(Off) Center Mass

Guns, gun culture, and gun politics through the eyes of a novice shooter in the middle of Massachusetts.
May 9 '13

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Apr 30 '13

I’ve been away from this site for a while.  I’ve had a lot to say, but have been keeping quiet, primarily because the loud voices on both sides of the aisle in the immediate aftermath of tragedy really piss me off… but, I think I’ll be writing a bit more here.  I’ll start with this video link.  Since I started shooting, I think five people I know have also started shooting.  Four of them are women.

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Aug 10 '12

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Jul 27 '12

Post-Aurora Thoughts

I was going to polish this into a nice essay, but this is tumblr and we’re supposed to be writing short snippets, right?  So, here, my thoughts on Aurora in snippet form.

  • It’s terrible and heart-breaking, beyond understanding. 
  • For all the work we do on health care, people like this slip through our societal safety net, and it’s frustrating as hell.
  • The exact same guns used in the shooting are used every day by law-abiding citizens — recreational shooters, target shooters, shooting sports competitors, and hunters.  They are “baseline” guns: cheap, reliable, and easily available.  There is nothing special about them.  If you know people who shoot, you probably know people who have these exact guns.
  • The one-hundred round magazine used is a novelty item; there’s a reason our soldiers don’t use them.  They are designed so that you can spend less time reloading at the range, at the cost of reliability.
  • The count of ammunition purchased is not relevant.  It is not unusual for a competitive shooter or an avid target shooter to go through a thousand rounds in a month.  Many shooters have over a thousand rounds safely stored in their homes right now. Buying 6,000 rounds of ammunition at once is not something that should set off alarms, or we’ll be buried in red tape sorting it all out.
  • The shooter didn’t need six thousand rounds of ammunition; if there were a magic number he had to stay below, he would have, and nothing would have been different. 
  • Most crimes involving firearms involve fewer than 4 rounds shot, often just one or two.  Magazine size and ammunition regulation will have no impact on most criminal uses of firearms, but will bury us in administrative and legal battles around law-abiding citizens.
  • Rifles are involved in a surprisingly small number of crimes each year; twice as many people are beat to death in the US than are murdered with rifles. 
  • Spree shootings like this create a heavy emotional impact but are not statistically significant.  If spree shootings were all we had left to deal with, we’d be in great shape societally. 
  • Someone like the Aurora shooter will find ways to do what they are doing, as much as we’d like to have a law which would prevent it. 

I understand the desire to review our existing laws in context of a tragedy like this.  But it’s an emotional desire, not a logical one, and we should take care when letting emotions drive the conversation.

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Nov 23 '11

The 1911 is her gun, revisited

Last time I posted about my wife, she had guest-starred at a bowling pins night and cleared away a ton of wood with various 1911 platform pistols.

Recently, she (along with some other family members in the same predicament) took the one-day Basic Pistol class required by Massachusetts to become a licensed to carry and own firearms.  The main driving force here isn’t a desire to shoot, but a desire to not have to worry about the guns in the house and car.  She wants to know that anything I can do, she can do (better) … er, I mean, that anything I can do, she isn’t going to get legally in trouble for doing.

It helps that in MA the laws are such that if I accidentally leave a shell casing in the car if she’s later driving that car and gets pulled over, she could be charged with a crime for possessing ammunition components without a license to carry firearms.  Never mind things like “Oh, I’m going to my Dad’s house, you want me to bring him those shells you bought?”

Anyway, she took the class, and did great.  She was fine with the .22 and the .357 revolver, and once again hated the Glock 9mm, but it wasn’t until the 1911 that she really opened up.  She brought home her targets with the centers completely shot out.  Say what you will about the century-old design, they picked it for a reason. 

She’ll be applying for her license soon.  I don’t know if it’s going to become a hobby for her or not, but I think she’s got a natural talent for hitting what she’s aiming at.  If she wants to have fun with it, it’ll be there for her….

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Nov 5 '11

Turkey safety revisited

Had one spare hour this morning between sunrise and errands, but decided to sleep in, instead of rushing out to try and find some birds on the last day of fall turkey season.  Hadn’t seen any turkeys around here in the past 3 weeks anyway …

Wife calls while she’s heading off to errands, “There’s a huge flock of turkeys at the farm on such-and-such road.”  Yeah, thanks.  “At least 15 of them.”  Thanks, honey, enjoy your visit to the hairdresser, I’ll watch Dora with our daughter ….

As the Sox fans say, there’s always next year….

