Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mr. Justice Thomas

Mr. Justice Thomas sometimes seemed to be in the shadow of Justice Scalia.  But, he has found his voice in this dissent, where he stands firmly in support of the Second Amendment.
For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous. But the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it.
Well said, Mr. Justice.  Well said.

The Swiss Seat

One of the things that every Air Cav trooper carried with him was a Swiss seat.  I carried one of these on my LBE (load bearing equipment) for two or three years,

After the post yesterday, I started thinking about Swiss seats, and wondering if I still remembered how to tie one.  Sure enough, I found a piece of rope and hitched up a Swiss seat pronto.  It would take a thousand words to tell you how to do it, but through the magic of YouTube, we don't need a thousand words.

Yep, that's how we did it back in the early '70s.  You can spend a lot of money for a rappelling harness or you can get a piece of rope and make your own.  As for me, I'll go with the Swiss seat every time.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Memories - II

Thinking about that video from yesterday, I began thinking about rappelling.  Sometimes, the helicopter couldn't land (either because of rugged terrain or unfavorable vegetation) to let the passengers out, so we learned to get out on ropes.

The UH-1 helicopter would normally carry a crew of three and eight passengers.  We'd get out, two at a time from ropes suspended from the ceiling of the helicopter  Normally these ropes are 100 feet long and we used a double-strand in our carabiners, so the length of the rope from helicopter to ground was about 50 feet.

The problem comes in limited visibility, or when the pilot isn't paying attention.  It is entirely possible, as people get out of the helicopter for it to rise in the air, above the LZ.  A soldier might  run out of rope before he hits the ground.

Let me be the first to tell you, when your back hand feels the rope run out, I don't care how fast your reflexes are, you cannot grab that rope with your front hand.  That just ain't gonna happen.  At that point you're in free-fall, and generally, your feet are just a couple of feet off the ground.  But, there for an instant, you're scared spitless.

Oh, the joys of Army aviation.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Surfing around YouTube today, waiting for Belle to get home, I stumble across this blast-from-the-past with images from my misspent youth.

No, I didn't make it to the unpleasantness in SE Asia.  I was training for it, and suddenly it was over, and I got out of the Air Cav and into Armored Cav and line Armor, as the Army shifted its focus from the jungles of Vietnam to the battleground of Europe and the Fulda Gap.

I've got the greatest respect in the wold for the soldiers today, but we had our fun too.  Almost no one in those days wore body armor.  The only folks I ever knew that actually had it were the Huey pilots, who sat on it.  The NVA had a Chi-com .51 caliber heavy machine gun (much like our beloved Ma-Deuce) and the chopper pilots were scared spitless of that gun.

But, anyway, a blast from the past from the Air Cavalry of my youth.

The music ain't bad either.

That Roll of Paper Towels

Eaton Rapids Joe emailed me recently, asking me if I knew the story that Junior Doughty told about keeping a roll of paper towels on the end of the register when he  owned and ran a small country convenience store.

Junior Doughty and I collaborated on The Frugal Outdoorsman, a web-zine that he published for several years prior to his death.  Junior's daughter, Kim, keeps it alive and you can read our stuff under the link.

