Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Saturday Matinee 2014 038: Shooter (2007)

shooter dvdWhen Mark Wahlberg was named to play the part of Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor, we cringed. Everybody we knew cringed. Everybody who knew Marcus really cringed. And one reason we cringed is because of this dreadful movie, featuring that same Wahlberg falling entire grid squares short of the compelling character created by Stephen Hunter in the novel Point of Impact

We were wrong about Wahlberg in Lone Survivor: he played Luttrell with grit and grace, and did honor to him and to the Teams. It was a good movie. So, considering that, we thought we’d give Shooter a second chance. Did it suck as badly as we remembered?

In a word, yes.

Shooter is, as mentioned, a botched adaptation of Point of Impact. There are a few (cough) differences: instead of a country-boy sniper steeped in patriotism and displaying an unrelenting intelligence, a guy that survived war by solving tactical puzzles, we have a low-brow sniper burned out on his country and his surface, a guy that survived war by being an unthinking, reflexive killing machine. Key supporting characters in the book are either bleached of all character (Nick Memphis, played as well as could be done with the lousy script by Michael Peña) or completely absent (Sam Vincent).

The villains, naturally, are the evil Bush and Cheney and a plot to start a war over, drumroll please, oil. This alternative plot is so poorly articulated as to leave audiences wondering, “WTF just happened for the last two hours?” And the character development is so lame as to leave themselves answering, “Whatever. Who cares?”

"I can haz explosion!" Hey, Wahlberg, Stallone called, he wants his Rambo XVILXIIV script back.

“I can haz explosion!” Hey, Wahlberg! Stallone called, he wants his Rambo XVILXIIV script back.

In the final, climactic assault, all the villains are clustered around chortling and cackling about the success of their cartoonishly evil plan when Swagger drops the cinematic hammer on them. It’s like something out of High School of the Performing Arts remedial scriptwriting class. Fortunately, there was an enormous budget for special effects, so lots of car crashes and explosions substitute for the plot that isn’t there.

Wahlberg shooter

Antoine Fuqua just doesn’t have the intelligence or talent to adapt a Hunter book, and Wahlberg doesn’t appear to have the intelligence or talent to play even a bowdlerized Swagger. A series of books has not become a series of films, because the initial adaptation was so incompetent.

Acting and Production

It’s hard to say whether the acting is bad, or whether it’s just that the parts are all written too small for anyone to play, even if he was half the weight of the ghost of Hervé Villechaize.

Apart from all the other distractions and tweaks gumming up the script, the major shift of Swagger from Vietnam vet to current warrior empties a great deal of the character’s depth. His alcoholism (and ongoing recovery from same) is a recurrent theme of all the Swagger books, and it’s simply blown off here. Swagger in the books is a man with a community and a family. Instead, we have Swagger as John Rambo — not-too-bright, damaged loner. This same script could have been First Blood XVIIXLIV or whatever. Indeed, Stallone should probably sue these guys, except that if they keep making movies like this, they’re going to wind up judgment-proof.

rambo wahlberg

Even the action setpieces — Fuqua’s strength in, say, Training Day – come across as phoned-in and clichéd.

A lot of money was spent on this film. Apart from the crash cars and the pyro, it was mostly wasted.

Accuracy and Weapons

You would expect a movie that has a sniper for a hero and precision marksmanship at the root of both his problems and his solutions to have been made with care to get shooting scenes, terminology, and physics right. You’d be wrong. A list of errors would double the size of this review, no, treble it; some of them are listed on the IMDB page. It’s easier to just say nothing is right. 

The sniper stuff in the book wasn’t completely accurate, but literally nothing is right in the film. (900 yard shots with an M203? And they couldn’t even be bothered to find a realistic-looking mockup of an M203). In places, the budget was so low, or the director so careless, that the good guys and bad guys seem to use the same gun in the same scene. They couldn’t make the Barrett work with blanks so Wahlberg cycles it by hand. He snipes a moving helicopter through a 10x scope. He fires a supposed 1 mile shot hitting a soup can, but can’t explain sniper terminology, just rattles off a vocabulary list at one point.

The supposed one mile shot setup.

The supposed one mile shot setup.

We don’t know if they hired an Airsoft kiddie to do the gun stuff, or what, but it’s bad enough that Airsoft forms a plausible explanation for the accuracy of the gun stuff here — that’s how bad it is.

The bottom line

Shooter fails on almost every level.

It certainly bothered us that it demeans vets as (1) blockheaded dunces who serve cruel and evil leaders unthinkingly, and (2) helpless victims who are abused by an evil, not-worth-saving country. It’s not the worldview of Hunter’s novel, so all this negativity was imposed by the producers, director, and writer, and so it must be presumed to reflect their worldview. Can anyone have aught but pity for them? Surrounded by today’s vets, they can’t see them, so imprisoned are they in their imaginary world.

But perhaps worst of all, it’s not very entertaining. The more you know about shooting, the more you know combat, the more distracted you are by the film’s many failings and flaws.

There are a lot of bad films about snipers and sniping, but Shooter stands far above them as the one deserving the superlative: worst.

Unfortunately, it’s not dead yet. Paramount is planning to expand the movie into a series with Wahlberg, according to Deadline Hollywood. We normally don’t want creatives’ brainchildren to be strangled in the crib, but here’s one we’d make an exception for. Unless they bring in either Hunter or Luttrell (preferably both) to keep it on track, and make it more like the Wahlberg we saw in Lone Survivor than the bozo we saw in Shooter. 

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • DVD page:

  • IMDB page:

  • IMFDB page:

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page: as you might expect, it’s rotten.

  • Wikipedia  page:

What happened to this abused child?

This is a passage from a book of nonfiction by a guy who is, unusually, celebrated both for his award-winning fiction and for his award-winning novels. (He’s also an Army combat veteran, a fact modestly omitted from his book-flap bio). It describes how a child was disciplined. The only change we have made was to substitute generic terms or pronouns for proper names.

His father was old-fashioned, a firm believer that beatings were a part of the boys education. These were administered with such regularity that he was once thrashed, following [a notorious murder], merely because he questioned the notion of his own mortality and eternity. In particular, he became suddenly dismayed by the thought that if he died the world would simply go on without him, and he would be forgotten, and that would be the end of it and of him. His father’s reasoning for beating him was that abstract concepts such as these were better with to his father and other adults rather then occupy important time in a 10-year-old’s mind.

Boy, that sounds rough. And he obviously remembered it, for it to have a place in his biography. Must have scarred the kid for life, don’t you think? Probably made an utter ruin of the boy. What do you think happened to this abused child? Let’s take a poll!

What happened to this abused kid? free polls


Answer in a separate post (along with the ID of the book) at circa 1800 EDT today.