Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

Body Cam Footage: How Not to Release It

We have said that dash and body cams, as much as they creep officers out, save a lot more cops’ skins than they put at risk. (On the other hand, the military approach, where the eye on your forehead is being watched in the FOB, in Tampa, or in DC and desk jockeys from all those zip codes are murmuring advice in your ear, is not so good). But having a recording of what cops do from their own point of view is a life- or at least career-saver, and a primo slayer of conspiracy theories.

That’s because most cops do follow their training in interaction with the public. While there may be times they err, being, loath as the public is to give them the credit sometimes, human, most of the time the video shows that the cop was in the right. And the story the suspect or his survivors cooked up of poor li’l Dindu Nuffin bein’ set upon by Da Man is, how shall we put this? Horse puckey.

So the best thing to do, when you have a clean shoot, is to release the video early and often. Let the it-bleeds-it-leads ghouls on local TV have their blood meal. Let the relatives’ story of a “police assassination” be compared to video of a snarling nut-job charging cops with a knife.

Or you can botch it completely like the New Hampshire Attorney General and the state Supreme Court did in the case of the suicide-by-cop of a mentally ill man, Hagen Esty-Lennon, who charged two Haverhill, NH cops, Greg Collins and Ryan Jarvis.

What they ultimately did, egged on by Dindu Nuffin’s wife who wants to pretend that her whackadoodle husband didn’t functionally kill himself, was release the videos with the actual shooting redacted. So all it shows is Hagen Esty-Lennon’s agitated, crazy behavior. Then during the shooting you have the audio of Esty-Lennon being ventilated by multiple shots from the cops’ Smith & Wessons.

And then lots of audio of the chaotic aftermath that’s commonplace after a shooting.

One of the videos is above. Three more are at the New Hampster Union Leader, which was forced to sue for the videos — while the Dindu Nuffin clan spread nonsense about how their guy was heartlessly gunned down. For no reason. And thanks mostly to the AG, the agitators have been handed a video that they can continue to claim shows a bad shoot.

Of course, the AG is one of those individuals who has much more sympathy for criminals and their families than for the cops who spend their days trying to keep a lid on these people.

It gets worse. The very redaction they demanded, they’re now using as “evidence” of a “cover-up.”

Facts we can tell from the video:

  1. The guy was acting irrationally
  2. The guy had a knife.
  3. The guy had previously injured himself with the knife (that’s what the red stain is).
  4. The guy threatened the cops with the knife.

Everything else is speculation. But there’s nothing here that makes Esty-Lennon look like anything but one of those wretches who’s out on the street only because there are just not enough rooms with neoprene wallpaper, nor any working mechanism to send the nut jobs there.

Rifle Training, Fort Jackson, 1970s

OK, so there’s a new toy at the Unconventional Warfare Operations Research Library, and it’s a book scanner. First thing we tried to scan was a 1970s basic training “yearbook.” Like every student yearbook, it’s 95% stock content with 5% varying with each class, being the pictures of the current teachers and graduates. We did a hasty scan of the document, then edited out all the non-gun stuff.

1970s rifle training.pdf

So this is what M16A1 era basic training looked like on the only base that was, then, experimenting with integrated male/female training units. Check out the funny women’s uniforms — there was a female fatigue uniform which was made from the nylon stuff of late jungle fatigues and survived about two pressings, and female drill instructors wore a hideous knock off of an Australian bush hat. (Pretty sure women now wear the regular Smokey Bear hat).

Most of the troops attending basic at Jackson would go on to Combat Support and Combat Service Support jobs. Other bases trained Combat Arms (Infantry at Benning, Armor at Knox, Artillery at Sill). The Engineers trained at Fort Leonard Wood.

Rifle training was supposedly standardized across all training bases, and had several distinct phases or blocks of instruction:

  1. Mechanical training: operate, strip, clean, reassemble, and function-check the M16A1.
  2. Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM). Hold factors, sight picture, breathing, trigger, etc.
  3. Zero. Achieve a good battle-sight zero on the M16A1 with the Canadian Bull target.
  4. Field Firing. On a Trainfire (pop-up target) range, trainees practice shooting.
  5. Record Fire. On a Trainfire record fire range, engage targets from 50 to 300 meters.

After record fire, the green-fatigued troops could put a camouflage cover on their steel M1 helmets. The cover had a green side and a brown side, the brown side is seldom seen.

There were also familiarization fires such as NBC fire (5 or 10 rounds with a mask on), night fire (shot at day through light-limiting goggles — yes, really!), automatic fire from the bipod, and support weapons including the M60 (a few rounds) and the M72A1 LAW (for all but one or two lucky dogs per cycle, using the subcaliber device). Some of these are shown in the excerpt.

Yeah, the excerpt is rough. We’re still getting the hang of the scanner. Fujitsu SV600.

Mindset and Life

Deadliest weapon ever devised. Use yours.

Deadliest weapon ever devised. Use yours.

Mindset is life.

Or, sometimes, death.

Faced with a survival situation, some fight. Some flee. Some just freeze and wait to die or be saved by third party intervention. And some are not faced with this situation because they saw it coming and absented themselves. That is, in our opinion, the smartest thing to do if you don’t have to stand and fight. In order, the best outcomes are:

  1. A fight you never have;
  2. A fight you win without fighting;
  3. A fight you win, killing the enemy;
  4. A fight you win, wounding or scaring off the enemy.

The reason (4) is not as good as (3) is that you leave a possibility for revenge out there. Dead guys can’t seek revenge.

Indicators and Warnings

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero at Pearl Harbor. Illustration by Darryl Joyce. (Actually, we think he has the color wrong).

“Where did all those ^%^#*!! Japs come from?!?”.

