Owl In Flight

July 16th, 2015

owl in flight

Shotgunning Raptors

July 6th, 2015

My previous post concerning the proper guns to be used against carnivorous dinosaurs has prompted a question from long time reader knirirr

IIRC the hunter in the original film was using some sort of shotgun to go after the “velociraptors”, presumably loaded with rifled slugs. It seemed an odd choice to me – what do you think?

Keen eye, there, knirrir!

The professional hunter employed to control the dangerous livestock in the first Jurassic Park movie was played by the late Bob Peck, an actor whom I always felt deserved more recognition for his work and talent.  The gun knirirr mentions as being wielded by Mr. Peck in the film is known as the Franchi SPAS 12.

jurassic park spas 12

spas 12 with sling

spas 12 with stock deployed

A fascinating design, the SPAS 12 could be set to fire either pump action or as a semi-auto.  No longer manufactured, the importation of the gun into the US was banned in 1994.  There were only about 1,800 of them shipped to America all told, and it would appear that a fair number were snapped up by the film studios to be used as props in action movies.

spas as used in graceland

spas as used in the terminator

spas as used in the matrix

(Hover your cursor over the pics to see which movies these pics are from.)

The rather complex workings of the gun, as well as the fact that it had to be imported into the US, resulted in a sticker price of $1,500 USD (£1000) back in 1993.  I always wanted one, if for no other reason than I thought the concept of a pump and semi-auto all in one was really cool, but could never justify the price when brand new Winchester pump actions were going for about $300 USD (£200) or so at the time.

At any rate, I have yet to address knirirr’s question.  What do I think about the choice of a 12 gauge shotgun to take on resurrected dinosaurs that weigh 300 lbs (135 kilos)?

My answer is that it would work just fine!  Even the enlarged head of the beast, no doubt packed full with dense and hardened skull, would start to come apart if a deer slug was applied.

velociraptor head and eye

Another advantage a slug-spitting shotgun would have over smaller projectiles is that the chomp-chomp lizards tend to keep to heavy brush.  Not only would most encounters be up close and personal, so the longer range of a rifle would not be required, but it would also be best to shoot something pretty massive in order to plow through all those branches and leaves without your shot being deflected too much.  Looks like a shotgun would be just the thing!

Not that I’m claiming any sort of effort went in to determining the most logical weapon to equip the security forces of an imaginary theme park.  The prop masters for the film probably thought the SPAS 12 looked cool, all shiny and futuristic, and so they just used any that were lying about the warehouse where they store such things.

Nice Alligator!

July 6th, 2015


(Picture source.)


Hunting Dinosaurs

July 6th, 2015

I recently made my way to the cineplex to catch the latest dinosaur film.  I don’t think I’m revealing any spoilers when I say it turned out just as expected.  Extremely dangerous beasts are poorly contained, they get loose, and scores of innocent people lose their lives.

child eating apple while lounging on dinosaur sculpture

The few times we see guns being used, they are effective only against the smaller fiends.  What type of firearms are deployed against the larger lizards?

chris pratt in jurassic world

According to this website, the hero uses a rifle from gun manufacturer Marlin known as the Model 1895SBL.

marlin 1895sbl

As one would guess from the 1895 in the name the design is pretty close to rifles used back in the cowboy era, at least so far as handling and operation is concerned.  The ammunition used is also a throwback, being the .45-70 cartridge that first appeared in 1873.

selection of 45 70 ammo

(Picture source.)

This particular cartridge is robust, powerful, and of a large caliber.  It is certainly capable of harvesting any large game found in North America, but I think I would be more comfortable with a gun that has a bit more punch when going up against something the size of a T. Rex.

t rex from original jurassic park

For many years, the most powerful rifle cartridge that was commercially available was the .460 Weatherby Magnum.  Designed to be used as a “stopping rifle” for hunting guides in Africa, the concept was to make a cartridge that would drop a charging animal just before the guy paying for the safari was stomped into red paste.

rhino charging out of the brush

This would most certainly be very useful if confronted by a surly T. Rex.

