Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

Correction /Update on the French Train Attack

As is usually the case, the initial media reports were incomplete and incorrect. Today, we have more details on the incident. Rather than a counterattack by US Marines, it was a self-organized “pack, not a herd” of young men that disarmed and disabled the attacker, a known Islamic fundamentalist named Ayoub el-Qahzzani, 26.  (Sounds close enough to Ala-kazam! to us).

three train heroes

L-R: Anthony Sadler, Aleck Skarlatos, and Chris Norman show off medals they received from Mayor of Arras, France, Frederic Leturque. Note bruise on Sadler’s nose and blood on Norman’s shirt. Spencer Stone was in hospital.

  • The four men were three young friends: Spencer Stone, an Air Force airman on leave; Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard soldier on vacation; and non-vet Tony Sadler; plus a middle-aged British man Chris Norman, who lives in France and is identified as an “IT Consultant.”
  • They disarmed ala-Kazam! and beat the snot out of him; that part of previous reports is correct.
  • He was yelling at them, “Give me back my gun! Give me back my gun!” But as Sadler put it, “We just carried on beating him up.” Good call, kid.
  • Ala-Kazam! was a member of a former terrorist cell that was rolled up before it could attack in Brussels. He was on the radar of Belgian, French and Spanish counterterrorist police.
  • Ala-Kazam! was prepared with a cover story. His cover story is that:
    1. No, he’s not an Islamist or terrorist…
    2. He was just planning a robbery!
    3. Gun? What gun? Oh, that gun. He found it under a bush in a park in Brusells.
Spencer Stone, 22, was injured in the fight, as were two passengers. This is his USAF basic picture.

Spencer Stone, 22, was injured in the fight, as were two passengers. This is his USAF basic picture. He recognized the sound of an AK being loaded, and charged the gunman when he came out of the restroom.

The cover story is amateurish, but it will be believed by those who want to believe. Already French officialdom is trying to minimize any terrorist or Islamist motive,  and certain elements of the press are going with the “how do you know it’s Islamic,” or the good old “root causes” search. In 5-4-3-2-1 expect editorials about the importance of avoiding “anti-islamic backlash,” and expect these heroes’ faces to be crowded off TV by the terrorist apologists of CAIR.

As more details emerge, they get more remarkable. Anthony Sadler’s dad, also named Tony Sadler, a soft-spoken guy who seems to just radiate good will and decency, remarked that he expected his son to learn something on his trip and then he goes…

… and seems to become France’s national hero — I’m told he might even meet the President of France. Still wrapping my head around that.

French President Hollande would probably be honored to meet these guys, actually. Any leader can always make time for good news and praiseworthy countrymen, or in this case, tourists.

Skarlatos's pre-deployment picture. He, Stone and Sadler were friends sightseeing Europe after his Afghan tour.

Skarlatos’s pre-deployment picture. He, Stone and Sadler were friends sightseeing Europe after his Afghan tour. He shouted, “Spencer, GO!” and followed his friend against the Arab terrorist.

Skarlatos, whose first name is variously spelled Alec, Alek, and Aleck in news reports, is confirmed to be a member of the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team and an Afghanistan veteran. Oregon Guard spokesman Major Stephen Bomar said:

It’s fantastic that no matter who it was, someone stepped up to stop such a horrific event. We’re absolutely proud that it happened to be someone from the Oregon Army National Guard

Frankly, this is the best possible outcome. None of the victims will die; the terrorist has failed. Moreover, despite being armed with an AK and a basic load of ammunition, and having possibly received training in Syria, he was beaten up by an international group of civilians and off-duty troops including a part-time soldier, an Air Force junior enlisted guy, and two pure civilians, one of them old enough to be his father, from a profession (IT) noted as a refuge of nerds and the non-physical.

It was, in fact, fully in the spirit of the heroes of United 93, but with a much better outcome, and it illustrates one of the weaknesses of ISIL’s and al-Qaeda’s current epidemic-of-lone-wolves strategy: as Kipling wrote, “the strength of the wolf is the pack,” and they’re finding out that when they show up without the pack, they misclassified their targets. Not sheep at all, but able to spontaneously organize a counter-wolfpack.

Finally, Ala-Kazam! is lucky he’s just in jail, not in Hell. On a video shot by another passenger, the Americans are heard fully in charge of the situation:

US voice 1: Dude, I tried to shoot him.

US voice 2 (amused): He did!

Apparently, Ala-Kazam!’s gun had an ala-ka-jam. He may have had a handgun, also.

US voice 1: You’re also missing the handgun.

Euro voice (maybe Chris Norman?): The handgun is missing.

US Voice 2: Can we just look under chairs, and shit?

At that point, the audio on the video becomes a multilingual discussion of the search for the missing pistol.


  • El País (Spain; Spanish language): El autor del atentado contra el tren Ámsterdam- París vivió en Algeciras. (The perpetrator of the attack on the Amsterdam-Paris train lived in Algeciras). It also identifies his weapons as an AK with nine magazines and a 9mm “Lugger” with one magazine. Oh, here’s an English translation where they spell Luger right. Pity, a Luger wasted on a bum like this. The stories contain some details on ala-Kazam!’s pre-beatdown life; for all his extreme Islam, he’d done time for dope dealing.

That’s it for now or we’ll never go live with the post!

PS: it would have been nice if the gal in the platform shoes had been one of the beaters, but apparently she’s one of the French cops. In the French media, the police spokesman telling this story of failed jihad with evident relish was by appearance and name a Frenchman of Arab heritage (as was one of the victims in the small arms attack).

Law of Self Defense Seminar — a Review

Law of Self Defense Andrew BrancaWe’ve written before about the excellent thing that is Andrew Branca’s book, The Law Of Self Defense. We recommend it to everybody. He also does live seminars on particular states’ or groups of states’ laws. We recently attended such an event as a guest of Andrew.

Let us make perfectly clear what this means: we attended without paying his usual fee, so we’ll decline, if ever offered, the excellent perk that goes with attending a seminar: an hour’s free legal consultation, should you ever be involved in a self-defense incident.

An hour? we can hear some of you skeptic’s thinking aloud out there. What earthly good is an hour of a lawyer’s time? It turns out, for an individual facing possible indictment or charges in the aftermath of a self-defense shooting, a very real possibility these days, what he or she needs is a criminal defense attorney admitted to the bar and familiar with the courts locally, and what that attorney needs is someone like Andrew as a backstop — someone who can tell them what elements of self-defense need to be present in their fact pattern to win the case.

Of course, most of us are not attorneys (although there were an interesting set of them taking advantage of the Continuing Legal Education credits the seminar provides). Most of the attendees were shooters and everyday defensive carriers.

For us, the take-away from the seminar is what to do to establish a fact pattern that can prevent our indictment, get the case tossed in the motions phase, or, if all else fails, deliver a win in court.

A win in court sure beats a loss, but Andrew emphasizes that it isn’t an absolute win. “The process is the punishment,” and even a “victorious” defendant emerges financially ruined and reputationally tattered. It gets considerably worse if the media decides to play buzkashi with your head. George Zimmerman’s legal bills are between him and his lawyers, but they’re estimated at over $1 million. And even if George can ever earn his way out from under that debt (like Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys?) he still has a large number of people who, inflamed by false and careless media reporting, think he got away with murder. One of them took a shot at him this year. (Imagine the restraint it took not to shoot back). And the guy that shot at him was released on bail, where he’s since been busted again for another violent crime.

The system seems sometimes to be spring-loaded against the guy who’s a first-time participant, and full of breaks for the frequent flyers. Andrew doesn’t defend this system, but he does tell you what it is, and how to survive it.

Can’t You Just Teach Yourself?

No, you can’t. Why not? Because, where are you going to learn the law? Trying to reason from the Constitution would be fine if that’s what courts actually did, but that’s not what they do. They don’t even work from the state’s own self-defense law, alone. We have said before that for a layman (non-lawyer), trying to read statutes is a chump’s game. What “the law” is in a courtroom is a farrago of statute, court decisions, and jury instructions from previous cases. It gets even worse. Some court decisions are precedential and subsequent courts rely upon them, others are unpublished and you can’t rely on them, to name just one tiny example.

What happens when you use a Self Defense, er, defense

The DA has measured, and this fits you.

The DA has measured, and this fits you.

The first thing is that some very big elements of the crime — and yes, people who defend themselves are often charged with crimes up to and including murder, just ask George — are proven for the prosecution by your self-defense argument.

