Author Archives: Hognose

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

Can’t Billions Buy Better Bullshit?

Kyle Stock (l) and Michael Bloomberg (r).

Kyle Stock (l) and Michael Bloomberg (r).

Back last summer, Bloomberg propagandist Kyle Stock crowed that “Gun Sales are Down.” And it’s true that they were — relative to 2013. A year further on they’re still higher, than 2012.

Stock’s deliberate misrepresentation of the data is worth a little study, because it’s how propagandists work. In this case, he uses NSSF data and a redrawn NSSF graph, but mislabels the NSSF adjustment (whatever force is strong in this one, it’s not the force of integrity).

Coming off a year of record sales, the gun market is cooling off. And overeager gunmakers are still struggling to dial down their expectations.

In the recent quarter, Smith & Wesson (SWHC) sales dropped 23 percent, to $131.9 million, and profit plunged 45 percent, to $14.6 million, according to a report late yesterday. Long guns and “modern sporting rifles,” in particular, lost favor among shooters, but handguns cooled off as well. Smith & Wesson shares slumped almost 15 percent on the news.

Stock, in his ignorance of the industry and determination to score propaganda points for his wealthy lord, is jumbling several different kinds of data. NSSF adjusted background checks are a proxy, albeit an imperfect one, for unit volume. The imperfection is not just in the things that NSSF takes out of the data, like one state’s weird habit of running NICS checks monthly on every concealed carry license holder, and other non-sales-related checks, but also in that you can buy many guns on one NICS check. Our own last five NICS checks were for (1) four collector pistols bought at once at auction; (2)  four AR-15 prototype receiver sets, (3) two AK receivers with parts kits, (4) six assorted lower receivers, and (5) three WWII weapons, including an NFA weapon. Here’s the equation: 5 NICS = 19 Firearms transferred. So we don’t know what the average multiplier on a NICS check is, but we know that, shorn of the non-sales transactions NSSF tries to adjust out, it is some value greater than 1. (Probably 1 decimal something small, because most transactions are still a single gun, but we don’t know, do we?). We also don’t know if that multiplier itself displays a secular trend, and if so, in what direction. So all NICS can be is a loose, longitudinal proxy for sales. Not much use as an absolute number, but useful for year-over-year comparisons.

To violate what we just said about the inutility of the absolute numbers, we note that the 2015 pace, if it is sustained all year, will still produce a near-record of over 20,000,000 NICS checks (our loose, longitudinal proxy for sales). NICS checks have nearly doubled in the last five years. However, over many years (NICS data back to 1998 is available) the sales in the second half-year always exceed the first half. There are doldrums in the summer and in February, and the peak is invariably December, with November a close second. Something happens in December in America, wherein guns are common gifts: it’s probably not fair to expect a Bloomberg hireling in New York City to understand this source of seasonality in the data.

The next data point he uses, which is not connected to unit sales, particularly, is stock price. Stock prices rise and fall based on firm performance, relative to market expectations. Journalists, who tend to be both narrowly and shallowly educated in storytelling alone, and to suffer from innumeracy, never seem to grasp this. So the market (somewhat unreasonably)  expected that the feverish 2013 sales pace would continue, while everyone in the industry knew that the years of every-month-up-over-the-previous-year had to end sometime.

Sturm Ruger (RGR), another force in the industry, had similarly weak numbers at the end of July. Sales for Sturm dropped 13.4 percent, to $153 million, in the latest quarter, while profit slid by almost one-third, to $22.3 million.

Ruger and Smith are not the only “forces in the industry” — but they are the only publicly held companies, at least pending ATK’s spinoff of its sporting wing. So, as we all do, Kyle Stock is arguing from a very limited data set — privately held firms file no 10-Ks. The returns of Smith and Ruger are, necessarily, a second set of loose, longitudinal proxies for a complex and variegated industry. But note that he didn’t mention Ruger’s stock price’s doings. That’s because, unlike Smith, it has a long secular upward trend. If you’ve followed the stocks for years and understand the market a little (rather than, say, being a shallow journalist who skims until he fastens on a point he can slot into The Narrative®), you know that Smith is a much more volatile stock than Ruger (the standard deviation over a period is a measure of volatility, and Smith’s is much higher). So when Smith soars, it soars high; when it takes on on the chin, it goes all the way to the mat before getting back up.

The problem, according to both companies, is too many guns. Executives are grousing about “high inventory,” stubborn retail partners, and a glut of guns in such stores as Cabela’s. They are less eager to acknowledge that high inventory in any business comes from only two places: low demand and/or too much supply.

There have been many new entrants in some segments of the gun market. This is a common thing to see in a market segment where barriers to entry are moderate (meaning, it’s easier to go into business making guns than making cars, or airplanes, or pharmaceuticals): high profitability induces new entrants.

This week, Smith & Wesson’s chief executive, James Debney, went so far as to suggest that stores were just clogged up with the wrong guns—an “unfavorable mix” of “lesser brands and hard to sell products.” Sturm Ruger, meanwhile, took a similar tact, blaming itself for not producing enough cool new firearms.

Again, Stock is a paid propagandist for a billionaire. His mind, his soul, and most of all, his pen are for sale. His education and training are entirely in the use of words: to express ideas, to suppress ideas, to sway emotions. He is, if anyone is, supposed to be able to use the sailing-derived noun tack in a figurative sense for a change of direction without the amateurish error of using the mistaken noun tact in place of tack — if his education hadn’t been shallow and full of holes.

What the industry really needs is a few lawmakers advocating a gun-control bill. That’s what pushed the gun business to record highs last year in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings.

Whistling past the graveyard of his master’s gun control dreams, that last bit. Do gun-ban attempts drive sales? To some extent, yes, in three ways.

  1. Ban attempts pull sales forward, by providing an impetus for sales now that would have happened sooner or later anyway. A lot of these sales go to people already into guns who wanted another one, or always wanted an AR-15, and that kind of thing. You probably have friends in this category.
  2. Ban attempts bring fence-sitters off the fence. This includes both Fudds who were eyeing the modern sporting and defense gun market with curiosity, and people who were entirely outside the gun culture, looking in.
  3. By bringing new people into armed self-defense, or into gun sports or hobbies, ban attempts permanently raise sales levels. Some percentage of these people who weren’t engaged before become repeat customers.

So yes, there’s a spike, and the part that has Stock mumbling around his mouthful of Bloomberg reproductive tackle, is that a spike by definition subsides. But it subsides to a new, higher, level. This same thing will happen every time the Boston-Manhattan-DC-Chicago-LA anti-gun Axis pushes citizen disarmament.

