Money & Insurance

My wallet hurts. I made a rather substantial and time-sensitive non-gun purchase recently (it must remain a secret for now, but I’ll tell you in a few weeks). Unfortunately, this means I had to go a bit in debt. Even though it’s for a very good purpose, I really hate being in debt. To use a metaphor, I hate being in debt with the burning fury of a thousand desert suns (and living in Arizona, I know what desert suns feel like!).
To add insult to injury, my renter’s insurance is up for renewal (hooray bills!). While Allstate has been pretty good to me ($5,000 firearms rider for $20/year [$5,000 total, $2,000/item] in addition to my normal renters policy), I’ve been switching all of my insurance (car, motorcycle, etc.) to USAA. USAA has far better rates on auto and motorcycle than GEICO, but their renters base rate is just a little bit pricier than Allstate.
Their Valubable Personal Property rider for things like jewelery is quite reasonable, but they don’t offer a blanket firearms rider like Allstate does. The renters insurance covers a certain amount for guns ($2000 total, $1000/each), but the value of my guns exceed those limits, so I had to go with the scheduled policy: each gun must be individually listed, and I have to provide the make, model, caliber, serial number, and value. While I was a bit uncomfortable with providing this information for each gun I own, I figure it’s not terribly uncommon (they do the same thing with expensive cameras and other items) for an insurance company to require it so it’s not a huge deal.
While $85/year for the guns policy was quite a bit more than the $20/year Allstate offered for their blanket coverage, my net insurance costs went down (I’m saving $300/year with USAA auto insurance vs. GEICO), so that’s fine with me. There’s also no deductible, which is nice. For anything over that limit, I have the NRA ArmsCare insurance ($1,000). The ArmsCare Plus coverage was actually more expensive than the rider from USAA.
Collectibles Insurance estimates a cost of about $47/year to cover my collection, but I have no experience with them, and am not sure how good they are. Evidently their policies don’t cover guns carried regularly for self-protection (presumably my NRA ArmsCare would cover this, but I’ll have to look into it), which is a bit of a concern.
Is the amount I’m paying for the USAA rider reasonable? It seems a bit steep to me, but I really don’t know anything other than Allstate’s blanket policy (which, I think, had a $250 deductible).

New Shooter Report

My friend Teresa was complaining that she hadn’t been shooting in about a year, and that this state of affairs was intolerable. She also wanted to bring her boyfriend Chad, a stringer for a local news company (alas, I forget the details), who had never been shooting before. We decided on going to the range on Saturday, December 6th.
Rita, a fellow student of science and friend of Teresa and I, seems to have a long-running love affair with my M1 Garand, and so insisted on coming. BeMasher, a friend, co-worker, and amatuer photographer came as well. My girlfriend Sarah, also came to the range, but had various work from her students that she needed to grade, and so didn’t shoot. Everyone reviewed (or learned for the first time, in Chad’s case) the four basic safety rules prior to arriving at the range, and again before we started shooting.
Chad started out, as all new shooters who come with me do, with the suppressed Ruger 10/22. After getting the feel for it, he moved up to the Ruger MkIII .22 pistol, then the Sig Mosquito belonging to BeMasher’s brother, and then to the Glock 19. With the extended 33-round magazines, the Glock seemed to go over well with everyone.

Everyone else had a good deal of experience with the different guns I have, and so got started shooting the other guns I brought while I instructed Chad. He’s a quick learner, and rapidly got the hang of things.
Teresa really enjoyed the suppressed 10/22, and spent quite some time draining my subsonic .22LR supply.

The stock on the 10/22 seems to be a great compromise in size — people both large and small seem to be able to shoot it comfortably without any issues. The Trijicon Reflex II red dot sight is also excellent (“put the dot where you want to shoot, then pull the trigger”). The fact that it requires no batteries to illuminate the red dot is a major plus.
Even though BeMasher spent a lot of time photographing, we managed to steal the camera from him from time to time, and got a few pictures of him shooting.

Whenever there’s a group at the range, I seem to assume a sort of supervisory role, and don’t get to shoot much (terrible, I know!). Everyone insisted that I get some trigger time, so I did some shooting with my new DPMS 16″ M4gery.

