Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making a Fire with the Bow and Drill – Part 2

The first step in making fire is to burn-in your fire board. Burning-in is the process of making the hole in your fire board that the spindle will fit into. You should have already used your knife point to start a small hole in the fire board. This starter hole should be in the center of the fire board about two inches from either end. When the starter hole is complete you may begin the-burning in process.

BURNING-IN (directions for right handed person):
1. Lay the fire board on the ground with the starter hole to your right.
2, Kneel down on your right knee and place the ball of your left foot firmly on the fire board about two inches to the left of the starter hole.
3. Take the bow in your right hand and the spindle in your left hand and wrap the bowstring one time around the spindle about three inches above the pointed end. This may take a few tries. Remember, you have to end up with the bow in your right hand, the string to the left and the pointed end of the spindle pointing down. Pictured below: Proper position of the string around the spindle.

4. Place the pointed end of the spindle into the starter hole. Take the handhold in your left hand and set it over the top of the spindle. Brace your left wrist on the outside of your left ankle so that the spindle won't wobble around when you start to turn it.
5. With your right hand, very slowly begin to move the bow forward and back the full length of the string. Be sure to keep the bow parallel to the ground through the entire length of the stroke. If you saw up and down with the bow it will cause the string to run up and down the spindle and either run off the end of the spindle or pop the spindle out of the starter hole. Pictured below: Turning the spindle to burn in the hole.

6. Hold the handhold onto the top of the spindle with very light pressure. It is a common mistake to apply to much pressure in which case the spindle will become hard to turn, and the bowstring will begin to slip.
7. Once you get the spindle turning properly it should only take a few strokes and you will begin to see a small whiff of smoke as the spindle begins to burn a hole down into the fire board. Do not burn to deeply. One fourth of an inch is plenty. Pictured below: Burned in hole in fire board

Now that you have burned in your fire board it is time to carve the all important "notch." The notch is a pie shaped hole that is cut out of the side of the fire board. The notch starts at the edge of the fire board where it is about 1/4 inch wide and tapers to a point at the center of the hole that you have just burned into the fire board. The glowing coal that you will use to start your fire will form in this notch. Pictured below: top, cutting the notch; bottom, the finished notch

There is one last thing to do before you actually start the fire. Take your knife and re-sharpen the point of the spindle. Be sure to remove all of the charred wood from the end of the spindle. This step needs to be repeated each time you use the spindle. Charred wood on the end of the spindle will cause the spindle to turn to easily in the hole, and you won't have enough friction to form your coal. Pictured below: Removing char from the end of the spindle

Now you are ready to form a glowing hot coal with your fire making tools. Be sure and have a double handful of dry, fluffy tinder ready to accept the coal once it is formed.
To begin forming the coal set your fire board and spindle up just like you did to burn-in the hole. The only difference in the set-up is that this time you need to set a dry leaf, thin chip of wood, piece of bark or something under the notch in the fire board. The purpose of this piece of material is to catch the coal as it falls from the notch. You can then pick up the leaf or piece of bark and transfer the coal to your bundle of tinder. Pictured below: Bark placed below the notch in the fire board.

Some people set the fire board down on top of the bundle of tinder so that the coal will fall directly into the tinder. This will work fine as long as the tinder is setting on a perfectly dry surface. But if the surface is the least bit damp, the tinder will suck up moisture like a sponge, and your coal will never turn into a flame.

Now that you are all set up, begin working the bow back and forth just as you did to burn-in the hole. Remember to use very light pressure at first. Take long, fairly slow strokes to warm up the spindle and fire board. As the fire board begins to smoke a little, increase the pressure on the handhold just a little and turn the spindle a little faster. Remember to use the full length of the bow when you are turning the spindle. Don't make the stroke any shorter just because you are moving your hand faster. Pictured below: Fire board and spindle starting to smoke.

