I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who believe that the gas impingement system of the AR-15 rifle and M4 carbine is somehow a liability. So strong is this belief that there is today a growing subset of the industry making good money by adding parts to the original Stoner design in a misguided attempt to “fix” the “problems”.
Over the years (and many tens of thousands of rounds) I’ve not found the gas system of the AR pattern rifles to be of any kind of issue. Mike Pannone recently wrote a good article about the misconceptions surrounding the gas impingement system, and his long term test to prove them wrong, over at Defense Review. I recommend that you read the article, as his observations generally mirror mine (with the exception that I’ve not found it necessary to modify my Colt Carbine, which has proven completely reliable in the nearly 20 years I’ve owned it.)
Many complaints about the gas system concern the reputed tendency of the gas tube to clog, which I don’t doubt has occasionally happened. The way to avoid that is to never clean the gas tube!
Lots of shooters will put bore cleaner down the gas tube and swab with one of the gas tube brushes available. This is the start of the problem, as you can never completely swab out the cleaner. As soon as hot gases are introduced during the firing cycle the remaining petroleum turns to carbon and adheres to the walls of the gas tube. Repeated cleanings simply add to the deposits.
When I get a new rifle I take a gas tube brush and use acetone or denatured alcohol (acetone works better) to clean out any oils from the gas tube, then I never touch it again! You can run a brush down the tubes on my rifles and it will come out clean. The gas tube is designed to be self cleaning, and as long as you don’t soil it yourself it will do its job.
At the other end of the tube, where the gas contacts the bolt carrier to drive it during recoil, is the other source of misplaced concern: that the gas system fouls the bolt and causes stoppages (“it defecates where it eats” is the nonsensical refrain, usually stated a bit more colorfully than I have.) I’ve never found this to be a problem either, and again it comes down to proper maintenance.
Many people are of the impression that the gas relief holes in the bolt carrier are for oiling the bolt. Resist that temptation! Oil down those holes gets into the gas rings and onto the back side of the bolt, where the hot gases quickly turn the oil into carbonized sludge.
I prefer to lubricate the bolt head in front of the gas rings, on the little ridge that runs around the bolt head and serves as a contact point in the bolt carrier. I prefer to use a light, non-tackified grease (food grade NLGI #0, such as Lubriplate SFL) on just that ring as well as on the locking lugs themselves. There’s no need to lube the rings or any surface on the back end of the bolt.
A little of that same grease on the contact rails of the bolt carrier and you’re done. The AR-15 bolt assembly needs lubrication to function, but doesn’t need to be dripping wet.
How reliable are my rifles with this regimen? A couple of years ago I spent several dry, dusty days at a range in Fernley, NV. The earth from which the range was carved was not sandy; it was very much like talcum powder. The dust got into everything (including the pores of the green plastic furniture on one of my guns, which to this day I’ve not been able to thoroughly remove.) During that time several of the guns malfunctioned, including a SIG 550 (or is it a 556? I can never remember their nomenclature.)
Both of my rifles ran without any attention, to the point that several other participants preferred to borrow my guns rather than trust theirs when time for the end-of-course shooting contest came around.
The direct impingement gas system is as reliable as any other when understood and maintained appropriately. I’ve not found it necessary to be anal retentive in doing so, either; I don’t spend a lot of time cleaning them, because most of the parts are self-cleaning by design unless you do something to mess them up. Learn how the system works, understand where the contact points are and make sure they’re lubricated, and your AR-15 will likely work as well as mine do.
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday! (Be honest, now: how many of you are taking advantage of Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals to get yourself something at a gun or outdoor store? Thought so!)
Over the last week or so quite a number of people have written to ask me about the “knockout game” which the media is making such a fuss over. The common query is about how to defend against this kind of attack, and could I give some advice?
There’s not a lot of advice I can give that’s different from the advice I usually give!
First, you have to remember that these attacks aren’t as common as the news would have you believe. Because they devote a large amount of time and airspace to talking about them you’d think that they’re an epidemic in the making, but step back and think about how the media overplays school attacks: they’re quite rare, but listening to any of the networks you’d think they happen every week.
This isn’t to downplay the knockout attacks which do happen, but it’s important to have clarity about the risks you face. Only by putting things in proper perspective can you prepare intelligently.
Second, there’s not a whole lot that’s unique or special about these attacks. (The only really unusual thing about the knockout is the motivation: the attacker doesn’t want anything from you except the prestige he or she gets from having laid you on the pavement. In this kind of attack robbery or sexual assault isn’t the motivator, which is often our concern when considering the possibilities of how to reduce our victim profile as part of an overall safety plan. In other words, those things that we do to reduce our appeal as a target for a robbery may not have any impact on being targeted for a knockout.)
While the motivation might be different, the mechanics aren’t. The actual defense against the knockout is pretty much the same as for any unanticipated close quarters attack.
The knockout attack is a classic ambush (one that you don’t have significant foreknowledge of until it happens) within two arm’s reach. Because of this, your training in dealing with the close-in surprise attack is applicable to the knockout. Looked at in this light, what you need to do is what you’ve always needed to do!
In these kinds of attacks, the gun is not necessarily the first thing you should be worrying about; what you need is specific training in close quarters defense. Learning what to do when your threat is within two arm’s reach is very different from what you do when your attacker is beyond that distance, and those skills should be part of your complete defensive preparation.
Let this be your motivation to sign up for a class! Where should you go to get these skills? I recommend three sources:
- Take I.C.E. Training’s Counter Ambush home study course (or at least read the book “Counter Ambush”.) This isn’t a course that tries to teach physical skills, but rather teaches you how ambush attacks occur and how you should structure your training to address them. It’s a groundbreaking course, the only one of it’s kind that I’m aware of, and it’s worth your time no matter where you are in the training world.
From that you’ll need a hands-on course in close quarters combat. I can recommend two:
- The acknowledged expert in this area is Craig Douglas at Shivworks; he’s one of the few teachers who is respected in all quarters of the defensive training world. His ECQC (Extreme Close Quarter Concepts) is the class to take.
Allow me to be a bit philosophical on this day before Thanksgiving.
Monday on Facebook I shared this link to a story of an intervention by unarmed bystanders in a knife attack on a young woman. I found this heartening, inasmuch as I’d been following an unrelated story a few days earlier that elicited some surprising reactions.
