© 2014 Grant Cunningham Click to email me!

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Sometimes reality beats Photoshop.

Ever heard of Maho Beach? It's on the French side of the little island of St. Maarten, a 33-square-mile speck of land in the Caribbean. (Yes, that tiny bit of earth is split between France and the Netherlands. Seems the French can't get along with the Dutch, either, and haven't been able to since 1648.)

The island's main airport, Princess Juliana International Airport, lies next to Maho Beach. Well, that's not quite accurate; the main runway for the airport actually starts at the edge of the beach. You can see it in this Google image:

View Larger Map

Since this is the Caribbean, and St. Maarten has beautiful beaches, the island is a tourist destination for people all over the world. This means lots of airplanes landing there, and since the runway starts nearly on the beach, you end up with this:

(Photo by Benny Zheng.)

No, that's not Photoshop - as you can see from the
many other photos of Maho Beach over at FStoppers.

That isn't my idea of a quiet getaway, but there are obviously those who disagree with me. It is, after all, the Caribbean.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Panic in the streets: ammo edition.

For the last couple of months I've been hearing rumblings about stocking up on ammunition for, well, whatever: zombie apocalypse, riots after the election, natural disasters, what have you. (I actually heard a non-gun-person refer to the "zombie apocalypse" just the other day. This is now getting out of hand.)

Rob Tackett over at the TacStrike blog has an
interesting article about panic buying and hoarding of ammunition. It's worth a read, and he presents an interesting point of view.

At the same time, I think we need to consider the possible actions of the prohibitionists who may try back-door gun control via ammunition restrictions. While I don't think ammunition can be outlawed altogether, a steep tax or purchase limits - either of which would likely pass Constitutional muster - would severely hurt our ability to train or engage in any favorite shooting sports. A stash of ammunition, properly stored, serves as a sort of buffer against such artificial supply constraints.

That buffer allows us to continue our favorite activities without worrying where our next box of hollowpoints are coming from. Think of it as a pantry; we have pantries so that we don’t have to go to the store every time we want so much as a snack. (Like a food pantry, an ammunition pantry - when purchased at normal cost - is also an inflation hedge, but not so much when bought at price-gouging panic prices.)

It's all a matter of perspective and priorities. If you're hungrily stacking cases of ammo in anticipation of widespread civil unrest, ammo that you're just going to sit on and fear the expenditure of even a few rounds, that's probably not terribly rational. If, however, you're buying moderate amounts on a regular basis with an eye toward having a back stock that allows you to train and practice without worrying about running completely out, I think you have your head set squarely on your shoulders.

-=[ Grant ]=-

One word: wow.

Over the last year or so I've become acquainted with the work of engraver
Weldon Lister. It started when one of my clients sent a gun to him to be engraved, and we've been corresponding off-and-on since. Every so often he sends me pictures of his work, some of which I've posted on this site's Facebook page. I find his style quite attractive, as he understands how engraving should match the style of the gun being engraved, and particularly appreciate his deft handling of color and tone.

He recently sent me pictures of this gun, but I didn't get the story behind it until it was featured as the Gun Of The Week on the Blue Book of Gun Values website:

Head over to the Blue Book of Gun Values site to see more and read the whole story. It's fascinating.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Maybe we don't have it so bad after all.

If Monday's post got you a little envious, today's should fix you right up.

I got an email the other day from a reader in Thailand (of all places!) He had read my book and was looking for some recommendations with regard to a home defense gun. He also shared with me the gun situation in his country.

In Thailand, you must have permission from the authorities to purchase a gun. You have to submit to a fingerprint check and give them bank statements, plus have letters of recommendation from your employer. The waiting period starts at three months, and that's if you're asking to buy a common caliber (.22, .38, or 9mm.) If you want any other caliber, particularly if it's larger than 9mm, the wait time goes up.

Guns and ammunition are, according to the email, incredibly expensive. A plain ol' Ruger SP101 is the equivalent of $2,700! Once you've bought the gun (and it's very likely you'll only be able to buy one in your entire lifetime), you have to feed the thing - and if you want quality (U.S. made) ammunition, it'll run you $3 per round. For the plain stuff.

So, stop whining about how ammo in this country is getting expensive and how much guns cost these days. Our friends in Thailand have it much worse off, and yet they persevere to give themselves the most efficient self protection tools they can.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Even I'd buy one at that price.

I had something else planned for today, but it wasn't nearly as cool as this!

Over at Forgotten Weapons is a story about
visiting a gun show in Belgium. Now I know we all have a vision of Europe as being devoid of gun ownership (or at least so restricted as to make it impossible to own anything cool), but it would do us well to remember that Europe is the land of the cheap and readily available suppressor.

