Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

How to Deal with Pool Guns — for the Border Patrol

The Border Patrol has been “effectively disarmed” of its M4 carbines by its political leaders. But there’s a solution to the M4 problem.


But first, the problem. According to CBP leaders via Fox, it is this:

Nearly one-third of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s 16,300 M4 carbine rifles were tested by the agency’s office of training and development, which determined that more than 2,000 had the potential for malfunction. The rate of nearly 40 percent was “more than we are comfortable with,” said CBP Deputy Chief Ron Vitiello.

Is one of the problems the sheer innumeracy of Ron Vitiello? Let’s do arithmetic! To determine what percentage X is of Y, divide X by Y. So, 2000/16400 = 0.1919512… (etc). That’s about 19.2%, not 40%. Unless you’re Ron Vitiello. To put in numbers a CBP senior manager can understand, about 1 in 5 of the rifles has “the potential” for malfunction.

Dunno how to break it to you, Border Patrol. You have to plan and train as if 100% of the M4s in your hands have the potential for malfunction… because they do. Even if the gun is perfect, the ammo was made by the lowest bidder. And it would be just your luck to draw down on Carlos Cartelito just when the round under your firing pin was made one minute before quitting time on the Friday before spring break.

If there’s some proof you have a bunch of guns with a problem — CBP has never said what the problem is — it might make sense to pull some of the guns. To pull them all because one in five may have a problem is just stupid.

“Our top priority is to make sure our agents are safe,” said Vitiello, adding that the agency intends to eventually cycle through all of the rifles to ensure that those in need of repair are fixed. “They will be like new when they are refurbished.”

Again, without knowing what the problem is… out of spec parts? Unstaked carrier key? Skipped mag-release tests? Lack of metallurgical documentation on some parts batch? Without knowing that, it’s screwy and wasteful to reflexively overhaul guns when it’s likely 4 out of 5 do not need it. An M4 can last for many decades on the light duty cycle of a CBP service carbine. Ask the guys who run shooting schools and provide loaner guns how much maintenance a quality M4 really needs.

But in the meantime, Border Patrol agents are dubious about the department’s claims, given that the guns’ manufacturer, Colt, has not issued a recall. And they are vehemently opposed to “pool guns” — weapons shared by two or more agents.

“We’d like to know why the rifles were recalled and when they will be returned,” Shawn Moran, spokesman for National Border Patrol Council, the union which represents agents, told “Our agency is trying to figure out why they were pulled.”

Note that Vitielly has not answered that question, not to the media nor to the NBPC, and he may not know himself.

Moran said there is potential danger for agents relying on rifles shared with others, noting the importance of personalizing settings and having a general familiarity with a personal weapon.

“You don’t want a weapon that is zeroed in to someone else,” he said. “You don’t share guns and you don’t share needles because both could end with people dying.

It appears that they are pulling about half the carbines at a time from each Border Patrol sector, sending them to a central armorer shop that then takes its own sweet time inspecting and reissuing the guns. They don’t necessarily go back to the same sectors (let alone the same agents) that they were with before, and no information is provided to end users about what repairs or mods, if any, are made to any specific firearm.

Now, the NBPC can squawk about this if they like. But it’s not like the management is going to suddenly start giving a stool about the desires of the rank-and-file agents. So here’s a little checklist from a guy who’s built a gun or two, and inspected a vast quantity (the civilized way of saying a Whole $#!+load) of them.

How To Deal with Pool Guns (When You Must)

  1. First, stop bitching. You’re not going to change DC’s policy; no matter how retarded Nebraska Avenue gets, they’re still in charge. So work to minimize their damage to your operations and reduce the risk bad leadership at higher level has imposed on your agents.
  2. Don’t have armorers do these things. You, as leader, do these things.  In a few minutes you’ll be putting toe tags on your guns. These tags should have your name clearly legible, and the date of inspection or test: that tells your guys and gals you are standing behind their firearms. This builds confidence in the rifle — and in you.
  3. Function check the weapons you have. Dummy rounds should cycle. Mags should drop free (empty or loaded!) and it should be impossible to shake them free (empty or loaded!) no matter how vigorously you try. Triggers should reset and fire on Fire. Nothing should happen on Safe. You can find a function check in the GI M4 manual, or on YouTube if you’re dyslexic. Toe tag the weapon: Function Test. 15 Nov 2014. PASS. John Doe, SSA (or whatever).
  4. Range test the weapons you have. A mag each is fine. As we understand it, CBP’s carbines are not select fire, but if they are, test safe, semi, and burst or auto settings. Add the following to the toe-tag on the weapon: Live-FIre Test. 15 Nov 2014. PASS. John Doe, SSA (or whatever). If a gun fails, downcheck it and turn it in. It’s better to know you’re a gun short than to be a gun short and not know it.
  5. Install an Aimpoint Red Dot optic on each firearm. Why?
    1. A red-dot zero is far more transferable from one agent to another than an iron-sight or cross-hair scope video;
    2. A red-dot sight is simple and instinctive, reducing training time;
    3. A red-dot sight is perfect for 99th-percentile Law Enforcement engagement distances;
    4. A red-dot sight’s battery will last a full year between inspections easily; and
    5. Aimpoint brand holds up on quality and durability scores, and it’s already approved and in the system. (Get an NVG compatible version if you have or are likely to get NODs. If no NODs are in your future, don’t waste Uncle’s money).
  6. Have your best marksmen zero the M4s with the Aimpoints. An individual zero is not a big factor here, contrary to range-god shibboleths. This is a service rifle, not a talisman to Aton the Sun Disk (may he smile upon your X-Ring always, but let’s keep Him out of rifle maintenance), and we just got through telling you the red dot is transferable. Add the following to the toe-tag on the weapon: Zeroed Point-Blank 100m (or whatever). 15 Nov 2014. Jane Roe, Special Agent (or whoever your best shot is).

