Off-Hand Shooting

The Silent and Brave revision page #116

This rifle has got me excited. Also, what I am excited about is dovetailing neatly with my novel and my sniper character Riika, so that is also really cool.

I have mentioned that when I went to the range on Thursday morning, I tried shooting prone. Now, I don’t know much about shooting at all. I knew that the position is difficult, but also that it is the first one a rifleman needs to learn, especially one, like me, who is interested in off-hand shooting. Off-hand shooting is not shooting with your off hand (that is, your non-dominant hand.) Off-hand shooting is shooting without the benefit of a stabilizing rest, like a bipod, or sand bags, or a giant metal rifle stand that does all the work for you. Those implements are great for accuracy, but  not for practicality. It is very hard to find a Caldwell Lead Sled in the field. Generally, you want to find something to rest the barrel of the rifle on, a tree or a wall, but if you can’t, then you have to shoot off-hand, standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down, using your body for stability and to absorb recoil.

So I tried prone. For a novice, I think I got the position pretty well set. Rifle snugged up in the meat of the shoulder, left elbow braced against the ground perpendicular and at a forty degree angle or so (I read that higher is better), right elbow set on the ground as a brace for the trigger hand, cheek on the stock, scope on the target at my natural point of aim. This is the steadiest you can get with a rifle without mechanical support. I do use a ching sling, but I didn’t wear it on Thursday because I thought it would just get in the way. Having read a little more, it seems that I should use it to snug everything up and help support the weight of the rifle. I put the target at 200 yards, which is a long shot off-hand.

My first shot hit the target. Not in the bullseye, not even in the ten ring. All the way out on the very edge of the nine ring. Still, I hit the target. I was very proud, and considered it a lucky shot. You can see it. It’s the top hole in the photo, 5 inches off the bull, still an effective shot.


What happens is, as you’re trying to hold the rifle steady on the bullseye, it wanders all over the place. So you kind of have to take a guess when it will be in the right place and pull the trigger. I took five more shots and missed them all completely, but I was okay with that. I was still sighting in the rifle and practicing the position; my main goal was (and still is) to learn about recoil with larger rounds, and make sure I don’t develop a flinch. I could tell that my muscles were getting tired.

I came home and learned some more about off-hand shooting. This is how it’s done.

First, understand that the crosshairs are going to wander, so make that part of the shot. Instead of getting to my natural point of aim and then trying to hold it there and squeeze off a lucky one, what I need to do is control the wander. In other words, get set in a stable position quickly and comfortably with the sights on the target. Then, before the muscles have a chance to get too tired, guide the crosshairs down to the bullseye with a steady motion, approaching from 11 o’clock, or down and towards the strong side of my body. As the crosshairs intersect with the bullseye, squeeze off the shot. The practice is in the comfortable, repeatable position and the squeezing of the trigger. The whole process should not take more than a few seconds, so that the muscles don’t have time to fatigue. In fact, even with a seven pound rifle, if I line up the crosshairs and then see the sights start to waver out of control, it’s already too late.

That makes a lot more sense to me, and now I can’t wait to get back to the range and continue to work on my off-hand shooting. Also, I can’t wait to write about it while Riika is learning it too. I love it when real life and my fantasy world intersect, and I love learning more about shooting.


Which One of These Should We Outlaw?

The Silent and Brave revision page #115

I finally finished the revision of chapter nine, On the Ice, or at least I got it to the point that I don’t want to look at it anymore. It may need more work when I go to do my final read-through. I don’t know why it was so difficult, except that there were a lot of different perspectives contained in it, and I had to make it clear how my characters felt and why they felt that way, without just coming out and saying it.

