We buy most of our books from Amazon. That works for new and used books. Today, however, Amazon presented us with a price we did not want to pay — hundreds of dollars for a used book. The same book was available on Google Play as a DRM’d ebook for $250. And it was a gun control textbook — every dollar of it going right to the enemies of America, freedom, and your gun rights.
Enter ABEBooks. The online used bookseller interface hooked us up with a copy of the previous edition for under six bucks, and several other used and out of print gun books.
It still won’t help you with a real rarity — Balleisen’s Principles of Firearms is going for $400 here — but it gets you around the greedy professors who make frequent new editions to finance their lifestyles and their anti-gun activism. $6, and not a dime of it to the guy that would destroy us. That’s a win.
This site is fascinating for the paradox it is: it’s promoting a sort of dude ranch for SEAL wannabes, yet the business (and the site) are run by the most over-the-top hunter of SEAL wannabes, Senior Chief (Retired) SEAL Don Shipley. With his turban of hair and sea-dog beard Shipley is an unmistakeable character, and his course delivers what he promises: an unforgettable, potentially life-changing experience.
The Extreme SEAL Experience
The Extreme SEAL Experience kind of a one-week Survey of SEAL life, or, as we put it above, a SEAL dude ranch. A lot of the people taking the course are wannabes of the non-offensive kind: curious folks who aren’t seriously going to join up, but want to take a walk on the wild side. And a subset of the attendees are wannabes of the other non-offensive kind: kids thinking about joining up who want to get a glimpse of what they’re getting into.
The course runs for a week and seems to give the participants what they’re looking for, even if it’s just a break from life as a junior stockbroker, student, or entry-level computer programmer. They get some guns, some water, a whole lot of PT, maybe a fast-boat or submersible ride (yeah, Don has a wet sub), an obstacle course.
There’s also an “advanced operators course” which is a second week of training, conducted at a faster pace.
Unlike BUD/S, where the vast majority of the tadpoles are not destined to become frogs, this isn’t an attrition drill. It’s not impossible to fail — every year, Shipley sends a few guys home early — but he takes more joy in getting his tadpoles to better themselves. Not everybody
With 60 rapidly approaching, and only in shape to the extent that round is a shape (not to mention having only one point something working feet) we’re not in Senior Chief’s target demographic, but he does make it look like fun. The dirty little secret of life in special operations is, no matter how much it sucks sometimes, there are frequent resonant moments where you and the guys marvel that they pay you to do this, whereas, if some of the sickeners could be removed, we’d pay them for the chance to do this.
Don Shipley has come up with a way to give people who aren’t up for the 30 years of Big Green / Big Blue / Big Haze Gray chickenbleep that go with a military SOF career the chance to pay him for a few of those moments.
On to the Website
The Extreme SEAL Experience website promotes the courses, naturally, but also has a copious amount of information about the courses, about SEAL life, and about life in general. Here’s Shipley on flunking a SEAL PT Test:
I stood by the pool at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado to take my first SEAL Physical Screening Test. There were three others taking the test that day and all were seated except me at a table poolside when a MONSTER of a SEAL approached us. Clipboard in hand, he wore UDT swim trunks, the standard Blue and Gold tee shirt emblazoned with UDT/SEAL Instructor on his breast, and shiny jungle boots.
We were dressed in white tee shirts, dungaree pants and boots for the test.
He walked to the side of the table, leaned over, and spit Copenhagen tobacco on the chest of the three guys who were seated one at a time and told them to leave.
He told them a LOT more than just to leave, but I’ll leave that tirade of obscenities part out.
He didn’t like guys sitting down I guess…
He and another Instructor gave me the test alone and I failed the pull-ups section and was told to take my Sorry F**KIN Ass back from where I came from and never return.
It took a lot of guts on my part but I asked if I could finish the test.
In my face he yelled YOU F**KIN FAILED! GET OUT!!!
I replied I know I failed, I’ll work hard on the pull-ups for the next screening can I please finish the test?
He allowed it and I passed my run easily.
I learned a couple things that day. One, if you want to become a SEAL you’d better act the part. Lounging around slumped in a chair sends the wrong message, a message that you don’t take many things seriously.
