Defensive Shotgun at Gunsite RanchBy 1994, when I was ready to return to Gunsite, changes had been made. The most prominent of them was the fact that Jeff Cooper had sold the business to Richard Jee, though Cooper continued to live in the house (The Sconce) on the premises and at least at first continued to lecture and instruct on the range. Anyone who has ever witnessed a change of command at a business or a military unit would know that this arrangement could not last. When the rupture came it embittered Cooper greatly, and Jee came in for a great deal of opprobrium. I don't know all the details, or even any of them for certain, and there is no need for me to take sides. Jee has since (this is written in 2007) sold to a third owner. Cooper is now dead (rest in peace, September 25, 2006). All I need to do is tell the story of my shotgun class in March of 1994 with my friend Russ.
Ellen took me to Logan on Saturday morning to fly to Arizona for the shotgun class. I got the car in Phoenix after arrival and waited a few hours for Russ to appear, and then we headed to Prescott. We spent the night at some cheap motel because Russ didn't want to set up camp in the dark — he's not a camper and didn't want to fool with it.
On Sunday we ate breakfast and went to Granite to hike around for a few hours. We watched birds and I admired the scenery on the cliff and bored Russ with an account of the various climbs I'd done there. We met a batch of climbers on their way who said they were going under the big roof. I asked about it and one man said that there's an escape from Coatimundi where you avoid the 5.11 (or worse) traverse left by traversing right at about 5.7, and then up at 5.9 or 5.10. I mentioned that I'm not 5.11 material, and he said that that climb is iffy even at 5.11. The variation is something that I'd like to try; that's such a spectacular place to be.
We ate at El Charro's (which has gone totally nonsmoking in the 3 years since I was there last) and went to Gunsite in the midafternoon. We toured the place, which is slightly built up since I was there, with a double trailer, presumably for visiting instructors. We met a few other campers, none wearing guns as both Russ and I were.
We got up at 0630 on Monday, not long after first light, and not enough time to report comfortably at 0800 after going into Chino Valley for breakfast. (Russ moves very slowly in the morning.) We'll arise tomorrow at 6, and we also have a bonus in that tomorrow we don't have to report until 0830.
The weather Sunday was beautiful, warm in the sun and cool otherwise. Monday was cloudy and very light drizzle occasionally. Temperatures overnight were probably close to freezing. I brought the summer tent, Ellen's light sleeping bag, and my light and middleweight bags. Russ took my ancient bag and I used the light one inside Ellen's non-winter bag, and we were both comfortable with plenty of temperature range to spare.
My 260 class has five students — myself, two SEALs (Aaron and Joe), and two Air Force pararescue men (called PJs, Mack and Nick). [Other students' names are changed.] The CRO is Jack Furr, and he's assisted by Herschel Davis. Herschel is a retired SEAL; Jack is one of the two (I think) full-time instructors at Gunsite, the other being Bill Jeans, operations manager, and running the 350 class this week.
Stance: Right arm up high, elbow above shoulder, to form pocket for butt of shotgun; left elbow directly under gun to prevent any sideways pull as the pump is yanked back after the shot — since the jerk tends to happen before the shot is gone, pulling it sideways, and even if that isn't true, it slows the second shot as the gun has to be realigned.
We patterned our guns with 00 buck (Federal 2 3/4 shells) at 3, 7, 10, 15, 25 yards. My gun (Mossberg 500) is shooting serious donut groups at 25 (and noticable at closer ranges) — 25 is too far for that load in that gun. And we shot slugs at 50 and 75.
I'm the only shooter with a dot or scope; other guns have bead sights and some have rifle sights. A Gunsite loaner has a ghost-ring. The military guys all brought two shotguns; there are some beat-up Remington 870s and the SEALs also have Benelli Super 90s.
We did an unsighted-fire exercise at one point in the class, early on I believe. We marched up to the very edge of the berm in front of the plates — about 3 to 5 yards — and held at outdoor ready, eyes-muzzle-target. On signal, we lowered the muzzle and fired one shot at the plate. I knew that I'd fire very high so I aimed very low; even so, I missed over the top of the plate. I think that we had one hit out of the five shooters. Lesson: It's faster to miss from a low position than it is to hit by bringing the gun up and using the sights.
