About the Blog

Educating fellow Jews about the sporting and defensive use of firearms. Especially Jews in North America, too many of whom are instilled with the belief that guns aren't for nice Jewish boys and girls.

If you know of notable Jewish shooters that should be documented on the blog, even if it is only at the local club level, I am happy to report and profile them. And don't be shy if that person to be documented is you! Please drop me a line at jewishmarksman at gmail dot com. Also follow me on twitter @Jewish_Marksman.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Must See Ethiopian Israeli Mauser!

An easy fast to all who will be fasting this weekend.  But before you run off to dinner and schul, you need to see this one:
http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=444196397


I wouldn't even venture a guess as to price.  Good luck and buyer beware!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Exposing Dan Slott - Jewish Marksman's Thoughts

This blog continues to serve as a Hall of Fame for Jews involved in shooting sports, 2nd Amendment advocacy, and other firearms-related activities.  However, on rare occasions when a Jewish public figure deserves it, I induct them into Jewish Marksman's Hall of Shame.  Today's inductee is Dan Slott, a comic book author, currently working on several titles for Marvel, including Spider-man.

Slott frequently espouses his distaste for guns and gun owners on Twitter.  Like most opponents of the Second Amendment, Slott's arguments are purely emotional and devoid of logic.  Recently he expressed his displeasure with Americans' rights to own more than one firearm, thereby amassing an "arsenal".  Specifically, Slott argued that the danger presented by a mentally ill person is proportionate to the number of his/her accessible firearms.  Slott mentioned Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook school shooter, as an example.

Yours truly responded on Twitter directly to Slott by pointing out the logical and practical fallacy of this argument, to wit, that a human being can only simultaneously fire so many weapons at once, proportionate to the number of hands he/she has.  By way of analogy, is an alcoholic owning only one car any more of a DUI risk than an alcoholic owning 100 cars?  I also pointed out that Lanza only used two firearms during his rampage, a rifle to kill others (requiring 2 handed operation) and a single shot from a pistol to kill himself.  I am no expert on mass shootings, but I cannot recall an incident where a single crazed gunman utilized more than 2 or at most 3 firearms.  Considering a single firearm can be reloaded with a fresh magazine almost instantly (as fast or faster than switching to another firearm), I fail to see why a crazy person with two or three guns is any more or less dangerous than the same person with one gun and two or three loaded magazines.  In short, logic suggests that laws limiting the number of guns a person can own have no potential to save lives should that person become criminally insane and rampage.

Slott, like most anti-gun activists, can't tolerate logic and reason.  He wrongly accused me of lying about the number of firearms Lanza fired, made outlandish caricatures of my arguments, and banned me from his Twitter feed.  I have attempted to piece together the twitter conversation below (it seems it did not all occur in one Twitter thread so I have done my best to piece it together from a couple threads...you get the gist):

Uninformed, irrational and divisive people like Slott do nothing to advance the society's dialogue about firearms.  There are plenty of other comics creators out there, so I'll be avoiding anything written by this schmuck.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jewish Marksmanship Update and Scatt Analysis

Thanks to all those that have asked about my well being.  All is well.  As I mentioned in previous posts, work has been a bear, making weekend free time precious.  So for the time being matches take a back seat to daddy-daughter time.

However, I'm still training several times a week with the Scatt, focusing on the standing position.  I'm using a new laptop that has wifi (my old laptop died) so I can share screen captures now.   Here is a recent model shot, simulating 200 yards standing:
Time is represented by color, from Green->Yellow->Blue->Pink Shot->Red

If you follow the green line from the top left, you see I approach and actually first cross through the 10 ring but don't fire.  Should I have fired then?  The rifle looped up in the 9 ring (yellow line) and and crossed through the X ring (blue line).  As you can see, either the rifle was moving fast or my release wasn't early enough, so the shot hit just on the edge of the 10 (the pink dot).

I'm happy with the hold (more or less), but clearly I need to work on being more aggressive and get comfortable with firing as I see the rifle just cross the 9 ring.  By the time I see that 10 it's too late, the rifle is going to move out of the 10 if I can't find the courage and confidence to know it will be in the 10 when the shot goes.  From reading David Tubb's book, this is an especially important skill to develop for shooting standing in windy conditions.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Jews, Comic Books,Guns and Marksmanship

Superheroes in America
Like most American kids born after WWII, I grew up with superheros as part of popular culture.  As a kid in the 1980's, some of the my favorites were Spider-man and Batman (the latter in re-runs of the live-action show with Adam West). I also remember watching cartoons of the Justice League of America, and the Fantastic Four.  Those shows did a great job of communicating strong American (and in-fact, historically Jewish) values and ethics to American kids.  Values and ethics like: standing up for the weak, bravery, fighting against evil, modesty, humility, work-ethic.

Jewish roots of American Superhero Mythology
Of course, anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the superhero "industry" in the US will grant that much of it was created through the work of Jews, and Jews remain actively involved and influential.  Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber), although not observant, is still at the top of the food chain and a creative giant with Marvel comics (Captain America, Spider-man, etc..) .  His wildly popular X-Men series, in particular, contains all sorts of Jewish themes, including major characters who are explicitly Jewish.  On the DC Comics (a rival publisher) side, Superman had a Jewish creator, as did Batman, just to name a few.

And what does this have to do with Guns?
Many people misunderstand the 2nd Amendment, and the reasons so many Americans own guns.  The reason is simple: we choose to be strong, brave and to fight against evil.  We refuse to be victims of crime.  We refuse to be victims of tyranny.  And this attitude was shaped, in part, by our childhood superhero stories.

The American superhero stories teach a life lesson very clearly: the weak can and will be abused and enslaved by the strong.  In order for the weak to defend themselves, they need to level the playing field.  They need powers.  To emphasize that point, every comic book hero's lore includes an arc where the hero loses his or her powers, and becomes vulnerable (think Superman and kryptonite).  We can't take pills (yet) that give us Superman's powers, but we can learn to use guns to level the playing field with the bad guys.

and Marksmanship?
Through Spider-man, Stan Lee (again, born Stanley Martin Lieber) tells Americans that "WITH GREAT POWER THERE MUST ALSO COME--GREAT RESPONSIBILITY!" That means developing excellent safety habits and marksmanship skills.  Another value taught to American children through superhero stories.

Currently my 4 year old daughter and I are enjoying a number of animated superhero series on Netflix, including "Spider-man and His Amazing Friends" and the "Incredible Hulk."  Her favorite is the mutant Fire Star, of course.  These are great shows we can watch together, and discuss the moral and ethical conflicts that the shows address.  Unlike "Barney" and other politically correct garbage fed to kids today, she is learning that indeed there are good guys and bad guys in the world, and we must all stand up to the bad guys.  On her own, she commented that "people shouldn't be afraid of the Hulk just because he looks different, they should talk to him and learn that he is really very nice and a good guy."

I'm enjoying using Marvel's Marvel Unlimited app to explore their library...there are plenty of comics that are interesting for adults.  Check it out!



Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jewish Marksman's Status Report

Work has kept me extremely busy, and unfortunately I needed to work some weekends that coincided with matches, meaning I could not attend matches for the past few months.  That really stinks because this time of year in Florida is great for matches weather-wise, because it tends to be not so hot but the winds pick up to make the matches more challenging.  Hopefully this month or next I'll get back in the game.

In the meantime, I've been practicing with the SCATT system and really making some changes to my standing position for improvement:  
  • I have taken to keeping my trigger-arm elbow to my side instead of winged out, which makes for a tighter and more stable position.  
  • I've also set my front sight to it's narrowest iris, allowing for very little white around the bull, and that has really tightened my hold as well.  
  • I've moved my grip much lower on the grip handle, which allows me grip a little tighter and really isolate the trigger finger's movement.
  • Lastly, I've really focused on making my approach to the bull more efficient and quicker, trying to get the shot off in 3-6 seconds once the rifle is "on target".
The results have been scatt averages of 95+, which is great for me.  I think also getting away from the matches for a while has also changed my perspective a little bit...got my mind off the game and more focused on enjoying the process.  


