Category Archives: The Past is Another Country

10th Legion Inscription from Destroyed Arch Found in Jerusalem

The new discovery.

The new discovery, outdoors undergoing conservation.

Israelis could be excused for not wanting anything to do with the Roman Legion X Fretensis, which occupied Judea for a long period and suppressed the Maccabee and Bar-Kochba Revolts in counterinsurgency campaigns of the type common in classical antiquity: brutal and sanguinary.

But Israeli archaeologists were thrilled to announce the rediscovery of a long-lost inscription dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian by the Legion in 129 or 130 AD. The tag end of the inscription had long been known, but the upper part turned up in reused stones that had been the lintel of an arch of triumph.

To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis (2nd hand) Antoniniana.

via Stone engraved to Roman emperor Hadrian discovered in Jerusalem | Israel | Jewish Journal.

hadrian_statueHadrian was a remarkable emperor, known for Hadrian’s Wall in Britain and for his famous villa/palace. But his rule of the inhabitants of Judea was marked by cruel conquest. Jerusalem was destroyed, and a city named “Aelia Capitolina” built on its ruins. The arch celebrated Hadrians’ troops’ eradication of Jewish resistance; the statue of Hadrian (on the right) was also erected to celebrate this victory. It’s unknown who pulled down and broke up this statue of Hadrian; it could have been Jews getting some cultural revenge, or it could have been iconoclastic Ottomans, although iconoclasts usually destroyed the noses or faces of statues, in addition to pulling them down and breaking them up. (Will archaeologists be unearthing Lenins in 2000 years? One hopes not).

An archaeologist conserves the new-found inscription honoring Hadrian.

An archaeologist conserves the new-found inscription honoring Hadrian.

Outside of Judea, Hadrian was often viewed (including by European historians) as a model of the benevolent despot. In Judea, that was not his image, as a review of the history of the Bar-Kochba revolt indicates. After the initial, AD 70, revolt led to a Jewish defeat, Rome imposed a harsh peace, and on taking the reins of power, Hadrian cranked up the pressure on his Judean subjects, demanding they convert to Roman religion and abjure their ancient faith. Titus had already razed the Temple; Hadrian planned his city, Aelia Capitolina, with a temple to his god, Jupiter, and the Jews grudgingly accepted that — until he banned two Jewish religious practices that had long struck Romans as barbarous: castration and circumcision. (Jews do not practice castration; Hadrian may have been misinformed). That and other offenses against Jewish belief were enough to bring the Jews to the brink of revolt. In 132 AD, Roman engineers constructing the new Roman city collapsed the Tomb of Solomon, venerated by Jews as a holy place. Fuel-air mixture, meet spark. The rebellious Jews, led by Simon bar-Kochba, seized the countryside and knew better than to engage the Roman legions directly.

The rebels did not dare try to risk open confrontation against the Romans, but occupied the advantageous positions in the country and strengthened them with mines and walls, so that they would have places of refuge when hard pressed and could communicate with one another unobserved underground; and they pierced these subterranean passages from above at intervals to let in air and light.

[Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.12.3]

(Now you see where Hamas got the tunnel idea). Even sending a top general, Julius Severus, didn’t win the war; Hadrian actually had to come himself. (We have a vision of him saying, “Severus, you had one job.“)  Somewhere between four and seven Legions were deployed; one, XXII Deiotariana, vanishes from history after this war. One source suggests it was annihilated; it might also have been disgraced, or lost its eagle.

The X Legion had been through that disgrace in Parthia, after Crassus led them to defeat at Cannae (another emperor later ransomed the eagles back after an interval). So it was going to celebrate any victory it got.

Going back to Cassius Dio again (courtesy of that same source), we see that Hadrian won by a counterinsurgent campaign that resembles more closely German campaigns against Russian partisans or America’s crushing of the Indians than the kinder, gentler COIN of today.

Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their fanaticism, but -by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and under-officers, and by depriving them of food and shutting them up- he was able, rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparative little danger, to crush, exhaust and exterminate them. Very few Jews in fact survived. Fifty of their most important outposts and 985 better known villages were razed to the ground. 580,000 were killed in the various engagements or battles. As for the numbers who perished from starvation, disease or fire, that was impossible to establish.

[Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.13.2-3]

The last stand of the rebels was in Betar, in the desert southwest of Judea; rather than an Alamo storm, the Romans simply starved the last of the Jewish resisters out. Tradition holds that the head of Bar-Kochba was brought to Hadrian, who said over the grisly sight, “If his God had not slain him, who could have overcome him?”

hadrian_killing_jewThere were still mopping up operations, but the war was over. Along with the new name for Jerusalem, Judea itself got a new name — Palestine. The survivors of the Jewish armies were sold into slavery or put to the sword — in this fanciful carving, by Hadrian himself.

Victorious, but weakened by Roman losses during the long campaign of no quarter, Hadrian returned to Rome.

The part of the inscription discovered by a French archaeologist in the 19th Century.

The part of the inscription discovered by a French archaeologist in the 19th Century.

After he was gone, and after the Romans were gone, someone knocked down the plaque and broke it up. A part was found the century before last by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau, and the remainder turned up on a dig this year — it had been used to pave a well. The arch-shaped lower part, the original discovery from the 1800s, is on outdoor display at the Studium Biblicum Franciscan Museum in Jerusalem.


Latin inscriptions did not fare well in Judea in the millennia that followed the retreat of Rome. Very few have survived, and to have one that is both complete and readily dated is rare indeed. Over a century passed between the discovery of the two parts of the inscription.

And enough time has passed that even the Israelis are excited about it, maybe more excited than today’s Romans.

As we used to say in 10th Group, Ave Caesar! Morituri te Salutamus.

A Bit of Cold War History

CIA SealOver at the CIA’s FOIA files, there’s a remarkable 1983 letter (.pdf) that more or less predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, predicting the fall of the Soviet Union was a Cold War hobby of many people of many nationalities. Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik even wrote a book, Can the Soviet Union survive until 1984? Amalrik answered his question in the negative. He wasn’t so much wrong, as a few years ahead of the game.

A lot of people, especially among those with hands-on experience in the Soviet and slave-satellite system, predicted the fall of the USSR. But in the US intelligence community, those predictions were rare (and were resisted by the Soviet desk analysts). “Rare” is not the same thing as “nonexistent,” though, and today’s document is one of those rare exceptions.

This letter, from National Intelligence Council Vice-Chairman Herbert Meyer to the Director and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, was shocking in its prescience. He began by noting a marked uptick in violence and threats of violence in the late summer and fall of 1983: KAL 007, the Beirut bombings, the coup and US countercoup in Grenada, the now-forgotten Libyan invasion of Chad, terrorist murders of South Korean and Filipino politicians. Many of these events were aided, if not commanded, by the Soviet intelligence services.

He notes that the Soviet system was within decades of collapse, enumerates why, and points at some indicators of insecurity in the Kremlin:

Two Kremlin actions provide a good measure of Moscow’s domestic impotence. To boost the birthrate among Russian women — who average six abortions, according to recent, highly credible research — the Soviet Union has decided to offer Glory of Motherhood awards to women who bear large families. And to reform the world’s second-largest economy, Kremlin leaders last month ordered the execution, for corruption, of the poor devil who managed Gastronome Nº. 1, Moscow’s gourmet delicatessen. These feeble and pathetic actions are not those of a dynamic or even a healthy leadership responding to national emergency. They bring to mind neither Roosevelt in 1933 nor Reagan in 1981, but rather Nicholas II in 1910.

Meyer points out that Soviet officials who saw the possibility of Cold War victory slipping away — more likely fellows a few rungs down from the top, rather than the top-level leaders — might lose many of their inhibitions. Nevertheless, he considered the Cold War as good as won.

It has long been fashionable to view the Cold War as a permanent feature of global politics, when that will endure the next several generations at least. But it seems to me more likely that President Reagan was absolutely correct when he observed in his Notre Dame speech that the Soviet Union – “one of the histories saddest and most bizarre chapters” – Is entering its final pages. (We really should take up the President’s suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its people won’t disappear from the planet, and we have not yet thought seriously about the sort of political and economic structure likely to emerge.) In short, the free world has outdistanced the Soviet Union economically, crushed it ideologically, and held it off politically. The only serious arena of competition left is military. From now on the Cold War will become more and more of a bare-knuckles street fight.

Empties back in pocket in gunfight? Urban Legend?

Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965.

Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965.

