Monthly Archives: July 2012

How do Guerillas Gun Up? A Case Study

One of the least covered, but quite serious, insurgencies in the world is that in Mali. The Francophone nation in West Africa has, since its founding, had an uneasy mixture of disparate peoples. The black Africans in the south, a national majority who have dominated Malian politics and institutions, don’t blend with the Arabs and Tuareg of the north.

The Tuareg in particular have been fighting for over fifty years for independence from Mali. The Malian Army is a typical African military: cheerful good intentions met by low cognitive ability all round and an absolute lack of technical and tactical competence. The Malian Joes are willing enough, SF trainers from 3rd (and occasionally 20th) Group have found, but they have a long way to go.

The Tuareg, a nomadic race with a warrior culture, took their show on the road into gun-rich but politically collapsing Libya, and came back armed to the teeth. But they were already armed to the teeth, and after rolling up some Malian Army garrisons, were even more so. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point reported in the CTC Sentinel:

Although much has been made of the Tuareg rebels’ return from Libya via northern Niger following the collapse of the Qadhafi regime, this circumstance more helped to reinvigorate a stalemated conflict than was itself the raison d’être for the present war. Although Tuareg fighters returned from Libya with fresh stocks of small-arms, ammunition, fighting vehicles, and anti-aircraft weaponry, they also accessed weapons stockpiled from previous outbreaks of political violence and raided arms depots abandoned by retreating Malian troops. A press report described the Malian army weapons acquired by AQIM in Gao as a “vast cache.” (This report ran in AFP on 27 May 12 — WeaponsMan Eds.)

There is evidence that the third source of weapons—those that rebels either never surrendered in previous bouts of secessionism or gained in the years leading up to the 2012 war—also likely forms a significant amount of arms in the current conflict. Ensconced in the rugged Tigharghar Massif due south of the Algerian border, Tuareg rebels then led by Iyad ag Ghaly and the late militant leader Ibrahim ag Bahanga began as a movement called the Alliance for Democracy and Change (ADC) on May 23, 2006, when it mounted attacks on army garrisons in Kidal and Menaka in which they acquired a large trove of weapons.

Another foreign policy website attempts to place the Tuareg rebellion in a historical context here.

MNLA rebels rockin’ the PKM and AKs. The MNLA was driven out of Timbuktu by the Islamist factions.

The rebels refer to their separatist homeland as “Azawad,” but are divided between nationalist and jihadist-Salafi groups. The balance of power recently shifted when the leader of the largest nationalist group, the Ansar Eddine, became radicalized and now supports extremist Wahabbi/Salafi islam. That leader is the above-referenced Iyad ad Ghaly. This group (sometimes transliterated as Ansar Dine) has also fought with the secular, or at least less-Islamist, Tuareg rebels, the MNLA.

Ad Ghaly’s conversion opens up yet another source of logistical support, including financial and weapons: the world network of Islamic terror financiers. Funds donated expressly for terrorist support make up only a percentage of the haul. A large percentage is donated at mosques worldwide as alms, ostensibly for the poor. Almsgiving is obligatory for faithful Moslems; it is one of the five pillars of Islam. Diversion of these funds to jihad happens at several levels, and is rationalized several ways. Many of the alms givers are comfortable with the notion of their donations spreading the faith, means notwithstanding. Others have been exposed to skillful and pervasive jihadi propaganda. These messages depict terrorist groups as plucky resistance fighters seeking to overcome oppression of the faith.

Mali government troops in their Land Rover match the PKM and raise the stakes: M2HB. Nice guys, but if they can’t exploit the political and ideological faultlines between the factions of their enemies, they could finish last.

Along with arms funded by jihadi auxiliary networks, there is also the possibility of state sponsorship, although no sign of such for Ansar al Eddine or the other Malian groups has yet appeared. In the past, nations as diverse as Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan and Iran have provided arms directly to Islamist irregulars. Pakistan and Iran have factories which have in the past produced sterile, deniable weapons for insurgent and terrorist use.

We can expect to see more of the Malian rebels in the news. One feature of Islam, of course, is its iconoclasm, in the literal sense. With the rebels in control of the ancient seat of learning at Timbuktu, they have embarked on an orgy of destruction of tombs and shrines (a feature of Sufi Islam that Wahabbis consider shirk or polytheistic idolatry) and have threatened to destroy the libraries of early Islamic documents there.

