Just Making Stuff Up

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In this Boston Globe article, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey wants to sue Remington and Glock over safety concerns. You may recall back in July of this year, Healey effectively banned the sales of many semi-automatic rifles in the state, in a move that most likely will not survive a lawsuit. Since Healey wants you, the law abiding citizen, disarmed, and has been unsuccessful is getting legislation passed to prevent you from buying these guns, she has focused her sights on the manufacturers. After all, this is a technique that has worked so well. By making the purchase and manufacture of crystal meth, heroin, and cocaine illegal, these drugs have completely been eliminated from public use. (Hold on, my fact checking department is telling me that may not be a true statement, while I research this farther, let’s look at Healey’s claims).

The Boston Globe article is well written and seems fairly unbiased. But, I do have issue with the claims that Healey in the accidental discharges she sites.

For reference, let’s review the 4 rules of gun safety, as we teach at GunSense:

1.Treat all guns as if they are loaded.

2.Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.

3.Always keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to fire.

4.Be sure of your target and what lies beyond.

In responding to Glock’s lawsuit, she referenced 3 stories.

The first is an “accidental” discharge at the San Francisco Hall of Justice. On thing I am not clear on, is what the fire arm was. According to an NBC Bay Area report, the handgun was a “baby Glock” in 22 caliber. However, I cannot find that Glock manufactures a gun in 22 caliber. There are 22 caliber conversion kits, but those are non-Glock parts. Glock does manufacture a Glock model 22, which is chambered in .40 S&W. If the picture in the article is an actual photo of the incident, the hole in the locker seems more consistent with a 40 caliber bullet instead of a 22. Regardless, that is not the point.
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The incident went down like this. Deputy A brought the privately owned “baby Glock” to work for show and tell, and handed it to Deputy B. Deputy B wanted to know how it worked, pointed the gun in the direction of Deputy A and pressed the trigger. Deputy B must have slept through the presentation on the first THREE rules of gun safety. This is not a case of accidental discharge, this is a case of the gun doing EXACTLY what the gun was designed to do.

The second example is an accidental discharge that left a LAPD officer paralyzed. Let’s walk through this one. The officer had a loaded handgun laying in the back seat. He placed his 3-year -old son in the back seat, and not in the car seat he was legally required to be in. The young boy picked up the gun, pressed the trigger, and shot his father. Again, the gun did exactly what it was supposed to do. The father is claiming that if the gun had a grip safety, the 3-year-old would not have been able to fire the gun. However, grip safeties have lighter springs than the trigger, so if the the child was able to pull the trigger, he would have been able to depress the grip safety. Again, this story has nothing to do with Glock and everything to do with you to securely store a fire arm. (Hint: It should be on your body or in a safe)

The third example is of a man who was dancing and the “gun just went off” in his pocket and shot himself in the leg. Fewer details are available in this one. Here is what we know. The man was drunk. According to Bearing Arms, the gun was not in a holster. Healey is claiming that the light trigger on the Glock allowed the gun to discharge because of his dance moves. But let’s look into that.

An important feature of a gun being being drop safe, that means the gun can be dropped on the ground and not fire. Here is the physics behind this. Let’s say you have a gun oriented so that the muzzled is aimed perfectly straight up, perpendicular to the ground. You now drop the gun, so it falls, grip first to the hard ground below. Newton’s 2nd law of motion tells us that an object in motion stays in motion without the action of an external force. As the gun falls, it accelerates and picks up speed. At the exact instant the grip contacts the ground, both the gun frame and the trigger are falling at the same speed. However, the frame, now contacts the ground (an external force) and the gun stops moving, but the trigger still has motion, and so it continues downward. This is the normal direction of the trigger when it is being pulled to fire a shot. You now have two forces at work on the trigger. The momentum of the trigger (momentum is the product of mass (weight) times speed) is trying to pull it downward, and the trigger spring is trying to push it upwards. One of the two forces will win. If the trigger momentum is greater, the gun will fire. If the trigger return spring is greater, the trigger stays put.

As an aside, Taurus recently recalled many of their handguns because of a defect that rendered them not drop safe.Manufacturers are concerned about this and will take to remedy the problems. Manufacturers, while I am sure they are concerned about lawsuits, are really concerned about the perception in the market. There are thousands of different semi-automatic pistols out there, and for the most part, they are all the same. Different manufacturers will add some little do dad here or there to try to separate them from the rest, but in reality, they are all the same. But, they also don’t want to be differentiated on the negative side. If you earn a reputation of being not drop safe, like Taurus did, then when shopping for a pistol, and you look at a Taurus, a Glock, an M&P, and an XDm, and can’t make up your mind, you are probably going to drop Taurus from the list based on safety concerns.

