Even The Wild West Wasn’t That Wild

May 10th, 2016

Anyone out there remember Wyatt Earp (1994)?

kevin costner in the 1994 movie wytt earp

It was, probably, the most realistic movie portrayal of what is, probably, the most famous gun fight in all of American history.

The film did poorly at the box office, my own opinion being that it would have fared better if it had been much less true-to-life.  One example which springs to mind is how the action screeches to a halt right after the famous gun fight, as the scene shifts to a courtroom.  History records that the survivors on the losing side filed assault and murder charges against Wyatt Earp and those who were with him on that day.  A local Justice of the Peace held hearings for 30 days to determine what had happened, and then turned the case over to a grand jury to see if there were any grounds to bring the accused to trial.

court gavel with scales of justice

Hold the phone!  Court proceedings?  Justice of the peace?  Month long hearings?  Even a grand jury to see if there was to be a trial?

This certainly doesn’t sound like the Wild West that is famed in song and story!  Wasn’t every man an island, armed to the teeth and a law unto themselves?  Hair trigger tempers cause the use of hair trigger guns?  No consequences or rules that spell out when lethal force is acceptable, and no one to say that gunning down a ne’er-do-well is murder most foul?

cowboy action shooter with two guns

The historical record is very clear.  Virtually at the very instant that permanent settlements were formed, the residents turned their attention to imposing law and order on everyone involved.  County sheriffs were elected, town marshals were hired, and court houses were built as soon as possible so local judges could hand down punishments to those who violated the law.

modern western lawmen

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the legality of protecting your beloved pets when they are attacked through the use of lethal force.  The fact of the matter is that the law considers animals to be property, not people, and the general rule is that shooting someone to protect property is strictly against the law.  This applies just about everywhere, except under a very narrow set of exceptions.  This is true even in my adopted state of Texas, even though the conditions where lethal force is legal are broader than those found in other parts of the US.

After writing about protecting pets, I received an email from a long time reader concerning the essay.

“I thought it was a general purpose acception in most “firearm friendly” states like Texas and AZ ,was that thar were no given rules of engagement…”

No, not so.  And it wasn’t even so more than 130 years ago.

Before anyone takes our friend to task for his erroneous impression, let me remind you that it is a very easy misconception to acquire.  The majority of people working in the American news industry nurture a bitter and unrelenting hatred of any private citizen who dares to arm themselves against violent criminal attack.  They strive at every turn to depict decent, law abiding people who want to protect innocent lives as racist, misogynistic, in bred killers who are hell bent on finding a legal way to kill someone.  The wonder of it all is that there are some people who don’t fall for the line of bull!

So he has a wrong impression.  But he comes here along with all of you, my dear readers, so it looks like the best efforts of the gun control advocates have failed this time around.

Layered For That Crunchy Taste

April 30th, 2016

Not everyone has the means for fine dining, and not everyone can afford to have the fridge stuffed to bursting with fresh ingredients.  Sometimes you just have to make do.

Many has been the time when I placed a single slab of lunch meat between two slices of bread and chowed down.

bologna sandwich

Rather dull.  But there isn’t any cheese to be had at the moment, and there won’t be until the end of the week when I get paid.  No lettuce or fresh greens to lend a little texture to the soft blandness.  What to do?

Use those leftover potato chips, of course!

bologna sandwich with potato ships

Pile them on until the top bread slice is teetering precariously, and then push down to level out the structure.  This lends a great deal more flavor and texture to the bland and soft.  Crunch crunch, eat em’ up!

Don’t have potato chips, or crisps as our brothers and sisters in the UK and Ireland call them?  Then use any other snack crisp you can get your hands on.  Corn chips, tortilla chips, whatever.  Thin, crunchy, and salty is the order of the day.  When it comes to bland sandwiches, this is the spice of life!

McDonald’s has a Great Tastes of America menu that is available in the UK and Ireland.  They trot it out for six weeks every summer, and try new variations on the old favorites.  This year they offer something called the Tex-Mex Stack, and this is how a food writer describes the sandwich….

Another bloody weird one.

The Tex Mex Stack has two beef burgers, pepper jack cheese, spicy smoky sauce, CRISPY TORTILLA CHIPS, and a spicy bun. Whaaaa.


The author thinks chips on a sandwich is “bloody weird“???  What bizarro world did they come from?

Am I to understand that snack chips on sandwiches is unique to the United States?  That is something I simply cannot believe!

