Category Archives: Weapons Effects

About that RIP ammo

You can’t possibly have missed the claims made by the guys behind RIP (Radically Invasive Projectile) ammunition. Because the claims were so over-the-top, we dismissed the round as snake oil.  But we weren’t going to debunk the claims. Fortunately, someone else did. We don’t know the guy’s name, but the fellow at Shooting the Bull shows what these magic rounds are good at (and what they’re not).

BLUF: Yes, it can cause serious wounds. But it’s not as effective as a traditional, top-line JHP.

Part I:

Part II:

Some of the company’s claims were clearly nonsense. But the round did have some interesting properties. It was more effective than the traditional JHP after penetrating plywood (the JHPs did not expand).

How to think about this

Look, there’s no magic ammunition: nothing you can chamber in a barrel is going to do to a bad guy what you’d like to do to him (unless your barrel is 155mm and tows behind an LMTV, which limits your concealment options). Ammo vendors have been making big claims about ammo forever, and in all that time, guys (good and bad) have been surviving hits of “killer” ammo — I personally met two guys who took 12.7 x 108mm rounds and survived, and a friend took a 5.56 point blank through his brain housing group, and he’s still with us. And in all that time, guys (good and bad) have been taking the “golden BB” from a .22 LR or an even-more-anemic .25ACP and they’re now singing in the Choir Invisible.

At least four things affect how a bullet strike influences a human target (or, for you hunters of beasts, an animal). Those are, in descending order:

  1. Where the bullet strikes, on the victim’s anatomy.
  2. What non-human material the bullet penetrates, before striking the victim.
  3. Luck.
  4. The properties of the bullet itself.

Part 1 includes (a), factors relating to the shooter’s aim and accuracy; (b), the range, lighting and other circumstances, and ( c), the motion of the victim in the milliseconds before bullet impact. Only some aspects of (a) are in the shooter’s control. Parts 2 and 3 are out of the shooter’s control entirely. Part 4 includes caliber, bullet design and materials, velocity, and rotation (among other things). These factors may or may not be in the shooter’s control, but the variances among them, in the real world, are de minimis. 

Just like there will always be a market for a pill that will make you lose weight on an ice cream diet, there will always be a market for a bullet that will incapacitate your target with what would otherwise be a superficial wound, allowing you to feel good about your personal defense without addressing any shortfalls in your marksmanship.

There is no magic bullet that will turn a miss into a hit, and there’s no magic bullet that will turn a shot in the 5 ring into an X ring bullseye. Those transformations can be made, but only with hard work, range time, focused practice, and good instruction and coaching.

You can only be sure a threat is negated if the guy is killed, in our opinion. (You can be pretty sure if his condition is, “not dead… yet.” And the only way to put the guy in that state for sure is with hits in the human’s X-ring, the central nervous system. You do your part, and even FMJ will punch the guy’s ticket for him.

You can’t quit, you’re fired (at)

godfatherAn Atlanta youth gang has watched too many Mafia movies: you know the scene, where the reluctant Mafioso has the organization’s retirement plan, or rather, lack of one, explained to him. Usually in the back of the head.

“Never since I’ve been in law enforcement have I seen someone shot 15 times and live,” U.S. Marshal Eric Heinz said. “(He) told the other members of the gang, ‘Hey, look, I want to go straight, be law-abiding,’ and they weren’t happy with it.”

The 19-year-old was shot and started crawling and moaning, MyFoxAtlanta.com reported. The people who aided him are now in protective custody. The gang’s motto is reportedly: You’re in until you die.

Well, apparently they failed at that, because despite absorbing 15 hits, the young man is going to live. We suppose he’s unlucky he wasn’t in Cuomostan, where he could only have been shot with 7 rounds, except by criminals (oh. wait, what?) or by the police, who of course could have fired 15 shots but would probably have hit him and nine bystanders again.

We’re not joking about the Mafia movie connection to these jokers. These yout’s call themselves the Young Mob, a subset of a street gang that calls themselves the Goodfellas, according the US Marshal quoted by Fox 5 Atlanta (warning: site is infected with Undertone malware).

