Saturday, June 18, 2016

Test firing an AR-15 and AK-47 for my job


(I wrote this column for The Indianapolis Star just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, as tensions increased over safety and security at home.  I thought of it recently because of the debate over civilian ownership of assault-style weapons.)
(Photo: Neil Dorgan/Flickr)

By John Strauss
February 14, 2003

As store shelves throughout the city are emptied of duct tape and plastic sheeting by people concerned about terrorist attacks, other folks think the best defense is a good offense.

Don Davis said gun sales at his Westside store have doubled since the latest terrorism alert. He said the $599 AK-47 is a top seller.

Davis became locally famous a few years ago with endlessly repeated TV commercials in which he cocked a finger at the camera and cackled, "Folks, I don't want to make money -- I just love to sell guns."

It turns out that terrorism sells.

"For me, when times are bad, business is good," Davis said Thursday.

He was at a trade show in Florida this week, shopping for gas masks for customers suddenly nervous about chemical or biological attacks.

At his Don's Guns, manager Ben Chance let me test-fire the AK-47 and a $999 Bushmaster, similar to the military M-16, in the store's indoor range.

The Bushmaster delivers a high-velocity round very accurately with little kick. The AK-47 will give you a jolt, but with that kick you get a larger round.

Just what you need to stop terrorists invading your subdivision.

Of course, some people might end up with guns simply for home protection. And if that's the case, Chance says, an old-fashioned shotgun might do the trick.

"A 12-gauge is a nice gun to have in the house. You don't have to aim the gun. You just point it in the general vicinity, and you're actually going to hit what you're pointing toward, because (the shot) scatters."

Business also was up at 500 Guns on the Westside and at Pop Guns Trading Post on the Eastside. But managers at those stores said that had more to do with the arrival of income tax refund checks than Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.

"There have been a few people come in and express concern," said Mike Hilton, the manager at Pop Guns. "But overall, people tend to be pretty complacent about it, to be honest."

Hilton said he recommends that someone who wants a gun take a training course. Then, once he has an idea of their skill level, he'll suggest a firearm -- often a small revolver.

He's not big on the AK-47 in this case. If used for self-defense, it's likely to "overpenetrate" -- go right through the attacker, through the wall of your home, through the wall of the next house and into somebody there.

Guy Montgomery, manager of 500 Guns, also recommends a revolver -- not a battlefield rifle -- for home defense.

Still, there's a magnetism about the assault weapons. Firing one of these guns is the shooting equivalent of twisting the throttle on a squat Harley -- lots of noise and simple, raw power.

They're fun, but they may not be real practical.

So if you're convinced al-Qaida is down the street and you want to establish a defensive perimeter in the front hallway, do the neighbors a favor.

Just borrow dad's old shotgun.