Category Archives: Industry

MD Governor Creates Jobs! — in TN

beretta USA logoIn the past, Beretta General Counsel Jeff Reh has made it clear that the ancient Italian gunmaker’s American operations would be much more comfortably conducted in a State where the Governor and Legislature didn’t get their jollies vilifying gun manufacture. But moving Beretta is an enormous pain, because of ongoing Government contracts, hassles with local authorities, and the permitting process involved in some industrial processes that use hazardous materials: chroming bores, for example.

So, they figured that since new production lines would be the same hassle anywhere, they’d stand those up in the new place, and keep making the old stuff in the old place as long as it would sell. This also let them take care of their workers — something that matters to the Beretta family, even if it doesn’t mean much to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who’d rather see ‘em on welfare and dependent on him.

Then, Beretta’s folks actually dealt with the authorities and neighbors in their new factory location, and were astounded to find that, unlike Maryland, where they’re hated despite being one of the best employers for many miles around, in Tennessee they’re welcome. Very welcome. And not just because they’re spending nearly $50 million and bringing hundreds of jobs; Tennesseans are actually proud to be the New World home to everybody’s favorite 16th-Century Old World gun maker.

Meanwhile, O’Malley is beating the drum for more restrictions on guns and on manufacturing. Beretta USA General Manager, with the auspicious name, Jeff Cooper, in a Beretta PR:

“While we had originally planned to use the Tennessee facility for new equipment and for production of new product lines only, we have decided that it is more prudent from the point of view of our future welfare to move the Maryland production lines in their entirety to the new Tennessee facility,” Cooper added.

They’re announcing it now, well in advance; the lines won’t be moving until next year, and the last one out before they turn out the lights will be military M9 production. Beretta seems to know that the venerable M9, adopted three decades ago amid controversy that’s never really abated, is reaching the end of its run; it’s been a good run for Beretta (and is probably the only reason the Italian decision-makers ever greenlit US production in the first place).

And, contrary to the press, it’s an OK gun for a service pistol, which is the least important weapon a military service ever buys. There’s a terrible mismatch of ink (or pixels) spilled and combat utility, probably because every clown who’s ever pontificated at a gun store thinks he’s an expert on pistols, and the only thing he knows about mortars is that they use the bombs as grenades in Saving Private Ryan, so he guesses that mortar bombs explode.

The transition of production from Beretta U.S.A.’s Maryland facility to the Tennessee facility will not occur until 2015 and will be managed so as not to disrupt deliveries to Beretta customers.  Beretta U.S.A.’s production of the U.S. Armed Forces M9 9mm pistol will continue at the Accokeek, Maryland facility until all current orders from the U.S. Armed Forces have been filled.

What will happen to the workers? Well, their jobs in Maryland will end, and it’s very unlikely another manufacturer will step in to such a hostile environment. The managers will give employees a chance to move to youthful, growing Tennessee from aging Maryland; those that don’t want to move will be kept on as long as possible; a few will remain in office jobs, as Beretta doesn’t plan to move those.

Of course, they hadn’t planned to move the production jobs, either. And O’Malley and many other politicians really, really hate the company and its workers and products. No doubt, some of them voted for him: turkeys for Thanksgiving.

“We have not yet begun groundbreaking on the Tennessee facility and we do not anticipate that that building will be completed until the middle part of 2015,” continued Cooper.  “That timing, combined with our need to plan an orderly transition of production from one facility to the other so that our delivery obligations to customers are not disrupted, means that no Beretta U.S.A. Maryland employee will be impacted by this news for many months.  More importantly, we will use this time to meet with every Beretta U.S.A. employee whose Maryland job might be affected by the move to discuss with them their interest in taking a position at our new facility in Tennessee or, if they are not willing to do so, to lay out a long-term strategy for remaining with the Company while our production in Maryland continues.”

Beretta U.S.A. anticipates that the Gallatin, Tennessee facility will involve $45 million of investment in building and equipment and the employment of around 300 employees during the next five years.

Beretta U.S.A. has no plans to relocate its office, administrative and executive support functions from its Accokeek, Maryland facility.

That’s from the official press release; do Read The Whole Thing™.

Once they experience the delta between MD and TN taxes and regulations, who thinks the remaining office jobs are safe? The only thing keeping companies in Maryland at all is the desire to be close to government contracting offices in the National Capital Area. If there’s no follow-on  to the M9 in Beretta’s future, what’s the use of maintaining the Accokeek office?

Looking at the Layoffs at SIG-Sauer

sig_sauer_logoThey’ve been playing coy about the numbers, and calling it a “workforce adjustment” (hot tip for corporate PR dweebs: that kind of mealy-mouthed, nutless spin fools no one, and is why all productive workers hate you as much as Mauch-era HK hated its customers). But there’s no question there was a big layoff at SIG last week. This is in addition to a layoff announced just a week or so earlier, and another layoff just over a month ago. The most credible numbers we’ve got indicate that the total layoffs (circa 8 July and 15 July) are 240 workers out of 800 SIG Sauer workers in the USA. This may or may not include the unannounced layoff of 57 in May.  (A plan to grow headcount to 900 in 2013 was quietly scuttled last year). No class of worker, except senior management, has been spared (and we’re not sure about senior management). Manufacturing workers, engineers, warranty & rework gunsmiths, logistics and facilities workers; direct and overhead employees, salaried and hourly, all of the ranks have been thinned.

The Union Leader (New Hampshire’s largest paper) reported that high-tech manufacturing workers comprised a large portion of the latest layoff:

[Michael] Power [of the state unemployment office] said workers laid off at Sig Sauer in Newington could have new options for employment, citing New Hampshire’s growing aerospace and advanced composite industries.

“A lot of these workers are skilled, particularly in (computer numerical control) machines and advanced manufacturing,” Power said. “We have a good need for these people.”

As in any layoff, the ultimate cause is that the company does not expect these workers to make enough money for the company to justify paying them. One of the reasons given by company spox Allen Forkner was “to control costs.”

Forkner is not a company employee, but an outside PR consultant from Nebraska who works for many industry firms, including SIG. It’s not very likely he really knows what is going on; it is very likely that he’s the author of the timelessly brain-dead “workforce adjustment” spin.