Every time the national security bureaucracy is caught flatfooted, a rather frequent occurrence, reconsideration shows that there were was a sufficiency of Indicators & Warnings, I&W. They just weren’t read right, or interpreted, or they were ignored.

You don’t have to find big screwups like Pearl Harbor, the Chinese entry into the Korean War, or 9/11, to find examples of ignored I&Ws. Consider two individuals whose demise was reported in these pages in the last few months: a young man in Maine who blew his head off with fireworks, and a young man (hmmm… first indication of a pattern?) in coastal Texas whose last words were, reportedly, “F the gator!” Yes, he was warned about a large alligator in his chosen swimming hole, and yes, he ignored the warning, and yes, the gator killed him. Likewise, the Maine decedent’s friends warned him that setting off a large fireworks mortar on his head was A Bad Idea.

They didn’t heed the indicators.

That’s the biggest problem with human beings and I&W, even when the I&W is pretty obvious: “Hey, setting off an explosion on your brain housing group might be a bad idea,” or “There’s a man-eatin’ gator over yonder.” And the I&W is not that obvious, always. People hear hoofbeats and they’re not looking for zebras.

The US is not the only nation to be get caught napping like this. A couple of patrolling Zekes formed up on two B-25s one sunny morning off the coast of Honshu, and, not believing their eyes, convinced themselves they were looking at two experimental Imperial Japanese Army bombers they’d been told about — and let two of Doolittle’s Raiders go on to bomb Tokyo. That was fair payback for the Air Corps lieutenant three and a half months earlier, who, knowing that some B-17s were inbound, told some radar operators not to worry about what looked like a 50-plane raid on Oahu. Didn’t heed the indicators.

Some indicators are transient, some are durable, some are eternal. Obviously the Kaga and Akagi air wings on Pearl Harbor’s radar is a transient indicator. A durable one? Certain neighborhoods’ reputations. There were four fatal opiate ODs in our little county last weekend, in two separate towns. All four of them happened in streets that would have come up in discussion if you asked a town cop, “If someone OD’d here in your town, exactly where would you find the stiff?” If you’re not looking for hard drugs, you probably don’t want to go to those places, even in these very safe (generally speaking) towns.

The character of a neighborhood only changes over time, and with a change of people. When a neighborhood is improved, it’s not because they built shiny new buildings or added street lamps. It’s because they removed (or the cost of living in a shiny new building removed) the people who made the neighborhood bad.


“The superior person uses his superior judgment so as not to have to make a vulgar display of his superior skills.” This has long been a saying among pilots, but we’ve torqued it to fit a more general set of superior persons.

In interpersonal conflict, judgment is displayed best by the party that seeks to avoid, evade, and escape the conflict, and only goes to the gun (or lead pipe, or barstool, whatever) when the evasion phase has failed.

In analyzing any conflict, certain inflection points are evident (in hindsight!) where better judgment might have defused the situation or deflected the juggernaut before the collision point. Consider the George Zimmerman shooting of Trayvon Martin. There’s no question that the evidence shows that George was in the right by any measure of morality or law when he plugged Trayvon (and made one small contribution to the cause of fighting future prison overcrowding in Florida). But if you mentally “walk” the scene with George, you can see some of these inflection points, even if he didn’t, at the time.  Once the fight started, of course, he had no choices except to take the beating and roll the dice on personal death or serious inury on the one hand, or use force to stop it on the other.

And, while we haven’t spoken to the man, we have no doubt that, in retrospect, George Zimmerman would have rather avoided his fight with Trayvon Martin than, as happened, won it; his victory was the very definition of a Pyrrhic one. His life will never be the same again and he will never be free from intrusive, hostile reporters (who continue to report a false narrative and vilify Zimmerman to this day).

And that’s a case of a guy who won an unnecessary but desperate, life-stakes fight. The guys who lost are not available to tell us what they wish they had done.

We recall that instructor John S. Farnam had (and has, he’s still working) several pithy ways of saying this, but the best fight is the one that doesn’t happen. (Farnam is hardly the only one with such a message. It’s as old as Sun Tzu).

Mindset & Judgment Can be Learned

To an extent, anyway. We’re not as confident as the Army is that it can teach anybody pretty much anything, but we do believe that anyone can, by a process of analysis leading to mental and physical drills, improve his mindset and therefore his or her odds of survival.

These odds of survival are improved by training to hone your skills and survive an armed encounter, but they’re improved more by using your superior judgment so as not to have to make a vulgar display of your superior skills. Too few people do the former, and far too few people do the latter. (A lot of cops who are involved in shootings are just unlucky. But there are others, where none of their cop friends are surprised they were in a shooting. Why do you think that is?)

Most of us are not cops, and not soldiers (any more), and therefore, do need to saddle up and go into places where you’re likely to be engaged by gunfire. So here’s our version of some guidelines for fight avoidance:

  1. Carcharodon carcharias: business end of a healthy one.

    Carcharodon carcharias: business end of a healthy one.

    Don’t swim where the sharks feed. Yes, home invaders can come to suburbia, but most criminals live in poor, lousy neighborhoods and prey on each other as well as the majority of non-criminals who have the bad fortune to live there, too. If you live there, leave. If you go there, stop.