In an apocryphal tale of the burning of the Library of Alexandria, a Moslem warlord is alleged to have said: “If the books there contain the same information as is in the Koran, they are redundant: burn them. And if they contain information that is not in the Koran, they are heresy! Burn them.” Ansar Eddine leader as Ghaly is reported to have said something eerily similar about the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu.

So to recap, where did the Malian insurgents get their guns:

  1. From stockpiles kept since previous unrest;
  2. From the collapsed military of a failed state next door;
  3. Battlefield recovery from defeated or deserting government troops, and;
  4. From abandoned or uncontrolled government arsenals. There are also two other possibilities, which we’ll call
  5. (speculative) purchased with jihad donations; and
  6. (speculative) presented by state sponsors of terrorism.

There are many paths by which motivated people can arm themselves. Guerilla logistics are sufficiently flexible and resilient that a wise counterinsurgent attacks not the easily replaced secondary targets of arms, supplies and other logistical nodes, but the primary target: guerilla motivation.

3D Gun Printing Fallout Continues

Another day, another bozo writes an inept column about firearms technology. This could become as boring a subject as wannabees. In this case, a writer named Mark Gibbs at Forbes has his panties in a bunch over the Have Blue 3R AR-15 we’ve previously covered. Here’s a taste of his sky-is-falling Luddism:

I’m in favor of tighter gun control and a ban on weapons that are unnecessarily powerful but I’m afraid that technology will soon make any legislation that limits the availability of any kinds of guns ineffective.

via The End of Gun Control? – Forbes.

Gibbs seems to have come to this opinion, as is typical for mainstream media guys, without ever looking at the primary source document — which he rudely, or ineptly (pick one), doesn’t link. (FYI it’s here: Have Blue). Instead he links to several superficial third-hand reports, and as a result his report is chockablock with errors, a few of which have been corrected.

For instance, the printer Have Blue used is not a $500 entry-level toy — it’s a high-end Stratasys, albeit an obsolete model. “A few years ago 3D printers were rare, hugely expensive, and hard to use,” Gibbs writes, which is a pretty good description of Have Blue’s roughly 15-year-old device (a fact he’d have known if he’d been curious enough to read the primary source or — God forbid a reporter would do this — contact the guy).

As a technology writer, Gibbs finds the next logical step in his ban plan, to ban 3D printers, to be a ban too far… so at least he’s concerned about civil liberties when they’re his own. What a guy!

What’s particularly worrisome is that the capability to print metal and ceramic parts will appear in low end printers in the next few years making it feasible to print an entire gun and that will be when gun control becomes a totally different problem.

Well, he has this going for him: weasels never soar, but they’re safe from getting sucked in to jet engines.

Manufacturing processes, then and now

Just a few relatively simple pieces. Nothing to it, right? … Er, wrong. Click on through to the video to get an idea of the thorny details of realizing these parts. Image: Forgotten

Ian has a great video post at GunLab on how what looked like a simple project to make a simple add-on, one that has already been proven and manufactured in large quantities in at least two countries, can be hard to do. What looks like a simple piece can be a challenge for CNC machining, when it was designed for the machine tools and manufacturing processes of another day.

The RP-46 Company Machine Gun (Russian, transliterated: Rotny Pulemyot) is essentially a DPM light machine gun with a belt feed grafted on, which gave the 1920s design another thirty years of life.

With the proliferation of semi-auto DPs and DPMs, it seemed like a conversion kit would be easy enough to do. The parts illustrated here are from an original RP-46 examined in a post at Ian’s other website, Forgotten Weapons.

As is common with his posts (and increasingly, ours, for which we are most grateful) one can learn a lot from the comments, also.

Good Shoot / Bad Shoot


Thug (Henderson, r.) menaces patrons (l.) Williams is behind the man in white at upper right center.

This is a good shoot:

Williams was seated toward the back of the cafe dressed in a white shirt, shorts and baseball cap.

One of the masked men, identified as Duwayne Henderson, 19, comes in pointing a handgun at customers. The second man, Davis Dawkins, 19, is seen swinging a bat at something off screen, which was later identified as a $1,200 computer screen.