We think we can offer a better analysis

Being a lot closer than Forkner to SIG-Sauer (both physically, and in contact with current and, now, former, employees) we think we can offer a better analysis.

There are two factors in this one: the first is an inventory glut (or, if you prefer, a sales holiday). It’s caused by easing off of the ban-threat-motivated sales spike as anti-gun Democrats lay low during an election year, and market saturation as everybody ramped up production at once. Now SIG is sitting on high inventories of some guns that were expected to be big sellers. Price cutting and sales incentives in recent months did not move the overstock guns, including SIG’s ARs and centerfire pistols, in the numbers SIG managers needed to sell.

The second factor is that some of SIG’s biggest R&D spending in the last few years has not turned into sales.

  • ITEM: The MPX carbine has been in lawsuit limbo due to an ATF ban, and the LE SMG version arrives in a market where DOD is trying to turn every Sheriff’s office into a Stryker Battalion — the appeal of a $2k-plus 9mm carbine pales compared to a “free” 5.56 from Uncle.

MPX-SD-Detail-L

  • ITEM: The very expensive SIG P250 modular program is in trouble, with one Federal agency that tried to adopt the ingenious 21st Century “Man from UNCLE” gun having quality control nightmares. The P250 isn’t new, but it was an important technology demonstrator and a harbinger of things to come.

Sig P250 modularity

  • ITEM: The P250 problems, and rumors of similar QC issues with the new gun, threaten the P320 modular striker-fired program, just as the Army has written a request for proposal that seems like it was written with the plastic SIG in mind.

P320-FS-Nitrondetail-L

A Deep Dive into P320 Sales. Or… no-sales

The P320 issue deserves a deeper look. The list price of the P320 is $719, but we doubt one has ever been sold at full retail. A glance at GunBroker shows 204 of the new guns listed, inviting initial bids to buy-it-now of $519.30 to $629; there’s one guy desperate for action with the initial bid at $100 (he has a higher reserve price). How many of these guns have drawn bids?

None. Not one. Not even the guy trolling for a $100 start bid. So that’s part of the math: 204 guns + 0 buyers = fewer jobs at SIG. But while none are selling right now, is it possibly true that none have sold? Of course not… since the gun’s introduction, we know some have sold, because we’ve run into a couple at the range. And for the record, no complaints from the owners of the new guns, no visible QC problems, no polymer chassis coming apart (cough *P250* cough). But how many of them have sold at GunBroker? It’s probably the main auction site used both by people who buy and cycle stuff through their local FFLs, and FFLs trying to lay hands on something their jobber or distributor has not got (no fear, there, on the P320. SIG even has rebates!)

This next search will only work if you are a GunBroker member, and will require you to log in. It finds closed or completed auctions or sales of P320s, and organizes them by price, high to low. There are 591 completed auctions. Of those:

Let’s add ‘em up: 1+1+1+… that’s 22 guns sold, on the first of 8 pages, and these are the highest priced ones. We’ll spare you a list of all the others, and spare ourselves checking to see if they sold or were no-sales for reserve, but add up the bid-on guns per page: Page 2, 14 guns bid on, all for $549. Page 3, 32 bid on, from $525-545. Page 4, 50 guns bid on, from $5 to $525.

Over time, the rate of sales seems to be declining. We’d have to pull more data manually from GB to confirm if that’s the case, but that’s how it looks — exactly what a manufacturer does not want to see, assuming the sell-through numbers that SIG is getting from its distributors show a similar slackening of demand.

OK, we can’t resist, let’s go back and spot check the guns that were no-sales due to reserves. Here’s an alarming little clue to the P320 zeitgeist: on Page 3, all the guns that had reserves (8 of them) were no-sales. So only 24 guns sold, not 32. Page 2 had no reserves. Page 4 had almost all guns under reserve.  The guns that sold were exclusively no-reserve guns; the reserve guns, even when bid up higher than some sellers’ buy-it-now prices, did not sell. The lowest-priced gun that seems to have actually sold was $499. It seems many sellers placed the reserves in the $600 neighborhood, which is just more than the current SIG market can bear. As a result, only 12 guns out of the 50 that drew bids actually sold.

Since prices lower than the $5 at the bottom of Page 4 could only be low-ball bids on reserve guns, we didn’t bother to look at the other four pages of futile auctions.

To sum it up: Of 591 auctions found in a search of GunBroker, this highly promoted new pistol accounts for 56 sales over a period of more than 90 days (April through July). The prices the sellers, all dealers selling new guns, want are about $100 below list; the market is only interested in paying about $200 below list.

SIG was Counting on these guns (MPX, P250, P320) to Sell Well

One reason for SIG’s expansion into a new (to them) facility on the former Pease AFB was the expectation of higher sales, driven by new product introductions. At least three of the company’s new product introductions are not driving those sales.

Even lobbying won’t help much: the small NH delegation (2 Representatives, 2 Senators) has only one pro-defense member and three anti-gun defense cutters who would just as soon let the Air Force hold a bake sale for its next bomber.

It’s an Industry Problem, not just a SIG Problem

They’re not the only ones downsizing in the industry, or suffering with failed product launches. Covering the latter first, Remington is dealing with the failure of its R51 pistol, a marketing plan that shipped without a working gun attached. But Remington seems to have cut its losses, at least for now; Guns Save Lives reported that the R51 had been given the Leon Trotsky treatment on the Remington Central Committee website. So they stopped the bad press, but they did it by strangling the baby. Only time will tell if that’s temporary, while the R51 is fixed, or if all the R&D, manufacturing, and marketing time and money will have to be marked off as sunk costs.

In New Hampshire alone, two other firms have also struggled with declining firearms demand: Green Mountain Barrels in Conway, NH, has shed half its headcount (roughly 100 of 200 pre-layoff jobs), and the behind-the-scenes Latva Machine Co., a supplier of precision-machined parts to Ruger and other firearms manufacturers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection two weeks ago. Latva, which is over $3 million in the hole, will try to reorganize and stay in business, at the expense of its owners and creditors (which is how bankruptcy works).

Ron Cohen’s merry men must be looking at Remington’s silent assassination of the R51 with envy. They probably don’t have the luxury of being able to do that: they have a warehouse full of plastic SIGs, and a dealer network that has to be getting vocal about the sell-through of these arms. (Would you want to be the guy who reports 159 P320s in inventory right now? What if he borrowed money to buy them?)

