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Friday Tour d’Horizon

The objective is to clear out our extra tabs, and make up a little for the slow posting this week, by throwing all the links at you that we wanted to post about this week, and didn’t.

Guns and Stuff

Does anybody know what happened to Rutgers Gun Books? We’re not the only ones to have benefited from their great customer service, albeit not in a while. But the website comes up unregistered.

Speaking of books, the American Society of Arms Collectors has a web page of recommended books. Biased towards collectors of American martial arms made before the manufacturing and materials revolution of the 1960s. Bunch of other good stuff at their website (we were there looking at their serial number lists, check the left sidebar).

“Applied Ballistics” is company name and mission statement all in one. Bryan Litz and Nick Vitalbo at Applied Ballistics are names you need to know, if you need to understand and develop the ability to make the smallest deviations from intended point of impact at the greatest range under the most varied conditions.

Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you. That seemed to be what was on the bear’s mind the second time the bruin broke into Victor Peters’s house. (Warning, autoplay spam). The first time, it came for the dog food on Peters’s porch. The second time, he’d moved the dog food, and the bear seemed willing to settle for him — till he shot it (his other precaution had been loading his gun at night). The quarter-ton bear was removed by authorities. “It was the biggest bear I’ve ever seen,” said Peters, a former wildlife officer who’s seen a few bears. Hat tip, Dean Weingarten (whose recounting of the story does not have autoplay spam).

This Canadian Company makes a very good compact AR-15 stock, reminiscent of the simple M231 Firing Port Weapon stock but higher quality and more ergonomic. (It still lacks a decent cheek weld, a failing of many compact stocks, but sometimes compactness trumps utility). Just the ticket for a PDW or SBR on the AR platform. It’s “available” at Brownell’s but has been temporarily out of stock, well, permanently.

Don’t bring a machete to a gunfight. You’ll lose, like this guy. So sad. (Not really).

In New York, another genius attacked a group of cops with a hatchet. He’s cold on a slab, but in true NYPD fashion, the ill-trained New York cops with their inaccurate New York Trigger Glocks shot and nearly killed a bystander, too. The cops were all recent Academy graduates. Unfortunately, one of the cops, 25-year-old Taylor Kraft, was critically wounded with a hatchet blow to the head. The other wounded cop and the bystander have been treated (surgically in the bystander’s case) and will probably recover. The press has been reporting this as “a disturbed loner,” but was it Sudden Jihad Syndrome? You be the judge, here’s a screencap of his Facebook page:


SF History and Lore

Knives — yes, SFQC grads and long-tab earners (who have not had their tab yanked) can still get a Yarborough knife. The procedure is fairly straightforward, and if there’s interest we’ll put it on here. And for present and former soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), there’s a Harsey-designed commemorative just for you. Order here; you will be expected to document your bona fides. 

Unconventional Warfare

A jury convicted four former Blackwater Worldwide employees, members of a State Department personal security detail, for a variety of crimes stemming from a 2007 gundight, including one charge of murder (for a marksman who shot one Iraqi) and many charges of manslaughter (for three carbine-armed guards who shot about two dozen other Iraqis, killing about half of them). The managers who instigated the attack were granted immunity, for the testimony the prosecutors wanted, so the outcome isn’t entirely surprising. (The immunity bit is buried in one of the last paragraphs of the Washington Post story, which appears to have been fed them by the prosecution).

The Ukrainian secret services have found a weapons cache and arrested an agent, in the aftermath of an attempted assassination of a Ukrainian pol. They blame the secret services of a bordering nation — any guesses whom? The cache contained two Igla-M MANPADS and was mined.

Igla-M gripstock.

Igla-M gripstock reportedly found in a cache in Ukraine..

A few days before that, they caught a saboteur with plastic explosive molded into a candle in the shape of an ancient Russian “Bogatyr” warrior.

UKR splodey head PM577image002

That’s a plug-ugly decoration, even if it wasn’t high-explosive.

In other Spy Stories, in 1971, the recovery of imagery of a HEXAGON satellite was underway, and the mid-air recovery of the data package (including film) failed because the recovery parachute failed. The data unit hit the sea at about 350 knots, and kept booking towards Davy Jones’s Locker, finally embedding itself in primordial muck 16,400 feet below mean sea level. A manned submersible, DSV-1 Trieste II, was sent to recover the priceless data. Now declassified (with redactions) in the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room. Release of the documents triggered a symposium at the National Air and Space Museum (TV stream).

You know, the first counterinsurgents were the empires of antiquity. So it helps to read that “old” stuff. And it might help to have a Dictionary of Roman Military Terms.


Laws and Cops and Stuff

The Justice Department is claiming Executive Privilege for 15,662 documents that tell the story of Operation Fast & Furious, one of the ATF’s several gunwalking initiatives that provided deadly weapons to Mexican drug cartels, to drive crime up and create impetus for more US gun control laws. The index to the documents is 1,323 pages long. (Ayn Rand and Dostoyevsky are reportedly jealous). Sharyl Attkisson is on it, no shock considering this is the story that got her fired from CBS for lèse-majesté.

Here in New Hampster, we have a different view of violent crime than, say, a Chicagoan or Angeleno might. Here’s a typical, initially alarming, report from the nearby “Big City” (population 28k), culled from the police blotter.

5:54 a.m.: A 911 caller reported a disturbance at Motel 6, reported a woman being tortured in some woods and said someone was “shot in the face.” After police responded to an area off Gosling Road, where the crimes were reported, police determined there were no emergencies and arrested Bradley Paradise, 46, of 1338 Woodbury Ave. #2, on a charge alleging criminal trespass.

Imagine being that cop or cops, responding to a report of violent crime, no doubt on razor’s edge (every cop for miles around knew the police chief murdered and at least some of the DTF cops wounded by a small-time dope dealer in 2012), and you wind up with… a freakin’ trespasser. The area where this took place has a number of seedy motels and bars, but even the “big city” goes for years without murders. But it’s gotta be life-shortening to have all that adrenaline etc., dumped into your bloodstream, to have the danger fizzle out. The rest of that blotter is some dull stuff. Being a cop is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of exasperation, most places, most times.

And then there’s the kid who swears revenge on the whole school. With a gun.

Police said the student responsible for making the threat confessed to Detective Joseph Byron….they don’t believe the student planned to carry out the threat. The school has taken disciplinary action against the student.

In 1974 he got laughed at. In 2014, he gets an introduction the court system in all its glory. All of life is an IQ test, and some 16-year-old just failed.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Frank Serpico is still a pariah at NYPD, not for being a bad cop, but for turning bad cops in. In a long essay at Politico, Serpico writes that it’s not just a New York problem:

And today the Blue Wall of Silence endures in towns and cities across America. Whistleblowers in police departments — or as I like to call them, “lamp lighters,” after Paul Revere — are still turned into permanent pariahs. The complaint I continue to hear is that when they try to bring injustice to light they are told by government officials: “We can’t afford a scandal; it would undermine public confidence in our police.” That confidence, I dare say, is already seriously undermined.

