Author Archives: Hognose

About Hognose

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

Saturday Matinee 2014 16: Escape from Afghanistan (1994)

Escape from AfghanistanFilm critics loved this movie, both in this 2002 English-dubbed “exploitation” reissue with US-looking forces on the cover, and in its original Russian iteration Peshawar Waltz in 1994. We didn’t.

Why the divergent views? It may be that the film was made to please critics, not audiences. It did win a number of awards at film festivals that we nobodies have never heard of. And the cinematography looks as if they were trying to deliberately quote a lot of ancient Soviet black-and-white masterpieces.

Well, you don’t have to be an Einstein to figure out that this director is no Eisenstein.

The story is based on real events doing the Russian war in Afghanistan. On 26 April 1985, a number of Russian and Afghan POWs who miraculously survived being taken prisoner by the Afghan mujahideen managed to initiate a prison revolt, arm themselves, and made a bid for freedom. The camp, a Pakistan Armed Forces garrison that dates to colonial days, was under control of the Pakistani external intelligence agency, the ISI, who handled interrogations, logistics, and external security; the prisoners saw only mujahideen during their quotidian lives. US intelligence officers were occasional visitors to the camp, and participants in interrogations. Officially, of course, Pakistan was not a party to the Soviet war, which has made credible information about the revolt hard to find in open source.

The real-world revolt was unsuccessful. While a myth exists in Russian circles that the prisoners killed vast numbers of Pakistanis, all or almost all the killings seem to have taken place in the original rising. All the prisoners at the camp, a couple dozen Soviets and fewer than 100 of their Afghan allies, were reportedly killed, ostensibly in the mutiny and the fighting to retake the buildings the prisoners held. With no prisoner surviving and the ISI understandably reticent, no one knows exactly what happened.

Prison revolts are not as rare as you might think. Many remember the Taliban and Al-Qaeda revolt against their American and Afghan captors in Qala-i Jangi prison in Afghanistan on 25 November 2001. There was even a concentration camp revolt at the notorious Sobibor camp, that was made into a movie with Rutger Hauer, a man whose appearance suggests he was born to be typecast as a Nazi camp guard, playing the head Jew.

Acting and Production

Barry Kushner in Escape from Afghanistan.

Barry Kushner in Escape from Afghanistan.

The acting is stiff, although some of that is probably the stilted language and inexplicable behavior of all that’s written into the script. No single actor stands out as particularly good or believable. If B players hire C players, these are the guys C players hire. The lead, Barry Kushner, has no other listing, literally, on IMDB.

It seems to have been shot on indoor sets replicating the caves of the Himalayan foothills — or, really, what some urbanite who’s never been close to this arid high-altitude area thinks the caves of the Himalayan foothills might look like — if he thinks they might look like Roman catacombs or the sewers of Warsaw as depicted in Andrzej Wajda’s Kanal. 

This is where we would write that the brilliant direction saved the day when the acting and sets were deficient — if it had done. It did not. In defense of director Timur Bekmambetov, he’s since made much more engaging and tightly-wrapped films, and seems to have cured himself of any art-house aspirations he might have had 20 years go. Consider the fact that he did make Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, evidence for that proposition. It might not have been any good, but it at least wasn’t arty.

Accuracy and Weapons

Wait, who armed these guys?

Wait, who armed these guys?

Guns are central to the story in many ways, but relatively few of them are appropriate for the place and period the film represents. There are a few Enfields (which were on the way out as Mujahideen weapons at the time), and a number of AKs (which were ascendant). A lot of the weapons are G3s, and one could argue that, as this was the Pakistani Army issue rifle at the time, it does belong here. But there are also a lot of M16s, a weapon that would only make it to Southwest Asia after 9/11. There’s even a brief image of M60 and M16, but it may have been intended as a Vietnam flashback — the movie’s so incoherently cut you can’t be sure.

Ah, an AK. That's more like it.

Ah, an AK. That’s more like it.

The production uses, inexplicably, a vintage American jeep, probably because they had one lying around. The story is narrated, loosely, through the conceit of an “observer” character, a reporter (he and his doctor sidekick are different nationalities in the Russian-language and English-language versions, but it doesn’t seem to matter).

There’s little or no CGI and so at least we’re spared dreadful CGI. But there are plenty of gigantic fireballs. Fireballs blow up things that might reasonably burn, but don’t fit the scene (a Saab Viggen?) and things that seem unlikely to blow up in a great gout of petroleum fire (an airport control tower).

The bottom line

Even Russian pyrotechnicians can't help but bring the FOOM. This is just what people expect explosions to look like any more.

Even Russian pyrotechnicians can’t help but bring the FOOM. This is just what people expect explosions to look like any more.

Escape from Afghanistan is unfortunately a shallow and confused re-imagination of what could have been a compelling story, a little-known but real Soviet Alamo. All the ingredients of a great story were present in the original Badaber revolt: high stakes, real drama. But on its way to the screen the greatness and the story were bleached out of this, and it comes across like Golan and Globus producing-while-drunk.

It is called Escape from Afghanistan but you need to have SF- or SEAL-level persistence not to be thinking about Escape from This Movie well before the halfway point.

We’re not giving up on Russian films yet, because we’ve seen quite a few good ones. An Afghan friend tells us a 2010 flick called Kandahar, about the hostage ordeal of a Russian airline crew, is worth watching, even though it makes his countrymen look pretty dreadful.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film (many sites have two pages, one for the Russian and one for the 2002 dub job. Where there are two, the 2002 reissue is first and the 1994 original second).

  • DVD page:

  • IMDB page:

  • IMFDB page (none):
  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (there are no official reviews, but it has a rare 0% audience rating):

  • Wikipedia  page:


Further 3D Update: Stratasys buys 3D Concepts, Harvest Tech

This morning we posted a Reason Magazine video that includes an interview with a representative of Solid Concepts, whose DMLS printed 1911A1 proof of concept had gone, as of the, 4,000 rounds of .45 in its printed barrel. (All parts but the springs in the technology-demonstrator pistol were printed at Solid Concepts).

We had missed an announcement at the time of the show that SC has been acquired by Stratasys Ltd, a publicly held company trading on NASDAQ as SSYS, along with another 3D service bureau, Harvest Technologies.

