Shooter Ready

The Way of the Gun

Jerking the trigger: a sight alignment and sight picture problem

I have a problem with how we as shooters, and how firearms instructors, teach the fundamentals of marksmanship to new shooters. Specifically, I have a problem with how instructors stress sight alignment and sight picture, without reconciling these two core fundamentals with trigger control. This issue is compounded exponentially when it comes to pistol marksmanship.

It happens all the time. You’re on the firing line at the local pistol range and someone lands a shot low and left, or maybe just wildly off target. Their shooting buddy looks over their shoulder and says “you jerked the trigger” or “you yanked the trigger” or some variation of the phrase. So you see the trigger jerker reset, try to relax, breathe a little, and rock on.

What we don’t seem to think about is the relationship between these three core fundamentals, and I attribute this to how we teach them to new shooters. There is a relationship between jerking the trigger, and sight alignment and sight picture.

Think about it. When a new shooter is taken up to the firing line one of the key talking points drilled into them by their instructor is the correct sight alignment and sight picture. The front sight must be clear, with the top of the front sight post level with the top of the rear sight, and equal light on either side of the front sight. The perfect, ideal sight picture. The sight picture a new shooter hardly ever sees.

The perfect sight picture that new shooters hardly ever see.

The human body is an amazing piece of biology, but we aren’t machines. Holding an object out at arms length perfectly level and still for some period of time is not humanly possible. There will always be some wiggle, some wobble, some amount of movement that can be seen by the naked eye.

This is the first pitfall of stressing perfect sight alignment and sight picture: it simply does not occur very often due to the biological nature of our body.

The second pitfall is how trigger control is taught to new shooters, or rather, the lack of teaching trigger control to new shooters. “Pull the trigger smoothly and straight to the rear”, “keep pulling till the trigger breaks”, “let the trigger/gun surprise you” or some variation of these phrases, dominates the firearms structor lexicon. None of these phrases is worth a damn to new shooters, and letting the trigger/gun surprise you is just plain foolish. What movement of the trigger finger constitutes a smooth movement? What kind of trigger finger placement should the shooter use? Can or should they pull using the first distal joint only? Can/should the knuckle joint be involved? Can a trigger be pulled straight to the rear? All these questions, and more! The trouble is, these questions are rarely asked, and a lot of instructors I’ve seen on the firing line don’t make mention of these factors.

This creates an unfortunate situation where a new shooter is overwhelmed by the need to consciously maintain the correct sight alignment and sight picture, while manipulating a trigger with a finger that has, heretofore, rarely moved in the biomechanical pattern required to operate a pistol trigger. Like it or not, the mind-muscle connection takes a lengthy period of time to manifest. This typically results in a new shooter rushing to get onto the trigger as soon as the perfect sight alignment and sight picture is obtained, and lo and behold, the shot lands low and left, or just wildly off target. The instructor/shooting buddy remarks “you jerked the trigger”, without breaking down the potential reasons why. The shooter resets, not knowing any better, and the cycle continues.

The relationship between sight alignment, sight picture, and jerking the trigger therefore is simple. Stressing sight alignment and sight picture, while stressing the need for good trigger control without explaining what that actually means, is simply setting a new shooter up for failure. For new shooters reading this: accept the fact that you won’t have the perfect sight alignment and sight picture all the time. In fact you’ll only have it some of the time, at best. Most of the time that front sight will be wobbling around slightly. Don’t worry too much about it. Don’t focus so much on the front sight that you forget to exercise good trigger control. The sights aren’t going anywhere. They won’t mysteriously and spontaneously drift so far off target that paying less attention to the sights and more attention “perfect” trigger pull will result in a miss. The body might not be a machine, but its pretty damn good at keeping still. Focus on your trigger pull instead. It will pay dividends. I’ll talk about trigger control in another post.

As Gun-fu Jedi Master Mike Pannone from CTT Solutions in the USA puts it: “shoot the sights”. When the sights are on target, in the correct alignment, you must decide on your acceptable level of accuracy and balance that with speed and trigger control. And whatever you do, do not let that trigger surprise you, but that’s another topic for another post.

And for anyone out there suspecting it, yes, I am. Just a little.

Obligatory meme. For all the new age internet people.

Stay sharp, stay safe.

JC

Literature Review – PAM and the NFA: 20 years on, what are the lessons?

Article in full:

https://www.mja.com.au/system/files/issues/204_10/10.5694mja16.00293.pdf

Any literature review of anti-gun publications, especially opinion pieces laden with throw away figures and singular data points, is always difficult. They aren’t difficult because they’re hard to refute or review, but because I never know where to start.

The relationship between psychosis or serious mental illness is well researched, and the findings are clear. Mentally ill individuals are at greater risk of both perpetrating and being the target of violence, however, they account for a small percentage of overall violence. How this relates to the gun control debate is a difficult and complex issue that bears close examination and candid discussion.

I find it objectionable, almost negligent, on the part of The Medical Journal of Australia to publish what is essentially an opinion piece masquerading as serious research. Never mind that the most recent Chapman et al. paper offers a more well rounded, and objective overview of the relative efficacy of the NFA in reducing firearms homicide and suicide, the paper in question refutes key arguments put forth by Dudley et al., in their MJA op ed. I adamantly refuse to accept this as a peer reviewed journal article, for the simple fact that it is self contradictory, sensationalised, poorly referenced, and obviously cherry picks singular data points, to force the data to fit the theory.

Lets start with the poorly interpreted statistical data regarding the significant link between mental illness and community violence. The risk of violence is higher for individuals suffering mental illnesses across the board, and mentally ill individuals are especially at risk of being the victim of violence. Rather than regurgitate the PAR (Population-Attributable Risk) percentages, I want to focus on the interpretation of this data. Despite knowing the figures regarding perpetration and victimisation rates, Dudley et al. inexplicably provide us with the numbers, state that 95% of gun homicides are perpetrated by individuals without mental illnesses, and then segue into making statements regarding the correlation between gun availability in the US and an increase in firearm homicide.

Hang on, back up a little. The editorial referenced for the 95% statement actually cites a study by Fazel and Grann, and is based on Swedish, not US data. The exact quote from the editorial is: “the authors find that persons with psychosis are about four times more likely than the general population to be convicted of a violent crime but that psychotic group accounts for just 5% of such offenses.” The editorial referenced by Dudley et al. doesn’t state that 95% of gun homicides are perpetrated by people without psychosis. It states that 5% of violent crime is perpetrated by psychotic individuals. The devil is in the details, and the details reveal Dudley et al., are making false statements.