But, back to the paper towels.  It's an old store-keepers trick to balance the books, and I told Joe that I remembered.  It morphed into a story about another store-keeper I knew.
For several years, Junior was the owner of a small store in Tullos, LA.  He sold gas, groceries and sundries.  He didn't ring up the roll of paper towels to every customer, just the ones he thought was stealing from him.
It worked like this:  A customer would come in the store, usually with a kid or two in tow.  If the kid snitched a 50 cent candy bar, Junior rang up the paper towels. He also kept a brand-new mop at the end of the counter.  If the customer was an asshole, or a known problem person, he got charged for the mop as well.
It was a fairly common practice.  I knew another store owner, John Gibson, who ran the Rite Way Grocery in Natchez, LA.  Natchez, LA is a small agriculture community just south of Natchitoches.  The two closest stores were seven miles away, one north, one south.
John always had the lowest gasoline prices in the parish.  I asked him about it, and he told me, "Dennis, I set my gas prices just high enough to pay for the product and the electricity to run the pumps.  I don't care if I never make any profit on gasoline.  But if you come in the store, you're mine..  While you're in the store, if you buy a coke, or a pack of cigarettes, or God forbid, a gallon of milk, I'll soak you for the convenience I make my living selling groceries.  The gasoline just gets them in the parking lot."
John also kept a roll of paper towels on the end of the counter.
John, and his wife, Judy, were an interesting match.  Their store building encompassed the Rite Way grocery and JJ's Lounge, the bar on the other end of the building.  John ran the grocery, and Judy ran the bar.  Judy was a big-titted blonde with a heart of gold, a ready smile, and poured an honest drink.  It was a common redneck bar in an agricultural area, a place where everyone was welcome.  It had Wednesday night poker games, Thursday night karaoke, and live music on Saturday.  Between John selling groceries on one end of the building, and Judy selling whiskey on the other, John and Judy got very wealthy.
Another factoid about Junior. During the time he owned the store, he sold a lot of whiskey in a place where whiskey was forbidden.  Boot-legging was rampant, and Junior chafed at the idea that he couldn't sell whiskey, especially when he saw large trucks carrying whiskey between the cities of Monroe and Alexandria.  Junior noticed that one truck in particular made the run every Wednesday, so one day Junior flagged the driver and had a talk.
Every Wednesday, that truck would pull into Junior's lot and sell good booze right out of the back of the truck.  The customers didn't have to drive 50 miles for good whiskey, and the driver split the profit with Junior.   Junior told me that at one point in the operation, he was selling one percent of all the Crown Royal sold in the state of Louisiana.
Every store owner has his little technique, but the paper towel game is more common than you think.
The next time you go into a little country store, make sure the grandkids keep their hands in their pockets, and pay attention to the roll of paper towels near the register.

Sunday Morning

While I was getting my butt kicked at Defensive Tactics on Thursday, Belle was heading north.  She, JimBob, and Zach were going to Missouri to a wedding on that side of the family.  So, since Thursday, the dawg and I have been batch'in it.  We've eaten well, drank a little whiskey, and enjoyed ourselves, even if we missed Belle's steadying hand.

She's leaving Missouri this morning and heading south, so we'll see her about bed time.   That's great, we miss her.

But, in the meantime, life has to go on and the kids will be over today for our usual Sunday lunch.  So, last night, I dropped a bunch of stew meat into the crock post and covered it with good brown gravy.  It's been bumping on low all night, and this morning when I woke up, the kitchen smelled like heaven.  In a few minutes, I'm going to chop some of Guillory's good tasso and put it in a pot with frozen purple-hull peas.  That'll simmer for a couple f hours.  Then, just before lunch, I'll put on a pot of rice, and slip some rolls into the oven.

I'm glad that Belle got to go to the wedding, but it will be good to have her home this evening.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Two Rugers

In forming this new Cowboy Fast Draw club at the church, I've had to answer a lot of questions about guns, belts, holsters, rules and range etiquette.  It's not a problem, but some folks are not familiar with the subtle differences inn equipment that might make one revolver suitable for Cowboy Fast Draw.  Most people are visual learners, so lets take a look at two revolvers that are very similar and very different.  One is absolutely within the rules of the CFDA and one iss not.

Top Ruger Super Blackhawk
Bottom: Ruger Vaquero
On top, we have a Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 Remington Magnum.  It''s a great handgun for lots of things, and one of my favorites.  That's the revolver I strap when I'm cruising the woods.  It's easy to shoot, in a heavy caliber, and is useful for everything from feral hogs to venomous snakes with the right loads.  Unfortunately, it's completely unsuitable for Cowboy Fast Draw, for the following reasons.  1) It's the wrong caliber.  In CFDA, we use .45 Long Colt only.  2) It has adjustable sights.  In CFDA, we use fixed sights only, of the type used in the 1880s.  and 3) it has a wide spur hammer.

Wide Spur Hammer isn't allowed in CFDA.
That big, lovely, wide spur hammer simply isn't allowed on a revolver used for CFDA shooting.   Some of the other sports allow them, and new shooters have to be cautioned to get a revolver with a proper hammer. As a sidebar, some of the companies are coming out with what they call a "short-stroke" action, in which the hammer is only cocked to about halfway before setting in the full cock notch. Short-stroke revolvers aren't allowed in CFDA either.  The hammer must exhibit the full cocking motion.

Vaquero hammer spur of the proper dimensions
The photo above shows the standard hammer spur from a Ruger Vaquero.  The hammer spur is the same width as the rest of the hammer, and is the type required for CFDA shooting.

