Category Archives: Weapons Education

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: ArmsVault

gunvaultThey bill themselves as the “Gateway to Guns.”

Gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment, you’ve come to the right place! ArmsVault helps you find guns, gun information and gun dealers.
Browsing the ArmsVault gun site is like walking through a mall that was built for gun owners. Before you know it, hours have passed. BUT… before you are hit with a case of gun information overload, be sure to check out the ArmsVault Supporters. They are the ones who make it possible for us to continue bringing you great gun information.

via Gateway to Guns – ArmsVault.

Pretty heavy on the advertisements, which is understandable when you realize that Greg Summers started ArmsVault as a simple list of gun companies. It still has that, but has evolved into providing broader content. It is still primarily focused on what new stuff you can buy, and where you can buy it, so its appeal to the modern gun crowd is strong. It’s a good place to find a website or some information about something new you saw fleetingly but haven’t read the press release yet.

Unlike AmmoLand, once one of our go-to sites for press releases, ArmsVault doesn’t strip a press release of its original links, something which has come to irritate us with AmmoLand. On the other hand, sites like Guns.com and The Firearm Blog tend to have the press releases and much more original content, with a great deal of their content on historical firearms, not just today’s shiny baubles. Horses for courses, right?

One of the features we liked was the book reviews — a bit like one of our capsule reviews, but then the guy lists all the guns that were used in the book! He’s gotta read with a notepad or something. There’s probably a website in that, like the Internet Movie Firearms Database, but for books — IBFDB.org.

Product reviews are also interesting (all reviews are grouped together under a “Reviews” item in a pop-up menu). Like a lot of gun blogs, he seems to reviews freebies he gets sent (permanently or as loaners), which is not the way we do it, but then, we hardly ever publish a review, and their way of doing it is just as honest as ours, since they disclose the source of their review stuff.

We particularly liked a Starlight rifle-case review in which the author describes the process of cutting foam to match his own gun and accessories — including plenty of warnings and advice so that you might do yours better than he did his, and not make the mistakes he made. That kind of humility is rare on the net. You can tell the author wishes his readers well.

So this isn’t an epic W4. It isn’t one of the troves of historical documents we like to find, or some repository of arcane knowledge. It’s just a steady source of what’s-new, run by a guy who gives a damn.  And some Wednesdays, that’s really all we need.

Two views of the M4 can’t both be true

One is expressed by Tom Kratman, a science fiction author who uses an appeal to authority based on his service as some kind of support guy attached to 5th Group as an enlisted dude, and more credibly his time as an 11A (that’s an infantry officer for those of you whose brains remain undamaged by the Army encoding Tom and we have undergone). Tom retired as an infantry LTC and served as an infantry officer in combat, and you can assume he’s well experienced in the capabilities and employment of standard US weapons for the last 20+ years.

Worked for us.

Tom doesn’t like it, but it worked for us.

Tom thinks the M4 sucks like an Electrolux. That’s our paraphrase of the blog posts suspended by these click-bait headlines at some Gawker-looking lowbrow site1:

America’s Soldiers Deserve a Better Rifle

Are U.S. Soldiers Dying From Inadequate Weapons?

Go read them and see if he makes his case.

The other is expressed by firearms expert and TFB writer Nathaniel Finch, who writes in his own blog a careful and thoughtful rebuttal to Tom’s over-the-top position. In fact, he has written very nearly the article we would write, and thought about writing, when we saw Tom’s first article. Only better and more soberly. (We actually didn’t know about the second Kratman article until seeing it linked at Nate’s place).

Are U.S. Soldiers Dying From Inadequate Weapons? No.

We note that Nathaniel’s article gets a rather snippy comment from Tom, correcting him on fine points of Tom’s military service (which Nathaniel is only mistaken about because Tom has not been crystal clear to a non-Army person in his own description. In Tom’s defense it is extremely hard to encapsulate a 20- or 30-year military career in a form civilians will read and understand, let alone in the length you get in a typical online bio: one line).  And then Tom incorrectly refers to “Bennings claim that no improvement in rifles is possible,” in reference to tests that actually concluded that the particular weapons it was testing, at that time, did not offer enough improvement to justify the expense (and, don’t forget, risk) of changing weapons.

Tom knows how to a construct an argument, but he really doesn’t, he just says, I got this:

CIB Combat Infantryman Badge

Well, so do we, but that doesn’t mean we have to take long showers together.

Nathaniel responds rationally to the comment.

And then he gets a comment by some internet commando who asserts that various friendly Armies have taken the great leap forward to 1950s vintage 7.62 rifles (he’s probably misunderstanding the same nations’ adoption of limited numbers of designated marksman rifles) and that the US needs to go to the SCAR-H. As a retired member of one of the formations that received the SCARs early and used them in intensive training and combat (after my retirement!), the word I get is that it’s pretty good and the guys like it, for specific purposes (notably CQB with the short barrel). But it’s not a great leap forward over an M4. For some purposes, it’s great, but the idea of buying a million plus of them to reequip the Joes is silly… it’s a lot of money spent on a negligible improvement in capability.

(And that’s our experience. The Ragnars hated ‘em, although, we’ve heard that some old SGMs gave them to the young bucks with the instruction, “See if you can break these things.” Boy, that’s a lucky break not every private in the Regiment gets. Of course they broke them).

Right now, the M4 can hit beyond the range its average operators can, and giving them a caliber with more range isn’t going to whack any more bad guys. Some improvements in terminal ballistics would be nice. Some improvements in reliability? Any engineer will tell you that as long as initial design was not inept, getting from 90% to 98% is a slam dunk, 98 to 99.9% is a bunch of hard work, and every 9 you add to the right of the decimal point after that is going to cost you orders of magnitude more blood, sweat, tears and toil. Diminishing returns not only pounce on you, they maul you with fang and claw and leave you drained of your precious lifeblood — that is, money.

None of the would-be M4 replacements were significantly more reliable (despite internet bloviation on the subject, caused by release of an apples-v-oranges comparison). The things people are attracted to, like 7.62 NATO or a short-stroke gas system, do not meaningfully improve the weapon (except marginally in terminal ballistics). More effect would be had by going to an improved projectile and be damned to the Staff Judge Advocate — he’s enemy-forces anyway.

Until they invent the death ray or photon torpedoes or something, we’re going to be launching metallic projectiles using energy stored in solid chemicals and released by a combustion or maybe deflagration process. Yes, they can be improved, but we’re into that flattening asymptotic line… diminishing returns.

Now, on the gripping hand, some of Tom’s military science fiction is very good. He had a moving novel (or is it a novelette?) recently about the memories of a damaged and outdated sentient tank of the future as she undergoes the process of assessment and reutilization. That had a whiff of Heinlein and more than a whiff of Philip K. Dick to it, and was well worth the pittance Kindle charged for it, and the rather more-precious time expended reading it, so we’ll keep enjoying the science fiction end of Tom Kratman’s writing career, and keep reading his military weapons opinions skeptically.

Notes:

1. Gawker-looking? Well, these are the links suggested to us at the top of Tom Kratman’s author page on that site today (in fairness, these are not Tom’s own submissions, all of which have more sober military subject matter and graphics. But they illustrate the advertising-eyeballs nature of the site):

Screenshot 2014-11-18 08.13.00‘Cause nothing says military professionalism like bimbo clickbait. Really, who’s the sideboob here?