Manufacturers really only have 3 ways to solve the problem to make their pistols drop safe.

The first is to reduce the momentum of the trigger, meaning make the trigger weigh less. That means making the trigger, say, from plastic instead of steel or making the trigger thinner to reduce the amount of material used. The downside is reliability and comfort of the trigger. As you make the trigger lighter, at some point, the trigger becomes to weak and will break instead of fire the gun. As you make the trigger thinner, it makes the trigger feel heaver on the pad of the finger because there is less surface area. So, like everything in engineering, this is a compromise between reliability, comfort, and weight.

The second is to increase the spring pressure. As the spring pressure increases, that means the trigger needs to be more beefy as well. It also means the gun becomes harder to shoot. The more pressure required on the trigger to fire the shot, means the gun is more likely to move off target just at the last moment before the trigger breaks. So, again, it is a compromise between accuracy, reliability, and safety.

The last method is to add an interlock to not allow the trigger to move unless it is depressed. Glock and the Smith and Wesson M&P series use this approach. Glock17Target&Trigger 004The Glock has a little tongue that locks the trigger to the frame when the tongue is not depressed. Because the tongue is not part of the firing mechanism, it can be very thin and light and not hurt the reliability of the firing mechanism. Also, the tongue return spring can be relatively stiff, compared to the weight of the tongue, and not interfere with the firing sequence. S&W uses a similar, but different approach in the hinged trigger. The result is, decent sized reliable triggers and reasonable spring weights provide for a comfortable and accurate shooting experience without compromising drop safety.

So, let’s circle this back to our drunk dancer. First of all, the gun was in a hip pocket, and he was shot in the leg. This means the gun was being carried muzzle down, which is the correct way to carry in a pocket, so the grip is available for the draw. This also means gravity is helping you by pulling the trigger towards the muzzle, keeping it from firing. I cannot image how dancing could cause enough g-force in the UPWARDS direction to cause the trigger to fire. And, that would assume that he replaced the well designed Glock trigger with an aftermarket competition trigger that did not have the little tongue. So, I speculate that what happened here is that our drunk party goer had something else in his pocket, like change, keys, or chap stick. At some point, something in this pocket shifted into the trigger guard, and the entire contents of this pocket shifted up, then the object became wedged between his leg and clothing, but the gun was free to slide downward and the object in his pocket activated the trigger. Again, this is user error and not the fault of the gun.

In conclusion, I really wish Glock and Remington success in defending the baseless lawsuits brought by Attorney General Maura Healey.

And, secondly, if you carry a gun, please get training. At GunSense, I am currently putting together an entire 4 hour class on just holsters. In Concealed Carry I, students will learn good and bad features of a wide range of holsters, and learn and practice the proper draw stroke from both an unconcealed and concealed holsters. Look for this new class coming shortly.

 

 

 

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Cleaning a brand new gun?

You did it, you bought a brand new gun! But, before you try it out, you should clean it first. Why, you ask?

I recently purchased¬† a couple new Smith & Wesson M&P 9’s for use by students in my classes. As an experiment, I cleaned the gun before shooting it, just to see what was lurking in the barrel.

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(Photo by Larry Piekarski)

As you can see, the first patch got some stuff out. Is there anything harmful in there, like metal fillings? Maybe not, but the point is, it is not exactly clean. The second patch came out clean, and I ran a 3rd patch down the bore with a little oil on it. I also wiped down the frame and slide and lubed those as well.

Keep in mind, Smith & Wesson is a higher end manufacturer. so I would expect a higher standard of care than other lower end manufacturers. Furthermore, this particular model is in high demand, so it probably didn’t spend much time sitting in a warehouse. If the gun had been manufactured overseas where it had been shipped by boat or sat in a dealers showcase or table as a gun show, would only add to the possibility of getting foreign material in the gun.

Staying safe in any weather

As four different tornadoes rolled through the county in which I live, in the afternoon last Wednesday, August 24, 2016, you have to realize that not all threats to your safety come from the masked man in the dark alley. (What are you doing in a dark alley anyway?)

