To The Gentleman In The White Pickup Truck Driving Eastbound On Immokalee Road Wednesday Night,

Dear Sir,

You’ve festooned the rear window of your truck with stickers that extol your favorite firearms and have augmented those with even more stickers advertising the NRA’s “Stand and Fight” campaign and all this is topped off with another sticker with an exhortation that reads “Don’t Tread On Me”.

I’m glad you enjoy guns and are willing to tell other people about your involvement with the Second Amendment.

However, you would be a better ambassador for firearms in general and the NRA in specific if you weren’t driving like an absolute maniac on a crowded rush-hour street. Dodging in and out of traffic and tailgating everyone who wasn’t going fast enough for your liking might be your way of letting the world know you’re “take charge” kinda guy and not a sheeple, but to me, it says you have no idea how to behave safely while in charge of a potentially dangerous instrument like a motor vehicle. Your reckless actions behind the wheel makes everyone around you (including me) very nervous, and in particular, it makes me wonder if you act as recklessly when you have one of your beloved firearms in your hands.

People read your stickers, and they watch what you do. One thing that was drilled into my head as I was preparing to be a missionary in Latin America is that I would be a missionary 24/7, not just when I was in missionary HQ.  People would look at my actions as a model of how Christians are to behave, and use how I behaved (or misbehaved) as a ruler for what being a Christian was all about. I learned the sometimes painful lesson that consistency and sincerity are better advocates for a cause than stickers and loud noises.

This is a lesson that you need to learn, Mr. Pickup Driver. Your stickers show your passions, but your behavior behind the wheel shows us your inability to control them.

Sincerely, and with great affection,

Me.

Equipment Upgades.

Nope, not gun stuff, photo stuff.

I’m looking at doing some more photo work for money (the best kind of photo work there is) in the near future, and I wanted to upgrade my lighting a bit.

I’ve been using light-painting quite a lot for my product photography work (with some pretty good results), but light-painting doesn’t work too well when you want to freeze a moving subject, so strobe power is what I needed.

I learned strobes by playing around with Vivitar 285s and sync cords, so the relatively cheap, powerful strobes and radio slaves of today just blow me away. Even the cheap stuff is really, really good and easily available.

From left to right:

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Neewer TT260 Strobe: This is not a whiz-bang TTL strobe with all the bells and whistles, but what it does, it does well. With a Guide Number of 180, it’s got a good amount of throw for a shoe-mounted flash (the 283s I learned on had a Guide Number of 120 at best), and for $40, I can use it and abuse it and not break the bank.

Neewer Radio Slaves: When I was shooting (snapsnap) for living, radio slaves cost a LOT of money, and some still do. These give me all the functionality of the radio slaves of the past at a fraction of the cost.
I love living in the future.

Neewer Remote Trigger: A wireless remote trigger for just over $5? Yes, please!

All this stuff (plus a light stand and a hot shoe stand adapter) will get your light off the top of the camera and out in the wild where it can do some really, really cool things, For example, here’s a shot I did for a former employer.

lady_downrange

That photo was taken with my ancient Nikon D70, and white/gold reflector and this photo setup, but just about any off-camera flash and a few light modifiers would get similar results. This was far from the most sophisticated lighting equipment and setup I’ve ever worked on, but it worked. Here’s the lighting setup:

lighting

I positioned the main light to her left because I knew she’d be standing with her right shoulder forward and I wanted the light to wrap around her face. Also,  a light from that direction would minimize the reflections on her glasses (Angle of Incidence = Angle of Reflection: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!). The hair light to the left and behind was to pop her out from the dark background, and the gold reflector was for warmth and also help separate her out from the background. I wasn’t too concerned about defining the shape of her head any more than that because a) there was shiny, shiny glass behind her that would reflect any light to her right and b) the light on the subjects int the would help separate her out. The light on the guys in back was dead-simple but I have to goose it up a bit because the light was further away from them than the main subject and it had to travel through glass. I had a small (2’x2′) soft box on the closer lights for a smoother, more controllable light and the back light had barn doors because I had to cover a lot of ground with it.

All this was setup and shot in under an hour and it went fast because I saw the shot I wanted in my mind first and I had enough practice at this sort of thing to make it happen.

There’s about 52 different ways what I just said could be applied to self-defense and shooting (bangbang), but I will leave that to all you to work out.

Match Report, USPSA At Hansen Range, 080716.

