Monthly Archives: August 2014

Labor Day Weekend Sunday

This weekend, Sunday falls in the interstices between days off, rather than provides a brief Sabbath rest before we have to start paying attention to the countdown to the launch of the work week.

We have a visit to rehabilitation hospital on the schedule today. That will be a daily routine for a while, actually.

We have a to-do list with a hundred-something items on it, titled, in homage to Churchill, Action This Day. Of course, some of “this day’s” action items have a good bit of seniority on this list, damn their eyes.

And, we need to address the problem we had with the range yesterday. Kid wants to fire the Artillery Luger. We want to troubleshoot the same Luger, which hasn’t been cycling reliably all of a sudden. This is where a high-speed camera would come in handy, but we haven’t got one.

We also got some .30-06 and 7.62 NATO ammo for sighting in some rifles. The Black Hills 7.62 Match is probably overkill for the 1960-vintage AR-10, and at $2-plus per round, it was expensive. But it will be interesting to see if it shoots any better than the common stuff.

Of course, that requires us to get the current combination to the range lock. On a Sunday. In a holiday weekend. In a resort area that’s swarming with enough tourists to make driving unpleasant.

Could be worse. It could be raining.

Quick bleg: CLEOs who can’t qual?

A few weeks ago we read a story about a police chief or sheriff in a major metro area who couldn’t or wouldn’t qualify with a firearm, but carried it anyway (“L’etat, c’est moi.”) Then there was another one, this time a female (first one was a guy). So we went looking for the links to do a story and we didn’t find ’em. We did find a third less-than-straight-shootin’ Sheriff, this guy in the Tampa, FL area (Hillsborough County, maybe?) So we’ve got the links on the FL guy but not the other two.

Can any of you wise folks hook us up?

(We’ve been off having adventures: buying ammo, getting locked out of our range, and having the car up and croak on us, ½ mile from the Manor. While the other two vehicles are in the shop. Shiny).

The M16 as First Standardized

From the very beginning of M16 production, according to the preponderance of records, the Army version was the M-1 A1 with the forward assist. But the MIL-STD that included the nascent M16 for the first time, MIL-STD 635B: Military Standard, Weapons, Shoulder (Rifles, Carbines, Shotguns and Submachine Guns), covered only the M16 version.

m16_rifle_from_mil-std-635b

MIL-STD-635B was published on 7 Oct 1963. The weapon was, in this instance, the only exemplar of a new category of standard:

5.1 Detail Data for Standard Items (Standard for design and procurement)

5.1.1 Rifles

5.1.1.2 Caliber .223.

The two entries in Standard 5.1.1.2 are:

(a) RIFLE, 5.56-MM M16, FSN 1005-856-6885; and

(b) RIFLE, 5.56-MM: M16, w/e, FSN 1005-994-9136.

And the published illustration, seen above, although grainy (and distorted by the moiré patterns that result from scanning half-tone images) in the copy we examined (from, once again, the Small Arms of the World archives, for which subscription is required), is clearly an early Colt Model 601. It has several classic 601 features such as the duckbill flash suppressor, cast front sight base, and brown molded fiberglass stocks (which were factory overpainted green on most 601s, but the green paint is not evident on this one). In addition, the forging line of the magazine well appears to line up with the forging line’s continuation on the upper receiver, although this is hard to judge from the image we’ve got.

The duckbill on this example of the rifle appears to have been modified into a stepped configuration. We’re unaware of the purpose of this version of flash suppressor, if it really is a version and not just an artifact of the degradation of this image through multiple modes of reproduction. (Somewhere, there’s the original 4″ x 5″ Speed Graphic negative of this picture, and accompanying metadata about who took it, when and where — but we haven’t got it).

Shall we read what 635B said, back in 1963, about the M16?1

DESCRIPTION AND APPLICATION

The M16 rifle is a commercial lightweight, gas-operated, magazine-fed shoulder weapon designed for selective semiautomatic or full automatic fire. It is chambered for the .223 caliber cartridge and is fed by a 20-round box type magazine. It is equipped with an integral prong-type flash suppressor and fiberglass stock and handguard. A bipod, which attaches to the barrel at the front sight, is available as an accessory to the  rifle. The M16 is used by the Army and the Air Force.

PHYSICAL AND PERFORMANCE CHARACTERISTICS

Weight, without magazine:  6 lb. (approx.)