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Nov 4 '11

Turkeys are safe from me

(and probably many other MA hunters)

I had planned to take a day, maybe even two days, off this week to attempt to rectify my inability to bag a turkey this spring.

A foot of snow, major tree damage, and a 5-day power outage kind of screwed with those plans a bit.  The fall turkey season lasts only 6 days….

Looks like the turkeys are safe from me this year.  Hopefully soon I’ll get out on some more pheasant hiking (I’d call it hunting but … ).

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Oct 21 '11

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Oct 18 '11

Took a half day today to explore

Working from home today, my calendar magically found itself free of meetings.  With hunting season underway, I decided to take advantage of the time window and do some exploration, shotgun in hand.  I have a couple weeks vacation left to burn, and what better way than in half-day increments in the woods?

I’ll quote here from author Jim Fergus:

…sometimes the act of hunting, successful or not, provides added dimension, direction, and focus to a walk in the woods, as well as special purpose and cement to a friendship.

As for “friendship,” I’ll quote Fergus again:

More than anything, the hunter seeks solitude, and like his prey, fears noise and crowds.

I guess I’ve been a hunter all my life and just thought I was antisocial.


Without a dog, it’s challenging to have a successful pheasant hunt.  I knew a nearby Wildlife Management Area was stocked multiple times a week during the season, but not when and where.  I decided to suit up and explore the WMA a bit, see if I could find some likely pheasant habitat.  Worst-case scenario, I walk in the woods for a while, getting valuable scouting info for future hunts and enjoying some natural solitude.  Best-case, I stumble upon some birds, whether I get a shot off or not. My expectations were low.

It was the same WMA I hunted turkey in before, but I entered it from a different parking area.  The terrain was similar, hilly and wooded, with occasional openings.  I walked purposefully through an opening with a lot of thick ground cover, and while I saw a snake and plenty of ticks, no pheasant appeared.

I took another trail and ended up in the same clearing I had tried to find turkey in — proving that I had covered more ground than I thought.  The clearing looked promising but again, no birds.  I walked back to the car, 90 minutes burned, my body a bit sore and very hungry (I had left at lunch time). 

I had other WMAs I wanted to investigate, but lunch was calling me, and I had some work to complete which I didn’t want to put off until the next day.

So home I went.  And I’m supposedly working … though google maps is open and I’m looking at the lay of the land of those other WMAs….

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Oct 11 '11

Hunting season around the corner

In actuality, hunting season is a huge interleaved set of seasons for various animals that nobody you know has ever hunted, but what most hunters refer to as hunting season is about to begin here in Massachusetts.

It kicks off with pheasant/grouse/quail season, this Saturday.  With upland bird habitat growing more rare in the state, for most hunters this means going after stocked birds, placed in hunter-friendly areas by the state.  You can read up on the program here.  Massachusetts puts out about 40,000 birds for us to hunt each year.  Some areas are stocked multiple times a week — the chorus of shotgun blasts you hear in the early hours, in some areas of the state, are likely groups of hunters with their dogs flushing out and harvesting the newly stocked birds.

With no hunting allowed on Sunday, the next hunting day (Monday the 17th) brings about a new hunting season — archery season for deer.  For six weeks, the only people hunting deer in Massachusetts are doing so with bows.  While you might think the best deer hunting in the state is out in the western wilds, the densest deer populations are actually on Nantucket Island.  The biggest challenge facing our deer management in Massachusetts is probably hunting access — the places that have the most deer (and where it’s easiest to get permits to harvest additional deer) are the hardest to hunt. 

Two weeks later, on October 31, the 6-day Fall turkey season opens up.  Any hunter who didn’t claim their limit on turkey in the Spring gets another shot — and can take one bird prior to winter.  Fall turkey hunting is a totally different beast than Spring turkey hunting, and I’m hoping to get out once and enjoy it.

November continues the pheasant and deer bow seasons, with the pheasant season wrapping up on Thanksgiving weekend.  The Monday after Thanksgiving shotgun hunters finally get a chance to go after the remaining deer.  They get only two weeks to make their dent in the population before the “primitive arms” folks get their shot (and, really, they have to make that shot count — reloading your black powder gun isn’t trivial).

And like that, our hunting season is over.  Sure, you can hunt coyote and rabbit if you like, but when most Massachusetts hunters talk about “the season” they’re talking about these two months — mid-October through mid-December.

Stay tuned for most posts here; I’ll write up every hunt I go on.  Hopefully it won’t be just one!

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