Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

Weapons Training, Special Training School 103, SOE

Fairbairn's early techniques were codified in this book.

Fairbairn’s early techniques were codified in this book.

The following is a description of firearms instruction at STS 103, which author David Stafford describes as, “one of a network of SOE training schools, and the only one in the Western Hemisphere.” (Other schools were in North Africa, Haifa and elsewhere around the Med, and in Singapore for the Far East). It shows that even 75 years ago, even before the word “mindset” was coined, this abstraction was valued far above practical skills.

Weapons training for OSS and SOE would evolve, but it was based, and remained based, on the work of William Ewart Fairbairn, a man who studied fighting with singleminded intensity, and who along with E.A. Sykes trained the Shanghai colonial police, at a time when Shanghai was a arguably the global leader in applied interpersonal violence and a Shanghai cop had to be quick with hands, feet, knives, and firearms.

As well as being suitably trained for silent killing and on armed combat, the recruits might also have occasion to use weapons, so Camp X gave them weapons training. Sharing the language of the OK Corral, SOE was interested in gunfighting. Since an agent’s life might very well depend on how well he had been taught, instructors would not let a bad shot out of the camp. They instilled in the student mind the impression that he was actually killing the target and to shoot as though his life depended on it. “As with every sport, provided that the principles taught are sound, practice makes perfect.” The principles so diligently instilled in practiced had as their goal, within the constraints imposed by time and the supply of ammunition, “to turn out good, fast, plain shots”. Whether in the use of machine carbines like the Tommy gun or in action with a pistol, the principle was the same: “tremendous speed in an attack with sufficient accuracy to hit the vital parts of a man’s body, for killing at close quarters demands aggression and extreme concentration.”

There were certain obstacles in producing these good, fast, and plain shots. One was the recruits’ previous experience. Instructors presumed that many of their students had some “revolver training in the old style” and, while being careful not to denigrate such skills has might have already been acquired in skeet shooting, had to impart the innovative “instinctive method” of firing.

The first point was that a pistol was not a weapon of self-defence but of attack – it was a combat weapon. Armed with the weapon under consideration, usually a .22 Hi-Standard or .32 Colt, the instructor conjured up a dramatic encounter while on a mission:

Picture in your mind the circumstances under which you might be using the pistol. Take as an example a raid on an enemy occupied house in darkness. Firstly consider your approach. You will never walk boldly up to the house and stroll in as though you were paying a social call. On the contrary, your approach will be stealthy. You will be keyed up and excited, nervously alert for danger from whichever direction. You will find yourself instinctively crouching; your body balanced on the balls of your feet in a position from which you can move swiftly in any direction. You make your entry into the house and start searching for the enemy, moving along passages, perhaps up or down stairs, listening and feeling for any signs of danger. Suddenly on turning a corner, you come face-to-face with the enemy. Without a second’s hesitation you must fire and kill him before he has a chance to kill you.

This method of course meant that an agent would never fire standing straight up, nor in any of the “fancy stances” common to competition shooting, and never have time to use the sights. Since recruits under such conditions might be worried about the accuracy of their name game, they practiced “instinctive pointing”,”the natural way that any man points at an object when he is concentrating”. Students stoodt directly in front of each other and pointed, at the instructor’s commands, to such targets is the exact centre of each other’s stomach, or left foot or right eye. When doing so, no one actually looked down his finger. Rather, “instinctively”, the arm, with the finger extended, came in to the center of the body. Here the finger, and of course its extension the gun, was in position right down the line of eyesight. Such pointing gave the shooter a natural control over direction and elevation when firing.

Applegate shootingAfter demonstrations and practice in holding the pistol or crouching in the firing position, the recruits were ready for some of the more elaborate target exercises using live ammunition. For example, using the .22, students were to imagine that they were outside a German beer cellar, automatics loaded and drawn. In the old style of attack, in order to position themselves for firing, they would have to rely on a totally silent approach. This, of course, was not only dangerous but impossible. SOE felt their method was much superior: “you have reached the doorway of the cellar by a stealthy approach, making no sound whatever. Very quietly turn the handle of the door as far as it will go, And then, preparing yourself for the effort, you kick the door open and kill your targets before they have a chance to realize what has happened.”

If this all sounds rather like a B-grade movie, reads like a spy novel, or looks like a TV SWAT team in action, it’s because SLE instinctive firing was so successful that after the war this innovation swept through commando schools, boot camps, and police academies alike, replacing forever the older shooting style.

Indeed, Rex Applegate, an American instructor trained by Sykes and Fairbairn, would adapt his training notes and syllabi into a postwar book, Kill or Get Killed, that was extremely influential. (The picture above is of Applegate, and it is from this book, which stayed in print for decades).

The gunfighting style of 1942 does look extremely dated today. SOE (and later, OSS) training emphasized instinctive, point shooting, without reference to even the limited, low-profile sights of a wartime or prewar pistol. Nowadays much better sights are used much faster, and pistols are routinely shot two-handed. At the start of World War II, the Japanese alone trained for two-handed shooting; this picture shows that by 1944 Jedburgh teams were training to shoot two-handed, but even long after the war Applegate continued to train one-handed point shooting.

Jeds point shooting 1944

One suspects that William Ewart Fairbairn — by all accounts something of a drip while off duty, having no interests broader than instruction in impartial and immediate unchristian mayhem, and means of delivering same — would approve.


Stafford, David: Camp X: OSS, “Intrepid,” and the Allies’ North American Training Camp for Secret Agents, 1941-1945. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1987. (pp. 97-99).

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Max Velocity Tactical

max_velocity_tactical_webpageA long time ago a commenter recommended this site, Max Velocity Tactical, as a Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week. And indeed, we’ve read it from time to time, and it seems to be a pretty good and sensible discussion of fitness, tactics, and so forth. It’s primarily a vehicle for tactical training, both by word and by promoting “Max’s” books and, especially, tactical training classes.

The training classes include people with all levels of training and experience, but they tend to look eerily like military training, because that’s what they are, essentially. Here we have shooting on the move, live-fire. (Note the high instructor-student ratio, a must with live fires, especially with people new to the group and each other).

