Friday, April 28, 2006

A Moment with Ronnie Barrett

You have to love Ronnie Barrett. What’s there not to love about a man who invents a super-powerful super-accurate .50 caliber BMG rifle? And, not only does he sell it the military he also proudly sells it to us civilians. In fact, he invented his Barrett .50 caliber rifle for civilian long-range competition, not as a military rifle.

He’s a no compromise, take no prisoners kind of guy. When California banned the sale of his rifles, he refused to do business with the state. Here’s a link to a picture we took at NRA’s convention last year. He displayed it very prominently at his company’s booth on the convention floor. He even got the last laugh on California when he created a .416 caliber rifle that fires a cartridge based on the .50 BMG round. It’s legal in California.

I get an e-mail newsletter called The Shooting Wire, a new offering from The Outdoor Wire. It interviews Barrett (it’s a new newsletter and they don’t have a link for each newsletter—at least not one that I can find). The interview features his no nonsense approach to gun rights. Here are a few highlights for your enjoyment:

[The Outdoor Wire:] Do the people living around you feel differently than you about firearms and rights?

BARRETT: No, I think most of us share the same core values. I don't think the majority of people in the 'red' or 'blue' states are all that different. The left wing has had that 'explained' to them in the last few elections. They're still not in touch with reality.

TOW: That's certainly not very politically correct?

BARRETT: I'm for plain talk. It can get you arrested in some places, but not here. The anti-firearms groups count on ignorance. The more light shined on the facts about gun control, the more they run like cockroaches….

And here is what he has to say about the Violence Policy Center’s gun control arguments:

BARRETT: They run from one argument to another. They argued some guns were 'too-small' - and they lost. Now they're arguing some guns are 'too-big'. They'll lose that argument too, if they have to fight facts. The people who keep pushing to outlaw firearms are either ignorant - or sinister.

And finally he talks about the firearm industry and its need for civilian sales:

BARRETT: …When politicians say "we'll ban sales of this caliber or that rifle to anyone except the police department and the military" who do they think will be making those items? We don't have a "U.S. Springfield Armory" anymore - the government shut them all down years ago. If we could only sell to the military, every firearms company in the United States would fail. The industry condition is that fragile….


Ronnie Barrett you’re the man.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gun Summit Follies

I haven't written anything yet about the infamous "Gun Summit" that New York City mayor Bloomberg held yesterday. For one thing, it's silly posturing by mayors who need cover for their inability to solve their cities' crime problem.

They're scapegoating guns and impugning law-abiding gun owners. They can't get to the heart of the matter--that crime is committed by relatively small numbers (scroll to statement by Assemblyman Townsend) of their citizens living in relatively compact areas. Solutions to these problems are difficult for a number of reasons, so instead they go after inanimate objects.

At the same time, these mayors from Boston, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Dallas and a few other cities get to pat themselves on the back and try to deflect blame from themselves by saying the Federal government is not enacting gun control across the board. Let's not only blame inanimate objects, let's pass the buck to the Feds.

Reading the list of cities gave me pause. First the mayor from Milwaukee is there. Hello Mayor Tom Barrett, don't you remember that the NRA is having it's convention in your city in a month? Your city will benefit by NRA member spending and you're bitching about guns. Also, why do I think about a large rifle when I read his name? (Okay, low blow, but too good not to mention.)

Second, why is Dallas Mayor Laura Miller attending? I've read she's anti-gun, but how did a Texan city elect a non-gunnie? Hell, if all were right in the world, she'd have shown up at the "Summit" supporting concealed carry permits and looking for the nearest shooting range.

Finally, Boston Mayor Tom "Mumbles" Menino says that he talked to a sixth-grade class in which nine out of ten students knew where they could get a gun. Now if the students weren't thinking of a gun store, it speaks not to the number of illegal guns on the street, but to the efficiency of the black market. Making all guns illegal or extremely hard to get legally as they have done in Massachusetts only helps black markets.

Think about this Mayor Menino: Thirty or more years of a drug war haven't reduced the amount of illegal drugs on the streets. Making handguns illegal in Britain hasn't stopped English criminals from finding handguns, and we're talking about a relatively small island. Probibition didn't stop alcohol consumption in America. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had black markets even though their police had virtually unlimited power.

The issue is not the availability of guns on the legal market or even guns that are diverted by theft, straw purchases, or other means into the illegal market. The issue is why do people commit crimes with those guns, and also with knives, hammers, machetes, or even fists. Solving that problem will take real work. Posturing at a Gun Summit is not real work.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Thoughts on Gun Laws

I had to do a little searching today through the ATF’s website to make sure I don’t run afoul of an obscure, subjective, little regulation that if I only slightly violated would land me in a Federal prison for five to ten. It’s not the first time I’ve searched the site or read laws, regulations, rules and/or ordinances.

