Saturday, October 26, 2002

I was just over at Megan McArdle's blog. She posted a well written essay saying that Michael Bellesiles deserves more pity than anger for falsifying his data and ruining his career.

Considering that I offer free firearms training (all expenses paid for by myself) because I want to see people be safe from violent assault, I think you can guess how sympathetic I am to Mr. Bellesiles. But David Ross of The House of David makes an observation in Comment #12...

"if anyone bought his book - or worse, cited it - I don't see why they can't sue."

So Michael Bellesiles is like the Milli Vanilli of academia?

Friday, October 25, 2002

So I'm over at Megan McArdle's blog reading this post. In Comment #17, one of her readers asks the following question...

"Someone correct me if im wrong but as far as the caliber of the weopon, isn't the .223 round just supposed to penetrate, hit bone, and bounce around creating more internal damage? (at least thats what I remember)."

Well, not exactly. See, the bullets used are called boattail bullets. That just means that they have a rounded back end instead of a flat back end, and the design was developed to reduce drag caused by the vacuum that's behind the bullet as it travels down range. Boattail rounds have been around at least since the 1920's, when Winchester started to advertise boattail ammunition for hunting big game (can't find an example of one of those ol' advertisements on the Internet).

But there's one side effect to using bullets like this. They tend to try and turn around as soon as they hit something wet.

Why do they do this? Take a look at a fighter jet. Notice how it's pointy at the front and rounded at the back to reduce drag as much as possible as it travels through the air. Now look at a modern submarine. It's rounded at the front and pointy at the back. This is due to the fact that hydrodynamics is very different from aerodynamics. So when this kind of bullet, travelling point first, enters a mostly liquid environment it tries to swap ends.

Okay, so it turns around. So what?

This does two things. First, the bullet tends to come apart and fragment under this kind of stress. This means that most of the bullet's energy is expended in the body of the target, which is what hollow-point bullets are designed to do (but the .223 isn't a hollow point, which military forces are not supposed to use). Second, the wounds left by the bullet are larger due to all of that fragmentation that's going on. Again, this is nothing more than what hollow point bullets are supposed to do.

Okay, so it's a more effecient round due to the shape of the bullet used. Many shooters aren't too happy with it's performance, though. The refer to the round as a "poodle shooter" because it's so small and underpowered. Compare the ballistic tables of the .223 (which is the official U.S. military round today) with the ballistic tables of the .30-06 rifle round, which was the official U.S. military round during WWI, WWII, Korea and the first opening days of the Viet Nam War. Notice that the .223 delivers about 1000 ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle and the .30-06 delivers about 3000 ft/lbs at the muzzle.

So why aren't we still using a more powerful, more deadly and longer range rifle?

It was noticed during WWI that the majority of wounds were produced by artillery, not rifles. If you can have a rifle that causes enough damage to take someone out of the fight then it's done the job. Whether or not the enemy is dead doesn't matter as long as he's not trying to kill any of your guys. If you can have a smaller, lighter rifle with rounds that weigh less then everyone can carry more ammo.

So the .223 does the job it's supposd to do, and it does it very well. But some people didn't like the idea of a weaker rifle. So a advertising campaign was started that touted how deadly the new smaller, lighter, less deadly rifle was. That's where most people get the idea that the bullet is made out of flubber.

Thomas Lee Dillon was a guy who would drive around rural Ohio and, if there weren't any witnesses, would shoot people he found walking near the road.

That's it. No reason for it except that Dillon liked to shoot people. There wasn't any connection between the victims except that they just happened to be where they could be shot with very little risk to the killer (sound familiar?).

With nothing to go on the police were stumped. Sure there were bullet fragments and ballistic info taken from the bodies of the victims, but without a gun to match against the evidence wasn't any use. But things started to move when the killer decided to brag about the crime by mailing a letter to a newspaper. The letter set off alarm bells in a former friend's mind, so he went to the police with his suspicions.

So the authorities had a suspect, but they couldn't find any evidence to connect Dillon with the crimes. The weapon used during the murders wasn't found during a search, so investigators figured that he had sold it. They asked gun owners to voluntarily turn in any recently purchased guns that were chambered for the same caliber. (Yeah, them gun owners. All a bunch of criminals.) Ballistic tests of one of the rifles matched it to the evidence found at the scene, and Dillon's signature on the reciept tied him to the rifle.

Case closed. After the identity of the sniper was found out it was good police work that gathered the evidence, built the case, and arrested the suspect before he could hurt someone else. So imagine my surprise when I read this CNN article about the case. "Two years and three murders later, Dillon was caught. His letter to Jean Paxton had prompted an FBI profile that helped lead to his capture."

Oh, it was the profile that did the job! I've been wrong about this for years!

Over at, Prof. Reynolds has linked to this editorial in the Mirror, a Brit newspaper that's not known for being too quick to see America's side of things.

But the author puts it right. America can do what it wants when it wants to who it wants. The fact that we don't proves that all of those nasty things our critics say about us are just hot air.

