Friday, April 11, 2008

Rivrdog and the Racegun

Friend George at Rivrdog (a Portland, Oregon blogger) has been having some fun with me lately about the peculiarities of Practical Pistol Shooting.

Most recently, he tweaked me because I mentioned that the STI Tru-Bore I'm using (a "race gun") required extraordinary efforts to clean the accumulated and hard-packed residue from the compensator.

In this case, I think he's appalled that a "Practical" Pistol would ever be compensated.

Well, he has a point. IPSC/USPSA competition has moved beyond the point of necessarily requiring that equipment be "Practical", and it didn't happen overnight.

HISTORY OF IPSC 101:
(You can skip this if you're not interested. I would.)
When I started Practical Pistol competition 25 years ago, the standard pistol was a 1911 in .45 ACP ; maybe with a 10-round magazine but much more commonly a 7-round magazine.

About this time (1983) a few bold soles such as Brian Enos and Rob Latham discovered the .38 Super cartridge, and pistols made to accommodate its amazing abilities.. The advantage was that you could put a couple of extra rounds in the (still single-stack) magazine and load 'em hot enough to "make major power". This refers to the ratio between the bullet weight and the velocity, based on the standard .45acp 230 grain bullet traveling at 800 fps.

This was problematic, because you had to load a .38 super with a 125 or 130 grain bullet pretty hot to meet that level of performance. That lead to a lot of over-charged guns blowing up, hence the idiom "Thirty-Eight SuperFace". I've discussed this before, but it serves to illustrate the development of the competition handgun in what we call the Experimental Phase of Practical Pistol Competition.

There is an advantage to being able to shoot more rounds before you have to reload. But that was a problem, so stronger guns (and better chamber designs) helped. Also, more attention was paid to the burn-rate of gun powder.

Then the double-stack magazine, generally (to this point) found in Browning and S&W handguns, made it 'profitable' to shoot the slower, weaker 9mm cartridge ... but hits outside of the center of the target scored less points with the weaker cartridge.

Which lead to the development of double-stack guns in .38 Super, which could be legally loaded to 'Major Power' levels. (Until very recently, 9x19 cartridges could NOT be scored as Major Power, even if the chronograph proved that it was possible to achieve that goal. This rule was added specifically to discourage painful experimentation with hot loads in the 9x19 cartridge.)

About then the more innovative and adventurous competitors began experimenting in earnest with n0n-iron sights, and the Red Dot electronic sight was all the rage.

And right in the middle of this, someone figured out that the muzzle-flip of this hot .38 Super was very hard to control and the answer was to develop a compensator which would use the excess gases to vent to the top and sides, thus stabilizing the pistol (taming it, like a wild bronco) so fast double-taps can be delivered accurately by people who don't have very strong wrists and iron control.

Somewhere along this path, IPSC decided that a .45acp with a seven-round magazine shouldn't have to compete with a double-stack/compensated/scoped .38 super. Around 1997he sport was divided into two divisions. (Revolvers were originally required to compete directly with semi-automatic pistols.)

The 1990 rule book mentions 'stock auto' and 'revolver' class (yes, "class" -- not "division"), but this distinction was only applicable to club-match competition. That same rule book also includes this passage on page 9: "THIS IS A SPORT, NOT PARAMILITARY TRAINING."

But the next rule book, published in 1992, defines "Limited Class" in terms of production levels and modifications and equipment not to be used: Electrical/Optical sights, Porting, Compensators, etc.)

The 1995 rule book defines "Limited Class" and "Open Class" using about the same terms, and this is the first usage of "Open Class" as a designation.

By the 2000 rule book (the "Toilet Paper" rule book (because it didn't have a stiff-cardboard cover), which inanely jumped from 7th version to 14th version) was referring to Divisions rather than Classes, and Open Division was truly a no-holds-barred Experimental hardware real-time ballistic laboratory where firearms design (especially included 'fully supported', or 'fully ramped' barrels) and ammunition design (including cartridge cases with more metal near the base of the cartridge, to contain the higher pressures), plus new shooting techniques (eg: the Weaver stance vs the Isosceles stance) all met to see just how fast a human can shoot a powerful cartridge accurately.

The results proved that this is very fast indeed!

It was also the reason why IPSC president, and originator of IPSC competition Col. Jeff Cooper abdicated his office and left IPSC, on the grounds that "Practical Pistol Competition" was no longer "Practical".

Why do you need a compensator?
So much for background.

Let's get back to Rivrdog picking on The Geek.

His comments were pithy and to the point.

The compensator is no part of a battle weapon.

Simple is better; couldn't I (relearn how to do without) the compensator?

Maybe I should load lighter loads so I don't need the compensator.

He suggests that I "(c)onsider un-compensating the race gun".

And his penultimate comment deserves to be quoted in full:
I know you'll consider me out of order because I don't compete, and just shoot enough pistol (probably 1,000-2,000 rounds per year) to stay combat-ready, but don't you shoot competition for the same reason, plus maybe also for bragging rights?
No, I don't consider Rivrdog (George) out of order, mostly because he does not compete in either International IPSC or American USPSA kind of Practical Pistol matches. Just look at the name: Practical Pistol. That may conjure up the vision of a world of camouflage-clothed Rambo wanna-be's and beer-drinking tailgate-sitters. It's an unfortunate fact in our world of first impressions that, if there is no reason to read for understanding, one might be justified in assuming that Practicality is Our Most Important Product -- Our Only Product (which I think is much like Ronald Reagan use to say of General Electric appliances when they were sponsors of his Death Valley Days television show, only substituting "Practicality" for "Progress".)

