Showing posts with label shooting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shooting. Show all posts

05 January 2020

New Year's Punch


It’s been a weird New Year from the go. Before digging into Floridians shooting one another, I present a shooting puzzle you will likely know, but stumped the director of the Father Brown mystery series.

In Season 5, Episode 6 (S05E06), ’The Eagle and the Daw’, Inspector Mallory picks up a revolver and sniffs it. He pronounces it recently fired. He flips open the cylinder to the scene here and says, “One shot fired.”

Father Brown (S05E06) revolver scene
Father Brown (S05E06) revolver inspection scene

What, pray tell, is wrong with this picture? Find the answer below.

Getting a Bang out of Holiday Celebrations

I thought I lived in a reasonably safe neighborhood, but in Florida, guns, alcohol, and celebrations don’t mix. I can’t get used to Floridians firing off guns and firecrackers to honor the birth of the Christ child.
42 Lo, in the East, rose a light.  43 Three wise men gazed at the brightness in the sky.  44 One said, “My comrades, hark! Shooting stars!”

45 “Nay,” said the second Maji.   46 “Tis shooting.”

47 “Verily. Let us ride,” said the third man.  48 “Let us take our gold and thou that… that… that weird stuff you have and let us celebrate peace and holiness by shooting lots of guns and ammo as we eat, drink, and be merry.”
Many years ago, a Floridian died from a bullet fired into the air. Do people learn? At midnight, a bullet took out a sizeable chunk of plaster above the television a neighbor was watching. Nothing rings in Sunshine State holidays like celebratory shooting.

Maximum Bang

As for current Florida New Year weirdness, another contributing factor has been a double murder bare hours into the year at a nightclub a mere stroll from my house. Did I say I thought my neighborhood safe?

And More…

A close scrape rattled me. I agreed to install a laser sight on an automatic pistol for friends. When I pulled it from its holster, I was chilled to find both Phoenix Arms safeties off. I set the safeties, removed the magazine, and installed the sight.

I grew up with revolvers and rifles, not automatics. We were strictly taught to leave the revolver slot under the hammer empty to avoid accidents. Don’t chamber a cartridge unless you intend to shoot. And always unload when not in use. As R.T. and I once discussed… guns are tools, not toys.

I suddenly realized that in my surprise when handed a ready-to-fire weapon, I hadn’t checked the breech. The hair on my neck rose.

I belatedly inspected. Damn, there lay a chambered cartridge. I said some strong words, including a lecture of how many Americans get themselves killed. My words meant zilch: Common knowledge has it bad guys with disdain for safeties always carry fully chambered rounds.

O’Neil wrote me about his police training. His conservative instincts were similar to mine, but NOPD policing is not a casual profession. New Orleans police were taught to always be ready to shoot.

My uncle believed that. His young son put a bullet through their dining room ceiling.

Still Puzzled?

closeup of revolver cylinder
Closeup of revolver cylinder (Father Brown)

As you already spotted, no shots had been fired. The inspector, or rather the episode director, mistook the empty chamber (deliberately left vacant for safety reasons described above) for a fired chamber.

cartridges with live and fired caps
unfired round — fired cartridge
As shown in the photos here, ammunition contain ‘caps’ that hold a primer charge. When the hammer strikes the cap, the primer explodes causing the powder to discharge. The hammer leaves a dent in the fired cap, unique to each gun.

The inspector could have said one bullet was missing, but he couldn’t say one bullet had been fired.

Please, have a safe new year!

23 January 2019

Stopping Power


"You know that's my ought-six - look at the size of that hole!"
                                                                                           (The Wild Bunch)
There's a longstanding disagreement in gun circles about how much gun you need, which is basically unanswerable. Talking about caliber and magazine capacity, bullet weight and muzzle velocity, is like talking to fly fisherman about lures. Everything's relative, and in the end, it all comes down to whether or not you catch the fish.

The benchmark people generally use is the one-shot stop. In point of fact, a .22 short in the back of the head will kill you, and it's conventional wisdom that mob hitters like it because the .22 short is subsonic, so you can use a suppressor. On the other hand, if we're talking about a person of large body mass charging at us with a sharpened screwdriver in their hand, and possibly whacked out on Angel Dust, many law enforcement personnel would choose the .45 ACP, which has a solid, immediate impact.