The earlier story dealt with a training session that’s becoming more and more common across the United States: teaching kids how to deal with a spree killer in their school. The contentious part was the section which taught them what to do if, despite evasion and barricading, the bad guy managed to get to them. The training revolved around the idea that it was better to do something that might give them a chance than to do nothing and accept their fate.
The story was great; it was the reader reactions that were depressing. There were parents commenting that they didn’t want their children to fight back and risk being hurt; they wanted their kids to cower in fear and wait for the bad guy to get around to killing them unimpeded. It was somehow better, in their mind, to trade a high probability of death for a lesser one, albeit one that required the children to do something that might be scary.
Over the years I’ve encountered the same sort of attitude among a wide variety of people when the subject of self defense has come up, though lately those attitudes are becoming a bit less common. Still, they do exist and crop up in the oddest of circumstances when you expect a completely different reaction.
I used to attribute this bias against action to a fear of the unknown, or to a generalized fear of independence, or to the much-discussed “victim mentality”. All of those may be true and even contribute simultaneously, but perhaps there’s something else at work: the rise of the specialist and the elevation of every job to professional status.
Today it’s likely that most of what you have, most of what you consume, and most of what you experience has all been produced by professionals: people whose jobs it is to do those things; specialists. This is especially true for things that just a couple of generations ago were primarily the province of amateurs: cooking; the raising and preservation of food; common and minor medical care; clothing production; haircuts; and so on. We’re used to letting professionals do all this, and more, rather than learn to do it ourselves.
This delegation goes further than you might realize. Take, for instance, music: fewer people than ever make their own music for the entertainment of their family and friends. This was not always the case, for when I was a kid (which, I must insist, was not all that long ago) people would gather together on Saturday or Sunday evenings, bring their instruments, and spend time singing tunes both classic and new. Art was similarly made at home, and even the majority of sporting events were largely amateur: high school athletics once drew more than just helicopter parents.
Today we listen, watch, and are entertained not by ourselves or our peers but by people who get paid to do those things: the professionals. I’m sure you can think of other examples from your own experience. Is it any surprise, then, that people delegate their safety to professionals rather than learn why they need to do it themselves?
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that this is the only, or even major, contributor to the inability to take responsibility for one’s own life. I do think, though, that society’s continuing admonition to “leave things to the professionals” has an effect on how people view everything in their lives, not the least of which is their own safety.
Sorry to be a little scarce last week, but pressing family issues kept me busy (and frankly not particularly motivated!) There’s certainly no lack of things to talk about, however!
Today I’d like to share some information on a topic that’s quite timely, and one about which I’ve already been asked (twice) in the last couple of weeks: what are the legalities of giving someone a firearm as a gift?
It used to be so simple: Dad could order an M1 Carbine from the Sears Christmas Catalog (no, really!) and stick it under the tree to surprise Junior on Christmas morning. That changed in 1968 when mailorder gun sales were prohibited, and over the years the restrictions on who can own what and under which circumstances have only increased. Today the gift giver must be very clear on what is and isn’t allowed under federal, state, and sometimes local laws.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) recently offered some tip on how to deal with all of the complexities and red tape surrounding gifting guns. Head over to Accurateshooter.com and read it before you buy!
One of the tasks of anyone who teaches physical techniques is helping the student physically coordinate the various inputs and actions that are necessary to shoot a handgun. For some this comes easily, but for others it can be a challenge (and I’m speaking of both the student and the teacher!)
The brain takes in a huge amount of information from the various sensors in our bodies to be able to performa and replicate a physical action. This is, by and large, kinesthetic information that is stored and associated with a desired outcome. If you’ve ever played a ball game, be it baseball, basketball, tennis, handball, or any other you’re familiar with this process.
In my experience, people who have an athletic background tend to have an easier time making the transition from thinking about what they’re doing to allowing the body to do so without cognitive input. They’re used to the learning procedure even if they aren’t accustomed to the specific actions.
While the specific tasks in shooting are different than those of a ball game, the principles are the same: the brain takes in information on how the body places itself; which muscles contract and how much; weight distribution; the sensation of the finger has as it touches and presses the trigger; and a whole lot more.
Helping those who are having trouble with the complexities of this process of controlling the gun is the subject of a recent blog article from Marcus Wynne. Wynne has been around the training business for a while, and this particular article talks about one his techniques for helping the student remember how to perform the task of shooting.
I’ve experimented independently with this technique for a few years and find it has merit with a certain percentage of students when dealing with the more complex parts of shooting. My implementation is slightly different than his, however, because I’ve found that paying attention to the feelings of a missed (unsuccessful) shot are of no value; the feelings the student memorizes need to be those of the successes.
Let’s say a student is having trouble in drills where he needs to use his sights to place a precise hit. What I’ll do is coach him through a successful shot or two: “line up your sights, let them move only inside the target area and at the same time apply steady pressure to the trigger until the gun fires.” Once that’s been done successfully (a proper hit) I’ll tell him to close his eyes and think about how that shot physically felt — from his knees to his elbows to his fingers. Then I have him open his eyes and fire one shot, without coaching, while replicating those feelings. Most of the time this non-coached shot is successful, as are successive iterations as long as he focuses on what it felt like (kinesthetically, not emotionally.)
It’s easy to forget a process detail, but those physical sensations seem to be easier to remember and to apply at will. After a number of repetitions the recall happens without the student’s need to think about it, which is the goal.
Have you had experience with this technique, either as a student or an instructor? How did it work for you?
If you’re new here, you should know about my fascination with abandoned things. As it happens, the more closely related something abandoned is to something else I'm interested in, the more fascinated I become. Today we hit the trifecta: it's abandoned, it has to do with munitions, and it's in my family's ancestral homeland!
The ICI Nobel plant at Ardeer, in the Ayr district of Scotland (home of Clan Cunningham), was established in 1873 to make nitroglycerine. Alfred Nobel himself, the founder of both the explosives concern and the annual prizes which bear his name, personally made the first batch of nitroglycerine at the Ardeer plant. The plant grew steadily in size and made important strides in explosives manufacture during both world wars, expanding into such areas as black powder, detonators, and fuses, but in the late 20th century (after being absorbed into Imperial Chemical Industries) explosives were being phased out. The plant diversified into cellulose derivatives and various types of silicones during the 1970s, but then fell on hard times. The 600-acre site is nearly completely vacant today.
