Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Defining moments

JayG has a post about the Challenger disaster. I was only 3.5 years old, so I didn't understand the significance at the time, and therefore don't have a specific memory. This got me thinking about what defining events I do remember.

On September 11, 2001, I got an IM from high school friend Matt K. telling me to turn on the TV, a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. He'd been drunk IMing me all sorts of inane blather recently, so I assumed he was still drunk from the night before or something. Eventually his sober seeming command of the English language convinced me he was serious. I went down and turned on the TV in my campus apartment in time to see the second plane hit.

I went to my first class of the day, and Professor Selkow tried to go on and teach but most of the class's brains were elsewhere. (Selkow's brain was elsewhere all the time.) Classes were cancelled at noon and the staff set up a few big TVs in the campus center for people to watch the news.

A group of us went to Newbury Comics to pick up They Might Be Giants' album Mink Car which was released that day. I guess it was an attempt to preserve some sense of normalcy. An Ellis Paul concert that evening that I had been looking forward to was postponed. When it was rescheduled in January, Paul's guitar sported its now trademark "Anti-Terror Machine" (a reference to Paul's idol Woody Guthrie).

The other event I can place is the beginning of Desert Storm on January 16th, 1991. (I had to look up the date, but I remembered it was a Wednesday in January.) I was at choir practice at church. Dr Lutz (our pastor) came in and interrupted our practice to tell us that they had just started bombing Iraq.

It's interesting that so many of our moments like this are negative. The biggest one for my parents generation was the JFK assassination. JayG is between my parents and me, and his was the Challenger disaster. Mine (though it applies just as much to Jay and my parents) was 9/11/01. Going back to my grandparents generation, it was Pearl Harbor.

Will I ever have a a positive moment like this? My parents generation had the Apollo 11 landing. My mom heard it on the radio, as she was on a camping trip. I'm not sure what the positive moment could possibly be for me. Hopefully I'll get one someday.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Quote of the Day

"The stimulus package is not going to be a walk in the park either. Republicans are yelling it's too costly and doesn't stimulate enough. And they might have point. It's at $825 billion now and could go higher. Hundreds of millions for condoms and other contraceptives doesn't belong in there either, unless it's for what's about to happen to the American taxpayer."

-- Jack Cafferty at CNN (emphasis mine)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Southnarc PUC/ECQC AAR Day 2

Day 2 started on the range. The range drills were mostly repetition and refinement of the drills from day 1. Two additional things that we did were the table drill and a drill working the horizontal line of presentation. The table drill was standing against a table at about 5 yards with someone applying light pressure to our back. On command we would draw and fire. This really dialed in keeping the draw high and close to the body. We isolated the horizontal line of presentation by drawing to the number 3 position (hands coming together as the gun enters the bottom of your vision. Then on command we would extend outward, breaking the shot upon reaching full extension. Then retract to the number 3 position and do it again.

After the range portion, we moved inside to drill managing an unknown contact. I'll post more detail about what that means later. Then Southnarc explained his 'default response'. This is a reflexive guard position to be used when you've lost initiative in the fight. It's designed to facilitate the two most important goals of staying on your feet and staying conscious. I'll try to find a photo showing it and describe it later. The goal now is to get the outline of the training down and write a big post summing up all the details after it's had a few days to a week to sink in.

Next we paired off to drill the default response. One partner would have a pair of gloves on and stand at arms distance away. They'd take a swing, and the other person would react by going into the default response. We drilled this for a while and then added tasking to the equation. Now the attacker would engage the attackee in conversation before suddenly throwing a punch. I found that this was fine as long as I was just listening. I could still pick up the motion and react. As soon as I stopped to consider a response, he could pick it up in my eyes and pop me. I believe after this was lunch time. Since I delayed writing this due to exhaustion (more on that later), I may have some things out of order.