Stratasys’s press release, excerpted:

Stratasys Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS), a leading global provider of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions, today announced that it has entered into definitive agreements to acquire two privately-held companies, Solid Concepts Inc. and Harvest Technologies. Solid Concepts is the largest independent additive manufacturing service bureau in North America and a fast-growing partner to RedEye, Stratasys’ existing digital manufacturing service business. The transactions are expected to be completed early in the upcoming third quarter, subject to customary closing conditions, and are expected to be accretive to Stratasys’ Non-GAAP earnings per share within the first 12 months after closing. Upon completion of the transactions, Stratasys will combine Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies with RedEye to establish one additive manufacturing services business unit. Joe Allison, President of Solid Concepts, will join the Stratasys management team and lead the combined parts business, supported by the strong management teams of Solid Concepts, Harvest Technologies, and RedEye.

Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies are leading providers of additive manufacturing services. With the addition of Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies, Stratasys is creating a leading strategic platform focused on meeting customers’ additive manufacturing needs through an expanded technology and business offering. Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies provide Stratasys with significant manufacturing and end-use parts production capabilities, infrastructure, capacity and process knowhow, which are expected to accelerate and enable further adoption of additive manufacturing. The combination of Solid Concepts’ deep knowledge of manufacturing and vertical focus, such as medical and aerospace, and Harvest Technologies’ experience in parts production, as well as materials and systems knowhow, together with RedEye, strengthens Stratasys’ direct digital manufacturing and parts production expertise.

Solid Concepts, based in Valencia, California, is an industry pioneer, having provided additive manufacturing solutions to customers since its founding in 1991. Solid Concepts has developed extensive U.S.-based capacity and infrastructure with six U.S. facilities staffed by approximately 450 employees. Solid Concepts maintains a broad variety of technology platforms and processes for additive manufacturing and serves a diverse customer base across a wide range of verticals, including medical, aerospace, and industrial, among others. Solid Concepts provides an overarching platform that, with the integration of Harvest Technologies and RedEye, is expected to create a comprehensive additive manufacturing solution provider. Solid Concepts generated revenues of approximately $65 million in 2013.

Harvest Technologies, based in Belton, Texas, is a specialty additive manufacturing service bureau established in 1995, with approximately 80 employees. Harvest Technologies has deep manufacturing process knowhow and focuses on advanced end use parts applications. Harvest Technologies was the first additive manufacturing company in North America to become AS9100/ISO 9001 certified, and continues to produce end-use parts for multiple industries.

Under the terms of the definitive agreement with Solid Concepts, Stratasys will acquire Solid Concepts for total consideration of up to $295 million, including a payment on closing of $172 million (or, if settled in cash, part on closing and part six months after closing), deferred payments of $60 million and up to $63 million in retention-related payments. Subject to certain requirements for cash payments, Stratasys retains discretion to settle any of the amounts payable under both the definitive agreement and the retention plan in either Stratasys shares, cash or any combination of the two. The value of a portion of the purchase price as well as the deferred and retention-related payments may increase or decrease in line with the market price of Stratasys shares.

via Stratasys to Acquire Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies (NASDAQ:SSYS).

3D printed 1911A1 (Job 2) on the printer platen.

3D printed 1911A1 (Job 2) on the printer platen.

This may explain, at least in part, Solid Concepts’ backing away from the publicity-rich gun demo during their Reason interview: Stratasys executives have been strongly anti-gun and anti-2nd-Amendment in the past, and probably find Solid Concepts’ publicity stunt — for which the company was fully licensed as an 07 Manufacturer — somewhat less than congenial.

You may recall Stratasys’s attempts to shut down Defense Distributed, and to ban firearms parts and accessories from their online repository, Thingiverse. These positions were rooted in the political views of Stratasys executives, views which presumably haven’t changed just because they bought a key additive manufacturing services provider that was happy to use its ability to “print” guns as a publicity generator.


30 minutes after publishing this, found a perfectly-timed column by Glenn Reynolds at PopMech, Should we be afraid of the 3D Printed Gun? Linking unread, because we have a pretty good idea what his answer will be (“Hell, no”).

Gunowners Physical Security Plan, Part 2: Objectives and Principles

In Part 1 we discussed the general need for and benefits of a Physical Security Plan. any plan has to have an objective, and so that is our next task: to define the objective of the plan. Also, the plan must conform to principles of physical security.

Most of the literature available is dry, academic, and completely unmoored from practical reality. Other examples


The Objective of the Gunowner’s Physical Security Plan is to prevent loss, theft, damage to, or unauthorized use of the owner’s firearms, ammunition, and related items. Failing prevention, the plan seeks to enable recovery of the arms, or recovery of the value of the arms if that is not possible.


There are several sets of principles that apply. Principles of physical security, principles of defense, and, arching over them all, the great principles of warfare, for asset security is nothing more than a subset of the unending war between owners and looters.

Principles of Physical Security

These have been derived from relevant Army Regulations — AR 190-16 Physical Security, and AR 190-11 Weapons Security. We chose AR’s rather than one of the many dry physical security texts because (1) the AR’s, while dry enough, are a mainstream, anodyne point of departure for planning; (2) their system works: while the much smaller FBI, DEA and ATF lose dozens of guns in stateside offices, for the Army to permanently lose a firearm, except in combat, is quite rare these days; and (3) all the academic texts, meant for relatively lightweight classes like criminal justice majors take, are wildly overpriced for the dull writing and pedestrian thinking within.

  • Access – Keep the threat out.
  • Identification – Know who is permitted access, who is in and out.
  • Observation – keep vital things under personal or technical observation, or both.
  • Perimeter – keep the threat as far outside as possible.
  • Nesting – use multiple layers of containment to control the crown jewels so that the threat has to solve several sequential problems.
  • Mass – fasten targets together so that they can’t be removed by the practical.
  • Alarm – make it difficult to penetrate without sending an alarm.  Send an alarm to whoever is best able to react in a timely manner.
  • Documentation – design your defensive measures in such a way that an attack is not possible without leaving copious evidence of the attacker’s identity, even if all your defensive measures fail.
  • Redundancy – seek and engineer out all single points of failure. Design the system to be fail-safe.