I'm filling out my teaching schedule for next year and planning on a number of classes in Oregon, as well as teaching in other parts of the country. This year I taught at both ends of the United States - multiple states on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts - and would love to visit more of the in-between states next year!
If you'd like to take one of my classes but can't make it to Oregon (or you’re in Oregon but don’t want to travel all the way to the mid-Willamette valley), how about hosting me in your hometown? It's easy to do. All we need is a suitable range and some people who want good training!
I'm looking forward to meeting you on the range next year!
-=[ Grant ]=-
P.S.: Just a hint for those folks in the southern states - I’m particularly fond of the idea of teaching in a place where it’s warm and dry in March. Not that I’m complaining about the Northwest weather, you understand!
David L. asked on Facebook about the design differences between the Ruger Redhawk and the Super Redhawk. He says “I love the classic lines of the Redhawk, but the Super Redhawk completely took over. When you feel like a change of subject is in order, please consider a little "under the hood" comparison of these two revolvers.”
The Redhawk (often abbreviated ‘RH’) and Super Redhawk (herein referred to as ‘SRH’) are both large caliber double action revolvers. I’ll start with the SRH, because - believe it or not - it fits into the evolution of Ruger revolvers better than does the regular Redhawk.
The SRH is best thought of as an enlarged GP100, for that’s really what it is. In fact, a large percentage of the internal parts between the SRH and GP100 are the same and therefore completely interchangeable. Anything that can be done to a GP100 can be done to an SRH, with equal results. An SRH can have the same action quality as the GP, which is to say quite nice. Anytime you read of action or custom work done to a GP100 (or an SP101, for that matter, as it’s nothing more than a shrunken GP100), you can have the same thing done to an SRH.
The SRH frame is massive and easily up to handling incredibly powerful cartridges, such as the .454 Casull. The SRH is unusual in that the front of the frame, where the barrel would normally be attaches, is extended forward. What looks to be a barrel reminiscent of the SP101 is really the frame extension, into which the barrel is screwed. This makes for an extremely strong and well-supported barrel/frame interface, and also tends to stiffen the barrel a bit without the need for a heavy underlug. The gun is heavy enough without that! Like the GP and SP lines, the SRH uses a stud grip frame which allows for a wide range of grip sizes to be mounted.
The Redhawk, on the other hand, is a unique design in the Ruger line and owes very little to any of their other guns; very few parts are interchangeable between the RH and SRH. The first thing you notice is that the RH has a more conventional frame design than any of the other Ruger double actions, having a grip frame reminiscent of a square-butt Smith & Wesson (or one of the Ruger Service-Six revolvers.) It uses conventional grip panels rather than the one-piece grips of the other Rugers. The action, too, is completely unique.
Unlike the other Ruger guns, which have a mainspring powering the hammer and a second powering the trigger return, the Redhawk uses a single coil spring for everything. This is achieved through a rather novel lockwork design whose operation is not at all self-evident when looking at a parts schematic. To this day I marvel a little bit at the ingenuity of the design, even if on a practical basis it brings with it a few limitations in flexibility.
Gunsmithing the Redhawk must be done carefully. The mainspring, in my experience, cannot be lightened at all without compromising ignition reliability. This isn’t all bad, as the Redhawks generally have fairly good triggers out of the box; in fact, the as-shipped RH double actions are generally better than the SRH actions.
The Redhawk trigger generally responds very nicely to general action work, getting even smoother and feeling lighter than the equivalent SRH. It’s a tedious yet very rewarding gun to work on.
The Redhawk’s conventional frame is said to not handle the fire-breathing calibers as well as the SRH, and given the nearly one-pound weight differential you’d think that to be true. That isn’t quite the case, however, as it’s been successfully rechambered by custom gunsmiths to rounds as big as the .500 Linebaugh! That conventional frame also makes custom grips easier to obtain, and you’ll find many gripmakers who can indulge the desire for the rare and beautiful; the SRH (or the GP or the SP) is very limited on such offerings. Many people prefer the square-butt profile of the Redhawk, finding it more comfortable with the heavier-recoiling rounds.
Frankly, I think the Redhawk is a better looking gun than the SRH. Don’t get me wrong: I love the SRH Alaskan series, but the Redhawk has a timeless look to it. It also feel it makes a better platform for extensive customization. All one needs to do is look at the gallery at Bowen Classic Arms to see the work that Hamilton Bowen and his team have done to get an idea of how beautiful (and versatile) the Redhawk really is.
Today the Redhawk is made in very limited numbers compared to the Super Redhawk. In fact, as this is being written you won’t find the RH on the Ruger site. According to them, they had to take it offline “temporarily” because demand for other guns necessitated suspending production until they can get caught up on orders. The Redhawk will supposedly return sometime in 2014, and I predict pent-up demand will result in very tight supply even then.
So, how to choose between a Redhawk and a Super Redhawk? That’s easy: buy both!
Now I'll admit that I can't recall off the top of my head what I had for dinner last night, but I don't remember PDN ever making this kind of offer. It's an unusual opportunity to get access to great training and education at a price that can't be beat.
In the second hour of the show, Average Joe reviews the Mossberg 464 SPX "Tactical" lever action, we talk about the Dick Metcalf / Guns & Ammo debacle (which changed dramatically while we were recording the show), and a whole lot more. It was a great show; have a listen and join us live next time!
At the end of last week, Guns & Ammo magazine started arriving in mailboxes and the backpage column by Dick Metcalf infuriated gun owners nationwide. People who knew Metcalf expressed shock and disbelief that he’d write anything so inflammatory and poorly argued. Those who didn’t know him were simply maddened.
I talked about his article on Monday. On Wednesday evening, while I was recording The Gun Nation LIVE podcast with Doc Wesson, Average Joe, and guest Ian McCollum, the magazine publicly apologized for printing the article, fired Metcalf, and their editor (who, to be fair, was slated to retire in January) resigned.
In the meantime, over on The Outdoor Wire, Metcalf has broken his silence. He seems genuinely surprised at the reaction to his article, throwing brickbats at social media and the internet in general, and attempts to deflect the criticism by posing innumerable rhetorical questions. He even asserts that he believes the requirements for an IL concealed carry permit are an infringement, but he seems to have said precisely the opposite in his article. He ends by asking if his readers are violating the Constitution themselves, which is an absolutely nonsensical question illustrating his lack of understanding of the document (I’ll leave it to you to research why.)