Compare that to the file-your-paperwork-and-$200-and-wait-six-months ordeal that owning a simple muffler entails here in The Land Of The Free.

That's not the only thing about which (some) Europeans are more enlightened. Take a look at the mounds of full-auto military hardware for sale at the aforementioned Belgian show - then look at the prices. Yes, $1250 for a Dror machine gun. I don't follow the Class II world at all, but even I know that in comparison to the U.S. that is a screaming, unbelievable, unfathomable deal. And there are lots more where those came from!

Of course there is the other side of the coin, and on Wednesday I hope to be able to present it to you. In the meantime, though, may you dream pleasant dreams of cheap Thompsons.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Excitement in Berkeley North.

Life is never dull in my part of the world.

Yesterday a gun shop in Portland was treated to a large police response because -
gasp! - someone was carrying a gun into the store. We're used to the law enforcement agency of our state's biggest city being in the news, as their overreactions are legendary around these parts, but what really got the chuckle meter going was that it happened at a store of which the local folks aren’t all that fond.

You may think that I’m making things up, but
here are a couple of threads on the regional gun discussion forum. Any of you have stores like this in your neighborhood?

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did during Spring Break.

I just returned from a visit to Virginia Beach, where I attended the
Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Development (CFSID) course. I've been searching my brain for a one-word description of what the class is like, and this is the only thing that even comes close:


We spent 4 days and just shy of 60 hours learning the ins and outs of Combat Focus Shooting so that we could accurately and efficiently communicate the program to students. We spent the first of those day on the, that's not quite right; for any other course it
would have been the first day, but for us it was roughly half of the first day, as the entire session ran well past 9pm. The rest of the week was spent not on becoming better shooters, but learning to be better teachers.

We studied a little of everything: anatomy, physiology, neurophysiology, psychology, philosophy, and more. By the end of the fourth day, which is when testing was done, my brain was fried. I don't even remember the final written test, but I do remember nearly passing out somewhere on page three (serious blood sugar drop, complete with tremors and sweating.)

Apparently I finished it. At least, I think I did!

This isn't like most other instructor courses. Most of the time, an instructor certificate is a matter of showing up, shooting well, and having your check clear. CFSID is different;
Rob Pincus is committed to producing good teachers, not just good demonstrators. That showed in the caliber (pardon the pun) of the people who were there, as I'd be confident in recommending any one of them as a competent and knowledgeable instructor.

There's a reason that, historically, less than 50% of Combat Focus Shooting instructor candidates pass the course. It's that tough, and takes a phenomenal amount of mental discipline just to make it through.


As it happens, my return trip routed me through Chicago, where I spent nearly three hours waiting for my next flight. Turns out that
Tam was in Chicago at the same time. Wish I'd known, I'd have loved to finally meet her.


We also got to study some (unintentional) modern art, courtesy of an ancient video projector that refused to hold a sync signal with Rob's new MacBook:

Yes, that's Rob Pincus getting all Warhol on his students.


I don't usually plug local businesses, but this one deserves it.

The day before I left, I discovered that my old camera had died. It powered up, but none of the controls worked. (It will still take pictures, but the exposure control is fried and the autofocus appears to be only sporadically active.) We had planned to upgrade our camera later this year, but this forced our hand: we needed it now.

I spent that day not packing, but running all over Western Oregon to find the camera I'd decided on. I finally found the body, but the lens I wanted wasn't in stock anywhere. I decided to pick up a used optic as stopgap measure, while I waited (and recovered financially) for the one I really wanted. Trouble is that none of the camera stores I called carried much (or any) used equipment. About that time I remembered seeing a yellow pages ad for a little one-hour photo place located in a small town fairly close to us. I had it in my mind that the ad said something about used cameras, and since phone calls are free I dialed their number. A pleasant young lady answered the phone and said that yes, they had used gear and that they had several suitable lenses for me.

What I found when I walked into
Focal Point Photography blew me away. This is a tiny shop, located in a small farming community in a rural area, and it is filled with photo gear. From Speed Graphics to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, these folks have a little of everything. Piles of used gear (literally), a surprising selection of lighting equipment new and old, even darkroom stuff, all stuffed (literally) into a two-story building in little ol' Dallas, Oregon. It was like going back in time, to what camera stores used to be before the age of big-box homogenization. I don't know if they do mailorder, but they're so accommodating I suspect they would. If you're looking for just about anything photographic, particularly if it's out of production and now hard to find, give them a call: (503) 623-6300.

I have no affiliation other than as a satisfied, if somewhat amazed, customer.


Now, I'm back to catching up on your emails!

-=[ Grant ]=-