Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Future of Army SOF: People

arsof_2022An interesting paper from the Commander of USASOC, LTG Charlie Cleveland, draws a roadmap for the future of ARSOF. We’re going to look at one aspect of this: what it means for people.

Our take is that it means that:

  1. In the future there will be more paths to ARSOF and a more diverse force in a real way, not in a bean-counting, scare-quotes “diversity” way.
  2. Senior uniformed leadership are prepared to prioritize people over procurement. Good luck on that, when you’re swimming against the tide DOD suits and Congress trying to stroke the large prime contractors for K Street payola, but it’s a noble idea.
  3. People are the major focus of development. SOF Missions are paid for in human capital and earn their keep in human interactions. General Cleveland gets that in a way that some of the guys who have spent their pre-GO careers in more kinetic, direct-action-focused areas of SOF have done.
  4. He very cleverly plans to differentiate ARSOF from the other services’ SOF in the human plane. The Navy’s always going to have us beat at the benchpress and on the number of MSM reporters on speed dial. The Air Force will always have the edge in finicky gadgets from Q. We can live with that, because we’re going to be the thinking branch.

OK, enough big-picture opinionating from a retired sergeant, whose career was more sight-picture than big-picture most of the time. Let’s examine one excerpts from ARSOF 2022, just to begin.

1. invest in human CapitaL

Our force is the best educated, trained and equipped special operations formation in the world. Our Soldiers are capable of succeeding in the increasing uncertainty of the 21st century battlefield.

The ARSOF Soldier is our center of gravity. To ensure that our operators will succeed in the future operating environment, we will recruit, assess, select, train, educate and retain only those Soldiers with the knowledge, skills and attributes to thrive in the most demanding conditions. To retain a decisive advantage over our adversaries, we will seek a variety of solutions to optimize our human capital, including: enhanced education and training and increased diversity of human capital. To ensure the health of our force, our focus will continue to be on the preservation of our force and their families.

The big take-aways we pick up here are, translated into plain English: “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, as we have proof it works, but we’ll do it more intensively”; “We need to open up the top end of the funnel so we have more variety coming out the narrow end”; “Everybody’s going to have to hit more books, and hit them harder”; and, the big one, “We’re going to spend whatever it takes.

There are very specific objectives that support this paragraph’s goals, including more PhDs and Master’s degrees in the force, and more and better language capability on a broad front: more native speakers, more DLI training, more immersion training — all of these are vital. There’s also a call for more high-level individual and collective training, including a proposal for a joint SOF training and exercise group that’s long overdue, and a proposal for a joint ground-services strategy task force that would call on the brainpower of the Army, Marines and SOCOM.

This is all good stuff, but expensive. To train someone to functional level in a foreign language takes a year at DLI or at least two months in total immersion in the target language area, each of which is very expensive both in dollar terms and in opportunity cost. (And for the very best, you want to combine the DLI book-learning approach with immersion. Nothing makes you functional in a foreign language as well as immersion does, but having a solid grammatical, historical and cultural background from the classroom can turbocharge immersive learning). We’d also note that students who had non-native-speaker instructors at DLI (common in the 1980s and 1990s in the Russian programs) came out with horrible accents and much lower performance overall in SF type language performance than their peers who had native-speakers in basic instruction.

We know you guys will want to hear more about other aspects of it, most notably the diversity stuff, and why we think it’s beneficial, not the “PC” kind of skin-deep bogus “diversity” that colleges are chasing their tails over, but we thought we’d keep the report down to a manageable size.

The report is located here. There’s an Army press release on it also. Expect us to have more to say on it in the days and weeks ahead.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Impro Guns

impro_gunsAnother title for this blog might be, “Bubba the Gunsmith’s Wide World of Wonder.” But they call it “Impro Guns” and its URL is This little information about who makes the blog, or why, but it features the improvised firearms often seen on The Firearms Blog.

The guns vary from crude zip guns that are arguably more hazardous to be behind than to be before, to rather sophisticated weapons that even feign manufacturer markings, serial numbers and even proof marks. They are made by tinkerers, criminals, terrorists and revolutionaries, mostly in places where governments take a totalitarian approach to firearms, but also in places where firearms are available, but criminals seek greater firepower than then can get over the counter.

There are artfully concealed guns, that look like cigarette cases or tire-pressure gages. There are even some guns captured in process, with drawings or process sheets, clandestine manufacture style:

improvised chinese guns process sheets

Impro Guns gathers all these without even falling back on the Khyber armorers in Darra Adam Khel.

A lot of them are blowback, pistol-caliber submachine guns. We’re reminded, again, of a prescient poster by Oleg Volk (that we can’t find, damn it) that showed something like a Sten and said something like, “If you ban guns, this is what crime guns start to look like.”


Guest Post: Jim Julia on Auctions & Integrity

James D. Julia has auctined many exotic and unique weapons, like this AR-10 prototype, over the years.

James D. Julia has auctioned many exotic and unique weapons, like this AR-10 prototype, over the years.

We contacted Jim Julia and he placed this in the comments of the Rock Island Auction Company’s guest post, which ran in this space. We are pleased to give Jim equal time and prominence. As with Rock Island’s post, we have only done light typo-fixing, formatting and grammar, and added a title and some illustrations . –Ed.

