Charlie and I took a road trip to Texas recently and checked into a reputable long-stay chain hotel for a few days. The hotel featured free hot breakfast (with ‘robust’ coffee) and a few dinners, so as Charlie would say, “What’s not to like?” Near the end of the week, we were taking our time planning the day, so I volunteered to go down to the breakfast room for refills on the coffee.
I got on the elevator with a nice young man from another floor; we exchanged smiles as the door closed and the car descended. And stopped abruptly. Our eardrums were suddenly blasted by the hideous sound of shrieking sirens and horns. An elevator is a small space and the sound bounced off the walls and assaulted our bodies for several long minutes. It was actually painful.
We covered our ears, without much success, and shouted to each other, wondering what was going on. The noise finally stopped, to our great relief, but the doors did not open and we realized that we were stuck.
We introduced ourselves – his name was Daniel – and started poking buttons on the control panel. Nothing worked. Open/close, floor buttons, nothing. We tried using the elevator intercom to call for help, but nobody answered right away. Neither of us had a cellphone, and my pockets were empty of everything except my room key card.
Daniel poked the intercom button again, this time shouting into it. The voice at the other end took a while to respond.
“Hello, are you okay?”
“Yes, but the elevator is stuck between floors.”
“Which elevator are you in?” Huh? Couldn’t they tell?
We had a chat with ‘the voice’ about where we had entered the elevator and she figured out that we were in the front elevator.
“The fire department will be here in a few minutes to get you out.”
I happened to know the locations of the firehouses since I had lived in the area for a number of years, and knew that it would be more than a few minutes. But, we were curious…why the screeching siren?
So we called the front desk again – and by the way, we had to yell to be heard – not very reassuring if trying to get and give information.
“What was the screeching siren?”
“There was a fire in someone’s room and when the room alarm went off, the entire elevator system shut down. We don’t know why you were not returned to the first floor.”
Hmmmm. The small fire was out, but somebody needed an elevator repair guy to make a visit after the firemen ‘rescued’ us. While we waited, Daniel and I shared our stories – Daniel was there with his family to support his older brother in a competition being held at the local university. I told him I was a writer. He asked if I was going to write about our experience and I laughed, “Definitely!”
I wondered aloud about pulling a MacGyver – Daniel was too young to know about the TV hero from the late 1980s – but then, neither of us had a Swiss Army knife or duct tape on hand. However, Daniel was tall enough to reach up and move ceiling panels aside as we investigated our options. Could we escape through the access panel as seen so often on TV and in the movies? Could we hot-wire anything?
Not in this elevator. The so-called ‘escape hatch’ could not be accessed unless you carried a hex key socket wrench in your pocket to release the bolts. Even then, maybe I could have fit through the space, but not broad-shouldered Daniel. I wondered what they actually use that panel for, since it clearly is not for people removal. As for hot-wiring? There was nothing accessible to us at all.
We exchanged a few more questions and reassurances from the front desk voice and Daniel’s dad, and at long last, the car finished the trip to the lobby and the firemen greeted us as the doors slid open.
When I asked about getting out of the elevator through the ceiling, the wrenches needed and the size of the escape hatch, one of the guys said, “Well, you don’t have to worry about any of that because the elevator comes back to the first floor and you just walk out the front.”
We were never in danger and were only one and a half floors up, so if cables had snapped, we would not have fallen far. Was I scared? Not really and I don’t think Daniel was either. He handled himself well and was good company. We had lots of air to share, since there were only two of us and we were both calm about the situation.
The people at the front desk mentioned that it would never happen again, but I found out later that it had just the night before to another guest. I might have taken the stairs if I had known that.
Charlie said that next time, he’s going to make the coffee run.
Elevators have long been the setting for action, comedy and even love, in movies and TV. And, why not?
There is a built-in constraint of space and time.
The punch line has to be delivered in the time it takes to get from one floor to another.
People who love (or hate) each other are placed into ‘must act’ situations.
Heists are pulled off successfully when the con men escape through the REALLY large ceiling hatches.
The audience is led to believe that nobody standing outside the elevator can hear the plots being hatched or the secrets being shared.
There is lots of potential for great entertainment.
But, in real life, people sometimes get stuck for hours and occasionally die in elevators. I researched elevator stories and these popped up:
Tragically, an elderly couple died in a home elevator death.
An elevator mechanic was electrocuted while repairing the elevator and working with exposed wires
That same month, a woman was horribly dragged to her death when elevator shot up while she tried to enter through the open doors.
