Monday, May 31, 2010
Both the ADN and the Newsminer have picked up on the fact that while it is now legal to carry a firearm in that part of the park, it is still illegal to discharge it. What hasn't been mentioned thus far is that fact that Alaska's DLP laws do not apply in Denali park, despite the fact that it is clearly posted on the park's website (right next to the fact that there have been 23 bear attacks, whoops!).
This makes the situation much more interesting. Without the DLP provision, what are the hiker's options? I've been wondering since February, and it looks like we're about to find out. If nothing else, better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.
I also want to mention that I am not yet drawing any conclusions as to whether or not this shooting was justified. I am waiting for more details to come out. Some that I have seen might lead to the assumption that this was not, in fact, justified, even under DLP, but I don't think we have the whole story yet.
FAIRBANKS--A backpacker shot and killed a grizzly bear Friday night in Denali National Park and Preserve, the first such incident within the park's original borders in decades and also the first since a February change in federal laws allowed licensed visitors to carry loaded guns in national parks, a parks spokeswoman said Sunday afternoon.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
It is certainly legal to purchase firearms online and this is not the first gun I have purchased via the internet. I actually got my Mosin online using my C&R license, and when I finally get around to doing a post on that one I will review the company I obtained it from. We also ordered the S&W M&Ps directly from the factory, primarily via email. LearnAboutGuns has a good article on the general process for buying a gun online.
The Online Half: Hinterland Outfitters
I did some searching around primarily using Google Shop and found that Hinterland Outfitters had the best deal around, $906 for a Stainless Stalker + $60 for UPS 2nd day air shipping (the cheapest that they offer). This is even cheaper than the best local price I could find on the same model, which was the mid-$900s at Sportsman's Warehouse. Now, I'd get a 5% discount at Sportsman's and save on shipping but the prices were pretty darn close. Hinterland Outfitters certainly beat all other local retailers by around $100 or more. I had never heard of them, but I could pay with a credit card so I figured if they stiffed me I could easily dispute the charge and let my credit card company deal with it.
Additionally, I was able to order two extra detachable magazines (local retail $50 each) for $40 each, and I got a cheapie scope base for $6. This was all included in the $60 shipping with the rifle. It was possible to get magazines elsewhere for as low as the mid-$30s, but I wanted to consolidate shipping.
Hinterland Outfitters were very responsive and I had an email confirming my order right away. Additionally, I asked them (on Friday, when I placed the order) if they could get the rifle out soonest so that I could get it before I took a trip out of town. They had it in the mail on Monday morning, even though the mags had to ship separately (at no extra charge). They also asked if I wanted the mags to go to the FFL where the rifle was sent or directly to my residence. Great service.
They do require your local FFL to fax them a copy of their license with a special cover sheet. I noticed that some other online retailers will show you a list of FFLs that they have on file for your area, allowing this step to be skipped. That would be a good improvement for Hinterland to streamline the process a little.
The Local FFL: GunRunners
You need to have rifles shipped to an FFL who can do the NICS check, 4473 and transfer the firearm to you. On the Anchorage side, I worked with Gun Runners. My C&R license did not suffice for the Xbolt, which is neither a curio nor a relic, so I had to have it shipped to an FFL. Gun Runners offered $35 FFL transfers. This is a little more expensive than John Paff's $25 transfers with American Shootist up in Chugiak, who I have worked with before and can recommend. However, John was not being responsive to email and I was really short on time, so I preferred to avoid a trip up to Chugiak if possible. Plus I like any excuse to wander into GunRunners and look at their surplus and used inventory. They have some cool stuff. $35 is not the cheapest in town but it is certainly more reasonable than other establishments.
GunRunners was very responsive and had the cover sheet and FFL faxed to Hinterland by COB on Friday, even though I placed the order at lunch time. I have no complaints and they provided good service exactly as I expected.
I ordered a proprietary Browning Xbolt integrated scope ring from Midwest Hunter's Outlet online. It was cheaper than local, even after shipping, and I could get the exact model I wanted. No problems here -- it arrived directly at my door.
Two day UPS to Alaska turned out to be a little longer, but part of that involved a weekend which apparently doesn't count against the two days. Nevertheless, the tracking numbers provided by Hinterland allowed me to keep an eye on the progress of the package. Everything arrived before I left on my trip except the two extra mags, which were backordered. They have been shipped though and I expect to see them soon. Everything is in fine shape.
I got a Bushnell scope on clearance from Sportsman's in Wasilla. I plan on having Sportsman's Warehouse mount and boresight the scope I got from them with their laser doohickey next week. It is a lot cheaper than doing it myself which then requires rough siting and wasting a bunch of rifle ammo at the range. They've done this for me before and it always gets me on the paper at least. SW has decent selection, fair prices, and the free boresighting service is worth it to me as I don't have a laser or vise clamp. Even if it saves me 2-3 three shot groups, that's $10 of ammo and some time right there.
Buying a gun online is pretty easy and safe (if you use a credit card). I can endorse Hinterland Outfitters and GunRunners as a good combination. I like supporting local businesses but if they can't deliver the product I want for a good price in a reasonable time (or even one of the three!) then I will not be afraid to order from Outside. Hinterland delivered exactly what I wanted on time for a fair price. I would do business with them again. I can also endorse GunRunners as a good place to do business for FFL transfers.
I'll admit that the ADN headline is a little misleading. The dog didn't get shot for stealing hot dogs. The dog got shot because it came back, potentially aggressively. The ADN mentions that it was preggers, but it doens't mention that female black labs are 55-71 lbs. They are fairly large animals. Not everyone likes or is comfortable with dogs and a 70 lb animal can be intimidating.
It is worth noting that the defense of life and property provisions don't even allow you to shoot a grizzly rummaging through your meat cache on a hunting trip. You certainly couldn't shoot a dog in a crowded campground for running off with a frank as the ADN implies. However, you could shoot it if you were legitimately in fear of bodily injury.
