turn that sight to “2”.

I served in the German military when the standard issue rifle was the Heckler & Koch G3. I was a light infantry grunt and (later) a drill instructor at boot camp, which is why I feel qualified to make the comments that follow.

Every single G3 pattern rifle with H&K diopter-style sights I see at American gun shops and gun shows has its sights set to the 100-meter “v-notch” setting. THIS IS WRONG. The 100-meter v-notch sight has only three purposes:

  1. Anti-aircraft fire on the full-auto setting
  2. “Sturmschiessen” (suppressive full-auto fire)
  3. Low-light shooting where the diopter sight is useless.

Note that two out of those three purposes require a full-auto sear, which makes them inapplicable to semi-auto HK91s and -93s.

Outside of those rare circumstances, the drum sight of a G3-pattern rifle is to be set to the 200-meter diopter setting as the default. Failure to do so will earn you the disapproval of any former Bundeswehr drill sergeants present, who will at the very least turn your sight setting to the proper one.

the ethics of going armed.

Kit is a police officer in Montana. Kit has written a blog post you should read.

http://kitlear.com/?p=420

I have a few notes of my own on the subject of self-defense and mindset, as some of you might imagine. Kit has the practical aspects covered, so I’ll try to tackle the philosophical angle, as I’m known to do on occasion.

I have sort of a split social personality. Half of my circle of friends and acquaintances are gun-toting libertarians or conservatives. The other half are writers, editors, and publishers, most of which are liberals. There’s some overlap between the two groups–a lot of my conservative friends are socially quite liberal, and a lot of my liberal-leaning friends either own guns or are interested in them. Some of them, however, don’t own guns, don’t care to own guns, and don’t think anyone else has a valid reason to own one either.  They think that carrying a firearm is a sign of uneducated, retrograde proclivity for violence, and that even the desire to own one is something that marks a person as mentally unhealthy.

In the last few years, as I have gained a few levels for the Writer class I seem to have rolled in Life:The Role-Playing Game, I’ve been around more people of the second mindset than ever before. I’ve been to conventions and workshops, and due to the strong liberal bent of the publishing world I’ve usually self-censored myself and kept my opinions on the subject under wraps until I was reasonably sure I was with a group of people who were fairly like-minded on the subject–or at least not completely appalled at the notion of armed self-defense. (In contrast, I’ve done the same social dance in reverse whenever I’ve been around the gun blogger community–I generally keep my yap shut about the fact that I’m a pro-choice atheist with very strong small-l libertarian leanings unless someone asks me directly.)

Outing yourself as a gun owner (and worse, a gun toter) to a liberal friend can be very much like coming out of the closet or identifying yourself as an atheist to a strongly religious conservative friend. I can’t believe it! And he seems like such a nice guy! What the hell is wrong with him? Well, I always sort of knew there was something just a little off about him. When I was hanging out with one of my Viable Paradise pals at the end of VP XII, she was visibly shocked when we were talking about the subject, she asked me if I usually carried a gun, and I answered in the affirmative. To be fair, she’s from Canada, where carry permits are about as rare as televangelists on food stamps, so it wasn’t too surprised at her shock of having to mentally sort me into the “violent redneck yahoo” drawer she had reserved in her brain for people who carry firearms. I’ve learned to tread softly on the issue because publishing is really not a very big playground, you see the same faces at cons and workshops all the time, and you really don’t want to push strong opinions on something that can have a negative effect on your career prospects in the future.

Those who know me can tell you that I am not a violent person. I abhor conflict and will go out of my way to avoid it. I was abused by a parent when I was a kid, and frequently bullied in high school, so I have a special dislike for abusers and bullies. Even so, I believe that most of the people I meet are decent and good. I live in a small town, I don’t hang out with people who do stupid shit, and if I keep living the way I do, there’s a 99.99% chance that I’ll never have need for a firearm for self-defense.

