Monthly Archives: June 2013

Bradley Manning Trial Transcripts

Bradley Manning Support NetworkWe’ve suggested the Firedoglake live-blogging of the Ickle Bradley trial. But if what you want is just the raw trial transcript with no external spin, you can get a reasonable facsimile of that from the Freedom of the Press Association, which is helpfully making unofficial transcripts as they go. Despite very limited cooperation from the court — details of which are at their site — they get the morning session transcript up by 1900R that evening, and the evening session is posted overnight.

Given the spin applied by nearly every media outlet that’s covering this trial (ourselves probably included), the transcripts, unofficial though they may be, are the place to go for the real facts of the case.

At this point, the prosecution and defense are slogging through a mountain of stipulated testimony, which is, testimony that will be accepted by both sides and the judge without having to drag all the witnesses in. Most of this is arcane and frankly boring procedural stuff. Some of it, though (particularly on the 18 Jun 13 transcript), speaks to Manning’s responsiveness to Julian Assange’s request for a wide range of materials, including a directory of .mil email addresses (which Manning seems to have provided on demand), and the video showing an Apache helicopter lighting up a group of AK- and RPG-armed Sunni insurgents along with the Reuters camera team assisting them with snuff videos. (Little did they know it would be their own snuff vid).

Assange and Co. then took the video and made a very tendentious edit of it, glossing over or concealing the fact that the cameramen were traveling in a pack of armed insurgents. The video then inspired a new wave of murders and attacks against the US and its allies. The prosecution will contend that this is aiding the enemy. The defense will contend that this does not meet the specifications of the crime. The trial is likely to turn on many fine points of law.

When a gun has no serial number

WWII_M1_CarbineA couple of years ago, an FFL showed us a remarkable thing that had come in as part of a many-gun estate buy and had put him into a quandary. We were not able to address what to do legally — given the capricious rulings that come out of BATFE, even lawyers couldn’t, and we’re sure not lawyers — but suggested that he talk to BATFE about how to get the arm into his bound book.

The weapon in question appeared to be a GI M1 Carbine, but it was innocent of any manufacture or importer markings, and had no serial number. Now, there are guns that shipped with no serial numbers, back long ago, and there are other reasons you might encounter a gun now with no serial number. Reasons that we know of include:

  • Antique weapons were often made without serial numbers.
  • Prototype and toolroom weapons may not have been serialed prior to the Gun Control Act of 1968. It was not always required.
  • Obliterated SN on a Taurus revolver.

    Obliterated SN on a Taurus revolver.

    Serial numbers may have been removed or defaced. This is often an indicator of a stolen gun or crime gun.

  • At one time, weapons built from parts by small shops could have been assembled without a serial number. (Even when the legal requirement was in place, it was not enforced assiduously, unlike the situation today).
  • Weapons produced for clandestine purposes often bear no markings, or false markings. (We’ve even encountered boxes of Chinese M22 AKs and Iranian G3s in which all guns had the same exact number, and we’ve encountered many weapons with no numbers).
  • Privately built weapons for personal use are not required to be marked. Most likely that unmarked carbine was one of these. They can’t be built for resale, but they can be legally resold — however, it’s a grey area, and ATF’s unwillingness to publish its past letter rulings and legal opinions makes any grey area a minefield. Therefore, most folks that advise you on how to legally build a gun for education and recreation advise you either that you never may sell it or that you may only sell it after a decent interval of enjoying it yourself, and only after marking it with a maker name and city and a serial number.
Glock showing a serial number that was restored despite having been ground off.

Glock showing a serial number that was restored despite having been ground off.

Criminals who deface serial numbers are generally wasting their time. Evidence techs can restore missing numbers; liquid or gel reagents are used, sometimes with an electrolytic boost. While these technicians are trying to bring back markings some skell ground off, the same techniques and supplies can be used to increase the legibility of firearm markings (or any other engraved or stamped markings, such as serial numbers on auto parts) that have been degraded, not by deliberate hostile action, but by the ravages of corrosion and even routine hand and holster wear.

There are ways to deface a serial number that will defeat number restoration, but they’re fairly extreme and not really something we want to put on the internet.

The mystery M1 that the FFL had was most likely one of the last cases mentioned, “privately built weapons for personal use.” His options included surrendering it to the BATFE, trying to raise and restore a number himself, and even stamping in a new number — which would be a violation of several Federal laws.

We don’t know what he finally did with the nameless carbine.

Who are MAIG’s NH “gun victims”? The word “victim” only fits one.

