Category Archives: Weapons Usage and Employment

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.

Dude, Where’s My Gun?

An Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy left an AR like this, in its case with three loaded magazines, on the trunk of a patrol car before driving away. It remains missing. (Source: OCSD)

An Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputy left an AR like this, in its case with three loaded magazines, on the trunk of a patrol car before driving away. It remains missing. (Source: OCSD)

In California, where guns are getting closer to being outlawed every time the legislature sits, a police gun that had gone missing turned up, exactly the way cops don’t want it to: in a homicide. And that got the Orange County Register curious: how many other guns are missing from SoCal cop shops? The answer: at least 329.

Southern California police agencies regularly lose track of all manner of firearms, from high-powered rifles and grenade launchers to standard service handguns – weapons that often wind up on the street.An Orange County Register investigation of 134 state and local police agencies from Kern County to the Mexican border found that over the past five years at least 329 firearms were lost by or stolen from law enforcement agencies.Dozens of these weapons wound up in the hands of criminals – and some were involved in crimes. In Northern California, a missing police gun was used in a suspected murder.But the number of guns known to be missing or stolen is almost certainly a fraction of the actual number that have made the jump from police agency to street. Not every department audits its weaponry. If agencies performed such audits, they’d find they were missing more guns

via Police might not know where their guns are, and the law says thats OK – The Orange County Register.

Despite losing a lot of guns, the cop managers say it’s not big deal, because they have a lot of guns; they should get some slack for losing a few.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, following a request by the Register, assembled a team of nearly two dozen employees to track through thousands of files on gun location and gun assignments. The research found that at least 103 L.A. County Sheriff’s Department guns, ranging from service handguns to shotguns, were lost or stolen over the past five years.

Hey, that’s only 20-point-something a year!

A spokesperson said the agency didn’t previously know how many guns were missing, and hadn’t recently conducted a centralized count of its service handguns. The missing weapons are a tiny portion of the department’s 20,000-gun arsenal.

Is it just us, or does that spokesman’s “it’s only 103 out of 20,000” sound kind of like, “Dad, it’d be a good grade if Mrs Throttlebottom graded on a curve,” or what?

But say, while LASD might look like they’re all butterfingers with their guns compared to say, you or us (hey, we had one out of place for two days, and it nearly induced a-fib), they look like the Ayatollah of Inventory Controll-ah compared to the slipshod cop shops in Northern California, a couple of whom lose guns at a rate of fifty-plus a year.

In recent years, police departments in Oakland and San Jose counted their weapons, and each found more than 300 service firearms had vanished over a six-year period, according to a report from Southern California News Group’s sister publications in the San Francisco Bay area.

(The link is to a feature at the San Jose Mercury News). And these departments are the ones that raised their hands and accepted the foul in good grace. Some of them didn’t answer the door when the cops media knocked.

At least 24 agencies contacted over the past three months didn’t respond to requests for data on missing or stolen weapons. And the Long Beach Police Department, one of the bigger agencies in Southern California, said it doesn’t track weapons because its officers provide their own guns.

Gotta love Long Beach: “Not our circus, not our monkeys.” Yeah, that’s how ATF Phoenix Group VII felt until the guns they walked started killing Feds and not just “mere” Mexicans. Although, the comparison isn’t really fair to the policemen: unlike the ATF, they weren’t trying to lose the guns.

There are about 300 million guns in America, and nobody knows how many are owned or controlled by police agencies.

That number is almost certainly low — extremely low. Almost 300 million guns have been made or imported in the last 25 years! But that’s another story.

What is known is that it’s not rare for police and their weapons to go separate ways and that, in general, lost or stolen police guns account for some of the weapons used to commit crimes.

“A significant source of guns in illegal hands, on the black market, come from stolen firearms,” said Ari Freilich, staff attorney with San Francisco’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“We should be concerned that police – and all individuals that keep deadly weapons – know where their guns are.”