James D. Julia’s Response

Contrary to Rock Island’s misrepresentations of my company, we have a sterling reputation for honesty and fair dealing. We go out of our way to protect our clients and as you read further, you will see and perhaps agree with us that we do more than any other firearms house to protect our clients. It easy for one to say something like this but “the proof is in the pudding”. Firearms collectors are some of the savviest people in the business and results speak to our statement. In recent years, we have handled more high end, big name collector’s collections than any other firearms auction house on the planet Earth. We do not handle the greater number of firearms that is not our goal. We handle the greater number of high end, expensive, valuable firearms. In fact, for a number of years now, we have annually sold far more than any other auction house in the world. You do not get to do these types of things in this astute collecting world without having a stand up reputation and being fair and honest.

Rock Island’s trashing of me is not a great surprise and this is not the first time there has been an attempt to besmirch my company and my character through distortions by this firm.

I have been in the business for around 45 years and long ago I made the decision to promote myself and growth of my business by providing my customers with honesty, tremendous service, expertise, and the lowest commission rate in the trade. All of this does not mean I never make a mistake but it does mean I continually attempt to do what I feel is right. I realize that some competitors would rather attempt to bolster themselves by disparaging their competition and thus in their minds elevate themselves. In fact, this process of “trash talk” is unfortunately a mainstay in the political process today.

In regards to the collector/consignor RIAC references: The man is an older man from the Dakotas. He used to run a construction company and over many, many years his business employed a number of Native Americans. During this time, working with the Sioux Indians and other tribes, he acquired various items that had come down from their families. On occasion, according to his representations to us, there were cases wherein he saw and discussed a gun, but the family would not sell. In such cases, he kept a record of the gun included the SN along with the story the family related and he documented these observations in a written journal he kept.

The consignor/collector told us when visiting shows and gun shops, if he found a gun similar to one in his written journal that he would compare SN’s to see if there was a match. If there was, he bought it. He shared with us he had discovered a couple of guns recently that were in his original journal and they were now a part of the current consignment to us. It just so happens that the guns he bought from a dealer are those same guns that Rock Island mentions in their disparaging article.

When cataloging guns, we try to make full disclosure if there is provenance, it is noted in our descriptions. In those cases where the only information we have is the documentation from his written journal and/or stories he had received from the Indian families that was pointed out also.

The dispute at hand is over guns represented as being Indian related Little Big  Horn guns. This rifle, sold by Julia within the last year, was a documented LBH survivor (not captured, from the Reno/Benteen group).

The dispute at hand is over guns represented as being Indian related Little Big Horn guns. This rifle, sold by Julia within the last year, was a documented LBH survivor (not captured, from the Reno/Benteen position).

Last week, two people contacted our firm advising us that 3 of the guns offered had been in Rock Island and Little John’s auction within the recent past. As I noted above, the consignor/collector had previously revealed a couple were recent purchases. However in checking the 3 guns, I discovered a serious contradiction with one. After much consideration, I made a decision to withdraw the entire consignment from auction.
My actions were not those of a person conspiring to do wrong (as RIAC would have you believe) but on the contrary, highly conservative actions to ensure the right. The consignor/collector’s guns however are for the most part just as we represented them in our catalogs.

In regards to Rock Island’s other pontifications, they remind me of an old saying that my grandmother used to use about “the pot calling the kettle black”, which is of course an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another.

I. Regarding RIAC implication that they always attempt to do the right thing and somehow Julia’s has done something wrong because they withdrew an item or items from the auction. This is thoroughly confusing to me and the sale of a recent Carbine touted by them to have belonged to Napoleon III gives me pause for cause. The Carbine I refer to was Lot #9 in their April 20th, 21st, & 22nd, 2012 auction. RIAC specifically states in its description, “Carbine made by famous Paris gun maker Gastinne Renette for Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Emperor Napoleon III”. The gun was estimated at $22,500-37,500.

The buyer, trusting RIAC’s representation, purchased the gun for what he thought was a bargain and later consigned it to us, hoping and planning to make a lot of money. With good reason, if the gun indeed had definitely been made expressly for Napoleon III, it would have sold for considerably more than what it had sold for at RIAC auction. Once consigned to us, in the process of our due diligence, we became concerned to as whether it truly was made for Napoleon III. Normally, a gun such as this owned by an Emperor would carry his regal marks.

(Weaponsman comment: This Napoleon III gun has been the wellspring of a rich river of controversy for years. Here it is involved in a Federal Case in 2007/8; it isn’t illustrated at that article, but one image appears at this NRA Museum article, and the listing when the gun went under the hammer — at RIAC, as Julia describes — in 2012. The Parisian firm that made the questioned gun, Gastinne-Rennette, was known for double guns of conventional and very unconventional design; as a retailer, at least, it was still in business to sell a weapon to a possible suicide in 1932, financier Ivar Krueger, supplied arms to le Résistance during the war, and after the passage of the heirs to the business in the postwar era, wound up being acquired as, rather sadly, a brand name of fashion accessories (link en français) –Eds.).

