17 January 2009

On Guns and Ammo

OK, so I'm an ammo geek. I totally get absorbed into the minute details of handloading vs factory loading, maintained energy, bullet drop, shot patterning.... I love it. It's the best possible combination of tech geek and gun geek.

And I come by it honestly. Grandpa taught me.

And when I say Grandpa taught me, let me modify that. He gave me the Atlas Powders Shotshell Reloading recipe manual the same time I was working my way through Everybody Poops. This man is the definition of a shooter. By the time he retired from McDonnell Douglas in the early 90's, he had more shooting trophies than he could fit on every available counter in his basement. They were stacked on the floor in the bathroom (next to the Johnston 55hp outboard that he kept in the shower, and anywhere else he could put them that would keep Grandma happy.

In other words, many an hour of my formative years were spent in the basement of my Grandpa's house, working up new 12 gauge loads, and then taking them to the range to chrony and pattern them. And I wouldn't trade a single moment. Well, other than the time I got my hand caught in the 12 gauge press between the wad guide collar and the shot drop tube. Even then, I learned an important lesson about the left hand remembering what the right hand is doing. A painful lesson, but a lesson nonetheless.

So, it's fair to say that I come by love of things that go bang naturally.

In my last guns post, I got a wonderful question from reader JPG as to why there were no bolt guns or wheelguns in the the pics I posted. That's an excellent question, and one that has a good answer.

I was out of ammo for them that weekend, so they stayed in the safe. Mr. Toad had been deficient in keeping his loading up to spec, and was therefore (gasp!) out of the plinking rounds that tend to go with bachelor parties.

Personally, I only have two wheelguns, though I am lusting after a nice 8 shot .17HMR revolver. The funds situation being what it is, I'll likely be waiting for a while on that one.

Wheelie number one is a beautiful Smith and Wesson model 60 in a satin nickle finish that my Dad gave me a few years ago. Chambered in the oh-so-potent .357 mag, and with a 4” barrel, she shoots like a dream, but is a little too big and heavy for everyday carry.

Number two is an ancient Smith and Wesson model 10 police special with a special provenance. I inherited it from my dad's dad when he died, and he had received it from a buddy of his in the late 1930's. The story goes that this particular pistol was stolen from one of St. Louis's first FBI officers in the 20's, and then used in a triple homicide in St. Louis city. The city police recovered the pistol, and after using it as evidence to send the killer to hang by the neck, it was passed to the chief of police the newly formed village of Bel-Nor in north St. Louis county. This gentleman, who was good buddies with my granddad, then passed this revolver on to him, so that he could help protect the neighboring community (and our home village) of Bellerive Acres.

And from him, it came to me. Kind of a cool story, and good proof that the gun will go bang when you need it to. She's a safe queen, but I love her nonetheless.

And then there are the bolt action rifles. I personally have 3, and they're all straight shooters. That being said, as two of the three wear glass that is significantly more expensive than the rifle itself, I generally don't bring them out for plinking. They're serious guns, for serious purposes. A Remington 700 in .270 is the bambi slayer, and a Remington 700 police edition in .300 win mag for anything bigger.

And then there's the war horse from Grandpa Charlie. A stunning Springfield 1903 in .30-06, fully restored. Grandpa, in 2001, agreed to help his local VFW post as a volunteer gunsmith. The post has a HUGE collection of 1903's for parade and funeral use, and they were falling into disrepair. Several weren't functioning, and none of them were pretty. So, 5 rifles at a time, Grandpa took these old warhorses, and restored them to a state of beauty that hadn't been seen since they left the factory in the waning days of the 1920's.

As thanks for his services, the post offered him 5 of the rifles to sell to pay for his time. Grandpa, wonderful man that he is, refused, and asked that the post transfer one rifle to him, and one each to my dad, my brother, and myself. And I got a beauty.