Capable as the .460 is, I am an old school kind of guy.  If I could afford it, I would be equipped with a double gun chambered for the .600 Nitro Express cartridge.

600 double nitro rifle

There are no advantages to be gained if I do, I just like the look and feel of those old big game rifles.  Besides, it was the favorite arm of people who play in my Call of Cthulhu games.  If the round is good enough to be used on shambling horrors from beyond this reality, it should be plenty good enough to put down a few overgrown lizards.


Three Truths

July 2nd, 2015

Lynn Russell is a former cable news anchor.  Her husband, Chuck de Caro, is also a former journalist.

lynn russell and chuck de caro

They are a great deal more than that, however.  Ms. Russell is also a private investigator, has two black belts in karate, and served as a reserve Deputy Sheriff for ten years.  She also writes books, both novels and her memoirs.

Mr. de Caro is a former member of the 20th Special Forces Group, learned how to fly military fighter jets while a civilian, and consults with the US military concerning the use of media as a form of warfare.  He is also a lifelong shooter, which is nothing less than one would expect from such a resume.

The couple were taking a road trip from Washington, DC to California when fatigue came upon them.  They stopped at an inexpensive hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico and settled in for the night.  But Ms. Russell had forgotten something in the car, and was followed back to her room by a gun wielding criminal.  He forced the woman inside before demanding cash and valuables.

According to this news report, the Ms. Russell and Mr. de Caro worked to distract the criminal.  It didn’t take long before Mr. de Caro managed to procure a 9mm handgun.  What ensued is what I like to call a “elevator gunfight”, as the two blazed away at one another from  barely more than touching distance.

revolver muzzle flash

The end result is that Mr. de Caro was struck three times, but is expected to survive.  The criminal was also wounded, and he ran from the room only to collapse and die in the parking lot.

I believe that second guessing the people who were actually involved in such a situation is wrong, particularly because it seems they did better than could have been expected.  But there are still lessons to be learned from the tale.

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I Don’t Think That Is What He Meant

June 22nd, 2015

I mentioned in the post immediately before this one that Steven has shared what would make the perfect aerodynamic shape …

Aerodynamically, the ideal shape is blunt in the front and strongly tapered in the rear. (I know that’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.)

Does he mean like this?

original falkor model in 1989

Shape Up And Fly Right

June 22nd, 2015

In a previous post, there was a question about how bullet shape increases stability.

It all started when Steven first mentioned the ideal bullet shape for stability as it cuts through the air

Aerodynamically, the ideal shape is blunt in the front and strongly tapered in the rear. (I know that’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.)

This prompted long time reader Fruitbat44 to ask a question

“So that’s why you get target shooters loading wadcutters?”

Okay, let us sort out the issues at hand.  What are these “wadcutters” of which Fruitbat44 speaks?

The answer is that they are bullets that are very flat at the front.

wadcutter bullets ready to be reloaded

What is the hollow you see in some of them?  Wadcutters may have a little cup shape scooped out of the back so the expanding gas from the propellent will cause the sides to swell out in order to engage the rifling in the barrel, but the front is kind of like a physical map of Kansas.

flat kansas road

Cartridges loaded with wadcutters have a very distinct look about them.

wadcutter rounds

Okay, so we have handgun bullets that are flat flat flat.  So what?  Why use them?

The answer is provided by knirirr, yet another long time reader

“I always thought that it was because they punched nice neat holes in the target which make it easier to score; the wadcutters I have certainly do that (they are flat at both ends).”

That is exactly true, as the flat face of the bullet will punch out extremely neat holes when it strikes a paper target.

wadcutter pattern in paper target

Compare this to the ragged and indistinct impressions left behind when a traditional pointed bullet passes through a paper target.

paper target with ragged bullet holes

Wadcutters are thus most popular amongst serious handgun target shooters, as the clean holes punched out of the target allows for much easier and more precise scoring.  Is that hole to be scored as an 8, or merely a 7?  Wadcutters take a lot of the anxiety out of judging bullseye target competitions.

