The week before Thanksgiving, the Evil Princess and I were in Northern California, during the horrendous wildfires there. Death count was approaching fifty and a few hundred people were missing when we arrived; both tolls would tragically go much higher before we left.  Smoke was so thick a hundred miles south of the flames that people were wearing masks on the streets.

The smoke all but blotted out the sun when we arrived, and we weren’t that close to the fire itself.


When we got to the outdoor range where we were scheduled to teach the first two of four ten-hour days, the smoke looked like a London fog. On the morning of the first day, I took a poll and determined three of the students already had respiratory issues, and a couple had eye conditions.  I gave the class the option of swapping the live-fire shooting for two days of handgun retention and disarming, close quarter struggle management, and assorted other curricula. 19 of the 22 students voted for indoors.  We were able to get to the excellent Hangtown Range two days early, teaching the hand-to-hand on their indoor archery range, followed by the planned two-day MAG-20 deadly force training done in their immaculate classroom. ( We utilized their indoor live fire MILO gunfight simulation, and veteran combat medic Josh Slater guest-taught an absolutely superb two-hour program of first responder management of gunshot wounds. The class had been organized by Wes Lagomarsino (

Fortunately, the Hangtown Range in Placerville was able to take us two days early. 

Wide angle lens of security camera captures hand to hand fighting for dummy pistols.

Seasoned Combat Medic Josh Slater begins TacMed portion of program.

This student is shooting knife-wielder coming at her, live fire with Glock 19 on MILO simulator.

By the second day, area universities had shut down because of the smoke, and one of our respiratory patients still had to bail; I can only imagine what would have happened to her with a day on the range outdoors in the smoke.  It turned out we had made the right decision.

I had expected evaluations to suck; after all, they had come to a steakhouse for steak and been told, “We’re out of beef, but we can give you some really good swordfish.”  Apparently, our swordfish was palatable. Critiques were surprisingly good.  We got comments like “Disappointed by the need to change the curriculum and not getting to shoot, but so well done on the plan change,” and “Ad hoc was perfect, going to Hangtown during fire.”

The EP and I are now safely home among extended family for the holiday.  We have a lot to give thanks for. We hope you do too. Thoughts and prayers for the victims of the California conflagrations, and their loved ones, on this Thanksgiving Day.

Overall, the class was happy with the outcome, and I give thanks for that too.


  1. Mas, we are about 30 miles north of the Camp Fire and I am happy, ecstatic to report it’s drizzling/raining now and possibly snowing soon. Our tiny town of Chester CA sheltered some the evacuees for a time until the bigs, the pros came into our country (Plumas County). Everyone seems to have been accommodated but the trauma will last forever for most of the people who drove or ran out with their town on fire behind them.

  2. Unfortunately, my sister and her family lost everything in that California fire. Majority of the family is back east and we are helping her out the best we can. About 30 years ago, my apartment complex caught fire and I lost about 75% of my personal belongings. I’m glad my father advised me about six months prior to pick up a renters policy that included fire insurance replacement cost. Even though I was single at the time, my loss was $15k and I thought the $8k insurance amount I had signed up for was going to be more than enough. Two lessons: Buy about twice the coverage you think you will need and triple the smoke detectors through your house/apartment. I was ticked off that the sole smoke detector with fresh battery did not go off early in the fire.

  3. It may be a good idea to have an outdoors shooting/survival class under adverse conditions using gas masks and other protective equipment because terrorists may soon be setting mass fires and causing train derailments all over our country to cause havoc and panic to the population. Lots of chemicals and toxic substances are transported by rail and spills will cause mass casualties and ecological damage. This will also be a perfect opportunity for terrorists to ambush police, firefighters, and medical personnel when they respond to these incidents. We should be prepared to deal with these situations and learn to fight in adverse conditions.

  4. Mas, it was a pleasure to finally meet you and The E.P. Thank you for the superb instruction, sharing your wisdom, and the last hour of Class on Sunday. April and I hope that our paths cross with you and E.P. again soon.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Steve and April W.

  5. Well done uncle Mas, as always. Prayers for those affected by the fires; as someone who has survived one, I understand.

  6. Mas-
    Totally off topic but I would like to know this:
    For a given round, what must the barrel length be for maximum muzzle velocity?
    Thank you

  7. Mas,

    You improvised, adapted and overcame, proving that it is always wise to remain flexible.

    I feel more comfortable with Trump in office, rather than Obama or Hillary. Sometimes I wonder if I still need to be a “prepper.” Well, when I saw the dramatic video of raging wildfires on both sides of the road, I knew that those Californians needed to have bug out bags. Where they live the stuff has hit the fan.