However, I think there are a few things to think about here.
- Know your target and what is behind it. Campgrounds are full of families, kids, tents, and RVs. That is not a good place to employ a firearm unless you are in fear of grave bodily injury or death, because the consequences of employing the firearm (hitting a kid) might be worse than the consequences of being used as a chew toy. Especially a gun that probably suffers from excessive penetration against non-grizzly targets like a .50 cal revolver.
- Warning shots are often a bad idea. The man said he fired in the direction of the dog, not necessarily at it, but still hit it. This raises lots of problems with knowing your target. Stray bullets will come to rest somewhere. In my opinion, if you fire your defensive weapon you should almost always be shooting to stop or disable, not to warn. I can see some possible exceptions to scare off a curious animal in the deep woods, but I think you can accomplish that by shouting or with bear spray.
- Bear Spray is often a good idea. Some altercations allow for a less-than-lethal or non-lethal approach to be taken. In this situation, a squirt from the bear spray would almost certainly have caused that dog to tuck its tail between its legs and run with no danger of hurting a fellow camper.
I'm sure that Gwen will pick this one up so I'll just tag this with GASG.
Clearly, Gwen's solution of banning all guns works very effectively at stopping criminals from using them in home invasions. That is why it is impossible for criminals in Chicago, which has a city-wide handgun ban and has had one in place for years, find it unpossible to commit home invasions with handguns. Except when they do.
Likewise, Great Britain -- which, notably, is a fricking ISLAND -- has effectively a national gun ban. Remember again -- this is an island. Probably the easiest sort of land to control access to and from. Except in Britain, home invasions are out of control, with a Briton being assaulted in their home every 30 minutes. Likewise, Canada, which has extremely strict gun control of the sort that Gwen would find doesn't go far enough, recently found that home invasions were going up although criminal firearms usage went down.
Let's put our logic hats on: if all the victims are guaranteed to be disarmed, then a gang of young, in-shape criminals with hand held weapons don't need firearms to successfully commit a home invasion. I'd like to see Gwen explain her plan for defending herself against a four young men wielding knives, clubs, or even an illegal firearm (unpossible!). We'll even postulate that she can call 911 and only has to hold out for 10 minutes until the police arrive.
As a note, on our visit to Alpine Creek Lodge we saw plenty of NRA floormats and "We don't dial 911" signs. Gwen's position is even more ludicrous when you consider that a fair number of Alaskan communities and residencies are far from any sort of police presence. The nearest state police facility was 60 miles down a dirt road from the lodge. How could those sorts of remote people have any hope of defending themselves from vicious predators without personally owned firearms?
Kind of a cool idea, except I would much, much rather see a .22 LR conversion kit for their popular M&P pistols. One is made for Glocks. Rather than what is basically a toy like the AR-style pistol, why not release a conversion kit that is perfect for training?
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Of note, this is a debate in other communities too... I just read a book called "Wired for War" which talks about how unmanned systems are changing war. We're asking if someone who uses a remote camera system to monitor bears is a hunter; you can also ask if someone who uses a remote camera system to monitor insurgents is a warrior.
There was some interesting discussion of law, ethics, and so on and the bottom line is that the technology is outstripping the ethical framework, just as we see in hunting.
If you look at war as "harvesting" enemy body counts, then sure, purely unmanned systems including shooters is clearly a very efficient technique, just like the remote controlled gun setup y'all brought up. I think the comparison would be to someone who just wants the meat for whatever reason (healthier than store bought meat, cheaper, whatever). But if your objectives are different then maybe it isn't so efficient. We see that in Afghanistan where victory isn't always just about the body count (although a body count can certainly help...), and I think we may find it to be true in hunting too.
If an important part of hunting is the experience, then technology or other aids can get in the way of that. The difficult thing is that the experience can be widely different for different people. Some people might be all about being outside with their kids doing a multigenerational activity. Some folks get off on having an awesome trophy. Others dig the feeling of accomplishment from lugging out all that meat themselves. Some like the feeling of independence and value learning or honing skills. How do we say which aspects of hunting are more valid than others for the modern sport hunter?
I think there is a balance somewhere but there is a lot of grey and not much black and white. If you're going to ban this technology then would you also ban guiding services that do 95% of the work, merely requiring the client to pull the trigger after being maneuvered into a kill situation? How is relying on technology different than relying on another person's know how?
However, I think we can draw some lines. This is recreational sport hunting and almost all would agree that pure efficiency in harvesting is not necessarily the primary goal. For example, there seems to be wide consensus here that a Mk 1 Human needs to be the trigger puller for commercial sport hunting, even though having remote controlled robots at bait stations and automated carcass hauling ATVs would certainly result in a higher bear body count.
But there is still fuzziness; what if the automated monitoring station can detect movement, use some computer programming gee-whiz stuff to say, "yup, that is a bear-sized critter on the screen," and then ring an alarm to notify you of bears and only bears? What if it could be fine tuned to only ring the alarm for bears of a certain coloration or size? Now the hunter doesn't even need to view all the tape; the artificial intelligence software is helping him, perhaps even helping him select trophies! This may sound like sci fi fantasy but the tech already exists or is rapidly being developed for military applications, a generation of young warriors overseas are growing up with it, and it will hit the civilian market sooner rather than later.
It will be interesting to see how these technologies are handled in the future. I think there is a fundamental difference between previous tech upgrades which still always have a person in the loop (a bow increased the range from a hurled spear, and a firearm increased the range compared to a bow, but a person was still involved) because these new systems don't always require a man in the loop.
Very interesting topic...
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
On a personal note, the author's observations about the Lee Enfield and its usage squares with what I observed in Afghanistan. Don't worry too much about dudes with AKs; it is the old guy with a bolt gun that you need to be concerned about. These old bolt guns were often family heirlooms or status symbols too.
