Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thinking ahead

AK-74 Rifle in 5.45x39
For years I've been a fan of the AK rifle.  I started with the 7.62x39 then moved to the 5.45x39 a couple of years ago.  The AK is simple, reliable, and in the case of Arsenal rifles they're also well made.  It's why I have chosen the AK as my "go to" rifle.

Fast forward to the events of July 20th, 2012.  A madman stormed a packed movie theater where he indiscriminately shot 70 people, killing 12 of them.  He used a S&W AR-15 rifle with a 100 round drum magazine, a Remington 870 pump shotgun and a Glock .40 pistol (two were recovered).

The media and several politicians are now focused on two aspects of this tragedy hoping to enact future anti-gun laws to heavily restrict both semi-automatic firearms and "high capacity" magazines.  Take a look at the recent Cyber Security Bill which carries an interesting proposed amendment -- a magazine ban reminiscent of the 1994 Crime Bill passed under President Clinton.  The goal is to ban magazines over 10 rounds making it illegal to manufacture or sell them (or transfer grandfathered magazines) after the ban goes into effect.

Even if this bill goes down in flames future bills are certain to be proposed after the November elections.  Once the elections are out of the way, stand by.  We'll see a flurry of new bills being proposed and it only takes one to stick.

Thinking forward, how would a new magazine ban affect my choice of "go to" rifles?  How might it affect future rifle purchases that took place after such a ban were enacted?

A few of my long gun magazines
If you're like me, you have a number of different rifles and handguns, most of which require proprietary magazines.  Right now I'm stocking up on my most used magazines just in case such a bill were to pass Congress.  I'm quickly realizing I don't have the financial resources to buy 50 of every magazine type necessary to feed all of my different firearms.  I need to prioritize.

Let's take a look at my "go to" rifle.  It uses AK74 magazines that at one time were cheap and plentiful.  I have quite a few, but now I'm looking to buy for a lifetime.  I need more.  The price has jumped up considerably and the availability is very limited.  I will also mention that ammunition import bans may be enacted as an incremental measure which would render my 5.45x39 AK74's mostly useless.  Without imported ammo, the 5.45x39 loses its luster as a cheap blaster and affordable stockpiling alternative to 5.56mm.

I have a couple of options here.  One, I can convert back over to 7.62x39.  Magazines are still readily available and even if imported ammo ceases is cut off there are domestic producers of the ammo.  Or two, I can switch over to 5.56mm and STANAG magazines.

I'm leaning towards a platform shift for my "go to" rifle.  Right now the STANAG option seems to be the most viable given the situation we currently face.

NATO standard STANAG magazines
The STANAG magazine is a NATO standard.  Almost every new 5.56mm rifle that's coming out uses it.  This includes the SCAR 16S, ACR, FS2000, AR's, XCR, etc.  It's reasonable to expect future rifles that are released will also use the STANAG magazines -- at least for the foreseeable future.  That means if I am going to stockpile magazines the STANAG magazine makes the most sense, by far.  Adopting the STANAG will assure compatibility with the widest possible selection of current and future rifles.  I can invest in 100 of them, have enough for a lifetime under a new magazine ban, and reasonably expect that if a rifle released 10 years from now tickles my fancy I'll have 30 round magazines for it.

I highly recommend that you set a few bucks aside every month to buy magazines for your favorite firearms now, focusing on those that have magazine capacities of more than 10 rounds.  I also recommend you take a look at your "go to" firearms and think about a platform shift if your rifle doesn't use STANAG magazines.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When to upgrade your defensive pistol