Max Velocity-CTT-July-Square-Range

The word “tactical” is rather haphazardly strewn about, these days, but in the case of Max Velocity, it fits. If you attend a course, read a book, visit the forum or read the posts on the website you may indeed learn something about tactics — something of some practical use.

Here is another picture that, apart from the mismatched uniforms, might have been snapped at Dahlonega or Camp Mackall (actually, we had mismatched uniforms in Ranger Class 1-83, because Army students had to wear OD green fatigues or OD-107 jungle fatigues, and the other services could wear ERDL camo or the then-new BDUs).


Max encourages students to review and critique training, and these reviews are available on site. There’s also a discussion forum of value.

You never know what gems will show up. For a single current example, this recent report from one of the site’s associates deals with one of the most necessary and, especially when starting out, unpleasant fundamental skills: rucksack marching. Here’s the briefest taste:

[S]tart some run/walks with some added weight.  Don’t start with a full load out.  Just like any other progressive training program, start with 15 lbs and maybe 2-3 miles.  Work up to a goal weight of say 35 lbs.  I would take 4 weeks on this.  Then get off the pavement onto the trails.  This will really start to condition your feet and ankles and lots of other stuff.  At this point you would also switch to your trail runners/light hiking boots (duh) and regular hiking clothes.  Another 4 weeks here.  Then you take it up hill.  This will be  real eye-opener.  You thought you were in shape.  Hell you are in decent shape.  But this is a whole ‘nother level.  Hard to believe you can be breathing hard, close to red-lining when you are just walking up a hill.  But you will.  Another hard 4 weeks (this is based on fitness level, see below).

At each stage, drop the weight, and lower the distance again, and work your way back up to goal load and distance targets.  Speed becomes a relative thing now, because you are moving as fast as you can sustain, for whatever the terrain allows.

I can’t think of any other physical activity that is directly applicable to what we may have to be doing in the future. It is a hell of a lot of work, but it is also immensely satisfying. So get out there and get in touch with your inner Mohican.

The author also makes the point that you should be running. That hits hard here, because Your Humble Bloghost can’t run, and doesn’t even walk so great (when they said don’t turn the MC1-1C below 200 feet, they weren’t just whistling Dixie). Here’s his point:

[M]y running base made a huge difference in being able to switch gears and do serious ruck marching. Your feet, ankles, knees, and other body parts take a serious pounding in this activity. What this tells me is every one who is serious about preparing for uncertain times needs to get out and establish a running-based fitness program. Along with calisthenics, this will prepare you body for the rigors of field work.

If you don’t do this, when it’s go-time, the fitness curve is so steep that your body will inevitably break down, leaving you combat ineffective at the moment you need to be at your best. It’s not just about cardio or muscle strength; it’s also about all that connective tissue being conditioned to take the pounding. Feet, ankles, knees, hips, lower back. This goes double for older folks. All that shit is not as supple as it was before so you have to work harder to make sure you stretch it out and strengthen it to take the load.

Now, that’s all from one post, and that by a guest author (but it got us to figure out where the ALICE is… under a bunch of books in the library… and shake it out and take out some of the weight that was in it for an initial shakedown).

Here’s another guest post: a one-post history of the German invasion of Russia, 1941-44, and its consequences for Germany, which along with the crushing of the Japanese Empire constituted the most complete and thorough defeats of nations since the national exterminations of ancient warfare. (Had Stalin, and some Americans such as Baruch had their way, Germany might have gone the rest of the way to the fate of Carthage and Troy).

Many of the real gems that MVT has to deliver you will have to pay for, like the courses and the training plans. This is how he, and his assistant instructors, pay the bills. It is not very expensive for training that can save your life and that of your family (consider this post on the recurring problem of shooting friendlies, and how to avoid it, complete with video of a real puckerful moment where the camera-equipped shooter ceases fire just for an instant because a teammate runs in front of him, oblivious). Even the free parts of the site are very worthwhile, and that would make their dollar value infinite, wouldn’t it?

There are no great mysteries to combat tactics, now “jaw-dropping shortcut” or “One weird trick,” to use the argot of clickbait. There are fundamental principles, which the tactical training programs of every professional armed service in the world follow, and tactics, techniques and procedures, which are variable so long as they preserve the inviolable principles. If your “militia” shoots now and then on a flat range but can’t organize and conduct a patrol, establish a defensive position, or advance by fire and maneuver, it’s not a militia but a mob. (Call it a “nilitia.”) Max and his guys have been working to close this gap, and they deserve recognition and attention.

Names for Malfunctions

“I’ve never had a malfunction on paper.”

George M. Chinn

On this page at the international website all4shooters, we noted the following paragraph from Andrea Giuntini:

American experts invented names and achronyms for all kind of gun-related malfunctions, yet there isn’t one that suits this. That was definitely not an FTF (“Failure to Feed”), as the round were fed and fired properly, nor an FTE (“Failure to Extract) since, as a matter of fact, the case was extracted and ejected; nor it is a stovepipe malfunction − if it was, the case would be stuck vertically in the ejection window.
May you, ALL4SHOOTERS.COM readers and followers, invent a name for this kind of malfunction? Tell us about it, and about any peculiar kind of malfunction you may have experienced in your everyday shooters’ lives!

The article actually looks into a screwy, one-off malf of a Glock 17, in which a fired casing got turned around backwards and jammed the slide from going into battery on the next round:


We couldn’t duplicate the jam with a G17 and dummy rounds in the office, but Andrea traced it to a piece of metal debris under the extractor (his Glock was brand new).

A gun is a machine, and a machine does the same thing every time, given the same input; therefore, a machine never fails for no reason, and the reason is always discoverable, given the right theory, concept, and inspectional technique. Basic troubleshooting, which worked for Andrea Giuntini and should make a good post here some day. But meanwhile, it got us thinking about what are the types of malfunctions?

Most of what an Internet search will find is the same stuff repeated endlessly, which probably comes, ultimately, from Cooper. We leave finding it in Cooper’s voluminous bibliography as an exercise for the reader; his Commentaries are online, for example.

Cooper, in turn, followed Chinn. But an even earlier taxonomy of malfunctions comes from then-Captain Julian Hatcher and his assistants, Lieutenants H.J. Malony and Glenn P. Wilhelm,  at the Machine Gun School of Instruction at Harlingen, Texas in March, 1917.

