Monthly Archives: May 2013

Some better Memorial Day thoughts

It’s depressing to think that on this day, some so-called charities are ripping off good people with bogus claims of supporting vets (if this doesn’t make any sense, we didn’t get the post about deficient vet charities up). So let’s move on to something a little more positive — some entertainment, if that’s really the word, that speaks to this day’s meaning here in the USA.

There are movies about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the vast majority of which show the war through Hollywood’s diseased lens, and suck. One which doesn’t and we’ve mentioned before (link is to our review, which contains a link to Amazon) are Memorial Day, which tells an intergenerational story of maturity and sacrifice. There’s another good one we intended to review, and apparently didn’t, Taking Chance starring Kevin Bacon (amazon) and based upon, no kidding, a blog post about true events.

Bob Owens has a post with three country songs about sacrifice in war — all recent, one based on the Vietnam unpleasantness, and two from our more recent wars. We didn’t know all these. Country’s not our bag, but Bob is correct in pointing out that only country artists seem to have anything to say about this subject.

The radio is on, and a NATO trooper — possibly an American — has been killed today in Afghanistan. Well, Big & Rich, Trace Adkins, and Tim McGraw still have their back. And so, not that it has the same impact, do bloggers like Bob and we.

Update:

The Daily Caller had a good couple of posts by Alex Quade, who embedded with ODAs from one of our old groups, 10th. (Unfortunately, they play the commercial-site game of dividing each post into sevens to cheat their advertisers by falsely inflating page views — why do sites do that, do they think their advertisers are stupid?). Anyway, links are below. Good reporting by Quade (and her photos are good also, so you may want to suffer through the 14 stupid page loads for them). Adding the SF History and Lore tag to this post.

(And no, we didn’t get the post on bogus vet charities done. Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you).

Cop. Cat. Crossbow. Some assembly … turned out to be a bad idea.

Bobby the catWe’ve covered cop uses of force that went bad before, and we’ve covered cats that were shot by self-propelled sphincters in humanoid form before. But we never thought that these two perennial Lord Love a Duck storylines would ever merge. Obviously we underestimated the pathologies of the age.

We’re sure that Police Chief Jim Kohler of little Boerne, Texas, would rather see his department in the news for some more noble reason. Unfortunately, that’s not what the Fates had cued up for him this week:

Police in Boerne say Officer Lance Deleon was not on duty when the cat named Bobby was wounded. Police Chief Jim Kohler says the cat was shot using a crossbow.

Officials with South Texas Veterinary Specialists say the 2-year-old male cat has been treated for a punctured lung and broken front right leg. Vets say Bobby is expected to recover after being shot Tuesday.

via Texas officer on leave after shooting neighbor’s cat with arrow | Fox News.

Another news story at KSBY has a few more details:

“I didn’t think we’d see him alive,” said Natalie Brunner, whose eyes welled up with tears.

Brunner and her husband and children showered the cat with hugs and kisses. She was outside Tuesday evening and came to Bobby’s rescue.

“I heard this swoosh noise, like a swish, and I heard clawing at the back of our fence,” Brunner explained. “I didn’t see Bobby crest the fence. I saw an arrow and then it quickly disappeared.”

Alarmed, she ran for the fence and jumped up to see what had happened.

“Our neighbor was on top of him and he had an arrow sticking out,” she said. “All he said was there was no collar on him and he was in my plants. That was all. We’ve never met the man before.”

Bobby the cat is probably going to need further surgery. If he were a dog he probably wouldn’t go back in Officer DeLeon’s yard, but our experience of cats is that their walnut-sized brains can’t process this, and if it weren’t for Crazy Cat Ladies the species would have died, of more curiosity than sense, long, long ago. But basically, the cat’s going to be OK. The cop, not so much. The Brunners told reporters that they still support their local police, and don’t think the actions of this one knucklehead reflect on cops in general. That’s got to make Chief Kohler breathe a sigh of relief.

The following sermon is probably wasted on the sort of person who defends his aspidistras from the neighbor’s tabby with his trusty Barnett, but we’ll try anyway. If you don’t like cats, don’t get a cat. Likewise, if you’re in Texas and want to try out a new crossbow, we hear they’re having a problem with wild pigs. Both are four-legged animals that some people don’t like, but only one is likely to (1) taste good and (2) earn you the thanks of farmers. (Plus, eating pork inoculates you against Islam, an infection that Churchill Himself compared to rabies. You can’t say that about chowing down on felix catus. In fact, it’s probably haram).

