'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

30 May 2014

Patio Concrete

We have fought the back yard area, adjacent to the covered porch, ever since we bought this house. It was a mess frankly.

We tried most everything. From fake grass

To sod

And everything in between. It was finally time to stop messing around and fix this problem once and for all and incorporate this area into the backyard/patio properly. That means concrete. There's one problem. It's behind the house and in an area that cannot be reached by the concrete truck. I could have arranged for a pump but I'm cheap. Wheelbarrow it is.

We spent the week prepping the ground. That meant digging out a couple of tons of soil, leveling, installing the edge forms along the fence and putting in the steel mat. Note that I took out the wall at the edge of the covered patio. We've gone from a sunroom to a true patio. I did put in another post to brace that long run.

Time for some concrete. I ordered 3.5 yards. I ended up being long again but that's better than short. $414.44 delivered including a $50 fee for the load being what's called 'short'. Anything below what the concrete company considers a full load is subject to that fee. For the moment ours is anything less than the max load of the truck which I think is something north of 7 yards. We had to clear out a path to get the truck as close as possible. I still ended up toting every cubic yard in a wheelbarrow.

Lu and her brother, The Principal. And thank you very much for the help. We literally wouldn't have gotten it all put in without him. Here's a thing about concrete that I plumb forgot. The weather is very hot and dry right now. Very. When concrete cures you want the water to rise to the top where it can be floated to a pleasing finish. On dry soil the water tends to get sucked down, away from the top. It starts setting up quickly and is very hard to work. My soil wasn't near wet enough and we had to really bust butt to get it worked and floated. It was a very near thing. Word to the wise.

After moving a couple of tons of concrete by hand in that little Ace wheelbarrow. Do I look a bit tired? I was beat and we were far from done.

Getting close. By this time is was almost impossible to screed the rapidly curing concrete. The time I spent actually moving the concrete worked against us. By the time I got most of it moved and on the ground it was already getting hard. Next time I go with a concrete pumper. Lu and I hammered away at it and eventually got it done but it was a huge and unnecessary waste of effort. Live and learn.

But in the end we persevered and it was done. I think it came out well. Lu is pleased.

We've now added about 400 square feet of usable space to the patio. No more dirt, mud, weeds and ants. It's now a permanent, low maintenance covering suitable for BBQ grills, patio furniture and generally hanging out enjoying life.

Next up is to epoxy paint the entire concrete surface, including the covered patio. Then I'll put the sun shade back up. The last attempt came crashing down in a heavy snow storm so this time I'll be beefing the whole thing up. The sun shade will include all the concrete we just poured. The kid's pool will go on that new pad in the last picture. The best part is this is all just off the master bedroom and immediately accessible through that new french door we installed. Ah, a master plan is a wonderful thing and it's gratifying to see it all come together as envisioned.

See you all for the next phase. But not today. Today it's rest, cold beverages and massive doses of Ibuprofen.

29 May 2014

The Left's Self Destruction Continues

I've been staying away from politics this year. What with the remodel and trying to acquire a modicum of competence at competition shooting I haven't really had the time. Plus the fact that I'm pretty sick of the whole thing. But I can't help chuckling from time to time at the obtuseness from the right.

Every time I hear someone say that the left is hypocritical about Radical Islam I laugh. It's not hypocrisy it's jealousy.  Both the hard left and radical islamic fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin.

They're both Death Cults.

The hard left has no basic tenet beyond death is good. Every crisis is tied to death from guns to abortion to the destruction of the family unit. They warn that the things that everyday Americans engage in such as heterosexual relationships, self defense and eating what we want in the quantities we want lead to the death of innocents (children figure in highly here) while parading the latest homosexual hero, food fascist and gun grabber as the hero de jure. Governmental malfeasance in the VA leads to the deaths of dozens but state run health care is desirable. A healthy economy and capitalism is bad while global warming is the direst calamity ever ever and must be addressed by taking everyone not of the chosen class back to the stone age where life spans are reduced and living is a hand to mouth existence.

They are never louder than when death is involved. It's as if only the blood of innocents gets them truly excited. They revel in it and never miss a chance to roll around, coating themselves and their detestable views. Death Cult.

On Memorial Day Google chose to honor Rachel Carson instead of our honorable dead. Rachel Carson of banning DDT fame who has the blood of millions on her hands. Death Cult.

A nut job kills 6 and injures many more and all we hear is what Nerd Lust and misogyny and guns are bad and not one word on crazy or knives or how maybe if we granted ordinary folks the right to self defense this kind of stuff would stop. Death Cult.

That's because they don't want the deaths to end. Ever. When they finally get all they want the deaths will simply become more governmental directed and less societal. We're already seeing and reading all we need to know ow this all ends in their twisted minds. Prosecution, prison and the rope.