Friday, December 27, 2013

Hannah and Josh Black Profiled in CMP Article

The Civilian Marksmanship Program recently ran an in depth article on Jewish Marksmen Hannah and Josh Black (http://www.odcmp.org/1213/default.asp?page=THEBLACKS).  Interestingly, the article made a point of discussing their Jewishness:
Religion is important to both Hannah and Josh as well. Having grown up with a strong Jewish background, they both directly state that it impacts their everyday lives – it affects how they view the world.
Josh is involved with a Jewish youth group at a Chabad synagogue and is a founding member of a Jewish Scout group. He can also chant Torah.
For Hannah, choosing to go to college at Texas Christian was worrisome at first, but she soon learned that TCU is very accepting of all students, even their Jewish students.
Check it out! (Thanks to Mike for sending the link!)

Friday, December 20, 2013

What has the Jewish Marksman been up to?

I've received a few emails inquiring into the blogging slow down.  The past few months I've been busy with a few things: work-related travel and marathon training.  I completed the marathon a couple weeks ago, finishing in 5 hours.  Not bad for 39, and weather that reached the 80's.  I did see one Israeli guy (well I assumed he was Israeli given the Star of David on his running shirt) so I yelled Shalom and gave him a high five as I passed.  Training for the marathon took up a lot of my time.

In training on the SCATT I seemed to have maintained my score level, in fact, I think I've made some improvement and will blog about that soon.  Now that the marathon is done I'll have more time to focus on improvement in shooting and blogging about it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jewish Gunsmith Budd Gardstein Passes

Sad news.  Perhaps the only contemporary American Jewish gunsmith, Budd Gardstein of Kentucky, has passed away.  From his obituary:
CORBIN — Budd Henry Gardstein, age 65, of Lily, passed away Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 at Saint Joseph London.
He was born Jan. 12, 1948 in Brooklyn, N.Y. to the late Seymore Gardstein and Helen Cohen. He was a self employed Gunsmith, a member of the Lily Volunteer Fire Department, Air Force Vietnam Veteran, and was of the Jewish Faith.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Edna Hensley Gardstein.
He is survived by wife Shirley Haynes Gardstein of Lily, two sons, James David Gardstein of Indiana, Matthew Daniel Gardstein of Florida, two stepsons: Matthew Hejnar and Daniel Hejnar, both of Philadelphia, Pa., stepdaughter, Jessica Hejnar of Lily, and sister Ronnie Gardstein of Washington, D.C.
Baruch dayan ha'emet.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Israeli Mauser Watch 11/5/13

Currently on gunbroker.com there is a nice German captured Israeli Mauser.  This one has the markings I like: the Star of David and a visible attack on the Nazi eagle (scroll down in the listing to see the pictures).  Markings like that, in my opinion, are what collecting those are all about.

No bidding yet, but my estimate is that this one will go for $600-$800.  As always, buyer beware!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Maccabi USA Gives Jewish Marksman the Cold Shoulder!

On August 22, 2013, I sent an email to the Maccabi USA leadership:
To: jmargolis@maccabiusa.com, amonson@maccabiusa.com, ssorkin@maccabiusa.com, sfeinstein@maccabiusa.com
To Maccabi USA:
... I am a Jewish American actively competing in several shooting sports.  I also operate a blog called Jewish Marksmanship, at http://jewishmarksmanship.blogspot.com.  As you might imagine, I have become something of a "hub" for the social network of American Jews active in shooting sports.
As you know, no Americans participated in the shooting sports events at the recent Maccabiah Games in Israel.  I submit to you that the primary reason for this absence was that many of us Jews in the shooting sports community were simply unaware that shooting events were being held.  Some who competed at Maccabiah Games decades ago thought shooting sports had been eliminated, and did not bother to inquire this year.  Others, like me, were disappointed to learn about the inclusion of shooting sports only after the fact.
Indeed, in communications I have recently had with Israeli national shooting team members, they were quite disappointed and surprised at the lack of American turnout.  The Israeli shooters often travel to the US for international competitions, and were keen to build friendships.  They wrongly assumed that perhaps few American Jews compete in Olympic-style shooting.
In fact, many young Jewish Americans have been recent Olympians in shooting sports, and compete on their college rifle or pistol teams.  There are also many amateurs.  Here is a sampling:
In the teen and "young adult" category:
Sandra Fong, Danielle Fong, Abigail Fong - With  Sandra notably competing at the Olympic levels.
Hanna Black, Josh Black -  Hanna competes at the collegiate level in Air Rifle, Josh at the junior nationals level in Air Rifle and Pistol.
Jessica Levine - Won national awards at Camp Perry a few years back in smallbore.
Laura Spector - Olympic biathlete.
Sharon Barazani - Up-and-coming international shooter (not sure, she may technically have been born in Israel...?).
Adults:
Dmitriy Shteyman - International pistol disciplines.
Sloane Milstein - Air pistol.
The "Blackhawk Bagel Boys" - An entire 2011 team of Jews at the national championships in smallbore prone.
This list is by no means all inclusive, there are dozens of amateurs.  I happen to know that many of these athletes have made pleasure-trips to Israel, and will do so again in the future.  I cannot say to have spoken with all of them, but suspect that ignorance of shooting sports in the Maccabiah Games explains many of their absences.
I pose these questions because some of the Israeli shooting clubs have expressed an interest in building ties with American Jewish shooters, independently of the Maccabiah Games if necessary.  Myself and a few others have resolved to better organize the Jewish American shooting sports community, and build greater ties with our Israeli brothers and sisters in the sport.  The question is whether Maccabiah USA is the right vehicle for us.
It is against this background that I make several inquires of Maccabiah USA.  Put simply:
1. Does Maccabiah USA welcome the shooting sports as Maccabiah Games events, and consider them equal to others?  I have spoken with some who suspect (I hope without cause) that as an organization, Maccabiah USA would prefer to distance itself from all firearms sports.  It would go a long way with me and others if you could state the organization's position.
2. What is the future of shooting sports in the Maccabiah Games?
3. What are the requirements to send a contingent of American shooters to the next games? (i.e. number of entrants, etc.)
Certainly, I for one have limited resources to make trips to Israel for the purpose of shooting competitions, and I'm sure others feel the same, as competitive shooting is already a financially expensive sport.  That being said, can you make the case as to why American Jewish shooting sports competitors should coordinate through Maccabiah USA, instead of doing something directly with the Israeli shooting clubs?
I look forward to your response.
To date, I have received no response.  I know it was received because I received an automatic vacation message from one of the recipients.  I will let readers draw their own conclusions from this, but I am personally drawing a very negative impression of Maccabi USA.

But kvetch not loyal readers, because the wheels are in motion for other options.  A rough sketch of the idea is that every few years, one or more of the Israeli shooting clubs will host a tournament for world Jewry, independent of the Maccabi Games.  If you would like to help be a part of the long term planning, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gabby at ArmedCandy - Jewish Markswoman and Gun Blogger

The list of Jewish gun bloggers continues to grow.  You can now add Georgia resident Gabby from the blog http://www.armedcandy.net  Gabby has posted several times on topics relating to Jews and guns:

Self Defense and Jewish Ideals, Are They Mutually Exclusive
Concealed Carry in Places of Worship
FIDF & ArmedCandy Make New Girl Gunners

I would characterize her blogging as being a personal blog that shares her various thoughts on gun issues with her readers, as opposed to being technical or focused on any particular shooting-related topic.  The blog seems to be associated with the "Gun Nuts" blog network, which appears to be commercial in nature.  Take a look!

Friday, September 27, 2013

All is well with Jewish Marksman!

