Sunday, May 12, 2019

Saturday Beer and Cigar

We headed over to 1781 Brewing on Saturday with the hope getting in a few beers, and a smoke, before the rain. We knew we had just a couple hours before the predicted weekend of precipitation began. I grabbed a "glass" of König Fruhling Doppelbock, and a Dunkelweizen for Colleen. Aware of the clouds rolling in, I lit up my RoMa Craft CroMagnon Aquitaine Blockhead LE. right away.



The Doppelbock had lightly toasted malt and caramel flavors, and well as a moderate 8.4% ABV. The Dunkelweizen was a lower 4.7% ABV and featured a bready yeast behind the malt. Both were quite enjoyable.

The RomaCraft cigar is one of my favorites. It's a full bodied cigar with earthy and espresso notes, touched with a hint of spice. While I started out enjoying it with the Dopplebock, I knew it would pair just as well with the Dunkelweizen. But, just to be sure, I grabbed a pint of that beer as well. (I was right.)

As we finished the beers and the smoke was down to the nub, the rain started falling. It was a short but pleasant afternoon break.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Another Glock?

In addition to the exciting stages in a well-run match, the Maryland State IDPA Championship features an extensive prize table. This year, fourteen guns were given away by random drawing. During that portion of the post-match awards ceremony, I was standing in the back of the crowd enjoying a cigar with some other smokers. Admittedly, I wasn't paying close attention to the names being called. With 184 registered shooters, I wasn't expecting to hear my name.

And then I did. I made my way to the front and was awarded a certificate for a free Glock pistol, courtesy of GLOCK, Inc. That makes two Glocks won by this SIG Sauer fan in less than year. 


I only recently received the Glock 19 I selected with the certificate I won at the IDPA National Championship. It's not even come out of the box yet. At least I have over a year to decide what to do with this certificate. 

Don't get me wrong. I would never complain about a free gun. However, the irony is not lost on me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

MD State IDPA Championship

Last Saturday I made the trip across the Potomac River to shoot the Maryland State IDPA Championship, held at the Sanner's Lake Sportsman's Club. This annual event was upgraded to a Tier 4 match this year, so I was hoping for an especially exciting, and challenging, match.

The match lived up to both expectations, with twelve stages offering some quite unique and interesting shooting opportunities. (Match book here.) The club makes use of electronics to control many of the movers. Rather than just simple swingers, those targets move in programed intervals. Though the entire match was a blast, there were a few stages that especially stood out to me. As I have done in all matches this year, I competed in the CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) division.

The first stage our squad shot, after the opening "warm up" stage was called "Home Defense." Beginning with targets in the open, the course of fire ended with us shooting from a prone position. The only time I am able to shoot prone is in a match. Although the requirement often elicits groans from my fellow competitors, the be truth be told, I generally welcome the opportunity. Perhaps due to that feeling, this turned out to be my highest finishing stage.



Another stage was entitled "Coming Down the Hallway." With laser activated movers, a variation of the fun course seems to pop up in the club's sanctioned matches often. Triggered by entering a hallway, an extremely fast "up and over" target appears very briefly. A swinging target further down the hallway is set in motion at the same time, and makes just four appearances before being hidden. The key to hitting the first is to start shooting as soon as you enter the hallway, not waiting to actually see the target. Then, you must get to the end of the hallway before the swinger disappears for good. I managed just one hit on each those targets, and ended up 13 points down on the stage. Despite that, this stage tied for my second best stage finish.

Probably the most talked about scenario was "Hi Jacked Again." The entire stage was shot prone, from inside the trunk of a car. We began with our gun laying next to us in the trunk, with the trunk closed and latched. Pulling a handle released the trunk lid and we then engaged the targets, which included an up and down mover activated by a hit on a steel popper. Shooting prone, over the edge of the trunk, meant some neck strain for me, but I still got a kick out of shooting this one. Interestingly, this was the stage finish that tied with the previous stage mentioned. It seems I shoot better when the scenario puts me in extra awkward positions — probably because it forces more concentration and careful aiming.



"Out for a stroll" placed us in the woods shooting targets set along a trail through the trees. Not only was it fun, but the shade of the trees was a welcome respite from the afternoon sun. The eight targets were all laid sideways as simulated wolves, so we had to keep in mind just where the -0 zone was in relation to the target.



Stage planning was an important aspect of the match. Seven of the twelve stages required downloaded guns, unloaded guns, or guns and/or ammo left on a table or in a box. Adding to that the limited 8 + 1 round count required for the CCP division, meant I did quite a few tactical reloads. One stage started all semi-auto shooters with nine rounds in the gun. That gave me a chuckle thinking about the majority of the shooters who were shooting in the typically 10 + 1 divisions.

We enjoyed a tasty lunch from Southern Bobby-Q. The lunch options included chips, green beans, corn, baked beans, pulled pork, chicken, hot dogs, and Italian sausage. One could have indulged in quite a feast, though I opted to restrain myself, somewhat.

My finish in the match wouldn't win me any awards. I was disappointed in a couple stages, but still thoroughly enjoyed myself. All things considered I was generally pleased. And that, not trophies, is the whole reason I do this.




The day was long and exhausting. It was also immensely enjoyable. Shooting started at 9:00AM and finished around 4:00PM. Shooting with many of my regular match companions made it a day of good humor and mutual support. After the match we made our customary run to the local liquor store for supplies. The drive home after the awards ceremony kicked off with a filling meal at a local Mexican restaurant. I should go without saying, I slept soundly that night.

More photos from the day are here.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Sunny Day For IDPA

The Saturday morning sky was blue and bright as I drove to the monthly IDPA match at the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. A light jacket was required while we waited for shooting to begin, but the air quickly warmed, despite an intermittent strong breeze. By the end of the day I would have sunburn on the back of my neck and legs. I guess it's time to dig out the sun screen.

Stage 1 had us starting with just six rounds in the gun, and facing a row of three close targets. Each target in this stage required a minimum of three hits. After shooting the first two targets, we reloaded and engaged the third before turning to move through the rest of the course. Since I was shooting CCP, with just 8 rounds loaded I had a decision to make at that point. In order to avoid a standing reload later, I opted to shoot 4 rounds on targets three and four, to set up for reloading on the move. SSP capacity shooters had a different strategy.

