Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thoughts Laid Out in Black and White

I carved our names upon a tree
simple words marked a plaintive plea
The text incised on darkened wood
with trembling hand as best I could
But in so writing tears would fall
for the bark's surface was far too small
Still my hand etched away in vain
with faith that it would be seen again
hope that these small woundings of a stem
might speak to someone who passed by them
I hope they see past the mark or stain
to small etched cuts of the heart that remains
Brigid 2010

Did you ever cut your initials into a tree? (and no, it's not a great idea tree-wise). Or etch the name of a secret crush back in school days, absently in a journal, not being able to think much beyond the words that made up the name of your beloved?

Short words are easy. It's the long strings of words that can break us, or make us. In the middle of a presentation today I had a blank moment and what came to me was "I lost my train of thought".

Where did that expression come from? Though we use it for everything from absentmindedness to excusing our disjointed ramblings by its loss, it was elaborated four hundred years ago by Thomas Hobbes in a somewhat different meaning:

By Consequence, or train of thoughts,
I understand that succession of one thought to another which is called,
to distinguish it from discourse in words,
mental discourse.
When a man thinketh on anything whatsoever,
his next thought after is not altogether so casual as it seems to be.
Not every thought to every thought succeeds indifferently.

Hobbes was quite the thinker, probably why Bill Watterson chose the name for his sardonic tiger in my favorite comic strip.

My personal lumbering boxcars of thought, speeding on through this railway station we call the Internet, is fueled by very early mornings, and a couple of cups of coffee, needed to get me moving as my days often start well before sun has risen.

Train of thought. The term just doesn't seem to fit our new age, when abundant discourse is sent forth in the click of a mouse, words and and ideas flirting between computer terminals in nanoseconds, with voluminous paragraphs abbreviated to simple text messages. In an age where entire freight cars of words are reduced to tiny particles of matter, the term "train of thought" seems to be a disappearing trail of smoke in our vocabulary. Sonnets and poetry reduced to . ;-) and "luv ya" in our rush to our next appointment. People spend hours each day texting and twittering without as much as a spoken word to someone they care about. If Hobbes were given a blackberry instead of a quill, would he have written Leviathan?

Log trains passed behind my house when I was a child. Passed down through the forested hills where we romped, grew up, fell in love and carved our names on trees. As they traveled down those hills towards the timber mills at night, their path would cut shadows across our neighborhood. I remember as a small child how the sound would intensify as my Dad would read to me at bedtime, as shadows would slide over the wall above my bed, over the model boats and planes and trains my brother and I played with. And with the shadow came one of the first sounds of my memory, the mournful wail of a train, competing with my Dad for sound, so he would speak louder and more clearly, forcefully driving each word outward, the phrases connected and intact and uninterrupted and in that moment I discovered my love for words. And for trains.

In daytime we'd ride our bikes along the tracks, looking for diesel smoke in cold air, throbbing engines, hoping for a quick glimpse. The yard at the timber mill had more than one track running into it, and as two trains would arrive, you'd hold your breath in fear of a collision, only to have one veer off and stop, while a long line of cars safely passed. I think of the missing man formation, in which a squadron of fighter planes performs a low pass, one separating and flying off to the heavens. A ballet of mighty machinery.

I'd memorize the names on the cars going by, forming the words in my mouth while smelling the fresh smell of wood going into the paper mill. So many cars, so many words. Each leaving a memory, branding my thoughts with its impression, burning into my head with the sunlight streaming through the slats. Carrying it's load of mighty trees fallen to make paper for which the words will one day affix themselves. Paper clean and bare with promise.

Behind my house, a new train, miles of unexplored tracks to walk, tracks crossing across the landscape of this new life, when viewed from the air, almost forming letters, writing of new adventures. A poem composed of ancient ties and abandoned depots, a sad lament to the forgotten forms of old trains, to lost thoughts and the art of speaking in deep clear sentences, now reduced to emoticons and abbreviated texts. How do you reduce your feelings to 3 or four letters, and quick clips of syllables that mean so little? Words sent through space, silently with no weight.

