Princess Gail meets Gabby Franco!

What a great day this turned out to be! 😀

Following her success on History Channel’s Top Shot for the past two seasons, not to mention other things like competing in the Olympics, Gabby Franco has been traveling all over the country giving shooting lessons. I was planning to surprise Gail with a trip to Miami, for a lesson with Gabby at her home range, when Gabby announced she would be teaching three classes in Warrenton, NC, about a three hour drive from our house. Gail jumped on it and became part of the small group that would comprise this special event.

We arrived at the Front Line Defense Range on a cool, sunny, beautiful morning!


Gabby set the tone for a very productive day.


Gail said she was an outstanding teacher, eager to share what she calls the “essentials” of precision shooting.


She paid attention to every detail.


She demonstrated the Gabby way of doing things, which is world class!


She worked on proper form.


Though I really like Gail’s form already! 😉


She kept very good/safe order on the range.


She provided all manner of personal attention to shooters at various levels.

IMG_2527 IMG_2542 IMG_2544

And she not only critiqued everyone’s shots, but taught the group how to critique their own shots.


Gail is already a pretty good shooter, but there was visible improvement under Gabby’s expert tutelage.


And it made Gabby visibly happy to see everyone improve.

IMG_2572 IMG_2575

The ladies had an awesome day shooting. I had an awesome day listening and taking pictures.


While shooting, Gabby is an intense perfectionist, and she demands “effort” and performance from her students. But she was also very gracious and warm. When Gail first met her, there was a genuine smile and a hug. At the end of the day, you knew you had made a friend. What a special young lady! I was already a fan, and now much more so! It is so great when people exceed your already high expectations!

Thank you, Gabby, for a truly wonderful and memorable day!

IMG_3939 IMG_3940

OBX – The Outer Banks, NC – Part 1

Finally, after living in North Carolina for four years, Princess Gail got to see the Outer Banks! We used our few days to the best advantage!

Our room was a nice surprise. We had made reservations only a few weeks ahead of time, so our rental choices were limited. We stayed at an older hotel in Kill Devil Hills, but our 5th floor room had a glorious ocean view!

Hi, Gail!

Welcome to the OBX

Everyone knows the OBX is a great place for watching the sunrise. This photo from our room’s balcony shows that our sunsets were beautiful, too, despite the definite fall chill in the air and the very stiff winds.

View from the deck

The Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills was a short walk from our hotel. The newer boards on the pier were evidence of the damage and repair after last year’s Hurricane Sandy.

AvalonPier AvalonPier2

Besides enjoying our dramatically lovely surroundings, we are of course always aware of the birds around us. We won’t talk about the usual gulls and sandpipers (though telling apart the numerous species is still a challenge), or the evil Boat-tailed Grackles like this one,

Boat-tailed Grackle

but there were interesting birdy moments right from our balcony, like these Brown Pelicans coming…

Brown Pelicans coming

… and going!

Brown Pelicans going

Most people come the the OBX for the beach life, and that is just fine! But when Gail and I travel, we like exploring as many local habitats as we can, always looking for different birds. Just a few blocks from our hotel was the Nag’s Head Nature Conservancy. Beautiful!

Nag's Head Nature Preserve

And besides all the bird stuff, in the same general area is the Wight Brothers National Memorial. I think because we are from Ohio and live in North Carolina, we felt a special awe and pride as we learned the details of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s great work. If you are ever in the OBX, a visit to this memorial is a must!

Wright Brothers National Memorial

A few short miles south, in Nag’s Head, is Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It is the site of the tallest dune system on the east coast, at about 90 to 100 feet. At the base of the dunes is a habitat of maritime thicket consisting of live oaks, persimmons, red cedar, wax myrtle, bayberry, sweet gum, red oaks, and pines. To the east is the Roanoke Sound, providing the park with an estuary habitat.

Jockey's Ridge State Park1

Gail was like a kid, climbing and enjoying the dunes! 🙂

Gail dune1

She gave her bum hip a pretty good workout!

Gail dune2

We spotted a flock of about 200 Tree Swallows, at the peak of their southward migration.

TreeSwallows OBX 9.29.2013 TreeSwallows2 OBX 9.29.2013

In the thickets, we saw a Nashville Warbler, and this sneaky Pine Warbler.

Yellow-throated Vireo

As you can see, the area right around Kill Devil Hills, Nag’s Head and Kitty Hawk is chock full of fun and interesting stuff! But the goal of this visit was to see as much of the OBX as we could in two and a half short days. In Part 2 I’ll talk about our day trip south to Pea Island and Hatteras, and then in Part 3 I’ll talk about our trip north to Corolla/Currituck and a special visit to a great friend! 🙂


Cape May water birds

Just to add to the previous two posts on Cape May, I thought I’d share a few pictures of some of the water birds we saw.

The most common gull by far was the Laughing Gull:

Laughing Gulls

We often saw Laughing Gulls and Forster’s Terns together:

Laughing Gulls and Forster's Terns

These Forster’s Terns were doing a courtship thing, with the male offering the female a fish, to show he is a good hunter. (She seemed disinterested.)

