Dispactched

As I pulled up to the house at about 6:30 this evening, I spotted an animal running erratically along the shoulder of the road about 50 feet or so ahead. It was roughly the size of a large cat, but I’d never seen one of our barn cats that far off our property — and certainly not running along the side of the road in this manner. Not able to get a better look at the animal’s markings, I dismissed it and turned into the driveway.

As Mrs Yeoman Farmer used a hose to water newly-planted bushes in the front yard, I went inside and began cooking dinner. A moment later, she came running into the house with an urgent request: “Get your gun! There is a sick, rabid-looking raccoon wandering around in the street.”

So that was it. No wonder I hadn’t been able to recognize the animal at first — raccoons are never out in the daytime, and they certainly never run around like this one was. Unless, of course, they’re rapid.

I dashed upstairs, grabbed the 12-gauge pump shotgun we use for home defense, and then hurried out to the road. The raccoon had now crossed to our side of the street, and was looking as disoriented as ever. Two cars were coming, so I stood just off the road. Strange as I must have looked, standing there holding a large shotgun, neither car so much as slowed down to get a better look at me. Once both had passed, I raised the shotgun to my shoulder, lined the coon up, and blasted.

Because rabid animals are known to charge and attack, I hadn’t wanted to get too close to my target. As a result, I didn’t score a direct hit with enough of my nine pieces of 00 buckshot to kill the coon. He was definitely wounded, but still on his feet.

I racked another shell into the chamber, and took a couple of steps toward him before firing again. This blast took him off his feet. As he rolled around on the shoulder of the road, I knew he’d never survive these wounds — but I wanted him all the way dead. Now.

Except there was a small problem: another car was coming. I stepped back from the road, sheepishly holding the shotgun in my arms, wondering if the driver was at all curious as to what I was doing. If he was, he didn’t indicate it by slowing down. Once he was safely past, I racked a third shell and again approached the coon. As he was now unable to charge me, I got to within about ten feet before letting go with my final shot — and this one left no doubt.

MYF and I were both concerned about leaving a dead rabid coon on the side of the road, especially with the propensity our dogs and cats have for poking around and exploring. And what would happen if some scavenger cleaned up this carcass? Could the disease spread wider into the local wildlife population? Plus, we weren’t sure if the game department needed to be informed about the situation.

I made a quick call to the local Department of Natural Resources, and the woman I spoke with assured me that there was no need for them to catalog the kill. Coons are terrible spreaders of disease, she said, and I shouldn’t hesitate to dispatch them any time they come on our property. As for this one, she told me, I could either bury it or carefully dispose of it in the trash. I chose the latter. After donning latex gloves, I dropped the carcass into a large paper feed bag and then secured it in the trash can. And then washed my hands thoroughly.

What I still can’t get over is how totally nonplussed the drivers were as they went past me. As one who grew up in a quiet Seattle subdivision, and lived in fairly densely populated neighborhoods for most of my adult life, I can imagine the utter panic (and calls to the police) that would have ensued if I had walked any of those streets with a 12-gauge pump shotgun over my shoulder.

It really is different out here. And I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Ultimate Security Flashlight

Too bad the FMG9 is still just a prototype, because I really want one of these. And am not sure I’d want to go out and walk my dog at night in an urban area without one handy. Heck, even on the farm, one of these would make it infinitely easier to go investigate what the dog was barking his head off at in the middle of the night.

This brief video really must be seen to be believed:

H/T: Baseball Crank

Clarification

It has come to my attention that in recent days a particular website has begun linking to this blog. That site, which I will not name and to which I will not provide a link, specializes in providing seeds and supplies for growing a particular kind of “grass” which we do not cultivate on this farm and have never cultivated elsewhere. I have asked for that site’s link to be removed, but I’m not sure how long it will take. And in the meantime, that link may still be generating traffic and readership.

So, let me clarify and emphasize an important core philosophy of The Yeoman Farmer: if you don’t like the rules in your state or your country, advocate for and work to change them — but don’t flaunt and break them unless you’re being asked to do something immoral or unconscionable. As one of William Golding’s characters put it, “We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages.”