Death cult. They love death and destruction. The hard left is never happier than they are when innocents are killed. Unless it's when they're doing the killing themselves and those recipients are of the wrong persuasion. That's still a fantasy in their fervid minds for the moment but one need look no further than the nearest online leftist hangout to read the tea leaves. They want us not just quiet and defeated but dead.

How is any of this different from the Cult of Mohammad? Only in the end results and that only until their control becomes complete. The left looks on the tactics of the RIFs and dreams of the time to come. When they can throw off the thin veil of respectability that they wear like a blood soaked vestment and become what they truly are. Killers; murderers of the stripe we have seen all too frequently.

Pol Pot would recognize them. As would Khan and Hitler and Stalin. Mao would call them brothers and sisters. Bonaparte would recruit them into his army. Nero would serenade them while they all watched Christians being torn apart in the arena.

It is now not enough to say to each his own. You do your thing and I'll do mine. Tolerance has become a call to purge those deemed as enemies of the state. 'I disagree with what you say but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it' has turned into 'I disagree with what you say and I'll fight to your death to shut you up.'

I wrote a short post  awhile ago warning about pushing me into a corner. It has seemingly gotten worse but therein lies the seeds of the left's destruction. Take a few minutes and read some of the stuff Borepatch has written on this subject. Many of you have also done so  but BP is my go to guy for this kind of stuff as he seems to have his finger firmly on the left's pulse. The left is in the process of consuming itself in an orgy of blood lust, excuses and denunciations. Nerd Lust was the cause of the Santa Barbara murders for crying out loud? NSA spying is just fine. The deaths of veterans is acceptable so long as the bureaucrats in charge of the system aren't held to account. A 7th round NFL draft pick is a hero because he kissed his boyfriend on TV but mentioning that the whole thing might be a little over the top results in censorship and banishment to a Right Think Camp. The science is settled and if you disagree then it's off to court and prison with you. And on and on and on. Frankly of there's one racial, cultural or political group not on their list of approved core groups they haven't attacked and othered I don't know what it might be.

 Fight terrorism? The hard left wants terrorism (in the form of radical Islam) to win. They're doing all they can in the middle east and Iran to ensure that very end. Libya is about to explode, Syria already has and the killing there is far from done. Boko Haram was protected from inclusion on the list of terror groups until they did something no one could ignore and even then the left's response has been a tepid Twitter hashtag campaign. Israel has been abandoned. Egypt is close to civil war (again) and if anyone thinks the Saudi's don't have Pakistani nukes in country and ready to go you're kidding yourself.

Stern warnings and proposed sanctions abound but damn little in the way of actual solutions in our foreign policy. That's because all this is exactly what the hard left wants. What they've been working toward for a century. Death is what fuels them and makes their eventual complete takeover inevitable in their eyes. They don't want solutions they want crises.

Combine all this with the left's cozening of Radical Islamic Fundamentalism and we're left with only one conclusion. The Death Cult that is the hard left believes it has already won and is no longer afraid of backlash of any kind. To that end they feel empowered to insult, accuse and attack any group that displeases them in any way.

The left and terroristic radical islamic fundamentalism are brothers. Both want the same basic things; the destruction of Judaism and Christianity and the enthronement of a dictatorship. Whether that be Theocratic, Stalinist or Monarchical makes no never mind to those of us in it's way. The end result is the same. Enslavement for the vast majority of human beings on this planet. Oh those two forces would ultimately come to blows to determine the final winner but both sides believe in the inevitability of their victory. Entitlement writ global and in the blood of humans sacrificed on the black altars of their evil Gods.

But they're not winning, they're losing and badly. We're seeing more and more push back from not just the right but from those once considered 'centrists' and even liberals. At least those who are the true scions of the once freedom minded liberal movement. As such groups are marginalized, criticized and even attacked they look once again at the hard left in this country with newly opened eyes. Eyes shorn of the blinders of party affiliation. Tribal isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes it's only an attack on a person's cherished loved ones, be they beliefs or actual people, that paves the way for enlightenment.

Sun Tzu is sometimes too often quoted but it's hard to deny truth when it's right there before your eyes.
"The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

Never interfere when an enemy is immersed in self destruction but be ever vigilant for the opportunity to hasten his fall. It may well come down to 'kill them all' but I doubt it. I think the hard left, like radical islam, will destroy itself. The only problem with that is how many they'll take with them when, in their death throes, they finally resort to the suicide bomb. And you know it will come down to that in the end. 

They are, after all, Death Cults.

