Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rule Four.

When Dad got back from Gunsight, Rule Four (the last rule added to the Four Rules Of Gun Safety) had been: "Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On The Target." While at the range and training, my father and I could simply quietly mention a Rule 4 violation, and both knew to watch for fingers in trigger guards when they shouldn't have been. Nowadays, Rule Three and Rule Four seem to have been transposed.

So it would seem that a certain fellow out of Benbrook, TX did violate Rule Four when he fired off a round that didn't stay to his intended backstop:
Know what it is, what is in line with it, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything you have not positively identified. Be aware of your surroundings, whether on the range or in a fight. Do not assume anything. Know what you are doing.
Another way of looking at it is a Rule Two violation, which has always been:

With a .50 Browning, that item that you wish not to destroy might be some miles off. Here is a case in which the old "laser rule" (or really, doctrine) doesn't work. To be wary of what is miles down range, one must take into account bullet drop. And wind. And maybe Coriolis force effect.

Look, I've said it before: Nobody's MAKING you possess, handle, and shoot a firearm. You're the one who took on the responsibility. If you can't handle the responsibility, I would invite you to stop handling firearms, post haste. There are plenty of other hobbies, past times, and pursuits for you to go about. With all due respect, if keeping up with Four Simple Rules is too hard, then we of the general shooting community don't want you.

No offense intended, but go away, okay?

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At Wednesday, January 14, 2009 1:29:00 PM, Blogger Ambulance Driver said...

Friend of mine worked that call at Texas Motor Speedway. He said it was nasty.

At Wednesday, January 14, 2009 5:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mister Liberty Girl and I were at the range last weekend, when a grampa type swung a bolt-action in my direction. His grandson leaped to turn the rifle back downrange. Heart still goes pitter-pat (and not in a good way) at the thought.

At Wednesday, January 14, 2009 5:32:00 PM, Blogger Rabbit said...

I don't know the guy, but I know the rifle. I came close to buying it before he did, but changed my mind after I'd done more research on early interrupted-thread breech Vulcan 50's. It's got a cheap Russian 8x scope on it (Barska, IIRC) and the wrong base, which could lead to an over-correction on sighting.


At Thursday, January 15, 2009 10:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't buy it.

I get what you're saying, Matt, and I agree that gun owners need to be responsible, but I don't buy that this guy sent a 50BMG round FIVE miles.

According to the USMC, the 50BMG round is only effective to a range of 2000 M, and it has an absolute maximum range of 4.2 miles. The difference of .8 miles is about 1400 yards, or 1285 meters, give or take some.

I find it difficult to believe that anyone who would go through the (financial) pain of buying a 50BMG weapon would fire it recklessly into the air at approximately a 45-50 degree angle (in order to send that bullet along a trajectory that could actually achieve the maximum range).

I have even more difficulty believing the shooting range would allow it. Even with the wind at his back, it would be difficult to send that bullet that far with enough energy to crash through an RV, through a person, and then stop in the RV wall/floor.

On top of that, this guy is getting roasted left and right for doing the responsible thing. Assuming he actually managed the shot, he did the right thing and turned himself in. He didn't have to be hunted down and arrested.

He voluntarily admitted that he was at that range, and that he was firing the only gun/ammo combination that could conceivably come close to actually going that far, assuming he actually did it. That is something only a person who acts responsibly would do.

Honestly, I don't know how much more he could have done to prevent it, assuming all the details we have now are accurate, and assuming he somehow sent that bullet, without doing something boneheaded (like firing it at a 45 degree angle).

I still don't buy it, though. Something is missing in the details. Either he was closer than he realized/believed, or he was being absolutely reckless, or he didn't do it at all, and there is more to the story that we haven't learned yet.

I would love to be on that Grand Jury. Or at least a fly on their wall.

***Didn't go the first time, so here it is again***

At Thursday, January 15, 2009 2:04:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Mr. Shrimp-- with all respect, we don't have enough hard information to clear him.

First, the newspaper story says: "A few days later, the Benbrook man told police that he had been at a rifle range about five miles from the speedway on the morning of Nov. 2 and had fired a .50-caliber Vulcan single-shot rifle five or six times."

