Saturday, December 26, 2009
Firearm storage is a touchy subject with many people. Most gun owners know how to keep their weapons secure and out of the reach of unwanted people, or little fingers. There are also those who are uninitiated into the gun ownership way of life that automatically assume that guns should be kept unloaded in the house.
I am going to do my best to dispel the rumors regarding safe firearm storage and at the same time give some insight into what method works for me. There is no catch-all when it comes to safe storage of firearms, but a few basic rules do apply.
The first rule that you need be intimately familiar with is James' first universal rule regarding safe firearms handling and storage: GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED. If you do not yet understand this rule, then let me repeat: GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED. Even when guns are not loaded, they are to be considered loaded and must be handled as such. You wouldn't point a loaded weapon at your best friend would you? Of course not. So why point an unloaded weapon at him? Chances are you will blow his brains out because the weapon you thought was unloaded was, in fact, loaded. Many people are killed by weapons that were assumed to be unloaded.
Of course, a lot of stupid acts had to lead up to unnecessary accidental deaths involving firearms. Rules, such as keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, ensuring the safety was engaged, not pointing the gun at anything you didn't want to destroy, etc were ignored. All of these rules aside, the most important rule to understand is that a gun is always loaded even if it isn't loaded.
It is a pet peeve of mine to hear someone say that guns ought to be stored "unloaded." It contradicts basic firearms understanding. Guns are always loaded. Any competent shooter will tell you that. It is the naive and ignorant that make suppositions about guns being stored "unloaded."
I will let you in on a little secret. In my house, all of my guns are loaded. Whether they are really loaded or not does not matter. I still treat them with the same measure of safety and respect as if they have live rounds in the chamber. This way, I don't do something negligent, like blow a hole in all of the walls in my house.
Conventional wisdom tells us that the safest way to store a gun is to keep it locked up and away from people you don't want to give access to. These people could be other relatives, children, neighbors, the neighbor's kids, etc.
Some argue that the ammunition should be stored separately from the weapons. However, should you have your guns locked away in a gun safe, wouldn't it make sense to lock the ammo in there too? Your situation may vary. If you have the room and the ability to lock ammunition away separately from the guns, then by all means. I personally don't like keeping ammo in the same place, but then again, if you are an apartment dweller or have limited space, you have to work with what you have.
Ah, and here comes the ignorant statement: Guns should be stored unloaded. Never mind this statement since it doesn't apply. All guns are always loaded and shall be treated as such.
So much for conventional wisdom.
Here's my wisdom regarding safe firearm storage:
1. Keep your gun locked up, away from those of whom you do not want to have access (friends, neighbors, kids, etc).
2. Lock up your ammunition. Note, I'm not saying whether or not to store the ammo separately because that depends on your situation.
3. Treat your gun as if it is loaded, even if it isn't. If you always treat your gun as if it is loaded, you will develop a good habit of being safe. I'm not here to teach you how to handle a loaded weapon. If you do not know how to handle a loaded weapon, seek out training immediately before you get yourself, or someone else, killed!
4. When handling a firearm, practice muzzle discipline, IE: don't point it at anything you don't intend to destroy. Practice trigger control, IE: don't touch the trigger until you are ready to shoot (if you aren't going to shoot, keep your damn finger off the trigger!). Be mindful of the mechanical safety, but remember that your brain is your number 1 safety - your finger is your second. Do not rely on weapon safeties at all! Be smarter than the gun.
For those who have firearms, a good solid safe, or gun locker is an absolute must-have item. For pistols, a smaller lockable box is suitable. In my situation, I have a GunVault Multi-Safe (pictured above). It stores my dedicated bedside handgun and my concealed carry gun. It resides within arm's reach of the bed and is protected against unintended opening via a combination locking system that only I, and my wife know. My son, as inquisitive as he is, cannot figure out how to open it. It is a 100% other-person-proof safe that keeps my family safe, yet helps me maintain a state of readiness.
State of what?
State of Readiness
Consider this, many people in Washington State have concealed pistol licenses. I carry a gun everywhere with me, with exception to places I am restricted by law (post office, taverns, schools, etc). I don't carry an unloaded gun because guns are always loaded, and my carry gun is most definitely loaded. When I go to put it away, it doesn't make sense to unload it just to load it again the next day. Besides, statistics show that 100% of home invasions happen in the home. Okay, all farcical statements aside, the serious side is that if you are at home, and a home invasion does occur, you want to be ready for what goes "bump" in the night.
Keeping a weapon loaded in the house is not only a good insurance policy, it is the right thing to do. The last thing you want to be doing is fumbling around trying to load a weapon in the middle of the night when the burglar, or predator is on you.
Another thing, when you buy a brand new gun, it comes with a trigger lock. Throw the trigger lock in the garbage! If you don't understand why, consider this: try unlocking one of those things under stress, in the dark when you are barely awake, with a key you have to keep close by, and then figure out how to charge the weapon. Did you know that trigger locks require you to first pull the trigger in order to get them on? How are you going to do this with a revolver without blowing your brains out in the process? You won't. You must first unload the gun before you can put the trigger lock on. So, all statements about guns being loaded aside, when you go to take the trigger lock off a wheelgun, you must then load it... and you must do all of this UNDER DURESS!
As for me, I'm more of a practical man. I have a vault for my pistols. It requires no keys to access - just a keypad combination. It is a code I've practiced over and over again until it has become muscle memory. Accessing the vault twice a day helps maintain this muscle memory. Once I press the proper sequence, the door flings open (it is spring-loaded) and my guns are right there. With no trigger locks to mess with, no loose rounds to load, no magazines that need to be inserted, I simply pull the gun out and level it on the suspect. I can also easily slip out of bed and silently move around the house to either "clear" it, or locate the suspect.
This is a term a good friend of mine taught me some years ago. It is called "Tower Ready". It is a term used by the Department of Corrections at one of the state prisons. It means that a weapon has a loaded magazine, but there is no cartridge in the chamber itself. Before firing, the weapon must first be charged - that is to say that the firearm needs to have it's action cycled and a round chambered before it will fire.
It is a safety protocol to protect people. Now, even though all guns are always loaded, it doesn't hurt to add a measure of safety. My automatic pistol is kept "tower ready" because it doesn't normally go with me on concealed carry. It only resides at the bedside in the vault. It takes but a fraction of a second to rack the slide and charge the weapon if I need it.
Consider this: you are fast asleep in your bed and you hear a sound. A light turns on, and your bed is disturbed by what you do not yet know. Without hesitation, you reach for your gun and level it onto the first thing that moves. That movement is your wife.
Believe it nor not, that scenario plays over and over in this country all the time. Keeping a gun "tower ready" will help you to ensure that you don't accidentally blow the head off your significant other. Before you are able to accidentally end her life, you must first charge the weapon. There is a good chance that you will be getting an earful from your angry woman before you have the chance to do that.
Seriously, before you invest in a firearm, or if you have already purchased one, get some training. Learn how to react to different scenarios. Practice loading and unloading your gun (with dummy rounds of course). Learn to maintain your gun. Clean it as needed, and shoot it as often as you can.
I have been shooting ever since I can remember. My earliest memories are that of my father and I shooting targets, pop cans, and veggies at this old gravel pit near our house. My father taught me a lot of little gems that have remained with me all these years and these have helped keep me safe when handling firearms. To date, I have been shooting and handling firearms for almost 25 years. I have passed much of this knowledge to my wife and intend to pass it to my posterity because if they are safe, then I am safe.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I initially bought some Magtech 95 gr FMJ practice ammo and a box of Cor-Bon 70 gr PowR'Ball. Total of 70 rounds.
