Why I Carry

I’m tired of writing about the sad state of politics, so I’m going to shift gears a little, if you’ll indulge me.  Most people that know me well know that I carry a concealed handgun most of the time.  The number of people who are getting their permit to carry is on the rise as more states remember that we live in a free nation.  With that in mind, I thought I’d do a series of blogs about my experiences as a permitted concealed carrier.  We’ll talk about why I carry, what I carry, and how I carry it.  I hope you’ll respond in kind so we can all learn something.  Please keep in mind that I am no sort of professional when it comes to concealed carry or firearms in general, so everything presented here is my opinion based on many years of shooting and carrying handguns.

I decided in 2007 to get my concealed carry permit.  In Tennessee, you are required to take an 8 hour class that consists of 4 hours of classroom instruction and 4 hours of range time.  You are required to pass an exam in the classroom and on the range.  I took the course at the Loudon County Sheriff’s office from a SWAT officer who was very serious about his job.  My class was made up of men and women with very different levels of experience with firearms.  The lady sitting next to me had a revolver that she had been given.  I had to show her how it operated, including how to open the cylinder!  The class was very well done, touching on most of the questions that I had coming in.  The range session was pretty easy since I had experience with handguns already.  Needless to say, I passed both exams.

With my class done, I got my fingerprints sent to the state and submitted my application and fee for a concealed carry permit late in 2007.  Honestly, it was a while before I carried after I got the permit.  It is an unnerving experience until you get used to it.  I felt like the gun was standing out a foot and that everybody around me was looking at it.  After a while, I realized that no one was paying any attention to me.  The gun became part of my daily routine, part of my wardrobe.  I’ve learned to dress to effectively hide it and have improved my rig over the years so that its more comfortable.  Now, I feel awkward without it, kind of like when you forget your wristwatch and keep looking at your arm.

So, why go through all of that? Why incur the expense and put up with the discomfort and inconvenience?  There isn’t a simple answer to those questions, and I think everyone that carries probably has different reasons.  The most obvious reason is simply for safety.  We all carry to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  In my case, its not so much about my safety as it is that of my wife and daughter.  They mean everything to me and I will do whatever I have to do to keep them safe.  Obviously, we avoid places and situations where trouble is more likely to occur, but trouble has a way of sneaking up on you when and where you least expect it.  Part of my job as a husband and father is to be ready if it does.

That leads me to another reason that I chose to carry, a sense of responsibility.  I am responsible for my own safety, as well as that of my girls.  I have nothing but respect for law enforcement and I am more than willing to let those brave men and women deal with the evil that lurks in the world.  Unfortunately, though, when seconds count, the police are minutes away.  That’s not criticism in any way, just the truth.  They can’t be everywhere all the time and I personally don’t want them to be.  That leaves me.  At another level, I feel responsible as a citizen to be available if trouble comes calling on someone around me.  I made the decision to get training and to make myself proficient in the use of my weapon.  I feel like I almost owe it to society to be prepared.  I’m not Matt Dillon and I’m not out looking for trouble in which to involve myself. I hope I never fire a round other than at the range.  But I am going to be prepared.

One question that I’ve been asked is could you actually take a human life?  My answer is yes.  I don’t answer that way lightly or without considerable thought.  If the choice was between the bad guy and either of my girls getting hurt, then there is no question.  I know having to shoot somone comes with a heavy emotional toll, regardless of the circumstances. I sincerely hope that never happens.  But, here’s the bottom line; I could live with shooting someone that was trying to hurt me, my girls, or someone else.  I could not live with it if one of them got hurt because I couldn’t prevent it.  That’s the real reason.

Next time I’ll tell you about my current carry gun, how I came to own it, and why I love it!

Springfield Armory SOCOM 16 front sight replacement

I’m moving away from strictly the political with this post to share an informational article about one of my new toys. Please feel free to comment.

Springfield Armory’s venerable M1A has been available for many years in both the original 22″ barrel length as well as a more compact version with an 18″ tube dubbed the Scout Squad. A few years ago, an even shorter 16.25″ variation was introduced called the SOCOM 16, now available in three variations.

I wanted a Scout Squad, but I found a really, really good deal on a SOCOM 16. This sale was likely motivated by an overstock situation on the camo-colored stock, but I didn’t care. It was enough of a deal that I decided to take it even though it wasn’t the exact version I wanted.

While there are many who debate the usefullness of the shorter versions, my intent here is to discuss just one issue and how I chose to tackle it – the front sight. It is ridiculously wide.image

You could land remote control aircraft on this thing! It subtends about a half an acre at 100 yards, which just doesn’t lend to as much precision as I would prefer. All the other versions of this rifle have interchangeable front sights. SOCOM versions appear to be the same, with the front sight being dovetail-mounted and easily removable. The problem is, the SOCOM has a version-specific gas lock which renders the use of standard M1A/M14 front sights a no-go due to a height difference. Below is how I chose to address the issue.

Smith Enterprises to the rescue! They offer a new gas lock which accomodates standard M1A sights, part 2001-GL.

