Long Shot

Anyone have any good advice for a newly-minted graduate with a B.S. in Physics and a minor in math?

After getting out of the army a few years back, I thought it’d be a good idea to finish up my bachelors degree, so I’ve spent the last few years cloistered in the Physics & Atmospheric Sciences building at the University of Arizona. Now, I’m in the home stretch: if everything goes to plan, I will graduate next spring and be married shortly thereafter.

Unfortunately, this brings up the big question, “What next?” Do I go into industry? If so, where? Doing what? Maybe work as a lab technician? Teach? At what level? Do I go on to graduate school? Where? For what1 Should I pursue a Masters or shoot for the Doctorate?

My soon-to-be-wife is a high school math teacher in the Phoenix region. While she makes a decent salary, it’s insufficient for her to be a sugar mama. Fortunately the grad schools I’ve been looking at will cover my tuition and pay of a stipend (not much, but it’s enough to live on), and the VA will give me ~$600 or so per month plus some money for tuition and books for three years, so we should be reasonably set for money, so long as we’re smart about it.

In addition to actually doing scientific research, I enjoy teaching, and would very much like to be a university professor at some point. In nearly all cases I’ve looked at, this requires a Ph.D. and from what I’ve been able to find out, it’s generally better to get started on this sort of thing early. Alas, I seem to have a bit more generalized love of science than a focus on a specific topic, so finding the necessary focus needed for a doctoral program would be challenging.

It’s a bit of a long shot, but do any of you, the gentle reader, have any advice for a person such as myself? While comments are welcome, I’d really appreciate email, as it allows for me to respond more personally.

Thanks!

  1. Physics? Engineering? I really enjoy science, particularly space science (as opposed to, say, quantum mechanics), rockets, etc. and would like to stay involved in related fields. []

Fisking the Daily Star

The Arizona Daily Star published an article in their Sunday Edition that stood out to me when I was grocery shopping today: it had a large, above-the-fold headline entitled, “US makes it easy for gun traffickers.”

While their article is long and makes a weak attempt at appearing balanced, it has some absurdities that I really must point out. I’ve made a few statements in my response that are likely to be common knowledge to gunny folks, though I’d appreciate it if readers could point out where I might find good sources for such statements so I can cite them properly.

Also, I wrote this post rather late at night, so I’m likely to have a few spelling or grammar mistakes. Mea cupla. Continue reading

On Odors

I’m almost afraid to ask what it is that foreign, mostly eastern European/Asian countries (e.g. Serbia, Russia, etc.) put in their powders, but one of the ingredients smells horrible.

I really like Prvi Partizan ammo, as it’s reliable, consistent, well-made, and easily reloadable. The fact that it’s loaded to NATO spec and is commonly available (unlike, say, Federal XM193/XM855) is a big plus. I’ve never had any practical problems with it at all…but it, like the Russian Wolf-brand ammo, smells awful when fired.

You’d think they’d figure out how to make non-stinky ammo…

Tumbling Brass for Fun and Profit

One of the nice things about being in the lab all day is that my apartment is unoccupied. That, combined with the good soundproofing between units means that I can run my tumbler all day without me or my neighbors going crazy from the droning sound.

Due to this fortuitous situation, I’ve been tumbling all my spent brass, both once-fired stuff I’ve shot but also stuff I’ve harvested from the range. I’ve still got a bunch left, but it’s going at a pretty good pace.

I’ll probably run out of brass to tumble in the next few weeks, and so I wanted to extend an offer to my readers: if you mail me your brass in bulk1, I’ll tumble it to a high shine2 and send it back. You need only pay for shipping both ways3 and make a small donation to the New Shooter Ammo Fund, say $20/1,000 pieces of brass with a 250 piece minimum.

For a slight additional donation (to be negotiated), I can deprime your boxer-primed cases.

You’ll get your own cases back — I don’t do “case exchange” processing.

Due to size and capacity limitations of my tumbler and press, I can’t accept very large cases like 20mm, .50 BMG, and so forth. Basically, I’ll take anything that can fit in the Lee Universal Depriming Die.

