Category Archives: Odd Angry Shot

Tactical Tips

Well, Tactical-ish, At Any Rate.

I get a lot of questions about “tactical tips and techniques,” some specific and some general. Those who ask the latter kind just wanta be entertained. They don’t care how long it takes; they’ve got lotsa time. For them, I lean forward, lower my voice and pause for dramatic effect. Then I whisper, “This… is the best, the least-known, the most esoteric piece of tactical wisdom I can give you: Never be in a shot-up, blown-out, cheese-holed all-concrete building when it decides, ‘Nah, I’m done ’ and collapses on you.”

I get some weird responses. A typical one is, “Huh? Is… Is that all?” I wave a hand over my body and ask, “What, you wanta wind up like this?” Then I laugh. Occasionally they do too, after a moment. Mostly not, but I don’t care.

Those who ask for specifics really wanna know, so I’ll give them all the time it takes. Thought I’d share a few with you if that’s OK. Understand this: I have not survived because I’m a tactical wizard or a super-soldier. I’m alive only by the grace of God and the poor marksmanship, lack of discipline and staggering stupidity of my enemies. A little of what I know I’ve learned from formal training. Most, I’ve learned from observing what works—and what gets people killed.

Too Tricky + Too Fast = FAIL

“Tactical Speed Reloading” and “reloading on the move” come up frequently. I don’t do either one. I do stable, sure and certain reloads, done as speedily as I can keep them assuredly stable and certain. I’ve seen highly trained well-disciplined men fumble reloads under firefight conditions even when they were behind cover and not trying to break any speed records. That’s just a product of “combat adrenaline.” I actually try to slow myself down and get it right, not rapidly wrong. Two illustrations:

A while back I saw some footage shot but not used for a commercial “tactical” video. The Ranger-Ricky-Guy, one of these fashionable Global Ninja Operator types, was demonstrating his speed tactical pistol reloading technique. Emptying his pistol 2-handed, he suddenly drops his support hand while continuing to fire, plucks a fresh mag from his worthless-for-anything-besides-competition mag pouch, between either his pinky and ring finger, or ring and middle finger, and comes up with it just as his pistol runs dry.

He pops the mag release, catches the empty mag between thumb and pointy-digit, and is supposed to insert that fresh mag and drop the slide, all at blazing speed. He fumbled it miserably if hilariously four times, then succeeded on the fifth, but somebody on the crew yelled out “Yay! Thank God!” too soon, so the whole thing had to be re-shot. Lots of yuks and high-fives, but this was intended as training! The clip I saw was supposed to be erased. People pay good money for this crap. Go figger, huh?

Back in my callow youth, I was reclining in a ditch, poppin’ the mostly-expended mag from my rifle, peepin’ it to see about how many rounds remained, checking my other mags, then carefully inserting a fresh one. I wasn’t lollygaggin’, but had no urgent appointments, hadn’t left the bath water running back home, and my opposition was busy fruitlessly expending their ammo.

A guy we already called “Hollywood,” because he acted like he was starring in a war movie, crashed down Hollywood-hard next to me, and in a blur of movement, popped out a presumably-empty mag, sorta threw a reload into his mag well, released his bolt, exploded to his feet and charged. The magazine he had just inserted fell at my feet. He was gone. I swear, he shot me a glance as he rose, as if checking to see if I was impressed with his coolness. I survived. Lesson learned.

Whether with rifle or pistol, I grab and manipulate magazines in a solid full-fisted grip, with my thumb pointing up close to the feed lips, guiding mags into place and assuring they’re locked in. Just practice after running a 100-yard dash, while balancing on an exercise ball, reciting the Gettysburg Address, holding a live rattler in your teeth. Or, while standing athwart the prow of the Leakin’ Lena in a Force 9 Gale. That oughtta do it!

This leads nicely into reloading-on-the-move, shooting-on-the-move and other silliness, so…


Tactical Tip No. 1: Try not to wind up here.

Gonna Move? MOVE!

I know these techniques are taught by “serious people,” but so are post-modern Marxist feminism and counter-cultural guerrilla dance theatre. Just my opinion from hard experience, but unless you’re down to a choice of doing it or definitively kissin’ your butt goodbye, I advise against it. Movement under real or potential fire means getting from Point A to Point B alive. Once there, if you’ve chosen Point B wisely, you can shoot or reload. Examples I’ve seen of the folly of both are too many to share here. I’ll keep it to this:

Once, within 60 seconds, I watched two guys (fortunately, bad guys) try to shoot, and one to reload, while attempting to traverse less than about 80 meters of ground from a truck park into a treeline. The ground was “flat,” but broken in detail; the kind of surface easily crossed if you’re steaming along and keeping an eye on your footing. Both tried to get fancy, firing to their sides and one to his rear. Both tripped and fell like comic actors—and stayed there, riveted to the deck with slugs. It was entirely possible they would have made it if they’d just ran!

Unless you’re running steadily straight away from your opponent, you’re unlikely to be hit “on purpose.” To Whom It May Concern shots are somethin’ else, and lie in higher hands. None of this hunchy-shouldered, head-pulled-in, half-speed trotting either, unless it keeps you under the top level of a solid wall. Your arms should be doing nothin’ but pumpin’ in synch with your legs to wring out maximum speed—and watch your footing!

The only exception to this rule is when you must charge straight at your armed oppo, in which case shooting goes from frivolous to favored status. It ain’t foolproof, but in my experience it yields the best results of any shooting-on-the-move. And that leads into: “effective fire.”

Many teach “The only effective fire consists of aimed, deliberate shots delivered to center mass of your opponent.” Just my opinion again, but Wrong-O! Any fire which causes your oppo not to do something beneficial for them or injurious to you, or to do something tactically unsound is, in fact, effective fire. You should learn some physical dynamics of ricocheting and “skipping” shots, for example, the tendency of small arms rounds, fired at steep or shallow angles to impact and then travel along fairly close to that hard surface, whether it’s along a vertical wall or horizontal hard deck. I’ve finished two and flushed four with “skippers.”

Closing Cadence

’Nuther related thing: Be very aware of your visibility and relative position. Example: In one fight several idiots took “cover” behind a flatbed trailer. They leaned tight over the deck, kept their rifles low and heads down. They could deliver pretty accurate fire—briefly. From hips to feet they were exposed. “Shootin’ their legs out from under ’em” ain’t a figurative statement. If any part of you is visible through a crack in a door, a knothole, whatever; if there’s even a change in light through that slice, that hole, somebody can put rounds on you.

Two sayings: If all you see is a piece of your target, shoot the piece! Shoot it to pieces, then shoot the pieces; elbows, fingers, noses, whatever. They may not be fight-ending shots, but they’re life-altering shots, I guarantee you.

Second, it ain’t enough to shoot somebody until you think he’s dead. You gotta shoot him until he thinks he’s dead. But you didn’t hear this from me. It ain’t “proper” or something. Connor OUT

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Old Beat-Up Stuff

Like You, Me And Uncle
Ivan, Some Gear Never Quits.

I’ve long been a fan and admirer of plain, old-fashioned, wedge-shaped cheap rubber doorstops. Know why? Because when they’re brand-spanky new, smooth and as “presentable” as a klunky chunka rubber can be, they stop doors. Then when they’re older, ugly, worn, dull, dinged up and chewed… they stop doors, and do a fine job of it.

They may not be visually appealing, and they can get underfoot when they’re not doing your bidding. But they do the job they were designed for, do it well, and suck up every kind of abuse—including assisting in the teething of two generations of Border Collies—and keep on working. I respect that. I used to keep one on my desk, and sometimes just stared at it (kind of a reminder of who and what I am). My wife once tried to explain it to me using words like “allegorical” an’ “metaphysical,” but when I gave her that caveman Huh? look, she said “It reminds you of you, dear.” OK, gotcha. Now, for something allegorical:

In gun magazines we do a pretty fair job of telling you all about new stuff; guns and gear of all kinds. Sometimes we’ll re-visit old cartridges and original plus more modern loads for ’em, but for the most part, the only time you’ll see ink spilled on old stuff is in reviews of milsurp classics of historical interest, or fine, high-grade vintage firearms. But what about the more prosaic an’ pedestrian products that have taken a lickin’ and kept on tickin’? This beat-up ol’ doorstop has some examples for you.