Coming back to the claimed relative increase in gun homicide as gun ownership rate increases – the jury is still out on that one. There is no conclusive meta-data analysis that can show positive causation between increased gun ownership and increased gun homicide. The raw data does not support this supposition. Furthermore, one of the more comprehensive and objective reviews on gun ownership and gun crime/homicide, published by the Pew Research Centre, shows that gun homicide is at an all time low in the US, a full 49% reduction from the 1993 peak in gun violence. So much for the anti-gun lobby flights of fancy, where the streets of Texas have hourly re-enactments of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

The authors’ focus on mental illness and mass shootings is distinctly myopic, a quality that characterises much of the anti-gun literature. Rather than recognising that mass shootings account for, on average, a measly 0.03-0.04% of gun homicides in the US (using CDC and FBI data), and focus on the larger issue of gun violence among social groups at risk. For example, in the US, blacks account for between 53-55% of gun homicide victims, despite accounting for only 13% of the total population. We see once again that the anti-gun lobby isn’t very interested in addressing the big problems that gives the greatest cause for concern, but are focused on sensationalising specific, singular data points, to drum up support for their agendas. Where is the discussion on the disproportionate victimisation rates of blacks and Hispanics? Where is the discussion on possible correlations between socio-economically at-risk groups and disproportionate victimisation rates?

So 20 years later, what are the lessons to be learned from the implementation of the NFA?

Well, depending on who you ask, either the NFA worked, or it didn’t.

Interestingly, those who claim it didn’t relied on statistical modelling that favoured their hypothesis, in order to make their claims. Or worse yet, conclusions drawn by anti-gun publications contradict the statistical evidenceMore objective approaches conclude that the NFA did SFA. More importantly, even rabidly anti-gun scholars like Chapman have had to about face on their previous claims, as evidenced in their latest research publications.

So that brings us back to this opinion piece published by MJA. What a shame, that an Australian medical journal would publish such tripe, and even put a little provenance disclaimer in the fine print, claiming the piece was externally peer reviewed. I don’t know of any sociologist who values their professionalism, who would allow such a poorly researched opinion piece pass peer review.

Perhaps most vexing is the fact that the authors have no issue making projections, for instance, claiming that persons with possible mental illnesses, interpersonal and personality issues, having easy, legal access to guns is lethal, resulting in avoidable excesses of both domestic and mass killings. Hold on, a few paragraphs ago the authors claimed that “95%” of gun homicides were perpetrated by perfectly sane people. So which is it? Mentally ill people having access to guns will create unavoidable excesses in domestic and mass killings, or mentally ill people play a very small role in gun homicides in general? You can’t have it both ways. And then there is the hypocritical about face, claiming that pro-gun proponents discussing the availability of guns to mentally ill people, is a calculated appeal to prejudice. This whole opinion piece is quite literally, a dog’s breakfast.

Red herrings and false equivalences are no match for empirical knowledge. I haven’t even really started to do a proper literature review on this latest publication, and I feel it is unnecessary. It is patently obvious that the article makes use of singular data points to peddle an agenda. Moreover, referencing several flawed studies (Chapman et al., 2006 and Leigh and Neill, 2010) as evidence only goes to show that there is a distinct lack of academic credibility within the anti-gun academic circle. The crux of the matter at hand is that the latest opinion piece written by our friends in the gun control lobby is simply pure opinion flimsily supported by a façade of factual evidence.

Knowledge is power.

JC

Tactical Medicine: The Missing link

The shooting community likes to talk about itself as comprised of responsible citizens, and this is largely true. As shooters we have all undergone background checks, we have passed safety tests, we have met all the requirements and checks and balances put in place. As a highly selective group, we like to see ourselves as better prepared than the average citizen, in most aspects. By and large, we are, however one of these aspects largely overlooked is pre-hospital medical care and training.

In this day and age, responsible citizens are the true first responders to events and incidences, in which lives are potentially at stake. Fantasies of heroically responding to a mass shooting aside, we’ve all seen some kind of traumatic event, whether it is motor vehicle accidents, industrial equipment accidents, falls that result in broken bones sticking through the skin, children putting themselves through plate glass at high velocity, and so on, and so on. It behooves us to be better than the average Joe in the application of tactical medicine. Sadly, few of us are properly qualified, even in basic first aid. This is a critical missing link, and should be rectified at the first available opportunity.

Many shooters play Devils Advocate and ask if a trauma course for shooters is really necessary? Isn’t basic first aid good enough? Our sport involves inherent risks. The possibility of a high velocity bit of lead and copper punching through flesh rather than paper, is a reality that we should be prepared for. Basic first aid will not train you to the level at which you can respond to a major haemorrhage or penetrating chest wound. For anyone sitting behind their computer screen saying “but if you follow the four firearms safety rules you’ll hardly ever be at risk”: true, but anyone who says they have never had a negligent discharge, or have never been in the vicinity of one, is lying.

 

Tacmed Basic Trauma Course

Basic emergency medical training should be a skill in which as many shooters as possible are well versed. It should cover the spectrum of basic lifesaving skills, including gunshot and penetrating injuries. Tacmed Australia recognized this missing link, and is now offering courses for shooters and hunters in basic trauma management.

Tacmed’s basic trauma course covers the treatment of major haemorrhages, and penetrating chest injuries. The basic premise of the course is to prepare shooters and hunters to combat the two leading causes of death from gunshot and penetrating wounds: major blood loss, and tension pneumothorax. Major blood loss is pretty simple: you bleed out, go into shock, fall unconscious, and die. Tension pneumothorax is where a penetrating chest injury results in air from the atmosphere entering the chest cavity, and air pressure inside the chest cavity gradually increases as the trapped air cannot escape. This creates a great deal of pressure on the heart and lungs, and eventually, the heart will be unable to beat, and the patient will die.

Tension pneumothorax can be lethal if left unchecked. Chest seals either vented or unvented are the ideal pre-hospital tool to employ for basic trauma management.