That said, while I believe that most people are decent and good, I know–without the shadow of a doubt–that some people aren’t. And here’s the thing about those that aren’t: they are not good to a degree that most of my liberal friends who dislike guns and write off armed people as paranoid hicks can’t comprehend. We’re not talking about “swiping the cash box from girl scouts” bad. Some people have decided to abandon the social contract so entirely that you are not a real person to them. You’re just the thing they need to get rid of to get at the wallet and the car keys in your pocket, like a wrapper around a candy bar that needs to be ripped off and discarded before you can get to the nougat. (My former mother-in-law was one of those people who were aghast at the notion of someone arming themselves for self-defense. When I asked her what her plan was if she ever get mugged, she said, “Reason with them. Everyone wants to be respected.”) Well, some people don’t care about reasoning with you because you’re not a person to them. They don’t give a shit about being respected, at least not in the way you understand the word. You’re a food animal. All they care about is the thing they want from you–your wallet, your car, your body, whatever–and they want it now and with the least amount of fuss. And if they feel that the transaction is taking too long, puts them at risk in any way, they have no compunction about hurting you badly or killing you on the spot. This is not paranoid hyperbole, or some sort of effort to dehumanize muggers and rapists. It’s observed reality, and if you doubt that, all you have to do is to open the “Crime” section of any newspaper. (Better yet, talk to a beat cop.)

Now, some of my liberal friends and acquaintances will take the stance that going armed will not be of use most of the time against people with that kind of mindset. You won’t get to it in time, they’ll take it away from you, you’ll miss them and hit an innocent bystander, the gun in the home is more likely to hurt a family member by accident…the list of counterpoints is long, and I can recite it by rote. We can argue any or all of the points above for hours, but there’s one thing that, on a philosophical level, you will never be able to make me concede:

That intentionally making yourself weaker in the face of danger and aggression is somehow more civilized, moral, intelligent, or enlightened. 

You’re not the better human by not fighting back. You’re not the better human for choosing to have no claws or teeth. You’re not the better human for delegating responsibility your personal safety to some underpaid guy or girl with a tin badge. And you damn sure don’t get to claim a halo for your attitude.

Look, threatening to end someone else’s life for the contents of their wallet or access to their body is the worst kind of social contract violation. Responding to that kind of violation with passivity and compliance only enables and propagates the act. If enough people meekly hand over their possessions, the violator not only has no reason to stop doing what he’s doing, he has a strong incentive to keep doing it. If you could have stopped him but didn’t, then you’re at least partially responsible when he finishes with you and then goes down the street to do the same thing to someone who would have stopped him but couldn’t.

No, carrying a gun is not a guarantee that you’ll be free from harm. But I carry one because it gives me options that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I can use it or leave it in its holster, but the choice is mine. We all take a path every day that’s occasionally frequented by mountain lions, and I choose to walk that path with my own set of teeth and claws just in case. There’s nothing noble or moral about walking that path unarmed and making yourself easier prey. You may respect the mountain lion’s right to live more than you do your own, but he will have forgotten you as soon as you’ve passed through his digestive tract. I’ll still have friendly words for anyone I meet along the road, and I’ll be a happy man if I take all my walks on that path without ever having to use my gun, but I won’t be an easy meal, and I don’t think it’s morally superior to intentionally make yourself one. And I’m amused by people telling me that I am paranoid, because don’t you know how rare mountain lion attacks really are? It’s all just statistics and stuff that happens to other people…until you’re the one that ends up on the menu by chance.

If you don’t like guns, and you don’t want to carry one, that is your choice, and I respect it. If you don’t like the fact that I carry one, it’s your prerogative to judge me according to your system of ethics. But if your dislike extends to supporting laws that would make it illegal for me to carry that gun, understand this: if I mean you harm, trying to disarm me is pointless…and if I don’t mean you harm, disarming me won’t make you any safer.

beeg boolitz.

Those are two of the 300-grain .50AE rounds we fired from the Desert Eagle two weeks ago, recovered from the rotting log that was part of our backstop and target backing. The coins are for scale. As you can tell, they both mushroomed very nicely, which is to be expected when you shoot them into spongy wood at close to 1,500 feet per second.

dear diary: today we killed a mailbox and had some chili.

We had friends over on Saturday. There was some truly excellent chili, some 15-year-old single malt Scotch, and some ballistic recreation with various devices.

One of those devices was my friend’s Desert Eagle in .50AE. We shot up a sheet metal mailbox, and I’m here to tell you that if you ever get charged by a roving pack of feral mailboxes, the .50 Desert Eagle will do the job just fine. The gun is completely impractical for defense, too expensive to plink with on a regular basis, and good for nothing but handgun hunting and Having A Blast At The Range. (Of course, “because I want one” is a totally legitimate reason for buying one, and all the justification a free adult needs for the purchase of anything.)

