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4 gun myths that need to stop

Action movies are great. You get to relax and get pumped up at the same time. However, there are certain things that Hollywood, news media and general ignorance get people thinking about guns that just aren’t true. Here are four myths that need to stop, right now.

1. A silencer makes your gun sound like a mouse fart

There are very few “silent” firearms. Those that have been created to be virtually undetectable from about 30 feet (10 metres) away, were mostly clandestine firearms developed in war time, such as the De Lisle carbine and the Welrod pistol.

However, almost every other firearm in existence is still pretty loud with a suppressor on. The aim of a silencer, suppressor or moderator, is to reduce the decibel level and take out the loud “crack” of the round being fired. This helps in several ways.

  • It protects your hearing – especially for hunters.
  • It makes it harder to pinpoint the origin of the sound – keeps the animals confused for a couple seconds longer
  • It keeps the volume down at the public range or when on private land near to neighbours

The suppressor also makes it easier to shoot more accurately, as it reduces the recoil felt by the operator of the firearm, as well as the muzzle climb. This means shooters have less of a tendency to flinch or close their eyes, and can take follow up shots more quickly if an animal has not been taken cleanly.

While incredibly quiet compared to what is was before, this rifle is still loud enough to not be confused with a grandma spitting
While incredibly quiet compared to what is was before it had a silencer, this rifle is still loud enough to not be confused with a grandma spitting

2. Cars are often blown up with bullets

This is one of the great contradictions in movies and video games… Shoot a car enough times and it’s apparently going to blow up. While it’s possible, it’s not very likely. Fuel lines and tanks are very hard to puncture, and are right in the guts of the car. Even if you do manage to spring a leak, you have to continue shooting in that vicinity to try and get sparks from your rounds’ impact to set the fuel alight.

Tied in with this fallacy is the idea that cars provide great cover. No they don’t. Most hunting cartridges could penetrate through a car door or roof and still do a great deal of damage – never mind the shrapnel created in the process. Twenty millimetre rounds from a jet, 7.62×51 armour piercing rounds from a gunship or .50 cal rounds from a ma deuce will rip you and your car to shreds.

3. Guns click and clack whenever you point them at someone

This is one of the most aggravating things to see in a movie – and few are exempt from this awful foul up. Every time a character handles a weapon in any way, it makes a lot clicking, mechanical noises. As if it’s doing something. If I hold a gun, it makes no sound. If I lift it up and point it at something it still makes no sound. If I swing it around in circles and dance around with it – it still makes no sound.

A firearm will make a noise in these situations:

  • It is being loaded or unloaded
  • It is being calibrated or sighted in some way
  • A gunsmith is busy taking it apart
  • Your pulling the trigger and making it go boom
  • A safety or selector is being applied
  • A hammer or slide is being pulled back
  • You drop it on the floor
  • You hit someone/something with it

Other than that, they’re pretty darn quite. If you leave them alone in a safe for a million years, they still won’t make any noise.

4. Guns need to be racked/cocked every few seconds

Directors seem to think that working the slide on a shotgun is punctuation for a tense sentence. For those that don’t know, every time you rack a pump action shotgun, it ejects the round that is chambered – whether it has been fired or not. This means that every time the hero says something cool and makes that “kachook” sound for effect, he’s ejecting a perfectly good round. If he keeps doing that, he’ll have nothing left in his magazine by the time he’s done talking.

Keep racking that bolt and you'll have an empty magazine soon enough.
Keep racking that bolt and you’ll have an empty magazine soon enough.

The same applies to the slide on a pistol, or the charging handle on a semi-automatic rifle. When the SWAT team makes all those clicky sounds as they’re leaving HQ, then again during the pep-talk in the truck, again when they get out of the vehicle, and again when they confront the bad guy, they’re ejecting a bunch of perfectly good rounds (if this were real life). At three rounds per SWAT member in this example, and a team of 10 people, that’s a whole magazine of ammo wasted every call out. Terrible economics.

I could go on, but that’ll just have to be food for another article. What bugs you about firearms in popular media?

Brand new 7.62x39 PPU ammunition

Reloading for SKS or AK – is it worth it?

