3 Feb 00
What’s hot? What’s not?
As is my habit at the beginning of every new year, I quizzed retail gun store owners in Florida and Texas (where I’ve been doing courses the past three weeks) with regard to which guns are hot sellers and which are dogs. Here is the general consensus:
The pistols that nobody can keep in stock are the Glock-19 and Glock-23. When either one of these pistols hits the shelf, it’s typically sold the same day! “We can sell every one we can get,” is the common response. Glock-30s fly off the shelf quickly as well.
Mini-Glocks (26 and 27) are not nearly as popular. Also not particularly popular is any Glock in 357 SIG caliber. Full-sized Glocks are not hot sellers either. Extended-slide Glocks are dogs.
Next in popularity are Kahr pistols. They speedily move off the retail shelf. The Kahr-9 is the hottest seller. Mini-Kahrs sell too but not as fast.
SIG pistols, particularly the 239, move fairly well.
S&W pistols, particularly manually decocking models, are slow. However, snubby revolvers, especially lightweight models in 38Spl, sell briskly.
Colt/Browning pistols have a perennial following, but they are not a majority. They occupy a small corner of retail handgun sales. Among this group, the Kimber line is popular. Semi-custom pistols (Wilson, Bahr, etc) are so expensive that they attract the attention of only a very few. Not many retailers even stock them.
Taurus autoloading pistols are slow sellers, but they work well. On the other hand, Taurus revolvers have a poor reliability record. A sizable percentage have to be sent back to the factory. Retailers don’t like them, because customers keep bringing them back to be fixed.
Beretta and Ruger pistols are dogs. Retailers typically have to hold a fire sale to get rid of them. Both function just fine, but they are big, wide, clunky, user-hostile, and thus don’t sell.
These days, mouse guns and other inexpensive handguns are slow too. Upscale customers whom retail gun shops try to attract have no interest in cheap trash. They want compact, powerful, reliable defensive handguns from reputable manufacturers that are not “tricky” and that are easy to learn to use, and they are not dissuaded by hefty (but reasonable) prices.
It is my belief that manually decocking, autoloading pistols are on their way out. Self-decocking pistols are the current trend.
7 Feb 00
I just returned from the Southeast where I conducted a Defensive/Urban Rifle/Shotgun Course. One of my students brought a Steyr/Scout, which is a bolt-action 308 with an integral bipod and a forward-mounted scout scope. This is the latest of several I’ve had now, and I can make the following comments:
The rifle is bulky, but light. A second, ten-round magazine can be held in reserve in the stock in a special compartment which does not add any bulk. The bipod finds very little use in our kind of shooing, but it is slim and blends very well into the forend. Accuracy is acceptable, and, although I prefer an autoloader for our kind of work, the rifle made it through the entire course without anything breaking.
On the negative side, the Steyr is tight and capricious. It doesn’t like hot ammunition. Wimpy reloads worked fine, but military hardball consistently caused the bolt to seize. We also experienced a number of light primer strikes and resulting misfires. The impact energy of the striker is insufficient to produce reliable ignition.
The manual safety is a tang which rolls back and forth. It posed a problem with gloved hands, because glove material would roll forward and backward with the safety and eventually jam under the stock making it impossible to get the safety to the off position.
On balance, if one wants a bolt-action rifle, I would advise him to get a good, 1903 Springfield. The Steyr is functional to be sure, but, in my opinion, it is too tight and too temperamental to be of much interest to professional gunmen.
7 Feb 00
This just happened on 5 Feb 00 on the East Coast:
“Acting on a tip, a pair of patrol officers working in plain clothes spot a juvenile carrying a revolver in his hand, in plain view. The officers were on foot and only a few meters behind the suspect. Without coordinating with his partner, one officer suddenly shouted a verbal challenge at the suspect. Both officers were standing in the open.
Without a moment’s hesitation, the suspect spun and started firing at both officers. His revolver was loaded with full-house 357Mg ammunition. Brand unknown.
One officer was hit immediately in the right bicep. His injury prevented him from either drawing his pistol or returning fire. He was out of the fight for the duration. The other officer (the one who shouted the challenge) drew his Glock-17 and fired nine rounds at the suspect. In a panic, he forgot about his sights and jerked his trigger. Thus, of the nine shots fired, seven missed all together (low and left). Two struck the suspect, one in the right foot and one in the right calf. He was using WW 147 grain Supreme SXT ammo.
