Monday, December 28, 2015

Rocking the Boat

I took a firearms class yesterday.
It wasn't an entirely good experience, and I'd like to tell you why.

I took a women's "CCW" class with the intent of brushing up some basics and working the bugs out of my Glock 43 and TTI basepads. I had attended Gunsite's 250 pistol class last year, but that is the only other carry or self-defense class I've been to, and I wanted to work on those type of skills.

It wasn't that I didn't learn anything yesterday. I did learn some drills that will be useful to me, and I learned that I do like the extended TTI basepads with my Glock 43.
But I also learned that I need to speak up and be forceful when I feel that circumstances or methods are unsafe.

There were only two other women there besides myself (the instructor was male). One gal was a true novice, and the other woman was supposed to be a basic pistol instructor herself. 

I tried to be open-minded at first. After all, I realized that I am still a square-range kind of gal trying to get a handle on the carry-world. I realized that things on this range might be "looser" than the tight match range rules I'm used to.

But there were what I felt to be safety issues, such as allowing gun handling behind the line while others were ON the line, and not enforcing holstering before turning and leaving the line.

Even the gal who was supposed to be a basic pistol instructor was guilty of this. If an "instructor" muzzle sweeps me leaving the line, I gotta wonder who and what she is teaching. Even the most basic of "basic pistol" instructors should know this. I don't care if the slide is locked back - don't wave it in my direction. You have a holster - please use it. But she wasn't corrected in this by the class instructor either.

Even so, I didn't say anything. I brushed it off as me being a control freak, and didn't think it was "my place" as a student to point out safety concerns. I realize now that I should have said something - or simply left - but I was guilty of the usual female inclination toward wanting to be polite, not wanting to rock the boat, and not trusting my own gut about what was safe and what was not.

But I'd had enough when the instructor asked us to point the guns at him for a force-on-force exercise. I don't care if he "checked" our guns first, it still violated the first two rules of gun safety, and I refused. I did it politely, but I refused.  I offered instead to remove my slide and just use the grip of the pistol for the exercise. He allowed me to do this, but the other two gals - including the supposed instructor gal - complied with his request and used their fully functional firearms in the exercise. I'm sorry, but this is just flat wrong. That kind of exercise is what blue guns and training barrels are for. I don't honestly even care if that's what the "operators" do - because we were NOT "operators". And now a novice shooter and a low level "instructor" will both think that it's okay to point a gun at someone if they tell you to - because they have been shown this unsafe behavior in a class.

When I got home, I contacted a friend who has 30 years in the Firearms Industry and he confirmed for me that this was not "Big Boy Rules", this was simply unsafe. 

I won't be naming names or places, because when I emailed my concerns, the instructor thanked me for my feedback. He seemed like a good guy, and I'm not trying to be punitive. Maybe his "style" works for combat pistol or something. But I won't be taking another class from him, because it doesn't work for ME. And I'd like folks to learn from my experience. If it feels unsafe - it probably is. If it bothers you - don't do it. I should have never been afraid to speak up.

As my friend advised me, "Where safety is concerned -- ROCK the BOAT."

Lesson learned - fortunately not the "hard" way.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

You Were Near a Gun Today!

My dear fellow shoppers...
You were near a gun today.

And yet you remained safe. And none the wiser.
Because I am a concealed firearm carrier going about my merry business.

I was the woman who helped you get the cart loose from the stack at the grocery store. 

I was the one wearing Christmas earrings, who smiled and let you go ahead of me in line. 

I was the shopper who dropped a bill in the kettle on my way out of the store. 

I was the gal in the cute jacket pumping gas next to you at the convenience store. 

All of these happened with a pistol on my hip.

You weren't afraid were you? Because you didn't know. 
Are you scared now that you do know? If you are, why? 
Was I unkind? Was I threatening? Was I scary looking? 

I don't think I was any of those things, because you smiled back at me. You thanked me, and wished me a Merry Christmas. 

Why should you be afraid of me (or insult me or denigrate me) because of an object I legally carry with me for my own (and possibly your) defense?

If your child had a seizure in the coffee aisle, I would be there to help you - because I've had training.

If your car battery were dead in the parking lot, I would be able to help you with that as well - because I have tools like jumper cables.

And if, God Forbid, we were both barricaded in a mall bathroom to escape a maniac, I would hopefully be able to give us both options for survival - because I have a tool and the training to use it.

Think about that. Don't judge from ignorance.

Merry Christmas from the lady in the holly berry earrings.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

TTI and Glock43

Now that my first crossbow season is about over, I'm starting to turn back to firearms again, and have decided to focus on my carry guns for a little while.

As I've written before, the Glock 42 is my favorite carry gun - it fits into my life and my clothes, and I am comfortable shooting it, as I have put 1000+ BUG match rounds through it.

I've shot the Glock 43 in only a couple club BUG matches so far, but besides that, I haven't really given it a work out or tried to make it "mine" yet. I'm trying to change that.

I've mentioned before that the 43 has considerably more muzzle flip than the 42. I get better performance if I exclusively use the pinky extension magazines from Glock, for more grip leverage. But I wanted to play with that some more.