This is one of those stories that will never die, because every instructor (us, too, they said sheepishly) has found it useful as a way to hammer home the importance of training as you will fight. (We’ll quibble with some parts of that on another day: for instance, nobody should do 100% of range fires with hemmet and bodammoor, and any military unit that requires that is commanded by Simple Jack). Here’s the story, as recounted by one of our mo’ entertaining commenters:

But at a certain point, too much bad practice will get you killed.
There were always field reports of cops back in the day trained to shoot on square ranges, found dead after a gunfight as they were trying to put their ejected brass in their pockets, just like the penny-pinching departments had drilled into them at the range year after year.

It’s such a great story, that everybody who doesn’t know where it came from thinks it’s an urban legend. Massad Ayoob thought it came from cop talk about the Newhall Incident (multiple CHP killed in the 1970s). In this link Caleb mentions self-promoting assclown Dave Grossman, who is an Old Faithful of bad information, and Caleb, being a smart guy, discounts Grossman’s typically unsourced bullshit. Then, though, he paraphrases Mas citing Bill Jordan as a possible source of what he calls “anecdotal evidence from 2nd and 3rd hand parties”.

In his Handgunner article, Ayoob mentions that former Border Patrol officer Bill Jordan wrote in the 1960s of officers finding spent brass in their pockets after a gunfight with no recollection of picking it up. Unfortunately, that information is anecdotal at best, and as we’ve seen with the Newhall incident, anecdotal evidence from 2nd and 3rd hand parties isn’t reliable.

Apparently Caleb hasn’t checked the reference, which is easy enough to do. Jordan does indeed include the story in his book, No Second Place Winner, but it’s not, as Caleb seems to think, an apocryphal story. Jordan names a name and refers to a single, specific incident. So for Urban Legend hunters everywhere, here’s your chance to bag that trophy. I give you, Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965. We have added some paragraph breaks to introduce some desperately needed white space:

A question often asked of themselves by young officers is, “How will I comport myself in the face of fire? Will I stand up or will I break?” On the surface this would appear to be a question which can be answered only if it becomes an actuality. As a matter of fact the answer can be given with very little chance of error. Almost invariably a man, provided he does not have too much time to think, will automatically do what he has been trained to do. Again provided that his training has been thorough and intensive.

An example in support of this statement comes to my mind: A few years back a Border Patrol team became involved in a discussion with some contrabandistas in which they were considerably embarrassed by one of the smugglers holed up in some brush about 200 yards away. His presence unduly complicated the proceedings in that he was armed with a .30-30 rifle with which he was enthusiastically underscoring points in the argument made by the main group of his compatriots. The Border Patrolmen were armed only with .38 Special revolvers which put them at somewhat of a disadvantage under the circumstances. However, two of the three men applied themselves to the task of routing the nearby enemy while the senior officer, Sam McKone, took up the question of the rifleman in the brush.

They tell of a western epitaph which reads, “Here lies Tom Jones. Committed suicide by betting his pistol against a rifle at 200 yards.” This could be a normal result of such a contest, but Sam McKone is not one of the Jones boys. Among his other marksmanship awards is a gold medal declaring him to be a Distinguished Pistol Shot.

Additionally, being shot at was not a matter to distress Sam unduly, since it was not exactly a novel occurrence in his life. To make a long story short, by applying a little Kentucky windage and an educated trigger squeeze, Sam scored three hits which made the rifle shooter lose all interest in the fate of his companions and start thinking solely of his own welfare, here and hereafter.

What has all this to do with the statement that a man will do unconsciously as he was trained, provided the training was thorough and extensive? Well, after the fight someone noted that McKone’s pocket was bulging and politely inquired as to what might be spoiling the drape of his trousers. Puzzled, Sam thrust in an exploring hand. The pocket was full of fired cases. During the fight, without realizing he was doing so, McKone, an old reloader, had saved every empty!

And there you have it — the probable ur-instance of the story of the guy who saved his brass in a gunfight. And no, he didn’t wind up dead. Jordan’s book was a huge success for a shooting book, and generations of shooters have read it, and, as you can see by the excerpt, it’s entertaining to read. A lot of his ideas on revolvers and leather have fallen obsolete in the last 50 years, but a great deal of good info is in there, and it’s one of the classic books of pistol shooting.

You can find it online here, and download it in .epub (iBooks), .mobi (Kindle), or scanned, OCR’d .pdf file and a handful of other formats. The scan is of the 1977 printing of the 1965 original. It’s a very worthwhile book, even back in the seventies when we bought it for the first time.