Go read it for yourself. I, for one, found it to be inspiring.

St. Crispin is the patron saint of cobblers. Today is the day on which we.....uh, are supposed to remember him.

Of course, no one after the Middle Ages would have heard of this saint if it wasn't for the Battle of Agincourt, where a ragged and starving bunch of Englishmen managed to beat a vastly superior French force. This happened in 1415.

Although people would probably remember the battle (especially if you happen to be English), no one would remember that it was fought on St. Crispin's Day except for William Shakespeare, who wrote a play where the English king recites an rousing and inspirational speech before the fight.

Anyway, it doesn't matter if you remember this day for the battle, the play, the speech or the saint. I still hope it's a very happy one.

While scrolling around the Internet looking for info on this St. Crispin guy, jumping merrily from website to website, I came across this site that's devoted to the St. Crispin's Day Society. What's that, you ask? Well, it seems that it's a fan site put together by Man From U.N.C.L.E. enthusiasts! (I was really impressed by some illustrations done by a fan named Suzan Lovett, who is apparently very involved in fandom of one sort or another)

These U.N.C.L.E. agents keep popping up no matter where I go or what I blog about! They must have me under survellience because they think I'm working for T.H.R.U.S.H.!

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Well, it would appear that they caught the Beltway Killers. Good work!

The break appears to be a chance remark from John Lee Malvo that prompted police to check for similar killings in Montgomery, Alabama. Seems that Malvo had left his fingerprints at the scene of a murder there on Sept. 21.

If the info off of the news servers is correct there's not much left of the story but the cleanup. My job when I worked for the police was fingerprints, so I know that there's not much Malvo can do to wriggle out of the Montgomery murder. If it's true that ballistics match with the bullets taken from the victims then there's also not much Malvo or Williams can do to avoid the other murders (though the term "ballistic fingerprinting" is very misleading, since fingers are much more distinct then bullets).

Let me be the first to wish you all a happy United Nations Day!!!

I'm going to do my best to get in the spirit of the United Nations! First, I'm going to sit on my fat behind. I don't have the money to give myself an undeserved salary, so I'm just going to eat fatty foods (hey, if my bank account can't get bigger then at least my belly will). I'll keep an eye out and I'll get in the way if any of my neighbors actually start to do something constructive. And I'm going to complain about how it's someone else's fault when things aren't the way I want.

Still, there's some things I won't do. I won't force children in to sexual slavery. That's just going too far in trying to capture the spirit of the holiday.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

So I'm reading Prof. Reynold's blog. He links to this message board, where people are pointing out that gun registration wouldn't stop the Beltway Assassin because they still haven't found the white van yet (which is probably registered, after all).

Many of the people posting on the board have witty things to say, but I was taken by a quote that was at the end of one the posts.

"We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do us harm." -George Orwell

Hey! I'm not that rough!

Just reading a post by Fusilier Pundit. He speculates about how an armed bystander witnessing an attack by the Beltway Assassin could be a big help, even if the bystander is too far away to shoot the gunman himself.

This begs the question: What would be the handgun with the best range that would still be suitable for daily concealed carry?

I'm thinkin' that it would probably be a .357 Magnum, which could certainly reach out and touch someone without being too powerful for close-up defense. Some of the handguns chambered for the round can be accurate at long range, but those longer barrels and scopes can make carrying the beast problematic.

Undoubtably snub barrelled versions are the easiest to carry every day because of their small size and lighter weight, but they do make shooting past short range under combat conditions difficult (I count "short range" for a handgun to anything less than 7 yards). Short barrelled versions are best for defense at close and medium range (medium for a handgun, which is about 25 yards). We need something that's capable of hitting target out to 50 yards or better, but which is still small enough to carry every day.

I would think that a 4" barrel would be best. Accurate enough to provide a chance at long (out to 50 yards) and extreme (out to 100 yards) handgun ranges, but still small enough so that it's possible to have with you when you need it the most.

Of course, a neato solution would be to have some sort of modified gun where you could quickly clip on barrel extensions, scopes, shoulder stocks and extended magazines. Besides the fact that you probably wouldn't have time to assemble your gun when the flag goes up, the fact that modifying a gun costs far more than anyone would want to spend keeps these guns off the streets. Oh, well.

I found a news story on the Yahoo! server (which means the link will be bad after a few weeks because Yahoo! deletes old items. Oh, well). It's about how Charlton Heston is campaigning for NRA approved candidates. The story is from the Reuters news wire.

Okay, so what? Well, it seems that the story was a straight telling of the facts without strange commentary! That's almost impossible for Reuters, which likes to take a anti-gun or anti-American stance on most issues.

I'm so surprised you could knock me over with a shovel.

I was just over at Flit, a blog written by a Canadian named Bruce R. He has posted a very interesting essay comparing gun ownership and violent crime in both the U.S. and Canada. If you're interested in the issue then it's worth reading.

Bruce has a lot to say in this essay, and he puts it much better than I ever could. But there are a few things that I found to be of particular interest to me.