Smith Enterprises gas lock

This is their gas lock with a National Match front sight (easily sourced from many suppliers) already installed. It’s a wee bit narrower…

Sight comparison

This gas lock differs from the one coming on the rifle in that instead of having the muzzle brake an integral part of the unit, it is threaded so you can install the muzzle brake of your choosing. I chose another Smith Enterprises part, the Good Iron 1002-RR

Good Iron

Using the appropriate gas cylinder wrench to hold the lock steady, I used a 3/8ths socket to remove the gas plug, and the gas lock/muzzle brake assembly spun off with light finger pressure.

Gas lock removed

Here is a shot of the assembled Smith Enterprises parts alongside the factory originals…

Smith vs S.A. parts

Installing the new gas lock was a revelation in that the thread fit of the Smith Enterprises unit was quite a bit tighter than the original parts. I had to use a gas cylinder wrench and a touch of colorful vocabulary to spin it flush.

Sadlak wrench to fit

After aligning the new gas lock, I installed a Schuster Adjustable Gas Plug.

Here’s the final assembly:

New installed alongside old

A range session will be in order soon to adjust the gas plug and evaluate the other changes. I expect the front sight to be much more to my liking, and wonder if the new muzzle brake will be more effective than the stock part.

Perhaps a report in another post!

As always, I hope you have found this informative and I welcome rational/adult commentary.

Never Forget

It has been 15 years since 2,996 Americans were killed by cowardly terrorists on our own soil.  Fifteen years and this day still bothers me.  Every year on this day, all of the emotions come back, just like on September 11, 2001.  The edge has dulled, but the sadness and anger are still there.  My memories of that day are still sharp.  I picked up a rental car at Lovell Field in Chattanooga and headed for Birmingham for a project.  I was listening to the John Boy and Billy Big Show on the radio when they said that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers.  I assumed that it was a small plane and was reminded of a similar incident in the 1940s when a B-25 crashed into the Empire State Building.  Then, while they were on the air, they saw the second plane hit.  From that point, I knew we were under attack.  The rest of the trip was filled with radio coverage that sounded like planes were falling out of the sky all over the country.  The plane hitting the Pentagon and the crash in Shanksville emphasized that point.  I freely admit that I was scared as I drove by the Birmingham airport on the way to our office.  Once I got there, everyone was gathered around a small television, where I actually saw the attacks for the first time.  No work was done that day as we all tried to deal with what we had seen.

I spent that night alone in a hotel room in Birmingham.  All I wanted to was be home, but that just wasn’t possible.  One of the things that I remember most about that day was President Bush’s address to Congress that evening.  It was one of the most emotional and well-written political speeches that I’ve ever heard.  The sight of Republicans and Democrats sitting in unity for a change gave me hope that we, as a nation, would recover.  I honestly felt a little better after watching it.  The only exception was Hillary Clinton, who wore an expression on her face that clearly showed her annoyance at having to sit there while Bush was in the spotlight.  I will never forget that, either. In the days that followed, there were no news stories slamming either party.  Nobody was talking about race.  Why should there be?  People of every race were affected by that day.  We were all Americans working toward a common goal.

I was in New York City for work in 2009.  I had part of an afternoon off, so I went into Manhattan to the temporary 9/11 Memorial.  It was in a building near NYFD House 10, a station that lost 6 men.  Inside the memorial was a museum containing items that had been recovered from the site.  In the rear of the memorial was a small room that made a huge impact on me.  Three of the walls were covered by photographs of the victims. Monitors on either side of the room had a continuous scroll of the names of the victims.  You can see photos below.  To say that this made it personal is a major understatement.  To see it all on television is one thing, but to look at the faces of nearly 3,000 dead Americans is quite another.  I wanted to look at every face, but I just couldn’t do it.  The ones that I saw were a true cross-section of America.  I saw skin of every color, janitors, executives, and everyone in between.  The minutes that I spent there had a major impact on me and I will never forget it.

But forget is what we, as a nation, have done.  It has only been 15 years since we were as united as a nation as we have ever been in my lifetime.  Look at us now.  The news is nothing but insults slung at one candidate by the other candidate, over-hyped stories of racial divide, stories about how ignorant people that believe this or that are, and the most outrageous example of Hollywood misbehavior they can find.  Now, we are more divided than we have ever been in my lifetime.  As a nation, we have forgotten what I think is the most important lesson of September 11; that we are all Americans, and that we are at our best when we work together.  I sincerely hope that we remember that lesson someday.  I just hope that it doesn’t take another moment where we all remember where we were when it happened to remind us.




Both Sides of His Mouth

Late last month, President Obama commuted the sentences of 111 more prisoners, all of whom were convicted of drug crimes.  This round brought his total number of commutations to 673.  White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote, “We must remember that these are individuals – sons, daughters, parents, and in many cases, grandparents – who have taken steps toward rehabilitation and who have earned their second chance.”.  All of these individuals were convicted of various drug crimes and were described as “non-violent” (Byron Tau, Wall Street Journal, 8/30/16).