Because you’re not saying I didn’t do it. You’re admitting that you did it. But you’re saying I had a justifiable reason for committing this crime, one that makes it not a crime. In this way, a self-defense based defense is very different from an alibi defense, for example — the alibi supports the idea that I didn’t do it.

George Z, for instance, never denied he was right there, and never denied shooting Trayvon Martin. His self defense plea simplified the task for the prosecution — all they had to do is disprove one of the elements of self-defense, because he’d already admitted almost everything else they’d need to convict him of murder. He had admitted:

  1. He was there
  2. He fired his gun
  3. He intended to shoot Trayvon

…and, of course, no one disupted that:

4. Trayvon died.

In a case like Zimmerman’s, your self-defense plea may be a matter of life or death. (Since prosecutors had taken the death penalty off the table, for George it was a matter of life or life in prison, a fate worse than death for a lot of free men).

Where’s the Burden of Proof? What are the Elements of Self-Defense?

First, who has to prove that your actions were self-defense? This varies from state to state, but in general, you do.

And the elements you have to prove are:

  • Innocence: you have to be defending, not attacking. 
  • Imminence: you have to fear death or grievous injury right now, not sometime next week.
  • Proportionality: if someone flips you the bird and you do a double mag-dump in him, you’re going to have issues with the justice system.
  • Avoidance: Did you try to avoid the violence or did you welcome it?
  • Reasonableness: What would that mythical “reasonable man” think about your use of force?

Each of these items is handled a little bit differently in every state’s law. And many of them are fairly subjective, but they’re not subjective based on what you think or what you thought at the time, but on what our ideal reasonable man would think.

In the seminar, Andrew not only introduces these concepts but illustrates them with cases familiar from the national news, and (perhaps more to the point) unfamiliar, but illustrating the case law in the specific states. (For this iteration, it was MA and NH).

Why Do Self-Defense Pleas Fail?

Law-ScaleAndHammerThe most common reason is this: attorneys can only work with the facts they have, and often they get a crappy fact pattern. If any one of the five elements of a self-defense plea fails, the whole plea fails: the chair must stand on all five legs or it falls.

Some of these distinctions can be extremely subtle. The difference between innocence and failed innocence, for example, can be a simple as an attacker’s desisting in the attack and attempting to withdraw. If you pursue, you’re the new attacker. If you provoke the attack, you’re not innocent. If you lay in ambush to drygulch somebody, your case for avoidance crumbles, etc. The most common error in proportionality is to answer non-deadly force with deadly force.

On the subject of Avoidance, Andrew showed us a favorite prosecutor’s trick: to show an illustration of the area where the confrontation took place, with every possible avenue of escape illustrated with a red arrow. “Even if only one of these was not blocked,” the DA will intone, “you must convict” the defendant. It can be “terribly effective,” Andrew warns, with juries. But there’s legal jiu-jitsu to use here, too: you only have to demonstrate that the way out, while not blocked, was not safe. If the assailant has a projectile weapon like a gun, can you turn your back on him? If he’s knife-armed and faster than you?

The Things People Think Are Legal, But…

One of the biggest things that lands well-meaning people in the legal stewpot is bad information. The only source of good information about self-defense law is a lawyer who’s trained to interpret the documents where the law really resides: statutes, court decisions, and jury instructions. Have you heard any of this advice:

  • “If you shoot him outside, drag him back in the house.”
  • “Shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
  • “If he didn’t have a gun, put a kitchen knife in his hand before you call the cops.”
  • “Don’t call the cops.”

Along with these there are things that might be legal, but are stupid. One example is clamming up completely: Andrew makes a persuasive case for a “say little” approach to the police instead of the well-known “say nothing,” which can make the police start to treat you as a suspect. Remember, cops spend 90% of their time relating to people in a binary world: victim, or suspect? You want them to think you at least might be the victim here, or you’re not going to like the bin they put you in.

The Advantage of Minding Your Own Business vs. Some Bad Ideas

handcuffs_1More than one guy has landed in the legal soup when he made a snap decision that some damsel in distress needed rescuing. Sometimes the case wasn’t what it looked like; sometimes it was, but beaten-up Juliet gets back with beater Romeo and it’s their word against yours, Future Inmate Number.

There’s a fine point of legal doctrine this hinges on: is your state a Reasonable Perception or an Alter Ego state? The difference can unlock the door to a jail cell — or lock it, if you’re wrong. Do you even know what your state is? We didn’t.

And while getting into someone else’s domestic incident is always a bad idea, there’s a handful of bad ideas beyond that.

You are not a cop (well, unless you’re a cop, but even cops ought to know self-defense law — they’re becoming a favorite snack of prosecutors this year, after all). A cop has to go into a deadly area to arrest somebody; you don’t. A cop has to intervene in strangers’ fights; you don’t. A cop knows he can botch a use of force galactically, and fall back on qualified immunity; you don’t.

It’s almost never legal to use deadly force to protect property. People who do that are at the mercy of the degree to which their jurisdiction’s prosecutors are sympathetic to gun owners. Bear in mind, prosecutors came up through colleges and law schools, where gun owners are about as popular as the Herpes Simplex Virus.

Our Biggest Take-Aways

Our biggest take-aways from a day spent in a gun club classroom getting the living Jesus scared out of us were two:

  • Everybody should take this seminar; and,
  • We’re going to continue to use our superior judgment so as not to have to display our superior pistolcraft.

The biggest thing preventing this seminar from appearing in your jurisdiction covering your self-defense law is that Andrew is just one guy, and he’s booked every weekend day until sometime in 2016 (and he’s got a teenager and a newborn, simultaneously… )

But the good news is that Andrew has plans to train a cadre of experienced trainers to conduct LOSD training, as an adjunct to the defensive skills training they already deliver. That should make this vital self-defense training more widely available to the defensively-oriented public.

This seminar is highly recommended. If you carry your firearm without this knowledge, you are at risk of a wide range of bad outcomes, including arrest, incarceration and imprisonment.


This very weekend there’s a seminar in Lawrenceville, Georgia, covering the SD law of the great state of Georgia. Link:  It won’t be back in GA for a year unless Andrew fires up a local instructor.

For all upcoming seminars:

A Gong for Canadian Hero Kevin Vickers

While the US Navy is looking for some way to keelhaul the guys who fired back at the Chattanooga recruiting and reserve site attacker, for whom the President flew the flags at half-staff after refusing to do so for his victims, the Canadians — specifically, the Province of New Brunswick — are honoring their guy who shot back, former Parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers (who knows where to lay his hands on a Mountie-issue Smith & Wesson 5946 as well as the ceremonial mace of office). Vickers is being presented the province’s highest honor (well, “honour,” since it is Canuckistan).

Kevin Vickers, the former sergeant-at-arms in Parliament, has been named a recipient of the Order of New Brunswick for his role in stopping a shooting spree by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau last fall.
Vickers stopped the gunman in the House of Commons last October shortly after Zehaf-Bibeau killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the National War Memorial, and rushed into the building with his rifle.

via Kevin Vickers receives Order of New Brunswick for role in stopping shooter – Yahoo News Canada.

It’s unusual for the award to be given for heroism these days; awarded by politicians, it’s generally given for some kind of social-justice-warrior engagement with some trendy minority.

Well, Vickers did have a sort of social justice engagement with a trendy minority.

Vickers on Day of Shooting

The Smith 5646 is a DAO, bobbed-hammer version of the stainless 5606 pistol. It was made during the 1990s.

The Alternative to “Judged” or “Carried.”

Law-ScaleAndHammerWe’ve all heard this bluster before:

I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6!

(To our foreign readers, most criminal juries in the USA, for serious charges, have 12 members, who are the finders of fact in a criminal trial; the judge can shape their decision with his or her superior understanding of the law, and has authority to impose most sentences, but the judge cannot, except in exceptional cases, alter or set aside a jury verdict. And 6 is the usual number of pallbearers who carry a decedent’s casket).

Why do we call it bluster? Well, it’s normally delivered in the same tone that a rotund INSCOM NCO once used to deliver this deathless line, explaining why he could not come within hailing distance of a passing score on a PT test:

You run your two miles. I’ll stand and fight!

fat-soldiersThat did not work out too well for Sergeant Heavy Drop (although having achieved certain milestones of old age and rotundity, we’re not as unsympathetic as our 1980s Weaponsman manifestation was). And “judged by 12” has not been working out well for some people who thought they had a solid self-defense case.