Now I am going into chapter ten, White Death. This is the chapter inspired by Simo Häyhä, the Finnish sharpshooter credited with the most confirmed kills during the Winter War against Russia. He used his knowledge of the terrain, cross country skis, and a Finnish version of the Mosin-Nagant to terrorize the Russian army which had invaded his homeland. Riika is my own Simo, taking his discovered rifle out onto the frozen plains where he can use it to terrorize the arm of the champion. After he and Stope (Stull is laid up in Birrigat with his wolf bites) shoot into the arm, the Celestine cavalry rushes out onto the plains to catch them, but on the hemiau they overrun the snipers where they are hidden in the snow. Kavela, Ullane, Chauncer, and Alvaiinen go slower and actually catch Riika and Stull, but choose to let them go because they have the rifle and because Stull and Chauncer recognize one another.

My explanation of the concept of Sisu came out so well at the end of the chapter eight, Piles of Stones, that I am hoping the same will happen with my sniper. I love these references to Finnish culture and history, and because I use them as touchstones for my novel, it is really nice when one of the concepts dovetails that well with what I am writing. It seems to give it more purpose, adding layers of authentication to my fantasy.

While I’m talking about shooting, I took my new Winchester Model 70 Featherweight in 30-06 to the range yesterday for its second sighting in. I used the 125 grain low recoil rounds that Kim and I played with last week, and then went up to 150 and 180 grain cartridges. I got out to 200 yards and have it almost sighted in where I want it, but after nineteen shots kneeling on a bench and prone my shoulder said “OWWWW” and I had to stop. It is a very powerful rifle; the difference between it and the Mini-14 with the .223 is huge. It makes me wonder about what we demonize in the media, so here is a photo of the different calibers I like.


imageThe sharpie is so you can tell the size of the different cartridges. The one on the left is the 30-06, an absolutely devastating cartridge. It has enough power to kill an elk or black bear. These bullets are used by hunters and they are where most ballistic developments take place; expanding bullets, bonded cores so that the metal stays together, that sort of stuff. No one ever seems to want to ban these, even though they are by far the most powerful. Next to it is a steel core armor piercing .223 round. These particular green tip rounds were almost banned by the United Nations this year. They are very high velocity, and can punch a hole in steel plate. These are the “assault rifle” bullets hated by all gun control groups. Their smaller size makes them easy to shoot and it is also easy to carry a lot of ammo, thus they are often used in mass shootings. Next to that one is a 45 ACP pistol round. These particular Winchester bullets used to be called Black Talons, until a prosecuter in a court case made a big deal out of the name, saying that it indicated they were to be used to attack instead of as a defensive round. Now they are called the PDX1 Defender, but they are still the same bullet, designed with sharp petals that spread wide open on impact. The last cartridge is a 380 ACP, also a hollow point that is designed to petal open and slice through tissue, making a larger wound channel. This bullet is the smallest and least powerful, but the guns that fire it are also smaller, and very easy to conceal. Nathuram Godse used a 380 ACP in a Beretta M 1934 to assassinate Ghandi, an image I still remember from my childhood and the movie.

***I just noticed that I am using my experiences from yesterday’s prone position rifle session to begin chapter ten.***

Scary Thoughts

There I was, walking down the aisle in my usual Wal-mart, and there he was, in front of me, browsing through the $5 movie bin. He looked like he’d been twenty-one for about three hours. He didn’t look angry, or evil, or really like he was paying much attention to anything at all. What attracted my gaze?

The Smith and Wesson M&P proudly displayed on his hip. Black gun, black holster, a little velcro strap holding it in there. I wondered if I could yank it off his hip without him stopping me. (Probably.) I wondered if he knew I was carrying too. (Doubtful.)

This is the world we live in now, at least in Nevada, where open carry is legal.

I remember a friend coming back from Costa Rica in the early 90’s and showing me a photo of the young toughs who acted as community servants with their motorcycles, machetes, and machine guns. They were the guardians of that country, hanging out on corners to make sure no one broke the law. They had no uniforms. I remember saying that I would be scared to wander around in a place where those muscle-bound young men with guns were the last resort for protection. What did it say about Costa Rica?

It is scary to see a young man carrying a gun, no doubt about it. I can’t imagine that this fellow has the training or the judgement to properly use that firearm in any situation. I shudder to think what a grandmother, passing him on the way to get her groceries, must think. And yet, I understand the concept behind it. If someone walked into that Wal-mart wanting to indiscriminately harm people, would they be deterred by that young man, who no doubt went and bought himself a firearm and then said, dammit, I can legally carry it, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I mean, why else did I buy it? I’ve got to do something with it.

