Monthly Archives: October 2013

How’s your state for concealed carry? The best? The worst?

Law-ScaleAndHammerWe can relate to the natural desire of people to put states in rank order of CC friendliness, having gone from a state with one of the worst concealed carry climates (MA) to a couple of states with much better records.

Not surprisingly, the states with high crime where gruesome murders are in the news tend to be restrictive. This is a correlation only; people can and do argue the way the arrow of causation points.

Some people are not happy with this or that detail of what Guns and Ammo magazine has done to rank the states. We dunno; their results comport pretty well to conventional wisdom. In some cases, they’re quantifying the same variable twice, for instance, when they measure number of states that recognize a permit, they’re measuring something that has an inverse relationship with amount of training time required.

We don’t get why duty to inform is a big issue to them. Unless it is being used as a stick to beat legit gun owners with, which wouldn’t surprise us out of some of these jurisdictions.

But kudos to Guns and Ammo for trying:

Over the past few decades, most states in the country have gradually shifted their carry laws to become less restrictive. Despite fewer restrictions, legally carrying a concealed firearm remains vastly different from one state to another—and in some cases one town to another. The diversity of laws naturally creates ambiguity around the entire topic of concealed carry legislation.

Aside from background checks, training requirements and application fees, states are generally classified into one of four categories, based on how they issue licenses.

  1. Permitless/Unrestricted.
  2. Shall-Issue
  3. May-Issue
  4. No-Issue/Restricted

Currently, Shall-Issue is the most common method of issuance, with 38 states issuing licenses without discretion, as long as an applicant meets distinct criteria in the law. States with unrestricted concealed carry—other than Vermont—also issue permits on a Shall-Issue basis so individuals can travel out of state, and still legally carry a concealed firearm in states with reciprocal agreements.

So we set out to objectively rank the Best States for Concealed Carry based on measurable criteria. Outside of the data we measured are several other factors that are difficult to quantify—such as transport laws and places restricted from carry. Keep in mind we are specifically focusing on concealed carry, rather than open carry. Just like our “Best States for Gun Owners in 2013,” no state earned a perfect score.

via The Best Concealed Carry States in 2013 (Text Only) – Guns & Ammo.

As they mentioned, they also made a list of “Best States” for gun owners, which actually was, like this, a rank-ordered list of the 50 states and the District of Columbia (which of course, is the cellar dweller on both lists).

There aren’t many surprises here. States noted for outdoor life and libertarian politics generally did well. Coastal People’s Republics generally sucked rocks.

Depending on your particular gun interests, the data may skew a different way. Back in the 1980s, an armorer at Ft Bragg who was also a Class III FFL/SOT on the side insisted that our home state of Massachusetts was “a Free State” because it was one of the approximately 30 states that then permitted Class III weapons. We knew that Mass. was a living hell for gun owners even then, but his Manichaean view of the universe had Free and Slave states, with the only distinction being whether they permitted the connected to get Class III toys (because in MA, then you could get an MG but it was like a pistol permit: you had to have a rare chief of police, or be connected. That’s still the way it is).

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have hair care products

If a comb in the wrong hands is a weapon, maybe the problem is not the comb.

If a comb in the wrong hands is a weapon, maybe the problem is not the comb.

This is an old one (September, even), but was peculiar enough we think it’s still worth reviewing. Now, police pressure pinpointed this person Pearson in short order, and Pearson’s presence in prison promptly resumed (and probably persists). But he certainly had a novel way to spring himself from durance vile:

Police in Michigan have captured a fugitive who escaped from a Detroit courthouse Monday after stabbing a sheriff’s deputy in the neck with a plastic comb.

Abraham Pearson was taken into custody Monday night after a brief chase on foot near the intersection of Interstate 94 and Mt. Eliot Road. Law enforcement had received a tip from a citizen who spotted Pearson walking in the area.

MyFoxDetroit.com reported that Pearson escaped from a holding cell at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice after stabbing 63-year-old sherriff’s deputy Harrison Tolliver three times in the neck with an improvised knife. Pearson then took the deputy’s uniform, cell phone, and radio and escaped out the back door before carjacking a van. The vehicle was found abandoned blocks away from the courthouse on Detroit’s east side.

Pity poor Pearson, who ponders….OK, OK, we’ll stop. He gets high marks for initiative and low marks for planning… it might have occurred to him that anyone can figure out that having a car hijacked by a guy in a (most likely ill-fitting) prison guard’s uniform is not that different from having the same car jacked by the same guy in his own convict uniform, stripes or whatever. So the time spent changing clothes, if that’s the change you’ve got, is time wasted.

The improvised knife was a sharpened comb, a staple of convict armament.

People say it would take a police state to disarm the public. But where is there more of a police state than in prison? In the jug, police oppress the prisoners for good reason, as Pearson’s bid for freedom demonstrates.

Yet, the cons still get or make weapons, and still do mischief with them — as Pearson’s bid for freedom demonstrates.

Afghanistan is a different place

You think you know what “police” are? You think you have a handle on “fishing?” Welcome to Afghanistan.

The incident took place last Friday in the Doshi district of the northern province of Baghlan when policemen on the bank of a river fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the water.

“The rocket went astray and hit a place where children were playing, killing six and wounding two others,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

“Eight police personnel accused of misusing government weapons that killed these children have been arrested and handed over to military prosecutors for investigation,” it said.

Ahmad Jawid Basharat, a provincial spokesman, confirmed the incident and said the children were aged between 10 and 14.

“The police did not mean to kill the children, they were fishing, but the rocket went astray and hit the other side of the river where children were swimming in shallow water,” he said.

via Afghan Police Fishing with RPG Kill 6 Children | TF&G Gun Report.

