Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Book Review: Under Orion

I didn't meet Jeff Quinn.

When the NRAAM (the National Rifle Associations Annual Meeting) in 2014 was in Indianapolis I came walking out of the convention hall looking for a cup of coffee and a place to sit. I found the first and was stuck leaning against the wall as no chair was to be found. Left alone long enough to stand around and do nothing the old bodyguard in me comes out and I start people watching, and to be real honest the NRA convention makes for pretty good people watching.

At some point and time I saw Jeff and Boge Quinn step off an escalator and I pushed off the wall to go and introduce myself and chat for a moment. As I recall, Jeff was carrying a microphone and Boge a camera and they started setting up to record a piece. As soon as I saw this I decided against, as not to interrupt a couple of guys working, the problem was having pushed off the wall and I was now committed in my head that I was going to talk to the now occupied Quinn brothers. So there I was standing away from an otherwise decent wall to lean against with no one to talk to.

It just so happened that I looked up at the top of the escalators and saw Richard Mann leaning against a rail watching the world go by. Earlier in the day I had the opportunity to meet him in person, while having a ham sandwich and talking with Ed Friedman and Jay Grazio (I'm just going with the name dropping at this point. Stick with me it might get better). We had exchanged pleasantries and then Richard went on to talk with Ed about how he could wound animals with a .223 or something.

Now he was standing all alone minding his own business with a posture that said clearly "Leave me alone I've had enough of people today".

"Perfect!" I thought "I'll go talk to him."

Ordinarily I'd leave another man alone but I had always enjoyed his writings and he looked kind of old and tired standing up there and I thought "Well Jeff Cooper died before I could meet and talk with him. I'd better risk it".

Fortunately for me Richard didn't throw me over the rail and we spoke for a few minutes and he gave me some advice here and there on writing and then we parted ways.

Last year he self-published a book called "Under Orion: Hunting Stories from Appalachia to Africa" and a couple of weeks back I ordered a copy for myself from Amazon.

Unexpectedly, I finished it tonight. It had not been my plan, which was to do some reading from Morton Hunt's "The Story of Psychology". Richard's book happen to be on top and I could see I was getting near the end and I was trying to preserve it just a little longer but, then I opened it up to the dog eared cornered page that was titled "I don't believe in ghosts". Had it been only titled and been devoid of any photos I might have been able to resist. The problem was, there was a photo near the bottom and it was of Finn Aargaard.

As a gun obsessed teenager I loved anything Finn Aargaard wrote and, when he passed away in 2000 it struck a real cord with me at the time because his death made real to me that the last of the great gun writers were starting leave us.  Gary Sitton would go in 2005 and Jeff Cooper in 2006. As much respect and admiration I had for the late Colonel Cooper and everything he did for modern hand-gunning, Finn Aargard's death, to me at the least, ended the golden age of gun writing.

He was my generation's combination of Townsend Whelen  and Frederick Selous. So it didn't take much persuasion to disregard Hunt's book of psychology for Richard's brief moment shooting Finn's well known Model 70 in .375 H&H.

Then twenty pages later it was done. I had finished Under Orion.

In this age where 90% of the gun writers are not really gunmen and not even really writers, Richard Mann is both. And he writes in the way the old timers did. His own.

What makes Under Orion so worth while is that, it's not a chronologically written autobiography of Richard's hunting life nor a book that is page after page of "So I got me another trophy animal after the last trophy animal and I wasn't even...."

Instead it's about the triumphs and sorrows and at times hilarious moments any man or woman who has ever loved to hunt and had the chance to do it enough experiences, with a little bit of the West Virginia Hillbilly waxing poetic about wool collars and cold breezes. Which you may roll your eyes and think that part unimportant but, for those of us who have in fact buried ourselves a little lower into a wool collared hunting jacket on a cold morning watching the sun break the woods orange and the squirrels make as much racket as a city street the poetry and motion of life in the woods matters.

The title of course refers to the constellation known as Orion which is the best constellation because it belongs to the hunter. When I see him, Orion, up in the night sky I am taken back to my formative years deer hunting with my dad and my first real rifle, a Remington 788 in .243 Winchester. I'm huddled in an old wooded tree stand hours before sun up watching Orion through the pines. Crossing an early morning field with a buddy, or in the San Juan mountains north of Durango.

Perhaps most of all Under Orion is a book that gets it. And by it I mean how the small things in life matter so dearly much. The value of good friends, smart dogs, beautiful country, the smell of early mornings and good rifles.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Two Presidents, Two women and a .45

Tonight in a "town hall" meeting President Obama told a woman who survived a rape and was now pro-gun that she may not have been able to use a gun to thwart the assault on her and that it may not really make her any safer.

The real war on women continues as the men of the Left continue to see women as helpless, weak and their role best left to being a victim, while not offering any answers, encouragement nor decisive statement where he could have said "I'm only sorry you didn't shoot the son of a bitch."

