Thursday, November 26, 2009


All is well with my family again this year, and I have much for which to give thanks. My Beloved Bride is recovering well from her recent surgery and if off the walker and using a cane. I could wax eloquent (well, MILDLY so) but prolly couldn't do much better than what I wrote here a couple of years back. I checked and it still reads pretty well. Certain details differ, especially about the attendees, but my basic gratitude is the same. May you all be equally blessed on the day.

Holly tuned the televisor to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and I've been glancing over my shoulder at the screen occasionally.

She commented that the Radio City Rockettes were about to perform, and I did turn around for that performance. I mused a bit, wondering aloud if to qualify for that distinguished troupe, the young women had to agree to having an extra four inches grafted into their legs. BB doesn't think so, but I still wonder . . . .
Best of the season to all you you and yours.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Final Bulletin about Bayou Renaissance Man

Beloved Bride and I talked with Peter night before last. He went home from hospital on TU13OCT, I think. He's progressing nicely, gaining strength and feeling better. He has a support network of local friends and someone comes by to help him every day.

He's frustrated in that he had only just gotten moved into his new quarters when he was struck ill. He has MANY boxes of gear still stacked and not yet unpacked. He's not able to make any progress on that front as he's restricted from lifting anything of over ten pounds weight.

Peter's fiancee' should arrive in about a week and she'll help in getting his stuff unpacked.

He expresses gratitude to all who send prayers and good thoughts.

Per the title of this piece, this is my final update on Peter's health. I see he's back to publishing HIS blog on a daily basis, and he'll give his own progress reports. In a way, I hope he's putting up stuff he already had "in the can." However, as I write, I recall my own bout with an MCI, quadruple bypass, and subsequent complications. One of the ONLY things I was able to do comfortably was mess with the computer. Anyway, be sure to drop by his spot and see what topics upon which he's discoursing.

Viewpoints: Conservatives and Liberals

My old friend Rob retired as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant. He then went on to retire again as a police supervisor. It's always a pleasure to hear from him.

I usually steer clear of political commentary on this blog. It just aggravates me and I get all tang toungled. When Rob sent this one by e-mail, though, I had to pass it along.

Conservative vs. Liberal

If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn`t buy one.
If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn`t eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his enemy.
A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good.

If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

If a black man or Hispanic is a conservative, they see themselves as independently successful.
Their liberal counterparts see themselves as victims in need of government protection.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don’t like be shut down.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.
A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it’s a foreign religion, of course!)

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

If a conservative slips and falls in a store, he gets up, laughs and is embarrassed.
If a liberal slips and falls, he grabs his neck, moans like he's in labor and then sues.

If a conservative reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.
A liberal will delete it because he's "offended".

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Peter's on the Mend!

I'm extremely pleased to be able to announce that my friend Padre Pedro, who blogs as Bayou Renaissance Man, is recovering nicely, following quadruple bypass surgery.

Our mutual friend, Ambulance Driver, who lives near the hospital, reported today that he and his darlin' daughter went and visited Peter today. This was good to read, but it was even better when Holly and I talked with Peter by phone just a few minutes ago.

He apparently had a really close call, for a man who had never previously experienced any type of heart trouble. Peter was astute enough to phone his doctor soon after he began manifesting symptoms, and said learned healer prodded him to get off the dime and do what he should have already done: He summoned the medics. Two ambulances of 'em showed up in short order and worked their emergency magic. This prompt action seems to have headed off Peter's imminent demise long enough to get him into hosplital treatment and surgery.

The man sounds a bit weak yet, but he has hopes that he'll be out of the facility in another few days. While progressing nicely, Peter can still use some more prayers and good thoughts.

Monday, September 07, 2009

My "New" Handloading Setup

Like most shooters over a certain age, I started out handloading on a single-stage C-type press. I later got a stronger and nicer RCBS O-frame press and used it for many years. I loaded several handgun and a couple of rifle calibers on it. I shot a LOT of pistol ammo, especially for the several years when I was quite active in IPSC competition. I shot at least three, usually five or six, and sometimes seven or eight matches per month. This included the weekly Friday evening matches at Dallas Indoor Pistol Range. Believe me, I spent a great deal of time at the loading bench. I gave up casting my own, purchasing 230 gr. lead round nose in bulk. All that was on the same single-station press.

Finally, in 1989 or -90, I broke down and ordered a Dillon 550B, and it was a revelation! Though I had dropped back to shooting maybe one or two matches per month, it was glorious to spend a relatively short time loading, and yet be able to shoot all the ammo I wanted to, on any given weekend. This was a time when Elder Son Matt was getting very interested in center fire handguns, and we spent a lot of time at the range. The old RCBS press still saw a lot of service in rifle load development and loading practice ammo.
As great as it was having the Dillon press, I found myself dreading a change of calibers. It's only about two minutes to switch out one previously-adjusted tool head and to install another. I had some four powder measures, so I usually didn't even need to make load adjustments. About two minutes, that is, IF the switch was between two calibers using the same primer size. .45 ACP to .44 magnum or .45 Colt was a snap. Or .38 Special to 9mm or .380. But a changeover from small primers to large, or vice-versa, was a minor headache. I'd end up postponing loading some calibers until I was just flat OUT of that particular number.

