Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Our conversation had started with me asking “So who shot you in the throat?”, a basic conclusion on my part, because on one side of his throat he had a very small round scar, on the other side, a jagged dime sized scar, accompanied by a damaged voice. It had the hall marks of a twenty-two caliber wound and this had peaked my interest. He was an ex-convict and career criminal, who had spent part of that career as a car jacker in the late 1980s and 1990s. He had a rather successful run (according to him) until he went from car-jacker to attempted to car-jacker. As we sat and talked in his now paroled and work released based probation he explained the scenario that led to his down fall.

"I'm 6'2", and I had a big old revolver that took .44s. You look down that barrel and you think, 'take what you want, please don't kill me with that thing. But not this one guy. I stuck the gun in his face yelling for him to get out of the car, and as he is sliding out I hear the little 'pop' sound. I kinda saw his hand coming up, but my mind was all focused on his face and my gun in his face, and I couldn’t really see much else. So I hear this 'pop' and, next thing I know I feel like I'm gonna throw up or something. I can't talk right and I spat blood all over the place. I didn't know what happened. I'm looking around, but I see blood all over me, and I can't breathe. I'm trying to get out the passenger side of the car, but it's not my car and it was like being in a nightmare. I couldn't find the door handle, and all I know is everything is going bad. I'm thinking 'I don't want to go to jail! I don't want to die!' I get the car door open and fall out on the ground and stumble all over. I'm spitting blood. I'm scared out of my mind. I can't see anything. Turns out, he shot me with this little .22 derringer. This told me two things: 1) That dude had that planned out what he would do. He had this little nothing gun and was ready to go if he had to. 2) I had this big gun and didn't think I had to do anything other than stick in someone's face. I was wrong about that..

According to neuroscience, we don’t “feel” pain. At least not in the way we tend to think. From an elementary perspective we think of pain as being at the location of where the damage has occurred. In other words, you smack your thumb with a hammer, then the pain “happens” in your thumb. Yet, that is not what occurs. The injurys location is obviously, for our example here, to the thumb that was struck by the hammer. The pain, however, happens in your head.
All pain is based on tissue damage. That damage report is sent off to your brain by specific nerves, known as nociceptors, that are tasked with detecting tissue damage. Once the nociceptors delivers the message to the brain, the brain now has to decide what it going to do about the pain.
There is a caveat to this process.
When contact between the hammer and thumb is made, the arm jerks the finger away from the immediate area. The body’s own stop gap as it were. Naturally we would suppose that this action occurs in the brain, yet it does not. Instead the reaction comes from a muscle arc in the spinal cord. This is why your hand jerks back from touching a hot surface. If you ever wondered why your brain can react quicker to an injury as opposed to being surprised visually or from an auditory perspective, the simple truth is in the immediacy of an injury the brain is simply not involved. There is no mental processing.
In the Defensive Firearm culture we have a variety of thoughts, opinions, and, experience levels. We also tend to struggle with what I tend to refer as O&D, or Obsessives and Dismissive’s.  Take for instance the obsessions with bullet penetration, velocity, magazine capacity, etc. There is a large contingent of the shooting community that places an almost religious fervor on the alter of ballistic gel, with Youtube raising up an entire generation of charismatic ballistic bible thumpers or heretics, depending upon your personal beliefs.  The hallmark, of course for all backyard ballistic preachers is the almighty number 12. Because, according to the F.B.I. "a handgun bullet must consistently penetrate a minimum of 12 inches of tissue in order to reliably penetrate vital organs within the human target regardless of the angle of impact or intervening obstacles such as arms, clothing, glass, etc." With 18 inches being seen as a somewhat often unattainable holy grail, as it were. At least for the auto pistol shooter.
Then of course there are the Dismissives. Where velocity is party to the obsessives, momentum is to the Dismissives. Few, if any, of this modern age seem to place any value in the aspect of a heavy bullet having to suddenly come to a halt, and what this does to the intended target. Richard Mann, in his 2016 Shooting Illustrated article, Bullet Penetration and Expansion surmised it like this, "You cannot have deep penetration and wide expansion, because defensive-handgun cartridges must divide their energy between the two..." Regardless of any personal thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, his quote is precise and accurate.
My personal beliefs on the matter is the party of wide expansion over penetration (in case you wondered which way you should exercise your prejudices towards me).

