Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Missed It!

I'm a little embarrassed. It's not as if I have a huge lot of posts to brag about, but there ARE certain little milestones. For the past couple of days, I've been sort of paying attention as I approached 50,000 visits to my blog site. I was busy earlier today, doing stuff away from home. When I returned, there were some chores to be done.

Sure enough, when I checked in on Sitemeter a few minutes ago, I saw that the counter said 50,102. Well, blast! The way my Sitemeter account is set up, I can only check back for the past one hundred visits. I was just a little bit late - - No way to tell anything about hit number 50,000. I wasn't really going to award any prize or anything, just to make mention of the origination point and such.

I guess it wasn't such a big thing. I'll make a point to notice it when I approach number 100,000.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Opinions, Informed and Uninformed

T’other day, friend Tamara did a blog post entitled, “Everybody’s an Expert."

If you haven’t already read it, I suggest you do so, and be sure to read the comments. It may make my points more clear. Her post, deceptively brief, is based on the idea that there are so many self-styled internet experts who are truly less informed than she is, that there’s little use in bothering to read most of them. The Comments section on that post provide all the documentation she needs for HER PREMISE: ". . . one reason I've shied away from intarw3bz gun boards so much; everybody's an expert, and nobody's opinion counts for more than anyone else's. Any enthusiastic hobbyist can hang out a shingle and profess their expertise."

In the above-linked blogpost, Tams includes links to several individuals whose opinions she holds in some regard. They are worth looking at. MOST of ‘em, anyhow. I was honored -- and utterly stunned -- to see that she also linked to my own poor efforts at writing. Puzzled, too - - I swear, I have absolutely nothing on her. No possibility of blackmail, extortin’ or anything else. I am indeed unworthy, but - - Many thanks, Sis.

A couple of the commenters write stuff that has the crystal-clear ring of truth to it. I’ve never encountered Ed Foster before, but if he has half the background he indicates, he’s very knowledgeable. In this case, a hour’s diligent Google search turned up a couple of references that give me to believe they refer to the same Ed Foster. If you see anything he wrote the AR15/M16 series of weapons, he seems to bear reading.

Tamara likes guns. She collects, them, shoots them on the range, reads about them, writes about them, and has sold them for a living. She is extremely knowledgeable about marketing, merchandising, stocking, and counseling individuals about the various brands, types, and uses. If asked about something on which she is uneducated, she’ll likely say, “I dunno. Let me do some checking and I’ll get back to you.” She may share whatever she DOES know on the topic, but I can’t picture her trying to bluff or lie her way through with some BS pontification. When she encounters such behavior in others, she is apt to be less than tolerant. This is likely one reason she is sometimes less than totally forthcoming with her firearms knowledge. An excellent and amusing example is HERE.

She has a secondary blog, though she hasn’t posted on it recently. I still check by occasionally, though, hoping she’ll take pity and favor us with a new installment on The Arms Room. Even if she doesn’t, it’s highly worth your while to wade through the archives on that site.

Anyway, while I was mowing the lawn, Tam’s post set me to pondering. I’m formulating a theory to at least partially explain the “Uninformed Expertise” or the vanishingly narrow line of informed opinion so readily visible on the ‘net nowadays. To limit the scope of this article, I’ll restrict it to firearms matters. Freely shared topics of apparent misinformation frequently include a few common - - -

Regarding infantry weapons reliability:

My great-aunt’s second husband served two tours in THE ‘NAM and says the jam-o-matic M16 got 80% of his best buddy’s cousin’s regiment killed.” First, how much third- and fifth-hand hearsay and anecdotal embellishment is considered acceptable? You kind of hate to challenge a story-teller by flying the BS Banner, because this impugns the integrity of someone HE doubtless considers of flawless credibility.

Beyond doubt, many M16s, used by poorly trained troops, often with improper ammunition, DID NOT work well at very inopportune moments. With all respect to those who actually met their end under such shameful circumstances, I must wonder how many such cases were truly documented. I believe it is mostly a matter of some significant number of real instances being told and retold and “made better” to the point of saturation.

About firearms effectiveness:

"Ol' Uncle Joe told me about the time he killed a twelve-foot polar bear stone dead with one shot from his .25-20. A man don't need any of them big guns for huntin'. "

"My Cousin Bill says it always took 30 shots from his M16 to stop an Iraqi."

So, what can one do? Tell them that this information is contrary to all logic? Call him a liar, or, worse, impugn the cuz or uncle?