Jams, Malfunctions, Stoppages

Distinguish carefully between these terms, and use them correctly. Any accidental cessation of fire is a stoppage. It may be due to a misfire, or to the fact that the magazine has been emptied, etc. In this case it is not a malfunction.

A malfunction is an improper action of some part of the gun, resulting in a stoppage. For example, a failure to extract the empty cartridge case.

A jam is some malfunction which causes the mechanism to stick or bind so that it is difficult to move. Do not use the word “Jam” too much. Most troubles with the guns are merely temporary stoppages due to some malfunction, and real jams are comparatively rare.1

An alternative version comes from the Royal Armouries of England and Great Britain. In the 1960s, its standard report format (which we saw in the Vz 58 report) contained this boilerplate key2 to malfunctions:

1. b.f.c. Breech Block fails to close. The round has been fed into the chamber but breech block not fully home.
2. b. f. r. Breech Block fails to remain to the rear. When the trigger is released the breech block fails to engage on the sear.
3. d.t. Double Tap. When the mechanism of the weapon is set to single shot firing two rounds are fired with one pressure of the trigger.
4. f. e. Failure tc Eject. This occurs when the round is correctly fired and fired case is extracted from chamber but not thrown clear of the weapon.
5. f. e. c. Failure to Extract Fired Case. This occurs when the round is fired correctly but the fired case is left in the chamber when the breech block moves to the rear.
6. f. f. Failure to Feed A conplete failure of the breech block to contact the base of the round and remove it from belt or magazine i.e. breech block closes on empty chamber. Position of round in magazine or belt indicated where possible i.e. 19th
7. hf.      Hangfire This occurs when the time interval between the striking of the cap by the firing pin and the firing of the round is apparent to fixer. Definite time lag in milli seconds is however used by Ammunition personnel.
8. l. s. Light Strike This occurs when the cap of the round receives a slight indentation from the firing pin which is insufficient to ignite the cap composition.
9. p. f. f. Partial Failure to Feed or Malfeed. This is a partial failure in that the round has beer taken partially from the magazine or belt by breech block but has not chambered.

Position of round in magazine or belt indicated where possible, i.e. 19th round etc.

10. mf. Misfire. This occurs when the cap of the round has been correctlv struck but fails to ignite the charge and fire the round.
11.  r. g.  (3),(4),(5), etc. Runaway Gun. No. of rounds in brackets. When the mechanism of the weapon is set either at single shot or auto and continues firing after release of trigger,
12. s. c. Separated Case This occurs when a portion of the fired case is left in the chamber, the remainder being extracted normally. The succeeding round will fail fully to enter the chamber and breech block will fail to close.
13. s. n. r. Snubbed Nose Round. This occurs when the nose of the bullet does not enter the chamber correctly but on striking the barrel face is crushed by the foiward movement of breech block. This snubbing may take place at various points on the barrel face or lead in and where possible, is indicated as SN 3 o’clock SN 9 o’clock etc.
14. t. f. c. Trapped Fired Case. This occurs when the fired case is correctly extracted but on ejection the fired case rebounds into the mechanism and is trapped between some portion of the moving parts (usually the breech block) and the body of the weapon.
15 Failures through Breakages These will obviously cause stoppages and will be described in full.

The fact is, malfunctions are conceptualized differently by the engineer, by the armorer or gunsmith, and by the firearms operator. From the operator’s-eye view, you don’t need to get wrapped around the axle trying to name them al. What you really need to know is what sorts of malfunctions a particular weapon is prone to, and how to correct them. And there is no better way than experience to master the art of malfunction correction.


  1. Hatcher, et. al. p. 1.
  2. UK Ministry of Defence, Inspectorate of Armaments, Woolwich, Small Arms Branch Testing Section, RSAF Enfield Lock, Form 7248/1. Retrieved from:


Hatcher, Julian S., Wilhelm, Glenn P. and Malony, Harry J. Menasha, WI: George Banta Publishing Co., 1917.

UK Ministry of Defence, Inspectorate of Armaments, Woolwich, Small Arms Branch Testing Section, RSAF Enfield Lock, Form 7248/1.

Gun, Copper, Thief

It’s kind of like a game of rock paper scissors, with real-life consequences:

Gun arms cop.
Cop stops thief.
Thief steals gun.

This M16A1, stolen in 2013 from the Philadelphia Police Department (or sold by a crooked cop — the means of its departure is not entirely clear, and it doesn’t seem to have been investigated very hard), remains in criminal hands three years later.

Phillys Missing M16A1

Whistling past the graveyard, neither the FBI nor the ATF makes an effort to collect national statistics on stolen police guns.

This story, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, was occasioned by the critical wounding of Philadelphia patrolman Jesse Hartnett by Islamic terrorist and ISIL volunteer Abdul Shaheed, congregant of the Masjid Mujahideen on S. 60th Street in West Philadelphia, whom the ostriches of the press insist on calling by his prehomicidal name Edward Archer. (Shaheed is the Arabic word for martyr. Mujahideen is the Arabic term for holy warriors — or terrorists, in Islam it’s the same thing).

In the instant story, reporter Stephanie Farr pulls out some recent data, by her own efforts, that the Feds are scrupulously collecting, not. 

  • The Philadelphia PD and its 6100 officers have lost 32 issued firearms in the last five years to theft or loss. (If there’s any attempt to track officers’ personally owned firearms, it’s not mentioned).
  • 9 have been recovered, including Abdul Shaheed’s Glock, which was reported stolen in 2013.
  • LAPD’s 9800 officers have lost 7 firearms in the same period, all to theft.
  • The embattled Baltimore PD’s 2400 officers have lost 7 firearms in the same period, all to theft.
  • Chicago’s 12,000 officers have filed 77 theft and loss reports.

These numbers seem suspect to us, because they appear to be the number of theft and loss incidents, and it seems likely that the number of guns lost is higher. Still, this table reveals some interesting variations. Feel free to check our math.

Police Firearms Lost to Theft

PD Sworn Officers

Thefts (if known) Thefts Per/1000 officers Losses (if known) Losses Per/1000 officers Total Thefts and Losses

Total Per/1000 officers

















Los Angeles
















The original data were in Farr’s article, we just extended her reporting by tabularizing the data and adding the rates for a useful comparison.

