Category Archives: Safety

Physical Security Plan: Which Measures?

POW Camp Gate Eingang_StaLag_IVBThe Army identifies a number of potential physical security measures in AR 190-11.

Physical security measures are physical security equipment, procedures, or devices used to protect security interests from possible threats. They include, but are not limited to—

  1. Security guards.
  2. Military working dogs.
  3. Physical barriers.
  4. Badging systems.
  5. Secure containers.
  6. Locking devices.
  7. Intrusion detection systems (IDS).
  8. Security lighting.
  9. Assessment or surveillance systems (such as closed-circuit television (CCTV)).
  10. Access control devices.
  11. Facility hardening.

Right now, we can eliminate some of these as not germane to the home or business security situation (excepting very large businesses, of course). There will be no security guards, and no badging system. (In our experience, badging systems, beloved of MPs and other unimaginative physical security pros, are easily manipulated and defeated in the real world; unless they tie in to other access controls, they’re security theater).

Some of the other categories are duplicative in the real world: physical barriers, secure containers, locking devices, access control devices, they all seem to bleed together. They’re all attempts to physically harden the target from access, opening, tampering or removal.

The take-away we can get from those nearly duplicate fields that the Army insists on, though, is that redundant layers of security are A Good Thing®. So we’ll try to suggest an equivalent for each.

Others simply need to be “demilitarized.” For example, not everybody wants, needs, or can handle a military working dog (a retired sergeant-major friend has a retired EOD dog with worse PTSD than any of our human friendsl They’re a man-and-beast match made in heaven). But a dog, period, is a great addition to your home security, as we’ll see. So we’ll start there, since you’re not going to have security guards. You are your own security guard. Deal with it.


A dog has two principal benefits from the standpoint of home security. The first is early warning: a dog has senses that you absolutely do not. He can see things in lower light than you can; he can scent things that humans absolutely do not have a potential of smelling. And dogs appear to have a sixth sense about hazard. (They’re also as good as, if not better than, humans, at reading human emotions).

Military Working DogsThe second benefit is the dog’s deterrent effect: while we’ve made fun of policemen who are afraid of dogs, that’s nothing to the degree to which criminals are afraid of them. (One retired cop of our acquaintance used his note-perfect K9 imitation and a bullhorn to bring a barricaded suspect out, begging for mercy). Burglars gonna burgle, but when they hear your dog, they’re gonna go burgle someone else. Harsh on the neighbors, perhaps, but true. (The pooch in the pic is an actual Military Working Dog at Offut AFB. Down, boy, we promise to say something nice about the F-35 if you give us the fingers back).

A dog doesn’t need to be an attack-trained wolf crossbreed to be aggressive about defending his turf and pack (your home and family). A good intimidating bark and growl will do the job usually. (Of course, they also increase the odds some jumpy cop will whack your best friend. Everything in life’s a trade-off).

Physical barriers / Secure containers / Locking devices

Stalag 13_40acres_1970_rex_mcgee_24There are together because they’re all pretty much of a piece, obstacles. Remember the words of the wise old Defense Against Methods of Entry technician: “Locks keep honest people out.” Dishonest people can either take the time to manipulate the lock, or, if their dishonesty tends more towards the larcenous than the investigative, break the lock. If the lock is indestructible (which is only a relative term), they will break what it’s attached to: hasp, gate, chain, door, safe, none of them will stand up to a physical attack for a long period.

Physical barriers have their place in commercial buildings, but a fence or wall can be a non-starter in some residential communities, and even if it were not contraindicated by neighborhood standards, it too delivers, to a certain degree, false security. Every infantryman (and tanker, and combat engineer) learns that obstacles are only truly obstacles if they’re covered by observation and fire. Given time and a chance to work in the shadows, your opponent gets in. (Criminals prove this every day, burglarizing businesses with unsightly chain-link and razor-wire fences. But these kinds of obstacles can delay him and inconvenience him, and thereby encourage to execute Plan B on some less-hardened location).

This is where it helps to know the threat. Is someone targeting you or your possessions — Renoirs, gold bars, Lugers, Beanie Baby collection? Or are you just hardening your site against the common-and-garden-variety Wealth Redistribution Specialist™? The first case is the more serious threat, but rare; the second is ever-present. But remember: if you are well-to-do and have handymen, landscapers or remodelers work on your house, word of what is visible inside may reach circles you wouldn’t want it to, catapulting you into the first-case threat mode.

Hardening Buys Delay, Not Immunity

Hardening can’t mean “making impossible,” because that’s just not practical in the real world. It can mean “inconveniencing,” “discouraging,” or “slowing down.” For example, the General Services Administration rates security containers (safes like the ones we keep the secret documents in) in terms of the time it takes for an unauthorized user to make a surreptitious entry or an entry by force.

