Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

Pro Tips on Zeroing a Carbine

Here’s a video from Travis Haley (hat tip, Herschel Smith). In this video, Haley applies the basic steady hold factors (the Army teaches 8, which are a little different from Haley’s) and some excellent TTPs on holding the carbine and zeroing the firearm with both iron and optical sights. (Irons first).

Here’s the next chapter of his video, where he talks about longer range zeroes. The 25/250 meter battlesight zero is falling into eclipse among gunfighters, and 200 and even 300 m zeroes are becoming more common. Haley’s preference is (given his background, not surprising) a 36m battlesight zero confirmed at 300, as is preferred in the USMC. The 25/250 and 36/300 zeroes depend on the fact that the bullet at the shorter distance is passing through the line of sight, rising relative  to the LOS, and at the longer distance passing through the LOS, descending relative to it.

Here’s the Army issue “8 Steady Hold Factors” from the M16A1 era, circa 1970. Our comments in Italic type.

  1. LEFT ARM AND HAND: Rest rifle in “V” formed by thumb and fore- finger. Relax grip, left elbow directly under the rifle. Nowadays, we can shoot lefthanded, so today we talk about “weak” and “strong” hand, not left and right. Travis shows a more modern method of using the weak hand with the thumb over. Also, nowadays, your weak hand pulls the rifle back into the shoulder pocket to avoid putting wayward stresses on your trigger finger.
  2. BUTT OF STOCK IN POCKET OF SHOULDER: Place the butt of stock firmly into the pocket of the shoulder.
  3. GRIP OF THE RIGHT HAND:. Grip weapon firmly but not rigidly. Exert a firm rearward pressure to keep butt of stock in proper position. Clenching the strong hand hard is not necessary, because the weak hand now provides the rearward pressure.
  4. RIGHT ELBOW: The exact position of the right elbow varies from position to position. The right elbow is important to the maintenance of a good pocket for butt of stock.
  5. STOCK WELD: To obtain stock weld, lower head so that cheek contacts the same place on the stock each time you fire. If you have to “lower” your head to get a good cheek weld, your sight is mounted too low; the more common problem with AR platform rifles is that the sight is too high and it’s hard to get a consistent cheek weld. Hence all the aftermarket stocks and cheekpieces, etc. But the Steady Hold Factor’s point is solid: your connection of face to rifle stock needs to be solid, and most of all consistent: same cheek weld, exactly, every time.
  6. BREATHING: Take a normal breath, let part of it out, then hold remainder by locking throat. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HOLD BREATH FOR MORE THAN TEN SECONDS. It seems to help beginners to tell them, take a breath and let it half way out. 
  7. RELAXATION: Learn to relax as much as possible in any firing position. If a firer finds that he cannot relax, the whole position should be adjusted. “Relax” isn’t really the way we’d put it. You want to be loose and not tense, but not sloppy or slow. Too much tension does make your body (and rifle) shake. A sure sign of a novice is a tightly clenched jaw or grinding teeth!
  8. TRIGGER CONTROL: Press the trigger straight to the rear with a uniform motion so that the sights are not disarranged. The trigger finger should be placed on the trigger so that there is no contact between the finger and the side of the pistol grip. Smoothness on the trigger press is devoutly to be wished. Ideally, you want to tighten the trigger when the sights are on target, stop pressing and hold if they move, and tighten again. If the firing of the weapon surprises you, that’s okay, and a lot better than a jerked trigger.

Some points on zeroes:

  1. You absolutely must be able to fire the rifle consistently to zero it. Lots of trouble is caused by “social promotion” of guys that haven’t zeroed from the zero range to the rifle qualification range. Resist that promotion; master the tight group first, and the rest all falls into line.
  2. The Army love to have you take your previous zero off and start with a “mechanical zero.” This is stupid; don’t do it. Mechanical zero, which centers the sights, is like boresighting an optic; you use it when your old zero is lost or the specific serial number gun is new to you.
  3. If you confirm a zero, you’re done zeroing.
  4. The Army zeroes with a three round group. This is… you guessed it… stupid. Five rounds, please.
  5. Most Army units have “that guy” who can’t zero, or several of ’em, and often the problem is “those guys” who are coaching “that guy” can’t teach, can’t coach, and usually can’t shoot either.
  6. Shooting is not rocket surgery. Get good instruction and follow it and you will get better. Most people who suck at shooting assume they know it all. In the Army, it’s a truism that women learn to shoot better in basic than men do. Why? Our guess is that they don’t come all bound up with a male ego that already “knows it all” with respect to shooting.
  7. We have learned something from every instructor who’s ever taught us.


Marines Experiment with M27 IAR, Suppressor

The US Marine Corps has established one battalion (3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Mar Div) as an experimental, testbed unit, and that unit is looking at some possible new small arms approaches. The first of these is a more general issue of the M27, currently used as the Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) with one per Marine infantry fire team.


The concept under test would replace all the M4s in the rifle squad with the M27, which is a version of the HK 416 with a couple of USMC-requested mods, like a bayonet lug. reports:

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division, told the M27 costs about $3,000 apiece, without the sight. Because the Marine Corps is still grappling with budget cutbacks, he said he was skeptical that the service could find enough in the budget to equip all battalions with the weapons. He said a smaller rollout might be more feasible.

“To give everyone in a Marine rifle squad [the IAR], that might be worth it,” he said.


[Commander of 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Daniel] O’Donohue said feedback would be collected on an ongoing basis from the Marines in 3/5 as they continued workup exercises and deployed next year. Decisions on whether to field a new service weapon or reorganize the rifle squad would be made by the commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, when he felt he had collected enough information, ODonohue said.

