Grab a Weapon

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

As far back as the 3rd Century B.C. military men were ridiculing any concern with empty hand fighting as beneath them, James Lafond explains:

In an age when military men hacked each other to pieces at arm’s length, they could have cared less about unarmed fighting, as they knew it to be all but useless in a military context. Over the ages military establishments have either ignored the empty hand question, or have farmed it out to specialists, or made it the personal duty of officers.

For one example of the later let’s take the British military during the Zulu Wars of the late 1800s. The foot soldiers were recruited from a stunted and malnourished population living on starvation rations, and stood about 5-foot 6-inches and weighed around 140 pounds.

The Zulu warriors they fought were drawn from a well-nourished beef-eating population and stood about 6-foot and weighed in between 160 and 180 pounds, with some chiefs and famous warriors being of goliath proportions. The Zulus supplemented their thrusting spear and shield training with wrestling and stick fighting. These were formidable hand-to-hand warriors. As with most warrior cultures throughout history, the Zulus concerned themselves with weaponry and grappling; grappling being the way to obtain a weapon once one has lost his own, as well as a way to neutralize an enemy’s weapon once one has lost his. It is exceedingly rare to see any concern with empty hand striking as it is largely useless in armed combat.

The man in charge of the ‘physical education’ of the British soldier was his officer, a well-fed spoiled rich boy who stood 5-foot 10-inches and weighed in at about 170-pounds. This man would wrestle with pro wrestlers that he and his rich fellows would sponsor at home, as well as spar with famous prize-fighters. [Teddy Roosevelt did this in the white house when he was president!] This officer would then wrestle and box with his entire unit, lining them up and beating their emaciated asses, just like the prize-fighters had worked him and his rich friends over. The wrestling was intended to develop one’s ability to maintain his footing and his hold on his all-important rifle-bayonet, a fearsome weapon even when unloaded. The boxing was purely psychological conditioning, intended to fill the soldier with a tenacious confidence that he could endure the worst.

When the Brits were overrun in one battle, and their ammunition ran out, the Zulu’s suffered horrendous casualties in hand-to-hand combat. It was all about the bayonet. Even with empty guns, it was still the gun that mattered. We cannot forget, when writing unarmed combat scenes involving military combatants, that they are all indoctrinated — a most potent indoctrination, as it is built on a natural primate impulse to seek a weapon — to fight with empty hands only as a way to access a weapon or to deny enemy access to a weapon. There are patchy records of military men striking with fists when in desperate straits, though this is more an act of final defiance than a tactical option.

The Same Restless Quest for Physical Excellence

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Gottschall had to make a decision about what his book was going to be about:

Violence is a huge topic, and I found that the kind of violence that I was really interested in was the duel, broadly understood. In my definition of the duel, we have everything from sports to a staring duel to a pissing contest to certain kinds of arguments, and so forth. So I stayed away from the more tactical, real-world, self-defense type of writing.

One of the reasons I think your article on the topic is so great is that I think every guy our age can relate to this. Men with families suddenly realize, “Holy shit. My dad doesn’t live with us anymore. If somebody comes through that door, it’s my job to deal with it.” So I absolutely have thought about that.

I live in a place — southwestern Pennsylvania, right on the border with West Virginia — where almost everyone owns a gun. And most working-class guys carry their guns everywhere.

So I’m living in the heart of gun culture, but I’m not a gun guy. I didn’t grow up with them; I was never a hunter; my dad was never a hunter. I’ve shot a handgun, and it really scared me. I also enjoyed it as I got more comfortable with it. And I do think about getting a gun. I’m not comfortable being at such a force disadvantage when everyone else is armed.

Right now, my self-defense, home-invasion plan is based on an ax handle that’s within easy reach in the kitchen, and I also have a hatchet in my bedroom. I chose the hatchet very carefully. In the sitcom, the dad always keeps a bat handy. But a bat is too long. You can’t swing it in a hallway, and it’s also not as terrifying as a hatchet.

[...]

A few times a year in my small town, one of these monkey dances goes off, and the guys are carrying guns, and they shoot each other. Or they shoot each other after a road-rage incident.

I think we have very similar attitudes toward guns and gun culture. I’m not an abolitionist, but I would like the laws to be stiffer. Now I can walk into a gun store in my town and buy military-grade weapons. You’d be shocked by the amount of firepower you can buy — .50 caliber sniper rifles and the same shotguns the Marines carry in Iraq or Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter whether I know how to use these things — I can just walk into a store and buy them.

And if I do get a handgun, I can take it to the sheriff’s department, and in about as much time as it would take me to order a value meal at Wendy’s, they will give me a concealed-carry license. There will be no screening at all to see whether I’m qualified to carry a gun in public — which I absolutely am not. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t gotten a gun in the first place: I don’t know how to use one.

