Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Chanukah is over this year, but its never too late to discuss an interesting menorah. The above was created by a Jewish marksman who needed to improvise on short notice. Some .45ACP and .44Special casings came in handy.
(I've wanted to make one like this for some time, just haven't had time. When we have kids it will make a great arts and crafts project!)
Check out the craftsman's blog at: http://zayinkislev.blogspot.com
Monday, November 16, 2009
"It's a fact we had 12 tough rounds, but thank God every time I got back into the ring for more I said prayers in my heart, and it worked," he said after the fight. "If you ask me what my strength is, I'll tell you it's in my brain. I run around the ring and keep thinking. I think I need to prove to everyone, not just myself, to the whole world that Jews know how to fight, that Jews know how to give a good fight and not surrender. I said it right after the fight, when they pushed the microphones at me and the cameras clicked. I said I wanted to prove that Jews are not a weak people that can be made to bend down and surrender, that Jews know how to fight and win. Actually, there are a lot of Jewish champions in the history of sports."
More information here. Official website here.
Monday, October 26, 2009
There is a blurry division within the sport shooting world between competitive target shooters and hunters. Typically, you find people that competitively shoot targets of some sort, people that hunt, and a small intersection of those groups that do both. Again, I have no statistics, but from being in the firearms community for a while I can say that there are "tons" of shooters who have no interest in hunting. If you don't want to be exposed to hunting, and/or don't want your nice Jewish boy or girl exposed to it, it is definitely not going to be rammed down your throat by anyone. In fact, I'm sure you'll find that many target shooters are opposed to hunting for various reasons.
I do not hunt, nor do I have any interest in hunting. I love the outdoors, and it would probably be fun to stalk an animal and tag it with a paint bullet if they ever make a paint bullet accurate enough for that. But I don't think taking down a deer, bird or other animal for sport would sit well with me. For me, a metallic silhouette match is more than enough animal plinking fun.
I don't have anything against hunters or hunting. Nowadays, hunters are the real environmentalists in our society and play a crucial role in ecosystems where natural predators have been driven to extinction (often by suburban sprawl). They keep the game animal stocks healthy, because otherwise they would overpopulate and be subject to disease and starvation. Hunters are the only reason we have large open wild spaces left in this country--they're the ones willing to pay to keep the land from getting developed. In these ways, hunters save far more animal lives than they take. But generally speaking, most Torah scholars I have read suggest hunting is forbidden, or at least frowned on. But again, I'm fine with it, I just choose not to.
Sorry for the digression. My point was, if you are considering taking up target shooting, do not feel there will ever be any peer pressure for you to take up hunting. Competitive target shooting is really a separate world from hunting, even within the NRA.
Friday, October 16, 2009
"When I was in my routine training for the Israeli army as a teenager, they discovered completely by chance that I was a lethal sniper. I could hit the target smack in the center further away than anyone could believe. Not just that, even though I was tiny and not even much of an athlete, I was incredibly accurate throwing hand grenades too. Even today I can load a Sten automatic rifle in a single minute, blindfolded."
Friday, October 9, 2009
I promised I'd post on some of the ways that marksmanship contributes to our spirituality. I've previously blogged about the fact that marksmanship is, in some ways, integrated into our concept of Torah. My way of thinking about it is that there are many ways to study Torah, we each have our own learning styles, and for some people marksmanship is a great medium to better Torah understanding. So here are my thoughts on what we learn about Torah from using "open" sights.
Open sights, or as some people call them, "iron sights", is a generic term for a firearm that uses aiming posts attached to the gun as opposed to a telescopic, lens based system. In other words, if the firearm doesn't have a scope mounted on it, its aimed using iron sights, one at the back of the barrel and one up front near the muzzle. I compete with iron sights exclusively.
One of the "secrets" of becoming an accurate shooter is to never focus your eyes on the target. No, that's not a typo. To be a great shooter, you focus your eye on the front sight of the firearm. The rear sight (closest to you) and the target will be blurry and out of focus if you are doing it correctly. The picture above is the sight picture I strive to have when my 10m air pistol goes off. I'm sure to score a 10 when it does, even though my eye is not focused on the target at all. In another post I'll discuss why front-sight focus is so important, but if you recall any of your high school geometry you can probably figure it out on your own. If you're not a marksman, just trust me that when the eye focuses on the target, instead of the front sight, the shot will almost always miss the mark.