But seriously, what kind of person would do such a thing?

Agents with the U.S. Marshals Counter Gang Unit and Atlanta Police arrested two people in the shooting, including a 16-year-old and 19-year-old Farrakmad Muhammad Price, who they say was found Tuesday hiding in Tennessee.

via Atlanta teen survives being shot 15 times after telling gang he wants out | Fox News.

We’re shocked, shocked, that a dude named Muhammad is in the bag for this one. That hardly ever happens!

How far back do weapons go?

Neanderthal2There are several answers, of course. The Bible suggests that there was already a weapons user, or abuser, in the first human generation, in fact, the first born human: Cain, who slew his younger brother Abel. (The scriptures are silent on how exactly Cain did it, so maybe he didn’t use a weapon at all and just strangled the guy).

If you’re diffident about the creationist approach, we can offer you the fruits of science today. While no one is completely sure when the first Neanderthal bashed a peer’s ridged brow in with a rock, archaeologists had, until recently, evidence that projectile weapons like spears and arrows were invented twice, once about 60,000 years ago and again some ten or twenty thousand years later, after the technology died out once. But now they have new evidence that we’ve been spearing one another, and our now-extinct Neanderthal rivals, since about 71,000 years ago.

The (UK) Independent reports:

The fine stone blades were excavated from a prehistoric site called Pinnacle Point on the southern coast of South Africa and are between 6,000 and 11,000 years older than the previous oldest known samples of spear and arrow blades, scientists said.

The discovery suggests that the invention of lethal projectile weapons came far earlier in the course of human prehistory than previously realised and that, once invented, the knowledge was passed down the generations, according to a study in Nature led by Curtis Marean of Arizona State University.

Previously, scholars thought that the technology of “projectile weapons” was first invented about 60,000 years ago and then lost for many thousands of years before being reinvented between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago.“

Every time we excavate a new site in coastal South Africa with advanced field techniques, we discover new and surprising results that push back in time the evidence for uniquely human behaviours,” Dr Marean said.

NeanderthalArrows and spears were probably the key weapons that allowed anatomically modern Homo sapiens to migrate out of Africa and successfully colonise other parts of the world, including Europe where the Neanderthals lived, he said.

“When Africans left Africa and entered Neanderthal territory they had projectiles with greater killing reach and these early moderns probably also had higher levels of hyper-cooperative behaviour,” he said.

“These two traits were a knockout punch. Combine them, as modern humans did and still do, and no prey or competitor is safe. This probably laid the foundation for the expansion out of Africa of modern humans and the extinction of many prey as well as our sister species such as Neanderthals.”

via Stone-age humans began using lethal technology 71,000 years ago to fight Neanderthals – Science – News – The Independent.

Of course, some Neanderthal genes and traits survive today in modern humans, thanks to ancient interspecies uggle-dee-boo. But if you look at what Dr Marean says were the advantages that allowed our ancestors to vanquish those Neanderthals, you see the same traits that make elements, units, and nations victorious today: superior projectile weapons with greater kliling reach (think of our essay on range here) and superior organized, cooperative behavior.

If only Abel had had weapons, and someone to team up with, the whole Book of Genesis might have gone a different way. Instead, he’s a dead end, like the Neanderthal.

One last thought: just because a weapon is superseded by new technology doesn’t mean it goes away. Many news stories have noted that American homicides are statistically more likely to involve blunt-trauma weapons (like Ogg’s rock up there) than “assault weapons, ” and that even Cain’s stranglin’ thumbs remain viable as lethal weapons millennia later. That’s why, while some combatants only master the latest lethal technology, whether it’s a sniper rifle or an F-22, true warriors apply the warrior spirit to any weapon that comes to hand, and failing any weapon at all, hands themselves.

Einstein’s famous observation that he didn’t know what weapons would be used in World War III, but “World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones,” was facile, but false in this: we never stopped fighting with sticks and stones. New weapons are additional, not in lieu of old favorites.