Recently, the Mayor of Dover NH, Dean Trefethen, has been asked to quit Mike Bloomberg’s Illegal Mayors against Guns (as the mayor of Nashua did), but has doubled down on his membership. He takes pride in standing alongside some 30 mayors arrested for crimes from bribery to buggery and back again, and pride in trying to stop “the epidemic of gun violence,” which in New Hampshire as well as the rest of America refers mostly to bummed-out losers whacking themselves (something that happens everywhere in the world where bummed-out losers despair about their miserable lives), and to criminal losers being deftly distanced from the gene pool by the lawful firearms self-defense employment of police and armed citizens.

As we, and many others, previously reported, the list of names read by his pals in Concord included many violent felons, or as they described inmates in A Clockwork Orange, “pervos and hardened prestoopniks.” But we only listed four of the criminals (and only had dashcam video of the death by “gun violence” of one — sorry). A scrub of the list by the Washington Examiner found at least 11 more.

So we thought we’d look specifically at New Hampshire — whose death troubles this sensitive mayor? As it happens, NH punches below its weight on violence of all kinds, something criminologists attribute to the relatively high mean socioeconomic status of Granite Staters, the long, cold winters which discourage criminals (and everybody else, to some degree), and — when nobody’s recording them, anyway — the low percentage of minorities in the state (see above about long, cold winters), given that minorities are proportionally more likely to commit violent offenses.

But there are still six New Hampshire “victims of gun violence” on Bloomberg and Trefethen’s list, which is maintained interactively at their ally, Slate magazine. They are:

Ismael Chavira, 19

Chavira was a “victim of gun violence” in Manchester, NH on 19 December 2012 (some references say 16 December). He had a handgun, which under Federal law is illegal for anyone under 21 to acquire. What sort of handgun is unknown, because after playing recklessly with the gun at a party where drugs and alcohol were used, he put it to his head and fired it, subsequent to which party-depressing event, some unspecified one of the other yout’s at the party made off with it. He was survived by numerous siblings of equally-numerous last names, but apparently no co-workers, as he does not appear to have held a job.

Daniel Langlois, 25

Langlois was driving when someone shot him 27 December 2012. At first the police thought it was a  car crash, but the crash wasn’t violent enough to explain his fatal head wound. Turned out there was a bullet in there.  He had just been in a fight at a bar with a group of unspecified individuals. The case is very confused but he seems to be a true murder victim, someone who may have been killed in retaliation for the bar fight or in retaliation for something he did in his work as a bouncer, a profession that guarantees encounters with angry drunks. Spoiler: Langlois is the one of the six that was a victim of someone other than himself.

Geoffrey Bidwell, 42

Slate and MAIG report Bidwell as “killed,” which he isn’t. What he is, is bat guano crazy. He’s also a many-time rehab failure for drugs and alcohol, someone who couldn’t buy a gun under existing laws. Not that he had one; on 6 January 2013, Bidwell assaulted a police officer with a log, screaming, “I want you to kill me.” Nice try, Geoff. The cop fired twice, and one shot hit Bidwell. Just one more victim of gun violence, but we guess Bloomberg and Trefethen want more cops to be beaten up with logs, since they’re mourning Bidwell. (We bet they’re sorry he didn’t die).

Jacob Carver, 15

Carver is a victim of “gun violence.” He killed himself with the service pistol of his girlfriend’s father, the Danville, NH police chief, on 11 March 13. If he hung himself from a rafter, would he have been a victim of joist violence? Ligature violence? Suicide is always tragic, and young suicide is doubly so. But Bloomberg and Trefethen’s claims about this “crime” don’t add up — unless they plan to disarm the cops, too.

Larry Bohannon, 52

Archive photograph of Larry BohannonPoor Larry was just minding his own business  29 March 13, plying his trade, when police in Walpole, NH interrupted him at work, specifically, committing armed robbery. (His trade? Career violent criminal, specifically, a serial kidnapper and armed robber, and a fugitive at the time of his expiry). Invited to lay down his gun and decamp to a shady cellblock, where he might well meet members of Bloomberg’s MAIG cabal as well as his own old friends, he declined, choosing to test police in a driving contest followed by a challenge of marksmanship instead. Larry took home the 2nd Place Gunfight Cup: fatal gunshot wounds to the head, chest and abdomen. As a convict, Larry was forbidden to possess firearms of any kind, but respect for any law seems absent from his life. Even a stridently anti-police website seems to think Larry had it coming. Another victim of gun violence that Bloomberg would rather have alive and free to ply his trade, which makes the people of Walpole glad that he’s mayor of some lesser place.

Michael Laroque, 24

Laroque was gunned down in the prime of his life in Manchester, NH on 9 June 13. All he was doing was committing a violent home invasion at the time, when the apartment dweller defended his fiancee and child by gunning Laroque down and shooting at Laroque’s accomplice, who escaped. Laroque came out of the home he invaded: feet first, head covered, on a gurney (a picture is at the link), much to the chagrin of Bloomberg and Trefethen, who would rather have him alive and free, invading homes and terrorizing children.