Now, you still only have half the long guns you need for your agents to be comfortable facing the cartel sicarios or other long-gun-armed malefactors. And when you get the other half back is  entirely out of your control, but depends on some payroll patriots somewhere else who don’t answer to you. But you have done everything you could to arm your agents, demonstrated you give a rat’s rump about them, and cut off a potential morale problem a-borning.

Now it’s time for the pep talk. Tell them what you did and what they can expect. Make sure they understand that they are now better armed that the cartel enforcers with weapons that are proven reliable and that will put a bullet where the red dot is. They’ll still complain, but fixing that is beyond the scope of this blog.

One last comment:

Jeff Prather, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent who now runs the Warrior School…. [and] who used the M4 throughout his law-enforcement career, said the weapon is “very robust” and that any issues found in the Border Patrol inspections are likely simple fixes.

“All you need to do is pull out the old firing pin and put in the new one and the rifle is ready to go,” he said.

Vitiello said that may be the case, but the work must be done by a specialist.

“It may be easy to replace a firing pin, but these are things that should be done by a professional,” he said.

Horsefeathers. Don’t be too awed by armorers; they’re simple gun plumbers. An M4 is not a Saturn V Moon Booster. Most every manufacturer1 certifies armorers in two days or less of training, and the benefit of experience is an asymptote: returns for more training and experience start diminishing almost immediately.

via Border Patrol agents say agency’s gun recall puts them in danger | Fox News.


1. For example, Colt’s LE Armorer course is three training days and 23.5 training hours, but covers multiple rifles and carbines. Bushmaster, two days and 15 hours; Sig-Sauer, 1 day; and we could cite many others if the post weren’t already late!

Weapons Term that Stumped Us: “Pronock”?

We don’t often run into a word referring to weapons that’s completely unfamiliar to us. Even more rarely, we can’t even track the word down. That’s what happened to us in reviewing a 1952 document by the Operations Research Office, a now-defunct FFRDC1 operated by the US Army at the time.

Even generals got in on the tank killing. Of course, this one wound up a POW, out doing a corporal's job with a bazooka.

Even generals got in on the tank killing. Of course, this one wound up a POW, out doing a corporal’s job with a bazooka.

The document reviews the performance of US tanks and tank units in the first year of the Korean War. It was originally classified as SECRET, and the second of two volumes does not seem to have survived. The lost (?) second volume comprised Appendix K to the fundamental document: surveys of some 239 North Korean T-34 tanks examined by American ordnance experts. Fortunately, some conclusions from those surveys made it into the first volume.

But the original document is full of fascinating insights. One of them was that napalm was hugely successful against Nork T-34/85s, and was potentially a threat to American tanks. Napalm is mentioned nearly 60 times in the 308-page report. The mechanism of destruction wasn’t completely certain, but it appeared to be that the nape set the tanks’ solid rubber road wheels on fire, and the burning wheels got hot enough to cook off the rounds in the tanks’ sponsons. FOOM! End of tank, or as tankers say now, “catastrophic loss.” In 1952, the term was “loss, unrecoverable.” That described the situation where the burnt-out hull was here, the insinerated turret was there, and both of them had small, carbonized cinders of what had been the crewmen.

Unknown what killed this tank, but napalm is a possibility. It appears to be buttoned up, but still burning. Tough luck for the Norks inside.

Unknown what killed this tank, but napalm is a possibility. It appears to be buttoned up, but still burning. Tough luck for the Norks inside.

On the basis of limited evidence, air attack accounted for 40 percent of all enemy tank losses in Korea, and 60 percent of all enemy tank losses caused by UN weapons.

On the basis of limited evidence, napalm was the most effective antitank air weapon thus far used in Korea. (p.2).

The difference between all enemy tank losses, and enemy tank losses caused by UN weapons is presumably the same thing that caused a lot of US/UN losses: mechanical failure. A table on p. 36 bears this out, and is discussed on p. 35:

On the basis of this record, the greatest single cause of loss in NK T34’s would seem to be UN air attack, which accounted for 102 out of 239, or about 43 percent of the total losses.

Napalm appears to be the most effective weapon of all, accounting for 60, or about 23 percent of the total count. Abandonments, in most instances without any visible evidence of cause, accounted for 59, almost another 25 percent of the total count. Tank fire was the third largest single cause, knocking out 39 tanks, or about 16 percent. (p. 35).

