Not gone, just ranging

Posted in Uncategorized on November 25, 2013 by blackshepherd

Blackshepherd is not gone, just occupied for a bit.

There are times, in my line of work, that require me to be absent for a while. One of those times happened. Then it bumped up against a relocation.

I was taught a long time ago that education is important; it is also expensive. I was also taught that if you can get someone else to pay for your education, then you cannot afford not to let them. This is just such a situation. Someone else offered to pay for me get a Master’s degree. As a result, I packed up Mrs. and Baby Blackshepherd and moved them to California. I know, I did not expect that either. This move necessitated a fair amount of work on my part, hence the absence.

I never expected to live in a place that is so blatantly anti-gun or anti-individual, but here I am.

I have some definite thoughts about the trip out here, and moving to this state of the Union. I am certain that there will be some tales to tell as I get my concealed carry permit and become a lawfully armed citizen of California. There will certainly be some disruption in my regular posting schedule, with school becoming a priority. But, the Blackshepherd is not gone…

Thoughts about the Navy Yard Shooting

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 16, 2013 by blackshepherd

The media gets it wrong: We know next to nothing about today’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. What details we do have were breathlessly reported by talking heads from all of the major news networks. They quickly exhausted what details existed and engaged in wild speculations from any and all angles. The details that were forthcoming were gleaned from news conferences with investigators and eyewitness interviews.

The problem is that eyewitness accounts are often wrong or fragmented. People really do understand the world through their own lens and that truth is often accentuated under deadly stress. People can remember things that did not happen, and forget things that did. They can also substitute other people’s memories for their own. This is exacerbated if they are exposed to other witnesses; or 24 hour news coverage. Solid investigation takes time. Too long for the media and the American attention span to maintain interest. This leads to the reporting of rumors as fact and their erroneous acceptance into the collective consciousness.

This phenomenon can be observed in every major “publicized,” attack since Columbine High School. The media winds itself into a knot, reports errors (many understandably), and the populace ends up with a mistaken understanding of complicated events.

The vultures are already circling: Anti-gun activists are already hammering their talking points. People’s families have been torn apart. Patriotic Americans who were in the military or working for our defense apparatus have been murdered. No one yet knows the details behind the motives, means, or methods of the perpetrators. Despite this lack of knowledge anti-gun folks are playing their one note recording. Total lack of class.

The military does not carry guns: This is difficult for many people to understand. Most people imagine a military base as being chock full of guns. Many of them are, but they are locked in rooms that look like bank vaults. American military bases are gun free zones. In 1993 President Clinton issued orders that made it illegal for military members to carry their personal weapons onto military installations, even if they were licensed and legal in the state where the installation was located. The only people who are legally armed during their daily duties are usually military police or civilian contract security. The status of their weapons is kept secret and varies from installation to installation. Federal installations are federal land and federal laws apply.

 This order remains in effect even after the Ft. Hood shooting. In that incident, at least three people on site (that we know of) immediately attacked the shooter.  They were armed with nothing more than bare hands, a chair, and a folding table. Two were killed and one was seriously wounded. Civilian police officers, contracted to the post, stopped the rampage by shooting the attacker repeatedly. It took them about ten minutes to get there.

Unless it is a part of their specified daily duty the military is not authorized to carry guns. Our nation’s Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Rangers, any and all Special Operations forces, are not authorized to carry guns at work. The same for Infantry, Armor, Combat Engineers, Marines, Sea Bees, and Combat Arms troops of any service or rank. I would love for someone to explain to me how that makes any sense. I am not saying that it would have made a difference in this case because I have no idea. At this point no one does. I do know that men with guns, civilians, had to come from outside of the installation in order to kill at least one of the shooters; stopping the murders. It took them seven minutes to get there…

May God be with the families of the injured and killed; may he continue to shepherd America.

Colorado is Pissed: Recall Edition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 11, 2013 by blackshepherd

The vote is over in Colorado and State Senators John Morse and Angela Giron have become the first State legislators to ever be recalled. Former Colorado Springs councilman Bernie Herpin will replace Morse and George Rivera, a former Pueblo police officer, will replace Giron.

In the midst of all of the hyperbole there are two contradictory but vital points:

Firstly, these were not overwhelming victories and they only involved a small number of voters. John Morse was defeated 51%-49% in an election that only 15% of registered voters participated in. That means he lost by around 343 votes. Angela Giron was defeated 56%-44%, in a predominantly Democrat district, although only around 30% participated in the election. The recall votes really were a knife fight in a telephone booth. Two very vocal and diametrically opposed minorities banging on each other. I am shocked that voter participation was not much higher considering the issues at stake and the amount of recall advertising that has deluged Colorado. Which leads me to the second point.