I know that my blogging has been a little slow lately, but that is just because of the High Holidays and heavy work load.  But don't despair dear readers, I have a number of great posts in the pipeline:
  • A day at the range with an Israeli national team shooter
  • Update on efforts and plans to create more interaction between Israeli and diaspora Jewish shooting sports competitors/hobbyists
  • Another Jewish gun-blogger
  • An interesting Jewish arms importer/collector
And more!  My shooting has been going well, last weekend at a 50 point XTC High Power practice match, I was just 8 points shy of High Master.  I actually physically practice less because of time constraints, but mental rehearsal and management is filling the gap and scores have gone up!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mental Training Update 08/29/13

After my last match, I took about a week and a half off from actually shooting the rifle with the SCATT.  Instead, I focused solely on the mental training aspects in Basham's "With Winning in Mind" program.  This consisted of reading my Directive Affirmation often, and visualizing shots.  A couple days ago I picked up the rifle again.

Before I even began shooting, I noticed two things.  One, despite over a week off, the rifle did not feel the least bit foreign to me...I still felt sharp.  Visualization is indeed a means to maintain physical skills to some extent.  I also felt my Directive Affirmation kicking in, i.e. part of me really does start to expect 96%+ scores, but I cannot say that has reached 100% just yet.

Shooting-wise on day 1, I shot 3 sets of 10, each with an average score of 93%. That is a very good average considering the time off.  Usually with time off, my first day of training is pretty rough, as in sub-90%, but the next day I'm much better.  So I was shooting 4 10s on average, with 8s creeping in.  I have to admit that I sometimes forgot to run a Mental Program on each shot, and when I did, the chances of a 10 were lessened.  I also struggled with one of the concepts of Basham's Mental Program, a stage called "Intention" or "Aggression".  After visualizing a 10, then the steps to get a 10, the next step is to adopt a mentality of "Intention" or "Aggression".  I understand this intellectually, as over-holding is a common problem for shooters, as is "chicken-finger" and other mental barriers that keep a shooter from dropping the hammer on an otherwise acceptable sight picture.  But I come from a background of contact sports (ice hockey, jui jitsu) so "Aggression" means something different than what I think Basham is getting at.  Truth be told, when I heard him talk about it, I did not completely understand the idea.

Well as luck would have it, one of my readers pointed me to another book on Mental Training, called "Peak Performance" by Charles Garfield.  I have only read the first few chapters, but one of the early chapters talks about an athlete's "volition", as in the emotions he or she experiences when intentionally achieving a peak performance.  The athletes describe the emotion at that time as one of being in complete control, of absolute confidence.  So it occurs to me that this is what Basham means by "Intention" or "Aggression", not necessarily as something physically active, but instead an emotional state of absolute confidence and control over the situation.  I think a good term for it might be "swagger."  And yes, when I remember the feeling of shooting an X on demand in the past, it is something like that.  What Garfield and Basham are saying, I think, is that it's not about feeling that way after you randomly shoot an X.  Make yourself feel that way before you shoot the X, and the X is likely to follow.  And this makes sense, as the supremely confident athlete expects a certain result, he/she does not have to fight for it mentally.

So the next day of shooting, I did just that.  I ran the Mental Program, but this time during the "Intention" phase, I would tell myself things like, "I am in control of this rifle...it may move but I am controlling it", and "I have absolute confidence that my trigger will fire when it needs to," and "my trigger breaks are always clean"  If I had any emotional sense of doubt creeping in, I would put the rifle down and start over.  The result was a 10 shot string of 98% (eight 10s), with excellent releases on every shot.  I had some shots where the hold was unsteady, but my trigger release was quick when a 10 sight picture appeared.  I had some shots where the hold was steady, and the release was slightly more deliberate but a clean surprise break.  It was shooting that just felt great, both from a technical standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint.  It seemed easy and effortless.

I'm especially happy with what happened on the last shot.  Obviously I could not ignore that I was shooting well.  The number 96 was sort of in the back of my mind, and of course an 8 on the last shot would give me a 96, but a 10 would give me a 98.  So I took some deep breaths and cleared my mind, and imagined that I had already shot the 10, and now a whole new match was starting and I have no score and am on my first shot.  I focused on fixing that feeling in my mind.  And bam, shot a 10.  Having done that, I am beginning to feel more confident that noticing I'm shooting well is not going to sabotage my scores as much.

Well the moral of the story is some things are beginning to click, and it's important I think in Mental Training to synthesize more than one program, because sometimes the way one author explains something might be misinterpreted, even though he is intending to say the same thing that reader understands correctly as put by another author.  And I have to emphasize, I don't think any of this is making me technically better.  For months or maybe even a year now I've seen on the SCATT that I have pretty darn close to a 10 ring off-hand hold.  But that's taken years of physical practice to achieve.  What's happening is more of a feeling that clouds are being lifted that were keeping me from capitalizing on making the most of those technical abilities.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Israeli Mauser Watch 8/26/13

There are a couple of very nice looking Israeli Mausers currently for sale on Gunbroker:

This one (click here) has a very cool Czech action, with the beautiful lion crest.  Now, unlike many of these Czech actions I've seen, this one actually has a Star of David stamp on the side, which I love.  It seems like someone did some restoration work on this one.  With matching numbers, I see this one selling over $1K, the starting ask is $750.  Too rich for my blood, but man I wish a stripped action like that one would go for sale sometime.

The other (click here) is a Belgian with the IDF crest.  Other than the fact this one is clean looking, I'm not sure what justifies the $950 ask.  I've seen the Belgians in that condition go $600-$800, and at that high end only when super clean.  I see that the seller is the same for both rifles, perhaps he confused the two ask prices. 

As always, buyer beware!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jewish Marksman's Directive Affirmation 08/21/2013

As I discussed in previous posts, according to Lanny Basham's Mental Management system, one of the keys to my shooting better in competition is going to be changing my Self Image circle.  In order to shoot 96+ standing in competition, I need to inherently believe and expect that is exactly what will happen, because "it's like me" to to shoot 96+ in competition.  Basham sets forth a technique to get there called the Directive Affirmation:

The Directive Affirmation is a paragraph written in the first person present tense that describes a person's goal, pay-value of the goal, plan to reach a goal and habits and attitudes affecting the goal.  It is rehearsed repetitively, causing the Self Image to change.
So following his steps to develop the Directive Affirmation:
Step 1. Define the goal.  To always shoot 96% or better in the standing stage at matches. [This is only 2 points higher than my personal best, lower than my bests in practice, and only 1 point higher than my practice average.  I think it is realistic and achievable.]
Step 2. Set the time limit.  March 31, 2014.  [I shoot 2 matches a month, so by that time, I'll have shot 16 matches, assuming none get rained out or other interference.  This is plenty of time.]
Step 3. List the personal pay-value of reaching the goal.  I have taken my next step toward earning High Master classification.  The personal pay-value of earning High Master is:
  • the great sense of personal achievement
  • inspire my blog readers to pursue shooting sports excellence
Step 4. Outline the plan to achieve the goal.
  • Run a Mental Program (more on this in a moment) on each shot.
  • Visualize taking 10 perfectly executed shots in the morning when I wake up, and before I go to bed.
  • During practice, visualize myself having shot several 10s in a row, and then shooting another unfazed or influenced by the prior shots.
  • Keep a written reminder to dryfire every 3rd shot in competition to ensure I am flinch-free and only the muscles in my trigger finger are activated in the shot.
  • Read and visualize my Directive Affirmations daily.
Step 5. Write a Directive Affirmation
March 31, 2014.  I always shoot at least 96% in the standing phase of competition.  I have taken my next step towards earning High Master classification.  I always run a Mental Program on each shot in practice and in competition.  I visualize taking 10 perfect shots when I wake up and when I go to bed.  When I practice, I visualize myself unfazed by the fact I am shooting 10s, because shooting 10s for me standing is as normal and like me as shooting 10s in prone.  In competition I dryfire after several shots and my body simply flows with the rifle's recoil.  The muscles in my trigger finger are the only muscles in my entire body that move during a shot.  I always shoot at least 96% in the standing phase of competition.
Step 6. Write down the Directive Affirmation in my own handwriting on cards, at least 5, and put them in key locations each day.  Every time I encounter a card, I read the Directive Affirmation.