The outdoor ready position, "eyes-muzzle-target", has the shotgun in the two hands, butt low, with the muzzle on the line between the eyes and where you're looking. If it should happen that you're looking at something that becomes a target, then you push the muzzle out along that line as you raise the butt to your shoulder, and fire when you have a solid mount.
All three classes assembled in the classroom at 8 and (after settling bills) we had an introduction from various Gunsite officials. One of em — Bill Jeans, operations manager and CRO for the 350 class — told us that in 92, I think it was, they set a new record that they're not proud of: The greatest number of negligent discharges in area motels while dry firing, with I think 12. [In 2008, Bill told me that my recollection is faulty; he thinks the number was 9.] Jesus! It's hard to imagine what they can do about this, since they already have very strict guidelines about dry firing which, if followed, will absolutely prevent any ND. But there are two things that they do now which they didn't do 3 years ago. One is that they immediately dismiss any student (refunding pro-rated tuition) who has a negligent discharge. Another is that they issue a piece of armor plate with an ipsc-style target painted on it to every pistol student for the duration of the class and specify that it must be used as target for all dry-firing exercises. In that way, if someone does screw up and let one off, at least it'll stop in the plate and not continue through half a dozen hotel rooms. Man, with that kind of record, it's a miracle that nobody has been killed by a Gunsite student.
The shotgunners didn't get a target (actually, I'm not certain that the 350 students did either, but all the 250 students did). I dunno what the rest of the class did for their dry-firing targets, but I used the trunk of the large juniper tree under which our tent is pitched. Should do the job. I should be more careful at home, too. Usually I dry-fire in the bedroom, pointing back toward the lake. The odds are low that I could hit anybody with a shot in that direction, but it'd be better if I had something solid instead of depending on that space being empty. And sometimes I dry-fire in the living room, using my reflection in the big glass doors as a target, meaning that any shot would transit front yards or hit other houses down the street. Probably the best thing for me to do would be to go into the basement and depend on the stone walls to stop a shot.
Cold night Tuesday; water bottle left outside is frozen shut, and there's frost on everything. Warming up nicely though.
It's dark at 0600, but light enough to read by at 0630 or maybe 0615. Russ is brisker today. Yesterday, after running to the range and still getting there 5 minutes late (report time 0830) I told him that he had to do whatever it took to get us back at the ranch at 0800 — get up earlier, don't shave, get breakfast the night before and don't leave next morning, whatever it takes we'll do it, because I'm not again going to run to the range and get there late. I don't know what he did, but we got up at 6 again and were back in plenty of time.
Yesterday we practiced mounts from African carry (slung muzzle down on weak side, behind shoulder), mounts from American carry (slung muzzle up on strong side, behind shoulder), from low ready (buttstock on shoulder, muzzle depressed), from high ready (eye-muzzle-target, butt at belt level). Perhaps also indoor ready (butt on shoulder, muzzle down so that left hand is on forward (weak) leg). Practiced advance (step forward with weak leg, then with strong leg, so that we always have a wide stance) and withdraw (first step back with strong foot, gingerly so that we won't be thrown by an obstacle or hole, then with weak foot, again maintaining wide stance).
We shot our first round of "rolling thunder": Five men, five poppers, blocked so they can't fall. On signal, first shooter shoots p1, then second man shoots p1, etc until fifth man shoots p1 and yells "out!". Then first man shoots p1p2, second shoots p1p2, etc until fifth man shoots p1p2 and yells "out!". Then p1p2p3, etc until all five shooters have shot p1p2p3p4p5. The reloading action is fast and furious.
When done well, it's just one continuous roar of 12-gauge gunfire as 75 rounds of 00 buck go downrange in well under a minute. The noise provoked admiring comments from several of the pistol shooters, at a separate range a quarter or half a mile distant. Every time we opened up with this operation, during the next lunch or evening break someone was sure to ask what we were blowing up over there.
Today we were started with three shells in the gun and allowed to top off as many as we liked after we fired the first shot; later we'll start with guns full if we want. I later developed the habit of starting with a shell in the fingers of my left hand, cigarette-style, so that I could load the first round without having to search for it in a pouch.
As always in shooting, the calmer you are, the better you do. As soon as you get caught up in the excitement of the situation, things start to go to hell.
The autos are noticably faster on subsequent shots than the pumps.
We were issued 150 rounds of birdshot, and we're using it for everything possible (not long-range slugs or buck patterning, but everything else) so that we minimize the beating we take until we get our mounts and form down. The bird won't last past Wednesday, and then it'll be all buck and slug.
