Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

“I’m not dying today. Not today…. It’s not my time yet”

When this happens in movies, we don’t believe it. You know the deal: in a gunfight with masked mopes, the off-duty cop fires right down the barrel of the bad guy’s pistol, hopelessly jamming the breech.

Well, it really happened, this January, and here’s proof, from the Jefferson County (Colorado) Sheriff’s Office:


That’s a .40 XDM with a face full of .45, self-swaged in the .40 barrel.

Here’s a video with some more details:

“I’m not dying today. Not today. Another day, maybe. It’s not my time yet,” is what Jeffco SO Deputy José Marquez told himself when the gunfight kicked off with two masked and hooded thugs attacking him. Did they want to kill him? Kill his girlfriend and her kids? Rob them?

What they wanted didn’t really matter. It was live or die for Marquez. Fortunately, according to the official report by the DA, he had a good background:

Deputy Marquez stated … is a Deputy Sheriff with Jefferson County Civil Unit. He has been a Deputy with JCSO for almost 11 years (hired 4-18-2005). Prior to JCSO, he was a Summit County Sheriff Office Deputy for almost 10 years, and a Frisco Police Department Officer for almost one year. He was on the SWAT Team while with SCSO, and received specialized training via the Denver Police Department SWAT School. He last served on SWAT in 2001. Prior to his law enforcement career, he served eight years in the United States Army Reserve as a Combat Engineer and Supply Sergeant. He is right-handed, but can shoot from both sides, with both hands.

Go, Army. Beat Gangland.

Deputy Marquez…

…arrived at Ms. R.’s at about 5:45p.m. Some daylight remained when he arrived. He was armed with his duty weapon, a silver and black XDM .45 ACP. He has owned that handgun for three or four years, and has qualified with it. He had no other guns on his person. He carried his pistol in an open-top manufacturer’s holster, on his right side. His pistol was fully loaded, with thirteen rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber. His ammunition was duty-issued hollow-point ammunition. He had an extra magazine in his car, but did not have it on his person, as he “wasn’t ready for a fight.” His pistol was concealed under his jacket. He had no visible Police badge, as his badge was in his wallet. Deputy Marques said that he is farsighted, and wears Oakley Crosslink vision glasses. He was wearing them during this incident.

So it wound up being XDM versus XDM in this case.

Then he saw two guys, and something was off about them.

The first male was wearing something over his face – either a mask, bandana, or part of his hoodie. The male already had his face covered when Deputy Marquez first saw him. The first male said, “Hello brother,” as he approached Deputy Marquez. He was about 20-25 feet away from his car when the first male said, “Hello brother.” Deputy Marquez had not yet made it to the sidewalk on the west side of the parking lot. He could only see the eyes and nose of the male. He could not see the male’s mouth or jaw. Deputy Marquez said: “Right away I knew something was up, cause he had a, a, a facemask.”

Deputy Marquez described the first male as follows: About 17-21 years old, 5’7”-5’9”, 155 pounds, wearing all dark clothing. Deputy Marquez knew he was a male as he could see around the eyes, and from the top lip to the nose on the male’s face, but could not comment on the tone of the male’s skin. He described the second male as follows: About 17-21 years old, same height and weight as the first male, wearing all dark clothing, possibly blue jeans. Deputy Marquez believed this male was also wearing a mask, but could not be sure, as he was focused on the first male. The second male was about 12 inches to the left of the first male, as they both approached from the south. This second male never said anything to Deputy Marquez.

The DA’s office is a bit hinky about identifying suspects by race (indeed, they seem to scrub it even from witness descriptions) but with this case they appear to have a reason, in that Marquez did not know who was coming to kill him. In a later interview, he remembered that his assailants were black.

Deputy Marquez described the suspects as two African-American males, between 16 and 20, wearing dark clothing, including hoodies.

Back to the developing situation….

No one else was outside during this incident, besides the two males. As they passed each other, Deputy Marquez said that the first male “turned on me” and said, “Give it up.” At that time he knew something “bad” was about to happen, and he thought, “Oh shit, we’re getting into a shootout,” and he turned to face the first male. He took the phrase, “Give it up” to mean, “He’s trying to kill me.” Asked if he thought it could mean he was about to get robbed, Deputy Marquez said that was possible, but he had no idea at that point, because, “At that point, I’m fighting for my life.”

Bear in mind, that, as we have seen in many shooting videos, Deputy Jose Marquez is describing in minutes actions and impressions that passed in bare seconds.

The first male then pulled out a black handgun and racked the slide as if to chamber a round or press-check the gun. That was the first time he saw a gun in the first male’s hands. Deputy Marquez again thought, “Oh shit. We’re going to fight.” When the first male said, “Give it up,” Deputy Marquez began to draw his weapon. As he did so, the first male fired a round at him, striking Deputy Marquez in either the right shoulder or the abdomen – he could not remember where he was first hit. He said that he saw the muzzle flash from the gun. He said: “At this point I told myself, ‘Shit, I’m going to die’.” He was in fear for his life. However, despite being hit, he could still lift his hand to fire. He said to himself, “I’m not dying today. Not today. Any other day, maybe. It’s not my time yet.” He also thought, “Fuck you, and you’re not taking me down.” He also told himself, “You’re the bad guy. I’m the good guy.”

Getting beaten to the first shot is bad, but it did make the DA’s job of investigating your shooting easier. But Marquez was late to the gunfight, already wounded, and he still had to survive. Fortunately he came up with a warrior attitude when he needed it: “I’m not dying today. Not today. ….Fuck you, and you’re not taking me down.”

Deputy Marquez said that he drew his weapon and started shooting. He believed he fired two rounds. He was standing in place, in a shooter’s stance, as he was firing. He fired in a northeast direction. The first male continued firing, hitting Deputy Marquez in the shoulder, and left and right sides of his abdomen. (He also suffered a broken rib on the right side, but was unclear if that was a result of a gunshot or not.)

Deputy Marquez said: “He kept shooting at me, like he was going to kill me.” The first male “shot about four rounds toward me.” The first male was standing still as he fired. The first male fired in a west or northwest direction. Deputy Marquez and the males were about 25 feet apart when they were shooting at each other. He thought he hit one of the males (unknown which one) in the leg. Asked how he knew that, he said his friend of 20 years, David Lynes, a Cherry Hills Village Police Department Officer, told him that after the fact. Deputy Marquez felt, in his mind, that he hit one of the suspects, but was not sure where, and did not see either male flinch as if they had been hit.

Tough shootout, and by some measures, Marquez lost the gunfight. But he did well enough to survive, and he thwarted his assailants’ objective, whether it was to rob him or (as seems more likely) to murder him.

Deputy Marquez fell to the ground, and put his hand on his wounds, but resolved that it was not a good day to die. Some civilians came to him, including an African-American female who said, “I saw them shoot you.”

She was probably the witness identified as E.G. in the report. The witnesses are not identified by full names due to the circumstances of the shooting, and the fact that one of the shooters remains at large. (More on the investigation in a moment).

Deputy Marquez confirmed that he was not robbed, and they did not take anything from him. Asked if at any time he told the suspects he was a Police Officer, Deputy Marquez said, “No, I didn’t have time to even announce myself. At, at that point I’m just fighting for my life.”

So why would anybody want to kill him?

He has received no threats from anyone, and has had no recent issues with anyone, personally or professionally, that might be linked to this shooting. He had no road rage incidents, and had never seen the two males before. Personally, Ms. R. has been having problems with her ex-husband, David R., who sent her a suspicious package recently, but Deputy Marquez had no evidence that was linked to this shooting. And professionally, the only possible JCSO-related party he could think of that might have something against him was a suspect named Antonio Garcia who went to prison on March 28, 2015 for a stolen gun, but Garcia was still in prison to his knowledge. Deputy Marquez believed the incident could have been a robbery, or “it could be a hit,” but again had no evidence to support it being a hit.