Yet, we’re not aware — yet — of problems with these SIGs. So why are customers staying away? Two possibilities, both of which could be operating to some extent. First, it could simply be sales exhaustion. We know people who bought dumb stuff during the panic. Heck, we bought dumb stuff. (Glock drum magazines? They work, but they’re still dumb). Second, reputation is what we MBA dweebs call a “trailing indicator.” That means that Ron and the guys could start cranking out the best pistols ever made with the remaining crew in Newington, and it would still be years before their reputation recovers from some of the turkeys they shipped from Exeter.

Is that fair? Not really, but it’s the way human minds, and the reputations of humans and their organizations, work.

The Brief Moment of the Revolving Carbine

This past weekend, the 200th anniversary of Samuel Colt’s birth (19 July 1814) was celebrated by a bunch of Connecticut arts types, in nearly gun-free Connecticut fashion. If any of these professional irony enjoyers noted the irony, they didn’t say anything about it. But that’s got us looking at some of Sam’s accomplishments, and that brought us around to one of Colt’s least successful products: revolving carbines.

In the middle of the 19th Century, the best and greatest means of rapid fire was the revolving pistol. It seems like a natural idea to extend that to a revolving rifle or carbine; and this, Sam Colt did, as early as 1839. This brief (minute and a half!) video shows an extremely rare 1839 .52 caliber Colt that actually was one of a mere 360 acquired by the US Navy, and is now in the possession of the National Firearms Museum:

This Paterson Colt carbine was made from 1838 until 1841, and apart from the Naval guns, which may have been used by the Marines at the Siege of Veracruz in the Mexican War, too late to do that version of Colt’s company any good: the Paterson firm went bankrupt, and Colt had to start over. He retained his patents, so that whatever happened to his companies, the crown jewels were safe with him and his family. (This was prescient of him, for he was to die young).

The Mexican War not only gave the Marines a new direction (the landing at Veracruz was the first of what would become a standing Leatherneck specialty, amphibious landings on defended shores), but it resuscitated Colt, due to a military order for 1,000 revolvers, which were delivered before war’s end and are known as the Colt Walker revolvers.

The refreshed Colt Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company had a new, improved carbine by 1855, incorporating all of Colt’s new patents, and was producing it, and the more popular revolving pistols, in a new Armory building that was the marvel of Hartford, in a planned industrial community on an area of reclaimed land (note the berms or dikes in the image below). The area that encompassed all of the Colt factory, its workers’ housing, and Colt’s own grande manse was officially called the “South Meadow Improvements” but came to be known as Coltsville.

colt-armory-color-retouch-H

 

The carbine had two problems, both insurmountable from the military point of view. It was very expensive (the 1855 carbines cost the military $44 each, $1,189 in 2014 dollars), and, while it was safe if loaded and fired with care, a flash-over that was not usually that big a disaster with a revolving pistol had the potential for shredding a rifleman’s support hand. If there is a right way and a wrong way to load a weapon, no organization made of humans will ever be able to train 100% of its people to do it right 100% of the time.

When the Armory burned down in 1864, a $2 million plus ($54M plus 2014) loss of inventory, machinery and jigs to Colt, of which about $1.4 million ($38M) was excess to insurance carried, the remaining plant was used to manufacture pistols exclusively; the demand for Colt revolvers was inelastic, and repeating cartridge firearms on the horizon rendered the revolving rifle or carbine obsolete. The total production of the Colt carbines was very low; the 1855 was scarcely more produced than the 1839 version.

After the Civil War, Remington produced a version of its revolver as a carbine, also finding it disappointing in sales, although not as much so as the Colt version had been.

Since the 1960s, several versions of replica Colt and Remington carbines have been made. These are more frequently collected, from what we’ve seen, than fired; used ones usually have far more handling marks than they do indicia of firing.

The great Cap and Ball Channel from Hungary has posted three great videos on two carbines, an original Colt and an Uberti copy of a Remington.

Part 1, about the Colt (~6 minutes). The music is pretty awful, especially when it isn’t ducked under the voice, but the analysis of the unique mechanics of the gun makes it well worthwhile:

Some of the unique features of this .44 caliber Colt 1855 include progressive depth rifling, and a cylinder that is rotated by a ratchet on the rear end of the cylinder pin. This gun may be a bit off the military norm, as it appears to have been a sporting gun originally sold in Europe (it bears English proofs).

Part 2, about the Uberti clone of the Remington (~3 minutes):

Part 3, both are taken to the range (yes, even the very valuable original Colt) and shot for accuracy. If you’re only going to watch one video, this is the one. It also shows loading with loose powder and conical bullets, but also with period-style paper cartridges, which is how the real Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs would have done it. (Not to mention everyone else who went to war with percussion, like the British, French and Russians in the Crimean War, all manner of 19th Century naval riflemen, and the British in the Afghan Wars). This one’s about six and a half minutes.

The Capandball.eu site and associated YouTube channel is a real find, but we didn’t want to wait for a TW3 to show it to you.  If we have any beef with the chance to watch the two percussion revolver carbines on the range, it’s that he didn’t quantify their accuracy. But they look like fun, and one’s a sample of a moment in time that will never be repeated — the other shows us that the artifacts can be repeated, even if the times can’t be.

These firearms were an interesting evolutionary dead end (sure, there are cartridge versions, even a Taurus Judge carbine, but these are dead ends, too — curiosities). They came about because they were the logical progression combining proven examples of a known technology (the percussion rifle and the percussion revolver) into a hybrid that seemed like it had a bright future. (After all, if you were a cavalryman, or a Pony Express rider, another customer for the Colt ’55, wouldn’t you rather have six shots before facing the difficulty of reloading on horseback than one?). But unbeknownst to Sam Colt, and to his designer and right-hand-man Root, a technological disruption was on its way: new cartridge repeaters were coming that would eliminate all the disadvantages of the revolver carbine.

Root kept Colt relevant with cartridge revolvers, and even before the Colt family sold the company in 1901 new managers were embracing the novelty of the automatic pistol. Like Apple 100 years later, the company had a knack for grabbing hold of a technology that was about to take off in time, before its customers even knew that that was what they would want. But you don’t get to that kind of position without tripping down a few blind alleys. And thus, we have the Colt Revolver Carbine and its clones and imitators, a novelty for collectors and curiosity seekers.