“I tried to be an honest cop in a force full of bribe-takers. But … police departments are useless at investigating themselves….” Serpico writes. Read The Whole Thing™. Here’s another graf that really struck us:

Today’s uncontrolled firepower, combined with a lack of good training and adequate screening of police academy candidates, has led to a devastating drop in standards. The infamous case of Amadou Diallo in New York—who was shot 41 times in 1999 for no obvious reason—is more typical than you might think…..It’s like the Keystone Kops, but without being funny at all.

We don’t think things are as bad as he makes out, but any organization is useless at investigating itself. Serpico’s 6-point plan for a better police is outstanding. We already said Read The Whole Thing™, so why are you still here?


We’ll spare you nonsense about the midterm elections in this posting. Instead, we’ll just direct you to retiring Senator Tom Coburn’s annual tradition, the Waste Book. The Waste Book chronicles government waste, so it’s as massive as government itself. There’s plenty of military and weapons wastage in there, along with the usual squanderathon that’s modern Washington.

Towards a Nobel War Prize

NobelThe Nobel Peace Prize, administered by a gang of left-wing Norwegian politicians, has become a laughingstock. PJ O’Rourke notes that it has been bestowed about four times for actually making peace, and some 65 times for “wishful thinking.” Essentially, it’s a Big Gong for Stuff White People Like. O’Rourke has, naturally, a modest proposal:

I propose a Nobel Prize for just that. The Nobel War Prize. There are, after all, worthy and decent wars. What was America supposed to do after Pearl Harbor, put the keys to the Golden Gate in an airmail envelope and send them to Tojo?

Peace creeps to the contrary, you can usually tell who’s right and who’s wrong in a war. Which is more than can be said during peace, witness peacetime politics.

There are always lots of wars going on so the Nobel Committee would never have to skip a year….

Despite it being at the usually worthless Daily Beast, you should go Read The Whole Thing™, it’s O’Rourke after all.

Wars produce heroes widely recognized by the public. Nobel War Prizes could have been given to Marshal Foch, George Orwell, Winston Churchill, the French Resistance, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen, Charles de Gaulle, FDR, Ike. This is an improvement on the Permanent International Peace Bureau, Charles Albert Gobat, and Ludwig Quidde. The Nobel Foundation’s P.R. profile would be considerably raised.

We’re not sure Orwell rates, although you should probably read Homage to Catalonia before reading the sort of tripe about the Spanish Civil War that the veterans (or, probably, wannabees) of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade infected American schoolbooks with. Spain fought a bloody Civil War, but they dodged a long Soviet nightmare.

After all, war never solved anything, except for slavery, colonialism, Naziism, Japanese imperialism, the Persian conquest of Europe, the Moslem conquest of Europe, and the spread of pernicious Carthaginian Baal-worship.

Then there’s what often comes after a war, which is usually less silly than what comes after a Nobel Peace Prize. Look at the U.S. and Great Britain. Once we got past that 1776 thing we’ve been—with a brief time-out for the War of 1812—road dawgs.

The Southern States and the Northern States after the Civil War? We’re so close that we date-swapped the political parties that had been screwing us.

If you want peace, have a war. Just make sure to have a good, prize-winning one.

via Up To A Point: What We Really Need Is a Nobel War Prize – The Daily Beast.

The “date-swapped” line alone is explanation enough of why someone at the Daily Beast cuts paychecks to O’Rourke, despite his politics being at odds with essentially all of his stablemates there.

A Working Man’s Gun Auction: 1030R 8 Nov 14 (Saturday)

Savo Auction 8 Nov PUMPED-001When the election’s over, whichever bunch of corrupt anti-gun knuckleheads wins, you’ll probably want to console (or prepare?) yourself with a new gun. Our Pennsylvania pals send us the page from the next outing for Savo Auctioneers in the Philadelphia area. What’s nice about this auction house is that it has pieces that are desirable, yet attainable to normal human beings, not to those of you who have to make the tough decision between a new gun and a new Bentley this year.

Along with items that RIA or Julia wouldn’t bother with or would put in a mass lot with three other guns you don’t want, Savo, being a smaller house, has rather more reasonable terms and a lower buyer’s premium. (Against that, they have a little less expertise. For example, one lot they offer is a “bayonet,” unspecified. It’s actually a Czech Vz58 bayonet, a common piece at the moment). Everything’s on the page, but here are the basic feeds and speeds:

Sat, Nov 8 @ 10:30 A.M.

14 Kennedy Drive
Archbald, PA 18403

Preview @ 9:00 A.M.

Firearms, Militaria, Antiques & More

via Auction: Sat, Nov 8 @ 10:30 A.M. – Savo Auctioneers, LLC.

The catalog shows some nice Winchesters. These are highly desirable collector pieces, both the classic Model 12 shotguns (which are in 16, 20 and 28 gauge) and the 1906 .22. They will likely be bid well up to real retail, as will the practical hunting guns (judging from its observance, the most important holiday in Pennsylvania is the First Day of Deer Season. NTTAWWT). But this kind of auction is a great place to buy up something idiosyncratic: many of the bidders are FFLs who will stop when they can’t make a profit on a piece, and not bid at all on items that they fear would hang around on the shelves.

There’s also a lot of militaria in this auction, and some interesting knives and bayonets. The auction is small enough that you can see it all on one page. Here are a few items that caught our eye, not necessarily the nicest stuff. All pictures embiggen.


Let’s start with one of the strangest hermaphrodites to ever put a 7.62 NATO round downrange, the La Coruna FR8 looks like something conceived by Bubba in a moment of Ebola fever, but was actually a product of a Spanish arsenal, the eponymous La Coruna. Two versions were made, the FR7 (based on 1893 7mm Mausers, the ones that so impressed us in the Spanish-American War that we promptly adopted a copy of the Mauser action), and the FR8 (based on the M1916 Large Frame Mausers). To this action, the barrel and associated hardware of a CETME or H&K was grafted on, and the whole thing shortened to a carbine that some find attractive and some fugly. Draw your own conclusions:La Coruna FR.308


Another interesting long gun is this  1898 .30-40 Krag “carbine.” We use the scare quotes because a lot of Krag rifles were carbine-ated by early surplus dealers like Bannerman, and this example appears to have a rifle serial number. (Also the carbine versions of the M1898 were M1899, and this guy’s receiver is marked ’98). It would serve well enough as a whitetail gun, if you wanted a bolt equivalent to the old standby Winchester 94, or would serve as a representative Krag that didn’t take up all the wall space of a rifle. These things must have seemed modern as tomorrow to troopers trading in Trapdoor Springfields — until they ran into high-velocity, strip-loaded opposition in Cuba and the Philippines.1898 .30-40 KragMoving to short guns, here’s one of those “the stories it could tell if it could only talk” guns. Small .32s like this were the bread-and-butter self-defense guns of 100 years ago (they are generally chambered in .32 S&W or .32 Colt, which are the same cartridge by two different companies who did not deign to speak one another’s name. Third parties, like H&R, Ideal, or Iver Johnson, who manufactured this example, generally went with .32 S&W. Single-layer nickel plating was a common finish on these pocket pistols. This one is hammerless, with a trigger safety (lookee here, Glock fans), and… paper tape around the grip. This may be because the original grips, probably hard rubber, are crumbling, or it may have been an attempt to keep fingerprints off the gun. Like we said, the tales it could tell! A lot of these guns are fine to shoot given a careful review by a smith, but they’re not economically repairable if anything breaks. On the other hand, they’re not really worth anything, and a working one is a blast to shoot.

