Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

I’m reminded that Col. Jeff Cooper once suggested a system that “would make sure, first, that a riot would stop; and second, that only the leaders would feel the weight of social disapproval.”

Also, reading someone the Riot Act used to have a literal meaning that seems apropos.

Civilian Demand for Firearm Improvements

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

The American frontier provided a huge civilian market for cutting-edge guns — but there was no market for certain kinds of cutting-edge guns:

The Colt revolver and similar weapons enjoyed the confidence of the public as it began to push westward and demanded the best in weapons that money could buy. All the New England gun makers were operating at peak capacity. The war with Mexico had come to a conclusion, Texas was being settled, and gold had been discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Colt’s name was a household byword, but fine weapons were also being produced by many others. Among them were the Wesson brothers, Oliver Winchester, Elihu Remington, Henry Deringer, James Cooper, Edmund Savage and Christian Sharps. Their factories began to attract the finest mechanical skill. They invited competition, feeling it presented a means of showing their ability, and prided themselves on being able to present a mechanical solution to any firearms problem brought to their attention.

The industry was built on strict competition to meet public demand. There was practically no encouragement from the government by military orders for improved weapons.

After 36 years of civilian use had proved the reliability of the percussion cap, the army finally gave up the time-honored flintlock, but seemed content to advance no further. Many predicted that even this modern step was too extreme and the army would rue the day it had discarded the flintlock. General Winfield Scott is credited with outfitting a regiment of his own with flintlocks, after the adoption of the percussion system was approved over his strenuous objection.

Fortunately, civilian demand made up for the lack of military orders for the various firearms improvements. The market was practically equal to the adult population; for each male citizen, physically able to do so, usually owned and often carried some form of firearm.

During this period, the military ordered little more than the conventional small arms. For this reason guns like the Ripley were of little or no interest to firearm factories. The military would not consider such guns, and the civilians had no use for them.

Had there been an incentive, and a ready market, no doubt the head engineers of the big companies would have produced a reliable manually operated machine gun at this time.

What happened in Ferguson

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

The Washington Post goes over what happened in Ferguson, according to the Grand Jury testimony:

The narrative begins at 11:45 a.m., when Wilson was dispatched to another call. Minutes later, he heard two radio dispatches describing a person who stole cigarillos from a nearby market, a black male wearing a red hat, khaki shorts and yellow socks and accompanied by another male.

Wilson-Brown 01

Caseless Ammo

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Caseless ammunition has been the small-arms ammunition of the future for decades now, but it was also the ammo of the future in the mid-1800s, before we settled on metallic cartridges:

Christian Sharps’ self-consuming cartridge made of linen was introduced in 1852. It was made at his Fairmount, Pennsylvania, gun factory. This was a definite improvement over the fragile paper-filled envelopes previously used. The linen could be held in shape and would stand more abuse than the paper cartridge. That cartridges, in one form or another, were beginning to be used throughout the service is verified by a record showing the purchase of 393,304 paper cartridges by the United States Army in 1851.

Col. Samuel Colt collaborated with the Ely brothers of England in making further improvements on his patented self-consuming cartridge. This cartridge was made of a stiffer and more durable paper, and could be held to close manufacturing tolerances. The paper cartridge case was impregnated with a mixture of potassium nitrate. The explosion of the powder charge completely consumed the cartridge case. The percussion cap had sufficient force to rupture the paper and drive fire through to the powder charge.

Smith and Wesson of Springfield, Mass., in 1857 manufactured the first really successful rim-fire version of a metallic cartridge, self-contained and reasonably waterproof. This ammunition, with added improvements, to the present day is still produced by various American companies.

On 22 January 1856, the unusual method of housing both detonator and propelling charge in the base of a bullet was introduced and patented. The Winchester Arms Co. made a repeating weapon called the “Volcanic” using this odd principle. As the propelling ingredients were all contained in the bullet itself, there was naturally no problem of case ejection. This radical design was to compete with the impregnated self-consuming paper cartridge cases.