The next stage had a classic "seated at a table" start, with a twist. The unload gun was placed on the table, spare mags on the belt, and the third, starting magazine was "on the shooter's body." Some folks stuffed the mag in their waistband, others in a pocket. The first three targets were engaged in the open, either seated or standing. The shooter also had the choice of which side of the table they ran to, depending on which direction they were going to shoot the stage. There was also an array of three targets, that were engaged from either end of a wall, or depending on the shooter's confidence, from just one side of the wall. There were plenty of choices on strategy here. For some, there was also the decision to do a tactical reload while moving down their chosen path.



The third stage was the "standards" stage, shot in two, three target strings. A symmetrical course of fire was set up with a pair of open, partial targets to the left and right of the starting position, and a third target pair behind wall. For the first string, the gun was held in the right hand, at a 45 degree angle. The right two targets were engaged, then we moved to shoot the third around the right side of the wall. The second string was the same, but was shot left-handed using the left side targets. I had no misses, but I definitely need more practice shooting one-handed.

Stage 4 started us with hands on a wall, then turning to engage to open targets while on the move up range towards a wall set across the bay. The first shooting position center on the wall was through a narrow opening where we saw a couple of distant targets with non-threats menacingly placed midway to the targets. The final position had us shooting a couple more targets, again with dangerously located non-threats. The middle array of targets were also open to make up shots form the last position.



Walking through the stage I kept thinking, "Those are really tight shots." Heck, even if I planned to take the makeup shots at the end, there was still a good chance of hitting a non-threat. Interestingly, as I shot the course, those narrow gaps seemed less foreboding than they did during the walk through. At the end, I shot the stage clean.

The last two stages were quick ones, set up in the same bay. Stage 5 had two very close targets separated by a non-threat, each requiring two body and one head shot. This is one of those stages that can lure you into shooting too fast. I recently experienced that on a similar stage at the Virginia Indoor Regional. At that match I ended up pulling the trigger too fast and had a -1 hit on one of the body shots. This time I kept telling myself to slow down and shoot no faster than I could see the sights. Funny thing is, when it was all said and done I found I had shot really fast, but I recall seeing the sights on every single shot. My time of 3.26 seconds, and zero points down, ended up being a fifth overall stage finish.



Stage 6 began with just a single round loaded in the gun, the gun in hand at low ready. The initial target had only the head available and required one shot. Reloading after that initial shot, the stage finished with an array of three targets set up behind wall and fronted by two non-threats. That array offered options of shooting either from the left side or right side of the wall, or using both sides, depending on the shooter's comfort level. The non-threats all but forced head shots on two of the targets, at least from my perspective, when shooting around the right end of the wall.

This was just my fourth match this year. It was though, the first one at which I've felt truly comfortable and relaxed. I managed to just squeak in to the top half overall, finishing 19th of 40 shooters. The simple highlight for me was that I had no misses and hit no non-threats for the entire match. As I continue to recover from my "event," each outing is just a bit better than the last. I am not up to my previous performance level but it was certainly a most enjoyable morning spent shooting and visiting with friends. I can't wait for the next time.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Joyful Easter

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
-- John 20:1-9

It's Easter. This is the fulfillment of Our Lord's promise of eternal life. It is the ultimate triumph over evil. We are reminded that our daily struggles are not for nought, that our final reward is eternal. However, the evil one refuses to give up. He knows that if we give in to despair we won't experience the promise of the Resurrection. He fears that we might reject his tricks and lies. Satan hungers for us to join him in his eternal torment. With his never ceasing attacks on our faith, attacks on our freedoms, attacks on the sanctity of life, it's a battle that evil has already lost, but continues to fight.

So on this most glorious of days, we are reminded that we must continue to face oppression and persecution head on. The Prince of Darkness is hard at work in this world. His minions do his bidding willingly, if naively, deceiving with false promises, and twisting the truth until evil is mistaken for good. We are led to believe that evil doesn't exist, and that material happiness outweighs the value of human life. Government fiat replaces personal responsibility. We are tempted to live like there's no tomorrow. But today, the empty tomb reminds us otherwise. The promise of Easter gives us the strength to persevere.

Here's wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Easter. May the joy of the Resurrection remain in your life all year long.

Mass at the tomb of Jesus
The Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
Photo by Colleen, 2010

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Simple Fun at the Range

When it's a busy week at work, few things beat a trip to the range to unwind. My first attempt in the week was interrupted by, well, work. (So I settled for a relaxing cigar break on the deck.) On Thursday my purposefully cleared calendar actually stayed clear, allowing time to shoot.

Since I've been shooting the Compact P320 a lot recently, for this outing I packed both the Compact and Full Size versions of the SIG P320. I had intended to split the ammo between the two guns, but in the end I stuck with the larger gun for most of my time.



For the first 100 rounds I shot at distances from 10 to 20 yards, pushing the target back every ten shots. I then set the target closer, at 7 yards, and activated the intermitted target exposure for 3 seconds each time. From low ready, I fired 2 - 3 shots each time. Often when using the turning target I end up just getting off the shots quickly. This time I concentrated on seeing the sights settle on target — a unique concept I know.

Finally I did some shooting with the Compact P320, working out to 20 yards. After I packed up my gear and started to leave the bay, I realized I had forgotten to retrieve the target carrier which was still sitting at 20 yards. I turned around and the RO said he'd get it, but I told him "I can't see it from here, so I should check the hits." I had felt I shot well, and indeed most of the holes where in the -0 zone.

This wasn't intended as a hard core "practice" session, but simply a diversion from a busy and slightly stressful work week. And you know what? It worked.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Limbo

A 3:00 thought for Good Friday.
The ancient greyness shifted suddenly and thinned like mist upon the moors before a wind.

An old, old prophet lifted a shining face and said:

“He will be coming soon. The Son of God is dead; He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls. They wondered if they dreamed

save one old man who seemed not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing, hushed them all to ask if any had a welcome song prepared.

If not, would David take the task?

And if they cared could not the three young children sing the Benedicite,

the canticle of praise they made when God kept them from perishing in the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them, stilling Moses’ words.

No one could speak, remembering the first fresh flowers, the little singing birds.

Still others thought of fields new ploughed or apple trees all blossom-boughed.

Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water laughing down green hills.

The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam on bright blue seas.

The one old man who had not stirred remembered home.

And there He was, splendid as the morning sun and fair as only God is fair.

And they, confused with joy, knelt to adore

Seeing that He wore five crimson stars He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung. None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,

A silent man alone of all that throng found tongue — not any other.