Iver Johnson .32SW


Waaaay up the revolver class scale, but made around the same time, is this curiously finished Colt Official Police. By the midcentury decades, cops carried this (or the Police Positive) or its S&W equivalent, the Model 10. Believe it or not, the round-nosed, FMJ .38 special was considered a real manstopper. Of course, those police departments were stepping up from the anemic .32 S&W or the larger .32 Long Colt /.32 S&W long (yes, they did the same thing). On the .38 Special, Smith insisted it was the .38 S&W Special, and everyone else, including Colt, just called it the .38 Special. For a 20th-Century American, this silhouette said, “Cop gun”.

Colt Official Police .38Before we move on from that pretty Colt, note the unusual finish of nickel-plate and gold-plated controls. It’s lethal jewelry! The better condition of this gun than the tape-handle IJ above is partly because this showpiece has clearly been handled less in the last century. It may also be because the plating is higher quality, thicker, and atop better-prepared metal. That could be true whether the plating was done by Colt or by some post-manufacture smith.

It would be interesting to get a letter from Colt and see if this revolver shipped like this. If so, that would add to the value considerably. Most owners don’t do that because the letter takes time — and they don’t want to see their bubble burst.

The next one is something completely different: a 2-shot, rotating barrels, percussion derringer. Derringers are interesting; a Philadelphia gunsmith named Henry Deringer made well-crafted pocket pistols in the mid-1800s, and achieved boundless notoriety when one of his pistols was used in the century’s most shocking murder, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at the hand of an actor who led a stumblingly incompetent gang of Rebel irredentists. Many smiths and small manufacturers thought to capitalize on Deringer’s unsought fame, and the custom became to add a second “r” to a generic “derringer” to keep Mr Deringer’s lawyers away from your profits. Today, a “derringer” is any one- or two-shot small pocket pistol. Defensively, they’re long obsolete.

While this could be a period piece, the loose fit, oak grips, and imitation of Remington rimfire derringer styling makes us suspect it’s a more recent production, possibly even something built from a kit. It’s in the .36 caliber of the Colt 1851 Navy and many other Civil War era guns.

percussion derringer .36Hopefully, that gives you a little taste of what Savo’s got. You might also like the USAAC flying helmet or Soviet service uniforms that are part of the auction, the original US WWI style helmet, or American and German fighting knives that appear (from a single picture, mind you) to be genuine. Other things are going to be auctioned in the May 8 sale, but the firearms are first up.

All information you might want for bidding is on Savo’s site, linked above.






New from TrackingPoint

TrackingPoint has refreshed its AR lineup in three calibers (5.56, 7.62, and .300 Win Mag) and also offers three things calculated to increase the appeal of their precision-guided firearms: lower prices, financing, and a virtual reality glass device, the Shotglass.

If you ever wanted to break the last taboo and enjoy a shotglass while shooting, now’s your chance. This one doesn’t hold a precise measure of amber nectar brewed by Scotsmen, though:


The Shotglass can be used to aim and fire the weapon from complete concealment cover. It can record video. It’s most likely use in the real world, though, is as a way for the spotter to direct the sniper on target. We expect we will see more of these used with TrackingPoint’s long-range bolt action rifles than with its ARs, but time will tell. If you buy a TrackingPoint PGF by 30 November 2014, the Shotglass is free; after that, it’s an additional $1k. We’ll probably discuss it in greater depth when TP puts up their Shotglass video; for now, we can’t imagine anyone who wants or has the gun turning the Shotglass down.

The lower prices are relative — they’re still nosebleed-high, just not arterial-nosebleed-high any more. For example, the 5.56 AR is $7,495.


For that, Tracking Point offers:

  • Perfect impact on targets out to 0.3 miles, moving as fast as 10 miles per hour.
  • The same Tag-and-Shoot™ technology found in fighter jets
  • Advanced target tracking technology
  • Comprehensive, purpose-built shooting system.

We’ve discussed the TrackingPoint technology before, but the implementation in the ARs differs from that in the bolt guns. First place, you don’t need the guided-firearm voodoo to just shoot. The optic comes up with a crosshair reticle with mil-dots and a red dot at center. Different TP releases have called this “Standard” or “Traditional” mode. Note that the interface does give you range in this mode, but not wind speed or direction.


Next up is “Freefire” mode, which is present, so far as we know, only in the gas guns, not the bolt guns. In this mode, you range something near a group of targets, and the scope adapts to that range and to the atmospherics (note that the wind speed is displayed in this mode). The reticle cues you that the Freefire Mode has been selected, and it eliminates the mildots. Those are not necessary in this mode, because your point of aim is computer adjusted to equal your point of impact. In “Freefire” mode, the Guided Trigger is not activated: the trigger works like any AR trigger.


In Advanced mode, the reticle changes yet again. In this case, it takes several shapes depending on whether and where the Tag has been applied. In advanced mode, the tag is applied with the red button, and then the reticle changes color and shape. The illustration below shows a tag applied to the running coyote. The blue reticle indicates that the shooter is not ready to take the shot: he is not holding the trigger back. When he holds the trigger to the rear, the color changes to red, and the weapon will fire when it is in proper alignment. At any point, the shooter can safe the gun by releasing the trigger.


Advanced mode does something that was considered impossible for centuries: it removes most sources of human error from marksmanship. This is the sort of thing that becomes possible, when you embed a complete Linux computer in a rifle optic, and tie it in to the physical rifle several different ways.

You’ve probably noticed that TrackingPoint expresses distances in decimal tenths of a mile, rather than the yards or meters common in the shooting world, which suggests that they may see their customer base as coming from outside the present limits of the shooting world. (To which we say: welcome! While it’s cool to have a gun that can calculate all this, it’s incredibly empowering to have a head that can calculate all this, and yet, it is possible and available to you. So may your new TrackingPoint firearm be a gateway drug to a new plane of existence for you).

In any event, 0.3 mile is about 480 meters (which the US Army considers the effective range of the individual rifle platform) and 530 yards.

The guns each have a limited effective range which seems like it was programmed into the weapon as a maximum “lock range” (the system has an integrated rangefinder and environmental sensors). This may be intended to ensure that shooters have a positive experience with the precision-guided firearm, but it may also serve to ensure that the ARs don’t cannibalize the higher-end sniper and hunting rifles.


The top of the AR line, the .300 Win Mag monster, offers the same claimed benefits as the 5.56 version, except that it offers “perfect impact on targets out to 0.5 miles, moving as fast as 20 miles per hour,” for a more-than-your-pickup-truck $18,995. (Our pickup, anyway: 4-banger, 2 wheel drive). (Half a mile is 800 meters or 880 yards). Unfortunately, now that somebody’s actually built an AR that’s perfectly sized as a bayonet handle, there’s no bayonet lug.