As I said on Monday, I don’t know Metcalf, have never met him, and wish him no personal ill will. However, after reading both his article and his ‘clarification’ I can’t say I’m disappointed in his ouster.
Over the next few weeks you're going to see some ads and links to outside companies added here on the blog (and sometimes throughout the site.) In the interest of full disclosure, these ads and sponsored links will, if you use them to buy something, net me a bit of cash to help offset the cost of maintaining this otherwise free resource.
I'm not putting in just any advertisements, however. What you won’t see are those rotating advertising schemes where I can't control who and what shows up on my site. I'll only allow ads from companies (or for products) that I personally use. Even so, I have a stricter requirement for the use of my space (and your attention) than most.
You see, sooner or later everyone who writes anything in a gun magazine or publishes a book or pens a sufficiently popular blog is approached to shill for a product. It happened to me the first time a few years ago, and I turned the company down. Not because they don't make a good product (by all accounts, they do), but because I use a competing product with which I'm completely satisfied - and I'm not going to lend my name to a product that I don't actually use. It's just that simple.
When I say "use", I don't mean in the sense that someone sends me some product and says "try it - if you like it, would you endorse it?" I mean in the sense of a product that, on my own, I've researched and chosen for myself, by myself, and spent my money doing so.
For instance, some of the ads you'll see will be from the Personal Defense Network. I was one of the original writers at the launch of PDN, and in the ensuing couple of years it's become a huge source of free information on the wide world of self defense. There's more to PDN than what you see, though, because there's a membership side to the site where you can find exclusive videos, longer presentations and online learning options. It's only $34.95 a year, which is a bargain when you consider the average training DVD is more than that! I'm proud to have been with them since the start and feel strongly enough about the value of the information offered that I agreed to have some of their promotional materials on my site.
Another ad you'll be seeing is from Brownell's. I've been shopping with them (to the tune of many thousands of dollars a year) for more than a decade; they get at least 90% of my tools/parts/accessories business because they carry darned near everything, they have superb customer service, and they ship quickly and reasonably. I could probably put up affiliate links from another company and make more money, but Brownell's is where I actually shop (darned near once a week!) They even carry ammo these days, which is a big help to me; my local stores didn’t carry much in the way of defensive ammunition even when it was available.
I would never confidently tell a friend to buy a product or patronize a company unless I had personal experience with it. If I wouldn't tell my friend to buy it, why should I treat you any differently? These are two of the companies that I would advise my friends to patronize, because I do.
From time to time I might review a product for a magazine article, or include a wide range of products in an overview for a book, because sometimes it's important that a reader know the totality of what's available in the marketplace. What you won't see is an endorsement of those products here or see my name directly associated with them, unless the product or service is something I believe in and use myself.
It's because of this annoying streak of integrity that I've more or less resigned myself to not getting any juicy endorsement deals anytime soon, which means I'll probably never be rich or famous or have my own TV show! It does mean, however, that I'll be able to look you in the eye and say with complete conviction "this is the best product I've found, and because of that I use it myself. Now, would you consider buying from this link to help support the blog?"
Tonight is another LIVE episode of The Gun Nation Podcast! I’ll be joining Doc Wesson and Average Joe to talk about guns, shooting, and everything related.
This episode we’re going to have a special guest: Ian McCollum, the brains behind the Forgotten Weapons blog. If you’ve never been to his site, you’re not much of a gun nut! Ian looks at rare, unusual, and downright fascinating guns and goes into detail you won’t find anywhere else. We’ve got a lot of questions for him, and I predict this is going to be a SUPERB show!
When it comes to the Second Amendment, there are idealists and realists. I’m a little of both.
The idealist in me says that the Amendment is quite clear, and that it should be sufficient in and of itself. “Keep and bear arms” should mean that we would not be prevented from possessing and carrying personal arms (as opposed to ordnance; I believe the founder’s use of the word ‘arms’ was specific for a reason, like everything else they put there.) Any restriction on that ability would seem to be an infringement of the type the founders specifically disallowed.
At the same time the realist in me understands that the courts have generally upheld the concept of ‘time, place, and manner’ restrictions on some enumerated rights. In general, as long as those restrictions were ‘reasonable’ and ‘nondiscriminatory’ they have been allowed to stand. This is probably why we have concealed carry permit laws instead of nationwide so-called constitutional carry: many people see asking permission to exercise what is supposed to be a right as reasonable.
It’s in this chasm between what the Second Amendment says and what the courts have interpreted that our fights happen. We in the shooting community generally believe that the time, place and manner restrictions in place already go further than necessary, to the point of infringement of our rights, while the gun prohibitionists believe they don’t go nearly far enough and aren’t infringements because they are both reasonable and non-discriminatory.
Do I believe we’ve actually been infringed? Yes, I do. The rights of gun owners have been infringed since at least 1934, and those infringements have almost always been allowed by the courts. Do I believe restrictions have always been reasonable? No, I don’t. Do I believe they’ve always been non-discriminatory? Most certainly not!
This is where pragmatism comes in: I’m deeply supportive of the meaning behind the Amendment, but smart enough to understand that there are political realities with which we must contend even if we don’t like them. While wild-eyed idealism is emotionally gratifying, it doesn’t always (in fact, rarely seems to) produce the results it seeks.
We have to deal with time, place and manner restrictions because they’re part of the legal system; with legislation of responsibilities, not necessarily because we always do something to deserve it but simply because the American people are used to it in all areas of life; and with a general disregard for the language and intent of the Founders, because no one these days really seems to care what they thought!
Whether we like it or not, we live in a political playground and our rights (all of them, not just the Second Amendment) are fodder for all manner of legislation and restriction — some proper, most not. In this environment, absolutists lose.
This is why my personal belief with regard to the Second Amendment has become “net zero”: for any attempted infringement that occurs, we should attempt to eliminate another. The reality is that infringements are here, and at some level they’re here to stay; I can’t imagine anyone really believing that we’ll ever be able to roll back the Gun Control Act of 1968, let alone the National Firearms Act of 1934. If we can chip away at them, however, at least we won’t lose in the aggregate.
