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Over at thetruthaboutguns.com blog, fellow Jew Robert Farago polled his readers’ thoughts on long range rifle shooting. The poll was inspired by a previous post on that same blog by an author who successfully taught a new shooter to make 750 yard hits on his first day of shooting. Robert muses as to whether that outcome suggests that “today’s modern rifles, gear and ammo makes distance marksmanship a doddle.”
The problem with his statement lies with the meaning the present day “gun-enthusiast” community gives to the word “marksmanship.” By “gun-enthusiast” I refer to people who do not actually compete in shooting sports or seriously train as professional gunfighters. I think the standard for what gun-enthusiasts consider marksmanship today is vastly different from what it meant a few decades ago. Today, many seem comfortable to judge marksmanship by what can be achieved under very controlled and stable conditions. Whereas, a few decades ago, the gun-enthusiast community seemed to have a better sense that marksmanship is judged by what can be achieved under unstable, dynamic, and uncontrollable situations. So what changed? Quite simply, the background, experience and knowledge level of the crowd.
Weekends at the local ranges used to consist primarily of people with a lifetime of shooting experience, often with some hunting, competition, or military experience under their belt. These folks understood that any schlemiel can shoot decently from a shooting bench, but it is quite another matter when a) the shooter is moving, b) time is of the essence, c) the target is moving, d) the wind is blowing or e) all of the above. They understood that a shooter from a bench can hit a 750 yard target, but miss a deer at 75 feet if he hasn’t the real skill. Those people are still a component of the gun-enthusiast community, but their voices are being drowned out. For the past decade or so, the prevalent fad at the public ranges has been what some call the “tacticool” role-playing game, where fun at the range consists of mimicking the firearms of special forces soldiers, SWAT officers, FBI agents, etc. A day at the range for many of these folks is standing stationary with a black semi-automatic pistol with a laser sight, making two handed shots at targets 7 yards away or less. Good “marksmanship” is the ability to keep most of the shots somewhere on the bad guy (yes a shoulder or wrist hit counts) on the target. If rifles are shot, they are AR-15s, used with the rifle supported on some kind of bench set up, and almost always with some sort of scope that likely cost more than the rifle. A spin-off of the tacticool genre is the wildly popular “Zombie” theme, which as best I can tell means changing the black semi-auto guns to some kind of neon green color, and shooting at targets with Zombie-themed imagery.
Very few of these people go on to actually train or compete in tactical-inspired shooting disciplines like IPSC or IDPA, where “marksmanship” means not only speed, but scoring hits on actual “kill zone” sizes, all while having to actually move around like a tactical “operator” might, and sometimes with moving and dynamic targets. Many of them have no idea that a sling is for more than just carrying a rifle (and most don’t even own a sling), and without a bench from which to shoot their rifle, I’m not sure they would know how to hold it. Sure, from the bench they can drill .5″ groups, but ask them to stand and shoot the rifle unsupported, and suddenly you’ll see off-paper misses.
Don’t get me wrong, recreational shooting is supposed to be fun and I do not judge anyone for how they choose to spend their time and money at the range. Frankly, those cowboy action shooters who get dressed up in period clothes using period guns seem to be having the most fun out of all the shooting disciplines, and more power to them. But lowering the standard for “marksmanship” is not helpful or positive to those of us who know that even a 0.0MOA laser rifle with a laser sight and ballistics computer in the wrong hands will loose to a “real” marksman with a 30 year old Remington 700. Or, as my readers know, with an 80 year old K98 Mauser. When I bought my current .308 match gun, there was never really any doubt that it was capable of 1MOA or less at 600 yards from the bench. But it took me nearly a year to prove I could do it from the prone slung position, with irons.
The problem, as I see it, is that statements like Robert’s could have the effect that other gun-enthusiasts, and the non-shooting public, will not appreciate the incredible skill and practice it takes to shoot competitively away from the bench. They will wrongly assume that shooting for distance while standing, kneeling, sitting, or prone is easy, provided you just buy the right (and expensive) gun. They will look at Olympic-style and other shooting sports as silly, and have little interest in developing dynamic shooting skills.
