Monthly Archives: August 2011

Black Hawk Bagel Boys – First all Jewish Team at Nationals

Baruch Hashem, the Black Hawk Bagel Boys were able to assemble a squad and compete at the 2011 National Matches in Camp Perry, and are believed to be the first all Jewish team ever assembled for that match! Mazal Tov!

The team was comprised of Randy Schwartz, Steve Rocketto, Don Lerner, Hap Rocketto, Larry Hoffman, and Dennis Lindenbaum. Dennis Lindenbaum blogged about the Camp Perry experience as well, so visit pronematch.com to learn more.

If you can’t make out the logos on the shirt (click on the picture for full-size), here they are:


Bring enough gun.

I recently had a conversation with a former IDF sniper who has emigrated to the US and is considering a handgun purchase, and possibly (hopefully!) getting involved in target shooting. We got around to discussing rifle calibers. I’ll spare readers the gory details, but he described his firsthand observations of the superior stopping power of .30 caliber rounds versus .223. Put simply, hit a man with a .308 based round and he goes down. You might need several hits with .223.

Stopping power of a given bullet in a given cartridge in a given firearm is a complex topic, but one good metric is the simple physics formula for muzzle energy, E=.5mv^2. For a modern standard-issue US military .223/5.56mm round, somewhere in the ballpark of 1,282 ft·lbf (1,738 J) is typical. Back in WWII, our boys carried .30-06 Springfield rounds with over double that energy, 2,820 ft·lbf (3,820 J). A modern .308/7.62×51 round used by snipers and some infantry semi-auto rifles packs roughly 2,619 ft·lbf (3,551 J). By comparison, Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum handgun packed around 1,200 ft·lbf (1,600 J) of energy, slightly less than a .223 rifle. The 9mm handgun your local sheriff caries has, at very best, 519 ft·lbf (704 J) of energy, less than half the power of a M16/AR-15 .223-based rifle.

I don’t hunt, nor have I ever served in the military. In my mind, a bullet is nothing more than either a) the caliber required by a rule, or b) a piece of equipment you try to use to gain an aerodynamic or weight advantage in the wind. For instance, if you shoot NRA Smallbore, you shoot .22LR by rule, and all match-grade ammo pretty much uses the same weight and shape bullet. If you shoot NRA High Power Service Rifle class, you shoot .223 or .308 depending on which model rifle you use, and you can experiment with different bullet weights and styles in your rifle and how the wind plays with them. In the Match Rifle class, you can shoot whatever caliber you want, and new caliber/cartridges come along every few years with bullets that have less drop and are more slippery in the wind. Some matches, such as Palma, require competitors to use certain bullets so there is no “arms-race” among competitors to gain an advantage through bullets with better aerodynamics. There is actually more to bullet choice, but to me as a target shooter, it never really crossed my mind that different bullets are more lethal than others in war or for hunting.

In fact, up until a few weeks ago I never had handled rifle bullets larger than .223 because I had no need to. But now with the Garand (and some .308 projects on the way…) I have had to buy some .308 bullets and got to see .223 and .308 side-by-side for the first time, as in the picture above. Yeah, compared to the .223 the .308 is a beast.

I find it interesting that in WWII and Korea our soldiers used the .30-06 cartridge in the Garand with .308 bullets, with lethal effect. When full auto infantry rifles became the military’s way of thinking in Viet Nam (i.e. “spray and pray” usage of rifles by soldiers as opposed to training soldiers to be precise marksmen”), the switch was made to .223 because a soldier can carry more of it, pound for pound. And surprise, surprise, .223 ammo is cheaper than .308. There is, apparently, some serious questioning of that thinking going on, and it seems many troops would rather be armed with a .308 based rifle than a .223, and the .223 has been especially disappointing in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t know if it’s true, but some web sites report that the .223 was designed to wound, not kill, the idea being that by wounding an enemy soldier you also remove two of his fellows from the battlefield who have to carry him away. That thinking, if true, assumes a certain set of values in your enemy, who if he has those values, makes you wonder why you’re fighting him in the first place. Today, I don’t think our enemies and Israel’s enemies have those kinds of values. Much better then, in my estimation, to arm our soldiers with a rifle designed to kill with one shot. And further, to revitalize the concept of a marksman versus a full auto random lead dispenser.