The 7.62 AR offers slightly less performance (0.5 mi, moving targets to 15 mph) for slightly less money: $14,995. If these prices seem high for ARs, well, they are, but no other ARs do these things, this well.




When TrackingPoint first announced the AR line this spring, there was a .300 Blackout version available. A prototype, using a Daniel Defense upper, was clearly visible in their first AR video, but the gun is not on their price list today. The TrackingPoint technology offers the potential to have a firearm that automatically corrects its zero for the Point of Impact shift common with suppressors; it can also, potentially, store several load profiles. (The ballistics-adapting capability of the weapon depends on it being fired consistently with a load whose performance parameters are known to the software).

The bolt-action rifles, which have not been updated, offer similar performance, actually, in similar calibers. Only the mighty .338 LM extends range to 0.75 miles (1200m — 1320 yards). The bolts are priced differently than their semi-auto kin, a little lower in 7.62 but the highest-price version of the .338 is near-as-dammit $28,000. With great power comes great liabilities, Spider-man. In addition to that, you might want to think hard about budgeting for the extended warranty and the software maintenance contract — software maintenance alone is a stiff $2k/year.

The electricity to drive all this juju comes from batteries in compartments in the stock or the AR and in integral battery compartments in the optics of the bolt guns.

TrackingPoint’s managers are keenly aware that the prices of these guns are an obstacle to sales, and so they have a financing program with decent terms: 10% down, 36 months, 10% interest. (They don’t say how it’s compounded or what the APR is). There’s also a 30-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee, “You can feel completely confident that TrackingPoint stands behind its products.”

We’re not sure it’s really, in their words, “the most incredible shooting system known to mankind.” But we are sure want one of these pretty badly. Just not $18-30k badly. Yet.

For $2k you can spend the day at TrackingPoint in Pflugerville, Texas, meet the staff, see the plant and fire the gun. If nothing else, you’d learn how to pronounce, “Pflugerville,” and maybe even who Pfluger was.

What the Well-Armed ISIL ASIL is Shooting

car_ammo_Count on the guys from ISIL to have rounded up whatever they could get their mitts on, in the way of small arms and ammunition. And count on the guys from Conflict Armament Research, who have already done a report on ISIL small arms (.pdf), to round up a few of ISIL’s rounds and analyze them. From their report on ammunition (.pdf of course), a snapshot of their methodology:

[The report's] findings derive from a series of Conflict Armament Research (CAR) field investigations conducted in the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq and northern Syria 22 July–15 August 2014.

In Syria, the CAR investigation team worked alongside Kurdish People’s Protection Units
(YPG) to document ammunition captured during offensives against IS forces—primarily near Ayn al-Arab (Kurdish: Kobanê) and Ras al-Ayn (Kurdish: Serekanî). In Iraq, the team worked closely with Peshmerga forces loyal to the Kurdish Regional Government to document spent cartridges from captured IS positions.

This recovered M16A4 was made by FN for a US FMS contract. ISIL presumably captured it from the Iraqi Army.

This recovered M16A4 was made by FN for a US FMS contract. ISIL presumably captured it from the Iraqi Army. A previous Conflict Arms Research report covered small arms like this rifle. 

So that’s the good news: they got on the ground in this area, and collected what rounds they could, often soon after the ISIL forces were beaten out of an area (during the summer, when these reports were made, the Kurds were holding their own. More recently, they’re retreating). And from those rounds, they drew some interesting conclusions, such as these:

The sample includes ammunition manufactured in 21 countries during a period of nearly 70 years (1945–2014). The variety and age of ammunition used by IS forces indicates a large array of ammunition supply sources, which is attributable to the group having captured materiel during numerous engagements, and against various opponents, across Iraq and Syria. China, the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, and the United States (US) are the top three manufacturing states represented in the sample. Ammunition in service with Iraqi and Syrian defence forces is also significant in the sample.

The sources of ammunition with recent headstamps skewed differently from the overall numbers. Note how small the number of recovered rounds really us.

The sources of ammunition with recent headstamps skewed differently from the overall numbers. Note how small the number of recovered rounds really is.

Turkish 9mm ammo, fresh from the factory to the pistols of ISIL executioners. But by what route?

Turkish 9mm ammo, fresh from the factory to the pistols of ISIL executioners. But by what route?

Given the rounds reported here, the two most common probable sources for ISIL’s ammunition are battlefield recovery and the international arms market. Particularly interesting were quantities of ammunition from Sudan and Iran, both nations under embargo, at least, theoretically. But as the table above shows, it’s hard to draw inferences from the very low numbers of cartridges recovered — that includes a whopping 2 cartridges from Sudan and 10 from Iran, not a case you’d want to take in front of a judge. More interesting, perhaps, are the recoveries of recent 9mm ammunition from Turkey (illustration on right). Is Turkey actively supplying the ammo? They certainly won’t admit it, but the enemies of their enemy Bashar Assad includes all of ISIL and the other groups fighting to overthrow him — and Turkey’s AKP party shares some aspects of Islamism with the shadowy wannabe Caliph leading ISIL.

Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.

The 5.56 ammo seems to skew from the middle oughts, when the US was supplying prodigious quantities to the Iraqi security forces.

The 5.56 ammo seems to skew from the middle oughts, when the US was supplying prodigious quantities to the Iraqi security forces.

The Conflict Arms Research analysts also noted that they recovered a lot of crew-served ammunition, and not quite so much for individual weapons. Very little 7.62 x 39 was recovered, and the recoveries of 5.56 NATO ammunition were all in Iraq, not Syria.

CAR is an international anti-gun group; you won’t go far wrong by thinking of them as Bloomberg with international aspirations. But there is one place where they diverge from such American gun-rights opponents as Bloomberg: they try to report what they observe straight down the middle, rather than beat their findings to fit some preexisting political agenda. And they are doing what no one else who reports to the public will do: go to conflict scenes and actually observe what arms and ammunition are being used. National intelligence services do that, but they don’t generally issue public reports.

We can suggest explanations for some of CAR’s findings:

  • Captured small arms are being used opportunistically, perhaps sometimes by defectors to ISIL from their enemies. Thus, you’d expect recoveries in Syria to be biased towards calibers the Syrian military uses, and likewise for Iraq. There’s no reason to haul 5.56 rifles and ammo to Syria when there are no shortages of individual weapons in Syria. This is exactly the pattern CAR documented. Opportunistic battlefield recovery arms and ammo will generally be used near the scene of their capture.
  • It’s not surprising that they recovered more crew-served ammo than rifle ammo. When an army (even an irregular one) is in retreat, it and its members tend to ‘lighten ship.” It is much more common to see non-standard ammo and crew-served ammo discarded at this time; when guerrillas turn in ammunition on demobilization, they usually turn in a much higher percentage of crew-served than of individual weapons ammunition. Thus 7.62 x 54mm far outnumbered 7.62 x 39 in CAR’s analysis.
  • Some of the findings they make are just not justified by the amount of ammo captured, either as a matter of statistical probability, or simply as a matter of common sense. This is not a trivial complaint. Inferences were drawn from a single Russian 7.62 x 54mm casing, and from a total of two cases with Sudanese headstamps. There’s just not enough meat in those quantities to hang a solid theory on.