Principles of Burglary

Burglars aren’t great philosophers — if they were smart, they wouldn’t be burglars, after all — but by their actions, we can infer what their principles would be, if they ever sobered up long enough to state them:

  • Get in quick – smash and grab. Only on TV do burglars pick locks. Real burglars kick in summer screens.
  • Don’t get noticed if you can avoid it. This is one reason that all but desperate and depraved burglars in the USA do not burgle occupied houses.
  • Get what’s portable and immediately salable. In economic terms, your burglar is more of a satisficer than an optimizer. Rather than clean you out, he will take what he can get in a hurry, unless he’s very confident he has lots of time.
  • Get out quick, with the loot. Just as the most critical phase of a military patrol is actions on the objective, the most critical phase of a burglary is the relatively small arc of time in which Freddie Fingers is actually in his target building. This is where he’s most exposed to being caught (burglars never have a cover for action, their freedom depends 100% on remaining undetected), and subjected to harsher penalties. (If he’s caught a block away with the burglary proceeds, many jurisdictions will tap him with misdemeanors only, or choose not to prosecute).
  • Don’t get caught. The burglar will rush to minimize his time on target if he fears police are enroute. He has given very little thought to possible penalties, but knows that getting caught is something he must avoid.

Most burglars are marginal humans: drug addicts and alcoholics who can’t hold a job in the productive economy, but don’t have the shallow charismatic sheen to sustain a run for office. But they respond to certain primal fears. It behooves you to amplify those fears in any way possible.

Principles of Defense

  • Deceive Make the attacker misunderstand and overlook your assets and your defenses. This is the weakest of all defense methods, because it can’t help you much in the event of a forceful, committed attack. This is, metaphorically, concealment that is not cover. An example is the “invisible” gun compartments we’ve linked to from time to time. Another is the false burglar-alarm sign or “beware of dog” signs when you have neither alarm nor dog (burglars, who compare notes during their incarcerations, are on to these). But if it forestalls the attack, all the effort put into it was well spent.
  • Deter Make the attacker think twice, and then not attack you, giving it up as a bad job (or attacking a softer target elsewhere). You do this by making him see you have a solid, layered, and deep security program. Showing your formidable physical barriers, and signalling the would-be burglar with indicators of probability of capture.
  • Deny – Keep the attacker out. You can accomplish this with physical barriers. Large sites can also use guard forces, but for most of us they are not practical. (And they, too, can be penetrated or suborned, if what they are guarding is that valuable). Layered defenses help here. First make them get into the building. Then through an internal deadbolt. Then into a safe. Each adds time, which the attacker has not got.
  • Detect – intrusion or breach, the earlier the better. This is where alarms come in, and the type of alarm that works best depends on where the target you’re defending is. In a large city, the kind that alarms at the alarm company might be best. In a small town, a really loud audible alarm will have your neighbors calling the police faster than an alarm company will. One manual technique you should use is to inspect alarms and all perimeter openings (doors, windows) after evry visit of a nontrusted person. Surprisingly common for, for example, a door to door salesman to unlock a back door if he can, for his associates to use later.
  • Delay – as mentioned above under “deny,” real denial to a determined antagonist is unlikely to be effective. So every bit of grit and friction you can inject into his well-lubricated burglary plan is helpful.
  • Disrupt – a key technique for convincing a burglar to discontinue an act in progress is to continually thwart, discourage, and surprise — in other words, “disrupt,” — his plans. We know of one guy who set up his gun room with an IR motion detector with a two-minute timer. If not disabled by entering a code within two minutes, it fills the room with pepper spray and sounds an alarm that is completely independent of the house alarm. That’s an inner layer of security for the persistent burg who’s made it through all the outer layers.
  • Destroy – if a burglar invades your dwelling while you and your family members are inside, the best thing to do, frankly, is kill him. You need to be intelligent about this — you can’t go running after him and shoot him in the back, because your only reasonable chance to stay out of jail yourself is to have a credible self-defense claim. In our opinion, the simple fact that he (or they) invaded your home or office is sufficient to assume violent intent on his (or their) part, but the jurisdiction you live in might have completely different ideas about what’s legal.

Principles of Warfare

Most of the world’s great armies have lists of Principles of War, which derive from such 19th Century theorists as Jomini and Clausewitz via such 20th-Century theorists as JFC Fuller. It’s true that Jomini never really enumerated a list of principles qua principles, and Clausewitz argued against distilling war down to a list of principles, but these authors’ writings inspired the list makers of all the world’s general staffs (here’s a table comparing modern ones).

The US lists the following:

  • Objective: every operation should have a clear, defined, recognizable and achievable objective. The objective of a physical security plan is to prevent unauthorized access to your firearms and ammunition.
  • Offensive: the most effective way to win is to seize and exploit the initiative. Yes, this is even true in such a defensive posture as security planning.
  • Mass: this is the concentration of your effects (fire and maneuver, among others) at the decisive point in space and time.
  • Economy of Force: Overwhelming power, if you have it, to main efforts. Minimum required power to all secondary efforts.
  • Maneuver: Positioning (and continuing to position) your forces to give you an advantage and your adversary a disadvantage.
  • Unity of Command (from 1921 until after World War II this was called Coordination, and still is by the Air Force): Just as the purpose and effort are unified, so too should be the decision-making.
  • Security: This encompasses all means to reduce hostile observation, surveillance, approach, or surprise. Security is a combat multiplier because it secures friendly freedom of action.
  • Surprise: Presenting the adverse party with a problem which is unexpected or for which he is unprepared.
  • Simplicity (this is unique to American lists)A clear and straightforward plan cuts through the “fog of war” and reduces friction. Complicated plans have exponentially more ways to go wrong.  This is particularly true of security plans of all kinds: the complex or too-difficult plan spawns shortcuts, which are toxic to security.

So these are a variety of big-picture concepts to think about as we harden Hog Manor against the toothless meth zombie hordes.

3D Printing Update

Recently, we attended a local 3D printing seminar put on by Alpha Imaging, the New England/Northeast representation for giant vendor 3D Systems. It was very enlightening, and we came away with a lot of ideas for 3D printing, scanning, and software that apply both to our firearms activities and also to our more general defense and aerospace consulting efforts.