I see more and more of them. They’re almost always young. None of them look like they have any sense. But I still think I like it. Because I think that the answer to my question above-can their presence, can their bearing arms in public, be a deterence to the random violence that seems to be the newsworthy story of our age-may be yes. I think that people who randomly shoot other people are cowardly, and the presence of any gun-toting person may definitely deter them, make them go somewhere else for their targets.

My friend who came back from Costa Rica said it was the most peaceful, friendly place he’d ever been. He couldn’t wait to go back. Is it a shame that, to keep the peace, we need to return to the Old West, with six shooters on all our hips? Yes, it is a shame. Might it also be the answer? Yes, it might.

The Dilemma of Self-Rule

The Silent and Brave revision: page #91

Here’s another apologetic for politics. What can I say? It’s on my mind right now.

There is not a candidate out there who would tell you they are against self-rule, or the ability of a responsible adult to make decisions for him/herself and their family. That is because if they said such a thing they would not win. It goes against the grain of what it means to be an American.

Once a candidate is elected, they immediately begin the process of deciding who is responsible enough for self-rule, and the overriding rules that must be followed by anyone in order to fit into the framework. I have no problem with this, either. Part of adult responsibility is agreeing to and conforming to the rules of the society around you. Some people are incapable of doing this, and it is necessary to place restrictions on their behavior in order for American society to function. So, in a presidential election, we’re really deciding on a leader whose rules for conforming we can agree to follow, and that’s fine.

But it is important to be careful. It is important to remember that every problem we face in this country right now, whether it is the economic failure of cities, the Mexican drug war, anger and mistrust between police and private citizens, pollution, an incarceration rate that is the highest of any country in the world, the deficit, religious intolerance . . . you name it. All of these problems are the result of decisions made by elected leaders in our past and adherence to their rules for conforming. There is no getting away from it. We, an intelligent, self-ruling people, made the choices that led to our problems.

It is important to remember that there is a future, and we are headed there. Our decisions have tremendous consequences, whether it’s the war on drugs, or manifest destiny, or the brave and difficult decision to end slavery. What we should be trying to achieve is greater responsibility, a better “adulthood” for our society. On the way there will be growing pains. Some of them will be really bad.

Back to what must seem to be my favorite topic. Gun violence is a growing pain, a by–product of placing tools that are made for one purpose only, killing, into the hands of more and more people, some of whom are not responsible enough to bear the burden. Are weapons going to go away? No. Read Dune. In Frank Herbert’s masterpiece every power has a stockpile of nuclear weapons that they point at one another to ensure peace. You can say that sucks all you want, but look around you at the world: that’s exactly how it works. Every country must have its defenses, so that every country has to play nice.

Someday I hope there will be no countries. When that happens, by the same logic every person will have to have his/her own defenses, and be responsible enough to use them in the right way. Until mankind grows up enough to bear that burden, we will continue to kill one another and ourselves, and we will continue to be punished for our hatred, like children who haven’t yet reached adulthood.

We must learn to accept our growing pains and triumph over them as we travel into the future with a greater capacity for self-rule.

Looking for a Leader

The Silent and Brave revision: Page #90

If you are paying attention, you will notice that I added 15 pages to my count since last time I posted. This is not the result of me working steadily, unfortunately; other things have interfered as they do and I really did a ton of work over the last two days, finishing two chapters. Also, they were easier chapters because they were complicated and I spent a lot of time on them during my first draft stage. So while I am pleased with my work rate, I am unhappy with my submissions of query letters and my blogging. I’m still excited to continue, and so I press on!

Today I am thinking about elections. Our election, for our next president. I am in a quandary. My quandary is made up of two parts. The first part is caused by my own ignorance, and the ignorance of those around me. This will be a large topic of conversation over the next 9 months, and I am a bartender, and I live in an extremely red demographic, where people like to talk about politics, especially in ways that are detrimental to the opposition. If I am not careful, I will get caught up in these conversations, and that can cause problems.