Weight of magazine, empty:  4 .7 oz.

Weight of magazine, loaded (20 rounds): 12.7 oz.

Length, overall:  39 in. (approx.).

Length, barrel with flash suppressor: 21 in.

Rate of fire: (automatic) 650 to 850 rpm.

Sight radius: 19.75in.

Trigger pull: 5.5-7.5 lb.

Type rear sight: Iron, micrometer.

Type front sight: Fixed blade.

Type of flash suppressor: Prong (integral).

Accuracy: A series of 10 rounds fired at a range of 100 yards shall be within an extreme spread of 4.8 inches.

AMMUNITION

CARTRIDGE, CALIBER .223: Ball (Full Jacketed Bullet).

This is the “Hello, world!” of the M16 in formal Military Standards. The previous long-gun MIL-STD, 635A of 2 Sep 1960, which was superseded by this version, contains no reference to the black rifle.

Observations on the Standard

A MIL-STD is supposed to be the absolute doctrinal statement of what an article of military equipment is (and that is one reason it’s fairly high-level: to allow minor changes to be made without having to rewrite the standard every time the factory or the military comes up with a minor improvement). But this standard contains both vague entries and an erroneous one, neither of which is expected.

The vague entries include the very dimensions of the rifle: its length and weight are listed as “approximate.” This hints that the standard writers may have been working off third-party data rather than their own trusted measurements.

One could quibble with the definition of the screw-on flash suppressor as “integral.” Looking at this and other MIL-STDs, it seems clear that the authors make a distinction between flash suppressors that are issued as a component of the weapon and not meant to be removed by the end user, like those of the M14 and M16, and those meant to be add-on or field-detachable accessories, like those for the M1 Carbine and M3/M3A1 submachine gun.

There are also one outright error in the standard. The sight of the M16 is described as a fixed blade; actually, it is an adjustable post. A handful of very early AR-15 prototypes may have had a fixed blade, as the original AR-10 did (well, technically, the AR-10’s is drift-adjustable for windage); but even by the time of the Project AGILE tests of AR-15s (Colt 601s) the elevation-adjustment on the front sight was standard.

Tentative Conclusions

This MIL-STD and its somewhat wobbly description of the early M16 probably resulted from the standard writers having spec sheets and no weapon, or a very early prototype, and took place before the Army won its battle to add a forward assist (as they put it, a positive bolt closing) to the firearm. (Or, conceivably, the standard-writing overlapped chronologically with this effort). Since the Standard had to wend its way through several levels of approval2 in the leisurely manner of a peacetime draft military, and needed sign-off from all the services, there appears to be a considerable lag between changes to the actual rifle and changes to the description of the rifle in the MIL-STD.

MIL-STD 635B’s description of the M16 was the supposed standard, but had little bearing on what the Army ordered and got: that was driven by the contract with Colt (and the other subcontractors), and the interplay between manufacturing personnel and the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representatives (COTRs, pronounced “CO-tars”) who were the .gov officials interfacing with them. Through these contractual interactions, and constant pressure from improvements from the ranks, the M16 would be considerably modified by the time it got its own dedicated military standard, ten years later.

Notes

1. MIL-STD-635B: Military Standard: Weapons, Shoulder (Rifles, Carbines, Shotguns and Submachine Guns).  Department of Defense. Washington, 7 Oct 1963. p. 6 et seq. Note that there were and are separate MIL-STDs for hand and shoulder weapons (handgun standard at the time was MIL-STD 1236 from 1960). Both standards were withdrawn in January, 1974 and not directly replaced. Instead, individual standards were created for specific weapons. Standard MIL-R-45587A covered the M16 and M16A1, and was issued (finally!) on 02 Mar 73.

2. The levels of approval included DOD and Service Department authorities (Army, Navy and Air Force; USMC and USCG small arms were controlled by the Navy). The standard itself was written by the Headquarters, Defense Supply Agency, Standardization Division, Washington, D.C.; the service components designated as “custodians of the standard” were, in presumed order of authority, the Army Weapons Command, the Bureau of Naval Weapons, and the Warner Robins Air Materiel Area. In the intervening 50+ years, all of these organizations have been reorganized and renamed.

Tomb May Provide Clues to Alexandrine Macedonia

This lion may have been a surviving tomb monument

This lion may have been a surviving tomb monument, from 2,300 years ago.

