Category Archives: Safety

Safety: This is Doing it Wrong

Victim James Baker

Victim James Baker

The first report was dry and brief, but was enough to let anyone know that something had come unglued seriously:

Officials say a man has been fatally shot in an apparent accident during a concealed carry class at a gun shop in Ohio.

The Clermont County sheriff says the unidentified man was shot in the neck around 1 p.m. Saturday and died at the scene. There were about 10 people in the concealed carry class when the shooting occurred at KayJay Gun Shop in Amelia, about 20 miles east of Cincinnati.

According to the gun shop’s website, the class taught basic pistol safety, gave attendees range time and reviewed Ohio’s gun laws.

via Man fatally shot in accident during class at Ohio gun shop.

The first story neither identified the victim, nor explained anything about how this happened. More detail was soon available on Fox 19:

The owner of a gun shop was accidentally shot and killed during a concealed carry class in Amelia, the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office confirms.

Crews responded to the the Kay Jay Gun Shop on Lindale-Mt. Holly Rd. around 1 p.m. on Saturday for reports of a shooting.

Clermont County Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg said James E. Baker, 64, was shot in the neck after a class participant discharged a handgun while practicing weapon malfunction drills, striking Baker who was sitting in an adjacent room.

Investigators said efforts to resuscitate Baker were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Something went seriously wrong in that class.

If the Four Rules (or however many are in your version) had been followed assiduously, nobody gets shot. A firearm has zero tolerance for inattention to detail.


An updated story described neighbors’ and friends’ feelings of loss (warning, autoplay video with loud ad. The mute button is your friend):

Baker’s gun shop offers a long list of training courses to teach people to use guns like rifles and pistols the correct way.

Now, many in this tight-knit community say they are devastated knowing he won’t be here to do that anymore.

“He’s just a great guy, I mean, I can’t believe it happened, it’s hard to believe, just a really good guy,” Fritz said. “I’m going to miss him because he was a good neighbor.”

We also talked with a man who lives just a few houses down from where it happened.

He told us Baker gave him his very first job, calling him a great boss and friend.

Investigators aren’t saying what type of gun was used or if any charges will be filed.

Update 2

(Warning, autoplay video again). The Investigation continues, with more details trickling out.

In a media release, the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office said, “Investigators discovered that a class participant discharged a handgun while practicing weapon malfunction drills, striking Baker who was sitting in an adjacent room. Efforts to resuscitate Baker were unsuccessful and Baker was pronounced at 3:12 p.m.”

Baker regularly conducted gun training sessions.

A friend and fellow Vietnam-era veteran took a session a couple years back and said Baker was careful and experienced.

“When I took the class, nobody had a loaded weapon,” said Dennis Cooper. “I mean, you could bring your own weapon, but it had to be cleared.”

A friend at a nearby gun shop didn’t want to be identified, but said Baker had close law enforcement connections and helped to build area SWAT units.

He seemed stunned at how this went down.

Immediately after it happened, a 911 caller told the dispatcher, “We were doing malfunction misfires and we have plastic bullets and we just, I just, we just double checked the bullets and there was a live round in one of the guns and it went through the wall and shot the owner in the neck.”

Those who knew Baker feel the loss deeply.

A father and his young son placed a potted flower at the property gate Monday.

We’re told Baker was a Marine sniper in Vietnam about 45 years ago and let police in the area use his target range to recertify as they must do each year.

We wonder why they were doing malfunction misfire drills during a basic CCW class.

Hey, Dude, Where’s My Guns?

burglarThat was the question a Sanford, FL detective was asking when he went back to his Ford Explorer after a softball game and found his back window smashed open — and two guns, his cuff key, body armor and badge gone.

D’oh. The smash-and-grab theft was one of two at the park that day, but the other guy didn’t have guns locked in his car (and if he wasn’t a cop, would have gotten in trouble if he had… since the guy who armed a criminal is a cop, he faces no consequences more serious office mockery). Nope, what the thieves got from the other victim was a diaper bag. (So much for our master plan of hiding our guns inside a diaper bag).

After shattering the window, someone grabbed the detective’s department-issued Sig Sauer pistol, his personally-owned Remington 870 shotgun, body armor, a handcuff key, a stun-gun cartridge, radio microphone and his law-enforcement badge. The items have a combined estimated value of more than $3,400, the report states.

The Orlando Sentinel rounds up other local cop theft victims:

Guns are a popular item among thieves who target law-enforcement officials.

Earlier this month, thieves robbed a retired FBI agent of his credentials and gun while he napped inside his car outside a business in Altamonte Springs. And in a 6-month span last year, there were at least three separate incidents of guns disappearing from law enforcement vehicles in Central Florida.

Two the incidents involved Orange County sheriff’s deputies and the other a Winter Park police officer. It’s unclear if any of the weapons stolen in those cases were found.

Don’t worry about it. They’ll turn up in gang murders. Hopefully it’s only the gang members who get murdered, which is just Evolution in Action® (“Evolution in Action®” is a registered trademark of Niven and Pournelle).

