The Phenomenon of Modern Guns

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Ohg Rea Tone is all or nothing. He is educated and opinionated, more clever than smart, sarcastic and forthright. He writes intuitively - often disregarding rules of composition. Comment on his posts - he will likely respond with characteristic humor or genuine empathy. He is the real-deal.

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The Phenomenon of Modern Guns

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My age is classified in the category of Senior.  Does that by itself suggest anything about my understanding of modern guns?  No, it does not.  Just checking for any preconceived bias.  By chance I have owned guns in one form or another for about 35 years.  In 1976 I shot Marksman on a police combat course with a four inch stainless steel Ruger Security Six 357 Magnum.  That was a mouthful, but it points out that modern guns are very different than the arms defined in the 2nd Amendment.  And that was 35 years ago.  Modern guns of the 21st Century are just plain scary.

I should qualify that I live in rural Missouri.  I see farmers regularly hiking the land, unarmed and unafraid.  The bears and wolves are long gone.  The only predators around here are the McElroy’s.  Many years ago the locals set up a proper shooting range out by the town dump.  You would not know the dump was around – it is over the hill and through the woods.  A proper shooting range has adequate mounds of dirt between ranges, all targets are located in front of hills – the dirt catches the spent round.  Our range has three course choices, 25 yards, 50 yards, and 100 yards.  People practice with hand guns on the shorter ranges and often sight in their new deer rifle on the 100 yard range.  It works pretty well for everyone.

In the 1970’s the magnum was the big deal for gun enthusiasts.  Our society had become mobile, the bad guys drove muscle cars and the police shifted from the standard 38 caliber to the more powerful 357 Magnum.  A 357 can literally crack the engine block on an automobile.  Back in the 1970’s my friend had a re-loader and we enjoyed evenings reloading ‘wad cutters’ for target practice.  Both of us were card carrying members of the ACLU and the NRA.  At that time there was no conflict of interest.

So life went on and this past summer I took two of my grandsons out for target practice.  They were both 9 years old.  It was important to me to be the person introducing the children to guns – I wanted to be sure they had a proper understanding of gun safety.  I had not been to the target range in about twenty years – and I was shocked at the changes.  The geography was the same, 25, 50, and 100 yard ranges.  But the people and the guns were entirely different.

I noticed right away that the range was more crowded than in the past.  There were folks there with no shirts, prison type tattoos, and some serious firepower.  (After I retired I taught an evening class to prison parolees.) Their weapons were semiautomatic handguns, mostly 9 mm and 45 cal.  One guy was bragging to his friends about the kick of his new 44 magnum.  There were assault rifles on nearly every shooting bench.  I’ll grant that these were probably not outfitted for full automatic use, but they were not grandpa’s deer rifles either.

Back in the days of reloading we used to scavenge lead from the dirt behind the targets.  We could melt it down and pour new bullets.  Those were great times of frugally pursuing all aspects of gun ownership.  When I took my grandsons to the range I took three coffee cans so we could each scavenge some lead.  There was very little lead in those hills.  What I found were all manner of jacketed shells.  Copper and steel are molded around the lead to prevent the collapse of the bullet – they are designed for penetration – and I am talking about penetrating body armor.  While the boys were fascinated and asking many questions about the variety of spent bullets – I was aghast at the change in the shooting public.

The people I saw at the range in the summer of 2008 were serious high powered gun enthusiasts.  They were not there for simple target practice.  They were not there for gun safety practice.  They hardly understood the rules of a proper shooting range.  They were there because they wanted to feel the power of their weapons.  They wanted to feel the power and they wanted to find out what kind of destruction their weapons could inflict.

These men did not have new cars or trucks: I would even venture that some of their weapons cost more than their transportation.  Shooting a round of the very expensive ammunition for their weapons would cost more than filling their gas tank.  I am not talking about one or two of the many folks at the range – Perhaps all of these men fit in the category of extreme gun owners.

I don’t understand the allure of these weapons.  I once shot a deer at 300 yards with a 1935 bolt action Remington 30-06.  Not a bad shot for a seasonal shooter.  I am an advocate of wildlife management by granting State Licenses and state regulation of hunting seasons.  We ran all of the predators off so now we have to manage the deer population.  It is what it is – I am not making any judgment about what was done before – only about what needs be done now.

I have taken many young men hunting, teaching the proper use and safety with guns – and teaching them to respect the wildlife.  There must be a specific purpose in shooting an animal – most notably for food and wildlife management.  I have taught young men to field dress a deer, and we have completely butchered two in my experience.

The folks I saw at the shooting range in the summer of 2008 were not interested in wildlife management.  They were not going deer hunting, or any other kind of wildlife hunting, with their modern weapons and equally modern ammunition.

