Archive for the ‘Weapons’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Firearm Malfunctions: Squibs, Stovepipes, and Limp-Wristing

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Officer Dewey Shootornot found himself in a real pickle when he heard that all too familiar muffled “pop” at the precise moment when a pair of armed robbers chose to send a volley of bullets his way. No matter which way he turned the gun, poked it, pulled on it, shook it, or banged it on a nearby lamp post, he could not dislodge the faulty round. Unfortunately, thanks to the malfunction—a squib round—, Officer Shootornot found himself on the receiving end of a baker’s dozen gunshot wounds to the place where the sun rarely ever shines (he’d been in full retreat mode when the rounds hit).

A squib round, like the one that nearly cost Officer Shootornot his life, is a real danger, especially for police officers and military troops who are sometimes forced to engage in a gun battle with bad guys.

Squibs are caused when a bullet does not have enough force to exit the barrel. This malfunction is typically caused by a round having a primer but a lack of the proper amount of, if any, gunpowder

Primers are located on the flat end of casings opposite the bullet, either in the center (centerfire) , or on the side (rimfire). A trigger-pull causes the firing pin to strike the primer, an action that generates enough heat to ignite the gunpowder. When the gunpowder explodes it sends the bullet on its way to the intended target. Squib rounds, however, remain lodged inside the gun barrel and, if the trigger is pulled a second time, the new bullet strikes the one lodged inside the barrel and…BOOM! The weapon could explode or fall apart. It’s a very dangerous situation. So, if the shooter hears that faint “pop” they should not pull the trigger a second time.

A stovepipe occurs when a bullet casing does not fully eject from the weapon and becomes stuck in the slide/ejection port. When stovepipes occur the weapon will not fire. This type of malfunction typically occurs due to dirty extractors, malfunctioning extractors, or the improper handling/holding of the firearm when shooting (limp-wristing). Limp-wristing is especially common with certain Glock semi-automatics.

PostHeaderIcon Gunpowder and Lead: Stuff You Probably Don’t Know About Firearms

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Guns. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve got to deal with them. They’re here and they’re not going anywhere any time soon. As writers, though, you probably handle them, if only in your minds, more often than the average person. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know what it is you’re trusting your characters to carry and use as part of their crime-fighting tool box. So, to help your heroes sound as if they really know their stuff, here are a dozen not-so-well-known firearm facts.

1. Not all firearms require official registration under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Those that do include machine guns, short-barrel rifles (barrel less than 16″ in length) and shotguns (barrel less than 18″ in length), silencers, gadget-type firearms (pen and cellphone guns, etc.), destructive devices, and what ATF calls “any other weapons.”

*Destructive devices include Molotov cocktails, bazookas, anti tank guns (over .50 cal.), and mortars. Interestingly  grenade and rocket launchers that attach to military rifles are not considered to be destructive devices. However, grenades and rockets are listed as destructive devices.

*Any other weapons include Ithaca Auto-Burglar guns, H&R Handy-gun, and cane guns.

Violators caught with a non-registered NFA firearm may be fined not more than $250,000, and imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

2. Dealers who sell gas masks must be registered with ATF. It takes 4-6 weeks for the agency to process the registration paperwork.

3. Parts or devices that are designed to convert a firearm into a NFA firearm must be registered with ATF.

4. The semi-automatic assault weapon (SAW) ban went into effect on September 13, 1994. The law made it illegal to manufacture or possess SAW’s. The law expired 10 years later on September 13, 2004.

5. The ban on large capacity ammunition feeding devices (magazines, belts, drums, etc.) went into effect on September 13, 1994. It, too, expired 10 years later, on September 13, 2004.

6. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is in place to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives (not a convicted felon or otherwise ineligible). The system is utilized each time someone purchases a firearm from a licensed dealer. NICS is maintained by the FBI. More than 100 million checks have been conducted since the system was initiated. 700,000 of those checks resulted in denials.

7. Muzzleloading cannons are NOT classified as destructive devices.

8. Machine guns may be legally transferred (sold) from one registered owner to another.

9. It is illegal to manufacture, import, and/or sell armor-piercing ammunition. However, this law does not apply to those who manufacture and sell armor-piercing ammunition to the government of the United States or any its departments or agencies, or to any state government or any department and/or agency thereof. It is also legal to manufacture and sell armor-piercing ammunition for the purpose of exporting to other countries.

ATF defines armor-piercing ammunition as:

(a) projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or

(b) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.