My Dad no longer reads to me at night, but he sends me letters, real letters, though his household has email and a cell phone. The letters are written in clear, flowing script that belies his 88 years and in which he talks with steady and unflinching repose, of watching all his friends pass on, of navigating life in a body that aged long before his mind. He writes of the family and of his days of laughter and prayer, words of humor, of inspiration, of compelling faith. Sheets of paper that for years have charted a course for me through adulthood. Sheets that lie carefully tended, fragrant and dry in a drawer, where I will have them years after he's gone, abiding strength still radiating from his descriptions of love and loss, the papers having a weight to them of his life. A weight that will keep me anchored.

How do you do that with a text message, how do you convey such feelings of family in a smiley? How do you explain what it feels to live, to breathe, to love, to fly, in a twitter message? For those thoughts make up boxcar after boxcar of the steady motion of thought, sturdy boxes of space and time, their spaces containing the heavy load of lust and longing, pride, fear and desire. A train barrelling forward in steady progressions as moving clouds fly overhead and shafts of sunlight peer through sliding cars, into their depth. As others transmit through satellites and space, I watch the landscape from the viewpoint of the train. Structures of iron lace, the suddenness of buildings, clouds of morning mist all crossing my line of sight, my muscles straining with the curves through corn shrouded fields, moving with the train, thundering through empty fields of past loss into meadows washed with light. I rush into the rain as the cars gain speed, waters cleansing the windows on which I look out on life. I hurl words into the darkness of an upcoming tunnel and wait for their echo back.

Train of thought rushing on. Life viewed as a passing landscape in which I live in the midst yet best write about it only as it has passed my window, a memory behind me trailing in the smoke of the engine. I don't have a blackberry. I don't MySpace, Twitter or Facebook. Only on rare occassion do I text. I blog. I blog for me, to release words that need to come out at the end of the day. The stories may be too long to catch the interest of the masses looking for quick, short entertainment, of which there is plenty among the white noise of the Internet. My communications outside of here as well are lengthy strings of words, heartfelt messages splayed out on paper, their sincerity driving their movement, under my pen, the words stringing out behind me. Sometimes I hit send, somethings they just stay, hesitant to go beyond the confines of my longing.

But the words will always will be my own, the track they follow a mystery until that next bend is rounded. Words composed of past journeys on ancient rails, washed clean by wind and rain, and tempered by time. A story written to the mournful sound of a train whistle echoing through abandoned dreams and ancient memories, waiting for the echo of my words.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend Blog Meet - Part 1

The IND blog gang is meeting over two days due to everyone's schedule. (As always, thanks to the talented Roberta X for putting it all together). I was still feeling a bit pale and puny, after a bad stomach bug, so I just hit Saturday where it was going to be just close friends. We tried something different, the Claudaugh Irish Pub. Tam, Shooty Buddy, Roberta X, Og and his friend Mike, Midwest Chick and Mr. B., (in matching red shirts), Old Grouch, Joanna and myself were all there. The food was awesome, the beers. . well Irish.

I rolled in early, in the big black truck, "Bad to the Bone" cranked on the stereo only to apparently get mooned by Og. I'm still not sure if I actually saw it, as I was adjusting the volume. I remember a giant flash of bright white something and I hit the brakes while grabbing my radiation glasses. My reflexes and my tummy held steady. When the blog meet starts out this way it's only going to get more interesting.

Conversation was varied

Talk from gun show purchases.

"I got a . . . . . "

"And I got a . . ."

Midwest Chick . . . "I got a SIG".

Og (in a perfect, sad Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin monotone) "I got a Glock"

Then some talk about the trips there.

Midwest Chick, Mr. B., Og and Mark all carpooled down for the gun show.

I saw the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine broken down on my road on the way in.

Seriously, just sitting dead by the side of the road just a few miles south of where I live.

Ruh Ro.

See that long dark shape laying in the road underneath? Hey, sorry to break it to you meddling kids, but it appears your drive train is now a ghost.