There was a time when the National Rifle Association was honorable and necessary.  They were a sure place to turn for gun safety and conservation management.  Today the NRA exists to protect the folks I saw at the shooting range, down by the dump, in rural Missouri.

11, April, 2009.   A follow up post has been written here.

There Are 24 Responses So Far. »

  1. […] this more lenthy article from an old man who doesn’t get it: I don’t understand the allure of these weapons.  I once shot a deer at 300 yards with a 1935 […]

  2. I don’t understand the alure of these weapons.
    I think there are a LOT of things you don’t understand. Did you even go up and talk to the shooters you say were there to “feel the power of their weapons” or did you just make that snap judgment? And where do you get off thinking you’re NOT an extreme gun owner yourself with all those evil high-powered sniper rifles capable of killing a man from a whole 1/3 of a mile away?

  3. The people I saw at the range in the summer of 2008 were serious high powered gun enthusiasts. They were not there for simple target practice. They were not there for gun safety practice. “They hardly understood the rules of a proper shooting range. They were there because they wanted to feel the power of their weapons. They wanted to feel the power and they wanted to find out what kind of destruction their weapons could inflict.

    These men did not have new cars or trucks: I would even venture that some of their weapons cost more than their transportation. Shooting a round of the very expensive ammunition for their weapons would cost more than filling their gas tank. I am not talking about one or two of the many folks at the range – Perhaps all of these men fit in the category of extreme gun owners.”

    Did you take time to talk with any of these people? I mean I garner from your intense divining that you understood their hearts intent on owning these weapons that you must have talked with them at length while they drooled over their weapons.

    Your standard “assault rifle” shoots anywhere between a .223 round or 7.62 X39. 30-06 rounds or .308 rounds are much more expensive than either of those rounds. They are the ones that hunters mostly use in the field. I am sorry you feel scared that people own guns you feel are “extreme”, but let me add that your feelings and your judgment of what is extreme is not a good watermark for the citizenry to own weapons. Indeed I would say your 30-06 deer killer round is more of a threat than anything that proceeds out of a semi-automatic AR-15 or AK-47. Indeed, it was the round of choice used in WWII (M1 Garand). Look I can understand if you feel some reservation concerning those weapons, but My advise to you is to humble yourself and maybe actually take the time to talk with the people you deride, and maybe actually squeeze a few rounds from their guns. Who knows maybe you might enjoy it? I mean you won’t even have to kill a deer to do it!

  4. So you are OK with some types of guns but not others? That makes no sense, all guns are meant for one purpose only, and that is to kill. Kill humans or animals, it doesn’t matter. You could murder a small child on the street with a single shot rifle. You admit that some guns are dangerous but seriously think that old guns are not? All guns need to be banned. A quick google search revealed that your “1935 bolt action Remington 30-06” could easily load armor peircing ammo designed to penetrate ballistic vests. You can even order it over the internet. You can’t be in the middle of the gun debate, you are either on the right side or the wrong side. If you do not agree that all guns should be banned than you are on the wrong side.

  5. Good debate – thanks folks. My reservation came primarily from the types of ammunition being used – it is expensive and is not necessary for any type of hunting.

    I have a gun cabinet, filled with shotguns and rifles. I have no objection to gun ownership. But given the last decade of insanity with guns in America it strikes me that we could find some common compromise.

    The types of guns I saw at the range were impractical for anything other than target practice or war. We have real problems in America and we need to seek rational solutions.

  6. So I guess you didn’t talk to those gun owners.

    The types of guns I saw at the range were impractical for anything other than target practice or war.
    Sez you. People who know better don’t agree.
    http://www.huntingmag.com/guns_loads/phsar_022707/

  7. As a matter of convenience I do not bother talking to people who use medicinal marijuana while shooting guns.

    What are those guns used for other than target practice or war?

  8. So do you think all semi-auto rifle owners toke up before they go to the range? Sure sounds that way to me.

  9. Good grief.

    Got news for you, old-timer.

    Your Remington “bolt-action” 30-06 is nothing more than the civilian version of that new-fangled, rapid-fire, evil weapon of war created specifically for military use and invented by the Mauser brothers.

    Hey, old-timer. You got any lever action rifles? Know anybody with a lever-action 30-30? You know what those are, right? Don’t you?

    Lever actions are nothing more than really rapid-fire evil military weapons of war, first perfected by some guy named Henry and marketed specifically to the US Army. Implement of massive human death, that new-fangled lever action, that’s all it’s good for.

    Hey old timer, ever hear of the Brown Bess musket? That was another implement of war designed specifically for unbelievably rapid reloading on the battlefield and for killing people. Impractical for even target practice, the Brown Bess musket was good only for killing people up close.