The thing is, going to court is a losing proposition, second only to going to the churchyard. It’s a calamity if your self-defense case is very weak (think Michael Dunn, doing life in prison for what he thought, very mistakenly, was a self-defense shooting) or you’re in a jurisdiction where the law and the biases of judge and citizenry are stacked against you (think Brian Aitken, although his wasn’t even a self-defense case; he got seven years for legal possession of unloaded firearms). But it’s almost as disastrous if your case is strong. Consider George Zimmerman, who was tried and convicted by a press that was not above making up facts and altering evidence, and tried again by a prosecutor who was unconstrained by the facts, the law, or the Constitution in her search for a scalp. Sure, George “won” acquittal, but when you check out of the courtroom after a “win” like that, all you get back is your bail money, not your life. 

George Zimmerman artThe process is the punishment. But that’s only the beginning.

George Zimmerman is never going to have an ordinary life again. He’s still pursued by paparazzi who are still willing to falsify a story to “get” his scalp, and the press have stirred up enough people that one actually stalked him and took a shot at him. (Which the press then reported as, “George Zimmerman in another shooting!”) Bad, bad, naughty George. He didn’t fall in line with The Narrative™, and there is no greater sin in media world than a mere subject of a story who refuses to read his lines as the part is written.

If you are involved in a self-defense shooting, you can expect to be treated like that, especially if you are (in Wolfe’s pungent term) The Perfect White Defendant, like George (hey, he’s Hispanic, but whatever, The Narrative™ called for a white guy, so “white” the New York Times declared him, a label they later modified to “white hispanic” which is Times speak for “a Hispanic we don’t like”). And we haven’t even mentioned the money. There are two kinds of legal defense: good, and cheap. There is no Venn intersection of the two sets. For “good” and “cheap” you can substitute “thorough” and “slapdash.” Thorough? Thorough costs money, and it takes time, which costs, of course, more money.

You can save so much money by going for “slapdash” that you can pay your lawyer from your prison commissary account. Over time. (That’s just a joke. Criminal lawyers, like bankruptcy lawyers, expect to be paid up front. Even cheap, slapdash ones. For obvious reasons).

So you don’t really want to be Judged By 12 unless the only real alternative is to be Carried by 6.

Fortunately there’s a Third Alternative.

The Third Alternative

Pilots have a great saying that we’re absolutely going to steal. It comes from the safety culture that has turned “retired fighter pilot” from a one-in-dozens rarity in the 1950s and 60s, when the USAF and Navy crashed 1,000 jets a year, to something pretty common today.


usaf_aircraft_accidents_graph(Indeed, most people only know one or two casualties from their UPT class after 20 years, and some people retire without burying a single squadron mate or friend). We gun folk could use a safety culture like that, which is a bigger issue than just this blog post. But the saying is this:

A superior pilot uses his superior judgment so that he doesn’t have to make a vulgar display of his superior skills.

That’s the Third Alternative, and that’s what we want you to do: use your superior judgment so that you don’t ever have to slap leather for real. Yes, it’s boring never being in the hospital with tubes up your nose, never being reviled by the anti-gunners on the evening news, and never sitting at that awkward little table like George Zimmerman, sweating bullets about whether your lawyers were good enough — and whether the publicity hadn’t poisoned the jurors against you already.

That doesn’t mean be a coward. That doesn’t mean shrink from a fight — always. It does mean shrink from a fight that’s not yours or not necessary. If the guy’s going to go away, let him go. If the guy’s not directly threatening your or yours, let him go. Let the cops chase him. That’s why the get the big bucks (hah), and even though they may not get your criminal tonight sooner or later they get them all. No career criminal never feels the long arm of the law.

So make up your mind:

  1. I will fire if it is the only way to prevent death or serious personal injury.
  2. If those are not in the cards, I’ll hold fire.
  3. If I can, I’ll keep my gun concealed.
  4. If I can, I’ll move away from the threat.

Doing mindset exercises ahead of time is excellent preparation; actual drills are even better, which is why more and more PDs are going to photorealistic or even force-on-force training simulations. But you have an option, if you are a civilian lawful self-defender, that the cop does not: you can get out of Dodge. The cop has to go into the alley, into the building, into the crack house or ghetto ‘hood to put the cuffs on his target for tonight. Unless you’re a cop, you don’t. (And even if you’re a cop, you may have an alternative. The day after the ATF lost 3 agents to hostile and 1 to friendly fire at Waco, Texas, line agents who hadn’t been asked figured out they could have grabbed Koresh on his daily run or when he went to the post office, where he kept a post box).

Here are a few other ways to use your superior judgment:

  1. Know where the exits are.
  2. Conceal yourself, and stay concealed. If an assailant pursues you and winkles you out, shoot him then. 
  3. Keep your mouth shut and don’t make hand gestures. An amazing number of questionable self-defense shootings seem to begin with a few obscenities and a flipped bird.
  4. Don’t try to de-escalate the situation — you can’t reason with angry, stoned or stupid people very well, and that’s pretty much a who’s who of who goes around attacking people. Just don’t escalate the situation.
  5. Be the grey man (or woman). Yes, that is encouraging the assailant to attack someone else — and you can make your egress and vector the cops in. Of course, if you do this early enough
  6. Use best judgment about where you go, when, and in what condition. For instance, there are two bars within a short bike ride (<6 mi) where we could pretty much count on seeing a fistfight at 0200 on Thursday through Saturday nights. Even if we were still in yout’ful bar mode (that ship has sailed), care to guess where we would not be at that hour?

There’s a lot of truth in the old saying, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” A bullet in the sternum is a fairly unbeatable stupid prize, although a stint at the defendant’s table is nothing to cough at. Conduct your life in general and in detail in such a way that you’re not misidentified by anyone as a contestant in the Stupid Games Olympics.

Use your superior judgment, and you just might never need to fall back on your superior skills.

Self-Defense: Where’s This Guy’s Error?

Stan Pannaman, gunshot (and beating) survivor

Stan Pannaman, gunshot (and beating) survivor.

In the story excerpt below (you can Read The Whole Thing™ at the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel) you see the story of how Stan Pannaman, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran, used a gun to defend himself and a friend.

But his ordeal wasn’t over: he then allowed himself to be turned into a Bloomberg cliché when his assailant, career criminal Michael Q. McAuliffe, disarmed him and shot him with his own gun.

McAuliffe’s shock at what he had done caused him to discontinue the attack.

Doug Young, president of the South Florida Audubon Society and Pannaman’s fellow volunteer, described a surreal scene on the beach as he and a number of volunteers set off to monitor turtle nests about to hatch near El Mar Drive.

Michael Q. McAuliffe, turtle hater and ex-con.

Michael Q. McAuliffe, turtle hater and ex-con.

“There was a man sitting on a bench at the entrance of the beach who was giving off profanity,” said Young, 64, of Tamarac. “He got up and went toward one of the nests and very aggressively started pulling the stakes out.”

According to the Sheriff’s Office, McAuliffe hit Young and then Pannaman pulled out a gun.

“In an attempt to de-escalate the situation, Pannaman pulled a gun out of his pocket,” a sheriff’s statement said. McAuliffe, undeterred, took the gun away from Pannaman, the agency said.

Young told the Sun Sentinel that Pannaman pointed the gun at the man as he explained that disrupting a sea turtle nest is a felony and he’d better stop.

Young said that Pannaman had put the gun back in his pocket. But then McAuliffe approached Young and hit him. The trio began wrestling, he said. And then McAuliffe had the gun.

“He said, ‘I’m going to shoot,'” Young said.

Pannaman turned quickly enough that the bullet hit him in the left hip, Young said. “The guy freaked out when he saw the wound,” Young said, recalling McAuliffe throwing the gun into the sand. “He was saying, ‘I can’t believe I did this. I can’t believe I did this.'”

Police arrived on the scene shortly, Young said.

Richard Whitecloud, founder of Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, which works with Young’s group to help distressed hatchlings, said he gets reports nightly about turtle volunteers getting harassed.

“Almost every night our people are dealing with people who are rude, aggressive and pursuing the nesting females,” he said.

via Turtle-nest fight leaves one man wounded, another arrested, authorities say – Sun Sentinel.

So, Did Pannaman Err? If so, when?

In our opinion, it’s often a mistake to display a firearm in hopes of de-escalating a situation.  In case after case, reports show that this works, but then there’s the one incident out of, what? Twenty or thirty cases, maybe; no one has these numbers — where the firearm seems to trigger some atavistic urge to mortal combat in the assailant. Yet this wasn’t even a case like that. It sounds as if McAuliffe was on drugs, or is mentally ill, and if there’s one thing we can say about nut jobs, it’s that it’s nuts to try to predict what they will do.

