There are a lot of articles and discussion forum threads on barrel twist rate for AR-15s. So why am I writing one? Well, some of the information on the web is very wrong. Additionally, this closes out comment threads we've had here touching on this topic, EMail exchanges I've had with readers, and personal conversations I've had with shooters and friends about this subject. It's natural to put this down in case anyone else can benefit from the information. Or you may not benefit at [read more]
Some reactionary commentaries achieve little more than the following result: “A .223 caliber weapon (or an AR) killed the children in Connecticut, therefore ban those guns and this won’t happen any more.” Or something thereabouts.
But occasionally a more technical argument is presented, and (ret.) Lt. Gen. John Castellaw has recently given us one.
The marksmanship and weapon handling skills I learned gave me a good start when I became a Marine. — But if my grandfather were alive today, he would be sorely disappointed that a major reason for gun ownership has changed from being a sportsman to being a “resistance fighter in waiting.”
[ … ]
This generation of assault weapons and ammunition weighs less than previous combat rifles, allowing more ammunition to be carried, hence increased lethality of the basic infantry unit. The wounds produced are more traumatic; the bullet tends to yaw or tumble when it hits soft flesh as it transfers kinetic energy to the body. The reason most cited by purchasers for the frenetic buying is the fear of “the government taking away our Secnd Amendment Rights,” the rallying call not for sportsmen but for aspiring resistance fighters.
This resistance fighter mentality has been stoked by those who seem to feel deeply that our country is in the hands of illegitimate political leadership. The calls for “secession” reveal an inability by a vocal group to abide by the results of our democratic process and instead call for state and local governments as well as individuals to refuse to work within our system. Extremists decry political positions other than their own on topics from immigration reform to forging a plan for government fiscal responsibility. The words used to attack and defend political and cultural beliefs are words of war, not of civil discourse.
We must stop and ask ourselves if our country has gotten to a point where a substantial portion of our citizens has a fear, and maybe hatred, of our popularly elected national leadership and our fellow citizens who may look different or worship differently or vote differently. And is willing to endure multiple Newtowns materially enabled, if not caused, by the easy purchase of combat assault-style weapons.
There are many things we can do to reduce these scenes of carnage, ranging from dealing more effectively with those with severe mental illness to improving the security in our schools to returning to civil political discourse to reducing our culture of violence. One that seems a no-brainer is to make a distinction between a gun designed to hunt game and a gun designed to kill people and act now to keep those weapons for use where they were made for, combat.
He trots out his credentials at the end of the commentary, including being retired USMC. My son was a Marine who saw combat in Fallujah, and earned the combat action ribbon. He knows Marine officers who are idiots, and I’ve talked to some of them myself. His having been a Marine Lt. General means absolutely nothing to me.
My son remarked after the Connecticut shooting that a trained shooter isn’t going to choose an AR anyway. He will going to use a bolt action rifle with expensive glass and ensconce himself in a protected, stand off position to wreak the most havoc. But I’m willing to concede the point that a shooter may not be trained like my son. He was a SAW gunner, but also completed some of the Scout Sniper training and was a designated marksman for his unit.
So what of the AR and its round? I will also grant the point that I’ve called an AR a legitimate home defense weapon. If that’s the weapon you choose to defend yourself and your family, it’s immoral to force you to choose otherwise.
But notice the equally absurd (but analogous) arguments he didn’t make. At the place where the gun aficionados hang out, there are many folk who still (and will always) believe that the best close quarters battle (CQB) weapon every invented by mankind is the .357 magnum revolver. But note that General Castellaw didn’t argue for making the .357 magnum round illegal because it achieves a velocity that causes hydrostatic shock.
Instead he chose to focus on the fact that it yaws when it strikes tissue. Even in this, he is wrong. The 5.56 mm round doesn’t just yaw when it strikes tissue. It yaws in flight, even with boat tail ammunition. That’s one reason that it is an effective round for CQB while being inferior to the 7.62 round at distance.
But it was larger caliber rounds that allowed the Texas tower shooter to achieve his nefarious aims. Those larger caliber rounds don’t yaw and fragment like the 5.56 mm round does. And that’s the point. The general knows that the whole issue of the weapon pattern is irrelevant. Magazine changeout on an AR takes 1 – 2 seconds, and even if you’re shooting a revolver, speedloaders can essentially make the weapon the equivalent of a semi-automatic handgun. Typical (Bolt Action) deer hunting rifles can be used with great effectiveness to wreak havoc.
He knows that hating on the AR platform is a loser’s argument, so he invokes caliber and ballistics, still a losing argument because of the implications of allowing other calibers and rounds that have other ballistic (but equally deadly) performance. The argument the general really wants to make in advocating that we distinguish weapons of war with any other is that in his opinion, only the police and military should have those weapons of war, and thus only the police should make war on the civilian population and only the military, under the control of the politicians in approved campaigns, should have the option of sanctioned violence.
But of course, the analogue is that the general also believes that you shouldn’t have the option of choosing certain kinds of weapons for your own defense. That, dear people, is a political rather than a technical position. The general is in over his head on ballistics, and it’s better to heed my counsel: “It isn’t the caliber of the weapon one is holding that’s the problem. It’s the caliber of the one holding the weapon.”
So ban ARs or their round – I cannot stop you, although I can certainly stop you from confiscating mine. But if you do it, don’t be a coward and hide behind disingenuous and silly arguments that focus on the platform, the round or its ballistics, the pattern, or the safety of the public. We see through all of those arguments. Do your deeds because you’re a statist and want to see the public disarmed. Admit the truth.