Oct 28, 2009

New Cartridges for Shooting (Magnum of the Month)

A voice of reason boomed:
“It's got to where writers and gunmakers have to invent a niche to justify making another chambering ... This plague of "Magnums" has got shooters trying shots beyond their ability and flinching while doing it.”

New cartridges are little more than a sales gimmick. There hasn't been a major Browning/Mauser/Garand-type development for decades now.

Inventing a truly new kind of firearm is hard. Inventing a "new" cartridge is comparatively quite easy. And buying into a different cartridge requires a different firearm to shoot it (or at least another barrel) and the ammunition to go along with it. This forces the purchase of another firearm and ammo/components/reloading dies. Of course, that new acquisition will require sights, accessories, maybe a new gun safe to hold it all... $$$

Gun and ammo companies can (and seem to) crank out a "hot new" cartridge every month. Folks on the publishing side are only too happy to praise this "hot new" for answering a question that nobody ever asked.

The fact that none of this helps make us better shooters, does little to get more people participating, and doesn't promote shooting to the general public never gets mentioned.

So what wrong with new chamberings, bullets, and loading techniques? Isn’t that all great for shooting?

A wise man noted, "Perhaps a better question is whether or not the droves of average shooters snapping up the new short action big bottles can make full use of the ballistic advantage under field conditions?"

We don't need new cartridges because most shooters can't shoot up to the 100 year+ old ones (.30-06, or even .30-30) we already have. These new developments will not help typical gun owners become better marksman. Thus, we "need" new cartridges like the auto industry "needs" a V7 engine.

Some people argue that new calibers are good because it encourages people to buy more stuff, which boosts the financial status of the gun industry. If it’s there, people will buy it.

This can work, but is an inefficient way to boost sales. New calibers cost money in development and time, raising expenses. They dilute inventory, because a dealer has to stock a larger variety of ammo/components and the firearms that chamber them all. That means mark ups have to be higher. All so we can sell a few extra guns and a little more ammo.

A better answer to boosting the gun economy is to encourage more participation in events where people actually use firearms, ammunition and accessories on a regular, on going basis.

Look at the retail cost difference between premium trap loads (about $5 for 25) and premium sabot slugs (about $10 for 5). The hull, powder and primer are virtually identical, and the cost difference between the different wads is negligible. True, quality shot is cheaper than a swaged slug, but not enough to justify the $1.80 per round retail cost difference.

Quality jacketed bullets for dangerous game, like 500 grain Round Nose, can be had for 40 to 50 cents apiece retail in 50 count boxes. 405-grain cast, sized and lubricated lead bullets for the .45/70 sell for about 10 cents each when bought in bulk. Where does the rest of the cost for making premium sabot slug loads go?

Even if there is some technical reason that makes the premium sabot slugs so expensive to make, where’s the option for practice ammo? Replace that expensive slug with a simple lead cylinder that is the same shape and weight. Such projectiles wouldn’t have to be lubricated or even have a grease groove as the slug travels up the bore encased in a plastic sabot. Packaged and sold similar to trap loads, there is no reason they couldn’t be made available for a similar price.

So what’s the real problem? Trap/skeet/clays/5 Stand/etc shooters actually shoot. During the season, typical trap leagues meet a few times a week and the shooters will run through at least two rounds of 25 birds per round. Bottom-of-the-score-sheet trap shooters who never practice and shoot only the minimum required to stay in the league will burn up at least 4 boxes (100 rounds) of ammo each week for the several months the league runs.

Sheer volume via regular, organized shooting means the mark up on shot shells is more reasonable. Consider that Trap and Skeet take exactly 25 shots for one round and shot shells are packaged in boxes of 25. This is no coincidence!

Now look at the typical deer hunter, who buys one box all year, shoots 3 off a bench, says "good enough" and hunts with the rest. Many scattergunners shoot more to warm up at each session than most venison fetchers shoot all year!

The cost of lead bullets also bears this out. For those of you old enough to remember, compare the cost and quality of lead pistol bullets from the '70's to today. Back then, they were soft, swaged things and sold by the hundred. Now, they're sold by the thousand, the quality is much higher, and they're less expensive. When you factor in inflation, the value is even better!

Why? The '70's saw the rise and promotion of action pistol shooting. More shooters shooting much more ammo spurned more producers. The mark ups were kept in check by sheer volume. Many sellers offer only three calibers (9mm, .40 and .45) in a one or two weights making inventory easier and cheaper.

More shooters shooting more means more sales for more manufacturers. This raises consumption and increases competition in the market place, keeping costs in line, and encouraging shooters to shoot even more...