I started with the Magtech ammo to get the gun warmed up and possibly break it in. Fired all 50 rounds with only one Failure to feed from the second magazine. Didn't have any such problem again with said ammo. My first couple groupings were a little a little larger than I was used to, but considering I was getting a handle on the gun, I didn't worry too much. After the third magazine, I was able to get them to about 1-2 inch groups at 7 yards, which is pretty decent considering the long-winded trigger and the small size of the grip area. So far I was happy with the results.
It got interesting when I started feeding it the Powr'Ball ammo. Suddenly, at least one round in every magazine would fail to fire. I inspected each round and noticed that there was the primer had been struck by the firing pin. I'd load it back up and it would fire on the second try. I couldn't put my finger on it. So, after firing all 20 of the PB ammo, I decided to go back out to the storefront and buy another box of the magtechs and see if the gun was experiencing light primer strike issues after being broken in a little.
I dumped 50 more rounds of the magtech FMJ ammo downrange without a single light primer strike. I compared primers from the two brands and they were identical. I even compared the primer strikes on the [failed to fire] rounds before I reshot them. Same depth as far as I could tell. I figured, though, that 120 rounds was enough for one evening because my wife would kill me if I bought another box for "test purposes".
I asked the employee working the storefront if he has had any complaints about the PowR’Ball ammunition. He said the stuff has been flying off the shelves and people keep coming back for more. I’m starting to wonder if I got a bad batch.
I then wondered if the gun just needed to be broken a little bit. By the time I shot my second box of Magtechs, I had a total of 70 rounds down range. Perhaps any mechanical issues may have worked themselves out?
I did experience a couple of hang-ups when the slide was inserting a fresh round, but this too shall work itself out with time and more ammo. My wife’s Beretta was the same way until we got a few hundred rounds through it. Now it shoots just fine. The LCP never jammed during ejection of a spent round. It didn’t have a problem ejecting the spent cartridges one bit. As I said, the only problems I experienced were [failed to fire] with the PowR’Balls.
As far as shooting the gun goes, I’m surprised so many people talk about the LCP’s recoil as if it were like shooting a howitzer. I found the gun extremely pleasant to shoot; even more so with the factory extended floorplate. That helped out a lot, especially during rapid-fire.
One gentleman asked me what I was shooting because he said it sounded like a cannon. I’m not sure if he was referring to the LCP or my SP101, but when he saw the 5 round groups I was putting on the paper, he was impressed that a pocket gun could shoot so accurately.
I warmed up to the LCP quickly. I was able to put round after round just about where my point of aim was. It shot just a touch low, but that is probably my fault more than anything. The little ridge on the slide, just behind the front ramp, made it seem like I was aiming really high. The low light of the range made looking through the sights just a little difficult, but I compensated by pulling the gun a little closer to my body and had no problem. Actually, bringing the gun closer helped my accuracy because it made those tiny sights easier to see and it really helped with recoil. Compared with my wife’s Beretta 21 (.22LR), it felt very similar. My wife’s gun has a quick “snap” of recoil, whereas the LCP was more of a “thud” type of recoil. The gun was extremely controllable during rapid-fire and I still put all rounds within a 5-6” group just point-shooting.
Overall, I’m happy with this little pocket rocket. I’m going to experiment with different types and brands of carry ammunition and see which one this gun likes the best. The winner will have the opportunity to stay in those easy-to-load factory Ruger magazines until the time they are called upon to save my life – which I hope never has to happen.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The Decision to Carry
by Bob Childers
Though I've had a license to carry a concealed weapon for a number of years, I still remember my first training class as clearly as if it happened yesterday. Our two instructors were retired policemen and after explaining the class curriculum, they told us something about themselves. One man said that in his quarter century as a policeman, he had been fortunate in never having to use his weapon, though there were close calls. The other man explained that during his almost 30 years in law enforcement he had been forced to use his weapon twice, with one incident resulting in the death of the individual that was shot. He went on to say that despite having nearly 20 years experience in law enforcement at the time and being completely justified in his use of deadly force, it was still the most difficult thing he had ever done.
After he had finished telling us some of the details of that fatal shooting, our instructor made this statement to the class; "Kill another human being, for whatever reason or however justified, and your life as you know it is over forever." There was complete silence for over a minute when he finished, after which he said if anyone was having second thoughts about getting a carry permit, they were free to leave before the class continued. While nobody left, the class was extremely quiet for the remainder of the evening.
When you make the decision to carry a gun for personal defense, you must also come to terms with this fact: Your firearm may someday end the life of another person. Since receiving my concealed carry permit, I have become acutely aware that I carry something capable of forever changing not only someone else's life but my own, and there are times when it is a burden that is tougher to carry than the gun itself. Before you ever make that decision to carry a weapon for self-defense, you must first make the commitment to use that weapon -- with potentially deadly consequences -- if it ever becomes necessary. If you cannot make the conscious decision to shoot one human being in defense of another's life, if you aren't 100% sure you have the will to use it if the time comes, then you should not be carrying a weapon!
Most of us carry a weapon not because we realistically expect to ever use it, but to have it "just in case." With very few exceptions, the need to defend ourselves with deadly force is thrust upon us with almost no warning and with only moments to react. We are then required to make a life or death decision in less time than it took us to put on the socks we are wearing today. If I am ever forced to use my gun against another person it will be because (1), my life or the life of an innocent by-stander is in immediate danger and (2), another person has both the desire and the means to end my life, and I have no reasonable alternatives to prevent it other than the use of deadly force. This possibility, as remote as it may be, is the reason I own a firearm and have a concealed carry license. It's why I practice regularly at my local gun range and train myself how to react in a variety of scenarios. It's also why I read magazines like Concealed Carry Magazine and watch the many videos and television shows now available dealing with self-defense.
For what it's worth, I spent over twenty years in the military defending our country. When combined with the required classes I attended (both in the classroom and at the range) prior to receiving my license, and the training I do on a continuing basis, I believe I have both the knowledge and determination to use deadly force should it ever become necessary. However, regardless of your age and experience, a license to carry a firearm is a serious responsibility and a responsibility never to be taken lightly. The truth is that when I first started to carry a gun, I not only felt the huge responsibility that went with it but was almost overwhelmed by it. I actually had my concealed carry license for almost two years before I felt comfortable enough in both my abilities and judgment to carry a gun in public regularly. Maybe the knowledge that I possessed the power to end someone's life with a simple pull of my finger made me aware of my own mortality and how easily - and often needlessly - life can be lost.
In post 9/11 America, terrorism comes in many guises and has many faces. It can come in the form of a fanatic attempting to kill thousands by exploding a bomb in a crowded skyscraper. It may take the shape of a crazed killer walking through a shopping mall or college campus randomly shooting anyone he encounters. It could also assume the face of the burglar who breaks into your home in the pre-dawn hours and holds a knife to the throat of your son or daughter. Sadly, there are some very bad people in the world who won't hesitate to take both your property and your life if it serves their purpose. There are also people who take pleasure in seeing others suffer as well as imposing their will on those around them... often violently.
With any luck at all, my wife and I will spend the rest of our lives shooting at nothing more dangerous than the bull's-eye on a paper target. On the other hand, despite our best efforts there may come a time when we are forced to defend ourselves or a loved one with lethal force. It's for those times that both my wife and I carry a gun. Like the Boy Scouts, we believe in being prepared. If the unthinkable does happen and we are someday placed in the position of using deadly force, I'm confident we have the training, equipment and where-with-all to do it.