Close to His heart when the embrace was done, old Joseph said,

“How is Your Mother, How is Your Mother, Son?”
-- Sister Mary Ada

Monday, April 15, 2019

Fratello Cigars & Adroit Theory Collaboration

Fratello Cigars and Adroit Theory Brewing joined forces to release a beer specifically brewed for pairing with the Fratello Bianco cigar. The new Imperial Stout, named Terminal Decent, is the result of a collaboration between Fratello owner Omar de Frias and Adroit's Mark Osbourne. Developing Palates reports...
Mark Osbourne owner of Adroit and Omar wanted to create the perfect beer pairing with the Fratello Bianco. “Fratello Bianco is all about earthiness, cocoa, coffee notes and liquor.” said de Frias “We felt like Bianco would be fantastic for this pairing as we brewed Terminal Descent with Chocolate Malt for sweetness and Chocolate Rye for a spicy bite without the normal astringency or bitterness associated with such a deep roast.” said Osbourne.

Terminal Descent will be available at some Virginia and Maryland Total Wine stores and Adroit’s tasting room in Purcellville, VA on May 1. I look forward to trying this cigar and beer pairing — as a public service for readers of these Musings of course.

See "Beer News: Fratello Cigars And Adroit Theory Brewing Announce Terminal Descent" for more on this upcoming treat.

UPDATE: As I published this post, I saw this tweet from Adroit Theory. The beer is now available at the brewery.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mid-Week Range Trip

I've been thinking about getting to the range ever since my disappointing performance at last week's VIR match. I really wasn't happy with the number of points down, and a frustrating lack of trigger control. Competing with the compact gun exasperates any sloppiness in aiming and firing. My goal for my next range outing was to work at some longer distances which would emphasize the need for proper sight alignment and a smooth trigger press.

I had 200 rounds with me and a stack of targets. My intent was to shoot not just slow single shots, but also strings of 2, 3, or 4 shots. I warmed up with 50 rounds with the target at just 10 yards. Next I moved the target to 15 yards for another 50. The next 50 rounds at 20 yards really tested not only my shooting, but my ability to see the target. Finally, another 50 rounds back at 15 yards shot even more quickly made for a satisfying finish.

I typically start seeing more errant shots after about 150 rounds, so I had to concentrate on staying sharp as I fired the last groups, all from low ready. Needless to say I felt pretty good about the finish. The cardboard backer at the range was new when I started, and the RO commented on the decent hole I had left in the center after the 200 rounds.



I refreshed the target about every 25 rounds so I could better track the progress. I believe I counted just 7 hits outside of the -0 zone for the entire session. Now that I've got a few weeks before I shoot another IDPA match, I'm hoping for more time for continued "refreshment" after my health-induced break.

Of course, after all that fun, I had an hour's drive home. Some loud Blues coming from the car speakers eased the time spent on the highway.

Friday, April 12, 2019

VSSA Membership Promo

If you are a Virginian who enjoys shooting, hunting, or who simply cherishes your 2nd Amendment rights, now is a great time to get a membership in the Virginia Shooting Sports Association. If you join or renew VSSA for three years between April 1 - and June 30th VSAA will send you a knife with the VSSA logo engraved on the blade. A three year membership is just $60, which is a significant savings over the $25 yearly membership. And who can't always use another knife? You can read more about this promotion at the VSSA blog.



About the VSSA:
The goals of VSSA are to:

• unite shooters, hunters, sportsmen, collectors and all other law abiding firearms enthusiasts to promote the safe and responsible use of firearms

• promote the development of the shooting sports and the facilities necessary to the shooting sports; and,

• provide a united voice to all levels of government to defend the shooting sports, and firearms ownership.

Yes, I renewed my membership for three years.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

2019 Virginia Indoor Regional IDPA Match

Last weekend I met up with a couple of my regular shooting companions, and we traveled down to the Norfolk County Rifle Range in Chesapeake, VA, to shoot the Virginia Indoor Regional IDPA match. Although this would be the third year I completed in this challenging match, I think I felt extra anxious as it would be my first sanctioned match in many months. My shooting of late has been limited. This would be a change from last year's match when I spent the two months prior practicing, specifically shooting with a flashlight. Still any day at the range…

The match consists of 10 scenario stages, plus a warm up stage. The scenario stages are made up of five courses of fire, first shot in the dark and then in the light. Minor modifications are done to the stages between the dark and light runs. At this match, dark means no light, not low light. IDPA rules require that flashlights be hand held, not pistol-mounted.

All of the stages were challenging and quite a bit of fun. Some offered unique tests, in addition to the whole "in the dark" thing. The course of fire descriptions are uploaded here for reference.

"Alley Oops" started with the gun loaded with just six rounds. Spare loading devices were placed in a grocery bag, which also held a five pound bag of flour. The bag, and our flashlight (for the dark stage,) was held in the support hand. The "puzzle" was to figure how to manage the flashlight, and get the magazines out of the bag after dropping it.

At the start of the lights out run, I dropped the mag, switched the flashlight in my strong side hand and used it to retrieve and stow the magazines from the bag. Then, switching the light back to my support hand, engaged the first target with the required six rounds, and reloaded on the move to the next target shooting position. That was entirely too many moves.

In the next, lights on, run, I started by setting the bag down, rather than dropping it. That left my magazines on top of the bag of flour where I had placed them. I then engaged the initial target. After shooting the first target, I grabbed the two magazines at once, stowing just one and reloading with the other. That seemed to work a bit better, and meant less juggling of items.



The starting position for another stage pair, "Shotgun Went Boom," was holding a shotgun, shouldered and aimed at a cone down range. For the first run, the flashlight was held also in the support hand. At the beep we placed the shotgun in a barrel and moved up range to cover, from where we engaged a round steel target through the -0 zone of a standard IDPA target. Any hits outside of the steel were considered misses.

The added challenge to this stage was that hits on the steel did not make the usual "ping" sound confirming a hit. In the dark run, the smoke from my pistol all but obscured the steel. The lighted run of this stage was my best finish of the match.

"Well Guarded Hostages" was the Standards stage of the match. Five threat targets were fronted by two non-threats. The height of the targets varied, and the non-threats allowed only a few inches clear on some of the targets. The dark version required simply two body and one head on each. Things got a little more complicated when the lights came on. The two body and one head requirement was joined with, "Each threat must be engaged with 1 shot each freestyle, strong hand only, and weak hand only. Shooter may choose what order to shoot each style (free / strong / weak) but once a style is started, shooters must finish all shots of that style before switching to the next style)." There was a quite a variety of executions observed for this one.



Shooting all eleven staes took just four hours, as the match is exrtemely well-organized. On our travel home, we stopped to enjoy a delicious BBQ dinner, adding to the fun of the day.