  2. If you must go where the sharks feed — you may have reasons; we had a friend whose elderly mother would not leave her house in South Central LA until the Rodney King riots burned it down and settled the question for her — don’t look like bait. Don’t act timid, walk boldly with your head up, like you belong there — and are the baddest mother in the valley. Also, don’t flash stuff that is irresistibly attractive to the sort of people who have been listening to TV and therefore think they’re entitled to take it from you.
  3. When you have to go into the badlands, take a lesson from the cops and don’t walk alone. If you can’t help looking like prey (maybe you’re small, or elderly person), bring a buddy who looks intimidating if you can.
  4. Don’t get distracted. This is the wrong time to be facebooking, texting or reading on your jeezly phone. In fact, it’s the wrong time to be taking calls. You need to be 100% in the analog world. We don’t know what the percentage of mugging victims in NYFC and San Francisco is, who had their ear buds in, but we’d take a guess it’s fairly high.
  5. Be conscious of concealment. Don’t give anyone the chance to ambush you.
  6. Manage the Clock. Most criminals stay up late and sleep late, too. If you have unavoidable business in their precincts, do it at seven o’clock in the morning when they’re down for the count, not at midnight when they’re just warming up.
  7. Be conscious of the fact that you may have to be ready, and always be ready to deliver a violent counterstrike.
  8. Work on avoidance, but once avoidance fails you should immediately execute a drilled, conscious plan. Strike hard and decisively. (George Z. got this bit exactly right, and every day’s life he has now, he only has because he did).
  9. If you err, and are attacked, act. Save regrets and recriminations for later.


Tam has commented on this at her indispensable blog, with some references to an earlier post of hers that made many of these same points, and one more important one. Go thither. Read that. Return smarter. That is all.

NYPD Officer Fired 14 Shots, Got Record 6 Hits (4/2014 incident, back in the news)

Joe Felice was the lucky (?) recipient of the six hits. If Patrolman Cronin's reason for firing him up has surfaced, NYPD and Westchester County prosecutors are not talking about it.

Joe Felice was the lucky (?) recipient of the six hits. If Patrolman Cronin’s reason for firing him up has surfaced, NYPD and Westchester County prosecutors are not talking about it.

“Only the Police Can Be Trusted With Guns®.” A lot of people in New York say that. Like Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-Five Families), Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-Leftistan) and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton (D-Ineffectual), to name a few.

But the record of the NYPD is not encouraging. Every gunfight is an opportunity to launch a single bullet with an armed felon’s name on it, but the Department instead produces officers who conduct a Mad Minute of spray-and-pray reconnaissance by fire.

Training issue? Certainly. Weapons issue (the crappy NY trigger, which some shooters actually do like?) Maybe. But a leadership issue? Absolutely.

“There are no bad regiments, only bad colonels.” — Napoleon.

New York has tens of thousands of cops; inevitably, some of them are going to be d-bags. Others might be good guys who screw up big “that one time.” But when the whole department shoots as if their guns have no sights and they learned basic pistol marksmanship from rap videos, they’re going to continue to have problems, and they’re doing that because command emphasis has not been placed on marksmanship. At least, not real command emphasis, which includes taskings, resources, and evaluation/inspection. Speeches about command emphasis, which were Bratton’s specialty in LA, Boston and his last rodeo in New York, don’t count .

Being a leader means, among other things, setting and upholding standards, and dealing appropriately with those subordinates who fail to achieve them. Civil Service protections and strong police unions make that functionally impossible. How can you raise the standard for marksmanship (say, from horrifying, to merely atrocious) when you can’t do anything to those who can’t or won’t meet the standard?

With this officer, though, the marksmanship is the least of his problems. Indeed, if his marksmanship had been any better, the jam he’s in would be substantially worse — and it’s pretty bad.

Two men who say they were shot at by a drunken, off-duty cop for no apparent reason sued the city Monday for the near-deadly debacle.

Joseph Felice and Robert Borrelli were driving home from a hockey game in Pelham, Westchester County, when NYPD officer Brendan Cronin “stepped out of the shadows” and fired 14 times at their ride in April 2014, documents charge. Felice was shot six times and narrowly escaped death.

Papers charge that Cronin and other officers had hit a bar on City Island in the Bronx before the shooting.

Are you getting the feeling that there’s more to this story than meets the eye so far? We sure are. Any time somebody tells us that Sumdood decked, or bent a tire iron on his head, or broke a volley of rounds in his direction, all “for no reason,” our bullshit detector redlines. It’s right up there with “minding my own business, when…” and the ever popular “dindu nuffin.” Most of the people who do that kind of thing with a fist/tire iron/handgun have really lousy reasons, but there’s seldom no reason.

Robert Borrelli was driving the car when it was struck by the bullets.
Cronin is awaiting a criminal trial in Westchester and has been suspended from the NYPD.

via Drunk cop fired 14 rounds at men as they drove home: suit – NY Daily News.

Still, the amazing thing is that an NYPD cop can fire fourteen shots and get six hits. That’s unheard of! (Maybe he was shooting at someone else, some unscathed third party?) Seriously, the days of the crack Stakeout Squad are over. These days, the NYPD only gets that many hits into bystanders, no matter how many shots they fire.

Of course, those cops are usually on duty, and are supposed to be sober. This guy was off duty, and was apparently not sober at all. This is why your daddy told you that alcohol and gunpowder don’t mix.

Now, a novice to the ways of big-city police work would think, “This cat Cronin is screwed, they’re gonna throw him so far in the back corner of Upstate that the screws will have to feed him with a Wrist Rocket.” But the last time NYPD had a guy this irresponsible with firearms, he wound up as Police Commissioner. Of course, he’s Commissioner in Chicago, but still…

Whatever Judgment Juice Cronin was guzzling, Bratton ought to send a case of it to each of his cops. If they can get around the little problem Cronin had with target discrimination, it could open up a whole new era in NYPD marksmanship.

Will Israel Nuke Iran First?

BLOWING UP PARADISEDefense intellectual and former Strategic Defense Initiative planner John Bosma argues in the American Thinker that for Israel the options are closing rapidly, and the least bad option may be to make a nuclear preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, aiming to disrupt development but also to kill the maximum number of scientists and technicians, and to leave any surviving facilities fatally irradiated.

