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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



LESSON FROM A HELICOPTER CRASH

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by Mas | 24 Comments »

In the blog entry below this, you’ll see a retrospective on a helicopter crash a couple of years ago, with links to discussions on it at the time.  You’ll also find what we didn’t have then: the Go-Pro camera’s recording of the crash, and how quickly and unexpectedly it happened.

A profound lesson from it relates to the third of the now-standard Four Rules of Firearms Safety created long ago by the late Col. Jeff Cooper – so long ago, apparently, that some today neglect to give Cooper credit for creating them.

Rule Three was to keep the finger off the trigger until one’s gunsights were on target.  Today we go a little more depth into that; I for one teach it as “Keep the finger outside the trigger guard until you are in the very act of intentionally discharging the weapon.” In any sort of moving vehicle, that’s all the more critical…and in a small helicopter aloft in the wind, it’s even more so.

When the aircraft went down, there were three fully loaded hunting handguns on board, two of them holstered; only John Strayer’s was drawn. He was the one who had spotted the first quarry of what none of us could have known was going to be a shorter day of hunting than we expected, and his gun was appropriately drawn and ready.  It was a Smith & Wesson Model 29 Mountain Gun, a relatively lightweight .44 Magnum loaded with powerful, deep-penetrating hunting ammo. Powerful enough that if it had unintentionally discharged in the wrong direction, it was totally capable of killing both the man on his immediate right (the pilot) and the man to his right, which would have been me.

It was John who was wearing the Go-Pro camera, and if you look closely, as the Hiller was coming over the copse of trees looking for the hog he had spotted, there’s an instant where he glances down and the camera catches his .44.

John Strayer holding revolver.

You can see that the double-action revolver is in his right hand.  The hammer has not been cocked. His gloved left hand (it was cold in that open-side-cockpit helicopter on a January morning, even in Florida, with the wind coming through) is securing the gun in place, grasping it around frame and cylinder.

Then, the rotors hit the trees and the aircraft went down. (Helicopters, it turns out, don’t have much of a glide path.) At about the instant of final impact or just before, what may have been a reflexive reaction to the rotors hitting the treetops caused John to reflexively duck his head, where the Go-Pro was mounted, and the camera catches a very brief glimpse his revolver in hand.

John Strayer holding revolver during helicopter crash.

John Strayer’s hand, still holding the .44 Magnum, was driven through the front of the cabin’s Plexiglas bubble by the impact, the jagged shards cutting his hand to the bone, including both the middle finger (primary grasping digit) and the trigger finger.

THE GUN NEVER DISCHARGED.

This photo, taken shortly after the crash, shows the severe damage Strayer’s hand sustained. John is grasping that very gun, with his index finger along the frame, as it was through the crash, and after, until he was able to exit the wreckage and re-holster.

John Strayer holding revolver post helicopter crash.

Let’s review Col. Cooper’s rules, not exactly word for word but close enough:

Rule 1: Every gun is loaded. (Even if you’re sure it isn’t, treat it as if it was. Strayer’s most certainly WAS.)

Rule 2: Do not point it at anything you are not prepared to destroy. (Strayer never let his gun come inside 90 degrees toward his partners.  The muzzle of his S&W did punch through the “bubble” of the cockpit, but that part, along with the rest of the bird, was destroyed by other forces in about the same fraction of a second by forces beyond his control, so…)

Rule 3: Do not let your finger inside the trigger guard until your sights are on target. Or, ideally, until you are in the very act of intentionally firing.  Here, I think, is the most telling lesson of this particular incident: Strayer’s self-discipline in this regard was simply extraordinary.

Rule 4: Be certain of your target and that which is beyond it. (John Strayer had that under control, too.)

John Strayer is not, by any means, just “a guy with a gun.” He owns a gun shop. He has won more shooting matches and championships than he can remember. In the International Defensive Pistol Association, he is one of about only a couple of dozen people who’ve earned “Five Gun Master” status, out of more than 20,000 registered competitors.

And he is a “poster boy” for firearms safety, as at least one reader of this blog has already pretty much said before now.

