Author Archives: Hognose

About Hognose

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

How Big Should a Recon Team Be?

You’re going to know the answer before we say it: “It depends.” Well, it does, really, but there’s room for a discussion of the factors it depends on. This post got its start in a reply to a commenter, then it just grew.

Lessons from Recon History

There’s a fundamental balancing equation here: team size versus team survival. Especially as the world gets more urbanized, it’s harder to sneak and peek without getting spotted. Until you get spotted, it’s advantageous to recon with the fewest men possible (the military will never tolerate just one… it’s against the DNA. Although SF has run a singleton, for clandestine operations, in the past, and certain JSOC elements still select people with the possibility in mind. What they do once they select them is their business, not yours or mine). But once you get spotted it’s advantageous to have as many men as possible (more eyes in more directions, more guns, all in all more firepower and staying power until you can get reinforced or extracted).

MAC-V SOG RT Asp, 69, a large RT. Left standing Mel Westerfield; Opposite Lo Van An (Sole survivor of Asp's last mission) Courtesty Ken Conboy and James Morrison.

MAC-V SOG RT Asp, in garrison, 1969. Left standing Mel Westerfield; Opposite Lo Van An (Sole survivor of Asp’s last mission) Courtesy Ken Conboy and James Morrison.

It also depends on terrain and mobility. We found a short ODA (usually about 8 men) a good recon element whether on foot or in mobility equipment in the desert environment. In a wooded/urbanized environment a recon was best done by a third to a quarter of a full ODA (3-4 men). In Vietnam, LRRPs (Big Green’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols) ran with six guys and Marine recon with about double that. SOG, which ran deeper in the denied area and had its own dedicated reaction forces (Bright Light and Hatchet Forces) ran with from four to eight guys, of whom two to three were Americans, and the remainder indigenous troops.

RT Asp, ready to go, 6 men. Top center is CPT Garry Robb, later Recon Co. Commander.

RT Asp, ready to go, 6 men. Top center is CPT Garry Robb, later Recon Co. Commander. If the team ran in US uniform (as here), they could be photographed; photos of teams running in NVA uniforms and gear were verboten.

Project Delta (only related to the later SFOD-D by name) ran with four to six Americans. While Beckwith was in command, he sometimes did not attempt to extract compromised teams and just took their pin off the map and used the lift that might have extracted them to make new insertions instead, which is one reason few men from his Vietnam command volunteered for his later SOF command.

We believe that the Selous Scouts were able to run two and three man recons in part because their enemy was poorly trained, and the terrain provided decent cover and concealment, making the better-trained and fitter Scouts much more able to evade contact once made than a SOG team up against the well-oiled counter-reconnaissance machine of Group 559 along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Which is good, because the Rhodesians did not have the communications and air support the American unit had ten years earlier. “Floppy” marksmanship in particular was not up to the NVA standard, and often only the leader of a “stick” would have the arcane knowledge of how to work the RPD light machine gun.

Project Guns RPDs

RPDs (these are semiauto builds from Project Guns, but the original was the primary support weapon carried by the terrs of ZIPRA and ZANLA. It was most used in Vietnam after the US drawdown)

This also may be part of why Scout tactics didn’t map directly to SWA or southern Angola. Terrain’s a lot more open; SWAPO seems to have been better trained and more willing to stand and fight than ZANLA or ZIPRA. (The classic enemy break-contact tactic in Rhodesia was the “bombshell,” each man escape-and-evading to a pre-briefed rally point). But we digress.

Let’s Isolate the Sizing Factors, Then

As we see it there are certain factors. They include (in rough order of priority)

  1. The Terrain, in its largest, op-order-paragraph sense, to include the weather, the plants, the enemy forces, presence of noncombatants, neutrals and third parties, the whole non-friendly panoply. You can use the METT-T mnemonic to see if you’ve covered these, just dropping the letters that don’t apply.
  2. The enemy and his state of alertness, training, and general “Vitamin Clue”.
  3. Your own troops: fitness, state of training, ability to appear something other than as they are.
  4. Your communications and the imminence of support. What kinds of support? Only accurate fires, reaction forces, and extraction matter. Note that if your reaction force is road-bound, and the enemy has the capability of closing the roads, you actually might not have a reaction force at all.

These factors apply to your operations.

If the terrain favors concealed movement and ready contact-breaking, then the optimum team size is smaller. With each man you add, your detectability to human eyes and technical sensors increases exponentially. An eight man team is not eight times as detectable as one man, it is more detectable to the power of eight.

Adjusting Size in Ongoing Operations

In the past recon teams, whether SOG’s, the Rhodesian SAS, or Guderian’s motorcycle patrols, were sized initially by guess and by God, and then, by experience which quickly tips a commander (sometimes at the expense of his reconnaissance specialists) as to whether he has sized his teams rightly. This sizing should be kept in the recon community and not become an element of Army doctrine, as it needs to conform to changing circumstances and evolving conditions. The motorcycle recon that served the Germans so well in their run through Poland in 1939, the Low Countries in 1940 and the western USSR in 1941 would have been suicidal on the static front of Italy in 1944, or most anywhere the Red Army was present in force that year.

