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Guest Post: Northern Red Pistol/Rifle Course Review

(The following is an article from our traveling reporter. He is a former Special Forces Weapons Sergeant and Operations Sergeant. He is currently employed with a law enforcement agency. He recently attended a two day Northern Red Pistol/Rifle Course. -Ed.)

northern_redThe instructors at Northern Red come with impressive resumes. The three primary instructors on the range were all former Special Forces Weapons Sergeants and one had been a member of a Special Missions Unit (SMU). Each of these men had multiple combat deployments, and previous experience teaching not only members of American units, but also indigenous forces.

On Day One they started back at the 25 yard line and had you repeatedly shoot 10 round strings. It gave them a chance to see your mistakes and how you could shoot. It also gave them a chance to look at your kit. After a few iterations and some coaching they moved into their introductions.

Unlike other schools they do not start with introductions. They say when people know you it leads to making excuses. They are there to help you perform. They made it clear there would be no warm ups or second chances on game day. As the introductions continued it became clear that the class was almost entirely law enforcement. Most of these people were on their agencies’ SWAT teams. Most of the students were also funded by their respective agencies. There was also one Ranger in the class. He was using some hard earned money and leave to be there.

As the class continued, the instructors were there to correct mistakes and build on the students’ shooting. The drills were thorough and methodical. The instructors were professional, but were not there to stroke the students.

One of the techniques used during the course was having your partner take your pistol and sometimes place a round in it and sometimes just charge an empty pistol. This made the students flinch or jerking the pistol more apparent.

(This reminds us of the old SOT ball-n-dummy drill, which was of course already old and well-established when SOT took it up. In the ball-and-dummy, your training partner stands behind you and randomly charges your mags with live and dummy rounds, then loads and safes your firearm and returns it to you. -Ed.) 

As the day progressed, the students moved in close and worked on their form from the holster, speed, and reloads. Throughout the day the instructors used real world examples to highlight lessons. The also kept up a dialogue of a winning mindset and not allowing yourself to start negative thoughts. It sounds simple but success breeds success and self-doubt leads to losing.

The instructors made it clear that they were there to teach you to win a gunfight. They highlighted this with examples and sayings such as, “How fast did Billy the Kid put his gun away? No one cares!” They constantly repeated that, “We do everything fast so we can shoot slow.” They kept up the positive mental attitude and coaching as they built on the students skills.

Day two was devoted to the rifle. This started with shooting at the one yard line. It then continued in with a scored drill. You do not get a chance to warm up for your gunfight.

The instructors demonstrated that the 100m zero is preferred because you know where your round is out to one hundred yards! Zeroing your weapon at 25m or 50m leads to having to know holds and that is just one more thing to slow you down. Students that were devoted to a 25 or 50m changed their minds quickly.

(Wow. Things are different in the Law Enforcement world. Thing with a 100m rifle zero is that the rifle — even a short-barreled carbine — shoots pretty flat to 250-300m. So why not zero for 250? Without having a chance to talk to the Northern Red instructors, we’d guess they’re mostly training LE guys that would not take a shot over 100m in anything but a red-letter emergency, and/or that carry very short — 10-11″ barrel — or pistol caliber carbines. -Ed.)

The instructors offered one lesson at a time on the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship, between strings while zeroing. They then moved in and commenced with what most people really like to do. That is to get up close and move into timed drills with a rifle. At no time was there any “blasting.” The instructors made it clear that the student was accountable for every round and a miss could be an innocent bystander.

(Certain LE readers, your department or agency needs to hear that message. You know who you are. -Ed).

For most of the pistol and rifle drills IPSC cardboard targets were used. The instructors reinforced that the rounds should be high in the A zone in these targets. The head shots were to be in the credit card in the head. From real world experience they learned that people rarely go down with one shot. They constantly reinforced that the shooter should be evaluating and prepared to keep shooting. Most shooters have training scars from breaking down as soon as they fire the required number of rounds for a drill. This leads to bad form and can be fatal in a gunfight.

The Northern Red cadre also helped students with advice and recommendations on gear. They made it clear that they were not picking on anybody. They went out and bought something when it was supposed to be new and great. They were trying to save the students a few years of trial and error and a lot of money.

One thing I will mention about gear is that the SERPA holster was not appreciated. Many shooting instructors, some schools, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center have now banned the holster. The author has seen previous mishaps with this holster!

At the close of the course the instructors had a final speech on winning attitude and made it clear that they would accept questions even after the course. The stated that the school name refers to British research that that the Vikings were the ancestors of the red haired people in Europe. They were also unique among warrior cultures for their belief in their version of the afterlife. The cadre made it clear that you have to decide what your actions will be to future threats and what you can live with. As a protector you had a responsibility to your society and your family.

The instructors closed by talking about some of the charities that Tom Spooner is involved with. Spooner is a retired highly decorated sniper troop leader from a SMU. Spooner has extensive combat experience and has had to deal with the after effects. He is using his experiences to help others. Currently he is involved with helping military, police, and other first responders deal with the demons of their battlefields.

I cannot recommend the instructors or the training provided by Northern Red highly enough. If you carry a weapon for a living or are dedicated to protecting your family this is a great investment in your future. You should also take a look at the charities that Tom Spooner is involved with! You might decide you want to help those that have sacrificed for all of us.