Pistol OCD: Why the Pennsylvania State Police went SIG (long)

Recently, we posted a story called Pistol OCD, about the Pennsylvania State Police’s remarkable run through quite a few different makes and models of service pistols in a very short time. The most recent change, this year, is from the Glock 21 to the SIG 227R, both pistols in .45 ACP caliber. We linked and quoted the actual contract terms and solicitations posted on official Pennsylvania websites.

PSP SIG 227

But we were missing one thing — and it was a big thing. We didn’t have any idea of why the PSP was changing over to the SIG. A changeover from Glock to SIG is relatively uncommon, compared to a change in the other direction. And to change abruptly, a year after letting a contract for Glocks and less than a month after the PSP’s last mod to that contract, would seem to require a really strong reason.

Well, Pennsylvania readers have filled us in on what the reason is. Obviously, the managers of the PSP think it’s a good reason — a really good reason. And it is, potentially: safety. 

Specifically, the Glock, unique among current service pistols, requires you to pull the trigger to disassemble the pistol. So every time you need to clean your clock, you need to pull the trigger. It should be a no-brainer to clear the pistol first, and even then, to ensure it’s pointed in absolutely safe direction before pulling the trigger. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case with PSP troopers. It is, in fact, a very hard behavior to enforce on a large and diverse population.

The Shooting that Sidelined the Glock

The single incident that triggered the PSP’s abandonment of the Glock pistol took place on the early afternoon of March 7th this year. Before this, there was a constituency for replacing the Austrian pistols; after this, there was urgency to the task. Joseph Miller, apparently a PSP Trooper, although some media reports, apparently mistakenly, described him as a laid-off former nonsworn dispatcher, called 911 to report a shooting. His wife, Joanne, 34 years old and 22 weeks or so pregnant, was nonresponsive when first responders arrived, with a single gunshot to the cranium evident. Miller explained that he had been dismantling his gun for cleaning, when he pulled the trigger, and the round he discharged struck JoAnne in the head.

She was nonresponsive when paramedics arrived; they’re not allowed to pronounce death but they’ve seen it enough to know. They rusher her to the hospital, where medical staff knew she could not be saved but mounted a heroic, long-shot effort to save the baby. In the end, they admitted defeat; and one shot had taken two sould. The PSP had two options: blame the cop, or blame the Glock.

It seems self-evident that that particular negligent discharge is the one that put the skids under the Glock as a PSP service pistol. It doesn’t even matter whether you believe it was simple negligence, whether you believe that it was a case of a guy using the well-known accidental discharges as an excuse for murder, or whether you don’t know what to believe: it clearly has occurred to PSP managers that if they have a pistol that doesn’t need one to dry-fire for disassembly, they’ll never hear that excuse again.

The Miller case is depressing to read about. We’ll refer back to it in a bit, but if you want to read about it there are no shortage of stories:

  1. March 8: Trooper’s gun goes off, killing pregnant wife. Nice passive voice from the Morning Call.
  2. March 8: Pennsylvania trooper may have accidentally shot, killed pregnant wife: report. The New York Daily News at least knows whose digit was on the projectile actuator.
  3. March 10: Police say Pa. trooper accidentally shot wife. It took a couple days for the Philadelphia Inquirer to wake up; maybe they needed to see the story in the Daily News? Anyway, they too credit the cop with the shooting, not his gun.
  4. March 10: Pennsylvania State Trooper Fatally Shot Pregnant Wife While Cleaning Gun: Police.  The Huffington Post, of all things.
  5. June 6: Three Month Investigation Concludes with Determination that March 7, 2014 East Norriton Shooting Incident was Accidental; No Charges to Be Filed. The official report from the Montgomery County DA’s office.
  6. June 7: State trooper cleared in wife’s shooting death: Wife, unborn child died when gun fired during cleaning. The Morning Call, still with the passive voice.

It wasn’t, of course, the only PSP negligent discharge. Some crop up in the news and some don’t.

For instance, in October, 2010, Trooper Nicholas Petrosky’s 4-year-old son Micah was transported to the hospital with a gunshot wound in the leg. The accident was investigated by local police, who accepted Petrosky’s statement that the boy got hold of the gun while his father was in the shower, and immediately closed the case as an accident. The State Police did not investigate, and stressed that they had no interest because the gun in question was a personal off-duty gun, not an issue service pistol. The child was expected to make a full recovery, fortunately.

In June, 2012, a State Trooper shot himself in the leg at the Belfast, PA, State Police Barracks, “while unloading his car.” How he did that without trying to pick up the Glock by the trigger was the subject of one of those investigations that never quite wraps up.

In April, 2014, a State Trooper had a negligent discharge inside the Meadville, PA, State Police Barracks. No one was injured, and there were no career consequences to the cack-handed cop.

In addition to these accidents, which became public because of the casualties, or because they happened in a public building, there are rumors of numerous other negligent discharges while cleaning or handling the Glocks. These have been handled informally. In fact, it is State Police policy to keep negligent discharges secret, according to a story on the Meadville mishap:

[T]here was no news release made on the incident.

Asked if the report on the incident [by the PSP's Bureau of Integrity and Professional Standards] would be made public once it is completed, [spokesman Sgt. Mark] Zaleski said it would not because it was a personnel matter which is a closed record.

As you might expect from such a non-confidence-building policy, it isn’t building confidence. Read the comments of the dangerous armed (with $5k double-barrels) men at trapshooters.com, for instance.

Is there a Double Standard for Negligent Troopers?

None of the troopers who have had negligent discharges have suffered career consequences, let alone criminal charges. In the tragic Miller case, some have complained that, because Miller was a trooper he got a deal a normal Pennsylvanian wouldn’t get. The prosecutor disagrees, criticizing Miller rather strongly, while not charging him.

Based upon a thorough review of all the available evidence, the District Attorney concluded that Joseph Miller was negligent in the handling of his firearm; however, his conduct did not rise to the necessary level of recklessness or gross negligence, that would give rise to criminal liability. The totality of circumstances simply reveals that this incident is a tragic, but negligent, accident.

