Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Couple Gun/Science Links

There's a certain sort of martial artist who appreciates the philosophical purity of Ed Parker's Creed:
I come to you with only empty hands, I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong; then here are my weapons, my empty hands.
There's another sort who reads nothing but Tom Clancy novels and touches him (usually "him") self reading comparison reports between the latest Kimber and Taurus 1911s.

Most of us are somewhere between the two extremes. Self defense is part of why we do this, and self defense is about maximizing your chances of spending the night at home instead not in an ER or the County Jail. From there it's a hop and a skip to looking at other animals with their fangs and claws and stingers and realizing that we're pretty pathetic when it comes to natural armament. The only things we have going for us are an overdeveloped brain and opposable thumbs. So it's time to take The Once and Future King down off the shelf and read the bit about the creation of the animals. Or go to Amazon and search inside the book. Start with the part on pages 194-196 with the words "badger" and "God". And a lot of us start thinking hard about legal weapons.

Some time I'll dust off an old rant about why weapons in general and guns in particular are a bad place to start your self defense strategy. When you need one, nothing else will do the job quite as well. If you decide to keep them around you need good information. It's easy to spend far too many hours and dollars getting equipped. Consumer Reports doesn't do reviews of weapons. They also don't do reviews of religions. There may be a connection. Other than Gun Tests most of the magazines are nothing but thinly disguised advertising copy.

I've always liked The Box O' Truth where the motto is "Shooting stuff is fun". Old_Painless uses a lot of different guns and sees what happens when you put myths in The Box of Truth. How far do shotgun pellets really spread? Will birdshot penetrate walls? Can a Buick stop a bullet? Is hand-loaded ammunition really more accurate than cheap commercial stuff? In its specialized way the information is very useful. And watching him shoot stuff really is fun.

Today's find was Ballistics by the Inch. A physicist, a book conservator and a gun geek don't walk into a bar. But they do test out a variety of ammunition in over a dozen calibers and barrel lengths from two to eighteen inches answering the question "How much does barrel length matter?" They document their experiments. They describe their protocols. They make their datasets available. They use ammunition that a real person might put in a self defense pistol. And they compare their idealized test gun (Thompson Contender with interchangeable barrels) to regular carry pieces. It isn't world-shaking. But it does answer a couple important questions with good science.


Jim Downey said...

Dan, thanks for the link and positive comments about our ballistic research - it was an interesting project and it is almost as fascinating watching it propagate around the web.

Cheers -

Jim D.
Ballistics by the inch.

Dan Gambiera said...

Thank you for doing the work, Jim. This is the kind of research which really makes a difference for gun owners.

If you haven't found it yet, check out Steve Perry's blog, He's written it up, too.