We started on Sunday, doing upper body. That's always funner, and you know where this is going: yeah, I overdid it. I started off going light, but it started being challenging and I pushed too many reps with too much weight, for the first time back to lifting in several years. I was much more sore the second day, and I'm just now starting to feel less pain in those muscles. Honestly, I was kind of dreading doing the lower body work out tonight.

I headed over to Sean's place, and it turns out that he had a month's worth of water (and other stuff) to get out of his rig, and taken to his third floor apartment. That was about a dozen, 32 ounce bottle cases, and a couple extra trips of other supplies. What ended up happening was that by the time we got to the third floor, the burn was pretty hardcore! I tried to push the pace a bit, and I think I succeeded because my legs felt like lead going back down the stairs. But, I helped a friend, and mixed up the workout. I'm not enjoying exercising yet, but that'll probably happen again, especially when I start seeing some good results. It better be worth the effort. ;)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A little something for the heat

Because it's way hot this week and the A/C is runnin', a little video of cooler times was warranted.

That's my homeboy Blogger Formerly Known As Josh, somewhere in the mountains of Durango, CO a few years ago. We did a snowmobile tour that was pretty cool. I don't care that much about riding snowmobiles, but being out in the mountains on one was a lot of fun. This particular incident took place as our guide went back to find where Amber had dumped her scooter and Beefy, Josh and I were forced to entertain ourselves. The header was by far the best part...other than the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich posted a while back from that trip.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Something new to take up time

I finally got tired of seeing our gear in other people's reviews and not hitting as much info as I would like, so Mel and I started shooting vids for YouTube. This is the first of them:

I found out a couple things: first, its a little harder than it seems to be. Second, trying to keep it short and keep the relevant information in the flick takes some planning and forethought. I also found that I hate the sound of my voice when it's recorded, and that my hands have been called "freakishly large". Not a lot I can do about that. Pat Rogers, on several occasions, has called me "a Large Human". I think I have to agree with his assessment. Us Big 'Uns don't look as good on camera. Just the way it is.

Interest seems to be strong. If nothing else, it's something different to do at work every once in a while, and that alone makes it worth the price of admission.

Monday, July 05, 2010


I find this hard to believe, but I've been off from work for a week, and didn't come up with a single thing worth blogging about. Maybe something good will happen tomorrow.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Grilled Wonder Chicken

I have been exceptionally neglectful of my blogging duties, especially since LF has been down due to server migration issues on our host's end. That should have freed up time to blog, but I generally stayed offline instead. Guess I needed a break or somethin'.

So, in order to have something new to post, I'll tell you about my latest kitchen kitbashing creation: Grilled Wonder Chicken, BBQ Style. Now, I'm generally a pretty simple cook in terms of spices. The only thing that goes on a steak for me is some EVOO, ground pepper and sea salt. I take a similar approach with chicken, because I just like the taste of chicken. However, I was in the mood for something different, so I messed around and got good results from this.

I'm not a skilled cook, I just know how to prepare meat with fire so that it's not undercooked and dangerous. I found that I was getting a little bored with what I already had going on, so I tried this: as usual, I rinsed some boneless skinless thighs, and set 'em out to get to room temperature, which didn't take very long at all. Next I gave 'em a touch of oil so the spices would have something to stick to, and because I like the taste. Next I dusted both sides with Weber's Smokey Mesquite seasoning, and gave 'em a shot of Dillo Dust while I was at it. It was close by, so on it went. I let it sit a bit so it'd stick to the bird better.

I got the grill hot, after warming it up and running a gas canister dry, and tonged the yard bird onto the high heat grill. After searing for a bit, I flipped 'em so as not to burn the spices already attached. I reduced the heat a bit to medium, and then started basting el pollo with some Jack Daniel's Spicy Original barbecue sauce, and closed the lid. this let the sauce glaze on the Leghorn, which is something I haven't really done before. Normally, I'll salt/pepper/sauce 'em before they go on, but did it different this time and was quite pleased with the results.

Because the sauce cooked on the bird somewhat less, more of the flavor came through, and the little bit of heat from the Smokey Mesquite spices was a nice change. I'm gonna do 'em like this again, and see if there's another tweak I can do.

I added some corn and potato salad, and a huge glass of iced tea. That worked downright well.

What can I say? I'm an unskilled bachelor. We can't all be Emeril.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wyatt Earp's OK Corral Gunfight Testimony

Recently, the original court documents from Tombstone, AZ. pertaining to the Gunfight at the OK Corral were found in the courthouse in Bisbee, AZ. These were not copies, these were originals. Talk about a piece of history! They've been turned over to the AZ State Archives for preservation. I found Wyatt Earp's testimony online-linked in the title of this post-and to say that I've been fascinated by it would be an understatement.

I've copied his statement from the website. There's a very good synopsis and related trial information here on the Famous Trials/OK Corral site. The actual history recorded in the documents is really, really interesting.
Statement of Wyatt S. Earp
in the Preliminary Hearing in the Earp-Holliday Case,
Heard before Judge Wells Spicer

November 16, 1881

Source: Turner, Alford (Ed.), The O. K. Corral Inquest (1992)

Wyatt S. Earp

On this sixteenth day of November, 1881, upon the hearing of the above entitled action, on the examination of Wyatt Earp and J. H. Holliday, the prosecution having closed their evidence in chief, and the defendants, Wyatt Earp and J. H. Holliday, having first been informed of his rights to make a statement as provided in Section 133, page 22 of the laws of Arizona, approved February 12, 1881, and the said Wyatt Earp having chosen to make a statement under oath and having been personally sworn, makes such statement under oath in answer to interrogatories as follows:

(Q) What is your name and age?

(A) My name is Wyatt Earp: 32 years old last March the 19th.

(Q) Where were you born?

(A) In Monmouth, Warren County, Illinois.

(Q) Where do you reside and how long have you resided there?

