Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Dear Senator Tester

Dear Senator Tester:

I notice that the proposed director for ATF, David Chipman, has said he would like a ban on the AR-15 rifle, that it is not suited for use other than military.

Since you come from Big Sandy, I’d like to share a story about my daughter.  She was hit by a semi as she was stopped to make a left hand turn.  The concussion left her with prosopagnosia (face blindness and object recognition challenges),  and the impact pretty well trashed her right shoulder – she can’t even handle the recoil from an M1 carbine, but the lighter .223 bullet, with the direct gas impingement, is gentle enough that she can handle the recoil of an AR-15.

Here in Trego, we live in grizzly country.  She can hike the woods in my quarter section where I have the trails blazed to show which way leads to the house and which way leads away.  She has a small dog who does an amazing job at identifying people.  And the AR-15 rifle gives her a much more even chance if she encounters a grizzly (or two) than the other light recoil option of a 22 long rifle.  The injury has taken her ability to use a large caliber handgun – she is pretty well limited to a .32 ACP blowback to make recoil manageable.  The dog takes care of recognizing threats and she can still have a chance with an aggressive bear or cat if she has the light recoil of the AR-15 with the .223 (larger cartridges like the 30 blackout still are beyond her recoil tolerance, and she’s not fond of my .223 bolt gun.

So I’m hoping that, with Choteau close to your home, you can understand that she has a use for the AR-15.  Frankly, I wish she were still able to use a 45 – but I am happy for the recovery she made – she is a high school science teacher and she and her dog really enjoy having 160 acres of forest where she can hike without fear of getting lost.  But last year, we had two problem bears (with collars) that FWAP wound up euthanizing.  They were 5 yards from my front door.  A couple years ago, a griz trapped by FWAP on the place had his video go viral as he tried to use the rope on the gate to reel in the warden when he (the bear) was released.  We have had two adult grizzlies through this year, one a sow with cubs. 

I can understand how the President, coming from Delaware, doesn’t share my reality – but I figure that, while your place in Big Sandy may not see as many grizzlies as we do, you probably have neighbors that are more similar to us.  I have friends who are scarred from their grizzly encounters – for myself, I have had nothing worse than confrontations that ended with the bear leaving. 

I figure that with the Senate split as evenly as it is, I should ask you to vote with Montana instead of the President, and keep the AR-15 available.

Thanks,

Michael McCurry

Trego, MT

Community

Montana Gun Control

I note that the governor has signed a bill that “forbids state and local law enforcement from enforcing federal bans on guns, ammunition and magazines.“   Detractors – folks who want the gun control efforts to grow in Montana are quoted as saying that this “would make it difficult for local law enforcement to collaborate with federal authorities on issues beyond gun access when such collaboration is essential to protect public safety.”

There are times it is good to be old, and have a long memory.  Back when the first Assault Weapons Ban was law, Ravalli County Sheriff Jay Printz challenged it as unconstitutional.  Sheriff Printz thought it was wrong for congress to compel state employees and elected officials to enforce Federal law.

District court agreed with Printz, then the 9th Circuit reversed the decision, and it went to the Supreme Court.  On June 27, 1997, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, reversed the 9th Circuit, finding that the ban’s attempt to commandeer county sheriffs to perform background checks was in violation of the tenth amendment. 

Remember, I’m a scientist, not a lawyer – but it looks to me like a Hamilton Sheriff, nearly a quarter century ago, has already completed the legal defense for  “Montana Federal Firearm, Magazine, and Ammunition Ban Enforcement Prohibition Act”.   The complete bill is available.  It does reference the Printz case, and it looks like state and local employees will not be allowed to assist Federal officers in enforcing this law.