Far from producing peace, Bosma claims, the deal negotiated between two preferentially antisemitic teams could be extremely destabilizing; it…

…also augurs the possibility of a nuclear war coming far sooner than one could have imagined under conventional wisdom worst-case scenarios. Following the US’s betrayal of Israel and its de facto detente with Iran, we cannot expect Israel to copy longstanding US doctrines of no-first-nuclear-use and preferences for conventional-weapons-only war plans. After all, both were premised (especially after the USSR’s 1991 collapse) on decades of US nuclear and conventional supremacy. If there ever were an unassailable case for a small, frighteningly vulnerable nation to pre-emptively use nuclear weapons to shock, economically paralyze, and decapitate am enemy sworn to its destruction, Israel has arrived at that circumstance.

Why? Because Israel has no choice, given the radical new alignment against it that now includes the US, given reported Obama threats in 2014 to shoot down Israeli attack planes, his disclosure of Israel’s nuclear secrets and its Central Asian strike-force recovery bases, and above all his agreement to help Iran protect its enrichment facilities from terrorists and cyberwarfare – i.e., from the very special-operations and cyber forces that Israel would use in desperate attempts to halt Iran’s bomb. Thus Israel is being forced, more rapidly and irreversibly than we appreciate, into a bet-the-nation decision where it has only one forceful, game-changing choice — early nuclear pre-emption – to wrest back control of its survival and to dictate the aftermath of such a survival strike.

via Articles: Thinking About the Unthinkable: An Israel-Iran Nuclear War.

A limited Israeli strike could produce the nuclear disarmament of Iran that Obama and Kerry had claimed, before some of the terms of the deal put the lie to their statements, that they sought. Nuclear weapons are one effective solution to the underground bunkers used by Iran to shelter its systems.

Israel cannot  service this target set with conventional weapons — its stocks are not deep enough, and it’s clear that they can’t rely on the United States, at least under this Administration, for resupply.

The deliberate American silence over Iran’s genocidal intentionality sends an unmistakable signal to Israel that the US no longer recognizes a primordial, civilizational moral obligation to protect it from the most explicit threats imaginable. It is truly on its own, with the US in an all-but-overt alliance with its worst enemy. The shock to Israel’s leaders of this abrupt American lurch into tacitly accepting this Iranian intentionality cannot be understated. Iran is violating the core tenets of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, a US initiative after the Tokyo and Nuremberg war-crimes trials to codify genocide as a crime against humanity. Now the US is silent.

But this shift is also recent. Every US government prior to President Obama would have foresworn nuclear talks with such a psychopathic regime or would have walked out in a rage upon such utterances. Yet Iran’s genocidal threats have had no discernible effect on Obama’s canine eagerness for a deal.

The two main factors Bosma sees making the nuclear option “almost mandatory” for Israel are the Iranian government’s continued propaganda and doctrine calling for nuclear weapons explicitly for the extermination of Jews, and, as recounted above, the US’s sudden tilt to the Iranian position. But he also lists a number of other reasons, which we’ll paraphrase:

  1. Iranian nuclear progress is self-sustaining and can’t be stopped with conventional weapons or sanctions. For Israel, it is a matter of nuke, or be nuked.
  2. Iranian progress is concrete hardening has essentially neutralized such weapons as the 30kp Massive Ordnance Penetrator, meaning it’s nukes or nothing.
  3. The presence in the agreement of a new US-Iranian limited military alliance targeted against Israel.
  4. The Russian agreement to deliver to Iran S-300 anti-ballistic and anti-aircraft weapons. This dual-purpose weapon is in the improved Patriot class and complicates strike planning (to put it mildly). The weapons are enroute to Iran already. (Russia is also delivering nuclear weapons delivery technology, including ICBMs). Some of these Russian missiles come with Russian mercenary crews. In addition, with Russian and Iranian assistance, the terrorist group Hezbollah has been converting its ineffective rockets into precision guided munitions with defense-evading technology.

While Bosma’s grim predictions may never come to pass, his position has a certain logic. (We believe it won’t come to pass because the Israeli government will shrink from following that logic to its inevitable end). In any event you should Read The Whole Thing™. It’s a brief but very information-dense piece.

If the Israelis did take this approach to survival, how would they do it? Given that the US Government is likely to share any intelligence indicators of a strike with Iran, Israel will have to proceed under an unprecedented cloak of secrecy. But at this point, their very least worst option for the long term survival of Israel and its people may well be to nuke Iran.

This is one consequence of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for lofty intentions, standing alone.

Not Everyone Should Carry a Gun

queens_subway_piranhaConsider, for instance, this lady:

A woman pushed, scratched and bit a subway rider who tried to sit in a seat that had her bag on it, according to police.

The alleged subway rage occurred aboard a Manhattan-bound F train from Queens last Friday at about 9:45 a.m.

The 45-year-old victim asked a woman to move her bag so she could sit down. When the woman ignored her, the victim attempted to sit down anyway.

That’s when police say the seated women flew into a rage. They say she scratched the other rider on the chest, pulled her hair and bit her forearm, causing bleeding.

The suspect fled when the train stopped at the 21st Street and Queensbridge station in Long Island City.

via NYPD: Subway rider asked to move bag bites another passenger – Story | WNYW.

Stop and think about this for a minute. This creature flew into a scratching, biting rage over not getting a seat to herself and one for her precious bag, which is probably full of pilfered handi-wipes from cheap restaurants, not to mention a bottle of the anger-management meds she’s clearly gone off.

Maybe she saw “Queens” on the subway line and thought it was a promotion for her, not an indication of the borough that’s at one end of the line.

Anyway, some people should not have guns. This includes the mentally ill, the intemperate, those lacking impulse control, and anyone who sucks up to bosses and treats peers and subordinates like crap — i.e., every reporter in the media, which explains why they’re foursquare for gun control.

Come to think of it, where do you think the Queens Subway Piranha works?