25 May 2014

Sunday Kipling - Memorial Day Edition

Today is not the day to thank a serving member or veteran for their service. It's a day to honor, thank and remember those who gave their all. It's especially poignant here today as it's the first since we lost The Sarge, Lu's beloved dad. He was a two tour Vietnam veteran who ultimately lost his battle against the unseen wounds all combat vets are exposed to and must endure. We miss him dearly.

As we do all those we have sent off to that cauldron never to return. Or to return so broken and damaged that their lives are cut all too tragically short. Not all those honorable dead met their end on the battlefield so far from home. Some gave their all without knowing it at the time. Only to return home and face a different kind of fight. One against a body damaged beyond repair and a bureaucracy that doesn't give a damn. Remember them when it comes time to call those responsible to account. Keep them in your prayers because they need all the help they can get. It's never over. One generation is replaced by the next. The names and faces are different but the stories are all too familiar. To those men and women, who are waging yet the war they thought had been left behind, we owe honor, fidelity and support. May they forgive us our failures and may we ever renew and honor the promises we made them when we sent them marching off on our behalf. Even the courageous need a helping hand from time to time. That this country has forgotten and abandoned them now, in their time of greatest need, casts a pall of shame upon us all.

I will take a moment today and offer up a heart felt prayer for our honorable dead. Killed in defense of hearth and home. "They placed their bodies between their home and the war's desolation" to quote my favorite author. They died that others may live. Heroes all.

They may be gone but so long as even one of us remains they will never be forgotten.

For The Sarge, Pop to those who knew and loved him. We'll cry again today Pop but only because we miss you and not because you died for what you loved. That we will honor.

In your memory.
Six and Lu

Soldier, Soldier

"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
Why don't you march with my true love?"
"We're fresh from off the ship an' 'e's maybe give the slip,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."
New love!  True love!
Best go look for a new love,
The dead they cannot rise, an' you'd better dry your eyes,
An' you'd best go look for a new love.
"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
What did you see o' my true love?"
"I seed 'im serve the Queen in a suit o' rifle-green,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."
"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
Did ye see no more o' my true love?"
"I seed 'im runnin' by when the shots begun to fly 
But you'd best go look for a new love."
"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
Did aught take 'arm to my true love?"
"I couldn't see the fight, for the smoke it lay so white 
An' you'd best go look for a new love."
"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
I'll up an' tend to my true love!"
"'E's lying on the dead with a bullet through 'is 'ead,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."
"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
I'll down an' die with my true love!"
"The pit we dug'll 'ide 'im an' the twenty men beside 'im 
An' you'd best go look for a new love."
"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
Do you bring no sign from my true love?"
"I bring a lock of 'air that 'e allus used to wear,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."
"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
O then I know it's true I've lost my true love!"
"An' I tell you truth again -- when you've lost the feel o' pain
You'd best take me for your true love."
True love!  New love!
Best take 'im for a new love,
The dead they cannot rise, an' you'd better dry your eyes,
An' you'd best take 'im for your true love.

24 May 2014

June ePostal Match - Steampunk Edition - Courtesy Of Brigid And Partner

Brigid and Partner are hosting the ePostal Match for June vice Mr. Completely while he's recovering from surgery (A quick visit to his site and well wishes would not be out of line I am given to understand).

Stop by Brigid's here for the details. It looks like a blast. I'm in and I may even convince Lu to shoot it with me.

Now as to firearm. I'm thinking about sniveling at Brigid for a Multi Gun division. 4 Targets, 10 shots. 5 pistol and 5 rifle. I'll shoot it with my normal 3 Gun gear; AR with 1x4 optic and Glock 35 with irons. I'd try to weasel in shotgun but that might seem like cheating :)

Come on. It's a great excuse for some practice time and a tribute to Mr. Completely who could probably use a lift at the moment. Let's make this the best ePostal match evah! I'll even post my target here as well as sending it in to Partner for official scoring.

23 May 2014

Press Conference. The New Pistol - An Unexpected Eating Exercise

Ok. So I finally made a freaking decision about both my competition pistol and a replacement for my venerable and now retired Sig P226.

For those who missed it I finally put the 226 back in the safe. Made in West Germany she's now pushing hard on 30 years old. She's tired, starting to break down and has earned an honorable rebuild and quiet retirement. That left me stuck. I needed both a replacement and a new competition gun.

But before I unveil the new gun let's go back in time a few weeks to the pistol class I took with Ron Avery. That 3 day, 1500 round shoot-a-palooza that saw changes in both my stance and grip. Turns out I also experienced a sea change in attitude as well. In that course I started to finally see and feel the limitations of the 226. High bore axis. It's heavy, the DA first shot is slower than SA or striker and it's just getting old. I also figured out a grip that will let me shoot pretty much any handgun I pick up with increased speed and accuracy. A worthy learning experience that opened what I thought was a closed door. Ok. Ready? Here it is.

