Sunday, October 9, 2011

Well, shoot.

So now I have the right to, I'm going to buy two rifles. If you've been following me on Twitter, you know that already. Interestingly, if I understand the Wikipedia article correctly, I could have bought one as soon as I had my permanent resident card, but, well, whatever, it wouldn't have felt right (and I'm not sure I trust Wikipedia...)

Why two? Well, there's what interests me, and then there's what's practical. The latter is, in many ways, intended to prevent me from using the former. It's kind of like a newbie buying a motorbike - you really need to start with a low power motorbike, but the chances are what's made you interested was a bike that's anything but. The difference, I guess, is that you eventually can safely transition to the bigger, more powerful, bike, whereas the opportunities to use the "rifle that interests me" are going to be few and far between.

Some time ago I wrote a JE on my change of mind about guns. I'll see if I can convert it and import it into this blog over the next few days. But to hit the salient points:

Before moving here, I was very anti-gun. There's nothing unusual in that, people in Britain tend to be. I didn't see why anyone would want one, other than seeing gun enthusiasts in the rather crude stereotypes that, well, tend to get painted. After moving here, I found I had friends who had the things, and I started to actually think about the arguments in a way I hadn't before, coming to a couple of major conclusions that served to change my view of things.

The first is that everyone has a natural right to self defense. To ask someone in a terrifying situation where they legitimately feel their lives are at risk to be pacifist in the name of civilization and civilized values is unfair and unreasonable, and it's never going to work. In our constitution, this right is not described by the second amendment and no attempt to revoke the second amendment would change this: it's described by the ninth and tenth. A natural right can only belong to the people, never to any government at any level. It's unrelated to any need to have regulated militias or any other such arguments.

The second is that the case against ownership of guns has simply not been proven (and probably never will be.) It has not been shown that the wide ownership of a variety of weapons by law abiding citizens is itself harmful to society, that it creates a substantial danger where once there wasn't. And as a liberal, I can't support a law that bans people from doing something in private for no good reason.

At the time I changed my mind, I viewed the change putting my views on guns more in line with, say, my views on eating lobsters or on using computers to play Farmville. I didn't want to do it myself, but, hey, if others did, so be it.

What changed my mind from being a passive viewer to actually wanting one was looking up what an M16 is, after watching... I think my wife and I had just watched Full Metal Jacket, I'm not sure. Anyway, for some reason I wanted to know what the hell an M16 was, and I read up on it on Wikipedia. And that lead me to finding out it was type of rifle called an AR-15, which is a gas powered rifle. Explosive gas powered rifle I should say, you don't put propane in it.

Essentially, when you fire an AR-15 (like other semi-automatic and automatic gas powered rifles), the hammer strikes the cartridge, causing the chemicals in the cartridge to explode, turning them instantly into high pressure gases. These gases push the bullet through the barrel. A tube in the barrel captures some of the gases and those gases are used to power a mechanism to eject the spent cartridge casing, and insert a new cartridge into the chamber.

I found this fascinating, and started to read up on the different systems used by various semi-automatic guns, and found myself increasingly interested in owning one, and seeing how they work for myself.

And so now we're here.

So, going back to these two rifles. The "sane" one is pretty much already decided. LordBodak recommended a Ruger 10/22. I asked around, and I can't find anyone with a bad thing to say about it. One friend has one, others know of it and like it.

The 10/22 is a semi-automatic rifle that takes a .22LR cartridge. .22LR is relatively inexpensive, and relatively "safe" (as firearms and ammunition go); rather bizarrely the 10/22 was classified in Israel as "non-lethal" at one point, though not for very long. No gun is safe, but what you can do to minimize the effects of accidents is a positive.

I'm liking this gun because:
  • I need something sensible to start with
  • It's a small enough caliber that it's actually allowed in some indoor ranges.
  • It's a semi-automatic, and it's not gas powered - at least, not directly - instead being powered by the movement of the cartridge case after the explosion. Again, I love the idea and it's going to be different to the "interesting" rifle. BTW, this terminology should not be seen as meant to imply I'm not going to be interested in the sensible one!
  • Apparently it has a very low recoil, and it's generally pretty accurate.
  • It has high third party support. You can buy alternative barrels, stocks, you can change the entire look of the gun if you want.
For the other rifle... well, my criteria was this:
  • It had to be something I was interested in.
  • Rather oddly, I had a general idea for a rifle in mind for my heroine in my novel. I wanted it to be her rifle.
Who's my heroine? Well, she's an ass-kicking young superheroine who regularly hides in a forest, and uses her gun there, but occasionally needs her gun for missions and such. So I figured it needs to be a good hunting rifle, accurate, and a bit of a battle rifle too. With that in mind:
  • I ruled out the AR-15. The .223 caliber is something she'd feel is underpowered for precisely what she wants it for. For hunting anything large, you're generally going to want something bigger - which is not to say .223 can't take down something bigger, but... on that note, in the novel she even finds an AR-15 at one point (it's not actually identified though in the novel) and derisively says it's useless for shooting anything but rabbits and people.
  • I ruled out the AK-47/74/etc. I figured she would consider them too inaccurate.
I initially thought the FAL (which uses a 7.62 NATO cartridge) would be ideal, as like the AR-15, it's popular and well supported, has a good reputation for being accurate and dependable, and it uses the aforementioned larger cartridge.

Friends also suggested the M1 Garand and its successors in in the M14 and M1A. The M1A is considered an updated, civilian, version of the M14, which was intended to be an upgraded Garand that could do "anything". The Garand itself was a very dependable rifle used by the US military in WW-II.

The problem here is that the Garand itself is antiquated, and the reputation of the M14/M1A is mixed. It's hard, actually, to get an objective view because at the time the M14 was adopted, and the decade or so it was in use, there were enormous political forces going on within the military about the future of standard issue military rifles. Many of the issues with the M14 were either because of minor issues - such as the choice of wood being used for the stock (which had a habit of swelling in high humidity) - or because it was intended to replace multiple weapons and ended up being a jack of all trades, but a master of none. Or at least, that was the perception.

Other options include modified, larger caliber, AR-15s. These are interesting, and there are apparently two families - the AR-10 based guns, and the DPMS LR-302. Parts for one family will not work on the other, and even within the families the devices aren't considered completely compatible. Of the two, the reviews for the LR-302 seem very positive, but it's a newer design and there's less support for it. Again, prices for new weapons seem fairly high.

M1As, AR-10s, and LR-302s seem fairly expensive, with prices generally being in four digits, regardless of the source of the weapon. By comparison, AK-47s are generally sub-$500, and AR-15s usually start around $600-700, although brand new models are usually in the four digits too.

Which brings me back to the FAL. Pricing for FALs is more in line with AK-47 and AR-15s, with refurbished imports costing around around $700 (Century Arms G1), and new clones being in the low four digits. I'd be happy with a refurbished import.

Friends have mixed views on the whole thing, I don't think they understand that I'm buying something because of the link to the novel, and the fact I want something because of the way it works, rather than because I intend to actually use it for anything but "Wow, it works" type stuff.

I'm thinking my heroine would want a FAL. It's a powerful, accurate, reliable, versatile, well supported rifle that can be obtained for a relatively low cost. But I'm also unsure of myself here, I really don't know enough to be certain that I'm right here. What do you think?

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