This blog discusses grape cultivation and home winemaking, but will not tell you how to brew a batch of moonshine or build a backyard still. I discuss firearms and support responsible gun ownership, but would not explain (even if I had the knowledge, which I don’t) how to build a silencer for your pistol or convert your rifle to fully-automatic fire. Our family strongly opposes the NAIS, but will (reluctantly) register our livestock with it if we are eventually required by law to do so.

Longtime readers may have observed that the War on Drugs has never before been the subject of a post on this blog. The reason for that is simple: it’s not a subject that interests me much, and I don’t have strong opinions about it one way or the other. Neither Mrs Yeoman Farmer nor I have consumed marijuana (or any other illegal controlled substance) in any form, and have no desire to do so, even if we were visiting a place where it was legal. That said, I am not unsympathetic to those who would like to change some of the drug laws in this country. But if you’re looking for advice on cultivating a crop that isn’t currently legal, you won’t find it on this blog. We do hope you stick around and enjoy the commentary about everything else related to farming, family, faith, and citizenship — and work to change the law rather than break it.

The .380 Mystery

Last week, I noted the strong sales of guns — and now, particularly, ammunition. Among other things, I pointed out that no retailers around here, even the local gun shop with high prices, seem to have .380 pistol ammunition in stock.

Ruger makes an extremely popular concealed carry weapon, the LCP, chambered in .380. It’s so small, it can literally fit in the palm of an average man’s hand. And while .380 isn’t the most powerful cartridge, the LCP can hold seven rounds. Our local gun shop cannot keep them in stock, and only sells them on a wait list. No doubt this is one reason why Sturm Ruger’s stock is trading near its 52-week high. (Also, Smith & Wesson released earnings data last night: Adjusted net income for the third quarter 2008 was $9.2 million, compared to $3.7 million in the 2007 third quarter.)

Anyhow, I wondered if the popularity of the LCP, and the shortage of .380 ammunition, were unique to our area. A story today from Tulsa suggests otherwise:

The surprise sales come with .380 caliber semi- automatic pistols. A relatively small self-protection weapon, it’s not one that people typically fire in great quantity at the firing range, Prall said. Yet, the ammunition is now hard to find. “Nobody would have predicted that,” he said.

“We ran completely out here of 9 mm and .380,” said Johny Mathews, product and service manager at the U.S. Shooting Sports Academy on East 66th Street North. “We were begging, borrowing and stealing from wherever.”

Concealed-carry classes at the academy are booked through April. “We used to do 15-person classes, and now we do 24 because of the demand,” he said.

Mathews believes that politics are partly to blame, but the economy also has people worried. “It’s 50/50, I think” he said. “When people lose jobs and get desperate, good people can sometimes do bad things. People hear more about home invasions, robberies, and they think it will only get worse. Then they’re afraid they might lose their guns or ammo, so they stock up.”

Sales are so intense that Stone has limited sales of .380 ammo to one box per customer at Dong’s. He has .380-caliber handguns for sale, and likes to be able to sell ammunition to whoever buys a gun, he said.

A shipment of 10 Ruger .380 LCP handguns was sold in 24 hours this week — seven the first day, three the next. “Last week I had 28 boxes of .380, rationed to one per person, and it was gone in three days,” Stone said.

Academy Sporting Goods stores also are low on .380 ammo. “The other day we got 16 boxes of .380 and a guy came in first thing and bought all 16,” said Jon Ide, hunting and fishing sales associate at the 41st Street store. “A few people are doing all the buying, and it’s the people who are trying to just get a box or two that can’t find any.”

I’m just glad I got my LCP, and a good supply of .380, when I could. Now, if only I’d invested an equal amount of money in Sturm Ruger stock at the same time…

Just a Couple More Numbers

A quick follow-up to a post from earlier this week, about the increase in sales of firearms and ammunition. Not only do the sales numbers appear to be real…but they’re having a real impact on the value of those companies. Most gun and ammunition makers are privately-held corporations, but two in particular are publicly-traded.

Sturm, Ruger and Company (RGR) closed today at $10.32. It opened the year at $5.97 and was at $6.02 on Innauguration Day. Since the innauguration, it has increased 71%.