Yep. It's my Glock 35. The same one I've had for about, oh, 7 years or so. The same one I said I was done shooting and gave to Lu. Well, I took it back. (It was a struggle but I claimed victory when she got distracted. I told her that the eggs she had on the stove had exploded. When she went to look I snatched it and ran away laughing maniacally. Win!)

Now, now. Settle down back there unless you want me top have the bailiff clear the room and start whacking pee-pees. Yes, I know what I said a bare few months ago. That I didn't like the Glock and was going exclusively to the Sig because I just liked and shot it better. I may have referred to the Glock as a steaming pile unworthy of my exalted touch but I've now evolved on this issue and have acquired a better appreciation of what the Glock brings to the table. Think this is bad? Wait for the other shoe. Here's my replacement for the Sig P226.

That's a brand spanking new Gen 3 Glock 17. I picked it up today. It's about the same size as the Sig, weighs quite a bit less and is about half the price. I paid $499.00 for this example. The mags are cheaper, hold 2 extra rounds without an extension and are available even at Frank's Bait and Tackle (serving the greater Anal Point area since 1973). It's rugged, dependable and I couldn't care less about it so long as it goes bang when I want it to. I can use it for both carry and the occasional match. I'll probably shoot a bit of USPSA Production with it as well as some 3 Gun. The holster and mag carriers from the G35 fit it as nearly perfectly as one could wish. Plus you know what an obsessive compulsive slob I am about platform compatibility. I tend to want all the guns I shoot regularly to conform as closely as possible. Cheap cost, simple easy upgrades, rugged construction and frankly I don't give a crap about beating on them unmercifully.

So. This is my answer at present. I still think there may be a CZ in my future for Production at least but for now I'm satisfied. Now I can stop shopping and get back to some serious training.

Ok, the floor is now open to questions. Yes, you in the back?

Iqbal Nudnick with The Tactical Timmy Times. Does this mean you've become a Glock Fanboy? Will we now see you on the Glock Forum exclaiming to all the world that Glock is the shiznit and that anyone who doesn't shoot a Glock is an encephalitic retard who needs his hand held when going number 2? Will you now tease your erstwhile buddies on the Sig Forum about bore height, cost and how even their team shooters don't actually shoot Sigs?

No. Stop asking me that! I love my Sigs and I always will. It's not Sig, it's me.

But didn't you say, just a bare few weeks ago, that Sig was the only intelligent answer and that you wouldn't touch a Glock with Gecko 45s paste smeared fingers?

I don't think I went quite that far...

I believe you once referred to Glock shooters as short bus riders who better understood the taste of window snoz than what a modern pistol consisted of.

I never said that! Besides, as I believe I mentioned earlier, my position on this subject has evolved over time. I'm much kinder and gentler than I was in my misspent youth, way last month...

Were you wrong then or are you wrong now? How can we, your trusted and dog like devoted followers, believe anything you now say if your opinion can change so drastically over a few short days? How can we be sure Glock didn't just pay you to switch to their product? After all I believe it was you who once threatened to fly to Europe and cram a Glock up a certain Austrian engineers 4th point of contact so far all he'd taste for the rest of his life would be CLP, abject failure and shame.

That was a joke. I was just kidding. Totally. The restraining order ended last week. As a world famous and fabulously wealthy Blogging Gun Idol to millions I am well aware of my responsibilities when it comes to my opinions on all things firearm and competition related. Let me be clear here. I did not and will not accept gratuities in exchange for a positive review of any manufacturers product. (This is an out and out lie. I will so totally do that. Contact me. Please wear a dress. A blue one.) I swear.

But, the children. Aren't you concerned about the children. Why won't anyone think of the children!? By the way. How do you like your Ebon Avian prepared? Deep fried, sauteed with butter or just wolf it down raw?

That's it! End of the press conference! Everyone get the fudge out!

This press conference brought to you by Missed It By A Mile Inc. (an Embarrassment Foods Group Company), purveyors of the finest Crow Meat products on Earth. Remember, if it doesn't say Embarrassment you're not eating Crow!

22 May 2014

A Match And A Reminder

2 Gun match on Saturday. I'm trying out a different rifle. It's my updated Budget 3 Gun Rifle now with a free float forearm and a 3x12 optic and 45 degree offset BUIS. We'll see if it makes those long shots any easier. I checked it's zero today and shot it well. Saturday will tell the tale though.

I've settled on a handgun (finally). I hope to post about my decision this week. Seeing how it's currently Thursday and everything maybe not. Soon. Real soon. I swear.

And a little reminder about trigger control courtesy of Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary fame.

See you guys at the range.

