I CAN’T HEAR YOU: the myth of auditory exclusion and hearing damage.

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A comment on last Wednesday’s article correctly reminded us that there seems to be some confusion about the phenomenon known as auditory exclusion.

Under times of high stress, such as a violent criminal attack, the body makes profound physiological adjustments to limit distracting data and focus on the threat. One of these is to radically attenuate (or even completely silence) aural inputs – in other words, it shuts your hearing down. This is called auditory exclusion.

It’s important to understand that auditory ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: All Jazzed Up, Part Deux.

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If you ever get to attend a major shooting match, one thing that will impress you is how accessible the top competitors are. If you want to meet Rob Leatham or Jerry Miculek, no problem – they’re usually happy to shake hands and talk.

The same is true for the top jazz musicians. Jazz is a personal music, and because of the smaller fan base getting to meet even the biggest names is relatively easy. Imagine being able to walk up ...

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Incorrect conclusions: muzzle flash and blindness don’t really correlate.

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This morning I got a very nice email from a concerned gentleman in a southern state. His NRA instructor gave him numerous pieces of incorrect information about his new GP100, one of which I’ve heard many times before: “Don’t carry Magnums, because the muzzle flash will blind you in a self-defense shooting!”

With all due respect, bull twaddle.

The .357 Magnum is notorious for muzzle flash, based largely on some well-known pictures from the 1980s. These days, even the Magnum uses flash-suppressed ...

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Lightweight revolvers and people who sell the things to the wrong customers. Can you say ‘ouch!’?

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Every so often a client will send me one of the S&W Scandium guns for work, and I’m always reminded of how much I dislike shooting the little beasts. Even with standard pressure Specials, the recoil gets to me very quickly. I can’t imagine actually shooting one with Magnum loads, and I intend to never find out!

For me it’s merely discomfort, but for others the experience could prove more serious.

I constantly encounter women who’ve been sold those guns, because the ...

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So, Grant, have you joined the Dark Side? No, but many people think I have!

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I get emails. Crazy, some of them. (Not that I’m pointing any fingers, but watch out for pharmacists.) After I said something nice about the Steyr autopistols, some assumed that I’d somehow lost my bearings or that I’d been abducted and replaced by a lookalike with absolutely no taste in firearms.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I’ve said more than once, I’ve been known to carry a high-capacity autoloader when the circumstances were ...

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So, just what is the .357 Magnum like in a confined space?

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A number of years back my wife and I served as coordinators for the defensive pistol matches at our gun club. Our matches were somewhat similar to IDPA, but without the endless rules to make everything “fair.” We enjoyed a large following of regular participants who were very involved and loved to build sets for stages.

(Some of them got a little carried away; one particular gentleman once designed a stage that featured cardboard cows. Yes, cows, complete with udders. He’s a very ...

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A violent reaction: despite what some might say, violence is a valid and necessary tool.

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I kept tabs on the concealed carry reciprocity bill that failed to clear the Senate this week, and the debates brought to mind comments I heard years ago regarding concealed carry proponents: “intelligent people have no need for violence.” “We need to reduce the violence in this world, not increase it.”

This reveals a fundamental ignorance regarding the place of violence in a civilized society. Violence, which is usually defined as an exertion of physical force against a living being, is ...

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A crowning achievement: how the muzzle crown affects accuracy.

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Occasionally someone will ask me if the muzzle crown is all that important. In the past I’d probably say something like “only if you want the bullet to go where you’re aiming!”, but I’m trying to reduce my percentage of flippant answers. Today I’d put it more lawyer-like: “it depends…”

The crown is the edge of the bore at the muzzle. It’s important to point that out, because it’s not unlike the edge of a cliff. Once you’ve fallen over the ...

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Still more about testing .22 long rifle ammunition: how to quickly eliminate variables.

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A recent email asked about an old article, wherein I talked about the problems with residual lube in a .22 rimfire barrel. Is it really a problem, the email asked, and if so how do I go about eliminating that variable in testing?

Yes, the effects are real. I never believed in the residual lube theory until I saw the results for myself, and to this day I can repeat ...

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Everything has a purpose in the hands of Ed Harris. Even the .32 ACP.

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Many of you are familiar with Ed Harris, firearms engineer and ballistic experimenter. One of Ed’s passions is the hunting of small game – squirrels, rabbits, etc. – and the guns that facilitate that activity.

