31 July 2009

Football in the Air

The beginning of August always signals the start of football season. Its too bad it starts that early...I remember when I was young there was always a few leaves changing and the mornings were cooler when football was cranking up. Still, it is my favorite season of the year, both because of the sport and the change in weather with the accompanying colors in nature.

I know baseball is supposed to be the American sport, and I love baseball. In fact, I've coached youth baseball every year for the past nine years, and I love coaching it. But for some reason, it just doesn't have the 'freshness' of the football season. Maybe it's because I'm a college professor, and the start of the Fall term has always been the most exciting part of the college year. Or maybe it's because I'm a hunter and love the onset of the Fall hunting season. It might even be because I've always been a bit cold natured, and find the heat of Summer less tolerable than the cold of Winter. In any case, this is the season that brings the most excitement to me. The marching bands, the purple and white colors of the local high school all over town, kids going back to school (hey, that may be it!)...it's all exciting to me.

See you at the stadium!

Myth Busting

One of my favorite quotes is from Will Rogers, or Mark Twain, or one of several others, depending on who you ask- "It ain't what we don't know that hurts us, it's what we know that ain't so."

In this spirit, I like dispelling myths. I'll do this on occasion, on various topics. My favorite topics in this vein are firearms and medicine. Here's the first.

Have Lawyers Forced Manual Publisher to Reduce Charges Over Time?

This is a popular sentiment among handloaders. Many will say that max charges listed in their manuals have dropped significantly over the years, and that the cause is company lawyers forcing the changes to reduce liability.

In general, this is a myth.

Here’s why. First, it has been generally established that reduced loads with some powders can be as dangerous as excessive loads. So there is no guarantee that reducing loads will result in a greater margin of safety, thus no legal justification for compelling the reduced loads in the manuals. Additionally, the ammunition business is very competitive. Having max loads listed with your components that show a lower max velocity is not a good way to increase sales, and would be poor business practice. Artificially low charge weights just don’t make logical business sense.

Second, powders have changed to some degree over the years. While some powders are well known to have been tightly controlled as to burn rate over many years (Bullseye, for example…initial lot is over 100 years old, but is still tested against new lots to maintain consistency), others have not. One powder company admitted to Lane Pearce that the control lot for a particular powder was inadvertently lost, and it took some years to stabilize the burn rate of the powder.(1) Other powders have been shifted from their initial stocks of military surplus to commercial versions, including almost all of the IMR line (IMR stands for, “Improved Military Rifle” after all) and much of the Hodgdon line. These shifts mean that burn rates have changed slightly, and the resulting numbers in the load manuals have been adjusted accordingly.

Third, in the past, high-quality pressure testing equipment wasn’t as readily available as it is now. Some loads in manuals from the ‘50s and ‘60s were worked up with traditional pressure signs (flat primers, case web measurements, extraction difficulty, etc.) that are known to be somewhat subjective today. In some cases, loads that had been published for several editions were subsequently tested and found to produce pressures ten to twenty thousand PSI above recommended maximum levels. Obviously, these loads were reduced in the manuals at that point.

Fourth, we tend to notice what we don’t like. In the same article cited above, Lane Pearce found, after looking at six different pairs of manuals, each dated about thirty years apart, that in fact some of the maximum loads had been increased, not decreased.

And fifth, when directly asked, industry ballisticians consistently deny, even when offered anonymity, that lawyers have ever asked them to reduce charge weights below those arrived at by following company policy.

Conclusion: When charges have been reduced in loading manuals over time, they have been reduced for very valid reasons, not because a lawyer said so.

1 Pearce, L. Powder compared: Today’s versus yesteryear’s. Shooting Times, Sept. 1009, pp. 18-23.

30 July 2009

Elections Have Consequences

I began building an AR-15 about June of 2008. I wanted the experience of building my own, rather than buying one off the shelf, and I wanted to know how they were put together so I could work on mine if they ever needed repair.

Big mistake.

I should have realized with the election of BHO coming up, AR parts would all but disappear. I remember when Clinton was elected, and the "Clinton Gun Ban" was passed in 1993. The same thing happened...no ammo to be had, primers and powder were unavailable except at ludicrous prices, high-capacity magazines were selling for $100 each, and so on. I don't know why I didn't put two and two together and realize the same thing was coming in November '08. I suppose we all forgot how good we had it under GWB.

In any case, I have finally completed the lower, except for the buttstock. I can't find the recoil tube and collapsible stock I want. Finally, uppers are coming back into availability, though the prices are at least $100 more per each unit. Instead of building the upper, I think I'll snag a whole one when I can and save the project for more sane political times.

While the gun grab didn't happen like some thought, it may still be coming. The democrats are to busy doing the health care grab right now. Looks like they will pull it off, albeit after the summer recess. The only thing that can stop it now is folks in the districts of blue-dog democrats getting in the face of their representative until he or she has no doubt about the wrongheadedness of socialized medicine. I don't see that happening...the electorate is too gullable, naive, or downright myopic for such to happen, I fear.

But stranger things have happened. BHO's approval numbers are nearly as low as Carter's were at this point, and lower than GWB's. (That's gotta rankle the libs...) Congress, in spite of the almost inhuman charisma of BHO, will never show altruism in this day and age...if the poll numbers are a threat, they'll do the populist thing. Unfortunately, that only benefits us about half the time, since the populace is even less altruistic than their congressional representatives.

29 July 2009


I've always thought blogging was a waste of time. At least, I did until recently. Now I've decided it may be worth the effort after all. Not that I'm borderline narcissistic...at least I hope not. I think that may be the motivation for a lot of these critters crawling around out there on the web. In fact, I think our culture may be obsessed with narcissistic tendencies. Why else would a teenager send a nude photo to some acquaintance if their self-worth wasn't skewed beyond reason?

No, I hope this has grander purposes than seeing my own musings in a web page. We'll see.