Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Handguns From My Past

For several years I settled in to a routine with my pistol shooting.  I used the snub nose for work and the 4" gun for play.  I was shooting lots of .38 special trying to learn the craft.  Competing when I could, trying to shoot at least once a week.  I  had been a field officer for about six years and was up for promotion to a supervisors job.  I wanted a smaller, J-frame gun to carry as an office revolver, but couldn't come up with the scratch to buy another handgun.  Growing kids need shoes, and they want to eat on a regular basis.

The Model 60

One day in late April, I believe it was in '87, I had to run over to the courthouse to have the judge sign a warrant.  I talked with the judge's secretary.  He was in court, but they were finishing up a trial and if I'd wait, she'd make sure I got in to see him.  So, I waited, cooling my heels in the hallway outside the judge's office.  After a while, the judge came down the hallway from the courtroom.  He was holding a small plastic evidence bag, and inside I could see a small frame revolver.  He looked distastefully at the little gun.  "What am I supposed to do with this thing?"  More a rhetorical question than anything.

"Give it to me, your Honor."

He looked at me.  "You need to see me, Dennis?"  He looked at the gun.  "Come on in."  We walked into his office and he called his secretary.  "Take a minute entry," he said.  "I'm ordering that this" he looked through the plastic on the bag "Smith and Wesson revolver, serial number.  XXXXXX be given to Agent Dennis Dezendorf for the furtherance of law enforcement in Chinquapin Parish."  He tossed me the pistol.  "So ordered."

As the judge signed my warrant, I looked at the little piece.  It had been used in a pistol-whipping.  Blood was evident on the revolver and the trigger guard was crushed, pinning the trigger against the frame.  That evening, at home, I got some hot, soapy, bleach water and washed the blood off of the revolver, then took down my 4" run and took the side plate off, studying the internals.  Then I took the side plate off of the little Model 60 and compared the internals  The little gun didn't look hurt, simply held captive by the crushed trigger guard.  I grabbed the trigger guard with a pair of vice grip pliers, got the guard in a good strong bind, and gave it a yank.  It bent back out and the little gun worked.  I tweaked it a little bit, and I had my Model 60.

As I recall, this was about 1987.  I was promoted soon after and got a Don Hume Level II holster to carry it.  I still consider that old Don Hume one of the very best holsters for belt carry.  Unfortunately, they don't make that holster any more.  Fortunately, I have two of them and they're very good leather.  I carried that little pistol as a supervisor.  My 4" gun still did duty as a woods and competition gun, and I turned in the 2.5" Model 66.  It was a good gun, but I didn't need it.

That little pistol digested a lot of my 4.3 grain Unique load, but for duty, I carried Federal's Ny-Clad 125 grain load.  At the time, that was the very best .38 Special ammo that ran standard pressure and I didn't want to beat the little gun apart.

One day in the late '90s I came home on a sunny afternoon.  As I was getting out of the truck, I heard a boom and figured my elder son was target practicing in the back yard.  So, I grabbed some ear muffs out of the truck and walked around the house.  Elder son was standing there with his big Ruger .44 magnum.  He had set up a hay bale about 25 yards away and had set a line of beer cans up on the bales.  I watched him fire the big hogleg, then stepped around him, unholtered my Model 60, and peeled one can off the hay bale.

"Keep practicing, Slick.  Front sight, trigger squeeze."  I holstered my revolver and turned toward the house.

"I bet you can't do that again, old man." he retorted.

I kept walking.  "I don't have to do that again."

I retired a couple of years later, and that Model 60 became my pocket pistol. Dropped in a jeans pocket, or in my slacks, the little gun was a constant companion.  In late 2012 my daughter-in-law was looking for a steel J-frame.  She had tried her husbands alloy frame and the recoil was too stout, but she liked the size of that frame.  I had found a Model 38 Airweight and was considering using that for my pocket pistol, so I passed the Model 60 on, as a semi-permanent loan.  She carries it today as her concealed carry piece, and from all accounts, shoots it just fine.