The conviction of 13 of these ‘non-violent’ offenders included at least one firearm charge.  Here’s a summary:

  • Sly Stallone Aikens (no, really!), convicted of knowingly using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to, and possessing the firearm in furtherance of, a drug trafficking crime (2 counts), sentenced to 360 months imprisonment (amended to 235 months) and 5 years supervised release;
  • Alfonso Allen, convicted of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base; distribution of cocaine base (2 counts); possession with intent to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and marijuana; possession of a short barreled shotgun in furtherance of a felony drug offense; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; possession of a an unregistered short barreled shotgun, sentenced to life plus 10 years;
  • Brian Allen Altman, convicted of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (2 counts), sentenced to 420 months imprisonment and 8 year’s supervised release;
  • Derrick Lewis Bynum, convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances; use of a communications device to facilitate narcotics trafficking (3 counts); possession with intent to distribute controlled substances (2 counts); possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, sentenced to 300 months imprisonment and 10 year’s supervised release;
  • Fred Charles, Jr., convicted of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams of cocaine; use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, sentenced to 248 months imprisonment and 5 years supervised release;
  • Darryl Dewayne Edwards, convicted of attempt to manufacture 50 grams or more of cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; possession of a firearm by a felon, sentenced to life imprisonment;
  • Mark Foster, convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine; carrying or possessing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, sentenced to life plus 60 months imprisonment,
  • Orfil Javier Garza, convicted of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense, sentenced to 180 months imprisonment and 5 years supervised release;
  • Ali Reno Harden, convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; possession of a firearm having an obliterated serial number; possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of cocaine base; possession of a firearm during the commission of a drug trafficking crime; possession of marijuana, sentenced to 180 months imprisonment, 8 years supervised release, and $5000 fine;
  • Ronnie Lorenzo Hardy, convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base; principal to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base; unlawful possession of a firearm; possession of a firearm during a felony drug offense, sentenced to life plus 60 months imprisonment;
  • Derrick Waller, supervised release violation (possession of an unregistered firearm and distribution of cocaine); possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack), sentenced to 224 months imprisonment plus 45 months from previous charge;
  • Richard Van Winrow, convicted of possession with intent to distribute a narcotic drug contolled substance; felon in possession of a firearm, sentenced to life imprisonment.

Forgive the amount of information presented above, but I wanted you to have a sense of why these folks are in jail to start with.  I thought it would be interesting to see what I could find about these cases and see how the gun was involved. I was able to find a little more on three of them and I think they warrant further discussion.  It was suprisingly difficult to find anything about their actual cases.  I was looking mostly for local media reports, but those were few and far between.  I think these three are pretty representative of the type, however.

Walter Breland of Statesville, North Carolina, was arrested on October 31, 2001.  An informant had notified officers that were conducting surveillance of a known drug distribution house in Evansville, Indiana, that a man was standing on the porch of the house selling cocaine.  When officers approached Breland, he “immediately ran from the porch area of the residence, across the street and between some houses, where he hid behind a large bush. When Officer Luecke began to pursue Breland, he rose, tossed a plastic bag containing cocaine over a fence, and charged Officer Luecke brandishing a firearm. Officer Luecke struck Breland with a flashlight, which caused Breland to drop the gun, but Breland continued to run from the police. He was caught and arrested minutes later by other officers who conducted a search incident to the arrest and found $2,000” (http://www.allcourtdata.com/law/case/united-states-v-walter-breland-katrel-thomas-and-andre-vaughn/cBbx4nd?page=1).

Darryl Dewayne Edwards (aka David Devon Wilson) of Port Author, Texas was arrested after a federal search warrant was executed at his home, where crack, a large amount of cocaine, implements to cook crack, and a gun were recovered.  This was his third such arrest, which mandated a life sentence (http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/new/article/Drug-gun-charges-put-Port-Author-man-in-jail-for-765320.php).

Orfil Javier Garza of Pacoima, California, was arrested in Kearnes, Utah, along with two others, including a 15 year old juvenile.  The arrest came as a result of a long term drug trafficking investigation.  The arrests resulted in the seizure of $500,000, 1.5 pounds of meth, 4 weapons, and 8 ‘high-value’ vehicles.  https://www.dea.gov/pubs/states/newsrel/denver120707.html

Others of note include Ali Reno Harden, who was arrested in possession of a firearm from which the serial number had been removed.  Then there’s Derrick Waller, who was on supervised release for a previous offense when he was arrested in possession of an unregistered firearm and for distribution of cocaine.

Lets consider, now, how many times have we heard Obama and his leftist compatriots call for more gun laws or tougher gun laws?  After every shooting that makes the news, one or all of them is on TV before the bodies are cold decrying how easy it is to get a gun, how there are too many guns, how there are guns out there that no one should own.  Here is a small sample of 13 criminals who are in custody partly because they committed a crime that involved a firearm.  If he really wants to reduce gun crime, how does it make sense to put these people back on the streets earlier than a jury of their peers called for?  None of these people has any business having their sentence reduced.  They were peddling poison, possibly to your friends, family, or neighbors.  They were armed for a reason, likely to protect themselves from people even worse than them!

No, Obama and his minions have no real interest in public safety, only in pushing their ill-conceived and unconstitutional agenda.  That’s why he continues to talk out of both sides of his mouth.