.50 Caliber Hyperbole

We hear a great deal these days about the “threat” posed by the relatively few restrictions in the U.S. on the private ownership of .50 caliber rifles. There is, in fact, a website, 50caliberterror.com, devoted entirely to demonizing these firearms. This, despite the fact that since Ronnie Barrett first started producing these rifles in the 1980’s, there have been exactly zero documented deaths in the U.S. attributed to .50 caliber rifle fire. That seems a little odd, doesn’t it? We’ve had at least one American strangled with a bikini top, which would seem to indicate that, historically, those have posed more danger to Americans than .50 caliber rifles do, but I’ve encountered remarkably few calls for the banning of these lethal articles of clothing. Could it be, perhaps, that it is not the garment that poses the threat, but the strangler? Nah–we can’t have that, because to acknowledge that would be to acknowledge that the solution to stopping murder is to stop murderers, not trying to deny them access to one of the infinite number of devices that can be used to kill.

The “Ban the .50” crowd is well aware of this inconvenient lack of deaths attributable to their pet bogeyman, of course, so they instead point to several cases in which these rifles have been “used in crimes.” The vast majority of these “criminal uses” have not involved a single shot being fired from the firearms in question–generally, the crime is simply the possession of a gun by someone whose criminal record mandates that the person not possess firearms. In other cases, the person with the rifle might have a clean record, but at the time he was caught with the rifle, he was committing some crime, again making his possession of a firearm illegal–instant .50 caliber rifle crime.

The fact is, the .50 caliber rifle is almost always a horrible choice of weapon for someone intent on murder. At over $2000 (for a cheap one), 25 lbs (for a lightweight one), and an overall length of around 4 1/2 feet, there are almost always much easier ways to go about killing someone.

Much has been made of the (grossly exaggerated) threat to civilian aviation. I would suggest that one’s time could be vastly more productively spent trying to track down some of the thousands of sophisticated shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles that are unaccounted for in the world. Those, after all, actually do have a reasonable chance of successfully bringing down a plane.

The latest hysteria centers on the perhaps even more wildly implausbile scenario of these rifles being used in attacks on nuclear power plants. I’ll say one thing for these anti-gun folks–they certainly have vivid imaginations.

California has already banned these rifles. A personal hero of mine, Ronnie Barrett, has responded by developing an entirely new cartridge, the .416 Barrett, that offers perhaps even greater long range anti-personnel performance than the .50 BMG–and it’s entirely legal in California. I would like to pass on my thanks to the California legislature for the part they played in advancing firearm technology. One of the amusing features of the California law is that it only applies to the .50 BMG cartridge (and the weapons that fire it)–any other cartridge, even if it fires exactly the same bullet, is completely legal, even there in The People’s Republic of Cali. There has been a bit of work done on a cartridge (called the .50 McMillan Brothers), based on a shortened 20mm cannon cartridge case. This round, with it’s gargantuan case capacity, is a good deal more powerful than even the .50 BMG, and again, this cartridge would be completely legal in California (and everywhere else in the country). I don’t think the work on this ever got much past the experimental stage, but I would love to see such guns and ammunition offered on the market. After that, maybe someone could make a Gatling gun chambered for the .50 Fat Mac (as the cartridge is nicknamed)–Gatling guns are completely legal too.

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One Response to “.50 Caliber Hyperbole”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Librals need to wake up and stop causing trouble over things they know nothing about. I doubt most of the anit-gun fanatics have even held a gun. Guns assure us of our safety and protect us from government oppression. In addition, they also make it harder for other nations to attack us. Yeah, terrorists can buy guns but law abiding citizens can too. Do you think banning guns will keep terrorists from smuggling guns into the country? Stop worrying about our guns and start worrying about tighting up the borders. If they want to take my gun away, they can have it….bullets first.

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