The Consultant (a short story)

3rd Place Winner in the Fictional Short Story Category of the 2017 Dallas Business Council for the Arts On My Own Time Literary Contest

By Michael Morgan

Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved

 

“I don’t know what to think J,” Demarcus sagged back on the couch, whisky untouched in his tumbler.

A Pawn advanced across the board. “Pawn to G3,” intoned the feminine voice of Jeremiah’s AI opponent.

“What’s so hard about it?” Jeremiah asked without looking up from the game as the AI’s Queen slid across to threaten his Rook. “A shot up body is nothing unusual in the Islands.”

Demarcus raised his glass and sipped, “It’s not the body. It’s the way he died. This guy wasn’t connected. He didn’t bang. Nothing. Just a guy who went to work and went home. Why would three dudes show up at his house and cap him?”

“Why three? Jeremiah moved his Rook one square.

“I told you the coroner pulled three different kinds of bullets out of him. Who’s gonna bring three guns to shoot one person?” Demarcus put his glass down.

“How many time was he shot?” Jeremiah moved again.

Demarcus looked puzzled, “Eleven.”

“And how many different types of bullets?” Jeremiah’s Rook fell to a Bishop.

Frustration crept into Demarcus’ voice as he read from his notebook, “I told you, three kinds of bullets. Three nines, three thirty-twos, and the rest were thirty-eights. “

Jeremiah shut off the game and faced the detective, “Any of those bullets have marks on them?”

“Ballistics isn’t back yet,” Demarcus admitted.

Jeremiah shook his head, “They won’t find anything. Those slugs will be perfectly smooth.”

“How do you know?” Demarcus addressed his glass again.

“Let me take another couple of guesses before I tell you. First, you found little bits of paper scattered around the body.” Jeremiah nodded slowly, “And most of those bullets keyholed.”

“Only one hit straight on. The rest hit all kinds of ways. How did you know about the paper?” Jeremiah held up his hand stopping Demarcus.

“One more guess. All of the bullet paths will indicate a single shooter,” Jeremiah looked at Demarcus for confirmation. At Demarcus’s nod, he continued, “You’re looking for a pair of forty-four or forty-five caliber revolvers. The perp will have some paper in his place that will match the paper fragments found at the scene. Look for paper cut into strips about three quarters of an inch to an inch and an eighth wide.”

“What the hell does paper have to do with this?” Demarcus demanded.

“Don’t swear. It makes you sound less intelligent.” Jeremiah warned.

“Screw you,” Demarcus replied.

Jeremiah continued, “Your killer knows some things. He doesn’t care about leaving a body, and he wants to throw off the investigation he knows is coming. His weapons are probably registered to him, so he got a handful of black market ammunition in calibers different from his weapon’s real caliber, and wrapped strips of paper around the cartridges to make them big enough to fit into the chambers of his gun. Then he knocks on his victim’s door, and shoots him.”

“At that distance the bullets would be accurate enough to do the job,” Demarcus nodded in understanding.

“Since they are smaller than the barrel, the bullets have no rifling marks to ID the weapon. The paper fragments were caused by the explosion of the gunpowder.” Jeremiah finished.

“A professional hit,” Demarcus surmised.

Jeremiah shook his head, “Possible. Personally, I would look for someone with a grudge and a lot of old books. Crime novels from the 1940s.”

“Why old books?” Demarcus looked puzzled.

Jeremiah smiled at his friend, “An educated man knows things, but he often lacks the direct personal experience that prevents him from making simple mistakes a person with direct experience would never think to write down because he does not make those mistakes.”

Demarcus picked up his tumbler and sipped, “Ok Yoda, you want to put that in English? What kind of mistakes?”

“Revolvers leave bullets, but no shell casings. Bangers don’t care about shell casings, so it’s not gang related. A professional would have used a shotgun. A big revolver is hard to conceal, so your suspect would be carrying a package, or wearing a coat. It’s a hundred degrees out, so people will remember some big sweaty dude in a winter coat,” Jeremiah explained.

“You’re sure it’s a dude?” Demarcus looked dubious.

Jeremiah gave him a look, “Large caliber revolvers typically hold between five and eight rounds. If you man was shot eleven times, the perp had two guns, or he took the time to reload. Unless you forgot to tell me the victim was shot while he was on the floor, we have a shooter with a gun in each hand.”

A knock and the door opened. The portly man on the other side stepped into the room.  “Jeremiah, Demarcus,“ he nodded to each in turn. “Thank you so much for your assistance. Our writers really appreciate your brainstorming this through for us, and I’m sure our viewers will be blown away next season. Your checks are waiting at the receptionist.”

