Category Archives: Unconventional Weapons

When the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace Went to War

Major General Snow after the war, with US and Allied decorations.

Major General Snow after the war, with US and Allied decorations.

It was 1918, and the organization was then known as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The very able Maj. Gen. William J Snow had just been appointed to the new position of Chief of Army Artillery. The position was desperately needed: at the US entry into the war in 1917, the Army had barely 275 officers and 5000 men in its trained artillery, yielding, apart from colonial garrisons, one understrength regiment each of light, heavy, and horse artillery. You would think that the branch would have grown as the Great War roiled Europe, but the 1917 numbers, and the situation, were practically identical to those that obtained in August 1914 when the war broke out. Snow recalled:

In 1914 the Field Artillery of the United States Regular Army consisted of 266 officers and 4,992 enlisted men organized into six regiments. This was sufficient only to provide small overseas garrisons and what might be considered “display samples” of the different classes of field artillery in the United States.

There were no mortars (in WWI, the US would consider these infantry weapons artillery, but they hadn’t got to the point of having any yet), and no echelons above the artillery regiment, which was suited to be part of no combined-arms or infantry formation larger than division. In the four-million-man army built after 1917 for the war, all these things would be rectified, but not without drama. After Snow’s appointment as the Army’s chief of cannon-cockers, he found, initially, there was no office for him in Washington. (The Pentagon, of course, was 25 years in the future). But he had brought some resourceful staff officers with him:

On my third day in office two assistants reported for duty. They were Majors Bacon and Channing, who had been on my staff at Camp Jackson. I told them to go out and hire an office and engage some clerks, while I again spent the day in the staff and supply departments. Late that afternoon they returned and told me that there was not an office to be rented in Washington but that they had secured the loan of the building occupied by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and that for my personal use Elihu Root was lending me his office!

And so it was that I began my work in the War Department in this Peace Endowment building, the Carnegie Peace people paying the rent. I always thought this quite appropriate, for certainly so far as practical results go I accomplished more to restore international peace than Mr. Carnegie ever did to maintain it.

That last was a bit of a zing, but then, as now, the peaceniks have it coming. For “peace”, most of them mean, “surrender”; and for resolving conflict, most of them take the bold approach of the ostrich of legend. Root’s Carnegie Peace office would continue to serve Snow, and by extension, the nation, even after Major General Snow had an office of his own:

The Secretary of the General Staff kept his promise in a few days he assigned me one room6 and one clerk in the War Department building. He also furnished me the money-saving rubber stamp, Office of the Chief of Field Artillery.

For some time, even after my office was well established in a suite in the State, War, and Navy Building I kept Mr. Root’s office as a place where I could worked quietly and undisturbed on knotty problems; for frequently when I arrived at my main office in the morning I found, extending down the corridor, a line of people waiting to see me.

One of the perks, if that’s the word, of being Chief of Artillery during wartime, is that inventive Americans being their high-tech solutions to you:


Of course, the Office had an Inventions Section. The American is quite prolific with ideas. One contractor thought guns and ammunition were obsolete and that what was needed was modern machinery on a large scale, so that a veritable subway could be dug under the enemy with steam shovels and the whole German army be blown up. Another man suggested a loaded club so arranged that when you hit a man over the head it would shoot him too. A very modest fellow proposed a pencil that would make its writing visible in the dark. Another had a plan for a folding bullet-proof steel umbrella. Still another suggested chemical powder to sift on one’s body to cleanse it like a bath.

And so on. These schemes poured in. And they all had to be treated with polite consideration. As an illustration, I may mention the idea of a man from the southern part of the United States, who suggested that instead of high explosive, we load a rattlesnake into each shell. We thanked him and mentioned several obvious disadvantages and invited him to communicate with us when these difficulties were solved.

That was a general with a dry sense of humor indeed. And, even then, Congressional inquiries were a bane of pre-Beltway existence:

Then there was an Information Bureau, principally for members of Congress. We took the position of never saying “You have the wrong office.” On the contrary, when a member of Congress called up about hand grenades or whatnot, we would tell him that, while this did not pertain to field artillery, we would get the information for him. We were always definite, specific, and helpful.

General Snow’s reminisces are excerpted in the January-February 1940 number of the Field Artillery Journal. They’re worth reading in depth, including his visit to the respected training expert General Morrison, who advised him, “if you value your reputation, get away from the War Department,” and his frank assessment of General Pershing’s criticism of the War Department, and Woodrow Wilson’s performance as Commander-in-Chief. Still a good read, almost a century after the events he describes. More of his memoirs were excerpted in at least one subsequent issue, perhaps more.

Kill Chain Analysis Follow Up

Yesterday we introduced you to Kill Chain Analysis, and we failed to link the Senate Commerce Committee Report on the Target data breach. (That’s been corrected in that doc, and also here, now).

Today, here’s a couple more foundational documents.

Hutchins, et al. Intelligence-Driven Computer Network Defense Informed by Analysis of Adversary Campaigns and Intrusion Kill Chains. This is the original 2009 Lockheed-Martin White Paper that introduced the concept of the Cyber kill chain. It’s full of warmhearted warmaking wonder, like this buzzword-compliant table of potential countermeasures by phase:

Screenshot 2014-04-14 23.47.27


It’s worth reading especially for the case study of a sophisticated, imaginative and tenacious cyber attack on Lockheed Martin in 2009.