(A) I reside in Tombstone, Cochise County Arizona: since December 1, 1879.

(Q) What is your business and profession?

(A) Saloon keeper at present. Also have been Deputy Sheriff and also a detective.

(Q) Give any explanations you may think proper of the circumstances appearing in the testimony against you, and state any facts which you think will tend to your exculpation.

(A) The difficulty which resulted in the death of William Clanton and Frank McLaury originated last spring, [Objection made by prosecution against the defendant, Wyatt Earp, in making his statement, of using a manuscript from which to make such statement, and object to the said defendant being allowed to make statement without limit as to it relevancy. Objection overruled.] and at a little over a year ago, I followed Tom and Frank McLaury and two other parties who had stolen six government mules from Camp Rucker. Myself, Virgil Earp, and Morgan Earp, and Marshall Williams, Captain Hurst and four soldiers; we traced those mules to McLaury's ranch. [Prosecution moved to strike out the foregoing statement as irrelevant. Objection overruled.]

While at Charleston I met a man by the name of Dave Estes. He told me I would find the mules at McLaury's ranch. He said he had seen them there the day before. He said they were branding the mules "D S," making the "D. S." out [of] "D. S." We tracked the mules right up to the ranch. Also found the branding iron "D. S." Afterwards, some of those mules were found with the same brand.

After we arrived at McLaury's ranch, there was a man by the name of Frank Patterson. He made some kind of a compromise with Captain Hurst. Captain Hurst come to us boys and told us he had made this compromise, and by so doing, he would get his mules back. We insisted on following them up. Hurst prevailed on us to go back to Tombstone, and so we came back. Hurst told us two or three weeks afterwards, that they would not give up the mules to him after we left, saying that they only wanted to get us away, that they could stand the soldiers off. Captain Hurst cautioned me and my brothers, Virgil and Morgan, to look out for those men, as they had made some threats against our lives.

About one month after we had followed up those mules. I met Frank and Tom McLaury in Charleston. They tried to pick a fuss out of me down there, and told me if I ever followed them up again as close as I did before, they would kill me. Shortly after the time Bud Philpot was killed by the men who tried to rob the Benson stage, as a detective [working for Wells, Fargo & Co.] I helped trace the matter up, and I was satisfied that three men, named Billy Leonard, Harry Head, and James Crane were in that robbery. I knew that Leonard, Head and Crane were friends and associates of the Clan tons and McLaurys and often stopped at their ranches.

It was generally understood among officers and those who have information about criminals, that Ike Clanton was sort of chief among the cowboys that the Clantons and McLaurys were cattle thieves and generally in the secret of the stage robbery, and that the Clanton and McLaury ranches were meeting places and places of shelter for the gang.

I had an ambition to be Sheriff of this County at the next election, and I thought it would be a great help to me with the people and businessmen if I could capture the men who killed Philpot. There were rewards offered of about $1,200 each for the capture of the robbers. Altogether there was about $3,600 offered for their capture. I thought this sum might tempt Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury to give away Leonard, Head, and Crane, so I went to Ike Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Joe Hill when they came to town. I had an interview with them in the back yard of the Oriental Saloon. I told them what I wanted. I told them I wanted the glory of capturing Leonard, Head, and Crane and if I could do it, it would help me make the race for Sheriff at the next election. I told them if they would put me on the track of Leonard, Head, and Crane, and tell me where those men were hid; I would give them all the reward and would never let anyone know where I got the information.

Ike Clanton said he would like to see them captured. He said that Leonard claimed a ranch that he claimed, and that if he could get him out of the way, he would have no opposition in regard to the ranch. Clanton said that Leonard, Head, and Crane would make a fight, that they would never be taken alive, and that I must find out if the reward would be paid for the capture of the robbers dead or alive. I then went to Marshall Williams, the agent of Wells, Fargo & Co., in this town and at my request, he telegraphed to the agent, or superintendent, in San Francisco to find out if the reward would be paid for the robbers dead or alive. He received, in June, 1881, a telegram, which he showed me, promising the reward would be paid dead or alive.

The next day I met Ike Clanton and Joe Hill on Allen Street in front of a little cigar store next to the Alhambra. I told them that the dispatch had come. I went to Marshall Williams and told him I wanted to see the dispatch for a few minutes. He went to look for it and could not find it, but went over to the telegraph office and got a copy of it, and he came back and gave it to me. I went and showed it to Ike Clanton and Joe Hill and returned it to Marshall Williams, and afterwards told Frank McLaury of its contents.

It was then agreed between us that they were to have all the $3,600 reward, outside of necessary expenses for horse hire in going after them, and that Joe Hill should go to where Leonard, Head, and Crane were hid, over near Yreka, in New Mexico, and lure them in near Frank and Tom McLaury's ranch near Soldier's Holes, 30 miles from here, and I would be on hand with a posse and capture them.

I asked Joe Hill, Ike Clanton, and Frank McLaury what tale they would make them to get them over here. They said they had agreed upon a plan to tell them there would be a paymaster going from Tombstone to Bisbee, to payoff the miners, and they wanted them to come in and take him in. Ike Clanton then sent Joe Hill to bring them 'in. Before starting, Joe Hill took off his watch and chain and between two and three hundred dollars in money, and gave it to Virgil Earp to keep for him until he got back. He was gone about ten days and returned with the word that he got there a day too late; that Leonard and Harry Head had been killed the day before he got there by horse thieves. I learned afterward that the thieves had been killed subsequently by members of the Clanton and McLaury gang.

After that, Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury claimed that I had given them away to Marshall Williams and Doc Holliday, and when they came in town, they shunned us, and Morgan, Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday and myself began to hear their threats against us.

I am a friend of Doc Holliday because when I was city marshal of Dodge City, Kansas, he came to my rescue and saved my life when I was surrounded by desperadoes.