As expected, it’s accurate and pleasant to shoot. The adjustable stock made shooting from the prone much more comfortable than a fixed stock, particularly for those of smaller stature.

Unfortunately, some of my reloads caused some problems (the bullets weren’t entirely round, a side effect of being pulled from de-milled military ammo), so I substituted my 20″ Bushmaster AR in while I was clearing the 16″. This worked out surprisingly well — at the relatively short (25-50 yards) distances we were shooting, the points of aim of both rifles were close enough to be indistinguishable.

Unsatisfied with the light recoil of the AR, Rita decided that she’d be satisfied only in shooting the M1.

For being such a tiny person (she’s only 5’2″), she handles the recoil of the M1 far better than many of the larger people I know. Shooting the M1 prone is a pain, as it seems to recoil directly into one’s collarbone, yet she was able to handle it extremely well. I suspect that if there was ever a zombie attack, one could give Rita an M1, a few bandoleers of ammo, and some high ground, and she’d take care of the problem.
I observed a rather amusing quirk to her shooting style: whenever she’d fire from the prone, her legs would flex rapidly at the knees, and her feet would jump about a foot in the air. This didn’t seem to affect her accuracy, but was quite amusing to watch.
Teresa also fired the M1, but preferred to shoot it standing.

Upon seeing his girlfriend shoot the M1 (and exclaiming that the muzzle blast was quite a bit louder than the ARs), Chad decided that he too would have to shoot it.

My lovely girlfriend was listening to her iPod headphones underneath a set of earmuffs, and so graded all her documents without being troubled by the gunshots occuring nearby. She had a secondary duty as Keeper of the Ammo, and frequently provided fresh AR magazines, M1 clips, and boxes of .22LR as needed. Between that and her love of tasty beer and football, I must be the luckiest guy in the world.

I bet her students have no idea what was going on while their papers were being graded.
Once again, a beautiful December day in Tucson, and a great day at the range. My record of “everyone leaves the range with a smile” continues unbroken.

The only problem I’m running into is that I don’t know many non-shooters, and so I’m not able to take more to the range.
If you’re a non-shooter (or know some) in the Tucson area and want to learn to shoot with a bunch of physicist-astronomer types, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d like to particulary encourage (in no particular order) women, minorities, journalists, and politicians to learn to shoot with us in a fun, safe, and encouraging environment.
Legal Stuff
All photos are copyright BeMasher and are available in their original form at his album. Photos are mirrored by me for consistent hosting, so as to avoid dead links and images in the future, and are displayed here in accordance with BeMasher’s licensing of the pictures under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.

Obama says “don’t stock up on guns”

From the Chicago Sun-Tribune:

As gun sales shoot up around the country, President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that gun-owning Americans do not need to rush out and stock up before he is sworn in next month.
“I believe in common-sense gun safety laws, and I believe in the second amendment,” Obama said at a news conference. “Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear. I said that throughout the campaign. I haven’t indicated anything different during the transition. I think people can take me at my word.”

Why don’t I believe him? Oh, that’s right, his own words say otherwise:

Obama and Biden would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment… support closing the gun show loophole…[and] support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.

I’m a lawful gun owner. A new “assault weapons ban” would likely affect the majority of the guns I own and use on a regular basis. The Tiahrt Amendment keeps ATF trace data from being misused for misleading politicial purposes (even the ATF supports the Tiahrt Amendment). The “gun show loophole” has nothing to do with gun shows or loopholes — it’d be a ban on private person-to-person sales.
Does this mean I do have something to fear?