We did indeed participate in the fine Afghan sport of fishing with Dupont lures, and our experience may explain a little about what happened over there.

It came about this way: another element of our task force liberated a battered old man from captivity by a local “General” or warlord-let. (Afghan irregular ranks worked like this, whether amongst Taliban, Northern Alliance (remember them?) or “unaffiliated” local scratch teams: if you had more than one Joe who reported to you, you were a “Commander”, who expected to treat with a foreign Colonel on an equal basis; if you had even one “Commander” you were a “General.” We could tell a general to show up with all his men and he’d have 11 guys and 3,000 excuses). Anyway, this particular General explained why he and his 11 guys had taken this old geezer captive and were starving and beating him. He explained it to three of us. And we each got a different explanation. You don’t need to be an honor grad from I&E (interrogation & elicitation) to know that someone whose story has more sudden changes than a Neil Stephenson plot isn’t telling the truth. We never did determine why he had the guy captive, but the most probable reason was that the old guy was a loyalist of the deposed king and His Majesty’s National Islamic Front for Afghanistan, one of the three groups of the seven we supported in the 1980s that actually did lots of fighting, and the warlord was a Tajik, but one whose sympathies were with the extreme Islamists of the Pushtun parties and not with Massoud and Fahim’s Jamiat-i Islami. The Islamists and Royalists sometimes forgot they were supposed to be fighting the Communists in the 1980s, and the Taliban then (indeed, Yunis Khalis’s group, to which that warlord was pledged, would join the Taliban in armed opposition soon after these events).

So this guy was a servant of the King — quite literally. He was the fish- and game-keeper at the King’s mountain lodge, which had been nearby (it had been looted nearly to a nullity). And after he reported, through means we do not know, back to His Majesty, in his Italian exile, the monarch, through this loyal retainer, invited us to fish the King’s lake at Ajar.

It just so happens that we had some fly rods. An SF buddy from the Vietnam era had been a river guide in the Pacific Northwest (indeed, he was the one that told us the fishing was rumored to be good in Afghanistan). And he had connections with fishing-equipment manufacturer Sage. As we recall it, Sage gave him 10 fly-fishing outfits at cost, and he donated them to our team. The sergeant major thought it best to share them among the whole unit, so every ODA got a rod and reel or two.

Well, we hauled that kit and schlepped it over broken rocks and clear-cut forests, propelled by Black Hawk and Chinook and Mi-8 and HMMWV and Toyota Hilux and Altama desert boots, through the mud of the Central Asian steppes, through minefields, ruins of great antiquity, and across more jeezly rocks than the nightmares of 10,000 geologists, up mountains and down streambeds and gingerly around wheat and poppy fields, under the scowls of men whose respect we needed. We hauled it up switchbacks, across washouts and half-collapsed Soviet armored-vehicle-launched bridges and fully-collapsed Afghan bridges of rotting wood and rotten hemp rope. Each time we lightened load, the rod and reel stuck stubbbornly along. Because we were going to Fish The Streams of the Hindu Kush.

And the appointed day came. Our party was two SF guys, two CI agents, and an interpreter. But as we loaded up, the rod and reel was not in its storage place. Some rat bastard had lightfingered it, and nobody owned up. So we fished with Dupont lures — in our case, M67 frag grenades.

The M67 operates similarly to the John Wayne era pineapple grenade (technically, the Mk 2 in US service). It does have a safety clip as well as a pin, to keep you from landing in Kingdom Come if you have been unwise enough to straighten the pins. (Trust us: under fire, you will have the strength for your pull to straighten the pins). So the drill is, slip the clip, pull the pin, and either throw the grenade (and the last safety mechanism, the handle or “spoon”, will fly free), or release the spoon and count down a couple of seconds if you want to shorten the time between release and bang. You have four and one half seconds, give or take; it is our experience that people holding cooking grenades in their hands tend to count off faster than heretofore.

The M67 is loaded with Composition B explosive and has an internal fragmentation layer. It’s a powerful pack of trouble for human beings, and it made short work of a nice string of fish in the King’s lake.

The noise drew out kids — either because kids are curious, which is a fact, or because Afghan farmers consider kids expendable items, which is also a fact, and use them as human reconnaissance drones — droneless drones, if you will. Unvehicled manned systems, maybe. And the kids had great fun retrieving the fish for us — they just asked for a fish each for their families. We had a great deal of trouble convincing the kids that there was a limit to how soon you could go in the water after we chucked each grenade. Like kids everywhere, these young guys thought they were immortal, and we were worried lest we accidentally injure one.

They thought the whole idea was funny, as they leaped into the bitterly cold snowmelt-filled lake and brought back the fish, which we strung up. Each time, they’d ask “You will give us a fish for this, right? That’s the deal?”

Well, we looked at each other and didn’t have to say anything. We told the kids, sure, and as we grew close to being maxed out on DuPont fishing, one of the kids apparently thought we’d double-cross him, so he moved to double-cross us first — another venerable Afghan tradition. He grabbed the largest fish and ran off, laughing.

The remaining kids were mortified. (An Afghan may cut your throat over an imagined slight, and he will steal anything that’s not nailed down, if it belongs to some impersonal organization. But in our experience, he would not steal from you, personally). Maybe because they thought now we wouldn’t give them each a fish.

Of course, we didn’t. We gave them all the fish. And the village dined on fish that night, compliments of the US Army Special Forces, and His Majesty King Zahir Shah, Father of The Country.