 

One of the hazards of weapons training…

Fire-Hands-Screensaver_1…and one you seldom see discussed is fire. Not gunfire, the open-flame kind. Bullets, mortar and artillery shells, and even explosives simulators tend towards the incendiary, and military ranges tend to be on arid, non-prime land. Next thing you know, range fire. 

New Zealand has just had two wildfires started by its very small, but very professional, army. Chris Hyde reports:

A fire that has been burning for two days on Defence Force land near Waiouru began after army live fire training.

The blaze was the second to start after an army live fire exercise yesterday. A fire near Christchurch, which started about midday, engulfed 50 hectares before being brought under control.

Chief of staff Dave Harvey said the Waiouru fire is in an area called Three Kings that was “very isolated” and “very rugged, way up in the back block”.

The fire began two days ago as a result of artillery fire.

Harvey said the fire may have burnt area of 350 hectares over the past two days, but was now contained to a five hectare area.

via Waiouru Fire At Defence Land – national | Stuff.co.nz.

Extinguishers, shovels and sand buckets should always be part of unit range kits, but when the fire starts in a no-go impact area full of UXO, you don’t have a lot of options. Firefighters can only set a perimeter and let the fire in the impact area burn out (and hopefully burn up some of the UXO, most of which can’t be detonated by fire, but can be burned).

We used to do an airshow act which involved rappelling from helicopters, doing a bunch of wild shooting (blanks) and grenade-throwing (simulators), and then grab a guy and exfil by helicopter or (if the “rescued hostage” or “seized terrorist” — usually the air base commander — was game) by STABO. Sometimes we didn’t tell the commander in advance, if his staff were sure that he was a good sport. (They were only wrong once, but it was a memorable day).

But every time we did that, the grenade sims started the airfield’s infield grass on fire.

It’s hard to look like a killer commando when you’ve dropped your weapon to help kick sand on a grass fire.

People forget how hot a bullet, which has essentially been forged to a new shape by friction as it passes through a rifled barrel, really is. Unfortunates that get wounded by a rifle bullet are often left with a surprising memory of the bullet burning. In your flesh a red-hot bullet can actually cauterize smaller blood vessels. In grassy terrain, it can start a conflagration.

Not really sure what category this falls in. Good luck to the Kiwis both in extinguishing the fires, and in keeping rampant environmentalists from extinguishing training, both of which can be a challenge.

Lessons from Newtown and Clackamas: Zero-dispatch response

Closing the looney bins was a bad idea.

Closing the looney bins was a bad idea. Seemed progressive at the time, but it’s time to reverse this nightmare decision.

The first lesson is going to be stated without much explanation, because you’ve all seen it:

I – The media’s performance

The so-called mainstream media, most especially the television networks that drive coverage in the print media, have no decency, no class, no morals and no shame. They are vile, which is an anagram of “evil,” which they also are. May they come to know the sorrows of Hell, and may a benevolent Lord clear all obstacles and expedite their path there. Amen.

The second point will take a bit more elaboration, and has a bit more to do with our preferred subject here:

II– What stops mass shooting murders

Many — particularly the talking heads of the same gutter media — have said the problem is that free men can access guns. Others have said the problem is that dangerous psychotics like the shooter are free men — law professor Ann Althouse cited this article by historian Clayton Cramer, whom we have mentioned frequently in the past, which long predates this shooting, but describes it rather well. While we certainly need a better national policy on dangerous lunatics, and that means both millions for research and involuntary commitment for life for dangerous lunatics, that wasn’t the only lesson.

This blog would point out that what stops these guys is the same thing every time — armed resistance or the prospect of the same. While most of the mainstream reporting on Newtown is opinion, speculation and fabrication (in short, “crap”), they do seem to agree that the shooter, whose desire for fame and immortality we shall not gratify by using his name, shot himself when armed police arrived.

