The Nevada Wildlife Commission voted to ban hunting with .50 BMG cartridges and electronic sighting systems, such as the Tracking Point system (agenda here).
“The third change would make it unlawful to hunt a big game mammal with a rifle using a centerfire cartridge larger than .50 caliber or with a case length longer than 3 inches. The amendment would also make it unlawful to hunt a big game mammal with any firearm equipped with any sighting system using a computer or electronically controlled firing mechanism.
“The Commission directed the Department to change ‘3.8 inches overall loaded length’ to ‘3 inches case length,” change ‘.46 caliber or larger’ to ‘larger than .50 caliber,’ change the minimum legal handgun cartridge to ‘caliber .22 or larger,’ and change ‘electronic or computer controlled trigger’ to ‘sighting system using a computer or electronically controlled firing mechanism.’
.50 BMG stands for “Browning Machine Gun” as it was invented during World War I by John M. Browning as a cartridge for his new anti-tank machine gun, the M2. Electronic sighting systems assist the shooter in determining range, ballistics, and releasing the shot at the optimum moment.
The decision was a clear abuse of power and an example of administrative rulemaking made with no scientific or empirical justification. Nevadan’s for State Gun rights said that: “This was in spite of a majority of their county advisory boards voting against it and testimony against it from shooting organizations and hunting as well as a complete lack of justification for the ruling.”
Commissioners did admit they received a large volume of emails, but that they were choosing to disregard them. The chief game warden dismissed them as either coming from out of state or coming from people who don’t hunt, claiming he “looked up the names.” Nevada Carry contributor Vern reminded the chief that Nevada sells hunting tags to out of state residents and that hunting was a right that should be preserved for future generations. Additionally, non-hunters are still entitled to an opinion on state regulations.
A disabled veteran was brought almost to tears fearing that as his health deteriorates, he will be unable to hunt because of the commissions arbitrary and excessive regulations. Use of electronic aids may be his only way of making a shot. Another hunter testified that he hunted elk with a .50 caliber rifle “with some success.”
On the surface, a half-inch round may seem like overkill, but to someone knowledgeable about firearms, it’s not. On the contrary, the ban is arbitrary, captious, and likely ultimately related to ulterior motives of gun control. One commissioner’s scientific defense consisted of reading from the Wikipedia page “.50 BMG.” A well-informed decision does not involve Wikipedia.
Eliminating the .50 BMG as a hunting cartridge removes it from the category of cartridges used for “sporting purposes.” This has sinister implications as once a cartridge’s “sporting purpose” is removed, it can no longer be imported and is a ripe target for anti-gunners who love to claim that the Second Amendment is about hunting.
Objections to .50 caliber rifles in particular have no veracity Vern told us. He pointed out that there are only two plausible arguments in support of the ban. 1, to prohibit long-range shots that circumvent the “sporting” chase of the animal, and 2, the large wound channels that the .50 caliber rifle creates, causing a potential waste of meat.
“Some would argue that making really long range shots is “unfair” or “unsporting”,” Vern said. “I beg to differ. Making a 1000 yard shot, then hiking in to field dress it is quite sporting. Especially now that much of the habitat is getting closed to vehicular traffic.” .338 Super Lapua and a few other non-banned cartridges are capable of the extremely long distance shots that .50 caliber is known for. In fact, some of the longest sniper kills in history have been made with .338 caliber rifles.
The wound track from a common .30 caliber rifle soft-tip hollow point and a round nose .50 caliber bullet are comparable. “Anecdotes about wasted meat are not founded in truth, just anecdote.”
The smaller .30 caliber round may not instantly kill the elk, allowing it to run off and die hidden from the hunter, whereas heavier rounds can immediately or very quickly incapacitate the game. A smaller bullet with less mass, especially after traveling hundreds of yards, will have lost velocity and thus reducing its lethality. A .50 caliber cartridge is designed for extreme long-range shooting and preserves its velocity.
“Sporting purposes” is language taken from the 1968 Gun Control Act, generally applicable to imported weapons. Self-defense or militia weapon considerations do not fall under the guise of “sporting purposes,” which was intended to mean hunting or competitive target shooting (as then practiced—not today’s .50 caliber long-range shooting competitions).
Interestingly, just before the 1968 act was proposed by Senator Thomas Dodd (CT), the senator requested the Library of Congress translate the Nazi weapons law from 1938, which curiously also has a “sporting purposes” provision.
Commissioners are appointed by the governor. In response, grassroots are already organizing to petition next year’s legislature to strip the commission of its powers and return rulemaking authority to the legislature. Former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young, a proud supporter of gun control (including blue cards, Ballot Question 1, and the Bloomberg gun control groups), needs his political career put out to pasture. Unfortunately, the NDOW commissioners abused their discretion despite obvious public opposition to enact needless regulations and do not deserve to be trusted with that power.