Shooter Ready, a 1987 instructional video starring IPSC champion Rob Leatham, is totally ’80s — but fundamentally sound:
The Marines have not adopted a new sniper rifle in 14 years — and this has had consequences:
It was the summer of 2011 in southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, and mission after mission, Sgt. Ben McCullar of Third Battalion, Second Marines, would insert with his eight-man sniper team into the berms and dunes north of the volatile town of Musa Qala.
Sometimes they would fire at a group of enemy fighters, sometimes the enemy would fire at them first, but almost immediately, McCullar explained, their team would be pinned down by machine guns that outranged almost all of their sniper rifles.
“They’d set up at the max range of their [machine guns] and start firing at us,” McCullar said. “We’d take it until we could call in [close air support] or artillery.”
The story of McCullar and his snipers is not an isolated one. For 14?years, Marine snipers have suffered setbacks in combat that, they say, have been caused by outdated equipment and the inability of the Marine Corps to provide a sniper rifle that can perform at the needed range.
They trace the problem to the relatively small Marine sniper community that doesn’t advocate effectively for itself because it is made up of junior service members and has a high turnover rate. Additionally, snipers say that the Marine Corps’ weapons procurement process is part of an entrenched bureaucracy resistant to change.
The Marines have been using a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle chambered in 7.62×51mm NATO (.308), which they call the M40.
The Army has been using a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle chambered in 7.62×51mm NATO (.308), which they call the M24 — but there’s a crucial difference:
The primary difference between the Army and the USMC rifles is that while the USMC M40 variants use the short-action version of the Remington 700/40x (which is designed for shorter cartridges such as the .222 and .223 Remington, and the .243 and .308 Winchester), the Army M24 uses the Remington 700 Long Action. The long action of the M24 is designed for full-length cartridges, such as the .30-06 Springfield, and magnum cartridges such as the 7 mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum, but shorter cartridges such as the 7.62×51mm NATO (the military version of the .308 Winchester) can also be used. The U.S. Army’s use of the long action was the result of an original intention to chamber the M24 for .300 Winchester Magnum. Despite the fact that the M24 comes fitted with a 7.62×51mm NATO barrel upon issue, retaining the longer action allows them to reconfigure the rifle in the larger—longer-range—calibers if necessary (which has been the case during the longer engagement distances during Operation Enduring Freedom).
So, the Army has switched to the more powerful .300 Winchester Magnum, or even the .338 Lapua Magnum, which profoundly increases the rifle’s effective range in the hands of a skilled shooter. Its latest version of the M24 has been dubbed the M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle.
Andy Greenberg decided to make an untraceable AR-15 ghost gun — that is, to finish off an 80-percent-finished AR lower, which isn’t legally a gun yet — three different ways:
I would build an untraceable AR-15 all three ways I’ve heard of: using the old-fashioned drill press method, a commercially available 3-D printer, and finally, Defense Distributed’s new gun-making machine.
Kazuo Ishiguro brought samurai-story genre conventions to his own writing:
When I first came to Britain at the age of five, one of the things that shocked me about western culture was the fight scenes in things like Zorro. I was already steeped in the samurai tradition – where all their skill and experience comes down to a single moment that separates winner from loser, life from death. The whole samurai tradition is about that: from pulp manga to art movies by Kurosawa. That was part of the magic and tension of a swordfight, as far as I was concerned. Then I saw people like Basil Rathbone as the Sheriff of Nottingham versus Errol Flynn as Robin Hood and they’d be having long, extended conversations while clicking their swords, and the hand that didn’t have the sword in it would be doing this kind of floppy thing in the air, and the idea seemed to be to edge your opponent over a precipice while engaging him in some sort of long, expository conversation about the plot.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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”.
Some gun nuts spotted an ATI stock in a galaxy far, far away:
If you look carefully you can see the horizontal oval shapes of the cheek rest and the downward angled stripes on the butt pad.
That cheek rest might not work so well…
Lars Andersen returns with some answers to questions about his archery:
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? SilencerCo provides this infographic:
(The linked, full-size version is also animated.)
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.