Saturday, May 03, 2008

Flight of the Phoenix

I told you last weekend about Poko, That great Paragueyan National, who got tangled up with a rope on a stage and was unceremoniously fell.

I also mentioned that Bonnie T. was filming at the time.

Here's the video, in raw form (not edited) for your pleasure.

Note that the rope is not featured in the film. You'll just have to use your imagination to visualize it.

USPSA New Shooter Certification Class

A few days ago I was having an email exchange with Mike McCarter about ... something or other ... and I said:
"Oh, BTW, I see that you are offering a lot of training at the ARPC (Albany Rifle and Pistol Club) range on Saturday. There's a "Home Protection" class, a "new shooter gun-handling" class, and you personally are responsible for three classes: Junior USPSA practice, New Junior USPSA training, and adult USPSA training/certification. It looks like you are spread pretty thin. Could you use some help?"
Mac allowed as how he would "take all the help I can get!", so I suggested that I might show up before the classes started, and he might find something for me to do.

I arrived at the range at noon, and Mac found me eating my lunch at the car. He said he would get some supplies and be back to me after I finished lunch.

It was, as it turned out, a good idea to get some lunch.

A half-hour before the classes were scheduled to start, as we were toting targets and props up to Bay 9 (where the USPSA New Shooter Certification class was scheduled), I casually asked how many students we could expect.

Mac said: "I have six new shooters confirmed. I'll handle the classroom preliminaries, and then you'll run them through the field training while I run the Junior practices." (One if the scheduled instructors for the Junior program was a no-show, so Mac had to combine the two Junior classes/practices into one. This was a job which couldn't be delegated... Mac is very involved in the Junior Program.)

When all of the people were counted, we had 13 ... not 6 ... new adult USPSA students.

Fortunately, Chad M. showed up to do some private practice: Mac drafted him to help me, and I was grateful that I wasn't the only instructor in the Field Trials portion of the class. (In the actual event, Rob and Caryn S. of Major Nyne Guns showed up to do their own practice, and stuck around for an hour to help organize and explain the process of squadding, and getting the next shooter ready on time. We could never have completed the training requirements without them.)

The experience of leading a USPSA Certification Field Training class was an absolute blast! And it was a new one, for me. Sure, I've helped on such classes before, and I've run the Field Training Certification for individuals before, but jumping into a class of 13 good folks who had a widely variant of experience with pistols ... and I didn't have background information on anyone ... was both daunting and exhilarating.

I consider myself to be a good trainer: I've trained individuals, I've been an IPSC competitor for 25 years, I've taken three NROI courses on Range Officer (one Level I RO course, then a Chief Range Officer Course in 1999, then an Audit of the CRO course on the new USPSA rule book a few months ago).

But running 13 strangers through a 5-stage Field Training course is a new Personal Best.

At the end of the day, I gave out "Get Out of Hell Free" cards to all of the students, along with the URL for this blog and my associated email address. So I'm not telling tales out of school.

Well, actually I am. But what follows is not an attempt to hold up anyone to ridicule. I'm just trying to provide some background on what the Field Training part of the certification process feels like from a personal point of view.

First, I saw a lot of new guns today. Most prominent in my memory were various models of Kimbers, an unexpected number of Ruger USPs, and a couple of Glocks.

What I didn't understand at first, is that a significant number of the students either had not shot that particular pistol before, or were not familiar with it.

I found three students with leather holsters that featured a thumb-snap. They were not aware that they had to be engaged (the strap had to be fastened by the snap, if the holster was so equipped.)

Two of the 13 shooters were "lefties"; I was reminded again that Range Officers need to be aware of this when the shooter comes up to the line, and position himself on that side to observe the "Load and Make Ready" ... no, now the Range Command is just "Make Ready" (I found myself forgetting that time and again) process.

Some of the students were very apprehensive. I can understand that, as I found myself to be nervous for the first several months when I first began competing. My instructors, and Range Officers in the first half-dozen matches in which I competed, were patient and understanding with me. I had learned a lot from that experience, and I hope I managed to convey a similar mien of understanding, patience and unflappability.

The experience levels of the various students were dramatically varied; however, the more experienced shooters did tend to shoot faster than they needed to, and were not as accurate as they could have been, had they taken to heart the admonishment to "take your time, don't try to shoot fast".

Generally speaking, every shooter was an excellent shot. When they got over their initial nervousness, everyone got good hits and had no problems with range commands, the need to obey the safety rules, and they paid attention to detailed explanations of "you have read the book; this is what it means in a match". (Eg: what is "standing in the box" vs "this is not in the box" and "you can reload while moving, or while you're standing still, but you must always keep the muzzle pointed downrange and your finger off the trigger when reloading").

Here are some of the unique situations we encountered --- I offer them not to embarrass the individual, but to illustrate the training deficiencies which are probably not atypical:
  • One gentleman didn't know that his Kimber had a safety, let alone when and how it should be applied;
  • The lady who was shooting her new Kimber for the first time (she had been shooting a Revolver before, which had obviously punished her badly) didn't know how to grip the pistol "as if you were holding a hammer". She drew the pistol very low on the grip, and then shifted to a higher grip after the draw. This was very awkward for her, and time-consuming in terms of stage-time;
  • One gentleman shooting a new Kimber had formed the habit of placing his weak-hand thumb over his strong hand, with the result that his thumb was very close to the space where the slide would travel in recoil. I explained that he needed to move his thumb on the off-side of the pistol to avoid having the slide in recoil engaging the knuckle of his thumb resulting in great personal injury to his thumb, damage to the meat and bone, and a lot of pain and unseemly caterwhaling. He acknowledged this advice and moved his weak-hand thumb further down-limb to the near vicinity of his strong-hand wrist. This was the most I could accomplish, because when you get locked into a very bad habit it is almost impossible to break it without the reinforcement of a corresponding breakage of bone mass;
  • One gentleman did the "Make Ready" part okay, but when he started his first stage, the first action after drawing his pistol was to rack the slide ... dumping the chambered round and needlessly chambering the second round before his first shot. He immediately recognized that this was not necessary, and never did it again;
  • One gentleman was devoted to 'flamboyant gestures with his firearm", a term which I defined on the spot when, upon being given the command "If you are finished, unload and show clear", he dramatically dropped his supporting arm to let gravity bring the pistol swooping down, down, down until the weight of the gun allowed the arm to swing past the perpendicular-to-the-earth position in an arch which allowed the muzzle to point to the rear of his position. When advised that this could result in a Match DQ, he discontinued the practice in subsequent stages;
  • One gentleman swung his pistol UP and over the top of a Bianchi barricade in moving to engage targets from the other side. When it was pointed out that this may, in a spate of over-exuberance, lead to breaking the 180 degree rule if the muzzle of the gun should accidentally point to the rear of the stage, it became a good training point about the best way to traverse from one side of a barricade to the other (pull the gun back into your belly, rotate your torso toward the other side of the barricade, and push the gun away from you ... always attempting to keep the barrel horizontal and pointing downrange);
I note that some of these lessons took me 20 years to learn, and they are not perhaps typically taught in USPSA Field Training Certification exercises.

