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So You Want To Buy A Gun

Badtux talked guns this past week, and looked at the usefulness of various weapons.

I was trained on the M-16, the fully automatic version of the AR-15, both in the military and at the police academy. The military doesn’t issue the M-16 any more, they issue the M-4 which has a three round burst mode instead of fully automatic. Not even the military could justify full auto as anything but a waste of ammo. I hated the weapon. My small arms ribbon is for the .38 caliber revolver, not the M-16. Having fired rifles for some time before I entered the military I could not adjust to the straight-back stock and sights of the M-16 to fire consistent patterns. I could instinctively fire a normal rifle or handgun, but I had to think about the M-16.

I fully agree with Badtux on a shotgun for defensive purposes. I have a Remington 870 with a 20-inch barrel that should make any sane person on the wrong end decide they are in the wrong place. For those who don’t take the hint, one round of 12-gauge will settle the issue even if they are wearing soft body armor. The important thing is, do not own a gun unless you know you will use it if pushed. If you can’t use it, you are arming the bad guys.

Let’s say that you want to embrace the spirit of the Second Amendment and be ready to serve in a militia if required. There is a very good alternative to the piece of garbage AR-15 – the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1, usually just called the Garand. It is an auto-loader, but it is chambered for the Springfield 30-06 round which is effective for deer hunting and has a much longer range, and the internal magazine is limited to 8 rounds. It was good enough to be the standard infantry weapon in World War II and Korea, so it has valid use as dual purpose militia weapon.

While most people have been fixated on the shooting in Newtown, for personal reasons I have been following the Christmas Eve ambush of volunteer firefighters in Webster, New York. Webster is on the shore of Lake Ontario just East of Rochester in Monroe County, New York. I went through the police academy with an officer from the Webster PD, who will have retired by now, and I remember the Spengler murder in 1980.

William Spengler beat his grandmother to death with a hammer. He was given a deal that had him plead guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and served 17 years before he was granted parole.

Early on the morning of Christmas Eve, Spengler killed his sister, and then set fire to the family car and house. He then went to hill with an AR-15, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a revolver to await the arrival of the fire department. He intended to have the fire spread to the other houses on the street.

He killed two firefighters, and wounded two others before he was flushed from his firing position by arriving police officers. He then took his own life with the revolver.

I still have members of my extended family in the area, and while the number of dead isn’t as great as Newtown, I know the area, and it is closer to my personal space.

When I heard about it my first thought was that whoever provided Spengler with those firearms would be located, and would find themselves in major trouble. Spengler was convicted of a violent class B felony, he not only couldn’t purchase a weapon, he would have gone to prison for “possessing” a weapon. If a surveillance video had been seen of Spengler handling a firearm at the counter at Walmart, he would have been charged with a felony. The weapon didn’t have to be loaded, and he didn’t have to possess it for long to be eligible for three years in prison.

Tonight CNN reported that a neighbor has been arrested for buying the AR-15 and shotgun for Spengler. She is facing Federal criminal charges.

They are still looking for the source of the handgun, and they aren’t apt to give up.


1 jamsodonnell { 12.29.12 at 5:31 am }

Sorry if this sounds snarky but has Wayne La Pierre been going on about tooling up firefighters in the wake of these murders?

2 Bryan { 12.29.12 at 9:29 am }

I don’t doubt that the NRA would respond with a call for more guns. In this case it would be even more out of touch because volunteer firefighters in Monroe County almost all are either police officers, like one of those who was killed, or hunters, and have guns. The problem being that guns and fire are not a good mix as gunpowder is a flammable substance.

3 Badtux { 12.29.12 at 1:13 pm }

guns and fire are not a good mix

Yah, in my grandmother’s neighborhood of South Fundistan, if there’s a fire, the first thing the volunteer fire department asks the moment the first cars arrive at the scene is, “which room are the guns in and where is the ammunition?” (Note that in that area they assume there *will* be guns and ammunition in any home). If the fire is at the opposite end of the house they’ll do their best to keep it from spreading to that room of the house, but if that room is on fire, they pretty much just keep behind cover and water down the area around the house to keep the fire from spreading to other houses or the forest behind the house (since all the houses are on a narrow strip between the highway and the forest). The last thing they want to deal with is live rounds going off and making their wives widows.

In other words, preppers may doom their own homes with their firearms. Way to go, preppers!