So that is why modern day shooters might have a few hundred cartridges loaded with wadcutters in the gun safe.  But a dim memory prompted Fruitbat44 to make an observation

“… I dimly record reading about some handloaders using wadcutters for self-defence load.”

It is true that there was such advice floating around at one time, but to explore that I think it would be best to take a brief history lesson.

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America Explained

June 15th, 2015

In my recent wanderings amongst the internets, I came across a number of blog posts and videos on YouTube from people who wanted to discuss their visits to the United States.  The majority were quick to point out that they thought the US was a wonderful and interesting place, but that there were plenty of things about the country that confused them utterly.


Lucky for all involved, I am here to cut through the puzzlement.   But to get it all straight, you have to go back to the beginning when Europeans arrived.


Yeoman farmers?  Who are these guys?

The word “yeoman” has a fair number of meanings, but in this context it refers to people who own their own land.  Click here to get a definition.

Yeoman farmers are those who owned their own piece of land and worked it with labor from family, …” (break)  “They were also seen as the ideal Americans because they were hardworking virtuous citizens who did their work without exploiting others.

old farmer

That is only half the story.  In times of old the English crown would recruit archers from the yeoman class as part of their armies, their archery skills self-taught and honed for hunting and defending the home.

When the enemy knights would charge, these archers would stand their ground in the face of highly trained and armored warriors that had spent their entire lives getting ready to kill other people.  The farmers would do this so the could shoot pointy little sticks at the galloping warhorses, each horse weighing over half a ton, and try to bring the enemy down before being stomped into goo under the thundering hooves.

So the bedrock of the American character is work hard, deal fairly, and take no shit.


This is a map of the great state of New York.


The city of New York was more populous and richer than anywhere else when the state was formed, but a backwater village named Albany was eventually chosen to be the seat of government.  This was in the hope of keeping the dirty, money grubbing merchants living in New York City from dominating the democratic process.  Didn’t work, but it was a valiant effort nonetheless.

This wasn’t a mistake, and the pattern is repeated time and again across the nation.  Here is a map of my home state of Ohio.


The port city Cincinnati was already established when the state was formed in 1803, but it wasn’t even considered to be the seat of government.  It was eventually decided to make a new capital city from scratch in the center of the state, but that decision wasn’t made in order to make things convenient for anyone.  Instead the idea was to make it equally inconvenient for everyone involved, in the hope that the new government would be discouraged from meddling in the day-to-day lives of the voters.  This worked about as well as it did in New York, but at least they had the right idea.

When the country was being set up, it was heavily influenced by a bunch of strong willed citizens whose main desire was to be left alone.  The yeoman farmer knows his plot of land better than anyone else on Earth, they know the best way to manage their affairs, and anyone who says otherwise should just go away and leave them in peace.


Anyone who says that has never worked on a farm.

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That Word Doesn’t Exactly Fit

June 9th, 2015

Some time ago, I posted an essay concerning how bullets fired from derringers can tumble in flight.

engraved derringer

tumbling bullet trajectory

Long time reader Fruitbat44 left a comment that has been nagging at me.

“Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought that a bullet that tumbled would do more damage to an attacker than one which didn’t.”

What Fruitbat44 is referring to is a claim made during the vicious and heated debate that ensued when the US military started to replace their front line battle rifles with the M16.


The new rifle was chambered for the 5.56 NATO round, which produced around 1,700 foot/pounds of muzzle energy.  This was to replace the 7.62 NATO cartridge, which produces about 2,500 ft/lbs of muzzle energy.  They were going to go from bigger to smaller.

762 next to a 556 round

The reaction of most people who had been in combat was swift and decisive.