(Our Traveling Reporter [OTR] is kind of like Stig the secret racing driver on Top Gear. He trains all the time and could be in your course next week, but you’d never know it because OTR can make himself very grey indeed. Let us know if you want more course reports like this; the one thing they won’t usually have is pictures because there are usually characters in this kind of course who would rather not be photographed, and OTR’s primary focus is always on improving his skills, not reporting on courses. -Ed.)

OT: Plane (Woes?) Update

As we may have mentioned, there have been some glitches in the whole airplane thing.

The first kit was delivered in January. We had the first piece clecoed together by the end of the month, a part of a rudder hinge. Then we were hung up in paralysis-by-analysis over how to prime the parts.

Finally we just picked a system and ran with it.

When we were finally riveting parts, Initially all went well & according to plan. Alignment easy by rivet or punch or light tap w/ mallet on rivet tool. Until we had one where the hole was a little too small and the light tap deformed the skin halfway… until pulling the LP4-3 rivet deformed it further. It was the last rivet in a row of 16… so we got to drill out 16 rivets.

As your humble blogservant wrote to the Blogbrother that day:

Apart from the dings to skin — fixable if exposed — the rivets gotta come out. Drilling out 16 nicely set rivets. Gonna see if I can get at that hole with rivet tool to press it flat again.  Need to take lots of Clecos out. Charging up borescope to look inside, before I do that. Think scope will be very useful.

Of the 16 rivets, 11 rivets drilled out easily. The other 5 did not even with #34 drill (about as large as you dare go on a rivet in a #30 hole). We did use a pair of flat rivet sets in the rivet tool to press the ding out of the skin.

I’m going to take a break for now. I’ve done enough damage for one morning! I’m going to leave everything recharging and go do ground oriented stuff for a while.

Am I still the bad Rong Brother?

Ultimately, the parts were restored and we got a lot better at riveting… and a lot better at drilling out rivets for all those times we weren’t better enough at riveting.

Until we got to the rudder. We found that it’s really easy to bend a -5 (long) rivet all out of shape. We improved our technique. We bought a better rivet squeezer. We wrangled and riveted and drilled out and — hey, this hole’s not a #30 any more.

We decided to scrap that rudder spar and rib, and move on.

We had carefully assembled the horizontal stabilizer spar with clecos, and labeled what part went where and what side was up, down, etc. Of course, that was before we washed, rinsed, etched, rinsed, and primed the parts. But this time, the permanent rivets went in like so many pats of butter… no problem. We test-fitted the spar caps.

Worrauuugghh. The holes didn’t line up! One of the spar webs was on the box back to front.

Nothing for it but to drill out 10 rivets… re-rivet. Miraculously, the rivets all go in with no drama, and all pass inspection. Now, to test-fit the spar caps.

Worrauuggh! the spar webs are both going the same way now, but it turns out the four spacers that hold the parts together also have the property of directionality — which is to say, there’s a right way and a wrong way to put them in.

And what do you think we did?

This time, there were twenty rivets to drill out….

We’re double-checking parts orientation before anybody reaches for a rivet tool, that’s for sure.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Bad Grades. And Baseball Bats.

Report Card FMurders seldom makes sense to the non-murderous among us, but this one is particularly jarring. Matricide over school grades surely sounds like the misbegotten revenge of a teenage punk, but it actually was the revenge of an adult man; the grades in question were college grades.

Tyler Blansit, 22, was arrested early Saturday morning for the murder of his mother, Sherry Blansit. Blansit had been found beaten to death behind her home in Mentone[, Alabama].

Sheriff Jimmy Harris said Blansit confessed to killing his mother after they got into an argument over grades.

Tyler Blansitt mugshotSomehow the idea that someone stupid enough to murder an immediate family member, was also underperforming in school, is not a major shock. But it takes some effort to wrap one’s brain housing group around the idea that someone would murder his mother because he was underperforming in school.

“Usually we’ll have calls where a parent has whipped a child because of grades, a child has run away because of bad grades, but we’ve never had anything like this happen,” Harris said Saturday.

According to Mentone Police Chief Brad Greg, Tyler told investigators that he struck Sherry in the head with a baseball bat during the height of their confrontation.

Harris said it appears the mother’s death was the result of blunt-force trauma to the head, but that an autopsy will provide further information. Sherry Blansit’s body was transported to the Department of Forensic Sciences in Huntsville.

via Sheriff: Argument over grades led to mother’s slaying – – FOX6 WBRC Birmingham, AL.

Watch out for the one with your name on it.

Watch out for the one with your name on it.

The murdering little weasel actually called 911 and tried to pretend he came home and stumbled over his mother’s cold dead body. But she had counted coup on him — he had scratches on his body, and “a knot on his head.” A woman and a man are almost always an unfair, uneven fight; Sherry Blansit, unarmed, couldn’t save herself, but she could mark Tyler so that the cops had no problem solving the case, and her homicidal (and stupid, let’s not forget stupid) son is not going to get away with it.

Not an optimum outcome, but you have to play the cards you find in your hand, sometimes.

Some Toy Guns from Fifty Years Ago

Three things have pretty much killed toy guns:

  1. The anti-gun attitude of American elites from the 1960s through to the present rendered them toxic to the parents who did most toy buying. We recall circa 1971 being Christmas shopping in Sears and hearing an earnest, prerecorded voice promise that Sears had sworn off “war toys” for the season. (It makes it hard to feel bad about the company’s woes, eh?) But that was the popular attitude in the press and of celebrities and soi-disant thought leaders.
  2. The occasional use of toy guns by criminals, and the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that results when Officer Friendly trumped their toy gun with a couple of .38s in the boiler room. (Personally? Who cares if his gun wouldn’t have worked. Try making that call in a fraction of a second from 20 feet away. And he was a robber or whatever anyway — the world is better shot of him. “Literally,” in the real, not Biden, sense).
  3. Laws that have banned them in some places and required them to be outlandish colors elsewhere.