This can cause us all to hope that maybe Alexander the Great wasn’t actually like the emo rent-boy portrayal Brad Pitt gave him in the unwatchable Troy: Alexander the Gay. 

The Telegraph reported a while back on an archaeological discovery dating from circa 300 BC. And they think it was the tomb of some Macedonian bigwig.

Archaeologists in Greece have discovered a vast tomb that they believe is connected with the reign of the warrior-king Alexander the Great, who conquered vast swathes of the ancient world between Greece and India.

The tomb, dating to around 300 BC, may have held the body of one of Alexander’s generals or a member of his family. It was found beneath a huge burial mound near the ancient site of Amphipolis in northern Greece.

Antonis Samaras, Greece’s prime minister, visited the dig on Tuesday and described the discovery as “clearly extremely significant”.

A broad, five-yard wide road led up to the tomb, the entrance of which was flanked by two carved sphinxes. It was encircled by a 500 yard long marble outer wall. Experts believe a 16ft tall lion sculpture previously discovered nearby once stood on top of the tomb.

They ruled out the possibility that the tomb could be that of Alexander – the emperor is believed to have been buried in Egypt after he died of a fever in Babylon in 323BC.

via Vast tomb unearthed in northern Greece – Telegraph.

The tomb was once "guarded" by thesetwo remarkable sphinxes, who have been decapitated by long-gone barbarians.

The tomb was once “guarded” by these two remarkable sphinxes, who were decapitated by long-gone barbarians.

Since that report, more has been unearthed (both literally and figuratively), and archaeologists have made the not unexpected discovery that the tomb was plundered in ancient times, and that at least some of the guardian statuary was defaced by iconoclasts, perhaps during the long dark night of Greece’s occupation by the marginally-civilized Ottoman Empire.

A more recent article is here in the Daily Mail. It contains more information on the excavations, and was the source of the images that we have reprinted here.  While the text of the article is interesting, we were particularly intrigued by this interesting comment:

Antipater was one of the few people who died in Greece around the estimated time the tomb was constructed, and was important enough to rate a tomb of this one’s size. He was a general for Alexander’s father, Philip II, and then was Alexander’s regent for Macedonia, and Strategos of Greece. In that capacity he crushed Sparta once and for all at the Battle of Megalopolis. Later, after Alexander’s death, he became regent of the empire, and guardian of Alexander’s infant son, and his brother. Had he lived longer, the history of Western Civilization might have been very different. He died in 319 BC.

There is not enough information out there yet to identify the tomb to any single individual, but that’s a credible suggestion.

Wait, Alexander had a son? The Brad Pitt version couldn’t have done that.

Cops to Cons, for Capping Cervus Canadensis

…or, for Whacking a Wapiti. That’s an elk, for the rest of us.

Back in 2012, a large bull elk begin roaming the streets of the Mapleton Hill neighborhood of Boulder, Colorado. Many Mapleton residents considered the large beast harmless, and a rather welcome presence in their neighborhood. They named him “Big Boy,” and enjoyed watching his forays against their fruit trees. Others just tolerated the animal: if there’s one thing plentiful in Boulder, it’s “tolerance” — just ask ’em. But three men saw a trophy for the taking. Most people couldn’t just up and shoot a tame elk in the middle of a built-up urban area, either for reasons of conscience, or out of concern for law and safety, but the three conspirators were cops: Sam Carter and Brent Curnow, Boulder city cops, and Jeff George, a Boulder County deputy. They figured that their badges would protect them from any consequences, and planned the hit by text message.

Carter, a military veteran,  fired the shot on the night of January 1, 2013. Here he is, posing with his trophy.

Sam Carter great white hunter

 

Note the lights — including residential Christmas decorations (or, being that it was Boulder, Kwanzaa or Festivus, maybe).

Residents were alarmed, and appalled. So was the police leadership, when they learned that Carter and Curnow had lied to them in the immediate aftermath of the case. Text messages between them showed that the killing of the elk was premeditated. After they came under suspicion, they tried to destroy the evidence by clearing their incriminating texts.

All of the texts and calls from that night had been deleted on Carter and Curnow’s phones when they were seized for evidence, but investigators were able to obtain them from their respective cell phone carriers.