While it’s fun making fun of law enforcement, nothing feels like being ripped off, except perhaps being raped. And the biggest reason we have such a high level of theft, apart from living in a low trust society produced by unassimilated immigration, and racial and ethnic identity politics, is that punishment for the thieves is neither swift, nor sure, nor sufficient. We still think malum in se felony sentences should be simplified to 10-20-Life, with no parole, no probation, no plea bargains. A second arrest while on pretrial release should nullify pretrial release rights for life. Get the pathogens out of the bloodstream, and the patient gets healthy.

Then, there’s this little two-liner from the Sentinel:

How often law enforcement vehicles are burglarized isn’t known, as agencies rarely alert the public.

Sanford police released information about the incident on Saturday as a public safety notice, saying a statement that residents “should be aware of the possibility of police impersonation.”

Good on Sanford for doing the right thing in this case, and really, it’s better to get this kind of news out in public with your own spin on it, and look like you give a damn, rather than look like you’re covering up.

Who Steals Guns? Violent Criminals. Duh.

This is not news to anybody, except, it turns out, the news media. This year the New Orleans Times-Picayune discovered that, to their shock and horror, criminals steal guns. 

No $#!+, Sherlock. Criminals steal stuff. It’s what they do. 

But it seems to have really blown the NOLA reporters away that such a things happen. It seems to have twaumatized their ban-the-guns-end-crime simplistic, childish worldview. They are shocked that criminals in the Crescent City have made off with 2,100 plus guns, the theft of which was reported to the NOPD, between 2012 and 2015.

Graphic © 2016 New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Graphic © 2016 New Orleans Times-Picayune.

No reporter writes a story to inform his readers any more; it’s always a crusade to Change the World. The paper’s agenda in this case is to help their party’s politicians push a proposed mandatory-reporting law. But in support of that push, they gathered some interesting interviews and statistics.

Here are the Times-Picayune stories:

‘I put guns out on the street’: Gun theft victims speak outThe paper notes that some owners are careless, leaving guns in unlocked homes or in cars. But others get ripped off despite using safes. Best you can do is have a list of your serial numbers — and not just in your laptop that the same thieves will bug out with.

5 tips to prevent your guns from being stolen. These are pretty much standard, and won’t stop a determined thief. Still, not all thieves are determined, and not all gun owners take these precautions.

Video: Stolen Weapons Fuel Street Violence. (It doesn’t seem to occur to them that violent criminals either seek to steal weapons, or seek to buy them from thieves).

3 stolen guns, 3 New Orleans violent crime scenes: How stolen guns fuel crime. Three case studies of guns used in robberies and murders (twice, wrested away from the criminals, and once, used to shoot the bastard stone cold graveyard dead. Woot).

An interactive-map sidebar to that article shows that 10 NOLA stolen guns didn’t leave town, but were used by local robbers and murderers. Another interactive tells us that:

  1. Stolen guns are used in crime (they keep harping on this, but it’s not an Einstein level insight).
  2. 3 guns a day are stolen in the NOLA metro area of the city and adjacent Jefferson Parish.
  3. The thousands of guns stolen in the metro area are used in shootings that kill innocents (they cite an example where 17 and 19 year old gangbangers missed each other but nailed an uninvolved 15-year-old girl inside a nearby home.
  4. In 2015, NOLAs theft total of 582 breaks down as
    1. 203 vehicle break-in
    2. 149 theft or auto theft (not burglary)
    3. 106 residential burglary
    4. 64 all others (lost, armed robberies, etc).
  5. The reporters interviewed some gun-theft victims. Of 44 guns these 11 victims lost to theft in 2015-16, only 2 have been recovered. The other 42 presumably still circulate in criminal channels.
  6. Almost half the time, the owners had no record of their stolen firearms’ serial numbers.
  7. Most NOLA murders are shootings (149 of 164 in 2015, 91%). To this we’d add, that’s pretty normal for North American major cities.
  8. ATF estimates that 60+% of gun thefts are never reported. (What percentage of those is various criminal underclass members stealing from one another is not clear). The latest number the ATF has (based on actual theft reports) is 190k, but they think 500k is more reasonable, to account for those theft victims who do not report guns stolen.

Lessons Learned

If there’s one lesson in the whole thing it’s don’t leave your gun in the jeezly car. If there’s two lessons, the second one is take a picture of the GD serial number and store it in the cloud. You might even get your gun back, after the cops pry it out of some worthless gangbanger’s cold dead hands.

Expanding Beyond NOLA

The ATF has released a study on calendar 2015’s gun thefts. The data are a little more solid, and the writing not nearly as breathless as the Times-Picayune’s, but it’s not constrained to any one city, either.

Because, naturally, New Orleans’ criminal element is not the only one awash in stolen guns these days. In Phoenix, an open-carrier found his gun grabbed by a lightfingered crook, and then used to discourage him from pursuing. Open carry is tactically inferior to concealed carry, folks. Even when you’re not getting your guns stolen and used aginst you. And open carry in a non-retention holster? Sheesh. Watch the video at that link. Don’t be that guy.

In Cleveland, gun show thefts led cops to a thief who was also a suspect in violent crimes. (Well, duh. What sort of person would steal guns, except a violent criminal?)

In Philadelphia, Officer Josh Hartnett was shot by a convert named Abdul Shaheed, whom the Philadelphia press continues to call by the non-jihadi name he had rejected, Edward Archer, perhaps to distract people away from questions about motive. Shaheed attacked Hartnett with a stolen gun. The gun was a Glock from Hartnett’s own department. It was one of a couple dozen department firearms that are missing at any given time.