A handgun is a substantial investment for many people.  I'd hate to have one of my new shooters buy something and not be able to use it in the sport.

The rules are found in the latest edition of the rule book, and say this  about acceptable handguns:
Single-action revolvers, factory chambered for .45 Colt caliber, with non-adjustable rear sights, such as: S.A.A. Colt, Colt Bisley, 1858 Remington Conversion, 1875 Remington, 1860 Army Conversion, 1872 Open Top, S&W Schofield, and “faithful reproductions” thereof. Plus, the following Ruger models; Vaquero, New Vaquero, Bisley Vaquero, CFDA Vaquero, and Short Spur Vaquero. Special Exception: Vaquero (Short Spur) hammers may be inter-changed with a New Vaquero, which is the basis for both a CFDA Vaquero and Short Spur Vaquero models. The exterior parts of the revolver must match factory stock contours and made of original type material: i.e. hammers must not be bent in anyway, no trigger shoes, no aluminum/titanium barrels or cylinders, no skeletonizing, no modifications to the trigger guard, or grip frame, etc. All external parts must match the manufacturer’s stock product, i.e. a Bisley revolver must have a matching Bisley hammer, a SAA must have a stock SAA hammer. Front sights are optional. Minimum barrel length is 4-1/2”, except in the Shootist Category (See Page 8), when measured from the cylinder to the front of the barrel. Hammer knurling may be smoothed or sharpened

I think I'll take the Ruger Super Blackhawk to the club meeting today.  It might help if I can show them what a wide spur hammer looks like

Friday, June 23, 2017

Re-Quals 0 Day 3

Well, I'm through.  For the 30th time, I have passed my retainer.

Yeah,I've been a cop for 37 years, but until 1984, cops didn't require formal training, except the once yearly firearms qualifications.  Ronnie Reagan, in 1984, got a law passed that required all active police officers to receive regular training, and for state and local police agencies to establish training academies for both street cops and correctional officers.  The state and local governments didn't figure out all the "whats and wherefores" until later, and it wasn't until about 1987 that I went to my first, formal Defensive Tactics training.  At that time, it was a 40-hour course and every officer had to go through it and receive certification.

Hell, by that time I had been a street cop for seven years.  For many years, there was some question if all of us veteran cops would have to be sent to a training academy to  receive formal certification that we could do the joob we'd been doing for many years.  The state POST Council in Louisiana made some very strict rules that dealt with the process, and if we could prove that in the course of those years we had received training equivalent to going through an academy, we would be "grandfathered" and be "recognized" as police officers.

One of the smartest things that I ever did was to ask the Louisiana POST Council to give me a certificate recognizing me as a "grandfathered" officer.  They did so, and that certificate became a past of the records I kept in my personal files.  That little certificate has saved me a lot of heartburn over the years.  As long as I keep my training current, I'm golden.  The original idea was that eventually all of us old dinosaurs would retire and fade gracefully away, but so far, several of us are still hanging on.

But, looking around the training area today, I recognize that I am a rara avis, one of the rare birds that is still hanging on.  It's been a long time since I first learned how an arm-bar takedown is performed, and today I executed one, if not perfectly, then well enough to pass the test.  Along with the various wrist locks, leg sweeps, baton techniques,  kicks and punches that are not only effective, but are designed to keep the agency out of court and the individual officer from being sued.

I woke up sore this morning, and may have an Aleve moment tomorrow, but for another year, I am good to go.  Re-trainer is done and in the record books.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

El Malo - First Impressions

The Cimarron El Mal came in yesterday, and I picked it up from the FFL at about 3:30 pm after training.  After we did the paperwork, I went over to my buddy Bill's office to show it off.

Cimarron, as you may know, if an outfit out of Fredricksburg, TX, that imports Pietta revolvers, re-works them, and sells them under their brand.  Cimmarron has a great reputation among cowboy shooters and I wanted to see an El Malo, up close and personal.

My buddy Bill is a brand-new Cowboy Fast Draw shooter and I wanted him to see it, out of the box.  Bill recently bought a Ruger New Vaquero, a fine gun for CFDA work, but I wanted to show off the new revolver and let him see some options.

It is a pretty gun.  Nice bluing, nice color case hardening.  Bill (who is a big fellow, with big hands) commented on how nicely it fit his hand.  He checked it for clear, then pointed it in a safe direction and thumbed the hammer.  His eyes widened.  "That's smooth!" He commented, then passed the revolver across the desk.

