Ballistic Monte Carlo Methods

This is a paragraph I never thought I’d see in the academic literature:

“[W]e advocate the use of ballistic-assisted (i.e. projectile-based) random sampling methods because they are both easily accessible and parallelizable. In particular, shotgun-assisted random sampling seems very suitable becaues of the presumed abundance of shotguns in cataclysmic times and the speed at which they can generate samples.”

- Vincent Dumoulin, Félix Thouin – “A Ballistic Monte Carlo Approximation of π

Awesome. That’d make for an amazing grant application.

See here for a summary article that explains things for non-mathematicians.

Edit: Somehow I borked the initial post by forgetting the title and screwing up a link. I’ve now corrected these errors. If you’re still seeing those errors in your feed reader, please refresh the feed.

Sierra Bullets: shutdown of the Doe Run lead smelter shouldn’t affect ammo supply

The recent shutdown of the Doe Run primary lead smelter has some people wondering what effect this might have on lead supply for bulletmakers. Sierra Bullets issued the following statement, which I’ve quoted in part:

First, Sierra buys lead from several different vendors to maintain constant supply.  Second, this facility only smelts primary lead or lead ore.  This is lead ore that has just been brought out of the earth.  Sierra uses no primary lead at all and never has, so we use nothing directly from this facility.  The lead we buy from Doe Run comes from their recycling facility in Boss, MO that is about 90 miles away from the smelter that is closing.

The facility we buy from is still going strong and delivering to us as scheduled.  The lead from this facility is from recycled lead, mostly coming from car batteries.
[snip]
Our supply should not be in jeopardy and we do not anticipate any changes in our supply chain at this time.  Could the lack of primary lead create a little more demand for recycled lead?  Sure, but how much is unknown.  Could this increase in demand also create an increase in price?  Sure, but again, by how much is unknown at this time.

Emphasis mine. Hat tip to No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money: Sierra Bullets On The Shutdown Of The Herculaneum MO Lead Smelter.

Edit (2013-06-11): I mis-spelled “Sierra” in the title. This has been corrected.

Ammoman’s open list gets spammed, subscribers lose their minds

Ammoman uses a Yahoo Groups mailing list to announce the availability of various products, specials, etc.

Evidently the list manager failed to configure the list to be “announce only” for authorized senders. Instead, it was setup to be an unmoderated discussion list. This misconfiguration wasn’t noticed up until today when a spammer randomly decided to send a spam message to the list.

Evidently this caused the entire list to lose its mind, with hundreds of people replying to the list, first to inquire about the spam, then to wonder why they were getting copies of messages from others inquiring about the spam, followed immediately by people trolling the list, followed by hundreds more sending “UNSUBSCRIBE” or “REMOVE ME” messages to the list (even though that merely sends that message to everyone and doesn’t unsubscribe one from the list — the list itself has very clear unsubscribe instructions at the bottom of every message but people can’t be assed to read it). All of this helps contribute to the chaos and amplifies the list traffic dramatically. (Fortunately, a simple filter redirects all the crazy list messages into the trash folder — in a day or two I’ll remove the filter so I can get the regular notifications from Ammoman.)

Also, some people evidently blame the government and, specifically, Obama for this incident.

It disturbs me that people too stupid to figure out how to unsubscribe from a mailing list or setup a filter and who blame the government for a relatively minor technical cock-up walk among us every day. (Again, The Onion is prophetic.)

Swiss no longer keep military ammo at home

It is well known that the Swiss are a prickly bunch: military service is mandatory for able-bodied males and those military members keep their army-issue rifles at home.

They also keep a sealed package of 50 rifle rounds to enable them to fight to the nearest armory if the need arises. Well, they kept ammo at home: during an enjoyable evening with a friendly Swiss couple in Zürich the topic of military service came up. My friend mentioned that sometime last year, the military took back the sealed ammo box and soldiers no longer keep military-issue ammo at home.

Of course, privately owned ammo and firearms are allowed, and both recreational and competitive shooting is about as common here as baseball is in the US.

There’s been discussion in the legislature recently that military rifles should no longer be kept at home (for safety purposes, say advocates of the restriction), but not much progress has been made along those lines: keeping
military rifles at home is widely felt to be a Swiss cultural institution.