One of the rifles had been manufactured at the Long Branch arsenal in Toronto in 1942. The other was manufactured at the Government Rifle Factory in Ishapore, India; its date was not clear. Photographs of the Taliban have also shown a few of their gunmen carrying old Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifles. These were a similar czarist (then Soviet) arm of the same era.
I can now personally attest to the ruggedness of the military battle rifle. My 1933 mosin-nagant is still perfectly serviceable and will shoot about 2.5 MOA with decades-old milsurp ammo if I do my part. While it is no longer asked to engage in martial tasks as those in Afghanistan do, it did perform well on a hunting trip. I think it is really cool in today's days of disposable consumer products that there are some items which will literally outlast their owners as far as useful service life goes.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Oh, wait, this is from the esteemed legislator who wants to strip constitutional rights from people who are on a classified government list with no right to appeal and no appropriate or sufficient oversight.
This needs to be killed. No compromise, no "we'll meet you in the middle." The entire intent of this law is to choke off interstate travel with firearms and to make felons out of law abiding citizens who both lack mens rea (a guilty mind, or intent) and fail to cause any actual harm. The law is not intended to make us any safer. I'd keep an eye on the NRA-ILA alerts and be prepared to lean on Sen Begich if necessary if this starts to move anywhere. Sen Murkowski is safe, and so is Rep Young in the House, and Sen Begich is usually good on gun issues because he's not retarded, but still, it doesn't hurt to remind him that Alaskans are watching.
"Why shoot a porcupine? If you didn't eat it, it's probably a game violation and you could loose your license to kill, oops, I mean, hunt..."
The person backed off pretty quickly after I explained that I did, in fact, salvage the meat (and quills and claws, too!) and there was no game violation involved. It did make me pretty irritable for a while. I went and looked up the hunting regs just to make myself feel better.
Porcupines are listed as "Unclassified Game" in Alaska. There is no closed season and no bag limit, and that goes for all GMUs in the state. Additionally, there are no salvage requirements. Not that I approve of killing things for no reason - that's not hunting! If I'm not going to eat it or use it in some way, I'm not going to shoot it.
I think what bothered me the most about the comment was the assumption that I was being unethical. Ethical hunting is something I feel very strongly about, and some of my opinions are more restrictive than the law requires, so to have someone come out and just assume that because I was hunting, I was being wasteful and committing game violations is very insulting to me. I understand and accept that some people don't like hunting, but that's no reason to accuse me of breaking laws and being unethical.
Anyway, I do have some pictures from the weekend up. I don't have time to post them here right now, but you can see some over at Focus.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
For our anniversary, DW and I went up to the Alpine Creek Lodge which is off of the Denali Highway. The ostensible goal was bear hunting but we really just wanted to get away from the city for our anniversary and to celebrate me actually being home for awhile. The drive up after work there was a bit long, but the weather was beautiful and we got plenty of great photos on the way in. Denali was visible for most of the drive.
We overnighted in Cantwell at the Backwoods Lodge, where the proprietor was kindly enough to give us a 10% discount. I don't have much to say because all we did was show up, collapse and go to bed before getting up early in the morning to continue in on the Denali highway. I can say that the Backwoods Lodge had a clean, well appointed room for a reasonable rate (going by AK standards at least).
The Alpine Creek Lodge is at mile 68 of the Denali Highway, so there was about two hours on the gravel road and plenty of scenery. We saw lots of critters on the way in. We had the Trapper's Cabin, which was a cozy little place tucked just below the main lodge. We liked it as it had more privacy. There was no running water and minimal electricity in the cabin, but it was comfortable and had a toasty wood stove. The lodge was only 20' away and they had plenty of hot water for showers in the morning. Jennifer and her staff were great hosts and I was surprised that all meals were included for the price of our room!
I would reccomend the Alpine Creek Lodge. Realize that you are not going to get a four-star hotel room. It is an off-the-grid property in rural Alaska. What you do get is decent grub, a clean and comfortable place to sleep, friendly hosts and company, a very fun and well-behaved dog to hang out with, beautiful scenery, and access to great outdoors areas. The price is also extremely reasonable, in my opinion, for what you get. Realize that meals are included -- this is a huge convenience. It was great to stumble in after hiking for 8 hours to have a hot dinner ready on the table for us.
HUNTING & CRITTERS
We spent about two days out roaming the trails near the lodge. Spot & stalk didn't work so well for us as the terrain was very forested, so we switched to a blind/track strategy. We set up a blind at a nice vantage point over some habitat that seemed bear friendly which one of us would watch while the other checked other paths for sign. I was able to find a decent sized fresh grizz print and started circling. Sure enough, I soon found fresh scat, torn apart piles of fur/feathers, and trees stripped of bark with bits of fur. Then, I found a large muddy area with very clear tracks: one set about 7" across (i.e. pretty freaking huge) and two more sets about 1/2 to 1/3 that size. I assessed that it was a big momma sow with two cubs and decided I wanted no part of that!
So while we saw no bears, we did see lots of other critters. We had three caribou at 75 yards and numerous more and longer distances. It was nice to have a 'bou literally in my sights; it'll be better still this fall once they are in season and I can use my tag! We also saw moose, lots of birds, and porcupines. The first one we saw was so freaking big we thought it was a bear at first until we glassed it carefully; excited about the sight, we checked the game regs that night and found that there was no season/bag limits on them.
The next day, DW took one porcupine (her first kill); it was sleeping up in a tree and she brought it down with a shotgun blast. I was disappointed in the performance of the shot we used; it knocked the porc out of the tree and stunned it, but I had to coup de grace it with the Mosin (which destroyed about 15% of the meat -- a .30 caliber leaves a big hole on a little critter...). When we dressed it, we found that none of the shot had visibly penetrated the skin to lodge in the flesh beneath; there was just bruising. Although, there could have been more grievous wounds hidden from our sight or that were concealed after I whapped it with the Mosin. This was a point blank shot with no brush in the way too. I am not sure whether to blame the shot or the rifled barrel (she was primarily rigged with sabot slugs for bear with shot for incidental game), but either way, we need to put some more thought into the shotgun setup for small game.