Incidentally, in the Massad Ayoob article referenced by Caleb in the quote above, he references a “forthcoming book” on the Newhall murders by Mike Wood, which did indeed come forth, in 2013. The book is called Newhall Shooting – A Tactical Analysis: Survival Lessons from One of Law Enforcement’s Deadliest Shootings, and despite the cringe-inducing “tactical” in the title, it’s a fantastic book — and germane to this discussion.

On pages 56 and 57 of that book there is an extensive footnote about the facts of Officer Pence’s brass (which he ejected onto the ground, it was not in his pocket) and some informed speculation about how the brass-in-pocket story got started: at the same time as many Newhall-driven changes in training, CHP also changed training to eject empties onto the ground, not to save them. Here’s a tiny excerpt of a very long footnote:

In the wake of Newhall, the CHP made an intensive study of training practices and made many corrections to ensure that bad habits that would jeopardize officer safety on the street were not taught during training. One of these corrections was a requirement to eject brass onto the ground during training and to clean it up later, rather than eject it neatly into the hand and drop it into a can or a bucket, as has been the practice before. It is believed that instructors and cadets of the era may have mistakenly believed that this change in policy was due to a specific error made by Officer Pence during the fight. The myth began, and it was innocently perpetuated throughout generations of officers in the CHP and allied agencies.

Wood’s book, like Jordan’s, is outstanding, but we can’t give you a link to a free one — you’ll have to buy it like we did.

What’s this 1911-based frame… whatchamacallit?

Every once in a while, something comes along that does a pretty good Stump the Monkey on is. This is one of those. Collector/Dealer Bob Adams thinks it might have been some kind of a test fixture.

Unknown device or test fixture possibly made from a ca. 1918 Colt 1911 frame. Fitted with what appears to be a large threaded ring. Equipped with two vertical uprights at the top of the ring and a hole on the left side. The grip safety has been replaced with a solid backstrap/mainspring housing. The non-functional half slide is not original to the device. There is no longer any provision for a breech locking mechanism, nor any way to secure a slide on the rails, so it could not function as a firearm. This appears to have been an unfinished or scrap frame extensively remanufactured into some unknown device or test fixture and is not a firearm. It may have been a fixture for testing hammer fall impact, or firing pin spring strength, firing pin protusion, or ???? Any ideas?

1911 whatsit 01

via Adams Guns.

We’re not so sure about that. It looks to us like those big threads were meant to receive a big barrel, and the two blocks — rear sights? suggest it might have been a long barrel. We also note the one piece backstrap (replacing the stock 1911’s mainspring housing and grip safety) doesn’t fit entirely well:

1911 whatsit 02

Could those gaps have to do with a removable stock? Perhaps the gun was meant to have some sort of single-shot action and a Marble Game Getter style stock that clipped on here. But we think it is more likely to have been a firearm than a fixture. Bob disagrees.

What do you think?

The Afterlife of the USMC M40

The United States Marine Corps has made… we don’t want to say a “fetish,” because that word is freighted with negative connotations, but perhaps a “trademark,” of marksmanship, and Marines are resolutely old-fashioned about it. When the Army had to dig back in the doctrinal cavern for the lost beacon of sniper employment and training, in the Vietnam War and later in the 1980s, they found Marines still keeping the pilot light lit.

In the 1960s, the Marines’ sniper stick of choice was the M40, originally a bone-stock Remington 40X. The 40X was the varmint edition of the Remington 700: a little heavier, lacking the cheesy stamped “checkering” of the hunting guns, with a heavy barrel and no iron sights.  700 of these guns were bought, fitted with Redfield 3-9x variable scopes, and sent out to the sniper schools enroute to the fleet.

The M40 lasted about six years in Marine service before the Corps type-classified an upgrade M40A1. These were built by Marine armorers who had been upgrading the M40s for some time: they feature a McMillan synthetic stock and a Unertl 10X scope. The original M40s were generally rebuilt to M40A1 standards, and a later upgrade is designated M40A3. The very latest is the M40A5 and is suppressor-ready. (And more recently, Unertl scopes have started to be replaced by Schmidt and Benders). The original actions soldier on but have sometimes been rebarreled many times; several premium barrel makers have supplied Quantico here.

One historic M40 action (used in Vietnam by 103-kill sniper Chuck Mawhinney) has been restored to M40 condition and is on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, not far from the epicenter of Marine sniping at the Scout Sniper School. (Apologies to the Marines for getting any of the Marine lingo not-quite-right).