Normally, Halley’s Comet comes around more frequently than a non-risible statement from a functionary of some gun-ban group like the Law Center, but Freilich’s last sentence is completely unobjectionable. He’s right. Of course, the news people seem to think the whole problem is caused by exempting cops from California’s violent-criminal-friendly gun storage laws:

[O]n- and off-duty police officers are allowed to store and carry weapons in ways that would be unlawful for other citizens in California. The theory behind that law is to make sure an officer doesn’t have to unlock a stored gun to use it in an emergency, but in practice it often leads to police guns being stolen.

An officer shouldn’t “have to unlock a stored gun to use it in an emergency,” but neither should any peaceable citizen. But the report, otherwise so good, seems not to have brought forward the key point. The problem of stolen guns leaching into the criminal black market really doesn’t stem from theft of guns held ready for self-defense, it primarily comes from guns stored in homes and cars and then stolen in residential and auto burglaries. Indeed, safe storage laws only go so far; as the old saying goes, “locks keep honest people out,” and a burglary in which burglars make off with a small safe or smash open a large one are distressingly common.

But you’re not helping by leaving them in an unlocked car, a common cop practice.

At least 22 of the stolen guns were retrieved. Authorities in Mexico recovered some guns stolen from U.S. law enforcement, while U.S. police found other weapons in the hands of fleeing felons.

Often, the reports show, officers treated their guns in ways that wouldn’t be legal for most civilians. High-caliber firepower was stowed in backpacks or gym bags and stuffed behind car seats. Handguns were stashed in center consoles or glove boxes. Burglars looking for weapons that on the street can be sold for several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars found them.

Makes our point about the sort of storage the criminals are exploiting, doesn’t it? A number of the thefts they go on to list (do Read The Whole Thing™) were from unlocked vehicles. Lots of shotguns and ARs were lost, including at least two full-auto M16s. Riverside PD lost a 40mm grenade launcher. And then there were these two bozos:

Two deputies, one in San Diego County and one in Orange County, separately left assault rifles worth $1,500 apiece on the trunks of their patrol cars and drove away. The Orange County deputy had put the rifle down to take a call on his cellphone, according to authorities. By the time the deputies realized what they had done, the weapons were gone. The California Highway Patrol found the San Diego rifle. The Orange County rifle remains on the streets.

There was another AR that was left in a locked patrol car — with the windows down. That one was recovered from the home of the drunk that winkled it out of the car. (We suspect that surveillance video came in with that save).

It’s unclear if agencies would welcome regulations requiring regular gun counts, but some police leaders believe the profession could do a better job of keeping track of weapons.

It’s staggering to think any agency wouldn’t do audits. Ask an FFL what happens if he tells his Industry Operations Inspector he’s missing a few firearms, and, incidentally, he last conducted an audit since Christ was a corporal. Or never. (Outcome: the next ATF official he’s talking to will probably be a special agent, not an IOI, and he’s not going to like the way the conversation goes).

Chuck Michel, an attorney who specializes in gun laws, said if police agencies were gun stores, many would go “out of business for the way they keep inventory.”

Amen. Sloppy inventory? Look at what happened to manufacturers CAV Arms and Stag. Again, do Read The Whole Thing™, and the feature on 944 missing NorCal cop guns in the Murky News, and check out the OC Register’s Database of Missing SoCal Cop Guns.

When Stopping on Patrol

No one patrol consists of a straight-ahead walk with no pauses or stops. Sometimes the stop is momentary, to organize a crossing of a danger area or mount a leaders’ recon. (A well trained unit has these procedures embedded in SOP and there’s no thinking, planning, or orders required, while the patrol is underway). Sometimes the stop is more deliberate — you are nearing an objective, or stopping to rest, or reorganize, or stopping overnight.