About a month or more ago [October 1881], Morgan Earp and myself assisted to arrest Stilwell and Spence on the charge of robbing the Bisbee stage. The McLaurys and Clan tons were always friendly with Spence and Stilwell, and they laid the whole blame of their arrest on us, though the fact is, we only went as a sheriff's posse. After we got in town with Spence and Stilwell, Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury came in.

Frank McLaury took Morgan Earp into the street in front of the Alhambra, where John Ringo, Ike Clanton, and the two Hicks boys were also standing. Frank McLaury commenced to abuse Morgan Earp for going after Spence and Stilwell. Frank McLaury said he would never speak to Spence again for being arrested by us.

He said to Morgan, "If you ever come after me, you will never take me." Morgan replied that if he ever had occasion to go after him, he would arrest him. Frank McLaury then said to Morgan Earp, "I have threatened you boys' lives, and a few days later I had taken it back, but since this arrest, it now goes." Morgan made no reply and walked off.

Before this and after this, Marshall Williams, Farmer Daly, Ed Barnes, Old Man Urrides, Charley Smith and three or four others had told us at different times of threats to kill us, by Ike Clanton, Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Joe Hill, and John Ringo. I knew all these men were desperate and dangerous men, that they were connected with outlaws, cattle thieves, robbers and murderers. I knew of the McLaurys stealing six government mules, and also cattle, and when the owners went after them finding his stock on the McLaury's ranch; that he was drove off and told that if he ever said anything about it, he would be killed, and he kept his mouth shut until several days ago, for fear of being killed.

I heard of John Ringo shooting a man down in cold blood near Camp Thomas.5 I was satisfied that Frank and Tom McLaury killed and robbed Mexicans in Skeleton Canyon, about three or four months ago, and I naturally kept my eyes open and did not intend that any of the gang should get the drop on me if I could help it.

Ike Clanton met me at the Alhambra five or six weeks ago and told me I had told Holliday about this transaction, concerning the capture of Head, Leonard, and Crane. I told him I had never told Holliday anything. I told him when Holliday came up from Tucson I would prove it. Ike said that Holliday had told him so. When Holliday came back I asked him if he said so.

On the night of the 25th of October, Holliday met Ike Clanton in the Alhambra Saloon and asked him about it. Clanton denied it. They quarreled for three or four minutes. Holliday told Clanton he was a damned liar, if he said so. I was sitting eating lunch at the lunch counter. Morgan Earp was standing at the Alhambra bar talking with the bartender. I called him over to where I was sitting, knowing that he was an officer and told him that Holliday and Clanton were quarreling in the lunch room and for him to go in and stop it. He climbed over the lunch room counter from the Alhambra bar and went into the room, took Holliday by the arm and led him into the street. Ike Clanton in a few seconds followed them out. I got through eating and walked out of the bar. As I stopped at the door of the bar, they were still quarreling.

Just then Virgil Earp came up, I think out of the Occidental, and told them, Holliday and Clanton, if they didn't stop their quarreling he would have to arrest them. They all separated at that time, Morgan Earp going down the street to the Oriental Saloon, Ike going across the street to the Grand Hotel. I walked in the Eagle Brewery where I had a faro game which I had not closed. I stayed in there for a few minutes and walked out to the street and there met Ike Clanton. He asked me if I would take a walk with him, that he wanted to talk to me. I told him I would if he did not go too far, as I was waiting for my game in the Brewery to close, and I would have to take care of the money. We walked about halfway down the brewery building, going down Fifth Street and stopped.

He told me when Holliday approached him in the Alhambra that he wasn't fixed just right. He said that in the morning he would have man-for-man, that this fighting talk had been going on for a long time, and he guessed it was about time to fetch it to a close. I told him I would not fight no one if I could get away from it, because there was no money in it. He walked off and left me saying, "I will be ready for you in the morning."

I walked over to the Oriental. He followed me in and took a drink, having his six-shooter in plain sight. He says, "You must not think I won't be after you all in the morning." He said he would like to make a fight with Holliday now. I told him Holliday did not want to fight, but only to satisfy him that this talk had not been made. About that time the man that is dealing my game closed it and brought the money to me. I locked it in the safe and started home. I met Holliday on the street between the Oriental and Alhambra. Myself and Holliday walked down Allen Street, he going to his room, and I to my house, going to bed.

I got up the next day, October 26, about noon. Before I got up, Ned Boyle came to me and told me that he met Ike Clanton on Allen Street near the telegraph office, that Ike was armed, that he said, "as soon as those damned Earps make their appearance on the street today the ball will open, we are here to make a fight. We are looking for the sons-of-bitches!" I laid in bed some little time after that, and got up and went down to the Oriental Saloon.

Harry Jones came to me after I got up and said, "What does all this mean?" I asked him what he meant. He says, "Ike Clanton is hunting you boys with a Winchester rifle and six-shooter." I said, "I will go down and find him and see what he wants." I went out and on the comer of Fifth and Allen I met Virgil Earp, the marshal. He told me how he heard Ike Clanton was hunting us. I went down Allen Street and Virgil went down Fifth Street and then Fremont Street. Virgil found Ike Clanton on Fourth Street near Fremont Street, in the mouth of an alleyway.

I walked up to him and said, "I hear you are hunting for some of us." I was coming down Fourth Street at the time. Ike Clanton then threw his Winchester rifle around toward Virgil. Virgil grabbed it and hit Ike Clanton with his six-shooter and knocked him down. Clanton had his rifle and his six-shooter was in his pants. By that time I came up. Virgil and Morgan Earp took his rifle and six-shooter and took them to the Grand Hotel after examination, and I took Ike Clanton before Justice Wallace.

Before the investigation, Morgan Earp had Ike Clanton in charge, as Virgil Earp was out at the time. After I went into Wallace's Court and sat down on a bench, Ike Clanton looked over to me and said, "I will get even with all of you for this. If I had a six-shooter now I would make a fight with all of you." Morgan Earp then said to him, "If you want to make a fight right bad, I will give you this one!” at the same time offering Ike Clanton his own six-shooter.