Now, if we had a parallel case where the at-least-negligent shooter was a civilian, we’d know if Pennsylvania was a state of laws, or a state of ranks and titles. If only we had such a case!

Mirabile dictu, such a case is right at hand, and fresh (June, 2014).

[Denver Blough, 25] allegedly broke his 20-gauge gun into two pieces, separating the barrel from its stock, Trooper Ted Goins wrote an affidavit.

“Blough related he took the barrel assembly out to a kitchen area to show [his pregnant girlfriend Caressa] Kovalcik, where it discharged into her face,” Goins wrote.

Blough, currently in Somerset County Jail, has no prior criminal record in the region, according to online court records.

The only differences between the Blough and Miller cases, in probable order of their importance to the two respective outcomes:

  1. Blough is not a state trooper;
  2. Blough talked to the state police for hours; Miller made a statement and lawyered up;
  3. Blough admits he had been arguing with Kovalcik;
  4. Blough’s and Kovalcik’s child was saved by medical intervention (life support and C-section), perhaps in part because the pregnancy was about full term.

Now we know how Miller would have been treated if he hadn’t had that patent of nobility, a police badge.

There is also other evidence of a double standard. The State Police’s policy on negligent discharges (click on “Accidental Discharge Policy.pdf” at that link) explains that as long as a cop is the one ND’ing, they’re really all “accidental.”

Microsoft Word – Accidental Discharge Policy CURR.doc

I. DEFINITIONS

Officer-involved shooting
An officer’s discharge of a firearm that results in the physical injury or death of a person, whether or not the discharge was unintentional.

Officer-involved discharge
An officer’s unintentional discharge of a firearm that does not cause injury or death to a person.

 

…and they only need to be reported immediately if the ND hits somebody, that is, in the former case of an “Officer-involved shooting.” Otherwise, a report in writing, filed within ten days, to the Firearms Education and Training Committe, is sufficient cover. There’s a section of the policy that initially seems to be a Lee Paige rule (inspired by the world’s most famous Glock operator), requiring instructors who have dumb-ass NDs in public on the range to be decertified. But there’s an exception a PBA lawyer can drive an MRAP through:

Microsoft Word – Accidental Discharge Policy CURR.doc

As long as an instructor is adhering to proper range safety protocols when such a discharge occurs (has not performed a negligent, unsafe, or careless act) and there are no injuries, the weapon discharge procedure does not take effect and no discharge report is necessary.

No harm, no foul. Well, apart from the encouraging more ND’s bit. There is that.

And this brief foray into a policy that seems to reward rather than punish NDs brings us to another question:

Will the SIG end the Negligent Discharge plague at PSP?

We’ll go out on a limb here, because it’s a robust and sturdy limb built of decades of observation of organizations with what sociologists call “insider morality.” And answer the question: No. Not a bit.

The problem is that the shootings are not caused by the Glocks, but by the people who cannot remember or follow simple, clear, and exception-free instructions. Remember, they’re not always clearing their gun before they go to clean it. Remember, they’re not always pointing their guns in a safe direction with a solid and sufficient backstop before pulling the trigger. They’re not always keeping their finger off the trigger until lined up on target. Changing firearms because you can’t train or incentivize these irresponsible behaviors out of your work force is not going to produce safety; it can’t. 

A lot of cops don’t know and don’t care about firearms, and that may be a natural reaction to how little firearms matter in the real day-to-day life of a road trooper (until the rare, outlier day when they matter more than anything in the world; but people work off heuristics, and if you’ve gone three thousand days without having to clear your holster except for annual quals, you only practice if you want and like to). Most cops are not as interested in firearms as you are (or you wouldn’t be reading this). Most bricklayers don’t go home and build walls for fun, and most cops don’t shoot for fun, or even for any more proficiency than they absolutely need to get through the annual qual with a passing score.

Some cops don’t like guns at all. Some are on the force because it’s a family tradition. Some are on the force because it’s a good, statistically safe (again, until the moment it isn’t, when statistics provide cold comfort), well-paid government job with rich benefits. A few of them are on the force because they like to boss people around — very few, fortunately, as the academies and the selection process make scant attempt to screen for that type, and they’re impossible to dispose of once they’re in.

As a result, Pennsylvania Troopers of tomorrow are the same imperfect clay as the troopers of yesterday and today. They will continue to have negligent discharges with their new SIG 227R pistols, because the causative factor in an ND is the negligence, not the operating features of the firearm. The SIG does have two features that may reduce some kinds of firearms mishaps: unlike the Glock, it does not have a light trigger pull, but a long DA pull on first shot, and also unlike the Glock, it need not be dry-fired to disassemble it. But the SIG has other features that will cause problems for a 5000-officer force where only 500 (if that many) care much about the handgun they carry. It has a rich, but complicated, operating system with multiple control levers. The Glock has a trigger, slide stop, and magazine release; SIG has those plus a decocking lever and a takedown lever. Police officers will not only continue to have NDs with this new system, they may have more problems putting it into action (and safing it afterward) due to its relative complexity compared to the Glock.

One has to have a certain sympathy for the PSP managers. They have a tough situation, even if it’s partly self-inflicted. There’s a solution at hand, but they’re not willing to take it: if they made a public vow that an ND was an automatic dismissal, they’d see NDs wither away to an irreducibly low level, especially after they made one or two negligent cops walk the plank pour encourager les aûtres. Many years ago the Ranger Regiment, inspired by another ARSOF unit, made such a determination and even though every Ranger is a young, impulsive male, and every Ranger probably fires more live ammo in a year than the ammo budget of the entire PSP, NDs are a once-in-several-years event. Rangers are not supermen, they’re merely carefully selected, well led, and properly incentivized. PSP ought to try it.

Pistol OCD: the Pennsylvania State Police

Pennsylvania_State_PoliceIf you want to see inability to decide on a pistol, or maybe it’s just general inability to pour piss out of a boot, you really can’t beat the Pennsylvania State police. They’ve been through three official sidearms in four years, and it’s their own fault. This Pistol OCD has tripped the PSP through pistols so rapidly that they’re not always able to issue all the new ones before changing to the new new one.

This is only possible in a jurisdiction where a somnolent Legislature exercises flaccid oversight over runaway spending. It’s fair to say that the majority of chiefs of police in America would be grateful and thankful for the chance to recapitalize their force’s handguns once every couple decades. Some jurisdictions make (or “let” if you prefer) their cops buy their own guns from an approved list.