Gottschall clearly isn’t comfortable with — or particularly informed about — guns or gun laws. That makes this stand out even more:

My little brother is a federal law enforcement officer, and he’s also a firearms instructor. He came up recently to visit, and we went out to the range. Part of why I was attracted to the idea of owning a gun was self-defense, and part of it was that I’ve been fascinated by guns since I was a little kid, and I want to play with them. It seems like a lot of fun. And I had a great time. It was probably because I had such a skilled teacher. My brother really knows what he’s doing, and he knows how to make it safe. Shooting with him, and seeing his expertise, I had a tiny eureka moment. I suddenly realized that when it comes to the use of firearms, my brother is a badass martial artist. And I think that a lot of people who like training with guns are probably drawn to it not only for practical reasons, but also in that same restless quest for physical excellence that draws people to a martial arts dojo.

Yes, a lot of people who like training with guns are on the same restless quest for physical excellence that draws people to a martial arts dojo.

Low Moments in How-To History

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

The hipsters at Boing Boing ironically share this shooting gallery plan as a low moment in how-to history, because shooting BBs at rabbit and squirrel silhouettes is obviously wrong:

Home_Shooting_Gallery_1

Home_Shooting_Gallery_2

Home_Shooting_Gallery_3

Home_Shooting_Gallery_4

Home_Shooting_Gallery_5

A Good Guy with a Gun

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

We have yet another example of a good guy with a handgun stopping a slaughter, in the recent Garland, Texas shooting, where a police officer apparently used his .45-caliber Glock to stop two AK-armed terrorists before their rampage got started in earnest. An unarmed security guard got shot in the ankle, but no one else was harmed:

The national media has gone to great lengths to try and discount the potential impact of someone with a firearm and the knowledge to use it making any positive difference in an intended mass-casualty event, but every time there is armed resistance present at the opening stages of an intended slaughter it turns out completely different to the plans of the bad guys. A sixty year old off-duty police officer armed with a handgun saw these two chuckleheads roll up and open fire…and apparently without hesitation he pulled his pistol out and used it to excellent effect. Kudos, sir. I hope you remain anonymous for the sake of your personal safety, but I think I speak for tens of millions of people when I say I’d like to buy you a beer and a few boxes of ammo. You. Rock.

Two dudes with AKs bent on slaughter versus one guy with a pistol is some pretty bad math on paper… but violence doesn’t happen on paper. In the real world the ability to put a bullet exactly where it needs to be exactly when it needs to be there can make the critical difference. From what I’m hearing, the good guy here fired his weapon with exceptional accuracy delivering hits on both terrorists that were almost instantaneously physiologically debilitating if not instantly mortal. If you want a handgun to make someone stop their violent actions, you have to put the bullets in important bits of their anatomy. There’s no better way to overcome being outnumbered and outgunned than putting bullets into the hearts and central nervous systems of the bad guys with lethal efficiency.

Spinel

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

The US Naval Research Laboratory has created a transparent, bulletproof material that can be molded into virtually any shape:

This material, known as Spinel, is made from a synthetic powdered clay that is heated and pressed under vacuum (aka sintered) into transparent sheets. “Spinel is actually a mineral, it’s magnesium aluminate,” Dr. Jas Sanghera, who leads the research, said in a statement. “The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments — so it can withstand sand and rain erosion.”

What’s really cool is that unlike most forms of commercially available bulletproof glass — which is formed by pressing alternating layers of glass and plastic sheeting together — Spinel doesn’t block the infrared wavelength of light. That means that this stuff can protect a UAV’s surveillance camera or the lens of a HEL-MD laser without hindering the device’s operation. Plus, Spinel weighs just a fraction of a modern bulletproof pane. “If you replaced that [pane] with spinel, you’d reduce the weight by a factor of two or more,” Sanghera continued.

Medieval Combat as Modern Sport

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Medieval combat has been turned into a modern, international sport, at the Battle of Nations:

The picturesque Croatian island of Trogir is home to a 12th Century medieval walled village. Here, an Australian team of enthusiasts, clad in homemade armour, watch nervously as wounded fighters strewn across the playing field are tended to by medics and carried away for the next round of battles to begin. Paul Smith, a chef back home who has been training for months, notes that the tournament is “the closest thing we are ever going to get to actual medieval combat”.

The rules are simple: three points of contact with the ground and you’re out, last team standing wins. Blades are real but blunted, and injuries are common. “The thrill of being hit repeatedly in the head with a sword and surviving it is certainly a rush”, says Paul. As the bugle signals the next fight this Aussie knight readies himself: “Now I feel ready to go to war, really”.

ATI Stock In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Some gun nuts spotted an ATI stock in a galaxy far, far away:

Stormtrooper with ATI Stock

If you look carefully you can see the horizontal oval shapes of the cheek rest and the downward angled stripes on the butt pad.

