The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

A primer on what constitutes “common” firearms in various market segments

| December 8, 2015

So, a fellow blogger posted a suggestion that we limit the types of guns available to the public based on features or mode of operation. To his credit, he laid out the three major uses for firearms, that is:

  • Hunting
  • Sports
  • Personal defense

This is refreshing because I find that many of these conversations start with people immediately assuming that hunting is the only “valid” purpose for owning a firearm.

Anyway, I challenged him to describe what features or mode of operation would make a gun “suitable”, because I don’t really see a way to do that. He said that he didn’t know enough about the specifics of how people use firearms in all of those markets to be able to offer guidelines. Hence, I wrote the following, which I hope other people may find useful:

Hunting

For really small game, you’re generally going to use a rifle in .22 or .223. .223 is good for stuff about coyote sized. There’s probably an even split between semi-auto and non-semi auto rifles in this market. If you’re talking some markets, like folks who shoot prairie dogs, long range ARs in .223 pretty much rule this market segment.

For the next size up, you’re talking your more medium-sized game, including deer, antelope, and maybe even caribou, and you’re starting at stuff around the various .270 calibers, and probably topping out at your various .30 caliber cartridges. In common use here are: .30-30, .308, .30-06, and various .300 Magnum calibers. Bolt action rifles tend to dominate here, because they’re light and good value for the money. Less common are lever action rifles and semi autos, including the AR-10, essentially an AR-15 chambered in .308. I used to use a semi-auto rifle (AR-15 pattern in .30 Remington AR, which is somewhere between .30-30 and .308 in power level) due to superior ergonomics. The new ban forced me to change it to make it very uncomfortable to shoot in order to remain legal, so I bought a cheap .30-06 bolt action rifle. It’s not as comfortable to shoot as the original configuration of the .30 RAR, but it’s more comfortable than the current configuration. It’s also about 50% more powerful.

The next size up is for your big stuff, like your elk, buffalo, etc. For that, you’re talking really heavy stuff – .30 caliber and bigger, and generally a magnum. So, .30-06 is about the floor here. .300 Winchester Mag and .300 Weatherby Mag are probably the most common, and then there’s more esoteric stuff. Here, boltguns pretty much rule, because there are very few semi-autos which can handle these power levels without being ungodly heavy for the field.

There are also odd specialty cases. For example, Liz had been hunting deer in NY with a 7mm-08 (.308 necked down to .270) with good success, but when she went hunting Dahl’s sheep above the arctic circle, she had to buy a .270 Weatherby Magnum. Essentially, the same bullet, travelling twice as fast. The reason is that your shots in NY are about 300 yards max, but you’re talking 1000 yards when hunting various mountain sheep.

Now, all of the above is for the stuff we consider to be not dangerous. As a general case, they’re far away from you, and are extremely unlikely to charge you. You need power projected at a distance. Dangerous game is generally the opposite. Note that they don’t necessarily need to be carnivorous – just dangerous. There are a lot of territorial herbivores which are likely to charge you if you make them angry (I’m looking at you, Cape Buffalo).

In these markets, double rifles used to rule. It’s like a double-barrelled shotgun, except the barrels are rifled. You got two shots, and if that didn’t drop it, you were likely dead. Risk was somewhat mitigated by hunting in a group, and/or having gun bearers to give you another gun. Key points here were low powered or no scopes and VERY powerful cartridges. Fast target acquisition, with about 100 yards maximum range.

In more modern times, the doubles have ceded ground to large-bore semiautos. They’re accurate enough out to 100 yards and are fast-handling. A common setup for hunting the various feral hog varieties which inflict significant crop damage in the south is an AR in something like .450 Bushmaster with a day/night scope because they often hunt at night and need night vision gear. If the hog charges, you need to shoot it repeatedly until it stops, else it will lay you open with its tusks. Carrying a backup (a 1911 in .45ACP is traditional) with a flashlight which you can transition to in the case of a stoppage or a series of misses is a common practice (where legal to do so – some jurisdictions let you only carry one firearm).

Aside: There are calibers commonly used in Africa that are not commonly by used by Americans even when in Africa, because they we seriously restricted (effectively banned) by the 1934 National Firearms Act.

Aaand, shoguns. If you take it from waterfowl hunting (typically ducks), volume is more important than precision. What I mean by this is that, instead of one well-placed shot dropping a deer, you’re looking at several reasonably well-placed shots (less well-placed because the shot spreads) attempting to drop several ducks. In this market, whatever shoots the fastest has always been king. Double guns, pump guns, and now semi-autos pretty much rule. Semi-autos with pistol grips are increasingly common because of how much more easily they handle and how comfortable they are to shoot.

