Friday, December 28, 2012

The Gun Show Loophole

One of the things gun control advocates often call for is closing the "gun show loophole".  There isn't a gun show loophole to speak of in firearm laws, the term is used to mislead people into thinking anyone can buy anything they want at a gun show without any controls.  That's not true.

When people say they want to close the gun show loophole, it's hard to take them seriously in debate.  Using that inflammatory term shows the user is either pushing partisan propaganda or misinformed on the subject.  There's far too much emotion in today's gun control debate, so I wanted to clarify what happens at gun shows and how that applies to laws today.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The New Gun Ban

If you've been following the news, you know that President Obama has tasked Biden with heading a committee to draft a new gun ban.  As well, Diane Feinstein stated she would be introducing a new gun ban bill on the first day of the legislative session.  This shouldn't shock anyone, as she introduces gun control legislation with regular frequency.  Whether or not her bill will end up being the bill Biden recommends remains to be seen.   But today we have Feinstein releasing her bill, so we can discuss that.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Media Companies and Their Code of Honor

Since the tragic school shooting we've seen many companies react.  Cheaper Than Dirt announced it was going to stop selling firearms.  Dick's Sporting Goods have pulled self-loading rifles from shelves.  Cerberus Capital has announced it's intent to sell off the Freedom Group.  All of these are reasonable reactions to the possibility of bad press.  Whether or not I agree with the decisions, I can certainly understand the perspective from which they were made.

The Discovery Channel is dropping shows like Gun Country, American Guns and Sons of GunsCBS is dropping 3 Gun Nation, stating they are imposing:
indefinite moratorium on the broadcasting of any gun-related outdoor programming

Now, I've never seen any of those shows, mostly because I think reality TV is stupid.  Honestly, some of the crap that airs on Discovery anymore makes me glad I don't have access to it.  But as mentioned before, I'm not a fan of reality TV in general.  I can't say I'll mourn the loss of any reality gun show.

It was more CBS's announcement that caught my eye.  They are putting a hiatus on "gun-related outdoor programming", while continuing to run shows that show illegal gun use and brutal murder.  Is showing safe gun competitions really the evil thing here?  Look at the top rated shows on CBS, three of them deal with murder.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What the Assault Weapon Ban Actually Was

After we have a mass shooting in the US, there are often calls for new gun control laws.  We have created a great many gun free zones (where, incidentally, almost all of these mass shootings take place, despite the law) and many states have firearm restrictions in addition to federal law.  A common suggestion is a renewal of the Assault Weapon Ban (henceforth referred to as AWB).  In an effort to explain exactly what the AWB was I've decided to write this post.

If you want to read the full description of the AWB as it was enacted, you can do so here.  But you probably don't, so I'll instead show you pictures of guns that were and were not covered under the AWB.  I talked to some friends and came up with these pictures of various rifles that are all similar mechanically.

Inequality in Tragic Deaths of Children

This week there is a lot of discussion about how to prevent the murder of children.  This isn't surprising, tragedy often inspires people to try to make the world a better place.  It's good that we live in an open society where we can discuss topics like this, and I enjoy hearing the thoughts of my friends.  I hope we can come up with a way to positively impact the world as a result.

But something bothers me.  Everyone I know is torn up about the recent school shooting in Connecticut, and rightfully so.  But that makes me wonder why people (my friends and the American populace as a whole) don't care as deeply (or enough to take action or even talk about it)when other children are murdered. 

Our current elected officials continue to drop bombs on civilians in countries we aren't at war with, and the innocent children killed in that greatly exceed the children killed in this school shooting.  Why is that?  Do people really put politics ahead of caring for murdered children?  Why aren't people equally outraged when children are killed in Pakistan?  I'd think we should be more outraged, at least mass murderers in the US are held accountable.  How many politicians and generals will never be charged?

Or why don't we care that every day children are murdered in Mexico, many with guns our country provided?  The dead in Mexico as a byproduct of the war on drugs runs in the tens of thousands, many of those being children.  Why don't my friends care about that as deeply as they care about the recent school massacre?

Do people care just because it is in the news?  Because it's inside our borders?  Because the kids come from rich, white families and not poor brown ones?  If it's due to any of those reasons it's horrifying. 

If you care about children being murdered enough to do something about it, I encourage you to include the children in Pakistan and Mexico in those actions.  Because our government officials can have more of an impact over the murders in Pakistan and Mexico than they can to prevent domestic murder, at least in the short term.  I don't think think we should ignore school shootings or the violence problem in the US, not at all.  Only while doing that we shouldn't ignore the transgressions of our country when they involve the death of children in other countries, especially when those can be addressed easily if there is enough public outcry. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Regulating Guns Like Cars

I often hear people who support stricter gun control laws say "We need to regulate guns like cars!  It's far too easy for people to buy guns!".  They are often shocked when I agree with their first statement.  I'd support modeling firearm ownership after automobile ownership.

In this country a person with the cash or credit can buy a great many different types of automobiles.  If a 12 year old has a stack of cash, he can buy a car for that stack of cash.  That 12 year old can buy that car without a background check, and he can operate that vehicle at his whim in any manner he chooses on private property.

Wait, what?

People conflate "owning cars" with "meeting the legal requirements to operate motor vehicles on public roads".  I can own a wide variety of vehicles that don't meet the standard for public road use.  I can own and use a nitro-fueled funny car on private property, like a race track.  I can take a clunker that won't pass emissions and use it in the demolition derby.  I can turn my Jeep into a rock-crawling beast and see how far up a mountain I can get.  I can own a four-wheeler or a dirt bike and tear around on tracks or in the woods.  On private property, I can rip out my airbags and ABS.  I'm not required to license a vehicle or keep insurance.  I don't need a drivers license.  That would be thrilling if that standard was applied to guns.  That means I could own any gun I wanted, like machine guns or anti-tank guns, provided I only used them on private property, like gun ranges or my own property.  I'd be quite tickled by that.

I'd gladly trade that for more onerous restrictions when using guns in public.  I don't think passing a test to carry a gun in public is a bad idea.  Having liability insurance is probably a good idea even today, it's why many people carry a blanket policy to cover themselves above and beyond automobile and home insurance.  Having the government set safety standards for pistols that are carried in public seem reasonable- something that passes a drop test perhaps.  Maybe even stipulating ammo used offers limited penetration, that seems like a good idea.  Requiring mufflers like on cars would be awesome, the process to purchase a product to make your gun quieter today is expensive and very involved.  I'd happily trade those things for more freedom on private property by adopting a policy where guns are regulated more like cars.

School Shootings

It's awful what happened today at schools in China and the US, where two men, one with a knife and one with a gun, killed dozens of people.  It caused me to read this old blog entry, and it's a sentiment I continue to hold.  I wish I knew a fix, but sadly I do not.  Reason magazine breaks down the data and makes some suggestions on preventing mass shootings, and they seem like reasonable ideas.

My heart goes out to the families who have lost members today.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reality TV

Turns out something I've suspected for a long time is true, I am better than people who watch reality TV.  :-)

A recent study shows people who watch reality TV are more neurotic and have lower self-esteem than people who don't.  They are also more extroverted, although if they base their ideas of normal behavior in public on reality TV, that's probably a bad thing.