A Science for Everyone, Community

Meriwether Lewis and his Assault Weapon

There weren’t any AR-15’s on the Lewis and Clark expedition.  But Lewis’ Girandoni air rifle served the purpose of showing firepower at the time.  We’re looking at half the congresscritters wanting to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds – and the Girandoni was a 20 round repeater.  The whole story is here: https://www.beemans.net/lewis-assault-rifle.htm and it’s worth reading.  To convince you, I’ll bring in a few high points.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark that I read in my youth were incomplete – actual publication of the “whole story” didn’t come around until 2001 – so little was in print about Lewis’ air gun.  The Girandoni came from Austria.  About 1,500 of these air rifles made it into the Austrian army, beginning around 1770, and all were surveyed out of commission in 1815.  We know that Lewis bought it in Pennsylvania, and that he wasn’t fully proficient with it as he started the expedition:  “Thomas Rodney, who was a day visitor to Captain Meriwether Lewis while he was traveling down the Ohio River at Wheeling, Ohio in September of 1803, contains a tiny passage which has caused new thinking about the Lewis airgun. The passage reads:

Visited Captain Lewess barge. He shewed us his air gun which fired 22 times at one charge. He shewed us the mode of charging her and then loaded with 12 balls which he intended to fire one at a time; but she by some means lost the whole charge of air at the first fire. He charged her again and then she fired twice. He then found the cause and in some measure prevented the airs escaping, and then she fired seven times; but when in perfect order she fires 22 times in a minute. All the balls are put at once into a short side barrel and are then droped into the chamber of the gun one at a time by moving a spring; and when the triger is pulled just so much air escapes out of the air bag which forms the britch of the gun as serves for one ball. It is a curious peice of workmanship not easily discribed and therefore I omit attempting it.”

(Beeman’s excerpt of Thomas Rodney’s letter.)

Other articles describe how Lewis would show that his rifle could fire 20 shots without reloading when he met with natives – and that they really weren’t sure that his was the only repeater.  For years, I believed the expedition was armed with model 1803 rifles – until I got to TSJC, and the college library showed the first 1803 was completed in October.  It looks like Lewis highgraded the Harpers Ferry arsenal for fifteen 1792-94 contract rifles – and he may have had some cut down by arsenal smiths, as his journals refer to “short” rifles.  Authorized more than the 15 men he had rifles for, the record suggests that the rest brought their model 1795 muskets along.  With Clark bringing a 36 caliber rifle, the expedition definitely did not have standardized weaponry.

Again – the Beeman article is worth reading – click on it, and enjoy reading how the most unusual gun carried by the Lewis and Clark expedition was discovered and identified by its history of repairs.

Community

Remembering Hunter Safety

I was one of the lucky ones – we had a pair of instructors for Hunter Safety.  Danny On taught the sections on wildlife, and Ed Ruhl taught guns.  Danny On was a forester with a camera. For folks who lacked the privilege of knowing him, there is a page describing his life at Asian Pacific American Employees Association.  Books with his photographs are still in print and available. A trail on Big Mountain bears his name.  Ed Ruhl was a Marine. Chief Warrant Officer Edgar Ruhl, USMC (retired) – and he brought his own examples of every weapon he had used or encountered between Haiti and Korea.  Not “Gunny” you understand, but Mr. Ruhl, or “Gunner.”

“Dis is a spring-gun.” he explained as he showed a nice looking air rifle.  “I got it on Okinawa.  Da little bastid dat was using it didn’ have any more use for it after I ran my baynit troo him.”  I suspect the little bastid actually shared Ed’s rations after he swapped the spring-gun away from him. It was similar to this photo:

I learned that the world’s finest handgun was the Model 1911A1 – “Except you want the old 1911 mainspring for women, ‘cause dey have smaller hands.  It doesn’t kick – my wife uses dis one.”   My first 1911A1 didn’t shoot so well – but I learned what a match bushing and a slightly longer link could do.  By the time I was 35, I had learned that the old Colt 45 automatic could match all of Ed Ruhl’s praise.