Smith & Wesson (SWHC) opened the year at $2.27. The day Barack Obama was innaugurated, it had inched up to $2.45. It closed today at $4.43. That’s an increase of 81% since Innauguration Day.

By comparison, the S&P 500 closed today at $683. That’s a decline of 15% since the Innaugural.

And, to follow up on my previous post about the price of gold: the spot price of gold exceeded the value of the S&P 500 on Innauguration Day (for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War), and has remained comfortably ahead of that index ever since. The two were at a rough parity on January 20th; one ounce of gold is now 37% higher than the weighted average of the 500 largest publicly-traded companies.

I don’t offer investment advice on this blog, and I’m not an economist or financial analyst. And I didn’t have the foresight to buy stock in either of the gun companies above. But I think these trends are fascinating indicators of what’s going on in the marketplace — and in the sentiment of this nation’s investors. And the ways in which Americans are now “voting with their wallets.”

Ready for Some Numbers?

In December, I reported on the surge in sales of semiautomatic rifles at our local gun shop; in January, I posted about the remarkable news that the BATFE had actually run out of original forms used to conduct federal background checks on gun buyers, and was allowing gun dealers to use photocopies of the forms.

Semiautomatic rifles and handguns continue flying off the shelves of gun shops across the country, and it’s also getting very difficult to find ammunition. The online dealer I usually buy from in bulk is now sold out of .223 (AR rifle ammo), 7.62×39 (AK-47), 9mm Luger, 12-ga buckshot, and many many other popular rounds. He’s not even listing .380 Auto on his site anymore, and I can’t find that size in any local stores (am glad I stocked up when I could). He finally got some .45 ACP back on his site this morning.

Another dealer I buy from listed a whole bunch of new ammo last Thursday, and I tried calling to place an order. The lines were busy all afternoon, and I never got through. On Monday, they posted a notice that all the new 7.62×39 rounds they’d just listed were now gone (and keep in mind that this was Wolf brand ammo, which is far from the first choice for most serious shooters). Here’s what they’ve posted today:

IT HAS BEEN A MADHOUSE HERE.
WHAT IS UP WITH OUR PHONES?
WE ARE GETTING A LOT OF COMPLAINTS ABOUT HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO GET THROUGH TO US ON OUR PHONES.

BELIEVE ME, WE KNOW, AND TO QUOTE A FORMER PRESIDENT, WE FEEL YOUR PAIN. HERE IS THE PROBLEM.WE HAVE 7 INCOMING PHONE LINES HERE AT CLASSIC . DURING NORMAL TIMES THIS IS MORE THAN ADEQUATE. HOWEVER, THESE ARE NOT NORMAL TIMES. THE FIREARMS MARKET IS JUST EXPLODING RIGHT NOW WITH THE DEMAND FAR EXCEEDING THE SUPPLY.

FOR EXAMPLE:- IF WE GET IN A BATCH OF 200 AK RIFLES, AND POST THEM TO OUR SITE, IT WILL LITERALLY GENERATE THOUSANDS OF PHONE CALLS TRYING TO PURCHASE.THE SAME THING IS HAPPENING WITH AMMO. WE WILL GET IN A COUPLE OF PALLETS OF AMMO IN AND AS SOON AS WE POST IT TO THE SITE IT WILL GENERATE HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF CALLS.

WE DO HAVE HELPFUL CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVES WHO ARE DOING THEIR BEST TO TAKE ALL OF YOUR ORDERS.BUT THE PHONES ARE LITERALLY RINGING OFF OF THE HOOK.

Since I couldn’t get through on their phones, I stopped by Wal-Mart yesterday afternoon, looking for some .45 ACP. They had exactly one box of 50 rounds, and very little in other handgun calibers. (No .380, no .40 S&W, and no 9mm Luger.)