The volcanic bullet had a small charge of finely granulated powder, and a larger portion of fulminate of mercury mixture housed in a thin metal cup, all of which was protected from the elements by a thin cork insert. When the ball was fed into the arm, a spring-loaded firing pin was cammed forward and forced through the cork until it was brought to bear on the primer cup. A smart blow from the hammer ignited the detonating mixture, forcing the flame through the openings provided, and exploded the powder in the upper conical cavity of the bullet.

During the middle of the nineteenth century, the introduction of various methods of producing cartridge cases, the development of the conical bullet, and the idea of integrating the detonating cap in the cartridge were undoubtedly responsible for the rapid and radical designs of the innumerable weapons constructed to fire them.

Even skin cartridge cases were used successfully. They not only furnished a waterproof container, but also were easily made into the self-consuming case that seemed to be a military “must” of the day. To produce this cartridge case, pig’s intestines were used. After cleaning and while still wet, they were stretched over forms of the required cartridge dimensions. When dried, the powder and bullet were put in place. The skin case was then treated with a compound consisting of “eighteen parts by weight of nitrate of potassium, pure, and seventeen parts of sulphuric acid — pure, after which it was washed to free it from the soluble salts and excess of acids, and then dried by blotting… in order to render it perfectly waterproof, a light coat of shellac varnish was applied.”

It is easy to see how multifiring weapon development went hand in hand with cartridge design. As each different type of cartridge was introduced, inventors followed closely with a mechanical firing system, designed to use the new idea. No matter how radical a departure any new cartridge may have been from the heretofore accepted methods, there was a gun with an equally original design to shoot it.

The greatest problem in ammunition development was finally solved by George W. Morse’s invention in 1858 — the first true attempt at a metallic cartridge with a center fire primer and an inside anvil. It marked the most important step in the whole history of cartridge design. All other methods, experiments, and alleged improvements were but attempts to do what Morse successfully accomplished.

Swedish Exclusion Areas

Monday, November 24th, 2014

The Swedish police have released a map of 55 areas where they have surrendered control to criminal gangs:

These areas have long had problems with mailmen, fire trucks and ambulances being attacked when trying to enter, which has led to them routinely requesting police escort. Now it’s the police being attacked outright.

These no-go zones are primarily so-called “exclusion areas” which is the politically correct term for the 186 ghettos that have sprung up around Sweden in the past two decades. These areas are predominantly populated by immigrants from muslim countries with low education and even lower employment rates. The exception being the enthusiastic entrepreneurs in the fields of drug dealing, protection rackets and robberies.

Since the real law doesn’t apply, the function of justice has largely been taken over by the gangs themselves, not unlike how the mafia is seen as the go-to place in rural Italy when the local police is too corrupt to serve its purpose. Unofficial courts are held and punishments are meted out based on the cultural norms of the dominant gangs. Some no-go areas even have vehicle checkpoints at the border. Not police checkpoints, but the gangs protecting their turf from law enforcement and rival gangs.

This development would have been inconceivable only 20 years ago, and one would think this official surrender by the police would have made big headlines. This is not the case; the most attention it seems to have received in mainstream media is an opinion piece in national paper Svenska Dagbladet.

It can be speculated that this is due to the fact that any reporting on this could be seen as “support” for nationalist party SD that wants to restrict the vast inflow to these ghettos, which is an absolute no-no amongst the journalists and could cost them their jobs. The world’s most extreme immigration from the MENA-region must continue unchallenged, and another 100 000+ must be added annually to the ghetto gangs’ recruitment base.

This is my boomstick!

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Early gunpowder wasn’t really gunpowder so much as thunderpowder:

Strange as it may seem, the Battle of Crecy, which showed the longbow at its best, was also the scene of an incident that sounded the death knell, not only of the bow, but of all merely mechanical means of missile propulsion. This battle saw the first recorded use of artillery in an engagement between major armies and heralded explosives as a means of missile propulsion. However, the justified praise of the longbow was so great at this time that were it not for the meticulous writings of a few historians of the day, it would have gone unnoticed that Edward III employed stampede cannon on his flanks. These devices represented artillery in its crudest form, and were mainly used, as the name implies, to scare the enemy’s horses and strike terror into the untrained foot soldier. Missile throwing ability was secondary. Earliest cannon design appears to have been that of an iron tube encased in wood to give it further support, and still keep it light. The explosive was a crude black powder to which generally was added various kinds of wax. the mixture being made into balls. The balls, when discharged, produced an effect somewhat like an oversized Roman candle. The cannon’s front end was supported by a metal fork and, to take care of recoil, the butt simply was placed against a convenient knoll. Firearm development stems from this modest beginning.