  1. Some downtown print or broadcast media firm;
  2. Aide of some kind to a politician;
  3. At some high-minded nonprofit;
  4. Works? Bwahahahahaaa. She collects. 

Correction /Update on the French Train Attack

As is usually the case, the initial media reports were incomplete and incorrect. Today, we have more details on the incident. Rather than a counterattack by US Marines, it was a self-organized “pack, not a herd” of young men that disarmed and disabled the attacker, a known Islamic fundamentalist named Ayoub el-Qahzzani, 26.  (Sounds close enough to Ala-kazam! to us).

three train heroes

L-R: Anthony Sadler, Aleck Skarlatos, and Chris Norman show off medals they received from Mayor of Arras, France, Frederic Leturque. Note bruise on Sadler’s nose and blood on Norman’s shirt. Spencer Stone was in hospital.

  • The four men were three young friends: Spencer Stone, an Air Force airman on leave; Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard soldier on vacation; and non-vet Tony Sadler; plus a middle-aged British man Chris Norman, who lives in France and is identified as an “IT Consultant.”
  • They disarmed ala-Kazam! and beat the snot out of him; that part of previous reports is correct.
  • He was yelling at them, “Give me back my gun! Give me back my gun!” But as Sadler put it, “We just carried on beating him up.” Good call, kid.
  • Ala-Kazam! was a member of a former terrorist cell that was rolled up before it could attack in Brussels. He was on the radar of Belgian, French and Spanish counterterrorist police.
  • Ala-Kazam! was prepared with a cover story. His cover story is that:
    1. No, he’s not an Islamist or terrorist…
    2. He was just planning a robbery!
    3. Gun? What gun? Oh, that gun. He found it under a bush in a park in Brusells.
Spencer Stone, 22, was injured in the fight, as were two passengers. This is his USAF basic picture.

Spencer Stone, 22, was injured in the fight, as were two passengers. This is his USAF basic picture. He recognized the sound of an AK being loaded, and charged the gunman when he came out of the restroom.

The cover story is amateurish, but it will be believed by those who want to believe. Already French officialdom is trying to minimize any terrorist or Islamist motive,  and certain elements of the press are going with the “how do you know it’s Islamic,” or the good old “root causes” search. In 5-4-3-2-1 expect editorials about the importance of avoiding “anti-islamic backlash,” and expect these heroes’ faces to be crowded off TV by the terrorist apologists of CAIR.

As more details emerge, they get more remarkable. Anthony Sadler’s dad, also named Tony Sadler, a soft-spoken guy who seems to just radiate good will and decency, remarked that he expected his son to learn something on his trip and then he goes…

… and seems to become France’s national hero — I’m told he might even meet the President of France. Still wrapping my head around that.

French President Hollande would probably be honored to meet these guys, actually. Any leader can always make time for good news and praiseworthy countrymen, or in this case, tourists.

Skarlatos's pre-deployment picture. He, Stone and Sadler were friends sightseeing Europe after his Afghan tour.

Skarlatos’s pre-deployment picture. He, Stone and Sadler were friends sightseeing Europe after his Afghan tour. He shouted, “Spencer, GO!” and followed his friend against the Arab terrorist.

Skarlatos, whose first name is variously spelled Alec, Alek, and Aleck in news reports, is confirmed to be a member of the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team and an Afghanistan veteran. Oregon Guard spokesman Major Stephen Bomar said:

It’s fantastic that no matter who it was, someone stepped up to stop such a horrific event. We’re absolutely proud that it happened to be someone from the Oregon Army National Guard

Frankly, this is the best possible outcome. None of the victims will die; the terrorist has failed. Moreover, despite being armed with an AK and a basic load of ammunition, and having possibly received training in Syria, he was beaten up by an international group of civilians and off-duty troops including a part-time soldier, an Air Force junior enlisted guy, and two pure civilians, one of them old enough to be his father, from a profession (IT) noted as a refuge of nerds and the non-physical.

It was, in fact, fully in the spirit of the heroes of United 93, but with a much better outcome, and it illustrates one of the weaknesses of ISIL’s and al-Qaeda’s current epidemic-of-lone-wolves strategy: as Kipling wrote, “the strength of the wolf is the pack,” and they’re finding out that when they show up without the pack, they misclassified their targets. Not sheep at all, but able to spontaneously organize a counter-wolfpack.

Finally, Ala-Kazam! is lucky he’s just in jail, not in Hell. On a video shot by another passenger, the Americans are heard fully in charge of the situation:

US voice 1: Dude, I tried to shoot him.

US voice 2 (amused): He did!

Apparently, Ala-Kazam!’s gun had an ala-ka-jam. He may have had a handgun, also.

US voice 1: You’re also missing the handgun.

Euro voice (maybe Chris Norman?): The handgun is missing.

US Voice 2: Can we just look under chairs, and shit?

At that point, the audio on the video becomes a multilingual discussion of the search for the missing pistol.


  • El País (Spain; Spanish language): El autor del atentado contra el tren Ámsterdam- París vivió en Algeciras. (The perpetrator of the attack on the Amsterdam-Paris train lived in Algeciras). It also identifies his weapons as an AK with nine magazines and a 9mm “Lugger” with one magazine. Oh, here’s an English translation where they spell Luger right. Pity, a Luger wasted on a bum like this. The stories contain some details on ala-Kazam!’s pre-beatdown life; for all his extreme Islam, he’d done time for dope dealing.

That’s it for now or we’ll never go live with the post!

PS: it would have been nice if the gal in the platform shoes had been one of the beaters, but apparently she’s one of the French cops. In the French media, the police spokesman telling this story of failed jihad with evident relish was by appearance and name a Frenchman of Arab heritage (as was one of the victims in the small arms attack).