Now, the unfortunate fact that Lance DeLeon, the neighbor who shot the cat, happens to be a cop is not a reflection on cops in general, something Mrs Brunner clearly grasps. Cops are selected from among the fallen human race and they have their pro rata percentage of, fill in the blank, let’s just say people you’d rather not have as neighbors. But one thing, a cop of all people should know how to handle an animal complaint. Do you even get through a shift in a rural PD without referring some citizen to the animal control line?

Brief thoughts on Memorial Day

In the USA, Memorial Day is when we remember the fallen. Well-meaning Americans often thank veterans on this day, and I hope we will take those thanks in good grace as something offered in well-meaning generosity, but it’s not really our day. We have Veterans’ Day for that.

At times like these we think of the fallen, and we recite Laurence Binyon’s elegiac poem to them; as British as it is (he was Poet Laureate of England, when Poet Laureate was someone actually accomplished at poetry) it expresses a sentiment that knows no time and no nation. Go ye and find it.

We think of Ron, a teammate sidelined by injuries who kept serving selflessly as a civilian and a citizen soldier in what capacities the wreck of his back permitted. Ron was erased September 11, 2001, while taking risks he was warned against. His partner survived by blind luck; Ron’s remains were found, months later, and identified by the serial number in his crushed Glock.

We think of Chris, with whom we were never close, and whose indomitable toughness kept his wrecked body, blown 100 feet in the air and fundamentally skinned by fire, alive until the hospital and his immune system couldn’t keep pace with the infections,and courage alone couldn’t keep the Valkyries at bay.

We think of Jeff, another friend, gone in an instant, never touched by an enemy shot but slain by the brainless random action of a pressure-plate mine.

We think of the Air Force crew that launched for our firebase, but never arrived.

And we think of all the losses or our Regiment, the great guys we’ve never had a chance to know, but we know we would have liked most of them, and worked well with all of them. That’s the way SF is.

We don’t think about their families, actually, except when a memory of a funeral intrudes: weeping women; strong fathers bewildered and shattered; children still in denial. We don’t think about that. Too much pain lives there, pain and sadness and inadequacy.

Do not go to that dark place on this bright day. Celebrate the lives they lived, not the friends we lost. Live your live with verve and delight. Extend a hand to their bereaved families. And yes, crush their enemies, for they remain your enemies.

Be proud, be happy, be grateful; be supportive,and if you can’t be fearless, well, fake it. Live this day, the lives that they may not.  In this way, you honor the mission, honor the men, and honor the nation.

The Past is Another Country: Evans Rifle

The Evans Rifle was made in several versions in the late 19th Century. It had a patent date of 1868, but production of several versions lasted from 1873 to 1879, when the company went paws up.  It doesn’t look like the classical lever-action rifle — after all, this was the high-tech of the day, and they were inventing the classical lever-action as they went — but to our eyes it’s beautiful.


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But what sold nearly 15,000 Evanses into a market saturated with war surplus guns wasn’t the eye appeal, but the firepower. It was the assault rifle of its age, toothsome enough even today to make, say, Mike Bloomberg wet his bed: a .44 caliber, black-powder repeater with a 34round magazine. It resembles a hammerless Spencer, but is larger (and it has a hammer, just an internal one. Like the Henry/Winchester and unlike the Spencer, operating the lever charges the rifle and cocks the hammer. The guns were available as rifles and carbines in several levels of finish. The weapon does not appear to be as robust as its contemporary Winchester lever-actions (which had their own issues).

It was designed by a dentist, Warren R. Evans, with the help of his brother, and until the rise of Bushmaster, it was the only rifle mass produced in the state of Maine, at Mechanics Falls, to be precise.  (Bushmaster is gone, decamped to Ilion, NY when a five-year stay-put guarantee to the former owner ran out; its former plant is now home to Windham Weaponry, which reminds us, we have something to say about them, soon).