Yet, in my opinion, one largely overlooked category amongst the Defensive Firearm culture is pain.
Specifically pain that is inflicted on the Bad-Guy-in-Question when shot by the armed citizen in a defensive circumstance. We talk at length about "shooting to eliminate the threat," whether that means that the wounds themselves lead to a fatal injury, or if the realization that the assault initiated by the B-G-I-Q is now lost, seems to be ethereal in discussion. Or at least prohibited as a topic in polite company. 

Though I suspect that a large reason pain is ignored from the discussion of fight stoppage largely has to do with a lack of experience on part of the average defensive shooter. Paper and people of course not being equals, with paper being utilized as a measurement tool regarding accuracy potentials without providing any inclination towards perceived slights, let alone felt pain.

We simply cannot dismiss pain nor the problems it creates for an attacker. Pain affects the mind’s ability to function in a clear and efficient manner. Pain causes fight, flight, or freeze to be re-assessed. Pain means a decision has to be either re-affirmed or abandoned. All of this, while there is the separate dilemma of what to do about the sudden difficulty in breathing, the increasing loss of motor function from one (or more) appendages, the sense of confusion, and the already present tunnel vision that is seemingly increasing. The deer, the elk, the bear, the man, they all feel pain. But the man understands the pain and the causation of it. There is also a severe effect on the human attacker's psychology of “I’ve been shot.” Compound this with the dilemma of the attacker now has to "flee" in order to avoid suffering any further damage.
We should never underestimate an attacker. Ever. A fight for your life is that. A-fight-for-your-life. 

However, it should be that. 

A fight. 

Your attacker should have no misgivings once the dance has started. His life is in just as much jeopardy as yours and, if applied with enough intent from you, his being more so.There are no damage proof super-villains in the world. The PCP laden attacker that soaks up cylinder after cylinder of 357 Magnum is the stuff myths are made of.
Unfortunately, statistics and theories have come to over-ride the discussions to the point of becoming gospel instead of what happens in the reality. Disregarding the physical and mental impact of how one or, if properly applied, multiple gunshot wounds affect the outcome of a gunfight is a mistake. There is only one guarantee in a gunfight and, that is violence of action will occur, but continual application of a proper mind set, training and practice will do much to win the day.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mexican Confessions

We were waiting for the kidnappers to call.

They called everyday at 3pm, on the dot and it was day four into it for me. The old man was a vaquero, the real deal, who owned several rancheros down in Mexico. Most of them small plots of land, ten to fifty acres with one or two going up to a couple of hundred. For all intents and purposes, a middle class man leading a middle class life. I hated that we had met under such bad circumstances.

His son had been kidnapped by Mexican gang bangers not exactly the cartel types but, no less violent, no less dangerous. They had kidnapped him while he was visiting family for the Christmas holiday but, instead of his son coming home from the trip he received a ransom note demanding of $200,000. He had paid them $5,000 here, ten thousand there but, it was nowhere what they had wanted. Finally, a cousin of the old man had reached out to me and there I sat waiting for the phone to ring.

Negotiations had now started in earnest and, it was going better than I had hoped as they had started to move down in price. Me being at $25,000. The kidnappers, now being at $125,000. Which was far better than when we had started with them offering $10,000 for each ear lobe returned and me telling them to that I don't pay for parts or damaged goods, followed by hanging up the phone on them.

It was cold outside. The five below kind of cold. So, we sat in the hotel room waiting. 

