Sunday, January 25, 2015

A minor stab at blog feng shui.

I've made a few changes to the blog layout, mostly minor things like the link list and the mobile template, and may make a few more as I learn about how they come across.  It's been a fat long time since I've done any such things, and if you have any suggestions on this, please do feel free to comment, as my mind is at least a little bit on the subject.  (And if any of you know how to take greater control of the captcha function in Blogger, beyond the simple "yes/no" of turning it on and off, I'd love to know about it.  :-)

Arthur Silber is back at it.

Over at Once Upon A Time, Arthur Silber weighs in on the thunderous worship of American Sniper.  As usual, he lays it out well, and also as usual, he stays very close to his core subject matter.  Here's your teaser, with that latter idea in mind:
In the midst of this blood-drenched celebration of unnecessary, avoidable murder, I heard one especially stupid comment. A local Los Angeles radio host lamented that, during his time in office, Mr. Obama has never uttered Chris Kyle's name. Obama has failed to grant the recognition due this great hero. When I heard that, I had an odd, funny thought. Of course Obama isn't going to mention Kyle, I thought. Kyle is his competition.

Obama is the Murderer-in-Chief. He devoted years and enormous energy to becoming the Murderer-in-Chief. And you expect him to share this great achievement with some two-bit sniper? 160 confirmed kills? That's a morning's work for Obama. Surely we recall that Obama devotedly continues -- and expands -- the infernal work of American Empire in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and in countless countries around the globe. Surely we recognize that Obama considers the lives of tens of thousands of people, most of them entirely innocent by any standard, as completely expendable in the pursuit of American global hegemony.

On top of this, we surely recall that Obama has a Kill List, and that his Murder Program has been widely publicized in the nation's leading newspapers. The U.S. government has been at great pains to make sure that we all know about the Kill List and the Murder Program in excruciating detail -- and that we know that Obama himself is critical in directing all these operations. The U.S. government, led by Obama, claims that it may kill anyone it chooses, anywhere in the world, for any reason it offers, or for no reason at all. Why would Obama even notice a pipsqueak like Kyle?

Do please RTWT.  As usual, it's worth the effort.

Although I can hardly find cause to argue that Silber is wrong in any of this, I find myself more interested in pursuing the angle of having a functional understanding of the role of protecting  comrades, but simply being unwilling to elevate it, uncritically, to heroic status as the masses seem to expect us all to do.  And that, of course, is a simple matter of "you knew this about the job when you took it--or you should have".  By definition, a military sniper is a hired killer who takes his orders from a third party.  His morality and ethics are deliberately outsourced, and see, right there you've lost me.  Further, that morality is, knowingly, outsourced to a group of people that are known liars, known propagandists, known murderers, known sociopaths... To take killing orders on their word--and take money for it--uh, no, this fits no definition of "heroism" I have ever heard. 

It's good to see Silber back at it.  May his health hold out longer still!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oh, I so wish I could have seen Jeff Cooper's response to this.

First via Facebook, then various other sources, I run across one Lars Anderson, student and practitioner of what might be called "practical archery".

First, check this out.  I'd say "watch the whole thing", but honestly, if you can stop watching after just a few seconds, I'm not sure there's much I can do to help you:

Okay, there's all the obvious awesome, and I do not mean to take from that.  But for me, I think the most significant takeaway is that this is an instance of how craft makes a giant leap forward, and it is beautifully succinct as a statement thereof.  Aside from the aspect of "rediscovering what has been long forgotten" (which is a whole other level of awesome), what Anderson has done here is just the same as what Jeff Cooper did to bring pistolcraft from an idea to a science.

Cooper, I strongly suspect, would have loved Anderson's approach of optimizing the instrument based on a combination of exhaustive historical research, and modern empirical assessment.  I would so love to have seen Cooper's take on it, from his own hand.

And now I'm wondering how and where the "practical archery" bug might go...  :-)

Dang, that's awesome.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Do they or don't they?

Hurt "the cause", that is.  Lately it seems that there is much agoggery over whether flamboyant open carry at political protests is "constructive" (or the replacement term of your choice).  And here I mean internecine agoggery--not just the usual histrionics from the progs, but an escalating wailing and gnashing from the prags as well.  Those "extremist" brutes!