 

What’s New in 3D-Printed Guns & Enabling Tech

From time to time we take a look at developments including technologies as well as designs, to see if this field is progressing as rapidly as everyone originally expected it to. Today, we’ll put up the data and let you be the judge of progress.

First, New Tech in Additively-Manufactured Guns

And we have a couple of those to begin with: one all additive but the springs and grips, and one a hybrid of additive and subtractive (lathe turning) technology.

Radically Customized Stainless 1911

As everyone has read here before, Solid Concepts of Texas built a proof-of-concept .45 of stainless steel, another of exotic Inconel, and then a short production run of historic (and priced accordingly: $12,000!) printed pistols.

Solid has to tread lightly these days, having been acquired mid-2014 by the militantly anti-gun lefties of Stratasys, whose diet of “that enchanted stem, laden with flower and fruit” has cause these hermits of Eden Prairie to believe that wishful thinking, and banishment of deodands, can erase evil from the world1. But the guy who headed up Solid’s pistol projects, VP Eric Mutchler, built himself a fully-customized 1911 that he calls The Reason (as in, “Who dares argue with Reason?,” or maybe along the lines of Bourbon cannon labeled in relief, “Ultima Ratio Regum“).

the_reason_3dp_solid-concepts

We found the story when Reason Magazine (no relation) ran the story on 27 October:

It was made by him and for him, merely as his personal example of how interestingly personalized 3D printing allows metal weapons to be. (Solid Concepts, now owned by a bigger, and publicly held, 3D printing interest Stratasys, is trying to avoid being too connected with the weapons field these days.)

The weapon was made mostly out of stainless steel with store-bought grips, using an EOS M280 3D printer. It chambers 10mm ammo and features the word “Reason” printed in the slide, and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence on the front of the grip.

Some other details actually ran the day before in 3D Print.com, which is where we found the picture of the gun (we think it came from Mutchler himself). Frankly, we wouldn’t have customized a 1911 that way. We’d have customized it completely differently. Which is one of the incompletely-exploited gifts of 3D printing — the age of mass personalization. We think it would be a gas to build one in Titanium. We don’t have an EOS gathering dust in the lab, though.

Machined-steel Cartridges Extend Utility of Plastic Gun

There are several conceptual approaches to the limits of consumer 3D-printing plastics in firearms applications. You can accept the limitations of a short-lived, low-rigidity firearm. You can print the gun in metal, like the Reason above. You can seek better 3DP materials than legacy plastics like ABS and PLA. (We’re getting a demo of a printer from 3D Systems next week, that prints nylon for much more structural parts than ABS or PLA. Nylon enables a lot of things).

And then, you can hybridize a 3D-printed gun to use a metallic (or carbon fiber, perhaps) insert of some kind. There’s a new design that’s conceptually similar to Cody Wilson’s original Liberator, but that uses heavy-duty steel cartridge cases to contain a lot of the energy of firing. Brass cartridge cases remain popular a century and a half after their initial adoption because of their excellent obturation, but neither they nor any of the alternative materials provides any strength; that comes from the barrel and breech or cylinder. A cartridge that provided strength as well as containment and obturation would be wastefully heavy, but ought to work in a flimsy gun.

Michael Crumling is a machinist who has developed such a product, which he calls the .314 Atlas. This has produced a lot of hyperventilating in the so-called tech media like Wired and The Register, which amusingly insults Wired with supercilious British contempt for gun-happy colonials like ourselves, while writing a similarly shallow article that does at least note that: “Crumling makes them using a lathe — a machine tool.”

The author of the Register piece, Lewis Page, contends that he’s a great expert on firearms because he spent eleven years in the Royal Navy, during much of which he had to qualify on individual weapons. We’re so impressed. (Of course, that means he probably does edge out the Wired guy on hands-on experience). If we ever need an expert opinion on rum, sodomy, or the lash, we know where to turn.

Crumling’s own blog, Mike’s Custom Weaponry, is worth a read. He has not released the design files for his Liberator-based pistol that he uses with the .314 Atlas. He’s keenly aware that this is not a complete weapon equivalent to manufactured firearms (which kind of takes the air out of Wired’s and Mashable’s freak-outs, and Page’s attempt to be the veritable Nelson of battles against strawmen). You may want to check his post on the .314 Atlas. It’s named, by the way, after his vintage lathe, which like any true machinist he builds parts for himself.

Future metal printing technologies

As we have pointed out over and over and over again (damn. Dave Clark Five earworm), the immense investment in physical plant and where’s-the-hydropower-dam electrical demands of the SLS and DMLS technologies used on prototype firearms today, won’t be state of the art forever. Since a lot of the key technology involved in repeatably positioning a print head in three dimensions is already mature and commoditized, it’s only a matter of time before metals printing is in hobbyist hands.

Indeed, a Michigan Tech team demonstrated 3D metal printing with a welder-based printer two years ago. And now there are at least two different new startups promising to bring low-cost (relatively) printing to the shop or office, and more new technologies appearing the the academic literature.

New Startups — Aurora Labs and Weld3D

Aurora Labs, based in beautiful Perth, Australia, hit with a splash in September, and then sank with a bubble in October. The company claims it has new SLS-like technology, which it refuses to detail, that allows it to sell for $AUD 4,000-8,000 the capabilities that 3DS sells for hundreds of thousands. It launched a Kickstarter campaign on 23 September 14, which met the company’s goals of $100k AUD in three days and soared to over $300k in a couple of weeks — before being yanked 9 October 2014. The company’s head, David Budge, told StartupSmart (an Australian tech publication):

They essentially wanted us to give them and everyone else a tour of every inner working of our machine. After various discussions back and forth it just wasn’t enough. I understand they have to protect their position and model… but I decided to pull the site down.

Reading between the lines, it sounds as if Kickstarter shut him down.  The Aurora website is currently in chaos, with warnings not to use the ordering software and promises of the site being up by various dates, the latest of which appears to be 5 November 2014. If the company really has the revolutionary technology, and ability to deliver product, that they have promised, they’re a game changer. But so far, all they’ve shown is press releases, claims, and two small photos, one showing a pyramid of supposedly printed material 4mm high, and one showing a simple, flat part.

In the StartupSmart article, intellectual property attorney Brian Goldberg explains that they might be best advised not to disclose their innovations, “if there’s no [intellectual property protections] in place. … [J]ust to publicly disclose it hoping that no one will copy it … is a high risk.”

If and when Aurora rises from its present hibernation, you’ll probably see it in their Facebook timeline or Twitter feed first.

On the other hand, Weld3D produces steel parts with a crude surface finish, but can make geometries impossible (or, at least, extremely difficult) with traditional, subtractive manufacturing. The company is simply a couple of engineers in Huntsville, Alabama, working to commercialize what appears to be the arc-welding-deposition process pioneered by Michigan Tech. They’re not selling anything at present, but they’re gaining know-how that has great potential. Here’s their machine in action:

Weld3D_process

Looks like a welder to us, but it’s not joining metals, it’s building up a shape from the bead. 

And here’s an example of a roughly-finished, but solidly-welded, part with a radical geometry:

Weld3D_complexity_and_finish

How would you make that on a milling machine? Beats us with a stick.

A number of Weld3D’s demo parts appear to be bare-bones de Laval rocket nozzles. Makes sense, in Huntsville. Post-manufacture machining can bring the surface finish into tolerances. This part is a nozzle, machined on the outside. (Other pictures show that it is still rough on the inside).