The Konduz Report

This AC-130 time exposure was shot over Iraq, but it's pretty typical. The tracers are a psychological weapon.

This AC-130 time exposure was shot over Iraq, but it’s pretty typical. The tracers are a psychological weapon.

The US military has finished its investigation into the attack on the Konduz Trauma Center operated by Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in  the early hours (local) of 3 October 2015.

The story of the attack is as simple as it is banal: the guys on the ground and the guys in the air miscommunicated, and the ground guys identified the wrong building to the air guys, who then destroyed it, as requested. But the identified target wasn’t the compound full of Talban; it was the NGO’s hospital.

On Sep. 30, 2015, Sep. Afghan forces and a small element of US Special Forces attempted to re-take the City of Kunduz, which had been seized by the Taliban. The US and Afghan forces established a small base on an Afghan Police compound in Kunduz and repelled several Taliban attacks between Sep. 30 and Oct. 2. The US Special Forces element on the ground had been engaged in heavy fighting for nearly five consecutive days and nights at the time of the airstrike on Oct. 3.

On the night of Oct. 2, 2015, the Afghan forces decided to attack an insurgent-controlled site, and requested air support from the US Special Forces element on the ground. An AC-130U Gunship was directed to provide the requested support. The AC-130 launched from its airfield in Afghanistan 69 minutes earlier than the crew had originally planned due to an emergency call, so they did not get all the information they would normally have received before a mission. While en route to Kunduz, one of the AC-130’s critical communications systems failed, resulting in an inability to receive updates from and transmit information to multiple command headquarters. Additionally, after arriving in the operating area, due to significant threats to aircraft in Kunduz, the AC-130 took defensive measures that degraded its ability to locate ground targets. These factors all contributed to the incident.

It looks like it has a lot of sensors, but... GIGO.

It looks like it has a lot of sensors, but… GIGO.

When the aircrew arrived near Kunduz in the early morning on Oct. 3, 2015, they attempted to locate the Taliban-controlled target site. The Afghan forces provided the correct grid coordinates for the target site to the U.S. Special Forces commander on the ground, who then relayed them to the aircrew through a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC). Due to distance of the aircraft from the location at issue, the aircrew was initially unable to locate the target structure. When the grid coordinates were entered, the system directed the aircrew to an open field. The aircrew then attempted to visually identify the target structure based on a description relayed from the Afghan forces through the JTAC.

Based on this discussion over communications systems, the aircrew identified a structure that they believed to be the Taliban-controlled target structure, but was actually the MSF Trauma Center. Before the engagement, one aircrew member, the TV Sensor Operator, identified the correct structure as possibly fitting the described target. However, following several attempts to clarify which structure was the actual target requested by the Ground Force Commander and the JTAC, the aircraft’s weapons systems were redirected to the originally viewed structure (MSF Trauma Center).  The MSF Trauma Center generally  matched the general physical description of the Taliban-controlled target structure which was approximately 400 meters away.

The MSF hospital in Konduz burns.

The MSF hospital in Konduz burns.

The investigation identified several human errors by the aircrew and ground personnel that contributed to this tragic incident, including poor communication, coordination, and situational awareness.  The investigation confirmed that MSF officials provided the correct  grid coordinates for the MSF Trauma Center to several U.S. government officials and that the location was properly entered on the U.S. military’s “No Strike List” database, but that the aircrew did not have ready access to this database during the strike.  The investigation also concluded that the MSF Trauma Center did not have an internationally-recognized symbol to identify it as a medical facility, such as a Red Cross or Red Crescent that was readily visible to the aircrew at night.  Throughout the couse of the engagement, all members of the ground force and the aircrew were unaware the aircrew was firing on a medical facility and mistakenly believed that it was firing on the intended target, an insurgent-controlled structure approximately 400 meters away from the MSF Trauma Center.

At approximately 2:08 a.m. local time on Oct 3, 2015, the aircrew began firing on the MSF Trauma Center under the mistaken belief that it was the Taliban-controlled target compound.  Starting at approximately 2:19 a.m. MSF personnel notified several US government representatives that the MSF Trauma Center was being engaged.  Due to the fighting around Kunduz, it was initially unclear who was engaging the MSF Trauma Center. Following a series of relayed messages through multiple echelons of command, the U.S. Special Forces commander on the ground eventually realized that the AC-130 was engaging the MSF Trauma Center – not the Taliban-controlled structure the crew believed it was engaging – and halted the strike at approximately 2:38 a.m.  The investigation determined that the steps taken by several U.S. military personnel during this period were inadequate.  The investigation found that the airstrike resulted in at least 30 deaths and 37 injuries at the MSF Trauma Center.  Since the investigation was completed, MSF has increased the number of reported casualties to 42 deaths and 229 other claims.  The US Government has relied primarily upon MSF for casualty estimates, and these numbers have not been independently verified.