These recalls were important. Correctly or incorrectly, the gun control issue in Colorado was perceived as a sea-change in America. A western state, with a long history of gun ownership and personal freedom, was finally onboard with the “enlightened” portions of the country that restrict gun ownership. The small problem was, Colorado did not want new restrictions on firearms. The recall was the first in the 100 years since Colorado adopted the constitutional recall provision. It takes a lot to get average people that fired up. A legislative attack on freedom and inordinate amounts of outside influence seem to have done it.

Once the media was wound up it did not take long for outside money to start contesting a very small, local election. It is estimated that Michael Bloomberg contributed more than $350,000 to the anti-gun efforts while the NRA spent close to $300,000 on mailers and phone calls. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Total outside of the state donations to Giron and Morse are estimated at around $3 million. Some people in other places really wanted to make a point. That just pissed off Colorado even more than being ignored by their State Legislators.

So a small victory in a big fight, but perhaps one with a state and national importance out of proportion to its size. It will have effects on upcoming state elections, most importantly the Governor’s election. It is also a wakeup call to voters in other states. Keep an eye on your legislators. The fight is not even close to over. The same ilk of people that contributed over $3 million to anti-freedom causes have much more where that came from…

Knives: Part One

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2013 by blackshepherd

Why I carry knives…

I have spent a lot of time on this blog, and in the real world, talking and writing about guns. I believe that guns are the most efficient, portable, and easily mastered form of self-defense available to the common person. That fact has not changed, I am just elaborating on the concept of self-defense.

I always carry knives (emphasis on the plural) and maybe you should too. This is a daunting concept for many to accept. After all, most of you are already carrying a gun. However, once you carry a blade for a while you will never be without one again.

A knife is probably the most useful tool that you can constantly carry on your person. Guns are good for exactly one thing, shooting people that need to be shot. Knives are used for opening packages, opening mail, opening people. Cutting food, string, tape, seat-belts, and attackers. The only thing that could be more utilitarian than a quality folding knife is a good multi-tool. Although, if you walk around wearing a multi-tool on your belt:  you will look like a first class nerd. Nine times out of ten that you need a multi-tool it will be for the knife inside of it, and it is next to worthless for self-defense. Buy a decent multi-tool and leave it in your car. Carry a knife (or knives).

The quotidian usefulness of a good knife should be obvious to almost anyone with a pulse. This blog being what it is, I am going to talk about the self-defense aspects of knives.

Why should anyone carry a knife when they can carry a gun? The answer is, some things work well in certain tactical situations, and others do not. Every contingency plan should be based upon this idea. The penalty for having the wrong plan or misunderstanding the situation, for not getting it right, is serious injury or death. Firearms cover most of the deadly force contingencies out there, but not all of them. If you can learn to use a blade, it takes care of a great number of the rest. Knives and pistols are a good complement for one another, with knives being the secondary weapon.  Knives are not for everyone but if you have the stomach for it you should definitely consider the idea.

The first use of tools by human is widely believed to have taken place around 2.5 million years ago. Possibly not quite so long ago, depending on your accepted chain of custody for human development. In any case, the first tool mankind used was the knife. It was first developed by one of our innovative ancestors to slice, chop, and process meat to make it more edible. I imagine shortly after that invention, the same enterprising progenitor used his creation to cut the shit out of someone that was trying to take his knife-prepared food. Human nature has not changed that much, some people must be shuffled off of this mortal coil and someone must be prepared to do so.

So a knife was great for cavemen, why for us? As a good friend of mine is fond of saying, “Either your gun is a tool and you are the weapon; or your gun is the weapon and you are a tool.” To once again steal from Heinlein, “There is no such thing as a dangerous weapon, only dangerous men.”

Owning or carrying a gun does not make you dangerous. Your willingness to do whatever is necessary, to defend yourself and those that you love, is what makes you dangerous to those that would do you harm. Once you are in this mental state you are dangerous, everything else is a tool. Some are more effective than others.

By virtue of being a law-abiding citizen, one is almost always surprised by violence. A threat always presents itself at a time, in a place, and by a method not of our choosing. This may give the bad guy time to get within bad breath range. Bad-breath range MAY not be the time to introduce your pistol to the fight. It is your life. Do what you want to with it. However, you fight with the training, intensity, and tools that you have available. I am an American at heart. I enjoy certain excesses;  I believe that more, of all three, is better.

