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We have some few (open) questions about pistols and recently a debate on whether it is on-topic came up in What is the difference between single and double action revolvers?. There are two relevant existing meta discussions:

The only answer (+12) on the first states pistol shooting (any shooting on a range) as off topic, the second tends to broadly allowing gun related questions when it is about their use and connected to outdoors, but not when it is mainly about ownership, politics or that kind of topics. The two questions weirdly came up at a pretty similar time.

So which way should we go, ban technical questions about pistols or should we allow them?

The questions I found falling into this category are:
Is it safe to fire 38 caliber rounds in a 357 magnum pistol?
What is a top strap on a revolver?
What is the difference between single and double action revolvers?

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    The answer to this question is necessarily the same as the answer to "Should we revisit or enforce that rock climbing is off topic?" And some analogous "problem" (used completely loosely) questions could be "Is it safe to climb with a rope smaller than one rated for your weight?" and "What does it mean to 'repel'?" and "What is the difference between repel and belay?" – Aaron Feb 12 '18 at 18:08
  • I have voted to close this post. As there is insufficient room to explain why, I posted the answer below – James Jenkins Feb 17 '18 at 11:27
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What is "the outdoors"?

I don't think anyone can give a definite answer to this that everyone would agree on. So we need to accept that what you think is an outdoor pursuit, others may not. But more than this we need to accept that this is fine. Having the same arguments about one persons definition of an outdoor pursuit vs another's is ultimately fruitless.

If a person doesn't like a topic I'd suggest they use tag filters.

Now that doesn't give carte blanch to all comers, some topics are obviously not the outdoors. where it's fuzzy I think we should give the benefit of the doubt.

If it ain't broke don't fix it.

We've had this conversation over and over now (not just about shooting). Why do we want to ban things so much? What material harm is shooting questions doing to this site?

Banning for me is a response to a problem, i.e. shooting questions are causing x problem. If anyone can point at a materially harmful problem being caused here (that isn't "Well I don't think it's the outdoors") then that would be a useful discussion to have?! Digging this topic up every couple of months isn't really helping anyone.

The material for banning shooting appears to be a fight between those that think it's an outdoor activity (I admit I'm one of these) and those that don't. How do you decide who win's here? It's impossible. The two camps are finely balanced. So again, I'd say, why should we ban this?

"Well why shouldn't we ban this?"

You could argue "Well why shouldn't we ban this?", but we have questions on the subject already and ultimately banning things makes the community weaker and less useful.

We have an incredibly poor question rate

Currently we average about 1.4 questions per day:

enter image description here

Many of the processes (closing questions, flagging, etc.) are migrated verbatim from Stackoverflow where they have a question rate of....well....thousands per day. These systems aren't designed for us.

We become more relevant by getting more questions, not less.

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    I agree that there is no need to ban these questions for all the reasons you stated, except that I wouldn't use the question rate as an argument: There is no way we will every approach the 10 question/day and that's fine. In my opinion we should accept that we are a small but high quality community - I mean TGO is in beta for over 6 years now. – imsodin Feb 7 '18 at 10:14
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    Agree, but nor should we forget that we do need to stay relevant. The driving factor to putting things off topic is often, "there are too many question cluttering up the place" we don't have this problem. – Liam Feb 7 '18 at 10:28
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    While accepting the general thesis of this answer, but I do not entirely agree that more questions makes you more relevant. I would prefer fewer On Topic high quality questions with higher quality answers. If you have visited Yahoo Answers lately you will know what I mean. – user5330 Feb 8 '18 at 23:50
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    Steve Jobs said it better than I ever could.... “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. – user5330 Feb 8 '18 at 23:55
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    I agree poor quality questions should be downvoted and/or closed. I don't see how marking pistol shooting as off topic has relevance to this though. Do we have a lot of poor quality shooting questions? – Liam Feb 9 '18 at 10:24
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The answer by Liam is great, though I think we can at least give a guideline about what constitutes a "The Great Outdoors" activity and what does not.

TL;DR

This is a theoretical "Let's apply the same logic across the board and see what happens" answer, and that is exactly how I believe that any "Is this on topic?" question should be answered. So my answer works for pistols, and it works for everything else too as a side effect. It demonstrates that pistols, how to use them, the differences between them, and similar questions are all on topic. It also goes into some examples of where these things go too far and become off topic.

This answer runs through the logic necessary to decide what is on or off topic, covering definitely on, definitely off, edge cases, some in between - analyzed with a core logical guideline; you really just need to go with the flow of the logic. So this answer is necessarily long.

