Low-Key Shooting Invite

I’ve had a long, busy week and would like to do some low-key shooting at the range on Saturday. No huge groups, just some relaxing, low-pressure shooting at targets.
I need to practice a bit more, and figured tomorrow would be a good day to do it.
Anyone else want to go?
Update: It’s rather windy tonight, and I’m really pooped. I don’t think I’m going to make it tomorrow. Maybe Sunday, if the winds die down.

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I know, I wish they repealed the NFA as well.

Impossible?

The Arizona Wildcat, the university’s newspaper, ran an AP story yesterday about a measure in Texas that would legalize concealed carry on college campuses by permit holders.
Evidently due to space limitiations, the Wildcat cut off the article after the 8th paragraph, which ended in “Texas campuses are gun-free zones.” Of course, the part of the article that was snipped had nearly all the quotes and text explaining why one would want to carry on campus, or that people with permits can carry just about everywhere else and that the campus border is just an imaginary line. (( Bias? What bias? ))
One quote from Woods, a student whose girlfriend was killed in the Virginia Tech shooting, stood out to me:

“Then I learned pretty fast that wouldn’t solve anything,” said Woods, who is now a graduate student at UT. “The idea that somebody could stop a school shooting with a gun is impossible. It’s reactive, not preventative.”

Impossible? Impossible? To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Last time I checked, cops carry guns, and they’re able to put an end to murderous violence pretty effectively with those guns. There’s a lot of private citizens who carry guns, and numerous stories about how those people use their guns to stop violent crime.
One might not be able to prevent a school shooting, but one certainly would have the potential to stop it.
I know that if a person bent on murder came barging into my classroom, I’d prefer a means of resisting them that’s more effective than a thrown textbook.

I Don’t Care

Marko’s excellent post about the female side of the shooting sports is enlightening and should give people something to think about when it comes to interacting with others((In short, don’t be a jerk.)).
In my case, I don’t care if someone’s male or female, tall or short, red, white, black, brown, yellow, or any other descriptive term. I was raised by good parents to treat others with respect. The army reinforced that with the lesson that “in the army, everyone is green.”
While there are certainly differences between the sexes (being male I cannot, for example, bear children), there is absolutely nothing about one’s wibbly bits that has any bearing on shooting. To think otherwise is stupid to the extreme. For an example of such stupidity, see this quote by Tam in the comments to Marko’s post:

For the doubters out there, who believe there aren?t any mouth-breathing dumbasses in the gun world, I offer the eleventeen jillion times I?ve been at a gun show and some cretin asks the guy I?m with how much he?s asking for the gun I?m carrying.
[…]
At one of my first Indy 1500?s, one guy asked the total stranger standing next to me how much he wanted for my 6.8 AR.

While I haven’t seen anything so blatant as what Tam describes, I’ve certainly seen some of my female friends get some condescension from people at the range. They let it roll off their respective backs and laughed about it in the pub afterwards, but it’s still disrespectful and has no business happening.
That said, there are certainly important differences between individuals which are relevant to shooting and need to be considered when purchasing or handling guns.
For example, I’m left-handed, and so have some difficulty effectively operating bolt-action rifles meant for righties. Some pistols, specifically Sigs, have their controls placed in positions (like the very left-rear of the grip) that are quite difficult for me to manipulate. Some people lack the upper body strength to effectively hold larger, heavier guns like the M1 Garand or to operate the slide on a particular pistol. Some people’s bodies are smaller or larger than others, so “one size fits most” stocks don’t fit them well (which is why I am a huge fan of adjustable/collapsible stocks). Some people’s hands are larger or smaller than others, so a gun’s grips may or may not feel comfortable in their hands.
Nearly all of these issues can be resolved with either training (e.g. building up strength or endurance, practice with the mechanisms of the gun, etc.), accessories (adjustable stocks, different grips, etc.), or choice of guns. None of them have anything to do with the sex of the shooter (I’ve yet to see a gun that requires a penis to operate.), but rather individual characteristics.
Be polite and friendly to everyone, regardless of what they’ve got between their legs, and you’ll do fine.