From the burglar’s point of view, the surreptitious entry may be best if he wants the victim to be unaware of the entry. Most burglars will go for the forcible entry, which is superior from their viewpoint because it reduces their time on the X. A burglar’s goal is generally to get on the X and off it in the minimum time possible (minimum exposure, minimum risk) and to get off the X with something of highest possible portability and value (your guns are the Holy Grail for a crusading burglar for that reason. Your gun might be a $350 beater Glock or a rusty Sears Roebuck .22 but he will pass up the $5000 china in your china cabinet to get at that Glock or .22.   Likewise, your 70″ curved Samsung 4G TV that’s bolted to the wall may flunk “portability,” but your $500 Best Buy laptop is gonzo.


Intrusion detection systems (IDS) is the current phys sec buzzphrase for the good old burglar alarm. There are several different classifications of alarms based on technology (how they work) as well as monitoring (who they notify).

For the home, the most common technologies secure the perimeter of the house with a wired low-voltage electrical circuit that trips the alarm if the circuit is open, and/or use motion detectors inside the house. A sophisticated burglar can defeat both types of alarm (the motion detector is more difficult than finding and jumping the wires of a perimeter security system), but an unsophisticated burglar makes a smash-and-grab raid and ignores the alarm.

The motion detector is a problem if you want to alarm a house with pets inside. (And we did just urge you to get a dog).

A less common technology monitors an outer perimeter on the property and alerts the residents of the house or workers in the business when a person has entered the premises. These are available in a variety of technical implementations, and have some limitations but can be a good adjunct to a sophisticated system.

The basic types of monitoring are:

  1. Alarms directly monitored by police, which are not available for most residences or businesses;
  2. Alarms monitored by the alarm company, where a desk officer then calls the local police, usually after a verification call to the alarm owner to guard against false alarms (a bane of cop life in well-to-do residential communities, for which more and more departments are charging homeowners a fee); and,
  3. Unmonitored alarms that simply sound a loud siren or horn. (If you live in a neighborhood with nosy old ladies, an audible alarm will produce a 911 response while a silent alarm was still being escalated by the drones in the alarm company call center.

There are some variations on these; for instance, a vendor in Shotgun News has offered for years a pepper spray system (that can be converted to a CS system, although not with the blessings of the manufacturer) that makes the protected area temporarily untenable for an unprotected human.

Passive Security

Passive security is a catch-all that includes several of the items on the list, such as security lighting and surveillance systems, as well as items they didn’t consider, like landscaping and elimination of concealed avenues of approach.

Burglars work by night, both because they tend to be drug-addled scumbags who hold no other job, and are free to (and have to) sleep in late, and because night conceals them as they go about their depredations. So to deny them the dark and the shadows is a good move.

Landscaping — your trees should have no branches lower than the height of a tall man. Your bushes should not extend high enough to conceal a crouching man working on your windows. The perimeter of the building and its faces should be lit if they are in a position to be observed by people in neighboring structures.


Breaking: PA State Trooper shot at requal… by Instructor?

Trooper David Kedra: EOW 30 Sep 14. Rest in Peace.

Trooper David Kedra: EOW 30 Sep 14. 

Initial reports are sketchy and unclear, and the hard-hit Pennsylvania State Police naturally don’t want to go into it in a lot of depth. But yesterday afternoon, a young State Trooper was shot and killed, reportedly by one of the range instructors, during routine scheduled requalification.

By all accounts, the shooting, at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Campus in Conshohocken (some news stories say Plymouth Twp, but the site’s own website says Conshohocken), was accidental. The trooper, 26-year-old David Kedra, has been on the force for 2 years. He was struck by a single shot to the chest and appeared to be killed instantly, but attempts were made to resuscitate him and transport him by helicopter to Temple Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

It is unclear whether they were conducting flat range or tactical training. The Montgomery County site has excellent facilities for both and is very popular with local, state and Federal law enforcement agencies. Photographs from the scene seem to have been taken outside the perimeter, but one looked like it was from outside the Live Fire Shoot House. The campus in general and the ranges and shoothouse in particular are extremely well outfitted with cameras; as you can see from this photograph, the blind spots in the shoot house are few, depending on the cameras’ orientation.

Montgomery County ShootHouse1

It’s kind of surprising how small the facility is, compared to our old tire houses at Mott Lake Compound. But it has much more sophisticated walls, etc. (The tank car next door is not a hazard but a training aid; the campus is shared by police, fire, and other first responders such as HAZMAT teams).