But when we grew up, in the sixties,  toy guns were everywhere. There were little ones in Cracker Jack and Frosted Flakes boxes. There were big ones in a whole aisle in department stores. When Saturday cartoons came on, especially as the Christmas gift-giving season approached, we impressionable tykes were hard-sold all kinds of plastic imitation hardware.

It’s like we used to tell each other in Group. “We played with war toys, but it never influenced us.”

In the 60s, the top movies and shows were usually Westerns like Bonanza, Rawhide and Gunsmoke. So were the top toy guns. Here’s Mattel’s Fanner .50 and Cross-Draw Holster. It’s probably from around 1964, which explains why it’s black and white: in the early 1960s, RCA was just losing its monopoly on color TV, and so was RCA’s network, NBC. But for a lot of America for several years, there were only three channels, and two of them were always black and white, even if you sprang for the costly and temperamental color set.

Mattel was a huge California toymaker, and their wide range of plastic guns gave rise to the Urban Legend that Mattel was the producer, or a producer, of the M16 Rifle, an affront to all lovers of parkerized steel and walnut. Mattel did not produce any part of the M16, but we’ve seen homemade retro ARs with the Mattel name and logo where Colt’s or Armalite’s would have gone!

Mattel’s competitor Topper Toys — actually, a division of Reading of Elizabeth, NJ — had you covered if you were still holding out for the M14. Of course, its wood stock was plastic, but by now that was true for the real M14, too.

This is the Topper “Johnny Eagle” brand “Lieutenant” set. There were three sets in the brand: the Lieutenant (Army), the Red River (Western, naturally) and the Magumba (big game hunter). This example set was auctioned for a little over $100 in 2013. The “M14″ and “1911” were available separately, also.

Topper Toys Jonny Eagle Lieutenant

This is the ad, courtesy of Video Archaeology. No extra charge for the When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again pastiche:

We wanted the Johnny Eagle Lieutenant, but it was too much money. None of the kids in the neighborhood had it. We did have a variety of tommy guns, lousy ones from Marx and okay ones from Mattel and Topper (again).

Here’s the cousins’ version, an Airfix plastic L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle, presented by CJ Campbell. “A faithful replica… in brittle plastic.” Since British TV was then a government monopoly, there are no period TV ads from that side of the pond.

Finally, along with Western guns, Army guns, and spy guns (which we’ve covered previously), the remaining popular gun-toy genre was the cop or detective gun. Mattel again:

We played with one of these Tommy guns and it never influenced us. Relax, Mr and Mrs America.

OT: We Hadn’t Thought of This Bar in Years…

The Yellow Submarine was one of the most interesting places we’ve ever gotten our old knees wobbly. It was also a relatively early contribution to the discovery that whatever chicks dig, it generally doesn’t include sloppy drunks. (The exception? If the chick’s a barfly).

Here’s an urban exploration of the abandoned club, beginning with a short clip of it in its heyday. That could have been Hognose with the bottle at about :30; at about 1:00 you go to a look through the empty place; it ends with a note that the party is long over.

Here’s another, maybe better, if worse-lit urban exploration, and if you click through to the YouTube page, there’s an excellent description of the Schwabylon project’s genesis and fate. (It lost a fortune, and was shuttered in a little over a year). Schwabylon was a portmanteau of Schwabing, the the hip, artists’ sector of Munich, and Babylon, implying the almost un-Christian pleasures to be found therein. The whole project included an upscale shopping mall and residential and office space, too. The architect was one of those guys who was going to change the world with his design.

In 1986, when we were in Munich briefly for a specialty course, locals didn’t remember what was, in 1974, the most happening nightclub in town. Really, with the circular, three-story bar contained inside a gigantic saltwater tank hosting among other species three dozen sharks, pounding music, somewhat dated-by-then 60s op-art design, and plenty of slinky young women, they should have shot a Bond film there. (Alas, the short life of the club seems to have dropped into the dead zone between George Lazenby and Roger Moore).

A guy, I presume a Münchener, was on scene with his drone to shoot video of various stages of the teardown of the whole Holiday Inn/Schwabylon complex. Part 1 (13 Jan 13) is really just the beginning of the end of the high-rise hotel. (We think, also, the insurance-company offices that replaced part of Schwabylon).

Part 2 20 Januaray 2013. A week further along. Still the hotel, not the club


Part 3, still the Holidsy Inn demolition, 10 Feb 13.

Part 4 10 March 2013. This one does show the half-demolished Yellow Submarine. You can see, starting at about 0:40, the steel pressure vessel inside the club. The video starts and ends at the Holiday Inn, which is now just the facade of one end. The very end has filters — IR view, B&W negative view, etc. — giving a suitably psychedelic effect.

Part 5: 16 March 2013. And here, there’s nothing left of the good old Sub but the hole in the ground and some residual walls.

Ah, maybe you don’t care about this. Maybe we don’t, really. But we looked it up on the net, and had to share.

Wonder what happened to the 36 sharks and other fish in the tank?