Question: Why such stark differences in loss and theft rate? Or, to put it another way, what’s the difference between what LA is doing and the other major urban PDs? Bear in mind that the difference might just be reporting categories or other statistical gamesmanship, something intrinsic to police management in these CompStat days.

All these cities, of course, practice fairly hardcore gun control, making thefts from police an appealing logistical pathway for would-be terrorists like Shaheed seeking arms. One is reminded the Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokar “Flashbang” Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan “Speedbump” Tsarnaev murdered MIT Police Officer Sean Collier to try to steal his service pistol. (A second cop, Boston PD’s DJ Simmons, died a year later from injuries received in  the Watertown shootout, something the press usually forgets in their crush on the surviving murderer).

In totalitarian states, theft from the authorities and the euphemistically named “battlefield recovery” have been instrumental in arming resistance groups, also. (Who are, from the viewpoint of the authorities, naturally, criminals). One set of data that has never been systematized is the photographs of European resistance movements in World War II, but certainly the resisters are usually seen with quantities of Nazi as well as prewar and allied-airdropped arms.

Police are not enthusiastic about more rigid control measures on department firearms, or to be held responsible for losing them, administratively speaking. They certainly feel personal responsibility: retired ATF officer Jay Wachtel admitted to Farr that his own service pistol was stolen from him and was missing for years.

I was on pins and needles for three years because I was afraid it would be used in a homicide. When it got recovered, I just had this huge sense of relief.

It seems to be classified in the Homer Simpson File of Life: “Stuff that just happens.” Jim Burch of the Police Foundation thinks that cops shouldn’t be held responsible for their stolen guns:

Preventing the theft of a firearm can be very difficult, particularly when your car and daily attire or uniform essentially advertises to the criminal element that firearms are likely present in your home

So, Burch believes, cops should get a bye on thefts, although he concedes that they have an issue with losses. In Philadelphia, though, neither seems to have career consequences for a cop.

Philadelphia police would not say how many officers had been disciplined over the issue.


The logical inference of that “refusal to say” is that the number is zero. To put it another way, There is no evidence that careless storage of, careless loss of, or even outright corruption in the unlawful transfer of department or personal firearms is a matter of the least concern to Philadelphia PD managers.

Only now are indictments coming in for crooked Philadelphia cops who were apparently dealing in departmental firearms for years. (It could be worse. In New York, cops exposed for taking bribes to sell pistol permits are still reporting to work and being paid, and only the bribe payer has been charged).

At the time the M16 came up missing, Commissioner Charles H Ramsey cut a bold figure. He made a strong statement.

We will get to the bottom of it one way or another, I guarantee that.

Three years later, all the PD has done is issue that statement. Doesn’t look so strong, does it?

Even with the near-murder of Hartnett,

Cop Shot His Own Partner… No Consequences

We’ve discussed before the problem of cops shooting their own undercovers. Here, a hopped-up officer in Albuquerque shoots his own undercover, that he’s partnering with on this drug bust. The video, from shooter Lt. Greg Brachle’s body cam, is heavily redacted by the Albuquerque PD, but the audio is pretty clear; only Brachle’s (understandable) obscenities are bleeped.

Jacob Grant, one of two undercovers in the car, survived thanks only to blind luck and his own toughness.

Classic moments in police work:
“Are you okay?”
“No.” (Check the tone on that statement).

No kidding, Dick Tracy. Brachle’s marksmanship was as good as his judgment bad, and the story says Grant was shot nine times (however, Brachle only fired eight shots). Supposedly, every organ in his chest had a bullet or a wound channel in it. Only good basic health, superhuman efforts by the emergency room and surgeons, and blind luck kept him from sleeping the long sleep, starting that night.

Brachle seems to have done everything wrong. He skipped the briefing, approached on the opposite side from the other officers, and most seriously, fired without recognizing his target. Then, he broke down on recognizing his error… and then pitched in to run and get a first aid kit, blubbering miserably while still more or less functional. (That he was able to do this, even if it took him two attempts to find the kit, in the emotional state he was in, is better than one would expect. Perhaps it’s a testament to his training).

Ultimate outcome: for the taxpayers of Albuquerque, lifetime responsibility for Grant’s medical care, and a large lump sum ($6.5M) for Grant and his lawyers. For the leadership of the department, no consequences. For Brachle, no consequences, even though it’s his second bad shoot; if he hadn’t been up for retirement, he’d still be out there protecting and serving the living Jesus out of Albuquerque.

ABQ has shelled out $40 million in settlements in the last six years, largely due to police shootings. But they’re not going to fire anybody. Indeed, their list of what they’ve done is a  catalog of organizational eyewash, and pretty much guarantees another bad shoot soon.

And oh, yeah, the drug dealers they were trying to catch? Not wanting to discuss this in a courtroom, the ABQ PD let ’em all go.

Feel protected enough yet?


While this event happens really fast — too fast, after all, for poor Greg Brachle to have any idea who he was shooting until it was too late — that’s typical of real world Use of Force incidents. Check out this post by Murphy’s Law at Lagniappe’s Lair. There are two videos there (officer’s body cam and dashcam of the unit showing up behind him) and the guy really doesn’t have much time to decide at all. Crazy person acting crazy?

We don’t see much need to add to what ML has written there. Just that it is in your best interests to think through uses of force (and armed self-defense) so that observation & orientation don’t take up too much time.

If you encounter a cop in his or her professional capacity, most people know what to do. Freezing, hands up, is pretty safe. Closing the distance to the cop with an axe in your hand? Not safe. Not bright, either. That’s how these angelic souls keep ascending to an astral plane, lighter by the weight of their bodies, but heavier by a few 125 grain JHPs.

Civil Rights Progress 1986-2016

In thirty years in the United States, gun rights, as proxied by right to carry arrangements in the several States, have undergone remarkable levels of liberalization. You have probably seen the famous color-changing state map. While the year to year change is interesting, it’s hard to beat an A-B comparison of thirty-year start and finish lines. Here is the status quo ante of1986.


