Friday Tour d’Horizon Week 22

We’ll cover the usual subjects: Guns, Usage and Employment, Cops ‘n’ Crims, Unconventional (and current) Warfare, and Lord Love a Duck!

Guns

We really wanted to write more about these gun stories. So many guns, so few fingers….

Larry Vickers and an AK-74

The sheer industrial tractor-factory function of an AK here, with the receiver cover and upper handguard (and sometimes the gas tube!) off. Look at those parts bounce!

There are guns that are the product of iterative engineering, and there are guns that are the product of inspired trial and error. The AK has been defending, attacking, and overthrowing most of the nations of the world since only a few years after the first Ivan plucked an MP43 off a cooling German and said, “Bozhe moi! We sure could use something like this. But made with Soviet worker and peasant simplicity and reliability.”

ITEM: The Clock Ticks for Armatix

Armatix, the anti-gun gun company best known for its one-jam-in-ten-shots iP1 “smart” .22, has been in the news a lot, mostly because it’s gone belly up, had a hard parting with its former gun guy, Ernst Mauch of the “Because You Suck and We Hate You” era at HK, and is in the German equivalent of Chapter 11. The majority owner, Swiss Bernd Dietel, is looking to stiff creditors without losing his ownership. The company had been scheduled to attend an anti-gun expo with gun ban activist Joel Mosbacher

Rumors are they’re putting the arm on some American and international anti-gun billionaires to try to relaunch the company, which will depend on rent-seeking: getting governments to mandate their inferior, unsafe product, as State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has tried to do in New Jersey.

Before the smart gun, Armatix made a series of supposedly uncrackable gun locks that are just as low-quality as the iP1 — a video on German TV showed the lock being cracked in minutes, but Armatix had gotten the German authorities to mandate the lousy locks already!

ITEM: A Better Bump Fire Stock?

With the Hughes Amendment seemingly intractably embedded in 18 USC, a lot of people have turned to Slidefire stocks for a simulacrum of automatic fire (and simulacrum is all it is, really). There is an alternative to Slidefire that works, and is made of metal. Downside? More money. Fostech Outdoor has solutions for AR, AK, 10-22, etc.

ITEM: Is Gun Ownership in Decline?

The Violence Policy Center, a group that promotes the banning of all guns, issued a rather thin press release — a five-or-so-slide-deck, which gives you an idea of wha they think of the attention spans of their fellow travelers in the press — suggesting that gun ownership was in steep decline, and the press release was dutifully plagiarized across the major media. Since gun sales continue at record-high levels, and every retailer we know is reporting lots of first-time buyers, we knew it was bullshit, and planned to write about it, but Bob Owens did it pretty well, and probably more concisely than we would have done:

The shooting sports industry is seeing not just record sales growth, but growth with incredible staying power. There hasn’t been the expected surge and then crash many expected post-Sandy Hook. There was a tremendous surge, and then sales of nearly everything have remained near peak levels. From firearms to ammunition to holsters, slings, optics and other accessories, there now appears to be a “new normal” median level of consumption, though we’ve not be able to peg precisely what that new normal is just yet as we don’t yet know what that carrying capacity might be.

That’s just one graf. The whole post is full of wisdom and not long, so go Read The Whole Thing™. Basically, for the VPC to be right, their information, based on self-reporting in an intrusive telephone survey, has to be right and everybody’s sales data has to be wrong.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times (note, nasty ads if you don’t have a popup blocker or NoScript) says, nope, gun sales are soaring.

Some Administrivia

We did manage to get one of our back Saturday Matinees up, Week 18’s. Stukas (1941) was a German propaganda film of World War II, made back when things were looking rosy for Hitler’s boys. We put the review where it should have gone live on 2 May 2015; and yes, we have a number of other Matinees hanging fire, which we’ll try to kick out from time to time.

To continue on to our tales of Usage and Employment, Cops and Crims, Unconventional Warfare, Lord Love a Duck, Veteran’s Affairs and all kinds of cool stuff that didn’t quite rate its own post this week, click “More”.

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Ave atque Vale: Land Rover Defender

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A 1960s or 70s Land Rover Series II

From deep in the heart of EU-occupied England comes the grim news that one of the few unalloyed successes of British postwar automotive engineering is about to end this year: production of the Land Rover Defender ends in December, 2015, in anticipation of coming EU regulations. British tech-news site The Register:

[P]roduction of the Defender is coming to en end, because it cannot meet (or be made to meet) new car emission rules from the European Council that kick in in 2020.

Production will therefore end in December. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the manufacturer, has hinted that the production line may be moved overseas, with the vehicle remaining in limited production elsewhere.

But, even if this is the case, the Defender will no longer be available brand new in EU markets, meaning the familiar sight of a Land Rover toiling across the British landscape – a presence that helped make it a stalwart of British automotive culture – will gradually recede from view.

The Register’s reporter took a tour of the plant, with some interesting commentary as he went:

Inside the reception area (which doubles as a gift shop full of Land Rover memorabilia) you are met, identified and provided with biscuits and coffee. You also meet your guide, clearly chosen with extreme care to be amiable, charming and above all, knowledgeable: this tour, after all, is likely to be taken by Land Rover geeks, so the guides have to be able to out-geek the attendees.