Aside: Semi-auto rifles and shotguns with pistol grips are banned in NY state. Remove the pistol grip and they’re totally legal.

Now, when you go from ducks to turkeys, you don’t need to shoot that fast, but rather than buy two guns, you’re likely to use the same gun for turkeys as for ducks. As a general case, you might change the barrel, but only if your duck gun barrel is excessively long.

Some folks hunt deer with shotguns with rifled slug barrels, mainly because hunting deer with rifles is banned in their locality.

Oh, almost universally, hunting regulations limit the number of rounds your magazine can hold, typically 4. I think an exception is made when hunting with revolvers (as they can hold 6, and limiting them to 4 is not practical), but can’t say for certain.

Target Shooting

For this, I’m going to include all shooting sports, because you may not be familiar with them.

For general plinking, anything goes. You use whatever you feel like.

IDPA/IPSCC are shooting games designed around handgunnery. IDPA is based off production guns (like weekend car races where you race your daily driver) and IPSCC is based off the same thing.. kind of like NASCAR is. They guns bear a vague resemblance to something factory, but are otherwise super optimized and slicked up. Anyway, these are pretty well dominated by semi-autos in 9mm and .45 ACP., typically with as large magazines as can be fitted.

3-Gun is typically a pistol/rifle/shotgun competition. Pistols are as per IDPA, shotguns are generally semiautos (like the duck guns), but with extended magazines (so you need to reload less) or AK pattern SAIGA shotguns. Rifles are almost exclusively ARs. You could try to use a non-semi-auto, but you’d never even place because it’s a timed event.

Cowboy action shooting are like 3-Gun but based off cowboy guns. Revolvers, lever action rifles, and pump or lever actions shotguns. No semi-autos because they hadn’t been in common use yet (Magnificent Seven notwithstanding).

Long range shooting – here you’re talking heavy calibers (.338 Lapua and .50 BMG) at 1000 – 1500m. No particular action of rifle rules here, just caliber, quality, and accuracy.

Protection

When you’re not at home, your best strategy is to carry the most powerful gun, holding the most ammo, that you can. Pragmatism rules here, because it depends on what you’re worried about. In someplace like Alaska, you want a very heavy revolver (we’re talking about twice as powerful as Dirty Harry) because, you know, bears. In someplace a bit more civilized, a 9mm, .38Spl, or .45 ACP will work just fine. These are all over the place. I’d say semi-autos have a pretty hefty majority these days, and some folks carry lighter calibers than mentioned above, and a few carry heavier. I have a revolver in .38 Spl and a semi-auto in .45 ACP, but my license is restricted, so I basically am only allowed only carry to and from the range (lest someone try to jump me and take my firearms which are locked up in a box in the car, so I can’t stop them from doing so).

When at home, and portability isn’t really a problem, then it becomes an exercise in engineering tradeoffs. Firstly, handguns and handgun ammo sucks. A common axiom is that “handgun bullets are like aspirin – it takes several to do the job and they take awhile to work”. An overwhelming majority of people shot with handguns survive because, aside from the aforementioned nutty Dirty Harry calibers, they’re all pretty anemic.

Now, that said, irrespective of all laws, what I would say would be the best home defense gun pattern was a pistol-caliber short-barreled rifle. Think the old Tommy Gun, but semi-auto only (I’ll have notes on machineguns below). The issue with this is that the barrel is too short and therefore that one has been heavily controlled since the 1934 National Firearms Act. So, they had to extend the barrel by like 6″, which makes it not as handy for close combat.

The reason for choosing pistol ammo for home defense is because, as I said, it’s pretty weak. If you get hollow point or, even better, frangible rounds, it’s less likely to go through walls if you miss. You need lots of ammo because, when you have bag guys, you need to shoot them a lot. It’s more controllable and easier to shoot well than a pistol.

The next best thing is likely a shotgun, either pump or semi-auto. This is still less likely to penetrate (like pistol ammo), but is more powerful, and therefore a little harder to control. You also will get very few shots as compared to a pistol caliber carbine or rifle, unless you’re talking something exotic (and likely unreliable).

The final thing, which is actually the best thing if you don’t have any neighbors, but the most likely to send rounds sailing through all your walls and off into the night, is a semi-automatic rifle (aka an “assault rifle”). It’s rifle caliber, and therefore powerful, and you can generally get a lot of rounds in the magazine. A short-barreled version would be best, but, again, they’re heavily restricted after 1934.