Those fears, however, have largely abated, and gun sales have gone with them. Even reports of ammunition shortages are dying off.

via Gun Sales Are Down – Bloomberg Businessweek. (This has also appeared under the headline “People aren’t buying guns,” but it’s the same article, repop’d to double the propaganda value).

That’s what Stock was told to write, and that’s what he wrote, but what we’re seeing in 2015 and saw in 2014 is not some regression to the mean over the last 20 years, but a regression from the record year of 2013 to a level about equal with (and so far, ahead of) the previous record year, 2012. You’ll never see that under Stock’s byline, because it’s not what his sugar daddy hired him to say.

Stock floated this same concept before, in November, 2013, by misrepresenting NICS data then.  Now there’s a bigger push to get the story out in Bloomberg’s media empire.

Bloomberg has his hirelings hot on this meme. For example, just in the last week, he has them grinding out:

Note well these bylines (and the editors, who are named at some of the links), and add Bloomberg chief anti-gun writer flunky Paul Barrett to the list. This is the propaganda team.

The appearance of all these variations of the same propaganda theme on Bloomberg-controlled media is no accident. But this concerted and centrally-directed propaganda campaign has a credibility problem: propaganda is only effective if it is wrapped around a truthful or at least plausible armature, and this one isn’t. Gun sales have subsided only to a new, higher level than the status quo ante. Will it be a hard time to be in the market with an undifferentiated, me-too product? Sure, but the last couple years, when even such a product would sell out, were anomalous. But a solid percentage of all those new shooters who bought a new gun over the two years of Bloomberg’s latest anti-gun jihad are just about due for another gun. The record of 2013 may not fall this year, but it will fall, and it will fall whether or not Bloomberg redoubles his paid, astroturf attacks. He can leave it alone and lose, or he can push harder and lose faster.

Now, there are network effects to consider. More people, who know more people, now own, carry, and shoot guns. As many as half the 20 million guns sold since Bloomberg renewed his ban efforts went to new shooters or gun owners. Each person’s social network expands the pool of people who know normal, sane people who rely on guns for defense or enjoy them for sport. Legitimate gun use for self-defense is even creeping in to the popular culture. The fastest-growing segments of the market are women and minorities, who are realizing that their belief in government authority’s duty to protect them was misplaced.

This is the best bullshit billions can buy, and really, it’s not that good. So, Bloomberg can keep squandering his money on these quasi-literate hacks from The Best Schools®, at any rate he desires. Attack us desultorily, our victory draws closer. Attack us furiously, our victory draws closer, faster.

In Any Colt Bankruptcy, its Patents are Already Gone.

In the long-running serial of financial peril that is the Colt Defense story, a midnight discovery by commenter Daniel E. Watters:

I just happened to take a look at one of Colt’s patents and noticed that it has been assigned to Cortland Capital, the folks who bailed them out in February. Further research shows that this is true across the board for the active patents and patent applications.https://www.google.com/search?tbm=pts&hl=en&q=%22CORTLAND+CAPITAL%22#hl=en&tbs=sbd:1&tbm=pts&q=%22CORTLAND+CAPITAL%22+colt

Daniel is best known for his indispensable 5.56 timeline at the Gun Zone, but he has been a persistent researcher of the Colt financial drama. In this case, he is right on. Colt’s patents are gone, they technically are no longer property of Colt Defense LLC; and they won’t be, unless Colt repays the loan. And this is nothing new: since 2006 Colt has been mortgaging

We’re not referring, of course, to Colt’s historic patents, like this 1836 revolver patent, which have long since lapsed.

Screenshot 2015-05-23 14.00.51

 

We’re talking about its current patents, like this frequently-cited 2005 modular firearm patent. As that link shows, it, and its brethren, have at one time or another been the property of a who’s who of New York banking interests: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase. And in recent years, less-established banks, the sort that make riskier loans, culminating a couple of years ago with Cortland Capital, whose latest loan of $33M came with a 10% interest tab.

This interesting 2010 patent for a mechanically-selectable, electrically-adjustable rate of fire for an AR-15 type weapon was first assigned to Cortland in 2013. (The logic chart below seems to be missing something, to wit, a FIRE step, but that’s what’s in the patent).

Colt electric rate of fire patent US08336438

Other patents show similar assignments. In the next set of loans after their granting, they’ve been used as collateral.

It’s unknown if the current patents are producing any royalty income for Colt. If so, it doesn’t show up on their SEC forms.

Of course, the finance companies do not want to exploit the patents; they just want security for their loans, and winding up holding the patents in lieu of principal and interest is not their preferred outcome. They’re in the money racket, not the gun racket.

But if Colt defaults on its Cortland loan, Cortland winds up holding a bag of patents (and any other security Colt pledged) rather than its money. In such as case, they might be able to charge Colt royalties for using these inventions of its employees and former employees. If Colt production continues. Or resumes. Most likely, they would try to sell the patents.

The patents are one of the true stores of value in Colt Defense LLC, but they have been mortgaged as part of the financial looting monetization of the company that the last several rounds of owners have undertaken. The company’s trademarks are also a highly valuable asset. One wonders if they, too, have been mortgaged.

When the $33M loan was announced in February, Colt only described it as “secured,” not indicating that it was secured with Colt’s patents, but the evidence was always there in the financial section of the US Patent and Trademark Office records, just waiting for Daniel to find it.

We still consider a resolution of the financial crisis on either of the terms preferred by the Colt managers extremely unlikely. (Those terms are a refinancing of defaulted bonds, or a prepackaged bankruptcy that accrues primarily to the benefit of the hedge-fund owners and managers). That means that what is likely is probably a non-prepack bankruptcy.

It seems unlikely that the firm could make a credible proposal for continuing in Chapter 11 reorganization, but it is possible. A more likely outcome is a Chapter 7 liquidation, which may result in a court-ordered sale of the entire assets, or a cannibalization of the company.

The clock is ticking on this 150-year-old company, and on firearms manufacture in Hartford (any new owner will have small reason to retain the overpriced workforce, expensive and underproductive facility, and hostile political/economic business climate that come with the present location).

When Defensive and Offensive get Out of Balance

There have been weapons since time immemorial that combine defensive and offensive capabilities. Think of a siege tower from the days of ancient and medieval warfare. It combined offensive capability (delivering infantry to a fortress wall) with defensive (keeping the slings and arrows of outrageous defenders off the infantry until the ramp dropped).

The two classic 20th-century examples are the main battle tank and the dreadnought-type battleship. Both of them had main guns in turrets, and armor to protect against enemy weapons with analogous power.