Bacon spoke of the simple deceits which are practiced by jugglers and ventriloquists, and commented that “popular opinion does anything that men wish it to do, so long as men are agreed about it.

“In addition to these marvels, there are certain others which do not involve particular constructions. We can prepare from saltpeter and other materials an artificial fire which will burn at whatever distance we please… Beyond these are still other stupendous things in Nature. For the sound of thunder may be artificially produced in the air with greater resulting horror than if it had been produced by natural causes. A moderate amount of the proper material, of the size of a thumb, will make a horrible sound and violent coruscation.”


Although Bacon suggests several military uses for his explosive (for instance, “an enemy might be either blown up bodily or put to flight by the terror caused by the explosion”), there was nothing to be found in any of his writings to show he ever once contemplated its use as a missile-throwing agent. The identity of the individual who first thought of propelling a projectile through a tube from the force generated by gunpowder still remains a mystery.

Loud weapons work.

Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Classical mathematics concentrated on linear equations for a sound pragmatic reason, Ian Stewart noted: it couldn’t solve anything else. Modern chaos theorists like to emphasize this point.

James Clerk Maxwell noted another chaotic concept over a century ago:

When the state of things is such that an infinitely small variation of the present state will alter only by an infinitely small quantity the state at some future time, the condition of the system, whether at rest or in motion, is said to be stable; but when an infinitely small variation in the present state may bring about a finite difference in the state of the system in a finite time, the condition of the system is said to be unstable. It is manifest that the existence of unstable conditions renders impossible the prediction of future events, if our knowledge of the present state is only approximate, and not accurate…. it is a metaphysical doctrine that from the same antecedents follow the same consequents. No one can gainsay this. But it is not of much use in a world like this, in which the same antecedents never again concur, and nothing ever happens twice… The physical axiom which has a somewhat similar aspect is “That from like antecedents follow like consequents.” But here we have passed from sameness to likeness, from absolute accuracy to a more or less rough approximation.

In describing war, Clausewitz resorts to a striking metaphor of nonlinearity:

In the last section of Chapter 1, Book One, he claims that war is “a remarkable trinity” (eine wunderliche Dreifaltigkeit) composed of (a) the blind, natural force of violence, hatred, and enmity among the masses of people; (b) chance and probability, faced or generated by the commander and his army; and (c) war’s rational subordination to the policy of the government.(28) Clausewitz compares these three tendencies to three varying legal codes interacting with each other (the complexity of which would have been obvious to anyone who lived under the tangled web of superimposed legal systems in the German area before, during, and after the upheavals of the Napoleonic years). Then he concludes with a visual metaphor: “Our task therefore is to develop a theory that maintains a balance between these three tendencies, like an object suspended between three magnets.” (29) What better image could he have conjured to convey his insight into the profoundly interactive nature of war than this emblem of contemporary nonlinear science? (30)

Although the passage is usually taken to mean only that we should not overemphasize any one element in the trinity, Clausewitz’s metaphor also implicitly confronts us with the chaos inherent in a nonlinear system sensitive to initial conditions. The demonstration usually starts with a magnet pendulum hanging over one magnet; when the pendulum is pulled aside and let go, it comes to rest quickly. Positioned over two equally powerful magnets, the pendulum swings toward first one, then the other, and still settles into a rest position as it is captured by one of the points of attraction. But when a pendulum is released over three equidistant and equally powerful magnets, it moves irresolutely to and fro as it darts among the competing points of attraction, sometimes kicking out high to acquire added momentum that allows it to keep gyrating in a startlingly long and intricate pattern. Eventually, the energy dissipates under the influence of friction in the suspension mountings and the air, bringing the pendulum’s movement asymptotically to rest. The probability is vanishingly small that an attempt to repeat the process would produce exactly the same pattern. Even such a simple system is complex enough for the details of the trajectory of any actual “run” to be, effectively, irreproducible.