This led to a discussion of napalm’s effects:

Napalm as a weapon to defeat armor must be given rather special consideration. It is essentially a weapon of an accidental nature. With the possible exception of the relatively rare occurrence of a direct hit, napalm does not of itself destroy or seriously damage a tank. However, it is fully capable of starting a chain of events which may bring about the loss of the vehicle. A napalm bomb, if a hit is registered sufficiently close to the tank, will splash its burning fluid on the tank. Because of the fire, the crew may suffer burns or be induced to abandon the tank. However from the prisoner of war interrogations it appears that tank crews usually had sufficient time to get clear before the fire had spread (see Appendix D). However, the abandonment of the tank ultimately led to its destruction, for the napalm from the first or successive strikes had sufficient time to ignite the rubber on the road wheels, heat the ammunition to the point of detonation, and set fire to the fuel. Any or all of these factors brought about the loss of the tank. (p. 37).

Amplified, and considered in terms of US tanks in this partly redundant passage:

From a general examination of US tanks, the Air Force Operations Analysis tests of napalm against T34 tanks (FEAF Operationr Analysis Office Memo No. 27, prepared jointly with Deputy for Operational Engineering, FEAF, 30 October 1950) and the ORO tank survey (see Appendix K), it is belleved that napalm- caused tank fires are essentially “accidental” in nature, i.e.,
the napalm itself does not have enough energy to set ammunition or fuel afire by bating a tank, but it does have enough effect to set afire rubber bogie wheels , which In turn can fire the tank bilge or amnunition and thus kill the tank. Also, napalm entering through the air intake of a tank can set the bilge afire, again firing ammunition and killing the tank. It appears that both of these “accidents” can be eliminated by minor tank redesign or by fire extinguishing techniques. (p. 59).

Not clear what killed these tanks, but our guess is that the Nork crewman in the foreground suffered a terminal case of amall-arms projectile sickness.

Not clear what killed these tanks, but our guess is that the Nork crewman in the foreground suffered a terminal case of amall-arms projectile sickness.

The USSR may conclude on the basis of the Korean campaign that napalm is a very effective antitank weapon. This possible conclusion can be vitiated by minor redesign of US tanks to reduce effectiveness of “accidental” fires. In future attack on Soviet-manufactured tanks, napalm may remain effective, but the types of fluid filler–such as “G” agents, chlorine trifluoride, or pronock — in improved napalm-type tanks may be even more effective. (p. 60).

There’s the word “pronock.” What is it?

But first, let’s continue our digression into the Korean War tank effectiveness report. The unexpected effects of nape on tanks got the ORO thinking. Some of the thoughts probably explain why the report was classified so highly in the first place:

On the basis of the burning of the rubber on tank road wheels with napalm, resulting in the destruction of the tank, tanks appear vulnerable to 40-kt atomic-weapons attack up to a distance of 2,500 yards on a clear day, and 2,000 yards on a hazy day. (p.3).

Er… yeah. T-34s were vulnerable to destruction by nuking. We’ll accept that.

Original caption: Napalm Bomb Victims.  Mute testimony of accuracy of close support missions flown by Fifth Air Force fighters are these Red Korean tanks, blasted out of the path of advancing 24th Infantry Division units near Waegwan, Korea. AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM#:  77799 AC

Original caption: Napalm Bomb Victims. Mute testimony of accuracy of close support missions flown by Fifth Air Force fighters are these Red Korean tanks, blasted out of the path of advancing 24th Infantry Division units near Waegwan, Korea.

And then there was a list of things that the US ought to develop, based on combat experience with tanks in Korea:

Support a vigorous and expanded research and development program to provide a balanced family of antitank weapons without, however, either overemphasizing or neglecting the role of heavy gun tanks such aa the US T43. This program should emphasize:

a. Development of an effective long-range antitank gun for use by the infantry. This gun should be capable of being moved over rough and unfavorable terrain, preferably in a light, highly mobile vehicle.

That, of course, is the paragraph that gave birth (by a circuitous route, it’s true) to the US M40 106mm recoilless rifle. The M40’s immediate ancestor, the M27, would be rushed to Korea and tested in combat.

b. Development of a family of lethal, influence-fused antitank mines s with sterilizing and arming devices, suitable for remining by rockets, artillery, and air.

Simultaneous development of corresponding mine-detection &vclearing devices.

That stands to reason.

d. Research and development on new types, of air and ground munitions utilizing liquid fillers, such as napalm, chlorine trifluoride, pronock, and G-agents.

That’s the strange use of the strange word, “pronock.” What is it? Napalm is well known. G-agents are nerve agents originally developed by the Germans: Tabun, Soman, Sarin, and Cyclosarin, known in the US/NATO coding system as GA, GD, GB and GF respectively.

Chlorine trifluoride is less well-known, but was a remarkable German “twofer” that produced both incendiary and toxic effects, and that was produced by the Third Reich’s chemical-warfare directorate as “N-stoff” or “Substance N.” The incendiary effect of ClF3 is pretty remarkable — it’s hypergolic not only with normal fuels, but also with water. And it can set asbestos on fire. It does bad things to human beings. It’s never actually been used in warfare (or in most other applications) because containing and handling it is a challenge; Rocketdyne once developed rocket engines that used this stuff as oxydizer with Hydrazine Hydrate as fuel. Hydrazine (N2H4), another Nazi product (as the fuel in the mixture “C-stoff”) used in the V1 and Me163, still has some uses (in the ACES ejection seat, IIRC), but is itself among the nastier things in the hazmat catalogue.