A general rule is: if the bad guy can reach you, he can reach your pistol. It is very easy for someone who knows what they are doing, or is just scared, to take your gun away from you. Failing that, it is very easy for someone who is panicking, as people do when they realize that they may be shot, to make your pistol inoperable. Pushing or grabbing the muzzle and slide of almost any automatic pistol will take it slightly out of battery. An out of battery pistol will not fire. Safeties can be reengaged and magazines unengaged. A finger between an exposed hammer and the firing pin will prevent a pistol from firing. The same finger inserted behind the trigger of any gun will keep it from firing. This maneuver is extremely painful and will likely result in the practitioner having the tip of their finger broken. However, that is a small price to pay for not being shot at contact range. All of these simple manipulations can leave you holding a dead-man’s gun.

My pistol-wise compatriots are already congratulating themselves on not having to worry about these types of things. I can hear you saying, “I shoot from retention!” Call it what you like: retention, hip positions (you have to love Fairbairn and Sykes), position two, the speed rock (you also have to love Chuck Taylor), whatever you want to term it, the idea is variations on a theme. For the uninitiated, retention shooting is firing from a position intended to protect the gun, gun hand, or gun arm from an opponent’s control. This is accomplished in slightly different ways, depending on the school you subscribe to, and your level of expertise. It is usually accomplished by holding some portion of the pistol against a part of your body, and then using your bodily orientation to aim the gun. It works. Retention shooting is something that anyone who carries a gun should be proficient with. However, it is not the answer to every situation. What about when you cannot, or do not want to, draw your pistol? This is usually when an attacker(s) has you in a position of physical control.

Example one: An unseen assailant has knocked you to the ground and assumed the mount position, also known as an MMA “ground and pound.” I am going to talk about martial arts and their implications in another article. However, the mount is fairly common (George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin) and any school-yard bully is familiar with it. It can also be deadly if you are on the receiving end. Your head is getting bounced off of the ground every time you take a punch, meaning that you are exactly one shot away from being knocked out. This effect is intensified if you are on concrete or some other hard surface.

If you carry behind the hip, your pistol is trapped between you and the ground. Reaching behind you to get it is a terrible idea. Any attacker with reasonable intelligence will trap your arm behind your back, leaving you only one arm with which to protect yourself. Your situation has gotten much worse.

If you carry on the hip, or appendix carry, your pistol is as accessible to your assailant as it is to you, and he has the leverage. If you reach for it he is going to draw it first, take it away from you, or simply use his thigh to trap your arm. None of these are an improvement on your situation.

If there is more than one assailant, his associate has carte blanche to kick you, punch you, or hit you with whatever is handy. You will not last long. Even worse, the second, third, or fourth guy has the ability to assault your companions, spouse, or children. You have to get this guy off of you NOW and get your pistol into action. Enter the knife.

Example two: An assailant that is perceived an instant too late traps you up against a wall, a parked car, or any other obstacle. You get your hand on your pistol but your attacker traps your hand, or you decide not to produce the gun. All of the above scenarios are valid, except for the facts that you have retained your feet and have a little more leverage. You need to get this guy off of you NOW and get your pistol into action.

There are several interesting studies out there concerning the mechanism of injury generated by knives and stabbing or slashing incidents. If medical language and autopsy photos do not bother you, I encourage you to take a look. Knife wounds are devastating. The cliff notes version i

: It takes very little force to penetrate the human body. Typically between one and six pounds of pressure, depending on how sharp the knife is. It requires a little more force when using an implement not necessarily designed to be sharp, like an ink pen, but not much more.

Studies have demonstrated that the average elite level boxer lands punches of around 700 pounds of force. Some have been recorded at around 1300 pounds of force per punch. Most of us are not elite level fighters. However, the average person can wield a knife with levels of force many orders of magnitude above what is required for effectiveness. What would be considered a puny punch changes its character when it is no longer a punch.

The average human can deliver 3-4 strikes, across an area approximately 2-3 feet in length, in the space of a second. Imagine for a moment that you have a knife in your hand instead of just making a fist, what does that look like?

Now imagine that you are old, slow, and arthritic. The guy on top of you is young, strong, and intent on smashing your head in. His first couple of punches have dazed you and made everything fuzzy. You manage to get your small pocket-knife deployed but your reaction times are garbage. While he is punching you the first stab goes in just above his waistline. He starts to react but a half-second later (literally twice the time it would take the average person) you hit him again in the middle of the rib cage. Depending on which side you stabbed your assailant likely has damage to a major organ and definitely has a punctured lung. The lung wound alone is incredibly painful and obviously detrimental to his breathing. Lack of oxygen makes it hard to think, move, or fight. All of these things are good for the home team. Your attacker may not even know that he had been stabbed, he does know that he is in intense pain and can’t breathe. Do you think that this guy wants to punch you anymore? Do you think he wants to stay on top of you?

