Welcome back my friend. It's Wednesday, so it's time to talk knives again and last week we had started to discuss handle materials. So let's see where we were then.
So, you've already listen to me ramble on about the different categories; which admittedly was kind of boring and limited. So why don't we start looking at the first of those categories, namely natural materials such as bone and wood. Is there any thing that can't be used to make a knife handle? Not really. In fact is you go back far enough you'll find just about any natural material you can name used somewhere or other, even stone! So what's used today?
One material that's been used for thousands of years, and is still used even today is of course wood; and why not. There's very little out there more beautiful than a nice piece of wood that's been lovingly shaped and worked. Rosewood, cocobolo, ironwood, even birds eye maple, the possibilities are as endless as the type of trees in the forest. Wood is pleasing to the eye and comfortable in the hand, and some are as durable as you could ask. Archeologists have found oak foundations in various parts of the world that are 100's, even thousands of years old, and still as solid as the day they were made. However not all wood will last like this, and like almost all natural materials it will suffer much more from abuse than metal or man made materials. So if your wood handled knife gets wet or dirty, wash it gently, dry it well with a soft towel as best you can, then set it aside to dry naturally over the course of a day or two. Then when it's dry, rub it well with mineral oil or some natural wood oil. And for God's sake, whatever you do, don't put it in a hot oven, on top of a stove, or by the fire! You'll dry it out so completely it'll crack and then you'll have no choice but to either replace the handle or replace the knife.
Another material that's been in use at least as long as wood, and possibly longer, is leather. After all, when man was still living in caves and chipping his blades out of flint and obsidian, what was easier to work with? It cut easily, much more easily than trees, and there was plenty to go around after each successful hunt. Even today there are many knives out there with leather handles, but most of them use what are often referred to as "spacers". Wrapping a handle in leather often doesn't work well over time since leather can stretch leaving you with a grip that can turn in your hand at the worst possible minute. Leather spacers, which look like washers made of leather, form the handles of some of the more iconic fighting knives around; from the famous Ka-bar of the U.S. military, to the V-42 dagger used by the British "Devil Brigade" in WWII. The Premium Bowie from Magnum by Boker also uses them, interspaced with piece of cocobolo wood and the entire handle polished to a fair-the-well.
Perhaps the most beloved handle material for many knife collectors is bone. Almost as easy to work as wood, bone can be smooth or rough and died in almost any color imaginable. Today cow bone is the bone of choice for most knife makers, mainly because as long as people eat beef there will be a steady supply. Plus it's even more durable than most woods, so it'll last a long, long time.
Then there's Stag or antler. All antler material from legitimate suppliers come from antlers that have been "shed" by the animals in the spring before the new antlers start to come in, and it's natural texture make for a great grip. However poorly fitted antler can easily come lose from the tang resulting in a knife that can turning your hand, so I personally would recommend spending a bit more to make sure you get a quality fit and, possibly, sambar stag antler from India since it has a much smaller "morrow" core than other breeds.
Along the same lines of antler would be horns. Unlike antlers, most animals do not shed their horns; but since true horns are, believe it or not, a form of hair it does not hurt the animal to have their horns cut off once a year or so. Perhaps the most popular horns are buffalo, sheep, and types of ivory; though getting ivory legally is getting tougher and tougher as countries crack down on poachers more and more. Indeed, every new manufacture knife I've seen in the past 2 years with an "ivory" handle was actually using a synthetic material of some sort instead.
Similar to ivory, but no where near as durable is Abalone and Mother of Pearl. Both materials are made from the shell of various mollusks, and while beautiful as all get out, it doesn't tend to be very durable. For this reason they tend to be used mainly for "gentlemen's" pocket knives which will rarely see any heavy use or presentation knives that are not intended to be used at all. It also tends to be one of the most expensive of the natural handle materials since it can literally take a ton of muscles and oysters to get a pair of pieces big enough for one knife.
Near the beginning I mentioned using stone for knife handles, and I know I heard at least one or two snorts of disbelieve out there; but stone really is used for knife handles even today. Most of the time it's a semi-precious stone such as turquoise, but I've also seen fossilized wood and mammoth tusks. Don't believe me? Go look. You'll find knives from Case, Rough Rider, Colt, and, some of my personal favorites though I have not yet managed to become a dealer for them (and truthfully, since they're so small, probably never will), Santa Fe Stone Works.
Finally, there's a group that some are still arguing over which category they belong in; namely the stabilized woods. What happens here is that the wood (or any natural material that's porous enough for the chemicals toward their way in) is put in a vacuum tank along with a resin like material and the resin is forced into the wood and then cured, most often by applying heat. The result is a material with the natural beauty of wood and the durability of a synthetic.
And there in a nut shell are the choices. Truthfully, I find the natural materials so beautiful that they comprise most of the knives in my personal collection. But next week I'll ramble a bit about the synthetic material currently in use, which, in all honesty, tend to be superior in terms of durability; even if many of them don't hold a candle to the natural materials in looks. But hey, some don't agree with me on this; and isn't that part of what makes life so grand? Things would be dreadfully boring if we all agreed on everything after all. But until then, I hope your weeks all you could ever hope for and may the god of your choice smile down on you. And as always, remember, if it's worth doing then it's worth doing with attitude!
Oh, hey there. Sorry, you caught me off guard for a moment there. Was just looking back at some of my earliest rambles. Would you believe I've actually been at this for almost two years now? Admittedly I missed quite a few rambles in there due to various health problems, especially when I underwent surgery to remove a tumor; but yeah, it actually will be two years come October. Wow. Who'd a thunk it!
But while reading over some of those old rambles, I came across one I wrote shortly after the son of a very good friend had died and I thought maybe I should do some checking to see what has changed in those two years. The sad answer is, unfortunately, very little.
You see, one of the things we as the parents of children on the autism spectrum must deal with all too often is a behavior commonly known as "eloping". And no, it doesn't mean running off to be married on the sly; not when applied to people like my son any way. What it refers to instead is a tendency on the part of children with some form of autism to suddenly take off. Sometimes it seems as if they're trying to get away from something that has greatly disturbed them or even frightened them. In these cases they'll often just take off with no thought except to get away from whatever it is that is causing them distress with absolutely no thought to where they're going or how they're getting there. Other times they get distracted by something that fascinates them beyond all reason, like one young girl who was so fascinated by a bird she had seen that she never even noticed where she was or where she was going as she followed it until she suddenly found herself in the middle of a swamp with no clue as to how to get out. And the sad fact is that all too many of these cases end in the child's death. Not all of them by any means thank God, but enough time to give the parent of any child on the spectrum nightmares.
One of the items I covered in the original ramble was police programs that provide GPS tracking devices to families of children on the spectrum, allowing the department to track and locate a missing child with in minutes of being informed that the child has eloped. In January of 2014, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York get the Justice Department to agree to provide around $10 million dollars in grants and loans to police departments who wished to purchase the equipment after 14 year old Avonte Oquendo went missing from his school and was eventually found in the East River. Yet here it is two years later and a web search for police departments who have taken advantage of this program is sadly rather short. The equipment is available, and as far as I can tell the money is still available; but no one seems to be interested. Indeed, I've even seen articles and blogs that argue against the program, calling it "government surveillance", interference, and worse. And so our children are still eloping, and all too often, dying.