The beers arrived out on the outdoor patio where the temps were nice and the wind picking up only to have a tactical menu take out a Guinness and drench Midwest Chick. We raised our glasses to our fallen beer, and she got some bar towels and sympathy from the server.

More food and conversation.

Three cheese mac and cheese pictured and around the table in a flurry of dining was, Irish stew, pork loin wrapped in bacon, shepherds pie and all sorts of good sandwiches.

Even as the forks flew, the conversation never let up.

There was the usual round of several conversations at once involving a really cool compass, a book on humans as computers, electronic gadgets (Old Grouch always having the latest) and how you really can program a robot to destroy the source of bad music. Tam brought some copies of Concealed Carry magazine with her latest monthly articles and last months issue that had my favorite partner in shooty squirrel adventure on the cover which was also cool. We even got Tam to autograph a copy of her last article. I'll never wash my issue now.

Then we shared even more stories.

Why you can't have too much bacon

The chances of Og spontaneously combusting in Mr. B's Prius on the carpool home due to the whole matter/ anti matter thing

And my personal rendition of "snakes on a plane"

All followed by some coffee and a Galway hooker (to go!).

We missed Shermlock Shomes and his beautiful wife, and Rich from Rich's Garage couldn't make it. I imagine Sunday will have an even more diverse crowd.

Until next time. . and for those that will meet at Broad Ripple Brew Pub on Sunday at 3 PM on 96th street (I'm off to catch a flight out again) - Slainte !

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friday Firearm Follies

Time to load up. Yes folks, that's a truck that actually gets used as a truck, and has seen been "off road" a time or two this week. Washing it can wait, for I have an invite to a shoot out at the conservation club.

It's up northeast the city, an easy 45 minute drive for me. Look a billboard!

click to enlarge photo
I love this part of the country!

Soon I had arrived.

It was a quiet afteroon at the Atlanta Conservation Club. Several of the IND blog group are members and were supposed to meet me there but I don't see much sign of life.

Friday at an outdoor range in late Fall normally isn't bustling, but a request was made to help move match equipment to a new building. I bet that's where everyone is.

Looks like a work party was in session, the men volunteering to move match equipment into a beautiful new pole barn that was built. So they had a half dozen strong guys to move the stuff. The stuff was a bit heavy for me but I wanted to help so I volunteered to walk a fine four legged friend who had come along with his master and had been patiently waiting in the truck. He and I had a nice jaunt around the whole place, peeing on all the appropriate places (the dog!, the dog!).

When the men were done, it was time to set up.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and most of the folks left. Probably resting up for the State match tomorrow, but you could almost hear the crickets. On the plus side, I had my favorite spot to myself.
Fine, more room for my stuff on the table.

For warm up, I was going to shoot the Sig .45 with some new home loads to try out.

And then one of the groups XDM in 40.

And of course a favorite wheel gun.

We set the barrel up to shoot from 50 feet to do some qualifying type shots. I've been shooting only twice for just fun since Spring; with a death in the family there was little time. I went once with Miles for a ZAP match (Zombie Apocolypse Proficiency) and once with my Atlanta friends. It's probably not going to be pretty, but I warmed up with a few rounds from the P220 .45 using a sticky target on the much used backdrop, while someone got the paper targets stapled to the rest of them.

Not my best, but at distance not cringeworthy.

But I think that backdrop needs to be replaced or covered with a real target. Looks like an army of .22 attacked it before someone with a large caliber placed the killing shots to the head at some point.

Next I'll try two magazines, .45 acp, rapid fire, timed on the 50 foot target. Still getting some shots low. I'm either breaking wrist down, pulling forward or drooping my head. I'd ask RB what he observed but he was probably NOT looking at my hands (that guy thing). AT 50 feet, it's OK but I need to get out here more.

Next summer, hopefully things will be back on schedule. I miss going every week or so.

This is going to be fun; RB showed up with his IPDA XD in 9 mm to practice for a match and offered to let me try it.

As they say in the ads "I have an app for that!"

I love the XDM in 40 which I have reviewed before. But what about its " little brother".