If the Marine Corps can sort out the logistics of fielding, Wade said he would welcome the change.

“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Wade said of the IAR. “Better than anything Russia has, its better than anything we have, its better than anything China has. Its world-class.”

If there’s an obstacle, it’s cost-effectiveness. The best is the enemy of the good, and the M4 delivers a good 95% of what the M27 can offer. But the Marines seem certain that they can exploit the incremental improvement in accuracy that comes with the free-floated barrel and

There’s much more to it than that, so do Read The Whole Thing™.

Meanwhile, another test unit (B/1/2nd Marines) is going to go 100% suppressed, from carbines to heavy MGs, to see how that works. Also

“What we’ve found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight,” [commanding general of 2nd Marine Division, Maj. Gen. John] Love told “It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn’t really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires.”

A Marine from B/1/2 Marines fires an M4 with a Knight's Armament Company suppressor attached.

A Marine from B/1/2 Marines fires an M4 with a Knight’s Armament Company suppressor attached.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the division’s gunner, or infantry weapons officer, said the Lima companies in two other battalions — 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines — now had silencers, or suppressors, on all their rifles, including the M27 infantry automatic rifles. All units are set to deploy in coming months. The combat engineer platoons that are attached to these units and will deploy with them will also carry suppressed weapons, he said.

The Marines are discovering, as SOF (including Marine SOF) discovered some time ago, that the benefits from going quiet are not just the obvious ones.

“It increases their ability to command and control, to coordinate with each other,” Wade told “They shoot better, because they can focus more, and they get more discipline with their fire.”

The noise of gunfire can create an artificial stimulus that gives the illusion of effectiveness, he said. When it’s taken away, he explained, Marines pay more attention to their shooting and its effect on target.

“They’ve got to get up and look, see what effect they’re having on the enemy because you can’t hear it,” he said.

He added that suppressors were already in common use by near-peer militaries, including those of Russia and China.

Wade said he is working on putting suppressors on the Marines’ M249 light machine gun and M240G medium machine gun, using equipment from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The third and final objective will be the suppression of the .50 caliber heavy machine gun, he said.

The Marines are showing, in this as in the IAR experiment, a real commitment to experiment-driven (and therefore, data-driven) procurement decisions, which is an interesting contrast to the other services’ way of doing things. Rather than hire a Federally Funded Research and Development Center like the Rand Corporation or Institute for Defense Analyses to write a jeezly white paper, they put the stuff in the hands of real mud Marines and see what use they make of it.

And then they write the report.

As the units conduct training and exercises with suppressors, 2nd Marine Division is collaborating with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to collect and aggregate data. Weapons with suppressors require additional maintenance and cleaning to prevent fouling, and the cost, nearly $700,000 to outfit an infantry battalion, might give planners pause.

But Wade said he will continue to gather data for the next year-and-a-half, following the units as they deploy. And he expects the idea to have gained significant traction among Marine Corps leadership by then, he said.

“When I show how much overmatch we gain … it will have sold itself,” he said.

$700,000 sounds like a lot of money, until you put it on the scale against the cost of losing one lousy fight.

“Confiscate This!”

papers-please-2What is it like to live in a nation that grants citizens no rights, only such privileges as it feels like, until such time as it feels like revoking them? Kind of like being a German. The time comes when the authorities decide you’re not a Good German any more, and they come to confiscate your guns.

One guy said, “No,” kinetically; paradoxically, he’s probably in better shape in the German courts after having opened up on the cops. Because now, you see, he’s a violent criminal, something German officialdom has immer und überall privileged over political criminals.

BERLIN — An anti-government extremist opened fire on police in southern Germany during a raid Wednesday in which they had planned to confiscate his weapons, and four officers were wounded, authorities said.

So why were they confiscating his weapons? Not, apparently, because he was a nutball per se; but because he was “politically unreliable.”

The 49-year-old German man, named Wolfgang P., had legally possessed more than 30 weapons for hunting, but local authorities had revoked his license because he appeared increasingly unreliable, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said.

Now you see the benefits of a registration and “background check” regime — if you’re Joachim Herrmann Göring. (Sorry, we always run those two German police officials together). Turns out, it was the second attempted confiscation. The first time he just said no.

He had previously refused to allow officials access to check his arsenal and take away the firearms.

This time, ol’ Wolfgang was still saying no, and Joachim Herrmann Göring was not taking no for an answer.

The suspect opened fire on police as they entered the house in the Bavarian town of Georgensgmuend early Wednesday morning, Herrmann said. Two officers suffered gunshot wounds — one was in life-threatening condition and the other was shot in the arm. The other two were hit by flying glass.

The shooter was overwhelmed by other officers and arrested. He was lightly injured. According to Johann Rast, the chief of Central Franconia Police, the extremist was shot when he was hiding behind a closed door.

Now, here’s where the nutballery comes in:

Authorities said the man, who calls himself a ‘Reichsbürger,’ was a supporter of the Reich Citizens’ Movement, an extremist group that refuses to acknowledge the authority of the post-war Federal Republic of Germany. The group has been compared to the U.S. sovereign citizen movement.

via Germany police raid on ‘Reichsbürger’ extremist goes awry when he opens fire, wounding four officers.

You probably don’t think you’re like that guy. You, work, take care of your family, pay your taxes and vote for members of a regular political party that’s been around for centuries. You don’t experience paranoid fixations or suicidal ideations. You can’t imagine shooting anybody, let alone cops.

It doesn’t matter. If you own guns, training materials being used now by the FBI, DOJ and DHS and all their alphabet soup of agencies define you as that guy. And a number of them itch to confiscate your guns. Those ones are destined for promotion. A number of them are opposed to confiscation, but they keep it to themselves. The greatest majority aren’t comfortable with it, but will do whatever they’re told. That is a characteristic of policemen worldwide and throughout time — they follow orders.