“Never in in my wildest dreams did I think monitoring sea turtle nests was going to be a life-threatening experience,” says Pannaman in a video shot by the newspaper staff.

It’s also, again in our opinion, often a mistake to put away a firearm between the time you produce it and the time you’re confident the assailant has departed or is under control. Cops have to do this all the time — prisoners aren’t going to cuff themselves, after all — and if you talk to them about it, they don’t like it; it’s a tense and nervous time on the job. Being within inches of a bad guy with your gun in your hand and your mind on your cuffs is dangerous. And as the Tueller drill shows, an unarmed or edged-weapon-armed man can close the distance faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

Finally, it’s also, for the third time in our opinion, perhaps not a mistake but certainly sub-optimal to carry your self-defense firearm in a pocket. Yet we do it a lot, based on ongoing threat level assessments, etc. In fact, yesterday on a bike ride we ran into some marine-life volunteers, and the only firearm we had was a small pocket pistol, in a pocket, so we don’t practice what we preach. (We did not, however, shoot the volunteers).

In a more detailed interview with the same paper, Stan, a Marine combat vet of Vietnam, explains what he did and why. It’s easy to see how the combination of his rational behavior and McAuliffe’s irrational behavior ended sub-optimally, and could have been a lot worse. Once again, we’ll give you excerpts and a link where you can Read The Whole Thing™.

Pannaman and Young ran into McAuliffe as soon as they got to the beach, and he had some words for them:

I hate sea turtle people. You’re all f—ing crazy

In hindsight, they probably realize they were being addressed by an expert on the subject.

Trying to ignore the man — later identified by sheriff’s deputies as Michael Q. McAuliffe, 38 — Pannaman and Young walked to another part of the beach.

Note the first thing they did — an attempt at de-escalation. They got out of Dodge. This is a good move. Heroes in movies stand and fight, but in the real world confronting some jerk is usually a waste of your energy and bandwidth — not to mention energy. Of course, it doesn’t always work.

But McAuliffe approached, Pannaman said, and began screaming as he yanked up stakes and tore down yellow tape from around a nest site.

So far, Stan is using the situational awareness that he used as a young man in the USMC wisely. But he’s up against Bat Guano Crazy.

Pannaman said he saw McAuliffe take a swing at Young, 64. “Then he started coming at me,” said Pannaman, a retired salesman from Manhattan who is classified as fully disabled and walks with a cane. “That’s when I pulled a handgun from the pocket of my shorts.”

The small size of the Kel-Tec P32 seems to have caused the assailant to mistake it for a toy. Briefly.

The small size of the Kel-Tec P32 seems to have caused the assailant to mistake it for a toy. Briefly.

Pannaman said he did not point the gun — a .32 caliber Kel-Tec pistol — directly at his assailant, but turned so the man could see it. “He stopped,” said Pannaman. “I thought I had defused the situation.”

In fact, in the video, Pannaman describes how he displayed his Kel-Tec, and said, “Sir, I’m armed. Do not come any closer.”

This is a very, very common defensive tactic. It has a number of things going for it. It makes rational assailants stop. It uses the minimum necessary force to do that. (Had Pannaman blown McAuliffe’s head off — okay, it was a .32, “had Pannaman put a 7.65 mm hole in McAuliffe’s head,” perhaps — he’d be at risk of an Angela Corey type prosecutor deciding he was defendant material; that’s one reason, apart from simple humanity, to use minimum necessary force, it’s legally defensible).

Indeed, it looked like it worked. Again from the video of the interview with Stan (at about 1:40

I thougt the situation was defused, because he backed up… took two or three steps. He was no longer confronting me, he was no longer a threat.

It is vital after a defensive gun use like Stan’s initial one, even if the assailant breaks off his attack and bugs out, that you call the police. Why? Because the assailant may call the police. Police are creatures of habit and procedure is, and the general procedure is, the caller is the complainant and the other guy is the suspect. It’s hard to overcome this presumption that attaches to whoever is first to call, and many cases where a gun user claimed self-defense begin going sideways for him when he doesn’t make the first call. (Michael Dunn case, anyone?). Of course, Stan didn’t have time to do that, because McAuliffe only broke off the attack momentarily, as a ruse. And here’s where Stan did something else that might be seen as a mistake:

But seconds after Pannaman put the gun back in his pocket, McAuliffe “lunged at me, grabbed me and threw me down onto the sand,” he said.

As they wrestled, McAuliffe hit him in the face and gouged his head, Pannaman said. “I saw stars for a few minutes,” he said.

This is something to bear in mind when you are facing a criminal: criminals are people who, for whatever reason, are not constrained by the norms of human behavior. You know the old saying, “Trust but verify?” Well, in any dealing with a criminal, it’s not wise to trust.

From the video, Stan’s musings on his limitations:

Now, I’m a big guy, but I’m no… there’s no contest between a 38 year old guy and me at 72. No contest. And also, this guy was about 6’1″, 6’2″, weighing about 250, 260 pounds and very strong.

Now we see what may be a core of McAuliffe’s defense:

When McAuliffe got hold of the pistol, he stood up, Pannaman said, and declared, “I’m going to shoot you with your flare gun.”

“Sir,” Pannaman said, “it’s not a flare gun. It’s a real gun.”

Pannaman twisted to get out of the way of the bullet he realized was coming. It passed through his hip and lodged in his left gluteus maximus, where it will stay for now. When the swelling resolves, doctors will take it out.

When he heard the report and knew it was a real gun, he immediately stepped toward me, went down, then he says, “Are you alright? You alright?” I said, “Sir, you shot me. How could I be alright?”

The response time from the time Doug called them to the first officer showed up was less than four minutes. That’s how long this whole thing took place; it was just surreal.

That’s a good response time, a real good response time. Not good enough to prevent the shooting. There’s only one person sure to be there in time when you’re threatened with a gun: you. Anybody else might as well be in the asteroid belt; four minutes is as good as four months;.

On reconsideration, it’s harder to fault Pannaman’s decison-making than it seems at first glance. He was the guy that was there, on the scene, and the outcome was acceptable if not optimal: good guy has non-life-threatening wound, bad guy has a new zip code for a stretch of years. But that outcome resulted in part from blind luck, and Stan Pannaman’s was better than you have a right to expect. The one decision that we might have done differently is keep the gun out while dialing 911. That outcome, in 20/20 hindsight, might have been better for Stan; he’d not have been shot. And it would have been better for McAuliffe, even: charged with simple assault, he’d be out on bail and not facing much of a sentence if convicted. But we’re not at all convinced he’s rational.

Sidebar: On Protecting Marine Life

turtle_shelterProtecting marine life is serious business, and losers like McAuliffe, who have no purpose in life but to destroy things and try to spread their own misery around, are everywhere. We don’t have sea turtles nesting on our rocky shores up here, but we have very rare whale groundings (which usually end in the death of the cetacean, even if it is “rescued” and towed back out to deep water) and problems with seals, the most usual problem being some busybody deciding to “rescue” a seal pup who’s only been left ashore to free-range for a bit while Mom finds some tasty fish. We have local volunteers who watch the coast to defend the seals from, mostly, well-meaning but uneducated humans. The stories they have told us have been the “he thought he was helping” variety, not the “brute attacked the animals” kind.

The turtles have another problem, besides the many humans who want to get too close to the eggs and the hatchlings, and the occasional humans who hate turtles and turtle volunteers (as McAuliffe explained his own actions). They navigate, a bit like moths, by the stars. And like moths, they can be disoriented by bright lights. Accordingly, there are limits on lighting along the beach. Limits often flouted by beachfront homeowners, because they can usually get away with it. Which dooms the hatchlings to circle on the sand until eaten by seabirds.

Those homeowners would resent any comparison to a nihilistic thug like McAuliffe, so we won’t make one. We leave it as an exercise for the reader.

“I’m Meltiiinnnnngggg!”

If you’ve ever been the sort of person who anthropomorphizes your firearms1, you really don’t want to read this article. It is based on photographs at the Riverside, CA Press-Enterprise2 and a press release at an anti-gun steel company named Gerdau. This is what happens to guns that come into the clutches of the LA Sheriff’s Department, and several other local agencies led by anti-gun chiefs. The guns are taken under police guard — police that would be on the streets if these agencies were serious about crime — to the local American plant of the German-Brazilian Gerdau steel company3, a company deeply committed to citizen disarmament.