From a distance you might think Glock like - polymer framed high capacity, autoloading, the little trigger safety flange thing Glock is known for, but that is where any similarity ends. The forged and milled slides reminds me more of one of my Sig's, as do the takedown lever and slide release. The grip angle reminds me of a 1911 while the grip shape hints at days with a Browning hi-Power. It also has a grip safety, like the 1911.

The XD may look like a double action but it's not, and it doesn't quite shoot like one. When the slide cycles, the striker is fully cocked, not partially as you would find in a Glock. First time long shots can be as good as a 1911, with the 5 pound trigger. It's a trigger clean enough to make good shots, for fun or in competition without being so wimpy that that the lawyer standing next to you is getting nervous it doesn't have more external safeties. Theh trigger is not going to break like a glass rod but it's really clean compared to other 9 mm weapons I've tried, about a quarter inch of take up, a hint of creep and then it breaks boom. (the creep part is where the trigger is lifting the striker block which serves to prevent the pistol from being fired in the event that it is dropped.

It feels good in my hand, it's accurate and it's fun.

In short, - I WANT ONE !!

The sun's getting pretty low in the sky, a few rounds with the Vaquero and it will be time to drive home.

The sun's fading and the mosquitoes are making an end run against the Deep Woods Off so it's time to go. First picking up brass.

I hope this person figured out it shoots better if the primer isn't in backwards.

Time to go, the place was quiet, the night almost upon us. A setting sun bidding adieu to a fun afternoon.

Rangebuddy waves goodbye as he drives off into the West. He's teaching a friends two college age daughters how to shoot for the first time tomorrow (avoid any grip it 20% tighter jokes) and is off to get things ready.

Soon, home to see Barkley. I think he's still a little miffed he didn't get to go shooting with me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Growing Up

Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.
- anonymous

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hunting and Fishing Breakfast Essentials

OK, I only slept 12 hours but woke quite hungry and with three days outdoor R and R planned. There were just the staples on hand, bacon, butter, bread, milk, sugar, seasoning, essential hunting and fishing electrolyte replacement liquid. (I'm a Jameson fan myself, but you have to make sure you have enough medicinal supplies for the whole family or crew).

What to make?

French Toast with Bacon and Maple Bourbon Butter

click to enlarge photos.

If your idea of a good breakfast is tea and toast, remember. I learned long ago, if you are going to hang around with the HOTR folks (pictured - the honorary Canadian HOTR division), you need to learn to make a HOTR breakfast.

And don't forget the electrolyte replacement. Don't want you all getting faint out there.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wind and Seas

When I've put in long days and am far away, my conversations with friends are the high point of my day. Discussing the quandary of choosing between being killed by a toilet from the Space Station falling from orbit or a skateboard jump off a high rise (those that watched Dead Like Me will get it), hearing the latest adventure of Barkley from my friends who take care of him and all the small pieces of life that make up the days of my friends, from munchkins to muskies. Some of them I talk to once a week, others I talk to daily. Towards the end of one conversation, a girlfriend said "you sound tired, are you in the Doldrums?". That was an expression I had not heard in a long while. I really wasn't, I was simply tired, but it got me to thinking. In colloquial usage, "being in the doldrums refers to being in a state of listlessness, despondency, inactivity, stagnation, or a slump", as characterized in Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

The Doldrums are the strip-zones of low pressure which roam equatorial seas, and they are notorious for their punishing tranquility. Silver water soaking up ethereal skies; painting the ocean with warmth, painting a ships direction. The Doldrums are noted for their calms, those periods when the winds suddenly back away, trapping sailing vessels for days or even weeks. As sailors have long known, though, the Doldrums are also given to unprovoked bursts of violence. Across their lines, storms suddenly sweep, hot wind, hot water forming fierce air masses that rise and falls in thundering downdrafts, winds forming into sinews of air, waterspouts looming in shadow, like the spires of an old hall of Justice. Night was more treacherous. For although the moon still lit the iridescent pathway to Europe, there in the vast, often changing darkness, great dark birds flew in the forms of vast winds that whipped up the ocean. Night predators looking for the small, the weak, ebony wings beating the air, their cry a clap of thunder as they sought their prey.