1 May 40: German Recon Elements reach the Seine.

1 May 40: German Recon Elements reach the Seine.

The fact is, armored reconnaissance, aerial reconnaissance, and the stealthiest ground sneak-and-peak reconnaissance, as different as they seem, are not different things. They are different methods of doing the same thing, simply adapted for the environment at hand.

When you can do it, the very best reconnaissance is always to put the eyes of a trusted man directly on the enemy and his operations. How you do that has to adapt to the terrain, the enemy and friendly forces, and the pace of operations.

So the size of you recon teams, like their composition?

It depends.

Shoot Like a Fed II: The FBI Qualification 1997-2013

keep-calm-and-carry-a-fbi-badgeCan you shoot like an FBI  Special Agent? A single box of ammo will tell you, as the qualification runs 50 rounds. True, this is an outdated certification that dates from the days that the Bureau issued DA/SA SIG pistols. (The current qualification has some insignificant changes, like starting at the close targets and working back; and some significant ones, like eliminating the 25-yard line and requiring all strings to be fired after drawing from concealment. We may cover that in the future).

While a listing of a qualification’s stages in black and white is necessary and works for people who learn well from the printed page, we think videos like this one, which one of our readers found online, really help to get the points across.

The FBI then used the Q target. Scoring is simple: a round touching the line of or inside the “bottle” counts for 2 points, a round outsize zero. The standards are: 85% to qualify, and 90% for instructors. The stages are listed below this 2012 video from Darkwood Personal Defense, which lasts 4:18.

Stage I:
25 yards. 75 seconds. Firearm fully loaded. All shots (regardless of barricade side) are taken with two hand hold with strong hand operating pistol.
6 rounds prone; 3 rounds strong side kneeling/barricaded; 6 rounds strong side standing/barricaded; 3 rounds weak side kneeling/barricaded. Total 18 rounds.

Stage II:
Start at 25 yards, firearm fully loaded, in holster. Total time 18 sec.
Start at 25 yards; but shooter does not fire here. On command, shooter displaces to 15 yard line, draws, fires 2 rounds, 6 seconds. Decock (if DA/SA) and return to low ready. On command, Fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds, return to low ready. Repeat on command 2 rounds, 3 seconds, three times. Total 10 rounds (running total 28).

Stage III: 
Start at 15 yards, firearm loaded with fewer than 12 rounds, in holster, and spare magazine on belt. Total time 15 sec.
Start at 15 yards; but shooter does not fire here. On command, shooter displaces to 7 yard line, draws, fires 12 rounds — including a reload — in 15 seconds. Total 12 rounds (running total 40).

Stage IV:
Start at 7 yards, firearm loaded with a 5 round magazine, in holster, spare mag on belt with 5 rounds. Total time 15 sec.
Start at 7 yards; but shooter does not fire here. On command, shooter displaces to 5 yard line, draws strong hand only, fires 5 rounds.  Transfers gun to weak hand (this can happen before, during or after the reload. It is safest before, and fastest during, as the instructor demonstrates), reloads, fires 5 rounds weak hand only. Time limit 15 seconds. Total 10 rounds (running total 50).

This is a much simpler and easier qualification than the ICE/DHS HSI qualification that we’ve posted before. We’ve never heard of a Bureau candidate being sent to hit the bricks for failing the pistol test (we’ve heard of a few “retested” by managers after the instructors gave up on them, and miraculously passing. This happens in every agency), but we have heard of special agents in the field being retasked to desk work after repeated failures to qualify. It is a rare agent who will fire his or her firearm in anger, but every one is supposed to be ready to do so. The replacement qual is not significantly more difficult, although it’s generally closer in, and stresses starting from concealment, which is more realistic for an investigative agency. (Sure, if they’re expecting trouble, like a warrant service, they unholster in advance or even break out the long guns… or they re-plan the arrest so that it’s less risky, if possible). The FBI’s upcoming change to 9mm from .40 S&W will make it easier yet.

So, can you shoot like a Fed?

Southland Sunday

Actually, we’re entirely in the wrong end of Florida for it to be the Southland any more. The most common accent you hear around here is New York, followed by Joisey and Bawston. In the Panhandle or around Lakeland, we sometimes need the bailiff to step out and fetch the New Hampshire Turkey Herder interpreter, because the noises the locals make are clearly an attempt at communication, but are unintelligible.

Conversely, in Palm Beach County, home of the hanging chad — fifteen years ago, now, the Sore Loserman election — you might as well be in Rego Park in 1965, because it’s all the same people. That’s OK by us. Like people everywhere, nine-tenths of them are OK and the other ten percent is gonna wind up on TV sooner or later.

