Question of the Day

The university has a post office (contract unit) in the student union. In addition to being able to buy stamps and ship parcels, one can also rent post office boxes[1].
Now, it’s perfectly legal to ship firearms in the mail (handguns must be shipped by an FFL through the mail, mere mortals can only ship long guns) so long as certain rules are obeyed. Parcels, including firearms, which are too large to fit into a box are held for the box holder to collect over the counter.
Now, it’s legal to mail firearms, and it’s legal to receive firearms (say, being returned from the manufacturer for service, or from a gunsmith). It’s legal to possess firearms just about anywhere in Tucson, but it is against the law to possess firearms on the university campus without the express permission of the university police department (good luck getting such permission).
Assuming one were to have a PO box at the on-campus post office, and one was to receive a firearm…would it be legal to transport that firearm (unloaded, cased, locked, etc.) from the on-campus post office to an off-campus location by the most immediate means available (e.g. walking off-campus, to a waiting car, etc.)? It seems like there’s some sort of “island of legality” within the confines of the post office, but one cannot actually transport the firearm from the post office to an off-campus location without crossing through the no-guns-allowed region of the campus itself.
Any thoughts or pointers? I could call the university police department, but I figured I’d ask here first.
[1] Which reminds me of a cool label I saw affixed to a liquid nitrogen dewar (like a big thermos) today: it was made by some nuclear division of the Union Carbide Company, and had “Post Office Box X” in some city. How cool is that? “Box X” sounds very mysterious indeed, particularly when relating to nuclear stuff.

Bloody Hell…

My friend Louis just got me an RCBS bullet puller today, as I have been pining for one for some time.
I can’t get the bloody thing to work. I popped the tar seal on some old Wolf ammo I had lying around, put the cartridge in the puller in the prescribed manner, and pounded the snot out of it to no avail. Even following excellent instructions such as this, I’ve been unsuccessful. (Note: I lack a piece of firewood, but I do have a 2×4 clamped to my desk to which my reloading press is attached, and I pounded the puller on the wood, as well as my lightly-carpeted floor.)
Same thing with my non-sealed, not-heavily-crimped reloads.
Any suggestions?
Perhaps a collet-puller would have been a better idea?

New Shooter Ammo Fund

The costs of running this blog are extremely minimal, about $20/year or so. Well within my meager student budget.
However, ammo costs a fair bit of money. While I wouldn’t think of asking readers to contribute money for my own personal ammo budget, I’d welcome any assistance that readers might be able to offer to help me provide ammo for new shooters that I take to the range. None of the ammo funded by such donations will be used for my personal use, though I may shoot a magazine or two so as to demonstrate things to new shooters.
I’ve put a small PayPal button in the right column where people can donate, if they wish. Of course, this is entirely voluntary, and nobody should feel the least bit compelled to donate. If you do donate, please let me know if you’d like your name (or pseudonym) and URL mentioned in posts, and I’ll gladly give you credit in the new shooter reports. Those who wish to stay anonymous will have their wishes respected.
I feel very awkward asking for donations of this type, and hope that nobody feels any less of me because of it. Unfortunately, donations to the New Shooter Ammo Fund are not tax deductible.
Update: I also thought of a different option: if people would be more comfortable donating ammunition itself rather than money, please contact me and I can provide my shipping address. The top priorities are .22LR (both super- and subsonic, though subs are preferred; Winchester Dyanpoints work excellently with my suppressor, are subsonic out of a 16″ barrel, and are not nearly as expensive as purpose-made subsonic ammo) and .223 Rem/5.56mm NATO (62 or 55 grain bullets are fine — I’ll gladly take even “cheap” stuff like Wolf). For safety purposes, I’m only willing to accept factory-new or commercial reloads (like Ultramax or Miwall), not individual reloads or handloads. Cheap imports are fine, so long as they’re safe to use and meet relevant specs (e.g. SAAMI, NATO, etc.).
Lower priority but still important are .30-06 Springfield (M2 Ball spec only, as it’s being fired from an M1 Garand which has very specific pressure tolerances), 9mm Luger, and .45 ACP.
In certain quantities, I may be able to help pick up part of the UPS shipping. Contact me for details if you’re interested.