Personally, we can’t see who would mourn guys like Bidwell, Bohannon or Laroque, except perhaps family members who regret that they went bad, and paid MAIG operatives and professional Newtown mourners. One suspects that last group of payroll patriots are being rewarded well enough to join the memory of their dead children with the likes of Michael Laroque, who actually died trying to harm a child. Bad cess to him.

Are there people in the world that, no euphemisms, need killing? We argue yes, and some of the people on this list were among them, and the world is a better place for their demise. Conversely, to the members of MAIG, these men were better left free to commit their violent crimes. That is a philosophical chasm that can’t be bridged by reason or compromise. Theirs is the voice of descent ad nihilo, the voice of madness.

So let’s sum this up. Of six gun homicide victims whose names were read by paid anti-gun activists in Concord, NH this month:

1: isn’t even dead, and he was a guy “well known to the authorities,” shot by a policeman he was attacking.

1: armed felon, fatally shot by cops after an armed robbery and high-speed chase.

1: fatally shot in the act committing a home invasion.

1: killed himself, possibly inadvertently, with a weapon he probably broke the law to acquire.

1: killed himself deliberately, with a sworn officer’s duty weapon.

Oddly enough, none of this “gun violence” took place in leafy Dover, a bedroom community for, among others, UNH professors. That may be why Dean Trefethen can be so judgmental about it.

Three of the six were slain by police weapons. And exactly one of the six appears to be an innocent murder victim.  Whose death, heartbreaking tragedy that it is, is offset by the three lives saved by the citizen who shot the home invader, and scared off a second home invader (who remains at large).

Moreover, none of the six would have been saved by MAIG’s current preferred policies of Schumer-Manchin-Toomey backdoor registration and ban on family transfers, and a renewal of the failed 1994 “assault weapon” ban. Except perhaps for the home invader; you may call that progress, Mr Trefethen, but we’d rather not.

So their cases are more violent criminals than crime victims, and their solutions won’t address these kinds of killings, but do address their psychological desire to dominate their fellow citizens.

But is it surprising that MAIG’s “gun victims” are mostly criminals? What are we at, thirty MAIG mayors indicted, arrested or convicted for everything from kiddie diddling to assault (with a firearm,  for irony buffs) and kidnapping? Plus, one of Bloomberg’s bodyguards?

What to do with parents who let kids get their guns?

Dorners RevolverWe’ve long had a view on this, but never wrote about it. There are basically two schools of thought, and the dominant one in liberal and legal circles is: throw the book at them. Many prosecutors who just phone it in when they’re dealing with some violent skell who has a frequent-flyer number in the court system, suddenly become animated, even militant, when they have a mother or father who left an unlocked gun out leading to a tragic child accident (or as happened in the home of one NH police chief this year, a tragic child suicide). The other school of thought is ours, which is expressed with a remarkable degree of commonality with our views by columnist/blogger Megan McArdle, a liberal/libertarian writer currently hosted at what’s left of the failed Newsweek (she deserves, and given her talent and tone no doubt will get, a better outlet). McArdle writes:

I don’t see that any purpose is served by punishing [a mother whose child killed herself with a poorly stored firearm].  She has already had the worst possible thing happen to her.  In what sense can the government “hold her accountable” in any way that is not dwarfed by her own conscience, and memory?

When it comes to punishment, we should embrace a concept that has gotten lost in American justice in recent decades: enough.  Punishment should be enough to deter, to punish, and in the case of incorrigibles, to rehabilitate.  But beyond that point, there’s no reason to lard on extra damage.  Overpunishment is both costly and cruel.

How much added deterrence do we get from telling parents that if their kid finds a gun and shoots themselves (or a sibling), that parent will go to jail?  Let me submit that the answer is “virtually none”.  Oh, sure, there are a handful of sociopathic, mentally ill, or drug addicted parents who don’t care if their kid gets shot, but we’re mostly describing people sufficiently addled that very little will deter them from anything.  All the rest of the parents are internally sobbing with anguish at the mere passing thought that something could happen to their darling child.

Exactly what we should have written, better than we would have written it. We do disagree with McArdle’s gentle handling of Slate’s dishonest Justin Peters, one of the guys behind treating cop killers and hardened felons who get in firefights with the law as “victims of gun violence.” But McArdle has no enemies on the left, so she won’t go beyond gentle disagreement with Peters’s usual howl for parental blood. (In this case, though, she cites a prosecution so egregious that even Peters distances himself from it).