It won’t be the last time I’ll search these laws, but this time it set me to thinking about a post I made last week regarding Wal-Mart stopping gun sales in selected stores. Serendipitously I read Alphecca’s current “Weekly Check on the Bias” and learned that Wal-Mart’s decision is based largely on the hassle of dealing with regulations.

There were several comments to my post (linked above) and a follow up that argued the merits of guns being sold in specialty stores versus being sold in department stores. Commenters hashed that one out quite well. While I prefer to buy guns in a gun store, I still believe it’s bad for us gunnies to have guns sold only in one type of outlet.

In my post, I described how regulations have forced gun sales into gun stores so that gun-fearing wussies can avoid even the sight of those eeevvillll guns. It wasn’t always this way. I’ve never lied (here) about my age. I’m 50 years old and I remember gun counters in Sears, and ammo and gun sales in hardware stores. But I was 13 years old when all that changed. Someone who is under 40 (or so) has no recollection of such times.

The Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 created a sea change controlling gun sales and even ammo sales. Gun dealers had to get Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs) from the ATF. States and even localities passed their own laws and zoning restrictions. A department store manager or owner had to weigh costs and risks of selling guns or removing gun counters. Wal-Mart is just one more in a long list of outlets that have stopped or greatly reduced gun sales.

With the increase of these laws, we are more and more hemmed in. If government ever wants to stop gun sales completely, it will take only a few changes in laws, regulations, or enforcement to convince even the most steadfast gun store owners that they need to find a different business or face jail. The risk and hassle could become too great.

Similarly, individuals face similar problems also exasperated by state laws. If you want to sell a gun to a friend or a family member, you'd better do it right no matter your intent. If you want to take a gun into another state to target shoot or if you have one hollow point cartridge in your possession you’d better go to the right state.

Lawmakers have put us in this position, but it’s not entirely their fault. Lawmakers answer to the people and anti-gunnies keep getting elected from states that support their gun control nuttery. In a state like Massachusetts, anti-gun laws are popular. Even we gun owners aren’t innocent when we want to pass laws that support bans on scary rifles or other legislation.

We gunnies have become a minority; albeit a strong one, but a minority nevertheless. Each year our ranks are whittled away one gunnie at a time as old age takes us or when a gunnie sells his or her guns simply because they’re too big a hassle to own. That’s the goal of anti-gunnies and unless we can stay strong and united, they will win over time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Weekend Shotgun Fun

Bill (Yosemite Sam) and I finally got out to a trap field last Saturday. It’s taken us a while to do so. You see, we’re both cold-wussies and it’s been cold up here in New Hampshire. Yes, we’ve had a few nice weekends between the last snow fall and now, but other things have interceded including visiting handgun ranges, gun shows and stores, and doing other gunnie (sometimes not) stuff.

Despite our bad weather phobia (and this weekend was no prize with temperatures in the forties, cloudy on Saturday, and rainy on Sunday), we do love our shooting weekends. We took two new shotguns this time; Bill’s Benelli Montefeltro semi-auto shotgun and my coach gun. Of course, my Winchester 101 came along for the ride. We also packed a lot of shotgun shells and clays.

So off we went to our favorite trap field and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Despite our too long hiatus, busting clays was like riding a bike. After one or two wobbles, it all comes back. Bill’s Benelli worked flawlessly as we expected. He bought it in February and this is the first time he’s shot it and after a few misses, he got used to it and powdered clays.

I shot a round of 25 clays with my little coach gun. The gun is much lighter than I’m used to and I feared its lightness would cause me to check my swing too soon and thus miss birds. Instead, it proved as accurate as my Winchester 101.

I did miss one target with the coach gun when I forgot to take off the safety (unlike my Winchester, the coach gun’s safety resets to safe when you reload). It’s a strange feeling to pull the trigger and not have it go boom when it worked so well just a few seconds before. Proof once again that perfect practice equals perfect performance and perhaps a lesson that one shouldn’t switch guns on the same day.

Now here's something to ponder. I spent about about $700.00 less for the coach gun than I did for the Winchester. I shot both with about the same accuracy rate. Now is this something that "makes you go hmmmm" or what?

We ran out of clays long before we ran out of shells even after gleaning a handful of intact clays from the unused skeet field. Our shoulders are still a little sore and we have many hulls to reload. That’s cool, I like reloading (most of the time). We’re planning another visit to the trap field soon. Hope your weekends were just as fun.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Great Way to Reach New Shooters

Thanks to a little "other duties as required" work that landed on my desk, I don't have an essay or other hearty fare today. Besides it's Friday (TGIF!!!!!). I did see something though that made me stop and go "way to go, dudes."