TV liveshots showed swarming rifle-armed tactical teams, long-rifle-toting snipers, and pathetic Lenco Bearcat tankettes arriving to late to do the dozens of murder victims any good at all, but soon enough, one supposes, to keep the body count from being higher. One can’t fault the police response, based on these initial reports. They got right there and they went right in, and for them to have saved the victims would have required them to bend space and time. A cop can’t be on the scene sooner than dispatch can call him, and dispatch can’t call him until (1) someone calls dispatch and (2) the dispatchers, who tend to be ill-educated, low-skill employees, figure out what to do and call the cop with the word. This takes only minutes, but it’s why when seconds count, the police are, at best, minutes away.

The recent shooting at the Clackamas, Oregon mall had a similar ending — a nut case , with a stolen gun, who should have been involuntarily committed years ago shooting himself when he encountered an armed response. In this case, it was a civilian carrying a gun, and his action — early intervention by a licensed carrier — kept the Clackamas body count down.  This has been little reported by the gutter media.

It is reported, here, on a gun blog:

More armed sane people = zero-dispatch response to armed loonies.

More armed sane people = zero-dispatch response to armed loonies = lower casualty counts. This is a good idea.

That’s when the girls realized Nick had not gone to cover with them and was still faced with the gunman… and that Ashley’s boyfriend was somewhere in the mall as well – in his meeting. All the while, young Noah is crying. Knowing the gunman was still outside and not wanting to be found, Ashley started feeding Noah to keep him calm and keep him from making any noise.

Knowing the girls were more secure, Nick was now alone and the gunman was still approaching. Like most malls, Clackamas Town Center’s second floor has walkways by the storefronts with an open middle area so that light gets through to the bottom floor. The gunman was across that opening from Nick and continued to approach. Nick noted that the gunman seemed unfamiliar with the rifle we now know was stolen. Instead of clearing a malfunction cleanly, the gunman was slapping the gun and pulling the charging handle with seemingly no plan in mind.

As the gunman came closer, he turned to cross a walkway bridging the open space and connecting the two sides of the mall so he could continue his rampage inside the large Macy’s Home Store on the other side – right where Nick was standing. Nick lined put his front site on the man’s head and put his finger on the trigger. Nick has extensive firearms experience with both rifles and handguns, at the range of approximately 15-20 yards, this was a shot he knew he could make, and then… movement from behind the shooter, inside of Charlotte Russe.

As all firearms owners know, Colonel Jeff Coopers Rule #4 is to know your target and what is behind it. Now Nick knew for sure that, while he had a good target, what was behind it were innocent people who were terrified. He removed his finger from the trigger while keeping the gun on the gunman.

Then a dangerous confrontation got worse. Nick heard the distinctive sound of a malfunction being cleared in the rifle and saw the gunman reach for another magazine. As the gunman was inserting the fresh magazine, Nick quickly backed into the Macy’s Home Store and took cover while keeping his eyes on the gunman. Despite being outgunned, Nick stayed in cover but visible to the gunman.

Knowing he had an armed person in the mall and that this was no longer his gun-free zone, the gunman avoided the Macy’s Home Store and ended his rampage by fleeing to a service corridor and into the stairwell to the lower level. He then took his life, unbeknownst to everyone in the mall. “It seemed like forever but we actually heard the last shot the shooter put into himself,” said Ashley. That single ominous shot after the deafening silence that covered the mall during the gunman’s malfunction was replaced by Nick’s familiar voice shouting, “It’s me! It’s me!” right before he opened the door.

By all means, Read The Whole Thing™.

Ironically, Nick Mell, the unsung hero of Clackamas, may be in trouble. Although he ended the gunman’s 4-minute rampage by facing him down, he violated mall policy and Oregon law by carrying a weapon into a “gun-free zone.” It’s extremely likely that the Clackamas shooter, (who also should not be named and lionized as ABC/CBS/CNN/FOX/NBC seem inclined to do), selected the mall for that reason. (The Aurora, Colorado, shooter drove past five nearer, larger theaters that were not so posted, to find one that was. Why do you think he did that?)