But front-sight focus is not easy. Even the best shooters report a constant, subconscious desire to look and focus directly on the target. Of course, its human nature to want to see and appreciate your goal in front of you. In fact, its human nature to think we can just look at our goal directly, keep it in focus, and somehow will it into happening. Maintaining front-sight focus is a constant battle for marksmen. It requires faith in your understanding of the art of shooting, and to reject your instinct to focus on the target.
To me, the front sight is like Torah. We all have targets in life, whether to be a better person, to be successful in business, to relax more, to raise wonderful children, etc. But if we just look at the target, and focus on the target, it will never happen. Only G-d can will something into existence. You might wake up tomorrow and say, "I want to be a better person," and truly have that desire, but the desire is meaningless. What is a better person? How do you become a better person? What is a good person? The fact is as human beings, we can never really know these answers with clarity and sharpness. Our targets should all have gray edges that are slightly out of focus. Each of us have eyes that will see the target slightly differently.
But Torah is our front sight. If we try to stay focused on Torah, and accept the fact that our targets will be blurry, if we pull the trigger with Torah in focus and properly aligned, the shot will naturally hit our target all on its own. Torah will give you some idea of what a good person is, how to become a better one, how to raise children, how to be successful, but it won't provide you with perfect clarity on what those targets really look like. But if you focus on Torah, and try to have clarity with Torah, and allow those targets to blur into the background, your life will naturally arrive at those destinations you wanted. There are things in Torah that are counter to some of our instincts, counter to things that that secular society tells us. But if we focus on the front sight, keep the sights aligned and trust our shot will reach its mark by shooting in that manner, all our shots will be in the X-ring.
And with that, Shabat Shalom!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The AR-15 rifle platform, like the Jewish people, has suffered similar discrimination and oppression, such as being subjected to discriminatory dress codes, exiled from certain lands, and used as a scapegoat by politicians. Today it is accused of being an evil "assault" rifle. Now for the truth about the AR-15.
The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle. It is NOT an automatic "machine" gun. What's the difference? Simple. For our purposes, a semi-auto rifle or pistol will fire one (and ONLY ONE) round for each pull of the trigger. A full auto machine gun will fire multiple rounds for as long as you hold down the trigger. Wait a minute, you say...one round every time you pull the trigger? Well that's just like every gun I know...what's so bad about that? The answer: nothing. Remember, I said that there are many misconceptions floating around about the AR-15.
The AR-15 is no more powerful than other hunting and target rifles. The most popular round for AR-15 use is .223 Remington, which is readily available at Wallmart. Wait a minute you say, it doesn't use any special "assault" ammunition? Nope. Again, misconceptions.
So what's all the fuss about? Why have the anti-gun crowd maligned the AR-15? Why do they want to ban it?
Answer: because of its cosmetic appearance. That's the only reason. It looks like what an uninformed person thinks an "assault" rifle looks like, so the knee-jerk reaction is to ban it. It does look like the military M16, but it is not an M16. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has recently produced a video to help educate the public on the true nature of the AR-15. But because much of the public doesn't know any better, politicians still use the cosmetics of the AR-15 to their advantage and scapegoat the rifle to placate their anti-gun supporters. Now you know better.
Should you own an AR-15? Let's put it this way, the AR-15 is the rifle you want in your family just in case they do try to round up the Jews again. It is simple to use, extremely accurate, extremely versatile, extremely rugged. As long as there is an anti-gun lobby in the US, AR-15 rifles are going to hold their value extremely well, although at the moment certain configurations may be a bit overpriced.
However, I don't think its a good choice for a first rifle. I think the novice will be much better served by a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic that fires .22LR. It is much less expensive to own and shoot, and a great platform to develop basic rifle marksmanship on if one prefers a semi-auto over a bolt action rifle.
I have recently started using the AR-15 for target competition, and will post about that soon.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
But remember, when you buy at a gun shop, you're paying retail. Don't be a schmuck! Very often gun shops, like pawn shops, might have a good deal on a used gun. But new guns, almost never. So let me explain to you how to save hundreds of dollars. They key is you must understand the concept of an "FFL transfer".