The Army’s M24 was developed in the 1980s with the proven M40 as a point of departure. The Army wanted some different things, but were very cognizant of the Marines’ experience here, and it enabled a very rapid development of a world-class sniper rifle, and the fielding of thousands of them, something that could never have been done with the AMU hand-built M21 systems.

While it’s possible, barely, to acquire an ex-Army M24, the Marines have never released even a single M40 to civilian sales. However, that has not stopped a variety of firms and individual armorers from making M40 clones to the same standard and quality of the original. The M40’s lasting appeal is that it was America’s last blued, wood-stocked, bolt-action rifle, and of course, it was made legendary in Vietnam in the hands of 8541s like Mawhinney and Carlos Hathcock.

You Know You Want One

Since you can’t get an original M40, the question becomes, which of the original-ish clones suits you?

  • Probably the class of the field is Chuck Mawhinney’s own signature model, made in a limited edition of 103 guns with a Leupold Redfield clone (Leupold acquired Redfield) for $5k. (Yes, this is an expensive area of collecting to play in, friends; quite a few versions of 1/2 minute, field-durable rifle and scope are going to cost that much).

Chuck Mawhinney Signature M40

It was introduced at the SHOT Show in 2011. According to Chuck’s website, 29 are still available. Here’s an American Rifleman article on him and his rifle. The article goes into some detail about the extent to which Remington, Riflecraft, Ltd., Leupold, Badger Ordnance, and Mawhinney cooperated to make the reproduced M40:

The rifles are more faithful to the original M40 than the first Remington reproduction, right down to the clip-loading slots in the top of the action. “The clips were useless, of course, because of the scope and mount,” Mawhinney explained, “but the slots were there on the original rifle.”

  • That earlier Remington reproduction was made for the Scout-Sniper Association in 2004, and is long gone from the new market, but occasionally turns up on the auction sites. About 1,500 were made, according to that American Rifleman article. It came in a colorful box, with a certificate of authenticity and a scout-sniper coin. It did not come with a scope or rings.

Remington Repro M40 accessories

  • The SC Rifleworks M40 was another attempted clone. It had some low-visibility improvements, like an aluminum bedding block. It is no longer in production, according to Sniper Central.

SC Rifleworks M40

  • A new entrant is the M40-66, which sells for $3,395 without scope and rings. While it is supposed to be an accurate replica of the 1966 vintage M40 (hence the name), it contains a number of departures from the original. For example, there’s a Pachmayr Decelerator buttplate instead of the original’s aluminum (not steel, as the website says) one, and a different trigger guard in blackened stainless-steel. The firm, whose principals are not identified anywhere on their website, offers a 1/2 MOA accuracy guarantee, which they say is much better than the 2 MOA of the original.



  • You can always search GunBroker for M40. Be forewarned that a lot of sellers put that (and M24) on auctions for any tactical’d-out Remington 700. But that’s where we found the images of the scout-sniper association replica.

Remington Repro M402

Go Directly to Jail: Check in at the Desk

What do you do with an old jail? Normally the answer is, “Tear the sucker down.” But that was a nonstarter in the case of Boston’s 19th-Century Charles Street Jail. Some genius had gotten the 1848 Gridley Bryant building, with its panopticon design and irregular-octagonal central atrium, declared a National Historic Landmark.

Charles Street Jail

Replaced over 20 years ago both by a more modern jail, and Boston’s current preference for not incarcerating criminals, the jail reopened in 2007 — as a hotel. The Liberty hotel, no less: you can’t make this stuff up. Zipcar interviewed a hotel executive for their website:

Now this former jailhouse smells of lilies softly wafting through the women’s restroom at the reimagined Liberty Hotel. (This, among other things, makes it especially hard to believe that you’re in a 139-year-old jail cell.) The popular hotel is a transformative example of urban adaptive reuse: reworking neglected city spaces into dynamic, modern ones.


If you’re a little spooked at the thought of sleeping in a former jail cell, you’re not alone. That’s why the developer had Buddhist monks cleanse the space before the hotel opened. According to Liberty Hotel General Manager, Rachel Moniz, “That puts people’s minds at ease right away.”

Zipcar: Who had the vision to turn a prison into a hotel?

