Simi Valley Sophist

The Simi Valley Sophist ruminates on all manner of topics from the micro to the macro. SVS travels whatever path strikes his fancy. Encyclopedia Britannica: Sophist "Any of certain Greek lecturers, writers, and teachers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, most of whom travelled about the Greek-speaking world giving instruction in a wide range of subjects in return ..."

Location: California, United States

Retired: 30years law enforcement-last 20 years Criminal Intelligence Detective.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Death of a Gunfighter?-Birth of a Writer

Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote that “The pen is mightier than the sword.” But, what if he is wrong? Please remind me of that if I whip out my Mont Blanc pen to do battle with a Jihadist intent on dispatching me to where all good infidels go, hell. In the coming years there is an escalating probability that the U.S. will experience a significant amount of shooting terror incidents. It was scheduled to happen in Los Angeles this month. I wrote about it here and here. I guess that Bulwer-Lytton is correct on a macro scale, but he sure missed the boat on the micro scale.

Contrary to my jihadist friend, I consider living to be superior to dying. Mr. Jihad considers it optimal to die and be rewarded in heaven with 72 virgins. I would like to have my virgins here on earth, thank you very much. Not that there is much chance of that. I don’t even know any virgins who would be interested in a 59 year old man. And if there is one, I’d probably run for the hills. Give me one of those deflowered babes any day. She is far more likely to be compassionate and realistic about delicate issues.

So what about this death of a gunfighter and birth of a writer thing? Well, if you’ve got a moment or two, I’ll tell you a story.

First things first. Handguns are defensive weapons, and you don’t take a handgun to a gunfight. The military has known this all along, but not law enforcement. Until recently, law enforcement officers were only armed with handguns and maybe shotguns. Some agencies made the shotguns hard to get or were only deployed by a field supervisor. That’s what happened in the 1997 N. Hollywood bank robbery shoot-out. Officers were confronted with two heavily armed and protected bank robbers who overwhelmed the situation with over 1,100 rounds from fully automatic weapons. The officers were armed with impotent 9 mm. handguns and finally resorted to commandeering rifles from a local gun store to meet the challenge until SWAT was able to arrive and put the suspects down.

When I started in the law enforcement business in the early 70’s, I was trained and deployed with a .38 caliber revolver and a shotgun. I was ok with the revolver and very good with the shotgun. At 50 yards with a shotgun rifled slug, I’ll blow you away baby. These days hardly anyone uses the old wheel guns. We all carry semi-automatic handguns in more efficient calibers than the old .38’s. Nevertheless, the handgun is still only a defensive weapon. In today’s reality, patrol officers have the need to deploy offensively with small caliber urban rifles to defeat the challenges. An example is the active shooter situation demonstrated at Columbine High School. The urgency of the situation requires that patrol officers go offensive and not wait for the deployment of SWAT.

I am a detective and not liable to be working patrol again so there is a lesser chance that I would ever need to deploy offensively. But, since the urban rifle training is optional to all officers, I decided to get certified. Heck, why not. I’ve shot plenty of rifles in my time. I used to be a hunter and did ok even if the last time I hunted was about 20 years ago. So, I signed up for the 3 day course.

The first day of the course was all classroom work. My fellow classmates were all young guys with just a couple of years or more on the job. Most were former Marine Corps with lots of experience with assault weapons. They must have wondered about what an old geezer was doing in the class, but they were polite enough not to say anything within my hearing.

The second day was at the range in the Southern California heat. There was lots of drills and shooting under conditions designed to simulate a combat scenario. We would move and shoot in this position and that position. We even had to run 200 yards full tilt uphill in complete regalia including ballistic vest, side arms, and a heavy pot on our head called a ballistic helmet. The exercise required that you do the run then flop down in a prone position while acquiring your weapon, come onto target and fire off four rounds, all in 75 seconds. I did it in 57 seconds, just slightly slower than my six running mates. Bet that surprised those kids, all less than half my age. Heck, I was pushing a patrol car before they were born.

Wow, my training compadres are great shots. I’d take any one of them as a partner in a shoot-out. I did pretty well at the closer ranges but my patterns fell apart when we stepped back to the hundred yard range. The problem I was having was that I could not rapidly acquire a sharp site picture under timed combat conditions. For those of you not versed in shooting, it is essential that your shooting eye focus clearly and rapidly on the front sight of your weapon. I had trouble.

I had no trouble acquiring the site picture under non-timed shooting conditions because there was ample time for my eye to adjust. I was even able to hit the target out to 400 yards, which is no simple feat when using open or iron sites (no telescopic sight).

So my eye problem is caused by age. Twenty years ago I had corrective eye surgery and my right eye (the one used to site a rifle) was set-up to be a long distance eye while my left eye set to be a reading eye. The concept was that as I got older I would not have to wear reading glasses. It worked and today I do not need any glasses, even reading glasses. The problem is that aging weak eye muscles limit focusing in and out. The end result is that my right long distance rifle shooting eye is focusing beyond the front rifle sight. This is not a good thing when you have to be accurate about bullet placement.

I quickly realized that my shooting techniques are still good, but that I was not going to be able to qualify at the longer shooting ranges. My instructors thought that they could help me on technique until I explained to them the situation. I then decided that it was foolish to remain in the class as I was not liable to immediately correct the situation.

I told my wife that night that I guessed that as a gun fighter I am dead and now only a new born writer. I know that I write constantly in my profession, but it is only in the last 5 months that I’ve escalated my creative writing. My wife allowed as that was perfectly all right with her. She never has cottoned to the gunfighter thing.

The rest of the story is this. I am left handed and like many left handers I learned to do many thing right handed. Archery and rifle shooting are examples. That doesn’t mean that I can’t switch to the left hand given appropriate training and the creation of muscle memory. It turns out that my left eye is perfect for focusing on that front sight. So guess what I’m going to do. Standby my Jihadist friend. After I’ve dispatched you to your 72 virgins, I’ll sit down and write about it.