Saturday, January 27, 2007

100 rounds a week

My day of shooting started well and ended well. I took my newly-acquired rifle and shotgun to a local gunsmith's shop. The .22 rifle is in great shape for not having been fired since before I was born. It only needs a cleaning and inspection. The .410 shotgun, though, is a special case. In addition to a basic cleaning, it'g going to need some tightening up and some polishing to get rid of the rust that has attacked the barrel due to it being left uncased since... probably whenever Dad first received it. This gun will need a lot more attention than the .22. I'll also need to use light loads for it. No medium-game slugs for the .410, strictly rabbit and snake loads. In a week or so, I'll have my guns back and ready to be shot. I can't wait to take them out for a spin.

Until I bought my XD40 in December, I had no gun to call my own. I'd only shot a few months earlier, which was the first time I'd fired a gun since April of 1996. One-day shooting sessions once a year does not exactly give you much practice with any kind of firearms. In the "shoulda coulda woulda" category, I should have bought a rifle while I was in the Air Force and gone out on with others to practice in my off hours.

Regardless, I haven't had as much shooting training as I'd like, so I go out and practice on my own. I'm still pushing the gun down (anticipating recoil) and putting too much of my fingertip on the trigger. I also noticed I tend to slap the trigger which sends me low and to the right. Thankfully, one of the guys who works at the range I use gave me some good advice. I'll have to put it to use. The biggest revelation to me is that I may be right-eye dominant. For most people, this isn't a problem. I'm left-handed, so naturally I shoot left-handed, too. If you shoot left with right eye dominance, though, it becomes very difficult to shoot well.

So, now I'm going to try to learn to shoot right-handed. I'll grab two boxes of ammunition every week from now on to put this knowledge to use. That's 100 rounds per week to get used to shooting right-handed. It will certainly be different not having to wonder if a hot casing is going to make a jump for my shirt collar. That happened twice today. Who knows, maybe this will take me from a marginal shooter's level to an average shooter's level? I'd like to be able to put all my shots on target, even if they don't all go into the bullseye.

The better of a shot I become, the more fun this hobby will be. While I doubt I'll do any serious hunting, you never know when the skills and body control needed to place a perfect shot will come in handy. Keeping calm while aiming is important and with luck will carry over to helping keep calm when the people on the other end of my phone are losing it.

100 rounds a week will keep me in good practice, I think. At least it will for now.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I love having weekend dilemmas like this: Do I go to the range Friday night and spend Saturday and Sunday playing City of Heroes, or do I play City of Heroes Friday night, hit the range Saturday, and finish with a Sunday session of CoH? This weekend is a "double XP weekend" where you basically get twice the reward for crimefighting. It's a nice little incentive.

I have come into the possession of an old Iver Johnson single-shot shotgun in .410 gauge. It's old enough to where I wonder if it's still safe to shoot. I'm sure a trip to a gunsmith will tell me that. Hopefully it's still safe, because it's a beautiful gun. It's very plain and workaday; there is no fancy checkering of the stock or handguard, no intricate engraving or filigree. It shouts "Substance before style!" and I think that's why I find it so pleasing to the eye. There's nothing extra to take your eyes away from the simplicity of the design. Well, there is the light patches of rust, but that can be fixed. I hope at the least I can use light squirrel and rabbit loads in it, but I think even a .410 slug would be too much for the barrel to handle.

With that shotgun also came a Revelation. No, no messages from God or sudden understanding of universal truths, but a Revelation 120 rifle in .22 caliber. You've never heard of the Revelation brand? Don't worry, if you're my age, you probably haven't unless someone in your family owns one. Most shooters will know this rifle better as a Marlin Model 60. Revelation was a brand name used by the Western Auto Supply Company to market a line of inexpensive shotguns and rifles. Yes, in the 60s even auto supply companies sold guns over the counter. We can only be awestruck by that idea today because of how sales of firearms are relegated to either specialty stores or to back corners of sporting goods stores.

If firearms were so ubiquitous that auto parts stores sold them, it seems like American middle-class culture used to have a healthy respect for firearms use. It was virtuous to know how to fire a rifle or shotgun, if only so you could bring home food once or twice a year from hunting. Nowadays it seems that there's a gibbering fear of firearms among the white-collar set. Thanks to that, we've allowed people who misuse guns to determine how we feel about them. It's not just the convenience-store robber, it's the guy who decides that his first response to a verbal argument is gunfire. I don't know the best way to describe it other than to say that respect has been replaced with fear. This fear has led to some kind of fetishization that a gun will solve all problems, that it will kill without a human hand to guide it, perhaps even with a malevolent intellect.

