Positives And Negatives

The Journal of Criminology has published an interesting study concerning the long term effects found in states which issue concealed handgun licenses (CHL).

scientific study

The found that the number of people who carry concealed has no great effect on crime rates.  This seems to run counter to the most prevalent argument in favor of concealed carry laws, that more people carrying guns will prevent violent crime.  But it also pretty much destroys the most common tactic used by those favoring increased gun control, that increasing the number of law abiding citizen carrying guns will lead to increased violence.  Six of one ….

One thing I found very interesting is that the authors of the study concluded that the greatest predictor of people applying for a CHL was the number of gun stores in their area.

another handgun at the time of firing

It seems that people most often go to gun stores to get the training required by law to apply for the license, and so access to training classes determines how many people can sign up for a class.

The authors caution all that this is but one study, and more research is needed before any rock-solid conclusions can be drawn.  So take everything with a very healthy dose of salt.

Get The Lead Out

I was at the shooting range with two students just the other day.  We were having a big problem with constant jams when they were trying to fire their handguns chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.

practice at the range

The problems were always the same, either failure to feed or failure to extract.  What does that mean, anyway?

Failure to feed is that the cartridge would only go into the chamber a short distance before getting hung up, half in and half out.  The gun wouldn’t go into battery, and so couldn’t be fired.

failure to extract failure to feed

(Not the actual gun discussed above.)

Failure to extract is the same thing, but it is when the gun is trying to get a cartridge out of the chamber instead of putting one into the chamber.  It pretty much looks the same, with a cartridge stuck half in/half out.

So what caused this annoying and recurring problem?  My students were both long time shooters themselves, and had brought along their own ammunition.  It turns out that the .22 ammo they were using was so old, the exposed lead bullets had started to oxidize.

Okay, so what do I mean by that?  The dark lead had started to turn white.


The white part swells up a little bit, and gets a hard and rough texture.  No wonder the cartridges didn’t want to go fully into the chamber, and it is no wonder they would get stuck as soon as they were jammed in there.

Hey, wait a minute!  I said that the lead oxidizes!  That is what happens when steel and iron rusts!  Am I really claiming that an inert metal such as lead will rust like iron?

rusty gun

Well, yeah, I suppose.  It will mix with the oxygen in the air to produce a new chemical compound.  Isn’t that what happens when something rusts?

This is something that can be prevented, all one has to do is keep the exposed lead bullets from oxygen when storing the ammunition.  One can coat the bullets with cosmoline or other pasty goo, or seal the ammo up in an airtight container with an oxygen scavenging packet.  It isn’t particularly hard or expensive to do.

The ammunition my students were using, however, had been purchased some time in the 1960’s through the 1970’s.  No effort had been made to package it for long term storage, with the cardboard boxes languishing in garages and the back of closets for the past half century.  The thought was that it was finally time to shoot off those old boxes of twenty-two, so they brought them to the range.  No surprise that the bullets were white and crusty.

badly oxidized lead bullets

(Still not the ammunition being discussed.)

The fact that they were trying to shoot cartridges that couldn’t be chambered illustrates two failures.

The first is that even experienced shooters will come across issues that they haven’t encountered from time to time.  They both knew what they were doing, but only when dealing with new and smooth ammunition.  They had seen that the lead bullets had turned white, but thought nothing of it when loading their guns.

The second failure is that even experienced instructors have to act as if their students are complete newbies all of the time.  I hadn’t checked their ammo because of course no one who knew what they were doing would deliberately load up deteriorated ammo in their guns.  That was just a crazy talk right there!

So what happened with the oxidized ammo?

There are ways to restore oxidized bullets, from using fancy solvents to just scraping the white away and polishing the bullets smooth.  But, c’mon, we are talking about common .22 Long Rifle ammunition!  Instead of going through all that effort new ammo was purchased and shot, while the old white ammo was safely disposed of.

Is This Counted As European Martial Arts?

The headline reads Indiana Woman Uses ‘Cosplay’ Combat Skills To Capture Intruder With Ninja Sword.  (Hat tip to Glenn.)

The author of the essay is, quite obviously, an idiot.

Read the news story to see that the woman in question, Karen Dolley, is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.  This is a non-profit educational organization of international scope, dedicated to researching and selectively recreating aspects of European societies as they were prior to 1700 AD.