I took another; it was scampering away but I hit it with a single action shot from the trail revolver. I continue to be very satisfied with the performance of .38 special on small game. It seems to work more reliably than .22 LR on some of the larger animals without destroying much (or any) meat. This porc got hit with an "FBI load" +P 158 gr semiwadcutter and collapsed instantly. I think the spine was hit and the bullet went on through the heart-lung area with an obvious exit wound in the front. No meat was damaged. I need to remember to pack some cheaper soft point .38 special in the future for small game rather than using my more expensive personal protection ammo, but I forgot to throw the cheap stuff in the ammo can for this trip and I figured that given a choice between 200 gr .357 mag hard cast corbons (last ditch bear shots) and .38 special +P, the .38 spec was the way to go for small game.
A third got away from us because we were so shocked at how fast it moved. We stared, stupified, as this one swung out of a tree with simian-like agility and then scampered off into the brush. We shot at it with a shotgun blast but it didn't react at all; we tried to track it and there was no blood trail. Given that the last shotgun blast caused minimal wounds at point blank range, I think after a ~15 yard shot with thick brush in between us this fellow wasn't even stung on his rear end. I suppose it deserves to live and make more baby porcupines that have the run-away-from-hunters-with-guns-insticts.
GEAR & LESSONS LEARNED
I need to get Alaska-appropriate boots. I have a pair of beat Vasque Skywalkers that have many, many miles on them with moderate to heavy loads over rough terrain. However, the mid-cut hiking boot does not work when cutting through Alaska brush and muck. There was a lot of tundra/taiga terrain that had tons of mud, standing water, and rivulets. My feet were soaked as water came in over the top of the boots; DW stayed high and dry. Gaiters might have helped some but overall I think higher cut boots are necessary.
We also decided to lighten our packs. After day 1 we stopped carrying salt, saving 5 lbs each. The salt got left back at the lodge, and if we actually did shoot a bear then we figured we'd haul back salt after the first load of meat. Otherwise it is dead weight.
The spike camp concept worked well. On day two, we hiked down about 6 miles to our blind and then dropped our packs there. For roaming around nearby trails and for bushwhacking in a circular sort of manner, we just carried weapons, camelbaks, binocs, and essential survival gear. I would have liked a fanny pack and/or vest so that I could carry a little more gear than I can strap to my camelbak/put in my pockets. At no time were we more than 30 minutes from the blind/spike camp, so I wasn't too worried about not having all of my other supplies. I could easily go back to get them if necessary. Having a light, close load (not a heavier external frame pack) was very helpful when bushwhacking, climbing up to spotting vantage points, scrambling across streams, jumping puddles, and so on.
I think a trail revolver would be helpful. We did not carry one when doing our main hunting and I think that was a mistake. The trail revolver would have been optimal for harvesting small game for the pot, as I saw later in the trip when I nabbed my porcupine with it. Additionally, both of us were a bit nervous when doing meat care chores about a bear or other predator showing up unexpectedly while our hands were busy and rifles stacked a few feet away. At least when weight is not critical, I think it makes sense to carry a general purpose handgun of some sort. I need to get a guide holster for mine.
The shotgun had disappointing performance. There are a few factors here. It came in literally the same afternoon that we left town. I had time to disassemble, degrease, oil, and reassamble before we left, and we sighted it in off the Denali highway with sabot slugs on the rifled barrel. We utilized shot shells for small game. They did not work very well. I think there are a few factors here:
- The shot pattern with a rifled barrel is apt to be unpredictable. Combined with heavy brush, a smaller 20 guage may not be slinging much shot towards the target.
- We might have been using inappropriate sized shot. I just grabbed some that were on the larger side of "rabbit" range according to the manufacturer's claims, without doing much research.
The mosin-nagant did everything I asked of it, and it is a very rugged design. I have faith that it will fire under extremely adverse conditions if necessary, and the bullet packs plenty of punch with reasonable accuracy. It is just darn heavy to carry. I think I made the right choice going with the lightweight X-Bolt!
The skeeters were bad... Setting up spike camp on a higher point with a breeze seemed to help a lot. A long sleeve shirt was the right choice too. Also helpful was the trusty old standby of Ben's 100% DEET sprayed on the brim of my hat, collars, and sleeves. (Bens 100 Maximum Pump Deet Repellent - 1.25 Oz).
That's about it for now. Hopefully DW will get some of her awesome photos posted soon, and we'll either link to them or add them to this post.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Is that weird?
Mostly they're female, except for my full-size M&P, which is a mister. For example, the revolver pictured in the upper right corner of this blog is Cindy ("Git along home, Cindy, Cindy, git along home, Cindy, Cindy, git along home, Cindy, Cindy, I'll marry you some day!"). If you can sing that song, I approve. Music geekery coming through, I suppose.
Anyway, we were out at the range today, and I ran about 10 slugs through my little single-shot 20 gauge. Only hit the target (and I use the word "target" quite loosely) three times, but she also has no sights to speak of. She does pack quite a kick, though! Crazy fun to shoot, even if I can't hit jack at 25 yards. I do hope my Mossberg 500 comes in soon though, because even if Lucy is pretty and fun, I would like something useful to take with me when I'm wandering around the woods trying to sneak up on a bear.
Although, I suppose Lucy is useful - if you use my coworker's definition of "Useful on a Bear Hunt." Basically, her opinion is this: if you carry a gun on a bear hunt, it must be capable of doing one of two things - shooting a bear, or shooting your buddy so you can run away from the bear you pissed off.
Shhh, don't tell Chris...