On a later interview, Deputy Marquez remembered more:

Deputy Marquez said the male who did the talking is the male who shot first, and he saw two different muzzle flashes coming from two different guns. Deputy Marquez said only one person did the talking. Deputy Marquez said he could only guess in reference to the shots fired. Deputy Marquez believed that they had shot four (4) times and when they ran away they shot four (4) more times as they ran off east. Deputy Marquez said he thought he had only shot two (2) times, and when the males ran off they were shooting at him not aiming. Deputy Marquez then collapsed but did not lose consciousness.

Deputy Marquez said that one male was on the left and the other on the right approximately twelve (12’) inches apart from each other. Deputy Marquez was concentrating on the muzzle flashes, right then left, left then right, and described the shooting as an exchange between all three of them.

The Guns Involved

Both of the would-be hitmen carried .40 pistols, and Marquez a Springfield XDM in .45. Marquez:

The Cop’s Gun

He was armed with his duty weapon, a silver and black XDM .45 ACP. He has owned that handgun for three or four years, and has qualified with it.

…Deputy Marquez had gunshot wounds to his stomach and shoulder. Deputy Marquez’s gun was lying on the pavement. Mr. C. described how some of the gunshots sounded “different”, and thinks Deputy Marquez got off two shots because he carries a ‘big” pistol.

Prior to the interview a bullet count was conducted on the gun that Deputy Marquez fired on the 26th of January 2016. The gun had been in Aurora Police Department Crime Laboratory in a secured locker.

The firearm was identified as a Springfield Armory, XDM serial number of MG505244. The bullet count confirmed a total of 10 rounds remaining in the firearm, 9 in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. The firearm has a capacity of 14, 13 +1. The ammunition was identified as Speer 45 auto, and was issued to Deputy Marquez by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Marquez confirmed this was the only gun he had on his person the 26th of January 2016, and the only gun he fired that night.

Found at the Crime Scene

APD Officer Nicholas Muldoon arrived on the South Laredo scene and contacted a witness identified as R.W. Mr. W was parked in a van on South Laredo Street. Mr. W said that he arrived shortly before the police and observed a male walk away from the car– Chevrolet Equinox–parked in front of his van. The male who walked away from the van was later identified as Jahlil Meshesha.

APD Officer Ken Forrest conducted a general search of the area and located two black gloves and a .40 caliber XDM Springfield handgun in the backyard of a nearby house. Officer Forrest observed one glove was in a juniper tree and the other was on the ground below. A short distance away, Officer Forrest located the handgun. Officer Forrest contacted the homeowner, who was identified as S.G. Mr. G. allowed Officer Forrest to check his back yard. Mr. G confirmed he had no knowledge of the pistol or glove in his backyard.

On the front passenger seat of the Chevrolet Equinox in plain view, Officer Forrest also observed a dark colored facial mask, described as consistent with being used to cover the lower face.

APD collected firearms related evidence from the scene. APD collected 12 expended .40 caliber shell casings, in two groups fairly close together. They also collected one fired bullet. They also collected four .45 caliber shell casings, which was the caliber of Deputy Marquez’s gun.

As previously stated, APD also recovered a .40 caliber Springfield Armory handgun associated with Jahlil Meshesha. Per APD firearms analyst Alan Hammond, this gun was a match for three of the .40 caliber shell casings found at the scene. Police also recovered a .45 projectile from Meshesha’s clothing, specifically his pants, which was a match for Deputy Marquez’s gun.

Meshesha’s Gun

The weapon associated with Meshesha was examined. Of note, it was determined that one of the shots that Deputy Marquez fired from his .45 caliber handgun actually hit Meshesha’s .40 caliber handgun and traveled down the barrel, colliding with a cartridge that was in the chamber of the gun. Detective Ingui described this as a “one in a billion thing” in a personal conversation with the undersigned. This collision rendered the .40 caliber pistol temporarily inoperable. Thus, we can conclude that Meshesha fired three shots before this happened, based on the shell casings found at the scene, and that he was pointing his gun at Deputy Marquez when Deputy Marquez fired the shot that hit the gun, otherwise the shot from Deputy Marquez would not have gone down the barrel. Here is a photograph showing the results of this collision.


Unfortunately we don’t have Meshesha’s side of the story.

Jahlil Meshesha invoked his Miranda rights and did not make a statement.

A healthy society would have hanged him already.

The 26 January shooting is back in the news because the investigation is over and they wanted to announce to the public that Marquez is not going to face ay criminal charges. (Well, duh). His assailant went to hospital, then to jail.

He does have a long road to recovery ahead. As for the injuries to the assailant Jahlil Meshesha, all we can do is quote Marquez: F him.


The Denver Post:

Apologies for not posting the link to the DA’s report:

Lessons from a Home Defense Incident

Here we’ll tell the story of a home defense incident with two videos. It happened well over a year ago so it’s old hat to some of you.

The first is graphic, especially in its soundtrack. It is most emphatically not fake, but represents a real home invasion by a disturbed individual, Twain Thomas, into the apartment of James Cvengros and Kaila Gearhart in Pocatello, Idaho.

The attacker here and his weasel attorney tried to claim that the attacker is a veteran with PTSD to get him off; he may or may not be a veteran, but their claim was that he has PTSD from being in a car accident.

Hey, why doesn’t he have PTSD from having the $#!+ shot out of him by one of his intended murder victims? For some reason, the mouthpiece didn’t want to phrase it that way.

Actually he seems to have had DNKS — Dude Needs Killing Syndrome. Unfortunately he did survive his wounds and continues to recover in the Idaho state prison system, at taxpayer expense.

When he pled guilty, the local newspaper reported:

Cvengros had a camera rolling to document the commotion after seeing glass flying from the upstairs apartment onto the cars parked below. He said once he heard unusually concerning noises coming from the apartment upstairs, he started documenting the commotion using his digital camera, not realizing that camera would soon serve as a witness to what was about to take place in his apartment.

The video was played during Thursday’s sentencing, and in it, Thomas kicks in the door, and both Gearhart and Cvengros yell at Thomas to leave, warning him he needs to get out. After Thomas was shot, Cvengros tells Thomas he already called the police, and Thomas confirmed he was trying to kill Cvengros.

The second video is a news video, from the Idaho State Journal. It intercuts the attack video seen above with an interview of the local sheriff.

Are there lessons to take away from this? You betcha.

Lesson 1: If You Know the Law, a Camera is Your Friend

That’s true whether you’re a cop on the beat — how many cops’ hineys have been saved from false accusations by body or dash cam video? — or a home defender like James Cvengros. Cvengros gave the video to the cops without looking at it, and gave his statement. The video backed him up 100%. The defense attorney had no chance to bang on the table and try to put the armed defender on trial, because you can’t lie when there’s video. (And that’s got to eliminate most of a lawyer’s bag of tricks).

Lesson 2: Make Trouble Come to You

Early in the video, Cvengros unlocks the door and looks out to see what’s going on, while Gearhart begs him to come back. He does, and they’re safely inside their apartment… “safely” until Thomas cuts through the door like butter.

It’s always a bad idea to go hunting trouble. If you’ve got your precious family members with you, hunker down on the defensive. Cops get paid (not enough, perhaps!) to chase these guys; don’t go doing their work for free, the union takes a dim view. Plus, you can really get hurt. A machete like Thomas had is not a weapon to dismiss.

Don’t seek trouble. Especially if it doesn’t directly threaten you and yours: let the cops handle it. But don’t be paralyzed if trouble does come for you and yours.