These days, you just never know when you may be required to protect yourself or someone close to you. Long ago I decided I'd rather carry a weapon I'll (hopefully) never use than someday need the weapon I decided not to carry. However, my advice to anyone who is considering the use of a firearm -- or any potentially deadly weapon -- is to be absolutely certain you've made the mental commitment to use that weapon if and when the time comes. If you're not willing to use it, then you shouldn't be carrying it.
Mr. Childers has a Degree in Theology and retired from the United States Navy in 1994. He's a member of the NRA, Texas State Rifle Association, the East Texas Rifle and Pistol Club and holds a Texas CCL. You can find out more about him at his website: http://vchilder.home.netcom.com
Sunday, December 13, 2009
December 13, 2009
The popular disdain for the Constitution
By Kevin Price
At one of her recent press conferences, Speaker Nancy Pelosi's was asked by a CNS News reporter, "Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?" the Speaker was clearly agitated by the question and responded, "Are you serious? Are you serious?" The reporter said, "Yes, yes, I am." Without commenting further, Pelosi shook her head in disgust and took a question from another reporter. Later on, the Speaker's press spokesman Nadeam Elshami told CNSNews.com about its question regarding the constitutionality of socialized medicine that "You can put this on the record. That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question."
Like every member of Congress, Pelosi takes this sacred oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God." She swears to defend the Constitution, but does not take this question seriously? The arrogance or ignorance is amazing. The question is legitimate, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution lists the enumerated powers of Congress and there is no provision for health care. Furthermore, the Tenth Amendment makes it explicitly clear that the powers not listed in the Constitution are to be left to the states and the citizens.
For decades government has gone well beyond it Constitutional responsibility and has become more cavalier about the role of government. Essentially our government is on auto-pilot and simply picks up new duties as it deems fit.
I have said often on my radio show that to be for the Constitution is simply not "cool" and you will not be taken serious in Washington. I have had friends — both Democrat and Republican — smugly smile at me and say that arguments about the Constitution are laughable. Discussions about a "strict constructionist" view can only be academic.
I must ask the question, by what standard than are we going to judge government? If not the Constitution, what will be our measure of whether government is serving us properly? It cannot be popular opinion, because the masses can be convinced to believe anything. That is why the Founding Fathers put such safe guards against pure democracy.
This is why I have grown frustrated by the "liberal" versus "conservative" debate. All these two views argue is the pace towards socialism. Liberals ask why we are not fully under government control while conservatives want to argue to slow down the pace. What is there to "conserve" any more? Massive deficits and debts? Taxation out of control? A regulatory system that is hostile to freedom? If we are serious about the Constitution we should drop the conservative label and state we wish to restore the Constitution.
Until we have a serious debate about the Constitution we can only expect our freedoms to further disappear while are political leaders show extreme joy on the left or slight discomfort on the right. The leaders in Washington believe there is nothing government cannot do and they intend to only prove that in the years to come.
Economist Walter Williams recently noted that "in each new session of Congress since 1995, John Shadegg, (R-Ariz.,) has introduced the Enumerated Powers Act, a measure 'To require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws, and for other purposes.' The highest number of co-sponsors it has ever had in the House of Representatives is 54 and it has never had co-sponsors in the Senate until this year, when 22 senators signed up. The fact that less than 15 percent of the Congress supports such a measure demonstrates the kind of contempt our elected representatives have for the rules of the game — our Constitution."
How has your member of Congress stood on this important first step in restoring Constitutional government? Instead of arguing with politicians on specific policies, let us make them defend their view of the document they swore to defend.
© Kevin Price
So, here it is, and just to prove that it's mine, I've included a picture of it with my Ruger SP101. Yep, no denying it now.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Alright, some better specs are in order. It is 5.16 inches long, 3.60 inches high, and .82 inches wide. Unloaded weight (with magazine inserted) is 9.4 ounces. It is made from a combination of blued alloy steel for the slide, and glass-filled nylon (plastic) for the frame. The barrel is 6-grooved, 2.75 inches long with a 1:16" RH twist. I've made the point that the gun is small and lightweight. I don't know how much more I can beat that dead horse. Needless to say it is perfect for deep concealment.
So, what about the .380 Auto? .380 is a small, 38 caliber cartridge that is often mistaken for smaller mousegun cartridges, such as the .32 or even the .25 cartridge. .380 gets a reputation of being an underpowered cartridge that will likely make an attacker angry rather than drop him. However, good ammunition makes up for any shortfalls that .380 Auto may have had in the past. Federal Hydra Shok rounds are available that have nearly the same muzzle energy as the venerable .38 Special. Yes, the .380 drops off faster, but at 7 yards or less, they are equally matched. Comparing hydra shok for hydra shok, the .380 Auto has 200 ft lbs of energy at 1000 fps, whereas the .38 Special has 235 ft lbs of energy at 980 fps. At 25 yards, however, the muzzle energy drops off by 18 ft lbs to 182 vs the .38 Special's 217 ft lbs.
Okay, so if the .38 is so much better at 25 yards, why not use it instead? Well, you have to first understand what the Ruger LCP is intended for. It is going to be a backup gun. In simple terms, if I run out of ammo in my main carry weapon, or it malfunctions (which does happen sometimes to some people), then the LCP comes into play. It is extra insurance. Additionally, the LCP has a distinct advantage over the .38 Special. Most guns that shoot .38's are revolvers. They are, by their nature, bulkier and more difficult to reload under stress. In particular, my revolver (which is a .357 magnum) is limited to 5 rounds in the cylinder. In the real world, 5 rounds isn't a whole lot. The Ruger LCP has a 6+1 capacity, for a total of 7 rounds comparable to the .38 Special. Additionally, another 6 rounds can quickly be inserted via an extra magazine.
Are there more powerful guns out there? Sure. Are they as compact? Not likely. I have two other carry guns that I use: A Ruger SP101, .357 magnum which fires a round that hits with 539 ft lbs of energy at over 1200 fps. I also have a Beretta 92 FS, a 9mm gun that hits with 345 ft lbs of energy at over 1100 fps. The Ruger is compact and hides well. The Beretta is much bulkier. Both guns are powerful enough to do the job extremely well. Both guns are a much better option for concealed carry than a Ruger LCP. But you can't compare apples to oranges.
You have to look at a backup gun for what it is: backup. It's not a primary defense weapon. Well, in some cases it can be, but for primary defense you'd better have some hot loaded catridges! In my case, pulling a smaller handgun out is faster than reloading a revolver using speed strips or loose rounds. Speedloaders are fast, but they are wider than the Ruger LCP! For the same weight, I can have 6 additional .380 rounds waiting... that is after I've dumped 5 rounds from my magnum and 7 rounds from the LCP. For the average attack, that's a lot of lead going down range. Remember, my philosophy is simple: When in doubt, empty the magazine. That means shooting them until they are on the ground twitching. If there are multiple attackers, you have a whole new problem. Pulling a second gun out is much faster and easier than reloading one. An attacker can cover 7 yards (21 feet) in less than 3 seconds. Can you reload a revolver (or automatic) that fast?