Conflicted

I recently received an update from the AzCDL about a proposed piece of legislation. Here’s a quick summary, as quoted from the email notice:

HB 2439 provides for an alternative 4 hour CCW course, dealing only in legal issues, mental conditioning, and judgmental shooting decisions, for qualified individuals who can show proof of prior firearms training, such as:

  • Completion of an NRA pistol course.
  • Completion of pistol related courses at the college level, or at places like Front Sight, Gunsite, etc.
  • Completion of certain law enforcement training.
  • Current military service or an honorable discharge.
  • A competitive rating or ranking in an organized shooting competition.
  • A CCW permit from another jurisdiction that required training or testing to obtain.

I’m a bit conflicted about such a measure. While I’m a huge advocate of CCW and advocate for Vermont/Alaska-style carry (where no permit or state approval is necessary, so long as one is a law-abiding person), measures like this trouble me by setting different standards for people.
I’m a firm believer in training, and encourage everyone who owns a gun to seek training in the safe handling and use of their arms. That said, I believe that such training should be encouraged, but not mandatory. I think that most reasonable people will agree that the use of force, including lethal force, in self-defense is justified if and only if a bad guy poses a clear and present danger of serious bodily injury or death.
However, if the state wishes to require reasonable training prior to issuing CCW permits, so be it. However, such training must meet a clearly-articulated standard. NRA pistol courses are great, but they don’t cover “legal issues, mental conditioning, and judgmental shooting decisions” specific to armed self-defense. Neither does having served in the military — I’ve served in the military as a tank crewman and was routinely armed with a pistol. The pistol training offered by the army was basic at best, mostly covering the mechanical aspects of the gun and how to shoot a basic course of fire. No shoot/no-shoot training, and certainly no other training that would be relevant to a civilian self-defense scenario. Honestly, I was surprised at how little weapons training the army did.
Being a competitive shooter also doesn’t meet those standards. While some aspects of competitive shooting may exceed the state training requirements, competitions rarely cover the legal aspects that the state presently requires. Sure, action shooting can prove useful, but it’s not a self-defense training course.
Again, I’d prefer if training were optional (but strongly encouraged), but so long as the state requires training I think such training should be as uniform as possible. Making exceptions for specific groups of people who, while perhaps trained and skilled in firearm use, haven’t had the same training as other CCW permit holders seems like a bad idea. The only exceptions for the training requirement that I could see would be (a) those with permits from states with substantially similar training requirements and (b) those facing a dire, immediate danger where the time needed to complete a training course would put them in mortal peril. In the latter case, the person should complete the necessary training as soon as practical.
My conflict is between my desire for permitless, Vermont-style carry and the desire that if training is required (as it currently is in Arizona, at least for concealed carry — open carry has no training requirements), that such training be uniform across the entire population of those with permits to carry.

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?

Cognitive Dissonance

I saw a car today with a few bumper stickers. Two of them stood out in my mind: an Obama/Biden ’08 sticker and a “????? ????” one.
Now, I don’t really care about other people’s political beliefs, so long as they don’t infringe on my rights, but it seems rather contradictory to have a sticker proclaiming that one would only give up one’s weapons “over [my] dead body” (either literally or metaphorically) and a sticker advocating the election of a candidate who has a well-known history of voting against the rights of gun owners.
Go figure.