New Shooter Report

Over the winter break my friend Diego and I took his cousin from Brazil out to the local shooting range. The cousin had fired some BB guns as a kid, but otherwise hasn’t fired a gun in years.
After clearing up a few misconceptions about guns in the US that many foreigners seem to have (everyone has guns, machine guns are common, people need licenses to own guns, etc.) and going over the safety rules, we headed out to the excellent Chabot Gun Club in Castro Valley, California. Alas, I had left my guns in Arizona, so Diego brought his .45 Colt lever-action rifle, a .44 caliber blackpowder pistol, and Diego’s new Walther P99. We had also brought Diego’s 12ga double-barreled shotgun, but forgot to bring slugs. Since shotshells are not permitted on the rifle and pistol lines, we were unable to use it.
While I had some difficulty explaining the various techniques due to a language barrier — Diego’s cousin speaks Brazillian Portuguese and has an academic knowledge of English, he has not had much experience with native English speakers, and so his practical English is only moderate…I don’t speak any Portuguese at all — Diego, who speaks excellent English, Spanish, and Portuguese, helped translate some of the more troublesome parts and all went well.
Diego’s cousin (whose name I don’t recall, unfortunately) had an excellent time, and quickly improved his shooting skills. I’d post some pictures, but Diego’s cousin has all the pictures on his camera. I’ll have to talk to Diego to see if I can get copies, as the cousin is back in Brazil.
Someone remind me not to loan my car keys to Diego when he goes to get something out of the trunk — he ended up locking my keys in the trunk, and so I had to call my insurance company’s roadside assistance to come unlock the door so I could open the trunk. It turns out that the doors to my car are trivially opened using a small wedge to open a small gap between the door and the frame and a long metal rod with a small hook on the end to reach into the cabin and flip the locking tab near the door handle. Never again will I leave even remotely-valuable items inside my car.
Today my friend Alex (who has accompanied me on several range trips) and I invited Alex’s girlfriend Ayla to accompany us to the Tucson Rifle Club.
She was eager to come, as she’s been looking at getting a gun or two of her own in the next year or so after she gets out of college and will be living on her own. Without having handled any in the past, she expressed an interest in a relatively simple and reliable handgun like a GLOCK, but found that the mainspring in such a gun to be difficult to manipulate, and has ruled out such guns for the time being. I have no revolvers for her to try, but she enjoyed my Ruger MkIII .22LR pistol, even if she found holding the gun out at arm’s length to be somewhat tiring. We’ll no doubt find her some handguns she likes, but for the time being, she’s much more comfortable with rifles.
As usual, the suppressed Ruger 10/22 was a hit for starting out, particularly when shooting at a set of steel swinger targets (given to me by my lovely fianc?e for Christmas). Ayla rapidly moved up through the MkIII, through both of my AR-15s (though, as I expected, she preferred the adjustable-stock M4gery as she could adjust it to fit her comfortably), and finally to the M1 Garand (Rita, who has been a long-time range companion, called Ayla and insisted that she try the M1). While Ayla developed a bit of a sore shoulder from the M1, she really enjoyed it.
Here’s some pictures from the day:

As always, clicking on the image will enlarge it.
The spinner targets are supposedly rated for 9mm-.30-06 softpoint ammo, but I started out by shooting .22LR at it. The .22s made the spinners bounce back and forth, but didn’t actually spin around and lock in the up position. I fired a few 9mm Speer Gold Dot JHPs at the spinners (I don’t have any SPs), but had difficulty hitting it 30 yards away (each target is only about 4″ in diameter), but eventually did to great effect. While the manual says not to shoot FMJ ammo at it, I risked a few rounds of 9mm FMJ with no damage (not even any dents) to the targets. I even went so far as to shoot .223 FMJs at it, which rather soundly flipped the spinners around and didn’t have any deleterious effect on the free-moving spinners, but which left a small divot in the reset target which is very nearly fixed. I’ll avoid FMJs on the reset target, but it looks like the spinners will handle .223 FMJ without any problems…I certainly won’t toss .30-06 FMJ at it anytime soon, though.
I’m impressed at how bullet-resistant steel is, even against rather pointy .223 FMJs moving rather quickly. I may have to see about welding or clamping on heavier steel plates, at least on the reset target, so I can shoot FMJs at it with confidence.
Unfortunately, the trip suffered from an acute ammo shortage: I thought I had an extra 250-round can of Lake City M2 Ball .30-06 ammo, but it turns out I had only a few clips left. I’m also down to the last three magazines of .223 (turns out my goal of loading ammo for one magazine a day didn’t pan out), though I have components for a few thousand more rounds. Even my supplies of .22LR (~2,000 rounds) and 9mm (~600 rounds) are running low. Don’t even ask about 12ga or .30-30. Fortunately, while money is tight, ammo supplies at most vendors are also low due to high demand, so even if I had the money to buy more ammo, it wouldn’t be there to buy. Hopefully supply catches up with demand about the same time I get more money. 🙂

First post of a new year…

Well, it’s 2009. What’s new? Well, I’m stuffed with delicious holiday food (which has not bee good for my waistline), have a few pairs of new socks, and a fianc?e.
I find it strange to be asked to help plan a wedding (as I don’t know the first thing about wedding planning), but find it intensely surreal to be asked to help plan my own wedding. Very odd indeed.
Anyway, as no doubt people want pictures, here’s a picture of me and my lovely bride-to-be:

Yes, I’m extremely white. The fact that it’s winter and I got let out of the laboratory only long enough to visit family and friends (this was taken outside my parents house) doesn’t do much for my complexion.
As some people are no doubt interested in pictures of the ring, here’s a close-up:

It’s 18k white gold with a 0.437ct G color, ideal-cut, SI1 clarity, AGS-graded center stone with two 0.25ct side stones with the same grade color, cut, and clarity. It is extremely shiny, and looks fantastic on her finger.
We’re looking at getting married in 2010. I’ll no doubt keep you posted.
In other news, I’m on track to finally get my bachelors degree in physics this year (December, I hope). After eight years of on-and-off-again college (interrupted by a few years in the US Army and some periods of slacking at community college) I’m almost done. Next up, almost certainly grad school: in order to do anything really interesting in the field of physics, one needs a doctoral degree. Hopefully I’ll be done by 2016. At this rate, Sarah and I will probably have a kid or two, so I’ll need to make sure I can balance grad school, finances, and family. Any advice?
Some resolutions I made:

  • Take more new shooters to the range.
  • Go shooting by myself (or with a spotter) more often, so as to build my own skills.
  • Shoot at longer ranges than 100 yards.
  • Shoot more than just paper. (Sarah bought me this for Christmas, so that should help.)
  • Pay off all my debts, including my low-interest vehicle loan, and start socking money away in savings. Not only is this a good idea in general, but I’d like to have some cash put away for living expenses and whatnot whilst in grad school.
  • Study more. In retrospect, I spent far too much time last year slacking when I could have been studying. This will be rectified.
  • Eat better. I eat far too much unhealthy food. This needs to be changed.
  • Get in shape. I’ve been in shape (thanks to Uncle Sam) before, and I rather liked it. A few hours a week at the gym won’t kill me.

This winter break consisted of very little shooting, as I didn’t bring my guns to California when I visited family and friends. I did go shooting with my friend Diego and his cousin (new shooter report coming soon), which was nice, but I’d like to shoot more.
More as I get it.

Money & Insurance

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

New Shooter Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama says “don’t stock up on guns”

From the Chicago Sun-Tribune:

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

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

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

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

Dealing with Obnoxious Reloads

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