In the midst of Ronald Reagan’s second term, only one state, Vermont, does not restrict the carry of firearms by peaceable individuals. Conversely, 16 states, including most of the Midwest and Southwest, have no provision for carrying firearms for self-defense. The largest block of states, 25, allow officials to issue licenses, but the licenses are discretionary, which means different things in different places — and may depend on the whim of a single official. (in some jurisdictions in MA, NY and CA, it’s like shall-issue; across a town line, it’s like no-issue. A denied applicant has no resource, but to move).

This map is only one proxy for gun rights. In many states, possession and use of National Firearms Act firearms such as machine guns, short-barreled long guns, and suppressors is verboten. In 1986, no state permits hunters to use suppressors (and officials would look at you funny if you did). It’s “settled law” (thanks to a misreading of Miller) that the right to bear arms applies only to the organized militia, i.e., the National Guard when under Title 32 authority, and the rump State militias in those states that have them. (In fact, the New York State Guard, nominally a backfill for the National Guard if mobilized, has become by 1986 a political thing you tried to get appointed to if you wanted to acquire otherwise nonexistent gun rights).

And here is the situation today:


more states, of every possible demographic, have gone completely unrestricted. The no-issue States, which had shrunk to one (Illinois), DC and the Territories, have had their restrictive laws overturned by the courts. The restrictive may-issue states are down to a handful of high-crime coastal hellholes. It’s still just as bad in CA, MA, NJ and NY as it ever was. (And their cities are soaked in criminal violence. For which they blame other states with looser laws… but that don’t have such high crime locally. Peculiar).

Several other states have passed restriction-removing bills but have failed to get them signed by anti-gun governors. (Even then, an anti-gun governor sometimes loses. This year, WV overrode anti-gun Governor Ray Tomblin’s veto; Idaho’s anti-gun Butch Otter wanted to veto the bill, but faced both a veto-proof margin in the legislature, and an election year, which combined to melt his spine). As Art McGrath noted at Conservative Review,

In each of these states there was nonsense peddled about increased crime, shootouts in the streets and warnings of impending bloodbath if permits were no longer required. These same tired arguments were made as concealed carry permits became more prevalent a few decades ago and no such spike in violent crime was observed.

Oklahoma has a very neighborly law: they not only recognize other states’ permits, but also other states’ lack of permits: if you’re a resident of one of the 9 unrestricted states, you may carry while in Oklahoma.

In addition to the progress shown on the map, the last 30 years have seen progress on NFA measures and on hunting. For example. 42 states now permit ownership of suppressors, and 39 of them allow hunting. (The 8 outright-ban states are exactly the same as the 8 restrictive may-issue states, as this map from the American Silencer Association shows).


Bills to liberalize laws are being considered in at least 2 of the 11 restrictive states (NH, which allows ownership but not hunting, and MA[!], which at present allows neither).

So, while activists may be unhappy, especially the ones in the high-crime anti-self-defense coastal hellholes, the trends are highly positive, they are accelerating, and the momentum may well carry freedoms as far as Boston and Sacramento in the future.

The key inflection points have been, in our opinon, five:

  1. The Florida shall-issue law of 1987. (The media prediction of blood in the streets did not come to pass, Florida Man notwithstanding);
  2. The Texas shall-issue law. Same prediction, same result. With those two populous states having gone shall-issue and seeing crime reductions, the ball was rolling in a big way.
  3. Alaska going unrestricted in 1994. The media again talked up “blood in the streets” like they really wanted to see it, but they were disappointed.
  4. The long, slow slog of legal scholarship through law reviews and legal seminars. While wins in legislatures move the black-letter law forward, the momentum would have been lost but for a parallel axis of advance in the courts
  5. The Heller decision (and its follow-on McDonald) put the stake in the heart of the restrictionist argument for the time being, although you still have some state courts (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, for one) with reading comprehension issues. These decisions were products of the legal academy advance, but they just as surely were products of the political advance in the state houses and the

Hat tip, Dean Weingarten, whose Gun Watch site should be on your daily schedule. (Dean also notes that at 5 years of age, Wisconsin has issued 300,000 permits and has had one guy convicted of a crime, making WI permit holders literally less murderous than the famously peaceable residents of modern Japan). The famous graphic, known to many through Wikipedia, is the work of Jeff Dege.

The Problem of Busting Bombers

This B-17 made it home to England with pilot Allen Lewis still aboard. He had his crew bail out.. they all made it back to friendly lines.

This B-17G made it home to England with pilot Allyn Lewis still aboard. He had his crew bail out.. they all made it back to friendly lines. Source.

In World War II, the Giulio Douhet-inspired saying, “The bomber will always get through,” was on every set of lips in the command structure of the British and American bomber elements. What they didn’t say out loud was, “If you start off with enough bombers to saturate the defenses, and steel yourself to some staggering losses.”

Quite a few B-17s lost their noses (usually to flak, sometimes to fighters or bombs from another bomber overhead) and kept flying.

Quite a few B-17s lost their noses (usually to flak, sometimes to fighters or bombs from another bomber overhead) and kept flying.

RAF Bomber Command and the 8th Air Force did indeed take some staggering losses. The 8th had it relatively easy compared to their British cousins — and there were more killed in the 8th than in the whole United States Marine Corps in World War II. Yeah, all those bloodbaths on all those islands? The 8th got creamed worse than that. But just about always, they got through, and bombed, if not the intended target, something belonging to Jerry.

But losing the tail meant losing control. The crew had seconds only to abandon ship. None of the ten men on this B-17 did.

But losing the tail meant losing control. The crew had seconds only to abandon ship. None of the ten men on this B-17 were able to, and they joined the 8ths long honor roll.

The Germans threw everything they had at the bomber offensive, although it took them a while to get serious about it. By “everything” we mean:

  • single-engine and heavily-armed twin-engine day and night fighters, armed with a range of guns, cannons and rockets;
  • the most saturated gun air defenses the world has ever seen, with guns from light machine cannon of 20mm up to big bruisers of 105 and 128 mm (or as the German nomenclature ran, 10,5 and 12,8 cm), fighters and guns alike; all controlled by,
  • a radar and radio control network of a sophistication unequaled until the development of NORAD and SAGE in the 1950s; and finally,
  • jet and rocket planes, and developmental air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, too late to do the Germans any good but in plenty of time to give Russian and American aeronautical engineers (and even British aeronautical engineers, which were still a world-class thing in 1945) lots of good ideas for the next arms race.