We had to give a pass to a much bigger multivendor expo in New York City this month; the dates conflicted with a major Florida airshow. Fortunately, Reason Magazine attended and had a video and web report on the show. Video first:

Some text from the same Reason page:

3D printing has the ability to revolutionize the way we make practically everything, from guns to pastries and everything in between. Reason TV recently had the opportunity to attend Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo, a 3-day event held in New York City.

There they met up with trailblazers in the 3D industry who were able to give them the inside-scoop on how 3D printing will revolutionize the economy.

via 3D Printing Will Change Everything – Hit & Run :

The ChefJet is one of the products that was teased by the Alpha Imaging guys. 3D Systems will be introducing that this year, and so they have a range of systems that print everything from food to hard plastic or steel end products (these are the top of the line SLS and DMLS systems) to gypsum-based architectural models (heavy! But they can do overhangs beautifully), to tooling in everything from wax (for casting patterns) to plastic (can be injection molds or even hydroforming molds).

One of the most interesting displays was of 3D scanning and reverse engineering technology. And yes, we’re going to put that to the test Real Soon Now.

Wrist tap for serial arsonists

Fire-Hands-Screensaver_1“Burn, baby, burn.” In Massachusetts, it turns out, it’s barely a crime. And it has fire officials hot under their turnout collars. A typically soft-on-crime Massachusetts judge — of the ilk that sentences a pedophile to house arrest in the same house with the victim*, or lets a serial rapist take some “me time” before sentencing, which turns into 35 years as a fugitive — wants to resolve dozens of arsons, at least nine of which the arsonists did after the cops started tracking them to fire sites with a GPS bug, with a tap-on-the-wrist short sentence.

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan is slamming a judge’s plea deal proposal for an accused arsonist, saying he is “outraged” a Wareham man and his stepson may draw short sentences for a series of fires.

Superior Court Judge Carol Ball offered Mark Sargent, 46, two to three years in prison followed by three years probation, and his stepson, Jeanmarie Louis, 24, was offered 21⁄2 years, with one year to serve, and credit for one year served, according to Plymouth District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Bridget Norton Middleton, who declined to comment on the deal. Sargent and Louis were charged in a series of arsons in fall 2012 in Plymouth County, and are under investigation in others in Barnstable, Bristol and Norfolk counties.

“I am outraged at the plea deal offered today to this father and stepson team of serial arsonists,” Coan said in a statement. “Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz asked for 8-12 years in state prison for the older man and 4-6 years for the younger. I concur with the district attorney that a fair sentence for these three fires includes significant jail time.

via Arson plea deal outrages marshal | Boston Herald.

It isn’t just the fire marshal. Local police chiefs also tried to pour water on the deal. At least six firefighters were injured fighting these arson blazes.

But hey, it’s Massachusetts, home of The Ted Kennedy Drinking and Driving Academy and NAMBLA.

Not much question that these are the right two mutts: the arsons, which had gone on for years, stopped dead in their tracks when these two firebugs were picked up. There hasn’t been another one since (and won’t be another till they get out — one more reason that even Massachusetts’s famously loose judicial system ought to lock them up for a while).

Funny thing: we wrote about this case before, but we didn’t make the connection at first. Because the bat-guano cray lady who attacked cops with a machete? She was the girlfriend of the senior arsonist and the mother of the junior one, and the cops she tried to go all Ginsu on were investigating this exact arson case. Here’s a story from NECN (no link because of autoplay malware on the site):

Neighbors of two men suspected in a string of arson fires in southeastern Massachusetts said they aren’t surprised by the charges, but police were surprised when they showed up at the men’s home to search it, and were met by a machete wielding woman.

Middleboro, Mass. police said Myrna Antoine, 41, threatened officers with an 18-inch machete early Thursday morning. Antoine’s common law husband, Mark Sargent, 45, and her son Jeanmarie Louis, 23, were arrested Wednesday night and charged with setting an arson fire in West Bridgewater.

Authorities said the men are also suspected in two dozen other arson fires in the area. Police had been tracking them by a GPS device.

“It doesn’t look good,” said Randy Gould. “If he’s been linked by GPS to at least nine fires, that doesn’t look good.”

Gould is their next door neighbor, and said the family pretty much keeps to themselves, but added Sargent is a huge fireworks fan. Two summers ago, Gould said Sargent set off fireworks every night for a week around the Fourth of July.

“I don’t know where he got them, but he had quite the load. They weren’t the little things, they went hundreds of feet up,” he said. “The town asked him to stop it and stuff”

When police came early Thursday morning to secure the house for a search warrant, they said Antoine had been drinking. The police report said she started spitting and held up a skull at officers.

Then police said, she picked up a machete, “… pointing and swinging it in our direction.”

The report went on to say, “Myrna said she was from Haiti and practices voodoo.”

Police got her to surrender the weapon. They were also able to remove Antoine’s 2-year-old son she has with Sargent from the room. That child actually has a connection to firefighters.

Bridgewater firefighters delivered the boy in Antoine’s car, as she couldn’t make it to the hospital in time.

Lord love — well, you know the rest of it.

The State that wants to hang people from a yardarm for possession of a cartridge, and that is ready to follow New Jersey into declaring .22 Marlins “assault rifles,” hasn’t got any clue what to do with real, actual violent criminals. (And yeah, arson is a violent crime).

* in defense of Massachusetts, that judge was too bad even for them, and she was removed from the bench in a public recall. The link, though, is to a judicial conduct case about her, and its criticism was not that she let a violent rapist walk. They were cool with that; it was that, because the rapist was a drag queen and she said she let him walk because “transgendered people are not violent,” she stereotyped trans-whatever. That was their beef, not turning the armed rapist loose on his victim. It took a recall election to get this monster off the bench.

She was well-connected to the establishment and the Boston Globe, which avoided writing about her misconduct, by ties of friendship and marriage, but she still got the sack. Where do you go after that? She got a TV judge show. Her name is Maria Lopez.

The history of Jane’s Infantry Weapons

Jane's Infantry WeaponsJane’s Infantry Weapons is an annual yearbook published by Jane’s Information Group.

The Group started with Fred T. Jane, who was an illustrator of ships. In 1898 he published the first edition of what’s now known as Jane’s Fighting Ships. That became a yearbook, as the Dreadnought-era navies waxed and waned, and was followed, as the world’s militaries took to the third dimension, by Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. Fred Jane is long gone, and photography replaced drawings for the most part, but the detail and accuracy for which he was respected live on today with IHS Jane’s Information Group.