Saturday, December 5, 2009
SEATTLE - A couple was attacked by about 10 men outside a hot dog stand as they walked home early Saturday in the Belltown area.Officers were called to the scene, in the 2200 block of 1st Avenue, at about 2:40 a.m. Saturday.The victims, a man and woman, told police they had just returned to their apartment building when they passed a group at the nearby hot dog stand.One member of the group grabbed the woman's buttocks. When she turned to object and her boyfriend stepped in, a group of about 10 men punched and kicked the boyfriend.The group assaulted the woman when she tried to intervene. Bystanders broke up the fight and the suspects fled. Medics responded and examined the victims, but they declined treatment. A search for the suspects turned up nothing. The victims did not provide a description of the suspects.
Letrecia Nelson might spend the rest of her life in prison for allegedly providing aid to her nephew after he shot four Lakewood police officers to death Sunday at a Parkland coffee shop.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist announced in court Friday that he will seek a 40-year sentence for the 52-year-old Nelson, who is charged with six counts of first-degree rendering criminal assistance and one count of possessing a stolen firearm.
Lindquist contends Nelson helped Maurice Clemmons on Sunday – giving him medical aid and money and lying to police and concealing evidence – despite knowing he had shot Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and officers Tina Griswold, 40, Greg Richards, 42, and Ronald Owens, 37, at the Forza Coffee Co. shop on Steele Street South.
The prosecutor also accuses her of temporarily concealing a handgun Clemmons took from one of the dead officers by putting it into a plastic grocery bag at her home in Pacific.
The gun was found on Clemmons after a Seattle police officer shot him dead before dawn Tuesday.
Not guilty pleas were entered on Nelson’s behalf in Superior Court on Friday.
Judge Thomas Larkin increased Nelson’s bail from the $500,000 set during her first court appearance earlier this week to $1.5 million at Lindquist’s request.
The prosecutor called Nelson a danger to the community and a flight risk, especially because he intends to seek an exceptional sentence for her and another woman – Quiana M. Williams – accused of helping Clemmons.
Williams, 26, was charged Friday with five counts of first-degree rendering criminal assistance. Prosecutors contend she gave Clemmons a ride to Seattle on Sunday, helped him clean his wounds and allowed him to do laundry at her home.
Not guilty pleas were entered on her behalf as well, and Larkin increased her bail from $500,000 to $1 million, again at Lindquist’s request. The prosecutor told the judge the high bail was warranted because he plans to seek a sentence of 25 years for Williams.
Public Defender Mike McNerthney, who represented both women for the purposes of Friday’s arraignments, called Lindquist’s bail requests “extraordinarily high” given the charges, but he did not argue against them. Instead, he reserved the right for a future attorney to request a lower bail.
Nelson originally told investigators she hadn’t seen or heard from her nephew since Thanksgiving, when he ate dinner at her home. She changed her account during a subsequent interview, according to court records.
Clemmons, 37, showed up at her home about 9 a.m. Sunday – about 45 minutes after the slayings at Forza – telling her and another woman he’d shot police and been shot himself, Nelson told detectives.
She helped him clean his wounds, ordered the other woman to give him her car keys and cash and later cleaned up blood spots he’d left on the floor of her home, the court records state.
Nelson allegedly told her housemate they weren’t going to call police because “family’s more important.”
Williams is accused of picking up Clemmons later that day and taking him to Seattle, cleaning his wounds with hydrogen peroxide then driving him to another part of Seattle and dropping him off.
Three other people – Eddie Davis, 20, Douglas Davis, 22, and Rickey Hinton, 47 – also have been charged with assisting Clemmons.
Darcus Allen, 37, is being held in jail on a no-bail warrant out of Arkansas. He’s not been charged in connection with Sunday’s shooting, but authorities believe he drove Clemmons to and from the scene of the shooting.
Right after Friday’s arraignments, two Pierce County sheriff’s detectives escorted Clemmons’ sister away from the courtroom. They told her they needed to ask her more questions in connection with the case. She later was arrested and booked for investigation of rendering first-degree criminal assistance.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/crime
I was having an enlightened conversation with my wife about concealed carry guns and extra ammo last night. Truly, I did. Lindsay speaks common sense when it comes to practical concealment options. You'd think she's been doing this longer than me sometimes.
At the moment, I have three practical carry weapons at my disposal: my Ruger SP-101 revolver, my Beretta 92 FS, and in some cases, Lindsay's diminutive Beretta 21 Bobcat. All of these guns have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to concealed carry and shootability.
The SP-101 hides under a t-shirt and can be easily deployed to deliver a lethal does of 5 .357 magnum shots quickly and reliably. The only drawback is the reload. Speed loaders make me fast, but speed loaders are bulky. The other option is the slower, yet still effective speed strips. Speed strips may be slower than speed loaders, but it is much better than loading loose rounds into a cylinder, especially in high stress scenarios. With that said, those first 5 rounds need to count.
The Beretta 92 FS is big. It's probably one of the biggest handguns ever made. The size makes it less convenient to stuff in a pocket, or wear with only a t-shirt, however if a vest or jacket is utilized, it still disappears under a few layer of clothing. The biggest advantage is magazine capacity. I have high quality aftermarket Mec-Gar magazines that give me 17 rounds of 9mm in each magazine. The 9mm I carry is more powerful than standard 9mm. I carry +P+ rounds that are heavy and moving fast; which are two important considerations when it comes to knock down power. Another distinct advantage my Beretta 92 FS has is that I can carry a lot of ammo in a small space. Two extra magazines hide very easily and give me increased capacity up to 52 rounds for normal carry. That's a ton of ammo (way more than 5 rounds).
Lindsay's Beretta 21 is a pocket gun. It is less than 5 inches long (it is shorter than my Beretta 92 barrel). It hides in the front pocket of my jeans and after a few minutes I completely forget it is there. It has two major drawbacks though: 1, it only has a 7+1 capacity and 2, it's a .22 LR pistol; not exactly powerful. One advantage, however, is that I can very easily carry another magazine for an additional 7 rounds if I need it. It is also very accurate at self-defense distances.
Have you ever heard of the "New York reload?" Basically, instead of loading your gun after running it dry, you drop it and pull out a Back-Up Gun (BUG) and use that instead. Typically, it is a much smaller gun than your normal carry weapon - a pocket gun. The main drawback to any pocket gun is the caliber of the ammo it shoots. .22 LR is hardly a round I would want to use to fend off a crazed individual high on methamphetamines.
I've heard of the one shot stop used in magnum revolvers for years. That is one of the reasons I carry a 5 shot .357 magnum revolver in the first place. However, I'm a bit more realistic. When you get into ammunition ballistics, and start pouring over data on charts until your eyes bleed, read actual accounts and then do some test firing through things like wet phone books, pumpkins, other veggies, and 1 gallon jugs, you start to see what is really powerful and what isn't. I'm a proponent of shooting until the attacker does one of two things: 1, falls down dead, or 2, runs away. Either way, the attack is stopped, however I prefer the "falls down dead" result because they can't come back to sue me. However, in the heat of the moment, when you have to react within fractions of a second (while the attacker has had time to zero you and think out his plan), your options are quite limited.
Alas, we come right back around to my revolver's biggest weakness, and that is ammo capacity and the ability to quickly reload and keep firing (or at least reload to be ready for anything else). Of course, there are the people who say that if you can't stop an attack with 5 shots, then you aren't worth your salt. To them, I simply shake my head. They obviously haven't had to shoot while under stress. When the adrenaline is pumping, your hands are shaking, your vision is tunneled, and you have to use your training to protect your life or the lives of your loved ones, all things come into play. Let's not forget that many attackers are moving targets.