Put down the remote and live your life!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Firearm Reliability and Custom Rifles

In general, modern firearms are very reliable.  It's rare for a firearm produced from a major manufacturer to have problems that aren't related to substandard ammunition or magazines.  If a firearm should encounter a problem, most manufacturers have a policy to repair at no cost to the owner, shy of perhaps shipping costs.  I've experienced this with both Smith and Wesson and Ruger in the last 5 years.  Neither resolution was speedy, but in both cases an issue was remedied to my satisfaction.  The Ruger firearm repaired was even one that I had purchased used.  It's hard to find manufacturers that stand by their products like that.

Neither of my problems were caused by the manufacturer, btw.  My issue with the Ruger Vaquero was traced to aftermarket springs installed by the former owner.  It seems one of those failed.  It's amazing that Ruger fixed it at all, much less for free.  My issue with a S&W involved an improperly sized barrel included with my pistol, a barrel provided by a vendor.  Yes, S&W failed to quality check that part, but once it was brought to their attention it was replaced without issue.

I have guns that I have thousands of rounds through and haven't needed to replace any parts.  Most firearms made today are very durable and reliable.  This thread isn't about those- it's about guns that aren't offered by manufacturers, guns that people commonly assemble themselves, AR-15's.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where to Buy a Gun

If you are new to firearms, you may be wondering where a good place is to buy a gun.  Much like buying an automobile or a new washing machine, there are a variety of places you can get one.  I have some advice, don't go to a big box store.

By "big box" I mean places like Cabelas, Walmart, Dick's, Bass Pro Shop, Gander Mountain, Academy and other big stores that sell sporting goods.  If you aren't very familiar with firearms, those are bad places to buy a gun.  There are a variety of reasons for this.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How 22's Rock

I went to a shooting event last weekend.  It was a great time, I met new people, did some things well and realized how much improvement I need in other areas.  There was a mixture of long range shooting, close-quarters work and some timed drills, including a string of 27 targets ranging from 20 to 400 yards with a couple hundred yards of running in between stages.  That was fun!

On that drill I managed to miss the least amount of targets, but I did miss all three shots at 400 yards. That was annoying, especially since I took forever setting up for those shots and getting my breathing under control.  But it was still fun, and I got some great exercise running along with other people as the timer and score keeper.  After everyone ran that drill, people were bushed, so we slowed it down a bit and broke out the 22 rimfire guns.  While observing (and timing) people shoot I realized something.

Everyone was faster and more accurate with 22's than with centerfire handguns.

Yes, everyone.  Every person who shot that drill with a rimfire and another gun was faster and more accurate with the 22.  From the guy who is competitive at 3-gun matches to the relative newbie, every single person was both more accurate and faster on the handgun drills shooting a 22 than the centerfire pistol of their choice.  Our fastest shooter cleared 10 targets at 20 yards in less than 5 seconds with a Ruger 22 handgun.  His best time using a 9mm was 7.x seconds and he missed two of the targets.  Other people had similar results.

This is why I don't hesitate to recommend a 22 as a person's first handgun, even if it is their intent to only own one handgun.  It's the best tool to develop skills and safe habits.  It's 5x cheaper to shoot than the cheapest centerfire cartridge.  And a person is unlucky enough to have to use a firearm defensively, it's highly likely they will be able to shoot faster and more accurately than with a more powerful firearm.  In defensive use of firearms, the most important part is hitting your target, and people prove to me time and time again they do that better with 22's than with other calibers, even people who are competition level shooters.

And quite honestly, I think 3 well placed shots with a 22 will compare favorably in a defensive scenario to 2 less accurate shots with something more powerful.  I'm not suggesting a 22 is better for the purpose, only that it brings something to the table.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Knowing Your Firearm

There is no replacement for practice when it comes to developing skills with your firearm.  As well when you practice you can determine the attributes of your gun.  Like all mechanical objects there is some variation from item to item, and the sooner you discover the qualities of your particular one the better off you will be.  Only through practice will you found out what a given firearm and ammo combination is capable of in your hands.

For instance, I know from practice that I can't take a standing shot at a deer that's more than 75 yards away and ensure it's a killing shot.  Only by doing this in practice did I ascertain my limits.  The ammo and certainly the rifle I use are more accurate than that, but I can't keep every shot inside a 6" circle when standing at a distance any further than that.  I can keep most of my shots inside 6" at longer distances, but for hunting standards I will only take a shot if I know it's an ethical shot, not a wounding one.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cleaning Your Guns

If you are a new firearm owner, you have likely heard a variety of advice when it comes to cleaning your gun.  If you keep reading this post, you'll get my take on the subject.

First, let me say I clean guns a lot less than I used to.  When I was a new gun owner I would take apart and clean guns every time I used them.  Why?  It's what my dad did.  We only used guns to go hunting, and when we came back home we'd clean the guns.  It seemed pretty reasonable to me at the time.

But compare that cycle to how we maintain other mechanical objects and it doesn't really hold up.  I don't take apart and clean my bicycle every time I use it.  Or my chainsaw.  Or my car.  In fact, I pretty much never take apart, clean and re-assemble my car.  I do enough maintenance to keep it in good working order.  I've adopted that same approach with my firearms.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All Hail the Police State, NYPD Edition

I'd been slowly compiling a number of stories on the excesses of the NYPD, and now Salon has gone and done a great job for me.  It's worth a read- this is the directions many modern police departments are trending.

None of this is new, it's been slowly building over years.  New York City was even the subject of my very first police state post.

All Hail the Police State, part 12

Today brings us news of armored surveillance trucks being deployed around the country.  We've seen local police departments working with the Department of Homeland Security to acquire military hardware, now they are using some of the hardware and other assets to spy on people.

Take this story, for instance.  People are suggesting they are being harassed by the police parking this vehicle in front of their businesses.  Or this account in another city of the same thing.  It seems this may be the newest trend in law enforcement.

That makes sense though as the police take their inspiration from the military.  The military is increasingly using unmanned drones to do surveillance and attacks, so it's reasonable the police would follow suit, especially now that courts are ruling police can place cameras on private property without a warrant and provide evidence to convict people in court.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's Quiet in Those Woods

Over the weekend I went deer hunting with a friend.  Sadly, I saw less wildlife than I normally see in my backyard.  That's OK, more years than not I get a shot on opening day, so it's OK if I get skunked once in a while.

But since I'm an optimistic sort, I always bring a gun suitable for squirrels should I fill my deer tag early into the trip.  My friend does as well, and this year we each had something new that is designed specifically for hunting.

My friend brought a Gamo Whisper.  It's a single shot air gun with an expansion chamber at the muzzle designed to quiet it up a bit.  It's effective.  Many people don't realize how noisy powerful airguns are.  The idea is one can use something like this for hunting small game and not disturb wildlife, and this air gun does a reasonable job of that.

You know what else does a reasonable job?  A silencer (or suppressor) on the end of a 22 rimfire gun.  After 18 months of waiting, my Silencerco Sparrow finally cleared paperwork and I was able to take possession of it.  It's fantastic, I couldn't be happier.  I had it mounted on a Browning Buckmark with a 5.5" barrel for this trip.