John’s old Burris Scout Scope’s motto is, “Suck it up, buttercup!”

Pass The Rubber Bands

I bought a ProChrono Digital chronograph from Competition Electronics when the model first rolled out in 2000. It was definitely a “budget chrono,” priced about $125 as I recall, when most other chronographs were running three or four times more. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many rounds have passed through it over 15 years—mine, and those of many, many friends and “range buddies,” lots of whom borrowed it for days at a time, putting every load imaginable through it. Being an electronic device, a high round count isn’t challenging, but the damage it has suffered and always recovered from is pretty astounding.

Aside from rough handling and all forms of environmental exposure, it has busted completely open, scattering innards thither and yon, three times. The first time, it was smacked by a pal suddenly turning with a rifle case in hand, whackin’ it to the concrete. The carcass yawned. I was horrified. The next two times microbursts of wind came outta nowhere, snatched it up along with the lightweight tripod it was on, and positively hurled it at the deck—with the same results.

In addition to those smack-downs, in 2013 a certain family member was “helping” me chrono a Desert Eagle .50 AE. He hit one of the diffuser hood guide wires (a 16-inch, 0.1875-inch thick stainless steel rod), twisting it like a pretzel and sending the diffuser, which resembles a helo’s rotor blade, spinnin’ off like a whirligig. The .50 AE has as much energy at 100 yards as a .44 Magnum 10 feet from the muzzle, so… You can imagine how violently the 2 inches of rod stickin’ down into the works swizzled its guts. It would have busted apart then too, but a profusion of rubber bands and target tape held it shut. That repair required open-case surgery, reapplication of Krazy Glue, more plumbing putty, and a new rod. She runs just fine, thank you.

The case is a 2-piece plastic clamshell affair which is supposed to snap closed at the factory and stay closed for life. However, if you apply enough force and stupid, like F + Sx9, it will disassemble, never to snap quite closed again. Fortunately, even if the inner parts have parted company, it ain’t all that tough to figure out what belongs where. You may need broken toothpicks, Gorilla Glue, Krazy Glue and some stiffening but not full-hardening plumber’s putty to secure bits in place. But when you turn it on and read “rdy” on the screen—that’s her cute way of saying “Ready, boss, let’s do this!”—you can feel all chuffed up about your manly expertise. You can get it wrong. Once after rebuilding her, she only read “err… err… err” for Error. I jiggered and toyed, not knowing exactly what anything did, and finally, she chuckled rdy again. Note: Do not glue the case shut. You may have to go back in, doctor.

My ProChrono reads and stores up to nine strings of up to 99 shots each, recording individual shot velocities, highest and lowest in a string, standard deviation and extreme spread. The updated Pro has Bluetooth widgets, USB gizmoids, and an array of remote-control and fancified electro-techno-accessories available. It sells for $119.95. A simpler, less Star-Warsy setup called the ProChrono Pal, lists for only $99.95. Nice, but I’m gonna try to get a million miles outta mine, without even changing her oil.


Rubber-banded, taped, and look close: She says “Ready, boss!”

If the original long-eye relief 2.75x20mm Burris Scout scopes were serialized, mine’s would probably read like “0000003” or somethin’. I was standing in line for one when the industry’s first Scout scope debuted in 1988. The child of collaboration between Burris engineers and Col. Jeff Cooper, it would ideally have eventually sat upon a Steyr Mannlicher Scout Rifle, but when that came out, my budget just laughed, rolled over and went back to sleep.

Designed to sit forward of the receiver opening and provide both-eyes-open unobstructed target acquisition as well as squinty-eyed precision at practical ranges, it features a simple, sharp crosshairs reticle, 1/2-MOA elevation and windage adjustments, and consummate survivability. It first went on a cut-down streamlined 6.5x55mm Model 96 Swedish Mauser, then a full-stocked ’96, a 1916 Cavalry carbine, a 1938 Swede, a Ruger bolt critter-gitter, then a Savage light .308, and then things get blurry. At one time, loaned out, it served on a custom-built long-barreled revolver firing a wildcat rifle cartridge. Oh, it has seen stunts, hunts, drops-to-the-rocks, use and abuse—and always, always performed.

I have acquired, sold or traded perhaps 40 other scopes since buying the Burris Scout, but it has earned its permanent place. In 2014 I had my gunsmith mount the Scout on my VZ24 Czech Mauser, which had long ago been rechambered in .308 Win. The combination is a natural winner. The VZ24 needed a little work. The Burris Scout needed new flip-up lens caps, period.

Here’s a test of quality and consistency for the old 1/2-MOA scope, securely rested and controlled: Fire a shot on a graphed target at 50 yards. Dial in 24 clicks right, and shoot again. Crank 24 down, repeat. Go 24 left and fire. Finally, give it 24 up and shoot. If you don’t have a perfect square, well, bad juju lurks in your optic. The Burris Scout’s squares still look like they’re drawn with a carpenter’s square and a ruler.

My 2002-vintage Aimpoint CompM2 red dot reflex (military AKA, the M68 CCO, Close Combat Optic) has been superseded, and some say rendered obsolete, by several following generations of updates and new models. They’re good, I’ll give ’em that, but my CompM2 has seen violent action and cruel abuse on a dazzling array of carbines and she’s still bright, watertight and ready for action. It has also been an intro-to-CQB-optics training aid, a student loaner, et al. I advise you watch for deals when the gearheads go for new models and dump their old, but battle-proven and extremely capable M2’s, cheap.

Ah, there’s more, but I’m outta word-space—and outta here.
By John Connor

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The Little Things Can Outshine
“The Big Picture.”

As I write this in December 2014, it is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge—the siege at Bastogne. Now virtually forgotten by most Americans, it was the biggest and bloodiest battle fought on the Western Front in World War II. Over 500,000 troops clashed in the Ardennes Forest, as Hitler hurled 30 divisions and a quarter-million men against the freezing, surrounded Yanks. Seventy-six thousand were killed or wounded, among them one of my uncles. It was his last fight.

A rifleman, he had fought from the cliffs of Normandy on D-Day all the way to Bastogne, only suffering some deep bruises from falling rocks while scrambling up the cliffs from the beach. At Bastogne, he suffered blast trauma and a severe neck injury when his buckled helmet was blown off, then 3rd-degree burns when blazing fuel fell on his bare head. He spent years having skin grafts done and fighting repeated infections. Despite this he always called Bastogne his proudest experience as a soldier. Why? “Because we stopped them cold, when nobody but us thought we could.”

In the mid-’80’s I met and had several conversations with another veteran of Bastogne: A man who served as an NCO in a German Army field artillery unit. It was his last fight too, after being wounded and captured by American paratroops. Following the war he became a US citizen and wound up teaching high school history. One of his favorite study subjects was, not surprisingly, the Battle of the Bulge, getting “the big picture” denied him as a low-ranking participant.

“By all objective standards,” he explained, “By the correlation of forces—manpower, armor, artillery, logistics, everything, it should have been a brief and bloody fight immediately followed by massive surrender of the Americans. But all objective standards fell to individual stubbornness! In that battle,” he said, “The Americans were more German—more hard-headed and stiff-necked—than even we Germans.”

My favorite anecdote from Bastogne provides a clear illustration. An American tank destroyer was pulling back from the German onslaught, looking for a new fighting position, and ran across a lone, filthy, battered and bearded paratrooper. Armed with his rifle and a bazooka, he was hacking out a fighting hole, seemingly oblivious to the troops and vehicles flowing past his position, away from the oncoming Germans. The unnamed commander of the tank destroyer caught the eye of the paratrooper, identified only as PFC Martin of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment.

“If you’re looking for a safe place,” the paratrooper called out, “Just pull that vehicle behind me. I’m the 82nd Airborne. This is as far as the bastards are going.” And it was.

My uncle, my German friend—and almost certainly PFC Martin and that tank destroyer commander—are long gone now and the rest of their stories with them, and that, my friends, is a cryin’ shame. I’m not concerned with “the big picture,” the sweeping sagas of world-shaking events, nor so much with the stories of those who gained fame and acclaim, often memorialized in books and movies. Their histories are somewhat assured. It’s the human snapshots I worry about… the almost lost tales of individuals who rose to their moments in time. Let me share a few of them with you.