All this armament and armor dictates a certain size, weight, and (always a sticking point in peacetime) expense. These in turn impose limitations: they can only go some places, they are vulnerable to an attack of the pinpricks (infantry, torpedo boats), and you can only build a finite number of them. So naturally, throughout history, very intelligent men have looked at how to tackle the problems of size, weight and expense.

One of the recurring ideas has been to short one side or other of the arms/armor balance. To go heavy on armor at the cost of offensive capability is relatively rare, but the Israeli Merkava MBT is an example. It was driven by the uniquely Israeli situation, where the loss of tanks threatens the nation less than the loss of crews.

The more common approach is to limit armor to the benefit of offensive armament. This approach occurs over and over in history, and it often seems to work, until the thin-skinned ship or vehicle goes nose-to-nose with one built to the balanced plan. Let’s look at two examples of gunnery/armor imbalance.

The Naval Version: Battlecruiser

On the naval side of this equation, the fate of the battlecruisers is instructive. In the 20th Century, close-range naval battle became rarer (due to the proliferation of very deadly torpedoes, which forced opposing fleets to fight at arm’s length).

Battlecruisers were armed like battleships with big guns of one foot or more caliber (12″+), but armored more like cruisers (some British battlecruisers had only 3″ of armor; 6″ was more common, but not much against battleship armament). This made them: very fast; theoretically economical for treasuries to buy (in practice, those economies did not appear); and great for projecting prestige and power in peacetime.

The battlecruisers’ first combat test was in the WWI Battle of Heligoland Bight, where British battlecruisers emerged victorious — after fighting only German cruisers. The lesson was little more than 12 >6. Again, battlecruisers beat cruisers at the Battle of the Falkland Islands. In the 1915 Battle of Dogger Bank, the vulnerability of the battlecruisers was first exposed. The German battlecruiser SMS Seydlitz got nailed by its British opposite number, HMS Lion, and Seydlitz survived only because a hero, petty officer Wilhelm Heitkamp, flooded burning magazines at the cost of terrible wounds. (Lion, too, was damaged).

HMS Lion (l., under fire) and HMS Queen Mary (r., having exploded) at Jutland.

HMS Lion (l., under fire) and HMS Queen Mary (r., having exploded) at Jutland.

In the war’s great battleship contest, Jutland in May 1916, battlecruisers failed spectacularly. German gunnery (always the strong suit of the Germans) found the range of three ships and blew the hell out of them. (The British had also tried to make up for slower gun-drill than their enemy by stacking lots of charges and shells in turrets and barbettes. Bad decision).

A shell from Lützow hit Q turret of Lion, which was packed with ready ammunition. Front armor upgraded to 9", but top armor was only 3.5".

A shell from Lützow hit Q turret of Lion, which was packed with ready ammunition. Front armor upgraded to 9″, but top armor was only 3.5″. Lion survived unlike the other Battlecruisers because the aft magazines had already been flooded when Q Turret blew.

Invincible, Indefatigable, and Queen Mary went up in explosions, with over 1,000 dead on each, and it was Lion’s turn to survive only because a hero, Maj. Harvey, RM, flooded burning magazines at the cost of terrible wounds. The German battlecruisers suffered one lost (Lützow) and four, including the hard-luck Seydlitz, almost destroyed.

Other nations’ battlecruisers, notably the Germans, didn’t fare especially well, either.  but the Germans had many other naval problems beyond ship design.  The Japanese, after Jutland, learned from the British Jutland experience and rebuilt their battlecruisers with more armor, declaring them battleships. The Royal Navy, for whatever reason, didn’t.

In World War Ii, the British battlecruisers similarly had a tough time. HMS Hood was felled by a magazine explosion reminiscent of Jutland when facing an unequal fight with DKM Bismarck in 1941; over 1,400 British officers and men perished, only 3 survived. HMS Repulse was lost in action with Japanese aircraft on 10 Dec 41; the battlecruiser speed helped her dodge dozens of torpedoes, but waves of Japanese torpedo bombers just kept coming. HMS Renown was the sole survivor of British battlecruisers; she had been brought to action only once, indecisively, early in the war.

Hood was one of very few battlecruisers initially commissioned after Jutland. After World War II, aircraft and torpedoes strangled the development of gun-armed capital ships, and no one ever built a battlecruiser again. They were well armed, but poorly armored, and they attracted the same enemy attention as a well-armored battleship. It was not conducive to long life and health, and the thousands of sailors who perished on these ships give mute testimony to that fact.

Recent underwater archaeology has found that the battlecruisers of Jutland settled to the bottom in two large parts (fore and aft) with a debris field between. HMS Hood, on the other hand, was fragmented. Like all battlecruisers, it was a middleweight in the heavyweight ring.

The Army Version: Tank Destroyer

US Army Tank Destroyer patch, never official but very widespread.

US Army Tank Destroyer patch, never official but very widespread.

Most of the armies of World War II fielded Tank Destroyers. There were several ways to construct them, but the general idea was a very powerful anti-tank gun in a lightly armored carriage. The Russians and Germans also used multipurpose assault guns with a limited traverse, but typical period-MBT level armor. (Remember that during this period, tank armor and armament were both increasing rapidly). But Tank Destroyers were made to fight tanks.

One thing driving their creation was lower cost than a turreted tank.

The US was unique in making turreted, lightly armored TDs. The US M10, M18 and M36 tank destroyers dispensed with overhead armor and put the gun crews in an open-top turret. This was still a big improvement on the previous tank destroyer, a 75mm gun on a barely-armored White halftrack.

M18_hellcat_side

M18 Hellcat “Gun Motor Carriage” — potent, but lightly armed, its automotive technology would underpin American light armored vehicles for decades, even as the Tank Destroyer concept faded.

Tank Destroyers, despite the name, were very vulnerable in open combat with tanks. They were effective only when ambushing enemy tanks. US tank destroyer theory from before the US entry into World War II was almost completely overthrown by war’s end, with most American tank officers agreeing with their European counterparts that the best counter to a tank was a tank.

In the last half of the 20th Century, the Soviet Union used a tank concept that was similar in some ways to a United States tank destroyer, sacrificing some protection for greater mobility, although in the form of a conventional, rear-engined, 360-degree-armored MBT. There were sensible reasons for this: in Western Europe, where the Soviets expected to fight, there were many rivers, bridges and cities constricting travel, and a narrow, light tank was better suited to offensive warfare than the hulking monsters preferred by NATO forces, who expected to start out, at least, on the defensive. To the benefit of the generations that would have been military age at the time, that war was never fought, although Desert Storm exposed some of the weaknesses of Soviet tank design. They were, as cleverly designed and innovative as they were, well-armed middleweights, stepping into the heavyweight ring.

