Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

Overpressure Failure in a Colt M4

Here’s what looks like an overpressure failure in a Colt 16″ M4 6920 Carbine. Owner is active duty USAF, carbine is a personally owned weapon. Er… was a personally owned weapon.

Overpressure M4

The shooter was lightly injured by shrapnel that used to be the upper receiver. He will recover. The firearm, on the other hand, is a total loss.

Overpressure M4 in case

It’s actually worse than it looks in the picture above, or in the next one. That’s because the pictures are two-dimensional, and the damage is three-dimensional.

Overpressure M4 immediately

The bolt carrier is split through the stress-concentrating central holes, and the carrier key released, with its two staked bolts still staked in place, but holding to nothing.

Overpressure M4 bolt carrier initial

Here is the view from the proximal side, looking distal:

Overpressure M4 bolt carrier

This also shows damage (albeit minor, at this end) to the forged aluminum charging handle.

Vice versa, distal looking proximal:

Overpressure M4 bolt carrier underside

The bolt carrier key:

Overpressure M4 bolt carrier key

The bolt is seized in the barrel extension and is probably distorted (these are strong parts of heat-treated Carpenter 158 steel). The bolt cam pin may be distorted, but did come out (the firing pin remained in position when the bolt carrier split, even though the firing pin retaining pin was pulled out of place with the left side of the bolt carrier). The cam pin and firing pin can be seen in place in the third picture from the top.

Overpressure M4 breech area

The gas check rings are distorted, probably by the violence of the bolt carrier’s departure. The extractor is broken free of the extractor pin, although it too appears seized in the barrel extension.

Overpressure M4 from behindThe upper receiver is shattered into three major parts (left, which was blown clear; right side, still tenuously attached in the initial pictures, but removed in the picture above; and the receiver ring and pivot pin bosses which miraculously held together with the lower).

The parts show characteristic signs of overload failure, and the lower receiver is distorted (bulged) in the region of the magazine well.

The immediate cause was overpressure. Possible contributory causes that produced the overpressure:

  1. .300 Blackout in the 5.56mm chamber. (Note how similar this residue looks to the destroyed Springfields we saw earlier this week, fired with 7.92 x 57 instead of 7.62 x 63). It would be interesting to examine the remains of the case, which requires the breech be opened. However, the shooter says he was firing “a couple hundred rounds of Wolf steelcase” 5.56 when the mishap occurred.
  2. Barrel obstruction near chamber (i.e. powderless squib load fired ahead of the mishap round). This would be indicated by a bulged barrel. However, user did not say he had a pop and malfunction drill before the big bang.
  3. Improper ammunition (i.e. case full of fast pistol powder).

For more information:

Initial Imgur thread with some of these pictures.

Reddit thread with discussion. /u/Amishmanbearpig is the owner/shooter of the mishap firearm. Quality of the discussion varies (to put it mildly. No, this was not caused because he chose an AR instead of an AK. No doubt the Russian Army is sitting on a stack of photos of grenaded AKs like this).

Second Imgur thread with more pictures

Imgur thread with two images of the superficial cuts to the shooter’s left shoulder from bolt carrier impact.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Tactical Anatomy

Tactical Anatomy logoAs much as the word “tactical” is overused in Gun Nation, it definitely fits here. Dr. (yes, he has a DEA number, sorry all you PhD doctor-impersonators) James Williams has a very interesting background that provides a scientific basis for his Tactical Anatomy concept and training.

He offers training classes in gunfight anatomy, yclept Shooting with X-Ray Vision, in versions for both sworn law officers and for “civilians” (wait, cops are civilians, as are we retired soldiers, NTTAWWT), and in treatment of gunshot wounds, and occasional posts to a blog that are entertaining as hell. He also publishes an instructor manual. We’ve ordered it based on his description of its content, which is highly congruent with the practical instruction one gets in anatomy at a place like SOT, SFARTAETC, or SFAUC, but we doubt it’s as useful or as much fun as attending one of his classes.

James S. Williams, M.D. … used his experience as a hunter and a competitive shooter in conjunction with his extensive trauma medicine experience to develop the Tactical Anatomy model, targets, and instructional systems. He has a wealth of firearms training experience and is an NRA-certified instructor.

via About Tactical Anatomy – Tactical Anatomy.

He served as the MO on a SWAT team for many years, and has practiced, taught, and shot in Canada and several American States (he’s now in Texas). We found his blog whilst contemplating a post on the limitations of “center of mass,” the hoary old military standby, as an aiming point in the sort of close-in social work that police and defensive shooters in general usually face.

You see, the military chose “center of mass” for very deliberate reasons, which are not applicable in a non-military-combat, often one-on-one, self-defensive shoot. We’ll probably go into that in depth in that contemplated post, if and when we get to it. We assume that military training, given the presence of vets in just about every police force and the military experience that many (not all!) of the best firearms trainers share, was the vector by which this idea infused itself in the defensive handgun world.

What Doc here says about it is pithy and, well, correct, apart from the fact that the term does exist outside of police work, in the military, and is useful there precisely because a soldier’s objective in shooting an enemy is often not the same as a policeman’s or defender’s. Here’s the meat, occasioned by a hairy firefight at short range with limited cover between a cop (Officer Peter Soulis) and a felon (“Tim Palmer,” pseudonym, who unbeknownst to Soulis was wanted for murder):

But here’s a hint as to the root of a correctable problem: the author of this article states that  “Palmer had taken 22 hits from Soulis’ .40-caliber Glock, 17 of which had hit center mass“.

The author’s implication is that a “center mass” hit is a good hit. And that, my friends, is where we descend from good tactical analysis into the Land of Bullshit.

