Monday, February 3, 2014

Radically Invasive Projectile

There have been more advancements in the quality and variation of ammunition in the last twenty years than in the entirety of human history. This is true for many types of technology, but fewer have as obvious of a kinetic impact on the minds and bodies of Americans. My beliefs on weapon ownership are my own. My goal is not to sway people and frankly I doubt such a thing is possible. I want only to make my position clear before I get into the details.

I believe strongly in every persons right to own firearms for the purposes of hunting, sport shooting and self-defense. Each pursuit requires different types of weapons and ammunition. If your goal is hobby long range shooting, you will want full metal jacket(FMJ) ammunition made to exacting standards. There are several calibers for this hobby so people have options. For hunting, you may be able to use the same rifle, but odds are a rifle used for long range target shooting is not the best option for hunting, and the ammunition definitely has to be different.

When you’re hitting paper targets for accuracy, a common choice would be match grade 168 grain weight .308 caliber. This has become common so it’s a good choice for target shooters because so many different companies make a version. For deer hunting, .308 is still a good caliber, but you would likely want a slightly lighter weight bullet and definitely one designed to expand on impact.

I meant what I said about not trying to change anyone’s position on weapons. What I will say is that making uneducated posts about the details of weapons and ammunition may actually be counter to whatever point you are trying to make. If there is to be a debate, get off your high condescending horse and at least learn enough about the basics so that you don’t go into a debate intellectually unarmed. Also, while you may wish to eliminate all firearms from the face of the planet, until someone creates a magic wand, they are a reality we need to deal with.

I’ve recently seen arguments from intelligent people claiming that expanding bullets should be outlawed, citing that the Geneva Convention bans them so they must be bad. This logic is flawed and made out of ignorance. In point of fact, it is not the Geneva Convention but the Hague Accord of 1899 (a document the USA abides by but didn’t sign). Expanding bullets were banned in war because of the horrific wounds they cause to the recipients. In war, anyone that follows the rules (mostly UN countries) uses only ball or full metal jacket rounds. A soldier is more likely to survive a wound from a full metal jacket round. If given the option I think most soldiers would prefer to stay with the FMJ rounds because they can shoot the enemy through doors and walls, putting themselves at less risk.

This is because the FMJ round doesn’t expand (much, there is always some distortion upon impact, the thing isn’t magic), so it doesn’t transfer its energy to the target. It punches a hole about the same size entering and exiting. The problem is that the bullet doesn’t magically disappear after it exits the target. It keeps much if its velocity and energy and keeps on going, through wood, sheetrock, or the flesh of another person until the gravity and friction act upon it enough that it comes to rest. This is good news if you’re the target (because it causes less damage to you), but bad news if you are standing behind the target.

Outside of warzones, this is a horrible idea regardless of whether it is a police officer or someone defending themselves. Hollow points and frangible ammunition are designed to do the opposite. They are specifically designed to transfer all their energy to the intended target and not exit the body. No sane person wants to protect themselves and their family at the cost of the family next door or in the case of hunting, wants the animal to suffer.

Quick side not. About twenty years ago, one round that was designed for elk mistakenly got into our hunting ammo can we used for deer. In the dark, I loaded my rifle with deer rounds in the magazine but the loose round I put in the chamber was the “Super Slammer” elk round. I shot a buck at about 250 yards away. It dropped like the strings were cut, which is the reaction I’m used to. You may hate the idea of hunting, but you must agree that if it occurs, the animal should not suffer. I believe this strongly enough that I don’t take risky shots. When I went to field dress the deer, it was still alive. The elk round wasn’t a full metal jacket, but it was designed to bring down a much bigger animal. The exit wound made it look like it had been an FMJ and the deer suffered. My fault and I was sick to my stomach. The deer rounds I used expanded similar to a pistol hollow point and all the deer I ever shot with those rounds died instantly because of the amount of sudden damage. Those bullets exited, but they didn’t go far or have much velocity left. 

I understand the reaction and the desire of rational people to recoil from the idea of causing other people harm. I share this sentiment. I will be happy to die of old age having never killed another human being. However, if I am ever stuck in a situation where my only two choices are to either cause harm to another or die or worse see one of my family die, then I vote for that other person to die instead.

Some people don’t share this belief and they are as incomprehensible to me as I’m sure I am to them. While it’s easy to try to dehumanize or denigrate anyone that has different views than you, I respect pacifist beliefs. I don’t need to agree with them that it is better to die and let their families die than to cause another person harm, I just have to accept that they have the right to their beliefs and it is not ok for me to call them stupid or suggest that they need to be weaned from the gene pool (as a few people on FB did about gun owners).