Because that is what he should have said.

Yet there was a time when Presidents were different, even before they became President.

On a hot autumn night back in 1933 Melba King was walking to her home in Des Moines, Iowa after being at nursing school when she felt a gun pressed into her back and a man demanding all of her money and one wonders possibly what else.

But it was never to be known, because out of the dark came a voice from above.

"Leave her alone or I'll shoot you right between the shoulders!"

And there, two stories above, leaning out of his apartment window with a .forty-five revolver was a young sports reporter named... Ronald Reagan.

The robber didn't debate, he didn't threaten, he didn't shoot instead he fled back into the night from which he had came. Reagan told the young Ms. King to stay put long enough for him to put on his robe and slippers so he could escort her home...no doubt the .45 concealed in a pocket.

Some fifty years would pass before Reagan would see Ms. King again. In 1984 at a Republican campaign event then Governor Terry Branstad had heard of the story, and invited her to the event where Ronnie was going to be in attendance.

In true Reagan fashion when the story was told, remarked to the crowd "The gun was empty! I didn't have any cartridges! If he hadn't run when I told him to, I was going to have to throw it at him." laughing at himself.
However, when the reporters asked Ms. King for a comment about that night she responded with "And he said 'Leave her alone or I'll shoot you between the shoulders.".

Martin Luther King junior once famously made a remark about not judging someone by the color of their skin but rather the content of their character.

He was of course right.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Should you...

In his book "Never Give In!" Winston S. Churchill, the grandson to, well...Churchill related a story in the preface. Here he describes that his mother was just twenty years old and about six months pregnant with him in the early summer of 1940. The British had fallen back from Dunkirk, retreating across the English Channel, France was falling to German occupation and Hitler was preparing for Operation "Sealion", which was his codeword for the invasion of England.

One evening, before the air raid sirens would begin, sending the family to the basement they sat at dinner and Churchill's daughter related how he was brooding at the dinner table. Buried in thought. At some point he ended his silence and said:

"If the Hun comes, I am counting on each one of you to take one with you before you go!", "But Papa" his daughter exclaimed, "I don't have a gun and, even if I did, I would not know how to use it." "But, my dear," Churchill said, his voice increasing in power and fist held high, "You can go tot the kitchen and grab a carving knife!"

This was Churchill at the core.

In the aftermath of the ISIS attack on San Bernandino there is much being said about a lot of things from the politicos...and most everyone else. Like everyone else I have my feelings on each bit of it.

Contrary to what you may think, if you have read me here for any matter of time, I am at my core a sincere man of peace. I believe in the right of the individual to live their life as they see fit and to believe as they choose as long as they bring no harm to another. It's my belief that violence is an answer best saved as an absolute last resort.  If for no other reason, violence has the inherent issue of affecting the lives of people not directly involved.

Yet, as much as I believe in living peaceable I do not by contrast believe that anyone should live under willful naivety.

We, the world, are in a war with the Huns, just as Europe was with Germany. Only our enemy is far more opaque. There is no uniform, no central power, no "one man" as it was with Hitler. And while we live in a post 1945 world where we know that outcome, once upon a time, such was not the case.

Much like the politicos are weighing in, so are many in the defense community. And they do so with understandable reasons, my inbox is well flooded at this point with so many questions from enough people that it would be time consuming to respond to them all.

So here is my advice.

Should you meet with a person bent on a campaign of terror, intending to murder their fellow men and women, to leave behind a swath of widows, widowers and orphans, to grieve families and nations alike. Do the reasonable thing.

Kill them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Little bores for bigger roles

It's not my standard Modus operandi to link other articles (okay except for the ones I write elsewhere for other people) but, I thought I would share this one.

The plinker went to war The IDFs Ruger 10 22

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I had penned something along the same vein . To be honest on any given day I can be accused of being a Caliberist, I am of the old school thought that I like a large bore pistol when I can have it, and fortunately I can have it on a daily basis.

That said there is also a real need for diversity in the civilian defensive tool box and sometimes we all (self-included) can fall into the pit of latest and greatest buy-me-now craze. Fact is most of us are already pretty well geared up more than we know and the money desired to be spent on a new gun could be better served in buying spare mags and getting to the range.

While we all in the gun culture or defense community have our pet peeves and prejudices, whether it's AK vs AR, Steel vs Tupperwear....I mean plastic, the .22 LR and specifically the .22 long gun very much has a place in your kit.

Friday, October 2, 2015


What we should stop doing in the wake of any attack from anyone is listening to the "talking" points of academics, politicians, or psychologists who have no real world experience in most anything let alone contending with dangerous armed men bent of committing evil. And instead listen to dangerous, armed men who are committed to preserving society.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tactical Concealment

For many of you who read here you might get something from an article I wrote for the NRA's Shooting Illustrated.

Shooting illustrated's looking for Concealment