Back at the range, this time with a new gun!

After a long but not unpleasant series of travels as part of my international move, I’m now in the San Francisco Bay Area again and wanted to go shooting at one of my old stomping grounds, the Coyote Point Rifle and Pistol Club. It’s been a long time since I’ve been shooting so this post is considerably longer and more detail-rich than my posts of late, but I digress.

This range, which is owned by the sheriff’s department for police training and which is conveniently located in the middle of the Peninsula, is open to the public three nights a week from 7pm to 10pm.  Odd hours, but what can you do? Last time I was there was ten or more years ago (where did the time go?) and it was in need of some renovations. The sheriff, while not particularly pro-gun, appreciates the value of the range to both police and public users, and does what they can to keep things funded and working, but the local politicians are decidedly anti-gun and have been trying for years to shut down the range or, if they can’t shut it down, make it difficult to exist. For example, even though there’s large overhead structures downrange to prevent bullets from getting out of the outdoor complex, they require that all shooting from the bench take place through small openings that limit the muzzle from aiming too high skyward.

Still, the sheriff somehow managed to convince the powers that be to fund some big renovations. There’s now a big indoor pistol range, but it’s limited to the police only and it ended up taking out half of the public range (it sits where the rimfire rifle and pistol lines used to be). Additionally, there’s now an enormous bullet trap downrange that collects bullets and mechanically conveys them into a bucket for recycling — previously one just shot into the dirt berm, which was periodically mined for bullets, but the powers that be decided that they needed a bullet trap, so now there’s a bullet trap. Unfortunately, that means that shooters are now prohibited from shooting any ammo that contains steel at all: no Wolf, no M855, etc. Magnets are installed at the RSO booth and at each shooting position for testing. Installing the new bullet trap and building the indoor police range meant the public range was shut down for the better part of a year and only just re-opened.

While the club members have maintained things well and done what they can to do little improvements (they have periodic work parties and the like), the public side of the range is in dire need of renovation and improvements. The RSO booth and much of the equipment, signs, and structures date back to the 50s or 60s and could really be updated. The sheriff recognizes this and does what they can without needing to get a building permit from the relevant authorities, as that reminds the politicians that the range exists, and has been organizing things and setting aside some money so that when they do get a permit in the next few years they’ll be able to do a huge amount of much-needed work during the time the range is shut for renovations. Or so the RSOs, some of whom are long-time board members with knowledge of such things, say. I’ll believe it when I see it.

One other unpleasant change: previously, $10 would get you access to the range for the full three hours it was open. Now, they charge $10 per hour or $20 for the whole 3 hour session. That’s just great. Club members who are also RSOs (and it’s strongly expected that all members volunteer one night a month as an RSO) don’t have to pay for range time when they come to shoot, so I’ll have to apply for membership.

Anyway, enough about the range itself.

Although I have some ammo in my dad’s garage, my guns are stored with other family members in a different state for various reasons I won’t get into now. Thus, I had no guns to shoot at the range. Easy solution: make a gun. Earlier I had made a Polymer80 AR lower and wanted to try making an aluminum lower from the stash of aluminum 80% lowers I had lying around. Thus, a few days ago I started making one and, after learning some valuable lessons about how machining aluminum is a very different beast than machining polymer and breaking a few end mills and drill bits, finished it today. The trigger holes were very slightly misaligned due to my failing to align the jig correctly at first, so the rear of the trigger assembly which interacts with the safety selector was slightly off to one side. It doesn’t meaningfully affect the feel or movement of the trigger when shooting, but it did cause the trigger to get hung up on the safety, even when switched to fire, and refuse to fire. Some quality time filing the relevant part of the safety (slightly widening out the central gap into which the trigger moves when the selector is on “fire”) and reshaping some other parts of the selector, and the everything’s great: the gun doesn’t fire while on safe, reliably fires when set to fire, and there’s no sticking or binding at all.