I think the proof in this is that most gun-enthusiasts, although passionate about guns and shooting, today probably cannot name a single member of the Team USA shooting team or know that the National Championships take place every summer at Camp Perry in Ohio. Most do not know what NRA High Power or Bullseye is all about, and probably wouldn’t be interested. It’s not that they might not be interested or up to the challenge of trying to compete in those sports, but rather, they’ll just assume it’s all about buying the right expensive gun, and not about hours of developing the fine motor skill and above all, incredible mental discipline. So instead of joining me on the rifle range for a dose of Zen, they’ll sign up for a ridiculous yoga class…
For a great blog that keeps its marksmanship ‘old school,’ check out http://artoftherifleblog.com/ which the author describes as “A Shooter’s Quest for Excellence in Marksmanship.” Emphasis on the word “quest,” which is a concept seemingly lost on the modern gun-enthusiast community. Too many of them think they’ve already arrived, because they bought the same gun used by the Navy Seals.
Oh well, as for me I guess I’ll just keep doddling away.
More and more intelligent Americans have finally opened their eyes to the facts, and come to realize that George Zimmerman was not a racist, and that race played no role in his defensive shooting of Trayvon Martin. In an attempt to save face, many are now blaming Florida’s gun laws, claiming that so-called “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws need to be “re-examined” or repealed. In the interest of justice, let’s “examine,” and where possible, compare to Jewish law.
First and foremost, we need to define what we mean by a “stand your ground” (SYG) law. What we are really talking about is whether or not a person has a duty to attempt a reasonable retreat before using deadly force in self-defense of an objectively reasonable perception of imminent death or great bodily harm. This is sometimes called a “duty to retreat.” It will be helpful to understand the history and development of the “duty to retreat” in order to have an informed and thoughtful opinion.
In the old English common law (from which much of US law was derived), a person was required to retreat “to the wall,” so to speak, before using deadly force to defend himself. That English common law developed in the feudal days when men settled drunken disputes in taverns with swords. The idea was that if a man pulled a sword on you, you were required to, if possible, retreat until your back was “to the wall” before you killed him. The hope was that perhaps the man who drew his sword would have second thoughts, or be so drunk that he couldn’t advance on you without stumbling over, and perhaps a life would be saved this way. It was also thought that perhaps a retreat would eliminate fights and deaths where there is some initial misunderstanding or mistake as to whether one is actually being attacked or not. It was thought that a defender under actual attack wouldn’t be giving up too much by initially retreating, sword play being what it was.
Over time, the common law duty to retreat proved to have many problems. In many US states the concept that a person should be required to retreat from an attack within their own home by a burglar is considered morally repugnant. The idea is that a person’s home is their castle, a quasi-sacred place where a person should always feel safe and free to move about. When another human being violates that sacred social norm by breaking and entering, in most states the law is that within the home, a person has no duty to retreat before using deadly force to defend themselves from deadly force. This is often called the “Castle Doctrine,” and in some states it is extended not just to a residential home, but a person’s place of business and sometimes their vehicle. Everything I have read suggests that the Castle Doctrine comports with Jewish law. In his 2004 treatise, The Torah and Self Defense, David Kopel cites Maimonides:
The great Jewish legal scholar Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, a/k/a “Rambam” (1153-1204)) takes a more expansive view of self-defense than does Rashi. Maimonides agrees with all the earlier scholars that the rationale for killing the burglar is the presumption of danger. Specifically, the rationale is explained as “[the burglar]was thought to enter with an intention to murder someone.”
The fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah (“Repetition of the Torah”) by Maimonides elaborated on the law regarding self-defense against burglars:
7. When a person breaks into [a home] —whether at night or during the day—license is granted to kill him. If either the homeowner or another person kills him, they are not liable.
The majority of US states adopt some sort of laws that can fairly be called a Castle Doctrine, but vary by state to state. Some states do not require that burglar actually attack you in your home before you can kill him, some do. But generally speaking, in many states you are not required to hide and cower in your bedroom or bathroom, rather, you may confront the burglar if you feel that is the best strategy under the circumstances and not be second-guessed later by law enforcement or a jury.
Thus, what a SYG law does, in practice, is extend the Castle Doctrine to the public square. To many people, having no duty to retreat and cower within your own home is intuitive and morally fair. Extending that doctrine to the grocery store is another question, where the Castle Doctrine is based on there being something sacred about the privacy and serenity of a person’s home. The thinking is that although a person may police their home as they please, society ought to be able to impose restrictions on a person’s self-defense in the public square.