Lesson 3: Sometimes There Is No Retreat

You can run and you can hide, but the attacker has a vote, too. Sometimes you just have to beat him resoundingly enough that he knows he’s beat.

Lesson 4: Locks Keep Honest People Out

A lock is part of protecting yourself, but it’s not really protecting yourself, as Thomas, in full slasher-movie character, illustrates:

Twain Thomas macheteThat lock really impeded him, not.

Thomas came right through the door. And it wasn’t his first time doing it. The residents of the apartment, Cvengros and Gearhart, had researched guns after Thomas broke down their apartment’s flimsy door the first time. Cvengros told The Blaze that he bought a 9mm — an inexpensive HiPoint — because the police and military often use that caliber. Gearhart bought a .22. (Since the attack, they’ve upgraded their guns and sought more training).

Locks serve a symbolic and deterrent role, and having your assailant come stalking through a locked door, like Freddie Freakin’ Krueger here, is a reminder to people who make prosecution decisions that the home defender was not the unreasoable one in this case. It’s also proof of the old infantry/engineer saying, “Obstacles are only efective when covered by fire.”

Lesson 5: You Really Don’t Want to Do This, Unless…

Unless you have to. Listen to the voice of Jim Cvengros both before and especially after he lights up Thomas. He really didn’t want to do this, but he had to, and he manned up and did what was necessary, even though he takes no pleasure in it (quite the contrary).

This is part of why avoidance is almost always better than having to go to the gun. But avoidance is not always possible. You can’t move to a gated community on workingman’s wages. (Lawyers and judges, the majority of whom can’t recall ever having spent a day in the mere middle class, have no understanding of this).

Lesson 6: Things Happen Fast, Make “Predecisions.”

A crummy apartment door helped, but the assailant comes through it remarkably fast.

It happens so fast, many people don’t see the machete unless they rewind the video. As you can see from the still above, the machete is sure as hell there.

People are used to seeing violence in the slow motion of TV and movies. Real world violence is unscripted, and far faster.

Speed and shock are typical in criminal and terrorist violence. They may not have had a day of infantry training but they understand speed, shock and violence of action; they understand the importance of initiating first, and of doing it with your hardest-hitting weapon.

As a defender, you cede the initiative to the enemy and can only respond to it. But you know many, many victims fell because they were overcome by confusion, indecision or paralysis in the seconds they had to react. It’s normal human behavior that’s adaptive for normal life, but maladaptive when under violent attack. How do you overcome that?

The same way the Army has always trained it out of troops: training, drill, repetition. But most of all, by deciding what you will do long before you need that decision. Pilots do the same thing: before takeoff, they brief what they will do if everything goes right, and what they’ll do if something goes wrong. They make the decision about how to handle, say, loss of the #2 engine while sitting waiting for takeoff clearance, not when they hear a bang and feel a yaw… they make and brief the decision about what to do if they get down to 200 feet and still can’t see the runway in the fog before they ever start to fly the approach. It is pretty clear from this video that James Cvengros decided he wasn’t going to go looking for trouble, but if trouble came looking for him he would try to stop it, first with words, then with deadly force.

Read about other uses of force — not just good, righteous shoots, but also borderline shoots that landed defenders in the dock. Decide what you would do in a situation like that, and figure out what defenders did right and what they did wrong. Could their actions be improved on? Think it through now, so you have a predecision (and ideally, an immediate action drill) that you can pull down and run without having to fully formulate it, while under existential stress.

Bonus Lesson: A Chief or Sheriff who Favors Self Defense is a Great Thing

Had this happened in Podunk, Massachusetts (a real place!) or in the blood-soaked Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, the defender might have been charged. In Pocatello, Stephen Herzog is quoted at length in that second video. “If you want to point one instance where having a firearm… prevented these people from being seriously injured or killed, it was this instance. … There’s no question that the homeowner [sic] acted lawfully….” “Having a firearm… was the perfect tool for the job that needed to be done.”

The video, the Chief stresses, was extremely helpful to the police in understanding what happened.

Where are they Now?

Thomas is in the Idaho state prison system for 10 years, maybe minus some for good behavior, if he can manage good behavior. He also has a restraining order forbidding him from contacting any of his victims until some time in the 2020s.

Cvengros and Gearhart stayed in their apartment, and upgraded their guns.


Gun Rights by State over Time

right_to_carryWhen Jeff Dege posted his online gun-law graphic, he noted:

Over the last 20 years, gun owners have made significant progress in having their right to carry firearms for their own defense.

You’ve all seen the NRA’s map, but it gives little sense of the progress we’ve made.

I’ve pulled together what information I could find, and combined it in an animated map, so we could see at a glance how things have changed from year to year.

Jeff continues to update that excellent map at his Radical Gun Nuttery! site, but we are always thinking of how to visualize data. We chose to poke the data into Excel, and show, year by year, the decline of the quantity of states with pro-criminal carry policies (marked in shades of red) and the rise of states with pro-self-defense policies (shades of green). We decided to go back 30 years, to 1986, because that’s where Jeff’s data starts. (At the end of this year, that will actually be 31 years because it will include both 1986 and 2016). We thought we’d start with the ten year splits:

Here’s 1986-1995.

carry 1986-1995

There are two important inflection points in that chart. The very first break, in 1987, is Florida moving from May Issue to Shall Issue. All kinds of mayhem were predicted, but didn’t occur. That set up the next round of states to go from May to Shall in 88-91, followed by a pause (in which no mayhem was observed) and a second increase in freedom from 1993-95. Interestingly enough, states that still retained Jim Crow era outright bans on concealed carry began to go directly to May Shall Issue at this point in time. The one lonely unrestricted-carry state down at the bottom of the chart is Vermont.

Our next decade of data spans from 1996 to 2005:

carry 1996-2005

The changes here are much less dramatic. The low-hanging fruit have already been plucked, and liberty activists really had to put their shoulders to the boulders to get things moving in this period. But it is notable that there’s no retrogression: the trendlines might not be as steep as the ones in the previous decade, but the trendlines are unrelentingly positive for peaceable gun carriers, and continue to decline for the restrictive policies preferred by statists and criminals.

The five year pause in legal changes from 1995-2000 or so allowed the several States to assess the consequences of these changes in their home states and in all the others that had changed firearms laws.

One change which seems very small, but is very significant indeed, takes place between 2002 and 2003. Vermont has always stood alone, since the two spates of legislation banning the carry of pistols 1 in allowing the practice without any kind of license or permit. Alaska was the first state to legislate permitless carry, in 2003.

Our third decade, 2006-2015:

carry 2006-2015

During this period, statewide carry bans zeroed out. May Issue lost one of its stalwarts when Iowa went Shall Issue in 2011, but the real growth is in Permitless or Constitutional Carry. The eight surviving May Issue jurisdictions cluster on opposite coasts, in highly urban states where there is a large intersection between the criminal and legislative sets (New York, California and Massachusetts all sent legislative leaders to prison during this period, or, to be technical, Federal law enforcement sent them to prison, because the state law enforcement agencies weren’t going to).

