Calibration: OCT 30, 2022/S&W 642

The last time I fired this revolver was less than a week following the 2020 Presidential Election; nearly 2 years ago. As this is my primary EDC/home security tool, I wanted to a) assess my current aptitude/accuracy & b) ensure proper function of carry ammo & all stand-by ammo. By stand-by ammo, I mean the handful of rounds that I had out of the boxes in speed strips either in my car or in my night stand for emergency re-loads. All my other ammo I keep mostly stored in the original boxes with dates of purchases (to ensure that I expend oldest rounds first) & properly stored in waterproof/airtight steel cases locked away.

I had heard some scarce complaints about my top tier Self-Defense load–Hornandy Critical Defense FTX, standard pressure–that the primers went bad after two years or less after purchase. I read this on a forum, but other than that, most of the user reviews were positive regarding this cartridge. Nevertheless, I had to see for myself whether or not I could trust this ammo given my storage situation. It’s possible the plaintiff did not store his ammo properly.

Bypassing any suspense, I’ll say now that all 5 loose rounds performed flawlessly. I will continue to trust this bullet design as my top tier SD round. There’s no reason to mistrust it’s shelf life given my storage habits. These 5 bullets were loose, in ammo cars in cars–in a small box near by bed stand with the windows opened nearby during the summer, etc–for two years–& no ignition problems for me.

Here is the firearm I used in the day’s session. It’s a Smith & Wesson 642 Centennial J-Frame. It weights about 15oz unloaded. That featured, combined with its completely enclosed hammer, make it a very safe & attractive option for carry. However, it’s light weight & sub-2 inch barrel require practice to achieve accuracy past “contact distance.”

Key Facts

  • Range time was 1 hour for $20–online reservations only, a hold over policy from the Covid-19 era which caught me off guard
  • Accustomed to purchasing 30 minute sessions during the Covid-19 era, I came only prepared for a 30 minute session which I extended to 35 once I realized I had paid for an hour. While the small .38 special was reasonably comfortable to shoot, it would have been less enjoyable to continue shooting far beyond that. Still, I would have taken advantage of the rare range trip had ammo scarcity not been such a concern (.38 Spcl bullets are almost NEVER available post the supply shortage & ammo shortage during the Covid-19 era).
  • In 35 minutes, I fired 42 shots–a record for a single range session with my small J-frame. I typically consider 35 shots a full days work for that firearm.
  • Bullet Manufacturers used: 158 grain LRN “gold tips” were MagTech that came in a blue & white box of 50. After my range session, it looks like I’m out of this particular ammo now. The manufacturer doesn’t use the term “gold tips;” it’s just a way for me to distinguish between those & the Armscorp bullet of the same weight & design.
  • Armscor 158 grain LRN “dull tips” are actually my newest bullets, purchased around spring of 2022. I usually like to shoot the old ones first but I wanted to run a few samples of this ammo at the range before trusting it anywhere else to assess reliability & accuracy. They performed identically to the MagTechs.
  • The 130 grain FMJ were mostly Remington UMC. I left the remaining 20 rounds in the original box in my range bag. It had been opened for a while & I didn’t expend all 30 of the 50 rounds during this session. I don’t think I have another box but the 3 boxes of AE in the same weight & bullet design should work just as well.
  • The aforementioned Armscor ammo is listed as “FMJ” on the box but looks more like LRN. (Note to Self) Look for 158 FN as an option for deep woods carry.
  • (Note to Self) Look for another box of Hornady CD FTX & purchase even as high as $30/box–just one box.