The critical issue though is not whether a person should, morally or otherwise, first attempt retreat when faced with a seemingly deadly attack. The question, supposing the law does impose a duty to retreat, is how do we determine after the fact whether or not the attempt at retreat was sufficient?
Today we had a “practice match” to get the local shooters headed to the Nationals at Camp Perry ready (I’m not going this year). I started the day rather poorly, and could not figure out what was off. I eventually figured out that my front sight post was loose with the match almost over. Oh well, I tightened it down and things went back to normal when I hit the 600 yard stage.
The sight was dialed in for the 600 yard prone stage. I was eager to see if the concentricity tool had done anything to improve the ammo. Luckily, the way the pit rotation worked out, I was able to take a picture of my target with the pasters marking my hits. You see, the way NRA High Power matches work is that competitors take turns doing “pit duty” behind a safety berm, where they raise and lower the targets, marking hits with a large colored disk in between each shot. This is because it would be almost impossible to see your hits at 600 yards without a humongous spotting scope, but an inexpensive 20x spotting scope can easily pick up the marking disk. Well anyway, usually I never go back to the pits after my 600 yard stage, but this time I did and was able to see my group as opposed to just one shot at a time. For perspective, the 10 ring is 12″ wide and the X is 6″.
So I ended up shooting the same exact score as last time (a personal best at 600 yards), a 193, which is pretty good. I had one mental lapse and shot a 7, and man, if I could have that shot back I could have done 195 or better and been in High Master territory. Even if that 7 had broken the 8 line I would have had a personal best at 194. Oh well. I also got a little lucky where that high 9 just barely stayed in. It was also very hot and humid, so I was soaked with sweat under my shooting jacket, which makes the sling and shoulder feel unstable–I found myself breaking position to reset things more often than usual. Otherwise, as you can see the group is relatively tight in the 10 ring. It was just one of those days where the shots just circled the X ring. So I think the concentricity tool may have helped slightly at 600 yards, maybe .25MOA or so. One thing I am now convinced of is that my rifle and ammo are capable of shooting a “clean” (all 10s), take out the human error and the rifle seems to want to shoot 1MOA or less at 600 yards. I just need to make that happen. The load I’m using is a 155gr Nosler HPBT bullet, with 43 grains of 4064, which is a mild load.
It was an overcast day and we got all are shooting in before the storms came, here is a view of the range with the targets hidden in the pits. You can see the wind flag off to the left, very little wind, mile 3-5 mph gusts that I just waited out and shot during lulls:
The well-known Harvard law professor and attorney, Alan Dershowitz, opposes broad Second Amendment rights, and even private gun ownership. He has said, “I want to see semi-automatic weapons made illegal.” He has called the “Second Amendement an ‘anachronism’ because if America had the choice today it would not choose to be an ‘armed society.’” Shockingly, he has said, “it’s racist and it’s bigoted to say that guns are quintessentially American.” To his credit, unlike many on the left he takes his medicine like a man, stating “[w]hether or not we agree with the court’s reading of the Second Amendment’s highly ambiguous language, Heller is now the law, and Americans have the right to bear some arms under some circumstances.”
Some time ago I was gifted several boxes of Jewish themed books, including a book by Dershowitz called “Chutzpah,” published in 1991. The book discusses some of Dershowitz’s views on various contemporary Jewish topics, such as the status of Jews in American society, Antisemitic revisionism of the Holocaust, Israel’s right to exist, etc. After reading the book (full disclosure–I only read half the book), it is difficult to understand how a man like Dershowitz could fall on the anti-gun side.
In the first chapter of “Chutzpah” we learn that Dershowitz perceived that his childhood New York neighborhood of Borough Park “was free of any real violence … [r]eal crime –robbery, rape, murder — was nonexistent …” (p.38). It is certainly possible that this kind of upbringing, i.e. a perception of absolute safety and a surrounding anti-gun culture, might profoundly influence and bias a person’s way of thinking about self-defense and guns. But that bias is not insurmountable, especially by someone with Dershowitz’s intelligence. To overcome a bias, a person needs to do two things: a) acknowledge the bias, and b) be intellectually honest with the plain and simple facts. But it seems like Dershowitz makes neither effort.