You may have already ended the fight, but you have absolutely given yourself room to run, control the situation, or go to guns.

The question in this situation is: Do you have a knife (knives), and do you know how to use one?

In the next sections we will discuss the ubiquitous nature of knives and their global availability, what knife training to acquire and what knives to carry and how…

Continuing Attacks on “Stand Your Ground”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 20, 2013 by blackshepherd

Anti-gun associations have missed no opportunity to degrade so called “Stand Your Ground,” laws. All these laws say, is that an individual has no obligation to flee a deadly threat before responding in kind. An idea that is so much a part of natural law, that it is absurd that our society requires it to be enumerated.

There is a new anti-“Stand Your Ground,” public service announcement released by the “Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.” PSA  One only needs to visit the site of the “Coalition to Stop Gun Violence” to understand their point of view:

This PSA is based upon the emotion surrounding the Trayvon Martin/ George Zimmerman case; and little more. The video shows a highly inaccurate and stylized portrayal of the events surrounding the case. Then uses the generated emotion to denigrate “Stand Your Ground,” laws. This is yet another case of those who are aghast at the idea of average citizens having weapons, using negative emotion in lieu of fact and reason.

I will again, recommend Mike McDaniel’s researched and professional view of events as authoritative. If you have the guts, begin at the beginning:  Trayvon Martin- 1 of 30-something

I could editorialize this thing all night but I have to get up at 3:00am and go to do some real work.

Let me know what you think…

Paper Targets: Part Five- Conclusion

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 18, 2013 by blackshepherd

In the last four articles on this subject we have established that the ideal pistol target is three-dimensional and wearing clothes. It has the correct vital areas outlined on it and it moves. This target also drops when rounds are fired into the correct vital areas.

 Unfortunately, the only commercially available targets that meet these requirements are very expensive.  Even if we could afford them, most range facilities will not let us use them to their full advantage due to safety and liability concerns. So what do we do?

Failing perfection, we work with what we have. We train where, when, and how we can. We train with clear goals and tasks in mind. This is why I have broken down the problems with paper targets into five separate issues. No matter the constraints of your training area, time, or finances, each one of the issues with paper targets and their underlying training limiters, can be addressed every time you go to the range. My purpose was not harangue shooters about the type of target they use but to encourage you to think critically about your objectives, training plan, and performance.

For example: Our local range is antiquated, indoor, and only accommodates 2D targets. It will not even let you draw from the holster, much less move with a loaded handgun.

Even with these restraints, we can create targets that indicate the correct areas for shot placement, and then put clothes on them. This meets two of our training goals. With the addition of a good training partner, we can verbally simulate a target dropping to the ground after the requisite number of shots to the vital zone, meeting a third training objective.

By outlining our training goals, we can identify obstacles to our desired outcomes and can look for ways to get around them. We can also identify deficiencies in our training that need to be rectified.  This is far better than assuming that we are trained for a deadly force encounter solely because we can punch small shot groups into static targets, on a well-lit range. We are forcing ourselves to recognize that we are responsible for our own level of readiness and we must find ways to train. If that means working on everything that we can at our local range, and then make occasional extended trips to a different range that will allow us to draw from the holster and move with a loaded weapon, then so be it. As long as we are conscious of our training objectives, aware of our own deficiencies, and working to rectify them.

For my own amusement I decided to see how cheaply I could make a target that answers all five of the issues that we talked about. I bought a remote control ATV from Wal-Mart, pulled some bamboo planting stakes out of the yard, and grabbed some zip ties and cardboard from the garage. One hour,  $21.66, and half of a roll of duct tape later I had this:

RC ATV with bamboo planter

RC ATV with bamboo planter

Cardboard torso and head

Cardboard torso and head

Final product with old T-shirt and creepy facial features.

Final product with old T-shirt and creepy facial features.

It still requires another person to operate but it works pretty well. If you plan to go this route yourself, I would advise spending a little more on a wider and more powerful remote control vehicle. Version 2 will definitely incorporate that change. This is basically a cardboard scare crow. Your only limiting factors are your imagination and your willingness to think critically about training.

Paper Targets: Part Four

Posted in Uncategorized on August 3, 2013 by blackshepherd

Problem #5: It is too easy to identify bullet holes in paper targets.