When Guns Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Safety Equipment

Drowning_Man_by_JanooshGun accidents, we are told, are a terrible thing and the reason guns must be banned, or at least restricted. Why, it’s just common sense!

Then the guns up and cause something like this. This happened a year and a half ago, but we just saw it, and as you will see, it inspired us to look up some statistics:

Yesterday afternoon at approximately 4:00pm we responded to a possible drowning in the Brazos River near the construction site of the new Baylor Stadium. As officers responded to the 1100 block of South University Parks Drive Waco Fire, Baylor P.D. and ETMC had also responded. Officers learned that two construction workers that had been working to build the pedestrian bridge that will span the river went into the water with a piece of construction equipment.
The two men were harnessed to a small movable man-lift type piece of equipment that was parked on top of a floating dock/barge. At some point the man-lift fell of the dock and into the water taking the two men with it. One of the men was able to unfasten his safety harness from the lift, swim to the surface and then to the riverbank where he was assisted by other construction workers and pulled from the water. He was transported to Providence Hospital where he was treated for hypothermia and released.
The other individual who is now identified as 55-year-old Jose Dario Suarez from Manor, Texas, was not able to free his safety harness and was pulled under the water by the man-lift. Mr. Suarez never resurfaced after he went in the water.

via Press Release #923 Two Men Fall into… – Waco Police Department.

Mr Suarez was found in 16 feet of water, drowned. He was killed by the confluence of two pieces of OSHA-mandated safety equipment: a tether to the lift bucket, which prevented him from falling free, and a life jacket, which would have kept him on the surface — if he had not been tethered to the equipment.

Instead, it just kept tension on the tether so that he couldn’t free himself in the minutes he had (which must have felt like seconds to the terrified man). Had he had one piece of safety equipment or the other, or no safety equipment at all, he likely would have survived, as his crewmate did.

Divers found him, positively buoyant, floating one tether-length above the submerged lift bucket.

However, even though OSHA killed Jose Suarez as surely as if they pressed a revolver to his occiput and shot him, they won’t be held accountable. As an industrial accident, OSHA gets to investigate! They’ll probably mandate another piece of awkward, constricting, accident-producing “safety gear.” That’s what they do.

Maybe at least they could mandate the tether be as long as the depth of the nearby water?

So how much more dangerous is water than guns? CDC Data provides a clue (that link is the portal to the data).

US Drowning Deaths, 2013 (most recent data), CDC

Number of
Population Crude
4,056 316,128,839 1.28 1.26

We didn’t separate intentional from unintentional drownings, at first, as the overwhelming majority of drownings are, like Mr Suarez’s, accidental. But because there are some drowning homicides and suicides and we do want to compare apples and apples, we reran the data selecting only unintentional drownings:

Number of
Population Crude
3,391 316,128,839 1.07 1.06

It was a surprise to learn that there were more intentional drownings than (as you will see) accidental firearms deaths, given the press’s somewhat creepy arousal in firearms-accident cases. But that isn’t quite the case. Rerunning the drownings for a third time, selecting “violence-related” (which includes homicides, justifiable and otherwise, and suicides) we get:

Number of
Population Crude
427 316,128,839 0.14 0.13

Hmm… if we add the unintentional and violent drownings, we get 3,818. (Most of them turn out to be suicides: there are only 30 homicides by drowning in the year’s data). There is also a quantity of undetermined or null data in there, with 236 or so drownings classified neither as deliberate nor accidental.

US Accidental Firearms Deaths, 2013 (most recent data, CDC):

Number of
Population Crude
505 316,128,839 0.16 0.16

Now, there are vastly more suicides by firearm than by drowning. To the point where the numbers are not remotely comparable: 21,000+ versus 300+. That’s why the gun-ban activists always stress “gun violence,” because they thrive on gun deaths and including suicides gets them to the numbers they want, but it implies to the person who hasn’t looked at the data that they’re talking about a crime wave. They roll justified homicides in with criminal homicides for the same reason, it inflates the “gun death” number by many hundreds, even though most of the shootings are justifiable shoots by law enforcement officers.

In fact, the CDC itself makes no distinction between some innocent murder victim in the crime center of Chicago, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, shot dead in a firefight with police; both are “firearm homicides” in their view, and both tend to support the propaganda themes of the gun ban activists.

Colt’s Bankruptcy Isn’t Because Civilian Gun Sales Are Down

The media love the idea that the firearms market is in a state of collapse. This propaganda theme is being fed to them by Bloomberg-funded gun-ban groups, and by Bloomberg’s own propaganda arm, Bloomberg News, and, like any good propaganda campaign, it reinforces the presuppositions, biases, and slants of the intended targets (in this case, Acela Corridor newsmen) with a Narrative® that’s Too Good To Check™.

One writer who didn’t check his Narrative®, or much of anything else, was David Francis at Foreign Policy, the magazine/website that’s expert in strategy because it employs Beltway drones with degrees from The Right Schools. (Most of whom can only function overseas where Loud Slow English is understood).

Colt guns may have won the West. But they aren’t sufficient for winning modern wars, and now the iconic American weapons-maker, which has been making arms since the 19th century, has filed for bankruptcy.

As we’ve pretty conclusively demonstrated here, Colt hasn’t got its fiscal thingie in the wringer because its guns are no good (we buy them with our own money, and recommend them), but because their management has hollowed the company out financially for years.

