Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Let's treat shooters like smokers!

Help design a new program to introduce people to shooting, that emphasizes safety and fun at the same time.

An editorial in the Bangor Daily News proclaims: "If we changed the smoking culture, we can change the gun culture." It then outlines a plan for shaming and blaming that is supposed to discredit the "gun culture," that mostly imaginary bogeyman of the leftist anti-gunners.

Of course the smears against smokers, smoking and smoke are out of all proportion to the real dangers, viewed statistically, but that has not stopped the cultural busybodies; such people never let truth get in the way of their cause du jour. The above article follows that pattern, with several distortions or flat out lies about shooting, shooters, shooting industries and the dangers of guns. The article makes one or two good points as well, but the lying is the predominant aspect. I do not say that only because I disagree with the thrust of the article; there are matters here of substantive misrepresentation, which look to be cribbed uncritically from pro gun control web propaganda. The canard that if you have a gun it is more likely to hurt you than someone who deserves shooting is one such uncritical repetition.

The right response to such twaddle is to fight a culture war of our own, one crafted to show more people what we already know: Guns are cool, they are safe if appropriate precautions are followed unfailingly, shooting sports are great fun and having a gun can protect your life and maybe someday preserve the freedom of your country from busybodies foreign or domestic.

H/t to Massad Ayoob's blog for this crazy old picture.
This is NOT part of the program I envision.
The best way for us to fight this culture war is to take people shooting, so that more people find out that guns are not properly the objects of fear and loathing the left makes them out to be. We win the gun debate when the discussion is about facts not fear, and a degree of familiarity with guns dispels the irrational part of the fear. That is why it is a good thing, very effective for our side, to take non-shooters shooting and show them the ropes.

Such outings must always be conducted in a safety-first way. I think the noob should know the Four Rules before touching a gun, and have it impressed upon him that these rules are necessary, much as stopping at stop signs is necessary to safe driving.

We should devise a new program under the aegis of one of the gun safety groups, a program that involves plenty of blasting away but emphasizes safe and proper gun handling and storage. We can leave the fine points of marksmanship for another time; what this intro session is about is dealing with the dangers and then moving along to the fun.

I can't think of any programs we're running right now that exactly match that. Of course, lots of people have done the same sort of thing impromptu, with a .22 and a bunch of tin cans, but I think it would be to the good if we established a curriculum and set up an ongoing, regularly scheduled dog and pony show to introduce people to gun safety and gun fun. I am sure all the instructors would buy in, for to a man (and a woman) they are committed to teaching safety and everyone likes to have fun.

How would you design a high safety factor intro to shooting that is also lots of fun? Let us know in the comment box. I'm only now starting to think this through, so kick it around with me. For starters, I'm thinking a Contender pistol in .410 would be a good weapon for the project, because it is very simple to operate, very easy to hit with, and makes enough noise to make people feel they are shooting a real gun. Targets should be reactive, for people like the instant feedback. Tethered balloons, clay pigeons suspended on strings or set up on plate racks, such things as that bear consideration. The tone of the course should be serious and fun loving by turns. Guns are safe only if you follow the rules (the serious part), and it's great to hit targets (the fun part). Okay, how would you convey that in one easy session?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Classic gun review: German SIG Sauer P220

Some years ago, back in the nineties, I went into town with the intention of buying a Colt Commander .45. I came home instead with a German made SIG Sauer P220 in the same caliber, and it has turned out to be a truly outstanding sidearm.

It did not look to me like a great pistol. The dull black finish and utilitarian plastic grips were plain and even homely alongside Colt's blue and walnut splendor. The SIG also looked rather square and blocky. I looked at the plain jane imported pistol, sitting there in the counter, then at its hefty price tag, and wondered what was going on. How could they charge that much for an ugly gun?

Doesn't look like much. Appearances can be deceiving.
The clerk explained that cops were buying SIG's to replace their revolvers. See? There is no safety catch, just a decocker that lowers the hammer safely when you press it. The first shot fires just like a DA revolver. After that the gun fires single action, as the recoiling slide cocks the hammer for each shot. I found it had a very good single action pull, at that: two stage, like a Mauser rifle, but crisp after the takeup. As a revolver guy myself, this setup made sense to me. I took another look at that rather hefty price tag, took a deep  breath, and wrote the check.