We shared this with the consignor, but the consignor being convinced that the gun was Napoleon III’s because RIAC represented it that way. He pleaded with me not to use the phrase “purported to be”. After a great deal of consideration and because an attached newspaper article stated it was Napoleon III’s, we elected to change the wording to, “according to a newspaper account”. Shortly after my catalog went up online including the infamous carbine, we were immediately contacted by an attorney. There had been a big court case involving the carbine some years back and during this case, this attorney was responsible for an in-depth investigation of the carbine. His investigation clearly and convincingly proved what we had suspicioned, and that was that the carbine never belonged to Napoleon III. The attorney in his letter to me indicated that I was third person that he had contacted over the years about this misrepresentation. I had to go back to the consignor and share my newfound information and suggested to him under the circumstances that while I could reprint an addenda explaining all of this, I felt it was in his best interest to simply withdraw the gun, which he decided to do. Out of curiosity, I reconnected with the attorney who had told me that he had previously contacted 3 people. I asked if by chance he had contacted RIAC before they had sold this very same gun and his response to me was, not once but twice and yes, he had provided them with exactly all the information that he provided us with but RIAC apparently refused to acknowledge it when they sold the gun with their previously claimed attribution. The consignor immediately contacted RIAC with the revelation of all this information, it was pretty difficult for them not to refund the money. Which is what they did. This is the same auction house with the “holier than thou” approach pointing their finger at my firm and implying that we are not to be trusted??? As I said, an example of the “pot calling the kettle black”.

II. Guarantees: Both Rock Island Auction House and my firm provide guarantees. But there is an extraordinarily dramatic difference between the guarantee provided by Rock Island and the guarantee provide by my auction house.

  1. Rock Island: Rock Island touts their guarantee as “a guarantee of the headline” of every single item in their premier firearms auction. Should that item not be as advertised in the items headline, RIAC will make it right via a full refund”.
    1. a) Please note: they did not mention regional firearms auctions. It is my understanding they guarantee nothing with regional firearms auction.
    2. b) In regards to the premier auctions, did you notice that they say headline only. What this means is that they guarantee the title only so if the title is “Model 1886 Winchester rifle”, the title only is guaranteed. Does that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that when you buy that rifle from Rock Island, they absolutely guarantee that it is Winchester and a Model 1886, but nothing else?
    3. c) So there can be no confusion as to what is guaranteed, under point 9 in their Conditions of Sale, it states “Guarantee. All property for sale is as is, where is. All sales are final. There will be no refunds and no exchanges. RIAC does not guarantee or make warranties on any lot sold”.

Please compare that with the Julia guarantee.

  1. James D. Julia: We provide a special limited warranty for all items that we offer at auction. We are currently unaware of any other major firearms auction house in the world whose guarantee equals or exceeds ours. Every firearms auction house that we are aware of has a similar Conditions of Sale as that of RIAC. Essentially caveat emptor, buyer beware, sold “as is, where is”. At Julia’s, we do not hide behind “caveat emptor”:
    1. a. Our guarantee which is the first item on our Conditions of Sale in the front of the auction catalog and states as follows, “Guarantee: We have attempted to make a consistent effort in cataloging and describing the property to be sold. The catalog descriptions carry a limited guarantee. It is a guarantee to protect you against major discrepancies that would have a major effect upon value. Under no circumstances do we guarantee against anything less than a major discrepancy that would have less than a major effect upon the value. This limited guarantee covers authenticity. It also covers any major restoration or repairs not described. Also we guarantee against fakes, reproductions or major fabrications.
    2. b. Our guarantee is good for 45 days from the date of the auction so that all buyers have ample opportunity to obtain the item, examine it, and verify that there is no major issues with their item. Therefore, if we had made a mistake with one of the items RIAC is pontificating about, our clients unlike RIAC’s clients (at least per their Conditions of Sale in their catalog) after proving our mistake would have full right for a full money back refund.

Julia’s does not hide behind caveat emptor but our guarantee is not the only thing that we do.

    1.  Special consultants and experts. Since we hold ourselves to a higher standard and guarantee all objects, it is extremely important that we are as correct as possible. To that extent, we hire special consultants to catalog our guns. These special consultants are some of the most knowledgeable in their specific field. Many are recognized in their field as authorities and in some cases are noted authors, most are also active in the trade. They hold not only the necessary scholarly knowledge but they are also able to detect between what is right and what is wrong while at the same time coming up with a reasonably intelligent estimate.

But the guarantee together with the considerable expense for hiring special consultants, still does not ensure perfection.

    1.  Review and solicitation of input. Any of you who have ever attended a James D. Julia Auction know at the very beginning in my opening remarks one of the things I clearly state is that if you are aware of a problem or issue that was somehow missed in our cataloging process be certain to bring it to our attention before we sell the item. If something is wrong, we will:
      1.  Put a note beside the lot indicating it;
      2. Make a correction in my catalog to be announced at the time of sale;
      3. Notify all absentee bidders of this new found issue;
      4. Post a notice on the website;

Our reasoning is that if our staff and our specific consultant missed something, surely one of the many hundreds of eyes reviewing the guns will pick up what we might have missed. If someone does come to us and tell us of a problem, we always thank them for bringing it to our attention. As I have said over and over here, we try to do the right thing.

III. Regarding RIAC Attempt to Vilify Us Because One of the Cataloguers Statements in their Description: Judging our company by one statement a cataloguer made in our catalog, “fool your enemies, sell them this great fake”, is rather farfetched. As I said early on, I have a number of consultants that provide my descriptions. It is expected from them that they will:

  1. a) Attempt to describe the item correctly;
  2. b) Point out significant problems and issues;
  3. c) If they question authenticity, bring it to my attention.

I do not read all the descriptions after they are written and had I read this description, I would have extracted that statement. I know that the cataloger was attempting to express to his reader that this was such a great copy that it would fool anyone. Many of my catalogers not only bring in scholarly knowledge and valued information but sometimes they inject what they consider to be personal or humorous remarks. Such was the case here. It has nothing to do with the implication of our honesty or lack thereof. Most nearly anyone who has done business with us for any period of time, who knows our firm, knows our reputation, knows our continued and sincere efforts to be honest would likely never think the worst in a statement such as this. on the other hand, if we were an auction house that from time to time were embroiled in questionable handling of things, were we from time to time sued by people for what we did or did not do, etc.; then that rash statement could have a far greater revealing implication.

