Saturday, February 18, 2012

Self Defense is the Best Defense

By Rob Watson

DISCLAIMER: Follow these rules and suggestions at your own risk. I am not a self defense expert. To the best of my knowledge my suggestions below have been tested only once. That person violated all of the rules, save one, and is alive, well, and unharmed. ( The rule she followed was to give the target a chance to run, which he did.)

Serious emergencies have, from time to time, been a part of my life. (My stories on the Merry Bee, "Attempted Robbery", or the "Fear…" pieces being examples.) Other events, the 1956 hurricane or the 2007 Big Freeze could have been problems but were not… not that any actually ended up being harmful to me in any way… just lucky so far. It could all be summed up: I thought I was in danger but I was wrong.

My favorite pro-gun statements are: "When seconds count, Police are just minutes away." and "Gun control advocates tell you, a woman, raped and strangled with her own stockings, is somehow morally superior to one explaining to police how her attacker got his fatal wound." A case in point happened this week when a social worker returned two boys to their father. His reactions caused her to fear for the children's lives. She called 911. For various reasons the dispatcher did not think it was an emergency and notified police 20 minutes later. Any delay would have been fatal and was. The father locked the doors, cut the boys throats, and set the house on fire from the inside. While nothing could have changed this tragedy, You can hope your emergency call reaches a different dispatcher.

One night while living in a house with the bedroom in the basement, I awoke to the sounds of the floor above creaking. The creaking moved slowly as if made by someone walking slowly through the house. I drew my large magnum pistol from its place beside the bed and advanced slowly up the stairs… Rethinking this situation in later years, I have concluded I made a huge mistake. In short, seeking out trouble is surely the best way to find it. (The sounds may have been made by a resident ghost, as I never found a thing opened, unlocked, or out of place)

There is a sign, sometimes found in gun stores: "There is nothing in here worth risking your life for." Or in my case, I have nothing, except my life, and that of my wife, that I wish to put myself in danger to protect. My new plan is to move to the most defendable position in the house (woods, mountains, etc.) with my large magnum pistol in hand, and wait for the other person to seek out trouble. (The other theory here is to have a pump shotgun… the loading of a pump shotgun makes an impressive sound in a quiet room.)

Once faced with one of these situations the question becomes "who to shoot" and "when to shoot?" I began reading the news papers at an early age. A story that sticks with me was of a 12 year old girl who went outside, at night, to quiet the family dog. As she walked back to the house, her father walked out the front door and shot her with a 12 ga shotgun. Her last word were "Oh, Daddy".

Another story from only a few years ago, is of a man who lived in a dangerous neighborhood. He went to the gun store and bought a handgun for self defense. One night he heard a person walking down the hall in his home. He came out shooting and killed his 18 year old daughter. A study shows this happens about 30 times a year in the US. On the other hand, armed citizens kill about twice as many criminals  as do police. Firearms may be use as many as 1,000,000 times a year, for self defense, without being fired. (Many people secretly, really, really want to shoot a criminal. If you have that urge you need to get control of it now.)

Police, people in constant danger, kill about 300 innocent people a year. A case in point: A trucker saw a police officer being fired upon and pinned down by armed criminals. He took his large handgun and ran to "help". The officer turned, saw a man running toward him with a gun in hand, and shot him dead. Or place yourself in this picture: You hear a person trying to break in your house and you see he has a gun. You call the police and report an armed person outside your home… You frighten them off with your own gun and are standing in the yard, gun in hand, when the police arrive. The best you can hope for is to be disarmed and arrested. Or, you could become one of the 300.

My thought is, one should pre-plan one's confrontation with a dangerous person. A police officer on the Dr. Phil show recommended carrying a roll of one dollar bills wrapped in a rubber band… the bigger the better. When confronted, let the criminal see the roll, throw the roll in one direction, (preferably behind the attacker, such that he has to turn around) and run the opposite direction. they probably won't shoot. ( of the ones who shoot, a huge percentage will miss entirely. Lots of the few hits will be non disabling.) Plan B is if a person uses a firearm to try to abduct you… run!!! Being shot will certainly be preferable to what they wanted to do to you. (Every victim who has ever survived an abduction will tell you the criminal fervently promises to not harm you if you go along, and they are all LIARS)( Promises like I will kill your… wife, friend, lover, whatever… if you run, only means you will both be killed when the time comes.)