Rachel: Dick Friedman, the developer of the hotel, is a Bostonian who would walk by as a kid and see this big wall around this building, and he just knew it was a bad place. When it [the Charles Street Jail] closed around 1990 due to the building being condemned for inhumane living conditions…the building just sat here, until he [Dick] partnered with Gary Johnson of Cambridge 7 Associates, who ultimately became the architect. They had seen the building and knew what they wanted to do from the very beginning. It’s very inspiring to look at this condemned building and imagine turning it into what it is today.

via Changing City Landscapes: How a Boston Jail Became A Luxury Hotel | Ziptopia.

It’s a pretty neat reuse of an urban landmark, but it’s not enough to get us into the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, where nothing stands in the way of the criminals (or the legislature, but we repeat ourselves) from having their way with you. They did a nice job with it, making it seem like an inviting place to stay, while preserving the charming 1848 design:

Jail atrium then and now


In an age of cookie-cutter hotels, where you only know which of the seven Hilliott brands you’ve stayed in by how much the bill says they gouged you for internet, it’s nice to see a hotel with some character for a change.

Of course, we wouldn’t need to be so adamant about preserving antebellum architecture, if the architects of today weren’t such an artless clutch of boring brutalist box builders. We mean, look at this thing: it was built with an eye to beauty, symmetry, and permanence, and it was the hoosegow. Particularly, look at the recent picture and contrast the timeless style of Bryant’s building to the utilitarian piles that loom over it.

Kind of like the difference between the designs of Beretta and Glock, actually: the newer one may have some advantages but it has no soul.

You do pay for the privilege of staying where Winter Hill Gang wise guys (and Charles Ponzi) paid their debts to society. We looked up prices for a weekend stay, and minimum price of entry was around one Glock per night, and a suite was a quality AR per — and then, you get to pay MA and Boston taxes on top of that, which alone might be more than your last hotel stay cost, total.

These days, we’ve had it with Massachusetts and avoid it insofar as possible, but how can you not love a hotel that used to hold “Yappy Hour” in its yard (yes, it was the yardbirds’ exercise yard), for cocktail seekers — and their dogs? (No, they didn’t stop, they now call this Wednesday event “Yappier Hour.”) Or that names its restaurant “Escape” (in Italian, Scampo) and its bar “Clink”?

M1 Thumb, Illustrated

“It takes all kinds to make a world,” is an aphorism left behind for the benefit of mankind by our sainted grandmother. The wisdom of this saying seems more profound with each passing year. Like — the guy who demonstrated M1 thumb for the benefit of all of us, whose complete (high-speed and regular-speed) videos are available at this interesting post on The Firearm Blog, along with pictures of the gruesome aftermath.

Ow. That’ll leave a mark (and it did).

In a world dealing with Ebolavirus and Enterovirus-68, the painful but non-life-threatening malady, M1 Thumb, might seem trivial. But a lot of people nowadays, 40 years after the rifle disappeared from its last vestiges of National Guard service, are now getting an M1 without the benefit of the boot camp training on the system that their grandfathers had.

Many people think that M1 Thumb is caused by being too slow on the, well, thumb when depressing the follower of the Garand’s integral magazine to close the bolt, but that’s not really it. The M1 has a bolt hold-open, on the left side of the receiver; what will make the bolt bite is if the bolt is held back not by the proper hold-open catch, but by the follower itself. With only the follower holding the stout operating parts and their stiff spring back, depressing the follower can lead to an instant thumb that gives you all the purple of an Iraqi voter, without any of the satisfaction of having voted for someone of your own sectarian bent.

Back in the antediluvian epoch, Granddad learned this so he could do Inspection Arms with the firearm, and he usually had one slow kid in the platoon to be an excellent Bad Example Training Aid™. Go to the TFB post to see how to do it right and how to do it wrong, with helpful icons of healthy thumbs-up, and bruised thumbs-down.

Maybe some time we should run a post about Degytaryev Eye, an occupational hazard of those that would dismantle an RPD without prior instruction.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week —

German combatants took shelter in the "Helden-Keller" (Cellar of Heroes).

German combatants took shelter in the “Helden-Keller” (Cellar of Heroes).

In this 100th anniversary of the Great War, there are still unexplored, privately protected sites along the Western Front. American doctor and photographer Jeff Gusky was initiated into these secrets, and passes on an incredible set of photographs of forgotten WWI positions and the artifcts they still contain.

Frozen-in-time, these cities beneath the trenches form a direct human connection to men who lived a century ago. They make hundred years ago seem like yesterday. They are a Hidden World of WWI that is all but unknown, even to the French.