If you’ve attended my Shooting With Xray Vision class (SXRV), or you’ve read my book, you have heard me say this before:  there is no such thing as Center Mass.  In 6 years of undergraduate and graduate level science, I never once read or heard of an anatomic structure called “center mass”. In all my years of medical school and postgraduate residency, I never read or heard of a medical term called “center mass”. And in 40 years of hunting animals for food with rifles, handguns, bows, blowguns, atlatl’s, and other weapons, I never once heard another hunter tell me to aim for “center mass”.

The reason for that is that outside of police circles, the term does not exist. And for good reason. It’s a bullshit term that has no relevance to reality. People use the term “center mass” because they’re lazy and ignorant. Sorry if that offends you, but that’s the bottom line. People who use the term “center mass” are admitting for all intents and purposes that they have no idea that critical structures of the human body exist in the human body that need to be interdicted by a police bullet to stop a felon’s violent actions. They are admitting that they have no idea where those vital structures are, and they have no idea how to visualize those anatomic structures in a real live human body.

The link in Doc’s article does not work, but the story is still there at — here’s a corrected link; if that one too goes bad, just do a search at LawOfficer — it was a hell of a fight and it’s a hell of a read, despite Doc’s quibble about the “center mass” term. Here is a period news story about the shooting — one of at least five Soulis was involved in during his time as a cop — and reading it probably explains why thought it worthwhile to change the name of the criminal. We know you guys have too much class to hassle a criminal’s innocent mother, unlike newspaper reporters. And the shootout became a made-for-TV episode calling Soulis an “action hero” last year, the season finale of ABC’s “In an Instant,” available online for viewing. But we digress; back to Doc’s site.

Wile-E-Coyote-Genius-Business-CardIf you think his view of Center Mass as a concept is entertaining, you should read his post occasioned by some Wile E. Coyote Super Genius asking him why it was a good idea to — we are not making this up! — shoot an assailant or hostage taker in the kidneys. One more taste, but you then have to go Read The Whole Thing™.

Military snipers train to incapacitate their targets with a single shot. Incapacitation on the battlefield is highly congruent with rapid death of the target. Centerfire rifle bullets are designed to produce incapacitating injury as quickly as possible. Incapacitation by GSW entails putting the bullet into the primary or secondary target anatomy. The primary target is the CNS, and the secondary target is the cardiovascular system that supports the CNS. The kidneys are part of neither. The kidneys are small, deep in the body, and in anatomic locations that medically-untrained snipers would have significant difficulty visualizing in the 3D human body. As such, deliberately targeting the kidneys is so far from practicable I actually laughed out loud in disbelief when I first read your email.

Let me be perfectly clear: shooting an enemy combatant anywhere other than the CNS/CV bundle target zones would be, first, a failure to fulfill the tactical mission (incapacitate your target asap), and second, wanton cruelty. This is at best comic-book mall-ninja material, and should be rejected out of hand.

Exercise for the reader — point to your kidneys, from the front, back and side.

Q1: Are you sure?

Q2: For extra credit: Describe that target in terms of size, criticality, recognizability, vulnerability, effect — hell, do a full CARVER on it — vis-a-vis the brain stem and cerebellum.

Caching your Guns for a Civil War, Parts I and II

Many people are talking about the possibility of a civil war. Some people are acting as if one is going to happen. The intersection between those sets is almost zero.

Part 1: Some obstacles to caching

Three can keep a secret, if two are dead. All the Haganah underground operatives kept the secret of this cache in Northern Israel. It was discovered by accident after they had all died.

Three can keep a secret, if two are dead. All the Haganah underground operatives who knew the secret of this cache in Northern Israel took it to their graves. It was discovered by accident in January, 2014, after they had all died. (Story at The Blaze with links to Israeli media, some in Hebrew).

First, if you live in a state with licensing and registration, you’re screwed. Even if they don’t have all your weapons in their files, they know you have weapons. They can come and shake down your home and curtilage at their leisure. Registration and Licensing doesn’t solve crimes, and it certainly doesn’t prevent them. It is one thing only: a cheat sheet for confiscation.  For that, it’s the cat’s pajamas.

We’ve heard a lot of bravado about boating accidents and long-ago sales to a tall short black guy with red hair and freckles. You can pull this off in one two-pronged case: no one else at all knows about your weapons and your plans, and you can resist intense interrogation. (Unless you have been trained in interrogation resistance in a resistance training lab, you probably can’t). This is completely without torture or threats to relatives, both of which will be available and in use in a civil war. Those two techniques can usually break even the trained resister.

Second, don’t rely on Oathkeepers bluster (another word beginning with “b” also fits). They mean what they say now, but things will be different then. Police will have no problem cracking down on you because (1) most cops will follow any plausibly legitimate authority; (2) human beings are born to rationalize; and (3) you’ll be demonized long before you’re raided. They won’t whack you, they’ll be whacking your indescribably monstrous straw man evil twin.

Every totalitarian state in history made liberal use of the ordinary cops for its political roundups, and no police element has ever mutinied or walked off the job when faced with that task. For example, the Gestapo and SS did not need to round up the Jews in occupied France: the ordinary French beat cops were glad to do it. None of them was ever punished; they transferred their loyalty seamlessly and unquestionably from the 3rd Republic to Vichy to the occupying power to the 4th Republic. Likewise, the Weimar cops became Nazi cops, who in turn became East or West German cops, and now unified Federal German cops. Hitler? Stalin? Who cares, we can retire at 45 with a good pension, and no one will miss a few Jews.

Third, don’t expect most people to back you. For every active resister, there are 20 dedicated, clandestine supporters. For every dedicated supporter there are 20 active and open collaborators. You active resisters will be outnumbered 400 to 1 by the Quislings. And even they will be a minority. Most people will hunker down and try not to be involved. The side that pressures them will get their loyalty and compliance — as long as it outpressures its opponents, and as long as the pressure is applied.

Still wondering why civil wars get ugly, fast?