A Sore Palm Sticks Out Like a Sore.... Palm

Worse, I think.  I always have questioned scenes in movies where people take a knife and purposefully cut it across their palm.  I can't think of many worse places to have an open wound, especially if a person is in the middle of doing stuff.  But no matter why a person in a movie or TV show needs blood, whether it's a blood oath, to feed a monster or whatever bizarre plot device was chosen, it's likely they will draw a knife across their palm and let the blood drip. 

Cutting anywhere else makes more sense, especially if you want to avoid pain and infection when you want to use that hand.  Us bipeds, we like to use our hands.

Anyway, this point was driven home over the weekend when I fell and cut open my palm.  It's annoying and has been constantly in the way.  I'm going to plan on not doing that again, next time I'm going to fall sideways and take the cut to my arm or shoulder.  That's much more practical for a person who likes to do stuff.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Panic Buying, part 2

Earlier this year I wrote a post capturing my thoughts on panic buying.  Back in 2008 I told my friends that Obama was very unlikely to ban guns during his first term.  He wants to be re-elected, and supporting a gun ban would potentially alienate some voters.  In his second term I think it's more possible that a gun ban will make it through both houses of congress and get signed by our new president, but I think it's still unlikely.

That doesn't prevent panic buying though.  The day after the election my favorite online place to buy ammo sold out of all their 9mm target ammo.  They still have some fancy expensive 9mm ammo, but all the basic stuff is gone.  They had 40, 60 or 70 cases (1,000 rounds each) of some of the brands the day before.  That's just in one caliber, they sold it all less than 24 hours after Romney gave his concession speech.  I'm sure they moved a lot of ammo in other common calibers as well.  If history is any indication, we face months of short supplies and higher prices.  If you are a regular shooter and have enough ammo to get you through the next couple seasons, it's best to avoid becoming part of the problem.  No reason to pay inflated prices today when prices will be back down in a year or 18 months.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thnings I Don't Care For

I try to live my life according to a standard, with some sort of code of honor.  Not something cheesy like I'm a knight of the round table, but a basic set of first world standards.  I expect civilized people to hold to a certain standard as well.

I play hockey in a league, and feel the same way about sportsmanship.  There is nothing wrong with an honest scuffle between people, but guys that call for the puck when they are on the other team?  That's a great way for me to think you're a douchebag.  Same with hitting someone from behind and taking cheap shots.  I've got no problems with an honest penalty where a man goes after another man upfront.  But if you take a cheap shot when a man isn't looking and you've lost my respect.

The same goes for people who gloat when they win.  I've seen a lot of that with the election.  Winners should be gracious in their win and not flaunt it or get in the face of the losers.  In a fair competition there should be no derision offered by the victors.  Or the losers.

Losers should lose with grace as well, and not be petty or spiteful.  Losers shouldn't take cheap shots, they should accept the loss and focus on improvement.  Grim determination is appropriate, bitching is not. 

I'm often dismayed how people conduct themselves on the field of sport and on the field of politics, but I'm hopeful we'll see a return to honor again. 

Voting Results

I must say I'm disappointed Johnson only pulled in 1% of the popular vote.  Among my friends he was polling much higher.  This tells me I just need to make friends with more people!

In my own state the Libertarian party candidate was less strong (being a felon), yet Dine still pulled in 6% of the popular vote.  I think mostly this was due to the fact that many Republicans felt they couldn't support Akin, but I'm still happy.  I continue to be hopeful we can break the stranglehold on our political system by the two major parties.  Baby steps and we'll get there.

I'm curious what the next 4 years will bring.  Since it's more of the same policy-wise I'm expecting a continued decline in the fiscal strength of the US.  Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the sort of investments I keep in my retirement plan and diversify to more offshore opportunities.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting Day!

Today I get to vote against taxes and oppression!  It's one of my favorite days of the year. 

We should really have voting days more often in my precinct, we typically only have 2 or 3 each year.  I think I'd rather enjoy actual Democracy at the local and state level, where citizens get to vote directly on bills once a month via an online system.  I think that system would cut out a lot of the money, pandering and corruption involved in getting bills passed today. 

I am very curious to see how a couple of elections go this year.  It will be interesting to see how the votes go for president, and how it compares with various projections.  I'm also curious about the senate race in my state, where McCaskill is facing Akin.  The Republicans had that race won until Akin starting saying stupid things.  Well, I guess until people actually listened to Akin speak.  Now it's looking like McCaskill will win because Akin was too damn stupid to drop out.  It's been a huge swing on paper, I'm curious to see how it plays out in actual vote.

Happy voting day!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 11

I recently attended a SWAT team training session.  I'm not a cop, but an organization I volunteer with has been used to play bad guys for SWAT training a few times.  It's fun, although it's super weird even thinking about pointing a gun at a cop, whether it's an exercise or not.  At this last one the cops were raiding a Islamic extremist camp that had a hostage.  The cops were very, very good at not shooting people on prayer rugs, which was very heartening.  They have a tough job, I wouldn't want to be in their shoes trying to make instant decisions about who the bad guys are and who isn't.

This exercise had police from a number of different departments, and one thing I noticed was every one of them looked like a soldier.  All of them had on military-style battle dress uniforms (BDU's) helmets, vests full of gear and serious carbines, short barreled rifles and sub-machine guns. 

Remember when cops used to dress like this?

Now far too often they look like this

Anyway, it reminded me of this, which I thought I'd share.  Take the quiz and see how you do. 

It's all part of the militarization of police, the two groups are becoming harder and harder to tell apart.  In general, that's bad as police and soldiers have very different jobs, although more and more they are working together.

Stay safe out there!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why Voting 3rd Party Makes Sense

The greatest triumph of the two political parties in this country is that people really believe that if they don't stamp R or D on their ballot they are throwing their vote away.  That no matter how bad one of the candidates is, if he's a little better than the the other candidate, the one who can't win at any cost.  The ruling parties have convinced American voters that it's a binary decision.

That frankly, is a load of crap.

Monday, October 29, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 10

One of the problems with the militarization of the police is it changes how they respond to calls.  As police departments are issued military hardware, they look for ways to use it.  The military hardware was first distributed under the guise of the war on drugs, now to supposedly combat terrorism.  What ends up happening is we put people who are very good at being cops in a new role, one they aren't as comfortable with.  Uniforms matter, and changing from a Police uniform to a SWAT or Soldier uniform changes the mentality of the wearer.

Here is a tragic story where the parents are discussing how calling the police ended up with their son dead.  Teenagers attempting or committing suicide is a common occurrence, it's been a common theme in popular literature for centuries.  There are many ways to deal with it

Only this time we have a kid who got a bad grade, started drinking and told his mom he was going to kill himself.  She calls 911 and the local police department rolls out a SWAT team, complete with riot shields, an armored personnel carrier and a sniper.  The situation ended with the kid breaking a window and the sniper shooting him dead.  I can't imagine how that is anyone's best case scenario.

When your only tool is a SWAT team, every call starts looking like a raid....

Monday, October 22, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 9

Today we'll see two recent disconcerting stories about this nation trending towards a police state.  

First we have the Department of Homeland Security (you know, that department that didn't even exist a few years ago) working with Amtrack to implement new security protocols on trains.  You know, because trains are constantly used by enemies of the state.