A local shop took a used Dillon Square Deal B press in trade, set up for .38 Special. I looked it over, got a good price on it, and it was mine. I shipped it to Dillon for a complete overhaul at a reasonable cost, and now I had two progressive presses on my bench, along with the old single-stage. Matt and I owned small assortment of .38 and .357 caliber revolvers, and we began exercising these sometimes neglected fine old handgus. Most of the time, the 550B stayed set up for .45 ACP.

Couple of matters brought things to a head. First, my Beloved Bride had become very interested in shooting steel plate matches. She shot in the rimfire class, using my Browning Buckmark. Predictably, though, about the time she was becoming pretty competent with the .22, she wanted to shoot centerfire. Before I knew what was up, MY Browning 9mm Hi-Power took up residence in HER shooting bag, and when I wasn't prompt enough in changing my 550B over to small primer use, we were spending a fair chunk of change buying Winchester White Box 9mm at Wally World.

Also, this excellent spouse overheard me telling a pal that I seriously wanted a Colt Super .38 pistol. Next thing I know, she's shopping the stores and the internet, looking to buy me that special pistol. Long story short, she outbid all comers for a really nice 1953-vntage pistol. It was my birthday gift, and words cannot express how happy she made me with it. I bought several boxes of ammo, but already knew I needed to handload Super .38. Yet another reason to do primer system switches.

I finally put up a "Want to Buy" ad on and A man who lived 15 minutes from me answered. I bought an old 550 in good shape, with three caliber conversions from him. It took me a few months to obtain a proper mounting plate for my bench, and more months before I got it set up.

I only then realized that the recent acquisition was a much older press, a 550 rather than 550B.

It had no fail safe powder measure reset rod - - Not even a place to mount one. And all three powder measures had a very different bell crank system. They should work out well with the older press, though. I've set up this press to handle all my small primer needs, so I can leave the other one for large primers. I've loaded almost 200 rounds of 9mm parabellum, which will make my beloved bride happy. Several hundred more, to establish a comfortable stockpile, and I'll continue my development of a couple of Super .38 loads.

So - I'm satisfied, at least for the time being. Two 550s, a Square Deal B, and an RCBS Single Stage. Things are getting a little crowded, but I'll deal with it.

Note: People I know and respect use other brands of progressive loading presses. I got started on the Dillon progressives and ave been quite satisfied with them. I have NO argument with loaders who choose another brand.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

False Alarm!

On 9AUG2009, I received an e-mail from a friend which was, on the face of it, very alarming. It started out:

Gun Confiscation is Beginning--Senate Bill SB-2099

HR45 Gun Owners Watch Out

Concerning the Blair-Holt proposed legislation: Senate Bill SB-2099 will require us to put on our 2009 1040 federal tax form all guns that you have or own. It may require fingerprints and a tax of $50 per gun.

In November, our lying president promised he was not going after our Second Amendment rights. This bill was introduced on Feb. 24. This bill will become public knowledge 30 days after it is voted into law. This is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Act of 1986. This means that the Finance Committee can pass this without the Senate voting on it at all.

The e-mail continued with a broad expansion of this horror story, detailing provisions of the "New Law," including:
. . . would make it illegal to own a firearm - any rifle with a clip or ANY pistol unless:
It is registered, owner is fingerprinted, supplies current Driver's License and Social Security Number, submits to physical & mental evaluation at a time of "THEIR" choosing. Any change of ownership through private or public sale must be reported, with a $25 fee. Failure to do so automatically forfeits the right to own a firearm and subjects you to a year in jail. A child-access provision allows "THEM" to inspect your gun storage, and violations subject you to fine and up to 5 years in prison.

I do not question the sincerity of my pal who sent the e-mail. I'm certain he got it from someone who was equally convinced on its authenticity. HOWEVER - - -
My very well-informed friend Stephen Camp passed along the following:

Chris Cox, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action writes "Blind Alley on the Information Superhighway."

Mr. Cox sets the record straight and reveals that, "It turns out someone’s recycling an old alert that wasn’t even accurate when it was new. There actually was a bill called S. 2099 that would have taxed handguns--nine years ago."

Please check out the above link and read the entire article. It places "Rumor Control" in an interesting historical context, and is a true cautionary tale. We ALL must be alert for abuses of our rights, but it is important that we cast a critical eye on the more fantastic rumors.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Push the Pull Door - - Blog by a Great Guy

By way of Elder Son's writings, I learn that friend Don Gwinn's old blog, Armed School Teacher, is no more. If you have that site bookmarked and click on the old link, you'll find the entire site has been taken down. I'm happy to pass along that Don's fine efforts may now be found at Push the Pull Door. If you haven't read Don in the past, do yourself a favor and check him out.

