It's really popular for gun people to talk about needing a reliable gun for every day carry or duty use, but I don't hear many gun people talking about having a reliable phone. So that's what I'll talk about today.
No matter where I am in the world, the likelihood that I will need to use a "communication device" of some sort to summon help from others is greater than the likelihood that I will need my "three pound" to bust a cap in someone's rear end. Car accidents and heart attacks and so on occur with greater frequency than encounters requiring lethal force.
While I have medical/first aid knowledge, experience, and training, I do not carry an ambulance around with me. I'll be able to help a stranger - or myself - much more effectively if I can provide some level of care while also calling for EMS with a phone that works.
In addition, I can't always have a gun, but I can almost always have a phone. The phone is not capable of spewing fiery death at those who would dare challenge me, but then again, the gun can't summon a pizza. Both have their uses, is what I'm getting at.
Why do I say "a phone that works?" Because I've had unreliable phones, or phones that didn't get very good service. I used to use cheap Android phones on a prepaid plan. Yeah, it didn't cost much - but the service was weak out in the wilderness and the phones would constantly need to have their batteries pulled in order to fix some sort of problem or another.
I now have an iPhone 4S. Not only does it work all the time, but the coverage area (Verizon) is great. Battery life is just okay, but I have vehicle chargers and external battery packs/charging devices with USB cables for the times when I venture off the beaten path.
When I leave the country, I use either a satphone or a "world" cell phone from Mobal. No, they didn't give me anything or pay me or ask me to write this, and I doubt they know I exist as anything other than an occasional customer. The service is very expensive, but it has worked absolutely everywhere I've traveled with it - from Baja to the Dolomites to the Maghreb. A gun might have come in handy had I stuck around the latter for a while longer, but the phone was absolutely crucial to getting home.
So if your "carry" phone - no matter who made it or what provider you have - sucks, but your carry gun is super reliable, think about which one you're more likely to use. Ask yourself if paying a little more for a phone that will work when you need it is worth the added cost. I certainly think so.
Whenever I mention that I carry Glock pistols, I am asked what sort of modifications I have done to them - sights, trigger, grip reductions, and so on. When I say that my Glocks are entirely stock, more questions follow - most relating to the word "why."
Glocks are similar to AR-15s in terms of popularity, and the number of companies offering every part imaginable for both platforms are too numerous to count. Many of these parts are intended to make the firearm more practical for real-world use, or so say the advertising claims. This practical parts plethora puts plenty of pressure on pistol people. It's not quite at the level of "I don't have the new flux capacitor assembly from 3rd Millennium Blasterwielder, this means I'll get killed in a gunfight," but the atmosphere in the firearm community often overemphasizes the importance of minutiae gear considerations.
The primary reason why I leave my Glocks alone is that they are functional and reliable as-is. Not all Glocks are, and I am rapidly losing faith in Glock's ability to do the right thing, but vintage Glock 19 Gen 3s and newer production Glock 22 Gen 4s are generally reliable pistols. In the absence of a clearly identifiable need for modifications, I do not wake up every morning trying to think of new ways to spend money.
Furthermore, I have respect for the engineering expertise of firearm designers at major manufacturers. No, they don't always get it right, and yes, they often have to design firearms with illogical legal or liability concerns in mind. However, they have the resources to thoroughly test designs before releasing them to market, and recognize the concept of manufacturing the pistol as a system better than smaller companies which seek to modify specific portions of the firearm.
Those who take a myopic view of trigger modifications, for example, often render firearms unreliable (light strikes, failure or inability to reset) or dangerous (disabling or reducing the effectiveness of internal safety mechanisms). This is not to say that all trigger-related modifications are bad - magazine disconnects, for example, are dumb. However, if something sounds too good to be true, such as a 1911-like trigger in a Glock, then it most likely is (I have two requirements for a carry firearm - that it work when I want it to, and that it not randomly shoot my balls off when I'm running, jumping, and climbing trees).
As with any industry, a number of companies seek the endorsement of celebrities in order to sell their products. In some cases, the celebrity or personality recognizes the responsibility of this and tests, examines, or evaluates the product in a proper manner - or seeks input from others who may have engineering expertise - on the product before endorsing it. In other cases, names have been attached to products that should not have been released to the general public as-is. I am no celebrity, but at this point I can tell the difference between a genuine T&E offer from a manufacturer and someone that just wants to give me free stuff in exchange for pimping it on my blog.