Ammo Promo: Prvi Partizan

Normally I don’t mention commercial services1, but I recently got an email from Ammoman about how Prvi Partizan is raising their prices on .223/5.56mm NATO ammo soon. Right now it’s for sale (pre-increase) for $299/1,000rds.

For those who haven’t tried Prvi, I highly recommend it. Their 55 and 62 grain ball ammo meets NATO spec, is brass cased, boxer primed and reloadable, shoots reasonably clean, and is about as accurate as one would expect for general purpose military ammo. The cases have visible annealing marks, as does most military ammo, but polish up nicely for reloading.

When I lived in the US, my ARs were fed a steady diet of Prvi and worked flawlessly. I actually prefer it over the Federal stuff, which never seemed as consistent

If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s well worth $299 to try a case.

  1. I don’t accept advertising or get any money or perks from the few services I do mention. []

Ben Avery

Last weekend I went to the Ben Avery range, which is located a bit north of Phoenix.

For the price of $7, I was afforded access to one of the crown jewels of shooting ranges. The main rifle range has 67 firing positions, and allows any firearms (including full-auto, which several people were shooting that day) with caliber restrictions on the .416 Barrett, .50 BMG, tracers (fire risk), and AP. The main range has target positions from 5 yards to 200 yards, with other ranges including excellent shotgun facilities and a 1000 yard range, not to mention archery facilities.

Each firing position has a sturdy, stable concrete table and steel-and-wood seats that are well-maintained, sturdy, and comfortable. There’s a screen between each position that prevents shooters from being struck with brass from the neighboring positions. Every aspect of the main public range was well-maintained, in good repair, and modern.

There’s a substantial number of attentive, well-trained safety officers that routinely walk the line, check that guns are cleared during cease-fires, and answer questions. I was extremely impressed by the safety officer’s professionalism; in my experience it’s not uncommon for RSOs to be somewhat curmudgeonly, old-fashioned (“Why do you need an ‘assault rifle’?”), and the like, but the Ben Avery staff was excellent. Even the cashier (they take Visa and MasterCard, in addition to cash) was polite, cheery, and professional. There’s a hot dog and drink vendor in the parking lot, right near the grassy field and playground for children.

While I was there, I was also impressed by the extreme diversity of people there. The staff was a mix of men and women of all types, both old and young, and the shooters included a mix of just about every conceivable group: men and women of every skin color, age group, size, shape, and experience level were there. There were women in their 20s who were training with expensive match rifles, a grandfather teaching his grandson to shoot a .22 rifle, a middle-aged black couple shooting what looked like a matched pair of revolvers, a couple who looked to be in their early 30s shooting a suppressed .308 rifle, and some folks shooting full-auto at the extreme end of the range. I overheard several languages being spoken. In the parking lot, vehicles ranged from pickups to Priuses. Open carry was common, but by no means ubiquitous. Truly, a cross-section of humanity, all coming together for a fun, safe afternoon at the range.

I’ve written about a few ranges in the past, many of which were well-equipped and praiseworthy, but I’ve never been as impressed with a range than I was with Ben Avery. The Arizona Department of Game and Fish runs a fine range, and I’m glad such a place is not terribly far from where I live. Like the Swiss, Arizonans take shooting seriously.

One of the best experiences of the day was being (politely and cheerily) told to “please take a number and we’ll call you when a lane opens up” — even with the economy not doing so hot, there’s evidently enough people interested in shooting that they’ll take the time and resources to head out to the range that there’s a waiting list to get in, even with 67 public firing positions. Truly, this is why we win.

In addition to being so massively impressed with the range, I also got some shooting done. I re-zeroed one of my ARs for a new ammo and was shooting some targets at 25 and 100 yards. While the rifle is as accurate as ever, I’m woefully out of practice and my groups were embarrassingly large, especially considering I was shooting from a bench. I really should go to an Appleseed shoot at some time.

Anyone in the Phoenix area want to go shooting on a semi-regular basis?

*jawdrop*

As mentioned not too long ago, I purchased a case of Prvi Partizan M855. I haven’t taken it out to the range yet, but their M193 is outstanding, and I suspect the M855 will be excellent as well. Having all my AR mags filled and still have about half a case in the closet is a good feeling. Still, I think I may have misplaced a few mags in the move, so there might be more that need filling.

