No Sporting or Civilian Use

That’s what the Brady Campaign says about common guns like the AR-15 and various other features associated with common arms. The full quote from their page is as follows:

The Brady Campaign supports banning military-style semi-automatic assault weapons along with high-capacity ammunition magazines. These dangerous weapons have no sporting or civilian use. Their combat features are appropriate to military, not civilian, contexts.

Of course, this position is demonstrably false: these guns and features have plenty of sporting and civilian uses. I present the following as an example:

This is Louis. Attentive readers will recognize him from previous posts as he is a regular attendee of trips to the range. The gun he is firing ((Note the brass ejecting.)) is a Glock 19, chambered in 9x19mm. It is equipped with a Glock 33-round extended magazine. One will note that Louis is demonstrating good shooting form and is displaying a smile of enjoyment. The extended magazine allows Louis to spend more time shooting and less time stopping to reload magazines.

Here is Rita, who also frequently accompanies me on trips to the range, fires the Glock 19 with the standard-capacity 15-round magazine that is one of two included with the purchase of a new pistol.
This magazine allows for 50% more capacity than the Brady-recommended 10-round low-capacity magazines while still fitting flush with the bottom of the pistol’s grip. At the range, having five fewer rounds means more changing magazines and more time spent reloading — less time having fun.
Next up, we have Danielle:

This was her first trip to the range. Here she’s firing a DPMS A-15, an AR-15 variant. It is equipped with all the standard features: a flash suppressor, bayonet lug, handguards which encircle the barrel, a 30-round standard-capacity magazine, a pistol grip, and a collapsible stock.
In this particular context, the bayonet lug is not being used, and so is no more dangerous than any other piece of metal ((The edges of the lug, however, are a bit sharp.)) on the rifle. The flash suppressor is not really relevant, as Danielle is shooting during the day and so does not need to worry about the flash from her muzzle affecting night vision — that said, the vents on the flash suppressor reduce the amount of dust kicked up from the ground, making her shooting experience a more enjoyable one.
The pistol grip and collapsible stock allow for comfortable shooting: she has adjusted the stock to a length which suits her. The ordinary fixed stock is too long and it is often uncomfortable for smaller shooters like Danielle.
The pistol grip allows for a firm, ergonomic, comfortable grip on the rifle. The forward handguards, which she is not using in this particular picture, prevent her from being burned by the hot barrel when she chooses to use her right hand to hold the gun rather than support her shooting hand.
The 30-round magazine is the standard size for AR-15 type rifles, and allows her to fire for a good period of time without needing to stand up or move around to fetch and load a new magazine. This also allows her to focus more on shooting rather than changing magazines. In this particular picture, she’s also using the magazine to support the rifle, allowing for more stable, accurate shooting.
The very features that the Brady Campaign claims are “combat features” that “facilitate the killing of human beings in battle” are being used by Danielle and tens of millions of other civilian shooters to enhance their safety (e.g. handguards that prevent burns) and comfort (e.g. ergonomic pistol grip and a stock that can adjust to be comfortable for both larger and smaller people).

Here Danielle is seen shooting a Ruger 10/22 rifle, chambered in the lowly .22 Long Rifle cartridge, which is equipped with a threaded barrel and a Gem-Tech Outback II silencer.
The Brady Campaign states that silencers “allow an assassin to shoot without making noise” — while this is true ((Partially, at least — silencers reduce the noise produced by the gun to a safe level, but do not completely eliminate it.)), I think they might be watching a few too many James Bond movies. Assassins are exceedingly uncommon outside of Hollywood films, and any actual assassin will not care about the legality of silencers. They also claim that, “silencers are illegal so there is no legitimate purpose for making it possible to put a silencer on a weapon,” a claim which is demonstrably false: the silencer on this gun is perfectly legal, and I have all the appropriate paperwork in order.
Though I’ve addressed the legality of silencers in a previous post, I want to reiterate that there are perfectly legitimate reasons for wanting to own and use a silencer: I use mine primarily for introducing new shooters to shooting, as the low recoil and noise of a silenced .22 rifle makes for a very pleasant learning experience. Additionally, the use of a silencer reduces the levels of noise produced by a gun, reducing noise pollution and hearing damage.
In conclusion, there are numerous, perfectly legitimate sporting reasons for the private ownership of “military-style semi-automatic” firearms ((Which, I’d like to point out, are functionally no different than non-“military-style” semi-automatic firearms like the Ruger Mini-14.)) and magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds. There are plenty of other, non-sporting reasons (such as self-defense, collecting, etc.) for owning such firearms and accessories.
In short, the Brady Campaign is full of crap.
On a more positive note, it was a glorious, sunny day here in Tucson, and I was pleased to spend the day in the company of good friends, fine guns, and delicious food and (after the guns were put away) beer.