Both my thumbs are taking a beating — right from the safety and left from reloading — and the action release button is also digging a huge divot in the base of my right index finger. But my shoulder is doing fine, in spite of my relatively poor right elbow height. (Thank you, PAST recoil pad, which I put on under my shirt when I dress so that I can't possibly shoot a round without it.) Truth to tell, I'm more worried about my left elbow than my right. The right elbow just minimizes recoil, which isn't hurting me at all, while the left elbow affects point of impact. And I know I'm getting ahead of myself on racking the action, occasionally. [By the way, the finger divot turned out to be caused by the corner on the scope mount. When I got home I ground it down and eased the problem.]
Russ and I sat around the classroom after dry practice and cleaning, and were joined by another 250 student and Greg Hamilton, one of the 250 instructors. He told us about the grading procedure: Partly top secret, partly shooting ability, partly improvement, partly attitude — do you stay in the fight, looking around after each engagement for further targets? Do you handle the gun and accessories smartly, or relax after the shooting's done? Do you make it look real? He said, and we were also told on Monday's orientation, that the grade is determined by Friday. On Saturday's exercises you can go up a notch if you perform spectacularly well.
My dot sight is causing consternation in the class. Herschel Davis says that it's a fine toy, but its tactical applications are nil. I asked why it would be any less useful than a scope, and he just hmped a bit. I hope I planted the seeds of doubt about his doubt. On the other hand, it appears to make no difference except with slugs at 50 yards and beyond. There, my groups are half the size of the next best (shooting slowly from sitting or prone, your choice).
On Wednesday we started the "school exercises", which run more or less as follows: From 7 yards, one shot from high ready in 1 second. This is easy. We're using the usual Gunsite timer — an instructor blowing a whistle to start and stop, using his watch — and I think the times may be generous. From 10 and 15 yards, one shot from high ready in 1.5 second. (Same time since the pattern spread helps us at the greater distance.) Targets are steel plates, maybe 8 inches in diameter.
We also practice shots from African or American carry in 1.5 second. African is pretty easy; I'm slower from American. (It's harder the looser your clothing is, and this gaudy windbreaker is loose.)
Today we ran 2 outdoor simulators and 2 runs on the scrambler. The scrambler is one steel silhouette fired from 7 different positions along a line that requires shots from about 105 yards down to about 88 yards. Max 2 shots per station. First station is resting on a y-shaped tree limb, time starting when in position with safety off. Second position, maybe 10 yards away, is kneeling over a barricade. Third, low standing over a barricade. Fourth, sitting. Fifth, prone. Sixth, prone inside a low box you have to crawl into. (We were told that the box would be checked for snakes before we started, but it might be good to check it ourselves.) Seventh, up a tree (safety on, sling around neck when climbing).
I had the shortest time of the day on the second run, at about 1:33. They said the course record was around :45 for shotguns. They also shoot it with pistols and rifles. In fact, I had the best time of the class on a run on the second or third day.
I've been using my Uncle Mike's 6-round belt carrier, but it loses rounds too easily when something pushes on top or bottom. Also, it doesn't hold enough ammo. I fill my waist pack with rounds and usually load from there. Eventually I started putting slugs on the belt carrier for "slug select" operations and leaving the buck in the pouch, since we rarely used lots of rounds of slugs — the scrambler is the only time I can recall, in fact.
My Aimpoint dot started to act up on the scrambler. The dot goes out and it takes a slight twist on the knob to restore power. Pisser. Should have a spare Aimpoint for the little money they get.
I didn't do too well on outdoor simulator 1. There was one target, a very short popper, hidden behind a small bush in the middle of the gully, which I never saw until I was right on it. I'd have seen it if I'd been switching sides as I should have been. As it was, Herschel said that he stabbed me in the foot before I blasted him at short range. And the final target was a long way up the hill hidden by a tree. I was looking outside the gully — the experience with the guy on the top of the gully in the pistol course stayed with me — but I was looking at pistol ranges, not shotgun ranges, and he was well outside pistol range. (Glad we're not in the rifle course — I'd have to look all the way out to 400 yards, or to the horizon.) The target had to be pointed out to me and even then it took me 2 shots to put it down because I was shooting at it on my hind legs in the middle of the gully instead of hiding behind the near wall and shooting prone over the top, in defilade.