Ike Clanton started to get up and take it, when Campbell, the deputy sheriff, pushed him back in his seat, saying he would not allow any fuss. I never had Ike Clanton's arms at any time, as he stated.

I would like to describe the positions we occupied in the courtroom. Ike Clanton sat on a bench with his face fronting to the north wall of the building. I myself sat down on a bench that ran against and along the north wall in front of where Ike sat. Morgan Earp stood up on his feet with his back against the wall and to the right of where I sat, and two or three feet from me.

Morgan Earp had Ike Clanton's Winchester in his hand, like this, with one end on the floor, with Clanton's six-shooter in his right hand. We had them all the time. Virgil Earp was not in the courtroom during any of this time and came there after I had walked out. He was out, he told me, hunting for Judge Wallace.

I was tired of being threatened by Ike Clanton and his gang and believe from what he said to me and others, and from their movements that they intended to assassinate me the first chance they had, and I thought that if I had to fight for my life with them I had better make them face me in an open fight. So I said to Ike Clanton, who was then sitting about eight feet away from me. "You damned dirty cow thief, you have been threatening our lives and I know it. I think I would be justified in shooting you down any place I should meet you, but if you are anxious to make a fight, I will go anywhere on earth to make a fight with you, even over to the San Simon among your crowd!" He replied, "I will see you after I get through here. I only want four feet of ground to fight on!"

I walked out and then just outside of the courtroom near the Justice's Office, I met Tom McLaury. He came up to me and said to me, "If you want to make a fight I will make a fight with you anywhere." I supposed at the time that he had heard what had just transpired between Ike Clanton and myself. I knew of his having threatened me, and I felt just as I did about Ike Clanton and if the fight had to come, I had better have it come when I had an even show to defend myself. So I said to him, "All right, make a fight right here!" And at the same time slapped him in the face with my left hand and drew my pistol with my right. He had a pistol in plain sight on his right hip in his pants, but made no move to draw it. I said to him, "Jerk your gun and use it!" He made no reply and I hit him on the head with my six-shooter and walked away, down to Hafford's Corner. I went into Hafford's and got a cigar and came out and stood by the door.

Pretty soon after I saw Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and William Clanton pass me and went down Fourth Street to the gunsmith shop. I followed them to see what they were going to do. When I got there, Frank McLaury's horse was standing on the sidewalk with his head in the door of the gun shop. I took the horse by the bit, as I was deputy city marshal, and commenced to back him off the sidewalk. Tom and Frank and Billy Clanton came to the door. Billy Clanton laid his hand on his six-shooter. Frank McLaury took hold of the horse's bridle and I said, "You will have to get this horse off the sidewalk." He backed him off into the street. Ike Clanton came up about this time and they all walked into the gun shop. I saw them in the gun shop changing cartridges into their belts. They came out of the shop and walked along Fourth Street to the comer of Allen Street. I followed them as far as the comer of Fourth and Allen Streets. They went down Allen Street and over to Dunbar's Corral. [Dunbar and Behan.]

Virgil Earp was then city marshal; Morgan Earp was a special policeman for six weeks or two months, wore a badge and drew pay. I had been sworn in Virgil's place, to act for him while Virgil was gone to Tucson on Spence's and Stilwell's trial. Virgil had been back several days but I was still acting and I knew it was Virgil's duty to disarm those men. I expected he would have trouble in doing so, and I followed up to give assistance if necessary, especially as they had been threatening us, as I have already stated.

About ten minutes afterwards, and while Virgil, Morgan, Doc Holliday and myself were standing on the comer of Fourth and Allen Streets, several people said, "There is going to be trouble with those fellows," and one man named Coleman said to Virgil Earp, "They mean trouble. They have just gone from Dunbar's Corral into the O.K. Corral, all armed, and I think you had better go and disarm them." Virgil turned around to Doc Holliday, Morgan Earp and myself and told us to come and assist him in disarming them.

Morgan Earp said to me, "They have horses, had we not better get some horses ourselves, so that if they make a running fight we can catch them?" I said, "No, if they try to make a running fight we can kill their horses and then capture them."

We four started through Fourth to Fremont Street. When we turned the comer of Fourth and Fremont we could see them standing near or about the vacant space between Fly's photograph gallery and the next building west. I first saw Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Billy Clanton and Sheriff Behan standing there. We went down the left-hand side of Fremont Street.

When we got within about 150 feet of them I saw Ike Clanton and Billy Clanton and another party. We had walked a few steps further and I saw Behan leave the party and come toward us. Every few steps he would look back as if he apprehended danger. I heard him say to Virgil Earp, "For God's sake, don't go down there, you will get murdered!" Virgil Earp replied, "I am going to disarm them." he, Virgil, being in the lead. When I and Morgan came up to Behan he said, "I have disarmed them." When he said this, I took my pistol, which I had in my hand, under my coat, and put it in my overcoat pocket. Behan then passed up the street, and we walked on down.

We came up on them close; Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton standing in a row against the east side of the building on the opposite side of the vacant space west of Fly's photograph gallery. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne and a man I don't knows were standing in the vacant space about halfway between the photograph gallery and the next building west.

I saw that Billy Clanton and Frank and Tom McLaury had their hands by their sides, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton's six-shooters were in plain sight. Virgil said, "Throw up your hands; I have come to disarm you!" Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury laid their hands on their six-shooters. Virgil said, "Hold, I don't mean that!" I have come to disarm you!" Then Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury commenced to draw their pistols. At the same time, Tom McLaury throwed his hand to his right hip, throwing his coat open like this, [showing how] and jumped behind his horse. [Actually it was Billy Clanton's horse.]