Sleek of stock, with perfect bluing, and almost no wear in the chamber or on the bolt, this rifle shoots as true as the day she left the armory at Springfield, Mass. And with her massive weight, she's the perfect transition step from a .22 rifle to a modern bolt action. She doesn't kick, just pushes on your shoulder to let you know she's still there.

If she wasn't so pretty, she'd be my deer rifle. But, I have a fugly 700 with a synthetic stock, and she doesn't care what the temperature or humidity is, and if I mar that fugly stock with a barbed wire fence, I don't care. If I were to do that to my 1903, I just might cry.

Now, I'm not one of those pantywaists that refuses to take a pretty gun out of the safe. The 1903 makes many a happy trip to the range. I just think that she's served her time in the field, and it's time to live a life of sweet semi-retirement. She's a piece that I look forward to giving my son or daughter someday.

Guns. I like them.

Since this is a brand new blog, and thus far all we have is a brief post introducing myself, and a never-ending stream of consciousness narration on radio tones (tones? What the hell was I thinking?), I guess I should discuss a few things that I really like.

Like guns.

There is no shortage of gun nuts on the internet, and I don't really consider myself one of them. Some of my more left-leaning friends might disagree with me, but that's OK. I guess the best way to describe me is thus:

I am a shooter.

And I love it. There is something hypnotic about shooting. The ability to control something so precise, so powerful, at the very tips of your fingers. It's spectacular.

There's pretty much nothing I don't shoot. My dad, wonderful man that he is, has speculated that if it has a trigger, I'm interested in it.

I can't disagree.

If I can get my hands on it, I'll shoot it. I'm not the world's biggest fan of blackpowder shooting, but I don't know if that's due to lack of experience, or just actual dislike.

With all that said, how about some gun porn?


These are from a bachlor party we threw for one of my buddies this summer. Let me modify that. When we planned this party, we didn't realize that we were throwing it on the hottest weekend of the year. In Arkansas. Where the humidity is so bad you can swim through the air. I swear, we could see the trail from each round we shot, like a damn tracer.

But I digress.

Needless to say, I might fall into the category of serious gun rights supporters. Well, almost the most serious. There are those who tend to be a might more serious that I am, but they generally live in compounds in Montana and Idaho, and don't generally have internet access. Or so I've heard.

Anyway, there's nothing I like better than a nice crisp morning spent blasting clay targets out of the sky. And, since I've been shooting since I was but a wee lad, shooting is a family affair with we Toadies. Sporting Clays, trap, skeet, 5-stand, FITASC, if it involves a clay made by White Flyer, I want to shoot it.

And then there's the bullet slingers. Handguns, long guns, and everything between (is there a category of firearms that fall in between those two? The ATF doesn't think so, but then, where does the TC Contender fall? I can't in good conscience call that a pistol, I don't care what the fine folks at Thompson think).

Anyway, let's just say that I love to shoot, and love to collect. And this is my next victim:

An EAA Witness Elite Match, in 9mm. The only problem is, I can't find one of the bastards. They're freaking impossible to come by, and the friendly folks down at the Toad Suck Gun and Pawn, they can't find me one either. Silly Serbs. They need to get their act in gear, and get me a new pistol. The monies are there, I just can't find one to buy. Or at least, one to buy at a reasonable price.

So, if there are any readers out there who have a new or gently used Witness Elite Match in 9mm, I'd love to get my hands on it.


When you call 911, a big machine is set into motion. Calls are recorded, locations automatically transmitted to the dispatch center, timers start, and vehicles roll. Here in the wealthy cash-flush privileged dirt poor counties of central Arkansas, each county can only afford to license a couple of radio frequencies, and buy a couple of repeaters. So, multiple departments might share the same radio channel.

Confused yet? Let's break it down. When you join a volunteer fire department, or a volunteer rescue squad, you get as part of your kit a radio. And your new chief tells you, “OK new guy. We share our radio frequency with 6 other departments, so you need to pay attention to the tones, and learn what ours sounds like.” And then, if you're lucky, he'll call dispatch, and ask for a test page, so you can learn what yours sound like.