Never draw your firearm when you are within easy reach of the criminal. He will just take it away from you and shoot you with it. Run first. Then draw your weapon and fire only if necessary. I do not believe in warning shots, especially if the other person is armed.

98 percent of criminals, and other bad persons, when faced with an armed citizen, will flee if given a chance. If they are not armed, give them a chance. Shouting "RUN STUPID" may get their thinking back on track. It will save you a lot of legal problems. The other 2 percent are mentally defective. They either think you will not shoot, or they think they can take your firearm from you. If the person does not flee after a few seconds, they need to be shot… the smaller your weapon the more times they need to be shot before you stop shooting. Four bullets, center of the target will EVENTUALLY be fatal. NOBODY EVER FALLS DOWN DEAD ON THE FIRST SHOT.

As a hunter, I can assure you, unless I hit an animal in the spine or the head, it did not fall down dead… no matter how big the rifle was. Humans are the same. In combat, unless the wound is disabling, 65% of soldiers do not realize they have been hit until some time afterwards.

You should hope, along with me, that we never face an armed criminal. If my weapon is put away, there are way too many questions to be answered, if and only if there is no place to run. If my weapon is out, loaded, and safety off, and there is no place to run. My plan is to shoot first and ask questions later.

In close quarters, with no place to run, there are other considerations. Your firearm and the criminal firearm may be partly or totally disabled if either is within easy reach. Most handguns have an exposed hammer. When they are cocked, anything between that hammer and the ammunition will totally disable that firearm. They all have triggers. Revolvers and double action semi auto pistols, prior to being cocked, have the trigger in a forward position. Anything behind the trigger, inside the trigger guard, will totally disable that firearm. Also, anything covering the ejection port of a semi auto pistol will disable it after one shot. The "anything" in these cases is the hand, or parts thereof. A firm hand on the cylinder of a revolver will keep it from being cocked. If the web of that hand is down in front of the cocked hammer, your revolver has been reduced to an extraneous object.

Parts of clothing also are an excellent way to disable your own firearm. Sleeves and pockets work best if the weapon is held close to the body. Scarves, handbag straps, and other articles of clothing on or near the handgun can do the same disservice. This leads to a simple rule: When shooting someone, keep your weapon clear of your clothes and his hands.

There are non fatal means of defending ones self. Some better than others. Read my post on "Tasers Don't Work" ( On this blog, September 2011 ) Pepper spray works well on all but determined attackers, where it works not at all. I have no experience with rubber bullets but I would guess they would work only if the target was wearing light clothes, like a T-shirt and shorts. I have seen shot bags fired from shotguns. A center of mass hit was impressive. The cutest one was a net fired from a shotgun, except it needed some distance to work. But, if you are using a shotgun anyway, one of the above might encourage the target to make an exit, and still be easily followed by lethal projectile(s).

Another consideration might be, where will the bullet(s) go after being fired. 9mm and larger arms will frequently exit the other side of normal sized humans and small animals. (This is less of a problem with smaller weapons.) For clean misses off target, even a .22 rimfire will penetrate five or six layers of sheetrock and still deliver serious or fatal wounds. ( Family members in other rooms)

Glazer bullets were made to limit this problem. They become non lethal after a couple of layers of sheetrock. They also become non lethal after two layers of heavy clothes. Here shotguns have an advantage even when loaded with bird shot. Almost any bird shot will be fatal within 3-4 yards. And, at any range it will be "discouraging" to most targets.

Choice of weapons? A sharp chefs knife is very short range but easy to operate and easy to reload. (and nonfatal in all but the most energetic applications.) It will need training to be used effectively. Small caliber revolvers and semi autos .22 to .38 should hold 6 or more rounds. Five shooters do not leave much room for error. Stopping power is right up there with the chefs knife.

Semi autos are an operational nightmare… what else need I say. Yes, all the TV cops use them. But there if they screw up a scene they get a do-over. You never will.

