Archive for the ‘Guns’ Category

Small updates and notes.

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. Noted here because:

1) His conviction was for lying to investigators. What did someone once say? Trying to remember, on the tip of my tongue…Oh, yeah:

Really, seriously, just shut the fuck up.

2) This is more fallout from the “Fat Leonard” scandal, covered both here and on Battleswarm.

For the record, I don’t have a damn thing to say about Roger Ailes: I don’t watch the news, on any network, unless I’m someplace where I don’t control the means of video reproduction.

In case you haven’t had enough of the Moors Murders, the NYT has chosen to publish a nice historical retrospective. I say that with only a small amount of sarcasm: it’s probably useful if you are a true crime buff who doesn’t have children and won’t lose sleep over the details. For the rest of you, well, content warning.

After a tense nine hours of deliberations, a jury acquitted Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby of a first-degree manslaughter charge in the death of Terence Crutcher.

Andrew Branca at Legal Insurrection.

Obit watch: May 9, 2017.

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Bob Owens of Bearing Arms died yesterday. Tam. Andrew Branca at Legal Insurrection. (Hattip: Lawrence.)

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Richard Basciano, noted Times Square pornography impresario.

This doesn’t quite qualify as an obit, but I think I’m justified in putting it here.

The photo above was taken by US Army Spc. Hilda I. Clayton on July 2, 2013 in Langham province, Afghanistan. Spc. Clayton was photographing live fire training when a mortar tube exploded. Four Afghan soldiers were killed.

So was Spc. Clayton. This is the last photo she ever took. It was released (with the permission of her family) and published in the current issue of Military Review.

She was 22.

(Hattip: the “On Taking Pictures” podcast.)

Recommended reading: May 7, 2017.

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

I’ve stumbled across two articles in the past couple of days that I commend to your attention. At least, if you’re as fascinated with this kind of thing as I am.

1) If you own a Patek Philippe Caliber 89 watch (I know many of my readers do: if you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones who does not, Sotheby’s is auctioning one soon), you’re going to have to get it serviced.

Why? The Caliber 89 has a unique feature (or, as high-end watch folks call it, “complication”): it will tell you what day Easter falls on each year.

It turns out that computing the date Easter falls on is simultaneously two things:

a) Relatively hard to do.

Easter is one of the “moveable feasts” of the Christian calendar; it falls on a different date every year. The reason is this: the basic rule for Easter is that it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring (that is, the first full moon after the Spring Equinox) and because both astronomical events are variable, the Easter date changes every year. (As with any calendrical irregularity, there have been various proposals over the centuries to just pick a single date, but so far nothing has stuck). For this reason, Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.

b) Relatively easy to do for a digital computer. I think you could probably fit a program to do this in 4K of BASIC, or even run it on a good programmable calculator.

But the Caliber 89 is a totally mechanical watch. How does it calculate the date of Easter? There’s the problem:

A method for calculating the Easter date is called a computus; is it possible to make a true mechanical computus, rather than relying on a program disk? The answer is, “sort of.” The first true mechanical computus appears to have been made not long after Gauss came up with his algorithm, and it currently resides in a place more horological enthusiasts should know about: the great astronomical clock in the cathedral at Strasbourg, in Alsace, France. There have actually been three successive astronomical clocks there since about 1354, but the most recent was completed in 1843. Designed by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué, it has a true mechanical computus – probably the first ever constructed. It’s not the only mechanical computus, but I haven’t been able to find anything in English on other computus devices (although a reprint of a review of a book on the Strasbourg computus mentions at least two other “similar” mechanisms).

Even if you are not a high-end watch person, there’s still a lot in this article that I think is interesting: mostly the discussion of how Easter calculations work, and of the Strasbourg clock (which I’d really like to see one of these days).

(Hattip: The YCombinator Twitter.)

2) I’m a fan of Stephen Hunter’s work, and one who wishes he had time to write more non-fiction. I enjoy his novels, but I also think he’s an outstanding non-fiction essayist and writer. (Mr. Hunter, if you’re out there: I’d buy a hardback collection of your shorter works.)

The most recent American Rifleman has a Hunter article that pushes several of my buttons at once: “A Battle At Barrington: The Men & The Guns”.