The finest hunting rifle was, of course, the Springfield model 1903A3 – “Used to think the 1903 was the best, but the A3 is parkerized and has a peep sight.  Much better.”  In the sixties, there were a lot of them available – and I looked for Ed’s preferred Remington, and replaced the cut-down military stock with an inexpensive, drop-in stock from a magazine ad.   A lot of them made it back to the land of the big PX, and became hunting rifles for two generations of hunters.  It was there when I discovered high power competition.

And I learned that my single-shot 22 just didn’t make the grade: “Dis is a Reising model 65.  Used it on Guadalcanal to take dare snipers out of da trees.  Didn’t like the model 50, but Reising did a good job with the 22.” 

It took me almost half a century to find a Reising.  A previous owner (probably named Bubba) had removed the original front sight and replaced it with a pricey target sight that guaranteed the rifle couldn’t hit anything – it was a half-inch too tall.  It did bring the price down, and when I removed it, I found that most of the threads underneath were intact, and I could buy a brand new, 70-year old front sight for $4.95 plus shipping from West Hurley, New York.  It shared the front sight with the model 50 that Ed despised – and with the sights returned to normal, I managed to set it up the way those WWII Marines used it.  There are enough elevation clicks in the rear sight to make it a 200 yard 22.  I realized as I brought it back into condition that a light trigger pull was not required for the old breed.

As I look back, Hunter Safety from Ed Ruhl was formative.  It took me a while to learn that the FBI wasn’t connected to the justice department – it was an informal group of elderly female residents of Fortine who relentlessly found the basis and actual story behind any and every half told piece of gossip in their community.  He installed respect for the relentless women of the Fortine Bureau of Investigation.  I don’t know how many people are still around who learned weapon voodoo from pre-war Marines who had served in Haiti – hand signals designed to make the real voodoo practitioners wake up in a cold sweat.  I signaled a Haitian grad student with one, and over 40 years after Ed had taught the voo, I got confirmation the hand signals were recognized.  “You don’t want to mess with those powers!  Where did you learn that?”  Jean-Michel still knew of the Marines who brought their version of peace to Haiti.

Ed’s life exemplified responsibility.  As his wife’s health failed, he moved to Great Falls to be near a military hospital.  I recall his story describing how Alzheimer’s had taken her memory, as she explained, “You’re a nice old man.  My husband would like you.”  While Danny On has public memorials, Ed’s memorial has been, and remains, intensely private – shared now with my son-in-law as he learns to use the 1911a1, and next summer when we move onto the Reising.

Community

My Father’s Pistol

For years my father wanted a 410 pistol – just like his father’s.  It wasn’t to be – the National Firearms Act of 1934 outlawed smoothbore barrels less than 18” long.  As I researched to figure out what my grandfather’s pistol must have been, I kept closing in on the game getter -one 22 barrel, one 410 barrel, like in the old poster below.

As you will notice – it technically wasn’t a 410.  And the pistol I got for Dad is for the same 44 Ball cartridge you see in the ad.  You see, before 1900, folks in the US pretty much used 44 shot cartridges, and the Europeans used the 410.  As the 410 moved in, someone made the discovery that if you chambered the gun for 410, you could also use a 44 shotshell or 44 ball.  It’s an important detail to the story, for after about 20 years of searching, I found a single shot pistol, with a rifled 12 inch barrel, marked 44 Ball.  The 410 cartridges he wanted would fit, and with a rifled barrel it was legal.  Dad was blind, but not a problem – I bought the pistol he had wanted for so long, and didn’t even haggle.

It does kick a bit – particularly when it’s stoked with 5 pieces of triple ought buck – but in general it’s a pleasant little gun, though Boito doesn’t have the greatest reputation as a quality gun.  I’ve inherited it back, and, with its age, decided I should find out where, or if, parts would be available if I ever needed them.  Gun laws are strange things – Canada is concerned about handguns, but not about short-barreled shotguns.  North of the 49th parallel, my pistol is illegal as can be.  South of the 49th parallel, the Boito hiker (pictured below) is good for a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.  But it looks to me like I have found where I can replace broken springs.