First, though, read Matt's blog on the topic. Be sure to click on that first link, I've written,
for an excellent introduction to a truly fine man, his family, and his other, subordinate, interests. I've "known" Don for about nine years, both of us serving on the staff of both The Firing Line and The High Road firearms interest boards. Though we've never met face-to-face, I believe you can learn A LOT about a man, reading several thousand examples of his writing.

It may seem a little strange for a senior citizen (memyownself) to write about one of his heroes who happens to be considedrably younger. Well, that doesn't bother me one bit to echo Matt and say: Don Gwinn is indeed a hero, and I'm pround to call him a friend.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pistols Too Tight to Use

Over at Better and Better blog, Elder Son writes of handling a fine Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special .45 pistol which was set up too tight to even field strip. That particular pistol currently lists at $1990 - - Really not TOO out of line for a high-grade "premium name brand" .45. Matt was a bit miffed to find he couldn't readily disassemble it.

Allen Wayne Damron

Only a year or so before friend Allen Damron died, his bride gave him an Ed Brown .45 for his birthday. Holly and I were visiting in Terlingua and Allen insisted that I shoot his new pistol. I'm pretty sure it was the E-SS Executive Elite model, which today lists for $2395.
We went over to Art Eatman's range and put up a target. I handled the new pistol with the reverence due such a fine piece of ordnance, admiring the fine finish and fitting. Before I could shoot, though, I was distressed that it was difficult to load the pistol. It was so tight that I couldn't unlock the action without striking the muzzle against something solid. I kept looking to see if I hadn't locked the safety. Once I finally got it loaded, though, the pistol shot very well. I was suitably impressed that, at 20 yards, even I was able to shoot a couple of rather tight groups.

While reloading magazines, I mentioned to Allen that he probably wouldn't be carrying it until it loosened up a lot. He said he'd been cautioned that, "it'll take a couple of hundred rounds to loosen up and break in." He said he'd only shot a hundred or so and he actually wanted my help, breaking it in. Unfortunately, the only .45 ACP ammo I'd brought on this trip was in my loaded Commander plus two spare magazines. I had come prepared to shoot rifles and a couple of revolvers. We had less than 100 .45 cartridges that day. Once these were gone, the pistol didn't seem much looser. I had no bushing wrench with me, and Allen had left his at the house. Now, I can usually manage to take down a .45 by using a magazine lip to depress the recoil spring plug, but that didn't work with this one. I just flat couldn't disassemble the pistol for proper cleaning that day.

Now, Allen had other handguns to use for carry and for home security, so it's not as if this Ed Brown was the only one he had for self defense. It was a little daunting, though, to contemplate that this pistol, a high grade 1911 clone, touted as one of the very best combat pistols available, just wouldn't serve for the purpose. At the rate it was going, it would have taken at least another 300 -- 400 rounds, or the ministrations of a gunsmith, to make it carry-worthy. And, at current ammunition prices, ten or a dozen boxes of factory ammunition can be a bit spendy.

For those who want to shoot tiny little groups on the range at the club, this sort of thing may well be acceptable, and I have no argument with them. For the person who wants a service-type pistol for personal defense, for a law enforcement sidearm, or other serious use, the necessity of a concerted effort to loosen it up might well be a little discouraging.

In fairness, I should add that this was my one and only personal experience with a new or near-new Ed Brown pistol. The one other I've shot was a well-used specimen, which operated flawlessly. Come to think of it, though, I didn't clean that one, either.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

LIGHTS OUT. Minor Glitch or Something Sinister?

You're sitting home, reading or peacefully watching TV, and the power goes off. Oh, well, it happens, huh? I know, occasional interruptions in utility service DO occur. No reason to get excited, right?

Well, here lately, I'm no longer so sure. Since I retired from Peace Officering a few years back, I pay less attention to crime reporting thah I used to. But reports of home invasion robberies have been catching my eye recently. Just the other night, one of the 10 o'clock TV news shows pointed out some common factors in a lengthy series of violent home invasions. Not near all, but a growing number of these offenses entail the robbers cutting power and telephone lines before entering the residences.

I'm not writing about "several" or "a series of" incidents. I did an on-line search, and I find dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of such incidents in this area in the past several months. Part of the trouble keeping track is that the local metropolitan area is comprised of dozens of independent municipalities. News stories are usually reported with a specific reference to the particular town or city in which they took place. Yes, the area-wide chamber of commerce and certain governmental agencies lump population and business surveys together into "Metro Fort Worth," or "Greater Dallas," or better still, the "DFW Metroplex." which comprises all of Tarrant and Dallas counties, and some or all of the ten adjacent, or nearly so, counties. The US Gov't 2007 population estimate of this 'Plex is some 6.7 million.