At the range, I found the SIG to be very  accurate,  and the fixed sights so close to being perfectly regulated with 230 grain bullets as to make no difference. Because the sights did not need monkeying with, I put away my brass drift and my file. Apart from one failure to eject in the first box of ammunition, the gun proved reliable as well, feeding any bullet weight or shape I tried and flinging the empties against the side of the stall.

The gun I bought is a P220 "American" model, meaning that the magazine release is a thumb button in the 1911 location; you also see SIG's with the European style magazine catch at the heel of the grip. I don't know why Europeans want the mag release there but they also eat snails. You can't expect everything they do to be reasonable.

The slide is pressed out of heavy steel sheet and a milled and drilled breech block is pinned into the stamping. That is engineering genius. It limits the machining to the place where it is really needed. Time is money on a production line, and if most of the slide is formed in one "Ah-woomph" of a big pressing machine, you're ahead on time. The frame is aluminum.

Current production SIG Sauers have their slides machined from bar stock. I think this is most likely due to the versatile and cost effective CNC machines available in the present day. It may also have something to do with customer acceptance; the former method was a  departure from common practice, though an ingenious one.

The 220's development began with a Swiss military requirement to replace their SIG P210 9mm service pistol with something more modern and cost effective. The SIG 210 is a grand pistol but it is old school. It is finely machined, elegantly designed, and very expensive to produce. It requires a lot of machining time to turn one out. It's the Swiss watch of the pistol world. The idea was, the Swiss wanted something that shot as well and cost somewhat less. The result was a robustly built single stack 9mm, the original 220. The designers gave the new gun a generous action throw and a largish grip frame, so that it could be chambered for longer cartridges, such as the .45 ACP and the .38 Super.

Browning, for a while, imported the P220 in .45 ACP, marketing it as the "Browning Double Action .45," or BDA for short. These guns have the heel magazine release. The quality of these Browning SIG's is first rate.

Lock back the slide and turn
the takedown lever downward
Note that there is only partial interchangeability of magazines between heel catch 220's and "American" thumb release models. The heel catch cannot engage extended magazines, and of course the thumb button pistols require notches in the magazine body to engage the magazine catch. The heel release SIG 220 .45's, including the Browning version, will not work with current production eight and ten round magazines. The seven round .45 caliber magazine with the thumb button notches cut into the magazine body will work in all .45 caliber versions  of the pistol, both the heel release and the thumb button models. This magazine is easily recognizable because its floorplate is thin sheet metal.
Now the slide will run
forward off the frame

Field stripping is very easy. Lock the slide to the rear with the slide catch. Rotate the takedown lever downward until it stops. Holding onto the slide, release the slide catch. The slide, barrel, recoil spring and recoil spring guide come forward off the frame as a unit. Push forward on the guide rod to release it from the barrel lug. The spring, guide rod and barrel can now be lifted out of the slide. Reassembly is in reverse order.

It's easy to take apart. More importantly,
it's easy to put back together.
The single stack P220 was the father of all the double stack P22x pistols in 9mm, .357 SIG and .40 S&W. You can see the family resemblance. The chunky, purposeful profile of the SIG Sauers is now seen in police and military use worldwide. The SIG Sauers are accurate and reliable. As to economical, a modern SIG Sauer does cost less than the old SIG P210, so in that respect the design is a success, but it's still not cheap. As for looks, I suppose the best thing one can say is, as Samwise's gaffer was wont to say, handsome is as handsome does.

The SIG Sauer's system of operation, double action transitioning to  single action, and no safety catch, has several advantages. A gun that works this way is as safe to carry as a double action revolver and as simple and quick to get into action. It gives you a very good single  action pull for your follow-up shots, and for the first shot if you cock   the pistol with your thumb. The SIG also gives you the ability to take a second whack at a bad primer,  just by pulling the trigger again. It is endlessly debatable which design is best, this gun's, the Glock's or some other, but it must be allowed that this one is very good. The SIG Sauer pistols are safe, accurate, dependable, easy to clean and simple to use, thus they well deserve their place as some of the leading pistols of our times. But they're not as nice looking as a highly polished Colt.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Feds piling on

Here is a story I find disturbing. The people at True the Vote, a tea party group, were targeted by the IRS, and mysteriously at the same time were scrutinized by several other agencies, FBI, BATFE and even OSHA. They also had problems with a state agency involved in environmental regulations. They were sued by the Democratic Party of their state and an ACORN group. That's a big stack of problems to deal with.