In fact, there is not much that is very 'practical' about shooting a Race Gun. These are highly bred and temperamental thoroughbred stallions which might some day, if you are not very careful, turn on you and transform you from a mild-mannered Honest Citizen to a maniacally cackling Crazed Killer.

Oh, wait. That's the Gun Control crowd's mantra. But you get the idea; a Race Gun is just to exotic to have any real ... uh ... practical purpose.

But in fact the Race Gun does have a purpose: it eliminates as many mechanical and equipment-related factors from the shooting equation as possible, and allows the shooter to explore the depths of his own skills. This eliminates many limitations from the exercise. For example, as I aged my body changed and my eyes changed so that I could no longer see iron sights clearly. But with the electronic dot sight, I can still see the sights and the target.

And when I was shooting the 10mm Edge, I had to spend too much time and attention on controlling muzzle-flip to shoot as well as I was able. In effect, I had to muscle the muzzle (sorry) back into place for a quick and accurate folllow-up shot. The compensator reduces this effect ... it doesn't eliminate it. And I don't have sore wrists at the end of a match.

So if my only goal was to prepare myself for the SHTF ("Stuff Hits The Fan") Day, then yes the Race Gun would obviate the practical training which would be necessary.

But I'm not preparing for Armageddon. I'm spending a day at the range with my friends, having a good time competing with and against them, and not trying to prove that I can smoke the targets under adverse conditions.

I've done that, it was fun while it lasted, but I've moved on to accept USPSA competition as a fun way to spend the day.

So no, George, I don't think I'll deliberately emasculate my Race Gun by removing the compensator.

In the first place, it's an integral part of the barrel and I don't want to spend three hundred bucks de-engineering a fine sporting handgun only to prove a point that isn't important to me.

In the second place, I like the control that the compensator gives me, especially when I'm trying to go really fast on a hoser stage, and the compensator holds that muzzle down so I get .18 second controlled splits for a two-Alpha score. Well, sometimes.

And in the third place, George, I know you're trying to Bulltwaddle me.

On August 20, 2005, we met in Portland Oregon at the "A Place To Shoot" indoor range and veritably took the range over with a group of other PNW gun-bloggers who wanted to meet, greet and shoot with each other.

It took some doing, but I finally managed to talk you into shooting both the STI 10mm Edge Limited Gun, and the STI Tru-Bore Race Gun.

You loved it.

Don't tell me you didn't.

I have pictures!

And if that's not enough, here's the photo of you after shooting the Geekish Race Gun at a silhouette target, where you not only pumped the first 20+ rounds of a Big Stick (Hi-Capicity/25 round) magazine into a fist-sized hole in the A-zone, but you playfully dumped the rest of the stick into the B-zone just to prove you could do a major-league Mozambique.

Here's the picture:



Nobody does 'smug' like Rivrdog. And justifiably so ... you did a nice job at 45 feet.

In case your memory has faded, here's a video of the 10mm vs the .38 Super Race Gun, both of which you used so well that it was all you could to keep from cracking a smile.

You ol' dog you. You know you loved it.



Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reving it up: Part II

The Gun:

I just spoke to Rob Shepherd, Official Gunsmith to The Geek, who has assured me that he has completed the annual Spring Refurbishment of the Geek Race-Gun and it will be ready to go and hot to trot on match day. Saturday.

Note: Pacific North Wet shooters looking for a gunsmith, see Rob's Major Nyne website for information.

The loose scope mount was caused, in part, because some of the screws (which I had used to replace lost screws) were the wrong dimension. See? I knew it would end up being my fault. This is exactly why I've adopted the policy of having a non-klutz clean and inspect the gun at least once a year.

The clean-and-inspect thingie cost me sixty bucks, and it was cheap at the price. He found some loose grip screws, and most important he cleaned the compensator. Word is (see comments on previous post) that "he didn't know how he was going to get your comp cleaned out short of bead blasting it ". Well, that's one of the reasons I sent the gun to Rob. He performed the same "Aegean Stables" job last year, and I was glad I didn't have to perform this Herculean task. In fact, charging by job instead of by the hour, I suspect Rob lost money on the deal. No, he didn't include a surcharge; but there was a subtle hint of reproach on the Inspection Report:

"Comp full of residue. Bullet path restricted."

The Ammunition:

This week I reloaded all the 'old' brass that I had already tumbled, and came up with 200+ rounds of 'fat' and 'Comp' brass (Geek's Ammo Box') and less than 100 rounds of 'non-fat' (SWMBO's Ammo Box). That constituted a sufficiency of ammunition for me, but not enough for her.

Scrounging around, I found 800 rounds of new Winchester brass, a few hundred Winchester Small Rifle primers, and 800 Winchester Small Pistol Primers. I loaded as many New Brass rounds as I had WSR primers, and ended up with 250 rounds for SWMBO's Ammo Box after all loaded rounds had been inspected, boxed and marked. (Solid Red on the base of SWMBO ammo, Red with a Black Strip for Geek ammo.)

If we had to share SWMBO's pistol, this would have been marginal even though she has 100 rounds of New Brass in her ammo box. But with both pistols available, we have a comfortable round-count for any club match.

The Weather:

Because it has been a while since we both went to a match, I looked into the Geek Range Bag and found that I was low on tape for the Target Taper; I got a couple more rolls of tape. We are both trying to get over colds that left us with raw, itchy throats so we know we aren't going to be able to do a lot of Range Officer work at the match; we'll have to be tapers, score-keepers, steel-setters ... whatever it takes to do our share of the work.

But I found my rain-proof trousers stuffed insouciantly into the bag, not neatly packed. I have to find my rain-gear bag and pack the gear correctly. How likely am I to need my rain gear?

As it turns out (looking at WEATHER.COM ... see the sidebar), not very likely at all.