So how quickly can you die from blood loss? Very quickly. Assuming the patient is an average male with normal haemoglobin concentration and a normal VO2 max (a measurement of the amount of oxygen the body is able to utilize in one minute) prior to being wounded, that the artery is severed, and that there is no compression on the severed artery, any major arterial bleed will result in death in 2-60 minutes. A life threatening reduction in blood pressure due to major haemorrhage will result in shock, which greatly reduces the body’s capacity to respond, and rapidly leads to unconsciousness. The average response time for paramedics in Australia is between 10-15min. In that amount of time, a person suffering from major arterial bleeding isn’t likely to survive, even if they are rushed to hospital via intensive care paramedics.

Here’s an example of a femoral artery bleed out:

*WARNING GRAPHIC*

The man is unconscious within 90 seconds, and in the absence of proper medical attention he will be dead shortly thereafter.

Here’s another one:

*WARNING GRAPHIC*

I can’t find the full length video anymore, but, in the full length video the victim is goes into shock in about 60 seconds, is conscious for around 2 minutes, falls unconscious within 3, and death follows shortly thereafter.

Tacmed’s basic trauma course arms shooters and hunters with the knowledge they need to save someone’s life, or their own life. Recognising when to use a tourniquet, how to use a tourniquet, and how to use a chest seal for penetrating thoracic injuries, is vital to tactical medicine. Students are taught how to burp a penetrating chest wound, in the event that tension pneumothorax occurs. Likewise, wound packing is a vital component to casualty care, and Tacmed covers the essentials of wound packing technique and execution. Most importantly, Tacmed gives students the opportunity to practice hands on applications of theoretical skills.

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Mick from Tacmed teaching students how to correctly apply a tourniquet to a dummy.

Despite my reservations about calling things “tactical”, tactical medicine is in fact tactical. It is the capability to use a skillset and tools beyond the basic parameters of their function, in austere environments, extracting maximum performance under duress. It is one of the most critical and noble life skills I can think of.

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Training in the proper use of chest seals.

And before you ask, no, a first aid kit won’t do the trick. No, a tampon is not suitable for packing a wound. A tampon can be used to stop small bleeds that occur in two places: the nose, and not the nose. It does not belong anywhere near a gunshot wound, or major trauma. The old standbys of gaffer tape, garbage bags, and a t-shirt, are less effective and don’t always work (try sticking gaffer tape to clammy, sweaty skin, and get it to hold properly, it won’t happen).

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Learning how to pack wounds and stem the blood flow.

At the end of the day, it’s a life skill that empowers you, in ways others can only dream of. One of the worst feelings in the world is to be at the scene of a traumatic event and not know what to do. As shooters we pride ourselves on being citizens of a higher calibre, and it behooves us to be exactly that. Get trained guys, I can’t stress this enough. Your life, the life of a loved one, and the life of a total stranger in need, is worth more than the $89.95 a Tacmed Immediate Trauma Kit will cost you. While you’re at it, check out Tacmed’s IFAKs and other kits.

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Man down! Simulating a multiple gunshot wound victim with arterial bleeding in both the arm and leg, and possible penetrating chest injury.

Mad kudos to Tacmed Australia for seeing a knowledge gap that needed to be filled. Get trained guys, and fix the missing link.

Stay sharp, stay safe.

JC

SHOT Show 2016 Overview

SHOT Show 2016 was a blast. Terrible pun I know but that’s really all I can say about the show in general. I spent a pretty considerable amount of time catching up with mates, so I found I had trouble seeing everything on offer. Here’s my overview of SHOT Show 2016. I’m sure I’ve missed out on some of the new products and companies at this year’s show. Contact me with any suggestions for products/companies that I’ve missed, and should get in touch with!

 

Phosfect Light Technology

The first stop for the day was Phosfect Light Technology, where I met up with my mate Clint and Paul Britton from PBA Imports. While Phosfect’s line of illuminated targets was interesting, what really caught my eye was their range of Accu Tac bipods. Priced to compete with other high end bipods, Accu Tac obviously did their homework when designing and manufacturing their product. Clive Blair at Phosfect was great to talk to, and walked me through the Accu Tac bipods. The feature set is rich with functionality, as you would expect from a high end product. Everything was easy to adjust. The angle of the bipod legs (which, like the Atlas, can be locked at multiple angles) adjusts by pulling down on the leg to move it from one locking position to another. The feet are spring loaded like a Harris, and have a very solid locking detent. A thumbscrew under the bipod adjusts the stiffness of the cant. Every model on display had a QD picatinny rail clamp, and locked positively. The most noticeable feature of the Accu Tac bipods is the relatively wide stance, especially in the LR-10 model. All in all, a competitive product at a competitive price.

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From left to right: LR-10, SR-5, and BR-4. All have QD picatinny rail mounts.

Check them out at www.phosfect.com and www.accu-tac.com.

 

Lifestraw

SHOT is ostensibly a Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show, except the “outdoor” part tends to get skipped over. Lifestraw is a product that originated as a humanitarian project focused on delivering clean drinking water. Lifestraw is a major contributing factor to the near eradication of guinea worm disease in Africa. It is estimated that by 2017 guinea worm disease will be eradicated, making it the second disease successfully eradicated by humanity, the first being smallpox. Fresh, clean water is a luxury in many parts of the world, and Lifestraw has changed the lives of millions by filtering out bacteria and impurities that cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery.

Even though I am familiar with the product, I got Neil Conlan to run me through what they had on offer. What separates Lifestraw from chemical solutions like iodine and chlorine tablets is the fact that it filters impurities as well as bacteria, which makes it a safer product to use in the field. The standard practice for using iodine and chlorine tablets is to strain the water first and reduce impurities as much as possible, but this isn’t always possible. Furthermore, the effectiveness of iodine and chlorine is dependent on water temperature, pH level, concentration of pathogens in the water, and are limited by expiration dates. Some parasitic larvae (like guinea worm) are resistant to water purification tablets, and require a larvicide. Savvy outdoorsmen would say “just boil the water for 5 minutes, then you’re done”. True, but sometimes you won’t be able to boil water. As with any survival tool, two is one and one is none. Lifestraw should be one of the two water filtration/purification tools a serious outdoorsman/traveller should carry.

The regular Lifestraw will filter out any impurity down to 0.2 microns, which is plenty small for filtering out harmful bacteria and 99% of harmful viruses. For the price of a fancy meal, you can buy a Lifestraw product that practically guarantees your water is safe to drink. Lifestraw now offers larger capacities ultrafilters that filter down to 0.02 microns and removes 99.999% of harmful bacteria and viruses. For around $50 you can be assured that you won’t be shitting your guts out during your next trip out bush or overseas.