Gleeful, anti-gun cops celebrate the destruction of firearms, here a Magnum Research Desert Eagle.

Gleeful, anti-gun cops celebrate the destruction of firearms, here a Magnum Research Desert Eagle.

Gerdau explains how it works:

Prior to their arrival, weapons are examined to make certain they are free of ammunition, and are then bent so they can no longer be used.

The confiscated weapons are combined with recycled scrap metal in the mill’s furnace, and become billets. The billets are reheated and pass through a rolling mill, transforming into high-strength rebar that is used in a variety of projects, including major commercial buildings, freeways, bridges, parking garages and other concrete structures throughout the Western United States.

Approximately 70 percent of the mill’s product mix is seismic rebar, which is designed to help withstand earthquakes. The Rancho Cucamonga facility is the only steel mill in the state that is recycling, melting and rolling steel.

In a way, you can’t blame the company. In a state with a business climate as inhospitable as its physical climate is pleasant, it’s not hard to imagine the same top cops, whose delight is visible in these pictures, observing, “Nice steel plant you have here. Be a shame….”

The guns are smashed by helmeted Gerdautzis with hand tools, first. Here, the opposite end of the market from the Desert Eagle: a Hi-Point meets its doom.

The guns are smashed by helmeted Gerdautzis with hand tools, first. Here, the opposite end of the market from the Desert Eagle: a Hi-Point meets its doom.

Head Rancho Cucamonga Gerdautzi Mark Olson is all in for weapons confiscation and destruction. He says:

Gerdau and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department both aim to support a healthy and safe community. This activity transforms weapons that were intended or used to inflict harm into a product that improves our landscape and economy in Southern California.

OK, we get it. Weapons which may be used in self-defense are “intended… to inflict harm.” The rebar that has turned much of SoCal into a Brutalist architect’s wet-dream? That’s all good.

A mixed bag of to-be-destroyed guns.

A mixed bag of to-be-destroyed long guns.Some are “assault weapons” confiscated from Californians wo registered them previously. Some are collector pieces. Most are normal hunters’ and shooters’ guns. Of California’s 1,879 murders in 2012 (most recent FBI data), 38 were committed with rifles, and 52 with shotguns. 87 were committed by unarmed persons!

Of course, Gerdau gets high-quality scrap metal/raw material out of this. Generic steel scrap is down a great deal since last year, but it’s still $266 a ton, and high quality steels (as used in firearms) sell for more. The LASO guns probably averaged 3 lb or so, and there were about 4,000 of them. However, given the plant’s steel consumption and physical output, there’s no economic motive in them doing this. They do this because they support gun control.

After the notes, there are more photos and captions after the jump.


  1. Seriously, we’ve known people who do that, including an old commo man and team sergeant (later command sergeant major of an SMU) who named his M21 at SOT after his girlfriend, and a guy whose several hundred (!) Lugers were all named after Second or Third Reich officers. (Kaiser Wilhelm was a 1902 Carbine). We’ve also seen a Professor of Psychology who described the popularity of the AR-15 as being due to the rifle’s “friendly face,” but she’s spent her whole life under the care of psychiatrists, like many of her breed.
  2. Best known in the industry for its recent tradition of Christmas layoffs; 42 for Christmas, 2013 (and then 39 more in January! Thought you were safe? Suckers), and 100 for Christmas, 2014. (Maybe the reporter that wrote this article will be in the batch this Chrismas! Don’t buy any nonrefundable gifts, pal).
  3. Gerdau was a small Brazilian firm until a German immigrant who had married into the company some time earlier took the reins, and new capital seems to have appeared out of nowhere, in the auspicious year of 1946. It now owns plants around the world. When their website talks about their “Social Responsibility,” they may not mean exactly what you mean. Their numbingly-dull 28-page Social Responsibility Book (.pdf) does not mention their support of citizen disarmament in the USA. Gee, why not?

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Explained: Why The Army’s Guns Wear Out, and Yours Don’t

So the Army has a handgun problem, so they say. The Beretta M9 works OK (and we have yet to hear a complaint of any kind against the issue SIG M11 or 226/Mk 25, except the usual but-I-like-thatbetter bitching that troops always do). But after 30 years the Berettas wear out (gee, who saw that coming?)


Explained: Why the Army’s Guns Wear Out, and Yours Don’t

You might wonder why the Army managed to make the Berettas wear out, when yours is still going strong and it’s the same age. There are several reasons Army guns die younger than they really ought to.

  • First: They’re Everybody’s, and Nobody’s. Consider this: nobody ever washed a rent-a-car. Nobody takes care of someone else’s property, especially communal property, like he takes care of personal property. Service pistols are rode hard and put away wet, in a communal arms room where they’re inspected and maintained as someone’s extra duty. Remember how diligent you were about extra duties? Us neither.
  • Second: Too Much Fingergepoken. Back in the days when the old, air-cooled, inspired-by-Adolf-hisownself VW Beetle was actually a cultural  thing, you could get these stickers in German Fraktur script for your dash (we are not making this up):

Das Maschine is nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben.  Ist easy schnappen der Springwerk, blowenfusen und corkenpoppen mit spitzensparken.  Ist nicht fur gewerken by das Dummkopfen.  Das
Rubbernecken Sightseeren keepen hands in das Pockets.  Relaxen und vatchen das blinkenlights!

Like most things in VW’s small world at the time (1960s), it didn’t take itself terribly seriously. (Applied by a VW owner, that sticker was ironic. Applied by a Porsche owner, it had all the good-natured humor of a drumhead tribunal in a Womyn’s Studies Department, and was a serious admonition).

What this means in the gun world is that pistols are seldom shot, but they’re frequently carried and subjected to extremely frequent (relative to their firing) disassembly and assembly, giving them unpredictably weird wear, damage, and parts-loss patterns. We’re not really sure why the service stresses mechanical training on pistols so much, but it’s probably because they can, and there’s no immediate costs, unlike actually shooting the things, which makes you burn your ammo budget.


This is not the Army of 1940 any more, where almost everybody was a guy who grew up on a farm and could fix nearly anything. Most of today’s soldiers grew up in the city and, having been told all their lives that there are No User Serviceable Parts Inside, have come to believe it. A surprising number of Army small arms die, or at least have to be sent for third or higher echelon maintenance, because of gefingerpoken.

When we’re done laughing at the Army, any of you guys ever work as gunsmiths, or just in a gun shop? Ever have a dude (it’s always a male, 100%) with a sheepish look and a furtive manner come in with a brown paper bag of gun parts, as if he was a wino with a bottle of Ripple in there? We have heard of soldiers who did that with M9s they detail-stripped and couldn’t get back together (which is pretty pitiful, but it really happens. Ask the desk guys at Jim’s in Fayetteville).

Alternatives to brown-bagging it to the gunsmith include finding your 18B buddy to reassemble it, finding your 18B-wannabe buddy ditto, or, if it’s a privately owned weapon, just leaving it in the brown bag until your heirs sell it as a Gunsmith Special on GunBroker.

  • Third: High Round Counts. Some guns only get shot a lot. If pistol BZ60124489 gets assigned to be the armory of the divisional finance battalion, It may get taken out and shot for forty to a hundred rounds a year — or it may not. If it winds up as training pistol at a training site, or winds up in certain units that do a lot of live fire, it can fire 4,000 rounds a year. There are actually parts that have a round-limited life, but:
  • Fourth: Undocumented use and maintenance. The Army does a lousy job tracking the use of its firearms. There are three basic ways of knowing when to replace machinery: you can overhaul on calendar, assigning a pistol (or car, or airplane propeller hub, or anything) ten, or thirty, years of useful life. That means that some will break before getting potentially life-extending maintenance or being replaced, and some will get maintenance or replacement they don’t need, but it’s one way to do it. You can overhaul on use, but that requires you to (1) set a use metric, which will have the same problems of under-over as a calendar metric, and (2) to track it diligently, which fails in the Army because it’s no one’s responsibility to do so. And finally, you can (You can also set up a hybrid of more than one overhaul trigger. Most small-plane constant-speed propellers must be overhauled every 1,200-2,000 hours or every 12 years, whichever comes first). And finally, you can overhaul on condition, inspecting frequently to determine the condition of firearms and parts. This is how the Army tries to catch their round-limited parts, because they don’t actually track rounds. (They know they should and are trying to work out a way to do it).

