Sok it to me, Baby! The weird and wonderful Sokolovsky Automaster

Sokolovsky AutomasterThe Sokolovsky Automaster was promoted, shortly before its entry into production, as the “Rolls Royce of .45 Auto Pistols.” The pistol was starkly beautiful in an angular, Modernist way. Indeed, the design might be called Brutalist, although we don’t think the Brutalists ever escaped from architecture into industrial design, did they? And frankly, the Sokolovsky was very attractive with its smooth stainless finish. It was a child of the 1980s, when angular industrial design (think DeLorean and Countach) was all the rage. The gun was completely devoid of any external hint of the knobs, buttons, levers, pins  and screws that collectively comprise the human interface, and mechanical axles and pivots, of its contemporaries.

It was designed by Paul Sokolovsky of Sunnyvale, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Sokolovsky was employed as an engineer by Valley semiconductor powerhouse Advanced Micro Devices, and a search of his name at the US Patent and Trademark Office shows and interesting mix of patents for firearms innovations — apparently a sideline — along with patents for AMD that involved either microchip production — even a machine optimized to tape 90º corners on boxes! About Sokolovsky personally we don’t know much. A search of the Social Security Death Index reveals a Paul J. Sokolovsky who was born on 24 April 1926 and passed away at the age of 82 on 1 December, 2008, in Auburn, California. His Social Security number (060-26-3226) was issued in New York. This seems to be our guy.

Sokolovsky Automaster L side

A more thorough search expands his middle initial from J. to “John” and has him living in Palo Alto from 31 December 1996 to 13 November 2000, but maintaining residences in both Sunnyvale (from 1980) and Auburn (from 1993) until the summer before his death. We also have evidence, here and there, that he was an avid target shooter, and that his handgun was an attempt to make a better bullseye pistol than the then-reigning modified 1911.

It takes a bold man to improve on a John M. Browning design. Sokolovsky’s clean-sheet design pays homage in styling to the Browning classic, and offers a similar grip angle and trigger position, but differs in almost all aspects of its operation. No parts interchange.

Screenshot 2014-04-14 00.12.34The ads with the Rolls-Royce comparison ran in 1983, inviting correspondence to “Sokolovsky Corp., Sport Arms,” at a Sunnyvale PO Box. The ad shows one of the gun’s unique features, its smooth sides. At a glance, it appears that the sole user interface is the trigger, but that’s not exactly so. It’s the triggersSokolovsky may have intended to make different models — one prototype is marked, “Model TP,” perhaps for “target pistol” — but the few survivors whose images have been published seem to closely resemble one another.

The Sokolovsky Automaster is large and heavy, much larger than a 1911. It weighed nearly four pounds, and with each part machined from billet stainless, was extremely expensive even when new – $5,000 in 1984-90 dollars. These things together, and its target-shooting orientation, combined to limit its market and only 45 or so were ever made, including prototypes. They do not come up for sale often enough for a market value to be estimated.

The pistol is striker-fired, like many of John M. Browning’s early-20th-Century designs. A look at the back of the pistol is reminiscent of a Browning Model 1910 or a Baby Browning .25, among others. When cocked, the striker protrudes through a small hole in the back of the frame, behind the slide. The line between the frame and the slide shows very tight fitting, more reminiscent of a matching-numbers Luger than any truly mass-produced handgun.

Pretty With a Purpose

Sokolovsky Automaster rear of frame

All of these pictures are courtesy the National Firearms Museum. And they all embiggen to giant size — even the ones that are already “large”.

Unlike most firearms that are marked in simple block letters, the markings on the Sokolovsky are in script. They are marked with the company name and applicable patents (at least the initial 4,203,348) on the left side, and the model name and serial number on the right side.

The other end of the firearm is just as striking in appearance. The muzzle has a smooth crown, and retracting the slide shows that the barrel is a thick bull barrel. Unlike the 1911, the Sokolovsky barrel doesn’t tip, one of many reasons for the pistol’s demonstrated superior accuracy.

Sokolovsky Automaster muzzle and frame railsThe slide is wider than the receiver, but the slide rides on internal, SIG-style rails. Along its top, it had a rib, into which the sights were integrated. The adjustment screws on the rear sight are the only exposed screws on the entire handgun (there is also a barely visible, under close observation, pin athwart the rib holding the nose of the sight assembly in position). The angle of the slide serrations and of the back end of the slide match the angle of the grip’s front strap; the rear strap is raked at a sharper angle, which is a little reminiscent of the 9mm Radom VIS-35, a Browning system gun that was the Polish service pistol in World War II. What appears at a glance to be a grip safety is merely a removable backstrap.

Sokolovsky Automaster markingsThe operating system of the Sokolovsky takes some understanding. In place of the normal controls, there are two shadow triggers, one on the left (which is the “safety trigger”) and one on the right (“the magazine release trigger”), that can be manipulated without manipulating the main trigger. At a glance these look almost like part of the frame, but they are moving parts that slide longitudinally just as the firing trigger does.

The slide stop was of the internal variety, functioning much like the one in the Luger pistol or SKS carbine, locking the slide back when the magazine follower activated a slide stop and releasing it, so long as the follower is no longer pressing on it (i.e. empty mag removed or replaced with a loaded one), with a tug on the slide.