The spindle and the fire board should now be smoking heavily and a pile a black, smoldering powder should be filling up the notch. It is now time to sprit for the finish line and form that coal. Apply more pressure to the handhold, (not to much or the string will start slipping). Now, stroke hard and fast, the full length of the bow, about ten or twelve times. Smoke should be pouring off of the spindle and fire board. Pictured below: Lots of black powder and heavy smoke mean the coal has probably formed and is ready to transfer to the tinder bundle.

Stop stroking. Set the spindle and bow aside. Don't get in a hurry. If you have a coal, the powder in the notch will still be smoking and the coal will burn for quite a while. Now take the point of your knife and place it at the top of the notch. Lift the fire board gently as you press the knife point down through the notch. The still smoldering coal should fall out onto the leaf or bark that you placed under the notch. Carefully transfer the coal to the center of your bundle of tinder. Pictured below: top, Using knife point to flick the coal out of the notch; middle, glowing coal on the piece of bark; bottom, transferring the coal to the tinder bundle.

You would be surprised at how many people can produce a coal and get it into the tinder bundle and then never get the tinder to flame up. Often this is because of moisture, but sometimes it is because of poor technique.

When you have transferred the smoldering coal to the tinder bundle, pick the tinder up very carefully and cup it in your two hands. Very gently fold your hands up so that you bring the outside edges of the tinder bundle up and around the coal like a fluffy nest. Don't press in so hard that you smother the coal or flatten out the tinder. Just nuzzle the tinder up gently around the coal. Now blow softly, not like you're trying to blow out a candle, but softly. The coal should begin to glow a dull red. Blow a tiny bit harder and keep the fluffy edges of the tinder in light contact with the coal. The coal will begin to glow a brighter red, then orange, then yellow and then the tinder will begin to catch the spark and smolder. Pictured below: Blowing on the coal.

When the spark begins to run out into the tinder, hold the tinder bundle out in front of and a little above your face. Turn your head to the side and breathe in. This will keep you from getting a lung full of smoke. Now turn your face back to the smoldering bundle long and steady, not hard, just steady. Turn your head to the side and breathe in. Turn back to the bundle and blow. Be careful because at any moment the tinder bundle will reach critical temperature and burst into flame. When this happens, be ready to pop the blazing tinder into your pre-laid campfire and blow the fire to life. Pictured below: Tinder bursting into flame.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Start a Fire with the Bow and Drill – Part 1

Long before the invention of matches, long even before the discovery of metal, man was making fire. His fire making equipment was simple but reliable. The friction of two sticks rubbed together created heat. The heated wood began to char and form black smoking powder. The black powder became hotter and a red glowing coal began to come to life. This red coal was flipped into a pile of dry tinder and a little gentle blowing produced a flame which was used to light the waiting campfire.

It sounds simple, and with a little practice and the right equipment it really is simple. Once you have mastered the technique of primitive fire making and have your equipment prepared and in place, you can consistently start a fire in under one minute.

To make a fire with a bow and drill you will need to prepare six items of equipment. They are a fire-board, a spindle, a handhold, a bow, a bowstring and some tinder. Since the proper selection and preparation of these six items is over half the battle in primitive fire building, let's talk about each one of them in a little more detail:

FIRE BOARD & SPINDLE - The fire-board and spindle should both be made of the same kind of wood. A dry soft wood like yucca stalk or cottonwood root is best. Woods like willow or cedar can be used but are not as good. Avoid hard or resinous woods like oak, hickory or pine. Whatever kind of wood you use, it must be dead and completely dry. Wood that has been dead at least six months is recommended. Pictured below: Yucca plant.

To make a fire board take a stick of wood about an inch to an inch-and-a-half in diameter and about a foot long. Trim off two opposite sides of the stick to leave a flat board about 3/4" thick. Take the point of your knife and dig a small starter hole in the middle of the board about two inches from the right end. Pictured below: top, Section of dry Yucca stalk; middle, Removing sides of the stalk to leave a flat board; bottom, Making a small starter hole in the fire-board.

To make a spindle cut a stick about 3/4" in diameter by ten inches long. Round one end of the stick and carve the other end to a shallow point. Do not smooth the stick off. A rough surface will grip the bowstring better when you are turning the spindle. Pictured below: The spindle.