19 May 2014

Master Bedroom Remodel - Bathrom Shower - Final

It took a while but the master bathroom is finally finished (mostly) which brings the master bedroom remodel to a merciful close. It's been a long haul, interrupted from time to time by events better forgotten. Lu loves it and in the end that was most important to me. I gave her a free hand in selecting materials, finishes, accoutrements, and layout. I think I told her to indulge herself more than once.

When I put in the drain plumbing I was planning for a standard sized pre-made shower pan. That didn't work out. The drain ended up a bit offset so I had to come up with a new plan. That was to make my own shower pan and it's a pain in the toockus. I used a 6 mil (I think it was) plastic liner for my water barrier. You can buy it in pre-cut sizes precisely for this use. Over that went a fairly dry mixed mortar as a base for tile and to bring the floor up to the level of the drain. I went just over a quarter inch shy of the drain lip to allow for the tile and thinset. You can see the edges of the vinyl liner against the walls. I later trimmed it to 2 inches above the base before installing the wall tile. The corners are the tough part. They take a lot of fussing to get them correct and to lay flat. PITA. The vinyl is my water barrier if we have leaks and the mortar acts as the base for the thinset to stick to. The base must slope from the walls and threshold toward the drain for water proper runoff. Mark your walls before you start laying mortar.

We went with a 2 inch floor tile over the pan. That brings the floor level up to the edge of the drain. I like the tile but it is spendy at 9 bucks per square foot. Luckily we didn't need too much. It's really kinda necessary on shower floors. Larger tiles just get too slick from soap and shampoo. The smaller tiles and more grout lines give better traction.

  With the pan in and the floor tiles laid the walls were simple. We went with inset shampoo shelves and a nice trim pattern at the top of the walls. I had to make the threshold by hand.

A quick note about tools. I'm a big believer in never buying a tool twice. Buy quality once and you're way ahead of the game. I broke that rule on a tile saw for this job. Car Guy built a nice saw a few years ago that I 'inherited'. Well, it gave up the ghost during the first bathroom remodel and I needed something for this one. I'm nearly done with tile work (knock wood) so I couldn't see dropping 4 or 5 hundred on an expensive saw so I bought this one for 90 bucks.

It's the store brand at one of the big box home improvement stores (rhymes with Dome Hepot). Instead of a constant water feed the blade runs through water in a trough in the base. The surface extends for large pieces and the fence is adjustable. It even comes with an adequate blade. It cut very well. I had absolutely no issues with it. I'd never buy it for commercial or even heavy DIY use but for occasional or modest cutting needs it's the bomb. I don't know how it'll hold up long term but at this point I'm very happy with it. It's also very light and pretty small. It fits perfectly on a shelf for easy storage. Recommended as long as you understand it's limitations and don't treat it like it's an industrial saw.

Lu grouting. She's a keeper that one. She laid all the tile and did all the grout. I did the cutting and water hauling. Muscle and Skill. Fire and Ice. Leather and Lace. I'd hire her out but I'm too greedy. I'm keeping her all for myself.

Grouted with the shower curtain installed. Lu has since put up a second curtain on the left. You can barely see the shower drain. I'm loving this shower.

And with various toiletries so you can see how those shelves work. Looks nice, no? And it works as expected. The twin shower heads means we can use the shower together (heh heh) and the size gives us room to spare. At 3+x5 it's the largest shower we've ever had and feels like pure luxury.

We are a very long way from this. On the left is the shower drain. In the center is the toilet and the right is the vanity. Man, this whole thing was a lot of work. Dreams and plans become reality.

I still have to hang some accoutrements for towels and what not but for all intents and purposes it's done. Final totals on the entire master bedroom suite remodel was $6600 of which $2000 was to correct structural issues. The bathroom ate up about $2500. All in all not bad considering how much we opened up the space and improved our livability. The room is much larger, we added in a walk in closet and a 10x5 bathroom where none had existed before. The house has gone from 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom to 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. That second bathroom was essential, especially considering the grandkids are going to be spending considerable time here every Summer (Thanks DO!). And that french door has been wonderful.

This remodel was a tough project, I won't lie. It took time, effort, sweat, money and not a little pain. But the end result is well worth the investment. $6600 bucks is nothing in the remodel world. This could have easily run into the tens of thousands to have done professionally. It may not be exactly professional quality but it's very good and should last us a lifetime. Lu is happy and in the end that is all I really care about. This is well within the reach of most DIYers. Just roll up your sleeves and jump in with both feet. If we can do it anyone can.

We have a little concrete to pour before the kids arrive in June but the big projects are done for the Summer. We'll take a few months off and then begin the next phase of the house remodel; the spare bedroom, living room and kitchen. But that's for another day. For now we'll sigh in relief and enjoy our blessings and the fruits of our labors.