In conclusion, RIAC makes a sweeping statement about fake guns which is untrue. When these guns were cataloged, our descriptions were based on information and facts we had concerning the guns and in most cases, these guns are exactly as cataloged. In one case, I discovered a significant issue and it was because of this that I elected to withdraw the items.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share the true facts of the matter as opposed to those of an envious competitor.


Jim Julia

Epidemiologist: Stop the flights now – The Washington Post

In the Washington Post, epidemiologist and public-health-school dean David Dausey says, close the US to epidemic epicentersnow. Why?

Individuals who suspect they have been exposed to Ebola and have the means to travel to the United States have every reason to get on a plane to the United States as soon as possible. There are no direct flights from the three most-affected nations, but passengers can transfer elsewhere, as [infected, infectious Liberian Thomas] Duncan did. If they stay in Africa, the probability that they will survive the illness if they have it is quite low. If they make it to the United States, they can expect to receive the best medical care the world can provide, and they will have a much higher probability of survival. So they are motivated to lie about their exposure status (wouldn’t you, in their shoes?) to airlines and public health officials and travel to the United States.

The incubation period for Ebola is up to 21 days, so a person could get on a plane the day he or she is exposed and spend three weeks in the United States or elsewhere before exhibiting symptoms. Then he or she could potentially infect any number of people here before the disease is properly diagnosed, and they are isolated or quarantined.

via Epidemiologist: Stop the flights now – The Washington Post.

Odds of that happening are approximately 0%. DHS, CDC, and the Department of State all subscribe to a vision that puts the rights of Duncan ahead of the safety of everyone here who doesn’t have ebola, yet.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Research Service takes a legalistic view:


CRS Insights

Increased Department of Defense Role in U.S. Ebola Response

Don J. Jansen, Specialist in Defense Health Care Policy (, 7-4769) October 1, 2014 (IN10152)

Increased Department of Defense Role in Ebola Response

On September 16, 2014, President Obama announced a major increase in the U.S. response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Department of Defense (DOD) submitted requests to Congress to make excess Overseas Contingency Operations funds appropriated for FY2014 available to support this effort. The requested funds would be used to provide humanitarian assistance, including:

  • transportation of DOD and non-DOD personnel and supplies;
  • coordination of delivery of supplies from both DOD and non-DOD sources such as isolation units, personnel protective equipment, and medical supplies;
  • construction of 17 planned Ebola treatment units; and,
  • training and education in support of sanitation and mortuary affairs functions to limit the spread of the Ebola outbreak.

DOD officials have stated that DOD personnel will not provide direct medical care to Ebola victims, but that non-governmental organizations are submitting proposals to the World Health Organization and other entities to provide health care workers.

Operation United Assistance

DOD operations have commenced pursuant to the President’s announcement. DOD has labeled the effort “Operation United Assistance.” According to a press report citing Defense officials at a September 30 press conference, an initial contingent of about 1,400 soldiers will be deployed in October with about 700 of those from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the remainder will be combat engineers from other units. Troops are being trained in how to avoid contracting Ebola and other endemic diseases. Once these troops have arrived, Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of the 101st, will replace Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, as commander of the U.S. military response.

DOD Reprogramming Requests

DOD submitted two separate prior approval reprogramming requests dated September 8 and September 17 to the House and Senate appropriations and armed services committees. These would make available up to $1 billion for DOD’s support of the United States’ response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Some of the funding in the initial $500 million request also would be available to support continuing humanitarian activities in Iraq.

No new appropriations are requested. Under special transfer authority, DOD is asking for prior approval to reprogram funds from accounts that experienced lower than expected costs for planned activities. These funds come primarily from Overseas Contingency Operations appropriations for FY2014 where there were lower than expected maintenance costs and lower than expected civilian and contract personnel subsistence costs.

Congressional Approval Required

Under DOD regulations, the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees must provide written approval before DOD can effectuate the reprogramming. On September 24, $50 million was approved for immediate use. Committee staff stated that additional money will be released when DOD provides personnel protection policies, spending plans, goals, and a timeline for the mission.


So that’s where the money for the US operation to save Africa from Ebola is coming from: the “dividend” in the operations budget resulting from the completed bugout in Iraq and the ongoing one in Afghanistan.

The US operation to save the US from Ebola? There isn’t any.

Latest headache for gun banners: Ghost Gunner

Kevin de Leon is a California state rep who hates guns and the people who like them. Tonight, as we write this, he’s quivering in a puddle of his own urine, because de Leon, who coined the scary term “Ghost Gun,” now knows that someone — his own bête noir, Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed — has automated the completion of 80% lower receivers. Not just that, but he’s automated the completion of other tasks that can be completed on a very small CNC machine.

He’s taken a small but nonetheless novel step in the disintermediation of manufacturing. This will get a lot of press because it’s “guns,” which even reporters understand are Big Things, but it’s actually one hell of a lot bigger than that.

Ghost Gunner is a miniature CNC machine designed to automatically manufacture publicly created designs with nearly zero user interaction. No prior CNC knowledge or experience is required to manufacture from design files. Defense Distributed’s first design is the venerable AR-15 lower receiver. Ghost Gunner automatically finds and aligns your 80% lower receiver to the machine, with simple installation instructions, point and click software and all required tools. Just follow a few simple instructions to mount your 80% lower receiver, tighten a couple screws (with simple tools we provide), and on day one, Ghost Gunner can help you legally manufacture unserialized firearms in the comfort of your own home.