The US Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) is full of great shooters in several disciplines. They are leaving their ranges to teach shooting to young people enrolled in a Trailblazer Adventure Program.

USAMU members will put on shooting demonstrations and provide hands on instruction. I can't think of a better way to introduce new shooters to the sport and do it in a way they'll never forget. Now I feel better about the taxes I'm paying.

Enjoy your weekends and I'll be putting up a new "One From the Vault" soon (possibly this weekend, but no promises).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Oh No, She's Coyote Blogging Again

I haven’t coyote blogged for some time now. Maybe now is the time, maybe not. But here goes anyway.

Coyotes are now found all over the country and thrive in suburban and even urban areas. Washington, D.C. was the last major urban holdout. Not any longer. Coyotes are now found in Rock Creek Park and other areas according to a recent Washington Post article and photo spread (a big hat tip to Zendo Deb at TFS Magnum).

Coyotes are predators. In time, they begin to think of humans as food; after all, most of us don't threaten them. Some of us even feed them on purpose or accidentally (when they eat our trash or dog food we leave out). Coyotes are not big animals and will rarely attack an adult, but might view a pet or occasionally a child as dinner.

The article mentions that coyotes circled a suburban town's police chief and his small children while they were enjoying a walk. The coyotes didn’t attack in this case, but one wonders what would happen if there had only been two children walking home from school (if people still do that anymore).

The reporter interviewed a woman who feels threatened by her neighborhood coyotes, “…we're like hostages! We bought here for the walking paths. Well, how am I going to deal with a coyote on the path when I'm out there with an infant in a stroller, a toddler and a dog on a leash?"

Good question. If a predator attacks you there is only one choice, fight. You can’t outrun them, it’s too late to try to scare them (they’re attacking now), you could call 911 on your cell phone and wait until police officers show up (I hope you can wrestle well). Fighting is your only choice and I’d rather fight with a gun than a stick, umbrella, rock, or bare hands. But, we’re too “civilized” to carry guns for self-defense now.

I’m not advocating killing off coyotes—for one thing it’s a fool’s errand. Coyotes adapt to hunting pressure by increasing their population. We share the land and nature needs predators for balance. On the other hand, killing a predator in self-defense is not killing one out of hand. Humans created tools to become equal to predators and eventually our tools got good enough that we rose to the top of the food chain. The best tool for that purpose is a gun.

We need to learn to live with our wild neighbors. They’re not going away, but let’s not be na├»ve about protecting ourselves, our children, and even our pets from a direct attack. There’s nothing wrong with self-defense and the tools needed to carry it out.

And, I always add that predators come in two-legged models as well.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Guns in Department Stores

Work has kept me fairly busy today with a four-hour meeting, a teleconference, and just stuff. Needless to say this will be a brief craptacular post. I appreciate people who comment on the blog (except for the Fox spammer). Seth from Massachusetts has been a frequent commenter who made his first post almost the same time Bill and I started this blog. He is chock full of gun knowledge an lore and unfortunately I must somewhat disagree with him on one issue. Sorry Seth and feel free to disagree in the comments as always.

He commented on yesterday’s post in which I mentioned Wal-Mart was taking guns out of some of its stores. Seth mentioned he visited a New Hampshire Wal-Mart with empty gun display cases. Seth has no problem with that and says, “Fine with me if they give up guns, I feel guns are one product which should be bought at small specialty shops where the staff is knowledgeable enough to give plenty of advice to the customer.”

While I agree that the optimal place to buy a gun is a specialty shop, I still believe that our country’s suffers a loss anytime a retail outlet stops selling guns. It doesn’t matter if that outlet is Wal-Mart, Sears, K-Mart, or a Mom and Pop gun store that can’t compete with the big box store. That may be contradictory, but we need more places where little boys and girls can press their noses against the display cases and ooh and ahh at that new .22 rifle they want for Christmas.

We have too many urbanites who’ll never set foot in a gun store, but will enter a department store. If that store carries guns then they can’t brainwash their children by denying their existence or by saying only criminals have guns.

There’s also an almost unspoken problem with at least certain gun stores. A few of them are not woman-friendly and probably not child friendly. They can be challenging places for a newbie to buy a gun. For instance, one clerk at a store talked to Bill when I asked him a reloading question. Hmmm…. There’s another gun store where the owner hangs out with three or four “good ole boys” who sit at a table in the main aisle playing cards. Now, I have no trouble with him hanging out with his buds, but I feel like I walked into an exclusive social gathering and I don’t have an invitation.