At one point, I decided to try it one-handed:

Disclaimer: The Scotch was consumed after the handling of firearms, hearing and eye protection was used at all times, the backstop was completely safe, and the mailbox had it coming. (Unless you’re mikeb3000000n+1, in which case the targets were defenseless minority baby seals held up by frightened first-graders, hearing protection is for Commies and queers, we were completely drunk and wearing Nazi uniforms, and the backstop was a kindergarten playground at recess time.)

Oh yeah, we also had a bonfire with a ten-foot brush pile I had in the backyard waiting for the first snow to cover the ground. Propane torches are big, dirty fun for getting a very hot fire going very quickly.

Propane torches, good food, great company, fine Scotch, and powerful firearms. What better way to spend an afternoon?

guns aren’t toys, yutz.

Arizona State senator Lori Klein (R) is a pro-gun politician. She carries a purple-framed Ruger LCP in her purse. During an interview with an Arizona Republic reporter, she took it out of her purse and aimed the loaded pistol at the reporter’s chest to show off the red dot of the Ruger’s laser sight. When the reporter objected, she said that he wasn’t in danger because "she didn’t have her hand on the trigger."

I don’t need to tell my responsible gun-owning friends that this is monumental gun safety fail. It violates one of the cardinal rules of gun handling, which are:

RULE I: All guns are always loaded.

RULE II: Never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy.

RULE III: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

RULE IV: Be sure of your target, and what’s behind it.

Senator Klein needs a serious refresher in safe gun handling, and shouldn’t be handling firearms until she has internalized those rules. You don’t point a loaded gun at anyone outside of legitimate defense of your life, ever. There are no exceptions to this rule, or any of the other ones on the list.

For those readers waiting to jump in and claim this incident as evidence that the majority of gun owners are yahoos like Senator Klein: none of my gun-owning friends would ever think about pointing their loaded guns at someone without emergency, and none of them would tolerate that kind of action from someone else. If you showed up at the range or the Northeast Bloggershoot, for example, proceeded to point your loaded gun at people intentionally or accidentally, and then shrugged it off with "My finger wasn’t on the trigger," getting ejected and asked not to return would be the most gentle thing that could happen to you.

killing over stuff.

My friend Jay has a post up on “killing over stuff”, and he asks the question “At which point is it worth killing someone (over property)?”

He says that he routinely carries only $20-30 in cash on his person, and that this is definitely not worth killing a mugger over. He would still defend himself, but his (correct) reasoning is that he can’t divine the mugger’s intentions, and doesn’t want to hand over his wallet and end up dead anyway like the victim in this story. On the subject of “mere” property, however, he says that thirty bucks of your money aren’t worth a life.

I disagree.

Leaving aside the notion of relying on the goodwill of the mugger and his willingness to abide by the unspoken rules of his “your money or your life” blackmail, here’s why thirty bucks in your wallet are good and damn well worth a life.

That money in your wallet represents time–namely the time it took you to acquire that money. I don’t know Jay’s houry salary, but it’s probably fair to say that he works the better part of an hour for thirty bucks net. That’s an hour of his life the mugger is now commandeering. It’s like someone pulling up next to you, forcing you into a van, and making you lick stamps for his home business at gunpoint for an hour. Add to that the time it will take Jay to replace his credit cards, driver’s license–and anyone with MA DMV experience knows that there’s a morning pissed away–and you’re looking at a day or so of Jay’s time. That mugger stealing $30 from jay has effectively enslaved him for an entire day of his life.

Well, if that’s not worth using force in self-defense, what is? Where do you draw the line? If someone tries to make me their slave at gunpoint for a day, do I have the right to resist with lethal force? How about a week? A month? A year? Where does the moral threshold lie, and how do you determine that?

In my view, that moral threshold is crossed the second someone steps in front of you with a gun to make you do his bidding under threat of force. It doesn’t matter if the mugger wants to commandeer your life for an hour or a decade–your life is your own, and you have the absolute right to defend every bit of it against unlawful theft. If I’m morally justified to shoot someone over a million dollars of my property, I am justified to shoot them over ten dollars. If I am not justified to shoot them over ten bucks, I’m not justified to shoot them over a million. That’s the only consistent and non-arbitrary application of that moral principle.  Any other interpretation puts a dollar value on your existence, and your right to live your life as your own master.

guns in bars, or ZOMG weesa gonna die!