April Fools!

I had a 50% surge in visitors yesterday, mostly coming from search engines looking for stuff related to “tgscom lawsuit” and whatnot.
I did a bit of digging, and it seems that TGScom sent out an email to subscribers claiming that a lawsuit they filed resulted in the NFA ’34 being overturned due to violating the Second Amendment. Evidently a bunch of people were gleeful and started searching for more information, finding two posts I made about TGScom a while back.
Folks, be sure to check your calendar before celebrating: it was an April Fools joke. A bunch of the excerpts of the email message I saw posted to forums did not include the date, which may cause confusion in the future when people read such posts.
I know, I wish they repealed the NFA as well.

On Mexico

The BBC, like many other new organizations, recently ran an article about the ongoing drug-related violence going on in Mexico.
In the article, a particular quote stood out to me:

Mexico’s gun laws are tight, but in the US it is far easier to get weapons. The Mexican government says lax US gun laws help arm the cartels and fuel the violence.

While US gun laws are far less strict than Mexico, I seriously doubt that the US is responsible for most of the weapons being used by the drug cartels. While I won’t say that US-sourced weapons haven’t been found in Mexico (they clearly have), I’m saying that the bad guys are getting most of their weapons from other sources. The ATF seems to agree.
First off, straw purchasing — where someone buys a gun for a prohibited person, which is illegal — doesn’t scale well. It’s one thing for a gang member to get his girlfriend to buy a gun or two, but it’s a different thing entirely for drug cartels to hire enough straw purchasers in cities all over the country to buy hundreds of thousands of guns and get them over the border without being noticed. It’s made worse when gun stores are routinely out of popular semi-auto guns like AR-15s and AK variants which, the news organizations claim, are the guns being smuggled.
Secondly, why would the cartels risk such high-level detection by straw purchasing from gun shops in the US? US gun dealers are regulated by the ATF, all retail purchasers must undergo FBI background checks, fill out forms, etc. Cars crossing the border are routinely searched for contraband. Seems like a lot of hassle for a marginal gain. It’d be far easier for the cartels to bribe Mexican military members or port authorities to overlook a container or two of smuggled arms than to buy guns — where they’re available — at retail prices in the US.
Thirdly, many of the guns being found in Mexico are machine guns, not their semi-auto lookalikes commonly available in the US. Machine guns are tightly regulated in the US and usually quite expensive. Legal, transferable M16s in the US tend to cost in excess of $12,000 and require both local and federal approval for purchase. Since the registry for privately-owned machine guns was legislatively closed in 1986, the number of legal machine guns has remained constant (or possibly declined slightly, as guns are damaged, destroyed, stolen, etc.). With actual machine guns being so expensive and uncommon, it would be incredibly unwise for the cartels to attempt to smuggle American-owned machine guns into Mexico.
With some skilled machine work, one can convert semi-auto guns into full-auto guns (doing so would be considered making a post-1986 machine gun, and it is generally illegal for private citizens to make or own such a conversion), but again this has problems scaling. Converting a gun or two is plausible, but converting enough guns to arm hundreds of thousands of cartel members? Unlikely, considering the number of machinists and equipment needed to do so.
Fourthly, Mexico has numerous porous borders, whether it’s the large amounts of relatively unpatrolled shoreline or the border with Guatemala. Why would cartels risk detection smuggling arms over the US-Mexico border when they could simply smuggle arms from other sources into the country by land or sea? Bribing a port official to let a container of guns in isn’t that hard, nor is unloading one’s own ships (whether with smaller boats onto a beach somewhere, or into a cove).
Fifthly, the cartels pay a lot more than the Mexican police or military does, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if guns were given or sold to the cartels from police or military armories. Since the US often trades, legally, in arms with Mexican government authorities, this may be why captured guns are being traced back to the US.
Sixthly, there are numerous international arms dealers and nations who would gladly exchange arms for currency. Why risk the wrath of the US government when the cartels could simply buy from a willing foreign government or dealer by the containerload?
Basically, I’m applying Occam’s Razor here: it’s far more simple and plausible that the cartels are getting their guns from the Mexican police and military, from international arms dealers, or from another state (say, Venezuela) than them buying machine guns at vastly inflated prices in the US or straw-purchasing semi-auto guns and then converting them to machine guns.
Unsurprisingly enough, the news media doesn’t consider this (or if they do, they don’t print it), preferring to parrot the same story over and over. The ATF says it isn’t happening. Border Patrol says it isn’t happening. Why, then, does it keep coming up again and again?

