2019 March

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Brian KovacsMarch 11, 20196min107316

By Frank Drebin

Has the Governor’s Office and the Arizona State Legislature turned their backs on the rank and file employees of the Arizona Department of Corrections? It seems as though they have. The Department has not had a pay raise in approximately twelve years. That was during Governor Janet Napolitano’s administration. Think about that. Twelve years without a pay raise. Who does that? That pay raise was initially five percent but was reduced to 2.25 percent. It would take a raise of approximately 38 percent just to bring the Department to a competitive level with other agencies. Inflation continues to erode their paychecks, morale, and confidence that the State of Arizona will do anything to correct the problem.
There was much talk regarding a recent legislative bill to obtain a 10 percent pay raise for state corrections employees but that appears to have been shelved at this point. A 10 percent raise would not begin to compensate employees for what they’ve lost to inflation over 12 years. It would at least be a starting point and a gesture that the State of Arizona hasn’t completely forgotten the men and women that put their lives on the line daily to protect the citizens of this state. What I don’t understand is why this is happening. Why is there such tentative behavior to properly compensate employees of an agency that is in the death throes of failure. It certainly can’t be a monetary issue.
During his State of the State address in January 2019, the Arizona Governor called for increasing the Arizona Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as “the Rainy Day Fund,” to a balance of one billion dollars. He spoke of using the fund to protect teacher pay raises, to prevent budget gimmicks, band-aids, and potential future budget cuts. He also spoke of preventing tax increases, budget standoffs, and government shutdowns. We should not forget that Governor Ducey initially offered the teachers a two percent pay increase,and actually held a press conference to tout that as a success. Many teachers eventually risked everything and walked off the job for approximately one month to draw attention to their plight. They ultimately prevailed with a 20 percent raise with many stipulations. He was not championing their cause; he was politically vulnerable and had to act.
He also recently vetoed a measure that was backed by Republican lawmakers that would have cut Arizona tax rates to offset higher revenue the state expects to get because of a federal tax overhaul. It would have protected state taxpayers and effectively reduced state income tax rates by .11 percent. That is tantamount to a tax increase for most Arizonans, but the Governor believes that money should go to the “Rainy Day Fund,” not to Arizona taxpayers. The state has a surplus of approximately one billion dollars, excluding the windfall from the aforementioned vetoed tax cut measure. I also must mention the underhanded  $32.00 vehicle registration fee that was imposed by the Governor and legislature to pay for Highway Patrol operations rather than using gas taxes. Did you notice there was no mention of this fee during the election cycle? They didn’t raise taxes because it’s not a tax. It’s a FEE. Don’t euphemisms give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside? I feel much better referring to a tax as a “Public Safety Fee.”
The Arizona Department of Corrections is in a state of crisis. The prison population is increasing while staffing continues to decline due to uncompetitive pay, attrition, poor morale, and inadequate working conditions. A recent landmark lawsuit against the state concerning inmate health care and conditions of confinement created additional workloads that the present system is ill-prepared to handle. Staff were already working long hours with burdensome workloads, and the additional stress is pushing many to a breaking point.
An entitlement culture developed within the inmate population as a consequence of the lawsuit and also because of Department officials willing to go to extreme measures to accommodate inmates. Officer assaults are on the rise but the Department continues to under-staff work areas while propagandizing that staff, inmates, and the public are safe. The primary issue is fair, competitive compensation. Until that issue is addressed the Arizona Department of Corrections will continue to hemorrhage corrections staff, and increase spending on overtime and training academies. More disturbingly, it will also continue to place staff and the public at risk. One thing is certain: They are running out of time.

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Brian KovacsMarch 9, 20196min1640

By Jim Malone

Have you ever fallen in love with something at first sight? I surely have, and when it comes to firearms I have found that sentiment to apply in exactly the same manner. The first time that I laid eyes on my CZ Bren 805, I fell in love.  When I shot it, my love was validated. Conversely, there are some times where you have an inherent dislike for things…No reason in particular, you just don’t like somethings face. The topic of this piece was not one of love, but more in line with the latter, at least at first.

The first time I looked at the sig p320, I was very much underwhelmed. I found the trigger to be less than awe inspiring, the aesthetics rather bland and borderline bulbous, and while the fit and finish was acceptable it left me wishing it were more than what it was. I had always found Sig Sauer pistols at the very least aesthetically pleasing, so to me the p320 was a total flop. As time went on the idea of a p320 faded into obscurity. My wife was the one to bring the idea back to the forefront, but the p320 that she presented was not the disappointment of the pistol I remembered.

The Sig P320 VTAC was striking. From the X series grip frame, the angular slide cuts, to the radiused slide, this pistol reeked of svelte. I found the grip to be very comfortable in my man sized meat paws, and I found the flat faced trigger to be an absolute joy to depress. I really appreciated the detail that went into the anti-glare ridges cut into the slide itself. That got me looking at the slide in more detail. There are two large lightening cuts on the side of the slide, and to further reduce weight Sig actually milled the slide down across the whole top. This paired nicely with the interesting sights from vtac. They are an extended height affair, with both a fiber optic set of green three dots and a lower set of tritium vials for low light use. I really enjoyed these sights, and they will be staying on the pistol instead of the Trijicon sights that I usually adorn my pistols with.

On the frame I saw several things that deserve mentioning. Firstly, the flat trigger is amazing. The weight is about 5 pounds, but it feels lighter than that. Paired with the awesome grip angle and just right grip texture, this pistol is quite the shooter. I found the controls very easy to use and intuitively placed. The magazine release was crisp and very positive, when depressed it virtually launches the empty magazines from the frame.

Off to the range I went, and the anticipation was palpable. I brought my Glock 34, old faithful as I call her, to bring what I consider a benchmark pistol to compare it to. Long story short I was both severely befuddled and extremely impressed at the same time. The VTAC is a tack driver. What befuddled me was that despite the thousands of rounds through old faithful, the VTAC held virtually the same size groups from magazine one.

From 15 yards, I was able to measure out one 17 round magazine in a group that measured just a hair over 4 inches with controlled quick paced fire. From the same 15 yards as fast as I could squeeze the trigger the VTAC produced a group that was about 8 inches centered on the target. The groups that I shot were imperceptible from the groups shot with my trusty 34, perhaps a bit better even.  The recoil impulse was extremely manageable.  The only way I can describe it with the justice it deserves would be to say it runs like a sewing machine, precisely and extremely linear.

What started as a hate affair turned into a tale of adoration in regards to the P320 VTAC. If you’re looking for a handsome, smooth pistol that begs to be pushed farther quickly, this is at the very least a solid contender. I believe that soon it will be the new old faithful. For those of you wondering if it is worth the $700 price tag I would say buy with confidence, you’re getting a steal.