I don't blame video games for that fetishization. I don't blame movies, tv or any other media that makes guns look like the first and best solution to an array of problems. I blame a culture that has replaced respect with fear in regards to firearms. To respect something, you have to know about it. There's so little middle-class familiarity with guns outside of secondhand images in the media. Without being familiar with guns, people don't look at the chain of consequences that occurs when they decide that violence is the only answer. Stan Lee's "with great power comes great responsibility" line rings very true in this case. The destructive power of guns requires a responsible hand to guide it, and a responsible mind to know when its power is appropriate. When that responsibility is understood in the case of firearms, fear lessens. When that fear lessens, respect grows. When respect grows, misuse subsides. Will it subside completely? No, it won't. There will always be someone who wants to misuse that power. It will be up to those who respect that power to correct those who would misuse it, preferably through reason.

Is this to say that there are no situations where violence is the only answer to the problem? No, I'm not saying that at all. There are many situations where reasoned discussion must give way to violence, either for self-preservation or preservation of others. Are there situations where we feel like violence is the only answer, but calming down and taking another look is best? Definitely.

At this point, I'm blathering, so I'll try to summarize. The point is that the responsible people who own guns are feared as much as those who misuse them. This fear is a lack of respect based in ignorance. Ignorance is not bliss in this case. You may wish to never touch a gun, much less use it, and that is your prerogative. I do ask that you not impede responsible gun owners from spreading that sense of responsibility, and I also ask that you become more tolerant of our choices in what we do with our time, money, and material. I will not demand that you own a gun, do not demand to strip me of my right to own one in return.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wait, we get this day off?

Allow me to be very surprised at having Martin Luther King Day off. See, I now work at a state agency after spending five years in the private sector. This was after a few years in college and working and the Air Force and whatnot. I don't ever remember having today off. It was either not recognized as a business holiday, or I still had classes that day or I was on duty that day. So no, I don't ever remember having it off since I got out of high school.

Still, though, it was a good day to head to an indoor range and go shooting. Dr. King may have preached nonviolence, but I'll keep practicing in case someone else refuses to get with the program.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Powell's Books - Song of the Suburbs (Frontlines) by Simon Skinner

So, I'm looking at the blog's web statistics when I notice that someone looked up the phrase "Song of the Suburbs" via Google. So, I pop it into Google and lo and behold!

Someone's already published a book by that title.

Just to make things clear: I am not the author of that book, this is a wacky coincidence, and I now have no idea if it's good or bad to have a blog and a book with the same name but dealing with different subjects.

Hopefully things will work out fine as the title of my blog is in no way a challenge to this book's copyright.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Well, I purchased 100 more rounds of the Blazer Brass ammo for my XD40. That is some really nice ammunition for the price. It's got brass casings for the folks who like to reload, the primers are pretty nice, too. Most folks know Blazer as the ammo with the aluminum cases that don't always feed so well in their guns. These cases aren't aluminum, so there's less worry about getting a casing stuck while trying to eject it from the gun. At 180 grains in weight, these are pretty hefty bullets as far as .40S&W goes. If you're looking for decent factory ammo, though, take a look at Blazer Brass. It's good stuff.

Once my aim gets better, I'll start using the various personal defense rounds to see how they shoot through my gun.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Well, color me surprised. Today is the third anniversary of Song of the Suburbs. How much has changed since then? Well, I don't blog about politics as much due to my job. When you're in a job that requires fair and neutral handling of all political parties, you have to know when to keep your thoughts to yourself. One of the first things I wrote about in 2004 was Hale DeMar's home defense incident in handgun-unfriendly Winnetka. Yesterday I posted about my latest training session with my new handgun. Unfortunately, the irony of gunblogging in Winnetka is a bit too expensive for me, so I'll just blog from central Illinois and call it good.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My second range test with the XD40

My first trip to the range with my XD, I shot horribly. Ten years of not shooting at all will do that to you. I suppose getting all of the shots on the target itself was okay, but still not what I'd like. I was literally all over the target. I burned through 200 rounds of Remington UMC 180gr that time, and liked how it performed. The gun was shooting more accurately than me. Also, I shoot left-handed.

