Sunday, January 28, 2007
Beware the Man with One Gun
Before I got involved with guns myself, I thought people who had large gun collections were even nuttier than the typical gun nut. I didn't understand why anyone would want an arsenal of weapons, other than survivalist paranoia or a need to compensate for inadequacies.
Gun owners themselves recognize that collecting guns can be a little silly. They have a saying: Beware the man with one gun. The man with one gun has mastered his weapon of choice. He knows exactly how to draw it, what sight picture he needs at various ranges, how much pressure to apply to the trigger, how to absorb the recoil, and how to prepare for the next shot. Most importantly, the man with one gun didn't buy it to fill a space in his gun cabinet or to impress his shooting buddies; he bought it because he wants to be ready to use it.
There is another kind of "man with one gun:" this is the person who buys a gun and then sticks in the night stand, briefcase, or purse without really learning how to handle it safely. We all need to beware of such a person, but this is not the person who inspired the saying.
Despite the saying, lots of gun owners do buy lots of guns. There are some good practical reasons for this. You might want a small .22 pistol for target practice, but something bigger for self-defense or home-defense. You might want a bigger handgun that you can carry under a coat or jacket during cold-weather months, but a smaller gun that fits in a pocket during warmer weather.
Some people want to stash weapons throughout their homes or places of business. This strikes me as a bit paranoid, but I guess it's reasonable if you've concluded that it makes sense to have a weapon within reach at all times, just in case. For an example of a person who was wise to use this strategy, read the story of Lance Thomas
But lots of gun owners will admit that they have several guns because it's just fun to collect them and try different models. I'm beginning to understand this myself. As I shoot more often, I see guns less as "things that could kill me" and more as "gadgets." From the simplicity of a revolver to the timepiece-like complexity of some semi-automatic pistols, there is a wide range of mechanisms to investigate, analyze, and argue about. I find myself spending an increasing amount of time at gun manufacturers' web sites and kneeling in front of gun-store display cases.
Most gun owners are hoping to eventually stumble across The Perfect Gun: a gun that always hits the center of the bullseye, feels comfortable on the hip, and looks like a work of art.
I am currently a man with one gun, but I don't think anyone needs to beware of me. Only the bad-guy silhouettes on paper targets need fear me.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Since leaving my last employer in September, I've been living on my savings. I had put enough money aside to last a few months, but still, four momths without steady income was starting to worry me. However, I've finally received my first payment for a contracting invoice, and more are in the pipeline, so I can breathe (and spend) easy for a while.
A lot of regular employees think contract programmers must be wealthy, after hearing about the hourly rates. The money is good, when it is coming in, but contractors have a lot of expenses and risks that employees don't have. I have to pay self-employment tax. I have to pay for my own health plan. I have to provide a lot of my own stuff (hardware, software, etc.).
Being my own boss is nice, but being paid by the hour causes some concerns that I didn't have as an employee. Every time I hit the snooze button in the morning, delaying the beginning of my work day, it "costs" me about ten bucks. An idle non-billable conversation during working hours might cost me $20. Going out to lunch with co-workers costs me around $100. If the co-workers decide they want to take a long lunch, it costs even more.
For the most part, I don't worry about these "losses." Having choices over how to spend my time was the reason I went independent. But there is a part of me that is disgusted that I am passing up a fortune. If I were to bill 50 or 60 hours a week, I'd be making more than twice what I made as an employee. I wouldn't be happy, but that greedy part of me doesn't care.
Thankfully, that part of me doesn't serve on my Board of Directors.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
When I was younger, I assumed that one day I would "grow up" and become an "adult." For a large portion of my life, I've awaited that milestone, but now I know it won't arrive.
As far as I can tell, people never grow up. I've participated in meetings of CEO's, CFO's, Boards of Directors, and various levels of governmental bureucracy, and have concluded that after age 30 or so, nobody really becomes any more mature.
The people I currently work with spend most of their time talking about World of Warcraft. They pay the bills, so I won't argue. But it always amazes me that most of the work I do is secondary to whatever non-revenue-generating activity is consuming the people with whom I am working.
I used to think that the upper echelons of corporate leadership were dominated by clear-thinking businesspeople who were focused upon the bottom line. After interacting with some of those people, I now know that most important corporate people are focused on the same issues that the characters of "Seinfeld" were focused upon.
Does it make sense to try to "grow up" in an environment where the CEO keeps a water pistol in his desk drawer? Or when one's boss takes a week of vacation to "level" his World of Warcraft character?
My observation is that the higher-level a corporate officer/executive is, the sillier his behavior is.
In such an environment, does it really make sense to try to fit in and advance within the system? Or is it better to try to maintain a sense of what is really important?
For now, I'm trying to stay away from the silliness. But I don't know whether that is really the safer course.
How the West Was Won
My Dad relayed a question from some game show he watched: "What 80's band had a hit with an album called 'How the West Was Won?'" The answers were multiple choice: The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, or The Rolling Stones. I confidently answered that it must be The Eagles, because I had all the albums from the other groups.