Usually, doing the perp walk.

So what do we like about Florida?

Well, the weather, for one thing. When we think of New England weather at this time of year — even though we’ve been having an unusually mild autumn, more like an extended Indian summer — our overall impression is one of bleakness. In high school we were made to read a dreadful novel, “a classic of New England,” said the teacher, by somebody Forbes (Esther, maybe?). The book was called Ethan Frome and its climactic events took place during a wild, plunging sleigh ride. It radiated an overall sense of bleakness and depression, and we recall thinking, “If this is what every other poor bastard in high school is being made to read, the impression that New England is a horrible, austere, bleak place who deserve a violent sleigh crash at minimum will be universal in the nation.” New England winters are beastly, bleak, and about February, interminable — like Ethan Frome — and that must generally be endured to the end — again, like Ethan Frome. They are proof that mankind has extended his dominion far beyond the latitudes that humans thrive in.

Florida, conversely, is an environment that humans thrive in. Of course, there is nothing natural about it. Before vaccination, antibiotics, drainage, and mosquito control, it had a reputation for being “deadly for the White Man.” Which just goes to show how the ethnocentric chroniclers of old didn’t take the suffering of the Red Man seriously, because the Seminoles suffered under all those same problems, plus an invasion of illegal immigrants bent on replacing them. Maybe that’s why the Seminoles were our toughest Indian nut to crack; they went down, but they went down fighting, and they, and the bugs of Florida in millimeter, micro, and nano-scale, made the Seminole Wars America’s costliest Indian Wars.

So we also love the history of Florida, so different from that of our native New England, and so similar. The Floridian driving from condo to Wal-Mart to chain restaurant doesn’t know that he’s driving on ground fought over in the 19th Century, which is kind of funny, because back home hardly anyone knows that some of the prominent features in town were named for 17th Century Indian fights.

Nowadays, the Seminoles, in what has become Indian custom, have partnered with “gaming interests” (think, Don Vito) and run casinos, and are proud to have their tribal name associated with sports teams,especially when there’s a license payment involved. Twenty years ago, they had a chief who liked to fly and he got the tribe building airplanes. The venture failed but the airplanes they built were extremely good; their product was called the Micco SP26, and it’s just a fantastic airplane and the owners tend to hold tight to them. People out there keep track of which Micco owners are over eighty and have google alerts set in a ghoulish obituary watch. You think of American Indians, and you don’t immediately think, “building superior light aircraft,” but there you go.

The “Indians” in New England “resurfaced” from tribes wiped out in King Philip’s War, and end to have rather more Sicilian ancestry than Native American. So we like Florida for its Indians who are real by-god Indians, thank you very much. Stick to the coasts and you won’t meet that many, but they’re still here and they’re good people.

We love Florida also because it has sensible, which is to say few, gun laws. Our first ever visit to a well-stocked Class III dealer took place in St Augustine, and the guys there showed a couple of little kids (Your Humble Blogger may have been 13, and he’s the elder Rong Brother), outcrops of history and, to us, beauty: Maxims and BARs and OSS clandestine weapons and a Hi-Power with a shoulder stock. That was in the 1970s, when the hard part of buying some of these things was swinging the transfer tax ($200). The advent of NH->FL nonstops means that we don’t have to maintain two sets of carry guns.

But the primary reason we come to Florida is for family. In a perfect world, and if we were granted perfection, it would be the primary reason we did many things.

That Was the Week that Was: 2015 Week 46

That was the week that was TW3Busy week with a lot of stuff going on. Today — hopefully you didn’t notice it, thanks to scheduled posts — was a travel day, and in this coming week we may wind up cutting back on posting to one or two posts a day. We promise to give you decent quality even when the quality quantity must flag. (Note: quality reflagged. Sheesh. -Ed.)

Due to the pressures of the week, we stayed just barely on schedule with posts and many more detailed posts we were working slid. Fortunately some of them went up today. We also got up two back posts which you may not have noticed, last week’s Saturday Matinee and TW3 posts. Yes, late, but that beats never.

The Boring Statistics

This week was an average week. We posted 28, and a slightly retrograde total of about 19,000 words. If we passed any significant milestone this week, we didn’t note it. Our average post was 617 words long, but the median was only 385, suggesting an average skewed higher by the number of ong posts made this week (5 of 1000 words or more)

Comments This Week

We had several posts that drew a couple dozen comments or more, with the trophy going to Thank You for Serving Your Country… You Chump from Wednesday Morning. All in all, there were 253 comments this week.

The Week in Posts

Here’s the recap of our posts for this week:

Going Forward

As we noted, we expect this coming week to be a little thin on posts. Hope it isn’t, but only time will tell.