The Schoolmarm And Her Shotgun

When the Japanese Empire invaded the Philippines, they were pleased with their progress and emboldened by their victories. They became far less bold and were much less pleased after running afoul of a spectacled, 35-year-old schoolteacher named Nieves Fernandez. She had heard about the slaughter, torture and beatings of her people, and when soldiers approached her school on Leyte, she hid the kiddies, opened up on the invaders with a homemade shotgun, and then melted into the forest.

She found several men hiding out there, but they were disorganized, poorly armed and threw away their lives blindly attacking Japanese strong points. They became her new students, and her organizational skills, inventiveness and sheer courage quickly made her their leader. Starting with a handful of men and three American rifles, she taught them how to make shotguns—called “latongs” or “paltiks”—using blocks of wood, wire and salvaged lengths of gas pipe.

Knowing they could not kick the Japanese Army out of the Philippines, Nieves taught her boys to make surgical strikes on small patrols and security posts, terrorizing the Japanese and forcing them to concentrate behind their defenses, then carrying out acts of sabotage against their communications and supplies. Her philosophy was to deny them the countryside and ultimately, the country.

Over 2-1/2 years of guerrilla warfare, “Captain Fernandez” built her group to 110 men, mostly armed with captured Japanese weapons. She was wounded, shot through one arm, but remained in active command throughout the war. Her group was credited with killing over 200 Japanese soldiers, and Nieves herself killed several with her homemade shotgun and a long bush knife.

After liberation, when told a statue was to be erected in her honor, she waved a hand dismissively. “That’s when they called me Captain Nieves Fernandez,” she said. “Now I’m just Miss Fernandez.”

As the only female leader of the countless guerrilla groups of the Philippines, Miss Fernandez received some passing postwar renown before fading into obscurity. But the exploits of Phyllis Latour Doyle were hardly known at all for nearly 70 years, only recently coming to light.


After liberation, Miss Fernandez shows an American soldier the preferred
striking point for her bush knife—the neck.

The Schoolgirl And Her Soap

Half a world away in England, in 1941, when pretty, petite “Pippa” Latour joined the RAF for training as a flight mechanic, authorities challenged her documents. She looked like a middle-school girl. It wasn’t long though before other facts about her background came to the attention of Britain’s SOE—the Special Operations Executive. The offspring of an English mother and a French-born doctor, Pippa spoke French like a native, had vacationed and traveled in France—and bore a grudge against the Nazis. Her godmother’s father was shot and killed by the Germans, and her godmother committed suicide after being taken prisoner as a spy. She jumped at the chance for some payback.

After training with some strange characters, including an ex-convict cat burglar who taught her skills like using drainpipes and rooftops as her personal highways, she was smuggled into Vichy, France in 1942. Under three code names—Genevieve, Lampooner and Plus Fours—Pippa gathered invaluable intelligence and established a support network for further operations. She returned to England for rest and more training, then parachuted into Normandy alone on May 1, 1944.

Under the code name Paulette, the 23-year-old successfully posed as a poor 14-year-old French girl selling homemade soap to German soldiers—while learning all about the Normandy defenses. She slept in forests, foraged for food—including rat on occasion—and sent 135 coded radio messages back to England, all while keeping one step ahead of German radio-triangulation teams. Others didn’t. Sixteen of her sister British female spies were killed in action, summarily executed, or sent to concentration camps where they died.

Even after the Allies landed, she soldiered on, moving inland with the German Army for months, still sending out updates on troop concentrations and German movements. Pippa was awarded the MBE—Member, Order of the British Empire—and the Croix de Guerre, but she didn’t even stick around to formally receive them.

At war’s end she immediately moved to Kenya, where she married, becoming Phyllis Latour Doyle, then on to Fiji and finally New Zealand, where she lives today. She never breathed a word of her wartime service until one of her children stumbled across a footnote about her on the Internet 15 years ago. They petitioned Britain for her medals.

Finally, just last year, France’s government was given her full war records. On November 25th, Laurent Contini, the French ambassador to New Zealand presented Pippa, 93, with the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration.

Just a couple of snapshots. Connor OUT

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“Off The Beaten Path” Stuff.

Lots of readers have asked for tips on what to carry when wandering off the beaten path—like, in Second and Third World countries—even if that OTBP includes the streets of foreign cities and towns. Most of it’s the same gear every American hunter, hiker or fisherman should carry everywhere from Henry’s Fork to the Suwannee. It just takes on a tad more importance when instead you’re prowling somewhere ’twixt the Amu Darya and the Zambezi.

OTBP gear needs a book not a column, and what you take in your head is more valuable than any device—info like landmarks and topography, local history, weather conditions and social instability, parasites, diseases and deadly fauna and flora—but perhaps I can help with a few tips. Remember, aside from what’s in your head, your most valuable assets are what’s ON your person—in your pockets or everywhere-bag—when need arises. I won’t comment on high-tech gear like GPS devices, satellite phones etc., first, because we don’t have space, and second, because I always planned on either not having them, or them not working—and you shouldn’t expect ’em to work either.
An easy example is an electronic compass. They’re great! I love ’em! But 6-to-1 it’s the cheap little conventional button-compass pinned inside a shirt pocket that will wind up saving your life.

Anti-diarrheal meds, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, a compact water purifier—not a water “filter”—and a first aid kit containing at minimum a tourniquet, pressure bandage and some Povidone-Iodine swabsticks and wipes are essential. Add a magnifier and Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers—you won’t regret it.

Anywhere between about 30 degrees either side of the Equator, a light, nylon ripstop waterproof poncho is a mainstay. The ideal is mud-brown or OD on one side and signal orange or yellow on the reverse. It’s shade, shelter, a stretcher, a hobo sack, in any depression in the ground it’s a basin or bathtub and it’s so handy for those times when it’s nobody’s business what you’re carrying under it or what your hands are doing.

If the poncho’s too bulky for you, pack a Mylar “space blanket.” It’s not as tough, but will do most of what a poncho will, and shining a little 20-lumen light on it will create a beacon like a lighthouse in the night visible for many, many miles—especially good for signaling aircraft.

About light: A single AAA clip-on 20- to 35-lumen light like Streamlight’s MicroStream will meet 90 percent of your lighting needs, and packs far more value per ounce than a hefty, expensive 500-lumen tactical light.


There are two kinds of wilderness in the Third World, but most of your OTBP kit works in both.


Multi-Tools And Multi-Roles

On fire: Carry at least two sources. For many years I’ve relied on a Colibri 9400 butane lighter which is pressure-adjustable from sea level to over 10,000 feet. They’re not made anymore, but the current Colibri Summit is dustproof, windproof, water resistant and rated for high-altitude use. Keep that one in reserve, and use a common disposable BIC butane purchased in the US. Third-world knockoffs just won’t cut it, believe me. There are only two times they fail: When it doesn’t matter, and when it does. Ha! Remember, among the many uses for fire is distraction.

A good multi-tool is one of the most useful things you can carry—and it can be a life-saver. But if your role is “simple, innocent tourist,” don’t choose a weapon-specific one like the Multitasker, Leatherman MUT, or the SOG PowerLock EOD model with the blasting cap crimper. In some places the authorities are smart enough to note the difference, and may either treat you to a full-strip detail search and less-than-friendly questioning, or tip the secret-squirrel police to dog you, or both. A “standard” Leatherman or PowerLock hardly gets a glance, especially if you have it contained with a sew-and-patch kit.

In that patch kit, along with a few adhesive-backed ripstop nylon patches, have a yard of good duct tape wrapped around a pencil, with just enough of the point and butt stickin’ out to use it for writing and as a handle. Believe me, if you just roll duct tape on itself, it will not unroll when you need it—and in the dark, in a Third World emergency, “need” becomes need it now!

You all know 100-plus uses for duct tape, but consider too its use holding bloody bandages in place, as makeshift handcuffs, stabilizing a bum ankle, wrapped around a noisy mouth that has a sock jammed in it, and this: You arrive in the capital of Boogerstan with zero weapons of any kind. Buy a cheap kitchen knife; something with a blade about 3 to 4 inches long. Don’t worry if it’s thin and kinda flimsy—you may only need it once, and it won’t be for slicing fruit.