Mohammedan sacrament in Pakistan…

…claims the lives of nine tourists and a native guide, at the base camp of the Himalayan peak, Nanga Parbat, an 8,000+ meter peak that is an extremely advanced climb for expert mountaineers. The base camp, though, is often visited by trekkers who have no intention of climbing the 26,660 foot widowmaker. The Pakistani Taliban claimed “credit.”

ApproachingNangaParbat

Approach to the base camp at Nanga Parbat where 10 foreign tourists, possibly climbers, and their two guides, were attacked, with one Chinese tourist and one guide surviving. Nanga Parbat looms in the background. (Wikipedia).

The foreigners who were killed included five Ukrainians, three Chinese and one Russian…. One Chinese tourist was wounded in the attack and was rescued….

Looks like being from nations that take glee in opposing US policy in the region — to the extent that the US has a policy in the region, at the time of the Great Bugout — didn’t save these hapless hikers. Yahoo News notes that:

The shooting was one of the worst attacks on foreigners in Pakistan in recent years and is likely to damage the country’s already struggling tourism industry. Pakistan’s mountainous north — considered until now relatively safe — is one of the main attractions in a country beset with insurgency and other political instability.

This (file?) photo of Taliban and their weapons ran in a Pakistani article on the massacre. These Soviet-pattern weapons are also used by Pakistani paramilitary forces.

This (file?) photo of Taliban and their weapons ran in a Pakistani article on the massacre. These Soviet-pattern weapons are also used by Pakistani paramilitary forces.

Note their wording. “One of” the worst, a mumbled admission that tourism in Pakistan has an enormous downside risk for its minimal upside (you can, after all, do a splendid Himalayan trek or climb in India, Nepal or even China without becoming another headless example of moslem hospitality). While Pakistani officialdom is tut-tutting and minimizing this crime (while taking care not to find the perpetrators), the bodies came down the mountain in typically slapdash Pakistani plywood boxes.

“Likely to damage” Pak tourism — d’you think? This is the way of tourism in Islamist states. Egypt’s pro-terrorist Muslim Brotherhood government put in charge of the one-time tourist magnet of Luxor  the political arm of the Salafist terror group that murdered dozens of tourists in the worst attack in that country’s long, bleak history.

The attack used tactics, techniques and procedures that are familiar to anyone who watches the AfPak region. The terrorists were dressed in the uniforms of a local tribal police agency, the Gilgit Scouts, and armed with similar weapons. It is possible they actually were insiders, either in the police agency or the Islamist-controlled and terrorist-supporting Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

 

The Gilgit Scouts have a long history as a moslem extremist force. They were involved in 1947 in sectarian fighting in Jammu & Kashmir, achieving a victory by threatening to put non-moslem civilians to the sword. When J&K came under Indian suzerainty, the Scouts became, largely by virtue of this and other war crimes, celebrated in Pakistan.

The murderers allegedly threatened two guides, in order to find the foreigners. One of the guides was executed at the scene, like the foreign tourists, and the other was released unharmed. The survivor may have been a sympathizer or member of the terrorist group, although Pakistani sources thought it obvious that he was let go because he was a Sunni, and the murdered guide was Shia.

Update:

A slightly longer version of that story is on Huffington Post.

 

One-Links with One-Liners

OK, Tuesday was a dead loss here at WeaponsMan.com. We were tied up in the analog realm doing great things for great people (er, there may have been some bad things befalling bad people. NTTAWWT). And today there is routine stuff like seeing doctors and doing — ugh — paperwork. So just so y’all ain’t bored enough to drop us from your RSS feed, we offer one-links with one-liners (okay, we were too verbose for one-liners):

ITEM: “Some say it’s the finest 7.62 mag ever developed,” Larue Tactical says modestly, but their new mag for M110-pattern .30 ARs (so they’ll fit Stoner, DPMS, Remington, and Knight’s weapons, but not Armalites. And they might be jiggered into 1960-vintage ARs if you flatten out the bulge below the mag release hole. Hat tip: Arfcom.

ITEM: US troops in World War II mutinied in Australia. Even though the post is from Feruary of last year, we never heard of this before. Turns out to have been a race riot by black engineer units with white Southern officers, and machine guns got involved. (The US Army was officially segregated until the late 1940s, and de facto segregation continued into the Korean War). If your leadership style requires using machine guns on your own troops, you’re doing it wrong.

ITEM: There’s a pretty active gun culture in the Czech Republic. Cool! They’re recovering pretty well from years of Communist slavery. This article about Slovakia is over 10 years old, but they too were embracing firearms freedom.