Evans Rifle MagazineThe magazine forms the load-bearing structure of the butt, with wood trim above and, in the later models, below, to make it resemble a traditional rifle. The magazine is the most unusual feature of the Evans, and is often described as a rotary magazine. It isn’t, really; you see rotary magazines in the Savage 99, the Johnson 1941, and the Ruger 10-22, and you can see they’re nothing like the Evans. The Evans mag is more properly called a helical mag; it moves the cartridges towards the breech with an Archimedean screw. In this, it resembles the Calico, the Russian Bizon,or various Chinese and Nork AK mags.

Screen shot 2013-05-26 at 2.55.49 PMThe Evans was not, then, an evolutionary dead end, although it was dormant for a century. There is some proof those later inventors were aware of it (two Calico patents cite Warren Evans’s patent). There’s never been a reproduction, even though at the time the gun was well-received and was endorsed by none other than Indian fighter Kit Carson. Fortunately for collectors, Evans Rifles are well-represented on the market. With about nine to twelve main variations, a complete collection of Evanses is not an unattainable goal, for someone that wants to have a really unique collection.

Several antique dealers have Evanses in stock; as pre-1898 antiques they can ship without legal formalities to most states and even some foreign nations. One such dealer is antique-arms specialist Jimmy Amburn, whose Evanses can be seen here; he also informs us he has an extensive supply of spare parts.

The Evans fired one of two proprietary .44 caliber cartridges, and this article (whence we lifted the magazine photo) has some vintage case-making and loading rules of thumb. We’d be very surprised if anyone has fired one of these in a long time. Then again, if we had one, or Ian at Forgotten Weapons did, you bet your life we’d shoot it. With a string, first time.

An Evans is reportedly a challenge to the gunsmith’s art. One of its little peculiarities is that it has quite a few screws and almost no two are the same length — but they are all the same diameter and thread. This kind of design is just asking for bad assembly, given the sheer quantity of Bubba The Gunsmiths who have had the chance to handle these in the last 1.2 centuries or so. This may be why Evans rifles in pieces, or pieces of Evans rifles, are less rare than intact examples. The springs are also prone to fatigue and overload failure, and the mechanism in general is intolerant of Bubba’s gorilla-grip approach.

Winter’s Revenge Sunday

Normally, this weekend is the one where summer begins… the kids are on the beach, the sun is out, and everybody’s grillin’. This weekend is bone-cold and steadily rainy, so far. The ice-cream shops and beach fried lunch joints are going to be sitting on a pile of inventory come Tuesday.

But we’ll just be cranking out the gun stuff. We’re actually going to start our week normally on Monday. Memorial Day is a private and intensely personal thing around here but we will probably have something to say.

We’re grateful to you who link us…

Carabiner…you know who you are , but you may not know who all of them are. We’ve picked up links from some of the big aggregators or tour d’horizon d’armes de guerre sites (like The Gunwire and Gunmart). And we were recently linked by survival guru James Wesley, Rawles (as he punctuates his name). We just read one of his novels, finally, and were astounded to read a survivalistic novel that actually delivered practical advice. Any idea how rare that is? Anyway, all these links are most appreciated.

But to us, the links we treasure the most come from other vets, especially from vets who either did something very similar to what we did, or something radically different.

For a long time — many years — we were disdainful of the need for the other services, and the other branches and units of the Army. That was, of course, juvenile and silly, and going to Afghanistan opened our eyes to just how necessary all those other dudes and dudettes were.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed hearing about others’ service experience. No matter what you did, you did something that we didn’t, whether it was breaking track on an M551 or getting up at oh-dark-thirty to ready the grits and corned beef hash that so many of our fellow vets are struggling to find a workable civilian substitute for.

So please accept our humble thanks for your service, and thanks for your link.

Ammo, Shortages, Economix

Ammo StockpileThe ammo shortage has passed beyond the normal hoarding one expects in a tightening market. We’ve seen that in crises from the gasoline shortages of the Ford and Carter years, to the toilet paper shortage in Venezuela today.

The gas shortages were created by supply interruptions — the Arab oil embargo of 1973, a fit of pique caused by the usual level of Arab military competence bringing defeat down upon their heads in the Yom Kippur War, and the Iranian cutoff of 1979, largely caused by the incompetence of the Carter Administration, although the Ayatollah deserves some share of the credit, or blame, also. Created by supply interruptions, the shortages were exacerbated by hoarding and government attempts at top-down solutions, and seemed to resolve themselves when hoarding was no longer rational behavior..

