Friday, February 24, 2012

Ol' Remus on Guns

Ol' Remus as The Woodpile Report has some thoughts on guns (link here). Since he does not maintain an archive, I am reproducing the portion on guns, but would encourage you to check out his other items and links.
Guns are like sex, every generation thinks it all began with them. Greybeards stroke their walnut stocks and glass-bedded barrels and quote W.D.M. Bell and Townsend Whelen. Newbies are dazzled by Star Wars props wrapped around cartridges older than their parents and believe, deeply and sincerely, that looks can kill or at least ought to. Picatinny-mounted "tactical" cup holders can't be far off. Enthusiasts speak of guns in terms of received truthettes, say, ballistic coefficients or pressure profiles and the like, as if it were a kozmik kalling to proselytize among their fellows with no apparent benefit to either. Gun haters ask us to be shocked that firearms are "allowed" to the citizenry and intimate they appeared during the Kennedy administration as some reversible misstep, like tail fins on cars.

Demographics is a reliable indicator of preference. Those who came of age after World War II when the place was awash in surplus Garands and Mausers stand distinct and different from the following wave which lusted after wildcats so zippy the bullets were in danger of disintegrating into a blue cloud immediately upon exiting the muzzle. Now we're seeing the adoration of sheer mass, the "bullets as speeding locomotives" school harking back to the 1861 Joslyn or World War I tank busters. The intent seems to crush as much as to penetrate. There's something in this for everybody. Enthusiasts heft those cigar-size rounds and caress those chunky muzzle brakes with moistened eyes and reverent hands. Gun haters are happily re-shocked and demand to know what legitimate use there is for, say, a .50 BMG, knowing full well the legitimate use for any gun is to put a bullet down range. After that it's all opinion and tediously so.

What gun, or guns, should the survivalist rely on? Surprisingly, an incontestable answer can be given for any conceivable circumstance. Problem is there are so many conceivable circumstances. A diseased and starving opponent staggering around with a dodgy .25 auto is a different proposition from a battle-hardened opponent laying down effective fire from 600 yards out. Or, a nice little .22 rimfire may be just the thing for discreetly putting bunnies and squirrels in the pot, but the near presence of bears or feral hogs would argue convincingly for a more comprehensive notion of prudence. Adding a .45 ACP on the hip is one answer, for close-in work anyway, although its reputation isn't uncontested. John George claims, in Shots Fired In Anger, the Thompson's wartime stopping power was inferior even to the M1 Carbine. Well, maybe. On the other hand, we can't pack an RPG as backup and attend to much else.

Choosing a gun adequate "up to" bears and hogs is different from choosing a gun with the certain knowledge one will attack you, that day for sure. Just killing a dangerous predator isn't the benchmark unless it's okay with you if they're dead a couple of minutes after you are. For such occasions Remus finds himself favoring tried-and-true cartridges with large frontal areas and substantial bullet weights, .35 Remington or .444 Marlin or .45 Colt say, all available in handy lever-action rifles. They come pre-expanded right out of the barrel. And what puts down a bear puts down a hog or a feral dog with equal abruptness and finality. Lever-action rifles because they're true woods-cruising guns, entirely usable with iron sights—as they were meant to be given the ballistics. No, you're not going to get a Dall sheep barely visible on yonder mountain. And no, they're not battle rifles although they'd make a credible stand-in. Nor are you likely to resupply from barter or pickups in a post-doomsday world. But used as intended a few hundred rounds would last a young man the rest of his life, and somebody else's too were he a reloader.

Choosing a battle rifle comes down to an AR-15, AR-10 or M1A, or the FAL, AK-47 et al. Ol' Remus invites his readers to talk among themselves on this one. Whatever the consensus, he agrees. Next.