….

Remarkably, the vehicles are still put together largely by hand: a real live green-clad person lifts up a door and fits it to the vehicle. It’s a human workshop on a grand scale, not a clinical, robotic nightmare.

It is obvious that the Land Rover has been steadily updated over its production life and, while the shape remains clearly identifiable, virtually every component has changed during that time.

However, our guide delighted in showing us the two parts that the current Defender still has in common with the original pre-series Land Rover from 67 years ago. One is a small reinforcing bar for the body floor and the other is a tie-down cleat for attaching a canvas hood.

As JLR senior designer Peter Crowley-Palmer told us, you can think of it as “a classic car you can buy new”. But sadly, not for much longer.

Those are just snippets, of course; do Read The Whole Thing™, if only for the Land Rover pictures.

Land Rover history is quite quirky, in an eccentric, English way. There is a Lightweight Land Rover that weighs more than the standard model, and the fact that what many see as a military vehicle was built first as a farm machine — an approximate reversal of what happened with the American Jeep. The vehicle’s history is so complex, The Reg notes, that even the company’s souvenir t-shirt gets it wrong.

We have a lot of history with Land Rovers — real, general, authentic, pukka Land Rovers. The current, soulless SUVs and crossovers produced by the company are no substitute. It’s sad to see them going out of production, squeezed at one end by the practical Toyota HiLux and at the other by rapacious Eurocrats.

When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws Will Have Amtrak

This photo is from an unusual accident. The usual one involves a train and a pedestrian. It doesn't hurt the locomotive.

This photo is from an unusual accident. The usual one involves a train and a pedestrian. It doesn’t hurt the locomotive.

Most of us think of Amtrak as one of those massively subsidized, ill-managed government boondoggles, but it does more than simply haul the wealthy Acela Corridor types, the train buffs, and (naturally) the terrified-of-flying, from place to place in the lap of the taxpayers. Sometimes, it’s an agent of Darwin his ownself.

The train, traveling between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, hit the unidentified person shortly after 7 p.m. just west of the station, authorities said. The person was pronounced dead at the scene.

via Person struck, killed by Amtrak train in Chesco.

To the great irritation of the characters on the train, the dead prole delayed their journey.

The human being is inherently fragile, and many everyday things we never think about produce fatalities. In Pennsylvania, where that accident happened, 20 or 30 trespassers get killed by trains every year, according to the Federal Railway Administration, and a similar number injured. (No, you are not entitled to walk along the railroad tracks, or ride your bike there — as we occasionally do. Technically, you’re a trespasser on the railroad’s property or right of way). There are about 400-500 such deaths nationwide, although numbers for 2015 are way up (if you explore the data on the FRA site). That’s about the same number that perish every year in roughly 300 small plane accidents, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s annual Nall ReportMost people would not know that, because plane crashed get saturation coverage on the news, and some kid or homeless person that gets the Cuisinart treatment from an intercity freight or local commuter train gets a three-paragraph stub like the one the above quote is from. If that.

Unless he delays the Acela Express and inconveniences someone important.

Like small planes and railroads, firearms are actually a trivial cause of accidental death in the United States, but they’re slightly higher than railroad trespasser deaths, coming to about 600 in 2012, the last year for which we have reliable data. (The scary big numbers that come from innumerates like Moms Demand Fascism come from lumping accidents, suicides, and justifiable homicides by police and lawful gun users in as, “gun deaths,” and then implying they’re talking about accidents. They’re not).

In 2012, more people were killed by machinery (excluding motor vehicles) than by firearms. If you’ve ever worked in a metal-forming business you have no problem believing that… almost anything in a machine shop or foundry can kill you, including the hand tools you use for bench work. More children, particularly, died of poisoning or “environmental” causes (think heat and cold injury, exposure); over 12 times as many drowned (708) and over 20 times as many suffocated (1,182) than died from firearms mishaps (58). Yet Wealthy Moms with Nannies Demand Your Guns. It’s an interesting illustration of the innumeracy of society in general, the distorting effects of a dishonest, propagandistic media, and humans’ extremely poor ability to analyze risks in particular or statistics in general. (Our minds are adapted to use heuristics, not analysis, for risk assessment).

Poisoning in the home kills almost as many people (31,800 in 2012, National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2014) as motor vehicle accidents on the road (33,561 in 2012, NHTSA). Since the 2014 edition, NSC has been playing games with the classification of firearms deaths, such as lumping suicides, criminal homicides and justifiable homicides, into a single “firearms discharge” category.

Back to Pennsylvania, where our story began with an anonymous pedestrian losing at Jousting with Amtrak (if his game wasn’t foot Race to the Crossing), an interesting fact arises from CDC firearms accident data. Pennsylvania, home to this train accident, an active and militant gun-ban tendency in politics, and firearms accidents that even penetrate State Police firearms training, had the highest number of fatal gun accidents in the nation in 2012, according to the CDC.  (Two states with less than a sixth of PA’s population each, LA and SC, had higher fatal-gun-mishap rates per 100k population, though). So PA is still on the high side, if not a solitary outlier; sounds like Keystone Staters could work on their safety culture a little. (Preliminary 2013 data suggests that PA may have reduced the rate:

WISQARS Injury Mortality Report 2012-13.pdf

… or perhaps 2012 was an outlier year). Interesting nonetheless.