"Well," you may say, "that's a lot of people, and there's bound to be more crime in such an area." Maybe, but there's also the idea that while such a populace gives rise to more violent criminals, it also provides a very fertile hunting ground for however many there are. It also means that a given gang of thugs, usually three to six, need only drive for fifteen minutes to be in an entirely different jurisdiction. Police communications are much better than they were when I was a rookie cop, but it still takes time for bulletins to be circulated.

Enough of this demographics stuff. Let's return to the action.

This line-cutting strategy stuff makes sense. If a house occupant hears someone breaking in, the first impulse for most is to call 9-1-1 for police assistance. And, if the lights are off, there will be a certain amount of disorientation, moving around in the dark.

A robbery crew making a dynamic entry, sometimes equipped with head lights and/or weapon-mounted lights, and totally prepared for the situation they created, will have the upper hand. They have often gathered intelligence about the targeted residence, knowing the number of occupants and possibly their placement in the household.

You might think that well-informed robbers would limit their incursions to affluent families in well-to-do neighborhoods. It seems, though, that fully as many home invasions take place in middle-class areas, and even in very modest surroundings. Many of the TV news tapes depict mobile home parks and lower income apartment buildings as their settings.

It may be an over-simplification, but I can see at least a partial means of dealing with this epidemic of violence. It may not work for everyone, but Beloved Bride and I have discussed it, and here's my personal plan. The instant the lights go out, TASK ONE is to get hold of a firearm. This will be done before looking out the window to see if the power outage is neighborhood-wide, or much more limited. Second, firearm, flashlight, and cell phone are taken to our "keep" area. Use of lights will be kept to a minimum. We keep a careful listening watch for what the dogs do. THEN, we'll check to see if this is happenstance or evil design.

There. As simple as that. Our plan impinges on no one else. No non-guilty person is endangered in any way. If the power outage turns out to be innocent, no one need even know of the preventive measures we took.

And what will BB and I do if a home invasion DOES ensue? Well, we have a couple of plans for THAT, too. What works for us might not work for you. But I really believe that everything up to this point WILL work for anyone at all. It's strictly up to you, whether or not you choose to plan it out ahead of time.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Today is the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. It was a skirmish of rather short duration, but it turned out to be one of the major events in the development of the United States as we know it today.

I've written of this battle on a couple of prior occasions. I've thought to revise it somewhat for this year, but I really can't come up with anything significantly better than what I wrote a year ago. If you're at all interested in Texas history, or in the United States' Manifest Destiny, you might want to take a look.

My Beloved Bride shares my affection for the history of Our Part of the World, and she often makes mention on her blog about landmark dates and events. Her installment for this year is rather short, referencing her 2008 blog entry, which was one of her best. In it, she mentions school field trips to The Battlefield, and the still-stunning monument.

Best to all


Monday, March 02, 2009

Texas Independence Day

By 1 March 1836, the siege of the small Texian force at the Alamo was well under way. Travis had sent out his famous “Victory or Death” message on 24 February.

The first state government of Texas was the so-called "Permanent Council,“ organized at San Felipe in October 1935. They wanted to do little, and actually accomplished less still. They elected a temporary president, established a plan for a postal system, commissioned some privateers to control the Mexican Navy on the Gulf of Mexico, and authorized a representative to go (try to) borrow $100,000 in the United States. They then dissolved on 3 November, due to the convening of a general consultation.

The first order of business was to quibble over the nature of the brewing war and how to conduct it. The main issue was, were the Anglo-Texans ready to fight in defense of their rights as Mexican citizens under the Constitution of 1824, or to become independent from a corrupt Mexico?
This general consultation created the provisional government, with Henry Smith as Governor. San Houston of Tennessee was appointed Commander in chief of the army, such as it was, but had no funds to pay for an army. Little else of note was accomplished by the time the consultation was adjourned on 14 November.

The Provisional Government met in early January 1836 and debated endlessly about goals, ways and means, and who would be responsible for what. Unable to raise a quorum with authority to do anything definitive, the government, in effect, dissolved in chaos.

In the meanwhile, certain elements of the fledgling Texas Army were in the field. Governor Smith told Houston to try to organize the forces at Goliad. At the same time, Smith sent Buck Travis to Bexar to assist Colonel Neill in command of the Alamo. It was not known that Santa Anna was already on his way with the main force of the Mexican Army to subdue the rebellious Texians once and for all.

We have seen how matters progressed at Bexar. Travis and Bowie as co-commanders prepared the Alamo for an eventual fight, while Neill departed on family business in mid-February. On 23 February, the Mexican Army arrived at Bexar, and it became clear just how tenuous the Texian position really was.

In the meantime, the Convention of 1836 was held at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Fifty delegates, representing every settlement in Texas, had been elected on 1 February. Discussions, plans, and coalitions were undoubtedly started immediately thereafter. The convention opened on 1 March, with news of the situation at the Alamo waiting for them. Many delegates wanted to immediately recess or adjourn and march en mass to lift the siege.