We did do a bob job on the hammer, because she carries it appendix carry and the hammer spur was digging into her skin.  I now use the Ariweight for a pocket pistol and anytime you see me with pants on, you can be assured that the little gun is riding in my pocket.  It suits me fine.

Oh, Missy.  If you look on the bottom of the trigger guard, you might be able to see the marks that those vice-grips made so long ago.  I never polished them out.  They're part of the story, and the history of that little pistol.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Handguns From My Past.

Where were we?  Oh, the Ruger.  That little Ruger didn't stay with me for long, only a year or so.  After I had been a parole officer for a while, working a rural caseload in Chinquapin parish, I started getting to know the local cops, and started watching what they carried.  Almost to a man (and there were very few women in police work those days) the Smith and Wesson K-frame dominated police work.  Specifically, the Model 66.  Smith and Wesson started making handguns from stainless steel in 1960 with their Model 60,  The Model 60 is a J-Frame five shot revolver, generally with a 2.5 inch barrel and it was beloved of plainclothes officers.

The Model 66

In 1970, Big Blue came out with their Model 66, the stainless version of the K-frame Model 19.  A six shot revolver in .357 magnum, by the early '80s the Model 66 was almost a universal sidearm for police officers.  You'll recall that the "wondernines" didn't come out until the late '80s and weren't widely accepted until the early '90s.  You might also remember that Gaston Glock hadn't develop his pistol until the early '80s and the Austrian army didn't adopt them until 1982.

Back in the '80s the revolver still dominated police work, either as a duty gun or a plainclothes gun, and Smith and Wesson was the leading manufactory.

Sometime about 1983 or '84, my department bought a bunch of SW 66 pistols on contract.  These were identical stainless pistols with round butts and 2.5 inch barrels.  They were roll-marked LAPP on the water table, under the cylinder on the left side of the handgun.  We were told that these were the handguns we'd use for duty work, and that was that.  No matter that each of us had heretofore purchased our own handguns, the department was now issuing them, and no argument.

My Ruger represented a week's groceries and the department had issued me a pistol.  The Ruger was excess inventory and I had kids at home, so it went on the block.  I got $100 for it.  I still regret selling that handgun, one of only four firearms I've ever sold.  But, that Ruger and the subseqent Smiths began my love affair with the .357 magnum.  Even today, I consider the .357 magmum cartridge one of the most versatile handgun cartridges ever developed.

If I had to limit myself to one handgun cartridge, the .357 magnum would get the nod.  Loaded with light charges of fast powder and lead bullets it takes small game with authority.  Loaded with a good flat point harcast bullet, it is the bees knees for medium game up close.  In a carbine, it shines out past 100 yards, the limit of much of my shooting in the piney woods.  With good expanding ammo, it's just right for holstering and rural law enforcement.  I carried a Model 66 for well over 20 years in rural law enforcement and never considered myself under-gunned.

In the mid '80s, a good family friend came by and asked me to hold a near-mint Model 66.  This one had a 4" barrel.  She was in an abusive relationship, was going through a divorce, was afraid of her soon-to-be ex, and asked me to hold the revolver.  I cleaned it, wrapped it in denim, and hid it in my closet.  A year or so later, I asked her about it, and she told me to keep the gun.  She didn't want it. Too many bad memories.  I didn't ask any questions, but told her I appreciated it.

Woot! I suddenly had a 4" Model 66, probably the perfect woods cruising revolver, and a damn fine service revolver.  I had just begun reloading and I settled on a practice load of Lee's great little tumble-lube 158 grain semi wadcutter over 4.3 grains of Unique and anybody's small pistol primer.  Even today, 30 years later, that's still my favorite .38 special load.  It gives me about 800 fps, is wonderfully accurate and very mild.

