sitting ducks

Trei, Peter ptrei at
Thu Jan 6 11:20:53 PST 2005

Major Variola (ret) wrote:
> At 12:16 PM 1/4/05 -0500, John Kelsey wrote:
> >Interesting questions:  How hard is it for someone to actually
> hit an airplane with a rifle bullet?  How often do airplane
> maintenance people notice bulletholes?
> >
> >My understanding is that a single bullethole in a plane
> is not likely to do anything serious to its operation--the
> hole isn't big enough to depressurize the cabin of a big
> plane, and unless it hits some critical bits of the plane,
> it's not going to cause mechanical problems.

> FWIW Recall that a few 'copters have been taken down with
> AK fire, though the birds/round is likely low.  And copters
> are more delicate than a  multi-engined fixed wing.

It appears that the Iraqi resistance fighters figured out that
of several of them simultaneously fire full-auto AK's in front
of a chopper flying overhead, sometimes they'll get lucky. Of
course, these are low, slow targets.

We're discussing a terrorist trying to take out a commercial
jet with a 50 BMG, right? Even at takeoff, a passenger
jet is moving at 150-200 mph, a *lot* faster than a clay
pigeon, or the choppers the Iraqis hit.

> Hitting the cabin would be pretty effective though.  And
> certain parts of big planes are vital, perhaps moreso
> on fly by wire Airbus planes.

I understand that there is redundancy in the critical
components. Hitting the pilot AND copilot at takeoff
would probably be effective, but you've got one (1)
shot before its out of range, and its moving fast.
A tracer into a fuel tank may also be effective.

> A homemade mortar through the roof of your van
> (IRA style) onto a stationary, taxiing plane
> would be pretty spectacular, sitting ducks...
> lots of cameras... easy getaway or
> repeat fire..

But that's not the 50 BMG scenario. The most effective
way to use the 50 BMG would probably be to hit an
engine intake rotor while the jet is still on the
ground, starting its takeoff roll. This probably
won't kill anyone, but would have a big economic
impact as people decided not to fly.

...but that's still a damn difficult shot. The
target is moving, the bullet has non-trivial
flight time (well over a second at long range).
Getting a first shot hit is highly improbable.

All in all, the 50 BMG vs jet scenario is just
plain bogus.

> Of course the BMG crap is all about eroding
> rights, not reality.

I honestly don't think that many politicians
wake up in the morning and think to themselves
'What rights can I erode today?'. I think it's
more 'what can I do that will make me *look*
good?' . It doesn't matter if their action is
actually effective, it matters that it makes
them appear to be 'doing something' and makes
for a good 5 second sound bite.

50 BMG rifles are used, very rarely, for
hunting. For an example, see:
More people are into very long
range (1000 yard and up) target shooting.
Those are the only 'legitimate' civilian
reasons to use a 50 BMG. It's like owning a
McLaren F1 - you can't use it much, but its
very, very, cool.

As a result, it's difficult for most people
to come up with a justification to own
one beyond 'because it's very, very cool'.
[I'm deliberately leaving aside the 2A
rights issue (which in a better world would
be then end of the argument) since it
doesn't seem to get much traction with
most politicians or sheeple any more].

50BMG rifles look very, very, tactical.
I've never seen one with a walnut stock.
They are the canonical 'scary looking gun'.

So, the politician sees a type of gun:
* Which theoreticly could be used to do Very
  Bad Things.
* Owned by a group of people too
  small to be significant voting block.
* For which its difficult to come up with
  a practical use.
* Which looks very photogenicly scary.

...and he or she thinks 'Wow, a lot of
people will feel safer it I ban these,
and I can make them think I'm protecting
them. Also, getting on TV with one of
these is a great visual.'

Actual reality doesnt enter it.

Peter Trei

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