Time's up, sucker. They were the greatest. I still quote facts about Jupiter that I learned from a Choose Your Own Adventure ™book about a mission to the moons of Jupiter, and I'm talking about teaching middle school science class, here. Did you know that Jupiter has 63 moons and Ganymede is bigger than the planet Mercury? But my favorite was probably from the Time Machine ™series, and it was a mission to travel back in time and acquire a sword used by Miyamoto Musashi. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but there was a successful ending available. The final choice was presented in a scene with Musashi in his famous cave as he lay dying. Musashi recognizes this weird, eternal person who keeps popping in and out of his life, and agrees to allow you to take one of his swords. After pondering what you have learned from Musashi (other than that bushido requires a willingness to cheat) you choose Musashi's well-worn bokken and leave his steel swords by his side. Musashi approves; this, he says, is the sword that he has used the most in his life, the one that taught him the most. The others are almost like your mom's fine china, only useful for special occasions. If one of the swords contains any of his soul, it will be the humble wooden training tool. It wasn't until later that I learned that Musashi's legendary fondness for wooden weapons wasn't all about a philosophical decision to embrace training and learning; he also really had a thing for beating people to death with the bones of trees. We all have our quirks, I guess. But the impact it had on me at the time, which I think has lasted, was a fascination with the idea of a warrior as a student, someone for whom training gear and good teachers are much more important than the actual deadly weapons to be used. We're all fond of telling each other that you can't purchase skill, but if you're willing to pay in time, repetition and fatigue, and you're open to new ideas, you can. I think that's neato. Nowadays, although I have a bokken stashed somewhere, that's not what need to train with my primary weapons. I used to carry a knife wherever I could; when I realized I could buy a blunt trainer, I did so, but my "training" was sporadic. I still carry a knife most of the time, but I've added OC spray to it. That's been more difficult to practice well with, and I know it's a hole in my options. But the big recent change has been the acquisition of an Illinois CCL this year. With the ability to carry a firearm with me has come the realization that I (speaking strictly for myself) was not completely comfortable with my level of skill. It's great to carry the thing, but to what avail, if you're not sure you'll have the confidence to use it if the time comes? So I started to seek out training. I did MAG20 Classroom, followed by MAG20 Range. I did my 16-hour Illinois CCL training class. I've taken an 8-hour force-on-force class from Black Flag Training, four hours on Illinois law from Andrew Branca of LOSD fame, and the four-hour emergency medicine class from Kelly Grayson (the one I reviewed this week.) Every time I take a shooty class as opposed to a thinky class, I notice something: my performance starts slow and improves dramatically as I shoot more. That's a clue, I guess; these skills are perishable, and I'm not getting my money's worth from this or that course if I don't practice the skills over time. So I've taken steps in 2014 to shoot more. I switched to 9mm to save money on ammunition, and I've begun buying 9mm ammo in greater bulk to save more. I've joined my local USPSA group, the Springfield Tactical Shooters, who run one stage of USPSA every Thursday night locally. And I've committed to shooting live fire once per week (a commitment, however, that I've already had to reset once after taking most of April off because of insanity in the family.) Right now, I do that by shooting Dot Torture once per week to try to establish a record of progress. That's all great, but it's never enough. I want to be committed to dry fire at home, I do, but I have three kids in that home, and because of my family situation, security of my firearms is very important. Moreover, I've never really become comfortable with dry fire. I store the guns upstairs, but there are no safe directions up there. I have safe directions downstairs, and I generally have my carry gun on me at home anyway, but then I've got to separate from the ammunition--and I'm still not really happy with that solution. So I've invested in a couple of pieces of gear that promised to help out with these problems, and I think I'd like to think through what I've solved, what I haven't, and what's next in writing. You're welcome to read it if that seems like something you'd enjoy. Of course, because I live in 2014, my favorite "wooden sword" is a "laser gun."
Short version: I currently have a $12 piece of yellow plastic and a much more expensive laser pistol. In upcoming posts, I'd like to explore what each one does best, what each one is lacking, and why I I'm still kicking myself for not buying yet another laser pistol at NRAAM this year. Also, if you are a time traveler and you're going to ask me for my weapon at the end of my life, I suggest you just time it to show up sometime after my actual death and then just take the one you want. I don't want to be a pain in the ass. Green light, bro.