Over the next several years, the department started letting us use our personally owned revolvers, if we could qualify with them.  I qualified with my 4" gun and got a leather rig for it.  Over the years I won several department matches with that revolver and consider it one of my very favorite pieces.  The only thing I didn't like about that gun was the square butt, but a new set of Pachmayr Signature grips and a half-hour on a belt sander, and I had a revolver that fit me like a glove.  The grips look like hell, but they fit my hand.  That gun served me for almost 20 years before I retired it, and it's got more stories than I can tell here.  - - Well, maybe one.

One day in the late '80s I was hunting deer as part of a large group of folks in Red River parish, north of Coushatta, LA.  We  were "running dogs" across timber tracts late in the season.  We'd ring a section  of woods with standers, turn loose the dogs, and try to shoot the deer as they came out.

If your dog ran a rabbit, that was considered poor form, and the hunt-master that day swore that his dongs didn't run rabbits.  They put me on a small utility cut in the middle of the damndest thicket you've ever seen and told me to watch one particular hole in the brush.  They were going around to the other side of the woods, about a mile away and turn the dogs loose.  "If a deer comes through that hole, shoot it.  If you miss, catch the dogs, because there's nothing behind you but pine forest."

So, I found a convenient place to watch that hole and got comfortable.  After just a little while, I heard the dogs "jump" and it sounded like they were heading straight for me.  So, I hunkered down and watched that hole.  The dogs got closer, and I tightened the grip on the shotgun.  The dogs kept coming, and I shouldered the shotgun waiting for a deer to fill that hole.  Suddenly, I could see dogs about 40 yards down the lane, hot on the trail of a big ol' cottontail rabbit.

The rabbit came out that hole into the utility cut and squatted down.  I drew my revolver and shot the rabbit's head off from a range of about 15 feet.  That same load of Unique with a 158 bullet.  I caught the dogs and tied them before they could get across the cut, then waited for the driver.  He was considerably dismayed that his dogs ran a rabbit, and I was considerably pleased that I could prove it to him.  He took a lot of ribbing about that for the remainder of the weekend.

I retired that revolver in 2003 after 20 years of honorable service.  I loaned it to a daughter-in-law to use for her concealed carry class, and it still lives in my elder son's gun safe.  That old Model 66 is one of my very favorite revolvers.  It may serve the family for another generation at least.

Shooting Stances

Before I go into any more of my personal history with handguns, lets talk a little bit about shooting stances.

When I joined the Army fill-time in 1976, they were still teaching the old one-handed Bulseye stance for shooting pistols.  Basically, like you've seen the duelists in the movies, you held the pistol out in one hand, turned your head to align with your arm, sighted the pistol and fired it with one hand.  Not the most accurate way to shoot, but that's what we were taught.

What they didn't teach us (or tell us, for that matter) is that Jeff Cooper, a budding writer in Californai had begun trying to evolve the Modern Technique back in 1957. (Yeah, that's 20 years earlier).  Cooper started holding matches at the at the L.A. County Sheriff's Mira Loma pistol range.  A deputy named Jack Weaver evolved a stance that used two hands.  You can go to the linked page to learn all about it,but Weaver had evolved something revolutionary, and started winning everything that wasn't mailed down.

In 1977, when Copper formed his new range, the American Pistol Institute, he published the Weaver stance and started teaching it.  You might know that range now as Gunsite, the premier firearms training facility in the US.

I was taught the Weaver Stance in 1981 during a firearms qualification and thought it was wonderful stuff.  It was easy for me to shoot the Weaver, because it mimicked the rifle stances and shotgun stances I had already learned. Body at about 45 degrees to the target, both hands on the firearm, support hand doing the work, strong hand operating the pistol.  It seemed a natural.  It still does.

Yeah, yeah, I know that the Isosceles stance has taken over the pistol shooting world, but it's a relative newcomer.  First popularized by Rob Leatham and Brian Enos in the 1980s, we weren't taught it until the early 1990s, and by then I was firmly a Weaver Stance kind of guy.  I still have to talk myself into the Isoceles stance, falling naturally into the Weaver.