If there’s one thing I can’t stand in a debate, it’s the tendency to toss out an emotional argument for one side of an issue, and then flat-out refusing to acknowledge that the other side may have a valid point or two as well.

Ohio has passed a reform of its concealed carry laws that allows permit holders to carry their legal guns into establishments that have Class D liquor licenses. Predictably, the people opposing that legislation are calling it the “Guns in Bars” law, to invoke mental images of drunken yahoos having a shoot-out over a ball game score or a sideways glance in a sports bar.

The main reason why gun rights organizations push for such laws has nothing to do with bars. (In fact, even with the new Ohio law, it will remain a felony to drink alcohol at those establishments while armed.) Those laws just make it legal for a permit holder to stay armed while eating at a restaurant (most of which have on-premises hooch licenses), or merely walking into an establishment that has a liquor license. That includes bars, technically speaking, but the intent and scope of the law precludes people getting legally tanked at Big Ed’s Sports Bar while strapped. Those laws just mean that Joe Permit doesn’t have to disarm and leave his gun in the car while eating at Chili’s. It keeps everyone safer because it eliminates gun handling in the parking lot, it doesn’t require a firearm to be left unattended in a semi-public space, and it doesn’t give criminals an obvious target for theft or robbery. (As for the “this will cost a life” argument–I know of at least one well-documented case where a permit holder died because he complied with the law and disarmed, only to be mugged and killed in the parking lot on the way back to his car. That argument cuts both ways.) I repeat: it remains a felony in Ohio to drink in those establishments while toting a gun, and will result in loss of carry rights and imprisonment. Also, the law has a provision for any business to opt out by posting a “No Guns” sign at the door.

Now, the argument that such laws will cost lives and increase deadly confrontations at bars is not supported by the evidence. Many states with legal concealed carry have laws that allow the carrying of guns in places that serve liquor. Some of them, like my own home state of New Hampshire, don’t even specify that CCW holders can’t drink while armed. And yet we make it through life without drunks gunning each other down in the bars and taverns of the Granite State over hockey or baseball scores every weekend. I can go down to the bar in town and legally have five beers and a martini while packing a gun. (Why don’t I do that? Because I have the sense to not intentionally make myself impaired while carrying a firearm–and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have the sense to check or care about the law before I head down to the old watering hole.) Ohio’s law is way more restrictive, so why would you assume that this will be a problem, unless you think Ohioans as a whole are much less responsible and more violence-prone than New Hampshireites?

It’s a patently condescending and classist argument because it assumes that other people can’t act in a smart way (especially those low-brow, Budweiser-swilling, conservative gun-toting rednecks), and that the only people who want to legally carry guns are invariably uneducated, violent morons who just don’t have the good judgment to not drink and tote in public, and to not shoot their seat neighbor when they’re pissed off. (As if anyone prone to that kind of behavior is going to give two shits about the legality of the pistol in his waistband any more than he does about the fact that shooting people dead is illegal outside of legitimate self-defense.) 

I just don’t get how you can call yourself an educated, open-minded person when you’re perfectly willing to boil down an argument to the least honest, most emotional, most willfully misleading implication of the law while completely ignoring the other side of the debate…just because you disagree with the law in question.

on the suitability of snow berms for a backstop.

Today was a 50-some degree day. The snow is melting in a hurry around Castle Frostbite.

Last month, I used a snow berm in front of a safe backstop to pop off a few magazines with the P229. Today, I walked around outside and found these, bunched up in a group on the soggy grass:

Those are 115 grain 9mm FMJs, from CCI Blazers. Other than the groove marks from the SIG’s barrel, they almost look good enough to reload. I found them less than three feet from where I had placed the target in front of the snow berm. That snow slows down pistol bullets in a hurry.

on writing and guns.

I get the occasional gun question from writer friends who know that I own firearms.  If you’re one of them, I have a two-part invitation for you:

  • Feel free to ask me technical questions abut guns and the use of them for your stories.  I’ve been owning and legally carrying firearms for twenty-two years, both professionally and as a private citizen, and I know an awful lot about the subject.  And even if I don’t know the answer, I probably know people who do.
  • If you’re ever in the area, and you’d like to get some safe instruction in handling and shooting firearms in a safe and low-stress environment, let me know.  I’d be glad to teach you the basics of gun safety, handling and shooting a weapon, and responsible gun ownership.