Friday, March 29, 2013

The NRA and the Truth

Wayne LaPierre of the NRA said something on Meet the Press last Sunday that he shouldn't get away with, but it looks like he's getting away with it.

He was talking about the M16 rifle and its variants, which use a .223 (or 5.56 mm) cartridge. Using his usual "anybody that knows anything about firearms" ploy, he announced that the .223 was one of the smallest cartridges available, wasn't very powerful -- and he had no idea why people kept talking about large exit wounds.

I think he wants people to think the .223 is just like the .22 Long Rifle that kids used to shoot tin cans with, back in another world. A typical 40 grain .22 LR cartridge has an energy of 104 foot pounds of force. A 62 grain M16 cartridge has an energy of 1,303 foot pounds. The 9 mm Parabellum pistol cartridge -- the round you're most likely to be shot with in Philadelphia -- has an energy of 420 foot pounds.

It's true that the .30-06 rifle round, used in World War II's M1 rifle, typically has an energy of 2,820 foot pounds. The Browning .50 caliber machine gun round typically has an energy of 13,144 foot pounds. This is used in sniper rifles as well as machine guns.

So, yes, there are more powerful rifles out there. But the M16 was designed specifically to produce maximum mayhem at short ranges. It does this, first, by allowing the shooter to fire a lot of bullets quickly. Second, the round is designed to yaw and fragment in the victim's body. It's like inserting a small fragmentation bomb inside a human being and then exploding it.

And, yes, there are large exit wounds.

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