As shipped, Ghost Gunner can manufacture any mil-spec 80% AR-15 lower receiver that already has the rear take down well milled out. Lowers with non-mil-spec trigger guards that are otherwise mil-spec are also compatible.

via Ghost Gunner.

Here’s the Ghost Gunner intro video:

We see it as potentially useful not only for its initial application, hogging out 80% AR lowers, but also for such tasks as engraving those receivers, and most especially for reprofiling 7075 forged lowers to the A1 profile for the retro rifles we’re building for our personal collection. Wilson says that the machine will produce any “physible” (a neologism? We like it) that can be milled within its size envelope (specs at the end of this post).

Exercise extreme caution if you plan to share one of these things. The ATF is trying to push helping someone or letting him use your CNC equipment as a manufacturing-without-a-license violation. And yet, they will not issue a manufacturing license unless you have an objective of making a profit by manufacturing, so they will not license a hobbyist under any circumstances.

In any event, we know we have enough work to keep one of these busy, and we want to support Cody’s project, so we put our money where our mouth is:


Unfortunately, we were caught napping and only learnt of this 1 Oct 14 introduction last night, 3rd October. (We made the order within moments of reading the FAQ on the website). So how far back in the queue did we wind up? Well, they planned to allow preorder of 10 units at $999, and 100 at $1199. Those sold out so fast that they added another 100 — which quickly went. Then they added 200 more @ $1299 — by this point, they’re only promising January 2015 delivery for the first 100 of these, with the 2nd block of 100 only promised sometime in “Q1 2015.” So one assumes some risk here (if you will recall, the government mobilized the Departments of Defense and State, which have nothing else major going on, to try to shut down Wilson’s last public firearms effort, the file repository at Defense Distributed). The risk was worth it to us, as we have a real use for the machine — experimentation!

Our unit was, #107 in the $1299 group, or #317 from the original release. Bummer, we’re waiting ’til sometime in Q1. Two more have sold since then, which by our math means $271,481 for Wilson and Defense Distributed (this is, of course, as of us writing this post on the night of 3 October. More are likely to have sold before you read it). When the 91 remaining Ghost Gunner units sold out, they will have taken in almost $400k — in a matter of days. That’s a measure of the pent-up demand for desktop manufacturing in the firearms realm. (Note that gunmaking equipment is not permitted by Kickstarter or Indiegogo, which are politcally anti-gun).

A bespoke CNC milling machine that needs to be programmed and tooled for a specific task, and that can then be operated by anyone who can bolt a part in a jug and press a button, is a device of remarkable potential. Will it fulfill that potential? We’re looking forward to telling you — sometime next year.

One of the advances in the Ghost Gunner, compared to other inexpensive CNC machines, is that when it is set up for a specific part it is capable of autodiscovery and autoalignment. For this, it does require the part to be conducted. While the machine can certainly mill Nylon 6/6 or other plastics, if they’re insulators, its probe can’t detect them. In that case the part just has to be touched off, like any conventional CNC.

The Ghost Gunner also has its own spindle — we’d call it “proprietary” because it’s not a standard off-the-shelf item, but it’s not proprietary, because they plan to open-source the design. That means it’s only a matter of time before hackers and makers embrace, adapt and extend it and the entire GG concept.

The concept bespeaks not just a machine, but also an infrastructure and an ecosystem, and it is all open source. (The machines run with TinyG code, but preferentially with their own open-source .dd file format). The .dd files can also be developed for any other CNC machine, by plugging in Machine X’s “specific parameters list,” and then the part can be run off in any shop that contains an identical Machine X.

The machine is well thought out for the deep pocket milling needed for gun work. On the other hand, it’s unlikely to be rigid enough to work with steel. And there’s a limit to size, both in terms of what size machining you can do, and in terms of what size part you can use. It’s unclear if the  part-size limit comes from the machine’s shroud or from its actual operation, but we’re guessing the latter at this point.

Considerable detail is available on the FAQ page.

GhostGunner Specifications

Machinable dimensions: 175 x 75 x 60mm (~6.75 x 2.95 x 2.35″)
Maximum part dimensions: 230 x 90 x 100mm (~9.05 x 3.50 x 3.90″)
Overall footprint: 330 x 280mm (~13 x 11″)
Weight: 20kg (~45 pounds)
Spindle Speed: 10,000+ RPM (Final Value TBD)
Collet: ER-11
Requirements: Windows 7 or higher. Mac version TBD.
Power: 110/220 VAC 50/60Hz (standard power cord).

Air Strikes Astray — what did we tell you?

mq9 and JDAMs

PGMs on an MQ-9 Reaper. If it only had a brain.

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 happinesss.

You will recognize the first case as the Clinton pinprick Tomahawk raids of 1998, and the aerial operations of the Kosovo war of 1999. The second, of course, fits Operation Gothic Serpent to a T. (Mogadishu, 1993). The third is Afghanistan, 2001.

So given two proven failure pathways and one proven success pathway, what did Washington do? Pick Failure Door #1. Result, misery:

U.S.-led air strikes hit grain silos and other targets in Islamic State-controlled territory in northern and eastern Syria overnight, killing civilians and wounding militants, a group monitoring the war said on Monday.

The aircraft may have mistaken the mills and grain storage areas in the northern Syrian town of Manbij for an Islamic State base, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. There was no immediate comment from Washington.