Somewhere, I like to think, Col. Jeff Cooper is reflecting on this, and smiling…

IF I MAY SHARE AN ANNIVERSARY…

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 by Mas | 26 Comments »

It is January 26, 2015, and I am now two years helicopter-crash-free.  I told the story here shortly after it happened: http://backwoodshome.com/blogs/MassadAyoob/2013/01/27/dont-be-afraid-of-flying/.

I would like to thank the many people who added poignant and sometimes funny comments at the end of that blog entry. It’s worth reading. I love you people.

Two years later, all three of us who were on board are doing fine. Graham Harward, the pilot who “brought us home alive,” is still flying as far as I know. John Strayer still has some range of movement issues with his gun hand, seriously injured when it went through the shattered Plexiglas when we hit, but is nonetheless still winning pistol matches. I’ve only got one visible scar from it. We were indeed lucky.

Share in our “celebration of survival.” The song written and sung by our friend Steve Denney, “Porkchopper Blues,” overlays the first three and a half minutes of the video, some of the flight film having been edited for brevity.  If you hear hysterical laughter in the background, it’s us survivors and the women in our lives and some good friends: we’re hearing it for the first time on the recording, as you are now.

When the overlaid music stops, it’s your warning that things are about to get serious.

John Strayer, on the port side of the bird, was wearing a Go-Pro camera which recorded the short, fun flight, and the no-fun-at-all crash.  Sorry for the engine sound. You won’t hear us talking on board the aircraft; we had radio mics and headphones for that which didn’t pick up our conversation over the engine noise. In the seconds before the crash, you won’t hear me say to Graham, “Those trees are getting’ kinda tall, bro,” nor will you hear him say “I don’t like this—I don’t like this at all.”

Since I have a mechanical IQ of about 50, I didn’t hear the engine sputtering with the muffs on…but John and Graham did, and thanks to the Go-Pro, so will you.  Some folks asked why we didn’t just auto-rotate into a hard but safe landing when the engine failed and we lost altitude. It’s kinda hard to auto-rotate when you don’t have rotors, and as you’ll see in the video, the rotors were gone in the first fraction of a second when they hit the treetops.  Notice how quickly things proceed from there.  “Gravity sucks”…fast.

Click here for video if you can’t see it on your screen.

Among other things, we learned a firearms safety lesson on that short, ill-fated flight in which several guns were on board, one drawn and in hand during the incident, but no shots were fired. If you’ve taken one of my classes between then and now, you’ve heard me discuss it in the opening firearms safety lecture. If you haven’t, it will be the topic of the next blog entry here.

MORE COOL NEW GUN STUFF

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by Mas | 12 Comments »

This is the week of the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade) Show, where the lion’s share of new guns for the given year are introduced.  I was scheduled to be there and had to cancel at the last minute, darn it, but fortunately lots of news is emerging from there daily on the blogosphere.

Monday was “Media Day” when the writers and bloggers get to test-fire new products at the range.  One excellent report is here: http://www.shotshowblog.com/media-picks-favorite-products-press-media-day/.

The new .17 caliber Savage rifle is the first semiautomatic I’ve seen so chambered. For the shooter who has lots of small, fast varmints and therefore needs rapid delivery of small, fast bullets, this sounds most promising. For hunting deer and such, I’m intrigued to learn that “the Christiansen Arms .308 with its carbon fiber barrel has almost no recoil, yet it weighs just six pounds, and its titanium muzzle brake does an outstanding job of keeping muzzle rise to almost nothing.”

The SHOT Show is in Las Vegas, and if I was there and they were taking bets on such things, I’d put my money down that the single best-selling new introduction mentioned in the dispatch from the front linked above will be Ruger’s drop-in trigger assembly for the incredibly popular 10/22 rifle.  Said to be light and sweet, affordable and easy to drop in, it’s going to be a huge hit with target shooters of all types. I expect a lot of them to show up at the great Appleseed events, which we at Backwoods Home enthusiastically support.

10mm RESURGENT

Saturday, January 17th, 2015 by Mas | 31 Comments »

One trend American gun dealers will see next week at their biggest trade show, the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas, will be new 10mm Auto pistols by major makers.

The 10mm semiautomatic has a lot in common with the .41 Magnum revolver. Each had big name proponents behind it.  Elmer Keith and Bill Jordan were the ones who convinced Smith & Wesson and Remington to come out with the .41 Mag circa 1964; it was promoted as the coming thing in police service revolvers; it turned out to be too large and powerful to catch on there, but became a “niche” cartridge that held great appeal for hunters and enthusiasts.