First off, Bruce states that the main reason for the higher murder rate in the U.S. is due to a great many other factors than simple firearm ownership. This is something that I agree with. Bruce also states that handguns appear to be used in crimes much more than other types of firearms, which is also something I agree with.

Before my regular readers get too upset and accuse me of advocating some sort of ban on handgun ownership, let me say that the Canadian solution isn't any sort of solution in the United States. Bruce puts it best when he explains how Canada justified banning handguns while still allowing access to long guns....

"I think it was fairly obvious that while long arms like hunting rifles can also be used to commit crimes, excluding the majority of the population from owning any other types of weapons (ie, handguns) that are essentially designed specifically to shoot other people, was going to be a crime-reducing measure (yes, yes, that does leave all the remaining handguns in the hands of the criminals, but with rigorous Customs inspections, and few handguns in private hands to steal, the pipeline for illegal handguns was and remains pretty restricted here. It's certainly not impossible to get a handgun off the street in Toronto, but it's certainly not easy, either. In suburban/rural Canada, it can be exceedingly difficult.)"

Notice that the two measures necessary to restricting the number of handguns in Canada are "rigorous Customs inspections" as well as having "few handguns in private hands to steal". Both conditions are impossible in the United States.

Anyone who's ever had a job in law enforcement will tell you that any attempts to restrict the flow of illegal drugs in to the United States is an abject failure. The only reason that the drug cartels aren't turning into gun-running cartels is because drugs are sooo much more profitable than smuggling handguns in to the U.S. (what is it the English say? Something about "Coal to Newcastle"?). If private handgun ownership is severly restricted you'll see this change pretty fast. Since criminals have such an abundant and easily accessible supply of drugs, they'll still have an abundant supply of handguns even after the law abiding are disarmed and helpless.

The second reason further restrictions will never work is due to the number of handguns already in circulation. I personally own a few handguns (and many more rifles) that are 50 years old or older. They all shoot just fine and dandy. Completely banning all handguns in the U.S. right now, this minute, would mean that the supply of guns would dwindle about 100 years or so. Still, the only people who'd be disarmed are the law abiding (since anyone owning a handgun would be a criminal by definition after the ban took effect).

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Someone from my local gun store called me the other day. A surplus rifle that I had ordered had finally arrived. I hurried over to pick it up.

When I got it home and opened a box I found a .30-40 Krag-Jorgenson rifle that had been made in 1898. I'd been anticipating this day, and had made some dummy rounds on my reloading press. After cleaning and oiling the gun I loaded it up and worked the action (ahem) a few hundred times.

It was still smooth as glass. Perfect as gun smiths dead for close to 100 years could make it. The Krag was used by the U.S. military during the Spanish-American War, the first U.S. war recorded by motion pictures. This was the war where Teddy Roosevelt led his Rough Riders up San Juan Hill. It was still used all through the Phillipine Insurrection.

Some kid carried this rifle. He had to lug it over hill and dale, stand guard with it at night while his fellow soldiers slept, and judging by how little wear there is on it he cleaned it every chance he got. Maybe he was even ordered to fix bayonets and charge.

I know how he felt, at least a little bit. I know how he felt holding the rifle, the wood smooth against his hands. I know what he felt when he'd sight down range and fire a shot, the recoil bouncing the muzzle up and shoving the stock in to his shoulder. My hands find the same spots on the stock, little depressions worn in the wood where he gripped it too hard. I feel the same sense of satisfaction when my shot finds the target, and the same sense of embarrassment when I screw up and my shot goes wild. We're seperated by 100 years, and we live in completely different worlds. But while I hold that rifle it's like I'm shaking hands with him.

Remember, history smells like cordite and gun oil.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Steven Den Beste has posted about a gun man in Australia that, after killing some innocent people, was tackled by the bystanders and subdued.

Megan McArdle posted something on her own blog, making sure that she linked to Steven.

Doug Turnbull has posted in Megan's comment section, and has this to say about the incident.....

"Obviously, the solution to crime isn't more guns, it's more Australians. If only Chief Moose and the local authorities had called in the Crocodile Hunter when this whole thing started, we'd all be safe now."

It took awhile, but I finally got to where I was going! So many pithy comments on the blogs that I want to steal and file the serial numbers off so I can claim that I'm that clever.

So far I'm not clever enough to figure out how to do that without being caught.

I was watching the news the other night when they mentioned "bullet proof body armor".

Today's body armor is very sophisticated, and there's some really neat and useful products that have appeared in just the last few years. But for all practical purposes it's impossible to armor someone against all forms of small arms. To try and simplify things the National Institute of Justice has implemented a body armor rating system (the last link is a 378K PDF file, so be warned before you click on it).

One of the best sources to explain what the "threat levels" mean is this page. It's a resource to help people playing a role playing game named Shadowrun, and all of the info is presented in a straight and condensed form.

Another excellent learning resource is this page, which shows how most of the popular cartridges fall in the threat level categories.

I should get a poster of both pages for my wall.