Springfield XD: Now With Thumb Safety

I’ve been a big fan of the Springfield XD pistol, particularly their XD-45, for some time.
It’s a fine service pistol, quite comparable to offerings from GLOCK in many respects. It is to this competitor that XDs are most often compared, and for good reason: they’re both high-quality polymer-based pistols, are reliable, accurate, durable, and modestly priced.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy pistols of all sorts, including GLOCKs, 1911s, and a whole host of other handguns. But the XD-45 is one of the better .45 ACP service pistols that I’ve used.
One of the things I like most about the XD series is the grip safety; having a secondary safety not related to the trigger makes me feel a bit more comfortable.
There are also many people who want something more than “passive” safeties (like a grip safety or the various mechanisms modeled after GLOCK’s “Safe Action”) — they want an “active” safety that they need to consciously actuate to bring the gun into a ready-to-fire condition.
If such a person has been interested in an XD but has been holding off because of the lack of such a safety, wait no more.
As a lefty, I’d like to point out that the thumb safety, like most features on the XD, is ambidextrous.
It’s nice to see a company making a good pistol, at a good price, and considering the concerns of those who like thumb safeties. It’s particularly nice to see them making guns lefty-friendly without charging more money.
Update: Well, I seem to be a bit behind the times. This pistol seems to have been out for at least a month or two, but I only became aware of it recently. Whoops!

Where are the anti-gun folks?

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune asks that very question:

[E]ach timeit has struck me how tiny, uninspired and vague the response has been from those who favor new laws to try to keep guns out of the hand of evildoers.
While the gun-rights folks weigh in quickly and forcefully with links to studies and detailed arguments, the gun-ban folks are mostly quiet.

Zorn’s comments illustrate the amazing effects of the internet on such issues.
In the past, it took some time for responses to be published; waiting for the next edition of a magazine or newspaper often took weeks, and then only a limited number (if any) of replies were published. There was no way to direct feedback to the author, only to the editor’s desk, who may or may not forward the comments to the author. Many people received news from local newspapers, a few national/international papers, and the radio/TV news programs by major networks (CNN, ABC, CBS, etc.).
It was difficult and expensive for large networks of people to organize and communicate, so there wasn’t much large-scale organization for pro-gun viewpoints other than the NRA, which was only moderately responsive. Organizations with impressive-sounding names could posture and appear to be more influential than they actually were.
These days, the internet makes it incredibly easy to publish information, link to other sources, and spread news around (for example, Zorn’s column was made known to me by means of Rustmeister’s Alehouse, who published his posting about 8 hours ago — hat tip to Sebastian who made me aware of Rustmeister’s posting). Message boards like The High Road make it easy to communicate with other like-minded individuals around the world instantly.
These days, it’s quite clear that the “pro-gun” viewpoint is really a grassroots one…there are hundreds (thousands?) of independent bloggers, large message boards, communities, and online vendors dedicated entirely to talking about guns, selling gun parts and accessories, and so on. Word gets around the gun community incredibly fast (see the Zumbo Affair, where a deluge of phone calls, emails, and other communications resulted in Zumbo losing his column and sponsors before the NRA knew about it, let alone published a press release), with often influential results.
Let’s keep up the good work and use this influential communications medium to better effect.

ATF issues new FAQ for silencers

PDF file is here.
The part that bugs me is this:

If a silencer part bearing the serial number, other than the outer tube, must be replaced, the new part must be marked with the same serial number as the replacement part.
The term “repair” does not include replacement of the outer tube of the silencer. The outer tube is the largest single part of the silencer, the main structural component of the silencer, and is the part to which all other component parts are attached. The replacement of the outer tube is so significant an event that it amounts to the “making” of a new silencer. As such, the new silencer must be marked, registered and transferred in accordance with the NFA and GCA.

Argh. That’s annoying.
One would think it’d be OK to send the silencer back to the manufacturer, have them replace any damaged parts with identical replacements, re-stamp and serialed parts with replacement parts bearing the identical serial number, and then destroy the damaged components. Yes, one would be “making” a new silencer, but the net effect would be zero: you’re also destroying a silencer bearing the same serial.
Alas, this is not the case. If one needs to replace the outer tube, it counts as a new silencer, and one must go through the transfer process all over again.
Very annoying indeed.