Two, and I don’t recommend arguing with SEAL Instructors, but sometimes you need to show desire and a will to win. You discover in BUD/S quickly that Instructors want to see how you handle failure. Will you walk away or will you stand tall?
You don’t need to be a SEAL to take a lesson like that on board.
Who Attends Extreme SEAL Experience?
From Don’s videos, they’re mostly young men who want to try out this kind of military advanture. We would not be surprised if many of them subsequently enlisted or pursued a commission. There are the occasional experienced guys and even an “old guy” who might be a staggering 40 or so.
Extreme SEAL Experience instructors
They’re all former SEALs, guys like Doug Gallagher and Tom Black as well as Tom. They seem to enjoy themselves. There’s also a lean support staff.
The Extreme SEAL Experience Reality Show
Shipley has a popular channel on YouTube which chronicles both Extreme SEAL Experience and his wannabe-busting activities (of which more below). In 2014 Don and company made a reality show with some 17 episodes following a single class through the course. There’s also a series of 15 videos of the follow-on one week “Advanced Operator Course.” The videos are also available on his own website, which requires registration. This was a necessity because from time to time, some busted wannabe complains and YouTube freezes Don’s channel.
Nobody ever said upholding the Trident was going to be easy.
Here’s the first video:
Videos on YouTube (scroll down, hit Load More, ignore the little blurbs).
Shipley is second to none in his pursuit of the phony SEAL, which is a plague, one that reaches epidemic proportions right after every “Martial Arts instructors are the number one profession of phony SEALs, followed by firearms instructors,” he says (something that’s close to our experience with SF impersonators).
Just last week Shipley answered the challenge of one of the more notorious and persistent phony SEALs, a trail blossom named Daniel Bernath, who continues to promote himself as a former SEAL despite Shipley and others having publicized Bernath’s actual, underachieving record. Bernath is a phony and a fraud and a man with zero integrity, but when he threatened Don Shipley and his wife and said he was looking for them, Shipley (and his wife Diane, who’s as bold as he is) showed up at Bernath’s door, and began knocking on the door and ringing the bell, while Bernath, who is no SEAL after all, cowered inside like the quivering poltroon he is.
He never came out and faced Shipley. That’s pretty normal. The kind of guy who would stand up to an angry man wouldn’t be a phony in the first place, and the best part of Daniel Bernath ran down his daddy’s leg.
Some SEALS and some in the broader SOF community are opposed to Don’s brand of in-the-face confrontation. They think that one of these mentally ill or criminal imposters — remember, they’re never just military phonies, there’s always some other fraud or misconduct going on — will one day shoot Don.
All we can say is, the phony who does that better kill ‘im with the first shot, or the colorectal surgeon is going to have a hell of a challenge extracting that firearm.
It isn’t the whole website — although there’s other stuff of interest there — but tonight we want to call your attention to one column that runs on the website EveryJoe.com. We’re referring to Tom Kratman’s Lines of Departure.
Tom should need no introduction. Army officer, combat vet, lawyer (well, everyone has some cross to bear), writer of kick-ass military science fiction. His Carrera series imagines what would happen on a new world if a small group descended from Panamanians was led by a man who combined the military gifts of Napoleon (before he began believing his fans) with the ruthlessness of Mao Tse-Tung (before he mellowed out). Tom shares our belief that the leader makes the unit (which, in some circumstances, can be damnably hard on the leader; give a thought to the men and women who have to lead Americans under today’s inconstant civilian management, for example). We agree with about 90% of what he says and the other 10% makes us boiling mad. Exactly 0% fails to make us think. We like thinking, which made the Army a hard fit. We opted out by joining all the other high-functioning misfits and anti-authoritarian personality disorders in Special Forces. (If your personality disorder helps your life run well, and your job exploits it to the max, is it actually a disorder? Survey says, no, it’s just a trait). We don’t know how Tom stuck it out in the more stultifying, conformist officer corps. (We’re guessing he was always this close — Maxwell Smart hand signal — to “career concequences” at any given moment).
LOD is Tom’s take on modern military affairs, in which he explains, and sometimes proposes solutions that have 0% probability of adoption, some of the most pressing problems of today’s American military.
It would be depressing, except… these things are fun to read. But depressing.