And then it starts.

Tones are the call to action. The bugler calling you forth to battle. Instead of battling the Jeb Stuart's rebs, though, you're racing to the scene of an emergency. Or, at least, the scene of someone who called 911.

Either way, it starts with the tones.

It's hard to explain what happens when you hear those tones. Whatever you're doing, you mind clears. Adrenaline floods your system. Everything gets clearer, more focused. You hear the disembodied voice come across that radio speaker. “Poor Little Fire Department 12, Poor Little Fire Department 12, vehicle accident with rollover, Highway 212 at the flats, vehicle accident with rollover, Highway 212 at the flats. S.O., State Police, and EMS are in route. Caller reports entrapment, 4 persons involved.”

As you run out the door, you're going through your mental checklist as you listen to your fellow responders check in over the radio. Coat? Check. Extrication gloves? Check. Flashlight? Check. Station keys? Check.

Your buddy, unit 421, lives 30 seconds from the scene of the accident, so he's headed straight there. That's a good thing. 421 has a good head on his shoulders. Sure, he's still new. Only on the job a year, but you know that you can trust him to get a good scene size up. As you're 2 minutes from the station, you hear 421 check in on-scene at the accident. Excellent, you think.

As you pull up to the station, the probie is already there, with the doors open and the rig running. The look of joy on his face is the absolute opposite of the dread that is mixed with your rush. For him, this is a great game. A race against the clock, against twisted metal, with the heroics of flashing lights and news cameras and helicopters all around. He loves the rush of it, loves running code, loves being a guy “in the know.”

You know better. Sure, this is a rush, but it's not a game. Those are real people trapped in that car. It's someone's mother, someone's son. It might be someone you know. Your next door neighbor just bought his 16 year old daughter a new mustang. She squealed with excitement when you brought it out of your garage for her. “Daddy, it's so cute, it's so perfect. Thank you so much!”

Your buddy on scene gets back on the radio as you knock the probie out of the drivers seat. This is no night for an inexperienced driver behind the wheel. “421 to all responding units. 2 vehicles involved. Entrapment in both vehicles. 4 total persons entrapped. One possible missing passenger. EMS 2 minutes out. I've already radioed dispatch to get some helo's moving this way.”

You can hear the panic starting to creep into his voice. There's nothing worse than being the only man on an accident scene, and it's multiplied by a thousand when you don't have the tools you need to start saving those lives.

So, you pull out of the station with the lights and siren going. Its only 5 minutes to the scene at a normal pace. With traffic as light as it is tonight, you know that you can make it in half that. You're ignoring the probie next to you, as you look in the mirror to see the usual suspects in the back, gearing up. You've known those guys long enough to know by their body language that they, too, know this is going to be a tough one. It's Saturday night, and kids are migrating from party to party as the Sheriff's office shuts them down.

The phone in your pocket starts ringing. You can feel its insistent vibrations against the skin of your leg, but there's no way you can answer it. This 25 year old truck takes three hands to drive at normal speeds, and nothing you've done since those tones went out has been normal.

As you round the curve and start down the hill to the flats, you can see the pulsating blue and red lights in the distance. You can see the lights of the ambulance, as well as those of the supervisor, coming down the hill on the other side of the flats. That's good, you think to yourself. That supervisor truck has a little combitool in the bed, and he can help get pillars cut while you get doors off and prep to roll the dash. With two cars, there's no time to spare.

As you pull up on the scene, the lights are everywhere, creating a strobing mess on an already chaotic scene. Cars are pulled over on both sides of the highway, as well as being backed up a half mile in either direction, and you again thank God and the Arkansas Highway Department for their decision to put a suicide lane into this 4 lane highway. You pull out into the suicide lane, and kill the siren. The traffic on the radio kicks up, with other units checking on scene.