A Series of Patented Innovations

Sokolovsky’s trigger is the subject of US Patent 4,203,348, “Firearm Apparatus.” It is complex enough to be hard to follow; it includes over two dozen images and makes 18 claims.  He (and/or the examiners) cited nine other patents, from unknowns as well as greats (Browning and Garand). He copied part of his trigger mechanism not from any firearm, but from the familiar mechanism of a retractable ballpoint pen. The Safety Trigger, when on “safe,” is in a forward position and blocks the firing mechanism of the gun mechanically. Actuating the Safety Trigger causes it to retract (like a ballpoint pen), allowing the weapon to fire, and providing a solid visual and tactile clue as to the firing readiness of the firearm. In addition, if the pistol is cocked, a pin protrudes from the rear of the frame behind the slide, a Browning-style cocking indicator.

The Magazine Release Trigger is more straightforward. It works on a pivoting bar, one end of which is fixed and the other of which contains a hook that holds the mag in place. It is spring-loaded and so has a “momentary” effect, and reverts to the forward position when finger pressure is released.

While the use of multiple triggers — “plural triggers” was Sokolovsky’s term — may seem to be a safety hazard, remember that this is not a duty weapon, it’s a target-shooting pistol.

The barrel is held to the frame by a series of spring detents, and fits snugly into three narrowed areas of the slide, but even after careful examination of the patents, how it actually locks is a mystery, unless it is unlocked, fixed in place, and the firearm relies on the pneumatic slide decelerator (described below) to delay blowback.

Another patented Sokolovsky invention is a spring guide that doubles as a decelerator, reducing recoil by forcing air through small holes in its rear. This is described straightforwardly in US Patent 4,388,855 Firearm pneumatic slide decelerator assembly. We can’t be sure this was actually used in production (if “production” is really the word) Automasters. But the patent illustration does show it in a clearly recognizable Automaster. It resembles the idea of the H&K P7 or the Gustloff VG1-5, but instead of relying on a volume of combustion gas to be metered out valve hole(s), it compresses ambient-pressure air through four metered valve holes arrayed around the rear end of the assembly. The chamber reloads with air after it returns, expanded, to full extension as the gun comes into battery again. Such a mechanism seems ill-suited for a combat arm, but might reset quickly enough for timed and rapid fire in bullseye terms.

Yet a third Sokolovsky innovation is described in US Patent 4,646,619, Singulating apparatus for a semiautomatic firearm. This is essentially the Sokolovsky sear, and it is designed to make the gun more drop-safe than previous striker-fired handguns while also greatly reducing trigger pull weight for higher accuracy. (This patent also references one of the greats, Václav Holek).

An exception to the stellar quality finish on most of the Sokolovsky Automaster is the rather crude-looking magazine on this toolroom prototype. It appears to be made from two 1911 mags spot-welded together to give an 8-round capacity.

Sokolovsky Automaster crude magazine

The NRA’s National Firearms Museum holds a prototype, a pre-production gun and one of the production run, which is thought to comprise about 45 pistols all told. All of the museum guns were donations from Mr Sokolovsky during his life. The beautiful photos here are from the NRA NFM (and there are more pictures there), but their brief blurb on the firearm does not contain a lot of detail, which set us to digging. Researching the Sokolovsky has been a lot of fun, and we’re looking for an example for a closer examination. We understand that the Museum of Modern Art wants one, too. See why?

Sokolovsky Automaster in Recoil

Chicago Cooks Crime Books

While 20-year-old Tiara Groves was missing in Chicago, friends and family circulated these pictures. When her body was found, bound to a chair, gagged, and partly eaten by vermin, senior Chicago Police officers erased her case. The murderer walks free and unsought.

While 20-year-old Tiara Groves was missing in Chicago, friends and family circulated these pictures. When her body was found, bound to a chair, gagged, and partly eaten by vermin, senior Chicago Police officials erased her case. The murderer walks free and no one is looking for him today.

Chicago Magazine has a remarkable story on line, and it’s the first part of two. (We have to wait for next month’s magazine for the other shoe to drop). The shocking news is that, despite Chicago’s astronomical violent crime rates, the corrupt Chicago Police Department has been cooking the books — trying to massage the statistics by making countless crimes disappear. Among these were possibly hundreds of violent crimes including, last year at least ten murders. So even the three hundred thousand plus crimes that Chicago admits occurred in their city-wide Victim Disarmament Zone last year was a bogus, deflated, number.

What happens, you might ask, to the ten murders that get reclassified as “unknown death”  or otherwise erased from statistics? Like Tiara Groves’s? Well, the Police drop them. They go uninvestigated. The murderers walk free, and almost certainly take away the message that here, crime does pay, and commit more crimes. Probably including more murders.

Given the finding of homicide—and the corroborating evidence at the crime scene—the Chicago Police Department should have counted Groves’s death as a murder. And it did. Until December 18. On that day, the police report indicates, a lieutenant overseeing the Groves case reclassified the homicide investigation as a noncriminal death investigation. In his writeup, he cited the medical examiner’s “inability to determine a cause of death.”

Hey, remember the Chicago brooming of charges against RJ Vanecko, a mayoral nephew with a violent disposition and history, but hey, a Daley nephew? We wrote about it in February here and again the same month followed up with Vanecko’s history of illegal gun use and violence, in which a Daley son is also involved (and was also given the expected velvet-glove treatment). Turns out the same crooked cop involved in making sure Andrew Buckman who was left in a coma didn’t get justice, and David Koschman who Vanecko murdered with his fists didn’t get justice, manipulated Chicago Police Department records so that Tiara Groves won’t get justice. In her case he wasn’t protecting the Daley crime family, but their made-guy Garry McCarthy, the drunken New York cop prone to shooting out streetlights while in the glow of Demon Rum.

