Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Smell of Spent Powder

Normally, when a woman talks about the words "scent" and "powder",  she's talking about cosmetics - face powder, perfumed talcum, and all of the little things that recall the femininity of bygone days. There is still a particular floral concoction, that when I smell it, reminds me of my great-aunt from my childhood. This is a memory that is over 4 decades old - triggered by a scent - the scent of her talcum powder. But that isn't the kind of powder I'm discussing today.

We know that the sense of smell is both primal and hard-wired into memory. We also know that certain scents are more pleasing than others, and that it is sometimes an individual thing. For instance, the wet diaper of a new infant doesn't smell distasteful to me. (I suppose that's a good thing - otherwise I'd be in the wrong profession - LOL) Rather, that smell gives me brief memories of a cozy time when I was alone with my newborns and we were still getting to know eachother.  That particular smell - which logic dictates should elicit at least mild revulsion - doesn't.

I say all this to prepare you, so that when I profess that I love the smell of spent gunpowder in the morning, you don't think that I'm a weirdo. I can't be alone here, can I? I don't think it's an acquired taste, as I recall liking the smell from the very beginning. There was an instant attraction - from my first shots.

I should also explain that despite a chronically runny nose, I have a fairly acute sense of smell. All those years spent in the microbiology lab in my previous profession as a medical technologist, trained me to use my sense of smell more acutely than perhaps other people are used to. Certain microorganisms have specific scents when grown in the laboratory. Pseudomonas, Haemophilus, Staph (even different species of Staph smell different), Ecoli, Bacteriodes, Streptomyces, Candida - the list goes on - can all (at least as a preliminary screen) be identified by smell. To this day, if a patient has a really bad case of Strep Throat, I can often smell it on their breath.

So, when I say there is "something" about the smell of spent gunpowder - I absolutely mean it. I don't know what it is, but something about it is pleasing to me. I would put it roughly in the same category as fresh ground coffee brewing. It is somewhat acrid and somewhat smokey, but also "attention-getting", and comforting at the same time. I suppose if I were a researcher with grant money lying around looking for a purpose, I'd do chromatography studies on the components of that smell, and what areas of the brain they activate in different people. I'd like to know if this is just an inherently pleasing combination to my brain, or if like my great aunt's talcum, it is triggering visceral, yet unconscious memories of my father, or if it's something else entirely.

I've also discovered that it isn't "all" powder that does that for me. I've been at matches where guys used their own reloads and the smell was totally different - not at all pleasing to me. Since I don't reload, I asked a friend about this, and he said that it probably depends on the type of powder and the type of oil on the bullets used in the reloads. If the components are different, then the products of combustion will be different.

I really don't want to get into reloading right now, but maybe I'll have to read up on what the ingredients are, why they are different in different powders, and why they smell different when they're burned. Obviously my nose prefers factory powder, and I'd like to know why. Maybe somebody out there can enlighten me, because it intrigues the science geek in me.

This is what I mean when I say that there is Always. Something. New. To. Learn. in the shooting sports.
It all makes my inner Spock raise an eyebrow and say "Fascinating" :-)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Image We Project

Okay, I realize that I've touched on this stuff briefly before, but I recently had a "joke" posted on my personal Facebook page that set me off a little. At risk of seeming to be the humorless harridan in the room that everyone hates to be around, I'm going to talk about it.

The "joke" was this:

"You can tell a lot about a woman's mood just by her hands.
For instance, if they are holding a gun, she's probably angry."

My response to the post was this:

"Why angry??
How about empowered, skillful, trained, accurate, and safe?
I think that though this is meant as a joke, that it just feeds into inaccurate stereotypes about women and firearms."

Ladies, I understand if you are a new shooter, that you are excited to join the "gun club", and you want to pass on "gun-related" stuff on social media. But here's the thing -- perpetuating stereotypes about ourselves is not helping. The anti-gunners and the unfamiliar general public thinks this is the way women handle firearms - out of jealousy, rage, monthly hormone swings, and various other undesirable motivations. They almost never think women can be competent, skillful, safe, and responsible firearms owners. We need to stop "shooting ourselves in the foot" - to use an apropos metaphor - and start projecting the image that we want the public to have about women and firearms.

I realize that I'm mostly preaching to the choir, but with the ranks of new female shooters swelling every year, I thought I'd just throw out this gentle reminder that people are watching you. Your friend from high school who hates guns may be looking at your posts. Your coworkers who are on the fence are watching you. You can either educate by example  - or reinforce their negative opinions - simply by what you post and what you say. (I'm also reminding "myself" as I speak here)

We are all ambassadors of our hobby/sport/passion. Let's be good ones!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day MOMent

As I was doing laundry yesterday, I found a round of .223 ammo that had gone through the washer and dryer in my pants pocket. Not being one to waste ammo unneccesarily, I texted a friend to make sure the round would still be good, and he assured me that it would.