What’s the Acronym for Thuggish Simple Airheads?

tsa-security-theaterCan you say TSA? We knew you could. We haven’t beaten on them since they advertised on pizza boxes for future traveler-gropers last month. (What’s next, Thunderbird bottles?)

And in the interests of fairness, we’ll give first point to the TSA. They make the utterly reasonable suggestion that we gun owners out to pull our heads out of the region of our anatomy we’ve been using as a head holster, and stop forgetting we’re carrying guns and breezing into the machines.

In 2005, 660 guns were confiscated nationwide. Last year, the number rose to 2,212 – nearly a four-fold increase.
“I think there’s a personal responsibility for any gun owner, that they ought be aware of the rules, where they can and can’t take it,” McCarthy says.

We can’t really argue with that. TSA 1: Humanity 0.

From here it goes downhill for the gropers.

Yes, They’re Gropers

TSA PervLast month, CBS discovered a gay TSA goon and his female enablers were doing what the TSA has always denied its gropers do, singling out attractive people for a lascivious groping that crossed the line into sexual assault. TSA Denver agent Chris Higgins watched a groping live, and he and higher-ups reviewed others on tape, and the groper and enablers admitted it, but the TSA bosses and Denver Deputy DA Bonnie Benedetti simply fired the perv and one of his lookouts (the other wasn’t punished at all). It’s not even the first time the Denver prosecutor has given a wink-and-a-nod to a TSA sexual assault perp. It’s funny how prosecutors lose interest in pursuing sexual assault when the perv is a fellow payroll patriots, eh?

Across the country other passengers have raised concerns over the years about TSA pat downs. But the recent case uncovered by CBS4 is more problematic for TSA since its own employee blew the whistle on the practice, a supervisor observed it happening, the agency fired the employees, and the female screener who was fired admitted to the fondling conspiracy.

No one was held accountable. At TSA, no one ever is held accountable. It gives a whole new meaning to the expression, “Your ass is mine.”

TechDirt has the details on how they did it.

The plan involved him signalling to a colleague who was working the scanning computer. That agent would tell the computer that the individual being scanned was female, which apparently would set off an “anomaly” alert for the groin area, allowing the male TSA agent to conduct a “pat down” of that area. Leaving aside the fact that these computers even have “male” and “female” settings and it can determine an “anomaly in the genital area” if they don’t match — this kind of thing was exactlywhat many insisted was going to happen when the TSA put in place these advanced screening procedures.

And also, the details on how the TSA was able to torpedo the criminal investigation, as they routinely do:

Specifically, the TSA was first told about this scheme on November 18th of 2014. First, it took nearly two months for the TSA to do anything about it, and it did not contact the police during this time. Instead, on Feburary 9th, TSA investigator Chris Higgins observed the screening area and saw the signal/button push/grope of the genitals. Higgins made no attempt to speak with or identify the victim of this assault (this is important). Instead, he just spoke with the two TSA agents who were terminated at some later time (exact date not clearly indicated). The Denver police were not told about any of this until over a month later, on March 19th, 2015, at which point they noted that without a named “victim” there wasn’t much they could do.

In other words, the soi-disant “investigator,” Higgins, deliberately set the whole thing up so his groping buddy was de facto immune to prosecution. Even though there were at least three actively involved in the groping conspiracy, and several layers of enablers who got the perv off, we’ll be ultra-charitable and just count this as 1. TSA 1, Humanity 1.

Really, Gropers

tsa checkpointThe TSA Watch blog (if there were no such thing, it would have to be invented) notes that Judicial Watch has received a partial FOIA response (for which JW had to sue the TSA, who dragged their feet for almost a year before producing these public records). These records mostly document incidents of TSA groping and sexual assault, which is very common and seldom if ever punished. The partial response ran to 58 pages of TSA Pervs, with most substantive data redacted. The TSA has redacted the names of its sexual assault perps, including the one that hit a man so hard in the testicle (“testical” in TSA 70-IQ spelling) that he cried out, and the one that groped an elderly cancer patient and her colostomy bag. Sick, sick, sick people homunculi, all of them.

Even though there are 58 pp. of secret (and unpunished! TSA means never having to say you’re sorry) gropers, we’ll be charitable again: TSA 1, Humanity 2.

And They Lose their IDs in Atlanta, and Dallas-Fort Worth

NBC 5 in DFW found a few… thousand… missing badges (along with TSA uniforms, FFDO credentials, and all kinds of stuff lost, strayed or stolen at various airports).

An exclusive NBC 5 investigation found hundreds and perhaps even thousands of airport security badges, known as Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges, are unaccounted for across the country.
NBC 5 Investigates requested records from some of the nation’s largest airports asking how many SIDA badges are unaccounted for.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport sent a response saying more than 1,400 badges were lost or stolen over approximately two years.

So, the TSA moved quickly to follow up, right? Ha, ha. This is the TSA we’re talking about. It moved quickly to cover up.