Despite the initial nerves, once shooting started I felt surprisingly relaxed. I felt no pressure to repeat my performance from last year, and simply allowed myself to enjoy being there. Surprisingly, I shot most of the stages better in the dark than in the lighted versions. Overall, I did not shoot anywhere near as well as I hoped. That was both disappointing and frustrating. I did however, enjoy myself immensely. That's the important part. I'm looking forward to next year, and being in continued good health, AND getting in more practice prior to the match.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Saturday Beer, Food, and Smoke

After our morning shooting outing, we headed over to 1781 Brewing to enjoy the pleasant spring weather. We claimed a table out back overlooking the vineyards. It was a pleasant view even if the fields were still barren. Both Colleen and I ordered pints of the brewery's Dunkelweizen. I am a fan of this style in general, and I enjoy 1781's version when I can. The low 4.7% ABV, the nutty, slightly sweet caramel and toasted bread flavors make for an easy sipper. I suspect it will be going off the tap list in the coming weeks as they bring on the summer selections.



Full disclosure, one of the motivating factors for the visit was a posting on Facebook about the weekend's food option; The Turkish Kabob & Gyro Food Truck. After a lengthy viewing of the menu decided on the Chicken Kabob Wrap and a Chicken Gyro Sandwich. The food was served promptly and warm. There was a mix up and I ended up with a Beef Gyro instead of the chicken, but I decided to try it instead. Both the meals were quite tasty. We'd certainly check out this vendor again.

I made the decision that it was time to finally enjoy a cigar, for the first time since December. I had brought along my travel case with three options, just in case the urge came. I settled on the Tatuaje 10th Anniversary Bon Chasseur, with another serving of the Dunkelweizen. The medium bodied smoke with cocoa and coffee notes was a satisfying "first" smoke.



It was such a pleasurable afternoon that we ended up sitting for a bit longer than we had planned. The evening's musician arrived and was setting up as I finished my beer and smoke. We listened to few songs before finally deciding we couldn't sit at the picnic table bench any longer — next time I'll actually bring the folding chairs from the car!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Therapeutic Range Time

On Saturday morning, Colleen asked, "Do you want to go to the indoor range this morning?" At first I wasn't sure I felt like making the drive. However, it's been several months since we used our membership, AND I did really want to shoot. The decision was made and we embarked on the one hour drive down to the Winding Brook Range. We arrived in the midst of the Saturday morning rush so we would have had to wait for two adjoining lanes, instead we opted to share a lane.

I first brought out the SIG P365 for a little more time with it. Colleen also shot a couple magazines through the gun. She then shot her S&W Shield while I loaded my P320 magazines. As I watched her shoot I thought, she sure doesn't lose any accuracy after extended absences from shooting.

When it was my turn again, I shot about 100 rounds at 7, 10, and 12 yards, while holding a flashlight. I figured I should get just a little practice before next week's indoor match. Even though drawing from the holster is not permitted, I practiced hitting the switch and bringing the flashlight to the gun as I got it on target. I also wanted to fire multiple round strings to test my grip, since I'm limited to only two shots at the local outdoor range.



For the final 50 rounds, I progressed through 10, 12, 15, and 20 yards, shooting 10 rounds at the first three target stops, then 20 rounds at the furthest distance. Though it can be frustrating, this is one of my favorite drills to test sight alignment and trigger control. It also enforces a bit of patience on my part as I have to bring the target in every few shots to confirm my hits at 20 yards.

I realized as we drove home that this was the most relaxed I've felt shooting in some time. Lately my time has either been under match pressure or at the local "conservation organization" ranges. I've realized that I am often somewhat on edge at the local range due to past range officer behavior and the occasional presence of unsupervised, careless strangers. This trip to the range was most therapeutic and I was very thankful that my wise wife suggested it as part of my healing. Hopefully future visits will be more frequent.

We treated ourselves to a couple of fresh baked treats from a local cookie shop for the ride home. The stress free shooting, tasty cookies, and the wonderful company made for a most delightful outing.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cavalier IDPA Match

I made it to my second IDPA match of the year last weekend. I had been looking forward to shooting another match, and hopefully being less stressed than my last match outing. The morning was sunny, with just enough cool breeze to require a jacket. Really a fine day for shooting.

I'd gotten in a few visits to the range to practice the interim and felt a bit more comfortable with my return to competition. In fact as I approached the line to shoot each stage, I actually felt pretty relaxed, unlike the anxious feeling I felt during the first match after my "event."

As is usual, five fun and challenging stages awaited us. The first stage our squad shot was a "simple" stage done in two strings. Standing between stacks of barrels, we faced the right side of the stage. After shooting a target between the barrels, we made a nearly 180° turn to shoot a target behind the left barrel row. Finally a center target further down range was engaged. For the second string, we started at the same position. However, this time we ran a ways down range to find three widely spaced targets requiring three hits each. I thought this was a fortuitously good warmup stage to shake off any jitters.



Next up was a course of fire that started at an arm's length target requiring two body and one head shot. Following that we zig-zagged around the walls to near and far targets from cover. Some of the targets required hard leans around cover. Since the "walls" are open netting, on one of those positions I was actually able to stick the gun around the corner and "point shoot" the target while looking through the fence. Although not my best placing stage, I shot the stage just one point down.



The next two stages I thought truly tested our ability to adjust to a mixture of close and distant targets. On the first we started seated, before moving to engage three very close targets. Then arriving at cover we had to slow to shoot a further target with some tight non-threat cover adding to the challenge. The rest of the stage included more shooting around walls, along with a couple more non-threat targets that seemed to be taking a beating.

After that we moved to shoot an interesting set up with three pairs of targets at increasing distance, each target in a pair was placed on the opposite side of the bay. Shooting in priority meant swinging back and forth as you engaged the targets near to far. In the center of the last two targets there were four steel poppers. The paper targets started with head shots only, followed by two partials, and finally two open targets. All shooting was done from a shooting box.

I felt good going into the stage. But I missed the first shot on steel, which seemed to shake me. Each subsequent target then requiring two shots to hit. As I remarked at the time, "At least it's good reloading practice."

The final stage was opined to be the hardest, though I think it was probably the most fun. Our unloaded guns and all magazines were placed on a table, and we retrieved them and loaded the gun at the start. The targets throughout the course of fire were mixed in with numerous non-threat targets. What made the stage extra challenging for those of us shooting in lower capacity divisions, was to avoid standing reloads we had to make two reloads with retention, or tactical reloads. That, added to the need to stow the extra magazines at the start, made for a lot to think about.