I wish they would offer the Tex Mex Stack here in Texas where I now reside.  The worthy residents of Ireland and the UK may find it to be shockingly odd to their palate, but it would fit right in with the residents of the Lone Star State.

Protecting Your Pets

April 24th, 2016

I was working as a security guard back in the late 1980’s.

elderly security guard

The must-have high-tech gadget at the time, which every motorist lusted after, was the radar detector.

radar detector circa 1985

The various models retailed for a couple of hundred dollars in 1980’s money, the manufacturers kept trying to slim them down and make them ever smaller.  Handy enough to slip into a jacket pocket, it took but two or three seconds to smash a window and rip the device from atop the dashboard.  Many a driver had a sorrowful tale of woe to relate after they left their car ” … for just a few minutes …” as an errand was attended to.

smashed car window

I was working for a rather large regional bank at the time, and the powers-that-be had decreed that the guards were to be armed.  This wasn’t an issue for me, except for the fact that armed security guards were entitled to a bonus.  Hey, more money for the same work!

Except for one month, when we started to experience a rash of smash-and-grabs out in the remote sections of the parking lots.  The loot of choice was, you guessed it, radar detectors.

There was some discussion as to what to do if a guard should suddenly come across one of the brazen thieves.  I pointed out that the on-site manual clearly stated that the thief should be observed as long as they were on the property, while we used our walkie-talkies to summon the police.  And that was as far as our responsibility for our minimum wage plus a buck jobs were concerned.

But there was one hothead in the group, as there usually is.

“I’m gonna shoot him!  I’m not even gonna bother to chase him!  I’m just gonna shoot him!”

I asked if he was actually going to end the life of some person just for a $200 radar detector, and our erstwhile Rhodes scholar loudly declared that the thief would have it coming if they tried to run away, thus forcing Deadeye Dick to pick up the pace and break into anything faster that a slow walk.

fat security guard

“I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that’s murder.” I said.

All the other guards swiveled their heads to gaze upon Deadeye, but he didn’t have any further nuggets of wisdom to impart.  He just kept repeating that he was going to shoot if he got a radar detector thief in his sights.  Lucky thing that the thieves were a crafty bunch, and managed to conduct their foul work without encountering a guard.  We never did find out what the courts would do if some rent-a-cop killed a teenager over a dashboard toy.

Okay, so you can’t use lethal force to protect property.  But what about our beloved pets?

chris takes his ease

Long time readers know that I have a very profound emotional bond with my pets, and that I am willing to go to great lengths to protect them.  In fact, I bear some small yet permanent scars for trying to do that very thing.

james with a chewed up arm

Even so, I realize that animals are considered to be property under the law, and that lethal force is a no-no when it comes to protecting stuff as opposed to people.

There appears to be an exception, however.  It seems that my new home state of Texas has a provision where one can employ lethal force under very narrow conditions.  The primary condition seems to be that the theft has to take place during the nighttime hours, which is certainly food for thought.

Like I said, I am no lawyer.  I’m going to have to consult with a professional if I ever want the lowdown on things legal, which is exactly what anyone who is also untainted by a law degree should do when faced with such questions.

But I think I’m on pretty solid ground when I say that the default assumption should be that you don’t shoot if there is only stuff on the line.



Cooking Off

April 11th, 2016

Regular readers of my unworthy scribblings already know that I have moved from snowbound Ohio ….

snow cthulhu 1

… to Sun-blasted West Texas.

desert between Odessa and Pecos

I got here in the dead of winter, so it was actually very comfortable for me at the time.  But the seasons are turning, summer is coming, and the temperatures are on the rise.  In a month or so, I expect that the midday heat will top 110 Fahrenheit (44 Celsius).

Thinking on the coming warmening, a memory floated up from the depths.  A reader once asked me if it would be alright if he stored his defensive handgun in his car during the hot times.  Would his ammo, perchance, cook off inside the baked interior?

I first determined that the inside of a car can’t heat up much more than about 50 degrees F (26 degrees C) hotter than the outside temp.  After that equilibrium is reached, and the car is radiating energy at the same rate it is absorbing heat from the Sun.

So how hot are we talkin’?  Worst possible scenario sees the inside of a dark car with large windows reaching 200 F (94 C).

bursting thermometer

Plenty toasty!  But is that enough to cause your ammo to cook off?