Many who can afford it have bought GPS equipment, and there is a nice selection out there. At least 9 to the best of my knowledge. Three I'm especially impressed with are Angel Sense, the Tracking Watch from Precise Innovation, and the GPS Smart Sole, though I will admit I do not have any direct experience with any of them yet. I would love to be able to actually test them out, but at least at the moment I cannot afford to. No corporate sponsorship don't you know. And while the equipment in many cases are quite reasonable (Angel Sense is currently on sale for only $59.00 for the basic set up), you still have to pay for the GPS service and monitoring. For Angel Sense, that's currently $44.95 a month with a one year contract, roughly $540.00 a year. And yes, compared to cell phone service or cable service, that's a bargain. Unfortunately it's still more than I can afford to pay right now. Nor to the best of my knowledge is there any federal or state program to help low income families pay for this technology unless their local police force has instituted the Justice Department's suggested program.
And so there we are. Watching our children like a hawk, but enjoying their presence in our lives as much as we enjoy their brothers and sisters. And so we continue, and so I will continue. Writing my little rambles and hopefully sharing a bit of what it means to be the father of a child with autism with you. Until next time then. I hope what remains of your summer is everything you could possibly want, and remember. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!
Hey there, and welcome back. I hope you've had a great week. Oh, the title? A bit late to be talking about vacations you say? Not really. When I was living and working down in Charleston, August was second only to Spring Break for the number of tourists we got; and why not? In June you're still trying to get the spring plantings and spring cleaning done, not to mention all the little things your boss wants done before everyone leaves for vacation; and July is family time what with the 4th of July and all. But in August we suddenly realize that the kids are about to go back to school and if we're going to get that family vacation in we'd better do it now before Labor Day rolls around and we miss our chance. But still, it's Friday so some of you are probably wondering just what Vacation has to do with self defense. Well it's like this. When we're at home, we instinctively know when something's not right and we might be in danger, but when we're on vacation we can suddenly find ourselves with unexpected danger on two different fronts.
The first danger is the danger of unknown surroundings. After all, unless you have a cabin you visit every year, or vacation is taking the kids to see gramma and grandpa, you're going to find yourself in a place that you just don't know. At home you know without even thinking about it which streets are safe and which ones to avoid. You know when someone is out of place, like a kid dressed gang banger style where no one else would dress that way or a man dressed too well when everyone else would be dress rather casual. But when you're on vacation odds are you don't know the normal patterns, so you really won't know what to look for. So what do you do? Well first, you need to do a little homework.
For starters, if you're a regular reader of my rambles then you probably have a concealed weapons permit or license, that or you're considering getting one. But can you take your favorite gun with you? Maybe, maybe not. Let's not forget Ms. Shaneen Allen after all. If you remember, this lady was a health care professional, a phlebotomist, who was arrested in New Jersey for possession of a hand gun inspite of the fact that she had a concealed weapon permit from her home state of Pennsylvania. If Governor Christie had not bowed to public pressure and pardoned her, this mother of two could have found herself in prison for 3 years. So for God's sake, check the gun laws of the state you plan to visit! My personal favorite for doing this is an app I have on my phone called Concealed Carry App, or CCA for short. This app keeps up to date with all the laws covering reciprocity of your cwp so you'll know a head of time whether the state you're planning on visiting will honor your permit or not.
Another great resource is the NRA. Naturally the organization best known for defending people's right to own guns of any type tries their best to keep track of every law dealing with guns no matter where you might be going.
Another thing I’d recommend is to do a web search for the place you’re going to. Look up crime rates, and reviews by other people. Check the local police department’s web site, often they’ll have tips that you might find useful. And once you get there, check with the people where you’ll be staying. Especially check with the concierge if they’ve got one, and it’s not too uncommon for even smaller hotels and cabin sites to have them now-a-days. The staff where you’re staying want you to have the best time possible so that you’ll come back, or at least recommend them to your friends; so they’ll be more than happy to give you any tips you might need to know to keep you and your family safe.
If you’re going to an area known for tourism, consider buying yourself a money belt instead of keeping all your money in your wallet or purse. Most people when they hear the word money belt automatically think of bad fiction or the old west, so you’ve got a reasonable chance that a thief will never even think of the possibility of you having one; and I’ve seen some really nice ones out there so it’s not going to clash with your outfit. You might also consider carrying your wallet in your front pocket instead of your back pocket. I know it’s not very comfortable, and it won’t stop a really, really good pick pocket; but it will slow them down and possibly make them pass you up for an easier mark. After all, most thieves aren’t going to work any harder than they have to, and if your wallet is in a place that’s harder to them to get to then there’s more of a chance they’ll give themselves away which is the last thing a pick pocket will want to do.
Set meeting places anywhere you go where the family can meet up at in case you get separated. I know you don’t intend to let that happen, but believe me, it can happen to even the best of us. So set up that meeting place, and set a time that everyone should meet there just in case. Also make sure everyone has recent pictures of everybody as well, that way if little Johnny get separated from you he can not only tell that nice lady at the reception desk that he’s lost his mommy and daddy by also show her what you look like. And let’s be honest, it helps the police to no end should worst come to worst and you have to involve them in trying to find him.
And finally, keep aware of your surroundings at all times! I know you’ve never been there before, and, as I admitted earlier in this ramble, wouldn’t know what’s normal and what’s not; but your instincts will pick up on more than you might think, as long as you pay attention! The number of people I saw every year in Charleston who got so wrapped up in the sights that they’d step off the sidewalk in front of moving cars is down right frightening, but thieves know this happens all the time and they look for people who aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around them. After all, it’s so much easier to rob someone who doesn’t even notice the mugger until they’re starring down the muzzle of a gun.
Still, these things are not all you need to worry about. You need to take steps to protect your home while you’re away as well. I know, I know; you’ve heard these things a thousand times before. They’re still worth repeating though; and who knows, maybe I’ll give you some ideas you never thought of before.
Nothing screams no one is home more than no lights on in a house for several days at a time, but the same set of lights burning 24 hours a day is just as bad so buy your self a timer. I know almost everyone has some experience with these, I mean even in ancient times when I was just a wee lad my father had timers on 3 or 4 lights for when we went away on vacation; but todays timers make those old same time every time timers look pathetic. After all, no one turns their lights on and off at the same time every single day unless they have OCD or are wedded to a schedule like glue as some people on the autistic spectrum can be. Spend a little more than you would on just a basic on and off timer and you can get digital timers that can be set to vary their timing by up to an hour either way.