More than a few things come into play here, not least adrenaline and endorphins. FBI studies indicate that the average number of rounds fired in a close engagement are two-point-something. Obviously, this means some people empty a full magazine and some people never get a shot off, but for the sake of argument, let's simply say that if you're lucky, you'll have time for two shots. Your range instructor will tell you to aim for center body mass - but he or she won't say 'aim,' they want you to point and shoot, they want you to acquire the modified Weaver with muscle memory, don't second-guess yourself, let the reptile brain lock it in.

The rest is kinetic energy.

In the 1870's, during the Indian Wars, the U.S. Army issue sidearm was the Colt single-action, chambered in .45 Long Colt. These were replaced in 1892 by a double-action revolver, with a swing-out cylinder for the faster reload, in .38 caliber.  In the Philippine Campaign, the .38's proved ineffective, and eventually the Army adopted the .45 ACP autoloader designed by John Browning, the 1911.

Cop shops follow fashion, of course. For many years, everybody carried .38's. Revolvers, usually Smiths or Colts, the Model 10 or the Police Positive. And they shot off-hand, body at right-angles to the target, the shooter's arm fully extended. The two-handed stances, Isosceles and Weaver, were a later development. Same with the ammo. Sometime in the 1960's, the .357 S&W Magnum, developed some years earlier by Elmer Keith, hot-loading the .38 Special, found new favor with state troopers and highway patrol. With a muzzle velocity of 1200 to 1500 feet per second, the .357 readily penetrated an unarmored vehicle.

Then, in the 1980's (and I may not have the dates exactly right - or maybe the shift isn't all that exact, either), a lot of big-city police departments went to semi-autos, Smith, Sig, and Glock. They were primarily high-capacity nine-millimeters: Glock furnished a 17-round magazine. Not everybody was a fan.

One cop I know told me a story. He and his partner had a felony traffic stop. They approach the car on either side. His partner's over by the driver's door. The passenger points a weapon at him. My buddy's taken up position by the right front fender. He draws his gun and fires. And misses, from no more than five feet away. Because the curve of the windshield deflects his first shot. The muzzle velocity of the 9MM is 1500 fps, but the bullet weight is too light. Heavy and slow is more effective.

For all I know, this story is apocryphal, or exaggerated for effect. When cops tell war stories, they tend to tell the self-deprecating ones, where they're the butt of the joke. I think the story's true, though. You hear GI's say similar things about the Beretta nine - it underperforms. You want something that puts the other guy down flat on his ass.

To this end, the FBI cozied up to the 10MM, a pet project of Col. Jeff Cooper, who was also an enormous influence on combat pistol shooting generally (he founded what later became Gunsite). The first pistol chambered for it, the Bren Ten, was essentially a boutique gun, but Colt came out with the Delta Elite, and Smith with the 1076. It turned out the 10MM had too much felt recoil for a lot of shooters. and the grip frame was cumbersome, a consequence of the oversize magazines. (In the event, FBI Hostage Rescue and SWAT teams use the 10MM, but it's a specialty weapon.) Smith & Wesson shortened the cartridge case and came up with the .40 Smith, now one of the most widely used commercial loads in law enforcement.

There is, in all of this, an orphan. Back in the late 1920's, the .38 Super was introduced, a pistol cartridge designed for the recoil-operated 1911 automatic, based on the .38 ACP but loaded to higher pressures. It was hot. It would go through a car, it could penetrate a bulletproof vest. John Dillinger is said to have carried one. 

Now, truth be told, I didn't know from the .38 Super, because it had fallen from favor. It got knocked off its perch by the .357 Mag. The first I heard about was when it made a cameo appearance in Stephen Hunter's Black Light - a shoot-out in a cornfield with Bob Lee Swagger's dad, Earl - and it was characterized as a real pistolero's weapon. Come to find out, Steve Hunter hadn't been conversant with the .38 Super, either. He found out about it when he was reading up on The Wild Bunch, and it turns out they couldn't use .45's in the movie, because the 1911 wouldn't cycle .45 blanks. You could only fire one shot. The workaround was that they bought surplus .38 Supers down in Mexico, and the guns ran all day.