You can generally find Lifestraw products at any outdoor retailer like Anaconda, BCF, and some smaller more specialised boutique vendors like Mountain Equipment. I highly recommend Mountain Equipment for outdoorsmen seeking a higher quality product, and more importantly, staff who know their products inside out.

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Neil Conlan talking a customer through the features of the Lifestraw Go.

Check out them out at www.lifestraw.com and Mountain Equipment at www.mountainequipment.com.

 

Moroka.30

Moroka.30 had a fairly large stall at SHOT this year, with their 45L and 75L bags front and center in prime real estate. Speaking with the staff there I got a good rundown of their 75L pack, which was impressively well thought out and manufactured. Constructed from 600D nylon, packed with features such as a GPS pouch attached to the shoulder strap, a 10 round elastic ammo card in the side pocket, a detachable map bag, clever compartmentalization of the main pack body, and three access points on the main body, the 75L pack easily competes with other market leaders. The rifle retention system can be mounted to the back or the sides of the back, offering hunters a versatile range of carry options. Moroka uses a X frame in their 75L pack, which increases torsional stability over packs with traditional alloy stays. All in all, a quality Australian designed and manufactured product.

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Moroka’s 45L and 75L packs.

Check them out at www.moroka30.com.au.

 

Southern Shooters/Impact Dynamics Intro to LR Presentation

Sam rustled some Jimmies with his talk, I’ll tell you that much. How to choose a scope beyond “my mate reckons this one’s pretty good”? Rifles don’t really matter; they’re generally good enough for the job? Achieve an accurate drop chart for all distances from point blank to the edge of supersonic within 20 rounds? True ballistics calculators to match the algorithm to your bullet’s unique drag curve? Preposterous! Everyone knows you need a Schmidt and Bender 5-25×56 H59 MRAD scope on top of a $6000 custom rifle, shooting magic bullets blessed by the Gods of Ballistics to even think about shooting out to 1000m, right?

Sam’s presentation really only just scratches the surface of long range shooting, and was definitely one of the highlights of the show for me. It’s not because I got much out of it myself, but because the audience left with a whole new perspective on what long range is, how they can achieve it, and how its become so much more accessible in this day and age.

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Check out Southern Shooters/Impact Dynamics at www.southernshooters.com.au.

 

Evolution Gear 

Steve at Evolution Gear was kind enough to talk to me at length about Evolution Gear and what they are bringing to the Australian market. Evolution Gear provides Australian shooters with a mid range hard rifle case that incorporates features found in more expensive products. Their hard cases have the same features as a top dollar product like Pelican, including user customizable foam inserts, an environmentally sealed interior, air pressure bleed off valve, and tough injected polymer construction. Basically, a more reasonably priced Pelican hard case.

Evolution Gear also has a line of soft shell jackets for general outdoor use. The soft shells are a three ply construction design, with a polyester-spandex outer layer, a water resistant and wind resistant mid layer, and a microfleece base layer. In the sub $200 price range the Evolution Gear soft shell is poised to compete with more established products from 5.11 and similar manufacturers.

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Check them out at www.evolutiongear.com.au.

 

C.R. Kennedy

I spent a fair amount of time at C.R. Kennedy talking with Marwan and Victor about their re-introduction of Kowa Optics to Australia. For those who don’t know, Kowa are world leaders in optical technology, and have a respectable line of spotting scopes. With the introduction of Kowa’s TSN-880 series spotting scopes, Kowa is now competing with European titans like Zeiss and Leica. The TSN-880 series spotters have an 88mm objective lens made from fluorite crystal rather than glass. Fluorite crystal is superior to ED apochromatic doublets and triplets when properly coated, and provide contrast and depth of field superior to glass lenses. Zeiss and Leica also use fluorite crystal lenses in their top of the line spotters, it’ll be interesting to see how the Kowa stacks up to the European titans of optical excellence.

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A small selection of Kowa’s products.

Along with the re-introduction of Kowa products into the Australian market, C.R. Kennedy has apparently secured distributorship of Minox scopes. The Minox ZP5 5-25×56 tactical scope caught my eye, and delivered solid performance. The turrets were solidly built and the clicks were very tactile. There is a visual second rev indicator, but no tactile indicator which I would prefer for low light/stressful situations. The second rev seemed a little stiffer than the first rev. The reticle is basically a P4F, and does not have a “Christmas tree” for elevation and windage holdovers. Victor told me to expect a price tag of about $4000. Without putting it side by side with other leading optics it’s hard to say whether it will be a top performer or not.

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The Minox ZPS 5-25×56 mil/mil scope.

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Second rev indicators are the two white circles under the elevation turret drum. The scope is currently on the second rev at 15 mil. Knurling on the turrets is fine and quite grippy.

Finally, Victor briefly walked me through some of the Athlon scopes on display. I was handed the Midas 4.5-27×50 which had the APMR1 SFP IR MIL reticle. Quite a mouthful. The scope felt solidly built, and the turrets were reminiscent of Bushnell’s mid range optics. From memory Victor told me to expect a retail price of about $1100 but don’t quote me on that.

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Athlons seems to be heading in the right direction with the introductory line up of optics.

Check out C.R. Kennedy at their website: www.crkennedy.com.au.

 

Tacmed Australia

Tacmed was my MVP of the show. Tactical medicine is one of the missing links in sport shooting. The reality of our sport is that we are setting off controlled explosions in close proximity to our body, which propel bits of lead and copper down range at some significant velocity. The potential damage that can be caused by an errant bullet ranges from relatively insignificant to life threatening.

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Mick from Tacmed discussing the use of tourniquets.

Tactical application of trauma medical training and products is something that should be on the forefront of our minds, especially for hunters who may be hundreds of kilometers from the nearest hospital emergency department when hunting in the outback. When you’re that far from help, every risk should be accounted for, whether it is a ND to the leg or environmental factors. Touch wood I never have to patch up a guy who lost a wrestling match with an angry boar, or fell onto a star picket, or broke a leg and has a bit of bone sticking out and blood everywhere.

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Immediate Trauma Kits both vacuum sealed and in nylon pouches.

