Category Archives: Weapons Education

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Firearms History, Technology & Development

firearms_history_technology_developmentThis site is a worthwhile, irregularly updated look at, like the title says, the history, technology and development of firearms. It’s found at firearmshistory.blogspot.com.

Welcome to the Firearms History, Technology and Development blog. In this blog, we will trace the history of firearms development over the years, advances in technologies and the world wide development and spread of firearms technology.

via Firearms History, Technology & Development: Welcome.

Because of its very wide range, you will find interesting matters here, regardless of your present level of expertise, but it’s all presented on a level that makes it accessible to everyone, including beginners and English-as-a-second-language readers.

Over the years, hundreds of posts have covered firearms from the days of the lit match to the latest developments.

Recent posts have included a 12-part (and continuing) series on the metallurgy of firearms, and the metallurgical history of firearms development. The progress from bronze, to pig/cast iron, to wrought iron, to steel was necessary to progress from coarse powder, to fine powder, to smokeless powder, with the rise in chamber pressures permitted by the metallurgical improvements. Without steel, breechloaders and cartridge arms would not have been practical, and no sort of automatic or semiautomatic weapon would have been possible. You may think you know metallurgy, but do you know what a puddling furnace is, or why 19th Century manufacturers sometimes specified a product called “shear steel” (let alone, what “shear steel” was?).

Along with developments in metallurgy (firearm and cartridge metals) and propulsives chemistry (powders), the development of firearms depended, and still depends, on manufacturing processes.

The blog does cover such manufacturing processes as rifling, but also covers sights, actions and other firearms components that we may take for granted today, but that each has its own development history and technical rationale. Good stuff!

A Remarkable Defensive Gun Non-Use

Crazy man with knife

Crazy man with knife (file photo).

You don’t expect a 2nd Lieutenant to demonstrate much beyond potential. But this 2nd Lt. in the West Virginia Air National Guard is already a veteran of the Marines and a husband and father experienced in the world. He recently was in a local Walmart when a woman began screaming for help. A man was holding a knife to her neck.

Police eventually responded to the scene and put the suspect in handcuffs. Nelson said he later discovered that the woman he was threatening was his own mother. He turned the knife on his mom when she refused to buy him a gun, according to a copy of the police report obtained by TheBlaze.

Nelson and his wife both carry everywhere they can, legally, to protect themselves and their family. In this case, Nelson protected two strangers — the threatened woman and her disturbed son.

Nelson, remarkably, resolved the situation by only displaying his firearm without drawing it, and using his maturity and command presence — yeah, a 2nd john’s command presence — to talk the angry man down. He talked him into letting his mother go. Then he talked him into stopping threatening himself, which was what he did after releasing his mom. Then he talked him into putting the knife down. Finally, he talked him out of running away, and into sitting down and waiting for  the cops.

It was a bravura performance — and the firearm never left the holster, although it seems to have contributed greatly to Nelson’s command of the situation.

Nelson had nothing but good things to say about the way officers with the Del Rio Police Department handled the situation. He said the officers commended him for his handling of the situation — and because he never brandished or fired his weapon, officers said “no thanks” when he asked if they wanted to see his legal concealed carry permit.

Would a lot more stand-offs end like this, instead of the usual shooting, if they were met by armed, calm citizens rather than a police Steroids Weapons And Tantrum squad call-out? Hard to say. Every threatener is different, and so is every threat. Cops talk a lot of suspects into giving up and laying down weapons every day, and those cases seldom make the papers. Nelson might have wound up shooting the guy. And in some jurisdictions, cops and a district attorney would have jumped at the chance to “nail” Nelson. Fortunately, West Virginia is not New Jersey, so he didn’t get the Brian Aitken treatment.

“The number one reason I carry is to protect my family. It’s a God-given, constitutional right that I fully, 100 percent stand behind,” Nelson told TheBlaze. “Secondly, I love my fellow Americans, and if I’m in a position to help one of them, obviously, I want to do that.”

“I immediately felt responsible for that lady’s life,” he added. “If I’m in a position to help someone and I don’t, I would feel just as bad as the guy who does wrong.”

Apparently this guy is in flight training, heading for the ranks of pilots, which is where the Air Force tends to find its leaders. They’re lucky to have such a sensible and mature fellow. He’s also a delegate in the WV legislature, which seems like another good place to have a sensible and mature man.

What is bothersome, he explained, is the fact that there are tons of stories about responsible armed citizens that never get reported by most of the media. He may have a point — this incident has barely been reported and it occurred back in April.

“They never let us tell our side of the story,” Nelson said. “We hope that some good can come out of our story and let people know what is really going on.”

via National Guardsman’s Trip to Walmart With His Family Turns Into Potentially Deadly Nightmare — Then His Training Kicked In | TheBlaze.com.

This is another reason we’re leery of the emphasis on the quick-draw in so much use of force and handgun training. Sometimes the best place for it is in the holster. When you need it, you are much, much more likely to have the time to draw it (and even prepare it) than you are to be assaulted out of a cold situation.

IPSC Hostage targetPolice training would have emphasized an early draw in this situation. The suspect has deployed deadly force (the knife), and cops are keenly aware of justr how deadly a knife is, and how quickly a knife-wielding bad guy can close normal distances. In addition to that, police policy is, generally, to meet force with overwhelming force to impress the suspect into immediate surrender, and it works great on rational suspects. But a force escalation produces unpredictable results with irrational suspects. The majority of them can be talked down (and this does seem to be what happens in most of these cases, policy notwithstanding). Those that resist often resist in a slow-motion, dare-you-to-shoot-me way. There is usually time for a less-kinetic approach to these less-kinetic threats.