After lunch, we moved outside to better footing. There was enough dust on the floor inside that it was quite slippery. First we did the goat drill. Two guys stand forehead to forehead and try to push the other backwards. This is a great drill for balance and platform. Then we introduced the arms. We did this without much direction at first, just to introduce the idea. Then Southnarc went through some basic concepts for the clinch. He introduced the concepts of the overhook, underhook, neck tie. He explained that the double underhook was a dominant position that afforded great control over the opponent. He introduced the concept of 'swimming' to break an opponent's underhook and establish one of your own.

We paired off and drilled this for a while. We started doing it in sequence back and forth to establish the concept. Then we made it less compliant. We'd start with one underhook each and each try to establish double underhooks.

We took a break and then moved to a grassy open area to use the man marking cartridge guns. One role player would be a citizen, armed with a marker. The other role player, wearing a FIST helmet, would attack. The citizen would go into a clinch and attempt to tie up the attacker's arm closest to his gun, so he could access it and shoot the attacker. This one drill was worth the cost of admission. It was hugely eye opening. As Southnarc said later, "A lot of guys view the gun as a substitute for athleticism. That's horseshit.". At contact distance, the gun is just one small piece of the puzzle. I knew this intellectually, but it's another thing entirely once you're in what Southnarc calls the FUT, or F'd up tangle.

Next, we were introduced to the basics of fighting from the ground. If you're on the ground and your attacker isn't, the key concept is to keep your feet facing him. This prevents him from getting in hits to your head, which could lead to you both semi-conscious and grounded. As SN would say, that's a real shit sandwich. It also gives you a chance to keep enough space to access your gun.

We did some drills like this, starting on the ground with an attacker standing over you. Once we had practiced this, then we introduced the attacker coming down to the ground also. The key defensive point here is to not let them get past your legs. Once they get past your legs, they can mount you, and then you're screwed. Once you're mounted, you've lost nearly all your mobility, and the attacker can beat the crap out of you nearly at his leisure. We drilled this for a while, and then it was time to introduce the guns to the equation.

We started with the attacker remaining standing to practice the weapons access part. This led to one of my favorite points in the class, because a previous piece of training came out without my even thinking about it. I was laying on my back on the ground, with a guy coming at me. I was kicking him in the shins, and scooting around keeping my feet facing him. This opened up enough space/time to go for the gun. I drew, indexed, and pressed the trigger. *click*. I tapped, racked, and shot him dead center in the chest before I really realized what happened. All that practice with dummy rounds really paid off.

Once the attacker started moving in and coming to the ground, things didn't go quite so well. It's very difficult to keep your position such that you can shoot from the pec index and be able to hit the attacker. The natural response is to reach around with your gun hand to get the gun pointed at the attacker. The problem with this is it's very likely to get your gun taken from you before you can do anything with it. As southnarc said repeatedly, "You can't use a tool to solve a positional problem."

At this point, we were done for the day, which was a very good thing for me. I was pretty much completely out of gas. I was happy and full of new knowledge (and bruises and welts), but completely empty of energy. There were plans for the group to meet up for dinner. I planned to join them, but on my drive home to shower and change, suddenly my energy completely plummeted. Before, I wouldn't have been able to do much of any physical activity, but I was functional. Once I hit the wall, I could barely do anything. I got home, dragged myself inside, drank some water and ate some ibuprofen, and then had to lay down to rest a bit. I woke up 2 hours later, too late to go to dinner.

Stay tuned for day 3.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Southnarc PUC /ECQC AAR Day 1 part two

Disclaimer: Shooting is a dangerous activity. The following drill descriptions are for informational purposes only. Do not attempt them without qualified instruction. Do not practice alone. I take no responsibility for any injury which may occur due to a bad explanation on my part or bad execution on yours or for any other reason. Take Southnarc's class for yourself and learn to to it right and safely.

After lunch we met up on the range. We started with a safety briefing. It was a well done and thorough briefing. It hit many of the points I learned about in the NRA RSO class. The obvious four rules and range commands stuff was hit first. Then we got into the issues that some people miss. Southnarc identified the people with medical training who were willing to take the lead on injury assessment and response. He designated a vehicle and identified a nearby hospital with a trauma center.