Uncredited. A New Cyber Defense Playbook. MITRE Corporation. This is a fairly superficial document that describes using the Kill Chain analysis to develop and deploy countermeasures against a cyber threat.

Uncredited. Stalking the Kill Chain. RSA Data Security. This white paper goes into more depth about how to respond to the repetitive attacks that characterize an advanced persistent threat.  This was one of the points that struck us as insightful:

Historically, security technologies tend to be focused in a single place, or at most, two places on the kill chain, but lack the entire context behind an event that a complete analysis system imparts. When using the phrase “stalking the kill chain,” we are focusing on the ability to use a structured approach to watching the network with the idea of identifying kill chain events in progress, across the entire kill chain.

This paper may be most useful for the cyber-threat signatures it associates with each link of the kill chain. They’re all quite interesting, and taken together, depict the outlines of an area of warfare that literally did not exist when we started our military career.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have high heels

Ana Trujillo shoe murder mugshotAh, America. Give us your hungry, your poor… your huddled masses of alcoholics looking to emigrate to new shores where they can kill and be killed in novel, if not to say bizarre, ways. Ana Trujillo, come on down!

A Houston woman attacked her boyfriend in a fit of rage, sat on him after knocking him down and then stabbed him to death with the stiletto heel of her shoe, striking him at least 25 times in the face, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

Ana Trujillo’s lawyer, though, said it was she who was attacked, and she defended herself from 59-year-old Alf Stefan Andersson using the only weapon she had available.

Yeah, because nothing says “self-defense” like getting the guy down on the ground and applying puncture-wound overkill. Wonder where Andrew Branca would take this. (Our guess is that in an early conference, he’d be telling his client, “we can try the self-defense argument, but I really see this as a ‘disposition case’”).

Testimony began Monday in Trujillo’s murder trial. Prosecutors say she killed Andersson, who was a University of Houston professor and researcher, during an argument at his condominium in June. She is free on a $100,000 bond.

During opening statements, prosecutor Sarah Mickelson said Trujillo had a history of being angry and aggressive in her contentious on-again, off-again relationship with Andersson, a native of Sweden who became a U.S. citizen.

Mickelson said that earlier in June, Andersson and Trujillo, 45, a native of Mexico, had reconciled.

Ah, young love. Stipulating that since most university professors and their social networks never grow up, therefore they are forever young.

The prosecutor described Andersson as mild-mannered and quiet, and Trujillo as hot-tempered.

What do you think the odds are that the ol’ Judgment Juice was there for the ride-along with this odd couple that dark night?

On the night of the slaying, the couple was out drinking before they returned to Andersson’s apartment. Mickelson said Trujillo got angry after arriving home and that the two began arguing.

Well, looks like the Judgment Juice probability is… unity. What a shocker.

Mickelson told jurors that during the confrontation, Andersson was injured and fell on his back. Trujillo sat on Andersson, preventing him from getting up, and repeatedly struck him in the face and head with her shoe, she said.

“The one thing we can be sure of in this case is that Ana Trujillo is not a victim. Ana Trujillo struck Stefan Andersson 25 times with the heel of her shoe while he lay on the floor and bled out,” Mickelson said.

Prosecutor and murder shoeGo ahead and  Read The Whole Thing™. But it’s basically the same old story of human beings behaving badly. And then there’s the ABC News version of the story, which notes that the shoes are Manolo Blahnik bright-blue suede closed-toe pumps, size 9 with 5 inch heels, and that the prosecutor, Sarah Michaelson (left), was “pounding the air” with the murder weapon during her opening arguments. We’re sure it was just heel envy.

You know, nobody needs 5 inch assault heels.

Every woman who has watched “Sex & The City” would instantly recognize the shoes since they’re the same ones Carrie Bradshaw left in her dream closet.

Trujillo is a diminutive woman, her attorney Jack Carroll says, while her boyfriend was much bigger. When an argument broke out that night, and she tried to defend herself, she grabbed the closest weapon at hand — her high heel.

When Trujillo walks into the courtroom every morning all eyes swivel to her feet. Today she wore nude patent pumps with a low heel.

We know what you’re thinking about her sudden change in shoe style. It’s like the way the skell always seems to have found a suit by Toothbrush Day, and wears a turtleneck to cover up the jobstopper swastika inked on his neck. The same way that every 18-year-old gangsta that eats lead is memorialized in the paper with an angelic picture from early childhood, like his First Communion or Pop Warner football shots — probably the last picture anyone has of him that wasn’t taken by a correctional facility.

But that’s just prejudiced of us. Hey, maybe her taste in shoes has changed in the nine months it’s taken the case to proceed to trial. A woman has a right to change her mind, right? (Although maybe not about whether her boyfriend should continue to have a carbon footprint).

We always thought “stiletto heels” was just a colorful expression, and it never occurred to us that someone from the English as a Second Language community would take it quite so literally.  But it just goes to show that the ultimate weapon is the human mind, and when the mind is determined to kill, any instrumentality that comes to hand (or foot) is good enough.

Remember… Agent Zero M?