As they walked down the hall Demarcus put his arm around Jeremiah’s shoulders, “Man, I told you this was a sweet treat!”

Jeremiah nodded, “I’ll admit, it is not what I expected to be doing after twenty years on the street.”

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The Kirbybrook Siege – 3

The Kirbybrook Siege is part of the “Yojimbo” series of short stories and novels.

 

— 3 —

            A car horn jerked Adam from sleep. The room was dark except where the glare of headlights leaked through the mini-blinds next to the front door. He rose stretching out the cramp in his neck, and hurried to the door. The keys jangled as he fumbled them into the lock. The horn blared again as the deadbolt turned over, and he jerked the door open.

“What happened to you?!” his wife demanded through the driver’s side window.

“Fell asleep,” Adam answered. When he got to the car, he could tell his wife was on the ragged edge of a meltdown, “Are you both OK?”

“No! We’re not OK!” Carrie screamed at him. “Some asshole sideswiped the car and kept going!”

Adam help up his hand. “Stop. Are either of your injured?” he asked quietly leaning into the window to receive a thumbs-up from his daughter in the passenger seat. Adam nodded in return. He turned back to his wife, “Hon, I know you had a rough time. My road home was no better, and I’m really afraid it is not going to get better soon.”

“Like ‘One Second After’ bad?” asked Melody.

Adam shrugged, “Don’t know kiddo. The cars are working, so I don’t think it’s a deliberate EMP. Maybe a Carrington event, but there’s no way to tell. Let me get the garage door, and we can go inside.” He raised the door and stood aside as Carrie pulled inside. Raising the hatchback, he had a sudden thought, “I need to go to the grocery store. They’ll be out of stuff as soon as the panic starts.”

“Are you out of your mind?!” Carrie was obviously on the ragged edge. “Here’s a clue Mr. Prepper. No power! Everything between Mel’s school and here is pitch black. Just car headlights. No power anywhere!”

Adam chewed the inside of his lip. “Alright, let’s get inside and get the house locked up. We’ll see how things are tomorrow.”

“What about school?” Mel asked. “I’ve got homework to do.”

Adam reached down, and pulled one of the dimly glowing LED lamps out of the ground next to the driveway. “Wipe this off, and pull out a few more. We can put them up in the house for tonight.”

“Oh joy,” Mel snarked, “I get to go blind playing Abraham Lincoln. Should I write my essay on a shovel?”

Adam gave her a sour look, “If the radio and TV stations aren’t back on in the morning, you won’t be going to school anyway. You can write your paper during the day.”

The Kirbybrook Siege

by Michael Morgan

All rights reserved

Authors Note: The Kirbybrook Siege is part of the “Yojimbo” series of short stories and novels. I will be posting future installments as time permits and based on reader feedback, so please leave some comments.

 

—  1 —

            “Still watching those guys making out in the park?” Bill’s sudden words jerked Adam out of his reverie. He turned away from the window, feeling guilty, but not sure why.

“Huh?! No, I… just lost in thought,” Adam finished lamely in the face of Bill’s grin.

“Not like I can blame you,” Bill said. His grin vanished, “They’re about to take the phone’s offline, so they are letting everyone go home.”

Adam glanced at his dark monitors, and shrugged, “Curse of the modern age. No power, no work.”

“Now the bad news,” Bill scratched his nose. “The generators are running out of fuel, so they’re shutting down everything. A/C, elevators, all of it. The last elevator rides are reserved for those on the ADA list. You get to walk down. Sorry, man.”

Seventeen floors of stairs,” Adam thought. “At least it’s not a damned fire drill.” He stood up, and grabbed his hat. The cowboy hat had appeared after his hair finally committed suicide. Now it was like a part of him. “Come in tomorrow, or wait for someone to call after power is back on?”

Bill shrugged, “Wish I knew. Cell service is out. My phone is working, but I can’t get any service. Just be ready to get back to work when you get the word. Take care going home.”

“You too,” Adam watched Bill lurch down the hall. His arthritic knees bought him a ride down the elevator today, but watching him tough his way through the pain every day, did not make Adam envious. “Just have to hope the car starts,” he thought as he tapped his pocket to make sure his keys were there. Walking back up seventeen floors would be a bitch.

— 2 —

            “Crap!” The garage door refused to open when Adam clicked the remote. Twenty-four miles between the office and home, and it had taken three and a half hours. Every traffic light was blinking red. Between boiling road-ragers, and people too stupid to handle a blinking red light, it was a miracle he had made it home at all. The radio was nothing but static from one end of the dial to the other. People on the streets alternated looking at their phones, and asking each other for news.