A helpful deputy is waving his flashlight frantically. You follow his directions, and pull up on the side of the road. There's a car down there, resting on its wheels. That's the good news. The bad news is all you can tell is that it used to be blue. And it's a car. Of the medium sized late model variety. Other than that, the mud, broken glass, poor light, and “jacked-up-edness” of the vehicle makes further identification just about impossible. Maybe after the wreck, if you can find the trunk lid, you can find the make and model of this twisted piece of wreckage. That'll be easier than asking the State Police investigator.

But that's not the priority right now. The two people you see still in that car are.

First things first. Get the probie and 410 in there to hold c-spine. Find 421 and find out which car is the priority. Get the scene lights up and working so we can actually see what's going on. Get that car stabilized so it doesn't slide any further down the bank.

421 runs up, and he's out of breath. “The other car is toast. Driver's already DOA, and the passenger's dead but doesn't know it yet. The medic's over there, but he said to concentrate on this one. And we've got an empty carseat in the back of that car. Deputies are searching, but no luck yet. I'll keep you updated on the other scene. I've got command tonight. Get those other folks out of the car.”

It's a wonderful feeling when someone else takes command. 421's got some time in, been through the classes. He knows how things work. Most importantly, you can trust him. He has the drive, the knowledge, but most importantly, he can work. He doesn't need hand holding.

And that means it's time to get to work. You've got a good crew. They know the drill. While you were talking with 421, they're getting the lights up, and now you can see what's going on. They've got the tools and the pumps off the truck, and with your nod and point, they're plugging in and getting the pump running.

403's got the fancy new plastic cribs off the truck, and he's stuffing crib and killing tires. He teaches extrication for the fire academy, so you know he's got that under control. That car's not going anywhere. The EMS supervisor comes up, and he lets you know the passenger in car 2 has expired, and they're moving equipment to concentrate on your car.

“Blankets!” You turn, and and 431's tossing you the wool army surplus blankets out of one of the compartments of the rig. She's a good member. Not one to take charge, but she's got a good head on her shoulders, and is one of the go to members for medical calls and event medical support.

Focus. Get those blankets down there and get those passengers covered. You need to get that windshield off that car, and that's not happening until you can protect the injured from the glass hailstorm that's about to come their way. You send 431 to the car with the blankets, and grab your gear. Turnout coat, extrication gloves, and that new helmet your dad got you for Christmas, good man that he is. Grab the windshield saw, and you start to maneuver down the incline to the car.

By the time you arrive, there's an honest to God crowd around the vehicle. Bystanders, deputies, the EMS personelle, as well as your guys and girls. This is a prescription for disaster, as you know that you're about to add power tools to the mix. And not your average power tools. Those spreaders push away from each other with 30,000 lbs of force, and the you've seen the blades of that cutter slice through a 1” solid bar of tempered steel like a hot knife through butter. So, you get the deputies to get everyone who doesn't need to be there away from the car. You know, doing their job.

Now for a word on windshield saws. You've seen the demos of the fancy electric saws. That being said, with a price tag that reaches far beyond your budgetary allocations, you'll have to make due with the $110 manual saw you trained with. And let's be honest, it's not that slow. Not with an experienced operator at the handles. And you've cut away your share of windshields.

So, to work you get. 421's appeared, so you and he get to work getting that windshield off. The EMS supervisor has gone to work on the C pillars with his combitool, so all you have to do is get the doors off and the A and B pillars cut, and that roof's coming free.

At this point, training takes over. The driver's door is pretty banged up, but you get it off without too much trouble. As soon as you get it off, the medic takes your position, getting a line on his patient. You drag the tool and hydraulic lines over to the other side of the car, where the door's a total mess. You try and you try, but you can't get a good bite into the twisted metal that used to make up this door.

Finally, you get a good bite, and the door pops open just like you'd grabbed the handle and opened it. The EMS supervisor, who at this point is laying across the hood trying to get a line on the passenger, breathes a sigh of relief, and gets off the hood. He takes your spot, and you're two pillars from getting the roof off this twisted piece of scrap. The passenger, who has spent the last 10 minutes in near-total panic, calms down as you get the door off, and the supervisor talks to him in calming tones.