Why hasn’t some independent manufacturer stepped in to fill the demand for the shotgun-slug deer hunters? Because the demand isn’t there to fill, at least not yet. The major ammo companies offering premium target shotshells also offer a cheaper variant for practice. These same companies make components available for reloaders, and smaller independent companies step in to offer even lower cost variants. Why? The demand is there for clay shooters, but not for slug deer hunters.

We don't need no stinking new calibers. We need more shooters, true Firearm Users, and we need to encourage them to shoot more often.

Remington, a gun company, has sponsored a NASCAR team. So does the NRA. The MBA-types in the gun industry realize that spending advertising dollars on car events is more cost effective (a better CPM) than spending those dollars on shooting events.

That's how pathetic we've become.

Oct 21, 2009

A Hunter's Image

A Hunter's Image

by Ward M. Clark

In this age of media, of news by sound byte, a sad fact of life is this: What we seem to be, may be, in many ways, more important than what we actually are.

Politicians have learned this lesson well. The modern political campaign is a battle of ten-second clips, of demagoguery, of appearances; the age of the statesman has given way to the age of the salesman. Yes, politicians have learned the value of appearances very, very well.

It's a lesson we as hunters could do well to take to heart.

It's a lesson I'd like to drive home to every member of the hunting camp I drove past this past weekend in Colorado's White River National Forest. The large group of bow hunters, afield in pursuit of deer and elk, had several cases of beer piled up in front of the trailer, in plain view of the road. Four ATV's parked outside the trailer beg the silent question of any non-hunters traveling this popular scenic road, "are they just drinking and riding those things around all day? Are these hunters just a bunch of drunks driving around shooting at things?"

These bow hunters could be, and most likely are, perfectly ethical, sober, and responsible hunters. But that doesn't matter a damn. The non-hunter who drives by their camp, sees no further than the stacked cases of beer. And it's not just non-hunters who are affected.

Last November, I was hunting elk on Hardscrabble Mountain, in this same stretch of the White River. Two partners and I made a careful, pre-sunrise approach into a remote drainage, shuffling in the freezing dark through twelve inches of snow. The peace surrounded us, the only sound an occasional whispered comment and the snow crunching under our boots.

As the sun was rising, however, that changed. A distant sputter slowly grew into the roar of a four-wheeled ATV, chugging slowly and noisily to the top of a nearby ridge, off the marked road and in violation of Forest Service rules regarding off-road vehicles. The driver proceeded to sit on the ATV, sky lined on the ridge, rifle across his knees. It's incredible that anyone could be oblivious to the fact that the noise of his four-wheeled conveyance had already resulted in every elk in Eagle County decamping for greener pastures.
In the interests of delicacy I will refrain from repeating my comments at that moment; suffice it to say we were less than pleased at the ruin of a morning's effort by a thoughtless cretin.

Why? Is this thoughtlessness, laziness, stupidity, or some combination of the three?

Again, it's image – and the non-hunter who hears the story angrily recounted later, is going to come away with a negative impression of all hunters. Given some of the people I see afield each deer/elk combined season here in Colorado, sometimes I wonder if they're justified.

Another example – an almost weekly event here in the Denver area are the massive gun and hunting equipment shows put on by several promoters. In almost every show, T-shirt vendors are present to peddle a variety of slogans in this modern walking billboard format – some of them are funny, some thought provoking, some just stupid.

A year or so back, I was at one of the larger Denver shows, looking to pick up a box of .338 Barnes X-bullets, and some other odds and ends, but mostly just enjoying the show. One of the T-shirt vendors was operating, as usual, on a three-table spread.

In front of me, a boy of perhaps 18 was shepherding his equally young girlfriend through the show. When the two, holding hands, stopped at the T-shirt vendor's table, her eyes went immediately to a shirt with a picture of a kitten, in the center of a riflescope recticle – and the legend, "I Love Cats – Dead Ones!" The look of horror and shock on this young girls' face spoke volumes.

Given the short-lived nature of teenaged relationships, it's more than likely this girl won't end up long-term with a responsible hunter of shooter; and when a ballot initiative regarding guns or hunting comes up, she'll remember that T-shirt. "Hunters? What a bunch of jerks" she'll most likely say to her friends, and she'll vote against us.

This sort of thing is stupid, stupid beyond description. This isn't the 1800's anymore. It's the Age of Perception, the Age of the Sound Byte, the Age of Media. What we seem to be, is in many ways more important than what we actually are. It's time we started to think about that. More importantly, it's time we started acting on that.