I also feel that, even though magnum rounds are powerful, they aren't medium bore rifles or shotguns. If I had as much time to plan my defense as the criminal has in planning my demise, I'd bring a shotgun. I mean, really. A shotgun is probably the absolute best defense against an attacker 100% of the time. The problem is that I can't just go walking down the street or driving in my car with a loaded shotgun. The drawback to any handgun practical enough for concealed carry is knock down power. That's why I train to just keep on shooting until they fall over. When in doubt, empty the magazine. At this point, what do you have to lose?
I always carry extra ammo. That's just good practice. Only a fool would carry enough ammo to drop a bad guy and then leave himself completely empty. However, when milliseconds count, you can't always count on being able to find cover and reload.
Enter the back-up gun; BUG for short. Ammo run dry? Don't have time to reload? Unholster the BUG and either keep their heads down or just keep a strong presence. Since most BUGs are usually pocket pistols anyway, it only makes sense to carry them. Okay, they aren't that powerful, but that's why it is a back-up gun.
Sometimes, carrying a big gun just isn't practical. So what do you do? Leave it in the car? Leave it home? That big powerful weapon doesn't do you any good unless you have it with you! A .22 in the pocket beats a .357 in the truck any day. Say, for instance, you are a church goer. Okay, carrying guns in the house of the lord is another can of worms completely (which I'll cover at a later time). You don't necessarily want your cannon because it doesn't conceal as well. In my case, my shirt is tucked in at church. Can't carry a gun on my hip because everyone would see it. The BUG hides in a pocket instead. No, it's not as powerful, but it does give that extra edge over the gun you just left in your car.
Another consideration is the summertime. Around here, I can get away with wearing my light vest over my t-shirt, no problem. But if the shorts come out, the vest goes away, and the sandles are chosen in favor of boots, my concealed carry options just went away with all the layers of clothes. A small pocket gun in the shorts beats the gun you had to leave home due to wardrobe issues.
To this end, I think it is prudent for me to find a pocket gun that will fit the bill exactly as needed. I don't want something that is chambered for .22 LR because that's just a little too weak for my tastes. Something in .380 or higher is more like it.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I drove over to Bulls Eye Shooter Supply, located in Tacoma, today. I've been kind of babysitting on this issue because I don't want my order to get lost. Considering this half of the gun is going to cost me $600, I'm more than a little concerned about it getting lost, sold to someone else, or screwed up. I know some of you folks sleep in beds stuffed with hundred dollar bills, but $600 is big money to me, especially when it pays for only 1/2 of the gun! But I digress...
While I was there, I saw a man behind the counter in front of some holsters. I casually walked over and asked him what he had for a Ruger SP-101. He pulled down two comparable holsters. One was a Kramer horsehide outside the waistband holster (OWB) and the other was a Desantis cowhide OWB. Both are nice. The Kramer felt much stronger, thicker, and higher quality though. However, the price tag reflected this: $115 for it vs. only $75 for the Desantis. After some conversation, I decided that the one I'm going to get is the Kramer. The guy knew his holsters and the deal maker was the fact that he wasn't just pushing the product. Actually, there were two points: 1, Kramer holsters are made in Lacey, WA (about as local as you can get in Tacoma) and 2, he was wearing a Kramer OWB and it cradled his custom 1911 nicely. Would you have guessed this? He also has one for a Beretta 92 FS. Hmm, I have a Beretta...
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Three people accused of helping the suspected gunman in the killing of four Lakewood police officers in a Parkland coffee shop evade police have been arrested. Three people were booked into the Pierce County Jail on Monday and early Tuesday for investigation of rendering criminal assistance on four counts of first-degree murder. They are Ricky Hinton, Eddie Lee Davis and Douglas Edward Davis.
SEATTLE (AP) - The man suspected of gunning down four police officers in a suburban coffee shop was shot and killed by a lone patrolman investigating a stolen car early Tuesday. Four people were arrested for allegedly helping the suspect elude authorities during a massive two-day manhunt.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Maurice Clemmons, a 37-year old Arkansas transplant, has been identified as a "person of interest" in this morning's shooting. Clemmons has a criminal record which includes aggravated robbery, rape, and assault, as well as a history of erratic behavior.
Clemmons is 5'8", 235 lbs, with black hair, brown eyes, and a mole on his left cheek. He is considered extremely dangerous. Again, if you have any information about his whereabouts, please call the Sheriff's Department Tip Line, 1-866-977-2362.
LAKEWOOD, Wash. - Four uniformed police officers were shot and killed in a bloody Sunday morning attack at a Lakewood-area coffee shop, and investigators are seeking a person of interest in the killings, officials said.
Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Troyer said the person they are seeking is Maurice Clemmons, who is a fugitive from Arkansas with a lengthy criminal record.
Investigators now believe the gunman also may have been shot during the cold-blooded assault, as one of the officers returned fire just before he died of his injuries.
Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Troyer called the assault "a targeted attack" on the four Lakewood police officers as they were preparing to start their shifts at about 8:15 a.m.
Officials determined to find the gunman posted a $100,000 reward leading to his capture and arrest.
Troyer said investigators have learned that the gunman stood in line the Forza Coffee Co. outlet at 11401 Steele St. South as if he were there to buy some coffee. When he reached the counter, the barista saw him pull a gun our of his coat. She fled, thinking the gunman was about to target her. Instead, he turned and fired point-blank at the four uniformed officers as they were working on their laptop computers, then fled the scene.
Two officers were hit before they had to react. One officer was shot as he attempted to struggle with the gunman. Another officer fired off some shots toward the gunman as he fled, and may have hit him, Troyer said.
"We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight ... that he fought the guy all the way out the door," Troyer said. "We hope the suspect was shot, because that would tell us who it is. There aren't a whole lot of people running around with gunshot wounds." Two baristas and a handful of other customers were inside the coffee shop at the time of the attack, but none of them were shot or injured. The suspect fled without taking any money.
Troyer described the scene inside the coffee shop as "carnage and a scene out of a horror movie."
Three male officers and one female officer all died at the scene. "They were just flat executed," Troyer said. "Walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers."
State Attorney General Rob McKenna termed the shootings an "assassination." Officials said a handgun was used in the shooting, but they have not identified the make or caliber of the weapon.
Troyer said officers were looking for one male suspect who fled the scene and haven't ruled out an accomplice, possibly a getaway driver.
About 2 1/2 hours after the deadly ambush, officers identified a white Chevy pickup truck abandoned at 134th Street and Pacific Avenue South that is believed to be the one that the suspect fled in.
Soon after, there was a standoff reported between officers and one or more people inside a residence a few blocks away, but it turned out to have no connection with the case, police said.
A $100,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to the arrest of the suspect or any possible accomplices, Troyer said. An emergency tip line has been set up, at 866-977-2362, for callers to report any helpful information.
Troyer encouraged anyone who knows someone with an unexplained gunshot wound to call the tip line.
The suspect was described as a black male in his mid-20s to mid-30s, standing 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-10, medium build, with scruffy facial hair, wearing blue jeans and a black coat with a hood.
Troyer said the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department initially responded to a 911 call of shots fired at the Forza Coffee Co. outlet at 11401 Steele St. S. in Parkland.
When deputies arrived, they found the four Lakewood police officers shot and killed inside the coffee shop, he said.
"Two baristas and a few customers were inside the coffee shop at the time of the shooting. They were not injured but all are in shock and traumatized. It appears the officers were targeted and ambushed by the suspect," Troyer said in a statement.
Within minutes of the first 911 call, hundreds of investigators and police were rushing to the scene. Roads were blocked in the vicinity of the attack.