Forster's Terns courting

I thought this Herring Gull was a beautiful specimen:

Herring Gull

There were also a good number of Great Black-backed Gulls:

Great Black-backed Gull

Because of the Horseshoe Crab spawning, there were hundreds of thousands of sandpipers and other shorebirds. In this picture, the largest bird is a Laughing Gull, the medium sized birds in the foreground with the black bibs are Ruddy Turnstones, and the smaller birds are Semipalmated Sandpipers. There were several other species besides these.


Here is a Piping Plover. It is endangered and closely watched at this time. When one lays eggs on the beach, conservationists quickly build a fence around the nest to keep out predators like Fish Crows.

Piping Plover

A Short-billed Dowitcher:

Short-billed Dowitcher

An American Oystercatcher (sitting on its nest, right in the middle of the beach):

American Oystercatcher

In inland ponds, we saw a number of ducks and geese, including the ever-present Mallards and Canada Geese. We also saw Ruddy Ducks, and these Gadwall:


And these Mute Swans:



We saw a number of raptors, including Bald Eagles, Red-talied Hawks and a Red-shouldered Hawk. But by far the most visible raptor was the Osprey. Check out the talons!


Here’s an Osprey carrying a fish meal back to the nest:

Osprey with fish

Marsh habitats were active, too. There were countless Great Egrets and Double-crested Cormorants. We saw a few Black-crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets, and a random Green Heron. This Tricolored Heron was a life bird for Gail and me:

Tricolored Heron

Other life birds included the Marsh Wren and this stealthy Clapper Rail:

Clapper Rail

This is by no means a complete photo record of all we saw. Like I mentioned a few posts back, in the four days we spent in Cape May we saw or heard 120 different species. It was an awesome trip!

I’m happy to share these pics with you, and truly blessed to always share these experiences with Princess Gail! 🙂

Gail observing



Ruger SR9C vs Springfield XD-S .45

This was a really fun comparison. Today, Princess Gail and I decided to shoot and compare my Ruger SR9C to the latest and greatest small pistol for concealed carry from Springfield Armory, the XD-S .45ACP. You can find comprehensive reviews of these two great handguns elsewhere. This post is to document our own experience.

Pictures and the specs for the SR9C are here and for the XD-S .45 here. You can see that size-wise they are very comparable: (SR9C vs XD-S) weight 23.4 vs 21.5 oz., length 6.85 vs 6.3″, height 4.61 vs 4.4″, width 1.27 vs 1″. They were both designed for the concealed carry market. These are the actual guns we shot:

1. Caliber

The SR9C is a 9mm handgun. The 9mm round is a very acceptable load for self defense. The .45 caliber XD-S shoots a much heftier bullet, resulting in a slightly larger area of tissue destruction and definitely better “stopping power.” In general, handguns chambered for 9mm have less of a recoil “kick” than handguns chambered for .45 caliber. In general, the smaller caliber 9mm is easier to control and shoot accurately than the more powerful .45. In general, handgun magazines can hold a larger number of the smaller 9mm bullet than the larger .45 bullet. The cost of each 9mm round is definitely less than the cost of each .45 round.

2. Magazine Capacity

I will speak only about the smaller magazines that come with these pistols, as they would be the ones used for concealed carry purposes.

The small, double-stack magazine of the SR9C can hold 10 rounds. The small, single-stack magazine of the XD-S only holds 5 rounds.

3. Recoil and Accuracy

The SR9C has been around for two years now, and the SR40C for one year. They have built a reputation for being easy to shoot and remarkably accurate. But a small .45 caliber handgun should give you a nasty kick, right? Well, no! What a surprise to shoot the XD-S .45 and find a very, very manageable recoil! The power of the .45 load was obvious, but the kick felt only slightly more than that of the SR9C. That made for fast and accurate follow-up shots. Princes Gail had no trouble shooting the XD-S .45 well and accurately at the typical 3 to 7 yard self defense distances, and even at longer ones.

After 20-25 rounds, though, Gail’s arms did get tired, and accuracy suffered after that. She much prefers the 9mm SR9C, and prefers even more her Walther PPS. That speaks for the ergonomics of each product. It is important that your gun feel right in your hand, and in this respect everyone is different.

4. Quality

Both of these guns are very well made. You can sense the quality of their construction at every step of the experience. Again, I refer you to the Ruger and Springfield websites for details, and to the many posted reviews if you want more objective opinions, prices, etc.

5. Final Opinion

Both of these guns are terrific! I will be glad to stick to my SR9C because I believe the 9mm bullet has more than enough power to perform its intended self-defense function. I also believe that it is more controllable, and therefore more accurately shot, than the .45 caliber bullet. I think proper shot placement is more important than the difference in size and power of these two bullets. Further, I would have 10 rounds in my SR9C and only 5 in the XD-S.

I also realize that the chances I will ever actually shoot this gun in self defense are very small. I plan to keep myself safe and out of trouble in other ways. So I will probably only shoot my gun at the range. The 9mm is plenty fun, and the cost per round, or per 100 rounds, is considerably cheaper than the .45.

But I will say that shooting the XD-S .45 was lots of fun, too. It was easy to shoot and very accurate at the self defense distances. If you are someone who would prefer the power of the .45 caliber load, or would just feel cool carrying this beautiful little monster, I can recommend the XD-S .45 without reservation!