Still Alive

I’m still here, though due to life happening, kids taking up lots of my time (and me loving every minute of it), and work being crazy busy, I haven’t had much time to post.

What little free time I have has been spent upright and outside (trying to rehabilitate the backyard) rather than cooped up by a computer. I’m still actively reading various gun blogs, writing to legislators, and contributing in what small ways I can with the time and resources I have. At some point I’ll get to the range.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve had several opportunities to take advantage of this useful provision of California’s oppressive ammo laws to order ammo online and have it delivered right to the house, and in each case all has gone well. My thanks to Target Sports USA (uncompensated, non-affiliate link) for playing along with California’s nonsense and continuing to do business with California residents.

At the risk of sounding somewhat sappy, having a few dozen articles and posts from gun bloggers showing up in my feed every day is incredibly pleasing and gives me a lot to read. The fact that such postings are coming from independent, usually individually-hosted (as opposed to easily-suppressed groups on social media) blogs written by people passionate about the issue and not doing so for remuneration makes me happy.

Combine an active gun blogging community, the enormous number of fellow Californians who bought huge numbers of magazines during freedom week, and a variety of freedom-loving local people posting positively on Nextdoor (which is social media for folks living within a few physical miles of each other; useful for reuniting people with lost pets, finding good local contractors, and general discussion) about gun rights, even in one of the most gun-hostile counties in California (this is Swalwell’s district), and I find myself reinvigorated, feeling of a “stranger in a strange land” as a gun owners in California, and optimistic about the future of gun rights.

In short, I’m still here, still doing my thing, will try to make an effort to write more, and very much appreciate the community of like-minded others (both locally, in the state, and elsewhere). Thanks for all you do, and thanks for reading.

 

 

Legally avoiding CA’s ammo background check law

Starting July 1st, California is requiring background checks on ammunition orders. Direct-to-buyer online sales are also banned for most people, though one can arrange to have the order sent to a local shop who’ll charge a fee for receiving it and administering the background check.

Were it just a standard background check, it’d be an annoying infringement on one’s rights, but pretty par for the course for California.

But it’s not. From the article,

The state Department of Justice, which will administer the background check program, estimates there will be 13.2 million ammunition purchases each year. But 13 million will be by people who already cleared background checks when they bought guns in California, so they are already registered in the state’s gun owners’ database.

They will pay a $1 processing fee each time they pick up bullets or shotgun shells.

[…] [O]wners of unregistered weapons will have to pay $19 for a one-time background check that can take days to complete and is good for a single purchase within 30 days. Wilcox said that should encourage owners to register their firearms.

That’s pretty sneaky: they rely on the fact that people are lazy and cheap and so are more likely to register their guns if it’s cheaper and faster for them to buy ammo if they do. Plus, the state knows how often one’s buying ammo and I’d be surprised if they weren’t analyzing those records for various purposes.

Fortunately, one can avoid this requirement by simply getting a C&R FFL and a state-issued Certificate of Eligibility (which is basically a document saying “I passed a NICS check!”) to continue to buy ammo online without needing to check in with the state for each purchase.

I highly recommend doing this.

Election Thoughts

Today, the day after the midterms, is always an interesting day to look things over.

Nationally, things went about as I expected: the Democrats took the House, while the Republicans held the Senate. The Arizona and Florida Senate races are still tight (and indeed, the Florida election is now going to a recount), but look to be leaning R. This was tighter than I wanted to see in Florida, but I’ll take it. Perhaps the Florida GOP will realize how close this was, and that not completely alienating gun owners (who may hold their nose to vote for the less-bad candidate, but won’t be excited to do it) is a bad electoral strategy. Texas was also closer than I’d like.

Still, the Republicans had a distinct advantage in the Senate this election, with the Democrats as a whole on the defensive due to the seats in play. 2020 doesn’t seem to be as favorable of an electoral map for the Republicans, so I’m a little worried about that going forward.

For the time being, it looks like federal gridlock will be the rule of the day, in terms of laws getting passed, which is pretty typical. Short of things going completely crazy, I feel reasonably confident that no federal gun control measures will make it to Trump’s desk in the next two years and with solid control of the Senate, the Republicans will continue to appoint pro-gun judges to various federal courts (and, perhaps, to the Supreme Court). I won’t even begin to speculate about what might happen after 2020.