So what should police training emphasize? In a perfect world, individualized judgment. Simple rules and mantras are probably necessary if you insist on deploying some 80-IQ blockheads among your cops, but you want to have pretty good liability coverage if that’s your plan. (In a lot of jurisdictions, some pretty bright cops have slipped into the force — heh).

It’s not like waving the gun does the cops much good. Movies notwithstanding, most shooters can not make the shot on a bobbing, weaving perp’s head as he crouches behind a hostage at a few meters. IPSC hostage targets just sit there, and nothing but points hang in the balance. Even “moving” targets usually have either limited, one-axis, or repetitive motion.  A real human head is a very hard thing to hit, especially one that’s wrapped around the idea that someone wants to shoot it.

Finally, we as a nation are scandalously overdue for doing something about the problem of mental illness. (Clayton Cramer made these points well in the University of Connecticut Law Review [HTML intro / .pdf article] this past May — for all of you who thought it was just a basketball school, they train lawyers too). We need to have new authorities for involuntary commitment, new authorities for involuntary outpatient treatment (“probation” and “parole” equivalents), and facilities to confine and treat the involuntarily committed. These will be expensive, but will remove a major drain on the economy. Our experiment with deinstitutionalization is forty years old, and it’s a sanguinary failure. It’s time to end it with humane reinstitutionalization for the dangerous mentally ill.

A Tale of Two Ebola-Research Mishaps

ebola virionsToday, as the Washington Post tells this story. It has the feel of a single-source anecdote, of being “too good to check.” It is neat, compact, no one is mentioned by name, and there’s a moral to the story: ready-made for narrative-addicted Posties.

But it is what happened, says the Post, to a Russian infectious-diseases lab tech.

The Russian Mishap as told by the Post

She was an ordinary lab technician with an uncommonly dangerous assignment: drawing blood from Ebola-infected animals in a secret military laboratory. When she cut herself at work one day, she decided to keep quiet, fearing she’d be in trouble. Then the illness struck.

“By the time she turned to a doctor for help, it was too late,” one of her overseers, a former bio­weapons scientist, said of the accident years afterward. The woman died quickly and was buried, according to one account, in a “sack filled with calcium hypochlorite,” or powdered bleach.

The 1996 incident might have been forgotten except for the pathogen involved — a highly lethal strain of Ebola virus — and where the incident occurred: inside a restricted Russian military lab that was once part of the Soviet Union’s biological weapons program. Years ago, the same facility in the Moscow suburb of Sergiev Posad cultivated microbes for use as tools of war. Today, much of what goes on in the lab remains unknown.

via Ebola crisis rekindles concerns about secret research in Russian military labs – The Washington Post.

In fact, there is a case of a Russian researcher dying of laboratory-acquired ebola — in 2004. Here’s Judith Miller at the New York Times. University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in 2004. However, the unfortunate Russian researcher in 2004 was in Novosibirsk at the Vector (formerly Biopreparat) facility, not near Moscow.

Now, we’re familiar through work with a similar mishap in the United States, with a somewhat better outcome, that happened about the same time.

The American Mishap

USAMRIIDOn February 11, 2004, a scientist was injecting a test treatment into laboratory animals (mice) deliberately infected with a mouse-adapted strain of Ebola Zaire, at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in order to study the disease. She inadvertently stuck herself with the needle. It went right through her bio-safety suit glove and her surgical glove into the soft muscle of her hand. (She was trying to inject the sample into the mouse’s belly, whilst holding the mouse in her hand). She was in a Bio Safety Level-4 containment lab at the time, the strictest and most inconvenient of medical precautions.

The accident and its aftermath has been written up by Kortepeter et al. in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2008. Here’s their description of the accident:

The person had been following standard procedure, holding the mice while injecting them intraperitoneally with an immune globulin preparation. While the person was injecting the fifth mouse with a hypodermic syringe that had been used on previous mice, the animal kicked the syringe, causing the needle to pierce the person’s left-hand gloves, resulting in a small laceration. The virologist immediately squeezed the site to force the extravasation of blood. After decontamination of the blue suit in the chemical shower, the injured site was irrigated with 1 liter of sterile water and then scrubbed with povidone-iodine for 10 minutes.

In terms of exposure risk, the needle was presumed to be contaminated with virus-laden blood, although it was suspected that low levels of virus were present on the needle. The animals had not yet manifested signs of infection, and much contamination may have been removed mechanically when the needle pierced the gloves. The local decontamination of the site also reduced potential for infection.

BSL-4 is used for pathogens which are highly contagious, lethal, and for which there are no suitable vaccines or therapies. The most common BSL-4 agents are hemorrhagic fevers, including filoviruses like ebola, Marburg, and Lassa; and CCHF. (We’re probably forgetting a few). Many of the nastiest nasties like Yersinia pestis (plague), yellow fever, Rickettsia spp., are BSL-3 because there exists an approved or experimental vaccine or treatment for them in humans.

BSL-4 implies, among other things:

  1. Hermetically-sealed rooms with highly-engineered HVAC systems to control any air interchange; HEPA filters catch even the tiniest viral particles. The BSL-4 facility is physically isolated from non-BSL-4 buildings or areas. Operations are conducted in accordance with a detailed procedures manual.
  2. Permanent underpressure (so air would never flow out if the seal leaked or was breached; a truly leak-proof seal is a near impossibility, but it can be approached asymptotically).
  3. At a minimum shower-in, shower-out through an airlock.
  4. Minimum number of people allowed in. All personnel must have (extensive) BSL-4 general and facility-specific training.
  5. Everyone inside must wear a positive pressure personnel suit. Every individual’s suit has a segregated air supply.
  6. No clothes from outside go in, no clothes from inside come out.
  7. Anything that does come out, comes out through sterilization measures, usually an autoclave.
  8. Even inside the BSL-4 containment, work with BSL-4 pathogens takes place under hoods or (preferably) in cabinets.

These are international rules and we’d assume the Russians follow them also.