The extent of the suspect’s injuries was not reported, but they were not life-threatening. The suspect hobbled a short distance and surrendered without further incident to back-up officers as they arrived at the scene.
The officer who was hit in the arm will be permanently disabled.”
Be careful what you wish for! If you decide to issue a verbal challenge, you should have a gun in hand and preferably by behind cover. Don’t be surprised when a challenged suspect is not impressed with you and initiates an explosive counterattack. You need to be ready and in a strong position if you expect to prevail.
One-hand shooting, particularly weak-hand shooting (including the weak-hand draw), is an important part of any defensive handgun training program. Such often neglected skills need to be exercised regularly.
8 Feb 00
Tomorrow, I’m off to Africa. I’ll be back at the end of the month. Vicki will pick up the slack in my absence. I’ll have a full report when I return.
26 Feb 00
Having just returned from my third trip to South Africa, I now have, I trust, an adequate enough perspective to make credible comments:
I was in country for two weeks, returning home last Thursday. During that time I conducted three defensive handgun courses in the Capetown area. I also had the opportunity to go touring and hunting. I stayed with friends locally. South Africans are marvelous hosts, and I stuffed myself on the wonderful, local seafood.
One thing I’ve learned about international travel: Don’t go where American tourists go. Don’t eat where they eat and don’t stay where they stay. If one maintains a low profile and sticks with the locals, he has a wonderful time, saves a bundle, and it is much safer than being with tour groups, particular American tour groups.
My students in two were a mix of local police officers and local citizens. One class was made up exclusively of security guards working for a large company that provides security services for an expansive local theme park and night club. In South Africa, all police are part of a “federal” force. There are no local police or sheriff’s departments under local control.
The security guards all used H&K USPs in 45ACP. The cops used mostly CZ-75s in 9mm along with a few Browning Hi-Powers. Non-police also used mostly CZ-75s. The few who could afford them had Glock-19s. One student had a Ruger revolver. USPs worked well, as is the case with most everything made by H&K. Same with the few Glocks we had. The CZ-75 is an ill-designed, marginally-reliable pistol and surely not my favorite, but most made it through the course without major break downs.
CZ-75 shooters wanted to decock their pistols manually (by manually lowering the hammer while simultaneously pressing the trigger). I, of course, don’t allow that, because it’s slow, awkward, ties up both hands, and invariably leads to accidental discharges. So they were all compelled to carry their CZ-75s cocked and locked, and, of course, they worked fine that way.
Ammunition among non-police students was mostly underpowered, homemade reloads, with cast, lead bullets. Pistols using such ammunition rapidly became gummed up and filthy. Cops and security guards had factory hard ball which was not quite as dirty. Ammunition in South Africa is expensive and difficult to acquire in large quantities. High-performance ammunition, like Cor-Bon, is just about unheard of, because it is so expensive. Most everyone carries hardball for defense, because that is all they can get. When I fired Cor-Bon out of my Glock-19 during several demonstrations, everyone cringed at the thought that such a precious commodity was being expended in practice.
South African local currency is weak by World standards, so anything there which has been imported from the USA, Germany, Japan, Austria, or any other country with a strong currency is prohibitively expensive. Hence, there are few S&Ws and Glocks to be found. What one sees mostly among the casual, gun-owning public are Taurus pistols (imported directly from Brazil) and a host of pitifully inadequate pistols imported from eastern European countries.
My students were all earnest and frightened. More on the political situation later, but suffice it to say that “security” is not a merely the subject of casual, lighthearted conversation in South Africa as it is here. Rape and similar, violent crime is epidemic throughout the country. The governmental response is mostly characterized by denial and bungling inefficiency. Police are poorly trained, poorly paid, pathetically equipped, poorly supervised, utterly unmotivated, have few powers, and their presence is largely nonexistent in most places. In rural areas, where many of my students live, reporting an armed-robbery-in-progress to the police will generate a beat car responding (with any luck) the next day! The message on ATM screens says, “This ATM closes at 2:00pm because of crime.” In Africa, you’re on your own!
One might think that, with all this excitement, everyone there would be an experienced and competent gunman. The exact opposite is true. Denial and complacency abound! Local “training” is hopelessly out of date. Individual tactics, marksmanship, and knowledge of their warrior heritage are all sadly neglected. However, I now have a competent instructor cadre in place there, and they are busily spreading the sunshine.
