Saturday, March 04, 2017

Guns: Cumberland Tactics Carbine I review and report - Three Days of Fundamentals with Randy Cain

Last month, I took a three-day carbine course at Cumberland Tactics with Randy Cain, a former Gunsite instructor. I thought it was a great class, and a pretty good bargain at $550 considering the amount of material covered and the skill of the instructor.

Below are my impressions of the course - sort of a photo syllabus of what to expect if you train with Mr. Cain. However, this is not a complete or correct outline; I didn't want to plagiarize, and I also think you would be better served to drop the money to get the real thing.

Safety Briefing

Like all reputable classes, we start off with the Four Rules, as written by Jeff Cooper. They are literally set in stone at our host range, Southern Exposure Training Facility. We cover the how and why of each rule, and their application to gunfighting in the real world:

Equipment Notes

Everyone in our class used an optic on their carbine (mostly Aimpoints and clones), and there was only one non-AR in the whole bunch. I learned a very important lesson - EOTechs will go down when it is most inconvenient for them to do so.

I took the course using my tried-and-true six-year-old Daniel Defense DDM4 V3, lightly modified. This is my housegun, and while it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the newer DD carbines, it is incredibly reliable, lightweight, and bombproof. It didn't give me any problems whatsoever during the course, and shot fairly accurately to boot.

Tactical Movement

One of the major draws of a course like this is the ability to practice shooting on the move, something I almost never get to do. It's extremely valuable to see how accurate you can be at a given speed and in inclement conditions, like the spitting rain we experienced on the afternoon of the first day.

Traditional Shooting Positions

While there is some "up close, fast and furious gunfighting stuff" in the class (as Randy would put it), most of the course was shot at 50 to 200 yards. We go through prone (military, Olympic, monopod), sitting, squatting, kneeling, and offhand, both in slow-fire and in hasty assumption drills.

Two steel plates are provided for impromptu shooting competitions.


Randy hates teaching malfunctions, but includes them because this is, after all, an entry-level course. We go through the typical Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 drills, but not advanced malfunctions, like a bolt override.

The Scrambler

My favorite timed drill of the day was one where you started off at about 75 yards prone, then moved forward toward the target, shooting in positions of decreasing stability - sitting, squatting, kneeling, and offhand. Only first-round hits count, which teaches you to prioritize getting a good shot rather than rushing.

Night Shoot

Another thing I've never done is shoot outside at night. Southern Exposure is in a rural area, so it gets pretty dark pretty quickly, as Randy demonstrated in a drill.

For weaponlight fighting, I learned the priceless mnemonic - Up, ON, BANG, OFF, Down.


These were taught on the last day, and never with a loaded carbine. Even then, it's another skill that most ranges will not let you practice.


The final drill was shooting behind a barricade, using a variety of unconventional shooting positions (rollover prone, SBU, etc.). You had to "duck walk" behind the cover forward and back, which is almost ridiculously difficult on your quads. This one made my pretty sore for a few days.


I had a fine experience with the guys at Southern Exposure and Cumberland Tactics, and I'd recommend them to anyone in Florida looking for some firearms training. I will definitely try to be back for a handgun or shotgun course.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Miscellany: Notes from Byron Kerns Survival School - the Bare Bones class

If you ever get the chance, I recommend taking a class with Byron Kerns, a wilderness survival instructor who teaches in Florida and Georgia. My friends and I completed his popular "Bare Bones" course and found ourselves changed at the end; when you know what you need, it's easier to let go of what you don't need.

To give you an idea of what you're getting into, here are my notes from the class, minimally edited. This is not comprehensive by any means - we learned a heckuva lot more than what is outlined below:

Shelter Site Selection

Sunrise and Sunset - know when they happen.

Ground - ants. Above - limbs. Level - water drainage?

Transpiration Bag

Use clear bag, rock to weigh down, most plant surface area. Pine trees work the best. As much sun on the bag as possible. Close tightly!

Priorities of Survival

Positive Mental Attitude = #1 priority

Two extremes - apathy/give up (not enough stress) vs. panic (too much)

STOP - Sit down, Think, Observe, Plan.

Fears - death, darkness, loneliness, animals, ridicule

Stressors - hot, cold, hunger, boredom, thirst, lack of sleep, weather, health, terrain, bugs

Purposes of a fire - morale, drying clothes, boil water, cook, light, signal, heat, protection, meat preservation

Wilderness First Aid = # 2 priority

Take control of victim
Look at injury - two circles is bad (pit viper), straight or halfmoon is good
Circular snake retina is good (except for coral), elliptical is bad
Is there pain/swelling?
Snakebite kit can be used as placebo

Wound - direct pressure (5-10 min), elevate

Other priorities - personal protection, shelter, fire, signals, water, food

Rule of 3s - 3 minutes air, 3 days water, 3 weeks food.