Tip of the Day: Cleaning AR-15 Chambers with a Brush and Drill

As an owner of several AR-15 rifles, I’ve found that it’s relatively difficult to clean the chamber from accumulated gunk. Q-tips and patches don’t easily reach all the little nooks and crannies, and the standard chamber brushes are difficult (particularly when new) to fit into the chamber.
An easy, if somewhat l0w-tech solution, is to screw the brush into a length of cleaning rod that you’re not terribly fond of and then chuck the rod into an electric drill (or a brace-and-bit if you really want to go low-tech). First, I apply some cleaning solvent (I’m partial to Break-Free CLP, but anything should do) to the brush. Next, start the drill? clockwise at its lowest speed setting (you do not want high rpms while doing this) and insert the brush into the chamber via the back of the upper receiver as normal.
Voil?! While being driven by the drill, the brush now goes into the chamber with considerable ease. With it now fully in the chamber, the bristles can scrub all the oft-neglected parts like the locking lugs.
I generally keep the brush turning through the insertion, cleaning, and removal phases, as it makes it much easier to move about. While one can remove the non-rotating brush, it’s much more difficult to do so. Running the drill counter-clockwise will cause the brush to unscrew from the rod, which is trivial to fix, or jamming the brush in the chamber and possibly scratching the chamber, which is less trivial.
I’ve been doing this regularly for years with no ill effects — the steel and chrome of the chamber is much harder than the bronze bristles of the brush, and I’ve detected no signs of wear, scratching, or other problems.
Hopefully this helps people clean their ARs more effectively.
Got any more tips and tricks? I’m always interested in more.

Shopping Around

After spending a few days of spring break in Massachusetts doing wedding planning stuff and spending some time with the soon-to-be-in-laws (it’s cold in MA!), I’m back in Tucson.
After driving back from Phoenix (where I flew into and spent a few days with The Girl), I decided to stop at the Sportsmans Warehouse in Tucson and browse. As usual, their ammo/powder/primer supplies were depleted. A good 1/4th of their rifle racks were bare; I’m not sure if this is a result of their fun happy financial times or limited supplies from upstream suppliers. They did, however, have DPMS 30-round AR-15 magazines for a whopping $30 (not including tax) each. These same magazines sell, at retail prices, on DPMS’ own website for $18-$20. Yowzers.
On the same trip, I stopped by Murphy’s Guns and looked at their wares. Business was good, with two customers filling out 4473s for new guns, a few people buying ammo, and a bunch of people perusing the racks. They had several ARs in stock, an AK or two, the absurd-looking “Rolling Thunder” shotgun from Mossberg (photo here, press release here), and the normal selection of pistols, all at reasonable prices. There were a few higher-priced specialty rifles like the FN FS2000 (~$1,400, if I recall correctly) on the shelves as well. They were out of the Federal .223 ammo, but had plenty of PMC, Wolf, and Prvi Partizan .223 left (as well as a bunch of Prvi M193). They recently raised prices on the Prvi M193 from $9.19/20 to $10.xx (I forgot the cents), but they still have several of the old-priced stuff in the same crate, so I picked up 60 rounds of that stuff today. Get it while you can.
Alas, I ended up spending money today that I would rather have saved: one of the UPSes for my? computers had been indicating that its batteries needed to be replaced for some time (its runtime could be measured in tens of seconds rather than tens of minutes) and beeping annoyingly, so I bought some replacement batteries today. So far, so good — the batteries haven’t exploded yet, and they seem to be charging well.
I also took my motor scooter down to the shop, as I’ve been having annoying failures-to-start that would suggest a dead battery, but the battery is fine according to my float charger and my neighbor’s multimeter. Most days it starts just fine, but some days the lights only come on dimly and it won’t turn over (when I press the electric starter, the lights get even dimmer, suggesting that it’s supplying power to the starter motor but not enough to make it work). Occasionally it’ll turn over once, but not fast enough to start. If it does turn over once, something happens where I can’t kick-start it (but jump starting it from another vehicle works fine). If it doesn’t turn over electrically, then it’ll start just fine with the kick-starter. Hopefully the shop can figure it out, and hopefully it’ll be under warranty — money’s tight enough as it is.
As I had mentioned in a previous post, I’ve recently been struck with some inspiration for a lengthy piece of writing (whether it turns out to be a short story or a full-blown novel is left to my muse). I’ve been reading up on tips for turning such inspiration into a coherent story, and have been outlining some of my thoughts, detailing characters, etc. No idea when the first chapter will be done, but I’ll let you know when it is.