We can't afford to be seen as careless, thoughtless, or unlawful. We can't afford to make a negative impression in the minds of even one non-hunter. What, then, should we do to further the public's perception of us as respectable, responsible sportsmen and women?

Put your beer inside the tent or trailer. Park your ATV and walk into the backcountry. Exercise just a little discretion in your choice of T-shirts. Don't be stupid.

Picture yourself and your actions as a non-hunter would. They, not we, are in the majority – they, not we, will decide the future of hunting in this country. We can't afford to even appear irresponsible.Remember this in your next trip afield.

Oct 14, 2009

Football Kills Kids

Fatality Fumble: Football kills as many students as school shootings

WASHINGTON, DC -- High school football killed as many students last year as did guns -- which means politicians should either stop using school shootings as an excuse to attack the Second Amendment or start passing "football control" laws, the Libertarian party has said.

"According to the latest statistics, a football is as deadly as a gun," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director. "So why do first downs continue to be exalted while the Second Amendment continues to be vilified?"

A new study from the National School Safety Center (NSSC) reported that there were 15 "school-associated deaths" caused by violent crime -- including guns -- during the 1999-2000 school year. That number is unchanged from the 1998-1999 school year, when 15 students were killed by guns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been zero student gun deaths so far during this school year. By comparison, 15 high school football players died during regular season and playoff games in 1999, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Another 11 athletes have died in high school games and practices since late August of this year -- and that number is expected to rise during playoffs. In addition, another 29 players this year have suffered "catastrophic injuries" on the field, leaving them paralyzed or seriously disabled.

These numbers have Libertarians wondering: Given the carnage on our nation's high school football fields, why the outcry about guns -- and the utter silence about football fatalities?

"When 15 students are tragically killed by guns during a school year, every politician and anti-gun lobbying group expresses practiced outrage, and immediately demands new laws that infringe on the Second Amendment," said Dasbach. "But when 15 students are tragically killed by football, the silence is deafening.

"If the preventable death of any young person is a tragedy -- and it is -- then why wasn't there a Million Mom March demanding an end to high school football? Why no calls from Bill Clinton for 'reasonable' football control laws? Why no saturation media coverage as dead football players are carried off the field in stretchers? Why no class-action lawsuits against Spaulding for manufacturing cheap ‘Saturday Night Special’ footballs?

"Could it be that politicians get more yardage attacking guns than attacking football?"

This "outrage gap" is especially puzzling, said Dasbach, because the Constitution doesn't guarantee an explicit right to "keep and bear" footballs. "Football is nothing more than entertainment and sport. Guns are a Constitutionally protected civil right," he said. While every new gun-control law triggers a fight about the scope of the Second Amendment, football has no such protection. "If he wanted to, President Clinton could lobby for an absolute ban on high school football, in order to save the lives of 15 young people every year. The fact that he doesn't, and the fact that groups like Handgun Control, Inc. don't demand such legislation, reveals that their real motive is not to save lives, but to advance an anti-gun political agenda."

Of course, Libertarians wouldn't support a ban on football any more than they support a ban on guns, said Dasbach.

"Protecting the lives of young people who play high school football is the job of parents, school officials, and coaches, not politicians," he said. "And protecting the Second Amendment is the job of every American, since so many politicians have fumbled their duty to defend the fundamental human rights -- including the right to keep and bear arms – guaranteed in the Constitution."

Oct 7, 2009

Is Shooting Boring?

Anyone who owns a TV and a firearm realizes that shows about shooting are conspicuously absent.

I've heard people make comment that the reason shooting competitions don't make TV is because they are "boring" or don't have "spectator appeal." Yet we have things like golf and bowling on TV. Why?

These sports organizations have managed to convince television networks that these activities will bring an audience and the networks have convinced their advertisers of the same. The organizers of these televised sports have found a way to video their respective sport to make them appeal to a wide enough audience. There are enough regular viewers to keep the broadcasts going.

That is the only reason any sports show makes it on television.

If, and only if, we as shooters can convince the networks that competitive marksmanship has the same appeal, we will have a shooting program.

Consider that a show with less than 20 million viewers enjoys a prime time slot on a major TV network (CBS, ABC, NBC). The Super Bowl, which enjoys the largest audience of *any* show has just over 100 million viewers.

There are 80 million gun owners in this country. What would happen if the gun owners asked for a shooting show? The so-called anti-gun media will not ignore the repeated requests of tens of millions of viewers. It would be financial suicide.

When enough people make enough requests for shooting shows, we will have them. If the requests never materialize, then the current venue will remain.

It's as simple as that.