Again, note well, this would still be true of an officer corps mostly composed of more or less Napoleons. Within that mass of short but terribly ambitious Corsican geniuses there would still be some better at the show and others best at the long term. The system would advance the former and drive out the latter. That system is driven by excessively large officer corps, which size dictates short command tours.7
Tom proposes a solution, but you’re always thinking he’s just one more dog-&-pony-show tasking from the solution being Neca eos omnes, Deus suos cognoscen.
Fourthly, while the sergeants of Hamilton’s company knew how to train their men, they didn’t really know to do it. In other words, they lacked the Pavlovian response, “Aha, here is some open time. I shall fill it with pain and suffering and much good learning, that my men, my sacred responsibilities, shall be better soldiers thereby.” Indeed, not only was that response not conditioned into them, decades of too many micromanaging officers had conditioned it right out of them. Exceptions were just that, exceptional.
You just know that Captain Hamilton is going to solve this problem — and the organization will conduct a dynamite PLF upside his head. And it happens in:
You may recall that Lieutenant Colonel Young, the battalion commander, and Captain Hamilton just flat hated each other, to the point that the former would, in most of the possible ways, try to screw the latter, the latter’s company, and the men of that company.4 So, it wasn’t entirely a surprise when at about or shortly after that six week point, Young called Hamilton into his office and told him to stop. Hamilton replied, “No, sir; relieve me.” It is alleged in some circles that he also told Young, “But if you try I’ll take you down with me.” He was not, in any case, relieved of command but he was told by Young that, “It will reflect.”5
Well, I told you last week that there’s risk in bucking the system, didn’t I?
That’s just three little snippets from three recent columns. Don’t you want to read them all? EveryJoe’s weird interface (they don’t have a usability engineer over there, do they?) makes it a challenge to collect the set, but it can be done, just like Captain Hamilton could command his company, despite all the obstacles and training distractors the institutional Army, its “Squirrel!” culture, his immediate superior, and his set of here’s-what-you-got officers, NCOs and Joes could throw at him.
Those recent columns are not the only worthwhile ones by any means. We recommend his two CLOACA columns on the Critical Law Of Armed Conflict Academy, as highly as we can recommend anything. But sample them yourself and see what is to your taste.
Incidentally, have you ever wondered about what the difference was between command and control? Tom has an excellent and deep explanation in one of those three linked columns. Go find it and be smarter for the effort.
Not weapons related, perhaps, but if you can’t navigate, you’ll never get to the place you can employ the weapons. (You’ll certainly never get to SF). From the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Matt Heid we learn about availability of historic as well as current topographical maps of the Continental US — digitally, and for free. It’s helpful to Read The Whole Thing™ before going to the USGS’s website, but here’s the intro.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been producing detailed topographic maps for more than 125 years. Today they are nearly all digitized and free to download through the USGS Map Store, an incredible treasure trove for both map junkies and casual hikers alike.
A section of an 1893 USGS topo map for Mount Washington, downloaded for free from the USGS Map Store.
Locating your desired map is straightforward with the USGS Map Locator and Downloader, which allows you to zoom in or search for your area of interest.
That’s as far as we read before going to the site to try it out. We should have kept reading! The download interface is quirky, unique, and clearly has never been looked at by a usability specialist, let alone had usability testing. After we figured it out, we discovered that the Heid had already had the same epiphany, and it would have saved us considerable time to read his instructions:
It then gets mildly confusing (though easy once you figure it out) to download the actual map.
To do so, find your desired location and select the type of map you wish to download (usually the 7.5-minute versions, which provide the most detail). An overlay grid appears, with each box labeled with the specific name of each map.
Next mark a point within your desired map by first selecting the button next to “Mark Points” and then clicking anywhere within the area of interest. This adds a reddish ‘paddle’ to the map. (If you searched by name, a paddle will automatically appear over the location.) Clicking on it then brings up a list of all the maps available for download for this location, from most recent to historic.
This is not quite complete. You have to click the 1990s-style grey “plus” icon on the right to actually get the maps to download — they’ll be downloaded as a .zip file, which will extract to a folder containing the maps you chose.