Also, some guns stores are not inviting for some people. If you’re a gun fearing wussy who’s decided to enter a gun store to buy a self-defense gun before the next natural disaster hits you might turn right around if you see a tactical display right off the bat. On the other hand, that same person would be very comfortable buying a shotgun at Wal-Mart.

Granted, a first time buyer may be better served by a knowledgeable owner of a specialty shop. But if he or she doesn’t want to enter one for one or more of the reasons I mentioned above, then we’ve lost a potential gunnie.

I buy guns that beg for the knowledge of a specialty shop owner or employee; military guns, old guns with fascinating mechanisms, and antique guns. I’ve never bought a gun at Wal-Mart and never will, but they fill a market niche that we shouldn’t lose.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On Weekends, Conventions, and Wal-Mart

Bill and I made a long weekend of it. His work closes on Patriot’s Day (it is in Massachusetts) and I took leave. We used our long weekend to do everything but blog.

Let’s see, we made a trip to a brand new Lowe’s store (I’d never been in one), bought a bench grinder, set up a new work bench we’d bought earlier, and found that its four corner braces are missing—arrrgghhh. That’s why the instructions say you need to inventory all the parts before you put it together. Wouldn’t you know it, the braces were almost the last parts to go on.

Corner braces are simple parts and we could use something else, so thank goodness we don’t have to tear it all apart and put it in that box again for a return trip to the store. We have too much sweat equity in it for that. I checked into sheet metal fabricators and found a really interesting web site that fabricates custom metal parts. I haven’t used them, but it’s amazing the services you can find on the Internet.

Let’s see what else about the weekend. Oh, of course, we got out to the range. We shot our target pistols, 1911s, and cowboy pistols. I tested a new mild .45 Long Colt loading for target shooting. Bill shot his Glock and I overcame my dislike for Tupperware guns and touched off a few Glockster rounds.

I still haven’t tried my BAG Day Nambu, put I’ll be buying ammo for it from Buffalo Arms. At $52.00 for a box of fifty, these cartridges better have little seeker elements in them that can find the ten ring without any help from me.

Bill and I are formally announcing that we’re going to NRA’s convention in Milwaukee this year (May 19-21). We went last year and really enjoyed it. We’re planning to blog it on a regular basis if we can resolve technical issues (like buy a laptop for one).

Every time I mention my support for the NRA I get e-mails or comments about bad things the NRA has done. I realize they’re not perfect and I keep my eye on their leaders and make sure they’re following the straight and narrow—at least as much as I can.

I support them though because they’re the only pro-gun group that scares the anti-gunnies. I work with a few people who give money to anti-gun groups who’ve never heard of Gun Owners of America and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. In fact, a Jewish anti-gun coworker had me get on their website because he couldn’t believe Jews would support gun rights. He was a little shocked.

Finally, a couple of people e-mailed me about Wal-Mart taking guns out of some of its stores I’ve never bought guns from them and only rarely do I buy ammo from them—usually when everything else is closed like on a Sunday. It’s a company decision and retailers won’t carry something that’s not putting money into their pockets.

However, we need more outlets for guns. Before 1968, almost every department store, hardware store, and gas station carried ammo and most carried guns. If repressive legislation hems guns sales into “gun ghettos (see update below),” pretty soon buying a gun will be too much hassle for many people. One wonders if the legislators had that in mind when they passed the Federal Firearms Act in 1968. Hmmm....

Well that’s all folks, for today anyway. Thanks for stopping by.

UPDATE: After posting I realized I could be misunderstood. I don't think a gun store is a "gun ghetto," but I think a combination of making it difficult to get a license to sell guns "ghettoizes" gun sales into specialized small stores. It would be easy in time to put these stores out of business with aggressive zoning laws, changes in regulations, and picky enforcement of ATF rules--all of which we've seen in the past few years.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

BAG (Buy a Gun) Day 2006

Today is BAG Day and it’s time to share my purchases with my small corner of the blogosphere. It was only a month ago that I was crying about not knowing what I would get for BAG (Buy a Gun Day). Then I mentioned that I had focused my thoughts on two guns, a coach gun and Walther P-22. Finally, I reported on buying a coach gun and the very next weekend I found a gun in a gun show that had to go home with me, a Japanese Nambu.

