As a meat-eating, gun-owning, do-it-yourself kind of guy, it would only seem natural that I would also be a hunter.
I'm not. However, that doesn't mean that I'm against hunting. In fact, my father hunted to feed my family when I was younger. As a boy - into my teens - I hunted varmints almost daily.
Those who are critical or hateful toward hunters puzzle me. Unnatural death is everywhere - and some form of death brought those critics their last meal. Even raw vegans have to "kill" vegetables before they eat them in an essentially natural state. I guess that's different because vegetables don't have faces or respiratory systems, but on some level it's still the end of a living thing. This is something I've thought about from a young age. Who was I, at twelve or fourteen years old, to fell a tree older than my father's father? When hunting, I didn't go so far as to say a prayer before or after taking a life, but I did silently promise the animal that I would make it quick.
After I left the military, I went on a few hunts, alone and with friends. On most of these occasions, there were no good shots to be taken. When they were... I had crept ridiculously close to animals standing still in silhouette, with a firearm and ammunition appropriate for the quick death of an animal that size. My sights (or the scope) were aligned with the vital zone. I was in a stable firing position and my breathing was under control. The only problem was that I simply couldn't pull the trigger.
Interestingly enough, I have no problem with hastening the end of a dying animal. I have done so on several occasions in the past few years with knives and guns alike. I just can't bring myself to kill something that I don't need to kill.
Again, I'm not opposed to the idea of hunting. It gives us tasty meat. I think it's vital to the management of an ecosystem, and some animals do present a threat to the natural habitats of other animals as well as the livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, and so on. Thus, the wholesale slaughter of feral hogs by warrior dentists shooting machine guns from helicopters does not keep me awake at night. Nor do state-sponsored coyote eradication programs involving aerial shooting as well as poisons and other methods. I'm not bothered when I see photos of friends or relatives with their latest kills; I respect them for getting out there and doing it.
Hunting is necessary, hunting is fun, hunting is natural. Hunting is not something I plan to do again.
While attending the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting, also known as AUSA, I saw many things which were pretty cool, but did not really fit into any category I normally write about on my blog. Still, because they were cool, I will post them here.
I might go play tourist for a while after this, so you may or may not see a whole lot more exciting AUSA coverage from me. Check out Gear Scout for more stuff, though.
I've had various brushes with competition shooting over the years, and every single time I am struck by how much drama there is surrounding the action shooting world. I guess that's a good way to get people interested in things - drama, that is - but it doesn't appeal to me at all. Take, for example, the recent controversy surrounding Michelle Viscusi's accession to "Team Glock." Those familiar with my blog will probably have already read my article about why Michelle is a force to be reckoned with.
Many people seem to be upset that she was hired by Glock. Or is part of Team Glock, or whatever. After a careful analysis of some of the criticism, I am pretty confident in saying that the root cause of all of this drama is jealousy.
Michelle is getting a lot of attention. There's only so much attention to go around in a small industry and Michelle was already getting plenty of it. Now that she's part of Team Glock? She's basically the Felix Baumgartner of the gun world. Everyone's talking about her just because she fell to the earth from the heavens (That's why she's so short). And because everyone else that either wanted the job or wanted their friends to get the job didn't see their dreams realized, they're angry with Michelle. They might sugarcoat it in public, to be sure. But in private? Well...
The attempts to justify this anger have to do with Michelle supposedly not being good enough for such fame. I don't know much about action pistol shooting, so I can't tell you whether that's true or not. What I can tell you is that Michelle picking up this gig isn't going to stop the best competitors from winning matches. Dave Sevigny won big things before he shot for Glock and he continues to do so after leaving Glock. Other top shooters without sponsors still manage to win things. If Michelle wins, good for her and the team. If she doesn't, those who beat her will have their sweet revenge, I guess.
If competition shooting is about winning, then it should be pretty easy for people to acknowledge this and move on. But if it's about industry recognition and attention whoring, then some people will be upset about this for a long time to come.
Earlier this year, I noticed an increase in the number of attacks on PMCs (private military companies) and the people they employ (military contractors). To be sure, PMCs have never been far from the point of aim of a lot of anger and resentment. But the stuff I've been hearing lately has been especially vitriolic. Why?
The politically expedient withdrawal of US troops from Iraq didn't mean an end to the US mission in Iraq. To protect the infrastructure (such as the embassy in Baghdad) and personnel (diplomats, support folks, etc) that the US still maintains in Iraq, the State Department and other agencies have hired a large number of security contractors. The same goes for missions in other countries, such as Libya.
These contractors range from third country nationals such as the Ugandans that guarded our chow halls in 2006 to former SEALs, Force Recon, Special Forces, and so on - in other words, the best former products of the US military, and our allied militaries' elite units. "Media" organizations such as Gawker would like us to think that when they EAS (leave the military), they cease being honorable and respectable, that they become bloodthirsty killers who act without any morals or respect for human life.
These are the same men who are supposedly loved by the vast majority of Americans when they're in uniform - just look at Gawker's own coverage of the recent SEAL hostage rescue in Somalia. Unfortunately, they're pitied once they have taken off that uniform... and they're looked at with suspicion bordering on disgust when they take a job with a PMC.
An inconvenient collision of facts occurs when private contractors do heroic things when they don't have to. Although it was hardly mentioned publicly, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were on contract to provide security services elsewhere. They weren't responsible for protecting the embassy or consulate, but stepped up to the plate and did what needed to be done. They were most often described as "former SEALs" rather than "security contractors."
The morals of such men don't change when they leave the military. They've simply developed skills that can be better utilized elsewhere with a corresponding increase in pay. Considering the dangers they face, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, in my opinion.