  • First shot with this firearm in almost 2 years to the day
  • Distance–5 yards
  • Target: Pumkin at Top Left
  • Aimed just above the nose, struck slight right
5 yards5 yards5 yards
Cylinder1: 158 grain LRN Gold TipsCylinder4: 158 grain Dull Tips
Cylinder2: 158 grn LRN Gold Tips X4, Dull Tip X1Cylinder5: 158 grain Dull TipsX4, 130 FMJX1
Cylinder 3: 158 grn LRN Dull Tips

BOTTOM: This was my first shot at 7 yards. I aimed for the nose & struck just above at the bottom of the pumkin stem. It looks like two shots in the same hole but it as just one; I guess the way the paper crumpled just bade the hole look like it came from 2 bullets.
Cylinder6: 7 yardsCylinder7: 7 yards
130 grn FMJ X 3, Hornandy 110 grn FTX (std) X 2158 LRN Dull Tips X 3, 130 FMJ X 2
Cylinder8: 10 yards

Final Analysis

  • My proficiency had not fallen off much inside of 21 yards, which is typical purely self-defense range.
  • All the ammo that I had been keeping loose for potential re-loads performed flawlessly, even the ones I had kept in a speed strip in my car during all manner of weather conditions.
  • I shoot the 130 grain FMJ the most accurately with the 158 grain LRN the next most accurately.
  • I shoot the 110 FTX least accurately but still well enough for self-defense proficiency.
  • At distance, I managed a 9.5″ group in a straight vertical line during my very first shots at 15 yards, which I consider reasonably proficient. However, two years ago, I was able to place a group of that size out to about 20 yards with this same handgun–reaffirming the trend that the first skill to go to distance shooting.
  • The next skill to go is trigger control.

Looking Ahead/What to work on

  • Work on accuracy at distance: as I lost accuracy, I had to remind myself of two fundamentals that have helped improve immensely over the last 4 years: a) sight picture-trigger pull-bang (keep a consistent, smooth trigger pull) & b) allow the weapon to recoil straight up/don’t fight the recoil after the shot
  • Regain consistent accuracy out to 20-25 yards; although I can retail self-defense proficiency within 8 yards or so even after 2 years of zero practice. This is encouraging to know. I depend on 2 different handguns chambered in two different calibers. With ammo prices increasing, ammo scarcity common, & the busyness of frequently working 50-60 hour weeks–I often go longer than desired between practice sessions with the same handgun. At least I know I can still responsibly defend myself within the common self defense distances as long as two years after practicing. I don’t plan to let that much time pass, but there will be times when I’ll have no chance. For the record, I have been to the range twice since November of 2020 including Sunday’s session. But the previous session, I used my compact 9mm, which is much easier to shoot accurately than the .38 Special. Ideally, I’d like to go once every 3 months on a good year & rarely go more than a year without at least on practice session moving forward.
  • I will use 130 grain FMJ as my general purpose round confidently, which is a benefit because it’s the easiest design to find & most economical.
  • I will use the 110 grain FTX as my top tier SD design; which seems poised to thrive in the role in indoor home defense. The bullet design consistently fully expands while penetrates rather shallowly (10-12 inches max). While the lower penetration would make this gun a fail for FBI field agents, it makes me feel safer about using it indoors to avoid over-penetration into the next room or worse.

David & Goliath

I frequently dream about the house of my childhood, where I lived from the time my parent’s brought me home from the hospital until I was almost twelve. We moved during the first semester of 6th grade. Although this era of my past occurred so many years prior, I typically take my current age & form during these dreams, which often involve encounters with the supernatural.

I do not own the rights to this photo but borrowed it for creative, non-profit purposes (see section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976). To locate the original source of the photo, please click on the photo itself.

It happened at the Yellow House on the Hill where I grew up. Many of my dreams, and especially the scary ones, frequently occur there. Even after all these years . . . when I was a child living there, I was convinced it was haunted. And not just haunted, mind you–but reaming with otherworldly entities. In my childhood mind, there was something bad lurking around every corner–down the stairwell to the basement, behind the bush leading to the backyard, in the bedroom that I just walked away from. Now that I’m spiritually mature & worldly, with over twenty years of lifting weights & partaking in all you can eat buffets under my belt–I realize how silly an idea that is. But one thing is for sure. Even if that house was never haunted, I still am. Even after all these years, the muscle memory of that fear still cries out to me when I’m most vulnerable & least on guard–they reach out to me in my sleep.