In 2013, the Pentagon decided Colt’s M4 rifles weren’t up to snuff and awarded a key $77 million contract to supply the Army with rifles to F.N. Herstal, a weapons-maker based in Belgium.

What? Where did he get that nonsense? In the real world the rest of us live in, the Pentagon decided that FNH offered a better deal on the same guns made using the same technical data package. Even the brain-deads in the professional Beltway media got that mostly right at the time. Colt couldn’t meet FNH’s price, which is not surprising as they have UAW labor (high cost/low productivity) and a high-energy-consumption (spelled “cold”) and very high-tax location. (Where the governor just added $2 Billion in increased state taxes). Nobody decided Colt’s guns were “not up to snuff.” They will serve alongside the FN rifles for decades, absent a revolution in firearms design.

And, oh yeah, Colt has to charge enough to pay down $350 Million or so in debt, much of which capital was pocketed rather than reinvested. So, shocker: their bid wasn’t the best. (The real shocker is that it was even competitive, with all those burdens on the company). But Francis isn’t done getting it wrong:

The Belgian guns allow soldiers to fire continuously; the Colt weapon fires in three-round bursts.

There is so much fail in that sentence that one’s hair hurts, even if one is bald. Let’s enumerate a few things that Francis could have got right if he had the integrity and ambition to deploy Google:

  1. The FNH guns are made in the USA, in South Carolina. The Company is Belgian, historically; the factory is here.
  2. The three-round burst was not a Colt initiative (except as an experiment), but one insisted on by the customers during the M16A2 development program. Most of the M16A2 design impetus came from the Marines, but this particular bit of retardation came in singing, “The Caissons are Rolling Along.” It was an attempt to save training money by no longer teaching fire control.
  3. Practically since the dawn of the M4, there has been a conventional-forces burst-fire M4 and a special-operations-peculiar M4A1 with the M16A1-vintage full-auto setting on the selector.
  4. The Army has decided to give up on burst and purchase only full-auto-capable M4A1 carbines going forward. Thus, both the FNH and Colt entries had safe-semi-auto selectors.

The loss of the DoD business, combined with the decreasing demand for guns after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, raise serious questions about whether Colt can raise the $350 million it needs to pay off its debt.

Lord love a duck. How innumerate is this guy? Exercise for the reader: with the average pistol, rifle or carbine on a .gov contract selling for around $1k, assuming gross margins of a generous 25%, how many guns does Colt have to sell to pay down the debt? Assume for the sake of simplicity that the interest on the debt is not compounding (which it is, at 8-10%).

Well, they’re making $250 on a gun (again, we’re being generous), and they owe $350,000,000 (roughly. Last number we heard was $355M). We’ll do the math for the innumerates out there in Bloomberg’s lap: about 1.4 Million firearms. That’s roughly 10% of the entire US civilian market in a year, or about one gun for every swingin’ Dick (and Jane) on active duty.

Meanwhile, through the magic of compound interest, the debt is going in the wrong direction — escalating.

So why else is Colt in the hole, if we’re going to ignore the hedgelephant in the room?

For their part, law enforcement officers are increasingly turning to Glock pistols as a sidearm, as opposed to Colt’s 1911 gun. This is because many believe the Glock to be a more reliable pistol; there is a long record of complaints about the Colt gun jamming.

Yeah, because nothing says “20th Century Cop Gun” like a 1911A1.

The 1911 was always a tiny minority gun in police work. Police departments like the Glock for the same reason they liked their real previous gun, the double-action revolver: it’s really simple and the most inept Barney Fife can usually operate it with instruction. (Of course, without instruction, he shoots himself, or another officer). Very few cops have the gun savvy to want to carry a 1911.

As far as Colt’s dependence on government contracts for the 1911, except for the niche M45 for the Marines, the last contract Colt got was up seventy years ago.

If this is the end of the road for Colt…

…David Francis is not the guy to tell you.

One last screwup of his, then we’ll move on to another Ambassador from Bloombergia.

Even the Rangers have abandoned the gun for Sig Sauer pistols.

What? Ah, he means the Texas Rangers. Being as he’s a defense expert with Foreign Policy, he’s probably never heard of any other kind.

Francis’s ignorance of what he’s reporting on isn’t exactly rare, but his laziness and lack of simple reporterly integrity does. This kid’ll go far.

Within the Beltway, that is, not literally far. That’s not what Foreign Policy is about!

via Why Cops and Soldiers Fell Out of Love with Colt Guns | Foreign Policy.

The next example of spin is from Bloomberg hireling Paul Barrett, and Barrett starts strong with a dead-on descriptor of why Colt is in this pickle in the first place:

[T]he main reason the company hasn’t weathered rocky market conditions since the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the New York financiers who control the company borrowed too much and paid themselves lavishly.

As I reported in a feature story last year, the private equity firm Sciens Capital and its affiliates loaded Colt with debt since the mid-2000s while taking cash out in the form of “distributions” and “advisory fees.” Sciens remains the controlling owner of Colt Defense, according to a regulatory filing. An executive with Sciens did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Barrett did not note that the suddenly renegotiated lease for the plant, which is owned and leased to Colt by Sciens insiders, is one more example of the Sciens hedgies “taking cash out,” which they’ll continue doing until the parasitic load kills the host. (If you thought that this bankrupcty was the end of the ride for Sciens and its vampire management style, so did we, and so, probably, did Barrett. But we were all wrong, at least for the time being).

