Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's the Upshoot on the Buckshot?

The NRA sent an urgent action alert warning of impending disaster in the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. According to the mailing, as provided by James Young, the Board yesterday was to vote to ban Buckshot:

Virginia Prince William County of Board of Supervisors is meeting at 2:45 p.m. today to consider banning the use of buckshot, commonly used in hunting

BUT, on the same day an article in the Potomac News said the vote was to open public hearings to allow slugs (the small metal kind, not people waiting for rides) in hunting:

The supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to authorize public hearings to consider whether to allow the use of rifled slugs for hunting.

Well, it turns out the NRA knew a lot more about what was going on than the Potomac News, which reports on Wednesday Buckshot, rifled slugs debated (a misleading title, as you will see):

The decision on whether to outlaw buckshot in favor of rifled slugs for hunting generated a lot of discussion among the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday.
[wait, I thought it was just a vote on whether to hold hearings to add slugs to the list?]
...
The board voted to pass the ordinance after Barg asked Horton to add provisions to exclude home and livestock protection.

Stirrup and Corey A. Stewart, R-Occoquan, opposed the ordinance.

A staff report showed that the notice of the change must get to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries by registered mail before May 1 to be in effect for the 2006 hunting season.

So they did, in fact, have a real vote, and they did, in fact, ban buckshot in favor of slugs.

I could have missed it, but I don't remember reading of anybody in Prince William County being injured by errant buckshot in the last five years. Although I'm happy any time the board meets and does something OTHER than raise my taxes.

On the merits though, I think you should be able to use either type of round. We should have learned our lesson when the board realised (apparently) that they had banned the wrong thing earlier. What I mean is that this board's vote was a statement that at some previous time a previous board, obviously meddling in things the knew nothing about, banned SLUGS, when they should have banned Buckshot.

My point being that when Government micromanages, they often get it wrong, and when the "fix it" they never learn the lesson that they shouldn't be passing so many detailed directives to begin with, because they usually don't know what they are doing.

But worse, both articles were written by the same reporter, and yet the Wednesday article makes no mention of the completely incorrect Tuesday report. It's as if it never happened. To tell your readers that the BOCS is deciding whether to have public hearings to add slugs to the list of approved rounds, when in fact they were deciding to ban buckshot, was a disservice to the people who pay for the paper, and I think an acknowledgement of the error was in order.

5 comments:

Greg L said...

Maybe this info will be helpful for people before they run off and start pounding on the County BoS:

Buckshot is a close-range big game load that typically will have between four and ten balls in a shot. As the shot flies it spreads out into a pattern that increases with distance, making it effective for hunting purposes to between 50-75 yards, but dangerous out to 150 yards or more. When hunting big game, the intent is to fire at close range so that most of the shots will hit a vital area and make a clean and humane kill. The actual performance characteristics vary considerably depending on the size of the shot, the material used for the shot, barrel length, the amount of powder in the shell and what wadding is employed within and behind the shot.

Slugs are single projectiles that can be accurate out to 100 to 200 yards, and possibly more. These are somewhat like rifle bullets in that they are spin-stabilized, but behave more like a rifled black powder muzzleloader because they have much lower velocities.

A patient, ethical hunter can employ either type of shotgun shell safely and effectively. The firearm safety rules do not have exceptions for shotguns or shotgun shell types, so using a shotgun does not reduce the required care and attention to safety a hunter must employ. Hunters do not rely on decreased range characteristics of slugs or shot to ensure that their rounds impact safely, and this topic is stressed in the mandated hunter safety courses taught to all hunters.

Between 50 and 100 yards it is much preferable to use slugs when shooting at a deer. Shot patterns become ever larger as range increases, decreasing the liklihood that one or more shots will hit a vital area an deliver a killing blow to a deer. If a deer is not hit cleanly (a function also of marksmanship and shot placement) it is very common that the deer will run for miles before it falls, if it ever does. Deer are very tough, and can move great distances even with mortal wounds, and it is difficult to track wounded deer over great distances, especially when there is no snow on the ground.

A contributing factor to the too-common instance of badly hit animals is the practical difficulty of estimating range in a field environment. It's a tough call sometimes to determine whether an animal is within effective hunting range, given terrain and vegetation. Ethics dictate that a hunter not engage a "marginal" target, but determining what is and what is not marginal is a skill that requires lots of practice.

Unfortunately some buckshot hunters attempt to use a shotgun's patterning characteristics as a way to make up for this, and fire multiple rounds as fast as they can in the hopes that one or more lethal hits are delivered. Too often this results in a wounded deer, or a mortally wounded deer that cannot be recovered and is wasted. During hunting season in PWC, you'll often hear three to five rapid-fire shots instead of a single shot, and this is the cause.