I came into this match with zero expectations of competency: I haven’t shot a serious match in over three months, and my practice regime has been spotty at best.

I wound up 25th of 36 shooters, and considering I blew one stage completely (which we won’t talk about) and that there was only two other Production shooters (more on that later), I’ll take it.

I wanted to see what the difference was between a upper C Class shooter like myself and an A Class Production shooter was, and video seemed the best way to accomplish this. I had someone record my run, then recorded a better shooter on his run and then spliced them side by side, with graphics to show you where each of us are on the stage at any given time (Spoiler alert: He finishes WAY ahead of me).

A screenshot from my video editing software also provides some insight: His splits are significantly quicker, he’s getting in and out of shooting positions faster and he’s not missing.

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In the past, I poo-poo’ed the idea that physical fitness was a major component of practical shooting, but now I’m beginning to re-re-think that idea.

A Truly Senseless Tragedy.

Why, oh why, was blank ammunition used in a gun that was pointed at another person?

A woman has reportedly been shot and killed by a police officer during a Citizens Academy class at the Punta Gorda Police Department.
According to the Punta Gorda Police Chief, 73-year-old Mary Knowlton was shot several times by a police officer in a role-playing scenario where the officer was playing the “bad guy,” and the woman was playing a victim.
Two participants were selected from the class of 35.
The officer was supposed to be firing blank rounds, but live ammunition was used instead.

I am (very) marginally ok with blank ammo being used solely to simulate the sound of gunfire, but even that idea gets a C- grade from me. We have so many different options out there now, there is almost no reason to use blanks. Heck, even Hollywood realizes the danger of blanks and uses “non-guns” these days as much as they do real guns with blanks in them.

Not only are we living in a golden age of firearms training, we are in a golden age of firearms training accessories. Airsoft, SIRT, blue guns, LaserLytes… they are all available with zero qualification needed. Blank ammunition should be left on the silver screen and starters guns where it belongs,

Update: Thinking a bit more about this, that poor lady was shot several times before the cop realized “Oh, crap, I just shot someone!”, and this done was under non-life threatening conditions.  We only have X amount of attention to any given task at any given moment, and at that moment, all that cops attention was focused on getting his hits (which he unfortunately did). The red mist took over, and someone died. Also, one of my biggest takeaways from this is that advanced tactical training requires a teacher with advanced tactical training. We don’t know if it was a SWAT cop who fired those shots or just some beat cop making a few extra bucks by teaching a class, but either way, the methods used in this simulation were NOT those used by any respectable trainer I’ve ever heard of. If you’re taking an active shooter class (or any advanced class) from someone with just an NRA PPIH Instructor degree on his wall or from someone who breaks the Four Rules of Gun Safety, safely put your gun away, smile politely and leave as quickly as you can.

Update II: There was a newspaper photog there, on-scene as it happened, and her account is over here. Take a look at this photo she snapped of the officer as he was about to discharged his firearm.

Punta Gorda Shooting

He’s not using a police issue Glock 22, he’s using a snubbie revolver of some kind. That means that he or someone else had to have seen every single bullet that went into that revolver before he shot that lady. If you or I tried a stunt like that, we’d be looking at manslaughter or negligent homicide charges.

Good Times, Good Cause.

I made a long, long drive up to Bradenton last week to meet up with Chris Baden, Lee Williams and a bunch of other shakers and movers in the S. Central Florida gun world, and I had a great time. It was nice to dabble my toe back into the local Florida gun waters, and I got to meet the people behind some cool places like the Manatee Gun Club, Amendment II Armory, T1 Ammo and DW Ballistics.

I’ve shot at Manatee before, and while it’s not Ben Avery (what is?), it’s one of the better outdoor ranges I’ve been to. They’ve been through a rough patch as of late, but they’ve got a great opportunity to become one of nation’s premier shooting ranges, and I look forward to shooting there in the future.

Confidence. It’s What You Carry.

Yes, I know, that’s Glock’s slogan and I don’t own a Glock. But Ruger stole a slogan from me, so I’m stealing from Glock. After all, all’s fair in love, war and advertising slogans.

I wanted to work out more with my Smith & Wesson Shield in a challenging, semi-realistic environment, so I went to Step By Step Gun Training’s “Shoot and Scoot” event on Sunday at Louland Gun Range to work on dealing with “regular” self-defense scenarios as well as defending against a “black swan” active shooter event.

