Play the awareness game

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

Greg Ellifritz suggests some situational awareness exercises:

The Awareness Game – I adapted this exercise from a similar one described in Jeff Cooper’s classic book Principles of Personal Defense. When out in public, you will undoubtedly encounter people with whom you are familiar. You will see friends, neighbors, co-workers, and associates whom you recognize. If you are truly aware of your surroundings, you will notice their presence before they notice you. When a friend walks up behind you and taps you on the shoulder or calls your name before you are aware of his presence, you are not fully aware of what is happening in your environment.

Look for Something Unique – When you are moving about in public, pick some type of object to look for. Articles of clothing work very well. Try to find people wearing red hats, denim jackets, or gold necklaces as examples. This exercise will force you to notice everyone around you. For optimal effectiveness, look for something that men wear, because most violent criminals are male. Looking for items such as wristwatches or rings also works very well because it will force you to look at people’s hands, the place where weapons are held and attacks are generated.

Commentary Driving – In the modern world, most of us spend far more time in our vehicles than we do walking. It is important that we not succumb to the tendency to see our cars as cocoons of steel and glass where we are completely isolated from the outside world. While it is sometimes comforting to turn up the music and become lost in our thoughts while driving, it is seldom safe to do so. A relatively high percentage of crimes are committed in or around vehicles.

In order to maintain a high level of awareness when driving, I recommend an exercise called “commentary driving” as described in the book Defensive Living written by my friends Ed Lovette and Dave Spaulding.

The exercise is simple. During your commute, take notice of your surroundings by forcing yourself to verbally describe everything that you see. Actually verbalize audibly what your eyes are seeing. It should sound something like: “There is a blue car on my left”… “The light is turning red”… “I see a man walking a dog on the right” and anything else you might notice. By putting words of description to your thoughts, you will process much more information than usual thereby making you more aware of your surroundings. I also find that this drill works well for keeping yourself awake on long nighttime drives.

Escape Routes – In addition to being aware of the presence of potentially predatory individuals and groups, everyone should also be aware of all possible options for escaping violent attacks. Set the alarm on your watch or phone to ring at random times throughout the day. Whenever your alarm goes off, look around and determine the best way to escape if you were attacked at that moment. Over time you will have developed escape routes for almost every location you visit on a regular basis. With enough repetition you will begin to look for escape routes and areas of safety as a routine part of your day.

Firearms trainer Tom Givens describes “awareness” as knowing who is around you and what those people are doing. That’s a simple and extremely useful definition. Instead of finding escape routes. you can use the same random alarm trick I mentioned above to ask yourself the “Givens Questions.” When your alarm goes off, look around and ask yourself “Who is around me and what are they doing?” If you can answer those questions, you have good situational awareness.

The average military man cannot hit much with any pistol

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

Before the war, Dunlap was a competitive rifle shooter:

The average military man cannot hit much with any pistol, and as a rule, the bigger the gun the less he hits. That is why Uncle called for the M1 carbine in the first place. In the hands of gunmasters such as Charles Askins, Jr. or Al Hemming or Harry Reeves the handgun is more deadly than the rifle is with the average soldier behind it. However, men like that are so scarce they cannot be counted in an army. The old claim of “the .45 knocks ‘em down if it hits ‘em in the arm or leg” carries no weight with anyone who has actually seen any bullet work on humans. Sometimes a .45 bullet may flatten a man with a minor wound, but I have known of Jap soldiers who absorbed a burst in the body from a Thompson and went down fighting. The .45 carries a lot of shocking power, it is true, but the point nearly every pistol argument misses is that a hit with any bullet above a .22 rim fire will slow a man enough from whatever he is doing—running away, running toward you, or shooting at you—to give you time to put in a fatal hit or hits. And I do not think anyone will argue that the smaller calibers are not easier for the unpracticed man to handle. A hit with a 9mm or .38 is 100% more effective than a miss with a .45, regardless of the wound it causes.

