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.


Go Long

May 21st, 2015

One of my major frustrations with the majority of my students s the high regard they hold for handguns, and the lack of interest they displayed for long guns.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  There are plenty of good things I can say about handguns.  The only problem is that comparable long guns are much, much more powerful than their handgun counterparts.  Handguns are the perfect size for go anywhere emergency defense tools.  A carefully chosen long gun is perfect for just about everything else.

But why would that be?  How much more powerful are long guns when compared to handguns, anyway?

To illustrate what I mean, let us take a look at the main US infantry battle arms for both World Wars and Korea.  These were the M1 Garand rifle, and the M1911 handgun.

m1 garand with clip

1911a1 with holster and magazine

(Pictures source.)

The rifle is chambered for the .30-06 Springfield round, while the handgun is chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge.  This means the rifle produces about 2,800 ft/lbs of muzzle energy, while the handgun delivers a mere 350 ft/lbs.

There are a great many factors that contribute to the effectiveness of firearms, of course, just as there are a great many loads available for every popular cartridge which changes the performance of the gun.  But comparing muzzle energy is a fairly reliable quick-and-dirty method, and it is very clear that this particular long gun far outclasses that handgun.

Okay, so what about the present day?  New weapons have replaced the old and boring guns that are pictured above.  What are the standard infantry weapons of today, and how do they stack up?

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Bad Tidings

May 9th, 2015

The volcano of Hunga Tonga erupted recently, forming a new land mass between two islands.

Hunga Tonga island after volcanic eruption

That looks familiar.  What does it remind me of ….?

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A Question Of Funding

May 7th, 2015

Those of us interested in law enforcement issues have been following the story of a fake police force centered in California with interest.  The story raises some questions I don’t think anyone has asked.

The details are that Brandon Kiel, an aide to the Attorney General of California, was arrested for parading around in a police uniform.  This isn’t a crime in and of itself.

kitty cat dressed as police officer

The crime was committed when he presented himself as the member of a fictional law enforcement agency, passing out business cards and directing people to a website.  It seems the guy also used his work documentation, which identified Kiel as an employee of the California Department of Justice, in a fraudulent manner.

At least he didn’t claim to be the boss.  That honor was reserved for David Henry, a guy who said he was the chief.  It seems that he was so proud of his exalted position in the fake law enforcement agency that would take his kids out for dinner two or three times a week at a local restaurant while wearing a police uniform.  The people who encountered him while he strutted around with his gun and badge said that he insisted he was a real, honest to God, not fake police chief.

Okay, so we have a number of people with rather bizarre delusions that were arrested.  But I am really interested in what the actual cops found when they searched the homes of these freaks.

According to news reports, the usual props were collected when the search warrants were executed.  Guns, badges, ID laminates, business cards, uniforms.  But they also mention that the police seized ” police-type vehicles” while conducting their investigation.

Okay, hold on a minute.  Guns and uniforms and the rest can be had for maybe a thousand dollars per person, but they also had police cruisers?  More than one, since the news reports “vehicles” with an “S”?

police cruiser

Where in the world did they get the money for that?  Even if they bought a few junker cars and fixed them up, we are talking a serious investment.  Who coughed up the dough?

It seems that a few of the people involved in the conspiracy owned a security company, now defunct, which focused on guarding property owned by Freemason lodges.  Maybe the police type vehicles are cars used by the firm when it was a going concern.

Even so, I would like to know how these guys financed their little trip into cloud cuckoo land.

I Don’t see How That Is News

May 6th, 2015

The Silk Road was an online black market exchange, most famous for using bitcoins as a way to pay for illegal goods and services.  The US government, amongst others, investigated and shut down the site.  Several arrests have been made around the world, and a fair number of people have been convicted of illegal activity that they conducted while Silk Road was still operating.

One of the strangest aspects of the case is the involvement of Carl Mark Force IV, a DEA agent tasked with investigating Silk Road.  It seems the lure of easy and supposedly untraceable money was too much for him, and he attempted to rake some of it in.  He set up  few accounts in order to hijack the accounts of others, trusting in the anonymous nature of bitcoin to hide his identity.  Using his authority as a government law enforcement official, he froze bank accounts of suspects in order to transfer some of the money to himself.  Apparently he even sold details of the official investigation to the people he was tasked with investigating, an egregious violation of trust if true.

