Friday, April 19, 2013

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A Moment of Gun Education

With the horrific and crazy events occurring in Boston and other parts of Massachusetts, various news sources are sharing information and misinformation.  One area that it seems reporters are often poorly informed is basic knowledge of guns and gun terminology.

So here’s a quick primer to understanding guns & gun terms:

- For a gun to be anything more than a big metal club, you have to put in bullets.  1 bullet allows for 1 shot to occur.  So each time the gun shoots, it must have a new bullet in place.

- In the 1800’s, the newfangled guns were designed to allow you to put 2-10 bullets INTO the gun, with the gun user having to do something to move the next bullet in place inside the gun to shoot.  This means you can only shoot them relatively slowly, having to cock or pump the gun between shots, and putting more bullets in is a time consuming task.

These guns are Regular Slow Guns and include Revolvers and Pump-Action Shotguns…

revolver

shotgun

- In the early 1900’s, two big changes to guns came along. 

The first was allowing bullets to be put into a detachable chamber, called a magazine or clip, or sometimes a detachable magazine.  With a magazine you can load from 8-15 (on average, more for big rifles) bullets into the gun, pop out the magazine and replace it (with another pre-filled magazine) in a second or so. 

The second was adding a spring action to the gun so that when a bullet fires, the force of the push also pushes back a spring, and when that spring comes forward it pops out the used bullet case and pushes a new unused bullet into place.  This is called a Semi-Automatic Gun and has become the normal gun among most gun buyers and police.

The key point of a Semi-Automatic Gun is it requires the operator to pull the trigger 1 time for every 1 bullet shot. 

semi

While the next gun, an AR-15 Semi-Automatic Rifle, is styled like a military weapon, it still shoots just 1 bullet for every pull of the trigger. 

ar-15

- Last we come to Automatic Weapons.  Invented during (or shortly before) World War II, the automatic weapon keeps firing bullets as long as you hold down the trigger.  In the U.S., it is illegal for any private citizen to own an automatic weapon, and in Israel such weapons are only owned and issued by the army, police or security services.

These weapons have magazines of 30-50 bullets (the limitation being the weight of the bullets while holding the gun, where too heavy makes it impossible to carry or use) and may fire bullets anywhere from 1-6 per second.

Automatic firing tends to be very inaccurate in hand held guns (because every time a bullet fires the gun jumps, the less the weight of the gun the bigger the jump, knocking aim off target), therefore the smaller the gun the less accurate on automatic.  This is also why much military rifle firing is done lying down, to keep the gun from knocking the operator out of position while firing.

m16 

ak

mp5

So next time you hear a reporter talking about automatic weapons or automatic weapons fire, know he probably doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.  Automatic weapons are very rarely used, even by criminals, outside of the military or war zones.

Lastly, what’s an assault rifle?  Since there is no such gun category, my best guess is a gun that looks like (but is not) a military gun or a military gun WITHOUT the automatic-firing capability that’s sold to the general public. 

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