Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Milestones Passed

Sic transit gloria mundi! 
For those of you who don't speak Latin, "Thus passes the glory of the world.” 

Mikhail Kalashnikov was not a man you could easily pigeon hole. He wanted to be a poet but his love of country lead him to serve first as a tank mechanic and later as a tank commander. Despite his skill at weapon invention and improvement, he continued to write and publish several books and poems. 

Mikhail Kalashnikov has died but his ideas remain. You may not recognize the name Kalashnikov, but we all recognize his legacy, the AK-47. 

Two AK-47 on wood floor
I stole this photo from the Internet.  These two might be the nicest AK-47s  I've ever seen.  The wood furniture looks nice and the metal has a nice finish.  The gun's real glory is it's simplicity and reliability. 

I remember seeing those ugly, crude-looking semi auto rifles at gun shows in the late 70s when they were selling for well under $100. Why would I want that piece of Russian junk I asked myself? Later with more wisdom and 20/20 hindsight I wish I had bought several.

You'll probably never see an AK punching holes in the X-ring at 600 yards without extensive re-work. But if you need a rifle you could drop in a river, shake it out and shoot all day and hit a man-size target at 200 yards, an AK would be a good choice. 

America often found AKs in the hands of our enemies, with good reason. The rifles are robust, durable, easy to repair, easy to make and easy to use. And they require little training to fire. It has been said that Mikhail Kalashnikov's genius was not in making an easy-to-manufacture rifle, but in making a rifle that allowed an untrained man to become an effective fighting unit with 4 hours of training. 

Tactical content? 
Simple is good. Any weapon that performs in cold, dirt, rain, muck and mire and still gives you a minute of man groups at 200 yards is better than that ultra precise, highly tuned weapon that delivers four-leaf clover groups at 200 yards, but jams if you look at it sideways.

If you think you might be going to dangerous places in this world and you know you might have to pick up a weapon and use it, you would be wise to spend a little pre-trip time getting to know the AK-47.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Random Thoughts

Every year I announce my firearms training schedule to the people I work with.  I’m often very surprised by the people who want to know more but aren’t interested in actual training.  Most of the time all the questions that could be resolved, or at least clarified, by a visit to the range are asked after the northeast Ohio outdoor shooting season comes to a screeching halt.  This year’s Christmas party was no different.

Sometimes you realize that all some people want is your blessing to confirm what they want to do is tactically sound, practical and will not land them in jail.  These ideas, in my experience, are seldom correct and often impossible to dispel.  In some cases all I want to do is change the subject as not to be connected with some scheme. 

So when the conversation wound down to their proposed plan that she would use a sawed off shotgun loaded with buck shot, I just wanted to change the subject.  I knew this wasn’t the time to discuss stopping power or the legal and civil liability problems with using an illegal weapon. 

I took the coward’s way out and asked her if she thought she could shoot someone.  Several adult beverages changed “I don’t know if I could shoot someone” to “I’ll shoot anyone in my home who threatens me.  I’ll empty the gun into’ em.”  This despite the fact she wasn’t sure about how to load a revolver, which is how I got into this wacky conversation.  It was an interesting and scary look into the mind of the untrained gun owner.

Last weekend also found me I with a table of knives at a gun show and I overheard a transaction at the table next to mine.  Table owner was selling an IverJohnson .32 caliber revolver to an older gentleman accompanied by his son.  These guns can be over 100 years old and the buyer was warned about shooting modern ammunition this gun.

I thought that was very nice of the seller.  You can shoot these revolvers with thin wall chambers from the late 1890s if:
  1. You’re crazy;
  2. You’re desperate;
  3. You’ve got the low pressure ammunition which was designed for that gun.

The son assured the seller that dad wasn’t going to shoot the gun, but shortly after the two of them walked off dad slipped back and asked the seller where he could by ammo for the gun.  The seller smartly claimed ignorance. 

As Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves....”

I’ve recently seen an abundance of SS109 both as reloading components and complete cartridges.  I’m surprised at this; many ranges forbid the use of steel core SS109 penetrator rounds for several good reasons.  They can bounce back from hard targets and injure the shooter or other people on the firing line.  They also have the potential to damage steel targets. 

SS109 damage to steel plate
Stolen from posted by PD shooter in 2006.  The left, if I understood the notes is an impact from  SS109 while the right is Wolf steel jacket  I don't have any information on the actual steel.

So I was wondering if the survivalists, doomsday prepers and followers of the Mayan calendar were preparing to duke it out with post-apocalyptic Mad Max armored survivors.  Never mind that they would be someone else’s Mad Max armored survivors.  Such a demand for SS109s would be noticed by manufacturers, who would flood the market.  It’s just simple demand and supply economics.
The big ammo sellers report they haven’t seen an up-tick in SS109 sales.  They did volunteer that bulk sales, in general, are down.  Their reasons fall into two possible alternatives.

One.  The bulk ammo market is saturated.  Too many shooters are waking up and wondering what to do with 50 thousand rounds of some caliber they don’t have a gun for.

Two.  It's political, of course.  Everyone is worried about what will happen in January 2014 under Obamacare.  As a result, they are slipping that extra cash aside in case they have to purchase health insurance.  Uncertain times do reduce unnecessary spending.

Is there a tactical content here?  
Probably not.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Pun

This is a visual pun

Puns are sometimes described as the lowest form of humor.  Most puns are verbal and depend on words with different spelling having the same pronunciation, or words that have similar sounds.  Pearls before Swine has used puns in many of the strips.

This is my visual pun.  That's a re-sized .223 Rem case hanging in that rather forlorn tree.  What Christmas carol does this remind you of?