It’s also extremely likely that the Clackamas nutcase would have killed more than the two people he did, had he not encountered armed resistance. In both Oregon and Connecticut, the initial encounter with armed resistance led the lunatics to kill themselves, before even being engaged. (In Colorado, the initial encounter with armed police brought about a meek surrender).

Nick Mell, a license holder on the scene, did not have to fire a single shot to stop a massacre. The Newtown PD, which had to dispatch, assemble, arrive and assault, didn’t have to fire, either. The difference in the casualty count, 2 versus 27, is the measure of zero-dispatch response versus rapid response.

Armed citizens give you zero-dispatch response.

Finally, rewind back to the moment in the excerpt above where Nick Mell is face to face with the armed villain.

Nick has extensive firearms experience with both rifles and handguns, at the range of approximately 15-20 yards, this was a shot he knew he could make, and then… movement from behind the shooter, inside of Charlotte Russe… Now Nick knew for sure that, while he had a good target, what was behind it were innocent people who were terrified. He removed his finger from the trigger while keeping the gun on the gunman.

Once again, Read The Whole Thing™.

What percentage of cops would have fired in those circumstances, and tough toenails for the civilians behind? Remembering the NYPD shooting that bagged one murderer and nine bystanders, we leave it as an exercise for the reader.

When guns are outlawed

A Compound Bow uses a system of pulleys and cam to create mechanical advantage greater than possible on an older recurved bow. (file image).

Nut jobs will still have bows and arrows. And knives.

Police in Casper, Wyoming are trying to figure out why the estranged son of Casper College instructor James Krumm drove from Connecticut to Casper and murdered, first, his father’s girlfriend Heidi Arnold (another teacher at the school). Arnold was cut down by a hunting arrow fired from a compound bow (file photo), and her body lay unnoticed in the street as Christopher Krumm drove to the college for his next move.

At the college, Christopher barged into his father’s classroom and shot an arrow into his head. The two then struggled… Christopher produced what police call a “very large” knife. The eyewitnesses — Krumm’s students — fled shouting and screaming, and no one saw what happened next, but when the police arrived, James Krumm was dead and Christopher was dying, both of knife wounds.

The compound bow used in the murders is generally thought of as a hunting weapon. It can launch arrows with greater velocity, range and accuracy than the recurved bows it replaced. Bows and crossbows are rare murder weapons, but as this case illustrates, “rare” suggests a nonzero quantity of cases.

But for one man, this double murder plus suicide was a success. Casper College’s top cop, or as he vaingloriously styles himself, Director of Campus Security and Juidicial Affairs Officer, Lance D. Jones, has maintained the campus as a strict gun-free zone: even the campus cops go unarmed. Wyoming state law leaves campus carry to the discretion of the school, and columnist Celia Bigelow has the facts, including an email from Jones peremptorily denying self-defense to a licensee, complete with the illiterate complimentary close: “Respectively yours.”

If you’re a cop denying others the right of self-defense, you must be pretty proud of your rapid-response capabilities. But in a scene redolent of Columbine, Jones and his merry men, if any, didn’t respond to Professor Krumm’s struggles. The cops that responded were apparently Casper city police, not Jones’s glorified — and, it turns out, unarmed — school resource officers.

In all, 33 Casper, State of Wyoming, and Federal law enforcement officers responded too late to help the dead, and locked down the campus to disrupt the lives of the living.

But hey, Jones must be proud of himself today. Sure, there was a grisly slaying on campus, but at least no student carried a licensed firearm.

For more information:  NBC storyFox News story.

New folks, same old accidents #002

Here we go again. There are more ways to shoot yourself or someone else than the Russian roulette idjits we’ve already discussed. There are also right ways and wrong ways to shoot skells invading your home. Do it wrong, and the legal system that was so lenient towards them will land on you with both feet.