Law of Self Defense Seminar — a Review

Law of Self Defense Andrew BrancaWe’ve written before about the excellent thing that is Andrew Branca’s book, The Law Of Self Defense. We recommend it to everybody. He also does live seminars on particular states’ or groups of states’ laws. We recently attended such an event as a guest of Andrew.

Let us make perfectly clear what this means: we attended without paying his usual fee, so we’ll decline, if ever offered, the excellent perk that goes with attending a seminar: an hour’s free legal consultation, should you ever be involved in a self-defense incident.

An hour? we can hear some of you skeptic’s thinking aloud out there. What earthly good is an hour of a lawyer’s time? It turns out, for an individual facing possible indictment or charges in the aftermath of a self-defense shooting, a very real possibility these days, what he or she needs is a criminal defense attorney admitted to the bar and familiar with the courts locally, and what that attorney needs is someone like Andrew as a backstop — someone who can tell them what elements of self-defense need to be present in their fact pattern to win the case.

Of course, most of us are not attorneys (although there were an interesting set of them taking advantage of the Continuing Legal Education credits the seminar provides). Most of the attendees were shooters and everyday defensive carriers.

For us, the take-away from the seminar is what to do to establish a fact pattern that can prevent our indictment, get the case tossed in the motions phase, or, if all else fails, deliver a win in court.

A win in court sure beats a loss, but Andrew emphasizes that it isn’t an absolute win. “The process is the punishment,” and even a “victorious” defendant emerges financially ruined and reputationally tattered. It gets considerably worse if the media decides to play buzkashi with your head. George Zimmerman’s legal bills are between him and his lawyers, but they’re estimated at over $1 million. And even if George can ever earn his way out from under that debt (like Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys?) he still has a large number of people who, inflamed by false and careless media reporting, think he got away with murder. One of them took a shot at him this year. (Imagine the restraint it took not to shoot back). And the guy that shot at him was released on bail, where he’s since been busted again for another violent crime.

The system seems sometimes to be spring-loaded against the guy who’s a first-time participant, and full of breaks for the frequent flyers. Andrew doesn’t defend this system, but he does tell you what it is, and how to survive it.

Can’t You Just Teach Yourself?

No, you can’t. Why not? Because, where are you going to learn the law? Trying to reason from the Constitution would be fine if that’s what courts actually did, but that’s not what they do. They don’t even work from the state’s own self-defense law, alone. We have said before that for a layman (non-lawyer), trying to read statutes is a chump’s game. What “the law” is in a courtroom is a farrago of statute, court decisions, and jury instructions from previous cases. It gets even worse. Some court decisions are precedential and subsequent courts rely upon them, others are unpublished and you can’t rely on them, to name just one tiny example.

What happens when you use a Self Defense, er, defense

The DA has measured, and this fits you.

The DA has measured, and this fits you.

The first thing is that some very big elements of the crime — and yes, people who defend themselves are often charged with crimes up to and including murder, just ask George — are proven for the prosecution by your self-defense argument.

Because you’re not saying I didn’t do it. You’re admitting that you did it. But you’re saying I had a justifiable reason for committing this crime, one that makes it not a crime. In this way, a self-defense based defense is very different from an alibi defense, for example — the alibi supports the idea that I didn’t do it.

George Z, for instance, never denied he was right there, and never denied shooting Trayvon Martin. His self defense plea simplified the task for the prosecution — all they had to do is disprove one of the elements of self-defense, because he’d already admitted almost everything else they’d need to convict him of murder. He had admitted:

  1. He was there
  2. He fired his gun
  3. He intended to shoot Trayvon

…and, of course, no one disupted that:

4. Trayvon died.

In a case like Zimmerman’s, your self-defense plea may be a matter of life or death. (Since prosecutors had taken the death penalty off the table, for George it was a matter of life or life in prison, a fate worse than death for a lot of free men).

Where’s the Burden of Proof? What are the Elements of Self-Defense?

First, who has to prove that your actions were self-defense? This varies from state to state, but in general, you do.

And the elements you have to prove are:

  • Innocence: you have to be defending, not attacking. 
  • Imminence: you have to fear death or grievous injury right now, not sometime next week.
  • Proportionality: if someone flips you the bird and you do a double mag-dump in him, you’re going to have issues with the justice system.
  • Avoidance: Did you try to avoid the violence or did you welcome it?
  • Reasonableness: What would that mythical “reasonable man” think about your use of force?

Each of these items is handled a little bit differently in every state’s law. And many of them are fairly subjective, but they’re not subjective based on what you think or what you thought at the time, but on what our ideal reasonable man would think.

In the seminar, Andrew not only introduces these concepts but illustrates them with cases familiar from the national news, and (perhaps more to the point) unfamiliar, but illustrating the case law in the specific states. (For this iteration, it was MA and NH).

Why Do Self-Defense Pleas Fail?

Law-ScaleAndHammerThe most common reason is this: attorneys can only work with the facts they have, and often they get a crappy fact pattern. If any one of the five elements of a self-defense plea fails, the whole plea fails: the chair must stand on all five legs or it falls.

Some of these distinctions can be extremely subtle. The difference between innocence and failed innocence, for example, can be a simple as an attacker’s desisting in the attack and attempting to withdraw. If you pursue, you’re the new attacker. If you provoke the attack, you’re not innocent. If you lay in ambush to drygulch somebody, your case for avoidance crumbles, etc. The most common error in proportionality is to answer non-deadly force with deadly force.

On the subject of Avoidance, Andrew showed us a favorite prosecutor’s trick: to show an illustration of the area where the confrontation took place, with every possible avenue of escape illustrated with a red arrow. “Even if only one of these was not blocked,” the DA will intone, “you must convict” the defendant. It can be “terribly effective,” Andrew warns, with juries. But there’s legal jiu-jitsu to use here, too: you only have to demonstrate that the way out, while not blocked, was not safe. If the assailant has a projectile weapon like a gun, can you turn your back on him? If he’s knife-armed and faster than you?