18 May 2014

Sunday Kipling (And Happy Birthday Angus)

Our little man is 3 today. We are grateful for the blessing God has given us in this companion. Happy Birthday Angus. And rest assured he's getting spoiled today.

We finally finished the shower on Friday. First shower was yesterday and it was sublime. I need to finish the trim and hang some girly towel stuff for Lu but for all intents and purposes it's done. Pics later this week.

I think I've settled on a handgun. If so I'll be purchasing this week. If that happens look for a write up on what and why.

Lu's garden is sprouting. The carrots are huge, the potatoes, cucumbers, melons, peaches and tomatoes are all coming in very well and we're seeing signs of life in the corn. The strawberries not so much.

Life is good and The Lord is firmly in charge. Rest, recuperate and reflect today and get ready for a brand new week. And if you happen to have someone special to spend the day with, well....

For Angus. Just Because.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run 
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!

14 May 2014

The Zen Of Competition. The Mind And Body Are One.

The other day I got asked why in the heck I chose to take up competition shooting in my mid 50's instead of taking my retirement easy. It's a fair question though I despise the thought processes behind it.

I'm smack in the middle of a total house remodel. I have 2 grandkids I adore and don't see near enough of. After a lifetime spent beating on my body the aches and pains have really caught up with me. I'm slower, weaker and don't recover as quick as I did even 5 or 10 years ago. I have a motorcycle I don't ride near enough. I have stuff I could be doing. Why USPSA and 3 Gun? Why now?

First off, at heart I am a planner and preparer. I tend toward the long view on most things, including aging. I consider the mind and body to be synonymous. Neglect one and you neglect both. I'm convinced that the only reason I'm still in decent physical and mental condition is because I started preparing for this stage of my life when I  was a young man and figured this day might well be coming (predictions from the skeptical notwithstanding). Education, reading, complex mind games, general physical activity and the gym. And don't forget a good dog. There's nothing like having your faithful mutt sit at your feet with that pitiful "please play with me" look on his face to get you up on your feet and moving about. That mindset hasn't (yet) left me. At nearly 55 I do see true old age rapidly approaching. There will be a time when I may no longer be capable of this level of activity no matter how hard I try (though in my heart I reject that. I plan on kicking ass right up until the very end). As long as I can I owe it to myself and my loving family to do all in my power to stave off the ravages of time. 

Second, I'm a shooter. Have been for a long time. But those are perishable skills and, as age creeps in, can be lost quicker than any of us might imagine.

For me new challenges are literally the staff of life. I must constantly push myself beyond both my comfort level and what I consider physically attainable to keep my mind and body firing on all cylinders. I may be packing a carbureted V-6 as opposed to a blown V-8 these days but keeping that little motor purring is a matter of will as much as anything else. Let me say that again. 'Mind over matter, if you don't mind it don't matter' isn't just a trite colloquialism, it's my motto. Along with 'If it ain't raining we ain't training'.  I'm such a simple guy.

So I compete. I challenge my mind to learn new skills and my body to master them. Do they transfer directly to things like self defense? Not completely but enough so that I'm also contributing to my SHTF tool box enough to make a difference when IF becomes REALITY. What they really affect is physical and mental health. Listen, age is largely a matter of choice and choices. Admittedly only to a certain degree but the more we do to positively influence that health the greater that degree becomes. I am absolutely convinced of this. Disease, extreme old age and accidents all take their tolls and win in the end but we have much more control over our aging process than we think.

Competition is way beyond the physical as I re-discovered recently when I took that 3 day, 1500 round pistol course from Ron Avery. Competition, and shooting in general, is as much mental as anything. All physical skills are first implanted in the mind which then teaches the rest of the body what you want it to do and how to get there. If the mind isn't kept as sharp as possible the acquisition of new physical skills becomes impossible. You can get even a broken down body to do things you might consider unattainable if your brain tells it to do so and doesn't take no for an answer.

The key isn't just training but smart training. Doing the same old stuff in the same old way over and over again leads to stagnation and entropy. Those things are a sure death sentence. Brigid told me that her father still challenges himself both mentally and physically each and every day and he's well into his 90s after a life at least as hard as mine (certainly harder). That gives me hope and renews my determination to go out kicking and clawing and screaming bloody murder. I love my couch and my TV but I refuse to allow them to become the vessel for my dissolution and early demise. Moderation.

USPSA was one thing but when I discovered 3 Gun the mental part of that V-6 got revved to it's limiter and my physical limits were pushed a little further back. Can't teach an old dog new tricks is pure, unadulterated BS. MUST teach an old dog new tricks is much closer to the truth and is something we need to keep in the forefront of our minds as we get further into middle and senior ages. Acquiring new skills and learning new things should end only after we've taken our last breath.

