March 2005

Short Shots: 03/05

DOJ Memo: 2nd Amendment Is Individual Right
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has declared that the Second Amendment explicitly recognizes the right of individual Americans to own and carry firearms. The Memorandum Opinion for the Attorney General released on the Internet in December is entitled, “Whether the Second Amendment Secures an Individual Right.”

The report’s 103 pages conclude that, “... the Second Amendment secures a personal right of individuals, not a collective right that may only be invoked by a State or a quasi-collective right restricted to those persons who serve in organized militia units.”

Further, the report says that conclusion is based “... on the Amendment’s text, as commonly understood at the time of its adoption and interpreted in light of other provisions of the Constitution and the Amendment’s historical antecedents.”

In effect, the memorandum puts the federal government, and, specifically, the U.S. Justice Department, on record as recognizing that the Second Amendment applies to individuals and not to any militias, such as the National Guard.

However, the memo does not protect individuals from being prosecuted under existing gun laws. It does put a stricter standard of scrutiny as to whether or not a given law infringes on an individual’s constitutional rights. In sum, the memorandum asks courts to look at gun-law enforcement from a civil rights perspective.

Arguments from gun-control groups that gun ownership is a collective, and not individual, right was specifically rejected by the Justice Department.

On the topic, the report said, “A ‘right of the people’ is ordinarily and most naturally a right of individuals, not of a State and not merely of those serving the State as militiamen. The phrase ‘keep arms’ at the time of the Founding usually indicated the private ownership and retention of arms by individuals as individuals, not the stockpiling of arms by a government or its soldiers, and the phrase certainly had that meaning when used in connection with a ‘right of the people.

“Moreover, the Second Amendment appears in the Bill of Rights amid amendments securing numerous individual rights, a placement that makes it likely that the right of the people to keep and bear arms likewise belongs to individuals.”

Our Take: The DOJ opinion is almost certain to be introduced in support of the “individual rights” of gun owners in several federal cases. But the opinion won’t have the full weight of law unless the Supreme Court overturns gun-control laws because they do infringe upon a 2nd Amendment right protected in the Constitution.

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Does the short, fat WSSM cartridge design cause increased barrel wear? Winchester and Browning say no, in part because guns they chamber for the rounds have chrome-lined bores. However, we’re going to investigate the issue further with a gun tested in this issue, the .25 WSSM (center). That round is flanked by the similarly performing .25-06, left, and the belted .257 Weatherby Magnum, right.

Bloggers Cause Problems For Manufacturers
Blogs, shorthand for “web logs,” are widely credited with debunking the accuracy and authenticity of CBS’s memos about George Bush’s National Guard records. But they are apparently causing problems for gun manufacturers, too.

Winchester Ammunition and Browning and Winchester Firearms recently released a memo about the 223 and 243 Winchester Super Short Magnum (WSSM) cartridges and barrel wear. The reason for the release: Specifically cited in the memo was widespread misinformation that the cartridges caused barrels to be shot out in as few as 300 rounds.

Responding to this charge, the companies wrote, “Anyone with a moderate level of shooting experience knows that if you push a bullet down a bore at extreme velocities, wear and tear is increased. The WSSM calibers are no exception to this rule… With modern manufacturing techniques, we have been provided another wonderful tool — the ability to economically chrome-plate our rifle bores; something the so-called “experts” knew nothing about before jumping both to conclusions and into chat rooms.

Continuing on, the release read, “The 223 and 243 WSSM cartridges are said to ‘burn up’ barrels in as little as 300 rounds. Nothing could be further from the truth. Test results show that even in non-chromed barrels, the wear performance of WSSM calibers is equal to the beloved 22-250. In chromed barrels, the wear resistance is doubled. It should also be noted that we have never sold a Browning or Winchester rifle in 223 or 243 WSSM without a chromed barrel. As an added benefit, the smooth surface of chromed barrels makes cleaning them significantly easier.”