You may have heard of the “Battle of Barrington”, though not under that name. It is also covered in Bryan Burrough’s Public Enemies, a book both Hunter and I like a lot. This was the famous shootout between agents of what became the FBI and Lester Gillis, aka “Baby Face” Nelson. Gillis, his wife, and his partner John Chase were being pursued by (and shooting it out with) FBI agents when their vehicle was disabled: they were cornered by agents Samuel Cowley and Herman Hollis. In the ensuing shootout, Gillis killed Cowley and Hollis, and fled in their car: however, Gillis himself was mortally wounded by the agent’s gunfire and bled to death. (Chase and Mrs. Gillis were captured later: Chase spent 33 years in prison, and Mrs. Gillis served one year.)

The nice thing about Hunter’s article is that he addresses the firearms and tactics used by both sides. This sort of analysis is not a strong point of Burrough’s book: Hunter and his researcher actually went back to the old FBI files and turned up some new information.

The FBI’s records are full of fascinating facts about the event. For one thing: these guys weren’t just loaded for bear, they were loaded for bears, a lot of them. Found in the abandoned Model A: three bulletproof vests, five empty magazines for .38 Super automatics; two filled machine gun magazines (presumably Thompson 20 rounders); 200 rounds of loose .45 ammunition, three empty .351 magazines, three boxes of .30-’06 Sprg. soft-nose ammunition; one box of Springfield boattailed ammunition, five boxes, .45 Colt automatic ammunition, two boxes of Springfield bronze-pointed ammunition. One tan briefcase containing one loaded 100-round drum for the Thompson submachine gun; 10 boxes .22 Long Rifle; one Colt Ace .22 Long Rifle pistol and magazine. The last is a revelation: Chase had bought the M1911 variant with a lightweight .22 slide and barrel. Perhaps he and Les used it for low-cost practice on their various travels.

And, as you know, Bob, I love me some Thompsons. My one complaint about Hunter’s article, though, is that he consistently places the Miami Dade FBI shootout in 1987: it actually took place April 11, 1986.

This quote is for Karl (wink wink nudge nudge):

[Hollis] should have used his Super .38, firing prone, two handed, as that round’s velocity and straight-line trajectory could have gotten the job done, ending up center mass in Les. But he hadn’t been trained to two-handed prone shooting. In fact he hadn’t been trained to anything! The soon-to-be Bureau’s firearm training program didn’t begin until 1935!

Random gun and cop crankery, some filler.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Easter Sunday, a group of us went shooting at the KR Training range. Because what better way is there to celebrate the resurrection of Christ than to shoot off guns? Hey, didn’t the man say “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one?”

(Also: KR Training, official firearms trainer of Whipped Cream Difficulties.)

While we were out there, the actor we’ve hired to play Karl mentioned that you can get AR pattern lowers (and uppers) in pistol calibers…that take Glock magazines. Here’s an example. (Not endorsed by WCD: I have no experience with the company or product.) Since most folks who are serious Glock users have a bunch of magazines around, this is an attractive idea. Even more so when you know that you can get magazine extensions for those standard Glock magazines and load up even more rounds.

My mind immediately went in a particular direction, but I’m going to come at it from the long way around. Because that’s just the kind of hairball I am. Let’s start with the question: what calibers do Glocks come in?

I can almost visualize a .380 ACP Glock AR carbine (or an AR pistol). The vision I have of it in my head is that it would be a kind of cute plinking gun…that shoots relatively expensive ammo and doesn’t have a fun switch. It reminds me of the old MAC-11, but even less useful. (Though the AR platform carbine would perhaps be more reliable.)

9mm seems to be where the AR/Glock action is, and for good reason: 9mm ARs are fairly popular in various places, 9mm ammo is relatively cheap, and this seems like a very practical pistol caliber carbine. Perhaps even more so if you pay for the tax stamp and make it a short-barreled rife. I think a lot of folks are looking at these, even without the SBR tax stamp, as good home defense weapons: easier to handle, point, and shoot than a pistol, without the possible over penetration issues of 5.56.

You could make the same argument for .40 S&W, except that the ammo isn’t as cheap as 9mm. and I don’t think it has the same following that the 9mm carbine has in the tactical community.

.45 ACP could be an interesting build. I don’t see a lot of tactical operators talking about operating tactically with .45 ACP carbines. But I don’t hang out with a lot of tactical operators, either. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

.45 GAP? Well, that’d be weird. The Winchester ballistics calculator on my phone says that .45 GAP will drop a little less and have slightly more velocity at 50 yards. But my impression is that .45 GAP is a dying caliber (even though Glock still chambers guns in it) and is maybe a little more expensive than .45 ACP by a few dollars a box for comparable ammo. However, I haven’t shot or bought .45 GAP, so don’t take that as gospel truth. Check prices at your local dealer or online ammo vendor.

