Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's Just a Tool

Part 1 -- Pyramids in Argentina
Part 2 -- Bricks without straw
Part 3 -- Still Thinking
Part 4 -- Health
Part 5 -- Food for Thought
Part 6 - Alternatives
Part 7 - Hard Times

I like guns almost as much as I like knives. I think everyone should have some sort of firearm to defend hearth and home and to perhaps supplement the food supply. Personally, I’m set up to do more fishing than hunting. I’m not big on the taste of most game meat, except wild turkeys, but I’ll eat it if I have to. Fishing takes less effort, and you can catch only what you need for a meal. If you don’t have a fishing opportunity, consider the possibility of setting snares for small game, or building a rabbit gum. I’ll bet an inverted plastic storage box, some string, sticks and a piece of scrap 1x6 could be fashioned into a pretty decent gum in short order.

On firearms, I’m going to differ from your average survivalist/militia-type. I do not expect the U.S. military to come after us, and if they do, we are pretty well screwed. We are not going to have to fight against organized groups - government-sponsored or otherwise. I do not expect it; I do not see that happening; I could well be wrong. Still, I think it is highly unlikely that a person will ever have any reasonable excuse for opening fire on another human at any great distance. We are generally talking about defending yourself and your “stash” from the self-entitled and the opportunistic. The bad guys are not going to be wearing uniforms, colors, or specific tattoos. The dumb criminals won’t be around long. The smart ones will study their victims and figure out a way to approach closely before they strike. They will not likely come roaring up to the gate on outlaw Harleys and engage you in a long-distance firefight.

A heavy, high-capacity battle rifle is not my first choice for dealing with economic collapse. If a person has one, that’s fine. I just would not go out of my way to acquire one. On the other hand, if I didn’t have a centerfire handgun, I’d get one soon. Like TODAY. If I couldn’t get or couldn’t handle anything heavier, I’d get a .22LR autoloading handgun like the Ruger Mark I-III, the Browning Buckmark, or the newer Smith&Wesson. A .22LR handgun is not my first choice. For a centerfire, I would not worry too much about whether it’s a DA revolver or an autoloader, the caliber or the capacity. I’d get what I liked. I'd also get a good holster for it. Then I’d carry it and shoot it every chance I got until I was able to operate it in the dark without thinking and to consistently hit the middle of a 12-inch square at 15 feet in a hurry.

Some people want to argue about 9mm versus .45, double-action revolver versus autoloader. To me, it's like Chevy versus Ford — at least until GM became Government Motors. Any gun is better than no gun, and the only gun that is of any use is the one you have with you when you need it. There is nothing magical about the killing power of a .357 magnum or a .44 magnum or a .45 ACP. A mammal dies because its blood pressure drops. That may be caused by the heart stopping or excessive blood loss. The heart can be stopped by trauma to the central nervous system. Or, CNS trauma can incapacitate the creature until death occurs from blood loss or whatever. Outside of blowing your target up real good, no firearm you can carry will guarantee an immediate stop every time.

I've never shot a human, and I hope and pray I never have to. I have been on the receiving end of a gunshot wound, but my experience there is very limited and not necessarily typical. I have killed several animals with firearms, the largest being whitetail deer. I have also been informed by the experience of others with regard to the effectiveness of various weapons. I'll share a summary of my understanding, but I claim no special expertise. Most of the so-called experts don't have much real experience either. For handguns, the key seems to be penetration. The more flesh that a bullet goes through, all other things being equal, the more effective it is in dropping blood pressure. Also, obviously, the bigger the hole a projectile makes as it goes through the flesh, the more blood it is likely to let out. The weight of a bullet combined with velocity equals momentum. More momentum, more penetration. Speed itself does not kill when it comes to ballistics, but it certainly helps because it encourages, you might say, the bullets to expand (if they are the expanding kind), plus it aids in getting the projectile to the vital organs and through more blood vessels. Again, all other things being equal, the wider, heavier and faster a bullet is, the more damage it will do upon impact. None of that matters if you miss. Don't count on head shots. Choose wisely and practice religiously.

I’m a hillbilly. The shotgun is my weapon of choice. It’s just the way we’re wired. It isn’t always the best choice. It’s rarely the worst choice - unless the baby-eating cannibal commies do start shooting at you from 300 yards. As far as the gauge goes, I’m a 12-gauge man but I started shooting a 12 when the gun was taller that I was. A 20-gauge is easier for some people to handle. Don’t think that it is recoil-free, however. Back in the ‘60’s, my non-shooting brother-in-law bought a brand-new 20 to go bird hunting with my dad. He came back complaining of a bruised shoulder. Also, I am biased toward the Remington 870. There are many great autoloading shotguns out there like the Benelli that are good choices. Mossberg shotguns are as good as the 870, and, like the Remington, have plenty of aftermarket accessories available. In fact, if a person is only interested in the shotgun as a defensive arm, the Mossberg 590 might be the way to go.