I had my pistol in my overcoat pocket, where I had put it when Behan told us he had disarmed the other parties. When I saw Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury draw their pistols, I drew my pistol. Billy Clanton leveled his pistol at me, but I did not aim at him. I knew that Frank McLaury had the reputation of being a good shot and a dangerous man, and I aimed at Frank McLaury. The first two shots were fired by Billy Clanton and myself, he shooting at me, and I shooting at Frank McLaury. I don't know which was fired first. We fired almost together. The fight then became general. After about four shots were fired, Ike Clanton ran up and grabbed my left arm. I could see no weapon in his hand, and thought at the time he had none, and so I said to him, "The fight had commenced. Go to fighting or get away,” at the same time pushing him off with my left hand, like this. He started and ran down the side of the building and disappeared between the lodging house and photograph gallery.

My first shot struck Frank McLaury in the belly. He staggered off on the sidewalk but fired one shot at me. When we told them to throw up their hands Claiborne threw up his left hand and broke and ran. I never saw him afterwards until late in the afternoon, after the fight. I never drew my pistol or made a motion to shoot until after Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury drew their pistols. If Tom McLaury was unarmed, I did not know it, I believe he was armed and fired two shots at our party before Holliday, who had the shotgun, fired and killed him. If he was unarmed, there was nothing in the circumstances or in what had been communicated to me, or in his acts or threats, that would have led me even to suspect his being unarmed.

I never fired at Ike Clanton, even after the shooting commenced, because I thought he was unarmed. I believed then, and believe now, from the acts I have stated and the threats I have related and the other threats communicated to me by other persons as having been made by Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Ike Clanton, that these men last named had formed a conspiracy to murder my brothers, Morgan and Virgil, Doc Holliday and myself. I believe I would have been legally and morally justified in shooting any of them on sight, but I did not do so, nor attempt to do so. I sought no advantage when I went as deputy marshal [city marshal] to help disarm them and arrest them. I went as a part of my duty and under the direction of my brother, the marshal; I did not intend to fight unless it became necessary in self-defense and in the performance of official duty. When Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury drew their pistols, I knew it was a fight for life, and I drew in defense of my own life and the lives of my brothers and Doc Holliday.

I have been in Tombstone since December 1, 1879. I came here directly from Dodge City, Kansas. Against the protest of businessmen and officials, I resigned the office of city marshal, which I held from 1876. I came to Dodge City from Wichita, Kansas. I was on the police force in Wichita from 1874 until I went to Dodge City.

The testimony of Isaac Clanton that I ever said to him that I had anything to do with any stage robbery or giving information to Morgan Earp going on the stage, or any improper communication whatever with any criminal enterprise is a tissue of lies from beginning to end.

Sheriff Behan made me an offer in his office on Allen Street in the back room of a cigar store, where he, Behan, had his office, that if I would withdraw and not try to get appointed sheriff of Cochise County, that he would hire a clerk and divide the profits. I done so, and he never said an­other word about it afterwards, but claimed in his statement and gave his reason for not complying with his contract, which is false in every particular.

Myself and Doc Holliday happened to go to Charleston the night that Behan went down there to subpoena Ike Clanton. We went there for the purpose to get a horse that I had had stolen from me a few days after I came to Tombstone. I had heard several times that the Clan tons had him. When I got there that night, I was told by a friend of mine that the man that carried the dispatch from Charleston to Ike Clanton's ranch had rode my horse. At this time I did not know where Ike Clanton's ranch was.

A short time afterwards I was in the Huachucas locating some water rights. I had started home to Tombstone. I had got within 12 or 15 miles of Charleston when I met a man named McMasters. He told me if I would hurry up, I would find my horse in Charleston. I drove into Charleston and saw my horse going through the streets toward the corral. I put up for the night in another corral. I went to Burnett's office to get papers for the recovery of the horse. He was not at home having gone down to Sonora to some coal fields that had been discovered. I telegraphed to Tombstone to James Earp and told him to have papers made out and sent to me. He went to Judge Wallace and Mr. Street. They made the papers out and sent them to Charleston by my youngest brother, Warren Earp, that night. While I was waiting for the papers, Billy Clanton found out that I was in town and went and tried to take the horse out of the corral. I told him that he could not take him out, that it was my horse. After the papers came, he gave the horse up without the papers being served, and asked me if I had any more horses to lose. I told him I would keep them in the stable after this, and give him no chance to steal them.

I give here, as part of the statement, a document sent me from Dodge City since my arrest on this charge, which I wish attached to this statement and marked "Exhibit A."

[Here counsel for the Prosecution objects to this paper being introduced or used for, or attached as an exhibit as a part of this statement, on the ground that the paper is not on its face, a statement of the defendant, but a statement of other persons made long after the alleged commission of this crime. Counsel for the Defense objects to any objections interpolated by counsel for the prosecution in a statutory statement made by the party charged with crime, for the reason that the law contemplates such statement shall not be interrupted by the court, the counsel for the prosecution, or the counsel for the defense, or for the further reason that it is perfect evidence of character lacking only the absurd formality. Objection of counsel for prosecution overruled and the paper ordered to be filed as part of this statement.]

In relation to the conversation that I had with Ike Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Joe Hill was four or five different times, and they were all held in the backyard of the Oriental Saloon.

I told Ike Clanton in one of those conversations that there were some parties here in town that were trying to give Doc Holliday the worst of it by their talk, that there was some suspicion that he knew something about the attempted robbery and killing of Bud Philpot, and if I could catch Leonard, Head, and Crane, I could prove to the citizens that he knew nothing of it.

In following the trail of Leonard, Head, and Crane, we struck it at the scene of the attempted robbery, and never lost the trail or hardly a footprint from the time we started from Drew's ranch on the San Pedro, until we got to Helm's ranch in the Dragoons. After following about 80 miles down the San Pedro River and capturing one of the men named King that was supposed to be with them, we then crossed the Catalina Mountains within 15 miles of Tucson following their trail around the foot of the mountain to Tres Alamos on the San Pedro River, thence to the Dragoons to Helm's ranch.