This story raises important questions about the role and proper limits of government in our daily lives, questions of privacy, of fairness and equal justice, and of government powers wielded as a weapon in partisan politics. It may be that these questions all have simple and harmless answers, and this pile-on by government was just one of those things, coincidental to the political angle. But I have trouble believing in coincidences that big. Matters certainly look on their face as if the Democrats were simply out to get someone whose views they did not like, and brought to bear the many-faceted powers of the government to do it.

The officials involved have some 'splaining to do.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Peeking ahead at the endgame

 Will the West's dalliance with socialism avoid the murderous phase and proceed directly to the abject collapse?

The Socialism Lite schemes of Western Europe are in trouble. The politicians go to great lengths to deny it. Europe's economy is feeble and sure to remain so, since what is weakening it is exactly the stuff the politicians are pushing--wealth transfers from the productive parts of the economy. When you believe that each one's needs must be met by someone else's abilities, things always get awkward.

To the extent that the Obama Left has succeeded in imposing the same nonsense on the USA, we will suffer the same kinds of problems. We will see an economy marked by businesses doing only minimal risk taking, sluggish growth in employment and rising dependency of the public on government checks. As dependency grows, money to back the government handouts will become more and more scarce. Note that printing dollar bills does not make money less scarce, just makes dollar bills more numerous.

The history of the last century tells us that socialism falls of itself. Consider the collapse of the USSR. Consider the rapid backtracking of China away from a centralized economy: they had no choice. You would think that socialists in the West would find some lessons in all that, but the will to believe in the impossible is a difficult disease to control until one realizes that one has it. In a world where unicorns prance beneath rainbows in fields of organically grown clover, to the gentle music of wind farms, the abilities of the able will never be swamped by the needs of the needy. That is the vision; the reality is far less attractive.

Socialism Lite is still socialism; while it removes some unpleasant aspects of the collectivist delusion, it retains the fatal flaw. That flaw is in the trend for ordinary people to act as if they are more needy than able. When socialism begins to reveal this about itself, government's initial response, in Russia, China and other places, has been to try to force people to be more able and less needy. Governments may use violence and murder when shaming people through propaganda does not work. Is that in the cards for the Western democracies?

That is a question I find deeply interesting. Will the West's dalliance with socialism avoid the murderous phase and proceed directly to the abject collapse?

Socialism's Plan B is, history shows us, to coerce when bribes have failed. The Emperor's lack of clothes becomes apparent, the people realize that they have been bribed with their own money and the whole charade falls apart. People start to realize that the glorious socialist future never will arrive. To hold onto their power, as their legitimacy fades, socialist regimes do violence to their own people, imprison them, torture and kill them, and encourage them to inform on one another.

What is to prevent that pattern from repeating in the Western democracies? The mass redistribution scheme will fail, as it always does, and where will that leave us? I hope that government oppression in response to socialism's failures turns out not to be a fixed feature of socialism, but instead, just the way things tended to work out in the last century. But I see no reason to think that is so, despite what I would wish to think. It is the instinct of politicians who are losing their power to try to hold onto it a while longer, whatever the cost or harm to their people. It is something I would be delighted to be wrong about.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Obama thinks you're stupid

Here the president repeats the previously discredited canard that Mexico's gun violence is due to our gun laws:

He thinks his voice reaches people that gun bloggers, NRA circulars and mass media not in the tank for Obama do not. It undoubtedly is so, but we need to make his margin as slim as possible.