Jerry Miculek uses the Isoceles and talks down about the Weaver stance.  Jerry is good, probably the best pistolero in the US today.  If you're going to shoot a pistol today, learn the Isoceles.  It's a good stance.  But, it will probably never surplant the Weaver for the old dinosaurs like me.

We'll speak no more of this.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Handguns From My Past

Reminiscing the other day, someone asked me when I started shooting handguns, and that is a fairly simple answer.  My Dad never liked handguns.  When we were growing up, we were shotgunners.  Shotguns for everything.  Squirrels, rabbits, ducks and geese.  Buckshot for deer.  Dad was a shotgunner, and I was too.  My first paying job, at 12 years old, I was a trap boy at the old McBride Rod and Gun Club at England Air Force Base.  Every Saturday, the Air Force had skeet intramurals, and they needed trap boys to keep the skeet-throwers full.  I managed to get a job at the skeet range.  Hanging out in the club house, they had a room in the back where the handgun instructors reloaded for the .38 Specials that the Air Force used as crew handguns on the aircraft.  Those instuctors used big gang molds, made by Saeco, to cast wadcutters.  They wouldn't let me help, but I remember big kegs of Bullseye pistol powder.

In the early '70s I determined to become an Army officer, and after college and ROTC, I got orders to Fort Knox for Armor training.  We had to qualify with the Army's 1911.  So, in early April of 1976 I found myself in a classroom, undergoing classroom training on the Arny's 1911A1 pistol.  We went through the disassembly, cleaning, operation and malfunction drills in the classroom setting.  The next morning we went to the arms room, drew pistols and headed to the range.  I was 22 years old.  When we got off the bus at the range, we got a quick safety briefing, then lined up to get magazines and lane assignments.  I remember being surprised that the pistol they issued me was made by Ithaca, a shotgun company from upstate New York.  It rattled when I shook it, but I figured that the Army knew what they were doing, so I dropped it in the holster and got on the bus that was waiting outside.

The range itself was a pop-up range, with electrically operated targets.  The targets were plastic, either head silhouette or half-torso silhouette at varying ranges from 10 yards to 50 yards.  When my firing order came up, I stepped to the lane and waited for the command.  "Shooters, watch your lane."  As I recall, a 50-yard target, a half-silhouette came up.  I lifted the pistol, found the front sight, and pressed the trigger.  Bang, and the target fell over.  I was considerably amazed, but didn't have time to think about it  A five-yard head silhouette popped up and I tagged it too.  I settled into the rhythm of the range, and before I realized it, I was done.  Forty rounds for forty targets and I had cleaned the course.  The Army had given us seven, seven-round magazines for the course, and I had ammo left.  Amazing.  Maybe this handgunning stuff wasn't so hard after all.

I had a lot to learn about handgunning.  But, the Army didn't give me much training.  For the next three years I never drew another pistol, and got off active duty in 1979.  I went to work in a plant that killed chickens.  Lots of chickens, and there wasn't much use for a budding pistolero in that line of work.

In 1980 I decided I had killed enough chickens, somewhat over 2.5 million by my calculations. I applied for and got a job as a parole officer with the State of Louisiana.  Back in those days, police officers didn't go to an academy, all the training was OJT, and the first inkling I got that I was a cop was when my supervisor told me to go buy a handgun.  Colt, Smith and Wesson, or Ruger, in .38 Special or .357 magnum.  We were going to qualify next week, so get something to shoot.

I went to a pawn shop and looked  a the available choices.  I hadn't drawn a paycheck yet, so money was tight, and they had a used Ruger Security Six, with the 2.5 inch barrel.  I made a deal for $150.00 and bought a pancake holster for $15.00.  I was set.  At Wal-Mart, I picked up a box of .38 target wadcutters to practice with over the weekend.

