Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It's Not the Tool

The new session of congress featured no less than 10 gun control bills introduced on the very first day.  There are lots of bills introduced each session of congress, but many powers that be tell us this year has a higher chance of passing a gun control bill.  We still await the recommendations of Biden's committee which will likely bring about at least one other bill.

The idea of gun control or gun bans is that if you restrict the legal availability of certain types of firearms, violent crime and specifically gun crime will be reduced.  Especially after prominent mass shootings there is a call to restrict both certain types of firearms and magazines.  Quite often the number 10 is chosen at the most amount of cartridges a magazine should be allowed to hold in these proposed new restrictions.  The idea is that a crazy person who commits a mass shooting will be limited in casualties if they have to reload several times.
I love science and data so I gathered some friends to try this as an experiment.  The people are all safe shooters with a number of years of experience but of varying levels of mastery.  We have the gamut from occasional shooters to competition shooters to get a variety of data.

Each shooter ran the course twice.  Once with a gun of their choosing, which was mostly Glocks, and once with a gun that makes every ban list, a Masterpiece Arms MPA30T.  This gun is often referred to as a MAC-10, MAC-11 or M-11.  Since I'm lazy, we'll be using the term M-11 for the rest of this post.  It's a semi-auto 9mm pistol that operates on the blow-back principle.  The original gun that looked like this was a sub-machinegun, but of course you can't walk into a gun shop and buy one of those, so companies make semi-auto version that people can buy.

In addition, we ran the M-11 with a 30 round magazine, and we limited all other guns to 10 round magazines.  So in effect we are testing a gun and magazine capacity that make a lot of ban lists against a the sort of guns that would be legal to purchase after a ban was in place.  In short, we are attempting to see if banning certain guns and magazines would slow down a determined shooter.

M-11 on the left with one 30 round mag.  Glock 17 on the right with 3 10 rounders

How much time would changing magazines add?  Would using a heavier and larger M-11 allow the shooter to be more accurate?  Shoot faster?  There was a lot of conjecture from the participants going in.

The course was 6 steel plates and 6 paper targets.  Hits in the black or A-zone of a paper target got 5 points.  Other hits on the paper targets got 2 points.  Hits on steel plates counted for 5 points.  Each target got two shots so a maximum score would be 120.  We ran a timer as well, so each run will have a score and a time.

All our shooters but one chose a Glock, the remaining on used a Springfield XD compact.   They all worked flawlessly during this test.  The M-11 did not, as will be discussed later.  The course of fire included some movement (about 20 yards total, not much at all) and was as follows:

Start at the 7 yard mark. On the buzzer, shoot:
2 6" steel plates twice
2 10" paper targets twice
1 IDPA target twice

Then move to 10 yards and shoot:
2 8" steel plates twice
2 10" paper targets twice

Then move to 15 yards and shoot:
2" 6" steel plates twice
1 IDPA target twice

The hardest shots of the day were the 6" plates at 15 yards.  If you don't shoot handguns you probably don't realize that is a fairly challenging shot, especially with the pressure of being watched and timed.  At the end of the day we had more misses on those plates than we had hits.

Our best time of the day was 29 seconds.  Our slowest time of the day was 83 seconds.  Those two runs happened to be our second and third highest accuracy scores of the day, which was interesting.  The most accurate run of the day came in at 44 seconds.  All of those shooters are talented, but the speed they can deliver accurate shots varied quite a bit as you can see.

Shooters on average completed the run with the M-11 4.2 seconds faster than with the handgun of their choosing.  Is that due to having to change magazines twice on the other gun?  4 seconds to change a magazine isn't unreasonable.  The competition shooters can do it faster, and the people who don't practice it take longer.  There may have been other reasons most of the people shot the run faster with the M-11 as well, perhaps it's weight or size made it easier to get back on target.  There were numerous complaints about the poor sights on the M-11, but I think that didn't affect the speed scores so much. 

What it did effect was the accuracy scores.  Our top accuracy score of the day was 117, followed by 112 and 110.  All of those were done with the pistols the shooters chose, not the M-11.  In fact, the best score on a run with the M-11 was a 67.  That was the best.  Overall, shooters averaged 52% of their score with the M-11 as they did with the more traditional pistol choices.  That means that they were able to run on average 4.2 seconds faster, but missed almost half the shots.  That's a serious difference.  Going faster isn't so great if you miss half the targets.

I wasn't surprised the M-11 was faster.  I was surprised that it was more than a couple seconds faster, but I think that's in part due to the people who ran it.  Nobody brought "high speed" or competition gear, everyone just put their extra magazines in their pocket.  This can double the time to grab a new magazine when it's time to change them out over competition or tactical magazine pouches that make them readily available.

I was surprised of two things with accuracy.  First, that in general people were all very accurate with traditional pistols.  Each of the shooters have invested the time to build the skills to shoot accurately.  I was impressed with their ability, especially when the pressure of of being watched and timed is added.  I was also surprised at how poorly people shot the M-11.  I think it must be because of the sights, the sight picture on the M-11 is not up to modern standards, it's quite simply harder to aim properly than most new pistols.

Here is the video if you care to watch:

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