A public schedule for the site lists only formal courses open to in-county and external LEOs, not to uses of the facilities by agencies under their own aegis. Training scheduled for 30 Sep 14 included one day of a four-day qualification course for Field Training Officers and a one-day Daytime Vehicle Stops course. Neither seems likely to have produced a firearms accident.

The accident hits a force already struggling with the ambush murder of one trooper and wounding of another, by a suspect who remains at large, seeming to mock the PSP’s efforts. Worse, from their point of view, the FBI has bigfooted the murder investigation, standing by to take any credit while defelecting any blame onto the PSP themselves.

It is unknown whether the PSP’s history of firearms accidents is somehow in play here, and whether their many changes of service pistol, driven in part by that accident history, is a factor. But it could just be bad luck. If so, the luck of the PSP is incredibly black these days.

Our condolences to the men and women of the agency, who are still mourning Corporal Bryon Dickson, killed Sept 12 in the above-mentioned ambush; and especially to the friends and family of David Kedra, and to the officer who fired the shot.

Sources (apart from the links in the story).

Recent WeaponsMan coverage of the PSP:

Know your What-stop?

speeding bulletBullets, you know, have a life of their own. The life begins when the firing pin crushes the primer case and some of the impact-sensitive primer mixture against the primer anvil, and it ends when the spent bullet comes to rest.

In between, the bullet can get up to all kinds of mischief, like this one did. It’s almost like the seemingly-enchanted bullet in The Hole Book that we wrote about recently — through or past the target, through the window, off a refriger magnet, off a microwave oven… on and on and on, with, miraculously, no human casualties. South Carolina news station says:

The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office says a woman heard gunshots at her home on Murph Road in Pauline when the bullet broke the pane of glass around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The incident report states the .30 caliber bullet broke the glass, struck a magnetic clip under a cabinet in the kitchen and dented housing on a microwave oven. The bullet then dropped onto the toaster and bounced into a burner on the stove.

The homeowner believed the target shooting was happening on Walnut Grove Pauline Road.

The SCSO deputy states he went to a home on that street and found out a man’s son was target shooting with an AK-47 at an empty propane tank in the back yard. The man didn’t says he realize his bullet went to the neighbor’s house behind him.

via AK-47 Target Practice Bullet Hits Neighbor’s Home In Pauline –

So, where did this Wile E Coyote Certified Genius™ think the bullet was going to go? There’s a reason everybody learns to consider his backstop, and what may be downrange beyond it: because it’s best safety practice. And there’s a reason that some people don’t do that: because some people are functionally brain-dead, even as they walk among us.

Fortunately, no one was injured, and, speaking well of the restraint of the Spartanburg County deputies, the shooter wasn’t shot, pistol-whipped, tased, or even charged, but we’d bet he got a good enough talking-to that he isn’t going to do that again.

Nossir, his next dumb stunt will be completely different. Well, that’s why we have deputies, to take those calls. Well done, SCSO, and best of luck next time. ‘Cause there will be a next time.

It’s all fun and games until your static line seizes up

Dateline Mexico. This guy gets towed, and instead of either pulling him in or cutting him loose, the JMs and safetys seem to convene a Knesset in the airplane while he spins around out there. The video doesn’t show what finally happened to him. Commenters said he was OK in a longer version of the video, but the only longer version we could find was the same video with another copy of itself pasted on the end.

Getting towed is one of the nightmares of static line jumping. Usually what happens is the SL seizes on some piece of equipment. We had a guy get hung up by an entrenching tool, clipped onto his ALICE pack with two of those flimsy ALICE clips. He said the worst of it was that it was hard to breathe, with the parachute harness constricting his chest and the thin air in the slipstream behind the airplane (C-130 in his case).

In the US, jumpers are trained to put their hand on their reserve and the other on their helmet to signal to the crew they’re ready for cutaway. We doubt Mexican procedure is very different. If the jumper is unconscious, they won’t cut him loose, but they try to bring him into the tailgate, or at least get him close. The aircrew may call ahead to have the fire apparatus spread foam on the runway so that a guy trailing behind the big iron bird doesn’t get a terminal case of runway rash.

Just to show you Army SF can screw up jumping, too, here’s a 5th Group JM exiting a wee bit early. He was OK, apart from the embarrassment of the thing.

He got the usual result if you accidentally activate a reserve in the tailgate area — an instant exit, and descent under two canopies (with very little directional control, but a soft landing guaranteed). It’s a different matter if you pop the reserve near the door whilst doing a door jump. There, the doorframe impedes your exit, and you hit it at ±130 kt or so. SF strongly prefers tailgate jumps anyway, but the 82nd has lost a couple of guys to near-door activations.