Adam pulled into the driveway of the house he had lived in for the past seventeen years. Nothing luxurious, but it was paid for, and large enough to cover his collection of “stuff” as George Carlin would have called it. The mailbox was empty when he checked. “I guess it probably would be, considering the power at the office had stopped around 8:30,” he thought as he locked the little door again.

The door opened, and the inside air was a little cooler than the Texas summer outside. He quickly closed the door to keep it that way. The normal drone of electronics was deafening in its absence. “Hello,” he called to the strangely silent interior. No answer.

He glanced at the table where his wife normally left her purse. No purse. He went through the utility room and opened the interior door to the garage. No car. Nobody home.

Notes were normally left on the kitchen table. No note. His daughter’s book bag was nowhere to be seen. Pick up should have been at 4:00, so unless the school had gotten word out,

they are probably stuck in traffic. Give them another hour, and then…what? You really think you can find them yourself? He shook his head to clear the dark thoughts, and pulled the jug of bleach off the shelf of laundry products.

An hour later both tubs were as clean as he could get them and the water was barely trickling from the faucet. Both tubs were a bit over half-full. Enough water for a couple of days if they were careful. After that? It was not a comforting thought.

Best go put the car in the garage, he thought opening the utility room door, and flipping the switch for the lights out of habit. Ten minutes, and a fresh set of batteries for the flashlight later, the car was in the garage. Should find the keys to the garage door since the opener won’t work. Adam walked back into the house through the utility room checking his phone along the way. Still no signal and no WIFI. Phone back in the pocket, and Adam looked around his living room wondering what to do next. The clock on the mantle showed 7:42, Starting to get dark. Better find candles or something.

“Determination, Deliberation, Accuracy, & Speed”

The quote in the title is attributed to William B. (aka Bat) Masterson, lawman, buffalo hunter, and participant in the Battle of Adobe Walls. Supposedly, Masterson was describing the necessary/desirable qualities of a gunfighter. Of these four qualities, Deliberation is the most interesting because it represents a state of mind that appears to have fallen out of use in the modern age.

Many people are determined to “do something”, “make something happen”, “bring about change”, ad infinitum. Almost all of them are victims of the psychological disease called “Instant Gratification Disorder”, so speed is of the utmost importance.

The fallacy of this thinking is the amazing amount of human effort being expended toward various goals while achieving little or nothing in the form of real results. A lack of adequate Deliberation is the overwhelming cause of this failure to achieve results.

Merriam-Webster.com defines the word Deliberation as: “the act of thinking about or discussing something and deciding carefully”

OxfordDictionaries.com expounds further by including “Slow and careful movement or thought.”

Without careful thought and planning the objective of the action, the “What”, we want to do lacks clarity. If the “How” of our action plan is not carefully considered and balanced against our ability to deliver the required effort, the “When” can never be pinned down, and our results cannot be predicted with any certainty. How do we know if we succeeded if we did not know exactly what we wanted to accomplish when we set out?

Why is this important? Because the notion of deliberately placing a single round in a target and “making meat”, as the mountain men used to say, has become something akin to black magic for many shooters. Military snipers, and SWAT marksmen, are held up as being the best of the best shooters on planet Earth, and routinely capable of making shots unattainable by mere mortals. These shooters have talent, no doubt about it, but they start with deliberation and practice. A LOT of practice.

At the beginning of the 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day Lewis the story starts off with Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook chasing a deer through the forest. Finally, Hawkeye gets ahead of the stag, and unlimbers his flintlock. Taking careful aim, he kills the deer with his one available shot.

Before cartridge firearms became the norm, most guns fired one or two shots before a cumbersome reloading process was required. This meant the shooter had to be careful and take his time making his shot, or he went hungry. He was deliberate even when he was in a hurry.

Unfortunately, the modern substitute for deliberation and practice is high volumes of fire. The problems with this approach are:

  1. Stray rounds hitting things that should not be shot.
  2. Wounded animals that suffer and die because
    1. The poor critter was hit in an area that was not immediately fatal.
    2. Along with deliberate marksmanship, tracking skills  have fallen off the critical skills list for the “ditherers in red jackets” as Jeff Cooper called them.
  3. An extensive logistics train is required to keep a soldier in the field supplied.

So let’s circle back.

Q: What do we want to do?

A: Place a bullet in a target.

Q: When does it need to happen?

A: Before the target moves out of view. In other words, ASAP.

Q: How will this be done?

A: Now we have to THINK!

  1. How far away is the target?
  2. How much will my bullet drop (fall towards the Earth) over that distance?
  3. How far above the target do I need to hold to compensate for the drop? (This is elevation.)
  4. How strong is the wind blowing?
  5. How much will my bullet be blown off course over the distance to the target?
  6. How much to one side do I need to hold to compensate? (This is windage.)