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?

Common Misconception

Contrary to popular belief, even amongst gunny people, automatic firearms — that is, machine guns — are not necessarily illegal to own.
While some states (looking at you, California) heavily restrict or prohibit them, most states have only minor, if any, restrictions above and beyond federal law.
Sure, there are some hoops to jump through (a one-time $200 NFA tax, local police approval, ATF approval, fingerprints, background checks, interstate travel restrictions, etc.), but it’s less paperwork than buying a car…though it does take about a month for the paperwork to get approved by the ATF.
There’s not even any “license” to own them. There’s a license requirement for dealers, but private citizens simply need an approved ATF form (most seem to be on a Form 4). That’s it. You don’t give up any privacy rights: the feds can’t stop by and search your property any more than they could before, they’re not going to tap your phones.
Just thought I’d help clear this up.


This is the first newsworthy accident involving NFA firearms that I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately, it involves an 8-year-old kid accidentally shooting himself with an UZI and later dying from his wounds. Truly tragic. My sincerest condolences go out to the family and anyone else involved with this accident.
I hope that people realize that even with a single incident being rather high-profile, accidents in the shooting sports (particularly those involving NFA items) are rare, and that no change in public policy should be needed. Alas, the comments on the article don’t leave me much hope of that.

Legalized = Taxed?

Whether people are talking about legalizing marijuana (which I support, even though I’ve never touched the stuff) or opening the NFA registry, it seems that everyone says, “Legalize it, then tax it.”
Personally, I’m in the “legalize it” camp, but not so much in the “tax it” camp, particularly when it comes to “sin” taxes…which I wish didn’t exist. Taxes should serve a specific purpose: I pay taxes on gasoline, and that revenue goes to maintaining roads, streetlights, and other infrastructure. I’m fine with that.
How does an NFA or marijuana tax serve anyone?
If the law requires that NFA items be registered with the ATF, I understand that it will cost a little bit of money to process each registration, and I could understand a processing fee that would cover that cost. At most, that should cost around $50. It’s essentially data entry. A re-opening of the NFA full-auto registry may prompt a spike in registrations, but even if they collect a $50 fee per item, the ATF would likely still be covering their costs (government isn’t supposed to make money).
Similarly, subject marijuana to the same sales tax, if any, that other purchases get subjected to. Same thing with alcohol and cigarettes. If the taxes are prohibitively high, then nobody will bother with paying them, and will instead buy things on the black market.
I understand the whole “legalize it” mindset, and I can understand the “regulate it” mindset (so as to ensure that products like marijuana are not adulterated with harmful chemicals, see China) to some extent, but the “tax it” mindset? I just don’t see how that benefits anyone except those who collect the tax.

