New Amsterdam Reload

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Pirates really were bristling with weapons, as the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum explains:

To survive battles in close quarters, pirates had to be walking arsenals. Pistols took time to reload, so most pirates carried more than one. Blackbeard carried six in addition to a cutlass and a dagger.

Jim Cirillo would approve of the New Amsterdam Reload.

Horo

Friday, August 21st, 2015

The cape has become synonymous with drama. In the Italian fencing tradition, it served as a shield and a distraction. The Japanese had their own useful cape, the horo, which resembled a small parachute:

Horo were used as far back as the Kamakura period (1185–1333).

When inflated the horo was said to protect the wearer from arrows shot from the side and from behind.

Horo on Maeda Toshiie

Wearing a horo is also said to have marked the wearer as a messenger (tsukai-ban) or person of importance. According to the Hosokawa Yusai Oboegaki, the diary of Hosokawa Yusai (1534–1610) taking of an elite tsukai-ban messenger’s head was a worthy prize. “When taking the head of a horo warrior, wrap it in the silk of the horo. In the case of an ordinary warrior, wrap it in the silk of the sashimono”.

(Hat tip to Wrath of Gnon.)

Back from the Peruvian Amazon Jungle

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Greg Ellifritz is back from the Peruvian Amazon jungle, where, as a police trainer, he noted what guns were in play:

One of the biggest misconceptions I regularly hear is the erroneous notion that people who live outside of America can’t own guns at all. I’ve visited more than 40 countries in the last ten years. The vast majority allow their citizens to own guns of some type. The restrictions are usually far greater than those in the United States, but most people in other countries CAN own guns if they jump through the correct hoops.

I spoke to a couple of Peruvian citizens who are gun owners. There is a pretty straightforward process to get a gun permit in Peru. It consists of:

  • Background checks through three different government agencies
  • A psychological test evaluating logic and basic hand eye coordination
  • A psychiatric test to ensure that the gun owner is not mentally ill
  • Passing a basic gun safety class taught by the National Police
  • Handgun permits also require a shooting test. The qualification is shot on a silhouette target at 50 feet. Five shots are fired. One hit anywhere on the silhouette (or paying the tester 20 Peruvian Soles…approximately $7 dollars) passes the test. No shooting test is required for a long gun.

According to the folks I spoke with, the entire permit process takes about two days to complete and costs around $150. That doesn’t seem bad based on our salaries, but the average Peruvian income is around $500 dollars a month. Considering that a separate permit is required for each gun owned, the $150 price is a steep cost for the average Peruvian.

The interesting thing about the Peruvian permit process is that the ownership permit also doubles as an unlimited concealed carry permit. Once you can legally own the gun, you can carry it anywhere!

The government limits the caliber of handgun that Peruvians can own. Peruvian citizens are not allowed to own any “military caliber” weapons. In handguns, .38 special/.380 acp are the largest calibers private citizens can own. The Peruvian folks I spoke to who actually know and understand guns carry high capacity .380 autos. They think that 10+ rounds of .380 acp is a better choice than a five-shot .38 revolver. The guns of choice for those in the know in Peru are the Glock 25 (.380 auto not available in the USA that is the same size of a Glock 26/27) or the Beretta Model 85 in .380 auto. Both of these guns cost more than $1000 in Peru because of high import tariffs. Even at that price, it’s rare to find those weapons in a Peruvian gun store. Most folks can’t afford the Glock, so the vast majority of gun store stock consists of Taurus revolvers.

The rural folks who hunt generally use single shot shotguns. Surprisingly, most are in 16 gauge rather than the more commonly seen 12 gauge in the USA. Hunting licenses are required, but the law often goes unenforced with regard to subsistence level hunting by locals.

Why Did Europe Conquer the World?

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Why Did Europe Conquer the World? Philip T Hoffman’s new book presents a strong case that it was gunpowder technology:

Its starting point is the assertion that Europe really did conquer the world, or at least 84 per cent of it, between 1492 and 1914 — but that you probably would not have bet on that outcome had you landed on Earth in the year 900, when our continent was deeply backward in comparison with the cultural and commercial sophistication of the Muslim Middle East, southern China and Japan.

So why did those early leaders of civilisation stay at home and regress, while our ancestors sailed the seas and built empires?

It was not a matter of economic supremacy through industrialisation, which arrived only in the last of the five centuries or so that Hoffman’s study covers.