I reached out to all of the major American ammunition manufacturers, and received prompt and kindly replies from all except Winchester.  They were in agreement that modern ammunition in good condition only starts to cook off when the temperature reached 500 F (260 C).  As long as one loads up with recently purchased ammo, and cycles it out every year or so for fresh, then there is almost no chance that there would be  problem.

Stable and reliable as modern ammo might be in extreme conditions, the same cannot be said of most surplus ammunition.  Rounds manufactured prior to the 1960’s might well be primed with mercury fulminate, a chemical compound which is more volatile than the stuff which is used nowadays.  Not only are cartridges primed with mercury fulminate known as being corrosive, since the residue will react with steel to cause rust to form, but they also degrade fairly quickly with the passage of time.  Even if such ammunition was properly stored since it was first shipped from the factory it could still have become sensitive to high temperatures, and so should not be left inside a hot car on a blistering summer day.

burning car

So there you have it.  Buy new factory ammunition for your defensive handgun, and replace the carry ammo with brand new every year or so.  But you should be doing that anyway, shouldn’t you?

As for the ammunition engineers at Winchester, I am still waiting for your reply!

Better Lawyer Up

April 7th, 2016

It isn’t a secret that I am a strong advocate of legal armed self defense.  It is obviously the only way that the most vulnerable members of our society will be able to fend off violent criminal attack.


And, of course, those of us who have yet to reach that most vulnerable stage of our lives can use all the help we can get!

People of a similar conviction do what they can to prepare for that most terrible of situations, when lives are on the line and there is only the time between ticks of a second to act.  They do this by training for that moment, usually by going to the shooting range as often as possible.

practice at the range

If they have the money, they upgrade their gear to something that might just give them an edge against armed attackers.

standard glock 17

glock 17 tricked out with laser sight extended magazine threaded barrel

If they have even more money, and if they are smart, they attend firearm training available to civilians.

private civilian handgun training

These are nothing more than common sense precautions, but that pretty much seems to be about as far as most people are willing to go.  They get as ready as they can to protect themselves and other innocent lives, but then they just sort of stop thinking about it.  They want to continue living after a violent criminal attack, but they don’t consider what they have to do when the dust settle and the bullets stop flying.

What am I talking about?  What will someone who employs lethal force need when lethal force is no longer needed?

Well, just off the top of my head …

national association of criminal defense attorneys

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The Times, They Are A’Changin’!

April 6th, 2016

Steven has an interesting post on his blog, where he discusses how technology that is repurposed as weapons will bring about some unforeseen consequences.  His specific example is how the terrorist group ISIS claims to be assembling an air force out of radio controlled drones.  Not the military versions that have existed for years, but the small ones you can buy in convenience stores around where I live.

tom cruise movie obivion with cgi alien drone

Consider for a moment.  It is possible, though extremely unlikely, that drone technology and control software will become so sophisticated and cheap that people of moderate wealth could one day own swarms of drones in order to safeguard their own homes.  A few could fly aerial patrol overhead, switching off with fresh machines when the batteries are low and they have to go back to their charging stations.  If an anomaly is detected they could alert the homeowner, or even just call out the armed drones to attack.

synchronized drones

Reminds me of some libertarian science fiction I came across back in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

I Want One!

March 27th, 2016

every hit is a natural 20

(Image source.)

Thanks to Sam L for giving us a heads up to this manly example of gaming geekdom.  As the original source states, it just has to do better than 1D8 damage.

I’ve been searching the dark corners of the Internet, trying to see if such decisive weaponry is available for sale.  Unfortunately, I’ve come up empty.  Many people post the image without knowing where it came from, and there are some rumors that the sweet bashing implement is originally from Australia, but there doesn’t seem to be anything like this offered by the various fake weapon manufacturers.

I have no use for such an item, as I don’t LARP and my days slinging rattan for the Society are long, long gone.  But I would still shell out some hard earned for a D20 mace in a heartbeat!  How could any self respecting gamer not?

The Heartbreak Of False Advertising, Part Two

March 21st, 2016

d&d photo printing one

d&d photo printing two

Not only don’t they play Dungeons and Dragons, they don’t play any tabletop games at all!

The Charge Of The Rhino

March 20th, 2016

Bryan was kind enough to leave a question…

“What do you think about the Chiappa Rhino?”

Before we answer that, we have to explore which gun is at the heart of the question.