Our Take: We’ve read some outlandish things in chat rooms and in blogs, and we are constantly reminded to never believe anything we read on the web, unless we can corroborate a writer’s assertions ourselves. Nonetheless, Winchester and Browning’s reaction makes us wonder if they doth protest too much. We have a 25 WSSM reviewed in this issue, so maybe we’ll take a longer look at it and decide for ourselves.

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Accidental Firearm-Related Fatalities Drop to All-time Low
A report from the National Safety Council shows that accidental firearm-related fatalities continue to decline and are at the lowest level in the history of record keeping. Statistics in the council’s “Injury Facts 2004” reveal a 54-percent decrease over a 10-year period ending in 2003.

Last year, 101,537 U.S. residents died in accidents of all types. Less than one percent, 700, involved firearms. The most common deadly accidents involved motor vehicles, falls and poisonings, claiming 72 percent of all accidental deaths.

Other new findings from the National Safety Council include the following:

• Accidental firearm-related fatalities have been consistently decreasing for many years.

• Preliminary statistics show accidental firearm-related fatalities declined by 13 percent between 2002 and 2003.

• Over the past seven years, accidental firearm-related fatalities among children (under 14) decreased 60 percent. Firearms are involved in less than two percent of accidental fatalities among children

• Firearms are involved in less than one percent of all accidental fatalities.

Our Take: The continuing decline is good news that’s attributable to a number of factors, but certainly increased awareness of gun safety and responsibility, plays a big role. Both the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearm industry, have produced and disseminated gun-safety information — and the message is obviously getting through.

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Ruger’s New Products: Hits and Misses
Ruger fans will have quite a few new products to look forward to in 2005. Among the company’s introductions this year are the following:

• Super Redhawk Alaskan, a compact big-bore revolver. “The Super Redhawk Alaskan is the perfect big-bore magnum revolver in a size and weight that is actually practical,” said Sturm, Ruger Vice President of Sales and Marketing Chris Killoy. The Super Redhawk Alaskan features a six-shot cylinder and is chambered for either .454 Casull and .45 Colt, or .480 Ruger, and is equipped with a Hogue Monogrip to help cushion recoil. The Alaskan features a 2.5-inch hammer-forged barrel and weighs 42 ounces.

• Two new P345s, one with a blued-steel slide and a stainless-steel “decock-only” version. The new blued-steel slide P345PR is an all-blued manual-safety model that features a Picatinny rail to mount optical accessories. The new “decock-only” stainless KP345DPR features a spring-loaded decocking lever that safely lowers the hammer from the cocked position, and also includes a Picatinny accessory rail.

• A .22 autoloading pistol, the new Ruger Mark III Hunter. The New Ruger Mark III Hunter features a stainless-steel frame and a 6.9-inch target-crowned, fluted barrel, checkered cocobolo grips, a V-notch rear sight blade, and a HiViz front sight with six interchangeable LitePipes. On Mark III pistols, the magazine release button has been relocated to the left side of the grip, behind the trigger guard. The ejection port has been recontoured, and the bolt ears are tapered. Mark III Hunter pistols are drilled and tapped to accept a Weaver-style scope-base adapter, provided at no extra cost.

• A New Model Single Six Hunter Convertible single-action revolver. This unit comes with two cylinders chambered in .17 HMR and the new .17 Mach 2 rimfire cartridges. The Ruger New Model Single Six Hunter Convertible is a six-shot stainless-steel single-action revolver based on the Ruger New Model Single Six and includes two cylinders, which can be changed without the use of tools.

• The M77 Mark II Frontier Rifle, a compact rifle designed to accept a front-mounted scope. The Ruger M77 Mark II Frontier Rifle is a new rifle with a blued-steel action and a 16.5-inch hammer-forged barrel bedded in a grey laminate stock. It is available in 7mm-08 Rem., .243 Win., .308 Win., and .300 WSM. The scope base mounted on the barrel rib is cut for Ruger scope rings and minimizes stress on the scope tube.