I generally avoid doing a tactical reload, which requires pocketing the partial magazine rather than dropping it like an empty mag. So often I drop the mag out of habit, then lose time picking it up to avoid the penalty. I also frequently rack the slide out of habit, ejecting a possibly needed round. Since I was the last shooter on this stage, I had lots of time to get my mind set to do two error free reloads. I also got in some practice picking up two magazines at once and inserting them smoothly into my mag pouches. The preparation paid off and I shot the stage penalty free. It was good to finish with a smile.

In the end, despite feeling relatively relaxed, I still shot faster than I saw the sights much of the time. I did have zero hits non-threats and had just one miss, on a close head shot, but shot enough -1 and even -3 hits to significantly affect my score. Nonetheless, it was a welcome and fun time spent shooting. I felt healthy, energized, and happy to back on the range with friends. I am sure it will only get better as I continue on a steady recovery path. (Admittedly, I also enjoyed a much needed nap after the workout of the match.)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: Time to Relax

And suddenly it was Friday. It's been a busy week. I squeezed in a trip to the range. We attended an amazing Joe Bonamassa concert. I had a checkup with my cardiologist, with all good news. I celebrated my birthday with a few good friends. With the doctor's blessing, I resumed the cardiac rehab sessions. In between it all, I've essentially returned to work full time.

Sitting here Friday afternoon and I realized, I am tired. But, the weekend is coming. I am planning to shoot an IDPA match on Saturday. The weather looks like it will be suitable for spending time outside at a local brewery on Sunday. I think a preparatory nap is in order this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Time At The Range

When I walked by the hall thermostat on Monday morning my hopes of hitting the range that day seemed suddenly at risk. But as the morning progressed, I realized I would not be deterred by the blundering prognosticators. Though cool outside, the skies were blue all afternoon.

They're just making stuff up

Taking an afternoon break from my work, I grabbed the range gear and made a dash for the range. I started out with the SIG P320 Compact, shooting with slow triggers pulls from 10 yards. Satisfied with that refresher, I moved to 15 yards and switched to shooting from concealment. Two shots, at one target, with no movement, was as close to a match scenario as I could get. Nonetheless, I felt like I was finally getting back into the swing of things after my extended time off.

Next I switched to the new P365 and put another 50 rounds through it, shooting from 10 yards. This outing I shot it better than the first time, but the tiny sights will take some getting used to.

Since I was using the paper practice targets, I refreshed them frequently. Even if the holes are mostly -0, I like to see where in the circle they hit. Especially as I shoot faster I can gauge, and correct, the inevitable leftward drift.

To my shame, I noticed in my shooting log that I had not practiced any SHO or WHO shooting since last fall. (Granted I haven't practiced much of anything of late.) The practice time finished with some one handed shooting with the last few magazines in the P320. More practice is definitely to come on that skill.

Despite the early morning doubts, it was a welcome break to pull the trigger a few more times. Hopefully I'll be seeing a gradual uptick in my range time in the coming weeks.

Evidence of a satisfying outing

Monday, March 18, 2019

Shooting With My Son and a New Gun

Our son was home last week for his Spring Break. His extended visits home are always fun, especially since we usually hit the range together a time or two. This visit was made more exciting since only a few hours before he arrived I had finally picked up that SIG P365 I've been eyeing. And, now that the DST time switch has occurred, the range is actually open late afternoon and early evening, allowing more time to shoot.



I brought along my SIG P320 Compact, the new P365, and he had his P226. Copious amounts of ammo and targets completed were brought along. Upon arriving we noticed the bay had a new layer of gravel. We've endured a few years of bare dirt (mud) so that was a nice surprise.

I started out shooting a couple of mags through the P365 from 7 yards. After that we did all our shooting from the 10 yard line. I was generally pleased with how I shot the little gun. It's pretty easy to control, despite the small size and a bit of kick. The aggressive stippling on the grip helps, but also leads to sore hands after a while. I used both 115 and 124 grain ball ammo, as well as some Speer Gold Dot Self Defense rounds. There were no issues with any of it. I'll try to get several hundred more rounds through the gun before t-shirt season when it will be added to my carry rotation.

We alternated between all three guns. I soon realized that I should bring out the SA/DA gun a little more often. 

Due to range restrictions, we did spend more time standing idle than actually shooting. The latest rules at the club forbid more than one person firing at a time, even though everyone stands on the same line. If you find yourself pulling the trigger at the same time as another person, all shooters must sort out a plan to avoid that offense. More than one person shooting is seemingly too difficult for the range officers to distinguish from a single shooter doing "rapid fire." Strings of fire are limited to two trigger pulls. This leads to a lot of "You shoot two rounds, then I'll shoot two, then you..." Shooters are also forbidden from even loading up magazines when another is shooting, using up even more precious time. On the bright side it allowed more conversation during the breaks together to load magazines.

Despite the restrictive rules, the outing was a lot of fun, and provided enjoyable father-son time. It was good to continue working out the "bugs" from my down time. Given his busy work load in school, my son had not been shooting in several months and appreciated the tune up time as well.

It's good to have a target repair minion.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Sláinte!

It's that time of the year when a Saint revered by many, especially in the Irish-Catholic community, has his good name and works twisted into an excuse to drink to excess and abuse the color green. As a Catholic of Irish decent, and a lover of naturally-colored beer, it pains me to see what this day has become.

It strikes me as odd that this day, meant to honor a great man and Saint, has evolved the way it has. Whether you accept the traditions associated with his life or not, there can be no denying the good he did. (As much as some of these stories cannot be proven, they cannot be disproven either.) Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery in Ireland, he grew to love the Irish people. Late in his life, he was around 60 at the time, Saint Patrick returned to the Emerald Isle to teach and convert the people he had grown to love so much. Certainly that is worthy of our respect.

Odd is it may seem, we actually have to remind people, and pubs, that St. Patrick was a man, not a woman. His name is Patrick, which comes from the Irish, Pádraig. Shorten his name to Paddy if you must. However, we do not celebrate "St. Patty's Day." Patty is a shortened version of Patricia, a girl's name. Feast-related debauchery is one thing, but transgendering our Saint is unacceptable.
So, celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Enjoy a drink or two and some good food. There's nothing wrong with bringing a little revelry into the world, we certainly need it. I like a good party as much as the next guy. (And I certainly appreciate a good Irish drinking joke.) Drink your green beer if you must. Dress up in silly clothes. Dye your water fountain green. But please, remember the reason for this feast. Take a moment to honor the man and all the good he did. In our house we'll raise a toast, and a prayer, to St. Patrick in honor of his deeds and his country.