My second range trip was similar to the first, but instead I brought 150 rounds of Blazer Brass 180gr to see which ammo my gun likes best. Like the Remington, it fed smoothly and I've got no complaints about it. I shot all my targets at 7 yards. My first five targets were 7.25-inch bullseye targets, with the 10-ring being .75 inches diameter. Most of my shots went low and/or to the left. On my second, third and fourth targets, I had a few land low and to the right.

My next five targets were silhouette targets at 7 yards. These are light blue silhouettes with bullseyes at center mass and right in the middle of the head. The first silhouette was pretty much a throwaway, as I was a bit frustrated from the first five targets. So, I put two magazines' worth into it to relax a little.

The second target, however, was a big improvement. I concentrated my first magazine on the centermass target and did okay. I got six out of 12 into at least the 6-ring and two rounds in the 10. 5 of the remaining 6 still hit within the silhouette and one nicked the edge of the paper. I still was pulling left. The second magazine was even better. I aimed for the head target and decided to fire a bit faster than I had on the previous magazine. My grouping tightened up considerably. Sadly, I didn't hit anything but the silhouette as I shot mostly low and to the left. I will say however that said target will need major jaw surgery on its right side.

The third target was where I switched from putting 12 rounds in each magazine to 10 rounds. Again, I was using a silhouette similar to the first two. I fired off four rounds at a very small target and was lucky to hit the paper with three. I tried firing slowly again for both the head and the center mass targets and did a bit worse. My center mass targets were still down and low, but five rounds hit the target. None in the ten ring though. I also had one flyer to the right. The head target was much worse as the tight grouping went away. Three shots hit the center mass target and the remaining rounds hit the silhouette, mostly down and to the left.

The fourth silhouette target got even worse. With the exception of a few rounds, everything was low. My arms were getting sore.

The fifth target I decided to try firing five at the head, five at the chest and finish off my ammunition. I had no grouping to speak of and as usual, shots were going low and to the left. With that, I packed it in and went home. I took my targets home and compared them with the training targets I found on this forum and I see what I need to avoid on my next trip to the range.

Overall, though, I can say that I'll perforate someone's liver and right lung if I aim for center mass. I think that counts for something, he said, trying to put a humorous spin on poor technique. I need to work mostly on my grip and how much of my finger I put on the trigger.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Range Kits for Starters

In an earlier post, I listed the things I currently carry as part of my range kit. I figure a minimalist kit has at the very least ear and eye protection in the form of ear plugs and safety glasses, but what else should be added to make time at the range easier, safer, and more enjoyable? For the sake of brevity and expense, I'm leaving out things like spotting scopes, chronographs, rests and the like. I'm also leaving out my cleaning kit, since that's something I do at home. I'm looking for stuff that's inexpensive, small, and can allow for a complete kit to be carried in an old school backpack.

Here's my starting point:

1. Safety glasses to slip over my regular ones.

2. Headphone-style ear protection that completely covers the ear.

3. A hat with a brim to reduce the chances of brass in the face.

4. A loading tool for faster magazine loading.

Here are my ideas to add to it:

-- a small flashlight like a Mini-Maglite for when the light at indoor ranges is bad or when trying to find that last piece of brass when policing your shooting area.

-- a first aid kit for powder burns, cuts and any other minor scrapes received at the range. (Wounds received from negligent discharges will most likely require a trip to the emergency room.)

-- a multipurpose tool like a Leatherman for various things like pulling out a stovepiped casing.

What other small-but-useful items might be useful for a day of handgun shooting?

Well, besides the obvious part of having a gun and plenty of ammunition. That kind of goes without saying.

Update: While pondering this during lunch, I wondered if some kind of polishing cloth might be available to clean off any powder from the finish of your gun before you take it back home for a thorough cleaning. Any suggestions for that would also be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

I hope that this year is as good or better for you than the previous.

My resolutions are pretty simple:

1. Go to Mass more often than I do now

2. Spend more time at the range to become a better shot with my new gun

3. Lose some weight through portion control and more exercise.

That's about it, really. If you keep your resolutions attainable, they'll happen.