This online article provides a brief thumbnail of the twists and turns of the story, and is worth the time to read.  But what I found odd is how the author seems to think that the most important aspect of the tale is that the DEA agent had firearms at home when arrested!

well dressed man with dual shoulder holsters carrying 1911 handguns

The rogue agent had a 9mm handgun in his possession, as well as four other firearms scattered about his home.  It also appears to be shocking (SHOCKING!) that there was also 650 rounds of ammunition stored at the house.

So the prosecutors are in a tizzy because of 650 rounds.  You know what I call that?  A good day at the range!

I hope I never get falsely arrested for crimes I would never commit.  They would probably give me life for the supply of .22 ammunition I have on the bookshelf, let alone the 9mm rounds stacked next to the desk.

pile of 9mm parabellum cartridges

Stupid Jihadists

May 4th, 2015

Two gumen in a car attempted to kill a security guard outside of a contest for the best Mohammad cartoon.  Police were already on the scene for added security, and they killed the gunmen on the spot.

chalk outline with caution tape

The guard was injured but is expected to survive.  I wish them a speedy recovery, and my prayers are with them and their family.

What is the score?  Leaving the world no poorer, two examples of human filth are erased from existence.  One decent person is shot, which is extremely sad, but they should live to tell the tale.

The thing that strikes me as insane is that the contest was being held in Texas!  What were the violent criminals thinking?  How far did they think they would get, anyway?

I think Charlie Hebdo should relocate from Paris to Dallas.



Steven has some important background.

Looking Through The Keyhole

April 27th, 2015

Yet more reader questions are answered.  This time around, it concerns yet again my past post on derringers.

I heard that derringers will usually keyhole.  Is that bad?”

Is keyholing bad?  Yeah, pretty much.  But to understand why we must first discuss what is meant by keyholing.

The way to make bullets stable in flight is to give them a spin.  If they are revolving around their long axis while flying downrange, they will be much more accurate.

bullet spin

This spin is imparted to the bullet by the rifling cut inside of the barrel.  But what happens if the barrel is so short that the bullet pops out before it has time to start to spin around the long axis?  If that happens, the bullet most usually starts to tumble around any old way.

tumbling bullet trajectory

This significantly reduces the range and accuracy of the shot.  The bullet tends to drift around wherever it likes, wandering about like a dog sniffing trees.  Not only that, but it also tends to strike the target in some way other than nose first.



(Picture source.)

Those might not look much like keyhole, but the name comes from the wounds that are made by such tumbling bullets.

keyhol bullet wound in skull

old keyhole

Not a perfect match, it is true, but descriptive nonetheless.

So tumbling bullets can produce oddly shaped wounds, and those wounds resembled a keyhole shape.  Why are all tumbling bullets referred to as keyholing, since all of them do not produce such shapes when they strike the target?  Pretty much because people think it sounds cool.  (“My gun is keyholing!“)

Getting back to derringers, their short barrels increase the chance that the bullet will not pick up enough spin before it leaves the barrel.  This doesn’t mean that every shot from a derringer will keyhole, but it does seem to be a fairly prevalent situation.

engraved derringer

Okay, so bullets that tumble are not as accurate, nor do they have as great a range, as bullets that behave themselves and spin in the proper manner.  This problem is relatively common with derringers.

But is it really a problem?  Derringers are not known for their long range accuracy, and are intended to be used against violent criminals that are right on top of the defender.

angry man pointing finger

Who cares if the bullets tumble?  They will still hit as hard, won’t they?

Tumbling bullets do tend to slow down much faster than those which spin due to air resistance, and derringers are intended to be used against targets that are close enough that this wouldn’t be much of a factor.  But keep in kind that tumbling bullets also tend to strike the target at an odd angle.  This means any defensive ammunition used, such as hollow points, won’t work as advertised.  They have to hit nose first in order to expand.

expanded hollowpoint bullets

Obviously, this isn’t going to happen if the bullet strikes the criminal any old way.

If one favors boring old ball ammunition, then one should be pretty confident that their derringer will work about as well whether or not the bullets tumble.  But if one pays for defensive ammo, then bullets which tumble can mean that the extra cash was wasted.