(Vanecko, by the way, was released from jail this month. And the attorney who managed his defense, a loyal Chicago Combine retainer, was rewarded with a judgeship effective 1 May). Back to the Chicago Mag report on the broomed stats, and the nexus between it and the Vanecko cover-up:

That lieutenant was Denis Walsh—the same cop who had played a crucial role in the alleged cover-up in the 2004 killing of David Koschman, the 21-year-old who died after being punched by a nephew of former mayor Richard M. Daley. Walsh allegedly took the Koschman file home. For years, police officials said that it was lost. After the Sun-Times reported it missing, the file mysteriously reappeared.

But back to Tiara Groves. With the stroke of a computer key, she was airbrushed out of Chicago’s homicide statistics.

The change stunned officers. Current and former veteran detectives who reviewed the Groves case at Chicago’s request were just as incredulous. Says a retired high-level detective, “How can you be tied to a chair and gagged, with no clothes on, and that’s a [noncriminal] death investigation?” (He, like most of the nearly 40 police sources interviewed for this story, declined to be identified by name, citing fears of disciplinary action or other retribution.)

Was it just a coincidence, some wondered, that the reclassification occurred less than two weeks before the end of the year, when the city of Chicago’s final homicide numbers for 2013 would be tallied? “They essentially wiped away one of the murders in the city, which is crazy,” says a police insider. “But that’s the kind of shit that’s going on.”

But Ms Groves, bound, gagged and slaughtered but only in Chicago not “murdered,” was not the Lone Ranger among disappeared murder victims.

For the case of Tiara Groves is not an isolated one. Chicago conducted a 12-month examination of the Chicago Police Department’s crime statistics going back several years, poring through public and internal police records and interviewing crime victims, criminologists, and police sources of various ranks. We identified 10 people, including Groves, who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents—all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons.

This troubling practice goes far beyond murders, documents and interviews reveal. Chicago found dozens of other crimes, including serious felonies such as robberies, burglaries, and assaults, that were misclassified, downgraded to wrist-slap offenses, or made to vanish altogether. (We’ll examine those next month in part 2 of this special report.)

Many officers of different ranks and from different parts of the city recounted instances in which they were asked or pressured by their superiors to reclassify their incident reports or in which their reports were changed by some invisible hand. One detective refers to the “magic ink”: the power to make a case disappear. Says another: “The rank and file don’t agree with what’s going on. The powers that be are making the changes.”

chiraqYou almost don’t believe the  the Chicago Magazine report, but then you remember it is Chicongo, or as the cops are now calling it, Chiraq. (Which is unfair to the many nice people in Iraq).

So why would police reclassify crimes?

[S]ources describe a practice that has become widespread at the same time that top police brass have become fixated on demonstrating improvement in Chicago’s woeful crime statistics.

And has there ever been improvement. Aside from homicides, which soared in 2012, the drop in crime since Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy arrived in May 2011 is unprecedented—and, some of his detractors say, unbelievable. Crime hasn’t just fallen, it has freefallen: across the city and across all major categories.

But much of this “improvement” was bogus. Chicagoans are getting improved statistics, but not improved public safety, from a shrinking police department and a corrupt, politicized leadership.

If you want proof of the police department’s obsession with crime statistics, look no further than the last few days of 2012. On the night of December 27, a 40-year-old alleged gang member named Nathaniel Jackson was shot in the head and killed in Austin. The next morning, newscasters proclaimed that Chicago’s murder toll for the year had hit 500—a grim milestone last reached in 2008, during the Great Recession.

By lunchtime, the police department’s spinmeisters at 35th and Michigan had challenged the reports. The actual total, they said, was 499. A murder case earlier in the year had just been reclassified as a death investigation.

Critics howled. The bloggers behind Second City Cop declared: “It’s a miracle! The dead have risen!!!”

Second City Cop has indeed had some fun, in a black humor sense, with McCarthy’s manipulation of statistics (at least 18 murders were removed from the 2012 end-of-year statistics by a variety of paperwork dodges, in order to create an illusion of record-low homicides, that the city’s PR machine has run with). A few recent SCC comments:

(In a post discussing a weekend with some shootings and killings taking place in better neighborhoods than usual): At least McCarthy’s wish last week that “no one will rest until everyone in Chicago enjoys the same sense of safety” is coming true – every neighborhood is slowly become equally miserable.

(In an Easter post): You just know that McCarthy is hoping against hope that the dead will actually rise today and save him a few homicides. Jesus kind of invented CompStat you know, and Lazarus was Jesus’s first attempt at manipulating the numbers.

(And in a post before last weekend‘s first warm weekend of the year): We imagine one guy in particular isn’t going to be sleeping much this weekend: (and he listed expected balmy temperatures). We suppose that if we can keep it down to 30 shootings, McCompStat will claim a 17% reduction in shootings over the same time period from last week – and the media will print it.

In fact, SCC’s last prediction was low, as his commenters were quick to point out, in what became a ghoulish pool at that post.

  • Place you bets – over and under is 44 and 6 killed for the Holy week end.”
  • “I’ll take the under….only reason being it’s Easter (I know, since when does that stop them), and it was pretty warm last weekend and we had less than that. 6 dead isn’t unrealistic though.”
  • I bet. We have 40. Shot! Fri thru Monday!”
  • Have the over and under (Friday through Sunday night) as 36 shot, 5 killed…”
  • I predict 15 shootings before noon on Sat.”
  • One optimist said, “My money’s on a relatively quiet weekend.” To which some smart aleck responded, “In northern Wisconsin, not the cesspool known as Chicago.”
  • I’m betting 4 killed 25 shot this weekend.”
  • “9 people shot, 2 died from 10 pm Friday to 6 am Saturday morning.”
  • There are not that many welfare checks cut on the 18th so numbers will be low to mid highs. Next Friday though you better batten down the hatches.”