Not "5.0 miles." But "about five miles," in the estimation of the guy who really, really doesn't want to be the one who fired the wounding bullet. He could be forgiven if he stretched things, a tad.

Now, just NNE of the Texas Motor Speedway is the Quail Creek Shooting Range, a popular public range with 100 yard berms. Using my handy-dandy Google Earth tool, I find that, from the firing positions at Quail Creek to the extreme opposite corner of Texas Motor Speedway, it's 3.67 miles as the crow flies. That said, one would easily have to drive 5 miles to get from one position to the other. Now, I'm not going to say "case closed," because:
1: The berms at Quail Creek are north of the firing positions, making the fallout zone the opposite direction from the Texas Motor Speedway.
2: The .50 owner hasn't apparently admitted to having let one go at a high angle, say, in the parking lot.
3. We don't know the angle of impact or the angle of entry into the RV.

But we do know:
The rifle was "damaged." Huh. That's interesting. Was it buried? Was it cut up? Was it pinched closed? What is this damage?

There's also some sand pits that are due north of the speedway, about 2.5 miles as the crow flies, that is a shooting destination for some, but is less formal than a public rifle range.

You said "would fire it recklessly into the air at approximately a 45-50 degree angle" Actually, the maximum range angle is much lower than that. I know-- you would think 45 degrees would be the maximum. It's well below 40 degrees, though.

"I have even more difficulty believing the shooting range would allow it. Even with the wind at his back, it would be difficult to send that bullet that far with enough energy to crash through an RV, through a person, and then stop in the RV wall/floor."

Believe it or not, many, many people (including myself) shoot at private, unmonitored ranges. And have you ever seen what RV's are constructed of? Thin sheet steel or aluminum, usually. Gimme a hammer, and I could drive the face right through the wall of most, with one strike. A 720 grain bullet (1.67 ounces!!) starting at 2900 fps, would have no trouble penetrating most campers. And of course, we don't know but that it hit a skylight, a joint, or what not.

The real problem, is that we DON'T KNOW.

What we do know is: *SOMEONE* touched off a round of .50 BMG that ended up in an old woman's arm. This was not a "sniping", due to distance.

Your argument that the rifle's too expensive to be used by someone reckless or careless is utterly without merit. I've worked too many crashes involving reckless driving of vehicles worth far, FAR more than that rifle. Worth of possessions imparts zero responsibility; it just raises the cost of admission. From what I can see, these rifles run in the $2900 to $4000 range. In other words, about the cost of most of the vehicles driven by your average high school teenager. That's not exactly prohibitive for a 49 year old man.

There may not be enough evidence to convict the shooter. But someone, somewhere, sure's hell violated some firearms safety rules with a .50.

At Thursday, January 15, 2009 8:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


All good points.

I guess I view things from my rather myopic view of "How I would do things" as opposed to "You know, I saw this idiot do the dumbest thing once."

I grew up knowing guns, and respecting guns. I know that they can be lethal, because they are designed for that purpose. I wholeheartedly agree with your point about the four rules. They must be obeyed.

If this guy is a "fool recently parted with his money" and knows nothing about guns, it is conceivable that he could have done exactly as you have suggested. (Again, I know I wouldn't).

Around here (in my part of CO) there aren't many ranges that aren't supervised. In my experience, I much prefer unsupervised ranges, but they are getting increasingly harder to find, without a long drive to and from.

I also realize that RV's aren't constructed well, and that a 720 grain 50 cal bullet could easily do that, but as it reaches the end of its maximum range, it has lost most or nearly all of its energy. I think my point (not well made earlier) was that I seriously doubt it would have the energy necessary to do that damage at that extreme range.

That, of course, assumes some of the details (still uncertain) are accurately reported, such as being about 5 miles away, and that he was indeed the one who actually fired off the round.

You are correct though----someone failed to follow the four rules, and it may have been this guy.

I would just hate to see him offer himself up to the DA, and have the DA-eager to make a name/get a conviction- nail this guy to the wall for it, and then later (maybe much later) have forensics prove he had nothing to do with it.