That pretty much wraps the factual summary of the report. To state the conclusions in the more direct terminology used by, say, NTSB:

  1. The mishap was indeed an accident, not a crime.
  2. The probable cause of the accident was the USAF AC-130’s misidentification of the MSF Trauma Center as a nearby enemy-held structure.
  3. The attack continued for 11 minutes before MSF contacted US HQs and concluded after 19 more minutes when the USSF commander on the ground finally realized the AC was striking the wrong building.
  4. Contributing factors included:
    1. System failures on the AC-130;
    2. Procedural shortcuts, ditto;
    3. Delays at US headquarters, caused in part by the ponderous nature of those HQs;
    4. Lack of a night-vision-readable protective marking on the hospital (we doubt the US has advised MSF and other protected-structure owners how to mark their structures so that the markings are visible in NV or thermal observation devices, so this is less an indictment of MSF than it appears).

There are numerous other small cock-ups — the whole paper trail is hundreds of pages long — that could be added to the list, but those are the big ones.

The whole thing might have been forestalled, or at least stopped sooner with less loss of life, had the USSF been further forward, but that would violate ROE dictated from Washington and designed solely with a view to domestic politics.

These conclusions are unlikely to satisfy those howling for scalps, so 16 scalps have been provided for their education and recreation.

It is notable that the Afghan National Forces, who often take a savage briefing in the Beltway press, do not seem to have committed any of the significant errors. Unlike in the last Battle of Konduz, in 2001, neither the Taliban nor the Afghan National Forces, appear to have included significant numbers of Konduz natives, yet the Afghan Army provided the correct grid coordinates to the USSF element and their JTAC. The JTAC committed several procedural errors (for which he has been decertified), but provided the correct grids to the orbiting AC-130. The AC crew, not for the first time with this airframe, had screwed their navigation systems up to the  point where they decided to disregard them completely and work by eyeball. (That exact same thing was a significant factor in the last AC-130 botched strike we’re aware of, in 2002. We are certain that the AC crew studied that attack, but in the heat of combat did not recognize that they were falling into the same pattern that the 2002 mishap crew did).

Law-ScaleAndHammerMost of the press focus has been on the scalp counting, briefly described here:

The investigation identified 16 U.S. service members whose conduct warranted consideration for appropriate administrative or disciplinary action.  The Commander of US Forces-Afghanistan concluded that certain personnel failed to comply with the law of armed conflict and rules of engagement.  However, he did not conclude that these failures amounted to a war crime.  The label “war crimes” is typically reserved for intentional acts — intentionally targeting civilians or intentionally targeting protected objects.

The comprehensive investigation concluded that this tragic incident was caused by a combination of human errors, compounded by process and equipment failures.  The investigation found that this combination of factors caused both the Ground Force Commander and the air crew to believe mistakenly that the air crew was firing on the intended target, which was an insurgent-controlled site approximately 400 meters away  from the MSF Trauma Center.

Just as an aside, we’d note that the same analysis of culpability probably applies to the Russian Army shootdown of an airliner over the Ukraine. It wasn’t a war crime, just a tragic screwup. But the difference between the two nations’ responses is interesting. Can you download the Russian internal report, even with redactions? Did they accept any blame and pay any compensation? Rhetorical questions.

One of the real underlying problems here is the limits of back-up inertial navigation on airborne systems. It was cutting edge technology in 1966, and was, and is, good enough to get a nuclear missile to minute-of-city accuracy. Given modern solid-state accelerometers, it should be a lot better. But the irreducible problem with INS is that it’s vitally dependent on starting at an accurate known starting point. GIGO is in effect here.

Another contributing factor is certainly the five days of unrelieved combat the ground forces had been in at the time. This is caused, partly, by the drawdown and by ROE that prioritize the appearance of operations over the reality of operations.

Unfortunately, included in the hundreds of pages of recommendations is more procedure-lock, more lawyer supremacy, more bureausclerosis of all kinds.

It’s classic US Military response to a disaster: do more of what caused it.

We struck out trying to find a releasable, selectable-text version of the document on a public-facing website. This document at cryptome appears identical; we OCRd an executive summary for discussion here. If time permits, which at the moment it doesn’t, we suspect we’d find a lot more of interest in these 727 pages. (To be sure, probably 600 of those pages are almost blank military forms, or content-free boilerplate, but we haven’t got time to sort out the sheep from the goats right now).

Small News Items on Army Small Arms

There’s a bunch of little news bits going around the Army about maintenance issues and problems. We’ll cover them from most to least serious:

Item: Somebody Blew It


File photo of failed M9 slide. Not the mishap firearm.

In late 2015, a very high (but unknown) round count M9 pistol had a catastrophic failure of the slide. With the Army scrimping on O&M money, especially on the ripe-for-replacement Beretta handgun, failures are not unusual and usually turn out to be fatigue failures from parts that have been carelessly used long past their service life. So was this one. The pistol was older than the soldier shooting it, and, as it turned out, someone, somewhere had pencil-whipped the maintenance records.

Slides fail every week, somewhere in an Army with hundreds of thousands of pistols that were almost all bought 30 years ago. But what happened next wasn’t supposed to happen. When the pistol slide failed at the slide’s weakest point, the locking-block cuts, the rear half of the slide kept on motoring, striking the GI in the cheek and upper jaw area and causing non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation determined that a mandatory maintenance work order, MWO 9-1005-317–30-10-1, issued twenty-seven years ago in March, 1989, had never been complied with. They couldn’t track where the pistol was at the time it was not repaired; Army units and activities with M9s had until June, 1993 to comply.