As a result, they lost most places they fought, even when the crews fought like lions (like the Syrians in Golan, for example).

The Battle of Debecka Pass illustrates the weakness of this design fairly well. An Iraqi motorized rifle company, with a tank platoon in support, encountered a Kurdish Pesh Merga company minus, reinforced with a Special Forces ODA and ODB. Using the Raytheon Javelin missile that attacks the top of armored vehicles, the SF men, engaging from outside the accurate range of the tanks’ main guns, destroyed ten of the Iraqi vehicles (2 tanks and 8 APCs), killing the tank crews and some of the APC crews and dismounts, and forcing the surviving vehicles into retreat. The one-sidedness of the battle is evident in that there were no USSF and very few Pesh casualties.

The new Russian Armata T-14 tank, about which we’ve been meaning to write for a while, shows a new level of attention to protection for a Russian design, a tank that is better balanced between arm and armor than any of its ancestors since the legendary T-34. One wonders if the fate of the Iraqis who trusted their tank armor at Debecka factored into that Russian decision. Of course, we won’t know until they hang one out where somebody can shoot it with a Javelin. But the overall lesson of history seems to be that combat rewards a balance of strengths more often than it rewards making deliberately out-of-balance designs.

Lesson Learned

Don’t be a middleweight in the heavyweight ring.

Layers and Layers of Editors: the Bike Gang edition

newspaper-fishwrapSure enough, a few days after a gang shootout along comes the media with the other side of the story.

First, there’s USA Today (link is to a TV station’s reprint) with the risible headline: Gun violence rare for outlaw motorcycle gangs.

They mean, of course, apart from the 9 dead, 16 wounded, and 192 others charged with, “Capital organized crime resulting in death,” from Waco. OK, apart from that small deviation, let’s call that the biker non-violence null hypothesis and put it to the test.

This link will search Google for “motorcycle gang murder” and exclude results that mention “Waco.”

https://www.google.com/search?&q=motorcycle+gang+murder+-Waco

Hmm. 6.7 million, uh, hits. No pun intended. The first page of results are clearly all examples of bikers committing murder, being charged with murder, being convicted of murder, all usually of rival bikers, or of being murdered, again, usually by rival bikers. While there’s the occasional stabbing and bludgeoning, it seems from the Google hits that the preferred tool of kinetic social ostracism in Biker World is a firearm, to wit, a handgun.

Who new? Not your media pro-fessionals, evidently. Seems like gunplay is not novel to that misunderstood minority, motorcycle-Americans, after all. No matter what the layers and layers of layabouts at USA Today think.

So, on to the next example: “The Bikers’ Side of the Story,” from the Washington Weekly News (we’re not sure whether this is an “alternative paper,” or just a website full of bullshit — if there’s really any difference).

According to this website, what really went down was something like this: Dere we was, minding our own business and doin’ a little Alternative Dispute Resolution wit’ knives, nunchucks and brass knuckles, when the cops up an’ started shootin’. For no reason.

His source? Another website — by a biker who happens not to be in jail.

We’d believe the press is interested in “the other side of the story” if someday they stopped running stories in the format of:

In This Corner, our Preferred Narrative, 

versus

In That Corner, the Most Retarded Strawman We Can Imagine Standing in For Our Opponents.

You can tell when they’re lying. Their lips move.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Pools

Drowning_Man_by_JanooshA child, a pool, a desperate attempt at CPR.

A happy family vacation turned inescapably tragic. The pool was aboard a cruise ship.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it is investigating the death of a 10-year-old girl who drowned in a pool aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship off the Carolinas.
The girl died Sunday afternoon aboard the Norwegian Gem about 75 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Littlejohn told The Associated Press.
Littlejohn said ship’s officials reported the drowning and sailed to Port Canaveral, Florida, arriving Monday. He didn’t identify the child or give further details.
The ship’s medical team answered an emergency call from the pool deck Sunday and administered CPR and other care, but couldn’t revive the girl, said Vanessa Picariello, a spokeswoman for Miami-based Norwegian Cruise lines, in an emailed statement.

via Girl, 10, Drowns in Pool Aboard Cruise Ship: Coast Guard | NBC Connecticut.

That whole family will never be the same again. There will be recriminations, even if they’re unspoken, and a million what ifs. 

The hospitality crew on Caribbean cruise liners tend to be cheery islanders from places like Jamaica, the DR, or Trinidad; this will cast a pall over what is, for them, a good job that they enjoy.

No one suggests banning pools, or cruise ships. (Well, no doubt someone does, but we sane people don’t usually take them seriously). No one raves about what we should do for the children. The answer is, as Napoleon is said to have said of the important things in war, “very simple, but very difficult.” You have to watch out for your own children, and to the extent you can, for others’ children; yet you have to give them scope to grow and learn or you stunt them morally and mentally.

Encapsulate them in safety, and they become those crippled, crabbed souls who howl for state power to swing its ban-hammer with abandon.

The human condition includes the fragility of a thin-skinned, mostly hairless, air-breathing warm-blooded species. Life is a precious gift; it can blow at any seam. It is inevitable that some accursed family will feel the unfair and undeserved sting of early death, stripping them of a child full of bright potential and leaving an aching gap where the lost one was once warmed by the family’s love. Sometimes, it’s not anybody’s fault, a concept foreign to news writers with their handicapped, stunted worldview, one that must turn everything into a story with a hero and a villain, with a climax and a denouement and, of course, a moral. 

Sometimes the moral is this: a child is dead, and there is nothing to be done but to share the family’s grief and, perhaps, the dim but eternal light of faith that shines through the deep.

Even the small, cold, hard, faithless black hearts of newsmen can see that. At least when they can’t use the poor deceased waif to score points against their chosen enemies.

Of Scrounging and Dope Deals

A key character in the Robin Moore novel, and John Wayne movie loosely based on it, The Green Berets, was Peterson, the Scrounger. It’s very clear even in the movie that in SF culture, a Scrounger was a capitalized title. Now, the movie has numerous Hollywood departures from the real world of SF service in Vietnam, but the novel and script were based on immersion in period SF culture. One of the numerous things it got right was the degree to which Group in general and a deployed ODA in particular valued a talented, inspired Scrounger.