TSA blocks access to missing badge records after NBC 5 Investigates’ request….

Before NBC 5 Investigates could get missing ID badge information from other airports, like Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the Transportation Security Administration stepped in and said we couldn’t have those numbers.

The TSA said it is security sensitive information and they don’t want to say just how often airport ID’s go missing at each airport.

Note that TSA management didn’t find the lost, strayed or stolen badges, a news agency did, after TSA management neglected the absentee badges for years. 

We’ve established a precedent of only counting all the wrongdoing in one story as 1, so: TSA 1, Humanity 2.

OK, so the DFW TSA droids are reckless with their IDs, but it surely isn’t happening elsewhere, is it?

And They Lose their IDs in San Diego

Says the national NBC site and NBC San Diego, following up on the DFW story.

[M]ore than 270 badges went missing at the San Diego International Airport in the last two years.

And some of those wayward badges were not reported for weeks or months — meaning they were not quickly deactivated.

Workers are supposed to report a missing badge within 24 hours, and the San Diego airport authority said it plans to do more to ensure that rule is followed.

Gee, but we’re sure that’s not happening anywhere else, because TSA supervision and management is made up of the members of this outfit singled out by .gov for promotion! TSA 1, Humanity 3.

And They Swear By Their Machines, But Don’t Know if They Work

During the controversy over what TSA calls Advanced Imaging Technology and what the rest of us know as nekkid scanners (like the one made by the British pioneer of the technology, Rapescan), you couldn’t crack a newspaper without some TSA panjandrum of perversity standing by the machines with unqualified statements of support. Based on? It turns out, zip. The Washington Times:

TSA cannot adequately oversee the maintenance of equipment routinely used to screen passengers and their baggage as they travel to and from various airports throughout the country, the report states.

“Because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventative maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use,” the report said. “Without diligent oversight … TSA risks shortening equipment life and incurring costs to replace equipment.”

Hey, sophisticated digital gear don’t need no stinkin’ PM, does it? Well, not in TSA-land.

That makes it: TSA 1, Humanity 4.

And the GAO Finds Plenty of Fail

Let’s consider some of this year’s GAO reports. The first is the one the Washington Times keys on above.

GAO 15-559 T published 13 May 15

Errors in screening system, errors in personnel performance, no concrete plan to address them.  And there’s this:

GAO found that TSA performance assessments of certain full-body scanners used to screen passengers at airports did not account for all factors affecting the systems.

Meaning? The TSA “tested” the systems without the software that de-pervs the body images turned on, and without evaluating the operators’ skills (or, being TSA, lack of the same). In plain English, the tests of the Rapescan and backscatter machines are fraudulent.

GAO-15-465 T published 25 Mar 15

TSA implemented it’s “Managed Inclusion” and “TSA Pre√” programs with no plan for evaluating them, and no scientific rigor in the evaluation; so-called testing of the Behavioral Detection Officer witch-doctors and TSA canines is similarly flawed, or as GAO puts it, doesn’t “adhere to established evaluation design practices”. Of course not: the results are command-defined a priori; they can’t have data screwing up their program.

GAO-15-261 published 4 Feb 15

It turns out that when TSA decides to add or remove items from its Prohibited List (the stuff like your bottle of shampoo that’s verboten in the cabin), they don’t actually do a risk assessment most of the time, and when they do, they may ignore it. They also don’t ask mere stakeholders like pilots, flight attendants, airline executives, or actual security professionals for input into these decisions, even though somebody set them up a committee of folks like that. Hey, they are the TSA. Proud holders of GEDs and defenders of the public from anyone they feel like groping and anything they feel like banning.

So here we are with: TSA 1, Humanity 7. (Each GSA report deserves its own number).

The Summing-Up

The employees of the TSA are the sweepings of the gutters, the scum of the earth, the refuse of the prison system. If you see that agency listed on a resume, you can safely assume that the person is a pervert, a thief, a pedophile, or probably all three.

As we have said once or twice before, “No one good, decent, honest, intelligent, competent, moral or ethical has ever been employed by TSA in any capacity whatsoever.”

 

3D-Printed 9MM Semiauto (video rich); 3D Guns Update

As we have expected to happen for some time, and as the initial Cody Wilson “Liberator” first demonstrated, 3D-printed firearms made of common addititive-manufacturing plastics like ABS or PLA inevitably had to diverge from common steel firearms practice to take advantage of those plastics’ strength — and overcome their weaknesses.

That means that, while early prints were nothing but, for example, a plastic version of an AR lower dimensionally identical to its aluminum forbear, but destined for a short life (especially in PLA), more and more designs are innovating in different directions.

This series of videos shows the Shuty, a 9mm pistol based on kitbashing the designs of British homemade gun pioneer P.A. Luty and the AR-15 together. It uses several metal parts, including the barrel (which comes from a Glock 17), the fire-control group (AR), and the bolt (home-made). On the other hand, the magazine, upper and lower receivers, and bolt carrier, are all printed from a polymer generally thought unsuitable for firearms parts. Turns out, you can design around materials deficiencies (as the Japanese did when they used chrome bores for strength, to offset the suboptimal alloys they had for rifle barrels, decades before other nations adopted them for durability, and when their aeronautical engineers designed assemblies built-up of  7075-equivalent alloy sheet where every other skyfaring nation would use a 7075 forging).