The Court of Last Resort

the court of last resortBefore that was an Innocence Project, long before, there was The Court of Last Resort. Erroneous and false convictions have always been anathema to lovers of justice, and one of those justice lovers was a man named Erle Stanley Gardner, a man who had two highly successful careers.

If you remember the name Erle Stanley Gardner today (a lot of people remember him erroneously as Earl), it’s probably because of his second career: as a writer of legal and detective dramas. He was a hugely prolific writer, turning in 66,000 words a week, ever since he began writing for pulp magazines for 1¢ a word. (Later, his stories would run in the solidly respectable Saturday Evening Post, and he’d be paid much better). His best-remembered legal dramas featured his most famous creation, crusading defense attorney Perry Mason, who invariably got the real murderer to confess on the stand, setting his innocent client free. Gardner’s first career was as a defense attorney, so there might have been some wish fulfillment in his writing.

Even people who have never read a word of Gardner’s writing know Perry Mason, from the black-and-white TV series of that name, featuring Raymond Burr in the title role, that ran for a decade, 1957-66, and closely followed the Gardner/Mason formula. Impossible defense case, innocent client, courtroom confession, roll credits. Gardner was credited and paid as creator of the series; we don’t know how much writing he did.

(The show was successful to the end; it only ended because Burr was tired of playing Perry Mason, and the next season he was back as a detective in a wheelchair in a series named Ironside, also a long-running hit, this time in color).

But what has all this to do with The Court of Last Resort? Patience. We’re getting there. Before we return to Gardner, and Mason, we will say that in law, the Court of Last Resort is the highest authority on a given case. It is where you appeal to just before you’re all out of appeals. For a criminal defendant, it’s the last legal hope before “toothbrush day” (or before, in Gardner’s era, having your execution scheduled). Hold that thought while we discuss Mason some more.

We haven’t read the whole canon, but doubt that Perry Mason ever had a guilty client, unlike, well, every other defense attorney there ever was. Gardner had been one of these attorneys, one of the old-school guys who learned as an apprentice to a lawyer, and never attended a day of law school. He had seen guilty men walk and innocent men clapped in irons, and as a true son of the Constitution, the latter case bothered him far more than the former. But for most of his life, he could do nothing about it. It was only when his writing, originally done simply to supplement the uneven pay of a trial lawyer, made him wealthy and famous that he could do something about it. Let’s let his bio at IMDB take the story from here [brackets denote our edits]:

As a lawyer, Gardner became the bane of the legal establishment when he helped co-founding The Case Review Committee (colloquially known as the Court of Last Resort), a professional association of concerned lawyers who sought to investigate and reopen cases wherein a person might have been wrongly convicted [of a] serious crime. Beside Gardner, other founders included LeMoyne Snyder, a physician and lawyer who write well-regarded homicide investigation text books; Dr. Leonorde Keeler, a pioneer and authority in the use of the polygraph in criminal proceedings; former American Academy of Scientific Investigators President Alex Gregory (another polygraph expert who replaced Dr. Keeler after his death) [and] renowned handwriting expert Clark Sellers; and former Walla Walla Penitentiary warden Tom Smith. The Mystery Writers of America bestowed its prestigious Fact Crime Edgar Award on Gardner in 1952, for his non-fiction book The Court of Last Resort (1957), which detailed one of the Court’s first investigations.

That anachronism is in the IMDB bio. Our copy is a paperback version, dated 1954. Along with the book, The Court of Last Resort generated a short-lived TV show, sort of a reality show before reality shows were cool. The show began with a reenactment of the crime at issue.

The most prominent case the Court was involved with was the murder conviction of Dr. Samuel Sheppard, who staunchly proclaimed his innocence of the murder of his wife. The Sheppard case provided the basis for the fictional The Fugitive (1963) TV show.) During the initial phases of the Sheppard appeal, Gardner polygraphed members of the Sheppard family. He had hoped if the results were favorable, he would then administer the lie detector test to Sam Sheppard himself. However, when Sheppard family members were tested, the polygraph results indicated guilty knowledge. Consequently Gardner declined to test Sam Sheppard, and the Court of Last Resort withdrew from the case, even though Gardner believed in Sheppard’s innocence. Sheppard was later freed by a Supreme Court decision that held that Sheppard had not gotten a fair trial due to pre-trial publicity that tainted the juror pool. The Supreme Court case was won by F. Lee Bailey, who also won acquittal for Sheppard during the subsequent retrial. Polygraph tests have never been allowed into evidence in a U.S. court due to their unreliability. Gardner ended his active membership in the Court of Last Resort in 1960. The Court – which conducted preliminary investigations of at least 8,000 cases — eventually disbanded.

Some time ago we came across a copy of a possibly never-read paperback of The Court of Last Resort. Its covers were stiff and is pages brown and brittle, but we had to read it. It is striking just how closely the efforts of the Court of Last Resort in the early 1950s parallels the efforts of the Innocence Project and other civil rights efforts today.

So that was Gardner, then: a California liberal who never wanted to jail anybody, and who probably blamed the guns? No, that wasn’t Gardner. He was as keen on seeing the guilty punished as he was on seeing the innocent exonerated. And far from blaming guns, he was an enthusiastic sportsman himself, and an early activist against nascent anti-gun efforts of the 1950s and 60s.

The Law that LeakedOne example of this activism was a short story, The Law that Leaked, that ran in the outdoor magazine Sports Afield in three consecutive issues beginning in September, 1950. Almost as long ago (2007), Random Nuclear Strikes (what a name for a blog!) scanned the appropriate pages of Sports Afield and made it available to 21st century outdoorsmen. RNS has an introduction to the series, and a post that collects links to all the posts. The story is a good one — imagine a slightly more believable Red Dawn, thirty-plus years ahead of time. (In fact, if you do read the story, you’ll wonder if it wasn’t in the back of John Milius’s mind).

It’s amazing to think that 64 years ago, Erle Stanley Gardner was fighting the malevolent forces of registration and confiscation, and 64 years later we’re still fighting a new generation of the bastards. (Note that the Dave Kopel post on his recommended ten 2nd Amendment books has been nuked from, but you can find it in .pdf facsimile of its America’s 1st Freedom print version on Dave’s website).

Erle Stanley Gardner became rich and successful and admired — and he was a college dropout. He shaped a generation’s view of the law, and he never spent an hour in a law-school class. He shaped many an American’s view of the courts and the law, and generally in a positive way.

Finally, Gardner thought that civil rights were important — all civil rights. We know this not because of what he said, but because of what he did. He’s been gone now for decades, but deserves to be remembered — and for more than just Perry Mason.

Gaston Glock: Socialist!

red_flagThere’s a complaint rollicking around in the latest lawsuit in the Real Housewives of Deutsch-Wagram story arc that’s called “Gaston Glock’s Nasty Divorce.” And it looks like the Woman Scorned has brought the weapons-grade accusations against Glock, his new popsie, and an international rogues’ gallery of shell companies and flags of convenience.