I bought that one box of .45 ACP for $15, and drove to the local gun shop. The place was jammed. After browsing a few 9mm handguns, I turned my attention to their ammo shelf. They had cases upon cases available, in nearly every caliber (except .380 and 7.62×39). It was all the ammo you could ever want — but at a very high price. A box of 100 rounds of .45 ACP was $45. You read that right: Fifty Percent more than Wal-Mart! But at least they had it in stock. I suppose Wal-Mart could also keep it in stock, if they wanted to jack their prices — but that doesn’t seem to be Wal-Mart’s business model. Speaking of Wal-Mart, there are some fascinating discussion threads on various message boards, where people report how difficult it is to find ammo at WM these days. (As for me, I’m seriously wondering if Wal-Mart is deliberately keeping most of their ammo off the shelf, and putting it out a couple of boxes at a time, to ration it and thwart bulk sales.)

There are no readily-available numbers for ammo sales, but there is one indisputably reliable indicator for gun sales: the number of NICS background checks conducted by the FBI. Each background check does not necessarily translate into an actual gun transfer; some sales may not go through after the background check, and I believe some people may be purchasing multiple firearms on the same background check. But it’s still a good rough indicator of volume — and how that volume has changed over time. The raw numbers for the last ten years are available from the FBI. For the last four months (beginning the month Barack Obama was elected), here are the totals:

Nov-08: 1,529,635
Dec-08: 1,523,426
Jan-09: 1,213,885
Feb-09: 1,259,078

Being a social scientist, my first question was “Compared to what?” Well, November and December were 47% and 46% higher, respectively, than the next-highest month last year (March, 2008). January (+17%) and February (+21%) of 2009 were also considerably higher than last March. But the typical sales reporting compares a month’s results to the same month one year previously. Here are each month’s percentage increases compared to that same month the year before:

What’s driving these numbers? For the gun sales, no doubt part of it is concern that the Clinton-era ban on sales of semiautomatic rifles will be reinstituted. (Indeed, the new Attorney General is already beginning to talk about a new ban.) But I think there’s a lot more to these numbers than that. All of that increase can’t be accounted for by AK-47s and AR-15s. And even if it is, why the run on popular handgun calibers like .45 ACP and 9mm Luger? There is no talk in Washington about banning sales of those.

My gut tells me that these sales are being driven by a deep anxiety that all you-know-what is about to break loose in this country. With increasing economic troubles, the specter of large numbers of people losing their homes, uncertainty about the future of the banking system, the possibility of hyperinflation…I think a lot of people are growing concerned about a widespread breakdown in civil order. Most of us are familiar with the video from the Los Angeles riots in the early 1990s, and remember how business owners had to take their security into their own hands when the police were unable or unwilling to assist.

As for our family…we’re relieved beyond words to be far from urban centers, particularly this year. But we’re also painfully aware of how far we are from police assistance should we ever need it.

Which is why we are continuing to take prudent measures to augment our own personal security here on the farm. And, should there be serious disruptions in the food supply chain, we are making sure we have plenty of firepower available for bringing home our own game.

How Much Have Gun Sales Increased?

An interesting notice was recently sent to all holders of Federal Firearms Licenses. I am not a FFL holder, but found the notice on the BATFE website:

January 6, 2009

Notice to All Federal Firearms Licensees
Regarding ATF Form 4473 Shortage

As a result of an unprecedented increase in demand for ATF Forms 4473 (5300.9) Part I Revised August 2008, inventory of the form at the ATF Distribution Center is running low.
As a temporary measure, ATF is allowing FFLs to photocopy the form 4473 in it’s [sic] entirety until they receive their orders from the ATF Distribution Center.
A notice will be posted at the expiration of this temporary authorized change.

For those not familiar, Form 4473 is the one that the gun dealer must fill out at the time a firearm is purchased, so a background check on the purchaser can be performed. If there have been so many gun purchases in recent weeks that the BATFE can’t even supply FFL holders with forms to conduct background checks…all I can say is, “Wow.”

But I am left a bit taken aback that the authorities entrusted with determining who is qualified to purchase a firearm seem to be having difficulty determining whether a contraction (it’s) or possessive (its) construction is appropriate. And I’m not just picking on the BATFE. Long-time readers will recall that I made the same point about our local hospital in Illinois.

As I said in a post a couple of days ago, misuse of apostrophes drives me crazy.