Whit Collins and Jeff Cooper were credited with bringing the 10mm Auto cartridge to life in the 1980s, and it was predicted to become the new paradigm of police service pistols.  It didn’t…but “civilian” handgunners, particularly outdoor sportsmen, loved its ballistic potential combined with auto-pistol round count and shootability, and there it found its niche.

This year, SIG-Sauer is bringing out their excellent P220 all steel double action pistol in 10mm, both in service size (4.4” barrel) for general carry, and a long-slide (5” barrel) for those who want maximum velocity and/or sight radius.  The 10mm P220 was pioneered as a custom item by master shooter and gunsmith Bruce Gray, whom I had the privilege of shooting with on the HK factory competition team back thirty-some years ago.

Glock has announced their G40, which will be their sixteen-shot 10mm Glock 20 of 1990, but with a longer, slimmer slide and 5.3” barrel, identical in appearance to the .45 caliber Glock 41 introduced a year ago.  And mainstream ammo-maker Federal has joined small boutique ammo-makers like Buffalo Bore and CorBon in offering specific 10mm hunting loads.

The rationale for the outdoorsman is that, delivering ballistics between .357 Magnum and .41 Magnum revolvers but with way more than six shots, the 10mm with a deep-driving bullet gives more of a fighting chance against large bears, and perhaps faster follow-up shots on big feral hogs.

I’ve long been a fan of the 10mm concept, and I’m glad to see it making something of a comeback.  My only complaint is the name Glock gave their new one.  The company has long been overdue to make a factory .22 conversion unit for their popular pistols.  Since the Glock 22 of 1990 is .40 caliber, it would have seemed “fair and balanced” for a .22 caliber version to be the Glock 40…

Correction, 1/21/15:  Oops, the barrel length on the Glock 40 10mm is six inches, not 5.3. Sorry about that– Mas

WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS…

Monday, January 12th, 2015 by Mas | 57 Comments »

The recent atrocity in Paris reminds us all of the continuing danger from homicidal fanatics.  The cowardly murderers ran rampant, unopposed; according to some reports, one or both of the police officers killed in the massacre were unarmed and helpless to fight back.

President Obama is taking a lot of heat for not flying to Paris to join a reported 40 other heads of state in a show of solidarity.  This is one thing I won’t criticize the man for. If I were head of Secret Service I would have stood in the Oval Office and screamed at him, “It’s nucking futs! Can you imagine a more irresistible target for Islamic terrorists than forty-one of you, including the head of the Great Satan itself?!?”  I’m frankly amazed that there wasn’t an attack on the gathering, though I’m glad there wasn’t…and if the free world’s security services are smart, they won’t tell us if there was such a conspiracy and they were able to successfully abort it behind the scenes.

Could it have helped if someone in the Charlie Hedbo offices had been able to shoot back? No guarantees, but it damn sure wouldn’t have hurt!  My take on the matter is mentioned here among others’  http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/terrorist-attack-in-paris-newsroom-may-be-wake-up-call-for-u.s.-journalists-to-be-armed/article/2558337 .

I was able to discuss the concept earlier in more depth here, in this very Backwoods Home blog http://backwoodshome.com/blogs/MassadAyoob/2014/11/16/in-the-news/ , and here in Backwoods Home Magazine http://backwoodshome.com/articles2/ayoob150.html .

The prohibitionists and anti-self-defense groups will scoff at the idea that one or more people with handguns among the crop of victims might have thwarted two men who wielded AK47s. They don’t want to hear about Charl van Wyk, who stopped twice that many in a South African attack, armed only with his five-shot snub-nose .38 revolver. You can read about his case and more – and about dozens of helpless victims murdered when there wasn’t “a good guy (or gal) with a gun” to stand up for them – in the current issue of American Handgunner magazine:   http://americanhandgunner.com/the-false-hope-of-gun-free-zones/ .

The authorities expect more such attacks throughout the free world and, yes, here.  My advice is load, holster, and be ready.

It’s not about the odds…it’s about the stakes.

That’s enough about what I think. I want to hear what YOU think about this.

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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