There are things about a standard sporting shotgun that I don’t like for defensive purposes. For example, the recoil pad on my 870 is too tacky. It wants to hang up on my shirt rather than slide smoothly and swiftly into position. The sights on a typical shotgun aren’t sights. They are a reference point to help the shooter align the weapon until he is accustomed to the fit of the shotgun. When shooting at small moving targets like clay pigeons, doves or quail, the experienced shotgunner never “aims” the shotgun the way a rifle is aimed. A shotgunner is going on feel, view, and instinct - summed up in the now overused term muscle memory. You know where the end of the barrel should be in relation to your intended target.

Things have changed over the years. You can get shotguns with rifle sights or mount scopes or red dot sights or ghost ring sights. A lot of turkey hunters these days use red dots, scopes, or fiber optic sights because laying a very tight pattern precisely onto a tom’s head is the best way to bring him down and not have to pick shot out of your Thanksgiving dinner.

If a person is going to shoot slugs in a shotgun, precision sights are a necessity. I shoot rifled slugs in my 870 by screwing in the Improved Cylinder choke. I can get reasonable accuracy out to 100 yards - and by reasonable, I can keep 3 shots inside a 5-inch diameter circle. Shooting even 2-¾” 12-gauge off a bench or from a sitting position is a little tiring. The sights make all the difference. I mounted a fiber optic rear sight on my shotgun’s vent rib. After some experimentation with a matching fiber optic front sight, I decided to remove the front sight and use the standard bead in combination with the rear sight. This gives me sufficient fineness in alignment that I would feel quite confident on deer within 100 yards, maybe a little farther in good light.

For home defense, an even better approach would be to buy a shorter, rifled-sighted Improved Cylinder barrel on the 870. The 30-inch barrel that came on the shotgun is a little awkward in tight spots. A 20” barrel would be significantly more maneuverable.

If you really want handiness in a shotgun, get a “coach gun” - that is, a perfectly legal and traditional-looking double-barrel shotgun with a barrel length of 18-½ or 20 inches. The break-open action of a double shortens the overall shotgun length. Make sure you get a shotgun with ejectors rather than extractors, so that when you open the action, it ejects the spent hull or hulls completely. Don’t ever “give ‘em both barrels” - it’s unnecessary, but there is no faster follow-up shot than the second shot from a double. If you think that you might need more than two shots, it’s fairly easy to practice carrying one to three rounds between the fingers of your weak hand (i.e., the left for right-handers), opening the action and dropping a shell in to replace the ejected one. I learned to do something similar hunting quail with a break-open single-barrel. The other nice thing about a double is that it is rather intimidating when viewed from the business end.

Now, as to why I like shotguns despite their short range: I have seen them work. They do not blow creatures to bits. A shotgun will not necessarily knock an animal or a human off its feet. There is a scene in Open Range where Boss (Robert Duvall) is inside a building and shoots a bad guy through the wall with his double-barrel shotgun. I'm assuming he used both barrels because the blast took out about a 12-inch diameter section of the board siding and hurled the bad guy ten feet across the alley. He landed in a limp, lifeless heap. Down home we have a word for that, but since I'm G-Rated, I will say it is "fiction". Pure fiction. I've rolled rabbits backend over frontend with a shotgun. Don't expect it on anything bigger.

The effectiveness of a shotgun is in the amount of blood it lets out. Within its range on soft targets, a shotgun loaded with something like #2 shot has almost no equal in causing blood loss. The shot does not have to penetrate as deeply as single projectiles because of the large number that strike and the large area over which they strike. I have some 00 buckshot loads, but the range for them is still quite limited. They will penetrate better than smaller shot, but to be most effective they need to still be in a "bunch" when they impact. That means, if the shotgun has an open choke, fifteen yards is probably optimum. A full or extra-full choke like I normally use might get you another ten yards. Twenty-five yards is all I'd count on with any shotgun and any shot. (Slugs are not shot.)

Another limitation of the shotgun is its inability to penetrate cover, such as car doors, or a ballistic vest. Bad guys may well start wearing body armor, which is pretty effective against pistol rounds and shotguns. I've heard that regular slugs will not penetrate even the body armor that can be worn under clothes. That may be the case. I'm sure shot won't. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind, aside from the obvious head shot: a) what I said earlier about shotguns not knocking a person off their feet does not apply if a shotgun slug hits body armor that it cannot penetrate — it's going to hurt — keep shooting; and, b) there are a lot of blood vessels, big ones, in the leg of a human and gravity is your friend. Shoot low, Sheriff, she's ridin' a Shetland.

On the so-called assault rifles, especially the AR and its clones - I don’t have one. I don’t have a particular use for one. I’ve qualified with them. They have a lot of advantages such as weight, capacity, aftermarket accessories, picatinny rails and attachments. Most of the AR variants are quite accurate and easy to shoot, and they are apparently much more reliable than the first generation. They are durable, easy to field strip, clean, and repair, if you have the parts. Because they are well-designed ergonomically and designed to be carried, a person is more likely to have one with him/her when he/she needs it. I have nothing bad to say about AR’s. If you like them, get one.

