Front Sight Mail Bag: Encounter with a Rattlesnake

July 19th, 2009  

Dr. Piazza,

Yes, I am receiving your reports.  I’m up to #8.  I enjoy reading them, and have been learning from them.  Yes, I have decided to start saving my pennies  to come down to Front Sight with my wife for some serious training.  I write today, as I wanted to share a short story with you that solidified this thinking in my mind.  You have stated several times, that you wanted to hear from your readers, so here goes.

My wife and I recently spent a few days camping in the desert near our Southeast Idaho home.  I love spring in the desert.  We rode our ATVs, did a little target shooting, plinking etc., and in general, just enjoying a few days alone together away from home.  I also had a small experience that reaffirmed that there are indeed bad things that can happen to good people, and not all of these bad things come from 2 legged bad people.

In your writings so far, you have several times mentioned the idea that when a real situation arises, a person will only be half as good as his best day on the range.  The story I want to share confirmed your thoughts in my mind, and set them in concrete.  You are correct, there is now no doubt in my mind.

The second evening of our trip, we returned to camp from an afternoon of riding our ATVs.  A friend of ours had come out to ride with us for the day.  As we arrived in camp, I spotted a small Bull Snake whisking through our camp site at some speed.  I assumed he was trying to get away from us.  He was not.  My wife and I followed along behind him, and I was  showing her, and explaining to her the visual differences between the Bull Snake we  were watching, and the high desert Rattler also known to frequent the area.  I was unaware that there was indeed a large Rattler chasing the small Bull Snake.  Our concentration was focused on the other.  I was inadvertently walking beside the rattler as he pursued the Bull snake.  Neither of us aware of each other’s presence.  I allowed myself to revert to condition white after identifying the Bull Snake as not being a threat.

I imagine I made a noise, or did something to alert the Rattler to our presence.  Just as I heard the Rattler begin to buzz, my friend walking behind us yelled, “Sh%&!!! RATTLER!!!” I froze.  I also felt like I was about to soil myself, but only froze.  The Rattler, about a 4-5 footer, rather large for this area, was coiled and ready to strike about two feet from my left  ankle.  I’ve had plenty of encounters with snakes in the past, but always in the past, I had saw them before they saw me.  Such was not the case today.  I was definitely caught in condition White, and really felt that rush of adrenaline.

I always carry a firearm away from home.  I’m rarely more than arms reach from one at home.  I’m no fanatic, but I do like to think of myself as prepared.  Today was no different.  My tool was in it’s shoulder holster and ready for immediate use.

However, the adrenaline was pumping hard, and definitely affected my aim.  For years, I have practiced my “snake drill”, in which I practice shooting cigarette butts, empty shell casings, candy wrappers, small clods, little pebbles, or other items I find lying about nearby, about the size of a snake’s head, and smaller.  I’ve never had problems hitting these small targets in the past, but I sure couldn’t seem to hit that snake in the head, today.  I didn’t have a whole lot of time to work with.  I don’t know why the snake hadn’t struck already.  I dared not move, but I ended up emptying a 10 round magazine before I finally was able to dispatch that snake with a proper head shot.   Yes, I had also scored a couple good body shots, but nothing offers that guarantee of success like a good head shot.

I do not know why that snake didn’t strike my leg and end his problem.  It shouldn’t have taken me 10 rounds to get the job done.  The entire encounter was over in just a few seconds, but it felt like several minutes.  I really got caught with my guard down.

In any event, you are definitely right.  I’m not as good for real as I am when I practice.  That rush of adrenaline makes a huge difference.  I’m a believer, and I hope to be able to save up enough to come to your facility.  Perhaps this winter.  I look forward to the rest of your reports.  They will be read even more earnestly in the future..

Thank you for your reports.  They are good reading.  They help.


Larry G.

Entry Filed under: From the Mail Bag,Front Sight.

Ignatius Piazza
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