Misplaced Blame

I mentioned my admiration for Saturday Night Specials on these pages in the past.  Inexpensive guns that are also reliable and safe to operate, they have been instrumental in protecting low income families.

rg rohm revolver

A problem with all this is that criminals tend to favor such inexpensive guns when conducting their violent calling.  This makes sense, as the majority of guns used in violent crime have been stolen from their rightful owner.  Since most thefts occur in low income areas, and the majority of firearms found in depressed neighborhoods are of the cheaper variety, it would be noteworthy only if more expensive and mainstream guns were acquired by criminals.

Over the decades, there have been calls to ban cheaper guns in the interest of reducing crime.

banned banner

The argument goes that passing a law to make illegal all handguns sold under a certain price would pinch off the supply of weaponry for the evil people who prey upon the rest of us.  No cheap guns, and violent crime is reduced!

“Logic” of this sort only works if one ignores facts which are incredibly easy to perceive, the first of which is that the crime rate is highest in the states which have the most stringent gun control laws.  It might be more difficult for criminals to steal guns in those states because it is more difficult for law abiding people to acquire them, but criminals always seem to find a way no matter what the law says.

The second point is that the need for low income people to protect themselves from violent crime is more pressing than in wealthier neighborhoods.  Making guns sold at a reasonable price would simply disarm the law abiding who have to live with fixed incomes, not the criminals.


This is all old hat for those of us who are interested in armed self defense.  Why go back over such well traveled road?

I recently came across this BBC article that reports on efforts to ban a popular wine sold in Scotland.  Known as Buckfast Tonic Wine, it has been bottled and sold for more than a century by the Benedictine monks who reside at Buckfast Abbey.  It is characterized as having a high alcohol content, a high caffeine content, a low price, and a sweet taste similar to cola mixed with cough syrup.  Think of it as an energy drink for those who want to get drunk.

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Film Review : 47 Ronin (2013)

The tale of the Forty-Seven Ronin is a true story, kinda sorta.

It all started in the year 1701, when the young ruler of a minor holding in Japan became enraged at the bad manners of a minor court official.  He attacked the official with a knife inside the residence of the Shogun, an unforgivable offense.  He was ordered on the same day to commit ritual suicide, which he did.  His property, his holdings, and his wealth was also confiscated by the Shogun, which was part of the usual punishment for such matters at the time.  His family was made destitute, and his sworn retainers were cast out to be made leaderless samurai with no position and no future.

photograph of the ronin outside the ekoin

The dead lord had over 300 sworn samurai in his service, and most of them either committed suicide themselves or went out and found other jobs.  But a hard core corps of 47 bided their time, and waited for the uncouth court official who started the whole thing to become complacent.

After 2 years the ronin decided that the time was ripe, and the call went out.  Home made armor and weapons were retrieved from secret hiding places, and the revenge bent warriors amassed for a night assault on the residence of the man who had caused the death of their master.

assault on the enemy castle by the 47 ronin

After a brief but fierce battle, the defenders of the residence were defeated.  The court official was discovered in hiding, and beheaded.  The ronin then marched across the city to lay the head on the grave of their dead master, but before leaving they first took care to extinguish all of the lamps and fires inside of the residence.  They were afraid that an unattended flame would get out of control and the structure would become a blaze, which would have been a danger to the neighbors.

The grave of their master was situated on the grounds of a Buddhist temple.  After presenting the head and dagger used to remove it from the body, the ronin peacefully gave themselves up to the authorities.  After dithering for three months, the Shogun ordered all but one to commit ritual suicide for the murder.  Their graves are popular tourist attractions.

graves in japan

This story is a source of great pride to many Japanese.  It embodies an idealized version of the qualities that their culture holds most dear.  Loyalty, self sacrifice, perseverance, and dedication shine through the telling of the tale.  It helps that it was (mostly) true as well.

A movie opened yesterday which is supposedly inspired by this epic story.  How did it do in capturing the spirit of the legend?  Was it at least entertaining as a big budget popcorn muncher?

47 ronin movie poster

The short answer is that it was a complete travesty as an homage to a worthy historical incident.  It also committed the unbearable sin of action movies by being both too slow and rather boring.

Want details?  You will find them after the break, but be warned.  Below there be spoilers!

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Everyone Should Acknowledge Their Limitations

I was recently approached by a woman who was, shall we say, in less than ideal physical condition.

obese woman

It was obvious that the extra weight she carried was a significant problem, as it also caused some very serious medical conditions.  She had trouble moving about, forced to shuffle along with very short steps because the lack of blood flow to her extremities resulted in swollen, bruised feet.

bruised and injured foot

What did this poor creature want with me?  It seems that there had been some burglaries and thefts in her neighborhood.   Concerned about her safety, she wanted advice on purchasing defensive chemical spray and a baton.  It seems that she actually believed that these two items would give her a chance to fight off a gang of home invaders!

a selection of expanding batons

defensive chemical spray

It should be incredibly obvious to anyone who has ever been involved in a hand-to-hand training program that this lady was a victim in search of a criminal.  She was too unsteady to handle a baton effectively, too weak to retain control of any defensive weapons, and far too slow to run away.

I suggested a firearm, but she adamantly rejected the very idea.  There were to be no guns!  She said her major fear was that any gun she wielded would be taken away by the criminal, and used against her.  This was the precise reason why I though she should stay far away from HtH weapons!