It will be interesting to see if a creditor or group of creditors tries to intervene and get Sciens booted out of the drivers’ seat.

So, mostly Paul Barrett’s reporting is the incisive financial analysis that he was the first to apply to Colt, several years ago. But then, having stated the problem and the cause, he goes astray:

In 2009 and 2010, meanwhile, Colt somehow missed out on the “Obama surge,” a run of strong civilian gun sales prompted by fears whipped up by the National Rifle Association that the Democratic president would stiffen federal gun control.

Yeah, it was all artificial fears whipped up by the NRA. Fast and Furious, Choke Point, ATF 5.45 and M855 bans, executive orders overturning black-letter law — none of that really existed, it’s all just a figment of the NRA’s feverish imagination, and they have no better friend than Barack Obama. (Unless it’s Eric Holder). This is a common Bloomberg propaganda theme, and the media are full of it (in both senses of the expression). For example, to whip the whipping boy we started with, Foreign Policy, here’s former made-guy on the Democrat policy-coordination Journolist, Dave Weigel, a few years ago:

Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, but he was no Bill Clinton — let alone a Lula. Firearm and ammo sales spiked. Obama didn’t restore the Assault Weapons Ban. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head. But Obama made no moves whatsoever to restrict firearms.

Hey, who are you gonna believe, lyin’ Dave Weigel or your lyin’ eyes? But that was the Bloomberg line then. (“Obama is a supporter of  the 2nd Amendment, but….) Ah, but what’s the line now? The line is that sales are down. We already saw that in Barrett’s story above — there was a “spike” in 2009 and 2010, which Colt missed.

Using NSSF adjusted NICS data (members-only .pdf), both those years had about 9.5 million NICS checks executed; sales went up every year until 2013’s peak of 14.8M adjusted NICS checks; 2014’s NICS fell back to 13M, still the 3rd highest in history. (The rank is 2013, 2012, 2014). Taking the year-to-date adjusted NICS as of 31 May and multiplying by 12/5 suggests this year will fall between 2012 and 2014 if sales continued at the same rate, but this disregards the seasonality in the data: historically, April through August are the sales doldrums, and the peak months of the year, the fall hunting season and the Christmas gift-giving season, are ahead. As the FBI says (.pdf):

The NICS Section observes an increase in transaction activity associated with major hunting seasons and year-end holidays. Since the inception of the NICS, the day after Thanksgiving continues to be a day that the NICS processes a high volume of firearm background checks. In 2014, the day after Thanksgiving ranked as the second highest day ever, when the NICS Section’s staff processed 175,754 NICS background checks (see chart below)

Here’s that chart. Note that four of the top 10 days in the history of the system were in 2014. The others were mostly in 2012, and there’s one holdout, Black Friday 2013, in the #10 of 10 slot. What happened to Barrett’s examples of 2009 and 2010?


Gee, did you know that sales were continuing at record levels? Not if you read the mainstream media’s narrative team.

The panic-based buying that lifted the small arms industry has now eased, making it even more difficult for Colt to move the military-style semiautomatic rifles it had hoped would be its salvation. “The industry’s recent rapid growth is expected to slow over the next five years, increasing at a more modest average annual rate of 4.1 percent,” according to the research firm Ibisworld.

Yeah, the industry is dead… it’s expected to advance at 4.1% in the contracting economy that uncertainty and rule of men, not law, has produced.


Colt’s problem is not lack of customers. They may have some product problems (which comes of distributing the money that could have developed new products, if that were a priority for Sciens), but the basic problem they’ve got is that they’re so overleveraged that they’d need to sell more guns than they can reasonably build to get out from under the debt burden. 

For months, for years, there has been no way Colt could reasonably pay its debts. It has been, for all that time, de facto if not de jure insolvent, although it could kick cans and pretend there was no foreclosure coming by borrowing on the line of credit to pay the vig on the interest-only loan. The reckoning can be delayed, but it can’t be stopped.

It has, however, been a master class in (1) techniques of delay and milking a captive company on the one hand, and (2) modern propaganda techniques as practiced by the media on the other. So there is that in it for all of us.

But if you take one set of facts away from this post, take this:

Colt isn’t in bankruptcy because civilian gun sales are down; it’s in bankruptcy because it’s been badly managed, and in the industry as a whole, sales aren’t even really down.

Guns and National Character

Is there national character in firearms design?  Or are guns simply the individual products of individual engineers or engineering teams, idiosyncratic machines inheriting their idiosyncrasies not from their nation of origin, but from their human creators?

There seems, at first, a certain something to the national character argument. Sometimes it’s very specific: Czech pistols have long had unusual safeties, compared to the rest of the world’s, where copying the Browning or Walther safety seemed perfectly adequate. French firearms of all kinds seem to be imbued with a certain prideful Gallic insistence on being different from the standards that satisfy other nations — especially the English and les boches. Italian arms may have beautiful lines, like a car from Pininfarina or Bertone, and like an exotic car may not be your best choice for a daily driver. Russian stuff looks like it fell off the back of the line at the Chelyabinsk Tractor Works on the Monday after Free Vodka Weekend, but it just plain works. The same design values that mean the weapon can be fired by an aesthete from St Petersburg and an illiterate goatherd from the borders of the Stans mean that it will be well received by every underfunded Third World army, gang of trust-fund Eurotrash terrorists, and Subsaharan child soldiers. The Germans, for their part, seem to thrive on complexity for complexity’s sake. Explaining some baroque HK feature or other at Range 44, back in the day, the HK salesman couldn’t explain why Oberndorf did it that way, he just kept circling back to how brilliant it was that they did do it that way. He sounded like that clip from This is Spinal Tap, where guitarist Nigel Tufnel explained that his amps go to eleven.