Looking East(Path of one of the tornadoes, Photo by Larry Piekarski)

I use two different apps, because each one excels at different things.

RadarNow! (Android, iOS) is the first one.This one is light weight and is easy on data. I use this one when I just want a radar map. Is uses your phone’s GPS to draw a map centered on your location. Also, when there is a NOAA weather alert, it also draws the warning box on the map, which was a great feature last week. You can animate the map, if you want, and it has current temp and forecast, but I really just like this one for the map.

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The other one I use is AccuWeather (Android, iOS). This one is great for forecasting. It answers these questions: What is the next big weather event? What does the weekend look like? When will it start raining? When will it stop raining?

The front page has 3 sections. The top is the current weather centered on your phone’s GPS location (or any other location you type in). Clicking on any section opens a window with more information about that section. The second section is the MinuteCast. I really like this feature. It tells you what the precipitation events are for the next 2 hours. So, you are practicing at an outdoor range and rain drops start to fall, is it a small cell and going to stop in 5 minutes, or are you done for the day? It works really well for large slow moving storms, usually getting the start/stop times right within a few minutes. It doesn’t do as well with the small pop-up type showers that we see here in the springtime.Still, it looks at your current location, what storm cells are out there, which direction they are headed, and how hard it will rain. The third section shows the next big event. So, on a Thursday, it might say, thunderstorm Sunday with strong winds and damaging hail. That doesn’t mean that Saturday will be dry, but it does mean that Sunday is something to be concerned with. This seems to look out up to 3 or 4 days, but sometimes just a few hours out.

The AccuWeather website has a handy weekend forecast, but the phone version doesn’t. Both the website and the phone have an hourly and daily forecast.

The one thing I will say, is the AccuWeather radar is maybe a bit too optimistic. Sometimes, on hot, low humidity days, it will be technically raining at a high altitude (and showing up on radar), but the rain evaporates before it hits the ground. RadarNow! seems to mirror reality a little better in that regard.

EDIT: The NWS released their official report, and there were only 4 tornadoes.

Paul Lathrop

If you carry a gun or have one in the house for self defense, you need to follow Paul’s case.

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I listen to Bob Mayne’s Handgun World Podcast on a regular basis. Sometime around October 2012, Bob interviewed Paul. I can’t remember what they talked about, but I liked what Paul had to say, and connected with him on Facebook. Paul’s podcast at the time was called Politics and Gun’s. I listened to it from time to time. It was OK, but I have a limited amount of time to listen to podcasts, and it just didn’t bubble to the top that often. Still, I remained friends with Paul on Facebook, and we had some interactions back and forth. I had never met him in person, but I knew he was a good person.

Fast forward many years. Paul changed the name of the podcast to the Polite Society Podcast, and had changed co-hosts several times. It had been a while since I had listened to an episode.

Then, in February, my Facebook feed blew up. Paul Lathop has been arrested. A GoFundMe or some such thing was set up. I knew I wanted to help Paul, though I had never met him, I knew he was just like me. I had a class scheduled for the upcoming weekend, and my wife and I agreed we would donate the proceeds of that class to help Paul. As we talked, my thoughts drifted to George Zimmerman. While Mr. Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted, he became a target and has been arrested or investigated multiple times. Without a doubt, Paul needed money, but I looked to the future and decided I wanted to get him peace of mind for the future, so we connected with his wife, Susan, and bought them a family Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network membership. You never know why one case, like Zimmerman, because a regular feature on the nightly news, and yet a similar case is never known outside of a very small circle. Not knowing what would happen to Paul, made the ACLDN membership time-sensitive. I think the time between deciding to help them and them being paid members only took an hour or so. I do not believe Paul had even had a bail hearing and will still in jail in Nebraska.

And now, I became very interested in his podcast, mainly to learn more about his case (which he couldn’t talk about). What I found is that the current cast of co-hosts are just excellent and this has become my favorite podcast. I knew he hosted big name trainers at his home range in South Dakota, and learned Kathy Jackson was teaching an instructor development class on August. I have always wanted to take training from Kathy, and in particular this class. It was certainly not conveniently located for me, but the opportunity to take some training with Paul and Kathy, was too much to resist. So, I spent a week with Paul (and Susan) and learned he is just as great of a guy as he seems, and proud to call him a friend.

On Monday, he was acquitted of charges for something that never happened. This cost him $25,000. There is so much to learn from his case. Instead of go into the details myself, list to Paul’s on words on several recent interviews, and I will update this as more interviews occur.