And why stop there? Admittedly, I’m one of those paranoid people who leave their outside lights on 24/7; but very few people do. So why not add a timer to your outside lights as well? Or maybe a photosensor that will turn them on when it gets dark and turns them back off when it gets light. Get a good one, and it will serve you well even when you are at home making turning your outside lights on and off something you never have to think about.
Or maybe you have a neighbor or relative you trust implicitly that can stop by and manage your lights for you. This has the advantage that then people will be seen to be entering your house and leaving on a regular basis. If a thief has no other reason to suspect anything, it will look like someone’s home even more than just the lights turning on and off will. Hell, offer them a small bribe in the form of a cake or cookies and the use of your DVD collection while you’re away and I’ll bet they’ll jump at the chance.
One thing I’ve heard recommended several times is to make sure your blinds are closed before you go so that bad guys can’t see in. Sorry folks, but in my opinion that’s one of the stupidest suggestions out there. I mean think about it. When you’re home, is every blind in the place closed all the time? Maybe if you work third shift or are extremely sensitive to light, but otherwise I really doubt it. And if I’m not likely to believe it, what in God’s name makes you think the bad guys are going to buy it? No, leave the blinds just the way you normally would or get that friendly neighbor to randomly open and close the blinds for you while you’re away. Aye, you will want to move that laptop or expensive TV and jewelry somewhere where it’s not obvious to someone trying to peek in your windows, but that’s about as far as you should go.
Of course nothing shouts no one’s home quite like having your newspapers and mail piling up while you’re away, so call the newspaper and have them hold your paper while you’re away and use the postal services web site to put a hold on your mail as well; but what about those people who leave cards hanging from your door knob or mailbox advertising pressure washing or tree removal? You can’t exactly call them and tell them not to leave their ads at your house while you’re away, if for no other reason that you don’t have a clue who they are or when they’re going to leave them. So once again here’s a job for that neighbor you bribed, or the pet sitter coming in to take care of the four legged members of your family for you.
One thing my father never thought to do when I was growing up that I heartily recommend is calling your local police to let them know when you’re leaving and when you’re coming back. Okay, it might not do any good if you live in a huge city or have an asshole for a police chief, but then again it might. Most police departments now-a-days have programs just for this sort of thing, and it might result in them checking on your house every other day or so. If you have a really responsive police department, they might even check on it every day, or at least drive by it to make sure everything looks okay.
Next thing to be aware of is be careful who you tell that you’re going to be out of town for a while. What ever you do, don’t announce it on Facebook or your blog. Don’t even announce it in chat rooms. Yeah, you may have your privacy settings set for friends only; but that still doesn’t guarantee that the wrong people won’t see it. And even if they don’t see your original post, who’s to say that somebody who’s not thinking won’t say something along the lines of “That lucky so and so John Doe, he’s heading for Disney next month! Wish I had the money to go.” Yet at the same time you will want to let at least some people know that you plan to be out of town, especially a few of your neighbors. I remember we had a string of thefts one year down in Charleston that were real doozies. The thieves pulled up in front of their victims homes in moving vans in broad daylight and emptied the house they hit just as if the people who lived their where moving away, and the neighbors by and large just thought to themselves “Gee, I didn’t know they were moving. I wonder why they didn’t tell us?” In not a single instance did anyone call the police or even get suspicious until the victims came home and found their house completely empty! In two cases I think the thieves even put up a fake For Sale sign. If these people had just let one or two of their neighbors know they were going away on vacation, there’s a good chance the thieves could have been caught. Instead they hit 7 or 8 houses in the course of a month and a half then skipped town.
One more thing you might want to consider, especially here in the South, is whether your car is normally in the drive way or in the garage. Many, many people here in the South don’t bother parking their cars in the garage and instead use their garages for all sorts of other things. But that can be a dead give away that no one’s home if your second car is left sitting in the driveway and never moves the entire time you’re gone. So in addition to the pet sitter, if you don’t know anyone you’d trust to occasionally drive your car just so it doesn’t look completely unused, ask around and see if you can find someone. I doubt you’ll want someone driving your car every day and putting who knows how many miles on it, but maybe you can get that friendly neighbor you’ve already bribed to take it to the grocery store and back once or twice while you’re gone. It can’t hurt, and it might help more than you’d think.
So there you have it. My quick and dirty lowdown how how to keep safe during vacation both where you’re vacationing and on the home front. Could I have gone into more details on some of it, or even come up with more ideas? You betcha, but as this thing I call a ramble is a blog post and not a magazine article I think I’ll call it good for now. In the meantime, have a great weekend and I hope the weather cooperates with you. Until we meet again in this little corner of cyberspace; may the road rise up to meet you and may the wind be always at your back. And remember, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with attitude.
Hey, and welcome back! I hope you've been enjoying my little rambles on knives. So far we've looked primarily at the blade, which is only reasonable since it's the blade that does the work, right? Well sort of. As we've seen, the material a blade is made out of, the style of blade used, and the final grind all have huge impacts on just what a knife can do best and what it's main weaknesses may be, but it's more than a little difficult to hold onto a knife with out a proper handle. Yet the number of things that handle can be made out can sometimes be so overwhelming as to leave a person new to knives curled up in a ball somewhere staring into space. I mean, one web site I saw listed over 24 different handle materials to choose from, and that still leaves some items out and others put under listings that make them sound like it's all the same thing. So how do you choose?
Unfortunately, there's just too many choices to cover all of them in one ramble, even one as long as I sometimes find myself delivering; but I can at least try to start breaking it down for you. So for today, let's look at the three main categories and then in later rambles I can try to start breaking each category down a bit.
The first, and oldest category would be natural materials such as wood, bone, horns, antlers, mother of pearl, etc. These are of course the oldest materials used, and some knife collectors won't even consider a knife that doesn't use one of these traditional materials. These materials have a natural beauty to them that has shined down through the ages, and are generally self renewing. Even those materials that come from animals, with the exception of bone, are most often obtained with no injury to the animal. I mean think about it. Almost every animal out there looses it's horns or antlers at least once a year, and for those that don't it's rarely dangerous or painful for the material to be harvested in a humane way. They tend to be tough, durable, and for the most part relatively cheap. The biggest drawback is that unless they're stabilized, they will start to deteriorate over time. Of course, if you take care of your knife and don't abuse it that may take two or three generations, but still.
The next category would be metals, most often stainless steel, aluminum, or titanium (though occasionally other metals may be used for one reason or another). Now I must admit that I'm not all that fond of metal hilts or handles, but they do have their advantages. For one thing they're tough as, well, metal. So you end up with a handle that is as durable as hell, and can be finished in a wide variety or ways. Some even have other materials used as inserts which can greatly improve the grip feel. However they often get hot or cold depending on conditions much faster than other handle materials, which can make holding the knife somewhat uncomfortable under extreme weather conditions.