To get an idea of the house’s layout, think of the main level extending left to right from the viewpoint of the main road that runs in front of it. Standing on the road, you will see the extreme left side of the frame which houses the master bedroom & a utility area where the laundry & washer are. Scanning all the way towards the right, you will see the living room. From my parent’s room on the left, you will see the house gradually transition from night time to day time, meaning the bedrooms are all towards the left of the house. In the middle we get the kitchen & dining room & all the way on the right, we get the living room. In my childish mind, I thought of it this way: when it was dark, we stayed on the left side of the house. When it was light, we stayed on the right side. Where ever we weren’t, that’s where “the others” dwelled. Someone strong like my mom or dad could break the rules & go into the living room at night or into the bedroom when it was daylight; but if someone small & weak like me were to try, I would do so at my own risk! The other entities that shared the home with us didn’t take kindly to having their space violated. They wanted us to respect the rules; otherwise, they would make a point to show up where they weren’t supposed to be!

Now that you understand the layout, you should know that my parents kept a makeshift prayer area in their master bedroom. It didn’t amount to much more than a clear space on the carpet with a plastic runner laying over the main footpath which allowed us to kneel down in prayer before a large cross that hung on the wall. This cross wasn’t just any routine cross that you’d typically see in homes. It was as large as the ones you see hung up in the front of most church’s. I have no idea where my parents got it, now that I think of it; but as a child, we never questioned such things. More more key aspect to note. My parent’s were raised as devout Catholics in the Philippines. I bring up the Philippines because the way Catholicism is practiced over seas versus the way it’s practiced here can be noticeably different. My parents came up in the late forties & into the early sixties. They grew up against the backdrop of the Japanese invasion from WWII. Their upbringing had an almost post-apocalyptic filter to it, at least when compared to how my contemporaries & I were brought up in the great USA. To my point, Catholics don’t use crosses, they use crucifixes. These are crosses that contain the dead body of Christ before his resurrection, covered in grime in blood. Just that this imagery sink in for a moment.

Although I haven’t been inside that house for over thirty years, during the dream, I am my current age. My niece, who was a pre-teen at that time, is a pre-teen in the dream; around the age of eleven. My niece held onto the innocence of childhood a bit longer than some of her peers, and in the dream she behaves more like a child than a teen–innocent but extremely vulnerable.

Somehow my niece & her parents are visiting during the dream. The two of us are alone in the utility area of the master bedroom. I’m distracted with a chore while she wonders off to explore. I still hear her cheerful, young voice as she tries to maintain a conversation with me. In typical adult fashion, I’m too pre-occupied to listen to exactly what she’s saying & simply respond with an occasional, “U-huh.” Until her cheerful voice turns into a scream of horror!

Jolted back to the present, I whirl around to peek through the threshold of the utility area and into the master bedroom. Just feet away from me, standing on the plastic runner that acts as a mat when the family kneels in prayer, stands the Devil himself. I’ve faced the Devil in my dreams before, but never in this form. He is wearing feudal era armor like a Samurai warrior, complete with sharp spikes protruding from numerous areas. It would be more painful to me than to him if I gave into my instinct to charge him & rain down furious punches upon his torso & stomach area. He was way to tall for me to punch in the face as he stood about 8 feet tall. He held my niece in his left hand high above his shoulders as she wailed, kicking & screaming. My bewilderment dissolved into rage, and I demanded the Devil lay my niece down. With a primitive roar, I crouched down into a 3-point stance & charged the monster like a berserker warrior . . . to my shock, the fiend stopped my assault with the gentlest effort of his right hand, similar to that scene in The Matrix when NEO first stopped bullets by simply raising out an opened palm. It was as though I had run into a forcefield–no harsh impact, no thud–just instant paralysis. There was a humming silence in my ears, the kind you hear when you’re around technology that’s constantly running. The rageful drumbeat of war in my head had been replaced with, ironically, a quiet peace; but a peace than came with the fear of helplessness. The Devil then lifted me high into the air, and the higher he raised me up, the taller he became! The devil now stood at least 10 feet tall & he held me high overhead at an stratospheric 13 to 15 feet. I could even hear the wind whirling as if around the cliffs of a mountaintop as the ambient noises of earth’s surface drifted away far beneath me. I struggled against the fiend’s iron grip but for all my effort, I could only manage to swing my feet back & forth & scream. I heard a diabolical laugh that boomed like thunder from all around, not just from the Devil’s face as he pulls me close to it. Deep inside the dark opening of the feudal helmet I only saw two narrow spheres of burning white light. Without a word, he flung me towards the ground so far below. This time, I felt the impact as I land with a loud thud!