 

Now that I have asked the questions, and come up with the answers, I can adjust the place where my sights are looking, and I am ready to press/squeeze the trigger with intention to send the round on its way.

What? You don’t have the answer for half of those questions? In that case, you can count on the hard fact that pumping a whole bushel of bullets at the target is not going to significantly improve your chances of hitting your quarry.

The upside is these factors are not that difficult to come up with based on the simple exercise of sighing in your rifle for a given range and working backwards.

Example: My hunting rifle is a nothing fancy, off the shelf, Ruger M-77 bolt-action 30-06 with a Simmons scope on top. I shoot a 150 grain boat tail bullet as my general purpose hunting load.

My Speer Reloading Manual has ballistics tables in the back that tells me in general terms how my bullet will behave in flight.

When I sight in my rifle, I set the scope so the bullet impacts 2 inches above the center of the target at 100 yards.  For my load, 2 inches high at 100 yards should hit the center of the bull’s eye at 200 yards, and be about 8 inches low at 300 yards as the bullet slows down and gravity pulls it earthward.

In the field, I know that deer and hogs both have a vital zone 6 to 8 inches in diameter, so that is the area, I need to put my bullet into to make a clean and humane harvest.

Sighted in 2 inches high means I can aim at the center of the vital area from 1 to 200 yards and my bullet will go where it needs to be. All I have to do is align the sights and squeeze the trigger intentionally.

If the critter is between 200 and 300 yards, I have to hold my crosshairs so the horizontal crosshair is lying along the animal’s spine, and the lower half of the vertical line crosses the vital area, then apply the trigger. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never had to shoot at a game animal that far away. All of my game has been taken at 100 yards or less. This is an explanation of how the mechanics work.

Windage is a bit harder to judge without a tool to measure the wind speed, and some math skills to figure out the deflection. Using my general purpose load, I don’t worry about a crosswind from 1 – 100 yards unless the grass is being blown flat. From 100-200 yards, I would aim into the wind just a bit, and should be close enough to do the job.

My scope reticle looks like this:

Scope

The distance between the spot where the wires cross in the center and the point where the lines get fatter represents about 3 inches if I am looking at a target 100 yards away. It covers 6 inches at 200 yards.

If I want to shoot at a target at 300 yards, the fat line starts 9 inches from the cross, so I hold the horizontal line along the critter’s back, and hold the top of the lower fat line (red circle) over the vital zone of my target.

Scope_Red

If the wind is coming hard from my right it is going to push my bullet to my left, so I use my knowledge of distance, and my scope to compensate by using point where the left wire gets fat as my aiming point. Keep in mind this type of windage is really only necessary at ranges over 200 yards.

Scope_Green

Now I can combine these two techniques to adjust elevation and windage to address targets at ranges over 200 yards. Assuming I have a target from 200 – 300 yards out, and a strong crosswind coming from my right. I end up with my scope reticle looking like it is way off target.

Scope_Black

What I am really doing is drawing an imaginary vertical line off the end of the fat horizontal line and an imaginary horizontal line off the lower vertical fat line. Where those imaginary lines cross is approximately where my bullet will hit.

Scope_RGB

Now that I know all of this, I go out and shoot. A LOT!

If your primary rifle is too expensive to shoot often, you can learn to reload, or you can get a rifle chambered for .22 Long Rifle ammunition that matches your main rifle. Put on a rimfire scope that has the same type of reticle as your main scope.

Now get out there and make every shot DELIBERATELY.

Seein’ the Doc

Since nobody in DC has been able to forward any kind of plan that doesn’t cut into their campaign funding from Big Insurance, I thought I would put forward my plan to address several issues related to national healthcare and put a nice bow on top. Feel free to add your thoughts, just remember this is a family-friendly blog, so keep things polite and constructive.

Issue 1: Myth: “Doctors make too Damned much money.”
They also carry a ton of student debt, malpractice insurance, and other peripheral costs associated with being in practice. All of this gets passed to the consumer/health insurers.

Issue 2: We don’t have enough doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to go around. this especially impacts rural communities and inner-city areas.

Issue 3: Citizens lack access to healthcare.

(Before people start spouting off about this plan being limited to Citizens, let’s face the fact that there is only just so much to go around, and our Citizens MUST come first, last, and always. When I visit other countries as a tourist, I must provide proof of medical insurance in order to get a visa. Just because I get a work permit in another country, I am not automatically eligible for non-emergency healthcare. Let’s be FAIR about this.)

Solution 1 & 2: Anyone that goes to medical school and obtains their state mandated license as a physician, nurse practitioner, RN, LVN, etc, etc ad nausea can volunteer to be assigned to work in a Federal Healthcare Outlet (FHO) that generally mimics the form of a Quack Shack/Minor Emergency clinic. All licensed medical and mental health practitioners are eligible to participate in the FHO program.