Meanwhile, as a target shooter, I like the idea that that a .308 gives me an extra .08″ diameter over a .223, and therefore more likely that a shot near a line (well, within .04″) will break the line and give me an extra point! Also the extra velocity and weight helps keep the wind from blowing my 10 into a 9! Mazal tov!

Smallbore Prone Match Progress(?)

This weekend I shot another NRA Smallbore Prone match. Going in, I was feeling confident that I had ironed out some position issues and would improve on my disastrous last outing.

The first course of fire consisted of 20 shots at 50 yards, and 20 and 100. I finished with a 394/400 (98.5%) with 16x. I even cleaned one of the 2 100 yard targets. The momentum continued into the next course of fire, 40 shots at 100 yards. On my second set of 20 shots, I almost cleaned both the top and bottom targets, but somehow an 8 (gasp!) appeared on my target out of nowhere…still not sure if it was me or a flyer. I finished the 100 yard stage with 397/400 (99.25%) with 16x. At that point I was shooting an 98.875% with the possibility to make an Expert class score! The NRA small bore outdoor prone classifications are:

Master…………………………………. 99.50 and above

Expert …………………………………. 98.50 to 99.49

Sharpshooter ……………………….. 96.50 to 98.49

Marksman……………………………. Below 96.50

The final stage of the match consisted of 40 shots at 50 meters. Unfortunately, the wheels sort of came off at that point. I imploded with a 386/400 (96.5%) with 18x, finishing with an aggregate of 1177/1200 (98%) 50x.

So what happened? What didn’t! Primarily a failure to plan and prepare.

  1. The prone match moves slowly, starting at 9am and finishing around 1pm, which means it goes through my normal lunch hour. I didn’t bring any snacks, and really found myself hungry and tired by the time the final leg rolled around. I should have brought healthy snacks.
  2. It was also super hot, and I probably should have drank more water.
  3. Also, the sweatshirt I wear under my coat was soaked by the last leg, which kind of makes you feel like you are moving inside the jacket and sling (not sure if you really do or not, but it sure feels that way) and is sort of distracting. I should have brought a second dry sweatshirt.
  4. Also, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to re-wet my eyes with the moisture drops I like to use 15 or 20 minutes before a match. I wear glasses not contacts, but I feel the drops keep the eyes lubricated and supple throughout a match. So I did this just seconds before time started, used 2 drops per eye instead of 1, then had to wait 10 minutes for my eyes to dry to the point I could see anything but a blurry sight picture. So I felt rushed to get my 20 shots off in time. I should have remembered if it ain’t broke don’t fix it after I had just shot a phenomenal (for me at least) 100 yard match!
  5. After my first bad shots, I should have recognized the signs of anticipating recoil. When I shoot high power, I visualize myself just absorbing the recoil. I remind myself before every shot at the end of the match where 60 shots and explosions inches from your face start to take their toll and bait your anticipation/flinch reflex. But shooting smallbore, I didn’t think about it. But after 80 something shots of .22LR, even that whippersnapper of a cartridge will start to cause anticipation. I didn’t recognize the problem until too late, and should have used visualization at the end of the match to avoid it. I discovered the problem on my last 5 shots of the match, visualized absorbing the recoil and proceeded to shoot a 50 with 3x.
  6. Although it wasn’t a huge factor, up until the last leg of the match there was a bench rest shooter on the range who had a flag set up, and I was using that flag to read the wind. I don’t have much experience reading mirage, and just prefer flags. Well, that shooter left for the day and took his flag with him, so I was screwed for the last leg of the match. I need to practice reading mirage.
There are a few more things I could improve on, for example I seem to end up shooting 9′s on the first shot transitioning to a new target. Unlike high power where all shots are on the same target, in a small bore prone match you move between 4 targets at 50 yards and meters, and 2 targets at 100. I don’t like moving, and the position change distracts me from just taking the shot. I need to not think about that so much and just change and shoot.