All the children of Ireland cry out to thee:
Come, O Holy Patrick, and save us!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

St. Patrick's Day Lesson

No matter how you celebrate tomorrow, please remember. . .



Note to marketing folks, St. Patrick was a man, not a leprechaun.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Regina Cigars - Supporting Good Works

Just because I'm on a short break from cigars, doesn't mean I can't make preparations for my future enjoyment. Recently, Colleen told me about a company called Regina Cigars that she had come across online. Run by faithful Christians, the company is using the sales of its cigars to support good works. From their website...
Our goal is to bring you finely crafted cigars that are lovingly hand rolled using exquisite blends from around the world. Part of our mission is also to help raise awareness and financial support for persecuted & displaced Christians, particularly those suffering hardship as a result of the recent conflicts in the Middle East. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Regina Cigars will go to "Aid to the Church in Need" which seeks to supply emotional, material & spiritual support to hurting Christians around the world.

Obviously, I was intrigued. And when your wife suggests you buy cigars, it's best to jump right on it. The company lists about 20 different cigars of Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican origins. All of the cigars feature exquisite religious artwork on the bands. I made a trial purchase of a sampler consisting of five Honduran blends. These particular cigars were blended by Christian Eiroa, founder of CLE Cigars and former owner of the Camacho Cigars company.



The cigars are resting in my humidor now. I am looking forward to lighting them up soon. Already though, I'm tempted to acquire the rest of the line to support the charitable works, and to collect the bands!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: DST

Daylight Savings Time starts on Sunday. I look forward to enjoying the added time in the evenings.


Mornings are long enough. Why don't we just agree to keep the clock set on DST next fall?

Have a great, even if shortened, weekend.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Returning to Normalcy: IDPA Match

My long-awaited return to shooting an IDPA match arrived last weekend when I was able to shoot the monthly match at Sanner's Lake. I had been almost two months since my heart attack and I was nervously awaiting the event. I was worried I'd be delayed even longer when I went back in the hospital last weekend to have another stent put in. But upon my discharge the cardiologist stated, "Do your normal activities as much as you can." Okay. Game on!

I have been walking regularly, but I was still under restrictions on lifting. I was confident from a health perspective, but was still feeling some angst and nervousness. It was a cold Saturday morning when I met my two travel companions and we headed to the range in Maryland. I wasn't sure if I was shaking more from the cold or from the nerves

This month, the organizers did something a little different. Instead of the typical 6 stages in 6 bays, the match consisted of 12 short stages requiring 5-12 rounds each, and shot at distances of 3-10 yards. Two stages were set in each bay. At least I wouldn't have to worry about a lot of running.

As I approached my first stage, my heart was racing and I was feeling atypically tense. The stage was simple; gun and reloads on the table, all loaded with 6 rounds. The requirement was two shots on each of three targets, reload, then two shots on each of the targets support hand only. I was reminded of my early days of shooting — flinging bullets downrange with abandon. Sights? What sights? I actually did better with my support hand as I was forced to slow down a bit.



That first stage over, I went back to my chair to think happy thoughts and force myself to relax. The rest of the match went better, though my two month break certainly showed both in shooting and stamina.

The stage with the most movement had us running downrange to engage targets as they appeared behind barrels, finishing with three low targets behind a wall of barrels. This was the fourth stage we shot and I was at last feeling a bit more relaxed.

Another stage required three hits on a close target before moving along a wall to shoot a steel popper and a target that intermittently appeared from behind a non-threat. Instead of the the falling steel activating the mover, shooter stepped on a pad, either on the way to the popper or by taking a step back to activate. Most folks opted to shoot the popper first, then reach back with a leg to activate the quickly appearing and disappearing target. I enjoyed the stage quite a bit despite putting a very nice 2-shot group on the non-threat in my rush to hit the disappearing target. That 10 second penalty did me no favors in the standings.

We started another fun stage by holding down a swinging non-threat that would move in front of three targets placed at increasing distances down range. Releasing the fast moving swinger, you stepped back and put four shots on each target. This turned out to be my best stage of the match.

Four of the stages in the match were set up as the four strings of the IDPA 5x5 Classifier. I was happy to see that included as I can check the box on having current classifications in all the divisions I might shoot in the next year.



I generally prefer longer stages with more movement, to the shorter, standards types stages. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the match very much. The format worked for this point in my return to normalcy. My friends were most generous in pulling the gear wagon and filling in for my pasting duties. I was able to sit when not shooting. They also offered support in a way only good friends can; including remarks about toe tags and splitting up my gear in the event of an incident. And really, I wouldn't want it any other way.  :-)

It was a small step, but one in the right direction. After a heart attack and two hospital stays, and only one limited range trip this year, I really can't complain. There's still some healing and recovery on the road ahead but I'm very excited to be on the way back to the usual fun activities. It's a few weeks until the next match, so I have time to brush up with dry fire and maybe even a range trip or two.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

St. Gabriel Possenti: Patron Saint of Handgunners

Today, February 27, is the Feast Day of St. Gabriel Possenti.

Legend holds that Gabriel Possenti was a Catholic seminarian in Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy. In 1860 he is said to have used his skills with the pistol to drive off a band of marauding soldiers who were terrorizing the town. Possenti faced the troublemakers after grabbing revolvers from two soldiers. As they laughed at the young student, he took aim and accurately shot a lizard that was running across the road. Impressed, the soldiers left the town, escorted by the seminarian, who had become the hero of the town.

Like many Saints, there's an unclear line between the facts of the Saint's life and the "tradition" associated with him. However, this story about Gabriel Possenti has led to him being promoted as the Patron Saint of Handgunners. The St. Gabriel Possenti Society was created for the purpose of promoting the Saint's cause. The society also promotes the study of the historical, philosophical and theological bases for the doctrine of self-defense.


A few years ago, our parish was presented with a relic of St. Gabriel Possenti, under the title St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. It was an exciting moment when I saw the blurb announcing the displayed relic in our weekly bulletin. Since then, I've enjoyed sharing the story of Gabriel Possenti with many parishioners. I dare say most of our Catholic friends who also enjoy shooting are now familiar with the Saint and his story.

In another interesting "coincidence," my Virginia Concealed Handgun permit was originally issued on February 27, the Feast Day of the Patron Saint of Handgunners!

St. Gabriel Possenti ora pro nobis!

Today would be a great day to hit the range. If that's not possible, buying some ammo would be a fine recognition of the Saint.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: Kalsarikännit

Yep, it's a word. Kalsarikännit is Finnish for the joy of drinking at home, alone, in your underwear , with no intention of going out.