This idea of net zero is not compromise! Compromise occurs when two entities have incompatible positions, and agree to modify their positions in order to reach a mutually desired goal. When we’re dealing with gun prohibitionists, their goal is to restrict or eliminate legal gun ownership; that’s certainly not a goal I share with them! My position is simple: the Second Amendment says certain things, and I want that to be respected today even if it wasn’t yesterday.
That doesn’t mean we should happily accept equilibrium with the prohibitionists, of course! If we have a position of strength, if we’re in a position to get something without any bargaining, we should use that opportunity to use incrementalism in our favor. The great thing is that when we make a gain, we have a new, better baseline for those times when we can only achieve net zero. Over time, using both gain when we can and net zero when we can’t, we’ll make positive progress.
This is what the gun prohibitionists have been doing to us for years, and we should do the same thing to them. We can’t, though, if we stick our heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge the social and political landscape. (More gun owners need to read Saul Alinsky.)
That’s the pragmatic view of the Second Amendment: it shouldn’t be infringed but it has been, and the likelihood is that it will continue to be unless we take an active role and play the political game to win - or at least to not lose. I don’t believe in just yelling ‘Molon Labe!’ and hoping that will impress someone, and I don’t believe in shirking the responsibilities that always accompany a right in order to make some misguided sociopolitical statement. I want us to win, and understand that in order to do so we have to play the game.
Does this make me less of a Second Amendment supporter than the absolutists? Hardly! My dream would be to take the Second back to the pure meaning the Founders intended — but I also know that it’s just a dream. I’ve got the dreams of the idealist, but understand that it’s the realists who will actually make progress in the direction I want to go.
A long time ago someone told me that you either acknowledge reality and use it to your advantage, or it will automatically work against you. I’ve seen that validated more times than I can possibly count. The more victories the realists make, the closer the idealists get to their goal. This is what works, as even a superficial reading of recent history will show.
The latest (December) issue of Guns & Ammo magazine started hitting mailboxes last week, and attention has quickly turned to an astonishingly disappointing article written by its editor, Dick Metcalf.
In an article titled “Let’s Talk Limits”, Metcalf parrots one of the central ideas of the anti-gun crowd: that the Second Amendment’s “well regulated” language means it’s acceptable to make regulations (laws) which infringe on the application and practice of the Amendment. This flies in the face of current interpretation which says “a well regulated militia” (the full clause) means that the body - the militia - is well drilled, practiced, and maintained. American English has changed over the years to the point that this meaning of the word regulated has fallen out of common use, but you can still find it in the dictionary. In the time when the Constitution was drafted, that was the common definition and it was well understood. Modern scholarship has confirmed this.
To be well regulated, the militia (which was comprised of all able-bodied males) required the availability of and access to the weapons they would need in order to maintain their proficiency. That’s why the Amendment was written: to maintain access to personal defensive arms for the people so that they could protect themselves and, by extension, their country.
Metcalf’s article buys into the idea that regulated means legislated, and then — inexplicably for someone who calls himself an expert on Constitutional law — uses his misunderstanding to say, in essence, that all legislated infringements are perfectly acceptable because they’re just the regulations that the Amendment allows.
This is, obviously, nonsense.
This lack of understanding of the language and historical background of the Second Amendment leads Metcalf to regurgitate a number of prohibitionist talking points, including the ridiculous comparisons to automobiles and driver’s licenses. He ends by defending government-required training (he thinks a mandatory sixteen hour class is reasonable) for people who wish to carry their gun, concealed, in public. If you want to see the whole sorry apologist screed, you can download the PDF of his article and judge for yourself.
This call for more gun control from an industry veteran, under a poor understanding of the Amendment he claims to support, is a sad day for the shooting fraternity. As a community we’ve worked hard to educate the American gun owner about the Second Amendment, and we’ve made information about the anti-gunner’s talking points, and how to counter them, readily available. Mr. Metcalf’s article read as though he wasn’t aware any of that has happened.
Remember RECOIL magazine and its editor, Jerry Tsai? He made less inflammatory statements in a relatively niche publication. Metcalf and Guns & Ammo are in another league altogether in terms of their visibility; this is a major, mainstream industry magazine, one read by a big percentage of the gun owning public. Its prominent editor has given a large amount of space (not to mention credibility) to agree with some of the most common anti-gun talking points. Make no mistake: This is a big win for the prohibitionist forces, as it confirms in their minds the beliefs they’ve been promulgating for decades. We will see this used against us.
Should they be held to a different standard than RECOIL and Tsai just because they’re bigger? I don’t think so.
At the very real risk of my being blacklisted with his employer: Guns & Ammo needs to apologize for allowing this tripe to be printed in their magazine. They should start to repair the damage to the community by immediately and clearly distancing themselves from the opinions expressed and reaffirming their support for the Second Amendment. If they can’t bring themselves to do so, then they (and their advertisers) deserve to be relieved of their reader’s financial support.
(Let me be clear: I don’t know Metcalf, never met him, and have no reason to wish him any personal ill will. At the same time, he’s done something that gives aid and perhaps some comfort to those who seek to eliminate my rights to self protection as guaranteed by the Second Amendment. He shouldn’t be given a pass for doing this to me and to every other member of the shooting community.)
It occurs to me that my own my point of view regarding gun ownership rights may not be completely clear to everyone, so on Wednesday I’ll tell you what I believe about the Second Amendment and RTKBA activism in the current age. Can idealism and pragmatism co-exist where the Second Amendment is concerned? Tune in Wednesday and find out.
It's pretty well understood that fortunes (and governments) have risen and fallen on such valuable commodities as oil, gold, and gemstones. What's probably less known is that the same thing has happened with more prosaic things, like salt (yes, salt. Munich, for instance, was largely built on the fortunes of the salt trade, and Liverpool was just a backwater until salt shipments started flowing through her port. Wars were fought over salt, and even involved some siblings - Venice and Genoa went to war because of salt.)
But what you may not know is something you've probably seen on the shelves of your grocery store was the source of both fame and fortune: borax. Yes, the box with the mule team on it; borax is an incredibly valuable mineral beyond its use as a cleaning agent, and the reason anyone ever bothered with Death Valley was because of the large amount of money that could be made extracting borax from that inhospitable place. While some were digging for gold, others were digging for borax and expecting to make just as big a payday.
A couple of days ago I asked for feedback on the tag cloud. Between the comments here, on Facebook and on Twitter, it's clear that less than a handful of people have ever bothered with the cloud, and no one used it regularly or recently.