And I was very pleased with the results.

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Take a look at the left-center target in the photo: That’s a 1/2 size USPSA target set up 22 yards away from firing line. On Ballistic Radio a few weeks ago, Greg Ellifritz laid down a number that corresponds with something I’ve mentioned in the past, namely, how much time will you have to take a shot on the bad guy with your defensive sidearm?

Greg suggests that it should take you no more than two seconds to put a round on-target from 50 yards away, or 3 seconds if you’re drawing from concealment. That small target size in that time frame is quite the challenge for a shooter, and I was curious to see if my current carry gear was up to the task.

And it was. Sorta.

Initially, I had two issues putting rounds on-target and on-time. My usual cover garment, an untucked t-shirt, was getting caught on the butt of my pistol, slowing my times, and I was missing the target. Surprisingly, there was one solution to both problems: I wasn’t lifting up my carry garment enough. Grabbing my t-shirt and pulling it up to my armpit on the draw allowed me to completely clear it away from my gun, and having my support hand so far up my body on the draw allowed my hands to come together closer to my peripheral vsion, meaning I picked up sights faster and put rounds on target.

After Jeff and Robyn worked with me on my draw, I went three-for-three on that plate, with draw-to-shoot times of 2.55, 2.63 and 2.75 seconds, well below the three seconds that Greg recommends as a baseline.

I can dig it. Thanks, guys!

All in all, compared to the last time I tried this, I was pleasantly surprised how the Shield performed in my hands. I hit my targets: Going 4 for five on that small 32 yard distant plate waaaaay in the back was definitely a highlight. I’m pretty confident in my abilities and my gear right now, and that’s a good thing indeed.

Is This Derp Really Necessary?

This greeted me when I checked Facebook on Saturday morning. This is a conversation from a FB group for the small community in the midst of the Florida Everglades where I live. MAFA is a martial arts dojo near me which specialize in the usual things that strip mall martial arts studios specialize in, except they teach Krav Maga instead of a variant form of karate or taekwondo.

Ummmn, ok… blank ammo used in what was obviously an “Active Shooter Defense For Dummies” class? Now, I had a post written, already to go, about how using blanks in a training class, for any reason, is a bad idea.

But then I stopped by the dojo on Monday and talked with one of the trainers about how they used blanks and why, and it changed my mind. They used the blanks outside to do what blanks are meant to do: Simulate the sound of gunfire as realistically as possible. They shot the blanks off outside so the people inside the dojo could a) understand what gunfire (sorta) sounds like and b) get used to localizing the sound of gunfire and reacting accordingly.

Ok, I can dig that. There were a lot of people in that class who had never heard what rapid gun shots sound like, so in this case, it did some good. Now, we can debate the usefulness of active shooter classes at another time. I’m not really a fan because they teach a limited skill set that is useful only in (very) rarely occuriring situations, but hey, a dojo’s gotta keep the doors open and the lights on, and if the Sig Academy teaches similar, who are we to judge?

I wouldn’t do teach such a class and I don’t think I’d go to a class that teaches such things, but that doesn’t mean it was dangerous or ill-advised. If it gets people pointed towards other instructors who know what they’re doing, then it’s a good thing.

 

Setting The Narrative.

You see what you expect to seeBreach, Bang and Clear posted a photo from the North Miami police department on a recent police-involved shooting that went really, really wrong.

The police shooting of an African-American caregiver, who was lying in the street trying to help an autism patient, was accidental, according to the local police union representing the North Miami officer.

The officer had intended to shoot the patient, whom he thought posed a danger, but accidentally shot the caregiver instead, said John Rivera, the President of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association.

Now, the question is, why did the cops roll in there thinking that there was a danger of someone getting shot? Because the dispatcher told them there was a man with a gun on-scene threatening suicide.

Turns out it was a toy truck.

There are lots and lots of things to talk about here regarding police training and use-of-force, but I’m going to let others talk about such things. My takeaway from this is different: Because of the bad information that was sent to the dispatchers from the calling in the incident, the cops rolled up expecting to see certain things, and reacted as if those things were occurring, even though they weren’t.

Still think you shouldn’t call the cops and be the one to set the narrative in their minds after a defensive gun use?

I don’t. The first narrative is always, always the one that tends to stick. The sooner you get your story out in front of law enforcement (under the guidance of a lawyer, of course), the better off you’ll be.