Unlike the Germans with Wolfgang P., they won’t make any effort to take you alive. Once you’re dead, they can tell your story, and use it as a wedge to line up their next target. And they do this because they can do it, because there is no price attached.

Food for thought:

Shooting the just-following-orders Untersturmführer when he comes to your door is too little, too late. You accomplish nothing by reminding policemen that taking doors is dangerous. They were certainly thinking about that even as they swung the ram.

You do not stop bleeding by applying pressure distal to the wound. You find a suitable pressure point. In the case of Germany, the Rights of Man were lost in the culture, more than a century ago, long before they could have been lost to the successive “good intentions” of the Bismarckian, Weimar, National Socialist, and Federal states. The rare German who insists on his rights is likely to be, and certain to be labeled, a dangerous crank.

We leave the identification and wargaming of pressure application as an exercise for the reader.


The seriously wounded policeman has died. (German-language link). But it’s still a win for Joachim Herrmann Göring, because they did confiscate the guns. They don’t care how many Untersturmführers get capped in the process.

Armed Self Defense Gone Bad

law_of_self_defense_branca_standard_editionWhen we hear of Armed Self Defense Gone Bad, we think of those incidents Andrew Branca tries to educate people out of having — incidents wherein a would-be defender loses the mantle of lawful self-defense, and survives the gunfight only to end up on the muzzle end of the criminal justice system. But there are worse outcomes than that.

José Rodriguez was a good guy with a gun. He perished coming to a neighbor’s aid.

His neighbors across the street were subjected to a brutal home invasion by a gang of young black career criminals. (The robbery victims were black too). The cons had gotten the idea that the home was a drug house, and they burst in, armed with short and long guns, screaming at a young woman they found inside. “Get in the $@#^&ing closet! Shut the &%#&$ up!” As it turned out, the criminals were wrong about the house being a drug house (criminals wrong, imagine that!), there were neither drugs nor money within, and the cursing criminals had to settle for stealing the TVs and PlayStations.

José stepped out of his own home, with his .45, and commanded the home invaders to put down their guns. They didn’t. They lit him up instead. He desperately returned fire. “He was way outgunned,” one of the investigating officers determined. They found brass from an AR-15 and a 9mm pistol (when recovered, it seemed to be something like a TEC-9), and shotgun shells (12-gauge buckshot). Rodriguez was hit by all three calibers, at what was essentially point-blank range; he did not hit any of his assailants. He did not survive.

The investigation into José’s murder was featured in Season 10 (2010), Episode 18 of the long-running TV documentary, The First 48. In due course, all five members of the rip crew would receive long sentences for armed robbery or murder. The sheer typicality of the criminals was depressing. You know the type: slack-jawed, dull-eyed, greedy and idle; seemingly missing some of the forebrain functions and empathetic emotions common to the general run of human beings. Even though most of them were quite young, they all had criminal records. Not an Eagle Scout among ’em. Of course.

The three murder weapons were all recovered. The shooters bailed out of the getaway truck; two guns were left behind, and the AR-15 was found under a nearby house — alongside its erstwhile operator. Other perps’ prints were on the stolen goods in the truck bed. The truck was owned by and registered to one of them. They were rounded up, routinely; one was plucked off a jetliner as he tried to skip town, without as much as a change of socks. Each of the three shooters tried to claim that he personally was not one of the shooters, but gave up the other two. The major elements of the crime were solved in hours, and all five perps remain behind bars at this writing.

None of the cops had a word of criticism of José Rodriguez, who so looked out for his neighbors that they called him, affectionately, the “Neighborhood Sheriff”. He did not, after all, kill himself; he was murdered by these thugs, his life cut short at 49. It is a hard thing to criticize a dead man, but that’s not what we’re trying to do here. Instead, we’re trying to learn from his example.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Cover Counts. When you engage an armed enemy, or approach a possibly-armed enemy, protect yourself. Had José called them out from the minimal protection of his door frame, instead of advanced towards them across his front lawn, he might have lived. 
  2. You are not the cavalry. If your and your family’s lives are not in imminent danger, call the cavalry. They have the tools, the tactics, and above all, the experience to take armed criminals into custody safely. (Indeed, the Sheriff’s Office and other LE would bag the whole crew, one at a time, without another shot fired).
  3. Criminals are more gunned-up than ever, and all guns are lethal (it was the 9mm and buckshot rounds that killed José. His 5.56mm wounds were survivable). Understand the balance of forces before engaging.
  4. Don’t buy someone else’s fight. Maybe you have to, if someone’s being murdered. Absent that, not your circus, not your monkeys.
  5. Proportion in all thingsNot only did five worthless skells lose large chunks of their worthless lives for a couple of $200 TVs and consoles that they didn’t even get away with, José, who unlike the criminals was a productive member of society, got himself killed over those same stupid TVs.
  6. Don’t engage multiple assailants unless you can fire first. (And you can only fire first if the conditions for the lawful use of force are fulfilled). Get in the best ambush position in case you have to defend yourself, but observe and be prepared to be a witness.
  7. Don’t overestimate your shooting skill. Everybody’s shooting gets worse on the two-way range. The range of this engagement was 2-10 meters, and none of José’s shots connected with the bad guys. This is more common than you might think.
  8. Don’t be a hero. Heroes are dead. Like brave, doomed José Rodriguez.

One of the major problems involved in engaging with criminals is that your life matters to you, and their lives don’t — not even to them. If you kill one, you can expect to be the chew toy of the media, the press, and any prosecutor looking to level up in politics (damn near every prosecutor). Consider the case of George Zimmerman, who was absolutely justified in his shooting of an inexperienced but developing career violent criminal, but whose reputation is forever tainted by a political prosecution and a corrupt media. What would have happened to Rodriguez if his shots had connected and he had killed two or three black “children”?