The Things People Think Are Legal, But…

One of the biggest things that lands well-meaning people in the legal stewpot is bad information. The only source of good information about self-defense law is a lawyer who’s trained to interpret the documents where the law really resides: statutes, court decisions, and jury instructions. Have you heard any of this advice:

  • “If you shoot him outside, drag him back in the house.”
  • “Shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
  • “If he didn’t have a gun, put a kitchen knife in his hand before you call the cops.”
  • “Don’t call the cops.”

Along with these there are things that might be legal, but are stupid. One example is clamming up completely: Andrew makes a persuasive case for a “say little” approach to the police instead of the well-known “say nothing,” which can make the police start to treat you as a suspect. Remember, cops spend 90% of their time relating to people in a binary world: victim, or suspect? You want them to think you at least might be the victim here, or you’re not going to like the bin they put you in.

The Advantage of Minding Your Own Business vs. Some Bad Ideas

handcuffs_1More than one guy has landed in the legal soup when he made a snap decision that some damsel in distress needed rescuing. Sometimes the case wasn’t what it looked like; sometimes it was, but beaten-up Juliet gets back with beater Romeo and it’s their word against yours, Future Inmate Number.

There’s a fine point of legal doctrine this hinges on: is your state a Reasonable Perception or an Alter Ego state? The difference can unlock the door to a jail cell — or lock it, if you’re wrong. Do you even know what your state is? We didn’t.

And while getting into someone else’s domestic incident is always a bad idea, there’s a handful of bad ideas beyond that.

You are not a cop (well, unless you’re a cop, but even cops ought to know self-defense law — they’re becoming a favorite snack of prosecutors this year, after all). A cop has to go into a deadly area to arrest somebody; you don’t. A cop has to intervene in strangers’ fights; you don’t. A cop knows he can botch a use of force galactically, and fall back on qualified immunity; you don’t.

It’s almost never legal to use deadly force to protect property. People who do that are at the mercy of the degree to which their jurisdiction’s prosecutors are sympathetic to gun owners. Bear in mind, prosecutors came up through colleges and law schools, where gun owners are about as popular as the Herpes Simplex Virus.

Our Biggest Take-Aways

Our biggest take-aways from a day spent in a gun club classroom getting the living Jesus scared out of us were two:

  • Everybody should take this seminar; and,
  • We’re going to continue to use our superior judgment so as not to have to display our superior pistolcraft.

The biggest thing preventing this seminar from appearing in your jurisdiction covering your self-defense law is that Andrew is just one guy, and he’s booked every weekend day until sometime in 2016 (and he’s got a teenager and a newborn, simultaneously… )

But the good news is that Andrew has plans to train a cadre of experienced trainers to conduct LOSD training, as an adjunct to the defensive skills training they already deliver. That should make this vital self-defense training more widely available to the defensively-oriented public.

This seminar is highly recommended. If you carry your firearm without this knowledge, you are at risk of a wide range of bad outcomes, including arrest, incarceration and imprisonment.


This very weekend there’s a seminar in Lawrenceville, Georgia, covering the SD law of the great state of Georgia. Link:  It won’t be back in GA for a year unless Andrew fires up a local instructor.

For all upcoming seminars:

A Gong for Canadian Hero Kevin Vickers

While the US Navy is looking for some way to keelhaul the guys who fired back at the Chattanooga recruiting and reserve site attacker, for whom the President flew the flags at half-staff after refusing to do so for his victims, the Canadians — specifically, the Province of New Brunswick — are honoring their guy who shot back, former Parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers (who knows where to lay his hands on a Mountie-issue Smith & Wesson 5946 as well as the ceremonial mace of office). Vickers is being presented the province’s highest honor (well, “honour,” since it is Canuckistan).

Kevin Vickers, the former sergeant-at-arms in Parliament, has been named a recipient of the Order of New Brunswick for his role in stopping a shooting spree by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau last fall.
Vickers stopped the gunman in the House of Commons last October shortly after Zehaf-Bibeau killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the National War Memorial, and rushed into the building with his rifle.

via Kevin Vickers receives Order of New Brunswick for role in stopping shooter – Yahoo News Canada.

It’s unusual for the award to be given for heroism these days; awarded by politicians, it’s generally given for some kind of social-justice-warrior engagement with some trendy minority.

Well, Vickers did have a sort of social justice engagement with a trendy minority.

Vickers on Day of Shooting

The Smith 5646 is a DAO, bobbed-hammer version of the stainless 5606 pistol. It was made during the 1990s.

The Alternative to “Judged” or “Carried.”

Law-ScaleAndHammerWe’ve all heard this bluster before:

I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6!

(To our foreign readers, most criminal juries in the USA, for serious charges, have 12 members, who are the finders of fact in a criminal trial; the judge can shape their decision with his or her superior understanding of the law, and has authority to impose most sentences, but the judge cannot, except in exceptional cases, alter or set aside a jury verdict. And 6 is the usual number of pallbearers who carry a decedent’s casket).

Why do we call it bluster? Well, it’s normally delivered in the same tone that a rotund INSCOM NCO once used to deliver this deathless line, explaining why he could not come within hailing distance of a passing score on a PT test:

You run your two miles. I’ll stand and fight!

fat-soldiersThat did not work out too well for Sergeant Heavy Drop (although having achieved certain milestones of old age and rotundity, we’re not as unsympathetic as our 1980s Weaponsman manifestation was). And “judged by 12” has not been working out well for some people who thought they had a solid self-defense case.

