Monday, June 25, 2012

Practice, Protection and a Sammich - 1776

I am able to maintain this blog because I have a job that takes me throughout the entire Mid-south.

Urbanspoon offers a map widget where I can show the locations of the restaurants I've posted about. This is what my Memphis-area map looks like.

On Friday I stopped by Range USA on Whitten Road near Summer Avenue. I try to stop by the range in the middle of the day, when I can enjoy a great cheap lunch at the 1776 Deli located inside the building. I used to visit on a pretty regular basis, but I hadn't found time since I started this blog last fall. Because of that I was overdue for some practice, and I needed to cycle out some self-defense ammo that had been riding around in my carry gun for an entire year*.

At work I usually carry a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm compact. That's my wallet beside it for the sake of size comparison. It gives me solid accuracy and dependability with a 12-round magazine in a gun that I can carry while wearing shorts and a t-shirt without anyone knowing it is there. 

I had some reservations about doing this post since I'm not interested in getting into any debates about the Second Amendment. To me it is pretty cut and dried:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

In other words; maintaining a government-controlled military force is a necessary evil for any free state, therefore it is vitally important that individuals be able to arm themselves as well. But I don't carry a gun at work as any sort of political statement. In fact, I go out of my way to make sure no one realizes when I'm carrying at work.

Given some of the areas I travel through at work, it makes me laugh when fearful suburbanites suggest somewhere like Midtown or touristy parts of Downtown are dangerous. I live in Midtown and do a lot of hanging out in Midtown and Downtown bars. And when I do, I'm not carrying a gun. I'm also not worried when I'm inside any of the shops that I do business with. 

I spend a lot of time roaming the streets of of the Mid-south in a vehicle that is pushing 300,000 miles on its odometer while traveling to and from work stops. I've never had an instance at work where I thought I was being threatened. I've also only had to use my work vehicle's tire iron and jack to change a flat on the side of the road one time in the past eight years. That one time I was glad I had the tools for the job.

Nearly a decade ago I lost a family friend when he was kidnapped, robbed, choked, doused with gasoline and badly burned before he drowned when he was dumped in the Wolf River. The two men responsible got his car and $500 from his bank account for a night in Tunica before being arrested by police. It doesn't matter what the odds of something like that happening are when it happens to you or someone you care about. 

I hope that I never need the compact 9mm for anything more than practice and sport shooting. But that practice is necessary in case it is ever called on for more than that.

The 1776 Deli is located next to Range USA's firing range. Thick bullet-proof glass allows diners to see what is happening on the range while keeping the noise acceptably muffled. Before it was 1776 the space was rented by a barbecue restaurant called Uncle Sam's. The barbecue was pretty good but the range decided it wanted a restaurant that it had direct control over.

I try to visit Range USA during the middle of the day, when $15 buys a lunch special that includes lunch, a lane on the range and a target. Eye and ear protection are included if you don't have your own. The facility also sells guns and ammunition, and it rents guns in case there is a brand or caliber you are thinking about buying and want to try first. No interest in shooting? You can still drop in and enjoy a great deli-style meal for cheap. If all you do is eat it would take a serious exercise in gluttony to spend more than $10.

When you purchase a lunch special the staff asks if you want to start with the range or the food. I was hungry so I opted to eat first. When I say there is a deli inside a local gun range most people seem to imagine something similar to the food counter at a bowling alley. The reality is that 1776 doesn't have a deep fryer, doesn't sell burgers and almost everything is made from scratch. The food is far better and fresher than anything you would expect to find at a range.

I almost always start my meal with a cup of the deli's three-bean chili with jalapenos, cheese and onions. I even did so on Friday, meaning the chili is good enough that I still ordered it during a summer day in Memphis with the outside temperature pushing 100; knowing I'd be going back to work in the heat after I was done shooting.

About the time I was finishing up my chili my sammich came out. And it was definitely a sammich, not merely a sandwich. All the sammiches at 1776 come with patriotic names and I'd ordered the Pursuit of Happiness, which is how the deli refers to a Reuben. It had a massive pile of corned beef along with the requisite sauerkraut and swiss cheese. It's the attention to detail combined with the generous portions that make the Pursuit of Happiness such a glorious sammich. It's heated up in a panini press that toasts the rye bread and melts the cheese. The Thousand Island dressing used in it is homemade.

Rye bread isn't just delicious. It doesn't cause nearly as extreme of a rise and fall in blood sugar levels as bread made from modern frankenwheat.

Once I finished eating it was time to head back to the front counter to pick up my target and get a lane assigned to me. Too many people seem to think of a gun as a magic talisman that they can yank out and point at a threat to make it disappear. If you're going to rely on a gun it is crucial that you be able to quickly aim it and group shots together at center of mass on an approaching threat. 

Most people don't realize how small of a part lining the sights up plays in accurate shooting. That's just the first and easiest step. Keeping the sights lined up throughout the duration of the trigger pull and immediately afterwards is what makes the bullet hit the target. I see too many people at the range who run a target about five yards out and "practice" by lining the sights up with the target and pulling the trigger as fast as they can. They waste a lot of money on ammo, don't display any type of grouping on their targets and don't get any better with time. The point of practice is supposed to be improvement. 

This is after I went through roughly 200 rounds of ammo from seven yards away. How fast should you be firing? As fast as you can while still maintaining a tight group. If your grouping is all over the place, slow down. If you're aiming and firing super slow, speed up until accuracy starts to suffer. And don't underestimate the importance of working on trigger pull with safely-conducted dry firing exercises and small-caliber target guns. The smaller holes on my target came from a .22 pistol that gets at least 50 rounds through it every time I visit the range. Occasionally switching back to a smaller caliber gun lets you correct mistakes that are creeping into your form as you start to anticipate recoil.

Along with the class required for a handgun carry permit, Range USA and several other local ranges also offer a variety of classes for improving your firearm skills no matter what your current level of proficiency is. I've noticed on my trips to the range with friends, and had confirmed by a friend who was a military arms instructor, that is is usually easier to make an accurate shooter out of a female. Women tend to listen and accept constructive criticism where men seem to assume that a Y chromosome and experience with first-person-shooter video games will give them all the skill they need. Trained military snipers still spend hours practicing and listening to instructors. You're never too good to learn and improve.

Range USA also sells zombie targets, but you still need to practice for center of mass shots. Head shots aren't allowed since they can damage the range's baffles and the automated overhead runners that carry the targets out onto the range and back to you.  If you're overly concerned with ever having to battle slow-moving reanimated corpses get one of the multi-bullseye targets on the far left to practice precision shooting.

* Dedicated carry ammo designed to expand on impact without overpenetrating is much more expensive than regular target ammo. But it gets subjected to outdoor humidity, oil from the gun and wide variations in temperature on a daily basis so it is important to use and replace what is carried in the gun on an at-least yearly basis.

1776 Deli & Eatery on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Range USA is one of the finest, and best-run businesses in town. I just was there yesterday, and we rented the full-auto Glock pistol. If you haven't tried that baby, you haven't lived!