Then we come to the synthetic materials. This can be anything from plastic to a carbon fiber, fiberglass, or even resin based materials. Some, such as FRN (Fiber Reinforced Nylon), can be molded into just about any shape you want. Others, such as Micarta and G-10, must be worked and shaped in a method very similar to the way you'd make a handle out of wood. In this group of materials, perhaps more than any other knife handle materials, you really do get what you pay for though. G-10 for example in almost as durable as metal, doesn't scratch as easily, and can be made in a wide variety of colors. What's more it doesn't absorb or loose heat the way metal will. However it does tend to be on the expensive side. Plastics on the other hand run the gamut from cheap and flimsy to ones that are tough as nails. However unless the plastic is reinforced in some method, it will crack or break much more easily that almost any other knife handle material out there. For those who might be interested Walter Sorrells, a highly respected custom knife maker, has a video showing how to make Micarta here.
And there you go. A very fast and dirty look at knife handles. Not a lot of information you say?Well, yeah, you're kinda right there, and I do apologize. But if I started trying to discuss each type of material used I'd have an entire book! A thin book maybe, but still a book's worth of information, and then where would I be? So come back next week and the two weeks after, and we'll start to take a look at each category in a little more depth. I'm figuring on starting with natural materials next week; but hey, if you'd rather I start with synthetics, or even metal, just let me know in a comment post to this ramble. Or you can go to my Facebook page and leave a comment there. Either way my friends, if enough of you want me to start somewhere else I'll be more than happy to do so. Or maybe you have a specific question you'd like me to address. Again, just leave a comment in either place and I'll get you an answer some way or another.
But until then, I wish you clear skies and smooth sailing until we meet again here in my little corner of cyberspace. Take care my friend, and remember; if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!
Welcome friend. I'm so glad you could join me again. It's Monday, and so the subject must be Autism and/or Special Needs, right? Well, kinda sort of. What I really want to touch on in my rambling today is Caregiver Burnout, especially as applied to someone who is the parent of a special needs child.
If you do a web search for Caregiver Burnout, you'll easilyfind well over 6,000,000 hits; but most of them deal with those of us who are taking care of elderly parents or disabled spouses. Try a web search for Caregiver Burnout in Autism, and you'll also get well over 6,000,000 hits; but many, if not most of them are the same sites and pages as the first search and really don't apply specifically to those parents trying to take care of their special needs offspring. Well, maybe in some ways they do. I mean caregiver burnout is caregiver burnout to a certain extent, but it can happen so much more insidiously for those of us who children are on the autism spectrum. Why? Trust me, I'll get to that in a moment. First though, I really want to go over just what Caregiver Burnout is and how badly it can affect your life.
So what exactly is Caregiver Burnout? Well if you look it up on WebMD you'll find that they define it as "Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude -- from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned", which is fine as far as it goes. What it doesn't cover is the truly insidious parts. For example, it's estimated that in 2009 65 million Americans were the primary caregiver for one or more loved ones, and they spent somewhere around $375 Billion dollars providing that care. That's over twice the estimated healthcare expenditure for home health care and nursing homes combined! What's more, in the same year 47% of those caregivers reported that they had to use up most or all of their savings trying to provide for their loved ones, while 66% reported that it had a negative impact on their jobs in one way or another. If that's not bad enough, in 2004 the Naval Academy of Sciences report that long term caregivers tended to have a life expectancy fully 10 years shorter than those who were not. Nor are the lives of the caregivers and their families the only ones affected. A study done by MetLife found that American Businesses lose approximately $34 Billion a year due to their employees needing to care for loved ones, plus and additional $13.4 Billion dollars a year in increase health costs. Starting to get the picture?
But why stop there. Here's a few more bits for you to ponder. Among the findings that the CDC found in their study it was determined that long term caregivers had an increased risk of: diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, depression, alcohol and tobacco abuse, drug abuse, obesity, sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, cancer, and chronic pain. Oh yeah, they were also much more likely to get sick with the flu, colds, or other diseases. Gee, ain't they lucky!
So what exactly is it that causes this burnout? A large part of it is simply stress. Yes, I said simply stress, and no, stress is not a simple thing by any way, shape, or means. It's been long understood that excessive stress can have a huge impact on our health, and can you truly imagine anything more stressful that trying to take care of a loved one who for one reason or another cannot take care of themselves? All of us have some hobby or form of entertainment we use to relax, and it's doubly pleasurable when it's done with someone you love such as your spouse. But when you're the primary caregiver for someone, you suddenly find that time that would otherwise be spent relaxing is instead spent seeing for the other person's needs. That's true no matter why the other person needs you, whether it's just that they can no longer physically do some of the things they need done or have developed some form of dementia. But it can be even worse for the parents of a child with autism. Why? Well for one thing, if the person you're providing caregiving for is a parent, they often have friends who would be more than willing to come and visit with them while you and your wife or husband go out for a "date night". If your parent has developed dementia too bad for that, there are sitters and "companions" that can be hired to give you some respite; and often Medicare will help pay for it to some extent. Plus there are nursing homes and skilled care facilities that offer respite services. But who is going to watch your autistic child? Bring in a stranger, and no matter how pleasant that stranger is you'll all too often send your child into a complete spin as his or her all important routine is turn all topsy turvey. Then, even if you're lucky and you child deals much better with strangers than most on the autism spectrum do, very few baby sitters have either the skills or the knowledge to competently care for someone with autism. As a result, that all important relaxation time that we all need to deal with the stress in our lives is in very short supply for parents of those on the spectrum.
Then there's the added stress of feeling isolated. The various problems of the aged are widely understood to at least some degree, for after all, everyone except orphans have parents and grandparents who either are, have, or soon will be getting up there in age. True, there's misconceptions even here; but for the most part even those who get it wrong are still at least in the ball park. But with autism on the other hand ... Yes, I know I've said many times that 1 in 68 children born today are somewhere on the spectrum, but that still means that many, many people have absolutely no experience with what someone with autism can be like. And as for popular media, well, the closest to the truth was "Rainman", and even that movie got more things wrong than it did right. So the only people you can count on to understand are those who are also parents and, to a certain extent, family. Why only to a certain extent family? Because they have no experience either beyond what they get with your child, and unless they live with you that may not be very much. Not that you can blame them. After all, if they're your parents then society has been telling them all their lives that grandparents are supposed to spoil grandkids, so that's what they expected to do until reality slapped them in the face. Then, because they love you and it hurts them to see the pain you're experiencing, they start to offer advice based on what worked for them when they were raising you. And in all honesty, much of it is wonderful advice, if you're raising neurotypical children. But you're not, and so often the advice is close to useless. You know they mean well, and truthfully they probably would have known the advice was bad if they lived with you and saw what you see day in and day out; but they don't. Plus the further away they live, and the less they see first hand what their grandchild is like, the more likely the advice is to be bad and the harder it will be for you to explain to them why. And thus what should be a bastion of strength is more like a rickety old fence or a old abandon shack, and you end up feeling even more alone. Admittedly, I'm pretty lucky in this respect since my mother lives with us and my in-laws are less than a half hour away, but not everyone is as lucky as I am.