Fourth, if you’re fantasizing about this civil war, stop now. We’ve seen civil wars, and we’ve seen how a place can go from civilized to Hobbsean state of nature in jig time. The American Revolution has been sanitized in our history but even it, the cleanest and most civil of civil wars, was unbearably nasty. The victors wrote the history; the losers, the Tories or Loyalists, took ship. Or died. After losing everything. A new Civil War might look more like the last one, with new Mosbys, Booths, and certainly new Andersonvilles. Or it might resemble the Spanish Civil War, or the French Revolution. When Americans unhappy with government think of the French Revolution, they think of their opponents in the tumbrils. Remember the fate of Robespierre and the Jacobins was no different from that of the Girondins or the Bourbons. Remember that practically none of the Old Bolsheviks died of natural causes.

But if, after all that, you still want to be prepared for survival or resistance, read on. The lessons learned you are about to receive here are distilled from thirty-plus years in the practice of insurgency, UW, FID, and COIN, and a very great deal of study. They also incorporate the lessons learned from a sensitive — once, highly classified — strategic cache program that was meant to arm clandestine stay-behind forces and the resistance armies they would raise.

Part II: The Enemies of Cached Weapons

The enemies of your cached weapons, dear insurgent, are many. They are rust, and its valkyries water and air; construction and development; discovery; documentation; human frailty; and obsolescence.

These weapons, buried during the League of Nations mandate and recovered only last year, were well preserved.

These weapons, buried during the League of Nations mandate and recovered only last year, were well preserved. Careful packaging and Israel’s arid climate protected them from Air, Water and therefore Rust.

Rust is a term for corrosion in ferrous metals. Essentially, iron plus air (especially damp, moist air) yields iron oxide, which is everything steel is not: weak, crumbly, almost worthless (well, you can make an incendiary mixture with it. But your guns are not the best feedstock for that; it’s not like rust is hard to come by).

You protect weapons from rust with permanent coatings like paint or parkerizing, temporary coatings like grease, vacuum-bagging them if you have the capability, and storing them in naturally or artificially dry places.

Even non-ferrous metals and supposedly “stainless” metals will corrode in the right conditions.

Water is principally a problem because of its propensity to accelerate rust. But it also has two other properties: it tends to wick into almost anywhere, and if it’s flowing, it can wear through anything. The Grand Canyon? That’s nothing but applied water and time.

Air is a problem because it contains all the ingredients for rust except the iron: water vapor and oxygen. It also can contain pollutants that accelerate corrosion.

Development is a threat to a surprising number of caches. Europeans periodically wake up to a news story of a cache of weapons or other stuff from the Cold War or World War II. The Nazis cached hundreds of tons of arms for a Werwolf resistance that fizzled out, partly because the Nazi state’s defeat made its ideology much less compelling, and partly because all four Allies had no compunction at all about shooting Werwolf suspects, even children. These unused caches get unearthed in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic by urban and rural development all the time. They’re usually old, forgotten, neglected caches in bad shape.

Apart from concealment, which was often good, the Werwolf caches were a pretty good example of how not to conduct a strategic cache program.

While some hazards are easy to defend against — you can “set ’em and forget ’em” — defense against development requires long-term curation. If a cache is implanted, someone must monitor it, and when development encroaches, move it. Therefore, the caches that are discovered are the ones that are haphazardly monitored or that were implanted by defunct organizations that never took up, or failed at, monitoring.

It is also helpful to emplace caches in locations that are away from either axes of likely future development, potential high value positions or targets in civil or general war (such as key terrain), or potential bivouac locations of hostile forces.

Discovery is the accidental location, exposure, or penetration of the cache, not as a result of counterguerrilla or counterespionage activity, nor as a result of development-related excavation. Your likely discoverers are hunters, hikers, and, especially, kids.

Guard against it by placing the cache on difficult terrain, and concealing the cache well.

There appears to have been no documentation of the Haganah cache. It was concealed well enough that the discovery came almost 70 years after the Haganah's clandestine war was won.

There appears to have been no Documentation of the Haganah cache. It was concealed well enough that its Discovery came almost 70 years after the Haganah’s clandestine war was won.

Documentation is a double-aged sword. It allows for the recovery or relocation of caches even if no responsible individual is available (a real risk in UW). It is useful in the demobilization phase after victory has been achieved; or in an underground or dormant phase after a major defeat. But it also allows hostile forces to find and recover caches, or even worse, surveil them and roll up networks.

To counter these risks, documentation should be kept to a minimum and safeguarded, possibly with such measures as clandestine writing and encryption. Cache reports should never be transmitted by or filed on computers or electronic devices. (Assume all computers are bugged).

Human Frailty (memory and weakness) is what happens to most caches — not to put too fine a point on it, somebody rats them out.

The way to combat this is to enact strict positive vetting, need-to-know, and compartmentalization. No one should even know that there are caches unless the person’s trustworthiness has been established beyond doubt. No one should know any more about caches than he or she needs to, and that information must be given to the smallest practical number of people. And finally, no one should know about caches not relevant to his cell, mission, or location.

Obsolescence is the final problem with caches. If, mirabile dictu, things are so well packed and preserved that they’re not at risk, the canny old wizard we call Time still has one ace up his sleeve: obsolescence. You don’t know where it’s coming from; small arms development proceeds by a pattern of punctuated equilibrium. You can’t tell when technology will overthrow your stored ordnance. Rebels who buried their guns in 1800, or in 1900, would still be armed like a national army forty years later, but if they buried their guns in 1840 or 1940, they would dig up a bunch of very outdated hardware in 1880 or 1980. (We were, in fact, digging up — for inspection — caches planted in the 1940s periodically through the 1980s). But small arms performance plateaued enough in the 20th Century that the guns are the least of your worries. A guerrilla band armed today with Garands and MP.40s would still have considerable lethality, but there’s no hope for the crystal and tube radios of the 1940s for practical field communications. Likewise, medical equipment stored even a decade ago has been replaced in the real world by improved devices and products of new research.