The second part of my quandary is that I don’t have any answers for myself. I don’t like a single candidate that’s out there.

I do need to man up and choose one. I have voted since Bill Clinton was elected the first time, and I have never voted for a candidate that did not win. (Yes, that does mean that I voted for some turds. But they won.) So the easiest thing for me to do is figure out which way the wind is blowing, and go along with it. However, as I get older, like most people, I find that I really care more than that about the fool who is going to try to lead this country.

Right now I see four candidates with a chance to win. It is getting late for another to come out, so let’s work with those four for now. They are:

Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders.

Ted Cruz.

Yikes. Here is why I hate them all, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, who I dislike because he is smarter than me and bound and determined to tell me all about it. I feel like the hippie in me should root for Bernie, but when I look at him, all I see is an old man bitching about the way the world is and telling us how it would be so much better if we just listened up and did it his way. Nothing is more ineffective than that. However, I promise to learn more about Bernie before I castigate him any further.

So let’s start with Ted Cruz, who I really hate, especially because he shares my name. Ted is a religious righter. He cares about the plight of the good Christian in this country. What he doesn’t care about is laïcité. In this country, we do not have a strict policy of laïcité, or separation of church and state. What we have is a policy of freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the first amendment of the constitution. But what Ted Cruz and the other religious righters would like to do is make you free to follow THEIR religion, which depends on a strict interpretation of scripture. You know, the bible. Including the parts where it says to kill the witches and the homosexuals.

Why is laïcité important? Because the church is a powerful force, and needs to be subject to checks and balances, just like any other powerful force. The system of checks and balances is the best part of our country, and the one that all politicians would like to get rid of, so they can control the people. And if you don’t believe that absolute power breeds absolute corruption, just go look at that little problem with clergy and boys in the Catholic church.

Next let’s move on to Donald Trump. I have talked about my dislike of The Donald before. He doesn’t care what I say; he is too busy preparing plans for his wall between us and our friendly neighbors to the south. The last time this happened, I believe the city was Berlin, and the country was East and West Germany. Can we really believe that this is a good idea? Demonstrating our hatred and fear to the world in a way not seen since the end of the cold war?

I do not believe in a policy of exclusion. It will not work, because life is determined, and finds a way. If you build a wall, you are just forcing people to find ways to go around it. How about we find a way to not build a wall? I don’t believe in policies of hatred, not for any human being.

Finally, let’s talk about Hillary. Is she interested in power? Yes. She already has it, and she wants more. I think she strikes me as the most likely to try to strike down term limits and turn this country into a monarchy. If she could get away with it. But she can’t, and here’s the rub–I sympathize with her side more than the other.

I think that she will do better things for the common people (and I am one of the common people) than any of the other candidates. I think that she believes in doing those things. I love that. We have to learn to move forward together. (I do not like her current ads, where she is attracting young people by promising to pay back their student loans. But anything that gets them out to vote, I guess.) When I think about Hillary, I have to remind myself that the president doesn’t really have that much power, because of those checks and balances, and I shouldn’t be scared of her.

So my whole problem with Hillary basically comes down to the gun thing, which you may say is silly. I’m going to tell you why it’s not silly, why it’s the most important thing (to me.)

Hillary is for an assault weapons ban. Actually, her husband Bill was the first one to drive it through, and we had it, and then it expired. That’s all fine and dandy. You can argue about whether we need extended magazines and armor piercing 5.56 military rounds all you want. Both sides have good points.

Here is my point: I already own them. I have all that stuff. I bought it with my own money that I earned by working really hard. Furthermore, I am a law abiding citizen who pays my bills and my taxes and I can legally possess those items. I am proud of that.

Why would I vote for someone who wants to make something I enjoy and worked for and keep in my own house illegal? Such a person would be forcing me to break the law, or get rid of my own legally purchased possessions to fit their agenda.