That's right, the weatherman is predicting 74 degrees in Corvallis on Saturday ... in April! This is incredible, until you look closer and see that there is a 10% chance of rain.

At least it's a wet heat.

I'm going to enjoy this. See you at the range!

The Brits: Terrorist Rights

lgf: Bin Laden's Right Hand Man Set for Life in Britain

In a blog article from Little Green Footballs, we learn that the 'rights' of an immigrant Terrorist ("One of the world's most dangerous terror suspects") has recently been held by British judges to supersede the rights of the British citizen to protect his country, and the world, from terrorist predations of Islamic radicals.

While I've goaded The Brits in the past because of their lamentable record on such issues of Yob Control, National Health Service and Firearms Control, all previous issues pale in comparison to this, the Nanny State's lack of concern for State Security.

Although I abhor the Brits' lack of realistic comprehension of the minimal requirements to sustain a Socialist State, this incident exceeds the limits of disbelief.

The security of the state being the primary goal of any government, one would seem justified in expecting that the nation-state which gave us James Bond as a model would be, at least, minimally able to comprehend that when you have Ernst Stavro Blofeld in your grasp, you would at least make an effort to retain control of your greater enemies.

Not so The Brits, who are entirely willing to use their prison system as dustbins for their own citizens, and in fact are widely known (publicized) to cite their natural-born citizens for leaving dustbins on the curb. Today, they not only cite their citizens for leaving their garbage cans on the curb, but the penalties for that offense are more strenuous then those for being a terrorist.

I give up. The Brits would be well advised to rescind all laws penalizing the private ownership and use of handguns, because they must perforce rely on the private citizen to defend their paltry nation against the predation of terrorists.

Lord knows that the British Government will provide no defense. Rather, the British Government is setting free Known Terrorists more frequently than they are arresting them ... and they subsidize them as well!

Notes to Brits:
  1. don't throw anything away;
  2. Get a Gun.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Clayton Cramer Interview

David Codrea, at WAR ON GUNS, interviewed Clayton Cramer (see post for credentials) about his run for Idaho State Senate in District 23.

After the online interview was completed, Codrea threw it open to comments and questions from the readers for about two hours.

I respect Cramer's judgment, and while his position statements involve more than the Second Amendment, it's significant to note that he helped prepare the case for the Respondent (Heller) in the current Heller v. DC case. Thus, his opinions are significant in the national debate.

Here are two exchanges which I found to be of national significance:
(Q) "Based on your work with Academics for the Second Amendment and the insights that must have given you, what are your thoughts on the probable outcome for Heller?"

(A) Just about everyone who worked on the case believes that we are going to win, at least 5-4, perhaps 6-3. The nature of the win, however, is where there is some question.

In spite of Chief Justice Roberts pointing out that the differing standards of review are not part of the Constitution, what we may get is less than we want--but more than we have.

The decision might be what lawyers call a categorical protection--that "shall not be infringed" really means what it says, and as long as the person isn't in a prohibited class, federal gun laws that infringe are unconstitutional. This would be such a dramatic win that I don't expect it. It would demolish too much of the current federal code on gun regulation.

The Court might decide that gun laws are subject to "strict scrutiny." This means that for a law to survive Second Amendment challenge it would have to serve a compelling governmental purpose; be narrowly tailored to serve that purpose; and not be overbroad (meaning that if it is supposed disarm felons, it can't disarm non-felons). This is a likely outcome, as far as I am concerned.

The Court might apply the "heightened scrutiny" or "intermediate scrutiny" standard. In this case, a law has to have some rational relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. This might mean that the Court strikes down the law, or it might send the case back down for trial to see if there's a plausible case for the handgun ban meeting this standard. This wouldn't be a complete win, but it would at least force governments to justify gun regulations--and that would enable us to put the social science evidence into play. That would at least stop some gun control laws. I consider this a possible, although not likely result.

The lowest standard of review is "rational basis." Here, the burden of proof is essentially on challengers to prove that the gun control law was passed for no good reason at all, but simply reflected ignorance or prejudice. I don't expect this result.
and ...
(Q) "Clayton, in a previous comment, those not loyal to the U.S. do not have a 2A right. How does one remain loyal to the United States of America, while using the 2A to overthrow a tyrannical United States government?"

(A) Loyal to the Constitution, or loyal to the government? There's a reason that our military swears allegiance to the Constitution, not the President, or Congress.

Realistically, if we reach the point where armed revolution makes sense, I rather doubt that anyone on the other side is going to be particularly concerned about fine points of law.

I would also point out that revolutions against the government are ugly, and often more destructive of liberty than the government that was there before. I wrote this article for Shotgun News in 2002: http://www.claytoncramer.com/RightsAndRevolution.PDF. Anyone that speaks too glibly about armed revolution against our government should read it, and think long and hard about the points that I make there
You should, of course, go read the whole thing.

Revving it up for the USPSA Club Match

I've got a cold, and have missed a couple days of work. (I'm hoping that, with the beneficial effects of a 24-hour over-the-counter antihistamine, I can get back to 'normal' Geeking tomorrow.)

While I fret because I'm missing work days, I'm even more disappointed that I haven't felt much like tackling Job One!

That would be catching up on ammunition reloading with my newly refurbished Dillon XL650.

I actually re-assembled the press Sunday evening, but ran out of energy to start loading. Monday, still lethargic. In fact, I had started coughing Monday afternoon at the office, and was so sick that night that I didn't do a thing.

Tuesday I dragged myself out to the garage and loaded 'almost 100 rounds' of .38 Super. It was surprisingly easy, and while I still had to spend some time re-tuning the connection between the case feeder and the press, my only slow-down was that I am loading a mixed bag of .38 Super and .38 Super Comp.