Everyone there is holding their breath as the government considers additional restrictions on gun ownership (all, of course, with the blessing of the UN). As it is now, one must obtain a separate permit for every gun owned. It usually takes months, and applications are routinely lost and misplaced by a legion of unmotivated bureaucrats. Getting broken guns fixed is nearly impossible. As is the case in this country, the government’s ultimate goal is the out-and-out abolition of all private gun ownership. They’re just more candid about it than are our politicians. South African politicians admit gun probation is unconstitutional, but, in the next breath, say they don’t care.
So often you hear, “He is a good man; why did his wife leave him? or, “He was a good shooter; why did he fail to survive the attack?” The trouble is that in this world, “good” means “scarcely adequate,” and, in a place like South Africa, “good enough” never is. Being a “good shooter” doesn’t get it. One better be a superlative shooter (and tactician), and then pray that you’re up to whatever challenges come your way. In most cases, you won’t have to wait long for an opportunity to test your theory. As in the natural world, life offers few second chances!
26 Feb 00
Hunting in South Africa:
This trip, I had the opportunity to go dove hunting at a farm owned by one of my students. I also had the chance to go big-game hunting at an enormous game ranch two hundred miles north of Capetown. Our quarry this time was Oryx (also know as Oryx Gazelle or Gemsbuck).
I have never seen so many doves in my life! We were positioned along a river which the doves use as a daily migration route from their feeding grounds to their roosting area. It was mid afternoon when they started coming over us in twos and threes. Upon seeing us as they cleared a large bush we were positioned behind, they would begin their characteristic, erratic flying patterns (for which they are so famous).
I used a borrowed, twelve-gauge Beretta over/under with 7 ½ shot. There were three of us, but my hosts let me do most of the shooting. We went through over 350 rounds in the next two hours! It got to the point where I was wishing no more doves would come through, as my shoulder was really getting beat up. We kept three dogs busy continuously. I’ve never done so much shooting in one place in my life!
I thought I was a pretty good wing shot, but doves flying erratically are formidable targets. At the beginning, I was connecting with one out of four shots. Toward the end I was getting pretty close to one in two. My friends were hitting one in two but no better. Great day! Sore shoulder!
On Monday the 21st, a local professional hunter (one of my students) drove me up to his sprawling game range in central South Africa. It is isolated, and the buildings have no electricity. Running water is intermittent, and we were out of cellphone range. I could have spent a week there!
For the first time in my life, I saw giraffes in the wild. Also springbok, impala, kudu, oryx, and wildebeest. Herds of them! The country was reminiscent of Wyoming, mostly flat, with a few rocky outcroppings. They’ve had a lot of rain recently, so the local vegetation is thicker than normal, and the “roads,” barely passable even in good times, had been badly rutted by running water. This time of year is summer in South Africa, so it is hot.
Last Monday afternoon, we went oryx hunting! I used a borrowed, Bruno, bolt-action rifle (made in Czechoslovakia) chambered for 270 Win. It had a Redfield 3-9X scope and a set trigger. I don’t like set triggers, and it struck me that the 270 Win round with 150 gr SP bullets was a little light for a five-hundred-pound oryx, but, being a guest, I was not inclined to play the Ugly American and presume to pontificate on the subject. My guide had hunted these animals far more than I had.
After several confirming shots at a makeshift range, we proceeded in a vintage Land Rover out to the expansive area where oryx are found. Oryx are herd animals, but, like all plains game, they have superlative eyesight, and one is not likely to “sneak up” on them. The herd would let us get within 220 meters, then would nervously move on.
Our local guide (the best guides are Bushmen, a derivative of the Khoisan group from whom come the Hottentots and several other local tribes) spotted the oryx heard at a distance of three miles. I could barely see them in binoculars (even after the guide told me where to look)!
The stalk consumed the next several hours, as we tried to get close enough to them for a legitimate shot. From past, bitter experience I was determined not to attempt a shot where I had a low probability of being effective. As usual, my heart was pumping rapidly as I prayed that I would not disgrace the Regiment! From additional bitter experience, I’ve learned to aim for the point of the shoulder on any animal with which I have a profile shot. “Heart/lung” shots have generated too many runaway animals for me not to want to break the shoulder immediately and anchor the animal on the spot.