In exchange for their employment, an FHO practitioner will be paid a flat salary of $50,000 per year for Doctors (MD or MSW in the case of Social workers), $45,000 per year for everyone else so they can keep body and soul together. In addition to this, the government will forgive $25,000 of student debt per year worked, and cover the costs of the practitioner’s malpractice insurance.

FHO practitioners can receive free treatment through the FHO system or VA hospital system.

Solution 3: These FHOs can be put up wherever they are needed, and will offer the medical services required to cover 80% of the services required by the public. This brings healthcare to the places where people need it, and makes qualified practitioners available in all areas.

FHO staff members will be assigned to an FHO location based on local needs, and relocation assistance will be provided in the same form that military relocation services are handled.

The cost of medical services through the FHO will be based on the patient’s Federal Income Tax bracket using a percentage of annual income as reported in the last year. (Easily accessible since this is a Federal facility. I’m sure some smart programmers can set this up for less than $10,000 and keep it HIPPA compliant. In fact I know several people who could do this in their sleep.)

Medicaid and Medicare recipients are handled under their existing benefits schedule.
Veterans can access services through their local FHO the same way they can through the VA.

The upshot of this plan is a Citizen only needs to carry insurance policies for catastrophic medical events, and if they choose to, they can carry long-term disability/care. This eliminates the personal mandate that so many find objectionable, and makes care universally available without all of the fraud and graft associated with medical insurers.

People (Citizens and Non-citizens) who want to carry their own insurance, and employers who wish to offer coverage to their employees are free to do so.

A Journey of a Thousand Words

By Michael Morgan

All Rights Reserved

 

One of my coworkers (Yes, most authors write as a side hustle.) asked me how my novel is progressing. After I shared my news, he said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. Maybe one day when I have the time…” I stopped him right there because the “Maybe one day…” sentiment is the omnipresent excuse for people who like to fantasize about becoming a writer. My advice to him was to start small.

You have a story you want to tell, so tell it. Just do not think you have to tell it in 300+ pages. Pick your character, and think about this like a Kung Fu movie.

  1. Something happens to your character that forces them to take action.
  2. Along the way the character meets “The Master” that teaches them the skills necessary to deal with their problem, or some boon companion who helps them along the way.
  3. Something happens to remove “The Master” sending the character off with renewed determination to resolve the problem.

Next, tell the story in small bites. I’ve chosen 1,000 words as a reasonable “bite” because that is the number of words I can easily write on a daily basis. This bite gives me space to have some character interaction, describe some action, and set up the next bite. The end of one bite sets up the beginning of the next bite, and gradually, the story comes out. If I get on a hot streak and the energy is really flowing, Great! Groovy! Yeehaw! I don’t stop working until I can write the set up for the next bite. If I write 3,000 words in a sitting, fine with me. If I feel like I am writing crap, I put it aside and think about the story for a while. The characters will wait.

The person who is going to be most critical of your work, and do their best to talk you out of writing your story will be yourself. Nobody can judge the value of your material until you have written it and taken the emotional plunge of sharing it with others.

Give yourself the chance to be great! If writing is not your thing, you will find out pretty quick, and cross it off your bucket list knowing you gave it your best shot.

Some odds and ends to think about:

  • “Write the types of things you enjoy reading.” ~ Stephen King
  • Write what you know about, but feel free to change the setting. The movie “Outland” with Sean Connery was the story “High Noon” set in outer space.
  • Stories can be set almost anywhere because the interaction of the characters is independent of the location. The location just adds flavor. Star Trek has the same story structure as the old TV show Wagon Train. Deep Space 9 was Gunsmoke.
  • What happens before the story starts is important even if those events never appear in the story. Those events shaped the character making them who they are. Sometimes these formative events can help you resolve a problem when you write yourself into a corner, and need a clean escape. This deserves serious thought.
  • Set the hook early by giving the reader a reason to care about the character. If nobody cares about the character, nobody will care about the story. Read the stories that are most popular and try to figure out why you care about every character. Then pay attention to what happens to each one. Nobody cares when the generic Imperial Stormtrooper gets blasted, but when Gold Leader crashes into the Death Star, a character the audience has known for all of 90 seconds of screen time triggers an emotional reaction. Why?
  • Let other people read your work and provide feedback. Listen to them. Think about it like market research. You do not have to make changes based on everything your readers say, but the input is invaluable, and can spark new ideas.
  • The world is awash in people who will “teach” you how to write the next best seller. Some of the information is OK. Most of it is garbage. Very expensive garbage. Be critical of “the Master” you choose. Many aspiring authors get so bogged down in “learning to write”, they never actually write their story, and that is a guaranteed loss.