Things to do in Pyongyang

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

I went to look up some detail about the North Korean capital, and I had to chuckle when Google presented a list of things to do in Pyongyang:

Things to do in Pyongyang

I would never trust my life to one

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

Dunlap’s opinion of the Germany “Luger” pistol doesn’t surprise me, but his thoughts on our own .45-caliber 1911 do not match modern opinions about modern 1911s:

I have two M’08 pistols and like them very well, but I have no respect for them. A lot of people — who usually prove not to know much about pistols as a rule — think the “Looger” the only handgun in the world. They are greatly impressed by the “different” outline, its “pointability,” the balance in the hand and the knobs and ramps on the rear end. It is different! And it must be good or those smart Germans would not have used it so long! True, the gun does lie in the hand very well, the grip is excellent, it does not feel heavy and it is an easy gun to shoot. Despite the powerful cartridge, recoil is scarcely felt. In the last two points are the great military virtues of the Luger — the average soldier, or officer, who in the vast majority of cases never gets enough practice with his hand and shoulder weapons to become even semi-skilled with them can pick up this pistol and come much closer to hitting his mark with it than with any other major military autoloading pistol.

A thousand times in the war I was asked “Which is better, a Luger or a Colt .45?” and I always answered that in my opinion it was a toss-up — with a Luger the average man is more likely to connect, but if he does not hit a vital spot he may not put the enemy down, and with a .45 he will put him down with a hit almost anywhere in the body or leg, but will probably miss completely if said enemy is over 10 feet away. I added that the Colt is more to be relied upon.

There is absolutely no question whatever about the Luger being easier to handle — I proved that to my own satisfaction, deliberately picking men who knew only the basic fundamentals of pistol shooting and having them fire both guns at different ranges. They got much better results with the German gun. The cartridge of course has some bearing on shooting beyond point-blank range, for the flatter trajectory of the 9mm allows a just average pistol shot like myself to become dangerous up to 200 yards, since it is not necessary to aim at the moon to get sufficient elevation, as with a .45 (I shot a match one in prewar years and become officially A Marksman, according to National Rifle Association rating; there is no lower rating).

However, there are a couple of things wrong with the Luger: first, and not very important from a military point of view, it is difficult to put a good trigger-pull on it; and second, very important, they are all very fussy about ammunition, as manufactured for military consumption. Having weak extraction, the cartridge case must be pretty high-grade for the gun to function properly. The brass must be good, not hard and not soft. Lugers positively will not handle steel-cased ammunition reliably and it was for this reason Germany made great efforts to produce substitute pistols, adopting the 1938 Walther, which will handle steel cases perfectly. I have tried the steel-cased ammunition, made expressly for the Luger pistol, in at least a half-dozen guns and it was rare that a gun would fire a complete magazine of eight cartridges without jamming, while brass cases gave no trouble unless dirty or out of shape.


The Luger can be classed as a “good” semi-automatic pistol, but there are several better ones. I would never trust my life to one, no matter how well it performs in practice, though the temptation is great, for the weapon is one of the most accurate types ever made.

Minerva is an existence proof

Friday, March 29th, 2019

I’ve mentioned Minerva University a few times here. Arnold Kling calls it an experiment in centrally planned education:

I can applaud Minerva as an “existence proof” that it is possible to create a viable alternative to the standard university as it exists today. But I am concerned that Minerva’s emphasis on a highly-designed approach might give students the misleading impression that central planning is the best form of social organization.

Minerva started from a clear vision of how students should emerge from college. This vision included four core competencies, which were:

  • Thinking critically
  • Thinking creatively
  • Communicating effectively
  • Interacting effectively (page 24)

These core competencies were then broken down into dozens of what Minerva calls “habits of mind” and “foundational concepts,” each of which is given a hashtag abbreviation.

Habits of mind are cognitive skills that with practice come to be triggered automatically. (page 25, emphasis in original)

Foundational concepts are fundamental knowledge that is broadly applicable. (page 26, emphasis in original)

Two examples of habits of mind are:

Understand and use the emotional tools of persuasion. #emotionalpersuasion

Mitigate the role of conformity in group settings. #conformity (page 387)

Two examples of foundational concepts are:

Apply and interpret measures of correlation; distinguish correlation and causation. #correlation (page 381)

Identify ways that multiple causes interact to produce complex effects #multiplecauses (page 382)

The terms “habits of mind” and “foundational concepts” are examples of what I call Minerva-speak, a language that pervades the book. Another element of Minerva-speak is “far transfer.”

Far transfer occurs when students apply what they have learned in one context to a situation in a different time and place, one that, on the surface, does not resemble the original context. Far transfer is at the epicenter of what makes education effective. (page 51)

Another element of Minerva-speak is “active learning.”

Active learning requires students to engage with the material, relying on such activities as debate, role-playing, and group problem-solving. Active learning leads students to comprehend and retain much more information than do lectures. (page 135)

At most universities, it is up to each faculty member to design and implement a course. At Minerva, these processes are directed consciously from the center.