Anyway, she thought the plunger didn’t move, but instantly reported the accident, and took basic first-aid measures. And things started to happen. Because an ebola patient is not infectious for 24 hours, she was allowed to go home and pack for a month away from home. (Home wasn’t very far, because the same facility where she worked hosted her quarantine area). Then she came back to USAMRIID, and walked through the round stainless-steel vault door of RIID’s “Patient Isolation Suite,” or, as everybody called it, The Slammer. There she would stay for 21 days.

If she lived that long.

They made it as comfortable as possible for her. She had a computer and TV, and could stay in touch and read the news — including reports on her own health in the local paper — on the internet. She had a VCR (yeah, not DVD) with a bunch of old movies.

There were basically three possibilities: (a), she hadn’t been infected; (b), she had, and would soon be dead of the disease; or (c), she had been infected, but would be one of the minority that beat the disease. The postdoctoral researcher was young, but adult, and healthy, which helped. And all the skills of all of RIID and its many peer organizations and cooperating scientists were galvanized into action.

An Experimental Hail-Mary Pass

In addition to the other precautions, RIID scientists and their industry and academic peers took a look at whether any experimental therapy might work. A small company in Corvallis, Oregon, AVI BioPharma (formerly AntiVirals, Inc). had been working for years on a concept called Morpholino Oligomers (called PMOs sometimes, abbreviating a longer name), which interposes a synthetic therapeutic molecule — the PMO — between the patient’s cell’s nucleic acids and the single-stranded RNA virus causing the disease. (Viruses use the infected organism’s cellular mechanisms to reproduce themselves). At the time it was a highly experimental therapy, unproven not just for ebola in humans, but for any disease in humans, any primate, or even any laboratory animal.

Because viruses need living cells to reproduce, the scientists at AVI were big believers in direct-to-animal testing, using rodents, ferrets and non-human primates. But with just 21 days max, if Researcher X had been infected, there would be no time for testing. Worse, given the state of technology of 2004, it took about 8 days to make the morpholino in potentially-therapeutic quantities, but it took several days to sequence a pathogen’s genome, and the gene sequence of the infectious virus strain was necessary to start morpholino development! Here, the researchers caught a break: since RIID was working with a known ebola strain, they had a good sequence in-house. The gene sequence of the virus was blasted through the internet to AVI, and morpholino production started. In a very short time, a tiny vial of potentially life-saving — but completely untested — ebola therapeutic morpholino was on a jet from Oregon to Maryland.

It was eight days after the researcher’s lab accident.

A Lucky Break

Medicines are tightly controlled in the various nations of the world. The US has an early-20th-century food-and-drug-act with many subsequent amendments, one that tends to strangle real medical research — like morpholino research — while giving legal cover to bogus nostrums and snake-oils (all the stuff that advertises on radio; it’s all crap). But giving an experimental molecule that hasn’t even been given to a mouse to a human is strengstens verboten. Still, if Researcher X had broken with ebola, they’d have given it to her. But the researcher got a lucky break. She never tested positive for the virus, never developed systems, and walked out of the Patient Containment Suite for the last time on 3 March 2004, 21 days after entering.

If she had broken with ebola, perhaps morpholino research would be further along today. But perhaps she’d be dead; there is that, and we wouldn’t wish her dead to advance science.

Science will still get there.

How Science is Getting There Today

Most of the players have moved on. The top guy in RIID’s program then went over to DHS’s expensive, duplicative, and troubled biodefense program. AVI BioPharma has become Cambridge, Massachusetts -based Sarepta, which continues morpholino research and recently reported successful non-human primate trials for a morpholino therapeutic for Marburg virus. Like ebola, Marburg is a Cat A bioterrorism threat agent, and Sarepta’s research has taken place in collaboration with USAMRIID.

One thing has changed. A 2011 rebuild of several buildings at USAMRIID eliminated the Slammer. RIID is hard up for space, and the Patient Isolation Suite hadn’t been used since 2004. The 2004 incident described here was its first use since 1985; from 1972 when the Slammer opened to 1985, 20 other patients were considered and 17 were admitted, some of which for diseases later downgraded to BSL-2 or -3 pathogens. None of them broke with the disease; it seems like every case was an exercise of due caution. The managers of RIID concluded that any future BSL-4 patients, including suspected ebola exposures, could be adequately contained in local hospitals. The duplicative new DHS BSL-4 facility at Ft Detrick (NBACC), and a triplicative planned new facility (NBAF), an exercise in Nebraska Avenue empire-building which DHS is extremely defensive about, also do not contain any facility for isolating infected researchers.

A More Flexible Benchloader?

If you ever had to load hundreds (or thousands) of M16 magazines, the second greatest thing ever invented was the stripper clip and stripper-clip-guide system. The mag is easy enough to load by hand, but it’s time-consuming to do it by onesies. Still, the GI system is only the second-best. The best is Maglula’s machined Benchloader, if you’ve got loose rounds: drop the mags in, drop the rounds in, schoooonk, you’re done. Machinery FTW! How it works is not rocket surgery, but here’s a link to a demo of the device from Brownells so you can see it in action; it’s .mp4 video so we couldn’t embed it in WordPress. And here’s a photo of it:

maglula benchloader

Standard Benchloader

The Israeli company’s patented (7,059,077) Benchloader has had two limitations: the first is range of mags. The original Benchloader was limited to 30-round GI mags. It couldn’t handle the 20-round mags we still like (although we have an idea for an adapter), or newer things like Magpul PMags (people are always confusing Maglula and Magpul, but they’re entirely different companies), or even the near-GI-dimensions steel H&K Maritime mags that many SFers swore by in our day. So there’s a “standard” and a “universal” version, but the “universal” version just gets you a few other 30-round mags: HK 416/SAR-80; Beretta AR-70/90; and Magpul, Thermold, Orlite, and SIG polymers (we hear it works with Lancer polymers too, but Maglula doesn’t claim that). Note what it doesn’t work with: 20- and 40-round alloy mags, non-STANAG curvatures like the original 1960s Colt mags, any of the snail and drum mags, and Surefire Suomi-style mags.  And limitation two, it was X-Pensive. How expensive? Try $430, for either version. Not all our ARs cost that much!

