Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Folks Are Questioning ATK's Motive For Contracting To Sell DHS Up To 450 Million Rounds of Ammo

I think, with all due respect, they are questioning the wrong thing. I think they are not focused on the right target.

Specifically, I have seen the question: "Would ATK rather arm the government than the people?" at
Armed And Safe and at under the: St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner. I think the question misses the mark but I will answer it and then will explain why I think our sights best be on a target other than ATK (aka: Alliant Techsystems).

No, I do not think
ATK (the parent company of Federal Cartridge Company necessarily would rather arm the government than the people. Yet, I will point out that ATK is a major manufacturer and supplier of aero-space technology, missile systems, military armaments and of sporting/law enforcement ammunition and yes that means they have a lot of government contracts. What I do believe about them is they enjoy the fruits of capitalism in the free market. I believe that they would rather make the most money they can from whomever they can get it legally. Thus, they advertise accordingly toward whichever clientele to whom they are trying to sell products at any given moment. They sell to both the government and to private citizens with ads that are attractive to both, or to one or the other, all depending on to whom they are selling. In essence, that is capitalism and marketing at its best.

When it comes to small arms ammunition, the obvious truth is that they sell by way of military and law enforcement contracts but they also sell a very large amount of ammo on the free market to non-law enforcement, non-military, private citizen customers. I personally can attest to it because I see Federal ammunition for sale at guns stores, shooting ranges, over the Internet, at places like Wal-Mart and at gun shows all of the time. As a matter of fact, I have a decent supply of federal ammo on hand right now. All this questioning, and implied criticism, of them for contracting with the government, trying to make it look as if they would prefer to sell only to the government, seems so much ado about nothing when you look at their sales to private citizens as mentioned above, doesn't it?

Now, it was pointed out, in the fine op-ed piece at the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner, that Federal Cartridge annotates the packaging of some ammunition as having been manufactured and distributed for sale to "Law Enforcement Only". When you think about it, the 'law enforcement only' thing is very effective advertising. This is because it not only attracts law enforcement sales by making them feel special since it is marked LE Sales only but it also attracts non-LE folks who buy that type of ammunition. Why? Because people think they are tacticool when they have 'law enforcement only' items or because they think that because it is marked 'law enforcement only' it is better than ammo that is not so marked. Let's face facts, tactical stuff, especially ammunition, marked "law enforcement only", when not required to be marked as such by law, is a big seller on the open market and it often sells at a higher profit margin than ammo marked as sporting ammunition. It sells at a higher profit margin because people believe it special, they believe it special because, among other things, it is marked and advertised to make it seem such whether it really is special or not.

To believe it is actual company policy only to manufacture and sell that ammo to law enforcement as marked, as opposed to it being effective advertising to mark the product in that manner, either shows some naivety on the part of the person saying it, or probably means one of the following: that law enforcment agencies have bought it then redistributed it to dealers in violation of manufacturer policy, or that every dealer who is selling to the public is doing it in violation of the manufacturer's policy, or that the manufacturer has the policy but does not enforce it thus making it non-policy (and which in essence gets us back to the naivety of anyone who truly believes it company policy). If it were the case, that it truly was company policy, then they would no longer be selling to those departments or dealers who violated the policy. It is, I believe, mostly an advertising gimmick to mark their ammunition as 'law enforcement only' ut maybe that is just the cynic in me.

Winchester Ammunition, unless I am sadly mistaken, has been doing basically the same thing, for years, with its Ranger line of ammunition. That is marking it as for 'law enforcemen only'. I don't hear anyone complaining about them. So that makes me think, it is merely the fact that ATK has contracted with the government, especially with the extremely unpopular DHS (parent department of even less popular agencies such as ICE and TSA) that has gotten some people riled up. Because the contract is with a government department, one that is often seen as a floundering behemoth, cloaked in secrecy and wrapped up controversy, it has set up anyone who does big business with them as a target of criticism. Or, at least has some people questioning motives by asking if ATK prefers doing business with the government instead of non-government entities. This despite the fact that in all probability, ATK is just a capitalist organization, making money in the free market, by selling to all comers.

I think the more important thing we need to focus our sights on is the fact that DHS has contracted for up to 450 millions rounds, of .40 caliber, ammunition over a 1 year contract, a contract that can only be extended 4 years beyond the initial year for 5 years total. I think questioning this government department as to why it needs an astronomical amount of .40 caliber ammunition is what needs be addressed. What is the motive behind DHS contracting for up to 450 million rounds of a single caliber of ammo over 5 short years?