First though a word about BAG Day. Aaron of Aarons.cc started it, but his site was hacked recently and is thoroughly down, so no linky. It’s a simple idea. Every April 15 our government demands that we pay our taxes or go to jail. Many of us pay too much in withholding taxes and get a refund that represents only a fraction of what we paid that year. Buying guns is a way of putting that refund to good use while maintaining an armed citizenry. Even if you don’t get a refund, the latter is not a bad reason to buy a gun.

I collect guns and don’t need a reason to buy one, but I also believe that the best way to protect our firearm rights is for a non-gunnie to buy a gun. That doesn’t mean a new gun owner becomes a “gunnie” immediately, but now he or she has a stake in gun ownership. His or her gun represents one more gun that gun banners would have to steal if they ever get their way. I use BAG Day not to acquire a new gun, but to express my passion for owning guns and my desire for a non-gunnie to join in.

Without any further ado here is my first BAG Day gun for 2006. I actually bought it on April 1, but I used my tax refund, so it counts for BAG Day.
A Gently Used Coach Gun

It is a Baikal Bounty Hunter II. I love the color of the stock and the way it contrasts with the lockwork and the butt plate.
A fine example of Russian workmanship

It was used. Baikal is no longer sold here under that name. Remington imports them under the Spartan brand. One of these days, I’ll use it when I give Cowboy Action Shooting a whirl.

I ended up with a second BAG Day purchase. This Nambu spoke to me at a gun show and I answered its call.
Nambu Type 14 Pistol

It is a great addition to my World War II gun collection. I will cover it in a “One From the Vault” soon.

So that’s it for my BAG Day 2006.

Friday, April 14, 2006

One Last Post on Gun Companies

NOTE: I will make a BAG (Buy a Gun) post tomorrow with pictures.

My last post received a few comments I want to answer. After a few seconds of typing, I realized my answer would be long and I decided to turn it into a post. It solves a problem I’ve had for a couple of days—things to blog about. Work has kept me too busy to read many blogs and I’ve been running out of blog fodder. To get three posts out of the same topic is manna from heaven right now.

In case you don’t want to read the last two posts, here’s a brief synopsis. A New York Times business reporter covered Smith & Wesson’s comeback from the brink of near extinction. However, there’s a mention that gun sales are flat. Bitter B. commented to that post and mentioned Pittman-Robertson tax collections were down and that could confirm gun sales are trending down. In my first post (also linked above), I ruminated on the chance that we might lose our classic gun companies. Now to comments on that post.

First, Michael Bane talks about something that bothers him a lot. He points out that the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has been supporting hunting over other gun sports. He has blogged this topic several times (here’s an example). Michael has worked with NSSF, so he brings an insider’s knowledge to this issue.

I have to agree with the thrust of Michael’s comments. The future of shooting lies with shooting sports not with hunting. I think it’s one reason why so many anti-gunnies conflate the right to own guns with the right to hunt. If hunting dies out then the need for civilian gun ownership dies with it. I don’t think hunting will die out in my lifetime, but as Michael points out it’s getting more difficult to hunt.

Hunting won’t save gun manufacturers if they truly are in trouble. Hunting guns are durable goods and they don’t really change much over time. Oh yes, companies introduce new chamberings, short actions, and other features in order to coax buyers to hang up “ole Betsy” and buy their latest wonder boomer. They find few takers unless people are buying their first gun. I have only anecdotal evidence for this—gun store owners who have mentioned slow sales for new wonder guns—but I believe there’s truth in it.

Ammunition is the same way for hunters who aren’t avid shooters as well. Contrast that with action shooters, bullseye shooters, even plinkers. While I wouldn’t agree that hunting is dead yet, I do agree with Michael that gunnies and their organizations must concentrate on recruiting new shooters to the sport of their choice not just hunting.

BobG and Seth both mention they tend to buy used guns over new ones just like Bill and me. Buying used instead of new guns doesn’t help gun makers. Hell, for all I know it could be why ATF agents are trying to get custom gunsmiths to pay a “manufacturing” tax when all they do is modify an existing gun (and read Michael Bane's post as well).

Seth mentions Cowboy Action Shooting. This sport has awakened a new market for single-action revolvers, coach guns, and lever rifles in “cowboy” chamberings. It proves that there are many buyers for guns for shooting sports.

Finally (and I know this is getting to be a long post), anonymous takes me to the woodshed. He or she (I’ll go with he) points out that he doesn’t buy anything unless he likes it and American companies, particularly Smith & Wesson, don’t seem to make guns he likes. He bought a Glock for BAG Day and more power to him. Bill owns a Glock and I’ve shot it many times, but plastic grips and blackened metal do nothing for me. Each to their own.