I then took the opportunity to finally build both the aluminum and polymer lowers into working rifles thanks to Palmetto State Armory M4-length rifle kits. Unfortunately, the kits don’t come with carry handles or rear sights, and I only had one Magpul MBUS rear sight on hand (this needs to be rectified), so I decided to mount it on the aluminum one. Since the PSA rifle kit is not a California-compliant “featureless” build, I opted to get a CompMag fixed magazine so my rifle wouldn’t be classified as an illegal “assault weapon” in California. With the fixed magazine installed and rifle completed, I grabbed my eye and ear protection, rifle, and went to the garage to get some ammo.

Before I had left for Switzerland years, I had stored much (but not all) of my ammo in my dad’s basement. As an aside, this collection includes the remaining substantial chunk of Carl’s 2009 donation of .22LR which is still earmarked for new shooters and not my personal use; I’ll need to start taking new shooters to the range again. In the collection of ammo, I had a can of M193 (which has a lead core and copper jacket) and some M855 (which has a lead core, a small mild steel penetrator, and a copper jacket) sitting next to each other on the shelf and grabbed one of the cans for the range. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay much attention and grabbed the M855 can by mistake, loaded it in the car, and headed to the range.

When the RSO asked if I had ammo with steel in it, I said “no” (thinking I had the M193) and tapped the round tip-first on the magnet to show him it was fine: it didn’t stick, as the amount of steel is small and the little amount in the tip isn’t enough to stick when presented tip-first, and so he let me sign in and get a table. More on the ammo soon.

Here’s my rifle at the range, where the weird slits and magnets are visible:

Since this rifle was only a few hours old and, other than a factory test-firing of the PSA upper, had never been shot before, I was a bit anxious to see if I had actually built a working rifle. Sure, the at-home dry firing tests worked, but the real test is if it can reliably fire live ammo. Both the front and rear sights were centered by their respective manufacturers, but I had no idea if that meant I’d even get on paper.

So, now the good news and bad news: the good news is that the sights were nearly perfect out-of-the-box and only needed one click on the rear sight and one on the front sight to get everything where it needed to be. The rifle itself functioned flawlessly, though that’s not saying much due to the low round count. Success!

The bad news is that the M855 had steel in it, which is not allowed at the range. Unseen by me because my view of the bullet trap behind the target is blocked by the target itself, the six zeroing shots I fired were hitting the steel bullet trap and sparking as they disintegrated. One of the friendly RSOs happened to notice the sparking and checked my ammo against the handy magnet by sticking it sideways to the magnet. Although the bullet itself won’t stick tip-first to the magnet, it does stick side-first due to the steel penetrator in the bullet. The RSO wasn’t happy since the sheriff is a bit protective about his $BIG_NUM-costing bullet trap and doesn’t want people punching holes in it, and asked me to stop shooting on this night lest I damage the bullet trap. I felt like a jerk for not noticing that I had picked the wrong ammo; I should have known better and done a side test as well as a tip test.

On the plus side, after looking at the bullet trap, the RSOs found no damage from my bullets. Even with the steel penetrator, M855 isn’t going to punch holes in the heavy-duty armor plate used at the range, though I can imagine the plates wearing slightly faster after many years of impacts from steel-containing bullets. Either way, it was my mistake and I take responsibility; I just lucked out that there was no damage.

Also, because the rifle was nearly zeroed out-of-the-box, the fact that I was asked to stop — unless I had other ammo, which I didn’t at the time — wasn’t a huge deal to me. Instead, I just chatted with the RSOs for a bit, apologized for my error regarding the ammo choice, discussed reloading and building 80% lowers, etc. Everyone was nice and friendly and since there was no harm to the expensive bullet trap, they did the RSO equivalent of letting me off with a warning.

Years ago when I was shooting at Coyote Point the idea of “off list lowers” and “featureless ARs” (that is, AR-15s that were not of the specific brand and model banned by law in the state, or those with detachable magazines that lacked “scary” features like pistol grips, flash hiders, etc. in order comply with the law) were relatively new concepts, rarely owned, and something not widely recognized as OK by the RSOs. Thus, people who brought such perfectly-legal guns to the range were sometimes hassled by the RSOs who, in their defense, didn’t want to get in trouble for having people with what they presumed to be illegal “assault weapons” shooting at the police-owned range. This evening, of the six people shooting, four had various CA-legal ARs (one had a featureless build, the others including myself had fixed-mag variants) and the RSOs had no issues and, indeed, were chatting about their own CA-legal ARs and, in the case of one of the older RSOs, his pre-ban “registered assault weapon”. Very interesting and refreshing.