"I've never seen so many cops," said one witness as officers converged on the area.
The coffee shop where the shootings took place is owned by Brad Carpenter, a retired police officer, KOMO News has confirmed.
The incident is being investigated by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, with assistance from the Tacoma Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, Troyer said.
"There will be a large police presence in Pierce County throughout the day as large numbers of law enforcement follow up on leads and tips," he said. "The public in urged to stay away from any police activity."
McKenna said he is turning all the resources of his office toward finding and prosecuting the gunman.
"I have directed all of the criminal justice resources of this office ... be made available to those conducting the investigation into these assassinations," McKenna said. "Our prosecutors and investigators stand ready to help bring those who committed this murderous act to justice."
A prayer vigil for the four slain Lakewood police officers is being held at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Champions Centre, a nondenominational Christian church, at 1819 E. 72nd St., in Tacoma with seating for 3,000.
Pastor Sue Kahawaii says the congregation includes Lakewood officers and Pierce County sheriff's deputies. She says the vigil will include guided prayers and give people a place to express grief.
The deadly shootings come less than a month after Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton was shot to death in cold blood as he was sitting in a cruiser with trainee Britt Sweeney on Halloween night. Sweeney was grazed in the neck.
Christopher Monfort of Tukwila has been charged with aggravated first-degree murder in connection with Brenton's death.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
This year, I'm going to just observe Christmas how I want to observe it. I'm not going to make any political statements, like exclaiming "Merry Christmas" loud enough for an atheist to hear me, nor will I vote on those stupid Facebook polls that ask questions like, "Should we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?" It's pointless. All it will do is remind me that the world is divided and in the end, I won't really give a crap anyway. Come January 1, 2010, people will be back to their miserable selves and will find another agenda to push besides knocking over nativity scenes and stealing inflatable snowmen from festive lawns.
I'll tell you what I'm really celebrating here. Besides the birth of Jesus Christ, I'm celebrating because I have the liberty to do so in my own way. If that isn't political enough for you then move on, sonny! I want to set the right tone for my son. I want him to grow up celebrating Christmas and enjoying the Christmas season for what it is really meant to symbolize: peace on earth, good will toward your fellow man, happiness that comes with doing good for others out of the kindness of your own heart - not some self-serving agenda, and most importantly celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, for whom without there would be no salvation to be had. Those are the reasons I celebrate Christmas. And in the spirit of the Christmas Season, I choose to decorate my home with things to remind me of the season and to make my son happy. I do it because it gives me a chance to slow down and reflect on all the blessings I have and the people who are in my life. That's what Christmas is all about to me.
It's not about pushing my point of view on someone else. If someone doesn't like how I observe the holiday season, they don't have to come in my house, don't have to say "Merry Christmas" to me, nor do they have to look at the pretty lights on my house. Hey, I don't celebrate Hanukkah, but if someone says "Happy Hanukkah" to me, I will respond with "Happy Hanukkah" out of kindness and appreciation for their religious holiday. I'm not saying that you have to celebrate Christmas as I do, just because I say "Merry Christmas". I'm just saying that if you won't force your holiday onto me, I won't force mine onto you.
Anyway, so there it is. Merry Christmas, peace on Earth, and Seasons Greetings to all.
Mmm, doesn't that look delicious? Here's a closer shot. The loaf on the right is plain white, and the loaf on the left is cinnamon/sugar swirl. My son is going to love me!
Okay, so it takes 3 hours to make two loaves start to finish. Well, I mean you gotta spend the whole 15 minutes preparing and mixing the dough on the Kitchen-Aid. Then you have to put it into a bowl and let it rise for an hour while you go and do something else. Then comes the arduous 5 minutes it takes to prepare the loaves by busting out the rolling pin and flattening them and adding some sweet goodness to make your kid's eyes wide with delight when he bites down on it. Oh, and then there's another hour to let the loaves rise in the bread pan while you, again, go do something else. And lastly, there is the part where you have to push a couple buttons on the oven to heat it up and then bake the bread. Let's see. That's another 30 minutes while you go do something else (like me finally getting into the shower and getting dressed).
So, I could have gotten dressed and gone to the store to buy some bread. Then again, I would have to deal with people there, picking out the bread that appears to be the least crushed, driving home, and then eating whatever partially hydrogenated corn syrup-laden crap the bread manufacturer puts in it. It would have saved me 3 hours. Or would it?
I wasn't just standing around watching bread rise. There were some other things to do around the house, emails to answer, blogs to compose, phone calls to make, and a gun or two to clean. Besides, I was able to do all that AND wear only a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in my bare feet. Can't go to the store in your underwear and without shoes, can you? Well, I suppose you could, but I know I wouldn't want to look at me like that.
Another benefit is this: I know exactly what I put into the bread I baked. Yeah, I baked it. I didn't buy some manufactured bread made in God knows where, which has sat for God knows how long in a pallet, on a truck, on a shelf, and finally in my cupboard. There is no partially hydrogenated anything in it! There is no corn syrup based crap in it! Read the label on your favorite bread the next time you go the store. Unless you are eating organic or low fat, you will know what I'm talking about.
You know what I put into my bread? Flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk, yeast and (gasp) water. The sad thing is that 99% of people wouldn't know how to put these ingredients together in the proper proportions even if their lives depended on it. They'd look in their pantry and just give up. "Ahhhh!" they'd say. "I'm so hungry and there's nothing to eat!"
To that I say, "there is plenty to eat, bozo! You just gotta know how to take the raw ingredients and make something!"
It's all about getting back to the basics. What is that? Getting back to the basics, for me, means just that. It's my answer to the self-sufficiency dilemna and the partially hydrogenated lifestyle of today's world. For me, it means forsaking all the gizmos and gadgets, all the trendy things and fashions of the day, and getting back to those core values and things that make people who they are. It means dumping the partially hydrogenated soybean lifestyle and actually making your own foods from your own ingredients... from scratch. It means fixing things rather than replacing them. It means being mindful of debt and getting it under control. It means sustainable self-sufficency found only when you have what you need - not what society tells you. It means getting in touch with whatever belief system you have and magnifying it. It means knowing who your friends are and building a network of relationships that can augment your family.
Getting back to the basics means so many things to so many people. It would be hard to simply give it a one-word definition, but I think the best word is sustainability. That's really what it comes down to. Can you sustain your lifestyle when all goes to the crapper?
I gotta tell ya, as much as I hear about how crappy the economy is right now (and believe me, I've felt it too), I'll bet the white-collar guy who used to make $150K+ a year is crapping his pants. This is the guy who wouldn't be able to fix a broken toilet if his life depended on it. Suddenly he finds that his job was outsourced and he is making minimum wage as a delivery driver because his once useful skill is now in India or wherever. In other words, he has no marketable skill now and is suffering hard because he didn't take the time to learn how to do those jobs that were once below him. Now, instead of sitting all high and mighty, he is delivering my pizza and banking on me tipping him. It's quite ironic because a year ago, he would have been the one tipping me for doing contracted work at his house. Now I'm the boss.
I feel that America is in for a big turnaround. The blue collar lifestyle that ran America's economy was phased out in the last 20 years; replaced by information technology and service work. Now that all that information technology is shipping overseas or isn't paying nearly as well as it did before the .com bubble burst, those who are in blue collar jobs are making a comeback in a big way. Mechanics, technicians, construction, manufacturing, and so forth are the jobs that are here now. While manufacturing does go the way of Asia, I have a feeling that the bottom of that might fall out with impending economic disaster on both sides. Who really knows, right? That's why it's a good idea to get back to the basics and live a lifestyle you can sustain even if your governments fail you.