Once you fire that first shot your life will never be the same. Even if you live. There will never be a greater need for you to be sure of what you are doing.

Join a Minority (Pistol) Group

join-a-minority-groupOK, so “It’s Over. And Glock Won,” as we posted a while back. But as we never really warmed up to the G17, we went back to a CZ.

Like we did when we filled out the first of many sheaves of volunteer paperwork, we Joined a Minority Group.

When you join a minority group, you can find yourself, well, not fitting in. You’re different. People look at you funny. You might be feared, shunned, even hated. You tend to band together with people like yourself.

There’s probably something about it in the Bible, or maybe the Book of Mormon (in the Book of John Moses?), that says that the bearers of the 1911 shall cleave to one another, and not suffer the bearers of the unclean European wondernine to pass among them; and the Pharisees of the K-Frame and Python listened not to the gospel of the autopistol, but gathered among themselves and called for the stoning of the autopistoleros, especially those whose frames were cast of polymer, which is unclean.

Well, there’s a certain sense to that. With your only six rounds gone, aren’t fist-sized stones the handiest Plan B?

The cultural Siberia to which the odd-brand pistol-packer exiles himself is not the whole problem, or even the largest part. More practically, changing pistols is a royal pain in the part where Glock operators occasionally puncture themselves. If the pistol were the be-all and end-all of your self-defense, that’d be one thing, but think of all the other parts of the self-defense handgun ecosystem:

  1. ammunition;
  2. spare magazines;
  3. sights (factory sights peak at “fair,” and some are horrible. And they are usually day-only. Take a look at what side of the clock defensive gun units happen on);
  4. holsters, and magazine carriers.

beretta_m9_kyle_defoorThen, there’s training. Some trainers will expect you to run what you brung and will work to make you better with it (here’s Kyle Defoor discussing training a Beretta-using entity). Other trainers will use a training class as a platform to disparage your selection (or worse, your agency’s or service’s selection, as if you, a gravel-agitating bullet-launch technician, could influence it), and promote their own 99% solution.

(But we do agree with Defoor’s aside — if you’re going to carry the Beretta, or any safety-equipped DA/SA auto, carry it hammer down on a loaded chamber, safety off. We also agree that even better than the 92F/M9 is the decocker-only 92G).

Fortunately, most trainers can teach you something that will make your shooting better. If you’re already really good, there are specific trainers that specialize in wringing the last 4% of potential out of any given platform. (So maybe it’s necessary to change trainer when you change gat).

It’s wonderful that those guys can make a living, but the fact is, you probably don’t need that kind of specific training. You might still seek those trainers out — because they’re probably pretty darn good, overall. (If you’re going to do heavy maintenance on your pistol, of course, you’re well advised to attend the factory or importer armorer course, if you can. But operation, many experienced trainers can help you with).

Some of those things often aren’t that big a change. If your old and new guns are in the same caliber, and the new gun will feed your old ammo, there’s one change you don’t have to make or consider. Your mag carriers often will take any other mag in the same caliber. And sights? You’ll be at the mercy of the aftermarket, and your pistol’s standard or not-so-much sight dovetails.

With all that out of the way, the real thing that’s a problem is a holster. These don’t interchange among pistols, much. (Unless they’re crappy holsters that “fit” many pistols because they don’t actually fit anything). So we went to the holster maker that skinned our Glock, Raven Concealment, only to find out our CZ was not on their supported list.


The P-01 didn’t really fit in the concealment holsters we had for the old CZ-75 Pre-B. It has a squared off “chin” with a light rail, and a larger trigger guard.

We heard that Black Storm Defense in Tennessee made a decent holster, so we went on line and ordered one each of their Signature and Pancake holsters for the P-01.

And waited.

And waited.

D’oh. This is what happens when you join a minority group, kids. We could get forty-eleven holsters for a Glock 17 within twenty miles of Hog Manor, nearly as many for a SIG, and even a few for an M9. CZ-75 P-01? Not so much.

Welcome to the minority group. But then, in the process of rounding up some stray tax paperwork in the pile of untended paper on the breakfast table, we discovered (along with a pile of unread magazines, a $355 rebate check from our health insurer, apparently for not having another myocardial infarction in the last twelve moths, and a box of hollow points) a holster we’d bought on a whim on eBay of all places, for the old CZ, months or maybe years ago.

And never taken out of the bag, because were were rockin’ the Glock when it came.


It was a very inexpensive, an “Anatolia” brand from the Turkish company Anatolia Hunting & Nature Sports, Leather Products Company, which is quite a mouthful in English, and must be a remarkable jawbreaker in its native Turkish. The holster seems well-made, it’s made of solid leather and appears to be hand-stitched. Will it hold up?

And… will the P-01 fit? It just might, because the holster’s a simple slide-in job, with a free muzzle. It might not care about the P-01’s prognathous jaw, and it looks like it’s shaped to take a protruding or squared-off trigger guard, and not just the rounded one of the Pre-B.

And it did fit.


And with delight, we started carrying the P-01, finally.

The next day, we got an email from Black Storm that our holsters had shipped. The wait wasn’t even that bad (three weeks from order to ship) but we’d gotten impatient. Now the Black Storms will have to play King of the Hill with this $15 Turkish special — which starts out at the top of the hill.

That, too, is life in a pistol minority group. The delights, as well as the sickeners, come in clusters.

When You Don’t Bubba a Mosin…

…You can actually hit stuff with it… if it’s a right one.