All that aside, I am bringing Lucy along this weekend. There might be some bunnies or something... never know! ...And if the fecal matter does happen to hit the revolving blades, I'd prefer a 30% chance of not being eaten to a 0% chance. And let me tell you, Lucy can do some damage. There might have only been three holes in the target, but I could practically put my fist through them!
I never remember Sunday School being that much fun.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
When I went boot shopping, the women's section was always less than half as big as the mens.
I ended up buying a shotgun, because finding a left handed, youth stock rifle was just too hard and expensive.
Clothing selection is ridiculous.
And today, I bought a backpack. I had to buy a kids pack, and crank it down to the smallest setting possible!
However, there is a positive: youth packs are much, much cheaper than adult packs!
This entry was posted on Friday, May 14th, 2010 at 8:48 pm and is filed under Guns. Tagged: Anchorage, Alaska, Guns, Firearms, NRA, Crime, Death, Pistol, Palin, Hunter, RickRydell, Handguns. You can feed this entry. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
I'd like to start with a helpful resource. If you are a firearm owner then there are special responsibilities that come when kids enter the picture, whether they are yours or not. Cornered Cat has some great articles on the subject.
In a nutshell, I think there are only a few "childproof" ways to handle guns in the house with kids. I am referring to true children here, kids that are not teens or even "tweens;" that's another subject for another day.
- Keep all guns literally under lock and key. Combos must be kept secret and secured. Physical keys must be kept in a place that the child cannot access. Lock and key could mean a gun safe, or a gun case, or a trigger lock. I wouldn't trust many cheap gun cases to be tamper proof. You could also disassemble the gun and keep key components under lock and key. This is what I do with my Mosin-Nagant as it is too big to fit in the safe. Preferably, ammo should be stored separately from the guns. I wouldn't trust a biometric safe.
- Physically carry the gun on your person all the time. This is Kathy's solution.
- Utilize a magna-ring trigger. This is Massad Ayoob's solution.
To be safer, I'd also start gun-proofing the kids with the NRA Eddie Eagle program. You can't control what happens at other people's houses, and even with lots of caution sometime mistakes happen. Having another layer of safety is a good thing.
I would also go to the length of posting a written checklist near the storage area and in the range bag. Written checklists minimize mistakes if you're tired or hurried.
COMMENTS ON COMMENTS
The comments are crazy. Many suggest that the parents murdered their child. Seriously? I mean, maybe it should be investigated but the ADN clearly states that the police don't think foul play was involved. Not all gun owners want to murder their own children.
There's also a fair amount of ignorance, like "why wasn't the safety on?" News flash: a safety doesn't take much physical strength to work. Despite the name it does not make a gun "safe" if the operator is not responsible. Three year olds are not known for responsibility.
There's also a fair number of people who try to recuse the parents of any responsibility. While not all the facts are out, any adult is responsible for taking care of their children. Children are by nature not responsible. If you are not responsible enough to own guns safely in a house with kids, then you need to get rid of the guns or the kids.
In my opinion, the appropriate immediate reaction is to appreciate the family's loss, and to quietly note lessons learned to prevent a future tragedy. It isn't like the above safety measures are unknown, but sometimes it takes a tragedy closer to home to drive home the point.
Gwen tried to play in the comments but it looks like she got crushed pretty quickly.
THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW!
A few suggest that we criminalize this further. First off, I don't know how criminal charges will bring any justice to this situation. This family will have to live with the loss forever. In my opinion, one important role of the justice system is to provide, well, justice.
Moreover, there already are laws. If the adults acted in a criminally negligent or reckless manner then criminal charges can be brought. There is no need to legislate specific safety techniques or storage methods. What works for one family may not work for another, and I don't trust legislators to impose a blanket solution on everyone. Moreover, laws don't necessarily keep up with technology. When you also consider that those most likely to craft laws on this issue are also the ones most likely to be willfully ignorant about basic firearms terminology, functioning, and safe practices, I think you can see why I oppose more laws.
WHAT WORKS -- AND IT IS WORKING!
The real solution is education, but as we've seen in Virgnia, the anti-gun folks hate the idea of education, even if it works. I don't want to accuse anyone of intentionally wanting to harm children, but it is odd how quick the anti-gun folks are to wrap themselves up in the tragedies of others rather than proposing constructive solutions.
Moreover, there is strong evidence to suggest that education and responsible ownership works and is on the rise. The Smallest Minority has put together some good statistics (based on the controversial and notoriously unreliable
And why aren't we CELEBRATING a four-fold reduction in the accidental gunshot deaths of children over the past twenty years even as well over 60 million new guns have entered circulation during that same period? Remember: supposedly there are 1.7 MILLION households with loaded, unsecured firearms in them that children could be exposed to. I'd say that an annual accidental gunshot death toll of 102 is damned near miraculously small, especially given the fact that 509 children under the age of five died of accidental drowning in 2006 alone.We hear lots about every single local tragedy, and every tragedy is heartbreaking, but in the aggregate, child safety vis a vis firearms is improving. That's a good thing.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
My first thought was about caliber. While on one hand I was tempted to get a big brown-bear capable magnum, I was wary of a hard caliber. It would either be heavy to lug through the mountains in search of 'bou or recoil with a punch, and neither was desierable. Moreover, big magnums tend to be expensive to shoot, and hard to find in a locale that doesn't feature big grizzly bears. I'm likely to have to move in a few years back to the lower 48 (not to say I won't be back when work allows!) and I wanted something in a common "all around caliber."
So, I opted for .308 win. 30-06 was also an obvious choice, however, at some point I'd like to have a M1A or AR-10, so I figured it was wise to start building deep in that caliber sooner rather than end up years down the road with many different types of ammo to stock. Plus, the .308 win does everything I'd expect a 30-06 to do with less recoil and bulk. There are even "managed recoil" loads that pretty much behave like a 30-30.