Now a very narrow reading of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (and before that, the Manual for Courts-Martial the UCMJ replaced) would probably define Scrounger as a variety of high crimes and misdemeanors, or UCMJ articles, not to mention the all-purpose judicial catch-all of Conduct Unbecoming. But what scrounging did, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, and back in garrison, is even out some of the unevenness in military logistics.

The military quartermaster effort is amazing. But it’s also centrally planned, like the Soviet economy. And like the Soviet economy, the key information gets bottled up and doesn’t make it to the far-away decision-makers. So you have a bunch of Seabees sitting on a large quantity of pierced-steel planking and other engineering materials, while the A-Camps are trying to dig bunkers in sand, sometimes under enemy shelling. (Can you say Katum? Ka-BOOM? WhirrrrrrrrrrrrrKABLANG! We knew you could). So naturally, an army of Petersons fanned out across Vietnam, Afghanistan, you name it.

One of the best scrounge jobs happened in the early days of the Afghan war, when the teams on the ground were very hard up for vehicles. We don’t say “scrounging” any more, but Peterson would recognize the horsetrading we now call a “dope deal.” Some Toyota pickups were acquired by another agency and dope-dealed to us, but not enough to make our guys mobile. And we couldn’t rely on aircraft: in SF, we didn’t have our own any more, because we’d given them up to TF 160 back in 1980-something, in return for a pledge not to spritz in of undying support. That pledge was meaningless, as even though they were perfectly willing to support us, they were tasked to a variety of JSOC missions that mostly had them standing by waiting for the call that intel had found some worthy Tier 1 Supervillain’s mountaintop lair. The call seldom came, but the MH’s had to sit for the hour when it would.

So we could walk, at the same three to five miles per hour Alexander’s army crossed these same rocks, or we could scrounge vehicles. An army of scroungers and dope-dealers set out to forage the globe for anything that could roll on Afghanistan’s miserable roads.

As it happened, the US Army in Europe was undergoing a major spring cleaning, with lots of entire units having been thrown away in the Clinton era Peace Dividend (that money went into the War on Poverty, still undecided after 50 years, but Poverty is advancing on all fronts). So a young, brash captain we’ll call John (because that was is name) Smith (because that was not his name) was dispatched to see if he could scrounge up some vehicles. The Colonel knew John and thought he might be talented in that vein.

The Colonel had no idea.

John quickly determined that a single Army captain was capital-N Nobody to the people who had the worrisome task of disposing of acres and acres of all-but-forgotten vehicles. But with news starting to trickle back from the war, Special Forces was on everybody’s mind. John harkened back to SF’s genesis as a new effort by the Psychological Warfare Center in 1952, and decided to conduct a psychological operation against the US European Command’s joint vehicle-park beancounters.

He disappeared for a weekend, during which he bought several items at the post exchange, including several pairs of jeans and a couple of sweatshirts. He borrowed a couple of things from an SF guy he knew in the area. He got through on a bad connection to what later would be named Camp Vance (we don’t think Gene Vance was dead yet, actually). The Colonel wanted an update.

John said he was developing the situation.

The Colonel rogered that and passed the word on. The ops officer said, “We’re going to get our vehicles, sir. And we probably shouldn’t worry about how.” The Colonel thought good things about his Three, who had served in the Ranger Regiment before being called to the Jolly Roger. And he started taking the sitreps without asking questions, the answers to which he might not wish to know.

Monday morning, John walked into the Commanding General’s office. He was wearing a pair of jeans he had beaten up a little, a cowboy hat, and a blue sweatshirt. He hadn’t shaved all weekend. He didn’t have an appointment, and he dropped into a chair in front of the General’s scandalized secretary.

And put his feet up on her desk. In scroungy jungle boots.

Before she could gather her wits and remonstrate, he identified himself: “Captain John Smith, from CJSOTF-Afghanistan. Honey, I’m here from the war to see the Boss.”

“Uh…” She forgot whatever putdowns she was lining up, and squeezed him in to that morning’s schedule.

“Thanks, honey,” John said with a wink, and walked out of the office. She could see he had a .45 in his belt.

She wasn’t sure what action of Captain Smith’s was most alarming, but he did get in to see the CG, who wound up being extremely helpful, after a bit of friendly banter about last year’s Army-Navy game (a Navy blowout).

John spent the next several days touring motor pools and selecting vehicles.

“Now, we have to get them to Afghanistan.” The CG couldn’t help there, except with a referral to an Air Force general who made stuff move for Transportation Command. There, John made nice with another secretary, but then ran into someone unimpressed with his beard (by now, Mexican desperado style), his hat (by now, beat up), his boots, or even his .45. Not even his blue sweatshirt.

And he was completely unimpressed with John’s lack of any movement paperwork for 100 miscellaneous surplus vehicles.

“Can’t do it,” the Air Force general — we’ll call him General Jones, which is not his name — said. “You need a –” and he described the forms. He gave John some blank forms. But the forms alone wouldn’t do it. He’d also need some sort of movement code. He showed John what one looked like, on another movement order. Many of these came into his inbox every day. Apart from the source and destination, the code was the most important part of the document, because it drove the accounting. This one, he explained, would charge the Air Force; it was moving a planeload of jet engines back to the USA for overhaul. These others would charge the Army, the Navy, even the State Department, for cargo.

The form had to have a description of the shipment, the weight — it would be weighed again by the cargo specialists, of course — the destination, and the all-important billing code.

“Call your log guys and get that code,” the general explained, “and with that code and my rubber stamp you can go straight to the airhead and ship your stuff. Our guys will take it from there. But you must have the code.”

John nodded. “I’ll call right away. Can I borrow a STU-III?” (That was the sort of secure phone used in those days).

“Well, the only one’s here in my office,” the general said. “Here, have a seat, I’ll give you some privacy. ” As the General walked out, he said, “And bring me those codes tomorrow afternoon — I’m out in the morning, Captain.”

“Yes sir,” said John, and he did in fact make a STU call to Afghanistan.

“It’s in the bag. I’ll explain when I get there.”

John spent the night typing the forms himself on a borrowed typewriter. He was even scroungier the next day when he showed up at the Air Force general’s office. The .45 was showing, even if the forms were not.

“Hi there,” he said to the secretary. “Remember me, honey?”

“Oh,” she said. “Captain Smith! Didn’t General Jones tell you he was going to be out this morning?”

“Yes, but I was hoping I could borrow his STU-III again.”

“Oh… I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”

John closed the door to the general’s office, with an apologetic look at the secretary. She understood secrets — all secretaries do, after all.

And inside the office he pulled out his forms with one hand while dialing the STU with the other. Soon he had a secure connection, and the Colonel came to the phone.