The M1 has a few issues compared to more modern rifles:

1) It’s very heavy, around 9 pounds. Nice if you’re sharpshooting, not so nice if you’re hauling it around to shoot deer. A modern bolt-action deer rifle is around 7 pounds. That two pounds makes a huge difference if you’re actually walking with the rifle rather than sitting in a blind.
2) It’s in general not as accurate as a bolt-action .30-06 rifle designed specifically to shoot deer. The rifle was designed to kill enemy soldiers at 100-200 yards, not to kill deer at 200-400 yards, and the majority of M1’s were accordingly manufactured with fairly loose specifications by the lowest bidder rather than to any kind of sharpshooting standard. It can be made to shoot well, but most examples you’ll find for a reasonable price don’t.
3) It’s a PITA to scope the thing, even the Springfield Armory couldn’t manage to get anything other than a low-powered scout scope onto it. There are various kludged scope mounts, but see (1) above — most rely on clamping large lumps of metal around the barrel, which adds at least 1 pound to the weight of the thing. And because of the requirement to keep the receiver area clear so that you can load/unload the thing, the scope is not necessarily mounted in the most advantageous position for actual use.
4) The .30-06 Springfield round kicks like a mule. It used to be the most popular deer hunting round because it was so cheap and available, but .308 Winchester has surpassed it for deer hunting because the recoil is about 15% less but it still has plenty good ballistics and stopping power to take down a deer at anything other than the most extreme ranges (ranges that most people will never achieve anyhow in actual hunting situations).
5) Loading and unloading the M1 is rather inconvenient compared with the typical box magazine of equivalent bolt-action deer rifles (and the mechanism for doing so accounts for the difficulty of mounting a scope on a M1, since the clip to load its fixed box magazine goes in from the top, for those not familiar with the M1).
6) Most of the M1’s in existence today are surplus shot-to-shreds POS’s that people collect as collectors items, not as real usable weapons, thus they’re getting increasingly expensive (due to the collector’s item status) and making one shoot well may require significant work and expense. Thus the big fuss over South Korea deciding to liquidate their stock of surplus M1’s and the Pentagon reminding South Korea that they can’t liquidate surplus U.S. weapons without U.S. permission to do so (note that we don’t really “sell” weapons to foreign countries, the conditions we put on the “sale” makes it more like a long-term lease where they must destroy — in an approved manner — or return the weapons once finished with them).

My Uncle Denny had a M1 as a keepsake of sorts to remind him of his WW2 service, but when he went actually deer hunting, he used a Remington bolt-action .30-06 deer rifle that was designed to hunt deer. It was lighter, more accurate, and had an effective scope on it on the scope lands that came from the factory that put the scope into the right position to be usable. The M1 simply isn’t a good deer rifle. Because of the amount of kick, it’s not even a good militia rifle if you really did believe in a militia, the majority of people could not get multiple rounds off with any degree of accuracy with the thing. Which would not be an issue for snipers (“one shot, one kill”), but there’s a *reason* why the militaries of every country in the world have gone to lighter rounds for their standard infantry rifle, and it isn’t just about following American fads. In short, I really can’t recommend the M1 for any purpose compared to more modern weapons — it isn’t a good deer rifle and even if you believe in an unorganized “militia” there are better — and cheaper (due to lack of collectors item status) — choices for that purpose.

Regarding the issue of “if you can’t kill someone with a gun, don’t attempt self defense with a gun”, that is exactly why the notion of arming elementary school teachers is such fail. The majority of elementary school teachers are gentle people who would be aghast at the notion of killing another human being. They might be willing to die for their students, but the notion of killing is so alien to their fundamental mental makeup that they would never be able to do so — and they know it, which is why they are in general horrified by the notion of having a gun on school property. And when you think about it… I know that I certainly wouldn’t want the kind of person who kills easily and readily teaching my children. For one thing, given the behavior I observed from modern-day schoolkids during my brief teaching career, the chances of such a person snapping and eventually killing one of the little brats is somewhere between 99.9% and 99.999% :twisted:. As for the notion of one of the NRA’s collection of demented metal penile substitute strokers being in a classroom… I wouldn’t want them within 1000 yards of a school in the first place. Men so insecure about their little one that they have to buy a big one to stroke aren’t exactly the kind of folks who are stable in the head. Just sayin’. ;).

4 Bryan { 12.29.12 at 11:48 pm }

We obviously have hunted different fields, because no one I know from my days in New York ever considered a scope. There are huge areas of the state where deer hunting is limited to shotguns, which is why mine has rifle sights – it was designed for deer slugs and buck shot. It’s a matter of distance and terrain that make scopes an unnecessary expense.

The other factor is price. Back in the day you could get Garand cheap, and you knew you would need a new barrel and some polishing by a gunsmith. There are a lot of gunsmiths in New York and they aren’t expensive. If you have the new barrel properly bedded in the stock and a minimum of polishing of the receiver, you have a trouble free weapon.