Weld3D_finish_machined

We, of course, wish both these startups all success, and we think they each show a dimension of the shape of the wave of the future. Weld3D shows that two guys in a garage, standing on the shoulders of academic experimentation, can make something new that has not been made or even imagined before. And Aurora Labs shows that there’s a lot of money out there seeking startups in this field. 

We leave the utility of these technologies for firearms development to the reader’s imagination.

Entirely New Technologies: SIS, ?, and Multi-Jet Fusion

So, with so many smart minds working on the problem of building up things in three dimensions, there are more developments than you can easily keep up with. Liebert Publications publishes a journal called 3-D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, edited by 3-D expert Hod Lipson, PhD (professor at Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering). You must register for ongoing access, but the individual articles linked here should be accessible for about 3 weeks.

New Tech 1: Selective Inhibition Sintering

Selective Inhibition Sintering is a new approach to laser sintering that offers potential for what its inventors call “consumer metal additive manufacturing”. Here’s the paper from 3DP v. 1 No. 3. In this process, rather than apply a sintering enabler (the laser) to the part of a bed of raw powder intended to be sintered, this process applies a sintering inhibitor outlining the perimeter of the intended part.  This requires a different slicing algorithm than traditional 3D slicers. (Disregard figure numbers, they’re from the paper).

3dp_sis_fig_2

Then, the whole metal unit is sintered, but the inhibitor ensures that the part can be broken out of the extraneous material (this obviously does impose a recycling burden, but the much lower cost of a sintering furnace versus an industrial sintering laser produces enormous overall savings).

3dp_sis_fig_1

 

Using a bronze alloy material, the experimenters, Torabi, Petros and Borshnevis from the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT) laboratories2 at the University of Southern California, successfully produced parts, including a crescent wrench and an impossible-by-subtractive-methods Möbius Strip. That was the good news:

[A] consumer metal AM machine was prototyped and its capabilities were demonstrated in the successful fabrication of metallic parts. The SIS-metal process has proven adaptable for use in a consumer-level machine by way of an inkjet printhead.

So, proof of concept is successful. Now for the bad news: the .stl files need editing, the software and hardware remains prototypic, experimental, and problematic, and so far, dimensional tolerance is so-so and surface finish bad. And there may or may not be shrinkage problems: too early to tell.

While the proof of concept for a high- resolution and affordable metal alloy 3D printer has been established, there is much room for improvement. Software and hardware upgrades are necessary to improve the robustness of the process. In addition, part strength and porosity have not been characterized for the finished bronze parts. Shrinkage and surface quality of parts may be improved upon as well. It is currently unknown if the intradirectional shrinkage percentage is linear with respect to part length in a given direction. More research will be conducted on variation in interdirectional shrinkage (X vs. Y vs. Z) as well. Lastly, overpenetration of liquid inhibitor results in surface defects in up- facing surfaces of the sample parts. A fine-tuning of inhibitor deposition is planned to avoid these defects.

New Tech2: Laser Solid Forming

From the same edition of 3D Printing, we learn of this highly-developed Chinese technique. Starting in 1979, the United Technologies Research Center of the State  of the Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xian, China, has been working to develop an energy-beam material-deposition technology for prototyping, manufacturing,  and repair. Their objective, which they claim to have partially reached, was to make an additive manufacturing technology that can produce Titanium alloy, steel alloys, and superalloy parts with mechanical properties equal to or superior to wrought and even forged alloys. It is unclear whether what they describe is identical to extant western methods like SLS or DMLS, or is entirely new Chinese know-how.

3dp_lsf_dual-alloyThis is obviously not going to be a desktop technology, but the Chinese have employed it with imagination, as in this hybrid additive/cast engine casing using two separate Inconel alloys:

The additive manufacturing characteristics make it easy to combine LSF technology with the conventional processing technology, such as casting, forging, and machining. Figure 10 shows In718/In961 dual-alloy casing of an aero engine by hybrid manufacturing with LSF and casting. The main body of the In961 alloy of the casing is made by casting, and the complex parts of the In718 alloy in the casing are built by LSF.

They have also put this technology to work doing high-value, high-precision repairs on Inconel and titanium parts. They’re not perfect yet, but:

For repairing by LSF, the mechanical properties of the repaired zone can be matched with the main body to achieve high-performance repairing through the composition and microstructure control of the repaired zone with a synchronous material feeding technique.

Prediction: sometime in the 21st Century it will be practical for an arsenal, or even a gunsmith or restoration shop, to fix pitted barrels and other steel parts as good as new. You read it here first. 

The Chinese paper is both delightful and frustrating: delightful because it describes in detail what Weidong Huang and Xin Lin and their colleagues have done, but frustrating in that there is little detail on how they do it. That was, however, beyond the scope of their article, and the answers may line in the many references Huang and Lin cite.

 

New Tech 3: A Nonmetallic Technology to Watch

HP is planning to introduce a new plastics printing technology, Multi-Jet Fusion, which uses a bed of materials, much like laser sintering, but then applies chemical fusing and “detailing” (which seems to mean “inhibiting”) agents to define the shape of the printed part, and then fuses the part with energy, generally laser-delivered.

HP_MultiJetFusionThese printers are years from the market, but they offer two very interesting potential capabilities: very high precision and parts with variable properties in different parts of the part. (Now, any machinist who ever heat-treated one end of a tool is thinking, “I do that all the time,” which is true). One wonders if the unfused material is as easily recovered in this process as it is in laser sintering. Most of the hype around HP MJF seems to focus on its ability to make parts of multiple colors, but we think multiple hardnesses and flexibilities are the real long-term winner of this technology. Time will tell.

Notes

1. The Direct Metal Laser Sintering used by Solid Concepts to print guns of stainless steel and Inconel is not a Stratasys technology; DMLS was developed by EOS of Munich, Germany, and Stratasys’s own technology is restricted to plastics. Indeed, Stratasys may have acquired Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies not only as going businesses, but also to get eyes on competitors’ technologies that those two service bureaux own and use.

2. The URL for the CRAFT lab in the paper itself is wrong (yes,the guy’s own link to his own lab 404s). The correct link is this: http://www.craft-usc.com. CRAFT has been working on SIS for at least 10 years, and has demonstrating printing of ceramics with this technology already.

How to Deal with Pool Guns — for the Border Patrol

The Border Patrol has been “effectively disarmed” of its M4 carbines by its political leaders. But there’s a solution to the M4 problem.

M4_standard_accessories_delivered

But first, the problem. According to CBP leaders via Fox, it is this:

Nearly one-third of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s 16,300 M4 carbine rifles were tested by the agency’s office of training and development, which determined that more than 2,000 had the potential for malfunction. The rate of nearly 40 percent was “more than we are comfortable with,” said CBP Deputy Chief Ron Vitiello.

Is one of the problems the sheer innumeracy of Ron Vitiello? Let’s do arithmetic! To determine what percentage X is of Y, divide X by Y. So, 2000/16400 = 0.1919512… (etc). That’s about 19.2%, not 40%. Unless you’re Ron Vitiello. To put in numbers a CBP senior manager can understand, about 1 in 5 of the rifles has “the potential” for malfunction.

Dunno how to break it to you, Border Patrol. You have to plan and train as if 100% of the M4s in your hands have the potential for malfunction… because they do. Even if the gun is perfect, the ammo was made by the lowest bidder. And it would be just your luck to draw down on Carlos Cartelito just when the round under your firing pin was made one minute before quitting time on the Friday before spring break.