In fact, the hiring of former SOF men to accomplish certain jobs is in fact beneficial to not only their retirement fund, but to the country. Politically convenient decisions to not place uniformed American military personnel on the ground does not obviate the need for American military men to be on the ground in the furtherance of American diplomatic or security objectives.
And while companies such as Blackwater/Xe/Whatever are favorite targets of some, the fact is that the pool of potential private security contractors is not massive. No matter who has the contract, the guys doing the work might not change. Hiring standards vary from company to company and contract to contract, but the top end of this spectrum is composed of skilled and professional individuals.
Of course, the ignorant will always find something to complain about.
Recently, I was having a conversation with my friend Jim about drop leg holsters. He commented that it was pretty much a sign of a new or inexperienced person: someone that had maybe a lot of experience with guns on a square range, but not much experience in the field. I agreed. So I posted a comment on Facebook:
Friend: "A drop leg holster is a sure sign of someone new or inexperienced."
And he's right.
This infuriated a number of people who seemed to take it as a direct insult to their manliness. This was somewhat mystifying to me, for it wasn't a malicious statement. Frankly, I expected it to get a minimal amount of comments and likes. Of course, anyone who doesn't like what I have to say is free to stop reading my blog.
After I thought about it, though, I realized the real reason. It wasn't about drop leg holsters, it was about saving face. In this "community," image is everything. Probably one of the worst things to call someone is inexperienced. Hell, people go to some carbine courses just so they can say they've trained with X instructor, not because that was the most efficient way for them to gain experience.
But being new or inexperienced isn't a bad thing. It just means that you might not have come across every option for a certain solution. Example: I started out using drop leg holsters, but don't use them any more.
I don't like drop leg holsters because I did hundreds of mounted and dismounted patrols with an issued one. I also had a subload. I ditched the subload first and then ditched the drop leg holster when I had the ability to put the pistol on my flak jacket. It was like night and day in terms of my ability to get in and out of vehicles, draw while in a vehicle, access my pistol from the kneeling while treating a patient and surrounded by a hostile crowd, move through doorways, etc. I was also a lot more comfortable. When I needed to ditch armor and carry the pistol by itself, I carried IWB.
My friend (the guy I quoted) had a similar experience, and here's what he said on the Facebook comment thread:
Okay, first, I am "the friend" that made the comment, and although that is not a direct quote (I didn't say it exactly that way), I will explain what I meant.
First, I was in the Marines from 98-05 (8 years) and and spent almost all of that time in 1st Recon Bn and 1st Force Recon Co. We all had drop leg holsters back when we were forced to carry 13 rifle mags and 7 pistol mags for every DA or VBSS hit we did. They work great to add space and get to your pistol with a huge vest on with gear all over it and they are fast on the square bay and even not too bad in the house. But the war changed all that (and a lot more).
Once you have to use that day in and day out in the real world, it just doesn't make sense for most professionals. At the time we had to use the gear we were issues and according to SOP. If you are a SWAT cop at smaller area (you are swat, but that means you have your gear in your truck and have duties as a normal cop the rest of the time), it would most likely work fine. If you are an assaulter full time in a war zone, or have to get in and out of cars all day, this is not the setup you are running (unless you have to, or haven't tried something else.....you are new). You don't have to agree with me, but in the units that don't have rules for that stuff and are still doing all the work (TF Blue, Green, etc) they are not running drop holsters. They are almost all on the vest, or on the hip (running lighter kit), and slimmed way down.
Try something else, climb thru a window, over a fence, in and out of a car, shoot draw while seated in a vehicle, fast rope thru a hell hole, etc. The new guy comment was mainly directed at military guys, we have all tried the drop, but there are much better options out there, that have been identified in combat.......it is a big time saver if you at least try what other people have already learned the hard way. I still have one friend that is at the bottom of the pacific ocean because he was stuck in a CH46 that crashed during a VBSS training op and the investigation determined that his drop holster and lanyard were hung up inside the aircraft (7 others died as well).
If anyone hasn't noticed, you never meet anyone in the military that is a truck mech or a chef......makes you wonder how all the trucks run and people get fed. DLH work fine, but it is true that there has been a major shit to slim things down and get stuff off your legs......if you bought it at the PX to pull gate guard outside the chow hall, some of the guys are right, you are not new to guns, but you are not best source of info for this. A chest holster will work for almost every role a Drop Leg will work for (save your unit makes you carry a shit ton of gear on your vest that you never use because they saw blackhawk down), but a drop holster does not do everything a chest mounted holster will.....again we are talking armor, direct action, combat.....not what is fun on the range or fast in 3-gun. As far as the comments on you have to use what works for you, that is correct to a point. But if you don't have a real way of testing something out for the purpose you bought it, it might make sense to start with the best info you can get. At the end of the day if I want to remodel my house, I am the one that has to live in it. But it might make sense to start with ideas from the guys that do it the most, since I am shooting and not a remodel guy. And if I was doing tile, i would talk to a tile guy, that is all he does, not a neighbor that has done 1 or 2 kitchens in his life but owns his own tile saw......it has nothing to do with being mean. Why try to imagine what is the best answer....the work has already been done.....start at the top and work down.
What we're both getting at is that lots of time in the field tends to whittle away inefficient or unnecessary gear. If we see someone that is wearing a drop leg holster, we're pretty confident in saying that that person is either a) forced to use one (as many people in the military are) or b) hasn't considered/tried other methods of carrying a sidearm. It's not an insult, it's just an experience-based observation.
I think we'll be expanding on the "what works for you" thing in the future, too.