1965 ad for Agent Zero M spy toys

1964 ad for Agent Zero M spy toys

It was a 1964-or-so Mattel Toy Company spy toy line. There was a great flowering of spy stuff in the popular culture in the early sixties. It began, perhaps, with the James Bond books, and specifically, when President Kennedy revealed himself as a fan of Ian Fleming’s then-revolutionary adventures. The media, for whom Kennedy then was the same sort of limerent object that Obama is now, and the pop culture in turn, went nonlinear for “all things spy,” and we had spy shows on the screen and the tube for the next four or so years. These shows were of all kinds: dramas and comedies, aimed at adults and children, brilliant shows (The Man From UNCLE in drama and Get Smart! in comedy) and dreadful ones (most of the rest). Naturally, toys followed. The best toys were the guns, naturally. Can you identify the child actor in this “Agent Zero M” commercial from 1964? He went on to be a Hollywood name.

We were reminded of the Agent Zero M gun by a comment by 1Freeman1951, who attributed the design of various folding SMGs to attempts to make a real life Agent Zero M Radio Rifle.

Agent Zero M toys are popular among collectors; here’s an eBay listing. And here’s a rip from a JC Penney 1966 Christmas Catalog, from


Zero_M-Spy _CaseThe Radio Rifle was one of the flagships of the line, selling for $2.22 in 1966. It was also available as part of a complete kit in a cheesy cardboard “attache case,” with spy pens and other gadgets that morphed into pistols. These included a pocketknife that turned into a pistol and a camera that turned into a pistol with a passing resemblance to a Luger. (At the time, a Mattel competitor, Marx Toys, made a popular Luger cap gun that even had a “working” toggle.

There was also a movie camera that turned into a submachine gun, and the Sonic Blaster, a bazooka-like thing that fired a blast of air to knock over paper targets.  (We recall a friend having that one; it may have been discontinued by the 1966 catalog). Here’s another commercial with that same kid. Identify him yet?

All of these were, of course, inspired by various James Bond gadgets (including the then-exotic Armalite AR-7 survival rifle used in Dr. No) and, most especially, the UNCLE Special gun carried by Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. The UNCLE Specials (of which there were two major kinds, 1934 Mausers and Walther P-38s) were strictly stage weapons, incapable of firing live ammunition, but several makers have tried to clone them since.

The kid? Kurt Russell. Snake Plissken his ownself, not to mention perhaps the best of the screen’s many Wyatt Earps, and Mr Goldie Hawn.


Russian Anti-Terror Arms

Everybody knows about Russian arms: simple, straightforward, peasant-conscript brute-force stuff, just like the Red Army itself: the AK-47, the iron Hero of the Soviet Union, which did more to spread Marxism than the bookish, nerdy and introverted Marx ever imagined. Right?

Ah.. how ’bout wrong? Russia is today a great, continental power with a large fraction of smart people, a fraction of whom are brilliant engineers, and a faction of those engaged in making small arms for particular purposes. Like Western counterterrorist forces, Russian CT elements — who have plenty of terrorists to counter — use a mix of standard government-issue, and special purpose, arms. Consider what we can learn from a careful look at this picture:

VSK-94 in actionThis picture was purportedly taken on the streets of Makhachkala, the capital of the autonomous region of Dagestan in the Caucasus region of south Russia, as the Russian authorities found, and whacked, terrorist leader Eldar Magatov in Dagestan’s Babyurt region. They’re now seeking a woman, possible suicide bomber, in Sochi.

Who these guys are — beyond the caption’s “Russian counterterrorist forces” — is unknown to us. They’re not showing any “Police” markings. The guy on the left appears to be dressed in a Nomex equivalent (always a good choice for door kicking) and the guy on the right in, of all things, Crye multicam or a knock-off of same. The ribbons tied around their arms may be an IFF/recognition sign. Both have ballistic helmets and masks, presumably against ID more than the cold (hard to judge from a photo, but it looks like it’s near freezing one way or the other from the puddle behind them and what appears to be frost and possible snow behind that. Weird, as Makhachkala is on the Caspian coast and we thought it was subtropical).

Screenshot 2014-01-22 09.27.33

Screenshot 2014-01-22 09.27.52The weapons, though: we blew them up 5x on a retina display and then screencapped them. Left Guy has a bog-standard AKSU and a pistol, quite possibly a Glock, in the drop holster (Yes, we’re out on a limb ID’ing a pistol from an inch and a half of grip).  He has a spare mag, inverted, attached to the mag in his AKSU. You can’t tell how they’re attached or whether there’s a third in the back (probably not).

The other guy’s gun is the interesting one. It’s a VSK-94, and is aptly described on Max Popenker’s website. It’s a scoped, back-up-sighted, 9x39mm suppressed selective fire carbine widely issued to law enforcement for just this sort of operation.

Screenshot 2014-01-22 09.28.47

(All these pictures should embiggen, by the way).

The VSK-94′s AK heritage by way of the AKSU should be fairly evident here. It has improved ergonomics, finally abandoning the AK platform’s Remington Model 8 derived safety/dust cover. The scope is 4x like the Dragunov’s but must have a different reticle; how it handles the three different 9×39 rounds would be interesting to see.  The stock is fixed and is of polymer material, as are the handguard and magazines. The 9×39 is a subsonic round derived from the 7.62mm M43 assault rifle round. It’s the tactical equivalent, then, of our .300 Whisper/.300 AAC Blackout. The relatively straight-sided round allows a straight box magazine, holding 20 rounds, giving the VSK a slightly old-fashioned look.