Over the next hour, twenty times I shouldered the rifle and pushed the safety off in anticipation of shooting, only to watch the window of opportunity close prematurely or never open in the first place. My animal would step behind another or start running, or I would lose him in the herd.
At long last, he stood still long enough for me to get a shot. At a range of 220 meters I set the trigger, put the crosshairs on the point of his shoulder, touched the trigger, then started my press. A second later I hear a “click.” My animal walked nonchalantly back into the herd.
This is why I don’t like set triggers. The trigger will release, even if the safety is on. So, when I heard the click, I didn’t know if I had forgotten to chamber a round or the manual safety was still on. It, of course, turned out to be the latter. Manual safeties on many European rifles work the opposite of the way they do on American rifles. On this Bruno, forward was on. Back was off. Of course, I should have gotten all that straight when I sighted the rifle in earlier in the day, but I never thought about it. I won’t make that mistake again!
In any event, that opportunity was gone, so we continued. It was another hour before I had my next chance. Again, the range was 220 meters. For several minutes I waited as I watched the animal through the scope. He finally stopped. It was a profile shot. I touched the trigger, and the shot broke about a second later.
The shot felt good, and, as the rifle settled back down, I could see the oryx bull unceremoniously drop to the ground where he had been standing. He fell as if he had been electrocuted. “Great shot!” yelled my guide. “He’s down.” I breathed a sigh of relief. However, again drawing from past experience, I immediately bolted in another round and got back on him. “Relaxing too soon” is a mistake I’ve made in the past and did not intend to make again.
Minutes later we approached the downed animal in the Land Rover. He was huge, weighing around five hundred pounds! My guide advised that we remain in the vehicle for at least ten minutes. Oryx (both sexes) have two, meter-long horns, and more than one careless and overconfident hunter has had one or both stuck through his torso by a “dead” animal.
We finally disembarked. My guide asked me to use my Glock-19 pistol to put a final shot through the animal’s heart from behind his front leg. I obediently drew it from my Elderton Ky-Tec holster and fired a single shot. I hit him with a 90gr, 9mm Cor-Bon, and blood immediately gushed out of the entrance wound. He was finished, or so we thought!
My guide confidently sent our Land Rover back to the ranch to get the camera (which we had forgotten), leaving him and me standing there alone with the animal (and no vehicle). My guide then took the rifle from me and unloaded it, and we stood there naively congratulating ourselves.
It had now been thirty minutes. The downed oryx had not moved for the last fifteen. Suddenly (I’m not making this up!) he effortlessly got up and back on his feet as if he had been asleep! We both watched in disbelief, as my stomach lurched into my throat. My Glock flew back out as I jumped aside and brought it up to eye level (for what little good it might have done). As I was having visions of being impaled on oryx horn, the animal turned around and staggered off.
My guide and I both believed he would shortly fall back down, but he didn’t. In fact, he started running, displaying very little discomfort. My guide hurriedly put two rounds in the rifle and fired them both at the running animal. The first missed. The second, we discovered later, went through the right horn.
My oryx continued running for the next twenty minutes, covering about two miles in the process! He rejoined his herd, so we tried to approach them on foot. My wounded animal finally began to slow down and was not able to keep up with his colleagues. From a sitting position and at a range of two hundred meters, I finally was able to get a shot. I hit him again in the shoulder. Nothing. I immediately bolted in another round and hit him again. As the rifle came down, I could see him tumble. Taking no changes, I bolted in another round and waited.
All is well that ends well. This time, he was finally dead. His head will shortly be hanging in Vicki’s and my living room, complete with the horn with the bullet hole!
Subsequent autopsy revealed that all three of my rifle shots (plus the pistol shot) had hit. The first hit the shoulder but failed to break it, although the bullet did considerable damage as it passed through the animal’s body laterally. We found it, fully mushroomed, just under the skin on the opposite side. Ditto for the other two. My 90gr Cor-Bon had penetrated a rib and then just bumped the heart. We found it, fully mushroomed, in contact with the pericardial sack.
It was a classic example of “neural shock.” The first round jarred the oryx’s nervous system so badly that the animal acted as if he had been paralyzed. I then misinterpreted temporary paralysis as death, because that is what I wanted to believe. I could have been severely injured or killed because of my misreckoning. African game, even plains game, is much tougher and more dangerous than what I’m used to hunting in America.