Now take a piece of cardboard, paperboard or just a magazine cover page folded over several times. Make a crude sheath for that knife, duct-taping the edges and tip end. All that “sheath” has to do is protect you from the blade when you’re carrying it stuck under the beltline of your pants, and release it into your hand fast. To make sure it stays put, do one wrap of tape sticky-side-out around it. Went off on a tangent there. I’d say I’m sorry, but one of you needed that. Good luck, pal.

If a knife seems over-the-top to you, at least carry a stout pen or mechanical pencil for a hasty weapon. Note: “tactical pens” are well known now and routinely confiscated in searches. Heck, even a toothbrush with the end filed not-quite-too-pointy can be a formidable weapon, and a thin nylon hair comb (plastic ones are too brittle) can slip spring-loaded door bolts, slide window locks open and lift gravity latches. Think “multiple uses for ordinary objects.”

Boxing the Compass

Ten yards—or meters—of 550 paracord can be unbelievably useful. Tie a simple overhand knot at one yard or meter (whichever your brain best figures in) on it for measuring, but don’t pre-place a knot at every yard or meter. My experience has been that when you need that cord right now you’ll need it smooth, and when you need more measuring knots you typically have time to make them. I loosely knot a small, powerful magnet at one end—another handy thing to have. Mil-spec, 550-pound paracord has seven inner “yarns,” each of those containing three strands of light cord, easily taken apart and used separately. It’s an under-appreciated lifesaver. Now, if you know how to tie a simple bowline, an adjustable hangman’s noose and an overhand bend “joiner” to mate two lines, you’re set.

More on measuring: Before you go anywhere OTBP, take 100 yards or meters of string and lay it out, preferably on broken ground. Step off with your right foot, and at a normal gait, count how many times your left foot hits the deck to make 100 yards or meters. Repeat, repeat and average your results. It can be surprisingly accurate and repeatable over all kinds of terrain, with a few mental adjustments for short-stepping on steep grades.

“Pace beads” are nice, but if you don’t have ’em at every 100, pick up a little pebble, a leaf, any small object. At 10 hundreds you’ve gone a kilometer or a 1,000 yards. Put one pebble in your pocket for each of those and move on. If you’re lost, a good way to search for landmarks, water, trails etc. and not get totally lost is to “box the compass.”

Pick a cardinal direction. Depending on terrain, choose a distance and go straight as you can. Turn dead right (or left) and go the same distance. Repeated three times, you’re back at your starting point, and you’ve completed 1/4 of your “big box.” Beats the heck out of wandering in clueless circles… Which is what I’m doing now.
I said “a few tips,” right? Stand by for more another time, folks. —Connor OUT.
By John Connor

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A Match Made In Heaven

True Handgun Happiness Calls For The Right
Gun, The Right Role And The Right Shooter.

He was quoting someone else, but I first heard this one from Roy Huntington, our Publishing Potentate: “We talk about .45’s, we shoot 9mm’s and we carry .380’s.”

It’s a broad and general statement, fulla Lincoln Tunnel-sized holes, but there’s a trickle of truth runnin’ through it. One of those truths is this: We often select pretty good guns and then put them in some really wrong roles.

Roy’s message was kinda like this: Handgunners tend to talk about their ideal guns, their desires. Meaning pistols that punch their ego-buttons—often high-end 1911’s in .45 ACP or powerful, expensive, big-bore revolvers. Their owners wind up shooting mainly 9mm’s and .38 Specials because they’re more comfortable to shoot and cost far less to feed, especially if you like to shoot a lot. Then when it’s time to step out the door armed, they grab what drops easily into a pocket—what’s convenient and doesn’t require wardrobe alterations. Too often it’s a gun they shoot too little and, consequently, too poorly. But many times all that’s needed is a change up, down or sideways to arrive at the right choice for the job. And the problem goes way beyond carry-guns.

Thinkle On These

Case No. 1: On the range, this elderly gent—obviously suffering from arthritis and other ravages of time—would rise from his wheelchair, stand leaning against the bench and shoot his .45 ACP 1911. Obviously too, the once-ignored recoil was hurtin’ him and cycling the slide was a painful, frustrating effort. The short story was, he’d cut his teeth on 1911’s in 1949, carried one into combat in Korea, and they were the only handguns he’d ever owned. He didn’t want to give ’em up. Shooting was one of his few remaining pleasures, and that pleasure was almost gone.

I had just the pistol to recommend to him: Springfield Armory’s 9mm Range Officer—a straight-up accurate 1911 with powder-puff recoil and slide resistance half that of the .45 ACP version. The light in his eyes and the smile on his face as he handled it really got me. He simply hadn’t realized that option existed.

Case No. 2: A local lady who owns a gun shop teaches state concealed-carry qualifications and defensive shooting classes, including lots of women, mostly relative newcomers to shooting. She reports that the ladies’ biggest problem is handguns provided or selected by male relatives based on their preferences and assumptions. Too often that translates to something too big or too small or in too large a caliber, but usually something that fails to fit the lady’s hand.

“And,” she said, “They forget it’s a hand gun, not a hands gun. Shooting 2-handed is preferable, but they have to be able to shoot it well with one hand.” She keeps several try-guns handy to acquaint her students with different options.

Case No. 3: While shipping a T&E pistol back to the manufacturer, I had a conversation with the counter clerk, a willowy, petite young woman about 5-foot-nothin’. She had shot .22 pistols as a kid, and just re-commenced shooting. Her Fiancé had set her up with a featherweight, bobtailed snubnose revolver. His feeling was, “You’re tiny, it’s tiny and easily concealed—perfect!” She hated it.

“The recoil is bad,” she said, “Thought I could deal with that. But I can’t control it, even with both hands. After every shot it’s pointing up and to the side and I have to change my grip—and that’s not right, is it? He says I’ll get used to it, but when you know from the start it’s bad, well…”

About six weeks later we talked again. Turned out she had persuaded her fiancée to go on a weekend road trip. Among other activities, they visited a big range with lots of rental handguns. She returned with a Glock 19 and a big grin.

“I knew from the moment I picked it up and could get a full grip on it, including my pinky finger,” she said, “And then I shot it. I can control it! I was shooting great and I could do it all day long!” Her fiancée’s feelings were a bit bruised because she’d rejected his initial choice, but she won him over with “You wanted a fun playmate on the range, one who really enjoys shooting. With this gun, I’m having fun!” As for concealed carry, she said she’d happily adjust her fashion choices to fit her Glock. Cool, huh?

Case No. 4: An old pal recently retired as lead firearms instructor for a large sheriff’s department. Deputies had their choice of 9mm or .40 S&W pistols. Their firearm qualification rules are the strictest I know of. Basically, if you fail a qual shoot, you can re-shoot it after a brief session with an instructor, or you can wait a few days (during which time you stand desk duty, unarmed). If you fail a second time, you lose legal peace officer status—and your job. The overwhelming number of failures involved deputies shooting .40’s. Time after time my friend had given those deputies “The Talk,” then 5 minutes with an issue 9mm. He had exactly one officer fail a second attempt after trading their .40 for a 9mm.

“Very few deputies shoot enough,” he said, “and probably could have qualified with their .40’s if they shot ’em more. But most just couldn’t shoot a .40 well. The course is demanding, and the lower recoil and greater control of the 9mm really helped. Their egos just got in the way. I kept hearing that crap about how a real man shouldn’t carry a gun that doesn’t start with a “4.” I’d tell them a deputy should hit what they aim at—or lose their star.”

Random Ramblings

Only you know if your primary defensive handgun is truly the right one for you. I can only suggest you re-evaluate your choice from time to time and dismiss—as much as you can—any long-standing preferences and prejudices while analyzing it. As a general rule, if you can’t pleasantly and enthusiastically spend an afternoon shooting it accurately and confidently single-handed and 2-handed, carry it comfortably on a moment’s notice and “steer” it as deftly as you do your personal vehicle, you need to give it a hard look. There are so many new and established options out there, odds are high you can find one that’ll make you say, “Why didn’t I think of this before?”

If you or your mate have “tough to love” subcompact handguns, often just going to a slightly larger and heavier gun will cure the problem, especially if a new one offers a full 4-finger grip. Poor control can be as simple as a “pinky problem.”

For bedside boomers, I recommend full-size handguns with no small controls to be operated. If roused out of sleep and going to high alert, your small-motor muscle responses will be dulled at the same time adrenaline will be causing over-reaching and over-gripping—a bad combination. Load that nightstand gun with low-flash, low-recoil, low-penetration ammo—and practice with it.