Safety Solutions Academy Podcast (1:55)

Handgun World Podcast (1:10)

My Spidey Sense

I drove by myself from home to Sioux Falls, SD for Kathy Jackson’s Cornered Cat Instructor Development Class. Unfortunately, to get from Indiana to South Dakota without going WAY out of the way, meant crossing Illinois. The law in Illinois is that you can carry a loaded firearm, in your car, with your home state license, provided you don’t get out of the car. On the way out, I stopped at one of the last exits in Indiana and filled the cars gas tank and emptied mine. The trip across Illinois on I-74 is about 3 1/2 hours and 240 miles, so, provided I watch my water intake, doable non-stop.

On the way back, I am watching the GPS for the state line. On the way out, I stopped at a hotel for the night and there were lots of big populated exits. Apparently, on the way back, the GPS routed me differently. I come around this bend and up ahead I see this really big bridge, and faster than I could say 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, I knew this was my last chance. I didn’t have to use the restroom, but I knew that would change over the next 3 1/2 hours, so I bailed off at the last exit in Iowa. There was nothing at the exit, so I asked the GPS to find me a gas station, and it showed me one just over a mile away. Cool.

I find myself in this little town. Older, a little run down, but seems safe. I put my blinker on to pull into the first gas station. As I slow down, I see 2 groups of young women get out of cars and head into the store. The hairs on the back of my neck kind of tingled. Maybe they were just going in to get some smokes or a Coke, but it kind of seemed like they might be ready to fight. I flipped the blinker off and continued on down the road.

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Just up ahead, I see a BP station. Cool. As I get closer, I see no cars in the lot, even better I thought. Again, blinker on, and as I start to slow down, I see bars on all the doors and windows. Then it hit me, I am NOT in a good part of town. And, judging from the picture I snipped from Google Maps, the bars are a recent update. Once again, blinker off, and back to the GPS for a new gas station, now looking for one a little further away.

This story has a happy ending. I used the restroom without incident, and traveled blissfully through Illinois all the way to the Indiana Welcome Center.

In all likely-hood, the story would have been the same if I had actually stopped at either of the first two stations as well. Or, I could have been killed in some gang shootout. I will never know. And, I am good with that.

Your brain is constantly processing more information than you are aware of, and scanning for danger in particular. When it subconsciously sees something, it notifies you, like making the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Don’t ignore those signs. Your subconscious detected danger. You may not know what it was, and your subconscious may be wrong, but don’t ignore it.

Car Security Woes

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In this article, researchers at the University of Birmingham and engineering firm Kasper & Oswald plan to reveal 2 vulnerabilities that allow a criminal to remotely unlock your car. One vulnerability applies to 100 million Volkswagens sold since 1995, and the other is more broad and affects multiple car lines.

I worked on Remote Keyless Entry (RKE) as a cooperative college student sometime around 1990. While the technology has changed, the basic function has not. The key fob (the remote on your key chain) contains a small radio transmitter. When you press a button, it decodes which button was pressed and transmits a message. On the opposite side, mounted somewhere in the car, is a radio receiver. When a radio frequency is detected that matches that of the fob,it decodes the radio transmission. If the command is valid and meant for this car, then the receiver sends a message requesting the car do some action, like unlock the door.

The FCC limits the radio frequencies that devices can use. This makes sense. You don’t want your cordless phone or cell phone to disconnect when you press the garage door opener remote. The result is, each type of device is assigned a relatively narrow band of frequencies. Most RKE systems operate on the same frequency, usually 300 or 400 MHz.

When you press the button, the remote transmits a 2 part message. The first part is an ID, and the second part is a command. Back in 1990, the remotes I worked with had fixed 20-bit ID, which amounts to 2^20 unique ID’s (a little over a million). Your car would come with 2 remotes and it would be programmed to respond to only those remotes. So, if your car had 1334 and 87234 as your two remotes, and received the signal for 1335, then it would ignore it. This is required so that when you press the unlock button, you don’t unlock all of the Buick’s in the parking lot.