Here is Derwood’s working Shuty, redesigned from the original, as of 1 May 15:

He says:

After several failed attempts with the Shuty, I decided to beef it up to handle the stress. The combination plastic/steel bolt works very good. After several test fires, the frame and lower is holding up well and no damage has occurred.

The plastic parts were all printed on the SeeMeCNC Orion printer, an entry-level machine, in PLA (polylactic acid), the entry-level printing material that is biodegradable and derived from renewable resources. The bolt assembly looks complex, but:

Its just three steel dowels stacked and welded together parallel with each other. the bottom smaller dowel is drilled for the firing pin. the center dowel is a spacer. the top dowel is the buffer.

Fosscad (an informal, leaderless, cellular homemade-3D-gun resistance) picked up the video and Fosscad user ma deuce posted it on 22 May 15. (Link only because it’s basically the same video, why embed it?)

Here’s Derwood’s next video, 20 May 15, showing a longer test fire. What appears to be a jam at the end isn’t, actually; what it is, is the bolt gnawing on the magazine spring because this work in progress doesn’t have a magazine follower yet — just a spring pushing the cartridges up! Oy.

Well, if you’re going to crib something, cribbing Glock’s feed ramp by using their barrel is a short cut to a working firearm. Glock reliability is not accidental, it’s a product of careful design and iterative improvement.

So that brings us to 27 May 15. It’s fully working, with firing and a mag change, two eight-round mags complete:

Derwood says it’s still evolving, and not finished yet; when he thinks it’s “finished,” he’ll release the .stl files. Until then, he tinkers on at a high rate of speed.

As a practical 9mm pistol the Shuty has its limitations. It gives you all the firepower of a Kel-Tec belly gun in a platform the size of what it is, a mongrel of AR-15 and MAC M10 ancestry. It has no sights, no stocks, and is only slightly more concealable than a basketball. Made of PLA, the stuff used in the dishes microwave dinners come in, it’s destined for a short life, by gun standards (we’ve got guns one and two centuries old here). So, as a practical pistol? A turkey. But as a proof of concept, it is enough to get would-be totalitarians “all wee-wee’d up” (in the locution of one such).

Ah, but bolts? Barrels? Too early to write about, but people are working those issues.

Some Other 3D Developments

Of course, the Shuty is far from the only 3DP pistol in development. Here one is with the Imura revolver (left) and the Songbird pistol (center):

Imura Songbird Shuty Redesign

Joel Leathers of Texas even posted the .stl files for the Glock 17 on Thingiverse. (That link 404s; the files were deleted, due to MakerBot’s political anti-gun position, but there is a story on PrintedFirearm.com. At least they didn’t unperson Joel on Thingiverse. Yet).

Glock-3_preview_featured

Of course, a printed Glock part will not be usable in a firearm as is. But we can see practical uses for the files. (How about a printed, brightly colored, safety barrel for use in mechanical training? Pennyslvania State Police?)

How has this technology progressed so fast? Some of these guys print a lot. This printer has racked up nearly two months of run time, and used over six miles of filament!

Some of these guys print a lot

This is a 10-22 with receiver and trigger housing printed. We’ve discussed this project before. (Indeed, that story from last month has a photo in it which is a crop of the one below).

10-22 with major parts printed

We’ve shown the receivers before, but here are some printed trigger housings.

10-22 trigger housing printed

AR receivers continue to be developed. This heavily-reinforced AR-10 lower design, the Nephilim (an obscure Biblical reference to a purported race of human/angel crossbred giants) by Warfairy, shows

AR10 Nephilim by Warfairy

Here at Hog Manor, we’re still on the waitlist for our printer.

If You Build It, Nanny Wants to Ban It

Banning this sort of thing is very tempting to anti-gun lawmakers, political appointees, and those executives in the ATF who see the agency’s mission as “to destoy gun ownership.” Indeed, some of the European nations with fewer checks and balances hindering their legislative range of motion have already banned this kind of experimentation.

The problem with that, is that it is but a short step from the Shuty to a select-fire submachine gun. If you drive this design activity entirely underground, the designers are as well hung for a sheep as a lamb, no?

The largely-libertarian tinkerers making these things are doing no harm to a society, and may do some good. They have no sympathy with criminals who would use this technology to harm or threaten people. But let that be the line the law draws in the sand: not the malum prohibitum “if you make this we will hammer you,” but the malum in se “if you do harm with this we will hammer you, and the maker community will help us find you.”

Colt Defense LLC Kicks the Can, Again

colt_logo_mWe regret to use a news slot on this nearly-routine information, but we have to put it up while it still has some news value.  – the Eds.

As the expiration of its May 26 deadline came and went, Colt grabbed for another week for its bond exchange and restructuring plan.

Further, the Issuers also announced today that the “Expiration Date”, the “Consent Expiration Time” and the “Withdrawal Deadline” have been extended to 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on June 2, 2015 for their related solicitation of consents (the “Consents”) to the proposed amendments to the indenture governing the Old Notes (the “Consent Solicitation”).