Don’t overlook the .380 ACP cartridge. I don’t like the little 9.5-ounce piranhas that re-popularized it, but they did prod the manufacturers to finally offer highly effective loads with well-engineered slugs, replacing those non-expanding roundnose FMJ’s and giving new life to under-appreciated designs like the Bersa .380 Thunder.

Snubnose .38 Special revolvers still have definite value, but choose wisely and avoid flash-and-roar rounds. Grip and comfort are critical. After coat-pocket-carrying and shooting a Ruger LCR for a few years, I sold two more expensive and prestigious snubbies because they were a pain in the butt to shoot! The Ruger won the “comfort sweepstakes.”

Same old problem: Too much to say, too little space. Good luck!—Connor OUT
By John Connor


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More Third- World Thingies

Tell-Tales, Take-Aways And Covert Clues.

Harken back to the heady days of yesteryear, folks! Well, not very far. Just back to the September 2014 issue and “Frangipani Paradise, Part II.” That column and the two preceding it were about “Third World Things;” what we called 3WT’s. I suggest you refresh your memories on ’em, to make this gibberish less gibbery. You’ve asked a lot of questions, mostly about stuff I didn’t have space to go into in those columns. So, here’s a buncha answers.

First, some clarification on Second versus Third World countries, and my past role when traveling in them: Our old joke was What’s the difference between the Second and Third worlds? Answer: Two clicks. Meaning, go two kilometers from the major cities and towns of “developing countries”—the so-called Second World nations—and often, you’re in the undeveloped, sometimes starkly undeveloped Third World. Too often, diplomats and envoys from First World nations never cross those two-click zones and as a result, get a very badly skewed view of the country as a whole. Unfortunately, geopolitically important and expensive policy-shaping decisions are frequently based on those distorted observations.

It’s not really those functionaries’ faults. Their visits and movements are very closely stage-managed by their hosts. They see only what they are shown, and what they’re shown is what supports the agenda of whomever is in power. Secondary—“unimportant”—personnel performing ancillary duties like training and liaising with lower echelons of the host nation’s military and police forces are less closely monitored—or not at all. That’s where guys like me came in.

Fortunately, back stateside there were an army of intense, focused analyst-types laboring in anonymous gray cubicles, eagerly digesting all of our comments on the tone, temperature and facts-in-the-field in far-flung places. Sometimes, just sometimes, the silk-skivvied politicos and dudes with gold macaroni on their cap-bills actually paid attention to those reports. Sometimes.

Chickens, Eggs & Security

Several asked What was the real significance of the toilet paper in the old lady’s cart? It wasn’t “TP” to me; it was finished goods. Actually, that elderly campesina and her pushcart provided a wealth of information on local conditions. She was dressed no better nor worse than other locals on the road. Her cart was well-maintained. The box had wood slat sides and heavy wire front and rear sections. I could see a half-dozen commercially-labeled tins of various sizes from soup-can size to a Number 10 can down low, covered with “soft” ripe fruits and vegetables. The TP was on top.

The cart had a long U-shaped push-handle, with drooping fabric netting suspended between the bars. The netting held several woven baskets half-full of straw. I thought I knew what they were, but asked the driver, Roberto. He confirmed, “egg baskets,” and opined she had a lot of laying hens, and took loads of eggs to market twice or three times per week. Her eggs were her currency. She would come to market with her eggs secured in the box and return with goods in the box and empty baskets in the netting.

Think about it. An elderly peasant woman is on the road alone, smiling, pushing a well-maintained cart containing fresh produce, finished goods and empty baskets sufficient to hold several dozen eggs. Judging from the amount of perishable goods, which could, unrefrigerated, “go over” in a few days, she was likely supplying a large extended family. She was unafraid and obviously contented. She was returning from the local marketplace/bazaar before noon; only an hour after schooltime, when many buyers in that area would be going to market.

When “peasants” are only buying—more likely bartering for—perishable consumables, that’s not such a good sign. Finished goods and canned goods are healthy signs, even in very small quantities. Her eggs meant a successful, well-tended henhouse, and her timing meant she had reliable regular customers, probably re-sellers, for them. She had likely “sold out” her eggs in minutes, selected her groceries, had a cuppa tea and a chat with old friends, and then hit the road home with no fear of bandits or thugs. She even had a grin and a wave for a government car. That speaks volumes about local conditions. I had recently seen horror stories. The change was nice.


“A porky sign of progress”

Seeds and Piggies

About that nice old black government Cadillac and peoples’ response to it: You can guess what it means when people scowl, turn away or scurry when they see a government vehicle. In this case they smiled and waved. I was even more impressed when I learned that Caddy had never driven that road before. When new, it was reserved for top officials in the capital. As it aged, it became available to lesser dignitaries, and finally, it became the courier car to the hinterlands. This was its maiden voyage to the sticks, replacing an older, army-brown Chevrolet the people were used to seeing. What’s your take-away from that?

The roads themselves hold tell-tales. Too often, First World observers only see the dirt and dust. Pavement isn’t that important. I was looking at drainage and underlayment where the road ran over ditches and small ravines. What is its year-round wet-weather condition and capacity?

I had Roberto stop several times. I saw lots of careful rockwork, both recent and old with newer repairs; old supports with newer culverts; runoff management and steep places where heavy wood and iron beams had been inset herringbone-style to provide drainage, “corrugation” and improved traction during heavy rains. I learned the government had supplied most materials and some supervision for local volunteers completing the work and then maintaining it.

Another tell-tale: Few of these improvements would accommodate armored and oversized, overweight vehicles. The government invested in common-folk travel and goods-to-market, not transporting the juggernauts of oppression internally. This is not what you find in many Second and Third World places, where they either provide for tanks, or virtually abandon rural areas to their own fates.

Other clues in bazaars and marketplaces: Aside from consumables heavy on protein, sugars and carbs, you look for “future-leading” goods: an active market in seeds, piglets, lambs and chicks. A lean-to displaying crudely-made cane knives and machetes ranks way below a lockable enclosure featuring replacement saw blades, hammer handles and heads, sections of sheet metals, heavy shears and hand drills. When you see two under-35 guys in a crossroads village bazaar enthusiastically negotiating a deal for a 50-piece tap-and-die set while the shopkeeper happily serves them coffee—as I saw that day—that’s an excellent sign of “health in the boondocks!” Even better, folks picking through bins of small electrical parts!

The Fundamentals

Poorer governments may not be able to project much in the way of health care and education to their hinterlands, but an important litmus test of how much a government cares about their people—and what they can afford—revolves around how far from the cities do they extend potable water wells and electricity? Without clean communal water sources, disease flourishes. In a small village, one public light and a single electrical source can change the nature and quality of life fundamentally.

If your brief is snooping, you look for ’em—and then, tricky sometimes—make sure they work! One time a certain government made a big deal out of their “rural electrification project;” putting tall pole lights with electrical outlets in their bases in remote villages. It was a “Look at us, ain’t we kind to the peasants?” thing. A certain Western government paid for all the hardware. Photos—taken in daylight—were widely circulated and the bandits-in-suits took bows on the international stage.
The lights were there. The problem? No juice. Not a single live wire ran to ’em. And some dirty snoop snitched ’em off. Imagine that… Connor OUT
By John Connor

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Let’s Strike Another Blow for Literacy!

Our Annual Reading Recommendations.

What’s the biggest difference between the average reader of GUNS Magazine and the average 2014 graduate of an American college? Your reading skills are higher than that of the average 7th-grader of 40 years ago! And theirs? “Like, OMG and LOL, dudes… Hoo needz ta, like, reed?” Take a bow, bibliophiles!

A note for chronic book-buyers: If you’re not familiar with Abe Books——you should be. It’s kind of a clearing house for hundreds of booksellers across North America and Britain. Stocking new books, used, ex-library books, old, current and some rare titles, if you can’t find it listed on Abe, your chances are slim of finding it anywhere without a physical search. The best part? You can find gently used books typically selling new in the $25-$40 range for $3.88 to $5—delivered!

No, I don’t get a commission. I’m just a pleased customer. I’ve bought nearly 50 books through Abe. I like the ex-library books because the original dust covers have been preserved with plastic, and edges and corners reinforced against damage. The sellers often describe the condition of used books in detail, and those I’ve purchased have been “as described” or better.