Rather, he argues, it was down to both military and economic advantage gained through “gunpowder technology” — the continuing development of firearms, artillery, ships armed with guns and fortifications that could resist bombardment — which itself derived from the fact that warfare was “the sole purpose of early modern states in western Europe”.

The core of Hoffman’s analysis is the idea that European powers were engaged in a centuries-long “tournament” — a competition that drove contestants to exert enormous effort in the hope of winning a prize. In pursuit of “financial gain, territorial expansion, defence of the faith, or the glory of victory”, Europe’s rulers fought each other for two thirds of the time between 1550 and 1700; well over 80 per cent of the annual government budgets of England and Prussia between 1688 and 1790 were spent on waging war. Small amounts of tax revenue and state borrowing were spent on other items of statehood, but by far the bulk was spent on armies and navies.

And this investment in ceaseless fighting brought constant improvements in gunpowder technology, both in productivity — measured by shots per minute per infantryman, as well as killing power — and in costs of deployment: the price of a musket in London in 1620 was as little as 10 days’ worth of an unskilled labourer’s pay. When peace and industrialisation came to Europe in the 19th century, after Waterloo, competitive empire-building became the new tournament, while advances in materiel, including railways and steam-powered ships, made possible the annexation of large areas of the globe by relatively small British and European forces.

Small-Arms Overmatch

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

A former Ranger with experience commanding troops in Rhodesia and Namibia and then advising troops on the ground in El Salvador and Nicaragua explains what small-arms overmatch really comes down to:

When you’re close enough to engage the enemy with rifles and GPMGs, life is good. You don’t have to chase the rat bastards up hill and down dale dodging land mines and booby traps. No, they’re right over there, in range, and you get to KILL THEM. The units I commanded killed 147 by body count, for the loss of…..Zip, Zero, None. We lost more troops to vehicle crashes than to enemy small arms. The enemy were armed with the standard Soviet array, AKs, RPKs, PKs, and RPGs. We were armed with FN FALs and FN MAGs and yes we ate off the “overmatch”. We would engage them at a distance where their fire was not effective but ours was. And they died and we lived.

So, does this mean the 7.62 NATO round and its Belgian launch platforms are the answer? Well here’s where it gets tricky. The distance where their fire became ineffective was about thirty to forty meters. At or beyond that range they were going to shoot high, sometimes off toward the clouds high, sometimes cracking just over your head high, but high is high if your unit has the training and discipline to take advantage of it. And we did, our fire was effective out to about a hundred meters. Past that we too were just making noise, but inside that gap, and “overmatch” is as good a descriptive as any, we killed. Now I’m sure you’ve noted that every cartridge fired from any of the weapons mentioned above has, on paper, an effective range several times the engagement distances I’ve been talking about. Which, I believe is the point. Effective, killing fire from infantry weapons has very little to do with the weapons and cartridges used, it is almost entirely the result of the training and discipline the units bring to the fight.

The fault lies not in the stars, or in our cartridges, but in our doctrine, and tactics, and training and discipline. For what it’s worth.

The Real Reason for the “Tactical” Reload

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Gun-nut Tim explains the real reason for the “tactical” reload:

Dropping magazines, especially partially loaded ones, on the ground is often very hard on the magazine. Apart from dirt, mud, and other detritus that gets inside the magazine, baseplates and feed lips will sometimes crack, and tubes will sometimes bend or dent. This fact is, believe it or not, where the so called “tactical reload” came from.

I actually discussed this with Tom Givens in his Intensive Pistol Skills class a few weeks ago. In the early days of Gunsite the gun that 99.99% of people showed up with was a 1911. In those days there was no Wilson/Rogers 47D magazine and folks didn’t show up to classes with massive piles of magazines for training. Everyone was using GI or factory Colt magazines in their guns. Dropping these magazines on the crushed granite of the range ended up destroying them to the point of students almost put out of commission because they didn’t have any functional magazines left.

If the magazines never hit the granite, then you never have that problem, right? Voilà!! The “tactical reload” as we know it was born. Just think: All that arguing about reloads you see on the internet dates back to a practice adopted to get around the fact that 1911 magazines circa 1977 sucked out loud.

Shooter Ready

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Shooter Ready, a 1987 instructional video starring IPSC champion Rob Leatham, is totally ’80s — but fundamentally sound:

Outgunned

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

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.

XM2010 with Dark Earth Suppressor

I Made an Untraceable AR-15 ‘Ghost Gun’ in My Office — And It Was Easy

Monday, June 15th, 2015

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.

A Single Moment That Separates Winner from Loser

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

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.

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.