There is no easy way to combat obsolescence. You have to be prepared to service the cache as we did during the cold war, a difficult and expensive undertaking fraught with risk to the servicer, the cache, and the security of the program.

To be continued in Part III: Types of Caches and IV: Cache Best Practices

We will learn that, as useful as it may be to consider the risks above, you’re going to find that if you want to use the cache or caches, you’re going to have to accept considerable risks beyond those. Indeed, the use of the cache is ever in tension with the security of same (a tradeoff with many, many parallels in the insurgent’s world).

And anything you can do can get you scarfed up. No pressure, though.

Look for Parts III and IV next week.

Situational Awareness: This Kid Had It

She wasn’t, and couldn’t be, legally armed — she was only 16. She ran away from home, one of those teenage things that seemed like a good idea at the time. She fell in with a guy with a line of patter and several other women. (Apparently all Dominicans, immigration status indeterminate).

But the guy was a pimp and the girl whores, and they were determined to turn the 16-year-old out as the latest member of their profitable little business.

The kid resisted, despite several beatings. And when she got her hands on a phone, the home she ran away from didn’t seem so bad after all. She texted her mom her location and circumstances.

Mom and the NYPD took it from there.

Cops in the Bronx rescued an upstate runaway who was nearly forced into prostitution but managed to text her mother where she was being held, the Daily News has learned.

The 16-year-old girl was forced to take provocative pictures by her sick captors, a 22-year-old man and four female prostitutes operating out of the Castle Hill Houses, sources said. They then tried to force her into the sex trade.

When she refused to participate she was beaten by two of the women.

The brave girl managed to send a desperate message to her mom about what was happening and where she was, sources said. The mother, in turn, notified State Police, who alerted the NYPD.

When cops showed up at the apartment Thursday night they knocked on the door, saw the girl inside, grabbed her and arrested her cruel captors, sources said.

The girl, who was treated for two black eyes, had run away from upstate Tannersville about three weeks ago, sources said. It wasn’t clear how she met the suspects.

via Cops rescue upstate teen runaway held by prostitues in Bronx – NY Daily News.

She’s damned lucky all she got was a couple of black eyes.

This (kidnapping and beating kids into prostitution) is apparently a big thing in NYFC in general and in the Bronx in particular. This was the 22 Jan 16 story, but they hadn’t busted a hooker ring since maybe this one on 9 Jan 16 (where one of the turned-out kids was 14). But hey, the hookers’ and pimps’ lawyer, one Paul London, says the teen rhymes-with-witch had it coming: “She ran away having been impregnated by her own father.” So, that makes selling her into slavery OK, Paul?

That’s why we need to use lawyers for medical experiments. They’re probably not as good a model of human physiology as good ol’ Rattus norvegicus, but there are some things you just can’t get a rat to do.


The FBI Trickles Out Some Video from Oregon

This is coming out selectively, and at a pace that indicates that they are basically happy with how this happened. However, the aerial video makes one thing clear: how eyewitnesses can claim that LeVoy Finicum was shot because he drew a gun, while other eyewitnesses can claim that he was shot while his hands were up. At different times in the video he has his hands up and appears to go for a gun, and it’s impossible to know — without information the FBI continues to withhold, if they have it — whether he decided to commit Suicide by Many Cops, or whether he drew his gun in desperate defense after they began shooting him.

Again, without knowing who said what, when, it’s impossible to say whether he became compliant with their instructions, whether their instructions (as so often in a police encounter) contradicted one another, or who fired first.

It’s a certainty that he and others in the truck were not, initially, compliant.

Our tentative conclusion is that both “sides” of this one-sided gunfight will continue to feel wronged by the other guys.

The “Highlights Reel” — about 1/3 of the duration of the whole thing. We watched the whole thing, which is embedded at the bottom of this post, and only sped through this clip.

Here’s the FBI comment:

This is a shortened and edited version of FBI footage showing the joint FBI and Oregon State Police traffic stop and OSP officer-involved shooting of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This condensed clip was shown at an FBI press conference in Burns, Oregon on 01/28/2016. The complete raw footage is available here: Note regarding date/time stamp in the left corner of video: Pilots use Zulu Time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), when they fly. Zulu time is eight hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Therefore, although this footage was taken on January 26, 2016 in Oregon, the date/time stamp on the video shows just after midnight January 27, 2016.

Our comments:

  1. We have said several times before, when Officer Friendly decides you’re going downtown, you’re going downtown. Further resistance at that point is not only futile, it just means you’re going downtown with a few lumps at best, or at the worst, going downtown to the morgue instead of the jail — as Finicum does.
  2. Without the audio, we can’t be sure who fired first. It could be any of three men in the video, or someone off screen.
  3. We can’t be sure whether Finicum drew or moved to draw first, or whether he did that in reaction to being shot at or shot.
  4. His hands were up at first, they went down it seems to keep his balance, and that seems to be when the officers lit him up, but we can’t be sure. (To the officers, at the time, this may have looked like he was going for a gun. In the overhead video it doesn’t look like that, but the guys on the scene didn’t have eyes on the overhead video, they had eyes on Finicum a mere three or four yards away.
  5. We don’t know if Finicum fired, but it seems unlikely. Whether he took shots before he attempted to draw, once he starts he’s clearly taking hits.
  6. We don’t know how many agents or officers fired, and how many shots. For reasons known only to the FBI, they’re sitting on that information. (most likely working out whether it’s better to bury it for good, or if it will be released, how to spin it. One of their concerns here will be the criminal cases against the truck passengers, and the jury pool. The jury pool’s probably not much of a concern, because they’ve set it up that the jurors will be predominantly from metro Portland).
  7. It appears that two or three agents or officers engaged Finicum: one with a pistol who had been on the flank, one with a shoulder weapon who had come up onto the snow, and possibly one who was at the fender of one of the roadblock trucks. Others may have fired as well, but these three are the closest.
  8. The left-handed officer who had been on the flank and fired down the hill fired directly towards his own guys. This may have caused the guys at the truck to think Finicum was engaging them, and they were taking incoming. (Well, they were taking incoming, albeit from their own guy. Which they might or might not have noticed).
  9. The same officer fired from the move — in deep snow — with no attempt to take up a stance. Some may interpret that as reckless, but it could also be that he could see he was threatened and needed to react immediately.
  10. In the case of perceived threats, there are certain psychophysiological reactions, including a narrowing of perceptual field both in breadth and depth. Thus, for the uphill officer, the friendlies behind Finicum might have been functionally invisible.
  11. Because of the angle of the helicopter’s video, the carbine-shooting officer is sometimes masked by trees and sometimes has his back to the video viewpoint. From this video alone, you can’t see what he’s doing.
  12. Several officers move towards Finicum as he appears to be trying to escape with his hands up. In retrospect they might have held their positions, as they had him surrounded. But once again, we don’t know what was said here. Finicum could have been screaming, “Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!” — or worse — for all we know.
  13. When Finicum goes down, he doesn’t move subsequently. It seems clear from the overhead video that he was DRT.
  14. Like the Soviets with Maj. Nicholson, the FBI makes no attempt to medically assess or aid LaVoy Finicum for well over ten minutes after he was shot. This is probably because they still had unknown persons in the truck and an unsecure scene, and possibly because or also because they could see he had unsurvivable, immediately fatal wounds, but it looks bad, and can be spun by conspiracy theorists. If you see a claim like that, remember the FBI’s probable reasons for holding their doc back.
  15. After the others all exit the truck, one at a time, hands up, and are taken into custody, agents move forward cautiously and clear the truck.
  16. Then, as a K9 comes forward to further check the truck, an FBI medic moves to Finicum and kneels beside him. It’s not possible to tell what he’s doing, if anything, but he stays there for some time.

This could have gone another way entirely. Our impression is that the lack of further shooting after Finicum goes down is an indicator of restraint on both sides.

One is reminded of the rockets the FBI took (deservedly) for HRTs staggeringly and incompetent reduction of the Branch Davidians compound, when the ATF, who wanted Koresh, could have just stopped David Koresh and arrested him any time on his peregrinations about Waco. Clearly the errors then informed their approach now, and they stopped and arrested the takeover ringleaders on their rounds (they were going to speak to the media and public in a nearby town). Had Finicum done what the other truck passengers did, he’d be alive and in jail and everyone would be sending the Bureau a Bravo Zulu.

It’s clear that the folks in the truck were not complying with instructions. They just sat in the truck for 5-6 minutes after the first attempted stop (from around 2:30 in the long video). And the authorities just sat in theirs. We have no way of knowing what was said, but it’s unlikely the cops told the truck occupants to stay in the running truck that long, or to just take off.

After they attempt to run away, the driver (presumably Finicum) tries to run around the roadblock through a thick snowbank and, naturally, bogs down. With no delay, the driver’s door opens and Finicum exits. Seconds later he is dead.

If the others in the truck were attempting to escape or resist — there’s no sign of this either way in the release — there was no indication of it after Finicum is shot dead. It appears that the rest of them exit slowly and individually and comply with instructions.

Lessons Learned So Far

There are some lessons learned here:

  1. If you provoke an armed encounter with the authorities, you’re going to get an armed encounter with the authorities. They can’t and won’t back down; they understand that any loss of face risks a collapse in the social order, so they will meet such a challenge every time.
  2. Cue the late Bobby Fuller: LaVoy Finicum fought the law, and the law won. Regardless of who did what, he’s still dead, and there were many times he could have made a decision that would not have left him dead, regardless of what the FBI did or intended. (Except for the occasional sociopath who slips through, and contrary to what a lot of Bundy supporters seem to think about them, Special Agents are not fangs-out hoping to kill anybody).
  3. The FBI, and most agencies, need more post-shooting transparency. Don’t believe us? Mental exercise: this shootout happens in Chicago or NYFC, and LaVoy and his crew are black gangbangers. What would The Reverends be saying by now? How would the Post and the Times be covering it? In this case, the Bureau lucks out: the national media sympathize with the FBI because the criminals are the media’s favorite boogeymen. Ask Wilson Goode what the media does when the criminal movement (in his case, MOVE) are minority members and your cops whack ’em.
  4. Absence of information (and media fabrications to fill the 24-hour news cycle in this absence) is the fertilizer that makes conspiracy theories grow. Conspiracy theories lead to people’s estrangement from ordinary society. Estrangement leads to “compounds” and standoffs. If you’re The Law®. you should want to disincentivize that process of estrangement and incentivize normal, rational paths of dispute resolution.
  5. Administrative law is increasingly looking lawless, with its administrative “courts” a rubber stamp, not a normal, rational path of dispute resolution.

Some More General Thoughts

This whole mess began because a Federal prosecutor (like all of them an effete urbanite with many years in Eastern elite colleges) thought it would be amusing to make a felony out of some careless brush burnoffs by a couple of ranchers, and send the hayseeds to prison.

People in the East (ourselves included) have little appreciation for the degree to which the people of the rural West find themselves at odds with the managers of Federal agencies like the BLM and the EPA. Those agencies have eastern, urban, even Luddite values, values that are foreign and inimical to the agricultural and extractive industries on which so many Western livelihoods depend. The agencies’ managers, based always in the Imperial City of Washington and fully socialized to Washington values, radiate contempt for their de facto serfs.

