Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Open Letter to Senator Diane Feinstein

Senator Feinstein:

Not for the first time, you have disappointed me today and, I believe, let your country down.

We disagree on the question of gun control. That's ok; I have a lot of friends, and some family, who share your views on the matter. I like to think I have the facts on my side, but that is truly a discussion for another day.

My issue with you today is the press release you put out yesterday, calling for a renewal of the debate on gun control in the aftermath of the recent shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

We may leave behind for the moment that the breathless reports - reports which you chose to pass along, in the utter absence of proof - that the shooter used an AR-15 rifle to wreak his havok were totally false. We may also leave behind your repetition of the same tired falsehoods about the AR-15 being a "military-style assault rifle," when in fact it is a consumer version of a military rifle, that can not shoot automatically, as "assault rifles" do.

What I cannot leave behind is the fact that you put this press release out as soon as you did. In a sickeningly literal way, you could not muster the grace to wait until the bodies were cold before you pounced upon an opportunity to forward a political agenda. I find it hard to think that a savvy politician such as yourself could strike such a tone deaf position; instead of providing whatever comfort you could in a raw moment, you chose rather to stir the pot in a calculating way that, if I didn't know better, I would dismiss as the act of a political dilettante.

As the dust settles we find that the shooter wrestled with significant mental health issues, had multiple arrests for crimes involving the combination of anger and firearms, and was somehow able to bring a shotgun into the Navy Yard. The failures on an institutional level that allowed this rampage to take place were staggering: He should have never had WNY clearance, he should have never passed the background check that he took and passed on Sunday when he purchased his shotgun, and for heaven's sake he should have never been able to bring the firearm onto Navy Yard property, clearance or no.

What we do not find is any mention of these facts in yesterday's press release, or for that matter any subsequent ones.

If you would really display a bona fide desire to prevent the next Navy Yard, or Aurora, or Newtown - as you claim to want to do - you would at barest minimum acknowledge the common thread of mental instability that binds the perpetrators of these unspeakable acts. You would lend some of that single-mindedness with which you pursue your agenda towards enforcing existing laws regarding who can purchase a firearm and who cannot.

Or, you may just carry on as always, and not let pass a single opportunity to make political hay, whether or not the facts of the matter are represented.

I would like to think that the American people are smarter than that; you may find that this approach will backfire on you, as the recent recall elections in Colorado have proven can happen.

I suspect, though, that you will continue with your ever-more-shrill rhetoric about how the only problem here is guns, guns, guns, and how the best way to keep guns out of the hands of the criminal element is to remove them from the hands of the law-abiding.

Because, as I have stated before, you have disappointed me, and you will very likely do so again.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Peace, Love, and What?

Every time something bad happens, everyone overreacts.

Case in point: the horrific shooting that took place in Newtown, CT. The anti-gun crowd responded by calling for firearm restrictions and a ban on magazines of over a certain capacity (usually 10 rounds). The pro-gun crowd responded by buying up everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - on every shelf of every gun store from here to East Jesus, anticipating the legislation that would, in their view, invariably come.

Well neither reality came to pass, and as a pro-gun guy and a zealous guardian of my constitutional rights (not just the second), that made me happy. However, the frenzied buying resulted in a crippling shortage of everything any shooter could ever need.

At first, the shortages most acutely felt were in the areas of those items for which a ban was anticipated most immediately: AR-15 style firearms, and 30-round magazines for same, flew off the shelves within hours of the news of the shooting and did not return for months.

But the frenzy didn't end there: gun guys bought everything they could get a hold of that could possibly hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, be it pistol or rifle. Supply dried up almost entirely. The joke around the gun shop where I'm a fixture around the cracker barrel (hereinafter referred to as "the shop") was that it was the best gun store without guns in the whole country. People were saying that President Obama (who, trust me, is not held in high esteem amongst the hangers-on at the shop) was the single best gun salesman in the country. And it looked like they were right: in the two months following the tragedy, the shop processed more federal background checks for firearm purchases ("4473's") than in the entire previous year.

And with all these guns being sold, naturally people wanted ammunition to put in them. And it flew off the shelves with an even more stunning quickness than firearms. Stores burned through stock that would otherwise take them three months to sell through in a week. And most of the ammo that was being sold was for handguns. At the shop whole weeks would go by where there was no common handgun ammo to be had at all. No 9mm, no .40 S&W, no .45, no .38, nada.