That's it!  As for the Mental Program, that is basically a mini-mental rehearsal for each shot.  I have started using this technique but not consistently.  Sometimes my mind is just blank, which is OK I think.  When I find myself thinking about anything else, I run the Mental Program.  It is probably better to run the Mental Program every shot, so I will start keeping track.  Basham gives a Mental Program for shooting in his book, so I'll just use that.  Basically, you just visualize yourself and how you feel after making a perfect shot.  Then you visualize yourself doing it.  Then you focus your attention on what you need to do to shoot and shoot. 



Monday, August 19, 2013

Jewish Marksman's Mental Training Begins

Readers following the blog know that I have been struggling to get my off hand scores in competition to match my practice scores.  Put another way, I have not been shooting as well in competition as I do in practice.  This past weekend's match was a typical example.  My first two sighter shots standing were a 10 and an X.  I was calm and focused for my first record shot, a 10.  Then suddenly my pulse began racing, and I shot two 8s. Those two 8s were a sort of pressure relief valve, letting me be calm again.  My next 6 shots were 9-10-9-10-X-10.  So not withstanding the two 8's, my score is 84, with a potential 94, which would match my personal best in competition.  For my final shot I was not nervous, but somehow shot high with a 7, finishing with a 91.  In practice I am shooting 96+, and there is no logical reason I shouldn't be shooting at least that well in competition.  In fact, I have the SCATT set to make it harder to score in practice.

Enter Lanny Bassham and his "With Winning in Mind" book and Mental Management CD seminar.  Bassham is a former Olympic gold medalist in shooting, who developed a "mental management" system for training the brain for top performance.  I first read his book several years ago, and dismissed it as Tony Robbins-like feel-good nonsense.  But recently I read the autobiography of former Navy Seal sniper trainer Brandon Webb, and he wrote that initially he had the same doubts about Bassham, but sniper trainees were greatly benefiting from Bassham's books and CDs, setting new course records.  So I decided to give Bassham another shot, and was able to find his seminar CDs for sale used, from a very accomplished shooter who gave the CDs high marks.  It turns out that Bassham's CD seminar goes into much more detail than his book, and won me over to try it.

The core of the system is Bassham's model of mental performance.  He identifies three "circles", the conscious, the subconscious, and the self-image, which need to be in balance.  The conscious and subconscious circles are fairly self-explanatory, i.e. the former is focus and concentration, the latter is the muscle-memory skills developed through hours of practice and repetition.  But the self image circle?  Bassham says that how you see yourself influences how well you will shoot, and that self image will propel you or pull you back.  Even if you have the conscious and subconscious ability to shoot 96+, if your mental image of yourself is that you typically shoot 92, you will typically shoot 92.  If you start shooting better than that, your nerves and subconscious will pull you back.  If you start shooting worse, you'll focus more and bring the score up to that average.  Your self-image basically anchors your performance, in that you will experience debilitating discomfort and distraction any time you are shooting worse, or motivating energy when shooting worse, than your expected performance.  Bassham says that shooters with my dilemma are very common, he calls them the "frustrated experts" who shoot outstanding in practice but not in competition.

The key, according to Bassham, is that I must change my self-image.  The practice data says I can shoot a High Master off hand score.  So why shouldn't I think of myself as High Master off hand shooter?  If I really saw myself as a High Master off hand shooter, then I wouldn't start to get nervous as soon as I start shooting well off hand in competition...after all, shooting 10 after 10 in competition is normal for a High Master.  I know I can shoot High Master scores in prone.  My first 9 shots prone this weekend at 600 yards were 10s and Xs, and I didn't get nervous or flustered...that's "like me" to shoot well prone...I finished this weekend at 96%, just shy of High Master.  I have to convince myself that it's "like me" to shoot well standing off hand.  In other words, make my self-image guide the scores, and not the other way around.

Bassham says the self image can be changed, and he sets forth a plan and techniques to change it.  The first step is to write down an "affirmation statement" that is sort of the goal to be achieved.  I want to re-read what he says about developing that statement before I write mine out.  More to follow...


Monday, August 5, 2013

Time to Train the Brain

This weekend was a turning point in my shooting development.  I am now convinced beyond any doubt that I have the technical skills to shoot at the High Master level.  What is lacking, and what I need to change, is my mental preparedness to shoot at that level.  This post I will illustrate the problems, and in subsequent posts I'll discuss my progress in training techniques, all coming from the "With Winning in Mind" books and tapes of Lanny Basham.

Readers know that I recently gained insight into my standing off-hand technique by watching video clip of Israeli shooter Sergey Richter.  My most recent match started very well.  As a reminder, I am using a .308 bolt action rifle with metallic sights.  My two sighting shots were both 10s, just a little left (this was a 100 yard reduced match, so the 10-ring is 3.35" and the X is 1.35") :
So I adjusted 4 clicks to the right for my record shots, and the first two were on the money:

Now it hits me.  For off hand shooting, both my sighters and record shots are super tight.  My zero is near perfect.  My hold today is super tight and slow.  I could shoot a perfect target if this keeps up....

My pulse starts to pick up a bit...but I use some of the relaxation techniques  know, and continue shooting, but I sense my hold is widening:
In the scope I wasn't sure if those shots to the left were 9s or 10s, but they would be good 9s.  I'm doing fine!  Until:
Ouch!  That shot was barely on paper, and counts as a miss.  My concentration was so intent on my new trigger technique, that I abandoned my prior mental shot plan which involved an anti-flinching step, as well as dry-firing my fifth shot, and as a result, flinched on the shot.  Ok, no biggie, I can recover, and my next four shots found the 9 and 10 ring:
Well that made me feel much better!  That's a target on pace to shoot a 85 or 86, which is still good shooting, and I think to myself, without the miss it would be 95 or 96, which is damn good.  So on my final shot what should happen but:
Yep, another off-target miss caused by flinching, because I forgot to dry-fire a couple shots to immunize myself.  Lesson learned.

But despite the rough start, I did fairly well in the sitting and rapid-fire prone stages of the match.  Then came prone, where I continue to get better and better each outing.  The first 17 shots, I did everything mentally right, had no thoughts of score, and shot all 10s and Xs.  Then I started to think about the fact that I might be about to shoot my first clean target.  I considered not checking the scope any more for the final 3 shots, but decided that would be a "cheap trick" and should just shoot as normal.  Shots 18 and 19 disappeared into the 10-shot hole I was building around the X-ring, and this is what I saw in my spotting scope:
Just 1 more shot...1 more and after years of competition I'll finally have a clean target!  And guess what I did:
Arrghhh!  Never mind that I haven't shot an 8 at 100 yards for months.  It's all a blur now, I can't even explain how it happened.

Anyhow, the point of the pictures above is to demonstrate my need to win the mental game--I've got the physical skills.  In future posts I'll talk about what I'm doing to get there.  Wish me mazal tov!


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Awesome Video Tour of Israeli Tavor Factory

As readers know I'm not exactly in a rush to go out and buy a Tavor.  But right now it's one of the most sought after rifles in America.  Here's a great video from MAC, where Tim visits Tel Aviv and takes a tour of the IWI factory where Tavors are made.  Very cool scenes from Tel Aviv, very clean and efficient factory, full auto demos of the Tavor and other Israeli-made rifles...what more can you ask for!  Check it out:



The Tavor is proving to be quite the Israeli ambassador!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jewish Marksman Learns from Sergey Richter

I recently came across a youtube video of Israeli Jewish Marksman Sergey Richter, highlighting his unorthodox air rifle trigger technique.  However, when I saw it, a light bulb went off for me.  Here's the video:
Only Sergey can say exactly why he does it. But for me it seemed like an obvious way to "prime" the muscles of the trigger finger to operate independent of the rest of the hand, and thereby avoid disturbing the hold.  Let me give some background.  The standing position without a sling is the most unstable position in the shooting sports.  That makes it the most challenging, most frustrating, and most fun.  The body naturally moves, so you have a sense of a moving target.  It is a lot harder to make the body perfectly still than most people would think.  There are so many dynamics to successful standing shooting: good balance, extremely fine muscle control, and good reflexes.  Depending on the weight of your gun, endurance as well.  And don't forget chutzpah (you need it most in the standing position), and a bit of mazal never hurts.  In High Power, for the standing stage the target is at 200 yards, with a 7" 10-ring (3.5MOA) and a 3"(1.5MOA) X-ring.