    Of course, the Second Amendment of the US Bill of Rights says that hunting deer, being necessary to put meat on the table, the right of the people to keep and bear politically-correct deer guns that don’t offend old-timers’ sensibilities shall not be infringed, right?

    I’ll put it very simply. Your Remington 30-06 is an evil weapon designed originally for war. In fact Remington 700s in .308 are still serving as military sniper rifles.

    There are people who want to ban your deer rifle because it is an evil military sniper rifle.

    A few years back, Ted Kennedy demanded on the floor of the US Senate that we ban all “armor-piercing” ammo that can defeat common bullet resistant vests.

    His “armor-piercing” caliber of choice? The 30-30….the most common chambering for that evil, lever-action, rapid fire gun originally designed for the military and sold specifically as a weapon of war.

    You figure it out.

  10. One more thing. Your Remington is in .30-06 caliber.

    The 30-06 was designed, from the beginning as a military cartridge.

    That means the 30-06 was designed for killing people.

    It was used to kill millions of people in World War I and World War II and even up the Vietnam war.

    It’s even more proof that you, yourself, Old Timer, are just another “extreme” gun owner who is quite proud of his skill with a military-style sniper rifle, that’s even chambered in a military-designed caliber made expressly for killing human beings, and has historically been used to kill millions upon millions of human beings.

    What kind of a nut are you, to own such an evil piece of technology designed only for war, and chambered in a caliber that was specifically designed for war?

    Figure it out yourself.

  11. When you where a young man there was some old geezer decrying the modern firepower that was available to you. After all, a .45-70 in a trap-door Springfield got the job done right well for him. Before that, he suffered the same disdain from a white-hair with a muzzle loader. Bow-hunters .. . atlatl users . . . and so on and so on.

    With all these changes and from this advanced vantage point, it seems kinda silly do be whining about what’s available to those “damn kids today”.

  12. If the naysayers are correct – then the option of a civilized society would be to ban all guns. But I think there is a workable compromise – the world is not all or nothing. .

  13. “Ladies and gentlemen…what we got here…is a failure…to communicate! Some people you just can’t reach!”

    Seems as though there are two sides to this conversation – the “BAN THE GUNS!” crazies and the “SHOT THAT F***ING THING!” nut jobs. It strikes me that the author of this post is neither. Not saying I totally agree with him, but give him a break, he’s old and scared.

    Seems as though this is really about which side of the political fence you land on. Liberals want the guns so that they can melt them and Conservatives want the guns so that they can shoot stuff with them. I am sure everyone reading this with a strong opinion either way disagrees with me, but if that is the case, let’s hear from a gun-toting, NRA member, free-use-of-guns-no-matter-what liberal…No? Right. How about a gun restricting, background check advocate, ban the automatic weapons conservative. No? Seems like politics to me. And no one is willing to consider the idea that maybe there is some value to not giving a gun to every crack head that wants one and equal value to men and women pursuing whatever harmless means of recreation suits there particular lifestyle.

    We have the right to bear arms, and we have the obligation to protect our citizenship from their harmful and destructive misuse. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

    Bunch of nutties.

  14. I have a lot in common with this letter writer. I too can be classified as a senior, and interestedly, I also qualified with a Ruger Security Six (2 & 3/4″ bbl) during the early 70’s as my off duty gun. And as time progressed I acquired some of these “high powered” weapons the writer finds offensive. As a police officer and deputy sheriff I believed that I should be equipped with, at least, equal to what is commonly found on America’s streets. Now, should I, as a law enforcement officer be allowed better protection for my family and myself than any other citizen, I think not. In a perfect world, there would be no need for such defensive weapons at all, but that’s not the world we live in. As far as the comment about these particular handguns, .45, etc. designed to penetrate ballistic vests, that just isn’t the case. Depending on the cartridge used, and the type of vest, some will, and others won’t go through. And I have Kevlar samples which were shot with a .44 Mag to prove it. As to the types of pistols and rifles commonly found on ranges today, they’re simply the progression of developments within the firearms industry. Times have changed, semi-auto pistols have usurped the revolvers, although I personally enjoy practicing with my “old time” wheel guns whenever I can. And rifles, like many other products, have undergone changes to their style and form. Most of these changes to enhance efficiency and accuracy.
    As far as the other shooters mentioned, I too, will make a generalized comment. Simply put, I find the most sociable, easy going people, the type more willing to help anyone else, on a shooting range than any other place I might frequent. And yes, some are tattooed, although not my personal choice, not an uncommon facet of today’s society.
    One of the greatest things about the shooting sports is the diversity of it’s disciples, and the people who enjoy them.
    I can only hope this letter writer will allow himself to enjoy our sport to his full advantage.