For an 8,8 cm or 10,5 cm Flakanone, or a battery, battalion or great veritable screaming forest of the guns, destroying the plane was relatively assured — hitting it, that was the hard part. The fighter drivers had the opposite problem — they could hit Lancasters, B-24s or B-17s, but more often than not they’d blow all their ammo into (or at least in the direction of) their targets, and watch the stately bombers fly on to rain death and destruction on German industries and cities. A plane couldn’t carry a bomber-busting 88, or even a 75 (they tried, with a recoilless 75. It was more trouble than it was worth). So they decided to try to teach the fighter pilot to kill, not just hit, the enemy.

"If a Fortress begins to suffer, don't yet dream of victory palms. Keep shooting! Many have come to regret celebrating too soon."

“If a Fortress begins to suffer, don’t yet dream of victory palms. Keep shooting! Many have come to regret celebrating too soon.”

horrido_schiessfibelThe mechanism for this instruction: a mock-grade-school primer, like the ones we’ve already seen for German tanks. Horrido, the Fighter’s Shooting Primer, had a cover graced with a cartoon of a smiling German FW-190 jock zeroing in on a doomed Russian in a Lavochkin. The cartoonist signed “Trautloft,” which makes us wonder if it was Luftwaffe ace Johannes Trautloft. (The internal illustrations and cartoons were done by Berlin commercial artist Thomas Abeking, a second-generation first-call illustrator for German industry at the time). The Fibel, published 23 June 1944 as Dienstvorschrift (Luft) 5001, was a tactical guide, complete with a warning: “Do Not Bring on Combat Flights!” lest the tactics, techniques and procedures inside be captured by the enemy.

Sight picture drill, using a woman.. "get closer"... then in the last image, she's homely: "Break away!" Lower, a B17. Using the wingspan to estimate distance..600m "closer in!".. 300m "open fire, still closer in"... 150m "keep shooting!"

Sight picture drill, using a woman.. “get closer”… then in the last image, she’s homely: “Break away!”
Lower, a B17. Using the wingspan to estimate distance..600m “closer in!”.. 300m “open fire, still closer in”… 150m “keep shooting!”

Written in a familiar tone with lots of cartoons, the principal parts of the book were a general discussion of air combat ballistics and marksmanship; a specific overview of the fire control systems and switchology of the two most numerous day fighters, the Me109G-6 and the Fw190A-6; and hortatory, motivational content.

Instead of a lot of instruction in air combat maneuvering, this is all about how to get hits, and enough hits to justify risking your neck approaching a formation of day bombers. The biggest “secret,” something every fighter ace had stressed since Boelcke’s Dicta of 1916: get close, don’t miss.

Closer in is 9 times more effective. "At this distance, don't shoot! Save ammo, it's very expensive." "And it's also embarrasing when one gets there" (200m) "and would really like to, but can't any more." The pilot's looking at an empty round-counter at right.

Closer in is 9 times more effective. “At this distance, don’t shoot! Save ammo, it’s very expensive.” “And it’s also embarrasing when one gets there” (200m) “and would really like to, but can’t any more.” The pilot’s looking at an empty round-counter at right.

The problem with any manual, even one as informal as this, is that tactics constantly evolve in an environment of enemy contact. This had happened with fighter tactics with, for example, the frontal attack, not discussed in the booklet, proving devastating against the F-model and earlier B-17s, which could only bring two to three guns to bear forward. The advent of the G-model with its remote-controlled chin turret , and the B-24J equipped with a full, manned gun turret in the nose, raised the risk of the frontal attack. German fighters quickly adapted to the new risk profile, changing to a preferential use of multidirectional attacks.

Note also that the mini-manual is aimed only at the individual junior pilot. There is absolutely nothing here about organizing or leading fighter combat, or operational unit tactics, something to which squadron leaders and higher officers gave much thought and discussion. It’s beyond the scope of this small attempt to increase the efficiency of the air defense of the Reich.

"What good is all the bullet spraying, if they're only hitting the general area?"

“What good is all the bullet spraying, if they’re only hitting the general area?”

As the Schießfibel was not published into a vacuum, but into a constantly changing tactical and operational environment, the historian’s question, borrowed from Mark Rylance’s character Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies, “Did it help?” can’t be quantified, or even, really, answered. So we have to answer the question of its effectiveness with an unsatisfying, inconclusive shrug. We don’t know if it did any good. We know it didn’t win the war for Nazi Germany, but by the Summer of 1944 nothing would have done Nazi Germany any good, with the possible exception of overthrowing Hitler.

Here’s a .pdf version of the Fibel for your enjoyment. We are hosting it here to spare them the bandwidth, but we found it on this Czech war-history site.

Horrido Jagers Schiessfibel.pdf


“Don’t Shoot Him No More!”

Raheem Scott left his old Chevy running when he ran into an Exxon station in Atlanta for some oil. When he came out, two thieves were taking off with his car. So he opened up and shot the driver five times, as the woman in the passenger seat shrieked and sobbed, “Don’t shoot him no more!”

scott car

Licensed carriers, can you do that?

Hell no. You can’t do that. Scott is in custody, charged with murder. (We don’t know if Scott was a licensed carrier, a prohibited person, or something in between, at this point. Our hunch is that he will turn out not to be licensed).

He should have listened to the screaming woman; maybe it would only be attempted murder then.

Witnesses outside a gas station told Channel 2 Action News they watched a man open fire on a man who climbed into a black sedan that was left running on the side of the store.

Police received reports of shots fired shortly after 7 p.m. at the Exxon Gas station at 507 Joseph E Lowery Boulevard in southwest Atlanta, near the West End Mall.

The store owner told Channel 2 the owner of the sedan, later identified as 25-year-old Raheem Scott, was inside buying oil.

When Scott came out, 50-year-old William Blackwell, of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, was in the driver’s seat and a woman, who has not yet been identified, was in the passenger’s seat.

A witness, who asked not to be named, told Channel 2 he saw the car owner react.

“I heard five shots and I look back and the girl is screaming don’t shoot him no more!” he said. “She just screaming don’t shoot him no more. Please don’t shoot him no more.”

via Murder charges for man who shot, killed alleged car thief in… |

It’s hard to have an iota of sympathy for William Blackwell, who’s stolen his last car. And we don’t have any sympathy for him; he was a thief, and the world is a better place without him.