If you pop the reserve a bit deeper inside the airplane, everybody tries to dive on the pilot chute and control it before it can catch the wind.

Military parachuting is a harsh environment and there are frequent arguments over whether it is worth the vast expenditure on it. Most major and regional powers (like Mexico) think it is. It is another way to project power, and forces certain defensive dispositions on an enemy even if it isn’t used. And it also provides an important gut check and confidence builder for troops. Elite forces that are not parachute trained are relatively rare worldwide.

Gun Safety Lesson for Kids — from 1908

Here’s The Hole Book, by Peter Newell. New York: Harper & Brothers, October 1908. In verse and illustrations, Newell tells the story of Tom Potts, who was “fooling with a gun” when, “bang! the pesky thing went off.” The shot he recklessly fires a shot causes all kinds of mischief. The gun is naturally a revolver, and not one of those newfangled Browning things:


You see a cross-section of urban society at the turn of the last century, as seen by, we suspect, a middle-class New Yorker. The book pokes gentle fun at such stereotypes as an Irish house-servant; a goateed artist; a black family; immigrants from Russia, Germany, and the Netherlands; various hard-of-thinking workmen; and such newfangled contraptions as airships and motorcars.

The bullet’s path, illustrated in the hard-copy book by an actual hole drilled through the pages, miraculously intersected no human being and no living thing that wasn’t a menace to man, and might have wound its way all round the world to threaten Tom himself, but something fortunately intervenes.

Tom, and the readers, are left lightly entertained and perhaps somewhat inoculated against “fooling with a gun.”

You can read it online at this link or at You can also download it as .pdf, or ePub (iBooks) or .mobi (Kindle) formats at OpenLibrary (several other formats also).

A Mess of Accidents, Early August Edition

Item: Pittsburgh, 5 August 2014: “The Bra Went Bang!”

ND-shot-in-footThe story is so bizarre all we can do is repeat it. Note that the agency is assigned to the gun (“the gun fired”), and the headline was even worse: she was “Shot By Gun in Bra.” Those wacky guns!

Pittsburgh police plan to charge a married couple after the woman was accidentally shot in the arm when her husband reached for her cellphone — which the woman carried in her bra along with the gun — during an argument on the street.

The Associated Press is not naming the Carnegie couple because police had yet to file charges Thursday.

The incident occurred about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

That’s when police say the 35-year-old husband reached for the cellphone, accidentally hitting the gun in the process. The gun fired, wounding the woman in the arm. She ran to nearby Allegheny General Hospital for treatment.

Police intend to charge the man with aggravated assault under Pennsylvania’s domestic violence laws. The woman will be charged with carrying an unlicensed firearm.

via 2 To Face Charges In Pa. After Wife Shot By Gun In Bra « CBS Philly.

We realize holsters are not that well adapted to women’s fashions, but we know women who cope. If any of them bra carry, we don’t know about it — only the TSA knows for sure.

Item: Meriden CT, 3 Aug 14: “Cleaning his gun.”

You don’t want to have an ND in anti-gun Connecticut. Not only will the press blame the gun (“The gun accidentally went off!”) but the whole thing will end with you, and your guns, in police custody:

Police said Khaled Elmorsy was cleaning his gun Sunday night when the weapon went off at his condo on North Colony Road.

Elmorsy’s downstairs neighbor, Tom Hollowell, said his 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter was sleeping in her room when the bullet flew by her bed and lodged itself in a closet door about three feet away.

Hollowell and his girlfriend noticed the bullet hole the next day and called police in a panic.
“We didn’t know what happened,” Hollowell explained. “We couldn’t even comprehend what went on.”

Police said Elmorsy never reported that the gun went off. They arrived on scene to examine the damage and promptly arrested him.

“He could have hurt someone, and no one would have known because people were sleeping,” Hollowell said.

Elmorsy was charged with unlawful discharge and reckless endangerment. Hollowell said his neighbor was shaken up and apologetic.

The 2nd Amendment being a dead letter in anti-gun Connecticut, Elmorsy was able to bond out of jail but he appears to have lost his guns for good. He’s lucky he didn’t hit the kid, or he’d have lost his liberty, too. But since it is Connecticut, he may be able to get away with blaming the gun.

To understand how Connecticut politicians get elected, parse this statement by the aggrieved resident: “He could have hurt someone, and no one would have known because people were sleeping.” Of course the same guy came out with the doubtless truthful, “We couldn’t even comprehend what went on.” We’ll bet.

Item: Mexico City, 3 Aug 14. “He didn’t know the gun was loaded.”