Dealing with Obnoxious Reloads

I reload a few calibers, mostly .223 Rem and .30-06 (I’d like to start reloading 9mm and .45 ACP, but will probably need to get a progessive press to make it worth my time).
Recently, my .223 reloads have been giving me a bit of trouble. I’m shooting ex-military bullets from demilled ammo, and while they generally work fine, there’s a few that are out-of-round. It looks like the bullet-pulling machine mashed a bit of the bullet so it’s flat. The vendor, RVOW, ran them through a die so there’s no part of the bullet that sticks out beyond the expected radius, and that all the round parts are round, but there’s nothing they can do to un-mash the flat side.
These slightly-mashed bullets have a minor side effect: when placed in the seating/crimping die, the case neck is fitted to the bullet, which means that one side of the case neck is slightly flattened. When being chambered in my rifle, the case neck doesn’t fit all the way into the chamber, and so the bolt doesn’t go into battery. When fired, the bullets swage to the barrel properly, and fly as true as I’d expect ex-military bullets to fly. There’s no signs of increased pressure or other issues. Remember, these bullets are just slightly out of round; I’d never attempt to fire a seriously out-of-spec cartridge.
Fortunately, I found a few ways to work around this problem, and a few that don’t work:
If the bolt was not allowed to slam home, one can usually pull the charging handle and eject the offending round. However, if the bolt closed with a bit more force (like after firing the previous round), the cartridge is usually stuck quite firmly, and one cannot exert enough force on the charging handle to extract the round.
Smacking the forward assist isn’t always helpful either, as one can’t really exert enough force to force the round into the chamber.
What does work for me is to put a small bit of padding (so as not to scratch the forward assist; a soft rifle case usually works well) on the concrete bench, hold the rifle vertically, and bumping the forward assist soundly against the padding, thus applying enough force to chamber it. Firing the round seems to be the most effective (and most fun) method of extracting the cartridge.
Annoying, to be sure, but it’s not a big deal now that I’ve figured out how to deal with it. This is clearly “range ammo”, not “anti-zombie” or competition ammo. I’ll use better bullets for those purposes.

Custom LEGO figures, with guns!

There’s a company that makes realistic* weapons for LEGO figures.
They even have a zombie pack.
Of course, the Brits are in full PSH mode over the fact that the company makes customized LEGO figures, including WWII-era SS officers, anti-tank crew, and a modern-day terrorist.
Some people have no sense of humor. Some people have no sense of awesome. The Sun has neither.
*Some artistic license had to be taken, but they’re still quite good.

Signs of the Times

I stopped by Sportsman’s Warehouse to pick up a Blackhawk Serpa holster for my G19 (the fact that they have a 1911 in the picture for the Glock-specific holster amuses me) and noticed the bright orange signs (note the bad pun in the headline?) everywhere saying “NO AR RIFLES OR HI-CAP MAGS — NO BACKORDERS OR SPECIAL ORDERS FOR THESE ITEMS”.
Just goes to show you: good things don’t always come to those who wait.

Link of the Day

The NSSF has a handy page talking about “assault weapons”, and how they’re no different than “ordinary” semi-auto guns.
The only improvement I’d suggest is that they have links to or otherwise cite the studies they reference.

Silencers are also Illegal

A threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor
or silencer. A silencer is useful to assassins but clearly has no
purpose for sportsmen. Silencers are also illegal.