Community, Wildlife

I carry a gun

I carry a gun when I go for walks.  Occasionally I see an article about carrying an everyday pistol – yet these folks might as well be in a different world.  I don’t need the pistol to protect myself – I have two small dogs that are at some level of risk when we run across coyote or cougar.  Come to think of it, the last encounter was when Kiki decided to protect me from 2 grizzlies – they ran for about 80 yards, and then one must have realized that there wasn’t much dignity in 2 grizzlies being chased by a 7-year-old Pomeranian. 

The nice lady who handles problem bears for FWAP explained the advantages of bear spray to me.  I even kind of agree that my aging, overweight Pomeranian has an awesome ability to make a stressful grizzly encounter worse.  That said, bear spray is short range – 7 to 10 yards sticks in my mind.  My little companions can range 50 yards from me, and they have already encountered coyotes, a cougar, and an eagle that regarded them as prey.  I’ve had a wolf kill a fawn within 150 yards of the house.  They’ve all been beyond the range of bear spray, and they have all backed off at my confident approach.  Still, at 71, that confidence is enhanced by the pistol on my hip.

Robert Ruark penned the phrase, “Use enough gun.”  I believe – but it is inconvenient to carry enough gun for a pair of grizzlies everywhere I walk . . . and there are only a few moments of my life spent in grizzly encounters.  Coyotes are more common, as are cats – and over a half-century ago, Paul Totten explained that a 22 is adequate for cougar.  Even a 45 feels small when you’re looking at the real bear, and politely asking, “Please Mr. Bear, you go your way and I’ll go mine.  Neither one of us wants trouble, OK?”  So far the conversation has been effective every time.

So I carry a small, inadequate HK4.  It can protect my small dogs from the common predators, and, if worse comes down to worst, I think I’d feel more competent concentrating on my sights and trigger than praying. 

Community

Repairing a Rifle

I spent some of my time repairing a rifle this week – while the story might not be noteworthy to my gunsmithing friends (I started teaching college at Trinidad State in Colorado), the details might be interesting for another group.  After all, few people begin teaching in a college best known for gunsmithing, and retire from a sociology department in a midwest Land Grant.  I do have friends on both sides of the gun control issue.

An old friend greeted me with, “I’ve got something I want you to have.” a while back.  When he opened his trunk, I was handed a 50 caliber rifle.  It needed some work – the hammer was missing, the hammer screw broken off, no wedge, rust along the barrel, and, because of another broken part couldn’t be loaded.  No background check, just a private transfer from an old friend who knew I would enjoy both repairing and using his 50 caliber.

Even as a wall-hanger, the rust had to go.  So I spent several hours rubbing with steel wool and light oil.  I was pleased – the rust was almost totally surface rust, and virtually no pitting.  To touch up the blue after cleaning the rust, I used Oxpho-Blue . . . a great product, available through the mail from Brownell’s in Iowa.

The broken screw didn’t need drilled.  After a day of AeroKroil penetrating oil, I could grab a thread with a small pair of vicegrips and get the broken shaft out.  I was ready to start repairs.  The rifle was, of course, out of production but a google search showed me the parts were all available on the internet – specifically on ebay.  I could get a replacement hammer.  The screw was available from a machinist that had set up a small lathe to make them when he couldn’t get replacement parts.  A New Old Stock wedge was available.  I went to Kalispell with Renata, and bought ammunition. Five days after using a credit card and an internet connection, the rifle was almost complete.  I could check the set triggers, and there was no rust there to mess me up.  I just couldn’t load the rifle.

Today, the part I needed arrived in the mail – a ramrod, made in Thompson Falls, a few miles southwest of me, shipped from an ebay seller in Florida.  I slipped it below the barrel, and my 50 caliber Hawken was complete.  Now, I have to pour in a little black powder, patch the round ball, and shoot a rifle that was state of the art between 1822 and 1858.  I’ve always wanted a 45 Whitworth – but a 50 Hawken that came from a friend is probably more appropriate in the Rockies.