Bog standard 91/30. Good iron sights, approved by ordnance officers of late Tsar and Lenin and Stalin (who were, not to put too fine a point on it, the same ordnance officers). Field rest. The original poster of the video writes (we have only added paragraph breaks):

The M91/30 Mosin Nagant with 7N1 ammo is a formidable long range rifle system. In this video (made available to you by popular demand) Rex Reviews demonstrates just how effective an unmodified military rifle can be in experienced hands.

This rifle is in 100% original military configuration and had NOT been equipped with any optical sights, yet it slams steel at 944 yards as easy as anything else on the shelf.

Many assume these rifle like this (purchased for under $100) must need modification to shoot well… but what many fail to realize is that these rifles were not designed by sporting companies for recreational activities, they were designed by teams of engineers with massive government resources for life-and-death purposes.

These rifles were designed to be harmonically balanced and were inspected to meet serious military manufacturing and design specifications. In a nutshell, they are ready to roll off of the shelf! Ask Simo Häyhä (the White Death) if I’m telling the truth…

It rings the bell at more meters than you’d give it credit for (and more meters that lots of people can see a man-sized target without optical aids). Lots and lots of meters. (944 yd. is 893 meters).

Why did Russia and its Soviet successor empire stick with this 19th-Century bangstick for so very long? Because it was good, in all that word means in reference to a military arm: it was simple, dependable, low-maintenance, hard-hitting, and more accurate than any but a tiny percentage of the men who carried it.

Nothing that Bubba can do to a Mosin (except, we’ll grant, scope it, where the common Soviet solution was sub-optimal) will do anything much to improve the work of those long-dead Russian designers, engineers, and craftsmen.

Fun Facts about Boston SWAT and the “gun trucks.”

Mostly from Boston and area cops. Mostly second-hand. But this is some good context for this morning’s post on the cop shooting in East Boston.

You Gotta Ride

boston-police-motorcycle-patrolIf you get off active duty as a Seal Team Subzero assault team leader and join the Boston PD, you’re probably not going to be on Special Operations (the local flavor of SWAT). That’s not just because there’s an in-crowd that you’re probably not “in,” but also because it’s a love child of the motorcycle platoon. The official party line about the outfit glosses over that …

The Boston Police Special Operations Unit is a specialized unit within the Boston Police Department responsible for combined duties involving Highway Patrol and traffic enforcement, crowd control, and special weapons and tactics (SWAT) services within the city.

 One unique feature of the unit is that the Special Operations Unit primarily relies on the use of Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors and Harley-Davidsons in their daily patrols. The use of motorcycles allows the unit to perform routine traffic enforcement; accompany parades, crowds, and visiting dignitaries; and to quickly travel to situations wherein the unit’s SWAT skills are requested. Specialized trucks and support vehicles are also used to transport equipment and officers when needed.

 The Canine unit with twenty seven patrol/narcotics, and EOD dogs, and Bomb (EOD) squad are also under the Special Operations Division.

… but the deal is, you gotta ride if you want to kick doors with the nation’s oldest police department. You gotta check out in the motorcycle platoon, first.

And yes, you have a ticket… please don’t call it a quota… we believe the current term is objective.

It’s All on the Buddy System

Getting into a military special operations element usually requires some kind of selection, qualification or standards-setting rite of passage. Getting into Boston PD Motorcycle and Special Operations? If the unit’s managers think you’re a good guy, you’re in. It helps if you have other coppers in the family, or course. (Well, that’s everywhere. You’ll never stamp it out, and you might not want to, because for every nephew-they-wish-wasn’t, there’s usually three good cops in a cop family).

This has been a shock to some guys who come from military special operations, or from other departments that have high standards for their entry squads, like LAPD’s SWAT or NYPD’s ESD.

There is NO Physical Requirement or PT test

This guy isn't a Boston cop, but you could say he fits the profile.

This guy isn’t a Boston cop, but you could say he fits the profile.

Not for the PD, nor for Special Operations. The unions have fought any attempt to impose such a requirement so long and so vigorously that nobody even brings it up any more.

On the plus side, if you want to get in shape, nobody in the department leadership is going to stop you. More donuts for them!

It’s far from the only police department in this position. One of Boston’s many colleges has a large and generally switched-on police department, where they’re actually taking measures that may be effective should, God forbid, they face an active shooter some day. That department has a physical fitness test. It’s optional. If you opt to take it, and pass — it’s not a high standard — you receive a $2,000 cash bonus. If you fail? You get $150, to apply to a gym membership. An interesting way of motivating cops, to be sure. And more than BPD does.

The Whole City PD has 8 Carbines. Total.

What's in their gun rack? Less than you'd expect.

What’s in their gun rack? Less than you’d expect.

Remember the “gun trucks?” If you built a gun truck, it would probably have rifle racks in it, an ammo locker, and maybe some trained officers, and you’d have them prepositioned for quick access to likely trouble spots.


The Boston Police Department runs two “gun trucks,” with two trained officers in each, per shift. And they just drive around, unless dispatched. And the guns? They have shotguns. And carbines — two each. And their sidearms. And that’s it.

The four carbines in the two gun trucks on the street are it for a city of about three quarters of a million (when the city’s many colleges are in session. The population drops in the summertime).

Four guns, four officers. That’s cosi fan tutte in a city where even the local FBI got turned by organized crime, the Irish Republican Army and its spinoff terrorists find their entire basis of logistical support, bank-armored-truck crews are practically the fifth pro sports team after the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox, and the Islamic Center of Boston is still preaching the gospel that energized the Tsarnaev brothers. Four guns.

Unless a truck is down for maintenance, or an officer is sick. Then you have one truck, and two guns. Thank both Gods that the IRA and the Islamic Center don’t coordinate much.