A Minerva syllabus is unusually detailed, often running to more than twenty single-spaced printed pages for a fifteen-week semester… As the author works through these details, he or she is able to discuss individual elements—everything from the overall summary of the course to the specific rubric descriptions used to evaluate student work on individual learning outcomes—with the course reviewer via discussion threads directly anchored to that element for context.

Once the reviewer is satisfied with the draft of the syllabus, Course Builder produces a shareable [document], which the course reviewer sends to an external reviewer for feedback, which the course author and reviewer later incorporate into the draft. (page 223)

Classes are conducted seminar style, albeit by computer conference rather than in person. Minerva uses a “radically flipped classroom,” with students expected to learn material, including what would be covered in lectures at other institutions, on their own before class. Class time is used for discussions and group problem-solving exercises that are carefully planned by the faculty in advance. Although there is room for spontaneity within these exercises, there is a lot of central control over what takes place in the classroom. Weekly meetings are held with all instructors teaching a particular course, in which they review the lesson plans to be used in advance.

Again, these lesson plans are pre-packaged and approved before the course even begins.

I think it’s fair to say that central planning is a bête noir of Kling’s, and the Minerva-speak is largely jargon they did not themselves create.

Serial numbers on Lugers were deliberately confusing

Friday, March 29th, 2019

While discussing the German “Luger” pistol, Dunlap brought up a point that surprised me:

Serial numbers on Lugers were deliberately confusing, as the Germans did not like to have people adding up numbers and estimating production figures, so they organized a code-series system, which is no military secret now, but which I have never completely solved.

This surprised me, because I’d read about the Germans failing to do just that with their tanks:

The statisticians had one key piece of information, which was the serial numbers on captured mark V tanks. The statisticians believed that the Germans, being Germans, had logically numbered their tanks in the order in which they were produced. And this deduction turned out to be right. It was enough to enable them to make an estimate of the total number of tanks that had been produced up to any given moment.

The basic idea was that the highest serial number among the captured tanks could be used to calculate the overall total. The German tanks were numbered as follows: 1, 2, 3N, where N was the desired total number of tanks produced. Imagine that they had captured five tanks, with serial numbers 20, 31, 43, 78 and 92. They now had a sample of five, with a maximum serial number of 92. Call the sample size S and the maximum serial number M. After some experimentation with other series, the statisticians reckoned that a good estimator of the number of tanks would probably be provided by the simple equation (M-1)(S+1)/S. In the example given, this translates to (92-1)(5+1)/5, which is equal to 109.2. Therefore the estimate of tanks produced at that time would be 109.

By using this formula, statisticians reportedly estimated that the Germans produced 246 tanks per month between June 1940 and September 1942. At that time, standard intelligence estimates had believed the number was far, far higher, at around 1,400. After the war, the allies captured German production records, showing that the true number of tanks produced in those three years was 245 per month, almost exactly what the statisticians had calculated, and less than one fifth of what standard intelligence had thought likely.

No more spending an hour a day “owning the Progs” with retweets

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Neovictorian has spent the last month practicing Cal Newport‘s Digital Minimalism, and I can see why he’s feeling better and getting more done:

  1. Off Twitter until April 1. During the break evaluate how to use Twitter as a tool for making life better; maybe only tweet about books, and/or only original tweets, and a definite time limit (no more spending an hour a day “owning the Progs” with retweets).
  2. Not even looking at the phone until after 8:00 am, and then only to check personal email.
  3. No bullet chess on the internet (an activity that often burned intervals of 15 or 20 minutes playing several games and left me with an increased heart rate and mild adrenal fatigue).
  4. No Drudge Report except between 1200 and 1300 hours, and then only one pass through to check on the developments of the day, and after that let those troubles lie until tomorrow. I realized I don’t really need to know about the latest tweet from Trump or “AOC” or the latest blabber from Adam “Bugeye” Schiff (D-Cloud Cuckoo Land).
  5. No radio when driving (this is more of a concentration exercise based on that grand old book The Power of Concentration but it fits into the program).
  6. Substitutes for the time previously spent looking at the phone: playing music, walking, working out, conversation with family.
  7. No Twitter, news or other distracting websites during work hours. The temptation to take a “break” and visit various “interesting” things was definitely affecting productivity. I’ve cleared a lot of minor, backlog projects that were hanging around and feel better about work, lighter.