As demand for curated information on military technology grew, so did the company, and in 1975 they added an Infantry Weapons yearbook. It’s a desk reference used in newspaper offices (not frequently enough), intelligence agencies and other government offices (the main customer base), and defense-contract business development types; I’ve even seen a dog-eared old copy in a novelist’s study. It’s now available as a hardcover and will soon be available as a digital database for, either way, ridiculous money (see above comments on intelligence agencies and government offices). But used copies do turn up, and there’s relatively little churn from year to year. An old hardcover’s price is entirely based on supply and demand, and demand declines for a dated yearbook rather sharply. This year’s yearbook will set you back well over $1,500. Last year’s might still be a thousand dollars. and one from twenty years ago — which, for all we know, might be the one you’d rather have — might be anywhere from two to fifty bucks, plus shipping. 

Jane’s Infantry Weapons is rather good at describing what exists out there, what its broad capabilities are, and who designed it. It’s also quite solid at describing who makes it and where to contact him, which has certain utility to industry. Sometime in the last ten years, a corporate merger drove a title change to IHS Jane’s Weapons: Infantry (as with the other Jane’s yearbooks), but everybody still calls it by the old name.

The initial editor was FWA Hobart, and his successors have included such luminaries as Jon Weeks and Ian V Hogg, who had a long run (1983 to the mid-90s).

The  current editor (since 2004) is Richard D. Jones, whose CV certainly marks him as more than qualified:

Richard D Jones joined the Regular Army as a junior soldier in the 1960s. Enlisting initially in the Royal Artillery, he later became personally and professionally involved with small-caliber weapons and ammunition. After completing Regular Army service in 1994, he joined the UK Ministry of Defence Pattern Room, sometimes known as the Enfield Collection – arguably the world’s most comprehensive working reference collection of small arms, spanning the years 1850 to the present time. Formerly the Custodian and Head of Unit until the transfer of the collection to the Royal Armouries in September 2005, Richard continues to provide a similar service to his former customers at the newly created National Firearms Centre at Leeds, in the north of England.

Richard is married, has two adult children and lives in Nottingham. His hobbies include participation in all forms of shooting, travel and reading, primarily non-fiction. Richard became Editor of  in 2004 (then known as Jane’s Infantry Weapons).

Jones’s co-editor is Lee Ness, since approximately 2005; Ness is a US Army retiree and is more of an armored vehicle guy with an interest in small arms, than Jones who has always been small-arms oriented. (Ness also co-edits an Ammunition yearbook).

A current Jane’s Infantry Weapons is, as suggested above, very expensive. ($1,500 plus for the hardback). But older issues are widely available, for example, on Amazon and Ebay, and they can be found in used bookstores (in the USA, especially in the National Capital Area). We’ve even found one in a Salvation Army thrift store.

Why Count Rounds?

The Army's experimenting with automated round-counting systems.

The Army’s experimenting with automated round-counting systems in the interests of better maintenance.

Well, back in SOT, the chief pistol instructor, the late Paul Poole, used to tell us “Never dry fire in a firefight!” In those days, CT work (only the British called it CQB then) was done with pistols, although we were experimenting with both the newfangled H&K MP5 and Colt’s oldfangled XM177s, a few of which were around but very beaten-up; Colt had a new version with a 14.5″ barrel that they said solved all the 177′s problems, except for the big fireball and ear-shredding report. 

We’d have gone to Hell to bring back the three heads of Cerberus for Poole, a Son Tay raider and Bob Howard’s recon-running-teammate, but it wasn’t just for his history: the guy was a dead shot, making steel E silhouettes ring with a .45 at 100 yards, and entertaining as hell, with a foghorn laugh: “Bwah-hah-hah! Never dry fire in a firefight!” when one of us was caught with his figurative pants down and his literal 1911A1 slide locked back. And his instruction was pure common sense and experience, and we all got better — a lot better — under his tutelage. 

Even if he did assess our personal pistol skills and make a little presentation in front of the guys: an M79. “Hognose, you need an area fire weapon. Bwah-hah-hah!” Ouch.

Later we found out that it was simply that somebody had to be the team grenadiers, and two of us were pulled for the honor. Poole just couldn’t resist making fun of us. (On the plus side, you get creepily good on a 79 with a couple 72-round crates a day to burn. Even if it does chew up the web of your hand).

But we did start counting rounds, at least, per mag. With the 1911, of course, it was easy. It would go bang exactly 7 times from start, and if you forgot in the stress of action how many bangs you had left, you dropped the old mag in your leg pocket (if you had time) and started counting from 7 again. What we didn’t do, though, is count rounds total. Only the snipers did that, and that was because their M14-based M21 sniper systems were a bit of a hothouse flower, sacrificing some of the M14′s robust Garand-based strength for excellent accuracy.

The snipers! Those guys were firing over our heads and next to us as we went in on training targets… one we recall with clarity was a set of wooden stairs with a door at the top and windows to its sides. In the door were two concrete cinderblocks and in each window was another. The snipers had to (and did) pop the blocks in the door as we assaulters charged up the stairs, popping the blocks in the windows with our .45s. The life of the M21 barrels was not long (the snipers did not clean them vigorously, to prevent muzzle wear; the M14 design doesn’t allow cleaning from the breach).

None of the 1911A1s had been built, as far as we knew, after 1945, and God alone knew how many rounds they’d seen. The 1911 would keep firing until a Magnafluxing at one of the periodic rebuilds showed cracks, usually in the slide. The round counts on the 1960s-vintage M16s and XM177E2s were also a mystery. Or even the newer CAR-15 carbines or MP5s… they got shot a lot.

But the idea the snipers had, to count the rounds so you knew when the rifle was about ready to go back to depot, was a good one. They actually logged them in a book (and this continued when the more-accurate and -durable M24 replaced the somewhat improvised M21 with its Leatherwood Automatic Ranging Telescope). The trouble is, of course, that logging rounds is a great deal of work. But if the whole Army could do it, we’d get a lot more information about how long small arms and their components are good for, and we could begin to schedule inspections and overhauls more intelligently. Too many inspections waste money, and some percentage of overhauls go and rebuild guns that don’t need it, while some other percentage of guns that need overhaul, based on their condition, don’t get picked up. (Army ordnance experts think that both of these numbers, the false positives and the false negatives, are about 40%)

For over 10 years the US Department of Defense’s Joint Services Small Arms Program and its constituent service ordnance departments have been trying, with limited success, to develop an automatic round counter for combat firearms. SOF elements have moved ahead of the JSSAP on this, thanks less to general SOF awesomeness, and more to SOF budgets, and they’re futzing around with fielding round counters now.

