Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gun Myths and Legends

To non-gun people, guns are mysterious. As a result non-gun people tend to repeat urban legends, embellish the true stories and even make up stuff.
The following is a list of myths and legends, mostly created by Hollywood or the left.

#1. The infamous Glock 7 that gets through Airport Security. 

This one comes from the anti-gun left. Idiotic reporter Jack Anderson claimed in the January 13th, 1985 edition of the Washington Post that the plastic framed Glock handgun was "invisible" to Airport Security.
In 1990, the movie Die Hard II stepped it up a notch by claiming that a porcelain "Glock 7" existed. Here is a direct quote from the movie: "That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me, you know what that is? It's a porcelain gun made in Germany. It doesn't show up on your airport metal detectors and probably costs more than what you make in a month." 
First, there is no Glock 7 model, Second there is no gun made with a "porcelain" barrel (or other parts). 
While science has made advances in hybrid metals and materials, we have yet to find a better material for gun barrels than steel.
Even if there were, porcelain, ceramic, plastic and metal all show up on an X-ray machine. Here is an X-ray of a Glock pistol, clearly it looks like a gun....

 #2. The 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world.
This comes from the 1971 film Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood. The quote from the movie is as follows: "....But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off...."

At the time the movie was made the 44 Magnum was  already 15 years old and it was no longer the most powerful handgun in the world. The 454 Casull, introduced by Dick Casull in 1957 has nearly twice the power of the 44 Magnum. The caveat is that in 1971, you could not buy a production handgun chambered in 454 Casull. That didn't happen until 1983. So technically Dirty Harry was both correct and incorrect, still the words had an impact on the bad guy (and movie fans). Smith & Wesson dealers had a tough time keeping the model 29 on the shelves after the release of Dirty Harry.

Of course both of these have since been surpassed by the .500 S&W Magnum. The picture below shows the .44 Mag, the .454 Casull and the .500 Mag
#3. The Buntline Special.
While there are long barreled revolvers called "Buntline Specials" today, they were not created by the dime novel author Ned Buntline.
The myth was started by Wyatt Earp biographer Stuart Lake. In his book he wrote a tale about Ned Buntline wanting to "payback" the subjects of his novellas. He supposedly had Colt commission five 1873 Colt Single Action Army revolvers with 12" barrels. He then shipped these gifts to Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Bill Tilghman, Charlie Basset and Neal Brown.

Two problems with the story. One Ned Buntline never ordered the guns. Colt has no record of the order ( an order which would not have gone unnoticed). Two, Ned Buntline only wrote about one wild west character: Buffalo Bill Cody. Still the legend and now the revolver live on.

#3 Bullets shot straight into the air will come back down and kill you.
It makes sense that what goes up, must come down and when "it" is a bullet, death may follow.
The truth is that all things have what is called a "terminal velocity", this is the maximum speed at which the item will fall back to Earth. So it makes no difference how fast it went up, it will only fall back as fast as its mass, ballistic coefficient and weight will allow. Bullets are not very heavy, and once they lose their spin, they tend to tumble. The tumbling slows them down even more, the bullets will come down fast enough to hurt, but not kill. The TV Show Mythbusters did the science and busted this myth for us. Now if the bullet is shot into the air at an angle instead of straight up, all bets are off.

#4 Someone shot by a shotgun will be blown off their feet.
This is pure Hollywood. Issac Newton's Third Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So in order for the recipient of the shotgun blast to be knocked off their feet, the person shooting the shotgun would be also knocked off their feet. The recoil would be nearly the same (minus the weight of the gun and any barrel/gas porting) as the felt impact.

#5. Silencers are whisper quiet.
We have all seen this in movies. James Bond or an assassin screws a silencer onto his pistol and pew, pew, pew bad guy dead and no one hears a thing.
In reality the compact silencers/suppressors shown on the silver screen only reduce the decibel levels down 20 or 30 dbs, enough to prevent permanent hearing damage, but you will still be able hear the shot from blocks, if not miles away. In addition the bullets used need to be traveling at sub-sonic speeds.
There are larger water filled silencers that do make the "pew, pew" noise, but unfortunately they do not fit in the pocket of your tux....