While a teenager in the late 1950s, I learned that the pastor at our little Methodist Church, a WWII veteran, had been a prisoner of war. I asked him about his experiences. In brief, as a young company commander, he’d waded onto Omaha Beach on The Longest Day . He evaded questions about how rough it was. He did say that he landed with an M1 carbine and a .45, but during the advance, he left the carbine and obtained a Garand rifle, wanting the additional range and effectiveness. It impressed me that he’d not only commanded men under fire but had actually shot people himself. It never occurred to me to ask about his other expertise. He decided what he needed, surviving not only combat, but months as a POW. He WAS an expert on that particular aspect of small arms lore, but never cared to stress it.

It is logical that any combat veteran will have a working knowledge of the weapons in his unit. A World War II infantryman, of whatever rank, would have been quite familiar with the M1 rifle, carbine, .45 pistol, B. A. R., Thompson or M3 submachine gun, and probably a Browning machine gun. Other specialties would have known the "bazooka" rocket launcher, flamethrower, mortars, and heavy machine guns. It should be stressed that most individuals could be considered highly competent with only one or two of the various weapons.

The weapons changed in succeeding conflicts but the principle applies. Many men were good - - perhaps excellent-- with their primary tool, but usually cared little for firearms as a whole field. They did what was needful and most survived. Many assume that this gives the veterans across-the-board expertise. Think, though: One may know many competent mechanics, but only a couple of truly talented machinists; many good drivers but precious few automotive enthusiasts who know cars inside and out.

Much of the above also applies to police officers. Really, the typical cop has far narrower weapons knowledge than a soldier. I’ve known several long time State Troopers whose sum total of weapons experience encompassed a .357 magnum revolver, a pump shotgun, and a Winchester .30-30. Many had previous experience with a .22 rifle, perhaps a deer rifle and a bird gun. That’s it.

A city police officer’s experience is likely even more modest. Many enter police academy never having fired a gun of any type. The candidate trains diligently on, say, the Glock, Smith & Wesson, or SiG pistol. They devote a lot of time teaching the rookie firearms orientation, weapons maintenance, marksmanship, and a bit on tactics. Integral in the course is familiarization with the pump shotgun. Once the rookie graduates academy, the department cares not if he ever does more than fire the qualification course with the issue pistol, and, perhaps once a year, the riot gun. The patrol carbine is becoming more common, but it is still a toss up as to whether the individual officer may be termed even competent with an AR15, Ruger Mini-14, or something else. He may have “fam fired” it, and even been issued one, but well trained and practiced? Unlikely.

Those soldiers and those peace officers may be well qualified to discuss their particular weapon. Possibly even to compare it to another gun or two of the type. But having packed a particular weapon for months or even years, gives a certain person standing ONLY to discuss it, and not all those of various types.

Now, next time you read someone who writes that he was “on the job” for years with some police agency, large or small, read closely what he/she writes. If it deals with one or at most two firearms types, then this may be a measure of credibility. If the writer makes free to say THIS brand is teh VERY best, or THAT brand sux big time, there needs to be some recitation of credentials. Reading Mason Williams’ features in old issues of Law and Order magazine, and a couple of articles by Massad Ayoob is not in-depth research.

It is one thing to say, “current literature indicates that that the Remchester patrol carbine doesn’t reliably feed Ely match .416 ammo.“ Better still if the writer furnishes at least one link to someone who has done a bit-o'-testing. It is quite another thing to imply personal knowledge of a firearm/ammo combination with which the writer has ZERO experience.

I’ve been a firearms enthusiast and hobbyist since my early teens. I read ALL I could find on small arms, police and military, and EVERY chance I had to fire one and/or take one apart, I did so. In time, I felt pretty secure in my knowledge of certain areas, though perhaps relying too heavily on what others wrote. It took me years to learn that reading something in print doesn’t necessarily make it true. Today, many accept anything they see on-screen as gospel. You’ll seldom go wrong seeking second and third sources for ANY controversial statement. Unfortunately, it is now possible for the most egregiously uninformed -- or downright MISinformed -- person to aver something as UTTER and ABSOLUTE fact. And, a certain writer managing to claw his way to an internet connection may lead the unsuspecting reader to ascribe a measure of reliability to the “information.”

“The Supreme Irony of the Information Age is that it gives new respectability to uninformed opinion.”
John Lawson, US Journalist – 1995
- - written some 13 years ago, before internet proliferation made it ten times as true. Anyone with a computer and a connection can get his words, however unworthy, spread around the globe n a matter or hours. In minutes, if he comes up with something controversial.