OK, if you're Steve Hunter, what do you do with that information? You say to yourself, How soon can I get me one? (And as a footnote, what do you do if you're me, with that information? You go on GunBroker.com)

I know you're rolling the tape back - why Mexico? Because in Mexico, and a number of other countries in Central and South America, they restrict the heavier pistol calibers to military and police. You can't legally own a .45, for example. (We're not talking about the cartels, we're talking about legal civilian use.) The heaviest chambering allowed is the .38 Super, and there's a big after-market.



I know much of this is only of interest to gear nuts like me (or Steve Hunter), but it has to do with getting things right, which means knowing what questions to ask. I love picking up odd details, and often as not the collateral information is every bit as interesting as whatever your original focus was. We're magpies, distracted by something glittery in our peripheral vision.

01 March 2018

The Dark Keeps Rising


It's March 1st, and there's been more than one trouble in River City, a/k/a the United States The Florida Parkland school shooting on 2/14/18 left 17 dead Back on 1/23/18, Benton Kentucky, a school shooting left 2 dead, 17 injured Back 11/7/17, Sutherland Springs, TX, a church shooting killed 26 people. So much safety So much safety…

Many people long for a return to the innocent heartland of America - family farms, playing children, hardworking parents, country cooking, and family values. And that's all true, along with feedlots (nothing like the smell of cow poop in the morning), lakes that are stinking green with phosphorus fertilizer runoff, and, sadly, home-grown terrorists:

Monson_mugscopy_WEB

The above five people were all arrested in Willmar, MN (pop. 19,610). Police search yielded methamphetamine, pills, cocaine, numerous firearms and ammunition. The firearms recovered included handguns, rifles, shotguns, and submachine guns. They also found homemade silencers, night vision goggles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and numerous items believed to be explosive. But wait, there's more! They also found books on incendiary devices and - my favorite item - a strap-on fake penis called a “Whizzinator,” sometimes used to evade drug tests. And yes, there was a concrete bunker and at least one minor child living in the home (Twin Cities Pioneer Press)

My favorite local blogger, Cory Heidelberger, looked these up people on-line, and found that Thomas Quimby of Willmar likes to express his Alex Jones, anti-Muslim, White Pride beliefs while Chad Monson likes to post lots of cute Minions memes about killing people (Dakota Free Press) And they weren't fooling: According to the criminal complaint, Monson had told someone that he had the addresses of a judge, a prosecutor and another attorney and intended to use explosives in or near their homes and vehicles.

Don't you feel safer knowing that this guy - THESE guys - had an arsenal?

636505918771903642 ARTIS KATTENBERG.JPGMeanwhile, our Willmar group isn't the only crazy around Meet Artis Kattenberg of Brandon, SD She and her son went to a church in northwest Iowa, where fellow churchgoers got nervous when they realized that the son was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a gun into the sanctuary Eventually a Rock Valley, IA police officer called her to ask about it, and she told him that her son was an "Ethan Bot" (video game, Call of Duty Infinite Warfare), and that "he'd have to get a hold of the secretary of defense." There was also an intense encounter between the Kattenbergs and church elders, who asked them to no longer attend church A few weeks later, two of the church members were victims of drive-by shootings (No one was hurt.)
Some of the stash.
Courtesy Minnehaha County Sheriff's Office

At that point, the Iowa authorities contacted the Brandon Police, who paid a call on the Kattenbergs. They found a bunker, with 80 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Some of the weapons were fully automatic. They also had tactile vests, and high end optics that included nightvision, infrared, thermal optics. Captain Jason Gearman of Minnehaha County said, "They've been purchasing $3,000- $7,000 worth of weapons pretty, pretty continuously for every three to five months."