"Universal" Benchloader

“Universal” Benchloader

Caldwell mag charger

Caldwell Mag Charger, a $70 plastic alternative.

If you handle a Benchloader, you see part of why it’s so costly. It’s machined from aluminum alloy,  anodized, and a precision product all around. And another contributor to the high price is that it has had little competition, at least until the 2013 introduction of the Caldwell Mag Charger, which is a little more fiddly but works with ammo dumped in from 50-round boxes. (Too bad GI ammo comes in 20-round boxes, if it’s not in strippers).

But now Maglula is introducing am injection-molded plastic version, the Range Benchloader, that promises to sell for about $170 and work with a wider range of magazines. Some blogs (like The Firearm Blog and MyGunCulture are claiming it works with Surefire mags, and we’re also hearing claims it works with Beta C-mags; we note that Maglula is not making those claims, yet*; we’d want to see it do it before we committed the money for that purpose. (We do note that graphite lube is critical to reliable functioning of C-mags, in our experience. The manufacture suggests a squirt every 20 rounds, and we’re not sure what the best way to do this with a Range Benchloader would be, without some experimentation).

range_benchlula

Maglula rendering of the Range Benchloader

Note the polymer mag catch, and that the mag is free below that, allowing odd-shaped magazines -- in theory.

Note the polymer mag catch, and that the mag is free below that, allowing odd-shaped magazines — in theory.

We think that the Range Benchloader would ideally be attached to something beefier for loading larger mags, something that would support the mags in roughly the way the original Benchloader did, and we’re not sure how long its polymer magazine catch will hold up in real use.

We’re also not too sure how it will work with odd-shaped magazines. In theory, both it and the Caldwell entry can take them, but the Range Benchloader is designed with feet under it, to be laid on a range bench for support. The mag, if it were wider than STANAG, would have to hang off the edge of the bench. Would that work?

Underneath, the Range Benchloader has feet.

Underneath, the Range Benchloader has feet. It looks like it also has two sockets for permanently screwing down to a support or bench.

Only one way to know. Anybody want to see it tested against the original Benchloader and the Caldwell Mag Loader? It might be a while. Maglula has shown only these renderings, and is only promising the Range Benchloader in January, 2015. (The company also makes a variety of smaller loader/unloaders, particularly useful for all those double-stack pistol mags, and Benchloaders for some exotics, like Galils or those AUGs and G36s that use non-STANAG mags. They also make an ingenious loader that applies GI stripper clips to Mini-14 magazines. Here’s a link to a .pdf of their one-page 2014 catalog).

* the Maglula page on the Range Benchloader only claims compatibility of the same mags already claimed for the Universal Benchloader, plus the Lancers we mentioned above: specifically “M16 / AR15 / M4 USGI (NATO STANAG 4179); Magpul PMAG; Lancer; H&K metal 416/SA80; Beretta AR 70-90; Thermold; Orlite; SIG Arms (black AR mags). Maglula also notes that it comes with a carry case.

Bubba the Gunsmith does an AK Trigger Job…

…or does a job on an AK trigger, actually. How do we know it’s Bubba? Well, we’re sure Winston Groom would agree that Bubba is as Bubba does. But also, we have other indicators. For one, the video is from Century Arms; if Bubbadom spreads like Christendom, Century’s Vermont warehouse is its St. Peter’s Basilica. For another, this is what Bubba is building:

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s1

 

What in the name of Niffelheim is that? An Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation for Apert Syndrome or some other syndactylic genetic aberration? It turns out to be available at J&G Sales. J&G is Century’s frequent partner in distribution of firearms with Century-Induced Firearms  Dysplasia, and has some quantity of these, as the bookmark on the page indicates. In fact, they seem pretty desperate to move them: not only does this model sell for less than the firm’s less-deformed AKs, they’ll throw in a drum mag, just so the boys in the warehouse don’t have to look at this horrible deformity any more.

Because our readers are made of sterner stuff, and can look upon this gorgonic beast without turning to stone, here is a close-up of the trigger:

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s4

And here’s another (all from the J&G website, obviously):

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s5

We suspect that Mikhail Kalashnikov would be spinning in his grave if he knew what they’d done to his rifle.

Now, these things may some day be collector items, like the hideous Fender paisley telecasters that came in as flower power was on the way out: so hideous when new they were desirable when old because of their rarity. No doubt some of them will be reconverted into AKs. It shouldn’t be too hard, with a trigger guard or a piece of sheet steel from which to bend one, and a couple of rivets. Just follow the video of Bubba below, in reverse.

True, he’s not trashing a rare or valuable gun for this, just one of Century’s canted-sightpost specials with tacticool furniture. But still, what’s with that trigger? In the name of all the saints, why? 

We first saw it on Max Popenker’s Russian-language blog, posted with a question: for weak fingers? If it stumped Max, who is from the land of Kalashnikov His Ownself, then it’s probably not anything from Soviet officialdom, or any of the usual satellite copiers. (The gun in the picture looks like a Yugoslavian parts kit with an aftermarket barrel and wood, but it turns out that this conversion was done on new Serbian AKs).

In a half hour of asking other experts in Soviet and bloc small arms, nobody had ever seen this thing. They were all willing to guess, though. A really ill-conceived cold-weather trigger (as ill-conceived as the absence of a trigger guard on the original Finnish M60, which the Finns repented rapidly), was the most common guess, but it doesn’t make sense. The Russians are scarcely ignorant of the fact that it gets cold in their country, and they have a perfectly suitable arctic-trigger system (and suitable gloves for firing in cold temperate-zone conditions) and have managed to run an army in their country without losing all their fingers yet.