My belief is that I live in a world and specifically America where people do harm to others without cause or justification. Until that changes, I will do whatever I feel is necessary to protect my family and myself but I will not have any self defense weapon in my house loaded with a round that will punch through multiple walls and cause unintended consequences.

People love quoting statistics about gun owners being a greater threat to themselves than external threats, and I certainly admit that there are plenty of people that own guns that lack wisdom and or the sense to use them responsibly. All I can do is make sure that I’ve taken the steps I need while ensuring that I don’t introduce more risk to my family. Gun safes, training and awareness and the proper ammunition that won’t travel through concrete blocks are just the basics.

The reason for the latest outcry is a new round called the Radically Invasive Projectile, or R.I.P. It is being touted as the last self defense round you’ll ever need. Based on my stance, you may jump to the conclusion that I can’t wait to buy a few boxes. You’d be wrong.

This ammunition is not technically “dum dum” or a hollow point or even traditional frangible ammunition. This is the worst, not the best of both worlds. Not only does it spread out like a frangible round on impact, but it is designed to punch through barriers including sheet rock (not that hard to do), windshield (because shooting at people in cars is so common) sheet metal (much harder to do), cinder blocks (god forbid the person you want to shoot is cowering behind cement) and hints at being able to defeat bullet resistant vests that lack ceramic plates if you read between the lines and boasts 18 inches of penetration. The average body thickness is only 9 ½ inches, so this ammo is designed to kill two inline people, and that is with their current 9mm pistol round. They plan to make larger caliber rounds including a 12 gauge shotgun version. I shudder to think what the penetration through concrete will be for these larger rounds. 

This is a terrible idea just like using war required full metal jacket ammunition for self defense is a terrible idea. The reason is the penetration that they are bragging about. This ammunition is only suitable if you are the only person in range that you care about. So it’s great for a zombie apocalypse or for any sociopath. If I was ever scooped up and dropped on one of those islands you see in the movies where I had to kill every other person to “win”, I’d want this ammo, otherwise, WTF?

I don’t consider this responsible gun ownership or usage and can’t condone it because of the potential for collateral damage. I’m not advocating outlawing it, but some people will. Or more correctly, people will think they are creating a law to ban this type of ammunition and end up banning something else by mistake because they believe themselves so above gun culture that they won’t bother to do the research.  If your plan is to create new laws then you need to educate yourself so you pass a law that causes the least harm when eliminating all harm is not practical. “Dum dum” or hollow point bullets should be mandated, not outlawed, for self defense.  But legislation for one brand or type is foolish because they will just change it slightly to get by the law. An example of this was when San Francisco outlawed Black Talon ammunition. They were so specific in their language, that the company slightly changed their product by removing a coating to the bullet and the law no longer applied.

The best option would be to use language that can’t be misinterpreted. Specify that self-defense ammunition that will punch through the body of the initial target and travel through the neighbor’s house and into someone else is illegal. Ownership of different types of ammunition should not be made illegal, but discharging dangerous ammunition in a self-defense situation should carry a penalty. 

Full metal jacket ammunition has it’s place outside of war, specifically for target practice.  Educating people that get concealed carry permits as to the type of ammunition that is best for self defense just makes sense but isn't currently mandatory. If you want to make new gun laws, quit dreaming about total bans and make recommendations that are possible and would be beneficial to law abiding citizens.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Honey Toast