  15. “If the naysayers are correct – then the option of a civilized society would be to ban all guns. But I think there is a workable compromise – the world is not all or nothing.”

    Seriously? You want compromise on death? Your compromise will continue to result in the deaths of innocent children. You are no better than the “no shirt, prison type” thugs with “serious firepower” that you wrote about.

  16. Comment by Ohg Rea Tone on 8 April 2009:
    As a matter of convenience I do not bother talking to people who use medicinal marijuana while shooting guns.
    What are those guns used for other than target practice or war?

    I use my AR.308 for hunting deer & Antelope. My Ar-15 is used for home defense, prairie dogs,coyotes, and target practice. The same use as my bolt and lever guns, except they look different and scare ignorant people like you. Sorry to give you a dose of reality.
    By the way, the 2nd Amendment ain’t about huntin’:)

  17. The 2nd Amendment aint about mass murder or doing any damn thing you please. And the 1st Amendment is about me having the right to say what I want, regardless of the sensitive nature of gun owners.

  18. Oh yes…the “workable compromise.” Yep, seen that one before.

    That means we can keep all the guns the Old Geezer thinks are okay, but nothing else.

    Again, “Ohg Rea Tone” every single one of the guns you claim you own can be said to be good for only 1) target shooting and 2)warfare.

    Your bolt action rifles are all versions of the rapid fire Mauser rifles designed for war.

    Your lever actions are all versions of the rapid fire Henry rifle designed for war.

    Your pump-action shotguns are all variants of military shotguns used extensively in warfare, going back to the trenches of World War I.

    Every single gun you own. Every single gun you think is okay. Every single one is good for only 1) target shooting or 2) war.

    In fact, the vast majority of the guns that you think are perfectly okay were all originally designed as weapons of war first, before they came to be widely owned by American civlians.

    The 1st Amendment says the government can’t shut you up.

    The 1st Amendment doesn’t say you can’t be called ignorant of what you are talking about.

    And about the “mass murder,” uh, how many folks were killed by those guys you saw down at the range who offended your tender sensibilities?

  19. “The 2nd Amendment aint about mass murder or doing any damn thing you please. And the 1st Amendment is about me having the right to say what I want, regardless of the sensitive nature of gun owners.”

    True,

    Neither the of those amendments is a license to absolute freedom, but it is neither a haven for you to couch your fears under the guise of practicality. You do have a right to speak your mind, but that right does work both ways. I still think you need to do what I recommended earlier. Talk with these people, go shoot an AR-15 and see how it is. I mean unless you want to hide behind your ignorance of such issues……

  20. Hmmm…..”So you are OK with some types of guns but not others? That makes no sense, all guns are meant for one purpose only, and that is to kill.” End quote. I guess my guns will have to hang their head in shame….they haven’t killed or been shot at anyone in 40+ years.

    Since the survial rate for those shot with a hangun is upwards of 85%, I guess they fail your stated purpose also. Let’s see 280 million plus firearms in circulation in the US, 15K used in murders thats a .0000535% success rate. I guess they are all defective then.

  21. Comment by Ohg Rea Tone on 8 April 2009:
    The 2nd Amendment aint about mass murder or doing any damn thing you please. And the 1st Amendment is about me having the right to say what I want, regardless of the sensitive nature of gun owners.

    Really? Good thing you told me that, I always wondered what the real purpose of the 2A was.
    Your ridiculous comment shows what a completely irrational person you are when it comes to firearms.

  22. Our host complains about rounds that are jacketed and can pierce body armor.

    Here’s something for ya. There’s a reason that rounds are jacketed and it has nothing to do with piercing body armor. When the first cartridge rifles switched to smokeless powder, the increase in muzzle velocity was immense. Bullets were elongated to spin better, and spin faster. Unfortunately, unjacketed lead bullets would disintegrate under the stress of this rotation.

    It soon became apparent that jacketing the bullet also had salutory effects on reducing fouling of the weapon, and since the jacketed bullets were less likely to be deformed in normal handling, it also greatly increased their accuracy.

    What I’m seeing in the original post is a lot of ignorance about firearms (odd, considering the authors level of experience) coupled with his real complaint, he just doesn’t like “those darn kids.”

  23. Wow. This article was a serious waste of my time.

  24. Thanks so much for this column. It was fascinating. Very interesting to see your observations about firearms, firearm owners, and the role of the NRA pre-Cincinnati Revolution and after.

    I’m not surprised the gun nut/insurrectionist crowd attacked you here. They tolerate no dissent from their extreme ideology. But for those of us with open minds seeking to understand the gun lobby and gun industry today, you’ve done us a great service.

    Thanks again, and hopefully your grandsons will grow up to be the same exact type of responsible, sensible gun owner that you are.

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