So why do I think the term “cosplay” is insulting?  Well, most people hear the word and think of this …

sexy cosplay emma frost

… and a more realistic image would be this.

Society for Creative Anachronism Fight Practice

Does this man that SCA training is useful in a real world setting?

Not directly, as it is focused on the use of armor.  That having been said, any sport that requires a degree of physical fitness is useful to prepare the individual for life-or-death situations.  It certainly seems to have given fair value to Ms. Dolley.

If you are interested in more realistic and less stylized European martial arts, I think that this YouTube channel will help.  Lots of good info, and the person who makes the videos is personable.

Giving It Away

This essay discusses how the police in Gainesville, Georgia have issued a warning on their Facebook page.  It seems there is some concern that the bumper stickers adorning the family minivan can be used by criminals to glean all sorts of valuable information.  How many people are in the house, where the kids go to school, is there a dog as a pet.  Next thing you know, the bad guys are boldly breaking in to what they already know as a place where no one can resist them.

burglar breaking in through window

There is some precedent to such thinking.  The popular crime novel The Silence of the Lambs (1988)  features a serial killer who slaughters entire families within minutes of gaining entry to their home.  (As was so kindly pointed out in the comments, it was actually the book Red Dragon.  Thanks for the correction!)  He is virtually unstoppable because he knows everything there is before ever making his move, arriving in the middle of the night with a counter to every lock and security measure.  The twist is that the killer works at a company that develops film and photographs.   (Remember when people sent their photos away to be developed before they could look at them?)

strip of developed pictures

He chooses his victims based on what they look like in their home movies and snapshots, and then uses the same material to plan the crime.  Interior layout of the house, locks, windows, security systems, pets, obstacles.  It is all looked over and planned for long before the killer ever gets within a thousand miles of his intendeds.  All it takes is a few days of careful observation of the house to find out their normal routines, and the killer is ready to indulge in his sick hobby.

So we have to ask ourselves: How much of a danger is this to those of us out here in the real world?

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Knives Are Scary!!!

The headline reads Woman Arrested With More Than 3500 Blades In Her Mobile Home, which seems to be a masterful way to associate knife ownership with inbred yokels.

criminal with rusty knife

The woman in question was, indeed, arrested.  Police did find more than 3,500 knives, swords, axes, and other bladed implements crammed into her residence, but that wasn’t why she was taken into custody.  It seems that an arrest warrant was issued because the woman was caught on video attacking the neighbors house with one of her knives, and the pointies were discovered when officers had to force their way in.

It was not very smart for the suspect to refuse to open her door and cooperate with officers, but she double-downed on the stupid by snatching up a sword and slashing away.

time lapse sword stroke

She missed opening up the face of one of the deputies, but it wasn’t through lack of trying.

The cops fired bean bag impact weapons at the woman, but that predictably had little effect.

beanbag shotgun round

She barricaded herself in her bedroom, and a standoff crawled along for five more hours.  The cops eventually broke down the door and tasered the suspect in order to get the cuffs on.

police issue taser

The police then undertook the job of clearing all weapons out of the double-wide.  Besides all the sharp stuff, there were also shrines set up with replica human skulls made of plastic, and Halloween skeletons festooning the walls.  One of the officers who had been inside the dwelling said that it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that “… there’s some mental illness here.”

Gee, ya think???

Stupid Question

An article at Gizmodo wonders why there aren’t more copies of Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks at public libraries.


The authors of the essay try and get all scientifical about the question.  Waste of time.  The answer is obvious.

I’ve been playing the game since 1977, when the 1st Edition boxed set came out.  I know exactly why there aren’t more copies in libraries.  It is because people keep stealing them!

stealing books

I remember distinctly that rulebooks and source books for the game started to appear on library shelves in the late 1970’s as the popularity of the game soared.  I also remember that the books would disappear within days or weeks as cash-strapped gamers would fill their backpacks and walk out with the swag.

The books are expensive, which makes sense since the publisher can only sell one copy to each customer before they stop looking to buy.  After you have the rules, why buy another copy?  At last, why buy another copy as long as your girlfriend’s cat doesn’t pee on the book and make it smell to high heaven.

kitten wants to pee

So people short on money will snag an unsecured book.  Besides, do these guys look like they have any disposable income?

right now other people are having sex