Before anyone asks about other pistols that I carry from time to time - my Kimbers are far from stock. This is because Kimber didn't design the 1911 - they just found ways to screw it up. My J-frame has a Crimson Trace lasergrip. The Kel-Tec P3AT is stock with the exception of a..."custom finish." The Sigs and Berettas are stock. Kahrs are stock. Oh - I used to replace Glock sights before they switched to using a screw to attach the front sight.
Now, if you want to modify your carry guns, feel free to do so. Whatever works for you should work for you. What works for me might not work for you. And as a final note, I do not put much stock in the idea that modifications to carry weapons might be used against a concealed carrier in court. If the shooting is justified, little else should matter.
Whenever the possible uses for a firearm are discussed, defense against wild creatures is mentioned seemingly without fail. Indeed, I have carried firearms in wilderness areas ever since I was old enough to handle and control them. I continue to do so. However, I do not relish the thought of shooting animals unnecessarily, and I take many steps to avoid confrontations with wild animals and reptiles. Here's why.
Most of the time, wild animals will leave you alone if you leave them alone. I have encountered bears, big cats, wolves, coyotes, rattlesnakes, gila monsters, and other creatures which may be feared by some people. With very few exceptions, they have shown little interest in doing anything other than moving away from me - or at the very least staying where they are and mostly ignoring me. I did run into an aggressive rattlesnake that showed a remarkable interest in chasing me once, but once I moved about fifty feet away, it left me alone.
Many animals, including large predators, play a very important role in the ecosystem. Some of these roles are beneficial to humans. For example, rats eat the wiring in my cars. Rattlesnakes eat rats. Therefore, by chasing rattlesnakes off the road in the middle of the night, I may be saving myself from having to deal with major damage to one of my vehicles.
Killing non-aggressive animals serves no purpose, and may not be legally justified. I may be getting a little too patchouli here for some people, but I'm pretty big on the principle of "live and let live." Yes, a large bear is a dangerous creature. Yes, it is intimidating to be near a large bear. No, it is not legal to shoot a bear just because you came across one while you were hiking and it didn't immediately run away from you. While I do not equate human life with animal life, I see no need for the unnecessary elimination of animal life (as an aside, I have no issue with hunters or managed hunting and see it as an essential part of managing the ecosystem).
I grew up in Alaska and carried a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with slugs. Had I needed to shoot a bear, it would have been justified only if I didn't provoke the bear's attack and I had no alternatives. In other words, if the bear isn't about to attack you, you can't shoot it. Oh, and you also have to pack out many of the "bear parts" such as the skull and hide.
In Arizona, there is no open season on gila monsters, for example. Not that they're especially dangerous to humans, as they move at about half a mile per hour on a good day.
I can't cover all of the possible encounters, but you should understand the laws regarding use of force and wild animals before you set off into the woods - or move to a place where development is replacing the habitat of wild animals.
Being a stupid hippie, or a clueless city slicker, and getting killed by wildlife is worse than just shooting it. When a bear kills a human in Alaska, not only is the human quite obviously dead, but state wildlife officials have to track down and kill the bear. Same goes for other forms of wildlife in other states. This latest "bear attack" resulted after an outsider took photos from as close as 50 yards of a bear that was "grazing and not acting aggressively." The man pushed his luck and ended up getting eaten. The bear is now dead too. Hooray- not.
When I saw Timothy Treadwell's interview with David Letterman in 2001, I knew Treadwell would die at the claws and teeth of a bear. Sure enough, he and his girlfriend were killed and eaten by a bear in 2003. Park rangers killed both the "killer" bear and a second bear which showed aggression towards them as they approached the campsite.
Who cares for bears and wildlife more - someone who respects bears but is willing to kill an aggressive one, or someone who forces others to kill multiple bears after voluntarily putting themselves and others in a situation which resulted in their being eaten by a single bear?
It is sometimes necessary to kill wild animals, and I recognize this. There are truly aggressive wild animals out there. They do not form a majority of any one population, in my opinion, but they do exist. Killing them in self defense is perfectly reasonable.