(We should probably separate the “Foreign and Enemy Weapons” catagory into two, or simply rename it “Foreign Weapons.” Countries like Russia are foreign, but they’re not our enemies; the terrorists these Russian soldiers, officers or police are fighting are enemies to both our nations, and to all civilized people everywhere: Hostis Humani Generis).


When guns are outlawed: Improvised weapons take over

This isn’t the usual “When Guns are Outlawed” tale of some Darwin Award death or heinous crime. Instead, it’s one video look at the futility of gun bans. There is probably no place on earth where weapons are much more excluded than they are in American airline airports. But as we’ve noted in other contexts, just because you have a Nazi approach to civil liberties doesn’t mean you can make the trains run on time. Here’s one of a delightful array of noise (and potentially widow-) makers you can assemble with “common household items” — as found in the secure area of airports.

After the shot, the gun is reloadable and ready to go, although the “cartridge” is shredded.

improvised airport gun

Terminal Cornucopia logo

As we said, this is one of an array of improvised weapons, Rube Goldberg’d up by a single clever guy: Evan Booth, who reports on his creations at Terminal We’re not really sure where Booth is coming from with this; he seems to take a clear and simple joy in making something clever that goes bang, launches a projectile, or does both at once.

The gadgets at Terminal Cornucopia include a blowgun, slingshots, a set of nunchaku that took a couple of iterations to work, the gun, a grenade, and an electrical relay of fiendish potential.

We’re reminded of a recent comment from a friend on the nature of the IED threat in Afghanistan: the essence of which is that it continues to evolve, and shows signs of pure genius at times. Not really what one wants to see in one’s enemies.

No doubt this will cause the mouth-breathing morons of the TSA, none of whom is a good, decent, moral or intelligent human being, to ban more stuff, but they’re missing the point: the danger is not what passes through checkpoints in human hands, but what can’t be intercepted, controlled or excluded: human minds.

Imagine this: Evan Booth and Jörg Sprave teaming up.

The Bullet and the Bayonet

Poetry about a decidedly unpoetic modality of war

WWIbattleIn the anthology we have, the poem The Kiss is described neutrally as “resulting from” a lecture that young infantry officer Siegfried Sassoon received early in the war, on April 25, 1916. “For close on an hour he talked, and all who listened caught fire from his enthusiasm,” Sassoon wrote about the lecture, in which a fierce officer from a Highland regiment repeatedly stated that, “The bullet and the bayonet are brother and sister.”


The line haunted Sassoon, and he used it first in this poem, which would become controversial later, and the literal meaning of which he would come to disavow, and later, he used it a second time, in his de facto “memoir”. First, the poem:

The Kiss

To these I turn, in these I trust
Brother Lead and Sister Steel.
To his blind power I make appeal,
I guard her beauty clean from rust.

He spins and burns and loves the air,
And splits a skull to win my praise;
But up the nobly marching days
She glitters naked, cold and fair.

Sweet Sister, grant your soldier this:
That in good fury he may feel
The body where he sets his heel
Quail from your downward darting kiss.

Screenshot 2013-11-18 00.56.55The imagery gleams: “He spins and burns and loves the air;” “The body where he sets his heel.” And then the poem ends on a horrifying note.

This became somewhat controversial, to Sassoon’s irritation, and he wrote the Highland Major (so identified) into his roman à clef, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, which was written from a more mature viewpoint, and one less enthusiastic about the idea of war in general and its infantry application in particular.

bayonet dummyGeorge Simmers wrote a customarily insightful post on the poem and Sassoon’s intent back in 2009. He rounded up some of the criticism, also, including Sassoon’s late-life protestation of the poem’s satirical intent:

Robert Graves claimed that the poem should be taken at face value as a celebration of violence, and Adrian Caesar sees it as the expression of a sadistic sexuality. Sassoon towards the end of his life wrote ‘I am sick of telling people that The Kiss was intended as a satire on bayonet-fighting, which I loathed.’

Robert Graves was, of course, another of the leading war poets of the day (a frontline officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, like Sassoon, and also a friend of Sassoon who would save him from court-martial, but that’s another story). Graves went on to produce much best-loved literature which remains in print, including I, Claudius and a sequel. We hadn’t heard of Adrian Caesar, and weren’t surprised to look him up and see he wasn’t any of that, but a living baby boomer poetry critic pontificating from a professorship in New South Wales, and writing literary fiction of the sort that wins prizes, yet sells in the low double-digits of copies, because only the sort of readers that sit on prize juries make it to the end. To most modern professors, everything is sex and “gender” and class, in this age of shallow understanding.

Simmers’s own insights are much more interesting than Graves’s or Caesar’s, and are solidly grounded in his post-doctoral study of British war literature. We recommend you Read The Whole Thing™.

Now, about the reported Death of the Bayonet

We are told, these days, that the bayonet belongs to the past. But this is hardly a novelty. The machine gun, and air power, and modern artillery, and storm-trooper tactics, and fire and maneuver, all rendered bayonets obsolete before.

Until combat demonstrated that they weren’t.

The classic example being Britain: as early as 1950, the British Army — the very one reveling in Sweet Sister’s “downward darting kiss” above — was done with bayonets. The EM2 originally had no provisions for fixing a bayonet (which is always awkward on a bullpup weapon), but conservative military minds insisted that the Lee-Enfield Mk IV bayonet lug be adapted to the experimental .280 rifle. In the end, Britain adopted a variation of the FN-FAL, which they provided with a knife-bayonet, the L1A3, much like the last couple issued for the Lee-Enfield. (The Belgian design for a bayonet was an odd thing whose tubular grip slipped around the flash hider).