Our Takes: New products are always a crapshoot, but some have more insight behind them than others, we’ve found.

• Thus, we think the Super Redhawk Alaskan could be a hit among the “more is more” crowd, but its light weight and stout chamberings will restrict its appeal among people who don’t bump into bears regularly.

• On the P345s, we fail to see how the new models will solve problems we noted in February 2005, mainly that we couldn’t shoot the gun accurately because of trigger response and grip issues.

• We haven’t tested the Mark III rimfire line yet, so we can’t comment on how the Hunter differs from the previous versions.

• The Ruger single-action revolver in .17 HMR didn’t have the setback problems we noted in DA revolvers chambered for the round. If the addition of the .17 HMR Mach 2 is as trouble-free as the standard .17 HMR cylinder, then the New Model Single Six Hunter will be a worthwhile upgrade.

• The Frontier Rifle, a bolt gun that would cost much less than the Cooper Scout Rifle, could be a hit. There will always be room for sensibly chambered, lightweight hunting rifles. Of course, we’ll have to see how it shoots to know for sure.

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An Unscientific Finding
In December the National Academy of Sciences issued a 328-page report on gun-control laws. The findings: The academy’s panel couldn’t identify any correlation between reducing crime by restricting gun ownership.

Based on 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, a survey that covered 80 different gun-control measures and some of its own work, the panel couldn’t identify a single gun-control regulation that reduced violent crime, suicide or accidents.

Also, the panel simply ignored many studies that showed guns can control crime, instead of cause it.

James Q. Wilson, professor of management and public policy at UCLA, was the one dissenting panelist and the only member whose views were known in advance not to be entirely gun-control friendly. His dissent focused on the right-to-carry issue.

Wilson said that “virtually every reanalysis done by the committee” confirmed right-to-carry laws reduced crime. He found the committee’s only results that didn’t confirm the drop in crime “quite puzzling.” They accounted for “no control variables” – nothing on any of the social, demographic, and public policies that might affect crime – and he didn’t understand how evidence that wouldn’t get published in a peer-reviewed journal would be given such weight.

Our Take: The panel wanted to study the question further, but to what end? The panel’s work wasted millions of dollars and conclusively showed that the National Academy’s bias runs so deep that it can’t accept results that don’t align with its politics.

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This Is More Like It
In the February 2005 issue, we reported that a pricey Smith & Wesson Model 327 .357 Magnum handgun fell somewhat short of our expectations. Our summary recommendation read: “Smith & Wesson 327 .38 Special/.357 Magnum, $1,179. Conditional Buy. The 2-inch barrel and short ejector rod dampened our enthusiasm for the 327. We liked the eight-round capacity and the versatility of .38/.357, and we wouldn’t flinch at the price if the barrel was 3 or 4 inches long.” Someone else had the same issues with the gun, and he came up with an answer.

Famed revolver shooter Jerry Miculek took the basic 327 and created the Model 327 Special. The Special includes a full-length ejector rod and a 5-inch stainless-steel barrel with a special forcing cone. The ejector rod is free floating, but lockup is beefed up with a ball detent in the crane. The Special’s frame is a glass-beaded black-anodized scandium. The eight-chamber cylinder is titanium. This gun comes with two grips, the wood JM grips and a rubber Hogue Monogrip. It also comes with three front-sight blades, which include a white dot, gold bead, and fluorescent orange. The hammer is the case-colored teardrop model, and the case-colored trigger is backed with a stop. Further, Miculek’s version features double action only and a bobbed hammer. Overall length is 10.5 inches, and the N-frame revolver weighs only 29 ounces. Suggested retail price is approximately $1195, and the gun ships in a Smith & Wesson gun rug.

Our Take: For only $20 more, the Miculek-refined 327 Special is a much better gun than the factory 327. For ordering information, contact Miculek at Clark’s Custom Gun and Personal Protection, (318) 742-7230, or have your local gun shop call the exclusive national distributor, Jerry’s Sports Center in Newington, Connecticut, at (800) 456-5595.