George from the first claimed that the two city cops had told him they were ordered to kill the elk, and has never wavered from this self-serving, if implausible, story. As we will see, his stubbornness has paid off.  This is Carter, posing again, with George as photographer:

Carter and Deputy

Both of the city cops were at first suspended with pay. Then, both men were indicted on a nine felony and misdemeanor charges each, and the Chief moved to fire them. The charges included:

…suspicion of forgery, tampering with physical evidence, attempting to influence a public official — all felonies — as well as unlawful taking of a trophy elk, conspiracy, a Samson surcharge, killing an elk out of season, unlawful use of an electronic device to unlawfully take wildlife and first degree official misconduct — all misdemeanors.

Curnow took a sweet plea deal for one “exploding” felony charge, and four misdemeanors. He was sentenced to 60 days’ house arrest and a year of probation; if he completes it (which should be happening within a month or so), his felony record will be expunged.

The case had a definite impact on the public’s perception of the police in Boulder:

“It’s a case that has struck at one of the most important things in any community — the ability to trust law enforcement,” [DA Stan] Garnett said. “We’ve been trying other cases where potential jurors said, ‘I don’t know if I believe a police officer because of that case of the elk.'”

Judge Butler echoed that observation, saying police officers need to be “beyond reproach.”

“It’s the breach of the public trust that’s the most egregious part of this case,” Butler said.

With Curnow out of the way, the legal system began whetting its incisors for a taste of Carter. The DA was more keen on Carter as a suspect — he had shot the elk, after all — and would not give him the same deal Curnow got. With the best deal on the table still leaving him a for-real felon (the DA says it never got to the point of an actual offer), Carter had nothing to lose by going to trial.

Meanwhile, his life plunged out of control. From being behind the badge, he wound up in front of it, again, busted for DUI. He scraped out of that with a suspended license, but was subsequently arrested again, again, for driving under suspension. Months after his felony indictment, the courts discovered he hadn’t surrendered his weapons as he’d been ordered.

The trial went badly for him. Curnow testified against him, as did a wildlife biologist. Jeff George and other Boulder cops testified against him, saying that he was in the habit of disabling his cruiser’s GPS to keep sergeants in the dark about his whereabouts. After ten days or presentation, the jury expeditiously convicted him on all nine counts. He could have been sentenced to six years in the state pen, but instead, the DA was reluctant to recommend more than a year. He told the Boulder Daily Camera that sending a cop to prison is “complex.” (They’re only slightly safer inside than kiddie diddlers; neither cons nor screws care a whit for a crooked cop).

Ultimately, the gavel came down on Carter, and he was sentenced to four years’ probation and 30 days on a work gang. The judge considered his lack of a prior record (the motor vehicle problems were subsequent) and his prior military service. But unlike his friend (or former friend perhaps) Curnow, he’ll be marked as a felon for life. He made an abject apology at his sentencing hearing. Neither he nor Curnow has been able to find steady work.

Oh, and George? Nothing happened to him. He’s still on duty at the county.

Maybe that’s why the elk have been staying in the hills this year.

VA: The Next Whitewash

VA-veterans-affairsThe Next Big Thing™ in whitewashes is just in from the VA. The VA OIG has written a superficial report, after a cursory investigation, that — wonder of wonders! —  finds no wrongdoing. Nothing happened. Why, the cover letter from the VA’s latest failed Secretary hints that even the dead guys aren’t dead:

We appreciate OIG’s in-depth investigation into a whistleblower’s allegation that
40 Veterans died waiting for an appointment. OIG pursued this allegation, but the whistleblower was unable to provide OIG with a list of 40 patient names. It is important to note that while OIG’s case reviews in the report document substantial delays in care, and quality of care concerns, OIG was unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the death of these Veterans.

Indeed, the report’s very title reanimates the vets slain by bonus-grubbing VA weenies’ neglect (emphasis ours): Review of Alleged Patient Deaths, Patient Wait Times, and Scheduling Practices at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. Alleged, dear friends: they’re probably not dead. They’s just pining for the fjords.

And the administration’s hod carriers in the press were keen to carry this particular hod, most of them quoting the text from the Secretary’s CYA letter, above, found in appendix K of the report. Case in point: NBC News’s Rich Gardella.

But what about those 40 vets? Did they die while neglected on waiting lists, or did the whistleblower, Dr Foote, make them up? Well, let’s quote from the IG report:

From our review of PVAHCS electronic records, we were able to identify 40 patients who died while on the EWL during the period April2013 through April 2014.