Tumbler time will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and is dependent on the number and size of cases. Large numbers of big cases will take longer to process than smaller numbers of smaller cases, obviously.

Any money collected will go to the New Shooter Ammo Fund for the purpose of buying ammo for teaching of and use by new shooters, rather than for my own personal use. Donations to the fund are not tax-deductible.

If you’re interested, please send me an email.

  1. Preferably in the same caliber, or at least the same neck diameter — this prevents cases from “nesting.” []
  2. ~7 hours in crushed walnut shells treated with Flitz tumbler additive. []
  3. Whatever’s cheapest works fine. If you’re in the Tucson or Chandler areas, no shipping is needed. []

Fun at Work

While the Epic Intercubicle Nerf Battle from two weeks ago was fun, my boss just informed us of an upcoming, interesting project: aerial photography.

We need to come up with effective ways to take photos from a long pole, a kite, and a balloon. These contraptions are to be constructed and provided to high school students to do various observations around campus.

I never thought that IT work1 would be this much fun.

  1. Hey, it helps pay the bills while I finish up my degree. []

The Stupid, It Burns!

I’ve posted a few videos on YouTube, including several of me demonstrating my Gem-Tech Outback II silencer on my Ruger 10/22 rifle.

Now, as you may be aware, YouTube commenters are widely known for being mind-numbingly stupid, and today was no exception. I had a commenter claim that in 45 out of 50 states, including his state of Mississippi, silencers on “sniper rifles” were illegal.

Specifically, he claims that silencers on “sniper rifles” are illegal unless one is in the “US Army Sniper School and it doesnt matter if you paid taxes and signed paper work, silencers on a sniper is illegal, other guns its different but snipers … its illegal”

Of course, he didn’t define what a “sniper rifle” was, nor did he give any sort of link to state laws that would suggest that silencers on such rifles would be illegal.

As far as I’m aware, he’s completely full of it, and silencers are legal on just about any firearm (with the payment of the appropriate NFA tax for the silencer itself) in states that do not prohibit silencer ownership. I’m not aware of any legal definition of a “sniper rifle” in any state or federal law, nor any law that would restrict the use of silencers to a specific subset of guns.

Anyone know for sure?

You know what I love about the Brady Campaign?

They’re so out of touch with reality and naïve that it’s amusing to read their press releases. It reminds me of the North Korean Central News Agency and the “articles” that they publish.

I just stumbled across this release, which has the following gems about the Holocaust Museum shooter. It was written several days ago, so the mention of “yesterday” refers to the day of the shooting itself, not yesterday relative to this post.

Yesterday, a bigot took the life of a museum security guard because he thought the Government was coming to take his weapons.  We can only wish that their guns had been taken away.

Wait, what? I read up a bit on this guy, and it seemed like his motives were “ZOMG JOOS!” and didn’t involve anything about gun control. Anyone have any confirmed info?

They continue with this:

I have to believe most Americans think that a man who spent time in prison for trying to assault the Federal Reserve Building and spread as much hate as this man did, who left a note saying ‘Jews captured America’s money’ and ‘Jews… are America’s enemies’ should indeed have had his guns taken away.

I also find it hard to believe that most Americans would believe that. Indeed, I think any reasonable person would agree that as a convicted violent criminal, he should be prohibited from owning arms. My understanding is that he was, in fact, prohibited from owning guns, and his ownership of said guns was illegal.

What do the Bradys propose? Making gun ownership by convicted criminals more illegaler1? We might as well put them on double-secret probation for all the good it’ll do.

That said, I don’t think that he should have his right to keep and bear arms infringed simply because he’s a flaming douchebag who promotes hatred and intolerance. Last time I checked, people have a right to free speech, and so long as one is merely speaking (as opposed to acting on their hate by committing violent acts or encouraging others to do so), I see no justification for disarming them.

In the end, though, he wasn’t allowed to own guns due to his previous convictions, he did act on his hatred and intolerance,  he did commit acts of violence against the innocent, and he did end up murdering a security guard. I don’t think that making his illegal ownership and use of guns more illegal would have stopped him. The only thing that seems to have stopped him was bullets from the other security guard, yet the Bradys never seem to mention that.