And the best comment of all? “If we change the heading from ‘homicide’ to Darwin… the numbers will fall.” We wanna have beers with that guy. But McCarthy, having missed the sarcasm, is looking for him to make him a supervisor.

Of course, McCarthy and Rahm’s explanation for the violence is that, because white guys in Wyoming can own guns, minority gangbangers in their declining city can’t help getting in gunfights. The media loves this explanation. They quote McCarthy:

“Until we do something about guns, don’t expect things to change overnight,” McCarthy said at a press conference that same day.

McCarthy noted that Chicago cops have seized 1,500 illegal guns so far this year, but the people caught with the weapons are all too often back on the street all too soon.

“It’s like running on a hamster wheel,” McCarthy said of the effort to grapple with the problem. “We’re drinking from a fire hose, seizing these guns, and people are back out on the street. They’re not learning that carrying a firearm is going to have a serious impact on their lives.”

Chiraq Tee ShirtWell, perhaps because in Chicongo/Chiraq, it doesn’t?

“If you don’t go to jail for gun possession, you continue to carry guns,” McCarthy said. “You continue to carry guns, and people get shot.”

What McCarthy doesn’t seem to get is that it depends on what sort of people have the guns, and what sort of people get shot. Every young criminal that gets a chalk outline represents dozens if not hundreds of future victims saved. The right answers are complex, but certainly McCarthy’s approach of penalizing legal gun owners isn’t going to work.

The strictest gun laws in America don’t make him happy:

McCarthy said “we can do things to improve what’s happening, but until such time as we get some help with the gun laws in the state of Illinois, we’re up against it. We’re drinking from a firehose.”…He has said “lax state and federal gun laws” hamper the department’s ability to reduce gun violence

OK, so if all American gun laws and crime management were like Chicago’s, then the crime rates would be at equilibrium across jurisdictions? That’s probably true, but not in the way he’s thinking.

Remember the pool in SCC’s comments that we mentioned above? Who won? According to the same story at that last link, all of them were too low, even the most hardened cynics. The total of shooting victims was 52: 8 killed and 44 wounded (disregard the post URL, which fell behind the updated body count). The dead included a Chicago cop shot by her corrections officer husband, and possibly him also (but he’s a suicide, which only counts as “gun violence” when Rahm says). However, the numbers are already being massaged in CompStat: all multiple shootings are reduced to a single “incident,” regardless of the number of shooters and victims. And anyone who dies after a few days at the hospital won’t be counted as a homicide, as well as any case they can argue another jurisdiction should be investigating. Reportedly, the numbers are down to 6 and 32 in CompStat, and McCarthy’s Chicago PD is on its way to another record year.

The same way they achieved the last record year. Meanwhile, the Stakhanovite workers’ brigade has overfulfilled the 5-Year Plan!

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have loopy aunts

We need to find all the nut cases in the world and turn them into fertilizer. For The Children™.  Either that, or we have to accept that sometimes horrible things happen to innocent people who in no way, shape, or form deserve to be visited by such horrors. What horrors? Read on.

Lambert and his wife, Danielle, have spent the last six years learning to live again after a tragic night on Jan. 11, 2008. Their only two children at the time, Kaleigh, 5, and Shane, 4, were killed along with their aunt, Danielle’s sister Marci Thibault. The children were on their way to a sleepover at their aunt’s house in Massachusetts when something came over Thibault.

At some point during the drive, she pulled off to the side of Interstate 495 in Lowell, Mass., and deliberately walked the children into traffic. All three were killed.

The Lamberts have blamed the deaths on Thibault’s misunderstood mental illness. The pain of losing Kaleigh and Shane will always be with them, but the Lamberts have tried to move forward in the years since that night.

via Couple finds new purpose after tragedy |

“Inexplicable” doesn’t stretch far enough to explain this bizarre murder-suicide. But we can’t lock up every dotty aunt in the Lower 48. So what do we do?

Our best idea is: we fund the living daylights out of neuroscience and mental illness research, and hope it turns up something. And we admit that’s not a very promising idea, but when you read tragic stories like this, the urge to do something butts up hard against the cold fact that even the experts have no idea what to do. 

We wonder what Clayton Cramer, who has made this a study for personal as well as intellectual reasons, would suggest. Because it sure beats us.

The story is worth reading in total, because the bereaved parents have made the best of their awful situation. One’s heart goes out to them. But what do we do to make these rare situations rarer? Or do we just have to accept them?

Some Threat Mitigation Theory

threat_modeling_shostackThis ties in very loosely to the physical security project. Perusing a book on network and communications-systems security for an unrelated project (Threat Modeling: Designing for Security by Adam Shostack) we discovered a few concepts worth lifting and sharing.

The lift is from his Chapter 9, and it addresses something that bosses and managers seldom “get” about threats: once you’ve figured out what your threats are, you need to figure out how to mitigate each one. And each mitigation has certain trade-offs involved; in fact, the title of Shostack’s Chapter 9 is: “Trade-Offs When Addressing Threats”.  He suggests you make a matrix or table with each threat listed along with your mitigation strategy, when you execute that strategy, and how. 

The three questions to answer about each threat are:

  1. What’s the level of risk?
  2. What do you want to do to address that risk?
  3. How are you going to achieve that?

He identifies the Classic Strategies as:

  1. Avoiding Risks
  2. Addressing Risks
  3. Accepting Risks
  4. Transferring Risks
  5. Ignoring Risks

Avoiding risks is not always possible, but you might decide, for example, not to do something if the risk is greater than the reward. For example, you can avoid the risk of burglary by not owning anything of value, or keeping all your valuables in a safety deposit box. But you can design to avoid certain risks.