The Pennsylvania State Police buys ‘em and issues ‘em — and then does it all over again. It may be that having the academy located in Hershey, PA, the inescapable aroma of chocolate has inhibited their faculties for impulse control.

Pistol No. 1: The Glock 37

During the wave of the 90s, which sent police forces from their 1980s 9mms to larger calibers, the PSP converted to the .40, which they used initially in Berettas (96D, which is DAO mode with no mechanical safety, then Brigadier), then the Glock 22. They had the usual problems with .40 (declining qual scores and poor performance by smaller troopers due to the .40′s sharp recoil), but they didn’t have quality problems with their Berettas (like the 96D whose PSP patch is shown below) or Glocks. They had wear problems on the usual wear items but the armorers stayed on top of them.

PSP Patch Beretta

After 10-15 years’ .40 experience, they were interested in the .45 ACP, and they considered but did not adopt this caliber at first.  Instead, in 2007, some genius decided that they really needed more oomph than the mere .45 Auto gave a bullet. The fact that the .45 ACP round has been indiscriminately writing the numbers after the dash on the grave markers of various shooting victims for a century plus didn’t seem to matter. Various Mexicans, Prussians, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Nazis, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Grenadans, Cubans, Panamanians, and God alone knows how many varieties of civilian miscreants are not around to testify as to the adequacy of the .45 ACP, because they’re dead, Jim.

It’s not clear whether it was the highly theoretical idea that the .45 needed improvement, or perhaps it was fanboy drooling over Glock catalogs, sent them to the .45 Glock Auto Pistol, or .45 GAP, round. While .45 GAP is usually loaded to slightly higher pressures than .45 ACP, it actually has less performance potential because it has a shorter case, smaller primer pocket and thicker web, and less case volume. (The shorter case –  is so that it can be accommodated in a G17/G19 sized grip. The thicker web was a good call, given the weak case-head support in big-bore, The smaller primer pocket serves both to strengthen the case head and all .45 GAP loads, factory and manual, are designed to be ignited with small pistol primers and may be unsafe in .45 ACP with large pistol primers. Ammo, load data, and all components except bullets are not interchangeable between ACP and GAP, and you can’t make safe GAP cases by trimming ACP).

The decision to go with .45 GAP somewhat simplified the pistol buying for them, as only Glock and Springfield make pistols in .45 GAP (maybe Detonics also?), and at the time of the contract it was Glock, period. Therefore, the PSP bought large numbers of Glock 37s. Four thousand eight hundred of them, to be specific. (That covers around 4,720 troopers, plus operational floats to cover for pistols in maintenance or evidence).  So they bought 37s. NTTAWWT, right?

Well, it turns out that there is something wrong with that. Specifically, the ammunition is quite hard to come by. There are few sources, little competition among sources that would be acceptable a risk-averse public agency, and it’s expensive, compared to other pistol rounds. (How expensive? At LuckyGunner.com, .45 GAP ranges from 55¢ to $1.28 a round, while .45 ACP is offered in 31 options for less than the least expensive .45 GAP. True, the cheapest of those are reloads or Wolf steelcase crap no agency would touch with a barge pole, but even name brands like Speer Lawman duty ammo sell for far less in the more common caliber – the GAP is 15¢ or more per round more expensive than .45 ACP for like brands). When ammo is expensive, cops don’t train. When cops don’t train, cops can hit the broadside of a barn. From inside the barn.

When cops miss the bad guy they’re shooting at, or worse,  hit the citizen they’re not shooting at, the worst of all possible things, from the viewpoint of a police manager, ensues: bad publicity. Every police white shirt knows that this is to be avoided at all costs.

The very first Glock 37s were bought in 2007, but they were still buying, stocking, and issuing new Glock 37s in 2013. They had made every effort to make it work, but the ammo supply problem was insuperable, and sooner or later one of Pennsylvania’s dozing legislators was going to wake up and ask why they were paying $1.50 a round for practice ammo. So they decided that the new Glock 37s had to go. They were offered as part of the payment for new guns, with the proviso that a State Trooper could buy a gun (not necessarily his or her old one) back from the vendor within sixty days.

As part of this Invitation for Bid, PSP desires to trade in 4800 Glock Model 37 firearms, each with three clips and are equipped with Glock Night Sights front and rear. The firearms included in the trade-in are 0 to 6 years old and are in NRA good to very good condition.

For sixty (60) days following receipt of the used firearms by the Contractor; PSP Personnel shall have the opportunity to purchase, from that Contractor, a used PSP service firearm. Purchase shall be at trade-in price plus any fees imposed by law or by the Contractor for the proper transfer of the firearm to PSP Personnel. The awarded Contractor shall ensure that the sale of the firearm to the PSP Personnel complies with all applicable State and Federal laws. Following the sixty (60) day time frame, the awarded Contractor may sell or otherwise dispose of the firearms as provided by law

That, in fact, is why you can go online and find several retailers who will happily ship a PSP-crested Glock 37 to your local FFL.

2713699_01_retired_stamped_pennsylvania_s_640

 

Pistol No. 2: the Glock 21 Gen 4

PSP was looking, then, for an easy way out of their .45 GAP dilemma, and the obvious solution of changing to .45 ACP suggested itself, for all the reasons that GAP was problematical. (It may also be the case that the original fanboy behind the G37 purchase had moved on to other duties).

The G21 was an easy decision for a number of reasons. Its manual of arms is identical to the ill-starred G37, minimizing retraining. About the only user-accessible thing that was new on the G4 was the convertible-size backstrap, and that was likely to be received with hosannas by troopers with smaller or larger than average mitts.

There was a rush to execute the contract. The State Police knew they had the funding to do this in 2013, and they couldn’t guarantee they’d have the funding in out years. They could justify the change on both the ammo savings grounds and on the nifty new features (interchangeable backstraps, etc.) of the next-gen Glocks.

So an RFP went out 22 March 2013, and a contract was let for:

SPECIFICATIONS

…an initial order of 4800 Glock 21 Gen 4 firearms, with a contracted option to replenish as needed.