Once you figure out which make and model of gun you want (gun shops and rental ranges are great for "test drives"), you can shop around on the Internet. I've had great success with sites like GunBroker.com, GunsAmerica.com, and GalleryOfGuns.com (try various local zip codes with their GunGenie...). These sites are basically like ebay or craigslist, but with guns!
When you find the gun you want at the best price online, the next step is to find a local FFL transfer agent. An FFL transfer agent is a federally licensed agent who can receive the firearm for you, run the necessary background checks and take care of other legal requirements, and then transfer the gun to you. The charge is usually somewhere between $25 and $50 per transfer, and most gun shops and pawn shops that sell guns will do it, shop around for the best transfer price. Your FFL will communicate with the seller and make sure all the i's are dotted and t's get crossed. Yes, very often even after you pay shipping and FFL transfer fees you will probably save significantly over the retail price.
Sometimes, just by showing you're a sophisticated buyer you can negotiate down the price more effectively with the gun shop. If you show them you know you can get the same gun for hundreds less via an FFL transfer from a wholesale Internet dealer, they are more likely to be willing to wheel and deal. Figure you're break even if you pay a local shop the Internet price plus shipping and FFL fee, plus maybe a little for their trouble.
As for advice from the gun shop sales people, its hit and miss. There are a lot of uninformed jerks who just want to make a commission. A good test is to ask if the salesman is also a certified NRA instructor. However, by and large, I think you're better off talking with experienced shooters on one of the many Internet forums, and don't rely on gun shop sales people too much. There are exceptions, and usually its the case that the owner is the guy/gal you want to deal with.
The only real gun shop "etiquette" you need to know is to always ask permission before you dry fire a gun, and ask the safe direction to point it when you do. Also, when the salesman hands you a gun for examination, insist he show you that it is unloaded. Most salesmen will do this automatically, but you'd be surprised how many idiots don't. Never, ever trust that someone is handing you an unloaded gun unless you've seen so yourself...no matter who it is.
Lastly, if you can, it always helps to bring along a knowledgeable chaver (friend)!
UPDATE: Scroll down for Stuart's comments and advice...excellent insights! As he says, the Internet is the place for accessories like magazines and holsters. Check your local laws (especially in the Peoples' Republik of Kalifornia) but usually it is perfectly legal to have any non-serialized (usually only one part on the gun bears the serial number) gun part shipped directly to you. The same goes for bulk ammunition purchases, you can save a bundle by ordering online. Several thousand rounds of your favorite ammunition will probably fit in a space no bigger than shoebox in your closet. Occasionally, you can find deals at local gun shows as well.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Air rifles and pistols are great first "guns," and great last guns if you still believe good Jewish boys and girls aren't supposed to have real guns. Both 10m rifle and pistol are Olympic sports, and great fun for all ages. The NRA has an air rifle program for juniors, and kids can compete at the regional and national levels.
The rifles aren't toys...your Jewish mother will still be worried because you can put someone's eye out...the pellets leave the muzzle around 600 feet-per-second. Learn to handle them safely. They can kill small rodents, and some people use these rifles for that. Target pellets usually won't penetrate drywall. Traps are usually made of steel, but some people get by with a cardboard box filled with rags. You can also use putty in a box, and then there won't be any sound upon pellet impact.
This evening I shot the target above that will serve well for discussion. There are actually four shots in that hole in the middle. But I flubbed a 7 (any shot that breaks the higher scoring line is awarded the higher point). Consider that all five shots fit within a dime, but my score on that target was not so good. Is that kind of challenge up your alley?
Getting started in 10m rifle is relatively easy. First you need a rifle intended for 10m competition. I'm going to throw some big numbers at you, but relax...think Total Cost of Ownership. Smart Jews buy used cars, or luxury cars that hold their value. The same approach can be applied to firearms. You can buy a high end model and sell it a few years later for about what you paid, or you can find a real bargain in the used market and enjoy high-end luxury at a discount.
I use a Feinwerkbau 300S (German) that I bought used for a little over $400. 20 years ago it was the top of the line Olympic rifle that sold for twice that. New 10m rifles from Feinwerkbau or Steyr (Austrian) go for about $1500, but you can find them used. My rifle is charged by a lever that cocks a spring piston, whereas the "modern" technology is an aluminum cylinder you fill off of a scuba tank. There are a few American 10m rifles, but they tend to fall short in the quality of the trigger. If you're considering a 10m rifle for a junior, keep in mind the NRA has rules about which 10m rifles are legal for certain matches, i.e. some makes and configurations are allowed and some aren't, so do your homework first.