The SAWs that never WAS: Intro, and XM106

The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon is widely distributed in the US Army and Marine Corps (even after the Marines replaced many SAWs with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles). But how did we get to that point, and what other weapons were considered along the way? This series will look at each of the four contenders in turn. The principal objective of this article is to set the stage, and introduce an unfamiliar cousin of a familiar old friend: the XM106 Automatic Rifle, an M16A1 redesigned by Army engineers for the tactical role once filled by the Browning Automatic Rifle in the American rifle squad.

It’s a bit amazing that a SAW program got any traction at all. In 1979, the Army was concerned about the vintage of its small arms and other systems. While we’re most concerned about small arms here, the Army’s RDT&E guys had to develop it all, and they had their hands full trying to field or develop, at that time:

  1. The XM1 Tank (with 105mm gun; not yet named Abrams).
  2. The 120mm smoothbore follow-on for the M1. This was principally setting up American manufacture of an already-successful German gun.
  3. The Infantry Fighting Vehicle and its cav variant (not yet named Bradley).
  4. The Copperhead laser-guided precision artillery shell.
  5. The YAH-64 helicopter (“Y” means prototype; the Army was testing 5 prototypes, but they hadn’t selected the night vision and fire control systems yet; everyone remembered the AH-56 Cheyenne, which had gotten to this stage and beyond before its ignominious cancellation).
  6. The still unnamed MLRS rocket system was in early phases of tests, and precision guided rockets for it were barely on the engineers’ whiteboards.
  7. Improved missiles:  I-HAWK, TOW, and Pershing II.
  8. New missiles: HELLFIRE and Patriot.
  9. US production of the superior British 81mm mortar.
  10. Firefinder radar.

Those are the ones that turned into successful fieldings, but every one was opposed by vocal lobbies, which argued that the weapons cost too much, and would never work. (Some of these opponents were concerned patriots, like John Boyd’s famous reform mafia; others might not have been, like the CDI, a group that toed Ivan’s line so thoroughly that it was rumored to be financed by the USSR, and that did indeed fade from prominence after the USSR went belly up, although no one ever found any proof of anything as far as we know).

To the delight of the opponents, some development projects would turn out to be turkeys, like the DIVAD gun (later named Sergeant York; its fate was sealed when a high-stakes live demo saw it lock on to a latrine fan instead of a hovering, easy-pickin’s drone helicopter). Some would blow their budgets and get put out of their misery by the Carter administration or the Congress. Nobody remembers the US Roland AA missile, or the Stand Off Target Acquisition System, a helicopter with a Rube Goldberg targeting radar that needed a Heath Robinson raising and lowering mechanism.

But all in all, for all that the suits would like to zero out Army R&D, and for all that some projects would be dead ends, the need for these systems was so great, and/or the contractors had promised to manufacture them in so many Congressional districts, that the Army had an RDT&E budget request for $2.927 Billion for FY 80 (which began 1 Oct 79).

The principal small arms program was the SAW (the long-running Air Force/Joint pistol trials, the M231 Firing Port weapon, and a 30mm repeater grenade launcher which never saw type-classification, were some of the others). The Squad Automatic Weapon program was well along; the service needed to complete a developmental and operational test of four prototypes and evaluate the test data. Considering that it would produce a weapon still in the field today, this program’s budget request was almost invisible: $500,000. It was a little less than 2%, not of the RDT&E budget, but of 1% of the RDT&E budget (0.01708% if you do the math; rounds up to 171 10/1000ths of a percent).

The Army had just given up on the idea of a return to a .30 caliber small arm. A study called IRUS-75 evaluated the .30 concept as part of a question of the overall organization and equipment of the future rifle squad; a follow-on study, the Army Small Arms Requirements Study (ASARS), made it clear that the caliber mattered less than having two auto weapons per squad to provide a base of fire, as the BAR had done in days of yore.

The four NATO ammo contenders. Soon after the SAW tests described in this series, NATO chose the SS109.

The four NATO ammo contenders. Soon after the SAW tests described in this series, NATO chose the SS109.

The Army conduced an extensive computer study that determined the optimum caliber for a SAW was 6mm. This caused the first casualties inflicted by the SAW as logisticians’ heads exploded: they had no desire to stock a third caliber alongside 5.56 and 7.62. Accordingly, the SAW was specified to use 5.56mm ammunition: not the standard M193 ball round, but whatever round came out of new NATO testing, whether it was the FN SS109, the US XM777, or something completely different. The test guns were, as we understand it, set up for XM777. (XM777, like SS109, sought to get more penetration out of the 5.56x45mm cartridge by using a steel penetrator. It was, however, backwards-compatible with the 1:12 rifling of earlier 5.56 rifles. SS109 proved superior in NATO tests to SS109 and experimental British and German small-caliber rounds, and was adopted; the US version is M855).

The Army did not have an entirely free hand in weapons development, since the Joint Services Small Arms Program had been established in December, 1978, as “the senior joint services body for small arms development,” but the Army did retain control of the SAW program. By early 1979, four prototypes were under test by the Material Testing Directorate of the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. One of the four was going to be the SAW and replace two of the rifle squad’s M16A1 rifles. (Doctrine at the time designated one rifleman in each fire time the “automatic rifleman”. He got a bipod and more ammo. The rest of the riflemen were supposed to fire on semi-auto against point targets only).

