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27 August, 2010

Firearms Movie Myth #1:

by Hal Carlisle

"You must work the action of your firearm at the beginning of any confrontation."

For a good recent example of this, see popular movie "Knight and Day", or virtually any other film that involves firearms. This is my Number 1 movie pet peeve and can easily ruin an otherwise good movie. Not only does this make the movie industry look uninformed and uneducated about firearms, it sets a bad example for moviegoers, because while actors and actresses on the big screen uselessly pull back the slide on their firearms, they're often failing to clear their weapons when they should do so. You've seen it a hundred times. It goes like this:

1: Good Guy sees Bad Guy and a short verbal confrontation ensues. Good Guy racks slide on his pistol or rifle. I think pump shotguns used to be more popular for this but are now seen less frequently, according to the informal poll of the movies I've seen recently. I guess a good ole' 12 ga. pump isn't good enough for Hollywood anymore.

2: Good Guy and Bad Guy usually don't have a shoot out at this point. Frequently one of them evades so they can prolong the plot.

3: Good Guy and Bad Guy encounter each other in another scene. Both rack the action on their respective firearms. Please note that live rounds do not fly out the side of their weapons at this point in time, though they should. Does this mean they are clearing their weapons off-screen?

4: Note that Good Guy and Bad Guy rack the slide on their firearm prior to any possibility of a confrontation throughout the duration of the film.

5: It's also advisable to rack the slide on your weapon before leaving your base of operations or loading up in a vehicle, mostly to show the other members of your team (and the audience) how serious you are. When you encounter Bad Guy, racking your weapon makes sure HE knows you mean business, too. Be sure to have a mean, serious look on your face whilst chambering a round.

I understand it's theatrical to see the characters racking their actions in preparation for a confrontation. I know it's good action-movie-mojo to hear that "chck-chck!" back and forth of a pump shotgun. But why, oh why do they have to do it so many times? Just once, I'd love to see someone in a movie pull back on the charging handle or slide just enough to peer into the chamber and visually confirm there's still a round chambered from two scenes ago. Is this too much to ask?

Let’s face it, there aren’t too many fancy or dramatic things to do with a firearm, so it's understandable when the film industry injects a flourish or two. You can rack the slide or unload and reload a weapon. You can do a parade drill with your weapon or spin it on your finger like the old Hollywood Western cowboys. Lastly, you can darn well shoot somebody, but this tends to end a movie in a very final way that falls short of the normal two-hour duration of a film and can also make sequels tricky to pull off. When Bad Guy is dead you have to expend more Hollywood creative genius to come up with another antagonist if you want the sequel revenues, and Hollywood genius is not growing on trees. It’s just so much better for the film industry if Good Guy and Bad Guy rack their slides a lot and expend several cases of ammo in each others’ respective direction.

Hollywood, if you're listening (I know you're not), please, give us more realistic use of firearms in movies. There are ways to work this into the plot. For example, if Good Guy has to scavenge an arm off of a fallen Bad Guy, this is an appropriate moment to work the action, just to be sure it's functioning and loaded. Who knows, Bad Guy might be lying dead there because his weapon jammed up on him and he couldn't clear it, or because he ran out of ammo. So when Good Guy grabs a weapon from dead Bad Guy, he should rack the slide to check function and to check ammo supply in the magazine (yes, Hollywood, magazines hold a finite number of rounds). Besides, it's a good rule to always check the chamber and magazine when picking up a firearm, even if it's your own and you "know" what condition you left it in. This applies doubly to any weapon found in the field or in the heat of battle, so please, feel free to rack at this time.

A jammed weapon would be another great, realistic moment to have a slide rack. Jams happen from time to time and I'd love to see a movie where the fight was interrupted due to malfunction. Now Good Guy has to find cover, clear jam, and continue the fight (yes, the use of cover IS preferable to standing in the line of fire like an idiot). This would be a good queue to those of us who try to be serious shooters: jams can and do happen, and malfunction drills should be a part of your regular practice at the range or when dry firing at home.

Moral: Racking your slide should be done once prior to firing, not to show someone you're serious. It should be done once more after a reload. It should be done in order to clear a jam, whether in the field or as part of practising your malfunction drills. It should be done as part of checking a weapon you just picked up, either to make sure it’s loaded, or to make sure the opposite is true.