I quickly tried to regain my footing, as I held my right hip which had been injured in the fall. Still not having risen to my full height, I watch the Devil drift backwards away from me without even moving his feet–as he effortlessly glides along the thick carpet like an ice skater. My niece is still kicking & screaming in his left hand. A sensation of deep dread sinks in as the inevitability of my failure becomes clear. I scream out helplessly as the Devil vanishes into thin air taking my niece with him.

I fall flat on my face in wretched agony. I had never felt so weak before. The Devil has stolen away my niece from my care & I didn’t even land a single punch.

My older brother was going to be pissed!

If you mess with The BULL . . .

Mean Mark Callous is a SKYSCRAPER of a man! Standing 6’10’, weighing 310, & with hardened muscles that only come through genetics & living the blue collar working class lifestyle that has forged the Mean Machine until a disgruntled bully! Mark has no patience for glam boys with their “gym muscles” who seem to bask in the limelight. As such, the “Rock Star” becomes an ideal target for his rage.

But the “Rock” is no push-over. He didn’t become the People’s Champion without his own path of blood, sweat, & tears. At 6’5″, 260 lbs–the former D-I college football player has had his own share of hard knocks that have made him such a formidable force in the ring. He has earned the nickname–“The Brahma Bull.”

And you know what they say about bulls. When you MESS with the BULL, you get the HORNS!


Introduction to Elite Legends: My Time is NOW

I’ve been collecting action figures as an adult for nearly twenty years. As a child, my scale of choice was 1/18–more popularly known as 3 3/4 inch. Prominent examples of this scale are the original Star Wars toys made by Kenner in the late 70’s to early 80’s followed shortly thereafter by Hasbro & their iconic GI Joe: A Real American Hero line. Collectors frequently refer to this line as the “small joes” to distinguish them from the original classic 12-inch GI Joe that debuted in the 60’s. As an adult, I began with what I played with as a child but eventually grew to desire more realistic & posable action figure which brought me up the 12-inch figure, also known as 1/6th scale. The idea being that the ideal action height for a normal human is 6 feet tall so that a 1/6th scale toy version of such a human such stand about 1/6th that height–meaning one foot, or twelve inches.

For Christmas 2021, one of my brothers bought me two GI Joe figures for the newer 1/12th scale line. I had known about this scale since around 2010 when Marvel Legends figures would fill the pegs when I went on a hunt for the more traditional smaller GI Joes. I never bothered picking up a 1/12 figure but had been intrigued with the recent decision Hasbro had made to introduce GI Joe into that scale. I had decided that I have enough to waste my money on so I had avoided them; but now that my brother had handed me two such figures at no cost, I was intrigued. The debate began; 1/6 scale figures no longer had a major retail presence & they took up enough space to boot. I knew I’d have to give up collecting for a while or perhaps adopt a smaller scale moving forward. Would 1/12 the the answer?

Regardless of scale, the focus of toy collection at any age has always been action & adventure. While I realize that some people may find this insensitive to say, but that focus frequently meant military themed figures like GI Joe; or at least, warrior-themed ones like He-Man & the Masters of the Universe. I had never been a huge fan of wrestling figures a la WWE because I didn’t see much potential for them outside the ring. The big draw of toy collecting, even as a kid, was inventing numerous scenarios that brought your favorite heroes until dangerous situation; situations that frequently could only be resolved through violent conflict. Wrestling, though combat oriented, was still a sport to me. I wanted my heroes in extreme harm’s way playing higher stakes than just championship belts.