Growing up as a Midwest kid who loved all things western I relished in any tales of "old Mexico". Using the cousin as a translator I inquired about the old man's life. "Ask him if he ever carried a pistola?" ,without missing a beat the old Vaquero said "Si, pistola" and patted his leg. I grinned and imagined him either carrying an old Peacemaker or, a Colt 1911 in .38 Super. He continued with, now using the cousin and me being able to pick up with what Mexican I knew, that he had in fact carried a Colt Super 38, which is how it was originally termed.

In the old days of Mexico, when the honest man could be armed, the 45 ACP was a "military" cartridge and forbidden from civilian ownership, so South of the border the .38 Super flourished. Then in broken English he said "everyone carried pistola" again patting his leg "Vaqueros carry pistolas into the mountains, to fiestas. Everyone carry pistola back then. No trouble. Now, no pistolas and much trouble.".

If you could surmise gun control into a Spanish styled haiku, the old vaquero just had.

Then he added "Federales say NO pistolas! and everyone..." and, he indicated through pantomime, that people stuck the guns in the waistbands and covered them with their shirts. "Now some pistolas. No holsters", again patting his leg. Hence the origin of the term "Mexican Carry".

When it first came into our lexicon, the term Mexican Carry, was somewhat specified as being carried in front of the waistband, absent of any holster, in the now very trendy "appendix carry" position. As time went on, Mexican Carry became somewhat fluid with a pistol tucked in the waistband, regardless of where on the body. Most people I knew, when they Mexican Carried, did so by slipping the gun in the back of their pants or, on their strong side, on the hip. 

One might reason, with some level of justification, why someone here in the golden age of holsters would even consider it? Especially when so many an "expert" has labeled it as damn dangerous. To the point that you will be met with an almost certain expectation of the gun failing either out of the waistband, down your pant leg, and onto the floor. Others will tell you that, it is an almost assured pathway to a negligent discharge. In truth, after a quarter of a century of experience I can tell you that it's not dangerous nor, is the chance of a negligent discharge any more possible than with any holster. 

Your pants have to fit right.

Your pants have to fit right because, simply enough they are the holster. Put your gun in a holster that fits wrong or loose and your gun is going to fall out. The waist band has to fit you somewhere between having a little bit of a gap and snug. From here a good belt acts as the tension device, allowing you to adjust as needed.

The small of your back is the worst place.

In the 1980s, this was where every rogue cop/action hero carried is 9mm Beretta. Standing up, they'd take the gun off the table and tuck into the back of the pants. All cool and roguish. The reality is, no worst position exists, than for the gun to be carried Mexican than when it's carried in the Five, Six , or Seven O'clock position. With even the Four and Eight O'clock positions being somewhat questionable, but largely based on body build. Here your mileage with simply vary, as the saying goes. 

The reason the small of the back doesn't work is that there is simply too much flex in the body here, too much give on a re-occurring basis with clothing. In other words, when you sit down pants tend to gape at the small of the back when sitting, thus causing the gun to slip down into the pants, swallowing the grip as well. Body size doesn't matter here, and the area should be avoided. 

Strong Side is the Best

Whether you're right handed or left handed the handgun is going to move the absolute least here. Mainly because the gun rides parallel to the body, it shifts as the body shifts. This is because the hip dictates the movement. It'd be wrong to tell you that the gun doesn't move or shift slightly out of position when you Mexican Carry on the strong side. It just happens in the opposite of what you expect. When you sit down, the barrel pivots forward and the grip moves rearward. This happens when you carry any handgun in any In-the-Waistband holster. The difference between Mexican Carry and IWB Holster carry is that in Mexican Carry the gun doesn't always return to position and, you have to rotate the butt of the weapon.  Understand, we are not talking about a large amount of movement, but rather fractions of an inch. Something you've most likely had to do even when wearing a holster. The reality is that, anything on the hip, whether it's a pistol, a phone, or anything worn on the belt moves at some point. Put it back where you want it and go on about it.