I can’t vote for such a person.

So here I am. Stuck in a quandary, looking for a leader.



Inability to See the Other Side

Are we all the same or are we all different?

I believe that, as human beings, our minds, our souls, and our hearts are all filled with the same basic things. We have a need for companionship and love. We have a need for a stable life, with rules we understand and ways to consider ourselves succeessful. We would like to have pleasant distractions for our minds and bodies.

At the same time, our different surroundings, or our perspective, causes us to interpret things in different ways from our fellow man. The media and our leaders use our perspective and their grasp of knowledge to guide us down the road they want us to take, sometimes in overbearing ways.

There are many people in the world who are opposed to “Westernization.” I guess we should feel proud to have invented a society so radical that even looking in its direction on a map would cast a shadow over all that is good and righteous.

It would do well for us to remember that we have brought this on ourselves. We have been militant. We have been bossy. We have insulted proprieties, and we have murdered. Certainly we are not alone in this. All societies throughout the course of history have commited atrocities. The bigger the society, the bigger the crimes. To the aggressor, and the aggressors change all the time, it doesn’t matter who did what to whom. It is merely convenient to be able to say, “They did it first.”

Society must move forward. Compromises must be reached. It is a painful and scary process. Imagine how you would feel right now if you lived in Syria and had to leave the farm your grandfather founded to run from people who want to change all the rules, and not in your favor.

For us the problem is a different one. Terrorists have been around for as long as hate has been around. As weapons become smaller and more dangerous, and the world allows us to travel and our cultures to clash, it is inevitable that the fight will come closer to home. Is the answer to keep us separated, like unruly children in a daycare? It might work, but no one learns anything or progresses when they’re in time out. Eventually, to grow up, we have to learn to play in the same sandbox.

In the meantime, there are some real bullies, who just want to kill and maim and destroy, and don’t care if they get killed in process. Worse, they may come to your concert hall, or your restaurant, or your sporting event, with the intention of killing you.

When they do, there is a good chance they will be able to execute their plan. Police will be on the outside, unable to help. If you are on the inside, you may have to fight back, and quickly, before you are incapacitated.

This is where the militia from the Second Amendment comes in.

The Constitution of The United States predates law enforcement. The idea of the Constitution is that we are all responsible for one another. If someone steps into your yard and tries to do you harm, you are entitled to fight back. If you choose to carry a weapon, legally, and train with that weapon, then I call upon you to honor the Constitution and be part of the militia.

If an act of terrorism or a hostage situation happens in a crowded area, and you are unfortunate enough to be there, the best thing to do is escape, but if you are part of the militia, you must be prepared to confront the attackers, so that your friends, family, and fellow citizens have a better chance of surviving.

Someday we will all have to be our brother’s keeper, and someday we will all have to get along. Until then, we are justified in defending our lives and freedom from extremists.





10-Minute Diatribe

I have ten minutes before I have to go get ready for work, so I’m going to rant for all ten.

In the wake of the latest school shooting and all the renewed chatroom/newsreel talk about gun violence, I want to point out a couple of things. I heard a lot of “It’s only in America that this happens” and a lot of “it’s always young white males.” I heard a lot of “there’s a lot of mentally ill people out there, and only a small percentage of them commit atrocities like this.”

Then, on Saturday morning, a young woman deliberately drove her car into a homecoming parade, killing a two year old, a married couple, and a single young man. No guns. No “disturbed white male.” Just more random violence in a place that people expected to be safe.

People have always killed each other. People always will kill each other. When rocks were the available weapons, they used rocks. When spears became popular, they used spears. Then knives. Then bombs. What’s different now?

The media. We hear about it. We sensationalize it. Mass killers use the media to get the attention they crave.

Last night I watched some fellow on Bill Maher doing his own rant about the dangers of guns. How they should be banned and how the NRA is ruining society by allowing these upset young men the opportunity to kill.

He did not mention anything about Chicago, where there were probably ten murders last night, just like the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that, and the night before that. I guess, because it happens in the projects, it doesn’t matter.