While the civilian market has round counters, they remain fiddly and unreliable, and many of them are focused on counting down the rounds in your magazine. The military frets less about that, and more about the problem of wear and tear on high cycle small arms. What they’re looking for is something that will give them a shortcut to understanding the condition of a firearm. They see this working in the way that an odometer lets you judge the point a car is at, in its factory-to-scrapyard lifecycle.

There are several ways that systems subject to wear and tear can be singled out for overhaul or rebuild:

  1. They can be selected due to calendar years of age since production or last overhaul. This is what historically has been done with most Army small arms.
  2. They can be selected “on condition.” This means that they are subject to frequent inspections, and weapons that failing inspection criterion or criteria are selected for overhaul. This is the other mechanism that sends Army small arms to the depot for rebuild.
  3. Or, lastly, they can be selected based on usage metrics. This is not done currently, because apart from sniper weapons, and for that matter, sniper weapons used by SOF mostly, few weapons have their usage recorded accurately and reliably.

Each of these approaches has problems. Calendar year replacement means that most parts you are replacing will probably still have many years of service in them. Likewise, many of the problems that degrade small arms accuracy and reliability can’t adequately be documented in an armorer’s condition inspection. Finally, usage metrics also are imperfect: evidence teaches us that not only the amount but also the intensity of use has an effect on weapons wear.

Why Counting Rounds Works for Weapon Maintenance

Let’s consider some real-world examples. The things that kill Stoner system rifles are barrel wear (which degrades first accuracy, then reliability) and metal fatigue in the locking mechanism, especially in the bolt (which is primarily a reliability threat.

The two real problem areas in rifle barrel wear are throat erosion and gas port erosion, both of which degrade accuracy and reliability. But the means the Army currently uses to detect throat erosion, the same taper gauge used to detect muzzle erosion, doesn’t work reliably at the back end of the barrel. It misses a high percentage of badly eroded chambers (well, actually, throats), “false negatives,” while identifying a rather high percentage of “false positive” chambers, that are still perfectly accurate. And outside of the depot, where the port can be examined with a borescope, there’s no way to judge gas port erosion at all.


Note that two of the seven lugs had failed. After the first one lets go, the overloaded remainder fail in rapid succession.

Note that two of the seven lugs have failed. After the first one lets go, the overloaded remainder fail in rapid succession, unless the broken lugs jam the rifle..

Fatigue undermines the bolt all over, but the bolts fail in two areas: the locking lugs, and at the hole for the pivot pin. Both are places where the metal is limited but stresses concentrate.

A locking lug failure (like the single-locking-lug failure common on the Beretta) may not immediately fail the weapon. That depends on where the broken chunks of lug go; but most places they might go will interfere with something. Moreover, as each lug fails, the remaining ones bear more burden, and they usually fail in an accelerating sequence as the burden of seven lugs is borne by six, five, four… the gun generally jams before you get to zero.

The next most common place for bolt failure is at the thinnest section of the bolt, where it’s drilled through to accept the pivot pin. Any asymmetry in forces here, which may result from even microscopic as symmetry of the park part, causes the forces to load up on one side or the other, and over a great deal of time, or if there’s a presence of a Nick or any other stress riser, crack begins to propagate on one side or the other. Even before the first side is completely cracked through, it’s weakened ability to bear loads increases stress on the other side, Waiting to a matching crack over there. The bolt can crack through on one side or on both, and is cracked through on one side, will quickly crack through on the other. A redesign of this area to reduce the diameter of the pivot pin, leaving more cross-sectional material in the bolt, or adding rollers to reduce friction, might increase durability here. It’s hard to judge whether it’s actually necessary, because bolt failures are relatively uncommon, and redesigning the pivot pin mechanism may introduce new failure modes.

Usually a crack at this point occurs on one side first, and can be spotted with the naked eye.

Usually a crack at this point occurs on one side first, and can be spotted with the naked eye before it propagates across the entire bolt.

The bolt seems to fail, whichever failure mode gets them, before the lugs in the barrel extension let go. Obviously bolt failures are catastrophic failures that take the weapon out of service either instantly or very rapidly (within a few more rounds); there is no fail-safe bolt failure mode. Bolt failures always occur during firing, never during non-firing weapons-handling, and therefore they have a potential to happen during combat, which is by definition a Bad Thing.

The current maintenance schedule sends small arms to the depot for analysis in large batches, commits weapons to overhaul that have years of useful life, or, even worse, sends them after they display failure in the field. Everyone knows that you have to turn in the rifles with the broken bolts illustrated here. What we don’t know is: can you catch the problem before it is catastrophic, or even visible, with round-counting?

So this is the why of round-counting (there are a few other wear modes, like to the gascheck rings, but this is the meat of it). First, we can use round-counters to identify specific weapons that have had higher usage than their rackmates, and that we would expect, ceteris paribus, to be be more needful of maintenance. Once we have an automated round-counting system in place, we can correlate round-counts with wear and failures systematically, and the data-collection potential gets interesting. A first-generation round counter is itself certainly useful, but still a rough device. All rounds are not equal, and that leaves us growth potential for improved future versions. We know from decades of experience, for example, that automatic fire wears guns of all kinds more severely than the same number of rounds fired semiautomatically, and that heavy, sustained automatic fire is very deleterious to accuracy. You may recall this post from last year wherein we noted that WWII armorers observed that .50 ANM2 aerial machine guns that had been fired in long bursts lost their accuracy even though the barrels gaged normally in all dimensions. An M4A1 is not a .50 but there may be analogies in the physics and metallurgy at work in each.

Round counters give us data points we didn’t have before, in other words.

(When we figure out where we stowed it, we’ll link the 2006 SOFIC presentation from which the images and many of the facts have been drawn).