Why not combine them? Let’s include 2016, so far (some state legislatures are already wrapped up for the year):

carry 1986-2016

This makes the trends a little easier to see, but it’s still a kind of confusing chart. We make the following notes:

  1. For the first time since our 1986 data horizon, May Shall Issue declined, but it was because May Shall Issue states are increasingly adopting unrestricted Constitutional carry.
  2. No state has gone from Shall Issue to one of the two more restrictive categories in these 31 years.
  3. The only state that went from Ban to May Issue (Tennessee) proceeded to Shall Issue within 5 years.
  4. At least three states (Mississippi, Alaska and Arizona) went from outright ban to Permitless carry in two stages, first going Shall Issue.
  5. Most states have been Shall Issue for over two decades, during which crime, predicted by ban supporters to have risen, has steadily declined.
  6. No state imposed a new ban (in the period from 1986 to the Supreme Court’s Heller and McDonald decisions making it actually unconstitutional).
  7. For the first time in 2016, more states require no pistol permit than restrict issue with an arbitrary may-issue policy.
  8. These changes have come about not by sweeping national legislation, but by three dozen or more individual legislative changes in the States. They’re grassroots-up, not billionaire-down.
  9. “Prediction is always hard, especially about the future”2 but the trendlines suggest that the next decade will see more Shall Issue states go Permitless (or really, for reciprocity reasons, Permit Optional). “Constitutional Carry” bills have come close to passing in several more states, and have actually passed and been vetoed by Democrat governors in at least two more. (Indeed, in West Virginia in 2016, the bill became  when a gubernatorial veto was overridden).
  10. The 8 states that cling to May Issue cling very firmly to this Jim Crow era policy. But that raises the possibility of a fall-of-Berlin-wall style preference cascade at some time in the future. Some of these states are highly populous; others are geographical choke points, and as more people in 42 free states carry, the laws of the 8 slave states (and especially, applying them to visitors and transitors) are seen increasingly as backward and unjust.

Here’s another way to visualize the same data, using a 100% stacked line chart, since we’re actually dealing with a zero-sum equation (how many of 50 states fall into each of four bins).

carry 1986-2016 3D

The solid red is gone, and the red tint is threatened. Ban states have gone from 16 to 0. The long-term (30+ year!) trendlines suggest that May Issue is unlikely to be in place anywhere 30 years from now, and that Permitless jurisdictions will be the majority.

We note that no state has seen an explosion of violence subsequent to gun law liberalization, and for the last 30-plus years, no state has regressed in the permit-terms axis, suggesting that no state has regretted the liberalization to date.


This post has been corrected. In three places, due to a writing error, we wrote “May” issue where we meant “Shall.” Per our usual style, these errors and corrections appear thusly now: error correction. Thanks to Mac in the comments for identifying these errors. regrets the errors.


  1. These two spates of legislation took place in the period approximately 1865-1880, in the spirit of racism to deny blacks their rights to self-defense, and in the period approximately 1890-1920, to deny those same rights to immigrants who were not from northwestern Europe (Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Poles, Jews etc.). The “May Issue” permit scheme’s great advantage, to its supporters, is that it allows racial, ethnic and political bias to limit a right to “people like us” however defined.
  2. Commonly attributed to baseball Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.
  3. (General note, not a footnote). The graphics in this post are ©WeaponsMan, 2016, but they may be freely used without prior permission, so long as a credit and a link to this post is provided.
  4. (General note, not a footnote). Underlying data is from Jeff Dege, but our spreadsheet is available if people want it. We can think of a lot of useful data sets with which this can be combined, and we’re not going to do it all ourselves.

Arms of the Stormtroopers

No, we’re not talking about the combat lemmings in low-budget plastic suits in the Star Wars movies. We’re talking about the original item — the Stormtroopers of the German Empire in the Great War.

georg ehmig stosstrupp

We’re working our way through the excellent book Sturmtruppen by Spanish historian Ricardo Recio Carmona (translated to English by Gustavo Cano Muñoz and edited by Tyler Baldwin). This is a new book, published by Andrea Press in 2014, and it’s a richly illustrated and extensively documented survey of something every history buff thinks he knows.

Historical Background

The conventional story goes something like this:

After years of stalemate, the Germans developed Sturmtruppen in 1918, small, heavily armed detachments who operated independently and used stealth and infiltration tactics to surprise the enemy, and concentrated firepower to overwhelm him locally on contact.

And as remarkable as that development would be, it’s not exactly what happened. Carmona documents that, while Sturmtruppen had evolved to that level by 1918, to the point where even the Allies figured them out, they had been formed and deployed, if partly on an ad hoc basis, more or less continuously since 1914.

A fine point of German terminology is that Stosstruppen (Shock Troops) were strictly ad hoc, and temporary, but Sturmtruppen (Assault Troops) might equally be temporary “mobs for jobs” or permanent units. While assault troops might have been tasked to fight, they had a second, equally important role, which was to teach storm troops tactics to regular army formations.

Hptm. Willi Rohr

Hptm. Willi Rohr

The first such formal, permanent unit was probably Hauptmann Willi Martin Ernst Rohr, whose Sturmabteilung Rohr stood up in his Guards regiment in 1915. This was revolutionary in the German service, which entered the war committed, as its enemies and allies all were, to a line formation, whose only difference from the formations of Waterloo a century earlier was a little more open deployment, as a nod — an ineffectual nod — to the firepower of repeating rifles, machine guns and recoil-compensated quick-firing artillery.

Carmona notes that the characteristics of a Sturmtrupp operation, technically and tactically, included:

  1. Task organization, including assault and support elements;
  2. Selection of the men by the officer in charge;
  3. A rehearsal (or rehearsals) in a safe area configured to replicate the mission objective;
  4. Leaders’ reconnaissance to pinpoint infiltration points and routes;
  5. A precise schedule of execution with specific time hacks;
  6. Pre-arranged artillery and mortar support (not preparation);

In addition, surviving documents and memories make it plain that Sturm- and Stosstrupp leaders conducted very modern-seeming patrol inspections and troop-leading procedures that would not be out of place in a modern Army, and they began doing this from 1914. All the combatants were shocked by the terrifying effectiveness of modern 20th Century armaments, but the Germans did something about it. The French, British, and Russians just kept trying to logistically manage the battlefield in such a way that they’d deploy more human chests than the Germans could deploy bullets or artillery fragments.

Armaments of the Stormtroopers

The term Sturmtrupp was first used in connection with flamethrower detachments in 1914, and that offensive spirit was thought to reside in such units as well as in the new technical elite of tank operators, and the ancient light infantry of southern Germany, the Mountain Troops.

But most Sturm- u. Stosstruppen were armed with infantry weapons — just more of them. The principal weapon became the hand-grenade, a weapon that in 1914 was only in engineers’ inventory, not infantry. Period photos of a Sturm- u. Stosstruppler always show him well-endowed with ‘nades.

German Stosstrupp 3

German hand grenades came in offensive (blast only, no fragments, for use by troops in the open) and defensive (fragmentation, for use by troops under cover) varieties. The reason for taking cover when throwing a frag grenade is that it can produce casualties beyond its typical throwing range! Beyond that distinction, German ‘nades were produced in four broad types and many specific models. The types were ball grenades, disc grenades, egg grenades, and stick grenades.

German Stosstrupp

The ball grenade M1913 was the only grenade produced at the beginning of the war, and was produced originally only for sappers. It was a serrated iron-cased fragmentation grenade in the style of many other nations’ grenades, except that it was truly spherical, not at all ellipsoid. It had a pull wire on its fuze on top, which started a 5-7 second delay. (A second prewar version with a clockwork fuze was not produced after the war started). It would be redesigned during the war, to simplify manufacturing, but the replacements were called both M1913 Neuer Art (“new type”) and M1915.