Somebody reported that his M9s were in compliance, when they weren’t. This is what you get when a zero-defects, up-or-out culture undermines integrity while at the same time penny-pinching undermines maintenance. The soldier who drew that defective M9, and every soldier that’s been drawing and shooting it since 1989, is damned lucky to be alive. (Fortunately, when a slide fails on most pistols (or a bolt on a Mauser C96, etc.), gravity usually  ensures that the part hits below the eye, on cheek, jaw, chest or shoulder).

Meanwhile, the Army sent an urgent Safety-of-Use message mandating an Army-wide inspection of all M9s for completion of the MWO. Since the resources for completing the MWO no longer exist, the remedial action is to immediately deadline and turn in the offending M9 and draw a replacement.

How many units pencil-whipped their response to that ALARACT message?

Item: Safety? Sometimes it’s Evolution in Action

FOOM!Word is, some genius removed himself from the breeding population of Homo sapiens in 2014 by “improvising” M203 ammo (may have been 320) by cutting the links off of (higher-pressure) Mk19 belted ammo. The links were actually designed so they couldn’t snap off by hand, to prevent that.

Can we get a “FOOM!” from the assembled multitudes?

And oh, yeah, trying to belt up 203 ammo and fire it in an Mk 19 leads to FOOM also, of a different variety — out of battery ignition. Another opportunity for poka-yoke missed.

Item: Ambi Selectors Reaching Troops.. slowly

The Army has finally woken up to two facts:

  1. About 10% of the troops are left-handed, and
  2. There are lots of good ambi selectors available.

So the Army chose one and put it into the pipeline. So far so good, right? Not entirely. The selectors are only being replaced when the weapons are overhauled. And they don’t fit in the M12 racks many units still have. Work around is to cut a notch in the rack with a torch, or with a file and plenty of time, or to bend the part of the rack that hits the right-side selector out of shape so that the selector clears the rack.

Also, the slow migration of the ambi selectors means not all M4/M16 weapons in any given unit have them. Why don’t they just push the parts down to the unit armorers? Three reasons:

  1. The big one: they’re afraid of armorers stealing parts if they take rifles apart
  2. It doesn’t fit the concept of echeloned maintenance, even though that’s being streamlined;
  3. They don’t trust the armorers let alone the Joes, not to botch the installation.

On top of that, of course, it’s not penny wise and pound foolish in the great Army tradition.

Item: New Stuff Coming in, Old Stuff Going Out

A number of new arms are reaching the troops, and old arms are going away.  We’ll have more about that in the future, especially the M2A1 and the coming “rationalization” of an explosion of shotguns and sniper rifles. We just broke it out of this post to keep the length manageable.

ITEM: MG Maintenance Problems = Operator Headspace & Timing

m249-PIPThe biggest single problem the Army has with the current pair of machine guns (M240 and M249) is burned out barrels. That’s caused by not changing barrels, either in combat, or especially on the range. Often, units go out without the spare barrel so it’s not like they gave themselves any option.  (The M2 version of this is going out with only one set of gages for the M2s. The gages are not required for the M2A1). The Army is falling back into the peacetime mindset of “leave it in the arms room and we can’t lose it.” True enough, we’ll just destroy the one we take out instead.

The fact is, and it’s a fact widely unknown to GIs, MGs have rate-of-sustained-fire limitations that are lower than they think. (Remember the MGs that failed at Wanat? They were being operated well outside their designed, tested envelope).

The M249 should never be fired more than 200 rounds rapid fire from a cold barrel. Then, change to a cold barrel, repeat. The Army being the Army, there are geniuses who think that they can burn a couple belts in a few seconds, change barrels, burn a couple belts in a couple more seconds, then put the original honkin’ hot barrel back in and burn — you get the idea. If you have a situation where you’re going to fire a lot of rounds from a single position, like a predeployment MG familiarization for support troops or a defensive position, you might want to lay in some extra barrels (and yes, Army supply makes that all but impossible, so you have to cannibalize your other MGs).

The M240 is a little more tolerant but should still be changed every 2 to 10 minutes of firing, and even more frequently if the firing tends towards real sustained fire. (The deets are in the FM, which is mostly only available on .pdf these days).

One last thought, your defensive MG positions need to have alternate, displace positions, and you need to displace after sustained fire from one position — unless you want to share your hole with an exploding RPG, ATGM or mortar round. “Where’s your secondary position?” or “-fallback position?” should not produce the Polish Salute.

As ordnance experts have observed ever since World War II, a barrel can be burnt out due to overheat and still mic and even air-gauge good. You only know it’s hosed when it can’t shoot straight.

Well-maintained MGs are more accurate than people seem to give them credit for. Some SOF elements have selective fire M240s and really, really like them. (The standard M240 has no semi setting). They’re capable of surprising accuracy from the tripod.

