Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Bone To Pick

Winter's Bone is a book written by Daniel Woodrell in a style he calls country noir. It was made into an independent film back in 2010 starring Jennifer Lawrence. As usual, I'd suggest reading the book after watching the movie, but the movie was a much better telling of the story than a typical Hollywood effort (for example what they did to Starship Troopers, or Percy Jackson, or how they distorted LotR and Harry Potter). It's about a poor family in the Ozarks and their struggle to survive a crisis caused by the meth trade. Woodrell writes decent prose and tells a good story. I was impressed by Lawrence and the other actors, as well as the way the movie transferred the story to film (minus one semi random polarized shot of squirelliness, which I'll give a pass on since it was an independent film going for an award). so I do recommend reading the book and watching the movie. In fact, here's the trailer:

Now, what I wanted to chat about was a review of the movie, which I think not only highlights the anti-Southern prejudice prevalent in so many places, but provides another glimpse into the culture war we've been fighting for a few millennia now. Oh, and there'll likely be spoilers.

Ten I See

Over at Unc's place, there's an amusing little poster whose aim is to further the caliber wars. Just to catch anyone up who wasn't munching on popcorn whilst perusing gun nut forums for the last decade-ish, there's a disagreement as to whether it's best to have a lot of rounds of a smallish caliber, or a few rounds of a biggish caliber, usually simplified as 9mm vs .45 acp (or .40 S&W). PapaDeltaBravo has a pic to illustrate the smaller caliber advocates position.

A 9mm loaded with modern JHP's of a sufficient velocity (which you'll find in most "defense" loading of said cartridge) is probably fine for most situation where someone would have occasion to fling rocks at someone. Most people will be well served by that cartridge.

I don't carry a 9mm. I carry a 10mm. (cause it's 1mm better!)

Looking at the pic PDB has up, you'll see that penetration of several different projectiles is virtually the same, thus leading one to conclude that since each projectile is practically the same as another, then using a projectile in a cartridge with increased magazine capacity and reduced recoil would be a wise decision.

That pic however is not all inclusive. I note that the .40 S&W rounds weren't loaded to their full potential for example. And it was not all inclusive, as the 10mm among others wasn't shown. Also, I presume it was bare gelatin.

In WW2 (and The Korean War) the most prevalent round on the battlefield was not M2 ball. It was M2 AP. That's because there was a helluva lot of metal all over the place, and having a projectile that could reach the other side of some of that metal was desirable. M2 ball would have worked just fine on the itinerant fascist, imperialist or (later on) communist soldier who hadn't seen the wisdom in surrendering, but it had to reach said enemy combatant before it could do its job, and with the metal prevalence it was best to just go ahead and use AP ammo.

That's what I think a lot of folks neglect when proclaiming their choice in cartridge, especially when accompanied by "stopping power is a myth" or other such rallying cries. I'm sure 9mm will do fine if its trying to reach vitals covered only by denim and skin, but what if there's a more substantial barrier?

Bears live out here. There's been occasion when they've wandered into my neighborhood, and I'm only 15 minutes from downtown Denver. A 9mm won't reach anything terribly important in a bruin. It's arguable that a hot loaded FMJ in .40 S&W wouldn't do enough to put a bear down. A 10mm loaded relatively hot will.

I know my luck well enough to speculate that if I am attacked in such a manner that I think making real loud noises whilst throwing rocks is warranted, that the assailant(s) will likely have more than just a winter coat on. Depending on how thick any body armor is, a 10mm may not penetrate though it'd be more likely to than a 9mm (though less likely than a hot .454 Casull). But the loads I carry have more muzzle energy than a 9mm, thus a better chance of distracting an attacker even if the hit doesn't go through body armor. I may even be fortunate enough to crack a rib, which will make that assailant less effective in attacking me.

For any number crunchers out there, I found this test of several different types of 10mm ammo. I'll note that all but two type of 10mm achieved at least 12 inches of penetration (the two that didn't had more than 100% expansion). Here's a ballistic chart showing velocity and energy of various 10mm loads. (And for what it's worth here's a forum thread discussing 10mm ballistic gelatin tests).

You can find 10mm pistols with capacities varying from 2 to 20 rounds, with concealability decreasing proportional to the yield of the cartridge box. In general it's usually about the same number of cartridges in an otherwise identical pistol chambered for .40 S&W, and two or three less rounds than you'd find in a comparable 9mm. My 10mm's have noticeably more recoil than a comparable 9mm, and thus follow up shots are a tad slower. Accuracy is equivalent for all practical purposes.

Where the 10mm shines is that it can go places the 9mm or arguably even the .40 S&W and .45 acp just can't go, namely to the vital zone of something with a moderate to heavy barrier twixt you and it. (A .44 Magnum would accomplish that even better, but at the cost of increased firearm weight, increased recoil and much lower capacity.)