Again in the 1970s, Britain planned to go to a bullpup, and at the time of the spring 1982 South Atlantic War, the SA80 was nearing production. Bayonets were used to great effect by the Scots Guards and the Paras; Platoon sergeant Ian McKay of B Coy 3 Para received the Victoria Cross posthumously for leading a  bayonet charge at Mount Longdon, and the Scots went to cold steel when ammo ran low on Mount Tumbledown. As a result of the great effect of the bayonet in clearing Argentine trenches and inducing Argentine surrenders, the new gun was hastily redesigned with a bayonet attachment before going into production as the L85 in 1985. The bayonet is called the L3A1. The media are still eager to entomb the bayonet (for example, in this 2002 story in the Telegraph), but the Army is not.

Britain is not alone in retreating from a premature declaration of the obsolescence of the bayonet. Melvin Johnson originally designed his eponymous semi-automatic rifle without any provision for one, and was forced to add one afterwards. A flimsy arrangement, so as not to interfere with the recoiling mass of the recoil-operated weapon, it was one of the things that military testers really didn’t like about the 1941 Johnson. At the same time, just before entering World War II, the US Army an early example of what would come to be known as a Personal Defense Weapon. Small, light and not intended as a primary infantry combat weapon, the M1 Carbine was never intended to have a bayonet. A great hue and cry from the field changed that, and a bayonet based on the M3 fighting knife was hastily adapted to the little gun.

It’s unlikely the British will give up their Sweet Sister any time soon. In 2004, they used bayonets in Iraq to rout Sadrist militia; the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders — perhaps a descendant of Sassoon’s “Highland Major’s” regiment — killed some 35 with a full-on bayonet charge.

This brings us to what the bayonet is. In the early years of firearms, the bayonet turned a discharged weapon from a marginally useful club to a more practical, for medieval and Renaissance warfare, pike. As late as 1900 the bayonet was thought to be fully one-half of the infantryman’s tactical armament. But of course, that was mistaken: the bolt-action, magazine rifle,  the Maxim machine gun, and the barbed-wire entanglement, were soon to demonstrate that cold steel and élan were no match for 20th-Century defensive arms in prepared positions. This was clear in the siege of Port Arthur in the Russo-Japanese war, although some particularly blockheaded European officers couldn’t learn from foreign experience, and would have to have their own, to the detriment of a generation.

But the bayonet wasn’t obsolete, because of, as we’ve said, what the bayonet is. And what it is, is a psychological weapon. The Argentine draftees around Port Stanley in 1982 faced the horrors of modern war with fatalism, if not exactly equanimity. But two things put them to flight, or surrender: thoughts of Gurkha’s kukris, and thoughts of cold steel bayonets. Likewise, that 2004 British unit in Iraq did not so much increase their combat power when they fixed bayonets, as they increased their psychological dominance of the battlefield. The psychological effect of the bayonet is two-sided: it strikes fear into the enemy at point end, and stirs confidence in the soldier behind the bayonet. Such de minimis subtleties are the foundation stones of many a victory.

The bayonet today

It is most unlikely the British Army will field a rifle without a bayonet in the foreseeable future — at least, until the subalterns of 2004 dodder off on to the Retired List. Ivan, for his part, never gave up the bayonet and regarded Western attempts to abandon it as typical capitalistic decadence.

The BorinqueneersThe US military has taken, as one might expect, several diverse stands, despite a history replete with bayonet charges. Today, the US Army and USMC have taken different approaches to the bayonet. Until well into the GWOT, the Army still required recruits to receive bayonet training and run the Bayonet Assault Qualification Course. ( has a circa-1990s basic training battalion bayonet-training SOP with helpful tips like “check the dummies for nesting hornets and wasps… do not allow the soldiers to use dummies with nesting insects.” Hoot).

Bayonet Assault CourseThe BAQC was run with a standard bayonet and a “rubber duck,” a rubber M16 molded around a shot-out M16 barrel. The targets were 3-dimensional rubber Ivans with a Russian-style helmet and an AK molded into them. There is a touch of irony in the AK: the Army’s M9 bayonet is a descendant of both the Buck “Buckmaster” knife the Navy SEALs flirted with in the early 80s, and the AKM wirecutter bayonet.

Because new things must be taught in Army basic training, bayonet training’s been cut, like other obsolete skills such as much close-quarter drill. The BAQC is no longer required, but the use of bayonets as knives, as secondary and defensive weapons for the majority of soldiers who do not carry a pistol, is taught in combatives training. It doesn’t necessarily help, though: the Army tends not to issue the M9 bayonet to soldiers downrange, and a modern tactical sling is inimical to bayonet fighting, which requires a much greater degree of free motion with the bayonet.

The Marines take a different approach. The Marines’ official website says flatly, “Every Marine receives bayonet training in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) and on the Bayonet Assault Course in Recruit Training.” The Marine program includes bayonet mechanical training, a Bayonet Assault Course much like the deprecated Army one (but apparently run with real rifles, and with targets made of stacks of tires rather than rubber ducks and fancy molded Ivans), and three levels of pugil stick fighting. In the MCMAP, Marines must master a variety of nonfirearms combat techniques to qualify for a colored belt in the oriental martial art style.