ITEM: A kid in West Virginia (!) is being railroaded by anti-gun prosecutors tied into the anti-gun Joe Manchin democratic machine. He wore an NRA t-shirt to school, which so outraged both the school’s administrators and local cops that they trumped up charges against him. Like, year in jail charges. There’s a reason that WV is a place people have to leave to get an education. NYDN story. Since the initial story, prosecutors Christopher White and Sybrina Deskins and judge Eric H. O’Briant (all members in good standing of the Manchin machine; the judge is a partisan Democrat) tried to impose a gag order in the case, and threatened a TV reporter with arrest. Apparently the 1st Amendment and 4th as well as the 2nd don’t penetrate into the inbred hollers. O’Briant has been, uh, recognized by a petition at change.org and it’s not even about this case, it’s about his sending kids back into abusive homes, sometimes fatally. What a guy! (For researchers, Deskins also goes by Amick. Have fun).

ITEM: The FBI shot 150 people deliberately in 16 years, and never did anything wrong, according to investigations of the shootings by, wait for it, the FBI. The New York Times raises an eyebrow at that. (Hmmm. FBI versus Times… must buy popcorn). They bury the lede, which is that the bureau’s generally well-trained agents also made a number of accidental shoots, for which they were also found blameless. We have the documents the Times based its report on (thanks to the Times) and we hope to have some analysis of stuff that gun-unsavvy reporters missed Real Soon Now™. One fact that jumped out at us: in roughly 70% of the shootings, only FBI agents, and occasionally, other law enforcement, fired a shot. Another thing was the myriad ways in which special agents can touch off a negligent discharge (and the trivial discipline meted out to them).

ITEM: The Firearm Blog interviews a guy with a new idea in 80% receivers: polymer.

ITEM: While we’re at TFB, last month they had this spectacular post-kB series of photos of a Brazilian M16A2 carbine. No word on injuries to the police operator, or cause of the mishap. Here are two of the pictures (there are more at the link). The shear of the upper along the forge centerline, and the shearing off of the right side of the bolt, are interesting:

M16A2 KB 2 from Rolando Olive

M16A2 KB from Rolando Olive

ITEM: PTR is leaving Connecticut. NPR reports on that, and celebrates it, but then, that’s what Narodniy Politicheskiy Radio is all about.

ITEM: Ever want a Kydex holster that’s not quite what any of the mass-producers offer? Ever think about making your own? You can. http://www.youtube.com/user/PhillyEDC

ITEM: Ever want to communicate clandestinely, but securely? One necessary ingredient is here. (Tip: download the page and put it on a thumb drive, inspect the code, only run it on a machine airgapped from the internet). Using the keytext generator, though, requires some planning and knowledge.

ITEM: Not too long ago, ARs and some components were terribly backordered, for example, barrels and bolt carrier groups. The inventory is coming back… here’s a reasonably priced BCG for instance (personally, we prefer chrome, but this is OK).

ITEM: If thou art cleared, thou shalt not read classified stuff leaked to the media.

ITEM: This left-wing blog has the most thorough, if thoroughly slanted, coverage of the trial of Bradley Manning. It is worth reading their propaganda in anticipation of their anguish when he’s sentenced.

ITEM: This right-wing blog has the skinny on the George Zimmerman trial. It’s interesting that both writers want their guy to be acquitted. But unlike Zimmerman, Manning has already pled guilty to many charges.

ITEM: If you have an SA-7 Grail (Strela) lying around, but can’t figure out what to do with it, all you need to do is learn Arabic and download this Al-Qaeda instructional cheat sheet (courtesy AP). There’s even a pretty dodgy English translation.

ITEM: Do elephants have souls? There is some interesting stuff in this article, but one thinks the author would be rather appalled at how some of us think about elephants, namely, as game. Souls or no souls.

ITEM: SIG Sauer has made a charitable donation of $25,000 to the Pease Greeters, a group that meets service members traveling both ways to the combat zones through the Pease International Tradeport, a former Air Force base that still hosts Air National Guard tankers.  Most of the Greeters are New Hampshire seacoast locals, but some come from Maine — including, at least once, former president George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara. The Greeters do a great and very welcome job; thanks to SIG for enabling these hometown heroes.

Ammo update, II of II

We bet you guys are getting sick of seeing this image.

We bet you guys are getting sick of seeing this image.

John Richardson at No Lawyers posts the following from John Farnam’s most recent email newsletter:

I spent last Friday with the CEO of a major domestic ammunition manufacturer. While there, I was able to get a small quantity of high-performance 40S&W and 45ACP ammunition, as well as some 9mm hardball. He also had some 40S&W practice ammunition and several boxes of high-performance 308.

No high-performance 9mm, and no 223/5.56×45 of any kind. I would surely have acquired some had it been there!