George Childress led a committee to draft a Declaration of Independence. A draft was submitted the very next day, making it clear that Childress had been at work on the document well before arriving at the convention. It was largely based upon the writings of Thomas Jefferson and John Locke, and much of the language may be seen to draw from the United States Declaration of Independence. The declaration was immediately adopted with no debate at all. Thereby, on 2 March 1836, the Republic of Texas was established.

Convention delegates at once set about drawing up a Constitution. Early on 6 March, Travis’s final appeal for aid, dated 3 March, arrived. Again, sentiment was for closing down the convention to march to the Alamo. Houston convinced them to continue work on the constitution, while he rushed to Gonzales to assume command of volunteers gathering there. Soon after his arrival, word arrived that the Alamo had fallen and that Santa Anna would again be on the move.

Word traveled to Washington-on-the Brazos that the Alamo defenders were no more. It became clear in due course, though, that the delay of Santa Anna there had given this vital breathing space to the Convention. Texas was now an independent republic and had a constitution in place. Shaky as it would be, a new nation was now a fact. Six weeks later, on the boggy ground of the San Jacinto plain, Texas would become a world power. The way was now paved for the alliance of Texas with the United States, and in a startlingly short time, the USA would sprawl clear across North America.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Alamo 173 Years Ago

I'm glad I got an e-mail from friend phlegmfatale today. She mentioned her current day's topic, and also today’s blog entry by Robert at BLACKFORK blog. The two remind us that this date, in 1836, was when the Mexican tyrant Santa Anna began his siege of the Mission San Antonia de Valero at Bexar. That secularized church complex is better known to posterity simply as The Alamo. The town, Bexar, is now the city of San Antonio.
The Alamo chapel, unfinished facade, as it appeared in the 1830s and 1840s.

The major points in this story are fairly well known.
The mission-fortress was garrisoned by Colonels Bowie and Travis, co-commanding between 180 and 250 soldiers of the new Texas Army and volunteers. In late February, they were besieged by the Mexican Predient/General/Dictator Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón and some 2400 of his soldiers. The siege ended on 6 March when the walls were overrun and the defenders were all killed. The delay of the Mexican advance allowed the provisional Texas government time to write and sign a formal Texas Declaration of Independence.

Historian Lon Tinkle (1906 -- 1980) wrote the definitive popular history of this battle in 1958, entitled Thirteen Days to Glory: The Siege of the Alamo.

The battle has been studied and documented more or less regularly ever since the ashes cooled. Curiously, though, the majority of the longer, published works have been works of fiction. Mr. Tinkle‘s book was only the second full length factual study of the siege. Not all the information is undisputed. Distinguished Dallas book critic A. C. Greene, wrote that Tinkle’s book "gives the essence of the Alamo story without attempting to exhaust history's explanation", and "is more revealing of the minds and wills that were behind the fateful decision to stay on to death" than other, later treatments of the battle.

The book is still widely available and is well worth the reading.

I was at first tempted to try to recount all the high points of the siege, so far as they are known. As a voracious reader and proudly chauvinistic Texan, I have been reading all I can find on this topic for almost as long as I’ve been able to read. I know the various points of view, the controversies, the sometimes acrimonious disputes as to this point or that about the battle. For instance, it is well known and documented, but frequently glossed over, that, but for a massive and overt act of insubordination, the properly designated “Shrine of Texas Liberty” would likely have crumbled into gravel, noted only in passing as an early landmark from the days of revolution. Working on the best information available at the time, Sam Houston, military commander of Texas forces, ordered Colonel James Bowie to destroy the fortifications and to spike or carry away the artillery. Instead, Bowie, with Col. James Neill, decided to hold in place, to engage the Mexican forces for as long as possible.

While I have sufficient reference works on hand to make a pretty good job of such a recounting, I must confess that I would be doing little more than rehashing the work of better scholars than I. I have no newly located papers, letters, journals, or other sources. While well-read on the topic, I’ve made no independent studies of this already well-researched stretch of history and folklore. This being the case, I’ll content myself with recognizing the significance of certain dates for the next couple of weeks, as a reminder to all of us that there were, indeed, giants in the land in those days.


Modern appearance of the Alamo Chapel
Probably during the 1850s, while being used by the US Army, the Alamo was greatly repaired. The campanulate, or bell-shaped facade, was added to the front wall of the chapel. Until that time, the front had never been finished, and no roof had been placed.

LATE ADDITION: Since writing the above, I note that Robert at Blackfork has written another blog installment. In it, he gives much of the detail that I would have inserted over the next few days. He was first, and I’ll defer to him. Nice work, Robert.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Amusing Anecdote: Street Robbery??

Apparently this has been going around since last month but I just read it for the first time, sent along by MattG. If it’s not true, it ought to be.

Reported to have been posted in Craig’s List Personals in January 2009:

To the Guy Who Mugged Me Downtown (Downtown, Savannah )

I was the white guy with the black Burrberry jacket that you demanded I hand over shortly after you pulled the knife on me and my girlfriend. You also asked for my girlfriend's purse and earrings. I hope you somehow come across this message. I'd like to apologize.