Despite the firm’s survival of another week in default outside of the looming threat of Bankruptcy Court, the progress on the Exchange Offer front wasn’t good. In this, Colt is asking owners of the in-default 8.75% notes which are due in 2017 to swap them for highly speculative junk debt, paying 10% and maturing in 2023. In today’s environment, where inflation and de-facto negative prime rates from central banks impose negative interest on ordinary savings, 10% is extremely attractive — if it has any prospect of being paid.

What does the market think of the Colt swap? At the end of this week, no more bonds appear to have been offered in exchange than last — just 5.7%, still 92.3% short of Colt’s objective for rolling over the bonds.

The Issuers announced today preliminary results of the Exchange Offer. As of 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on May 26, 2015, approximately $14.2 million, or 5.7%, of the outstanding principal amount of Old Notes had been validly tendered and not validly withdrawn.

Why the can kick?

Well, on one level, it’s that, or see the judge, which would wind up expropriating the current stockholders (and managers). It’s a desperate survival move — Pauline has escaped the cliffside, the train tracks, and the pendulum, and now finds herself tied to a chair next to three sticks of dynamite wired to a clock. The temptation to somehow roll back the time on the clock has to be overwhelming.

Colt includes the same exact paragraph as last time, suggesting that negotiations with the holders of the Old Notes are ongoing.

The Issuers believe it is in the best interests of their respective stakeholders to actively address  their capital structure and are continuing their discussions with an ad hoc group of holders of the Old Notes. The Issuers hope that such discussions will result in a consensual restructuring transaction.

via Colt Defense LLC Announces Extension of Exchange Offer, Consent Solicitation and Prepackaged Plan Solicitation | Business Wire.

And it is possible that Colt could come to some agreement with the bondholders, probably by giving them some indications that a reorganization plan is viable, and giving up some of the equity to them. (Absent viability, the equity is worthless, because it would be erased in a bankruptcy).

What Sort of Investor Holds the Old Notes?

It won’t be widows and orphans, unless they have had irresponsible financial advice. Most probably belong to other Wall Street operators and their operations. Risky but high-coupon bonds are frequently larded in the portfolios of hedge funds and some mutual funds, where they’re mixed with many other investments to provide some spread of risk.

Also, union and municipal pension funds, which are usually not as well run as financial-sector funds, often can’t resist the tempting apple of 8.75% (or 10%) interest in a 0% Fed funds market (fundamentally the current situation; the current Fed Funds target rate is 0.25%; the prime lending rate is 3.25%). For example, many municipal and state pension funds are only solvent if they’re allowed to assume a basic return of 8% in the market. And that 8% was conventional wisdom; the examples in financial accounting textbooks still used by B-school students often use 8% as a sample input. So fund managers are desperate to make that 8%, wind up buying turkeys like the Colt bonds, and sooner or later will want a taxpayer bailout. (This is exactly what happened to cities like Bridgeport, CT, Vallejo, CA, and Detroit).

We also checked with our money guy, and he added some in-the-industry insights, including:

  1. While the $33M that “saved” Colt back in February was reported as coming from Morgan Stanley, the firm almost certainly simply organized private lending, and walked off with a percentage of the $33M, but took no risk exposure.
  2. Right now, there’s a vast quantity of hedge and other private capital chasing very few worthwhile investments. (If you are this kind of investor, you know what we’re talking about). The money has to go somewhere — leave it in a bank and it wastes away do to low or even negative interest and the effects of inflation. Therefore, some of it goes into less worthwhile investments.
  3. Some of the hedge and pension funds are so large that they can have a lackadaisical attitude to this kind of risk. A retired surgeon or executive with a net worth of $3 million and $1 million in Colt bonds is really in trouble — if there is such a person (which brings us back to really bad financial advice). He’s about to lose a third of his wealth! But a hedge fund manager investing $3 billion and holding $1 million in Colt bonds can shrug it off: he’s (well, his investors are) about to lose three hundreths of a percent. It’s the equivalent of the $3M net-worth guy losing $1,000.

Our Prediction:

Tuesday or Wednesday next week, we’ll be reporting another can kick. They can keep this up until they can’t make payroll, or some defaulted-on or stiffed person or company sues. Indeed, they might continue wobbling along even after failing to make payroll — for a short, and finite, time.

Something called Colt will survive, in some form. But it may not be something that retains the residual respect of the dying Hartford manufacturer.

When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws Will Have Hands and Feet

punching and kickingAccording to prosecutors, four men beat and kicked three others unconscious the other weekend. The beatdown began when one of the victims, Laura Gaarsland, told one of the attackers he was “a bad person.” He proceeded to prove how good he wasn’t, by assaulting her, and his friends joined in. Gaarsland’s husband Joey intervened, and that got him the most vicious beatdown of all. A Good Samaritan also wound up joining the Gaarslands in being kicked while unconscious.  The first story:

FARGO – Prosecutors on Wednesday charged two men in the vicious assault on a married couple outside a bar on Sunday that left the husband with permanent brain damage.

A police report identified the husband as Joey Gaarsland. He was unconscious when police found him in a parking lot near Rick’s Bar about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Scott Moen and Jessy Olson, both of Fargo, punched and kicked Gaarsland “while he was obviously unconscious,” according to the police report.