I mention all this to illustrate that when most folks start pointing to that PDB pic of gelatin tests or otherwise proclaim the 9mm equal or superior, they're neglecting the qualifiers, such as having the target being a human sans any sort of artificial barrier.

If you carry a 9mm and are happy with it then cool. I won't attempt to alter your selection. If you carry a .380 acp, a .22 magnum, a .357 Sig, a .455 Webley, a .32 H&R Magnum, or even a .22LR then as long as you're proficient with it and understand the cartridge's capabilities and limitations then that's groovy.

There is no one best cartridge, only cartridges better suited to particular tasks than others. a large part of what determines that suitability is little more than personal preference. If you lack bruins and discount the small but not improbable likelihood of being attacked by armor wearing thugs (here's where I'll remind y'all of the Tyler Texas courthouse shootings, and Mr. Wilson), then the 10mm may not be the best choice for you.

For me and the way I think, the 10mm makes the most sense in a carry gun. However it's still a compromise and if a bruin or armored miscreant was something I knew I was gonna face, I'd grab a Garand loaded with AP. (that's if I couldn't get my hands on a Bofors of course).

The Keyword Is Fight

Firearms are usually the best tool to use to exert force against another entity. Usually. Being gun nuts a lot of us have a tendency to over-emphasize firearms use. Now I don't want to be misconstrued - if you're 5'4" and barely tip the scales over the 100 pound mark, then a firearm is definitely the most effective way to stop that unknown and uninvited fellow from busting all up in your house (unless you've got a lightsaber). But as the old saying says "a .25 in your pocket is more useful than a .45 back at your house" it also is true that whatever you have in hand when the fight starts is more useful than anything you have to unholster.

Let's say you're sitting in a bar. You have a glass half full (cause we're optimists on occasion) of your favorite beverage. You have a very cool automatic knife with adamantium blade on your belt and a handgun in an IWB holster under your light jacket. Suddenly, seemingly out of that proverbial nowhere, a large, angry, somewhat substance-altered fellow comes rushing at you with a machete raised. So how would you get to your primary weapon?

You wouldn't - your primary weapon is already in your hand. It's the glass with liquid in it. You throw the liquid in the fellow's face, then fling the glass itself at the same face that should be drenched with that raspberry-strawberry smoothie you were enjoying just seconds before.

Even a full glass of berried up smoothie isn't anywhere nearly as effective as a handgun. But when a fight starts you don't have time to organize your equipment to your liking. The number one task is to stop this hypothetical miscreant from making you test how effective your health insurance is. Yes, shooting him once or thrice would be more effective than a face full of juice if you had time to draw and fire. In our hypothetical you don't. You do have time to hinder his eyesight by dousing his ocular region with liquid. If things go well with that, he'll falter long enough for you to introduce pain into the equation via a glass to the face. Those things will hopefully give you enough time to create some lateral distance and grab one of your other weapons.

It's a simple idea to test; have an assistant standing well off to the side with a glass of water. Place an object a few feet ahead of yourself that you intend to cleave with a machete (or axe, or tire iron - whatevs). At a signal, move forward and try to strike the object while your assistant throws water in your face. You may be able to pull it off, but you'll know you weren't nearly as efficient as you'd have otherwise been. You'll have taken longer, and that delay is the important part as it gives an opponent more time to react.

Someone, and I forget who exactly, once criticized the notion that in a theater shooting the audience should have pelted the attacker with popcorn. But that's exactly what folks should do. A bag of popcorn, even day old mostly stale popcorn like you'll find in some theaters, isn't as effective as a .45, or even a 9mm. There's not gonna be any ballistic gelatin tests or one-shot stop ratios concerning a bag of Redenbacher. But its purpose is not to stop, but to distract and/or delay.

Again, use an assistant. set up a target 25 yards away. Use whatever weapon you like. At a signal, try to fire 5 rounds into the target, but at the signal your assistant will throw popcorn at your face (from the side of course). The result will be that you'll take longer to shoot those shots, and your shots will not be as precisely placed.

If a punk decides to shoot up a movie theater, folks should throw popcorn, drinks, purses, cell phones, canes, chairs - anything they have at hand. This will distract said punk enough to decrease his ability to hit what he's aiming at. It will also remove his focus from anyone who may be trying to rush him form off to his side. And it should overwhelm his senses enough that he won't see the two or three people reaching behind their back to draw a handgun (all things being ideal).

When you're attacked your primary weapon is whatever you can use right damn now. Be that a glass or a bag of food or an electronic communications device or a barstool. Whatever you have to draw or otherwise whip out isn't. At that point when aggression is initialized against you, that slick 10mm on your belt is a goal. Just like it's said that a handgun is a good thing to use to fight your way to your long gun, whatever you have in your hand (or close enough to grab without much effort) is a good way to fight your way to your handgun.

Firearms are real damn cool once you break them out, but they are just a type of tool, and not the only type. A gunfight is just a type of fight. While the gun is a real cool component to have, the most important part isn't the gun, it's the fight.