Addressing risks means making design or operational changes – doing something to forestall the risk. For instance, if your neighborhood is at risk of smash-and-grab burglaries, you can harden your doors and windows and add an audible alarm. If you’re at risk of being mugged, you can carry a gun (well, in some places you can. Sorry, Chicagoans).

Accepting risks means you accept all the consequences of the risk coming to pass. This is best used when the risk is both highly improbable and rather inconsequential. It’s also sometimes necessary in combat. For example, the Navy SEAL element deployed as a reconnaissance and surveillance patrol on Operation Red Wings went in accepting the risk that if they were compromised, they were in deep doo-doo. They addressed that risk also, or tried to, with communications and backup. They also accepted the risk that if their QRF was interdicted (as it was, in the end), they were not just in deep doo-doo but in over their heads. As they were, in the end. But you have to accept some risks. If your risk analysis concludes you have avoided, addressed or transferred all the risks, there’s a high probability that you’re actually ignoring a risk you haven’t considered (see below).

Transferring risks is what happens when you fob a risk and its consequences off on another party. For example, GM with its faulty little Chevies transferred the risk to the motorists who bought one (or really, rented it, ’cause who buys those shitboxes?) The trial lawyers of America are salivating at the prospect of transferring the consequences of the risk back to GM.

Ignoring risks is the default position, and what it defaults to is unconsciously accepting the risk. This can take place by denying the risk, or recognizing it but trying to keep it secret (“security through obscurity.”) While obscurity can add an additional veil to any security posture, it’s far too weak to depend upon as a stand-alone method.

This book illustrates how almost any literature on safety and security has something you can take away from it for your own personal purposes. Much of the book is specific to hardening your network protocol stack against bad actors, protecting against spoofing, tampering, repudiation, information-disclosure, denial-of-service, and elevation-of-privilege threats (the STRIDE that network security weenies worry about). Some of those things have zero application to meatworld. But those that do, do, and reading outside your own comfort zone, or at least outside your area of greatest familiarity, can often kick free some unexpected ideas. Another concept from the book that might be a good example of something transferable to protecting you and yours, is the elaboration on the use of Bruce Schneier’s concept of attack trees in Chapter 4. That’s a post for another day, and Shostack’s discussion (and Schneier’s) are probably too academic for the individual looking to protect his family, home or business. But it’s an example of what you can find when you look beyond the bookshelf at Gun-Mart.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Wenger’s Defensive Use of Firearms

wengers_defensive_use_of_firearmsGraphically, this website is all over 1998, which is the year it first stood up. But the information contained within Stephen P. Wenger’s “Defensive Use of Firearms” website spans many decades, from 1950s FBI instructional videos on “point shooting” to some of the latest debates in the defense training community. (Well, in truth, a lot of the “latest debates” are the same old debates with a new coat of paint).

Wenger was a professional pistol and self-defense instructor from 1991 until 2011 — 20 years, a career in anyone’s book. Retired now, he keeps up the website and has written a book to give his ideas on armed self-defense a second life with the reading public.

This website was created in response to the frustration that I had with much of what I had been reading in gun magazines and some of what I saw being taught as defensive firearms training.

It presents some general points as well as some of the controversial topics in the defensive use of firearms. The Naked Emperor page was originally devoted mostly to differences in interpretation that I may have with other instructors or writers. Over time, it has become more of a catch-all for all the short articles I am inspired to write from time to time.

The Street vs. Games page was a late addition that deals with a number of general issues that I have with a lot of what passes for self-defense training in many of the “shooting schools.”
I hope that this site facilitates your own evaluation of the issues. Unlike a book, a website is easy to modify and to update. This site should be viewed as a work in progress. Visitors are invited to check back periodically. The chart a few paragraphs down the page shows the dates of the latest updates to the various site pages. Any update will be listed as an update to this page as well as for any other page that has been updated.

Obviously my opinion will be discernible and I purport to furnish nothing more than my opinion on these pages. You can decide how well founded my beliefs and opinions are.

This website has grown as intended. During this time I have both developed and discontinued my own school and published a book – now in its second edition – on this subject.

via ~spwenger’s DEFENSIVE USE OF FIREARMS: The Site & Its Logo.

We like the website because of its committment to common sense and evidence rather than doctrine and conformity. And one part of that is the reason we like Wenger: he’s man enough to have changed his views many times.

We hope you find it as enjoyable and instructive as we did.

Two Divergent Views of 3D Printing

3d-printer-guide-0314-mdnBoth of these views have been hanging out there since January, but we’re just getting to them now.

First, the pro view. It’s “pro” in that it’s “in favor of,” but it’s also by an industry professional, Peter Zelinski, so it’s “pro” that way, too.

What will manufacturing look like once additive manufacturing is in more widespread use? DiSanto Technology, subject of this article, offers clues. 3D printing of metal components now accounts for a notable share of this firm’s production. If manufacturing in general is on its way to adopting additive processes to a similar extent, then the differences we see at DiSanto, along with other adopters of additive manufacturing for end-use parts, are suggestive of the shift we are likely to see in the very nature of part production.

How will manufacturing look different once additive production has matured? Here are some of the ways:

  1. Fewer employees.
  2. Office-like plants.
  3. Simple machining.
  4. Easy onshore/offshore.
  5. Super JIT.
  6. Super unattended.
  7. Tooling just for high volumes.

Note that these are just about how manufacturing will change, not how products will change; that’s a whole other rodeo. We remain excited about this technology, and can see literally thousands of applications, including applications to firearms engineering, manufacturing, and repair.