I haven’t followed Neovictorian’s list, but I have spent more time on my Kindle and less on my phone.

Anyone who turns up at a rifle match with a muzzle-braked rifle will be highly unpopular with the men shooting beside him

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Dunlap talks about muzzle brakes and “flashhiders”:

In any reference to foreign military weapons, muzzle brakes and flashhiders come into the conversation. Flashhiders are nearly always just an open-front metal cone attached to the muzzle of machine guns, and I could never see that they were ever very effective in confining the muzzle blast. Both Russians and Germans had very efficient combination flashhiders and smoke-dampers for use on sniping rifles, but these were large cylindrical attachments, not suitable for automatic arms.

Muzzle brakes were designed to reduce recoil and take some of the load from the recoil mechanisms of artillery pieces. Who originated the large gun application I do not know, but the first real small arms brake* was the American “Cutts Compensator” designed by the U.S.M.C. officer Cutts. It has been used to a small extent on commercial rifles, to rather wide use at one time on Thompson submachine guns and today is literally a “must” on the twelve gauge autoloading shotguns favored in skeet shooting. In the latter application varying removable tubes are provided for use in the front of the compensator, which regulate the choke. Recoil is reduced as much as 40% in some cases. The model devised for the submachine gun was not so satisfactory. Theoretically its main purpose was to “hold the muzzle down,” but in reality it had little effect on controlling either recoil or climb, and was dropped from use early in the war. It helped some, but not much.

The model designed for .30 caliber rifles was and is very effective, cutting the recoil as much as 50%, and two or three men who have used them on .30-06 rifles state they take even more, reducing recoil to almost nothing. Cost was low, and I have often wondered why the device did not become more popular for use on the heavy recoil hunting rifles.

(*Springfield Armory experimented with muzzle brakes before the 1st World War — but their first application of such attachment was on the Lewis Aircraft machine guns about the years 1917–1918.)

The Cutts rifle compensator achieves its braking action in a different manner than the usual European muzzle brake, in that it is tapered to a smaller diameter at its front than at its center, and is slotted vertically for most of its length. The foreign small arms brake was usually a plain recoil-reducer, but some submachine gun models were also compensating types for aiding in overcoming the tendency of the muzzle of the weapon to climb, or rise during firing.

Those used on anti-tank rifles were strictly brakes for counteracting the direct back thrust of the barrel under recoil force. Braking action was developed by force against a plate or series of plates at right angles to line of bore, and the attachment was largest at the forward extremity.

The principle of a muzzle brake is simple, being to erect a partial barrier to the escaping gases while naturally permitting the bullet or projectile to pass. The gases forcing the bullet out of the barrel are of course expanding and moving at high velocity, coning out as they leave the bore; if a plate is placed a short distance from the muzzle, with an aperture for the bullet to pass through, a large portion of the moving gases will blast against it, forcing it forward, so if the plate or barrier is attached to the barrel, it has a strong pull forward on the gun. Since the force of recoil exists and is moving the gun to the rear at the same time, the opposing forces tend to neutralize each other, with the result that recoil can be reduced to a large degree.

Muzzle rise can be reduced by setting the blast plate at an angle, as if it is over ninety degrees from line of bore (vertically, of course) above line and less than ninety below, the forward pull of the brake is also slightly downward. Usually the braking area is square to the bore and the gas escape ports are larger on the upper portion of the brake body, or sides, to serve the same purpose of keeping the muzzle down, by allowing the gas to escape easier at the top than at bottom.

For shoulder rifles a brake need not be very long or large in diameter, since the blast of gas does not cone out or spread too greatly immediately upon passing from the barrel, and its force is powerful enough to act upon even a small area effectively. I have not yet had an opportunity to experiment, but believe that an inside diameter of 1″ will handle even the .375 H. & H. Magnum cartridge very well. The sides, or body of the brake are very important, since they must control the final escape, release and dissipation of gas. Narrow slots, wide slots, small holes, large holes, wide opening, large and small tolerances on the bullet port — all have different effects on recoil reduction.

The simplest muzzle brake I ever saw was that used on the Solothurn 20mm AT rifle and consisted of just a block of steel threaded to the end of the barrel, bored straight through for passage of the shell, and having horizontal holes drilled straight through from side to side for gas escape. They came in three, four and five-hole sizes — the more holes the more brake effect, and no baffle or blast plate was used, the only thing to catch and divert muzzle gases being the holes at right angles to bore which received a portion of the expanding blast.