10. Brandish – to display all or part a firearm, or make it known a firearm is present, for the purpose of intimidating another. “Cops charged my cousin with brandishing a firearm. He’ll do six months in county for this one. It’s the second time he’s done it.”

11. It is illegal for persons convicted of crimes of violence to purchase or possess body armor.

12. Gun sales to foreign embassies on U.S. soil are considered exports; therefore, typical gun sale paperwork is not required. Instead, dealers need to obtain only one of the following – an official purchase order from the foreign mission, payment from foreign government funds, a written document from the agency head stating the weapons are being purchased by the embassy, not an individual. Standard laws apply to individual parties/diplomats.

Bonus – It is illegal to knowingly sell a gun to anyone who is an unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substances. It is also illegal to knowingly sell a firearm to someone has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution.

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I’m goin’ home, gonna load my shotgun
Wait by the door and light a cigarette
If he wants a fight well now he’s got one

I’m gonna show him what little girls are made of
Gunpowder and lead

Miranda Lambert ~ Gunpowder and Lead

PostHeaderIcon But, He Only Had a Knife, Why’d They Shoot Him?

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Let’s ask this guy how much damage could be caused by one guy and his little knife.

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It’s doubtful that an officer could draw his weapon and squeeze off a round, without aiming, if a knife-wielding suspect began a charge from a distance of twenty-one feet or less. Suppose the officer did properly assess the threat, managing to draw his weapon and fire. How long would it take to think about and perform those two basic tasks?

In a controlled test, the officer with the quickest response was able to draw his weapon from a security holster in a little under 1.5 seconds. The slowest was a about 2.25 seconds. Sounds pretty fast, huh? Maybe not.

The average suspect can cover the distance (21 feet as seen above) to the officer in as little as 1.5 seconds, nearly a full second quicker than the slowest officer is able to defend himself.

Today, officers must rethink the twenty-one foot rule a bit. Sure, a knife-wielding thug (thug: a violent criminal. A brutal ruffian or assassin) is potentially a deadly threat, but not an actual deadly threat until he makes some sort of hostile movement toward the officer. Of course, the officer should have his firearm in a ready position as soon as he perceives the threat. And this is a situation where the officer should always choose his firearm over a non-lethal weapon, such as a Taser or pepper spray. Remember the the old saying, “Never bring a knife to a gunfight?” Now there’s a new addition to that rule. It’s, “Never bring a Taser to a knife fight.”

The key to knowing when it’s time to shoot is simple. If the officer feels that his life, or the life of an innocent person is at risk, then the shoot is justified. However, the officer must be prepared to articulate his reasons for pulling the trigger. Was the suspect making stabbing motions while advancing?  Was he charging at, or lunging toward the officer?

There are reasons, too, that may not justify the shoot, such as the suspect being so intoxicated that he couldn’t possibly have followed through with the threat. In short, the threat must be real, or at least perceived as being real in the eyes and mind of the officer. However, if the threat is real and incoming, then there’s no doubt…deadly force is justified.

In addition, the officer must be able to recognize when a threat is over. If the suspect drops his weapon the justification for deadly force ends immediately.

PostHeaderIcon Benjamin Sobieck: Switchblades and Assisted Opening Knives

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One of my favorite things about The Graveyard Shift is the way Lee Lofland pulls lessons out of current events. While I don’t have the law enforcement experience he can offer, I’d like to contribute to that tradition in my own way. Let’s talk about switchblades (aka automatic) and assisted opening knives.

As I’m sure many of you are aware, a man named Freddie Gray died after his arrest by Baltimore police this past April. There’s plenty to discuss about the context of his arrest and death, but I want to focus on the reason police cited for making the arrest. Gray apparently had a switchblade clipped into his pocket. Concealed carry of switchblades is illegal under Maryland law, and prohibited by Baltimore city code. However, it appears Gray may have actually carried an assisted opening knife, which is legal. The jury (figuratively) is still out on that.

What’s the difference? Why would these two knife types – one illegal, one legal – be confused?

If you’re familiar with switchblades from pop culture, you already know that they open with an iconic “pop.” What you might not know is what makes a knife a switchblade. By federal law, and most state laws, there are two distinct features:

– The folding blade is biased to open from its closed position inside the handle.
– A button or switch on the handle of the knife must be pressed for the blade to open. That’s different from the distinctions of an assisted opening knife:
– The folding blade is biased to stay shut from its closed position inside the handle.
– The blade is deployed by manipulating a part of the blade itself (a tab, a thumb stud, etc.), not a button or switch on the handle. The blade gets about halfway open before an assisting mechanism, such as a spring or torsion bar inside the knife, takes the blade the rest of the way.

This doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but the legal impact is significant. Switchblades are restricted across much of the U.S., although there are exceptions. Assisted opening knives are legal and popular almost everywhere.

To the eye, however, both types of knives look identical. They both open in flash with that iconic “pop.” As with much of firearms and knives, looks are deceiving. Function, not form, is what matters.

Adding to the confusion is the recency of assisted openers. They’ve been around only since the mid-1990s, but it took until 2009 for an amendment to the 1958 Federal Switchblade Act to specifically exempt assisted openers. Many states followed suit. That doesn’t change the fact most people can’t tell the difference, including law enforcement officers needing to make a quick decision.

For writing fiction, I think inserting “assisted opening knife” instead of a switchblade in a story makes you look pretty sharp. The switchblade is a tired trope. It isn’t 1958 anymore. With an assisted opening knife, a character gets all of the benefits of a classic switchblade with few of the legal restrictions.

If you’re new to knives and want to learn more about them in the real world, start with basic folders and reference the laws in your area. You might even check out the commemorative folding knife celebrating my new Writer’s Digest book that I’m giving away on my website, CrimeFictionBook.com, but that’s up to you.

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Benjamin Sobieck is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books, summer 2015) and several crime fiction works. His website is CrimeFictionBook.com.

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PostHeaderIcon Concealed Carry: What’s In Your Underwear?

Are you having trouble concealing your handguns? Ladies, do you worry that tucking a .45 semi-auto into your unmentionables would leave a serious panty-line? How about it fellows? The elastic in those boxers not strong enough to support your weapon?

Indeed, both of the aforementioned potentially embarrassing problems are serious concerns. After all, there’s nothing worse than slipping on that curve-hugging, made-for-the-Golden-Globes Tom Ford dress only to discover the clear outline of your favorite smooth bore shot-firing pistol.

Well, your mind can now rest easy. Here are a few solutions to insomnia-inducing concealed-carry woes.

First up, is a company called UnderTech Undercover, a firm that manufactures undergarments and other wearing apparel designed especially for the fashion-conscious gun-toter.

Take a peek at UnderTech’s website to view what might prompt you to purchase a new addition to your wardrobe.

http://www.undertechundercover.com/index.php

Next up is the belt buckle gun.

Then there’s a wide assortment of pocket holsters that are tailor-made to fit a variety of tiny handguns. Yes, they’re specially made to fit the pockets of pants or any other clothing hidey-holes.

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Here’s a short video about the pocket holster.

Of course, there’s always the briefcase gun and that always popular leather clutch (purse) that features a spot for lipstick and another for your favorite pistol.

*By the way, the pun near the top of the article was a product of my wacky sense of humor.

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Registration for the 2014 Writers Police Academy is scheduled to open at 12:00 noon on Sunday, January 26th. That’s this Sunday.

Also, the schedule has been posted on the WPA website. Remember, though, the schedule is a “schedule-in-progress,” meaning parts of it could change, as well as workshops being added throughout the coming months leading up to the event. So please check it often.

See you in September!

 

 

PostHeaderIcon The Chicago Typewriter: It’s Not For Wimps

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This is what it looks like to peer down-range from behind a Thompson fully-automatic submachine gun. You can actually see a spent cartridge ejecting at the lower right-hand side of the picture, just above the major’s right elbow.

The Thompson is an extremely heavy weapon that’s capable of firing 900 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition per minute, and let me tell you, that’s fast. The experience of firing one of these babies is like no other. I took this photo and was peppered with gunpowder during each burst of gunfire, even from the distance where I stood, which was as you see it. I didn’t use the zoom. We took this shot in a controlled situation while wearing full protective gear and employing other safety precautions. I say this because I don’t recommend this method of photography. It’s not safe. Gee, the things I do for you guys.

The Thompson was extremely popular in the 1920s among both law enforcement and gangsters alike. The notorious John Dillinger and his gang amassed an arsenal of these “Chicago Typewriters.” The FBI and other agencies, such as the NYPD, also put Tommy Guns to use in their efforts to battle crime. In fact, the weapon became so popular in law enforcement circles it earned another nickname, The Anti-Bandit Gun.

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