The truth is, people get upset. We hate. We act in violent ways towards one another.

It’s not the guns.

It’s us.

A Trip to the Range, Musings on Background Checks

Kim and I went to the range today for some ballistic therapy–it always makes me feel so relaxed, and with another class coming up and the end of her contract coming, plus a few key auditions in the works, it seemed like she was getting stressed out as well. I also purchased a new pair of Pro Ears Gold muffs, and I wanted to try them out. They allow me to hear with amplified sound, and at the same time cut damaging noise to acceptable levels, so instead of having to take off my ear protection or shout to hear myself, I can just talk and work normally without damaging my ears. They worked great and were worth the expense.

We set up the steel targets and did some plinking with the .380 Autos. At first neither of us could even hit the target, but as we settled in we both got much better. I’m actually kind of a stickler for the practice, and I’m very particular about how we go about it. I feel like it improves our handling and reaction time, and Kim is so cool about doing what I want her to do. Guess what? It shows in her skill level.

I put one target at 12 yards and one at 15 yards with a knockdown at 10 yards. Then I start a random timer and we shoot to get two hits on the far target. With that complete, we drop the magazine and put in a fresh one. That’s the hard part-changing the magazine while still staying in a fighting posture, not jamming anything up, and getting on to the second, closer target for two more hits. To finish the round we knock over the knockdown target. It’s a great drill for self-defense against two attackers.

The timer counts the shots, so there’s no need to stop it at the end, just stop shooting and review the times. It really encourages a quick draw and good handling of the pistol, plus it forces you to aim so that you don’t have to waste extra shots. Kim did one string in 24.13 seconds with six shots, meaning she only missed once. I did a five shot string, but it took me longer to aim so that I only accomplished a 14.57 time on that one. After missing completely with our first magazines, it was nice to have a string with no misses. Also, it’s proof of how difficult small pistols are to aim and fire, and how important practice is. The P238 is a very small pistol used for concealment, and aiming and running it is tricky, but man those Sig Sauers are great guns when you know how they function. Muscle memory is important, and I have to work on putting the safety back on before I reholster. My best time was an eight shot string (I was almost sprayin’ and prayin’ on that one) but I managed a 11.35 with a fast draw and reload. That’s the best I’ve ever done.

Now I’m back at home with a little writing to do and a couple of Sierra Nevada Octoberfests to drink and two pistols to clean. I love that Kim and I go to play together, and I’m feeling much less stressed out. I cannot recommend ballistic therapy enough, nor can I overstate how much I think everyone who is willing should be armed.

I do want to say that I wish we would pass a law requiring universal background checks. I read a dissenting opinion on the Truth About Guns blog. It goes something like this: 1-why create more beaurocracy, 2-what if I am falsely accused of being incompetent, 3-what if the government uses that info to come to my door and take my guns, and 4-my favorite: that background checks have only stopped about 50,000 gun sales, so what’s the point? Plus, what if I want to sell a gun to my neighbor? Here’s my answer to those: 1-I’ll deal with a little more red tape if it means the Adam Lanzas of the world can’t touch things that are designed for one thing only: to kill people. I am proud of the fact that Kim and I are law abiding citizens, who were able to get concealed weapon permits. I was glad to go through the red tape. I think everyone should have to do it, and if you can’t pass, maybe you shouldn’t have a gun. 2-You can be falsely accused of many things in life. It’s a pain, but when it happens you have to clean up the mess. It’s part of living in a society with rules, and especially important when we’re dealing with something that, again, is designed for only one purpose: killing things. 3-If the government is going to come to the door and take your guns, to my mind you are already at a point where the Bill of Rights and the Constitution have been suspended, and you have more important problems to deal with, such as, am I ready to fight back? 4-If the federal background checks have stopped ONE person guilty of domestic violence or stopped one person with murder in their heart from buying a gun, they have done their job. Finally, If you want to sell your gun to your neighbor, or give it to your wife, go down to wal-mart and spend the money to do the background check. It’s a gun.