Williams (2nd r.) engages a surprised Henderson (thug, far r.)

As Henderson turns his back, Williams pulls out a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun, stands from his chair, takes two steps, nearly drops to one knee, and fires two shots at Henderson, who bolts for the front door.

Williams takes several more steps toward the door and continues firing as Henderson and Dawkins fall over one another trying to exit the building. The two eventually run off screen.

The whole thing: Video at the link.

This is a bad shoot:

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies shot and killed a man they assumed was an attempted murder suspect on Sunday, but they now know they shot the wrong man.

In the early-morning hours, deputies knocked on 26-year-old Andrew Lee Scott’s door without identifying themselves as law enforcement officers. Scott answered the door with a gun in his hand.

“When we knocked on the door, the door opened and the occupant of that apartment was pointing a gun at deputies, and that’s when we opened fire and killed him,” Lt. John Herrell said. “Even though this subject is not the one we were looking for when he opened the door. He was pointing the gun at the deputy and if you put yourselves in the deputy’s shoes. They were there to pick up someone who was wanted for an attempted homicide.”

Officials said the deputies did not identify themselves because of safety reasons.

Deputies thought they were confronting Jonathan Brown, a man accused of attempted murder. Brown was spotted at the Blueberry Hills Apartment complex and his motorcycle was parked across from Andrew Scott’s front door.

“It’s just a bizarre set of circumstances. The bottom line is, you point a gun at a deputy sheriff or police office, you’re going to get shot,” Herrell said.

Read more:

It’s worth noting that Herrell’s story has changed several times since the shoot, and he now says that the deputies didn’t ID themselves because they were afraid the suspect would flee. (The idea that beating on a door without ID’ing yourself was for “officer safety” has received a lot of ridicule).

After shooting Scott, the cops spent an hour and a half celebrating the killing of their suspect before they discovered that they’d nailed the wrong guy — they had ignored neighbors to that point; after all, citizens are not cops, so they might as well be criminals — and that the right guy, Brown, suspect in an assault, was sleeping nearby. He was arrested without incident, by police who actually identified themselves in the process.

The shooters remain unidentified: only that they’re police. Secret police. They have been given a paid vacation for the duration of the investigation.

There are people who would insist that the first shoot is bad, but they’re mostly the people who would excuse every action of the skells in the case, and who are emotionally opposed to private firearms. They are wrong. The only real criticism of the guy is for his stance, and for his use of a minor caliber. We do know some guys his age that can’t manage the recoil of a .44 Special or ,45 Auto any more, though; age deals different people different cards, if they’re lucky enough to outlive youth. One of the suspects actually whined to a sympathetic reporter, from jail, that it was no fair shooting him.

And there are people who would insist that the second shoot is good, but they’re mostly the people who would excuse any action by police in any circumstance, and who are emotionally opposed to holding bad cops accountable. The right anwer in this case is a legislative one: authorities should not have sovereign immunity for wrong-door violent raids. Instead they should face joint, severable, personal and unlimited liability and from that point on the fine folks in the tort bar can keep them on the straight and narrow from a public policy standpoint. (An unchecked tort bar is a different problem, and the answer there is loser-pays).

Note also that the police unions always defend the bad cops. If they defend good cops, they don’t seem to get in the papers for it. Purpose of a police union seems to be to support those guys who should be on the other side of the steel bars.

History is Made: Desktop AR!

Unless you’ve been under a rock (like we were last week… and will be next… sigh) you’ve heard about the guy who made an AR-15 lower receiver on a 3D printer. We’ve been making noises for a while about the coming of desktop gun manufacturing (see here and here), and now it’s come to pass. The picture shows the first documented desktop-printed AR to fire successfully: a .22 AR pistol using a CMMG barrel and parts, and conventional lower parts kit, apparently set in the holes made by the 3D printing process, then reamed to size. Several other operations were conducted on the lower, but by and large it’s as-printed, with brittle sacrificial support structures removed and some hand fitting.

No, he didn’t desktop print the whole gun, but it is a receiver, and it has been tested, at first with a .22 pistol upper, and then with a 5.56. It’s a living example of the crawl, walk, run principle. But it’s the first.

