Thursday, July 26, 2012

Those pesky assault rifles

Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
That's the definition of "Assault Rifle", as provided by the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Act...otherwise known as the federal "Assault Weapons Ban" that expired in 2004.

Now, let's compare one of those evil black assault rifles to an antique deer rifle. You should be able to spot the difference...

In the top photograph, you will notice a few things about that rifle which make it a scary evil mass-murder machine. Let's start from one side to the other, shall we?

1) It has a threaded barrel with a "flash hider" installed. The purpose of a flash hider is to mitigate and dissipate the flash caused when a round's propellant charge explodes, so the shooter does not suffer from shock blindness in low-light situations. This is exceptionally useful for deer hunters, as it is well-known that the times surrounding daybreak and sunset are when white-tail deer are most active. It does not eliminate the flash, nor does it eliminate sound. See those little slits cut into the flash hider? Those slits redirect the exploding gasses, so as to have smaller multiple fireballs going in several directions instead of one giant fireball at the end of the muzzle.

Interestingly, the US government allowed the use of "muzzle brakes", which are sometimes identical to a flash hider except for one feature...the hole in the end of a muzzle brake is most often just slightly larger than the barrel bore, forcing more gasses outward in a direction perpendicular to the barrel as to create less felt recoil for the shooter. Muzzle brakes, of course, had to be either blind-pinned or welded onto a barrel prior to sale so people would have to use either a power drill or dremel tool to unthread them from their barrels.

2) The bayonet lug.
Notice that triangle-shapped thingiemajigger sticking off the top of the barrel? Well, that's not the bayonet lug, that's the front sight housing and gas block. The part on the bottom of it is the bayonet lug.

Bayonet lugs were not manufactured on civilian-issue rifles as a practical hunting or self-defense mechanism, they were put there because rifles with bayonet lugs have several interchangeable parts with their military-issue counterparts...the front sight base being one of them. It was left on because it would cost a metric shitload of money to remake a casting mold, and even more money to take a grinder to existing sight bases...but that's what happened during the ban years.

3) The magazine.
A standard 30-round magazine is included with most AR15 rifles, for the same reason as the front sight base. It costs money to redesign something. The average civilian AR15 owner enjoys the 30rd magazines for two very distinct reasons, and neither have anything to do with mass murder.

For starters, they're cheaper. A high-quality name-brand modern polymer 30rd magazine can be had for as little as $12. A bargain-basement brand aluminum 30rd mag can be had for as little as $7. Used military-surplus magazines that do not change the functionality of a semi-automatic rifle under any circumstances can be had for under $5. On the other hand, a decent 5 or 10 round magazine can cost more than $30. These magazines, in addition to the higher price, must also contain some from of "block" base, in order to allow their removal from the rifle because five double-stacked .223 rounds stand shorter than the height of the AR15's mag well.

Now, here's the other reason. When you're spending your time loading a magazine, that's time you aren't spending shooting a rifle. It takes an experienced person two seconds to dump an empty magazine from an AR and reload a readied magazine...if he's under pressure. In other words, it takes more time to reacquire a target after shooting than it takes to reload.

Given the fact that the average five or ten round magazine is roughly the same size as a 20rd mag and only slightly smaller than a 30rd mag, it would make sense to carry six boxes of ammo in four magazines instead of carrying them in 24 magazines. If one chose to only carry four magazines, he would load four times when he left the house...and then he'd have to stop and reload another 20 times while at the range, for those other hundred rounds. Considering that 120 rounds of ammo (six 20rd boxes) can cost as little as $30, it isn't exactly out of the ordinary for a man to shoot that much or more in a given trip to the range.

4) The pistol grip.

Yes, the AR15 uses a "pistol grip" that is separated from the stock. The reason for this is basic ergonomics. Every major new rifle design since the Thompson Carbine (the "Tommy Gun" made famous during prohibition, and purchasable via mail-order back then) has had a pistol grip stock, with the exception of the US M1 and M1 carbines, the US M14 rifle, and the Soviet SKS....and these rifles did not use multiple pieces of furniture.