John hit the forms with the rubber stamp in more places than they really needed.

“Sir, I’ll be there in a couple days; the vehicles will be right behind me.”

“How did you — never mind. Forget I asked.”

John broke the connection, and put the State Department shipment order back on top of his in the general’s out-box.

As it happened, John was held up getting back to Bagram and arrived the same day that vehicles were being unloaded there, at Kandahar, and at the FOB at Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan.

He was tired as a dog and scroungy. He’d returned his friend’s Stetson and 1911, but was still wearing those jeans and that blue sweatshirt.

“How did you — forget it. I don’t wanna know,” the Colonel said.

“I just told them I was Captain Smith from the CJSOTF and they all went out of their way to help me,” John said piously.

“And why the hell are you wearing a Navy sweatsh — oohhhhh.”

In due course, the Colonel made general. He never let anyone use the STU-III in his office.

If This Gun Could Talk: Webley & Son W.G. Presentation Revolver

We apologize for posting this one a little late. We think you’ll see why.

This revolver, in the potent .455/.476 load, might not have had many tales to tell; it was a presentation revolver, property of a British Indian Army officer, and it probably lived its life in a succession of desk drawers, fired occasionally or not at all. J. B. Woon, who was a Major in the 40th Pathans at the time of presentation (sometime around 1903 when the unit first got that name, perhaps) and who is said to have advanced to the rank of Major or Lieutenant General. It’s a certainty that Woon had some tales to tell; one of those Eminent Victorians, he surfaces in a number of books we can find thanks to the magic of Google Book Search. Or does he?

webley-5964-right

(Yes, that picture embiggens with a click).

It is, it seems, hard to tell your Woons apart, as apparently there was more than one in British Indian Army service. There was also an Edward Woon, and there may have been more than one J.B. (The British Indian Army was a post-Rebellion service. Pre-1857, the Indian Army belonged to the British East India Company. After the Sepoy Rebellion, triggered in part by the issue of paper rifle-musket cartridges the native soldiers believed to be sealed with pork fat or beef tallow, making them anathema to Moslem and Hindu alike, the Indian Army was reorganized and nationalized).

webley-5964-owner-marking

For example, is this Major-General Woon, C.B., who inspected a Royal Army Medical Corps hospital in Multan in 1908, our guy, who had become an MG and a Commander of the Order of the Bath in a few short years? Or is it another Woon, whose initials were C.B.? We’d probably need to pore over multiple musty editions of the Army List to be sure.

Screenshot 2015-05-22 08.39.46

(Source; Journal of the Army Medical Corps, Volume 10, edited by William Heaton Horrocks).

Here’s a reference that shows that Major General J.B. Woon was, indeed, a Commander of the Order of the Bath. We’ll transcribe the text from the Google Books page, because it’s an interesting story. It’s from the History of the 5th Gurkha Rifles2:

The Battalion went through its first Kitchener test in 1906. Lord Kitchener, then Commander-in-Chief in India, aimed at increasing the efficiency of the army in India by introducing the element of competition into the annual inspection of battalions. Under the rules framed by him all battalions carried out the same series of exercises, marks were allotted on a common basis, and the winning unit held the Chief’s challenge cup for a year.

The exercises began with a fifteen-mile march under service conditions, followed immediately by an attack on a position, the defending enemy being represented by service targets, and ball ammunition being used as a test of shooting efficiency.

A capsule biography of Woon that breaks out his Christian names and his general officer service turns up, of all places, posted by users of the Axis History Forum.

General Sir John Blaxell Woon (1855 – 1938)
1905: Promoted to Brigadier-General
1905: Commander, 6th (Abbottabad) Infantry Brigade, India
?: Promoted to Major-General
1910 – ?: Commander, 5th (Mhow) Division, India
1911: Promoted to Lieutenant-General
? – 1914: Commander, 9th (Secunderabad) Division, India
?: Promoted to General
1919: Retired

A reply there fills in some of the gaps:

Gen Woon, John Blaxall, was born on Feb 24, 1856, not 1855. His date of death is Aug 29, 1938. He was promoted to MG in 1905, and to LTG in 1911. I have no dates for when he took over command of the 2 Indian divisions.

And another reply gets many of the remaining gaps:

General Sir John Blaxall Woon (Feb 24 1856 – Aug 29 1938)
1903: Promoted to Temporary Brigadier-General
1903: Colonel on Staff ?, India
1903: District Officer Commanding Bundelkhand District, India
1904 (or 1903): District Officer Commanding Kohat District, India
1904: Commander, Abbottabad Brigade, India
1904 (or 1905): Commander, Sirhind Brigade
1905: Promoted to Major-General
1910 – 1911: Commander, 5th (Mhow) Division, India
1911 – 1914: Commander, 9th (Secunderabad) Division, India
1911: Promoted to Lieutenant-General
1917: Promoted to General
1919: Retired

The information is based upon London Gazette, The Times, Who’s Who 1897-1996 and Whitaker’s peerage, baronetage, knightage, and companionage.

Btw. Brigadier-Generals were by nature Temporary.

These sources seem to disagree on whether he was John Blaxall or John Blaxell Woon.

In 1905, he marched (on horse) in a massive parade at Rawalpindi as Commander of the 6th (Abbottabad, yes, that Abbottabad) Infantry Brigade. (How massive? The program of the parade claims 55,516 officers and men, 13,396 horses, 5,558 camels, (Trigger warning for Ken White): another ~9,000 mules and ponies, 146 artillery pieces, and 136 machine guns).3

As he did not retire until 1919, it’s clear that Maj. Gen. Woon did something in the Great War. The British Indian Army deployed forces to East Africa in 1914, forces that included most of Woon’s former commands, to fight the German mischief-maker von Lettow-Vorbeck. And it deployed other elements — very large elements, for it was a very large army by modern standards — to fight on the Western Front4. Where Woon went, or whether he stayed “home” to “hustle glum heroes up the line to death” is unclear.

So was Major Woon the same guy as Major General Woon? Father and Son? Uncle and Nephew? Cousins? And what happened, then, to the Major of the 40th Pathans?

And how did the Webley come to be nicely cased…

webley-5964-cased

… in a presentation case with an escutcheon bearing a different set of initials (implying a different officer) and a different regiment, the British Army’s 24th Regiment of Foot (the great Zulu fighters of Ishandlwana and Rorke’s Drift legend)?

webley-5964-escutcheon

We’re itching to fly to London and start researching in the IWM. The listing for the firearm suggests that this J.B. Woon served in the 40th Pathans and later became a lieutenant general. (For those without military experience, a Lt. Gen. is three stars, one more than a Maj. Gen. Yes, this is illogical. Military tradition: deal with it).