>Set triggers are for recreational, target shooting, not hunting. They are unsuitable for any serious purpose. They are too fluid and too temperamental.
>For animals weighing in at five hundred pounds, the 270 Win is too light. Next time it’s going to be a 300 WM, 300 H&H, or a 7mm Rem. Using light calibers on tough, heavy game is flirting with disaster, as I nearly found out the hard way.
>Keep your rifle, loaded, ready, and with you, always! You may not get a second chance, as I did.
>Downed animals need to be finished off with a rifle (not a pistol) shot. This is something else I won’t fail to do next time. If a wounded, eighty-pound deer gets up and runs away, it is frustrating but not dangerous. When wounded, five-hundred pound animals with three-foot horns get up, it’s serious business! One does not hunt carelessly in Africa. I’ve now learned this lesson in spades!
26 Feb 00
South Africa’s middle class is made up of Whites (Dutch, English, and Portuguese), Indians, “Coloreds” (White/Black or Indian/Black genetic mix), and a few Blacks (mostly Zulu and a few Xlausa). My students are all middle-class South Africans, so I have all flavors.
The middle class lives an existence somewhere between first world and second world. Most Blacks, who make up the majority, live in a third-world reality. All this is common knowledge, of course, but in our overly self-conscious civilization we are prohibited from discussing problems and situations frankly.
The current South African government is entirely black, and the present generation of black politicians has expressed no interest in sharing power with any other racial group. We’ve seen the same phenomenon in Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe (formally Rhodesia).
South Africa needs its middle class. Without it, the infrastructure cannot be expanded. Indeed, it cannot even be maintained. The entire nation will quickly sink into a third-world posture. In fact, that is what is happening now.
Angola was a thriving, Portuguese colony up until the 1970s. It supported a flourishing middle class and had a strong currency. The incoming, black government promptly drove all the Portuguese out, stole their property, and murdered many of the ones who stayed. Most ended up in South Africa. Today, Angola is a nauseating hell hole which has been consumed with a continuous, bloody civil war ever since. Land mines are everywhere. Murderous gangs roam freely and victimize all they come in contact with. There is no national economy. AIDS is out of control and is rapidly depopulating the countryside (as it is everywhere on the continent). No sane person would ever go there.
A similar fate befell Mozambique. Today, some people visit southern Mozambique, but the northern part of the country is definitely off limits. Again, there is no national economy.
Rhodesia was a British colony. It economy was mostly agricultural, but it was thriving. As before, all non-blacks were driven out by the new, black government. Today, the country (now called Zimbabwe) is a shambles. The Marxist government dithers.
Today, in South Africa the handwriting is on the wall. All non-black citizens feel like Jews in Nazi Germany in 1935. Whites, Indians, and coloreds combined cannot muster enough votes to threaten any politician. Politicians don’t even try to appeal to any of those groups. In fact, open hatred of non-blacks is freely expressed at all levels of government. But, like Jews in Nazi Germany, many non-blacks are in denial.
There is now a movement (openly discussed) within the government to seize all real estate owned by non-blacks and nationalize all non-black commercial enterprises. Most politicians are Marxists, so they see no moral problem with stealing. Knocks at midnight, mandatory armbands, and concentration camps will be next, because non-black South Africans have no other place on the continent to which they can escape.
Violent crime against non-blacks is all but encouraged by the government. Acts of reasonable self-defense are viciously prosecuted, particularly against non-blacks. One’s ultimate civic duty is to be a “good victim.” I would not be surprised to see an event similar to the “Krystalnacht” which took place in Nazi Germany and ushered in the event we call the Holocaust.
One government goal is to abolish all private gun ownership within the next ten years. No one doubts that they will pass all laws necessary to do it. There will be no significant objection.
Unless black politicians can be persuaded to share power with non-blacks, South Africa will go the same was as Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Except, this time, there will be millions of refugees looking for another place to live, on some other continent!
All this is, of course, ignored and washed over by the American media. They convey the impression that everything in Africa is coming up roses. As usual, they refuse to report anything that does not confirm to their preconceived fantasias.
However, I can tell you that non-blacks in South Africa are nervous and scared right now. They are exceedingly cognizant of the wholesale slaughters that are going on this minute in Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, and other places on the continent. At least a few of my friends there now have Ky-Tec holsters and Cor-Bon ammunition. I hope they’re going to be okay, and I hope I will be able to return next year.