And it’s easy to sympathize with Scott. A glance at the car tells you it’s a beater. A lot of people who own beaters, that sad old car is the single biggest asset they have. Sad but true. Losing your car in America means losing your mobility, which is one more reason good-government types who approve the idea of funding the PD by ticketing the working poor for mufflers and taillights irritate us so much. Stealing a poor man’s car is about like draining a Congressman’s Goldman Sachs account — it hits the guy where he lives. (And that’s true whether you’re a sneak thief like the late unlamented William Blackwell, or an official thief who takes the car with court fines and impound fees).

Whether Scott was an itinerant dope dealer, or (as is more likely, just playing the odds) some guy with a marginal job and bills to pay, he knew that that car driving off on him meant complete ruin.

It’s not like Atlanta Police are going to bestir themselves to look for a poor black guy’s stolen beater. Hey, if it’s not a homicide, file it in the circular file.

But assuming arguendo as the law dogs say, that Scott was a licensed carrier, here’s what he did wrong: he killed a man over property. (Indeed, firing the shots was unlawful even if the thief had lived. In some jurisdictions, just drawing the gun in this case would be “brandishing.”)

You have the right to use deadly force in self-defense (and in defense of others) when you are facing deadly force. In other words, if you’re facing aggression. If you’re not facing aggression, then guess what, Sparky? You’re the aggressor, in the eyes of the law. And you better hope your marksmanship was good enough to get you aggravated assault, and not good enough to get you a murder rap, like Raheem Scott here.

Again, we’re going off early news stories and early news stories are often wrong. And we don’t have a lawyer’s understanding of the law, and don’t know anything about the peculiarities of Georgia law. But the principle is pretty universal: you can only use deadly force to prevent death or serious bodily injury. If someone steals your car, you have to let it go. Heck, if someone kills your dog, in almost every state you’re not justified using force on him, because in the eyes of the law, your four-legged family member is just another piece of property.

We can see one glimmer of a chance for Scott (based, of course, on this preliminary information from a news story, which may be 99% manure): if he claims that the thief was trying to run him down in the car, he might create a reasonable doubt. (This is a favorite claim invoked by cops after a shooting, but it’s unlikely to be as effective in the hands of a citizen. For one thing, cops are allowed to shoot fleeing felons, within limits. You’re not).

Every year some of these cases come up, and someone who thought he made a good shoot is about to get a long, hard lesson in the preferences of the law. Usually the shoot went bad because someone kept shooting at a fleeing felon (i.e., no longer posing a deadly threat), or because someone, like in this case, shot when life was not in danger.

Konduz Hospital Attack: Where the Report Didn’t Go

The MSF hospital in Konduz burns. Nuclear aircrew error in the megaton range, made inevitable by the USAF's disrespect for judgment and CRM training.

The MSF hospital in Konduz burns. Nuclear aircrew failure in the megaton range, made inevitable by the USAF’s disrespect for judgment and CRM training.

Looking over the news stories about the findings of the Konduz accident report board — which have been leaked to “friendly” media like the Associated Press and the New York Times, and which concentrate, in a 5,000 page report, on finding lower-ranking personnel to blame for the accident. Accordingly, a baker’s dozen of Air Force and Army personnel will be reprimanded or undergo nonjudicial punishment. From the statements in the press so far, it seems likely that the investigation has focused on public relations impact rather than factual and operational analysis, and that the remedies on offer are the ritual sacrifice of scapegoats, rather than anything likely to produce improvements.

A preliminary report was “buried” by a Thanksgiving eve release.

No one has been covered in glory in this incident. (For example, from the initial 22 Afghans reported killed in the accident, the death toll had hit 30 by October, 2015, and now stands at 42. By Christmas it will be 85, all of whose relatives will have been paid compensation by USFOR-A).

The thing is, this exact accident has happened three times before. (More than thrice, actually, but we’re going to look at three instances). And both times, the Air Force in particular (although this is a joint and all-service problem) identified individuals as responsible and hung them from the Air Force career equivalent of a yardarm, while protecting the organization itself from the consequences of organizational problems. And therefore, not fixing the problem. 

The principal flaw is the weakness of judgment training and resource management training for all three legs of the failure stool here — the SF team on the ground, the AC-130 crew in the air, and the HQs whose micromanagement approach failed. But the services, especially the Air Force, continue to rely on remote micromanagement rather than on-deck judgment for target discrimination.

As it has for the whole duration of the war, the failure of micromanagement will cause the failed HQs to lash out at the war fighters they failed, and throw some individuals under the bus.

Instance Number 1: AC-130 Friendly Fire

This AC-130 time exposure was shot over Iraq, but it's pretty typical. The tracers are a psychological weapon.

This AC-130 time exposure was taken in Iraq, but it’s pretty typical. The tracers are a psychological weapon.

This mishap, from over 14 years ago, so directly foreshadowed the Konduz accident that it seems clear that the Air Force in general and the AC-130 community in particular learned nothing from it.

On 2 March 2002, an AC-130 crew lost situational awareness and inertial navigation all in the same evening, continued blundering around the Afghan sky, and delivered a strike on a “Taliban element” that turned out to be a small US Special Forces-led Afghan element leading off the major conventional forces assault, Operation Anaconda. Several Afghan strike force members and Chief Warrant Officer Stan Harriman of 3rd Special Forces Group were killed. The 15-6 investigation found a complete breakdown of judgment, procedures, and cockpit resource management aboard the mishap aircraft. Ultimately, no one was held responsible, and nothing was changed.

(A situational awareness and information sharing network was developed by the Naval Postgraduate School and named STAN — Surveillance and Targeting Acquisition Network — in Harriman’s honor. Subsequently, it was renamed again. Doesn’t matter, as it was never adopted. Details in a .pdf available at this page).

Instance Number 2: Helicopter Fratricide.