Also refreshing was the fact that one of the RSOs was female and relatively young (she seemed to be in her late 30s or early 40s, while the older male RSOs looked to be several decades older). There was also a group of several females and one male, all asian and looking to be in their 20s, shooting a very nice .22 rifle at the rimfire section. The females in the group seemed to be the main shooters, and I’m nearly certain the gun belonged to one of the females.

Sure, the range is a bit dilapidated and the laws in California suck pretty hard, but even so, there’s still a bunch of gun owners and people going to the range on a cool and windy night in the Bay Area. This makes me happy.

In the end, even though I only fired six shots tonight it was really fun to be shooting and I can’t wait to go back again — this time with the proper ammo — to shoot more and to become a member.

Predictions for today’s march

So, today is the March for Our Lives, the multi-city Bloomberg-funded gun control march. Here’s my predictions for today and the time following the march. Anyone want to bet on how many are true, or add their own predictions? Comment below!

  1. Speeches and signs will condemn the NRA, gun owners, and pro-gun-rights politicians, accusing them of being complicit in the murder of innocents. The media will report this without question.
  2. Accusations will be made that the NRA, gun owners, and pro-gun-rights politicians care more about guns than the lives of children.
  3. Speeches and signs will accuse the NRA of being in the pocket of the gun industry, while this is demonstrably false. The media will report this without question.
  4. People will claim that “nobody is going to take your guns” while speeches and signs will call for the banning and confiscation of broad classes of guns or all guns entirely. The media will not comment on this contradiction.
  5. People will discuss how their “right not to be shot” outweighs the right of people to own guns.
  6. The media will favorably compare the march to past civil rights protests. Nobody will mention that the proposals the marchers support reduce civil rights.
  7. All public credit for organizing the march will be given to students, with no acknowledgement of the millions of dollars of funding given by Bloomberg, et al., or the behind-the-scenes planning, organizing, and coordinating done by his gun control groups.
  8. Anti-gun-rights politicians will join in, to much public fanfare. Few of the marchers will recognize anyone other than Bernie Sanders.
  9. Marchers and politicians will propose various anti-gun laws that wouldn’t have had any effect at preventing any of the recent mass shootings and they will claim such measures are “common sense”. They will be hailed in the media as heroes, and those who oppose them as being injurious to the rights of millions and ineffective at their stated goal will be vilified as monsters.
  10. Many people will be quoted as saying “I support the Second Amendment, but…[list of gun control talking points]”
  11. Claims that “this time something is different” will be made incessantly by the media, by protesters, etc. No (or weak) evidence will presented to back up that claim.
  12. The protesters will leave behind substantial amounts of waste, garbage, and litter in their wake.
  13. The vast majority of protesters will return to their homes feeling accomplished but otherwise take no further action; they will continue to vote for the politicians they were going to vote for anyway, maybe send a letter or two to their legislators, but then other things get in the way. Many students will head off to college in the next year or two, making it harder for them to coordinate. Some will be seen in the media for a few months, but ultimately will drop off the radar until the next mass shooting happens, at which point they’ll be trotted out in front of the cameras for their next 15 minutes of fame.
  14. Some pro-gun-rights groups or individuals will stage laughably small, uncoordinated marches that will not accomplish anything. Some will be holding guns and generally make fools of themselves on the news.
  15. Ultimately, little will change: some anti-gun-rights states will pass anti-gun-rights laws, some pro-gun-rights states will pass pro-gun-rights laws, maybe some minor things will happen (e.g. bump stock bans), and politicians will make various noises in public about wanting to do something. Regardless of what happens, lawsuits will be filed and pro- and anti-gun-rights groups will send out desperate pleas for money. The inertia of the status quo will prevent major changes.

 

Enough ammo for a lifetime is cheaper than I thought

Today I was perusing the Ammoman website to look at pricing and availability for .22LR ammo. As I’ve been living abroad for nearly seven years, I was pleasantly surprised to see ammo in stock and reasonably priced.