I dunno, it seems to me that the vast bulk of it all misses the point entirely.  After all, this is just another redux of the prag/anti-prag argument, isn't it?  Professional Incremental Surrender Salesmen (yes, that's PISSers) love to rationalize their enduring appetite for prolonging the misery, by attacking people earnestly aggravated at being deliberately pinned into a "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" position...who themselves turn increasingly to ever-clumsier tactics which seem destined to intensify the misery. 

And of course the progs do love it when the prags piss on the pissed-off.

(Me, I like to think that the very clumsiness of protest tactics may actually be an endearing demonstration of character.  Perhaps I'm being naiive, but somehow, recognizing that people whose principal interest* is to be left in peace, just might never be all that successful at using collectivist methods to appeal to collectivist institutions within a collectivist system...well, I'm just not all that sure I want it to be otherwise, you know?)

But here's the thing.  Most of the commentary I've seen on the "do they or don't they" topic thus far, views the protesters and their methods as somehow a cause of a problem, rather than as a symptom.  Which strikes me as far more damaging to whatever principle or point that anyone might wish to make, than anything either "side" might accuse the other of in the intramural gameplay.

No, it really doesn't matter how you define "extremist".  (After all, as the old saying goes, an "anarchist" is anyone who believes in less government than you do, right?)  The more important question is:  however you might define "extremism", why does it exist?  Why, exactly, do these people now feel the need to strap up and make a parade of something they never made a point of before?  Because that sort of thing doesn't happen in a vacuum.

And, I would argue that failing to recognize reality for what it is, is as close to a sure ticket for total failure as there could ever be--whatever it is you're trying to do.

Now:  prags love to trot out the idea that there are better ways to expend energy than the circular firing squad.  Which is true as far as it goes, of course, but it does seem a bit juvenile to then suggest remedies which essentially consist of suppressing and marginalizing dissent, quite often using precisely the same procedural tools and institutions as those they claim to be fighting.  (Insert fractal irony vamp here.)  Look:  for those who simply must look down their noses at others "less civilized" than they, wouldn't it be more "constructive" to channel that need toward the primary threat?  You know, something like:  "Look, progs, at what you have created.  These people didn't come out of nowhere;  they have been produced by your continued assault on all peaceable means of redress.  Have you not noticed how their numbers steadily increase, and their tactics grow ever more rebellious?"  See how this still permits the demonstration of superiority (over both the progs and the intransigent friendlies), but expends the energy generally forward instead of backward?  You know, that "not targeting your own" thing that prags so love to accuse others of?

And I am reminded here, as well, of an observation that Mike Vanderboegh loves to make:  that there are always others more extreme than the ones standing up in public.  The idea that refusing to listen to a Mike Vanderboegh, on account of he's "too extreme", completely fails to recognize that he may be effectively holding back others even less interested in backing up.  I would think that this would be a most desirable tool for the truly "pragmatic", as it arguably represents a possible way to not just staunch the bleeding and hold, but actually make up ground.  "You say, progs, that you want 'compromise', which any kid can tell you means that we both give something and we both take something.  Lovely.  You've had a helluva run, but here's what we are taking this time.  What, you don't like that?  Don't wanna talk to me any more?  Well, you could do that, but then you'll have to deal with them, directly.  You don't wanna do that." 

I'm certainly not agreeing with this sort of simple jockeying (sadly, I used to, years ago when I thought 'pragmatism' was the right thing to do), but it does seem somewhat amazing that more is not made of it as a tool at the gameplay level.  Truth is, I can't bring myself to fully embrace the protest "movement" either.  It just seems to me that appealing to the political system to fix a problem which is ultimately the system itself isn't going to suddenly start working where it has never worked before.  Not to say that both individual and mass displays of defiance and solidarity can't have a constructive effect--but I would argue that when they do it successfully, it is by being beyond the politics, rather than of them.

But ultimately, it doesn't really matter whether I or anyone else likes them or not:  the clumsy protests exist, and it would seem to behoove all parties--progs, prags and the truly uncompromising--to recognize why.  What they are a symptom of.

Perhaps with more emphasis on reality rather than playbook, the progs can realize that they are (to borrow again from Vanderboegh) poking a wolverine with a stick, and had better be very careful what they wish for.  Maybe the uncompromising can recognize that the power they have is not within the system but outside it, and not in flamboyance but in everyday normalcy.  And maybe the prags can realize that, if gunnies really don't like being spoken for by progs (which seems to be well-enough understood), maybe the reason is that they don't like being spoken for by anybody--not just because they're not adequately "represented".