For completeness’s sake, the last of the list of recommendations:

e. Continued development of special amunition, such as shaped-charge and squash-head ammunition, together with improved bazookas and recoilless rifles.

But what in the name of science is “pronock?” It clearly is something that can be used as a tank filler, like napalm, like chlorine trifluoride, like the G-agents. And something that, like those substances, one would rather not have fall on him. Beyond that, we’re stumped. Google was not our friend, either.


Looking for some photos of tank kills definitely attributed to napalm, we found this period article on napalm in Korea which depicts — unfortunately, in a very horribly reproduced half-tone — one of the tests of napalm on a captured T-34. It also describes the thickened gasoline’s composition, and effects on the enemy:

Red tankmen weren’t afraid of diving planes at first, their tough armor would repel 20 mm fire, it was hard to hit the maneuvering tank with rockets, and bombs had to be right on to kill a tank. Napalm was another story. Pilots drop the fire bombs short from low altitude, let it skip to the target. Accuracy is not at a premium. The napalm bomb will cover a pear-shaped area 275 feet long and 80 feet wide. A solid sheet of 1500° fire envelops everything , Killing personnel, exploding ammunition. It is not a flash fire like gasoline alone would be but clings and burns and burns.

… As fast as the Reds moved in tanks to stop the retreat, napalm was dropped on them. They ran out of tanks and weight of phases of the war have seen far fewer communist tanks in action.

The article noted two indirect effects of napalm on the enemy: tanks would be found with the crews inside, unmarked but dead of suffocation, the napalm fires having stolen the very oxygen from the air they breathed. And the psychological effects of the weapon induced many surrenders.


1. FFRDC: Federally Funded Research and Developmant Corporation. The most famous are probably RAND, which was sponsored by the USAF. The ORO was an Army/Johns Hopkins lashup, that the Army grew tired of and pulled the plug on in the 1960s.

Even a Good Police Response is Too Late: Aurora Analysis

Screenshot 2014-11-07 22.43.06The city of Aurora, Colorado paid to have a third-party operations-analysis shop, much like the one that we occasionally work for, review their response to the Century 16 theater shooting.

A redacted copy of that report has been posted by the state courts, thanks to a public-records lawsuit. And we have some interesting takeaways from that report. First, our link to the .pdf on the Colorado website:

And here’s a copy from our servers, in case that one goes paws-up: Aurora After Action Review Report Redacted.pdf

And two things leap out from that report, which lacks an Executive Summary:

  • The police response was pretty damned good;
  • The police response was entirely insufficient.

The Police Response Was Outstanding

Unlike the reportedly leisurely response of the Newtown, Connecticut PD to their shooting nightmare (20+ minutes), the Aurora cops rode to the sound of the guns with spurs on. Public Safety Dispatch was quickly overwhelmed with calls; seven calls were received in one minute before a patrol unit was dispatched. The first patrol car, Cruiser 11, was onsite in under two minutes from the inital 911 call (51 seconds from the call going out over the radio); 6 cars were there in under three, and 14 units by the time the four-minute bell rang. (When it was clearly a mass-response event, the responding officers did not report in on air, to keep the channel clear; their cruisers were tracked with onboard GPS).

The response was as skilled as it was timely. The officers who responded had recent and recurrent active shooter training, and they were tasked to respond, identify and neutralize the active shooter without delay and without waiting for SWAT or other specialized units. Those units were called out, and quickly responded, but the shooter was already in custody. The exact time he was apprehended is unclear — with his trial still pending, that part of the report is redacted — but it appears clear that he ceased firing on the arrival of police, if not before, and attempted to escape by stealth. He was unsuccessful.

The first reported contact of police with a victim came when patrolman 514 called in at 3:02 elapsed (since the initial 911 call). The next reported victim contact was at 4:10 elapsed.

The department is well organized and manned; there are more cops per capita than in typical Western US cities. They conduct frequent exercises alone and with other agencies; they do an exercise in the schools every year. The fire department is similarly ahead of the national curve, with all FFs being EMTs and new hires required to become EMT-Ps for almost a decade now. Prior to the incident, the FD had participated in many active shooter training exercises with the police.

Emergency response distancesAnd the circumstances favored a rapid response: unlike in Connecticut, where the incident happened during a period of heavy traffic, the Aurora crime took place after midnight, with empty roads, a mere mile by road from the nearest police station (a half mile directly). The incident happened right at shift change, so 126 officers were on duty. As noted above, they started responding right away, and kept responding (an hour later, there were over 50 cars on scene from Aurora alone, despite many of the initial responders having used their cars to evacuate wounded. (Indeed, the cars would cause a logjam interfering with ambulance access, common in such incidents).