Bear in Mind

While Boston Police Department’s Special Operations may not be on the cutting edge of organizational effectiveness, and may not be armed and equipped like other major police departments are, bear in mind what happened when two fellow cops were down:

They hooked up and went in to the gunfire, beat the bad guy, and saved their own guys’ lives.

This all seems to have been spontaneous action from guys from the level of sergeant on down. Imagine what they could do with some better gear — and leadership.

Lessons From a Shooting: Boston PD UPDATED

Boston_Police_patchWe’re going to break every rule in the book and comment on a shooting based largely on early media reports, because it seems likely that some of these early lessons will be subsumed into the usual drum circles beating out The Usual Narrative™ in a matter of days.

We’ll start with what is known: Boston PD responded to a domestic. They were met by a man who said his roommate threatened him with a knife. They made entry,  and, in the basement of 136 Gladstone St in East Boston, encountered an armed man –who announced himself with gunfire. The two policemen were suddenly down, wounded. It was other officers from Special Operations who happened to be training nearby, that responded to their calls for help, and ultimately shot and killed the suspect.

[Boston Police Commissioner William B.] Evans said officers responding to a fight between roommates on Gladstone Street were fired upon by 33-year-old Kirk Figueroa, who shot and wounded Officer Richard Cintolo, a 28-year veteran of the department, and Officer Matt Morris, a 12-year veteran. Figueroa, of East Boston, was killed by police.

This is Why Wackers Weird You Out


Portrait of the doer, in what seems to have been a self-awarded uniform. He was not ever Airborne in his short military career, and that’s a foreign cap badge.

Figueroa was an oddball, the sort of cop wannabe that Massachusetts coppers call a “wacker.” (Maybe cops elsewhere use the term, too, but we’ve only heard it in the Bay State). You know the guy: he’s always trying to get a law enforcement job. He dresses in blue 5.11s. (For church!) He drives a Crown Vic with some of its cop lights still on it (often, one that the state troopers were glad to see the last of at 283,000 miles). Yeah, that guy.

Figueroa had served in the National Guard in a specialized MP correctional unit, a unit that trained to run a POW camp or other detainee or prison facility. (see UPDATE 1130 14 Oct 16 below).

Figueroa had worked as a corrections officer (briefly) but quit to become a bounty hunter in California (we are not making that up, but maybe the Boston Herald, where we saw it, did). He lived in several states pursuing law enforcement jobs. In MA, he became a “constable,” which probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. A Massachusetts constable does swear an oath, but has no arrest powers and no more firearms rights than any other MA subject (which is to say, practically none). His powers are constrained to service of civil process — that’s it.

It is a job often held as a stop-gap by youths dreaming of a police job, and held for longer periods by wackers who wish they were cops. Good luck sorting out whether a guy is a Figueroa or not beforehand.

The press is complaining that, even though he was a sworn constable, he didn’t have any Massachusetts gun license. (In MA you need a license even for long guns or BB guns). Obviously the lack of the license prevented this crime… oh, wait. There’s 125 or so murders a year in MA and the vast majority are committed with guns by people who did not have a license for them. It’s almost as if murderers don’t obey other laws, too!

Figueroa reportedly had a profile on a website called Elite Policing (if so, it had been removed by noon yesterday).

A roommate told police that Figueroa threatened him with a “big knife.”

He reportedly said to the roommate he was squabbling with and his other roommate, Diego Morello, “You’re going to read about me in the newspaper. Everyone is going to know my name.”

Yeah. We know your name, all right. We just can’t print it in this family-friendly blog.

Some things went well

Knowing the two cops were shot and down, at least seven more cops flooded the building, and raced towards the wounded men, Officers Richard Cintolo and Matt Morris. Cintolo was retirement-eligible with 28 years in; Morris had 12 on the force. Both were down hard with critical wounds; Cintolo was shot in the chest and face.



Morris had the more immediately threatening injury, a massive leg wound that left him bleeding from the femoral artery. When Special Operations hit the building, officers provided life-saving buddy-aid: even under the suspect’s fire, Officer Clifton Singletary put his hands in to Morris’s gaping wound to try to stop the bleeding, and called for an officer with a tourniquet. Sergeant Norberto Perez, a veteran of over 30 years, came up with the lifesaving device and emplaced it, while he, Singletary, and Morris all tried to stay prone and out of the line of fire. A third officer proned out and neutralized the suspect with a carbine.

Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, a regional trauma center to which the wounded men were transported, told police that Morris would have bled out without the tourniquet.

Morris, who lives in the neighborhood he grew up in, a neighborhood full of cops, was one of two plainclothes cops decorated in 2005 for coaxing a gunman into surrender. His wife is a nurse.

These are things we have been told but cannot confirm

Figueroa’s weapon was reportedly a shotgun. (Some press have reported it as an AR-15, but they are the ones that report everything as an AR-15. The “shotgun” source is more reliable, but notes he is not certain of his information).

(Update: this story says “tactical shotgun” but quotes commissioner as saying “rifle.” )

The guy supposedly told his roommates, who he’d been squabbling with, that he was going to be famous and wouldn’t be taken alive. (The roommates have been interviewed by investigating officers).

When the scene was still a little confused, officers took “a couple” of suspects and treated them… firmly… only to find they were not connected to the crime, and their one suspect was on his way to ambient temperature.

And… the presence of Special Operations and the “gun truck” that carries their hardware was somewhat providential, they happened to be a short drive away when the emergency call came. Normal Boston Police officers are not trained on carbines and not permitted to carry them in their vehicles. The BPD has grudgingly agreed to put carbines in patrol supervisors’ cars.