We then started out from Helm's ranch and got on their trail. They had stolen 15 or 20 head of stock, so as to cover their trail. Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp, Robert H. Paul, Breakenridge the deputy sheriff, Johnny Behan the sheriff and one or two others still followed their trail to New Mexico.

Their trail never led south from Helm's ranch as Ike Clanton has stated. We used every effort we could to capture those men or robbers. I was out ten days. Virgil and Morgan Earp were out sixteen days, and [we] all done all we could to catch those men, and I safely say if it had not been for myself and Morgan Earp they would not have got King as he started to run when we rose up to his hiding place and was making for a big patch of brush on the river and would have got in it, if [it] had not been for us two.

[Signed] Wyatt S. Earp

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Weather, and a lot of it!

I've been pretty lucky this year so far. While I knew we'd be getting rain this weekend, I didn't really expect to get two + solid days of rain. The time between showers has been short, and even when we've gotten short periods where it wasn't coming down, it seemed that it didn't take long to get dumped on all over again.

Here where I live outside Fort Campbell, we've gotten lots of rain and a handful of tornado warnings, but the tornadoes stayed away. That's the power of prayer, I'm sure. However, down in TN near Nashville, there were a few that came in fast and did considerable damage. There are, IIRC, at least six dead from this storm, although coverage hasn't been good enough to tell whether it was due to flooding or tornadic activity. What I do know is that those folks have been hit HARD by water. Roadways washed away, rivers and streams overflowing their banks and having fish swimming in the roadways. It normally takes a third world country to see devastation on this level.

I've been praying a lot. I have two friends that have roof damage from the previous storms that are dealing with a ton of rain now. So far it hasn't been me. Thank you, God.

I took the trash out a little while ago, went to start up the steps, and found out that the steps are really wet and slick. Ended up bouncing foot and knee off step and plowing up quite a bit of mud while I was at it. Abrasions from the edge of the steps is not pleasant to the ankles. I don't recommend it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Training Courses: thoughts on gear for the new student

In my previous post, I discussed some of my thoughts and some answers to questions that I had as a first time three day carbine class student. Since I didn't touch on what gear I ran and how it worked out much, I figured I'd about double the amount of posts I'm putting up in a typical month and see if I can knock this missive out before I fall asleep and bash my head into my desk. Funny, of course, but I don't like having to explain those black eyes at work. It also damages my Intardweb Celebrity. Can't have that.

To me, gear is something that deserves some thought before a class. Because I believe in train as you fight, getting too much gear can be a hindrance rather than a help to being able to apply what you learn. If you're a SWAT cop or door kickin' Soldier, then it makes a lot of sense to run the course in your duty gear, including armor. That's how you're going to be doing it for real, so the most value will be in training in your gear. If that's not what you do, though, running a lot of gear just to look cool may soon get in the way and stop you from learning. When you figure that going to a class far enough away that you'll have to stay away from home to go is going to cost you a thousand dollars or more, having a breach in learning is a catastrophic failure.

I'm gonna tell you what I ran in the class, and then I'm going to point out a couple issues that had to be worked around or changed. I did find some things that didn't work out as I had planned. That happens when new gear goes to class.

I had to carry four to five magazines per relay, which I did by a chest rig and a first line belt. I gotta shoot some photos, but that may have to wait till after the match this weekend. I also needed two to three pistol magazines. That number is variable because I wasn't using them a lot and I'm not certain I truly needed more than one spare. It was handy to have a pair, and I compete with a double pistol magazine pouch, so I think I'd have preferred that in any case.

My chest rig is the ATS Low Profile Chest Harness, which I carried four magazines and a tourniquet in. The harness holds three magazines in pouches, and has two upright utility pouches hard sewn to it. I used the right hand pouch to hold a Tac Med Tourniquet. The left hand pouch did multiple duty. I typically used it to carry an M4 magazine, but I also used it for my fourth MnP 9 magazine, and also for loose rounds. The thing that's different about my harness is that it was made of 500D (denier) instead of 1000D Cordura. It's about half the weight and about 70% of the strength of the heavier "thousand d" harness. For a training rig, it's just about perfect. I'm fairly sure they'll be available in the near future, but I'm not certain when.

I used an ATS War Belt for my belt kit, and for training, I found a lot to like about this rig. I ran an ATS War Belt Insert Belt, which turned out to be much better than I expected it to be. Its a flexible belt, which usually doesn't bode well for hanging a holster from it. Flexible belts will sag under the weight of the holster. However, since the inside of the War Belt is lined with hard side Velcro and the Insert Belt is soft side Velcro, they pretty much lock together. I also used ATS suspenders on that belt.

On the War Belt, I used a Safariland ALS holster for a S&W M&P9 with an X300 light from Surefire. The holster is attached to a UBL (Universal Belt Loop), which drops it down below the belt 2". The bottom of the War Belt is left open for just this purpose. That way, the hanger runs off the inner belt, rather than taking up valuable PALS webbing on the War Belt's outside. I also used a 500D Roll Up Dump Pouch from ATS behind my left hip, and used a Safariland M77 single M4 magazine pouch. This was used as a "speed pouch", and was typically where I was keeping the mag I used when I needed it fast or where I kept the magazine I loaded out of when doing the five round loads of the Modified Navy Qual. That was attached to the belt with a Safariland MLS hook. I also have the belt loop and ELS mounting systems, but those are for different purposes. Its a very flexible system.

I initially tried running an ATS double magazine pouch on my War Belt, by my Viking Tactics VTAC sling was getting caught on it. Early on, I moved it to the front of the Low Profile Chest Harness (LPCH from now on). That was somewhat less natural for me, since I pistol reload off the left hip, but I didn't find any other issues other than that the sling occasionally had to be moved over to access the mags. I could have hung them on the utility pouch, but since it's much less rigid, I decided that there'd be more trouble trying to get the mags out of a pouch that wasn't against a "solid" surface. The pouch didn't shift or flop on the left most magazine pouch of the LPCH, so that's where I ran it.