The four candidates were three belt-fed 5.56mm light machine guns: Ford Aerospace’s XM248; FN’s XM249; H&K’s XM262; and one magazine-fed weapon, the XM106.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 11.09.28 PM

The XM106 had the home-field advantage: it was developed by the Army’s own Ballistics Research Laboratory. But it was, by far, the least advanced rifle. It was essentially an M16A1 with a modified fire-control system and a bipod. It fired full-auto only, from an open bolt, and had a heavy buffer system to bring the rate of fire down to 750 RPM. The bipod was an M2 bipod, as used on the M14, but it mounted above the rifle’s barrel. All XM106s appear to have been hand-built, toolroom guns, and there are a few variations among them. The XM106 had a clever, but complex, interchangeable barrel, a desirable feature in a weapon that may be called on to deliver lots of automatic fire. In most XM106s, the front sight base was moved closer to the muzzle end of the barrel (which army records record as 482mm [21.5 in.] including the flash suppressor, the second longest of the contenders), reputedly to extend the gun’s sight radius.

XM106 removable barrel version.

XM106 removable barrel version.

The barrel-changing mechanism removed the front sight and gas tube from the gun, leaving the bipod attached to the receiver. The handguards, as you can see in the picture, split. This system had two drawbacks — one, shared with the M60 and numerous other GPMGs is that rear sight adjustments could only be zeroed for one barrel — when you changed barrels, you changed point of impact, and it might have done something ugly to the accuracy of your weapon. The second drawback is clearly visible in the picture: that gas tube hanging off the spare barrel, just asking some GI to bend, break, or plug it with something.

The XM106 was not only magazine-based, it had its own special magazine — sort of. A spring clip held three 30-round magazines together. When one was exhausted, the auto-rifleman pressed the magazine release and shifted the mag over and reinstalled it. It was another Rube Goldberg / Heath Robinson contrivance, but in the late 1970s there were no reliable high-cap magazines.

We’re not aware of any surviving XM106s. The open-bolt mechanism and the plate renaming the fire selector positions lived on, however, on the M231 Firing Port Weapon. Colt was to reevaluate the M16-based MG and develop a version in conjunction with Diemaco for Canadian Army tests; that would also fire from the open bolt, but it had a superior barrel change system and bipod to those of the XM106.

If the XM106 was the least technically ambitious of the SAW contenders, Ford’s XM248, which instantiated some concepts developed at BRL and elsewhere in the Army ordnance world, was at the opposite end of the spectrum — a technical stretch. But that’s for the next installment.

Other than its influence on Colt’s future private developments, the XM106 was an evolutionary dead end. With four very different guns to choose from, three had to lose, and with its lack of a belt and awkwardness, the XM106 was never really in contention. It’s interesting to compare it to the M27 automatic rifle the Marines ultimately chose to replace most of its SAWs, a weapon that accepted the inconvenience of magazine loading for the benefit of much lighter weight.

That the XM106 was so quickly set aside tells us that “not invented here” wasn’t holding the Army ordnance experts back in the late 70s and early 80s — the gun was designed by their own compadres at the Ballistics Research Laboratory, but it wasn’t the best. Any disappointment that BRL might have had was limited, however. Their firing-port weapon design, a more extensively modified M16A1, was adopted as standard equipment for the new Infantry and Cavalry Fighting Vehicles, and it, too remains in service today — so there’s a little bit of XM106 still out there.

That Was the Week that Was: 2013 Week 43

That was the week that was TW3We did it! The Matinee was up on Saturday (and nearly on time!), the TW3 (this!) was up on time, and we had a W4 this week as well.

So at least as far as beancounting goes, it looks like a good week.

The links are not yet live; to find the posts scroll down. Enjoy!

The Boring Statistics

This week we remained close to the historical mean on words, at roughly 18,000 words, generally the same as the last two weeks, and we loaded 25 posts, one less than last week. The mean post was up to a fairly mainstream 730 compared to last week’s 650 (the TW3 said 640 but the stats have been updated). We continued to exceed our target of 19 posts (3x day x6 days +1 on Sunday); in effect there’s a bonus post daily. Comments were low, 66, 71 (updated when we made the links live Sunday night), down from 81.

Our gratitude to readers, commenters and linkers is sincere and continues. Thanks for validating our efforts.

Most Commented Post of the Week

Our most commented post was “Improved Peace Symbol,” which looked at the history of warfare-positive people turning the hippies’ misshapen Mercedes-Benz logo back on them. This was a relatively rare instance of the most commented-upon post being a GWOT post instead of the more usual technical posts. The runner-up was also a GWOT post of a sort, the one about the Navy’s latest officer to blot his copybook, this one by, it says in the indictment, taking bribes. As the Dragnet TV show used to say, “all suspects are presumed innocent unless convicted in a court of law.” This guy’s already convicted by his officer peers of the crime of Bad Publicity on the Service. The court could find it’s all a big misunderstanding, but the officer’s career goose can’t be uncooked.

Not drawing any comments were a couple of surprises to us: a video post on the Japanese Type 5 copy of the M1 Garand, and the TW3, the excellent Great War Fiction site. We hope you just didn’t comment because you went to the site. The rice-burner M1 was something we thought extremely interesting and so we’re kind of shocked nobody said nothin’. But we suppose that beats random abuse.

The Week in Posts

Here’s the recap of our posts for this week:

We hope you enjoyed this week’s content.

Here’s how we did on last week’s promises:

Not as well as we’d like, but about as well as we usually do. The overdue and the underdelivered:

  1. A horror story from NJ promised originally now some seven weeks ago. Finally. 
  2. X A major post on Gerald Bull’s awesome space-capable artillery that seems to have entrenched itself on the back burner. If we don’t get these two done this week, they’ll be voting age before we know it.
  3.  To post 3 x day x 6 days. We exceeded this.
  4. One gun-tech or -industry post and one SOF/UW post per day. We were… close, and that’s all we’re gonna say about that.
  5.  To post a  √ WWWW, a √ TW3, and a √ Saturday Matinee, before COB Saturday. Done x 3.
  6. One back Saturday Matinee. We might yet, after queuing this up. But other duties also call.