If you are stopping deliberately, by US doctrine you are “establishing a patrol base.” This PB can be simple and momentary, or it can endure for some time and evolve into a mission support site, advanced operations base, combat outpost, or forward operations base. (Although doctrine says it’s not a patrol base if you hold it more than 24 hours). But we’ll confine ourselves to the initial establishment of the patrol in the halt as a patrol base.

Selecting the Patrol Base

There’s no way to learn to select a patrol base from a book, or a blog post. You need to think about a position that is at once defensible, but at the same time not so obvious as to beg for recon by fire. It should provide observation and fields of fire back in the direction you came from (in case you’re being tracked), and in the most probable direction of the enemy. It should not be athwart or adjacent to a high-speed avenue of approach.

It should be as concealed from the likely enemy observation means as possible, with enough room in concealment for everybody in the patrol, but they should still be very compact. (Again, how much you tighten up in the patrol base depends on the threat posture. Big danger is enemy recon seeing you? Get small. Big danger is enemy artillery or air? Get some space between your guys).

In short, the patrol base location is any place where your patrol can hide for a bit, without it being obvious or logical to an enemy that someone might be hiding there.

Occupying the Patrol Base

Book doctrine conflicts, at times, with practical doctrine on this. The book says you always secure the patrol base prior to occupying it, for example, by observing it and covering it with fire, and conducting a recon around the area. With small patrols, it may be most practical to secure the base by occupation — in other words, walk right in. Then conduct your perimeter recon.

Pass by the tentative patrol base location and hook back into it. Some call this a fishook or buttonhook maneuver. Why do you do this? If an enemy is following you, you want to drag him past your PB’s fields of observation and fire, mentioned above, which are set up to ambush your own backtrail. When you branch off to go into the patrol base location, at least temporarily place a listening post/observation post at the branch post (you will likely reposition the LP/OP later).

As the point man moves into the base, direction of movement is called 12 o’clock. The patrol leader drops off at 6 and then describes where in the patrol base perimeter each subordinate element (each guy, in a squad patrol; each platoon, in a company patrol) will be positioned. Each crew-served weapon is positioned individually. (Crew-served weapons guard the most probable and fastest routes of enemy approach). The PL walks (or crawls) the perimeter and assigns sectors to crew-serveds and subordinate leaders, who assign sectors to their subordinates in turn. The PL also assigns an initial rally point. Initially, the patrol remains on 100% security and treats the PB as a listening/security halt.

The headquarters of the patrol (in a small patrol base, this may just be one or two men) is positioned at the geometric center of the patrol base, which is usually circular or elliptic (it may resemble a football, in planform).

The perimeter recon ensures that you didn’t put your six-man recon element downhill from a sleeping enemy regiment (laugh if you want, it has really happened!) and ensures there isn’t some threat, obstacle, or high-speed avenue of approach that was just out of sight prior to occupation. The PL needs to be ready to pack up (figuratively; no one unpacks, and the team remains at 100% security, while the recon is out) and move if the recon brings back bad news.

Ensconcing these procedures in a set of SOPs known to all hands has many benefits, including prevented wasted time standing around disseminating orders, increasing the speed of execution, and enabling rehearsed, building-block activities when the men are tired and fearful. (A little fear is a good thing, forward of friendly lines. Not enough to paralyze; just enough to heighten perceptions and put you on edge).

Patrol Base Activities

The most important patrol base activity is security. After an initial period of 100% security, the PL may allow a reduction in security. While this is usually expressed as a percentage, it’s really a fraction. Normally, forward of friendly lines, security levels below 50% must be approached with caution. Very small units in a clandestine patrol base (4-6 men, see below) can go to just one man on watch, once security is assured, because that one man can rouse the others rapidly and silently.

Apart from security, always priority one, the PL assigns priorities of work. The usual priority is:

  1. Security
  2. Equipment maintenance
  3. Foot maintenance
  4. Mission planning (selected personnel)
  5. Water (the recon teams may have found a source)
  6. Food & sanitation
  7. Rest

These priorities are not always addressed in every patrol base. They can also be addressed in depth in standard operating procedures, which minimizes time spent giving, receiving and reading back orders that are already understood.