  8. President Trump was vilified in the legacy press when he placed the blame for California’s fires at the feet of their leftist government. He called them out for their mismanagement of their forests. Although the WSJ did, grudgingly, admit that he had a point, his comment was otherwise condemned.

    Left-wing ideology is based upon a false, idealized view of human-nature and, indeed, the world itself. Leftists foolishly expect that the world will behave in accordance with their idealized model. Unfortunately, they are so ideologically fixed that, when the world does not react as they expect, they don’t acknowledge that their model is wrong and go back and fix it. Rather, they ‘double-down’ on their leftism in the blind hope that it will eventually work. The very definition of insanity. In other words, doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result next time.

    Their model tells them that Communism / Socialism is a good idea. However, because their model is wrong, it always fails. Venezuela is a recent example. There are many, many, many other failure examples from all over the world.

    Their model gives them strategies to attack poverty, homelessness and crime. These also always fail. Look at San Francisco where they can’t even keep the poop and the needles off the streets due to out-of-control homelessness and drug abuse. Look at Chicago where criminal gangs are out-of-control and the body count rises every year. Both cities have been under total left-wing control for decades now.

    Their model gives them strategies to treat the natural environment. The recent California fires show you the results of such leftist environmental policies.

    The one thing, that the leftists are really good at, is propaganda and indoctrination. Therefore, they continually explain away their repeated failures. Their propaganda and indoctrination is so good, in fact, that the People of California keep electing leftist nuts to office and handing them power even as everything goes straight to hell and their tax rates climb to the moon.

    Apparently, the People of California would rather be burnt alive or, at least, be burnt out of house and home rather then give up their left-wing ideology and it’s non-functional and crappy model of how the world works.

    • TN_MAN,

      You are soooooooo right! I guess the reason voters keep voting for Leftist policies is because they so much want to believe that their fantasy can become reality. I guess that’s why we watch movies, and why advertising works so well. Dare I mention make-up?

      Before people believed in science, they believed in superstitions. American Indians had lots of superstitions, and I’m sure all people groups had them. I guess people are still superstitious, but their superstitions have changed.

      I would guess the love of fantasy might be one reason for drug addiction. I myself prefer fantasy, but I stay in touch with reality all the time. If I don’t, reality has a way of biting me and forcing me to acknowledge its presence. But reality can be ugly. After all, entropy rules everywhere, even in outer space.

    • TN_MAN, I appreciate your frustrations with CA governance, but please note that that particular fire (and many others) started on National Forest land that the state of CA has no power over and does not in any way manage. It then burned onto private land (individual homeowners), and I don’t believe it ever reached any state forest land from everything I’ve found describing fire perimeter. We have enough trouble in this great country (USA) without spreading misinformation (or disinformation, as the case may be).

      • @ Concerned_Citizen

        No doubt, there were a number of factors that contributed to this terrible fire. I did not mean to suggest that forest mismanagement was the sole cause of the fire. I was largely just referencing President Trump’s comments.

        The main point of my post was to highlight the disastrous outcomes that always arise from left-wing dominated governance. Your response pretty much served to illustrate my point that ‘they continually explain away their repeated failures’.

        No doubt, spacious excuses can be found to explain away all the other problems found in California. Excuses for the homelessness and piles of poop and needles in San Francisco. Excuses for California’s huge debt and tax burden. Explanations as to why many business are fleeing the State in search of more business-friendly locations.

        Leftists are never short of excuses that explain away their problems and shift the blame for their troubles elsewhere. The one thing you never see, however, is for a leftist to accept any responsibility for the problems themselves. As I noted before, they would rather be ‘burnt alive’ then admit even the possibility that their left-wing ideology and polices might be a ‘contributing factor’ to the bad outcomes.

        That was the real point of my post rather than to fix blame for a single event.

  9. MAS
    As the owner of the HANGTOWN RANGE we were privileged to have you as our guest for the four days of training and all of the participants seemed to have overcame the necessary changes due to the fires up north and had a good time.
    Thank you again for choosing the HANGTOWN RANGE and we hope to see you again next year.

  10. Thank you Sir and E.P. Hope your Holiday Season is filled with Family and Love. It was certainly an honor to train with you. Adapt and Overcome, indeed. I look forward and have Faith our paths will cross again. Side note; Thank you E.P. for the lunch 😇 Not really so evil. Perhaps.. Princess GoodGirl/GG!

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