Now, being the naive young thing I am, I would have thought - I would have hoped - that buying that many guns and ammo every 3-5 months would have registered, somewhere, that something might be wrong.. But no... (I'm going to get into the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act in a minute.) My husband just asked, "where did they get all this money?" and so far no one's answered THAT question, either

Anyway, all were purchased legally, locally, at Gary's Gun Shop and Scheels The employees remembered the Kattenbergs, because they talked about being spies, hating the government, having microchips in their brain, and, of course, the fact that the son was actually a warrior from a video game You know, the usual stuff BTW, the guns were in the 16 year old's name (Argus Leader)

And, of course, the neighbors never saw anything "They were inside most of the time. The only time we ever saw them was their truck coming in and out of the driveway."

In case you're wondering, the charges against the Kattenbergs are: 2nd Degree Criminal Mischief/Aiding and Abetting, a Class “D” Felony: Reckless Use of a Firearm/Aiding and Abetting, an Aggravated Misdemeanor; and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, a Misdemeanor. Her juvenile son is charged with: 2nd Degree Criminal Mischief; and Reckless Use of a Firearm (Kiwaradio) That's it That's all they are charged with

Don't you feel safer knowing these two had a bunker, loaded with guns and ammo?

How long, O Lord, how long?


Meanwhile, if you need an AR-15 to hunt with, I hate to think what you're hunting And other Armalite manufactures Did you know that the AR-15 and AR-18 were the favorite weapons of the IRA during the Irish Troubles? They even had their own song - "Little Armalite" Believe me, if the Irish can disarm, or "decomission" as they called it, which they did in 2005, anyone can do it, even the United States of America (See "IRA Arms Decommissioned".)

Supreme Court Building
Anyway, to all those who claim that AR-15s are their constitutional right - well, they're wrong On November 27, 2017 SCOTUS refused to challenge Maryland's ban on assault weapons and assault-style weapons that included AR-15s, which means that SCOTUS agrees that none of these are covered by the 2nd Amendment (Reuters) Nor does SCOTUS see open-carry as a 2nd Amendment right Not only that, but back when District of Columbia v. Heller gave individuals the constitutional right to own private handguns, Antonin Scalia, perhaps the least liberal justice to ever serve, said:
"Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms...
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons...." (Heller)
Sorry, guys No, I'll take that back I'm not sorry at all I'm ecstatic that they're not a 2nd Amendment right I just wish they were also illegal They were, you know: The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, banned the manufacture, use, possession and import of 19 types of assault weapons, including AK-47s and Uzis. It expired in 2004. The NRA has since successfully kept it from being re-enacted.

Can we talk about how the NRA is registered as a non-profit organization?
Can we talk about how Wayne LaPierre makes $5 million a year?
Can we talk about how much lobbying the NRA is doing, have done, and plans to do?
Can we talk about the way the NRA sends out letters to politicians and judges, asking them to provide - in writing - their stance on guns and the 2nd Amendment, saying, "If you choose not to return a position letter, you may be assigned a “?” rating, which can be interpreted by our membership as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second-Amendment related issues"? (Snopes)
Can we talk about how this is extortion, at the very least, and should be 1000% illegal?

Meanwhile, let's talk about gun laws Some people will tell you that we have plenty of gun laws, they just need to be enforced Yes, we do and they do, but the laws have also been either gutted or "allowed to expire" (See the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act above).

(1) There are laws that stop convicted domestic abusers from getting guns are strictly enforced BUT - there are loopholes! Oh, let me count the loopholes.
First, stalkers, boyfriends get a pass (you have to have been "intimate" with the victim).
Second, there's no clause about taking the weapons they already have away from them, so if they're already armed, they stay armed.
Third, the law doesn't apply during the temporary restraining order period, which is when most women get killed by their abuser.
Fourth, there's the HUGE problem that military, police departments, and other groups somehow keep "slipping up" on registering people. The convicted domestic abuser who killed 26 people at a Texas church back in November 7, 2017 never had his name put into the national database that would have barred him from buying weapons The Air Force - which had courtmartialed him for fracturing his baby stepson's skull - failed to enter it And, after the furor about that, the Air Force realized it "forgot" to enter almost 5,000 names of people convicted of domestic violence (NBC News)

Looking through microfilm at the
National Tracing Center - GQ
(2) There's a national registry of guns, and that should always be checked! Oh, my dears, there isn't one The 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act bans states or federal agencies from building gun registries. That's right, the National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data. What they have is on microfilm, without any index. Nada. (Seriously, read the GQ Article, "Inside the Federal Bureau of Way Too Many Guns", and meet Charlie. "They can use pictures of paper, like microfilm (they recently got the go-ahead to convert the microfilm to PDFs), as long as the pictures of paper are not searchable. You have to flip through and read. No searching by gun owner. No searching by name." Pretty effing useless, isn't it?