Think of it this way: If DHS has 15 thousand armed personnel (I am just throwing out a number, it may or may not be that high, probably is higher when you consider the Coast Guard is part of DHS but do Coast Guard personnel carry pistols in .40 caluber) and each one shoots 250 rounds, of .40 caliber ammunition, per quarterly qualification - training session (a reasonable amount), then they would use 15 million rounds per year or 75 million rounds in 5 years. Multiply 75 million rounds of ammunition by 6 and you would then have them shooting up 450 million rounds over the five year contract but that would mean each armed person in DHS (if indeed they have 15,000 armed personnel) shooting 1,500 rounds each quarter. That is just a preposterous notion. Now you also could multiply 5 years by 6 and then wind up using the 450 million rounds over 30 years but the government, at least DHS, is not that far reaching in its thought processes from what I can tell. There also is no way that you would multiply the amount of my estimate of armed DHS officials by 6. The amount of armed officials at DHS is nowhere nearly as big as that - at least not yet - is it! DHS, in all likelihood, will never realistically need that much ammunition.

So the question is this: Why has DHS contracted for up to that much ammo? Does the government anticipate a major threat about which the public is unaware, one that could possibly require such a huge stockpile of ammunition? Is the DHS preparing for the end of the world with the end of the Mayan calendar later this year? (Things more absurd have taken place in our government.) Is there something I am missing as to how much ammo the personnel at DHS could possibly use in 5 years time? Is the government planning something nefarious by way of its armed civilian workforce? (Bear in mind, while running for the presidency, Senator Obama called for a civilian force as strong as our military but never said why he wanted it.) Or could it be government corruption, smoke filled room deal making, lobbying and stuffed pocket politics as usual? Maybe there is even a simpler explanation, was the contract merely the work product of skilled ATK salesmen and inept government bureaucrats? These questions are, in my estimation, much more important than asking "Would ATK rather arm the government than the people?" but that is just my two cents.

All the best,
Glenn B

Shooting With The Weak Hand Supported - Be Careful When Making The Transition

Throughout the training I have received in handgun shooting, I have been taught, time and time again, to shoot with both hands and not necessarily at the same time. This training has included shooting strong handed with a two hand hold, weak handed with a two hand hold, and one handed with either hand. I think it is a good idea to train in all those ways.

Before I go any further, allow me to say something about the terms strong hand and weak hand and why I use them. When I write or speak about your strong hand, I mean the hand that you use most frequently to get things done, the hand on which side you are 'handed'. Thus, if you are right handed, your right hand is the strong hand or strong side and the left is the weak hand or side. If you are left handed then your left hand is the strong hand or strong side and the right side is the weak hand or side. Over the years, that I have received firearms training, instructors have gotten away from using the terms strong and weak to describe your shooting hands. It became the politically and psychology incorrect thing to continue using those terms. Why? They said it was because the term weak hand implied a weakness of your off shooting hand and that could make you unconsciously believe that it could not get the job done as well as the strong hand could do it. So, they began to call it your "non-shooting" hand or your "off" hand. It was at that time that you started to hear range commands like: "On the command, draw with your non-shooting hand and fire 6 rounds center of mass on the target". Talk about being ridiculous was all I could think when that became a popular range command. If a hand was a non-shooting hand or even an off-hand, how is it that I would suddenly be shooting with it. I see absolutely nothing wrong with calling your weak hand exactly what it is and that is weak when compared to your dominant or strong hand. There are very few people I know who have the same amount of strength in both hands or who can use their weak hand as adeptly as they can their strong hand. Yet, you can learn to shoot with it proficiently, enough so as to be able to save your life if need be, so you should learn to shoot with both hands and with either hand being the shooting hand (essentially the hand which firmly grips he pistol and a finger of which operates the trigger).

The reasoning behind shooting with either hand should be obvious but if not, I will spell it out for you. You should learn to shoot one handed using both the strong and weak hands so in the event your hand one of your hands or arms is ever incapacitated you can reliable depend upon the other to get the job done. The incapacitation I am talking about can be because of a wound, and in most events would likely be due to injury, but there are other things that can incapacitate a hand such as you being caught up in a awkward position and not being able to bring hat hand into play.

The reasoning behind learning how to shoot strong handed, using a two hand hold, should be just as obvious if not more so than why you would train to shoot one handed with either hand. You shoot strong handed because that is the hand that you use to accomplish most things you do with your hands. it is your dominant, go to hand and that is a natural thing. You use the weak hand to support the strong hand, thus using two hands to shoot because the weak hand lends steadying support to the strong hand and support is a good thing when you can do it relative to shooting. When using two hands to shoot, things like accuracy, and shooting speed usually increase markedly. When I say shooting speed increases, I do not mean getting off the first sot gets faster but do mean that getting off subsequent shots is usually faster.