ITEM: For Want of a Cord, a Career was Lost

GIs frequently lose or throw away the idiot cord on the PVS-14 night vision monocular. If these sights were being properly inspected, which they usually aren’t until a team comes in just before deployment, they’d be tagged NMC (non mission capable) for missing  that stupid cord. You don’t want to be in the bursting radius of a unit CO who’s just been told 85% of his night vision is NMC… especially when that news is delivered in earshot of his rater and senior rater. It’s a bull$#!+ requirement but it’s in the book, and if the Army ever has to choose between following the book or winning the war, the book comes up trumps every time.

You’re not going to stop GIs from losing cords, but replacement cords are in the supply catalog.

Safety: Give the FOOM Plenty of Room

You’ve probably seen, and maybe used, Tannerite, a binary explosive that’s permissible to use in reasonable quantities and with reasonable safety precautions. It’s not a terribly high explosive, but it’s not trivial either: it’s based on ammonium nitrate, like many of the things terrorist bomb-makers like to use, and it’s shock-sensitive, so it can be set off with a hit from a bullet. Those two in combination should make you respect it, at least. And as this video shows, when you add unreasonable quantities (3 lb. packed in a sheet-steel lawnmower) and unreasonable distances (a foot over 14 yards, by police measurement), you’d be lucky to escape, like this young man, David Pressley, did, with a Life Flight ride and a lifelong disability.

Yes, he did blow his leg clean off. (Technically, it was traumatically amputated by shrapnel from the lawnmower. He can now tell people he lost his leg in a lawnmower accident, which is literally true). Tannerite comes with a whole bunch of safety precautions written right on the packaging that lots of guys know too much to bother reading. You know, men and instructions.


As the nice news lady points out in the video, one of those advisories says give a standoff of 100 meters (or maybe just yards) per pound of the stuff. (Another tells you not to pack metallic stuff with it). So this yout’ gave the FOOM roughly 260 yards too little room. He’s damned lucky the mower-turned-shrapnel didn’t strike him in the cranium or neck instead of below the knee. He’s damned lucky he didn’t lose both legs. He probably doesn’t feel lucky, right now, with months of rehab ahead just to learn to walk again, but he is.

He was with two friends, who fortunately were not injured seriously in the blast. One of them secured a tourniquet around his stump, and they bundled him into a vehicle and ran him from the track they were on back out to a road, where EMS met them. (More info at USA Today).

To a former professional user of HE, some of the experiments we see people doing on YouTube, and the lackadaisical attitudes that sometimes accompany them, are chilling. We don’t mean to insult or demean Pressley, who’s got enough troubles right now; just to encourage everybody to have fun, but take care while you’re doing it.

The video also mentions that Tannerite blasts are a major cause of neighbor complaints. While more and more people shoot, most people don’t shoot. The majority of them seem to be fully supportive of our rights, so the least we can do is exercise some restraint and good neighborliness as to when and where we FOOM the place up. (Pressley seems to have been well out in the country, in a wooded area. Good for noise control, not so good for medical response. Everything in life is a trade-off, as any engineer can tell you).

The ATF has also been threatening for years to go after people that acquire, store or use “too much” Tannerite without an explosives license.  (ATF in 2012 via AmmoLand. ATF current explanation of the law on binary explosives). You may recall that they went after the people behind the juvenile YouTube channel FPSRussia on that score. But a little over a year ago, ATF also posted a prescient safety advisory from the interagency National Explosives Task Force on their Facebook channel. Had Pressley followed the four “nevers” in that list, he’d still be standing on his own two feet.

FBIAwarenessBothIn response to the Safety Advisory, Dan J. Tanner, the head of Tannerite Sports, told that “there has never been an injury by shooting Tannerite as recommended on all written and published literature and instructions.” Tannerite’s recommendations are found online, and, likewise, following them would have allowed Pressley to have his YouTube notoriety without having quite so much of it as he has right now.

Finally, it may occur to people that actual terrorists might try to use this stuff. It has certainly occurred to both ATF and FBI explosives investigators (the FBI has usurped a lot of ATF’s former bomb authority in recent years). If you are a retailer, you should probably have the attached joint Tannerite/FBI developed advisory (right) hanging up where your clerks can see it. Hat tip, Herschel Smith at The Captain’s Quarters.

Negligent Discharge in Combat

Time: October, 1973, after the war had shifted to the West;

Place: High in the Golan Heights of Syria;

Players: Narrator, then-Major Avigdor Kahalani of the IDF, acting battalion commander of the unit callsign Courage 77 (Oz 77 in Hebrew). Negligent discharge firer, and victim: his deputy commander, Captain Eitan Kowli.


One night, while tired and half asleep, Eitan pressed the trigger of his machine gun by accident. His other hand happened to be over the barrel, and two bullets went though the palm of his hand. As I leaped on his tank, he was gripping his wounded hand, his face twisted up with pain. Within seconds he was bandaged and the bleeding had stopped.

‘That was all I needed,” he said in desperation and anger.

“Could happen to anyone. The important thing is you’re alive.”

“You know, I’ve been afraid all the time that someone would get hurt because of some stupidity, and now it’s happened to me.”

“Eitan, I hope it isn’t serious. You’ll be back in a few days. Meanwhile, you are wounded, and you have to be evacuated.”

We smiled and parted. Some ligaments were torn and bones broken. He was hospitalized for quite a while.

