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.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A new addiction

On Saturday, I went to Addieville East Farm in Rhode Island for a friend's bachelor party. My previous shotgunning experience probably totaled about one box of shells including about 10 clays off a manual thrower at the Bloggershoot. So, I had no idea what I was in for in a round of sporting clays.

For those who don't know, sporting clays is basically golf with a shotgun. You walk through the woods to a sequence of stations. At each station, there are two clay throwing machines. The throwers are sat at varying locations relative to the shooting position. Some are on the ground, some are up in the air. Some throw toward you, some away, and some across. Most of the stations on the portion of the course I did (I had to leave after lunch to get to a wedding.) were 'report pairs'. What this means is that you call for the first target, and the second one is launched when you fire at the first one.

I mostly used a borrowed Mossberg 500. That was nice, as that's the shotgun I'm thinking of buying. I did try an O/U for the one station that was a true pair (both targets launched simultaneously). It pretty much cemented my plan to buy a 500. It's cheaper than the 870, and I like the position of the safety and slide release better.

I had a great time and broke what I think was a decent number of clays for my first time out. In fact, I had so much fun that yesterday I swung by Wal-Mart and grabbed some shotshells. I then went to my club, which has trapshooting on Sunday afternoons. I watched the tail end of a round and then talked to one of the shooters. When I told him that I was thinking of buying a shotgun and was curious about shooting trap and had brought a couple boxes of shells, he was happy to offer up his shotgun for me to try.

This one was a fancy O/U. I didn't catch the brand, but it doesn't really matter because I'm sure it's out of my price range. I did like the O/U for convenience of loading for clay games. I may buy one eventually, but I'm still planning to start with a pump because of cost and versatility. O/Us are great for target shooting, but when a home invader is coming down the hallway, I want more than two rounds.

I shot a 15 the first round, which I didn't think was too bad for my first round of trap ever. The shooters decided to shoot one more round, and the guy whose shotgun I was borrowing was done shooting for the day, so I decided to try again. This time I focused on his advice to swing smoothly through the shot and follow through. I broke 21 of 25 targets in the 2nd round, which I think is pretty good for a beginner. Targets at sharp angles from stations 1 and 5 give me fits, but I'm sure that just takes more practice.

I was hoping to hold out from buying any more guns for a while, but I had so much fun shooting clays this weekend that I think I'm going to have to get a shotgun. I'm planning to get a Mossberg 500. I'm deciding between a cheap used one and the "Field/Security Combo" if I go new. I'm leaning toward the new combo as it doesn't cost much more than a used gun plus an extra barrel.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Whenever Senator Obama attempts anything non-political (such as bowling), he comes over like a visiting dignitary to a foreign country getting shanghaied into some impenetrable local folk ritual."

Mark Stein on National Review Online. H/T to Ted at BorePatch

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quote of the Day

"In the same way that the Democrats made the "McSame" argument all week, the convention in St. Paul next week will most likely attempt to paint Obama as the typical big government, tax-and-spend Democrat. What is the price tag in the hope Obama is selling?"
-- Josh Putnam Frontloading HQ

In my opinion, both of the accusations are true. I think his question would make a great McCain ad. I'm eagerly awaiting McCain's VP pick. I'm hoping for Sarah Palin, but I'm expecting to be disappointed.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Back in the saddle

I have a tendency to acquire hobbies. I find something that interests me and tend to jump in with both feet. Shooting is the latest in a long string. Between working on my house, which ate most of last summer and fall, and shooting, which has eaten most of this spring and summer, I've been leaving other hobbies languish. Lately I've resolved to pick two hobbies and stick with them. Shooting is one, homebrewing, which has fallen by the wayside for a while is the other. Last weekend I brewed my first batch in about a year.

Last weekends batch was an English IPA. It was an extract batch, which means I started from malt extract, which is basically pre-made dehydrated wort. Wort is the term for unfermented beer. Basically, with extract, the first third of the brewing process is done for you. Extract is easier and requires less equipment, but extract costs more than malted grain.

The stages of making beer are malting, mashing, boil, and fermentation. Malting is the processing of barley by allowing it to germinate to produce enzymes, and then kilning it to stop the process. Different strains of barley and different roasting and kilning processes lead to different types of malt. Almost no one does this at home, and professional breweries don't do it either. It's generally done by malt houses which purchase grain from the farmers, malt it, and sell it to distributors and brewers.

The next step is mashing. Mashing is the process of using the enzymes from malting to convert the starches in the grain into sugars which the yeast can ferment. This is done by mixing the malt with hot water and holding it at a temperature or series of temperatures to control the enzyme activity.

The next step is the boil. This is where the process starts for extract brewers. Boiling does several things for the brew. The most important is that it extracts bitterness from the hops. Even beers that aren't noticably bitter contain bittering hops. If they didn't they'd taste cloyingly sweet. This is because yeast can't ferment 100% of the sugars in the beer, so the hop bitterness is there to balance them out. The boil also drives off some compounds that you don't want in the beer because they produce off-flavors. Another thing the boil does is coagulate some proteins from the malt that would otherwise make the final beer cloudy.