You step back, and let the man with the cutter replace you. Next thing you know, your reenforcements are lifting the roof off, and you finally have access. The passenger comes out onto his backboard, slick as snot. Well, snot with two peripheral IV's, and their associated lines and bags, and a cervical collar, and enough blood to puke Wes Craven. Head wounds, man. They're nasty.

So, as passenger gets wheeled to the waiting 'bolance, you get to concentrate on the driver. And he's bad. The noise of the approaching helicopter gets your attention, as this guys needs in that whirly bird. Bad. Between the bilateral tib/fibs, left humerus, and right hand, he took one hell of a whack to the head. Like, fixed and dilated on the left. That kind of a whack. Responding to pain only. One of those.

AKA, he's in really, really bad shape. And the nearest neurosurgeon is a 15 minute flight, from road to pad.

And we're wasting time on the ground. We have to get this guy out of the car, and what's left of his legs are NOT cooperating with us.

In fact, they're suffering from a near-permanent attachment to what's left of the dash. In fact, as you look down in the footwell with a flashlight, you can't immediately tell what's dash, and what's leg. Everything's bloody, and everything's broken.

So, it's ram time. AND, you get to try out that nifty homemade ram stabilization tool that one of your guys made. One side of the ram on the dash, against the framework, and the other on your new u-channel wonder, and in 15 seconds, the legs are free. And the blood is flowing.

Fortunately, today is not your day on blood control, and the driver is whisked into the back of the ambulance to get him as stable as possible before he gets tossed into the chopper and disappears into the darkness. On the bright side, the chopper managed to find the accident scene on its first try tonight, so that part's working.

And then, a rapidly as it started, the patients are away. Except for that empty carseat. Then, with timing that would be worthy of Houdini on his best day, the State Police officer announces that the baby is at home with Grandma, and we need to start getting his highway clear.

As you walk over to the other car, you realize you have no idea what happened here, other than two cars crashing into each other at high speed. The other vehicle is absolutely demolished. It used to be an Explorer. You can recognize that much from what's left of it. There's blood all over what's left of the windshield. The coroner's assistant is taking pictures, and the backup Staties are measuring and taping and getting ready for the accident reconstruction team. As you walk up to what's left of the driver's window, the smell hits you at 25 feet. It's a smell that's all too familiar, and all too unwelcome. Booze mixed with blood. Lots of booze. Bourbon, if your nose is operating at its usual skill. You walk up to the car, hoping, praying that you find a broken case of Kentucky's finest in the back.

But you know the answer. You've been down this road before, and you know that you'll head down this road again.

But for now, it's time to clean up and go home. There is work to be done, equipment to be cleaned, cables to be coiled, tanks to be filled. Lives go on. The people who are sitting on both sides of the highway need to go on their way, about their business. And you need to get home, to the quiet, to the peace.

Until the tones go off. And the process starts all over again.

16 January 2009

The start of a blog...

So. This is it. The internet. Who would have thought? The whole world, or at least those who can read English and have access to the internet, can see my innermost feelings. 

Or something like that. 

A little about myself would be good, I guess. I'm unemployed, thanks to the economic downturn, and the coinciding slide in the tech industry. I'm a techie by nature, with interests in everything that electrons can do. Those versatile little bastards. I like to build things, shoot things, read, relax, and have generally have fun. I'm living my own little version of Friends right now, and other than my lack of a steady paycheck, life is pretty good. A lot of what I want to talk about will have to do with my service with the local volunteer EMS/Rescue operation, and let me tell you, as those stories trickle out, they will brings both tears and laughs.

I've been a steady consumer of blog humor and observations for some time now, and figured that with my infinite free time, I might as well try my hand at it. In the posts to come, I'm going to kind of give some insights into my life and those things that interest/trouble/intrigue/baffle me.