  • There’s the marital-squabble idjits who were fighting over a gun. Victory went to the gun as both were injured, the husband critically.
  • There’s the GI whose accident’s specifics are unreported. Yes, being a professional gun user does not inoculate you from accidental death and dismemberment. Only following the basic safety rules. And it doesn’t matter whether you use the NRA’s or Cooper’s slightly variant rules. Follow either one and there is no fatal ND in your future.
  • There’s the Tennessee teenager who was downrange checking targets with his dad when a woman back at the firing line decided just to “move” a .22 single-action revolver. “It just went off.” Sure it did, put your finger on the trigger and they do that. It was a near-run thing, but the kid is expected to recover now. “Cheatham County Sheriff John Holder said that basic gun safety rules were broken, leading to the accident.” Sounds about right to us. The careless lady will not be charged (which is probably the right decision in a case which was simple carelessness and not malignant negligence).
  • There’s the Missouri 11-year-old whose father was teaching him — we are not making this up — gun safety. What a memorable lesson, to get an ambulance ride, an air ambulance ride, a surgery or two, and, oh yeah, gunshot wounds to the hand and jaw! (The kid’s going to be OK. Family hunting trip’s postponed. Prosecutors considering charging the dad, which in our opinion would be the wrong decision… he probably ain’t gonna do that again). Hell of a way to teach yourself gun safety. It is better to try to learn from the other guy’s experience than hope to survive learning from your own.
  • And then there’s something different. Meet Byron Smith, the Minnesota retiree who told investigators that, after wounding two home invaders, he executed them, one with a “good, clean finishing shot” to put an end to her suffering. Yeah, this one doesn’t really look like an accident, does it? Looks like he’s going to Crowbar Motel. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for the home invaders — play stupid games, win stupid prizes — but this would-be home defender seems scarcely any smarter, and the same aphorism applies to him. For any one who moans that “Tony Soprano did stuff like this and got away with it,” remember two things: 1. Tony Soprano was a fictional character, and a violent criminal at that. And 2. Tony always took care to hide the bodies, whether it was in the sausage grinder at Satriale’s Meat Market or on Uncle whatshisname’s farm. This assclown let them ripen overnight, then called a neighbor to ask if he knew a lawyer — the neighbor called authorities. The link at the Minneapolis Red Star Tribune goes on and on about the innocent wonderfulness of the two home invaders, and shows innocent happy pictures. Who seem to have been drug users (there’s a shock) and hardened criminals despite their youth and may have been responsible for five to seven previous break-ins of the same guy’s home, as well as other burglaries, one of them a few hours before their well-deserved removal from the gene pool. As another one of their burglary victims put it, “…[V]ery sad that they lost their lives.In the same instance, if they hadn’t been breaking into houses, they’d be alive.”

Of course, from the point of view of the two dead burglars, it’s a story of unintended death. Sucks to be them. No doubt the public has been saved the cost of future trials and incarceration for those two worthless punks. But the public will have to pay to try and incarcerate Byron Smith, the home defender. The prosecutor and cops wouldn’t bother with small-time burglaries, but now they have a real crime to prosecute. Luckily for the prosecutor, we’re not in his jury pool, but we do understand the concept of minimal use of lethal force. That’s why it’s important to use a suitable defensive caliber and make incapacitating bullet placements with every shot. If the guy hadn’t armed himself with .22s and fired ineffectual shots initially, he wouldn’t have made the blood-up bad decision to execute the punks.

Dirty Harry can do that. He’s a fictional character, too.

W4: Office of Medical History

This chart was used in wound surveys that began in WWII to revolutionize the study of weapons effects.

A quick and dirty (and slightly late) Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week comes from the Army Medical Department’s Office of Medical History and contains numerous studies of wounds, although it’s heavily laden with older material.

We found this wound ballistics book from World War II, which contains the results of many independent studies, to be of great interest.

We did a deep dive into one particular study, which is described in the table of contents as:

VII.     Study of Fifth U.S. Army Hospital Battle Casualty Deaths (Howard E. Snyder, M.D., and James W. Culbertson, M.D.)