The strikes in Manbij appeared to have killed only civilians, not fighters, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory which gathers information from sources in Syria.

“These were the workers at the silos. They provide food for the people,” he said. He could not give a number of casualties and it was not immediately possible to verify the information.

via U.S-led raids hit grain silos in Syria, kill workers: monitor – Yahoo News.

We’re not really upset that some Syrian grain elevators did what grain elevators have occaisionally done entirely on their own, namely, blew up. That’s just collateral damage, and it’s not like any faction of Syrians are our friends these days. What’s upsetting is that this kind of warfare is ineffectual and does not damage the enemy’s centers of gravity or, really, just about anything about him.

We have chosen a mode of operations that is more or less guaranteed to fail.

But hey, we understand the Army is sending help to Iraq… a Division Headquarters. That’ll surely help. Hope they remembered the divisional band, because they might as well go under playing Autumn or Nearer My God to Thee.

Bubba the Gunsmith proves 1911s are destructible after all

First, it’s an ATI to start with, and we’re unaware of anything made by ATI that’s liable to be mistaken for professional military armament quality. But if you had asked us, “Can you make an ATI pistol worse by giving it to Bubba for a style job,” we’d have had to admit that, although we could not imagine how, that if we’ve learnt one thing in this racket it’s this: do not wager against Bubba’s strange marque of insalubrious inspiration.  In fact, we wonder if it’s a Bubba attempt to convert one of ATI’s pot-metal .22s to a .45, with dire but not-yet-catastrophic consequences. Now on GunBroker:


ATI Bubba Gun

Here’s a 1911 that some amateur had a little too much fun with. We do not have the time or technical know-how to get this weapon working properly. Here is a description of the problem: Upon loading and firing the weapon, the cartridge casing is ejected. However, a new round fails to feed and the slide remains in the rearward position until manually moved forward. This is sold AS IS/For Parts and no returns will be made available.

via ATI 1911 .45 ACP gunsmith special – $199!! 45ACP : Semi Auto Pistols at

Great Googly Moogly, that thing was chased through the Ugly Forest and didn’t miss a tree. It’s really hard on the eyes, like that girl with all the piercings is going to be when she’s 40. Check out the harmonic convergence of household pliers and barrel bushing:

ATI Bubba Barrel Bushing


Yes, that bushing does look like something in the nose end of the slide does not fit quite right. We’d guess the failure to return to battery is a combination of really bad fit between frame and slide, resulting from “drop in and hammer to fit” soi-disant gunsmithing, and an anemic recoil spring, maybe one from ATI’s .22 roots.

This is one zombie that’s probably better off staying dead. But I bet the bubbas on GB bid it up over $300. If that happens, we’ll get a bag of ATIs and mass produce these things.

  1. Buy a pallet of lousy guns.
  2. Make them even worse.
  3. ?? Find fools?
  4. Profit!!!

We came across this example whilst enjoying our latest timewaster, the discovery that GunBroker can be searched for the grim keywords “Gunsmith Special.” We were actually looking for a project, but found them to be few and far between. However, the comic value is sufficient reward for time spent browsing the link. (We have it sorted by price, top down, and haven’t even got into the Gunsmith Special equivalent of penny stocks yet).


What’s a Target Shooter Like?

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) wants us to know that today’s target shooter is not like the one from even a few years ago. You think of target shooters is typically middle aged, white, male, more likely to be rural that urban. While those shooters are still plugging away, the new shooters are younger, increasingly female, increasingly minorities (although this doesn’t come up in the infographic), and often urban and suburban.

And target shooting of all kinds — rifle, pistol, shotgun; organized or informal — is growing, up 19% in a few years. To communicate this change to a nation reduced to TV and USA Today levels of cognition, they put together this infographic.


Our own observations are that there are definitely more women and “obvious” minorities in the shops and at the range. We don’t see any profound differences in the why by demographic slice, except that women are more likely to start off with a strong interest in self-defense than with the generalized curiosity about guns that seems to bring the guys in.

This is all couched in socio-psychological weasel words like “more likely” because the plain fact is that all shooters are individuals and their reasons vary as much as their personalities do. You can’t make any assumptions about what the customer at your shop or range wants based on the bins that pollsters put people in. You don’t know if he or she’s a history buff, an arch-competitor, or someone looking for a pastime with a little more frisson to it than golf.

One of the most interesting findings, in our opinion, was that fewer of the new breed of target shooters are also hunters. Does this mean that the base demographics of the two sports are destined to diverge further, or does this mean that there’s a pool of new flat-range shooters who are at a high potential of being evangelized for hunting as well?

Tool Deprivation Syndrome: Excuses and Gunsmithing

This Brownell's premium AR toolkit is $1500, but you don't have to wait till you buy it to work on ARs -- if you're careful and sensible.

This Brownell’s premium AR toolkit is $1500, but you don’t have to wait till you buy it to work on ARs — if you’re careful and sensible. (That’s a good thing, as it’s on backorder anyway).

IF you spend a little time in the professional tools section of Brownell’s or Midway’s catalogs or website (let alone turn yourself loose on McMaster-Carr or MSC Direct) you may just develop a case of Tool Deprivation Syndrome. The TDS sufferer has a backlog of jacked-up guns and a series of excuses that begin with the magic phrase:

If only I had a [insert magic talisman], I could fix the [insert name of appropriate member of the dead-gun pile].