If you think you know the answer, e-mail me.  Sorry, no prizes, just the fact that you're a little craftier than the next guy.

Merry Christmas!

Let me mention one of the blogs I follow and recommend.  It's called "the things worth believing in" and you can find it at

The author, a NY police officer, is currently covering NY law dealing with self-defense.  Now, normally I would suggest you stay away from NY, but I believe the better we understand the complications of law and self-defense the more capable we will be in both knowing when force is justified and dealing with the aftermath. You many gain some insights from his discussions.

After all, you'll be the one discussing your trial with your lawyer.

I got a comment and an image from a friend.  I'm posting the image for your enjoyment.

Thanks Marty!!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Annie, Get Your Printer!!

Printable guns just don’t want to go away, do they ?

Remember the hubbub over the high tech printers that let you prototype gears, parts, scale model buildings and cars?  It was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to print a working 3-D gun.

Parts of a printable gun
Parts needed for a 3-D printed gun.  They don't look very robust to me.

It happened much sooner than later and the cry went across the land, “It’s not detectable by metal detectors!  We’ll have children printing out guns and shooting each other!”  These, of course, are the gun banners’ touchstones: children and the fear of invisible stealth guns.

When I first saw the articles a good 3-D printer cost $30,000, not counting resin.  That’s a price little above the range of all but the most ardent hobbyist and companies.  The programs to print these firearms were free on the internet.  The State Department has forced Defense Distributed to remove the downloadable software and they have done so.

Of course the cat is out of the bag.  Outside of nude pictures of what’s-her-name, that software was one of the most frequently downloaded programs.  If you need a copy, I suspect all you need to do is ask enough teenage boys.  They may not have the printer but they got the software.

Even Europe is in on the act.  Austria claims they bought a 3-D printer for around $1400 and printed out a gun in 30 hours.  They also claim they fired four 9mm rounds into tissue stimulant or gelatin.

No information on the actual bullet was made available.  We don’t know if it was a reduced load, if the gun was all printed plastic, or if it contained a metal chamber.

I saw a video of a printed gun and it looked like the hammer served as the breach face and held the cartridge in place during firing.  The gun was a single shot and you needed a pointy stick to poke the empty brass case out before loading another.  Other articles suggest the short, smooth bore barrel shown in many of the pictures and videos is necessary to prevent internal pressure building up and blowing the gun up.  Yeah, a reduced 9mm load, called a 9 Kurz or .380 sounds reasonable in Austria’s experiment.

BATF has tested these guns and found ABS plastic works better than most, but they warn 3-D printed guns are fickle.  Sometimes they’ll fire and other times they’ll blow up in your hand.  No surprise here.  I suspect each round fired pushes the gun to the very edge of plastic and design failure.  I do find it strange that BATF would suggest using ABS plastic if these guns were a problem.

So what are 3-D guns?
  • Tools of terrorists?
  • The perfect murder weapon?
  • A guarantee that guns will be available no matter what the government does?
  • A rich man’s toy?

I haven’t decided, yet.

I grew up with the idea of making zip guns from a section of a telescoping car antenna, a .22 short and a piece of springy steel all taped to a wood block.  I’ve seen examples of single shot devices made under crude conditions that killed Japanese during WWII.  It seems anyone with a little know-how and access to a modest machine shop could make a very reliable six shooter or semi auto.  Something that can fire a bullet will always be around.

The uproar over 3-D plastic guns seems to be centered on two things: non-detectable and non-regulated.  Both are, in my opinion, non-starters.  These guns are massive and difficult to conceal.  

Assembled 3-D gun
Here's a 3-D gun assembled.  It looks pretty chunky to me.  Note, the trigger seems snapped off, never a good thing with a gun. 

They have to be big to resist the pressures of even feeble .22 shorts.  And as I understand it, anyone can legally make themselves a gun without government oversight.  It’s only when you sell them do the Feds get involved.

Nobody is going to print a plastic gun so they can shoot someone.  It will make great fodder for mystery writers.  Oh, wait it has.  Check out Eastwood’s “Line of Fire.”

Hollywoods 1993 idea of a plastic gun
Hollywood's idea of a plastic gun in 1993 from "Line of Fire."   Fiction looks a lot better than the current printable guns!

Here’s a thought.  Maybe it’s a good thing.  Let me tell you about a science fiction short story written after the atomic bomb was born and before lasers.  It made an impression on me years ago but I can’t find the author or title.  If the story sounds familiar, send me a reference.

Called to testify in front of a televised Senate subcommittee hearing on western land use, a rancher takes advantage to tell the Senators and everyone listening about a new tool.

The rancher invented it, after some trial and error, out of ordinary household objects.  He explains using this tool powered by a 9 volt battery, ranch hands are able to cut wood, start fires and bore post holes in the ground and break up large rocks that need to be moved.  The details go out across the world on live TV in this pre-internet fictional world. 

The Senators question him about power and range and he tells them with sufficient power, say a car battery or two he believes you could poke a hole in the moon.  He also reveals that should he be arrested and unjustly imprisoned, he believes that his ranch hands and all his self-reliant neighbors would use their tools to free him.

That’s when our fictional Senators realize power will shift from them and the government back to the hands of everyday people.   

The Senators decide to repress the information, but the rancher reveals that complete plans and construction details have been mailed sometime ago to quite a few radio and electrical hobbyist magazines, most of which are outside the North American continent.  The genie is out of the bottle and isn’t going back.

The Senators demand the cameramen turn off their broadcasting system, but the power has already started to shift.  No dice they say.  We are master electrical technicians they reply and nobody tells them what to do.

Free plans, which will get better, better building materials and the price of 3-D printers coming down.  Hmmm….is this a shift in power?