Broken down, there are two elements to successful standing shooting: your hold, and your triggering.  Your hold is the natural path your muzzle takes as your body moves in position.  Shooters practice making this path as small as possible.  Beginners will have trouble keeping the muzzle within the 7 ring, top shooters can hold the 10 or X.  Right now in NRA High Power my hold is mostly a 10 ring hold, at times an X-ring hold, and sometimes a sloppy 8.5 or 9.  You don't need a perfect hold if you have good reflexes and can release a shot "on the move" as your muzzle first enters the 10-ring.  Even if you have a great hold, on windy days you'll have to learn to shoot on the move as the wind blows your muzzle.  On those days, you'll have literally fractions of a second to let off your shot in the 10, or miss your chance.

Triggering is the other half of the equation.  You can have an X-ring hold, but if during the trigger pull your hand exerts unwanted direction on the rifle, you can end up with a 9 or worse.  This is my major weakness at the moment, even though my trigger pull weight is only about 12oz.  On the SCATT I see my 10's and X's turn into 9s and sometimes 8's because my triggering disturbed a 10-ring hold, or was not fast and aggressive enough.  I have a really hard time activating only my trigger finger on the pull, and instead, almost reflexively, my other fingers move.  (I have heard that this is normal for men, and women tend to be better shooters because their fingers are more inclined to work independently of each other, but it could be a shooter's wives' tale....).  I can move my trigger independently of my other fingers, but it takes a lot of concentration, and in standing shooting you don't have that luxury--the triggering has to be pure reflex.  I find myself not having the confidence to reflexively fire on a good sight picture because I'm not confident my hand is going to do the right thing.  I feel like that is *the* hurdle I need to overcome to move up from Master to High Master.

What Segey's technique does for me when I do it, is that it helps my short-term "muscle memory" in my hand so that as much as possible, only my trigger finger is moving.  It sort of points out to me any other muscular flaws in my grip so that I can adjust those too, as you do have to exert some force in the opposite direction for your trigger finger to be able to move straight back.  I have a 2-stage trigger with a very long 1st stage pull, so it's perfect for this technique as I won't have to worry about accidentally touching off a round.

So far on the SCATT I've had tremendous improvement in both minimizing muzzle movement during triggering, and being more consistent with good trigger releases.  I find the technique also lends itself to minimizing over-travel force as well.  I've had 10 shot strings with more deep X's and 10's and my average is pushing up to 96, which is flirting with High Master territory.  Hopefully it will translate to live fire, and maybe this is the key to me getting off my current plateau!  I'm cautiously optimistic.  Once again, I'm not sure this is why Sergey does it, but this is the effect it has for me.  I could also imagine that it could just be a stepping-stone to triggering technique that does not need it, but I can't see how it could hurt even then.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jewish Marksman on REAL Marksmanship

Over at thetruthaboutguns.com blog, fellow Jew Robert Farago polled his readers' thoughts on long range rifle shooting.  The poll was inspired by a previous post on that same blog by an author who successfully taught a new shooter to make 750 yard hits on his first day of shooting.  Robert muses as to whether that outcome suggests that "today’s modern rifles, gear and ammo makes distance marksmanship a doddle."

Oy veh.

The problem with his statement lies with the meaning the present day "gun-enthusiast" community gives to the word "marksmanship."  By "gun-enthusiast" I refer to people who do not actually compete in shooting sports or seriously train as professional gunfighters.  I think the standard for what gun-enthusiasts consider marksmanship today is vastly different from what it meant a few decades ago.  Today, many seem comfortable to judge marksmanship by what can be achieved under very controlled and stable conditions.  Whereas, a few decades ago, the gun-enthusiast community seemed to have a better sense that marksmanship is judged by what can be achieved under unstable, dynamic, and uncontrollable situations.  So what changed?  Quite simply, the background, experience and knowledge level of the crowd.

Weekends at the local ranges used to consist primarily of people with a lifetime of shooting experience, often with some hunting, competition, or military experience under their belt.  These folks understood that any schlemiel can shoot decently from a shooting bench, but it is quite another matter when a) the shooter is moving, b) time is of the essence, c) the target is moving, d) the wind is blowing or e) all of the above.  They understood that a shooter from a bench can hit a 750 yard target, but miss a deer at 75 feet if he hasn't the real skill.  Those people are still a component of the gun-enthusiast community, but their voices are being drowned out.  For the past decade or so, the prevalent fad at the public ranges has been what some call the "tacticool" role-playing game, where fun at the range consists of mimicking the firearms of special forces soldiers, SWAT officers, FBI agents, etc.  A day at the range for many of these folks is standing stationary with a black semi-automatic pistol with a laser sight, making two handed shots at targets 7 yards away or less.  Good "marksmanship" is the ability to keep most of the shots somewhere on the bad guy (yes a shoulder or wrist hit counts) on the target.  If rifles are shot, they are AR-15s, used with the rifle supported on some kind of bench set up, and almost always with some sort of scope that likely cost more than the rifle.  A spin-off of the tacticool genre is the wildly popular "Zombie" theme, which as best I can tell means changing the black semi-auto guns to some kind of neon green color, and shooting at targets with Zombie-themed imagery.

Very few of these people go on to actually train or compete in tactical-inspired shooting disciplines like IPSC or IDPA, where "marksmanship" means not only speed, but scoring hits on actual "kill zone" sizes, all while having to actually move around like a tactical "operator" might, and sometimes with moving and dynamic targets.  Many of them have no idea that a sling is for more than just carrying a rifle (and most don't even own a sling), and without a bench from which to shoot their rifle, I'm not sure they would know how to hold it.  Sure, from the bench they can drill .5" groups, but ask them to stand and shoot the rifle unsupported, and suddenly you'll see off-paper misses.

Don't get me wrong, recreational shooting is supposed to be fun and I do not judge anyone for how they choose to spend their time and money at the range.  Frankly, those cowboy action shooters who get dressed up in period clothes using period guns seem to be having the most fun out of all the shooting disciplines, and more power to them.  But lowering the standard for "marksmanship"  is not helpful or positive to those of us who know that even a 0.0MOA laser rifle with a laser sight and ballistics computer in the wrong hands will loose to a "real" marksman with a 30 year old Remington 700.  Or, as my readers know, with an 80 year old K98 Mauser.  When I bought my current .308 match gun, there was never really any doubt that it was capable of 1MOA or less at 600 yards from the bench.  But it took me nearly a year to prove I could do it from the prone slung position, with irons.

The problem, as I see it, is that statements like Robert's could have the effect that other gun-enthusiasts, and the non-shooting public, will not appreciate the incredible skill and practice it takes to shoot competitively away from the bench.  They will wrongly assume that shooting for distance while standing, kneeling, sitting, or prone is easy, provided you just buy the right (and expensive) gun.  They will look at Olympic-style and other shooting sports as silly, and have little interest in developing dynamic shooting skills.

I think the proof in this is that most gun-enthusiasts, although passionate about guns and shooting, today probably cannot name a single member of the Team USA shooting team or know that the National Championships take place every summer at Camp Perry in Ohio.  Most do not know what NRA High Power or Bullseye is all about, and probably wouldn't be interested.  It's not that they might not be interested or up to the challenge of trying to compete in those sports, but rather, they'll just assume it's all about buying the right expensive gun, and not about hours of developing the fine motor skill and above all, incredible mental discipline.  So instead of joining me on the rifle range for a dose of Zen, they'll sign up for a ridiculous yoga class...