The class was run as a hot range. I personally prefer hot ranges. It's a nice change from the usual cold range environment at an IDPA match. It's nice when it's recognized that we're all responsible adults and can handle walking about with loaded guns.

The first evolution was a simple one. Draw and fire one round center mass from about 5 yards. This was simply a warm up and a chance for Southnarc to walk up and down the line and see where we were all coming from technique wise. I'm sure it was also a chance to observe our gunhandling skills before we got into the meat of the drills. Everything we were going to do was perfectly safe, but I'm sure it would give more Fuddish types fits.

The next step was working on the draw stroke. We went through it step by step dry. First SN would demonstrate a step, then we would practice that step dry at his command. Then he added the next step, and we would practice the steps so far in sequence, while he gave commands step by step.

SN teaches a four count draw. The steps are:
1) clear cover garment and establish a firm firing grip with the strong hand. The support hand indexes flat high on the sternum.
2) draw pistol to a 'thumb-pectoral index' firing position. The elbow and shoulder are high, the thumb is pointed straight up and touching the side of the pectoral muscle. This naturally places the pistol far enough from your body to allow the slide to reciprocate without binding. It also gives the pistol a natural 45 degree cant downwards. We'll get to the reasons for this later.
3) the hands come together when the pistol enters the bottom of your vision
4) The arms extend outward to the distance appropriate to the position (range) of the threat. If the threat is beyond arms length(both of your arms together), this goes all the way out to full reach and traditional sight alignment.

After we built the draw step by step, we continued doing it dry working toward one continuous fluid motion. Then it was time to burn some more powder. We were told to shoot at a small square on the target (about 1" or so). The drill was on command, draw and fire, focusing on smoothness and accuracy and breaking the shot as the arms reached full extension.

Then it was time for the fun stuff. Extreme close quarters shooting. This is where the more staid traditional range officers would start having fits. SN demonstrated shooting with your forehead touching the target. Then it was our turn. We took our positions on the line with our heads resting on the target. We started doing this drill very slowly to ingrain the key points to do it safely. The commands were:
ONE - clear cover and acquire firing grip
TWO - draw to the #2 position (thumb - pec index)
Check your support hand - making sure that it was flat on the chest and not floating around out where something bad could happen to it
Check your muzzle - look down and verify that the muzzle was clear and pointed at the target.
Fire - press the trigger and fire one round.

We then dropped the safety reminders and used the commands ONE,TWO,FIRE. Then the commands were simplified to DRAW, FIRE. Finally it was cut to one command DRAW, which included firing the shot.

Then we took a break before coming back for demonstration of the next set of techniques: firing throughout the horizontal line of presentation - from the #2 position to the traditional sighted fire position. We started forehead on target again. On command, we would draw and fire one round from #2. Then on command we would take a step backward and fire one shot. This was repeated for a total of 5 rounds fired, ending at full extension. Then we worked it the other way, drawing to full extension at distance and moving toward the target compressing as the distance closed. We then repeated the drills without the individual step commands.

The final drill of the day is the one that would really give a stodgy RO fits. We started forehead touching the target. On command, we would draw, fire one round from #2, fire 4 more rounds one handed while retreating and extending to full distance. Then we would fire 5 rounds on the way in from full distance compressing down to forehead on target two handed. An important safety point here is to never bring the hands together anywhere but at the chest. Searching forward for the gun with the support hand is asking for trouble.

Altogether I think we shot about 150-200 rounds. Tomorrow's agenda is 2 hours on the range, then 2 hours working on empty hand techniques in the clinch, break for lunch, and then break out the man marking cartridges.

Southnarc PUC /ECQC AAR Day 1 part one

Today was my first day of 3 days training with Southnarc. Southnarc is the online alias of a sheriff's deputy from the Gulf coast. He was in the army and then spent the first two years of his police career undercover among drug traffickers, pimps, and various other unsavory types. His police career progressed through various other street, supervisory, and training roles. He now also travels the country offering training to civilians and law enforcement officers.