Based on the research I've done as well as consulting with some coworkers that are avid big game hunters, I concluded that the .308 win is good for anything up here other than brown bear and moose, and even moose are possible w/in 100 yards with good shot placement and brown bear are possible in a DLP situation (but not an ethical hunt). What else would you get from an '06? I see no reason to use more lead than necessary to get the job done, especially if it is going to be shot out of a lightweight "mountain rifle" under field conditions, not out of a heavy varmint gun at the range benchrest.
SEARCHING FOR A RIFLE
I started off looking at a wide field of rifles and quickly eliminated the Ruger and Remington, early leaders "on paper," after actually hefting them out -- sorry to one of my readers! I then had a thought to go for a cheap, entry level rifle like a Savage Edge or Marlin XS7. However, I then thought about the conditions under which I plan on using this rifle in the fall: I will be walking in 5 days, hunting, and need that gun to work perfectly after being exposed to the elements for a week. There will not be a backup shooter or major guided base camp with extra gear, and I doubt we'll even lug a backup centerfire rifle.
While a cheap rifle might be affordable, it is unlikely to be a bargain. Plus, I would likely find myself buying another gun later. I decided to "buy once, cry once," gritted my teeth, and prepared to open my wallet.
The next major contender was a Tika. While I liked the short bolt throw, it had some major downer features that left me cold, especially for the price. In a similar vein was the Savage Weather Warrior. While in the heart of my price range, good on paper, and possessing most of the features I wanted, I continually dinged my knuckles on the scope when working the bolt. Maybe it was operator error, but I think the problem would be even worse with gloves. So scratch that.
I then ended up looking at the Weatherby Vanguard. I liked the Vanguard; it was affordable, comes with a legit 1.5 MOA guarantee. The ergonomics were good. However, it was a bit heavy and I couldn't find stainless in Anchorage. On a whim at one of the stores I tried, I asked to see a Browning Xbolt even though the price tag was steep.
Like many of Browning's offerings, the Xbolt has some modernistic stylings. However, I was impressed from first touch. The duracoat rubberized coating is distinctive and provides an awesome grip all over the stock -- I can't imagine this thing being slippery, even if rainy wet conditions. The stock feels much more solid that many cheaper synthetic options. Almost all of the other features I wanted were present: light weight, tang mounted safety, decent adjustable trigger.
What really sold me was that the bolt has a unique short 60 degree lift; only the Tika/Sako action has a similar short lift. It is a very quick, ergonomic throw. I love it. This is what set the rifle apart from the Winchester 70 in the similar price range.
There are a few downsides I've identified.
- First is the detachable magazine. I see no need for a detachable mag on a hunting rifle and would prefer not to have one -- less is more, because simpler means less to break. However, by all accounts, Browning has utilized a very reliable, rugged rotary system similar to the 10/22 mag. I've never had (or heard of) trouble with that sort of mag design and was willing to deal with it.
- Another issue is a unique scope mounting system. They have four screw holes instead of two. I don't like reinventing the wheel. However, some research showed that I can get standard weaver bases for <$10, and proprietary integrated rings for <$50, so I figured it wasn't a big deal in the long run.
- Accuracy is not guaranteed like with the Weatherby. However, I expect sub 2-MOA out of this rifle at 100 yards and doubt I will be disappointed.
- The price tag was steep. I really wanted to keep the rifle + scope <$1000. I think it will end up being <$1300, including two spare mags and everything to mount the scope.
- Finally, availability was a problem -- nobody in Anchorage has a Stainless Stalker Xbolt in .308!
So, I have ordered my Browning Xbolt online. Even after shipping and FFL transfer fee, the price will only be a few bucks more than the best local price and I can have it in my grubby paws weeks before a distributor would ship more. So it is worth it to me. I'll give a review of the places I worked with once I receive the items and conclude the transaction.
I just went to SW and picked up a few boxes of ammo and a scope for it so that everything is ready to go upon arrival. I'm hoping to be able to take it out for a hunt next weekend so I'm tight on time...
Friday, May 14, 2010
Normally I don't go out drumming up audiences for Civic, but I will recommend this concert. It starts with Rosamunde Overture which, while not having been played in this state in years, was a staple on the East Coast when I was in high school. I can play the thing note-perfect while reading a book - and have done so - but you're probably less over-exposed than I am! Liszt's Orpheus and the Glazunov Violin Concerto are Alaska premieres and decent pieces. But the one that really stands out is the last piece, Hindu Kush, a world premiere composed by Phil over at Progressive Alaska. Phil's also the conductor for the concert. Anyway, the piece is a lot of fun to play and really intriguing. Among other things, it has the absolute coolest chime parts I've ever heard.
Just remember that Civic Orchestra is a volunteer group, with musicians of all ages and walks of life squeezing out a bit of spare time for rehearsals. Thing's won't be perfect, but I do think Hindu Kush is worth it!
More about the concert here.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
I don’t know if you have seen anything about this, but the number of colleges allowing concealed carry on campus has more than doubled this week. Especially as this has not received any media coverage, I feel that this is a substantial news issue that should be covered and would be of interest to your readers. I’ve gone into more detail about this below, but feel free to email or call me at the address below for any additional information.
Prior to this week, only twelve colleges in the entire nation explicitly allowed carry of a firearm: The ten public colleges of Utah, Blue Ridge Community College in Virginia and Colorado State University. Following a substantial ruling to remove the ban at the University of Colorado, the fourteen colleges in the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) voted to rescind their current ban and allow any licensed adult with a concealed carry permit to exercise that right while on campus. While I cannot find any direct news articles about it, you may link to the revised policy [here]
This action alone more than doubles the number of universities and colleges allowing concealed carry from twelve to twenty-six.
In addition, one of the two community colleges in Colorado not part of the CCCS, Aims Community College, has scheduled a meeting to make the same changes in their policies. You may view an article about [here]:
This dramatic shift follows in the wake of a ruling against a similar policy at the University of Colorado. Members of Students of Concealed Carry on Campus (Concealedcampus.org) and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (Rmgo.org) originally filed suit against the University of Colorado claiming that state law preempted any governmental entity, including the Board of Governors, from banning concealed carry license holders from possessing a firearm on campus. While the initial ruling went against the firearms activists, it was reversed on appeal.