As the title suggests, there are no new gun accidents, just new fools having the same old gun accidents. Oscar Aguilar was a fan of selfies, and thought a gun was the perfect prop for a Facebook memory. Instead, he’s the memory now.

Oscar Aguilar showed off on Facebook by posting photos of himself in front of sports cars, sitting on motorbikes and hugging attractive women.

But the Mexican’s desire to impress proved his downfall when he borrowed the gun and snapped himself waving it about.

Neighbour Manfredo Paez, 57, said: ‘I heard a gunshot and then I heard somebody screaming.’

The 21-year-old died on the way to hospital in Mexico City.

He had failed to realise the gun was loaded, police said.

The British paper Metro was a rare example of media understanding the agency of gun accidents: it said Aguilar “died shortly after shooting himself in the head by accident.”



Physical Security: 6 Facts about Safes

vault-door-family-imageHaving just been through the rodeo of safe-buying, and about to do it again, we came away with some wisdom we’re willing to share with you. If you learn from our pain, you will experience less of your own when you do this, so we’re putting it out there.

  1. An expensive safe is usually better, but a cheap safe now beats a perfect safe in the indistinct future.
  2. The best safes aren’t “gun” safes, but commercial safes that might be too heavy for your floors.
  3. A safe that can be walked off with is not a safe, it’s a gift basket for your burglars.
  4. How you install the safe is as important as the safe itself.
  5. Electronic locks are a single point of failure.
  6. All safe manufacturers lie about their products’ capacity. A lot.

Also: customer service counts, and it might not be where you expect to find it. Make sure you know, in muscle memory, the combination. And once they’re locked up inside, don’t put your guns out of mind. We’ll also tell you which accessories we like best.

An Expensive Safe is Usually Better, But…

If you have no safe now, go out and buy the biggest one you can reasonably transport, and then come back and read this article. Very cheap safes don’t seriously deter or slow down burglars, and provide minimal fire protection. There are ways to save money on a safe. For example, summertime is usually good, as dealers have incentives to move last year’s model. Craigslist can be a source of old safes, but most of the safes we’ve seen there are home-store junk. Some brands make only junk. For example, Stack-On sells nothing but crap under their own name. They make higher quality safes under house names for some sporting-goods chains, like the anti-gun gun store, Dick’s (Dick’s brand is “Field and Stream 1871″. These are Stack-On safes, but better built than the ones Stack-On puts its own name on).

An old jewelry-store or bank safe can sometimes be found at business supply store or antique shops. These may or may not provide the burglar and fire security one hopes to gain from a safe, but in most cases will actually be better than a new “gun safe.” To understand why, read this website:

The Best Safes Aren’t Gun Safes.

Two things have been driving the design of gun safes for years: relentless competitive pressure to lower prices, and customer demand for more volume and lower weight. This adds up to thin sheet metal safes that burglars can brute force in minutes. The commercial safes that jewelers, for example, have long relied on, provide much better security. But a long-gun-sized one may be hard to install in a home — their weight can be reckoned in tons.

A Safe That Can Be Walked Off With isn’t a Safe.

Imagine you’re a burglar, and you are looking through YOUR house for whatever can most rapidly be turned into the largest quantity of heroin and meth. (The last thief to steal to feed an orphan was Jean Valjean, and he’s a fictional character. Since then, thieves steal to stay stoned, and because they’re too lazy to work). A burglar that finds a safe is sure he is having a happy day. IF that safe can be physically removed, that’s what he’ll do with it, to work on opening it at his leisure. There are several ways to make sure the safe is still there when you come home:

  • Make it heavy. Your typical burglars work solo or in small crews. You do not want a safe that three men can remove, loaded, using the tools available in your building and grounds. They may be stupid but they’re sly and cunning and very creative when it comes to the TTTPs of stealing. So on top of the weight of the guns, some heavy weights (for example, discarded gym weights) in the bottom of the safe can complicate the burglar’s target solution.
  • Anchor it down, and make it impossible to get a pry bar in, attack the sides, or knock over the safe. More on this in the next item.
  • Welding is your friend. Three safes in a row? Tack ‘em together. Just one? Put it on two eight-foot sections of railroad rail — and weld it to ‘em. Now they have a safe they can’t get out the door, unless the burglar is also a dab hand with your welding/cutting gear.

Remember, the strength of the safe is in the time and effort burden it imposes on a burglar (and the time and temp resistance it offers a fire).

How you install the safe is as important as the safe itself.

Just about every gun safe on the market comes with a couple of bolts and instructions on how to bolt the safe to the concrete floor of your basement. Hardly anybody does that. That’s a mistake. When you bolt down the safe, you limit the burglar’s options. He now has to break it in situ, or give up.