Those shortages were ultimately resolved by the market — which reset at higher prices each time. (If a market isn’t clearing, prices are not free-floating but sticky somehow).

The Venezuelan problem is, like the shortages mentioned above, a creature of government manipulation of the economy. Until it stops, Venezolanos will have to use sheets of the still-plentiful state-controlled propaganda newspapers to do what is necessary, and we regret that, but the lack of sanitation is rather self-inflicted in the Bolivarian Republic.

The ammunition shortage in the USA is, likewise, a product of the intersection of governmental and public will. A great many Americans feel threatened by Government hostility to gun rights, and this has caused some of the nation’s 150 to 200 million gun owners to reset their expectations of what a normal stockpile is. This indirect role of government is not the same thing as blaming USG ammo buys for the crisis. (Just for proportion’s sake: the DHS “be prepared to supply” number of some 1.6 billion rounds over ten years is less than ten percent of one year’s manufacturing of ammo in the USA, forgetting imports for a bit. The DOD’s ammo purchases are declining. And the USG is not responsible for buying up all the .22 rimfire. They could save a pile of money if they did, actually, but DHS doesn’t even buy ball ammo; they do all their practice with JHP warshots).

So it isn’t the government making the ammo disappear — it’s the people. It isn’t just panic buying — it’s a permanent increase in the ammo stocking level of a great many American households..

We, personally, operated on this basis: a couple basic loads of warshots for primary weapons, plus 1000 rounds of training ammo in primary calibers, 500 in secondaries, and a couple 500-round bricks of .22LR, and we were good.

We bought training ammo regularly, and used the new purchases to rotate stock so we never had year-old stuff in storage.

Expecting the shortage, which originally was a result of panic buying, to resolve quickly, we ate up a lot of our 5.56mm and 9mm training ammo, when it wasn’t available on our proficiency schedule. As a result, we’re now working towards much higher levels of stockage — and adding to the demand-driven shortages and price hikes.

We’re like a just-in-time factory that’s suffered a supply interruption and whose managers now have to go back to the bad old days of keeping lots of expensive inventory in house. There’s a reason JIT swept through manufacturing like Genghis (hard G’s please, we’re not vain Yalies here) Khan’s courée through Asia. It’s a better way to do things: it saves money, plus floor space, and energy (which are in the business world fungible to money). It also greatly reduces waste if processes have to change, which they do more often today than ever before.

But that system only works in a supply environment that is, to use a term from Taleb, antifragile. In general, antifragility is a characteristic of market economies versus centrally-planned (or even unplanned, but centralized) ones. If you were in Moscow in 1983 and needed shoes, you’d better hope that GUM (an acronym for Main Universal Store[!]) had your size in stock. If you were in Moscow, Idaho that year, you had several choices, and you could get shod even if you had, like one writer here, 4E paddle feet).

And the ammo supply system is fairly antifragile. There are very many suppliers, and many manufacturers. There are a few bottlenecks in the system (lack of good substitutes for primary feedstocks like brass alloys, hyper-consolidation of the manufacture of centerfire primers, etc) but there’s none where there are fewer than four sources — the supply chain never narrows to one single processor wide, like it did for that poor Muscovite thirty years ago.

So what’s driving the train is increased purchasing. We knew that, but we expected it to abate. It has not. The big sporting goods stores haven’t been able to keep popular calibers, including 5.56, 7.62 and 9mm, in stock. (The only defensive or modern sporting ammo in the local Walmart is 6.8 SPC, a round SF guys developed specifically for CQB, that’s very specialized and not widely chambered). Reloading supplies, particularly primers, are scarce (the four manufacturers of primers are selling almost every one to ammo manufacturers). We can understand the difficulty in sourcing 5.56, etc., but what’s mystified us is .22 shortages, which continue despite soaring prices.

