.22 Caliber Independence Day

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by Mitchell Bonds

Happy Fourth of July, patriots! Let’s talk about how much fun I had this last month putting together a deadly assault weapon with a half-dozen lethal features.

Here is a picture of it:


This is “Druidia,” my shooting-range darling. Her name is both a pun and a Spaceballs reference and I apologize for neither.


Isn’t she pretty? Custom paint job using leaves from my little brother’s garden.

I grew up in the state of Idaho, but have over the last few years become a soft city boy. I prefer my fast Internet and hot running water over the rough backcountry lifestyle, play an unreasonable amount of video games, and relegate my camping trips to “never.”

I still however have a healthy appreciation for firearms. Living in the backwoods where bears, ex-mafiosos, coyotes, and other dangerous wildlife often occupied our backyard, our dad taught my brother and I firearm safety from the day we were big enough to possibly get our grimy hands on one of his several guns.

We weren’t taught to fear guns as dangerous objects, but were taught the dangers of not treating them properly. From day 1, we learned never to point a gun at anything we didn’t intend to shoot, and that even if it’s not loaded, a gun is always loaded. We learned guns weren’t toys. We knew to keep our booger hooks off the bang buttons until we were ready to shoot.

There was even a great object lesson wherein he filled a milk jug with red Kool-aid and had me feel it, test how squishy it was, then feel my own torso to see it was about the same level of squishy. Then he put the jug on a stump a dozen yards away and put one load of buckshot through it with his 12-gauge.

The resulting spray stayed vividly in my memory, and in more than 20 years of handling firearms, I’ve had not one incident of stupid behavior with a real gun and never hurt myself, another, or even a single animal with one. Because I like my torso. There’s a bit too much of it, but I rather like it where it is.

These days I mostly tinker with weaponry in digital form. I have been modifying guns in the “Fallout” video game series since you had to install a mod on the game to be able to install mods on your guns. My favorite in “Fallout: New Vegas” is the Marksman Carbine, a semi-automatic rifle with a red-dot sight, with plentiful ammo.

My brother Alex, on the other hand, never lost the backcountry in his heart. Unlike the easily-lampooned “operator” — with their beer gut, NRA stickers, and Bruce Willis attitude — he’s law enforcement, and he knows his stuff. He rolls his eyes at those who “think they’re a badass and wear camouflage pants,” as he puts it.


The pudgy one on the left is me. The other is Alex, who purchases gun parts and customizes real life firearms. Last I checked, he owns more firearms than he is years old. Our conversations about gun parts usually take place within arm’s reach of four guns that I know about — and apparently two that I didn’t until last Thursday. I know the whole “guns kill people” thing is overplayed, but the whole time I was there, not a single one of the six tried to kill me despite having every opportunity to catch me unawares.

Thanks to Alex, I own two guns myself. One is a simple revolver for personal defense (you only have to get attacked in your own home by a meth head ONCE to want something sturdier than a field hockey stick for defense). Last month, I finally broke down and let him build a custom gun for me. I decided I wanted a low-budget, real-life version of the Marksman Carbine, and he made it happen.


This is a 10/22, which is semi-automatic and fires .22 Long Rifle bullets. This is not, despite its appearance, an actual “Assault Rifle.” An assault rifle has selectable firing modes and are already illegal for civilian use. Druidia does not: One squeeze of the trigger, one bullet, nothing more.

She does, however, have several cosmetic features that are being currently bandied by prominent members of the Democratic party as “Lethal Features.” I’m going to explain them and why I have them.

First of all, here is the same gun, before any of the customization we did to it.

Ruger 1022 model 1103

Hardly looks like the same machine, does it? But at its heart, this is the same firearm. It fires the same bullets at the same rate, one per trigger squeeze. One might sound a little silly trying to ban the second rifle, despite their identical nature, so the add-ons are what get targeted.

Here’s what the scary-looking “lethal features” do.

The body itself, the housing for the ‘gun’ part of this rifle, is Proudly Made in the USA by Tapco. It’s great for customization, but as Alex puts it, it looks “scarier to the uninformed.”

Up top is a cheap Chinese optic, a Phantom RT6L, which Alex and I picked because I wanted its red laser dot to run on a AAA battery instead of coin-cell or ‘watch’ batteries.

The red dot allows me precision aiming. Last time I used one of these, even my natural clumsiness wasn’t enough to harm my accuracy.

The same goes for the folding forward grip. With this I have immediate control over where the muzzle of the gun points, and combined with the red-dot optic, I reliably hit what I’m aiming at and nothing else.

These two are great features for a guy who doesn’t want to shoot anybody. If I wanted to commit mass murder, I wouldn’t care about collateral damage. These bits make the gun safer for the average Joe, not more dangerous.

The gizmo on the front is a pin-on flash-hider/compensator by NC Star. It reduces the “fireball that comes out the barrel” Alex tells the uninformed. But that’s not its reason to exist.

“It has one purpose: To create a greater perceived caliber on the business end,” Alex said.

If someone who meant me harm — remember the angry meth addict? — was confronted by this weapon, “it reduces the likelihood of having to pull the trigger. You’re less likely to actually have to use it. Nine times out of 10, when justifiable lethal force is presented, the presentation is enough to mitigate the threat.”

Yeah, he talks like a cop. He is one. And he’s right. I’d be more intimidated by a doom gun than a sissy pistol any day, especially if I was attacking the holder of said doom gun with something less doomy, like a knife or baseball bat.

The high-capacity magazine you hear so much about is attached to Druidia. That big banana clip is a Ruger BX-25 and holds a whopping 25 rounds, which coincidentally, is 5 rounds fewer than I thought it held given its size.

Alex wouldn’t get me a larger one since any magazine larger than 25 rounds has a tendency to jam and make the gun less reliable — and by ironic logic, less dangerous. I won’t be doing a Scarface impression with these magazines.

Sadly, mass shooters who didn’t have these just brought backpacks full of the 10-round magazines instead, so banning the sale of these doesn’t help.

The last two deadly features of this perilous weapon are its pistol grip and its telescoping stock. The first feature is touted as the most perilous feature of any ‘assault weapon.’ But there’s a problem.

“It does nothing for the actual shooting,” Alex said. Literally it’s designed to be “easier to hang onto with one hand,” ostensibly so you can do things like turn on a flashlight, take a sip of tea, or text “just shooting pumpkins lol” with the other without worrying about accidentally dropping the damn thing or pointing it an unsafe direction.

The telescoping stock allows the back to be resized to be comfortable for any person who wants to shoot it. Extend it all the way, and tall, long-armed people can use it. Collapse it, and a five-foot-nothing teenage girl can use it. Safely and comfortably. It does nothing for the shooting. Same number of bullets, same firing speed.

This gun’s cosmetics might look scary — it’s my own Marksman Carbine, just like I wanted. She was fun to build and customize to my personal preferences and requirements. But this is Druidia, a gun that will never kill a living thing.

Because I have the features I need to hit nothing but my targets, be they swiveling competition targets or just tin cans. Because I know how gun safety works. And because I keep my booger hook off the bang button.

Mitchell Bonds edits for a local newspaper as his day job, and elsewise spends too much time playing video games and writing about dragons. Beware of contacting him at fouryearquest@yahoo.com.

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