I gotta say this though: America needs her gun companies. I don’t want our nation to rely on foreign gun makers who could interrupt shipments to the United State because of political or diplomatic events. Imagine what would happen if Rebecca Peters and her United Nations supported anti-gun organization got their way. That could mean no new Glocks, Berettas, H & Ks, etc. or perhaps with harsh sales restrictions.

I’m not saying Peters and her ilk will succeed, but the United States needs a strong gun industry—and not just for civilian reasons, but for strategic ones as well. On the other hand, US gun makers need to satisfy American gun buyers like anonymous who says “Compete or die.” I hope it’s the former.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thoughts on Gun Sales

In my last post, I mentioned the New York Times article about Smith & Wesson. The journalist reported that gun sales were flat. He (or she) may be right despite buying sprees caused by Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. In the comments, Bitter of The Bitch Girls informed us that Pittman-Robertson taxes paid to the government were down. All new guns and ammunition are taxed and these funds are used to support wildlife and hunting programs.

A decline in Pittman-Robertson taxes means that fewer new guns are being made. A case could be made that people are buying more guns, but going for less expensive ones such as Kel-Tecs, NAA revolvers, and the like. Even if this were the case, and there is no evidence one way or the other, it's still not good news for gun makers who specialize in more expensive lines. It is also a concern if ammo sales are down.

Many of us could be buying used guns and Pittman-Robertson would not be collected. I buy several guns a year, but most of them are military and old mouse guns--my collecting interests. My purchases aren't helping gunmakers if they truly are beset by declining sales.

I would hate to see our classic gun makers close their factories just as Winchester did recently. As a country, we need Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and even Colt. All three of these companies have done things that have angered gunnies. Smith & Wesson made their notorious deal with the Clinton administration, Ruger's president supported bans on "high-capacity" magazines, and Colt virtually stopped selling guns to the public.

Still, we need these companies and their products. As much as I appreciate Berettas, Glocks, and others I want to ensure high-quality guns are still made in America. So, get out there and support BAG Day (Buy a Gun). I will post my BAG Day purchases soon, unfortunately neither will be helping the gun companies out this year. Oh well, there's always another gun that "speaks" to me to give it a good home.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Smith & Wesson's Comeback

You could've knocked me over with a feather. The New York Times actually has a straight forward article about a gun company, Smith & Wesson, in today's newspaper (registration may be required). It's in the business section, so there is relatively little editorializing.

The writer, Leslie Wayne, made a few errors. She (or he) described civilian gun sales as flat. I don't have all the facts to dispute that assertion, but I've read that sales are climbing up. There is a little snarkiness when it mentions the death of Winchester in Connecticut and some gun banner has to give his two cents. Still, the article points out that guns are durable items and that’s a valid point.

The writer states that Smith & Wesson is a comeback story. It mentions the boycott in response to the infamous 2000 agreement with the Clinton administration. Somewhat inaccurately, it states that NRA led it. Instead it was a consumer boycott and one of the few effective ones and NRA had little to do with it (one more example of non-gunnie’s view on NRA as giving us gunnies marching orders).

The article mentioned that the owner at the time of the boycott, Tompkins of Great Britain, had bought Smith & Wesson for about $112 million and sold it for $15 million. In other words, they took a bath.

Now Smith & Wesson’s stock price is rising. Its name is all over the marketplace and it’s introducing new products. It is hoping to capitalize on government sales. They have hired lobbyists and have made “buy American” arguments.

There’s a multimedia graphic feature in the article’s sidebar. I couldn’t listen to the narration (I’m at work and posting during a break), but the pictures are interesting. You’ll see Dirty Harry, the factory floor, and a picture of the new company president, Michael Golden, who had never shot a gun until Smith & Wesson hired him.

Now, I don’t know why they couldn’t have found a gunnie to run the company, but if he knows how to sell things then more power to him and Smith & Wesson. Go give the article a read.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Embarrassment of Riches

Well I did it again on a gunnie weekend. I had decided that my BAG Day (April 15) gun would be a shotgun, specifically a coach gun and discussed it on Ten Ring. Last weekend (April 1) I found one I really liked for a price I liked well enough that I bought it. I was waiting until closer to BAG Day to unveil my newest arrival. Best laid plans….

Bill and I found out there was a gun show in Concord, New Hampshire. We like this show better than certain others. It’s relatively small which allows one to see everything without feeling like you’ve crossed the artic. It attracts a good selection of vendors, so that one can see new guns, old guns, junk, and militaria.

Of course, we had to attend the show on a fairly gloomy Saturday. We walked around and noticed there was no beef jerky vendor. What’s a gun show without a beef jerky vendor? It broke our hearts. I poked at a gun-book table for awhile and we bought a little bit of ammo and a cleaning rod.