The .22 Long Rifle cartridge is suitable for plinking, hunting small game, and especially for training and practice. While it’s fun to shoot larger calibers, you can do all the work you need on fundamentals with the .22. Many disaster survival experts suggest that .22 ammo is the currency of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It), or situations WROL (Without Rule Of Law, a term that’ catching on because of its accuracy, and shorter acronym). We might not go that far, but we will say that owning bricks of .22 is less likely to end in tears than Bitcoins.

The cartridges are extremely cheap to manufacture, and along with their many domestic manufacturers, are made worldwide; they can be economically imported from many nations, some of which specialize in precision manufacture and some of which specialize in lowest costs.

And yet we’re out of them, and when a brick does surface it’s at a panic-buying price.

So what is going to happen? What can we do? First, none of us can make ammo appear out of thin air.  Our choices are two: buy this expensive .22 or wait.

One law in economics is that if something cannot go on indefinitely, it will not. This can be applied to the ammo shortage. The market will equilibrate. It always does (even as a black market, if the market is suppressed. That Moscow shoe-buyer would have been in good shape if he knew somebody, which is how command economies work, always and everywhere. You don’t think Venezuelan regime insiders are wiping their nether ends with propaganda circulars, do you?) But, like gasoline after 1979, the market may equilibrate at a higher price than before. Before it equilibrates, there will be all kinds of mischief, profiteering spikes and so forth.

So our recommendation to you is: do not buy ammo you do not need. (You define your own need. We know a guy who’s planting caches for When They Come™. He needs more than we do). If you do buy stockpile ammo, you have to accept that today’s price may be more than tomorrow’s. Don’t think of ammo as an investment. If you buy it as an “investment,” you’re (1) speculating and (2) buying into the speculator market at what is, at the moment, a historic high. It may be a better store of value than cash, particularly if the Goldman Sachs brigade in DC keeps tickling the tail of the tiger of inflation, but it could also regress to the 20-year mean of price in a couple of months.

We do see higher prices as something that will continue because higher demand will continue. A percentage of the new shooters and gun owners who have joined our ranks this year will continue shooting, and they will infect more current non-shooters with the bug of sport shooting and preparation for self- and family-defense. I see changing demographics at the ranges — younger, less male, less white. I see thousands of young, respected veterans normalizing guns throughout their communities. These things mean that demand in 2018 will be substantially higher than it is now, in the crisis year of 2013.

On the other hand, the profits to be made are drawing new ammunition manufacturers into the field. The established players will have the advantage if and when the panic ends: these new guys will have to specialize or get creamed by outfits like ATK with unimaginable economies of scale. But a price war among ammo makers always has one winner, shooters. That price war is inevitable, but years ahead.

So what do we recommend: at this point, buy only what you need for regular practice, and what you need to have a comfortable war/flood/riot/locusts stock. Don’t overdo it, but do buy what you need. And do shoot some of what you buy… you can’t generate proficiency on demand when you need it, it has to be ready and waiting in reserve for you to call upon it.

Dang! We missed it – 8″ barrel

The barrel is still in the 1970s-80s temperate camouflage.

The barrel is still in the 1970s-80s temperate camouflage.

Nope, this isn’t, say, a tube for an Artillery Luger (we already got one) or a Smith M29, nor is it something to SBR your AR with. It’s not 8 inches long, it’s 8 inches in diameter. From land to land. Repeat after us: “that is one BFG.”

Somebody is now in a position to say: we’ll see your Barrett .50 and raise you 7 1/2″. A rare, apparently not demilled, 1978 barrel for the Vietnam-era M110 8″ howitzer was on eBay earlier this month, for sale in San Pedro, California. The gun probably once stalked the deserts of Fort Irwin or the National Training Center, before being surplused. The seller did say he was selling without the breech block.

Somebody bought it for $4,000, less than we’ve paid for some much smaller hardware. According to the seller, that was his reserve, and barely more than the scrap value of the barrel.

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 8.37.02 PMOf course, it’s the bare barrel, missing not only the vehicle that hauled it but also the elevating, traversing and recoil mechanisms. And it’s not exactly man-portable: removing this testament to Watervliet Arsenal’s metal-shaping skills from its resting place in the weeds in San Pedro must have involved riggers, heavy equipment, and a truck big enough to haul the 26’6″, 7 1/4 ton monster away.