Some years back, I was out to dinner with some friends at a pizza place at the mall. My frequent carry piece was often an all steel Karh E9 (not a K9 but their early E9 model) in 9mm. After dinner was over we all headed out into the mall, in attendance that evening was a lovely red headed girl whom I had a rather severe crush on. Of course there was another guy there who also seemed to be interested in her. Suddenly for some inexplicable reason, he and I decided to race down the UP escalator. He had the advantage of being on the escalator first, hence making it impossible to pass him. Plan B game into my mind quickly enough and, felt that it was in my best interest to do what any a mall would do. I put my hands on the side when we were ten feet from the bottom and vaulted myself over the side of the escalator.

Now UP escalators have a funny tenancy to actually go UP. Including their hand rails. So while my brain had made the calculation for a ten foot landing, I was now presented with a fifteen foot drop as my hands were also carried up. My Altama Desert boots landed hard on the mall floor, but since a body in motion tends to stay in motion I quickly rolled landing hard on the 9mm in question. I popped back up, only to roll again and, again land on the pistol. So it would go, three more times, until finally I managed to stay upright on my feet. The pistol still in place.

When I returned to my loft later that night, I lowered my Levis to find a bruise on my hip in the same shape of the Kahr.

It did all work out in the end. The pretty red head married me a few years later. 

Not all guns are created equal

The idea most fail to realize is that the gun actually ends up with the trigger covered twice. Once by the pants, once by the belt. So the idea that you are going to somehow accidentally trip the trigger, is no more or less possible than if you were wearing a holster. It all depends on how you draw the gun. The pants, the shorts, the holster bear no significance in this. Where your finger is during the draw does.

Not all guns are capable of being Mexican carried. In my experience it has more to do with frame size and barrel length than anything else. For instance, over the years I have owned very small framed handguns like the wonderfully built North American Arms Mini Mag revolver and a few Beretta Bobcat and Tomcats. They are great miniature handguns, however they are not well suited for holster less in the waist band carry, simply because they are too small. 

The Mexican Carry method, in order to work well, relies on the gun's ability to be wedged in between the belt/pant and body. The grip had to be just long enough to hang over the belt. The barrel long enough to get below the belt line.  Consequently, get the barrel too long on the handgun, and it will want to push out when seated. In my years of carrying this way, the two guns I have carried the most have been either a 1911 or a J Frame Smith & Wesson 38 Special. The world being what it is, and my job having taken me all over there have been lots of pistols tucked into a pair of Levis sans holsters that worked well. A Tokarev in one country, a SiG P225 in another. I had a brief dalliance with a Makarov that I honestly miss, but is lost elsewhere to time now. A Ruger SP101 in 357 Magnum was sold to a friend. All Mexican Carried. All done so without incident.

That said, the idea of carrying a Glock sans, holster would be well advised to be avoided,

What matter’s most 

If you missed the part where I said your pants have to fit right, let me reiterate that here and a belt matters most. The belt acts as the retention device that allows you to adjust tension as you so desire to pull the gun in snug. If the pants are to loose in the waist, sagging off your hips and you decide to forgo a belt then one of two things is going to happen. The pistol is going to fall out when you sit down, or it’s going to slide down your pant leg as your stand up. I can not stress this part enough. Ill fitted pants are no different than an ill fitting holster and, it going to fail. After that, were your finger is when you draw or, re-holster is paramount. There is one caveat to this. Tucking the gun back in your jeans is a two handed method. You want to use your weak hand to pull the waistband out so you can slip the pistol in. The dumbest thing you can do in the “re-holstering” process in Mexican Carry is wiggling the gun in, because at some point you have to put the muzzle against your hip to open up the waist band. There’s simply no room for error here.