Going further back, the Air Force had been warned about CRM and judgment training both prior to, and more forcefully, after, the breakdown in communication and judgment during Operation Provide Comfort no-fly zone enforcement that led two USAF F-15s under control of an AWACS aircraft to target and destroy two Army UH-60 helicopters which were also communicating with the AWACS, on 14 April 1994. There were multiple, systemic CRM and judgment errors, and neglect of established procedures, by the Army helicopters, the Air Force AWACS controllers, and the two USAF F-15s that downed the helicopters, killing 26. The F-15 crews claimed that the mishap aircraft were indistinguishable from Mi-24 Hind-D aircraft operated by Iraq.

At first, no one was held responsible1 but with several friendly nations’ officers having died in the mishap, then there was a half-hearted attempt to prosecute the airborne controller on the AWACS, Captain Jim Wang.

CRM and ADM expert Allen Diehl offered to testify at Wang’s trial, to wit, that as a matter of Air Force policy he had not received the training he needed to break this accident chain. The prosecution (under a court martial, prosecution = command) managed to exclude Diehl’s testimony, so Diehl instead went on TV in hopes of reaching the unsequestered jury.

For that, and for his advocacy in the Case of the Capped Canadians below, Diehl lost his job at the USAF Safety Center. The Air Force, comfortable to the point of complacency with these accidents, made no changes in the inadequate CRM and ADM instruction in Air Combat Command and ARSOF, setting up the Afghanistan incidents.

Instance Number 3: The Case of the Capped Canadians

In Afghanistan, multiple friendly fire incidents both preceded and followed the AC-130 attack of March, 2002.  One of the most egregious happened just the next month, when an Air National Guard F-16 aircraft dropped a bomb on Canadian soldiers practicing on a firing range. 4 Canadian soldiers were killed and 8 more were wounded, some of them very seriously.

Diehl, reviewing the accident, blamed it on the collapse of the ANG’s earlier CRM and judgment-training program. Officially, the Air Force did not extend responsibility beyond the fighter cockpits. The F-16 pilot and his flight lead were initially charged with manslaughter; the charges were later reduced from such court-martial offenses. The flight lead was forced to retire early, the bomb-dropping wingman was found responsible for Dereliction of Duty under Article 15, UCMJ nonjudicial punishment.

Nothing was done about CRM and ADM training, setting up the Konduz mishap.


What The Pentagon Will Do and Why It Won’t Work

Past behavior is the best guide to future behavior. Accordingly, the Pentagon, and the Air Force, will first come down hard on the individuals most proximately and immediately responsible for this. As well they should. What they will not do is extend responsibility out of the flight deck of the AC-130, except maybe to the Army dudes on the ground. And they most definitely will not improve or integrate a combat judgment training module based on proven aeronautical decision making and cockpit resource management precepts.

It’s the deep-seated resistance to this kind of training at the senior levels of the junior service that is why we keep seeing this same accident over, and over, and over again. Did the crew of the AC-130 fail? Yes, in several clear and identifiable ways. But they also were failed by their training and by their leadership.

In addition, the SOF team that was in combat on the ground is being crucified for… drum roll… engaging in combat. (They were supposed to be advising. How do you do combat advising without getting shot at? The answer is, as every advisor from every advisory nation since T.E. Freaking Lawrence could tell you, very poorly). And supposedly their combat deployment was unknown to their chain of command. Despite the fact everyone in the double-damned Pentagon had been reading their combat reports for five days prior to this incident. Five days in which they’d been engaged without rest, relief or much in the way of support because of the Pentagon and the senior leadership’s insistence that the War In Afghanistan Is Over™. Because The Emperor in His New Clothes, uh, King Canute, er, The President and Supreme Personality of Godhead said so.

And the predictable result of this is: sometime in the near future, someone will be writing about an air strike on some of our troops, our allied troops, or civilian noncombatants as if it was one of those “random accidents” that are “unavoidable” and “just happen,” and someone else will write an unheeded blog post citing some of these antecedent “unavoidable’ and “random accidents” and point out the accidents are not random, and are only unavoidable if you remain determined not to avoid them.

Diehl, for his part, calls the victims of these predictable future accidents people who are under “statistical death sentences.” He’s right.

In Praise of the Single Shot Firearm

We have never had the patience for single shot firearms. That is exactly why we like them.

Here's a vintage Stevens single-shot pistol. It doesn't get simpler than this.

Here’s a vintage Stevens single-shot pistol. It doesn’t get simpler than this. All images from GunBroker.

We probably should explain that. Patience, you see, is a virtue, but it’s one that is unevenly distributed. (It can be developed, to a degree, but like any other talent you can only build on the foundation you already have). And like any young guy with limited patience, we always sought ways of firing MOAR BULLETZ MOAR FASTLY.

Here's a rifle for the confident hunter: Ruger Nº 1

Here’s a rifle for the confident hunter: Ruger Nº 1. Available in calibers for squirrel to dangerous African game.

It took a while to dawn on us that time spent practicing speedloads so that you could burn another mag (or belt) in the general direction of the berm, while fun, wasn’t necessarily productive.

You see, whether you are shooting in a competition (and in SF, shooting was always a competition, even if only with your teammates for who’d buy the beers), or shooting for real (which is the ultimate competition), only hits count. 

There are antiques out there, like this M1885 Winchester High Wall (designed by John Moses Browning).

There are antiques out there, like this M1885 Winchester High Wall (designed by John Moses Browning).

There’s something about the necessary discipline of loading a single round, aiming it, firing it, extracting and repeating as needed. It seems to settle the mind and encourage attention to the fundamentals of shooting.

In these days of .22 ammo shortages, it’s nice to have a natural rhythm, and get an hour of shooting out of a box or two of ammo.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot .22 is a sporter on a target action.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot bolt action .22 is a sporter on a target action.

The funny thing is this: any repeater, semi-auto or revolver can be a single shot if you want it to be. Simply single-load the rounds. This can get fiddly with some auto actions where the follower activates the bolt hold-open, and it doesn’t work with some tightly-enclosed actions, like many lever actions. But while it really does work with most guns, it doesn’t force on you a deliberate rhythm, the way a single shot firearm does.

There’s something about a single-shot firearm. The guy shooting a single shot is serious… he’s like the guy that rides his bicycle to work, or the guy who disdains a guitar collection for one simple Telecaster because he hasn’t found all its tones yet in the forty years he’s owned it.

Shooting single-shot is doing things the hard way, not because there’s no alternative, but simply to rise to the challenge of it.