Saturday Matinee 2015 046: Stosstrupp 1917 (German, 1931)

stosstrupp 1917First things first: this is a Nazi propaganda film. Writer-Director Hans Zöberlein was unquestionably a Nazi: Party member #869, Beer Hall Putsch participant, and ultimately a Brigadier (Brigadeführer) in the SA storm troops, and leader of the short-lived Werwolf Nazi resistance. In that capacity he was responsible for the summary court-martial and execution of a number of anti-Nazi citizens who had, briefly, supplanted the Nazi mayor of the small town of Penzberg.

After the war he was a perfect illustration of courts’ everywhere (except perhaps, the USSR) willingness to “split the difference” with a convict:

  1. Convicted of War Crimes, he was sentenced to death;
  2. The Munich court of appeals revoked that sentence, and sentenced him to life imprisonment with permanent loss of civil rights;
  3. In 1952, a Denazification Court tagged him additionally with two years at hard labor, ten years’ loss of professional licenses, and forfeiture of assets.
  4. In 1958, the elderly (67-year-old) Nazi was released from prison on humanitarian grounds. He lived quietly in Munich until 1964.

So yeah, Zöberlein is about a certified a Nazi as a Nazi can get, war criminal and all. And of the movie had considerable Nazi  backing; a special firm, “Arya-Film,” was created to sponsor it.

The chaos of the trenches from overhead -- a shot reminiscent of Platoon.

The chaos of the trenches from overhead — a shot reminiscent of Platoon.

But the movie before us is also a rarity that’s unique inasmuch as we are aware: a World War I movie whose writer-director was actually a veteran of the front in the war in question. Hans Zöberlein was a mid-grade NCO, decorated with the German Empire’s Iron Cross of the 1st and 2nd Classes, and the Bavarian state’s Golden Medal for Bravery, the highest Bavarian decoration for the enlisted class. Indeed, the only other war movies made expressly by the participants we can think of are Audie Murphy’s To Hell and Back (which was directed by a professional) and Oliver Stone’s Platoon. 

glaube an DeutschlandZöberlein’s book Der Glaube an Deutschland (Faith in Germany) was intended as a response to Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front1 and its explicitly pacifistic message of war as bleak, inhuman, and dehumanizing. His Nazi ties paid off here, as Hitler wrote a rare forward to the novel. It was a huge success, selling some 800,000 copies.

Zöberlein publicly accused Remarque of overstating his combat record, and publicly asked him to name where, when and with whom he was at the front. The internationally-renowned author ignored his German rival, and never responded, but Zöberlein pointedly published his own war record for anyone to check. (Remarque’s biography suggests that he spent about a month at the front in an engineer unit before receiving shrapnel wounds requiring his evacuation)

Acting and Production

German poster stosstruppThe acting is workmanlike and unobtrusive. The characters are a range of German “types” — the Bavarian country boy, the Prussian city kid, the wise old farmer (also Bavarian, played by co-director Ludwig Schmid-Wildy.

A great deal of money was spent on the movie, particularly on location shots. Zöberlein’s debut as a director was cushioned by teaming with Schmid-Wildy. Likewise, the movie was heavily promoted. Unlike Remarque’s works, which produced many translations and international versions (like the Oscar-winning 1931 US movie), Zöberlein’s oeuvre didn’t travel well outside the Fatherland.

Accuracy and Weapons

Zöberlein took great pains with the accuracy of the film. The weapons and uniforms appear right, the firing is realistic, the explosions are the most accurate you are likely to see. Artillery shells don’t just make a flash and a blast, but they heave up great quantities of earth.


Stosstrupp grenadier

Even such details as the shock troops having MG08/15 and Mauser 98AZ carbines while the regular line dogs have MG08s on sled mounts and 98A long rifles are mostly maintained. The French have French rifles (Lebel and Berthier), the British mostly British Lee-Enfields, but some British extras had 98AZ carbines too (perhaps the studio ran out of Enfields).

Stosstrupp 1917 germans

In the scenes of the Battle of Cambrai, the British use Mark IV tanks. These seem fairly accurate. (Hitler’s surviving watercolors include several of British and captured and reused tanks).

stosstrupp MG08-15A scene of a fragmentary patrol order is concise and accurate enough to be used as a training film. It’s notable that grenade-throwers were designated in the order; they carried their carbines but their main function was to sling Stielhandgranate stick grenades or captured Mills bombs. The importance of ‘nades to trench CQB is made crystal clear here.

Some things are not right. The sights and sounds of close quarters combat — of spade- and bayonet-fighting — are, of necessity perhaps, sanitized.

There is a theme in here that is likely to be seen as accurate by some and inaccurate by others. The feeling of the comradeship of front-fighters that the movie celebrates — a comradeship that explicitly transcends nationality, in which a German Landser has more in common with the poilu facing him than either does with his own nation’s leaders or industrialists — is one truth of war, but so is Remarque’s toxic brew of fear, isolation, and alienation. Which of those is stronger in a combat veteran’s memories depended, then as now, on where you fought and who fought with you. Depended, then, on the luck of the draw.