Thanks to all of you, I can now make some room for other things!
One of the sure ways to get a certain number of gun owners up in arms is to post a story about someone being arrested for firing a warning shot. The attitude seems to be that if the person didn’t shoot at someone else, and didn’t hit anyone accidentally, where’s the harm?
Warning shots seem to be grossly misunderstood by a large percentage of gun owners, who are confused about their legality and practicality. It’s really quite simple: they’re virtually never justified. (I’d go so far as to say that they’re never justified under any circumstances, but that’s just me.)
The mother, one Lakisha Gaither, said that she walked away, into the middle of the parking lot, looked around to make sure that no one was around, then drew her gun and fired a shot into the air. For that, she was arrested.
She should have been.
The principle is this: the gun is always a tool of deadly force. If you’re not justified in shooting a person because of an immediate threat to your life (or the life of another innocent person), you’re not justified in shooting at all. A warning shot is in effect an admission that you didn’t need to use deadly force, otherwise you would have actually aimed at the person who was the threat.
You can’t use the threat of deadly force (the warning shot) to convince or coerce someone else’s behavior outside of an immediate threat to your life.
The problem is Ms. Gaither apparently didn’t have a justifiable reason for pulling the trigger. She simply wanted a boy to stop arguing with her daughter, so she used her deadly weapon to put some fear into him. By her own account, the incident wasn’t one in which her daughter was in immediate (and otherwise unavoidable, particularly since this altercation appears to have been mutual) danger of death or grave bodily harm.
Therefore she didn’t have the right to fire her gun, and she was arrested for discharging a firearm illegally.
If the situation warrants the use of deadly force, then it warrants using that force directly against the attacker. If the situation is such that you don’t need to shoot the other person and you’re not legally justified in doing so, then you’re not justified in discharging your gun, period.
Warning shots are for television shows and the fools who get their training from them. I trust that you don’t fall into that category, but let’s help educate those who do! One way you can do so is to join (and get others to join) the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (ACLDN). The ACLDN not only helps you survive the legal aftermath of a lethal encounter, they give you a thorough education in the legalities of lethal force so that you understand - clearly - when it is and isn’t appropriate. Highly recommended!
-=[ Grant ]=-
(As always: I am not a lawyer. This is a layman’s understanding of the laws surrounding the use of lethal force, and you should always seek competent legal guidance for any questions you have about the legal issues regarding guns and self defense.)
To the right you'll find a tag cloud for this blog. (If you're not familiar with the term, it's the long list of commonly used words that you can click to access specific content. On this blog, they're in blue and are the last things you see in the dark sidebar.)
Those words take up a surprising amount of server clock cycles to calculate and update, and I'm not sure anyone is really benefitting from them. Would you take a moment and leave a comment to this post indicating whether you do or do not use the tag cloud? If no one is using it, I can use the space (and server money!) for better things.
A number of years ago some friends and I belonged to the same gun club. One day the club was holding a “shotgun speed steel” match, and my friends talked me into going. The only thing I had with me was my old Ithaca Model 37 in 20 gauge and some birdshot (perhaps #4 or #6, I don’t really recall.) My Ithaca had a Modified choke tube installed, which is what I normally keep on the gun.
We got to the match and found lots of reactive steel targets (as opposed to the fixed plates typically used for Steel Challenge-style handgun matches.) The crowd was a serious one; most of the competitors were running ‘tactical’ autoloading shotguns in 12 gauge, usually 3” magnums, with extended magazine tubes and fiber optic sights and all that kind of stuff. My little wood-stocked 20 gauge Ithaca looked grossly out of place.
I was especially hesitant when I watched the competitors taking on a Texas Star. (For those not familiar, the Texas Star is a large 5-spoked wheel, perhaps 5 or 6 feet in diameter, with a round steel plate at the end of each spoke. When hit properly, the plates drop off of the spoke; the wheel, which runs on bearings, is then out of balance and starts to turn. Every time a plate is knocked off, the opposing weight is less and the remaining plates are able to cause the Star to spin faster. The key is to knock all of the plates off as fast as possible, so that the wheel doesn’t have a chance to really get up to speed. They can be frustrating!)
This particular Star was set (if memory serves) about 30 feet from the firing line. One by one the shooters took on the Star, and each of them — despite their powerful, high capacity shotguns — had a great deal of trouble knocking the plates off. You could see that they were hitting, but the plates were very resistant to being dislodged. One fellow had to reload his long magazine tube twice before finishing!
You can imagine my trepidation when I stepped to the line with my poor old 20 gauge. The buzzer sounded, I shouldered the Ithaca and started shooting. BANG—clank—BANG—clank—BANG—clank—BANG—clank—BANG—clank. Five shots, five plates, in what would turn out to be the second-fastest time of the match!
The reason I beat the other shooters wasn't entirely my skill; rather, it was the poor choices they'd made.
There is only one goal in a steel shooting competition: speed. Hit your targets faster than the next guy, and you win. Their gear and techniques are all chosen to gain an edge, to shave tenths of a second off their time. It doesn’t always work out that way!
First, all of the other shooters picked 12 gauge guns with cylinder (or improved) chokes. The idea was to give a wider shot pattern so that even if their aim is a little off while transitioning between targets, they could still get a hit. That’s not a bad idea for fixed plates, where any hit counts, but when you’re dealing with reactive targets the ball game is different: you need a certain amount of shot on the target to move the thing. Any less, and the targets won’t go down.
This is where my more tightly-choked Ithaca had its first advantage: the shot column was smaller in diameter but the result was that more pellets made it onto the plates. When I hit them, they went down. Yes, I had to take an ever-so-slightly bit more time to make sure that I was solidly indexed on the plate when I pulled the trigger, but it was faster than missing!
Because of the looser shot patterns of the cylinder-choked 12 gauge, many of the competitors had chosen magnum-length shotshells to get more pellets into the air. Their thinking was that more pellets would compensate for the spreading of the shot column. That obviously didn’t work, and the increased recoil of those rounds caused them to slow their shooting pace. The result is that their misses (because of too few pellets hitting the target) were coming much slower (because of the increased recoil.)