Stormtrooper with ATI Stock Close Up

ATI Stock

That cheek rest might not work so well…

Lars Andersen Responds

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Lars Andersen returns with some answers to questions about his archery:

Building the H Bomb

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Kenneth W. Ford submitted Building the H Bomb: A Personal History to the Department of Energy for review, and they ordered 60 cuts, enough to destroy the book, in his opinion:

For instance, the federal agency wanted him to strike a reference to the size of the first hydrogen test device — its base was seven feet wide and 20 feet high. Dr. Ford responded that public photographs of the device, with men, jeeps and a forklift nearby, gave a scale of comparison that clearly revealed its overall dimensions.

[...]

In December, he told the department he would make a few minor revisions. For instance, in two cases he would change language describing the explosive yields of bomb tests from “in fact” to “reportedly.” After much back and forth, the conversation ended in January with no resolution, and the book’s publisher pressed on.

The government’s main concern seems to center on deep science that Dr. Ford articulates with clarity. Over and over, the book discusses thermal equilibrium, the discovery that the temperature of the hydrogen fuel and the radiation could match each other during the explosion. Originally, the perceived lack of such an effect had seemed to doom the proposed weapon.

The breakthrough has apparently been discussed openly for years. For instance, the National Academy of Sciences in 2009 published a biographical memoir of Dr. Teller, written by Freeman J. Dyson, a noted physicist with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. It details the thermal equilibrium advance in relation to the hydrogen bomb.

At his home, Dr. Ford said he considered himself a victim of overzealous classification and wondered what would have happened if he had never submitted his manuscript for review.

“I was dumbfounded,” he said of the agency’s reaction to it.

Dr. Ford said he never intended to make a point about openness and nuclear secrecy — or do anything other than to give his own account of a remarkable time in American history.

How Do Silencers Work?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

How Do Silencers Work? SilencerCo provides this infographic:

SilencerCo-Infographic

(The linked, full-size version is also animated.)

Sinews of War

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Endless money forms the sinews of war, Cicero noted, but lately, things have got ridiculous:

A Tomahawk cruise missile costs about $1.5m, and even the Hellfire, an air-to-ground rocket that weighs a mere 50kg, is $115,000 a pop. In exchange for, say, an enemy tank, that is probably a fair price to pay. To knock out a pick-up truck crewed by a few lightly armed guerrillas, however, it seems a little expensive, and using its shoulder-fired cousin the Javelin ($147,000) to kill individual soldiers in foxholes, as is often the case in Afghanistan, is positively profligate. Clearly, something has to change. And changing it is.

An early sign of this change came in March, with the deployment in Afghanistan of the APKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System) made by BAE Systems. The APKWS II is a smart version of the old-fashioned 70mm (2.75-inch) rocket, which has been used by America’s armed forces since 1948. It is also cheap, as guided missiles go, costing $28,000 a shot.

The APKWS II is loaded and fired in the same way as its unguided predecessors, from the same 19-round pods, making its use straightforward. The difference is that it can strike with an accuracy of one metre because it has been fitted with a laser-seeking head which follows a beam pointed at the target by the missile’s operators. This controls a set of fins that can steer the missile to its destination.

Standard practice with unguided 70mm missiles is to use as many as two pods’ worth (ie, 38 rockets, at $1,000 a round) to blanket a target. That means the APKWS II comes in at three-quarters of the cost per kill. It also means that many more targets can be attacked on a single mission.

Guided Smart Shells

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Raytheon’s 155mm M982 Excalibur extended-range guided artillery shell is a modern marvel:

It can be hurtled out of a howitzer barrel under immense G loads, then once it reaches the top of its trajectory, it begins its guided glide path via pop-out canard control fins, which greatly enhances the shell’s range over a standard 155mm round. Because it is guided, it can also hit nearly any target at near vertical angles, allowing it to strike the enemy in the shadow of steep mountains or in urban environments that traditional ballistic artillery could not engage safely.

Raytheon 155mm M982 Excalibur Shell

Introduced onto the battlefield in Iraq in 2007, the rounds gave Howitzer units so much added flexibility due to the Excalibur’s increased range, non-ballistic trajectory and almost perfect accuracy that the Army immediately upped the round’s production from 18 units a month to 150. Since then, thousands more M982 shells have been built and nearly a thousand of them have been fired in combat.

Now they’re shrinking it down for the Navy’s five-inch Mk45 deck guns.

3D-Printed Replica Ring Sword

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Norway’s National Museum of Art asked Nils Anderssen — a game developer and school teacher with a passion for re-creating historical artefacts in his spare time — to 3D-print a replica of its sixth-century sword:

The museum is in possession of a particularly fine sword — a golden-hilted ring-sword, probably used only by kings and nobles. The ring affixed to the hilt is believed to be the symbol of an oath.