With these maps, I was able to get a broad sense of the history of what’s now Pease Air National Guard Base. In 1941 it didn’t exist. In 1946 a wartime airfield with the classic three-runway layout was yclept Portsmouth Municipal Airport. By the 1960s, the nearly 12,000 foot single runway SAC base was in place; the long runways were needed, even at sea level, by ground-loving turbojet bombers.
The best map may not be the newest map. Recent maps conform to a new standard… they are called “US Topo” maps, and, apart from having up-to-date declination, using the latest North American Datum (1988, older maps may use a 1927 Datum), and being GPS-enabled from the jump, thereby saving people who will use these maps in technical systems an annoying step, they’re generally much inferior to the old USGS maps. The reasons are manifold:
US Topo maps are entirely developed in central offices, and are never checked on the ground. Not for accuracy or anything else.
US Topo maps only have what USGS can easily find in some unclas Fed database, so things like, say, hiking trails, are completely unrepresented, as are such things as prominent cultural features or lone-standing trees.
US Topo maps have been bowdlerized by the Department of Homeland Security to remove possible terrorist targets and politically-connected sites from the maps. As a result, things like powerlines and pipelines may not be represented.
In other words, the US Topo map is kind of like the little map of The Village that Number 6 gets hold of in the 1967 TV show, The Prisoner — just about useless.
We used to razz the Russians for leaving security sites off their maps, and now our would-be Politburo is doing the same thing.
Using an older map requires adjustments to declination and some uses may require a mathematical conversion between datums. Good map software can do this.
(Yes, we’re running over 12 hours behind schedule at the moment. Real work is interfering — the kind that produces money and keeps the lights on at Hog Manor, we hope. Anyway, quality before schedule, yes? -Ed).
We usually try to have something in here that reaches a wide audience, but this week we’re narrowcasting to our fellow Retro AR enthusiasts. In recent years, the once-rich supply of surplus M16A1 and early CAR-15 variant barrels has evaporated, largely thanks to the ATF’s beyond-the-letter-of-the-law ban on reimported surplus barrels.
There are a number of producers of allegedly retro-style barrels, although most of them have something wrong with them. Sometimes it’s something grossly cosmetic (like a barrel sold as an A1 profile, but with a .750″ diameter at the FSB). Sometimes it’s something that can interfere with function, like a misplaced gas port, or (very common on current barrels) an M4-cut barrel extension, which only looks deformed if you look in the ejection port, but causes a buildup of nasty carbon fouling in non-cut receivers.
So logging the available barrels is an idea whose time has come, even though it’s a work in progress and it shows the rather depressing state of the market.
The site is here at docs.google.com. As the URL makes clear, it is a Google doc spreadsheet. This particular document is read-only, so you can’t download it and take it with you, but you can print it out.
The creator of the document updates it based on requests in this thread in Arfcom Retro. The reason so many grossly non-retro barrels are on the list, then, is because retro n00bs and barrel makers have sent them to that thread, and the maintainer rolls them in as he gets them.
He doesn’t just provide barrel sources, for there is also a second tab on the spreadsheet that has a listing of more or less correct muzzle devices. We never thought we’d ever see a day when M16A1 flash suppressors were hard to find, but that day is closing in on us.
Many builders, especially first-time or one-time A1 builders, don’t want to immerse themselves in learning the minutia of a retro barrel. They just want an expert to tell them what to buy. Never fear… using this chart, an expert can do that.
To cut to the chase, for an accurate retro barrel for a 20″ A1 build, your best choices are:
Brownell’s, if you want a complete assembly with FSB mounted;
Green Mountain GM-M32, if you want your own;
Criterion, if you want to compromise “retro” twist and chamber dimensions for higher accuracy. It is a 1:8 twist barrel with a tight “match” chamber.
You can also choose chrome lined (for retro-correctness and durability) or not lined (may be cheaper and more accurate) at several vendors.
No one catalogs a barrel that’s “correct” for a Vietnam-era XM177 / A1 / A2 or other CAR-15 carbine variant. Sorry for the blanket statement, but it’s true. There are a handful of ways to get close, and that’s as good as it gets.