.357 SIG? Ah. That’s the first place my mind went. I remember .357 SIG being touted as having a flatter trajectory than the .357 Magnum, but the same punch at range, higher capacity, and the ability to actually feed it in auto pistols. That same Winchester calculator (which only goes out to 50 yards on the iPhone) does show slightly less drop and a slightly lower velocity for the .357 SIG at 50 yards. If I can find a better calculator, I’d love to run numbers out to 100 yards.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who has this thought. there’s an interesting discussion over at Better and Better where Matt G mentions much the same idea (and also responds to a question from your humble blogger about the current role of the police shotgun).

And finally: 10mm? Why not? I like this idea, too. It reminds me of Jeff Cooper’s “Thumper”. I could see a SBR version of this working perhaps as a compact police carbine, but more so in Cooper’s original conception: a personal defense weapon for tank crews and other people who need something they can carry and deploy in tight quarters. I think I’d pick a 9mm or .357 SIG version for my daily use. But if I was in an appropriate military position, I’d build up a few 10mm ARs for experimental purposes in the sandbox.

More crankery after the jump.

(more…)

New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town…

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

..the cops are crooks and the gun dealers are too. The mimes are food for the bums underground! New York, New York!

(Sorry, had to shoehorn that in somewhere.)

Anyway, more indictments in the NYC bribes for gun licenses scandal. NYT version here, but I prefer the NYPost version Mike the Musicologist sent me.

Paul Dean and Robert Espinel, worked in the NYPD’s Licensing Division before retiring, and allegedly approved permits for kickbacks including cash “food, alcohol, parties, dancers and prostitutes” from gun expediters, the newly unsealed complaint says.

So, wait. The cops were being bribed with hookers? Because I’m thinking, if I’m a crooked cop, I can just go out, flash my badge, and get my own hookers. But maybe there’s less risk of an IA investigation if you let someone else procure the hookers for you. Trade offs.

Dunn and Espinel…

…allegedly accepted bribes and kickbacks from gun expediters, including Gaetano “Guy” Valastro, 58, a retired detective who owns firearms store Valastro International Tactical Academy in Queens and is also charged in the scandal.

Should I feel bad for Valastro? On the one hand, he’s a party to a massive scheme to shake down citizens for exercising their rights. On the other hand, he’s trying to run a gun store in Queens: can you blame him if he felt like he had to go along to get along? On the gripping hand, he’s a retired cop who decided to run a gun store in Queens, instead of someplace in free America.

In a separate complaint, also unsealed Tuesday, a fourth man, John Chambers — the former prosecutor who calls himself the “Top Firearms Licensing Attorney in New York” on his website touting his legal services — allegedly bribed NYPD Sgt. David Villanueva, 43, with Broadway shows, tickets to sports game and an $8,000 Paul Picot watch to expedite gun licenses, sometimes as quickly as a day.

Here’s that website for you. Note the URL. I wonder how much that cost him.

(Also: someone please tell me the “Broadway shows” Villanueva got tickets for included “Hamilton”.)

Have to go back to work now. Will update later if I see any more revolting developments.

Obit watch: April 19, 2017.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Kevin O’Brien, who blogged under the pseudonym “Hognose” at WeaponsMan, passed away yesterday.

I wasn’t a personal friend of Hognose, and I was a relative newcomer to his blog. I think I found it by way of a link from Tam last year. But this is a huge loss to the gun blogging community.

Hognose was an ex-Special Forces guy (the obit linked above goes into more detail on his service) who wrote a great deal…and I could stop there, because he often turned out three or more posts a day. Substantial posts, too, not stuff that was quickly tossed off.

And he wrote on a wide variety of topics. He wrote a lot about historic and contemporary military weaponry, drawing from his SF background. He also covered military history, contemporary military leadership, and politics (mostly as it related to the military).

He was interested in historical arms in general, but especially obscure Czechoslovakian arms (military and sporting) and was working on a book about Czech guns. He wrote a great deal about the problems with the VA system. He covered defensive shootings (and sort of picked up the “When Guns Are Outlawed…” mantle from Weer’d). Hognose and his brother were building their own plane; hr wrote quite a bit about the build process, and some about aviation in general. He was on Kathleen Kane like a fat man on a Chinese buffet.

The list goes on. He was eclectic. And if he said something, he was good about backing it up with sources.

Nice tribute from Tam.

My hope is that his family leaves the blog up, or at least makes the content available for download. We are already diminished by the loss of Hognose as a blogger; it would be worse if the valuable information he provided over the last five years was irrevocably lost as well.

Happy Buy a Gun Day!

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

You’ve still got time, if you haven’t been out yet.