HANDHOLD - The handhold is the socket that fits on top of the spindle and allows it to turn freely in your hand. The handhold may be made out of hardwood, stone, bone, a seashell or etc. The handhold should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. The handhold should have a hole in the center that is large enough to accept the rounded end of the spindle and deep enough to keep the spindle from jumping out as it turns. Pictured below: Various different handholds.

BOW - The bow that you will use to turn the spindle can be made from any fairly strong but flexible wood. Oak, hickory, cedar, ash and elm will all make a good bow. You may use these woods green or dry; it really doesn't matter. In fact you don't even have to remove the bark from your bow. Make your bow from a stick that is about 3/4" in diameter and about two feet long. You will need to carve two shallow grooves around the stick to hold the bowstring. Carve one groove about 1/2" from one end of the stick and the other groove about six inches from the opposite end of the stick. This way you will have about a six inch handhold left after you string the bow. Pictured below: Fire bow.

BOWSTRING - You will need about two-and-a-half to three feet of string for your bow. There are many sources of string. You may have some nylon cord with you already. If you are wearing lace-up boots or shoes you can use your shoe laces. You may cut a strip of leather from your belt. You can tear several strips of material from your shirt, skirt or pants and then twist or braid these together to form strong cordage. If you have the knowledge and skill you can make your own cordage from yucca leaves, agave leaves, nettle stems and many other wild plants. In short, your imagination is the only limit when it comes to producing a bowstring.

TINDER - Good quality, dry tinder is very important for primitive fire building. Nothing is more frustrating than to get a good glowing red coal from your fire board and then not be able to set your tinder ablaze with it. In order to catch fire from a glowing coal, tinder must be dry, dry, dry. Finely shredded dead cedar bark makes good tinder. Very dead, very dry shredded grass will work as tinder. Good tinder can be made by unraveling jute or hemp rope to the smallest possible fibers. Old bird's nests make good tinder if they are made of fine grasses and fibers. A good trick to help your tinder catch fire from a coal is to work some very dry cattail fluff or thistle down into the tinder. This fluff or down will not actually blaze up, but it will catch a spark and help spread it throughout the tinder. Pictured below: top, cutting cedar bark from tree; middle, strips of cedar bark; bottom, shredded cedar bark tinder.

Now that we have our materials together, in the next post we will use them to build a fire.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Make a Primitive Brush from Yucca and River Cane

I make these quick and easy brushes when I need something with which to apply rawhide or pine pitch glue. They just take a minute to make, and when you’re through with them you can chunk them into the fire. All you need in the way of materials is a small piece of cane for the handle, a dry yucca leaf for the fibers, and some dry pine sap to hold the fibers in the handle.

To make a brush, take a piece of cane that is about three-eights of an inch in diameter and cut it about eight inches long. Make sure that a cane joint is about three-eights of an inch from one end of the handle. Pictured below: top, cutting the cane; bottom, finished handle.

Now take your dried yucca leaf and peal of the outer membrane to expose the fibers. Use the butt of your knife handle to pound the fibers and separate them. Cut two or three sections of fibers about an inch long. Pictured below: top, scraping yucca leaf; middle, pounding leaf fibers; bottom, one finished fiber bundle.

Check to see if you have enough fibers before you try to glue them in, then warm your pine sap and drop a little into the end of the cane. Pictured below: top, checking the fit; bottom, putting pitch in the cane.

Quickly, before the sap hardens, push the yucca fibers down into the cane. Pictured below: top, trimming bristles; bottom, finished brush.

That's all there is to it. You now have a brush that you can use when sinew backing a bow or you can use it to paint glue onto arrow bindings. Heck, if you have any artistic talent you can even paint with it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vegans Would Find it Hard to Survive in the Wilderness

There are many edible wild plants that can be found in the wilderness. I'm no expert, but I know of at least forty-five edible wild plants that I can find on my farm. You would think that with that many edible wild plants available it would be fairly easy to survive on a vegetarian diet in the wilds. It is not. A life supporting diet doesn't just depend on the quantity of food available. It also depends on the quality of the food available.