I didn't expect you to crap your pants when I drew my pistol after you took my jacket. Truth is, I was wearing the jacket for a reason that evening, and it wasn't that cold outside. You see, my girlfriend had just bought me that Kimber 1911 .45 ACP pistol for Christmas, and we had just picked up a shoulder holster for it that evening. Beautiful pistol, eh? It's a very intimidating weapon when pointed at your head, isn't it?

I know it probably wasn't a great deal of fun walking back to wherever you'd come from with that brown sludge flopping about in your pants. I'm sure it was even worse since you also ended up leaving your shoes, cellphone, and wallet with me. I couldn't have you calling up any of your buddies to come help you try to mug us again. I took the liberty of calling your mother, or "Momma" as you had her listed in your cell, and explaining to her your situation. I also bought myself some gas on your card. I gave your shoes to one of the homeless guys over by Vinnie Van Go Go's, along with all of the cash in your wallet, then I threw the wallet itself in a dumpster.

I called a bunch of phone sex numbers from your cell. They'll be on your bill in case you'd like to know which ones. Alltel recently shut down the line, and I've only had the phone for a little over a day now, so I don't know what's going on with that. I hope they haven't permanently cut off your service. I was about to make some threatening phone calls to the DA's office with it. Oh well.

I'd like to apologize for not killing you, and instead making you walk back home humiliated. I'm hoping that you'll reconsider your choice of path in life. Next time you might not be so lucky. If you read this message, email me and we'll do lunch.

Peace! -
Alex, the rumor/urban legend researcher site, classifies the story as UNDETERMINED. If it was indeed ever posted on Craig’s List, it has been removed. Also, the story’s origin has been claimed in at least a half dozen cities.
There IS a popular pizza place called Vinnie Van Go Go's in Savannah. That’s the extent of my research into the matter. The only claim I make is that it really made ME smile.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Anniversary -- First U. S. Military Aerial Shoot Down

On this date in 1918, Stephen W. Thompson (March 20, 1894 -- October 9, 1977) was the first person in the U. S. Military to shoot down an enemy aicraft.

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Thompson was a senior student in electrical engineering at the University of Missouri. The school announced that seniors who joined the military before graduation would receive their diplomas in June. He enlisted in the Army and was first assigned to the Coast Artillery but soon applied for duty in the
Air Service.

He went to France in September 1917 and was assigned to the
United States 1st Aero Squadron as an observer. On February 5, 1918, while visiting a nearby French bombardment squadron, Lieutenant Thompson was invited to fly on a raid over Saarbrücken, Germany, in place of a French observer who was taken ill.

The squadron of
Breguet 14B bombers was attacked by Albatros D.III fighters, and Thompson shot one of them down in the first aerial victory by the U.S. military. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for the action.

Thompson was assigned to the new 12th Aero Squadron, and on July 28
he was in another memorable battle. While artillery spotting, his Salmson airplane was attacked by four Fokker D.VIIs of the former Richthofen Flying Circus, then under the command of Hermann Göring. Thompson shot down two enemy planes before his own plane was shot down by the famous German ace Erich Löwenhardt. Thompson's pilot, Lt. John C. Miller, was able to land the Salmson inside friendly lines before he died of a bullet wound in the stomach. Thompson received a bullet in the leg and, before friendly troops arrived, dug out the bullet with a pocket knife.

The young engineer was apparently an enthusiastic and talented warrior. Thompson intentionally sought out combat in company with the French allies before his own squadron was operational. He managed three kills of first-line German fighter planes. His weapons in both fights were twin .303 Lewis guns on Scarff ring mounts, with rather primitive ring sights. He was stoic enough to perform auto-surgery under adverse conditions.

After the war Thompson worked for several years as an engineer at
McCook Field, later renamed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He then became a high school mathematics teacher. In 1940 he received a United States Patent for a tailless flying wing. He taught preflight and meteorology during WWII.
Stephen Thompson died in Dayton, Ohio in 1977, aged 83 years.

(It is noted that the first American to shoot down an enemy aircraft was Kiffin Rockwell of South Carolina. On May 18 1916, he shot down a German aircraft over the
Alsace battlefield, for which he was awarded the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre. Rockwell was a member of the French army when this happened, and the U.S. was not yet a belligerent in the War.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Browning Firearms Design Meme

John Moses Browning
21 OR 23 January 1855-- 26 November 1926

Without doubt, John M. Browning was the foremost designer of firearms, ever, in the entire world, bar none. There are several others who made extremely significant contributions to firearms design and production, but this is THE prolific “Big Gun” of shootin’ design.

Proper birthday homage has been paid to JMB by several other, more eloquent gun bloggers. One of the foremost has been my friend Tamara. She lists JMB’s designs, including only those which were commercial successes.:

By way of tribute to JMB, I propose a sort-of meme for real firearms enthusiasts, collectors, acquisitors, and tinkerers only. Take Tam’s list below and see which of the grand ole guy’s brain children you have. Better, add more detail: Embolden or put a + (plus sign) by those you currently own. Put an asterisk (*) next to those you HAVE HAD but don’t currently. (So many are financially unable to keep ALL the neat guns they’ve had. There was a period that I could only own them sequentially and had to sell or trade off some in order to obtain others.)