The bottom line

Stosstrupp 1917 is, as it was intended, the anti-All Quiet. It does not shrink from the terrors of the frontline, but it denies the nihilism of the more famous book and film, and says that, damn it, the frontline soldiers fought for something, and they fought with all their heart. It was not their fault they were beaten.

It is chilling to remember where history took this feeling of having been defeated unfairly. Indeed, Zöberlein took it there explicitly in his follow-on work, which was called Das Befehl des Gewissens (The Dictate of Conscience) as a book and Um das Menschenrecht (Of Human Rights) as a movie2, and dealt with the defeat as back-stab and the postwar socialist revolution and Freikorps movement from an explicitly Nazi and anti-Semitic point of view.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • DVD page:

  • IMDB page:

  • IMFDB page:

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page:


  • Wikipedia  page:


  1. There’s a great deal of noise made about the fact that the customary English title of Remarque’s work and its derivative movies and TV shows, All Quiet on the Western Front, is not the literal translation of the German title, Im Westen Nichts Neues (better rendered, literally, as “Nothing New in the West.”) In fact, Remarque’s title is in the sparse, formulaic wording of a German war diary, and original translator Arthur Wheen’s English title uses the exact same idiom from a period British document. It is, therefore, a perfect translation, and poor Wheen has been beaten up since 1929 for an error that is nothing such. An American log or diary would probably be further abbreviated: “In the West NSTR” — Nothing Significant To Report.
  2. While, from the synopses, these works appear to have the same theme and setting (post-war Germany and the Freikorps movement) and similar characters, the movie seems to have come out well before the 1937 novel.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Knives

bloody-knifeJust the first line and you know this is going to be bad. Like, real bad.

The baby miraculously survived the Bronx horror.

OK, we’re braced. What kind of horror?

Officials described the Friday delivery as a crude operation where the girl was “surgically removed by the perpetrator.”

Ewwwww. One of those amateur C-section attempts. The baby survived, but what about the mom…?

The newborn was taken to Montefiore Medical Center and listed in stable condition hours after her mother was murdered.

The mom, Angelikque Sutton, was 8½ months pregnant and preparing for the baby’s arrival on Dec. 2. Her baby registry on was full of items she needed, including a Koala baby folding hamper, a convertible crib and a pink baby essentials duffel diaper bag. She also was registered at Babies “R” Us and Target.

Just damn.

But the 22-year-old mother’s dreams of rocking her newborn daughter in her arms came to a grisly end inside Ashleigh Wade’s apartment on Monticello Ave. in Wakefield, cops said. Wade, also 22, allegedly strangled Sutton, then cut the young woman’s throat before knifing the woman in the stomach about 2:30 p.m., cops said.

Note that despite the knife reference in our headline, and the rather extensive knife work Wade did on poor Sutton, the actual homicide weapon seems to have been the good old Mark I set of stranglin’ thumbs — solving temporary disputes permanently since 100,000 BC.

She then tore out her victim’s child, according to Councilman Andy King (D-Bronx).

“It appears that the fetus of this woman was removed … surgically removed by the perpetrator,” King said after being briefed by the police. “This is an ugly incident that cannot be condoned.”

Now there’s a politician for you. Can you tell us who, besides the perp who is clearly barking-at-shadows crazy, would consider condoning such a crime? Even in your corner of the Bronx, people know this is wrong. This is so wrong that New York’s robbers, murderers and rapists will be outraged when they read this in their copy of the Daily News.

Just the crime itself is enough to suggest she’s coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, but is there anything else?

When first responders arrived, Wade claimed that the blood-soaked baby was hers, a police source said.

“She tried to sell the idea that the baby was hers and she had just given birth right there,” a high-ranking police source said. “But that was clearly not the case.”

via Pregnant Bx. woman fatally stabbed, child removed from womb – NY Daily News.

There are many more details in the story, like the reaction of Patrick Bradley, Sutton’s fiancé and the father of the miracle baby. The cops, apparently suspecting him, didn’t tell him anything and he was forced to beg the Daily News reporter for information.

The 911 call came from the horrified boyfriend of Wade, the perpetrator.

Sutton, the victim, knew Wade from high school. Sutton was a recent college graduate; her father is a Pentacostal minister in the neighborhood.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever: Vietnam, 1968

The Greatest Beer Run Ever? That’s what PBR calls John “Chickie” Donohue’s one-man invasion of Vietnam, using his merchant seaman’s papers, a ride as a crewman on an ancient Victory ship, and a bullshit story to visit his friends in-country: his best friend, Bobby Pappas at Long Binh; Tommy Collins, an MP in Qui Nhon; Ricky Duggan, a grunt with the 1st Cav at Quang Tri, who was out on the perimeter when Chickie showed up.

As he arrived back in Saigon after linking up with all three of his friends, he saw the sky light up, and heard with a sinking feeling that “That had to be the ammo dump at Long Binh” — right where Pappas was.