I'd have done much better to use the search technique they told us to use: rays, searching all the way out to the horizon and back to the feet on a straight line, then moving over 10 or 15 degrees and repeating. (The obvious band technique, where you search a band a specific distance away, then move out, is much worse.) In fact, if I'd taken the "to the feet" part seriously I'd probably have seen the close popper too.
We were taught the "select slug" technique for long shots when your gun is loaded with buck. You load the gun one short for this technique. Just put a slug in the magazine and rack the action, and you're ready to go. Jack told us that he doesn't use anything except slugs in his shotgun so the matter never arises, and he loads to the top.
Russ told me on Tuesday about a terribly embarassing mistake he made. He sat down on the crapper after lunch and took his SIG out of his belt slide holster and put it down someplace, and then forgot it. He was all the way out to the range when he remembered, and that was the same time that the shop got on the radio asking whether any of the 250 students had lost a SIG.
We're using ammo like popcorn. I've run through 150 rounds of birdshot, a full case (250) of buck, and 60 or 80 slugs. I'm going to have to buy a fresh case of buck. And expensive! I told Jack that shortly before Christmas I bought a case of slugs for $100 (Spag's sale), and he was salivating with the thought that they might have some left. The buying frenzy brought on by the Brady Law has apparently hit ammo too, and people are scalping something fierce. He asserts that Gunsite isn't. Russ confirmed that components are very hard to get, primers especially. Well, I don't have any choice now, and even had I known it, it probably wouldn't have made any difference. I can just see me appear at the airline counter carrying 4 cases of shotgun ammunition to check with my baggage.
I called Ellen after dinner (at El Charro's again) tonight. She's doing fine, said it was snowing (the weekly Wednesday night/Thursday storm).
I dropped a note to Nancy in the mail — having a great time, wish you were here. She has this stupid prejudice about Gunsite, that should rattle her cage a bit. She thinks Cooper's a chauvinist pig, which is correct, but it doesn't follow that Gunsite isn't a good place to learn to shoot.
As Russ and I were coming out of the can we saw Cooper on his tricycle in the middle of the road, surrounded by admiring students. We joined them and heard the invitation to come by his place after the class closed on Saturday, an invitation which we'll certainly accept this time. (I didn't do that last time, for some reason, probably disappointment in my performance.) You don't talk to Cooper, you listen; so we threw out comments and questions and listened adoringly to the answers from on high. "Tell us a story, Uncle Jeff." Pretty funny, but that's the way it is with legends in their own time.
Two of my classmates (Mack and Nick) are members of a parachute rescue team in the Air Force — medics, if I'm not mistaken. And the other two (Aaron and Joe) are SEALs from Virginia Beach. The seals wouldn't allow their pictures to be taken with the rest of us. Inflated self-importance, I thought. Too many James Bond movies. But maybe I underestimate the delicacy of their overseas operations. Certainly they were never obnoxious about it (or anything else): It was a pleasure to associate with all four men, the cream of our military forces.
It was probably Wednesday when we did our sole indoor exercise. We were told in advance that all targets would be hostile, so I didn't have the friend/foe identification problem that gave me fits in the pistol indoor simulators. We moved through the Firebox — open-topped shotgun simulator — firing at steel targets. We were told that some of the insiders were going to be trying to get out of the house as we went through, so we had to go all the way through and possibly engage targets outside. At one point there was a hole in the exterior wall, larger than a dryer vent pipe but along the same idea, set at about waist level. I looked at it and pondered, and then bent over and went underneath so that someone outside couldn't see me coming and either shoot me through the pipe or get set for my imminent appearance at the door. I handled this exercise fine, though, as already noted, I didn't have to do any target discrimination.
There was a long hallway with two rooms on the left side. I hugged the right side, shotgun at shoulder and muzzle low, to maintain distance and get the best view, as I approached the side entry to the left. After clearing that room I had to re-enter the long hallway, which had been out of my sight for the time it took me to clear the room. I told Jack, who'd been following me, that I assumed that someone could have entered the hallway while my vision was blocked, and that I would exit looking to my left (toward the uncleared portion of the house) and then whirl to my right to check the hall toward the door where I'd entered. I'd turn away from him so that he would never face my muzzle. I switched to muzzle-high to keep the shotgun close to my body for the operation. I was disappointed to find that nobody had reset the original target in the hallway to reward my caution.
