Wash. U. turns its grease into gas, the Cards make a deal, and Lambert dumbs down its signage

 Euphoric Recoil
Through fogged glasses the target floating seven yards down the shooting range looked vague, almost ghostly. Muffled under bulbous blue headphones, my ears picked up shallow breath, an accelerated heartbeat and every other audible sign of my apprehension.

Staring down eighteen inches of shiny stainless steel, I pulled the hammer back, the cylinder rotated 70 degrees counterclockwise, and a bullet the size of a double-A battery slid under the raised firing pin.

Christ, what did I get myself into?

Smith & Wesson calls its .500-caliber handgun the "most powerful production revolver in the world." Technically, they're right. Pfeifer, an Austrian manufacturer, sells a 13-pound, .600-caliber revolver for $16,000 that fires $40 bullets. But they're not exactly cranking out those impractical behemoths on a regular basis.

Zac Trostel, an employee at Top Gun Shooting Sports in Jefferson County, assured me Smith & Wesson's monster has a purpose.

"It'll put a bear down in one shot," he enthused. "In Alaska, backpackers carry it as a sidearm to protect themselves from grizzlies. Smith & Wesson says it can take down an elephant."

Trostel proceeded to run down the safety procedures before letting me walk onto the range with the handheld Dumbo dropper.

First off, he told me not to put my hand in front of the cylinder. The force of escaping gas can break bones. The muzzle heats up lightning fast, so it's best not to grab hold of it. And first-time shooters like myself should stagger the rounds, loading every other chamber to avoid accidentally shooting a second time, when the gun kicks back, blowing a nickel-size hole through the range's roof.

"It's always fun to watch people go out and shoot it for the first time," Trostel said.

I guessed that explained why I was put in Lane 18, right under the security camera.

Out on the range, anxiety crept in.

The ever-popular 9 mm bullet (the common round of choice for police) weighs anywhere from 7.45 to 9.5 grams. The ten rounds I purchased for the .500-caliber revolver packed a 26-gram slug. The 9 mm travels somewhere around 1,300 feet per second and hits a target with 400 foot-pounds of energy. The .500-Magnum travels 300 feet per second faster but lands with a staggering 2,290 foot-pounds of bear-stopping force.

The runup to the trigger pull possessed the same clammy nervousness of a junior-high grope session. You have no idea what you're doing; your hands won't stop shaking, and you can never get enough air in your lungs. And then it's over before you know it.

The hammer dropped with a resounding whomp, and a four-foot column of fire belched out of the muzzle. The barrel, at first parallel to the floor, was sent perpendicular in a millisecond.

"Holy shit!" I yelped, before turning around to see a gawking audience forming behind me.

"It's definitely an attention-getter," Trostel warned on my way to the lanes. "It makes such a loud boom that everyone out there comes to that stall to see what's going on."

I sent the next nine rounds screaming down range to a chorus of exclamatory wonderment.
— Matt Blickenstaff

Cards Keep 'Stacheand Start a Gotay
The Cardinals put the finishing touches on their new dynasty on November 30 by resigning backup catcher Jason LaRue and bringing in utility infielder Ruben Gotay on a minor-league deal. With these final two pieces in place, the Cardinals are now poised to close the championship gap between themselves and the Yankees. 

OK, so maybe that's a little overstated. Still, there's a lot to like here, and I'll tell you why. 

First off, yeah, bringing back Jason LaRue probably isn't all that exciting a move. Sure, he isn't much of a hitter. And sure, maybe the Cards could have taken a guy in the Rule V draft — tried to catch lightning in a bottle. Stranger things have certainly happened. 

Then again, if there's one position on a team that I'm completely, totally OK with a guy who can't really hit, it's the backup catcher. I flat-out just could not give a fuck less if my backup catcher can hit. In fact, here's the list of criteria I use to determine if a given player is suitable to be the backup catcher for my team: 

1. He's not Einar Diaz. 

2. See No. 1. 

That's it. So, if you happen to not be Einar Diaz, you too could one day be a backup catcher on my team. 

What I'm really looking for in a backup catcher is a guy the pitchers don't absolutely despise. I know I'm not normally a big proponent of intangibles, but here's one situation where I go with all the clichés in the book: If my backup catcher can just fill in every once in a while without causing a mutiny among the pitching staff, I'm happy. 

That aside, LaRue isn't a bad player, either. He's got some power (though he doesn't really make enough contact to see it in action very often), he throws out a good percentage of runners, and the overall defensive drop-off from Yadier Molina to LaRue isn't much. Plus, he's relatively cheap. You can't really go wrong here. 

Of course, the real reason I'm happy to see LaRue back is the mustache — and the hair. I mean, honestly. I don't even want to consider a future where the Cardinals lack both a mullet and a horseshoe mustache.

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