If there’s some proof you have a bunch of guns with a problem — CBP has never said what the problem is — it might make sense to pull some of the guns. To pull them all because one in five may have a problem is just stupid.

“Our top priority is to make sure our agents are safe,” said Vitiello, adding that the agency intends to eventually cycle through all of the rifles to ensure that those in need of repair are fixed. “They will be like new when they are refurbished.”

Again, without knowing what the problem is… out of spec parts? Unstaked carrier key? Skipped mag-release tests? Lack of metallurgical documentation on some parts batch? Without knowing that, it’s screwy and wasteful to reflexively overhaul guns when it’s likely 4 out of 5 do not need it. An M4 can last for many decades on the light duty cycle of a CBP service carbine. Ask the guys who run shooting schools and provide loaner guns how much maintenance a quality M4 really needs.

But in the meantime, Border Patrol agents are dubious about the department’s claims, given that the guns’ manufacturer, Colt, has not issued a recall. And they are vehemently opposed to “pool guns” — weapons shared by two or more agents.

“We’d like to know why the rifles were recalled and when they will be returned,” Shawn Moran, spokesman for National Border Patrol Council, the union which represents agents, told FoxNews.com. “Our agency is trying to figure out why they were pulled.”

Note that Vitielly has not answered that question, not to the media nor to the NBPC, and he may not know himself.

Moran said there is potential danger for agents relying on rifles shared with others, noting the importance of personalizing settings and having a general familiarity with a personal weapon.

“You don’t want a weapon that is zeroed in to someone else,” he said. “You don’t share guns and you don’t share needles because both could end with people dying.

It appears that they are pulling about half the carbines at a time from each Border Patrol sector, sending them to a central armorer shop that then takes its own sweet time inspecting and reissuing the guns. They don’t necessarily go back to the same sectors (let alone the same agents) that they were with before, and no information is provided to end users about what repairs or mods, if any, are made to any specific firearm.

Now, the NBPC can squawk about this if they like. But it’s not like the management is going to suddenly start giving a stool about the desires of the rank-and-file agents. So here’s a little checklist from a guy who’s built a gun or two, and inspected a vast quantity (the civilized way of saying a Whole $#!+load) of them.

How To Deal with Pool Guns (When You Must)

  1. First, stop bitching. You’re not going to change DC’s policy; no matter how retarded Nebraska Avenue gets, they’re still in charge. So work to minimize their damage to your operations and reduce the risk bad leadership at higher level has imposed on your agents.
  2. Don’t have armorers do these things. You, as leader, do these things.  In a few minutes you’ll be putting toe tags on your guns. These tags should have your name clearly legible, and the date of inspection or test: that tells your guys and gals you are standing behind their firearms. This builds confidence in the rifle — and in you.
  3. Function check the weapons you have. Dummy rounds should cycle. Mags should drop free (empty or loaded!) and it should be impossible to shake them free (empty or loaded!) no matter how vigorously you try. Triggers should reset and fire on Fire. Nothing should happen on Safe. You can find a function check in the GI M4 manual, or on YouTube if you’re dyslexic. Toe tag the weapon: Function Test. 15 Nov 2014. PASS. John Doe, SSA (or whatever).
  4. Range test the weapons you have. A mag each is fine. As we understand it, CBP’s carbines are not select fire, but if they are, test safe, semi, and burst or auto settings. Add the following to the toe-tag on the weapon: Live-FIre Test. 15 Nov 2014. PASS. John Doe, SSA (or whatever). If a gun fails, downcheck it and turn it in. It’s better to know you’re a gun short than to be a gun short and not know it.
  5. Install an Aimpoint Red Dot optic on each firearm. Why?
    1. A red-dot zero is far more transferable from one agent to another than an iron-sight or cross-hair scope video;
    2. A red-dot sight is simple and instinctive, reducing training time;
    3. A red-dot sight is perfect for 99th-percentile Law Enforcement engagement distances;
    4. A red-dot sight’s battery will last a full year between inspections easily; and
    5. Aimpoint brand holds up on quality and durability scores, and it’s already approved and in the system. (Get an NVG compatible version if you have or are likely to get NODs. If no NODs are in your future, don’t waste Uncle’s money).
  6. Have your best marksmen zero the M4s with the Aimpoints. An individual zero is not a big factor here, contrary to range-god shibboleths. This is a service rifle, not a talisman to Aton the Sun Disk (may he smile upon your X-Ring always, but let’s keep Him out of rifle maintenance), and we just got through telling you the red dot is transferable. Add the following to the toe-tag on the weapon: Zeroed Point-Blank 100m (or whatever). 15 Nov 2014. Jane Roe, Special Agent (or whoever your best shot is).

Now, you still only have half the long guns you need for your agents to be comfortable facing the cartel sicarios or other long-gun-armed malefactors. And when you get the other half back is  entirely out of your control, but depends on some payroll patriots somewhere else who don’t answer to you. But you have done everything you could to arm your agents, demonstrated you give a rat’s rump about them, and cut off a potential morale problem a-borning.

Now it’s time for the pep talk. Tell them what you did and what they can expect. Make sure they understand that they are now better armed that the cartel enforcers with weapons that are proven reliable and that will put a bullet where the red dot is. They’ll still complain, but fixing that is beyond the scope of this blog.

One last comment:

Jeff Prather, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent who now runs the Warrior School…. [and] who used the M4 throughout his law-enforcement career, said the weapon is “very robust” and that any issues found in the Border Patrol inspections are likely simple fixes.

“All you need to do is pull out the old firing pin and put in the new one and the rifle is ready to go,” he said.

Vitiello said that may be the case, but the work must be done by a specialist.

“It may be easy to replace a firing pin, but these are things that should be done by a professional,” he said.

Horsefeathers. Don’t be too awed by armorers; they’re simple gun plumbers. An M4 is not a Saturn V Moon Booster. Most every manufacturer1 certifies armorers in two days or less of training, and the benefit of experience is an asymptote: returns for more training and experience start diminishing almost immediately.

via Border Patrol agents say agency’s gun recall puts them in danger | Fox News.

Notes

1. For example, Colt’s LE Armorer course is three training days and 23.5 training hours, but covers multiple rifles and carbines. Bushmaster, two days and 15 hours; Sig-Sauer, 1 day; and we could cite many others if the post weren’t already late!

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week – Think Defence

think_defence_screenshotThe spelling “Defence” gives the game away — we’re talking about British defense issues here. Here’s what Think Defence says about itself:

Think Defence is a blog that covers UK (mostly) defence issues; images, videos, news items and in depth studies. It is not a campaign site and is funded wholly from donations and Google advert revenue, the objective is a simple one, to get people talking about UK defence and security.

Blog posts are short. Journal posts more detailed and sometimes part of a multi part series. Open threads are freeform discussion posts, one per month. The subject space contains consolidated multi part series posts and information centred on a single theme.

Come and join the discussion…

via Home – Think Defence.

We discovered it because the blogger there has commented here. Usually, we’ll take a look at a commenter’s home site. (Pro tip: if it could be mistaken for Stormfront you will not be a commenter here for long). Most of the time we find one more cool blog we’re not going to have the time to read every day, unfortunately.