It can be anything. Going back to school, learning a new trade, taking up new hobbies, puzzles, athletic competitions, etc. With my background I simply chose competition shooting. It was logical. The mental challenges are complex and engrossing. The physical skill sets difficult and satisfying to acquire. I'm being pushed by other, younger shooters and in turn pushing myself to keep up with the pack. Yeah, there's certainly a little vanity involved. I'm trying to prove myself to both them and me but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Competition in the arena ultimately make us stronger and saner no matter the motivation. Besides, trying to run with the big dogs is what makes big dogs in the first place. Why do we keep forgetting that? No law exists that says what age the big dogs have to be either. The limitations set by your own mind. There's also little to compare with kicking the tail off someone much younger than yourself. Heh. A little ego and arrogance (in measured portions) used to be considered good things for anyone who desired to excel. They still are in my humble opinion.

Fear is our great limiter. Fear of failure and looking stupid amongst your peers among the worst for those looking at taking up new things. I think the most debilitating of all is that voice in the back of your head that constantly whispers at you to submit, give up. You're not good enough. You can't do this. Don't even try. Go lie down and wait to die. It's that voice you must slay. Without mercy, without compunction, without hesitation. Especially as the physical infirmities begin to set in. Kill it. Kill it with fire and chain it's ashen corpse to the pillar of your will, there to be the symbol of your mastery over yourself and in defiance of the forces of doubt and ignominious death.

Because I want to. Because I can. No other answer is required.

Now go kick someone's butt at something. Alive is alive. Act like it.
I'll see you all at the range!

12 May 2014

Southwest Multigun

Warning. Loooong post.

The SWMG was a two day, 10 stage match run over Saturday and Sunday. Every stage required all 3 guns and most of them involved either obstacles or very tricky shots. Usually both. We did stuff I hadn't yet done like flying clays and shotgun slugs. A lot of the targets were pistol/shotgun optional but some were gun specific. Like the clay no shoots but I'll get to that in a moment. All the rifle targets were gun specific but then who wants to take a 320 yard pistol shot? Besides Jerry Miculek of course. Have I mentioned that I'm not Jerry Miculek?

I finished about where I figured, mid pack. I finished 22nd overall and 13th in Scoped Tactical. Since this was going to be an involved, tough and challenging match I decided to use it as much for training and finding my weaknesses as anything else. Finish is important but I'm keeping my eyes on the prize, the Hard As Hell match next December. This was a great chance to try out my gear and tactics under match conditions and to see if the Glock was the pistol answer. It isn't. Probably.

Anyway. We started off Day 1 with the shoot house and something...different. See that door I'm pointing my shotgun at? It has a strip of 1x2 across the jamb so we had to do a breach. It wasn't a tough barrier so a load of #7 1/2 at 1300 fps did a satisfying job. Then it was enter the house and clear it with shotgun and rifle then run back out the front door to the next bay and clear the pistol targets. We had to move forward and backward in the shoot house so muzzle discipline and a plan was paramount.

Obstacles and challenges we had in spades. Here we shot 125 yard steel from platform 1...

Sling the rifle and cross the static line...

And shoot more steel from platform 2. It was a blast. From there we ran across the road and shot some pistol including the spinner. I've had issues with the spinner but I think I've found a solution. A 40 caliber pistol shooting 180 grain bullets. I spun it easier than I ever did before with a 9. Food for thought?

Running the Stoeger. It worked flawlessly all day and my reloading practice is paying big dividends. I dropped exactly one shotgun shell in two days, 10 stages and a couple hundred shells. 

A nod to my sponsors. Just kidding, I have no sponsors unless somebody out there wants to jump in on the ground floor and sponsor an old, fat, bald beginner 3 Gunner? No? Just thought I'd ask. This is me running the Glock. Here's the thing on that pistol. It ran perfectly (though I'm pretty sure the rear sight needs adjusting I just never had the chanced to check it) and did most of what I wanted. If I focus on it it may be the gun for me. But. It just doesn't do it for me. I just don't really like it. I have to concentrate on running it as opposed to the Sig which seemed to be such a part of my hand. I'm not saying I won't choose it but I'm also not saying I will. Sigh. The search continues.

There was plenty of running...

And gunning. Some of the shooting positions were awkward. This stage required shotgun through ports. It was an easy stage to blow holes through walls and DQ if you weren't paying attention.

Of course some were just ridiculous. Since I don't really bend I was forced to shoot through the port one handed.

Did I mention awkward? "Are you ready? Stand by."

"Beep!" What the...? Old fat guys should not be subjected to such indignities.

More ports. This time it was pistol at some 50 yard steel before entering the rest of the stage through the Tyrannosaur's mouth. It's a fun range.

Finishing up the stage with some hilly shotgun. Targets were challenging and shooting positions required a little forethought.