The human body needs carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to survive. Wild plants have a goodly amount of carbohydrates but protein and fats are a problem. Wild fruits and vegetables have virtually no protein. Wild seeds and nuts have more protein, nearly the concentration that is found in meat, fowl, or fish. But one big drawback to getting your protein from plants is that the plants that produce protein are very seasonal. Acorns, pecans, hickory nuts, black walnuts, and pine seeds are only available in the fall. Most grass seeds are harvestable only in the fall, though some may remain of the stalk into the winter. Not much help if you are trying to survive in the spring and summer.

I think it is ironic that one of the greatest plagues of the modern diet is fat. We look for low-fat this and low-fat that at the grocery store. We trim the fat from our meat and try to avoid butter and lard. The ironic thing is that fat is one of the hardest dietary substances to find in the wild. Even wild meat is pretty low in fat. People that have to live on wild meat prize animals, like possoms, bears, or wild hogs, that have fat in the meat. Wild seeds and nuts have fat in them, but the problem is the same as stated above, they can mostly only be found in the fall.

Maybe you can enlighten me, but I know of no native culture that did or does subsist only by foraging for wild plants. All gatherers that I know of were hunter/gatherers even if they were only hunting grasshoppers. Even native groups with fairly advanced agriculture supplemented there diets by hunting. It's just hard to get enough protein and fat without eating meat.

So if you are a vegan in modern life, be warned. If you are going to survive in the wilderness, you will become an omnivore, so you better start cultivating a taste for possom right now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Five Guns for the Homestead - Part 3 - Military Rifles

When you need this gun things will be bad. Military rifles can be used for hunting, but their main purpose in life is to kill people. I hate the thought of having to do that, but I hate the thought of losing my family even more.

Modern military rifles (by this I mean WWII vintage and newer) are generally designed to be simple to operate, to be reliable under adverse conditions, to have man killing knock down power, and to hold plenty of ammo. Nearly all standard issue military rifles manufactured since WWII are at least semi-automatic, and some have full auto capability. Full auto models are illegal for civilian ownership unless you buy a special license. Most manufacturers of military rifles make semi-auto civilian versions of the same rifles. Personally I think semi-auto is enough. Full auto burns a lot of ammo, and most people can't control the point of aim after the first few rounds. I believe that the U.S. military now advocates the use of three round burst rather than full auto. The volume of fire doctrines of Vietnam have pretty well been discredited; and accurate, aimed fire at a slower rate has been shown to be more effective in combat.

There are quite a few semi-auto versions of military rifles that available one the civilian market. Probably the three most popular in the U.S. are the AR-15 (civilian version of the M-16), different variants of the Soviet SKS, and different variants of the Soviet AK-47. The Ruger Mini-14 is also very popular. It is a carbine size rifle that fires the .223 military round. All of these are good solid weapons.

The AR-15 is chambered for the .223 cartridge. It is well made, with good finish and close tolerances. Thirty round magazines are readily available and the ammo is moderate to cheap in price. Some feel that the close tolerances of the AR-15 make it subject to jamming, and it is probably not a good idea to use cheap ammo in it. The .223 round is considered by some critics to be too light for a military round. The biggest drawback to the AR-15 is it's hefty price tag (in the $1000 range). Pictured below: AR-15

The SKS and its variants are a WWII vintage Soviet design. Many of the rifles were manufactured in China, Yugoslavia, and other Soviet block countries. The ones that I have seen and fired have been pretty well made. They are very utilitarian, nothing fancy, not the best finish, but the seem to be well machined and the one's I fired were surprisingly accurate. The SKS holds 10 rounds of 7.62 x 39 ammo that is loaded via a stripper clip. This low ammo capacity and the method of loading are probably the biggest draw-backs to the SKS. You can buy after market 30 round magazines for the SKS. I have not personally tried any of these, so I can't comment on them. I have had a couple of reports of them being somewhat clumsy to use and not feeding all that well, but like I say I haven't used one myself. One of the biggest pluses for the SKS is the price tag. At one time you could buy them for $89. Even in today's market you can still find them for around $200. Pictured below: Soviet SKS.