On Wednesday, Cass County prosecutors charged Moen, 35, and Olson, 34, each with one felony Class B count and two felony Class C counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault. Both remained in the Cass County Jail Wednesday evening.

Prosecutors accused the two of attacking Gaarsland and his wife, Laura, as well as a bystander who tried to help Laura Gaarsland.

Joey Gaarsland suffered the worst injuries, which the authorities have described as serious head trauma. In the charges, the assault is said to have caused Joey Gaarsland “the permanent loss or impairment of the function of his brain.” His wife was knocked unconscious and suffered broken bones in her right hand, and the bystander was also knocked unconscious, court documents state.

via Two men face felony charges in Fargo bar assault on husband and wife.

But there were more developments in the case. The cops managed to bag the other members of the foursome. And the charge changed — because Joey Gaarsland, who would have had permanent brain damage if he’d lived, didn’t live. Next story:

All four men — Nicholas Charles Morris, Jason Wayne Oien, both 33, Jessy Duane Olson, 34, and Scott Allen Moen, 35 — appeared Friday in Cass County District Court on the new murder charges, less than 12 hours after 35-year-old Joey Gaarsland died of injuries sustained in what prosecutors called a severe beating.

Gaarsland was taken to the hospital Sunday morning and spent the week on life support before his death at 3:22 a.m. Friday, after his family donated his usable organs and tissues, court records say.

The human being is inherently fragile. We live to adulthood and, most of us, to old age, not because we’re the most robust critter in the valley, but because we have evolved cooperative societies with rules, written and unwritten, of behavior.

Some people blame crime on guns. Here are two assaults and one murder (so far, the victims are not out of the woods) done with no more weaponry than you’re wearing right now.

We notice that the Fargo PD actually catches murderers. Maybe they could give Baltimore some tips. But then again, maybe Baltimore PD didn’t get clues like this:

Witnesses say all four defendants were involved in the assault, and Morris left his driver’s license at the scene and Oien left his hat, Cass County prosecutor Tristan Van de Streek said in a court hearing Friday afternoon.

That’s how you get to have “not a clue.” When you leave your only one behind, right where you beat some poor bastard to death because his wife thinks (accurately, it seems) that you or your friend is “a bad person.”

Fun point of law: North Dakota has only one possible sentence for murder, “real” life.

Can You Screw Up the Navy By Promoting a Great Admiral?

AOV-sub sceneJohn Lehman, Reagan-era SecNav of 600-ship-Navy fame, answers the question in the title in the affirmative. The great admiral in question is Adm. John Richardson, who just began a term as the Navy’s nuclear czar. The President has interrupted that 8-year term by naming him Chief of Naval Operations. It’s the top job, but his old job is as, if not more, important.

Stability and independence in that position has produced, in Lehman’s opinion, an effective nuclear program with an outstanding safety record (64 years, 300-something ships, zero nuclear accidents). Ask other nuc operators how easy that is.

This is more important than ever, in the hundred-something-ship Obama navy that struggles to maintain ships and project American power.

Unfunded overruns in other Pentagon programs total more than $400 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office. But the Navy’s nuclear submarine programs have been consistently on budget and on time. They have been protected from the 970,000 Pentagon bureaucrats whose paralyzing bloat has made a hash of most Army, Navy and Air Force weapon programs. The reason for Navy nuclear success is because there has always been one strong experienced person in charge and accountable, standing like a stone wall against the bureaucratic onslaught.

But by far the most important benefit from this unique arrangement is the fact that there hasn’t been a single nuclear accident in the seven decades that the U.S. Navy has operated hundreds of nuclear submarines, carriers and surface combatants.

via Obama Torpedoes the Nuclear Navy – WSJ.

Lehman continues:

[I]f the job is seen as a steppingstone, a fraying of the zero-defects culture may begin and the possibility of a nuclear accident within the U.S. Navy may increase. The consequences of a nuclear incident would be devastating and would threaten the Navy’s ability to continue to operate its current reactor designs.

…The Navy has 10 other superbly talented four-star admirals and many more vice-admirals of similar experience to choose from.

Of course, Lehman is assuming that the President, Congress, and that near one million Pentagon  payroll patriots want the navy to succeed.

If you can’t open Lehman’s article at this link because of the paywall, you can find it with this Google search.

Suppressors: 40-state-legal; two more “Maybe Soon”

Last time we looked at suppressor legality, it was up to 37 of the 50 United States. (They’re banned in DC and all the Territories if memory serves).

But that was months ago, so it was time to check again, just in time to learn that Minnesota, which banned suppressors for many years, legalized them, becoming State #40 to allow citizens who comply with the Federal National Firearms Act to own them.

asa_edu_map_0522151

Even Minnesota’s anti-gun, anti-2nd-Amendment governor, Mark Dayton, signed the bill.

A similar bill is on Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin’s desk. It is a very small change in the laws in this idiosyncratic, left-libertarian state. The current provision of Vermont law is almost laughable in its lack of consequences for the violator:

Section 4010. Gun silencers A person who manufactures, sells or uses or possesses with intent to sell or use, an appliance known as or used for a gun silencer shall be fined $25.00 for each offense. The provisions of this section shall not prevent the use of possession of gun silencers for military purposes when so used or possessed under proper military authority and restriction.