The reasoning behind using one solid piece of wood for a "traditional" stock is that any furniture (the wood or plastic hand grips and buttstock) had to be mounted somewhere. Most early rifle designs used a single mounting point to mate the wood to the barrelled receiver, because it was far cheaper to find a long chunk of wood than it was to machine several holes into a firearm and tap threads into them. When these rifles were designed, most machining was done on manual machines ran by actual people, and tolerances were critical. Out-of-tolerance cuts rendered the entire weapon useless. It was far cheaper to employ a $2/hour wood carver than it was to employ a $7/hour machinist.

The pistol grip does not facilitate "shooting from the hip" better than a curved traditional stock, due to human physiology. To demonstrate, hold your right arm outward to your right side and parallel to the ground. With your arm extended, bend your arm at the elbow so that your forearm is parallel to the ground but pointing forward. Notice the angle of your fist. Now drop your arm and place your fist on your hip. You will notice that a traditional stock is, in fact, much more ergonomic when shooting from the hip.

Interestingly, that's not why they made the curvature of an old-school stock in the shape most commonly used. In the early days of firearms, you'll notice that the stocks were almost entirely straight pieces of wood. The reasoning for this is that it was much easier to slightly carve into a solid tree limb than it was to intricately carve grips into stocks. Over the years, woodcarving and lumber harvesting techniques became more advanced, but the technology necessary to machine metals with precision still wasn't exactly available at Sears.

Today, most precision rifles have a much more "vertical" handgrip than a traditional rifle stock does, for the reason that a more comfortable rifle is a more accurate rifle...and aftermarket single-piece stocks with a more drastic handgrip curve are now available for older rifles.

5) The collapsible buttstock.

The AR15 shown above has a 6-position collapsible buttstock. From its most extended to its most collapsed positions, roughly five inches of difference are covered.

While the buttstock does in fact shorten the overall length of the rifle, it was not designed (nor is it intended) for use as an aid to conceal the rifle under clothing. The AR15/M16 Carbine's shortened barrel was designed to allow for varying choices of gear amongst special operations troops during the Vietnam War. Varying levels of body armor, rucksack shoulder straps, etc dictated that the LOP ("length of pull", or distance between the shooter's grip hand and location of the buttstock's end) should be adjustable to accommodate for both these differences and the differences in the length of the shooter's arm.

Amongst modern man, it is not uncommon to find a human being that is between the height of 5'6" and 6'6". Likewise, these same men can also be found in our military. As shown by Davinci's famous drawing depicting the proportions of the human body, the span of a man's outstretched arms is approximately equal to that man's height. Considering that an individual arm consists of roughly 35-40% of that armspan length, you're talking about a difference of several inches in arm length between a man who is 5'6" and a man who is 6'6".

When there exists such drastic differences in proper LOP, it would make sense to say that a single standard-size stock is not appropriate for every shooter. Considering that it was developed for men who were already hiding from the enemy, it would be just silly to suggest that the adjustable stock was developed for "concealment", considering that a standard legal-length AR15 is over 30" long with the stock fully retracted.

Ironically, under the AWB, it was legal to produce and sell an AR15 with a "look-alike" adjustable stock that was fixed in a single position...even if that position was in the fully-retracted state. Due to the ban on flash hiders, the barrel length that was 16" + an inch or two for the flash hider became a straight 16". Couple that with the fixed short stock, and you have a rifle that was a full 6" shorter than the one used by the Aurora theater gunman per the media photographs captured via helicopter over the crime scene.


While we would all feel a lot more warm and fuzzy about the situation if placing a ban on so-called "assault rifles" actually had the potential to make any real changes, the fact remains that it accomplished nothing.

Proponents of the AWB like to point out that it quite literally cut the number of violent crimes committed with "assault weapons" in half, they will often fail to mention the fact that previous to the ban, only 2% of all violent crimes were actually committed by people with so-called "assault weapons"...and even further, the majority of these crimes didn't include a single round being fired.

On any given day, these United States averages over FORTY human lives being ended by an unjustifiable homicide. In my 33 and a half years on this earth, I have been fortunate enough to only have personally known three people who have died as a result of homicide. One was a classmate stabbed to death at a party, one was a former classmate suffocated by arresting officers while high on drugs, and the other was my former orthodontist who was ran over repeatedly by his jealous wife's Mercedes.