Ask the man who owns one: to load Super Comp, you need to replace the 9mm/Super shellplate with the .223 shellplate. I didn't, so the Comp brass tended to not stay in place when the shellplate rotated from Station 1 (decap/size) to Station 2 (prime/load powder). The few minor problems I experienced slowed me down and frustrated me sufficiently that I quit after about 15 minutes. But at least I was reassured that the improvement gained in reliability was well worth the realoading time lost by shipping the press back to the factory.

My health was improved enough that I got about 3 hours sleep that night (as opposed to zero hours sleep the night before), so today (Wednesday) I spent an incredible 35 minutes loading mixed .38 ammunition.

The delays associated with loading Comp brass on the wrong shellplate were slightly exasperating, and this was when I discovered that I hadn't aligned the Case Feed correctly. But at the end I had 400 loaded rounds complete, only 4 of which were discarded because of no primer having been inserted. (I haven't discovered why this happened, but again I was forcing myself to go slow while I re-learned how to use a press that actually works correctly, so I may have been distracted.)

I ran out of steam before I loaded the last of my batch of mixed brass, there are probably no more than 50 rounds left. I'll reload them tomorrow (Thursday) and then load up another 400 rounds using brand new Winchester .38 Super brass. That should require less than an hour, after I've recharged some primer feed tubes with Winchester primers.

Friday night I'll take the loaded ammo to SWMBO, and we'll inspect, box and mark the (already gauged) cases.

Between this new reload batch, and the ammo we already have, we should have plenty of ammunition for both of us to shoot the ARPC Club Match on Saturday. We need this range time; both of us have been AWOL from local matches for most of the past six months.

About the .38 SUPER vs SUPER COMP brass:
The STI race gun I'm using has an AFTEC extractor installed. With both springs installed, it extracts both the rimless Super Comp and the rimmed Comp brass with equal alacrity. Also, the barrel is old and the chamber is relatively loose; ammunition which doesn't seat in my Dillon Case Gauge still chambers easily in all but the most extreme circumstances.

On the other hand, the STI race gun that SWMBO is using has a standard-design STI extractor, and will not reliably extract Super Comp brass. Also, the chamber fits the case dimensions as per specifications, and will not chamber the same brass which feeds reliably in the other STI.

Consequently, we have to make two inspection passes:

First, we case-gauge all of the ammunition. Everything that passes goes into SWMBO's ammo box; everything that is 'fat' goes into my ammo box.

In the first inspection of the 400 loaded rounds, less than 100 rounds went to her ammo box.

Then we check the headstamp on SWMBO's ammunition. Anything that suggests it is Super Comp (including AP ammunition) moves over to the Geek ammo box.

I haven't made this test yet, so I don't know how many rounds will be available for her to shoot on Saturday, but one thing is sure: we don't have enough.

(As a rule of thumb, I figure it will require a minimum of 150 rounds to get through any Club Match in this Section. Reshoots can increase the requirement by up to 20%, so we feel marginally comfortable with 200 rounds, preferably 300 rounds for each pistol at a single Club Match.)

About the Super Comp Gunsmithing Situation:
However, the STI I'm using is currently being worked on by Rob Shepherd of Major Nyne Guns, a local gunsmith (and USPSA GM Competitor). I've had problems with the C-More Scope Mount lately so I sent the pistol to him last month to fix the problems with the mount. Also, re-sight the gun after the mount is properly fixed in place, and to do a general inspection and detail cleaning in preparation for the 2008 Competitive Season.

I told him there was "no hurry, as long as the pistol was available to shoot in the next month's ARPC match".

In Gunsmith Terms, this means "MAJOR EMERGENCY! I NEED THIS BACK IMMEDIATELY!"

In correspondence last week, Rob informed me that (a) the scope mount was cracked and (b) the scope-mount screw holes were 'elongated', and did I want a new scope mount? Also, (c) the guide rod was missing, and did I want to supply my own replacement or use one that he had in stock?

Later Rob discovered that the holes only seemed to be elongated, because a couple of the mounting screws had been replaced with screws of the 'wrong diameter'. This was my fault; I'm not at all good with Things Mechanical, and this is the reason why I sent my firearms to a qualified gunsmith rather than work on them myself. If there's any way to screw it up (pun almost unintended), I'll screw it up wrong. So the original scope mount may stay on the gun, unless Rob determines that the crack in the mount (from the rear mounting screw to the rear of the mount) may, in his judgment, cause later problems.

As for the missing guide rod, I have NO IDEA how that was lost. Yes, it was a screw-in guide rod and yes, the base of the guide rod is still in the gun. I told Rob to put it together with his guide rod and if I could find my spare between then and the delivery of the pistol, I would replace it with mine.

I cannot conceive of the pistol functioning without a guide rod, but it must have, somehow, at the February club match in Dundee ... for the one stage I shot it in before changing to SWMBO's pistol.

So, if Rob can get the Geek STI ready for delivery by this weekend, we will probably have plenty of ammunition for SWMBO and I each to shoot with our own pistols.

If not, if I can get enough (400 rounds) .38 Super ammunition in SWMBO's ammo box by the weekend, we'll share a gun.

And if that doesn't work out, SWMBO will shoot 'her' pistol, and I'll shoot the GeekGun ... the 10mm STI Edge.

That pistol runs perfectly, and I have plenty of ammunition loaded for it.

Of course, I can't see the iron sights well enough to shoot it accurately, consistently, and quickly, which is why I went to The Dark Side in 2003.

But at least we'll both get to shoot, and that's the main thing.

Besides, if I shoot the GeekGun, that ol' thang flings 10mm brass so far that it's easy to pick up brass. My 10mm brass is easily distinguishable from all other brass, in that it can be found 10 meters from the firing point.