These were not "problems', they were only lessons that needed to be learned, and until an event occurred which provided an opportunity to become a Training Lesson it was not generally recognized that training was necessary.

I emphasize that these illustrations are not intended to denigrate the students. They were universally enthusiastic and ready to learn. To belabor a clumsy expression: "You don't know what you don't know until you know what you didn't know".

The entire experience was revelatory both to the students, and to the instructors.

And it was a total thrill.

I've regaled you with what might be considered "war stories", now let me tell you some of the very positive outcomes of the training.

I have often said, and always held that "shooters are some of the finest people in the world", and this day at the range proved it once again. I think there's something in the mind-set of people who have convinced themselves that shooting is a great way to have fun and meet like-minded people; maybe it's an indicator of a healthy mind and a healthy self-image, but the reason we all congregate at a rocky shooting range is that we consider it an adventure to be shared, and enjoyed, and cherished. USPSA competition is one of the most demanding shooting sports in the world; the safety rules are daunting, the penalties for violating these rules are embarrassing and the standards are so high that they may seem impossible to meet.

But they can be met, and when you have put yourself unto the touch, to win or lose it all, and have met the test, there's an exhilarating sense of self-worth which is lacking in the daily life.

Every student who attended the class was eager and open to learning what they didn't know. They had questions ... lots of intelligent, good questions. They listened to the answers, took them to heart, and applied them immediately.

Nobody was cranky, or resistant to being told that they just did something 'wrong'. Instead, they maintained a positive mental attitude and never, never interpreted criticism as a personal affront.

The moral to the story is probably best exemplified by the sound-bites after the class was over:
  • I suggested that "this was so fun we should do it all again next year". Jan Hase (pronounced, I think, 'Yawn Hawsah' ... I hope I've finally got it right!) said "We should do it all again next Saturday" (when the students complete their certification by completing an actual match, safely.)
  • One student said he couldn't compete in the next match due to a scheduling conflict, and anxiously asked if he could complete the three-part test (written test and online instruction; verbal "classroom" instruction and Field Training; and the final exam of safely shooting at an actual match) at a later date? Mac's response was that they only had to safely complete an ARPC match, and if it was the match scheduled in 3 months, that was acceptable. I think he meant that it didn't have to be the 'very next match', only that they had to successfully complete any match at ARPC.)
  • I challenged one lady with the comment that "Now, that wasn't so very hard after all, was it?" She replied: "It was wonderful. I loved it! I can't wait until the match!"
  • The lady who was shooting her brand new Semi-Auto (Kimber) for the first time, and her husband, talked to me for a half-hour about techniques, training, gun-handling, and about how nervous she was at first. (She was obviously nervous, but she had the courage of a Grizzly bear and was undaunted by the training. She shot so well, I wasn't aware that she had never shot that pistol until she told me about it after the class.) We discussed gun-handling training techniques, and other technicalities ("try dry-firing at home, put a penny on top of the gun when you're dry-firing and see if you can squeeze the trigger without dislodging the penny"; "Where do you put the penny?" "Anywhere that you can make it balance, preferably near the muzzle of the gun, even on the rear sight.")
I very much enjoyed my day, and I think that most of the students in the class did, too. Until and unless they read this, they may not realize that I learned at least as much as they did. As an example, half-way home I discovered that I was drained of energy and had to be careful to stay alert enough to drive safely. Even now, I'm groggy with fatigue and almost half asleep but I am so energized about my day that I couldn't rest until I have told the story.

(I have one more story to tell, and dinner to heat&eat, so I'll probably stay awake for a while although my planned evening with SWMBO will have to wait for another day.)

Oh yes, two more points.

First, that I spent at least a half-hour with a father-and-son pair (one of the more rewarding consequences of interest in USPSA competition) discussing technical and administrative issues of USPSA competition. The son was obviously offended when I lit a cigarette, but he stuck around 'upwind' long enough to learn the lessons.

Second, I made the point to a husband-and-wife team that the husband/boyfriend was not the best person to train his wife/g-friend. The best person to help train a lady shooter, I averred was probably an experienced lady shooter.

Later I circumspectly discussed this concept with SWMBO. She graciously disavowed any protestations on my part that am not a great trainer, and completely ignored my subtle hints that she would be doing a service to new lady shooters if we were squadded with them at the 'certification match' next weekend, and she would offer coaching during the match to new lady shooters.

I'm not done yet. Watch this space.

Note to the lady shooters at the class today: if you are reading this, I strongly encourage you to show up early next weekend, and squad yourself with us.

I suggest this, of course, only because new lady shooters are more comfortable shooting with other lady shooters ... especially when shooting with experienced lady shooter who may have a few tips and other encouragement to offer.

I'm just saying ....

Friday, May 02, 2008

Microstamping: Reader Responses

Yesterday's publication of the defense of Microstamping Ammunition Technology by Mr. Lizotte has already generated some reader response.

I'm not prepared to present a counter-argument at this time, and frankly I see some merit in some of the justifications there presented.

You may be interested in some comment which I received today from readers by email.