The 40th Pathans still exists today, or at least, a successor unit does, the 16th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment in the Pakistan Army. Perhaps the relevant archives are to be found in Islamabad.

But damnation, if only the revolver could speak!

The good news, if you’ve borne with us through all that, is that the pistol is for sale. There’s a listing and even more great photographs of this unique revolver. The bad news is that the seller, Hallowell & Co. of Montana (a real wishbook if you like classic double rifles and shotguns), knows it has something rare and has priced it accordingly: $8450.

Notes:

  1. Horrocks, William Heaton (ed.). Journal of the Army Medical Corps, Volume 10. p. 95. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=K_k1AQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA95&lpg=RA1-PA95&dq=Major+General+Woon&source=bl&ots=uEVa1sKhBK&sig=iuXXG4Kjd3DEWEDnxrT2DMdlP3k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oK5eVbreKvHbsATxxoHgDQ&ved=0CDcQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Woon&f=false
  2. Weeks, Colonel H.E. History of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles: 1858 to 1928. pp, 167-168. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=gha-BAAAQBAJ&pg=PA167&lpg=PA167&dq=Major+General+Woon&source=bl&ots=SvYS49vf3-&sig=WXS0SQ1f2KKDvbNnAmu3fAkMT3Y&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oK5eVbreKvHbsATxxoHgDQ&ved=0CC4Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=Major%20General%20Woon&f=false
  3. uncredited. Programme of the Review in Honour of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince & Princess of Wales. Held at Rawal Pindi on 8th December, 1905. Retrieved from: http://www.vsdh.org/feltham/cathy_day/rawal2.htm
  4. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The Order of Battle of the British Expeditionary Force (October 1914) [summary version]. Retrieved from: http://www.cwgc.org/ypres/content.asp?id=33&menu=subsub

 

VPO-208: Russian Gunsmiths Respond to Russian Law

We’re familiar, here in the USA, with weapons that are shaped by US gun laws. We have a variety of weird and wonderful arms that exist only because of the Gun Control Act of 1968, the National Firearms Act of 1934, and the patchwork of implementing regulations and executive orders that have shaped the US market. In addition, state assault-weapon band have resulted in oddities like California’s “Bullet Buttons.” A wide range of legislatively-midwifed Frankenguns, from the Walther PPK/S, to short barreled rifles, to pistols with SIG braces, reflect the degree to which designers are constrained by the gun-designing impulses of American politicians and bureaucrats.

It should come as no surprise that the same thing happens in other countries with large gun markets. This case in point comes to us from Russia, where gun laws are generally stricter than in the United States. There, no one can own a pistol. Most citizens can own a shotgun; but to own a rifle you have to have owned the shotgun without incident for five years.

So here comes the VPO-208: an SKS shotgun.

SKS in .366Produced by Techcrim, an Izhevsk manufacturer, the .366 by Russian measure, across the lands (.375 by ours, across the grooves), is a smoothbore or near-smoothbore gun that gets the would-be gun owner into a semi-automatic, service rifle platform, while staying within the letters of Russian law.

The ammunition appears to be made from fireformed 7.62 x 39mm casings, and is available in a range of sporting projectiles, plus a shotshell variant.

It is reminiscent of such American wildcats (some of them since turned production) as the small-head .300 Whisper, .300 AAC Blackout, .338 Spectre, and the Mauser-head-sized .375 Reaper, all of which run in the AR-15 platform. It just goes to show that this kind of innovation is hardly an American monopoly.

The first table in the advert below has three columns: “Type of projectile”; “Speed, meters per second;” and “Energy, Joules”. Here’s our conversion of this table.

Projectile Type Velocity, m/s Energy, J Velocity, fps Energy, ft-lb
LSWC poly coat 13.5 grams 640 2765 2099 2039
FMJ 11 grams 700 2618 2296 1931
FMJ 15 grams 620 2883 2034 2126
JSP 15 grams 620 2883 2034 2126

Techkrim

 

As the shot of the fired JSP shows, and these velocity and energy tables suggest, it would actually be a good short-range hunting round.

The second table, with the bullet-drop diagram, is, “Velocity and Energy of Projectile, .366 TKM with 15-gram FMJ bullet”. Here’s our translation and unit conversion.

Metric (SI) Values Muzzle 50 meters 100 meters
Bullet Drop mm 0 35 125
Velocity m/s 625 570 520
Energy J 2837 2437 2028
English Values Muzzle 50m 100m
Bullet Drop in. 0 1.38 4.92
Velocity f/s 2050 1870 1706
Energy ft/lb. 2092 1797 1495

The problem with the gun is its accuracy, as it’s basically a smoothbore. Hyperprapor suggests that it might be minute-of-E-silhouette at 100m.

But hey, it will let some Russian guys own the rifle their nation’s color guards parade with, and even let them shoot it, all with the reduced paperwork and hassle of a shotgun; perhaps a big win for them.

There are no ballistics for the shotshell, which exists, we suspect, primarily to navigate the channels of Russian weapons law. (This law does seem somewhat liberalized since Soviet days). Techcrim’s website shows that they are very active in small-caliber (.410) shotguns and shells, which seem to have more of a following in Russia than they do here. We wonder if that’s an artifact of Russian law, too.

We saw this on r/guns, posted by our old friend hyperprapor, who notes that under Russian law “paradox rifling”  is legal if it’s under 150mm long (About 5.9″).  Paradox rifling is rifling that was just engraved in the last few inches of the bore of what was otherwise a shotgun, to give it some capability with a single ball or bullet. It was named by English bespoke gunmaker Holland and Holland, who adopted the patent from GV Fosbery of Webley-Fosbery fame. Westley Richards called it “Explora” but other makers seem to have stuck with the paradox name.

And this is definitely one for the “how weird does it get” file — a smoothbore SKS that is one short hop removed from the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver!

HOAX: When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have Nigerian cuisine.

CORRECTION:

It sounded like a great story, but we’ve been had. The BBC Swahili Service, original source for the story, reported:

“The story about the Nigerian restaurant which we published here was a mistake and we apologise. It was incorrect and published without the proper BBC checks. We have removed the story and have launched an urgent investigation into how this happened.

The story remains up, here at WeaponsMan, below, for transparency’s sake; but we formally retract it. -Your Eds.


cannibal pot

Quick, what do Nigerians eat? Well, in one recent case, the answer was: assorted other Nigerians. Those responsible are believed to have been arrested.