When anyone is outside the perimeter, whether it’s your initial recon team or Joe Tentpeg seeking a tree to hang from whilst relieving himself, everyone in the perimeter must know who is out and where he is expected to be. Failure on this measure gets friendlies shot.

Sanitizing and Clearing the Patrol Base

When the patrol departs, nothing should be left behind — no equipment, no trash, no disturbance of the vegetation — to indicate that it was ever there.

Before you leave the patrol base, set a new rally point by map recon and confirm it as you move. Leave the patrol base directly, do not return on your backtrail at all. Once you have left the patrol base, never return to it. A well-resourced enemy, having discovered that you used the site, will place human or technical surveillance on the site.

Patrol Base Variations

Very small units on longer missions can set up a clandestine patrol base. In this case, a small element — a recon patrol or a very small special-purpose combat patrol like a sniper team plus security — can establish a clandestine or passive patrol base, in which all the men are tightly together, within touch, and only one remains on watch. The goal is to minimize movement and size and therefore the signature of the bedded-down patrol.

While Army doctrine sometimes teaches a different approach to the last hole-up before a combat patrol hits its objective, we have found that treating this halt, called an Objective Rally Point in Army doctrinal terminology, just like a patrol base simplifies training without compromising security.

For More Information

Here’s a link to one of the many editions of the Ranger Handbook, a generally good source of patrolling doctrine.

100% Inventory Underway

weaponsarmorym9m4m16racksgunrackgsansnweaponcabinetarmymilitarygunscabinetsThe other day, we came up short a gun for a photo shoot. Whaaa? Well, it’s past time to tidy up around here. (OTR dropped by recently, and threatened to report the Manor in general, and the office in particular, to one of those TV Hoarder shows). There’s a fine line between a collector and a hoarder, isn’t there? We’re determined to stay on the non-bat-guano-crazy side of the line and not be like the crazy cat ladies where they find mummified cat carcasses among the piles of old gun magazines and rusty toasters.

For all that we preach physical security, we’d gotten lax. The light in the main safe went out, and we didn’t fix it. (Failure one). We took guns out for photo ops and they sat around the office, library or even the kitchen for days before being returned. (Failure two). We used various non-standard bags and boxes to move guns around, and didn’t always remove the guns when they got more-or-less to destination (that’s failure three). We had more guns than practical safe storage for them (failure four) and occasionally hosted guest guns that were commingled with our own guns (failure five). We had guns that were not logged into our database (and we’re up to six, and counting).

Most of all, we were casual about putting down books or other stuff on top of guns. So we might well have a gun on a desk, then five books in three languages, then a bank statement that came in and a few press releases from manufacturers. And where was that gun again?

Now, as a private owner of firearms, you have relatively few legal regulations about how you store them, unless you live in some lawless hellhole like North Korea or Massachusetts. Manufacturers and FFLs have more regulations, and those regs can act as a guide to best practices for the private gun owner or other non-licensee who has more than one pistol and a pair of hunting guns. The ATF publishes guidance on inventory control and booking, and licensees that follow it have a lot fewer troubles with an Industry Operations Inspector’s visit that licensees that think they know it all. So the ATF way can guide you.

So can the way the military keeps track of guns. Unlike the Federal criminal investigative agencies that lose scores of guns every year, the services seldom lose a firearm outside of combat; and when they do, it’s usually not lost for very long. (Anyone remember the agency that lost an M4 and a couple of handguns — and never got the M4 back, or made a case against the thief or the criminals caught in possession? It wasn’t the military).