But its real effect is that NFA Branch will not license suppressors to Green Mountain State residents because of this state law. (We have not ever heard of a case of 4010 being enforced). Nobody knows what Shumlin will do. But if he signs the bill, Vermont will make 41.

Iowa has an omnibus gun-rights bill wending its way through the legislature, with both the Senate and House having approved different versions. It is a mix of good and bad, extending the duration of (but not eliminating) purchase permits, and creating an electronic owner-registration database, the purpose of which is to help anti-gun law enforcement agencies and officers in places like Maryland and New Jersey to harass out-of-state travelers. But it also legalizes suppressors and turns CLEO signoffs into a must-issue item. It is likely to change again before enactment (if it’s enacted at all). But with the suppressor language, Iowa could be 42. The Iowa Firearms Coalition has updates.

In addition, legislation was filed in Illinois this year, but seems to have perished. It will be back next session.

If those states pass, the only states west of the Mississippi to ban suppressors would be California and Hawaii. Several Northeastern states such as NY, NJ, DE, RI and MA remain holdouts, and the other New England states are still behind on permitting suppressed hunting, which is otherwise allowed in almost all of the states that allow suppressors.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: CDR Salamander

Screenshot 2015-05-28 00.04.50There are some military blogs that have been around for a long time. One of the first we recall reading was CDR Salamander — a man in the long tradition of writing Naval officers. Before there were blogs, a military person separated from the service either had to find kindred souls locally, or subscribe to things that were printed on the pulp of dead trees.  During our short interregnum between active duty and finding a Reserve SF unit, we kept in touch with the military by joining organizations, and when it came time to join the Association of the US Army we jumped ship and joined the US Naval Institute instead. The reasons were simple: the swabbies could write. Our guys couldn’t. USNI’s Proceedings is stuffed with thought-provoking ideas expressed with verve, whereas Army was, in those days, as informative and lively as a gathering of Soviet agronomists celebrating the overfulfillment of the latest 5-year plan. (We don’t know if Proceedings still rocks and Army still sucks, but they sure did, then).

And Salamander? Dude can write. (In fact, these days he publishes his deeper thoughts on the US Naval Institute’s blog, but when he does, he links them via his blog.

He has a sense of humor, as his Buzzword-Bingo-champion blog tagline suggests:

PROACTIVELY “FROM THE SEA”; LEVERAGING THE LITTORAL BEST PRACTICES FOR A PARADIGM BREAKING SIX-SIGMA BEST BUSINESS CASE TO SYNERGIZE A CONSISTENT DESIGN IN THE GLOBAL COMMONS, RIGHTSIZING THE CORE VALUES SUPPORTING OUR MISSION STATEMENT VIA THE 5-VECTOR MODEL THROUGH CULTURAL DIVERSITY.

via CDR Salamander.

Recent posts include thoughtful adumbrations on PTSD; on how idiots keep expecting airpower without ground troops to accomplish anything, in the face of a century of contrary evidence; on the decommissioning of the USS Samuel B. Robertsa ship that was attacked by the Iranians in 1987 (and bears the name of a ship that fought with distinction in the Pacific in WWII); and one of our favorites, one wondering why the Navy has the free-for-all of ideas that characterizes the USNI, while the Air Force has generals that call pilots out for “treason”, because the jocks tried to save the A-10 by calling their Congressmen. (Oops, that actual post of his is at the USNI blog; the post in his own blog just links to it. By the way, the general in question has been defenestrated).

Another truly stunning post, stunning because we’d heard nothing about it, involved the shoehorning of female Midshipmen (wait, shouldn’t that be Midshippersons? Or maybe just Misdhips?) into grudgingly tailored male uniforms in pursuit of SecNav and Social justice Warrior Ray Mabus’s declared objective of a gender-neutral Navy1.

Now, we don’t much like Mabus. While happily presiding over a decline in naval strength more profound than, and nearly as tragic as, that of the morning of 7 December 41, his focus is on happily persecuting Christians. And he’s the guy who’s named ship after ship for undistinguished politicians.

Mabus just declared, today, that he wants female SEALs within two years. He orders it done, and orders that however it is done, it won’t be by lowering standards… just “changing” them. Gender-neutral SEALs. We can’t wait to see what Commander Salamander has to say about that.

Notes

  1. Yeah, that sounds bizarre as all get-out, but Sal’s got the message traffic that supports it (emphasis ours):

1.0 Background. In conjunction with the Gender Neutral effort endorsed by SECNAV, NEXCOM via N13 has tasked Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility (NCTRF) to develop a Female Service Dress White Coat design that mirrors the Male Service Dress White Choker Coat design ….

They want to stuff all female naval officers into this male uniform (the Midshippettes have complained they can’t move their arms in the guy coats, only to be told, who knows more about what women want, you chicks or Ray Mabus?), but they’re starting with the Midshipmen, who are pretty  defenseless against the Gender Neutral buggernaut from the E-Ring. They plan to do the same to USMC officers, too.