Second, we had a terrible mass murder over the weekend in a small town in Wisconsin.  Incidentally, this shooting took place in a building which was a gun-free zone, again showing that criminals don't follow regulations.  But that's not the issue I want to discuss.  It's the response to this event and more importantly how it was covered by the media.  FBI rolls in troops and armored vehicles and only foreign news sources report it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

22 Caliber Bullet Options

I am an avid reloader, also known as handloading.  This is the practice of making your own ammunition.  Some people do it as a cost saving measure, some people do it to control the consistency (and thus accuracy) of their ammo.  Some people do it to create ammunition they can't easily find.  I do it for a mix of those three reasons.  I can produce common revolver cartridges, like 357 magnum and 44 special, for half of what a store-bought ammo costs.  I can create rifle cartridges that are suited for a specific purpose.  I can create light loads (my specialty) for new shooters- cartridges that offer less recoil and muzzle blast but are still quite accurate.  The brass case of a cartridge can be used many times, so it's environmentally friendly as well.

Last night I had a friend over who loaded up some 223 cartridges.  Over the years I've collected a variety of different 22 caliber bullets and I thought I'd line some up and take a picture, then discuss differences in bullet design.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Downside to Firearm Suppressors

Other than the cost, lengthy process to acquire and weight a suppressor (or silencer or muffler as they are commonly called) there is another downside.  It's a downside a lot of people don't know about, or don't properly appreciate, until they own one.

They make your gun dirty.  Very dirty.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dragon Day

As a kid Red Dawn was one of my favorite movies.  It came out during my formative years, when a boy is looking for his place in the universe.  The idea that a person could be heroic and fight evil is very attractive as a youth.  Nobody wants to be a banker at 16, they want to do something epic.  Red Dawn offered that in their storyline and they pulled from current geopolitical tension at the time to craft an (almost) believable scenario.  I love underdog stories.

The remake of Red Dawn, not so much.  Hollywood is so pansified they couldn't pick an enemy of the US better than North Korea, who isn't a threat at all.  It would have been too un-PC to pick a country that could actually do us harm, like Pakistan, India, China or Iran.  From the trailers it just looks like a typical action flick that really doesn't have any link to anyone's actual fears today.

But then I saw a trailer for Dragon Day.  This seems like a better remake of the original Red Dawn than the actual remake of Red Dawn.  It calls on actual concerns today- financial difficulties that cause the US to default on certain debts and cyber attacks on infrastructure.  Both of those are real risks we face in 2012, and something people are more concerned about than soldiers parachuting into our town square.

Since it's an independent movie, it may not have the amazing explosions and million dollar actors.  I think that makes me like it even more.  So many movies today let the story suffer and just fluff itself up with car chase scenes, acrobatic fights and big explosions.  I'd rather enjoy a story.

Anyway, here is the trailer.  Check out their site if you like it, they are looking for funding to finish it up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Intermediate Power Cartridges

I often read new reports of shootings and have come to accept that they are less focused on facts and more on sensationalism.  After all, news organizations are multi-million or even multi-billion dollar corporations.  They are in it to make money and the juiciest stories do that.  But one of the terms that bugs me is "high powered assault rifle".

There are lots of places on the internet where you can read about the term "assault rifle" and understand it's used incorrectly much of the time.  So I'm not going to rehash that.  The part of the term I'm discussing today is "high powered".

Monday, September 17, 2012

AR-15 Magazine Length

Recently I went shooting with a friend who is an Appleseed instructor and he was showing me the prone position they teach.  It is very stable position that involves getting your support arm directly under the rifle.  This was a position I was unable to completely achieve with the rifle I brought.

I have short arms for my size.  They aren't quite Tyrannosaurus arms, but they are an inch or two shy of average.  This coupled with the fact I was shooting an AR-15 with a 30 round magazine meant I couldn't get my elbow in a position directly beneath the rifle.  The magazine protruded far enough down that it was in the way.

The standard capacity magazine for the AR-15 is 30 rounds.  There are magazines that hold more and magazines that hold less, but the bulk of magazines in the market today are 30 rounders.  There was a time that 20 round magazines were more common, but even they tend to be a niche product today.

In an attempt to help, I drug out all the different magazines I've collected over the years and measured them.  By looking at them, you may be better able to select a magazine that best fits you for shooting prone, or even from a bench.  I've round 30 rounders can be in the way when shooting from a bench as well.  Anyway, here are the measurements.

Manufacturer Model Capacity Length
C-Products Aluminum 30 round 7.25”
Magpul P-Mag 30 round 7.5”
C-Products Aluminum 20 round 5.25”
Lancer L5 20 round 5.5”
Unknown Steel, straight 20 round 5.25”
Master Moulder Plastic, straight 20 round 4.75”
Bushmaster Aluminum, straight 10 round 4.5”
C-Products Aluminum, straight 10 round 3.5”
C-Products Aluminum, straight 5 round 3.5”
Unknown Aluminum, straight 5 round 3”
Kel-Tec Plastic, straight 5 round 2.75”

 Notice the plastic mags in general are about a quarter inch longer than metal magazines of a given capacity.  Also notice that the C-Products 5 and 10 round magazines are the same length, as they use the same magazine body for both.  Lastly, don't take the fact that I measured a Master Moulder mag to think I'm endorsing them.  They are crap, no one should buy them.  I bought 2 for a couple bucks each just to play around with them.  They are as bad as people say.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Problems With the US Public Education System

With the teachers strike in Chicago in the headlines lately, the topic of public education in the United States has come up more frequently.  I think everyone who understands math (although that rules out a lot of US public school graduates) agrees that the US public school system is substandard.  We score at the bottom of the list of first world countries when it comes to student performance while maintaining funding at the top of the list.  We spend a lot of our public education system and get very little in return.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Advantages Over Criminals

Owning and knowing how to use any gun is better than no gun.  I advise this a lot and catch flack for it.  I often suggest that people get a 22 as their first gun so they can afford to practice and build up skills.  But there are lots of people out there who suggest if you don't have a 45 or a military pattern "battle rifle", you may as well be unarmed.


It's very common at the range to see new shooters with guns they can't shoot accurately.  While I work ammo into my "fun" budget, lots of people don't, and that's OK.  I recently went to the range with a friend who has been shooting a long time.  He brought his fancy name brand centerfire pistol and was shooting a 10" pattern at 25 feet.  I handed him my 22, and he proceeded to hit the 10 ring repeatedly at the same distance at 1 second or less intervals.  With which gun is that particular person more dangerous?  Hitting your target is always the most important thing.

But the purpose of this article is to showcase that if you own a gun for self-defense, any gun, and know how to use it, you are likely better armed than an average criminal.  I'm not suggesting you are better armed and trained than a drug cartel, or a professional hit man, or the local motorcycle gang.  But you are very likely better armed and better trained than the average thug on the street that is going to try to mug you or the average thief breaking into your home.  As reference, here is a breakdown of typical guns confiscated from criminals.  Take some time and read over the data there.

Monday, September 3, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 8

The FBI has a variety of fliers they have made to help civilians catch terrorists.  These fliers are distributed to a variety of businesses to help enroll civilians in the important job of stopping domestic terrorists.  Some of these come off as quite ridiculous to me.  Overall they are unnecessarily invasive and only serve to keep people afraid and suspicious and turn citizens against each other.

Does a person or group of people:

Travel a long distance to play paintball?