Question of the Day

I found this in my search engine query logs:

can a silencer chambered in .223 be used on a .22lr

Assuming the silencer is physically threaded the same (1/2x28tpi, I believe, is quite common), then yes.
The .223 can will likely be heavier and larger than the .22 can due to the former having considerably greater powder volume (and thus resulting gas volume).
However, do not attempt to use a .22 silencer to suppress .223. Most .22 cans are made out of lower-strength materials like aluminum to save on weight. Their construction is perfectly adequate for .22 loads, but they are likely to be seriously damaged if used with higher-power rounds like .223.
In addition to having your expensive NFA item explosively self-disassemble in your face, there’s also the issue of having said exploding metal cylinder send sharp pointy bits into your body or the bodies of the people around you. Most people don’t like to be near things that are exploding that aren’t designed to be.
Heck, most people don’t like being near things that are exploding, period.

Absurdity and Machine Tools

Before today I’d never touched a machine tool in my life. My experience with tools was limited to power drills, screwdrivers, wrenches (socket and otherwise), and — dare I say it — a brace and bit. Basic hand tools used for basic around-the-house purposes.
Well, the lab wanted everyone to become familiar with the lab’s machine shop in case we needed to fabricate things for various experiments. I chose to try out the milling machine, and milled a tuning fork from a piece of aluminum stock. I certainly won’t be winning any awards, but the tuning fork does produce a steady note when struck. It only took me two hours, and about a third of that was figuring out how to work the machine and later removing melted aluminum from my cutting bit when I screwed up. Not bad for a total rookie.
Now, if a total rookie could fabricate a working tuning fork in a matter of hours, how long would it take for someone to make one of these? Granted, the factory ones were stamped, not machined…but it still would be pretty simple. Milling a link from a piece of stock steel and trimming back an AR-15 bolt carrier to the SP1 profile would take less than a day, even for a total newbie.
(Granted, doing so would be extremely illegal (that tiny piece of metal is actually considered a “machine gun” by law), and I would never attempt it — I legally own an NFA item and several “ordinary” firearms and would never do anything to risk my right to own them. I also have a rather serious allergy to jail and rather like being on the ATF’s good side. Don’t do it. Really. It’s a Very Bad Idea.)
Amazingly enough, buying all the stuff to make one is cheaper than buying one legally:

  • AR-15: $800
  • Milling machine: <$1,500 (not including cutting bits)
  • Steel: <$20

Round up to $3,000 just to be on the safe side.
A legal, transferable Lightning Link costs $8,000+, will be 22+ years old, and likely well-used.
Does anyone honestly think that a cost of a few weeks wages will stop those with criminal intentions from making machine guns? I certainly hope not. One can even alter “ballistic fingerprints” and remove microstamps using only simple hand tools like a file. The fact that these laws are either in place or being considered is absurd.
Once again, the law restricts the rights of honest folks, yet does essentially nothing to impede criminals.
I long for the day when people realize that laws and the justice system are reactive, not proactive. The mere existence of a law does not restrict anyone from behaving badly. It simply allows for them to be punished for their actions. One cannot preemptively stop crime by passing more laws.

Full Auto Fun

In 2007, my Class III dealer friend Mike and his Class II manufacturer friend Rob went out for a day of full-auto fun in the National Forest.
While the video is over a year old, I still think it’s fun. Unfortunately, it contributes to my indecision over which machine gun to buy, as all of the guns pictured therein (M16s and Uzis) are incredibly fun to shoot. Alas, the full-auto switch for the Glock (which Rob makes for a living) is a post-86 machine gun, and thus not legal for me to buy. Curses!

For reference, I’m the guy in blue jeans, the green Peace Through Superior Firepower shirt, and the baseball hat. And yes, I’m left-handed.