Thursday, April 19, 2012

Funniest line I've seen in months.

I should have taken a photo of the headline.  As it was, I was in a hurry and only caught a glimpse as I walked by the vending machine.  Still, the words just kinda burn themselves into your funny bone:
Police say bar covered up actions of bouncer
Seriously, read that again.  Just revel in its hubristic glory, and say the key words out loud:
Police say bar covered up actions of bouncer
See, that's just the funniest damn thing I've heard in months.  Who is it, seriously, that gets the irony kickback?  Is it the police spokesman?  Or maybe reporters have an irony consultant on retainer?  Because whoever it is, man, they've gotta just be bankin' with zingers like that one.

Grigg and Claire on that whole April 19th thing.

Another April 19th, and as far as I can tell not a single one of those responsible has paid any sort of price for what happened at Waco.  Nor OKC, for that matter.  (Anyone dim enough to believe that the buck stopped with McVeigh...well, shit, if you believe that, you'll believe anything.)

No accountability whatsoever.  Nothing.  (You may remember that insultingly smarmy episode featuring the phrase "full responsibility", but as far as I know, that impostor of a human being still doesn't even know what "the short sword" is.)

Fortunately, good people still refuse to let it go, in whatever ways are available to them.  I'm probably too embittered to write anything constructive myself, any more, but I see that Grigg did a fine job at promoting a basic newscast (some years old, at that), and Claire has given us another capital-R Resource as far as attitude goes.

These are good things, that take basic rememberance and invest it with context.  Grigg (actually, in this case, Thomas Eddlem) specializes in calling a thing what it is:
BOSTON – April 19 – National guard units seeking to confiscate a cache of recently banned assault weapons were ambushed earlier today by elements of a paramilitary extremist faction. Military and law enforcement sources estimate that 72 were killed and more than 200 injured before government forces were compelled to withdraw.

Speaking after the clash, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage declared that the extremist faction, which was made up of local citizens, has links to the radical right-wing tax protest movement. Gage blamed the extremists for recent incidents of vandalism directed against internal revenue offices.

The Governor, who described the group’s organizers as “criminals,” issued an executive order authorizing the summary arrest of any individual who has interfered with the government’s efforts to secure law and order. The military raid on the extremist arsenal followed widespread refusal by the local citizenry to turn over recently outlawed assault weapons. Gage issued a ban on military style assault weapons and ammunition earlier in the week.
and there's nobody like Claire for keeping us focused on what matters, both within ourselves and in recognizing common cause in our neighbors:
While we’re not seeing the noisy resistance of the early 1990s, we’re seeing something ultimately more meaningful — quiet contempt of the people toward a government they increasingly recognize as not legitimate and absolutely not freedom-enhancing. We're seeing a big shift toward personal independence — both from the preppers of the “right” to the locavores of the “left.” For every government overreach, we can count on swift and decisive reaction. On the Internet. In social media. And in the real world. Everywhere, everywhere, the people push back.

It's April 19th, folks.  Another year and it will have been twenty, since the government afflicting us (credit Grigg with the phrase) quite publicly demonstrated its perfect willingness to stage a live-ammo show for intimidation effect, to use revolving fraud to manufacture a case in the finest Maxwell Smart "Would you believe..." tradition, to repeatedly use the phrase "this is not an assault" even while in the act of executing a military attack, to incinerate and murder every remaining man, woman and child in the building, to immediately raze and destroy any forensic evidence that might have told us how it actually happened, to lose, misplace and "disappear" any other evidence that might possibly contradict the company line--most definitely including human beings and the information they at one point contained--and of course to thoroughly prosecute the survivors.

Not a one of those who brought us this act of war has paid any price at all.  In fact, they've spent much of the intervening time grooming future targets and preparing them for "processing".

See, Waco was just one of their crimes against us.  Just one.

See how this works?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reloading gear, inside.

Amazing, what you can get done once that ridiculous high fever breaks and you begin to inhabit your own body again.  (And oy, but enough of that shit already.)

I went and got, out of storage, what I think is the whole quantity of reloading gear that I've got with me thus far in Alaska.  It's been packed up since the move back in '08, and languishing in storage during the times when I couldn't afford to do anything anyway.  (I've still got some quantities of components in a box at my folks' house in Montana, which I didn't just stick on the barge out of some loopy attempt to "be a good citizen" and play by the rules.  I assure you the move experience, and trying to find a way to get said items up here by some "legally acceptable means", has completely cured me of that rainbow-shittin'-unicorn fantasy.  If I had it to do over again, all my components and loaded ammo would have just made it here, eff you very much.)