We usually just start looking for it on the Frontage Road, and work our way in from there.

If you're at the April 2008 ARPC club match, come by and say howdy. Feel free to laugh at me; I'm a Geek, I've become accustomed to it.

Then I'll post videos of your worst stage on You Tube.

Geeks do that.

Syd Retires?

Syd, at Front Sight, Press (also www.snubnose.info) announced this week that he plans to "... take a break, perhaps forever, but at least for a while...".

It's not clear whether this is effective immediately, or he plans to just let blogging 'taper off', or what.

Still, it's disheartening for those of us who have read him regularly for the past 10 years, and rely on him for not only news and technical notes regarding the 1911, but also a roundup of pistol-related news.

Syd has always been hanging-10 on the wave of issues which are important to us, and I have stolen shamelessly from him over the years. I'm happy to say that he has returned the favor from time to time, by linking (via his trademark TinyURL links) to a few articles which I have written. I'm gratified by his support, and have been pleased when the articles he surveyed have been among the best-written and most important during the week.

But it is not about me. Syd has served as a mentor by example of writing excellence, and his writing has channeled my thoughts into currents which my mind would never have taken me. I expect that others who read his blog regularly found this to be so for them, as well.

Soon we will be bereft of a fresh perspective, a central clearing-house of 2nd amendment thought, and a resource for the articles which we would have missed if not for his dedication.

Syd, I do hope that you soon tire of the spare time you avail of yourself, and return to the 6-hour Saturdays in which you deliver your wisdom.

Geez! First Heston dies, and next Syd retires?

Quick, hand me the Duct Tape!

Industrial Laser Solutions

Industrial Laser Solutions Articles, Fighting crime with laser engraving

While researching background on Micro-Serialization of ammunition, with particular reference to California's "Gun Crime Identification Act of 2007", I found the Industrial Laser Solutions article titled "Fighting Crime with Laser Engraving".

While I suggested that this was the "sole-source provider" of this technology, I cannot in good faith confirm that this is so. (A superficial, preliminary analysis shows no obvious relationship with Industrial Laser Solutions per se, but I have not and probably will not search for connections beyond those demonstrated in the following.)

I can point you to the article, and quote the source, so that you may judge for yourself the confidence of the technical (and otherwise) information provided there. This article, while undated, has obviously been written after the September 10, 2007 vote by the California Assembly and prior to the October 13, 2007 signing of the bill by the California Governornator:

Fighting Crime with Laser Engraving

Sacramento, CA-On September 10 the California Assembly passed legislation that is expected to provide police with an important tool in solving gun crimes and apprehending armed criminals-the Crime Gun Identification Act of 2007 (AB 1471). The California Senate approved the measure on September 6. AB 1471 requires that all new models of semiautomatic handguns are microstamped with their make, model, and serial number.


Back scatter scanning electron image of the primary firing pin, secondary breach face mark.

Microstamping uses UV lasers to engrave microscopic characters onto a gun’s firing pin and other internal surfaces. These characters transfer onto the cartridge casing when the handgun is fired. In instances of drive-by shootings, for example, where the only evidence at the crime scene may be a spent cartridge case, law enforcement could quickly obtain a critical lead.


Cartridge primer microstamp.

Todd Lizotte, the Londonderry, NH-based inventor of microstamping, believes the technology has the potential to target those who illegally traffic firearms by providing immediate identification of a firearm the first time it is used in a crime, which has been identified by law enforcement as a major benefit. The “time to crime”-the time it takes from the time the firearm is first sold to when it is “identified” as used in a crime-is between 1 to 12 years, notes Lizotte. “By allowing law enforcement to identify the firearm without having to actually recover it,” Lizotte explains, “means they have a better opportunity to understand its history from the first point of sale. Current ballistic or firearm identification can not take place until the firearm is recovered.” In Los Angeles it has been estimated that nearly 50% of gun-related crimes are unsolved, where the only evidence is cartridge casings.

In fighting crime, law enforcement agencies employ techniques such as “link analysis” and “social networking,” which rely on identifying leads to connect people to events. By identifying through microstamping the first person who purchased the firearm, law enforcement can quickly assess if they are part of the criminal social network or, in the case of a stolen firearm, if the firearm was stolen by a known theft ring within the area. As for honest firearm owners, everything remains the same. No new bureaucracy is introduced; the same trace system is employed and all the information stays at the firearm manufacturer’s facility.

[NOTES: (1) The microstamping capability of an individual firearm is easily obliterated; (2) assuming that firearms are most frequently acquired by criminals via theft immediately breaks the chain of possession; (3) the cost of the firearm to the 'honest firearms owners' is increased; (4) to say that 'no new bureaucracy is introduced' is disingenuous; (5) there is implied a bureaucratic and administrative burdon on the 'firearm manufacturer'.

In response to arguments that microstamping would add significant cost to the manufacture of a handgun, Lizotte has agreed to make the technology available to the firearms industry royalty-free (the patented portion of the technology is held by ID Dynamics, Seattle, WA).

[Note: the 'technology' may be made available 'royalty free', but the equipment and administrative requirements will greatly add to the cost of manufacture! It also adds to the administrative costs of the wholesaler and the retailer.]


A GOOGLE search on ID DYNAMICS yields this primary reference, which seems innocent enough (a U.K. company company offering "Infrared Surveying for Predictive Maintenance Programs" ... how innocent can you get?

However, there were several other hits when you dig down past the first page:

Officer.com -

Microstamping technology, invented and patented by Todd Lizotte and presently owned by a company he founded called NanoMark, a division of ID Dynamics of Seattle, Washington, recently completed a series of tests of the microstamping process that the company says validates the new technology.