To that end, I ordered  a pair of Taran Tactical Innovations +2 base plates for it this week. TTI calls these "purple", but they're really more of a magenta.
It's a company founded by a man, not quilters, so I really can't criticize. Most men can't function out of the basic ROYGBIV colors of the rainbow anyway. But bottom line is I like the color pink/magenta/purple/whatever, so it worked for me.

As part of giving the 43 the maximum opportunity to work for me, I am also taking a refresher self-defense work shop after Christmas with this gun. I wanted to both play with the increased capacity, and see if the slightly longer grip surface of the TTI base plates helps me better control the muzzle flip. 

The metallic pink/magenta/purple goodness arrived on Friday. A quibble with TTI - there were ZERO instructions. Thank goodness for YouTube searches. Note to companies like this - PLEASE do not assume that all of your customers are going to be handymen or the naturally mechanically inclined. I'm not a complete moron - Lord knows I made it through med school - but a couple of diagrams or sentences worth of instruction would have been helpful.

Then,  I was stymied by my inability to budge the stubborn Glock original  base plates. Back to YouTube I went, wherein I learned that one fellow accomplished this with a quite large appearing pipe wrench or something. Note to Glock - You know I am already a fan girl, you know I love you. BUT-you people are from Austria - aren't you supposed to be like the Germans and the Swiss - all practical and efficient? WHAT is either practical or efficient about needing three hands, a screwdriver and a foot long wrench in order to remove a one inch baseplate from a three inch magazine?? ARGH

 I do have a basic household tool box, but I lack a set of big enough pliers or vice grips to squeeze the little tabbies out of the way. There is also no "Mister" LateBloomer whose workshop I can raid. Fortunately a friend texted me a photo of the kind of wrench/pliers he uses for Glocks. This was much smaller than a foot long, and could be had at the hardware store for NOT a small fortune, thank goodness.

So instead of this installation being a quick Friday evening project, it turned into a Big Production TM, and I had to wait until the morning until the hardware store opened. I also didn't really want to be wandering around Walmart at 11pm in my yoga pants and sweatshirt - that's when the "People of Walmart" come out. (Never mind that this would make yours truly a "People" too - don't even go there - it's called budgeting and living within my means, mkay? And I have NEVER worn my tutu in public) LOL
But I digress.

Saturday morning dawned, and I headed to Lowe's. The roads were icy for the first time all year, so I also picked up 80 lbs of driveway salt while I was there. I wandered around the pliers and wrenches until I found something that matched the photo my friend had texted me. I was dying for a sales guy to ask if he could help me find something. I desperately wanted to gauge the reaction to my reply that I was looking for something to work on handgun magazines with, but no joy. (I know, I'm easily entertained)

Bottom line, I found the exact tool I needed for about 12 bucks, did some Xmas shopping and proceeded home to finish my project - which went much smoother from there out. Here are the finished results.

I had about an hour of daylight left when I decided to range test the final product. I am very pleased so far. The Glock 43 felt much more stable in my hand with the extended basepads. The only disappointment so far is that with the new springs I can only get seven rounds in the magazine instead of eight (for +2). I'm going to store them compressed for awhile and see if that softens things up.

The defense class is in a week, so I'll let you know how that goes with the modifications.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Ignorance of Government Officials

Warning - News rant

I've already ranted this week on my personal Facebook account, so forgive me if some of you have heard this before. But I figured why let a good rant go to waste when I've got blog space to fill LOL.

The first phase of my rant centers around some comments by the president's press secretary this week.

Using words like "tragic"  and "ironic", he bemoans the fact that Americans have exercised their Constitutionally protected civil rights in recent weeks. Yes Really. 

In what upside-down world would someone - from the pulpit of the White House no less - berate and denigrate citizens who are exercising their right to vote, or their right to worship, or their right to trial by jury? Oh that's right, when one is talking about guns, all bets are off. It is perfectly okay to berate, denigrate, restrict, stereotype, scold, and slander firearms owners -- because somehow the Second Amendment is a dirty second-class Amendment which not only must sit at the back of the civil rights bus, but which some wish to kick off the bus entirely.

To compound his already insulting remarks, the press secretary then when on to demonstrate his ignorance of existing federal firearms law. He mentions that he thinks that Black Friday firearms sales were so high because people were buying gifts FOR friends and loved ones. 

The press secretary has apparently never heard the words "Straw Purchase". He is apparently appallingly ignorant of the fact that purchasing a firearm and going through the NICS system with the intent of supplying said firearm to someone else is Illegal. Even a purchase as a "gift" is skating over the thin ice of illegality.

There just isn't a facepalm big enough for ignorance like this - especially coming from someone in a position of national "authority", who is ostensibly speaking "for" the president about matters involving the civil rights of millions of Americans.

Then, to make matters worse, this report appeared in my newsfeed.