In recent years, I’ve pretty well resolved not to post anything technical about which I don’t have some measure of personal knowledge, or at least a credible, attributable cite. I do sometimes write my opinion off the top of my head, based solely on knowledge gleaned from several decades of handling and shooting various firearms. I have some standing to do so, based upon my personal experience and research, simply because this is my area of interest. I’m fully aware that there are many great gaps in my knowledge the of things which do interest me. I’m moving to fill some of them as fast as I can. I won’t last long enough to get ‘em all, but it’s always fun to learn, and maybe even understand, interesting stuff.

Most other topics, of perhaps more general interest, hold no fascination for me. Back in the day, I learned how drive a car pretty well and could do a minor tune-up on my own vehicles, purely for economic reasons. And I could stumble through a basic recitation of the operation of the internal combustion engine, but had no deep concern about the underlying principles of automotive design.

I tried to play golf but it bored me. To this day, I can’t tell you the numbers or purpose of a basic set of clubs. I know many individuals who are mightily challenged by the pursuit and punishment of the little dimpled ball, and if it makes them glad, hurrah for ‘em.

I am content to try to learn more about more and different shootin’ irons. I occasionally stray off into the philosophy which attaches to them. I’m getting tired tonight, though, and maybe I’ll cover some of that another time. If you’d like to know more on this last topic, go read these two excellent essays:
Metal and Wood, b
y Dennis Bateman, and Why the Gun is Civilization, by Marko Kloos, the REAL author.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Film Nostalgia? Space Film.

The Valley Theatre, Alameda Blvd, El Paso, Texas - - some time in 1954. High anticipation. The previous week, I’d seen the preview of the newly released science fiction feature, “Riders to the Stars.”

The trailer was full of swoopy rockets, dauntless men in space suits, a beautiful woman, futuristic electronics gear in a lab, all kinds of nifty stuff. For a ten or 11-year-old kid all agog with the newly discovered wonders of sci fi, it was like a dream come true.

The taglines:
SEE! the breathtaking sight of earth as seen from outer space!
SEE! the fantastic 'meteor attack' as rocket and meteor crash head-on in a space-splitting collision!
Hurtle toward the far reaches of the universe with the space vikings of the future!
SEE! men and equipment float in air, trapped where there is no gravity - no up or down!

I can’t be sure of exactly when I saw the movie. The date of release shows January 1954, but I met my pal David Glenn in the fifth grade, and that wasn’t until Fall of ‘54. Doesn’t matter now, though.

On Saturday, I rode the bus from home and met Dave at the theatre for the matinee. Our normal routine was to see a movie, ride the bus downtown, eat a hamburger at a stand on the north side of the San Jacinto Plaza, hit the public library for new books --anything in aviation, war, or science fiction - -, wander around downtown, and ride the bus back to Dave’s home. Total cash expenditure, under a buck apiece.

That particular Saturday, the movie was different. Not the usual western or adventure stuff, but a real, Technicolor, SPACE MOVIE. Yes, we saw it. I’d like to say that big parts of the film were clear in my memory, but I can’t. At this late date, I recalled the general plot, but only a couple of specific scenes. Unlike so many other old flicks, I’d never seen it on re-release, on TV, or seen it offered for rental.

Flash forward several decades. This morning, flipping through the cable TV menu, I encountered the title. It had already been running for about an hour, but I eagerly switched channels. Thomas Wolf wrote, “You can’t go home again.” So true. No, I didn’t expect to recapture the juvenile excitement of those long ago days. I did think to enjoy the nostalgia of it, though. Too bad.

The premise: Scientists needed to capture a chunk of rock from a meteor shower before it went through entry into the earth’s atmosphere. The government was sending up three rocket drivers to scoop up the space debris and bring it back safely. I missed the early preparations for the mission. I tuned in while the Crusty Chief Scientist (father of one of the space pilots) was giving the mission briefing. His visual aids? A medium size white board and an early Marks-a-Lot. Main assistant to CCS was a female physicist who was also sweetheart of main rocket driver.

The film makers kinda skimped on the props. All the rockets and peripherals were simply stock footage of captured German V2 gear, filmed at (then) White Sands Proving Grounds. The trailers, cranes, guys in army uniforms - - all US Govt gear and personnel on stock film, with the New Mexico mountains in the background. The rocket cockpit interiors were huge. Each pilot had ONE guy to help him don space helmet and strap onto an acceleration couch (an aluminum lawn lounge with extra padding?)

The preparations for the big mission reached a hasty, if not fevered pitch. The love interest told everyone ot hurry up, and the next announcements were, “Two minutes to firing . . . One minute . . . Thirty seconds,” and then a whole five-second countdown. Three rockets in formation, like 50 feet apart at 18,000 miles per hour. Yeah, I expected some rather primitive special effects, but there had been pretty good animation around for a couple of decades. Too expensive, I guess. You can see the models sway on their threads.