I would still like to be on the GJ.

At Friday, January 16, 2009 9:54:00 PM, Blogger fastbike said...

Matt, i find it a unsettling that your response to Shrimp starts off "we don't have enough hard evidence to clear him".

I thought it worked the other way around. Coming from a LEO, that statement and the assumption of guilt, even to make a point on the four rules, is frightening to this citizen.

At Saturday, January 17, 2009 2:25:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Seriously, FastBike? You actually think that I was speaking professionally? About a story that I'm discussing from having garnered it from the paper? Via the InterWeb?


O.K. My remark referred to keeping him on as a person of interest, and then as a suspect.

In my reading of Shrimp's rebuttal, he was clearing the man as a suspect, or even as a person of interest. . . from a newspaper story on the internet. That's foolish. We (Shrimp, You, Me, and all the rest of us who are getting our facts from the story on the internet) certainly do NOT have enough story to clear a suspect from our little foray into reading a story or two about him. If you thought that I was meaning "we" to mean law enforcement, then I'm sorry that I was not clear on that. (Even though I made pointedly clear, repeatedly, that the problem is that I don't have more info.)

I'm a spectator in this one, just like you and Shrimp.

Now, as a LEO, I'll for damned sure keep a likely suspect up on my list of probables until I've found enough reason not to that it compells me to quit considering him. That's good police work. No, I don't charge those whom I don't have Probable Cause.

I would beg you to consider context, sir.

At Saturday, January 17, 2009 12:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In my reading of Shrimp's rebuttal, he was clearing the man as a suspect, or even as a person of interest..."

Point of order, if I may. I was not clearing him as a person of interest. I was disputing that this man could have sent a 50 BMG bullet farther than the United States Marine Corps claims they can.

I was suggesting that something was not right with the facts/pertinent information in the article. I even said so at the end, that something was missing from the info, or that he had to be closer than he originally said.

You accurately disabused me of the notion that the relative cost of the toys did not make one more responsible with them.

On the charge of reading "about 5 miles" to mean "5.0 miles," I plead guilty as charged. ((I should know better, too. I used to be a delivery driver, and the one dispatcher used to say just about everything was "5 miles away" or "a ten minute drive."))

My biggest problem was the media (who loathe all things firearm) was painting this man as guilty, when the information they provided was seemingly inaccurate or incomplete. Like that has ever stopped them in the past!

You are absolutely correct that we weren't there, and unfortunately are not privy to the pertinent information, so all we can do is guess what really happened, along with a few (huge) grains of salt.

Fastbike: I understood Matt's comment to be from the perspective that as the only suspect/person of interest thus far, any evidence would be stacked up and measured against the man in the story. As such, the evidence either is enough to go to trial, or it isn't and he is cleared. I didn't get the impression that Matt was suggesting he was guilty as charged, and had to prove his innocence.

At Saturday, January 17, 2009 2:26:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Thanks for the clarification, Shrimp. :)

At Sunday, January 18, 2009 8:07:00 AM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

Try this page if you want to see the real numbers. Looks like 5 miles is pretty much the theoretical limit without some hot handloads, and the bullet would still have about 700 ft-lbs of energy left. Plenty to trash a trailer.
.50BMG just isn't in the same neighborhood as the rounds most of us usually consider the ballistics for.

At Sunday, January 18, 2009 7:29:00 PM, Blogger fastbike said...

Matt, All I know is what you write. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you, so "Better and Better" is all the context I have.

You were quite clear that you didn't have enough info, but you made this guy a poster child for a 4 rules violation.

However, it's your blog, you say what you want when you want.

At Sunday, January 18, 2009 11:12:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Hm. True.

Then, too, I know where EVERY round that I fired last range session went. Why doesn't he?

At Monday, January 19, 2009 6:47:00 AM, Blogger fastbike said...

Matt, my apologies. In reflection, I'm not so sure what set me off.

I also know where every round from my last range session went.

I agree that his not knowing, or being in doubt is more compelling information.


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