Larger handguns are more effective with fewer hits on target. Unfortunately they are harder to control and harder with which to make hits. Shotguns lack portability, not going under the car seat or in the glove compartment. Rifles, in anything but .22 rimfire, have way too much penetration.

A friend was recently given, what I consider, a fine compromise. An N-frame, S&W, Polished stainless steel, .38 special, revolver. Smith and Wesson revolvers are among the best made. (Reliable) The N-frame is the largest they make, along with the polished stainless finish it "shows" well to those inclined to act normally when faced with a large handgun.  It can easily be mistaken for Dirty Harry's .44 magnum, "The worlds most powerful handgun". The combination of large frame and .38 Special makes the weapon easy to control, easy with which to practice, and easy to find all sorts of ammunition. The bullets are inclined to stay in the target. While not the most lethal caliber, it still has a moderate sting. The weight will make it useful, once the ammunition is expended, against genitals, knees, adams apples, and skulls. Portability lets it fit in medium size handbags, under car seats, in glove boxes, and beside the bed. No safety, just point and shoot.

On the other hand, I once saw a small revolver, painted with pink and purple teflon (To protect it from rust.)  It was very difficult to take that dangerous weapon seriously... and now manufacturers are selling handguns in designer colors. TOYS!. They look like toys! They will not inspire fear in anyone.

A good choice for home defense is the Pump shotgun, 12 or 20 either. Some are made especially for home defense. They are at the top of the reliability scale. Once loaded, it is impossible to disable them on the first shot and difficult to stop follow up shots. The only catch is the safety. In a quiet, dark, room, the sound of operating the action of a pump loudly exclaims, for all interested parties, "I have a large gun". "It is loaded". and "I know how to use it." ( Here it is best not to be between the target and the door… Target will run you over trying to get out.)

In the end, the rules are simple:

1. Ready your weapon. (loaded, cocked, safety off, clear of clothing and obstructions)
2. Identify your target. ( It is best not to shoot friends, neighbors, relatives or unarmed criminals)
3. Show your weapon to the target. (a little light helps with all of the above)
4a. If target pauses, then runs, let target go. (No blood or legal issues to clean up)
4b. If target does not run, or advances, shoot four times, center of mass. ( Target is clearly a danger )
5. If target does not go down and does not run, keep shooting until target does either.
6. After danger is past, return weapon to ready condition.
7. Call 911 or the police. ( it is best to know how and what to do here, way before step one above )
8. Return weapon to secure place. ( greeting police with gun in hand may be fatal.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Two Dames: Katrina and Rita

By Rob Watson

Dear Student,
You should move away from the theme that wetland deterioration was a major contributing factor at the disaster in New Orleans.  Wetlands are south of New Orleans, the lake is north. For the Mississippi coast the Gulf is south. Where Katrina hit, the wind from the south hit the gulf coast and the wind from the north hit New Orleans.

This disaster was the result, first and foremost, of incredibly bad luck. Other contributing factors were poor engineering, bad government, and public apathy.

Katrina waded ashore at precisely the right point to destroy the Mississippi coast and New Orleans. The counterclockwise flow of winds rushed north across the gulf unhindered, to smash Mississippi. Then on the back side they blew south unhindered across Lake Pontchartrain to hit New Orleans. In each case the winds built up a huge storm surge and drove monster waves against everything in their path. In Mississippi they hit casinos, in barges on the coast, and homes and businesses built at the water's edge. In New Orleans they hit poorly designed seawall, that could have protected but did not.

In 1969 precisely the same thing happened. Mississippi’s casinos were destroyed but the Louisiana seawall held. I took some science students from Lake Charles through the area in the spring of 1970, on our way to see a total eclipse in Florida. Mississippi looked exactly the same both times: total devastation inland for about a half mile.

To contrast the areas in Louisiana, My sister lives north of the lake and my niece lived south. My sister had a new, well constructed house and stayed in it throughout the storm. In fact I talked to her by phone as the worst of the storm closed in. Her great fear was that the great pine trees nearby would blow over and hit her house. The wind was blowing south across land. If your trees held up you had no problems, depending on how you feel about rain driven by 120 mile per hour winds.