It occurred to me that this illustrates how different my life and household are now that I'm a shooter. There are some places that a single round of ammunition could trigger school lock-downs, neighborhood panic, and political pants-wetting. But in my house, in my basement, the first thing I thought of was not an hysterical, "Oh my GAWD, the whole house could have exploded with that, that...THING in the dryer!". Rather, my first thought was "Can I still use that?"

There was no drama, there was no clutch of maternal fear, all the episode meant to me was that I had gone to a 3-Gun match the preceding week, and that some of the pockets in my new pair of tactical pants are apparently so secret, that even I couldn't find them again to empty them out. LOL

This being Mother's Day, and with the previous to illustrate how my life has changed, I thought I'd "Take a MOMent" to share.

Julie Golob's Mother's Day Campaign for firearm safety is a fabulous idea. With all of the political rush lately to turn maternal fear and ignorance about firearms into astroturf politics thinly disguised as "safety", we moms who actually KNOW firearms need to stand up and talk about ACTUAL gun safety. Because we are the responsible ones. We are the knowledgeable ones. We are the ones who actually have the skills to back us up. We are the ones who can teach, and dispell ignorance.

The NSSF's Project ChildSafe  


The NRA's Eddie Eagle Program 

are both great resources for children's firearms safety.

As mothers, we are our children's first teacher. We teach them to be safe crossing the street. We teach them to be safe with strangers. We teach them to be safe around the swimming pool...

So let's make sure we teach them to be safe around firearms, too.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bitten by the BUG!

I shot in my first BUG match this past weekend, and I had so much fun, that I thought I should write about it.

For those who don't know, BUG stands for Back-up Gun. This is a term that is usually applied to the small revolvers and semi-auto pistols that many people use for daily concealed carry. They usually have a round capacity of only 5 or 6 shots and have a very short barrel. This is in contrast to the large 9mm, .40 and .45 cal full-size pistols with big magazines that most of us consider our "match guns".

When I heard that my local IDPA club was going to have a side BUG match in conjunction with the yearly Classifier stages, I was extremely excited. I had just purchased a new Glock 42 ( .380 semi-auto), and was anxious to put it through its paces. (Or have it put me through mine - LOL!)

I had taken this gun to the range a grand total of twice before it was time for the BUG match, so I wasn't terribly experienced with it. But I figured what the heck, the match would tell me what I needed to work on. I was worried that I only had the two magazines that the gun came with, but that seemed to be the order of the day. One of the SO's in charge told me that he personally ran it with a revolver and no speed clips.

Since the Classifier match always seems to take forever, and there are always lots of shooters to put through it (it's just the nature of the beast), we were encouraged to run over and try the BUG while we were waiting turns at the Classifier. I took advantage of the lull after my turn on Stage 2, and went to try out the G42.

It felt strange, but it was a Hoot! There were three mini-stages in one bay, broken up into several strings of fire each. You were limited to 5 rounds per string, and reloaded for the next string off-the-clock. Since I only had 2 magazines, if there were 3 strings, then that meant I had to return to the table, (keeping good muzzle discipline since there is no holster) in order to refill my magazines. I felt a little "off-balance" the whole time, because I couldn't rely on muscle memory to know what to do. I had no holster, I had no magazine pouch - even the trigger pull was different on this gun. Being the control freak that I am, I like to have my motions be automatic, and this new situation wasn't letting me do that. But change and novelty are good things. They keep me on my toes!

I think I did pretty well, though the scores aren't up yet. I didn't have any misses, and I didn't hit any no-shoot targets, but time is always my issue. I'm not the fastest chickie on the block. LOL! But the important thing is that I had a BLAST!!! I am very grateful for the hard work that was put in by the club members to put this experiment on.

I recall that there was a good bit of buzz around the time of the 1st ever IDPA BUG Nationals this year, that BUG matches could be a new port of entry for new shooters and especially women. There are many women who carry concealed, but who don't have "competition" gear, or "competition size" guns. Women often carry small guns, and carry in purses or belly bands or something other than a traditional holster. The BUG rules allow for a maximum of 5 shot strings (ideal for small guns), magazine changes off the clock, and no holster work. This is great Low-Intimidation Factor stuff to attract a whole new cadre of shooters!!

It might be working, as I met at least one woman that day who came specifically for the BUG match. She was afraid that she would be the only woman there, yet she came anyway. Good for her!! (And I know the feeling). I am so excited that she seems to have been bitten now! And I've made a new shooting friend besides!