So he went back to Long Binh, where a very alive Pappas met him with a stream of invective — very welcome invective. Proof that his friend was alive.

Was it the Greatest Beer Run Ever? It has to be on the shortlist.

Exit thought: if you’re bummed out that the WWII and Korea vets in your family have passed on without telling their stories, remember that the Vietnam vets are all in their sixties and seventies now, and the actuarial tables describe the inevitability of their numbers dwindling at an increasing rate. It might be time to get Granddad or Uncle Jack on record while you still can.

Great Research, Weak Conclusions on Defective Small-Arms Parts

We do a lot of posts based on tips commenters send us, but this one was tipped at least three times:

And yes, the article is worth reading in full (don’t neglect the sidebars and the documents). That said, we’ll have some critical comments after a short synopsis for  those of you disinclined to click the link.

The story is a remarkable body of research by Damian Spleeters of Spleeters has conducted interviews, sent in (and pursued) FOIA requests, and all-around done the sort of job of shoe-leather reporting one seldom sees any more. His subject: the Defense Logistics Agency and the Army’s near-criminal failure to trace defective firearm parts, and (and this bit should sound familiar to readers) their apparent lack of interest in holding anyone responsible.

Again, we’re astonished and pleased at the hard work Spleeters put into the story, work which clearly took him months to do and aroused his passions. We strongly recommend that you read the story, the sidebars, and especially the documents.

But as he isn’t familiar with the Army, with guns in general, or with the two for which he found trails of bad parts (the M2HB .50 Caliber and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon), he tends to ride wildly off in all directions, following not the evidence but The Narrative™ — in this case, Narrative, Greedy Corporation edition.

The most extreme example of this may be the case of Northside Machine Company (NMC) or Duggar, IN, which had a contract to run off 482 M2 backplates in 180 days, delivered, for $56,380.36, or $116.93 each. (The backplate houses the trigger, bolt latch releases lock, buffer tube sleeve, and Left and right spade grips).

buttplate removal

That’s an aggressive contract for a complex part with dozens of machining operations involved (We’re not clear whether they started from billet or from a forging. If a forging, the timeline was extremely tight). The parts were ordered in March, 2007 and delivered a little behind the 180-day schedule in November and December. In the interests of speed, the government waived the First Article Test (an in-depth test of a first run off the line, to ensure that the vendor is on the right track). The parts passed routine acceptance testing and were taken into inventory.

Browning_50_Cal_M2_HB_Back_Plate_1944_850In anticipation of further orders, NMC had run off some extra backplates. They decided to conduct random checks on these against the drawings, and made an unpleasant, but hardly unprecedented, discovery. One dimension on the plate was wrong, and it probably wouldn’t fit on a gun. (They didn’t have a gun at NMC to check it with). They checked another plate, and another. All 40 plates in their inventory were bad.

They quickly determined what had happened. A machinist had set up his machine wrong. The production operator didn’t catch the error, and the quality manager missed the bad dimension in his inspections. They figured out how to prevent this error in the future, and contacted their Contracting Officer (CO) and Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) immediately, explaining the error and taking full responsibility.

M2HB backplate assy

Mike Smith of Northside Machine, who wasn’t making a fortune on these parts to begin with, then volunteered to redo every backplate at no cost to the government, including shipping both ways. Here’s what Smith wrote in a later, follow-up letter:

We have found a dimensional issue on the Back Plate, P/N 6535475 (NSN: 1005-00-918-
2618). There is a slot dimension (0.10 + 0.01) found in zones A-61A-7 on the back side
of the Back Plate that will cause an interference issue when it is assembled to the end
of the .50-cal machine gun. We noticed this issue during the week of 12/10/07 while
performing a random inspection before stocking our spare parts to inventory. Upon
finding this mistake, we notified Robert Heavrin and Cheryl Middleton on 12/18/07 via
email requesting a return of all the parts for repair.

We are willing to incur all costs for this return and repair. This error was entirely our
fault and we take full responsibility for any actions needed to correct this issue. After
receiving the Back Plates, we should be able to repair and be ready to re-ship within
two weeks time. We currently have 40 Back Plates in inventory that we have pulled for
repair. We would be able to repair these parts within two weeks.

M2HB backplate assy2

The reason behind the mistake is a failure to interpret the drawing during machine setup
by the setup machinist, production operation by our operator, and inspection by our
quality manager. We have initiated an in-house corrective action in order to eliminate
this problem from future shipments. We also completed a corrective action for Tom
Smith, QAR DCMA Indianapolis.

With the assistance of NSWC Crane, three Back Plates were tried on a .50-cal machine
gun this morning. There was an interference problem. This action was witnessed by
Robert Heavrin, QAR DCMA Indianapolis.

