Stand Your Ground And Shoot

A friend recommended a television show titled Sleep Hollow.  The plot concerns an upper crust British officer who, after turning coat in order to work for George Washington as his personal hatchet man, is forced into a mystical sleep which lasts for more than two centuries.  He awakes in modern times, bewildered by the technology and customs that surround him, but ready to take up the fight against dark supernatural forces that threaten to destroy all of Mankind.

Hmm.  After re-reading the above paragraph, I have to admit that it doesn’t really do much to incite a passion to see the series.  All in all, I would have to say that the show is both better and worse than it sounds.

One of the more engaging elements is how the aforementioned military officer constantly struggles to adapt the reflexes and assumptions from his own time into the situations he encounters in the world of today.  Since the show is an adventure tale there is a fair amount of gunplay, and the way the character handles firearms is at least plausible.

Below are two screen shots from an episode where our hero is attacked by villains wielding fully automatic weapons.  Click on a picture to access the largest version.

ichabod crane from sleepy hollow 1

ichabod crane from sleepy hollow 2

(Sorry for the quality of the pictures, but it was the best I could do.)

The handgun in question is a 1911 that had been supplied to the character by an ally, so it is certainly capable of multiple shots without requiring to be reloaded after every round like a handgun from the 18th Century.  Having observed modern handguns in action in previous episodes, the character continues to fire until the fight comes to a close.  Score one for the writers, who at least treat the man from the past as being smart enough to discard old habits when faced with a new reality.

But note the stiff and formal shooting stance that the actor has assumed.  Is this a realistic portrayal of how people from the late 1700’s fired handguns?  As is the case with most things, the answer is ambiguous.

It seems that people would stand so if they were engaged in a formal duel, as there would be time to carefully brace oneself in order to gain the maximum accuracy from the one-shot handguns that were most often used.


(Picture source.)

If there is only one shot allowed, then you had better make it count.  Hold the gun out at arm’s length, assume a wide and stable stance, and try your best to keep the gun as steady as possible.

The stance is not too far off from that employed by modern bullseye handgun competitors, where the trophy is awarded to the person who shoots the best score at a leisurely pace.

bullseye pistol competition firing line

But there seemed to be times when the dueling pistol was held closer to the face, as seen in the following two contemporary drawings depicting the famous duel fought in 1892 by Georges Clemenceau.



(Both pictures were found here.)

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I Think That Is A Toy Gun

smoking gun

(Please click picture for larger version.)

The detail just doesn’t look right to me.  It is as if someone took a can of spray paint to a perfectly good gun!

I’ve also never seen smoke coming out of a handgun that swirled around like that.  Most likely the photographer has a cigarette habit.

Confessions of a Deathbeast

A few weeks ago I was at an outdoor arts festival when someone asked me what the logo on my shirt meant.


I explained that I was a firearms instructor, and that the logo stood for “Rummel’s Gun Group”. Before I was done I could see The Fear start.

Everybody who shoots knows what I’m talking about. You see it in their eyes, their expression. All of a sudden you’re not a person but a dangerous beast that might suddenly lash out and kill everyone around you. A Deathbeast.

There’s two reasons for this. The first is the very natural wariness that the helpless feel when confronted with someone who can end their lives in an instant. Simply owning a firearm means that you’re an instrument of destruction, at least in their minds. This is a silly attitude, completely irrational. But being irrational about firearms seems to be a badge of honor to some people.


The second reason is not their fault. In fact it’s ours.

Or some of us, at least. We all know the type. They’re the ones who dream out loud of shooting someone (and loud is the correct way to describe them). They let you know that they’re ready, even eager for trouble. It seems that the killin’ is the most important thing.

Now I don’t know how any of you feel about these guys, but they’ve always made me feel a little uncomfortable. Not because I’m afraid of them, but because I wish they could express themselves with a little more class.

We devote ourselves to this hobby of ours for different reasons. Some of us simply enjoy the art and discipline it takes to develop the skill to hit what we’re aiming at. Every time we go to the range it’s a competition, a struggle to see if we can force ourselves to have the steady nerves and calm mind needed to do better than we did the last time. It’s very personal, fiercely intense. Every one of us feels this to one degree or another, even on the bad days when we just can’t hit the target to save our lives.

Then there are the hunters. They set the targets out at 50 or 100 yards (depending if they’re using a rifle or shotgun), and they go to school. For these guys every day at the range is a voyage of discovery. Different loads, different projectiles, different weapons. What’s the best stock for them? What’s the best tool to harvest the game? Can they see themselves hiking over hill and through overgrown dale in the freezing rain with this heavy weight dangling from one aching shoulder? I’ve watched them working at it, putting holes in paper on the outdoor range, and I can say that the ancient Zen masters don’t have anything to teach these guys.

tired hunter

There’s the people who like to plink away. The gun is a tool, and they have a lot of fun trying to shoot out the X ring. When they get to the range it’s like they’ve gone to the amusement park. They don’t go home with a kewpie doll or a stuffed teddy bear, but that half hour is the best time of the week.

Finally there’s the grim ones, the serious ones. They’re friendly enough if you talk to them, but developing and maintaining their skill is a responsibility. They get in some range time because they think they have to, a burden that they shoulder because they think that they should.

practice at the range

That’s me, right there. Friendly to everyone who wants to approach me, smiling and with a word of encouragement to everyone who’s struggling with a new gun. But watch me shoot and you can see that I’m doing this as if it was the most important thing in the world. That’s because sometimes, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and I’m lying awake in the dark, I’m deathly afraid that it will be. And there’s plenty of people who look at this in exactly the same way.