Otherwise, I’m happy with the performance. I had zero practice with that rifle for a couple weeks, and still came in and improved on last month’s score. Next month it would be nice to shoot an Expert score!

Jewish Marksman Gets a CMP Garand

Jews were not saved from complete annihilation during the Holocaust by diplomats, negotiations, or international sanctions. When American troops liberated the Jews from concentration camps during WWII, in their hands was a rifle which General Patton described as “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” It was that rifle, the M1 Garand, and the powerful .30-06 rounds it fired that saved the Jews. The rifle served American and other armies for many years, by the US as late as Viet Nam. Interestingly, supposedly there are a few M1 Garands or its little brother the M1 Carbine floating around still used by tour guides in Israel!

My local NRA/CMP High Power Rifle club has informal Garand matches, and there are other nearby clubs that hold official CMP matches. So I thought it would be fun to own a piece of history, as well as join in those matches. Getting a rifle from the CMP seemed like a no-brainer. On its website, the CMP describes itself:
The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is a national organization dedicated to training and educating U. S. citizens in responsible uses of firearms and airguns through gun safety training, marksmanship training and competitions. The CMP is a federally chartered 501(c)(3) corporation that places its highest priority on serving youth through gun safety and marksmanship activities that encourage personal growth and build life skills. Links on this page will lead you to more detailed information about the CMP and its programs.

Statutory mission. The federal law enacted in 1996 (Title 36 U. S. Code, 0701-40733) that created the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. (CPRPFS, the formal legal name of the CMP) mandates these key “functions for the corporation:

(1) To instruct citizens of the United States in marksmanship;

(2) To promote practice and safety in the use of firearms;

(3) To conduct competitions in the use of firearms and to award trophies, prizes, badges, and other insignia to competitors.

The law specifically states: In carrying out the Civilian Marksmanship Program, the corporation shall give priority to activities that benefit firearms safety, training, and competition for youth and that reach as many youth participants as possible.

Yes, you read that correctly, federal law empowers and requires the CMP to promote rifle marksmanship and sell off surplus rifles to the public (the actual statute is here)! By law, the rifles, including the M1, must be sold at “fair market value.” Indeed, the prices are very fair, and if you buy a CMP Garand you get a great value for your money. The rifles are sold by grade, with price varying accordingly. I decided to go with a CMP “Special” grade, which should hopefully prove to be a good shooter.
Ironically, in 2009 the South Korean government announced plans to sell around 100,000 M1s to American collectors, the rifles having been originally given to the South Koreans by the US Government, but the Obama administration is blocking the South Korean sales of these M1s. As the Washington Times editorial argues:
It’s hard to see how these M1 rifles could be considered risky when they already are offered for sale by the U.S. government through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. In fact, the federally sponsored CMP puts on summer camps that teach boys and girls how to handle the Garand properly and safely. In the past seven years, there hasn’t been a single accident. Many of the participants go on to serve their country or take part in shooting sports at the collegiate and Olympic level. It’s more likely that the administration is seeking to win the admiration of gun grabbers.

I will report more as I learn to operate and shoot this rifle, as at this stage I haven’t the slightest idea how to operate it yet. I am definitely looking forward to the stouter recoil of the .30-06 cartridge over the .233 I currently shoot in the AR-15.

Understanding Jewish Opposition to Gun Ownership Part 2

In Part 1 (click here) I advanced the premise that Jewish opposition to private gun ownership is not so much a function of being Jewish, per se, but rather a function of general “progressive” liberalism which most American Jews identify with. This post will attempt to lay the groundwork for explaining the diversity of views within the Jewish community on gun ownership, and the natural correlation with varying political views.