What he is doing is echo an old worn yakking point of gun control folks, one which blurs an important distinction. A number of American guns in Mexico were  lawfully sent to militaries and police in Latin America, from whence these same guns mysteriously (elaborate Latino shrug) escaped to arm Mexican gangsters. This is not the same as guns coming from Bubba's Tackle & Bait in Texas, for you do not buy full auto rifles and grenades and machine guns and so on from Bubba. That's a big giveaway. See:

I trust that, furthermore, not even the most ideologically biased anti-gunner can mistake an automatic version of the AK-47 for a USA gun, or a gun obtained through this country. We can't import them. We can't export them, therefore. If you are talking about illegal traffic you are not talking about Bubba's Tackle & Bait, for they are strictly legit. Even their night crawlers are locally sourced and above board. Bubba's will sell you a Shimano reel if you want one, but that is as far as they go with foreign trade.

Let us not overlook that Latin America has its own homegrown arms industry, with Argentina and Brazil,  in particular, making very serviceable guns in both military and civilian designs. A Taurus or an IMBEL is a pretty good gun. Some of them look just like the gringo product unless you examine the markings.

Interesting quote from this 2009 NRA advisory:

...Sen. Feinstein also repeated the claim that 90 percent of guns seized in the Mexican drug war are from America. This claim has become a staple of media coverage, but it's deeply misleading.
In fact, it is unknown where most of the arms possessed by the cartels originate. According to the BATFE, the 90 percent figure only applies to the firearms successfully traced by BATFE. But an April 2 Fox News report revealed that 68 percent of seized guns were never submitted for tracing and only about 55 percent of trace attempts were successful.
That means 83 percent of guns seized at Mexican crime scenes were not traced to the United States, and the true origin of those guns remains unknown. Guns that weren't traced to the U.S. are far more likely to have come from the international black market, or even from some of the estimated 14,000 Mexican soldiers who desert each year.

My word...2009 is a long time ago if you are Obama. Long enough to forget...well, anything inconvenient.

I wish we did not have a president who continues to say things he has reason to know to be false, as he did previously with his insistence that as many as 40% of guns are sold without background checks. Even the Obamaphile Washington Post didn't buy that one.

Here is still more on the Mexico matter from Factcheck, which tries mightily to be fair handed toward all, but most especially to Obama. And it still ain't lookin too good for The One.

Hey. The President dragged this one up again, not me. Every citizen, him too, has free speech. He may say what he likes. When it is a lie, distortion or calumny, everyone else's right kicks in. I don't think he likes the way that works. It has angered him before.

I am disgusted, in my sorrow

Here we have another story--there have been too many--about a little kid with unsupervised access to a firearm, doing something heedless with it, with tragic consequences. A five year old was playing with a gun, it discharged. The bullet struck his two year old sister and killed her. If the incident occurred as reported, it was entirely preventable. That is what gun safety advocates have been pointing out for years. There is no need for things like this to happen.

The horror of the incident with be with that family permanently. The effects are not limited to one broken and grieving family, however. Already, the anti-gun contingent is building up this incident as a pretext for further restrictions on us all, and is portraying youth-sized firearms and kids learning to shoot as something sinister.

We don't need further restrictions, or further calumnies against us, we need to use good sense and thus employ precautions we already know about. There is nothing so very difficult about locks or safes, close supervision of the young and indoctrination with the Four Safety Rules before the kid gets anywhere near a real gun. Try this on for size: The kid starts to shoot when he earns (closely supervised) range time by memorizing the rules and being able to recite them on demand. Failure to repeat them correctly when asked means a loss of shooting privileges until the rules are firmly in mind once again. Of course, the words by themselves are not enough; the rules must also be put into action unfailingly, by parents and children alike, as shown by things like not covering anybody with the muzzle and keeping fingers away from where they ought not be. This linking, at an early age, of gun handling with the responsibility to do it properly, will last the shooter all his life--and will save lives.

Which of the safety rules were violated, this time? Apparently, all of them. Atop that, there is the matter of proper storage and the question of whether anyone who is five years old has the sense to understand about guns and the gravity of the responsibility that comes with handling them. Gun safety is best learned in age-appropriate stages, beginning with Eddie Eagle's "Stop, don't touch."

As has often been said, the shooting tradition's future depends on the next generation. Let's give the kids an even break, with proper storage precautions and age-appropriate safety indoctrination.