It looked like we were going to get out of the show without making a major purchase. Wouldn’t you know it; I saw a gun that I’ve long wanted to add to the collection. To make matters worse, the gun “spoke” to me in that witching voice they seem to have, “Take me home” it said. I resisted. You’d all be proud of me. We left the show with only the ammo and cleaning rod.

I tossed and turned all night thinking about how lonely that gun must be. I imagined what it would feel like to shoot and to take apart for cleaning. While I was eating breakfast with Bill I told him I’d decided not to buy the gun. When I did, I became sad and that emotion led me to succumb to the siren call of adding a new gun to the collection.

Off we went to Concord and to the gun show on a beautiful Sunday with blue skies and singing birds. I strode to the booth and it was still there. Needless to say I bought it without another moment’s hesitation, that is after the dealer and I had exchanged copies of our licenses (my Curios and Relics and his FFL), agreed on a price, and then talked guns.

Now I have two BAG Day guns. What an embarrassment of riches.

I guess I better end the suspense and tell you what I got: a Type 14 Nambu Japanese pistol from World War II When I got it home, I took it apart and cleaned a bunch of dirty cosmoline-like grease from its nooks and crannies. I brushed off hardened grease from the outside and greatly improved its appearance (I’ll never understand why a dealer won’t clean the outside of an old military gun).

I’ll be doing a One From the Vault soon and discuss the Nambu and its very strange construction and I’ll post pictures. I’ll also mention certain things it has in common with other guns including Lugers and Ruger Mark Is and IIs.

Now, I gotta learn to stop buying guns. Just because they’re for sale and just because they’re interesting, fun to shoot, and good investments doesn’t mean I have to buy them all. Sigh.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Green with Envy Today

Work has once again turned into a roaring, flaming cauldron burning away all my time and energy. It's just not right that I do my usual 40 minute drive home then collapse onto the couch and turn into a spud. I should be out shooting, or reloading, or writing more Ten Ring goodness.

That's why I get a little jealous when I read about professional shooters. For instance, the 30 soldiers of the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) are striving to win Olympic slots. More power to them, I say. Go out and represent our country and "be the best you can be." It's wonderful, I agree, but I'm still a little green with envy.

I know the members of the AMU are soldiers first and foremost. I just wish I had their practice time. The same is true with professionals like Kim Rhode, Jerry Miculek, Doug Koenig, and many others. I would love to shoot the number of rounds they shoot.

While I can envy them, these professionals earned their slots on their teams or their sponsorships. I haven't put in the hours to compete with them despite the thousands of rounds I shoot every year. I'm working at it and one day I dream I'll earn a berth at a competition even though I'm getting older (I'm not talking about standing on the podium--let's keep it realistic).

Meanwhile, I'll put in my 40 hours and keep my dreams alive. Many of my dreams have come true, so who knows about entering a national competition.

Now don't even get me started on professional gun writers/pundits like Michael Bane, Craig Boddington, or others. I can imagine winning a gun competition, but I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to get paid to write about guns. Sigh.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Firearms Safety Lesson

I really don’t have much to say about this story. Two men were fishing near Keene, New Hampshire when a man entered the woods somewhere near them and “tested a new handgun.” He sent 18 bullets flying near the fishermen. There doesn’t seem to have been any malice. Police are investigating, but there have been no arrests.

Now to put on my Range Safety Officer’s hat (and I am a certified RSO), always identify your target and know what’s behind it. Thus endeth the safety lecture.

Bill once joked that I found it impossible to do a short post. Well here it is.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Convervations about a Movie

I’ve made no secret that certain of my co-workers are moonbats and that’s one reason why I don’t use my last name on Ten Ring. I want to be able to say that my co-workers are moonbats without being called to the Human Resources office to explain why I said my co-workers are moonbats. (Note: there are other reasons as well, not the least of which is my desire to not give a roadmap to people who want to steal guns).

My co-workers know I own guns. Several of them have said that they believe any gun owner could go off the deep end and go on a shooting spree and hope I don’t do it. Needless to say, I never talk about attending my bullseye league with them, going to a gun show or store, or going trap/skeet/sporting clay shooting. Occasionally, they’ll ask me about a gun-related subject generally about a gang-banger shooting in Boston. It leads to a few silences around the ole water cooler.

I don’t share an important part of my life with most of my co-workers. There are a couple of exceptions—one person even went to the range with me once. But, my moonbat co-workers don’t seem to have any compunction with telling me all about their beliefs. They've made comments about NRA that’d make a sailor blush. I’ve overheard insults against Bush, praise for Cindy Sheehan, and the word Rethuglican more times than I can count (I’m not a Republican and I’m no longer a Democrat, but name-calling is beyond the pale).