For many people, the barrel’s details and even its functionality take a back seat to how it looks. Some folks want a 1:7″ or 1:8″ twist instead of the original 1:12″ to provide more projectile options. (You really only need 1:7 if you need to shoot M856 tracer ammo, otherwise 1:8″ if you’re going to shoot 75-77 grain, or 1:9″ is probably OK and even more accurate). So they will find uses for the “less correct” barrels on the list.
Some of our favorite feeds, plus our own site, shown in our RSS reader.
This is not actually a website, but a technology, and it’s one that will help you keep abreast of as many sites as you think you need to follow.
It’s RSS, which stands for Real Simple Syndication, and it’s an invisible (to most users) technology that “pushes” every post from most blogs and sites to “subscribers.” Many people don’t use this technology; when it was first introduced it was somewhat fiddly, but nowadays it’s very easy and user friendly.
You can view RSS feeds in your browser, or in a dedicated application. We use NetNewsWire, a for-pay ($10) app for Mac. It’s this simple: type the name of a site whose RSS feed you want to follow. NNW will then offer you the choice of available feeds. Most blogs let you subscribe to both posts and comments. We can’t imagine a circumstance in which we’d subscribe to comments: just the five sites on the left from our initial setup of NNW offer more posts a day than we can practically read all the time. And since then we’ve added three more site. So you can imagine how buried we’d be with comments. If you follow many more websites, you can organize the sites into folders for convenience.
Other RSS readers offer different feature sets. A great many of them are free. There are also web-based (as opposed to app-based) RSS readers like Feedly, and as we mentioned, you can set up RSS feeds in some browsers, such as Internet Explorer (if you’re stuck using that, you poor wretch).
But one part of it that can be understood is the amount of resources that we have poured like sand down that rathole. Indeed, as of 30 July, the number spent on the Afghan government alone was about $109 billion. That is to say, not counting all the troops launching bullets and executing the actual war part of the war.
That number comes from a quarterly report of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The Special IG maintains a website that, apart from promoting the Great Man his ownself, one John F Sopko, provides a pretty good guide to the corruption of Afghanistan, the nation which pretty much owns the World Cup of Corruption.
The stories here are depressing. For example, the US spent a fortune to have Afghan contractors install grates to keep taliban bombers out of culverts… and the contractors just pocketed the money and left the culverts wide open for IED planters.
There are many more like that, the bleached bones of nation building baking in the Afghan sun. Tht’s why the site of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction is our Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.
It is Pierre’s Western Front page, pierreswesternfront.punt.nl, which includes a lot of photo essays on remaining world war one battlefields. The things that remain to be seen include, of course, cemeteries; monuments; some maintained or restorde field fortifications; and a surprising number of more solid fixed fortifications.
It was one of the biggest surprises for us, that the Germans especially built many concrete blockhouses.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. What an infantry unit stocks, one of the things that every former infantry soldier knows, but that never seems to be represented well in books or movies, is that you start on your priorities of work, and the very first is establishing and then improving the position.
Improving the position never stops. Initially, you may take a knee or a prone position, ideally with some cover and concealment. Given a few minutes, you scrape out a shallow position to cover yourself in the prone. Given more time, you deepen the hole. If time permits, you make an entire foxhole. If the unit will remain and defend the sector, the next step is to improve the foxholes with various structures up to and including overhead cover (very important in this age of airburst warheads, but it couldn’t be neglected in 1914-1918 either, even though the VT fuze was a year away).
Then you join the foxholes with covered, concealed lines of communication between them, and congratulations! You now have a trenchline. Improving the trenchline never stops either, whether it’s wiring, building bunkers (of earth and wood, and then improving them). What the Western Front was, was this process of improvement taken to the extremes it might be with a front line in a static position for four years.
Sometimes Pierre’s English translation, otherwise, perfect, is a bit entertaining — was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand really the “sparkle to war”? — but hey, he’s out there doing this.
He has a great page of English-language reviews of books in several languages (and there’s a lot of good new stuff being published right now, thanks to the centenary of the war). Of his reviews, he writes:
In November 2009 I opened my series of Pierre’s Book Reviews with these words: “The moment I decided to write English book reviews, I also decided to write only about interesting and recommendable books. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with bashing less interesting works.” Merely based on the fact that I took the effort to write this book review about Barton’s “ARRAS”, you may consider this concise article as my enthusiastic recommendation to read this book.