The media reporting has been (as usual) dreadful. See the hyperbole here and here — neither of which had the class to link to the actual inventor/manufacturer. But that’s the profession of journalism for you.

Let’s let the author of this revolution himself say a few words about the techical details:

If you have access to a CAD package, I highly recommend working from the original IGES file and not an STL if you want to print a lower receiver. Firearms require a good deal more precision than a Bre Pettis bobblehead, and working from a proper CAD model will allow you to tweak hole diameters and add reinforcement in critical areas. In this case, I opted to add extra support to the front takedown pin lugs, added an integral trigger guard, and reinforced the area around the bolt hold. However, I’m still skeptical of how well the bolt hold crosspin holes will fare and will test without that feature to start with.

Justin’s original IGES file actually has the buffer tube threads as modeled features, so I output the STL at a very high resolution (hence the 46 meg file). Much to my delight, when I printed the receiver on my Stratasys, a buffer tube could be screwed right into the rear of the receiver with no touchup of the threads needed (a good thing, as the special 1-3/16″-16 tap for the threads is rather expensive).

The WeaponsMan Mad Science Laboratory contains one and only one of those taps, and yeah, it was expensive. Not as expensive as a professional-level prototyping 3D FDM printer — even an old one like the 1990s-vintage Stratasys 1600 that was used here.

The developer had an interesting approach, and modeled his model, first, at 75%:

As this is a rather complex part, I recommend printing it out at 75% scale first (you can see my original 75% stock lower next to the final full size reinforced lower in one of the pictures). You’ll save a lot of time and material this way and get a good idea of how well features will be preserved on a full size print. I used PP3DP UP! filament for the 75% model and switched to black Bolson ABS for the full print. I’d love to try a polycarbonate/ABS blend for this part, but I have no idea if my printer will handle such material.

via Reinforced AR-15 Lower Receiver by HaveBlue – Thingiverse.

You can download the STL file at that link, or get the original IGES online at Justin Halford’s CNCGunsmithing (highly recommended).

Before you rush out to try to build an AR with a MakerBot, you might want to consider some more details. First, the guy is an experienced builder of things who’s at home in a machine shop, or more to the point, doing some troubleshooting, Are you? And it took a great deal of time: “a few days (no speed demons, these old machines)” the builder notes.

Finally, is this really the first? Michael is not so sure. He says:

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first 3D printed firearm (as per the definition in the GCA) in the world to actually be tested.  However, I have a very hard time believing that it actually is.  My Stratasys is a good 15 years old, and Duke Snider’s original AR-15 CAD files have been floating around on the ‘net since early 2000.  As such, I can’t imagine that I’m the first person stupid adventurous enough to actually pull the trigger on a 3D printed receiver.  If someone has beaten me to it, please leave a comment!

With that, we’ll leave you to ponder the implications, knowing a lot more from reading this than you’d get frm the TV, or Popular Science or National Review. But you’ll get the most detail by going to the author’s page ( and especially reading his two posts on printing and building an AR-15 lower: Part 1 and Part 2.

When trains are outlawed…

…only outlaws will have trains. There’s a whole political movement lurking in this somewhere:

A woman was talking to her boyfriend on a cell phone about committing suicide when she was hit by a train in Wyandotte and died this morning.

The 25-year-old Wyandotte woman, who was hit by the train on the railroad tracks east of 9th Street at Maple, left a suicide note at the scene, Wyandotte police said in a news release issued this morning.

via Woman sits on tracks, phones boyfriend as train hits, kills her | Wayne County | Detroit Free Press |

It’s probably evil to mock suicides, but really, what situation could be so incredibly awful that getting smacked in the kisser by a few million tons of freight choggying along at 60 miles an hour seems like a good idea?

Likewise, when activists talk about “firearms deaths,” bear in mind that the vast majority of those, in the USA, are suicides.

The Colorado Shooting

Everyone has had an opinion on the Colorado shooting while we were dealing with real-world SOF stuff. (And, to be sure, visiting with old friends). At this point our opinion is belated and redundant, but we’ll throw it out there before (and after) discussing one of the equipment issues, and the (sigh) media.