Finally, most of us who Mexican carry do so because there was a time when there wasn’t the vast array of ultra-concealable In-the-Waistband holsters available. Back in my corporate executive protection days most everyone I worked with did it this way. Bill, who had been in a few gun fights as a metropolitan cop routinely carried his Smith & Wesson Model 624, 44 Special in this manner. As for me the go-to holster for my 1911s is an old Desert Special from Dillon, the Progressive Reloader manufacturer, it’s a great IWB holster with God knows how many miles on it, as I have worn it more than any other. It also isn’t close to how concealable some holsters are now, and Mexican Carry is flat, fast, and very concealable. So the truth is, old habits die hard. The reality is there are fewer and fewer reasons to carry in this method as time goes on. While I think, personally, that we live in the Silver age of gun design, with all of the “meh” plastic guns being flashed around on social media, I do think we live in the Golden age of both holsters and ammunition and, you would be at a disadvantage to not embrace buying any number of quality holsters. That said, if you see an old timer who is Mexican Carrying a pistol you might want to forgo the lecture on his “careless” ways, because if it were in fact that, he wouldn’t have ever become an old timer.

As for the old vaquero's son who had been kidnapped? Well maybe one of these days I'll get around to writing that book.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Like the Last Time

If you have not heard of Sunday At Noon, now you no longer have to live in the dark.

Make America Rock again

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Barranti Life Changer

June 25th, 2017

Writing, I have learned, is a funny business. When in the full throes of it and, doing so consistently you don't want to stop. At the same time you have this nagging bit in you secretly fearing that someday you will run out of things to say.

For me at least for me, writing can be a bit of a task master, requiring me to do it constantly in order to feel like I am any good at it. Step away too long and, it can feel as though you have moved out of a country whose language you once spoke fluently.

One must understand that these words are in effect and apology of sorts to Mike Barranti of Barranti Leather, the famed holster maker. As I sit and, write this, it is a beautiful Sunday morning, the last one of this particular June and, we are tent camped at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains, along the Wood River, just North of Ketchum, Idaho. The Wife, the Kid and I. My pen scrawling it's way across the notebook that sits on a well worn wooden table top. My Ruger convertible Flattop .forty-five shucked into one of Mike's IWB holsters made for single action revolvers.

A far cry from a week prior to this trip when work took me to one of those not-so-gun-friendly big Eastern cities. Last year I sent Mike a request. Could he make me a leather "coin purse". One that could carry around ten dollars in quarters and, be worn on my belt as part of my everyday carry.

About a week later, I was stuffing quarters into the little leather pouch.

After carrying it every day for months on end, I have found it remarkably handy. It has a long leather strip that can be gripped in the palm of your hand, while it also folds over and, snaps together with the bottom of the "coin purse" to securely fasten itself and, ride on your belt.

The whole deal, is a long tear drop shape, very (very) similar to those old school blackjacks a man might have carried in his back pocket in the last century. Oddly enough, when jammed full of quarters, or dollar coins it even has a similar weight as one of those old time skull smackers.

Mike designed his "Barranti Life Changer" to have a small flap at the top of the "coin purse", to which you insert your change. This is in contrast to similarly styled "coin purses" that have a zipper down the center that could potentially bust open if it were to befall a hard surface. Not like those old blackjacks that were used to smack an attacker in the head. Those are of course, two different scenarios. The last one certainly not to be under taken by an all leather, one handed "coin purse".

Of course, upon seeing that the little leather flap is unsecured might make one wonder about the possibility of change flying out and, all over the pavement. Say, if you were required, for some unknown reason, to use your non-gun hand to reach back on your non-gun side and quickly deploy the "Life Changer" in a swinging arc. Perhaps to settle a sidewalk dispute with a parking meter that is just mere moments from expiring.

In order to assuage such worry about any unexpected lost of coinage, I decided to test the "coin purse" out. Because while it might look similar to one of those old lead filled saps of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this after all is a "coin purse".

Raiding an old camp coffee mug where I keep quarters, I managed to stuff in twelve dollars worth into the Barranti Life Changer. I gave it a few overhead swings and, didn't lose a single quarter. After wearing it on my belt for a few days, it felt a little too bulky for my preferences. Taking out two dollars worth of change flattened the "Life Changer" out were it rode a bit nicer on my belt, next to a single stack 1911 mag holster.