Lessons learned so far

  1. If somebody gets the drop on you, you’re probably going to get shot.
  2. Most cops can go a whole career without ever encountering an armed suspect, but you can still encounter two in a few years, like Morris did.
  3. What worked for one encounter with an armed suspect might not work next time.
  4. Tourniquets. If as many of us carried tourniquets as carry guns — not just cops, but all of us — we might do some real good. How about herd immunity to exsanguination?
  5. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between a guy who wants to be a cop and a cop wannabe.
  6. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between the guys getting locked up and the guys doing the locking. While it does seem like Figueroa is very different from the cops who nailed him, if this particular incident hadn’t blown up, who’s to say he wouldn’t have gotten hired somewhere, sooner or later?
  7. Our perception is that these kinds of domestics-turned-suicide-by-cop are becoming more frequent. Cops, prosecutors, defense attorneys, what do you guys think? Heck, everybody.
  8. While we’re asking, why not the big ask on these incidents? Why?
  9. This is purest speculation, but we wonder if the Lautenberg Amendment has an unintended consequence of producing these violent episodes. Wait, hear us out; it may be counterintuitive, but it’s not irrational. This guy Figueroa was intent on becoming a cop, and he had to know that his dream was gone forever once his roommate called the real cops on him. At that point, his life as he has conceived it is over. The one and only thing he wanted was yanked away from him. He’s a desperate man, operating on raw emotion, not logic.
  10. Gun licensing kind of stinks at keeping cops safe, doesn’t it?

UPDATE 1130 14 Oct 16

The unit Figueroa served in was an Army Reserve cage-kicker outfit, not a Guard one. We regret the error. The unit has wasted no time in distancing themselves from him, pointing out that he never attended basic training or AIT and didn’t even last half a year before quitting, ostensibly on hardship grounds. (That doesn’t mean what you think it means, that you are the sole caretaker of your dying mama or something. In the context of reserve component service, it usually means that you are moving a distance from the unit or that your work schedule conflicts with the drill schedule). The Army Times:

Figueroa, founder of Code Blue Protection Corp., claimed on his company’s website,, he served nearly a decade as an MP, but he served a mere five months, according to an Army spokesman.

“Mr. Figueroa never attended basic training or advanced individual training. He did enlist in the U.S. Army Reserve in February 2003, but received a hardship discharge five months later,” Wayne Hall said in a statement.

So he’s a wannabe. And have we not said before, over and over again, that it’s never just military impersonation with a wannabe? There’s usually considerable crime and other misconduct comorbid in these strange cases.

The shooter also touted his experience as a Boston constable, a law enforcement program that allows trained and sworn-in members to carry out arrests and serve legal documents. He also described himself as a West Virginia corrections officer, trained private investigator, and California bounty hunter.

As we have seen, that is a dishonest description of the Boston constable program (they have no arrest powers and do not receive any law enforcement training). His stint as a WV cage-kicker was shorter than his time as an Army Reservist — blink and you missed it. If he had any PI training, there’s been no sign of it yet. And “California bounty hunter?” We guess the bounties must have been meager in CA, or he wouldn’t be living with (and threatening) two roommates in a working-class and immigrant-heavy neighborhood in Boston!

UPDATE 1200 14 Oct 16

We’ve learned so many fun facts about the Boston PD SWAT Platoon and the remarkable “gun trucks” unique to the soi-disant Hub of the Universe, that that’s going to be a post of its own. Probably at 1800 today (which means this incident bumps two slots that could have had a gun technical or historical post — we regret, etc.) so stay tuned.

Kids, What’s The First Rule of Gunfights, Again?

Best gun? Sometimes. Better than no gun? Always.

Best gun? Sometimes. Better than no gun? Always.

Keying off a statement by Claude Werner, Tam has a most excellent example of one of her gentle slapdowns (OK, just “slapdowns”) for the kind of bozo for whom only the right gun carried the right way is permissible.

And everyone else should, what? Give up?

There are people who work daily in non-permissive environments with dress codes, where a gun may be legal to carry, but would be a firing offense. Telling a 5’4″ woman in a skirt with no belt loops to “dress around” a Glock 19 in an IWB holster makes one sound a little dense.

We do not live in a world where everybody can wear an untucked polo shirt over a gun belt with a Glock 19 and centerline fixed blade knife, and can take all their vacation days every year to attend gun school. Nor should we. By making that sound like the lowest hurdle for responsible self defense, we turn off more people than we attract.

Do Read The Whole Thing™, because it is, as usual, rich in common sense; and contemplate this question: “What is the First Rule of Gunfights?”

Right, class: “Bring a gun!”

Notice that it is not, “Bring the gun that is on all the latest magazine covers” (Heaven forfend!),  or, “Bring a gun, but it must have a caliber that begins with .4,” or any such nonsense.

We’ll put it in mathematical terms for you:

A gun (any gun) > No gun

Which can be stated another way as,

Any little pipsqueak gun (that you actually have) > Some theoretical optimum gun (that you have not). (Theoretical optimum gun file photo follows: Cabot 1911, with metorite metal grips)

Cabot-1911-with-Meteor-GripsSure, it’s good to carry the biggest gun you practically can. But sometimes, that’s not going to be a full-sized service pistol like an M9 or Glock 17 (or 1911 cough 1911). A compact pistol is suitable for three-season, non-athletic carry here in New Hampster, or a service pistol if you’re a big guy. But what if you’re working out or swimming? What about our delightful summers?

And then, there’s threat posture. It’s not like we’re in someplace dangerous, like Lawrence or Brockton, Massachuseetts at 0200. (We do go to Lawrence to meet our 3D Printer dealer, but he keeps regular hours, unlike the denizens of the city’s best-reported industries, drug dealing and armed robbery). We don’t feel unarmed with a Baby Browning .25 clone. We feel unarmed when unarmed. Yes, we’d rather have a service pistol and a couple of mags, but why are we carrying? 

