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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.


Thursday, April 21st, 2016 by Mas | 19 Comments »

Instructors who are gentle but firm with the students.  Instructors who explain “Here’s why we do what we do here,’ as opposed to “This is the doctrine!!”  Instructors who actually get out there in front of their students, God, and everybody and DEMONSTRATE.  And, in this case, a course of fire so challenging that over decades, you can about count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who’ve shot a perfect score at qualification time.

Yes, the Evil Princess and I are loving the Rogers Shooting School Advanced Course, and looking forward to the two days we have left.

The class is full with 18 people, three relays of six working the half-dozen identical computer-controlled steel plate bays.  While Relay 1 is shooting, Relay 2 is coaching and counting hits and Relay 3 is refilling magazines.  Very efficient, and a great bonding experience. Squads on each position change daily so students can get the experience of coaching, and being coached by, different people.

Class is an interesting mix of cops (mostly firearms instructors), current or former dot-mil, and armed citizens including a couple of physicians and a nurse. I watched the younger of a father-son team pass the Advanced qualification today, only 60% of the way into the course.  He accepted the accolade with a quiet pride beyond his years, and I expect his dad is dancing on air.

With some of the relatively small targets fully “up” to the shooter for as little as half a second, and 125 of these targets presented over the course of nine fast-paced stages (some requiring not only one-handed shooting with each hand, but one-hand only speed reloading) I am definitely getting my daily adrenaline requirement along with my already-predicted annual humility requirement.

Here’s a short video of one stage shot by Chris Edwards, who has already passed the Advanced course requirements, shooting his 9mm Glock 17 on what the Rogers School calls “a blast” of targets. (On point to another recent blog discussion, it kinda validates the whole “high capacity magazine” concept…)


Or click HERE for video.


Saturday, April 16th, 2016 by Mas | 17 Comments »

Wikitionary (yes, that’s a word and a thing) defines “busman’s holiday” thus: “First recorded in 1893 in the UK. The idea is that a busman, to go off on a holiday, would take an excursion by bus, thereby engaging in a similar activity to his work.”  Whenever I hear it, I channel to the Mark Twain quote I first heard from my old friend and colleague, the great police trainer Ed Nowicki: “If you love your job, you never have to actually work a day in your life.”

The Evil Princess and I are off to Rogers Shooting School in Ellijay, Georgia for the next week, to take their advanced handgun course.  Why? I learned a few things when I was a little kid, to wit:

If you aren’t good at taking orders, you probably won’t be good at giving them…

…if you can’t read, you can’t write…

…and if you don’t learn, you can’t teach, at least not very well for very long.

During first quarter 2016, I was able to spend a week learning at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association annual conference in Chicagoland, and three days at Tom Givens’ superb Rangemaster Tactical Conference held this year at the Memphis Police Academy in Tennessee.  I taught at both, but at the Rogers school, our only scheduled “training for US” in 2nd quarter 2016, I get to be purely in student mode. We’ve ordered a case of ammo per day for each of us. WOOT!

We’ve been wanting to take Bill’s legendary course and skill test for a very long time, and a confluence of scheduling finally allows it. I’ve known Bill for decades, shot against him in his heyday when he was on the “pro tour,” and don’t remember ever beating him. Those are the kind of people you can really learn from in the given discipline. Ain’t gonna even try to predict how I’ll do, but if I get my Annual Humility Requirement all in five days, well, that won’t be a bad thing either. I’ve always learned more from screwing up than I did from doing things right, and learning is our purpose in going.

What about y’all? Any training plans for this year? Observations on training in general? Discussion is welcome here.




Monday, April 11th, 2016 by Mas | 42 Comments »

Thirty years ago today – April 11, 1986 – what may have been the most studied gunfight of the Twentieth Century took place in Dade County, Florida. Eight FBI agents on a rolling stakeout engaged two well-armed robbery/murder suspects. Circumstances allowed the bad guys to get the first move, and minutes later, both perpetrators were dead…but so were Special Agents Ben Grogan and Jerry Dove. Ed Mireles, John Hanlon, and Supervisory Special Agent Gordon McNeill suffered wounds that would impair them for life, and Special Agents Gilbert Orrantia and Richard Manauzzi sustained wounds from which they would recover.

The lessons learned from this would profoundly change law enforcement training and weaponry, and to some extent, that of law-abiding armed citizens. For the 25th anniversary of the event I did an interview with survivor John Hanlon, still downloadable from the ProArms Podcast.  A few short weeks after the shootout, I was teaching at the Metro-Dade Police Academy and my old friend Dr. Joe Davis, the legendary chief medical examiner of Dade County, was kind enough to come over and give us all a full insider briefing. As the years went on I was able to interview some of the survivors. My take on it, based on that research, can be found in the “Ayoob Files” archives at

Some of the lessons:

  • The killer who shot first had a Ruger Mini-14 .223 rifle, which proved to be a terribly efficient force multiplier. He used this gun to inflict every serious wound suffered by the good guys. This incident, probably more than any other, gave impetus to make the .223 patrol rifle the almost universal standard issue for police patrol that it is today. Only two of the agents even had a shotgun, and only one was able to deploy it.
  • At that time, only the agents assigned to FBI SWAT had semiautomatic pistols; the remainder were armed with revolvers. Two of the good guys, McNeill and Hanlon, were permanently injured while they were hopelessly trying to reload their empty revolvers after having sustained wounds to their gun hands or arms. By the early 1990s, most American police had switched to higher capacity, faster-reloading service pistols from the traditional service revolver.
  • Early in the fight, a bullet from Dove’s 9mm pistol pierced the opposing rifleman’s arm and into his chest, slicing an artery and inflicting a “fatal, but not immediately neutralizing” hit when it stopped short of his heart. It was after that, that he inflicted most of the deadly damage. FBI subsequently adopted a standard requirement that their handgun ammo penetrate a minimum of 12” into muscle tissue-simulating ballistic gelatin, a standard most law enforcement and many lawfully armed citizens subsequently adopted.
  • Ben Grogan, said to be the best shot in the approximately 200-person Miami FBI office, would likely have been voted “most likely to dominate the gunfight.” Unfortunately, he was extremely myopic and lost his glasses in the car-ramming crash that preceded the shootout, and this undoubtedly hampered his performance. He died at the scene. Prior to that, this writer had occasionally shot with uncorrected vision; for the last 30 years, I’ve made a point of shooting at least one qualification course a year that way.

There is much more to it, of course, but my space here is limited. Suffice to say that this is a day to remember the sacrifices of the heroes who ultimately won that terrible fight, but prevailed at a terrible cost. May those no longer with us rest in peace, and may the survivors remember that they and their brave colleagues did not suffer in vain that awful Friday morning thirty years ago. We will never know how many lives have been saved in the three decades since because of the lessons that emerged from this incident.


Friday, April 8th, 2016 by Mas | 9 Comments »

With the anti-gun stronghold of Chicago, nobody thought the state of Illinois the last holdout against lawful concealed carry would ever pass a shall-issue permit law. Surprise they did!

And Illinois can thank the Illinois State Rifle Association, Illinois Carry, and IGOLD for that.

IGOLD stands for Illinois Gun Owners Lobbying Day. For a decade, these committed Americans have marched in the state capitol of Springfield and made their concerns known … and they changed the paradigm.

This past week, I finally got to an IGOLD and was damn glad I did. It was a recharging of the batteries, a reminder that self-reliant armed citizens come in every color, every gender, and every stratum of what pollsters sometimes call  socio-economic class. We are the most egalitarian of subcultures.

I had the privilege of addressing the gun owners on why Gun-Free Zones are actually Hunting Preserves for Psychopathic Murderers who seek prey who can’t fight back. Illinois law, I’m told, currently prohibits carrying guns in rest stops. Now, a rest stop in 3 AM darkness is to rapists and kidnappers what a watering hole is for leopards hungry for antelope. Yes, that sort of thing needs to be changed. And, judging from feedback, the IGOLD folks have the attention of the legislators…see here.

A nationwide thumbs-up for IGOLD, ISRA, and Illinois Carry! They are inspirations and role models for us all. In the pix you see in the above link, the lady in the lead of the parade marching seven blocks on a walker is Colleen Lawson, one of the named plaintiffs in the landmark SCOTUS decision for armed citizens’ rights, Otis McDonald, et. al. v. Chicago, and with us at the IGOLD gathering were the widow and daughters of Otis McDonald, the lead plaintiff, a man I will be eternally proud to have known.

We can all learn from IGOLD.



Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 by Mas | 11 Comments »

…and a tale of a whale.  I just finished “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick, an exhaustively researched account of the sinking of the Nantucket-based whaling ship Essex in 1820, the real-life inspiration for Herman Melville’s classic “Moby-Dick.”

The author paints his picture with a detailed brush. We learn much about the unique culture, racial mores, and economy of Nantucket in the early 19th Century, and great detail about whaling.  I had always thought the harpoons were what they killed the leviathans with, but we learn from Philbrick they were merely anchors for harpoon lines that brought the hunters’ boats close enough to stab the quarry with giant spears.  There are many enlightening tidbits about aquatic mammal biology and behavior, how starvation and dehydration affect the human body, and more than I wanted to know about cannibalism.

The whale that seems to have deliberately rammed the Essex was estimated to be 85 feet long and 80 tons. The author notes that sperm whales that size aren’t reported today, and theorizes that selective killing of the more profitable giant whales during this period had an effect on subsequent breeding.  However, he doesn’t think the size was exaggerated, noting that a sperm whale jawbone now in a whaling museum extrapolates to an 80-footer.

Its first strike rocked the ship violently enough to throw sailors off their feet and seriously damage the hull, though the damage might have been repairable.  But the second hit, from a fast running start, was a straight-on head butt which, all survivors confirmed, drove the 238-ton vessel backward and caved in a major portion of the bow.  The monster whale swam off, leaving the ship mortally wounded.

All 20 of the crew got off the ship in one piece, salvaging some provisions, guns, and navigation equipment before the Essex went under. In “Moby-Dick,” that was pretty much the climax of the novel, and sole survivor Ishmael’s rescue was sort of a postscript. However, the aftermath of the Essex’s sinking is really the heart of “In the Heart of the Sea.” In more than three months on the ocean in those little whaling boats, a dozen men died, most winding up in the bellies of the surviving eight.

There are lessons galore in this grim narrative of survival.  There are understandable navigation errors and choices which 20/20 hindsight shows to have been questionable, and in perspective, being led astray by GPS will never seem quite so bad again after reading this. There was also a lesson about hesitation and balancing competing harms: After the initial ramming, the first mate spotted the stunned whale at the stern of the ship, and had a perfect shot to kill it, the great lance in hand. However, he made the conscious decision not to, fearing that in its death throes the huge tail might tear the rudder off the ship.  He would later decide that spearing the beast would have been the lesser of two evils.

Damn. Now I gotta see the movie of the same name, which I hear was well made but so depressing it was not a success in the theaters.



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