Somehow all that reminds me of an object lesson I got many years ago now.  In coming to grips with the reality of an impending divorce that I did not want, I was visiting with some dear friends and going through the "was it me?" exercise in self-flagellation.  It was in that conversation that the following exchange happened:

[Paraphrasing] "Kevin, you've often gone out of your way to accommodate and help her out.  For a long time, in a lot of different ways, and regardless of the cost to yourself."

"Sure.  I couldn't just stand by and not help out.  I guess I've always approached the idea of marriage that way."

"So, do you see it as your responsibility to help her?"

"Sure, as a husband, I'd see that as something I should do."

"Hm.  How arrogant," she said, with the most earnest smile I had ever seen.

Pluperfect accuracy.  (She may have been the only person in my life at that time--perhaps excepting my sister--who could have delivered that for full point value with so much extra credit.  She and her husband are among the most important friends I have ever had, against all considerations of distance and time.)  And such a necessary lesson for me to see properly.

It's hard to overstress that point.  Times are downright dangerous these days, and we should all keep our heads up.  Peter Capstick once said, "The only thing worse than seeing a black mamba at close range, is not seeing a black mamba at close range."

Truly.  Maybe "do they or don't they" isn't where we should be spending our time.

* Yes, I'm presuming that most people's real interest is to be left alone.  That most people are only invested and interested in the political system because they have been convinced that it is inevitable.  Perhaps I'm wrong in ascribing more power to simple inertia than to the incentive of the teat, but that's where I am nonetheless.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A pleasant fun shop surprise.

Had an unexpectedly pleasant chat with a counter-fella at one of my "local" fun shops, and got a chance to do a little more side-by-side comparison of a few defensive pistols.  Some interesting data points, plus a real surprise I wasn't expecting from a piece I hadn't met before now.

I've written here before about being impressed by the Springfield XD-S 4.0 as the logical heir to the Colt Commander.  I still stand by that idea on the whole, but I have to admit that a S&W Shield in .40 seems to stand right there with the XD-S 3.3 in .45, as an EDC pistol.  It's comfy in the hand, and dang if that thumb safety doesn't continue to work every time I try it out, despite always looking and feeling "too small".

I also got to compare the single-stack XD-S against double-stack XD-Ms in both .40 and .45, and essentially confirmed what I'd concluded last time I handled those guns:  as double-stacks go they are among the most comfortable I've met--but I still don't much care for double-stack guns.

Trigger comparisons were very interesting, especially now having met a sufficient handful of examples of each model.  Both among XD pistols and Shields, it seems that the quality of both trigger pull and reset can be highly variable in individual samples, and when the time finally comes for me to acquire one for myself, I will probably just shop triggers.  (That may yet be a while, of course, both with my being freshly unemployed and having used up a great deal of gun karma on the Gunsmoke projects.  And to be honest, my humble little Kahr CW40 already serves this functional need;  has done so admirably for nearly a decade now.)  At their best, all can be very good;  at their worst they are still better than revolver triggers, and most seem to be distinctly in between.

All this is mostly confirmation of previous meetings, of course.  It's good to see the consistencies stack up, and I now think I can discuss these pieces with a bit more confidence when noobs ask me questions.  Fortunately, there is much of interest to discuss between the XD-S and Shield options.

Then, I had occasion to pick up a Walther PPQ, which I had not met before. 

It's not in the same category as the XD-S / Shield / Kahr;  Walther's entry in that space is the PPS, which I've not met in firearm form yet.  (I do have a spring-piston Airsoft replica PPS, and frankly I've been pretty impressed with it thus far--I hope to meet the firearm soon.)  The PPQ is a full-sized pistol in 9mm and .40, and most dimensions and stats seem pretty standard and even humdrum.

In the hand, though, that grip is uniquely comfortable.  It is far and away the most comfortable double-stack grip I have ever picked up.  I'll be interested to see if I have the same experience next time;  I was not expecting it to be that nice.  Most of the rest of it seemed to be as I'd expect from a brand like Walther, and I suspect it will run as well as anything else in its class.  On the downside, I'm not a fan of the overtly trapezoidal slide (a slab-sided slide is easier to manipulate) and I positively dislike large slide stops. 

Then I tried the trigger. 