There were some other lucky breaks. When firefighters were held back because of uncertainty about the security situation, victims were triaged and, in some cases, treated, by a police paramedic, muting the consequences of holding the fire paramedics back. There were no less than six trauma centers close by; no victim bled out waiting for treatment.

While the report finds some room for improvement in police and fire responses, and makes suggestions for improvements (some of which have already been made), the Aurora public safety officials have much justfication for pride. Thanks to the efforts of first responders, the shooter was stopped, and every victim with survivable wounds did survive.

That’s about as good as a police and fire response can ever hope to do.

…But it was Still Too Late

By the time that first cop car was on the scene, 82 people had been injured, 12 of them fatally. 10 of the 12 were clearly DRT and were pronounced at the scene; two were transported and pronounced, one on arrival and one shortly thereafter. An amazing 58 had received survivable gunshot wounds. (In combat, we note that 1:4 is a typical ratio of killed:wounded, so this is not far off the median). In addition to the 70 shooting victims, 12 more people had been injured, some seriously, in the panicked escape from the theater.

The criminal did all this in two minutes. Of which less than one minute elapsed between Dispatch putting the call out and Unit 11 calling in at the scene of the crime. Now, the sections of the report dealing with the criminal’s actions have been redacted (as we mentioned, because his trial has yet to begin), but these conclusions from the report pretty much brings the limitations of police response into stark relief:

Members of the Aurora Police Department followed the active shooter strategy, acting bravely and professionally as they encountered an unknown shooting situation with multiple seriously injured victims. Police units arrived very quickly, less than 3 minutes from the first 911 call. XXXXXXXXXXXX. All victims with survivable injuries were saved. (p. 13)

Overall, there probably could not have been much better deployment and results than the Aurora police achieved. They deployed on the fly, with self-deployments initially, then gradually implementing more formal incident command. The one large exception to the success was the inadequate relationship with fire department command during the key part of the incident, but that did not affect the outcome—at least not this time. (p.27)

This incident gives additional evidence that rapid response to active shooters is imperative; XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Every minute counts in reporting and responding to an incident. (p.27)

(X’s are redactions). One way in which rapid action worked was the transport of several critically injured patients. While the first patient was not moved by an ambulance until over 15 minutes had passed, several had been hauled in Aurora PD patrol cars, and one actually ran to Aurora Hospital. The use of patrol cars to transport casualties was never planned, exercised or even permitted; instead, it was a brilliant improvisation by the officers at the scene that day.

What Would Help?

Since a cop got there less than a minute after the call, and the shooter desisted on that cop’s arrival, if not before, it’s pretty clear that you can’t do anything to improve the results of police response, unless you plan to station a cop in every theater. So your choices come down to accepting such massacres1, or hardening the target. Conventional methods of target hardening include armed guards or metal detectors; an unconventional method would be to allow patrons to be armed2.

The report punts on a gun recommendation, but makes some rather laughable recommendations for victims trapped in a similar situation:

Inform the public on appropriate measures if caught in a shooting situation. Nationally, thousands of people have been exposed each year to small- and large-scale shooting incidents. There are likely to be more. The key guidance to offer is:

  • Flee if you can.
  • If not possible, hide or shelter.
  • If neither is possible, consider attacking XXXXXXX, preferably in concert with others, throwing anything handy to distract or injure him.

The X’s represent a redaction, again. While it is better to counterattack with an improvised weapon, “anything handy,” than to cringe helplessly in expectation of imminent death, it seems self-evident that a counterattack with deadly force would be preferable.

Other recommendations were remarkable in their simplicity for the relative benefit they would convey. One example is simply to have all the police cruisers in the fleet keyed alike, or to have master keys available to supervisors. This would have solved the gridlock caused by dozens of cars left standing by responding officers.


1. There is some belief that superior policies towards the mentally ill might prevent such massacres, but it’s extremely hard to define a policy that would have disabled the criminal in this case, without creating a civil rights monster. While he was clearly a disturbed individual, the ability of psychiatrists or psychologists to predict violent behavior based on his past conduct is extremely limited.

2. The theater chain that owned this property, Century, has a “no-weapons for licensed carriers,” or Victim Disarmament Zone, policy, on political grounds; and thereby assumes responsibility for patrons’ safety, and welcomes strict and unlimited financial liability for violent crimes on its property. The shooter bypassed several other theaters that were closer to his apartment, larger, or otherwise more suitable, to go to the one that was placarded against non-criminals carrying guns.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Art of the Rifle

art of the rifle analysisArt of the Rifle was sent to us by a friend who, like so many of us, constantly strives to improve. He noted that our recent W4, Precision Rifle Blog, was great. “Data-driven just the way we like it. And if you like that, you must like Art of the Rifle, right?”

“Sure, the book by Jeff Cooper. It’s a little dated now…”

“No, knucklehead. The blog.” So we hunted up the blog he was referring to. He liked the pseudonymous owner’s near-obsessive data collection and organization. We’ll show some examples of that momentarily.

What does the author say about his blog?

In May of 2011 I decided to begin documenting my progress in rifle shooting via a blog. Being extremely curious as to the finer points of using a rifle, and not being able to find information about that kind of stuff online, I decided to learn it and fill the information gap myself. I hope that what I do here will provide useful information or a source of some interest to you.

via About | Art of the Rifle.