Think Defence is in a somewhat different category. It covers the whole panoply of British defence issues — deployments, naval, air, ground forces and SOF, procurement and doctrine. Britain is a small country that for most of her history has fought like a much, much bigger place, and that provided the USA with its founding and many of its traditions that we think of as home-grown. (Rogers’s Rangers, for instance, was a British unit, and in the later Revolution Richard Rogers raised Rangers for King George III against the rebellious Colonials). Britain has been a key ally, and one of the few NATO countries that spends enough for its general purpose forces to be fully interoperable with the others, at the highest level of potential performance.

There’s always something worth reading, well presented, over there. So, if you want to know what’s going on where the Union Jack flies, well, Think Defence.

Weapons Term that Stumped Us: “Pronock”?

We don’t often run into a word referring to weapons that’s completely unfamiliar to us. Even more rarely, we can’t even track the word down. That’s what happened to us in reviewing a 1952 document by the Operations Research Office, a now-defunct FFRDC1 operated by the US Army at the time.

Even generals got in on the tank killing. Of course, this one wound up a POW, out doing a corporal's job with a bazooka.

Even generals got in on the tank killing. Of course, this one wound up a POW, out doing a corporal’s job with a bazooka.

The document reviews the performance of US tanks and tank units in the first year of the Korean War. It was originally classified as SECRET, and the second of two volumes does not seem to have survived. The lost (?) second volume comprised Appendix K to the fundamental document: surveys of some 239 North Korean T-34 tanks examined by American ordnance experts. Fortunately, some conclusions from those surveys made it into the first volume.

But the original document is full of fascinating insights. One of them was that napalm was hugely successful against Nork T-34/85s, and was potentially a threat to American tanks. Napalm is mentioned nearly 60 times in the 308-page report. The mechanism of destruction wasn’t completely certain, but it appeared to be that the nape set the tanks’ solid rubber road wheels on fire, and the burning wheels got hot enough to cook off the rounds in the tanks’ sponsons. FOOM! End of tank, or as tankers say now, “catastrophic loss.” In 1952, the term was “loss, unrecoverable.” That described the situation where the burnt-out hull was here, the insinerated turret was there, and both of them had small, carbonized cinders of what had been the crewmen.

Unknown what killed this tank, but napalm is a possibility. It appears to be buttoned up, but still burning. Tough luck for the Norks inside.

Unknown what killed this tank, but napalm is a possibility. It appears to be buttoned up, but still burning. Tough luck for the Norks inside.

On the basis of limited evidence, air attack accounted for 40 percent of all enemy tank losses in Korea, and 60 percent of all enemy tank losses caused by UN weapons.

On the basis of limited evidence, napalm was the most effective antitank air weapon thus far used in Korea. (p.2).

The difference between all enemy tank losses, and enemy tank losses caused by UN weapons is presumably the same thing that caused a lot of US/UN losses: mechanical failure. A table on p. 36 bears this out, and is discussed on p. 35:

On the basis of this record, the greatest single cause of loss in NK T34’s would seem to be UN air attack, which accounted for 102 out of 239, or about 43 percent of the total losses.

Napalm appears to be the most effective weapon of all, accounting for 60, or about 23 percent of the total count. Abandonments, in most instances without any visible evidence of cause, accounted for 59, almost another 25 percent of the total count. Tank fire was the third largest single cause, knocking out 39 tanks, or about 16 percent. (p. 35).

This led to a discussion of napalm’s effects:

Napalm as a weapon to defeat armor must be given rather special consideration. It is essentially a weapon of an accidental nature. With the possible exception of the relatively rare occurrence of a direct hit, napalm does not of itself destroy or seriously damage a tank. However, it is fully capable of starting a chain of events which may bring about the loss of the vehicle. A napalm bomb, if a hit is registered sufficiently close to the tank, will splash its burning fluid on the tank. Because of the fire, the crew may suffer burns or be induced to abandon the tank. However from the prisoner of war interrogations it appears that tank crews usually had sufficient time to get clear before the fire had spread (see Appendix D). However, the abandonment of the tank ultimately led to its destruction, for the napalm from the first or successive strikes had sufficient time to ignite the rubber on the road wheels, heat the ammunition to the point of detonation, and set fire to the fuel. Any or all of these factors brought about the loss of the tank. (p. 37).

Amplified, and considered in terms of US tanks in this partly redundant passage:

From a general examination of US tanks, the Air Force Operations Analysis tests of napalm against T34 tanks (FEAF Operationr Analysis Office Memo No. 27, prepared jointly with Deputy for Operational Engineering, FEAF, 30 October 1950) and the ORO tank survey (see Appendix K), it is belleved that napalm- caused tank fires are essentially “accidental” in nature, i.e.,
the napalm itself does not have enough energy to set ammunition or fuel afire by bating a tank, but it does have enough effect to set afire rubber bogie wheels , which In turn can fire the tank bilge or amnunition and thus kill the tank. Also, napalm entering through the air intake of a tank can set the bilge afire, again firing ammunition and killing the tank. It appears that both of these “accidents” can be eliminated by minor tank redesign or by fire extinguishing techniques. (p. 59).

Not clear what killed these tanks, but our guess is that the Nork crewman in the foreground suffered a terminal case of amall-arms projectile sickness.

Not clear what killed these tanks, but our guess is that the Nork crewman in the foreground suffered a terminal case of amall-arms projectile sickness.

The USSR may conclude on the basis of the Korean campaign that napalm is a very effective antitank weapon. This possible conclusion can be vitiated by minor redesign of US tanks to reduce effectiveness of “accidental” fires. In future attack on Soviet-manufactured tanks, napalm may remain effective, but the types of fluid filler–such as “G” agents, chlorine trifluoride, or pronock — in improved napalm-type tanks may be even more effective. (p. 60).

There’s the word “pronock.” What is it?

But first, let’s continue our digression into the Korean War tank effectiveness report. The unexpected effects of nape on tanks got the ORO thinking. Some of the thoughts probably explain why the report was classified so highly in the first place:

On the basis of the burning of the rubber on tank road wheels with napalm, resulting in the destruction of the tank, tanks appear vulnerable to 40-kt atomic-weapons attack up to a distance of 2,500 yards on a clear day, and 2,000 yards on a hazy day. (p.3).

Er… yeah. T-34s were vulnerable to destruction by nuking. We’ll accept that.

Original caption: Napalm Bomb Victims.  Mute testimony of accuracy of close support missions flown by Fifth Air Force fighters are these Red Korean tanks, blasted out of the path of advancing 24th Infantry Division units near Waegwan, Korea. AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM#:  77799 AC

Original caption: Napalm Bomb Victims. Mute testimony of accuracy of close support missions flown by Fifth Air Force fighters are these Red Korean tanks, blasted out of the path of advancing 24th Infantry Division units near Waegwan, Korea.
AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM#: 77799 AC

And then there was a list of things that the US ought to develop, based on combat experience with tanks in Korea:

Support a vigorous and expanded research and development program to provide a balanced family of antitank weapons without, however, either overemphasizing or neglecting the role of heavy gun tanks such aa the US T43. This program should emphasize:

a. Development of an effective long-range antitank gun for use by the infantry. This gun should be capable of being moved over rough and unfavorable terrain, preferably in a light, highly mobile vehicle.

That, of course, is the paragraph that gave birth (by a circuitous route, it’s true) to the US M40 106mm recoilless rifle. The M40’s immediate ancestor, the M27, would be rushed to Korea and tested in combat.

b. Development of a family of lethal, influence-fused antitank mines s with sterilizing and arming devices, suitable for remining by rockets, artillery, and air.