This is pretty much going to be a standing set of promises until we have a reason to improve them. It was a huge relief to get the Brian Aitken story out. Everyone needs to know about this.

We also promised, specifically:

  • √ A look at a very different Garand (the Japanese one from Tuesday);
  • √ An update on the gun industry’s assortative relocation from anti-gun to pro-gun states (up Monday);
  • 1/2 Some more M16 stuff (we’re not entirely sure what, yet, we have a lot of things queued up) (we still have most of this, but a couple things leaked into the Bubba is in Da House story Saturday morning);
  • √ A story of a black powder substitute gone real bad (Two stories on the Craig Sanborn trial resulting from the explosion at the Black Mag plant, Monday and Friday);

And some gun-building, which is carried over as we’re still standing by for an FSB jig. (Doesn’t help we didn’t send out the check).

For Next Week

Our goals are unchanged:

  1. to catch up the long-festering back posts mentioned above, now down to just one (Gerald Bull).
  2. to post three times a day, six days a week, of which:
  3. one gun-tech or -industry post and one SOF, UW, or war-related post up daily.
  4. a WWWW, on Wednesday.
  5. a Saturday Matinee, and a TW3 before the week ends at midnight Saturday.
  6. one back Matinee — at least.

Some specifics we know we have for you:

  • A video of a protective vest entrepreneur doing the usual confidence demonstration, with some historical demos thrown in;
  • An explanation of why both opponents and supporters have always given background checks more credence than they’re really worth;
  • Even more M16 stuff from the historical archives;
  • The formulas for invisibility, if we can figure out how to display formulas in WordPress;

And, we hope, that little bit of gun-building.

See you with a TW3 on Saturday! (Again!)

Saturday Matinee 2013 43: Storming Juno (2010, TV)

This is one of a bunch of half-written reviews that we’ve had lying around. Because we never stopped watching war and adventure movies; we’ve just gotten lax about the writing. (We’re also slogging through a couple of TV series on DVD, in one case because it ran for years and there’s a boatload of episodes; and in another case, quite frankly, so that you don’t have to endure the series).

But Storming Juno is an example of the kind of thing we like to find: a film with a novel take on war or weapons. In this case, it’s a battle that’s been done to death by everyone from John Wayne and Robert Mitchum to Matt Damon: D-Day. What can you say about D-Day that’s new? Well, you can tell what the Canadians did. The Americans have been covered in great depth, some of the stirring actions of the British have gotten films of their own (there really is room for one just about Pegasus Bridge, and one about Merville Battery, just like there’s still room for a movie about Pointe du Hoc in the American sector). But the Canadians have been pretty nearly skunked, and yet they participated in the air, at sea, and by paratroop and seaborne attack. Indeed, they had their own beach, which now hosts a very nice interpretation center staffed by young, bilingual Canadian “guides” who take pride in telling their nation’s D-Day story.

Because if somebody’s going to tell the story, it’s going to have to be Canadians. Hollywood can’t even shift itself to make Americans look like heroes any more.

A Canadian War Film? Eh?

Indeed it is, and it’s about one of the two defining Canadian battles of the war. Sure, Canadians fought everywhere the British Commonwealth fought, in British as well as Canadian units, but Dieppe (about which CBC also made a TV movie) and Juno Beach were two contributions to victory that were largely Canadian. This TV program is a different sort of docudrama that explores the actions of typical fighting men who went to war undee Canada’s red flag (pre-Maple Leaf).

Storming Juno’s DVD has two parts. The first is a drama that follows, in fairly direct chronological order, the experiences of three (real) Canadian soldiers during the D-Day invasion. Each has a different mission: Dan Hartigan is a corporal in the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, and he needs to survive the drop, assemble with his unit, and take a German gun position at Varraville that threatens the seaborne invaders. Léo Gariepy is a professional soldier who joined from Montréal before the war, not for love of the profession of arms but because there was no other work; he commands a secret weapon, one of a troop of Duplex Drive Sherman tanks. Lt. Bill Grayson is a platoon leader in the Regina (reg-EYE-na) Rifles, and his platoon is in the first wave to hit Juno Beach.

When the drama ends, at the end of D-Day with a narration about the accomplishments of the Canadians in general that day, the DVD seamlessly seques into the second part, a series of interviews with surviving veterans. Unfortunately, none of them is among the three representative Canadians whose exploits we’ve been watching.

The trailer of the film stresses the drama half, but includes a clip from one of the interviews:

The performances, direction, and viewing experience

The actors are not famous, but they’re credible in their roles. The stories of the three protagonists are well intertwined, and the writers and director did a great job at building suspense in one, and then cutting to the next to show how he got out of the fix he was in when they last cut away. We get the impression that to do this is difficult; to do it when your storyline is constrained by representing actual historical events… well, that has to be a lot more difficult in turn.

For us, a high point was the veteran interviews.

The historical setting and accuracy in general

CanadianoperationsonddayThis film was made with great care for accuracy, particularly given its budget. The Canadian beach was located, as one character mentions, “right in the middle.” On Normandy’s north coast, which runs east and west at this point, the British had the left flank and the Americans the right. Juno Beach was centered on the resort town of Courcelles-sur-mer, and comprised two sectors, Nan and Mike (from the period Commonwealth phonetic alphabet, N and M). As elsewhere on D-Day, the sectors were subdivided: red on port-side, and green starboard, with wider Nan sector having a central “white” as well. With the exception of a British Commando unit, pretty much everybody hitting the beach here was Canadian. Some units landed with little ado, but others, including the Reginas, ran into as German buzzsaw and suffered terrible casualties.

