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I'm going to make an awesome new TV show.  Let's call it "Explosion Extravaganza".  I'm going to get a bunch of men and women, in the 18-25 age bracket, and lock them up inside a new reality show.  Please disregard that this age bracket has been shown to be particularly poor decision makers, not fully physically matured, and one of the most difficult-to-insure (or expensive-to-insure) segments of the population.  I'm going to give them weapons galore... machine guns, grenades, land mines, anti-armor rockets and missiles, maybe even tanks.  Then we're going to run them through a bunch of "missions" where they have to shoot at things and blow stuff up.  Ideally, we don't want them to hurt each other in the process.

I'm sure people would think I'm crazy.  This kind of thing is probably completely unfathomable to people like Rep. Feinstein, who thinks that just about everyone is too incompetent to have even the simplest firearm, let alone rocket launchers.  But obviously I'm aiming my TV show at what is arguably the least competent and most reckless demographic.

Now comes the surprise.  Such a thing already exists.  They call it the Army, or the Marine Corps if you like that better.  So now the question is, "If we can take the most dangerous part of the population, and give them unimaginable access to the most deadly 'Weapons of War' that money can buy, why doesn't everyone in the Armed Forces just kill each other off every few days?  What's different here?".

You could have a lengthy debate about the differences, but I think it really only boils down to a couple.  Strong leadership and discipline, and training.  There's little you can do to instill strong leadership and discipline into people's (civilian's) everyday lives.  But that's only part of the equation.  The training is a huge factor.  The training a soldier gets, while some of the best of all militaries in the world, is still watered down by the fact they have to get dozens, or hundreds, of soldiers through it.  While it looks like epic "weeks" of constant training on paper, it probably only manifests in "hours" in reality for a single person.  In Basic Training, a recruit will spend weeks going to the range, 8-10 hours a day, during the Basic Rifle Marksmanship phase, and ultimately get to shoot one or two 15-minute sessions per day.  Most non-combat personnel get only minimal combat-oriented training, following Basic Training.  The point being, that a civilian can acquire this level of training and familiarization very easily in an efficient civilian setting.  If a civilian goes to the gun range for 3 hours, they get 3 hours of shooting in, or the equivalent of a week's worth of that Basic Training recruit's.

I realize that gun control supporters probably don't want to hear more pragmatic "reality check" examples of why their theories are flawed.  But if myself and my squad-mates managed to survive the fact that we were all loaded down with machine guns, grenade launchers, rockets, landmines, and other assorted awesome toys, during the most wild and irresponsible years of our lives, it would seem that the claims that law-abiding citizens are going to be hurting people at every opportunity if we don't take away these "dangerous" guns and accessories from them, is sorely missing some good root-cause analysis.

This is part of the reason I thought it was important for me to open a training school.  Give people all the training they can handle.  Make the training thorough, realistic, useful, and most of all safe.  Teach people to be comfortable and responsible with tools that can be dangerous if used improperly, and life-saving if used properly.  "You don't rise to the occasion.  You fall to your level of training."

If we can take the most dangerous part of the population, and give them unimaginable access to the most deadly 'Weapons of War' that money can buy, why doesn't everyone in the Armed Forces just kill each other off every few days?  What's different here?

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In the Army, being a member of a Special Operations unit meant something unique, and those units and their members hold to certain values that others may not.  One often-repeated phrase was that we "operate in all weather and terrain".  This phrase is common to infantry and combat arms soldiers from around the globe, and ingrained in their very nature.

To a soldier, this means simply that "You can't stop me."  If you put your fortress on the top of a mountain, I'm going to climb that mountain to attack you.  If you hide in a swamp, I'm going to wade in to find you.  If you take shelter from a storm, I'm going to use that storm to mask my advance on you.  In fact, most of all, I'm going to use the fact that crappy weather and austere terrain make you slow, tired, depressed, and complacent to my advantage, and strike when you are weakest.

This translates to the civilian world in a couple of ways, especially for survivalists and outdoorsmen.

  • The Attitude to Thrive:  In many cases, it may be very easy to simply "survive" something.  Being familiar and comfortable in inclement weather and rough terrain, sets the bar of what is an extraordinary challenge a bit higher.  Where the decision process of others may seek alternate routes or times, because to them the environment and geography seem daunting, to the experienced this will be "just another day".
  • Aversion to Shortcuts:  There will be times when the most logical and correct choice involves working in poor weather, or crossing difficult terrain.  The more comfortable and prepared you are to go there, physically and mentally, the more likely you are to make the correct decisions when you need to.  Shortcuts usually aren't actually shortcuts - if the easy way was the way to go, it would be called the normal or correct way.
  • Less Stress:  If you are familiar with, and prepared for, austere conditions, they will take less of a toll on you psychologically. This in turn frees up your mind to focus on more critical tasks at hand.  When others are panicked and barely able to take care of themselves, you will be calmer and may also be able to take care of others in addition to yourself.