For those with pets or small children, killing a wild animal may be necessary. The actions of pets and young children may not be as rational and logical as those of adults (this depends on the adult), which might result in a choice between killing a wild animal or watching a child or treasured family pet die. In these examples, there is really only one logical choice.
I would advise taking precautions, however. Simply having a gun does not guarantee the safety of everyone in your party. There are "snake avoidance" classes for dogs, for example. Also, you should tell your kids what to do if they encounter wildlife - if they aren't old enough or smart enough to understand and follow directions, you might not want to let them out of your sight too often. I don't know, I don't have kids, but this seems like a good idea.
The bottom line is that if you understand the wildlife in your area and are not a total idiot, you should be able to avoid the unnecessary killing of wild animals or reptiles. You should also be capable and ready to kill aggressive wildlife when necessary.
Today I shot a Spike's Tactical midlength AR-15 until it caught fire. The MOE handguard caught fire, that is.
I posted some photos on Facebook, and naturally, it garnered some attention. There were a number of comments about how MOE handguards suck, or plastic sucks, or that normal ARs suck. I am not very concerned about the lamentations of the ignorant, but I would like to address the comments about Magpul products from a quality standpoint.
First, I've tested normal and MOE handguards, as well as KAC aluminum handguards, from a heat dissipation standpoint in the past. In my opinion, of the polymer handguards tested, MOE handguards provide the best balance between protecting the shooters' hands and allowing the handguard and barrel to cool as quickly as possible.
Second, this MOE handguard caught fire the second time my friend Paul and I fired 500 rounds through it in under 5 minutes (semi auto). It cooled fully after the first time, because I put it in some muddy water. It started "breathing."
Then we loaded mags again and fired the second 500 rounds. At approximately 430 rounds, the handguards caught fire. We stopped to take pics, then kept shooting. We caught up to 500, then tossed it in water again.
This "exercise" is far more than any AR-15 would ever see during normal use. The AR, and M16/M4, are rifles, not light machine guns. I do not think it should reflect negatively upon the MOE handguards that they caught fire. The barrel, gas block, and gas tube were incredibly hot. The receivers of the rifle were too hot to touch with bare hands. The barrel would melt or set fire to any normal object it touched - there will be some cool followups on this.
No one should avoid MOE handguards because of this occurrence.
I was in a gun store a while back, trying and failing to find anything exciting, when a friend suggested I look at the new Remington 700 SPS Tactical AAC-SD. I thought it was a pretty good deal for a factory threaded .308, until I saw the engraving on the barrel. It said "Tactical Rifling."
I handed the rifle back to my friend and moved on. Then I started thinking about what actually makes a "tactical rifle." Is it tactical if you engrave "tactical rifling" on the barrel? I don't think so. What about a threaded muzzle? Well, the non-AAC-SD "700 SPS Tactical" doesn't have that. So I guess the ability to mount a can out of the box isn't required to be tactical, at least according to Remington.
But what about the features of, say, the Mark V Ultra Lightweight I was recently loaned for T&E by Weatherby?
It has a blackened (fluted, hammer forged) barrel "to reduce game-spooking glare," the stock is a synthetic tan with black web, it has a really nice adjustable trigger, and it's in .308 Win - albeit with a slightly less tactical 1 in 12" twist rate. It weighs under 6lbs, or 7.5 with a scope and mounts, which would make it really easy to carry in the field all day.
In other words, it's a good hunting rifle. And nowhere is it described as "tactical" by Weatherby. But its features - and performance - would not look out of place if it was sitting next to purpose-built tactical rifles. It doesn't have a detachable magazine, but then again, neither do the "tactical" Remingtons.
If you want a rifle for "tactical purposes," don't just look at the ones that have tactical in the name, on the barrel, or in the marketing material. Many times, these are nearly identical to the non-tactical products from the same company, with minor finish, coloring, or laser engraving differences.
Their real-world performance might be identical, buzzwords be damned. Plus, it's rare for a tactical product to come at a lower price than the same company's non-tactical products, for tactical is apparently a premium these days.
In the end, a product is "tactical" if the user is skilled enough to employ it in a manner which helps them achieve a specific goal in an expedient manner. All the tactical rifles and gear in the world will not help you if you are clueless and incompetent.