For those who are curious, here’s a military guide to inspecting and maintaining the M9 (this is the USMCs. Most Marine ordnance documentation is the same as the Army’s, just renumbered with the Corps numbering system, but this one is USMC specific. Doesn’t mean a soldier can’t learn from it: Inspection-and-Repair-of-the-M9-Pistol.pdf

  • Fifth: Sitting. Sitting untended can be worse for machinery than the wear of daily use. That’s because a sitting machine gives corrosion time to work its evil on the metals. (This is, in fact, why an airplane engine or propeller has a calendar as well as an hourly limit, to catch the “sitters” before corrosion can do them in). Of course, Springfield Armory tests found that weapons could be packed for permanent storage and last for decades without corrosion, but weapons in a ready condition in an arms room are exposed to the atmosphere (but climate-controlling arms rooms is not a sexy budget item).
  • Sixth: Low-bidder parts. The Army and Beretta both have been relentless at driving the cost of the gun and its spares down. As a result, they’e got some schlocky parts in the system. By this we don’t mean the parts that aficionados abjure, but are perfectly serviceable and durable, like polymer triggers; we mean the several versions of self-destructing locking blocks.

Most of these problems also applied to the M1911 when it was at end-of-service-life. The corrosion problems were different on the all-steel Colt versus the steel and aluminum Beretta (where you can also get galvanic corrosion!), but the basic issue of corrosion never goes away: anything that was once part of geology has an inborn entropic urge to revert to ore over time.

And all of these factor in to why the Army wants a new service pistol. They’re not the only, or even the major reason. It seems that the Army is feeling left behind by market trends in service pistols. But they’re likely to solve this entirely the wrong way.

Monday: What’s Wrong With  the Army Modular Pistol Competition (hint: it’s not that it will inspire criminals, like that inadvertent comedian Matt Valentine desperately wrote in The Atlantic).

Defending Yourself in an Antigun State

Live Free or DieNot everybody gets to Live Free or Die. Some people are trapped by circumstance behind the Nanny Curtain in regulatory hellholes: Massachusetts. California. Cook County, Illinois. New York. New Jersey. You know who you are, you denizens of these bleak kakistocracies.

Cordamatic Dog TendaAnd if you’re one of those people, you’re sick to death of hearing us tell you to “vote with your feet, already.” People have families, ancestral homes, jobs that amount to a Golden Cordamatic Dog-Tenda, etc. etc. Some of you even like your hellholes, apart from the gun laws. Indeed, one-party kleptocracies like New York and Massachusetts still contain great swaths of Norman Rockwell’s America — Rockwell, in fact, lived in western Mass. They just are run by urban machines and organized crime, but we repeat ourselves.

OK, so you’re stuck inside of New York with the Cuomo blues again. Now what do you do? How do you select weapons in a state that gives you fewer options that are available out here in the United States?

Legal Awareness

Law-ScaleAndHammerMany of the jurisdictions that are hostile to gun ownership are also hostile, to some extent or another, to self-defense. It is no exaggeration to say that there are people in prison in places like MA and NJ for cases that would be clear-cut self-defense in the real world (MA has since liberalized its LOSD situation some, but many prosecutors still burn with lust for The Great White Defendant, to steal a line from Tom Wolfe).

There are also people in prison in very self-defense-positive states like Florida for what they thought was self-defense but because of how they did it was not. (Pro tip: cops can shoot fleeing felons, fleeing anybody really, with de facto, real world impunity. You can’t).

Law of Self Defense Andrew BrancaAndrew Branca’s book, the Law Of Self-Defense, describes the legal requirements for a self-defense claim. In some states meeting these requirements can forestall any prosecution; in others, they must be presented as an affirmative defense only after you’re on trial. In most states, you can defend yourself in your home or business; but in some states you cannot.

Note that all bets are off outside the United States. Almost every jurisdiction on the planet has some kind of self-defense law, but only a local criminal defense lawyer (which is the kind of lawyer you will need if the police take a dim view of your self-defense claim) can tell you how it works.

You must know your local laws. For example, in NY, retired law enforcement officers can’t be prevented from carrying their guns — a Federal law overrides, although this is little known by NY cops, so you might not be able to “beat the ride”  — but they are felons if the gun they carry violates the bizarre and extreme SAFE Act, as the majority of service pistols and a surprising number of backups do (at least the 7-round limit was overturned, but the 10-round applies to everybody). We’d bet that every day thousands of retired LEOs and Federal Agents transit NYFC with a technical violation of the SAFE Act on their hips. (It was an LEO who pointed this detail out to us).

Be Aware of Trends

You don’t just live in your jurisdiction today, you live in it next year or the year after that. Unless you want the particular part of the state you live in to have concrete walls and barred windows, you need to know where the laws are going and be ready to comply — or face the consequences of civil disobedience. (Numbers sued from out of the grips of the New York State Police last week demonstrate that most New York gun owners took the civil disobedience route, relative to the SAFE act’s long-gun registration. Even though New York has long registered pistols, with zero effect on crime. However, that’s one Catch-Me-F-Me-Rule® with a very big F attached).

Mindset Development

We are always armed. Because we’re armed in the Brain Housing Group, not just on the hip or in the hands. Look around you right now: what can you apply deadly force with, that’s right within reach? Within one step or motion? Within five seconds? If there isn’t anything, go get something. But there probably is: couldn’t you kill an intruder with the chair you’re sitting in? If so, how would you do it? Could you kill someone with your laptop? A table lamp? It’s not for sheer amusement that we post the when guns are outlawed series here. It’s instructional, friends.

That’s part of mindset, the yin of mindset: being willing, ready, and conscious of your ability to deploy deadly force defensively at all times. You can kill with a pen, even a cheesy Lighthouse for the Blind GI Issue pen, and a sharp #2 pencil is even better. But your mind has to get through the assailant’s orbit into his frontal lobe before the pencil can.

However, the other part of mindset, the yang of mindset, is even more important. While it’s fine and good to expect a fight, the key path to long life and prosperity is to avoid a fight. Taking the fight to the enemy, as we’d do in actual war, is a terrible strategy for personal, home and family defense. For one thing, it makes you the aggressor, creating legal problems down the road for you (just ask Michael Dunn, who is spending the rest of his life in prison because he went to the gun in a situation that started 1. with some yout’s who wouldn’t turn their vile music down, but 2. and more importantly, because he failed to plan and had to make a gas stop in a bad part of town. He escalated that situation, certainly (imagine where he’d be if he just walked away, grumbling about “kids today” or even muttering racial epithets to himself. Answer, not in the state pen). But he was in the situation because his failure to plan exposed himself and family to unnecessary risk. Just as investigators almost always find that an aircraft mishap was the final culmination of a long string of errors or failures, the removal of any one of which breaks the “accident chain,” if you investigate uses of force with care you will often find that they, too, are the culmination of a chain not only of chance and circumstance, but also, of imperfect judgment on the part of the defender.

The yang of mindset teaches you not to seek confrontation, not to go places you don’t belong (especially places well-known for violent crime. For instance, in Massachusetts, there are about 200 murders a year, and there are about 250 towns and cities. Over 200 of those towns and cities haven’t had a murder in a decade; forty-plus will have one this year, three or four of them will hit double digits, and a couple neighborhoods of Boston will account for scores of them). Violent crime is closely correlated, these days, with gang activity and gang activity is largely funded and sustained with welfare money, between criminal scores. The yang tells you not to go voluntarily into the welfare/gang/crime environment. The yang tells you not to get intoxicated in strange bars, alone, for instance. There’s enough risk that the criminal will come to you. Be ready in case that happens, but meanwhile take measures to decrease that eventuality’s probability.

Yes, we do recognize that most people can’t afford to move to a gated community where crime is reduced to opportunistic jewelry theft by maids and cable-installers (and if that’s your problem, preventing it is, again, a mindset issue). Not everybody can afford to move to a waterfront mansion in our town, or even to one of the inland $1200-month apartments. Maybe Brentwood is not for you, but do you have to live in South Central? And if you really do, how do you harden yourself and your home as a target; how do you become the Gray Man, off the criminal’s targeting screen; how do you work that mindset in the interests of your defense and survival?

Mindset interrelates closely with law. Massad Ayoob has written a lot about decisionmaking in this juncture, and his self-defense book is a good mate to Branca’s, because it deals a little more with what a shooter can expect, apart from and alongside the legal imbroglio.

Long Guns

OK, you’ve got a handle on your local and state laws, and you’re staggered by how restrictive they are. You can’t even defend yourself!

Yes, you can. Most jurisdictions allow most people to get a long gun, no matter how deep they’ve gone up Bloomberg’s colon. Even a semi-auto ban leaves you with several rapid-firing possibilities, including slide-action rifles and shotguns and lever-action rifles.