We’ll get to the media in a minute, but that nylon piece of web gear on the right is what the shooter was actually wearing. Yeah, that’s the “bulletproof” vest. So here are the opinions:

  • It was a horrible crime, perpetrated by an individual.
  • The individual is apparently mentally ill. Severe mental illness often strikes bright people, usually in their twenties. It is an extremely intractable problem, a longstanding opinion here, and one reinforced by our recent reading of Clayton Cramer’s brilliant memoir/history My Brother Ron.  You can buy it at Amazon here, the Kimdle version here ($1.50! and you can read it on phones, pads, Macs and PCs), or go to our friends at Forgotten Weapons or Instapundit and follow one of their Amazon links, then search for My Brother Ron. As we understand it, as long as you buy it within a half hour, they get a few cents without you paying a penny extra.
  • You will notice we do not mention the shooter’s name. It wasn’t the President’s idea, but he jumped on the bandwagon, and — we wish we could write this more often — he is absolutely right.  (We had been doing this with reference to fame-seeking shooters, such as the one that shot John Lennon, for many years, for just that reason, but we lack the President’s national voice and mass following).
  • This is the second bizarre occurrence in Aurora, Colorado recently. The police recently used an aggressive and probably unconstitutional dragnet approach, arresting (for all practical purposes) dozens of people in order to sift them for a single bank robber. They got their man, but are very unlikely to make a conviction stick. That incident made them look like aggressive morons. This one makes them look considerably better: according to them (so take it with a grain of salt), they got to the theater in under 2 minutes, and caught the shooter by surprise. Then they took him into custody without further incident. It’s hard to reconcile what looks like steroid policing with what looks like extreme professionalism, but we are working off media reports here. Which brings us to:
  • The general media’s performance was and remains abysmal. To this moment, we do not know what happened and we do “know” a lot of information that has turned out to be false.

The bulletproof vest that wasn’t — it’s actually a piece of tactical web gear made by Blackhawk — was sold to the shooter by an online equipment store,  They’ve been on the news a lot, explaining and defending their sale to a media that has the bit of a story in its teeth and doesn’t want to heed the reins of actual fact. In their attempt to defend their sale of this silly piece of cloth, from reporters urging a ban, they’ve suggested that no, it’s guns that should be banned. Way to go, guys. (They backpedaled from that position in a July 23 statement).

Notice we didn’t link their store. Not an oversight in this case. You can buy Blackhawk gear anywhere, you don’t need to buy it from someone that wants to ban your guns.

The false report of the shooter being armored up led to a lot of discussion. We personally concluded that even had we been in the theater, the outcome might not have been different — 30-odd years of training producing rapid, consistent controlled pairs to center of mass (thank you, MSG Paul Poole, Son Tay Raider. Rest in Peace). It may be too late to retrain to the Mozambique drill as the standard. But two solid hits on a chest plate would likely have left shaken but not stirred and fundamentally undeterred.

(Of course, body armor has its limits. The annual FBI report on victimization of police by violent criminals notes a high and steadily rising percentage of the decedents who were wearing armor when shot and killed).

Along with the bogus body armor report, news media falsely reported a middle-aged Aurora man as the shooter (he had the ill fortune to live in the city and have the same common name as the actual skell, which is enough for the products of Columbia School of Journalism evidently) and falsely reported that his mother confirmed him as the shooter to ABC producer Matthew Mosk, who has a record of fabrications going back to his tenure at the Washington Post, according to a right-wing news-analysis site. (Yes, it’s the same guy. Unlike Mosk and Brian Ross, we confirmed that the ABC guy has the Post on his resume).

Which brings us back to an important point: active shooters prepare for many things, but not armed civilian resistance. And odds are, they are right. Relatively few people go armed even though the number of permits issued nationwide (and the spread of permitless, Constitutional carry, now the norm in four states), and the shooters tend to select quite deliberately those targets that are most likely to be gun-free. The theater in Colorado forbade entry to armed would-be patrons, a deliberate calculation by Cinemark Holdings’ risk managers and/or insurers that the Net Present Value of probable payoffs to victims of some gun-bearer’s negligent discharge outweighed the NPV of payoffs to violent crime victims. They took that gamble on a hunch — there are no statistics available to properly model it — and they’ll be paying as a consequence. Colorado law reportedly makes such a suit an uphill climb, but they’ll be defending 70 cases and that alone will bleed them white.

