Saturday, October 19, 2002

In reference to the post below, a petard is a bucket filled with gunpowder that had a fuse dangling out of it. Back when they still used castles for defense, the quickest way to get the gates open was to nail one of these bad boys to the doors. Better pound that nail quick, though. Wait too long and the fuse would run out and the guy with the bucket would get blown up in the air. (And die, by the way)

You can read all about it here.

Last week I commented on a news item about a bomb that went off in a shopping mall near Helsinki. At the time I thought that the news coverage was rather strange.

Now I see that the BBC has followed up. They report that the bomber, a teenage university student, was one of the victims that died. This begs the question: Did he intend to go when he lit off his bomb, or did he make a mistake with the timer? If it was a mistake then it was rather odd, since the bomb sounds rather sophisticated....

"The bomb contained 4lb (1.8kg) of explosive materials and a number of ball-bearings or similar materials which acted as shrapnel."

Hmmm, sort of like the Claymore mine used by U.S. forces. (A really neat essay about the history and development of the Claymore mine can be found here.) That's somewhat sophisticated, but if the kid was bright enough I suppose he could have gotten all the necessary plans and data off of the Internet.

"Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen said 'The government... will not rest until the guilty one or ones have been brought to justice."

Looks like it's too late for that.

The article describes the bomb as "crude", but let's look over the damage done by the 4 lbs. device (1.8kg)....

"Up to 80 people, including many children, were injured. Seven people, including the bomber, were killed. Part of the mall's roof collapsed in the blast, which damaged an area of about 300 square metres (3,000 sq feet)."

Jeez Louise! That's considered crude???? And all that was done with a device weighing four pounds? Something tells me that the bomber was using something other than home-made black powder in that sucker.

They had a memorial service for the dead at the mall. You can find out about it at the mall's official website here.

I'm watching TV yesterday and all of the commercials are about Sports-Utility Vehicles. Big sales in SUV's, I suppose. The way they market them is interesting to me. Please go to this site and look at the middle of the screen for the yellow button labelled "Photos". The slideshow that pops up has a few picks of an SUV driving in the city, but what they're really selling is an image of extreme outdoorsy fun.

Nothing wrong with that, I'm a bit of an outdoor type myself. The SUV is a good all around vehicle: Big enough to haul stuff around either for work or home and 4WD for bad road conditions or rather gentle off-roading. Not as useful in some roles as a specialty vehicle, maybe, but it does the best job of being one-size-fits-all.

I was wondering what was the first SUV? What was the first vehicle suitable for many different tasks, as well as being useful when you took it off-road? I think that has to be the Model T Ford.

Hey, don't laugh! I know it looks silly, but hear me out.

The Model T was something new. Incredibly innovative and extremely popular, soon Ford was offering several different designs to meet specific needs. Race cars, a family sized version, a pickup truck and even one for arctic conditions. Whatever you needed Ford could provide.

The advertising had some simularities to that of today, with special attention paid to the woman driver. Although it appears primitive by today's standards, an effort was made to market the car as a go anywhere, do anything sort of vehicle. Much of the old advertisements feature camping out as a fun (and inexpensive) way for the family to spend their vacation. Many historians state that Henry Ford himself was largely responsible for the American interest in the great outdoors.

Well, that was then and this is now. I think I'll pass up on the Model T for a Hummer. That last link is a pretty big image, but it's worth it.

I was just over at Jim Henley's blog. He notes that the guy who gave a false statement to the police is being held without bond (just scroll on past the part where he mentions this blog). Mr. Henley asks the question "How unusual is it to hold someone without bond on a misdemeanor charge?"

It's very unusual, but it's also very unusual to have a misdemeanor receive international media attention. Don't forget that the police are very sensitive to public opinion. Any charges of incompetence are to be avoided if at all possible. If there's any reason to think that Mr. Dowdy won't show up for his scheduled court dates then they'll hang on to him.

Friday, October 18, 2002

I was browsing the news servers and saw that there is yet another news item about the Maryland sniper. Looks like a cleaning crew found some shell casings in a rental truck, the police have been called in, they're testing said casings and fingerprinting the truck, blah blah blah.

Like everyone else except the sniper(s), I really hope they find something that leads to the bad guy(s). Odds are slim, though. But it occurred to me that the people who actually go out and shoot aren't spending too much time posting about this.

Why is that?

Oh, we talk about it some. We speculate about the caliber of the rifle, we have daydreams about getting the sniper to stop and getting some benefit out of him, and those of us interested in law enforcement keep the rest of us posted on any developments in the case. Yet the people who read these blogs, the guys and gals that have a full gun safe and who go out to the range every month or so, don't bother to leave any comments about these posts. We know good sense when we hear it and don't see any reason to talk about the obvious.

But there are other, more popular blogs, which post and post about the sniper, usually in an effort to advance their theories that this is some sort of organized plan by a big terrorist organization. These posts almost always generate a huge amount of comments (94 freakin' comments???).

It's obvious why we don't bother to comment on these posts. First, most of the posts deal with questions we've long sinced answered. Second, most (but not all) of the people who do leave a comment don't have any real idea of what they're talking about. They look up a few firearm websites and chime in with their opinion. It can be tedious trying to point out to someone who refuses to listen that 500 yard head shots aren't realistic when you're using an unmodified AK-47.