In contrast, the smaller but denser shot charges of the 20 gauge meant that most of the payload hit the target with less recoil, allowing me to get on the next target faster than the guys with their hard-kicking magnum 12 gauges. The small-framed Ithaca was much lighter and more maneuverable, even with its extended magazine tube, so I was moving between targets faster, too. Combine that with solid hits and my performance wasn’t all that remarkable after all!
(Oh, the best part? One of the other shooters was heard muttering under his breath “maybe I should just buy an old 20 gauge”!)
Are there lessons for defensive shooters in this story? Yes, there are — but I’ll save those for another day.
One of the interesting things about a video camera is the effect its sequential shutter has on moving objects. A video (or a movie) is a collection of still frames played back rapidly enough that your visual system doesn't detect the gaps between the images. Each image is a slice of time, but when those slices don't match the movement of an object you get some interesting effects. (Ever watch a video of a moving car where the wheels look like they're turning backwards? That's a good example of the phenomenon.
One experimenter took it a step further. He attached a hose to a speaker, which when fed with a continuous tone caused the end of the tube to vibrate. When water flowed through the tube, it was moved back and forth at the same rate as the tube. By varying the frequency (pitch) of the tone being sent through the speakers, he could vary the rate at which the stream of water was deflected.
Here's the cool part: if he matched the frequency (in hertz) to the frame rate of a video camera, he could make the water look like it was hanging in mid-air! Even better, by varying the frequency of the tone even by a single hertz, he could get the water to appear to flow backwards.
As usual, I'm scheduled to be on The Gun Nation LIVE with Doc Wesson and Average Joe tonight! Join us for lively and entertaining discussions about guns, the shooting industry, self defense, training, and all sorts of other great firearms-related topics. We start around 6:pm Pacific/9:pm Eastern.
I’ve made little secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of Ithaca shotguns. The venerable Model 37 is my favorite shotgun of all time; the light, smooth action is just a joy to use, and I’ve said many times that it’s the cure for chronic short-stroking. Hand an Ithaca to someone who’s having trouble cycling their Mossberg and the problem almost always disappears.
Because I’m a fan I tend to follow the company fairly closely. It hasn’t always been fun; Ithaca went through some tough times (and a couple of owners) a number of years back, but they’ve recovered and are planning to double their production capacity by building a new factory near Myrtle Beach, SC!
The company isn’t talking about why they’ve forsaken their current Ohio home in their expansion plans, but South Carolina (and the county in which they’ve chosen to locate) has been very aggressive in courting gun manufacturers. It’s paid off: Ithaca alone is going to spend $6.7 million and ultimately hire 120 people. The jobs they’re bringing to town include engineers, gunsmiths, and machinists — skilled workers that make family wages. No wonder the press in SC has been overwhelmingly positive!
Horry County, where Ithaca is locating, has already attracted another gun company — PTR Industries is moving there and Stag Arms is rumored to be interested in moving — and has built a large business park with plans for an adjacent shooting range. Part of Ithaca’s decision was apparently the nearby presence of Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, which educates the skilled workers needed by companies like Ithaca and PTR. Turns out that technical and vocational education is a competitive advantage! (This is, sadly, something my own state has yet to figure out.)
That’s not the end of the good news for the area, however. The fellow who owns Ithaca, David Dlubak, is also the CEO of a major glass recycling company and plans to expand those operations in the same area. There’s a lesson in this for the other 49 states: being friendly to the firearms industry pays off in many, sometimes unexpected, ways!
Last Wednesday we talked about inefficient handguns, namely the Beretta 92 (and variants.) It wasn’t that I was picking on the Beretta, you understand, only that (as I explained) I’d gotten an email about that specific gun. Also, as I pointed out in the article, the Beretta was hardly alone; the older S&W autos were very similar in operation and deficiencies, yet for some reason they don’t have nearly the vocal following!
Let’s start today by talking about efficiency as applied to the handgun. An efficient handgun, as I pointed out, is one which requires the least amount of handling to employ, the least amount of training time to become proficient, and imposes as little on the shooter as possible. In other words, it’s a gun which consumes the least amount of resources in both training and use (resources might be things such as time, energy, money, ammunition, attention, and so on.)
There are two facets to this notion of efficiency: use of resources in training, and complication during an actual shooting incident. Let’s start in training: an inefficient gun uses more of a student’s time, effort, ammunition, and money to get to (and maintain) any given level of proficiency. I’ve had more than one person (here on the blog, on my Facebook pages, and in the comments on other blogs) say that difficulties with DA/SA guns are “just” “training issues”. YES! That’s my point!
None of us have unlimited resources for training. Even if a person is incredibly, obscenely wealthy he or she still has limits on available training resources, like time and energy. (Most of the rest of us have to factor in money, which is no small concern these days.) If you’ve read my latest book (Defensive Revolver Fundamentals), I go into this idea in a chapter titled “Managing Scarcity” - because that’s what we’re doing whenever we train or practice: managing our scarce resources to get the best return possible. Combat Focus Shooting students will recognize this as the “Plausibility Principle”.
A gun which uses more of those resources in training leaves us fewer of those resources for other things. Now you may think that the resources used for, say, learning to consistently decock the gun or to manage that transition between heavy double action and lighter single action don’t seem to be all that burdensome, but that’s time, effort, money and attention which you can’t spend on the important parts of defensive shooting: recognizing and responding to the attack. Using resources mastering a more-difficult-to-handle gun means those resources can’t be used to learn your balance of speed and precision under a wider range of circumstances, which is perhaps the most basic and vital aspect of all defensive shooting.
When actually shooting in self defense, those inefficiencies cause some very specific and concerning issues. Forgetting to off-safe the gun when the need to shoot arises, for instance, is a common error among both new and seasoned shooters. I’ve have many responses to last week’s article testifying that they had practiced with their gun so often that its operation had become “automatic”; yet, I’ve seen USPSA Master-class ranked shooters, put into a training environment where they were mentally off-balance, forget to take their safeties off and spend precious time trying to figure out why their gun wouldn’t shoot! (This is far more common than shooters of such guns can ever admit; I had one very experienced shooter deny that it happened even after being shown the video of his error!)
Even the most experienced shooters of DA/SA guns such as the Beretta often drop shots in those same kind of training drills. I’ve watched more than one extremely skilled shooter using a DA/SA auto pull their first shot low, or their second shot high, during a drill designed to put the shooter into an unpredictable environment. That transition between DA and SA is more difficult than most people believe it is, especially when taken out of the calm and predictable training environment and put into one a little more like an actual incident.