This collection of Great War grenades came from a collector forum. German grenades in it include: 3. German M1915 Kugel grenade fragments 4. German M1915 Discushandgranate 5. German M1915 Kugel grenade, friction fuse 6. German m1913 Kugel grenade, friction fuse 7. Mauser T-Geweher round 8. German flechette 9. German Eier grenade with transit plug 10. German Eier grenade with standard friction fuse 11. German Eier grenade with friction fuse 12. German Eier grenade with M1917 friction fuse 13. German Stielhandgranate M1917 14. German Stielhandgranate M1916 15. German 1914 rifle grenade with transit plug

This collection of Great War grenades came from a collector forum. German grenades in it (all left of the center of the image) include:
3. German M1915 Kugel grenade fragments
4. German M1915 Discushandgranate
5. German M1915 Kugel grenade, friction fuse
6. German m1913 Kugel grenade, friction fuse
7. Mauser T-Geweher round
8. German flechette
9. German Eier grenade with transit plug
10. German Eier grenade with standard friction fuse
11. German Eier grenade with friction fuse
12. German Eier grenade with M1917 friction fuse
13. German Stielhandgranate M1917
14. German Stielhandgranate M1916
15. German 1914 rifle grenade with transit plug

The disc grenade was uniquely Imperial German and was fuzed to detonate on impact with the ground. It came in three different models: a sheet steel offensive grenade of 100-110 mm diameter; a cast iron defensive grenade of 80 mm diameter; and a catapult-launched Schleuder-Diskushandgranate that could be launched further.

The egg grenade was a latecomer, introduced in 1917. In continuously improved versions, it would remain in German service to 1945, but at the time it was a simple attempt to make a grenade that cost less and used fewer resources than the stick grenade. It had a time fuze and 32 grams of black powder.

The stick grenade, called by English-speaking troops the German “potato masher” from its resemblance to the household implement, is the grenade most people today associate with Germans, although many nations used stick grenades. Most stick grenades were offensive grenades with 200+ grams of explosive inside a thin sheet cover. The original M1915 had a time fuze initiated by pulling a wooden knob that formed the base of the stick. Apparently due to accidents, this was replaced by a pull cord that was protected by a screw-off protective cap in the M1916 and M1917 models. At some point, these grenades were available with impact as well as time fuzes.

Center, upper: Stielhandgranate 15. Center, lower: SHG 17 (pull cord extended). The grenade on the right is Austrian.

Center, upper: Stielhandgranate 15. Center, lower: SHG 17 (pull cord extended). The grenade on the right is Austrian.

In addition to these factory grenades, Sturmtruppen had a variety of improvised and field-expedient grenades, often made right behind the front in engineers’ workshops, especially in the 1914-15 period. Grenades were also combined into a Geballte Ladung with six extra heads, detonated sympathetically, arrayed around the one on the stick, or made into a Gestreckte Ladung by placing grenade heads at about 10-15 cm apart along a wooden lath or stick. (This seems to be intended to be an improvised Bangalore torpedo).

German Stosstrupp 4

Sturmtruppen carried lots of grenades, and the number rose as the war continued. A trooper might have felt well-armed with two or three grenades in 1915, but by 1917 he would want saddle-bags around his shoulders with three or four stick grenades on each side, and a few egg grenades in his pocket as backup. Some troopers were designated grenade-throwers, and they might have an assistant who carried a whole pack of ‘nades.

Firearms carried tended to be Mauser 98 carbines and numerous pistols. By 1918, the Sturmtrupp table of organization and equipment specified the new MP 18/1 submachine gun for all officers and NCOs and 10% of troops, but the firearm was never produced in such quantity.

And, of course, machine guns and mortars were used from the German trenches in support of Sturmtrupp attacks.


Jünger mid-war. He went on to be one of only 11 company commanders among the 700 recipients of the Pour le Mèrite, and to survive the war and become an important literary and philosophical figure in Germany.

Carmona quote a German officer, Ernst Jünger, on his armaments before leading a Stosstrupp (edited for clarity):

… across my chest, two sandbags, each containing four stick grenades, impact fuses on the left, delay on the right; in my right tunic pocket, a Pistol 08 [Luger] on a long cord; in my right trouser pocket, a little Mauser pistol; in my left tunic pocket, five egg grenades; in my left trouser pocket, luminous compass and whistle; in my belt, spring hooks for pulling out the pins, plus knife and wire cutters.

He was prepared for all eventualities, with his home address in a wallet in one pocket, and a flask of cherry brandy in another, and his Trupp removed unit identifying insignia from their uniforms and went “sterile.”

Grenades are one of those unglamorous weapons that gets short shrift between the wars, only to come into great demand “when the guns begin to shoot.”

Sturmtruppen is a well-researched and documented look at the German tactical revolution of WWI and will get you thinking about the profound impact these tactics have had on warfare today.

It’s made us want to read Carmona’s thesis which was on the quartermaster service of the Blue Division, Franco’s volunteers with the Germans on the Eastern Front, even if we have to read it en español. And it’s also made us want to read Jünger’s Storm of Steel, which has been translated into English.


Carmona, Ricardo Recio. Sturmtruppen: WWI German Stormtroopers (1914-1918). Madrid, 2014: Andrea Press

Jünger, Ernst. Im Stahlgewittern. Berlin, 1920: E.S. Mittler und Sohn. Available online at:

Numerous other Jünger works are available at

Safety: This is Doing it Wrong

Victim James Baker

Victim James Baker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something went seriously wrong in that class.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update 2

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

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

Baker regularly conducted gun training sessions.

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

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

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

He seemed stunned at how this went down.

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

Those who knew Baker feel the loss deeply.

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

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

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

Real Live Tueller Drill, 2016

Thanks to the Boston Herald and for this video; you get to see a real cop threatened by a real knife-wielding nut case. We’re looking at events from a security camera — five cameras in all captured this shooting, as is getting to be more common — as an officer who has not yet been named responds to a call that a man is harassing pedestrians on Broadway in Everett, Massachusetts (a part of Boston in fact if not within the city limits thereof). This video is instructive, and you can get a lot out of studying it. The whole evolution plays out in barely more than half a minute.


First, notice where it takes place. It’s not on a range, it’s not in a classroom, it’s not in an alley with only the officer and the nut job present. It’s in a bright sunny city intersection, with tons of people around and a million distractions — moving pedestrians, moving cars, all the sensations of a busy city.

At first the cop moves right in on the suspect, one Mario Mejia Martinez, whose criminal history and immigration history (if any) are being closely held by the Massachusetts authorities.

Distractions or no, we bet that officer’s perceptual field was stopped down to about f/32. He didn’t see anything but Martinez attacking him — and maybe he didn’t see anything but Martinez’s knife.

(Everett, MA 04/21/16) Police investigate an officer involved shooting on Broadway in Everett on Thursday, April 21, 2016. Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki

(Everett, MA 04/21/16) Police investigate an officer involved shooting on Broadway in Everett on Thursday, April 21, 2016. Boston Herald Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki.

That means he definitely didn’t see his backstop. He seems to have hit Martinez with all four shots (we believe from watching the video that he fired four shots, and witnesses reported hearing four), which reduces the risk to all the pedestrians and motorists you see in the video.

The officer, who hasn’t been identified (Martinez’s family are said to be looking for revenge, in the courts and on the streets), did just about everything right.

  1. He tried to take charge of the situation. This often works. This time it didn’t.
  2. When Martinez reaches back behind his back for a weapon (which turned out to be the knife, the cop backpedals. He doesn’t seem to draw at this time (a point you could argue either way) but he keeps talking to Martinez (who keeps talking also, while moving).
  3. When Martinez attacks, he draws and fires and keeps firing while the threat remains in being.
  4. He sidesteps Martinez, still engaging him.
  5. With Martinez down, no longer a threat, he disengages.
  6. He secures his firearm as the tape ends.

The outcome of the whole thing validates the officer’s training and judgment, in our opinion.

Judgment is hard (but not impossible) to teach meaningfully. But it’s of supreme importance. It’s very rare that a cop, soldier or self/home defender loses his or her life (or gets jammed up in a court) because his or her level of marksmanship did not pass the ultimate test. These unpleasant and tragic outcomes are more often associated with judgment errors.