You know the way it goes: “If only I had a drill press, I could mount that scope.” “If only I had an action block.” “If only I had a CNC Bridgeport.” We call bullshit. Today, in guerilla workshops in Darra Adam Khel and in shantytowns in Mindanao, bush gunsmiths are making functional copies of modern weapons with saws and files and grinding wheels, because nobody told them they need a CNC Bridgeport.

There are four answers to a dead-gun project that get the gun up and running:

  1. Admit you’re never going to fix it, and take it to a pro.
  2. Suck it up and get the tool.
  3. Improvise, substitute, or make your own equivalent of the factory tool.
  4. Take a patient, manual approach.

Take it to a Pro

There are some things that absolutely require Approach #1. An example of that is coatings: a professional that does them all the time will do them, especially difficult ones like rust blue, flame blue or straw, and aluminum anodizing way, way better than the home or small-shop smith can. (Well, with practice, anyone can get good at simpler coatings like rust blue or parkerize, but you’re going to make some ugly ducklings before you’re turning out swans). The semi-Bubba alternative is Cerakote. You never want to go full Bubba, but the full-Bubba approach is Krylon rattlecan. (Unless you’re trying to emulate an SF team’s personalized camo finish on their arms, which was probably applied with Krylon rattlecans).

Suck it Up, Get the Tool

Bubba was here. His wrong-sized screwdriver slipped, taking the finish quality of this revolver down 5-10% and the value down 30% or more. Hope it was his own revolver. Screw fit is such a big deal we ought to do a post on it alone. Image: courtesy Wheeler Engineering.

Bubba was here. His wrong-sized screwdriver slipped, taking the finish quality of this revolver down 5% and the value down 30% or more. Hope it was his own revolver. Screw fit is such a big deal we ought to do a post on screwdrivers alone. Image: courtesy Wheeler Engineering.

There are some things that absolutely require Approach #2. One of them is a small thing, and yet it seems to be the last one newbie smiths acquire — a very comprehensive set of screwdrivers. Before you get the Ruritanian FAL handguard bushing no-go gage*, have a set of premium screwdrivers. Gunsmiths need hollow ground or parallel-ground screwdrivers, not taper ground hardware store drivers. A screwdriver should fit exactly in its screw slot. The semi-Bubba uses an undersized driver, damaging the slot in the screw. Full Bubba uses an oversized driver, or a right-sized one deployed off center, to provide optimum damage to the screw and to the wood and metal around the screw head. One screwdriver manufacturer has a whole drawer full of images like the one to the left. (That’s actually a mild one).

Similarly, a full set of punches in steel and brass are mandatory. Roll pin punches and roll pin starter tools, also, if you work with modern firearms that use these fiendish fasteners.

Finally, a set of reamers. You know why the pins in your homemade AR lower rattle, and the ones in an el cheapo lower rattle, and the ones in a GI rifle don’t? The GI gun (like most premium ARs) is drilled undersize and reamed to size for a perfect fit. Perfection is an asymptote: you may never get there, but you ought to be trying, or go back to Approach #1 and Take it to a Pro.

Improv, Substitute, Make

Approach #3 is actually the trad gunsmith solution for… inter alia, screwdrivers. If you have an unusual size screw, find an oversize (but expendable) screwdriver and grind the tip to a perfect fit. You’ll never damage a screw or any of the things it fastens this way.

This Bubbalicious moment is actually from an online disassembly guide to the SVT-40. Note the cheap Chinese hardware store wrench. Don't do this!

This Bubbalicious moment is actually from an online disassembly guide to the SVT-40. Note the cheap Chinese hardware store wrench. Don’t do this!

Some foreign and obsolete weapons require odd spanner wrenches or slotted screwdrivers; the temptation here to try to use a general-purpose tool like a vice-grips or Leatherman is strong. Resist it, for that is a path well trod by Bubba the Gunsmith and quite a lot of actions and stocks bear the scars of it, in mute testimony to his passage.

One good substitute for a punch is a reversed drill bit of the right diameter, chucked into a drill press. Best to do this with a worn-out or run-out bit, lest you scar the cutting edges with the jaws of the chuck. Scarred cutting edges go walkabout in wood and metal alike, producing drill holes that are not cylindrical, or even not round.

Take a patient, manual approach

In finance, borrowing is “leverage” and leverage, just like a lever in mechanics, gives you an amplifying effect. If you win and borrowed to leverage your bet, you win proportionately bigger. If you lose… you got it, you lose bigger if you have leverage. Leverage in gunsmithing comes from power tools and time-savers. If you’re not doing this for money, you’re not trying to beat the clock (in the standard English idiom, not SAS, sense). Take your time, think it through, do it gently, get it right. Use nonmarring tools and cushion the jaws and surfaces of marring ones. Most of all, never let your tools, especially power tools, get to anyplace your mind hasn’t already been.

Bubba is always in a hurry. And being Bubba, he doesn’t even know why that’s a bad thing.

To Sum it Up

Judgment is more important than purchasing power when you have a job that needs a specialized tool. The Brownell’s tool kit shown at the top has many (not all) the tools you need for AR work, and it has some good and overlooked necessities (non-marring vise jaws and an FSB block go a long way towards making you “not Bubba.”). But here are a few secrets Brownell’s won’t tell you (although you can pick them up if you read the reviews judiciously).