Feasible but flawed

The NanoMark tests were conducted in response to a May 3 University of California (UC)-Davis study in which researcher Michael Beddow concluded that microstamping is "feasible, but flawed." Beddow, a graduate student, performed the study as a master's thesis under Fred Tulleners, director of the forensics program at UC-Davis. Tulleners was formerly director of the California Department of Justice crime lab in Sacramento, as well as the Sacramento and Santa Rosa county crime labs. A university press release covering the study stated that microstamping "does not work well for all guns and ammunition tested" and required "more testing to determine the costs and feasibility of a statewide program."

NSSF: Background on Firearms Microstamping Technology:
The study found that micro-characters laser engraved on the ID Dynamics-supplied firing pins tested suffered varying degrees of degradation; in some cases severe degradation. The markings micro-characters laser engraved onto the tip firing pins did not reliably and consistently “copy” or imprint (impress) the information onto the primer of the expended cartridge case. The test results were also impacted by the type and brand of ammunition used in the test. The design and normal operation/functioning of the firearm tested influenced the results, i.e. depth of firing pin indentation (impression) on the primer, whether the firearm produced “firing pin drag,” whether it produced multiple firing pin strikes on the primer that obliterated or deformed some or all of the impressions of the micro-characters on the cartridge casing. The technology did not work at all on rimfire firearms and ammunition, which are very common. The results were also impacted depending on the nature of the micro-characters laser engraved on the firing pin, i.e. alphanumeric code, a “gear code” or radial bar code. Notably, due to size/space limitations and the geometry of firing pins, ID Dynamics is incapable of producing alphanumeric coded firing pins with enough micro-characters to display the name of the manufacturer, the model and serial number of the firearm on the tip of the firing pin, as called for by H. 6343. The radial bar code and dot code firing pins degraded more rapidly than the alphanumeric coded firing pins and were less reliable.
Newsgroups.derkeiler.com - RE: New Test Affirms Validity of Microstamping Technology:
The Lone Weasel wrote: Bama Brian said:
The Lone Weasel wrote:
May 24, 2007


New Test Affirms Validity of Microstamping Technology

Seattle, WA (May 25, 2007) –NanoMark Technologies, a
division of ID Dynamics, recently completed a rigorous
test of the microstamping process that demonstrates the
validity and efficacy of this exciting, evolutionary new
technology.
A study done by NanoMark? This is just as valid as those
studies done by the cigarette companies showing that
cigarettes don't cause cancer.

Cigarette corporations made billions on cigarettes; Lizotte donated his royalties for microstamping patents so gun manufacturers could implement the technology with nominal expense.

Microstamping does not cause cancer, CrammaJammaDingDangDong.
The HighRoad (ref: The Washington Post):
Proponents from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said this would cost manufacturers only between 50 cents and $1 per firearm. They said that in many homicides _ 45 percent in California _ no arrest is made because of lack of evidence.
Yeah, right ... except for the cost of manufacturing ammunition under the serialization requirements imposed upon a small-item, mass-produced manufacturing process.

(Does not identify the technology provider; I just threw this in because I love reading The High Road

The conclusions reached by various commentators, with varying degrees of technical evaluation, strongly suggests that the technology would be expensive to implement and administer, and problematic in terms of reliability.

This is being established on the basis of criminal prosecution for capital crimes; is this the kind of technical support we want to rely on when it means the possible execution for Murder of an innocent man whose only crime is that he bought a legal weapon and The State cannot practically determine possession, but will legally be justified in averring J'Accuse on the basis of dubious technology?

Finally, when we search for NANOMARK, which has consistently been co-identified with ID Dynamics of Seattle, Wa., we find this:

NanoMark Technologies has developed a PATENTED BALLISTIC TAGGING TECHNOLOGY. The technology places an identification mark on each cartridge casing ejected from a properly outfitted firearm at the moment of firing each bullet. The idea is to have this technology integrated in firearms as an alternative to the ballistic “fingerprinting” methods currently under such hot debate.

Today's common "ballistic fingerprinting" technology is the computer automation of the science practiced by Forensic Firearms Examiners. These specialists have honed the science of comparing the signature of two bullets and/or cartridges, and have shown an extremely high degree of success as long as two physical specimens are available for the match. In ballistic fingerprinting, it is hoped that a computer can compare one physical piece of evidence to a virtual picture of the first ammunition fired by a firearm. Relying on a vast databases containing tediously large image files, the computer systems have fallen short in delivering accuracy and repeatability. This has called into question the concept of ballistic fingerprint database technology's readiness by some of the most respected Forensic Firearms Examiners in the world. [Ed: yes, and you suggest that you are more reliable ... but independent tests suggest that your reliability is questionable at best.]

Our technology eliminates the need for national gun registration or a national database for new guns sold. The ID marks delivered by Ballistic ID Tagging can be simply viewed by utilizing imaging equipment commonly found at local, state and federal forensics laboratories. Because of its uniqueness, it does not require extensive cross-jurisdictional ballistic image databases or a national ballistic image database containing the files of new guns sold every year. [Ed: see below.]

Our technology imparts a unique, indelible, and microscopic code onto the cartridge casings when a bullet is fired and the cartridge case is ejected from a properly outfitted firearm. This code takes the form of encrypted symbols, bar codes or simple alpha-numeric characters (such as a serial number or some type of tracking number) that can be accessed at the individual manufacturers’ level. This type of identifier would immediately and unquestionably lead investigators to a specific gun without requiring the manpower and expense associated with the creation and maintenance of a ballistic image database containing millions of images. Furthermore, it has been shown that as a gun wears over time, its fingerprint changes enough to confuse the current generation of database search routines.