Tacmed supplies high quality medical gear and training to public, private, and government entities, and will sell direct to public. You can buy individual items to stock our own kit like I did, or you can buy a prepackaged IFAK or immediate trauma kits. Tacmed trauma kits are designed by paramedics with pretty extensive military and civilian experience, and are geared towards pre-hospital treatment of penetrating trauma and gunshot wounds, among other more “mundane” injuries. Everything is handily packed into a vacuum sealed bag. Tacmed also sells more generalized first aid kits as well – a must have for any concerned citizen, and sporting shooter.

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Regular IFAKs. Vastly superior to outdoor retailer IFAKs.

Check them out at www.tacmedaustralia.com.au.

 

Beretta Australia

 As expected, Beretta put on a very good show. Everyone wanted to see the Sako M10 on display, and soak in its precision Finnish engineered glory. It took me about 10 minutes of patient waiting to snap a half decent, non-crowded picture of the rifle! Unfortunately none of my friends who worked for Beretta are there anymore, so unlike 2014 I wasn’t given an extremely thorough rundown of the products on display. Regarding the M10: despite my brief time behind the rifle (cut even shorter by folks impatiently milling around waiting for their turn on the rifle) I came away quite impressed. Unlike the TRG42, Sako got it all right this time around.

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The Sako M10 wearing it’s 338 barrel kit. The ergonomics are spot on. This rifle has a Steiner 5-25×56 Military scope set up for long range precision shooting.

Designed to compete for the USSOCOM (United States Special Operations Command) PSR (Precision Sniper Rifle) contract back in 2009, the M10 features excellent adjustability, modularity, and first-in-class ergonomics. The M10 competed alongside the AI AXMC and Remington MSR for the contract which was eventually won by the MSR. Having spent a little time behind an AI AXMC I can say that I prefer the ergonomics of the M10 over the AXMC. The bolt was not as sensitive to galling as the AI AXMC either, but that could boil down to my technique when working the bolt. Beretta has the 338 Lapua Magnum barrel kit in the M10 on display. Personally I would have liked to see a faster 1:9 or even 1:8.5 twist barrel rather than the demure 1:10 twist in the current M10 .338 barrel. I’d love to spend some time with the rifle, sending rounds down range but alas, c’est la vie.

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Because one photo just isn’t enough!

Another unique product on display (for me at least) was the Beretta M9A3, the handgun designed to replace the M9 as the US Army’s service pistol. When updating the aging M9 pistol Beretta finally listened to the not insignificant amount of end user complaints regarding the M9, and fixed all the little troublesome issues. The M9A3 improves on the combat proven (to some degree) M9 handgun with greater modularity, better ergonomics, and better reliability. Unfortunately for Beretta, the US Army was adamantly uninterested in considering the M9A3 as a contender for their Modular Handgun System (MHS) Program. Fortunately the M9A3 is available for civilian shooters, at a recommended retail price of around $2000. M9 fans rejoice, Beretta Australia has answered your prayers.

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Sure the US Army rejected the M9A3, but that doesn’t mean its all bad. I quite like the look of the A3 model versus the legacy M9.

And finally we have the Tikka T3X rifles on display. I’m gonna get a little salty here because everything new and wonderful about the T3X is something Tikka should have done in the first place. Softer buttpad? Check. Alloy bolt shroud? Check. Better stippling on the stock? Check. Modular stock? Also check. Sarcasm and saltiness aside, the T3X has opened up the gap between the basic Tikka rifle and similarly priced rifles even wider than before.

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Hey guys! We fixed all the problems you’ve been complaining about!

Beretta is bringing in the Burris XTRII tactical optic as well now, which is great news. The XTRII packs most of the features of high end tactical scopes into a more affordable optic, and gives more established mid range optics like the Bushnell ERS/XRS a fair run for its money. About time they were brought into the country too, I remember speaking to Rick years ago (when he was still with Beretta) about bringing them into the country, but alas, pricing and availability issues made that a difficult proposition. Better late than never!

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All in all, great showmanship, great products and a strong crowd characterized Beretta Australia’s SHOT Show 2016 performance. Bravo!

Check them out at www.berettaaustralia.com.au or your local dealer.

 

Swarovski

Swarovski had an open stall with a bunch of optics on display, set up on tripods and mounted onto dummy rifles. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to Swarovski but I’ve never been much of a Swarovski guy. Anyone who’s ever seen me write about Swarovski knows this, and considering the number of die hard Swarovski fans out there I cop a bit of heat for it from time to time. Something about me never having looked through high end glass.

The X5i on display was disappointing. The optical quality wasn’t noticeably better than the Z6 and Z8 series scopes, but what really rustled my jimmies was that for what was, for all intents and purposes, Swarovski’s flagship long range optic, they’ve put together a scope that, apart from the optical performance and digital illumination, belongs in the 80s. A SFP, duplex reticle with 1/4 or 1/8 MOA turrets? What possessed the design team to use such an antiquated reticle choice in SFP is beyond me. As a long range hunting scope it has its merits but why pigeon hole your flagship optic into such a niche market? The quality of the turrets bothered me too. The turrets are plastic. For a scope competing with other European titans of optical excellence, plastic simply won’t do. That’s not to mention the turret clicks felt as though they had a distinct backlash effect. I can’t justify the almost “POA” price tag of an X5i in light of these issues.

Sorry Swarovski, I’m just not impressed.

Check them out at www.swarovskioptik.com.

 

Huntsman Firearms

Rob Woods and I actually go back a few years to when I was working in the industry. Plus, we share mutual friends, so it was a good opportunity to catch up. Huntsman Firearms is probably the largest repository of high quality and advanced shooting equipment and ancillary products in the country. The great thing about Huntsman Firearms is they don’t pretend to know everything, even though their shared pool of knowledge, experience, and expertise in long range precision marksmanship is deeper than probably any other shop in the country.

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TAB Gear! TAB Gear! Come get your TAB Gear!

Huntsman Firearms had a number of quality products on display: a comprehensive line up of TAB Gear products front and center, as well as quality muzzle devices from Surefire and APA. Other precision rifle accessories on display included Badger Ordnance mounting solutions and Accuracy First bubble levels. I really regret not buying a bubble level. Several publications by Applied Ballistics were also available. The crowd magnet of the stall was the disabled rifle on display, a Remington 700 in an AICS 1.5 with a Nightforce 5-25×56 ATACR F1 with a Tremor3 reticle. The AICS chassis was fitted with a Badger IMUNS rail system for NV and other accessories, and an Atlas bipod was attached via a spigot mount. A Badger FTE was fitted to the barrel, and a TAB Gear sling was attached via AI hooks. The whole rifle was set up on a tripod with a HOG Saddle, and just goes to show what can be done to a modern precision rifle with a little bit of considered forethought and the use of the right equipment. Without a doubt one of the best displays of the show.

