Saturday, April 9, 2016

Word to the wise: 'never volunteer, son...'

I was just reading the latest news about guns from a reliable source: Virtual Mirage (http://symbolic-mirage.blogspot.com/) and had to add my own gun experience which is profoundly different than the erstwhile author LL's.

I grew up in suburban Eugene, Oregon in the early 1960's; significantly before the place was transformed into a poor man's Berkeley, where everybody is offended nowadays at the drop of a hat.  "Fredd, how dare you say 'at the drop of a hat'??!!  You pathetic neanderthal, don't you get it that hats are a male thing, and that you sound like a sexist pig spewing that hate?"  Yes, I am just a lousy hater, I've come to accept that.

My household was a gun-free zone back then.  Sure, as a little kid I was always playing cowboys and Indians (which went the way of the dinosaur decades ago as a racially intolerant activity), and us little kids emulated Vic Morrow and Rip Torn as WWII combat weary veterans in the black and while TV series "Combat."  But real guns were just not in my life.

Then I went and joined the U.S. Army at age 19.  All of a sudden, I was able to field strip and re-assemble an M-16 military combat rifle blindfolded, and was qualified as an expert marksman with this weapon.  

My dad, a WWII veteran, had warned me before I shipped out to boot camp: 'when you're in the army, son, never volunteer for anything.  Just don't do it, volunteering to anything, no matter what it is, it just never turns out good for you.'

Well, of course I volunteered as an E-6 staff sergeant to supervise an ordinance disposal detail.  Because our battalion had such bad leadership, our annual TO&E allotment of ammunition for the battalion was never used up in gunnery range training, because our leaders always had other priorities than keeping the troops' weaponry skills in order.  Then came the end of September, and thus the end of the fiscal year.  If we still had ammo left over, the brass would get less the next year since we had not used what was issued in the prior year and we all know that officers simply cannot do with less of anything, under any circumstances.

I was assigned to supervise 5 enlisted men to take a 2.5 ton truck (lovingly referred to as a 'deuce and a half') loaded with our unused ammo out to the range: box upon box of 5.56 ball ammo for M-16's, box upon box of M-60 light machine gun ammo (with tracers every 5th round), a goodly amount of M-203 grenades, a ton of .45 rounds for the M-1911 Colt pistols issued to senior NCO's and officers.  Since we were an intelligence unit, this was the extent of our ordinance, and no .50 cal rounds, fragmentation hand grenades, Claymore mines, or any of the fun stuff was issued to us 'REMF's'.  

Still, this was a ton of ammo, and I was directed to bring back the spent brass casings so that it could be accounted for.  I could hardly wait to go and blow off all of this, it was a detail that would only happen in my dreams.  

Not so fast, there, Fredd.  The first 15 minutes of popping off the M-60 rounds was great.  Changing the red hot barrels every 200 rounds or so was tedious, but still, very cool.  The next hour or two, things became pretty repetitive, and the fun of all of this was quickly disappearing.

Then we started on the bulk of our ordinance, the M-16 rounds.  Those had to be loaded into the magazines (we had banana clips which held 30 rounds), and this was also incredibly tedious.  After 5 or 6 hours of this, all of our hands were raw and blistered, holding onto and firing these weapons with no gloves.  We started wrapping our hands in 100 mph tape (duct tape in the civilian world), and it helped some, but soon nothing really helped.  We were all in agony.

Towards the end of this nightmare detail, one of the privates asked me 'sarge, I'm dyin' here, can't we just bury the rest of this shit, and get out of here?'  As good as that sounded to me at the time, I had to account for the brass and was not inclined to get busted for not coming back with the correct number of casings, so this was not going to work, either.

In the end, this was perhaps the most miserable experience I ever had in the army.  Our hands were dripping with blood, and not even the 100 mph tape kept it from flowing like water.  We were to a man completely miserable to the bone.  And to drive a stake through our hearts, we then got to the M-203 grenades.  Although there were only a few boxes of those, they had to be fired from an M-16 mount, and those rounds kicked like a mule.  It was hell trying to hold onto those weapons with bloody, blistered aching hands.  I was convince I was in hell.  I had never been more miserable.  Ever.  And this detail was supposed to be fun.  

"Never volunteer for anything, no matter how good it sounds at the time"....I still remember to this day my dad telling me that, and how I blew off this sound advice much to my detriment.

I now own a .357 magnum caliber revolver, and this gun is for home protection only, and will only get fired at somebody who is intent on doing me or my family harm.  And so far, the gun has never been fired.  God willing, it never will be fired.

I will be a happy man if I meet my Maker, never having fired another weapon as long as I live.  I've probably put more rounds down range than anyone else on the planet.  Well, other than those other five guys on that detail from hell.  


21 comments:

LL said...

Some people golf, some people shoot, some people build cool things. In the end we're all shadows and dust.

Fredd said...

Yup, LL. I've shot my fill. For life.

Unless, of course, somebody decides they want to enter my home against my wishes. Then I will be squeezing off some more rounds. Big, meaty rounds, hollow points at that. Why screw around?

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

My father said to me as I went off to Fort Ord after being drafted, "Never volunteer for anything." I was one of the guys who shot up all of that old ammo on a regular basis, but It never took that long. Four or five of us would take care of it once a month. It wasn't so bad that way, and the others beside myself and another were rotated to stay brushed up. I too now own a 357 mag. revolver also. I take myself to the range once a year to stay competent though.

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

Oh, our name for duct tape in snowmobile country is "High Speed Tape." Funny how so many things in our lives are so familiar to others.

Brighid said...

Darn near anything can go South on one...
Maintaining a skill set can make a huge difference in outcome.

Ed Bonderenka said...