For a great blog that keeps its marksmanship 'old school,' check out http://artoftherifleblog.com/ which the author describes as "A Shooter's Quest for Excellence in Marksmanship."  Emphasis on the word "quest," which is a concept seemingly lost on the modern gun-enthusiast community.  Too many of them think they've already arrived, because they bought the same gun used by the Navy Seals.

Oh well, as for me I guess I'll just keep doddling away.








Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Maccabiah Shooting Sports Update

If you are or know any of the shooters, please contact me so I an profile them:

50m Prone Rifle:
Gil Simkovitch ISRAEL 618.1
Emmanuel Ben Hefer ISRAEL 615.6
Doron Shaziri ISRAEL 613.7
Micha Berg HOLLAND 589.5
********** HOLLAND 584
Jeremy Griffiths MAURITIUS 526.3

25m Rapid Fire Pistol:
KRIEVSKY ALEXY ISRAEL 286
ZDOROVSKI ALEXAMDER ISRAEL 258
SHTINMAN YEVEGENY ISRAEL 238
LEVOTZKIN GILAD GERMANY 238
TZUR PANTZER VERED GERMANY 237

50m 3-Position Rifle:
IMMI BEN HEFER ISRAEL 1147
GIL SIMKOVITCH ISRAEL 1132
ROEY FRENKEL ISRAEL 1065
MICA BERG HOLLAND 1052
********** HOLLAND 1023

50m Free Pistol:
Evsey Kossover ISRAEL 533
Alex Tripolsky ISRAEL 530
Daniel Katz ISRAEL 529
Gilad Lavochkin GERMANY 499
Roman Gronsky CZECH REPUBLIC 468
Vered Zur-Panzer GERMANY 461




Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jewish Marksman's Day at the Range

Today we had a "practice match" to get the local shooters headed to the Nationals at Camp Perry ready (I'm not going this year).  I started the day rather poorly, and could not figure out what was off.  I eventually figured out that my front sight post was loose with the match almost over.  Oh well, I tightened it down and things went back to normal when I hit the 600 yard stage.

The sight was dialed in for the 600 yard prone stage.  I was eager to see if the concentricity tool had done anything to improve the ammo.  Luckily, the way the pit rotation worked out, I was able to take a picture of my target with the pasters marking my hits.  You see, the way NRA High Power matches work is that competitors take turns doing "pit duty" behind a safety berm, where they raise and lower the targets, marking hits with a large colored disk in between each shot.  This is because it would be almost impossible to see your hits at 600 yards without a humongous spotting scope, but an inexpensive 20x spotting scope can easily pick up the marking disk.  Well anyway, usually I never go back to the pits after my 600 yard stage, but this time I did and was able to see my group as opposed to just one shot at a time.  For perspective, the 10 ring is 12" wide and the X is 6".

So I ended up shooting the same exact score as last time (a personal best at 600 yards), a 193, which is pretty good.  I had one mental lapse and shot a 7, and man, if I could have that shot back I could have done 195 or better and been in High Master territory.  Even if that 7 had broken the 8 line I would have had a personal best at 194.  Oh well.  I also got a little lucky where that high 9 just barely stayed in.  It was also very hot and humid, so I was soaked with sweat under my shooting jacket, which makes the sling and shoulder feel unstable--I found myself breaking position to reset things more often than usual.    Otherwise, as you can see the group is relatively tight in the 10 ring.  It was just one of those days where the shots just circled the X ring.  So I think the concentricity tool may have helped slightly at 600 yards, maybe .25MOA or so.  One thing I am now convinced of is that my rifle and ammo are capable of shooting a "clean" (all 10s), take out the human error and the rifle seems to want to shoot 1MOA or less at 600 yards.  I just need to make that happen.  The load I'm using is a 155gr Nosler HPBT bullet, with 43 grains of 4064, which is a mild load.

It was an overcast day and we got all are shooting in before the storms came, here is a view of the range with the targets hidden in the pits.  You can see the wind flag off to the left, very little wind, mile 3-5 mph gusts that I just waited out and shot during lulls:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday 7/19/13 Maccabiah Results

First of all, thank you to the American readers who responded regarding the bizarre absence of American Jewish shooters at the games.  It seems as if we were simply unaware that shooting sports were available.  Also, there are already thoughts of developing relationships with the Israeli shooting clubs independent of the official Maccabiah Games.  I and others are going to explore all the options, and keep everyone informed.

Long time readers of the blog know that there are many excellent American Jewish international-style shooters we might have seen there.  In the teen and "young adult" category:

Sandra Fong, Danielle Fong, Abigail Fong - With  Sandra notably competing at the Olympic levels.
Hanna Black, Josh Black -  Hanna competes at the collegiate level in Air Rifle, Josh at the junior nationals level in Air Rifle and Pistol.
Jessica Levine - Won national awards at Camp Perry a few years back in smallbore.
Laura Spector - Olympic biathlete.
Sharon Barazani - Up-and-coming international shooter (not sure, she may technically have been born in Israel...?).

Adults:
Dmitriy Shteyman - International pistol disciplines.
Sloane Milstein - Air pistol.
The "Blackhawk Bagel Boys" - An entire 2011 team of Jews at the national championships in smallbore prone.

Sorry if I am forgetting anyone!

This does not even include dozens of American Jews like myself who compete at the amateur levels in center-fire sports, but would still be competitive in an international air or smallbore event.   My readers know this because I've been documenting them for several years now!  There are many Jewish NRA Bullseye shooters who shoot slow fire at 50 yards who I'm sure would do well at 10m Air Pistol, or already do.  Those of us NRA High Power shooters who shoot prone at 600 yards can also shoot a smallbore rifle prone at 50m pretty well.

So let's get to Israel soon and show them what we've got!

On to Friday's results:

10m Air Rifle:
Sergey Richter ISRAEL 626.1
Leor Madlal ISRAEL 625.0
Doron Egozi ISRAEL 607.0
******* HOLLAND 564.9
Gilad Lavochkin GERMANY 521.5
Jeremy Griffiths  MAURITIUS 423.8

10m Air Pistol:
Alex Tripolski ISRAEL 571
Daniel Katz ISRAEL 564
Tamir Adler ISRAEL 554
Gilad Lavochkin GERMANY 552
Vered Zur Panzer GERMANY 530
Roman Gronski CZECH REPUBLIC 517
David Peer SLOVAKIA 456
Robert Gatner CURACAO 377

If you are, or know any of the above shooters, please contact me so I can profile them and add them.  If you are new to the blog, please take the time to browse the right side where all of the profiled Jewish shooters are listed.

Mazal Tov to all the competitors!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Correction and Survey for Maccabiah Games Shooting Sports!

One of our readers in Israel has informed that I was mistaken--there are indeed shooting sports in the 2013 Maccabiah Games!  The events are various international disciplines like air rifle, air pistol, prone rifle and rapid fire pistol. The reader tells me there are 7 shooters from various European countries.  So where are the Americans? Despite being The Jewish Marksman, I had no idea that shooting events were part of the games...I thought shooting had been dropped for lack of interest.  I think other American Jews also did not know.

I know that several of the top tier American Jewish shooters (including Olympians and national champions) have made trips to Israel in the past, and plan on going again in the future.  I have to think they would be happy to combine a trip with a few days of shooting in the Maccabiah Games.  WHAT ABOUT YOU?

I know most of us probably cannot afford the time and expense every year, but what if we organized as many as we could to go every few years?  Please send me an email (jewishmarksman at gmail dot com) if you think you would have interest, and we'll see if we can organize something!

No Shooting Sports at 2013 Maccabiah Games

The 2013 Maccabiah games are about to get underway in Israel, and sadly there are no shooting sports.  Well, that is not entirely correct, as archery is apparently one of the sports.  My understanding is that it has been a number of years since any firearms shooting sport was part of the games, and archery has been off and on.  Interestingly, shooting sports were a part of the 2012 European Maccabiah games, and I did try to reach out to some of the European Jewish shooting sports competitors that participated (there were only a handful), but with no luck.  