I ran a prototype hydration carrier from ATS specifically for ATS chest harnesses. It's not a final version, but that's gonna be a heck of a good seller. It's money and it probably doesn't even know it...but I do.

My carbine has been listed here several times, but I'll get some new pics of it and throw them in the gear photos that I'm gonna take. The only thing that's changed is that I've added XTM panels from Magpul to the rail, but she's so sexy I can't help but post photos of that gun.

I preloaded my 25 Magpul PMags. After talking to some friends that have done lots of training, and to Pat Rogers about this, I've come to believe there are advantages to preloading even more magazines, to the tune of 40-60. Loading 40 will get you about a thousand rounds in magazines. Why that's important is that other students will have done that. They're relaxing, hydrating, and talking to each other. There is much to be learned from other students, and it may or may not have something to do with guns, gear, or training related stuff. If you're jamming mags, you're going to be less able to be a part of that. The advantage of preloading even more is that you can just dump the partial magazines and grab full ones. Less time messing with loading is more time to spend talking to and listening to the instructor and other students. ABL: Always Be Learning.

It was amazingly hot and humid during the three days I took the class initially, so I wore long sleeve shirts. Wicking shirts are something I consider a must-have. Long sleeve wicking shirts would be even better. They do so much to keep you as cool as you can be under those conditions that they're almost life saving equipment. When Joe and I went back on Sunday for the second class, it was a good ten degrees cooler and breezy. The weather was much better, and I ran a short sleeve t-shirt and a lot of Bullfrog waterproof sunscreen. A long sleeve wicking shirt would have been money, and Joe confirmed that...because that's what he had on.

Because of the amount of time spent on the ground, long pants are a must. I used 5.11 tactical pants, because that's what I have. They gave 'em to me; I kinda have to use it when it's free and it works pretty good. I also used knee pads. In my case, they were Alta Superflex buckle knee pads. Joe borrowed my Black Diamond Telekneesis pads, and said they were a life (or knee) saver. Another good one to take a look at are the Hatch X-Factor pads. Elbow pads are not a bad idea. My elbows got some minor dings, and I would have used pads if I'd had them. For that job, I'd go with neoprene pads for their flexibility and comfort. Finally, I ran good ThorLo and Lorpin socks and a pair of The North Face hiking shoes. Ankle support is a good thing on uneven terrain, when shooting and moving and some running is involved.

My go-to-the-range, concealed and open carry belt is the same old black Aker gunbelt I've had since mid-'05. It refuses to die. I carried my Glock 19 to the range in a Peters Custom Holsters "Hold Fast" IWB rig. It's good stuff.

I think that's all of it. I may edit this later if I think of anything else or I get a good question about something I missed. Pics will be coming soon, probably over the weekend. I'm falling over and have to go to bed.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Training Courses: thoughts for the new student

I just got back from three days of the Carbine Operator's Course, taught by the legendary Pat Rogers. This particular class took place in Columbia, TN, a short ways south of Nashvegas, TN. I wanted to blog about this class after the first hour, but as time and training went by, I decided I wanted to take a little different look at it, and not just do another AAR; there are already several very good ones from the class. That would mean this post would have to be taken down the hall to the Department of Redundancy Department.

Instead, I'd like to offer my observations as a new student, to the potential new student who's thinking about taking a class for the first time. This was the first gun fighting course I've taken, although I wouldn't call myself untrained in that area. As a frame of reference, here's a snapshot of what I've done so both readers of my blog can determine where I'm coming from: beginning, intermediate and advanced tactical handgun at Grossmont College in San Diego (through the Administration of Justice department), and training with friends who've trained with several known instructors and are instructors themselves. Most of what I've done has been informal, but the quality of instruction was very good, and I practice those manipulation repetitions regularly.

This will consist of determining if the course is appropriate, what to expect, and some thoughts on what to bring. Out of curiosity, I did some searching before the class, and didn't see anything like this done already. I'm sure that means it's probably not needed, but it's my blog and I don't have to pay for the hosting. Up it goes!

There are two things I consider to be very important that I'm sure get the least amount of attention: knowing who the instructor is and the course description. Knowing who the instructor is becomes important not so much as what he'll teach as what level he's teaching to. Larry Vickers has an introductory class that reads like a beginner's course description, but it's really not. He's Larry Freakin' Vickers. His background is pretty well known: a guy that taught tactical shooting to Operators isn't the first guy to go to when you leave the gun store. Some thought MUST go into choosing a progression of instructors. And, once you know who the instructor is, including their background and what they teach, the course description will make a whole lot more sense. When in doubt, contact the instructor. They want you to have a positive learning experience as much as you do.

You've found an instructor that the Intardweb says you need to be training with if you're cool. That may or may not be a good idea, based on the next factor: matching the course of fire to your physical abilities. I'm really not talking about the PT studs as much as those of us who are...less fit, shall we say. Here's why that's important: when the course says "moderate intensity", what that means is you're going to have to be relatively flexible and be able to do some physical things, like going to your knees about a hundred times in a three day course. Honestly, that was a big problem for me. My knees don't like to be knelt on. Couple that with soreness from the course, and I wasn't able to keep up on the Mod Navy Qual on day three. You've got to be honest with yourself and your abilities to get the most out of the course. Some are more ACQ (Arm Chairborne Qualified) friendly than others. Contact the instructor and ask what type of stuff you'll be doing, and be honest with yourself in your evaluation as to whether you can do it or not. It's your money, invest it wisely.

When and where exactly you choose to attend a class will make a difference in your comfort. Be aware of what the weather is doing and dress appropriately. You may need rain gear, you may need warm clothes. If that's something you need, shop early, and determine what your budget is. If you can't afford decent stuff, you may consider training at another time. Going cheap because you won't use it much may not help you if you tear a hole in it early in the training. You're not deploying with it, but you will be using it a lot, Make sure it's not going to fall apart before you're done with it. The same goes for warm weather gear, and one factor is critically important to both: make sure it's breathable. Overheating or being cold and miserable can both lead to dehydration, which will put you down and keep you from learning.