Region, Type, and Distribution of Wounds

Causes of Death

Special Studies on Intra-Abdominal Wounds

Cases in Which the Immediate Cause of Death was Shock

Pigment Nephropathy in Battle Casualties

via Office of Medical History – WOUND BALLISTICS.

The study examined the remains of 1,000 American infantrymen who fell in Italy between April and November, 1944, a period of extremely heavy fighting over difficult terrain, which included the Allied capture of rome.

Fragments from fatal casualties. Click to enlarge and read original caption.

Two of the findings we found most interesting were the high percentage of deceased who had multiple wounds, and the high percentage killed by fragments, rather than by small arms fire. For all the cult of the rifle, which of course gives the individual soldier his power of agency, the numbers tell us that explosives and fragmentation were the big killers then, just as they are now.

It’s also very clear, looking at the wound patterns described in this and other studies, that the last 70 years’ emergency and combat medicine, to include combat life saving medical evacuation and trauma life support, has provided numerous TTPs that would have saved many of these 1,000 fallen men.

Be forewarned that some of the information in these studies can be graphic. One picture in particular, of the bare body of a soldier whose back and indeed entire dorsal area was shredded by fragments, was unpleasant to view. The wounds were, indeed, interesting, which justifies the presence of the photo; but you have to feel for the poor bastard.

Terminal Effects of the Minié ball

Amputation saw, circa 1862.

Recently, in these pages, we discussed, in the context of Battle of Fredericksburg archaeology, the technology and impact (in a figurative sense) of the Minié ball and similar projectiles for the new rifled muskets, the high-tech individual weapons of the middle 19th Century. In the context of a series reporting on the Civil War, historian Terry Jones discusses amputations, one of the few effective tools in the battlefield surgeon’s toolbox at the time. You might say he discusses the impact (in a literal sense) of the Minié ball. (Before he gets to this point, he has recounted Confederate Major General Richard S. Ewell’s battlefield courage both before and after what would be, for him, a life-altering wound).

Campbell Brown, Ewell’s aide and future stepson, witnessed the operation. [Surgeon Dr. Hunter] McGuire and his assistants sedated Ewell with chloroform and used a scalpel to cut around his leg just above the knee. In his drug-induced fog, Ewell feverishly issued orders to troops, but he did not appear to feel any pain until McGuire applied the bone saw. According to Brown, the general then “stretched both arms upward & said: ‘Oh! My God!’”

McGuire opened up the amputated limb to show the officers in the room that the operation had been necessary. The bullet had “pierced the joint & followed the leg down for some inches,” Brown later wrote. “When the leg was opened, we found the knee-cap split half in two — the head of the tibia knocked into several pieces — & that the ball had followed the marrow of the bone for six inches breaking the bone itself into small splinters & finally had split into two pieces on a sharp edge of bone.” Brown and a slave wrapped the bloody limb in an oilcloth, and the slave “decently buried” it in the garden. Brown kept the two pieces of bullet as souvenirs for his mother, who was engaged to Ewell, although he never told the general he had done so.

Rank was no protection from such brutal operations, and General Ewell was just one of many high-ranking officers to face the surgeon’s knife. In fact, statistically speaking, a Confederate general was more likely to require medical treatment than a private. Almost one out of four died in the war, compared with 1 out of 10 Union generals. Of the 250 Confederate generals who were wounded, 24 underwent amputations. General Ewell was one of the lucky ones who survived and returned to duty many months later with an artificial leg.

via Under the Knife – NYTimes.com.

Anesthetic, circa 1862.

Jones’s article is very much longer than that and thoroughly interesting. There were things that surprised us (there actually was anesthetic for most operations, if only chloroform, and as many as 3/4 of amputees survived) and that didn’t (rebel soldiers faired worse than their Union counterparts, and amputations after gangrene or sepsis set in were a forlorn hope). We strongly urge you to RTWT.

