Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Riot gun part 8: skip shooting

Skip shooting is bouncing your shotgun pattern off of a hard-surfaced wall or street. It is of possible use for engaging an assailant peeking around a corner, or for passing some shot underneath a car to hit him in the feet and ankles. You aim ahead of the point you want to hit and let the shot skim along the wall or street to the target. The most frequent use in the past was to discourage rioting mobs by shooting at the street in front of them, with the result of many random leg wounds. Skip shooting is not a technique that is now often used, or useful. It is part of the lore of shotguns, though, and it knowing about it might conceivably come in handy.

This old FBI training video will give you a clearer idea than any text description of what is going on in ricochets off walls and roads. The relevant portions are from 3:36 to 6:35.

In skip shooting you produce intentional ricochets by firing at a shallow angle at a hard surface. Some people say that ricocheting buckshot "follows the wall" or "flies parallel to the street," but that is not quite right. Your shot cloud changes direction when it hits and its shape changes too. Pattern shape flattens out from approximately circular to more nearly oval. The ricocheting pattern leaves the wall or street at a flatter angle than intuition suggests. Intuition would say that the ricochet leaves at an angle about equal to a mirror image of the incoming angle; not so. But the flight direction of the ricochet is not quite parallel to the wall or road either; instead, it rises away at a shallower angle than it had when it hit. In practical terms you may think of it as nearly parallel, but not quite.

Some training courses tell you to stay a foot or so away from hard-surfaced walls, to avoid skimming ricochets that follow walls. Some likewise advise that you stand back from your cover when shooting around a corner--the reasoning is the same.

A rather dry abstract at the NCJRS about ricochet ballistics can be found here:

Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Bouncing Bullets," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Vol. 38, Oct. 1969, pp. 1–9.

Is Evolve a false flag front group?

The key problem is to prevent the bang in the first place. That cannot be seen to in a law code; it must happen between the shooter's ears.

Around the blogosphere, suspicious voices are asking whether Evolve, the group that is behind the engaging little founding fathers skit about not being a dumbass when it comes to guns, is acting from ulterior motives. Is Evolve's real plan to portray gun owners in general as dumbasses, whose rights deserve no respect, and who should be handed further legal restrictions? Or is it really only their intent to say that some people do dumbassedly dangerous things with guns and that these people should consider their ways?

Time will tell. I support the second version of the message, not the first. Doubtless what Evolve intends to say will become clearer. I am, though, happy at this point that they are drumming up attention on the safety question.

You see, my posts on gun safety are always among the least read posts on this blog. That concerns me, for the topic is among the most important I address here. I would like more people paying attention to the issue and maybe Evolve has figured out how to get them to do it.

I will be watching to see in which direction Evolve goes. If they steer their message toward pushing laws and restrictions they are wrong. We have plenty of those already. After the fact, you are in big trouble over a gun accident; the law holds you responsible. If the criminal law does not get you civil court lawsuits surely will, and Protective Services may take your children. The key problem is to prevent the bang in the first place. That cannot be seen to in a law code; it must happen between the shooter's ears. If Evolve's direction is toward voluntary compliance with the good sense of established gun safety practices they are on the right track. We have the greatest abundance of laws but not quite enough good sense to go around.

I see why people are suspicious of Evolve. Lately guns, gun owners and gun organizations have been under attacks of every sort, often dishonest ones that vilify, twist and distort nearly everything to do with guns and gun ownership. We're touchy. Even hinting that we are "dumbasses" is a bit too much at the moment. Evolve needs to do a follow-up piece praising responsible and safe gun owners, which almost all of us are. Perhaps they could write their next skit as a contrast, A and B, A as the responsible shooter with B cast as a 'don't be that guy' dumbass. That would do a great deal to allay the blogosphere's suspicions.

In case you missed them, below are two of my insufficiently-read safety screeds; please copy and distribute them, or link and tweet or whatever it is you do to get the word out. This safety thing really is something all gun people need to be involved in. Yes, I know, accident rates have been dropping for many years due to the NRA, NSSF and others talking up the issue. Excellent! Let's keep driving the numbers down. Here's hoping Evolve is actually here to help.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gun safety's Four Rules: Don't get your name in the newspapers

I do something that is perhaps peculiar. When I read the news I look for stories about gun accidents. Each time I find one, if the reporting is clear at all, I can figure out which gun safety rule was violated, or which rules, for often it's not just one.

Colonel Cooper's Four Rules of Gun Safety are the distillation of what you need to know, a short simple set of precepts that anyone can remember. Here's the thing: In every accidental shooting for which I've gotten a clear account, it is clear that at least one of these rules was ignored.

Therefore I am a big fan of the Four Rules and promote them when I get the chance. I think that each shooter should know them by heart. If he forgets them, he should lock away his gun until he refreshes his memory.