Those of you that have lived through one know that a divorce doesn’t just happen between two people when theirs is a family involved.
It happened to us when I was eleven. My mom told me years later that from the moment she asked for a divorce until the day we moved out was around three months. Three months under the same roof with a man that knew I'd chosen to live with my mom.
My father was many things during his life. Before he died he was my friend. He grew emotionally and even spiritually more than most people do once they pass forty. The change wasn't easy for him, but he worked at it and for that I'm very proud of him.
But this is not a story of the man that I grew to respect and love, this is a story of a man that hadn't yet reached rock bottom. He was not a good father or a good husband, a fact that was a surprise to him. After all, he fulfilled his duties, provided for his family and was faithful, and in his book, those were all the bases. Unfortunately for him, he lived in the later part of the 20th century and not the later part of the 19th.
I spent my childhood working hard to become invisible. I got very good at it. Children were meant to be seen, not heard and not often seen. Even before the divorce was a tangible reality, our family was unhappy. Dinnertime was the hardest for me, because I couldn't remain invisible. Nothing I did was right and I was a common target. Starting at age eight, I would imagine building walls of brick in the pattern of Tic-Tac-Toe game so that no one could see in front of them or even to the sides. I would visualize the wall being built, brick by brick and then will it into existence. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.
My father called me boy, never Scott, not until I was eighteen and back for a visit from the Army. If he started a sentence with "Boy", it was never good. It meant I was visible and that I'd done something wrong. There were so many rules to remember. I ran through them, adding to the list as new ones were created, usually after I'd done something wrong that he hadn't anticipated. Invisible was better and my room was a refuge. I was out of site and therefore out of mind, and I would spend most evenings playing or daydreaming. I wanted to lie on my bed, but it was against the rules before bedtime and I feared being caught. I used to love when my mom read me stories, but that was for little kids, not ten year olds. As much as I loved the stories, it was better not to get them than to be the subject of another fight.
I blocked out most of those three months from notification to moving day. In my memory, it was a long week. Only within the last few years, did some of the memories from that time surface. They rose like abandoned ocean mines, broken loose from their moorings without care for where they floated or what damage they caused. Some came while my father was in the hospital and some came after he died, as if his death freed me to remember. There were fewer than I feared, because while the atmosphere was more tense than usual, one day was painful in the same way as the day before and the day after. We all fell into our routine of agony, with few deviations.
One such deviation came at the dinner table. For once I was completely invisible, but I wanted nothing more that to be seen, anything to divert his attention from my mother. The fight had been building for hours. I wished it away. I prayed and wished and devised Faustian bargains in my mind to stop the rage that boiled over in my father. I'd seen them yell and scream and in some ways the worst of all was the silent, cold rage, but that night was different. I didn't hear or perhaps I didn’t want to hear what was said, but they were cruel, hateful words. Words you can't take back but can only apologize for, a thing my father never did.
The fight moved from the table to the kitchen, only three feet away in our doublewide trailer. My mom was backed into the corner and my dad was working himself up into frenzy. I'd been in that corner at school, watching a bully getting ready. They always seem to need something. Some trigger in their mind that justified the physical attack. My mom could see it coming too. I saw fear in her eyes that betrayed the rage on her face. I was sitting in my chair, afraid to move.
"Do it! Hit me, I know you want to!"
He raised his fist and I was out of my chair, a steak knife in my hand. He would not hurt her. I swore it. I couldn’t act without a trigger any more than he could, but my trigger was his fist. If he struck her, I swore to god I would shove that knife handle deep into his kidney. I was still invisible and I knew I could do it. Nothing existed but my mother's tears, my father's fist and the knife in my hand. I pictured the blade entering his lower back just above the belt and remembered from a story I’d read that I had to twist the blade to get it back out. God help me, but I wanted him to do it. I wanted to end the screaming and the tears and I wanted to stop being afraid all the time.
Something in her posture made him hesitate. The trigger he was waiting for didn’t come from her face or lips. He stormed out of the room and as soon as he was gone, my mother's will collapsed into more tears as she sagged to the floor. Still invisible, I put the knife back on the table and went to my room, unable to comfort her because I didn't think she could handle knowing I'd seen them and afraid she would know what I was so ready to do. I was eleven again, alone and afraid.
Time passed with my father sleeping on the couch and me going to school. I played with my best friends and tried to do anything but think. I remember the day he left. It was actually the day we left, but he had to go to work and we would be gone by the time he got back. My sister and I were at the front door. The sun was not up yet but I could see him on the front steps in the false dawn. He was sad. I'd never seen him sad and it looked strange on his face.
"I love you kids you know."
Then he gave us a hug and walked away. The first time the word love had escaped his mouth and it was divided by two and followed up with his departure. I couldn't watch him leave. I went back inside and waited to go to school among a maze of cardboard boxes. We were going to be late, though I can’t remember why. I’d missed half a day and my mom wasn't sure if lunch would still be served. Most things were packed away and all that was left was bread, butter and honey.
She gave me the toasted treat on a paper towel, honey soaking into the fibers. My throat was tight and the bread went down hard. I couldn’t taste the honey. I used to the towel to blow my nose and wipe my eyes. The smell of butter was faint. She dropped me off at Horace May Elementary and I walked through the empty halls to the cafeteria.
"Your mom called, so I saved a tray for you. Would you like some chocolate milk?"
I nodded and took the tray with a quiet thank you. I’d never seen the place empty before. I ate the fish sticks on automatic pilot, dropped off my tray and went to class. All of the other 6th graders turned to watch me enter and I was sure they knew. Not just about the divorce or moving to a trailer park, but all of it. I'd never felt so visible. I took my seat and the teacher began to speak again. One by one the eyes returned to the front. I opened my book and turned the pages. They stuck to the honey left on my fingers, but the thought of licking them clean repulsed me.