An announcement from the management

March 23, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Blog Management 

When I began “Newbie Shooter”, my original vision was to provide a resource for new shooters to get all the information that I wished I had when I stated shooting.  Over the last few months, it has come to my attention that I’ve strayed a bit from that initial vision and gotten into a lot more politics and other topics than I originally intended.

I’ve decided to refocus on newbies, and split off the non-newbie topics into a separate blog.  So, it is with great pleasure that I announce Armed Computer Geek.  Now I can have two blogs that I don’t update enough!

Carolina Sporting Arms fail

March 16, 2010 by · 12 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

*UPDATE*  CSA has gone out of their way to fix this.  Update is here.

I had a bit of an unfortunate situation today.  I recently picked up a fairly difficult to find handgun off of…a Glock 20SF.  I usually buy locally, but this time I decided to just get it off of the Internet.  After I won the acution, I called Carolina Sporting Arms to ask them to do the transfer.  The gentleman that answered the phone was very cagey, and asked me what the gun that I was transferring was.  I told him, and he told me that it was “store policy” not to do transfers on new guns.  I asked him if he had a Glock 20SF, and he replied “No, not in stock.”  I pointed out that they had done a transfer for me in the past, and he said that they will sometimes do them for “good customers.”  Now, I’ve spent well into four figures in this shop in the past year.  I told the gentleman this, and he told me to “Come into the shop and we would see what we could do.”

No thanks.  I went over to Firepower, Inc. in Matthews and got the transfer done in about 30 seconds.  I bought a gun, too, in a fit of pique.  (I normally do most of my shopping at Firepower…great prices, great people.  CSA was on the way to school, though.  And, before this, I had never had a problem with CSA.)  But, honestly, at this point I was pissed.

Now, you have to understand, I am not a complainer.  I eat food in restaurants that is not cooked properly.  I’m the first guy to say “It’s ok” even when it is not.  But this time, I was pissed.  So, I got in the car and drove over to CSA, and asked to speak to a manager.  I got to the manager, who it turns out is the guy in the shop that I know pretty well.  He knows who I am, and how often I shop there.  I explained that I had called to inquire about a transfer and had gotten the runaround.  I said that I was disappointed.  He replied, “Store policy is no new gun transfers.  You have to understand the position that we are in…” I cut him off and replied “<name>, I know.  I get that you have to support your local gun shop.  I buy ammo here, not at Walmart.  You know that I am in here at least every other week.  If you had had the gun, I would have bought it here.  But you didn’t.  I was just upset that I had to go through this.”

That is when he ‘fessed up.  He was the guy I had spoken to.  “If I knew it was you, there wouldn’t have been any problem.  That’s why I told you to come into the shop.”

Sorry, guys.  I get the desire to sell guns at retail.  But you can’t make you customers feel like they are somehow screwing you by using your services.  If you think you need more margin on transfers, then increase the price of transfers.  In my mind, you get $40 for a few minutes paperwork, without any inventory overhead at all.  In fact, you should be JUMPING at the opportunity to do transfers.  $40 for ten minutes work is $240 an hour.  With essentially zero variable cost.  And, I would probably have bought a holster and ammo at whatever your regular markup is.  The MBA in me wants to jump at that business model.  And, when I complain, don’t tell me I am wrong and that I don’t understand the business.  You took a very good customer and pissed him off.

Bottom line, it will be a LONG while before I spend money at Carolina Sporting Arms again.  I still strongly recommend Firepower, though.  Ask for Steve and tell them Newbie Shooter sent you.

Guest Post: Visiting the Sconce

March 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Gunsite, History 

After the end of our Gunsite class, we were invited to visit Mrs. Cooper in her home. One of my fellow Gunsite students, JT, wrote this excellent reflection on the experience:

At the conclusion of our week long training at Gunsite, the entire class was invited to the residence of Mrs. Cooper–I shan’t call her Janelle without a direct and personal invitation to do so–for refreshments.

A gaggle of dusty, hot and tired students trudged unceremoniously up to the home built by Gunsite’s founder, the late Colonel Jeff Cooper. We were warmly greeted by Mrs. Cooper, and welcomed to look around. Mrs. Cooper was as gracious and charming a hostess as I’ve ever seen. To her, class and warmth and grace come naturally.

The views from the deck are priceless, stretching out over the vast expanse of valley to distant mountains. But the real majesty of this house lies inside.