Your installation can also create other limits or complications to his ability to remove or attack it. Corners are good because he now can attack only two sides. Installed in a narrow passageway (or maybe one created by two facing safes), he now can’t get a very good mechanical advantage with a lever. This also limits his ability to attack it in situ. Burglars are lazy men; otherwise, they’d get a better living by working. So keep any or your tools that might help them break in well out of sight of the safe.

If your collection will not fit in one safe, consider multiple safes in multiple locations. Burglars know to hit certain locations first — like the master bedroom and associated closets.

Finally, there’s camouflage, concealment and deception. Given the size of the typical gun safe, and the need for regular access, any sophisticated concealment is not an entirely practical option for most people, but at an irreducible minimum you do not want your safe visible from a window. When we’re going to be away, a parachute canopy goes over the banks of safes, and moving boxes full of papers and old clothing are stacked in front of them.

Our deception plan includes a small, man-portable safe that contains nothing of value.

Electronic locks are a single point of failure.

These are currently trendy. They were, and are, a bad idea. The better-designed ones fail closed and lock you out of the safe; the worse-designed ones fail open. But sooner or later they all fail. The mechanical lock will fail, too: when it wears out, in 1000 years’s worth of opening. It won’t be your problem then.

What happens when your e-lock fails closed? You call a locksmith or safe-smith and he comes expensively to your premises and drills the safe open. If the safe has the latest anti-theft features, it’s irreparable at that point; if it’s a little more old-fashioned, it can then be repaired. At even more expense.

You don’t want other electronic gingerbread like power outlets, AC-powered lights (battery LED lights are OK, put the batteries on a replacement schedule) or powered dehumidifiers. You don’t want anything that requires a wire to go through the perimeter of the safe. (Where wire goes, fire goes).

All safe manufacturers lie about their products’ capacity.

If you have 16 guns, you think an 18-gun safe gives you room to grow. But that’s because you’re unaware of how safe manufacturers figure guns. In their world, long guns have no scopes, magazines, or bolt handles. You can get 32 guns in a 32-long-gun safe if they’re 32 H&R Toppers (single shot break-action shotguns). If they’re anything else, rotsa ruck. An “18-gun” safe is probably good for 8 to 10 guns. As a rule of thumb, deflate the manufacture’s claim by 50%.

Capacity isn’t all that the manufacturers lie about, either. You’ll notice that no gun safes have a GSA rating, and very few of them have an Underwriters’ Laboratories rating. That’s because the manufacturers don’t submit them to testing. This may be because the testing is expensive, and few buyers look for these certifications.

But it may also be because the manufacturers know their safes would not pass the stringent GSA or even the looser UL standards.

Some Closing Comments

We went to Famous Shooting, Hunting and Fishing store, complete with a pickup and tie-downs, for a safe.  We didn’t want to buy something so major online, and the store offered attractive discounts on last year’s safes. We thought for sure we’d be better off with this place’s renowned customer service. But that was not the experience we had.

In fact, on a slow weekday, in a store teeming with workers, we couldn’t get anyone to talk safes. “Not from here, it’s that department,” they offered with a desultory wave in no particular direction. After talking to four workers and a manager, we concluded they just weren’t in to selling the $2k safe we’d selected, and we went elsewhere. (And bought a less expensive safe, in keeping with Fact About Safes #1 above). Remember: secure enough and now is better than loose now and more secure next month, maybe.

There are ways to recover a lost combination, assuming your safe maker stays in business. But the best way is not to lose it, and the way to do that is to drill it into your muscle memory. All of the Schools of Education in the USA insist that drill is unnecessary and kills motivation; all of the football coaches at those same schools’ universities insist that only by drill does learning become real. Who has the better of it? Simple to answer, is a typical state university better known for its Ed.D output, or its team’s gridiron performance? So practice with the combination until you get so your fingers work the lock intuitively. (This gets harder to do when you are older, and have lots of safes). Then, open and lock the safe frequently to make sure you don’t forget. You should be doing this to inspect the firearms, rejuvenate moisture-removing silica, etc, at least weekly.

Accessories we have found useful include a canister of silica (you can refresh it by baking out the moisture, using your kitchen oven) and battery-operated LED lights. Many other accessories are crap.

The whole point of a safe or safes is to keep your property safe (what else?) and secure. A good safe should cost you about what a year of homeowner’s or renters’ insurance goes for. And keeping your guns out of criminal hands might just save a life.

Cop Lets Daylight through his Hand

ND-shot-in-footA Hewitt, Texas policeman had a rather embarrassing injury last month while conducting some firearms training for his family, the Waco Tribune reported.