Once you have the rifle, your costs are minimal after that to get started. You just need pellets, which are really cheap at about $5-$10 for 500. Over time if you get competitive you can add more gear. You can practice at home, even if you don't have a 10m line you can use a shorter distance and just scale down the target for practice.
Youtube has some videos you can check out and see a 10m match in action, but honestly if you're not a participant, watching a match can be like watching paint dry. If you're interested in learning more about 10m air rifle or pistol (I'll blog about pistol soon), drop me a line, I'll be glad to help.
Friday, October 2, 2009
What many people don't know (even most Jews who belong to the NRA) is that recent past NRA president Sandra Froman was Jewish! The article gives Froman's response to her anti-gun critics:
Predictably, Froman has a different take, one that she considers legitimately Jewish.
"Our history teaches us that it is our obligation to ensure that there is justice," she said. "And I believe that people have an obligation to protect themselves, to protect their own lives, to protect the lives of their families. And you can't do that unless you have the means of self-defense."
Froman added: "There was a saying when the Colt 1851 revolver was invented that G-d created men, but Colt made them all equal."
Did you know that the word for sin in Hebrew - chet - comes from the sport of archery? So does the word Torah, which refers to the Old Testament scrolls and the text they contain.
When on Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, Jews all over the world recite over and over again in the holiday liturgy the words "al chet," which are usually translated as "the sin," what they are really saying is "the missed mark." Hebrew has no real word for sin. There are one or two other words that refer to what we think of as sin, but none that actually mean "sin" per se.
The word Torah means to take aim. Thus, the Torah teaches us to take aim. And sometimes we take aim and miss the mark.
What's the bull's eye? Judaism has 613 mitzvot (commandments), and while observant Jews try to hit them all, most Jews do not. All those mitzvot are meant to help us sharpen our aim. Torah teaches us how to aim in a righteous manner and in a spiritual manner. And each time we aim and shoot, each time we try to hit the target by performing a mitzvah (singular of mitzvot), we remember G-d. We aim towards G-d. If we hit the bull's eye or even come close, we actually connect with G-d. That's what Torah and mitzvot are all about.
For me, marksmanship has definitely served as the right medium to expand my understanding of Jewish thought and Torah. If you're of like mind and can share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via email. I will begin adding my own insights in future blog posts.
Monday, September 28, 2009
1. Jews are not mechanically inclined. We call the handyman to change a light bulb. Then we complain that its too bright.
2. We expect our Jewish mothers (or wives) to clean up after us.
3. We're cheap!
Now before you report me to the ADL, keep in mind there are many exceptions. For example, my wife will testify under oath that I own and use power tools around the house, and I still have all my fingers (sometimes I actually succeed in fixing something!). However, she'll also tell you (2) and (3) still apply.
So taking these things about ourselves into consideration, the perfect first gun to defend our Jewish homes is a revolver. All kidding aside, I recommend revolvers for home defense to everyone, no matter what their level of firearms experience.
What do revolvers offer that other platforms do not? Most people can figure out how to load a revolver without any instruction. To use it, just aim and pull the trigger. No safeties to forget under stress, no jams to clear, no failures-to-feed, and if you ever have a "dud" (primer fails to fire the round), just pull the trigger again. Revolvers tend to be a little heavier than other systems, which makes them easier to shoot because there is less felt recoil. Revolvers require very little care. I'm never going to tell you not to clean it, but the truth is many revolvers can go thousands of rounds without any cleaning or oil, and still function when called on.
Also, revolvers are very easy to train new shooters on. They can be dry-fired on empty (check three times to make sure your gun is not loaded, i.e. all chambers of the cylinder are empty, before you do this at home) repeatedly, whereas other platforms require you to reset the hammer every shot. When you're at the range you can randomly load spent cases into the cylinder, which will allow you to see whether or not you're flinching (a very common problem for new and experienced shooters alike). Revolvers can also be fit with laser aiming devices for farsighted shooters, and lasers are also are great for dry fire training. If you don't want the gun loaded in the house, there are devices called speed loaders that are simple to use in emergencies.