The class I attended ended up being humid and warmer than average for this time of year. I am prone to sunburn, so I used copious amounts of Bullfrog waterproof sunblock and long sleeved shirts. I also used wicking t-shirts underneath, which was tremendously helpful. Even so, I did sit out a relay. I brought three gallons of water and ten bottles of Gatorade. In this humidity (we're in the middle of April right now) that was about half as much as we ended up using. The cooler, though, was money. The one we used was a 40 quart with wheels and a travel handle. Big enough for about a day and a half of hydro, but we consumed a lot more than we planned. The most important thing is to stay hydrated, and having a cooler full of that stuff was worth the hassle of lugging it along.

Consider food, too, both in what to eat and how the cost impacts attending training. There's a balance to reach between getting calories so you have energy and eating too much and wanting a nap after chow. I certainly got hungry, but tried to eat just enough to stop being hungry. I got my Jetboil up and running again, so I took a Mountain House freeze dried entree for lunch. Worked like a champ! Snacking on NutriGrain bars between did the trick.You might consider an MRE a day if you have some you like, but there are some good freeze dried meals out there that'll keep you from having to leave the range. Interaction with your fellow students is tremendously helpful. Stay where they are. Many classes will meet after the class to break bread. I find this time very helpful, and highly recommend spending the time with your fellow students.

I lived an hour and 40 minutes from where the class range was. That's far enough, to me, to make getting a hotel room worth the cost. The less you travel, the more time you have to prepare for the next day's class. I brought 25 mags that I had preloaded. If I'd needed to, I could have jammed mags in the hotel room. I had all the time I wanted to get cleaned up (and taking ridiculously long showers that I don't do at home because I pay for the water), relax, get sleep, go out to eat with classmates by staying 15 or so minutes from the range. That was a big, big help. Plan that carefully when choosing to attend a class in your region. What you make up in saving money may cost you in other areas. Put some thought into this.

What to bring is an interesting question. Let me preface this by saying that the only thing I brought that I didn't use, other than clothes and the portable DVD player, was my big ol' collapsing chair. I could have, I just didn't need the chair because chairs were provided. As I typically do, I packed more clothes than I used, trying to cover contingencies. People who pack better than I do will be able to take a smaller bag, but since I only have one piece of luggage, I tend to fill it.

I also brought my own pillow. It's a Sobokawa buckwheat hull pillow that I've been versions of for a couple decades now...not the same pillow all that time; I've bought new ones since the original. I find that, for me, the secret to getting some sleep away from home comes down to my own pillow, earplugs, and Simply Sleep. Add to that a cranked up A/C to make the room good and cold, and I tend to fall asleep fairly readily.

My friend Matt E. and I traveled together for this class, and on the way back we discussed the many ways to carry the load required for this class. Many of the students in this were full time Tactical Team members. We had guys who did that for their local PD, and contractors as well. Those guys took the class in their work gear: full armor and full load outs. I don't want those guys coming through the door on me. Those guys are Terminators. Train as you fight was applied in spades.

In other classes, though, there are guys that wear a bunch of gear because they see photos of America's warriors doing so. Yeah, it's cool, but ask them if they want to have to carry that load. They'll say lighter is better. Apply that to a class and you may find that running all that cool kit is getting in the way of your learning because you're suffering. We both came to the conclusion that more is definitely not better in this case. I would posit that the way I went is the best path to follow: not only minimal gear, but I also chose the lightest stuff I could get.

Where the load out comes into play in a big way is this: you're going to be putting out all day long. You're going to be working hard. You're going to fire somewhere over a thousand rounds in three days. What you'll find is that you're going to get sore in places you don't expect to. Your hands will get sore and weak, your shoulder and back muscles will get tight, your knees will get beat up (can't recommend knee pads strongly enough) and your lower back will become irritated. Even though the AR carbine has very little recoil, jamming it into your shoulder will make your shoulder sore. Your forearm muscles will get fatigued from pulling on your carbine all day. You're going to get tired even if you are in good shape but don't shoot that much regularly. Minimize how much compounding of that you do.

Another thing to know is how stuff rides before you get there. You need to spend some time adjusting and situating your gear to find conflicts. I did that and still ended up moving my double pistol magazine pouch to the front left of my harness because it was hanging up on my sling. That's another reason less is more: less conflict and fighting your gear, the more you're learning! See how this works now?

The instructors are the real authorities on what is required to get through their class, and they'll have recommendations for you. I would caution you to do your research ahead of time and try to keep your questions to a minimum. They're on the range literally all day, busting their butt training people. Away from that, they're taking care of administrative issues for the class. They have limited time when they're on the road to take care of such things. Don't pester them. Ask pertinent questions, but don't bombard them with every thought that comes to your head. That's one of the ways to get on the NFE (Not F'ing Ever) list.

Other ways include: being That Guy to the point that what you're doing becomes unsafe or irritating to a level the instructor won't put up with. Having poor gun handling skills in a class that requires being good with them is another way. Whining, arguing, and having a closed mind will all get you NFE'd. If you're trying to prove a point of one training style over another, you're wasting your time and theirs. One of my friends went to train with Larry Vickers, one of the premier pistol instructors extant. A guy paid for, paid to travel to, and paid to be there for a pistol class with The Man. He also did EVERYTHING with the Israeli Method he'd been taught previously. Why go to train with LAV if you're going to bring something else into it and not at least try his way? That's stupid, and a waste of money.

There are several forums that a prospective student can check out to read AAR's (After Action Reports) for various classes and instructors. Google can be a big help. Before you do that, though, have an idea of what it is you wish to be trained on, and be honest with yourself when checking the qualifications.

I will be doing a separate post on the gear I used for this class. I'm not sure if both the readers of my blog care, but I'm gonna do it anyway.