There’s enough in this multi-Harlequin-Romance-sized (and shape) complaint to entertain every gun blogger in America. And Austria. But we thought this one little quote was worth passing on:

89. Glock Sr. had to overcome substantial obstacles in order to meet this objective. The first and most obvious obstacle was that he had little experience with firearms in general, much less in designing or manufacturing them.

90. A perhaps more surprising obstacle was Glock Sr.’s Socialist political beliefs, which caused him to strongly dislike guns.

91. But Glock Sr. found a way to overcome his political beliefs, and his Socialism did not prevent him from producing a pistol. Nor did it prevent him from becoming an aggressive and highly successful Capitalist, amassing vast private wealth by selling guns, especially in the United States.

So Gaston Glock’s a commie? Or a bit bolshie, at least? And he’s accused of cheating people… over money? Color us shocked.

John Richardson at No Lawyers has the file, which we’ll also post here. It has one view of Glock history. John also has a link to Bloomberg minion Paul Barrett on the subject — one bolshie who “strongly dislikes guns” bashing another. Can we haz purges?


Perhaps we can all join in in a rousing chorus of the Internationale.  (Maybe on May Day). Until then, consider the life of a lawsuit in the American tort system, versus the life expectancy of Herr Glock, who’s approximately 86. Since there are literally billions at stake — not that anybody at Glock seems to have been counting the money honestly — this could go on enriching lawyers for generations. 

Somewhere, John M. Browning is shaking his head.

Lore of the Lorenz

Union Riflemen with two of the 300,000+ Lorenzes that saw service on both sides. Matthew Fleming collection via Civil War Times.

Union Riflemen with two of the 300,000+ Lorenzes that saw service on both sides. Matthew Fleming collection via Civil War Times.

If you go to a Civil War reenactment, you will see a remarkable thing: thousands of volunteers taking great pains to portray (and many of them, to experience, down to the taste of hard tack) the lives of the troops of the War Between the States. They have an eye for accuracy that stops just short of getting dysentery, or combat wounds (and having them treated with the ignorant brutality of 1860s medicine). They obsess over the weave of clothing, the embroidery of insignia, and, of course, weapons. The average reenactor knows a hundred times more about his rifle-musket or carbine than his actual Civil War ancestor did, and he and his friends will share their knowledge freely and openly with anyone who’s actually interested. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

And yet, you might come away with some not quite right ideas. The vast majority of Union portrayals carry the Springfield rifle-musket; the vast majority of Confederates, the Enfield. Yet both Billy Yank and Johnny Reb dipped into a deeper and wider sea of small arms. There were obsolete smoothbores — some of them retained deliberately, by regimental colonels’ preference — and penny packets of oddball breech-loaders, especially for the cavalry. Enemy weapons were routinely captured and turned on their former owners, especially by the Rebels. But the bulk of non-standard arms were imports. Even the Union, which had the only surviving national arsenal and the majority of civilian gun manufacturers who could turn their machinery to military arms contracts, couldn’t arm its recruits fast enough, and imported prodigious quantities of arms. One of the most significant of those was the Lorenz rifle. This image of a nice one was posted to a Civil War forum by Bob Owens:


The similarities to the Springfield and Enfield are evident. (Convergent evolution. A Messerschmitt has a lot in common with a Spitfire, Mustang or Yak-3, for that same reason).

The Lorenz was the service arm of the Austrian Empire, adopted in 1854. It was roughly equivalent to the 1855 Harper’s Ferry rifle-musket or its Springfield equivalent, or to its British contemporary, the Enfield. Since the Empire adopted a new Lorenz variant in 1862, distinguished more by superior metallurgy than by design changes, selling off the old Lorenzes to avid American buyers seemed like a good idea.

Civil War arms historian Joseph Bilby describes the arm and some of its variations:

Lorenz guns were acquired from several sources; the Hapsburg armories in Vienna and private arms makers in Vienna and Ferlach. The Lorenz rifle-musket had a 37 ½ inch barrel secured to the gun’s stock with three barrel bands. The gun was made with two styles of rear sights; a non-adjustable “block,” calibrated to hit a man somewhere on the body up to 300 schritt (paces), issued to line infantry (Type I), and a leaf sight adjustable up to 900 schritt issued to noncommissioned officers and skirmishers (Type II). Both types were imported. Captain Silas Crispin, reported a batch of newly imported .54 caliber as “12,384 of them having the simple block rear sight, and the remainder – 3,144 – being furnished with elevating screws, ranging up to about 800 yards.” It seems reasonable to assume that most bulk purchases of surplus Lorenzes, Union and Confederate, probably reflected the same ratio of sight types, as they seem to correlate with Austrian army issue patterns.

Lorenzes were marked on their lock plates with the last three digits of the year of production. For example “860” designates a rifle made in 1860. The Austrians adopted a new version of the Lorenz in 1862, with a steel rather than iron barrel. These were not imported, and guns with “863” and “864” with provenance to the Civil War are contractor guns made specifically for export. These contract pieces are usually threaded for standard US nipples.

Although walnut stocked examples exist, most Lorenzes were stocked in beech, stained dark brown. The Lorenz quadrangular socket bayonet featured a diagonal mounting slot. Both of these characteristics make it immediately identifiable on a dealer’s table at an antique gun or Civil War relic show.

(Bilby goes into it at greater length in Small Arms at Gettysburg).

The South needed anything, and they bought weapons far worse than the Lorenzes, which were made by a Great Power with substantial arms-making industries, and were only a few years old. (The British sold them, along with modern Enfields, rebarreled and percussion-converted rifles that started as 18th-Century Brown Besses). The North told themselves they were just buying the Lorenzes so that Southern purchasing agents didn’t get them — they wound out buying around two for every Rebel one — but wound up issuing them, anyway. In addition to surplus Lorenz rifles from Habsburg stock, the many small manufacturers that made Austro-Hungarian Army rifles sold new guns to the buyers as well. All in all, somewhere between 300,000 and 350,000 Lorenzes made their way to the USA. Some were bored out to the standard American .58 caliber (there are a lot of variations of this out there), and some were issued in the original .54. Most Lorenz rifles were bright-finished from the factory, like the one shown above, but some were blued or browned.

Civil War riflemen varied in their appreciation for the Lorenz, suggesting to historians like Bilby that the rifles may have varied widely in quality. He quotes some primary sources on the arm:

The Lorenz was well regarded by some troops to whom it was issued, including those of the 5th New Jersey and 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiments. Private Alfred Bellard of the 5th praised his .54 caliber Lorenz for being “short, light and very easily cleaned, “while Quartermaster James D. Hendrie of the 104th believed his outfit’s Austrian guns to be “very superior weapons, although not so well finished as the American arms.” His colonel remembered the regiment’s guns as “rough but good and reliable.” The men of the 23rd Pennsylvania were delighted to trade in their .69 caliber rifled muskets for Austrian arms, which they found to be “most efficient firearms.” An Illinois officer regarded the Lorenz as “although a little heavy, a fine piece for service.” Leander Stillwell of the 61st Illinois considered his .54 Lorenz “a wicked shooter.” Stillwell and his comrades “were glad to get the Austrians, and were quite proud of them.” The Suckers of the 61st carried their Lorenzes until June of 1863, when they exchanged them for Enfields.