My Niece’s house was flooded... because the city manager ordered all the workers who operated the flood control pumps to shut them off and evacuate. Niece got 6” of water in her house. They got exactly the same thing in 1995 when another hurricane blew through. She has built a new house in Baton Rouge and moved. She says two hurricanes are enough. She lived about a mile on the dry side of one of the canals that burst a levee. We saw the area and spent a couple of nights in the French Quarter in December after Katrina. The French Quarter is on high ground beside the river. It never floods.

The city had received $500,000,000 to fix the levies. It was spent on “other” things. The state failed to ask the federal government for help and the federal government failed to ask the state if they were being stupid. (A good experianced government bureaucrat was replace by an inexperienced one when national administrations changed.)

Legend has it that the Louisiana National Guard was in the armory riding out the storm. Their goal was to be ready when the storm passed, to quickly start the recovery efforts. They had just reported all was well when someone noticed water running in under the door. All the disaster relief vehicles were flooded out. The rescuers needed rescue.

A couple of weeks later Hurricane Rita waded ashore at Sabine Pass on the Louisiana-Texas line. Here the wetlands did their job. The huge storm surge and the wind driven waves dissipated their energy on the 20 miles of swamps and wetlands south of Lake Charles. (Cameron, La was on the coast like Biloxi. It got washed away, same as happened in 1956) Tornados, which sometimes accompany hurricanes. did some damage. Trees blew down, but most things were OK.

When Rita came along shortly after Katrina, the cities, states, national government, and the people, having seen the result of stupidity, respectively did their jobs or got the hell out of the way.

Galveston was the second largest city in the US when hit by a hurricane in 1900. The city was destroyed and never recovered. They built a huge sea wall of concrete. The city fathers jacked up all that remained and filled in under it with sand. They have weathered direct hits and near misses for a hundred years without major damage. Rita repeated the lesson of 1900 for those not clever enough to learn from history. The people from Mississippi and New Orleans should take a vacation (and a lesson from) there. You should too. The beaches are great and the food is wonderful. Look for where the seawall stopped and total destruction started.

Respectfully, Mr. Watson

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Track Your Age

By Rob Watson

Every time I say my age, 65, soon to be 66, it has a peculiar ring. It never seems to ring true. I have a degree in Math. I can subtract the year of my birth from this year and get 65, I can ask my wife and get 65. I can ask nearly all my class mates and get 65. Still it does not seem possible. Who knew?!

It seems that my age has always been a boon or a bane, never just an number. At the age off 10, on vacation in Colorado I got a discount on ticket prices in most places. On vacation in Hot Springs Arkansas I couldn't go into any of the auction places or the bath houses. I had to walk past the girlie shows at the state fair and wonder what went on inside. ( I finally went, It is not worth the price of admission.) At the age of 16 or so, I had to buy beer from bootleggers, or go with a friend, the son of a printer, who duplicated a draft card and filled in the necessary information. (I mean, as long as you are breaking the law, might as well go big time).

The year I turned 30, I lost track of my age. I had to count it up on my fingers or look on my driver's license, if it was important. Age and brain synchronized again at age 40, for a while. When I got to 46 I kept thinking 47. At 47 I was again lost until age 50. Except for an occasional memory laps I was able to keep track during my 50's. In here, somewhere, I became too old for a real job. I could work on the margins, doing what younger people would not... not unlike an illegal immigrant.

In my 60's things have gone smoothly, keeping track wise. I looked forward to 62, where the Government finally acknowledged I had earned some minor assistance for years of faithful citizenship. (In previous years, the government was reluctant to help during my times of need.) Now, of course, they are calling this "help" an entitlement. Well, Damned right!! I am entitled. I paid Social Security from age 12, taxes from age 21, served my time in the military in time of war, and voted in every election of every kind during my majority. Entitled? Yep!! What irritates me is when the unentitled get my taxes, and call them entitlements. (Borrowing money on the good name of my country and using it to buy votes and the good will of foreign despots, does not sit all that well either)

It is just that 65 does not seem right. The truth is, for all these years I have been looking out on the world through the eyes of a six year old. I have gained in knowledge, in experience, in maturity of thought, loved and been loved, and still... All that is new is a wonder; all that is pretty is a joy, all tragedy is a deep sadness, and all that has never been is a possibility.