The universal effect of all muzzle brakes is to increase the report and flash as they splash the noise and gas sideways, close to the shooter. Anyone who turns up at a rifle match with a muzzle-braked rifle will be highly unpopular with the men shooting beside him. I will guarantee that.

The key is not options but obliquity

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Eric Falkenstein explains why Taleb’s Antifragile book is a fraud:

In Nassim Taleb’ book Antifragile he emphasizes that ‘if you see a fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud,’ I am thus compelled to note that Antifragile is a fraud because its theme is based on intentional misdirection. The most conspicuous and popular examples he presents are also explicitly mentioned as not the essence of antifragility. Indeed, incoherence is Taleb’s explicit strategy, as the Wikipedia entry on Antifragility notes Taleb presents his book in a way to make it difficult to criticize. He tried to squeeze a weltanschauung onto the Procrustean bed of his Black Swan and generated a synecdoche that confuses the part with the whole.


There are two ways to generate an option payoff. One is to buy an option; another is via dynamic replication, which involves doubling down a position as it becomes more in-the-money. The outsized success of winners over losers in dynamic systems generates large convexities, but to be a winner, the keys are not buying options, but rather, obliquity, the process of achieving success indirectly via a combination of vision, excellence, resilience, and flexibility. To describe the essence of this as being convex distracts people from focusing on their strengths, areas where they have, in a sense, insider information. Meanwhile, simple hormesis helps generate the efficiency and resiliency that allows firms/organisms to outgrow their competitors, why everyone mentions examples of hormesis, waves their hands, and hopes no one notices the bait-and-switch.

Promoting the new idea that acquiring options on the next Black Swan is the basis of “our own existence as a species on this planet” is the sort of hyperbole you hear at TED talks. It is the sort of thing bureaucrats love because they are generally too high up to have much domain-specific expertise, and the incoherent but plausible-sounding theme allows one to talk about strategy without actually knowing anything specific. Then you give examples of your great idea that are really something else entirely, and fade to black…

Too much cartridge to shoot from a shoulder gun

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Dunlap liked guns, but he didn’t like anti-tank rifles:

What really gave me trouble was the 20mm Solothurn Anti-tank rifles. I somehow got mixed up with a batch of these being test fired at the British base and I have not been the same since. The 20mm is too much cartridge to shoot from a shoulder gun. These big rifles are 120 pounds of semi-automatic bipod gun and very rough on the firer, in spite of the muzzle brake and spring and rubber shoulder piece. They had a good, but heavy, 2.75X telescopic sight.

Big gods came after big societies

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Researchers studying the Seshat database of world history (named after the Egyptian goddess of record keeping) have found that big gods came after the rise of big societies, not the other way around:

When you think of religion, you probably think of a god who rewards the good and punishes the wicked. But the idea of morally concerned gods is by no means universal. Social scientists have long known that small-scale traditional societies — the kind missionaries used to dismiss as “pagan” — envisaged a spirit world that cared little about the morality of human behaviour. Their concern was less about whether humans behaved nicely towards one another and more about whether they carried out their obligations to the spirits and displayed suitable deference to them.

Nevertheless, the world religions we know today, and their myriad variants, either demand belief in all-seeing punitive deities or at least postulate some kind of broader mechanism — such as karma — for rewarding the virtuous and punishing the wicked. In recent years, researchers have debated how and why these moralising religions came into being.


One popular theory has argued that moralising gods were necessary for the rise of large-scale societies. Small societies, so the argument goes, were like fish bowls. It was almost impossible to engage in antisocial behaviour without being caught and punished — whether by acts of collective violence, retaliation or long-term reputational damage and risk of ostracism. But as societies grew larger and interactions between relative strangers became more commonplace, would-be transgressors could hope to evade detection under the cloak of anonymity. For cooperation to be possible under such conditions, some system of surveillance was required.

What better than to come up with a supernatural “eye in the sky” — a god who can see inside people’s minds and issue punishments and rewards accordingly. Believing in such a god might make people think twice about stealing or reneging on deals, even in relatively anonymous interactions. Maybe it would also increase trust among traders. If you believe that I believe in an omniscient moralising deity, you might be more likely to do business with me, than somebody whose religiosity is unknown to you. Simply wearing insignia such as body markings or jewellery alluding to belief in such a god might have helped ambitious people prosper and garner popularity as society grew larger and more complex.