The machine guns in use by Oz 77 on their Centurions were Browning M1919s in 7.62mm NATO; a contact wound with a rifle caliber firearm is never trivial. But in recounting the story, Kahalani gets across just how the combat soldier feels in a case like this (even more than if his wounds are due to enemy action): he has let down the team.

It’s a paradox of that sort of deployment that as much as you ache to be back home, being sent back home before the unit is the greatest calamity that you can imagine befalling you. (The people at home see this completely differently).

Thinking a little about the circumstances of Eitan’s mishap, here are some of the factors involved.

  1. Mechanical safety. The Browning M1919A4 has none. The relevant tech manual, FM 23-45, actually suggests using a wooden block to prevent the bolt from closing and firing the gun during clearing. And there is literally no way for the A4 to be both ready and safe.
  2. Human performance: fatigue. After extensive combat, Eitan and all the members of the battalion were worn out.
  3. Human performance: complacency. How many times had Eitan gone in and out of a Centurion turret, or a gunner’s cupola on a half-track, for that matter, before his mishap?
  4. Organizational performance: procedures. If you’re (a) out of immediate contact, (b) have a unit full of exhausted people, and (c) have a firearm that can’t be kept bolt-back with a belt in, safely, what do you do? You put the bolt forward on an empty chamber, or raise the feed tray cover, either way removing the belt, and add from one to three seconds to your time to get the MG into action.

Of course, the commanders that would have had to rescue the unsat risk profile of what they were doing, were probably even more exhausted than the Joes. (Hmm. We don’t know what an Israeli Joe is called, but we’re sure they have a name for him).

One wonders how many Israelis were wounded or killed by friendly fire in the wars of 1967 and 1973. It must have been a staggering number, for such a small country.


  1. Kahalani, pp. 180-181.


Kahalani, Avigdor. The Heights Of Courage: A Tank Leader’s War on the Golan. New York: Praeger, 1992.

FM 23-45. Basic Field Manual:Browning Machine Gun, Caliber .30, HB, M1919A4 Ground. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1940.



Two Resources: Survival Guide and Prepping Matrix

Both of them come to us from the Greek Preparedness blog, which is exactly what it says — preparedness for Greek citizens (with some posts posted in both Greek and English) — but is worth reading for those of you in the other 200 countries of the world.

Resource 1: Tokyo Survival Guide

tokyo_survival_guide_coverBecause Japan is an island nation that is no stranger to natural (earthquake, tsunami — which Japan named) and man-made disasters (fire-bombing, getting nuked, nerve-agent terrorism) a subset of the Japanese people take disaster preparedness seriously, and prepare with classically Japanese thoroughness, One result is the Tokyo City Government’s preparedness guide for citizens, which in classically Japanese fashion begins with an anthropomorphic mascot (Bousai the Rhino, whose name is a play on words) and concludes with an instructive manga (Japanese comic for grown-ups) — just the thing for those of shorter attention span.

It’s quite good, even though it looks like it can only be downloaded in pieces. While some of the techniques and procedures mentioned here are primarily applicable to the Japanese Home Islands’ primary threats (quake, tsunami, volcano) others are useful in any potential survival situation. Link’s to the English version; of course, they have it on the same base website, in Japanese for the natives.

Resource 2: PrepperLink Preparedness Matrix

prepping_matrix_522The PrepperLink Prepping Matrix is an excellent, if imperfect, tool for those that would prepare for survival of what the DHS coyly calls natural or man-made disasters. We’re great fans of the mind-map as instructional and reference technology (we wonder what program Gary Griffin used to create this) so we were really predisposed to like this. And we did, with a few exceptions we’ll dispose of up front.

  1. “Security” refers only to guns. Having enough trustworthy people to keep watch, and a solid watch schedule and alert plan, is much more fundamental than having firearms.
  2. Little reference to alternate and contingency plans. Every decision needs PACE; the more fundamental the decision, the greater the need for alternates and contingency plan.
  3. No reference to maps or navigation. You need maps (and if coastal, lakeside or riparian, also charts) and the knowledge to use them whether your plan is bug-out or bug-in.

One of the best things about this matrix is the way each branch is, in effect, a decision tree, with the most crucial decisions closest to the root of the tree (at the central node). We also like the way items in one branch can refer back to items on other branches. This is handled deftly with color coding — as long as you’re not color blind. Get the whole thing at PrepperLink.

Having planned for the Big Quake, the Alien Invasion or the Zombie Horde leaves you in pretty good shape when three days without power thanks to an ice storm (a much more probable disaster) had your neighbors flapping.

Why They Inscribe the Caliber Right On the Gun

Because sometimes the wrong caliber will chamber. Results, FOOM.

M4 blowd up 01

A guy posted these pictures on ARFcom, saying he wasn’t the shooter/owner, but basically, “it just blow’d up” and he has no idea what happened to it.

M4 blowd up 02

Well, that’s why you pay us the big bucks. This is not a mild AR kB! that traces back to an out of battery fire or one lousy handload. In this case, 100% of the round’s energy came back through the firing pin hole in the bolt face. And shattered the bolt and carrier. What could make an AR do that?

An obstructed barrel right at the chamber. Period. Sure, there’s a vanishingly small possibility that you got a rare combination of a round loaded with pistol powder with the previous round being a powderless squib, combined with a tight bore and wide bullet so that it didn’t go the usual 7-8″ into the barrrel. But the 95% probabilty is: .300 Blackout round in a 5.56 rifle.