One more note: Search a title and you’ll often find 50 or more listings. Check all of them, because prices and conditions can vary widely. Too, search listings by author carefully. In this column I’ve included two books by Tim Bax. Versions from Helion and Company under “Tim Bax” list for about a quarter the price of Masai Publisher versions searched under “Timothy G. Bax.” I don’t pretend to know why that happens. Shop wisely and happy hunting!


Rising Tide

by Gary E. Weir and Walter J. Boyne

You don’t have to be a submariner, a sailor or even interested in naval subjects to enjoy and be fascinated with the contents of Rising Tide—the untold story of the Russian submarines that fought the Cold War. In the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, few Westerners cared anymore about the incredible threat posed for decades by Soviet nuclear submarines. They were for the most part tied to docks, lacking money and crews to put to sea.

The nuke reactors—the “teakettles”—of many were hooked up to provide power to shoreside street lights and shops. Crews and commanders were cashiered en masse and simply went home. That’s where authors Weir and Boyne found them—and recorded their stories: The horrific accidents, the nuclear near-misses, the courageous, knowing sacrifices of Soviet submariners who were far more loyal to their service than to the Soviet Union.

In many ways the Soviet nuclear submarine service was the most secretive of all Soviet operations, even more secret than the vaunted KGB. In fact, very few high-ranking KGB officials had knowledge and security clearances as tightly-held and complex as most submarine officers, chiefs and even technicians. But they talked to the authors.

Who won and lost the games of cat-and-mouse pursued under tropical waters and arctic ice? How many times did we come how close to World War III in incidents never reported to the people of either country? How was it, for example, that a certain American nuke boat wound up pulling into Pearl Harbor with a chunk of a Soviet sub’s propeller stuck in its “sail”? Great reading!


The Black Tulip

by Milt Bearden

It is said that in the spring of 1980, Soviet Army Lieutenant Semyon Popov was killed by an Afghan rifleman in a field near Mazar-e Sharif. He died holding a flower he had just picked; a rare black tulip, which grows only in northern Afghanistan. A comrade wove the tulip’s stem through a buttonhole in Popov’s tunic, and it was still there when his body was loaded on a transport aircraft heading back to Russia. The story got out, and before long the Russia-bound transports bearing ever-greater numbers of Soviet Army dead came to be known as Black Tulip flights. Across the Soviet Union, that Afghan flower became a symbol of death.

This is the first and only novel I’ve read about the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan which really rings true for me; the terrain, the tactics, the human dynamics of both sides. That’s no surprise considering the author, Milt Bearden, retired after 30 years with the CIA, most of that time spent in Clandestine Services. He directed the closing years of CIA operations there, and his inside knowledge shows throughout the book.

The story is dramatized, built around the covert mission to provide Stinger missiles to the mujahedeen, but the “Hollywood effect,” unlike in most movies, doesn’t sour the story with too much saccharine.
The plot? Oh, no, not giving that away. Let’s just say that although the CIA approved the final draft, they couldn’t cut out the realities bleeding through the drama.


Three Sips of Gin

by Tim Bax

Once the breadbasket of Africa and home to the largest growing skilled black middle class on the continent, the nation of Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, the most miserable and bankrupt of ruined and looted African nation-states. The battle was lost in Washington DC and the halls of the UN, certainly not by the incredibly effective Rhodesian Light Infantry and the legendary Selous Scouts, who consistently fought and won against a coalition of Soviet and Chinese-backed communist guerrillas in the African bush.

Tim Bax was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika, bored in school in England, further bored to distraction in Canada (my words, not his), and finally returned to Africa at age 19, seeking nothing more than a paying job, something interesting to do, and a little adventure. Add a road trip with friends, a shortage of cash and a dying car, some beers with a bunch of soldiers and he wound up in the Rhodesian Army. To his own surprise he had found his mission. Two years later he was commissioned a lieutenant in the elite Rhodesian Light Infantry, and a few years after that, personally recruited by counter-terrorist legend Lt. Col. Ron Reid-Daly of the Selous Scouts.

Three Sips of Gin is Tim’s story of that war and his role in it. Tim is not a writer, and reading the book is like sitting down with an old friend who has never spoken of his past—and who then opens up, weaving the personal and poignant into a combat chronicle.

Who Will Teach The Wisdom is a companion book, subtitled both “Living with the Tribes” and “Memories of an African Adventure,” and that’s what it is: Lessons learned, mostly from the elders of the bush country, and well worth reading. Pamwe chete!


Tides of War

by Steven Pressfield

The 27-year Peloponnesian War, fought from 431 to 404 BC between the Athenian Empire and the Peloponnesian League, headed by Sparta, was a pivotal event in the development of Western Civilization, but it is almost unknown to most people—and I think I know why: Because despite its earth-shaking episodes, crazy twists and turns, plots and puzzles, history teachers and the writers of history books have succeeded in making this momentous story duller than dirt. Do you remember a single word ever said by a history teacher about it? I rest my case.

This book changes all that. Once more, as in Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield uses a fictional character to tell a highly detailed and historically accurate story of larger-than-life real men living out real history more amazing than some of the most imaginative fiction.

Alcibiades, who was in turn lionized, exiled, exalted and condemned by Athenian authority, is a central character who, like Socrates, had to be put to death by lesser men simply because they were better men.
This book is “history done right” and a terrific read. Enjoy!
By John Connor

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What’s This “T&E” Business, Anyway?

How The Pro’s Don’t Do It.

A rare moment of quiet in the shop: I was sittin’ at the island workbench with electronic range muffs on; the left muff turned to max and volume on the right turned off; holding a pistol by the left side of my head and slowly strokin’ the trigger when our youngest crew member Robbie appeared at the hatch. His eyes popped like saucers and it looked like he gulped a golf ball.

“Sir?” he stammered, “Uhhh… What the heck are you doin’?”

I put the pistol down and waved him in. Told him I was listening to a trigger; doing T&E work. Then I realized it must have looked pretty strange. I laughed and asked him what he thought was happening. He loosened up and gave a goofy grin.

“Well,” he said, “It kinda looked like you were gonna blow your brains out, but maybe you didn’t want the noise to hurt your ears. I thought, Wow, that’s really messed up—and weird, sir.” That cracked me up…

So we talked about my Test & Evaluation procedures. He said he’d read several T&E’s and never heard of anyone using amplified muffs to listen to a trigger—and asked if “all the pro gunwriters do that?”

First, I explained, amplified hearing can clarify what your finger may feel as a glitch or rough spot in a trigger pull. I wanna know what and where it is. If you’ve got noise, unusual stacking and a gritty feeling, that can signal a problem that isn’t in the design, but in that trigger in that gun—or, a serious manufacturing problem. I do the same thing with slide travel on autopistols and cylinder rotation in revolvers, listening while slowly cycling the action and feeling variations in friction and tension. I use amplified muffs because my hearing is degraded from gunfire and ordnance, my left ear being less damaged than my right. Turning off the right muff blocks ambient sound interference from that side.

As for the second question about “what professional gunwriters do,” I confessed—I don’t know, because I ain’t one. I’m not a gunsmith either; not even a good gun mechanic. I’m just an itinerant weapons operator who talks to folks on paper, and fell into firearms T&E’s the same way some people get hit by busses: You’re on your way somewhere else—and then you’re not. Until I got hit by the gunwriting bus, most of my experience had been like, (1) Receive issued weapon. (2) Assure it works sorta-ok. (3) Use it, abuse it, do reasonable preventive maintenance. (4) If it breaks or malf’s, especially at one of those “very, very wrong moments,” fling it aside and grab another weapon. I’ve had to develop my own protocols to keep my editors from learning the extent of what I don’t know.

So I can’t tell you what professionals do, but I can share a few selected things I do. Who knows? It could interest you.


A few simple tools get used frequently
and pay for themselves over time.

Before Live Fire

Note for nit-pickin’ Safety Nazis: For what follows, presume weapons are triple-checked at every stage for the presence of any form of ammunition; that all ammo is stored at least two counties away in a guarded bunker with a gigantic child-proof cap. That’s not true, but presume it. Thank you.