Not having any parking meters available at home at which to swing at, I opted for the next nearest option. My 1986 vintage, 80 lb canvas Everlast punching bag, to test the overall durability of both the leather and, the stitching against any potential loss of of change, should the "coin purse" strike a hard surface and bust open. Delivering more than a dozen blows against the canvas punching bag there were no rips in the leather, not a single stitch popped loose. There was only the oddly satisfying "thud" of the little leather "coin purse" hitting the bag.

One might find such behavior a little odd. Why after all would someone want to repeatedly smack a leather "coin purse" against a punching bag? Yet, I could contend that this is no different than when the employees of Cold Steel, the knife manufacturer, lock a folding knife into a vice by the blade and repeatedly add twenty-five pound plates to a piece of wire hanging from the handle until the locking mechanism from the knife fails.

Torture testing a product doesn't have to make sense after all, even it is proves to be informative.

Seventeen years into the twenty-first century, a "coin purse", like the Barranti Life Changer, might seem outdated. Loose change in a plastic card world and, what not. What surprised me was just how useful it has been.

Despite the fact that parking meters are going more towards a credit card based system in major urban areas, most of the machines I have encountered still take coins. On one recent business trip, I encountered a turn pike toll booth that was not only unmanned but, only accepted loose change. Ninety cents worth of loose change to be precise. Not generally an issue were I in my own truck but, good luck finding loose change in the console of a rental vehicle.

Should you find yourself, not needing  a small leather pouch full of change, you can simply substitute quarters for dollar coins, of which you can carry around fifteen dollars worth. Which gives it real purpose in buying anything from a cup of coffee to a sub-sandwich. It being up to you to refill the pouch with money when it drops below the desired amount/weight.

Lastly, the nice thing about carrying a pouch full of legal tender on your belt, is despite an ever increasing environment of security theater, whether it's at your local court house, or flying these unfriendly skies as of late, a "coin purse" is perfectly legal. Though the Barranti Life Changer certainly sounds a lot more masculine than "coin purse".

There is also something to be said for going through your life carrying something handmade, especially when it's handmade by Mike.

In a world that is obsessed with plastic 9mms this and, kydex holster that, there is a lot of old school gentleman and, everyday usefulness for things like the Barranti Life Changer. Whether it's feeding an urban parking meter, paying your way through a toll booth or, the laundry mat in Ketchum, Idaho.

The Barranti Life Changer goes for $55 and, you can reach out to Mike at his website

Monday, June 27, 2016

Due Process Transposed

The first time I ever dealt with law enforcement on a direct level was as a teenager. Unlike the conventional situations of many a wayward youth finding themselves talking with a cop mine came in the form of a grisly rape and, murder of a twelve year old girl.

Just a few days before my sixteenth birthday the body of Che Sims had been found in a creek bed. Her attackers after gang raping her, strangled her to death and, then to keep the forward motion of evil going they mutilated her body before leaving her.

It was one of those murders that gripped the Saint Louis area, one that was not, in 1990, exactly crime free. Her case, Che's, got the full court press from law enforcement, no stone was going to be left un-turned and in the next couple of weeks I'd be one of those stones. 

That came when the cops finally got solid leads and a sketch of one suspect was released to the paper. As the sixteen year old me read through the article my eyes at last fell upon the face outlined in graphite and, reprinted for the world to see. Che Sims, a young girl I never met, and I were now forever connected because I knew one of her killers and his face looked up at me from the newspaper. But it was a secondary detail from the article that solidified it for me.

She had been found with post-mortem cuts on her arms, and whether it was clear misdirection or an actual theory the police were running with, the article stated that the cops believe the cuts were made in an attempt to revive her via pain, after being strangled. The reality that was eventually revealed at trial, was that her killers had cut her, they had carved into her young body in order to make a blood oath to one another to never tell the world what they had done.