Pay cash for Karate lessons?

Smell funny or make racist comments at a tattoo shop?

Buy a deer rifle at Christmas? 

Shop at a beauty supply store after they have changed their hair color?

Picket a construction site with pro-environment signs?

Well, according to the FBI, these people could be a terrorist.  Also, if you play paintball, buy plumbing or beauty supplies then the FBI suggests you need to show a valid ID.  It's craziness to suggest people should need a valid ID to vote, but our government suggests you should need one to take a women's self-defense class. 


Helping People > Talking About It

I'm going to be honest, I mostly don't care what people think, what beliefs they hold dear or what terrible thoughts they suppress in their minds.  I find a person's philosophy interesting, but gladly associate with people of many disparate philosophies.  I care what people do.

Everyone has flaws and everyone has tendencies that aren't positive.  That's part of being human.  That's what makes life on this planet interesting.

Too often I see peer groups dismiss people and philosophies that are not in line with their own.  I find this act foolish.  For us to progress as a society, we have to work together, not come up with ways to create divisions.  Alienating people of differing philosophies or beliefs is exactly the opposite of working together.

I don't care if you empathize with the plight of the poor and homeless or vote the "right" way to support social programs that supposedly help them.  I do care if a person takes time to be charitable.  I do care if a person offers resources to charity.  I do care if people help their fellow man.

We all have gifts.  Some of us have talents.  Some of us have artistic flair.  Some of us have jobs that allow us comfortable lives and discretionary income.  Some of us have an abundance of free time.  It's how you use your gifts and resources that is important.  What you believe or think isn't that important to me.  What you do, the choices you make and the mark you leave on the world is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 7

There has been a lot of concern about the use of drone strikes on civilian populations in countries we aren't currently at war with.  It's a legitimate concern, as this sort of thing has increased under Obama's rule. 

This week we have some insight into how Romney and Ryan will run this country if they win.  If the Republican Convention is any indication, it will be a police state.  During the only large protest so far, armored police outnumbered protesters 4 to 1.  That's a great way to respect free speech!

In addition to all the cops, we have both drones and unmanned vehicles called Wraiths being deployed.  Way to suppress a population so you can bring your friends in to party!  This may end up being the most depressing presidential election ever, the candidates from the two ruling parties both really suck.

BTW, both the aerial and ground based drones are provided by United Drones.  It'll be interesting to see how many politicians have their hands in the pockets of the various companies that are providing all this hardware. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Effective Range of Your 223 or 5.56 Rifle

After having several discussions with friends I did some research on the effective range of AR-15 rifles using various types of ammunition.  In this post I'm going to discuss the maximum effective range of the most common bullet weight and type, 55gr full metal jacket (FMJ).  As many people know the standard 55gr full metal jacket projectile's primary wounding capability comes from fragmentation.  There is wounding performed by hydrostatic shock as well, and of course the path of the bullet.  If a bullet itself hits a major blood vessel or vital organ it can of course be lethal.  But when a bullet expands or fragments it greatly increases both the wound channel and the potential to damage something vital.  It's a morbid topic, but if you use a firearm for hunting or defense, you want it to be effective, so it's an important discussion.

If a person chooses 55gr .223 or 5.56 NATO ammo for use in a defensive carbine it's important to fully understand the fragmentation qualities and understand what the maximum distance is at which a bullet fired from your rifle will still possess fragmentation qualities.  This is because it takes a fair bit of velocity to give the bullet enough energy to fragment when it strikes a target.  Most experts suggest the necessary velocity to ensure reliable fragmentation is 2700 fps.  I've chosen this bullet for this discussion because by a large amount it's the most common bullet found in .223 and 5.56 ammo.

Banning Firearms on College Campuses

When laws or rules go into place banning firearms from a given geographic area, they are based on the idea that the people who inhabit those areas cannot be trusted with carrying or owning firearms that the rest of the world is trusted with.

Banning firearms from college campuses suggest that we trust a 23 year old working on their masters less than a 23 year old who works in construction, or sales, or is even chronically unemployed.  It means we trust a professor less than a manager of a construction company.  That seems foolish to me.  If our best and brightest are really being cultivated in our nations universities, then I think it's rational to allow them the same rights of people who choose to live or work in other places and quite honestly stupid to ban firearms on a university campus.

Hierarchy of Concealed Carry Choices

There are a lot of opinions about regarding what the "best" concealed carry gun is, what caliber it should be and how it should be carried.  Treat these opinions as something to inspire thought and not an edict.  The type of gun, caliber and carry position are all very personal things.  I'd like to offer some thoughts on the subject.

This post will be much like another post I've done, Hierarchy of Firearm Choices for Prepared Families.  In that I lay out a pyramid of choices that a person can look at.  The most important attributes are listed first, these are the basis that other choices build upon.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Supporting Innovation

I'm a moderator on an internet forum that gets a fair bit of firearm discussion.  As with any internet community, you get people with strong opinions who are willing to argue those opinions until they lack the breath (or in this case fingertips) to continue.  One of the opinions I see come up frequently is the one eschewing various cartridges that aren't ideal.

The beauty of the concept is many different people have different concepts of ideal.  They often struggle to see a perspective other than their own.  And listening to a bunch of guys on an internet forum tell you how much ammo you should have, how much you should spend on guns and training, or how much gun is "enough" for a given scenario is like asking a tattoo artist how many tattoos you should get or waiting for your meth dealer to tell you when you've had enough.  It's not a good idea.  :-)

There are certainly optimal cartridges for different situations.  If you shoot 2,000 rounds a year in handguns alone, the cost per round is a much more significant consideration than a person who shoots a couple boxes of ammo every 6 months.  If you are into training, or guns, or preparedness with guns you are going to have different goals and ideas of optimal than a casual gun owner.

Are You Undergunned?

In short, the answer is "yes" if you are thinking of the topic from a strictly hardware perspective.  If you have to defend yourself from a potentially deadly attack, being armed with anything less than a tank is sub-optimal.  But life is all about balancing risk vs reward and using the tools we have.  Very few of us have tanks at our disposal.

So instead we choose a firearm, as it's a tool that is powerful enough and portable enough to use day to day.  Maybe we have a small firearm we carry every day, or have available in the home, like a handgun.  Maybe we have a rifle or shotgun available at home for defensive purposes.  We each have to choose a tool that works well for our given situation and balance risk vs reward.  If we have children about, keeping guns locked up is an imperative.  What methods we have to secure firearms certainly plays into the equation.

But in this post I wanted to cover two topics.  First, criminals in general tend to be poorly armed.  The streets are awash with illegal guns and little knowledge about said guns.  Except for rare instances or organized crime, criminals tend to not have lots of ammo on hand or the most modern, durable and reliable firearms with them.  This is for a couple reasons.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Panic Buying

As we approach the fall elections it becomes time for a subset of Americans to start panic buying firearms and ammunition.  It seems that every so often people get the idea that someone in some government body is going to pass a law or write a regulation that will prevent them from buying their favorite firearm or type of ammo.  Of course, they think this because it's happened before, but I'm going to suggest that people often panic buy when there isn't actually a threat.