Only one thing can make you a writer. You have to WRITE. Famous writers would not be famous if they had not written something down and given it to someone else to read.

Start with a 1,000 word bite, and write something. When you are done, let it rest overnight, and then go take out every word that does not help the story move forward. This may require you to rewrite some bits. That is good exercise for trimming out useless words as you write. Hand your work to a friend who is interested in the type of story you have written, and listen to their input. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This link goes to a story I wrote for a short story contest:

Three Righteous Souls – A short story (The beginning)

After I posted it to my blog, the feedback I received lead to 14 more installments, each about 1,000 words. The first installment came in at 1,022 words.

What does the Golden Mean?

“All successful design must appeal to the eye and mind by meeting some natural, instinctive set of standards. All objects, whether simple tools or fine art, can be a thing of beauty or somehow disturbing, either unified wholes or an assembly of details in conflict with itself. Design is the art of unifying contrasts and making a whole of diversity.” ~ Barry C. Bohnet. Journal of Historical Arms Making Technology*, June 1987 Volume 2.

I first read Mr. Bohnet’s article around 1985 when I started shooting black powder rifles. What kept this article in memory is the excellent explanation of the Golden Mean as it applies to firearm design.

The Golden Mean is an ancient description of proportion in shapes and forms that mimic naturally occurring forms. The most common example is probably the spiral of a snail shell or a chambered nautilus.

Nautilus

That spiral just “looks right” in a pleasing way.

When applied to artifacts, this proportion produces a shape pleasing to the eye, and turning something utilitarian into something beautiful. The same principle can be applied to ornamentation with equally pleasing results. In mathematical terms, the Golden Mean is a ratio of 1.628:1, but the classic craftsman just did it by eye and intuition.

All of this came to mind recently while browsing my local gun store. I happened to notice the guns I was spending the most time admiring, were the older models. Revolvers of course, but also the semi-automatics. The impulse to handle and perhaps purchase was significantly stronger when I was looking at a 1911 regardless of manufacturer, and I was pretty much ignoring the offerings from Glock and Springfield Armory EXCEPT for the Springfield Armory 1911s.

Most people would dismiss this as me buying into the mystique and romance of the 1911, but I felt like this was something else, and I realized it was the lack of curves and flowing lines on the modern pistols that I find unattractive.

Compare these pictures:

1911Glock

The 1911 (top) sure is fancy. Lots of nice engraving and pretty doodads on the stocks.

The Pistols from Glock (middle) and HK (bottom) have a few curves. Just enough to make them fit the human hand, but the 1911 has curves all over it. Why? The purpose of all three objects is identical, and all three guns have excellent reputations for their effectiveness, but the curves makes the 1911 much more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Even this old warrior from 1918 still has elegance and charm because of those few extra curves.

wwi_1911

The same thing has happened to revolvers.

We started with the beautiful fluidity of Colt’s 1860 Army, and the curves continued all of the way to the present day. Then Chiappa released the Rhino, and functional but ugly had arrived.

 

 

From everything I have read, the Chiappa Rhino is an excellent firearm that fires the cartridge in the bottom chamber of the cylinder instead on the one at the top. The net effect is the shooter experiences less muzzle flip. One day I hope to get the chance to try one out, but as long as Smith & Wesson are producing beauties like this Performance Center 627, I don’t think I’ll be adding “modern art” to my safe.

 

SW687

 

*Journal of Historical Arms Making Technology is an annual publication by Western Kentucky University and the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association

The Lost Traveler – Stick it to ‘em!

As a martialist, I have been watching the evolution of terrorist tactics and weapons with some intensity considering my love of going walkabout.

One of the greatest challenges for the law abiding citizen of our little green planet is having an effective means to defend oneself and companions close to hand at all times. This one thing alone, and above all others, is why I still live in the U.S. Frankly speaking, I take more grief from troglodytes of “The Swamp” than I have ever taken from any other government, or government official, on the planet. If the dark time should come to pass where my shootin’ irons are outlawed, it will no longer matter where I hang my hat.

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Since most places outside of the U.S. have some pretty severe restrictions on firearm ownership, and outright ban the carry of handguns for visitors, the “best” option in personal protection is off the table. Now that the Brits, and other EUnuchs, have legislated knives out of common use, (Except for the muzzy terrorists of course. We must be tolerant ol’ boy!), we are now back to humankind’s first tool, THE STICK!

I say the “first tool” because sticks and plant stalks are commonly used by the great apes as tools.

Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees “fishing” for termites using sticks.

