Monday, January 25, 2010

Book Review: Deadly Force by Chris McNab

I'm a member of Librarything, a web site that makes it easy to catalog books.   One of the auxiliary features is an Early Review program, where in exchange for promising a review, you get free books.

The first book I received is "Deadly Force:  Firearms and American Law Enforcement" by Chris McNab--several months later than promised, so I was slightly confused at first when it did show.

Overall I enjoyed the book--It is basically a history of American law enforcement, with an emphasis on the evolving standards for use of force, with chapters on various eras.    It describes the changes in use of force, evolving from relying almost entirely on the individual officer's judgement to todays written policies.

McNab acknowledges a debt to Massad Ayoob--a necessity, since several long portions of Deadly Force recount incidents covered in "The Ayoob Files", a book on modern gunfights.

There are quite a few interesting charts and statistics.  However, this leads to my major complaint--In areas where I am familiar enough to spot errors, I have found many, leading me to doubt the areas where I am less familiar.  My copy is an "uncorrected proof"--not being familiar with the publishing process, I don't know if these errors are likely to be corrected in the final copy.   The book reads like a rough draft rather than almost ready for publication.

In discussing gun law, he counts both the 1986 Hughes Amendment (banning civilian ownership of newly manufactured or imported machine guns) and elements of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban as being enacted as part of the 1968 Gun Control Act.  

In many cases, he uses terms with unclear meanings, without enough context--It took me some time to understand whether "police homicide" was referring to death of police, or death caused by them.  He continually uses the term "Assault Rifle"  without specifying that he is not  using the original "machine gun" definition, and refers to an SKS rifle in a particular incident as an "AKS Assault rifle".  

In some cases he is using technical information for dramatic effect--Unfortunately, in some cases he gets the information drastically wrong, as in describing a Taser as having 5000 volts of current--not only are tasers generally 50,000 volts or more, current is measured in amps.

With significantly better fact checking, this would be a very good book.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Duct tape can fix almost anything

Icemakers are relatively simple---the tray fills with water with a solenoid valve, and a thermostat controls when the harvest cycle starts.  Mine was doing something wrong, and leaving me with a solid mass of ice on the bottom of the bucket.  It turned out that the cycle was starting before the ice was completely frozen, and the half-frozen cubes would leak and then refreeze.

I removed the icemaker--three screws and an electrical plug.  The thermostat was clipped to the side.  I made sure it was clipped in tightly, and I added about 4 layers of duct tape to the outside of the thermostat, so it was affected more by the ice tray than the freezer air. 

So far so good, there hasn't been a big lump in the bottom of the tray since.  

Monday, January 04, 2010

Shot timer--there's an app for that

I finally went to the range today after a fairly long absence--I haven't done much winter shooting, wanted to try my carry gun with the gloves I usually wear (knit wool with a few gripper dots) and finally try the Ipod shot timer app from Surefire.  I installed the timer app quite a while ago, but hadn't had the mic needed to use with the Ipod touch until recently. 

The app works as advertised, with one significant issue on the Ipod Touch ]-The app requires a mic, which requires the accessory headset with mic to be plugged in. The app then routes the start buzzer sound through the headphones rather than the external speaker--a slight issue if you shoot with earplugs rather than muffs.  I was using earplugs for sound, and cold-weather earmuffs for insulation, so I tucked the earbud into the muff and it worked well enough. 

A minor issue I had was was specific to the shooting I was trying to do--I wanted gloved practice, but the Touch can't be controlled with gloves on.  I had to set the start delay long enough to push the button and get my glove back on. 

The instructions have you fire to set the sensitivity--I only read the instructions after I was done...  I did have a little trouble the first time I tried to draw from the holster under my coat--squirming around dragged the mic across the zipper, and this was detected as a shot string.  I manually turned the sensitivity down and it worked fine.   There was nobody else at the range, so I don't know how it does with distinguishing your shots from someone else's.

The app has the capability to email your results to you.

I've had a Pact club timer for a couple years.  The Pact has a much louder buzzer and slightly easier controls--you can run it without looking, better for club or match use.  The Surefire app is easier to review and more flexible, probably better than the Pact for individual use, and certainly a better value.

Other things I discovered today;
My XD40 works fine even with knit gloves.  (Unlike my J-frame)
It takes me almost exactly 3 seconds to get my XD out from under a heavy coat and hit a target.
Shoot-n-see targets don't stick very well in the cold.
Shoot-n-see pasters barely stick in the cold, and fall off when you shoot.