This is a no substitute bid for the firearms and listed accessories; the only firearm that will be accepted for this bid is the Glock 21 Gen 4. The items listed under Training Equipment and Accessories are required.

 

The specifics included the sort of training equipment you’d expect, and training for field armorers and a handful of expert armorers.

As the 21s came in, the 37s went out.

At first, the troopers seemed happy enough with their G21s. Until some of them began running up a high round count. Glock at first denied the guns had problems (we all remember the painful introduction of the G4, right?) and then began addressing specific problems. The union began to rumble, as their officers complained about guns they did not have confidence in.

But as late as 8 April 2013, PSP was still modifying the original G21 contract, in the apparent expectation that the problematic Glock would remain the agency’s service pistol.

Pistol No. 3: the SIG 227R

The problems with the Glock 21 drove the PSP leadership mad. They were frustrating for Glock, too, and Glock executives were bitterly disappointed when PSP changed direction again; from the Glock point of view, the trigger bar and magazine replacements had resolved PSP’s problems. But the real problem was that by this point Glock had lost the confidence of leaders. Once again, personnel turbulence played a role as some of the Glock’s most strident defenders had retired or moved on to positions wherein they couldn’t give their preferred pistol top cover in the bureaucratic battle.

Pistols are one thing that police leaders (like police officers) get emotional about. Everybody is trained to use a pistol, and everybody thinks he or she is above average with it (an arithmetic impossibility). And these emotions get tied up in what everyone pretends is a fight about what works better. The cold fact is most pistols work pretty well, and their differences in specification are tiny compared to their similarities. Another cold fact is that every mass producer of firearms produces occasional individual lemons, and from time to time entire shifts or runs of lemons.

PSP SIG 227

The PSP decided to stay with the .45, but make a radical change: to the SIG P227R. One widely publicized factor in this decision was a series of tests conducted by PSP, in which P227Rs provided by SIG really shone compared to their competitors. Another factor, which has received far less publicity but may have had a greater impact, is the experience that other agencies have had with SIG lately. While some of the Feds are distinctly unhappy, the Indiana State Police are carrying 227Rs and appear to be quite satisfied. An important factor in this satisfaction is that the SIGs haven’t been perfect — but when they haven’t, SIG’s service has been very satisfying to ISP. When Glock grudgingly admitted problems with the 21s, Pennsylvania armorers got a box of trigger bars, and PSP logistical guys got boxes of improved magazines. When SIG determined some parts in some ISP guns were out of spec, SIG sent their armorers not to ISP HQ, but to every individual site, to inspect, R&R the parts, and test the guns with the Indiana armorers.

That was the level of customer service that PSP had felt they were missing from their Glock suppliers.

Unlike the G37 -> G21 transition, the Glock -> SIG transition is a big one.

There is a class in the Academy right now that has the first 150 SIGs. We’ll see how they do, but the rest of the SIGs are rolling out across the force gradually. PSP thought it best this time, given the teething problems of the G21 G4, that they’d start with an academy class, because recruits at the academy shoot a lot more than working line troopers who may only fire for qualification.

Are they going to be happy with the SIG? In the days ahead, we’re going to talk about some famous agencies that have SIGs and are anything but happy. One of them has a warehouse full (literally, not Joe Biden “literally”) of broken SIGs, and there are HQ power struggles over what to  use next (including a MOAR SIGS faction). But that’s another story.

Note that the 4800 pistol requirement in these contracts is an initial contract. Also included is replenishment of 500 guns at a rate of 100 or so a year, spare parts, and training for the PSP’s 70 (!) armorers (one armorer per ~70 cops? They must be hard on their handguns).

So that’s the latest, from a department that’s been through a half-dozen different service pistols in the last 10 or so years. If we were SIG, we would celebrate the sale with an ad buy, but we wouldn’t buy a whole year’s worth of ads.

At least the PSP allows its obsolete guns to be sold in the market. Since every PSP gun is engraved or etched with the force’s crest, they are popular with collectors, helping the vendor recoup the credit he gave for the trade-ins. PSP trade-ins also tend to be well-kept for cop guns, even apart from the Glock 37s scarcely having been shot due to the ammo problem, so they’re an attractive alternative to a new gun for a bargain hunter.

A BAR for the 21st Century

OOWLogoTheir ranks are thinning, but never was a man more loyal to his gun than the men who carried the Browning Automatic Rifle in combat, many of whom we were privileged to know and serve with.

Ohio Ordnance Works has been making new BARs for many years. The guns resemble a WWII M1918A2, and are available as either post-86 Dealer Samples or Title I semi-auto rifles for a retail price in the $4,000 to $5,000 neighborhood.

OOW hcar_2

But they’ve also been working on what they call the Heavy Counter Assault Rifle — a BAR lightened, modernized and improved almost beyond recognition. Almost 7 1/2 pounds of the original 19.4 or so have been taken off, rails and a sliding stock added, the ergonomics improved to satisfy a generation raised on highly-ergonomic ARs. Ohio Ordnance Workd has added its own custom 30-round magazines and an improved trigger.


Weight loss comes from relief machining in the receiver, a shortened barrel with lightening/cooling dimples, a polymer lower, and a hugely-simplified, hydraulic buffer (say good-bye to “cups and cones,” children). It’s suppressor-ready.

Like any OOW BAR it does not come cheap, but they’re offering a pre-production sales deal: the HCAR with many accessories for $4,700.

For more information:

(You get the impression SSD likes this thing).

Everybody wants some other gun

Not matter what gun you have, the grass is always greener on the other side. This is especially true of government agencies, who are all over the place on pistols, almost as if they weren’t spending their own money! Here are a few examples, which we’ll elaborate on at length next week.

  • A Major Federal Agency that has a reputation for shooting straight has been through the wringer with several models of autopistols from SIG-Sauer. They’re not very happy with the status quo, because both the pistol and caliber they’re using were not selected in-house, but were imposed on them by a carpetbagging director, based on what the special agents in his old agency were carrying.
  • But Another Federal Agency has different problems with their SIGs, and defensive senior officials are fighting a desperate rear-guard action against agents who want to carry Glocks instead.

Both of these outfits have a large quantity of defunct SIGs on hand. Due to Executive Branch policy, their surplus guns will be destroyed.

