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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.



Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Massad Ayoob

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

The Fourth of July is almost upon us, and there are safety concerns.

There are rumblings from ISIS that they are trying to instigate their minions and the mindless “lone wolves” they influence to do bad things to Americans on Independence Day.  Ratchet your alertness level up one notch at least, and be ready to protect yourself, and yours, and those around you.

In commentary on another blog entry here, one of our readers asked about safety tips on fireworks.  If it’s being professionally done in your community, my advice is to stand well back away from the damn launchers.  A rearward perspective will probably give you a better set of “oohs” and “aahs” when they burst in the sky anyway.  But it will also keep you and your kids more out of range of anything that could go wrong.  The worst such debacle I know of occurred when a Chinese sky torpedo, which proved to have been defective, exploded in its launch tube in Michigan. Death and dismemberment resulted.

Be really, REALLY careful about fireworks at home.  I’ve trained multiple one-armed people in self-defense shooting, who needed that special attention because in their younger days they were careless with home-made fireworks and assorted other incendiary/explosive devices.  We can all learn from their suffering.

With all that said, I’ll be making noise on the Fourth one way or the other.  I’m in the process of writing a pre-trial report in a murder case, where I’ll be speaking as an expert witness called by the defense for a young woman who saved her life with a gun when a man attacked her with deadly force.  That, obviously, takes precedence over fun.  If the report is done as soon as I hope it will be, this weekend I’ll be shooting an IDPA match with good friends.  If it isn’t, I’ll take some time off to get out on my own home range and do some trigger pulling, to commemorate the armed citizens of 18th Century America who preserved my right to do so.

For many years now, I’ve been in my beloved home country to celebrate the Fourth.  In my younger days, with kids to support, I couldn’t teach classes on holidays so July 4 usually found me in another nation earning money for my wife and children.  Most often – before their handgun ban of 1996, which must have made the longbowmen of Agincourt spin in their graves – that was in one or another part of Great Britain.  When I spent the Fourth in the British Empire, I would flush a teabag down a toilet in commemoration of the Boston Tea Party…and my British brothers and sisters understood.

Have a great Independence Day.  Stay safe!

Massad Ayoob

WITH SOME HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

A while back, I was doing some research on poisonous snakes and came across references to silent rattlers.  I mentioned it here, and got lots of response, which burgeoned into a discussion on dealing with dangerous reptiles.

That in turn grew into this article, in the current issue of Backwoods Home magazine. Most Interesting Man

In my opinion, it was the broad experiential input and knowledge from those who contributed to the blog that really made the article.

This is at least the second time this has happened.  A few years ago, a discussion here burgeoned into a full-length article on hunting, shooting, and handling firearms in deep cold weather.

All y’all are a tremendous think tank and experience repository.  I don’t thank you often enough.

So…thanks!

Massad Ayoob

LESSON FROM A HELICOPTER CRASH

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

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…

Massad Ayoob

IF I MAY SHARE AN ANNIVERSARY…

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

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.

Massad Ayoob

WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS…

Monday, January 12th, 2015

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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