In addition, the entire Times Civil War essay series, under the unifying (no pun intended) title “Disunion,” covers quite a few Civil War things that you didn’t know even if your history education wasn’t bad, lacking or post-1968 (but we threepeat ourselves). For the first time in memory, we say, read the whole series. And special thanks to the commenter who flagged us to this piece. Here’s one more closing taste:

Approximately two out of every three Civil War wounds treated by surgeons were to the extremities because few soldiers hit in the head, chest or stomach lived long enough to make it back to a field hospital. From a technical point of view, damaged limb bones presented the greatest challenge to surgeons. The war’s most common projectile, the large, oblong Minié ball, often tumbled when it hit the body and caused much more damage to bone than smoothbore musket balls. One Confederate surgeon observed, “The shattering, splintering, and splitting of a long bone by the impact of a minié or Enfield ball were, in many instances, both remarkable and frightful.” When bone was damaged, surgeons had to decide quickly on one of three possible treatments. If it was a simple fracture, a wooden or plaster splint was applied, but if the bone was shattered the surgeon performed either a resection or an amputation.

If you want to know what a resection did — as we did by the end of that pargraph — you’re going to have to go there and read this.

Special thanks to one of our commenters for a pointer to the Times piece. Not sure he wants by-name credit; if so, speak up in the comments.

Related stuff: in August, the Daily Mail had a photo post on Civil War amputations and other medicine. This doctor-collector has a website that seems to cover every aspect of Civil War medicine. On that site, this article by another MD strongly agrees with that of Mr Jones, that given the state of the medical art in those days 80 years before antibiotics, amputation often was the conservative and best-indicated medical decision. (Indeed, the two articles find some of the same quotes).

The Civil War was not, in geological terms, long ago at all, but because medicine has advanced so far since then, we tend to view it as a primitive time in which the doctors and surgeons were somehow stupid. Of course, then as now doctors were selected for their intelligence and trained to the edge of the state of the art.  It is no more their fault that the state of the art has advanced, than it is the fault of the Vietnam War’s ace surgeons and daring medevac crews that some 20,000 to 25,000 names on the Wall would not be there if the state of the art available to our combat medics and trauma surgeons now was available to them then.

Brought a sword to a gun fight

That’s what they can chisel on the headstone of a man — still not publicly identidfied — who had a bizarre and violent encounter with a campus policeman in Colorado.  The Denver Post reports:

Auraria police were called to Ninth and Walnut streets, near the Tivoli Student Center, at 5:54 a.m., said Denver Fire Department spokesman Lt. Phil Champagne.

Someone called dispatch and said, “Hey, there’s a guy out here with a sword,” [Denver police spokeswoman Raquel] Lopez said. “Any time you see someone walking around with a sword and swinging it around, you want to take precautions.”

We believe that Ms Lopez was displaying what psychometricians call the gift of grasp of the blindingly freaking obvious.

The campus police officer confronted the sword-wielding man in a crosswalk near the front of the Tivoli building, Lopez said. The man did not obey orders and swung the sword, nearly lopping the officer’s finger off. The officer then shot the man, Lopez said.

The sword-swinging suspect was sped to a hospital, but pronounced dead on arrival. No word if he was in the same ambulance as the cop, whose hand injury is extremely serious and who remains in critical condition.

The sword was at least stylistically a replica of a Samurai sword. Apparently no one told the now-deceased owner/operator of same that buying the sword won’t give you mad Ninjutsu chops (no pun intended).

“That’s a strange thing,” said James Boyce, 44, a musical performance student at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Yeah it is.

It’s hard to criticize the cop in this case, except for waiting a little bit too long. Back to Lopez, and her gift for the obvious (or maybe, it’s just a gift for summing up), this time quoted by CBS 4 in Denver:

“If somebody’s coming attacking you with a knife or any type of object and they’re not obeying your commands, you’ve got to do whatever you can to protect yourself,” Lopez said.

Yeah, what she dad. Now, the fact that bizarre stuff like this started happening in the Centennial State within days after the voters legalized wacky weed… could it be…? Naaah, just coincidence.

Here’s wishing the officer involved a speedy return to health and duty.