As long time readers know, I have always been open to including archery in the blog's coverage, but just have not stumbled across any non-Israeli competitive Jewish archers.  I'll do my best to follow up on the Jewish archers in the 2013 games, but help from readers is always appreciated!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Jewish Marksman on Zimmerman Verdict

צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדּף לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ
אֲשֶׁר־יהוה אֱלהֶיךָ נתֵן לָךְ

"Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your G-d is giving you." (Deut 16:20)
Months ago, it became apparent to me that the state of Florida, the federal government and the media had begun a tyrannical scapegoating campaign against George Zimmerman.  I knew that I was watching a modern day version of the Deryfus affair, or countless other scapegoating campaigns we Jews have suffered for centuries.  Scapegoating in the Torah is the concept of projecting society's sins upon the goat, then casting the goat away to symbolically wash away the sins.  So what sins did society try to pawn off on Zimmerman?  Deep down, those most outraged by the verdict must know that it is certainly possible that Trayvon Martin engaged in inappropriate violence against Zimmerman.  Whether Martin was a violent young man or not, those outraged by the verdict are simply unwilling to accept responsibility for American society's sin of producing violent young men, of all races, by our failing public schools, families, and other institutions we are all responsible for maintaining.  It is so much easier to deny that a violent "gangsta" culture has infiltrated American youth, and blame George Zimmerman for the crisis.  How many times did we see the media show the pictures of Trayvon Martin as a young child, but refuse to show the photos of him exhibiting behaviors advanced by the youth "gangsta" culture?  That is simply unfair and unjust to George Zimmerman.  No, George Zimmerman is not Jewish, but Hashem commands us to seek truth and justice for all.  Although I have voiced criticism of star attorney Alan Dershowitz in the past on this blog, even he agrees that the government's actions here were unjust.  I made a modest donation to Zimmerman's defense fund, and he was kind enough to send me personalized thank you note you see above.

The fiasco surrounding George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin has severely tried my patience with the media, and the public generally.  In the mainstream media and social media, innumerable ignoramuses have blathered on about Florida's self-defense statutes, plainly without any legal training whatsoever, and in many cases, without even bothering to read the laws.  Despite being characterized as "complex," Florida's self-defense laws are simple and straightforward to those who bother to read them.  There are some technical aspects regarding judicial procedure that lawyers may bicker over, but the general principles that citizens need to know are very straightforward.  Here I try and help.  To the intellectually honest who understand the law and objectively examine the facts, it will be obvious that the case against George Zimmerman was doomed from the beginning.

With respect to deadly force in defense of self, Florida statute 776.012 states that a person may use deadly force if that person "reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony."  Re-read that 10 times if necessary, and think about each and every word.  Understanding that sentence is critical to understanding Florida law.  Florida law is not "crazy," to the contrary, it is sane, fair and just.

1.  It is critical to understand that under Florida law, self-defenders are allowed to make reasonable mistakes.  Florida law examines what the defendant could have reasonably believed at the time she used deadly force, not whether deadly force was reasonable had all the facts been known.  This may seem odd at first, but after analysis it is clearly fair and just.  For example, if someone pulls an unloaded gun on you in a threatening manner, in truth they are not a threat to you, but you cannot know that at the time.  Suppose you shoot this person with the unloaded gun, using your loaded gun.  In fact, you have made a very unfortunate mistake as to the reality of the threat.  But, any sane person would agree that under those circumstances, the question is not whether your life was really in danger (it never was, remember--the gun was unloaded), instead, the question is whether you had a reasonable belief that death or great bodily harm was imminent.  In other words, you are allowed to make a reasonable mistake.  On the other hand, suppose a child points a clear plastic squirt gun at you.  You can tell it is only a water pistol, but have some unreasonable belief that the squirt gun is filled with deadly acid.  If you shoot the child, no matter how real the fear was to you subjectively, because the mistake was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances you would be acting unlawfully.

So for example, let's consider the State's allegations that after the fight, the wounds to the back of Zimmerman's head did not look so bad, and a medical professional determined that he did not have a concussion.  It does not matter that these wounds were not "serious bodily harm" after the fact.  What matters is what Zimmerman reasonably believed at the time it was happening.  Notwithstanding that the blows didn't cause any permanent brain damage or death, I think it was reasonable for Zimmerman to fear that at the time, and the six members of the jury obviously agreed.  I know the State tried to argue that the wounds were so light, that at the time Zimmerman was receiving them, he should have known they weren't serious.  I think that argument is ridiculous, and obviously the jurors did too.

2.  It is critical to understand that a perception of an armed attacker is not a prerequisite to responding with deadly force.  Nothing in Florida law states that a defendant's reasonable belief of imminent death or great bodily harm needs to be based on the perceived use of a weapon by the attacker.  Plenty of people have had their skulls bashed in, been strangled, paralyzed, and otherwise brutalized by nothing more than another person's hands.  People who keep repeating the mantra that "Trayvon only had a pack of Skittles" are being intellectually and morally dishonest.  Bare hands can kill, and the real question is to ask exactly what Trayvon was doing with his hands.  Far too many refuse to ask that simple question, and refuse to accept the fact that Martin was indeed engaged in violence with his hands.

2. Florida's "Stand Your Ground" (SYG) probably had nothing to do with the verdict.  (The so-called SYG law includes some procedural rules, but most Floridians understand it only as abrogation of the common law duty to retreat before responding with deadly force).  Under the aforementioned statute, a person "does not have a duty to retreat" in the face of a reasonable belief that death or great bodily harm is imminent.  This is repeated in 776.013(3).  Under the old English common law, a person had a duty to "retreat to the wall" before defending with deadly force, i.e. exploit all reasonably possible means of escape.  This may have sounded good in theory, but in practice the courts found it unworkable, and the second guessing by prosecutors and juries was incredibly unfair to citizens that had otherwise justly defended themselves.  So Florida and some other States did away with the common law, and explicitly removed a duty to retreat.  In most states, within your home you have no duty to retreat.  Florida extends the doctrine to the public square.

Rather than debate the wisdom of SYG, consider that it likely had no bearing on the Zimmerman verdict.  The evidence was clear that Martin had mounted Zimmerman, and thus, retreat was not reasonably possible for Zimmerman.  In other words, even if you think SYG is a terrible law and Zimmerman should have been required to retreat, that is a moot point because Zimmerman couldn't have retreated from under Martin even if he had tried.  SYG was included in the jury instructions, so we'll never know if the jurors agree with me on this point, but I strongly suspect they would, i.e. Zimmerman was trapped under Martin and couldn't have retreated.

3.  Zimmerman's following or "profiling" of Martin is legally irrelevant.  Frankly, I am baffled by the idea that somehow, because Zimmerman followed Martin or was concerned he might be a burglar, Zimmerman was not entitled to defend himself.  Even for those that think Zimmerman started some kind of fist fight or shoving match, under Florida law Zimmerman was still entitled to defend himself.  Specifically, 776.041(2)(a) states that even if Zimmerman "provokes" Martin's use of force by following him, Zimmerman is entitled to defend himself with deadly force if he first tries to escape or defend himself by other means.  Again, the facts show that retreat was impossible at the time Martin began causing Zimmerman to imminently fear for his life (banging his head into the concrete).  So long as Zimmerman did not commit any actual forcible felonies (defined under 776.08) to provoke Martin, Zimmerman was entitled to defend himself.  Shoving, restraining, or taking a single swing is at most, a misdemeanor.  Following someone is not a crime at all (Florida does have a crime of stalking 784.048, but Zimmerman's acts were unlikely stalking by definition, and one-time stalking is only a misdemeanor, and while aggravated stalking is a forcible felony, it occurs only in violation of a restraining order).