So, the question is: How do I get back to the basics?
Well, that's up to you and your situation, but a few universal rules apply:
1. Get your debt under control. This is tough even for me; especially since buying power is limited on my budget.
2. Store up food and supplies. I can't stress the importance of this enough. To survive you need to have food and in order to sustain a healthy lifestyle you need to have household supplies.
3. Buy a gun. Your savings and food storage don't do you a damn bit of good if you can't defend them. Oh, and don't treat your gun like a fire extinguisher. Don't hide it away hoping you'll never need it. Use it, learn it, and become proficient at it. Teach your children young and old. Teach your wife. Make sure they know what to do if they encounter it and make sure they know how to react to a situation.
4. Save your money. It's tough these days but it's not impossible. If you can find a dollar a day, then you are well on your way to savings. Sell off crap you don't need anymore and dump your packrat lifestyle. You'd be amazed at how much money you can bring in when you sell your junk to someone who needs it. Don't spend frivolously. I can't tell you how much crap I have in this house just on trinkets and junk I never really needed in the first place. I've either trashed, recycled, sold, or gave a lot of my junk away, and there's still a mountain more.
5. Invest in your future. When you buy, buy smart. Don't buy the cheapest just because it's the cheapest. It's cheapest for a reason. I follow the rule that you need to get the most bang for your buck. If it's something you know you will need often, upsize to the better model. You don't necessarily need the best model, but don't settle for the beginner set. In the end, you'll only spend more money trying to get the better model because the cheapest was... well cheap. Buy things you need, buy things you can use, and buy things that will mean as much to you 5 years from now as they do at present. Don't give into fad items or things that will go out of style when the wind changes direction. Buy stuff for the long term.
6. Keep it secret. Keep it safe. I will never divulge the amount of food storage I have, and I suggest you don't either. Otherwise, you might just find yourself needing that gun you bought. There was a conversation at my church where someone said "I'm just gonna go to James' house. He has everything." To that I said, "That's fine because I'll just pile you up in the front yard with the rest of the bodies." He immediately got quiet. The truth is, you probably wouldn't be so impressed if you actually saw it. Protect your supplies. They are your life.
7. Ally yourself with people YOU KNOW will not cheat you, screw you, or otherwise do wrong by you. If you go into Costco with a friend (to share the expense of buying at bulk rates), make sure it's someone who won't be coming to your house with a mob after their food runs out. You only have one or two of these people in your lives. Don't trust anyone who you may think could hurt you in the end.
8. Get your house into order. It means, simply, to do a lot of the above stuff (getting out of debt, living within your means, etc) and getting organized. What I mean by that is a clean house is essential to a house of order. I don't mean to imply that you should itemize everything you have and buy a label maker for things (though it could come in handy for food storage). What I mean is to have a place for everything and put everything in its place. In our house, we are working hard to do just that. We are finding things we no longer need and are selling them to finance things like bill paying or more food storage, or ammunition and those sorts of things.
Well, that's all out. Time to eat some nice warm, freshly baked homeade bread. Yeah, you are jealous. :)
Friday, November 27, 2009
So, I threw a picture of my son looking stoned in there too. Okay, first, for the record: there are 1,335 lights on our tree. That's 13 strands of 100 lights, plus our "Eat At Joe's" star on top of the tree. We'd put more on, but we ran out of tree. Lindsay stuffs it to the gills with lights.
Our Thanksgiving tradition is as old as I can remember. Thanksgiving Day is spent with family over an enormous dinner with tons and tons of good food. This Thanksgiving was especially large because Jeff and his fiance (and her two children), my wife and son and me, my aunt (and her other half), my grandfather, and of course my parents were there. Well, okay, we've had more before, but this was a good size. It's great to reconnect with loved ones, stuff your face, and try to move afterward. Yeah, I just spend most of the evening soaking in the tryptophan absorb into my system. I get so lethargic after Thanksgiving dinner. I think it's because it is the only day that I really go hog wild on the food. After all, there is a ton of it, and I love Mom's cooking.
The next morning, instead of camping outside of Wal Mart or Best Buy at 3am for a deal on a t.v. or computer, I sleep in as long as I can. This usually is until 8am. Not bad for a guy who normally gets up at 5am or so. I think Lindsay started this tradition, but I'm not sure. We went to late breakfast after getting our game plan together for Friday afternoon. Nope, we weren't shopping for Christmas presents. We were going Christmas Tree shopping.
Lindsay and I will be the first to admit it. We are complete snobs when it comes to Christmas Trees. It has to be perfect in every way, and we only buy Noble Fir trees. Why Noble Fir? They are fuller, have much stronger bows (to withstand the onslaught of lighting and ornaments), the needles don't just fall off all the time, they are greener longer, and will stay green until January 1, which is the day we take it down. This year, our tree will be up in our house for 35 days. You can't get that kind of longevity out of a craptastic Douglas Fir or even a Grand Fir. If you want a good tree, you get a Noble or you get nothing! But I digress...
We are the anti-fake tree. I hate them with a passion. Sure, they are easy, and sure they don't shed needles all over the place, and sure every year they make them look more and more real. I just don't see the point of spending $150+ on a tree that you will use for 2-3 seasons and then toss out when it breaks and go buy the next "more realer" looking tree. Just spend the $75 and get the real deal! Besides, I don't have to store my tree in my house or garage. I torch it when I'm done with it!
There is just something about a real tree that screams Christmas Spirit. Okay, yeah, Christ was born and blah blah blah. Hey, I read the story of the birth of Christ every year. And trees may have their roots in paganism (no pun intended), but trees are a symbol of Christmas just as much as Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman. I personally like that all my friends, who see the tree in real life, love it. My son really got a kick out of it too. It's just not Christmas without a real fir tree in the house, lambasted in over a thousand lights, and topped off with a cheesy lighted star. That is tradition!
I also break out the lights to decorate the outside of the house. I was lucky this year to have a sunny day and somewhat warm air to work in. Hanging lights on my house is dangerous enough without rain and water everywhere. That's another deeply rooted tradition. We get our house decorated up and ready to hit the Christmas season with both barrels blazing! Of course, I will put up more lights as we go, but I like to get the main work done on Black Friday. It beats waiting in lines, listening to screaming kids and women who are complaining about whether something is 50% or 60% off. Nope, I just go to my Zen place and climb that ladder to hang more lights.
Now, I get to enjoy Saturday and Sunday without worrying about putting up lights. Hey, I'm the first guy on the block to do it every year, and each year my lighting gets better. This is the first year I gave icicle lights a shot and they look nice. Next year, I will be ready to do more lights, but I first need to install more GFCI outlets in the porch area. Next year, I'm going to hang clear lights on the upper roof, but I'm going to do it in the summer when the roof is dry and safe to walk on. It will be a more-or-less permanent installation, but it will be hidden when the lights aren't on. That'll make it safer in the winter when I go to light it off. Connect lights to go down either side of the house and tie in the back roof, and we will have a ton more lightage. I kind of have to decorate all 4 sides: 1, I'm on a corner. 2, you can see the back of my house really easily. 3. I can't just leave three sides decorated. That's awkward. I'm also going to decorate my garage this year if I have leftover lights.
The last tradition, which will take place after Christmas is over, is going to Target and other stores and buying strands of lights for 60-70% off to add to my growing selection of lighting, and to replace broken strands that have just had it over the years.