The “EWL” is the electronic wait list; most veterans at Phoenix were never placed on that “official” list, and the IG does not seem to have pursued any investigative leads about vets who died on the bogus, ad-hoc, and secret “neglect lists.” The report’s signatory, Acting IG Richard Griffin, argues that the neglect doesn’t matter because the delays in or absence of treatment was never “clinically significant”: i.e., for all those 40 and all the other dead vets, it was just their time to go; they might have gone while neglected, but that was not a cause of their deaths.

How he knows this when the clinical state of the neglected vets was, quite literally, unknown to the VA, the agency that deliberately was not seeing them, is unclear.

However, the patients on the EWL were a minority of the Phoenix VA patients. For every patient on that list, more than two were on the unofficial, shadow, hidden-for-the-bonuses wait lists:

Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General Review of Alleged Patient Deaths, Patient Wait Times, and Scheduling Practices at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Report #14-02603-267

As of April 22, 2014, we identified about 1,400 veterans waiting to receive a scheduled primary care appointment who were appropriately included on the PVAHCS EWL. However, as our work progressed, we identified over 3,500 additional veterans, many of whom were on what we determined to be unofficial wait lists, waiting to be scheduled for appointments but not on PVAHCS’s official EWL. These veterans were at risk of never obtaining their requested or necessary appointments. PVAHCS senior administrative and clinical leadership were aware of unofficial wait lists and that access delays existed.

 

Heads are going to roll, right? Just about the time that Lucy lets Charlie Brown kick the football?

Unlikely. Probably the biggest lie, among the many lies in the report and in the Secretary’s response, is the following:

VA took immediate and ongoing actions to address the deficiencies

The scandal first broke on April 30, 2014, 121 days ago, when CNN broke the story that 40 vets had died due to the Phoenix wait list abuse. To date, apart from Rick Shinseki who slunk off into a too-late retirement with a fat pension and an inflated opinion of himself, no one’s lost a job, or faced a charge, or even had any superior direct a cross word at him.

One of the few actions that the new secretary has taken? Restore the bonuses.

Yeah. That’ll help.

 

Beretta’s Smart Gun for PDs, Military: iProtect Analyzed

Beretta presented a novel smart-gun concept at a recent defense expo overseas, which they called iProtect. This video shows how it works, using an RF-enabled gun with multiple sensors.

Here’s another video, with Beretta executive explaining how the gun works with the Robocop t-shirt.

You don’t have to be Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden to be a little creeped out by that.

Supposedly, the Beretta technology provides comprehensive surveillance but not control of the firearm, at least at this time. One consequence of that is that it is fail-safe: if the central office drops off the net (anyone remember the first responder commo chaos of 9/11?) the nifty features don’t work, but the gun just reverts to being a plain-vanilla PX4 Storm. This PX4i is, in fact, a PX4 with some minituarized sensors deployed in it:

iprotect_firearm_sensors

Many gun vendors and writers are appalled by this idea, but the iProtect needs to be understood, both in terms of its intended niche, and its likelihood of succeeding there. Neither indicates that Beretta intends (or has produced) a threat to civilian gun owners with this technology. More realistically, this is a technology demonstration for future potential developments in law enforcement and military weapons, rather than a practical product in 2014.

Here’s Beretta’s brochure on the technology, to give you more depth than is available in the videos, although the videos are probably a better overview of this complex and interdependent system.

How Times do Change

In 1999, when other gun makers including SIG and Colt were making balky “smart guns,” Beretta issued a manifesto denying their interest in any such thing. Beretta wrote:

Although the concept of a “smart gun” or “personalized gun” has received public attention recently, we believe that careful consideration has not been given to potentially dangerous risks associated with these concepts. In our opinion, such technology is undeveloped and unproven. In addition, Beretta strongly believes that “smart gun” technology or “personalized” guns (hereinafter also referred to as “smart gun” technology) could actually increase the number of fatal accidents involving handguns.

But that was then, this is now. 