To illustrate, ten years ago, Dershowtiz told the press that “he is not an expert on the Second Amendment and has never held a pistol.” Well that was honest. But has Dershowitz educated himself on Second Amendment issues since then? Judging by his recent statements, absolutely not. Dershowitz appeared on television earlier this year to “debate” John Lott, the preeminent authority on the “more guns = less crime” position. To put it mildly, Dershowitz made a complete ass of himself (download the mp3 Lott posts and judge for yourself), behaving as a wild, maniacal trial lawyer and not as a legal scholar. At the end of the exchange with Lott it is abundantly clear that a) Dershowitz had failed to actually read Lott’s work, b) Dershowitz had failed to do any research, clearly unaware that Lott’s work had withstood peer review and was supported by other respected scholars and their work, c) Dershowitz failed to investigate whether the NRA had funded Lott before making that defamatory accusation, and d) Dershowitz failed to investigate Lott’s personal background and views, which was, if anything, predisposed to conclude the opposite of where his research took him. One could dismiss Dershowitz’s extremely rude behavior with Lott as a Brooklynism, but more likely it was a defense mechanism Dershowitz threw up once he realized that Lott would destroy him intellectually on the issues, because I’ve seen Dershowitz speak before on issues he actually knows about, and he doesn’t behave like that.
So whatever cognitive biases and intellectual laziness Dershowitz has with respect to garden variety criminality and guns, that would not necessarily explain why it seems Dershowitz would not consider armed minorities as preventive of future Holocausts. In other words, even if believed the falsehood that less guns=less crime, one could still conclude that less guns=more genocide and general tyranny, and come out in favor of private gun ownership. This concept of net utility cannot possibly escape Dershowitz, who is a strong First Amendment advocate and scholar. And in his book, Dershowitz demonstrates a firm grasp of many issues surrounding the Holocaust.
Indeed, Dershowitz devotes an entire fifty-page chapter to his critical views on lax Nazi war criminal prosecutions, insufficient reparations, the poor state of Europeans’ education and quasi-denial of the tragedy, and festering European Antisemitism. Dershowitz brushes up against the issue of armed Jewish resistance only slightly. What emerges from his comments is a bizarre world view indeed, summed up as follows: Antisemitism is rampant, but Jews should nonetheless rely on those that hate Jews to protect Jews from those that hate Jews even more. For example, Dershowitz criticizes a Polish civil rights attorney who wrote about the Holocaust, “For us Poles, it was often an astounding spectacle to see several thousand Jews being led from a small town along a road several kilometers long, escorted only by a few guards (six, sometimes four) carrying ordinary rifles … Nobody escaped, although escape was no problem …. Perhaps they were held back by a gregarious instinct of that community.” (p.148). Dershowitz finds the observation to be a disturbing example of “blaming the victims,” as if “blame” cannot possibly be comparative. But blame is comparative, and a legal scholar like Dershowitz should know better. Certainly, the Nazis and other Europeans are to be blamed for instigating the Holocaust, but with the benefit of hindsight, the widespread lack of Jewish resistance and prior preparation exacerbated the damages. To further illustrate, on the same page Dershowitz complains of “the refusal of [wartime] Polish partisans to supply requested arms to Jewish partisans.” Again, of course that was reprehensible, but demonstrates that Jews would have been wise to have armed themselves at all times, or at least at the first signs of trouble, and not rely on the benevolence of others, especially people that dislike Jews! Why is that lesson not obvious to Dershowitz?
The fact the lesson escapes Dershowitz is even more shocking, given his intimate knowledge of Jewish history and imploring of American Jews to become engaged in American society:
… we have seen what can, and will, happen if we abdicate our power. Our history as a people demonstrates that we need more power than others to survive. That is one of the important lessons to be learned from thousands of years of anti-Jewish bigotry. … We are not the Swiss and our history is not the one of being left alone. It is one of constant victimization and repression. Without power – indeed, without power disproportionate to our numbers – we will continue to be victimized. We should strive to enhance our power on every front. … Power and strength bring with them greater options and more opportunities – to do both good and bad. … There is no virtue in … disproportionate weakness … There is morality in power, when that power is used to prevent the emergence of the kind of base evil that has so often victimized us (and others) in the absence of power. … As the survivors of the most thorough genocidal plot ever devised – and every living Jew is a survivor of Hitler’s Holocaust – we cannot afford to have the lessons of our history repeated on us. (p.128-129).