*Note from Patti Phillips:
My extra long stay on the elevator (as Patti Phillips) really did happen earlier this month, but there are hundreds of thousands of safe elevator rides taken every year.
Thanks to Daniel Gray for sharing the ride in Texas. 🙂
The last two posts dealt with the need for firearms training and gun maintenance. My wife, Sheila, has a healthy respect for handguns – firearms of any kind – but has never wanted primary responsibility for taking care of our own equipment.
After all, I’m here, so why would she need to?
That’s a common mistake that many firearms owners make. If there are firearms in the house, whether they are intended for self-defense or recreational use, all the people who will be using them should trade off on taking care of them. It stands to reason that the more familiar people are with the guns in their possession, the better prepared they will be when the firearms are used. That refers to not only cleaning the firearms, but also staying proficient with them. Remember what I said about not leaving the handguns in the drawer?
One of the bits of research that convinced Sheila to get back to the firing range was something I told her about the Tueller Drill. There’s a police officer in Utah who discovered that it only takes 1.5 seconds for an attacker to reach you from 20 feet away. Measure it out in your house. 20 feet is about the width of a small house, or the width of somebody’s living room in an average home.
The stat came up when we were chatting about lethal force and when it was okay to use it, but the discussion got serious when she realized that in the Tueller scenario, the attacker was running. During the time it took someone (who was a deadly threat) to run the 20 feet toward Sheila, she would need to get her gun (if she was home), take aim, and shoot accurately. The average person takes about 1.5 seconds to get off a shot, but all she has to do is beat the runner…
Sounds easy enough, right? Nope.
If the gun is not with her (it’s in a drawer or in her pocketbook) she has to throw things in the way to slow the attacker down as she runs to get it. If the attacker is faster than she is, Sheila loses.
If the gun gets snagged in a drawer, Sheila loses.
If the gun misfires, Sheila loses.
If the gun is too heavy and she has trouble lifting it before firing, Sheila loses.
If her aim is bad, Sheila loses.
In any of those possibilities, that 1.5 seconds will have evaporated and the firearm will be useless, perhaps even become a weapon that can be used against her.
So, Sheila and I went to the firing range so she could get some time in with my backup Glock.
Sheila did some dry firing – getting into a stable position, drawing the gun, aligning the sights and then pulling the trigger – all without the gun being loaded. Getting the muscle memory down can be as important as actually firing live rounds.
Here are some marksmanship fundamentals to check each and every time practicing shooting until they become second nature and are done automatically:
1. Grip – one or two-handed
2. Stance – feet shoulder width apart (isosceles) or one slightly in front of the other (weaver)
3. Sight alignment
4. Trigger control
5. Checking success of the shot
5. Breath control
Sheila worked on stance, on timing, on a smooth draw, on focus, on breathing. She worked on getting the front and back sights in perfect alignment. She worked on keeping her grip strong and firm. She used a two-handed grip and muscle tension to control the recoil. She worked on keeping her weight on the balls of her feet.
After she was comfortable again with the weight and physical handling of the Glock, she fired a few rounds at a paper target, about the size of an average man.
When our time at the range was up, we hung around to watch a proficiency training class. The shooters were reminded of the safety rules:
Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
Keep the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
Keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.
The instructors helped the attendees with details of handling the firearms.
Before each section of firing, the head instructor would command the shooters to:
“Load and make ready!
in order to maintain the safety of the area.
If the shooters aimed too high or too far in any direction, the instructor advised them about body position and arm extension, among other tips.
Proficiency tests are conducted during some of the classes. We watched one that required the shooters to hit the target 21 out of 30 times at various distances, within a limited amount of time. The shooters only had 30 rounds (bullets) available, so being comfortable with the firearm was essential.
They were given 10 rounds at the three yard line,
10 rounds at the five yard line,
10 rounds at the seven yard line.
It seemed as if less than two minutes was given to shoot the ten rounds at each distance, so nerves couldn’t come into play.
My advice: If you buy a handgun, don’t leave it in the drawer.
Take a training class if you don’t know how to shoot or if you don’t know how to handle it safely.
Stay proficient by practicing at a licensed firing range.
And, please don’t believe what you see on the TV shows and in the movies about people being expert shots the first time they pick up a firearm. Not gonna happen. Ever.
*Photos taken at Freedom Firearms Training in Carthage, NC.
Many thanks to Steve Jones and his staff for allowing me to visit during one of his concealed/carry permit classes.
Steve Jones is an experienced NRA firearms instructor and is the owner/operator of Freedom Firearms Training.