The weather was marginal for the DD tanks — maybe worse than marginal, maybe bad enough to cancel — and the Canadians, like their American DD tank counterparts, had as much of a moral as a military decision to make. It worked out alright for Gariepy, but not for many others who went to the bottom with the swimming tanks.

There were two Canadian Parachute Battalions formed in World War II. One, the 2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion, joined with US forces to constitute the First Special Service Force. The one depicted here, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, had its own objectives on D-Day butt was operating as part of the Britis 6th Armored Division, something the movie doesn’t really make clear. If anything, the movie understates the risks the Canadian paras took. The unit’s actual casualties were shocking:

Of the 27 officers and 516 men from the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion who took part in the Battle of Normandy, 24 officers and 343 men gave their lives. The unit had to be re-organized and retrained in order to regain its strength and combat-readiness.

In case you were wondering what Canada did during the big one, there is that. And note that those are just the dead. One has to presume that, given that an unknown number of wounded were also going to the rear, a D-Day survivor in the Canadian Paras was a very rare bird indeed by the end of the campaign.

The weapons used in the movie

Both the German bad guys and the Canadian good guys mostly have the right weapons. The Canadians are perhaps more Sten-gun-heavy than they really would have been, and lighter on No. 4 SMLEs. Léo Gariepy’s tank isn’t right; it’s an end-of-war to Korean-war vintage M4A3E8, with a number of features that look wrong if you know your tanks, notably the gun, mantlet, and horizontal volute spring suspension, all of which are not correct for a D-Day duplex-drive tank.

The German guns are depicted, as is often the case in movies, as firing directly out from bunkers, orthogonal to the shoreline. Some of the actual bunkers remain in place at Courcelles-sur-mer and along with the battle’s prodigious photographic and documentary record, they confirm that at Juno, as elsewhere on D-Day, most of the German installations enfiladed the assaulters from the side. This is a much more deadly way of dealing with an attack (the Canadians lost hundreds and hundreds of men on this beach) but may have been thought too hard to sell to an audience in which infantry veterans are extremely rare.

The TV film’s meager budget shows up in two places, in the relatively few extras and small sets, which forces a lot of really narrow framing of scenes, and in the CGI. The was done to a budget, and it often shows. The availability of CGI option to film “impossible shots” seems to have led many directors down the primrose path of unrealistic CGI. The ships are particularly bogus-looking, as is the water they “sail” upon. (The CGI budget might be better used to colorize period B&W documentary footage, or one should skip the CGI and save the money). Bad CGI is worse than no CGI. (Mind you, it’s not Korean-blockbuster bad, it’s just not all that good).

A pet peeve of ours is cannons that do not recoil. The blast of a real-world cannon is prodigious. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a tank gun, an AT or AA gun; a lot of energy has been set loose in the world, and it causes a number of things to happen, including a recoiling of the gun, and a blast of dust and debris, and the crew visibly react to firing. One would think that a movie industry that can put so many wonders on screen can show the relatively simple physics of a cannon firing.

The tactics are a bit uneven. There is a lot of yelling and charging and a lot less crawling and sneaking than really goes down in combat; some of the extras seem clumsy with their weapons.

Bottom Line

This is a decent film and worth watching to see some of the goings-on in the “forgotten” sector of the D-Day invasion. It’s not going to replace Saving Private Ryan (let alone another Ryan’s masterwork, The Longest Day) as a D-Day film the whole family will appreciate, but it should appeal particulary to history buffs and to patriotic Canadians.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have hammers…

outlaw hammer…but it still might not end well for them.

Consider the case of Edward Dalton Haffey. Haffey was the criminal courts’ equivalent of a Global Elite Gold Frequent Flyer. He’d done time for robbery, burglary, a bunch of drug offenses, and capped it with 20 years for murder. With a resumé like that, he wasn’t the most sought-after cat on Monster.com and he wound up working as a janitor for a chain of porn shops. (If you wondered whether the people in these businesses are sleazy, well, there’s one data point).

Haffey’s boss was one Michael Kuhnhausen, and Mike had a problem. His problem was named Susan, and she was 51, 5’7″ tall, and 250 pounds of angry ER nurse, and she was — for the moment, anyway — his wife. She was about to divorce him, and he needed her, not in any Hollywood emotional way, but because her job gave him health insurance, and his under-the-table porn-shop cleanup-manager gig didn’t. So he offered Haffey a chance to make more money than the small-time hood had ever imagined, let alone seen. That sets the stage for 6 Sep 2006, and FBI vet Jim Fisher takes up the story (edited for brevity):

[U]sing the house key Michael Kuhnhausen had given him, Haffey entered Susan Kuhnhausen’s Portland home. He deactivated the intrusion alarm, removed a claw hammer from his backpack, and waited.

At six in the evening, Susan Kuhnhausen, having completed her shift, pulled into the driveway. She let herself into the house and was wondering who had turned off the alarm when she received a glancing blow to the back of the head. She turned and came fact-to-face with a man with stringy hair and a long beard. He stood about five foot nine and weighted a hundred and seventy pounds. Before he could strike her again, she wrestled him to the floor and managed to get him into a choke hold. She squeezed as hard as she could, and within a matter of minutes he stopped breathing and went limp. With a dead man lying on her kitchen floor, the slightly injured but badly shaken victim walked next door to call 911.