A Nigerian restaurant has reportedly been shut down after being accused of serving human flesh following the discovery of bags containing human heads in the kitchen.

A report on the BBC’s Swahili service said police were alerted by local people who suspected something horrific was going on at the restaurant in the south-eastern province of Anambra.
The police raided the establishment and allegedly found the heads, dripping blood into plastic bags, and weapons including grenades. Ten people were arrested.

It it possible that some of the customers wound up here because they were avoiding the Chinese restaurant up the street because of the cat rumors? (Well, the name, Cat Hay Buffet, was always a little bit suspect. And, if we’re going to be culturally insensitive, at least we’ll be evenhanded about it).

Most people would be shocked at finding out the neighborhood eatery specialized in Long Pig. But apparently some locals had long suspected something was not entirely on the up-and-up:

One resident said: “I’m not surprised at the shocking revelation… Every time I went to the market, I observed strange activities going on in the hotel.

“People who were never cleanly dressed and who looked a bit strange made their way in and out of the hotel, making me very suspicious.”

A local priest who ate at the restaurant was alarmed at the prices it was charging after being presented with a bill for £2.20 – nearly four times the daily wage for millions of Nigerian labourers.

He was told the high cost was because of the piece of meat he had eaten. “I did not know I had been served human meat, and it was that expensive,” he said.

via Nigerian restaurant shut down for ‘serving human flesh’ – Telegraph.

We dunno what’s worse, the Soylent Green aspect to the food, or the fact that the restaurateur was price-gouging his working-stiff (no pun intended) customers.

There’s an old saying in SF, “They can kill me but they can’t eat me, that’s against the law.” Even in Nigeria.

We grew up during the great wave of decolonialization, and everyone was thrilled to see the Africans getting  their freedom. Looking back, you have to wonder if the nations of Africa hit Peak Civilization just before the withdrawal of their supposed British/French/Portuguese oppressors.

Rangerettes: What They’re Doing Now; Tom Kratman Called It

Rangerette 6We have been around and around on this, but while we’re waiting for the 8 miserable recycled female survivors (and some dozens of their male peers) to reflow into the Camp Darby phase of Ranger Class 7-15 after bouncing out of 6-15, we have a few other relevant things, things we should have covered previously but haven’t.

Today, Life Sucks for the Women of Class 6-15. And the Men.

For the moment, spare a thought for the unhappy recycles, who must survive the Gulag’s daily harassment (“reinforcement training”) until their inject date to 7-15 comes up.   (One suspects that the presence of the 31 Observer Advisors and whatever rump media are still following the surviving gals moderates it some, in the case of the women). One of the biggest things tormenting them is the self-doubt in every heart, and the knowledge that a second chance at a single phase is probably all you get. (There may be an exception for the women, as there have been so many exceptions made already, but we’re sure no one has told them that). And each one knows, in his or her heart, that they’ve already blown it, already failed, once.

Somewhere in each little would-be Ranger brain is a voice whispering words of failure. Success depends on their ability to suppress that voice, to strangle the little doubtnik speaking those words. That is a highly individual thing, in a class where you’re graded individually, but also graded, by your instructors and your similarly stressed peers, on your teamwork.

The Army has studied for years the candidates and graduates of this program, hoping that something in personality inventories and psychometrics can predict who will fail and who will pass. They have never really succeeded, and one of the reasons is that in each man (and now, woman), the war of self against self, of doubt against determination, is fought anew each day.

For two months.

Unless you recycle, then the battle lasts longer.

Smoked!

Class 6-15: Getting smoked!

Right now, the recycles are being smoked by Ranger instructors. (“Smoked” is a Ranger verb, that, like the Ranger cry “Hooah!”, has spread across the Army and on into culture. A couple years ago we had a household contractor say, “This is how we’re going to fix that, hooah?” Knew he was one of Our People. Fixing old rickety stuff on Hog Manor had him smoked).

Tom Kratman Actually Called the 6-15 Results Before it Started

We have missed some developments and some materials about the whole Rangerette thing that are still worth sharing. We’ll get in a moment to the often-cited Israeli experience (which is more mixed than either “side” in America wants to admit), but first, we have to doff berets (the real, earned kind) to Hugo-nominated Novelist Tom Kratman, who in a column at EveryJoe.com called the outcome for the women in Class 6-15 before the first one signed in to the RTB.

So now what’s going to happen? I am not sure how far along the Army is in coming up with those hopeful three-score. They’ve got their Zampolits, the female political commissars tasked with ensuring the doubleplussungood, gender-cisnormative, evilwickednaughtybadbadbad males running the school can’t be too hard on the women going through it. I have it on pretty good authority that, on being told they’d have to cut their hair very short,3 the Zampolits either became upset, or freaked out, or came totally unglued. Allegedly, too, the women were extremely interested in what types of birth control would be allowed.

As we know now, the Ranger head shave was relaxed for the women, who received about a 3/8 or 7/16 inch buzz.

One can almost sympathize. The amount of hair a male soldier finds comfortable and flattering for himself will come back in a few weeks. For women, it’s a matter of years. And the hair’s more important to them, generally, too, early rock musicals notwithstanding.

Exercise for the reader (heteronormative trigger alert, heh). If we were to go into your master bathroom, and count hair care items, what would the F/M ratio be? We’ve never tried to add it up. Hognose here owns one bottle of shampoo at a time, and might use soap for a week before remembering to buy another bottle.

I can’t imagine the Army giving a rat’s patootie about what kind of birth control the Zampolits use. If any actual female ranger students are going to worry about it I’d suggest they’ll be very, very optimistic. More on that, and related factors, later in this column.

One subject of discussion back in the dawn of time in Class 1-83, long about Florida phase, was (crudity coming) “Does anybody remember when he last had a woody?” This caused a momentary panic, and worry about whether this capability would ever return to these men, aged 19-33 with a few outliers high and low, for whom the said biological reaction was a frequent fact in daily life. You’re way, way past sexual fantasies at that point. The most common subject of discussion was what you’re going to eat afterwards. These food fantasies would be appalling to normal, well-fed Americans (our recollection follows):

“I’m going to the McDonalds drive through and order one of everything.”

“I’m gonna eat a whole lobster. Shell and all. With two pounds of butter.”

“Hey, think of this, guys…. just imagine the smell. I’m going to go to a bakery.

(Chorus): “Mmmmmmm, a bakery.

The faces light with religious fervor. If only they knew the direction of this bakery, they’s shoot a azimuth to it and prostrate themselves.

(Continued after the break).

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