[Ed: yes, and the horse may learn to sing. The firing pin ... source of the microstamping ... will not wear under extended usage to the point where it provides unreliable/inconsistent readings. All crimes will be committed with firearms which eject the case upon firing. All 'crime guns' will be used during commission of a crime by the original purchaser. Your database search routines are flawless. And I promise to respect you in the morning, you idiot.]

We understand the volatile political and social issues involved with gun legislation at any level, but to give you an idea of the attention we have received recently, a state Senator from California has asked us to testify in front of the California State Senate regarding the practical nature of using our technology instead of the ballistic image database technique. We are also participating in a funded project by the California Department of Justice Forensics Laboratory and the California Criminalistics Institute to help determine the best implementation strategies for a state the size of California.

[Ed: your testimony is completely objective because your heart is true, and you have no economic reason why you should lie about such an important subject.]
That's the Smoking Gun.

The "sole-source" purveyor of technology for Microstamping Ammunition is NanoMark (copyright 2004), a division of ID Dynamics, and they are indeed marketing the technology specifically for California.

A few comments on the claims of Nanomark:

"Our technology eliminates the need for national gun registration or a national database for new guns sold. The ID marks delivered by Ballistic ID Tagging can be simply viewed by utilizing imaging equipment commonly found at local, state and federal forensics laboratories. Because of its uniqueness, it does not require extensive cross-jurisdictional ballistic image databases or a national ballistic image database containing the files of new guns sold every year."

This is pure marketing smoke-and-mirrors. In fact, it absolutely requires a "national database" ... but it must necessarily be established by the manufacturer. That would occur on a 'cost-plus' basis, of course, and there are no provisions for oversight.

(On the other hand, if it were to be operated by private industry rather than by a governmental entity, it just might eliminate the bureaucratic idiocy necessitated by Public Sector Participation. Hmmm ... we should consider this?)

On the third hand, all claims of 'objectivity' go right out the window.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Gun control bill's co-author helps kill it: History

In 2006, the author of a California Microstamping Bill was instrumental in its failure to pass into law.

Columnists Matier and Ross, in an October, 2006, SFGATE article, described the machinations of Assemblyman Leland Yee.

Yee sponsored a bill which would call for the microstamping of ammunition by semi-automatic handguns sold in California.

Then he carefully timed the voting on the bill for a period when co-sponsors would not be available to vote on the bill.

Yee voted against it, and the bill failed by 3 votes.

Because his vote wouldn't change the results, Yee was allowed to change his vote in favor of the bill ... thus currying favor with the Brady Bunch.

As a result, Yee could show that he had both sponsored the bill and voted for it (looking good to the gun-control crowd), and that he had helped defeat it (sucking up to the firearms-owners in California.)

If there was ever a standard of perfidy of politicians, this would be the classic example.

Unfortunately, even though members of the California Assembly had argued that "the technology for the shell-casing stamps was faulty", a re-submittal of the bill (originally AB352, now AB1471) was passed as bill and later enacted into law by Governor Arnold RINO on October 13, 2007 as the "Crime Gun Identification Act of 2007". See documentation here; also commentaries here (would provide law enforcement with a valuable too), here (unproven, unreliable, easily defeated by criminals), here (not crime control -- flawed), here (wikipedia), here (NY Times Editorial), here (Paul Helmke/Brady @ Huffington), here (CA Progressive Action), here (federal version via GunControlKills.com), and here (Industrial Laser Solutions.com, apparently the "sole source" technology provider.)

(This bill, now law, subsequently lead to the refutation of firearms marketing in California by the courageous firm of STI.)

Assemblyman Yee was not a sponsor of AB1471.

Darn!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Canada refunds millions to gun owners

Canada's attempt to register firearms has met a new low in standards.

"The federal auditor general has estimated that the registry, which was supposed to be self-financing, ran up cost overruns of nearly $1 billion in its first decade in operation."
But ...
"The latest report by the federal firearms commissioner, made public Tuesday, also estimated that some 76,000 gun enthusiasts failed to renew licences [sic] that ran out during 2006."
and ...
"That meant, by year-end, that the holders of those expired licences were deemed - at least according to the letter of the law - to be illegally in possession of roughly 234,000 weapons."

So ...
"Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced in May 2006 that the Tories would waive the fees for licence applicants for the next two years and would also grant a one-year amnesty to owners of unregistered rifles and shotguns.

The amnesty, which essentially protects people from criminal prosecution for violating the law, was renewed in 2007 and the government has served notice it will be extended again this year.

The Conservatives have also transferred the Canada Firearms Centre, which had been a stand-alone regulatory agency, to the RCMP in an effort to save on administration costs."

What does this all mean?

Canada's Liberal government, under Prime Minister Jean Chreiten, instituted a Firearms Registry which had been expected to "pay for itself". It didn't. In fact, the concept was so difficult to establish as a registry and so expensive to administer that it has cost the Canadian government over $1,000,000,000 (relax, it's only Canadian money) so far.

The registration is required to be renewed by gun owners annually, but gun owners are declining to renew their registration. They assume that these owners still have the guns, and are therefore illegally possessing firearms.

They can't afford to track down and prosecute illegal firearms owners, so they have declared an amnesty (for two years now, going on the third year) which (a) still isn't working, and (b) even if it did work, they are no longer collecting the fees which (c) wouldn't pay for the 'self-paying' system anyway.

This illicit system of firearms registration doesn't work, doesn't pay for itself, and is now being openly flaunted by gun owners who realize that there's nothing their government can do about it.

Hooray for the Canadians!

They have sacrificed themselves on the altar of Socialism and Nanny-Statism for over a decade, only to prove that ... it ... just ... doesn't ... work!