The Soviet AK-47 and its many variants is the most widely manufactured firearm in history. The AK-47 fires the 7.62 x 39 round. It is commonly available with a 30 round magazine. The quality of the AK varies widely. The finish is nothing to right home about. Many of these rifles have laminated (read plywood) stocks and had grips. The tolerances on the AK are very loose. Some of them actually rattle when fired. But it is because of the tolerances that the AK seems so impervious to jamming. I have seen a demonstration where a loaded AK is buried in the sand, pulled up out of the sand, and fired; without even blowing it off. AK's vary in price along with the quality. You can pick up an AK variant for around $450. I have one of the Rumanian manufactured variants which is totally plain Jane. It is surprisingly accurate, and I have never had a jam. Pictured below: Soviet AK-47.

The Ruger Mini-14 is a civilian weapon. The Mini-14 is manufactured by Strum Ruger and is a scaled down version of the M14 military rifle. Mini-14's are chambered for the .223 U.S. military round and 5.56 x 45 NATO round. The Mini-14 is used by civilians and many police and security forces, but it is not in used by any of the world's major military establishments. It is a good quality gun, as are all Ruger products, with good fit and finish. High capacity magazines and lots of after market accessories are available for the Mini-14. The price tag on the Mini falls somewhere in between the AK and the AR-15. Pictured below: Ruger Mini-14.

My recommendation for a homestead military rifle is the AK-47 or one of its variants. These guns are ugly but, in my experience, accurate and reliable. Ammo is plentiful and inexpensive ( $5 for 20 rounds at this time). One of the best things about the AK is that you can buy two of them for the price of one AR-15 and have some change left over.

So that's my picks for the five firearms that a homestead needs. You may disagree, and you may have good reasons; but I don't think you would go too far wrong with the guns that I have recommended.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Five Guns for the Homestead - Part 2 - Handguns

Hand guns and military rifles are a flashpoint for the anti-gun folks. They feel that there is no place for such things in a civilized society. I agree 100% and if I ever live in a civilized society I will be the first to give up my defensive firearms. I’m sorry, but there is violence in the world. People will try to hurt other people for no reason. People will try and take what you have. And this is when society is going along pretty well. Imagine what it would be like if the social order broke down completely. Does New Orleans during hurricane Katrina ring any bells with you? Most anti-gun folks live in cities. If they have a problem the police are usually no more than a few minutes away. Where I live there are four deputies to patrol 1600 square miles. By the time the law arrives, it’s all over. One night some guys were trying to break into my barn. I snuck up through the woods with a shotgun, crouched down in the brush, and fired a shot up in the air. They jumped in their truck and took off. I went back down to the house and called the sheriff to report what I had done. Their response was, “Do you want us to send somebody out.” “No,” I replied, “I just wanted to report what happened in case somebody calls in and says I was trying to kill them.” That’s how it works in the country. When people are spread out so thin, they have to learn to take care of themselves. So, I advocate the ownership of defensive weapons by sensible individuals that want to protect their families, their lives, and their property.

The handgun is not my first choice for home defense. I think a shotgun is far superior. A shotgun looks more intimidating, and a shotgun does not require as much skill or accuracy to use as a handgun. But, it’s kind of hard to carry a shotgun around with you all the time. A handgun, on the other hand, can easily be carried on the person. In Texas, where I live, any law abiding citizen can get a permit to carry a handgun; and many do. I don’t carry a handgun, but I do keep one in my truck. In Texas any citizen who is not a convicted felon, is not in the act of committing a felony, and who is not a member of a criminal organization, can carry a concealed handgun in their vehicle without any kind of permit. I would prefer to have a shotgun, but a shotgun is pretty hard to maneuver in a confined space like a vehicle.