Well, it turns out, this abortion has been offered on two Century AK variants at present. Anyway, you used to be able get this cool trigger on a black tacticool milled-receiver AK like the one in the video below, and can still order it in the sort-of-ordinary looking and rather inexpensive ($539 wholesale) AK that we and Max illustrated.

So Why So Serrated?

tipmann toy double grooved trigger

The Tippmann double grooved paintball trigger, from the Tippman Parts website.

Century is not forthcoming, any place we’ve seen, about why this trigger exists. But we were able to dope it out. Basic bottom line: it is for paintball choads coming over to real guns, who want to continue the paintball practice of firing high volumes of unaimed fire.  As Tippmann, a major maker of paintball toy guns, describes their double-trigger kit for their paintball launcher:

The added area allows two fingers to walk the trigger to a faster rate of fire. Double grooved for comfort.

The canonical name for this in the paintball world is somewhat unclear. Some call it the double finger grooved trigger, and others call it the double trigger. We call it Holy-Mother-Machree-that’s-Fugly.

And it seems to offer a false promise. On a semiautomatic AK clone, your maximum rate of fire is limited not by the speed of your human trigger reset, unless you have the reaction time of a three-toed sloth on barbiturates, or a former Disney Channel starlet on whatever they’re all on. It is limited by the mechanical trigger reset. Having two fingers rather than one to alternate pulling an unreset trigger seems futile. Given the physics of the trigger as a lever, the stronger finger has the shorter travel, and the relative travel of both is widely different, adding even more inconsistency. On the other hand, the safety hazard of exposure of a larger trigger inside the larger guard is real.

And in any shooting for any purpose other than noise making, maximum rate of fire is completely irrelevant. What you’re interested in is maximum rate of aimed fire, and that is limited not even by trigger reset but by time to bring the sights back on target.

Misses don’t count for anything except noise. We’d be willing to bet that we can take any of our rack grade semi AKs (including the Egyptian one, which has to make the Russians at Izmash weep; it brings the al-Bubba and is over 30 years old), and match the rate of fire of one of these paintball-poseur products, and beat the hell out of it when hits on targets at reasonable AK ranges (say 0-400m) are counted.

But for you completist collectors, here’s how they do it:

We were honestly surprised to see that Century’s smiths have some professional gunsmithing tools, like a Foredom (vs. Dremel) tool. The Lyman Revolution low-budget gun vise looks good and is adequate for this kind of work; all expensive Chinese-made gun vises are really suitable for cleaning and field-stripping, not for doing anything that will put more pressure on the action or barrel.

(PS. We were going to Max’s blog because we saw, from the new stats plug-in, that he linked to us. Spasibo bolshoi!)

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Precision Rifle Blog

precision_rifle_blogWe don’t know how we missed this guy, PrecisionRifleBlog.com, until now. As long time readers know, we have always admired the empirical, side-by-side A-B testing, like the tests that Andrew Tuohy carried out on his own website, Vuurwapen blog, and later at the sadly moribund Lucky Gunner Labs and The Firearm Blog (just search for his name on those sites — if he did it, it’s good. He’s a young man, but he has his stuff in one bag). It reminds us of a scientific experiment. In the same vein, we have enjoyed some of the experiments that Phil Dater PhD did with barrel length, muzzle velocity, and sound pressure levels. Science FTW!

Now, wouldn’t it be neat if somebody did something like that with rifle scopes, among other precision rifle data sets? Turns out, somebody has; his name is Cal Zant and his website, Precision Rifle Blog, promises “a data-driven approach” to long-range, precision shooting. Cal delivers that, in spades. That’s why he’s the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.

Let’s show you one example of his coolest recent research, an incredible comparison test of high-end rifle scopes. These are the sort of scopes you’d apply to a precision rifle for target, hunting, or war.  He has conducted a well-planned and thorough battery of tests of 18 high-end scopes, side-by-side, using a pretty solid array of methodologies. Then, he ranked the scopes according to a weighting scheme that he worked out based on what respondents to a survey said was important.

best-tactical-rifle-scopes

Every step of his way, he shows his work. Disagree with his weighting scheme? All the data are there; you can draft your own and see how that changes the ranks. Some features are not important to you? Delete them from the weighting scheme and recalculate. The data are all there, and will cost you only the considerable time needed to read and consider them.

The two essential links are to the Field Test Results Summary and the Buyers Guide and Features to Look For.

But those alone don’t tell the whole story, because he’s also included in-depth links and all his methodologies. Not surprising in the STEM world, especially in engineering, the end of STEM furthest from all the theory. And even if you read all the links, you may have further questions, especially if you’re not well-versed in optics terminology. (We thought we were; the site disabused us of that notion right smartly). So he provides an extremely useful online glossary. Confused by the difference between miliradian-based (Mil) and minute-of-angle (MOA) reticles? He’s not, and you won’t be either, if you read his page on the subject. (Short version: if you’re a yards-and-inches guy, you might be happier with MOA, if you’re metricated, you’ll want a mil reticle and turrets).

You can quibble with the weighting scheme, or bellyache that your favorite scope was not included, but we’re still just struggling with the disbelief of the whole thing: that someone would do all this work for nothing but the pleasure of doing it, and then bestow it on the rest of us.

best-long-range-cartridgesAt this point, you might think that Precision Rifle is all about scopes, and it’s not. That’s just an example of what he’s got for you over there. Here’s another example — a chart from a long article on the calibers most used by National Championships’ top 50 competitive shooters. It’s interesting that the question of caliber is now down to 6 or 6½ millimeters, at least among top 50 competitors. We didn’t know that before reading it on Precision Rifle.