(3) Enforce the law felons don't get guns. Except - and you knew there'd be an exception, didn't you?
Exception #1: The 1965 amendment to the federal Firearms Act of 1938 allows felons who want to own a gun the ability to apply for "relief from the disability of not being able to possess a gun." Unsurprisingly in many states (ahem, ahem) they get them!
Exception #2: White collar felons aren't included in the ban And, of course, if a felon get their felony expunged, pardoned, etc., they're good to go.

(4) Make sure the mentally ill don't get guns Besides the argument that it's toxic rage, not mental illness, that's behind mass shootings (and I believe this about 99.9%), in order to be banned from owning a weapon, you have to be involuntarily committed - but if your stay doesn't exceed 72 hours (no matter how many times this happens), it doesn't count towards your ability to buy / own weapons So you could be involuntarily committed 20 times a year and, as long as you got out before 72 hours, you're good to go And Donald Trump himself signed an Executive Order repealing the (admittedly small) attempt Obama implemented to keep people who were getting mental illness disability from owning weapons.

(5) Background checks, background checks, background checks. We've all heard about the Brady Bill requiring background checks EXCEPT there's a couple of major flaws:
First Loophole: Immediately after it passed, the NRA launched lawsuits in nine states to declare the Brady Bill unconstitutional, and finally struck gold In 1997, in Printz v. The United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the provision of the Brady Act that compelled state and local law enforcement officials to perform the background checks was unconstitutional, so it's on a voluntary basis
Second Loophole: Gun shows and other private sales - including sales over the internet - are exempt from the Brady Bill requiring background checks and complete forms, sales records etc., since "any person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of the state where they reside, as long as they do not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms" (Wikipedia)
Third Loophole: Background checks only work one way Thanks - again - to the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act, a firearms dealer can get electronic information about the purchaser, but the FBI and the ATF do not get electronic information in return to let them know what firearms are being purchased Or how many Or how often Which is why our local crazies Kattenbergs could purchase $3,000-$7,000 worth of firearms every three months and nobody got any red flags...

We have a lot of work to do to get sane gun laws back in this country.

And as for the idea of arming teachers.. Well, these memes say it better than I could:
Image may contain: 1 person, text Image may contain: 1 person, text Image result for meme teachers protect students don't get raises credit
Make that THREE deputies who froze Which is the point, because you don't know who'll freeze until it happens.
And the 18% is true See HERE
And if they arm teachers, will they have to buy the guns the way they have to buy classroom supplies?
















Another major meme going around is that all would be well if we just restored prayer in schools Look, if prayer is going to do the trick, then how come that white supremacist punk shot up a black church AFTER sitting through their prayer meeting? Or the November 7, 2017 shooting by the convicted domestic abuser in a Texas church which killed 26 people? And don't forget the 2006 shooting in an Amish school which killed 5 Amish girls All of these were places of prayer.

I believe in prayer I do a lot of it But I also believe that we need ungutted regulations and laws, because the dark never stops rising, and we have to fight it all the time.

Anyway, that's the latest from South Dakota, where I WISH we were the only ones who talk like Mayberry, and act like Goodfellas while the crazy just keeps on coming.



02 August 2013

Anybody Down Range?


by R.T. Lawton

In the Hollywood version of our Old West, the movie makers would have us picture the hero stepping out into the dusty street of some cowboy town to face the story's villain. The two opponents stare at each other for a while to increase tension, and then the bad guy draws first. Naturally, our hero draws his weapon faster and shoots first. If he's really good, it only takes one shot to polish off the soon-to-be-deceased. And, the entire scene occurs at a distance of several paces between the combatants.

In reality, from what I've read in non-fiction, many of the Old West gunfights took place in a local store or saloon with roughly about ten feet separating the two arguing parties. In their anger/excitement/adrenaline, a nearby stove or innocent slow bystander was as likely to get plugged by the first shots as was the opposing shooter. How you ask, could this possibly happen at such close range?