Choosing a hunting gun is the critical problem for the survivalist. He may not see a large predator in his lifetime nor ever get into a shootout with the Unruly Horde, especially if he practices avoidance over confrontation. But he will get hungry. Every day. And unless he plans to employ gun bearers, versatility is a must. For instance, he may be drifting towards his squirrel hotspot and put up a rabbit, or catch a turkey or a deer in a compromising situation. One answer is the combination gun, a rifle-plus-shotgun in one. Not a terrible choice but they are single-shot and, because they're two guns in one, unavoidably heavy. Many use the anemic .410 shotgun, sacrificing effectiveness for weight reduction. Whichever barrel is used, the other is an anchor along for the ride. And, just an opinion, they're the embodiment of unlovable, in the same class as flying automobiles. Remus prefers the shotgun alone.

A near miss with a rifle is still a miss, but the same point of impact with a shotgun puts game in the bag. It takes a better than average shooter to hit running game with a rifle, and an extraordinary rifleman to pull off a wing shot, but a so-so shotgunner will get 'em both with satisfying regularity. There's typically less meat damage with a shotgun than from a small game rifle, especially the .17 and .22 magnums. The tradeoff is range. Luck has taken over at 60 yards or so with field loads. But range is also what differentiates the small game shooter from the small game hunter. The would-be survivalist is well advised to become the latter in any case.

Remus has come to prefer the 20 gage over the 12 gage. With today's powder and shot technology a 20 gage is a near equivalent to the 12 gage of not long ago. A loaded 20 gage is a lighter carry and quicker to point than a loaded 12 gage, and has considerably less recoil, not contemptible attributes, and also extend its utility to the younger or smaller members of a group. A pocketful of 20 gage ammo counts up to more rounds than a twelve, something to consider should a hunting foray become exceptionally productive or a particular load be advantageous. Should things turn ugly, a 20 gage deer slug at short-medium range is the functional equivalent to a very powerful rifle, and accurate enough even with a general purpose barrel. And alternate loading of heavy buckshot and slugs is as lethal as it gets. By way of endorsement, African guides reach for their shotgun should dangerous game be wounded and escape into the bush.

Other members of a hunting party may carry a .22 rimfire, effective for small game out to eighty yards or so even in the hands of merely average shooters, in part because a dialed-in .22 rifle is a joy to use and repays the confidence of its user. Remus prefers "globe front and peep rear" sights but he keeps a fixed four-power scope handy should sport hunting turn to survival hunting.

Variants have their place. The .17 and .22 magnum rimfires are generally too destructive for small game but may make sense where sight lanes are longer than in the wooded hills of Appalachia, the .22 WMR particularly if game commonly runs to larger body mass. The .22 WMR is a valid choice, if not the first choice, for coyotes or feral dogs, garden-raiding woodchucks and similar varmints. It's said to reliably take down deer with a well-placed shot. There are candidates other than the .22 rimfires. Remus knows an accomplished small game hunter who favors the reloadable .25-20 for instance. .22 caliber airguns have much to recommend them, especially where noise is a liability, but beware, they're far from silent.

These are questions to be taken seriously. There seems no good way forward from the current crisis, in fact, many indicators suggest a precipitous worsening is at hand. It's at least plausible we're close to a time of living many lives by turns: refugee, subsistence farmer, survivalist, combatant, hunter-gatherer, escapee and the like, for any one of the many present causes. We can buy or schmooze our way out of some fixes, but in the end the demands of such a life will sound the real depth of our capacity, material and otherwise.

Our choice of firearms going in may not be our choice coming out, 'experience' being what we have when the occasion for it has passed. In its stead we're wise to be informed by the experience of others. In the main they tell us short and sharp dramas get undue emphasis, more attention is needed for the day to day where we're likeliest to succeed or fail by our preperations, or their inadequacy.

Remus is no gun expert, nor has he any special insight into what's coming, but he believes it's better to observe and estimate than to discount and ignore, and better to act on those estimates than imagine a calamity will affect everybody but him. Finally, it gives him no pleasure to contemplate the epiphaney gun haters have coming, unarmed probably, unskilled and unpracticed certainly. Well, maybe a little pleasure, what with the unjust and unlawful obstacles they've put in the way of honorable folks, and their outrageous lies and insults. Self-deception cures itself when reality takes special notice of it and demands its due. Be sure to remember the gun haters in your prayers.

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