It sounds like a scene from a Coen Brothers movie, but it really happened. The cops initially thought it was only a home invasion, but Haffey had bequeathed them enough clues that they were soon able to change Mike Kuhnhausen’s Zip Code also.

Haffey’s friends also had no problem coming forward to tell the cops what they knew — now. There is no honor among thieves, and theives were probably the highest class of Haffey’s associates — they went down from there.

Haffey’s autopsy helped explain why he had been overpowered by his victim.  According to the medical examiner, at the time of his death, his body contained a near lethal dose of cocaine. He had been too drug-addled to commit the murder.

His dealer ratted him out, as did a “friend” he’d tried to recruit to help with the murder. The friend didn’t go to the cops until after Haffey’s death, but he didn’t help with the murder attempt, either.

He explained that Haffey just didn’t offer him enough money. He wouldn’t kill someone for just a few thousand dollars.

By all means Read The Whole Thing™ on Fisher’s site. You’ll also enjoy the story of John Corrion, who tried to kill his ex-wife with a flashlight, and then from prison hired another guy to do it with a bow and arrow.

“John is a very angry man,” his ex testified. Not her problem any more, as he’s doing life. That probably hasn’t improved his disposition.

There are many ironies here, but one of them is that it is trivially easy to kill a human being with a hammer or a flashlight, even though these criminals made a botch of it. (As we’ve reported before, hammers and blunt instruments are very common murder weapons). And Susan Kuhnhausen’s experience teaches the lesson that’s central to most military special operations selection courses: never give up. 

Hat’s off to the Marines

As in, this hat, worn by the two young Marines on the right, looks more than a little… off.

marine_crappy_hats_

One thing everybody in other services envies about the Marines is their great-looking uniforms, and the fact that the Marines make a uniform change about as often as our little blue and white oblate spheroid gets a visit from Halley’s Comet. We served in the US Army for 30 years and retired with an entire room full of maybe four different kinds of Class A uniform, a wider range of Class Bs, and about twice as many camouflage patterns as a meeting of the Mississippi Delta Militia and Frog Gigging Gang. Our Marine buddies had a couple sets of As and Bs, and went through two camo changes, one forced by the Army discontinuing the uniform they also wore.

The Marines, though, are about to change their uniforms, and one of the things they want to impose on the Devil-Doggosphere is the freakin’ comical hat worn by the two grim-faced Marines on the right. (You’d be grim-faced, too, at the thought of your Marine buddies seeing you in that picture. The shame, it burns).

Marine Commandant General James Amos, who is recovering well from a broken nose suffered when the President turned a corner without warning, is reportedly responding to El Presidente’s desire to leave his personal mark upon the services (but wait! You say. He already has. Tru dat -Ed.) by making their uniforms “more unisex.”

This doesn’t ring entirely true, because if you look at the old hats on the left, you’ll notice that the hat perched on the head of the woman Marine looks remarkably similar to the one that shades the stubble on the cranium of her male counterpart. Hers might be smaller, but then, someone on the President’s staff who served in the military might tell him that hats come in sizes because, and we are not making this up, so do heads. But there’s no male / female distinction here, as both sets of man and woman appear to have matching hats. So the difference is just service hat / ugly hat.

The Marines’ nonuniform head size may be addressed in a future update to the regulations. Here’s hoping they plan to pad the small heads rather than shrink the large ones. A Marine hasn’t had a shrunken head since they withdrew from Haiti in 1934 or so.

Given the ridicule the vaguely French hats are getting, the Marines’ largest and most combative branch — public affairs — has struck hard, naming the hat the Dan Daly after a World War I hero. Even that hasn’t been enough to sell the dopey hat to actual, you know, Marines. Wherever Dan Daly is buried, if they could wire him up as an armature with a couple of brushes, HQ can also check the “green energy” box on their Officer Fitness Reports. There is a box on the form now, yes? And the Marines in the field appear to love the Damn Dopey hat no more than their deceased old legends do.

But all the Marines don’t have to like it… just one does. General Amos. And if he likes it, they’ll all be wearing it. And we’ll be laughing heartily.

Enlisted corpsmen across the ships and barracks of the Fleet Marine Force are holding their breath… because the day may be coming when it’s no longer their Marine buddies making fun of their hats, but the other way round.

Update:

While this was in the queue, before we even got it up in front of you, we learned that however much the male Marines we know hate it (because it feminizes the male Leatherneck), turns out the distaff side of the corps, as represented by a retired gunny, hates it too — because it masculinizes the woman Marine.

Only among the heathen natives of the tribes of Beltwaystan would a Marine Corps where the men and women can be mistaken for one another seem like a good idea.

Update II

Well, that didn’t take long. Here’s the key graf in a statement from HQMC:

Recent headlines in the media have created confusion regarding a Marine Corps uniform item, the male dress cover. Some in the media have implied that the President of the United States directed a change in this dress cover.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos said, “the President in no way, shape or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover.”

While the Marine Corps Uniform Board is currently looking for a new cover, or cap, for female Marines because the current manufacturer is going out of business, there is no intent to change the current male Marine dress cover.

Now, with any politician, you need to parse what they say. And he’s not saying the President or the Administration didn’t ask for more unisex uniforms, only that the President didn’t say, “Yo. Change your hats.” And… if nobody was looking to change hats, how do you explain the image at the head of this post? We’ll here’s the head fashionista at HQMC, one Col. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers:

A survey released by the Marine Corps Uniform Board eliciting input from Marines in regard to uniform items, sought opinions about the “Dan Daly-style” cover.