Simultaneous development of corresponding mine-detection &vclearing devices.

That stands to reason.

d. Research and development on new types, of air and ground munitions utilizing liquid fillers, such as napalm, chlorine trifluoride, pronock, and G-agents.

That’s the strange use of the strange word, “pronock.” What is it? Napalm is well known. G-agents are nerve agents originally developed by the Germans: Tabun, Soman, Sarin, and Cyclosarin, known in the US/NATO coding system as GA, GD, GB and GF respectively.

Chlorine trifluoride is less well-known, but was a remarkable German “twofer” that produced both incendiary and toxic effects, and that was produced by the Third Reich’s chemical-warfare directorate as “N-stoff” or “Substance N.” The incendiary effect of ClF3 is pretty remarkable — it’s hypergolic not only with normal fuels, but also with water. And it can set asbestos on fire. It does bad things to human beings. It’s never actually been used in warfare (or in most other applications) because containing and handling it is a challenge; Rocketdyne once developed rocket engines that used this stuff as oxydizer with Hydrazine Hydrate as fuel. Hydrazine (N2H4), another Nazi product (as the fuel in the mixture “C-stoff”) used in the V1 and Me163, still has some uses (in the ACES ejection seat, IIRC), but is itself among the nastier things in the hazmat catalogue.

For completeness’s sake, the last of the list of recommendations:

e. Continued development of special amunition, such as shaped-charge and squash-head ammunition, together with improved bazookas and recoilless rifles.

But what in the name of science is “pronock?” It clearly is something that can be used as a tank filler, like napalm, like chlorine trifluoride, like the G-agents. And something that, like those substances, one would rather not have fall on him. Beyond that, we’re stumped. Google was not our friend, either.

Update

Looking for some photos of tank kills definitely attributed to napalm, we found this period article on napalm in Korea which depicts — unfortunately, in a very horribly reproduced half-tone — one of the tests of napalm on a captured T-34. It also describes the thickened gasoline’s composition, and effects on the enemy:

Red tankmen weren’t afraid of diving planes at first, their tough armor would repel 20 mm fire, it was hard to hit the maneuvering tank with rockets, and bombs had to be right on to kill a tank. Napalm was another story. Pilots drop the fire bombs short from low altitude, let it skip to the target. Accuracy is not at a premium. The napalm bomb will cover a pear-shaped area 275 feet long and 80 feet wide. A solid sheet of 1500° fire envelops everything , Killing personnel, exploding ammunition. It is not a flash fire like gasoline alone would be but clings and burns and burns.

… As fast as the Reds moved in tanks to stop the retreat, napalm was dropped on them. They ran out of tanks and weight of phases of the war have seen far fewer communist tanks in action.

The article noted two indirect effects of napalm on the enemy: tanks would be found with the crews inside, unmarked but dead of suffocation, the napalm fires having stolen the very oxygen from the air they breathed. And the psychological effects of the weapon induced many surrenders.

Notes

1. FFRDC: Federally Funded Research and Developmant Corporation. The most famous are probably RAND, which was sponsored by the USAF. The ORO was an Army/Johns Hopkins lashup, that the Army grew tired of and pulled the plug on in the 1960s.

The Walther PPK/S: Gun Built by Ban

It’s no secret that we are big fans of the Walther PPK. This pocket pistol, introduced in 1931, was a compact version of Walther’s excellent PP, whose initials stand for Police Pistol in its native German. Walther, which had previously made several models of high-quality but otherwise unremarkable small pocket pistols, introduced the PP in 1929. It was the first shot of a revolution; it became the model for most double-action/single-action auto pistols that would follow it, using a trigger bar that runs along the right side of the frame to activate its sear, and containing a then-patented decocking safety.

The PPK was the inevitable compact version; its German name, Polizei Pistole Kriminal, essentially means Detective’s Police Pistol. (You would not be the first student of German to laugh at the idea that regular beat cops are called a name that translates literally as Order Police, and detectives are Criminal Police, Kripo for short. We’ve known a few criminal police, too, but that’s what linguists call a “false cognate.” End of digression).

Even though both are pocket pistols by American standards, and were manufactured primarily in .32 ACP, the PP was normally carried by beat cops in a flap holster, and the PPK carried concealed. Both the PP and PPK were popular with German military officers, who until 1945 were allowed (and sometimes required) to privately purchase personal sidearms. Staff officers and aviators and others who didn’t really have a need to haul around a big 9mm horse pistol checked the pistol box with a little PPK. The Carl Walther firm in Zella-Mehlis, Thuringia (a suburb of the gunmaking center of Suhl), prospered.

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame and the fragile wraparound grip.

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame and the fragile wraparound grip. It was banned from importation to the USA in 1968, despite being an extremely rare crime gun.

The PPK was the same width as the PP, but its length (and sight radius) was reduced, and its height (and magazine size) was also reduced (the PPK held six rounds, then considered perfectly adequate). This made it as small as some of the more sloppily engineered .25s of the day. Instead of a solid backstrap with grip scales, the PPK has an open backstrap that is covered with a plastic (bakelite, originally) grip. The original grips are extremely prone to cracking and many PPKs today sport replacement or reproduction grips, but they made for a lighter and more concealable gun when new.

A number of PPs and PPKs were imported into the USA before the war, where the technical advancement of the pistol and its high price compared to domestic arms or cheap Spanish imports won it a very selective user base, and relatively few sales.

After the war, the wave of captured PPs and PPKs increased their popularity, and new ones began to be imported. With Zella-Mehlis and Suhl bombed flat and, after an American withdrawal to a mutually agreed line, behind the Iron Curtain, Walther produced guns at a former licensee in Alsace (Manurhin) beginning in 1952, and at a new factory in West Germany.

(Time for another digression of sorts. You can find pistols from 1952-1985 or so production marked Walther and marked Manurhin. The Walther marked pistols received roll marks, heat treatment of the slides, and final assembly in Ulm, Germany, and were proofed and inspected there, with German marks. The Manurhin pistols were finished, proofed and inspected in Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France, with French marks. Yet Alsace (Elsaß) was German from 1870-1918 and 1940-45 — maybe 1944. Because Walther and Manurhin used different heat treating methods, the slides of Walther pistols often don’t color-match the frames very well, and Manurhin ones match perfectly, usually).

As a result of this strange history and the usual churn of importers here in the USA, PP and PPK pistols are found with a very wide range of slide markings and proof marks, but except for 1940s production guns, which may have been sabotaged by slave labor, all are sure to be of high quality.

How a Gun Law Attacked the PPK

In the 1960s, Interarms of Alexandria, Virginia was the importer of the PP series and all was going swimmingly, until two political assassinations (Martin L. King and Robert F. Kennedy) led to a wave of gun-control legislation. American politics at the time was very different from politics today — gun control’s adherents were found in both parties, with opposition largely restricted to Southern Democrats and Western Republicans; and Democrats controlled, and had for years, both Houses of Congress and the White House. Two bills passed, the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. (So, giving bills Orwellian names is nothing new).