1. All guns are always loaded! Some have criticized Cooper's phrasing of this rule, but his intent was to be as emphatic as possible. Treat every gun as a loaded gun (the denotative sense intended) and you will never have to whine, "But I didn't know it was loaded." Of course you did, because all guns are always loaded. That is the way you must treat guns, or they may do things you do not expect.

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. This stands to reason. The purpose of a gun is to destroy what it is directed at. Negligently pointing your gun at things and people that don't need shooting is a bad business.

3. Keep your finger OFF the trigger until your sights are ON the target. There is no need to shoot if you have not lined up on the target, thus no need to have your finger on the trigger. There is every reason to keep your finger off it. A great many accidents, perhaps the majority of them, involve violation of this simple and obvious rule.

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Always positively identify what you are shooting at. Mistaken shootings occur, but should not. A hunter has no business shooting a human under the misapprehension that he is shooting an animal. A householder has no reason for shooting a family member who arrives at home late and unexpected; use a flashlight to see who it is. The "what is beyond" part of the rule concerns the backstop and the downrange danger posed by your projectile. You do not want your bullet sailing past or through your target to do harm elsewhere.

As a mnemonic to help me remember the rules, I use "LS/MFT," a catchphrase from my youth. Only now it means, "LOADED, STUPID! Muzzle. Finger. Target." Remember the rules in any way you like, but remember them. Then I won't be reading about you in the newspapers.


 Sunday, June 9, 2013

Secure gun storage

The Guardian Express, a web outlet that covers the US news beat, today has an opinion piece entitled "Handguns and Their Irresponsible Owners," written by James Turnage. I dislike the tone of the piece, and take issue with one or two minor points. But I agree with the big point of it. If you have a gun, you must store  it safely. It is something I have preached for years. Unless the gun is under your direct and immediate control, which means carried on your person or placed within reach, it should be rendered inert, inaccessible or preferably both. My logic on this point is airtight. If you really need a gun, you need it ready to hand. If you really do not need it, it should be secured.

It's all quite simple to manage. Take, for example, the double action revolver. Swing open the cylinder and snap a sturdy padlock around the top strap. The gun will not work, and an attempt to twist off the lock will wreck the gun before the lock gives way.

The above is a variant of a cop trick from the old days when cops carried revolvers. The trick was as follows. Take a pair of handcuffs, loop one of the bracelets through the gun's frame, as above. The gun is now disabled. If you also want to keep the gun from walking away, you can take the other bracelet and cuff that around a bedstead, a sturdy plumbing pipe or some other object likely to stay put.

There are many purpose-built devices meant to disable guns: trigger locks, cable locks, trigger guard inserts with padlock holes, and others. There are more besides that enclose the gun completely, such as lock boxes and safes; I think these are a bit safer; out of sight, out of mind. They also do more to discourage theft.

As to the Guardian Express article, I agree that it is senseless and tragic that a four year old managed to get his hands on an unsecured gun and fire it, killing his father. A toddler is too young to remember or to understand the Four Rules, thus cannot apply them, and thus must never handle firearms. When sensible gun handling is not sufficient safeguard, and it never can be when small children are involved, the guns must be locked up.

There is, though, a statement in the article that I find difficult to parse. The author says, "I do not own a gun for two reasons. I don't want to, and I refuse to live in fear." To the first part, very well, but I am puzzled by the second. It is not clear what the author is refusing to be afraid of. If it is fear of having a gun around, that is easily remedied and he lists the remedies: "Several methods are foolproof. There are trigger locks, gun safes and methods that will prevent a tragic accident like the one above." So I think what he means is that he courageously chooses not to defend himself against such dangers as a gun might be useful against; if that is his meaning I cannot agree. I live the less in fear for owning a gun--stored safely--and being a passable shot with it.

 As a minor quibble, trigger locks are far from "foolproof." The lock must be a reasonable fit to the trigger guard of the gun or it can slip back and forth, negating the value of the lock. It is something that must be checked case by case. Not all trigger locks are good on all guns. I find it curious how often the anti-gun contingent talks about trigger locks as a panacea, when trigger locks, unless they fit properly, are less positive than other methods.

I certainly agree with Mr. Turnage that there are too many accidents related to unsafe storage of guns. Any are too many, for the problem is so easily solved. If you have disabled your gun with a properly fitting trigger lock, or a cable lock, handcuffs or something else, or have locked it up in a safe, any use of that gun by an unauthorized person is going to involve burgling your precaution, and that shifts the moral and legal burden squarely onto the one doing it.

What is to be avoided is a set of narrowly specific storage requirements enforced by law, such as they have in some countries, for one size fits all turns out to mean an impractical solution for everyone. What we need is a talking-up campaign to make sure everyone is kept aware that proper gun storage is important. Indeed, it is an essential aspect to safe and responsible gun ownership.