As my sailing experience was limited to crewing with people that actually knew how to sale, onrivers and lakes where my biggest duty as deck hand was to point and go "look, there's a place that sells beer!" I can only imagine the seagoing exploration of such an area. But I do imagine it would be like those moments we experience in flight, when on wing you pass beyond the borders of the real world into a realm so quietly elemental that it seems otherworldly.

Today would be a good day to get out on a boat, here where it's tropical, for at home, winter is already tapping on the door like a Jehovah's Witness of chilly repentance for summers frolic. My best friend is putting the family boat in tomorrow, for soon there will be frost on its desk.

As I take a break from my work, I think about long journeys over sea and land, of crossing high mountain passes while points of lightning struck in the distance, cleaving the atmosphere, separating water and air, pointing out this life of separateness I lead. A journey of shadow and dew, of dreams of light that sparks more than the night, but something within me. How many have made this journey? These long flights across the equator, flirting with whole seasons in the the span of hours, abandoning the winds of the north, repudiating colds reaching fingers, as my aircraft descends into a summer lovers smile of radiant warmth. I miss those times. The night's quiet freedom, the day's flaws hidden in the ebony of velvet night. The air was a substance whose ethereal beauty so entranced me that on long flights I had continually check my bearings and the time, that I lost track of the time, the fuel, the mountains, and ended up in a more permanent dream state. For when your soul is entranced it is easy to get lost, sometimes with consequences you never foresee.

I remember getting slightly lost on my first solo cross country where I flew right over the airport to which I was expected to land, looking down and seeing a lake that wasn't on my map. Following my instructors teachings, I had the good sense to check my position every 10 - 15 minutes, so by backtracking I was soon back on course, but not before witnessing a flock of geese flying right along side of me, honking almost as if asking me to join them. I would have missed that had I been on course. Sometimes you can find yourself by getting lost, by looking out and down on the world and reinterpreting it as a consequence. Rather than being shaken by my error, I simply laughed in surprising coincidence, as a goose dived from the sky in salutation.

As I descended the view of the sky transfixed me and for a moment I felt intensely aware of everything below and above me. The Greeks wrote of Hyperion, the Titan god of light, one of the sons of Ouranos (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth), and the father of the lights of heaven--Eos the Dawn, Helios the Sun, and Selene the Moon. His wife was Theia, lady of the aither--the shining blue of the sky. Hyperion's name means "watcher from above" or "he who goes above" from the greek words hyper and iôn.
Up there among the clouds, I felt for just that moment, that mythical sense of watching from above, looking down on a world. The realities of the earthbound life took on the substance of dreams , while the wild freedoms of dreams became this reality, this moment, a reality in and of itself. I was a watcher up above, looking at my life as it laid out before me, noting each and every small detail

But this week I am earthbound, and by the time I get a day off, I'll be worn out from many days far away, delving into depths of things most people would rather not see. Yet, I am still the watcher of all around me. Though the boats are off on the horizon, I work in rythem with them, with the motion of tasks that keep me on course, the choreography of brain and hands, making sense of wood and metal.Hard work, silent work, a spray of sorrow, salt water, salt tears. Closure if we're lucky. All of us here are much the same, people who just cannot thrive between clustered walls, walking asphalted trails to small offices, breathing in the fumes of yearning, working and dying earthbound, with nary a thought of the sky or the clouds or the sea. To stake us to a plot of earth, however shaded, safe and watered, is to watch us wither and die.

We understand the call of the water and the sky, the constant change in mood and shape, density and color. The great variances of their forms, like music, can either calm, uplift or excite; a power over the mind and thoughts of those who have the depth of soul to hear. But like the sky, the water too, has its dangers, its eddies, its currents. There are days where the whisper kiss of the wind turns into a whetted knife and you and your craft are simply a storm tossed play toy of the gods. As Sophocles's stated in Antigone: "Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man. This power spans the sea, even when it surges white before the gales of the south-wind, and makes a path under swells that threaten to engulf him".