For example, CCI Blazer ammo, my go-to ammo for my Ruger 10/22 rifle and MkIII pistol when not using a suppressor, is selling at its regular, non-discounted price of $275/5000 rounds. That’s $0.055/shot. Not bad at all.

That got me thinking: seven years ago, I was a newly-minted college graduate who didn’t make a particularly large amount of money. Now I’m married and have two kids, so I have more expenses, but a larger and more consistent income. For less than two weeks after-tax salary, I could buy a near-lifetime amount (50,000) of .22LR. Ok, maybe not quite enough for a lifetime, but it’s still a hell of a lot of ammo.

Sure, the Wife Acceptance Factor of doing this out of the blue right after a major move is quite low, but squirreling away $100 per paycheck for about a year isn’t unreasonable.

The fact that I can order 50,000 rounds of ammo delivered to my home is sure to induce some PSH in people, as well as likely getting me on even more government lists. Plus I’d get to have fun at the range. Sounds like a plan to me.

Thoughts on the March for Our Lives

I’ve got no problem with people gathering together to protest. That’s their right, and part of what makes America great.

To those who are marching out of a genuine interest in making schools and society a safer place, welcome to the club. I support you and your objectives as I also want to see safer schools and a safer society.

To those who are marching to support gun control, I oppose you and your objectives, as they would make people, schools, and society less safe. You are marching for laws that deprive millions of honest Americans of their rights while doing nothing to make anyone safer, and I urge you to reconsider your position.

Cancelling a Citibank card, buying gun stocks

Sebastian notes that Citibank is pushing some “common-sense” measures like requiring all gun-related “clients who offer credit cards backed by Citigroup or borrow money, use banking services or raise capital” to raise the required age for buyers to 21, not sell bump stocks or Magazines of UnusualNormal Size, or sell to buyers who haven’t passed a background check (clearly they’re not familiar with federal law).

My wife has a Citibank card. We will be cancelling it immediately. We have other credit cards at banks that are at the very least gun-neutral, so this doesn’t affect our day-to-day spending at all other than not supporting Citi at all.

Update: my wife was one step ahead of me, and had already cancelled the card. Excellent.

I’ve also made the choice to buy some shares in publicly-traded gun-related stocks, specifically Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and Vista Outdoors (owners of Federal Premium Ammunition). It’s not a huge investment, only a few hundred bucks in total and a small fraction of my well-balanced portfolio, and I don’t think such investments will get me rich, but it makes me a voting shareholder which is nice. I mainly invest in index funds that, as part of their index tracking, own such shares, but I wanted to explicitly own those individual shares in addition to the index funds.

Stupid Laws

Twelve years ago (where the hell did the time go?) I bought a Bushmaster XM15 AR variant in Arizona. It’s a great rifle and has a fixed stock, A3-style detachable carry handle, 20″ barrel, etc.

It’s also specifically banned by make and model number by the state of California who, in their infinite wisdom, decided it was too dangerous for mere mortals to own. Possessing such an evil “assault weapon” in the state is a serious crime regardless of whether or not I install a fixed magazine.

However, if I were to strip the lower (that is, remove the fire control group, springs, pins, etc.), get a new lower such as those made by a variety of companies and which can cost as little as $50 or make my own from an 80% lower, install a fixed magazine, assemble the new lower with the parts from the stripped lower, and mount the original Bushmaster upper on that newly-assembled lower then everything would be perfectly legal so long as the lower marked “XM15” is not brought into the state.

Literally the only difference is that the lower is a chunk of aluminum — forged by the same company, no less — with different writing on the side, yet one is legal in California and one isn’t.

Hooray for stupid laws.

Some good news about California ammo laws

In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 63. It, in conjunction with related legislation, requires that — among other things, like banning the mere possession of magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds — ammunition buyers undergo a background check prior to buying ammunition in California.

Until 2019, the background check information is conducted by the state, but the only records are kept by the local dealer. Starting in 2019, ammunition purchases from dealers are required to be registered with the state, just like gun purchases.

In addition, direct ship-to-home purchases are forbidden, though one can have ammo ordered and delivered to a local dealer who handles the background check and state registration, as well as the collection of relevant state sales tax. Importing ammo from other states is a misdemeanor, if caught.

