Monthly Archives: October 2012

Why I Don't Hunt, But Support Those Who Do

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.

Exciting Things at AUSA 2012

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.

Shiny tank engines!

Bored French soldiers with 13lb FAMAS rifles!

Tactical stuffed animals!

Fast helicopters!

Men negotiating the purchase and sale of rockets!

Things that no one asked for, like tracked Strykers!

Spinning AESA radar!

Tiger stripe Colt 6720s!

Rail guns!

Missiles and rockets and guns, oh my!

Modular, extendable, low profile Colt handguards!

Sharp things!

 

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.

As The Race Gun Cycles

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.

"Did you hear that Michelle made it on the volleyball team? Omigawd. Becky is, like, soo much better..."

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.

When Beloved Troops Become Bloodthirsty Mercenaries

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.

Drop Leg Holsters & Facebook

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.

After ditching subload, before ditching drop leg holster. My sergeant (he’s facing the right) is still using the issued drop leg holster.

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.

I have to be honest: I use drop leg holsters when I dual wield chainsaws.

Dexterity & Motor Skills

I was first told about “fine motor skills” while in the military; the explanation I was given was that anything to do with using my fingers under stress was a bad idea. That doing so would not work, that I just wouldn’t have the dexterity. I was told to use the bigger parts of my hand, or my fingers bunched together, to do any sort of weapon manipulation. This, they said, was a “gross” motor skill that would be better under stress, which apparently makes your fingers turn to jello.

However, I was also taught by other people to do things like punch buttons on military radios and put tiny needles in small veins, both of which require dexterity. In addition, both are skills which might be critical to saving lives under stress (or taking them, in the case of calling for fires). I also found, on my own time, that I could manipulate safeties and slide releases just fine with my thumbs.

Overly Tactical Andrew is about to demonstrate some form of motor skill. He's not sure which kind, but he's wearing Arc'teryx, so it doesn't really matter.

To me, manipulating a firearm is not much different than working with any other mechanical object. Two mechanical objects might be of completely different design, but familiarity with that design trumps both the elements of design and the actual technique used to achieve desired results with the object.

Of course, familiarity with the design and operation of something will naturally lead to the development and refinement of optimal techniques. And some designs lend themselves to being used better under stress or in a rapid manner than others. But whether I am dialing in exposure settings on a camera, adjusting power and prop settings and control surfaces while landing in a crosswind, or using my thumb to hit the slide release of a pistol after inserting a loaded magazine, I am performing dexterous manipulations of a device.

These manipulations are only as good as my recent experience with that device – that is, if I am not “current,” I am behind the curve, whether I am using my fingertips or the knife edge of my hand. Some people might define them as fine and some might define them as gross motor skills. I see no point in trying to explain the two when I can simply ask Mike Pannone for an explanation, given that his education and experience make him far more qualified to define the terms.

 

—-

Mike Pannone:

Here is a document I wrote 4 years ago in response to the continual fallacious statements prevalent in the shooting world as to what was and what was not a fine or gross motor skill. I often wondered how I was able to reliably use the slide stop on every pistol I have ever owned or been issued (Glock, Sig, Beretta, CZ, S&W M&P, 1911, Makarov, CZ82 etc.) or the bolt catch on those rifles where one is present (M16/M4, Sig 550, FNFAL etc.) under stress reliably and without issue when it was supposedly not possible? The conclusion I came to is those that say use of the slide stop on a pistol or bolt catch on an M4 are “fine motor skills” do not actually know the definition of either fine or gross motor skills nor do they understand the ergonomic considerations manifest in modern weapons design. 

Mike Pannone has studied kinesiology. It shows.

Often instructors will invoke the “fine versus gross motor skill” argument. The below definitions should illuminate where these have gone awry and when they do actually apply. Because the motor skills used for weapons handling are not specifically on one side or the other of the definition it is often taken as all skills are fine motor functions. Two perfect examples of gross motor skills that are mischaracterized as fine motor skills are releasing the bolt via the bolt catch on an M4 and the slide via the slide stop on a pistol. Neither involves “a refined use of the small muscles controlling the hand, fingers, and thumb.” Both are in fact either the use of the locked wrist, extended thumb and the entire arm on an M4 bolt release or the complete clenching of the hand on a pistol to release a slide stop given appropriate hand size or the use of the support side thumb.