(The US? Our guns are like us: apart from a brief flowering of machine-gun invention around the turn of the 20th Century, most of whose inventors had to decamp to Europe in the light of the closed-mindedness of US Army Ordnance, our guns are mongrels of all the worlds’, except for the designs of that remarkable individual, John M. Browning).

So, guns have a national character?

Against that, we have the Great Man theory. Browning being the ur-example: the guy who has a Founder Effect on a nation’s gun stockpiles as well as its gun culture, who out of sheer pure genius gets his designs copied relentlessly.

The guy whose innovation this year becomes the default of the next fifty. Or hundred.

Had he been a Russian named Ivan Ivanovich Braunilov, or an Tyrolean named Johann Brauneck, we’d still be copying his designs today; as an engineer, you’d have to defend any departure from the standard he had set, no matter whether you are designing, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe (to name two countries extremely unlikely to produce a firearms innovation, for cultural and historical reasons).

This Founder doesn’t need to be as original as Browning, of course. Consider the Founder Effect of Eugene Stoner, L. James Sullivan, etc. Nowadays, if your firearms design departs too far from the AR (in its current, modular iteration), you have to justify that departure, and some nations that departed just for the sake of stroking a domestics small arms industry probably rue the day (Britain, with the unloved L85; Germany, with the troubled G36).

In Afghanistan in the early years of the war, most members of Coalition SOF carried M4s or the derivative HK 416, to include most members of those nations’ SOF. When both of those nations bought designated marksman rifles, they selected rifles on the AR platform in 7.62mm. The Stoner design, which seemed in 1961 to have been strangled in the crib with the troubled Dutch  production and sales to only two minor powers, Portugal and Sudan, now sits where IBM once was in corporate mainframe computing: an executive can’t go wrong by specifying it. The NATO nations are edging towards the AR, especially when they can put a native spin or veneer on it. Stoner and his successors are responsible for that; they got it so right it became the new default. (Think of Peter Paul Mauser, 50-75 years before Stoner, who held a similar position by dint of similar technical mastery).

So, guns are characterized only by their designers’ input, and the designers are deracinated forebrains who operate on a plane of engineering math and logic?

We submit that neither of these propositions is entirely true, and here is why: the firearm designer sitting with a clean sheet of paper (new document in engineering or drafting software, these days) is not, himself, a blank document.

His mind — soon to be the wellspring of a new firearm design — has already been written on, by the designers of the guns he’s studied and held and fired. No one would dispute that Mikhail Kalashnikov was Russian, and that his eponymous rifle was a Russian (then, Soviet) product, but he had seen the simpler gas systems of German assault rifles, and so departed from the system Tokarev and Simonov used (and that Saïve was working  on independently in Belgium); he had seen the elegant trigger mechanism that Browning worked out some 50 years before him, and copied and improved on that; he’d read Federov’s works on the history of firearms, certainly, and he knew where he was in the stream before he pushed off from shore. This is not to detract from Kalashnikov’s accomplishments in any way, only to illustrate that he, as Newton wrote to Robert Hooke, stood on the shoulders of giants.

This is truer than ever, going forward.

The design of a novelty in firearms begins with knowledge of what has been designed, what has been successful and what has not, and why. This can only happen if designers and would-be designers are free to study the history and technology of firearms, to download or purchase references like those linked in the Gun Tech Page, to study and learn, and to instruct and teach.

There are many terms for those who would seek to suppress and sequester such knowledge, to those who would stand athwart history or who would knock today’s student, contemptible little dwarf that they see of him, off of his giant perch. The term we prefer is wrong. And we will not let the book-burners of the US Department of State do that. It doesn’t matter anyway; they can’t stop the signal. The net sees censorship as damage, and routes around it. Even the Soviet Union could not suppress the flow of information, and a lot of talented Soviets tried very, very hard.

To return to the subject at hand, at last: is there a national character in guns? Historically, there has tended to be. Even if you knew nothing of black-powder weapons, if we laid a Brown Bess and a Charleville musket before you, their makers’ marks obscured, and invited you to tell us which was English and which French, most of you would get it right. If we laid out parts of a trigger group, telling you one was made in Nazi Germany and one in Soviet Russia, you’d match the right parts to the right dictatorship ten times out of ten. But we believe (without hard proof, mind), that this national trend in design is nothing but Founder Effect amplified by proximity.

Given an open internet, and open exchange of ideas, will national styles, if that’s what they are, die out? Probably not. There are no secrets in car design, in home architecture, or in furniture design, but no one would mistake Hog Manor for a German or English house. But what will constitute these matters of national style in the firearms world are, mostly, cosmetics and idiosyncrasies of non-functional parts. Information dissemination is too complete and too widespread for some feature or design which offers a functional advantage not to be widely re-used. In terms of firearms design, then, we approach an “efficient market,” in economic terms.

Guns’ national character, then, is superficial, and their international future is assured. With everybody able to see and learn everything, what’s next? We’re not sure, but it’s going to be better. It has to be to overcome the excellence of current products.