Zielinski posits a world where manufacturing has been changed radically by additive manufacturing technology. So does the con view, delivered by lapsed physician turned camera-chasing celebrity Rachel Armstrong, who emotes that “3D Printing will destroy the world!” in Architectural Review. The difference is that we want to live in his world, and Armstrong emphatically does not.

If 3-D printing does not fully take on this responsibility then the sustainability of our current highly ‘customised’ objects is likely to be under scrutiny, as the unit cost of printers falls and hobbyists make legions of white elephants out of toxic plastics and when our landfills are chock-a-block with yesterday’s badly made fashionable shapes.

Armstrong is, of course, at the other end of the spectrum from “industry pro,” and her Luddism seems to be a blend of Stuff White People Like and just plain snobbery. She complains about “pointless plastic products,” and “plastics, compounds that do not do well in ecosystems,” and “covert continents of particulate plastics,” indicating not much except that she does like alliteration very much, and dislikes plastics even more.

The ever-trendy, ever-buzzword-ready Armstrong makes an unsupported assertion that additive manufacturing will somehow contribute to that bugbear of the moment, “Climate Change.” And she argues that 3D printing is not a revolution unless it can “solve” that, which she defines as, “the fundamental issue of 21st-century materiality.” Materiality? Buzzword ahoy!

She hasn’t looked deeply into the processes or materials if she thinks it’s all plastic, and all nonrecyclable. But her real beef seems to be with allowing nonprofessionals the ability to design and make their own stuff, which offends her amour-propre as a spokesperson for the professionals (regardless of her training being in another profession entirely. If you’re on TV, your expertise is infinitely fungible).

In the end, it’s a birdbath-shallow analysis given the illusion of depth by carelessly-strewn neologisms. The fundamental point of Armstrong’s harangue, besides her usual main point which is promote the ego that is Rachel Armstrong, seems to be that people shouldn’t be allowed to 3D print without Rachel Armstrong’s approval. 

Scratch a soi-disant “thought leader,” find another boring fascist.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have electricity.

reddy_kilowatt_safety_club_buttonIn the world’s quest for perfect safety and security, did anyone remember to turn off the power and revert to the mid-19th Century?

KEENE, N.H. (AP) — Fire officials say a man has been electrocuted by a downed power line on property next to Keene State College Athletic Complex.

Fire Chief Mark Howard says firefighters and police responded to a Saturday afternoon call to the scene.

via Man electrocuted on New Hampshire college campus |

Of course, the occasional tragic fatalities in electricity accidents are clearly offset by the great benefits of electricity for everything from running the thermostats in your home HVAC to running a DNA sequencer in a pathology lab.

That didn’t stop Thomas Edison for fighting bitterly against AC power, ostensibly on “safety” grounds. Of course, like many who wrap themselves in a bloody shirt or claim the moral authority to speak “for the children,” and who trot out the specious idea that “if it saves one life, it’s worth it,” Edison stood to make unimaginable sums if the public rejected Nikola Tesla’s and George Westinghouse’s power-distribution scheme in favor of his own.

Here’s two versions of the Tesla vs. Edison thing. First, an infographic:

Edison vs Tesla

And a bit more lightheartedly, the epic rap battle:

Ironically, their companies wound up merged later on, rather like Curtiss and Wright who also fought an epic patent battle.

When someone says they’re doing it “for the children,” they’re usually doing it for money, power (not the electric kind), or both. When someone says, “if it saves one life,” he’s making an appeal to emotion (and bad economics). So always ask youself: Cui bono? Who gains? Cui plagialis? Who loses? You’d be surprised what this elementary analysis tells you about the real motives of the professedly virtuous.

Or maybe you wouldn’t.

The application of this concept to gun policy remains as an exercise for the reader.

How Spies are Made

This excellent true story from the FBI recounts the careful start and ugly end of an attempted foreign penetration of a US intelligence agency. It is well-produced and well-acted (somewhat unusual for government message films).

Glenn Shriver is a young man without much of a moral center. This leaves him easily manipulated by friendship and praise. The story is told in voice-over by the young actor playing him, until the credits roll at the end: then you see the actual Shriver, sitting handcuffed in a chair, explaining the consequences for him.

At the end, he doesn’t think he could have followed through and betrayed his country, but he acknowledged that he doesn’t know what he’d have done if (more realistically, when) they blackmailed him. The movie’s very well done, and you’ll see both how the pros grease the skids for someone’s descent into betrayal, and the exact point where the agent crosses over (it’s about 13 and a half minutes in). The movie does not compromise the sources and methods used to catch Shriver.

In the bad old KGB days (which, anybody working CI will tell you never really let up when it became the FSB), the case officer would set the hook by offering the would-be agent money to reimburse some expense or other, then having him sign. Cha-chinggg! Blackmail material, stored in his permanent file. They usually never had to take it out again, although some reluctant agents needed to be reminded it was there.

Nations will spy. As the Chinese spymasters note, the USA and China have many areas of cooperation and interrelations, and maintain generally friendly relations, despite occasionally divergent national interests. The same is true of the USA and Russia, Russia and China, and even nominal allies like the USA and Israel — sometimes our national interests are not congruent, and so every nation’s intelligence organs spy on every other to one extent or another. For the average person, it is usually a calamity to get caught up in this game.

It goes without saying that the same techniques are used by agent handlers of all nations and all causes. And in the end, part of being a case officer or agent handler is understanding that your agent is a pawn, however much you may like him, and in the end, he’s expendable. And how much can you really like a traitor?