He indicated his current in-hand orders will consume his entire manufacturing capacity for at least the next twenty-four months, and that is assuming no major change in world events.

He also indicted the real choke-point is brass casings. Propellent powder, bullets, even primers are currently in at least adequate supply. Conversely, brass is chronically hard to get, and generalized shortages are holding-up production, industry-wide.

Emphasis John Farnam’s, or at least John Richardson’s. Our own experience is that the case manufacturers who sell to small manufacturers are buried in orders, but accepting backorders for all but the big four: 5.56, 7.62, 9mm, and sometimes .40. What’s really suffered is the production of cases for odd rounds like .38 Super (Starline shows some in stock).

The stuff is going right from the manufacturer to the jobber who backordered it, in some cases to the dealer who backordered it, to the customer whose order went in two or three months ago. It makes all kinds of forecasts (especially sales and revenue) difficult.

Aside: In his classes and writing Farnam uses, by preference, an interesting term for the sort of person in whom the police are forced to take a ballistic interest: VCA, for Violent Criminal Actor. The term seems to come from the studies of criminologist Lonnie H. Athens, who has two interesting books on the subject.

Personally, we doubt that understanding of the causes and contributing factors of criminality are of much use to the person, sworn officer or civilian, confronted with one. At that point, criminology’s chance to address the problem is lapsed, and it has become a matter of human performance and projectile physics. You don’t need to know the molecular biology of rabies, and in fact it is not immediately helpful, when a rabid animal threatens your family. We’re just as comfortable with Jeff Cooper’s favorite term for the same class of creature Farnam elevates as a VCA: “goblin.”

Death Ray? From the KKK and a Jewish guy? WTF?

blazing-saddles-klan

You can never be sure who’s under the hood….

OK, this one has gotten a lot of press, but none of the press makes sense. It sounds like Mel Brooks on mescaline. The USG alleges that the KKK guy came up with an idea to fry Moslems with radiation. Then he called an unnamed Jewish group to see if they could recommend a scientist or engineer to work on a weapon to “defend Israel.” By irradiating the ummah, which might be a good idea but turns out to violate a wide swath of Federal arms control and export laws. And the whole time they were working on their Death Ray, someone was facilitating their work in some way — and reporting to the FBI.

disintegrator ray gunThe news stories didn’t make sense, so we tried to round up the complaint, and wound up having to settle for the Press Release (pdf). Unfortunately, the terse release was entirely silent on the technical details of the Death Ray. (Conceptual illustration, right). And it just increased our already high puzzlement levels.

I mean, dogs and cats living together are one thing — we have it happening here, actually — but last time we checked the Klan was a bit nativist about the 12 Tribes of Israel. (Actually, after we got an unwelcome link from an extremist website, “whatreallyhappened” — no truth in advertising there — we got a bunch of unwelcome comments raving irrationally about teh Jooooz, which we dumped in the bit bucket after responding to the first). Not to get all political, but about the only place we can think of where Klansmen and pro-Israel Jews come together is on Obama’s enemies list. Which makes you wonder about the quality of this case.

Anyway, we found the press release, and it didn’t answer any of our questions. It was even vaguer than the new stories (so the media are making details up, or the USAO for the Northern District of New York fed them more than the press release — each story that has another detail, though, has a different one suggesting that they might be making these details up). The key grafs from the PR with some comments follow:

The arrests followed a lengthy investigation by the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force that began in April 2012 when authorities received information that [Glendon Scott] Crawford had approached local Jewish organizations seeking out individuals who might offer assistance in helping him with a type of technology that could be used against people he perceived as enemies of Israel.

Crawford is allegedly the Klan member. This request got the FBI interested, and meanwhile, an expert, Eric J. Feight, began helping Crawford, presumably as a result of the Jewish connection.

[T]he defendants’ scheme was the creation of a mobile, remotely operated, radiation emitting device capable of killing targeted individuals silently with lethal doses of X-ray radiation. The defendants plotted to use this device against unwitting victims who would not immediately be aware that they had absorbed lethal doses of radiation, the harmful effects of which would only appear days after the exposure. This was an undercover investigation and, unbeknownst to the defendants, the device that the defendants designed and intended to use was rendered inoperable at all times and posed no danger to the public.

blazing saddles klan 2There is an implied third person here, who was a cooperating witness for the FBI, and who seems to have been responsible for the sabotage of the “death ray”: “the device was rendered inoperable at all times.”

This press release made us really want to read the indictment, which doesn’t exist yet, or the complaint, which does, but isn’t readily accessible. (What imbecile designed PACER?) Anyway, we’re working on getting it.