So the question is, what kind of handgun? Do you want a revolver or an auto-loader? What size, what barrel length, what caliber. There are a lot of decisions to make. It used to be that law enforcement used nothing but revolvers because auto-loaders where considered to be too unreliable. The modern auto-loaders are pretty reliable, and they hold a lot more rounds of ammo. Nearly all departments issue auto-loaders now. As to size, select a handgun that fits your hand. When I’m looking at a handgun, the first thing I do (after making sure that it is unloaded) is to wrap my hand around it, hold it up into firing position, and place my index finger on the trigger. If it doesn’t feel right that’s as far as I go. If it’s not comfortable in my hand it doesn’t matter what other virtues it may have. Barrel length? Get the longest barrel that you can conveniently carry. The longer the barrel, the longer the sighting plane, and the more accurate the gun. When it comes to caliber, anything smaller than a .380 is too small. In Texas the law requires that a concealed handgun must be no smaller than .380 caliber.

I’m not going to recommend a specific handgun. That’s kind of like trying to tell people what brand of beer they should drink. The choice of a handgun is a very personal choice. I will recommend that you follow the guidelines mentioned above, and that if you select a revolver it be no smaller that .357 magnum (which will also shoot .38 specials). Pictured Below:Llama Comanche .357 Magnum Revolver

If you choose an auto-loader I would recommend a 9mm because of the power and the wide availability of relatively inexpensive ammunition. Pictured Below:Tarus PT-92 9mm

I carry an auto-loader; the Tarus PT-92. It is a clone of the Beretta 92 (in fact it is made on Beretta tooling). The PT-92 is medium in size, is double action, and holds 15 rounds of 9mm plus one in the chamber. Mine is accurate and I have had no jamming or other problems with it. Whatever handgun you choose, learn how to use it. That means lots of ammo and lots of range time. You don’t want to be trying to figure out where the safety is if you’re in a life and death situation

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why I Hate the Brady Bill and Wal-Mart

This weekend I did two things which I rarely do. I decided to buy a new gun, and I went to Wal-Mart to do it. The reason that I rarely buy a gun is because I have all the guns that I need, and I am not in the habit of buying things that I don’t need. In fact, I don’t think I’ve bought a gun since the Brady Bill was passed into law.

The reason that I rarely go into Wal-Mart is because I loath everything that they stand for. They predatorily destroy local businesses, they bully and exploit their vendors and employees, they are a major source of the U.S. trade deficit, and they are a supporter of the Communist Chinese economy.

So here’s what happened. My son is getting ready to graduate from college, and he has been wanting a Remington 700 in .308 caliber. Wal-Mart had them on sale with scope and mount for $297 plus tax, so I drove to a nearby town to buy him one for a graduation present. Those of you who are familiar with the Brady Bill probably know where this is going. I went to the sporting goods section and the salesman pulled out a 700 for me to look at. I cycled the bolt, pulled the magazine out, replaced it, and told him I’d take the gun. I told him I was so happy to find it because I had been looking for one for my son’s graduation present and they were hard to find in .308.

Now here’s where the stupidity starts. At this point the salesman could have said, “Gee sir, if you’re going to buy it for your son, you’ll have to have him come in to fill out the paperwork on it because the Brady Bill requires the person who will own the gun has to sign the papers. I would have disagreed with the law, but I would have understood his position, and I would have had my son go up there with me the next weekend when he was home from college and fill out the papers. But is this guy smart enough to do that. Sadly, no. He is either the dumbest gun salesman in the world; or, more likely, he is not permitted to deal with something of this magnitude without the approval of higher management. So we go through the whole rigmarole of filling out papers, checking ID, calling for a background check, etc, etc. This process is interrupted by him taking a phone call which, in his defense, he was polite enough to ask me if he could take. He then had to go check a price for the person on the phone. Then he had to go to the back and find a box for the gun which took an unusually long time. I later realized that it took so long because he was alerting the manager to a major crisis that was developing at the gun counter. To whit, a good citizen was trying to buy a hunting rifle for his son in violation of the Brady Bill straw purchase clause.