To defend human life, full stop. 

That’s it. We’re not arming up to go hunt zombies. We’re arming to deter or stop a threat long enough to break contact, continue mission.

“But a .25, Hognose! What do you carry when you’re going someplace you expect trouble?”

If we expect trouble, we don’t go there any more. When it used to be our freakin’ duty to go there, we sure as hell didn’t go there with any pistol, except as a backup. We went with the full panoply:

  • Long gun
  • Friends with more long guns
  • Radios
  • Serious firepower at the other end of the radio.

Sometimes, we also carried a 60mm mortar and rounds, and AT4s or Javelins. But primarily, of course, the greatest casualty-producing weapon in the ODA’s arms locker, the freakin’ radio.

But we don’t go to places like Konduz or Chicago any more.

Look, we understand all the obsessing about gear. For some guys, constantly fiddling with trying to get the optimum gun/round/holster is a substitute for their lack of a happy childhood dressing up their GI Joes. NTTAWWT. But the difference in defensive firepower between the perfect handgun and any old lousy handgun is a difference of degree, and it’s a small degree compared to the difference between the lousy handgun and no handgun at all, which is a difference of kind. Carry no gun to a gunfight and you have made a category error, not an error of dimension or proportion.

Bottom line: your first line of defense is to use your superior judgment to stay away from the places trouble reigns, at the times trouble reigns, so you don’t have to display your superior skill.

Your second line of defense is your firearm and your skill with it. And you use it to defend human life for long enough that you can break contact with the threat.

Sometimes people take this Warrior Mindset thing too far. You don’t need a gun so you can hunt down and kill zombies. When the zombies come, if the pros can’t handle them, that may change, but right now, you need a gun so the zombies can’t hunt down and kill you (and yours).

What the zombies do after they put you and yours in the too hard bin and shamble off to eat someone else’s brains is not your department.

Did you carry today? Why not? Is the world safer when you carry, or when you don’t? If enough ordinary people carry, wouldn’t society have herd immunity to certain common social pathogens?

What Can a Mere Rifle Do, II

In 2014, we asked, “What can a mere rifle do?” in reference to a standoff attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric power substation in Metcalf, California.

The answer, in that case, was to blow the transformers to hell and gone, and bug out. To date, there has been no arrest in the case; at one time, a DHS official suggested it was an inside job. There have been subsequent attacks, despite attempts to upgrade security; indeed, once, criminals cut through a fence and made off with equipment that was on site — for security upgrades.

Now, there’s been a new rifle attack on a station, in rural Utah. It appears to have been less sophisticated and less persistent than the California attack, but more effective — the attacker or attackers blew the station off the grid with as few as three rifle shots.


On Sunday, somebody went to the remote substation located between Kanab and Page, Arizona, and fired at least three rounds with a high-powered rifle into the main transformer, knocking out power to an estimated 13,000 customers in Kanab, Big Water, Orderville, Glendale, Hatch and surrounding towns in Garfield County.

“Just from the looks of it, it looked more criminal than vandalism because they knew exactly where to shoot it and they shot it multiple times in the same spot,” Brown said. “For somebody to know exactly where that substation is and how to hit it exactly like he did, (it) seems like he’d have to have knowledge of that.”

Countermeasures that can be used in cases like this are limited. In California, the power company deployed cameras, but they’re investigative, not preventive, technology; and constructed blinds that block sight of the most vulnerable transformers, but they’re concealment, not cover. In Utah, the power company has asked for tips, and done something even less practical than the Californians:

A portable transformer was brought to the substation to restore power. The portable substation is now being monitored by an on-site security guard 24 hours a day.

Exercise for the reader:

  1. How does a guard protect the site?
  2. How can you strike the site even with the guard in place?
  3. How can you get the guard out of place? How can you deny him the response force that would otherwise come when he calls?
  4. Do you think it’s likely that the guard will be there 24/7/365 x forever? (Hint: me neither)
  5. What does guarding this site do for the security of every other substation in the grid?
  6. How many sites can they lose before they run out of portable transformers?
  7. How many sites can they guard effectively against an intelligent enemy?

As far as the California approach is concerned, well, how long will those screens last when they’re in the way of routine maintenance? And, how much of a deterrent will they be to an actual sniper who can calculate an aiming point if he’s so inclined?

We’ve done the math on transformer production and delivery. (A former contract shop studied this exact problem for a government agency, long before the Metcalf attack). Let’s just say you really, really don’t want someone with some CARVER skills and experience deciding to play silly buggers with your power grid.

And, for the UW theorists among us: this three-shot Sunday attack that caused thousands of homes, businesses and government offices to lose power is most probably an example of:

  1. Kids acting out;
  2. An actual enemy’s shakedown run to test feasibility of this approach;
  3. An actual enemy’s confidence target prepatory to a serious campaign against the grid;
  4. An actual enemy’s perturbation of the system, to enable him to study the response;
  5. A follow-up to the 2013 transformer attack by the same guy(s). Serial killer(s) of transformers?

Finally, the problem with “security” is that it comes down to a mall cop sitting night-in night-out at a bank of computer screens. As the Wall Street Journal noted about the 2013 attack on Metcalf station, in an article on the 2015 one:

During last year’s attack, Metcalf’s perimeter alarms were activated as bullets nicked the fence. Workers at a PG&E security center ignored early warning signs of trouble.

Want El Al security? You have to spend El Al money and hire El Al level of people.

Hat to Matt in IL in the comments to an earlier post.