GI Joe Classified, the 1/12 scale Hasbro figures that my brother’s Christmas gift were a part of, had been my intended target for future toy collecting. The problem is, they are rarely available on shelves. After a three month break from toy hunting, I decided it was time to try my luck at my nearest Target store. I just had a feeling I would find what I was looking for. Interestingly enough, there was one GI Joe character available on the pegs that I had been interested in. But the prospect of owning this figure didn’t “wow” me. I decided to look at Masters of the Universe just to see if they distribution would be much improved over GI Joe Classified but I had pre-determined not to buy anything. Next to the Masters I saw a slew of WWE Elite Legends figures, which I normally do. I thought I may as well take a look at this collection since they were at least commonly available. My glance came upon a normal looking male wrestler in a T-shirt & camo pants & that light bulb in my head went off.

I could see possibilities in this particular figure as we wasn’t sculpted exclusively in his wrestling wear. Plain camo pants would work with my military themed plots in my imaginary adventures & fan-faction pieces. Plus, the presence of genuine cloth gear (soft goods) in lieu of clothing sculpted onto the figure intrigued me. I liked the big joes because you could use your same handful of figures & gear them up for different environments & dioramas. To accomplish this same thing with smaller figures which often had their clothes sculpted onto them often required buying numerous version of the same character in different gear. I grabbed the package, based on a character named Road Dogg, tor a closer inspection. This figure looked bigger than the GI Joe Classified but still fairly close to 1/12 scale. Well, long story short, I took the figure home & after removing him from the package–the debate was settled. I would be collecting WWE Elite Figures in conjunction with the occasional GI Joe Classified figure when a character of interest was available. The went to Target looking for a particular solution in mind. I didn’t find it; but found an even better solution. It just wasn’t the one I had expected to find.

Military & adventure will always be the foundation of my toy collection for as long as I continue to do it. However, my discovery of Elite Legends allows me to execute this same ideas through different molds. I no longer have to limit myself to GI Joe, Ultimate Soldier, or similarly themed toy lines. Moving forward, I plan to cut my current 1/6 scale figures in half & suspend purchasing anything outside of 1/12 scale for a while.

It’s not that I’m giving up on GI Joe–it’s more that I’m no longer limiting myself to them. That line will always have a special place for me because of how much it played a role in my childhood, spending time with my friends & cousins & brothers happily living out one adventure after another. But right now, I’ve found something better out there–something that bridges that gap between my beloved small & big joes. Truth be told, it’s really as sure a thing as a body slam! WWE Elite Legends are the definitive mass retail 1/12 action figure line–for now at least.

So that’s what I’m going with–for now at least.

Safe in School: I know how we can do It

It’s the beginning of June. Most schools have just concluded their academic year. Memorial Day Weekend has passed. It’s truly the beginning of summer–a time of happiness & fond lifetime memories like summer camps, family vacation, & sunny weather. However, the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX still casts a dark shadow over what should otherwise be a bright time of the year. It just so happens that it’s a national election year. Predictably, we find ourselves in another quagmire as to how to contend with what we’re told is exclusively a problem in the US–the epidemic of gun violence. It’s a debate that has continued since the 1920’s & the days of Prohibition. Yet suddenly, what we have been unable to resolve over the last 100 years we must resolve before the next school year. That gives us about three months. It seems impossible–but trust me when I say that people on both sides of the argument want our nation’s kids to be safe in schools. The disagreement arises in the manner in which we accomplish this shared goal.

