As we approach tax season, we all have that lovely reminder that our federal government is pretty dang big and spends a lot of money. Now, some of that money is utterly wasted on bureaucratic bric-a-brac. But I think most of us would argue that national defense is a pretty reasonable spending priority. After all, we don't want those Canadians moving in and pushing us around, right?

Because we spend so much on defense, there are plenty of companies out there looking to make their fortune from Uncle Sam's checkbook. You can go big with Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) or General Dynamics (NYSE:GD). You can go small with Argon ST (NASDAQ:STST). Or you can go mid-sized with AlliantTechsystems (NYSE:ATK).

For Alliant Techsystems, fiscal third-quarter results weren't spectacular, but they were OK. Sales were up 12% (all organic), and earnings per share were up 8% over last year once you adjust the year-ago numbers for a one-time benefit related to settling a tax issue. Actually, the culprit for Alliant's relatively modest earnings growth relates to my opening paragraph -- namely, higher taxes.

In point of fact, I think you can say that Alliant did OK this quarter. Sales in Thiokol and ammunition were up 12% and 23%, respectively (with earnings before interest and taxes up 19% and 31%, as well), while precision systems and advanced propulsion didn't do quite so well this time around.

What interests me about this company is the nature of the business and its outlook. Space business for NASA and small-caliber ammunition should be predictable and profitable businesses -- sort of like an annuity. But the company also has growth potential from its high-precision weaponry projects.

Much as I may like this combination of "less filling, tastes great," the stock isn't cheap enough to lure me to buy. I'll grant that it seems a bit below fair value, but not so much so that I find it irresistible. Investors with less of a cheapskate streak, though, may still want to dig in further for themselves. After all, my margin of safety isn't your margin of safety.

For more Takes with a defensive twist:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).