Bayonet comparison: the M9 appears to be a commercial Ontario version. Blade lengths are 6.5″, 7″, and 8″. Source: user FLDiveCop.

The Marines formerly issued the Army’s M7 bayonet, but now have their own bayonet, the OKC-3S. “OKC” is for the maker, Ontario Knife Company. The OKC-3S borrows some ideas from the Army M9 (for which Ontario has been a contract manufacturer) and the traditional USMC fighting knife, which is called the Ka-bar after its original maker, but which has also been made by Ontario, Camillus and other contractors for many years. The OKC-3S differs from the M9 in having a 1″ longer blade, no wire-cutting capability, no fuller, and serrations (“rip teeth”) on the blade instead of sawteeth on top, and styling that provides a nod towards the traditional Marine fighting knife.

All services still have quantities of the M7, a direct descendant of the WWII M3 fighting knife via the M4 bayonet for the M1 carbine and the postwar M5 for the M1 rifle and M6 for the M14. The Army still has M6 bayonets in inventory, also. The M7, M8 and OKC-3S bayonets fit all M16 and M4 series weapons, so long as the M203 grenade launcher is not fitted. They will not fit M4 clones with 16″ barrels properly.

CT415_ONAR15Colt also seems to think the bayonet is not dead yet — it has introduced a new commercial model, the CT415, which it produces in China (!), but to the best of our knowledge has had no military sales of it. Like the others, it will fit a 20″ AR or 14.5″ M4, but will not fit a 16″ gun properly (see image for why. That 1.5″ really costs you).

It has been nearly a century since Siegfried Sassoon penned his enigmatic poem — celebrating the bayonet or decrying it, which is today as much in the mind of the reader as it was then in the mind of old “Sassons.” But despite many premature obituaries, Sister Steel is still as much a part of warfare as she ever was. Guard her beauty clean from rust.

Not all enemies are foreign

Some are domestic. Like… domestic cats. We thought, since we’ve been pretty heavy on the animal-lover side, we’d give a guy who developed a weapon that deals summarily (and in his design, non-lethally) with pesky neighborhood moggies that spray your stuff… there are a million ideas here for the handy WeaponsMan.

Plus, it will make you laugh.

Craig Turner did not see complete success with this iteration of the cat popper, so he built another version, and that’s on YouTube too… but if you like this video (and can tolerate a bit of salty language), his outtakes video is even funnier.

Afghanistan is a different place

You think you know what “police” are? You think you have a handle on “fishing?” Welcome to Afghanistan.

The incident took place last Friday in the Doshi district of the northern province of Baghlan when policemen on the bank of a river fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the water.

“The rocket went astray and hit a place where children were playing, killing six and wounding two others,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

“Eight police personnel accused of misusing government weapons that killed these children have been arrested and handed over to military prosecutors for investigation,” it said.

Ahmad Jawid Basharat, a provincial spokesman, confirmed the incident and said the children were aged between 10 and 14.

“The police did not mean to kill the children, they were fishing, but the rocket went astray and hit the other side of the river where children were swimming in shallow water,” he said.

via Afghan Police Fishing with RPG Kill 6 Children | TF&G Gun Report.

We did indeed participate in the fine Afghan sport of fishing with Dupont lures, and our experience may explain a little about what happened over there.

It came about this way: another element of our task force liberated a battered old man from captivity by a local “General” or warlord-let. (Afghan irregular ranks worked like this, whether amongst Taliban, Northern Alliance (remember them?) or “unaffiliated” local scratch teams: if you had more than one Joe who reported to you, you were a “Commander”, who expected to treat with a foreign Colonel on an equal basis; if you had even one “Commander” you were a “General.” We could tell a general to show up with all his men and he’d have 11 guys and 3,000 excuses). Anyway, this particular General explained why he and his 11 guys had taken this old geezer captive and were starving and beating him. He explained it to three of us. And we each got a different explanation. You don’t need to be an honor grad from I&E (interrogation & elicitation) to know that someone whose story has more sudden changes than a Neil Stephenson plot isn’t telling the truth. We never did determine why he had the guy captive, but the most probable reason was that the old guy was a loyalist of the deposed king and His Majesty’s National Islamic Front for Afghanistan, one of the three groups of the seven we supported in the 1980s that actually did lots of fighting, and the warlord was a Tajik, but one whose sympathies were with the extreme Islamists of the Pushtun parties and not with Massoud and Fahim’s Jamiat-i Islami. The Islamists and Royalists sometimes forgot they were supposed to be fighting the Communists in the 1980s, and the Taliban then (indeed, Yunis Khalis’s group, to which that warlord was pledged, would join the Taliban in armed opposition soon after these events).

So this guy was a servant of the King — quite literally. He was the fish- and game-keeper at the King’s mountain lodge, which had been nearby (it had been looted nearly to a nullity). And after he reported, through means we do not know, back to His Majesty, in his Italian exile, the monarch, through this loyal retainer, invited us to fish the King’s lake at Ajar.

It just so happens that we had some fly rods. An SF buddy from the Vietnam era had been a river guide in the Pacific Northwest (indeed, he was the one that told us the fishing was rumored to be good in Afghanistan). And he had connections with fishing-equipment manufacturer Sage. As we recall it, Sage gave him 10 fly-fishing outfits at cost, and he donated them to our team. The sergeant major thought it best to share them among the whole unit, so every ODA got a rod and reel or two.