Anyway, talk about a sensation like Christmas.  It was really nice to see the supplies of rifle bullets and remind myself of what volumes of which cases I have in supply.  Now I have to figure out what to load for first, and how to acquire primers and powder in the most intelligent way to get the most ammo on the shelves in the quickest possible time.  This means a little pencil work, some reference reading, and finally the delightful calibration and test-batch production process.

Some work, is not work at all.

I'm partly looking forward to the process because of what it might mean for my three-year-old.  She is "our little scientist", and I suspect that she might be quite interested in certain aspects of the overall loading task.  I'll start her with sorting and case tumbling, and if she's interested beyond that, maybe we can look at things like primer-tube loading;  she's got just enough of a fixation on doing things right that if I engage her with some of the more foolproof or monitorable tasks, she might wind up being a real, honest help.

I'm looking forward to a lot of this, but I admit I've got a soft spot for trying out a few loads in particular:
  • The Kerflättenboömer load:  Beartooth Bullets' LBT-design behemoth 525-grain WLN-GC for the Marlin .45-70.  These things have apparently shot through both buffalo and elephant, and are just the bullets I want to be standing behind if a brownie decides to get belligerent.  The big thing for me will be making sure they feed reliably--damn that's a wide meplat, which is all to the good once it's airborne, but if it won't cycle through the Marlin every time I'll go "back" to the less-aggressive meplat on the LFN design and "settle" for the 450-grain slug.  We don't mess with reliability here.  :-)
  • The Kerflättenboömer-light load:  Once again it's Beartooth Bullets' design;  this time both a 310- and 340-grain pill for the .45 Blackhawk.  I'll run the increments up and we'll see how the Blackhawk likes them.  With any luck, that much extra bullet (over, say, the standard 250-grain cowboy load) should keep the velocities from getting so high that the low-point-of-impact becomes a real problem.  Theoretically, this should be a good way of backing up the .45-70 with a belt gun, and although I'm not trying to make the unmodified Blackhawk into a true .45 Linebaugh (that is the topic of another post, fersure), it should be capable of a goodly improvement over .44 Mag without bending anything.
  • 168-grain loads for both Scout and M1A.  I've got my "vanilla" load for the Scout figured out for a 180-grain bullet, but I'd like to actually put 150s and 168s through it and see what she's capable of--and optimizing for Alaska is bound to be a little different, with ambient temperatures, humidities and altitudes very different than what I cut my teeth on in Colorado.
Much work to be done;  I intend to enjoy the summer's "work".  And it begins with the unboxing, the acquisition of components, and then the laying on of hands.

To it, then!  :-)

Friday, April 6, 2012

McElroy weighs in on the Trayvon Martin case.


And as usual, she finds just the right way to make the fully-principled case without sounding nearly as cranky as I do.
The American public has been in a state of shock and outrage over details of Trayvon's death, with overwhelming sympathy pouring out toward his parents. The incident may well explode into a full-blown police scandal. If it does, then it will be because the average American is not willing to tolerate a biased system of justice in which blacks are discounted. Overwhelmingly, the modern American will not tolerate racism against blacks.

The opposite message is being broadcast by the mainstream media and an array of ambitious policymakers who seem to be using Trayvon's death for their own ends. From the outset, both have branded the incident as “racial.” The media wants the blockbuster ratings that come from an outraged and captivated audience. The easiest way to achieve this is to present a clean and sensational narrative that pits a villain against a victim. They find this in a narrative of white-on-black violence — a white man senselessly killing a black teenager.
Just so.  It's really not that hard to simply follow everyone's motivations in the case and see things for what they are, but Americans do seem to like to have their ire fed to them by professionals.  In this case, the "professionals" are race-baiters of multiple stripes, and, well, the results are hardly surprising.

When I first got the news, I had an immediate gut-feeling about the case:  the real story here is the crusading wannabe cop, that guy you knew in school who wanted desperately to be the hall monitor, who believes in the most absolute way in putting on the Cloak Of Authority (TM) and bringin' it to the perps before they do their perpin'. With some some of that Righteous Fire (TM).  Whether or not there was any racial component to this is irrelevant:  this guy was going to find himself a target, and engage it--he thought that was his job.

I have seen nothing about George Zimmerman that has in any way diminished that gut feeling.  It would not surprise me at all to find out later that he's being protected simply because the cops can recognize one of their own when they see him. 

