Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Firearm Rambles

I own firearms. One is specifically mine, but I more or less co-own a couple of rifles with my father, and I really need to get them from him and give them a proper cleaning. My father wouldn't know a bore brush if it jumped out and bit him. It’s not his fault really, his father wasn't big on firearms, and so he never learned much in that regard.

That’s not to say my father can't shoot. He can, or at least he used to be able to. He taught me after all.

I grew up on and around a small grains farm in the far northern stretches of North Dakota. I spent the first eleven years of my life in a town about six miles south of the Canadian border, to give you a solid reference point. Farms are a great way to grow up and learn a thing or two about an honest living and hard work.

They also, usually include a firearm or two. Pests occasionally need to be eradicated. I learned early that firearms were not toys and were not to be treated as such. My father considered them tools he occasionally had to make use of, and that was about it.

I remember finding them fascinating. I still do. I begged for a very long time to get a BB gun, and on Christmas before I turned twelve I finally got my wish. It was a daisy, I can't remember the model, but it was patterned after a Winchester lever action. I did most of my shooting at the farm, during the winter. Summers were for working, winters for tinkering, so I could often times get away to rain death on unsuspecting pop cans. I was a pretty fair shot at the age of 12 out to about twenty to twenty five yards with iron sights. (I couldn't safely back up much farther at the time)

Four years later I talked my dad into pulling out his old .22s and letting me plink with those. He had, and still has, two. A bolt action mounted with a scope that I have tried a good hundred times to zero unsuccessfully, and a pump action with iron sights. He wouldn't let me remove the scope from the rifle, not then and not now. Pity too, it shoots pretty well.

That was the extent of my firearms use, til recently. We stopped farming round the time I turned twenty - neither my brother or I were up to taking on the responsibilities to keep it running, and in all my life, I don't think it was ever in the black once. That’s not to say I'm not glad my father kept at it all those years. I learned a lot because of the life at the farm. I despised it on many occasions, but I'm a much more self sufficient individual for it.

Anyhow, I've always intended to buy myself a proper rifle and a pistol. I'm a huge history buff and if I had my way I'd own an M1 Garand and a Colt 1911. I unfortunately am not a wellspring of cash however, and other things have always been 'more important.' Like rent. Paying my car insurance, making sure my computer(s) stay functional.

But in the past few years I've had more money to move around on my own. I have a good solid job, no wife or kids at the moment, so spare money can go where I wish it. And egged on by a few friends who are also firearms enthusiasts, the threat, and now reality of an impending Obama Administration, and my own personal *wants* I finally pulled the trigger on a pistol purchase.

I've mentioned it before - it’s a Springfield Armory XD.45 'Tactical' with the optional ambidextrous thumb safety. I'm left handed, so ambidextrous controls are important to me, and in the case of the XD, the thumb safety was really the bit that sealed the deal for me - since the XD doesn't have an external hammer, and there is no good way to safe the gun, once a round is in the chamber, without dropping the mag and clearing the chamber. The integrated safeties are nice, and I like them, but this isn't a weapon I'd want to carry with a round in the chamber, and with the extra thumb safety, which blocks both trigger and slide action - I feel the weapon is a bit safer.

In any case, this is to be the first of my collection, and for five hundred and thirty dollars for the pistol, a proper carry case, two mags, a holster (that I can't use, damned south paw) a mag case bore brush and gun lock, I really can't complain. Springfield Armory does know how to make a nice clean package, and a fine pistol.

I spent a long time researching firearms before I finally did pull the trigger. I remembered how my father didn't know how to properly care for his firearms, and while they were robust enough to keep firing, even though they probably needed a very good cleaning I don't intend to let the same thing be true about my personal firearms. I learned the ins and outs of basic maintenance, and once I purchased my pistol read the users manual front to back a couple of times, and practiced standard usage dry until I knew where everything was by touch, and I felt safe with the weapon.

Then we took it to the range. It was a crappy, crappy day to be out at the range, it had been raining for the last month or so fairly steady so there was a lot of standing water, and loads of mud. Plus, every hunter in three counties seemed to be out zeroing their scopes.

We had to use a borrowed target board from the range, and that thing was a piece of junk. My weekend project this weekend is to build myself a good target stand, but that day, I just had a rather poor target to work with. Even so, at twenty yards or so, I made a pretty good showing of myself for my first time firing a firearm in roughly seven years. I wouldn't say it was amazing, but I did manage some pretty tight groups by the end, and I never did miss the 10"x20" target we were using. Overall, I'm pleased with the weapon, and its handling.

Now, I want to learn to be more then just basically proficient. My first step in this is signing up for a CCW test. ND requires a written test for CCW carry, and I'm going to take the class section for the Utah permit while I'm at it. This will let me be fully aware of how I can, and cannot carry in my state, while permitting me to do so - and the guy that teaches the Utah class locally goes into depth on how the state's current laws work for self defense, which I also want to be well versed on.

Through the winter I'm going to try to get to the range at least once a month and put at least a hundred rounds through the pistol each time. Fifty at the minimum, depending on the conditions and the price and availability of ammunition. .45 rounds aren't cheap; the best deal I've found locally ends up being about 44 cents a shot. With luck the local pistol and rifle association can break ground on their proposed indoor range this year and I'll be able to shoot in much more comfortable conditions next year during the winter.

Over the summer, the guys a shootsafely.com hold a lot of classes, and I think I'm going to see if I can attend them all. I feel basically proficient in maintenance, and firing, but I'm going to go through the whole gamut anyway. Learning, after all is good, and their prices are reasonable. Beyond that, I'd really like to get out to the range at least twice a month over the summer. Perhaps more often, we'll see. I *like* working on marksmanship, and I intend my XD as at least a home defense weapon. Though I'm going to need to get couple mags worth of Frangible before I'll keep a loaded mag in my apartment. I'm not particularly worried about crime in my area of town, and more importantly, a firearms mishap, or even a legit Self Defense shooting in an apartment building could have very bad unintended consequences. I've done my homework. I have a very clear idea of just how much force a .45 slug carries, and just how far it can travel through standard interior walls. Frangible aren't perfect, but they go a long way to improving my peace of mind in that situation.

In the next year I want to acquire at least one rifle, and I'm leaning towards either a M1A Carbine (I really like the look of Springfield Armory's version, and pleased as I am with their pistols I'll probably buy from them if I decide to go that route) or an AR-15. I haven't decided which yet. Once that’s picked up, I'd like to get a proper bolt action rifle, and *maybe* a shotgun. That will round out my simple 'must haves'. After that, we'll see. I'd love a 1911 as I mentioned before, and I've got some other weapons on the wish list, but I'll start with those that are most likely to go away in the Obama administration, even if only temporarily, and work down from there.

Now if I can just talk my dad into letting me tear down those .22s and clean them up for him...

Wow. That went on quite a bit more then I expected... I think I best get back to work.

-Jon

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