Again, an ethical hunter can use either type effectively and safely. He may choose one or the other depending on terrain, a hunting strategy, or proximity to residential areas. A hunter could choose to load buckshot while moving and load slug while stationary and have excellent reasons for doing so. He may choose one type in one part of the county, and the other in a different part. He may choose buckshot in thickly vegetated areas, and slug in more open areas. And since the hunter is the one ultimately responsible for where each and every shot he fires, the hunter may be the one best equipped to make a choice.

Hope this helps.

Greg

Charles said...

Greg, why do you think that Fairfax and Prince William both restricted hunting to Buckshot prior to this vote?

Also, while I agree a good hunter would be a good hunter, there are a lot of bad hunters, especially in well-populated areas where any yahoo can go hunting with little work.

I don't mind them allowing slugs, but I don't see why they banned buckshot. After all, as you say, a good hunter would know when to use which.

And a bad hunter with buckshot seems less dangerous than the same bad hunter taking 3-5 "quick shots" with slugs wildly flying all over the place. I'm unlikely to be killed by buckshot 300 yards away, but a slug will put me or my kids down no problem with the bad hunter maybe never even knowing he hit us.

Greg L said...

It's not uncommon for firearms regulations to be imposed because people who don't understand them (or hunting) got scared by some anti-firearms or anti-hunter activists. Or it may have been the case of someone just trying to do the right thing, but not having enough knowledge to make a smart decision. I wasn't around these parts when that decision was made.

There are NOT a lot of bad hunters out there. By and large, these folks are dedicated conservationists who take seriously their obligation to the natural resources of Virginia and to the safety of other hunters and non-hunters. I have rarely encountered anyone in the field who didn't take safety very seriously or who cared little about hunter ethics. You might enjoy attending a hunter safety course sometime and seeing for yourself how passionate the instructors and students are about safety and ethics. It gives you a really nice appreciation of our heritage and natural resources.

And it'll qualify you for your concealed carry permit, if you don't have one already.

If we're going to restrict ammunition types because it's possible that a few people might act irresponsibly, I guess next on the list is an SUV ban because of all those bad drivers who can do so much more damage in a Chevy Blazer than with a Honda Civic. You're a lot more likely to get clobbered by an SUV these days than by a stray shot during deer season.

Charles said...

Greg:
If we're going to restrict ammunition types because it's possible that a few people might act irresponsibly,

Maybe I wasn't clear. I don't want to restrict ammunition types. I opposed banning buckshot. You seemed to be supporting the ban on buckshot because, you said:
Unfortunately some buckshot hunters attempt to use a shotgun's patterning characteristics as a way to make up for this, and fire multiple rounds as fast as they can in the hopes that one or more lethal hits are delivered. Too often this results in a wounded deer, or a mortally wounded deer that cannot be recovered and is wasted. During hunting season in PWC, you'll often hear three to five rapid-fire shots instead of a single shot, and this is the cause.


So I thought you were saying that there were a lot of bad hunters in urban areas shooting indiscriminately.

Based on what I thought YOU were saying about bad hunters, I was simply saying that I'd rather have the bad hunters shooting buckshot than slugs.

I actually don't think it's a big problem, and think that hunters by and large can be trusted to use the right load, so the supervisors were wrong to ban buckshot.

Because, as you said:
Again, an ethical hunter can use either type effectively and safely. He may choose one or the other depending on terrain, a hunting strategy, or proximity to residential areas.

I think we agree with many of your factual assertions, and I simply don't understand why you seem to support banning buckshot.

Greg L said...

You raise an excellent point. Part of this was me not being as clear as I wish I had been, and some has resulted from me seeing this a little differently ass a result of some conversations I've had with Philip Van Cleave of VCDL on this topic. By the way, if you ever need to get a sanity check on your ideas regarding firearms liberties, Philip is a great sounding board. A few commenters on other threads have also had some great insight on this that I've been happy to steal as well.

At first I accepted the idea that one or the other was going to be restricted, and my instinctive reaction was to want that choice to be allowing slug. Others have stepped back and asked why we regulate the shell at all, and by golly, that's a darned good question. Why would the BoS know better than the hunter which shell he should use in all the varying terrain types in PWC? They wouldn't.

So VCDL is asking members to pressure their representatives to remove the restrictions altogether, and I think that's a great idea for all the reasons we've discussed. And those few folks out there who decide to unload their magazines at targets that are not within effective range, well, I hope you soon can have the choice to use a more effective round where you won't be tempted to do this.

So C1, we're on the same page.