And in the end, it's still about aggression.  Even if it turns out that Zimmerman really did only produce the gun and shoot in actual fear of his life, because of some violent response by Martin, he still owns the burden of having produced the problem in the first place, by initiating aggression.  (I know that anyone who follows me in the way that seemed to happen here is going to produce a Condition Orange response.)  Who knows, maybe we'll find out that he approached Martin casually, just asking what he was doing, and Martin somehow shape-shifted into a seething monster and attacked.  But if "the law" is going to actually do that whole "equal protection" thing, Zimmerman at least has to answer for that--not least because Martin is no longer around to defend himself. 

With all the histrionics from the victim-disarmament crowd regarding the "stand your ground" concept whining around the airwaves, some have pointed out that precisely because Zimmerman initiated the contact, "stand your ground" may not apply to Zimmerman in shooting Martin, regardless of the facts of the fight...but it would certainly have applied if it was Martin who had shot Zimmerman.

They have a point.

A young student should have access to a serious .22 pistol.

I suspect this is going to become a bit of a series.  It just has that feel about it.

My oldest daughter is now three years old, and I'm trying to think ahead about how to start her shooting, and to a lesser extent when.  Obviously I hope she likes it, and takes off on her own, but at a minimum, even if she doesn't, she's going to learn how to safely run pistol, revolver, bolt rifle, lever rifle, autoloading rifle, and slide shotgun.  In the field, not just on the "square range".  A basic education, and beyond that the space to let her figure out whether she wants to pursue it further on her own.

In trying to reconnect with the state of the industry, to find out what is available for kids, I'm actually quite amazed at how limited the choices are for serious kid-sized learning guns.  And I'm thinking of .22s here:  something that one can learn technique on, without the consideration of recoil or the expense of centerfire ammo.  Once basic gunhandling and marksmanship is there, centerfires are another ball game, with far more available options. 

There's a couple of niches that are covered very well:  the Chipmunk .22 rifle for the first gun, the Henry Youth Lever .22 for the first repeater, and arguably the Ruger Bearcat to cover the SA revolver, although that all-steel piece is, for a kid, a bit large and heavy at 24 ounces.  The .22 DA revolver market does have some possible contenders, with Smith's AirLite M317 (which suffers only a heavy DA trigger), and Ruger's SP101 (a beautiful wheelgun which is even heavier than the Bearcat at 30 ounces) or LCR (a nice option if DAO is not a limitation on your desired skill set).

But when you get to the "serious" .22 auto pistol, things just seem to get stupid and stay there.  As far as I can tell, you can go one of the following routes:
  • Full-sized service pistol or conversion kit.  (1911, SIG, etc.)
  • Full-sized traditional pistol. (Ruger Mark II/III, Browning Buck Mark, etc.)
  • Mousegun knockoff. (Beretta 21, Taurus PT22, etc.)
  • Questionable design for a general-purpose, gunhandling-skills-building pistol. (Ruger SR22, Walther PP or P22, etc.)
None of these are going to work well for a small kid with small hands, just learning the basics of trigger control and administrative handling of an auto pistol, who will be fighting the weight and balance of even a 25-ounce piece, and the girth and layout of a grip designed for adult fingers.

I think the full-sized service pistol in .22 is a great idea, as a low-cost training aid--but that doesn't make it a kid's gun.  With a slimlined 1911 frame you're doing about as well as you can do with a full-sized pistol grip, but that is still going to be ridiculously large in a kid's hand.  The classic Ruger Mark II/III and Browning Buck Mark are exquisite pistols to learn on, but they're likewise huge and heavy.  (Consider how then-nine-year-old Brandon handled a loaned Buck Mark while visiting us in Palmer in 2009.)  Confusing designs like the SR22 or even the famous Walther PP are not what you want to be learning the basics of gunhandling and marksmanship with.  And then there's the mousegun designs.  Although, oddly enough, Mas Ayoob actually went the mousegun route (Taurus PT22 DAO) for one of his daughters, going so far as to have some custom modifications and fully custom leather made up for the "serious" .22, which she used in action shooting competition.  It seemed to work, but it still struck me as more "cute" than "serious".  At least Mas was thinking seriously about kid-sized ergonomics, and he also concluded that nothing in the industry really met the need.  Apparently that hasn't changed in the more than 10 years since that article appeared.

Why is that?  I can't think of a good reason why not, and in thinking about it a bit, I may have to approach a few people about a custom project to remedy the problem.  What will follow, then, in this series, will probably be more technical observations about what the ideal implementation might look like, based on what we'd want the pistol to do.