Longer post to come at some point in the (hopefully) near future, but here’s my 2017 BAG gun:

Savage Model 11 Scout in FDE. Purchased new in box through GunBroker at…well, a hefty discount off of MSRP, and much less than I’ve seen it elsewhere.

(The book is H.W. McBride’s A Rifleman Went To War. I’m not a big WWI buff, but a lot of people I respect have cited McBride’s book as being a valuable work. And damn, the guy could write: there’s something I want to pull as a quote of the day in almost every chapter.)

Bonus, since I never posted it here: my 2016 BAG gun.

Smith and Wesson Model 19-4 in .357 Magnum with the round butt and 2 1/2″ barrel. Sort of the ultimate snub-nosed revolver. The holster came with it, too. Tam has a good post up about the Model 19, though she’s writing about a diffenent variant than mine.

(Book: Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, 4th Edition, of course.)

Tomorrow, tomorrow…

Friday, April 14th, 2017

…I love you, tomorrow, BAG Day is only a day away.

My BAG Day gun actually showed up at the FFL on Monday. With all the personal stuff going on, I decided to pick it up early, rather than wait until Saturday. (I know I kind of bent the spirit and the letter of BAG Day, and I could have waited, but things got kind a little sideways for a while.)

If I can, I’ll try to get at least one good photo tonight and throw it up for tomorrow. A longer post on my Jeff Cooper fanboy-ism will probably have to wait.

(Is it “fanboy” or “fanboi”? Or is it both, and “fanboi” is the diminutive, more insulting version of “fanboy”?)

(In case you were wondering: the family member who was in the hospital was discharged yesterday and is currently recovering comfortably at home with their dog.)

Giggle. Snort.

Friday, April 14th, 2017

I can see myself totally rocking the “I’m Too Old For This Shit Division” wiht my Model 29 in a shoulder holster. As long as I can remove the sports coat between strings.

(As I’m sure Tam knows, Texas in the summer is just a little hot, even for a lightweight sports coat.)

And I’m kind of crossing divisions here, but those who have seen me in person will testify to my theoretical capacity to grow a truly magnificent porn stache.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and NASCAR.

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Remember BATFE’s secret slush fund?

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used a secret, off-the-books bank account to rent a $21,000 suite at a Nascar race, take a trip to Las Vegas and donate money to the school of one of the agent’s children, according to records and interviews.

I could see maybe, possibly, someone making an argument that the NASCAR suite and Vegas trip were for legitimate investigative purposes. I wouldn’t buy that without a lot of supporting documentation, but I can see someone thinking that.

Giving money to “the school of one of the agent’s children”, though? I think someone’s going to prison over this.

(Speaking of going to prison, flaming hyenas watch to come.)

(Also, I think I need a BATFE tag. Should it be a subset of “Guns” or “Law’?)

April, come she will.

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

I intended to throw this up yesterday, but got overtaken by events. A close family member had to go to the hospital and ended up being admitted. (They’re doing fine now, thank you for asking, but I expect they will be in for a couple more days at least.)

Anyway, with slightly less than a week’s advance notice: April 15th is National Buy a Gun Day. And while the pressure might be off for the moment, why not go out and buy a gun to celebrate (or commiserate) over recent events?

Even better, BAG Day falls on a Saturday this year, to make your BAG shopping just that much easier.

“Are you celebrating this year?” Yes, I am. This year, I actually had something I wanted as a combined BAG/birthday present for myself, and planned to pick it up on BAG Day. However, while I was checking GunBroker, I found a pretty good deal on the item in question, put in a bid…and, shockingly, won. (I believe this is actually the first contested GB auction I’ve won, as opposed to “buy it now” deals.) I’m hoping it gets to my FFL before Saturday; the weekend promises to be busy, so it might be the Monday or Tuesday after BAG Day before I can throw up pictures. I will give a hint, though: I am indulging my inner Jeff Cooper fanboy.

If you can’t buy guns, buy ammo. If you don’t want to do either, well, you might throw a few bucks in the direction of the blogger McThag. He recently went through a difficult personal legal entanglement which could have cost him his right to keep and bear arms. Fortunately, he’s free and clear of that now (the whole story is on his blog) but he’s somewhat in the hole for legal expenses and could use a hand from those so inclined.

As always, I would not ask you to donate if I hadn’t already done so.

(Hattip to the great and good Erin Palette for first making me aware of this.)