I've seen that power, caught out in a unexpected storm myself; where my tiny craft pitched and rolled in weighed indecision as to stay pointy end forward or not, debating as to which way was up and which way was down, into final blackness, while I frantically went through the motions of piloting it, hoping to at least get the opportunity for one last "%&#^" shouted for immortality before I left nothing but a splash of debris against the surface. It's a mistake you don't make twice, and when you size up your sky, assess your horizon, you think and remember. For it's easy to lose yourself in the drifting quiet, mesmerized by the tranquil stillness of the blue, the brilliance of the elements, and forget the strong, wild heart that beats beneath the lacy spray of white.

Others are not so lucky as I, and find that still and final quiet beneath the hot and copper sky.

So I watch, finding sense in the senseless, finding my purpose even as sparrows fall to earth. People watching from a distance would think me in the doldrums, listless. But there is great activity in being the observer from above, standing in a stillness that smells of grass, breathing in so many scents in damp warm air. Sweat, blood and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlayed with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the oceans quiet as all I see, smell and feel forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.

I feel the trickle on my cheek, the taste of salt, but I leave it be, for if I deal with it I'll have to gear up again. And so I work, in seas now calm, with that power that Sophocles wrote of, of man over the wind. I bend back to the task, clothed in white, hands on my tools, the clouds anchored above, the only sounds, the beat of my heart, the flutter of wind against fabric.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

If you or a loved one read any post this month, read this one.

J.R.R. Tolkien said - I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend. - The Two Towers

I have the occasional comment that starts with "do not post". Sometimes they are someone wanting my email to "send a recipe". But others just have a shooting question they don't wish to make public, thinking it will make them "look dumb". There are NO dumb questions in shooting, only dumb answers.

One of them was the comment, of a new shooter, that if he was going to shoot an intruder, it would only be to wound them to "stop the threat".

When someone mentions that they are only shooting to "stop the threat", I hope they still mean they are going for center mass. When a person mentions "shooting to wound" they often mean to shoot someone in the arm, leg shoulder or other non fatal location. After all, they just want the person to stop their aggressive behavior, remove the threat, not KILL them. Right? That makes sense on the surface, but I want to point out that there's some important things to consider.

(1) Shooting someone in the arm is still using lethal force in the eyes of the law, and under which you MUST be in immediate danger of grave bodily injury or death. If you are not, then you are not allowed by the law to shoot them at all.

"Shooting to wound" as well, may not be valid legally. Because, in civilian life, it would likely parallel a standard far beyond that established by Graham v. Connor, the benchmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on police use of force. How that would apply to someone not a member of law enforcement is best left for the legal experts. But I wouldn't want to be in court trying to explain why I felt the threat was only so much that I needed to take out the fleshy part of their upper arm.
By legal definition, the possible consequences of deadly force includes both death and great bodily harm. The law doesn't break these two apart. When someone gives the argument that when threatened, they should just shoot a little bit, enough to wound, they are probably unaware of that. Deadly force is not about ‘just a little bit.’

If someone is threatening you with great bodily harm and you defend yourself with your weapon, there's a substantial risk of great bodily harm, or death. The law doesn't even suggest that deadly force should be enough to wound. with no probability of death. This is not about ethics, it's about what is correct, both legally, and tactically.

If I manage to ignite the flaming bacon kabobs in my kitchen do you think I'm just going to grab the tiny little fire extinguisher that's in the dining room, and use just enough to hopefully stop the fire? That would be the reasonable thing to do, some might argue. Or am I going to grab the "BIG" fire extinguisher that's in the kitchen/ laundry area where there are multiple sources of fire and smother the crap out of it til it quits burning. That is not reasonable. That is necessary.

Some elements of these legal points were discussed in CCW classes I've participated in, but some states do not require any training for CCW and the legal aspects may NOT be known to some folks.

(2) Think you're good with a paper target? Do you practice only when the weather is good and it's warm? Think again. Try shooting in that bulky winter coat in low light when it's 11 degrees out, no gloves, hands half frozen with cold. Try responding to threat in all kinds of conditions, then imagine that in addition to that, your whole body is abuzz with adrenalin.. That is real life self defense, and nothing at all like most people experience plinking at the range on Saturday with friends.

