Going through some of the high-minded but empty-headed writings of the Small Arms Survey, an NGO sponsored by a Swiss do-gooder institute that’s an offshoot of the League of Nations that prevented European war (wait… what?) one is shocked by some of the moronic drivel written there. All the usual suspects of hack advocacy are there: “many experts say” without naming one such expert; “it is generally accepted” followed by some tendentious, extreme, and woolly-headed assertion; or “the peer-reviewed literature generally” prior to repeating some assumption that underlies a raft of bad research.
It is hackery wrapped in bad faith, shackled by an anchor chain of dishonesty to an anchor of cold-rolled fable, and then dropped into the trackless depths of the Sea of Lies, taking you along for the ride if you’re so unwise as to latch on.
And that’s the supposedly factual bit. We particularly howled at the assertion that the widespread availability of military arms and the provision of arms and training by Russia, France and Egypt, led to the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans by machete and club. Because the eeeevil assault weapons made ’em do it — never mind that the bulk of the foreign weapons provided to the state of Rwanda before the unpleasantness were complex crew-served and support weapons, machinery of wholesale warfare of no use to unlettered militiamen perpetrating retail mass-murders of civilians. But these guys have an agenda and an ideology, and they live in that deep place in the Sea of Lies where the lights of truth, fact and logic cannot penetrate.
But they don’t end with making questionable factual assertions. They also editorialize, or reprint others’ editorial opinions, which are obviously their own opinions, even though the author’s own institution (then ICRC) flashes a fig leaf saying, “The opinions expressed above are those of the author and are not in any way to be attributed to the ICRC.”
Got that? “We bring this to your attention, but kindly don’t notice we were the ones promoting the idea.” Well, lots of luck with that.
Here’s what the ICRC puts forward as small-arms expertise (source, Small Arms Survey 2001, p. 212) whilst begging that you forget ICRC is pushing this, and what the Small Arms Survey with its faint taint of Kellogg-Briand Pact chose to amplify:
Analyzing non-combat use of assault rifles reveals that the weapon was frequently being used at close range to resolve an interpersonal dispute. Another common scenario is the accidental discharge of an assault rifle while being (mis)handled. In either case, with the victim in non-combat situations much closer to the weapon, the increased kinetic energy carried by the projectile inflicts greater tissue damage and there is increased probability of lethal injury.
Ballistics also has a bearing on weapon lethality. Like all rifles, military assault rifles have a twisting series of grooves within the barrel referred to as rifling. This imparts a twist to the projectile in flight in order to ensure aerodynamic stability. The amount of twist per unit of barrel length changes with different models of assault rifle, even those of the same calibre or within different series of the same model. Organized militaries are outfitted with ammunition specifically designed to match the rifling within the barrel of their assault rifle. This is not always the case with informal militia.
A mismatch between barrel rifling and ammunition means that the projectile has less stability in flight and creates larger bullet wounds. Not surprisingly, stocks of assault rifles, produced at different times in different places and circulating in many parts of the world, are unlikely to be matched with appropriate ammunition. The resultant tendency towards large bullet wounds is yet another factor in the increased lethality associated with widespread weapons availability.
One scarcely knows where to begin with this.
The first paragraph asserts that, because criminal rifle use is likelier to be at closer ranges, wounds are likely to be more severe because energy is higher. This misunderstands, or more likely, given the demonstrated lack of integrity of the writer, misrepresents, the nature of wounds and even of physics. The increased kinetic energy only creates greater injuries to the extent that KE is delivered to the wound victim. Many point-blank and near-point-blank wounds are easily treated through-and-throughs; sure, the projectile had a metric crapton of KE, which a bullet from military ball ammunition frequently retains as it exits the wound victim and proceeds downrange at 2000+ feet per second. KE only counts if it’s dumped in the target. And it only kills if it hits something vital (or the wound goes untreated).