Modern observation by Josep Call and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany, indicates chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo using a specialized toolkit intended for termite fishing. The apes used one type of strong stick to penetrate above ground termite mounds, and a different type of stick for opening underground nests. These chimps also developed a more efficient fishing pole by chewing one end of the stick to separate the wood fibers creating a “paintbrush” on the end of the stick. This spray of finer fibers allows the termites to get a better grip, so more insects are captured each time the fishing stick goes down the hole.

Other researchers have noted Congolese chimpanzees show a strong preference for specific types of plants to make their fishing kit. They choose specific types of wood and carry it to the termite mound instead of picking stems from plants near the mounds.

Professor William McGrew of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, UK, studied chimps living in the Nimba Mountains of Guinea, Africa. He observed a band using stone and wood tools against natural stone outcroppings to smash hard fruits into manageable pieces.

Over the centuries, the stick has remained a primary tool and weapon for people across the planet.

With increased restrictions on the law abiding, and the increased viciousness of those trying to harm those same law abiding people, the stick is coming back as a viable option for self-defense.

The Asian martial arts are well known as sources for training in the use of the staff and cane in combat. Probably the best known are the Philippine arts Kali/Escrima/Arnis (They are really the same art. The names reflect regional differences.) They have a heavy focus on stick fighting that translates well to the walking stick or cane.

Lesser known are the European arts:

H.C. Holt comments on staff fatalities in Robin Hood’s own county:

In the 103 cases of murder and manslaughter presented to the coroners of Nottinhamshire between 1485 and 1558 the staff figured in 53, usually as the sole fatal weapon. The sword, in contrast, accounted for only 9 victims and 1 accidental death.” 1

Organizations like HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) are resurrecting the classic treatises and practical application of the Western masters.

Even Sherlock Holmes got in on the act through the practice of Bartitsu. This was Britain’s modern mixed martial art created by E. W. Barton-Wright. Bartitsu combined techniques from Jiujitsu, Pugilism, Savate, and stick fighting into a comprehensive self-defense system.

 

The walking stick, cane, and umbrella  are common items that attract very little official attention that would prevent a traveler from being armed almost anywhere in the world. Due to the ravages of age and infirmity, it is almost impossible of legislate these items out of existence.

A person with a bit of training and real-life practice can really turn the tables on an assailant armed with a knife or club. Best of all a cane leaves no “fingerprints” to bring trouble to a person who exercises self-defense in places (UK) where forcibly disagreeing with the plans of one’s murderer has negative legal repercussions. Recall the battle cry raised during the London bridge attack: “Run Hide, Tell!”

I’ll bet them muzzy wankers were quaking in their sandals.

For those without easy access to a martial arts school or HEMA chapter, a number of books on cane and stick fighting are available. Make sure to get at least one partner to practice with, and “All Weapon” fencing masks are a MUST!

Broadsword and Singlestick:: With Chapters On Quarter-Staff, Bayonet, Cudgel, Shillelagh, Walking-Stick, Umbrella, and Other Weapons of Self-Defense
Raising Cane – The Unexpected Martial Art

A martialist, regardless of discipline, should also take in the Principles of Personal Defense by Jeff Cooper. It frames the issues of self-defense very clearly.

Stay safe out there!

“Defensive-Size”… (0.o)!?

On page 64 of the April 2017 issue of American Rifleman Magazine, Editor in Chief Mark A. Keffe IV dropped an interesting new term, “defense-size”, on the shooter’s lexicon. In this case, Mr. Keefe was referring to Colt’s relaunch of their Cobra .38 Special revolver.

colt_Cobra

[Image courtesy of American Rifleman]

I find the term “defense-size” interesting because it implies a purpose defined application much like the dreaded term “assault rifle” that bears little connection to reality, so let’s examine the notion of “Defense-size” revolvers to see if sense can be made of this concept.

Since today’s topic is “Defense-size” revolvers, we will ignore the single-shot muzzle loading pocket pistols that predate Colt’s Paterson revolvers from 1835.

All of the pistols in this photo have been carried and used for defense. This collection is far from complete, but the firearms pictured represent a sufficient sampling for this discussion.

Defense-Sized_Compare

From the top:

Colt’s 1860 Army revolver – A pistol commonly used during the War of Southern Independence, and on the western frontier. This specimen has a 7” barrel. The 1860 Army was an evolution of Colt’s 1851 Navy which was of similar size and also sported a 7” tube.

Starr revolver – The third most common handgun used by Yankee forces, and one of the few double-action revolvers to be procured by the US War Dept. during the 1860s.

Remington 1858 New Army revolver – This revolver was second to the Colt’s 1851 Navy and 1860 Army revolvers in total numbers purchased by the US War Dept. during the 1960s. Originally issued with a 7 1/2” or 8” barrel, this specimen sports a 5 ½” barrel representing a post-war trend toward shorter barrels commonly referred to as a “sheriff’s model”.