When the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace Went to War

Major General Snow after the war, with US and Allied decorations.

Major General Snow after the war, with US and Allied decorations.

It was 1918, and the organization was then known as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The very able Maj. Gen. William J Snow had just been appointed to the new position of Chief of Army Artillery. The position was desperately needed: at the US entry into the war in 1917, the Army had barely 275 officers and 5000 men in its trained artillery, yielding, apart from colonial garrisons, one understrength regiment each of light, heavy, and horse artillery. You would think that the branch would have grown as the Great War roiled Europe, but the 1917 numbers, and the situation, were practically identical to those that obtained in August 1914 when the war broke out. Snow recalled:

In 1914 the Field Artillery of the United States Regular Army consisted of 266 officers and 4,992 enlisted men organized into six regiments. This was sufficient only to provide small overseas garrisons and what might be considered “display samples” of the different classes of field artillery in the United States.

There were no mortars (in WWI, the US would consider these infantry weapons artillery, but they hadn’t got to the point of having any yet), and no echelons above the artillery regiment, which was suited to be part of no combined-arms or infantry formation larger than division. In the four-million-man army built after 1917 for the war, all these things would be rectified, but not without drama. After Snow’s appointment as the Army’s chief of cannon-cockers, he found, initially, there was no office for him in Washington. (The Pentagon, of course, was 25 years in the future). But he had brought some resourceful staff officers with him:

On my third day in office two assistants reported for duty. They were Majors Bacon and Channing, who had been on my staff at Camp Jackson. I told them to go out and hire an office and engage some clerks, while I again spent the day in the staff and supply departments. Late that afternoon they returned and told me that there was not an office to be rented in Washington but that they had secured the loan of the building occupied by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and that for my personal use Elihu Root was lending me his office!

And so it was that I began my work in the War Department in this Peace Endowment building, the Carnegie Peace people paying the rent. I always thought this quite appropriate, for certainly so far as practical results go I accomplished more to restore international peace than Mr. Carnegie ever did to maintain it.

That last was a bit of a zing, but then, as now, the peaceniks have it coming. For “peace”, most of them mean, “surrender”; and for resolving conflict, most of them take the bold approach of the ostrich of legend. Root’s Carnegie Peace office would continue to serve Snow, and by extension, the nation, even after Major General Snow had an office of his own:

The Secretary of the General Staff kept his promise in a few days he assigned me one room6 and one clerk in the War Department building. He also furnished me the money-saving rubber stamp, Office of the Chief of Field Artillery.

For some time, even after my office was well established in a suite in the State, War, and Navy Building I kept Mr. Root’s office as a place where I could worked quietly and undisturbed on knotty problems; for frequently when I arrived at my main office in the morning I found, extending down the corridor, a line of people waiting to see me.

One of the perks, if that’s the word, of being Chief of Artillery during wartime, is that inventive Americans being their high-tech solutions to you:


Of course, the Office had an Inventions Section. The American is quite prolific with ideas. One contractor thought guns and ammunition were obsolete and that what was needed was modern machinery on a large scale, so that a veritable subway could be dug under the enemy with steam shovels and the whole German army be blown up. Another man suggested a loaded club so arranged that when you hit a man over the head it would shoot him too. A very modest fellow proposed a pencil that would make its writing visible in the dark. Another had a plan for a folding bullet-proof steel umbrella. Still another suggested chemical powder to sift on one’s body to cleanse it like a bath.

And so on. These schemes poured in. And they all had to be treated with polite consideration. As an illustration, I may mention the idea of a man from the southern part of the United States, who suggested that instead of high explosive, we load a rattlesnake into each shell. We thanked him and mentioned several obvious disadvantages and invited him to communicate with us when these difficulties were solved.

That was a general with a dry sense of humor indeed. And, even then, Congressional inquiries were a bane of pre-Beltway existence:

Then there was an Information Bureau, principally for members of Congress. We took the position of never saying “You have the wrong office.” On the contrary, when a member of Congress called up about hand grenades or whatnot, we would tell him that, while this did not pertain to field artillery, we would get the information for him. We were always definite, specific, and helpful.

General Snow’s reminisces are excerpted in the January-February 1940 number of the Field Artillery Journal. They’re worth reading in depth, including his visit to the respected training expert General Morrison, who advised him, “if you value your reputation, get away from the War Department,” and his frank assessment of General Pershing’s criticism of the War Department, and Woodrow Wilson’s performance as Commander-in-Chief. Still a good read, almost a century after the events he describes. More of his memoirs were excerpted in at least one subsequent issue, perhaps more.

Hey, how come no one comments on the ATF threads?

Cat got your tongue?

Or are you worried about consequences?

We don’t think the ATF has it in for outspoken folks any more than it has it in for all of us. But there are two useful principles to remember when dealing with the ATF.

  1. To the limited extent a problem is of ATF’s creation, it probably was created entirely by managers, over the strenuous objections of line agents or inspectors; and,
  2. A lot of the beefs people have with “the ATF” result not from anything the bureau did, but with the internally contradictory laws that they are commanded to enforce.

Almost all the dumbest stuff in the US Code relative to firearms emanated not ex cathedra from the Throne of Elliot Ness, but from the kindergarten we call a legislature.

Gunowners Physical Security Plan, Part 1

In conversations with our local police chief, we learned that he’s had an awful lot of trouble with burglary victims having lost property that they can’t describe accurately. That makes a certain amount of sense: after all, do you know the serial number of your computer? Your flat screen TV? Of course not.

But the stolen property he was most concerned with was firearms. While some burglars are still stupid enough to try to pawn firearms, something both the pawnshops and the police are on to, most of them have a higher level of brain-stem activity than that. But burglars by definition have plenty of criminal associates, and this ensures that any stolen firearms rapidly begin circulating in the criminal milieu. And they love stealing guns (here’s an ATF interactive on guns reported stolen in toto and by state).