Well, we hauled that kit and schlepped it over broken rocks and clear-cut forests, propelled by Black Hawk and Chinook and Mi-8 and HMMWV and Toyota Hilux and Altama desert boots, through the mud of the Central Asian steppes, through minefields, ruins of great antiquity, and across more jeezly rocks than the nightmares of 10,000 geologists, up mountains and down streambeds and gingerly around wheat and poppy fields, under the scowls of men whose respect we needed. We hauled it up switchbacks, across washouts and half-collapsed Soviet armored-vehicle-launched bridges and fully-collapsed Afghan bridges of rotting wood and rotten hemp rope. Each time we lightened load, the rod and reel stuck stubbbornly along. Because we were going to Fish The Streams of the Hindu Kush.

And the appointed day came. Our party was two SF guys, two CI agents, and an interpreter. But as we loaded up, the rod and reel was not in its storage place. Some rat bastard had lightfingered it, and nobody owned up. So we fished with Dupont lures — in our case, M67 frag grenades.

The M67 operates similarly to the John Wayne era pineapple grenade (technically, the Mk 2 in US service). It does have a safety clip as well as a pin, to keep you from landing in Kingdom Come if you have been unwise enough to straighten the pins. (Trust us: under fire, you will have the strength for your pull to straighten the pins). So the drill is, slip the clip, pull the pin, and either throw the grenade (and the last safety mechanism, the handle or “spoon”, will fly free), or release the spoon and count down a couple of seconds if you want to shorten the time between release and bang. You have four and one half seconds, give or take; it is our experience that people holding cooking grenades in their hands tend to count off faster than heretofore.

The M67 is loaded with Composition B explosive and has an internal fragmentation layer. It’s a powerful pack of trouble for human beings, and it made short work of a nice string of fish in the King’s lake.

The noise drew out kids — either because kids are curious, which is a fact, or because Afghan farmers consider kids expendable items, which is also a fact, and use them as human reconnaissance drones — droneless drones, if you will. Unvehicled manned systems, maybe. And the kids had great fun retrieving the fish for us — they just asked for a fish each for their families. We had a great deal of trouble convincing the kids that there was a limit to how soon you could go in the water after we chucked each grenade. Like kids everywhere, these young guys thought they were immortal, and we were worried lest we accidentally injure one.

They thought the whole idea was funny, as they leaped into the bitterly cold snowmelt-filled lake and brought back the fish, which we strung up. Each time, they’d ask “You will give us a fish for this, right? That’s the deal?”

Well, we looked at each other and didn’t have to say anything. We told the kids, sure, and as we grew close to being maxed out on DuPont fishing, one of the kids apparently thought we’d double-cross him, so he moved to double-cross us first — another venerable Afghan tradition. He grabbed the largest fish and ran off, laughing.

The remaining kids were mortified. (An Afghan may cut your throat over an imagined slight, and he will steal anything that’s not nailed down, if it belongs to some impersonal organization. But in our experience, he would not steal from you, personally). Maybe because they thought now we wouldn’t give them each a fish.

Of course, we didn’t. We gave them all the fish. And the village dined on fish that night, compliments of the US Army Special Forces, and His Majesty King Zahir Shah, Father of The Country.

Soviet* SEALs Stay Strapped while Submerged

Underwater AK2If you’ve been used to carrying a gun every day, you hate being without one, but frogmen have long had to either go without, or use special underwater weapons. The reason is the fundamental difference between aero- and hydro-dynamics: weapons efficient in the air are much less so in the denser medium, water. Weapons efficient underwater are hopelessly compromised on the surface. A number of unsatisfactory options for the combat swimmer include: just carrying a knife for undwerwater action; having two separate weapons; doing without armament during the underwater phase; training to bring a handgun into contact with an underwater opponent.

Underwater AKFor quite a few years Russia has been working on a single multipurpose sub- and surface gun, which would allow them to retire their special purpose underwater weapons, like the smoothbore APS (which looks like an AK with a footlong magazine, because it’s basically an AK that fires footlong underwater spears) and a variety of pistols. While specialist publications and blogs have followed the development of the bullpup AK ADS since 2007, it’s making a splash (no pun intended) now because it was the Tula Instrument Design Bureau’s featured display at a Moscow arms trade show. To make sure you got the idea, Tula displayed it in an aquarium.

The gun uses two different kinds of 5.45mm ammo, one for limited-range underwater engagements, and one the conventional, standard Russian infantry round. As the frogman changes mediums, he changes magazines, and he’s good to hook. The rifle appears to be a bullpup AK with a  few modern updates — a Picatinny rail and a 40mm grenade launcher (not the old 30mm one, although this one works on the same principles as the old one). An older Wikipedia entry has the photo of an earlier iteration that you see below (it’s expandable with a click). From this we can learn that the ADS:

  • Uses a standard AK-74 magazine;
  • is available in a suppressed version (using this at the same time as the GL, though, appears to be a Hollywood impossibility; the suppressor casing intrudes into the firing line of the grenades);
  • Has a Glock-style trigger safety that we believe to be a first among Russian weapons;
  • Appears to have rather short-radius iron sights built in;
  • Does have the P-rail on the carrying handle, which is the sincerest form of flattery perhaps, but kind of 1990;
  • Appears to have an adjustable gas system;
  • Appears to have a non-reciprocating, left-hand or possibly selectably-ambidextrous, non-cycling charging handle, and,
  • Appears to have, apart from changes required by the long trigger, classic AK lockwork, judging from the position of the pins in the receiver.  This implies selective fire, with a trigger, dual disconnector, and hammer system on the same general principles used in the M1 Garand and AR-15.