(Before we go any further, it seems that a lot of folks today don’t have any experience with serious small game hunting. There are an awful lot of people who consider it somehow inferior to the taking of large game, but they are sorely mistaken. In ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: By George! (George Eastman, that is.)

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We learned this week that Kodak finally pulled the plug on what was their signature film, Kodachrome. Photographers will fondly recall the fine grain, superb resolution, and vibrant color of Kodak’s iconic product, while everyone else will remember Paul Simon’s hit song by the same name:

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera

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On dry firing: is it good for your gun? That depends.

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One of the great advantages of the double action revolver is that the mechanism makes dry firing easy. Unlike the majority of autoloaders, you don’t have to break your grip to operate the slide or recock the hammer; just maintain your grip and pull the trigger, over and over. As a result, I suspect most revolvers are dry fired with greater frequency than most autos.

Various pundits have opined over the years that it is perfectly safe to dry fire any ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Down periscope, comrade – the mysterious sinking of the Soviet S-2.

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In January 1940, the Soviet Union was at war with Finland. Just a few months earlier, the Soviets had signed a non-agression pact with the German government, which besides promising to be Best Friends Forever, divided up the countries of Eastern Europe between the two powers. The two chums lost no time in invading and carving up Poland, and that success prompted Uncle Joe Stalin to go for the first country on his own shopping list: Finland.

While ...

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Packing your training trunk: what’s the value of prior experience in an instructor?

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There is a concept that, in order to properly teach the use of a firearm for self-defense, one must have been in a shootout. The term most often used to describe that state is “seeing the elephant.” (I’m not sure how the phrase got corrupted to mean shooting at someone, but I am sure that I find it quite annoying.)

The assertion, of course, is that only those who have drawn blood with their weapon are in a position to talk ...

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A short note about a shortened cartridge: the unrealized .41 Special.

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Busier than a one-armed paperhanger today, so I’m just going to give you a link and some commentary.

On Monday I mentioned my attraction to wildcat cartridges. There is one that still intrigues me, because a) it’s an easy wildcat to make, and b) it’s a cartridge that SHOULD have been factory made from the start: the .41 Special.

I’ve always wanted to play with it, but have never owned the necessary .41 Magnum gun in which to shoot ...

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Uncommon cartridges: what is the attraction to non-mainstream calibers?

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One of my interests, though I suppress it as much as possible, is the field of wildcat and proprietary cartridges. The lure of a cartridge that will give me something that I can’t get anywhere else, that will dramatically improve some aspect of my shooting, is nearly irresistible. Of course owning and using something that other folks may not have heard about, let alone used, is a strong motivating factor!

Why do I suppress this interest? First, because I don’t need ...

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On loading density: what happens when there’s more air space in the case?

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I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend! The weather here in Oregon was wonderful (for a change) and I made the most of the sunshine and warm temperatures. In fact, I found it hard to come back to work!

I’ve received several emails in the last few months with a common complaint: unburned powder granules lodging underneath the extractor, causing cylinder lockups. I believe the ongoing ammunition shortage may be playing a big part in the sudden increase of ...

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Gas piston rifles are all the rage. What value are they, anyhow?

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Last week’s arrival of Ruger’s SR-556 rifle has a certain segment of the shooting community swooning with delight. I’m not at all certain the hoopla is justified.

There are those with the opinion that a gas piston system has merits over the direct gas impingement operation used in the standard M-16/AR-15 family of rifles. There are perceived shortcomings in the impingement system, but in my experience, over many rifles and uncounted thousands of rounds of ammunition, most of the complaints are ...

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Use-of-Force Myths: how many of these do you believe?

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The archives over at Force Science News continue to fascinate. Issue #68 deals with several myths about the use of deadly force, myths that a large percentage of the population (regardless of their level of firearms knowledge) believe. The whole article is interesting, but it’s the first myth – that of the Demonstrative Bullet – that is most immediately useful.

The article discusses the myth from the standpoint of those who judge an incident after ...

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Gun-free school zones: the research (as usual) is on our side.