Here are some suggested Best Practices, and we’d welcome discussion in the comments, based mostly not on the right way or the wrong way, but the Army Way:

  • Have an inventory. This seems trivial, but a shocking number of people do not. Our local police chief estimated that in only one in ten residential burglaries that had firearms taken, could the owner produce a list of the firearms by serial number for NCIC entry. This not only prevents the owner from recovering his firearm, but also prevents police from prosecuting criminals who receive the stolen firearms. Very often a stolen firearm is sold on the streets, but they may also be pawned, and ethical pawnbrokers welcome stolen firearms alerts from the cops.
  • Make the inventory easy to use. The more arcane and complicated it is, the more likely it will get neglected and not be 100% complete when you need to broach the subject with the police or insurers. Simplicity is your friend: Manufacturer, importer, model, year, caliber, serial number, other significant markings and a photo are optimal, but make/model, caliber, serial will do in a pinch. (The Army uses NSN, SN, and a couple-word description, plus the line number of the item on the unit’s Modified Table of Organization & Equipment [MTOE] or Table of Distribution and Allowances [TDA]; that’s all that’s in the inventory dump).
  • Have enough storage. This is commonly violated by citizen gun-owners because it’s more fun to buy guns than buy safes. What do you do with overflow? A Job Box bolted to a basement floor or wall and secured with good padlocks is a $300 solution, until you can get that $1000 safe.
  • Tag in, tag out. If the gun is out, hang a tag in its place indicating who has it or where it is (the Army does this with a Weapons Card. There are many versions: here’s one as a .pdf that you can print, four to a page, duplex. In Army use they’re generally laminated).
  • Limit “Withdrawals” The kind of limitations include requiring a need to remove, removing a limited number at a time per user, and a limited duration.
  • Keep Storage Locked. Check it daily, a great time is when you walk your perimeter to ensure doors and windows are closed and locked before bed.
  • Store Magazines and Ammo separately, but also locked. See the Job Box mentioned above.
  • Maintain climate control. In our normally damp, cool basement, we do this with a room dehumidifier that keeps the basement ≤45% humidity, and a rechargable dehumidifier insider each safe. Belt and suspenders humidity management.
  • Conduct frequent inspections. The reason for doing this should be self-evident: it’s to ensure that all your other control measures are working effectively. Here you’re looking for condition, primarily (rust is the secondary enemy of firearms, after national socialists) and

Looking at this list of best practices, it’s clear where we came up short. In the end, the missing vz. 24 that we wanted to A-B compare to a vz. 22 turned up — the dealer that sold it to us shipped it in a Smith & Wesson revolver box, and the whole box was still out of the safe. That was a bad turn of affairs, because it was not only out of our control, but also in an packaging irresistible to burglars.

Listening / Security Halt: in Domestic Practice

Last night we got a chance, unexpectedly, to reduce  what we preach to practice. In the middle of a wild dream we were awakened by the growling of Small Dog Mark II. A glance at the watch: 01:09.

Whisper: “What is it, boy?” Instantly awake, as that tripped him into full bark mode. A moment later, P-01 in hand, fully alert, door silently opened and positioned at the top of the stairs, we paused to think. At that point, a small idea gnome suggested that this was the perfect time to practice listening security, per our recent post and various helpful comments attached thereto.

The dog shushed himself without any human urging.

Five elapsed minutes later, by watch — yes, time drags when you’re keeping still — we knew a number of things:

  1. It was evident that no other living thing was moving in the house.
  2. The alarm was never armed last night (human error).
  3. Changing modes on the watch produced an audible beep. Uh, maybe this is the wrong watch. We need one for lurking, and another to run the heart rate monitor?
  4. There was a light on downstairs that shouldn’t have been. That could have been human error, or could have been an intruder who was now gone.
  5. We’d have to go downstairs to see.

Down we went. The little doglet, who is usually within feet if not inches, opted not to follow us down. Interesting. He is probably picking up on our emotion.

The extra light was in the office. Mental replay of the shutdown sequence explained why it was still on. We planned to turn it off after giving SDMkII his post-last-relief-pause-of-the-day treat, but we never gave him the treat and went straight upstairs. With the hall and stairway lights on, the office light wasn’t obvious; and when we switched ’em off, we were looking into the master bedroom.