Other Yanks were not as enthusiastic. In 1863, a Union inspecting officer condemned the Austrian weapons of the 47th Massachusetts Infantry. Lorenz rifle-muskets issued to western troops in the second year of the war seem to have been decidedly inferior to those issued the previous year. William E. McMillan of the 94th Illinois’ Company E wrote that his unit’s Lorenzes were “not worth much,” while the 100th Illinois reported that its .58 caliber Lorenz guns “are roughly and improperly made and cannot be called an effective weapon. The men of the 106th Illinois complained that the Lorenz was “miserably poor,” and the 120th Illinois classified its .54 Lorenz guns as “worthless.”

The 125th Illinois was issued Austrian rifle-muskets in .58 caliber of “which not over one-half were perfect…many will not explode a cap.” The 125th’s regimental historian complained that some of the Austrian guns’ nipples “were not entirely drilled out,” and some could not mount a bayonet without hammering it on. The 130th Illinois reported that “one-third or three-eights of these arms [Austrian] are defective.”

Like Colonel Penrose of the 15th New Jersey Infantry, who exchanged his men’s Enfields for Springfields on the battlefield, Major Robert L. Bodine of the 26th Pennsylvania rearmed his regiment on the field at Gettysburg. Bodine’s men came to Gettysburg armed “with the Austrian rifle of an inferior quality, and I desired toe exchange them for Springfield rifles; which was done without the red tape processes. Quite a number of them were taken from the Rebels. Like the Jerseymen of the 15th, the Pennsylvanians picked up several Confederate-made rifle-muskets along with the Springfields. Apparently unaware of the production facilities at Richmond, Bodine reported that these guns “had gone through the renovating process, and bore the Richmond C.S. stamp.”

Lorenz guns may well have gained a bad reputation from their association with older .71 caliber Austrian “Consol” or tube-lock muskets, which were conversions from flintlock. These guns, some of which were rifled, others not, were converted by a method devised by Giuseppe Consol of Milan. The Consol/Augustin system replaced the flintlock pan and frizzen with a two-piece priming chamber and installed a new hammer.

In the last year of the war, the union was trying to get rid of all it’s nonstandard arms, including the Lorenz, but the Confederacy was importing even more of these and other foreign weapons.

NEw Market Battle Map_ColonnaOne of the most celebrated Rebel uses of the Lorenz came at the battle of New Market, Virginia, in May, 1864, where among the Confederate participants were 257 cadets of the Virginia Military Institute.  Confederate Major General John Breckinridge committed the cadets only reluctantly, but he faced a larger force of Union men under Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel. Most (over 200) of the cadets were armed with Lorenz rifles. Ten cadets were slain, or died of wounds; another 57 survived wounds. At the battle museum there is a mangled Lorenz that was carried by a wounded cadet, displayed with his description of his wounding. The cadets had, bravely but unwisely, marched in ranks into the muzzles of the Yankees’ artillery. Poor fellow never got off a shot before Union shrapnel laid him low; when the rifle was disassembled for preservation in the 1990s his Minié-ball cartridge was found intact in the breech!

In Austria-Hungary, the later model Lorenzes were converted along a similar timeline to their American Springfield counterparts to breechloading, metallic-cartridge rifles. This produced the Wentzel rifle; mechanically it is quite similar to the Allin conversion that produced the Springfield trapdoor. But the American imports were disposed of postwar. Unlike Springfields made at Springfield, the Lorenzes (and imported Enfields from minor English smiths, and Springfields made by contractors) tended to be hand-fitted and not to have interchangeable parts — not optimal in a military arm.

Given the importation of something like 350,000 Lorenzes, and the haste with which they were disposed by the Federal Government, there are believed to be many thousands of original rifles still in circulation. (Others are believed to have been used as rebar in the construction of Bannerman’s Castle in New York; orphaned muzzleloaders).

You can usually find a Lorenz or two for sale on GunBroker. The bayonet, with its trademark angled slot, is somewhat less common than the rifle. The guns are common enough that they’re underpriced compared to Springfields and Enfields of similar vintage.

Given the wide distribution of fakes, however, we would have to urge one to exercise extreme caution with a Lorenz that purports to be of Civil War, especially Confederate, and doubly especially New Market, origin, and is therefore priced above market. (Bear in mind that the battle was a Confederate victory, and the fallen Rebels’ Lorenz rifles were presumably recovered by their own side and restored to the VMI armory or reissued). Even written provenance, as we’ve seen with the recent spate of Little Big Horn auctions, can be, shall we say, questionable. American documents of the period tend to refer to the Lorenz not by that name, but simply as “Austrian rifle.”

With the popularity of reenacting, the Lorenz has been copied in both high-quality and budget replicas. One dead giveaway of a modern replica is that the barrel is steel (like the later Lorenz Model 1862, actually), whilst an original Lorenz has an iron barrel. (unfortunately, the best way to test this is the spark test — not sure what nondestructive methods are available).

So that is a bit of the Lore of the Lorenz — a rifle that most haven’t heard of, but that played a significant role in a war half a world away from its origins.


OT: Various Amusements

Let’s Laugh at Ebola

We suppose you could say Ebola is not funny, but this document, given this timing, is definitely funny.

come to dallas bring your ebola

Indeed. Now that we have pestilence, can we have some famine, too? Throw in a dictatorial but inept leader, and we’ve got a three-dimensional taste of Africa!

And Let’s Laugh at Unemployed Journalists

Then, there’s this headline in the New York TimesYou have to have a heart of stone not to read this without skipping happily through the rest of your day:



Happiest of all at this news? The DNC phone bank, which just got 100 volunteer telemarketers in time for the midterms.

The Times has made cuts to its newsroom staff several times over the last six years. The paper eliminated 100 newsroom jobs in 2008, another 100 in 2009, and 30 more senior newsroom jobs at the beginning of last year.

Remember all the “grim milestone” reports they ran every time some poor bastard got whacked in ‘Stan, until their boy was president? Now it’s our turn. “Stalemate on 43rd Street: A Grim Milestone.” Heh. Still, there will be 1,230 of them still in the newsroom, counting wine reviewers and everybody, after the cuts. So there are still more of them to be disgorged. Come on, don’t you know The Party® needs you?

How they beat pirates, back then

Remember how, in history class, they taught you how they’re used to be a plague of Pirates of the world back in the 17th and 18th centuries, and then there were no more Pirates. They went the way of the Passenger Pigeon. Wonder why that was? Unlike passenger pigeons, pirates didn’t even taste good. But their extinction did, indeed, turn out to be wrought of the hands of mankind. Behold:

hanging pirates

An octet of gallows. Very handy if you have eight pirates all up for disposal at the same time! (No trials needed, pirates were understood to be hostis humanae generis).