In this little gem, the actual Director of the actual FBI demonstrates that he has no idea how federal law governs internet sales of firearms. He apparently thinks that it just gets shipped to your home. Here is a high ranking official in federal law enforcement, who has no freaking clue about federal law requiring a firearm to be shipped to an FFL dealer, who must then fill out federal paperwork, and run a federal NICS before you can take that firearm home. 

The press secretary's ignorance is bad enough, but this guy is IN law enforcement. This guy presumably carries a firearm as a federal law enforcement officer. In fact, he can carry in places that I cannot. Yet it is me, the mere citizen and lowly pediatrician who knows and follow the law, of which this FBI Director is astonishingly ignorant.

Things like this make me very, very cranky.
I need to go do something happy instead - like roll shotgun shells in glitter for my Christmas tree :-)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Unburdening Myself about Immigrants and Islam

This latest terrorist attack in California has shaken me - I admit it.
Not so much because it makes me afraid of being attacked, but because I am afraid of what it means for the country - and for my own heart and soul.

This one is different. This wasn't a terrorist attack upon strangers in Paris. This wasn't even a terrorist attack upon strangers in Boston of the U S of A. This was cold-blooded murder of co-workers and peers who threw you a shower and bought you gifts for your baby. This was the slaughter of people who opened their hearts and lives to you, and with whom you shared office space and a holiday gathering only minutes before you murdered them.

This strikes at the heart of what I think of when I think - "America". If the news interviews are any indication, this office gathering was full of people from many other places in the world, who chose to make this country their home, and to become Americans. From some of their accents, they were "first generation". They lived and worked together, and seemingly got along well together. 

Except for the fellow who was born and raised here, and the wife he imported. That imported bride (who passed the government's "vetting", by the way), now seems to have been the catalyst and driving force. 
By all appearances they were living the American Dream - freedom of worship, a good education, a good job, co-workers who cared... 

At what point does all of that opportunity, trust, and multicultural inclusion translate into mass murder? Where did the short-circuit happen? 

Certainly this guy and his wife wouldn't be the first Muslims in this country to turn to the insidious message of hate. The Army psychiatrist, and the Boston Bombers come immediately to mind. (And no, I'm not even going to even speak their names) Clearly living in America didn't work any magic for them. But why didn't it? What was different for them? And why didn't their religious communities and families recognize it?

Being in medicine, I have many friends and associates who are first or second generation immigrants, who have made a life here and become Americans. So, what works for THEM that didn't work for these others? I don't know - I wish I did.  But it does now make me worry about the continuous new influx of immigrants - and God help me - yes, Muslim immigrants. I HATE that I feel that. I don't want that suspicion taking root in my heart - I don't like it - but I'm struggling with what to do about it.

I learned religious tolerance early on. My mother converted to Catholicism from Lutheranism when she married my Dad. My Dad had lifelong Jewish friends from Dental School. I learned about the Pillars of Islam, and the Bhagavad Gita, and the life of the Buddha from - of all sources - Sister Mary Lilliose in World Cultures class in high school.  I'm about as religiously open-minded as they come. So, these new seeds of suspicion that are trying to germinate, have me in despair for myself.

I don't consider myself anti-Muslim, or even anti-immigrant (as long as everybody got here legally). As is often said, we are all immigrants to this country if you go back far enough. Though I kept my Irish married name when I divorced, I am Pennsylvania German to the core. There are German ancestors from nearly every branch of my tree who arrived in PA before the Revolution. Then there are a sprinkling of English who intermarried, and then more Germans who arrived and set up farms before the Civil War. 

But my people became Americans almost as soon as they arrived. They fought in the French and Indian War, and in the Revolution, and in the Civil War - because THIS was their country. Yes, some of them held on to traditions and language. My maternal grandfather could still speak a little "Pennsylvania Dutch"  - the German dialect that was passed down in his family, and which was still spoken in the streets and markets of rural PA when he was a boy. But they were Americans, without a doubt.

So, I wonder what is happening now? What made this couple turn against the very people who had welcomed and accepted them? I'm not sure which was more shocking to me - that the man was born and raised here and wasn't himself an immigrant - or that he and his wife would abandon their own infant to go perform their butchery.

None of it makes sense to me. I am struggling to not let the rot of suspicion and religious discrimination get to my soul. It makes me worry for myself, and for my country. Because this attack wasn't from Muslims who were strangers. This one is harder - because this one came from Muslims who were coworkers and apparent friends. This attack was more insidious than Fort Hood or Boston, because it may now cause people to become suspicious of those muslims they already know, and previously trusted. I hope I'm wrong.

This is the kind of betrayal which can harden people's hearts and destroy communities.
IF we let it.

I'm struggling not to feed that particular wolf.
But not at least admitting the struggle, and not talking about it only makes things worse. We NEED to have this same conversation as a country. We NEED to talk to eachother and our Muslim friends and neighbors. We need to admit to our fears. We NEED to agree to support eachother, and to help eachother understand, and to work with the Muslim community to keep this from happening again.

The national conversation needs to happen. The president with his platitudes and mocking scorn of real concerns,  and the attorney general with her threats  - can both go pound sand. 
We need to talk.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.