Well, I'm glad you asked that question. In reply, here are a few antidotes and anecdotes to help tighten up your own shot group.

As most of you who have fired a handgun know, you line up the notch in the rear sight with the blade of the front sight. The top of the rear sight should be on a level line with the top of the blade of the front sight and there should be equal daylight on both sides of the front blade in order to make a correct sight pattern. The target to be shot then goes on top of the front blade, depending upon the distance to said target. Simple, huh?

Now we get into various factors affecting this simple process.

The Length of the Barrel

In 1971 when BNDD Class 15 graduated, all trainees were issued a S&W, .38 caliber, subnose, six-shot revolver. The short barrel was supposed to make the weapon more concealable when going undercover. Experts -- I have no idea who they were -- had determined that most shootouts in undercover situations took place at about the distance of six feet. Therefore, a short-barreled weapon should be suitable. Naturally, this did not help in situations where your opponent was at a greater distance. You see, assuming the same error deviancy in sight pattern between the rear and front sights, means a short-barreled weapon will increase the width of your shot grouping a lot more as the distance increases than will a long-barreled weapon. And that is if you are doing everything else correctly. For that reason, many agents soon changed over to personally owned weapons such as the Colt Combat Commander, and later to the larger of the Sig Sauers and Glocks. True, the larger calibers of these weapons had more knockdown power, but the longer barrels also provided more accuracy.

The Twitch of a Finger

One summer day, a law enforcement buddy of mine was off-duty at a lakeside park when a pickup truck drove up to where he was standing. The truck driver, a felon, appeared to suddenly recognize my friend. Whereupon the driver said a few unkind words and drew a pistol. Fortunately, this felon was drawing from an awkward sitting position. My friend beat the felon to a shooting readiness and blew three holes through the driver's side door at a distance of about six feet or so. Luckily, one round hit the felon in his shooting arm and the situation was concluded without further violence. How did the other two shots miss his intended target? Well, let's see, there's excitement/adrenaline, anticipating the shot and the position of the trigger finger for three possibilities.

Adrenaline coursing through a person's veins allows some people to lift a car off a loved one, or some soldiers to storm an enemy position without feeling the effects of wounds until the action is over, or lets some humans conduct super human efforts for a short time period. This naturally produced chemical in the body also affects the nervous system and makes for twitchy movements. A trigger finger does not do well with twitchy movements as you will soon see.

Anticipating the shot means you know the recoil and loud noise are coming, which usually means you react in advance by flinching and yanking the trigger. This reaction pulls up the nose of the barrel and your shot goes higher than you want. To see if you have this problem, dry fire your weapon (no ammo in the chamber or magazine, please). If you flinch when the hammer falls, you're anticipating a recoil and need to relax. Keep dry firing until the flinching stops.

Now we come to the position of the index finger on the trigger. Look at your shooting hand. The pad of the index finger, from the fingertip to the crease of the first knuckle, should be evenly centered on the trigger. If the fingertip portion pulls on the trigger, then the barrel gets pulled to the right and the round goes to the right of target center. However, if the crease of the first knuckle pulls the trigger, then the barrel gets pushed left and so goes the shot. The finger pad also needs to be centered up and down on the trigger. Put the finger pad too high and the barrel gets pulled up when fired; too low and the barrel gets pulled down. So, how do you correct these problems?

Practice, Practice, Practice

Go to the firing range and work on your anticipation and trigger finger position. When you have acquired a tight shot group, then start drawing and firing your weapon. Always practice as if you were in a real life situation. Use the same weapon you will be carrying and keep it in the same position on your body that you will be drawing it from. If from a holster, then always use a holster. For undercover purposes, most of us did not use holsters, the weapon went in the back of the waistband. For muscle memory and to help counterbalance the effects of adrenaline, keep as many circumstances the same as is possible, time after time. Then, when the action starts, your movements become automatic and natural.