Time Before and After Moralizing Gods versus Social Complexity

New research we’ve just published in the journal Nature reveals that moralising gods come later than many people thought, well after the sharpest rises in social complexity in world history. In other words, gods who care about whether we are good or bad did not drive the initial rise of civilisations — but came later.

Setback in The Sassoon Files

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

A small independent game publisher is claiming that its Lovecraftian horror adventure book, set in the Shanghai of the 1920s, has been ordered destroyed by its Chinese printer.

It sounded like a new zipper

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Germany hit the jackpot on the light machine gun deal, Dunlap says:

Germany hit the jackpot on the light machine gun deal, bringing out a gun which had the firepower of a tripod gun and weighing only 26 pounds 2 ounces: complete with bipod, and capable of being handled by one man. This was the justly-famed MG34, the “Spandau” design which was credited to the Solothurn plant in Switzerland.


Where the name “Spandau” came from, I don’t know, unless the type of bolt was taken from the old Spandau machine gun used by Germany on World War I aircraft.


It was designed to be, and was, the closest possible weapon to an all-round machine gun the world has seen yet.


While it could not equal a watercooled type in sustained fire, the quick-removable barrel did a lot toward keeping the firepower up.


Beautifully designed for production manufacture, parts were interchangeable and numerous — each unit had its parts chest and it was seldom necessary to send a gun to the shops for repair. Each gun had from one to three extra barrels, carried in formed metal cases.


This was the first of the straight-stocked or straight-line recoil stocked guns with high sights. The buttstocks and pistol grip stocks were of plastic and no wood appeared on any of these weapons. Since the thrust of recoil is straight back to the shoulder, the gun did not “climb” to any degree.


The original ground tripod provided was an elaborate job, with a recoil-operated ratchet mechanism which depressed and raised the rear end of the gun while firing, thus giving it a deeper cone of fire, or what is variously called searching, grazing or grass-cutter fire.


This mount also had optical sighting equipment and devices enabling it to be used for indirect fire (optical sights were not mounted on the gun itself at any time).


With the type of bullet the Germans used, it was possible for them to lay down an effective machine-gun barrage between 2,000 and 3,500 meters. Maximum range of their cartridge was about 5,000 yards, out of their barrels, the rifle length being 23.4″, MG34, 23.5″.


Elaborate machine work was lavished on the MG34’s — I found unnecessary knurling of sleeves and collars, chamfering and beveling of corners beyond reasonable manufacturing standards for such weapons.


It was a beautiful job, but when the Allies started to shoot back, production was simplified and a model was put out as the MG34/41.


The MG34/41 was better designed for defense than offense, which reflected the trend of the times.


In 1943 the Germans turned loose the MG42, the first real “punchpress” gun, with receiver, jacket, cover, and just about everything except barrel and bolt made of steel stampings. It followed the general idea of the MG34 in size, shape and purpose, but the details were entirely different.


The MG42 had the fastest barrel change of any machine gun in the world, accomplished by lowering the butt, snapping down the barrel catch at the right rear of the barrel jacket, which brought the rear end of the barrel out of the gun and gravity usually made it slide back and free of the weapon, untouched by human hands, which is good, because hot barrels are not pleasant to monkey with.


When I first turned a 42 loose I was really surprised, for it sounded like a new zipper. Rate of fire was about 1,100 to 1,200 RPM and I believe a straight belt of armorpiercers might run 1,300. That is fast — too fast, by our ideas, but the Krauts evidently thought it OK. They always seemed to have plenty of ammunition too.


In the spring of 1943 an officer approached me with the idea of finding out what this M38 could do, as he had a gun in perfect condition. I scratched my head, gymnasticated* the rifle, tried to look intelligent, and finally gave my opinion that it would penetrate 1/2” armor at 100 yards, but not much more. He brought out a side plate from a Grant tank, which was a trifle over 3/4” laminated armor plate. I thought we would only crater this, as it was considered extremely good plate. We headed out in the sand away from the camp in an Italian motor wagon (I would not compliment it by calling it a truck) and at a distance beyond the hearing of possibly disapproving colonels, we set up the plate, backed off 100 yards and I laid the rifle across a box and fired. The bullet went through the plate as though it was not there; its incendiary base flew away on the other side, but the core kept on traveling. One of the officers watching from an angle said he saw it strike the sand further out and that it appeared not to have altered its flight in any way. In other words, the 3/4” armor did not even have much effect on the trajectory. I later learned this outfit could penetrate 11/4” (30mm) armor at 100 yards. Recoil was negligible, and less than from a regular military rifle.