During an event when the life is, or is perceived as being, mortally threatened, the body enters fight or flight mode. The brain dumps chemicals including adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol into the body to prepare our itself to survive. The downside, these same substances that, increase our alertness and strength and endurance also decrease our reaction time. Why? Blood is diverted from our extremities and from the surface of the skin to decrease bleeding if we were to be injured. Functions not necessary for survival including digestion are slowed or completely shutdown. ( I personally believe my metabolism entered the fight or flight mode at age 30 but that's another post)

That, in turn, greatly diminishes our fine motor skills, tunnel vision may occur, and many people begin shaking, not out of fear, but as a response to the chemicals being released into the body. In this state, some people have lost the ability to unlock doors, operate phones, or other actions that require fine motor skills. Being accurate with a handgun is exceedingly difficult, and under those condition that ability is greatly reduced. The military and secret squirrel teach that when adrenalin dump occurs the training takes over. Is your training up to speed? For in that state, even the best of shooters may not be able to get that one shot to the shoulder, arm or elsewhere. If you miss, they are upon you and your loved one.

(3) The bad guy probably is probably mobile. Shooting at a moving target is far different than a stationery one. Just shooting at a target that's offset, when you are used to practice shooting straight ahead, is hard. The head, arms and legs all naturally move when the body moves, sometimes a lot, making them much harder to hit.

Even highly trained shooters see a considerable drop in success in hitting the target when it is moving. Target acquisition of a moving target while under extreme stress is not easy for even the experts.

(4) The bad guy is intent on harming you or killing you. Shooting at that paper target is far different than shooting him. There is less time, he's not standing still like Mr. Paper Bad Guy, and he may be armed and moving, intent on harm.

(5) The human body is extremely sturdy. The truth is, when someone is shot, it's not like TV where they get flung across the room, crumple up in a little dead heap on there floor. There are exceptions. A head shot will drop them pronto, but the vast majority of shots are center mass. The folks at the FBI did a study some years ago on Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness in which they state that even after the heart is hit hard a person MAY have 10-15 seconds of willful control. That's 10-15 seconds in which they will do all they can to kill you. I could show you multiple coroner reports where the perp had multiple wounds, any of them in and of themselves lethal, yet they continued to attack as they continued to be shot. During training at the FBI Academy, agents are told of a case in which agents shot a bank robber 65 times with 9mm, .223 and 00 buckshot – he survived

These are not oddities folks. They do happen. You may drop someone with one well placed shot, even with a small caliber, but it is not as likely as TV would have you believe. Think about it. How many times have you've shot a deer through the heart and watched it leap yards and yards before it drops. You've tracked the blood trail that goes farther than you imagined, lots of blood, and there, a considerable distance away, is your buck. The body has stores of oxygen it can use, in a fight or flight situation, for sometimes some surprising seconds, before the brain shuts down.

With the exception of a brain shot, most shots do not kill instantly. Man, like any other animal, must follow the dictates of nature and expire from lack of oxygen to the brain. How is this going to happen? First is your basic circulatory collapse, either complete failure of the heart that stops the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain or bleeding out. Or second, they can die from loss of functioning of the lungs, i.e. the lungs fill with blood or the airways are disrupted to the point that they cannot support the flow of air through them. When the lungs quit replenishing the oxygen in the blood what little you have left in oxygen stores is soon gone and the brain shuts down .

But unlike TV, this does not happen instantly, and depending where your shot went and how determined or high on drugs your attacker is, they might reach you before you find out.

Even more cheery news, if you miss the heart, remember the body is capable of pretty much continuing to operate until about 20% of the blood supply is drained, more time than you'd like, if the wound doesn't cause immediate blood loss. Shots to the stomach? Serious on the OUCH factor, but recently a criminal in Idaho was been shot over 20 times in that area and survived. The lungs? Sure, it's sort of in the "center" but, as I said, it takes seconds for the lungs to fill with blood or the airways to be disrupted where they can't support the flow of oxygen through them.

