An Attempt At Dispelling Five Myths Regarding Firearms
I must say that I am a pretty big fan of Discovery Channel's long-running series, "Mythbusters." If, by some chance, you are unfamiliar with the program, it follows special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman as they employ science as you have never seen it before in order to test the validity of everything from common myths and rumors to movie scenes and viral videos. Now in its 10th season, the show has tackled a wealth of gun-related myths, and in honor of this week's episode titled "Hollywood Gunslingers" I have decided to take this opportunity to debunk a few gun-related myths of my own. Sure, I may not have the flashy science, but it gets the job done just as well.
Some of the myths I plan to address are still around simply because many people lack common sense. As such, I am taking it upon myself here to provide you with definitive information that will serve to dispel the silly rumors. Some of the myths here are laughable. Others are more understandable. Either way, after reading this blog post you will undoubtedly be able to settle a few arguments at the next local gun show. In order of their absurdity, beginning with the least absurd, here are the myths:
- Black Talon ammunition was made illegal for its remarkable lethality
- Ownership of NFA firearms negates one's Fourth Amendment rights
- Silencers make firearms silent
- Bullets make everything explode
- Glocks were once illegal to own
As you can see, I have some whoppers lined up for you. So without further ado – the myths.
Myth One – Black Talon Ammunition
The 101 California Street Shootings, a mass shooting that claimed the lives of eight of fourteen victims, took place in San Francisco, California on July 1, 1993. The shooting was perpetrated by failed entrepreneur Gian Luigi Ferri, who entered a law office at 101 California Street and opened fire with two TEC-9s and an M1911. Reportedly, he used Black Talon ammunition in the attack. As you can imagine, the incident drew a great deal of attention from the media. So did the fact that he used Black Talon ammunition.
Black Talon was a line of ammunition that was originally designed for law enforcement and self-defense and was manufactured by Winchester Ammunition beginning in 1991. The Black Talon line features hollow-point bullets with special perforations that were designed to expose tissue to sharp, petal-shaped barbs upon expansion. Additionally, each bullet included a Lubalox coating that was applied via a proprietary oxide process and was often mistaken for Teflon®. In addition to giving the bullet an unusual black appearance, the Lubalox coating was designed to protect barrel rifling. Unfortunately, the media did what it does best and made an exaggerated claimed: Lubalox, like Teflon®, is applied to bullets to give them armor-piercing qualities.
This could not be further from the truth and can be proven by simple field test data. Nevertheless, beginning in 1993 after the shooting, Black Talon ammunition was no longer made available to the public, which prompted the belief that these "cop-killer bullets" were made illegal – another myth. In fact, the Black Talon line was not discontinued completely until 2000. Even then, it was replaced by the Ranger SXT line – ammunition that was nearly identical to Black Talon save the Lubalox coating.
The bottom line is that Black Talon ammunition was never illegal and it is no more lethal than other jacketed hollow points.
Myth Two – NFA Firearms
I am actually going to clear up two myths with this one. Let me get the easy one out of the way first. You do not need to hold a "Class 3 license" in order to purchase NFA items. In order to purchase an NFA item, one must only complete the following steps: submit an application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE); pass a rigorous background check and provide a set of current fingerprints; and pay a one-time fee of $200 dollars for a Federal Tax Stamp, per firearm. Of course, certain firearms may carry restrictions and some states may have established laws that prevent ownership.
Now that we are all aware of the legality regarding NFA items, how about we tackle the notion that owning one entitles the BATFE to random inspections at their leisure. Again, not only is this idea absurd, it is completely untrue. The Constitution still holds its weight. The BATFE will not come knocking unless you give them a reason to do so. My only explanation of the origins surrounding this myth is that some clown sporting a tinfoil hat either did something illegal or just decided to strike fear in the hearts of the gullible masses. In fact, a quick once-over of ATF Form 4, the formal request to transfer ownership of an NFA item, will reassure you that no Fourth Amendment rights are waived by owning an NFA item. So give it a rest.
Myth Three – Silencers are Silent
Congratulations, Hollywood. You have successfully duped the world into believing that silencers make gunfire silent. They do not. I could easily dispel this belief by offering some anecdotal evidence, as I have fired pistols equipped with silencers, but for some reason I do not think that will be enough to convince you. Are silencers cool? Yes. Do they make gunfire silent? No.
While we are at it, how about we get the name right? A silencer should technically be referred to as a suppressor. Anyway, a suppressor is a muzzle device that can be attached to the barrel of a firearm in order to reduce the amount of noise produced by a discharge – emphasis should be placed on the word reduce. Anyway, if you have ever fired any type of firearm, you know that the muzzle blast and the sonic signature of a bullet are loud – really loud. The only thing a suppressor does is reduce that volume by slowing the escape of propellant gases. You know what else reduces the volume of muzzle blasts and the sonic crack of a bullet? Hearing protectors. In fact, they do a job comparable to that of a suppressor. You can do a quick Internet search and find out that lowly .22 LR pistols and rifles can produce gunshots in excess of 160 decibels. For comparison, an ambulance siren is about 120 decibels. Anyway, independent testing shows that most commercially-available suppressors only reduce volume by a range of about 14 to 43 decibels. Most hearing protection reduce volume by a range of about 18 to 32 decibels. I think you can draw the conclusions from this point. And just in case you cannot, my point is that suppressors do not make gunfire silent – so you should revisit your crime spree plans.
Myth Four – Bullets and Explosions
Hollywood strikes again. We have all seen it before – gas tanks and barrels exploded by a smattering of bullets. The only problem is that shooting a gas tank with a bullet will probably not produce the results for which you are hoping. In fact, this myth was put to the test on "Mythbusters," but because I would rather you hear it from me rather than watch it on an exciting television show, I am going to refrain from citing the episode. But just to reassure you that this is a myth, they busted it.
The simple truth is that bullets alone will not ignite any container full of flammable materials. Gasoline ignition needs both heat and oxygen to take place. Though a bullet does pick up heat from the explosion that propels it, it is not hot enough to ignite a gas tank that is unlikely to be filled with oxygen. Is it possible? Yes, but unless you are using tracer ammunition under a set of special circumstances it is very, very unlikely. Either way, next summer's blockbuster should still be quite enjoyable.
Myth Five – Glocks
Finally, we come to the most absurd myth on the list. According to John McClane, the Glock 7 is "a porcelain gun made in Germany that doesn't show up on your airport metal detectors and costs more than you make in a month." For those that may not know, John McClane is a fictional character from the film "Die Hard 2." I find that his fictitious nature is fitting considering that every purported fact in that spiel is, in fact, completely fictional. Aside from the obvious fact that there is no such model as the "Glock 7," Glocks are not made of porcelain, they are certainly detectable at airport security gates and unless you make only a meager fraction of minimum wage, a month's salary is more than sufficient to cover the costs of ownership. Oh yeah, and they are manufactured in Austria. Not Germany.
Believe it or not, the gullible masses ate up this gobbledygook and took it to heart. And as you would expect, these inaccuracies led media outlets everywhere to dump attention on the brand, which only served to spike sales in the face of concern. It did not result in any form of ban or any legislature that prohibited ownership of a Glock pistol.
The sad part is that though these myths have been dispelled time and time again, people everywhere will continue to perpetuate them. Just last week, and this is where the idea for this post came from, I was lectured on the now-defunct ban that once existed on Glocks. It takes all kinds.