Three weeks ago today, on Sunday June 8, I was in the fourth day of a MAG-40 class in Kankakee, Illinois. Among other topics of the day, I warned the students that one of the dangers of armed intervention was “tailgunners,” criminal accomplices who cover their “point man” while pretending to be shoppers, and will assassinate anyone who interferes with their fellow thugs. That same day, some 1800 miles away, that scenario was acted out with tragic results.
A vicious psycho couple walked into a pizza joint where two Las Vegas Metro officers were taking a meal break, and ambushed and murdered them. Taking the slain officers’ pistols and spare ammo, they made their way to a nearby WalMart. The male of the pair fired a shot into the ceiling and ordered everyone out. One armed citizen, Joseph Wilcox, drew his own Glock and moved toward the gunman. The tailgunner, the gunman’s wife, sidled up beside Wilcox and shot him dead. The two nutcases then shot it out with police, and died.
I’ve waited this long to address it because it takes that long for the facts to shake out. Early reports said one of the first two officers returned fire and wounded one of the perps; turns out that wasn’t true. Early reports said the armed citizen was female, and had wounded one of the cop-killers; turns out, no and no. First reports said the female psycho killed her husband and then herself; later reports say a police bullet killed him and she didn’t shoot him at all, though she did put a slug in her own head after being anchored by a police bullet in the final gunfight.
No one with a three-digit IQ has blamed officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo for their own deaths: they were bushwhacked suddenly and without discernible warning. Not so the private citizen, Joseph Wilcox. An amazing number of people on the Internet accused him of “getting himself killed,” with one idiot even suggesting that he died while “playing Barney Fife.” An interesting parallel was seen on two threads over at www.glocktalk.com. In the “Carry Issues” section, quite a few people thought Wilcox had overstepped his bounds. They took the position that the gun they carried was only to protect themselves and their families, not the public. Interestingly enough, in the “Cop Talk” section of the same forum, police officers felt he had done the right thing and agreed with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, who publicly proclaimed Wilcox to have died a hero and probably saved multiple innocent lives by interrupting the plans of the two whacked-out murderers.
Readers…I’d be very much interested in hearing YOUR take on this.
Hunting season is upon us. Be sure to sight in! The deer rifle that was spot on last year may not be so as of now. Moisture getting into a wooden rifle stock, swelling the wood so that it applies pressure on the barrel…a bump to the scope or the iron sights between last season and now can throw shots of the course of aim…a change in ammo can alter elevation and even windage…there are lots of things which can mess up point of aim/point of impact coordinates.
I was reminded of this some ten days ago in Arkansas, when I was testing a new pistol and teaching a first-level class simultaneously. Using the test gun to teach with seemed like a good idea. I sneaked onto the line with the new 9mm Walther (the PPQ M2, a pretty cool little gun, actually) and put a few shots downrange offhand with 115 grain ammo. It shot where it looked. I figured it would do to demonstrate the qualification course to the class on the last day.
When that day came, I loaded the Walther with 147 grain ammo I grabbed out of the back of my van. All went well until we hit the 15 yard line, and after the first six shots I noticed the group was going way high. I corrected with “Kentucky windage,” holding proportionally low, and finished with a 298 out of 300 possible points. Four of the rising six had gone into the upper part of the eight-inch circle in the center of the IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) target, but two had gone just over, costing me one point down apiece.
The deal I make with my students is that I and the staff will demonstrate the course of fire they’re expected to perform, to “model” it so they have a fresh mental image of what is expected of them in the next few minutes, and to “set their internal clock” as to the time frames in which they’ll have to perform the sequences of fire. If they tie my score, they get an autographed dollar bill that says “You tied me at my own game,” and if they beat me, an autographed five dollar bill inscribed, “You beat me at my own game.”
Out of 40 or so shooters, that 298 cost me four five dollar bills and change. It’s more than worth the money to have graduates who can shoot like that. Still, as much as it pleases me to give out the $1 bills, I confess to mixed feelings about the $5s.
In the advanced course that followed, on the first day when that crew of students was watching the mandatory safety film, I slipped out to the range and tested the Walther on a bench rest. Interesting thing: that particular pistol put its shots center at 15 and 25 yards with 115 grain ammo, but sent them way high at both distances with the 147 grain rounds I used in the qual. I should have done that part of the test before the first qualification.
Nobody’s fault but mine: I had not tested that gun with that ammo at “predictable using distance” before shooting it for anything serious.
There’s a lesson there.
The price I paid was cheap compared to losing the winter supply of elk meat because I had sighted in with a different load than the one I took into the hunting field. And a whole lot cheaper than if I had been shooting for survival instead of a “fistful of dollars.”
Learn from my mistake. Get sighted in.
And if you have any experiences in this vein, please post them here, so others may learn in time to prevent poor shot placement.
Am finishing up a third level armed citizen class this week. Second level and higher, we add long guns to the handguns. My own view is that if I can only have one firearm for home defense, I want it to be a handgun for reasons of versatility, but if possible I’d rather have one handgun and one long gun readily available to each person in the household who’s likely to be using deadly force to protect self and family.
I teach the handgun as “infantry,” the long gun as “artillery.” If I have to go mobile, I want a hand free to work communications, illumination, doorknobs, etc. If I have to scoop a little kid and carry same to a safer position, a handgun will be more workable. Same if I have to answer an insistent 3 AM pounding at the door…which might just be a cop, who won’t take it well if I open the door holding a 12-gauge or a .223 rifle. But if the whole family is barricaded in the safe room and criminals are kicking down the door, it’s probably shooting time, and a .223 class autoloading rifle or a fast-firing shotgun gives way more power and hit potential on multiple targets in unforgiving circumstances.
For a very long time, the shotgun has been the traditional choice of long gun for defense inside the house. In recent years, though, .223 rifles such as the AR15 have become hugely popular for this function. In this week’s class, two thirds of the students are using shotguns, and one third, autoloading rifles.
Symposium time: readers, what are your choices of home defense firearms? Handgun, or long gun, or both? And if there’s a long gun in the defense plan, did you choose shotgun, rifle, or both?
And – most important, and most interesting – why did you choose as you did?
We live in times that could raise any American citizen’s blood pressure. The atrocity that occurred today at the Boston Marathon. A whacked-out martinet on the other side of an ocean threatening to nuke our country. No wonder so many of our neighbors are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
I’ve enjoyed Jack Spirko’s free Survival Podcast for some time, and my significant other is a huge fan of his show. Jack recognizes that it ain’t just a “Panic In the Year Zero” apocalypse scenario that justifies being prepared for bad things…it’s life itself that constantly reminds us we need to be so prepared. Whether you live in hurricane country, earthquake country, tornado country, flood country, or wherever, Mother Nature can deliver some nasty large-scale surprises.
In going on six and a half decades on this planet, I’ve learned that really bad things are most likely to happen to people who aren’t prepared for them. From medical emergency to a cutoff of power and food supply to self-defense, preparedness seems to downgrade bad things from “horrible disaster” to “memorable adventure you’d just as soon not have had to go through.”
If you’re not familiar with Spirko’s podcast, check it out. He strikes me as A Thinking Man.