The class I'm taking includes the modules "Practical Unarmed Combat" and "Extreme Close Quarters Concepts. PUC is a "fundamental block of instruction that introduces the student to the parameters and context of criminal assault." ECQC is a "multi-disciplinary approach to building functional, combative handgun skills at zero to five feet."

Today included the PUC material and the beginning of ECQC. We started in the classroom with an introduction to elements of the typical criminal assault such as opportunism, economic motivation, unequal initiative, and unequal armament. We then discussed awareness and task fixation. Southnarc introduced the beginning of how to respond to an unknown contact/potential assailant. This included verbal techniques and movement strategies. We paired off to practice these techniques for a while. While we were doing this, Southnarc came around and offered tips, advice, and corrections.

The next lecture component was pre-assault cues. Southnarc has spent hours and going over surveillance video and dash-cam footage of assaults on police officers, convenience store clerks, etc. From this and other research, he's distilled down to four common pre-assault cues that you can watch for to warn you that an attack is imminent. Then we broke into groups of three and repeated the earlier set of drills. This time, the aggressor would exhibit the pre-assault cues and the defender would react and also say "cue" whenever he spotted one of the cues. The third person acted as a coach and pointed out missed cues and any areas for improvement.

The final component of the classroom portion was the introduction of several basic strikes that could be used to regain the initiative, disrupt the attack, and buy space and time to respond. We drilled these techniques with a partner using a focus mitt or HammerHead.

This concluded the classroom time. We broke for lunch and then reconvened on the range for live fire drills. Stay tuned for that in part two. If anyone is actually reading this let me know if you'd like more detail or if this is too long and boring already.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Shooter Report x 25 or so

This past Saturday, I was a volunteer instructor for the Gun Owner's Action League (MA state NRA affiliate) Women on Target event hosted by Westford Sportsmen's Club and NEShooters LLC. Women on Target is a program of the Women of the NRA designed to introduce women to the shooting sports. GOAL hosts 6-10 WoT events a year at various clubs around the state. The events include the NRA Home Firearms Safety course and a lecture on MA law (which satisfies the training requirements for a MA FID or LTC) and a chance to try out various shooting disciplines depending on the club's facilities.

Westford's event included pistol, rifle, and shotgun. I ended up working on the Trap range. As posted earlier, I'm pretty new to shotgun sports. Jon Green talked up my beginners luck at sporting clays, and they needed another person on Trap, so off I went. I like to think that my relative newness to the sport helped in that I remembered what it was like to be new because it was a few weeks ago instead of a few decades ago.

I learned a lot from instructing. It further drove home how important proper swing and follow through is. I could watch just the shooter and 90% of the time, I'd know whether they broke the bird or not without looking downrange.

There's nothing quite as much fun as looking at the smiling face of a new shooter as they discover how much fun shooting can be. One of the students had an extreme fear of guns coming in to the event due to an unfortunate event in her past. By the end, she was breaking target after target and had a big smile on her face.

If you're an experienced shooter of either gender, I highly recommend volunteering for this program. If you're a woman who is curious and would like to try shooting in a safe, relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere with other like minded women, I can't think of a better way. If you're a guy who would love your wife, girlfriend, or daughter to understand and possibly share your love for shooting sports, this is the perfect way to get there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bizarre cold call

I just received the most bizarre cold call. This call came on my personal cell phone, a number I acquired in 2005 soon after starting at my current job.
Telemarketer: Hi, is this <my name>?
Me: yes
TM: I'm calling from Tiger Direct, can you direct me to the person in charge of IT purchasing for your company <my employer>?
Me: why are you calling me?
TM: Well, you made a purchase from us, and I'm calling to see if you can direct me to the person who makes IT purchases for your company.
Me: What are you talking about, I didn't order anything.
TM: Well, it was back in '96. It was a $400 uh... something. Can you tell me who is in charge of IT purchasing at your company?
Me: <hangs up dumbfounded >

I'm really curious how they connected a purchase made in 1996, which would be 5 mailing addresses, 3 phone numbers, and 4 employers ago to my current cell number and employer, which themselves aren't particularly connected.