The other thing is that most people started out with their father’s or grandfather’s 1903 Springfield from WWI, so they learned on the .30-06 and are comfortable with it. As a large number hand-load their own ammo, they can tailor it to their preferences. Most of the military ammo uses corrosive primers which pit the barrel, so that issue goes away.

Remington Arms is in Illion, New York and I usually have relatives working there. If I was still hunting, I would probably look at the rifle version of the 870 pump for consistency whether I was in shotgun territory or rifle areas. I quit going out because I was never that anxious to kill anything, and it got too dangerous to just be in the woods during hunting season. Farmers in some areas put day-glo blankets on their herds during the season after a few morons shot Holsteins instead of white tail.

I don’t advocate anyone buy a gun unless they need one, and understand how to use it safely.

Opening up elementary schools to ‘volunteer’ security guards is going to attract people like George Zimmerman and Adam Lanza. It is a bad idea made by someone who has never spent a lot time around the children of elementary school age. Sooner rather than later, one of those kids is going get a gun because the guard wasn’t careful enough, and a tragedy will occur. I know it will happen. If they want to protect kids, bar males from 15 to 45 from the area around elementary schools. That is the ‘criminal class’ in the US, and where the threat will originate. 👿

5 jamsodonnell { 12.30.12 at 11:49 am }

If police have been known to taser children how long would it be for some drone rejected by TSA to pull a gun on a first grader.

Living in a city I tend to fogret that a lot of firefighters (the same goes here) are not full time

6 Bryan { 12.30.12 at 10:33 pm }

I would worry more about some over-stressed teacher who has been required to carry a weapon having a really bad day and shooting the place up. I’ve known a few, and many can be found in bars after work, trying to relax.

Outside of the major cities in New York State almost the entire state is dominated by volunteers. If you see a car with a flashing blue light in New York State it isn’t the police, it is a volunteer firefighter responding to a call. People don’t understand that about 95% of the people in New York live on 5% of the land, have of the state’s population lives in New York City. There is a lot of rural land in the state.

7 Badtux { 01.02.13 at 7:36 pm }

Indeed, different terrain. Fairly open piney woods with oak bottomlands generally require you to set up a stand in a tree well away from the water so that your scent doesn’t get to the deer, then wait for deer to go to water. A rifle with a scope is pretty much a requirement to actually bag your deer because you’re taking shots at a couple hundred yards with brush possibly intervening meaning you don’t have a full sight picture.

Your statements about .30-06 would have been true even twenty years ago, but not today. .308 has been the most popular cartridge behind the .30-30 for over a decade now. The reality is that the majority of deer hunters simply don’t need a round as powerful as the .30-06 and are voting with their feet for something a bit more mild-mannered, either the .30-30 or, if a lever gun isn’t their preference, generally the .308. Furthermore because of the popularity of 7.62x51mm NATO (which is basically identical to .308 Winchester), many of the same things you mention about .30-06 from your generation are true of .308 in this generation — brass is fairly cheap and available, and hand-loading is just as easy as with the .30-06. Meanwhile .30-06 hasn’t been used for military purposes since the beginning of the Vietnam War, before many of today’s hunters were even born, so the fact that there’s still old .30-06 military rifles in many an old man’s closet isn’t relevant to them…

Regarding teachers and stress, I don’t know many teachers who would carry even if it were allowed. It made me laugh to read right-wingers suggesting that shop teachers might be equipped with firearms. In today’s teach-to-the-NCLB-test schools there is no shop class and no shop teachers, there’s just an eternity of studying the material on the graduation exams that determine your future.

8 Bryan { 01.03.13 at 4:56 pm }

In the Northeast people generally inherit rifles instead of buying them, which is why there are so many gunsmiths – more money fixing them than selling them, so things change more slowly when it comes to hunting. There are also more regulations and more limitations.

I don’t remember anyone using a lever action, for example. Bolt action and the M1 were the rifles in the field with Remington and Mossberg pumps the shotguns. You were generally tracking in new snow as the season started in late November.

Hunting is declining in the Northeast, and the deer population is rising to the point of being a problem in some areas. Bow and black powder seasons aren’t having much effect, although climate change might.

To take a ‘shop class’ around here, you have to enroll in an entirely separate track from the regular schools, and the courses are held at a separate facility. I took shop and business courses in high school because I had already finished most of the academic courses before my senior year and had to do something other study halls all day.

Locally, they have entire weeks devoted to nothing except the preparation for “The Test”, which makes the whole point of the exercise worthless, and brings learning to a screeching halt.