Read all of this hype from the inventor of micor stamping, but I am not convinced that the reloading issue was addressed well. The idea that everyone always tumbles their brass before reloading thereby making it possible to identify older micro stamping is ridiculous. I certainly don't always tumble my cartridges and if I shoot one weekend, reload during the week and shoot the next weekend I would have some serious doubts about them being able to determine which was the oldest after the cartridge had been exposed to dirt, weather and other elements of nature for any time.

In the case of reloading, you could conceivably have 8 to 10 or more micro stamps on any one cartridge if the micro stamp is added at any place but the firing pin. And if placed on the firing pin so the micro stamping would be removed each time the cartridge was reloaded might answer the reloading issues, but it would be simple to replace the firing pin. The inventor of microstamping didn't address this well. Also the idea that guns used in crimes are not usually used very much really is a stretch as far as I am concerned, while that may be true in the majority we are more concerned with the minority who will be affected by a faulty reading.

I still don't agree with "intentional" micro stamping unless they can better answer reloading questions. In fact, I would suggest that the unintentional marking of bullets and/or cartridges is a better way of identification and if micro stamping were in fact to become law, should be used in conjunction with the "intentional" marking.
Jim presents some pertinent arguments.

To expand on this position, I agree that Mr. Lizotte dismisses the reloaded-ammunition question with an almost cavalier manner.

He approaches the entire subject of ammunition usage with a certain set of preconceptions, entirely ignoring that not-inconsiderable set of people who shoot a lot of ammunition and, because ammunition is (increasingly) expensive, are encouraged by economic pressure to retain their expended brass and reload it ... often.

Mr. Lizotte's position seems to be that:
  • it is a simple manner for forensic technicians to determine the "most recent" microstamp on frequently microstamped ammunition;
  • In a relatively short period of time, Microstamping will become the norm;
  • The scenario where a potential violent criminal will glean expended cartridges from a shooting range, and re-use them to be used in a crime, is insignificant because ...
  • Criminals are too lazy, too indifferent, or too stupid to dump microstamped cartridge cases from someone else's gun at a crime scene as a foil to the police.
However, I'm still skeptical about this last assumption. When police track ammunition found at a crime scene to an innocent gun owner, the least ill effect is that their attention has been distracted. It's easy to imagine that police become complaisant because they have been assured that the scenario is unlikely, or at least that the probability is "insignificant".

The owner of the gun that actually fired that cartridge is forced into the position of proving his innocence, because the available 'evidence' is that he is the owner of the gun which fired shots at the scene ... even though neither he nor the gun were there.

Next, from "Paul":
You say the handguns already micro stamp the brass in their own way. First what about steel cases.... The second question, for years NY and Mass have been saving a factory fired case from each handgun bought, or in those states cases registered. The states are spending $4 and $7 million per year in this endeavor. With all these cases and data on file they have yet to solve a shooting case. What will make yours any different.

This looks like more buearacracy, [sic] registration and more fees for each state that takes it on. You are playing to the ignorant, in this case the state legislatures who will buy into anything that gets them votes and where they can make the public all touchy feely safe which as we know is a real misbelief.
Hmmm, I hadn't thought about steel cases. Or about aluminum, or nickel-brass cases. Do these metals take a microstamp?

Mr. Lizotte's interview responses seem to accept 'toolmarks' to be a currently legitimate and helpful tool to firearms forensics. How is Microstamping an improvement on the that technology?

It's clear that one man can't properly evaluate such a complex innovation, and I do invite your comments. In fact, I encourage you most strenuously to contribute to the dialogue. Just in one day I have all of these 'issues' that I either haven't conceived or thought through.

I remain skeptical of the technology, although I do recognize that Mr. Lizotte didn't just make up the technology without researching the supporting systems which allow the police to follow up the information provided there. He has done his homework and is quite prepared to defend the concept.

Ultimately, I think the flaw ... whether or not it is a 'fatal' flaw remains to be seen ... in the system is that it embraces the technology and the legal aspects, but disregards what we may think of as the 'social' aspects.

And it absolutely dismisses the effect it may have on marketing of firearms. Although it is easy to fall into the "if it saves just one child" fallacy, this is not a crime-prevention system. The most obvious objections are that it imposes a requirement on manufacturers to incorporate new manufacturing processes at a not-insignificant expense, for a market which is not universal, and for a social benefit which has been no more proven by actual experience than has been the technology.

California has enacted this into law. We will see, over time, whether the benefits expected by the progenitor and the firearms-fearing State of California are justified by the actual crime-solving results.

The Road Less Travelled

El Camino del Rey, Spain.

A disintegrating concrete 'path' hugging a 100% cliff face, overlooking incredible scenery which I couldn't bother to look at because I was too busy watching my step.

No, really, I'm not the intrepid hiker who wordlessly conducted this tour. He was too busy filming every step of the way. His nonchalance is terrifying to this viewer as he calmly walks along stretches of suspended cement walkway with huge holes in it. At one point he balance-walks along a two-inch framework bar because an entire six foot section of the walkway has somehow collapsed into the river far below.

My attention was drawn to this acrophobic's nightmare by Xavier Thoughts, whose website is the inspiration of too much of my blogmeat.

He in turn got it from Crime, Guns and Videotapes. I would have just linked to his article to give him the traffic, but when I tested the permalink I discovered that he has an annoying commercial pop-up. Follow the link if you wish: I did not choose to force you into it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Microstamping Ammunition: Todd Lizotte Attachments

This provides the Attachments" which accompany the original "Todd Lizotte Interview", in the order in which they were presented.

(1) --- CartridgePrimerMicrostamp_2528_40CalS&W.jpg

(2) --- Critical_Role_Of_Firearms_Examiners.pdf

(3) --- Microstamping Microscopy Methods.pdf

(4) --- PatternCrimes6.pdf

(5) --- PivotalBreachFace3.40CalS&W.bmp

Microstamping Ammunition: Todd Lizotte Interview

Three weeks ago Todd Lizotte, "the inventor of Microstamping" technology, responded in my Comments section to some statements I had made.

I invited him to consider some concerns which I felt were common to American gun-owners, and he was kind enough to respond.