In a completely unrelated matter, the liberal Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, partially reversed the “sanctuary state” policy of his predecessor, liberal Democrat Deval Patrick. Now, the state still will never ask a criminalien where he’s from — that would be waaaaacist with five a’s — but at least they’ll hold him for 48 hours if ICE wants to trebuchet him back over the nonexistent border fence.

The policy shift comes nearly 17 months into Baker’s first term and nearly a year after the feds fully implemented the Priority Enforcement Program. His aides say there wasn’t a particular incident or arrest that prompted the change, and David Procopio, a state police spokesman, said he was unable yesterday to quantify how many detainer requests police may have refused from ICE under the old policy.

Part of the problem, Baker said, is “the commonwealth stopped asking for them.”

The usual suspects — the kind who, like Deval Patrick, would have preferred the incident in this video to end with the cop on the slab — are outwaged. That’s a great weeping pity, isn’t it?

The DA/SA Pistol, Reconsidered

At LuckyGunner’s blog the LuckyGunner Lounge, Chris Baker has been running a series of really good articles on traditional DA/SA pistols and how he’s recently made the change to DA/SA after going striker fired for a while.

Chris Baker firing-beretta

While we call them “articles,” they’re really informational and instructional videos; but Chris and LuckyGunner present the full transcripts of the videos, which is a beautiful thing.  A video can show you, but if what you want is the words, you can read a lot faster than it takes to watch the vid. The way they set it up, you can pick your preferred learning method. ‘S’all good!

So far, Chris has presented three parts, which may be the whole thing for all we know; the first covers general double-action history.

The double action autos got to be pretty popular in the 20th century and various designs were used by Beretta, Smith and Wesson, Sig, CZ, and a lot of other gun companies.

And you probably know the rest of the story. In the 1980s, the American US military ditched the 1911 and adopted the double action Beretta M9. And then when police departments around the country started switching from revolver to semi-autos in the 80s and 90s, at least at first, most departments adopted double action semi-autos.

And then a few years later, Glock came along and shook things up.

His basic reason for defecting from the striker-fired camp, he tells us in the second part, on why he switched, is safety:

if you mess up and get on the trigger too early — which happens a lot to people under stress — or if you think you need to shoot someone and then realize you don’t, the length of travel of the double action trigger gives you an extra split second to correct your course of action before you put a bullet somewhere it doesn’t belong.

Double action pistols are also safer when it comes to holstering the gun. This is probably the most dangerous thing we do with our handguns, and it’s when a lot of accidents happen. With a double action pistol, you can put your thumb on the hammer after you de-cock, and that way, it’s impossible for the gun to discharge if you accidentally leave your finger on the trigger or you get a strap or a piece of shirt caught in the trigger guard. And if you don’t remember to de-cock the gun or thumb the hammer, then you’re really just a pound or two of pressure away from where you’d be with a striker fired gun anyway.

One reason cop shops went in for DA/SA in a big way in the 1980s is that it let you have a gun ready to fire without any fiddling, but with a long enough first-shot trigger pull that only intentional shots would be fired. Cops being cops, some of them from time to time found a way to outflank the idiot-proofing, but they’d done that with DA revolvers, too, and a DA revolver is about as safe a gun as you’re going to get without molding it out of Play-Doh.

A second reason, one that mattered to the military but not to police who generally use new ammunition, was that a DA pistol gave you a second poke at a dud primer. You will see this often mentioned in early-1980s documents, especially ones written by people with military connections. That’s probably because at the time we were still firing 1944 and 1945 headstamped ammunition from WWII production! After the adoption of the M9, the Army quickly ran through its supply of ammo that had only been feeding SOF secondary demands (like MP5s and foreign weapons training).

In the third part, on learning to use the DA/SA trigger, Chris says:

It’s only been about six months since I started the transition from primarily using striker fired pistols to using double actions for all of my personal self-defense guns, so I am by no means an expert. But I feel like I’ve started to get the hang of it, and I’ve had some good teachers, so I’m going to share a few tips that have helped me out with shooting double actions over the last few months.

The first challenge is the double action trigger itself. In order to master this, you have to actually shoot the gun double action. Some people are so intimidated by the longer and heavier trigger pull that they never actually shoot the gun this way. It’s possible for you to go to the range and just rack in the first round and now your hammer is cocked, and you could fire the whole magazine single action and never actually have to fire double action.

But if you own a double action pistol for self-defense then you have to have the discipline to decock the pistol and shoot both triggers so you can learn to run the gun the way you would if you had to draw it and shoot to defend your life. I decock the pistol after every string of fire and every drill and I never thumb cock the hammer. Whenever the gun comes off target, I decock. This is a good habit to get into anyway just for the sake of safety, but it also forces you to have to shoot that double action trigger.

There are several different variants of decock and safety on DA pistols. The Beretta 92S/92F/92SF/M9, which has a safety loosely based on Walther practice, is a bit awkward, thumbwise, for one-handed decocking. (The 92G has a decocker, which is what Wilson Combat does on their custom Berettas, and it’s nice but still in that out-of-the-way place. There are also DAO-only Berettas 92D and 96D, and all Beretta lockwork from at least the FS on up is interchangeable). We dunno what the polymer Berettas that Chris seems to prefer work like; just never tried one. SIGs have a separate safety and decocking lever, which is very handy, you just have to practice enough to make decocking second nature. CZs have to be different, and have one of two safety arrangements: a non-decocking, 1911-style safety that requires a careful manual hammer drop on a live round to decock, or a very nice decocker in the safety position.

A CZ cocked and locked. This was also possible on the very first Beretta, M92. The M92S with slide-mounted decocking safety soon replaced it.

A compact CZ cocked and locked. This was also possible on the very first DA Beretta service pistol, the Model 92. The M92S with slide-mounted decocking safety soon replaced it.

What works with you depends on the size of your hand, and how diligently you want to train on a complex system. People who are casual about shooting and indifferent towards practice might be better off with a striker-fired gun on which the trigger weight and throw never change. But striker fired guns have their own issues.

Having grown up with both SA (1911, et al.) and DA/SA (P.38) autopistols around, and going through the “wondernine” 1911->DA/SA conversion when that was a thing, we didn’t consider that many young shooters didn’t have hands-on with this system, but Chris sure did, and that’s what makes his articles especially valuable to today’s shooters. Maybe they’ll think better of those of us who still shoot these coelacanths of the range.

Hey, Dude, Where’s My Guns?

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

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

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

The Orlando Sentinel rounds up other local cop theft victims:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some More Lessons of Ukraine

We were going to have one document, but that seems like it would be shorting you.  So there’s a little more today.

The Battle of Debaltseve

This 2015 battle was a Russian attempt to do something that their ancestors, the Red Army of the Great Patriotic War, did thousands of times: reduce a salient into a pocket, and then reduce the pocket. The failure of the Russian offensive at that time let to an unstable cease-fire. This is a Ukrainian docmuentary about the battle (obviously, one-sided). It’s mostly in Ukrainian with English subtitles. (Some foreigners — Americans, including Phil Karber, co-author of yesterday’s report, and a Frenchman — speak in English).

At one point, the Russian commander on the ground insisted that the Ukrainians were encircled, and the Chief of the Russian General Staff reported that to the Russian President, who then told the public. Problem was, no one had told the Ukrainians. The Russians agreed to a ceasfire, but it was a ruse. At the appointed hour, the Russians celebrated the cease-fire with a massive offensive — artillery barrage and ground assaults. The Ukrainians planned a withdrawal.