The new laws were supported by the NRA and American gun manufacturers, because they also gave the manufacturers something that they wanted: protectionism. It was no skin off Colt’s or Smith & Wesson’s nose if foreigners wanted to sell their cheesy little guns here, but it was a major threat to high-cost, low-quality manufacturers like Harrington & Richardson or Iver Johnson. Rather that write the transparent ban on imports the manufacturers wanted, instead imports were subjected to a Sporting Purpose test (something drawn by Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd from Nazi and Weimar gun control laws, which he had come to admire, and placed in early drafts of the bill — before Dodd was censured by the Senate for his unrelated (we think) but legendary corruption, which would end his career this same year.

The Sporting Purpose test, as it was conceived, made it an object of US law that only hunting and organized target shooting are legitimate reasons to own firearms, and by implication, defense of self, others or property explicitly is not. As originally passed and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, these laws banned the import of military surplus weapons of all kinds (one objective of the manufacturers), and applied a “points test” to the importation of pistols. These laws have been modified by subsequent legislation (and by ATF regulation; the ATF Office of Chief Counsel holds that the “sporting purpose” test invalidates the 2nd Amendment), but the sporting purposes test and the pistol points test survive. (The law also banned the import of Class III weapons for private sale, under the sporting purposes test. The weapons in the market called “pre-May” or “pre-86″ dealer samples were brought in between October 1968 and May 19, 1986, under provisions of this law).

ATF_Form_4590_-_Factoring_Criteria_for_WeaponsThe points test was applied by ATF Form 4590. This image is a vintage form. The current version is ATF Form 5530.5.

Note that, while the ATF has taken up the cudgel of this law with great joy, the cudgel itself was crafted by the legislature, and signed into law in due course; it was upheld rapidly by 1960s liberal courts, and so only can be disposed of the same way it was spawned.

The sponsors of the law meant to come back and apply the points test to domestic production, but they never had the votes — some of the nation’s most anti-gun politicians shrank from voting to shutter factories in their home states of Massachusetts and Connecticut. (And some, like Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Dodd, who would be replaced by his equally crooked son after a brief interregnum, didn’t).

Now, the lip-service the gun bansters paid to just wanting to ban the bad guns would seem to have excepted the jewel-like PPK, but the little gun was caught on the horns of the points system. The points test counts: length, width, depth of the gun (larger is better); caliber (larger is better); target-shooting gingerbread like adjustable sights and thumb-rest grips; and safety mechanisms (more, and more fiddly, seems to please the Bubbas at Firearms Technology Branch better). The dimensional requirement from Form 4590 was (and on 5530.5 is):

The combined length and height must not be less than 10” with the height (right angle measurement to barrel without magazine or extension) being at least 4” and the length being at least 6”.

So the PP just barely sneaked through (especially in .380; the .32 version was borderline on points). But the PPK was hopeless as its overall dimensions were too small. The term used by the bansters at the time for a small handgun, implying a cheap and disposable nature, was
“Saturday Night Special,” but the application of the law didn’t affect any of the domestic shoddy pot-metal  .32S&W revolvers, but did catch the safe-as-houses PPK.

With Continued Demand for a Suddenly Banned Gun, What’s Next?

By this time, the James Bond books, favorites of the late John F Kennedy, and the hugely successful movies had given the PPK new cachet, so Interarms was sitting on a stack of wholesale orders for guns it couldn’t bring into the country. It had a few potential courses of action, not including smuggling the guns and everybody going to jail (that was ruled right out).

  • They could send the checks back to the wholesalers. If you ever met Sam Cummings of Interarms, you knew this was not on. Indeed, smuggling probably didn’t get dismissed as quickly as this approach.
  • They could make the PPK in the USA. Walther wasn’t keen on this COA, and Interarms would have been taking a huge risk even if they could talk their German partners into it. Because Dodd, LBJ and others have sworn to come back and extend the “Saturday Night Special” ban (which is how they thought of the silly points system) to domestic production. Interarms did produce PPKs in the late 1970s, as this image from a 1979 catalog shows, but by then it was clear that the “Saturday Night Special” ban threat had passed. The failure of the gun control acts to influence crime was already patent.

PPKsia79_page_3

  • Or, they could modify the PPK to pass the points test, maybe.

It turned out that modifying the PPK wasn’t all that hard. It only needed about half an inch of height to pass the points test. The vast majority of Americans preferred the .380 caliber, which gave them a little headroom, although in time . (Hint: if you just want a PPK for some fun shooting, the .32’s a lot more pleasant to fire, even though the ammo’s more expensive, usually). And the half inch was easily come by: simply adapt the PP frame to the shorter PPK slide. As a side benefit, buyers of the new version would get an extra round in their mags.

A more imaginative marketer might have tried to get a Bond tie-in, or named it after Dodd, who indirectly created it, and sent the crooked ex-Senator a penny of graft for each one, in his involuntary retirement. It would have been publicity gold, but the industry was intimidated and more shy about controversy in those days, and the launch of the gun called it the PPK/Special or PPK/S. It was a US-only model of the already venerable gun (not many pocket pistols were still popular after their 35th Anniversary. Especially in a nation still in love with revolvers). The marketing materials played up the “Special” and played down the fact that this was merely a natural reaction to a dumb law.

Typical stainless US-made PPK/S up on GunBroker right now.

Typical stainless US-made PPK/S up on GunBroker right now.

At first, to a Walther fan, the PPK/s didn’t look right. The PP was familiar; the PPK was familiar; the S looked sort of deformed. Over time it grew more common. Nowadays, people have many options of smaller, lighter guns that pack a bigger punch, so the PP series has faded from actual employment as a defensive handgun. And they’ve been produced in many more variants in Germany, France and the USA, blued, stainless, and two-tone, engraved and plated, and copied even farther afield. But of all the variations, the PPK/S was the one created by a gun ban.

Is The Gun Wire® coming back?

That may be what the site is hinting at:

the_gun_wire_tease

If you were to click the link, as of Sunday it still just said:

PLEASE STAY TUNED, FRIENDS…

November 6, 2014

PLEASE STAY TUNED, FRIENDS…

So… we dunno about you, but we’re staying tuned.

http://thegunwire.com/

Meanwhile, we do like The Gun Feed:

http://thegunfeed.com

There’s something to be said for being there and not flaking out on us. But maybe the Feed guys have a good reason.

How an Original Tiger Wound up in Fury

One of the most remarkable things about Fury is the presence of a real, running, Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger 1 on screen. This is the first time a real, live, Tiger, and not a mockup on some other chassis, a scale model, or a CGI digital emulation, was used in a feature film. Here’s a video of how a high-strung thoroughbred war machine from most of a century ago performed before the cameras:

As Tigers belonged to an empire that was crushed to rubble some 70 years ago, the few of them that have survived have mostly come to nest in museums. But one that was captured in 1942 in the Western Desert nation of Tunisia has been running (occasionally) and entertaining visitors at the Royal Armored Corps’s Tank Museum in Bovington, England for some years now. Tiger 131 was shipped to the set (along with some doting caretakers), and the Museum also provided the title character, Fury the Sherman tank.

The Museum now has a temporary exhibit dedicated to the movie, including some of the props they didn’t originally provide, and wargaming stations that let visitors get creamed by Tiger tanks themselves — at least, in the digital realm.

The Tank Museum also posted this video explaining some of the other lengths the movie makers went to, to make Fury as grimly accurate as they did.

We did note the absence of anachronisms on the screen, at least in terms of props and settings. (Some of the language and human expression is more 21st Century than 1945, but what can you do about that?) If you’re planning to see the movie (about which we remain uncharacteristically ambivalent), these videos contain no real spoilers and may help you look for details you’ll enjoy seeing.