The SKS is one of very few semi-automatic centrefire rifles that allow for cheap and cheerful shooting in New Zealand. The rifles themselves are amongst the cheapest autoloaders around and the steel-cased ammo is a bargain compared to other centrefire rounds, as detailed in a previous post on the venerable 7.62×39.

However, what about reloading for the SKS or an AK? is it worth it? Every armchair shooter in the world will want to quickly chime in on why it’s simply not worthwhile reloading ammo for these rugged rifles. Here’s my take on it.

You will lose some brass

There is no question about it. With almost any semi-auto rifle, you should be prepared to lose a few casings. Even bolt action rifles in military service rifle matches will sacrifice some brass here or there for the sake of speed. But the SKS really loves throwing brass away. The video below perfectly illustrates what I mean.

However, even with the brass being flung in every possible direction known to man, you will still get a healthy return if you have patience (and the grass isn’t too long). The majority of your shells will land between 1 and 3 O’Clock, within a few metres of your shooting position – but not all of them. On my last trip to the range I shot some brass-cased PPU with some friends, and we recovered 55 out of 60 ejected cases. That’s over 90 per cent of your brass coming back to you – not bad.

The other option is to have a brass deflector or catcher attached, but these render your rear sights useless. Therefore, this only really becomes possible with a scoped SKS, which, as we all know, is not the most worthwhile pursuit in the world.

You will damage some brass

Again, this is a given. Autoloaders are hard on brass and the SKS is no exception. There are extractor marks from rough ejection, and if you’re shooting over a concrete floor, under a roof or near any kind of structure, chances are your brass will hit it and could possibly get dented.

At the end of the day, a small level of attrition is to be expected – it’s the cost of doing business with the SKS or an AK.

It is not a super-accurate rifle

Look, handloading is not going to turn your 1 – 3 MOA SKS into a 1/2 MOA super rifle. It just won’t. Usually handloads can be made to be incredibly accurate, and this works because you develop ammunition that is suited to your rifle’s chamber. The SKS is an intermediate-cartridge fed battle-rifle with very loose tolerances, which aid its reliability. Remember, cheap, reliable, accurate – you only get to choose two.

If you’re reloading the 7.62×39 for a CZ bolt action or a  modern semi-auto, then you’re talking about a whole different ball game.

The economy isn’t quite there

The price of 7.62×39 ammo means it’s not really worthwhile buying brass-cased stuff, plus your other components and dies. It will end up costing about the same in the long run, and your accuracy won’t be much better.

Generally speaking you can pick up steel-cased ammo at one of the major gun stores for around $16 or $17 per 20 rounds. If you buy in bulk, you can save a lot more too. Realistically, if you’re cost conscious and like doing a lot of shooting, buying in bulk would be a better solution than reloading. Plus, who doesn’t like opening the safe and seeing a wall of ammunition?

M43 ammo on stripper clips
What to feed a hungry SKS?

But I’d still do it

However, I’d still do it. And the reason is, because I enjoy shooting and I enjoy reloading. Brass cased ammo costs $8 more per packet (if you know where to shop – $15 if you don’t). When thinking about the cost of the brass, I account for the fact that I get the value of one factory pack of ammunition regardless. In other words, the brass is costing me $8 per 20, even though the pack of ammo costs $25, because I shot $17 worth of factory stuff. I say $17 worth of shooting, because that’s what a box of Tula SPs would set you back.

So, I can expect to retain about 18 cases, and I might get 5 or so reloads out of them. Throw in the cost of primers and powder (which I use for other loads anyway), and projectiles. Now, this lot I’m going to reload with Hornady’s Z-Max. In 7.62×39 the Z-Max is a SST projectile, with a different coloured tip according to Nathan Foster – whose research I would definitely rely on.

Why the Z-Max? Firstly, let’s be honest, a green-tipped bullet kind of looks cool. But also, as Nathan’s research suggests, the SST or Z-Max round is probably one of the better choices of bullet for what the SKS is designed to do – wound effectively within a limited range. I could save a few cents per round by going for a soft point projectile from another manufacturer, but I’m keen to give the Hornady bullets a whirl.

As for the cost of the dies – well, hopefully that gets absorbed over time. If not – I’ll just have to shoot some more until they’ve paid for themselves.