As mentioned, from time to time government bodies propose and even pass laws restricting goods that were allowed prior.  In 1934, 1968 and 1986 large bills were passed that banned certain types of firearms from common ownership, manufacture or purchase.  These all had very significant effects on the market.  We've had laws that have banned bullets that get the label of "armor piercing" on the state and federal level.  We've had whole classes of firearms banned from importation.  We had the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) that banned a bunch of firearms and any detachable magazine that held more than 10 cartridges to be sold new to non-government civilians.  So it's reasonable that people who remember history are a little jumpy about missing out on something that's about to be banned.  When something gets banned it freezes the supply and prices go up, if you remember your high school economics class.  So, if I want product X, I should buy it before a law or regulation restricts the supply.  It's a reasonable thought for a person who thinks ahead.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why Should People Own AR-15s?

This is a question that often gets asked after a mass shooting, and it's a reasonable time to discuss the subject.  Mass shootings would not be as impactful if the evil men that committed them were limited in what guns they have access to.  If only black powder guns were available then mass shootings would involve less casualties.  If fully automatic explosive gyrojet rifles or laser machine guns were available, then casualty counts would likely be higher.  Technology creates ever more powerful tools as time marches on, and firearms are among those.

I'd like to discuss guns, their availability and laws regulating firearms.  As any user of illegal drugs can attest, making things illegal doesn't make them go away.  It can work to restrict access by citizens who follow the law.  But many laws don't dissuade people who are devoted to breaking them.  Look at the prevalence of pot, and flagrant breaking of traffic laws by people you probably know.  Sure, the laws cut down on the activity some, but they certainly don't stop it.

That's not suggesting we shouldn't have laws.  We should.  Without laws we can't have a civilized society.  But passing laws banning or restricting access to items that are in general circulation are generally not very effective.  For a 10 year period in the US there was a ban against a newly defined class of firearms called "Assault Weapons" and the sale of any detachable magazine that held more than 10 cartridges.  Even the advocates of this law can't point out a drop in crime or a drop in crime using the weapons banned during that time period.  It was largely ineffective.

But regardless, I wanted to discuss why a civilian should want or even need to own an AR-15 style rifle.  There are lots of reasons depending on your views.  You may find you agree with one or more of the reasons listed.

Monday, July 23, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 6

On of the things that defines a tyrannical regime is selective application of the law.  Either I'm just paying more attention as of late, or there is a noticeable increase in instances of this recently.  Here are some examples I saw just this week.

Nobody likes the IRS but they are a necessary branch of government.  It is imperative they be fair and unbiased, especially if they get to the point where they are taking action against a taxpayer.  They should be fair during audits, and if they get to the point of seizing property or locking bank accounts they especially need to follow procedure.  However, during a recent audit they didn't follow their own guidelines during property seizures more than 20% of the time.  That's startling.   This report highlights the significant ways those procedures were not followed to the detriment of the citizens involved.

Nobody likes the TSA and unlike the IRS, they are completely useless.  The accounts of individual TSA employees not following procedure, stealing property, harassing citizens and breaking the law in other ways are legion.  They are the fastest growing government agency and offer a lot of negatives as a trade off for intangible or even non-existent benefits.  This story was more unsettling than most, as it doesn't involve individual or even groups of officers, but an endemic scoffing at the law by the organization as a whole to not comply with a court order, a full year after that order was issued.  They view themselves as above the law, apparently.

The BATFE has had a rough couple years with the debacle they call Fast and Furious.  It seems they had this genius plan of helping criminals run guns to drug cartels with no way to trace them and no convictions.  There are been people killed with those guns, including a federal agent.  But mostly Mexicans, which apparently the ATF doesn't  worry too much about. 

But the new thing that is disconcerting is their change to the Form 4473.  This is the form you have to fill out to purchase a gun, one that is kept by the gun dealer after he calls in a background check.  They added a new box, labeled 10a.  The old box called 10a is now 10b.  10b asks what race you are, Caucasian, African American, Latino, etc.  But for some reason they needed a new box, one that only asks if you are "Hispanic or Latino" or "Not Hispanic or Latino".  You know, because checking one box if you identify as Latino wasn't enough, now you have to do it twice.  What happened to laws against racial discrimination and profiling.  I don't know what the goal is being box 10a, will dealers have to start divulging this information during background checks?  Will Latino citizens get extra scrutiny?  I don't really understand why this is important to track.

Lastly, we see the influence of public sector unions.  We look to Oregon, where it seems you can't fire a cop without the union having him reinstated, no matter how heinous the transgression.  In the private sector any of these actions would get normal citizens fired and likely brought up on charges.  But in Oregon the cops get a brief paid vacation while the union gets them their job back.  Again, they are above the law.

I'm sure there are other ways that government agencies are not applying justice fairly, but these are the ones that caught my eye this week.  Yes, all these are stories from this week.  I find that alarming and I'm nervous about what next week will hold.

Stay safe out there!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thoughts About Mass Shootings in the US

In the United States we have a violence problem.  We have one of the highest violent crime rates of any first world country.  We have one of the highest rates of incarceration of any first world country.

We are seeped in violence, it permeates our culture.  It's celebrated in our music, on our television and movie screens, our video games, our sports.  Mixed Martial Arts is growing by leaps and bounds and we have rules governing fighting in the middle of games in the NHL.  Football is a brutishly violent sport where massive men build themselves to peak strength in hopes they can endure the pounding of a dozen games a season for 5 years.  We have moved in the last few years from capturing enemies of the state and bringing them to trial to assassinating them in foreign lands, often with bombs dropped by remote controlled drones that have racked up an impressive number of civilian fatalities.  Our police force is less interested in maintaining peace and more interested in kicking in doors with grenades and machine guns to capture or kill suspects.  Violence is everywhere.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Tragedy in Colorado

Last night a young man dressed for battle (or as my local paper said, as a SWAT officer) and entered a movie theater in Denver and proceeded to shoot people.  He did so after throwing a tear gas canister into the theater, perhaps for concealment or to create confusion.  The casualty count was high, with several dozen wounded and around a dozen killed.  It's a terrible situation.

There are appropriate responses to this in public forums, and inappropriate responses.  We should offer sympathy for the victims and their families and friends.  We should support justice for the offender.  We can ponder the situation, learn from it and be better prepared ourselves.  Those are all positive responses on the day after a tragedy.

What we shouldn't do is postulate the motives of the killer, try to pin blame on people we don't like or use the death of people to emotionally advance a political agenda.  We saw the media do this with Jared Loughner a couple years ago.  Many media outlets started blaming random "right wing" people and groups- they surmised it must have been the Tea Party stirring up the violence, or people like Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin.  When it turned out Jared was more of a lefty all those assumptions were proven wrong.  I'd like to suggest they were even slander.

The sad thing is the media didn't learn from it.  They are so eager to be first with a story, they have given up the concept of accuracy.  Reason magazine has done a good job of cataloging media reports that jump to conclusions and assign blame on this story.  One of my favorite blogs, Says Uncle, has a similar report offering some entertaining commentary.  Without knowing facts, these so called "journalists" and news companies have started slinging accusations without basis.  From blaming the Tea Party, to the loss of Christian values, to video games, to the Occupy Wall Street movement and even Star Trek.  It's all conjecture at this point.  And I'm going to suggest that not only is this speculation an immoral attempt to make money, but it's illegal slander as well.