What is the root of The Great Outdoors? What is at its core?

As has been said before, an activity does not become a TGO (The Great Outdoors) activity simply by being done outdoors. Similarly, just because an activity is done indoors does not immediately disqualify it from being a TGO activity. That is, questions about football rules or golf rules do not fit well here. And questions about indoor rock climbing do fit well here.

Huh? Why is that? Golf is outdoors and indoor rock climbing is, obviously, indoors. That doesn't make sense!?

This Stack Exchange is not called "Questions about activities which are performed outdoors." It is called "The Great Outdoors." The basic activities which you should have in mind to compare against as the "root activities" of this site are those personal activities which involve the use of nature, preferably (but not necessarily) for the enjoyment of nature, such as

  1. traveling in or through nature (hiking, kayaking, snow-shoeing, etc.),

  2. staying in nature for a longer duration (camping, survival skills, etc.),

  3. observing nature (bird watching, plant identification, etc.),

  4. activities which naturally accompany the above, whether because they (4a) complement each other very well or because (4b) TGO depends on it (rock climbing [is sometimes necessary for traveling from A to B, often necessary for mountain traversal]), or (4c) it depends on TGO (hunting [requires all 3 of the previous points]).

Elaborating on point 4

Point 4 and its sub-points a, b, c are, I think, the real sticking points here where people disagree.

For the last bullet point above, activities which the previous points depend on are necessarily on topic, even if performed in a non-outdoors way. Example: while rock climbing as a sport, especially when done indoors, might technically be off topic, to close those questions as such would be both legalistic and hair-splitting.

Rock climbing is necessary for many activities which fall squarely into the previous points, and it has been done many times as a necessary means of travel through nature. Some indoor sport rock climbers very well might not care a lick about The Great Outdoors, but others might be doing it specifically as preparation for an upcoming The Great Outdoors activity, and advice will often transfer between the two. That is, even if an indoor rock climbing question is asked by someone who never plans to do it outdoors, the answer helps The Great Outdoors anyway, and those doing mountaineering will find it useful.

So the previous paragraph was about point 4b, sub-topics which the 3 main points above rely on (ie: to get around may require rock climbing), but I strongly suggest that the other way around, point 4c, is also on topic: sub-topics which rely on those 3 main points.

Whether you agree or disagree that the act of hunting in and of itself is a TGO type of activity (that is, whether you agree that killing an animal is part of TGO), nobody can deny that hunting is generally accompanied by, and often strictly requires the other TGO activities. Technically, somebody could put up a deer stand just off the side of the highway, drive to it and use it without ever going into the woods, and drive away when they are done; but that is not how it is generally done. Hunting often requires hiking, plant and animal identification, tracking, blending into nature, sometimes camping, etc..

If an activity which relies on all of these definitely TGO activities were considered off topic, then where would it be on topic? Does each and every such activity need to have its own Stack Exchange site?

A corner case

And then there are the corner cases: If hunting and trapping are off topic, what about the purely TGO survival question "I'm lost[/stuck/ran out of supplies/whatever] deep in the wilderness. How do I make a trap that can catch something to eat?" or the same thing but about a bow and arrows. That is strictly a survival question, and those are known on-topic here, but it's also about trapping. If I had not already read up on survival trapping and watched lots of videos about it, I would probably be asking exactly those questions here, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone else already has.

That then suggests that perhaps the 3 main points above actually do rely on hunting, just as they rely on rock climbing. So perhaps hunting/trapping are necessarily TGO.

Deeper dive: activities 1 level away - merely related to TGO activities

Now let's dive down to the next level. Shooting in general. Should shooting be on topic? This might be range shooting or sport shooting. Range shooting is to hunting what indoor rock climbing is to TGO rock climbing, so I insist that range shooting be viewed the same way as indoor rock climbing when making the on/off topic determination. Sport shooting though... I'm not sure, I suppose it depends.

Would a competition indoor rock climbing question "How do I calculate the score for this type of rock climbing competition?" be on topic? I don't know a lot about competitive rock climbing, so forgive if that previous example question sounds silly, but it makes the point. A question about sport shooting rules should be viewed the same as that. And we do have (a) question(s) about competitive shooting scoring. There was a question about the differences between different archery scoring methods between North America and Europe. I am not sure if that should be on topic or not, but a question about how to improve your aim to be able to hit the kill zone on the target would be on topic.