(Emphasis in the original.)
From Mass Produced Mayhem, a pamphlet published by the Brady Campaign saying why “assault weapons” are evil and should be banned. This particular part is located on Page 21, as part of a list of “combat features” that certain guns have that “have no sporting value”.
While the entire document is pretty much bunk, this particular bit stands out to me due to my ownership of several firearms with threaded barrels and a silencer.
Silencers are not illegal. In case the bold print wasn’t enough, let me repeat: silencers are NOT ILLEGAL. They are regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and by state laws. In a few states, ownership or use of silencers may be banned outright, or so heavily restricted that they are effectively banned. However, most states either have very light regulations or defer to federal laws.
The process to legally acquire one is the same for acquiring any other NFA-regulated item: payment of a $200 tax, addition to the NFA registry, local police approval, federal (ATF) approval, a detailed background check, a full set of fingerprints, etc. All in all, it takes about a month to get all the paperwork sorted out.
That said, what does the Brady Campaign hope to stop if they banned guns with threaded barrels? Hypothetically, if silencers were illegal, what would a ban on threads accomplish? It would already be illegal to own silencers…would making their mounting point “more illegal” somehow reduce the already extremely-rare (to the point of being unheard of outside of movies) criminal use of silencers?
Silencers have plenty of perfectly legitimate purposes, both for sportsmen and ordinary shooters. For example, a hunter could use a silencer so as not to alarm other game animals within earshot (thus being polite to other hunters by not scaring away their game). A hunter might also find a silencer useful if hunting in lands that are within earshot of communities, so as not to annoy neighbors. Not needing to carry bulky earmuffs (which reduce one’s perception of the surrounding areas, and thus limit the ability to detect game animals) is beneficial, as well as reducing the risk of hearing damage. Indeed, in many areas in Europe, the use of suppressors is encouraged for sportsmen and hunters for these very reasons.
Ordinary shooters find silencers to be quite handy as well: I find them excellent for teaching new shooters, as there is no loud noise emitted when the gun is fired. This allows new shooters to get introduced to the sport without developing flinching and other negative behaviors. Arizona gets quite hot, and earmuffs can make one’s ears quite uncomfortable (hot, sweaty, etc.), so a silencer is beneficial by making earmuffs unnecessary while keeping noise at safe levels. Many guns are extremely loud, and by using a silencer, I can reduce the noise emitted by my guns, so as not to annoy fellow shooters at the range, those living near the range (granted, the range where I shoot is extremely remote, and nobody lives around it for miles in all directions), and so on. It’s simply a matter of being neighborly.
Silencer-using assassins are all but unheard of outside of hollywood movies. Those few assassins that do exist are likely to be trained and operated by governments…governments who don’t really give a damn about (or are exempt from) US firearms laws. While high quality silencers require the use of a machine shop, the knowledge and equipment needed is minimal and an amatuer could construct a workable, durable silencer in the time of a few hours. Threading a firearm barrel is even easier. Flimsy, novelty, less effective (but by no means less regulated) silencers can be made with homemade equipment and no machine shop in an hour or two.
That said, this proposal isn’t about the legality or illegality of silencers, it’s simply about their mounting points. I’m curious if such a law, if implemented, would ban the use of quick-disconnect lugs or other non-threaded mounting devices for various muzzle accessories?

New Shooter Report

Today was a glorious day in Tucson. With a high of 79F, low winds, and a clear, sunny sky, it was a perfect day to go shooting.
L, an astrophysics student friend of mine, brought our mutual friends (more his friends, my acquantiances [though we’re rapidly becoming friendly]) J and A. The two of them are the inspiration for the “how to win over new shooters” post I recently wrote. J had never been shooting before, and was rather skittish about firearms. A had fired shotguns at clays many years ago, and got the crap beaten out of her shoulder by the gun.
We arrived at the range around 1:00pm, unloaded the car, paid our fees, and got our targets set up. The range was a bit busier than we’ve normally seen it — on previous outings to the range, we’ve normally gotten the entire bay to ourselves. Today, there were a few other people on the 100 yard line, but it was by no means crowded.
After getting situated, we briefly reviewed the safety rules (we had gone over them in much greater detail back at the house, so this was just a quick refresher), went over the basic operations of the suppressed Ruger 10/22, and started J and A off with two magazines of .22LR Winchester Dynapoints (accurate, subsonic, bulk-pack .22LR ammo). I think I had them hooked with the first magazine. 🙂
Among other things, we fired the Ruger MkIII .22LR pistol (alas, we couldn’t put the targets any closer than 25 yards — it is a rifle range, after all — so that was not nearly as satisfying as it should have been), both my 20″ and 16″ ARs, and A tried the M1 Garand, which she found fun but a little rough on the shoulder; J opted not to shoot it due to recoil concerns.
Some pictures were taken (with J doing most of the photographing), but most of the day was spent shooting, so we have a lot of pictures detailing a few very short time periods (like 37 pictures of A shooting one 8-round clip from the M1). Here’s a smattering of some pictures (hover your mouse over them for a brief description):

Once again, a fantastic day at the range.
Note to self: buy some sort of weighted felt-like material to lay on the concrete bench, so as to not have the concrete scratch the finish of the guns. Also, I should buy a few sandbags and a spotting scope.
Anyone have any advice on spotting scopes? I was looking at this one, as I’m a fan of reflector optics (one of the benefits of knowing a bunch of astrophysists who geek out about optics all the time), but I’m not sure.
I think I need to start referring to people by their first names, rather than merely their first initials. It’s not so bad if you have friends with names that start with “L” or “R”, but when they start with common one-letter words like “A”, it can get confusing.