To us, and perhaps to the friend who tipped us off, the most interesting part of the blog was his recent one-year attempt to hit a remarkably practically-opriented goal:

Develop the ability to hit an uncooperative moving target, no greater than 4” in diameter, inside of 200 yards at known or unknown distance, on demand, regardless of terrain, conditions, stress, tiredness, fatigue, or time constraints.

He analyzed ten different shooting positions, documenting things that are “common knowledge” (such as, a supported position is superior to unsupoported) but providing a quantitative measure of exactly how superior it is.

art of the rifle chartAt the end of his year, he posted comprehensive data (see the chart on the right for an example) and a rather bleak, but refreshingly honest, conclusion:

My actual performance in hitting the 4″ target is nowhere near my goal. It was humbling to see the results on a stationary target. It is much better to be informed than to be ignorant and to believe in capabilities that one does not actually possess.

Anybody trying that hard to get better at shooting is going to get better. Not without difficulties, plateaus, and reversals, but he’s going to get better, and if your personality is suited for his style of analytic approach, you can learn things at his blog that will help you get better.

Other parts of the blog we found very valuable are

  • the “Reading,” or sources/enrichment page, with both blogs and books referenced (indeed, Cooper’s classic Art of the Rifle makes an appearance here, suggesting that the blog’s name is inspired).
  • The Reference Section, which gathers key information and posts from the Art of the Rifle blog into a single page.

Enjoy this week’s Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week, then, Art of the Rifle Blog.

Fred the Great: On Duty, and On General Order Nº1

Frederick II "The Great's" sarcophagus was hidden in a mineshaft by Nazis who feared it would be destroyed by the Allies. It wasn't (his peripatetic corpse finally was buried on his lawn where he'd originally requested -- in the 21st Century).

Frederick II “The Great’s” sarcophagus was hidden in a mineshaft by Nazis who feared it would be destroyed by the Allies. It wasn’t (his peripatetic corpse finally was buried on his lawn where he’d originally requested — in the 21st Century).

Frederick II, “the Great,” of Prussia was one of the most brilliant generals that ever lived. His strategy, his tactics, and his relative attention to logistics and mobility were all ahead of their time, and enabled the relatively small principality of Prussia to kick ass and take names all over Europe.

Frederick is also remembered for his correspondence: a witty writer, he was fortunate to live at the time of the Enlightenment, and exchanged pithy and deep letters with Voltaire. He encouraged immigration to Prussia, but particularly skilled immigration: he cared not if one was a Huguenot farmer, Jesuit scholar or a Jewish trader, but if you had something to bring to Prussia the door was open to you. At the same time he accepted Protestants fleeing Catholic pressure in some countries, and Catholics fleeing the Protestants in others — as long as they could bring something to Prussia.

He is less remembered for his artsy personality; he may indeed have been queer as a three-mark coin, and he wrote four symphonies and scores of concertos in the baroque style as well as military marches; he sponsored CPE Bach and received a sonata as a gift from Bach’s father, Johann Sebastian Bach (that’s “the” Bach to you musical ignorami). He preferred French to his native German, but was fluent in both, and functional in several other European languages.

The National Archives calls these swords of Frederick the Great, but says in the same article they were from the coronation of Frederick I.

The National Archives calls these swords of Frederick the Great, but says in the same article they were from the coronation of Frederick I, so they may predate the great general-king.

But in military arts, he is remembered for what he said as much as for what he did (which laid the groundwork for Bismarck’s unification of the German states under a Prussian king a century on).

He won battles and lost them; he came within a hair of losing Berlin to a Russian and Austrian alliance that fortuitously fell apart after the death of Elizabeth of Russia and the ascension of her nephew Peter the Great (Peter III, the not-so-great1, see the footnote and correction in comments), an admirer of Frederick, to the throne.

But he was a master of, not exactly the pithy aphorism like those for which Napoleon was deservedly legendary, but a well-turned entire paragraph, of which we have a couple of examples to offer you today.


He had this to say (in a letter to Voltaire, who was critical of Frederick’s militarism), about the military life and its attractions, or lack thereof, for him:

Do you think I take any pleasure in this dog’s life, in seeing and causing death in people unknown to me, in losing friends and acquaintances daily, in seeing my reputation ceaselessly exposed to the caprices of fortune, in spending the whole year with uneasiness and apprehension, in continually risking my life and my fortune? I certainly know the value of tranquility, the charms of society, the pleasures of life, and I like to be happy as much as anybody. Although I desire all these good things, I will not buy them with baseness and infamy. Philosophy teaches us to do our duty, to serve our country faithfully at the expense of our blood and of our repose, to commit our whole being to it.

You may believe him or not — we suspect that he took rather more pleasure in campaigning than that, at least while he was winning. We also suspect Voltaire didn’t buy it for a minute.

The next aphorism is also one that deserves reflection almost 240 years after its utterance. While today’s abstemious (sometimes to the point of asceticism) American officers revel in the purity of the Temple they have made of their bodies, Frederick’s words, from 1777, rise from his grave at Sans Souci to condemn General Order One:

It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence. Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. His Majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both his ancestors and officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.