Are you a recreational shooter or do you use your firearm for self-defense? There is some disagreement even among gun enthusiasts about how often a firearm should be cleaned – anywhere from after every single use to only after 1000 rounds. But, the reason for cleaning doesn’t change: the gun should work when we need it to.
Every time the gun is fired, a pin (or hammer) strikes the primer in the bullet and causes a spark. This spark ignites the powder in the bullet and causes an explosion, which moves the bullet down the barrel of the gun. Minute bits of gunpowder and lead residue are left behind in and outside the firearm and builds up over time. Gunpowder dust? Bullet dust? A bit of both. If left on and in the firearm and ignored, the handgun will most likely lose efficiency and reliability.
Imagine driving your car for a while without getting the plugs replaced, the filters changed or the oil changed. It might still run, but not as well as if you did the regular maintenance. And, it might even stall (or not start at all) for no apparent reason when you need it the most.
Cops on TV and in the movies do have occasional scenes where their guns don’t work and a partner has to come to the rescue. There may be lots of reasons for a handgun to misfire – lousy ammo, worn parts, dirty/rusty mechanisms, blocked barrel, cheaply made – but checking the gun on a regular basis can help avoid some of the common malfunctions.
There are three basic rules for safe handling of a firearm, whether you are showing it to someone, shooting it, putting it away, or you are about to clean it, and it’s good to practice them even when you think it’s unnecessary. There are too many accidental deaths caused by people cleaning their firearms, so please take note:
1 – always point the gun in a safe direction
2 – keep your finger OFF the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
3 – keep the gun UNLOADED unless and until you’re going to shoot
When you buy the gun, pick up a cleaning kit at the same time. Cleaning kits are not expensive – $20.00 will get you a basic kit that includes the metal rods and brushes you need to clean your handgun, along with cleaning patches and patch holders. There are several types of brushes to use, but most gun owners say that a toothbrush will work to do the overall initial cleaning, and twisted bronze brushes will work best for cleaning the bore. The bore brushes come in different sizes to fit the different caliber guns. A bore brush for a .45 won’t fit a .22, etc. Check the manufacturers catalog to see which brushes you need, if you don’t already know.
An interesting tool for cleaning a firearm is a Bore Snake.
Because of its construction, it is possible to combine a couple of cleaning steps into one. The two ends (of what is essentially a very fat shoelace) are softer, with bronze bristles in the center. As the Bore Snake is pulled through (from back to front) of the bore, the soft end removes loose residue, the bronze wire on the Bore Snake loosens the more resistant grit, then the softer floss at the end pulls away the rest. It can be used with solvent, or pulled through dry.
The Bore Snake can also double as a safe storage and transport aid. If the Bore Snake is in the bore, there’s no possibility that a bullet is in the chamber.
Steps to cleaning the firearm:
1. Check to make sure that the gun is unloaded.
2. Take apart the gun.
3. Wipe down all the parts to be cleaned, using cloth rags.
4. Apply a solvent recommended by your gun’s manufacturer to the dirty areas and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
5. Scrub the entire gun, inside and out, with a soft brush to loosen the grime.
6. Wipe the gun clean with a solvent-soaked rag and repeat if necessary.
7. Use a bore brush (or the Bore Snake) to clean the bore, being careful to start at the back and move forward through the bore, without reversing direction while inside the barrel.
8. Use the solvent to clean the bore with a cotton patch or the Bore Snake.
9. After cleaning the gun, lubricate it.
10. Grease the sliding parts of the handgun.
There are different oils and greases used during extreme weather (hot or cold) as well as in wet, humid conditions, so check with the gun manufacturer to see which product(s) will work best for your firearm.
Some military rifles are built so that cleaning supplies can be stowed in a special compartment in the stock.
We hear every once in a while about people shooting themselves while cleaning their firearms, sometimes with deadly consequences. It would seem impossible for these tragedies to occur if following standard gun safety rules, but sadly, people don’t always do that.
The best policy is to assume the gun is loaded and check each and every time before you clean it, to make sure you don’t shoot yourself or somebody else.
*First photo – (disassembled Glock) – from Wikipedia
Other photos by Patti Phillips
Photo of Glock with Bore Snake taken at Freedom Firearms Training, in Carthage, NC. Many thanks to Steve Jones and his staff for allowing me to visit during one of his concealed/carry permit classes.
Steve Jones is an experienced NRA firearms instructor and is the owner/operator of Freedom Firearms Training.