Fortunately, the actions of the security guards kept him from killing others,  he is likely to survive his wounds, and will have his day in court.

  1. “Illegaler” is a perfectly cromulent word. []

Theme?

After a few minor quirks with the theme I was using, I’ve reverted back to using the previous theme here.

Any graphic/theme designers interested in designing a custom (or semi-custom) theme for me?

Twitter

After seeing the benefits of Twitter use at the NRA Annual meeting, as well as observing the Fun Happy Times in Iran right now, I figured it’d be a good idea to at least investigate the service and see if it might be useful.

If you’re interested, I’ve put the RSS feed of my Twitter in the right column. You can also directly subscribe if you wish. Consider it a “beta” as I’m still poking around with it.

Thoughts on Microstamping

For many people1, the idea of microstamping makes sense, at least at first: spent casings would be marked with some unique markings that would correspond to the precisely gun that fired the round, thus allowing the police to more effectively investigate crime.

Of course, such a plan as several flaws:

  1. There are lots of non-microstamped guns out there. It’s likely that criminals would be able to avoid acquiring such guns.
  2. There are plenty of guns being made in the world that would not bother microstamping. If a black market arises for non-stamped guns, I’m sure that someone will supply the market — they already smuggle illegal drugs and other contraband.
  3. Criminals are not going to purchase their firearms through legal channels, and thus associate the stamped serial number with themselves. They’re probably going to just steal the guns, much as they do already.
  4. Thoughtful criminals could acquire range brass and sprinkle it around a crime scene, thus confusing investigators. It would also open up some identity theft concerns for law-abiding shooters who don’t police all their own brass.
  5. Revolvers do not eject spent brass when fired, and so it would be simple for a criminal to use a revolver in the commission of their crime.
  6. Firearm microstamping equipment is currently produced by only a single company, is not inexpensive, would increase the workload for firearm manufacturers, and would add to the cost of new firearms.
  7. Investigators would only be able to trace the gun to its first lawful owner; if the gun was subsequently lost, stolen, or otherwise not in the possession of the original owner, it is unlikely that identifying the first owner would be of any use. (Indeed, if the gun was stolen, the lawful owner is likely to have reported that information to the police, and thus the gun would be listed in the NCIC stolen gun database — this is accessible by any police department in the country.)
  8. Parts wear out normally from ordinary use. Tiny markings are almost certainly prone to wearing out sooner.
  9. It is trivially easy to defeat firing pin microstamping: firing pins are replaceable, and thus can be removed from the gun. A few passes with an inexpensive diamond file can remove markings from even the hardest steel. One could also buy a replacement firing pin (such as this one for my Glock 19), or even make one’s own pin with only basic machine tools.

Many guns don’t require any sort of tools to disassemble, and it’s rare to require anything more than the most basic hand tools to replace the firing pin. For example, I was able to get the firing pin out of my Glock 19 using only a Bic pen in about 14 seconds:

Taking the spring cups and spacer sleeve off the firing pin takes about 5 seconds, and putting them back on takes maybe 20 seconds (stupid spring cups are tiny). Reassembly takes about as long as disassembly, but requires the blunt end of the pen in addition to the pointy end.

It should be obvious to a reasonable person that, when confronted with reality, microstamping is a non-starter. Of course, that didn’t stop California from passing a microstamping law into effect.

Additionally, California’s microstamping law specifically exempts the police, the one group for whom microstamping would be useful — microstamping departmental guns would be useful in situations where the police shoot at someone. Having police duty weapons leave unique markings on brass would probably help investigators piece together crime scenes better. Due to the small number of weapons involved in a shooting incident, it should be rather easy to figure out which brass corresponds to which gun, even if the stamp is a bit worn or certain characters are unreadable. Departmental armorers could regularly inspect and replace stamping firing pins as needed — something that would be impossible to enforce for the general public.

  1. Usually non-shooters. []