Then there's your child "strange" behavior. For someone on the autism spectrum, social skills are not simply hard to learn, often they're completely incomprehensible! Plus they suffer from sensory overload so easily, and from things that make absolutely no sense to us; and so they develop habits to deal with that overload that seem to the ordinary man on the street to be bazaar and baffling in the extreme. We're told by the media that things are getting better. We're told that more and more people are coming to understand that it's not our child's fault and that most people will be understanding. But we find that hard to believe. And sooner or later, we run into someone who doesn't understand; or we over hear some mom telling her daughter "That child needs a good whooping" or "That's what happens when you do drugs during pregnancy", and something deep inside us just wants to hide away and curl up into a ball. When it happens more than once, you start dreading taking your child out in public. What if he or she decides to run up and pull the alter cloth off in the middle of communion? Or grabs something off a strangers plate at a restaurant? And forget taking him or her to a movie. Trying to get a child on the spectrum to sit quietly through a movie at a cinema where everything is too loud, the chair feel strange, and it's more confusing than a Walmart on Saturday? Ain't happening no matter how hard you try. And so all those little social activities other families take for granted may as well be a fairy tale for all that your family will get to enjoy them; and so the isolation grows, and the stress multiplies. Eventually you and your spouse are like powder kegs, just waiting for the fuse to be lit. But what can you do?
Well for one thing, as much as it feels selfish; you absolutely must find a way to take time for yourself. If you're as lucky as I am to have family close at hand, get them even more involved in your child's life. It will help your child grow in ways that might not be obvious, but will in the long do them so much good it can't really be described. Even better, as your child comes to accept them as part of his routine, you and your spouse can go on that all important "date night". If you don't already have one, try to get a case worker for your child. A good case worker can find you resources you'll never find on your own, including, if needed, a good family councilor who can help you through and maybe even prevent caregiver burnout. Look for a local support group or maybe a special needs sport league such as the Miracle League, a special needs camp like Camp Spearhead, or similar groups. There you will be able to mix and mingle with people who truly get it, unlike many of your current friends who may be starting to get a bit distant. Maybe you have a neighbor who seems to connect with your child in a way very few others do. Maybe they'd be willing to come over and watch you child for an hour or so, long enough that you can get a nap without worrying that your child might get into serious trouble or hurt themselves. Or maybe you can get your child interested in going for a walk with you, or practice yoga with you, or do some form of craft. As long as it's fun for both of you. Any of these ideas will help; and let's be honest, the more you can relax and let off some stress, the better a parent you'll be. And isn't that what it's all about in the end? Being the best parent our child can have?
But once again I've come to the limit of what I have time to ramble on about. Is there more I could cover? You betcha, but it'll have to wait for another time. Until then though, may your day be filled with beauty, and the wind always at your back. I hope to see you here in my little corner of cyberspace soon; but until then remember, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the number of people who buy a gun "for defense" and then toss their new gun in a drawer and forget all about it. Ask them even the simplest thing about it a couple of months later, and the answers are so predictable you have to wonder how much leaming is in their DNA make up. How many rounds does your magazine hold? I dunno. Does it have an external safety? I dunno. How's it shoot? I dunno, never shot it. Really? Then how do you know if it even will shoot? Leave it that drawer long enough and I can almost guarantee that it won't, and at that point the only thing it will be good for is throwing it at an intruder and hope it hits him! Could have saved yourself a few hundred bucks and just pick a drawer full of rocks from the garden. At least they'll throw well which a gun probably wouldn't! If you're going to have a gun for any reason you need to take to the range on a regular basis and practice with it.
Still just plain target practice is only going to take you so far. Oh sure, it'll do you plenty of good if all you plan on doing is having fun or competing in Bulls eye competitions, but if you plan to carry for self defense then you really need to do something a bit more. Something to help prepare yourself to be something other than a target, which is exactly what you'll be if you just stand there in fight like you were just having another day at the range and your gun is sitting on a bench waiting for you to pick it up. On the other hand, there are some ranges where that's the only thing they'll allow you to do, in which case it's better than not practicing at all.
The first thing you really need to practice is drawing and then reholstering your weapon, especially if it has a retaining system of some type. Believe me, you do not want to be fumbling with it when you need your gun right now! But if you don't commit it to muscle memory then that's exactly what you'll find your self doing. In fact you don't even need to be at the range to practice this, just make sure your weapon is unloaded first. I know this sounds ridiculous, but when you first try it you'll find it really isn't as easy as it sounds. For example, if you count on a jacket to conceal your weapon then you'll need to find a quick, easy, and natural movement that will let you flip you jacket back out of the way of your draw and quickly release the restraining system your holster uses all before you can even start your draw, and then when you go to reholster your weapon you need to be sure that your coat tail doesn't end up inside the holster along with your weapon. I can almost guarantee that if you don't make this an automatic reaction then sooner or later your coat tail (or shirt tail) will end up tangled around the trigger and you'll end up shooting yourself in the leg or foot! Don't believe me? Then check out this video. That's exactly what happened to the police chief shown in it.
Once you're comfortable with drawing and reholstering your weapon, you'll want to try and find a range that will let you practice firing from the holster. Some will while some won't, and most of the ones that will let you will want you to either take a class first or insist you do so under the supervision of a range master (at least for the first time any way). Once you have, if you've no or little experience drawing from your holster and shooting, just spend a few sessions just drawing and shooting one or two rounds. Don't worry about accuracy at this point, just practice drawing, shooting, and then reholstering until it feel completely natural to you. Speed and accuracy will come with time.
Once firing from the holster and reholstering feels as natural and smooth as walking, now it's time to start working on accuracy. There's several ways to do this. The simplest way is to just use the common silhouette targets just the same as if you're doing normal range shooting. Or you can up the ante and cut a hole in your target. The idea here is that when you shoot, you want all your rounds to go through the hole you cut. If a fair number are making their own holes then you need more work. If the majority are going through the hole you cut, then next time cut the hole a little smaller. The trick is that when you're shooting for self defense, you really don't care if all your bullets are making a nice 1 inch group; you just want them to hit something vital that will stop your attacker from hurting you or your loved ones.
Another drill you can try will let you work on both speed and accuracy at the same time. With this drill you'll need either a shot timer or a buddy with a stop watch (or at least a second hand on his watch). The idea for this drill is that you take a preselected amount of time on each of your shots so that you can work on muscle memory and technique. So when the shot timer (or your buddy) says go, you draw your weapon to the count of say five, then aim to the count of five, then fire using the best trigger control you possibly can to the count of five, then reholster again to the count of five. All in all, this should take you about a minute. After you've practiced at this rather slow speed a number of times, then you speed things up doing the same thing but at a count of four. Then three, then two, then one. Since technique is the best way to guarantee accuracy, this drills that technique into your muscle memory better than any other drill I know; and when the chips are down, muscle memory is what will keep you on track and hitting what you're aiming at.