  1. The tools in the kit aren’t always the best ones. (They’re always OK, though).
  2. It’s nice to have a box with cutouts for the key tools, but the box itself is cheap molded polyethylene, and you can save $150 by skipping it. That’s more than 10% the price of the whole set, for the lowest quality item in it.
  3. You can actually detail strip and reassemble an AR, apart from four seldom-needed things, without any of the tools shown here. The AR is so well-designed for assembly that you can do it with a dummy cartridge or a wrong-caliber cartridge (for safety), or even use the firing pin if you don’t have a cartridge, although we don’t recommend using the firing pin as it may mar the wider pins. The parts you need tools to disassemble are: barrel from barrel extension (especially to reassemble), FSB from barrel and return, staked key from carrier, staked receiver extension (buffer tube) from receiver (and it’s good to have a torque wrench for receiver extension reassembly).
  4. These tools are not “everything”. You’ll still need headspace gages (unless your name begins with “Bub” and ends with “ba”), a good bench vise or machinists vise (quality costs here), and if you’re dealing with old barrels (and who isn’t) a throat and muzzle erosion gage, which is a very costly precision gage, and a straightness gage (although you don’t need a gage to identify a barrel that’s not straight by the shadows in the rifling). By comparison, Brownell’s kit for the FNH SCAR 16/17S includes both 7.62 and 5.56 headspace gages and a barrel straightness gage.

Since you still need some expensive things even with the $1,500 armorers kit, consider a much less expensive kit from Wheeler Engineering (also available from Brownell’s, and, we think, Midway). However, Brownell’s kits are made mostly from US tools, and Wheeler doesn’t say where their stuff is made; and the Brownell’s click torque wrench, for example, seems to be higher quality than the Wheeler beam one. (As a rule of thumb, click-type wrenches are more accurate than beam type but are more vulnerable to losing calibration, especially if stored improperly). Fortunately, the torque requirements for AR parts are quite wide-ranging, at least, according to the M16 and M4 maintenance documents.

While we’ve used AR-specific examples, most of what we’ve said about tools is just as applicable if you’re working on 1911s, Smith & Wesson revolvers, or a Brown Bess (for the latter, you should probably make your own screwdrivers, as each maker made his own screws and the slot sizes are all over the place — plus, many have been Bubba’d in the last couple of centuries).

Us your judgment first. Then use the right tool, in accordance with your judgment. And you’ll never be Bubba.

* In case you didn’t figure this out already, Ruritania is a fictional country, FAL handguards do not have bushings, and if they did, it’s hard to imagine what a Ruritanian FAL handguard bushing no-go gage would look like, or what page of the Brownell’s catalog it would be on. It’s just an expression

Vikings and Women in Combat


They were just like this, we’re sure of it. However, she needs to fire her Personal Protective Equipment designer.

There’s a new round of nonsense out there about women in combat, stemming originally from a catastrophic reading comprehension error made by a pseudonymous writer for the painfully-politically-correct fantasy fiction website, The idjit, blinded by visions of Vikingettes from, we are not making this up, a television show that we think runs on the Gullible Alien Show Watchers Channel, misread a paper that says half of the burials of Viking-era settlers were women as saying that half of Viking warriors were women.

We won’t bother to fisk this anonymidiocy; open-source legend Eric S. Raymond has already done so with the speed and power of a war-axe letting light into some dim social-justice-campaigner’s brain case.

I’m calling bullshit. Males have, on average, about a 150% advantage in upper-body strength over females. It takes an exceptionally strong woman to match the ability of even the average man to move a contact weapon with power and speed and precise control. At equivalent levels of training, with the weight of real weapons rather than boffers, that strength advantage will almost always tell.

Supporting this, there is only very scant archeological evidence for female warriors (burials with weapons). There is almost no such evidence from Viking cultures, and what little we have is disputed; the Scythians and earlier Germanics from the Migration period have substantially more burials that might have been warrior women. Tellingly, they are almost always archers.

To be able to swing a sword in a battlefield, you need to be in the condition to, say, swing a baseball bat. How many women have broken into pro ball? Oh, none. The patriarchy, right? Thing is, when the major leagues opened up to previously-excluded black ballplayers after World War II, the level of play in the leagues exploded higher as previously untapped black talent surged into the leagues. Nobody has any illusions that female Jackie Robinsons are out there in baseball,

Archery too meant a different thing 1000 years ago. The average man could not draw an English longbow, let alone control in and fire arrows accurately with it, without both archery-specific and strength training. These non-compound bows were high tech for the period, but they required a strong man: the draw weight of a longbow could be 200 lbs.

No single weapon requires that degree of physical strength simply to operate, except of course for contact weapons, which remain in use (yes, we have had guys knife-fight, fight hand-to-hand, and have to pistol-whip enemies) but are no longer primary. But the thing is, combat isn’t a half-hour sporting match. It can be months at a time of physical activity to the edge of muscle failure.

This process has been accelerated by the end of DADT. As we’d always predicted, gay men are not flocking to the decidedly non-fabulous world of infantry combat, but humorless bull dykes, already a “thing” in the female officer corps, are on the march. They’re not gay, as the saying goes, they’re angry, and it’s all the fault of the “patriarchy.”

That would be us.

Look, there are many excellent military careers open to, and ably served by, women. (And nobody cares who they go home and crawl under the covers with, much. It’s a free country). But the social experiment of women in ground combat is one where the only doubt about the outcome is which of an array of possible bad endings the experiment will have.

And the only certainty about the experiment, apart from its certain failure, is that those currently pushing it harder will react to the failure by making discussion of that failure a thoughtcrime, and pushing it harder still.

Now with mythological Viking warriorettes, to go with their other examples from myth and legend, and, of course, television.