Annals of law (#12 in a series)

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Section 29.03 of the Texas Penal Code defines “aggravated robbery”:

Sec. 29.03. AGGRAVATED ROBBERY. (a) A person commits an offense if he commits robbery as defined in Section 29.02, and he:
(1) causes serious bodily injury to another;
(2) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon; or
(3) causes bodily injury to another person or threatens or places another person in fear of imminent bodily injury or death, if the other person is:
(A) 65 years of age or older; or
(B) a disabled person.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the first degree.
(c) In this section, "disabled person" means an individual with a mental, physical, or developmental disability who is substantially unable to protect himself from harm.

Seems mostly clear, right? Except: what constitutes “a deadly weapon”?

Is “a pellet gun” a deadly weapon?

Dustin Clark and two other men are suspected in a string of convenience store robberies in Travis County. They were stopped by the Lakeway PD in December of 2015, shortly after allegedly robbing a store in Spicewood, holding “pellet guns” to the clerk’s head, and threatening to kill him. The police found the pellet guns, money, ski masks, other identifying clothing, and a pack of Starburst allegedly stolen by Clark in the car. (The police also found “two deer rifles” in the trunk. I have seen contradictory reports about whether these were airsoft guns or real rifles. However, the “deer rifles” were not used in the robbery, and were not part of the criminal case as best as I can tell.)

Mr. Clark went on trial this week. There seems to have been little doubt about his guilt: his own attorney conceded that it was his client on the surveillance video from the store. The main legal issue was is it plain old robbery, or aggravated robbery?

The pellet guns were found unloaded and not carrying a C02 cartridge that would have made them operable.

Mr. Clark was offered a plea deal of 40 years before trial. The maximum for plain old robbery is 20 years, and 99 years for aggravated robbery. I don’t know enough about Mr. Clark’s background to be able to estimate what the likely sentences would have been.

Mr. Clark turned down the 40-year deal and chose to go to trial. His attorney moved to include robbery as a lesser charge for the jury to to consider, but the Travis County DA successfully fought that motion. So the only charge the jury was allowed to consider against Mr. Clark was aggravated robbery.

And they acquitted him.

But the jury could consider only one charge — aggravated robbery — and after more than six hours of discussion they finally united and ruled that the pellet guns the men used to scare two employees are not deadly weapons. Therefore, several of them told the American-Statesman, they had to acquit Clark. About half of the 12-person jury granted an interview request saying they wish they had the option to convict Clark of the lesser charge.
They said there was no proof the guns contained pellets or the CO2 cartridges that power them at the time of the robbery.

I personally wonder how the clerk was supposed to know that. I’d also really like to see photos of the pellet guns. And I wonder what else this means, legally? Not that I would, but if take the firing pin and cartridges out of a Smith and go hold up a Stop’N’Rob, is it just robbery? The gun can’t fire, right? So it’s not a deadly weapon, at least if I understand the logic here correctly.

[Travis County Assistant DA Amy] Meredith added she still believes aggravated robbery “was the appropriate charge.” State district Judge David Crain denied the defense’s motion to include the robbery charge after taking a break in chambers to research the law. Prosecutors had made Crain aware of a ruling from a case 11 years ago in which pellet guns had been found to be deadly.

I don’t feel too bad for ADA Meredith. Even though she didn’t get a conviction in this case, she did make an interesting legal point. I don’t think this rises to the level of precedent because Judge Crain’s ruling hasn’t been reviewed by a higher court, but perhaps this is something the Texas legislature could offer some additional guidance on. Also, Mr. Clark is still facing charges in six other robberies, so it isn’t like the TCDA whiffed on their only chance to convict him.

I thought about blogging this when the first story appeared Tuesday, but didn’t get to it (this is a busy week). But RoadRich emailed the print version of the story yesterday, which led to a lively discussion between him, myself, Mike the Musicologist, and Lawrence.

MtM observed that he recalls one of the northern states changing the law some years back so that if you brandish a fake weapon with the intent of making your victims think it is real, you get treated like it was real. Spray paint the end of that airsoft gun black and use it to hold up a liquor store? Big boy rules apply.

I think both MtM and I are on the same side of the divide when it comes to the increased tendency to criminalize everything and sweep up more people in the web. But I also think we’re both in agreement that this is the kind of “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” law that we could get behind.

(On a related side note, I’m halfway tempted to start a podcast with the four of us sitting around eating dinner and talking about legal issues. I even have a name for it: “I’m Not A Lawyer, But…”. I figure it should be easy to get sponsorship from SquareSpace, at least. If it proves popular enough, I might even offer to fly Ken and/or Patrick in as special guests for barbecue. That is, if their heads haven’t already exploded. Episode 1 is going to called “Rule of Parties be damned”.)