A cross between a museum and library, gun vault and shrine, the interior of the Sconce (meaning a small, detached fort), as Mrs. Cooper’s home is known, is as magnificent as the views outside.

Col Cooper had a vast library of books, to match his varied interests, and a few singular mementos. Of course, it almost goes without saying that trophies taken around the world and firearms–each with some particular significance–were there, as well; I will leave them for others to describe in greater detail.

Photographs of Col. and Mrs. Cooper, along with other family members, line the walls and shelves. Mrs. Cooper is, by any measure, a devoted spouse and her love for her husband is evident in almost every thing she does. The attention she devotes to his memory borders on worship. Yet, who can blame her? Col. Cooper was, in many respects, larger than life, and a true American hero.

The entire home is, in effect, a tribute to Col. Cooper, from its site to its construction to its contents.

But perhaps the greatest tribute to the late Col. Cooper is not some object or saying or slogan or view, no matter how spectacular. The greatest tribute to Col. Cooper is that his legacy of preparing–one class at a time–Gunsite students to defend themselves and their loved ones from violent criminals is both ongoing and enduring.

Thanks, JT, for the thoughtful post!

Gunsite Day 1

March 15, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Gunsite 

This is part of my series on my Gunsite experience.  Part 1 is here.

Lewis and I woke up early on Monday morning to the jazzy music of his cell phone alarm.  (Seriously, buddy…5 am?  Is that truly necessary?)  We both got geared up.  I had not brought my range bag due to space limitations, so I stuffed my backpack with everything I thought I would need.  Eyes, spare eyes, ears, spare ears, gloves, sweatshirt, gun belt, spare gun belt, two kinds of holsters…I think I over packed a little.

We were not exactly sure where we were going, so we left early.  After a few wrong turns (turn left.  No, your other left.) we managed to find our way to the road that we needed to be on.  We had a little spare time, and so we decided to stop at a reliable breakfast choice: McDonalds.  Unfortunately, the woman in front of us in the drive-through must have ordered food for the entire population of Chino Valley, because it took her like 15 minutes to get her food.  This put us back behind schedule.  We found the turn we were looking for, and got onto West Gunsite Road.

West Gunsite Road is a four mile or so dirt road that leads to the school.  On this particular day, it was soaked through with the prior night’s snowfall, and was essentially all mud.  Following Lewis’ advice for driving in mud (“Whatever you do, don’t stop!”) got us up to the school, and we got the first glimpse of the gates.

Gunsite gate

Clearly this picture was not taken on the day in question, but you get the idea.

We made our way to the classroom and got ready to begin.

We entered our classroom, and a pile of paperwork was waiting for us.  It was what you might expect…guns are dangerous, don’t sue us, if you commit safety violations we are shipping your ass home.

The demographics of the class were interesting.  The class consisted of twenty people, sixteen male and four female.  We had two husband and wife couples.  I think we had four doctors, three nurses, four computer geeks, two Greek bodyguards, and one DEA agent.

Our rangemaster, Jerry, introduced himself as well as his fellow instructors: LaMonte, Chuck, and Hutch.  All of them had impressive resumes, including police experience, SWAT experience and other interesting things.  One was a former SEAL.  Each of these guys were very professional, very friendly, simply excellent teachers.  With such a impressive backgrounds, you would expect them to perhaps be a little intimidating.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They were amazingly helpful, and very perceptive on how to correct shooters.  More on that later.

The classroom lectures began with a quick history of Gunsite and the goals of the school.  Gunsite does not shy away from the fact that they are a gun fighting school.  Make no mistake…these guys are teaching you how to defend your life with a firearm.

The class quickly moved into the basics of shooting.  Gunsite does not assume any prior experience with firearms.  Maybe another way to say it is that they want to get everyone on the same page.  Therefore, we began with the four rules of gun safety:

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover something you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the target until your sights are on the target.
  4. Always be sure of your target.

These rules are posted everywhere at the school.  And I mean everywhere. These guys take their safety seriously.

We also reviewed the proper sight picture, how to press the trigger and how to load and unload the gun.  This last part was important.  Gunsite runs a hot facility.  At the end of each range session, we are told to “put the gun in the condition you want it in when you leave the range.”  The school doesn’t particularly care what condition that is, loaded or unloaded.  The only rule is that the gun stays in the holster until you are at the range.  I was very impressed that attitude, and I never saw any example of unsafe gun handling.