#6. Bullet Proof Vests are bullet proof.
Bullet proof vests are made from a variety of materials and come in a variety of types. Even the Military Grade vests with strike plates (which make them very heavy) will not stop the highest powered rifles, only lower powered rifles and handguns (or guns shot from a long distance away). In addition the energy is still transmitted to the wearer of the vest, causing blunt force trauma injuries.

#7. You cannot fire a gun underwater.

While not advised (please don't do this), you can indeed fire some guns underwater. Mythbusters also demonstrated the busting of this myth.

#8. The .357 Magnum will bust open a truck's engine block.

I'm not sure where this started. Perhaps it was  the Herter's ad for the .357 PowerMag or maybe it was a gun salesman in the 1950's trying to convince some poor fellow into buying a new .357 instead of shoes for his kids.
The truth is, it depends on where you hit the engine block, which engine block and what the engine block is made of. In general if you shoot at a moving truck's engine with a .357 Magnum, the best you will probably do is take out the radiator, which will eventually stop the truck.
Taking out truck engine blocks is best left to high powered rifles like the .50 BMG.

#9. The gun just went off by itself.

This is one of the most damaging myths ever. Guns are incapable of action. In addition all modern guns (in good working order) have internal safeties that require the trigger to be pulled on in order for the hammer/striker to fire the gun. Hollywood has shown us scenes in which a gun was dropped (the one below is from True Lies) and the gun fired all by itself, which is nearly impossible.
These words are usually spoken by someone trying to cover up a Negligent Discharge.

#10 All guns are registered.
We see this in movies, where the cops find a gun at a crime scene and within minutes know the name of the "registered owner".
While some states do require the registration of some type of guns, the vast majority of states in the U.S. do not have any compulsory registration. The big exception would be Class III weapons like machine guns.

Edit......another one to add, I was reminded of this one in the April 2014 issue of American Rifleman

#11 Cartridges in a Fire

There has been a long standing myth that if you put a cartridge in a fire it will explode. This may have been true with black powder cartridges, as black powder has different burn characteristics, but it is not true of modern smokeless powder cartridges. The modern rounds need to build pressure to expand the gasses and propel the bullet. They also need a hard backstop. Without the hard backstop, the bullet and case separate and the powder fizzles like a sparkler. BTW DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.....

#12 "Sawed-off Shotguns" do not need to be aimed.

In the movies you see the bad guys shooting sawed-off shotguns without aiming and hitting everything in sight. This is not 100% accurate. Although It was more likely in days past with the older shot-shells. Let me explain:

Shotguns used to have shells that were loaded with wads rather than cups. When the shot left the barrel the only thing controlling the shot pattern was the choke at the end of the barrel, a sawed-off shotgun usually has no choke and thus the pattern would begin to spread shortly after leaving the barrel. Keep in mind this also made them much less lethal at any distance over 20 feet. The lethality of shotguns came from the multiple hits from the small pellets, when you cut down the number of hits, you downgrade the lethality.

The shotgun shells used today have cups that hold the shot pattern together for a short distance after it leaves the barrel, when the wind catches the "wings" on the shot cup, it slows down and allows the shot to continue downrange.
Here is a shot-shell loaded the old-school way with wads:
 And here is a modern shot-shell showing the shot cup
So the modern shotgun shells fired from a sawed off shotgun will spread out less and hit a smaller area than the older ones. This makes them more lethal, but also requires that the shotgun be aimed.

#13 Guns rattle

In every damn movie or tv show the sound effects guys always make the guns sound like parts are about to fall out.
If your gun rattles or makes metallic noises don't shoot it!
We also sometimes here guns being cocked that have no hammer.....striker fired guns don't make a cocking noise.

#14 Machine Guns are illegal

We here it all the time, Machine Guns are illegal in the United States. That is not true at all. While there are a handful of states (between 6 & 8, depending on how you define "allow") that allow private ownership of full auto weapons. The states in dark green do not allow machine guns (some may be grandfathered in). Light green states allow ownership.

Since the National Firearms Act of 1934 Machine Guns have been subject to strict Federal Licensing. In addition since the restrictions started few if any machine guns have been made for private purchase, making the ownership of a machine gun a wealthy man's endeavor.