It has taken a while for him to work through the list on questions, and we're grateful for his dedication.

Today he sent an email with my questions and his responses. I present it here, unedited. It's very long, so I'll save comments for a later post:


Hello Jerry,

Apologize for the delay.

I attempted to keep it condensed. I might expand on a few of my comments if you get feedback or would like further clarification or dig deeper into the technology or implementation strategy.

Hello Mr. *******,

[Todd E Lizotte] No worries, the microstamping technology is straightforward. Firearms have been microstamping cartridges for over 100 hundred years and it is these “unintentional” markings that are used and form the basis of current firearm and tool mark identification in the forensic community.

Microstamping just builds on the current process, by adding several new “intentional” marking features which can be linked to the serial number. This will allow a firearm to be identified if the firearm is not recovered from the crime scene.

If I correctly understand your position (compared with mine), you take exception to two issues which I mentioned:

1) you object to my assertion that Microstamping is confused with "cartridge/bullet serialization";

[Todd E Lizotte] I only object to the two technologies being associated, because they are two different approaches with far greater differences than complementary attributes. Bullet Serialization is not Microstamping; it is true serialization or product registration.


Microstamping is a passive device that marks the cartridge upon discharge of the firearm. (This is what the firearm currently does, except the marks the firearm produces today are random marks that are used for firearms identification by forensic professionals.) All microstamping does is add a few more marking structures to the existing firearm surfaces that currently produce the random markings. This new code is linked to the serial number at final assembly, when the firearms serial number is loaded into the internal accounting system at the firearm manufacturing facility. That is where the code is activated or associated to the serial number of the firearm.

What this means is that the BATF have to use the existing trace system to gain access to the serial number, no change in the status quo.

Microstamping is a one time cost to the firearm. If you figure a cost of $6.00 per firearm, than you are talking the price of two cups of coffee at Starbucks, divide that over a year and your talking about $.50 a month in the first year to cover the cost. If you figure that it costs about $15 for a box of .40 cal ammo, it means sacrificing half a box of ammo one time to provide law enforcement with an opportunity to track and target people who traffic firearms to criminals.

On the other hand:

Bullet/cartridge Serialization (Not Microstamping) is a product coding system and back door registration system which requires a complete upheaval of the existing manufacturing process of ammunition, as well as the distribution chain for ammunition. Furthermore, it requires that each state and the federal level maintain its own database for tracking storage and distribution of ammunition, the certification and licensing of every distributor within the ammunition manufacturers distribution chain, allowing the distributor the ability to sell or distribute the ammunition. In a nutshell, this is a multi-billion dollar infrastructure overhaul that would need to be funded by each state and the federal level to put in place just the tracking system, let alone the network system maintenance that would have to be supported to keep it operational and up to date.

Pitfalls of Bullet/Cartridge Serialization:

· Requires a national database system to track the domestic and international manufacture (both military / civilian markets), importation, transport and distribution of ammunition by the state and federal government. (An integrated system that someone needs to develop and fund) Figure it has taken approximately $1 Billion to create the NIBIN platform and the BATF still does not have the system integrated across state boundaries effectively. Nor does NIBIN involve tracking billions of cartridges. In ten years only ~1.2 million cartridges have been entered. Even the most integrated and well maintained databases in the financial sector are prone to fraud to the level of millions of customers having their information hacked into by criminals.

· Bullet/Cartridge serialization requires a new licensing system so that ammunition can not be purchased using fake ID or ID Theft issues, such as driver’s licenses, which might be given to illegal aliens or criminals.

· Bullet/Cartridge serialization process requires the ammunition industry to either change its production method, since they would have to mark two separate pieces and ensure that they are mated together in the final assembly.

· Bullet/Cartridge serialization requires a similar coding and tracking system that can tie an individual assembled cartridge to a group of cartridges within a box; a series of boxes that form a case; the case to the shipping documents; and linked to the distribution chain at each step of the way until it reaches the shelf for sale.

So, if you want to know, I do not support Bullet/Cartridge serialization. Bullet/Cartridge serialization is a bureaucracy based technology that costs more money on an annual basis, to maintain the infrastructure – in fact the cost of maintaining the database will outstrip the actually cost of putting codes on the cartridge / bullet.

2) Microstamping technology is mis-perceived as 'requiring a national database" to be effective, which I have mis-characterized in my article.

[Todd Lizotte] That is correct; Microstamping the firearm requires no new database. All the data is part of the existing internal accounting system used by the firearms company/industry in order to conform to the BATF requirements. The codes placed onto the two surfaces are linked to the specific serial number of the handgun at final assembly, when the serial number is entered into the ERP/MRP accounting system. Simply put, it is an added field in the software – simple.

For my part, there are many other issues pursuant to the development of 'microstamping' as a legal requirement in firearms manufacture. But first:

1) I think I understand the difference between "Microstamping Ammunition" and "Encoded Ammunition" technology. (If I have given the impression that I think the two are identical, I apologize and will correct such misapprehensions as they are identified.)

Note that terms are often braced by quotes; this is not an attempt to establish a 'so-called' and derogatory (or dismissive) bias. Rather, it is to establish the quoted terms as a precise and legal definition.

[Todd Lizotte] (No worries I am good with your bracketing and I do not take offense to your wording or opinions)

Feel free to correct my mistakes.

"Microstamping" refers to the formation of structures on internal parts of a firearm, which currently mark unintentional tooling marks. The code structure is on the micro sized. These new structures will in turned be embossed/stamped onto some part of the cartridge case or primer upon the firing of ammunition (a 'cartridge') in that firearm. This code is unique to that firearm, and is only transferred to the ammunition component when the cartridge is fired. (Note: we have found that it actually marks misfired cartridges as well.)

[Todd E Lizotte] Correct, however, this is not a new process, all firearms currently microstamp cartridges. The current microstamps are surface features, such as tooling marks, left over from the production processes that are used to form the components of the firearm.

The tooling marks on the internal surfaces come in contact with the cartridges and transfer “unintentional” markings. These unintentional markings have been used for over >70 years by forensic investigators for firearm identification. However these marks are only used when the firearm is recovered from the crime scene.