I've only fired full auto once. Air Force, you know.
After tearing up the target first squeeze, I figured I might like to chew up the wooden baffles. The range officer was not happy.
I bought an AK because I felt every man should own a battle rifle.
Accurate as all get out, regardless of their rep.
Boring to shoot. I haven't put a lot downrange.
Now my .357 Security Six? Or my Kahr 9?
Those are challenging. Accurate, but they demand more from me.
Just bought a case of .38 to run through one and a case of 9 for the other.

Fredd said...

Odie:

I, too, was funneled through Fort Ord, CA. First time I ever saw 'ice plants.' Once a month was certainly the way to go, but a better way would have been to schedule regular battalion range days (which my really inferior 'superiors' never seemed to find a way to figure out). Even blowing off the extra ordinance once a month, but waiting for an entire year and then have 6 guys just about kill themselves, I'll never forget this one.

And I don't volunteer anymore. For anything. No matter what.

Kid said...

Great story Fredd. Who knew firing weapons could not be fun? Not I.

Anyway, a 357 for home protection should get your attention. I had a 357 and found that it could easily go through 8 2X4's (maybe more but that's all we had during the test). Your 357 could find its way through several of your neighbors houses.

We have a 12 ga shotgun and a couple 22's as principle defense weapons. We do have other weapons but the shotgun and 22 will be the first go to weapons. Then again you are near Chicago... Maybe a S&W Model 29 44 Mag is in order.

Fredd said...

Kid: I had a .44 Mag Ruger Redhawk, 8" barrel. Those stock walnut grips tore my hand up on the firing range, as this beast kicked like Bruce Lee. I found myself wincing right before pulling the trigger.

Needless to say, one has to have a handgun that you feel comfortable with. I don't have to fight the .357 like I did with the .44 Mag. I stepped down a notch on load, and with hollow points, nobody's getting by me with a free pass, the .357 is up to any Chicago dirt bag that cares to try anything around here.

LindaG said...

Yup. Every branch of the military will tell you that. And it always annoyed me how the military was punished for not saving money; by giving you less of what you saved the year before.

Thank you for your service and God bless.

LSP said...

LL: "Shadows and dust" -- "Remember, O man, that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return." But Ash Weds isn't the end of the story, thank God.

Fredd: You might like one of my Friends here, a neat guy who was a crew chief, back in the day. I've gone fishing with him and invited him out to shoot, but he always replies, "You know, I'm just about shot out." Not beyond shooting snakes in his tanks though.

I like the .357 a lot...

Fredd said...

LindaG: yes, and it annoys me to no end that all the branches of the military know that this is not the way to run things, and yet nothing ever changes. It was the same in my dad's army back in the 1940's. And I bet it was the same in the War of 1812, and I bet it was the same in.....

Fredd said...

Reverend: I know that I'm shot out. Don't need me no practice, neither (I'm practicing my Texan accent, how am I doing?). It doesn't take practice on a revolver with a 4" barrel to get the job done. When if ever it comes time to bring that .357 Mag to bear, it's like riding a bike.

Z said...

here's how dumb this girl is: What were you firing AT?
I agree about not volunteering...and not only in the military. I've finally learned that lesson! Unless it's something I REALLY believe in.

Fredd said...

Z: only if you are a true believer, one with the cause, do you ever volunteer. Otherwise, fuhgeddaboudit.

Not really dumb question, this was a military firing range in Graffenwehr, West Germany (we called it 'Graf'), with masonry walls here and there to chip away at, along with old broken down military vehicles to shoot at. At this particular range, the vehicle we were blasting away at, and successfully chopped in half with gun fire, was an articulated all-wheel drive vehicle called a 'gamma goat.' Farther on down the range was a partially demolished 3/4 or perhaps a 1 ton truck of perhaps Korean War vintage, none like it were ever seen in our motor pool, so I couldn't tell you what specific kind of vehicle it was. Needless to say, whatever it was took plenty of incoming.

Kid said...

Fredd, You gotta go with what is comfortable and feels right for you.

I like my Springfield Armory .40 cal. - A bullet that is .043 larger. A mag that holds 16 and 1 in the chamber.

The safety system is disengaged when you properly grip the weapon (Slide in the back of the grip that depresses in plus a lever on the trigger. Grip it and rip it) Check out the XD, XDM and XDS series pistols.

I did love my Dan Wesson .357 though. Could hit a round 5 gal. can at 100 yds with it. Darned accurate and fun to shoot. I actually took it on a plane in Feb 1979 when I moved from Pittsburgh to Phoenix. State Trooper let me take it in my carry on - unloaded but with a box of 50 right beside. They put it in the Pilots cabinet just outside the cockpit. It was a very empty flight and an absolutely gorgeous stewardess sat on the arm rest of the seat in front of me and talked to me the entire 4.5 hours. It was my first flight. I thought, Man this is Great ! I need to fly more often! Of course, in retrospect, she was assigned to keep an eye on me.
Heh.

Fredd said...

Kid: try taking a .357 onto a plane today. Go ahead, give it a shot. What do you have to lose, other than about 7 to 10 years of life spent in the Big House, or maybe not quite that much with good behavior.

Kid said...

Right Fredd, This was 1979. Nice perspective on where we've come since then.

christian soldier said...

used to volunteer for everything--finally learned my lesson--
still head my pro life 501 C3 -though --

one time wrote an article for the RWF - that led to RINO=(I realized that the R and D parties were the same- in 1993 - when I wrote it--) my so called friend 'stole' RINO- had buttons made for R convention in mid 90s --says the idea is hers--


Trust no one and - as your father said --don't volunteer!

C-CS

christian soldier said...

BTW- will head here everyday from now on!!
C-CS

Fredd said...

Carol: how's that 501 C3 pro life concern going these days? Been getting threats from John Koskinen and the IRS lately? If not, just wait.