Oh yes, and another complaint, the “these background checks only keep law abiding citizens from buying guns, the bad guys just steal them or buy them on the street.” Yeah, that’s true. Guess what? I don’t mind an us against them mentality. I would like an armed militia of citizens who have gone through their background checks and practiced and carry weapons to deter the bad guys. That’s the point of the second amendment. In fact, the whole point of the United States was supposed to be that we are intelligent and good enough to handle our own problems in a law abiding way. It’s exactly what has the power to stop the bad guys, and the bad guys know it. I want less cops and more citizens looking out for one another. How about that?

Shooting Steel

Yesterday Kim and I had our first trip to the range to shoot steel. After watching Max Michel tear up the steel challenge courses on Outdoor Channel, I wanted to try it for myself. Steel targets are expensive, and I had to save for them, but my beautiful wonderful wife bought me a heart shaped one from CMP for our eleventh anniversary (anniversary eleven happens to be steel, how about that?) and then I purchased two more twelve inch plates from MGM Targets. All three of these are 3/8″ thick AR500 steel. The heart is a knockdown target and the other two are stationary plates.

Steel Heart

I did some looking around on-line, but I was still worried when we went to the range. For one thing, steel shooting involves shooting a hard object (a bullet) at a hard target (steel) so what happens then? I was worried about pieces of lead splashing back at us. Also, I didn’t know whether the range rules allowed for steel. Yesterday afternoon was rainy, so that cleared out the range, even though there is a roof. When we arrived there was only one other person on the pistol side. We have seen him before, he is one of the unofficial range officers, by which I mean he hangs out and puts his two cents in often. There were also two guys on the rifle range, and they were shooting steel plates, so that made me feel better. We carted out the targets and set them up at 24 yards, far enough away to feel safe for our first go-round. Then I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to hit them, a fear shared by our compatriot. However, he didn’t say anything negative about shooting at the steel, only that they might be difficult to hit at that distance. When we finished setting up it looked like this:


Kim and I both brought our P238 (380 Auto) pistols, which are small and supposedly more difficult to shoot at that distance. Imagine our surprise when we were both able to get hits right off the bat? The steel is so much fun. The instant feedback (that pinging sound) when I put the bullet on the target is delicious. The knockdown target is even better because it flipped off its stand when I hit it, although I need more targets because of course it has to be reset after each strike. The steel really forced me to focus on my breathing and squeezing, but by lining up the sights and concentrating both Kim and I could hit the targets. When I tried with the P220 (45 Auto) the results were even better-my first round I got 7 out of 8 hits even at 24 yards, and took down the heart with my first shot, great because on a P220 the first shot requires a longer, double action trigger pull. Part of that is the quality of the pistols-I am constantly amazed by how much I love these firearms, and how well I can perform with them. We are both getting better at shooting-I snuck a dummy round into one of Kim’s magazines to see if she was flinching, and when she pulled the trigger the pistol stayed completely still.

Other than the lead splatter and chipped paint, the steel showed no signs of damage after about seventy rounds.


A fresh coat of spray paint and they will be good as new, and both companies claim that the targets will last as long as no rifle rounds are used on them. Set up and clean up is easier, and there was no splash back at all. I plan to move the targets in closer, get more of them (a complete steel challenge course, you can Wikipedia it and they show the layout) and then start shooting it with the timer.

I really enjoy ballistic therapy. It relaxes me. I am gaining more knowledge about targets, which are really where it’s at. I am lucky to live where I do, about ten minutes from a state maintained shooting range. I enjoy the engineering of the pistols. I even like cleaning them. My comfort level with my carry pistol is growing. I recommend shooting steel, and plan to form my own discipline: Concealed Steel. Stock pistols that are drawn from concealment and then run on a Steel Challenge course for time. I love the 380 round for concealment, so even though it is not included in traditional Steel Challenge competition I think it will be perfect for Concealed Steel.