The real-world Shriver was very, very lucky. The cooperation he provided landed him a very gentle plea-bargain with only four years imprisonment in lower-security Federal prisons. With good behavior, Inmate Number 44634-039 was released just before Christmas last year. But as he notes at the end of the film, he’s basically ruined for life by his own bad decisions. He’ll never hold a government job or a position of trust. He has a college degree, a knack for languages, and a command of Mandarin, so he’s one up on many ex-cons, but he’s still an ex-con, and it’s doubtful that the Chinese will give him a visa ever again, after the loss of face his case represents. (And if they do, what will they want from him?)

A Mess of Accidents, Police Edition

ND-shot-in-footWe haven’t done one of these in a while, and here’s one that’s a little more targeted than most: cops shooting people they didn’t intend to shoot, which is a bit of an epidemic right now. Police Mag has a category of negligent discharges (which they call “accidental,” because Thin Blue Line)  but hasn’t updated it since last year.

But, unfortunately, the police of America are updating the ND count this year at a breakneck rate. And while there may be some training lessons to be learned, the principal lesson seems to be “training is a good thing, and these guys ought to get some.”

Item: Detroit, 4 December 2013.

The date for the retrial of Detroit publicity-hound cop Joe Weekley came and went without comment in the local media. It may be the 2010 incident, in which Weekley shot 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in the head at point-blank range with a H&K MP5, is being swept under the rug. Jones’s family has been involved in crime, but since testifying against Weekley, who used to be featured on the A&E network, the family claims to have been subject to continued harassment. (Note: in a story on Aiyana’s father’s sentencing 18 April 14 for providing a murder weapon to another criminal, we see that Weekley’s retrial has been pushed all the way back to September). Jones’s mother, Mertilla Jones, was initially blamed by Weekley and other police and prosecutors for his ND, and arrested, but ultimately released. At Charles Jones’s sentencing, she bitterly complained that prosecutor Robert Moran didn’t “fight… hard for Aiyana.” Of course not. Even though he’s nominally the prosecutor, he’s on Weekley’s side.

Item: Bridgeport, CT, 11 Feb 2014.

This isn’t exactly news, but we’ve previously covered the case of Juan Santiago, a Bridgeport cop who broke a round in a donut shop while playing with his pistol December 17th. Correction, bagel shop. We regret the error. We have an update in this case thanks to the Connecticut News.

Bridgeport and Connecticut pro-gunners were outraged that Santiago who recklessly launched a bullet into a crowd (hitting no one but Santiago himself, proving that if you’re stupid, it’s better to be lucky than to be good), was not charged or punished while the Bridgeport PD landed with both feet on a mere citizen, Ken Sullivan, who committed an ND in the privacy of his home. Sullivan was charged with a string of felonies and misdemeanors, and the PD and prosecutor originally intended to let Santiago entirely off.

After two protest rallies at the Bridgeport PD HQ and a lot of negative media coverage, Santiago was charged with a single count of “unlawful discharge of a firearm,” a small subset of the charges facing Sullivan.

But hey, he’s back on the mean streets of Bridgeport. We bet the citizens feel more protected already.

(Update: thanks to GBS in the comments, a video of crack, trained police firearms usage).

Item: Denver, 30 March 2014.

Can't have half-trained cops mistaking light switch for bang switch. Denver PD.

Can’t have half-trained cops mistaking light switch for bang switch. Denver PD.

Two Denver cops in a week broke rounds negligently, one of them wounding an innocent citizen, but Police Chief Robert White (a political appointee, naturally, and fiercely anti-gun for you) has an explanation: it’s the flashlight that made him do it. A Denver Post story explains the latest:

The latest incident happened Sunday night near the intersection of South Federal Boulevard and West Alameda Avenue. An officer chasing several car-theft suspects unintentionally fired his gun before taking one adult and three juveniles into custody. No one was hit.

And the even worse preceding incident:

That incident came less than a week after another in which an officer’s gun accidentally went off while he was chasing a man suspected of a probation violation. A bystander was wounded in that incident, though it remains unclear whether she was grazed by the bullet or debris from its impact.

(Is it just us, or does everybody, reading the Post’s shallow reportage, miss the Rocky Mountain News?)

Last year, Denver cops broke at least three negligent discharges that produced negligible discipline (written reprimands and one four-day suspension). And the banning of SureFire weapon lights, and any lights with a pressure switch on the pistol’s front strap.

Item: Riverside, CA, 16 April 2014.

A Riverside County deputy, terrified by a barking pit bull named “Precious,” that was actually on the other side of a chain-link fencem pulled his firearm — and shot himself in the right knee (warning, autoplay video).

Some assclown from the Sheriff’s Department says he fired in self defense. “Large pit bull breed dog attacked the deputy. In defense of himself, he shot, he fired one round at the dog, and inadvertently struck himself in the leg.” This was the result of the usual momentary investigation of a police negligent discharge.

The video at the link does show them loading Officer Tough Guy, complete with scowl and Oakleys, into an ambulance. Animal Control declined to seize the dog, which is seen in a video (at the link) playing with little kids.

Item: Farmington, UT, 17 April 2014.

The mystery of the missing M-16, that shut down DOD resource-sharing with Utah police for a month, has been solved. The stray assault rifle turned up in a policeman’s personal gun safe, where he’d placed the department-owned weapon in 2006, and promptly forgot about it. (In his defense, he’s a reserve soldier who then deployed overseas). But hey, at least this guy didn’t shoot anybody, which puts him miles ahead of some of his brother officers here. Despite that good news, his superiors seemed to be taking a dim view of his firearms inventory practices.