“Microstamping” technique is just the addition of two new features that are “Intentional”, there is no change to the process. The markings are formed the same way. Many people are trying to say this is a new process, it isn’t. Instead of using only the “unintentional” tooling marks, we are proposing the addition and use of two “intentional” micro codes. Furthermore the new codes are optimized to the dynamic action of the firearm; specifically we perform “cycle of fire analysis” and determine the characteristics of each model of firing mechanism and then use a series of markings to test optimum feature geometries to establish the best configuration for the firearm. It is a very simple approach using existing methodologies for analysis developed by the forensic firearms investigators.

"Encoded Ammunition" is an entirely different process, in which a code is embossed or engraved upon one or more parts of the ammunition (specifically, the bullet, and/or the cartridge case). That code is unique to that cartridge or bullet (or other component?) and is embossed or engraved during the manufacturing process. The code is unique to that piece of ammunition, or to a batch of ammunition which is manufactured at the same time and place.[Todd E Lizotte] Correct

In shorter terms:

Microstamping is done on the firearms, which in turns stamps the ammunition when fired;

Encoding is done on the ammunition during manufacture, and bears no direct relation to the firearm. [Todd E Lizotte] Correct

Have I got the crux of the difference? .[Todd E Lizotte] I believe that defines it clearly. I made some slight changes to the microstamping description.

I'm assuming that you agree in principle to these definitions, and further discussion can ignore to the manufacture-process of "encoded ammunition". Please correct me if I am wrong.

(I'm sorry this is so stilted; I'm attempting to establish a common definition and I'm trying to be precise.) Your approach is fine with me.


Given that the above are common terms of understanding, can we advance to a discussion of "Microstamping of Ammunition" as defined?

For the sake of discussion, all firearms will be defined as having a single firing pin and a single breech mechanism. The options are to provide either the firing pin or the breech part with engraved (defined as "you make indentations or bas-relieve protuberance") marks which will be stamped on a part of the cartridge when the gun is fired".

[Todd Lizotte] The markings we create are designed to maintain the surface integrity (i.e. maintain the spherical datum of the pin or surface as well as the surface of the breach. We create what we call “recessed protected indicia” which in simple terms means we do not change the dynamics of the interaction of the firing pin to the primer, but design for a coining of the surface metal of the primer. As for the breach, we developed a means to analyze the “cycle of fire” of the firearm and place our recessed protected indicia at locations that provide the best marking capability.

All firearms currently microstamp and these unintentional markings form the basis of firearms identification that is used by law enforcement. All we have done is add optimized / intentional marking elements that can ID the firearm, using the existing trace system and without the need for any new infrastructure. The best part is the firearms industry controls the information.

We have four affected parts:

Of the firearm: the firing pin, or the breech. [Todd E Lizotte] Yes, however we specifically had the California policy people leave it less defined to allow each firearm producer the opportunity to use other surfaces within the firearm, such as the ejector and extractor or custom designed elements.

Of the cartridge: the primer, or the base of the case. .

Speaking of the firing pin:

You may agree to any or none of the following statements:

. The firing pin of the firearm is a small part which is not necessarily intrinsic to the manufacture of the basic firearm. The firing pin is a two-dollar 'consumable' part (like pencils in an office) which is expected to wear or deform, requiring occasional replacement.

[Todd E Lizotte] Correct. It is a consumable, not sure I have ever paid $2.00. In fact the ex-head of Ruger (Sanetti) stated in his testimony in Connecticut, that the firing pin is the highest mortality part of Ruger firearms (I think this might be a Ruger issue though – my S&W .40 has a pin that has nearly 6000 rounds fired without failure.)

Based on the forensic community (CA-DOJ), a majority of new model firearms recovered from crime scenes have been fired less than 500 rounds and in many circumstances retain the original lubricant from the factory. Microstamping targets these new models, to track firearms that make it into the market via thefts and straw purchases.

. Replacement of a firing pin may or may not be governmentally controlled; if it is controlled, the cost to the retail customer of the replacement may involve more than the manufacturing costs plus overhead, and may involve considerable delay because the part cannot be stockpiled by the manufacture (more overhead to the manufacture is involved in this.)

[Todd E Lizotte] The California law is specifically written to allow this freedom allowing for owners to switch pins for competition or sport shooting activities. The targeting of straw purchasers is the key. My belief is that you should be able to purchase firing pins. California law should be the model legislation, since it is a simple approach, but maintains the status quo for law abiding citizens.

. Because the bills requiring "Microstamping of ammunition" by a firing pin is based on state law, it is possible to replace a "Microstamping" firing pin by one which is readily acquired out-of-state, or out-of-country, thus obviating the state law. (Note that current California state law only required "Microstamping technology" on "new" firearms, and could take decades to become enforceable.)

. The firing pin is a part which is one of the most wear-susceptible of the entire firearm, not including the barrel and the breech face. As such, the micro-encoding of the cartridge (in this case, the primer) is most likely to be blurred with usage.

[Todd E Lizotte] All of your statements are correct. We figure the firing pin code, should outlive the life of the firing pin. Once again we are not talking about firearms purchased by law abiding citizens.

We have demonstrated >5,000 using live fire testing.

Speaking of the breech:

. "Microstamping" on the breech will only impinge upon the base of the cartridge. This portion of the cartridge is typically pre-embossed with the manufacturer's name, caliber, and any special markings. The embossing is typically deep and prominent. [Todd E Lizotte] Correct

. Given that the "microstamping" of the base of the cartridge may often be obscured by the headstamp, and that headstamp may cause "microstamping" to be imperfectly transferred to the base of the cartridge, what is your estimation of the failure (number or percentage) of "microstamped" codes to be unreadable?

[Todd E Lizotte] The key is redundancy, using standard cartridges there is an ability to get the entire code out of three partial codes. (The sum of the parts scenario) We have designed a method of placing separate codes at angles that guarantee at least one full code and two partials, with the two partials being aligned so one is the front half and the other the back half of the code.