Thus, even if you somehow think Martin's acts of violence towards Zimmerman were reasonable (albeit possibly mistaken under the circumstances) because Zimmerman somehow "provoked" Martin,  unless Zimmerman actually committed a forcible felony in the first instance, Zimmerman was entitled to defend himself with deadly force from reasonably perceived deadly force from which he cannot retreat.  Again, this makes sense to reasonable people.  If a person starts a simple fistfight in a bar, she should, with few conditions, be allowed to use deadly force against the defender who responds by jumping on top of her and  pulling out a knife.  Even if you believe Zimmerman started a "scuffle," to argue that once Martin escalated the violence and left Zimmerman no opportunity to retreat, Zimmerman should not have been allowed to take action to stop his fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm is unreasonable.

As far as I can tell, nobody who paid attention to the evidence seriously believes that Zimmerman committed a forcible felony to "provoke" Martin.  However, it is not entirely clear to me why no instructions relating to 776.041(2)(a) were included in the jury instructions.  Perhaps nobody thought of it, or perhaps the defense did not want to plant any seed with the jury that Zimmerman may have provoked Martin, despite the fact that the State seemed to go with that theory.

4. The initial decision by the local police force not to arrest Zimmerman.  In most states, if you shoot someone in lawful self-defense, you will still be arrested nearly 100% of the time.  Whether you will be later charged with murder is another story, but initial arrest is almost always certain.  The police are not required to consider whether or not you acted in self-defense, and rarely will.  In Florida, things are slightly different.  776.032 prohibits Florida police from arresting unless they believe they have probable cause that the shooting was not justifiable by self-defense.  They can continue to investigate and gather evidence, but they cannot arrest until they have probable cause.  "Probable cause" is an elusive concept.  There is Florida and federal case law discussing the concept at length, but I like to tell people that in layman's terms it means "reasonably possible."  This is a very low standard, much lower than "beyond reasonable doubt" that is required to convict at trial.  So technically, one could say the police should not have arrested Zimmerman until they believed it "reasonably possible" that his claim of self-defense was unsupported.  After reviewing the evidence at trial, I believe this decision could have gone either way, and do not fault the Sanford police for their decision.  There is no statutory bar against the State for simply bringing charges.  However, defendants are entitled to an immunity hearing, which essentially tries the case in front of judge solely to first determine if it will ever go to a jury.  Although it would seem that a defendant has nothing to lose by seeking such a hearing, there are complex strategical reasons why some defendants, like Zimmerman, might choose to forego the hearing.  We'll never know if Zimmerman's defense team made the right choice by forgoing the immunity hearing, but it all worked out in the end.

5. The burden is always on the State to prove guild beyond a reasonable doubt, including that the shooting was not in self defense.  An incredible number of Americans seem to refuse to acknowledge that our system functions on the principle that the State must prove its case to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt.  This includes proving that Zimmerman's self-defense claim is unreasonable (technically, a defendant must only make a prima facia case of self-defense, then the State must rebut it to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt).  It is not enough that a juror thinks the defendant is probably guilty, rather, the juror's perception must be that there are no reasonable doubts whatsoever.  How any rational person could examine the actual evidence (not the lies and half-truths told by the media) and not have reasonable doubts (and in fact believe Zimmerman is innocent) is beyond me.

6. Potential for Federal case against Zimmerman
Yes, there are federal criminal laws against committing violence against someone solely based on their race.  But the FBI investigation conducted at the outset of the case revealed Zimmerman was not racially motivated, nor was he a racist. The news outlet NBC is now the subject of a civil trial because they intentionally edited the 911 tapes to make Zimmerman appear racist.  In fact, Zimmerman never used any racial slurs, instead he only identified Martin as black because the 911 operator specifically asked about Martin's race.  Frankly, I am shocked that the American public is not more outraged by NBC's behavior.  Nothing Eric Holder's DOJ does surprises me, but bringing a federal case against Zimmerman would only make things worse the (misinformed) angry public, because Zimmerman would undoubtedly win that case.

7. Potential for Civil Case against Zimmerman
In theory, Martin's parents could pursue a wrongful death claim under 768.16-26.  The theory would be that Zimmerman was somehow negligent or reckless, and that negligence was the proximate cause of Martin's death.  However, not only would self-defense be a defense to that claim, Florida adopts the concept of comparative negligence, i.e. Martin could be found to also have been negligent (or reckless) and his percentage of negligence would reduce Zimmerman's liability.  But perhaps most importantly, 776.032 actually shifts attorneys fees to Zimmerman if he prevails in a self-defense claim.  Normally, plaintiffs attorneys are eager to take wrongful death cases on contingency...they and the plaintiffs have nothing to lose, and would normally not have to pay a defendant's attorneys fees regardless of the outcome.  However, in this case if Martin's parents lose their claim against Zimmerman, they could be obligated to pay Zimmerman's attorneys fees!  That might make them and any attorney think twice about bringing the case, given that the theory of the case has already failed in front of a jury of six mothers.

I hope this post sheds some light on the laws of Florida that affected the outcome of the case.  It is important as Jews that we speak out against persecution of all kinds.  Just because the mainstream media and the government have attacked George Zimmerman does not make him guilty in any way, shape, or form.  Jews who know their history should know better.  Baruch Hashem, George Zimmerman is finally on the path to the justice he deserves.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Israeli Mauser Watch: Remarkable Israeli Mauser on Gunbroker

Right now on Gunbroker.com is a classic example of the type of Israeli Mauser that I really like, perhaps the best I've seen online.  German-made receiver, Stars of David stamps on the receiver and carved into the stock, stamped out Nazi markings, matching bolt and receiver, sling, grenade launcher.  Lots of pictures so check it out (click to visit)!

Also there is Hebrew word on the receiver and stock, and I'm not quite sure what it means, or if it is an acronym.  I can't tell if the letters are מכלן or מפלן so perhaps one of my readers can help read and translate the markings.

With two days left in the auction, bidding has reached $650.  I suspect it will go for $900-$1200.

As always, buyer beware!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jewish Marksman Shoots Another Personal Best

Over the weekend I competed in a 100 yd NRA High Power match.  I shot a 199-6x in the prone stage (laying on the ground with a sling), which is a personal best for me at 100yd.  In 100 yard matches, the 600 yard target ends up with a 1.75" diameter 10 ring and 0.75" X-ring.  You get credit for the higher point if your hole touches the ring line, so you can see that I probably benefited slightly by using .30 cal bullets ;-)  The hole circled in red was the one that got away.

A few interesting things to point out.  First, this was the first outing with ammo that I "fixed" using my new Hornady concentricity tool.  Within the green circle there are roughly 12 shots,  and I've never shot a group this tight at 100 with this rifle.  I really did not expect the concentricity tool to improve much at 100, but I think it did.  Maybe a .5 minute adjustment to the right and I might have squeezed in a clean 200.  Hopefully this will carry over to the 600 yard line later this month.  The second remarkable point is that although I practice on the SCATT system several times a week, I almost never practice prone or sitting (only off hand), and haven't for several months.  Nonetheless, my prone and sitting scores keep getting noticeably better in matches.  Meanwhile, my off hand scores, while ever-increasing in practice, a sinking and unpredictable in matches, primarily due to nervousness at the outset of a match.  It confirms the belief that skills gained in offhand carry over to other positions, I just need to get my head on right in the off hand phase.  I'll write more about the mental management training I've been exploring in future posts.

Third, I think the biggest factor is my becoming more particular and consistent with head position on the rifle, and maintaining it during a shot.  I've tightened up my cheek weld slightly, and maybe become slightly more concerned with keeping consistent head position than whether the bull is perfectly centered.  I think the outer 10s and the 9 came when I got a tired and a little sloppy with head position, although I still find that after 12 shots or so my body wants to fight that .308 recoil, and I start to anticipate the muzzle blast.  That is why the shots tend to go up from that centering point.  I think the next match I will take a 2 or 3 minute break after the first 10 shots to allow my body to recover and see if that helps.