Yeah. What Fred said.

The only reason we haven’t actually lost yet is that the pathetic hadjis are coffee-drinkers, too.


1 Re: Peter the not-too-great, read Max’s comment and check the bios at and at Russian state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today for the short and unhappy reign of this guy, who was most important in Russian history as the way that Catherine the Great (who really was great) rose to the throne. The problem with kings and nobles is, of course, the tendency to regression to the mean (or beyond) in their posterity.

A Remarkable Defensive Gun Non-Use

Crazy man with knife

Crazy man with knife (file photo).

You don’t expect a 2nd Lieutenant to demonstrate much beyond potential. But this 2nd Lt. in the West Virginia Air National Guard is already a veteran of the Marines and a husband and father experienced in the world. He recently was in a local Walmart when a woman began screaming for help. A man was holding a knife to her neck.

Police eventually responded to the scene and put the suspect in handcuffs. Nelson said he later discovered that the woman he was threatening was his own mother. He turned the knife on his mom when she refused to buy him a gun, according to a copy of the police report obtained by TheBlaze.

Nelson and his wife both carry everywhere they can, legally, to protect themselves and their family. In this case, Nelson protected two strangers — the threatened woman and her disturbed son.

Nelson, remarkably, resolved the situation by only displaying his firearm without drawing it, and using his maturity and command presence — yeah, a 2nd john’s command presence — to talk the angry man down. He talked him into letting his mother go. Then he talked him into stopping threatening himself, which was what he did after releasing his mom. Then he talked him into putting the knife down. Finally, he talked him out of running away, and into sitting down and waiting for  the cops.

It was a bravura performance — and the firearm never left the holster, although it seems to have contributed greatly to Nelson’s command of the situation.

Nelson had nothing but good things to say about the way officers with the Del Rio Police Department handled the situation. He said the officers commended him for his handling of the situation — and because he never brandished or fired his weapon, officers said “no thanks” when he asked if they wanted to see his legal concealed carry permit.

Would a lot more stand-offs end like this, instead of the usual shooting, if they were met by armed, calm citizens rather than a police Steroids Weapons And Tantrum squad call-out? Hard to say. Every threatener is different, and so is every threat. Cops talk a lot of suspects into giving up and laying down weapons every day, and those cases seldom make the papers. Nelson might have wound up shooting the guy. And in some jurisdictions, cops and a district attorney would have jumped at the chance to “nail” Nelson. Fortunately, West Virginia is not New Jersey, so he didn’t get the Brian Aitken treatment.

“The number one reason I carry is to protect my family. It’s a God-given, constitutional right that I fully, 100 percent stand behind,” Nelson told TheBlaze. “Secondly, I love my fellow Americans, and if I’m in a position to help one of them, obviously, I want to do that.”

“I immediately felt responsible for that lady’s life,” he added. “If I’m in a position to help someone and I don’t, I would feel just as bad as the guy who does wrong.”

Apparently this guy is in flight training, heading for the ranks of pilots, which is where the Air Force tends to find its leaders. They’re lucky to have such a sensible and mature fellow. He’s also a delegate in the WV legislature, which seems like another good place to have a sensible and mature man.

What is bothersome, he explained, is the fact that there are tons of stories about responsible armed citizens that never get reported by most of the media. He may have a point — this incident has barely been reported and it occurred back in April.

“They never let us tell our side of the story,” Nelson said. “We hope that some good can come out of our story and let people know what is really going on.”

via National Guardsman’s Trip to Walmart With His Family Turns Into Potentially Deadly Nightmare — Then His Training Kicked In |

This is another reason we’re leery of the emphasis on the quick-draw in so much use of force and handgun training. Sometimes the best place for it is in the holster. When you need it, you are much, much more likely to have the time to draw it (and even prepare it) than you are to be assaulted out of a cold situation.

IPSC Hostage targetPolice training would have emphasized an early draw in this situation. The suspect has deployed deadly force (the knife), and cops are keenly aware of justr how deadly a knife is, and how quickly a knife-wielding bad guy can close normal distances. In addition to that, police policy is, generally, to meet force with overwhelming force to impress the suspect into immediate surrender, and it works great on rational suspects. But a force escalation produces unpredictable results with irrational suspects. The majority of them can be talked down (and this does seem to be what happens in most of these cases, policy notwithstanding). Those that resist often resist in a slow-motion, dare-you-to-shoot-me way. There is usually time for a less-kinetic approach to these less-kinetic threats.

So what should police training emphasize? In a perfect world, individualized judgment. Simple rules and mantras are probably necessary if you insist on deploying some 80-IQ blockheads among your cops, but you want to have pretty good liability coverage if that’s your plan. (In a lot of jurisdictions, some pretty bright cops have slipped into the force — heh).

It’s not like waving the gun does the cops much good. Movies notwithstanding, most shooters can not make the shot on a bobbing, weaving perp’s head as he crouches behind a hostage at a few meters. IPSC hostage targets just sit there, and nothing but points hang in the balance. Even “moving” targets usually have either limited, one-axis, or repetitive motion.  A real human head is a very hard thing to hit, especially one that’s wrapped around the idea that someone wants to shoot it.