"But wait!" I hear some of you saying, "I thought you said not to stand still! Yet these drills are doing just that, aren't they?" And you're right of course. So far everything I've rambled on about does involve shooting from a static position. The trick is that if you can't hit what you're shooting at is you're standing still, you probably won't be able to hit the broad side of a barn from the inside when you're trying to move and the adrenaline is pumping through your system like water from a fire hydrant. So work these drills first to get that all important muscle memory going since that is what will allow you to hit your target under pressure. Get to the point where you can do it right every time without thinking about it. Then, and only then, you can change it up just a little bit. When these drills are instinctive, start taking a step to either the right or the left as you draw. That's all. Just a simple step to one side or the other. It sounds absurdly simple, but it's actually much harder than you might think. I can almost guarantee that the first time you try it you'll find your aim is so far off that you'll be wondering what went wrong. Nothing did actually. It's just that unless you have a background in some form of the martial arts or are just naturally gifted, you aren't used to working your upper body and your lower body at the same time that way and it's going to take some practice to get used to it. That's part of why I want you to get to the point where the motions of your upper body as you draw, aim, and fire your weapon are programed into muscle memory; because once it is you'll be able to concentrate more effectively on making your legs do what they're supposed to do. It won't take long, but it is something that needs to be learned, not just done. Then, once you can move to either side easily, start stepping on the diagonal. Forwards and to the right at the same time, or backwards and to the left. Mix it up. Try doing it at home using a squirt gun or even a stick in your hand instead of your handgun. I know, I know. It sounds dumb, and you'll feel even dumber doing it; but it really is worth it in the long run. Hell, every martial arts instructor I've ever had would spend the occasional class just having us do front cross overs and rear cross over forwards and back. Yes, even the advanced belts would be out there with us; and I'm talking the truly advanced belts. Second and Third degree Black Belts would be out there right along with White and Yellow belts looking as stupid as hell, but it works. It teaches you how to move and keep your balance. Even more, it teaches you how to move and keep your concentration on the other guy, the one trying to fill you with holes. And before very long at all, you'll be able to draw, aim, fire, and move towards cover all at the same time without even thinking about what you're doing; and at that point you'll truly be ready to defend yourself.
Now don't get me wrong. All of this is hard work, and it sounds as boring as all get out; but it doesn't have to be. Get your friends together and make a game of it. See who can hit the smallest hole. Or maybe see who can work their way to the shortest time on the shot timer with everyone starting with a five count on each step and working your way down almost like a twist on the game of horse. Or maybe you can find a range or club in your area that has IDPA tournaments! There can be a real rush to competing in an IDPA match, and to win you'll have to use everything these drills are designed to teach you. Plus, you'll probably meet some people who can teach you even more drills you can use to train yourself with without getting bored with the same old same old every time. Hell, maybe we'll even meet and you'll have a drill I don't know that you can teach me. I'm always looking for new drills and new tricks. After all, the day I stop learning is the day some one should push me over and burry me where I fall 'cause I failed to notice I'm dead.
But for now, as always, I've reached the point where I'm starting to write a chapter in a book instead of just rambling on for a blog. So go out and have some fun this weekend. Fire off a couple of boxes of ammo, and maybe, just maybe, try one of these drills. Either way I hope to see again soon in this little corner of cyberspace I call my own. And as always, remember. If you're going to do something, do it with attitude!
Half way through another week. Lord time seems to fly, but that makes it Wednesday and timer another ramble about knives. So far we've looked at the steel they're made of and the style of blades you might find, so today I thought I might take a look at the grinds used in blades and how the grind effects a knife's cutting ability.
Now if you're fairly new to knives, or even if you're not but always used to assume a knife is a knife is knife; you may not know just what a blade smith means when he talks about the grind. Well no matter how a knife gets it's form, be it forging or removing excess metal until the blade takes shape, sooner or later you have to take it to a grinder of some sort to put the final edge on. That grinder may take the form of an old fashioned bench grinder, a belt grinder, or even an even older fashioned whet stone and a set of sandpaper sheets, but you simply cannot put an edge that will really and truly cut without it; and the type of grind you use can have a huge impact on the finished knife.
Probably the oldest, and still most common type of grind is the V-grind, sometimes called a Scandi grind or Scandinavian grind. With this grind, the blade is left the same thickness as the spine until you get close to the cutting edge and then it's ground to the appropriate angle to form the edge; often about 25 degrees. This makes for a great field knife since the bevel is rather obvious, making field sharpening fairly easy. However this also makes for an edge that dulls more easily and can require more work to keep sharp. It's also a great shape for whittling since again the cutting edge is fairly obvious and easy to see. The other drawback is that if your spine is fairly heavy, it can be difficult to cut through some items as the back tends to get hung up once you get too deep.
Similar to the V-grind is the Flat Grind. With this one, the grind starts right at the spine and goes straight down to the cutting edge. This produces a knife with the potential for a much sharper edge than commonly found on a V-grind, but at the cost of removing a fair amount of metal from the blade resulting in a weaker, more delicate blade. It's biggest strength is that the single flat grind makes it another easily field sharpened knife. Just lay the side of the blade flat on your stone and you're good to go. This type of grind is most commonly seen on various chef's knives and other professional kitchen knives, though Spyderco and a few others do use a flat grind on several of their pocket knives.
The next grind is a Saber grind, also called a High Flat Grind. Somewhere between a V-grind and a Flat grind, a Saber grind starts it's angle closer to the spine but still leaves a fair amount of metal coming down flush from the spine resulting in a edge that's almost as sharp as a true flat grind but still retains the additional strength of the spine similar to that enjoyed by a V-grind. This tends to result in an excellent compromise between strength and sharpness and can be found in many survival knives and hunting knives.
One grind that is increasingly popular today is the Hollow grind or Razor grind as it's sometimes known. With this one a concave curve is ground into the blade from near the spine to the edge giving you a edge second to none for sharpness. It is this reason why this ground was used for straight razors back in the day, and it's still popular for hunting and skinning knives. The drawback here is that the sharper you make the edge, the less metal you have supporting it resulting in an edge that needs constant attention in the form of honing and sharpening.
Another one that is gaining in popularity among some in the business is the Convex grind. On this one the grind is also curved, but in the opposite direction from the hollow grind. This results in an cutting edge that is extremely durable and holds an edge quite well. The biggest drawback is that it requires speciality equipment to sharpen. Still, if you're willing to pay to have your knife professionally sharpened or to spend the money on the right sharpening equipment, this grind produces a survival knife that can cut and chop almost anything you throw at it.
Then there's the Chisel grind. Like it's namesake, a chisel grind only grinds away one side of the blade, leaving the opposing side straight and flush from spine to cutting edge. Although this grind also requires a lot of maintenance, making it something of a specialty blade; it's is fantastic at what it does both for the woodworker and the chef who is most likely to find this edge on his or her cleaver.