Sgt. Heath Vanek will miss at least two months of work while rehabilitating from surgery to repair a wound from his personal 9mm pistol, Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said.

The incident occurred July 15 on Vanek’s family property near the McLennan and Falls county lines and did not involve any Hewitt-issued guns or equipment.

Devlin said Vanek, 35, declined comment Friday about his accidental injury.
Devlin said there will be an internal police investigation into the incident that will comply with Civil Service procedures. Because of that process, he has limited information about the incident because the chief said he must allow the system to work before he gets involved.

But, in speaking briefly with Vanek, an 11-year Hewitt department veteran, Devlin said Vanek was teaching his family to shoot a pistol and was teaching them how to clear a semi-automatic pistol’s chamber in case the gun jams.

He was shot in the hand during the demonstration, Devlin said.

“He said, ‘I made a classic mistake,’ ” Devlin said. “We are human, too. We are not infallible. We make mistakes, and when we mess up, we mess up and do our best to correct it and get back to giving the public the best service we can.”

via Hewitt police firearms instructor shoots himself in hand – Hewitt.

We were going to write a long exegesis on this, but why, really? He knows what he did wrong. He won’t ever do that again. And, as surely as the sun rises, someone else will. Or, as my man Rudyard put it:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man-
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:-
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!


‫Allah hu Fubar! FOOM!

Oldest trick in the guerrilla warfare book. A little something extra in the occasional mortar round, or in this case, 7.62 x 39mm cartridge.

The US did this as a psychological operation in the Vietnam War, designed to shake the NVA’s confidence in their Russian and Chinese weapons suppliers. The Germans did it to the Russians in World War II.

Now, is someone doing it to the jihadis? Or did this guy just get a bad ice cube in his cocktail of death-to-whomever this morning? We can’t say. Certainly, Comblock ammo manufacture was a bit dodgy, and some of the Arab and Iranian ammo plants make Vodka Friday at Soviet State Arsenal No. 5376 look like a routine day shift at a Swiss medical device factory.

Of course, in 2014, when your AK reverts to kit form in your very hands, somebody’s got you on GoPro or cellphone video. Smile, Hadji, you’re an intertubes celebrity. Pity he didn’t get this on Ian’s new high-speed camera.

Physical Security: the Importance of Inventory


A section of a Firearms, Ammunition, Parts and Optics inventory spreadsheet (details redacted).

How many guns do you own? If you only have one, that’s an easy question to answer. What if you have fifty-something? Over 100? Hundreds? There are people like that. You might just be one of them.

We’ve heard a few horror stories about guns that went walkabout when the owners thought they were secure in a safe. Until they turn up at a crime scene, and it turns out the gun’s been in the criminal gun pipeline for years. That could be you, and you could go for years without knowing that the handyman’s helper boosted one of your less-frequently-handled guns.

In a way, the tendency to lock guns away in safes and vaults and such containers actually exacerbates this risk. If it’s hanging on the mantel, you notice when it’s not there.

The military, especially its reserve components (the military Reserves, which are Federal formations, and the National Guard, which have State and Federal duties), used to be casual about weapons security, and got embarrassed repeatedly by criminal elements who exploited that carelessness. Gunsels like Dillinger and Bonnie & Clyde frequently ripped off National Guard (and police) armories, and 1960s radical terrorists did the same thing. For example, the M2 carbines beloved of Patty Hearst and her Symbionese Liberation Army comrades came from a government gun stash. Indeed, burglarizing armories has been a main source of weapons for insurgents and terrorists always and everywhere, especially in extreme anti-gun regimes. (Remember the campus cop that Flashbang and Speedbump murdered in Boston? They wanted to steal his gun). So the Army and the other services tightened up physical security in the 1970s. Many of their policies and procedures are overkill for the private citizen, but some of the basic principles include:

  • Keeping weapons locked up multiple ways;
  • Keeping weapons storage under surveillance;
  • Alarming and (often) surveilling that weapons storage;
  • Using the “2-man rule” to guard against the insider threat;
  • Conducting periodic inventories, and less frequent but periodic 100% by-serial-number inventories; and,
  • Conducting no-notice inspections to ensure in integrity of the inventories.

Today, we’re talking about inventories.

Two Kinds of Inventory

There are two basic kinds of inventory: in one, weapons are simply counted and reconciled with a master list by eyeball. “84 M4A1s on the register, two signed out for repair, nine signed out with a deployed team, we count 73 M4s in the racks, we’re good.” This is done, in the Army, every time the arms room is about to be shut, and on a periodic schedule. For a lot of private gun owners, this kind of inventory is good enough, because unless you’re an advanced collector each of your guns is different enough from the others that you won’t confuse them.