Finally, we as a nation are scandalously overdue for doing something about the problem of mental illness. (Clayton Cramer made these points well in the University of Connecticut Law Review [HTML intro / .pdf article] this past May — for all of you who thought it was just a basketball school, they train lawyers too). We need to have new authorities for involuntary commitment, new authorities for involuntary outpatient treatment (“probation” and “parole” equivalents), and facilities to confine and treat the involuntarily committed. These will be expensive, but will remove a major drain on the economy. Our experiment with deinstitutionalization is forty years old, and it’s a sanguinary failure. It’s time to end it with humane reinstitutionalization for the dangerous mentally ill.

Empties back in pocket in gunfight? Urban Legend?

Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965.

Bill Jordan, US Border Patrol, circa 1965.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zombie Headshots with Jerry Miculek

It’s amazing, but we can’t even keep up with all the gun stuff that’s coming out. So in order to get a post up that doesn’t require a ton of writing, we’re going to fob off another Jerry Miculek video on you. In this one, Jerry tries to reenact some of the script-driven trick shooting of the AMC series, The Walking Dead — using the same weapons some of the actors in the show use.

We have to confess, we watched The Walking Dead’s first two — or three? — seasons. The first season was fairly engaging, for a zombie flick, but the second season – or was it the third? – left us cold. The season that turned us off, whichever one it was, was one characterized by the former leader Rick spending all his time brooding, sighing, and generally acting morose. He looked like some escaped Royal Hospital for Overacting patient, emoting lugubriously amid his teethmarks on the scenery. The leader of a band of survivors in desperate times does not have the freedom to go moping about like the unwanted turkey-baster baby of Alanis Morissette and Sylvia Plath in a world without antidepressant meds. Who really cares about that? Not us, anyway.

We’re a little bemused by the whole zombie thing. Our best guess is, in the same way that Japanese monster movies of the 1950s were a distortion of the fear of nuclear war, that couldn’t  really be addressed by filmmakers at the time, the zombies are a decent proxy for Moslem terrorists, who Hollywood PC renders unusable as screen villains. It’s OK to whack zombies: they’re already dead, after all.

But we’re always in for some good killin’, or re-killin’ as the case may be.

And Jerry addresses a question that every shooter has to ask himself — are those running headshots even possible? Even Jerry, it seems can make a mistake, but when the Zombie Apocalypse strikes, he seems like a pretty good guy to have in your redoubt. He hits the walkers with AUG w/EoTech, “backwards-rotating” Colt Python, Mossberg 12-gauge pump, a Cold Steel Katana, and, naturally, a Barnett Crossbow. Laughing, naturally. Does he hit ‘em? Watch and see. (some good high-speed video, too).

It’s good to have him walk through the stage after shooting it, and explain what was going on.

Is it repeatable under stress? I dunno. They wasn’t attacking me. I was attacking them.

The coolest detail of all comes at the end: Jerry’s got a new reality show, Shootout Lane, in the works.  2nd Coolest detail? If you use the discount code JERRY10, you can save 10% on Zombie Industries targets (the ones in his zombie stage)., where the zombies are afraid of the humans – and that’s the way it should be.

(Hat tip: Guns Save Life. Thanks).

Don’t Take Our Word on Dry Fire. Take Keith’s.

Keith Sanderson, a reformed Marine, is a pretty good shot. Good enough to go to the Olympics. He doesn’t have any of the hooah tabs we got. He doesn’t have the hooah tab we haven’t got (Sapper). He’s got the tab that’s not so hooah, but that’s king of them all: the President’s Hundred tab. In these videos he doesn’t so much show you what he does, as he coaches you on how he got to be ranked #1 in the world, with minimal live fire (350-400 rounds total) in the 6 months prior to the two back-to-back World Cups he won.

There’s some good advice here. Do you know what you can get from dry-firing with your eyes closed? The first video will explain.

Shooting Practice at Home

This was shot on the range with a bunch of Marksmanship Unit students, so there’s a little wind noise, and an interruption when he busts a guy’s chops for having his cell phone out.

“I’m going to give you two drills that are the most important things youre ever going to do. One is dry fire…” The other is holding drills: one minute on, two minutes off, eight times a day, for seven days. (This cures the shakes from tiring holding up the pistol).

“Accept nothing but perfection.”

“Be intensely critical during dry fire; accept nothing but perfection. When you put bullets in your gun, you’re not critical any more: you’re just trying to do it as best you can.”

Dry Fire Practice

“Two types of drills I do for live fire: dry fire and holding drills.”

“My ratio of dry fire to live fire is 100 to 1. I cannot overemphasize the importance of dry fire.”

“You can never dry fire too much.”

“Never underestimate it. Never think that you’ve trained too much dry fire. And never think that you need to go out and shoot live rounds to get better. Because you don’t.”

Like we said, there’s a ton of wisdom here, and your tax dollars already paid for it (except for our overseas readers; our tax dollars paid for it, so you can have double the enjoyment).

M1 Thumb, Illustrated

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

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

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

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

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

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