Finally there's the Complex, or Double grind. As it's name implies, this grind actually uses two grinds or bevels to produce the cutting edge. This is extremely popular with manufacturers since it allows them to use one grind in the initial forming of the blade and a second grind, which may or may not be a different type, to form the actually cutting edge. An excellent example can be seen in this picture of the main blade of a Christmas themed knife I sold this past winter. The main grind or bevel is stone washed as well as engraved and runs from just in front of the spine to the second grind, which is mirror polished making it much easier to see. By producing the edge this way, the manufacturer does not run as much risk of damaging the engraver or the employee running the engraver.
And that's it in a nut shell my friend. Well, actually there is one more grind, called the asymmetrical grind; but that's basically using one grind (say a flat grind) on one side of the blade and a different grind (say maybe a convex grind) on the other. Knives and cutting instruments with this style of grind are all specialty units of one type or another and unlikely to be found at your average knife shop. Still I should mention them just for completeness sake if for no other reason.
So there you have it. Every type of grind I know about distilled down to their basics for you. If we keep this up, you'll be a knife expert before school starts back up, and be able to amaze your family with the knives you buy them for Christmas. But in the mean time, this should have been published last night and I'm going to be late for work if I ramble on too much longer. So I'll just wish you all the best my friend, May the sky's always be sunny for you and the breeze ever cool. And until we meet again in this little corner of cyberspace I call mine, and remember; if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!
Welcome friend, I'm so glad you made it back. Oh, do I see a new face out there as well? I hope so, and a warm welcome to you as well.
If you've been with me for a while then you may remember that last week I started rambling about the next steps we are facing in my son's life as he starts high school in the fall, and how we find ourselves needing to start looking for a group home or alternative for Wills since the waiting lists can be so long. Well I've had a few people ask why he can't just continue to live at home with his mother and I; and while I did touch on this in last week's ramble, I must admit I wasn't as clear as I could have been.
The first problem, to be blunt, is simply age. I'm currently 54 while my son is 15. If he gets held back a year or two in high school (and since he's been held back at least twice already I have no reason to believe he won't be held back again), then he will be 21 and I will be 60 when he graduates. Add in various health problems which have caused me troubles over the past two years, and there's a very good chance that I will be starting to have problems giving Wills all the support he will need. Even if those problems don't rear their ugly head again, by the time Wills is in his 30's I will be in my 70's. By the time he's in his 40's and just beginning to hit middle age, I will be in my 80's; and since my grandparents all died in their 80's, well... Either way, unless Wills dies at a very early age, and there's absolutely no reason to think he will absent some terrific accident, he will out live me by at least 30 years. So unless I want to depend on the kindness of the state and strangers, I must see to his living arrangements while I am still able to do so. Add in that those on the autism spectrum do not deal with change very well, and it will be best if I get him into some appropriate housing as soon after graduation as I can so that I will still be able to deal with any unforeseen complications while I still have the facilities to do so.
But even leaving that aside, those who are on the spectrum like Wills is are not really that different from their peers once all the folderol is stripped away. They still have the same needs and desires, the same pyramid of needs. They still want friends, even if they have troubles making them. They still need love, and they need even more to know that that love is unconditional. What's more, they still want and need their independence. I mean, think about it. When you finished school, whether that be high school or college, did you want to continue living in your parents house? Or did you have a burning desire to be out on your own, proving that you were an adult with all that that implied? Unless you're extremely different from everyone else I know, you couldn't wait to be out and free of the apron strings! So what in the wide, wide world of sports makes you think for even one minute that Wills wouldn't want the same thing? Of course he will! He's human after all. But no matter how much he might want his independence, unless he makes a miraculous break through in the next 5 years he simply will not be able to live completely on his own. His verbal skills are too weak, not to mention his social skills; and odds are he will always need someone to help him with all those little details that neurotypical people handle on a day to day basis with out even thinking about them. Things like remembering to check his calendar to see what day it is, remembering to wash his clothes before he finds himself literally without a single thing clean enough to wear to what ever job he manages to find. Reminding him of doctor's appointments, and to refill his meds. And so he will need some kind of support structure, most likely in the form of a group home, that will allow him as much independence as possible while making sure he gets what he needs.
And so we are back where we were last week more or less. I have in the past week found a group home run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in Columbia, SC; a mere hour and a half away, much better than the 3 1/2 hour to 4 hour drive to the one in Charleston so that is looking up. But I'm afraid that the waiting list lengths have not changed at all, so we're still looking at a 6 to 10 year wait even once we find a home to get him a place he can call his own. Nor have any of the other challenges improved (not that I thought they would in just a week). And so dear reader, we come to the close of another ramble with my prospects just as bleak as they were in so many ways. As before, I hope I didn't depress you and I hope for the sake of all our children, both on and off the spectrum, that you will continue to come along for the ride. We need so much more than is currently available in so many states, but for that to happen we need as many supporters as possible. Even more, we need everyone everywhere to understand the needs of our children as they steadily march on towards adulthood. Already I see too many homeless people coming into our hospitals who should be receiving some form of assistance due to one disability or another. It breaks my heart to think that Wills and his classmates could someday find themselves in that same situation. I hope and pray every night and every day that it will not come to that, but unless improvements are made soon it's all too likely that we will start seeing people on the spectrum left homeless simply because there are not enough places to care for them. This is why I started my company. To raise the money I need to make sure that Wills will never find himself in that position; but even if I succeed for my son, there are hundreds, even thousands out there just like him. Will you help? I hope you will, even if that help is only thinking about what I've said.
Until next time dear reader. I wish you all the best, and I hope to see you here in my little corner of cyberspace again soon. And remember as always, if it's worth doing then it's worth doing with attitude.
As we approach the end of another week since the dreadful shooting in Orlando, I hear more and more talk about gun control and the evils or necessities there of; and I also hear an awful lot of information that's just plain wrong, especially about the AR15 rifle that the main stream media is still claiming was used in that attack. The question on my mind though, is how to get the truth out there without boring my regular readers to tears yet at the same time not insulting those sitting on the fence on the gun control issue.
First off, let me say that I'm not going to get into my personal views on gun control. For those who really want to know, I've talked about enough both here and in other places that you can ferret it out if you absolutely must; but this ramble is aimed simply on educating those who wish to know a little about so called assault weapons, including where the name AR15 came from and just what a MSR is. So let's start with a little history, shall we?