The thing is, going to court is a losing proposition, second only to going to the churchyard. It’s a calamity if your self-defense case is very weak (think Michael Dunn, doing life in prison for what he thought, very mistakenly, was a self-defense shooting) or you’re in a jurisdiction where the law and the biases of judge and citizenry are stacked against you (think Brian Aitken, although his wasn’t even a self-defense case; he got seven years for legal possession of unloaded firearms). But it’s almost as disastrous if your case is strong. Consider George Zimmerman, who was tried and convicted by a press that was not above making up facts and altering evidence, and tried again by a prosecutor who was unconstrained by the facts, the law, or the Constitution in her search for a scalp. Sure, George “won” acquittal, but when you check out of the courtroom after a “win” like that, all you get back is your bail money, not your life. 

George Zimmerman artThe process is the punishment. But that’s only the beginning.

George Zimmerman is never going to have an ordinary life again. He’s still pursued by paparazzi who are still willing to falsify a story to “get” his scalp, and the press have stirred up enough people that one actually stalked him and took a shot at him. (Which the press then reported as, “George Zimmerman in another shooting!”) Bad, bad, naughty George. He didn’t fall in line with The Narrative™, and there is no greater sin in media world than a mere subject of a story who refuses to read his lines as the part is written.

If you are involved in a self-defense shooting, you can expect to be treated like that, especially if you are (in Wolfe’s pungent term) The Perfect White Defendant, like George (hey, he’s Hispanic, but whatever, The Narrative™ called for a white guy, so “white” the New York Times declared him, a label they later modified to “white hispanic” which is Times speak for “a Hispanic we don’t like”). And we haven’t even mentioned the money. There are two kinds of legal defense: good, and cheap. There is no Venn intersection of the two sets. For “good” and “cheap” you can substitute “thorough” and “slapdash.” Thorough? Thorough costs money, and it takes time, which costs, of course, more money.

You can save so much money by going for “slapdash” that you can pay your lawyer from your prison commissary account. Over time. (That’s just a joke. Criminal lawyers, like bankruptcy lawyers, expect to be paid up front. Even cheap, slapdash ones. For obvious reasons).

So you don’t really want to be Judged By 12 unless the only real alternative is to be Carried by 6.

Fortunately there’s a Third Alternative.

The Third Alternative

Pilots have a great saying that we’re absolutely going to steal. It comes from the safety culture that has turned “retired fighter pilot” from a one-in-dozens rarity in the 1950s and 60s, when the USAF and Navy crashed 1,000 jets a year, to something pretty common today.


usaf_aircraft_accidents_graph(Indeed, most people only know one or two casualties from their UPT class after 20 years, and some people retire without burying a single squadron mate or friend). We gun folk could use a safety culture like that, which is a bigger issue than just this blog post. But the saying is this:

A superior pilot uses his superior judgment so that he doesn’t have to make a vulgar display of his superior skills.

That’s the Third Alternative, and that’s what we want you to do: use your superior judgment so that you don’t ever have to slap leather for real. Yes, it’s boring never being in the hospital with tubes up your nose, never being reviled by the anti-gunners on the evening news, and never sitting at that awkward little table like George Zimmerman, sweating bullets about whether your lawyers were good enough — and whether the publicity hadn’t poisoned the jurors against you already.

That doesn’t mean be a coward. That doesn’t mean shrink from a fight — always. It does mean shrink from a fight that’s not yours or not necessary. If the guy’s going to go away, let him go. If the guy’s not directly threatening your or yours, let him go. Let the cops chase him. That’s why the get the big bucks (hah), and even though they may not get your criminal tonight sooner or later they get them all. No career criminal never feels the long arm of the law.

So make up your mind:

  1. I will fire if it is the only way to prevent death or serious personal injury.
  2. If those are not in the cards, I’ll hold fire.
  3. If I can, I’ll keep my gun concealed.
  4. If I can, I’ll move away from the threat.

Doing mindset exercises ahead of time is excellent preparation; actual drills are even better, which is why more and more PDs are going to photorealistic or even force-on-force training simulations. But you have an option, if you are a civilian lawful self-defender, that the cop does not: you can get out of Dodge. The cop has to go into the alley, into the building, into the crack house or ghetto ‘hood to put the cuffs on his target for tonight. Unless you’re a cop, you don’t. (And even if you’re a cop, you may have an alternative. The day after the ATF lost 3 agents to hostile and 1 to friendly fire at Waco, Texas, line agents who hadn’t been asked figured out they could have grabbed Koresh on his daily run or when he went to the post office, where he kept a post box).

Here are a few other ways to use your superior judgment:

  1. Know where the exits are.
  2. Conceal yourself, and stay concealed. If an assailant pursues you and winkles you out, shoot him then. 
  3. Keep your mouth shut and don’t make hand gestures. An amazing number of questionable self-defense shootings seem to begin with a few obscenities and a flipped bird.
  4. Don’t try to de-escalate the situation — you can’t reason with angry, stoned or stupid people very well, and that’s pretty much a who’s who of who goes around attacking people. Just don’t escalate the situation.
  5. Be the grey man (or woman). Yes, that is encouraging the assailant to attack someone else — and you can make your egress and vector the cops in. Of course, if you do this early enough
  6. Use best judgment about where you go, when, and in what condition. For instance, there are two bars within a short bike ride (<6 mi) where we could pretty much count on seeing a fistfight at 0200 on Thursday through Saturday nights. Even if we were still in yout’ful bar mode (that ship has sailed), care to guess where we would not be at that hour?

There’s a lot of truth in the old saying, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” A bullet in the sternum is a fairly unbeatable stupid prize, although a stint at the defendant’s table is nothing to cough at. Conduct your life in general and in detail in such a way that you’re not misidentified by anyone as a contestant in the Stupid Games Olympics.

Use your superior judgment, and you just might never need to fall back on your superior skills.