I’ll never change their minds. Basically, I’ve quit trying to talk politics and gun rights with these bigots. Each to their own, I say.

There’s one thing though that I’ll never understand. It deals with 9/11 and has been brought up by an upcoming movie, “United 93,” about the passengers who tried to take over the hijacked flight and died in Pennsylvania. They probably saved the White House or the Capitol Building.

Informal memorial to United 93 taken by Carol Highsmith and given to the Library of Congress

I mentioned to one person that I’d like to see the movie. Of course, that person told one of the moonbats who told me that the movie would never show the truth of United Flight 93. She went on the usual tirade; cell phones couldn’t have been used, that it must have been shot down and Bush won’t admit it, that the people on board weren’t heroes, that it’s all part of a conspriacy.

I think she stopped talking when she saw my face turning red. I told her that the people on Flight 93 are my personal heroes and I named Jeremy Glick, Mark Bingham, and Todd Beamer. Someone else gave an opinion that floored me and that gives a whole new definition to moonbattery. She felt it was sad that those passengers died while fighting. She thought they should have sat quietly and reflected on their lives and that struggling cheated them of their final moments of peace.

What is it with these peace, love, and tofu people? Would they submit to being strangled when a rapist finished with them? Would they protect their children? Would they protect their country? They have no concept of self-defense. For them, violence for personal protection is the same as violence done for evil.

Most of my co-workers have a typical big city attitude and are avowed progressives. They think that if we just talk things out and understand each other we’ll all get along. Maybe these folks have become too civilized. Maybe they’ve become too insular. They don't understand that some things are worth fighting for and there're people out there that must be fought.

What a way to live. I’m glad I’m different.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

More on AFTE, Gunsmiths, and Gun Parts

Michael Bane has been all over a developing story (links below). I directed Ten Ring readers to his first post. Be sure to read it, but here’s a description so you’ll know what I’m talking about.

An ATFE agent visited a custom gunsmith who altered a gun from its original appearance by changing the barrel and hammer. He added these parts to a receiver made by Ruger. The receiver, of course, was duly serial numbered and Ruger paid an 11% manufacturer’s tax on it. However, the ATFE agent claimed that by adding the parts the gunsmith had manufactured a new gun. The agent claimed the hapless ‘smith owes excise taxes on the gun and many other guns with similar work. The ‘smith will lose his business if he can’t pay what could be an exorbitant amount.

For still more detail and confirmation, read Michael Bane’s related post, which quotes from an article in The Outdoor Wire.

I’ve had time to think and read about this situation and post more intelligently about it. First, the ATFE agent could be overzealous, newly hired, not aware of the difference between altering and manufacturing, or all the above. That’s a possibility. It’s just as likely that there’s more involved. Even the NRA thinks that’s possible in an unofficial post made to The High Road Forum.

If there’s more involved and if it is allowed to stand, then we’ll see our gun rights seriously eroded and here’s why I think so. A receiver is the only part of a gun that must have a serial number. A barrel, a hammer, a sear (except a full-auto sear), and other parts are not regulated. Because parts aren’t regulated, many people have built their own ARs and AKs usually after buying only a receiver or a kit or they’ve turned an off-the-shelf 1911 into a super-accurate race gun.

I’ve seen gun banner arguments (but can’t find them) that an ordinary person shouldn’t be able to buy gun parts out of fear people will build their own guns or make them "more deadly." After all, you can’t build a gun without a receiver, but neither can you build one without a barrel, hammer, sear, etc. ATFE too often listens to such arguments. It’s not impossible that they are trying to reduce the aftermarket business or at least get a cut of it through taxation.

In this case, custom gunsmiths are the canary in the coal mine. They’re an easy target. They advertise, have premises, and “are in the business” as the law states (27 CFR 478.11). If the ATFE succeeds in establishing a new interpretation of manufacture, custom gunsmiths will go out of business or their work will become even more expensive. Gun parts could dry up because a parts dealer could not guarantee that you’re not using the parts to “manufacture” a gun.

If carried still further, it could mean that once you buy a gun, it must stay in the same configuration as it was at the time of purchase. If you need a repair, you’ll have to visit a gunsmith who’ll have to put in a similar part. The devil would be in the details. Would dehorning and putting on low-mount sights on a carry gun be manufacturing? Would adding a scope to a rifle be manufacturing?

Don’t laugh. During the Assault Weapons Ban putting a flash hider on certain guns was an instant felony. Let’s keep an eye on this one and get ready to contact your Congress Critter.