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I just wanna take it home…

Shooters looking at getting into long range precision shooting should definitely give Huntsman Firearms a call, and visit their website.

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Surefire and APA muzzle brakes, for discerning muzzle device connoisseurs.

Check them out at www.huntsmanfirearms.com.au.

 

PBA Imports

 Despite meeting Paul first thing in the morning I wasn’t able to catch up wit him properly at the show. I blame Josh and Mark for trying to sell me on a CZ Shadow 2. I actually really want a Shadow 2 but the bank account says no.

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Shadow 2 up front, P09 in the middle. I really need a better camera.

I was very impressed with the pistol when I finally got around to fondling it. The original Shadow was and still is a great gun. The Shadow 2 fixes some of the small issues with the handgun, while staying faithful to the original design. Rob at PBA told me that the Shadow 2 shares 80% parts commonality with the original Shadow.

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A CZ P09 flanked by two Shadow 2s.

The most noticeable difference between the Shadow 2 and the original Shadow is the grip angle and beavertail height. The grip angle is more aggressive, and the beavertail is cut higher than the original Shadow, which gives the Shadow 2 a lower bore axis. Combined with the more aggressive grip angle, this will translate to less muzzle flip and faster time back on target. The Shadow 2 slide is taller than the original Shadow, with wider, more deeply machined front and back slide serrations. I was able to get a very authoritative grip on the slide with the new serrations, which made press checking the pistol and power stroking easier than on the original Shadow. The sights have been updated, and obscure less of the target than the original Shadow sights, not to mention they knocked the sharp corners off the rear sight. Finally the manufacturing process of the pistol has changed too, going from investment casting on the original shadow to a forged and CNC finished frame and slide in the Shadow 2. The expected retail price is $1700 or so. Definitely on my “to buy” list.

I also picked up a ResQMe Quick Car Escape Tool, which incorporates a seatbelt cutter and spring loaded glass breaker into a single small and handy tool. Less than $20 for a life saving tool? Yes please.

Check out PBA Imports at www.pbaimports.com.au.

 

Beattie Matheson 

Beattie is my runner up for MVP of SHOT Show 2016, purely for the fact that Australia finally has a Lowa boots distributor. Lowa is the only boot manufacturer in the world that has been awarded an ISO 9001 quality standard, and their products are some of the world’s best and most thoroughly tested by military SOF (Special Operations Forces). The Zephyr GTX Mid boot has been my go to all terrain, all weather, all purpose boot for the last two and a half years. Unlike my previous pair of Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots which suffered from sole separation after two years of moderate use, the Zephyr boot has yet to show any sign of giving up.

Lowa Zephyr GTX Mid TF boots serving me well while literally out the back of Bourke. 200kms out the back of Bourke, in fact.

Lowa boots are proven products, with decades of hardcore mountaineering, and in recent years, military service, informing and influencing their designs and manufacturing processes.

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The Lowa Z6S offers various improvements over the Zephyr and sits between a multifunctional military boot (like the Zephyr) and a traditional combat boot.

I had a really good look at the Z6S, which is basically a Zephyr with greater torsional stability and less flexibility – perfect for humping a heavy pack over rough terrain. Another product on my “to buy” list.

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Beattie Matheson currently supplies to Safari Firearms and Mountain Equipment. For those interested in high quality outdoors gear, definitely check out Mountain Equipment. In my opinion they are the best outdoor outfitter in Sydney. Check them out at their Sydney CBD and Chatswood store.

Check out Beattie Matheson at www.lowa.co.nz, Safari Firearms at www.safarifirearms.com.au and Mountain Equipment at www.mountainequipment.com.

 

Meplat Firearm Services

I met Daryl of Meplat Firearm Services earlier this year during the 2016 Southern Shooters Precision Rifle Invitational. Meplat specializes in importing high end custom bullets from Cutting Edge Bullets, as well as importation of firearms. They had two Serbu .50cal rifles on display, which attracted a fair bit of attention. For good reason too, the price on these rifles was unbelievable. Unbelievably low that is.

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If you’re in the market for a .50cal but don’t want to fork out over $10k for one, check out Meplat Firearms Services and speak to Daryl. He might just have what you need. Likewise if you’re in the market for precision CNC turned high BC bullets, Daryl might just have the right Cutting Edge Bullet to suit your needs.

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Serbu BFG-50, at an expo price of $4895. Retail price may vary.

Check them out at www.meplat.com.au.

 

Lithgow Arms

I was seriously contemplating just a casual, brief walkthrough of Lithgow’s stall. The Model 102 was out on display and shows a maturity in the design and engineering team at Lithgow that seems to have escaped a lot of newer manufacturers. I liked the 60 degree bolt lift, and Mauser style 3 position safety and the flush fitting detachable magazine. All in all, a solid design. I’d like to spend some time behind one to really wring it out, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t perform as expected.

Lithgow getting back to their roots of making kick ass rifles for sporting shooters.

Lithgow has picked up the Hart clothing distributorship as well, which is a breath of fresh air into the Australian hunting clothing market. I’m not saying the existing stuff isn’t good, I’m saying we’re lacking new products from new manufacturers, especially world leaders in outdoors clothing. Good on Lithgow for bringing a world class product into Australia.

Check them out at www.lithgowarms.com.

 

Aus Tec Arms

Aus Tec Arms was the last stall I visited at the Show. By then my phone was dead, and I had about 10 minutes before the show was over. I was first made aware of Aus Tec Arms a few months ago by some friends on social media. Its great to see an Australian designed and manufactured chassis hitting the market at a reasonable price. The chassis itself is machined from billet 7075T aluminium alloy, which is tougher, harder, and more wear resistant than the more typical 6061T aluminium alloy used in firearms accessories and parts.

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The production model of the ARES chassis will feature a MLOK hood and some other subtle changes. Photo credit goes to Neil K on Facebook.

The chassis is solidly constructed, quite angular in design, and seems well optimized for prone shooting and perhaps barricade positional shooting as well.