We lived in the country, with farmland around us, so early Saturday morning, I strapped on my holster, loaded the wadcutters in the Ruger and decided to take a walk.  Walking along a turn-row about 100 yards from the house, I was considerably surprised to see a large swamp rabbit come out of the soybeans.  He stopped in the turn-row about 35 yards away, sat up on his haunches, and looked at me, probably trying to decide if I was a threat.  I unholstered the Ruger, thumbed the hammer, took a fine bead, and let one of those wadcutters fly.  He fell over on his back, kicked once and was done.

I walked to the rabbit and looked closely.  The wadcutter had struck him in the chest, went through-and through, coming out his back.  That was my first experience with flat-nosed bullets in a handgun and I was pleased at how cleanly it killed the rabbit and how little meat damage was done.  That rabbit ended up in the pot later that week.  I was also amazed at how easily the Ruger was to shoot.

I thought I had this handgunning thing down pat.  I had a lot to learn.

More about this later.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Morning Dawg

Piddling in the shop yesterday, working on a fish cooker, the dog wanted to come out and see what was happening.  Dogs and little boys are curious types, and the shop is a favorite place to be curious.

It looks like we're going to have a beautiful day today.  Get outside and enjoy as much of it as you can.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I t looks like a bunch of folks are going to Davos, Switzerland to discuss global warming.  Jon Stewart goofed on them, telling us that 1700 private jets were going to arrive so that their occupants could worry about global warming.  There's some discrepancy in that number, and some say that the number might be as low as 200, but still that's a lot of private jets, and a huge carbon footprint for a conference that tries to make us believe that man-made global warming is a problem, especially when private jets have a huge carbon footprint.

Yeah, yeah, I've heard the news.  2014 is was the warmest year on human record, edging out 1998 by a whole tenth of a degree.  That's one-tenth of a degree Farenheit, folks.  And, there is some skepticism, when NASA gives the measurements a 38% confidence level, and NOAA gives those dame measurements a 48% confidence level.  So, I'll just park this right here.

So, even NASA and NOAA can't say with any confidence that 2014 is the warmest year of record.  Sorry guys, but even a 48% confidence level doesn't start to be convincing.  Either it was, or it wasn't.  Come back when you've got an answer.

But, until the jet-set quits flying their private jets around, talking about global warming, I'm not convinced.  If it's a problem, park the damned jets and Skype the conference.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Gut Truck

Back in the Army, we always had the Gut Truck come through the motor pool before lunch.  Also known as the Roach Coach, this was a mobile food truck provided by AAFES as a service to the troops.  They had the very best foot-long chili dogs that a young, greasy, Armor officer had ever eaten.  I've eaten hundred of foot-long chili dogs off of the Gut Truck.

Imagine my surprise when this pulled in to the work parking lot today.

A food truck from a very well-known restaurant hereabout.  I had already made lunch arrangements, but it offered the standard fare.  Tamales, enchiladas, quesadillas, etc.

The ladies tole me later that the food was very good.  This is the first food truck I've seen in Central Louisiana, and I hope that it's the start of something that will fill a niche.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Culture of Corruption

Politicos shouldn't enrich themselves at the public expense, and taking bribes is a time-honored way of enrichment.  It's also against the law.  I see that a long-time Tammany player is today feeling the bracelets for that very thing.
Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York state Assembly, was arrested Thursday morning on corruption charges. Silver showed up at 26 Federal Plaza in downtown Manhattan at 8 a.m. where he was arrested by FBI agents. He’s set to make his initial appearance before a federal judge Thursday afternoon. Silver’s spokesman, Michael Whyland, declined comment before the arrest.
Of course, we have to wait until the second paragraph to learn which party Silver is affiliated with.
 US Attorney Preet Bharara scheduled a press conference at 1 p.m. to detial the charges.The powerful Manhattan Democrat Silver has been the target of an on-going federal probe of undocumented payments he received from a law firm, sources said…
Silver isn't the first Democrat to be snared in a corruption investigation recently, although I am amazed that Holder's Justice Department is investigating Democrats.  I'm sure that Harry Reid is uncomfortable with such investigations.  He's widely noted for making millions while serving in the Senate.  Harry will be a very rich man when he retires.