Fire starting - Fatwood/tinder, pile it, strike it with spark

Fire triangle - fuel, oxygen, spark/heat

Fire Method - platform and brace (allows control of airflow)

Smoke means either => lift wood for air, or you have wet wood.

"Gears" of a fire: first gear = tinder (ignite with spark), then kindling, then fuel

Iodine pills should be grey - they don't last long (a few months after opening)


Fishing - fishing line, tide pool, netting, hit 'em with a club

Signalling - three fires/stones/whatever = distress. White vs. black smoke. Intermittent signals. For attracting a plane - higher fire is better.

Trapping is very difficult. But fairly easy to make traps and snares. Takes days, even if you are good. Need to know animal behavior.

Weather prep. Tent condensation. Leave ego at the door. Wouldn't have gone if I knew the forecast. Can use tarp to shield tent. Buy good gear.

Longterm starvation

Positive mental attitude and overcoming fear.

Hypothermia (more clothes, close in)/hyperthermia (lay down, clothes off, sip water, elevate legs). Medkit contents: Tums, Melatonin, Antidiarrheal, Visine, Sunscreen. Allergic reaction - local v general. Fire burn = need water.

Alaskan Pack Strap Demo


MyTopo - agonic line. isogonic line. Lensatic compass is tough, though almost any working compass can do in a pinch.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

In Memoriam

"A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what a ship is for."

- Laurel Clark, STS-107 Mission Specialist

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sports: Dreams of 18

It's amazing to think that 8 years ago, I blogged about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal meeting in the Australian Open final to see who would become the GOAT - the "Greatest of All Time." That final, of course, was a five-set classic won by Rafa.

In the years that followed, both Federer and Nadal have become legends, winning many more titles, and becoming forever intertwined in the tennis firmament as friendly rivals. Federer even flew to Mallorca to help Nadal open his tennis academy this past summer:

Tomorrow sees what may be the last major final between the two, with typically high stakes, epic drama, and clashing styles on display. It's been called a "dream final," because both men were injured last year, and because it provides one of the few chances for the aging pros (Fed is 35, Rafa is an old 30) to add to their Grand Slam tally. Federer is still the men's all-time leader at a record 17 Grand this Nadal's stepping stone to 18?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Music: I Can't Go For That (Jane Lui cover)

Are you familiar with the quirky, modestly successful singer-songwriter and YouTube star Jane Lui?

You are now:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Miscellany: Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

One of the quirks of living in South Florida is that you're never far from the Everglades, an enormous wetland system that occupies most of the central part of the state. You see, all of our urban areas are contained in thin strips along the west and east coasts - the rest is basically a giant mess of sawgrass prairie and marshes. You can go from drinking a boba tea in the mall to cruising along the River of Grass in about 20 minutes.

My favorite place to experience the Everglades is the Arthur R. Marshall National Wildlife Refuge, located right off of Highway 441:

There are hiking trails, a very nice visitor's center, and a cypress swamp boardwalk. The most unique thing to do, though, is to walk along the L-40 canal and drink in some of the widest open spaces you can see in our area.

There is also a canoe trail, with canoes available for rental. It's a relatively long loop (3-4 hours) that presents an up close and personal view of the Everglades. The narrow waterway can be a bit frustrating if your paddling skills are rusty, but there are few sounds more peaceful than listening to the wind ripple the sawgrass.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Movies: Awards Season Review-a-rama

As it does every year, last night's Golden Globe Awards began in earnest the jockeying, campaigning, and cajoling for the Academy Awards (nominations voting closes this Friday). Here are some movies I've seen this year that are sure to be in the running when the envelopes are opened February 26th...