Because that's what the news organizations are- multi-billion dollar companies.  And the best way to try to change their habits is to stop supporting them, stop watching and reading the sensationalism and funding their profits.  Very rarely do they report anything useful anyway, and there are better sources for the news.  Today you can read the news directly from the Associated Press (which admittedly, have their own issues) which is where the big news companies get their stories.  Or go to sources you respect.  Every visit to Fox, MSNBC or CNN puts money in their pocket from advertising.  It's time to stop supporting these companies.

Today is a day of mourning and waiting for the facts.  In a few days I'll share my thoughts on practical solutions to preventing mass shootings in the US.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 5

There is a lot of real crime in world, but we see bureaucracies in this country increasingly cracking down on code violations.  We have forfeiture laws that allow police agencies to take your property if there is reasonable suspicion if you're using it to sell drugs.  Untold amounts of cash, cars and even homes have been taken in this manner.

But this case seems a bit overboard, even for the current state of the US.  It seems somebody at the Department of Transportation has decided to crack down on illegally imported cars.  These cars aren't illegal because they are stolen, they are illegal because they didn't make the list of cars that were tested for sale in the US in a given year.

There are lots of cars sold in other countries that aren't sold in the US.  One of the reasons is it costs about a million dollars to get an engine tested by the DOT and the EPA.  So we have cars sold in Europe and Asia and even Canada and Mexico that we can't buy in the US.

Of course, this makes people want them more.  I'd love to be able to buy a a Land Rover Defender, but they stopped selling them in the US in the 90's.  Because of that the ones in the country have continued to go up in value.  Land Rover still sold them in Canada and Mexico for a time, but if I bought one in one of those countries and tried to license it in the US I wouldn't be able to.  Even though it's identical mechanically to another year that is legal to license.

This car is now a bunch of Coke cans or something.
But lately the evil car has been the Nissan Skyline.  One of them was featured in the movie The Fast and The Furious which made people want them.  Maybe a dozen made it into the country.  Since they can't be licensed they can't be operated on the street, so they end up as show cars and racing cars.  It's technical illegal.  The bad, bad men that brought them into the country should face a fine or something.

Instead, they've taken to confiscating them and crushing them.  The DOT is basically showing everyone they have a bigger cock than everyone else.  By the way, one of the cars crushed was the one used in the movie.

Oh, and this isn't the first time somebody decided they needed to confiscate Skylines.  

But this is how a police state works.  It starts enforcing minor laws with draconian responses.  Soon people are afraid to not fall in line for increasingly overbearing laws.  Oh, and of course there's nary a week that goes by that cops don't harass or shoot innocent people in this country as well. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

How the EPA makes the environment worse, part 2

In Part 1 I discussed how regulations regarding sound levels on automobiles actually has a negative environmental impact for very little gain in sound pollution.  Part 2 of How the EPA makes the environment worse is again about sound regulations, this time regarding motorcycles.

First, allow me to say that history has show that you can't subvert human desires.  Sure, you can suppress them for a time with draconian authoritarianism, but in time human nature will triumph.  Especially when you look to a country like the United States where people take their freedoms to make their own choices in life very seriously, when you impose a law that flies in the face with this you're going to get non-compliance.

How to Select a Good Shooting Instructor

I found these thoughts from the Vuurwapen Blog very rational and well stated.  Keep in mind, this is written by a guy who served in the Marines.  I agree with the sentiment, when you take a shooting class you should be focused on learning how to shoot better.  The instructor that can best do that is the right one for you.  Who that is and what sort of class depends entirely on your experience and skill.

I've taken basic shooting classes and tactical classes.  I've found value in both.  However, if I had taken a tactical class when I was a new shooter it wouldn't have done me any good.  I both needed to have mastered the basics and developed solid shooting habits before a class like that could be of value.

Last month I attended a class where the total round count for one day was something like 600.  This was a pistol and carbine course, and I have reasonable pistol and carbine skills.  If I hadn't already has experience with moving and shooting, performing reloads under pressure and clearing jams, I would not have gotten much out of the course because I'd be focusing on those things.  I needed to already have those things mastered to be able to learn the new things they were teaching.

Next month I'm planning on taking a basic shotgun course where the round count will be less than 40.  Over 8 hours.  That's a lot of classroom time and running drills with unloaded shotguns.  It's the appropriate level for me because I don't have any practical experience with shotguns.  Throwing a bunch of shot downrange isn't going to improve my skill right now.  If I instead signed up for a more involved shotgun course I wouldn't get the most out of it because I hadn't mastered the basics.  I'd be struggling with tactical reloads while the rest of the class already had that down and was working on other skills.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How Rimfire Ammo is Made

I saw this video about how rimfire ammo is manufactured at the CCI plant and thought I would share it.  I have to say I'm always amazed how little products cost after seeing how they are manufactured.

Monday, June 4, 2012

How the EPA makes the environment worse, part 1

This could be a 20 part subject, but today I am focusing on one way this happens- noise regulations and their effects on automobile engines.  The Environmental Protection Agency was tasked by congress to develop noise regulations for trucks, automobiles and motorcycles.  While noise pollution is a serious issue in many urban areas and on the highways, there are certain regulations that end up being worse for the environment.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Futility of Gun "Buy-Back" Programs

You may have seen a story in your local newspaper or on the nightly news about a gun buy-back in your neighborhood.  They tend to get a lot of coverage with community leaders and politicians hamming it up for the camera offering pre-written speeches on making the streets safer for children.  The problem is, they don't make streets safer at all, and in fact may make the streets more dangerous.  There's a couple reasons for this.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 4

This is an older story, but it really highlights the problem with rampant authoritarian bureaucracies.  See, a company stated that eating their walnuts is good for your heart.  In fact, some scientific journals like  The New England Journal of Medicine have said the same thing.  I mean, search on the phrase "health benefits of walnuts" and you get more than 300,000 results.  It's a relatively common idea that walnuts have health benefits.

Soon the kids will be freebasing these
However, the FDA decided to send a letter to a seller of walnuts and tell them to stop selling them as a food because they are regulated as a drug.  By selling walnuts as a food the company was in violation of FDA guidelines because they didn't include instructions on how to take the walnuts like a drug.  Here is an excerpt from the actual letter sent:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the label for your "Diamond of California Shelled Walnuts" products and your website at Based on our review, we have concluded that your walnut products are in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) and the applicable regulations in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR).

Welcome to the future folks, this is the direction we're going to keep heading unless people make it a priority to reverse.

How to Make the World a Better Place

Lots of people have the desire to make the world a better place than it is today.  I think it's one of the most human of desires- wanting to improve upon our own situation and the situation of others.  It's not exceedingly difficult to do.  To me the approach to this is pretty basic and easy.

If a person wants to advance society and make the world a better place, they should first do their fair share of work, then do some extra.  Carry your own weight, then expend more effort on things like humanitarian outreach, science and art.  The total of effort we all put forward as a culture has to be more than the bare minimum to keep us fed, sheltered and clothed.  If as a whole a society is just breaking even meeting needs with some people not quite carrying their weight and others doing a little extra, then there aren't resources left over to devote to art, science, sport or humanitarian efforts.  We won't advance as a culture if we just break even.