And with that, maybe an hour and a half into the class, we were off to the range.

Five days at Gunsite-Prologue

March 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Gunsite 

As the plane touched down in Phoenix, I felt a flash of excitement and anticipation.  It had been three years in the making, but I was really doing it!  I was going to Gunsite!

The story begins last December.  I had wanted to make it out to Gunsite for a few years, but with a small child at home it had been a bit of a challenge.  I had gotten some downtime, and had some spare cash, and decided that I would finally make it out to Gunsite for a class: 250 Defensive Pistol.  I didn’t want to go alone, and so I asked a friend and colleague if he wanted to join me.  Lewis had recently begun shooting, and I suspected he might be interested.  His email came back in about 30 seconds: absolutely!

I called Gunsite, and spoke to a very nice woman named Jane Ann.  She answered all of my questions, and emailed me an application.  This presented the first hurdle.  Gunsite requires either a concealed carry permit or a statement from local law enforcement that you have no criminal history in order to register.  I had my CCW permit, but Lewis did not.  Jane Ann said no problem…just bring it with you when you come.  Lewis applied for his Washington CCW, and had it two weeks later.  (Gotta love Washington…no class required, and very quick turnaround.)

The next few weeks were dedicated to getting geared up.  The first decision I needed to make was which pistol to go through class with.  I ended up deciding on my Smith and Wesson M&P in .40SW.  My M&P compact is one of my regular carry guns, and I thought that would be a good place to start.   I decided to bring the full-size M&P, though…no need to be a masochist.  Gunsite requires 1,000 rounds of ammo for the class, so I knew that we would be shooting a lot over the week.  I thought that the compact would be a bit of a handful for that much shooting.  Lewis also went with the M&P, but in 9mm.  I talked him into letting me bring him my wife’s full size 9mm rather than him trying to go through the class with his compact.  (He thanked me later.)

As I mentioned, Gunsite requires 1,000 rounds of ammo, as well as 50 rounds of frangible for their shoot houses.  I decided to buy the ammo directly from Gunsite rather than running around trying to find it locally.  If you want to bring your own ammo, you can.  You can even have it shipped to Gunsite ahead of time so you aren’t traveling with all that weight.  Good thing, too…1,000 rounds of 180 grain .40 weighs almost 26 pounds!  You can also ship your gun ahead of time, although I elected to travel with mine.  Gunsite also has rental guns available, as well as an on-site pro shop that carries several major brands if you want to buy your gun at the school.  They sell basically at cost, and if you are renting and decide to buy, they rebate your rental fee.  More than one of the people in my class showed up with the wrong gun and ended up buying replacements, but more on that later.

I had most of the other things I needed: eye protection, hearing protection and appropriate clothing.  I’ll deviate from the time line here and make a few gear recommendations.  Electronic hearing protection is mandatory.  It’s tough to hear range commands without it.  I brought the Peltor TacSport muffs, and they worked very well.  Eye protection: either bring a couple of pairs or ones with interchangeable lenses.  Amber lenses worked well for most things, but it is the desert, and you can get a lot of glare and might want to switch to dark lenses. I’d also recommend shooting gloves.  I used Pro-Aim 3/4 finger gloves with the braces removed.

Finally, the day arrived, and I got ready to fly from Charlotte to Phoenix.  I had never flown with a firearm before, and I wanted to make sure that I left plenty of time at the airport for the inevitable hassle.  I arrived two hours early.  I needn’t have bothered.  Time elapsed from arrival to air-side: about 6 minutes.   It couldn’t have been easier.  I went to the counter, told the attendant that I needed to declare some firearms, showed her the pistols, signed a form that they were unloaded, locked the case, and was on my merry way.

After a long flight, I arrived in Phoenix and met up with Lewis.  He was brimming with excitement, and brought me a present: a black leather cowboy hat!  I felt very dressed for the occasion.  The bags and guns came though baggage claim without delay, and we started the long drive up to Prescott.  It took about two hours.  We stayed at the Residence Inn in Prescott. Prescott is about a 35 minute drive from Gunsite, which is located between Chino Valley and Paulden.  There are options that are closer, but we thought the Residence Inn made sense.  Rooms are suites with kitchens and a small living room.  There are also more dining options in Prescott than there are closer to Gunsite.

It was snowing as we checked into the hotel, and I hoped that we would not be spending the next day on the range in the snow.  I was exhausted from the trip, but pumped and excited for the big day tomorrow.