While I knew the face, I couldn't place the name exactly but I also knew that, the face went along with a troup of guys who carried the old style Buck 110 folders on their hips. It wasn't an uncommon thing for a teenage boy in the late 1980s or turn of the 90's but in this instance 2+2 = someone I had known.

Over the next couple of days I poured over that sketch with an obsession. I made photocopy after photocopy in the school library adding my own details to the face trying to jar something in my memory until it finally clicked and I matched it against the only data-base I had at the time. A middle school year book.

And there he was.

A day later found me sitting in a small room near the principal's office talking with two detectives from the Saint Louis Major Case Squad. No doubt for them it was likely just another false lead, some teenage boy playing junior detective. They would sit and talk to me and get on down the road to the next "witness".

Then, some weeks later Saint Louis County Police arrested four men, Jeffrey Grice, Matthew Funke, Chris Johnson, and Brian Faulkner.  Funke would later be tied to killing another person just seventeen days after Che's murder.

If me identifying one of the suspects ever meant anything or not to the cops I'll never know. No one from STLCPD ever called. There were no thank you cards, no ham at Christmas, no recognition whatsoever.

In the coming years of my life where my work help put over a dozen criminals into prison no law enforcement official would ever thank me in any public fashion. Whether it was a federal agent, local cop, or in one case, an Assistant U.S. Attorney General.

It is, as they say, what it is.

While my career has always been, shall we say, unconventional it always came with the idea that it was about doing the right thing. This despite having never carried a badge, or never served in any official capacity of governmental service. No one ever gave me a license to kill, or for that matter the license to arrest anyone.

In 1354 the 29th Clause of the Magna Carta was redefined and the world was introduced to the phrase "due process of law" and over the course of following centuries England and the Magna Carta would diverge from one another. It, the Magna Carta, however would become the base layer of American law when the Constitution became the Supreme Law of the Land in the 18th Century.

So important was the idea of Due Process to be made law, it was included into the Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights.

The wording being precisely this...

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Yet like it always does, the Bill of Rights proves that if the men who seek to seize power and control over their fellow man are viruses, then the Bill of Rights is anti-viral and due process it's firewall.

As stated by United States Senator Joe Manchin, whereupon he said when pushing for more gun control through terror watchlists.

"Really, the firewall we have right now is due process. It’s all due process. So we can all say we want the same thing, but how do we get there? If a person is on a terrorist watch list, like the gentleman, the shooter in Orlando? He was twice by the FBI — we were briefed yesterday about what happened — but that young man was brought in twice. They did everything they could. The FBI did everything they were supposed to do. But there was no way to keep him on the nix list or keep him off the gun-buy list, there was no way to do that.

So can’t we say that if a person’s under suspicion there should be a five-year period of time that we have to see if good behavior, if this person continues the same traits? Maybe we can come to that type of an agreement, but due process is what’s killing us right now."

So much for him protecting and defending the Constitution.

The reality is that, it's not killing us. Domestic terrorism is still a very rare thing here in the United States and our gun crimes continue to drop. Ironically given the rise numbers of new gun owners and continual push to relax gun laws and gun carry laws throughout the America.

So what of it.

Wouldn't it be wise to restrict the rights of someone under FBI investigation?

We have to remember that being under "investigation" does not mean guilty. I myself conduct investigations all the time and the idea of investigative work is to gather information in order to draw conclusions based upon fact.

Facts, John Adams said, are stubborn things.

A little over a month ago I was loading up my truck to head out to do just that. Investigate. As I walked back to the house I saw two vehicles come roaring up in front of my home. Matching vehicle manufacturer, dark windows in the front and back, hard brake-to-a-stop.

It was very classic law enforcement. I also realized that they had come to talk to me, atleast most likely. As to the why I had no idea. In all honesty it was a startling thing. The flipside of the coin is that there was some sense of relief when the car windows did not roll down with full automatic gun fire to follow. After all, I have some "fans" all over the world who are not fans. And they aren't friendly either.