After that, the original documents collapse into a chaotic set of government employees in various stovepiped logistic activities asking the same questions that had already been answered:

  1. M2HB backplate assy completeWas the problem a safety one? (No, the mistaken plates won’t go on the gun at all).
  2. Was the contractor willing to fix them (Yeah, he’s said so from Day One).
  3. Can we lay hands on the parts? Do we know the contractor’s “CAGE1 Code” ID, which is marked on every part? (Yes).

Then the whole thing would move to a new stovepipe and the questions begin anew, either because no one clued in the Army in general that the questions had been answered already.

By now, months later, many of the bad plates had been distributed in repair-parts kits. Any time they tried one on a gun, they discovered it wouldn’t go.

This is the story that Spleeters tells as a dull and pedestrian “greedy contractors gouging the .gov” tale. Despite their error, it’s hard to see the contractor in this case as anything other than a good guy, doing his best to correct the error. What’s depressing is the military in general’s poor leadership on this score. and what appears to be the extreme difficulty of something simple, getting everyone who has an M2 or spare parts thereof, to check the CAGE Code on the parts and send them back to Northside in the event of error.

That, to us, is the scandal. Not that a contractor made an error, but that when it stepped up to correct the error, the Army couldn’t be shifted to look for the defective parts.


  1. CAGE code stands for Commercial And Government Entity, and is used in various ways in the logistics system.

Friday Tour d’Horizon, 2015 Week 46

Ah yeah, it’s time for the portmanteau into which we throw all the stuff we didn’t have the time to throw at you this past week.

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


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

Air Force OSI Personal Weapons List

osi_pow_listOSI Personal Weapons approved list. There it is on the left as a .jpg (click to expand), or if you want editable text here’s the pdf.


It’s a very strange list, more inclusive than most other agencies, but with some curiosities on it (Remington R51?) and some curiosities not on it (Glock 19?). Issue firearm for OSI is the SIG 228, and you’ll note that all these alternatives are smaller. Our OSI guy explains that he asked the same question, and got, “We are an investigative agency, we don’t need hand cannons with rails and lights, because we are not in the warrant-serving, door kicking business.” Or words to that effect. So they only authorize compact and subcompact guns.

Finally, there’s a curious note about the future of the G26 and/or SIG P320C. If either is approved as the next DHS service pistol, it will be taken off the list of approved privately owned weapons; they warn agents who don’t own one now, not to buy one, just in case. Does this mean that Glock and the P320 have the inside track on procurement? Only the Shadow knows!

Beretta ARX-100 SBR Kit

ARX-100 SBR-KitSpare and exchange barrels have been long in coming, but Beretta now has the ARX-100 SBR kit (10.25″) in stock. The kit includes the 10.25″ barrel, integral gas system (short stroke piston), one steel 30 round mag and a case. It’s a bit pricey at list ($575), considering what a good buy the ARX itself is. Factory SBRs are rumored to be on the way. The ARX-100 is a pretty decent AR alternative.

Usage and Employment

The hardware takes you only half way.

Negligent Discharge of the Year?


Perp Tyrone Fields.

This could be it:

A Florida man accidentally shot and killed an 18-year-old woman while role-playing in what he called a “freaky sex” session, police said.

Tyrone Fields, 21, called 911 early Nov. 7 to report he’d shot a woman he had met two days earlier in the head in a room at Tampa’s Regency Inn and Suites, according to an arrest report from the Tampa Police Department. The woman, later identified as Christina Meagher, died at a nearby hospital.

Victim in a Selfie: Christina Meagher.

Victim: Christina Meagher.

She asked Fields to put his 9 mm gun to her head and he took out the pistol’s magazine but forgot to remove a bullet in its chamber, he told investigators.

“The defendant stated that he intentionally pulled the trigger as part of the role-play, and the handgun fired a single round into the victim’s head,” according to the report. He was lying on top of Meagher but wasn’t having intercourse with her at the time, Fields told investigators.

Yep, he blew her head off using a gun in sex play. He’s now going down for manslaughter. The pair of them are stupid enough to deserve their respective fates.


Cops ‘n’ Crims

Cops bein’ cops, crims bein’ crims. The endless Tom and Jerry show of crime and (sometimes instantaneous) punishment.

Hey, this one was a gun homicide.

See, impulse killings like this are why no one but the police should have guns. When the cops rolled up, Kevin Canty expressed remorse for killing his wife — but also called her a “whore” who “had it coming.”

Kevin Canty, 44, pleaded guilty Tuesday to hitting his wife Jessica, 40, with seven bullets as their 6 and 9-year-old children watched in horror inside their Ozone Park home.

“My nephew saw everything. … I’m just glad he doesn’t have to go through anything he already went through the grand jury. No child should have to go through this,” said Jessica’s sister Lisa Caccavale outside of Queens Supreme Court.

The children are both in therapy.

Canty dodged a life sentence when he coped a plea to first-degree manslaughter. He’s expected to get sentenced to 25 years in prison by Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth C. Holder on January 6.

We need to get guns out of the hands of ordinary people, because only the police can… wait… oh, he was an NYPD cop himself.

via Ex-NYPD officer pleads guilty to shooting wife to death – NY Daily News.