The first thing I do with any firearm is grip it, heft it, repeatedly swing and point it. Holding it at “low ready” I focus on an aiming point at a distance, close my eyes, present the weapon, then open my eyes and see how close—or how far off—my “natural point” is. Sometimes it’s not so hot. In that case I ask other folks to try it, and consider the results. This is one of many things I do in T&E that don’t often see print because “if it’s not remarkable, positive or negative, there ain’t room to remark on it.”

I check all safety systems, first, to make sure they actually work. Sometimes they don’t. If they do, I try to spoof ’em, mess with ’em and see if I can induce failure through simple but moron-creative mishandling. I figure if there’s a weak point, somebody’s gonna find it, so I should report it. I also attempt to “bump off” weapons on safe, because again, if it can happen, it will. If I write that firing Firearm X requires a proper, deliberate pull, you can bet I’ve tested it, meaning I found that firearm operates within reasonable standards, period. As with anything mechanical, “your results may vary.”

With defensive pistols, I check to see how much pressure at the muzzle end—as if pressing against somebody’s belly—may take the action out of battery enough to render the piece inoperable. Sometimes it only takes very light pressure. If you may carry that piece into a fight, I figure you should know about that.

I break out lights and magnifiers to check things like the firing pin nose and extractor—then check again after test-firing is completed. It’s important to check both the face and claw of extractors for even minor damage after as few as several hundred rounds. All anticipated wear, bash and chatter points are checked too, before and after. Checking muzzle crowns can reveal nasty surprises. Twice I’ve found serious, accuracy-killing damage, presumably from factory accidents. Triggers are not just weighed before and after—they often improve with break-in—but also, throughout arc of movement, triggers and hammers are checked for lateral wobble—a bad sign. Check what happens when you short-stroke a trigger too; see if the action binds up. Check consistency of re-set.

New from the factory, lube can be hit-or-miss, usually on the dry side, and usually, affecting small action and trigger system parts. Extensive firing without proper lube can accelerate wear which can’t be cured with lubing later, so don’t get overeager and just lube rails before hitting the range.

I try to stick with the same soup used by the maker, if known. For example, SIG SAUER uses Mil-Comm products and Kahr uses Militec-1, both excellent goops. If the sauce is unknown or generic, I clean the piece thoroughly and apply a known winner, like SLiP 2000 EWL. Remember, some lubes do not play well with non-family members.

On The Firing Line

You may not read it, but I fire every semi-auto angled from 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, and fore-and-aft, as close as possible to straight up and straight down. If they choke, that’s important. I pay a lot of attention to ejection; where brass is thrown, with what alacrity, at what angle—and how consistent it is with each type of ammo, because different loads and slug weights will “throw” differently. It’s a good “general health” clue. Note that initially, some pistols that fling brass in your face will settle out to 4 or 5 o’clock with break-in. If you have one load, which throws “consistently inconsistently,” chrono results may show a wide Extreme Spread in velocity, and there’s your answer.

Expended brass is checked for consistency of firing pin indent position and depth; primers for backing out; case mouths for splits; extractor grooves for gouging and tearing… all bad signs.

When shooting groups to determine inherent accuracy I’ll often use some form of rest for stability, but never a machine rest like a Ransom unit. I want results which you folks can replicate. It’s both satisfying and frustrating when I T&E a gun that will clearly shoot straighter than I can hold it. With pure fighting guns, it’s their behavior in simulated gunfighting use that counts with me, so that’s what I emphasize in reviews.

Hey! I said “a few selected things” and I’ve still got three pages of notes! But if one thing you’ve read might save you time, money, grief—or maybe your life—I’ve done my job. Woof-woof! Connor OUT.
John Connor

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A Sheepdog Among The Sheeple

Navigating Through The Numbskulls.

National elections are upon us again, and they could be kinda, you know, semi-important. After all, we get to elect our own psychos, drunks, pickpockets, political sock-puppets and wanna-be tyrants. I sadly conclude that folks like us won’t have much political impact for one simple reason: We’re not herd animals. We’re not big-group groupies. We don’t school like baitfish, swarm like tse-tse flies or mob up like, well… morons. That puts us at a distinct political disadvantage.

Why? Because numbers get mass media attention, and that media attention then shapes the masses—and their votes. This is particularly true of politically-driven public events. And folks like us generally don’t like gathering in masses—unless, for example, there are hot dogs, cold beer and home runs involved. Personally, I don’t like masses because I know from experience that crowds become mobs with a single catchy chant, and mobs become stampeding herds at a single loud noise.

And as soon as mobs start chanting, the media is there to pronounce it, “The will of the people,” despite the fact millions of “the people” wouldn’t attend that event on a bet. I’m one of ’em. I think I’m allergic to stupidity, and I can’t think of any group behavior stupider than swaying in body contact with a buncha unwashed strangers chanting “Hey-hey! Ho-ho! Fill-in-the-blank has got to go! Hey-hey! Ho-ho! (repeat-repeat ad nauseam)” or that other oh-so-eloquent favorite, “Whatta we want? Yakkity-yak! “When do we want it?” “NOW!”—again, repeated endlessly. I’d rather pull my own teeth than participate in that. You too?

But we have to get over that. We can’t abandon the field to the mallet-headed masses. It’s a “know thy enemy” thing. All you need is the right protest sign to carry. Why carry a sign? First, because it makes it clear you’re not just one of the sheeple. I’d hate to be counted among them. And besides, I’ve found you can get in a lick for America—the “old school” America, back when it was a Constitutional Republic—in the process.

Bust Out Paint & Board

If it’s one of those demonstrations based on the theme of “Take it away from somebody else and give it to me!” I recommend a “JUSTICE FOR GODZILLA!” sign. If you can draw him breathing fire and stomping on a car full of people, even better. That one’s sure to attract media. When they ask, just explain, “These people think socialism is some new and wonderful ‘sharing equally’ concept that promises a bright future—despite it having murdered hundreds of millions of people in the last century while rackin’ up a 100-percent economic failure rate. It’s like they’ve been watching the original Godzilla movie running backwards 24/7/365. They see Godzilla as this benign, helpful giant lizard who magically rebuilds smashed cities, un-stomps cars and people, extinguishes horrible fires by suckin’ ’em into his mouth, and then moon-walks backward into the ocean. That ain’t fair to Godzilla—and like socialism, it’s a big fat dangerous lie. Justice for Godzilla!” Smile broadly and enjoy the moment…

If it’s an “occupy” movement event, make yourself a sign saying “OCCUPY CENTRALIA!” Be prepared—the press will contact you to ask why Centralia—and where is it? Tell ’em with enthusiasm!

“Centralia is perfect for an ‘Occupy’ gathering! They can be as freaky as they want, do their drugs openly, have sex with themselves, toys and animals, poop, pee and vomit everywhere and working people won’t have to step in or over it on their way to work, and they can have their drum circles poundin’ and bangin’ at all hours without disturbing real people!”

“See, Centralia is this abandoned town in Pennsylvania. An underground coal fire has been burning there for over 50 years, so the ground is kinda unstable and poison gasses spew from fissures now and then, but otherwise, it’s perfect! And you lobbyists would still go there and give ’em great coverage!” Lobbyists is the hook. Set it firmly…

“I’m not a lobbyist,” they’ll exclaim, “I’m a journalist!” Give ’em a wink and a nudge, and tell ’em, Yeah, right. It’s OK, I won’t tell these morons. They will protest of course, like “No, really; I’m a journalist!” Lean in close and explain, “If you select, edit and spin the news to favor any person, agenda or political party, while tailoring coverage against anyone else to their detriment, that’s not journalism—that’s lobbying. It wouldn’t bother me if you guys would just register as lobbyists, pay your fees and be honest about it. But don’t tell me you’re a journalist, OK?” Your video clip may not make the evening news, but you will have made your point.

Here’s one you ladies can have fun with: Make a sign that reads “END THE WAR ON WOMEN” in big black letters. Then cross out “ON” and add “for” in bright red. At some point even a functionally-illiterate “journalist” will notice and approach you, asking like, “Don’t you mean end the war ON women?” Put on your most sympathetic smile, like you’re dealing with a very slow child. In a way you prob’ly are. And say something like this: “Bless your little puddin’ head, dear, there’s no war on women! There’s a war for women—for their support, their money and their votes. Women are being told, ‘You’re smart, you’re strong, and you’re independent. Nobody tells you how to vote!’ Then they’re told to line up, shut up and vote in a single mindless monolithic bloc—and we’ll give you free birth control pills!”