Ruger Super Blackhawk – A modern revolver loosely patterned after the Colt’s Single Action Army that served the US military from 1873 until almost 1900. This pistol has a 4 5/8” barrel, a length sold for civilian use, making it quite easy to carry in a belt or shoulder holster.

Many .22 and .32 caliber revolvers were manufactured by Smith & Wesson as their Model 1 and Model 2 respectively during the 19th century. These diminutive revolvers are represented here for scale by the Ruger Bearcat, a lightweight .22 rimfire pistol sporting a 4” barrel.

During first 75 years of the 20th Century, the most common pistol carried by uniformed police officers were revolvers with 4, 5, or 6” barrels. During this same period, 2-3” barrel “snubnose” versions of the standard duty pistols were introduced. The snubnose revolver is represented here by the Ruger SP101 and the S&W J-frame. (Hat tip to my Mrs. for the loan of her Ladies’ Home Companion with the purty pink stocks.) The snubnose fulfilled the role of providing a compact weapon that could be hidden away by the line cop to be used in case he was disarmed by accident or criminal action. Detectives and administrators took to the snubby in droves because it offered convenient concealment, and was more comfortable to wear.

Just for size comparison, I threw in a Kel-Tec P11 compact 9mm that approximates the size of most semi-automatics popular with those who carry concealed handguns today. Just looking at the picture, a definite trend toward smaller weapons is pretty obvious.

Of course, “smaller” can only go just so far when the gun is chambered for a cartridge suitable for defense. On a revolver, the cylinder and frame immediately surrounding the cylinder are pretty much fixed in size by the dimension of the cartridge, so in order to get “smaller” a few design modifications can be made to reduce overall dimensions and weight. First, the grip frame can be rounded in profile and reduced in size and thinner stock panels can be installed. Second, the barrel can be shortened resulting in the classic 2” snubnose style. Third, the diameter of the cylinder can be reduced by lowering the number of chambers.

In the early days, factories churned out models with full size frames and short barrels. The demand for these pistols was so great a specialty industry sprang up to meet the demand.

J.H. Fitzgerald worked for Colt, and he developed a customization package for Colt’s double action revolvers that became known as the Fitz’s Specials.

Fitz_Special

[Image courtesy of American Rifleman]

Fitzgerald also worked as a police trainer, and his book “Shooting” is worth reading.

While any revolver can be made into a snubby simply by installing a barrel less than 3” in length, the best known example of the archetype are Colt’s Detective Special (an ancestor of the Colt’s Cobra pictured above) and Smith & Wesson’s Chief’s Special 

These two guns were the gold standard for snubnose revolvers until the wonder-nines started taking over police holsters in the 1980s, followed by increasingly compact 9mm pistols. Now things may be changing. Much like ladies’ fashions, revolvers are coming back, and from some unexpected sources.

2017 has been graced by the return of Colt’s Cobra.

The big surprise of 2016 was the K6, a new 2” .357 Magnum revolver from Kimber.

Another 2016 surprise were the mid-size “duty” revolvers from Smith & Wesson in .357 and .44 Magnum. In 2017, S&W recently released 3” versions of these classically styled wheelguns. A 3″ barrel is a bit long for a “snubby”, but it definitely makes these guns easier to conceal.

Unfortunately, no matter how great these pistols are, these weapons require effort to properly master them for use in a defense situation. The good news is the number of resources available to help the new owner of a “Defense-size” revolver get the most out of his firearm.

Snubnose.Info contains a variety of articles that discuss the peculiarities of using a snubnose revolver for concealed carry.

Michael DeBethencourt offers snub-specific training classes. The Blog link on his site contains very helpful information that will round out the information on Snubnose.Info.

Reading can NEVER replace profession firearms training. It CAN provide much food for thought the martialist might find helpful:

The Snubby Revolver: The ECQ, Backup, and Concealed Carry Standard by Ed Lovette

From Amazon: “In this book, former CIA operative and Combat Handguns columnist Ed Lovette pays homage to the short-barreled revolver, or snubby, holding it up as the timeless standard in concealed carry, backup and extreme close quarters (ECQ) defensive weapons.”

Grant Cunningham has written a number of books on firearms and revolvers in particular. Mr. Cunningham offers firearms training, and blogs on personal defense issues. His latest offering is:

Protect Yourself With Your Snubnose Revolver by Grant Cunningham

 

If semi-autos can be described as “compact” and “micro”, then we definitely have a place for “defense-size”, but I still think “snubnose” sounds way cooler.

Stay safe out there.