So, a half hour after I told the guy that I was buying the gun for my son’s graduation present, he finally makes it back to the counter with the box. I have my money clip in my hand ready to pay for the gun when here comes “Mike the Manager” rolling up on his walkie-talkie equipped electric scooter. Mike is in his thirties I would say, weighs about 220, and is bald as a billiard ball. He gets off his scooter and walks around the counter. He takes one look at me, 145 pounds, $500 snakeskin boots, and a money clip full of 100 dollar bills in my hand, and his eyes light up with joy. He’s fixing to get to stick it to one of those guys that he knows he’ll never be.

The situation could still have been salvaged at this point. The conversation could have gone like this:
Mike: “Sir, I’m sorry but we may have a problem with selling you this gun today.”
Hank: “Oh really. What kind of problem could that be?”
Mike: Well there’s this law called the Brady Law. It’s a pain in the rear for us and for honest citizens like yourself, but we have to follow it or we can get into big trouble.”
Hank: “So how does that apply to me?”
Mike: “Well, you said you were buying this gun for your son’s graduation present, right.”
Hank: “Yes. He’s graduating from college in May.”
Mike: “Well according to the Brady Law, and again I apologize for this, the person who’s going to own the gun has to fill out the paperwork and sign it if he’s over 18 years of age.”
Hank: “Oh, I wasn’t aware of that. That’s a pretty stupid law.”
Mike: “I agree. Everybody knows that this won’t keep bad guys from getting guns, but we have to follow the law. If you could just bring your son in and have him fill out the papers we’d be happy to sell you the gun.”
Hank: “OK. It’s a pain in the butt, and it will ruin the surprise, but he’ll be home next weekend and I’ll bring him in then.”

There could have been a happy ending for everyone, but apparently Wal-Mart doesn’t spend much time working with their managers on people skills because this is how it went:

Mike smiles and asks, “What are we buying today?” “A Remington 700 in .308,” I tell him. “Going to do a little deer hunting are you?” he asks. “Well my son will probably go deer hunting with it next year,” I say. “I’m buying it for his graduation present.” “Oh really. How old is your son?” he says like he’s a nice guy who’s just interested in my family. “He’ll be 22 in April,” I say. He gets a look on his face like he just personally caught Osama Ben Laudin. “Well sir, I can’t sell you this gun.” He says with a kind of satisfied smirk on his face, “If you’re buying it for someone over the age of 18 he has to fill out the paperwork or it’s a violation of the Brady Law.” “You’ve got to be sh__ing me,” I said. “No, I can’t sell it to you,” he says. “Well, I’ll buy it for myself then,” I say. “No, you already said you’re buying it for him. You can’t take it back once you say you’re buying it for someone else. I’m sorry,” he said, “I can’t sell it to you.” So I told him what I thought about him and the Brady Bill and left never to return.

They could have made me feel like they wanted to sell me the gun but that their hands were tied by a bad law that we were both victims of, and that if I would come back with my son they would be happy to sell me the gun. Instead they made me feel like they’d set a trap to try and catch me consciously committing a criminal act, that they were way too smart to get fooled by little ole me, and that I should be on my way. Not a very good way to keep customers, but then again I guess Wal-Mart thinks they’re so big that they don’t have to worry about losing a few customers. Well, it may take a while, but the bankruptcy courts have a long relationship with businesses that think they can lose a few customers without consequence.

So let’s recap. We have a stupid law that prevents a law abiding father from buying a graduation present for his son, but a law that every terrorist, drug dealer, and gangbanger in the U.S. knows how to get around. We have a stupid salesman that wasted a half hour of my time and turned a potential sale into a lost customer. And we have Mike. God bless you Mike. I hope you enjoyed yourself. A guy like you needs a break every once in a while, but I’d try to brush up on my customer relations skills a little if I were you.

P.S. I’ll just give my son the cash and tell him to buy his .308 wherever he wants, as long as it’s not from Wal-Mart.