It was either Wednesday or Thursday that we did a nonstandard team exercise in one of the gullies. Since we were so few, and so good, and we had two pairs of people who were accustomed to the idea of working in teams already, they let us go through the gully two at a time. This is fraught with hazards, since the logical thing to do is let the man on the right clear targets on the left — same way you'd do it alone — and this puts muzzles in dangerous directions. But we were hot and they let us do it, after a dry run for each pair. The seals worked as a team of course, and so did the PJs, and I teamed up with Herschel. (This was my proudest moment in the class: Herschel trusted me to go through the gully with him, with live ammunition.)
We did the first run dry, with me on the side of the gully that did the most shooting. Then we ran it picture-perfect with live ammo; though we didn't have the target spotting problems that are my real difficulty. After discussions all around each team did it one more time, and this time I had a coup: After a long shot at the end of the gully, requiring a select-slug, I knew there were no other targets down there but played the game anyway, carefully edging out until I could see to the other side, and there WAS another one! Some instructor had tried to TRICK me! I did another select slug and put the second popper down.
94/03/10 Thursday: There seem to be changes out this way. As I mentioned, El Charro's has gone to all-nonsmoking. (Most of the cafes here are all- smoking.) Even in Chino Valley I've seen some funny sights. At breakfast the other day there was a rugged-looking cowboy reading a paperback book. And at dinner a couple days ago another cowboy was drinking a cup of tea. What the hell's going on?
It was cold again last night, but no heavy fog like the one that came up between 5 and 6 yesterday. The fog burned off and the rest of the day, and the day today, were clear as a bell. We could clearly see the snowy mountains of Flagstaff, which I believe are something like 90 miles away.
There's a raven-haired beauty in the 350 class who purports to be a cop from LA. Another in the 250 class is a cop in Lake Havasu. Both look like male ornaments rather than people, let alone cops. 350 was picked up by an LA fireman on Monday morning, and as Russ says, she follows him around like a puppy dog. Neither of them carries herself like a cop. They stand with their ankles crossed, feet together, so that a gust of wind would knock them over.
I have a hell of a bruise on my shoulder, but it doesn't hurt in the least. Both thumbs and the index finger on the right hand are different matters. Tape everywhere. No problem.
94/03/11 Friday: During the night exercise last night I noticed a bright glow from the Rolex of Jack Furr. We tried an experiment, and his watch was visible from considerably further away than his form could be made out. My own watch, being 10 years old, is significantly less bright but still visible.
I don't know how significant this is. Certainly for a searcher with a flashlight it's irrelevant, since the light used during the search is much brighter than the watch dial. It might be more significant for the object of the search, if the searcher were depending on natural light or on high-tech night vision equipment rather than an ordinary flashlight. (I remember a Dashiel Hammett story where the detective put his own watch against a wall and sighted on it across the room; when the light went out he fired, knowing that his searcher was between him and the dial.)
Russ said that his tritium night sights were the envy of the class. I believe that there is a narrow band of lighting conditions in which targets can be made out but sights cannot be, and I'd like to have the sights for that, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to pay the price. (I remember one exercise at my home range in Westborough in which I turned out the range lights and fired from about 10 yards using the glow from the classroom lights through the windows. It was possible to stand in such a way that my shadow from the window fell on the sights, effectively obliterating them, while the target was still clearly visible. A step or two either way would make them visible again, but it was impossible to engage from that distance without seeing the sights against the target. This could easily happen by moonlight or street light, I guess.)
I may be underestimating the SEALs, intellectually speaking — or at least one of them. Last night, Aaron — the squat "Colombian" (he's US, of course) — gave us a tour of the constellations as we were standing around in the night exercise. I asked the pronunciation of "Pleades", or however it's spelled, and he said he thought it was "plea-a-deez", not whatever my second guess was. When one of the PJs mentioned a big mockup of a Greek temple and town in Las Vegas, Aaron corrected him gently: "Roman, not Greek; Caesar's Palace, you know."
And Herschel — the retired Master Chief seal from team 5, I think — gave us a reading list to understand the Arab world better. Three books for 3 different factions. The only one I clearly remember was by a woman named Harper.