Item: Raritan Township, NJ, 17 April 2014.

A police officer from Flemington Borough, a city at the center of, and contained entirely within the borders of, Raritan, shot himself while parked at a take-out foot joint. Police and EMS swarmed the area, and removed him to the hospital with non-life-threatening wounds. They close the strip mall for hours “investigating”. (Really, what’s to investigate? Dude shot himself. Fire him. Case closed).

A Flemington police officer was wounded this afternoon when his service weapon accidentally discharged inside a parked police vehicle, authorities said.

The officer, whose name is being withheld, suffered a non-life-threatening injury and was taken to the hospital in stable condition, the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office and borough police said in a statement.

Police and emergency personnel responded about 2:45 p.m. to a parking lot on South Main Street in Raritan Township, authorities said. It was in the area of Cook to Order, a restaurant at 299 S. Main St.

It appears the officer, who was on duty at the time, was inside a parked police vehicle when his service weapon went off, authorities said.

via Flemington police officer wounded when gun accidentally discharges in vehicle, authorities say | Second news story:

It’s interesting to see how, when it’s cop ineptitude that leads to a negligent discharge, the PD bends over backwards not to criticize Officer Butterfingers, and the press just picks that up, using the passive voice. He didn’t “shoot himself,” at least as far as this news story goes; he only did that in the real world. Instead, “his service weapon accidentally discharged inside a parked police vehicle” and he “was inside a parked police vehicle when his service weapon went off.”

You’d think they do that all the time. You ever have one “just go off?” Us neither. While we didn’t find Flemington PD’s website in a cursory search, a page on Raritan’s reminds us what hoops a New Jersey subject has to jump through to purchase a handgun, which he then can’t carry under just about any circumstances, because he hasn’t got the eee-leet skills of Butterfingers here.

UPDATE: Flemington’s page (home page) has an even more threatening and draconian anti-gun web page. So it’s a case of a guy from an anti-gun extremist department wounding himself in a negligent discharge. Righteous, that.

In a follow-up the next day, the local prosecutor, who still hadn’t talked to Butterfingers, gave him a good wrapping of Thin Blue Line. He refused to name him, noted he was with a second officer (who also is a member of the Secret Police, going unnamed) and wouldn’t characterize the shooting as accidentally self-inflicted, but did say, “It all involved the officer (who was shot), no one else. It is limited to this officer.”

Ah, if it only were.


Who Peed in their Post Toasties?

What’s the right reaction to some punk piddling in a reservoir? Here’s the evidence of the evil deed:


Take a moment to consider your answer, and write it down to keep yourself honest. It should have two parts: what to do about the kid, and what to do about the reservoir. When you’ve considered your answer, have a look at how the granola-propelled Poindexters of Portland answered this question IRL (that’s “in real life,” for those of you who have a real life and have thereby fallen behind on internacronyms).

The city of Portland, OR will empty a 38-million gallon reservoir after a teenager allegedly urinated in it,according to the Associated Press. It’s the second time in three years that Portland is flushing its Mount Tabor reservoir after a urine-related incident.

The reservoir is open-air and sits exposed to all of nature, leading many parties to question how necessary a draining would be, or how polluted 38 million gallons of water can really be by a single man’s urine.

David Shaff, Portland’s water bureau administrator, reserves a special disgust specifically for human urine. In 2011, when Shaff drained the reservoir following a urination, he reasoned to the Portland Mercury, “Do you want to be drinking someone’s pee?… There’s probably no regulation that says I have to be doing it but, again, who wants to be drinking pee?” This time around, Shaff wrote in a statement, “Our customers have an expectation that their water is not deliberately contaminated.”

OK, nobody wants to know there’s any amount of piss in his tap water, but (1) urine is a solution of salts and chemicals, and is generally sterile; and (2) the amount in question is about 3 parts per billion, less than a third of the level that rises to concern EPA.

Oh, wait, that’s less than a third of the level of arsenic that would get EPA’s attention. They don’t have a threshold for micturate.

As wise men have noted, “the solution to pollution is dilution.” To be concerned about this amount, you’d have to be one of the nut jobs who believes fervently in homeopathy.

And who — oh, wait. Portland. Disregard.

So, they are certainly within their rights to be concerned about urine in the reservoir. We mean, apart from the pee from the fish, who can’t exactly evolve legs and use the porta-potty. So the fish pee in the water. The birds, bears, and Bigfoot all have been known to take “the pause that refreshes” alongside the sparkling reservoir.

Well, maybe not Bigfoot. Although it is Portland, so maybe. But that’s OK, it’s “all natural.”

Isn’t arsenic all natural?

Shut up, Portland explains. And what about the various things that, as we have all seen on the Discovery channel, crawl towards the water hole with their dying breath, only to be recommitted to the food chain at a lower level?

By now you should be able to predict the answer. Those are “all natural” too! Perfectly OK, unlike a quart of human whiz.

[T]he teenager in question, Dallas Swonger… also contested the cleanliness of the reservoir prior to his actions: “I’ve seen dead birds in there. During the summer time I’ve see hella dead animals in there,” Swonger told Vocativ. In 2011, Shaff told the Mercury that the reservoir is not shut down for nature’s transgressions. “If we did that, we’d be shutting it off all the time. We fish out animals or things that have blown in all the time,” Shaff said.

Got that? In Portland, they’ll make sure you never drink a homeopathic solution of human urine. But a homeopathic solution of diseased, deceased, decomposed seagull? That’s A-OK.

Going through life whining to be protected doesn’t work, even on things that really ought to frighten you. Lord love a duck. Which is probably pissing in the Mount Tabor reservoir even as you read this.