Yes, it’s all about training: a DA/SA gun, such as the Beretta, takes more of it than guns which are simpler - and still hold out the possibility of operational error because of their more complicated nature.
An efficient gun would be a one which has a consistent trigger action from shot to shot; a gun which is in the same firing condition after a shot as it is when it’s in the holster; a gun which has a minimum of extraneous controls; a gun which requires no action other than manipulating the trigger to fire.
What guns are simpler and therefore more efficient?
If we were to make a list of the most efficient defensive handguns, the modern striker-fired autopistol would be at the top of that list. Guns like the Glock, Smith & Wesson M&P, Springfield XD series, Steyr, and some of the Walther models have a consistent shot-to-shot trigger, no extra levers or buttons to manipulate in the course of operation, and no extraneous safeties. They’re also extremely reliable (reliability is an often overlooked contributor to efficiency) and have a low bore axis, which aids recoil control and makes them easier to shoot.
Right under those would be the very few double-action-only autoloaders still being made. Some of the SIG-Sauer guns fall into this category, as do some of the HK pistols. They have external hammers which may make some people feel a little better about their safety, particularly with reholstering, but those hammers also raise the bore axis. As a result the guns tend to be a little larger and, in my experience, a little harder to shoot.
What’s next? Believe it or not, the double action revolver. Think about this: consistent triggers, no external safeties, no decockers (and if they’re double action only, no provision to even be cocked to single action - my preference.) They are, in use, extremely efficient. It can be argued that the Glock has more in common, conceptually, with the revolver than with other autoloaders. The only place where the revolver is less efficient is in reloading; however, it’s more efficient at the primary task (shooting) than any of the autoloaders listed below which makes it overall a more efficient tool.
Next would be the single action autoloaders, such as the 1911, Hi-Power, and the CZ-75 series when carried “cocked and locked”. Their need for constant manipulation of the manual safety makes them less efficient in both use and training, and their older designs are in the aggregate less reliable than the newer striker-fired guns. (That isn’t to say you can’t find individual examples which are perfectly reliable, only that they occur less frequently.)
At the bottom of the list are the DA/SA autoloaders, about which we’ve been talking. They require more resources in training and practice, and have more to deal with in actual shooting, than even the single action autoloaders. This group is, collectively, the most complicated type of handgun and requires the most training and practice to maintain proficiency.
Finally, remember this: the foregoing is not to say that an inefficient gun is bad or can’t be used to defend yourself, because that clearly isn’t true. People have used, and continue to use, DA/SA guns to protect themselves and their families with success. What this is saying is that learning to use one, and maintaining your ability to use one, will take more of your limited training resources and carries a slightly higher risk of operator error during a critical situation than a more efficient choice.
I believe that your choice of defensive handgun is yours, but that choice should always be as informed as possible!
So, let's say you're starting a new country. There are lots of things you need to do, but once the fighting has stopped and your new nation is established you turn your mind to more important things - you know, things like adopting a Constitution, setting up a court system, figuring out a national currency, paying off your war debts, and so on. Management, it's called.
One of those management tasks on your to-do list might be the adoption of a national anthem. After all, every other country has one; music has always been a good tool to get citizens to rally in support of their new country, to bring people of perhaps disparate opinions together, and to build solidarity.
Surprisingly, our Founding Fathers (and the first Congress and our first President) didn't bother with one. In fact, it wasn't until March 3rd, 1931, that the United States had an official national anthem. It was then that we adopted a poem written by Francis Scott Key, mated to an old tune called "The Anacreontic Song" (no, really), as the national anthem of the United States of America.
Before President Herbert Hoover got into the act, however, we did have an unofficial national anthem. It was played at state events and gatherings around the country, and the reason it was so popular was because of the stirring lyrics. The song was "Hail, Columbia" by Phillip Phile, who wrote it to be played at the inauguration of President George Washington. Its lyrics, by Joseph Hopkinson, were added in 1798 to remind Americans what freedom was, what it had cost us, and the importance of defending it:
Hail Columbia, happy land! Hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band, Who fought and bled in freedom's cause, Who fought and bled in freedom's cause, And when the storm of war was gone Enjoy'd the peace your valor won. Let independence be our boast, Ever mindful what it cost; Ever grateful for the prize, Let its altar reach the skies.
Chorus Firm, united let us be, Rallying round our liberty, As a band of brothers joined, Peace and safety we shall find.
Immortal patriots, rise once more, Defend your rights, defend your shore! Let no rude foe, with impious hand, Let no rude foe, with impious hand, Invade the shrine where sacred lies Of toil and blood, the well-earned prize, While off'ring peace, sincere and just, In Heaven's we place a manly trust, That truth and justice will prevail, And every scheme of bondage fail.
Chorus Firm, united let us be, Rallying round our liberty, As a band of brothers joined, Peace and safety we shall find.
Behold the chief who now commands, Once more to serve his country stands. The rock on which the storm will break, The rock on which the storm will break, But armed in virtue, firm, and true, His hopes are fixed on Heav'n and you. When hope was sinking in dismay, When glooms obscured Columbia's day, His steady mind, from changes free, Resolved on death or liberty.
Chorus Firm, united let us be, Rallying round our liberty, As a band of brothers joined, Peace and safety we shall find.
Sound, sound the trump of fame, Let Washington's great name Ring through the world with loud applause, Ring through the world with loud applause, Let ev'ry clime to freedom dear, Listen with a joyful ear, With equal skill, with God-like pow'r He governs in the fearful hour Of horrid war, or guides with ease The happier time of honest peace.
Chorus Firm, united let us be, Rallying round our liberty, As a band of brothers joined, Peace and safety we shall find.
Apparently, however, the citizens of the early 20th century wanted something more martial, something more exciting, and pushed to have the Star Spangled Banner (which had become popular during the previous fifty years or so) adopted officially. Despite Key's lyrics being about the bombardment of Fort McHenry and not the birth of our nation, its repeated references to the stars and stripes appealed to the masses. As a result, the Star Spangled Banner got the President's signature and "Hail, Columbia" was reduced to being the song used to usher in the Vice President - a job famously described by John Nance Garner as "not worth a bucket of warm piss". (Garner should know - he was the 32nd Vice President, under Franklin Roosevelt.) It's a sad fate for such a great song!