On the other hand, the other seal, Joe, doesn't appear to run very deep. Could be wrong, of course. He's a good leg-puller, I'll give him that. One of his earlobes is slightly misshapen, and Herschel asked about it. Joe considered whether he could divulge that information, and then said a guy bit it in a fight. "Dja put him in the hospital?" Joe paused again, considering, with his trademark tight-lipped, narrow-eyed gaze into the far distance (checking to make sure the Hittites weren't pouring over the hill about to surprise us), then said "I killed that fucker." "No! Did you really? Good for you." And Herschel continued to try to pry the story out of Joe until he finally admitted that it was a birthmark.
When Mack complained about the lack of activity in his chosen profession, he said that he suspected that the seals are more active, on operations pretty frequently. Joe just continued searching the distant darkness (this was the night shoot) as if he hadn't heard the implied question. The clear implication was that he could answer the question, but he'd have to kill us afterward. My guess is that he doesn't want to mention all the "if it moves, salute it! if it doesn't, paint it!" bullshit that he goes through with every other military unit in the history of the world.
Russ mentioned last night that he overheard Herschel say that he learned all his best dirty jokes in law school.
The night outdoor search exercise was interesting. I was loaned an end-button Laser Products flashlight, which I used in the support hand under the forend. It had a red filter on it and I scanned across and back in a 2- or 3-second motion, hoping to pick up something as I scanned over it. When I saw a target I dropped the light (secured to my wrist by a thong, and which went out when I stopped pushing the button) and fired. The only problem with this technique was that I tended to mistake the muzzle flash for the sparks of a hit, and so when I missed I wouldn't re- engage.
It wasn't easy to move the light fast enough to avoid drawing fire and still slow enough to pick up a target. I missed seeing several until quite close, or worse, went past them. But Herschel told me that I was doing things right, I just had to practice more if I wanted to get proficient. He pointed out that I don't have to shoot to practice this; it's enough to move through the woods with the light in the right way, gaining experience so that I can pick up a target — or whatever — with minimal exposure to light. He suggested getting together with a friend and putting things in the woods, then sending the other person out with a light to find them.
In fact, it certainly appears that it'd be very difficult to find someone by using a light without being spotted long before. I'm very strongly disinclined to search in the dark for someone who might be inclined to shoot. If it's stupid to go looking for someone in daylight, rather than waiting for him, it's far worse to do so in the dark, when a faint gleam from your light won't show him up and will show him where you are.
It was either Thursday or Friday when we did a hostage exercise with buckshot. Yes, it can be done. No, it isn't risk-free. The idea is to aim at the badhat's outside eye up to about 7 yards, and the outside ear up to about 10 yards, and not to do this at all at ranges much greater than 10. A ball can fly wide at just about any range, and the wad can strike with sufficient force to maim or blind. But if there's no alternative, you CAN take out a person with a hostage in front using buckshot. (If you use Jack's philosophy of using slugs all the time then the problem doesn't arise. You just shoot at the bad guy from any range from point-blank to the maximum at which you know you can keep your slug off the hostage — which may not be very far, if they're moving around in a struggle. Still may have the wad problem, though, or sabot strikes if that's the style of slug you're using.)
94/03/12 Saturday: It's interesting to hear the approach to use of the safety here. On several occasions, Jack told me that it was my choice whether the safety was on or off; he made a remark echoing Cooper's about how the safety's irrelevant if the trigger finger is well trained in rule 3, and if the brain's working. One such occasion was just before going into the Firebox indoor simulator.
This contrasts to the attitude conveyed by Manny Kapelsohn in his class: The safety must be on unless the gun is pointed at a target, AND the finger's on the trigger, AND the decision to fire has been made.
It also contrasts to the doctrine on use of the pistol safety. I remember catching hell from Mike Harries in the first indoor simulator for not using the safety, since it would have detected the failure of the slide to return to battery that I encountered. They were adamant about putting the safety on as soon as the gun went to guard position, as the finger went straight.
I always kept the safety on; I certainly can't mount the gun any faster than I can thumb off the safety, so it doesn't cost me anything. (One of the features of the indoor ready position — butt at shoulder, muzzle depressed until support hand hits leg, body semi-crouched — is that the muzzle doesn't cover any point of the searcher's body.)
On Friday we did a little with retention techniques for the shotgun. A one-hand grab is defeated by rotating the muzzle to the inside, that is to the grabber's left if he grabbed with the right hand, to pop off the fingers starting with the little finger and moving out. In all cases the stock should be moved closer to the body, possibly hugged against the side with the strong elbow, which gives you good leverage to move the muzzle around so that it points at the grabber, at which time you can shoot him off the end.