 

***How could a shooter effectively operate a trigger or magazine release on a pistol or carbine but not be able to operate the slide stop or bolt release?***

 

  • “The term gross motor skills refer to the abilities usually acquired during infancy and

early childhood as part of a child’s motor development. By the time they reach two

years of age, almost all children are able to stand up, walk and run, walk up stairs, etc.

These skills are built upon, improved and better controlled throughout early childhood,

and continue in refinement throughout most of the individual’s years of development

into adulthood. These gross movements come from large muscle groups and whole

body movement.”

  •  “Fine motor skills can be defined as coordination of small muscle movements which

occur e.g., in the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes. In application to

motor skills of hands (and fingers) the term dexterity is commonly used. The abilities

which involve the use of the hands develop over time, starting with primitive gestures

such as grabbing at objects to more precise activities that involve precise hand-eye

coordination. Fine motor skills, are skills that involve a refined use of the small muscles

controlling the hand, fingers, and thumb. The development of these skills allows one

to be able to complete tasks such as writing, drawing, and buttoning.”

 

Quoted, paraphrased or adapted from:

 

A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development

 

John W. Santrock, PhD University of Texas at Dallas

ISBN: 0073382647

Copyright year: 2008

Veterans Should Help Themselves…

…and each other. What do I mean by this?

I mean that I grow weary of hearing about how veterans need help. I’m tired of hearing things like “Veteran unemployment is so high, why doesn’t somebody do something?” Here’s why.

Veterans have demonstrated a lot about themselves just by being in the military.

In order to join the military, you have to score (roughly, depending on the service) at least 30 on the ASVAB, which is a percentile based test. This doesn’t mean that you’re smarter than a third of the country if you make it in the military, but your aptitude for general work is higher than a significant portion of the potential workforce. You also have to meet decent physical fitness standards, and most people maintain them during their time in the military. Of course, military service is difficult, and a lot of broken people come out on the other side. But being part of a team that does hard things means being less of a quitter when difficulties are encountered.

Veterans also have the ability to sleep in uncomfortable places, which is a valuable skill in the modern workforce.

Some of the best help for a vet comes from other vets. 

The only people looking out for you when you’re deployed are other people wearing uniforms like yours. Under stress, the bonds that form when human life is entrusted to other like-minded individuals are immensely strong. After exiting the military, there’s no reason for veterans to stop helping one another, in one way or another. I don’t mean handouts, but assisting each other in finding employment, making connections that might lead to further opportunities, or helping recover from mental or physical injuries by doing fun things.

Solid personal relationships are also crucial. Family and friends that may or may not have been in the military and are supportive of vets on a personal level may quite literally mean the difference between life and death or success and failure. I certainly do not mean to say that vets should only become friends with or depend on other vets, but this should not be ignored, either.

Veterans are probably going to college.

In a down economy, it makes a lot of sense to use GI Bill benefits to both attain a college degree and bide your time until (hopefully) the economy recovers. Plus, the prospect of getting paid to go to a place where attractive young women wearing not a whole lot of clothing gather sounds pretty good to young men who’ve spent plenty of time away from such things. I would also assume that single female vets might also appreciate going to a place where young men don’t ignore them. College is a great place for veterans to go, and this probably explains some of why the unemployment rate for veterans is high.

 Veterans, as a whole, don’t need handouts.

Part of strength is admitting weakness and a need for help at times, but many vets have been through a lot. They’re tougher and stronger individuals for it. Not all veterans, mind you – some truly do need help, and there are times when veterans are especially vulnerable. Situations that might bring a “normal” person near financial or emotional ruin could be enough to push a vet dealing with other stresses over that edge, for example. Others are dirtbags and want free stuff that they don’t deserve. But when it comes to “veterans” in the way that people lump all veterans together…well, I know that I don’t want special recognition or treatment, and I know the same goes for my friends that have been or are in the military, too.

I know that it will be easy for this article to be misinterpreted. I know that a lot of people want to help veterans in some way. I can appreciate that. But veterans are the sort of people that get things done for themselves, and they shouldn’t wait around for someone else to help them find a job when times get tough.