The biggest surprise: no .22 ammo. .22 long rifle ammo is the single most popular type of ammo in the country. Its use in both handguns and rifles, its low price relative to any other ammo type, and its sheer ubiquity should have ensured that of all ammo, .22LR would be the one caliber that was shortage-proof. Not so. There hasn't been a ready supply of .22LR ammo at the shop in months.

The problem, to hear the ammo manufacturers tell the tale, is that they can only increase production so much: they can run three shifts instead of two, perhaps, but to really ramp up production, they'd need to purchase more of the machines that actually make the ammo. They'd need to purchase facilities to house the machines and hire people to run them. An outlay of this type would cost millions. And then, when supply is finally met, and demand (inevitably) goes down, the companies would find themselves with more production capacity than they'd ever need, have to lay people off, sell real estate, mothball their equipment, and pass on those millions of dollars in capital expenditure on to us, the ammo-buying public.

The laws of supply and demand have, alas, taken hold. Before Newtown, a box of 50 rounds of 9mm - the single most popular round after the .22 - was $12. You could get reloads for $10. Now new stuff is $20, and reloads are $15, and then only if you turn in the brass when you're done shooting it. .22 used to be about $20 for a brick (500 rounds) of decent stuff - say, CCI Blazer - now if you can even find it, it's twice that.

Shooting isn't like riding a bicycle. It requires practice and repetition, and generally speaking the more time you spend at the range (what we like to call "trigger time") the better your shooting skills. The target doesn't lie. Your skills are absolutely quantifiable in the shooting sports, and when it takes a $20 bill to shoot 50 rounds of 9mm through your handgun, the numbers tend to add up with a quickness.

There is a glimmer of good news on the horizon though: at very least some ammo is becoming more available. Components, like brass, powder, primer, and bullet heads are at last loosening up, which for me means that there are boxes of 9mm reloads in relative plenty at the shop. Still no .22 to speak of, or several other calibers that I have (or had) an interest in: .22 Magnum (also known as WMR) hasn't been available forever, and there's so little 9x18 (Makarov) ammo around that it made me sell my CZ-82 in favor of a Glock 17. Can't find any .30cal to feed my beautiful M1 Carbine either:

Click for up-close and personal view

 But I perceive that it's getting there.

Where prices shake out when supply finally reaches equilibrium with demand remains to be seen. But until that time, people will continue pack ratting ammo, and prices will continue to rise, until they walk into the shop and be reassured by full shelves and display cases.

Thanks for listening. Go see a doctor if you haven't recently.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back - and Better Than Ever

Firstly, let me apologize for the incredibly long period in between posts. It won't happen again.

In truth I had almost forgotten about this little corner of the 'Tubes. I've had an eventful year. Shortly after my first post, I had a stroke, which put quite a crimp in my cha cha for the better part of a year. The story ends well along those lines, though: I'm one of the fortunate few that suffered no appreciable long-term damage. I did lose my shooter's eye, but I'm getting that back slowly. I'm now working on my trigger control; I find myself jerking the trigger down and to the right (I'm left-handed), which means I'm anticipating recoil.

The stroke informs an important decision I recently made: I have sold my CZ-82. It was a great firearm, and it was a wrench to sell it, but sell it I did, using the proceeds of the sale of the gun and the ammo to purchase a Glock 17.

It has all the charm of a washing machine, I know, but it was a compelling purchase for a number of reasons:
  •  It has a polymer frame, which makes the gun a good deal lighter - good for my slightly weakened left hand.
  • Despite its being lighter than my 82, it absorbs recoil much better.
  • My 82 fired Makarov ammo, which has all but dried up here in the US. The 17 fires 9mm Luger, the single most popular handgun caliber in existence.
  • There is a ready (some would say ubiquitous) supply of spare parts, extra magazines, and customizations for Glock products that is unparalleled in the industry.
  • It has a greater capacity than the CZ-82 (17+1 as opposed to 12+1)
  • It is far, far more accurate than the 82; indeed more accurate than I'm ever going to be.
  • I stumbled upon a fantastic deal for it that forced my hand and made the decision for me.
The financials: I sold my 82 plus 1200 rounds of Makarov ammo for $690. The Glock cost me $465 which included shipping, and I spent the rest on ammo - about 600 rounds worth. So I was able to make this swap for a net reduction of about 12 boxes of ammo. I'll take that any day.