Here's a very simple first stab.  What about a truly miniaturized 1911 design?  The premier pistol design for adults could be proportioned for kid-sized hands.  It's not like this hasn't been approximated before--it just hasn't been done in a rimfire variant (that I know of).  The Colt Government Model 380 and old/new Mustang go back a number of years, and SIG has taken up that torch rather nicely, lately, with the P238 model.  Sure, these are not "pure" 1911 designs, but the manual of arms is the same, leather designs and customization techniques are well-understood, and it seems like a great combination of the right size, the right operation and the right performance for the young student of the pistol.  I find it hard to believe that these 380s could not be rendered as a .22, with a little attention.

Look, just consider this piece here, available right now from SIG:

That's the P938, not the 238;  it's very slightly longer in the barrel and dustcover than the 238, is identical in width and height, essentially identical in weight, and is available in 6+1 9x19mm instead of 6+1 380.  (For an actual carry piece, that's a no-brainer upgrade.)  Knowing SIG, the gun is probably solidly made of good materials, reliable and accurate. 

Now, take that gun and replace the locked-breech barrel and slide, with a fixed barrel and simple blowback slide.  Use a fluted chamber a la the old HK P7 to make extraction so reliable you may not technically need an extractor.  Tweak ejection, magazine (the .22's OAL is comfortably shorter than the 9mm's), spring weights and rates, slide mass, and whatever else you might need to do to get reliable function with the sometimes-fussy .22 cartridge.  Make it run 100%, period.  (If anyone should be able to do this, SIG should.)

After that, start optimizing for a kid's hands.  Do a "slim-line" job to reduce the circumference of the gripframe as much as possible.  Employ ultra-thin stock panels.  Offer a very slightly extended, but still low-profile, safety lever that allows firm contact with the thumb knuckle--and if you can get the lever to register the positive snap! of the plunger-tube-based 1911, that leaves no doubt in your mind that the lever has been engaged, by all means do it!  Aggressively bevel the magazine well (but don't add any sort of ridiculous funnel).  Then dehorn the snot out of the entire piece, add in a little texturing on front and back straps, bring the trigger to about five pounds, and include at least three magazines with the gun itself. 

Leather choices for the young student should include a standard strongside belt loop, and OWB and IWB designs for either traditional behind-the-hip or appendix carry, depending on preference and body type.  Kydex, leather, whatever, as long as it's a good design that permits a solid firing grip and one-handed reholstering, retains the gun during activity, and protects the trigger guard.  And of course carriers for at least one reload and flashlight (I still think Comp-Tac has the best designs for both of these).  More specialized holster designs would have to follow later;  the building of skills starts on the "square range", which imposes a few restrictions that are worth observing. 

With the above equipment, a young student is probably as well served as she could be to successfully "learn the pistol", and could be freed up to focus on the even more important matters of technique and attitude, rather than struggling with a piece designed for Mom or Dad.  And with the above approach, when she's ready she could easily make the transition from the .22 pistol to the actual P938 in 9mm centerfire, with the same leather, manual of arms, etc.

This is the sort of thing that training is supposed to be like.  Why on earth isn't there a whole market for it?

More to come, I'm sure.  Sabre's not getting any younger.  :-)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Another answer in search of a question.

I don't get out to gun stores much, these days.  There's a variety of reasons for that, most of them personal to me, but anyway, I had completely missed Ruger's introduction of the SR22 rimfire pistol.

I saw, I handled, I gagged.  Look, I realize I've become a bit of a 'mudge about a variety of things, but here it is:  I cannot for the life of me figure out what this pistol would be for.

The most offensive part about the thing, covering any possible use to which it might be put, is that the safety is both frame-mounted and backwards. Up for fire, down for safe.

I don't think this is trivial, and for two reasons.  The first is the design itself.  The most ergonomic active safety systems yet devised are both found on John Browning's M1911 pistol:  the sear-blocking, frame-mounted thumb safety lever and the grip safety.  Now I think that great strides have been made to improve the implementation of those designs (with low-profile, semi-extended thumb safety levers and high-sweep ducktail grip safeties), but nothing I have seen has improved the design itself.

This is because there is a consistency across the M1911 design, and it works with a core ergonomic concept:  when you want to make the loud noise, you close your hand.  When you want to prevent the loud noise, you open your hand.  This fits conspicuously well with the sort of high-stress environment that a life-and-death encounter represents, and is simply intuitive in all lesser environments.  And so when you close your hand to take a solid firing grip, you naturally depress the grip safety, snap the thumb safety down to lock your hand into place, and let the trigger finger engage the trigger itself.  When disengaging, your trigger finger comes off the trigger and out of the guard, the thumb sweeps up snapping on the safety, the fingers relax and the grip safety re-engages as the hand comes completely off the gun.  Close, open. The name "Yankee Fist" is highly appropriate.