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Production model images from the Aus Tec Arms FB page!

Its obvious that Aus Tec Arms put a lot of time and effort into their Ares chassis, and it just goes to show what can be achieved by Australian companies. I’m really looking forward to getting behind one and putting it through its paces.

Check them out at Aus Tec Arms.

Where to now?

And that wraps up my SHOT Show 2016 overview. I missed out on a lot of things I’m sure, but I made a point to speak to the people and companies that interested me and what I felt would contribute most to the firearms lifestyle of the modern Australian shooter. Apologies to the crew of Magnum Sports, I got so caught up chatting away I had to rush off to see other vendors and forgot to take picture of the awesome Bushnell stall. Likewise, apologies to Nightforce/APRS, I just didn’t have the time to swing by this year.

Also, massive shout out to Projectile Warehouse, STS Targets, The Armoury, and Armoury Athlete, for making the post-show shenanigans as entertaining as the show itself. I also ran into Brett and Jessie-lea from Cowboy Guns and Gear in Cowra. They just bought a tonne of STS steel targets, so if you’re in the area check them out.

SHOT Show 2016 finished up with recording a podcast with Precision Shooting Podcast. I’m not sure popping my podcast recording cherry while stumbling around after a 20 hour day on 1.5 hours of sleep was a good idea, but whatever. Check out our SHOT Show episode!

The best part of SHOT Show 2016 is the affirmation that the show is continuing to progress in the right direction. The usual cross section of the firearms industry was intertwined with an increased number of outdoor goods distributors and companies, which is great to see. The firearms lifestyle encompasses more than just shooting. Seeing outdoor retailers at the show kicked my SHOT Show 2016 experience up a notch. Hopefully this trend continues, and we see a greater diversity of exhibitors at SHOT Show 2017.

Note to self: next year, bring a better camera!

Stay sharp, stay safe.

JC

Mil or MOA?

Mil vs MOA: Much of a Muchness

It’s 0500, I’ve just knocked off work and Mark from Tactical Optics SA calls me on my way home. Who the hell calls someone else at 0500 with serious technical questions? I’m not complaining though, it keeps me awake on the drive home.

Mark drops a loaded question: what do I use, Mil or MOA, and why?

Mil or MOA is one of those questions that gets everyone’s knickers in a knot, and divides shooters like Moses parting the Red Sea. It’s a polarising question, and understandably so. We are all comfortable with what we know, and change is unwelcome.

Mil became popular in the early to mid 2000s with tactical/precision shooters, due in no small part their exposure to the growing popularity of Mil scopes within the military. In truth, the US Marine Corps were using Mils way back in the 70s, but civilian shooters really didn’t pick up on it till much later. There was a fair bit of “Mil guys are just wannabe snipers” going around. The fact of the matter is, Mil and MOA are just different ways of skinning the same cat, and while Mil is certainly more popular among military and tactical/precision rifle competitors, it doesn’t mean it is the better system.

Do you even snipe, bro?

Here are the basics. Mil is short for milliradian, which is an angular measurement. An angle of 1 radian is the angle where the length of an arc is equal to the radius of the circle. A milliradian is therefore one thousandth of a radian.

MOA is the acronym for Minute of Arc. Shooters tend to refer to it as Minute Of Angle. A MOA is an angular measurement that corresponds to one sixtieth of a degree.

So Mil and MOA are both angular measurements, what’s the big deal? Most shooters will qualify the “Mil or MOA?” question with “what are you more familiar with? Imperial or Metric measurements?” From here on out it devolves to “MOA is Imperial and Mil is Metric” or some variation of this tired old myth.

Mil and MOA have nothing to do with the Metric or Imperial system of measurement, period. Mil and MOA are angular measurements that can be applied to any unit of measurement. It just so happens that Mil works perfectly with Metric and MOA works close enough with Imperial. Using the Imperial system, one MOA is 1.047 inches at 100 yards. One MOA is 10.47 inches at 1000 yards. Using the Metric system, one Mil is one centimeter at 100 meters. One Mil is one meter at 1000 meters. The Metric system is a better fit for Mil than Imperial, as it is base 10, whereas the Imperial system is a “close enough” fit for MOA. Its no wonder people tend to think of Mil and MOA as Metric and Imperial, the reality is, they are not.

So which one should you use? The first question to ask is “what kind of shooting are you doing with this scope?”, followed by “will the distances be set and known?”, followed by “how precise do your scope adjustments have to be?”, and finally “will you be shooting under stress?”. For shooters who are target shooting on a square range with no stress factors such as time limitations and/or improvised positions, at known distance targets, who want as precise scope adjustments as possible, then MOA is the way to go. For shooters who are on a two way range and receive return fire whilst engaging targets at an unknown distance, under a great deal of stress, and time is a significant factor, then Mil is the way to go. Ok so that doesn’t exactly describe the average sporting shooter, but military snipers use Mil because it is faster and more intuitive, especially under stress. More realistically, for shooters competing in Precision Rifle Series type events, where a lot of shooting is done in improvised positions, the targets are of potentially unknown sizes, at unknown or awkward distances, where fast follow up shots are required, and speed trumps absolute precision, then Mil is the way to go.

The NF MOAR-T reticle is a good example of a modern MOA reticle. Each large hash mark is 2 MOA. There are 1 MOA subtensions on both the vertical and horizontal crosshairs.

A lot of MOA shooters will disagree with me when I say MOA is slower to use and less intuitive, but hear me out and you might change your mind. MOA scopes may have reticles with mismatching vertical and horizontal graduations. In older scopes, the vertical graduations might be in 2 MOA increments, where the horizontal graduation might be in 5 MOA increments, or some combination thereof. Various riflescope manufacturers have since migrated to matching vertical and horizontal graduations. MOA scopes can have turrets that adjust in 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, and 1/8 MOA. Working a MOA scope with a reticle that has matching vertical and horizontal graduations, with a turret that adjusts in some weird fraction of a MOA, takes some getting used to. If you see that you’ve missed by 1.5 MOA to the right of the target, you have to dial 3 clicks left if your scope is adjusted in 1/2 MOA, or 5 clicks left if it adjusts in 1/3 MOA, and so on. It isn’t quite circle in a square hole, but it isn’t exactly intuitive.

The NF MIL-R reticle is a good example of a modern Mil reticle. Each large hashmark is 1 mil. There are half mil and 0.2 mil subtensions on both the vertical and horizontal crosshairs.