For what it’s worth, my primary home defense gun is an AR-15 in .300 Blackout, which is better out of a 16″ gun than .223, and hits harder at sub 100m (and if you need longer range than that, it’s not really a home defense gun). But, then again, I don’t have neighbors nearby.

I should also note that pretty much all of the above, but especially home defense guns, are better off suppressed, because otherwise you’re going to have a hell of a ringing in your ears, and no one will be able to hear you. Rifle discharges in an enclosed space are no fun. Of course, suppressors are, you guessed it, restricted by the 1934 National Firearms Act.

Machineguns

These aren’t really super useful. Oh, they’re a load of fun, but even the military has been moving away from fully-automatic modes on general infantry rifles, because they waste ammo and you are sending more shots less accurately down range. Semi-auto rifles are emerging as the best balance, and automatic fire modes are being saved for dedicated squad automatic weapons and submachine guns. Personally, I have no issue with machine guns, or even with people owning machine guns (also heavily regulated by the 1934 National Firearms Act), but you’re only good with the guns with which you train, and I can’t afford the ammo bill of training with machine guns. So, a semi-auto gun is really the best balance, I think.

So, that’s the state of all the “market segments” (for lack of a better term) at the moment. I look forward to learning what of the above designs you would approve and what of them you would deny.

Oh, and as an aside, for all the “high powered” rifle talk on the news, they’re not. They’re actually about the LEAST powerful centerfire rifle cartridge in common use. The real heavy stuff is used for hunting.

You know it’s fall when…

| November 9, 2015

Actual conversation in my house:

Hey, can you hold off going to the range? I need you to watch the boys while I help my dad follow a blood trail.

On drunk driving

| August 29, 2015

Driving whilst drunk on beer is bad, and, even though it is very much illegal, people continue to do it.

Therefore, I’m going to propose that we ban beer.

Then, once we have banned beer, we can talk about how there are vastly fewer beer-related drunk driving incidences.

What’s that?

People will just drink other things?

Maybe so, but I’ve achieved my objective of stopping people from drinking beer!

(Replace “drunk driving” with “violence” and “beer” with “guns” and you perhaps begin to understand why banning guns is stupid. Most places that ban guns report a decrease in gun violence, but not of violence. Why? Because people who want to do you harm use something else. Meanwhile, you’ve denied the use of something to otherwise innocent people due to no crime on their part, merely because someone else did something bad with it some time.)

On the right to be free from guns

| August 21, 2015

I came across this article, in which the author states:

What’s needed is a long-term national effort to change popular attitudes toward handgun ownership. And we need to insist on protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.

The anti-freedom crowd tried that starting in the 70’s. (Remember the National Council to Control Handguns which was renamed to Handgun Control Inc. and then later the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence?). It has failed. Your last victory was the federal assault weapons ban. The problem you have is that more and more people are getting educated. Black guns are not scary anymore. People realize that guns are fun, they are useful. Research, outreach and education efforts by the NRA, SAF, GOA, etc. are changing public perceptions on firearms. They also increasingly do not trust you, the police, or the government. They realize that the right to carry weapons for defensive purposes is core to the inherent natural rights of free people, the same as the rights of speech and assembly, and anyone who wishes to suppress such rights wants to control you and make you a slave.

Taurus PT145 and Mags

| February 18, 2011

So, I have (to test):

  • 1 factory mag
  • 1 pro-mag replacement mag
  • 1 factory mag, modified by me, with a replacement spring (for a Para P14, suggested here ). I’ve also lowered the front of the mag by cutting off some of the metal and then sanding it smooth.

We’ll see if any of those work. The easiest case (for me) is if the pro-mag works – I buy 3 more and I’m good.

If the factory mag w/ replacement works, I need to buy a couple more of those (more expensive than the pro-mags), then buy more springs, then mod them all the same way.

If none of them work, then I will take to polishing the feed ramp, and other such feeding reliability improvements.

I also need to find a replacement mainspring setup. Having to order them from Taurus is crap.

Snow day

| January 12, 2011

This morning, we had about 3 inches, everything was cancelled, it was snowing faster than the plows can plow, and we were (are) supposed to get a total of about a foot, with more to the southeast (guess which way work is….). So, I’m home, watching bad movies, painting minis, working on my reloading room, playing with dog in the snow, etc.

I watched Heavy Metal, which was new to me (both the magazine and the movie). (Fair warning, there’s lots of cartoon boobies). That said, it has a wonderfully retro (well, it was 1981, so I guess it’s not really retro, but more indicative of the time) feel to it – it makes one want to play Mutant Future.