We always test the extreme, a point that is not discussed in the literature done by others you tested circa 1999 technology. We have always tested 8 characters; however our technology will start at six characters for the first 20+ years. Many of the testing using non-optimized firearms, i.e. Krivosta and UC Davis (Which we partially funded) had eight digit codes for a reason. Eight digits represent the largest area on the tip of the pin. We always design and test for added capacity, to give us higher transfer rates. This is shown when people attend our live fire testing. It is not a laboratory setting.

We have other surfaces on the breach face that do not even come near the head stamp locations. Because we work on a micro level there is plenty of real-estate to work with. However, we also balance the size to the dynamics and wear characteristics of the mechanical process of a firearm, which in itself is multivariate.

. Given that ammunition is endemic in the shooting community, it is reasonable to assume that a 'found' cartridge case may have been previously "microstamped" by two or more firearms. What are the chances that such a cartridge case, found at the scene of a crime, will be either unreadable (see above), or legally defensible as "not definitively, reliably, or objectively provable" to have LAST been fired by the firearm in question?

.[Todd E Lizotte] We have run reloads, typical tumbling processes of brass cartridges eradicates the previous markings. However, this is one of those “what if” questions that the Forensic professionals laugh at. Forensic investigators know how to determine fresh from old cartridges. They also understand that, even if there are two markings the newest one will have minimal oxidation as compared to the new markings. The science of microscopy is very well developed and it is commonplace to use scanning electron microscopy to identify and verify gun shot residue.

Another point to be made is that “WHAT IF” arguments are scenarios that the forensic community has had to deal with currently. Planting cartridges is not as easy as you might think. I was given an overview of how a crime scene is analyzed. Firearm ejection patterns, projectile trajectory, gun shot residue analysis and general crime scene data, such as foot prints are analyzed.

If someone scattered or planted cartridges; they would conflict with the cartridges that were fired and ejected. The planted cartridges would need to be the same make and model ammo, same gun powder and would have to be placed in reasonable proximity to the ejected cartridges. On top of that, the forensic professional’s comment that planted cartridges open doors for further leads, since the cartridges will be shown to be plants, since there will be no projectiles to match them. A planted cartridge offers a potential for fingerprints, DNA and possibly the location where the criminal acquired them, which could lead to a security camera where the cartridges were taken. All in all, the planting theory seems to be not an issue to law enforcement. That is what they say.

The introduction of new forensic technology has never created a paradigm shift in the intelligence of the common criminal.

In either case:

. Given that cartridge cases are often left on the surface of shooting ranges around the country, and that they may be picked up and retained (and reloaded) by any casual bystander, and;

. given that these cartridge cases may be reloaded by anyone in possession of an (unregulated) reloading press, and;

. given that reloading ammunition is a decidedly unregulated process, and;

. given that the majority of firearms will for the foreseeable future (decades, at least) NOT be subject to these "new guns" laws, what are the chances that a pre-microstamped cartridge case will be used in a capital crime to draw police attention to a shooter whose only crime is failing to recover ALL of his expended cases at a public firing range? .

[Todd E Lizotte] Next to zero – consider that we are talking about opportunistic straw purchasers, who trade in firearms to criminal networks. These are not the type of people to go to the local gun range to test their newly acquired stolen or illegally acquired firearm. I am not sure about where you shoot, but the facility I use has security cameras and requires that you give your license and fill out a form every time you go there, even as a member.

Take for instance a gang drive by shooting, the criminal rolls down a window, points the firearm and rapidly unloads into someone … at the same time they have to reach into their pocket and throw out cartridges. They are too juiced to think straight, let alone plant cartridges.

I do agree with you that the "Encoded Ammunition" laws now being proposed should not be confused with "Microstamping Ammunition" laws based upon your technology.

"Encoded Ammunition" laws (bills) are ipso facto an infringement upon the Second Amendment, in that the cost of conforming to such regulation includes manufacturing controls which are so prohibitively costly that ammunition manufacturers cannot provide affordable ammunition to 99+% of the consuming public.

[Todd E Lizotte] I agree, I am against encoded ammo, it is a new government controlled bureaucracy and default purchaser registration.

However, I hope that you will perceive that "Microstamping Ammunition" bills, while they initially seem to be 'low impact' on the consumer (in terms of purchase price of the original firearm) can reasonably be expected to not only promulgate unlimited expense in terms of maintenance, but are also (in the viewpoint of my fellow firearms owners) rife with future restrictions on the second amendment ... to say nothing of the possibility of unreasonable criminal charges being levied upon honest citizens.

[Todd E Lizotte] Sorry, I do not agree. I see Microstamping “handguns” as a firearm industry controlled technology and a law enforcement tool for targeting those <1%>nd amendment right they are given. Furthermore, the firearms industry was provided with the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (2005), the purpose of the act is to prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for crimes committed with their products. I think adding microstamping is a quid pro quo to law enforcement to assist them in targeting the trafficking of firearms. The industry should self police itself, but it should also look for simple ideas to improve the quality of investigative leads, i.e. evidence for incidents where firearms are used to commit a crime.

As for unlimited expense, that is not the case. With most law enforcement tools that have been implemented, the costs is continuous – such as CoBIS in NY and RBID in MD or even the ballistic imaging technology by the ATF called NIBIN. Microstamping is an initial per gun price once or in the worse case if you replace a firing pin.

We pay ~$15.00 / box of ammo; we pay upwards of ~$27.00 / firing pin for one that is made with high precision, exotic materials/replacement springs and balanced weight.

If you go to Dunkin Donuts you pay ~$2.00 for a cup of coffee and if you are a Starbucks drinker, you pay ~$4.00, and then we pay almost $4.00 for a gallon of gas.

With that said, when looking at a technology that could allow the industry to assist law enforcement and hold off seriously bad legislation, like bullet serialization and RFID tags in the future, the cost is insignificant.

Instead the firearm industry representatives tell us they will be able to defend our rights. The ole camel nose under the tent they tell us, well it is time to hike out into the desert and shoot the camel before it even gets to the tent. A microstamping strategy would allow the firearms industry to work with law enforcement; target trafficking using an industry controlled technology; hold of legislation like RFID tagging and ammo serialization; hold off imaging of newly purchased firearms using new 3D high resolution technology (being tested by the ATF as we speak) read the NAS report; all with a simple passive code added to the firearm.

