09 August 2008

All arms for the common defense

So, taking pistol training has been fascinating, to say the least, and the instructor is a good man with deep background across a wide array of firearms - he grew up in Wyoming and had learned to shoot at 5 as that is a necessary consideration for that territory.  Growing up in a socialist oriented family in Western NY didn't allow for that and I have relied upon physical ability to get me through life, but have always had a respect and appreciation for those who practiced arms of all sorts, from the modern latest and greatest fielded by the Armed Forces to the simple use of actual arms, legs and body to take care of oneself.  A bricklayer's hammer (and that with a small chisel was preferable to me for many reasons over a Estwing rock hammer) and titanium walking staff kept me in good stead through CO, UT, WY, MO over my younger days.  Although not an arms owning household while I grew up, my father did take the practical attitude towards arms that an engineer has: they were designed with function, capability, limitations and purpose.

I've kept away from most of the side-arguments on arms of 'which is better?' and always felt that the question is: better for what and for who?  This, while a modern implementation of such things actually dates pretty far back in the history of arms from those purpose created weapons to those used 'ad hoc' out of necessity.  Thus, basic pistol training concentrates on knowledge of a the gun, its form and function.  That spoke deeply to me of that self-same attitude of form, function, limitations and capability all working together in the simple complexity.  A motor vehicle has similar outlines, although the amount of simple work grows to an inordinately complex whole, where a simple 1" x 1/4" fuel filter can cause your car to stall at most unexpected times.  Living in the DC metro area, the appreciation of my time spent driving is that you can only control your actions within the limitations of your vehicle, and you have little you can do about the bozos driving around you.  Especially if they have 'diplomatic' plates, often coming from places where the concept of 'road' is a sketchy one.  You will have much better control and safety with the limited amount in a pistol than with an average modern vehicle: the actual simplicity of design is one for reliability and function.

The actual experience of firearms from the modern era is a good one, all told.  The final part of the training consisted of range time for myself and my niece: she had prior training but wanted a refresher.  While the range was a bit out of the way, it was not prohibitive and we did the rental bit for ear and eye protection, although my general safety lenses from my pre-press work serves - anything that can stop a part flying off of a press cranking out 10,000 impressions an hour will do for relatively slower velocity material.  If you don't think a printing press is dangerous, talk to some folks running the large ones, not those lovely German models made completely benign for the large office.  I had spent time on the basics of stance, as best I could on breath control and ensuring that I was hydrated.

First up was a Mk.I Ruger .22 from the same run as the 1968 Olympic Team (the Mk. III is the latest in that line).  I found it to be a good weapon to hold and utilize, and realized after the first few rounds that it was an excellent formulation of a weapon to 'teach the basics'.  My control was able to keep all but 8 rounds out of 3 magazines in a 2" x 2" area at 9 yards (which all firing was done at).  No rounds left the 8.5" x 11" sheet of 0.5" graph paper, although I had wondered where one had gotten to until the trainer pointed out it was dead center in the black.  That was one of the rounds out of the main area, and three others clipped that same 1" x 1" box.  Not bad, and it points out the experience of needing practice and a pistol sighted to me, individually.  I did the basic two-hand stance for the first two magazines and then the one-hand for the last that saw a bit more wandering inside the box where most of my rounds fell, another 3 rounds of wandering outside, but with yet another direct hit and the feeling of 'where did that go?'  There was one miss-fire in the first magazine, and long 30 count did not see it hang-fire.  Ejected, and it had been struck and the trainer indicated it may be lacking powder or primer or both.  Of the two stances the two-handed is more tiring to me, overall, especially the mid-torso and forearms while offering excellent control.  The one-handed was far less tiring, although with a bit more overall arm tiring and not as much control, although the trainer said it was good for someone who had never shot before.

I will take some grains of salt with that.

After that, and having my niece go through her rounds and giving me time to do some stretching and relaxation, came the Glock G-22 .40 caliber.  A wholly different experience with a different outlook on the gun and its manufacturing:  it is used widely by law enforcement and is a very recognizable gun due to its showing up in so many places.  It does have a kick to it and my control was not as good, although the majority from 3 short magazines (9 rounds each), demonstrated a few areas of interest:  I was over-sciencing my stance and breath control and concentrated too much on that.  Somehow the natural pick-up, accustomizing myself to the guns and ended up with first rounds that were better with both pistols than later rounds.  Another problem that had cropped up was dominant eye - apparently my body likes to switch between right and left dominance which was causing many problems in just ensuring I was aiming at the target, and I spent almost as much time putting the weapon down to try and clear that as I did in actual firing.  The trainer had me shift for a few rounds to the 'Weaver Stance' of left foot forward as if in boxing, and with two of those the shock of the gun went right to the point of my elbow.  The last magazine he had me switch to the left hand and that did improve things, but the question of that being a 'natural' handedness or just a worn out right arm will require further work.

My only real criticism with the Glock is that it felt, like many things in life, as a 'One Size Fits All, Fits None Well'.  No, I really can't explain that, save to say the Ruger felt 'natural' and a purposeful extension of myself, while the Glock didn't have that feeling.  The utility and appreciation of the engineering on the Glock is high, and it is definitely a good design.  But how do you explain picking something up and having that immediate - 'Yes, I know what this is and what it will do' -feeling?  I have felt that with other tools through the years - drills, hand saws, ratchets, bricklayer's hammer, walking staff - and even to clothing such as boots and apparel for different climates.  And it did not have that feeling of ready familiarity in either hand.

The upshot of it is: I will need a .22 for learning more about my body and how it works with guns.  I have worked on limited ambidexterity for a few things in my life, like Ultimate Frisbee in which a sudden hand shift can throw a defender fully out of position expecting a dominant hand throw.  That old self-training may be a part of it seeing the ability to switch off hands for certain tasks as important, which leaves me hand-dominant but other hand-capable.  If that is what a part of my mind and body are telling me, then it will be necessary to bring both sides up to speed on this with one-hand being better than the other, but the other still capable, as that I have always seen as a good trade-off.

Apparently even now I have much to learn about myself and yet another activity to take up my time. 

But first some days of rest - my body needs that.

And some time spent appreciating the Founders yet again.

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