AG To Prosecute Accused Cops, Assume Guilt

In New York, two pols who dislike if not hate cops have cut a deal: Governor Andrew Cuomo has given AG Eric Schneiderman the authority and tasking to prosecute any cops who shoot black men. As a justification, they use in part, “the failure of grand juries in Staten Island and Missouri to indict the officers who killed two unarmed black men, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.” The Garner case is not one we’ve studied, but if Cuomo and Schneiderman want the cop that shot Brown indicted, then they are explicitly targeting innocent cops who have defended themselves. 

Turning the people on the police is the sort of thing two nakedly ambitious pols just might do. But it’s hard to envision any place this ends that is not really, really ugly.

Lorena Bobbitt Has Started a Foundation

Profiting from a non-profit: everybody’s doing it. Bobbitt revealed that (and a bunch of other stuff about her Special Snowflake-hood) on some daytime (aka “welfare”) TV shock show. But we’re not sure who the tallywhacker trimmer thinks her charity can help. Caitlyn Jenner?

Unconventional (and current) Warfare

What goes on in the battlezones of the world — and preparation of the future battlefields

American Traitor Pollard Walks

His parole eligibility was not contested by the executive branch, as a small token of goodwill towards Israel. Pollard’s spymasters in Israel, and his lawyers who share his loyalties (and presumably his paymaster) immediately began fighting to lift restrictions on his parole, including GPS monitoring and computer surveillance, that are designed to stop him from transmitting even more information to his bosses.

He has been given a job on Wall Street in an Israeli-controlled firm.

A Mystery Man surfaces

Pollard is a simple man: he sold his country out for money (and the spies he gave the secrets to, sold them on in turn, for money). Michael Jon Hand is more of a mystery. A veteran of Vietnam with SF and Laos with the Agency’s Project 404, Hand later became a banker; his bank melted down amid accusations, and his partner turned up dead, suicide by rifle. He vanished in 1980 and has been the stuff of conspiracy theories ever since. Turns out, he’s living in Idaho as Michael Fuller, and running a small company: in fact, a defense contractor.

Hand’s company, G.M.I. Manufacturing, is registered with the Idaho secretary of state. The company “now manufactures tactical weapons for US Special Forces, special operations groups and hunters,’’ Butt writes. Has Hand/Fuller been brazen, foolish, or, as Butt asks, does he belong “to a protected species, most likely of the intelligence kind?”

We’ve done a little investigation of our own. According to orders, Hand arrived in Vietnam in early 1965 as a PFC 05B1S (Special Forces radio operator), and was assigned to team A5/414 at Bu Ghia Map.  The team replaced a 1st Special Forces Group TDY team, A1/234 at the camp on 24 Feb 65. The team moved out to a new location, Dong Xoai, on 26 May 65 setting up a new camp. That camp was hit hard and overrun on the night of 10-11 June 65. Hand does not appear in the records available to us after that.

Lord Love a Duck!

The weird and wonderful (or creepy) that we didn’t otherwise get to. — none this week, or this’ll never go up.

Breaking: Friday Islamic Worship Terror Attack in Mali

The incredible exploding deal.

The incredible exploding prophet.

Islamists continued their tradition of celebrating their holy day with outbreaks of kidnapping and murder, this time in a Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali. The Radisson frequently lodges Americans and other foreigners with business in the national capital, including soldiers and diplomats.

A US Army Special Forces team was on site for Joint Combined Exercise Training with Malian and other forces. Initial reports claimed that they joined French and Malian commandos in clearing the building, and that DOD officials have criticized them for doing so, given that the President’s sympathies are, as usual, with the hostage-takers, not the hostages.

Gunmen stormed the American-owned Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, during breakfast time and took some 170 hostages. Both U.S. and French Special Forces were assisting in freeing the hostages little by little, combing through the hotel floor-by-floor. At least six U.S. citizens have been confirmed rescued thus far.

Initial reports said three people have been shot dead, including a French citizen. A gardener told BBC he was working out front when the terrorists arrived: “They were in car with a diplomatic license plate. They were masked. At the gate of the hotel, the guard stopped them and they start firing. We fled,” he said.

Dressed in ordinary street clothes, they reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they stormed the facility with automatic weapons, and let some hostages go if they could recite Quranic verses. They reportedly came in through the front lobby and began randomly shooting.

via Gunmen Attack Radisson Hotel in Mali, Take Hostages | PJ Media.

The DOD denies that Americans have been engaged:

A Defense Department official told ABC News that about 25 members of the U.S. military were in the capital at the time of the attack.

“We understand some of these personnel are assisting first responders with moving civilians to secured locations, while Malian forces clear the hotel of hostile gunmen,” the official said.

There are believed to have been only two attackers. A French CT element is on site. The AFRICOM Commander’s In-Extremis Force was alerted, but not deployed.