Go, and return smarter, grasshoppers.

What TrackingPoint Must Do to Sell to SOF

Tracking Point ProductsWe think the guys running TrackingPoint know what they have to do. In fact, we think they’re already doing these things. But here’s what, from our point of view, is missing from the current iteration of TrackingPoint hardware and software for real penetration into the upper tier SOF market.

So, Who Do You Hit First?

SF Recruiting Poster pick it upIf we were their marketing consultants (we use our MBA, but not like that), we’d also press them to focus on sell-in to certain SOF elements that are image leaders in the international SOF community. Sell, for example, to SAS, and you will have Peru, the UAE, the Netherlands, and many other nations very interested in your product line (Indeed, sell to SAS or to their US counterparts, and you’ll get sale after sale, worldwide). It’s important, also, not to over-discount the stuff to your lead customers: confidentiality agreements are fine and good, but they probably can’t keep, say, American shooters from telling the foreign shooters they’re training with or competing against, what a good deal you gave ‘em.

Another possible launch customer is FBI HRT. As their history of reckless shots and whacked non-targets shows, they could use the marksmanship boost. Meanwhile, despite their record, they’re very influential on local police procurement. Tag/track/release technology is just the ticket for police marksmen who never get enough time for training, and yet have to make more consequential and more constrained shots than a lot of military snipers. (A military sniper, outside of some rarefied CT or HR gigs, almost always has the option to no-shoot. FBI or police sniper, scope-on a crim threatening a hostage, might lack that luxury).

Who Don’t You Hit?

While the Marine Scout Snipers could use the hell out of this thing, it’s too foreign to Marine marksmanship culture, which is a master-and-apprentice culture that demands effort, even hardship, and eschews automation or corner-cutting of any kind. So we’d put these excellent Marine precision marksmen way down the list, right now. We’ve worked with enough 8541s to know that they like to do things the hard way, and they take particular joy in doing it the hard way faster than an Army guy can do it the easy way, and take a positively indecent glee in breaking the dogface’s easy-way technology. Bringing this to the Marines first means that they will use their considerable intellect and energy to break your machine and send you away with a duffel bag of expensive pieces (so they’re great for finding unimagined points of failure — there is that). Bringing it to them after selling it to the Army is not a panacea. It might be even harder, because they will be energized to demonstrate that the Army did Something Stupid, because if Marines believe three things about the Army it’s that: we have too much money, too little guts, and way too little brains.

You’ll probably need a Marine sniper on board to sell to Marine snipers. Once you do, you won’t get quite the global reach that you do by selling to SAS or its American counterparts. But you get in with the world’s greatest military image machine, and there is that. 

You have to be very careful about selling in to Hollywood. (One TrackingPoint precision guided rifle is already in the hands of the most successful firm that supplies movie and TV weapons and armorers). The reason is that an inept display of your product can hurt sales. (It would be very Hollywood to put the TrackingPoint system in the hands of a villain, to be overcome by someone like a Marine sniper or James Bond willing to use superior skill and old school firearms).

What’s Missing From 1st-Gen Tracking Point

While the extant system has undeniable SOF applications, it also has limits, and some technical improvements — none of which are impossible or require TrackingPoint engineers to schedule an invention — would increase its marketability in military precision riflery circles.

Emission Control / Encryption / ECCM

It’s great that you have a computer in a scope, and it’s the wave of the future. But the computer can be located by enemy SIGINT. The video and wifi links need strong encryption, and in addition they need to be controllable so that emissions can be closed down. Even third world enemies often use electronic support measures these days, and so you need some RF low-observability measures, and you also need to have electronic counter countermeasures to ensure usability of the system in an electronic environment.

Two-way communications

This one engenders some risk, but there should be a capability for the opetator to hand off control of the PGM’s optoelectronic systems to someone’s telepresence from a support station. Or even from another field station.

Intelligence gathering MASINT capability

There is everything in this weapons system that’s needed, for instance, to remotely measure a prison camp or a suspected SS-20 missile TEL. This capability would also tie in beautifully with the improved communications and encryption capabilities mentioned above.

A Ballistic Development Interface, SDK or App

Now that we have that in-scope computer, fully integrated with the hardware of the firearm, we need to have a way to make it more adaptable to different ammunition loadings, including one-time, single-mission loads. And that has to be done at the unit level; otherwise you’ve got a potential breach of compartmentation.

tracking_point_trad_mode

This is a sales stopper with top tier units. They develop their own long range capabilities, including, at times, loads, and they do it because they think they, like benchrest shooters, can handload a more consistent, higher-precision round than even premium ammo suppliers can do.

Demonstrated, Documented Durability

The running joke is that a soldier or marine can break a ball from a ball-bearing — just leave him alone in a room with it, and you’re a half hour from looking at a broken ball, and hearing, “Uh, I dunno, sarge. It just broke!” (Bearing-ball, hell, these guys could do that with a wrecking ball). You want your machine to be wrecking-ball strong.

Demonstrated “Fail Safe” mode.

The capability of the system has to degrade gracefully. If you’re sneakin and peekin’ on Day 38 of a “14-day mission,” dead batteries can’t leave you in shoot-randomly mode (let alone, can’t-shoot mode). Even an ACOG, which is probably harder to break than the gun it’s atop, has cast-in backup sights. But with a TrackingPoint gun’s scope being dependent on a CCD display at the shooter end, you can’t afford to have dead batteries.

Full Auto Stabilization Mode

We can’t be the only ones who looked at this and thought, “tag, track & x-act really could up the game of a door gunner and/or Boat Guy.” Hell, those Chenoweth sandrails might come back from the dead, if the gunners in them could actually hit things instead of just contribute morale-raising decibels to a fight. Imagine this Hollywood concoction, except real, and with the boost in hit probability than TrackingPoint promises.