Probably, no intruder. A perimeter check confirmed that the perimeter was secure. Our telltales and sacrificial burglar baits were in place. There was the sound of the fountain in the downstairs, and after the very expensive window upgrade that should have been inaudible (finally determined that the sound was coming through a window AC unit, and only audible because the general ambient noise was so low).

So why did the dog alert? At 0522, when he did it again, we got the answer. Dripping water in the MBR shower was a ringer for steps on the stairs, and creeped the little guy out. Eh, we were getting up at 6 anyway. The shower head didn’t have a drip last week. Wonder how long it would have taken to catch, without canine assistance? Adopt for the companionship, sure, but who expects plumbing benefits from a dog?

Lessons learned:

  1. Gun under pillow beats gun in night stand drawer, especially when stealth is a factor.
  2. Under pillow is a good place for a DA/SA firearm like this CZ or a Beretta or SIG, or an SA/safetied auto like a 1911 or BHP.  Not a good place for a striker-fired, trigger-safety gun like a Glock or M&P. (Trigger work increases this advantage of the old style guns).
  3. The fewer clothes you’re wearing, the less noise your clothes make. And clothes materials make a big difference in the sound or lack of it as you move around.
  4. Five minutes is a long time to stand still but hardly impossible. It should certainly suffice to flush out any prowler.
  5. Just as your eyes adapt to low light smoothly but not immediately, your ears adapt to low ambient sound levels and over that five minutes, your discrimination of discrete sounds improves markedly.
  6. This is a blast of cool hard obvious, but a dog — any dog — is an excellent extension of human senses, apart from all the other things that are splendid about dogs.

Some sounds are ambiguous. Some are distinctly human. No one who has ever heard it forgets the plastic snap of M16A1 handguards on anything, or the sound of an AK clicking off safe.

A Last Great Act of Defiance

We don’t know this cat. We don’t know his name, his history or why he wound up where he was. It was what he did next that assured that his name is written forever in the saga of the great warrior race, the Pathans (Pushtuns).

We don’t even know he was a Pathan, as he says not a word. He might not have been; the ISIL followers in Afghanistan, like the Taliban before them, have made their ate-up religion an excuse for the ethnic cleansing of minorities such as Tajiks, Uzbeks, and especially Hazaras. (Our hero doesn’t look like a Hazara to me, but it’s a crummy video). So the Pathans who remember his story for the centuries may be his own people, or whatever survivors ultimately remain of the doomed tribe he was fighting.

This is what it comes down to: the choice between life, and perhaps death, as a free man, and the slavery inherent in allah hu akbar. 

Some day, that phrase will sound exclusively in the ears of the demons of Hell, because it is incompatible with the existence of free men, and free men shall win.

Ow! Defoor Disses the ACOG

Defoor borrowed this elderly ACOG from the element he was training.

Defoor borrowed this elderly ACOG from the element he was training.

When the Elcan Spectre DR came online to replace the ACOG TA01NSN, we loved it — for about 30 minutes. It was a beautiful piece of glass (at its staggering price, it should be) and the dual magnification — a flip of a lever migrates you from 1 to 4x and zero holds like a rock — was that rare thing, a marketing feature that action guys could actually use. It was bulkier than the ACOG, but had less stuff to snag on your stuff. But lots of us fell out of love with it nearly as fast. Its weak spot was that, while it was stronger than the typical sporting scope, it was no match for the ACOG’s anvil-like qualities. (Over time, of course, operators could break the early ACOGs too). Trijicon is really good about standing behind these old scopes and will go through one and update the tritium, for example, for a reasonable charge ($150 last we checked).

But that was then, and this is now. And here comes Kyle Defoor to put down our favorite (if elderly) combat optic. He writes:

Getting some time on the ACOG this week. Some dudes still use it/are issued it as their primary. My department is to show them how to use whatever they got as good as they can.