I attached a multi-hit cartridge that was deemed illegible (unsatisfactory) by one of our opponents. As you can see it is easily readable by using scanning electron microscopy. Much of the data gathered by people who have evaluated the technology used low end microscopy without metallurgical lighting. I added another image showing how using appropriate microscopy improves the readability.

I included a reference about pattern crimes. Just like hunting terrorists, good “fresh” INTEL – Data is what is needed to combat trafficking.

Microstamping is a forensic tool.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Best regards,
Todd Lizotte

Attachments may be viewed here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April Blogmeat

In a frantic effort to add meaningful content to this website during the month of April, 2008, Cogito Ergo Geek proudly presents ... APRIL BLOGMEAT!

Mazda, faced with a surfeit of automobiles which may or may not have been subject to hidden damage as a result of an auto-transporter ship which did its very best to turn turtle, has boldly faced the question of "How to Destroy Brand New Cars"!

The Wall Street Journal shows us exactly how low-couture we are by describing a $300,000 watch which doesn't tell time. (Hint: "It sold out in 48 hours". Question: how do they know ... did they have a Timex to tell them when 48 hours had passed?)

The Independence Institute acknowledges the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre with this article about "Good Citizens and Guns" (sorry, I'm slow picking up on this one.)
Wednesday marked one year since the massacre at Virginia Tech by mentally-disturbed student Seung-Hui Cho. Last week the university offered anguished parents a settlement of $100,000 per murdered child.

There are three things wrong with this: First, even in financial terms, it is hopelessly inadequate to redress the deaths of these talented young people.

Second, it does nothing to correct the useless, symbolic policy which facilitated their deaths.

Third, if you don’t think that the policy is wrong,Virginia Tech has no liability for the deaths it facilitated.

That policy is the “gun-free zone.” Even if the victims had possessed permits to carry a gun, Virginia Tech forbade them to have that means of self-defense while on campus. This ensured that only the killer (who, of course, violated the “gun-free zone” policy just as he violated the laws against murder) and uniformed police would have guns. Obviously the university could not afford to station officers in every lecture hall.

Yet nothing less would substitute for the victims themselves having had the power to stop the massacre.

Israel has a better alternative. Decades ago, Palestinian terrorism was being directed at schools. Yasser Arafat calculated that small children can’t shoot back, and that killing them was the best way to terrify parents into fleeing Israel.

Israel’s response?

They armed schoolteachers and school bus drivers. Now, even suicide terrorists don’t attack schools -- lest they be shot down before they can reach their helpless victims.

"Why We Want to Kill You"
Breitbart TV provides a video of the $10,000 'speech' at the University of Colorado earlier this week by two self-professed reformed "terrorists". We don't know whether this is reality or theater, but these two dudes seem civilized and are definitely showmen.

Want more? Here's the "Muslims Against Terrorism" website, and the University of Colorado "Daily Camera" write-up is here. Don't blame me if it's sophomoric; its' ... ah ... the product of sophomores; M'kay? (I hate the slang, I only use it to abuse it.)

"Roadkill: if a car hits it, is it still a trophy?"
This Twin Cities dot Com article channels deceased road-fritters in a transparent attempt to lend verisimilitude to critters whose main claim to fame is that, majestic as they may have been in Real Life, they were Killed by Chryslers instead of having been Massacred by Magnums. Yeah, they're not eligible for Boone & Crockett, so instead of sinking into ignominy (and rotting by the side of the road) they can be Interned in the Internet.

I haven't spent a lot of time surfing the website ... but you can. Write if you find a real job. And don't blame me if the bright yellow of the background blinds you.

FREEP offers another warning: if you take your kid to the ball game, don't buy him the lemonade. Dude, it's not your father's lemonade, do you hear what I'm saying?

And if you ask Christopher Ratte and his wife how they lost custody of their 7-year-old son, the short version is that nobody in the Ratte family watches much television.

The way police and child protection workers figure it, Ratte should have known that what a Comerica Park vendor handed over when Ratte ordered a lemonade for his boy three Saturdays ago contained alcohol, and Ratte's ignorance justified placing young Leo in foster care until his dad got up to speed on the commercial beverage industry.
Meanwhile ...
Mayor Richard Daley said Saturday Chicago police officers will he armed with high-powered assault rifles when they're on the streets fighting gangs and other criminals.

"Many times they're outgunned, to be very frank," Daley said at an event in the Englewood neighborhood. "When they come to a scene, someone has a semi fully-automatic weapon and you have a little pistol, uh, good luck."

The city's police officers carry pistols, and Daley suggested they will start carrying "M4 rifles."

Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the department still is working out details about the M4 carbines.
Essentially, he's arming each and every Chicago Cop with an M4 ... and response from the pro-gun advocates in America is outrage.

Not that they (we) don't think that it's a good idea; not that they (we) don't think that 'everybody should own one'. It's just the that the hypocrisy of of Gun-Grabber Daley is just too frustrating to bear.

Kim Du Toit would (and by the time you read this, probably did) consider it a "RCOB" ("Red Curtain of Blood") moment.

Finally, and ultimately, Aromatherapy Makes You Feel Sexy. Or nauseous ... whatever.

I once associated with a Licensed Massage Therapist who was into Aromatherapy, Reiki, Chakra, Crystal Therapy, Pyramid Therapy, Copper Therapy, Non-Manipulative Chiropractic ("Kinesiology") and almost any other bizarre believe system you could imagine ... and some you could not conceive.

The "Kinesiology" link deserves some explanation.

In 1993 I was rear-ended while sitting at a stop light. The EMT took me to the hospital, where they subjected me to the interesting experience of an MRI. (This is a diagnostic procedure, not a treatment.) This determined that I had been subject to extensive soft-tissue damage, along with some possible cervical misalignment.

So I went to a Chiropractor, who was not dis-recommended by my 'friend'.