Even a Good Police Response is Too Late: Aurora Analysis

Screenshot 2014-11-07 22.43.06The city of Aurora, Colorado paid to have a third-party operations-analysis shop, much like the one that we occasionally work for, review their response to the Century 16 theater shooting.

A redacted copy of that report has been posted by the state courts, thanks to a public-records lawsuit. And we have some interesting takeaways from that report. First, our link to the .pdf on the Colorado website: http://www.courts.state.co.us/Media/Opinion_Docs/14CV31595%20After%20Action%20Review%20Report%20Redacted.pdf

And here’s a copy from our servers, in case that one goes paws-up: Aurora After Action Review Report Redacted.pdf

And two things leap out from that report, which lacks an Executive Summary:

  • The police response was pretty damned good;
  • The police response was entirely insufficient.

The Police Response Was Outstanding

Unlike the reportedly leisurely response of the Newtown, Connecticut PD to their shooting nightmare (20+ minutes), the Aurora cops rode to the sound of the guns with spurs on. Public Safety Dispatch was quickly overwhelmed with calls; seven calls were received in one minute before a patrol unit was dispatched. The first patrol car, Cruiser 11, was onsite in under two minutes from the inital 911 call (51 seconds from the call going out over the radio); 6 cars were there in under three, and 14 units by the time the four-minute bell rang. (When it was clearly a mass-response event, the responding officers did not report in on air, to keep the channel clear; their cruisers were tracked with onboard GPS).

The response was as skilled as it was timely. The officers who responded had recent and recurrent active shooter training, and they were tasked to respond, identify and neutralize the active shooter without delay and without waiting for SWAT or other specialized units. Those units were called out, and quickly responded, but the shooter was already in custody. The exact time he was apprehended is unclear — with his trial still pending, that part of the report is redacted — but it appears clear that he ceased firing on the arrival of police, if not before, and attempted to escape by stealth. He was unsuccessful.

The first reported contact of police with a victim came when patrolman 514 called in at 3:02 elapsed (since the initial 911 call). The next reported victim contact was at 4:10 elapsed.

The department is well organized and manned; there are more cops per capita than in typical Western US cities. They conduct frequent exercises alone and with other agencies; they do an exercise in the schools every year. The fire department is similarly ahead of the national curve, with all FFs being EMTs and new hires required to become EMT-Ps for almost a decade now. Prior to the incident, the FD had participated in many active shooter training exercises with the police.

Emergency response distancesAnd the circumstances favored a rapid response: unlike in Connecticut, where the incident happened during a period of heavy traffic, the Aurora crime took place after midnight, with empty roads, a mere mile by road from the nearest police station (a half mile directly). The incident happened right at shift change, so 126 officers were on duty. As noted above, they started responding right away, and kept responding (an hour later, there were over 50 cars on scene from Aurora alone, despite many of the initial responders having used their cars to evacuate wounded. (Indeed, the cars would cause a logjam interfering with ambulance access, common in such incidents).

There were some other lucky breaks. When firefighters were held back because of uncertainty about the security situation, victims were triaged and, in some cases, treated, by a police paramedic, muting the consequences of holding the fire paramedics back. There were no less than six trauma centers close by; no victim bled out waiting for treatment.

While the report finds some room for improvement in police and fire responses, and makes suggestions for improvements (some of which have already been made), the Aurora public safety officials have much justfication for pride. Thanks to the efforts of first responders, the shooter was stopped, and every victim with survivable wounds did survive.

That’s about as good as a police and fire response can ever hope to do.

…But it was Still Too Late

By the time that first cop car was on the scene, 82 people had been injured, 12 of them fatally. 10 of the 12 were clearly DRT and were pronounced at the scene; two were transported and pronounced, one on arrival and one shortly thereafter. An amazing 58 had received survivable gunshot wounds. (In combat, we note that 1:4 is a typical ratio of killed:wounded, so this is not far off the median). In addition to the 70 shooting victims, 12 more people had been injured, some seriously, in the panicked escape from the theater.

The criminal did all this in two minutes. Of which less than one minute elapsed between Dispatch putting the call out and Unit 11 calling in at the scene of the crime. Now, the sections of the report dealing with the criminal’s actions have been redacted (as we mentioned, because his trial has yet to begin), but these conclusions from the report pretty much brings the limitations of police response into stark relief:

Members of the Aurora Police Department followed the active shooter strategy, acting bravely and professionally as they encountered an unknown shooting situation with multiple seriously injured victims. Police units arrived very quickly, less than 3 minutes from the first 911 call. XXXXXXXXXXXX. All victims with survivable injuries were saved. (p. 13)

Overall, there probably could not have been much better deployment and results than the Aurora police achieved. They deployed on the fly, with self-deployments initially, then gradually implementing more formal incident command. The one large exception to the success was the inadequate relationship with fire department command during the key part of the incident, but that did not affect the outcome—at least not this time. (p.27)

This incident gives additional evidence that rapid response to active shooters is imperative; XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Every minute counts in reporting and responding to an incident. (p.27)

(X’s are redactions). One way in which rapid action worked was the transport of several critically injured patients. While the first patient was not moved by an ambulance until over 15 minutes had passed, several had been hauled in Aurora PD patrol cars, and one actually ran to Aurora Hospital. The use of patrol cars to transport casualties was never planned, exercised or even permitted; instead, it was a brilliant improvisation by the officers at the scene that day.

What Would Help?

Since a cop got there less than a minute after the call, and the shooter desisted on that cop’s arrival, if not before, it’s pretty clear that you can’t do anything to improve the results of police response, unless you plan to station a cop in every theater. So your choices come down to accepting such massacres1, or hardening the target. Conventional methods of target hardening include armed guards or metal detectors; an unconventional method would be to allow patrons to be armed2.

The report punts on a gun recommendation, but makes some rather laughable recommendations for victims trapped in a similar situation:

Inform the public on appropriate measures if caught in a shooting situation. Nationally, thousands of people have been exposed each year to small- and large-scale shooting incidents. There are likely to be more. The key guidance to offer is:

  • Flee if you can.
  • If not possible, hide or shelter.
  • If neither is possible, consider attacking XXXXXXX, preferably in concert with others, throwing anything handy to distract or injure him.

The X’s represent a redaction, again. While it is better to counterattack with an improvised weapon, “anything handy,” than to cringe helplessly in expectation of imminent death, it seems self-evident that a counterattack with deadly force would be preferable.

Other recommendations were remarkable in their simplicity for the relative benefit they would convey. One example is simply to have all the police cruisers in the fleet keyed alike, or to have master keys available to supervisors. This would have solved the gridlock caused by dozens of cars left standing by responding officers.

Notes

1. There is some belief that superior policies towards the mentally ill might prevent such massacres, but it’s extremely hard to define a policy that would have disabled the criminal in this case, without creating a civil rights monster. While he was clearly a disturbed individual, the ability of psychiatrists or psychologists to predict violent behavior based on his past conduct is extremely limited.

2. The theater chain that owned this property, Century, has a “no-weapons for licensed carriers,” or Victim Disarmament Zone, policy, on political grounds; and thereby assumes responsibility for patrons’ safety, and welcomes strict and unlimited financial liability for violent crimes on its property. The shooter bypassed several other theaters that were closer to his apartment, larger, or otherwise more suitable, to go to the one that was placarded against non-criminals carrying guns.