You may wonder though, why on earth you would ever want to train to shoot with your weak hand supported by your strong hand. After all, didn't I just write that it is more natural to shoot strong handed supported by the weak hand? In answer, let me just say, there can be some positions in which you find yourself when it would be best to utilize your weak hand as the shooting hand and your strong hand for support. These situations usually arise due to the surroundings in which you find yourself at a time when you must shoot to defend yourself. For example, the only cover you can find may be the corner of a building that you have to shoot around and it may be that you have to shoot around it from your weak side because of how it is situated. Yes, you can shoot around it from your weak side while firing the pistol with your strong hand and supporting it with your weak hand but chances are you will be exposing more of yourself that way than if you switched the gun to your weak hand to fire it while supporting it with your strong hand. Another reason you may decide to shoot with your weak hand supported by your strong hand is that your strong hand may have been injured to the point where you can no longer reliable use it to fire the gun but it still can be used for support.For instance you have had a couple of fingers shot off. Think that is far fetched, just wait until you are in a life or death struggle and it happens but you have not trained to shoot with your weak hand. You will wish you had.

If you do decide to train while shooting with your weak hand supported by your strong hand, there is something you have to be very aware about. It is only relevant when shooting semi-automatic pistols as opposed to revolvers. That is, you should not cross your thumbs over the backstrap of the pistol. If you are a long experienced shooter, there is a good chance you have done this once before, while shooting strong hand supported by weak hand, and then never did it again because of the pain that resulted. For those of you who have never enjoyed this pleasure been raked by a slide across your thumb, allow me to explain what I mean.

If you grip the pistol in a two hand hold and cross your thumbs over the backstrap then one thumb, the one on top, becomes more elevated than the other and thus closer to the bottom of the slide. When the gun fires and recoils, the slide travels backward and the upper of your crossed thumbs may then be raked by the slide. In other words the slide comes into contact with your thumb during the slide's reward movement and then maybe again during its forward movement as the gun goes into battery. Not only is this painful, it can cause a serious laceration that can require stitches and I have seen shooters stop shooting when it has happened and even have seen two or three actually drop their pistols when it happened. That is not something you need to do if you are fighting for your life and dependent upon your hands to be fully functional and your pistol to be in your hands. As I said though, you may have done this once before and then made sure to never do it again, that is if shooting with strong hand supported by weak hand.

Chances are though, if you draw strong handed and then transition to the weak hand for a two handed hold, weak hand supported by strong hand, your thumbs may be found to be crossed, one over the top of the other across the backstrap. If you don't believe it, then next time you are at the range try it. Don't try it on yourself because you will be thinking about it and will know what to avoid. Try it on someone who has not ever transitioned like that before. Have the shooter draw with the strong hand, then safely transition from strong hand to weak hand as if to fire from around cover (cover can be simulated if need be). Do this with an unloaded gun since you do not want the shooter harming him or herself. Try it with more than one shooter. Sure enough, if you have 4 or 5 shooters in front of you, at least one, maybe two of them, will have the thumbs in the crossed and potentially unsafe position.

Why does this happen? I do not know but my guess is because a crossed thumb grip is a more natural manner of gripping something like a pistol. We are taught not to do it, or should have been taught so when shooting with our strong hand supported. Thus, we learn to avoid it and it becomes second nature when we shoot with our strong hands. When we transition to the weak hand for a two hand hold, if we are not used to doing so, we often revert to what seems natural as opposed to what has become second nature and we cross our thumbs. I have been caught doing it myself as recently as within the past several months when I was at a training class, and I attribute my having done so to the fact that I did not train and practice enough in that strong hand supported to weak hand supported transition for it to become second nature when shooting with my weak hand as it did when shooting with my srong hand. If you want to avoid it, you need to train and practice your training on a regular basis in order to avoid the problem.

By the way, with a revolver there is no such concern. In fact, many old time revolver shooters prefer a crossed thumbs on the backstrap grip. Since there is no slide to bite you, going with that grip on a revolver is okay for many. Me, I prefer to avoid he grip altogether because I believe that under stress, I might revert to it when shooting a semi-auto if allowed myself to shoot a revolver that way. It is best for me to avoid it altogether. That way my thumbs may develop that so called muscle memory that will help keep them out of the way of the slide. if you shoot both revolvers and pistols you may also want to adapt a pistol grip for use when gripping a revolver but that is something you have to decide for yourself. 

All the best,
Glenn B