Interesting to us, the nomenclature engraved on the barrel appears to be M201. We thought the barrel was the “M2A1.” Could Watervliet have made a typo?

But if you collect US military arms, that’s one hell of a collection centerpiece. Or you can just park it in the front garden and keep the damn kids off your lawn. (Laugh if you will: we once knew a retired general who kept an MG08 on sled mount at the top of the walk in front of his tidy split-level. He said it cut down, not only on kids chasing stray balls, but Jehovah’s Witnesses chasing stray souls as well. Wish we could remember his name; he’d been on Patton’s staff as a junior field grade).

The M110 was a self-propelled version of a WWII howitzer that used the same chassis and trails as the 175mm Long Tom. The WWII 8-inch’s projectile and barrel were based on a WWI-vintage British 8-inch howitzer design. The M110 entered service in 1963 alongside the M107 SP version of the Long Tom, and left active duty by 1990, leaving the USAR in 1994 as all USAR combat-arms units were disbanded or reconstituted in the National Guard (while support and service-support units flowed the other way). The guns and howitzers alike were deployed in Divisional, Corps and Army Artillery units. (The Army-subordinate units were later called “Echelons Above Corps” in one of those military jargon changes that gets some O-6 his retirement Legion of Merit). They were one of the principal delivery systems envisioned for W33 and W79 tactical nuclear warheads and GB nerve agent (aka Sarin), before the US’s unilateral chemical disarmament in 1970 and unilateral tactical nuclear disarmament in 1992. This video is an overview of the then-new SP guns and the development of their chassis.

 

This barrel is from an M110A2, the muzzle brake being used only on the A2 variant. The A2s were not new production, except for the barrels (like this one from 1978). The chassis and mechanism (elevation, traverse, recoil, etc) came from the M107s that were being decommissioned at that time.

What sent the 8-inch (aka 203mm) howitzer and before it, the 175mm gun, to the showers, was the march of technology. New 155mm projos could fly farther and hit harder, making the bigger guns obsolete (yes, they could have chosen to make the larger projos fly even farther and hit even harder, They didn’t, choosing to use the technology to simplify and streamline logistics while keeping combat power and reach at least the same as it had been). The MLRS took away some other big-gun use cases; and US abandonment of chemical and nuclear weapons pulled the rug out from under one of the major justifications for this weapon.

Occasionally you see an M110 chassis for sale (or a recovery vehicle built on the same chassis, which must be useful if you have a lot of tanks). But the barrels are exceedingly rare, and not just for the reason you’d think (that the USG insisted the SP guns be thoroughly demiled before sale). You see, many of the retired 8 inch/203mm barrels got a new lease on life as a new kind of weapon entirely: they were used to form the casings of the deep-penetrating GBU-28 “bunker buster” bomb.

Cold War Clandestine Meetings

It has come to everyone’s attention that one reason that the FBI wasn’t watching the Tsarnayev brothers and the ATF hasn’t been following the guns it shipped to Mexico (or even the M4 stolen from a SA’s car last year while two married-to-other-people SAs were banging away), is that they’ve been flat out surveilling various media figures and political critics of the Supreme Soviet Administration.

How do you survive in a surveillance society, where your political opponents have seemingly bottomless resources for spying on you? Well, it turns out there’s substantial literature on that: declassified intelligence tradecraft of the Cold War. So here we have for you a good long essay on the experiences had by officers and the agents they handled, in the years just before 1960, always looking over their shoulder for the guys in trenchcoats.

After convincing himself that he is not being followed, the intelligence officer proceeds to the meeting place by a route planned in advance with a view to suitability for checking thoroughly against surveillance all along it. Only after he is absolutely confident that he is not being followed does he go to the agreed place and hold the meeting with the agent. In addition to the usual visual checks against surveillance, a countersurveillance setup and certain technical means are used for detecting it.

Countersurveillance is set up at two or three points on the intelligence officer’s route to the meeting place. At these points a second, sometimes more experienced, officer watches the other drive or walk past and determines whether or not he is being followed. Having detected surveillance, the supporting officer gives an agreed signal at a specified time warning the other that he is being followed; this signal also denotes that the arranged meeting should not be carried out. The points selected for countersurveillance must lie on a section of the route where it is impossible for counterintelligence to maintain surveillance from parallel streets.