This seems pretty rudimentary to me.  A culture cannot devote time and resources to science and art unless first their basic needs are met.  If a society is populated with a bunch of mooching freeloaders, it's not going to advance culturally or scientifically.  When a culture becomes accepting of able-bodied people who are not productive, it's going to have a negative impact in that culture's ability to advance beyond it's current state.  In fact, it may even regress, moving back to a less civil or cultural state.

How does this apply today?  Obviously we don't live in a village and have to tend animals, build huts and harvest crops in order to provide for our basic needs.  In the US we've moved away from an agrarian society.  In fact, many experts would suggest we are moving past an industrial society.  Our parents may have worked in factories, but our children are less likely to.  It takes less of our total time to provide for our basic needs now than at any point in history.

But it's still important to have a work ethic.  It doesn't matter whether a person has to work 7 hours a day or 2 hours a day to meet their basic needs, they need to do at least that.  They need to do it well.  Then they need to do extra so they have resources left over to help others, support science and art.

Here's the cold truth- society pays more money for the jobs it values the most.  We reward productivity and innovation in valued fields with money, prestige and influence.  The money, prestige and influence we earn over what we use to meet our needs can then be channeled toward art, humanitarian efforts, education or scientific advancement.

These are the rules.  It doesn't matter how much you care about the plight of children in Africa if you never advance your career past a barista.  It doesn't matter how much you want to promote free health care if you haven't earned the political power to help put it in place.  You won't have much effect on others if you are struggling to meet your own needs.  In fact, you may end up being a draw on resources your society could be using on the truly needy.  By taking advantage of social programs and bouncing around from low-paying job to low-paying job you are a drain on the resources society has to offer.  The more a society thrives, the more money and resources we have to devote to social causes and scientific exploration.

My whole point here is- if a person wants to make a difference, make the world a better place or advance a culture, they should work towards a good job and kick ass at it.  It doesn't matter what the field is, as those change over time.  Find the jobs your culture values and do one of them well.  Earn money, influence, power and prestige that you can use to positively contribute to humanitarian change, science and art.  Caring about things and having a lot of desire isn't enough.  If you really want to make a difference and make the world a better place, you have to first thrive yourself.  Then you can positively contribute to advancing a culture.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Government Waste in St Louis

I read the website for my local paper 4 or 5 days a week.  It's got a fair bit of liberal bias to the editorials, but that's pretty common in traditional newspapers.  It's also serving a primarily left-leaning city, so it makes sense their editorial staff would match the readers political disposition.

Once in a while though one of the articles surprises me.  It really seems like they don't do much research into a lot of stories, and one I read today really highlighted that.  The story talked about the local police department and how some officers were getting raises and the department was getting some new guns.  Seems like a pretty normal and dry story for a local beat reporter, right?

2012 NRA Meetings and Convention

The 2012 NRA meetings were in St Louis this year and I attended on Friday and Saturday.  There were some neat toys, but one thing that really struck me.

The crowd was very skewed to people who are older, male and white.  This wouldn't surprise some people since popular media reports constantly call out how old, monochrome and penis-equipped NRA members are.  But in my experience at local ranges, gun shops and shooting events that doesn't represent the shooting public. 

There's not a time I go to the range when 25% or more of the people there aren't women.  At the range I go to the most it's common to stand in line next to a black woman, or a Hispanic dude, or an Indian couple.  It's odd to be there and only see white people even though the range is in a predominately white neighborhood.  I can't think of a time when I've been there and didn't see women.

The NRA show reminded me of the shooting range 20 years ago- a buncha old white dudes.  Hopefully the people who attend NRA events change like I've seen in the general shooting public.  The shooting community is better when everyone participates. 

Also, the attendees of the show were in general less attractive on average than the general public.  Or maybe I just hang out with attractive people or don't go to Wal-mart enough.  But it was noticeable enough that my wife pointed it out as well.  I found that interesting too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Case for Civilian Ownership of Machine Guns

Many people are shocked when they find out there is a process by which civilians in the US can purchase and possess machine guns.  Due to how the country operates manufacturing, we need these provisions.  There needs to be a system by which we can permit civilians to possess all classes of firearms.

Unlike communist countries or more totalitarian regimes, the government in the US doesn't control the production of goods.  In fact, the government provides very few goods for itself.  Most of what it uses is designed, developed and manufactured by private companies.  Whether it's light bulbs, pencils, computers, automobiles, buildings or military hardware, the process is the same.  The government agency accepts bids to provide goods at a set specification.  Private companies compete for these contracts to sell goods to the government agencies.

Why does this process have to do with your neighbor being able to buy a machine gun?  Well, all those private companies are owned, run and staffed by regular citizens, like your neighbor.  Maybe even you.  Maybe you work for a company that makes pencils, or automobiles or parts for tanks.  Maybe you work for Boeing and you make fighter jets.  Maybe you work for Colt and you make M-16's. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Why using a gun in self-defense should be a last resort

I'm sure you've seen the media coverage of the shooting in the gated community in Florida.  I'm not going to comment on the event itself other than to say it's disgraceful how the media outlets and other groups have hyped it up and spun it to promote propaganda.

But let's say for purposes of discussion that despite making some bad calls, Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force.  I'm not suggesting that he was or wasn't- just asking you consider that he was justified.

Look at his life now.

He has groups offering bounties on him.  He's going to be ostracized in his community, and maybe even by his family.  Imagine how he's treated at work now.  He's had to engage the services of a lawyer and he's at risk of a civil suit for years to come.  The financial impact is huge and that doesn't address the mental impact of having killed someone.  Imagine the impact of that.

Was this the best possible outcome in this situation?  I think we'd all agree that for Zimmerman it was not.

That's the point I'm trying to make here.  If you have to shoot someone in self defense, your life is going to suck in ways you likely don't imagine right now.  You'll likely be arrested and processed by your local police department.  Maybe you'll even have to post bail.  They will certainly take the gun used as evidence and you're unlikely to get it back, even if there is a trial.  You are going to be subject to civil suits and your legal bills required to fight those could easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  If the event makes it into the press you will likely experience scrutiny by peers and employers, perhaps even resulting in losing your job.


It's a great big world out there and very rarely does a single approach work best for everyone.  From education to financial matters to wardrobes, there are many different philosophies that work well for different people.  As people travel on their path through life they select the approaches that work best for them.  Some people are cut out to be mathematicians and other people musicians.  Some people enjoy both.  Humanity varies in size, physical ability and mental acuity.  We are raised and educated by disparate methods and philosophies that offer similar results.  This is what makes people interesting- we are amazing in our diversity.

So it seems odd to me when a society imposes a single stricture on all people.  We don't think all people should be pet owners, or commute a certain distance to their job or only shop at a specific store.  In many matters society is very accepting of variations.  Accepting of many approaches that is, until it comes to adult romantic relationships.  Most societies on this planet have very strict definitions of what an adult romantic relationship should be.  People who don't adhere to this norm can be ostracized or worse.

In the first world we are raised in our youth to believe there is a single way to find fulfillment and happiness in a Relationship. (capital "R" intended)  One day we will find our prince or princess, the only person in the world that is right for us, a soulmate.  We will fall in love and enter into a lifelong committed monogamous relationship and live happily ever after.  We see it in stories for children and adults, in movies, in school and religious teachings.

Except this almost never works.