Some of these weapons are converted versions of ban-bait modern weapons, like the Troy slide-action AR.troy_slider_stock_folded

Others are good old standbys of decades or even a century’s standing.

Winchester '73 (this is the current version, made by Miroku in Japan for Winchester).

Winchester ’73 (this is the current version, made by Miroku in Japan for Winchester).

If you’re facing a burglar equipped with a (probably stolen) Glock and you have a Winchester 94, who’s better armed? You are. Almost any long gun capable of fairly rapid fire can be used with more accuracy, and  almost any centerfire long gun will hit harder, than any pistol, even at indoor combat ranges. Even rounds like the .357 Magnum and .45 Long Colt do better out of a 16″ barrel than a 4″ one, and you have advantages of a multipoint hold and a long sight radius. (Although a red-dot is ideal for home defense. We like Aimpoints).

We’re hoping to explore some basic-to-exotic lever options in a future post. One secondary advantage of a lever is this: if you do wind up in the dock, your defense attorney is asleep at the switch if he can’t get some mileage out of your eighteen-ninety-four Winchester (or seventy-three, or ninety-five Marlin) and the fact that it came on the market when Grover Freaking Cleveland was president (Ulysses S. Grant, in the case of the ’73).

Hand Guns

Handguns are more restricted than rifles, just about everywhere. And some of your cutting-edge anti-gun states have tried to ban particular gun features. (Some of this is based on the ATF’s history of using a Sporting Purpose test, imported by corrupt and censured Senator Thomas Dodd from Nazi Germany). The idea that a pistol is more deadly because of the position of the magazine, or the size of it, or the presence of a threaded muzzle is rather bemusing for anyone steeped in the technicalities, but it is the law of the land in a number of (usually crime-soaked) conurbations. As a malum prohibitum law it’s child’s play to enforce: they just charge any violator they stumble across, whereas the perpetrators of malum in se violent crimes actually have to be hunted down and cases built against them, which is often more work than big-city cops or prosecutors feel like doing.

There are still jurisdictions where handguns are difficult for non-connected law abiders (New York City, for one). There are others, like Massachusetts and California, that have instituted broad bans on new handgun designs under a pretext of “consumer safety.”

For you, there’s the handgun equivalent of that old lever-action, the “obsolete” double action revolver. Yes, you only have five or six shots before a difficult and time-consuming reload process, but in the typical home or self defense situation, this is enough given accurate shooting. One’s accuracy may rise to the level required, as historically there are very few cases where shots are fired in armed self-defense that the aggressing felon “won” the gunfight.

There seems to be a general consensus among instructors and trainers that police and military pistol marksmanship, never very impressive at the median level to begin with (and always pretty terrifying at the left tail of the distribution), has deteriorated signally since the advent of double-stack wondernines in the 1980s. Groups of officers routinely contagious-fire hundreds of rounds at very close ranges with very few hits — on the suspects, at least (all those rounds hit something. Just not their targets). Fewer rounds are OK if you make them count. Modern defensive ammo (if your state allows it; some, like NJ, don’t) can help but you have to give the bullet the hit it needs to do its work.

Remember, unlike the police, who have de facto impunity for reckless firing, you own every round you fire, every bit of damage it does, and every injury it causes.

No pressure, eh?

But the traditional DA cop revolver is widely available on the quality used-gun market, is (assuming it passes a smith’s inspection for timing, etc.) as reliable as machinery gets, and is simplicity itself to operate: the original point-and-click interface.

Non-Firearms Arms

There are many options in non-firearms weapons, including weapons you can assemble from innocuous items (which is how we stay armed with deadly contact-range weapons whilst flying commercial). But this post is long enough already. Let the When Guns are Outlawed posts help you with some ideas.

Diverse Views of Negligent Discharges

negligent discharges everywhereHere we have a few different views of the old ND.  The first comes from Billy Birdzell, via Tom Ricks. We begin with Ricks’s introduction:

Here’s an amazing number that I had never seen before: Since the beginning of the U.S. operation in Iraq, more than 90 U.S. military personnel have been killed there by negligent weapons discharges. Yet I can barely remember seeing official references to the phenomenon. You can be openly gay in the military, but negligent discharges are still pretty much closeted.

Funny, it’s long been a subject of discussion — and action. In many ARSOF units it is, if not a career-ender, an error that causes your career to ricochet in a new and undesired direction. In Rangers and shooting elements of JSOC it’s an instant dismissal from the unit. (At least in Ranger Regiment, a guy can soldier his way back in after some years in the wilderness). That is because these elements take shooting and safety seriously. Now, we’re not surprised that Ricks isn’t up on it. Hard to learn much about the military from an external perch dangling from an attitude of contempt. Anyway, he finally gets around to letting Birdzell, a former Marine officer, speak. (Birdzell was then — May, 2011 — in grad school at UVA, which makes him somebody in Ricks’s beltway world).

During OIF II, a USMC helicopter pilot accidentally shot and killed himself in the ready room while spinning his pistol on his finger like John Wayne.

An SF guy who recycled from our Light Weapons class to the one behind had a similar dumb-ass mishap while deployed in the mid-1980s.

During my battalion’s first Iraq deployment negligent discharges of weapons caused one death and one serious injury. The first incident occurred when a lance corporal who had been a problem child pointed a Corpsman’s pistol at the Corpsman’s face in a “hey, look at me” scenario, and then negligently shot him in the head. That Marine was sentenced to several years in prison.

After that, the battalion commander wanted weapons unloaded inside the compound and Condition 3 on guard towers (magazine inserted, no round in the chamber). In another “Look at me,” moment, another lance corporal pointed an M16 at yet another LCpl. A round had been chambered in the rifle and the Marine was shot in the neck. Magically (I’ve seen the scars), the bullet passed between the trachea and the arteries and exited the neck directly over the spine without hitting a nerve. The doctor said it was medically impossible.

I concur with the idea that weapon safety is a mindset. I think our least common denominator training and treating the troops like idiots at the rifle range causes them to either be afraid of weapons or be cavalier about them. As a result, there are NDs. In Special Operations Forces, the mindset is very, very different and NDs are incredibly rare. Pointing weapons at each other is not tolerated and there is a ton of pride in one’s ability to masterfully handle the tools of our trade.

Birdzell is onto something with “treating the troops like idiots at the rifle range…” and we think it’s that the command fears firearms and tries to restrict troop access to them, producing ill-trained troops. We were disappointed that it was this bad in the USMC, and even in infantry; we expect better of Marines.  He concludes by pointing out one probable cause:

For Marines and Soldiers, [experience with loaded weapons] is almost zero while in garrison. A mechanic goes to the rifle range at most once a year and there he is told in lockstep fashion to load, shoot and unload. That same mechanic is expected to carry a rifle and ammo everywhere he goes while in Iraq. Infantrymen spend a lot of time in the field carrying empty weapons but total hours of carrying loaded weapons into offices, chow halls, public places = zero while in garrison.

The Army is quite bad about this. One of the best things SOT and later, SFARTEC and SFAUC did, was get the guys accustomed to carrying loaded firearms at all times. The Army’s rigid range procedures do not help teach real-world safe gun handling.

Via Ricks again, we have a sort of guest post by an officer bitter that a negligent discharge ruined his Army career. He wasn’t in an elite unit, but found himself shunned in his infantry company, and received a bad OER (a single bad Officer Evaluation Report is the kiss of death in an up-or-out Army):

In my delirium, I pulled the charging handle back to eject the chambered round before removing the magazine, thereby charging a new round. When I pointed the rifle at the ground and pulled the trigger, it went off. The MPs at the gate immediately accosted us, got my info, and reported it to my company commander, who was already on the FOB.

This is your career on ND.

This is your career on ND. Even if you miss the physical foot. Should it be? Ricks’ fans say “No,” we say, “Hell, yes.”

My company commander, just off a stint as a platoon leader in the Ranger Regiment, immediately sought to remove me from the company.

He probably already loved you for showing up with a Ragnar School sob story.

My battalion commander showed clemency and instead declared that my punishment would be to dig a grave behind our company’s outpost. My company commander explained to me that I was only to work on the grave at night and in an inconspicuous location. The idea was to keep the matter discreet. However, the unspoken punishment was that I was never accepted among the company’s officers. My company commander rarely spoke to me except to criticize some mistake I made, gave my platoon the worst assignments, and ultimately wrote me a bad OER. My battalion commander, while counseling me on that first OER, told me in no uncertain terms that the company commander’s remarks were unfair and obviously colored by that single incident.

