Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Firearms Stupidity Continues... A Primer On Knowing What You're Talking About

The problem with this kind of discussion it its length.  It won't fit a portion of a five minute TV presentation and it is, frankly, longer than most will tolerate in an internet posting.  It isn't full of shocking rheroric and immediate points made.  I don't give a damn about talking points and I don't give a damn about emotional appeals.

I'm getting increasingly aggravated by absolute stupidity put forward as a part of the discussion regarding gun regulation.  When you get someone like Jesse Jackson getting on the TV and talking about being able to shoot down airplanes or stop trains with an "assault rifle" and not be questioned you've reached the stratosphere of ludicrous.  Airplanes are in fact vulnerable to gun fire (and a well thrown rock) at take-off and landing and thereafter... forget about it and then... a train???  In regard to gunfire and trains, you could watch films of P51 Mustangs or P47 Thunderbolts shooting up trains and start to get an idea of what it takes.  On the other hand you have complete idiots like Wayne LaPierre whose stupidity I can't begin to address.

Let me be about as clear as I know how, we do actually need to do something in regard to gun violence in this country.  Needing to do something is not carte blanche for stupid behavior.  If you recognize the insanity of things like our drug policies, our terrorism policies, our disregard of the 4th and 5th Amendments, and pretty much on and on in regard to law enforcement you need to stop and look at during just exactly what environment those abortions were enshrined.

If you take a look at post-Prohibition propaganda and our War on Drugs you can start to get an idea of what kinds of stupidity can drive legislation.  The War on the Mafia morphed into things that bear almost no relationship to our Constitutional ideas of law enforcement which then morphed onto drugs, terror, general law enforcement.

Ugly guns have become the focus.  There are two things that separate those guns from others - their appearance and their magazine capacity.  Looks don't have a damn thing to do with anything - function is what is at issue.  This is the part that somehow gets missed and it is the crux of any issue regarding any particular type of firearm, or damn near any object.  If there is a problem surrounding these particular objects it is their ammunition capacity because their operational function is common with a huge number of other firearms that are not even mentioned.

The deadliness of a firearm has to do with three factors: its overall fire rate, bullet performance, and accuracy.  These things don't have a simple one or two word description, they are in fact complicated issues which is why there are so many types and varieties within type of firearms.  Whatever it is you've seen out of Hollywood regarding a gun it is almost surely stupidly wrong and done for no more than dramatic effect.

Starting at the back end of my list with accuracy you hit one of the most complicated of the bunch.  Putting a bullet where it is supposed to be is a subject for an entire book. The factors are so broad and so variable that I'm not even going to bother with listing a couple and this is outside the interest of this article and an aspect to be covered under another of the factors.

Bullet performance is generally typed under ballistics and this matters in regard to what happens with a hit and in respect to accuracy that is narrowly relevant here.  There is a very good reason people hand load, beyond getting cheaper bullets.  What a bullet is made of and its shape matters, steel is a part of a bullet for armor piercing, copper jackets decrease deformation on hit and hold the bullet together a bit more, then things like hollow point to increase mushrooming of a bullet on impact bear on damage.  Velocity and weight are large determinants of bullet behavior.  Bullet energy matters and that is made up of velocity and weight but it is not the be-all-end-all.  You can equal out energy by varying either weight or velocity because a high velocity light round can have the same energy as a slow heavy round but what happens on impact varies wildly within that equation.  A slow heavy round will go through things that will shatter or stop a fast light round.  A 30-06 hunting round at 150 grains and 2600 feet per second will do things an AR15 .223 at 55-80 grains and 2900 fps will not do.  In Jesse Jackson's ridiculous scenario that hunting round have much more serious consequences than the assault rifle round.  Recoil is also an issue that has to do with weight and velocity, covered later. 

Fire rate is a huge factor in something like the mass killings we've seen.  Semi-automatic firearms work by firing a round and loading the next into the camber with that firing without manually cocking the firearm.  This is taken as the crux of "assault weapons" and yet that feature is accomplished in many ways by many other completely different firearms.  A double action revolver mechanically advances the cylinder with each trigger pull, recoil is used to cock and chamber most pistols (semi-auto Glocks, Colts, on and on) and gas operation or recoil on rifles and shotguns.  What that boils down to is the ability to fire as fast as the trigger can be operated and that stops when the capacity is exhausted and then the next set of rounds must be mechanically inserted and chambered.  Being able to operate the trigger does not mean the ability to hit a target, the bullet will hit something and that can be bad.  A couple factors matter and it isn't simple.  The physical dimensions of the firearm affect how quickly it can be moved, weight and length matter in that respect.  Recoil is the big one in rapid firing and this one is somewhat complex.  Newton laid this one out a long time ago.

For each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If you use contained gas expansion to send a weighty object in a direction at high velocity that container is going to try to go in the opposite direction.  Thanks to the shape and rifling twist modern firearms tend to go back and up and to the right.  This effect's dimensions are driven by the gas expansion, projectile weight, and firearm weight in resistance.  Quite simply, when you fire the gun it is no longer pointed where it was and just how much it isn't pointed there is quite variable.  (regarding Hollywood - if you could knock somebody flying with a gun it would knock you flying just as much minus the weight of the gun)

In the realm of a mass shooting the only thing that sets an "assault rifle" out is its ammunition capacity at one moment.  It is the ability to fire consecutively a large number of rounds.  If a person wants to do something useful in regard to an item it is important to address what there is about the item that sets it aside from others.  It is important to note that addressing an item does not address any other factors that might bear on the problem.

There is a parade of stupidity on display from both sides and the issue deserves much better than that.  It is not a simple thing to address and the consequences of stupidity made policy are horrifying.  This is not going to have any sort of useful corrective actions taken if the persuasion is undertaken by assholes of whatever stripe.  If you were to take the media representatives of either side and drop them off the edge of the world they inhabit the collective sense of the remaining populous would be measurably improved (on the spherical one).  Lying to people who know better only makes them angry, which ever side you fall on.  


Anonymous said...

Our founding fathers had much to say about the 2nd Amendment. All the anti-gunners or gun control freaks base their whole arguments on just emotion spouting useless invectives such as: "Eew bad scary guns" or "it was the gun's fault". No facts about the real meaning of the 2nd Amendment. It's impossible to argue logic and facts with emotional wrecks. The right to bear arms had NOTHING to hunting, it was to keep tyranny in check. The single largest murderers in the 20th century were governments, especially after they disarmed their citizenry.

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