Mass shootings are always tragic, but when they involve kids this young, the emotional impact often becomes amplified. While this is understandable, emphatic statements by lawmakers like Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from CT, stating “Spare me the bullshit!” are unhelpful. While statements like this certainly energize one side of the argument as well as grab headlines, they always prove counter-productive in the end. By the same token, efforts by the GOP to pinpoint mental illness as the primary factor behind tragedies like this end up simply angering the opposition, rendering compromise unlikely. Regardless of how fiercely we stand on one side of this debate or the other, I stress that we all wish to accomplish a shared goal. And to do this, we have to build a bridge across the aisle, across the political spectrum, across either side of this debate. If we share the goal, then we have to share the solution. This is exactly why pointing fingers at the other party & shouting obscenities is completely useless. If you haven’t figured it out by now, one one side–no one party–can solve this problem alone. We need each other–enemies need to become allies–enough of us at least, to pass some legislation that both preserves civil liberties while minimizes the threat in our schools.

I’m not proposing any specifics–yet, although, I have some obvious measures in mind that should be acceptable to both sides of the argument. But before we get into the “how-to,” we must address the “why.” We will accomplish nothing specifically until we establish something that is broad; something universal to any argument. We have to have compassion for our opponent.

If you really want to help, stop saying “It’s absolutely lunacy for any American to want to own a gun!” Or, “There’s no place for that kind of thinking anywhere in America!” Because saying things like this, given that there are numerous people in America who actually do think that, serves only to alienate half the country. And, disagree as we may, we need people on both sides of the argument to share ownership of the solution. No one side of the coin, no one party can solve this problem alone. Do you want proof? Well nationally, we are under single party rule currently. The Democratic party, the supposed party of gun safety, controls the White House, the House of Representatives, & the Senate. Yes, technically, the Senate is a dead tie, but the Vice-President has rights to the tie breaking vote. If they don’t make the schools safer by November, do they really deserve your vote? If they can’t pass some kind of meaningful legislation right now, then when?

“The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided” (U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3). Since 1789, 291 tie-breaking votes have been cast.

My point is, no one party can fix it; no one party can doom us. We need everyone to take their share of ownership in this matter. But to do that effectively, we have to have compassion. People on the Left have to respect their neighbors from the Right who would be for some gun control measures that would certainly keep the schools safe. But they fear that proponents from the left will use this opportunity to over-react & take away the rights of every gun owner, not just those who pose an obvious threat. In similar fashion, responsible gun owners should recognize that, while self preservation is a universal right, not every member of society is equally suited to be trusted to do so with a firearm. The very firearm that may allows the responsible gun owner to sleep easy makes his neighbor feel uneasy. We have to learn to value & the concerns of our opponent in order to find a solution that attempts to address the concerns of both sides, because they are equally legitimate.

The second phase to solving this 100 year old enigma of balancing inherent rights with public safety is compromise. As a member of a civil society, we all enter into a social contract. The social contract isn’t perfect, but it tends to offer a solution that is at least comfortable for most of the participants. There will always be outliers who will remain unhappy–but the goal is to keep as many members of the population under this social contract comfortable enough to live out a productive life. But in our current political climate, especially when it comes down to debates like civil liberties & even more so, the safety of our children–we often devolve into hateful rhetoric & stubborn inflexibility. This type of behavior makes all of us an outliers–people on the fringes of the spectrum who no longer wants to share their society with the neighbor who happens to disagree with them.

Remember two simple things. Compassion & compromise. You may not understand why this or that is important to your opponent, but if you don’t accept it, you’ll never reach a compromise. We can’t change our neighbors. We must understand that for them, as for us, some things are non-negotiable. Some things are absolute. Recognize that your opponent’s fears are just as valuable as your own. If you don’t respect that, you’ll never find a way to work around them. Meaning, you’ll never find a path to compromise. And without compromise, there will never be change. We can’t change the way our neighbor’s think. But we can try to make changes to the social contract that account for how we both think.

You want to make meaningful change? You want to enact restrictions that both gunowners & CNN viewers can agree on? Then recognize that the hateful bickering hasn’t worked. Let’s try something revolutionary–compassion & compromise. I guarantee, we’ll get further doing this than we’ve gotten so far…..and that’s a start.