So I encourage you to talk it up. Though I disagree with the way he said it, Mr. Turnage and I are oddly on the same side of the issue.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The aha! moment in the Ukraine

Statement from the Ukrainian Gun Owners Association:

Today every citizen of Ukraine understands why our country has hundreds of thousands of policemen. Last illusions were crushed when riot police used rubber batons and boots at the Independence Square on peaceful citizens.
After such actions we realize that it is not enough to only adopt the Gun Law.

As of today Ukrainian Gun Owners Association will start to work on the preparation of amendments to the Constitution, which will provide an unconditional right for Ukrainian citizens to bear arms.

People should have the right to bear arms, which will be put in written into the Constitution.
Authorities should not and will not be stronger than its people!
Armed people are treated with respect!

Suggestion from America: Make sure the wording is very clear, so that people cannot pretend to be confused about it in the future.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Riot gun part 7: A bit of strategy

Long experience by military forces everywhere shows that an ensconced defender has a 3:1 advantage over those coming against him. What is an ensconced defender? He has a good fighting position that protects him from the enemy's weapons, he knows the lay of the land and is ready and waiting when the enemy arrives. A soldier who digs a properly situated hole and gets in it becomes as powerful as three soldiers in the open. That is a very useful thing to know in thinking about your personal defense plans. Whenever possible, have a plan to take cover.

Another number: The shotgun firing buckshot has twice the hit probability, within its limited range, of a select fire military rifle--a real assault rifle, not the neutered look-alikes the liberal media loves to fret and moan about.  What of the submachine gun? Here the shotgun scores nearly half again better. That is what our military concluded after studying the matter. The shotgun has the best hit probability of all the personal weapons. The pistol has the worst, and since the criminals these days are mainly armed with pistols, you can feel pretty good about your choice if you are armed with a shotgun.

What emerges here is the idea that you find yourself a sconce where you can use the shotgun within its range limitations; the field of fire should be fairly short. (In other words the surroundings should not be so open that someone with a rifle can stand a long way off and pot at you, while you cannot reach him.) Combining an ensconced defense with short range use of the shotgun gives you the three to one advantage of being ensconced, combined with a big advantage in probability of hitting, versus other types of weapons--improving your odds. 

What I'm pointing to is the wise idea of putting as many advantages as you can on your side. There is another advantage to consider putting on your side here, that of surprise. The value of the element of surprise is difficult to quantify. It is considerable, but it only lasts for so long as it takes your assailants to adjust to the unexpected situation, pull themselves together and react appropriately. Still, it is known to be an advantage, though the degree of advantage is uncertain, varying from case to case.

Strategy is boring to most shooters, so I won't go on and on about it. Just remember that you are stacking all the cards in your favor if you take cover, use a shotgun and spring your defense as a surprise. Is that always practical?  Probably not, but it is a worthy goal. If you find yourself in a fair fight, your planning stinks.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

You do weapons handling drills? That's nice...

These South Korean officers get really in depth with their drills.

(Thanks to The Business Insider and LiveLeak. More clips at the link.)

I see a lot of this as low percentile, by which I mean that you are unlikely ever to need to do most of this, but it does show an impressive level of familiarization with handling their weapons, which is probably a good thing in itself.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Second amendment skit

Clever in its way, and it makes a point that, unfortunately, needs to be made over and over.

The makers of the video invite you to visit their gun safety website, which is here:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Riot gun part 6: Again with the arshini

In a previous post I mused about the old Russian unit of measurement called the arshin. It is a unit of length that is about equal to taking one step forward. I praised it as sensible. It is a unit anyone understands intuitively.

It is easy and natural to estimate distances this way, and fairly accurate for short distances. Because the shotgun is used at short distances, and we want to figure things out fast, it makes sense if the shotgunner thinks of distance in terms of steps rather than yards or meters.

If your shotgunning technique includes the use of distance guesstimations  to tell you when to think about switching to slugs, or switching to tight patterning shells such as FliteControl or VersaTite, or firing twice to double your pattern density on the target, then it is a touch faster to think in steps to the target. Here is a measurement converter: You can use it to convert your current ranging cues to footsteps, from yards or meters.

This may be an example of taking an inordinate interest in a minor matter, for units of measure are only arbitrary conventions, but try it out and see if you get a slightly quicker resolution to eyeball estimate distance questions if you use footsteps as your unit of measure.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Riot gun part 5: A bit of film

This National Guard video, though dated, makes some essential points about combat use of the shotgun and includes a bit of history.

The video is only a quick overview of the shotgun as a military weapon, and it does not go into the finer points. For one thing, it does not touch upon the very important question of reloading the shotgun. In all, though, it is a solid presentation of the how and why of the fighting shotgun.

The contact information at the end of the film is outdated, by the way, so don't try to call.