Regardless of the use of technical means (with which it is not always possible to detect the presence of surveillance), an intelligence officer going to a meeting with an agent must have a well-developed ability to check reliably and without mistake for surveillance and spot it for certain if it is there.

These techniques worked well in the Cold War of the Eisenhower-Krushchev years. Now for the punch line: this is Soviet tradecraft, pilfered at the time and published in the CIA’s in-house magazine, Studies in Intelligence. This Top Secret document was originally published by the Military-Diplomatic Academy of the Soviet Army in 1960 (and so it probably represents GRU rather than KGB tradecraft). It’s interesting to read this and see the Soviets’ fear of American and allied counterintelligence.

But while there are plenty of references to the Cold War situation in the Whole Thing (which you should Read™), most of the tradecraft needs only to be updated for the improved surveillance technology of the 21st Century. Tradecraft — and a healthy dose of paranoia — lets a human intelligence collector operate even in extremely oppressive denied areas. As the Soviets considered the territory of the Glavni Vrag (Main Enemy). Here’s another example:

Whatever cover measures the intelligence officer takes, however, their effectiveness depends considerably on whether the agent conducts himself correctly, his ability to conceal his work, and the extent to which his behavior is disciplined. If he is undisciplined and does not strictly observe contact arrangements, so that it becomes necessary to take irregular steps such as calling him on the telephone or intercepting him, all the cover precautions used by the intelligence officer may at times become futile. The same thing will happen if the agent does not take adequate steps to conceal the temporary removal of documents or does not have a convincing cover story to tell the members of his family to account for absences and for having extra money.

An agent is unreliable if he is timid or lacks self-confidence. Such an agent can attract suspicion to himself by his timid behavior, whereas a bold and enterprising agent, behaving naturally in accordance with a good cover story, will not stand out from other local residents. The agent, like the intelligence officer, can take helpful initiatives to enhance the security of operations under way in making checks for surveillance, inventing cover stories, etc. This is why agent training is a continuing concern.

New, more effective measures for cover, which could ensure that work is continued under worsening conditions, should be thought out and readied in advance. Some of the possibilities are holding personal meetings with agents at night, holding them in specially selected officers’ living quarters, using new forms of impersonal contact, smuggling agents into official establishments for meetings, and getting them in in the great throng of guests coming to large receptions. But one must not be limited to such examples; the whole body of intelligence officers must work actively and creatively on this problem. In present conditions, when counterintelligence in most of the capitalist countries is very active, great importance must be placed on measures for making personal meetings between intelligence officers and agents secure.

Now, in 1960 the FBI was hunting, along with the usual criminals, the KGB and GRU’s case officers and suborned agents. But in 2013, it seems, they’re hunting you. The tactics, techniques, technologies and procedures that Ivan used then to stay a step ahead of them may have a new relevance for you now. 

M1 (etc) Carbine overhaul manual

… we may as well share with you the overhaul manual on the M1/2/3 carbines. You know, these things:

M2 Carbine

This edition of FM 9-1276 was published in 1947 and it contains a lot of useful information, including the overhaul flow chart we’ve already shown you, and the very interesting inspection and rebuilt-weapon serviceability standards.

Most gun-culture types have a certain fetish for MilSpec and seem to think that military specs are always higher that civilians’ standards. Well, it depends on the civilian! But the military has looser requirements than you might think, and one characteristic of these requirements is that a weapon in the hands of troops is not required to meet standards of a weapon freshly rehabbed, or one being mothballed (figuratively) for that matter. For example, when the M16A1 was standard issue, one could be turned in for higher-echelon maintenance if the barrel was shot out. How shot out? The depot didn’t want to see it if it could still achieve seven (!) minutes of angle. Needless to say, crappy-shooting M16A1s were pure hell for a unit armorer to get rid of.

There are a few examples of this very, very low bar attending to the M1 (and M2 and M3) carbines. One of the most interesting is the high tolerance for pitting in the inspection standards. A barrel was only unfit if the pits were wider than a land or a groove, or longer than 3/8″. Pitting across most of a groove? Well, that was OK, then. Just so long as it’s not all the way across.

Anyway, here goes:

M1_Carbine_TM9-1276.pdf