Mil scopes tend to have reticles with matching vertical and horizontal graduation measurements. Everything is one Mil, or tenths of a Mil. Most Mil reticles these days have graduations marked at half a Mil, two tenths of a mil, and one Mil. All Mil scope turrets bar a few exceptions, adjust in 1/10 Mil. Adjusting for missed shot is far simpler with a Mil scope than with a MOA scope. 1.5 MOA is equal to 0.436 Mil. Using the same example as above, to adjust 0.436 Mil left you simply dial 4 clicks. No mucking around with quarters or eighths or thirds, just straight up tenths. As we can see, Mil is a coarser adjustment than 1/4 and 1/8 MOA, so keep that in mind.

Because Mil scopes are based on tenths of a Mil, most people find Mil scopes are faster and more intuitive to use. MOA scopes on the other hand have a variety of possible combinations. In terms of absolute precision of turret adjustments, MOA scopes can be more precise than Mil scopes, hence the question of the level of precision required. So which is right for you? Ask yourself those four questions above, and you should have a pretty clear answer. For me, the deciding question is stress factors. If there will be some kind of stress involved in your shooting, apply Occam’s Razor and use a Mil scope.

Regardless of if you choose Mil or MOA, make sure you buy a scope with a matching reticle and turrets. A matching reticle and turrets makes everything much easier. If you see you’ve missed by x Mil/MOA, you can dial x Mil/MOA on your turrets. What you see is what you adjust for. There are few things more frustrating for a shooter than to have to convert splash seen on a Mil reticle, to MOA turret adjustments or vice versa, on the fly. All things being equal a MOA shooter will have to work with larger numbers and dial more clicks to achieve the same elevation or windage adjustment than a Mil shooter, assuming the MOA scope adjusts in 1/4 or 1/8 MOA. For example, a typical 308 match load will require between 9.5 to 11.5 Mil elevation for a 1000m target. That translates to 32.7 MOA to 39.5 MOA. A Mil shooter will dial between 95 and 115 clicks whereas a MOA shooter will dial between 261 and 316 clicks with a scope that adjusts in 1/8 MOA, or between 131 and 158 clicks with a scope that adjusts in 1/4 MOA. Does that make an appreciable difference in real life? Personally I think it does, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Now, the final consideration to make, which can completely change your final decision: will you be shooting with a spotter, and what would work best for the team? Exploring the shooter/spotter dynamic is beyond the scope of this article, however, I will say this: If your spotter is very well versed in Mil and you’re sitting on the fence, get a Mil scope so you can communicate better with your spotter. The same goes for if your spotter is very well versed in MOA. Choose whichever system is most applicable to the team. I’ll post up a separate article about shooter/spotter dynamics, and why the choice between Mil and MOA is critically important for a shooting team.

So what can we take away from all this? Mil and MOA are angular measurements. Choosing between the two boils down to application rather than personal preference. Mil is the easier of the two to learn and apply under field conditions and under stress. What do I use? Mil. Most of my shooting is done in the field, under some kind of time stress. My targets are irregularly sized and at awkward ranges, and absolute precision is second to speed. Based on these criteria, and the fact that no Chairborne Ranger would ever be caught dead shooting MOA (because that’s so 1980s, man), I’m a Mil guy through and through.

Chairborne Ranger in the sky!

JC

Chapman et al., making headlines again…

The news networks are going nuts over a report published by Chapman, Alpers, and Jones, purporting that the study shows Australia’s 1997 NFA was an incredible success.

Here’s the actual publication, straight from the source:

Chapman, S., Apler, P., Jones, M., “Association Between Gun Law Reforms and Intentional Firearm Deaths in Australia, 1979-2013”, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2016, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2530362, (accessed 24 June 2016).

This report has been making the rounds over the last 48 hours, of course, it’s been taken hilariously out of context. Even so, it has caused a fair amount of furore from the Australian firearms community. I’ve seen everything from well thought out responses, to full blown shit fights.

The paper itself isn’t actually as bad as it seems, despite the snippets taken wildly out of context by various news networks and University Facebook pages. Science Alert was the first place I saw mention of the report, followed by a short video posted on the Macquarie University Facebook page, both of which were in the process of being swarmed by angry fire ants. I mean firearms owners.

Why, media? Why?

Surprisingly, Chapman et al. actually write an unexpectedly balanced paper that has been taken way out of context by news networks looking for a quick and dirty piece of the sensationalist news.

The actual report is not as black and white as the news networks and social media make it out to be. Chapman et al. have done a better job at examining the data in this paper than in their previous papers. The data set used by Chapman et al. (ABS) is unbiased and so that leaves us with critiquing the interpretation of the data. Even there Chapman et al., did not fudge their interpretations. In fact, they made quite reasonable statements regarding the modelling of their data set.

Specifically, Chapman et al., recognised that there was no statistically significant decline in firearms homicides post 1997 compared to pre 1996, and that non-firearms suicides remained steadily declining post 1997 without accelerating. Contrary to their 2006 paper, Chapman et al., separated firearms homicide and firearms suicide so as not to lump them together under the catchall category of firearms deaths, which was a significant limitation in their previous studies. Third party analysis of their previous studies concluded that the data did not support the author’s conclusions about firearms homicides significantly declining post 1997. This time around, the raw data still doesn’t support the hypothesis that firearms homicides declined significantly post 1997. Go figure.

About the only thing the gun-control lobby can get out of this study is that the statistics say we haven’t had a mass shooting since 1996. Or have we? This silver lining is solely dependant on how you define a mass shooting. Chapman et al. have chosen to define a mass shooting as an incident where there are five or more deaths, not including the shooter. As there is no internationally accepted definition of what constitutes a mass shooting, Chapman et al. are free to define it however they want, which of course works in their favour. Cherry pick data and definitions to suit your agenda? Elementary, my dear Watson.

If there is anything we can take away from the study, it is this: it is not possible to determine whether the change in firearms deaths can be attributed to gun law reforms. Word for word, plucked straight out of the report itself.

Perhaps Chapman et al. are trying their best to become legitimate scholars? Who knows, maybe they’re taking a leaf out of Dr Samara McPhedran’s book.

Speaking of which, go check out Dr McPhedran’s excellent factsheets at www.ic-wish.org/fact_sheets.htm

Knowledge is power.

 

JC

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