Now, some people will complain that you can’t solve any particular piracy problem just by hanging pirates. You have to address the root causes of piracy (although, you have to admit, hanging them is pretty satisfying, just for the hell of it). But back in those days, we did that, too: we “addressed the root causes” by sacking and burning their villages. No pirates, no lairs, no piracy. Civilization 3, Pirates 0. And for centuries pirates were unheard of… until we stopped wringing their necks and started wringing our hands instead. Could there be a cause concealed in that correlation?

And nowadays we have technology for doing it better. Why, we could kill two plagues at one shot, as it were, by simply dumping the corpses of the Ebola immigrants in the pirate dens of Somalia.

And Then, there was this Nobel Peace Prize…

NobelUnlike the hard-science prizes, which require actual accomplishment, the Peace Prize is a popularity piece, presented by a platoon of Norwegian politicians who might have stumbled out of the Flamingo Bar in the TV series Lillyhammer. At closing time, somewhat the worse for bootleg booze. Their award usually is an binge on Stuff The Very Palest of White People Like, with an extra rich dessert of PC self-promotion and preening. And they were poised to do it again.

But from unhappy experience, our tame-Viking pols have learned that a rain of death can fall from the sky on random people when you give the Prize to someone who is young, callow, and utterly untested.  So this year, they vowed not to give the prize to an overhyped novice. They gave the award to a 17-year-old, instead.

You have to say this for the Peace Prize committee: generally, they prove that it’s not just American politicians who are assclowns.

And Speaking of Assclowns… the TSA!

tsa-bozoThere’s a meme going around… “You had one job! One job!” from some flick or other (for some reason we imagine Dr Evil delivering it to some inept underling in an Austin Powers movie, but that’s probably wrong). Lately, people have been saying that about the CDC, whose One Job of keeping Ebola out of our population fell by the wayside as social-engineering campaigns took precedence over dull old epidemiological biosurveillance. And they’re saying it (or should be) about Chuck Hagel, who’s trying to social-engineer smoking, drinking and carrying on out of the military, and engineer the first class of feminist infantry since Francisco Solano López ran out of men to draft in 1869 (look him up). But you know what we say about the TSA:

No one good, decent, honest, competent, moral, ethical or intelligent has ever been employed by the TSA in any capacity whatsoever.

TSA lives its bureaucratic life as if the Gods of the Copybook Headings depended on it alone to prove that statement true, always and everywhere. And if the TSA has One Job, it’s to keep armed terrs off airplanes, no? Well, Forbes says, “There is solid evidence that the TSA is not very good at this job, but spends a lot of money uselessly.”

Color us shocked.

How uselessly? Try the SPOT or Behavior Detection Officer program, designed to take the typical mouth-breathing TSA neckbeard and turn him into the miscegenation-product of Sherlock Holmes and Jeane Dixon. Forbes, again:

The idea behind SPOT is that government observers in airports can detect individuals who are intent on terrorism merely by looking at them and discerning behavioral clues. SPOT was begun in 2007 and employs some 2,800 TSA personnel.

Does it do any good? According to a report issued last November by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it does not. “The subjectivity of the SPOT behavioral indicators and variation in BDO (Behavior Detection Officer) referral rates raise questions about the continued use of behavior indicators for detecting passengers who might pose a risk to aviation security,” the study concluded.

The GAO concluded that the TSA’s study purporting to validate this approach was badly flawed and recommended defunding SPOT.

So, they defunded the failed program, right? Eh, silly you, do you really think that? They actually expanded the program after learning it was a failure. This is the TSA we’re talkin’ about here, pilgrim: respect my authoritah!

Forbes also mentions the Rapescan machines, that the TSA spent over $1 billion on (not counting all the effort they put into training their perpetual Special Class of payroll patriots), and that were then scrapped.

Who’s the bozo now? Us taxpayers. Same as always.

Yep, the Airstrikes are Ineffectual. -Pentagon

FOOM!Well, we said airstrikes were going to be ineffectual (our actual phrase was, “designed to fail.” We pointed out where others, more influential than we are, said the same thing, even as the Pentagon bungled a simple website describing the strikes. We showed you reports that the strikes were ineffectual. We quoted the enemy saying they were ineffectual.

Now? The Pentagon admits they’re ineffectual. We guess that makes it official, and lets us crown your humble blog host as the Sage of Hog Manor, by his own hand, now that the latest flack’s latest Modified Limited Hangout has caught up with what we’ve been telling you for, we dunno, a month or so. The Washington Post:

“Airstrikes are not going to save the town of Kobane. We know that,” [Pentagon flack Rear Adm. John F.] Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing. “We all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality.”

Kirby explained, with some apparent frustration, that the strategic goal of U.S. airstrikes in Syria is to destroy Islamic State infrastructure and prevent Syria’s use as a haven for operations in neighboring Iraq, not to save individual Syrian towns.

“There are going to continue to be villages and towns and cities that they take,” he said. “We all have to recognize that reality.”

Translation: “Hey, our strategy has been a complete failure. But give us credit for

If you needed any more proof that the US campaign, if “campaign” is really the word for the disconnected and fitful barrage of “kinetic message-sending” and STADMs (Strikes Targeted Against Domestic Media), is in the grip of woolly-headed air-power theorists, you get it in the next paragraph, where they admit that killing the enemy where he has troops in contact with friendlies (?) is an annoying distraction from the real main effort, blowing up stuff for the media hits.

The Pentagon considers the three days of strikes on militant positions around Kobane something of an interruption of its Syria campaign against Islamic State headquarters, oil refineries and command and control centers. The Kobane operation has been undertaken largely because the ground fight for the town’s survival has been broadcast live across the world from cameras just over the border in Turkey.

As far as the “US frustration with Turkey,” as the Post’s headline: “U.S. frustration rises as Turkey withholds military help from besieged Kobane” put it, what do you expect? The Turks are Islamists; Turkish de-facto dictator Recep Erdogan’s longtime ruling party differs from al-Qaeda and ISIL only on the question of means, not ends; and the form of their objection to US plans is that the US is not committed enough to overthrowing Bashar al-Assad and replacing him with an Islamist government, like the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

In other words, Erdogan’s troops will fight ISIL only in the service of something very much like ISIL. This is obvious to anyone who’s paid any attention to Turkey for the last dozen or so years, and seen Erdogan’s AKP/Cemaat Islamists consolidate power and conduct a decapitation strike against the biggest threat to their absolute rule, the Army, in a series of show trials.

But meanwhile, we’re sending million-dollar Tomahawks and $40k smart bombs to blow up pickup trucks and empty buildings, and Kirby’s irate that the press doesn’t understand that these strikes can only be… ineffectual.

We have said this before, but it bears repeating: so repeat after the WeaponsMan:

  1. PGMs, no SOF on ground, result misery.
  2. No PGMs, SOF on ground,  result misery.
  3. PGMs, SOF on ground, result happiness.

But that mantra is informed by the idea that you’re trying to actually win, not simply kick the can past the election to the next scheduled bugout.

And let’s loft another one up there for all y’all to take a swing at:

  • Any enemy that’s not worth utterly destroying, is not worth fighting.

A military exists to kill things and break people. It’s a blunt instrument’s blunt instrument; trying to use it to “send a message” is like trying to use a 16# sledge to tune a piano. You will have an effect on the piano, and sound will be emitted.