Which revolver? For the home, a great solution is the Smith and Wesson 686, with a 4" barrel, chambered in .357 magnum. These can be had new for less than $600, and used for $400 and up. Speaking from experience, S&W's customer service is excellent. The great thing about a .357 is that it will also chamber rounds called "38 special". 38 specials are the same diameter as a .357 round, but the case is shorter and the round is less powerful. You can practice with 38 specials, because they are cheaper than .357 ammunition and will not produce as much recoil. You can experiment with your own abilities to accurately use "full house" .357 ammunition, or you can choose to load your gun with 38 specials or 38+P and still have a round with very effective stopping power.
With a revolver, your brass (spent cartridge) remains in the cylinder. When you go to the range, bring a coffee can or put your brass back into the bullet box...don't leave it on the floor at the range. Why? Because there are shooters who will pay you for your once-fired brass! Competition shooters re-load their own ammunition, and once-fired 38 special cases are a great find. Don't be shy to ask for $1 per 50 empty cases, but be willing to take as low as $0.50 depending where you live. Think of it as a dollar off coupon when you buy ammo! (Just make sure that selling spent brass casings is legal where you live.)
Sunday, September 27, 2009
There is no simple answer. First and foremost, do your homework and don't rush into any equipment purchases until you've sought out tons of advice and know what you're getting into.
The most important thing is to find someone knowledgeable about shooting sports in general, and have a long talk with them. There are so many different shooting disciplines that finding one appropriate for your personality and circumstances is an individual quest.
There is a great resource on line in PDF format, called The Art of Shooting. It is a long book, but will give you an overview of many of the different modern shooting disciplines. Give it a good skimming, and absorb what you can.
An important consideration will also be what facilities are available in your local area. Go online and use search engines to locate local clubs. Finding a good club is also crucial, because it will be a source of shared knowledge, equipment, and of course camaraderie.
If you need help, of course I am glad to help. Simply post a comment here or email me jewishmarksman at gmail dot com.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
"Jews are not like Christians," Moscowitz said. "If I turn my cheek, I'm coming around to make a kick."Check out DoubleTapper's blog for pictures of armed congregants at a synagogue in Israel.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
My sister-in-law is a nice Jewish girl, proudly married to active service Navy man. She's been staying in town while he's at sea, so we were finally able to get her to the range. It was her first time to ever fire a gun.
My wife turned out to be a natural marksman (markswoman?), and I guess it runs in her family. Or maybe I'm just a great instructor? We started her sister out with an air pistol, and in no time she was using my Bullseye pistols like a pro. She shot a Ruger MKIII in .22LR, 38 specials out of a S&W 686, and finally .45ACP from a 1911.
These were a couple of her targets, all from about 50 feet, which is quite a distance for a first-timer. The best part of the story is that we scanned her targets in and sent them as email attachments to her husband at sea, and he and the crew got a kick out of it. Apparently the rest of the crew delighted in teasing him that his 95lb. wife can out shoot him!
So come on fellow Jewish marksmen, make 5770 the year YOU convert another nice Jewish boy or girl to our tribe!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Competitive shooters offer a different perspective on this chapter of David's life. Many people probably assume the story implies that G-d guided David's stone into Goliath's head--they view the shot as a sort of biblical miracle. I don't see it that way. David had probably grown up using a sling daily to drive predators away from his flock. He probably had lots of time to practice out in the middle of nowhere with his flock, slinging away at distant targets to pass the time and focus his mind (we target shooters know that shooting practice clears the mind and develops mental focus). David probably already had the skill necessary to make his Goliath-stopping shot prior to the encounter.
But hitting X's in practice is one thing, hitting them under pressure is something altogether different! Few shooters are able to shoot as well under the pressure of competition as they shoot in a practice session. The pulse rate rises, the hands might tremor, vision changes, breathing gets shorter, and the weapon just feels different in your hands. It takes time and experience to overcome these problems, all of which are entirely self induced, and often the manifestation of hidden self-doubts. I've never been hunting or in the military, but I would imagine the first time you have a living thing in your sights, the pressure is even greater. All too often, the result is a terrible shot.
But David had none of these problems. If you are a Jewish marksman, reread this story you once read as a child. Put yourself in David's shoes, and try to discover how he was able to make the shot. Please post your comments and insights on the blog!
(If any scholars can point out an earlier example of Jewish marksmanship, please leave a citation in the comments! I vaguely remember there may be reference to archers somewhere in the Torah...)