Within American Jewry there are three major “streams” of belief: reform, conservative, and orthodox. For my purposes here, two will suffice, we can consider only reform and combine conservative and reform into “conservadox.” The Wikipedia description of reform Judaism hints at where reform Jews will likely fall on gun control:

In general, it maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and should be compatible with participation in the surrounding culture. Many branches of Reform Judaism hold that Jewish law should be interpreted as a set of general guidelines rather than as a list of restrictions whose literal observance is required of all Jews.

Ergo, if the “surrounding culture” holds a certain belief, then very likely you can find a Reform Rabbi who will preach it as if it were a Jewish principle, even if the position is not well supported in light of the holy scriptures and centuries of scholarly comment. “Compatible” as used in the definition is code-speak for “politically correct.” Just as a progressive judicial activist views the Constitution as a “living” document, Reform Rabbis view the Torah (Old Testament) the same way. Most Jews in the US identify themselves as belonging to the Reform movement.

Conservative and Orthodox Jews approach secular society differently than Reform Jews. From Wikipedia on the Conservative movement:
The term conservative was meant to signify that Jews should attempt to conserve Jewish tradition, rather than reform or abandon it, and does not imply the movement’s adherents are politically conservative.

And Orthodox:

Orthodox Judaism’s central belief is that Torah, including the Oral Law, was given directly from God to Moses and applies in all times and places.

(Now, even among Jews you will find a lot of debate about these definitions, and how we label ourselves. A Jew might belong to a Reform synagogue, but actually hold beliefs that are traditionally “orthodox” and cringe at his Rabbi’s liberal sermons, yet he might also eat pork in violation of the kosher laws. And an Orthodox Jew has been known now and again to marry a non-Jew, which is perfectly acceptable by the Reform movement but a no-no by the orthodox. Frankly, I don’t think an American Jew who labels himself as “politically conservative” can be, deep down, a Reform Jew because the American conservative movement is steeply rooted in traditional Judeo-Christian values…nonetheless you will meet politically conservative Jews who consider themselves Reform Jews, primarily because they don’t keep kosher and sometimes work on Saturdays. To me, the observance of rituals are not the true test, rather, the foundations of one’s beliefs are the more relevant standard. To me, if you’re a Jew and politically conservative, then you really aren’t a reform Jew despite how you label yourself. And if you’re a secular progressive (e.g. abortion on demand), then you aren’t a conservative or orthodox Jew no matter what you label yourself. Granted, its all semantics, but I’m trying to peel away the layers of the onion for the non-Jewish reader.)

So generally speaking, within Reform Judaism there is a tendency, if not pressure, to conform Judaism to secular society. Whereas, for conservative and orthodox Jews, the idea is that secular society would gain much by adopting traditional Jewish values, as G-d gave them to Moses. For the most part, conservative and orthodox Torah values are highly compatible with conservative Christian values, which is why conservative and orthodox Jews feel a political kinship with evangelical Christians, especially on issues surrounding Israel. Reform Jews, who have, so to speak, hitched their wagon to secular progressives, are of course bothered by conservative evangelical Christians, who as Obama voiced for all secular progressives, “cling to guns or religion.” Reform Jews, like secular progressives, have a history of indifference or outright anti-Zionism when it comes to Israel issues.

Hopefully this post gives the non-Jewish reader a bit more flavor for the idea that the majority of Jews in the US belong to the Reform movement, which by definition seeks to harmonize itself with contemporary secular society and treat the Torah as a “living” document much the same way that some Supreme Court justices believe the Constitution should be interpreted to create harmony with contemporary progressive sentiment. The recent Heller decision illustrated the way the conservative majority carefully examined the intent of the framers of the Constitution through the lens of history and the philosophical views of the day, whereas the liberal judicial activists sought to interpret the plain text of the Second Amendment into something other than what it actually says. The exercise parallels the way a Reform Jew and a Conservadox Jew would read the Torah.

I hope I have not offended any one with this post, I am not the one to say which branch of Judaism is “correct,” for as the Talmud asks, “how do you know that your blood is redder than his, perhaps his blood is redder than yours?”

In the next post, I’ll discuss how the different branches of Judaism discussed above interpret the Torah as to private gun ownership.