The Colorado State University (CSU) Board of Governors originally voted to reverse the long standing policy of allowing students with state-issues concealed carry permits to possess firearms on campus shortly after the initial ruling.
Over the last seven years while the policy had been in place, crime had rapidly decreased and not a single instance of gun misuse by a licensee has been reported. The new ban was opposed by CSU’s student government, the county sheriff, the editorial boards of both the campus newspaper and the Colorado Springs Gazette, as well as more than 1,000 students who signed a petition against the ban in just a few short days. Larimer County Sheriff Jim Aberdeen, was so outraged by its passage that he told local media that he intended to undermine it by refusing to book violators of the ban into his jail, which the CSU police department utilizes for arrests. In the wake of the recent ruling however, Colorado State University has reversed it’s ban on firearms.
This issue will likely continue to be fought in court. For the time being however, it appears that some Colorado students and faculty will be allowed an option for self defense and that some criminals will no longer have a governmental guarantee that their potential victims will be unarmed.
Of course the people at Mudflats and PA don't want to listen to the parts highlighted above. If UAA allows carry then the blood will run in the streets. Hopefully the upcoming lawsuit goes well and UAA is forced to follow state law.
I am a little skeptical about how his cellphone still functioned after being dunked in the water for a while. Also about the swimming around, getting soaked in the near freezing waters, and managing to sit on the cliff for several hours without dying bit. But if it's true, this guy is damned lucky to be alive.
Monday, May 10, 2010
This is why we always carry bear spray and usually carry a gun too. The spray is Plan A, but if something decides to gnaw on me I want a plan B.
I read some interesting factoids the other day. Apparently you are at 3x the chance of a bear attack in a national park then you are in areas where bears are allowed to be hunted. This is not due to bear density. Over the last few decades, aggressive grizzly bears without a fear of humans in areas where hunting is allowed get shot; this encourages bears to remain reclusive, shy, and afraid of humans. In parks, those aggressive bears get fed. Then, they go kill the cubs of less aggressive bears and mate with females. The result is a trend towards more aggressive grizzly bears in the parks.
In any event, if you're in AK doing lots of stuff outdoors, and you don't carry at least bear spray, you're stupid. Heck, we keep a can in each car because bears hang out around town too.
ADDENDUM: Heather mentioned the other night that she actually left the campground at Denali NP because a large aggressive grizzly was patrolling the area. It seemed to have no fear of people and was just hanging out, presumably looking for snacks. This seemed like a normal state of affairs there.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Then again, this is exactly what I've been thinking for a long time: our current entitlement programs (all indexed to inflation) are unsustainable. Cutting those entitlements will be very politically hazardous. It is much more expedient to simply underreport inflation. Voila! Entitlement spending in real dollars goes down with no blame.
This limited anecdote definitely doesn't prove that the CPI is rigged or anything like that. There are a lot of variables -- especially up here in AK where things are already subject to wild price variation and higher prices for a lot of reasons -- but it does illustrate the point of how "stealth inflation" could work to erode savings. While I'm not an economist, it seems kind of silly to think that dumping a ton of money into the system (stimulating demand), coupled with some bad harvests (limiting supply) would not lead to inflation in prices for everything related to food -- including alcohol made out of fermented grains and gas made out of ethanol.
Disclosure: Long on VLO & WNR.
So the last few days I've been all over town trying out bolt guns. It looks like there are really two tiers; the entry level around ~$300 and the mid-tier around $600-700.
ENTRY LEVEL (~$300 price point)
- Remington 770. I did not like this gun at all. Didn't fit right, mushy trigger, yuck.
- Savage Edge (MSRP ~$380 w/ scope). 6.5 lbs, 22" bbl, 43.875" overall. Great tang safety, stock fit nicely. No accutrigger, but the stock trigger weight felt like it was around 5 lbs and was pretty tolerable. It has gotten some positive reviews (Chuck Hawke's site and GunBlast). I don't like the narrow feed port; would be tough to remove a jammed round. Clearly the lowest price "best value" option though.
- Marlin XL7/XS7 (MSRP ~$400). The XS7 is brand new in .308 win; previous calibers were only the long-action ones only. I handled this and thought it was pretty darn nice for the money. It has an adjustable trigger and a nice open bolt making it easy to clear a jam. 6.5 lbs, 22" bbl, 42.5" overall. Also available in stainless (the XS7S).
- Weatherby Vanguard (MSRP ~$419). 7.25 lbs, 24" bbl, 44" overall. This rifle also handled nicely, with the desierable large open bolt. No complaints. A bit heavier. At Sports Authority these were coming in under $400
- Savage Hunter 11 FNS and variants (MSRP $591). Doubling the price gets you the accutrigger and large open bolt design with similar vital stats to the Edge; 6.5 lbs, 22" bbl, 41.75" overall. It retains the nice tang mounted safety that I like. Add $50 and 0.4 lbs for an accustock, and add another $50 for a scope package, or $50 and 0.25 lbs for a wood stock instead of synthetic.
- Savage 16FSS "Weather Warrior" (MSRP $699). Stainless bbl. Otherwise basically the same as the Hunter series. This gets a nice review from Hawkes.
- Tika T3 Lite Stainless (saw at SW for ~$650). 6.1875 lbs, 22.5" bbl, 42.5" overall. While Chuck Hawkes savages the Tika -- and I agree that his criticisms are legitimate -- the bolt on this is silky smooth. I have not yet found a more agreeable bolt in this price range. It really is a pleasure to operate. It has gotten some positive reviews as well. I dislike the narrow bolt opening and safety, however.
- Thompson Venture (mid $400s). This is almost an entry level rifle price-wise. I handled one; nothing remarkable, just a nice handling rifle.