The Right Tool for the Job

Life is full of opportunitites to bring too much firepower. I started out with a Sig Sauer P220, which is a 45 ACP pistol. The cartridge is world renowned, and has been ever since John Browning invented the 1911 pistol. It is a great handgun. It never fails and it is accurate even in my shaky hands. I carry it in a Galco Miami Classic holster, and it is easy to conceal with a flannel shirt. The weight reminds me to stay alert. It is easy and fast to draw–with practice I can do two shots on a target, reload, and fire off two more shots on a second target in around 12 seconds. The recoil is minimal. It is a heavy handgun with a locking breech action–as an automatic, some of the recoil is absorbed by the spring. Also, even though the rounds are big whompers, full of heavy lead, they are also subsonic; they travel less than 1000 feet per second.

Still, it is a big handgun, and I wanted something easier to conceal, something I can carry while I’m wearing shorts. I also wanted a smaller handgun for my wife, something that she might someday be willing to carry with her. I am not such a fool that I think she is going to strap a holster to her thigh (although that would be hot) and I am not a fan of purse carry. I’ve been in her purse, and I wouldn’t want to dive through that looking for anything fast. That’s just asking for an accident to happen.

Research says that the 9mm is the way to go. It is a lighter, faster round, capable of shooting further distances. It is a proven manstopper, maybe not quite as effective as the 45 ACP, but with the added advantage of extra rounds in the clip. Some 9mm handguns with double stack magazines hold up to 18 rounds. The lighter round also allows for smaller, lighter handguns, and 9mm is one of the easiest to find and least expensive of the centerfire ammunitions.

In recent years, the 380 ACP cartridge invented in 1908 has seen a resurgance in pocket pistols, that is, super small, light weight pistols that are easy to conceal and still pack ammunition with enough punch to so some damage. These have been a sort of fad item. Many claim that they are underpowered. Pistols chambered in this round have enjoyed huge sales in recent years with the proliferation of shall issue carry permits. An example is the James Bond pistol, the Walther PPK, although he (fictionally) used his with a .32 caliber cartridge, which has even less power. Let’s think about that for a minute. Ian Fleming wanted something that his character could hide in a dinner jacket, that would provide excellent accuracy, and allow him to get the job done unobtrusively. We, on the other hand, are American. We are fascinated with power. We want Texas sized power, a Desert Eagle .50 cal or a Dirty Harry .44 Magnum. When we shoot something, we want it to know it was shot, and we want everyone else to know it too.

That’s not really the goal with a concealed weapon. A concealed weapon, to my mind, should be more in the James Bond vein. Easy to hide, easy to get to, and easy to use. If I’m in a situation where I need it, I have probably already been knocked down, and I’m trying a counter punch to survive. I don’t need to be able to bring down an elephant. If I’m ever in a firefight where I need a lot of bullets, God forbid, like zombies are coming into the back yard, I’m not going to mess around with a pistol at all. I’m going for my Mini-14. It has a red dot Eotech scope and ammo that can pierce steel plate. I can hit a target from two hundred yards away with it, a hundred yards off hand (with no support.) No pistol will do that.

For personal protection, I chose the Sig Sauer P238 for both of us. It is small enough that I will actually carry it. That’s the most important consideration. It can’t help me from the nightstand unless I’m at home. A Sig Sauer is a more expensive handgun, but it’s also a trusted name for me. It is a beautiful firearm and will last a lifetime. It is a locking breech weapon, not required with the 380 ACP, but it reduces the recoil to almost nothing. That is one of the most important considerations for me. If a gun hurts to shoot, then neither I nor my wife will practice with it enough to be proficient. It has a thumb safety, which means it can not be fired without two things happening, even when a round is chambered–the safety must be deactivated, and the trigger must be pulled. That makes me feel safe when I have it in my holster. It is fun to shoot, which means it is fun to practice with, a vital trait in any weapon I would have in my home. It only holds seven shots, but that’s plenty. We don’t live in a war zone. If I need more I will be relying on my Mini-14, which also has low recoil, meaning that Kim can also shoot it accurately and quickly.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable relying on the P238 for anything more than about 12 yards out, but that’s the job it is designed for, and for that job it is perfect.