Like Pierre, we put something here every Wednesday because we like it and want to share it with you. In this case: Pierre’s Western Front. Enjoy, and many thanks to the commenter who suggested the site to us.
We have a couple more 3DP articles percolatin’ in the queue, and every time we do that, somebody wonders, where to get the files? We have posted in the past some links to places to get the last pre-1st-Amendment-repeal DEFCAD and the FOSSCAD megapacks, but what if you’re looking for just one wee file?
defcad-repo is a no longer maintained version of the Defcad Megapack. Historical interest only.
fosscad-repo is the repository you want. It is the latest Megapack: the last DEFCAD release, and all FOSSCAD material released since Defcad went Tango Uniform, at least, as a source of crimethink 3D files. Among the Megapacks included are 4.2 (Saito), 4.3 (Tetsuo), 4.4 (Raiden), 4.5 (Otacon) and 4.6 (Tachikoma).
cryptocad is an app-in-progress that lets you encrypt STEP files (no others, yet) from the command line.
fosscad-host is another command-line utility that “Generates a website that will update itself with the lastest from fosscad-repo.”
projectgnome is supposed to contain files for “Whimsical designs by FOSSCADers” but was empty when we checked.
Note that the newest files will not be in the repo until Maduce gets to them. In the meantime, new updates to the files will appear in the FOSSCAD IRC channel or twitter feed (latter linked below). For instance, the 3.0 updates to the Shuty pistol have not been posted to the repo, nor has the latest rev of an MOE-based pistol grip or the Vanguard JT AR-15 lower (which is optimized for printing on consumer printers with limited ability to support overhangs). They tend to appear on Sendspace in the interim: for instance, the MOE update is here and the Vanguard update is here.
Stormbringer is the callsign of a former Special Forces NCO, who goes by the pseudonym Sean Linnane. (It’s a good choice of pseudonym; it suggests he’s of Irish ancestry, and you can’t throw a rock in a team house without hitting a couple such, so it doesn’t give much away). It’s also the name of his occasionally-updated, very high quality blog.
Linnane was a rough contemporary of ours, but stayed on active duty when we discovered the Reserve and Guard SF, and learned that it made far more sense as a hobby than it did as a living. Here’s what he says about himself:
Sean Linnane is the pseudonym of a retired Special Forces career NCO (1st SFG, 3d SFG, 10th SFG). I served with honor on five continents; I continue to serve in other capacities.
What we like about his blog is the same sort of reflective and even sentimental tales of SF lore and legend that we’ve been known to get up to ourselves. Linnane, of course, is intelligent and a clear writer — the first is mandatory, the second almost-so for an SF sergeant. (A few outstanding guys with abominable English skills have always been carried by the teams’ literati on grounds of their other contributions. In the very early days of SF, these non-English-speakers were often from SF areas of interest, like Hungary or the Sudetenland; today, they’re often from SF AOIs still, it’s just that the areas and languages are different. Plus, Hispanics have flocked to SF in throw-a-rock-you’ll-hit-one numbers, too).
His posts are interesting here, whether they’re on the curious history of Rolex POW watches (didn’t know there was a such thing before), or his own take on the warrior ethos:
Looking back, something drew me to it like a magnet, almost as if it was Fate. I was fortunate to make my way to America as an immigrant and to find my way into the greatest Army that ever marched across a battlefield. A series of good decisions and a lot of hard work got me into Special Forces where you don’t earn the Green Beret after graduation – you earn it every day, by deed and thought.
Now I’m no altruist – I’m not Mother Theresa and I’m no Boy Scout – and I know I was fortunate to fall into a profession that in many ways is a cause; I fight Evil. I got here almost by chance because growing up everybody I knew – to include my family – was against me joining the military. They made fun of my dreams and ambition to be a soldier, told me I was misguided and out of my mind.
It’s probably not for everybody, but then, neither is SF. Linnane, like many of us, was born just a little bit “off,” and when he finally “joined a minority group,” (an old SF recruiting slogan that is also a play on our fundamental theater-level organization, the Special Forces Group, about 1800 men that can overthrow a country in a month or less), he felt like he was finally at home.