Anyway, if there are any of you left who will read this, thank you for being so patient. I have a number of posts knocking about the cranium, so expect regular updates for the next little while.

Go see a doctor if you haven't recently. Find out what's wrong with you and fix it. Trust your Uncle Gary, you don't want to have a stroke.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Range Report: CZ-82 9mm

Recently I picked up a CZ-82 for $219 from Aim Surplus; they advertised excellent condition ("very minor finish wear") and I'm happy to say that they were as good as their word. I opted to pay an extra $10 for the best-of-five handpick option, and the gun I got looked as if it had never been fired a single time. There was some light holster-burn at the very end of the muzzle, and a little crud at the very mouth of the barrel which cleaned right up after I took these pictures.  As good as it looked out of the box, after a good cleaning and a light coat of oil it looked even better - but I wasn't gonna take another set of pictures.  To say I was pleased doesn't begin to tell the tale.


It was an eternity from the time I bought the thing to the time I was able to put it through its paces: AIM took a couple of days to ship it to my local shop, and about halfway through the 8 day waiting period this benighted state makes you wait, he went on vacation for two weeks so he and his pistol team could snag a gold medal in his team's .22 competition at Camp Perry (congrats John!).   But, finally, pick it up I did, and was able to actually fire it.

The CZ-82 fires the 9mm Makarov round, also known as a 9x18mm.  It is a millimeter shorter than the "standard" 9mm round, variously known as the 9mm Luger, the 9mm Parabellum, the 9x19, and the 9mm NATO round (if you ever hear "9mm Browning," that's what we Americans call the .380).

The chrome-lined barrel has no rifling carved into it; the polygonal barrel itself is rifled, which imparts the same spin on the bullet while keeping the barrel smooth and easy to clean.

The recoil is about what you'd expect from an all-steel 9, no more, no less. If you've never fired a 9mm before, it's about halfway between Clint Eastwood's .44 magnum and a capgun. Put another way, you know you're firing a weapon but it's not enough to hurt your wrist or shock you.

Being a lefty it's unusual to have a gun in your hand that feels contoured just for you.  The CZ-82 is almost completely ambidextrous; they've engineered the thumb-guard and the finger-guard to be interchangeable, so the gun feels molded to your hand.  The handle is a little thicker than most handguns to accommodate a double-stacked magazine, so it fits in the palm with a satisfying feeling of substance and heft. I wouldn't call my hands small, but they're certainly not big, and even with the double-thick handle I got no sense that the gun was uncomfortably large.

My first time handling the weapon I was able to get a 3-inch grouping at seven yards, which I think is about par with my shooting skills for a first time.  I'm sure that once I get the nuances of this one down I'll be able to narrow that down a bit.  Insofar as it's currently my home defense pistol, that means that pretty much, wherever I am in the house, I'll be able to hit whoever I'm trying to hit right in the heart two times out of three, and that should be sufficient even for those who think that 9mm isn't a large enough round for personal defense.  The hell, I say!

Breaking down the 82 is simplicity itself - pull back on the front part of the trigger guard, pull back the slide, lift a little, and bring it forward and off.  Take the main spring off the fixed barrel and that's it.  Literally a 10-second field strip. Mine came with a little cleaning rod and I used a few pads and my trusty bottle of Hoppe's #9 and was able to clean it really well.  Maybe it's because I was using cheap (Brown Bear) ammo but putting 100 rounds through it made it filthy. Not enough to create any failures, mind you, but every surface needed to be cleaned multiple times.  Meh - it's the price you pay for shooting.  You sit in front of the TV, you clean the thing, you move on. Don't forget a light coat of oil on every surface that you cleaned.

In conclusion, this is one time that life lived up to the hype.  The gun I received was in near-perfect condition, as advertised.  It was comfortable to hold and a perfect gun for a lefty. It ate through two boxes of ammo with no failures to feed or to fire, and its accuracy was more than sufficient for personal defense. OVERALL GRADE: A.

Peace, Love, and Ammo,