Not sure of anything I called my Business Partner, who was on a field trip with his kid that day, to see if he knew something I did not.

The pounding on the door had begun.

When he did not answer I called The Wife. Because frankly in case she came home and for some reason I had been taken into custody I wanted her to have some idea of what happened to me. Even if I was not sure what was happening to me.

The pounding on the door had stopped and had moved to the picture window. I walked over to the glass and asked if I could help them. They asked if I was me. I confirmed that I was, indeed me. They then asked if we could speak outside.

At that point I asked who they were and they identified themselves as Federal Law enforcement, specifically with what agency. I asked if they knew what I did for a living and they said that they did not. So I went ahead and told them. I also told them I was armed and was going to take my gun off and leave it on the table that was within their view.

As I walked to the side door to meet them my mind ran through any number of reasons the "Man" would be wanting to talk to me. I came up with zero answers in the next fifteen feet.

When I stepped out, I greeted both of them and they introduced themselves and I followed with "what did I do to get on your radar?"

"Were you parked in front of the FBI building downtown a couple of weeks ago?"

I laughed. I knew exactly what this was about. "Yep. I was working a surveillance watching the hotel across the street." And then I began giving a general overall of the the case. I mentioned how at different times both my Business Partner and myself joked about what a bad idea it was and wondered if they were listening in on our walkie talkie communication."

This quickly became a non-issue by all appearances.

I had been parked on a public street, next to parking meters as a matter of fact, given them the reason and explanation for being there, my contact information, the name of my company, my business partner, et cetera, et cetera and while being parked in front of the Bureau's building wasn't probably smart by all accounts, at the time it afforded us the best surveillance advantage point and potential to conduct a mobile surveillance in downtown rush hour traffic.

Ah yes. I see you. Shaking your head in disapproval. Thinking "say nothing! Call the attorney!".

You may do as you wish. I saw reasonable questions that held reasonable answers therefore held no qualms in talking with them. Are there times when one should "lawyer up"? Absolutely. I've written about that before. This situation was not one of them.

As it would turn out, the situation also wasn't over.

Two weeks later they returned.

The questions were different only because I was told that "nothing" I had told them "had checked out." Not my phone number, not my company, and not my Business Partner's name. It turned out that they were both on an FBI task force.

"I have my cell phone right here. Call it."

The phone number had been transposed.

A number I might add that is readily found with my name and a google search, along with what I do. Even this blog.

They misspelled both the name of my Business Partner and business. Then stated they could not find any information on the later.

This was getting cleared up today. I called my Business Partner and put him on speaker phone. We discussed back and forth between us whether or not for them to call our Client who had hired us for the job that now had me under the watchful eye of federal law enforcement. Both agents assured us that it wasn't necessary and they had things right now. I offered up copies of our state business filings and gave the address to our office.

Perhaps the real caveat was my Business Partner mentioning that he was a former federal agent.

So much for governmental databases.

All, I was assured, was now a-okay. Things had been explained out. Answers given and now verified even further. It was never unfriendly nor unprofessional between them, or me.

Mistakes happen, people have off days at work. I know I have had them.

Man have I had them. So I don't begrudge either of them.

But here in lies the rub. I have no idea if the file that was opened on me is closed. I have no idea if I'm on some list for anything because for all I know some tech clicked the wrong box someplace on some bureau inter-agency file form. No law was broken. I literally was parked on a public street and sat there for four and five hours over the course of a few days. Something I have done for thousands and thousands of hours in twenty years.

The problem isn't two federal investigative agents just doing one more case in the middle of the day. The problem is that if people like Senator Manchin get their way my due process, my rights, are just gone because I parked in front of the wrong building.

To paraphrase Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven "taking away a man's rights is a hell of a thing. It's all he's got. And all he's ever going to have."

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 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.


Our conversation had started with me asking “ So who shot you in the throat? ”, a basic conclusion on my part, b ecause on one sid...