It's about blood loss folks. Face it, shots to the arms or legs or shoulder aren't going to result in a blood loss that's going to stop someone. With some small ammo, some don't even REALIZE they've been shot until it's all over, what with the adrenalin going. You've heard the quote "if someone ever shoots me with .25 auto and I find out about it I'm going to kick their a**?

It's merely a flesh wound!
Shooting to kill is just that, hitting vital organs such as the heart/lungs, in areas that will bring rapid and uncontrollable bleeding, or to the head.

There's really only one type of shot that is guaranteed to take someone down in 1 to 2 seconds from the shot being fired and that is one that will instantly scramble the "circuitry" of the human body. How that works is something any techie would understand. A nerve must be struck by the bullet or the shockwave produced by the bullet passing through the tissue that contains the nerve. That will agitate that nerve, whether it big or small, enough for it to go haywire. When it does, it sounds out a large amount of electrical energy from all the nerves involved, that head on up to the brain and simply overload its capacity to respond. It's the blue screen of death in the brain. The brain shuts down completely and there's no rebooting this one ladies and gentlemen. You might see a twitch, as nerve signals also shoot downstream from the area of the damage to the periphery of the body where an exaggerated response of the normal operation of that nerve occurs. But they are, by all intents and purposes, dead.

Nerve disruption that will take the body down like that is in the brain or the spinal cord, NOT the heart. Do you try some head shots at the range on your non threatening, non moving target? Then you know how hard it can be to hit. Now add in movement and adrenalin, and getting a shot that is not only well placed. but will penetrate. is easier said than done. The spine isn't that easy to hit either, it's not that large (and in some politicians, non existent) and the shot needs to be placed in the upper 1/3 of the spine (at a point about level with the tip of the sternum, around T11) to be instantly stopping. And since you have the rest of the body in the way, the spine isn't really an option. You can NOT shoot someone in the back if at that point they are no danger to you and yours. You can't shoot them running away from the scene. Bad guys do it all the time. WE can not.

If someone is coming at me with a gun or a knife, or even his bare hands and the intent to rape and perhaps kill me, the last thing I'm going to consider is shooting him in the arm or the shoulder or the leg. For me, shooting to kill when threatened with great bodily harm or death IS my psychological default.

If I only have time for one shot and it MUST count, I probably won't go for the head shot first. Pistols can be ineffective when they do not find a thin part of the skull to pass through, often bouncing off. An ocular window hit will usually get in, but the human head bobs a whole lot more than Mr. Stationary target, making that window that much smaller.

But I AM going for the heart and the major arteries just above it. I'm going for the head as well. I'm not going to use .22 or .380 unless that's all I have. I'm going to use calibers with lots of shockwave and I'm not going to play patty cake with the person that wishes to kill me. I'm going to get that first shot in where I know I have a chance at shot placement and I know it will matter. I'm not going to "wound" the criminal, with the resultant possibility of bone and nerve and muscle damage, wherein attorneys can play the argument of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and pursue punitive damages for destroying the capacity of your ‘victim’ to earn wages and so on. You don’t try to just wound people with a gun. If you buy a gun for self defense, saying "I can't defend myself with lethal force", don't buy one.

Shoot until they catch fire or melt but once they are dead you stop, and if they run away, you stop. Whether your life was in immediate and grave danger, if there's a bullet in the back or buttocks of the criminal YOU are now the criminal in the eyes of the court until you prove otherwise.

So, when a non shooter or new shooter says to you that they would just "shoot to wound", have a little discussion with them about legal dynamics, human physiology, tactics and ballistics.

Then explain to them what happens if they meet up with darkness, unprepared or unwilling. For then, they will have lost something, asking each day for that piece of themselves that they will never regain, if they are lucky enough to walk away with their life. Then in those long dark, lonely hours where they trace the scars that may only be invisible, they will ask themselves, over and over again, why? They will look in the mirror each day and every day and ask WHY didn't I act to stop.

If that talk does not convince them, just throw them in a cage with a .22 and a 500 pound Kodiak bear. Then see if they still agree with the "shoot to wound" philosophy.