Chiappa Firearms is sort of an odd duck when it comes to firearms manufacturers.  Based in Italy, it started out by making replicas of famous guns, such as cowboy arms.  Most of those were chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.

chiappa cowboy replica box

chiappa cowboy 22 replica

They also offer shotguns, air guns, blank firing guns, and a whole lot more.  But for our purposes today, we need to focus on what is probably their most famous gun.  That would be the Rhino, a really nifty and innovative revolver.

chiappa rhino chambered for the 357 magnum cartridge

There are a lot of interesting features about the Rhino, but the one thing that seems to surprise people the most is that the barrel is slung down low on the frame.  Instead of the top chamber in the cylinder firing, the bottom chamber is the one where all the bang happens.

(Picture source.)

The idea behind this is that the majority of the recoil will be pushed straight back in to the hand of the shooter, keeping muzzle flip to a minimum.  In theory, this should allow for faster follow up shots and greater accuracy.

But wait, there’s more!  The cylinder is squared off, though I’m not sure why.  Cutouts that function as mounting platforms similar to a picatinny rail allow one to mount a variety of accessories, the standard factory sights are highly visible, the gun can be had in a wide variety of configurations and finishes, and one can find models chambered for an interesting array of cartridges.  (9x21mm in a revolver?  Really?)

By all accounts, the good people at Chiappa have come out with an innovative, finely made revolver that functions very well indeed.  So what is my opinion on the gun?

Well, I really don’t have any opinion concerning the Rhino at all.  You see, I have never fired one.  In fact, I have never even seen one except for pictures on the Internet.

How can this possibly be?  Am I not an expert?  Did I not accrue a quarter century of experience in the shooting sports?  Have I not shot everything to be found under the sun?  (Am I not, Did I not, Have I not!  Not not not!)

Nope, haven’t.  Sorry to disappoint.

One of the major reasons why I never came across a Rhino is because we don’t run in the same circles.  My experience is with low income folks who are operating under extremely limited means.  As of this writing, a bargain basement Chiappa Rhino retails for about $750 USD (£520, or €665).  This is a bit more than twice the price of a no-frills revolver from Taurus.

taurus 605b2 revolver chambered for the 357 magnum cartridge

To put it another way, you can buy two self defense revolvers from Taurus, as well as a box or two of ammo.  Or you can buy one Chiappa Rhino and throw it at the bad guys because you can’t afford any gun food.

So where to go to find out about the Rhino?  I would start here.  The author seems to know his stuff, and he has actual hands-on time with the gun.  That certainly puts him head and shoulders above me!

That Hideous Weight!

March 9th, 2016

I previously discussed retiring my old defensive tool, a 9mm autoloader from the firm of Taurus called the PT111 Millennium Pro.

taurus millenium pro

Or maybe it was called the Millennium Pro PT111?  Can’t remember.

Well, doesn’t matter.  The guns aren’t made anymore, and the company that made them had to recall massive number of defective guns.  Looks like I was lucky to bail before having to use mine to defend life and limb, huh?

Anyhoo, I decided to switch things around a bit. Why not carry a revolver for a time instead of an autoloader?

This actually isn’t something new for me.  I prefer autoloaders because they usually have a greater ammo capacity than revolvers, and because they are easier and quicker for me to reload, but a number of my students like wheelguns over something fed from a magazine.  This is why I always make sure to carry revolvers for at least one month out of the year, so I can give advice based on experience.

The sixgun I usually carry is a pretty big Magnum.

model 686 357 magnum revolver

The size didn’t bother me all that much, mainly because I carry it in a shoulder holster.

357 magnum shoulder holster

But this time around I wanted to carry something smaller, mainly so I wouldn’t have to wear a jacket all the time to cover up the gear.  Lucky for me I have just the thing.

snub nosed 38 with six rounds

It is a snub-nosed revolver that was made back around 1952 or so.  All steel construction, and a standard sized frame so the grip and the guts are the same as a common duty gun of that era.  The only difference being that the barrel was two inches instead of four.  But, standard size or not, it was still a great deal smaller than the Magnum.

hard used 357 magnum and 38 snubby in seoia tones

So, hey, let’s do it up old school.  I had visions of off duty cops and G-men on the job as I strapped it on.  This is what those tough old birds used to rely on when the Cold War was in full swing!  Should do a good job for me!

So how did it stack up to my defunct autoloader?  What was the main difference?

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