I realize that Dershowitz intends “power” to mean moral and social power, not fire power. But why exclude fire power, especially in the form of a modern hand gun or rifle? Why does a civil libertarian like Dershowitz, with full knowledge that every government known to man has eventually slaughtered innocent people, insist that fire power, the ultimate lever of power, should be left solely in the hands of government, and not the people themselves?
So to boil it down, I strongly suspect that Dershowitz views guns as “goyish,” and not Jewish. Dershowitz has made a career of opposing powerful goyishe things. His knee-jerk reaction then is to oppose guns. That’s my best guess, because nothing but a reactionary knee-jerk reaction can explain how an otherwise smart man can be so stupid.
Now, aside from having guns, I believe Jews should always have hope. This blog is supposed to be a Hall of Fame for Jews involved in the shooting sports and advancement of the Second Amendment– not a Hall of Shame. I hope that one day Dershowitz will do the heavy lifting of reading the literature and educate himself, actually go shooting a few times, overcome his biases and change his mind.
Yes Alan, the pen is mightier than the sword, but when the ink runs dry it’s nice to have a sword!
In response to several reader requests, I finally got around to taking a picture of my rifle (click the picture to enlarge). It is a Remington 700 action inside an Eliseo RTS tube stock. If you click on the picture and enlarge, you can see the features of the stock. The fore-end of the stock has a rail, where currently my hand stop is mounted, and I remove that and replace it with a wood block for off-hand shooting. The grip takes any AR-15 grip, I currently have a wood target grip I go used. The stock takes Accuracy International .308 magazines, I use 5 round mags for competition. You can see that the butt stock is angled and offset at the position that fits me, and weights attach to a post at the bottom of the butt stock. The top of the stock houses the rail where my rear sight sits, and the front sight is mounted on the front of the barrel that was turned down for the mount. Most importantly, the bolt rides under the cheek rest so I don’t have to move my head in rapid firing stages.
Longer version here:
I’m slowly getting accustomed to the new match rifle, this weekend we’ll see if some of my tweaks have helped. However, one of the issues it had did not affect shooting, but was potentially a safety issue. Click on the photo at left to enlarge, and you can see a difference in the primer strike pattern between the two cases on the left and the two on the right. The two on the left have a “crater” pattern, with a pronounced rising ridge. The two on the right have a nice primer “dimple” strike.
On most rifles, cases showing a cratered primer pattern indicate that the chamber pressure is getting high, perhaps dangerously high. However, in my case, I was using relatively mild hand loaded ammunition. In fact, when my gunsmith assembled the rifle and test fired with factory ammunition, he reported the same cratering.
I did some initial internet research, and found this is an increasingly common “problem” with Remmington bolts. Apparently, Remmington is making the firing pin holes larger than they used to, and what happens is that pressure from the fired round causes the metal case of the primer to “flow” inside the firing pin hole a bit. This is what happens with an over-pressured round in a “normal” rifle, but apparently it happens with Remmingtons with standard, safe pressure loadings. Most owners reported this as an annoyance, but nobody reported any problems caused by it. Rumor is that Remmington argues this makes primers less likely to pierce…I’m skeptical (both that they make this argument, and that it is correct). Looks can be deceiving, but it seems to me the primers on the left are more likely to pierce than the ones on the right where the primer cup is more intact. If a primer pierces you get hot gas directed in the wrong direction!
The problem I see is twofold besides potential for piercing. For one, now there is one less indicator that indeed a hand load round is over pressure limits…the cratering is a false positive. Second, which is not really a “problem”, but anybody who picks up your brass at a match will think your rounds are too hot. This happened to me, and the shooters next to me were concerned, and rightfully so…if my rifle blows up they are in the shrapnel zone! I convinced everyone my loads were light, but the cratering still bothered me.
So I ended up sending my bolt to Greg at Gretan Rifles. Greg does some kind bushing to the firing pin hole and turns the firing pin, basically making hole smaller. He had my bolt back to me in under a week and everything worked great, as you can see the primer strikes on the right from the exact same load. He even has a web page to explain the process, although he was more than happy to explain it over the phone. It was $82, arguably unnecessary, but to me it is worth the piece of mind, and I’m very happy with the result.
As loyal readers know, last month I finally teased an Expert class score out of the Israeli Mauser, and decided to end that adventure. I have basically been out of “serious” competition for almost a year, but had a lot of fun and changed some local club members’ perspectives on vintage rifles. So this month it was back to business, sort of.