By the time that we got here the wind was blowing with gusts up to 50 mph. Even 75 yard shots (on 10 inch steel plates) was...difficult. 

Ah. A job well done! Well, done at least.

Day Two started with the long range stage. Targets at 260, 280 and 320 yards followed by 14 shotgun (including our first clay flyers) and then some pistol out to 50 yards. I rocked this stage. I also did a lot of shotgun reloads here.

This is a good shot of a dump barrel. We started with the rifle, to shoot the long steel, with the shotgun staged in that trash can. Then dump the rifle in the same can, pick up the shotgun and get to shootin'. If you look really closely you can see a second can in the background to dump the shotgun in. Just to the left of that and a little behind is a black plate that guards the clay thrower with the activator popper next to it. Hit the popper and it throws the clay. Way up on top on that small knoll you can see one of the long pistol targets. From the shotgun dump barrel it was transition to the pistol. This is 3 Gun.

You can see how the weather had turned overnight by that sky. The previous night brought rain, thunder and lightning with very high winds. Every cardboard target had to be changed out early that morning. Ouch! You can see another type of dump station. My shotgun is staged in that barrel to my left and the rifle in that wooden contraption next to me. I picked it up there, shot and then dumped it back on the same dump station before moving on to the shotgun. Dumped the shotgun and ran the pistol. 3 Gun requires you to think about where and how you're going to transition between guns. This match even more so since so many targets were optional pistol/shotgun.

This was nearly the end of my match. In this shot I'm shooting paper targets on the ground but there's also some 125 yard steel at a higher elevation. After running the paper I started in on the steel. The wind was bothering me and I was missing. So. I stepped slightly to my right and back to get a better angle. As I did so I stepped off the small platform with my right foot. One minute I'm all fat and happy with my feet firmly planted. The next I'm stepping off into thin air which is notoriously poor at supporting fat men. I managed to catch my balance but I crashed heavily to the platform and did damage to my lower extremities. Nothing severe just bumps, bruises and general ouchies. I managed not to break the 180 and an immediate DQ and finished the stage. My time sucked but I was Ok and still in the match. Lesson learned. Don't stand below me when I'm shooting from a high platform. The RO below me nearly had a stroke when he thought he was going to have to try and catch me. Heh.

This was an interesting stage. Ok. First check out that white target to the right. It has 2 clays embedded. There were 5 more just like it on the left past that other white target you can see there. White is no shoots and if you put holes in them they cost you, to the tune of 5 seconds per. These were shot with the rifle at 17 and 7 yards. The 17 yard targets also had no shoots between the shooter and the targets resulting in a clear case of double jeopardy. You must know your mechanical offset (or holdoff). That is the height difference between your bore and your optic (or iron sights) for various ranges. I went clean here (and a few other stages where the same targets were used) because I know my holdoffs. Dialing up elevation changes for 300+ yard shots and then back to precision 7 yard shots on hostage targets is slow. Better to know your stadia line holdoffs and shoot it on the run. I also used this stage as an exercise in shotgun reloading. It had 2 flying birds and 12 shotgun/pistol optional steel. I decided to run them all with the shotgun for more match pressure shotgun reloading. My gear worked perfectly and my reloads were sure and pretty darn fast. I'm in front of the RO grabbing my shotgun out of the dump rack.

Of course this was the next stage. Up the slope, rope firmly in hand...

Across the top with Old Glory proudly displayed...

And down the far side. Note the slung rifle. We did a lot of that.

And on to yet another %$#@ing platform! Rifle out to 200 yards.

This was another first for me in a 3 Gun and proof a good 3 Gunner needs a wide variety of skills. After the rifle (and before another set of 50 yard pistol) we shot flying clays. On the top of the rail, near the left edge, was two activators. Push with the left hand and shoot the clays flying out from under the platform. 4 total and I went clean. Hurray!! From there it was the long pistol, then jump down (or climb painfully down as the case may be) and run the rest of the stage. This was the last stage of the day and match.

One of the things I liked best about this match was it was specifically set up to challenge your shooting skills and gear and make you do certain things that you don't normally do. Like the hostage targets, flying clays, 50 yard pistol and switches from long range to point blank with the rifle. It also made you think and make a solid plan with so many optional targets. All in all it was a fantastic match and I learned a ton. I have a much better training plan going forward.

This week Lu and I will finally finish that shower and then I'll be back out at the range with my training partner putting in the time and effort to try and improve. In June I also have a rifle class (with an as yet unnamed blogger coming out to shoot it with me. Hooray!) and I'm hoping to improve my long range and especially intermediate range offhand shooting. 125 yards standing offhand on 10 inch steel in wind under match pressure is...challenging.

Bring it on. The harder the better. All this is with one thing in mind. December 2014.