Breaking News: Gun Owners Are Normal People

Arthur Brooks at the Wall Street Journal writes:

According to the 2006 General Social Survey, which has tracked gun ownership since 1973, 34% of American homes have guns in them. This statistic is sure to surprise many people in cities like San Francisco ? as it did me when I first encountered it. (Growing up in Seattle, I knew nobody who owned a gun.)
Who are all these gun owners? Are they the uneducated poor, left behind? It turns out they have the same level of formal education as nongun owners, on average. Furthermore, they earn 32% more per year than nonowners. Americans with guns are neither a small nor downtrodden group.
Nor are they ?bitter.? In 2006, 36% of gun owners said they were ?very happy,? while 9% were ?not too happy.? Meanwhile, only 30% of people without guns were very happy, and 16% were not too happy.
In 1996, gun owners spent about 15% less of their time than nonowners feeling ?outraged at something somebody had done.? It?s easy enough in certain precincts to caricature armed Americans as an angry and miserable fringe group. But it just isn?t true. The data say that the people in the approximately 40 million American households with guns are generally happier than those people in households that don?t have guns.
The gun-owning happiness gap exists on both sides of the political aisle. Gun-owning Republicans are more likely than nonowning Republicans to be very happy (46% to 37%). Democrats with guns are slightly likelier than Democrats without guns to be very happy as well (32% to 29%). Similarly, holding income constant, one still finds that gun owners are happiest.
Why are gun owners so happy? One plausible reason is a sense of self-reliance, in terms of self-defense or even in terms of the ability to hunt their own dinner.
Many studies over the years have shown that a belief in one?s control over the environment dramatically adds to happiness. Example: a famous study of elderly nursing home patients in the 1970s. It showed dramatic improvements in life satisfaction from elements of control as seemingly insignificant as being able to care for one?s plants.
A bit of evidence that self-reliance is at work among gun owners comes from the General Social Survey. It asked whether one agrees with the statement, ?Those in need have to take care of themselves.? In 2004, gun owners were 10 percentage points more likely than nonowners to agree (60% to 50%).

Hat tip to Say Uncle.
In short: “Gun owners are normal people.” (And to think, Mr. Brooks gets paid to write such stuff.)
We’re not crazed nutjobs, we’re not criminals, we’re not inbred rednecks like from Deliverance. We’re just ordinary people, leading ordinary lives.
Many of the folks in my apartment complex are gun owners, and are perfectly ordinary people. They wake up, go to work or school, come home, care for their families, etc. Heck, a few people I know at the university are “stamp collectors” and have a whole bunch of NFA items like machine guns, while I myself own a suppressor.
The only thing that surprised me was the relatively low number of households they listed: only 34%? I know that in many areas of Montana the number exceeds 90%. In Arizona, it’s also considerably higher. Either people aren’t accurately reporting that they own guns (who can blame them? I generally consider the number of guns I own as “none of your damn business”), or the survey is asking people in very gun-unfriendly areas (San Francisco, New York City, Washington DC, etc.) and averaging them with high-ownership areas like…oh, the rest of the country. I’m curious to see their methodology.

Brady Campaign gathering at the University of Arizona flops

From the Brady Campaign (PDF):

WHAT: Activists Gather to Remember Gun Violence Victims and Urge Congress
to Close the Gun Show Loophole and For More Common Sense Federal
and State Gun Laws
WHEN: 11am-2 pm
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
WHERE: The Mall, University Blvd, Tucson

Oh really?
I was looking all over the UA Mall, but was unable to locate any sort of gathering of this nature. Instead, there was a considerable gathering of people for the weekly Farmer’s Market on the UA campus, as well as some sort of environmental event (lots of tables for bicycle shops, pollution reduction, energy conservation, and other such things).
The UA College Republicans had a table out promoting John McCain and had a considerable amount of pizza there, but I saw no representatives from the Young Democrats anywhere on the UA Mall.
There was a large power outage that affected a considerable chunk of Tucson and the University of Arizona, and there was a huge number of students milling about the University Mall today, so it’s possible I may have missed the Brady gathering in the crowds, but I doubt it. It’s also possible that they may have done their protest in the brief time I went off campus to get lunch, but it usually takes some time to setup a table, do such an event, and take the table down…and I saw no evidence of this occurring.
Still, I suspect the Brady Campaign will trump up the “event” on their website.
In other news, the University of Arizona Students for Concealed Carry on Campus will be staging “empty holster” protests (by going about their normal on-campus business with empty holsters) next week. This will be a low-key event, as opposed to Brady’s attempt to use the anniversary of the VT shooting to further dubious political goals.

Afghan miltary to be issued M16s, not AKs

From the Times Online:

[N]ew recruits to the Afghan National Army (ANA) are being asked to swap their beloved Kalashnikov AK47, probably the most famous weapon in the world, for the American M16.

This seemed quite unusual to me, as the AK-47 is quite common in that region of the world, and many of the Afghani soldiers have a degree of familiarity with the AK.
The reason is explained as follows:

Traditionally, the Afghan will fire his Kalashnikov from the hip as he advances, spraying the enemy in all directions on automatic mode until every bullet has been expended.
But that is not the way of the British or American soldier who uses his ammunition stocks with greater husbandry and fires to kill, rather than to deluge the enemy with a wall of bullets.