American medical doctor, fine art photographer and explorer Jeffery Gusky was introduced to these underground cities by landowners and dedicated volunteers and their families who fiercely guard the secrets of these spaces with loving care to prevent them from being vandalized and to preserve them for the future.

via Jeff Gusky – The Hidden World of WWI.

In lovingly carved Gothic script: "God Damn England"

In lovingly carved Gothic script: “God Damn England”

Gusky has an eye to the image, to composition, to the bathos of a rifleman’s name or a carefully constructed water fountain, still brimming a century on. He has an eye for the religious touches, including the one that wasn’t like the others — a German prayer for the damnation of England.

(The phrase “Gott strafe England” can be translated “God damn…” or the G-rated “God punish…” It was coined by the German poet Ernst Lissauer, also remembered for his Hymn of Hate. And it was inescapable in the Kaiser’s Germany: on posters, pins, graffiti, and, as seen here, trenches and dugouts).

That all this remains of the Western Front makes us wonder what amazing discoveries are yet to surface from the Eastern Front and the mountain war between Italy and Austria-Hungary.

Gusky did not take many weapons photos. This rusted rifle with a rotted-away stock is filed with photos from a French position.

Gusky did not take many weapons photos. This rusted rifle with a rotted-away stock is filed with photos from a French position. It’s not a Berthier. Lebel? Doesn’t seem quite right for that, either. 

Gusky makes no attempt to explain the pictures, or to parse out unit numbers or personal names. He just takes the picture, and lets the image speak. And a powerful speech it is.

Good-by, Lenin!

The monster of the 20th Century came tumbling down in Kharkiv, a Ukrainian city that was the scene of calamitous tank battles between two of world history’s most evil empires.

lenin statue in Kharkiv

It was the biggest Lenin left in Europe. Now it’s rubble, kind of like the Evil Empire that Lenin presided over, an empire built on lies and murder, an Empire that replaced the too-slow liberalization of the Romanovs with “a boot stepping on a human face, forever.”

But it wasn’t forever, Vladimir Ilych.

When the monster tumbled, he was found to be a classically Soviet production: shoddy.

Lenin's head showing shoddy Soviet construction


Free Ukrainians tore the statue apart with their bare hands, taking pieces of Lenin for souvenirs, as Berliners did with the evil Wall that was, ultimately, part of the empire of slaveholding that Lenin and Stalin built.

We kind of wish we’d gotten a Lenin bust for the war room (or maybe as a garden gnome) before they were all gone. But it was, and is, past time for Lenin to join his peer Hitler among the reviled and de-monumented.

Next summer, the kids will go to movies in which spandex-suited heroes fight supernatural monsters. But this ruins of a Lenin is a reminder that monsters are real, they are not supernatural, and they walk among us. But they can be toppled by men and women in street clothes — everyday heroes.


Put a HRT on ‘em — 1985 style

This video, found on Soldier Systems Daily, is a 1985 briefing on the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. The HRT was riding high at the time, coordinating closely with military special operations forces assigned the hostage rescue mission (overseas; FBI had authority stateside), and years from its appalling 1990s performances that included a sniper team getting (deservedly) indicted for homicide and saved only by a legal maneuver that introduced a technicality preventing prosecution.

The video starts with some action video of live-fire training in tire houses, and then goes into individual section briefings on equipment, arms, snipers, etc.

As you can see from the video, their TTPs are really dated now, but at least in terms of HR assault this was the heat in the Reagan years. (So were the mustaches).

Unlike their military counterparts, the FBI HRT members are all very well compensated, sworn Special Agents, college graduates who must have already been selected into FBI and succeeded in training as SA’s before applying to HRT.

A significant minority of them were at the time military veterans, mostly former officers, and that’s probably even more true today. (The guy with the Randall on his belt is one who’s at least seen some ARSOF cross-pollination).

They’re obviously pretty tactically hopeless in the woods. This is one thing that hasn’t changed.

A wise old friend who had served his country as a combat soldier and as an intelligence officer once explained the mindset difference to us: “Soldiers suck as spies. Spies suck as soldiers.” He would illustrate this with many pungent examples from Army and CIA history, most of them unclassified now. But the whole thing extends into a nine-square matrix when you factor in cops (and the FBI are simply glorified cops), who suck at soldiering and spying. (Despite the fact that more FBI guys are doing spook stuff than chasing Mann Act violators these days).

And soldiers and spies? They suck at being cops, and we can quote further examples….