My claim here is not that Clausewitz somehow anticipated today’s “chaos theory,” but that he perceived and articulated the nature of war as an energy-consuming phenomenon involving competing and interactive factors, attention to which reveals a messy mix of order and unpredictability. His final metaphor of Chapter 1, Book One captures this understanding perfectly. The pendulum and magnets system is orderly, because it is a deterministic system that obeys Newton’s laws of motion; in the “pure theory” (with an idealized frictionless pendulum), we only need to know the relevant quantities accurately enough to know its future. But in the real world, “a world like this” in Maxwell’s phrase, it is not possible to measure the relevant initial conditions (such as position) accurately enough to replicate them in order to get the same pattern a second time, because all physical measurements are approximations limited by the instrument and standard of measurement. And what is needed is infinitely fine precision, for an immeasurably small change in the initial conditions can produce a significantly different pattern. Nor is it possible to isolate the system from all possible influences around it, and that environment will have changed since the measurements were taken. Anticipation of the overall kind of pattern is possible, but quantitative predictability of the actual trajectory is lost.

There are a number of interconnected reasons for the pendulum and magnets picture to be emblematic for Clausewitz, and all of them go to the heart of the problem of understanding what he meant by a “theory” of war. First of all, the image is not that of any kind of Euclidean triangle or triad, despite its understanding as such by many readers. Given his attacks on the formulation of rigidly “geometric” principles of war by some of his contemporaries, such an image would have been highly inapt. (31) Clausewitz’s message is not that there are three passive points, but three interactive points of attraction that are simultaneously pulling the object in different directions and forming complex interactions with each other. In fact, even the standard translation given above is too static, for the German original conveys a sense of on-going motion: “Die Aufgabe ist also, dass sich die Theorie zwischen diesen drei Tendenzen wie zwischen drei Anziehungspunkten schwebend erhalte.” (32) Literally: “The task is therefore that the theory would maintain itself floating among these three tendencies as among three points of attraction.” The connotations of schweben involve lighter-than-air, sensitive motion; a balloon or a ballerina “schwebt.” The image is no more static than that of wrestlers. The nature of war should not be conceived as a stationary point among the members of the trinity, but as a complex trajectory traced among them.

Secondly, Clausewitz’s employment of magnetism is a typical resort to “high-tech” imagery. The relationship of magnetism to electricity was just beginning to be clarified in a way that made it a cutting-edge concept for its time. It is quite possible that he actually observed a demonstration of a pendulum and three magnets as envisioned in the metaphor, for he was a man of considerable scientific literacy. (33) His famous incorporation of the notion of “friction,” also a high-technology concept for his day, is another example of this characteristic of his thought.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the metaphor offers us insight into a mind realistically willing to abandon the search for simplicity and analytical certainty where they are not obtainable. The use of this image displays an intuitive grasp of dynamic processes that can be isolated neither from their context nor from chance, and are thus characterized by inherent complexities and probabilities. It encodes Clausewitz’s sense of war in a realistic dynamical system, not an idealized analytical abstraction.

FPS Action Movies

Friday, November 21st, 2014

First-person-shooter games came out before the modern action-camera craze, but it turns out the GoPro footage of a practical-shooting stage looks just like a video game.

Now we’re getting first-person-shooter action movies:

He fired all six!

Friday, November 21st, 2014

For a long time, almost all cops carried revolvers. This is what happened when Illinois State Trooper Ken Kaas got into a shootout with a gunman armed with a semi-automatic shotgun:

Each was using his vehicle, successfully, for cover. Midway through the firefight, the gunman suddenly stood up and left his cover, rushing toward trooper Kaas with his shotgun up and a wolfish grin on his face. Ken shot him in the midriff and the criminal fell. It was over.

The suspect survived. In the “prison ward” of the hospital, guards overheard him talking with his appointed attorney. The exasperated lawyer asked him why he had left a position of safety to practically walk into the muzzle of the trooper’s waiting gun. “He fired six shots!” the recovering would-be cop-killer exclaimed. “I swear to God! He fired all six!”