For foraging, I would be far more likely to use a traditional bolt-action, lever-action, or even a single-shot rifle. I’d be far more likely to use a nice, quiet .22LR or a long-barreled .22WMR rifle for most of my hunting locally. Selection of a centerfire caliber varies by location - varies greatly. If I lived in the Plains or the Mountain West, I’d make sure I had something with a reasonably flat trajectory, like a .270. If I thought I’d run into a grizzly bear, I’d probably think about at least one of the .300 magnums or larger. Around here, the .223 is perfectly legal for deer, and within its limits, with a good bullet, it works well as long as it doesn’t have to penetrate too much mass to get to the vitals. I like to use rounds that are powder-efficient, as are many of the smaller cases. It’s interesting. For a long time, the “official” deer rifle was, of course, the .30-30, then the .30-06. During the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, everyone seemed to have a .243 or 6mm. Lately, all my rowdy friends have gone to .22 centerfires - less recoil, less muzzle blast, less powder, same result.

Frankly, if I weren’t concerned about legality, I could get by just fine with a .22WMR. Remington still makes their 597 Magnum autoloader. My research indicates that extraction and feeding problems are not that common, and the rifle is fairly accurate. It probably runs around $400 these days. For considerably less you could also pick up a Savage or Marlin bolt-action. A Henry lever-action .22 mag might also be less expensive. Seems like the CZ bolt-action I was looking at a while back was around $400, but it was a thing of beauty with a full Mannlicher stock and all steel components. The nice thing about a .22 magnum is that it will do nearly what a .223 does for the first 100 yards. Fifty rounds of .22WMR will fit in a pocket without weighing you down and cost you in the neighborhood of 18 cents to 25 cents a shot. I can reload a .223 for maybe a little less than that, depending on the bullets I use, if I don’t count my time. To each his own, but I would prefer at least a 22-inch barrel on a .22 magnum. My favorite is my old Mossberg 640KB with a 24-inch barrel. It’s quieter than most regular .22’s. With barrels less than 22 inches, the magnum has considerable muzzle-blast. From my Single-Six, it is more painful on my unplugged ears than a .44 magnum from my Super Blackhawk.

I know there will be some who dispute my comparison of the .22WMR to the .223, and I understand from an external ballistic point-of-view, the .223 seems far superior - more than 1000 fps faster than the fastest .22 magnum with a slightly heavier bullet. Even the .22 Hornet leaves the WMR in the dust. However, in terms of performance on game, the .22 magnum holds its own quite well.

While, as I said earlier, the shotgun is our weapon of choice, a reasonable case could be made for a .22LR rifle, especially an accurate, compact, reliable autoloader like the Ruger 10/22 or the Marlin 60/70 as the best single weapon a person could own. Don’t ask me how I know this, but a .22 is adequate for a humane kill on an Ozark whitetail. I wouldn’t say it’s the best choice but it is adequate, especially in the hands of a decent shot. As a defensive round, the .22LR, even with premium ammunition like the CCI Stinger, is less than perfect. It lacks penetration. Nevertheless, I’m sure two, three, or more center-of-mass or central nervous system hits from a .22 rifle would be extremely discouraging to anyone attempting mayhem on your person or property. A rifle like the Ruger 10/22, with some very economical practice, makes that pretty easy. Even peripheral wounds from a .22 would most likely encourage a predator to look for a less troublesome victim. Again, we’re talking about a potential Second Great Depression rather than a complete breakdown of society.

If you are not going to practice, at least dry-firing, and familiarize yourself with a firearm, I’d almost say you’re better off without one -- maybe consider an aluminum baseball bat instead. Almost. On the local news, just a couple of weeks ago as I write, they reported that a double homicide had been committed by a repeat offender. They flashed the murderer’s mugshot up on the screen. He is covered in tattoos. He has spent most of his 30 years in prison or on parole. His rap sheet isn’t a sheet, it’s a book several inches thick. He was in the house in a rural area when the owners returned home. There is no indication that the victims threatened the perpetrator or offered any resistance. He could have just taken the stuff he wanted and left. He didn’t. The couple he murdered had just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. Mr. Wilson was 82 and a veteran. His wife was 76. The animal - no, animals aren’t capable of such evil - the sick asshole raped the woman before shooting both victims in the back of the head.

Get a firearm, practice with it, carry it, and be prepared to use it. Don’t do anything illegal. If you need a permit to carry concealed, get one.

This brings up another point. Living in a more rural area is not a guarantee of safety. People in rural areas are more isolated and farther from law enforcement. They may also be assumed to be “richer” or to have a stash of cash or values. This view is likely to become more prevalent rather than less in an economic collapse. I don’t know the sequence of events in the situation just described, but some alertness on the part of the victims might have saved them. Their house appears to have been old. They may have been used to leaving their doors unlocked or possibly just minimally secured. I doubt they even had deadbolts. Only one door on my dad’s house had a deadbolt. The other two exterior doors could be carded. It is important to be alert and aware, especially of things that don’t “look right”, that are out of place or not the way you remember leaving them. Most of the time it will turn out to be nothing. The one time it isn’t could save your life or the life of a loved one.

No firearm will save you if you are stupid. In fact, if you are stupid, I have only one thing to say: Get off my blog!

No comments:

Post a Comment