Meanwhile, back in Local Land…

  • A Large State Police/Highway Patrol force in a populous state suffers from Pistol OCD. They’ve been through three official sidearms in two calibers in four years, and it’s their own fault.  This is what happens when fanboys drive procurement and figure logistics will sort themselves out. Worse, every time State Police administrators get shuffled around, a new fanboy of some gun/round/training evolution winds up getting in. Since 2006, they’ve been through six or seven guns in three calibers.

However, unlike the Feds, they do surplus their guns against the new contract, so this department dumps four or five thousand decently maintained guns into the market every year or two. So there is that.

You really get the feeling that some of these government managers are not very good at the managing thing.

Crimson Trace’s “Foundation of Success”

crimson-trace-laserFrank Miniter writes in the normally anti-gun Forbes magazine with a remarkable business story — a profile of the way the spirit reduced to a few handwritten lists, recited with the faithfulness of a cloister’s vespers, animate a business in our industry: Crimson Trace, the maker of compact lasers and laser handgun grips, like the one on the Glock at right. A taste:

There are two handwritten lists on the sheet of notebook paper. They are written in black ink on a sheet of paper torn from a legal pad in 1994. He tells me he used to read these aloud with his business partners—mostly engineers—every morning. Small edits show it was tweaked and added to until they thought it perfect. So perfect, he says, they got so they could say the numbered lists without the piece of now crinkled and smudged paper. When that happened Lew put the lists in a frame and tacked it on the wall.

Under the title “Our Mission: What it’s going to feel like” is:

1. Our futures are financially secure
2. We all own part of everything
3. Work is fun
4. Our tools and equipment are topnotch
5. Our customers love us
6. Our building and property are impressive to say the least
7. We own other profit-making corporations
8. Our profits are at all time highs
9. Our competition cannot touch us
10. We are moving forward into the future

Lew proudly says these ten hopes and dreams aloud to me as he did every morning with his team for years.

via The 21 Rules That Built An Industry Leader.

Miniter seems to have lasered in on something that is of bedrock importance to the Wilsonville, Oregon company. While the first list describes how the founders of the company intended to wind up (and did), a second and perhaps more-important list was titled, “How do we get there?” and comprises 11 more rules. (To read it, you’re going to have to click over to Frank’s article and Read The Whole Thing™, which you know you wanna do anyway).

And here’s founder Lew Danielson’s ideas about why these rules are about people, not things; and how it influences hiring:

The rules to run a business by must deal with people, not products. This is because people create the products. When I hire someone, and I still interview everyone, I ask them about their hobbies and passion. I want to know them as a person—I figure if they made it to my office others have already vetted their resumes. When I ask someone if I can count on them and they get these misty eyes and tell me they better believe I can, well, then I know I have a loyal and passionate part of the Crimson Trace team.

Frank Miniter has far more information about the culture of Crimson Trace and the character of its people packed into his column. We’d tell you you-know-what, but we already did, right?

Security Theater, Defense Contracting Edition

This is the offending magazine

This is the offending magazine.

We’ve recently been warned of a deadly threat to the Republic: Forbes magazine.

We were a bit taken aback by that, as we’ve thought the magazine has come to, well, stink, since old Malcolm croaked, but we didn’t think it was that bad. Turns out, it is, kinda:

For those who are avid readers of Forbes Magazine, this month’s issue is not authorized in areas that process classified information, secure rooms or vaults.

Introduction of this magazine into areas where classified information is processed, stored, secure rooms or vaults will constitute a security incident.

The most recent issue of Forbes magazine has a special Dell advertisement section that contains a small computer. The advertisement section is located right after page 32 and has a video display with two on/off switches.

The ad in question.

The ad in question.

Pressing either of the switches starts a video. A miniature circuit board with a small microprocessor, a removable micro-SD card, mini-USB port, speakers, and a lithium-Ion battery are hidden behind the page. While the advertisement and associated components appear innocuous, it is still considered an Information Security (IS) device and must be handled accordingly.

This is not the first time a magazine containing an IS device has been circulated. Last year it was a Wi-Fi router device. Please be alert for similar situations in the future and report such discoveries as appropriate.

Well, what are you going to do about that? Turns out, our organization’s sergeant major had the situation well in hand:

I just set a small hare of C4 on my Forbes Magazine and destroyed it.

Gotta love the direct approach. Fire in the security breach!

The guts of the in-ad computer. The security guy's job just got way harder -- this won't be the last one.

The guts of the in-ad computer. It has everything a classical computer has: RAM, processor, I/O, storage. You really don’t want stuff like this in your SCIF.

In all seriousness, we also heard the components of the computerized ad are made in China. That’s a real confidence-builder there. If you do have a facility clearance and did indeed take a copy of this issue of Forbes in there, even the sergeant-major’s direct approach doesn’t spare you the need to report a, “security incident” to your DSS rep. Having been through one of those with a Livescribe pen inadvertently introduced into a conference room at Los Alamos National Labs, we can tell you it’s a lot of unpleasant work for a lot of people.

Every security guy’s job just got markedly harder, even though that surely wasn’t the intent of the advertisers. This may have been the first such computer-stuffed advertisement, but you can bet that this won’t be the last one, either.

Good Reporting on Glock Indictments

Glock17-G3Saturday we pulled the story of the Florida Highway Patrol officer with brain-dead ideas of what a concealed handgun license gets you in the Sunshine State from Lee Williams’s excellent blog at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. And we said something nice about his blog. But we think you should not miss these two articles on the Glock bribery charges that hit the news last week. Lee has angles nobody else has had:

Thanks to tips from a couple readers, I was able to connect the dots on the story about the two former Glock execs who are facing federal indictment for allegedly selling 14,000 pistols and 12,000 magazines to a Kansas gun dealer at the cheaper law enforcement price.

“I am innocent,” [Craig Dutton] said. “I worked for Glock for 22 years. I started when I was 17 and left in 2011. The only thing I ever did was build their business.”

“They have the wrong info. That’s pretty much all I can say right now. I will continue at SCCY.”

Stories are everywhere around the net, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But bloggers still do break stories, as Lee did with the SCCY connection and Craig Dutton’s denial (and the company’s support for him) in this case.

SCCY makes a pair of small 9mm DAO self-defense pistols, that differ only in that the CPX-1 has a mechanical safety and the CPX-2 does not.