You know you want one (more on the movie gun soon).

Note that these are just for the military employment of tracking point, as combat weapons technology. We haven’t even addressed the utility of tracking point for big game hunting, which is what the thing was developed for in the first place. Its applications for everything from African plains game to heliborne predator control seem self-evident. We haven’t even hinted at the potential for a rimfire TrackingPoint squirrel slaughter system, something that would sell itself once the price comes down.

As we all know, the guys running TrackingPoint are not stupid. They are probably thinking of most if not all of these things already. If not, hey, our rates are reasonable; drop us a line.

Empties back in pocket in gunfight? Urban Legend?

Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965.

Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965.

This is one of those stories that will never die, because every instructor (us, too, they said sheepishly) has found it useful as a way to hammer home the importance of training as you will fight. (We’ll quibble with some parts of that on another day: for instance, nobody should do 100% of range fires with hemmet and bodammoor, and any military unit that requires that is commanded by Simple Jack). Here’s the story, as recounted by one of our mo’ entertaining commenters:

But at a certain point, too much bad practice will get you killed.
There were always field reports of cops back in the day trained to shoot on square ranges, found dead after a gunfight as they were trying to put their ejected brass in their pockets, just like the penny-pinching departments had drilled into them at the range year after year.

It’s such a great story, that everybody who doesn’t know where it came from thinks it’s an urban legend. Massad Ayoob thought it came from cop talk about the Newhall Incident (multiple CHP killed in the 1970s). In this link Caleb mentions self-promoting assclown Dave Grossman, who is an Old Faithful of bad information, and Caleb, being a smart guy, discounts Grossman’s typically unsourced bullshit. Then, though, he paraphrases Mas citing Bill Jordan as a possible source of what he calls “anecdotal evidence from 2nd and 3rd hand parties”.

In his Handgunner article, Ayoob mentions that former Border Patrol officer Bill Jordan wrote in the 1960s of officers finding spent brass in their pockets after a gunfight with no recollection of picking it up. Unfortunately, that information is anecdotal at best, and as we’ve seen with the Newhall incident, anecdotal evidence from 2nd and 3rd hand parties isn’t reliable.

Apparently Caleb hasn’t checked the reference, which is easy enough to do. Jordan does indeed include the story in his book, No Second Place Winner, but it’s not, as Caleb seems to think, an apocryphal story. Jordan names a name and refers to a single, specific incident. So for Urban Legend hunters everywhere, here’s your chance to bag that trophy. I give you, Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965. We have added some paragraph breaks to introduce some desperately needed white space:

A question often asked of themselves by young officers is, “How will I comport myself in the face of fire? Will I stand up or will I break?” On the surface this would appear to be a question which can be answered only if it becomes an actuality. As a matter of fact the answer can be given with very little chance of error. Almost invariably a man, provided he does not have too much time to think, will automatically do what he has been trained to do. Again provided that his training has been thorough and intensive.

An example in support of this statement comes to my mind: A few years back a Border Patrol team became involved in a discussion with some contrabandistas in which they were considerably embarrassed by one of the smugglers holed up in some brush about 200 yards away. His presence unduly complicated the proceedings in that he was armed with a .30-30 rifle with which he was enthusiastically underscoring points in the argument made by the main group of his compatriots. The Border Patrolmen were armed only with .38 Special revolvers which put them at somewhat of a disadvantage under the circumstances. However, two of the three men applied themselves to the task of routing the nearby enemy while the senior officer, Sam McKone, took up the question of the rifleman in the brush.

They tell of a western epitaph which reads, “Here lies Tom Jones. Committed suicide by betting his pistol against a rifle at 200 yards.” This could be a normal result of such a contest, but Sam McKone is not one of the Jones boys. Among his other marksmanship awards is a gold medal declaring him to be a Distinguished Pistol Shot.

Additionally, being shot at was not a matter to distress Sam unduly, since it was not exactly a novel occurrence in his life. To make a long story short, by applying a little Kentucky windage and an educated trigger squeeze, Sam scored three hits which made the rifle shooter lose all interest in the fate of his companions and start thinking solely of his own welfare, here and hereafter.

What has all this to do with the statement that a man will do unconsciously as he was trained, provided the training was thorough and extensive? Well, after the fight someone noted that McKone’s pocket was bulging and politely inquired as to what might be spoiling the drape of his trousers. Puzzled, Sam thrust in an exploring hand. The pocket was full of fired cases. During the fight, without realizing he was doing so, McKone, an old reloader, had saved every empty!

And there you have it — the probable ur-instance of the story of the guy who saved his brass in a gunfight. And no, he didn’t wind up dead. Jordan’s book was a huge success for a shooting book, and generations of shooters have read it, and, as you can see by the excerpt, it’s entertaining to read. A lot of his ideas on revolvers and leather have fallen obsolete in the last 50 years, but a great deal of good info is in there, and it’s one of the classic books of pistol shooting.

You can find it online here, and download it in .epub (iBooks), .mobi (Kindle), or scanned, OCR’d .pdf file and a handful of other formats. The scan is of the 1977 printing of the 1965 original. It’s a very worthwhile book, even back in the seventies when we bought it for the first time.

Incidentally, in the Massad Ayoob article referenced by Caleb in the quote above, he references a “forthcoming book” on the Newhall murders by Mike Wood, which did indeed come forth, in 2013. The book is called Newhall Shooting – A Tactical Analysis: Survival Lessons from One of Law Enforcement’s Deadliest Shootings, and despite the cringe-inducing “tactical” in the title, it’s a fantastic book — and germane to this discussion.