The problem with that system, is the signal transmitted to unlock your car is the same, every single time. If you sat in a parking lot with a scanner tuned to 300Mhz, and captured these short bursts of radio traffic, you could simply archive them and then play them back, unlocking the car. The equipment to do this is relatively cheap and easy to assemble. Furthermore, if you actually decoded the message, you could extract the ID and substitute the unlock command. Think about this for a second. If you were sitting in a parking lot, and someone pulls in, they get out of their car, and press LOCK. You would then have the lock command for that particular car, but it is not very useful to a criminal. What you need is the UNLOCK command, and likely you would only get that opportunity as the owner walks back to their car, at which point they unlock it and drive away. If you could decode the signal and create a new transmission with the correct ID and the UNLOCK command, now you could unlock the car as soon as the owner was out of site.

The car companies immediately recognized this weakness. So, they changed the way the system works. First, they changed the ID to be 40-bits, or about 1 Trillion combinations. Next, they switch to a rolling code, so each time it transmits and ID, it increments to the next one. Let’s say you had a remote that was set to 1334. You press the button, it transmits 1334, the receiver is expecting 1334, it does the action you request and both receiver and transmitter increment to the next number, say 1335. This prevents someone from just re-transmitting the ID. However, it is easy to see that determining the next ID would be easy to figure out. To solve this, the ID generator has a pseudo random number generator. With that, the “next” number is not the next consecutive number, but the next random number in the sequence. So 1334 might be followed by 5366342, but 1334 will ALWAYS be followed by 5366342. This is how an iPod works on Shuffle mode and this is how remotes have worked for some time. (Home garage doors work the same way as well).

Apparently, what has happened is these researchers have discovered what this pseudo random sequence is. So, now, you press the lock button, a criminal could receive the transmission, decode the ID, pick the next pseudo random number, pair it with the unlock command, and transmit that message. The whole process can be done in less than a minute and with $40 in hardware. The problem for the car manufacturers is, how do you fix this. Well, there are new, better algorithms out there, but that would require physically changing the module in your car and the remotes. Since this is not a safety issue, do not expect the car manufacturers to issue a recall.

What can you do? Quite simply, don’t use your remote, especially for locking you car. The one thing I like about locking the car with the remote is it guarantees that you are physically in possession of your keys when the car gets locked. I have never locked my keys in the car since I have been driving cars with a remote.

An alternate method would be to press the power lock button (LOCK ALL) on the door panel as you exit the car. That doesn’t fix the issue of locking your keys in the car, but it does prevent someone from intercepting your signal. Another method would be to physically use your key to lock the door. That solves the locked key problem, but doesn’t ensure ALL the doors get locked.

When you return to your car, it is probably OK to use the remote to unlock the car, provided your are driving away, because it is unlikely that a criminal would follow you and attempt to break into your car at your next destination. However, if you sense that someone is monitoring radio traffic, there is no harm in using your physical key.

The news just can’t end on a positive note

Stacey has the CBS news on as I was preparing to get the car ready for a trip I am making to take some firearms training. A news story popped on that said, according to the NSSF, Women are the fastest growing group of firearms owners. They interviewed a woman that owned a gun store, and it was a very positive piece, odd for the mainstream news. As the store ended, they popped up a graphic that said, the average firearms owner has not had formal training in at least a decade. Stacey said they just ruined an otherwise positive piece. Unfortunately, I cannot find this story to link to this article.

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While, I agree it is a shame the that the graphic is probably true, and in fact there are firearms owners that have never had formal training, it got me thinking…

The last time I had formal automobile driving training was 32 years ago, and I know that there are large numbers of people that have never had formal drivers training. So, what does that mean? Are their people on the road that are unsafe? Sure. Do they cause accidents and injure or kill people. Yep, they do. But, does that affect my life, that is, do I choose not to drive or otherwise ride in a vehicle on public roads because of some the people have never taking formal drivers education or it has been more than a decade? No, it doesn’t. Why? Because 99.9% of people that drive are responsible enough to not kill or injure other people.

The majority of the accidents you hear about, the serious ones, seems to involve alcohol, suspended licenses, excessive speed, and fleeing from law enforcement, that is, most serious accidents involve the driver being a criminal.

And, isn’t that what we can say about firearms? I think everyone that has, and especially carries, a firearm should get regular training. But, even if they don’t, I think most firearms owners, like most drivers, are responsible and safe people. Do accidents happen? Yep, they do. But name an activity that accidents don’t happen. By in large, most injuries or deaths that occur with firearms are at at the hands of criminals.

And shame on CBS for trying to paint firearms owners in a bad light, when the cameraman and reporter that drove to the gun store, they probably have not had formal drivers education in over a decade.