Intercepting the meteor shower, one rocket collides with a rock and disintegrates. We see a close up of a pressure suit floating in space with a skull inside the helmet. A second pilot freaks out and the rocket is last seen departing for the outer galaxy at full acceleration. Naturally, our hee-roe completes the mission and he and physi-chick live happily ever-cetera.

Well, at least I didn’t pay money to rent the film. Hey - - You weren’t REALLY expecting this to be a reprise of Peter’s Weekend Wings series, were you?


Happy flu, reconstruction

Well, I saw this thing about Happy Flu on Roberta X's blog, and got curious. Hey, why not give it a try? I bit - - So can you.

Spreading Like, uh, Influenza

Well, I saw this thing about Happy Flu on Roberta X's blog, and got curious. Hey, why not give it a try? I bit - - So can you.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Excellent posts by OLD NFO

Somehow, when I changed computers, I failed to include this good writer’s superb blog, called Nobody Asked Me on my Favorites bookmarks. I‘ve read a number of his well-reasoned and pithy comments but had never gotten into the habit of reading his blog. THAT’s changing as of today. I DO have a sidebar link to his site.

Two particularly interesting Old Nfo posts deal with candidate Obama‘s Not Exactly
, posted SU13JUL, and Get out of jail free card (for real)..., which is the second part of his entry for FR18JUL. Both are highly worth the read time.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Two-Inch .38

Xavier, the Nurse with a Gun, writes an excellent blog, well worth reading. One of his regular features is to detail some of his wanderings on the local gun and pawn shop circuit. In his entry for WE 16 JUL he tells us of looking at an example of the Charter Arms Undercover snub nose .38. I started a lengthy comment on his topic, and then realized two things.

One: No matter how compellingly interesting my comments may be, people go to HIS blog to read HIS stuff, not mine.

Two: My own blogging has been rather sparse of late, and I could do a post of my own, tied to Xavier’s. So, if you haven’t already done so, pause here, click the above date link, and read Xavier’s Thoughts first. Go ahead. We’ll still be here when you finish.

Back so soon? Excellent. Now, some background stuff on that little resolver.
A little bit-o'-history first.
Douglas McClenahan, a former employee of Colt, High Standard, and Ruger, started Charter Arms in 1964. The initial offering was the .38 Special "Undercover." It was a near-twin to the very popular Smith & Wesson Chief's Special, though quite different in design details. It was promoted as "A pound of protection," and "The lightest steel framed .38 revolver." The light weight was due to providing the steel frame with bolted-on alloy trigger guard and grip frame. It worked out quite well.

Charter Undercover .38 Special Revolver -- This example is fitted with a Tyler T-Grip adapter

Not terribly popular at first, and certainly not as handsome as the S&W snubbies, the new Charter revolver was dependable and of good quality, at a substantially lower price than the S&W and Colt’s offerings. The size was near enough that the Undercover could be carried in holsters intended for the Chief's Special.

The Undercover truly came into its own during the Vietnam war, when S&W was devoting most of their production to U.S. Government contracts. S&W produced their J-frame pieces only sporadically during that period. The rest of the time, their production lines were running full blast to provide K-frame revolvers, mostly for U. S. aviation personnel. During this time, the Charter was available on the home front. Many large law enforcement agencies which had previously specified only S&W or Colt revolvers for duty use now approved the Undercover for plainclothes personnel and for off duty carry.

There was some distrust of the durability of the Charter Arms revolvers, especially when subjected to police qualification courses several times a year. All in all, though, the guns held up well, and were certainly adequate in durability and accuracy for light duty use. Even with the later popularity of “Plus P” .38 ammunition, the Undercover held up quite well. The frame, after all, was steel. More significantly, in such a lightweight revolver, the higher pressure ammo was downright rigorous to fire in practice. As with the S&W and Colt alloy framed numbers, many were carried with the heavy loads, but most range practice was conducted with standard or target-power cartridges.

The history of Charter Arms and the other handguns in that product line makes good reading.

Charter revolvers have figured prominently in three notorious crimes:

-- Arthur Bremmer attempted to assassinate US Presidential candidate George C. Wallace on 15 May 1972. He wounded Wallace and three bystanders, using a Charter Undercover .38 revolver.

--In 1976--77, David Berkowitz murdered six persons and wounded seven others using a Charter .44 Special Bulldog revolver. Before his arrest, the shooter was called “The .44 caliber killer.“ After his arrest, the crime spree was known as the “Son of Sam” killings.