He doesn’t know what happened, our fourth point of contact. He claims it was ordinary M193 5.56. Hmmm. Maybe the other rounds in the mag were, but we’re betting there’s a .300 supersonic slug lodged in there.

Go back and compare the pictures of 7.92 x 57mm ammo fired in .30-06 (7.62 x 63) chambers from TM9-2210. Like this incident, they destroyed the bolt, whereas a squib barrel obstruction normally destroyed only the barrel. Conclusion: same kB in a new century, this. (Worsened by the higher chamber pressure and sharper pressure curve of 5.56/.300 relative to the WWI vintage loads, and the bigger caliber mismatch, 2mm+ versus 0.03mm).

(Aside: if you could do that without detonating the gun, which you can’t, you’d get some laserlike velocities on the Gerlach squeeze-bore principle. And you’d get the miserable barrel life that squeeze-bore rifles have always featured).

One of the guys in the ARFcom thread made an insightful comment, that the excellence of the Stoner design is why this guy is not in the hospital (or the pathology lab awaiting dissection). And Stoner did design the AR, all the way back to the 1955 or so AR-10, to fail safe. But this discipline of firearms safety engineering wasn’t born from the brow of Eugene Stoner alone; for decades prior, engineers had been concerned about managing energy pathways in case of structural failure of their weapons. It’s been good design practice for well over a century.

You have probably heard about the “not safe to fire” early Rock Island M1903 rifles. The bad heat treating some early rifles got was only discovered when the rifles detonated, but most of the shooters were unhurt or quickly recovered. That was because the designers of the M1903 in Springfield, and the designers of the 1898 Mauser that they copied, considered and developed safe exit paths for energy in the case of a kB! from an obstructed barrel or other overstress.

If you look at many early centerfire rifle designs you will see that the designers incorporated such concerns to a greater or lesser extent. It’s just design best practice, and it’s universal now, or it should be. Hell, it was universal 120 years ago, which is why it’s nice to have guns designed by engineers and not by Cousin Bubba the Gunsmite.

While “safety” in design can only save the shooter from a beheading (or blinding) by sacrificing the gun itself, we ought to think about We should consider some operational methods to prevent loading .300 BLK into a smaller-caliber rifle chamber, but perhaps that’s another post. The root of the problem (whether it’s 7.92 in a 7.62 chamber, or .300 (7.62) in a 5.56), is that the larger-caliber round fits in the smaller-caliber chamber. (Even a .300 BLK subsonic round can me made to fit with enthusiastic application of the forward assist). You can’t design around a problem like that poka-yoke1 style, you need an operational fix.


  1. Poka-Yoke (PO-ka-YO-kay, roughly) is a Japanese term for design that imposes safe- or correct-practice constraints on the user; Japan being Japan, it’s a kinder and gentler version of their term for “idiot-proofing,” which they watered down verbally — the term, not the concept — for cultural reasons. There are different poka-yoke approaches and one might be better than the next. For instance, the power adapter cord that would only go into an early iPhone one way (the right way) was a poka-yoke, as is the improved one in later iPhones that works safely in either orientation (any way is the right way). Silicon Valley was very quick to adopt poka-yoke as a concept. It has great uses in industrial control and inspection; check out this section of one of Shigeo Shingo’s books (Google Books link).

So Two Cops were Discussing Negligent Discharges….

ND-shot-in-footAnd, guess what happened next?

If you guessed kBANG! you’re right.

What makes this interesting is that these cops were Norwegian cops. Norwegian police officers usually carry firearms not on their person, but locked in their cars or, when off patrol, in lockers at the station. For about 14 months, they carried their HKs in hard-plastic retention holsters in response to a heightened terror alert level.

“He put his finger down into the weapon holster of a police colleague and discharged the colleague’s service weapon,” the report stated, according to national broadcaster NRK.

No one was injured in the accidental shooting, but the circumstances were more than just a little ironic given the accident happened in the middle of a discussion about that very problem.

According to news agency NTB, two similar incidents have occurred within the past year. In November, an officer in Namsos was seriously injured when a colleague’s accidental shot struck him in the foot.

In Gjøvik in August, an accidental shot careened off the floor and then hit the wall before bouncing back and hitting an officer in the butt. The officer was not seriously injured.

via Oops! Accidental shot chat ends with accidental shot – The Local.

How does 3 NDs for 6,000 cops in 15 months compare to your agency?  (We make that to be 1 ND per year per 1600 cops, or about 1.9 per thousand cops per year).

We wonder if NYPD is higher than that, to name one… let’s check. The NYPD firearms discharge reports are here. Most recent is 2014 (.pdf) There were 18 NDs (see Section IV) against 34,857 uniformed personnel or about 0.52 per 1000 officers — advantage NYPD.

LAPD has a 2015 report online (.pdf). There were 8 NDs  (they break it down 5 male, 3 female officers) with no injuries to officers or the public. There is a separate personnel report that says as of 2/21/16 LAPD had 9,902 sworn personnel, so about 0.81 NDs/1000 officers — worse than NYPD, but better than the Norwegian cops.