This is an issue that many shooters never consider. When you shoot a hole into paper a paper target, the paper that was in the path of the bullet goes away. As a result, it is easy tell where the bullet impacted. This is not the case with people.

Despite what Hollywood has taught us, people that have been shot do not fly backwards through the air, they (usually) do not instantly drop everything in their hands, and they do not (usually) squirt blood into the air theatrically. It is very hard to tell if actual people have been shot.

 I have personally seen people that have been gravely injured, (shot, stabbed, cut, or impaled) and did not know about it themselves for minutes, or even hours. . On one memorable occasion, it took around five hours for an associate to realize that he had a very large chunk of metal, which did not belong there, in his upper arm. This realization was precipitated by me grabbing him by the arm, and him nearly jumping out of his skin. Before that, he literally did not know that he had been injured, (there was very little blood, it had leaked to the inside of his arm, and he was wearing heavy clothing) and was conducting himself normally. Once he knew that he has been injured he turned green and required immediate medical attention. The mind body connection cannot be discounted and humans are a unique mixture of strength and weaknesses.

People DO NOT fly backwards when shot. Newton’s third law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) exists in all applications. If a bullet generated enough force (mass x acceleration) to knock down a target, the same bullet would knock down the shooter that fired it. There is a great amount of energy in gunpowder. However, because that energy is dedicated to velocity, spread across a relatively small surface area, the tip of the bullet; bullets penetrate instead of imparting force. Bullets go into people instead of knocking them down. Think about the difference between a punch and a stab. A relatively gently punch to the chest, will do nothing more than push the recipient backwards. However, if our puncher is holding a sharp knife, instead of making a fist, then the knife will easily penetrate the recipient’s chest. This is because the same amount of force is imparted to a much smaller surface area. Instead of a gentle push we have a much less gentle puncture wound. Penetration instead of impact.

The same goes with bullets, they poke instead of punch. But, they poke very small holes. Look at the business end of your cartridge of choice; that is pretty much what you get. There have been great advances in cartridge technology within the last fifty or so years. There are many great hollow point, self-defense cartridges out there right now. Good ammunition must offer consistent feeding, ignition, expansion and penetration. However, no matter how much your chosen round expands, it is still pretty small. Small bullets make small holes. Small holes are hard to see.

The first obstacle to knowing if, or where, your shot has struck the intended target, is the front sight. You should be sharply focused on the front sight while engaging a threat. When you need to see your target you get the gun out of your face by going to the low ready position. The cue for doing this is your attacker going to the ground. Assess and act as necessary.

The second obstacle to seeing the impact of your round, is clothing. Surely there is the possibility of a shirtless, or god forbid, naked attacker, but most of the time even criminals will be wearing clothes. Clothing has a tendency to mask bullet holes. Dark colored, or heavy clothing exacerbates this effect.

The final obstacle to understanding where your bullet has impacted, is shooter expectation. Many people believe that an effectively placed shot will be instantly visible due to blood stains. This is often not the case. A bullet fired into the vital regions of the upper chest or head may do catastrophic damage, but cause very little external bleeding. There is a lot of space in the human body. Enough space for blood to flee the circulatory system; without escaping the body. People can bleed to death inside of their own bodies. In addition and as previously mentioned, bullets do funny things. One never knows exactly where their round may have ended up.

We have established that we should not see our bullets hit the target (front sight post) and probably cannot do so anyway (clothing, small bullet holes, lack of blood). How do we know that our gunfire is working? We are looking for effects on target. We want to stop whatever action, on the part of the initial aggressor, has triggered our use of deadly force. We shoot the best target available, as many times as are necessary to stop the threat. Once that threat is gone, we stop shooting and assess the target. If there are multiple targets, we serve bullets like turkey dinner. Everyone gets a helping, if anyone needs seconds or thirds, then we come back around and serve it up hot.

How to we train for this? The easy answer is to dress our targets and check our shot groups AFTER the shooting is over. If you are shooting a 2D paper target, draw the vital areas on it and then staple an old T-shirt to it. Check your shot placement in between strings. If you have a training partner, have them initiate a target drop after several good hits.

 If you have constructed a 3D target then actually dress it. Start with old clothes from the house and then go to the thrift store. The heavier, darker, or crazier patterned the clothes are, the better. The desired training result is to shoot the correct vital areas and stay on the front sight post while doing so. If you have purchased or constructed a target that moves and/or drops then it will make your training that much better. Learn to shoot for effects on target without looking for holes.

In the last and final section I will wrap this whole topic up by discussing holistic training programs and their implications for the concealed carry practitioner…