Really?  Whoa, that was nice!  Will it do that again?  Then I tried the reset, and nearly fell over.  The fella behind the counter started giggling knowingly, having seen my expression after running the test. "I see you noticed," he said.  "Hell yeah I noticed.  Jeez, is that for real?"  I asked, racking the slide over and over again to prove to myself I hadn't hallucinated it.  At least on this example, yeah, it's for real.

This is a striker-fired pistol, but I swear that trigger felt nearly like a 1911 in its release and reset.  Not a match 1911 maybe, but certainly a good street gun.  Like no other striker-fired gun I've seen, tuned or otherwise.  Sure, I realize maybe it's just this one example, but it sure got my attention, and you can be certain that I'll check out every PPQ I can find for a while, to see if it's inherent to the design.  If it is, then at the price I saw this gun at, that is one hell of a value in a full-sized pistol.

I'd kinda written Walther off years ago, on account of not liking their fire-control systems, but between the promise of the PPS and this first introduction to the PPQ, I think I may have to rethink that.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Now that is well said.

First saw this via Facebook, then noticed that Claire blogged it too.  (I suspect I'll see more.)

Every day I get up and put on a gun. It’s part of my daily routine. No different from making coffee or feeding the dogs before I leave for work.

There is so much misinformation about who that makes me. I’m a “gun nut.” I’m one of “those right-wing Second Amendment people.” I’m the scourge of the earth to some.

Funny how that works.

They don’t even know me but they are worried that I’m what’s wrong with this country, this state and this city I call home. I walk among them and they don’t even know it.

Usually at this point, such an article starts to go downhill;  this one doesn't.  Please do RTWT.  It's good enough that I want it bookmarked here:  there's just a whole lot of "damn right!" in these words. 

Were I tasked to find a nit to pick, I'd say it's too bad he's a "reserve police officer", which of course a certain type of crusading ninny will take as a validation of the "cops have magical training" mythology;  I think he would have come across much more powerfully as a complete everyman.  But what he says here is above that, and even I will admit that if society continues to insist (for us all) that we must have "reserve police officers", I'd sure welcome this attitude as a nearly incomprehensible improvement over what has grown to become "normal" among the enforcement class.

A good resource that I intend to share.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year.

A short milestone post, really.  It's not even so much "mental tab clearing"--that would be a full-time job in and of itself.  Nonetheless, it somehow seems worth setting down some updates, and the turn of a new year is not a bad time to do it.

I'm happy to get on with 2015.  2014 had way too much major-caliber ugliness in it, especially late in the game.  I lost my job in November, which is enough of a disruption by itself, but it also meant I finally got thrown into the whole ACA mess (I still think Arthur Silber stated it about as well as anyone could have), which has proven to be every bit the Kafka-esque mess that we all knew it would be.  (Best I say as little about it as possible.)  I was made aware of way too many sudden, aggressive cancers in people that I know, often acting so fast that I heard of the attack only after its lethal conclusion.  Other debilitating sicknesses.  Frustrating and demoralizing turns of work and life that seemed to feature a complete lack of even Pyrrhic remedies.  The ever-present relentlessness of those who would force their better way of life onto us all.  And above all, the still-unfolding saga of my poor neighbor, who is currently living every father's worst nightmare.  (Another topic I will try to say as little as possible about, until it is all concluded, but rest assured "every father's worst nightmare" is the most literally accurate term I have been able to come up with.)

There were some bright spots, of course.  Of greatest interest to this column is that it was a darn fine "gun year", with the conclusion of all four Gunsmoke projects that I originally commissioned way back when we moved to Alaska.  Unfortunately, the largest part of the bill hit late in the year, right as I lost my job, but still, these are magnificent projects that will undoubtedly be featured here in the future.  As well, the year also featured the launch of both the Airsoft adventure and, again right before the employment scramble, the launch of the hunting airgun project.  These are all encouraging things.

And the best of it, damn it all, will carry into 2015.  (That includes Wilmeth Critter V3.0, due in May.  :-)

I'm intending to keep on in "outrage fatigue recovery" mode for as long as possible, and with luck this space will see a great deal of T&E, constructive planning, and new ideas.  We'll see, of course--if I need the outlet, the outlet it will be.  But for now, 2014 is happily in the rear-view, and I'm going to focus on making self-determinancy (how's that for poetic license?) the prominent feature of 2015.

Happy New Year, fellow outcasts, heretics, and decent people everywhere.