As carefully as he kept count, the criminal didn’t know that Illinois troopers carried Smith & Wesson 9mm semi-automatics. Ken had shot him down with the seventh round in his Model 39, most certainly averting his own death, since the trooper could never have reloaded an empty six-shot revolver fast enough to stop the deadly charge.

In the late 1970s, Mas Ayoob did a study of shootings during the first decade in which Illinois troopers had semi-autos instead of revolvers:

I was able to identify 13 who had survived with those guns,when they probably would have died if they’d had the old six-guns. Most involved gun grabs where the troopers were saved because the bad guy couldn’t find the safety catch when he got control of the gun, or the trooper had pressed the magazine release during the struggle and deactivated the round in the chamber via the S&W Model 39’s magazine disconnector safety. But four of those saves were absolutely firepower based.


Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

The Naval Research Lab has developed mission planning software for snipers:

By asking the questions, what can I see, and from where can I be seen, the tool graphically indicates areas visible to observers at known positions in a 3-dimensional scene, as well as positions from which these observers can be seen.

The software uses digital 3-dimensional terrain data to determine and display these locations. Additional features include custom range rings/grids, multiple viewpoints, limited field-of-view angles, threat coverage and protectee scenarios. This utility can also be used for geospatial intelligence and determining viewsheds (an area of land, water, or other environmental element that is visible to the human eye from a fixed vantage point) in architectural design.


The distinguishing feature of these software tools from currently available commercial line-of-sight (LOS) software applications is the true 3-dimensional line-of-sight capability inside buildings, through windows, doors, tunnels, towers, power lines, vehicles, ships, aircraft, etc. All surfaces are color-coded, including interiors, under bridges and overhangs, vertical surfaces, etc.

War at a Very Intimate Level

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Flying a remotely piloted aircraft presents you with war at a very intimate level:

Because of the length of time that you’re over any certain area you’re able to engage in lengthy communications with individuals on the ground. You build relationships. Things are a little more personal in an RPA than in an aircraft that’s up for just a few hours. When you’re talking to that twenty year old with the rifle for twenty-plus hours at a time, maybe for weeks, you build a relationship. And with that, there’s an emotional attachment to those individuals.

You see them on a screen. That can only happen because of the amount of time you’re on station. I have a buddy who was actually able to make contact with his son’s friend over in the AOR [area of responsibility]. If you don’t think that’s going to make you focus, then I don’t know what will.


This is a strange dynamic in RPA operations. I think it makes people more focused on the mission. Does it cause you to be more emotionally invested? Absolutely. That’s the human aspect of it. That is the man-in-the-loop aspect of it. In some ways drone use is more human from the pilot’s perspective, which is kind of ironic.

Flying an RPA, you start to understand people in other countries based on their day-to-day patterns of life. A person wakes up, they do this, they greet their friends this way, etc. You become immersed in their life. You feel like you’re a part of what they’re doing every single day. So, even if you’re not emotionally engaged with those individuals, you become a little bit attached. I’ve learned about Afghan culture this way. You see their interactions. You’re studying them. You see everything.

In a traditional manned aircraft you drop ordinance and leave. You know that there was a big bang, but that’s it. With an RPA, you see these individuals and their interactions with people prior to an engagement and after the engagement. We see the aftermath. We see what happens next. That more than anything draws an emotional response.

They are human beings, right? That is the bottom line, so it affects you to watch the impact of a kinetic strike. You have to provide the battle damage assessment. We do that quite often and it can take a long time. You might even watch the burial and see the ceremony. We’re not disconnected from what’s happening. We’re not playing videogames. With RPAs, you grasp your enormous level of responsibility. You witness it all.

Targeting with RPAs is more intimate. It is war at a very intimate level.

Libyan Troops Go Wild

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

I don’t know why the British decided to train Libyan troops in England, but it was a bad decision — a very, very bad decision:

On Tuesday, however, the British Ministry of Defense announced that all 300 trainees would be sent home early after a string of sexual assaults were perpetrated against the residents of Cambridgeshire, culminating in the alleged gang rape of a young man.