There’s been a lot of media coverage of the new gun, which must please the marketing department. To us, the best general-media coverage (because it’s got the most technical information!) is this story and video at Russia Today. (If we haven’t munged the code, the video is embedded below).

Designed by Russia’s Tula Instrument Design Bureau the ‘ADS’ gun can shoot underwater using a special cartridge, which in size is suitable for the standard magazine case Kalashnikov assault rifle.  To fire under water or on land, one only needs to replace the magazine of the 5.45 millimeter automatic rifle.

“Until now underwater fighters were compelled to use two types of weapon – for use under water and the Kalashnikov for overland firing. Now it is only necessary to replace the ammunition magazine,” Nikolay Komarov, head of department of foreign economic relations of the manufacturer in Tula told

The ‘ADS’ is also equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher. Developers believe that its effectiveness and accuracy are comparable if not greater than the legendary AK-47m.

“The main feature of it is that the fire can be carried out both under water and on land. Currently, no country in the world has been developing such machine guns, they are developing only underwater guns,” a representative of the developer told Ria.

The weight of the machine gun with the grenade launcher is approximately 4.6 kg. The ‘ADS’ uses bullets of 5.45х39 mm at a firing rate of 800 shots/min with the aim range on a land of 500 m.

The rifle’s effective firing range underwater when using a specially designed cartridge is about 25 meters at a depth of 30 meters and 18 m at a depth of 20 m. The new underwater cartridge is externally very similar to standard 5.45×39 ammunition except for a different specially calculated bullet shape. The bullet length is 53.5 mm compared to an overall cartridge length of 57mm.

As compared to the Soviet underwater assault rifle APS that was designed back in 1970s, the new ADS is no less efficient when firing on land than a traditional Kalashnikov. Firing 5.66 mm caliber steel bolts, the APS with its non-rifled barrel is somewhat inaccurate on land. Out of water the APS’s lifetime was only 180 shots with an effective range of around 50 meters.

via Underwater ‘Kalashnikov’: Russia showcases first ever efficient amphibious assault rifle — RT News.

Now that’s really a “sub” gun!

The new gun was displayed at an international arms fair in Moscow, Interpolitex, which has separate expo halls for cop gear, unmanned vehicle technology, physical and border security, and military equipment.

As we mentioned, it’s been around for a while, and The Firearms Blog has covered the gun’s special-purpose ammunition before, and linked to a Russian-language report with further video on the gun. (UPDATE: From the TFB report, the round appears to be a saboted, possibly fin-stabilized, penetrator and the case appears to be rebated rather than rimless. There’s more info on the ammunition at — linked below). From this we learn that the acronym ADS stands for “Avtomat Dvukhsredny Spetsialny,” which meatball-translates to “dual-medium special assault rifle.” We also learn what the Russian word for “bullpup” is:

(This post has been edited to correct the invisible video. You should now have a working video window above. We regret the error).

It occurs to us that Maxim Popenker has to be all over this development, and sure enough he has been, and his page has excellent detail on the history and development of the ADS, including pictures of an earlier developmental version that shot the APS’s foot-long speargun darts, and a patent-filing image of the normal-length underwater ammo, and an explanation that it’s actually quite different from an AK:

They used the A-91M bullpup assault rifle as a starting point, retaining its bullpup layout, gas operated action with rotary bolt locking and forward ejection through the short tube running above and to the right of the barrel. Some parts of the weapon were necessarily redesigned and materials revised to work reliably when submerged in water, gas system was modified with addition of the environment selector (“air / water”). Integral 40mm grenade launcher (which fires VOG-25 type ‘caseless’ grenades using additional front trigger inside the trigger guard) is fitted with removable barrel which can be removed when it is not needed by the mission profile. Muzzle of the barrel is threaded to accept muzzle brake / compensator, tactical silencer or blank-firing adapter.

That brief snippet does not do Max’s reportage justice; go there and Read The Whole Thing™.  Max’s pages on the A-91/A-91M and its non-bullpup forerunner the 9A-91 may also be of interest. Here is some information on the mechanism of the 9A-91:

The 9A-91 rifle is a gas operated, rotating bolt weapon, which utilizes a long stroke gas piston, located above the barrel, and a rotating bolt with 4 lugs. The receiver is made from steel stampings; the forend and pistol grip are made from polymer. The steel buttstock folds up and above the receiver when not in use. The charging handle is located on the right side of bolt carrier (it was welded solid on early production guns, or can be folded up on current production guns). The safety / fire selector lever was located at the left side of the receiver on early guns, but was since relocated to the right side, to clear space for the sight mounting rail. Safety / fire selector lever has 3 positions and allows for single shots and full automatic fire.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 12.34.09 PMHere’s a picture of the right side of the ADS, somewhat crudely snipped from the Russian video above, with part of the selector visible at far left. You can see another reason we think the lockwork is AK-derivative. Without an ADS to examine, or maybe a .pdf manual (hook us up, Rosoboronexport, willya?) we can only speculate, of course. It does make us want to get our hands on one.

* Yes, they’re not Soviets any more, but we were going for the alliteration — and Mr Putin does seem to forget that from time to time.