On pages 56 and 57 of that book there is an extensive footnote about the facts of Officer Pence’s brass (which he ejected onto the ground, it was not in his pocket) and some informed speculation about how the brass-in-pocket story got started: at the same time as many Newhall-driven changes in training, CHP also changed training to eject empties onto the ground, not to save them. Here’s a tiny excerpt of a very long footnote:

In the wake of Newhall, the CHP made an intensive study of training practices and made many corrections to ensure that bad habits that would jeopardize officer safety on the street were not taught during training. One of these corrections was a requirement to eject brass onto the ground during training and to clean it up later, rather than eject it neatly into the hand and drop it into a can or a bucket, as has been the practice before. It is believed that instructors and cadets of the era may have mistakenly believed that this change in policy was due to a specific error made by Officer Pence during the fight. The myth began, and it was innocently perpetuated throughout generations of officers in the CHP and allied agencies.

Wood’s book, like Jordan’s, is outstanding, but we can’t give you a link to a free one — you’ll have to buy it like we did.

Zombie Headshots with Jerry Miculek

It’s amazing, but we can’t even keep up with all the gun stuff that’s coming out. So in order to get a post up that doesn’t require a ton of writing, we’re going to fob off another Jerry Miculek video on you. In this one, Jerry tries to reenact some of the script-driven trick shooting of the AMC series, The Walking Dead — using the same weapons some of the actors in the show use.

We have to confess, we watched The Walking Dead’s first two — or three? — seasons. The first season was fairly engaging, for a zombie flick, but the second season – or was it the third? – left us cold. The season that turned us off, whichever one it was, was one characterized by the former leader Rick spending all his time brooding, sighing, and generally acting morose. He looked like some escaped Royal Hospital for Overacting patient, emoting lugubriously amid his teethmarks on the scenery. The leader of a band of survivors in desperate times does not have the freedom to go moping about like the unwanted turkey-baster baby of Alanis Morissette and Sylvia Plath in a world without antidepressant meds. Who really cares about that? Not us, anyway.

We’re a little bemused by the whole zombie thing. Our best guess is, in the same way that Japanese monster movies of the 1950s were a distortion of the fear of nuclear war, that couldn’t  really be addressed by filmmakers at the time, the zombies are a decent proxy for Moslem terrorists, who Hollywood PC renders unusable as screen villains. It’s OK to whack zombies: they’re already dead, after all.

But we’re always in for some good killin’, or re-killin’ as the case may be.

And Jerry addresses a question that every shooter has to ask himself — are those running headshots even possible? Even Jerry, it seems can make a mistake, but when the Zombie Apocalypse strikes, he seems like a pretty good guy to have in your redoubt. He hits the walkers with AUG w/EoTech, “backwards-rotating” Colt Python, Mossberg 12-gauge pump, a Cold Steel Katana, and, naturally, a Barnett Crossbow. Laughing, naturally. Does he hit ‘em? Watch and see. (some good high-speed video, too).

It’s good to have him walk through the stage after shooting it, and explain what was going on.

Is it repeatable under stress? I dunno. They wasn’t attacking me. I was attacking them.

The coolest detail of all comes at the end: Jerry’s got a new reality show, Shootout Lane, in the works.  2nd Coolest detail? If you use the discount code JERRY10, you can save 10% on Zombie Industries targets (the ones in his zombie stage).

Miculek.com, where the zombies are afraid of the humans – and that’s the way it should be.

(Hat tip: Guns Save Life. Thanks).

When Guns Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Satan

There are murders that are just the routine day-by-day slovenly lives of the ghetto. And there are murders that shock the conscience. And there are murders that make you wonder what the hell the Burger Court was thinking when they limited the application of the death penalty to people like these two pictured rotters who just. Need. Killing.

Algarad satanist and burch satanist

But let’s begin with a moment of silence for one of their victims, Josh Wetzler, and his mother, Martha, from WSOC-TV in Charlotte, NC:

Martha Wetzler… last spoke to her son in June 2009.
….soon after his disappearance…  police started looking into Pazuzu Algarad – a self-proclaimed Satanist.

Algarad’s home in Clemmons is painted with pentagrams, and his tongue is surgically forked.

Family members said he bragged about killing people and burying them in his backyard.

Boy howdy, is this guy sending all the signals of “I’m’a gonna get me SSDI for unemployability!” or what?

Neckbeard… check. Jobstopper tattoos and body mods… check. Phony-baloney name, “Pazuzu Algarad”… attention-whoring check. Bogus scary religion that says “look at me, I’m a unique and special snowflake”… check. Boasting about killing people, and boasting about where he buried them… freakin’ priceless.

Five years ago, police searched the backyard and found nothing.

Never underestimate the detective ability of PC Plod.

Recently, there was another murder investigation at the same home.

Meanwhile, five years of boasts about the deaders in the yard, so Plod comes back to look again.

This time, they found the remains of Joshua Wetzler and another man, Tommy Welch.
Algarad allegedly killed Wetzler, and Algarad’s wife, Amber Burch, allegedly killed Welch, according to arrest warrants.

Ah, so that’s where the body was… where the murderer said he left it! Imagine that. As Martha Wetzler notes, “They couldn’t have searched very well.”

Of course, imagine PC Plod finding poor Wetzler’s remains back in 2009. Algarad would be in Alcatraz (or the nearest thing NC has thereto) and Tommy Welch would not be any deader than the rest of us.

Algarad and Burch are each charged with one count of murder and one count of accessory after the fact to murder, police said.

Authorities believe the couple helped each other bury the bodies.

via Satanist and wife killed men, buried them in yard, police say | www.actionnewsjax.com.

Young romance, it’s so… special. How tragic that these two beauties will be confined in separate prisons.

Fortunately, the ACLU will help them get a Satanist chaplain (think we’re making that up?) and who knows, maybe they’ll be able to rack up a few more human sacrifices whilst they’re in the slammer.

Of course, don’t they need some test dummies for ebola treatments? What Would China Do?