The final step (other than packaging) is fermentation. This is where the magic happens. Yeast convert sugars to alcohol and CO2. There is a wide variety of brewers yeasts available that lead to a variety of different flavors in the final beer. Temperature control during fermentation is important to avoid off flavors and other unpleasant things you don't want in the beer. Also, a given yeast will produce a different flavor profile at different temperatures.

After fermentation, the beer is packaged in either bottles or kegs and then carbonated. There are two main ways to carbonate a beer: bottle conditioning and force carbonation. Bottle conditioning involves adding a measured amount of sugar to the beer so that it will ferment a bit more in the bottle. Since the bottle is sealed, the CO2 produced dissolves into the beer. The other method is force carbonation, which is using a pressurized CO2 tank to add CO2 to the beer.

So, back to today's batch. Today I made an all grain beer. This is significantly more involved than an extract batch. The short version is that last week's extract beer took about 3 hours start to finish. Today's brew is going to come to about 6. I had some equipment issues today that pushed the time out. Once I get back into the swing of things, I think I can get an all grain brew day down to about 4.5 hours or so.

I'll post details of ingredients and such later, this post has gone on long enough. The next beer post will probably also include my planning for the next couple batches.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I love the CMP part the second

The rifles arrived not long after my last post. The Carbine is pretty clean, but the Garand is pretty gunked up with cosmolene. Condition seems to be good at first glance; bright shiny bores with sharp rifling. The wood is pretty good; scratches and dings, but I didn't see any cracks or anything. I'll look them over further when I have more time. I was pleased to note that my IBM Carbine has a matching IBM barrel. The adjustable sights cover the maker's name on the receiver, so the barrel stamped IBM Corp will make it easier to show off to non-gunnie friends.

I love the CMP, part the first

The software just arrived on the FedEx ground truck. The hardware should be arriving shortly on the express truck. The driver came to my door, confirmed my address and asked if I could open the garage because he had a 'bunch of heavy boxes'. (My garage is at ground level, while my front door is up a hill.) Said heavy boxes included 3 cans of 192 rounds of .30-'06 in Garand clips and bandoleers, 2 cans of 400 .30-'06 in boxes of 20, and 1 box of 500 rounds of .30 Carbine. Assuming the hardware arrives as scheduled, I should be set for the first wave of zombies.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Priority Overnight My Ass

No CMP rifle pics today, thanks to the wonders of FedEx. They were shipped priority overnight yesterday, picked up by FedEx at 1:42 PM. I worked from home this morning to be there to sign for the package. FedEx's tracking site showed that they were to be delivered by 10:30 AM. They arrived at Boston at 9:23 AM. I figured at this point that they weren't going to make 10:30, since I'm about a 45 minute drive from Boston(with no traffic). Then at 11:12, they arrived at another fedex facility which is half an hour from Boston, and 45 minutes from me. The tracking now says Delivery Exception: "Package at station, arrived after courier dispatch" At this point, I headed into the office since I had a 1PM meeting, and there was no way they'd make it in time.

I'm not sure if they'll attempt delivery some time this afternoon, or if it'll get bumped to tomorrow. How often does FedEx totally miss promised service like this? I use them at work to overnight stuff semi-regularly. I do product development, so generally it's not absolutely critical that the package arrives overnight. I remember one case where the package got delayed to the following day. It seems pretty rare that they hit the promised 10:30 AM delivery time.

Has FedEx service always been this marginal, or is it a more recent thing? Obviously, waiting an extra day for my rifles isn't the end of the world, but it does hurt my confidence in FedEx. What do businesses do when something is critical to operations and has to arrive the next day? Put the low man on the totem pole in a car and make him drive all night?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Civilian Marksmanship Program Excitement

I just saw the charge on my credit card account for my CMP rifle order. I ordered a service grade Springfield Garand and an M1 carbine. My first choice was an IBM service grade, since the idea of an IBM rifle is awesome. The trouble is, my order hasn't shown up in their e-store yet, so I can't tell if I got the IBM or not. I ordered an IBM SG as first choice, with IBM RG and Standard Products SG as backups. The credit card amount points to a service grade, but the IBM and SP are the same price, so I can't tell which I'm getting. I'm trying to figure out if cc hit before estore order is normal before I contact the CMP. I don't want to waste their order processing time if there's nothing to worry about.

The M1 Carbine is a fun little gun. I shot one in the range safety qualification at my club (basically making sure you could hit the paper and weren't a total bonehead). I haven't even shot a Garand yet, but I'm sure I'll love it. I've got a pile of ammo for both on the way. Now I just need to find some pre-ban USGI carbine mags, since the CMP rifles come with no mags. Part of my 30-'06 ammo order comes on Garand clips, so I'm set there.

UPDATE: Rifles shipped today! Supposed to be delivered tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


"They say drinking and driving is one of the most dangerous combinations out there. With notions such as above, I’d say it’s probably much more dangerous to give me a couple beers and set me off about hippies."

Stingray at Atomic Nerds RTWT

Happy Birthday to me and a new blog

I've been considering starting a blog for a while, and I was inspired by Jay G's Northeast Bloggershoot to finally do it. I'm not sure what the content will be, but as I told a friend, "probably guns, politics, beer, and funny shit on the internet". A post about the shoot is forthcoming once I have some time to sit down and write it. I just wanted to get started while the inspiration was striking. Back to work for now.