Arrival - This mid-budget alien encounter movie is based on a 1998 short story from Ted Chiang, and it shows. While Amy Adams turns in a fine performance as a linguist trying to comprehend the inscrutable heptapods, there isn't much plot to fill the two-hour runtime, and the dramatic stakes never feel very high. One of two sci-fi movies this year to waste the talents of Forest Whitaker. Rating: 7/10

Captain Fantastic -

A Viggo Mortensen vehicle that follows an isolated hippie family as they attempt to attend the funeral of their mother. If you've seen "Little Miss Sunshine," you've seen all these dramedy beats, but in a much funnier, more cohesive way. Still, I did like the performances from the young ensemble cast. Rating: 6/10

Hacksaw Ridge - Mel Gibson's escape from Hollywood Jail is a biopic about someone as blemish-less as can be: WWII hero Desmond Doss. You'll like the aw-shucks performance from Andrew Garfield and the sweet portrayal of Doss's marriage; you'll cringe at the over-the-top gore and violence of the battle scenes. It's not bad, but it's not "Saving Private Ryan" Rating: 7/10

Hell or High Water -

Chris Pine's big problem is that, despite having true Tinseltown bona fides (he worked as a Roger Corman production assistant, for heaven's sake), he's too good-looking to be taken seriously as an actor. He's trying hard, though, as shown by this gritty modern Western heist film set in the sleepy towns of West Texas. Pine and co-star Ben Foster have a fun sibling chemistry that you don't see very often in movies, and it gives the film's finale unexpected emotional heft. Rating: 8/10

La La Land -

The 800 pound gorilla of awards season, "La La Land" gleefully ticks off all the checkboxes to appeal to Academy voters. Story about making movies? Got it. Old Hollywood song and dance? In spades. Soulful performances by a couple we love to see onscreen? You know it. What's surprising is that it also brings back some of the tonal complexity that Hollywood has forgotten - more "Casablanca" than "The Notebook." The movie's occasionally brought down by the so-so vocal performances of the two leads (who, in fairness, never claimed to be great singers), but it still deserves front-runner status. Rating: 8/10

Moana -

It was a mild upset when "Zootopia" took home the Golden Globe for best animated picture last night, but it was guaranteed that one of the two Disney behemoths this year would win. Of the two, I think "Moana" is the better film. It's a small movie in some respects (there are only really two characters), but epic Polynesian mythology and an outsized vocal turn from the Rock give it a big heart. Rating: 8/10

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Music: 2016 Holiday Album-a-palooza

This was an unusually rich year in Christmas music, so let's look at some of the best albums to spin at your holiday get-together:

"Falling Snow," The Gothard Sisters

I had the pleasure of taking in a live performance by these talented sisters this year, and not surprisingly, "Falling Snow" is excellent - one of the best Celtic Christmas albums I've ever heard. If you want something to surprise your guests with, try the fiddle runs on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen":

"Christmas Party," She & Him

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have been playing music together for a solid decade now - so long that they've released a second Christmas album, "Christmas Party." Yeah, it's twee and tailor-made for a Starbucks near you, but darn it, you have to respect the straight-ahead versions of holiday classics like "Mele Kalikimaka" and "All I Want for Christmas is You":

"Wonderland," Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan also made another holiday album this year, and it's a heckuva lot more cheerful and commercial than her mournful 2006 release, "Wintersong." Whether that's good or bad depends on your mood - do you want sad music for abused pets, or something that you can sing along with? If it's the latter, go with "Wonderland":

Movies: "Rachael...We're home"

Fun Fact: Under federal law, Harrison Ford must star in a single sequel to every genre film he has ever made, even if it is decades after the original(s):

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Miscellany: Silverball Museum, Delray Beach

I largely missed the tail end of the pinball era, those glory days when skating rink lobbies and family fun centers still had a couple of pins alongside "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Street Fighter II." In fact, by the time I could frequent those places with my own money, the home consoles were starting to kill arcade videogames - the corpse of pinball was already cold.

If you care for a little necrophilia, though, you should probably visit the Silverball Museum, a collection of dozens of playable pinball machines, classic videogames, and other amusements in downtown Delray Beach.

This is a pinball fan's nirvana - for a nominal entrance fee (from $7.50 to $25, depending on how long you want to stay there) you get unlimited play on machines from as early as the '60s and '70s (back when scoring was done with electromechanical reels) all the way to Midway's final, great pinball machines of the '90s, like "The Twilight Zone" and "The Addams Family." You can also eat food and drink beer on both the first and second floor (it's basically a retro "barcade").

Here's a fun one I played - Williams' Gorgar (1979), the first commercially released talking pinball machine, complete with Boris Vallejo-y fantasy art:

All the machines have informational placards and high score trackers, for the true pinball buffs:

There are a few things I didn't like about the Silverball Museum. They pipe in classic rock through speakers, which appeals to the Baby Boomer target demographic, but makes the place unnecessarily loud. There are also usually several machines that are "under restoration" (i.e., down for repairs), which is a bummer considering the price of admission. Still, this is a fun stop for anyone in the area, and well worth a visit.

Site Meter