So for the individual, the lessons are obvious. Go armed always… armed with a “minor” weapon, as the artists of stylized bowling-pin shoots sneer, beats armed with a hand cannon at home. Avoid patronizing firms like Cinemark Holdings that would disarm you and enable your murderer.

For firms, the answer is easy: take down “no guns” signs. Criminals and crazies pay no heed to them, and your first line of defense — the armed citizen — does. Consider giving your most trustworthy employees self-defense training, also.

For public policy, the answers are hard. What do we do about the mentally ill? In this case, the shooter hadn’t done anything for which he could realistically be stopped at questioned, let alone locked up, until he shot 70 people. It doesn’t seem like restricting the sane based on what the insane might do is exactly… sane. Banning weapons does not work in a world where criminals and insane people are likely to be intelligent, weapons technology is neither secret nor complicated, and manufacturing is devolving to the desktop daily.

It keeps coming back to that question: what do we do about the mentally ill? And that’s a question that even families with ill members, families like Clayton Cramer’s, have a hard time answering.

If Congress really wanted to do something and have it be a good something, they’d take a pile of money away from something a lobbyist is paying them off to support and dump it into cognition, brain chemistry, and other basic mental health research. That’s where the answer to the Colorado shooting and many others resides, inside the conundrum that is the shooter’s cranium.

Now that’s a freefall: 3 min 48 seconds

Congratulations to Felix Baumgartner for a new personal best: a jump from 96,640 feet. As fans and former pracritionares of parachuting, we’ve covered Felix’s previous jumps before.

Felix ran into a few glitches this time, including the complete lack of aerodynamic stability near 100,000 feet. (Spacecraft and suborbital spaceplanes use reaction thrusters — rockets — for attitude control. Felix apparently tumbled until he had enough aerodynamic purchase on thicker air to get stable).

Appropriately enough, this Unusual Falling Object plunged from the sky over UFO-buff mecca: Roswell, New Mexico.

Marcia Dunn has a report for AP:

On Wednesday, Baumgartner took another stratospheric leap, this time from an altitude of more than 18 miles – an estimated 96,640 feet, nearly three times higher than cruising jetliners. He landed safely near Roswell, N.M. His top speed was an estimated 536 mph, said Brian Utley, an official observer on site.

It’s the second test jump for Baumgartner from such extreme heights and a personal best. He’s aiming for a record-breaking jump from 125,000 feet, or 23 miles, in another month. He hopes to go supersonic then, breaking the speed of sound with just his body.

“It has always been a dream of mine,” Baumgartner said in a statement following Wednesday’s feat. “Only one more step to go.”

Longtime record-holder Joe Kittinger jumped from 102,800 feet – 19.5 miles – in 1960 for the Air Force. Kittinger monitored Wednesday’s dry run from a mini Mission Control in Roswell.

More information at the link or at the Red Bull Stratos site. Congratulations to Felix! Next stop, 125,000 and Joe Kittinger’s absolute altitude record.

What is it?

OK, here’s something that’s on display in the Special Forces Branch Museum on Ft. Bragg. It is little visited by the public (and it is currently scheduled to be torn down and reconstructed elsewhere on post as the SF, Civil Affairs/Military Government, and Psyops/Military Information Support tri-regimental museum). But for the time being it is an entertaining look at the history of US special operations, as characterized by Special Forces, from SF predecessor organizations to today.

And this gun is featured there, in a display on the OSS Detachment 101 war in Burma against the Japanese.

Best guess is some kind of homemade, jungle workshop weapon. (Ian at Forgotten Weapons made a similar guess, but an exact ID on this piece eludes him, too. If a gun beats us and Ian,  then it’s something seriously weird).

The gun has extensive tool marks and appears to have been made by hand out of steel. The second picture shows the display the gun is in. The display is innocent, at least this week, of any explanation of what the gun is and who the hard-looking dude in the b&w photo in the background is.

As always, you can click to embiggen. The right-hand picture is really huge at full expansion.But it still doesn’t tell us what this pistol is.

So… beats us, beats Ian, but we’re guessing it won’t beat you guys. What is it?