We can only hope that the American Politicians are paying attention to this fiscal boondoggle, and will cease their attempts to enact similar measures which are ill-conceived and badly implemented.

Frankly, neither Canada nor America can any longer afford these repressive controls on the civil rights of their citizens.

As France, Germany and Great Britain (and now Canada) have learned to their sorrow, Socialism ... and Nanny Statism ... are just not economically feasible in a Major Nation.

It's the Economy, Stupid!

Charlton Heston

I note with great sadness the passing of Charlton Heston.


Academy Award Winning Actor, Civil Rights Activist, President of the Screen Actors Guild and the National Rifle Association ... Heston was a Renaissance Man of the 20th Century.

He was a leader in his art, in his politics, and in his love for his fellow man.

Heston died of Alzheimer's Disease ... an infliction which in unavoidable, untreatable, and the most degrading, painful end known to man. Even the Ebola virus will cause death in a matter of days or weeks, be Alzheimer's takes its toll in years painful to inflicted and to the family.

It is to his credit that when confronted with this horror, he made the announcement personally, on film, with dignity, and seemed to be more concerned with the effect on his family, friends and public than with the effect on his person, his personality.

The death of the mind is the most terrible fate, yet he accepted it with apparent equinimity and faith.


I liked him for his stage performances, I loved him for his forthright stand against encroachment of the rights of his fellow man, but I most respected him for his faith and for his courage.

The world is much smaller for the loss of this fine man.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Encoded Ammunition: South Carolina

The NRA managed to keep its collective head barely above water (rather than it's usual position on these matters ... tucked in a dark, stinky place) by announcing that another Southern state, South Carolina, has introduce an Encoded Ammunition bill (SB1259). (You need to read all the way to the bottom of this NRA alert to find mention of the bill.)


The bill, introduced April 2, 2008, requires that "... certain handgun and assault weapon ammunition ...", by January 1, 2010, "... must be encoded by "... a [sic] unique identifier that has been applied by etching onto the base of the bullet projectile ..." by the manufacturer.

("... No later than January 1, 2012, all noncoded ammunition owned by private citizens and retail outlets must be disposed ...).

It also requires the registration of "ammunition vendor(s)"; the usual identification of buyer on special forms at the time of purchase; the usual monetary and penal penalties for purchaser, vendor and manufacturer for non-compliance; and financial support of the project by 'end-user fees' not to exceed one-half-cent per bullet.

As is also usual with state-based 'Encoded Ammunition' bills, there is no exemption to enactment of the bill if reliable technology is not found to be available within the given time-frame, nor mention that existing technology is both single-user and unproven.

Also, no justification for this legislation is provided, nor is the term "handgun and assault weapon ammunition" defined.
_________________________________

This is the same old "Bulltwaddle" (thanks to Rivrdog for providing useful terminology) which we have seen proposed by the Legislatures of a baker's dozen states previously, but given that the states which first proposed these bills are slowly rejecting the (obviously unworkable) legislation, we can only hope that other states will learn from the lesson and desist in their despicable and detestable efforts to contravene the Second Amendment by other means.

Incidentally, the single-vendor involved, represented by Ammunition Accountability, still lists fifteen states on its roll of political supporters. Among these states is Tennessee, which we have seen today has rejected the bill ... as have some other states.

I don't know about you, but I am shocked, SHOCKED, to discover that gambling is permitted at Rick's American Cafe. Er, sorry; I mean that I am shocked, SHOCKED, to discover that politicians continue to introduce these bills when they have proved to be so problematic.

One is tempted to believe that the politicians involved have agenda which admittedly does not support the Second Amendment rights of the people they expect to vote for them, yet still leads them to propose such bills for the sole purpose of publically helping them to 'look good' to the minority population of their home states who continue, against all reason, to oppose private ownership and usage of firearms.

Could it be that their priority is political, rather than conserving the rights of their constituency?

Shocking.

Dead in Tennesee: Encoded Ammunition Bill

According to a recent NRA announcement, the Encoded Ammunition is D.O.A. in Tennessee.

The bill, which was recently (February 3, 2008) Geek-Announced here, was introduced in both the State Senate (SB3395, which is summarized here) and House (HB3245).

On April 2, 2008, the House took action on HB3245; specifically, as interpreted by the NRA:
House Bill 3245, sponsored by State Representative Larry Miller (D-88), was defeated when it was withdrawn from the House Judiciary Criminal Practice and Procedure Sub-Committee on Wednesday, April 2. HB3245 would have require all handgun ammunition manufactured or sold in Tennessee to be coded with a serial number, and entered into a statewide database at the time of sale. Encoded ammunition would be registered to the purchaser and would include the date of transaction, the purchaser’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number, and the serial number of the ammunition. Its companion bill, Senate Bill 3395, sponsored by State Senator Reginald Tate (D-33) has seen no action in the Senate Judiciary Committee since January 23.
I'm assuming that the Senate Bill is toothless, without a vote for financing from the House.

Personally, I find this heartening ... if not surprising. It's difficult to imagine that the fine residents of Tennessee would allow this kind of repressive end-run on the Second Amendment to be considered without significant negative feed-back from an irate citizenry.

Still, it's worth paying close attention to other state legislatures which have proposed Encoded Ammunition bills. These bills have not received, in the most part, significant publicity from the Main-Stream Media or, for that matter, from the NRA. While the MSM is generally not inclined to serve their readers by announcing this kind of legislation, and the NRA has so many other gun-rights issues which it (apparently) considers 'more important', we would best serve our own interests by being aware of these bills and actively opposing them at the grassroots level ... a level to which the NRA gives lip-service, but not always timely and active support.