This is only one example of the weird doings in the Northern District of New York. They busted a guy driving without a license after an accident. What’s weird about that, it happens every day? Just our wonderful diversity having the accidents the native-born aren’t having. But it turns out the accident was with a tugboat and the guy has been “driving” with a counterfeit merchant marine Master’s License. So far the courts have taken a much dimmer view than they do of the Dream Act “refugee” from Chiapas who ran from the scene of his third fatality DUI. Press release here (pdf).

Ammo Update I of II

Ammo StockpileJust a brief note, courtesy of “Hunter, Trader, Trapper” who linked us (thank you!) and also linked Gary Marbut’s take on the shortage from last month, reprinted at the press release aggregator AmmoLand. Gary seizes the opportunity to teach a fundamental Econ 101 concept, elasticity. Some production can only be increased with great effort, or stepwise, or increasing them incurs costs which will persist even if the demand spike evaporates. But even then, you hit a wall, and that wall can’t be shifted. That’s inelasticity:

The supply side is relatively inelastic. Manufacturers cannot increase production more than 30-40% before they begin exhausting their component suppliers. The component suppliers can’t expand more than 30-40% before they max out their material suppliers, all the way to the ends of the many supply chains.

….However, the demand side is VERY elastic, and driven by the psychological response of Americans to economic and political uncertainties. One supplier says he doesn’t have a shortage of ammunition, but a serious surplus of customers. As long as people have discretionary funds available and are stressed by political and economic uncertainty, or even by perceived political and economic uncertainty, demand for ammo will outstrip supply.

We explained some of the problems in our post last week, as they specifically relate to ammo manufacturing. One ammo maker we know of would love to be able to meet all his demand, but he’s limited by the duty cycle and maintenance requirements of his Camdex machines. He could try running a second shift, but that stresses the machinery further, and as Gary points out, stresses the supply chain to immovable limits. Right now, there are plenty of bullets; the two things limiting both small-business ammo manufacturers and home reloaders are primers, which are only available in small quantities at over twice pre-panic prices (think $75/1000 instead of $30/1000), and cases, which are backordered everywhere — at least, everywhere that hasn’t been overwhelmed with back orders and given up taking them (at Starline Brass, for instance, their own headstamps vary from some supply to taking back orders to, for popular pistol calibers and Starline’s own +P cases for competition calibers like .38 Super, “don’t even ask right now.”)

This is a supply chain stretched to the limits of elasticity. Econ profs everywhere (and MBA students seeking case studies, perhaps) should rejoice in the ready availability of such a crystal clear example.

Ammo buyers and shooters, not so much.

How they’re improving the M4

Generic M4 as issued in 2013. To be converted to M4A1.

Generic M4 as issued in 2012. To be converted to M4A1 by 2014. (PEO Soldier).

The Army intended to have a two-pronged approach to infantry weapons: a new Individual Carbine, and continuing improvement to the M4, which was “good enough” and expected to soldier on for many years — for one thing, a new carbine would have to be built, and the Army already has more than a half million serviceable M4 and M4A1 carbines. But as we’ve seen, the IC design bake-off cratered when none of the experimental new guns matched (let alone beat) the reliability of the M4 controls. Much like a medical trial is canceled if the experimental group does markedly worse than the controls taking a placebo, the Army called off the IC competition.

Of course, the subtext to the decision is the command climate in Washington, where the SecDef’s view of the Army is something to slash and bleed of a “peace dividend” for higher-priority domestic redistribution. But even the Pentagon’s crack flacks, whose mission brief is to make Capitol Hill and the press believe five impossible things before breakfast, would have a hard time selling Congressional and media skeptics on a new rifle that wasn’t as reliable as the old one.

So. the IC competitors are now, in most cases, back at the drafting station trying to wring more reliability out of their designs (some of which are pretty mature designs selling internationally, some of which borrowed their maturity by being largely M4s anyway, and some of which are both).

Without decimal places, modern US weapons are 100% reliable. Running out  the decimal places, the M4 is 99.983% reliable (the 3 repeats infinitely) in terms of MRBS (1/6000). (The SAW is even better, with “four-nines” reliability: 99.9957% (1/23,400 on stoppages). Any engineer will tell you that those numbers are hard to beat, and in fact, they’re murder to improve. It is much easier to get the gun from one stoppage in 30 rounds to one in 300. It is more difficult to take that from 300 to 3000. To take it to one stoppage in 6000 required decades of work by hundreds of engineers in government and industry, and hundreds of (mostly) minute tweaks to rifle, magazine, and ammo. To get from 6000 to 6100 is going to be tough; by now the graph of effort to result is proceeding nearly vertically.