California and New York, while never all that great for gun owners, have turned the corner (with the Democrats flipping the NY State Senate and having complete control of the legislature and executive, and with Gavin Newsom winning the CA governor’s race) and will likely turning the states even more gun-hostile than before. CA Governor Jerry Brown, while never really a pro-gun-rights guy, at least acted to temper the anti-gun forces in CA by occasionally vetoing their more outrageous proposals. Between Newsom and very anti-gun incumbent CA attorney general Xavier Beccera winning his race, that restraint is gone and I’m definitely getting a “BOHICA” feeling. Gun rights haven’t been great in CA for decades, but I suspect a lot of stuff is going to move fairly quickly in the near future. Even if the courts ultimately overturn some things (which is by no means assured), that process is slow compared to how fast they can draft new bills. This is very concerning to me.

New York also worries me: with the Democrats in complete control of the legislature and executive branch, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more gun control going forward at the state level. The most concerning thing to me is the weaponization of the bureaucracy relating to finance and insurance to pressure pro-gun groups. Again, I’m hoping the courts step in to put a kibosh on that, but I’m not holding my breath.

At the local level, the choices here in Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area were pretty bleak as far as gun rights were concerned. The choices were pretty much between “Standard California Democrat” vs. “Extreme California Democrat”. A race between a local incumbent Republican (who is basically a standard Democrat anywhere else in the country) and an far-left Democrat challenger ended up with the Republican winning, which surprised me. The fact that the challenger kept spamming our house with mailers talking about her anti-gun bona fides made her defeat all the more sweet for me, though not too sweet: the incumbent isn’t pro-gun by any stretch, but is slightly less anti-gun than the challenger. Her “no” votes on things like magazine confiscation without compensation being based on the “without compensation” detail, not the fact that confiscating long-grandfathered magazines is a bad thing.

Another “positive”, so to speak: Dianne Feinstein won her senate race against far-left Kevin de Leon. Feinstein is definitely anti-gun, but she’s been stuck in her Quixotic ways for decades (e.g. “Ban evil black rifles!” with little other ideas or proposals) and isn’t likely to have any major surprises. She’s also really good at bringing out the opposition when it comes to resisting gun control bills. de Leon, on the other hand, is much more aggressively anti-gun and would likely have tried pushing a lot more new and creative bills that may have garnered more support. For once, I’m glad Feinstein won. Now I need to take a shower.

Advice on safes?

The wife and I are buying a home soon and need a place to put the guns (previously stored with family while we were living overseas) such that they’ll be safe from kids, fire, criminals, and irresponsible adults. That means a safe (or at the very least, a locking cabinet).

I’m not hugely worried about theft, since the door locks and most reasonably-secure gun safes/cabinets will slow them down long enough for the cops summoned by the alarm system to respond. Similarly, fire is a concern, but there’s a fire station nearby and the alarm would summon them if there was a fire. Even in the worst case of fire loss, I have insurance.

The main security issue is that of kids: my oldest of two is now 4, and I don’t want them getting into things they shouldn’t. They’re curious kids and will do the usual kid stuff to explore their environment, but I doubt they’ll resort to power tools and torches. Screwdrivers, maybe. Still, something that can keep out thieves for a bit will probably be good enough to keep out kids. Reasonably secure, yes. Fort Knox, no.

As this would be for storing guns not in daily use (as opposed to a bedside table biometric safe for a handgun), certain aspects such as rapidity and ease of opening are not particularly important. If the lock fails in such a way that I need to contact a locksmith to open it, that’s not the end of the world.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Made by reputable company, preferably in the US.
  • Reasonable manufacturer support for servicing and parts. Ideally something available at a local safe shop, for ease of delivery, installation, and support.
  • Preferably not some generic OEM product that the company slaps their label onto, but otherwise has no after-sale support.
  • Reasonably movable by 2-3 people and a heavy-duty hand cart (say, up to 500 pounds or so).
  • Electronic keypad lock. Key backup is helpful, but not required.
  • Room to hold at least 8-10 traditional rifles/shotguns (some with typical scopes), 8-10 AR-pattern rifles with iron sights, and misc. smaller items (e.g. a handgun or two on a shelf, some ammo cans on the bottom, optics, important papers, etc.). The more the merrier, up to a point (I don’t need to store 60+ guns). So far most of what I’ve seen has very densely-packed racks such that they can hold 8-10 rifles, but only 2 ARs or so. As an AR shooter, that doesn’t really work for me.
  • Ideally under $1,000-$1,500.

Any suggestions? I’m all ears.

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.