In the past year, there have been two murders that have occurred within half a mile of my home in the sleepy little town of Angleton TX. One was a stabbing, and the other was a shooting. Because only six rounds were fired during the shooting, and the other incident involved a knife, neither incident would have been prevented by an Assault Weapons Ban...even if it were to actually prevent people from getting the millions of such weapons and high-capacity magazines off the streets.

People like to talk about banning guns, but they fail to realize that there is one firearm for every sixth man, woman, and child in these united states. That's over 51 million firearms...and that's just an estimation. If even only 20% of these were so-called "assault weapons", that's more than ten million in a population of 311 million...or, roughly one for every 30 people. How many people live on your block?


Now, let's get back to the pictures. That deer rifle you see in the other picture? That's a semi-automatic Browning BAR hunting rifle chambered in .243 caliber. It uses a larger and much more powerful round than my AR15. While the rifle pictured is not mine, it is identical to the one I carried on my first deer hunt.

It is a semi-automatic rifle, capable of spitting out every round in its magazine as fast as I can pull the trigger. While mine is equipped with a scope, you may notice that the rifle comes from the factory with flip-down iron sights for use at close ranges without the scope.

One thing it is not equipped with, interestingly, is any type of new high-tech design. It was manufactured by the Browning Arms Corporation, a company set up in Utah during the 1920s to market the civilian-oriented designs of one John Moses Browning. In case you've never heard of the man, he's the guy who designed the "Browning Machine Gun" (aka the M2, or "Ma Deuce", still in use today by our military). He designed the M1911 pistol, designed prior to 1911 but adopted by our military during that year, and also still in use a hundred years later when the 9mm Beretta M9 won't get the job done. He designed the M1918 BAR (the one Tom Hanks asked the Italian-American guy about in the invasion scene of Saving Private Ryan..."Bottom of the ocean, sir. Bitch tried to drown me!").

J.M. Browning designed so many firearms that just about every war between 1900 and 1950 used his rifles on one side or the other...or both. He was born in 1855 and died before the start of this nation's "great depression". Aside from a very limited few advanced-technology designs, every firearm on this planet being made today is a modification of something that J.M. Browning designed a hundred years ago.

Even the AR15 shown in the photograph was designed by Eugene Stoner in the 1950s. Keep in mind, this was before automobiles had fuel injection. Radios didn't have an "FM" band. A great many American homes didn't have refrigerators, let alone a television set.

Like all other hunting rifles, handguns used for self-defense, etc, the AR15 semi-automatic rifle was based on a weapon designed for war. Your great-grandpa's old bolt-action deer rifle was likely based on the Mauser design, as most bolt-action rifles are to some degree...and it was the Mauser rifle that my own grandfather faced in WWII, as the Mauser was the standard infantry rifle carried by Nazi soldiers.

It's often been used as an argument against certain types of firearms, that the 2nd Amendment only applies to the types of firearms in use at the time...which were single-shot muskets that had to be hand-loaded with powder and ball. The thing is, at the time, those were the state-of-the-art military rifles of the day. Every man who had any interest in survival owned one, and it wasn't uncommon for him to own a pistol as well.

One may remember the Mel Gibson movie "the Patriot"...during the scene where he frees his condemned first-born son, he didn't use a high-capacity magazine. He instead used several pre-loaded rifles. Concept is the same, technology allowed for greater speed in a smaller package.

So yes, for the same reasons that the AR15 is an "assault rifle", so is your old bolt-action. Likewise, so is the reason for owning an AR15. Our God-given rights were never about shooting ducks or a paper bullseye, they included the right to personal defense for a reason. When our forefathers outlined this right within the constitution, there was never a thought to "sporting purposes".

A rifle, while it may be used for sporting purposes, was originally designed to kill another human being. I won't attempt to defraud you by pretending some sort of fa├žade regarding the intent of its design. A weapon designed to kill a 180lb man efficiently will also kill a 180lb deer efficiently. Every "sporting rifle", bow, crossbow, etc that is currently used to hunt game animals is utilizing a design that was originally intended to kill a human being.

Let us not forget, there have been several sitting US presidents assassinated with firearms in these United States...but not a single one of them was killed with what would have been banned by the "Assault Weapons" law. Hinckley used a revolver. Oswald used a bolt-action rifle. I don't know what the others used, but they happened so long ago that the technology isn't even relevant to the discussion.

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