HOLD THE PHONE!  The US military, in the middle of a war, was going to replace a proven and battle-tested rifle with one that was weaker?  Who the hell thought this one up?  THEY WERE SENDING OUR GUYS OUT TO DIE!

Not so, proponents of the new rifle said.  The new ammunition was designed to tumble, dontchya know.  It didn’t matter that it was smaller and weaker than the old ammo, because it produced even bigger wounds!  The tumbling bullets chewed through a human body like a buzzsaw meeting a damsel!


(Picture source.)

There is also no doubt that 5.56 rounds produce some impressive wounds for their size.

556 in ballistic gel

So the bullet from an AR design tumbles while it flies through the air?  Actually, no.  It flies straight and true in the air like any accurate round, but tries to swap ends when it enters something soft and squishy like a human body.  When the bullet turns sideways, the stresses produced tend to break up the round.  It is very common for 5.56 rounds to fragment into at least a few fragments.

So why does the bullet do this?  Have no idea, actually.  Depends on who you talk to.  Some people say it is due to the shape of the bullet, others say it is the way the bullet is balanced, and still others say that every bullet does this and the 5.56 is no different.  I’m just pretty sure that it does.

If anyone has the inside scoop, please share in the comments.  I’m going to go to the range and fire a few rounds.

Paying Extra To Spray And Pray

May 28th, 2015

(WARNING : I am not a lawyer.  I have no idea if any of the devices or products discussed below are legal where you live.  To find out, hire a real lawyer and ask.)

I think it was in the early 1980’s when I first heard of a conversion kit available for the Ruger 10/22, a semi-auto rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.

ruger 10-22 semiauto rifle chambered for the 22 long rifle cartridge

All one had to do was take the stocks off of two of the rifles, attach the after market parts, and the result was an engine of destruction that was a sight to behold!

twin ruger 10-22 gatling

The kit turned your two rifles into a hand cranked Gatling gun.  Still legal in most places in the United States since the guns were nothing more than semi-auto, while turning the crank caused the triggers to be repeatedly massaged.

What did I think?  Considering the underpowered round used, I figured the .22 Gatling was just the thing if I ever had to defend a static position against hordes of rampaging squirrels.

flying squirrels rip my flesh

(Not me, obviously.  I mean, a comb over?  Get real!)

I wasn’t that impressed, although it would make a neat toy if I ever got rich enough to spend money on stuff that didn’t have a clear use.  But then I heard of even more gimmicks to get your rifle to mimic a machine gun.

I think most of you know the proper way to hold a rifle.  The stock is seated firmly on the shoulder, with the forward hand pressing the rifle back into the body to increase stability.  The trigger is squeezed by the index finger of the non-supporting hand.

standing rifle stance

Someone got the bright idea to avoid squeezing the trigger, and instead have the finger which usually does that job curl into a hook.  The supporting hand would then push the rifle forward, towards the target, until the trigger bumped into the finger and the rifle was fired.


If this was done right, if the pressure on the trigger was just light enough, then the recoil from the fired cartridge would cause enough force to be taken off the trigger so it would reset.  But the supporting hand would still be moving the gun forward, so the pressure on the trigger would increase, and another round would be sent downrange.  The cycle repeats.

I know I am not explaining this very well.  Here is a video where some guys use common office rubber bands to help them rip off their magazines in an amazingly short period of time.  I hope that makes the whole process  more clear.

This process is known as “bump firing“, and I pretty much had the same thoughts about this method as I did about the Gatling 10/22.  Neat to do once or twice, but of very limited use in the real world.

Milo was kind enough to send me this link, which shows someone using a bump stock.  This is an aftermarket stock one can attach to a number of standard semi-auto rifles in order to bump fire them more easily.  It seems the days of using a rubber band one pilfered at work are long gone.

So how do these stocks work, and do they actually perform as advertised?  I can’t answer either question with any degree of authority, since I have never used one.  But this video is pretty good at showing what is going on, and they have a side-by-side test with an actual legal full auto rifle.  Worth a look.