The rifle is a resonant system, and changing any one component may influence any others. And when your system that reliable to begin with, any random change is more likely to lead to more unreliability. This leads to what academic Charles Perrow has defined as “normal accidents” in the book of the same title. Perrow noted that as systems got more complex, interventions meant to eliminate observed failure modes and increase reliability and safety are increasingly likely to introduce new and unintended failure modes. He points out these unintended consequences in, for instance, the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. The same mechanisms were at work in the American Airlines Flight 587 disaster in New York City in 2001. Because several accidents have involved inflight upsets, American arranged for its pilots to undergo upset-recovery training in aerobatic airplanes. The pilot flying 587 applied the control forces he learned in the nearly indestructible Extra aerobatic airplane, in a relatively fragile Airbus, with fatal consequences. Nobody saw it coming — but Perrow saw that coming.

M4 Carbine Improvement Timeline. Click to embiggen.

M4 Carbine Improvement Timeline. Click to embiggen.

Despite the difficulty and the ever-present threat of unintended consequences, several interdependent teams of experts continue to work to massage the M4. The manufacturers’ engineers, the Naval Surface Weapons Systems facility in Crane, Indiana (which works, among other things, joint SOF weapons), and the Army’s Ordnance experts and Program Executive Office for Soldier Systems (PEO Soldier) all continue to pursue the combat asymptote, the perfectly reliable weapon.

So what non-random changes are possible, and what are in the pipeline for the individual weapon? Of these various sources of improvements, PEO Soldier is the most forthcoming about its plans. Crane is imbued with SOF reticence, and manufacturers seek to keep proprietary improvements away from their competitors. So let’s look at PEO Soldier’s plans for the M4 series:

The first thing the Army is doing is long overdue: it is dumping the awful Colt-designed (and Army-demanded) three-round-burst mechanism. (The only reason the burst mechanism was specified was to avoid spending money teaching combat soldiers to fire accurately on automatic). The burst mechanism didn’t reset to zero, meaning you could be set on burst and get one, two, or three shots per pull, depending on what your last burst consisted of. And the trigger pull is different depending on where the burst mechanism is in its cycle. The elimination of burst is part of an overall conversion of all fielded M4s to the formerly SOF-specific M4A1. Along with full-auto capability instead of the crappy burst, the principal benefit is a thicker barrel that is slower to overheat (and, unfortunately, slower to cool off. In engineering, there is no such thing as a free lunch). PEO Soldier:

There are several benefits to upgrading M4s to M4A1s. Compared to the M4, the M4A1 has full auto capability, a consistent trigger pull, and a slightly heavier barrel. The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control.

The ambi fire control will be welcomed by southpaws, and will be useful in some urban cover as well. But the best news in Phase I is the banishment of burst.

Along with the conversion of the extant M4s to A1s, the Army is setting up a contract for new M4A1s, with 24,000 in the initial order. The contract is set up so that the other services can also order carbines against it — A1s or the original M4s if they prefer a crappy trigger. The conversion process is going to take place Army-wide, starting in July or August.

Phase II explored two possible areas of improvement — Bolt Carrier Groups and Rails Systems. The Rails component has not had a winner announced yet, but the BCG competition, with 11 firms competing for the prize, ended much as the Individual Carbine competition did, and for much the same reasons: none of the new contenders could beat the current champ:

PM SW completed its best value M4 bolt and bolt carrier assembly competition in April 2012, though the competition was scheduled to conclude in summer 2013. More than six months of testing and evaluation determined that none of the 11 competing designs met the overall requirements outlined in the solicitation. The M4’s current bolt and bolt carrier assembly outperforms the competing designs in the areas of reliability, durability, and high-temp/low-temp tests. The Army saved nearly $2 million as a result of the early completion of the competition.

Not surprising. The only change we’d make to the present M4 BCG, if we were kings, is largely cosmetic: we’d return to a satin chrome finish. That makes it stupid easy to clean the bolt and carrier, an important thing on a gas impingement gun that uses its bolt carrier as a cylinder and bolt as a piston.

Phase III, according to a briefing PEO Soldier presented(.pdf) in 2011 (which has an earlier version of the M4 Continuous Improvement slide shown above), is a further evaluation of the M4A1 operating system.

In other words, they’re institutionally unhappy with a weapon that’s very, very good. Other improvements continue, but PEO Soldier is in a bit of a jam: past improvements to the M4 system have been so successful that almost any further attempt at improvement degrades some aspect of the weapon’s performance. It’s not an entirely bad jam to be in: “Help, our gun’s too reliable!”

Note:

The system tells us that this is the 1,400th post on WeaponsMan.com, which launched January 1, 2012. We hope some of them have been of interest and of use to you. Expect more of the same. –your Eds.