Ring Sword Replica Hilt Front and Back

The instruction that the museum gave Anderssen was that the sword should look and feel exactly like the original would have done when it was new. This would allow museum visitors to have hands-on time with the sword, as a complement to admiring the relic safe in its glass case.

Anderssen has no experience in blacksmithing or goldsmithing, but he does know his way around 3D-modelling software — namely 3D Studio Max.

Ring Sword 3D Studio Max Rendering

Using photographs of the real sword to gauge the dimensions of the hilt, Anderssen modelled the shape into basic polygons before working on carving out the fine details of the intricate design. Then he sent the finished model to i.materialise to be printed in bronze. When the finished print arrived, he cleaned up the details and had the pieces gilded and fitted with wooden inserts for stability before being attached to the blade.

Ring Sword Original and Replicas

 

Herd Immunity Applies to Guns as Well as Vaccinations

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Recent measles outbreaks have sparked a national debate over vaccinations and herd immunity, but herd immunity applies to guns, too, Paul Hsieh argues:

Crime rates in Chicago dropped dramatically in 2014 after the state of Illinois allowed legal concealed carry. [...] According to AWR Hawkins, national FBI statistics also showed a significant decrease in crime in the first half 2014 even though gun sales soared in 2013. [...] This is a continuation of the longer-running trend described by Dylan Polk in Guns & Ammo: “Crime rates have dropped as gun ownership has risen, despite a population growth” over the 1993-2013 period.

Firing Slowly Is Useless

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Lars Andersen’s latest archery video led Lynn C. Rees to cite the Strategikon‘s admonition that even when the arrow is well aimed, firing slowly is useless:

For tribesmen native to the Eurasian steppe stretching from Hungary to the Pacific, constant archery practice was a logical extension of daily life: bow work was essential to routine tasks like hunting or raiding the neighbors. For a hybrid settled/nomadic state like Parthia and its Sassanid successor, balancing the interests of your nomads out east with your farmers out west produced sharp tensions but often found a way to field archers without breaking the farmers or the treasury. For an wholly agricultural state like Rome in the sixth century, raising and training archers was an expensive strain.

Rome’s traditional strategy, crushing enemies under the weight of infantry mass, was hampered by population decline in the empire, bruising face-offs with new horse riding archers like the Huns, and an inability or disinclination to raise many soldiers from its own peasants. Rome turned toward smaller armies composed of horsemen, some drawn from native Romans, some mercenaries drawn from nomadic tribes like the Heruli. These armies were, man for man, better trained than prior Roman armies. They could check and even defeat opposing cavalry armies like the Persians.

But they were expensive. Roman finances groaned under the costs of supporting its armies. Their cost made it hard to maintain enough forces to cover all of the Roman’s territory. The Balkans were frequently abandoned to non-stop nomad raids because most forces were needed against the Persians in Armenia and Syria. Roman armies of the sixth century were politically fickle, prone to rebel if payment didn’t show up on time and sometimes prone to rebel even when pay arrived on time.

And they were brittle: like World War I-era dreadnoughts, they were too expensive to use. They couldn’t be replaced overnight like Rome replaced armies during the Second Punic War. Equivalent forces required time and capital to raise and train to proficiency. Native Romans had to be taught how to fight like steppe nomads at state expense. Nomadic mercenaries who had the needed skills from childhood were often unreliable. This made sixth-century Roman leaders as unwilling to risk battle as earlier Romans were eager to force battle.

Caution was justified. Destruction of just one of these armies, capital intensive transplants from their natural habitat on the steppes to the more foreign but pricey fleshpots of Thrace, Anatolia, Syria, Carthage, or Egypt, were not only catastrophic but world-changing. The military bench was left so thin that there was little left to resist a victor who succeeded in annihilating a sixth century Roman army.

Defeats by the Persians and civil war after the fussy Balkan army mutinied and overthrew Mauricius over discontent with their employment benefits and uncomfortable winter accommodations reduced Rome to precisely one army. If the Persians destroyed that one army, led in person by the Emperor Flavius Heraclius, that was the end of Rome. Heraclius came back from far behind, skillfully using that one army to defeat the Persians, though it meant leaving his capital reliant on only the Theodosian Walls and the remnants of the Roman navy to fight off an Avar-Persian siege. Turns out those were good odds against the Avars and Persians, though it left the Balkans open to permanent Slavic occupation.

But Heraclius only had that one army. When he sent it against a surprisingly persistent army of desert raiders six years after his victory over the Persians, he ended up with the equally surprising loss of that entire gold-plated army to those raiders. Destruction of that one Roman army was world changing. It’s why today’s Middle East and North Africa are Moslem instead of Christian.