I don’t think this guy realizes how whiny he’s coming off. (It’s actually worse than the excerpts… it begins with him being dropped from Ranger school, unfairly, of course).

For my part, I spent the week after the incident trying to figure out what went wrong with the weapon. I gave it to the unit armorer for a full inspection. I never told my company commander about my physical condition before the incident. Not because I was afraid of further punishment for eating the local food (it was against the rules), but because I was embarrassed to admit I’d soiled my pants. A few months later, one of my soldiers experienced a similar incident. He was punished severely by doing rifle PT for hours in the sun — in full view of the entire company. I did nothing to stop my NCOs from taking their action because I was afraid my own incident would be brought up and I’d be humiliated again. After the deployment, at an officers’ beer call, a few of my former “fellow” lieutenants from the company put on a skit reenacting the incident. It was vindictive and humiliating, and it was meant to be.

He then goes into a long-winded and shallow pop psych explanation of how the “military’s culture of  bravado and shame”… well, here it is in his own words, edited only for brevity.

…culture… that equally indulges in bravado and shame. One needs to look no further than that iconic scene from Full Metal Jacket of the Marines marching through the squad bay, one hand carrying a shouldered weapon and the other grabbing their genitalia, to understand the psychological and cultural association of weapons with manhood in the military profession. …. Of course, the Drill Sergeant Hartman analogy also explains why anyone who experiences an incident is treated so harshly. He’s committed a breach of manhood; literally, and excuse the crass language, shooting his load too early.

It seems plausible that this guy’s lousy OER wasn’t just his CO picking on him. Even in this short article he comes across as a thin-skinned, quavering douchebag who is ever-ready with a glib and shallow undergrad response to criticism; an excuse for everything, accepting responsibility for nothing. Yeah, that’s what every CO wants in his platoon leaders.

That I’m still reluctant to identify myself today, because I feel assured others will assault my position as motivated by personal bias, should perhaps indicate the severity of the issue.

Actually, we took it as an indicator you’re a timid loser. Sorry about that, and thanks for playing.

Ricks followed up with this, from British correspondent Toby Harnden, whose experience was that NDs in the Welsh Guards (the British unit Harnden embedded with) were disproportionately committed by officers:

Although the Welsh Guards pride themselves on their discipline on the parade ground (they have a ceremonial function and were on duty for last month’s Royal Wedding) and with weapons, there were a number of incidents in which soldiers negligently fired shots.

The most serious one probably caused the death of an Afghan civilian. A Welsh Guards officer visiting FOB Keenan near Gereshk at the start of May 2009 was loading his rifle before a patrol when he accidentally fired a shot with his SA-80 rifle. He was facing south with his weapon pointed at a 45-degree angle, just above the heads of other members of the patrol. The platoon commander, a lieutenant, decided not to report the incident immediately, later citing the rank of the officer.

As it happens, the shot was the probable cause of the mortal wounding of an Afghan poppy farmer thousands of yards downrange, but it couldn’t be proven because a number of other shots were fired in a nearby engagement, too.

The British Army seems to take a more relaxed view of NDs.

Later the same month, another officer (attached to the battalion but not a Welsh Guardsman) had an ND and narrowly avoided killing the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe. Ironically enough, the officer was a junior Brigade legal adviser.

Usually it's the other way around.

Usually it’s the other way around!

Not surprising, really. In an infantry brigade, it’s hard to imagine who is less firearms-trained than the law dog, except his opposite number on the special staff, the padre. (Some military lawyers enjoy learning shooting and other arts of soldiering, but they’re exceptions).

“He was about a metre away from me with his rifle on his hip like one of those prison guards in American films,” [company commander Maj. Giles] Harris told me. “His finger was on the trigger and the rifle was at a 45-degree angle over Colonel Rupert’s head about two metres away from him. It was one of those very British moments. Everybody pretended not to notice because they didn’t want to embarrass him. No one was angry about the fact that he’d nearly slotted the Commanding Officer.” Harris walked over, quietly took the captain’s rifle from him and suggested he report to the ops officer and tell him what had happened.

It was not, of course, just officers who were guilty of NDs. In another incident during Panther’s Claw, Captain Terry Harman was taking refuge in a compound during a firefight when an NCO standing next to him discharged his weapon, just missing Harman’s foot. Harman decided not to report the ND, partly because of the paperwork it would generate.

And here’s Herschel Smith with a view closer to our own, discussing the recent spate of police NDs:

They are blaming it on [the gun]. Thus they have trained officers to keep their fingers on the trigger of their handguns when they deploy their firearms. They say so.

Think about that and let it wash over you again. When a cop pulls his handgun and points it your direction, according to the training he has received, he most likely has his finger on the trigger of the weapon. And thus do we reach the root cause of the problems – not Glocks, or M&Ps, or any other ridiculous culprits. It’s a shame that Bob couldn’t have pointed out the truth rather than blame the gun. Blaming the gun is what gun controllers do, and why the collectivists wanted the so-called smart gun.

So other than reminding you that this violates two of the sacred rules of gun safety (muzzle discipline and trigger discipline), let’s rehearse sympathetic muscle reflexes again, and I’ll remind you of what I said about how the Marine Corps trained my son Daniel as a SAW gunner. First concerning sympathetic muscle reflexes.

Recall the incident where a stumbling Framingham, MA, police officer, the incompetent and reckless Paul Duncan, blew away a bystanding citizen on a wrong-house raid, because his donut-fueled mass stumbled and he had finger on his trigger and select-fire M4 on fireas was his SWAT Team’s SOP? Duncan was back on the job after a three-month paid vacation. (The city is in negotiations about sums of money; it was able to spike any criminal prosecution, but failed to get a civil suit dismissed).

Smith’s story is one where you really want to Read The Whole Thing™, because his excerpts and links to an LA Times story and to his own back post are worth it. NDs result from (1) deficient training; (2) weapons policies that detract from comfort with and mastery of the weapon; and (3) lack of immediate and drastic consequences for negligent discharges. NDs are extremely rare in units and departments that don’t do this.

Darwin Award: Brandished Knife, told cop, “You drop yours.”

The news has been full of the glowering face of ex-Bostonian Usaama Rahim, who the Imam of one of the local Suicide Terrorist Recruiting Centers has described as “shot in the back by a white cop.” Of course, that’s all false, but the apostles of jihad don’t feel like they owe truthful speaking to you, kafr. 

There’s been a lot written about Rahim and his mosque full of fans and enablers, but the Boston Herald is home to one of the two best columnists in America (the other being the Chicago Sun-Times’s John Kass), and Howie Carr has covered this adequately:

Never bring a knife to 
a gunfight.

That wasn’t dead thug Usaamah Rahim’s first big mistake, but it was certainly the final one of his shiftless, leeching 26 years on earth.

But at least the Islamist savage shared with us his final words.

“You drop yours!”

OK, so it’s not quite up there with, say, “Top o’ the world, Ma! Top o’ the world!” or “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?” But Cagney and Robinson had Hollywood scriptwriters. The terrorist du jour was ad-libbing.

Besides, “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Usaamah?” just doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Let’s go straight to the affidavit of FBI special agent J. Joseph Galietta, “being duly sworn,” on page 7, 
paragraph 19:

“… (The adherent of the Religion of Peace) was approached by Boston Police Officers and FBI special agents. RAHIM took out one of the knives he had purchased from when he saw the officers and agents. One of the officers told RAHIM to drop his weapon and 
RAHIM responded, ‘You drop yours.’ ”

Perhaps, as he relaxes this morning in Paradise with his 72 virgins, Rahim considers whether he should have gone with his ilk’s traditional farewell: “Allahu akbar.” After all, just as you only get one chance to make a first impression, you only have that single opportunity to utter your final words. But back to paragraph 19:

“RAHIM then moved towards the officers while brandishing his weapon, and he was shot by law enforcement.”

Sayonara, baby! Auf wiedersehen. Arriverderci. Adios. So long, suckers. Over my dead body. You and how many Marines? Like 
many a Massachusetts House speaker, Usaamah Rahim fought the law and the law won.

Do go and Read The Whole Thing™. Howie notes that the 26-year-old Rahim apparently lived on public assistance, a cuckoo’s egg in the bosom of our misguided charity. And his nephew remains in the jug.


Between our drafting this and it going live, the imam in question has apologized for his statement, after viewing video that showed Rahim threatening the cops. Will wonders never cease?