It’s impossible how to predict how LaVoy Finicum and the Bundys will be remembered some decades or a century down the road. John Brown, a similar lawbreaker, still does not produce a consensus almost two centuries on: was he principled, crazed, or both?

But it’s disturbing the degree to which this feels like the period of Bloody Kansas and the John Brown Raid. People are divided, bitter, and bloody-minded. We know where the failure to find a political resolution to the widening schism in the 1850s wound up. Anyone who wants the current schism to go there is out of his ever-lovin’ mind. American deaths in the Civil War were 2.5% of the population, predominantly productive-age men; that proportion would be about 8.25 million today. Both sides committed the sort of bestial atrocities that always seem to arise in civil wars. And while the two big issues were resolved: Slavery; and who is to be master, Feds or States — the cultural issues still fester like an antibiotic-resistant abscess.

We’re at the cusp of a Century of Enlightenment, or a new Dark Age, made more monstrous than Churchill might have imagined by not only the black lights of perverted science, but the raw power of unaccountable authority.

After the jump, the full-length video (and an Update):

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The Limits of Unarmed Self-Defense

So, people are buying guns on the legitimate market to commit crimes in New York?

So, people are buying guns on the legitimate market to commit crimes in New York? What, this robber bought his in 2012 or so?

A liberal lady who wouldn’t be caught dead carrying a gun was nearly caught dead not carrying one in New York City, as a bold stickup crew that targets out-of-state visitors and tourists sent her to the ICU with a shoulder wound.

Andrea Koller, 53, was in critical but stable condition Friday after getting shot by a bandit wearing a ski-mask who pistol-whipped her and her daughter during the attack outside the Hampton Inn.

Koller, author of an impassioned anti-gun letter to the Baltimore Sun in 2013, slugged the armed robber in a Thursday night scuffle that ended with a gunshot tearing through her right shoulder, sources said.

Koller’s 93-year-old father said his daughter’s brave stand against the gunman was typical of her Maryland mettle.

via Baltimore mom shot by robber in Queens was targeted by crew – NY Daily News.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton refused to attribute any blame to the city’s lax law enforcement — this is believed to be the fifth such robbery the same crew, whom his police can’t find, have committed — or revolving-door courts that leave New York teeming with maladjusted felons. Instead, he, like Koller herself, blames the guns in the hands of all those people outside New York, the ones who are not committing any of these unpunished crimes.

“This is America,” Bratton said. “We have 300 million guns and a lot of bad people.”

lot of bad people. Some of them are police commissioners.

James Koller said his daughter, a Baltimore public school teacher, was a liberal and an activist who worked with children and the minority community in the city.

Three years ago, she wrote a letter to the Baltimore Sun decrying gun violence and the gun show loophole that allows criminals to easily acquire weapons.

Frankly, we’d bet 10-to-1 against the contents of Koller’s stolen purse that the gun she was shot with was not acquired through the so-called “gun show loophole,” or in any legal means whatsoever. And we’d bet 100-to-1 that it wasn’t the trigger punk’s first felony.

Bandit in the hoodie's going down for the count. Sad, eh?

Bandit in the hoodie’s going down for the count. Sad, eh?

Funny that these sorts of crimes are much less common where the lowly commoners are allowed to arm themselves against such criminals, and not wait for Bratton’s title-of-nobility-clutching civil servants to get around to investigating “mere” armed robberies and gun assaults.

Compare and contrast the outcome of an armed robbery of a barbershop in South Carolina. Two black Asset Redistribution Engineers tried to hold up the shop, and two black licensed carriers lit ’em up. NYDN. The State (newspaper). WLTX TV 19. Best lines:

“The man who got shot tried to go through the back door and it was jammed up,” said [Barber Brandon] Dreher. “He ended up getting shot again because the door was stuck.”

He was turning his life around, all right, he just didn’t know it. Master Barber Elmurray Bookman and one of his haircut customers came through unscathed, despite the criminals having a rifle or shotgun, a pistol, and the drop on the good guys. The long-gun-armed criminal got away.

Still, in New York, Ms Koller might not have been armed, but she also didn’t submit. She fought back. If more people did this, more thieves would be looking at a career change. But the best way to fight back is the way Mr Bookman and his customer did — kill the guy threatening your life, and the threat is over and he never threatens another life.

Self Defense Case in Britain

denby collins

He may look alive, and by some measures he is, but Denby Collins is in a coma after breaking into an English home and losing his fight with the homeowner.

Quite an amazing story in Britain, where self-defense is generally ill thought of by the courts, and defending yourself against a violent criminal in your own home can be seen as reversing culpability entirely.

In a new civil suit by the family of burglar Denby Collins who was left a vegetable after bursting into December 2013, and being wrestled into a headlock by the homeowner, the courts seem to have sided, mirabile dictu, with the victim rather than the criminal, as usual.

Judges ruled that the “householder defence”, which relieves people of the responsibility of making fine judgments about proportionality in the heat of the moment, so long as it is necessary, was compatible with European human rights laws.

In a ruling handed down on Friday, they rejected a challenge brought by the family of a man who was left in a coma after allegedly intruding in a home in the early hours of the morning in December 2013.

Relatives of Denby Collins argued that the law, which was strengthened by the coalition government in 2013, was incompatible with the right to life guaranteed by the European convention on human rights.

While the judges stressed that their decision did not give people “carte blanche” to use any degree of force to protect themselves, they said that force was not necessarily unreasonable and unlawful “simply because it is disproportionate – unless it is grossly disproportionate”.

via Householders can use ‘disproportionate’ level of force against intruders | Law | The Guardian.

The family of Collins is disappointed that they haven’t been able to leverage his spectacular failure as a Wealth Redistribution Engineer into wealth redistribution for themselves:

Without the law in place, Collins’s family believe, “householder B” – who police investigators said restrained the alleged intruder in a headlock – would have been charged for unlawful wounding or another offence of violence.