--On 8 DEC 1980, Mark David Chapman murdered British musician John Lennon in New York City. He shot the former Beatle four times with hollow point bullets fired from a Charter Undercover .38.

The brand of firearm used by these criminals is, of course, totally insignificant. It is mentioned here simply in recognition that the type gun used was widely reported in each of these cases. As with other brands, the vast majority of Charter firearms are lawfully owned and legally used by decent individuals.

For example - - - Several months ago, I ran across a used-but-good-condition Charter Undercover at a reasonable price in a local pawn shop. Beloved Bride Holly and I were satisfied enough with it that we took her daughter to look at the piece. It felt good in her hand, so we bought it for her birthday gift. It is a vote of our confidence for the product, that we would provide it to BB's Angel Baby Girl for use as a "life preserver."

I’m aware that Xavier has other guns, but at the price he mentioned in his post, I believe the Undercover would certainly be worth having on hand. “The Other American .38 Snub Nose” is still a serviceable and worthwhile defense arm.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Guess I'm Not Much of a Western Movie Figure

I first saw this posted by Phlegmfatale on her blog, and was compelled to participate. I'm not too sure of the result I got, but, hey, it's all in fun, huh?

What Kind of a Western Bad-Ass are You?
created with
You scored as Clint Eastwood

Names aren't important as you dish out steaming bowls of piping hot brutality to your enemies. You also enjoy a good spaghetti dinner once in a while.

Clint Eastwood


John Wayne


Lee Van Cleef


Lee Marvin


Charles Bronson


What gets me is that my own Beloved Bride scored as more of a badass than I did.

Really, though, my self image is more of a James Garner/Maverick type western movie figure: Able to handle a difficulty when necessary but preferring to handle it with a smile and a mild answer which (hopefully) turneths away wrath.


Friday, July 11, 2008

A New Cop Blog

By way of Friend LawDog, I learn of a new cop blogger in our North Texas area, Cowtown Cop. I’ve read all he’s published so far and I am impressed. He clearly has a good eye and ear for the humorous aspects of peace officery. Even more importantly, in my mind, is that he has a basic respect for the armed private citizen, and by extension, I bet he also respects the rest of the Bill of Rights. Couple this with an appreciation for old firearms, and he appears to have the makings of someone fit to ride the road with.

And, yes, BB and I are back from our little sojourn in Mizzoura. As expected, blog material abounded and it’s but a matter of time until I get some of it properly written up. Don’t give up on me, and in the meantime, drop on over and take a look at Cowtown Cop‘s bloggery.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Travel: On the road again

I’ll be gone for several days. We’re visiting friends -- Holly’s originally, but mine, too, now - - in the Kansas city, MO, area.

I'll check in a time or two from there, but won't have time to write much, if any.

Yeah, I know: About the time I start posting regularly, I'm in the wind. Oh, well.

All best,

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Farewell to Doglet

I am very happy that my Beloved Bride has formed a friendship with the always-estimable Phlegmfatale. They share blogging and shooting and a love of outlandish footwear as some of their common interests. Additionally, they each have an almost unreasonable affection for dogs. Sad to say, Phlegmmy has just lost her esteemed friend of many years, the beautiful Valentine, embodiment of the excellent Jack Russell breed.
In a current blog post, Phlegmfatale shares with us her feelings on this occasion. Being an intelligent and grown-up lady, Ms. Fatale will in due course get past the grieving, the huge, painful, gaping emptiness she now feels. I pray that the remaining feelings will only encompass the warm memories of the years she shared with her Doglet.

Clearly, there are those who feel no particular affection for animals in general, nor for dogs in particular. I’m not writing of “working dogs,” those which are almost necessary in working many kinds of livestock, for personal protection or security work, nor even the beautifully efficient hunting breeds. Such animals are very useful, even for those who have few or no personal feelings for dogs. One may make a logical case that there’s little cause to invest one’s human feelings in a canine. After all, there’s little profit in it. There are losses enough in life without exposing oneself to additional grief by dedicating effort and emotion to a mere dog.

I have a big, distinguished looking Yellow Labrador, a real calendar boy. BB has two other dogs for which I’ve developed a rather unreasonable affection. It is practically unthinkable that I may one day go on without any of them. Forget logic or objective reasoning. I can clumsily relate to both sides of this discussion. I think, though, that no one has ever touched on the topic as well as Brother Kipling:

"The Power of the Dog"

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie --
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair --
But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept'em, the more do we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long --
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Rudyard Kipling
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