Showing posts with label guns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guns. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More thoughts on solutions to gun violence

Mike DeAngelo has an excellent contribution to the gun control debate, and he seems to go further than I did, which suggests I may be more liberal (not in the Dems vs Reps sense) than many gun owners on the issue. While I drew a line between "Dangerous" and "More dangerous, requiring more responsibility" weapons, Mike wants responsibility tests for any kind of gun ownership, and wants large capacity magazines banned outside of those kept on shooting ranges.

I thought it was worth raising. For the most part though looking at the "public debate", I'm finding it's unfortunate because the two major sides are too entrenched in their positions. Gun control groups such as the Brady campaign are entrenched in the concept that (a) "Assault Weapons" are especially bad and, yeah, putting a heatsink on a barrel makes it super awesome for mass killings and (b) bans are required and good and will work.

Meanwhile the NRA has reached a point of principle, it seems, that any talk that remotely suggests that any gun might possibly slightly even maybe make it easier to murderize people is blaming guns, and so seems to avoid, for the most part, any restrictions on gun ownership save for token generalizations about the mentally ill.

Here's what I don't think:

  • I don't think bans are likely to work. And as a liberal, I don't believe in banning anything except as a last resort. It's not clear to me we've gotten anywhere close to testing alternatives.
  • I don't think "Assault Weapons" is an especially helpful definition of a gun that requires a special level of responsibility to own safely.
  • I don't think the Brady campaign is a terrible group dedicated to stealing teh freedom. I do think it's made up of victims, direct and indirect, of gun violence who are focused on the wrong things and aren't necessarily expert in the things they want controlled, or banned.
  • I don't think the NRA is a good advocate for gun owners. They've turned the entire debate into a left vs right thing and are doing everything they can to alienate liberals, while simultaneously putting forth spectacularly bad arguments. A future Democratic congress is more and more likely to pass draconian anti-gun laws, and it'll be in part because the NRA never engaged liberals or attempted to get them on their side.
A liberal position should involve encouraging those who want guns to own them responsibly, not criminalizing their possession.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The bad-ass gun: a detour?

As a follow up to my last post, I'm thinking of taking a little detour.

Here's what's happened since I wrote that. I'm still liking the FAL as the "bad ass" rifle for my heroine although there are problems. Just as the AR-15's ammo is underpowered, I'm wondering if the full 308 is overpowered for what she wants to do. And yeah, there's the 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel and stuff like that, but they both feel like hacks to me, designed more because the AR-15's magazine slot is too short for a mainstream round like a .243 Winchester or .270 Winchester than because they're trying to make it optimal. But that's an aside.

But I also know that what's made me interested in guns to begin with is how they work. It was looking at the description of how the AR-15 worked that made me turn from someone totally uninterested to someone absolutely fascinated pretty much over night.

And then I discovered there's a sizable community of people who build their own AK-47s.

Now, to be fair, "build" in this sense means:
  • Obtain a "parts kit" - basically an old military surplus AK-47 that's been dismantled and had the receiver removed and destroyed. Typical cost these days is around $300-400.
  • Obtain a receiver flat, or more likely, go to a FFL and get a receiver. If the former, convert flat into a receiver. More on that in a second.
  • Obtain a "compliance kit" which is essentially a bag of screws and other miscellaneous cheap AK-47 parts that are made in the US. This is because if you make your own firearm in the US, there's a numeric maximum on the number of parts you can include that weren't made in the US.
  • Put it all back together.
The receiver is the interesting bit. You can either buy a finished receiver, or you can make your own. If you go the latter route, the general concept is:
  • Order a flat online, which can be sent directly to your home. Flats are around $20, and they basically consist of a pre-cut sheet of metal with some holes drilled in it. Usually the flat is 1mm thick, and made of regular steel (carbon steel, nothing exotic.)
  • Measure it up and enlarge certain holes, etc, while the receiver is still flat.
  • You very carefully bend it, preferably using a relatively expensive press (a little under $200), but manual methods exist too. This is probably the part that's most likely to go wrong. It requires four bends, although two may have already been done for you. The two that may have already been done are on the extreme sides of the receiver, to make rails. The other two are bends where you'd expect them to be, to turn the receiver into a kind of squared U shape. 
  • You heat treat it. This involves using a blow torch to make the metal round certain drilled holes glow red, immediately after which you throw the entire thing into a bucket of motor oil to cool off. Apparently. This is probably the most dangerous part of the entire thing. The heat treating is to strengthen those parts of the receiver that will suffer the most amount of stress.
  • Finally, you parkerize the receiver. This can be done using kits on the Internet (price around $40 for bottles of acid and a bath) - you submerge the receiver in the acid for a little while, take it out, and polish it with an oily rag or something. Parkerizing, by the way, is just a way of rust proofing the receiver without using paint or something similar that might interfere with whatever you screw onto it.
Some background: the receiver is the component of a gun that holds all the working bits together. From a legal standpoint in the US, it's actually the gun, while everything else is just a component. As a result, the receiver is subject to more regulation than any other part of a gun. There's no law to prevent you from making your own (as long as legally you're allowed to have a firearm in the first place - and there are restrictions on what you can do with it once you've made it), but if you try to buy a receiver you have to go through the same channels that you would a full firearm.

Now, a receiver flat isn't a receiver, it's fairly close, but as it can't be used as a receiver without a lot of modifications, it isn't legally one yet, or so the law goes. Apparently. I'm not sure this is safe to rely on for the long term future, but at any rate there are no stories of ATF agents raiding distributors of flats.

So... anyway. Uh. Yeah. Well, the making the receiver part bothers me, the rest - not so much. I'm kinda liking the entire concept for these reasons:
  • As I said, it's the semi-automatic rifles that interest me, and they interest me because of how they work. How better to understand and celebrate that than to make one?
  • It's manageable in terms of affordability. I can spend $50 a month buying parts, rather than spending $500+ on a finished rifle.
  • I'll learn enough about the process to understand how possible or impossible it is to build something similar that is more accurate, or that supports a different cartridge.
There are, of course, a lot of negatives.
  • The AK-47 is reportedly a relatively inaccurate rifle. Now, opinion seems to differ on it, with a large number of enthusiasts claiming the inaccuracy thing is overblown, but, still. The point is it's not the rifle my heroine is going to adopt, so I still have to get that one.
  • I'm bothered by the safety aspect. I don't want to end up with a face that looks like Gus's at season finale of Breaking Bad after shooting it.
  • The making your own receiver thing is both very attractive and scary. It's a lot of work, and looks like it'd be easy to screw up. On the other hand, flats are relatively cheap.
  • I'm not a hardware person. I'd like to be, of course, and I'd like to learn. But I'm not right now.
 What do you think?

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?