Let’s face it, the gun industry is booming and concealed carry guns are in extremely high demand these days.   With this demand you’ll find manufacturers racing to fill the void they see in the market with new and improved designs.
The flood of new handguns becomes a bit overwhelming to the average gun enthusiast at times.  At one point you find a handgun you’re happy with that’s the latest and greatest in technology only to discover a year later another manufacturer has introduced a new model with improved ergonomics, sights, finishes, reduced size, etc.  The question then becomes, “when do I upgrade?”
Let me take a step back and tell you a little bit about my own carry guns over the years and perhaps from this I can impart a little wisdom regarding the temptation to constantly upgrade your carry gun.
I’m 44 years old.  I’ve been carrying and shooting handguns for around 23 years.  In that time I’ve carried a 1911, a Glock 17 and a Glock 19 as my primary defensive arms.  Each time I’ve swapped one gun for another in my holster I’ve done so for very specific reasons.
The 1911 was originally chosen because I shot it well, it was reliable and it packed a punch with the proven .45 ACP cartridge.  The 1911, if made right, is one of the worlds best defensive pistols ever designed.
Glocks entered the scene and brought high capacity, reliability, erogonomics and lightweight to the table of consideration.  I purchased a Glock 17 in the late 1980’s and slowly warmed up to it.  By the 1990’s I was favoring the Glock pistol.  I had learned to shoot it as well as my 1911’s and I found it was one of the most reliable pistols I had encountered.  Sometime in the mid-1990’s I switched to a G17 as my primary defensive gun.
I’ve always been a fan of full-sized service pistols.  I’ve never been a fan of compact handguns, at least through most of my adult life.   I’m 6’4” and am able to comfortably carry a service sized pistol without much issue.
Enter the Glock 19.  I bought my first Glock 19 in the early 2000’s.  I never really favored it over the G17 for a range gun, but I slowly began to realize it was just as reliable and even more concealable as its bigger brother.  By 2004 I was carrying a G19 as a primary defensive pistol and I continue to carry to this day.
During the span of time discussed above I’ve seen countless handguns come onto the market.  The Springfield XD, the Sigma, the M&P, the various Sig’s, and countless others have appeared with each promising improvements over previous designs.  Despite the temptation to jump ship to a new carry gun I’ve managed to stay the course with the G19.   
Here’s why.
You’ll notice there are many years between the time I buy a handgun and the point at which I decide to carry it.  For most people it takes years and thousands upon thousands of rounds to become truly proficient with a handgun.  I can pick up any handgun and within a few magazines shoot it well.  By well I mean chewing the center out of a target at 7-10 yards.  But there is far more practice and skill required before that firearm becomes an extension of your body.
With a 1911 or a Glock I can stand square to a target 7 yards away, close my eyes, draw the weapon and bring it up to eye level, then open my eyes and have the weapon on target – pretty much dead center with the sights aligned and requiring only minor adjustments for a perfect sight picture.  Some people call this “muscle memory” but I call it being "at one" with my tool of choice.  It becomes an extension of my arm and in my minds eye, even when my eyes are closed, I can visualize it doing exactly what I request of it – and it does.  I liken it to being able to close your eyes, hear a sound and point your index finger directly at the source.
You do not gain this level of familiarity and control over tools by a few range trips and a few weeks later carrying the firearm daily.  It takes hundreds of trips to the range and thousands of presentations from the holster and endless dry firing before you gain such a level of proficiency with your weapon.
If you were to change handguns every year or two you would become “ok” with a wide variety of firearms but you would be a master of none.  It’s my belief that I must be a master of my weapon if I am to be able to use it to perhaps save my life or the life of a loved one should that day ever come.
I will also add that the worst thing you can possibly do is have a collection of carry guns, each being completely different.  I’ve met people that carry a 5 shot snubnosed revolver one day then carry a double action auto the next.  This is a sure fire way to find yourself being carried by six friends and relatives to your final resting place.
I digress.
If you have a handgun you’ve trained diligently with, one that hits center every time you pull the trigger and it has proven itself to be reliable, why would you trade it for a brand new design?  You must ask yourself, “what do I gain buy switching to a new pistol?”  I think you’ll find in most cases you’ll gain nothing functionally and your desire to “upgrade” is nothing more than a perfectly natural craving for the latest and greatest device to fondle and show to your friends.  From a practical sense, most of us gain nothing from buying a new handgun as it ultimately resets our level of experience to “novice” and now you face years of training to get back to where you were before the “upgrade”.