It seems the Finns may have perfected the art of relaxation. Rest assured I will not be musing on any experiences I may or may not have enjoying Kalsarikännit.

Image from ThisisFINLAND.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

I Did a Little Shooting!

The combination of an encouraging report from my cardiologist and some unseasonably warm February weather made for the perfect time to head over to the range Friday afternoon. This was the first time I've shot in 2019, and despite some apprehension, I was excited to be on the range.

I took the SIG P320 Compact, and only 100 rounds of ammunition. I knew I'd be tempted to overdue it, so I set that limit before I left the house. I set up one of the colors and shapes targets, and hung some clays from the rope. All shooting was done between 7 and 10 yards.



I wasn't overly pleased with my accuracy at the start. The groups were loose, although I did manage hit the clays fairly consistently out to 10 yards. By the end of the two boxes of ammo, I was feeling better, but still need some honing of my very stale skills.

As I was setting up, interesting conversations started up with others at the range. When I arrived, a shooter was picking up brass after shooting his new SIG P365. As we chatted, one of the guys who had been fishing came over to his truck that was parked near the bay. He then showed us the SIG P229 he was carrying. It turns out also that he used to shoot IDPA and 3-gun, and had been considering coming down to the IDPA matches at Cavalier. I let him know I shoot those matches frequently and encouraged him to do just that.

Overall it was a very enjoyable outing. I got a little shooting in, and had fun chats with other SIG Sauer enthusiasts. It was a break I absolutely needed.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Drinks, Cigars, Recovery

As I work through my recovery, the enjoyment of alcohol and cigars figures frequently in my conversations with health care professionals.

The earliest discussions took place in the ICU. For three days I was asked by numerous people if I was a smoker. I replied I enjoyed the occasional cigar. Most of the time the person said nothing. Maybe they were simply relieved I didn't use cigarettes.

Just once the reply was "you can't do that." One nurse replied, "If you're like my husband, you won't give that up." While being interviewed by a doctor, he replied with a smile, "Not in here, right?"

Most of the comments about alcohol revolve around warnings about "more than one or two drinks a day." Despite an oft misunderstood reputation, that's closer to my total in a week. Picking up prescriptions, a pharmacist remarked, "I'm supposed to warn you about alcohol, but let's be realistic..." I have treated myself to a beer on occasion since the heart attack. As an aside, I now (mostly) limit myself to one cup of coffee a day. That's a major change for me.

I'm resting at home now. I open my humidor and rearrange cigars occasionally, taking in their aroma. I won't be smoking for a while, probably closer to the end of my cardio rehab sessions. It's too cold outside to enjoy a smoke on the deck anyway. I've also started questioning the wisdom of sitting in a smokey lounge with the associated second hand smoke.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying telling the rehab nurses one of my goals is to get back to "shooting, bourbon and cigars." They simply roll their eyes. We did go to the liquor store recently to pick up some "future" libations. I am still looking for that "special" celebratory cigar for when the day comes...

"Not in here?" That still cracks me up.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Saint José Sánchez del Río

Today, February 10, is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint José Sánchez del Río. On this date in 1928, this 14 year old boy was killed by Mexican troops for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith during the Cristero War. The story of this period of Catholic persecution led by Mexican President Calles was told in the movie "For Greater Glory." The young martyr was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005, and later canonized by Pope Francis on October 16, 2016.

The Saint's story is one with which few American Catholics are familiar. That is a tragedy in its own right. Though they might not know the Saint's story, many Americans are no doubt familiar with his face. The picture, shown below, of the young boy with Cristeros fighters is one that is often seen hanging in Mexican restaurants, among other old photos. Probably not too many diners know that a Saint and fighter for religious freedom is looking down at them while they eat.


After José was captured by government forces fighting the Cristero, he was forced to witness the torture and execution of fellow Catholic countrymen, yet he never wavered in his faithful resolve. He was himself was tortured and urged to shout "Death to Christ the King" with the promise his suffering would be over. On the day of his torturous execution, the soldiers cut the soles of his feet and he was made to walk barefooted to the grave they had dug for him. He was repeatedly stabbed with bayonets as he made his way to the place of his martyrdom.

Even after he had been shot he continued to cry out "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King!") The commander of the soldiers was so furious that he was able to resist the government barbarism, he finally shot the boy in the head. As he died he is said to have drawn a cross on the ground with his own blood as a final act of defiance.

During the Cristeros War many Catholics were killed by the Mexican government for their faith. This tragic part of recent history is pointedly ignored by the history books in both the United States and Mexico. It is a story that needs to be told and learned by all free people.

Saint José Sánchez del Río is truly a Saint for our times. His faithfulness in the face of torture and death should be a model for all of us. I pray we can be as strong when our own persecution comes.


Saint José Sánchez del Río, Pray For Us!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: Beware the Vodka

Don't try this at home. Or anywhere else.



Have a responsible winter weekend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Surviving the Worst Day

During my hospital stay, I was reading Cigar Lounge Wisdom: Ruminations Inspired in a Cigar Bar, by Frank Borelli. The Kindle book's description says, "...an anthology of essays written based on discussions held in a cigar bar." While the cigar lounge connection is somewhat nebulous, it is an interesting read, and parts were quite inspiring given my situation.

One line in the book jumped out as especially apropos...



It's a quote I've reminded myself of frequently in the past weeks.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Dry Fire Time

I started my cardio rehab this past week. It's the first step of many towards getting my life back and being able to resume normal activities. I was actually a little anxious about starting the exercise program, especially after signing the papers acknowledging the risk, yet being assured by the staff that they had people there trained to help if there was a problem!  :-)

Even though I'm not yet ready for the range, I thought, "If I can walk on a treadmill, I can at least dry fire!" I have gotten to enjoy neither dry or live fire this year, so I was very overdue for trigger time. While some of my friends where shooting an IDPA match on Saturday morning, I spent time pulling the trigger on an empty gun.



My dry fire routine is pretty simple, so no modifications were needed in the typical 15 minute routine. Five minutes of "surprise" tigger presses with the timer, including SHO shooting, started the session. The next five minutes were devoted to drawing from the holster and getting the gun on target quickly. Finally, I continued the draw practice with the addition of movement to get to the target.

My plan is to compete with the Compact SIG P320 in 2019. Unfortunately I've missed more matches than I've shot so far this year, and I only got to the range with the gun a few times at the end of 2018. Hopefully a trip to the range for some live fire is not long off.