Some of us have a background in law enforcement as well as being avid shooters. We recognize right off that the vast majority of "information" coming from the news sources is just plain....uh, well, idiotic (can't think of a more polite term that fits). No evidence, obviously false police reports, and a constant litany about how disciplined or skilled the sniper(s) are when any 12 year old kid who shot a rifle at summer camp could do as well.

Besides, no one bothers to read our blogs unless they already know most of this stuff. It would just be a waste of our time (much like this post, I suppose). Still, now that I've spent this much time writing it I might as well post it.

From the "Freaky Friday" file comes this really strange news story about some people in Alaska that claim to have seen a bird with a 14 foot wingspan. That's pretty big. Somehow I doubt that they really saw a bird.

Hmmmm. What do I know of that flies and has a 14 foot wingspan? Something that would resemble a bird from a distance?

Can't think of a thing.

From BBC News comes this article, which discusses how France is endlessly debating the U.N. Security Council resolution about Iraq. France states that it is "questioning the phrase "serious consequences" in America's revised draft." Hey, I don't have an objection to being more clear about this. Howsabout "invade and remove the threat to innocent lives if they won't remove it themselves"?

Something tells me that France would object. Heck, they'd probably object no matter what we said.

Not that the land of bad hygiene and snooty people could actually do anything about it if we decide that we're fed up with their rhetoric. The BBC article puts it best when it states "The US says it is prepared to act without the UN". Well.....Yeah!

The BBC also provides an excellent thumbnail analysis of the stance that various countries have taken in regard to this issue here. It's worth reading if you're interested in this sort of thing.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

So you've thought it all out. You've made the decision that you want to be responsible for your own safety, and help with safeguarding innocent people around you. You've checked out the applicable laws in your state and city and are just about ready to take the first step and attend an NRA approved safety course. All you have to do is buy the gun you'll be carrying.

This stops you in your tracks. Now what? Which handgun is the best for concealed carry? You read a few magazines you pick up at the grocery store, but all of the articles say that they know what's the best, and they all suggest something different. You go to a local gun store, but the clerks there are only interested in selling you the most expensive gun in the place. You go to a local gun range but all of the people shooting have different ideas as to what's best.

Don't worry. I'm here to tell it to you straight. I know exactly what's the best choice for concealed carry. It's the gun you feel the most comfortable with when you carry it around.

I'm not trying to be cute (anybody who's seen me in the flesh can tell you that's impossible). Really, this is the best answer you're ever going to get and it's the one that makes the most sense.

Check with any serious shooter and they all have their preferances. Some like revolvers, some like autoloaders. Hey, there's even 4-barrelled handguns chambered for potent Magnum cartridges. Any of them are just fine for defense. Just find out what's the best for you and I'm sure that you made the best choice possible.

There's also plenty of debate as to which cartridge is best for defense. I've just read a very thoughtful post on the role that handguns play in the military, but for civilian defensive purposes it's best to consider handguns emergency arms to be used only in the gravest extreme. .44 Magnum is a little too powerful and tends to go right through a target as small as a man, endangering innocent people further down range. Anything smaller than a .380 ACP is really too small to be relied on for defense. Anything in between is just fine, and can do the job. The most popular cartridges in order of power they are .380 ACP (AKA .380 Auto, AKA 9mm Kurz), 9X18mm Makarov, .38 Special, 9mm Parabellum (AKA 9mm Luger), .45 Auto, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and the .357 Magnum.

Keep in mind that there's plenty of fine cartridges that deliver the needed performance, but it's been my experience that there's a smaller selection of guns and loads to choose from than the choices available for the more popular cartridges. Better to stick to something listed in the previous paragraph until you have more experience.

So choose which type of gun you prefer, either an autoloader or a revolver. If it's an autoloader then you should pick either a full sized duty gun or a smaller model for easier concealment. If revolvers are more your style then pick between duty guns and a compact sub-nosed version. Any of them would do the job. Just don't choose a ginormous gun that's too big to conceal.

To find what's best for you, find a local shooting range that will rent used guns. Go once a week for a month and rent a wide variety of handguns chambered for different cartridges. Then you should be able to find the best fit.

Some of my readers will ask what I rely on for my own protection. That will be something I'll talk about another time. After all, this post most certainly isn't about me.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Just read this post on Australian blogger Tim Blair's site. He quotes an Email he received from an American Air Force officer currently deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom. The officer talks about the recent terrorist attack in Bali, and asks if there's any fund set up to help the families that he might contribute to. Mr. Blair sums up the post very succinctly....

"The man is prepared to die for Australians, yet he wants to donate money to us. This must be an example of that American tyranny we hear so much about."

You tell em', Tim.

Terrible news from Indonesia, a place that has earned criticism from me for being a haven for pirates. Well, now it looks like it's a haven for terrorists as well.

A car bomb that went off outside of a crowded nighclub has killed many innocent people, many of them Australian. New Zealand and Australian bloggers are rather upset, as you might imagine. 187 dead so far, 300 injured (many of the injured will be maimed for what's left of their life). There's already talk that this might be the 9/11 for Australia. I really wish it could have happened another way.

The BBC, an excellent source of news, is a little slow on the uptake on this one. Surf the blogs to get more up-to-the-minute coverage.