When I finally was admitted for treatment (no examination was performed) I was instructed to lay on a hard leather couch.
The "Chiropractor" then used a (dirty) Popsicle stick to probe various areas of my chest, which he held in his left hand, while with his right hand he squeaked a fore-finger across the surface of a Formica-topped table.

I waited for 10 minutes for him to perform some act which I could credit as either 'diagnostic' or 'therapeutic'. Instead, as my astonishment waned, he finally put away his precious dirty Popsicle stick and announced that I had received grevious injuries which would require an extended period of treatment ... would I please pay the receptionist, and make an appointment for further such treatment?

Without a word, I left his Formica-plated 'treatment room', shelled out some big-bucks cash to the receptionist, and made my escape as expeditiously as possible.

When I got home I described my experience to my Licensed Massage Therapist friend, and waited for her evaluation.

She said: "Well, Kinesiology is not the most common Chiropractic treatment, and it's not just for everyone. But it is acknowledged and taught by the College of Chiropractic."

I never went back to he "Kinesiologist", and the LMT and I soon parted company,

I left a lot of 'good stuff' behind, in my rush to move to another state, but nothing that I couldn't live without.

Well, I do miss the VCR and the .22 Magnum Derringer. But as I said, I can live without 'em.

Not This Guy!

Knowledge Is Power ... feeds my daily theme of "stealing from the people who surf the net, so we don't have to."

(Note: Shortest Geek-Length Post in Recent History.)

A Law Built On A Lie

Xavier Thoughts: Gun Bans in the UK provides a video article which demonstrates the outrage felt by many British Citizens over the confiscation of otherwise-legal firearms. (I won't link directly to the video. Xavier found it, and posted it first. He deserves the traffic. Please go view the video, then come back here for comments.)

This confiscation was intended to make British Citizens safer, they said. The theory was "Less Guns, Less Crime" although I am unable to determine the amount of threat to public peace has been reduced by, for example, making it impossible for Olympic .22 Pistol Shooters to practice for an international sport in their own country.

The result has been that honest citizens have been disarmed, even in the supposed sanctity of their own homes. And the consequences of that is, honest citizens can't fight back when attacked by armed hoodlums.

Extending the illogic to the ultimate absurdity, Brits are seeing that they cannot defend themselves with a shotgun, with a kitchen knife, with a sword, with a club ... even by beating the home invader senseless with bare fists when said home invader is found naked and chasing your screaming nubile daughter around her bedroom in the middle of the night while he is armed with a large knife and a hard-on.

To illustrate the illegality of defending your home with a shotgun:
I have written before about Tony Martin, a British Subject and victim of the unjust laws which deprive Britains of the right to defend themselves and their homes.

Martin, a farmer, had been burglarized several times and was not able to call on timely and effective support from the police. In frustration, he sat up of nights with a (legal) shotgun to guard his home. When another (or the same?) set of burglars broke in, he opened fire, killing one and wounding another (armed) career burglar. (Between the two of them the burglar had more than 50 burglaries to their 'credit', although one of the pair was only 16 years old.)

Martin was charged and convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison. This was later reduced to a charge of Manslaughter. Martin has served his reduced (3 years of a 5 year sentence) term and has been released.

However, he remains an iconic symbol of the injustice served upon victims of crime in England.

In the video, Martin is very much a dominant subject; he is known to have been unrepentant, cleaving 'in his bitterness' to the conceit that he was right in defending his home and his person with deadly force.

In America, the "Castle Defense" laws proliferate; in England, the same laws which sentenced this beleaguered man to Life in Prison remain unchanged, and honest citizens continue to be charged and imprisoned for defending their home and their person.

In the video, Brits march in silent protest against the willful efforts of their government to deprive them of their right to self-defense, and the incompetence of police to defend them from armed predators.

When you watch the video, you will see that the protesters are saying all of the things which we on this side of the Atlantic Ocean have been saying for years. Essentially, they realize that they have been lied to by the politicians and, by not standing up for their rights at the very first moment of infringements, they found themselves on the slippery slope which Americans are attempting to avoid today.

And they make their "Mea Maxima Culpa" statement loud and clear.

Their message to America is unequivocal in the sound-bites:

"Our Freedom Isn't Safe."

"Everything is going ... our traditions ... and this is what we're fighting for".

(Narrator: "... [T]hey only have themselves to blame for government policies which threaten their way of life, their security, and the future of democracy in Britain.")

"We've been very apathetic for years, and now it's time to fight for it."

"It's a disgrace, and we've seen these fundamental liberties eroding in the last twenty-odd years in England ... all sorts of legislation which should never have appeared. "

(Narrator: "Sportsmen and shooters, fooled by Politicians ... now realizing, perhaps too little and too late, that their traditions are no more secure than their freedoms.")

"...[T]his about the liberty of the individual to choose for him or herself what they do."

(Narrator: "A future that's in doubt, and the largest peaceful protest in British history to try to choose that has got many asking, 'where were these voices six years ago when there was an outright ban on handguns? When pistol shooters were forced to surrender their handguns, confiscated by their government to be destroyed. ... Gun bans that, as was predicted, have simply backfired.")

"We need to be armed, you know we're not safe any more, everything is changing."

"The authorities have no way of controlling criminals, so they control the honest citizen, because we're an easy target."

[Anonymous Policeman: "It's totally out of control. ... For the first time ever, Bobbies are carrying firearms; but they're still out-gunned by criminals, who can get anything they want. ... Why are British Subjects not be be trusted?"]

And finally, the words we dreaded to hear:

"America: It Can Happen To You."

The question is, are we likely to heed this cautionary tale and avoid the fate of the Brits, or will we also put our trust in perfidious politicians with an agenda?

UPDATE: 01-May-2008
Re-reading this article today "as published", I discovered that a section was inadvertently deleted during 2nd-draft editing. I apologize for the unprofessional and choppy result. I've filled in the blanks a bit, hopefully it's a bit more readable now. I usually read the published version so I can catch this kind of error, but I failed to do so last night. I had a lot more to say about other subjects, which is less a justification than a thin excuse. Yes, it will probably happen again.

I've also made minor additions to the context, and cosmetic changes in the Quotes to improve readability.