Naturally the best move is to prevent the grab entirely. You should keep your distance where possible. You should approach corners or tight places which could hide a grabber using the low indoor ready stance: butt to shoulder, support hand on support-side thigh. And you should approach a corner from the opposite side wall (if you can, though a T gives problems of course) to maximize distance.
Most important marksmanship tips: elbows as mentioned already. For long-range precision shots, no grip with left hand at all, just cradle the handle. Lean into the recoil. Thumb on the tang, rather than wrapped around — though with the high glass I'm using the thumb can't pop me because my head is too high. Reload with the gun elevated at shoulder if possible (gets heavy eventually). Try to shoot click-rack rather than clrack, since the jerk on the forend can move the shot off the target at longer ranges. And that's essential for slug shots.
For searches, use ray-out, ray-in technique rather than bands.
Gunsite teaches reloading with one round at a time. (That is, keep the gun full, but if you shoot two then reload one and then another rather than trying to do it two at a time.) Might try 2 at a time using Ayoob's methods, though that requires a holder which presents the rounds oriented; a random grab from a bag won't do the trick.
Aaron impressed me again yesterday by asking me about graphics packages such as AutoCad, which could take a file from, say, Wordperfect, manipulate it like a graph, and then put it back into WP form. (I told him to talk to Russ, who knows things about user packages, and don't ask Mr. Internals here.)
Aaron was also the most accomplished of the small group of us playing hacky around the classroom while we waited for the barbeque to get underway on the afternoon of the night shoot. (Herschel was with us.)
Lots of coyote and great horned owl action each night.
I did really well in tactics in the outdoor simulator run yesterday, though my shooting was a trifle ragged. (I got the one-round hits with buck, though I was getting a lot of dirt too.) Jack singled me out in group discussion as someone whose brain was working overtime in tactical movement.
I don't hope for an expert certification — basically, you're as good as us — but I think highly of my performance and hope for marksman 1. I think everyone in our group will get that, or better.
At some point, I was talking with Aaron about age limits for the seals, and he said that the limit for getting in was 31. You weren't thrown out at 31, you just couldn't get in if you were older than that. He said that even 31 was tough, if you weren't already in that kind of shape: "It's tough for an old guy like that to make it; his body doesn't recover as quickly, doesn't heal as quickly", or words to that effect. Eye-opening to have someone 10 years younger than I am referred to as an old guy.
94/03/13 Sunday: By god! I did get expert! In fact, everyone in the class did. And Russ won the shootoff in his 250 class. (He received Marksman 1, as did number 2 Nixon, so we presume that there were no E tickets in the 250 class.)
I shot well in the "school exercises":
1 shot at 7 in 1 second (5 times) 10 1.5 15 3 shots at 10 as fast as possible 2 10, reload 2, 2 more shots, as fast as possible 1 35 in 2 seconds with a slug (5 times) 50 3All shots from outdoor ready. The slugs were on the Gunsite target; the others (all 00 buck) on a plate.
Shootoff: Load shotgun magazine, chamber empty, safety your choice, racked. Both shooters sitting a few feet from the shotguns. On signal, rise and grab gun, rack round into chamber, put down two poppers at about 15 yards without hitting hostage between them (the hostage popper overlapped the two bad guys), then select a slug and put down plate at 50 yards.
I went first, and lost 2 straight to Mack. (That boy is pretty amazing with his bead-sighted shotgun.) Then I beat Joe 2/3. Mack meanwhile lost to someone, so he and I were paired again, and I lost again, to put me out. Final standing: Nick, Aaron, Mack, me, Joe. I was quite disappointed in my long shooting, and so were Herschel and Jack.
We ate behind the classroom — burgers and whatnot — and assembled for passing out certificates. I saw Russ and asked how he did. Pretty good, he said. Who won the shootoff? "Well, I guess I did." His buddy Nixon, a college professor from Utah, was second. Nice man, we had dinner at Charro's on Friday. Third was Lisa. Very nice lady. All three are lefties, the only ones in the class.
When I saw my certificate and noted the expert rating, I was shocked. Herschel told me it was most unusual to have 5 E tickets in one class. Jack said that when I showed up with a Mossberg and an optical sight they laughed — Mossbergs aren't supposed to hold up — but said that they soon stopped laughing.