If it’s a voter-ID protest, carry a sign reading “SUPPORT LEGACY VOTING! Respect the rights of our dear departed!” When queried, ask “Gosh, what would happen to big-city elections without the votes of the dead? Or aliens? And what about people who moved out of state decades ago, but ‘friends they never met’ keep casting their votes for them? Why, just imagine what would happen in Chicago without the dead-people vote! That could collapse their entire political machine! Horrors!” Try to look sincere.

But Wait! There’s More!

If it’s a gun-grabbing rally, I favor a 2-sided sign. On one side, take a fat marker and sketch an outline of your hand. Put it in a red ring with a diagonal slash through it, and write “WE DEMAND HANDS-FREE ZONES!” On the other side, draw a hammer and a knife. This one’s your “BAN HAMMERS AND OUCHIE-POINTIE THINGS!” sign. You may not be asked—just goggled at kinda strangely—but if you are asked you can educate them.

“Hands kill over twice as many people every year than rifles and shotguns do, and hammers and knives kill 6.5-times more people! So why not just establish hands-free and hammer and knife-free zones? After all, gun-free zones have been wildly successful, ‘aren’t they?” Have a little fun with ‘em, OK?

Of course you can also demand machete-free zones, plague-free zones, and if you can draw one, even velociraptor-free zones. Then you can proudly proclaim, “My sign works! There hasn’t been a single instance of workplace velociraptor violence in billions of days!” Believe me, in street protest crowds, you’ll get people who will nod solemnly and agree that, “Something must be done!” You might even get sponsors… Connor OUT
By John Connor

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The Brotherhood of Shaved Apes

You Might Be A Member And
Not Even Know It…

Have you ever been casually pickin’ through random stuff at a junkyard, a garage sale or somethin’, and run across a busted axe handle or maybe an old cracked ’03-A3 stock? And you picked it up, gave it a couple of swings, thumped it into your palm and sorta semi-consciously thought, “Huh. Good club. Cut off here, couple passes with a draw knife there. Club. Good.” Have you? That could be a clue.

If you went ahead and bought it, kinda self-consciously, having no rational need for such a thing, and after a few licks to smooth it out, it wound up sittin’ in a strategic spot for extemporaneous thumpin’s—despite all your locks, alarms and guns which make for a more “civilized” defense—that’s a solid clue.
If you’ve ever stepped out on the back porch and sucked in a snootful of Somebody’s-Burnin’-BEEF! on the breeze and your brain did an instant data-dump, leaving you head-swiveling, salivating, snuffling deeply, your only sentient thought being “Meat. Meat! Burnt meat! Meat good!”
If you’ve been out in public with your mate and offspring, and other critters, two-legged or four, came around ’em, and for no discernible reason your brow furrowed, your shoulders tightened, your nostrils flared and your fists bunched up as you tensed to beat whomever-whatever into the deck like a pier piling if they made any wrong move—even one you couldn’t see, but you’d sense—that’s another clue.

If exposed to anything or anyone “sophisticated” or “progressive,” your lip curls reflexively and a rumbling snarl surprises you when you realize it’s coming from you, that too is a clue. It’s called “showing your gorilla-face.” You may already do it, unconsciously. Just ask your mate.
Ever chip a fingernail at the workbench and without even thinkin’ about it, grabbed a flat bastard file, dressed your talons, and before you knew it your boots were off and you were deeply engrossed in callous removal when your mate stepped in and did an open-mouthed double-take?
If most of your smiling and laughing is internal, done with a calm, placid face, but when you laugh out loud, you show every tooth in your head, frighten the timid, and set off car alarms? ’Nother clue.

If you firmly believe that Big Evils only exist in the world because nobody grabbed ’em by the ankles when they were Little Evils and swung ’em repeatedly against a tree trunk, well then…

Yeah, you could be a member of the Brotherhood of Shaved Apes and not even know it.

The Brotherhood

“Shaved Ape” sounds like a pejorative, but it ain’t. And to be clear, we’re not talking about chimps, but gorillas. Think about it. Gorillas may appear more primitive and brutish than chimpanzees, but aside from their sheer size, consider their behaviors. Their loyalties are solid, treatment of their young is firm but gentle, their desires simple: Don’t mess with them, their homes or their families and they’ll probably leave you alone. Push them beyond their considerable patience, and they’ll treat you to a RUD—a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly—and then calmly go back about their business.

Gorillas are commonly thought to be less intelligent than chimps, mainly because they refuse to play pointless games with pushy, silly humans. I won’t either. Ringin’ any bells for you?

Chimps are highly social and viciously political. They form temporary alliances, betray and backstab, rob, rape and murder. You’ll see chimps ridin’ bikes wearing clown suits, bellboy costumes, even French maid outfits, to get attention and bananas. Ever seen a full-grown, silverback gorilla in a clown suit beggin’ for bananas? No. Know why? Because gorillas won’t put up with it. They have dignity. And they prefer to get their own bananas.

There are no hard criteria for membership in the brotherhood. If you nodded your lumpy head and rumbled assent at any of the lines above, you’re probably qualified.

Useful Assets

Shaved apes need family members like Uncle John. If there’s a “there,” he’s been there, prob’ly packin’ a rifle. Steeped in pain, he laughs; stiff with scars like Egyptian hieroglyphics, there’s a story for every one of ’em, and he tells them with a smile. He’s the one who taught me that pain and injuries are only, “The price of an interesting life.”

“You didn’t have to get crippled just ’cause you idolize me, dummy,” he says. “And you’ll never be as handsome as me.” He’s ugly. He loves me.
After the move to our new place, he had to get a new primary care physician. I dropped him off, ran an errand and pulled up just as he came out. He stopped and commenced seriously shaking. I thought he might be having a seizure, but he was laughing his butt off.

“My new doc,” he chuckled, “Kid’s about 15 and looks like Doogie Howser, M.D. I told him, and he asked, Who’s that?” More laughter.
“Then he says I hafta give up tobacco, coffee, bourbon, beer, red meat, bacon and…” Another fit of shakin’ and whoopin’. I asked “Anything else?”

“I don’t know!” he roared, “I was laughin’ so hard I couldn’t hear him! Oh, it was so cute! He got all frowny and said You’d live longer. I told him no, it would only seem longer, or, like dying and goin’ to hell, but like Hell Lite.” He lit his pipe and asked, “Got time for a dark beer and a buffalo-burger?”

Neo-gorillas need friends like Pete C. On a recent Friday I found a great 1-day deal on lumber and joist plates we needed for our new site. It was 150 miles north and across the border into New Mexico. Pete was closer, on the road coming south. But he had to scoot straight over, get there before 1800, seal the deal with this guy Michaels and snatch the keys to the 5-ton truck the load was on for two, rent-free days. We were both driving, both on cell phones, and the signal was terrible. We kept yelling “Say again?” to each other, but when Pete finally shouted Roger that, I thought we were clear. We weren’t.

I pulled up at the new site about 1800 and there was Pete, standing by his personal truck, rigged for combat. I sat there in slack-jawed bewilderment as he loaded his ruck, two carbines and the case containing his .50 BMG rifle into the crew cab. He hopped in, grinning.

“Didn’t know if we’d need Long Tom too, so I just brought him. Ready to rock, pal.” Never mind what I’d said. What he heard was like this:
“We’re gonna cross the border into Mexico, roll about five clicks in, snatch this SEAL named Michael and somebody named Joyce. Probably lots of shooting. Be here by 1800.” I explained. He just sighed, spit out the window and shook his head. “Got that wrong, huh?”
“Did you really think we were gonna do that?” I asked.

He cocked an eyebrow, punched my shoulder and said, “Look at me, Connor. Like, we never pulled a snatch job together before? We never rolled in hard, shot up some dump and rolled out, takin’ rounds and laughin’ like maniacs before, huh?” Yeah. I remembered. Got a little choked up. I think he read the question in my eyes. He punched me again, lightly.

“I roll with you, bro,” he said. “Anytime.”

I had a buncha big oranges and some beer in the cooler. We sat on the tailgate, ripped open the oranges and bit into ’em, juice running down our arms; flingin’ drops out into the dust. Time passed. We watched the sickle moon rise in paling light, not sayin’ much and remembering all. A songdog howled and we howled back. Just a coupla shaved apes.—Connor OUT
By John Connor

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