Since they wouldn’t be criminals if they weren’t losers, a percentage of them get bagged doing routine dumb stuff you probably don’t do, like beating their baby-mammas, or blowing through red lights with veins full of psychoactive chemicals, and the cops recover lots of guns. But it doesn’t work like TV. Unless they know that Walther P.38 serial e5176 is your stolen gun, it’s never connected to your residential burglary. Contrary to TV shows, they also don’t ballistically test every gun that comes in, only guns that come in suspected of being used in assaults or murders, where they have a crime bullet to match. So once Joe Burglar’s woman-beatin’ or DUI case is over and the gun isn’t needed for evidence, it gets disposed of by law and SOP. (Some places auction the guns, some destroy them, basically depending on the general degree of anti-gun attitude of the pols in the area). So once your gun is gone, your chances of recovery are fairly low but nonzero, unless you don’t have a number to give to the cops.

John Sobotta and his stolen and recovered Luger.

John Sobotta and his stolen and recovered Luger.

The guy who’s photo is shown here is an example of a guy who had an inventory: Michigan gunowner John Sobotta. As John Agar of the Grand Rapids Press reported, Sobotta “always wondered — and worried” about his stolen guns (although he didn’t contact the cops until they came to him, using information from a state handgun registry). One came back quickly, and another took longer:

His German Luger turned up a year later, after a parolee shot himself in the leg.

The other, a .38 special Cobra Colt, was found by Grand Rapids Police Officer Robert Kozminski, who heard shots and arrested a suspect running with a gun in his coat.

That was Dec. 14, 2006. It was one of Kozminski’s last felony arrests.

(Kozminski was killed in 2007, fortunately, not by one of Sobotta’s firearms). Disregarding Agar’s firearms illiteracy, his article notes that, at least of his writing in 2010, the average time between theft and recovery in Michigan was fourteen years. The article was part of a series, rather typically blaming legal guns and gun owners for Michigan crime. But Michigan doesn’t punish gun burglars much — one gunstore burglar got six months.

Number, photographs, and any unique identifying features also help. Which reminds us, if you’ve been burgled, but still have photos of your guns, try blowing them up from the RAW files or negatives — you may be able to recover serial numbers. Not an optimum way to proceed, but it beats zero.

Once, we used to have all our serial numbers memorized. But these days, we have a smaller brain, a bigger gun room, or both; so we keep a computer inventory in an Excel spreadsheet. One problem with that is glaringly obvious: any burglar who grabs the guns will certainly boost the computer, too. You can just see that next conversation with the Chief. “So where’s the inventory you told me you had?” “Uh, Crim’s got it.” Major crime-fighting fail. Your inventory needs to be backed up offsite.

Many people have no inventory of their firearms, because they don’t expect to be robbed of them. (But it happens even in upscale communities — often by someone who worked as a laborer for a contractor working on that house or another in the neighborhood). If you have an inventory, the cops can rapidly — within minutes — have those stolen guns listed in the National Crime Information Computer system, which not only increases your chances of getting your gun back (unless it’s recovered by a lawless jurisdiction like Boston, which destroys rather than returns recovered guns), but also increases the chances of catching the burglars and their enablers who buy their stolen property.

ATF publishes a handy inventory sheet for the owner. Here it is, ATF Publication 3312.8, Personal Firearms Record. It’s too small for most of us, with room for only ten guns, but shows you what information to include. Then all you have to do is put a copy in a safe-deposit box, or leave a copy with a family member or trusted friend. (This is the “poor man’s safe-deposit box,” it can’t get opened by your ex’s divorce lawyer’s subpoena, doesn’t need a key, and you and your chosen inventory holder are most unlikely to be burgled same day. Unless you live in Chicago or Detroit, in which case, why haven’t you moved?)

If you want to skip ahead and think up some more physical security measures, ATF publishes a security guide for FFLs and SOTs, ATF Publication 3317.2, Safety and Security Information for Federal Firearms Licensees. The Physical Security section beginning on Page 8 has some interesting parallels to the Army way of doing things, but the bottom line is, it’s good advice, although the ATF version is more advisory, whilst the Army regulation is more directive.


Once upon a time, we knew all the serial numbers of our firearms. Now we have a smaller brain, a bigger gun room, or both; so we keep a computer inventory in an Excel spreadsheet. One problem with that is glaringly obvious: any burglar who grabs the guns will certainly boost the computer, too. You can just see that next conversation with the Chief. “So where’s the inventory you told me you had?” “Uh, Crim’s got it.” Major crime-fighting fail. Your inventory needs to be backed up offsite.


Exercise for the reader: imagine a burglary of an FFL or SOT. Now imagine getting the hardware and the bound book. D’oh! An offsite inventory is a really good idea. If you’re worried about pervasive surveillance and lax computer security (and you probably should be), then your offsite backup should be a hard copy, on paper and everything.

He pointed out that our dead-bolted gun room we’re so proud of is really nothing but a locked door. Worse, it’s a locked interior door, with no eyes-on, and quite vulnerable to a forcible attack.

We realized we didn’t have a physical security plan. Back in Army days, you had to have a physical security plan for each of your facilities. If the facility hosts firearms, ammunition, explosives, classified information, or anything else deemed sensitive, the Army required a truly elaborate physical security plan.

A good physical security plan provides many layers of security. The first layer should probably be an exterior alarm on the structure, or perhaps even perimeter video. (This assumes a perimeter fence is not practical). The next should be locks and other obstacles. Any soldier will tell you, though, that an obstacle is only an obstacle if it’s under observation and covered by fire… conditions that do not obtain if you ever leave your building unoccupied.

You cannot keep every burglar out. What you can do is deter some burglars, delay and bother others to the point where they give up. In that case, they’ll probably go burgle someone else’s home or workplace, but that’s not your concern. If you do get the rare burglar with no quit in him, or no preference for the easy mark, and he does persist, you can document his depredations so that he’s quickly caught.

As we develop a physical security plan, some options fall by the wayside. Alas, as grand as Hog Manor is, it’s not a good candidate for a moat (and the weather here is uncomfortable for alligators and piranhas, sad to say). Likewise, the neighbors, currently cordial, might take a dim view of guard towers, searchlights, and razor wire — not to mention the pay and benefits for three shifts of guards. (How come no Bond villain ever has to deal with his henchmen’s workmen’s-comp issues? But we digress).

The bottom line, then, is that we’re restricted to measures that do not radically change the exterior of the structure. Our goal is not to make an impregnable Maginot Line, for every Maginot Line has its vulnerable flank. Our goal is to apply some of the techniques of military defense (and, to be sure, physical security) to harden Hog Manor.

And you’re along for the ride.