The second kind of inventory is the by-serial-number inventory. This is required, under Army regulations, at specific times and intervals, and must be done in certain ways. (For example, a reserve component unit closing up shop after a weekend drill is supposed to require a by-SN inventory of the stored arms by two officers or NCOs of the rank of Sergeant First Class or higher). In this inventory, every single weapon’s serial number is matched to its paper (or computer) record. Any discrepancies are resolved on the spot, or, if irresolvable, reported forthwith.

How to Adapt this to Civilian Life

You probably don’t need to by-serial-number inventory your firearms often, but you ought to think about doing it at least once, to establish a baseline; after that, do it again at long intervals or when a major change (acquiring or divesting a group of guns, moving house, changing or modifying storage arrangements, etc.) seems to call for it. Use the judgment God gave you, and make the inventory a tool that works for you, not some check-the-block finger drill that wastes your time (and tempts you to cheat).

For example, our inventory was triggered by the installation of a new security container, which was going to change the cross-loading of stored weapons. Good time to get eyes on every one and its serial number.

If you don’t know for sure where each and every one of your weapons is, it’s time for an inventory.

A Computerized Inventory

Computers make inventory a lot easier, unless you do it the stupid Army way, by printing off the property book on an impact printer in nearly unreadable type on a sheaf of hundreds of pages of paper. Instead, keep the inventory in soft copy on a laptop, and store a copy in an encrypted offsite repository (the burglars who steal any of your guns will certainly take your laptop, which is even more readily convertible to cash; and then where are you, if that’s your only copy?)

While a very large collection may call for using a relational database, you can manage a collection of hundreds or thousands of weapons with a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice (a free MS Office knockoff), or Apple Numbers.

Here’s the Excel sheet we use, with some data dummied into it so you can see how to use it. It’s free to use or share, just preserve the copyright information. Suggestions are welcome, also.

Firearms Inventory Sample.xlsx

Some Discoveries during an Inventory

An ongoing 100% inventory of firearms, ammo, optics and parts has produced some interesting discoveries.

  1. We made a list of firearms before starting the inventory, a list we figured was comprehensive. Until we stumbled on three different firearms we’d forgotten we had. D’oh!
  2. Getting eyes on every single firearm let us catch creeping tarnish, that would have been rust if left unchecked, on several of them, and full-blown rust on several more.
  3. We determined that one serial number in all our records was wrong — it had two digits transposed. (We had this happen, once, on an auto VIN when a Registry clerk fat-fingered it, putting an impossible VIN into title and registration records. What a nightmare that turned into! Fortunately, we don’t have to register guns here, so our records are our own).

Likewise, a review of current values — in our spreadsheet, there is a column for the cost-basis value of each firearm, and one for its current mark-to-market value — showed that we had several valuations miles off from the market.

Finally, working with the spreadsheet made us realize that it contained an error that exposed us to considerable risk. The column after “Value, Cost Basis” and “Value, Mark to Market” was labeled “Unrealized Profit,” which is not only technically incorrect, but also might suggest, were we ever to discuss this inventory with ATF, that we were dealing without a license. We think the term “Unrealized Appreciation” or possibly “Unrealized Gain” is a better fit, both because it is more financially accurate * , and because it is less likely to convince some ATF Ahab to make us his personal white whale.

Note that if you are a Federal Firearms Licensee or Special Occupational Taxpayer, you have records-keeping requirements that a simple spreadsheet may not meet.

Setting a Schedule

Our next inventory is likely to be a more routine check by eyeball, just checking quantity by type, without the serial matching. So if we see two Johnson M1941 rifles, we know we’re up on Johnsons, without doing the Army OCD thing of checking the serials to see if some prowler has substituted his Johnson for ours.

We’ll now do some kind of inventory every month, and the serial number inventory at least annually.

The other tabs of our spreadsheet let us track Ammo, Parts and Optics, by serial number where that’s possible.

We find that maintaining positive inventory control over our firearms is rewarding in terms of personal comfort and peace of mind.

And there’s a side benefit. Since there’s only one number to remember, we can now answer the question, “How many guns do you have?” without resorting to the smug and nonresponsive rejoinder, “If you know how many guns you have, you don’t have enough.”

Not that we have enough, yet.



* It is more accurate because there is no profit in a gun collection; if you think there is, you are either not accounting for the Opportunity Cost of your time, or the Time Value of your money, properly; or because you are cherry-picking high-appreciation guns from your set without factoring in the dogs, or all of the above. This is true of almost any collection of anything, from Paterson Colts to Picassos to double-strike Pennies — collect it because you love it, not because you’ve conned yourself into thinking it’ll pay the kids’ way to Harvard or Stanford.