As someone who values both my gun rights, my privacy, and the convenience of online ordering, this is a major issue.

Fortunately, the relevant section of law has several exceptions, which I discovered today (other, more informed people likely knew of this long ago but it’s new to me). Let’s look at the relevant section of the California Penal Code:

30312.

[Skipping over part (a).]

(b) Commencing January 1, 2018, the sale, delivery, or transfer of ownership of ammunition by any party may only occur in a face-to-face transaction with the seller, deliverer, or transferor, provided, however, that ammunition may be purchased or acquired over the Internet or through other means of remote ordering if a licensed ammunition vendor initially receives the ammunition and processes the transaction in compliance with this section and Article 3 (commencing with Section 30342) of Chapter 1 of Division 10 of Title 4 of this part.

In short: you can order ammo online, but it needs to go to a local dealer who needs to do the background check, state registration, etc. That’s a pain, but it still leaves the option open for those who are willing to jump through the hoops — they could have forbidden all online sales entirely.

(c) Subdivisions (a) and (b) shall not apply to the sale, delivery, or transfer of ammunition to any of the following:

Following is a long list of exceptions, such as exempting police departments, individual police officers (my non-lawyerly interpretation is that it exempts individual police officers, even if they buy ammo for personal use, so long as they are authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of their duties), federally-licensed ammo importers or manufacturers, FFL (including standard 01 FFL and C&R 03 FFL) holders residing outside the state (though why they’d need CA approval if they’re not in CA is beyond me), target ranges (so long as the ammo is kept on the range at all times), training facilities for police, etc.

Of particular interest is this section:

(6) A person who is licensed as a collector of firearms pursuant to Chapter 44 (commencing with Section 921) of Title 18 of the United States Code and the regulations issued pursuant thereto, whose licensed premises are within this state, and who has a current certificate of eligibility issued by the Department of Justice pursuant to Section 26710.

What’s this? Someone who has a C&R 03 FFL (which costs $30 for 3 years) and who has a $22/year (plus a ~$100 first-year fee) “Certificate of Eligibility” from the state of California is exempt from that law and can order ammo directly to one’s home without having to undergo an annoying background check at each sale, and with the state being none the wiser about what ammo one’s buying?

I asked several major ammo vendors who sell online, and they said their lawyers confirmed my interpretation of the law. Great!

But what is the “Certificate of Eligibility”? According to the state, it’s a document that “certifies the Department of Justice (DOJ) has checked its records and determined the recipient is not prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms at the time the firearms eligibility criminal background check was performed”. It is required for “prospective licensed firearms dealers, licensed ammunition vendors, manufacturers, certified instructors, gun show promoters [WTF? -AZR], explosive permit holders, and other firearm related employment activities”. In short, you get the background check done ahead of time and you’re good to go for a year without needing to deal with the hassles the whole time.

Sure, the local police department is informed about one possessing a C&R 03 FFL, but no action is required on their part and it likely just disappears into some file somewhere or gets thrown out. The state also knows one has a Certificate of Eligibility, but so long as one orders ammo for delivery, they don’t get any information about individual purchases.

Unfortunately, even those with CoEs are required to do the full background check and registration when buying ammo at retail dealers.

These laws are a huge hassle and, while I loathe the fact that a C&R 03 FFL and CoE are required to bypass the absurd background check and state registration of ammo purchases (which ended up costing the state $25 million to start, plus unspecified ongoing costs — hooray bureaucracy!), the fact that one can bypass those absurd requirements with relatively minimal hassle and cost is at least some relief. In addition, one can personally import ammo from other states (e.g., in the trunk of a car) if one has a C&R 03 FFL and CoE.

I already planned on getting a C&R 03 FFL, as I had before I left the country, and getting a CoE means the state gets even less information about me than if I didn’t have one, so that’s not too bad as far as California goes.

RSS Feed Oops

I was recently fiddling with some options on the blog and ended up introducing an error into the RSS feed. The error was minor (a blank line on the first line of the feed) and many (but not all) RSS readers end up automatically compensating for it, but it may have caused issues for some readers.

I’ve corrected it and it everything should be back to normal. Mea culpa.