In something that has never happened before, the withdrawal plan leaked because a parliamentarian posted it on Facebook. The plan did not get to the Russian forces in time to hinder the first withdrawal columns, but later columns were hit by the redoubtable Russian artillery. The small unit commanders had to hastily reroute their withdrawal.

The results of the battle, then, are mixed, despite the Ukraine putting the best possible shine on it. In the end, the Ukrainians withdrew and prevented the Russian attempt to encircle them and defeat them in detail. But the Russians wound up in possession of the salient’s burnt-out ground, and the surviving civilian inhabitants, if any. This was a common outcome on the Eastern Front in 1942-44, as better-led Nazi units frequently wriggled out of Soviet encirclement attempts, but the tactical superiority of the German Wehrmacht availed them little against the sheer Red numbers in the end.

 Lessons Learned from the Russian Ukrainian War

This file is a draft of Phil Karber’s lessons learns presented at a Historical LL Workshop last July.


If gets hit by a truck, or jammed by little green men in an EW van with Cyrillic labels on its knobs and dials, at press time it was also hosted here:

Karber identifies several “surprises”:

  1. First, the war itself was completely unexpected.
  2. Second, Western neglect of Russian “New Generation Warfare” has come home to roost, and this Russian doctrinal concept is not a mirror of any Western idea or doctrine, but something that must be understood on its own terms.
  3. Lack of western, even, interest in the military aspects of the war.

Karber observed parts of the war from the Ukrainian side and makes no pretense of being an impartial observer. Factor that in to his analyses and conclusions. Principal conclusions include:

  • This war, like the Russo-Japanese war in 1905, the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and the Yom Kippur war in 1973, is a glimpse of what potentially is to come.
  • However, the US has held American observers back from observing as was done in the 20th Century wars.
  • It’s only a proxy war on one side, because the West is not supporting Ukraine much. Despite that, Karber observes four things he thinks might be trends (while warning about the risk of perceiving any change as a trend):
    1. UAVs everywhere, always;
    2. A revolution in artillery and other indirect-fire lethality;
    3. ATGMs vs. Armor;
    4. Weakness of the Infantry Fighting Vehicle and other light armored vehicles.

Naturally, each development has met a counter. For example, when the Russians want to violate a cease-fire, they take down ceasefire monitoring drones of the OSCE using electronic warfare.

Of these, perhaps the most interesting are the artillery developments. Like World War I, 85% of casualties are caused by artillery (on both sides; the Ukrainians are not rolling over for their former slavemasters). Karber discusses the Western and US unilateral disarmament on DPICM warheads. Russian artillery trends include:

  • Multiple-rocket-launcher area fires. Russian force balance has changed from one MRL system to four artillery tubes to a 3:4 ratio: in effect, a trebling of rocket artillery over the last 30 years. Russian MRLS tactics deemphasize the precision strike favored by the US and NATO.
  • Both sides use the 2S1 Gvozdika SP artillery piece unconventionally in direct-fire mode — The Russians

in the dual role of both indirect Howitzer and as an assault gun. In this latter direct fire role it is used as an over-watch system targeting at a range of 1 to 6 km Ukrainian strong points and suppressing anti-tank defenses. In interviews with the author, numerous Ukrainian anti-tank missiles and anti-tank gun operators have noted their reticence in opening fire against Russian armor because of the expectation that they themselves will immediately be targeted by the Gvozdika.

…and the Ukrainians, as an analogue of the World War II tank destroyer — a non-tank light vehicle that fights tanks by stealth and speed (because it can’t go toe to toe).

Other weapons, including BM-21 Grad rocket launchers, are also employed deliberately, at least from time to time, in direct-fire mode.

  • Decentralization of Artillery. At least on the Russian side, Artillery batteries are being task-organized into tank and motorized-rifle battalions.
  • Increased Range of Artillery. This can be decisive in counterbattery fire. It’s no fun being outranged (as US forces in I Corps in Vietnam were by Russian-made M1946 130mm guns in the DMZ).
  • Importance of Counter-Battery Radar. The Russians use their latest technology. President Obama promised our equivalent, the AN/TPQ-36, to Ukraine, but reneged. Instead the US provided a 5000-meter-max-range anti-mortar system, one with an Achilles’s Heel:

Ukraine’s counter-mortar experience should teach the U.S. and NATO a valuable lesson. Because it is an active emitter, the Russians are able to accurately identify its location; and because it is a towed system and a computer requires a half-hour shut-down, it cannot be moved rapidly and thusly is highly vulnerable to the very counter-fire it is intended to suppress.

The U.S. supplied 20 counter-mortar radar. At least 20% of which have been lost: 2 lost to counter- fire; and 2 lost in the overrun of the Debaltseve encirclement, one of which is now being used by separatists against the Ukrainian 24th Mechanized Brigade

Kaber faults, in part, “seriously flawed” American policy set at the highest levels, which is what happens when you put policy in the hands of van drivers and campaign speechwriters, and people selected primarily for their sex or race.

His conclusions are bleak: if we’re reading him right, the increased lethality of modern weapons gives the advantage, for now, to defensive fortifications and positional warfare.

Or, prepare for World War I phase II.

Karber and Potomac Foundation colleagues have prepared seven more reports, of which two are available to the public:

  1. Gen. (ret.) Wesley Clark & Dr. P.A. Karber, “Non-Lethal Military Aid to Ukraine,” (8 April 2014);
  2. Dr. P.A. Karber, Beyond Minsk II: Prospects for a New Russian Offensive (presentation), (12 May 2014).

Links are as provided by the Potomac Foundation. We have the .pdfs should the Little Green Men take the PF off the net.

Ukrainian Conflict and Electronic Warfare

Joe Gould at Defense News noted in 2015 that one area where the modern Russian army has soundly beaten Ukraine is in the electronic realm.

“Our soldiers are doing the training with the Ukrainians and we’ve learned a lot from the Ukrainians,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. “A third of the [Ukrainian] soldiers have served in the … combat zone, and no Americans have been under Russian artillery or rocket fire, or significant Russian electronic warfare, jamming or collecting — and these Ukrainians have. It’s interesting to hear what they have learned.”

Hodges acknowledged that US troops are learning from Ukrainians about Russia’s jamming capability, its ranges, types and the ways it has been employed. He has previously described the quality and sophistication of Russian electronic warfare as “eye-watering.”

Russia maintains an ability to destroy command-and-control networks by jamming radio communications, radars and GPS signals, according to Laurie Buckhout, former chief of the US Army’s electronic warfare division, now CEO of the Corvus Group. In contrast with the US, Russia has large units dedicated to electronic warfare, known as EW, which it dedicates to ground electronic attack, jamming communications, radar and command-and-control nets.

The Russian EW campaign is not conducted in a vacuum, but coordinated with other arms and services.

In a fight, Russia’s forces can hinder a target’s ability to respond to, say, an artillery attack, allowing them to fire on an enemy with impunity. Ukrainian forces would be unable to coordinate a defense against incoming rockets and missiles, or release counter battery fire.

“If your radars don’t see incoming fire, you can’t coordinate counterfire,” Buckhout said.

This capability was once developed by the USA as well, but was among the many big-war capabilities abandoned for the “peace dividend,” the ongoing redirection of national resources to the comfort and benefit of the idle. This change has been reinforced by fifteen years of combat in a low-threat environment against an enemy without sophistication.

For example, even the Army’s highest EW priority today, “Multifunctional Electronic Warfare (MFEW), is intended to provide an offensive electronic attack capability.” But that is not a capability aimed at a peer competitor — instead, it will be able to degrade low-level un-hardened communications, “to jam cell phone, satellite and GPS signals.” That is, if the legendary military procurement system can bring it in somewhere near on time and on budget. And
“on time” is — we are not making this up — 2027.