(That word “gymnasticate” may have a few of you on the ropes, but is simply an ordnance term meaning the artificial operation of the recoil mechanism of a weapon. Usually it is applied only to artillery, but is perfectly proper for any weapon operated by or having a recoil system. When you push back on the barrel of an autoloading shotgun or a Colt .45 pistol, you are gymnasticating the arm.)

The tanks will provide fire support for the infantry and engineers

Monday, March 25th, 2019

The IDF would love nothing better than to fight an old-fashioned tank battle, at which it is famously proficient:

Standing near a firing range, with three wedge-shaped Merkava III tanks maneuvering in the background, Major Dori Saar, operations officer for the 188 th Armored Brigade, described how Israel will use tanks to defeat tunnels. “The tanks will provide fire support for the infantry and engineers,” he explained.

It’s a tactic that takes advantage of two strengths that modern tanks enjoy: long-range firepower and advanced sensors. Standing off at a safe distance from anti-tank ambushes, tanks can spot enemy troops and provide covering fire while the foot soldiers go in to destroy the tunnels. Tunnel-busting will be a combined-arms operation down to the company level, with two platoons of tanks working with a platoon of infantry and engineers apiece.


An advance into Lebanon will not be the timid, clumsy offensive of 2006. Saar says that his brigade will maneuver “fast and deep,” operating across a battlespace 30 to 40 kilometers (17 to 25 miles) in depth. This will be a small-unit war, waged by platoons and companies instead of brigades and divisions. The sort of combat that puts a premium on quick-thinking junior officers, flexible tactics, and well-trained soldiers.

The threat of advanced anti-tank weapons, such as the deadly laser-guided Russian Kornet employed by Hezbollah in 2006, had led some critics to question whether tanks are still useful. Combat in the rough terrain that guerrillas will operate from, such as hills or the numerous villages that dot Lebanon and Syria, is challenging for armored vehicles. Yet Schneider argues that tanks are still vital: they have firepower and armor protection that a foot soldier can’t carry on his back, and the mobility to bring that firepower to where it is needed.

New technology is also making tanks less vulnerable. Active protection systems mounted on vehicles, such as Israel’s Trophy (which is being adopted by the U.S. Army), can shoot down incoming anti-tank rockets.

The design was excellent, but the execution was terrible

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Dunlap discusses Russian and German submachine guns:

As long as their supply of captured ammunition held out, the Afrika Korps used some Russian submachine guns.


They used the 7.63mm Mauser cartridge, a powerful .30 caliber bottleneck pistol cartridge, employing a light (approximately 86-grain) bullet at 1,400 FPS, in all their models of submachine guns, as well as their pistols.


The M41 used a 71-round drum magazine and no other capacities were provided at that time, although I understand that in 1944 Russia brought out a 25-round straight magazine for this gun.


The sight was adjustable and graduated in “paces,” up to 500 (the Russian pace was 28″, and they had sights for this particular weapon at least, in either pace or metric calibration).


Germany brought out some mass-production automatic weapons in 1943, after I left that theatre, and in 1944 the boys ran into the MP43, or Machine Pistol Model 1943, which was a high-powered automatic carbine.


The arm was truly a machine carbine and out of the submachine gun or machine pistol class, having an effective range of 500 meters as a semi-automatic, 250 meters as a machine gun.


Because of the weak material, the guns were very frail and required careful handling. The least dent would make it tie up. A friend of mine who had several in his possession in Germany states that if the weapon merely fell over from a standing position, such as leaning against a wall, its own weight was sufficient to cause enough damage to put it out of operation in some cases.


The idea of the MP43 and the engineering or design was excellent, but the execution was terrible. With better material and less stamping it would be almost capable of replacing both rifles and automatic rifles, or light machine guns, as the bipod weapons are known in Europe.


Best of all shoulder arms was their Fallschermjaeger Gewehr 42 (Parachutist Rifle 42) a full-grown full-automatic 20-shot bipod rifle weighing 9.8 pounds.

The Russian “M41″ he mentions is the PPSh-41 (“papasha”), which uses the 7.62×25mm Tokarev pistol round, which is almost the same as the earlier Mauser round, but a bit more powerful.

The German “MP43″ he mention is the now famous StG 44, the Sturmgewehr, or assault rifle, that inspired the AK-47.