It’s good to see that some ammo prices are coming down and availability is going up…but the price differential between 9mm and .45 ACP is still absurd. As an apples-to-apples comparison, I picked the same brand and common bullet weight in each caliber: 115gr 9mm and 230gr .45 ACP, both with FMJ bullets, both by Magtech.

9mm: $199/1000
.45 ACP: $420/1000

I realize that .45 ACP does require a bit more resources (the bullets are twice as massive and the cases are a bit bigger) to manufacture, so I expect the .45 to cost a bit more, but they’re still both exceedingly popular (at least in the US; I don’t know about the global demand for .45) and you’d think that economies of scale could bring the difference in price down a bit.

Fun with UPS

Last week, I ordered a case of ammo from Ammoman. It shipped on-time, and was out for delivery on Friday when the tracking page reported “THE APARTMENT NUMBER IS MISSING OR IS INCORRECT. UPS IS ATTEMPTING TO OBTAIN THIS INFORMATION.”

Odd. I called up UPS, and they had the wrong apartment number. They tried delivering to #ABCD instead of #ACBD1 Thinking that was weird, I checked the invoice from Ammoman. Turns out that I fat-fingered the keyboard when I had entered my order, and the wrong apartment number was in my order, which was dutifully provided by Ammoman’s shipping department to UPS. Oops.

“No problem”, I thought, “UPS would surely understand that typos occur, and allow me to simply correct this mistake over the phone.”

Alas, it was not to be; the sender is the only one who can change the delivery address, even when such a change is minor.

I call up Ammoman, get their after-hours sales guy, who informs me that the ladies in shipping have just left for the long weekend. I explained the situation, asked nicely, and he agreed that he’d give UPS a call. In fact, he did more — he called one of the ladies from shipping who was only a minute or two away, and she came back to call UPS. Fantastic.

After work, I checked UPS’s tracking system again, to find that the system reflected an address change. To double-check that everything was in order, I called UPS. Evidently Ammoman provided the correct apartment number, but UPS screwed up, and simply removed the apartment number from the delivery address. Somehow, I suspect my condo’s management office won’t know what to do with a case of 5.56mm NATO.

UPS insisted they couldn’t do anything, as the shipper needed to make the call. I explained that the shipper had made the call, even after they had closed, and UPS screwed it up. I politely insisted that it’d be much easier all around if they simply corrected the address and attempted to deliver again today (after all, it was still on the truck and they can wireless update the driver’s tablet). After some time on hold, they said it’d be impossible.

“Fine”, I said, “just have the local depot hold the parcel for pickup, and I’ll get it tonight before I fly out to a friend’s wedding.” The agent says she’ll try.

The agent calls the local depot and, sounding excited, announces that they’ve been able to update the address, and they’ll deliver the package on Tuesday! What, Tuesday doesn’t work for me, because I work in Tucson and won’t be in town to pick it up until the next Friday? I wanted it held? Oh, I’m sorry, that’s impossible; after the sender made the change of address, there’s no way for them to hold the package.

I explained that attempting re-delivery would be futile, and it’d be much simpler to just hold it for pickup, and would they please call the local depot to ask if they’d do it. After another interminable delay on hold (frequently interrupted by the agent apologizing for being on hold — I don’t care about waiting, it’s fine, don’t bother coming back on the line unless you have something informative to say), they said the local depot would hold the package and, in fact, would call me directly to make sure they got everything straight.

A short while later, the depot called and everything seems to be in order. They’ll hold it until next Monday, and my wife2 said she’d stop by sometime after work (she works in the same town where we live, and can stop by the UPS depot later in the week) to pick up the ammo.

Moral of the story: check your address prior to submitting an order. Spending 10 seconds to check that everything’s correct beats 30 minutes on hold with UPS. The local depots are considerably more flexible in dealing with various issues than the corporate call-center people. Also, Ammoman’s shipping ladies are awesome. I should send them flowers.

  1. Numbers masked to protect the guilty. []
  2. I’m still getting used to saying that. []

Sale on Prvi M855

Ammoman sent out an email saying they have a special sale on Prvi M855. $349/1000 (shipping is included) is a pretty decent price — normally I’ve seen it sell for over $400/1000, without shipping, from other merchants.

I’m a big fan of Prvi’s M193, but have been looking for M855 for a while, and snapped up a case while it was available.

Update: D’oh. AIM Surplus has it for even cheaper, even with shipping taken into account. Of course, I discover this after I place the order at Ammoman. Live and learn.