The Army Whining Support Health Initiative Team

hurt_feelings_reportThe Army has moved to address the 135-or-so, 130-something-anyway, women who have dropped out of the Ranger School pipeline, and other soldiers who have suffered from microaggressions, traumatizations, or just plain having their feelings hurt, with the Army Whining Support Health Initiative Team.

The Team is concerned that levels of desolate and doleful melancholy have hit such high marks because of the service’s regrettable and mistaken focus on combat for the last 14 years. Accordingly, the highest levels of command are determined to purge the Army of the negative combat culture it has developed in the developing world, and seek synergistic and non-aggressive solutions for all members of the Whole Army Team.

The Army, then, is refocusing on what’s most important, the Precious Feelings™ of its Unique and Special Snowflakes®. All soldiers are reminded of the verbiage from DA Form IMT WF1, “Hurt Feelings Report.”

We, as the Army, take hurt feelings seriously.  If you don’t have someone who can give you a hug and make things all better, please let us know and we will promptly dispatch a “hugger” to you ASAP. In the event we are unable to find a “hugger” we will notify the fire department and request that they  send fire personnel to your location.  If you are in need of supplemental support, upon written request, we will make every reasonable effort to provide  you with a “blankey”, a “binky” and/or a bottle if you so desire.

Don’t feel bad about filling out this report when you’re feeling bad. The last sergeant major of the Army did scores of them, and for years he had the whole Army feeling bad with him.

And remember, not matter what gets to you in the Army, your Army Whining Support Health Initiative Team is there for you.



Two Stories from Latin American Dictatorships

Flag_of_VenezuelaInteresting juxtaposition of two op-eds in the Miami Herald, the paper that is, as the old gag goes, “read by people who are running some other country.” In the first, two political prisoners’ wives describe the situation in “Bolivarian” Venezuela:

This is a fight over values. Today, 79 political prisoners are behind bars in my country, and the courts dismiss 97 percent of complaints of state-sponsored human-rights violations put forward by citizens. The government enjoys impunity because there is no separation of powers.

The most recent gathering was originally called for by Lilian’s husband, Leopoldo López, in a video released two weeks ago from his jail cell. In the video, Leopoldo lamented the worsening political, economic and social crisis in our country today. He called for the Venezuelan people to protest these conditions in the street and he began a hunger strike as his own personal form of protest.

Through his protest, he is demanding the release of all political prisoners, the end of repression, persecution and censorship; and the setting of a date for this year’s parliamentary elections.

Sixteen other political prisoners and students, including Patricia’s husband, Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of San Cristóbal, joined Leopoldo in his hunger strike. Recently, Daniel was forcibly taken from his cell and transferred to another prison far from his family and the court where his trial is taking place. His transfer is the government’s way of punishing him for winning his party’s primary election for the National Assembly.

Why does the Maduro government continue to punish and repress all those who oppose it? Because they are afraid — afraid of the Venezuelan people, who will no longer tolerate the injustice and who will do everything they can through democratic means to reclaim their rights. Leopoldo, Daniel and their peers have undertaken the extreme act of a hunger strike as a pledge to the Venezuelan people who are suffering. If our husbands are ready to give their lives for Venezuela, then we should support their efforts to demand respect for the universal rights for all people.

via We will never tire of demanding our rights | Miami Herald Miami Herald.

Hunger strikes only work against hesitant opponents, so Mrs. Lopez and Mrs. Ceballos are unlikely to get much traction against the “Bolivarian” clown state of Nicolas Maduro. Maduro is certainly afraid of a possible outbreak of libertad among his slaves, but he’s not hesitant. 

Flag_of_CubaMeanwhile, far to the east in the Caribbean Sea, Maduro’s role model Fídel Castro can’t be loving the release of The Double Life of Fidel Castro, by former top bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sánchez Crespo. This is a new-ish book in that the English edition is new, but the French edition has been circulating for a while. Can a Spanish samizdat be turned loose on the island soon? The Herald has it well-reviewed by Brian Latell, himself a longtime student of Cuban intelligence and security services, and author of the interesting Castro’s Secrets.

Sánchez worshipped Fidel, even after being demoralized by the trial and execution of general Arnaldo Ochoa and three others in 1989. Yet in 1994 the faithful bodyguard was imprisoned. He says it was only because Castro no longer trusted him after a brother fled Cuba on a raft to Miami. After two years in prison and ten unsuccessful attempts to do the same, Sánchez boarded a smugglers’ boat and fled.

Well, worshipping politicians usually ends ill. God is not amused, perhaps.

With the collaboration of Axel Gylden, a prominent French journalist, Sánchez has penned a scathing account of his years in Castro’s entourage. It is filled with surprising details of the Cuban dictator’s hypocritically regal life style. An island retreat, so exorbitantly lavish that only a select few have been invited to experience it, has been kept secret from the Cuban masses. Sánchez reveals that Castro also had at his disposal another twenty homes, a luxurious yacht, an ultra-modern private hospital, and even compatible blood donors recruited to be at the ready whenever he might need a man-to-man transfusion

It’s funny how workers’ and peasants’ states always seem to wind up with Louis XIV in charge.


This is our Cuban flag.

Do Read The Whole Thing™. Latell’s description of what Sánchez overheard in the run-up to the Mariel boatlift of 1980 fills in some blanks that were previously only stuffed with suspicion. The book sounds like it doesn’t overturn any conventional wisdom in the Castro-opposing world, just gives opponents eyewitness testimony in support of what they’ve long believed but have lacked evidence to prove.