Single Shot Rifles:
Winchester 1885

Bolt-action Rifles:
Winchester 1900

Lever-action Rifles:
Winchester 1886
*Winchester 1892
+Winchester 1894
+Winchester 1895

Slide-action Rifles:
Winchester 1890

Recoil-operated Semi-automatic Rifles:
Remington Model 8 and 81

Blowback-operated Semi-automatic Rifles:
Browning .22 Semiauto

Double-barrel Shotguns:
Browning Superposed

Lever-action Shotguns:
Winchester 1887

Slide-action Shotguns:
*Winchester 1897
Remington Model 17 (later the Ithaca 37)
*Stevens 520

Recoil-operated Semi-automatic Shotguns:
*Browning Auto 5 / Remington Model 11 (+ Rem 11-48 revision of same action)

Blowback-operated Semi-automatic Pistols:
FN M1900
+Colt 1903/1908 Pocket Hammerless
FN 1906 Vest Pocket/Colt 1908 Vest Pocket
*FN 1910
*Colt Woodsman (+Browning Buckmark is a direct descendant)

Recoil-operated Semi-automatic Pistols
Colt 1902
Colt 1903 Pocket Hammer
+U.S. M1911
+FN G.P. 35

Gas-operated Machine Guns:
Colt M1895
U.S. M1918 BAR

Recoil-Operated Machine Guns:
U.S. M1917/M1919
U.S. M2 Heavy Machine Gun

Automatic Machine Cannon:
Colt-Browning 37mm

If you’ve read this far, chances are you like guns pretty well, and you are hereby
tagged. If you do play the game, please insert a comment or drop me an e-mail.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sentence Commutation and Extra-Judicial Punishment

There is a great deal of controversy concerning President Bush’s commutation of the prison sentences of former Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, convicted of shooting a Mexican drug runner in 2005.

There are, indeed, two different sides to this story. Many think it was a miscarriage of justice to charge the BP agents to begin with. They are scandalized that the agents were prosecuted for shooting --and not even killing-- a dope smuggler. This faction --and a huge faction it is-- think that President Bush should have totally pardoned both agents. The other side is gladdened that there has at least been an attempt to apply to federal officers a similar standard of justice to that applied to private individuals. It is clear, though, that the 11 and 12-year sentences were far heavier than some given in arguably more serious convictions. That side decries any reduction of the sentences.

It did not reduce the controversy about the case that the incident and trial took place during the height of the “illegal immigration” and “porous borders” furor. Many tried to make out that the USPB agents, instead of interdicting drug smuggling, were actually doing God’s Work in stemming illegal immigration.

It might be useful to attempt to examine some of the facts of this matter.

17FEB2005, USBP Agents Ramos and Compean, on patrol SE of El Paso, stopped Osvaldo Aldrete Davila for illegal border crossing. The van he was driving was found to contain 743 pounds of marihuana. Aldrete Davila ran from Compean, who testified that he thought the suspect had a gun. Compean fired at Aldrete Davila but missed. Ramos testified that he had been out of sight of the two, heard the shot, and thinking his partner was under attack, also fired at the suspect, striking him in the buttocks.

The agents testified that they later saw the suspect on the Mexican side of the border and thought he had not been hit, so they did not file a report on the matter.

The suspect later filed a complaint against the USBP and both agents. The agents finally filed false reports on the matter and lied to their supervisors. They also altered the scene of the shooting and picked up their cartridge cases, to cover up the incident.

Upon the disclosure of the deception by the agents, an investigation was conducted. They were taken to trial on a number of charges, including causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, evidence tampering, and a civil rights violation. Ramos was sentenced to 11 years in prison and Compean to 12.

It is rather tragic that the situation played out the way it did. Had the two agents simply stuck with a very plausible, and likely essentially true, story, the result would probably have been entirely different: Agents in the discharge of their sworn duties, detected illegal activity. They stopped a suspect and found him smuggling near-800 pounds of marihuana. He ran away from custody, and could arguably have been armed -- smugglers so often ARE heavily armed. A shot was fired and the second agent fired, in apparent defense of the first. The suspect escaped to Mexico and the agents chose not to pursue him. The van was impounded, the evidence marked and turned in, and a routine report filed. It later developing that the smuggler HAD been wounded would have made small difference. Exchanges of gunfire along the border are traditionally treated in a casual manner, unless there is notable bloodshed.

The Agents were likely “out of policy” in firing on a suspect not KNOWN to be armed or posing a threat to the agents. BUT - - they had interrupted a smuggling operation, and a person under arrest was fleeing. OF COURSE they shot at him. A certain quantity of contraband and the transport vehicle were seized, but the smuggler escaped. Another day on the Rio. If Patrol Supervisors HAD chosen to make a follow up investigation, you’d think that the agents would cooperate and apologize for their poor marksmanship.