We cannot simply continue ad-infinitum with "Well, could A depend on B? B depend on C? C on D?" or literally everything would be on topic. For example, "TGO survival requires hunting, hunting requires shooting, competitive shooting sport requires shooting so in on topic. Oh, and law-enforcement requires shooting. The legal system requires law enforcement, judges require the legal system..." that just snow-balled out of control. Granted, that logic used some "this sub-topic depends on TGO" (point 4c), but it could also happen with "TGO depends on this sub-topic" (point 4b): "Apocalypse survival may require that I make my own vehicle, which needs tires, which needs rubber and molds, ..., ..., so this chemistry question about the optimal way to make the material for tire treads is on topic."

When judging these you should ask yourself "Could this be useful to anyone specifically in a TGO setting?" Let's pick on guns again since that's what started this question: unjamming a gun would be useful for TGO activities, though cleaning guns is (arguably) not on topic since that is not directly useful in any conventional TGO settings, reloading your own ammo is (arguably) not on topic since that is not directly useful to TGO activities, making your own shell casings is definitely not on topic, and shooting competition rules or scoring mechanisms is (arguably) not useful in a TGO setting, though honing shooting skills (even if asker is doing competition shooting) is useful to TGO activities and would be on topic.

So we have finally gotten down to where we can see some possible dividing lines. But what are those lines? They are a bit grey, and as Liam pointed out different people will have different opinions about where they are at this level.

Some criteria to use in these grey areas

Some things to consider could be:

  • How many uses of connecting logic does it require? (ex: Apocalypse survival, transportation, vehicles, tires, rubber, descent rubber that actually holds up well to use, natural rubber might not work for that so how do I use chemistry to make a good tire? That is too many points removed.)

  • Does it have anything to do with TGO? That is, not only "can it be done outdoors," but rather, is it necessary to core TGO activities, or is it something that a lot of people do as part of their TGO activities? (tire manufacturing is not done as a TGO activity and TGO does not rely on it directly)

Rock climbing in and of itself is necessarily a "The Great Outdoors" sub-topic. Questions that have to do with that are on topic; I don't care where you actually do yours if the question pertains to rock climbing. A rock climbing competition scoring method is highly questionable, and my opinion is that it would not be on topic.

Hunting/trapping is an activity in the spirit of the core TGO activities, and as a bonus it is essential to TGO survival. Shooting in general is absolutely a core aspect of hunting and it is generally done outdoors as part of TGO activities; shooting in general is in my opinion very close to the core of TGO. Knowing the absolute basics about shooting is obviously necessary for shooting, and knowing fundamental information about shooting tools is part of the basics. The mentioned question about revolver actions would be a shooting fundamental basic.

Asking about the timing for the revolver speed shooting world record (ie: When exactly did the clock start? When his hand touched the gun, when the gun was fully un-holstered or fully drawn? When?) has nothing to do with TGO and does not help anyone that is doing any TGO activities.

Asking about shooting competition rules is a grey area, but I suggest it is not really related to TGO activities. However, some people probably feel strongly opposed to me on that, as is evidenced by the fact that there is a sport which combines skiing with shooting. Apparently there is a large group of people that consider competition target shooting to be so close to their outdoor nature-traversing activities that they combine it with skiing. I would call that off topic, and I think this is right on the bitter edge of what anyone can argue is TGO on topic - if anyone argued in its favor I would not vote to close that since on topic is not defined as "What Aaron's opinion decides is on topic," and as Liam suggested we need to honor others' opinions.

Conclusion

So there is a deep dive into comparing definitely on topic questions, definitely off topic questions, questions right on the edge, and cases near the edge on both sides of it.

Please note that the examples given above are not arguments for or against specific sub-topics being considered on or off topic; rather, they are case studies to help us examine the logic behind them and to probe the boundaries and find types of questions that should be on or off topic.

I don't care if it's about guns, rock climbing gear, or something else; that part is entirely irrelevant. What is relevant is how the question fits into the theme of TGO, such as by using the logic above. And when in doubt for a corner case or grey area, err on the side of honoring the opinions of others. It is not injurious to you to see a question answered that you disagreeably thought was off topic and to have somebody helped.

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    I have read this 4 times and still can't make heads or tails of it. – Charlie Brumbaugh Feb 12 '18 at 19:45
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    @CharlieBrumbaugh I know it is long, but I cannot see what is actually confusing about the content itself. What is difficult to understand? – Aaron Feb 12 '18 at 21:21
  • So maybe put your last comment into a tldr lol – Charlie Brumbaugh Feb 13 '18 at 7:01
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    @CharlieBrumbaugh You're right, that would make a good tldr for it. Comment moved. Thank you. – Aaron Feb 13 '18 at 19:17
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    +1 for a gallant attempt to define what is on topic on TGO. If I read it 4 times, I could make a better comment than: I know it -- on topic TGO-Q -- when I see it. – ab2 Feb 13 '18 at 21:13
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I don't believe that past questions should be used as a robust argument for or against a topic. They can guide, but their acceptance at the time has to be considered in context of was the question on or off topic ever asked and answered, (i.e. Open as in 'Not Voted Closed' is very different to Closed as in 'Voted Closed').