To be a professional in this biz you got to be able to show up and shoot whatever, whenever completely stock and sometimes use the gear of the customer if you don’t have what’s needed……and with that, thanks to the guys for loaning me one to rock while we trained together.

And he accompanied it with the usual entertaining array of hashtags:

#defoorproformanceshooting #acog #training #carbine #5days #runwhatyoubrung #makethebestofit

And therein lies a valid point. There’s always going to be something new and technically a bit better than last year’s (or in the case of  the TA01 ACOG, decade’s) model. Chasing an optimized “best” rig is not worth the trouble for most people. First, if you are a pro user some guy way up the chain from you is probably going to dictate what you use, or if you’re lucky, dictate what options you have to choose from.

This “dictation” isn’t too restrictive in some cases, like if you’re a SEAL, PJ, SF, etc. But in some other cases, like an Army support troop or Marine rifleman, you will be told what you will be carrying and will be ordered to like it. At that point, you can whine about it, sign up for selection (where, should you succeed, you will discover that you’re still working for The Man, just at a higher level), or take Kyle’s advice and run what you brung and make the best of it.

Fortunately, the baseline weapons and optics available to grunts today are quite good stuff. The fact that they don’t have this year’s shine on ’em, or weren’t on the cover of REAL OPERATORS BUY THIS magazine last month, doesn’t matter. Real operators can operate with sticks and stones, hell, with their bare knuckles; any step up from that is gravy. And you too can shoot better and more effectively with the weapons you have now, and money and time spent on ammo and training will almost always have a return on investment far beyond what you get from money and time spent picking out and acquiring new and better gear.

If you’re going to be using a carbine over a wide range of, well, ranges and lighting conditions, etc., the ACOG is still a good choice. If your most likely employment is close up, or even indoors, then a red dot is the way to go. And in both cases, training and practice can let you extend the use of either to ranges where the other selection would have been optimum.

This College PD is Prepared for an Active Shooter

Liberty University, a thriving Christian college in Virginia, is ready for some jerk (or jerks) to attack with a gun (or guns). Or at least, as ready as a college and its college cops can get. While the nature of the shooter: an individual crank, an outbreak of Sudden Jihad Syndrome, or organized Islamic terrorism — makes a big difference in how an event plays out,  it doesn’t make that much of a difference in how an individual can, and should, react.

After the nearby Virginia Tech shooting, Liberty took its name seriously and moved in a contrary direction to many other campuses. Liberty University leaders liberalized campus carry for licensed students, faculty, staff and visitors, and trained the campus police extensively in dealing with the dual complications of active shooters and licensed carriers. Compare this well-crafted video to the panic-and-shriek that seems to be the standard university response to bad guys with guns:

The benefits of this are manifold. Sure, Liberty University is ready for an asshat with a gun. But that also means that Liberty is a lot less likely to have to deal with an asshat with a gun. Deterrence is really a thing, and crazies (Islamic and bipolar alike) have shown a considerable degree of rationality in target selection, if nothing else. They’ll just go down the road to VT, which is still putting forward panic-and-shriek as the response to a shooter.

That, and trying to ban the guns of all the millions of people who didn’t do it and who never would. There are some ideas so stupid, their only native habitat is universities!

The order of the defensive approaches is correct. First, “Run” — get off the dot. Then, “Hide” — if he hasn’t seen you, and you can make yourself invisible, do it. Finally “Fight” is the option of last resort. Fight with the best weapon you can, even if it’s an improvised weapon. Remember that vast numbers of humans have been slain by everyday objects, wielded with hate, rage, or fear. If that’s all you’ve got, that’s all you’ve got: if your blood will be spilled, make its price as dear as you can. Passivity in the face of the threat just gets you killed anyway.