I checked for clear, then thumbed the hammer.  I had to agree, it was very smooth and light.

Many out-of-the box revolvers come with heavy springs and many CFDA shooters lighten their springs to reduce the amount of force needed to cock the revolver.  That's a standard modification, and both of Belle's Pietta revolvers have lightened springs.  Reduced-power springs are very common on CFDA revolvers.  Yet, here was a Pietta that didn't seem to need spring work.  The mainspring was light enough out of the box.

By this time it was quitting time at Bill's place, so we boxed the revolver, and I took it home to show it to Belle.  When she got in from work, she noticed the Cimmaron box on the table and took the revolver out of the box.  She also remarked that it fit her hand nicely.  So, while I poured her a glass of wine, she strapped up her belt/holster rig and stepped into the hall, where we have a laser range set up.  She began drawing and shooting and remarked that the revolver was very smooth, that the hammer was easy to cock and that the grips fit her hand nicely.

I admit I was perplexed.  Bill has big hands and Belle has small hands, the both remarked how well the revolver fit their hands.Evidently, Cimmaron has found the perfect grip size for a wide range of hands..  I admit that the El Malo feels good i my hands, medium-sized by many standards.

For some reason, Pietta trigger guards seem to be (and no, I haven't put a micrometer on them) smaller than Uberti or Ruger trigger guards.  Belle commented that this Pietta seemed to have the small trigger guard, and I have to agree.  It feels smaller than my Ubertis and my Rugers.  If you have big hands, and have to get on the trigger quickly (as in CFDA shooting) you might find that the Pietta trigger guard is a bit small.

Belle shoots Piettas and has done well with them.  She prefers them over both Uberti and Ruger revolvers.  Both of her Peittas are marketed by Traditions, an outfit from Florida.  And, they both have transfer-bar ignition, which is familiar to Ruger shooters.  But, one of the first things I noted about the El Malo is that it has a hammer-mounted firing pin.

Plain as day, that firing pin is mounted on the hammer, just like the Colt Peacemaker.  The hammer gives us the four clicks of a standard Colt, and I suspect that if I disassembled the El Malo, I'd find that the innards closely resemble the standard Colt mechanism.

What do I like about the El Malo?  It's a nice revolver, very nice, and seems to be a pretty good copy of the old Colt design.  It is marketed at a very appealing price point, and the grips seem to fit a wide variety of hand sizes.  It seems to come right out of the box ready for CFDA competition, with a nice hammer and trigger.  The octagon barrel certainly isn't historically accurate, but it is cool.

The question of whether it will end up in Belle's bag or mine, really doesn't matter.    I bought it because I was intrigues by it, and the fact that Belle likes it is just lagniappe.  It's probably destined to ride on one bag or the other as a spare, or a loaner.  Either of us might shoot it if our competition guns break down during a shoot.

If you're looking for a cooler-than-hell little cowboy revolver, you could do a lot worse than the Cimmaron El Malo.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Aawww, Gaawd, I remember scenes like this from working the streets.

Don't do drugs.  Don't ever do drugs.

Tip of the Resistol to Wirecutter.

Re-Quals - Day 1

We spent the morning re-qualifying on the pistol and the shotgun.  Done and Done

Then we went to a classroom for a tune-up on force-on-force.  Went to lunch.

After lunch, we divided into thee man teams for a little force-on-force scenario training.

I don't have any paintball paint on me anywhere.  'Nuff said.

Tonight, Belle and I have an anniversary.  Fourteen years of wedded bliss.  We're going to go to a restaurant and have a steak.  I guess I'd best find some clean jeans and get in the shower.


In about an hour, I'm going to pull on my boots and head over to the training range for annual re-qualifications.

Standard stuff.  Firearms, Defensive Tactics, First Aid, Legal Updates, all the stuff that we have to do once a year to protect and serve the public.  Every state has their version of POST (Peace Officers Standard Training) that requires we spend a given number of hours getting re-certified every year so that we can do our jobs.

So, for the next three days, that's where I'll be.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I'll be at the tender mercies of the trainers.  I don't know what macabre schedules or scenarios they have dreamed up, but I'm sure that it will skirt the edge of reality and approach the realm of the surreal.

I don't know what blogging will be like the rest of the week, but I'm sure that I will emerge from the other side, totally qualified and ready to serve the good people of the state of Louisiana.

If I'm not around, go read the folks on the sidebar.