On the bright side, I was much warmer than my friends who shot outside today.

Friday, February 1, 2019

St. Brigid of Ireland

Today is the Feast Day of St. Brigid of Ireland, one of our family's favorite Saints. In a quote
traditionally attributed to St. Brigid, she prays...
"I'd Like A Great Lake Of Beer For The King Of Kings. I Would Like To Be Watching Heaven's Family Drinking It Through All Eternity."
Our family has long had an affection for this great Saint. It was during our trip to Ireland a few years ago that I came to realize just how popular she is in that country, second only to St. Patrick it seems. Her legendary association with miracles involving beer often overshadows her deeds of charity and compassion.

Beyond her prayer for a "great lake of beer" this revered Saint has other interesting connections with beer. According to tradition, Brigid was working in a leper colony when they ran out of beer. Since beer was an important source of safe liquid refreshment and nourishment, this was indeed a serious issue. Brigid is said to have changed her bath water into beer to nourish the lepers and visiting clerics. In another miracle attributed to St. Brigid, she provided beer to 18 churches for an entire Easter season, all from a single barrel of beer in her convent.
St. Brigid Statue, Knock Shrine, County Mayo, Ireland

St. Brigid, ora pro nobis! And cheers!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Game Night Snacks

I was stuck in the ICU for the College Football playoff game this year. Being restricted to a "cardiac diet," I was limited in my game-time snack options. However, I planned ahead and stashed some "sides" from previous meals. Fortunately I was allowed potato chips with my lunch. (Interestingly, I was not allowed to order them with dinner.)



Besides the chip rule, there were a few other things I quickly learned in order to manipulate more satisfactory meals. I was allowed only decaffeinated coffee, but could have all the caffeinated tea, hot or cold, I desired. So it was iced tea for every meal. Surprisingly those teas came with copious packs of sugar, which I didn't use. However, I did desire pepper for my food. I found our early that pepper was a separate menu item — if you didn't specifically order it, you didn't get it.

I realized the other day, the last red meat I've eaten was with the hamburger meals I was served, twice, in the hospital. I'm overdue for some quality cow.

I could have used binoculars to get a better view of that game...

Thursday, January 24, 2019

When Life Changes

It's taken a while but I am finally ready to share the life-changing experience I had earlier this month. On Friday evening, January 4, I was woken from sleep by intensely sharp pain in my chest. My immediate thought was, "This isn't right." I dialed 911 and within a few minutes, though it seemed an eternity, EMS arrived and I was loaded into the ambulance.

I recall telling the EMT that the pain had slightly decreased. The next thing I knew I was waking up, confused and agitated. In an instant I remembered where I was, and had the thought, "Wow, I actually fell asleep." Then one of the faces leaning over me said, "You're okay. Your heart stopped, but we got it going again." (In retrospect, the part after "but" was obvious, although I am still glad he specified.)

The cardiologist met us at the hospital and I was taken right into the cath lab to have a stent inserted in my occluded left anterior descending artery — the "widow maker." The next 24 hours were spent juggling pharmaceuticals to get my heart rhythm normalized. I was then cleared to move to "step down" care. Unfortunately, there were zero available beds in the hospital. So I spent the next two days stuck in ICU. That experience could be fodder for future musings. Suffice it to say, the ICU is not designed for patients who are conscious. (I've recently learned there is such a thing as ICU psychosis.)

The last couple weeks have been a roller coaster of physical and emotional trials. Writing an entry for this blog is somewhat cathartic. Medicines are still being adjusted and I'll soon start physical therapy to get my strength back. There is still more time to pass before I return to my previous work and play routines. Obviously, I am looking forward to getting back to the range, to enjoying good drink and good cigars. It goes against my nature to be idle, but I am working hard to be patient and allow my body, and mind, recover.

Looking back, I realize just how very fortunate I was. The ambulance had not even left my driveway when I went into cardiac arrest. I am thankful the emergency personnel arrived as quickly as they did. As I have been reminded numerous times since, the outcome might have been quite different otherwise.

I feel extremely thankful and blessed to be here now. It obviously wasn't time for me to go. It wasn't time for my wife to lose her husband. It wasn't time for my son to lose his father. Nonetheless, it was a poignant reminder that we do not know when our time in this life will be up, and must always prepare well. There is no room for, "I'll get to that later." I am very thankful for the ongoing support of my family and friends throughout this ordeal. I've also realized that some things that were important to me before seem less so now.

So there you have it. Posting will be sparse for a while. I have accepted that this will be a long-term process, not a quick turnaround.

I survived the "Widow Maker." I have that going for me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Common Fight for Personal Freedom

I am often struck by the audacious attacks on personal freedom from those who seek to interfere with the pleasures and rights of others. The anti-gun crowd in the United States is vocal, intrusive, violent and sadly, out of touch with reality and rational thought. Our 2nd Amendment fight has many parallels in the cigar world. I read the following recently in "The Ultimate Cigar Book," by Richard Carleton Hacker,
But these growing numbers of smoking enclaves aside, there are also subtle ways to win an anti-cigar war fueled by ignorance and prejudice – the two things that cannot be swayed. Rather than pointlessly argue with militant anti-smokers, we must try to win the nonsmokers over to our side. There are people who are neither anti- nor pro-cigars. They are the middle ground and comprise the largest percentage of the American populace. If we can show them that we are more civilized that the radical anti-cigar thugs, we will have made our point. We must convince them with kindness. And courtesy. It does no good to force ourselves upon others, for we only aggravate the situation.

I get as much pleasure from the shooting sports as I do a good cigar. Although my life would not be under threat if I lost the right to smoke a cigar, replace "cigar" with "gun" and the paragraph still rings true. It's a fight we must take on. I know I have successfully explained gun rights to more people who are "neutral" on guns, than people who are already ignorantly "anti-gun." With the Governor of Virginia actively trying to negate the 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, our rights are again under a direct threat.

As with the gun grabbers, the anti-smokers are unabashed in their intrusiveness. Not too long ago I was sitting in the outdoor cigar lounge area at a local brewery. A group of people moved from where they had been sitting to sit in the smoking area, ostensibly to find seats in the sun. A woman in the group promptly asked me to put out my cigar. My one word answer was a very polite but emphatic, "No."

All of these intrusions have as their basis a claim of "for your own good." Americans once appeared to have learned a lesson during Prohibition. Yet, I don't for a minute think that fight will not be fought again. The nanny state and prohibitionists of any ilk are unrelenting. The next time we lose a freedom, it may not be won back.

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” -- William Pitt the Younger