I’m currently watching Reign of Fire, which is not as bad as I thought it would be. It actually could be a decent twist on a Twilight 2013 game or some Savage Variant thereof (note, it looks like the company who wrote it is closing up shop, so I’ve liked to RPGNow, since there is no publisher product page anymore).

Speaking of reloading rooms, I think I might have finally gotten it beaten back into shape. See, I’d like to do more shooting, which means more reloading, which means reloading room set up. More info behind the cut.

(more…)

Taurus update

| January 3, 2011

So, some months ago, I bought a Taurus PT145 at a gun show:

Taurus PT145

Taurus PT145

I’ve been pretty silent on it, because I was trying to work the kinks out of it, and didn’t want to go saying stuff about a company until it was all said and done.

It now is.

As mentioned before, it doesn’t run. I’ve shipped it back to Taurus. I included a note which, in typical me fashion, specifically described all of the issues with the gun. Their turnaround was impressive at 2 days. The gun showed evidence of having been fired, and the mainspring had been replaced. Fair enough – this could actually have cured all the problems.

It didn’t.

The gun still doesn’t run. 3 mags, 2 different kinds of ammo, from 2 different boxes, both 230 grain ball, both of which ran through my 1911 without a hiccup.

First mag: nose jammed into feed ramp after 3 rounds, slide failed to go into battery on last round.

Second mag: 2 misfires, 1 failure to go into battery.

Third mag: 2 failures to go into battery.

So, now I have a .45 which doesn’t run, costs me $15 each time I send it back to be fixed, and I can’t really sell because it doesn’t work… and I’m out $250.

For about $200 more, I could have gotten a used XD – a new one would have been $300 more. For about the same price, I could have gotten a Smith and Wesson M&P.

In the long run, not worth it.

I’m likely going to stick it in the back of the safe until I feel like working on it a bit, and see what I can do with it, as far as slicking it up and making it run.

Taurus, you’ve just lost a customer, and I won’t be recommending you to anyone else ever again – even when given the chance to fix the gun and make it right, you failed.

An open letter to all gun companies

| October 6, 2010

Dear gun companies,

You are in the business of selling high-priced utility items (aka “appliances”). As such, you will be held to the same standards as everyone else who sells appliances. You are not special. You will adapt or die.

As such, I will no longer be doing business with any gun company which does not have either an email address or web contact form on their website. I do not accept this from people from whom I buy TV’s, food processors, laptops, etc., so I will not accept it from you.

This means that I will not be doing business with:

  • Kimber
  • Glock
  • Taurus
  • Colt
  • Savage Arms
  • Weatherby
  • Sig Sauer
  • Remington
  • (and likely others) until this situation is remedied.

This means that I will be willing to do business with:

  • Springfield Armory
  • Kahr
  • Bersa
  • Smith and Wesson
  • CZ / Dan Wesson
  • Ruger
  • Thompson Center
  • STI
  • (And likely others, I’m soliciting suggestions)

What started this whole thing is behind the cut… (more…)

Benches

| May 1, 2010

So, I finally got my benches built. There’s a workbench in the garage, an a reloading bench in the reloading room.

Punditry: Shooty things

| February 2, 2010

Okay, to recap: Heller says that the FedGov can’t ban guns in common use, or that are logical evolutions of the arms required to be kept for militia purposes. DC is forced to open up their gun registry, but the registry is not abolished. There is suggestion that registration of arms may be reasonable, but no ruling is made on that.

This does not currently apply to the states, as this was an appeal from a DC court, and thus is strictly federal.

I should mention that, were it still in effect, this would likely have resulted in the overturning of the assault weapons ban. After all, the ruling was that they can’t ban guns (defacto ban or actual).

Now, McDonald v. Chicago may very well incorporate this down to the states.

If that happens, expect the state assault weapons bans to go be overturned, and the very restrictive gun registration requirements (say, NY City)

I would expect the more reasonable ones (say NY State) to stick around.

So, for me, this is a net win – no more “NY Compliant” black rifles, but I still need to wait for 2 weeks to buy a handgun.

That said, the handgun registry served two purposes:

  1. You got background checked by the Sheriff before getting your new gun
  2. Your handguns are recorded in a registry

The gun registry and corresponding ballistic databank have been cited as abject failures by every independent study done on them.

The background check is redundant with the federal NICS check.

It would be nice of politicians were rational, saved some money, and abolished these useless enterprises. However, I don’t hold out much hope for that happening. It seems easier to enact laws than get rid of them.