I do not see anything in the above questions that makes them on topic for outdoors. There no connection in any way to an outdoors situation, its solely about revolvers.

If the questions were asking which one makes a better hunting weapon the I believe it would be on topic as the difference could be discussed in context of hunting (which is OT).

So my vote is unless the question is being asked in a way that is clearly related to outdoors, it should not be accepted and closed as OT. In the above question, if it asked 'whats best', the answers need to go into specifics of advantages and disadvantages in the outdoor context. If answers are not considering outdoors context, the question would need to be reworded to encourage outdoors context answers or closed as OT.

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    The question examples were not mainly meant as precedent, but to establish context (though any upvoted open question with answers automatically becomes a bit of a precedent I guess). Also isn't OT like the worst abbreviation possible, as Off-Topic and On-Topic apply equally well :P – imsodin Feb 7 '18 at 8:40
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    I'll say what I say to a lot of people who want to ban certain topics, what harm do you think this does? Your response to having shooting off topic appears to be "It's not outdoors", but that's a very narrow (and personal) view of outdoor activities. I'd say, if it ain't broke don't fix it and right now, I don't see anything broken here. – Liam Feb 7 '18 at 9:38
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    Also you elude to the fact that "(sic)of course hunting is on topic" but we've had many discussions on this matter too. One persons idea of "the outdoors" rarely tallies with another. We need to just accept this an move on. – Liam Feb 7 '18 at 9:55
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    Let's just imagine for a second that we did accept the logic in this answer. If we accept this logic, then we must apply this same logic fairly to other posts as well. So let's try rock climbing. Your logic suggests that "Which kind of rope is better for this cliff climbing situation, A or B?" is on topic, but it also suggests that "What is the difference between rock climbing ropes A and B?" is off topic. Likewise, "What is a two-person bicycle?" would be off topic. Extreme example I could make a case for: "What is the difference between a bluebird and a blue jay?" might be off topic. – Aaron Feb 12 '18 at 16:22
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If a question such as

What are the advantages\disadvantages of single vs double action revolvers for hunting?

is on-topic (which I might ask/answer at some point) then it seems that asking what the differences between the two are should also be.

I mean how are you going to say which is better without pointing out the differences between the two are? and I didn't feel that putting both into the same Q&A made as much sense as splitting them up.

And if hunting is on-topic then it makes sense that practicing shooting so that you can hit the animal and get a clean kill.

I don't think anybody on the site is going to use a firearm inside (unless target practice at a range which should be on-topic just like indoor climbing), as its simply too loud and there really isn't anything to hunt inside.

Also, all of the shooting questions over on Sports.SE are about either competion or paintball/airsoft, not hunting.

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This question is written to assume facts that are not in evidence. "enforce that pistols are off topic?" is a false premise.

  • Of your first two linked questions neither mentions pistols.

Further both of these provided support that questions about firearms in general are allowed.

The other 3 questions are specifically about pistols and are open. Showing that pistols are clearly in scope.

This is called a loaded question it also Begging the question

Aside from being an informal fallacy depending on usage, such questions may be used as a rhetorical tool: the question attempts to limit direct replies to be those that serve the questioner's agenda. The traditional example is the question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Whether the respondent answers yes or no, he will admit to having a wife and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed. The fallacy relies upon context for its effect: the fact that a question presupposes something does not in itself make the question fallacious. Only when some of these presuppositions are not necessarily agreed to by the person who is asked the question does the argument containing them become fallacious. Hence the same question may be loaded in one context, but not in the other. For example, the previous question would not be loaded if it were asked during a trial in which the defendant had already admitted to beating his wife.

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To beg the question is to assume the truth of the conclusion of an argument in the premises in order for the conclusion to follow. It is a type of circular reasoning and an informal fallacy, in which an arguer makes an argument that requires the desired conclusion to be true. This often occurs in an indirect way such that the fallacy's presence is hidden or at least not easily apparent.

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    While the title may need work I am not sure that getting them declared as off topic was the goal of the post – Charlie Brumbaugh Feb 17 '18 at 20:57

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