This war is a valuable instructional period, as was the Spanish Civil War, yet it may go neglected by the institutional US Army the same way that war was. There may be no benefit for us by the lessons that US “trainers” are learning from their Ukrainian “students.” Indeed, it seems like most of the useful learning is coming our way. It can’t be used, immediately, with a national command authority that is focused on the military as a tool for social engineering, and that treats defense issues as an opportunity to surrender, apologize, or surrender and apologize.

One of the Ukrainians’ skills, surviving from their Soviet days, is an ability to operate even when under EW attack, even when denied the electronic spectrum. That’s very interesting to the USA, which is completely spectrum-dependent, yet has taken few measures to be prepared to seize and defend the spectrum. It certainly shines another light on the Soviet-era insistence on pre-coordinated, precise plans.

Other Ukrainian improvisations involve use of artillery in direct-fire AT overwatch (which the Russians are also doing, so it’s unclear who did it first), and sophisticated use of counterbattery radars for reconnaissance.


Russian operations as early as the Georgia War in 2008, and including the invasion of Ukraine and to a lesser extent operations in support of Russian client Assad in Syria, have showcased the emergence of a new and more capable Russian Army. Today’s Russian Army owes more to Russia’s historic mastery of chess than to its one-time production of ill-trained peasant mass levies.

There are still deep vulnerabilities to be exploited, but the US DOD and US Army do not seem to have the leadership to do so, or to prepare to do so in the immediate future.

Some American Thoughts on Russia’s “New Generation War.”


You’ve come a long way, baby! Russian movie portrayal of the Red Army.

Both of these documents were sent to us by a retired senior special operations officer who is employed in an influential position in operations planning. The authors of the first (and more recent) document recently did a stand up in front of, if we have this right, Joint Ops at the Pentagon. So you’re learning here what American colonels, generals, and senior policy civilians are learning about our Russian rivals.

“Rival” is, we think, the right word; so far, Russia sees itself as in competition with the democratic West, and not entirely at war. In fact, Russian leadership, which was Soviet junior leadership during the Cold War, seems intent on a new Cold War with the same broad spectrum of rivalries: political, economic, propaganda, and military via proxy wars. We have not seen a return to terror sponsorship on the level of  the pre-1992 KGB and GRU, but we can’t tell whether that’s because: today’s Russia actually eschews this as a tactic, either on moral or practical grounds; today’s Russia is better at doing it undetected than the USSR was; or, increased surveillance of terrorists and their sponsors heightens risks for state sponsors. (If we had to pick one we’d go with #1, Russia is not sponsoring terrorists, because Russian policy does not permit that at this time. But we don’t have evidence for that).

The first article is a nine-page extract from Army Magazine, the usually low-value trade mag of the Association of the US Army, an organization that young lieutenants are dragooned into joining. But it’s by two serious guys, Professor Phil Karber, a reformed Marine who’s been a heavyweight in US Army ground forces strategy for over 40 years, and LTC Josh Thibeault, a typically overeducated (heh) Operations Analyst.


(Note that we made three small corrections in the file, a typo in the filename, removed a blank tenth page, and ran it through our own OCR. If you are planning on sending this around anonymously, get the Army version from the Early Bird or “they” can trace you to WeaponsMan). Here’s an edited excerpt:

Russia represents a real threat, to real allies, on real terrain. Though Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions might be unknowable, we do know what his game plan is.
It’s called “new-generation warfare,” and it targets Western weaknesses, not strengths. New-generation warfare differs from Western views of hybrid conflict in that it combines both low-end, hidden state involvement with high-end, direct, even braggadocio superpower involvement.

Russian new-generation warfare is manifested in five component elements:

– Political subversion.
– Proxy sanctuary.
– Intervention.
– Coercive deterrence.
– Negotiated manipulation.

Contrary to Western politicians, the Russian leadership understands these military options and plays them like a Stradivarius.

Karber and Thibeault do examine each of those in depth, and review such newly evident Russian competencies (many of which, in fact, the old Soviet Army was not at all weak on) and their consequences for US Army RDT&E, strategy and doctrine. These areas including electronic warfare, unmanned aerial systems (new, as is the way the Russian Army uses them), tank and IFV developments, air and missile defense.

Russian artillery is particularly well-developed. Always a historic strength, new technology has made this artilllery more effective, accurate and lethal, and Karber and Thibeault project a bit of what might happen to American units if they were hit as two Ukrainian mech battalions were hit two years ago, in July 2014. (The authors don’t mention this, but the units were moving as agreed with the Russians under a cease-fire agreement).

Russia launched fire strikes with long-range artillery and multiple rocket launchers employing top-attack munitions and thermobaric warheads against two Ukrainian mechanized battalions in the open. This intensely concentrated fire strike lasted only a few minutes yet inflicted high casualties and destroyed most armored vehicles, rendering both battalions combat-ineffective.

The T-64 improved Bulat tanks of the Ukrainian 1st Armored Brigade burn, 13 July 14

The T-64 improved Bulat tanks of the Ukrainian 1st Armored Brigade burn, 13 July 14.

In combat situations like this, when up to 30 percent of a unit is killed or incapacitated, command and control breaks down and the unit is unable to treat its own wounded, much less reconstitute itself and continue its mission. The Army needs to develop reconstitution teams at the brigade level that will re-establish command and control, provide triage and other medical support, and quickly coordinate reconstitution. Likewise, units at all levels must frequently train in mass-casualty scenarios.

It’s an interesting idea, but the reconstitution team can’t work as long as the artillery continues.

Needless to say, fifteen years of desultory low-intensity warfare against rifle- and RPG-armed primitives in plastic flip-flops has not prepared the United States Army to fight against a competitor like this. (And what is a Russian capability today is a Chinese capability tomorrow, and a global second-tier state’s capability in months or a year. We are not the only ones studying these battles).

Meanwhile, we have a leadership adept at social engineering, but incompetent at war planning or even weapons procurement. What the Russians did to those two Ukrainian battalions, the US can’t do, because the US has unilaterally disarmed from thermobaric and cluster munitions. The article’s conclusion on that:

Russian artillery maintains an approximate 3:1 size advantage over the Army’s artillery, and they have a capability advantage as well with their use of dual-purpose improved conventional munitions and submunitions. For the Army to be competitive, the DoD must repeal then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ 2008 directive to comply with the provisions of the Ottawa Treaty, which resulted in the removal of all submunitions from the Army’s inventory.

Note that, while Gates is often thought of one of Obama’s lousy defense officials, when he made this lousy decision he was still one of Bush’s lousy defense officials. This is a defense problem, not a partisan problem.

One more thought: military planners love infantry fighting vehicles. You know who doesn’t? Infantrymen. After seeing what protection a BMP provides, Ukrainians ride on top. In Chechnya, Russians rode on top. In Vietnam, American mech infantry rode on top. None of these things can resist artillery fires. Which right now the US unilaterally has disarmed itself of, believing that navigation satellites (subject to other Russian and other weaponry) and air supremacy were permanent conditions of US deployments.

And one final thought, on aviation. The Russians swept the Ukrainian fast movers and helicopters from the sky. Flying this high could be deadly (20 August, 2014):

So could flying even lower:

Ukrainian helicopters were reduced to flying 3 to 5 meters above ground or treetop level to avoid the larger surface-to-air missiles from the self-propelled systems, but ambush teams of two to five manportable air defense systems, cued by the integrated air defense network, shot them down. Without adequate suppression of enemy air defense assets or hardened bases and defenses, Ukraine was powerless to stop this.

Some other interesting tactics have been emerging, too, but this is a start. As we said, there are two articles; the other tomorrow or Thursday (we have to hunt it up).