In the early years, our range officers, to keep their firing ranges neat and tidy, would have us clean up as we went. When we finished firing from behind barricades (which simulated reality) the range officers would tell us to empty the casings from our revolver cylinders into nearby brass cans. Problem they found out later was that agents reacted in the field as they had been trained in the academy. When field agents got into a shootout, they would look around for the brass cans to empty their guns before they reloaded. You don't have time for that in a shootout.

Moral: Practice for reality. Train the way you will use it.

Now, go out and have some fun with paper targets. Hope you never need to shoot at the real thing, but if you do, do it right for your own safety and for those around you.

26 May 2012

A Lady of Many Talents


by John M. Floyd


I first saw Melodie Johnson Howe in the Varsity Theatre in Columbus, Mississippi.  Well, wait a minute, let me clarify that.  I was in the theatre; she wasn't.  She was in the movie.  While I and my goofy college buddies sat there in the dark, wolfing down popcorn and staring goggle-eyed, Melodie was up there on the big screen, smooching with Clint Eastwood.  The film was Coogan's Bluff, back in the late sixties, and I remember it to this day.

Little did I know (nor would I have believed) that years later I would actually meet this actress-turned-writer, and would be one of her colleagues and co-conspirators at the Criminal Brief mystery blog. The four years that I spent dreaming up weekly columns for CB were great fun, and one of the biggest perks was getting to know Melodie and the others in our motley gang--and learning from them.  Very honestly, reading her work has made me a better writer.

Which brings me, finally, to the reason for this column.  Crippen & Landru published a collection this year of some of Melodie's short mystery fiction, called Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories.  I just finished reading it, and even though I figured beforehand that I would enjoy it, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

Experience counts

In the book's introduction, Melodie says: "When I was twenty-one I was put under contract to Universal Studios.  I was one of the last starlets; one of the last contract players.  The times were changing and soon the entire studio system would be a free-for-all of lawyers, accountants, and independent production companies . . . This is the new Hollywood that the actress Diana Poole knows."

The fact that both Diana and her creator "know" Hollywood is one of the things that makes the series so much fun to read.  Diana's always either shooting a movie or auditioning for one, and the stories are packed with insider information about the film industry.  But remember, they're not just about Hollywood.  They're also about crime.  These are delicious and delightful little mysteries, and the resourceful Diana finds betrayal and deceit and dead bodies at every turn.

Shooting Hollywood contains nine Diana Poole stories, eight of which first appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.  The ninth, "Dirty Blonde" (the first story in the book and the first Diana story ever) made its debut in the Sisters in Crime 4 anthology.  I think my favorite story in the Poole collection might be "Another Tented Evening," which also appeared in a Criminal Brief anthology--but I enjoyed 'em all.

Other talents

Besides writing shorts, Melodie is the author of a play (The Lady of the House) and two novels (The Mother Shadow and Beauty Dies).  The Mother Shadow was nominated for an Edgar, an Anthony, and an Agatha, and The Lady of the House was produced by the Los Angeles Theatre Center and starred Salome Gens, Nan Martin, and Carol Lockatell.

Breaking news: Melodie just told me that she has finished a new Diana Poole novel, City of Mirrors, and that her agent has sent it out to various publishers.  She also said she's on pins and needles, waiting for one to say "Yes."

Dewey, Thrillum, and Howe

I am of course not the only one who likes her fiction.  According to The Boston Globe, "Howe spins a yarn that is precisely and intelligently paced, with broad and subtle humor, a plot that reminds one of just enough Ross Macdonald to be a compliment to both."  And EQMM says ". . . Howe is one of the genre's best short story writers and novelists."  If there are any of you out there who aren't familiar with Melodie and/or her writing, I hope you'll start reading her.  You won't be disappointed.

A final note: When I first met Melodie face-to-face in Baltimore a few years ago, I was not at all surprised to find that she's just as impressive in person as she is on the page and screen.  Seriously.

Melodie, if you're reading this, I hope to see you again soon--maybe at this year's Bouchercon.  Meanwhile, I'll try to catch you in an old movie or two.  (I found The Ride to Hangman's Tree awhile back on YouTube; Jack Lord looked a little out of place in the Old West, but your song-and-dance numbers made the movie fun to watch.)  And I'm always on the lookout for more of your stories in EQMM.

Keep up the good work.