…Collins’s family said they were “disappointed” and considering an appeal.

Yes, if you’re a family of criminals, you may find that disappointing.

Here in the States, suits like this have had mixed results in the civil courts, but most states’ criminal law allows the threat of deadly force to be met with deadly force.

While it seems that many sympathize with the plight of Denby Collins and his family, consider all the dozens, hundreds or even thousands more home invasions that were in his future, if he hadn’t been stopped for good.

Who Taught You to Walk?

Who taught you to walk? No, not simply to locomote around the house on toddler legs — who taught you to walk in the woods? Do you remember?

For some, it was your dad or uncle, on hunting trips. For others, it was probably an NCO in your first combat unit. We didn’t have a lot of hunting relatives, so when we first got to an operational unit, the NCOs there quickly determined that we needed an informal block of instruction so as not to endanger the men, the mission, and the military in general.

Learning to walk -- US Army photo of modern 25th ID soldiers.

Learning to walk — US Army photo of modern 25th ID soldiers.

Think about it. Do you remember who taught you to walk?

There’s a lot to learn. There’s how to walk slowly, and as silently as possible; how to walk as quickly as possible while still making minimum noise; and how to cover ground that might be observed, or booby-trapped.

At low speed you walk on the balls of your feet. You feel for where you will (a) have solid footing, and (b) not make noise (dry leaves, twigs). Then you slowly lower your heels, perhaps with an exaggerated supination to rollll your weight along the outside of your jungle boot. Then, perhaps, you move your other foot close into the one that is now forward, bearing your weight, before it in turn becomes the forward foot and you stretch it, ball of the foot first, towards a safe and silent touchdown.

Hollywood has made a dry twig a cliché, (well, James Fenimore Cooper beat Tinseltown to it by a century plus, but moviemakers have belabored that image even more than Cooper did). But there’s truth in the cliché: it can get you noticed, and in our world, for, say, six men on foot 1000 kilometers on the enemy side of the FLOT, stealth was life. Apart from the cinematic twig, there are other things to watch out for: dry leaves, branches that whip back into your eyes. Catching a branch with your hand is better than catching it with your face; catching it with a weapon depends on this: does it make a distinctive noise?

In M16A1 days, the telltale whack of a branch against the plastic handguards was a dead give-away, an unnatural sound. There were (are, we suppose) ways to reduce this.

You stop a lot. You stop and listen. In the jungle, in thick forest, in the city at night, in all the environments that are safest for dismounted infantry, your best sense, vision, is limited by line-of-sight issues. So your new best sense is hearing. You can’t hear the other guy making noise if you’re making noise, so periodically you stop. And you make it a long stop — because if the enemy is stopping with you, you want him to lose patience first.

It’s not paranoid. In combat, they’re really out to get you.

Then there’s how to do all these things at night. Which is different — radically different. For example, on a very dark night, the best way to tell if you’re on a trail can be to look up to see if there’s a linear gap in the trees. You learn that the branches, despite being invisible, are invariably thickest and most impenetrable nearer to the trunk… so if you see two trees ahead, split the difference to reduce contact with branches.

Then there’s the differences between walking and patrolling. And the difference between doing these things with a combat load (maybe 25 pounds in those pre-armor days) and a sustainment load (usually over 100 lbs of lightweight gear).

There’s no block of instruction, no approved lesson plan, for walking in the woods. It isn’t part of AIT, or jump school, or Ranger School, or SFQC. Somebody has to up and take you and teach you, when you don’t even know what it is you don’t know, yet.

Some of this might have been taught to the guys at the in-country recon school or the 1-0 school in Vietnam. (SF guys generally didn’t go to the Recondo school. They taught there). Before you can lead, you have to be able to move through the vegetation, call it woods, forest or jungle, without sounding like an elephant caravan. And in combat, you haven’t got time (or enough pints of blood) to learn by trial and error. Somebody’s got to teach you.

Our teacher was a brilliant staff sergeant called Terry Douglas Damm. Terry, as we called him then (he’d later go by his middle name) was a typically outsized SF personality. He was truly expert at fieldcraft… stuck in a remote area for a couple days, he’d build a two-story treehouse, a bridge across a creek, or a massive throne for himself (he was also a typically modest SF personality). He could actually make a fishhook and line, which they taught everybody in survival school, but Damm did it for fun — and he actually caught fish, which impressed the hell out of us.

He started out as a radio operator in the MI Company, after doing some tours with the Army Security Agency, including Thailand during the Vietnam unpleasantness. Later, he’d be a team sergeant, including on a scuba team at Bad Tölz. His last-before-retirement gig was teaching future officers in the ROTC sub-program at Dartmouth College, and he retired from the military in that area, working as a cop and making custom furniture.

Over the years, we lost touch with him. But you never forget the guy who taught you how to walk in the woods.

Wonder where Doug Damm is these days?

Pistols & Optimizing vs. Satisficing

Probably more ink gets spilled, and more pixels get launched onto LED screens, on the subject of is-this-pistol-better-than-that-one, than on any other subject in the gun world. There are many approaches to the question of which-handgun-is-best, and it’s a mug’s question, because at some point you have to decide: best for what? What’s best for a hideout pistol is not what’s best for a cop’s service pistol, and in turn a military service pistol might demand a whole different approach.

We’re going to suggest a radically different approach:

It doesn’t matter.

For most people, the question to answer is not which pistol, but pistol.

For most personal defensive uses, any pistol that meets certain threshold requirements is good enough. And no pistol is the approach that is not good enough.

The cop who doesn’t get a dedicated off-duty gun, but lugs his G17 around, printing like a doofus, is not necessarily acting irrationally. He’s got a gun, right? In Mayberry, everybody knows he’s a cop, anyway, and so he doesn’t gain anything but expense and complication by carrying a G26 or G43.

