Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Handgun Update

Well, it has been two weeks since I wrote about my first experience shooting (with revolvers). Yesterday was the second "range day" of the class, and now I have used semi-automatic pistols as well.

I also mused in that post than an inexpensive pump air-gun firing biodegradable pellets might be fun to buy. I've learned more about that issue as well.

Finally, I've been exposed to more alternatives for conceal-and-carry pistols, and have some new thoughts about those in Eugene.

So, here's the update in all three topics. Then I'll share some links I've found.

Range Time

Firing a semi-automatic for taget shooting has one big advantage: it is quieter, because there are no gaps equivalent to the front and back of a revolver cylinder. The length of the barrel helps "hide" the noise of the powder burning. I mostly used a Walther P22, and even this compact gun with a very short barrel was quieter than the .22 revolver I used two weeks ago.

Also, the slide kicking back helps absorb recoil. That Walther P22 was just as easy on my hands as the heavier revolver.

The main problem with the P22 was its sights. The small barrel meant they did not work well for me. In my last post I mentioned that my skill, developed with archery, of having both eyes open while focusing only from my dominant eye was completely transferrable to gun aiming. Apparently that's not true: it is only transfers for guns with a fairly long barrel. There was a big loss of accuracy when I tried using the Walther P22 with both eyes open.

The gun was so light, and its recoil so mild, that I tried using it one-handed. This caused no loss of accuracy, no matter which hand I used, provided I kept open only my dominant eye.

I also tried using a 9mm pistol. This is supposedly a caliber with more recoil than the .38 special I did not like two weeks ago. But the pistol was heavier, and that moving slide again helped with recoil. My hands did not mind the 9mm recoil at all. However, I didn't think it prudent to try this gun one-handed.

I cannot fairly comment about the noise of the 9mm, since at this point I decided to be cautious and use earplugs as well as the "ear muffs" always used at this range. So perhaps it was as loud as the .38 special, but I did not mind its noise at all, so I doubt it.

The only disadvantage of the 9mm (besides that each cartridge costs much more than a .22lr) is that its magazines need to have stronger springs. A magazine for the Walther P22 has a button on the side you can slide down to lower the "follower" the cartridges sit on, so you can put in more cartridges without fighting spring tension. With a 9mm, you need to wedge each cartridge down on top of the other with enough force to push a stronger spring: do-able, but much more annoying than loading the wimpier magazine or using a revolver.

Pump Air-Pistols
Unfortunately, the local Bureau of Land Management does not have its maps online. I am not sure how convenient it is to bicycle or drive to a public land outside of city limits. (I'll stop by their local office on Friday.) I really doubt there is a place convenient enough that I would actually use that cheap air-pistol with its biodegradable pellets which I mentioned two weeks ago.

If I was a gun nut, I could get a pump air-pistol with variable pump. The most classic and recommended is the HB17. Three pumps allows people in rainy Oregon to practice shooting in their garage: that's enough power to ensure the pellet stays in the "trap" you build behind the target, but not enough power to hurt something if the pellet ricochets. Ten pumps would be for outdoor use at longer range. (Using a pellet gun in your garage is technically illegal, so I would not do this even if local law enforcement currently does not care about this activity.)

So if I do wind up getting an air-pistol it would be for a reason I was previously unaware. Several manufacturers sell air-pistols designed to mimic the weight and feel of a real pistol. Some of these are cheap and some are expensive. (The cheap one is this on Amazon.) If I was worried about an increase in local crime and thinking that perhaps one day I would buy a real gun, it would be an inexpensive way, in the meanwhile, to practice not only aiming but grip and trigger pull with a realistic piece. (As before, if I had more friends that thought pellet shooting would be fun, a cheap pump air-pistol would be nice to have. But now I would spend a little bit more to get one that also provided more transferrable practice.)

Carry Pistols
During the past two weeks I have also learned more about guns designed for concealed carry.

[UPDATE: Having learned more about the .22 Magnum cartridge, I'll no longer classify the tiny NAA guns as for people trying to run away. They just better be great shots with only five bullets to work with! See more here.]

A company named North American Arms makes tiny guns for agreeable people who run away.

Five shots with a .22 cartridge can only be expected to slow down an attacker. A .22lr bullet fired from a miniature barrel has only half the recommended ballistic gelatin penetration. Also, it is probable all five shots will not hit: adrenaline will hinder aim, and such a tiny gun will not have a grip that fits your hand well, nor a barrel long enough to aim with precision unless you have practiced a whole lot.

This is a gun for people who would cooperate with a mugger, and would run out the back door if they heard someone in their house at midnight. But if reasonable attempts to flee fail and the aggressor also happens to run as fast as you do, perhaps you can slow them down.

Loaded with a .22 frangible cartridge (a short-range bullet designed for shooting snakes and rats, which becomes tiny lead shot upon impact) this gun becomes so wimpy that a thick winter coat might neutralize it. A miss would do little damage to whatever it hit across the street. But it might slow down a human pursuer, or deter an attacking dog.

As a .22 it would be inexpensive and comfortable for practice (although loud for a .22). As something so tiny, it could be carried in any pocket, any time.

I'm not about to get one. As I keep repeating, Eugene is very safe.
Three quick tangents.

I've requested statistics specific to crime between strangers (excluding a lot of the city's crimes, which are within the meth culture or are domestic violence), preferably for more years that the Eugene Police website provides. I'll share them once the police reply.

Also, remember my unsafe friends? The neighborhood that contains a sizeable amount of student housing is where a lot of the city's crime happens, largely because of meth-related crimes. Here is its map for comparison: not very safe.

Finally, Eugene was included in the recent FBI study on the nation's safest and most dangerous cities, but was not in the top 25 of either category.
But it was interesting to see that a company actually designs a tiny gun for the "preferrably agreeable or fleeing" crowd.

First, three sites about the "gun debate".
  • Here is a website providing an exhaustive compliation of gun use statistics. However, the presentation is biased in many ways. (For example, pistols make poor home defense weapons, as I have mentioned before, but this report ignores this issue.)
  • Here is a website that helps point out the biases in the previous website's mindset. But it has its own bias and often uses poor statistics from low-quality studies that have long-ago been debunked.
  • Here is a two-part article with neither exemplary statistics nor unbiased arguments, but it does address some issues raised by the second website.
Next, my favorite gun-related site: the Box O'Truth. A retired fellow tests out all the gun-related things popularly pondered. Can pistols really destroy padlocks like in the movies? How many textbooks does it really take to stop a bullet? Do frangible cartridges stop being wimpy at higher caliber? Etc. Great photos.

Then my favorite post so far about philosophy and gun ownership. (I have a hard time searching for articles on this topic. Please share good ones you know of!)

Finally, two images: a bumper sticker about ammunition recycling and a PDF target generator website.

UPDATE: I've learned that Lane County has about 10,800 concealed handgun permits. Census data shows me that's about 4% of adults over 21, and about 7.5% of housing units. Since only people aged 21 or over may be issued a concealed handgun permit, it's no wonder that crime is much higher around college student housing.

UPDATE: Okay, if I guess a real gun nut would use this is his or her garage.

UPDATE: Another printable target, this time a JPG image instead of a PDF, and with commentary based upon how you miss the center.