And so we come to the awkward decision that is all too familiar to me.  How much do I tell this woman?  Where do my responsibilities lie when it comes to a random stranger?  After all, it seems as though there is no hope for her if violent criminals ever crossed her path.  Shouldn’t it be better to tell her where she could purchase the defensive devices she was considering, so that her fears would be eased?  If she rejected all measures that would bring her any physical security, wouldn’t even a false sense of security make her life easier?

False Sense of Security

My policy is that I do no one any favors by softening the blow.  If asked for my professional opinion, then that is exactly what I deliver.  And I must do so in a manner so my meaning cannot be misunderstood.

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Legal Here, Illegal Over There

One of the major complaints of gun owners here in the United States concerns the patchwork of laws restricting firearms. It can be extremely frustrating.

judge bringing down the gavel

It might be perfectly legal to  own and carry a concealed firearm in a specific state, but local and Federal ordinances can restrict that right.  Its alright to have your gun on you over here, but cross the street and you could find yourself in big trouble!

From Glenn we have a heads up about a court case in Florida.  A young mother is attending classes at a university, and she locks her gun up in her car while on campus.  The problem is that university guidelines prohibit all weapons on site, even if the owner has a legal right to those same weapons just about every other place in the state.  In fact, the university claimed that they would have the campus police arrest anyone who violated this guideline.

Luckily, the judge hearing the case ruled against the university.  Nice to see that justice has been served.

A Passive Defense Is Hardly Much Of A Defense

I was talking to a young lady some years ago who had become alarmed at a recent missing persons case in the news.  It seems a female college student, much like herself, had disappeared from the street on her way back home after a night out with friends.  The fear was that violent criminals had set upon the ingenue, kidnapping her from a well trafficked sidewalk without anyone noticing, all for their own vile amusements.

Somewhat far fetched and dramatic, but possible.  I started to suggest a few places where the young woman could find qualified firearms instructors, but she demurred.  Instead of  bothering to take the steps necessary to apply for a CCW license, she claimed that she had devised a sure fire defense against violent criminal attack without having to carry a gun!

Was it intensive martial arts training?  The money to hire armed bodyguards to surround her at all times?  Oh, wait!  Maybe it was a suit made of porcupine quills!

photoshopped porcupine

None of those were her methods.

If she was feeling uneasy as she walked along the street, she would simply use her cell phone to call one of her friends.

attractive girl with cell phone

As she walked along, I was told, the person on the other side of the conversation would be constantly updated as to the location of our plucky co-ed.  If a gang of criminals should set their white slaving intentions upon her, then her buddy would immediately call the police within seconds of the snatch!  The authorities would be vectored in to the place where the initial crime took place, and so would lose no time in conducting their investigation!

Rape_van picture

My thought was that it would be infinitely safer to take the steps necessary to keep out of the clutches of violent criminals in the first place, instead of relying on others to call the cops after deliberately allowing rapists and kidnappers easy access to what they most desired.

I was reminded of this futile exercise in cell phone self defense when Milo wrote to inform me of a new smart phone app which claims to prevent rapes and other violence.

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In Praise Of Saturday Night Specials

Legend speaks of a time in the 1950’s when the town of Toledo, Ohio was awash in weekend violence.  A major transportation hub, it would attract laborers looking for temporary work.  Paid every Friday, the fights would start on Saturday in the low-rent bars and taverns that catered to the blue collar crowd.

The local police started to refer to the cheap handguns used in these fights as “Saturday night specials“.  Inexpensive enough to be purchased at the local hardware stores and sporting goods shops for self protection on payday, only to be discarded if used during an evening of hard drinking.

rg rohm revolver

Most people involved in the shooting sports use the term only as a disparagement.  It is shorthand for “worthless junk” in the lexicon.  I have yet to hear someone utter the phrase without a sneer on their face, and disgust in their voice.

I have to disagree.  Firearms such as these play a very vital role in protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

davis p-32 auto

The vast majority of my students were in extremely distressed economic circumstances.  I’d say that they were “dirt poor”, except that they couldn’t afford any of their own dirt.  They would use my own personal firearms for the training course, but it was simply impossible for me to actually give any away.  They would have to find their own.

Those with extended families would put the word out, and an old heirloom would find its way to them after a few days.  Usually a well worn revolver chambered for the .38 Special cartridge, I would clean them up and have the guns checked out by a gunsmith who volunteered his services for the cause.  They would look crappy, with most of the blueing worn off and the grips cracked and worn smooth.  But they could safely be fired, and they would shoot straight.   Considering my students were trying to foil the next violent criminal that targeted them, everything else was unnecessary bling.

old army colt revolver

What would happen if they didn’t have an extended family, or if none of their relations had an old gun lying about?  Then they would have to buy new, and that is where the Saturday night special would come into play.

hi point 45 acp

My students have had great success with Hi Point firearms, a firearms manufacturer which specializes in inexpensive handguns.  Although they were sold at a low price, I found them to be safe and reliable weapons.  Not only that, but the company now offers a lifetime warranty on repairs.  Times have changed since the cops in Toledo were picking guns up from barroom floors.

One of the major complaints I hear concerning Saturday night specials is that they don’t handle heavy use very well.  Long before more expensive guns start to suffer from breakages and failures, cheap guns will show signs of wearing out.

All true, and I agree.  But my students simply cannot afford to spend money on ammunition and time at the shooting range.  Many times they have to choose between buying enough food to keep the kids fed, or paying the electric bill so the lights won’t go out.  It might horrify those of us dedicated to armed self defense, but even what we would consider to be a minimum of practice must go by the wayside.

What is required is a reliable gun that can be held against need, sometimes sitting without being fired for years, ready to go in case of an extreme emergency.  These fit the bill.