Something that works counter to this concept, I think, is just asking for trouble, and moreso the higher the stress level gets.  Now for years we've also had around the slide-mounted, up-for-fire safety lever--at least since the 1920s with the Walther PP.  I would say this is backward too, but at least it is usually mounted so high on the slide that it gets outside the most efficient reach of the thumb for normal hand opening/closing operations--requiring something deliberately different.  I find it interesting that the most efficient practitioners of this design have adopted the "straight-thumbs" approach as the best way to deal with the problem.  It's still not fully faithful to how the human hand works, but by stabbing the thumb forward at such a height that it effectively cams the lever upward, the goal is accomplished without completely inverting things.  And again, we've had this arrangement since at least the latter 1920s--it's been around, and is at least understood.  Many people have trained themselves quite effectively on nothing else, and although I don't like it, I can't argue with their success.  Just not for me.

This frame-mounted, backward thing though--the Ruger's lever lies beautifully under the thumb--I just don't get that.

And there's the second reason I think this is a really, really bad idea:  this safety will work backward from everything else that you might have.  Again, in a high-stress situation, this is not a recipe for success.  If the Ruger is the only gun you have, and you train well enough with it to overcome the problem, great.  Or perhaps you're one of those few who is cool enough under stress to remember precisely which gun you have on at the moment of truth, and go the appropriate direction for the safety at hand.

Look, I'm pretty well trained in gunhandling, and I would not want to stake my life on that.  I wouldn't even buy the gun as a plinker, on the off-chance that enough repetitions with it might confuse my response with a different gun at a really vital moment.  No thanks.

And that brings me around to the more general "what is it for?" question.  For me, the safety issue is enough to qualify the SR22 (or anything else designed like it--not to pick on Ruger specifically) for a "Waffenposselhaft Award" entry, no matter what your intended purpose might be.  But even beyond that, the question remains vague.

What's a .22 for?  Again, opinions vary, but it seems reasonable to posit:  plinking/fun gun, training, small-game hunting, and arguably personal defense.  (There may be, for some people some times, good reasons for going the.22 route for defense, but I certainly couldn't recommend it in general.)

Okay, let's run that list against the SR22.  Plinking/fun gun?  Sure--although as mentioned before I'd pass, because there are other .22s out there that are conspicuously better at ingraining good gunhandling habits.  Training?  Fail.  The whole purpose of training is to ingrain good habits, either gunhandling, marksmanship or both, and with a backward, non-ergonomic safety, I just can't imagine using this piece as an effective training exemplar.  Hunting?  At best, arguable.  There does seem to be some single-action capability, although employing it in the field against the decocking safety would not be intuitive, and the release is adequate but nothing compared to, say, a Ruger Mark II/III or Browning Buckmark, which are excellent field pieces, if a bit heavy and large.  (I'll shortly have another post about the need for a precision, small, lightweight field .22;  stay tuned.)  And defense?  Okay, let's say for argument's sake that the person in question really is best served by a .22, whether for reasons of recoil, gunhandling manipulation, or some other perfectly legitimate reason.  Is this the right .22?  If I (grit teeth) completely put aside the safety argument, since I've beaten that one to death already, it's again at best arguable.  I'm not a fan of DA/SA for defense pieces;  I'd rather an SAO with positive safety (think 1911) or DAO without manual safety (think Kahr or Centennial J) any day;  the SR22 combines the worst of all worlds with that backward safety.  It's not a particularly small piece, in any dimension;  my .40-caliber Kahr is smaller in every dimension, the same weight, with an amazingly sweet trigger, and passive internal safeties.  So if our .22 toter doesn't mind the size/weight combination, the DA/SA trigger system and decocking behavior of the safety lever, and either doesn't own a differently-operative piece or trains well enough with the SR22 to overcome any ergonomic conflicts, well then, it might work just fine.  I did note that the magazine did seem particularly smooth and well-designed, especially for a .22;  its biggest problem for carry will probably be that the baseplate is large enough to not lay perfectly flat against the body.  At least the baseplate is not sharp like a P35's is.  :-)

Anyway, I can't figure it out:  I tried, and came up short.  Other than distributing one to every FedThug available, as a trainer for whatever their main carry piece may be (go nuts guys!), I can't think of a good use for this piece.  The best I've been able to come up with is that the SR22 is intended to capture some of the market for the Walther P22--another piece that seems to be an answer in search of a question.

Perhaps others can educate me here?  Again, I'll admit my 'mudgery, but seriously, what's the functional argument?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Handy terrorist identification chart.

Only the Zappa quote at the bottom keeps it from being the poster of choice at "fusion centers" across the continent.

H/T to Karen De Coster.