We were told on the first morning that the expert classification was something to be very proud of, because few get it. "It means that you can help us." I happen to know that it doesn't mean that you'll be hired on the spot as a Gunsite instructor, though. I mentioned to Jack that I do a lot of instructing in a small way back home, and he told me to go teach some shotgun. And Herschel mentioned that they travel and present courses on the road, and if they get up my way they'll give me a call for assistance.
After the usual farewells we went to Cooper's house per his invitation earlier in the week. His wife Janelle had tea and lemonade and brownies, which she useta hand out on Sunday evening to the campers. There were about 12 of us, admiring the house and eventually collecting in his study, or armory, or whatever it is and talking until about 1700, when we tore ourselves away to head back to Phoenix.
The grillwork door to Cooper's bedroom wasn't quite what I had imagined. Nothing's visible from the door except a longish hallway, at the end of which is a door opening to the side where (I presume) the bedroom proper lies. So, although the door will pass bullets in, someone standing at the door can't see anyone in the bedroom to shoot at. A defender could just wait beside the further door and poke a gun and an eye around occasionally to discourage anyone from working too strenuously on the iron door.
Janelle remembered me from three years ago, she said. I was impressed, especially since the only time she saw me was on Saturday morning when she was taking checks. (I was walking around when she came by with the brownies.) But then she remembered Russ too, and he'd never been there before.
Cooper had many fascinating stories, and he wasn't shy about handing around guns to be admired and dry-fired. He had one story about how he felt badly about possibly being the single greatest influence leading to the switch from revolvers to autos in the nation's police forces. If they'd learn to shoot he'd be proud of it; but as it is, he feels himself to be the father of "spray and pray".
Before I left, I told Cooper that all the instructors had nothing but praise and respect for him. (This doesn't mean they thought there was no room for improvement. A number of them mentioned that he was quite inflexible as a teacher. You will teach soandso between 0950 and 1045, using 30 rounds of ammo. And if they need more time, or more ammo, tough. And if they have it down already, and need less time or less ammo, then just keep talking, cause you can't move on. And no, we don't need fancier equipment — like slide projectors for friend/foe situations, etc.) Cooper seemed annoyed. Well, if they're working for the current administration, they can't have that much respect! He seemed to think that the correct thing to do was for everyone to quit in a body, bankrupting Jee and forcing his hand. But then he paused and reflected that it's all very well for a man with the price of a steak dinner to criticize the actions of those who don't have the price; but if you have to work to get your next meal, perhaps you'd see it a bit differently. Then he smiled in that disarming unexpected way that he shows occasionally, and I hope that he might feel a little differently.
I made the same comment to Mrs. Cooper, and she bowed slightly and smiled and said that she was glad to hear it. My god, what a gracious woman! She's a lovely old lady, slim and alert and sharp in conversation.
Cooper mentioned that Dick O'Kane, skipper of the Tang, died just a few months ago. (See Clear the Bridge! by O'Kane if you're a fan of World War 2 submarine stories.)
I wish I could draw. I have an idea for a drawing to present the experience of being in Cooper's armory. There'd be a clear drawing of Cooper on his stool in the corner of the room, toying with the skinning knife. Around him on the walls are rifles, handguns, and trophies, with the lion skin on the floor. Sitting in a circle around the room are 8 or 9 faces turned toward his, listening raptly. The only thing that'd be clearly drawn would be Cooper himself, with the room pretty clear, the audience quite hazy, and perhaps a faint but sharp background image of a man aiming a rifle at a buffalo.
After returning home from the class it became clear that I damaged my elbow somehow — repetitive motion in pumping that shotgun, I think. It's never been the same, and tends to stiffen up and hurt on motion. Not getting any better at any detectable rate, either. I'm in the market for an auto now. Better get rolling with it, too, since yesterday the "assault weapon" ban passed in the house and one of the provisions is a large-capacity fixed magazine (more than 5 rounds) for shotguns, I think.
I went to a gun shop after getting home to check on Gunsite's prices for birdshot — they charged $1.15 PER ROUND for the stuff. Sure enough, the prices for a box of 25 varied from 5 to 6 dollars around here. I wrote an outraged letter to Jee, and just a couple of days later I got a call from Jack Furr, full-time Gunsiter and my chief range officer in the shotgun class, who told me that Jee gave him the letter and told him to handle it. Jack said that someone made a data entry error; the price should have been some specific number between 5 and 6 bucks for a box of 25. I got a check in the mail a day or two later for a hundred and thirty bucks. I feel much better.