The easiest way to learn to operate in all terrain and weather is simply to do it!  That sounds comical, but I'm serious.  Next time there is a snow storm, dress appropriately and take your dog(s) for a walk in it!  Take an overnight camping trip where you have to hike to the location.  Take a course on snow-shoeing from your local sportsman's store.  Most of all, after each of these small outings, review and reflect on what went good and bad, and adjust accordingly for next time.

Lots of little doses of exposure will lead to a great many lessons learned.  You'll answer questions you didn't even know you needed to ask.  Ultimately, this will build your skills, and your confidence, and you will be far more prepared to face outdoor challenge you may meet.

So how do you keep your canteen from freezing when you spend many hours, or days, out in sub-freezing weather, anyways?  Just a little example of something for you to ponder.

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Many firearms use magazines as an ammunition source, so lets talk a little about proper selection, care and maintenance procedures.

  • Wipe down the outside of your magazines after every day of use.  The magazine will be exposed to hot, dirty gases and residue, when the gun is fired.  This will get in the magazine well, and on the outside of the magazine.  Take a cloth, dampened with gun oil, and wipe down the exterior of your magazines regularly.
  • Take your magazines apart, and clean them thoroughly, every several months.  After a dozen usage outings, your magazines will start to collect a significant amount of gun powder residue, dirt, and other contaminants down inside.  These gritty residues will cause friction, and interfere with proper operation.  Take your magazine apart, and clean the inside, as well as the internal components.
  • Buy OEM magazines.  It may look enticing to save a few bucks on a third-party (e.g. ProMag) magazine, but be weary, especially for defensive firearms that your life may depend on.  Many times the OEM magazines have proved more reliably, probably since they were designed by the same engineers that designed the firearm itself.
  • Three strikes, and you're out.  For me, I give my magazines a three strikes policy.  A significant portion of firearms malfunctions are caused by magazines.  Every time I have a malfunction, that was obviously caused by something unrelated to the magazine (including just a poorly seated magazine), I take a paint-pen and put a dot on the bottom of the mag.  If it gets three dots, I throw it out, or relegate it to "training only" status.
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Tactical flashlights are a fantastic piece of equipment to own and carry.  They are compact, extremely bright, and can be found with a host of features such as hand-to-hand combat crenelations (sharp points), strobe modes, and colored lenses.  Originally, these lights used Xenon (or other heavy gas) bulbs, but in recent years the introduction of high-output LEDs has taken the market.

Long story short, you really should buy the LED variants at this point in the game.  Let's talk about the differences, though.

  • Battery life:  The key advantage of the LED is efficiency, and that means longer battery life.  All tactical lights are very bright, by their very definition, and that means they put a great strain on the batteries.  A more efficient LED bulb will give you the same amount of light with longer battery life.
  • Brightness:  LEDs have been around for decades, but for the majority of that time they could not compete against incandescent bulbs (e.g. Xenon) for brightness.  Recently, that is starting to change.  In just the last year or two, some LED lights have been introduced that rival and overtake their incandescent competitors in brightness, in the same size light.  One of my favorites is the Streamlight ProTac LED HL (High Lumen), which outputs 600 lumens, using two CR123 lithium batteries, for under $100.
  • Bulb life:  LED bulbs are essentially a solid piece of plastic.  They have lifetimes in the tens, to hundreds, of thousands of hours, which means they could run continuously for decades without burning out.  LEDs are essentially impervious to impact damage - you'll destroy the electronics or housing before LED is damaged from shock.  Incandescent bulbs typically only have a couple hundreds to thousand hours of lifetime (weeks or months of continuous runtime), which may still be more than most people need.  Because of the tiny glowing-hot filament in an incandescent bulb, they are relatively susceptible to shock damage, especially when they are turned on.
  • Explosion resistance:  Workers in some fields, such as natural gas, need special explosion proof flashlights.  With incandescent bulbs, this usually means a special mechanism in the head of the light that turns the light off instantaneously if the glass bulb is broken, exposing the glowing-hot element.  With LED bulbs, there is nothing glowing-hot that can be exposed to air, so the danger is severely reduced.

 

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