As those who have been following me for awhile now know, much of my love of guns has come from my love of history; and so it shouldn't surprise anyone that that's what I choose to start with. Back in 1948, the Army started looking at ground warfare in the new nuclear era and established a group to research the subject called the Operations Research Office, or ORO for short. One of ORO's first projects was a study of how effective body armor was which lead directly to studying how soldiers in WWII and eventually Korea came to be injured or killed. They decided after looking at all the data they could find that a light weight rifle firing a smaller caliber bullet was needed to replace the M14, so they decided to ask Winchester and a small, almost unheard of company called Armalite to submit designs based around a .22 caliber bullet that would weigh in at around 6 pounds and be capable of penetrating a standard issue army helmet at 500 yards. Winchester came up with a rifle very similar to the M14 that fired a .224 round while Armalite developed a rifle based loosely on a series of rifles they had been making that used a large amount of plastics and aluminum to keep the weight down, one of which interestingly enough was the AR-7 that they had produced as a "survival" rifle for the Air Force where the barrel and action could be unscrewed and stowed away inside of the plastic stock. Another was the AR-10 which was built to handle the same 7.62 NATO round that the M-14 and the M-1 before it used. Also interestingly enough, Springfield, who had been the main supplier of rifles for our military since before WWI, was banned from competing by a group who utterly opposed the idea of going to a smaller caliber round. Using research that had lead to the development of the AR10, a rifle designed to shoot the same 7.62mm round used by NATO, Armalite developed a rifle they called the AR15; which stood for Armalite Rifle model number 15. By combining the use of plastics, aluminum, and an inventive buffer system, the AR15 was lighter than the Winchester entry, and at least according to some records, more accurate and easier to shoot as well. However Armalite found itself in something of a bind. They were too small and too underfunded to weather the political infighting over the new rifle system and attempts to sell a civilian legal version of the rifle proved unprofitable, possibly because the AR-15 was too unknown and too odd looking for the time. As a result they ended up selling their design to Colt in 1959, and in the mid 1960's the M-16 was officially adopted as the standard issue battle rifle despite heavy opposition. Colt also tried to sell the AR15 as a civilian model of the M-16 and the M-16A1, but problems with the rifle during action in Vietnam gave it a possibly undeserved reputation for being unreliable. I say possibly undeserved because through out most of the Vietnam conflict the troops were being issued rifles without cleaning kits, and the early models tended to be rather prone to fouling if not properly cleaned. They also had issues with poor ammunition which definitely didn't help matters any. Improvements such as chrome lined barrels and bolt carriers help tremendously however and by the time the M-16A2 and the M-16A3 had seen solid use in the late 1970's and early 1980's the rifle's reputation had made an amazing turn around.
Today the AR-15 line of civilian legal rifles provide so many advantages that the disadvantage that still exist are almost over looked, and the ammunition available today is absolutely amazing compared to what was given to those early troops slogging through the rice fields of Vietnam. While still having the outward appearance of the M-16's and M-4's in use by todays military, the internal parts are much different and trying to use the parts made for a M-4 in an AR-15 is out of the question unless you're a good enough gunsmith to basically re-machine the gun from the ground up; but it's still an extremely modular design so anyone with a bit of co-ordination and the proper knowledge can customize an AR-15 just about any way they'd like. Want a carbine with a 16 inch barrel that can be used for home defense? Done. Need a 18 inch for improved accuracy while hunting without getting the rifle too long for quick shots? Reach for the proper barrel wrench to loosen the castle nut and you're good to go in minutes. Want an even longer 21 inch barrel for long range competition? It's no harder to arrange. Unhappy with the trigger that came with your rifle? Palmetto State Armory carries no less than 24 different triggers for the AR-15 platform and Cabelas has at least 19. Then there's scopes, lights, forward hand guards, recoil pads, basically everything except a coffee maker. This explains why the AR-15 is one of the best selling rifles on the American market, and explains why it's referred to as a Modern Sporting Rifle. I don't care what sport you need a rifle for, the AR-15 can be configured to meet any of your needs with ease.
"Okay" I hear you saying, "so it's versatile. That's why the military loves it, but there's no place in civilian life for a militarized rifle like most assault weapons. Every one knows that!" Well let's just take a look at that for a minute, shall we?
First, there's no legal or technical definition for an "assault weapon" even though pundits from CNN to MSNBC and Rolling Stone use the term frequently. There is a definition for an "Assault Rifle"; but of the 4 requirements for a gun to be considered an Assault Rifle, even if you do argue that it meets the other 3 (and I know plenty in the trade who will only allow that it meets 2), the AR-15 still fails the fourth and final requirement. To be classified as an assault rifle, the rifle in question must be capable of select fire; meaning that you must be able to switch between safe, single shot mode, and some form of burst mode, whether that be 3 rounds fired with each pull of the trigger or full auto where the rifle keeps firing as long as the trigger is pulled and there's ammo in the magazine. And I'm sorry my friend, but no AR-15 ever made for the civilian market has ever met that requirement. Thus, not an assault rifle.
Then there's the bit about the military loving the AR-15. Ummm, sorry my friend, but the military wouldn't have the AR-15 if you gave it to them as a gift. Why? Because it is not select fire. Pure and simple, with no ifs, ands, or buts. To perform it's missions in today's world, our military absolutely requires a true assault rifle that can fire either single rounds for carefully aimed fire, or full auto for when the proverbial fecal matter has truly hit the rotary impeller. True, there are times when they need something special; and those are the times when the shotguns, machine guns, and grenade launchers come out. But for everyday use, they need something that can do the work of two rifles, and since the average infantry man is too loaded down to actually carry two different rifles then the one he or she is carrying had better be able to fit both bills; and the AR-15, unlike the M-4, can't.
Finally there's the part about it having no place in the civilian world. Excuse me, but didn't I just get through explaining why some many civilians love their AR-15s? When I was a teenager way back in the dark ages, it was the norm for the average hunter to have three or four different guns for different game. Today, while most hunters will still have a couple of choices, if you are really strapped for cash then the AR-15 can replace them all. Maybe not well mind you, which is why most hunters still have at least a couple of rifles, but it will do the job in a pinch. Whether you're hunting varmet, small game, deer, elk, bear, or wild boar, there's a configuration of the AR-15 which will do the job. And since it's modular, you can change out the one you own and reconfigure it for whatever you might need. Or maybe you want it solely for home defense. With all the options available you can take an off the shelf AR-15 and have it set up to fit you perfectly. Hell, you can even reconfigure it as a pistol if you wish; though at a minimum of just under two feet it's way too big to conceal and you'll have to file papers with the BATF to tell them that you've done so. I could go on for days listing all the ways it fits into civilian life in one way or another, but this ramble is already getting way too long.
The one item I can't argue away is that what the news media loves to call an assault weapon is the most commonly used gun in most mass shooting in this country. But why is that? The question is the one very few reports answer, and the answer is rather simple. The AR-15, and similar guns, have an image of being bad ass thanks to the way they are portrayed in movies, TV shows, and other popular entertainment media; and the one thing most mass murders want is to be seen as being a bad ass. The fact that they could rack up just as large a body count with other guns doesn't even enter into it in the end. The image is all, and the ones who do their sick thing in the open with no thought of whether they might die in the act think that an "assault weapon" will give them that image. So now the question we must ask is, is making it harder for them to bolster that image worth denying the Modern Sport Rifle to all the people who love it for what it really is? I promised at the beginning of this ramble I wouldn't bring my feeling into this, so I won't tell you how I feel. But I do want you to think very carefully about my question.
But in the meantime, I'm a day late and a dollar short with this ramble; and that's at least in part because I tried so hard to keep my opinions out of it. Did I succeed? Probably not as well as I would have liked, but I think I did better than many. So until next time dear reader. My the wind be always at your back, and remember as always; if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!