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David Kopel at the Independence Institute has a new research paper forthcoming in the Connecticut Law Review. Titled “Pretend ‘Gun-Free’ School Zones: A Deadly Legal Fiction”, it deals with the subject of concealed firearms carry on school campuses. From the abstract:

Most states issue permits to carry a concealed handgun for lawful protection to an applicant who is over 21 years of age, and who passes a fingerprint-based background check and a safety class. These permits allow the ...

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Can you make good lethal force decisions – and would your peers agree?

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The March issue of Force Science News contained a very interesting article about how police and private citizens differ in their views of “justified” shootings.

While some may see the article as having application to law enforcement only, they would be wrong – it is well worth reading because it deals with differences in perception of a critical incident, differences which are not necessarily “cops vs. civilians” but more like “trained vs. untrained.”

Private citizens are both more critical ...

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A book you need: Meditations On Violence by Rory Miller.

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Gila Hayes over at the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network recently reviewed a book that I had to buy: “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence” by Rory Miller. Miller’s treatise is about violent criminal behavior – how it happens, why it happens, and what does and doesn’t work to counter it. It’s written from the perspective of empty hand martial arts (as opposed to the martial art ...

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Lights on revolvers: bringing wheelguns into the modern age??

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I recently received an email asking about the feasibility of mounting a light on a revolver. The writer was concerned about clearing his house at night and being forced to shoot one-handed with a separate flashlight. Would it be possible, he asked, to somehow mount a light to his wheelgun, to approximate those that are widely mounted on autoloaders?

That’s a tough one to answer, because it’s really two questions in one: can it be done, and should it be done.

I’ll ...

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Feedback from the Stopping Power series.

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I continue to get email from last year’s “Self defense, stopping power, and caliber” series. It remains the second-most visited page on the site, behind only my article on lubrication, and appears to be well received by the majority of readers. Thank you!

As you might imagine, such popularity generates feedback, and some questions pop up more than once. While not exactly a FAQ, here are some of the common ...

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Be honest with yourself: how good are you on demand?

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In college I minored in music performance. Being just out of high school (read: thoroughly stupid) I thought I was a hot musician, harboring dreams of becoming a professional trumpet player. Like so many other aspiring performers I really had no idea what the world of a professional musician actually entailed, but I was absolutely sure I had what it took.

One of my professors, an accomplished professional trombonist, made it his job to bring us post-adolescents into the real world. ...

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Progressive presses and their powder measures.

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A common complaint with progressive presses is the throwing of inconsistent powder charges. Most people immediately blame the equipment, but some times it’s actually operator error.

We first need to admit that there are certain incompatibilities with regard to some measures and some powders (Dillon’s difficulty with metering flake or extruded powder, for instance, is often discussed on the various reloading forums.) However, even with a powder the measure “likes” unexpected variances often occur during a production run.

The variance usually comes ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE! Color me amazed: color from the Great Depression.

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During the 1930s and 1940s, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the Office of War Information (OWI) shot tens of thousands of photographs. The vast majority – and the images we most associate with their work – were in black and white:

However, there were a number of assignments which were shot in color. That number was far smaller, likely because of budget constraints, but produced some stunning images:

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Coffee and miracle lubricants: what’s the connection? Marketing.

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Coffee is one of those vices in which I do not indulge. Not from any religious objection, mind you – it’s just that I can’t stand the taste of the stuff. I admit to loving the smell of brewing java, but coffee is one of those things that smells a whole lot better than it tastes!

Stay with me, I’ll get to the point.

A number of years ago I knew a district sales manager for one of the major coffee companies. ...

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Facing my demons: how I cured an event-induced flinch.

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I used to love shooting steel. The plates dropping, the loud “clang” from a Steel Challenge target – no matter what the venue, reactive metal targets are just addicting. This addiction, I discovered, can be broken – even if you don’t want to!

A number of years back I was shooting a Steel Challenge-type match. On one stage I was watching someone else shoot when a piece of bullet jacket bounced back from the steel plate, sneaked around my safety glasses, ...

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Risk assessment, or lack thereof: why aren’t you carrying?

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I meet many people who possess concealed handgun licenses, but don’t carry on a regular basis – let alone every day. The explanation is usually something along the lines of “I carry when I’m in a bad area” or “if I’m going into a situation where I’m more likely to need it, I’ll take my gun”. There are myriad variations, but the excuse always boils down to confusions between likelihood and consequence.

Likelihood (probability of attack) is variable. Yes, there are ...

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