Instead, the agents chose to lie about the matter. They engaged in a fairly elaborate cover-up, altering the scene, destroying evidence, and falsifying official reports. They showed clear guilt in so doing.

During the prosecution of the case, the smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila was given permission to enter the United States to testify and was granted limited immunity for his cooperation. He was later arrested on additional smuggling charges and is pending trial on them. It remains to be seen if this prosecution will be carried forward.

In a 2007 CNN interview, Ignacio Ramos apparently contests much of the testimony given at trial. It is difficult at this late date to tell exactly how much of his own testimony this now contradicts.

For whatever the worth of my personal opinion, I strongly believe that President Bush did exactly the proper thing. After examination of all aspects of the matter, he chose to grant Compean and Ramos, not full pardons, but a significant commutation of their sentences. Both men are now due for release on 20 March 2009, completing two year sentences. The sentences are far more merciful than the earlier 11- and 12-year terms. The men will remain convicted felons and will never again hold law enforcement employment.

It pains me to publicly disagree with several individuals for whom I hold high respect, some of them personal friends . Some of them have expressed opinions which are entirely sympathetic toward the convicted BP Agents, and others not so strongly. I must respect the rights of others to their own opinions. I trust that forthright individuals will always be able to honestly disagree without harming their relationships.

Marko probably wrote the best and most encompassing blog entry I’ve seen on this matter. He hits pretty strongly on the “justice for all” aspect of it.

I’m well aware of the frustration of many peace officers who see some notorious evildoers “beat the rap,” time and again. I’ve heard all too many rants by cops who fantasize about “dishing out a little street justice.” - - Ranging from administering a savage beating right on down to cold-blooded murder. “Hey, so you spoil the court case? Hell, he’s probably gonna get off anyway.”

It may be a great temptation for those out on the pointy end of any conflict to take some actions that do not precisely comport with the intent of their bosses. Sometimes, these actions may simply circumvent official policies, while remaining within the strict confines of the law. Other times, some otherwise well-meaning troops are ready to cross right over “the line,” on the theory that the end justifies the means. There is no doubt that the smuggler Aldrete Davila would not have subsequently committed additional crimes, had the marksmanship of Ramos and Compean been better. Choices are made by officers right on the spot, in light of the information at hand, the conditions then obtaining, and the officers’ own viewpoints and values.

Decisions are made, depending upon the given fact situations. Several times in my career, I went in search of certain criminals with the full intent to kill them, given certain legal justification. It never actually came to that. Sometimes they surrendered immediately upon confrontation. Other times, I was not present when they were apprehended. Had push ever come to shove, though, I knew that I would report and testify with complete candor and truthfulness. A peace officer with accepted credibility and a clear conscience will usually be successful in the long run. Yes, there are different types of “spin” that may be put on a given situation, each arguably as true as the other. It is an entirely different thing to file false reports, to lie under oath, and to alter physical evidence. There is, purely and simply, a true difference between being a zealous cop and becoming a criminal oneself.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Some More GOOD Laws

Amid all the doom crying and predictions of ultra-restrictive gun laws to come during the next several years, it’s nice to be able to pass along a couple of bright spots.
From the Texas State Rifle Association Home page.

Pre-filed House Bills

House Bill 267, State legislation to allow Texans to purchase rifles and shotguns in non-contiguous states. Currently, federal law allows the interstate sales of such firearms, but a conflicting Texas law only allows residents to buy long guns in directly-neighboring states (AR, LA, OK, and NM.) This state law has prevented the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) from approving sales of long guns in 45 other states to Texas residents.

HB 410 by State Rep Carl Isett (R-Lubbock). Legislation to repeal the requirement that Texas concealed handgun licensees display their license when carrying their handgun when stopped by law enforcement. Currently, failure to display the license when carrying a handgun may lead to a 90-day suspension of the CHL and/or the person charged with a class A or a class B misdemeanor. Law enforcement is now made aware of the status of the concealed handgun licensee during the wants and warrants check. Modern technology has made the old law unnecessary and a potential hardship.

Both these laws are worthy of support. One, they’ll make life just a little easier for us. Two, word will get around the rest of the country that Texans TRUST one another to carry guns.

It’s worthwhile to click the above link. There are a number of other tidbits that shooting enthusiasts, especially Texans, will find interesting. (Image copyright Texas State Rifle Association.)

Hat tip to friend Stephen A. Camp

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maybe I'm Not Really Qualified . . . .

I'm an embarrassment to Barack!

I only scored 14 on the Obama Test

Barack Obama has very high standards. As your president, Barack will demand that you do your best and that you don't embarrass him.

Take this test to determine whether you're qualified to be one of those who Barack will be president of.

Go ahead -- click on the link and take a look. See if you're more highly qualified -- or less of a disappointment than I.

Hat tip to Tamara