We’ve seen all three approaches — “run, hide, fight” — work for some people. And we’ve seen all three fail. Every situation is unique. One thing that never works is freezing in place, and another high-risk-of-failure mode is ineffectual “hiding” where the victim mostly hid his or her face from impending doom.

The video makes the very good point that “If you cannot run or hide, you must fight.” That is true whether you’re on a campus like Liberty’s where the administration welcomes and the campus PD expects licensed concealed carriers, or whether you’re in a situation where you’ve been disarmed and placed at the mercy of the enemy by security theater, like the passengers on United 93. It may be that some terrorist or criminal decides when your life will end, and the only choice left to you is what it will cost him. 

Be prepared, and make him pay. 

Hat tip, Bob Owens at Bearing Arms, who has (as usual) some good and cogent comments.

If you’re a campus cop or campus police chief, this video shows you ways to make your school safer.

Safety When Undercover

hsi_badgeWe have harped on this before, but not everybody reads, and it happened again — a plainclothes agent (a Fed from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigations arm of ICE), joined local cops and a smorgasbord of whatever LEOs were handy in responding to a reported active shooter event at a school in Texas. And he was shot and wounded by a US Marshal. CNN (warning, loud autoplay ads):

In the confusion that followed, numerous law enforcement officers rushed to the scene and a US marshal accidentally shot a Homeland Security agent, Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson said.

Dodson said the agent was in stable condition; he didn’t release the condition of the wounded student. Her injuries didn’t appear to be life-threatening, the sheriff said.

Thing is, by that time it wasn’t an active shooter event any more. One 14-year-old girl shot and wounded another female student, then killed herself. By the time the first cop got on the scene — a deputy who’d been passing by — the shooting was over. Or it would have been over, if not for one Fed blasting another, to the embarrassment of all (and the pain of the wounded dude).

As to the girl-on-girl shooting, so far it beats law enforcement with a stick.

Dodson said the student who died moved about six months ago to Alpine, a community of 6,500 people roughly 200 miles southeast of El Paso. Dodson didn’t identify her or provide a motive but said her family is cooperating.

Mean Girls was not a how-to manual, kids.

Since Columbine, when the massacre rolled on while the cops were running their procedures outside, there’s a new dynamic in active shooter response: everybody goes in, balls to the wall, right down the middle. Fine and good, but consider these things:

  1. There’s little (usually, no) interagency commonality in equipment, uniforms, or — most important — training.
  2. As an armed undercover in the middle of a law enforcement all-call, you might as well be wearing a deer suit on the first day of the rifle season.
  3. As an individual, think about your IFF (Identification Friend or Foe). Raid jacket, at least.
  4. If you have a regional interagency task force, do a little planning now, long before you have to deal with one of the trigger-happy crumbs. For instance, declare a single a distinctive and unmistakeable TF identifying badge or mark, and get the news around to all jurisdictions, but keep the details LE Confidential.
  5. Sneaking through the reported active-shooter zone is a really bad idea if you’re not practically lighthousing “cop!”
  6. Remember that jumpy cops even shoot other uniformed cops. Not just cops, either. Soldiers shoot friendlies all the time, despite always wearing uniforms and pursuing all kinds of control measures.
  7. As an individual, the safest thing to do is wait and stack up with the locals when they go in.
  8. You will never have perfect information. Chaos and Confusion are the handmaidens of combat.

When Army elements used to work the indoor HR/CT mission hard, we had certain control measures we used, most of which are no secret. One key approach was to get and keep the hostage taker talking to the negotiators while the assault leaders planned the takedown. The first thing they did was plan a hasty takedown, which you hoped not to use, but would initiate if the hostage takers started harming hostages.

But the hasty takedown would always come from one direction, in one team, under one command. You might play multiple-entry-points or roof team / ground team in the deliberate assault, but in a hasty assault you kept everyone together. This kept you from killing hostages and each other.

The absence of unity of command in a law enforcement active-shooter all-call is just asking for trouble.