Pictures of male Marines wearing this cover were included in the survey material. This is standard practice while conducting surveys….

“The surveys often contain photo illustrations that portray what a uniform article might look like when worn by a Marine,” Col. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers, Marine Corps Uniform Board president, said. “This is a very standard practice. While there was never any desire or intent to change the male Marine dress cover, the feedback we have received to maintain this iconic cover has been heard, loud and clear. “

It sounds like self-serving, ass-covering bullshit to us, but there is one thing, one little detail, that suggests that the image might indeed have been a survey. If you look at it, along with the male and female Marines wearing the female (aka “Dan Daly”) cover, the “control” pair aren’t wearing the current cover: they’re both wearing the male service cover.

It does smell a bit like there’s someone in 8th & I that wants to do to the Marines what knucklehead parents do when they give their daughters blue clothes and toy bulldozers, and sons pink clothes and tea sets. But there’s one force the gender-benders didn’t reckon with, and that’s current and former Marines — one of the principal reasons the uniform hasn’t particularly changed since it struck terror into Tojo. Looks like they struck terror into Desgroseilliers, too, which probably did him some good even if it was unnecessary.

P.S. Wasn’t Dan Daly actually wearing a Montana-peaked campaign hat when he made his famous call, “Do you want to live forever, you sonofabitches?” at Belleau Wood? Of course, he’d been around a long time before that but we thought that’s what the well-dressed Marine had on his head on the Western Front in 1918.

PPS. This post has been edited. A link to the HQMC post has been added, and our description of Col. Desgrosseilliers’s statement, which implied he was “ass-coveting,” has been corrected — we were abusing the statement as ass-covering, not imputing any unconventional desires (NTTAWWT) to the good colonel and/or his minions, whom we do not know personally. We regret the error, and curse the ancestry and progeny of the genius that put R next to T on this keyboard.

Ten signs Bubba is in Da House

We’re talking, of course, about our nemesis, Bubba the Gunsmith. Bubba is dim, but crafty and possessed of a certain animal cunning; he doesn’t appear wearing an oily shirt with an oval “Bubba” name patch embroidered over his heart. Nope, he’s insidious and and the evil he does lives on long after he’s interred; but he may call himself by many other names. (One sure clue: if the guy says, “I got it like that. Sumdood done it,” you’re in the presence of the doer: Bubba his ownself). But in general, you can’t count on the Gump of Gunsmithing to out himself.

Fortunately, while he can hide himself, he can’t hide his effects. By his fruits shall ye know him; Bubba’s telltale spoor is as recognizable as a reindeer herd on the Lapland snows; to follow his sign you only need the skill it takes to follow tracks. Train tracks. Here are a few of the “tells” that suggest that you’re dealing with Bubba’s enthusiastic if untamed craftsmanship:

  • #1: Your M16/AR-15 front sight base has screws instead of factory-style taper pins. Double Bubba Points for wood screws. Treble points if it’s visibly canted. The first photo shows a screw-on FSB, which people use because they’re afraid of screwing up a drill, ream and pin job (a screwup that’s really possible if you’re reckless or overconfident, and don’t make or acquire a jig). Source: an ARFCOM thread, now archived. Second photo shows a canted FSB from another ARFCOM thread. While a canted FSB is normally a Bubba product these days, Colt built a few over the years, often when their UAW local was looking for a new contract. A canted FSB may not be visible to the naked eye, but you will run the rear sight all the way to one side and still be off target. Bubba is in Da House.

Amateur Night at the FSB
Canted_FSB

  • #2: Your AK trunnion is attached to the sheet metal receiver by screws instead of factory-style rivets. Extra Bubba Points if they’re wood screws here, too. (And welding is also half-assed and a sign that Bubba is in Da House). Like the AR screws, this is caused by fear of using the right industrial process: set rivets. Mikhail his ownself says, use rivets. This screw job is even sadder, as AK-Builder and others will sell you the right tool for short money, and it’s easy to do this right. (It can be difficult to get an AR FSB right).

This AK is screwed

 

Kalashnikov Rivets

hack job

  • #3: Your barrel was shortened by hacksaw and Mark I eyeball, and so it’s not exactly straight. (“What’s a muzzle crown?” says Bubba. He thinks it’s a Japanese gentlemen who keeps flagging you at the range).
  • #4: After he hacksawed the barrel off, Bubba never got around to attaching a front sight. You can only focus on one sight at a time, so why waste time installing two?
  • #5: There’s a Dremel tool on the gunsmith bench. (Every smith probably owns a Dremel, but the non-Bubbas have the decency to stow it away. The tool in the open will be a Foredom). Bubba uses the Dremel for everything that he doesn’t use a hacksaw or hammer for.
  • #6: After the trigger job, your revolver is DAO.
  • #7: After the trigger job, your AR doubles.
  • #8: Your gunsmith also doubles — as a lawyer, telling you the ATF will not care about your double-firing AR. (They’ll take great delight in sending you to Club Fed until 2023 or so).
  • #9: He has an AR with one of more of the trigger guard bosses on the lower receiver broken off. (Extra points if it’s your AR, which was fine when you gave it to him. Double extra points if he built it from a forging or 80% lower, and there’s no trigger guard because he doesn’t have the right drill. Treble extra points if there’s no bolt hold-open because he also doesn’t have the right long drill).
  • #10: Your scope crosshairs are a few degrees off plumb. Extra Double Bubba points for every degree beyond 3º that it’s off.

The cold, hard, ugly fact is that Bubba is in a whole lotta houses out there, and he’s sawing, hammering, and don’t forget Dremeling his way into new adventures even as we speak.