Before signing off I feel I should address briefly the issue of chambering a round before entering a vehicle (mentioned above in movie step 5). All the experts I have read agree, and I agree with them: If you’re travelling in a vehicle with a weapon, it should not have a round in the chamber. You will have time to chamber a round when it’s needed, whether it’s at the time you’re deploying from the vehicle or if you have to engage a threat from within the vehicle. In the meantime it’s easier to avoid shooting your buddy if you keep your chamber empty and your muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

So instead of holding our breath waiting for the industry to catch on and inject a little more realism into movies, just make note when you witness this silliness on the silver screen. Make note and remind yourself that no matter how many times a star does it on the screen, it does not make this practise proper or advisable. And don't let yourself forget that the first thing to do when take possession of a weapon is to check function and check if it's loaded. These are not matters you should leave to faith.

More movie peeves to come.

23 August, 2010

How I Made my SKS Shootable (Part I)

by Hal Carlisle

There are millions of SKS rifles in use across the world today, and why not?  While I don't think anyone will ever try to make the case that the SKS is the best rifle ever made, they are great guns.  Chambered in 7.62 x 39mm, with a ten shot fixed magazine and rock-solid reliability, this is a firearm you can count on, one you can plink with, and one that can be used effectively on deer-sized game (I must say here that I have yet to take a deer with mine). The SKS also comes into its own when introducing smaller-statured persons to shooting, as it can deliver a good adrenaline rush and make for an exciting trip to the range without beating your new shooter to pieces. 

The story of my life with the SKS is a long one but easily summarized:  I was about 13 years old, with a small wad of cash, and walking around a gun show with my dad.  I saw this guy walking the floor with a pretty interesting looking rifle slung over his shoulder, and I had to ask what it was.  In maybe his late 30's, with longish messy hair and a bit of the look of a motorcycle rider, he showed me this old rifle like it was the coolest thing ever (of course, he was selling it).

And boy, you should have seen it.  When I first laid eyes on it I had no idea what the actual, original SKS was supposed to look like, so I had no possible way to know how Bubba'd up his was.  The original wood stock was painted a semi-gloss olive drab, and there was a plain pistol grip, epoxy-grafted onto the stock and trigger guard, covering the button where you release the trigger group.  A no-name 2.5x scope sat in some cheap, wobbly rings, riding atop a primitive mounting rail that was spot welded to the inherently shaky bolt cover.  An after-factory 30 rnd. banana clip finished off the job, and boy was it ever a "Bubba AK".  The asking price was right, the bore and action were clean, and 1,000 rnd. cases of ammo were selling for around $100 at that time, so after a short debate with Dad, the rifle was mine.

When we finally got home and I had the chance to try out my new cool gun.  What ensued was, to say the least, not the makings of a good first impression.  The gun jammed a lot, having a serious problem getting rounds out of the magazine and into the chamber, and ergonomically it was 2 thumbs down, as well.  My dad has always been into American-made pistols and hunting rifles, so he was no help whatsoever with this strange conglomeration of Russian design, Chinese manufacture, and American "customization".  Between the two of us, we couldn't even figure out how to properly clean and field strip the thing, much less diagnose the failure to feed issue.  This was a little before the internet was really mainstream, so rather than canvass the countryside for someone who might be able to help, I shelved that rifle, and only shot it maybe twice over the next ten years.

It wasn't until college, when I made friends with a guy who was really into AK-47s, that I finally discovered this rifle's true beauty.  He and I began talking about guns one day and decided to plan a trip to the range, so I told him I had this old, crappy SKS out at my dad's house and I wanted him to tell me how it worked.  He was very positive about the SKS in general, calling it the Grand Daddy of the AK, and knew all about it.  He told me he'd be glad to show me everything about it and show me what a great gun it was.

Range Trip Day finally came and I pulled out my old rifle to show him, kind of wincing as it came out of the case.  His jaw dropped and his mouth just hung open for a long moment as he gawked.  When he regained use of speech again, all he could manage was, "Man, is there an SKS in there?" 

(Part II and pics to come shortly)

22 August, 2010

New to the Whole Blog Thing

This is my first attempt at a blog, so if you're reading this, please bear that in mind. 

The mission of this endeavor is mostly to provide myself with an outlet to start a discussion on firearms in general and perhaps a bit of gun-related news and politics, as well as St. Louis area gun happenings.

I have no military or police experience;  I just grew up in the country, shooting and hunting all my life.  I've been in this concrete jungle here in St. Louis for the better part of the last 10 years, so hunting and shooting, which used to be commonplace, have turned into celebrated and cherished moments.

I'm a bit of an amature photographer, so expect to see plenty of firearm pictures here in the future.  I won't be reposting anyone else's stuff due to copyright reasons, so you'll have to wait until I get around to taking my own.

I think that'll do for intros for now.  I hope you like the blog, please enjoy the ride.