The second and third paragraphs together assert that (1) military rifles’ rifling is carefully matched to ammunition for stability and (2) “mismatched ammunition” is unstable and more grievously wounding (he doesn’t say more grievously than what, but we’ll assume he’s implying than “matched ammunition”). Let’s just make a few points here:
- Words have meanings, and technical terms in the firearms world are terms of art with common definitions. Bullets in flight do not have “twist,” for example: they have “spin.” (“Twist” of a solid object would imply that, after firing, the base of the projectile is some degrees offset in rotation around the centerline from the tip). Spin does not produce “aerodynamic stability.” It produces gyroscopic stability — a spin-stabilized projectile retains its stability if it soars into exoatmospheric space (which feat, we will explain, for the Small Arms Survey and anyone else on the small arms short school bus, a rifle bullet cannot do, but certain select cannon projectiles might); whereas a fin-stabilized projectile, which does have aerodynamic stability, does not retain its stability without the pressure of air on its fins. At this point we’d say, “duh,” but we’re not sure the sort of academic who writes for the Small Arms Survey is following us.
- There are very very few cases in which commonly available military rounds will be unstable in commonly available military rifles. There is no common military issue ammunition/rifle mismatch in 7.62 x 39 mm, 7.62 x 51 mm, or 7.62 x 54 mm that will be unstable and create wounds as this writer seems to think.
This is also generally true for 5.56 mm and 5.45 mm ammo. One example of mismatch, and the one this genius may be thinking of, is NATO SS109 type ammo (like M855) in pre-1983 1:12 5.56 mm rifles like the M16 and Galil; at ranges of 50m+ these rounds are already beginning to keyhole. Keyholing is undesirable for accuracy purposes, but is complex from a wound-ballistics point of view. A keyholed round would be more seriously injurious because the round is more likely not to fully penetrate and therefore; however, a keyholing round has lost a great deal of its velocity and KE. At ranges beyond 100m, a round that was keyholing at 50 is very unlikely to hit a target deliberately.
- The inverse ammunition mismatch (i.e. M193 ammo in a newer 1:7 rifle) produces an overspun projectile and risks bullet disintegration inflight, but is not unstable. Most military projectiles have thick and solid enough jackets that there is zero probability that they would disintegrate; the phenomenon is sometimes seen with ultra-light varmint bullets in ultra-high velocity loads. Farmer John’s prairie-dog handloads are not what’s splitting skulls in the Congo these days.
- Either kind of 5.56 mismatch, which may be what the morongoloid who wrote those grafs was thinking of, will have no material effect on wound ballistics, as 30+ years of clinical data on wounds with these rounds would tell you.
- Far from grievous wounds being something novel, and a product of post-WWII small calibre high velocity weaponry, the sort of wound schrecklichkeit that so alarms the busybodies of Geneva has been alarming that type for 100 years. Of which rifle and which battle was this written? It “inflicted horrific wounds … and many who limped off the battlefield with bullet wounds died an agonizing, painful, slow death….” A: the .45-caliber .577/450 Martin-Henry, from the British victory at Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu War of 1879.
The final assertion, that the (asserted, but unproven, and even unsupported) growing “tendency to large bullet wounds” is a factor in an also asserted, but unsupported and unproven “increased lethality” which he says is “associated with widespread weapons availability.”
“Associated” is a red flag here. It’s not a scientist’s word, it’s the weasel word of a social-pseudoscientist who, lacking even bare correlation that he might misrepresent as causation, throws the hunch flag and calls it “association.” In other words, he began with an a priori idea and marshaled what little data he could find to support it — and all he’s got is “association.”
This made us curious about the individual who wrote the cited grafs, whom the ICRC was so anxious about disclaiming any connexion to. Turns out, he has been latterly at WHO. Based on his poor understanding of small arms, and the slipshod, pseudo-scientific methodology and argumentation in his work, we expected “Meddings” to be a social pseudoscientist somewhere, maybe a sociologist at a cow college. Imagine our surprise when we found the quotes came from this work:
Meddings, David. 2000. Factors Affecting Availability and Use. Background Paper. Geneva: Small Arms Survey.
Yep, the Small Arms Survey’s propaganda is quoting, while maintaining pseudo academic distance from … the Small Arms Survey’s own propagandist.
- Source of the quoted grafs.
- Another Small Arms Survey document identifying David Meddings as “David Meddings, Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention, World Health Organization.” Meddings is an extremely prolific author of this kind of tosh for the Small Arms Survey.