Dad said that the answer was Led Zeppelin. Since I had all of Led Zeppelin's albums, I was convinced that Dad must be having one of his "senior moments." But it turned out that, yes, indeed, a series of live 1972 Zeppelin performances was released a couple of years ago under that title, in 2005.
So I went out and bought "How the West Was Won" the following day. After all, I couldn't live knowing that my Dad knew more about Led Zeppelin that I did.
I bought myself some presents for Christmas and for my birthday. After all, who else can I trust to get me what I really want?
For Christmas, I bought myself the DVDs for the first season of Deadwood, and the complete series of The Office (the original British version). Deadwood is, I think, the closest thing American TV has to Shakespeare. The Office is just plain funny. If you have HBO, make sure you watch Extras.
For my 40th birthday, I bought myself a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol and accessories. I transformed from gun-hater to gun-owner in about three weeks. I want to participate in IPSC and IPDA matches, so it made sense to buy my own gun. In fact, I now think it makes sense for everyone to buy a gun. It's amazing how much one's opinions can change. Two months ago, I wouldn't have believed that I would be buying ammo every time I went to Wal*Mart.
I appreciate the gifts my friends and family gave me for these occasions. As for the rest of you, thanks for nothing. :)
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
A few weeks ago, I was talking to an older gentleman at a golf course, and I mentioned my 40th birthday was coming up.
He smiled and asked "It went by quick, didn't it?"
Yes, it did.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Kris Johnson's Blizzog
I think I've figured out how to make my blog more interesting: Link
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Handgun Reviews from a Beginner
After taking the handgun safety course, I spent some time at a couple of nearby shooting ranges. On each trip, I rented a different gun so that I could get a feel for how the different designs work and how good I am with them. I put 100 rounds through each one.
Here are some mini-reviews of the guns I tried. I'm writing this for my own benefit, to keep track of which ones I liked and which ones I didn't. Remember that I'm a beginner, and I'm making selections based on what the local ranges have available for rent, so take it for what it's worth.
This is the gun I used during my safety course. It is easy to use, and feels pretty comfortable. The only complaint I have is that it was hard to reach the magazine release with my thumb. (I guess I have short thumbs.)
The Steyr fit my hand better than any other gun I've tried. I shot very accurately with it. I liked the weird sights. It also looks pretty cool, like something out of a sci-fi police movie.
The only thing I'm sure about is the short hard trigger pull. Unlike other guns where one smoothly pulls the trigger back until it goes bang, with the Steyr, I felt like I had to jerk the trigger to get the gun to fire. But I hit what I was aiming at, so maybe a "crisp" trigger is ideal for me.
I had a double-feed jam after firing 90 rounds. I couldn't clear it myself, so I asked one of the range staff to take a look at it. He cleared it, then test-fired it, and it jammed again. The range guy attributed it to the fact that the gun hadn't been cleaned in a while. He gave it a quick cleaning, and it worked fine after that.
This is a Real Man's gun: full-size and heavy, with an exposed hammer and designed to be carried "cocked & locked." I didn't shoot it very well. The double-action trigger pull was very hard. I've concluded I probably don't want a gun like this, even if it means the Real Men won't respect me.
I liked this small gun a lot. The single-stack magazine gives it a narrow grip, which suits my hands well. My only complaints are that I pinched the bottom of my right hand a couple of times while inserting the magazine, and the slide lock release was very stiff. (I don't know if the slide lock problem is common to this model, or just a problem with the particular gun I used.) If I ever need to carry a concealed pistol, this one would be at the top of my list.
This is basically the same as the Glock 19, except a little larger. I wanted to get a feel for the difference in size and whether the longer length gave me more accuracy.
Unfortunately, the trigger was very stiff, so I didn't shoot consistently. When I turned the gun in, I mentioned it to a staff member, who checked it and confided that the gun really needed a cleaning. This is the second time that an uncleaned gun has caused problems—I guess that's the peril of renting a gun instead of caring for your own.
This was my first revolver. The long, hard double-action pull was a lot different from a semi-auto, but I got used to it pretty quick. The Ruger is a little heavy, but the mass makes firing it easy.
I associate revolvers with 70's cop shows. That's why I went for a semi-auto when I started with guns. But, now that I've used a revolver, I think that's what I should have started with.
After firing 50 rounds from the Ruger, my Glock 19's trigger felt like I was barely touching it when I fired. I didn't think of a single-action trigger as being "light" until I tried a a revolver.
This is an inexpensive pocket-sized gun, which fires .380 Auto ammo, smaller than .38 Special or 9mm. It's very small, although I do have a few pockets where it would not fit.
Firing it isn't very comfortable, but it's not meant to be—this is a purely defensive weapon, not a "range gun." All my shots went a little to the right of where I was aiming; I don't know whether that's my fault or the gun's fault.
The sights aren't very good, but a gun like this isn't intended for situations where carefully aimed fire would be needed.
Some people complain that the Kel-Tecs are unreliable, but I fired 100 rounds of range ammo and seven rounds of defensive ammo through a brand-new gun without any jams. The only issue I had was that it didn't feed a few times when I racked the slide after inserting a new magazine. Pulling the slide back and trying again corrected the problem every time, so I'm willing to blame it on my poor slide releasing rather than on the gun.