Britain had pledged to train 2,000 Libyan recruits in total, but that commitment is now under review.

Libyan Army cadets stationed at Bassingbourn barracks are alleged to have left the military camp on raids into the nearby university town of Cambridge, where a spate of sexual attacks were reported on the cobbled streets around the ancient college buildings.

Two of the recruits have admitted to two sexual assaults and a bicycle theft in Market Square right at the center of the old town. They also pleaded guilty to threatening a police office. Another cadet, aged 18, has been charged with three sexual assaults.

In total, police have investigated reports of 11 sexual assaults in central Cambridge within nine days. The most serious of those took place on Christ’s Piece, which is between Jesus and Emmanuel colleges, on Sunday October 26. A man in his early 20s allegedly was approached by two Libyan soldiers who subjected him to a serious sexual assault. Moktar Ali Saad Mahmoud, 33, and Ibrahim Abogutila, 22, were charged with rape on Monday.

The allegations of sexual assault came after a third of the recruits had already withdrawn from the training program. It has been reported that up to 20 of the cadets have applied for asylum, although the Ministry of Defense and Home Office refuse to discuss those cases.

Wow. Just wow.

GoPro Tanks

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

The Syrians have been attaching GoPro cameras to their Russian-built tanks and recording videos of their operations, where they use the tanks like close air support:

They operate out of a base (00:04 Assembling a column), like some sort of cheap terrestrial Apaches, and proceed to various missions like escorting teams of infantry in IFVs (04:55 Crossing enemy territory) or covering their “beachheads” in various built-up sites. (10:00 Dropping troops on the enemy’s rear).

Instead of Hellfire rockets, they have the 122 mm main gun, which is always moving to cover arcs of fire, like a rifleman on the advance.  The drivers seem to know their business, never hesitating to trundle down alleys, scoot past possible ambushes and roar over fields.

You may, like myself, have been somewhat astonished to see so little infantry in play.  That’s because the infantry is apparently not used for direct combat.  Rather they are used as spotters for the tanks.  You will note how the the tanks flit from spot to spot and fire directly on this window or that.  They are not shooting at random, but rather under the specific instruction of spotters.

For although Jobar seems empty,  it is full of eyes. From other GoPro videos it will be evident that the high risk buildings and ground level structures are infested with sniper hides, ATGM nests and roving bands of infantrymen with RPGs working on both sides of the fight. Possibly there may even be factions among the rebels.

It appears to be very difficult for unprotected to move openly along the roads.  Thus, the Syrian troops prefer to travel in IFVs escorted by tanks.  The tanks themselves are plated over with explosive reactive armor tiles (ERA) against the omnipresent danger of ATGMs, which in some other GoPro videos, hit the tanks and cook them off with spectacular results.

In the video above, the tanks are used to deploy spotters around a rebel pocket.  The IFVs are used like amtracs while the tanks are employed like gunfire support ships.  Then, when the infantry advance to contact, they radio the whereabouts of rebels to the tanks, which blast them with their main guns or shoot through the walls with their coax.

Playing The Star-Spangled Banner with a Gun

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Do you hear that? It sounds like freedom!

The Canadian Parliament Active Killer

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

When the active killer in Canada turned active, events happened quickly:

Look at the surveillance video again.  Do you see how fast the killer is running?  The entire event including the assassination of Cpl. Cirillo, the carjacking of a government minister, the struggle with an unarmed security guard and exchanging shots with armed security staff and police likely took less than five minutes.  If your only plan is “wait for the police,” you won’t be a player in a scenario like this.  It is likely to be over by the time the cops arrive.

The RCMP witnessed the car jacking and were in pursuit of the killer as he entered the Parliament Building.  They still didn’t get there in time to protect the legislators!  You will be on your own for some time if you find yourself in the middle of something like this.

One other comment I should make is that the killer was running FAST.  If you are thinking “I’ll just run away,” you should probably rethink that plan as well.  Make an honest assessment of your abilities.  Could you outrun the killer?  I know I couldn’t.