- Remington 700. Remington has a ton of offerings in this price range. On paper, this and the Ruger M77 were top contenders. After trying some out, the Remington 700 just doesn't do much for me. It is an adequete rifle, but they don't seem to "fit" great. Likewise the bolt is not the smoothest, the trigger isn't the best, and theprice is not great. They tend to be heavier than the other models as well.
- Ruger M77. Similar feelings to the Remington. Their "ultralight" version comes in at 6.25 lbs -- with a MSRP of $888! Nothing about this firearm makes me stand up and say, "Wow, that's great!" There's no great safety and fit like from the savages, low price like the Marlin, or silky bolt like the Tika.
I'm not the only one thinking that way. There's a bunch of threads comparing these guns and they are direct competitors.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Some law enforcement experts have surmised that he had it to fire at officers in case he was pulled over... all along he possessed a weapon that could have easily done extreme damage...Logic check: Pistol caliber rounds will not penetrate soft police body armor. Ergo, the weapon was purchased to shoot at cops. Huh??? Good thing terrorists are stupid, I guess.
Unlike those of some rifles, its bullets probably would not penetrate a police officer’s bullet-resistant vest, a law enforcement official said.
Sebastian over at Snowflakes has been discussing this and Peter Hamm from Brady even weighed in. As a sidebar, this is good news -- I certainly don't see the leading activists from our side trolling the blogosphere looking to make comments. They are busy raising money, threatening litigation, and generally winning. A Washington Post op-ed suggested that the NRA is a terrorist organization because it opposes denying rights based on inclusion on a classified government watchlist. This is my answer to that argument:
Thanks for highlighting the NRA's advocacy for terrorists. I wanted to give you some more information for future columns. Did you know that people on the terror watchlist can have letters to the editor published? In fact, they can start their own newspapers and use the power of the press to push inflammatory, extremist rhetoric. They can even purchase dangerous "home office" technology such as laser jet printers capable of printing dozens of pages in a minute and do this dastardly work from their own homes! Terrorists such as Maj Nidal Hassan even utilize electronic mail to communicate with extremist leadership in the Middle East; these terrorists have access to broadband global soap boxes.
Additionally, people on the terror watchlist hide behind prohibitions on "unreasonable search and seizure" which prevents our law enforcement officials from having the tools necessary to deal with their plots. Currently, officers usually require a warrant based on probable cause to search the homes of these terrorists. This is unacceptable, and our law enforcement officials need more tools to prevent the next tragedy. When it comes to terrorists, the police should be able to search with reasonable suspicion, or maybe even whenever they feel like it.
It is clear that extremist groups like the ACLU stand shoulder-to-shoulder with terrorist groups like the NRA in defending the rights of those who would do our society grave harm. I hope that you raise the alarm about the ACLU and other so-called "civil liberties" groups. Clearly, if someone is put on a classified list by the government with little or no judicial oversight then they should lose certain civil rights, just like a convicted felon would.
If you couldn't tell already, the above thoughts are sarcasm. I am a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record. In fact, I work for the government! For some reason, however, I am on the "no fly" list and get hassled every time I fly -- just like our previous Senator's wife (Cat Stevens), the late Senator Kennedy, and active duty US military trying to return from the combat zone. There is no way to get removed from the list or appeal one's status. I find it very troubling that many people are advocating limitation of civil rights based on an individual's status on a secret government list that isn't even that accurate. Do you really want to set an example with 2A rights that could later be extended to infringe upon 1A or 4A rights?
As I pointed out over at Snowflakes, there is no "loophole" here.
Frankly, the legal and regulatory infrastructure to deal with this is already in place. Felons are prohibited from possessing firearms. If you plot a terrorist attack, you can be found guilty of conspiracy. You are then a felon and a prohibited person. This provides due process and checks and balances.As we saw over at Mudflats, however, a lot of these people want to stop pre-crime (“I’m not clear on how effective enforcement is if you have to wait for egregious violations”). They threw hissy fits about civil liberties violations under Bush with the PATRIOT act, but now that they are in charge, that machinery is certainly very useful for targeting their opponents and pursuing their pet causes. I'm not sure where I saw this principle, but I think it makes a lot of sense in this context:
Laws should be written as if they are meant to be enforced by your worst enemy.Can the gun grabbers not envision any way in which their proposal to arbitrarily curtain civil liberties based on a classified determination by the executive branch of the federal government with no judicial or legislative oversight might come back to bite them in the posterior later on?
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
First off, the woman is a moron. You can't go about forgetting your gun places! End of story.
However, the comments section of the article that seems to have disappeared was full of people calling for her to be charged with something, calling her a baby-killer, and more general idiocy (that means you, idiot who tried to argue that Alaska requires a permit to conceal carry!).
Now, being an idiot and leaving your gun somewhere isn't a crime, just stupidity. Picking up a gun that someone has left behind and not turning it in to the authorities IS a crime. It's called theft. For those wanting to criminalize forgetting your piece, if you did that then no one would know the gun had been stolen, because who in their right mind would report such a thing? In fact, it might even be covered under self-incrimination!
Anyway, the real criminal here is whomever took the weapon from the bathroom. They're the ones who need to go back to kindergarten and relearn how to "not take things that don't belong to you."
Monday, May 3, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
The problem was localized and resolved fairly quickly but clearly water disruptions are possible on a larger scale. I used this as an opportunity to pick up a few more gallons of water up in ER and to replace the old (likely spoiled) portable aqua tablets.
I was shocked at the number of people that don't even have a gallon of water on hand. We live in an earthquake zone. The state of Alaska suggests that you have a seven-day supply of essentials on hand. You should plan on ~1 gallon/person/day (1/2 for drinking, 1/2 for food prep and minimal washing). Don't forget pets! This isn't paranoid, it is just reasonable precaution when you live in an earthquake zone -- and even for minor disruptions, having some water on hand is handy.