Welcome to the Christmas season!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
- Passenger space
- Towing capability
- Cargo area (hauling)
- 4x4 capability
- Cost (initial and long term)
- Ease of maintenance (overall simplicity/availability of parts)
- Safety (size)
My Ramcharger alone does not satisfy all these requirements. For instance, the cargo area isn't large. Taking the family camping would be challenging with even more gear for the kids than it is now when you consider we pack the cargo area to the rafters as is. Additionally, passenger space is a bit of an issue. Having only two doors, and the capability of carrying 5 people (max) is somewhat limiting in a vehicle this size. However, passenger space isn't so much of the concern; it's the access to the passenger area that is the problem. Lastly, towing isn't great due to the short wheelbase of the RC (limited at 5,000 lbs from the factory).
Enter the Cummins Diesel powered Dodge Ram. It can tow tow quite a bit (it towed the Ramcharger on a trailer at one point). It has the cargo space I need, and it is relatively easy to maintain. However, it fails in the passenger department (2 plus driver).
Both vehicles are safe, due to their large size, big engines, and strong frames, which should keep most vehicles from turning the sheet metal into a sardine can. So, what's the problem? I have two vehicles that satisfy all the requirements I have.
Here is the last requirement: Do it all with only 1 vehicle.
There's the rub. Neither the Ramcharger or the Ram satisfy all the requirements alone. With a growing family, I am finding that I need all these features to be in place on one platform. When it was just Lindsay and me, it was easy. You need to tow or haul something big? Take the pickup truck. You want to go camping and keep all your gear dry and secure? Take the Ramcharger. You want to make a trip to the dump? Take the pickup truck. You want to do a lot of shopping with multiple stops and want to keep your items safe and secure? Take the Ramcharger. The ability to pick and choose is there. Just pick a vehicle that will work for the application and go.
The problem is in just two months, we will have a second child to consider. We can't just leave the kids at home. We can't very easily use the pickup truck because it won't fit two adults and two car seats. So, unless I'm flying solo (which 99% of the time, I'm not) I can't even use the pickup. We use the Ramcharger a lot, but with the seat in place, the cargo area is only about 2 1/2 feet deep. You can't really stick a sheet of plywood or anything large in the cargo area when the seat is down. Even with the seat folded up, the cargo area is only about 5 3/4 feet deep - less even than a 6 foot bed on a small pickup truck! Additionally, with a tall lift, and only two doors (with a front seat that folds partially out of the way), it is kind of a pain to get kids in and strapped into the car seat or snug-rider.
This last point lends itself to another requirement than just sort of popped up after having Michael: Four doors. Gosh! That's evil to me! My Ramcharger is cool because it only has two doors! It's a total bachelor's vehicle - like a Jeep Wrangler but much larger and way cooler! However, I'm not a bachelor anymore. I'm not even one half of a married couple anymore. I'm a husband and father. Moreover, I will be the father of two children in just two months. For the sake of convenience and ease of travel (getting kids into and out of car seats and booster seats), four doors is not only necessary; it is a necessary evil.
This brings me to the situation at hand. What vehicle do I buy? I could buy a minivan, but minivans are gay and Lindsay vowed she would never own one, and neither will I. I could get a full size van, but 99% of them are only two-wheel drive and have poor traction in snow, ice, and even on wet leaves! I thought of sticking to the Dodge brand, but Dodge doesn't, and never did make a full size SUV with four doors. The Ramcharger was it, and it only has two doors. I considered a Dodge crew cab truck. With four doors and a full size bed (6 feet for the 4x4 models), it would work perfectly. The problem is that unless you want a total rust bucket, you will shell out massive bucks for a good runner. People want way too much money for them and when you consider off-the-shelf (OEM and aftermarket) parts availability for Dodges absolutely sucks, it's not worth it. No other Dodge works. The Durango has four doors, and even a third row seat, but it's only a seat in the academic sense. Have you ever sat in the third row? I have. Plus, there is only enough cargo space for a set of golf clubs inside. The trunk space in my wife's Saturn Ion is bigger than a Durango's cargo area.
There is a company that made a vehicle to suit my needs exactly. It still does, in fact. That company is Chevrolet. I can hear the jeers and boos now! All my Mopar friends are on the floor having a panic attack and reaching for the shock paddles because I must be having a heart attack. Did I actually point out Chevrolet as an option to my vehicular conundrum?
Indeed I have. Chevrolet did, and still does make the vehicle I need: a Suburban. Suburban fills my needs exactly. It has:
- Passenger space
- Towing capability
- Cargo area (hauling)
- 4x4 capability
- Cost (initial and long term)
- Ease of maintenance (overall simplicity/availability of parts)
- Safety (size)
1. Suburbans have the capability of carrying up to 9 passengers with an optional third row seat. That is 5 more passengers than I would normally need, but I do have friends, believe it or not.
2. Suburbans were made with a 3/4 ton option, which means towing. With a long wheelbase, a Suburban might as well be a crew cab truck with a permanently mounted canopy.
3. Cargo area is something Suburbans have. If you are only using the first two rows of seats, you have the equivalent of a fullsize bed (6 ft or so) behind you. That is good for 99% of my needs.
4. Suburbans came with two drivetrain options. Aside from engines, transmissions, and whatnot, the one that matters most to me is the option that includes a transfer case, and two solid live axles.
5. Suburbans are cheap. I see them for sale all the time and I see them everywhere. A solid runner can be had for just over $2,500 and with a few upgrades, I can modify one to suit my needs for less than $5,000. Since I am targeting vehicles between 87-91, the car payment will be non-existant. Fuel consumption will be high, but since I only drive my big vehicles on occasion, my carbon footprint with them is nill.
6. Suburbans of old are really simple in design. Much like my Ramcharger, they have similar design characteristics that allow the average guy, with basic tools, to do most of the work on the vehicle with nothing but a book and some mechanical prowess. I have both. Parts availability for Chevrolet trucks is nothing short of phenominal. There are many companies out there who have hard to find parts for a Chevy truck. The parts are available, relatively inexpensive, and it would be a breath of fresh air when compared to hunting down used parts at a junkyard for my Dodge Ramcharger.
7. Safety is a must and if you want to be really safe, you gotta go big. I've seen what full size trucks do to cars in a collision. Usually, the driver of the pickup truck walks away and the passengers in the car are wheeled away on a gurney - sometimes in a body bag.
All in all, I believe this vehicle will suit my needs. I'm getting to the point where I'm not concerned about brand loyalty so much as satisfying the needs of my growing family. Besides, Dodge hasn't made the Ramcharger since 1993 and I doubt they'd ever build a vehicle like it again. Chevrolet doesn't even make the new Suburban as rugged and capable as it used to. SUV's are like big station wagons anymore; they are status symbols for the rich and for those who want people to look at them. My needs are not as such. I want an old vehicle. I want something simple in design, easy to maintain, cheap to own, and overall, I want something that works when I need it to.
Of course, the Ramcharger won't be going anywhere. I've owned it too long and I have plans for when it no longer needs to pass emissions. However, the pickup truck hasn't even been on the road for over a year. It hasn't even left the garage! I just don't have a need for it anymore. As much as I love my truck, as much as I love that Cummins Turbo Diesel engine, and as much as I think it's cool, I just can't seem to justify it anymore. I need truck capability with SUV utility all wrapped in one. It seems that the Chevy Suburban fits.
I guess it's time for me to get a hat with a bow tie on it.