The M16s the Afghanis are to be issued are equipped with the three-shot-burst fire control group (justt like the US military M16s), rather than the full-auto group.
I know the Israelis use M16s (or at least I’ve seen cute female IDF soldiers with M16s), and the US military uses M16s to great effect in sandy, desert conditions (yes, there have been issues, mostly due to lack of proper maintenance, but overall the M16 has performed very well).
While equipping the Afghan military with modern, accurate, standardized weapons is an admirable goal, I can’t help but wonder what strings were pulled to make the sale. Couldn’t they equip existing AKs with three-shot-burst capability, or simply buy new burst-fire AKs, rather than completely changing to a new weapons platform?
As they say, follow the money.

Being a Jerk: A How-To Guide

One of the wonderful things about living in Arizona is the huge amount of public lands on which one can shoot — there’s no cost, no lawyer-inspired regulations, and a beautiful view.
One such place is the Coronado National Forest (it’s more of a “scrubby desert” than a “forest”, but oh well). I find myself going up Reddington Road to the forest most weekends and having a great time shooting with friends.
Normally, there’s a few things to shoot at lying around: a cardboard box or two, one of those reflective A-frame road barricades, a traffic cone, etc. One can tape paper targets to these, and they make decent makeshift target frames. There’s also usually a little bit of clutter lying around (plastic bags, cardboard ammo boxes, spent shotshells, etc.) but it’s not usually that bad. I make a point of cleaning up after myself, picking up brass, taking down my targets, etc. I also try to take at least a bag or two of trash out with me, so as to leave the range a bit cleaner than I found it.
I enjoy shooting aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and the like. They tend to burst dramatically, but don’t fragment, making it stupidly easy to clean up. Glass shatters and is next to impossible to clean. Shooting old fruit (oranges, apples, melons, etc.) is fun, and the critters on the range take care of the cleanup for me.
I recognize that most people try not to make too much of a mess, and occasionally are unable to locate every piece of brass, or little piece of trash they created. People don’t often think to bring trash bags, and so aren’t able to take out a lot of garbage at the range. It’s understandable, and I don’t fault them for it; I’ve had such days myself. I just try to make up for it when I head out the next time.
Then there are the real jerks. You know them…they folks who haul an old TV or dishwasher out to the National Forest, shoot it a bunch, then leave it there. People who drink a couple bottles of beer, then set the empty glass bottles on a rock and shoot them, leaving shards of glass everywhere. People who shoot a bunch of shotshells, but leave the hulls lying around. What really gets me are the people who deliberately shoot the signs posted by the National Forest Service asking them to not shoot the signs and please pick up after themselves. Jerks.
In the last year or so, I’ve bagged and hauled about 1,500 pounds of trash from the shooting spots at the National Forest near Tucson. That’s 3/4th of a ton, and it’s barely made a dent in the garbage there. There’s still gobs of litter out there, both big and small. This last weekend, my cousin and I removed about 150 pounds of trash, including a shot-up dishwasher that left fragmented plastic all around.
Is it that hard for people to clean up after themselves? Did their mothers teach them nothing? There are ample signs saying that the National Forest Service doesn’t clean up after people, and that it’s one’s own responsibility to make sure things are picked up.
These few jerks make the rest of us shooters look bad. Indeed, things have gotten so bad that the 4th shooting spot in the forest up on Reddington Road has been closed. There’s a new barbed wire fence blocking cars, and posts saying “Restoration Area”. According to the sign, foot traffic is permitted — it’d be nice to get some folks up to the area to clean it up sometime. Maybe if we can really clean up the place, the National Forest Service will see that some shooters care and will re-open it.
Here’s some pictures of the area:

In order, these are pictures of one of the non-closed shooting areas suggesting how badly littered it is, my cousin Patrick picking up some trash at the site (we rotated between bag-holding and trash-gathering), the newly-closed “Restoration Area” range, and a sign from the Forest Service.
In short, if you want to be a jerk, just trash the public lands where you can shoot for free. The National Forest Service will close those ranges when things get too bad.
Don’t be a jerk.
Update: I’ve started a thread at AR15.com to coordinate a clean-up effort. If you’re in the area, please join in.

Lee Die Locking Rings

I was recently informed that Lee sells their die locking rings as a separate product, rather than only including them with their dies.
I ordered a three-pack of their rings (same price as a single RCBS ring) and installed two of them on my RCBS .223 Rem dies. I’m exceedingly happy: I’ve never liked the set-screw rings, as the set screw always seems to get stripped and the rings never stay put. The Lee rings have a rubber o-ring rather than a set screw, and maintain a solid grip on the dies. In my experience, they hold better than the set-screw rings.
So long as one inserts or removes the die from the press by turning the ring (rather than the die), the Lee rings won’t come out of adjustment. Additionally, the metal ring never touches the press itself, preventing any scratching of the finish of the press. Useful for people who like their presses looking nice.
I’ve always been a big fan of Lee products, as their products are inexpensive and high-quality, they’re a small/family run business, their decapping pins are all but impossible to break (even when a Berdan-primed case gets in the mix), and so on. Sure, I own some RCBS and other brand products, but I find myself buying more Lee stuff than anything else. (Great, now I’m going to spark a Red vs. Blue vs. Green vs. Red flamewar.)