Every so often you see an item in the newspaper about some nutbag who shoots up a bunch of innocent and unarmed people. Talk to someone like me and they’ll tell you that they wish they had been there. We wish we were in the same room with the nutter, the guy who has a weapon and is desperate to hurt people.

By any reasonable criteria this is completely insane. We’re fantasizing about putting ourselves in harm’s way, about allowing someone to shoot at us! This is hardly a sound strategy to a long and healthy life.

This isn’t because we want to kill someone and the nutbag shooter provides a chance to do it in a legal way. Instead we want to stop the violence before some innocent person dies.

This isn’t an indication of intelligence, either. Anyone who we might help would probably not appreciate it, and even if we managed to get through the ordeal unscathed we’d have to face another ordeal in the courtroom when the perp’s family sued us for everything we owned. Why in the world would we be willing, even eager, to take incredible risks and stand as a shield between innocent people and someone who’s trying so hard to end their lives?

No real reason except that we think we can make a difference. No one forces this responsibility on us, we seek it out and shoulder it all on our own. I think the Japanese call this sort of thing giri.

There is one thing about the nightmare scenario that I fear more than anything else. It’s the gnawing doubt that keeps me going back to the range every week, paying all this money for ammunition and range time. It’s very personal, something that Real Men aren’t supposed to admit, but it supplies a big chunk of my motivation.

If something does happen and people are depending on me I don’t want to let them down.

sleepless night


(An old essay, though still true.  Reprinted by request.)

Why Didn’t He Just Twist It’s Head Off?

Strange story about a housecat which went berserk, scratched a baby in the face, and then attacked the entire family.


So what does the head of the household do?  The guy who is responsible for the safety of his young child and domestic partner?  Why, he barricades his family in the bedroom, and cowers behind closed doors while dialing the emergency number to summon police!

swat team and kitty cat

How in the world did this guy manage to get his girlfriend pregnant when he doesn’t have any testosterone?

From the same news article linked to above, this is a Facebook picture of the doting dad with his child.

man who allowed kitty cat to get the better of him

It is like I have always said, tattoos don’t make you tough.

The man in question seems to be a caring individual who is concerned for the well being of his family, and for that my hat is off to him.  I also note that the cat in question weighs in at 22 pounds, which is very large for a house cat.

But, that having been said, it is still a house cat.  If this guy is such a loving father, why would he allow the animal to live after it attacked his baby?  At 22 pounds, I figure there would be enough hide to make a furry cozy for the toilet seat if any kitty cat was unwise enough to bare claw at my child!

fur toilet seat cozy

I offer free instruction in self defense techniques to those unfortunate souls who suffer violent attack.  This does not qualify.

Getting Old

Anyone ever see The French Connection (1972)?

french connection movie poster

It is a classic movie concerning a detective in New York who is on the trail of a major heroin smuggler.  (Major for the time, that is.)  It is known for an exciting chase sequence, and for the performance Gene Hackman turned in as the aforementioned police detective.

In the film, the detective is shown to carry his .38 snub nosed revolver in an ankle holster.

gene hackman in the french connection adjusts his ankle holster

(Picture source.)

The method of concealment is mentioned at least once in the film, as a fellow police officer chides Hackman’s character for what he sees as a gimmick.  The only reason the detective carries his sidearm in an ankle holster, it is asserted, are so any woman he is trying to pick up in a bar wouldn’t feel the gun when dancing close.

There are, of course, some very real advantages to carrying small handguns in ankle holsters.  I have found that it is one of the most foolproof of concealment methods.  After all, few people will spend much time staring at your feet, and those who are so inclined have various online websites that cater to their particular enthusiasms.

two feet

(These are not my feet!)

There are also some drawbacks, which where brought to painful focus by my latest student.

She is relatively young, which is all to the good.  What is even better is that she is interested in controlling her diet, and she actually enjoys exercise.

young woman stretching before a workout

(Not my actual student.)

The problem is that I have no interest in applying the slightest wisdom in choosing what I eat, and I find vigorous exercise to be an uncomfortable chore.  This has resulted in a body type that one would expect for a sedentary 50 year old with a fondness for pizza.

overweight dog

(Not a self portrait.)

My student, while being admirably healthy and athletic, is also a movie enthusiast.  She was interested in carrying her defensive firearm in an ankle holster, just like Gene Hackman in his Academy award winning role.  In pursuit of this, she asked me to illustrate how to draw the gun at speed.

Ankle holsters are not the best choice for quick draws, but there are ways to speed the process up.  All of them require the person wearing the holster to drop down on to one knee, and then to either roll around behind cover or to pop back up to their feet.

Considering my girth, the dropping down part is easy!  I can descend towards the floor like a champion, with admirable speed and efficiency.  It is the getting back up that has become increasingly wearisome as the decades advance.

Still, I managed to do it a few times without embarrassing myself.  Then I had her practice what she had seen several times.  While I had to struggle to keep from grunting while bouncing back to my feet, she smoothly rose to a standing position like a human pogo stick.

Ankle holsters are not for everyone, but she should do fine.