On the other hand, the guy who must have the very best per use is illustrated in this fascinating article by Duncan at Loose Rounds on the short-lived Glock Gen3 RTF2 pistols. He takes some time getting to the features that make the RTF2 frames, the most important of which is the grip texture which is different from any Glock before or after, and concludes:

In my opinion the RTF2 frame is the pinnacle of the Glock line for a duty, home defense and training firearm. It is also the best feeling and handling Glock made frame.

“Pinnacle” — that word is a marker for an optimizing approach. Optimizing comes natural to most people — it describes an approach to making a decision or selection which requires you to:

  1. Define the characteristics of the “best” choice; and,
  2. Select the best choice according to that definition.

And Duncan runs right into one of the problems of an optimizing approach: what makes something the best choice for one task may not make it the best for another. He finds that the Glock RTF2 is a bit of a “horses for courses” specialist, and one of its less optimal courses is the one that most people select a handgun for, for concealed carry and self defense:

Now, if you are looking for a daily conceal carry handgun, The RTF2 framed Glocks are not ideal. If you are trying to conceal an RTF2 Glock, having it right next to your skin is not going to feel great. You will have to wear a layer of protective clothing. Also, the RTF2 frames are extremely rough on all clothing, gloves and even your seatbelt. For a training course, duty carry or home defense firearm, the RTF2 is the best of the Glock offerings, for a very positive grip.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. A gun that’s optimum for this may not be optimum for that. It requires a compromise, but then, so does every gun. So whether you are a huge army trying to select a service pistol, a PD trying to equip your patrol officers, or a single individual looking for a gun you can carry to make a positive contribution to the safety of yourself and your loved ones, you can’t just pick one characteristic and give it ultimate weight. An optimizing approach either devolves into a matter of guesswork, or results in building a complex weighted matrix (such as a Pugh Matrix, explained here at the American Society for Quality), where every weighting value is a new point of possible error injected into your calculations.

A lot of time, optimizing is used not as a decision basis, but as a means to rationalize an a priori decision. As human decisionmakers, we are all great rationalizers.

satisficing approach sets a minimum threshold, and then accepts the first acceptable alternative that presents itself, or the best of a few that present at once. It’s meant to get you most of the way up the curve without expending a lot of time, money, brain cycles or combination of the above to try to get close as possible to the ideal. It recognizes that the ideal is an asymptotic value: you can only approach closer to it at ever-rising expense, but never actually achieve it.

The guy or girl who holsters a .45, or a Beretta, or a Glock, or an M&P, or a Chief’s Special five-shot revolver, for that matter, and closes the book on pistol selection can get on to the more serious business of pistol training and practice. The principle resource that satisficing can buy you is time, which is the one resource you can’t buy or produce more of, and the one resource that is ever in short supply.

Are you armed with the perfect gun? Probably not. Are you armed? Then you may be armed with something close enough to the perfect gun… to satisfice.

What Good is One Pistol Against Terrorists?

We often hear questions like these: “What could one man do against an organized small arms attack like the ones in Paris or Bombay? What good is a pistol against an assailant armed with the superior firepower of a modern rifle?”

These are reasonable questions, and are often put reasonably. (Others use similar questions, with a different tone, to sneer at armed self-defense as ineffective).

To which we say: yes, one armed person can stop an organized small arms attack — given a little luck. Most active shooter incidents end, in fact, when an armed person or person confronts the shooter(s), either shooting him or inducing suicide. That person is often, but not always, a cop.

Teacher Syed Husein went toe-to-toe with terrorists -- and died. But he saved lives.

Teacher Syed Husein went toe-to-toe with terrorists — and died. But he saved lives.

And even if they kill you, your last great act of defiance can give others the chance to escape and live. Think about that as you meet the late chemistry instructor Syed Hamid Husain, of Bacha Khan University in a suburb of Peshawar.

A chemistry lecturer known as ‘The Protector’ died saving his students by firing back at Taliban militants during a deadly attack on their university that left 30 dead and dozens injured today.

Gunmen stormed the Bacha Khan University in Pakistan in an assault that echoed a horrifying Taliban massacre on a nearby army-run school and previous attacks against girls’ education….

As militants stalked the campus, executing targets one by one, assistant chemistry professor Syed Hamid Husain, 32, ordered his pupils to stay inside as he confronted the attackers.

The father-of-two opened fire, giving them time to flee before he was cut down by gunfire as male and female students ran for their lives.

via Taliban gunmen storm Pakistan’s Bacha Khan University and open fire on students | Daily Mail Online.

Would you sell your life as hard as Husain did? In his last act of nobility, he allowed many to escape certain death, at the cost of his own life.

He seems to have been a fun-loving guy, who enjoyed joking around with his students.

Mohammad Shazeb, a 24-year-old computer science student, said Husain was fond of gardening and used to joke with the students that they should learn gardening for when they are unemployed.

‘He had a 9mm pistol and used to tell us stories about his hunting trips,’ Shazeb said.

Husain also never missed a game of cricket with the students, he said, adding: ‘When someone would go to bowl to him, he would joke: ‘Remember kiddo, I have a pistol”.

Husain certainly knew that the odds were against him when he and his 9mm took on an entire team with many weapons. But he moved to the sound of the gunfire, taking that risk, buying priceless time for his defenseless students.

He died… but they lived.

By the heathen gods that made ye, ye’re a better man than I am, Syed Husain.

So, there’s a little reality check on  self defense by handgun against multiple long-gun-equipped assailants. You’re going to have a bad day… but the lives you save could be your own loved ones.

When you think about whether pistol-armed self-defense can work against a terrorist attack, remember that the alternative isn’t some imaginary perfectly-effective weapon. The alternative is no self-defense at all — sheep to the slaughter.