Back in the bad old 90s, the anti-gun Clinton administration and their allies in Congress and in state legislatures were pushing hard for smart guns as a means to disarm citizens and centrally control armed police. (Some officials then and now believe that cops should lock their guns in a station arms room at shift’s end, and a few PDs actually do this). The policymakers pushing this saw technology in the automotive and computer worlds (we dunno, like the chip-in-the-key in our ’89 Corvette that used to occasionally turn on the alarm for no particular reason? that they imagined would adapt to guns, no problem. They disregarded many things, like the different volumetric envelope in a car and a gun, and made no bones about their nominal “safetyt” push really being all about citizen disarmament. A key problem with the high-tech push was that politicians have never successfully scheduled an inventiuon in the past, and they didn’t this time, either. By the time quasi-working “smart guns” were going bang six times out of ten, the would-be launch customers — various anti-gun officials of the Clinton Administration — had moved on to K Street at the change of administrations.

SIG-Sauer-P229-EPLS_001SIG’s late-90s entry, the SIG P229 EPLS, illustrated some of the problems with these arms. To be set to fire, a PIN had to be entered on a keypad on the gun’s nose, and a time period entered. So, for example, policemen would have their guns enabled only for the duration of their shifts. The pistol was not fail-safe in any way: the failure mode was that, if the electronics borked, the gun remained on the last setting indefinitely, whatever it was.

The 229 EPLS was unreliable and never went into series production; 15 or so prototypes and pre-production test articles were made, some of which may have been released to collectors according to this article at Guns and Ammo.

Colt made an effort to spin off a smart-gun subsidiary, called, we are not making this up, iColt. There is no sign of it today; Colt’s perennial dance with the threat of bankruptcy was mortal to any engineering resource-suck with such an uncertain path to returns.

The “Smart Gun” that’s in the news: Armatix iP1

Beretta’s plan for intelligent duty firearms, iProtect, is radically different from the publicity-focused smart-gun maker, Armatix. Armatix’s designer is Ernst Mauch, the prime mover of HK during its decades-long phase of HK: Because You Suck, and We Hate You hostility to nongovernmental customers, and he brings his superior, anti-customer attitude to Armatix. The company’s strategy is to have its gun mandated by authorities: it has come close in New Jersey, and one candidate in the Democrats’ Sep. 9th primary for Attorney General of Massachusetts (Warren Tolman) has promised to ban all other handguns if elected. (Yes, Massachusetts law and case law does give that official this power. No word on whether he has a stake in Armatix).

The gun itself is a poor design, kind of like some of Mauch’s later HK abortions (UMP, M8). Its reliability approaches 19th-Century lows: few reviewers have gotten through a 10-shot magazine without a failure to feed, some of which seem to relate to the magazine and in some of which the slide does not go into battery. Armatix’s idea of fail-safe electronics is this: if the electronics fail, they brick the gun, therefore it’s safe.

Because the fragile Made in Germany electronics aren’t ready for centerfire prime time, the gun will be available only in .22 long rifle for the foreseeable future. For a .22 it’s bulky, and it has only average accuracy.

Pity it doesn’t have the red HK on it. Then, at least the fanboys would buy it.

The iProtect system is not like the Armatix, or other Smart Guns

Like SIG in the 90s, Beretta began with a decent pistol and then added the electronics to it, in Beretta’s case the underrated Px4 Storm. Like SIG, there’s a bulky “light” on the rail that contains the brain. The gun is truly fail-safe: if the electronics go paws up, the gun doesn’t. In fact, the operator can dismount the “brain” at any time.

Unlike Armatix, iProtect has not been launched with noises about the authorities having an ability to remotely brick the firearm. And it does not brick itself if the battery runs down. Beretta also addressed another weakness (or at least, inconvenience) of battery-powered gear by making the black box’s battery wireless rechargeable.

The “brain” is not really the key to the system, though: the key is the Black Box’s networked communications abilities. First, it talks to the sensors on the gun itself, monitoring the position of the gun and its controls much the same way a Digital Flight Data Recorder monitors the position of an airplane’s control surfaces and flight control inputs. The brain transmits that information to a central control console. Since all of the smarts are in firmware and software, they can be updated more or less on the fly to add new capabilities (and, no doubt, to squash bugs. It’s practically impossible to write a program more useful than “Hello, world!” without introducing bugs).

 

But the gun’s communication with the central office is only part of it, because it’s also networked to a smartphone or other communications device, and to a special t-shirt that monitor’s the officer’s position, activity, and health status of the carrier (if you’ve ever worn a chest strap when exercising, you’ll get the general idea).

And a key feature of iProtect, absent from other smart guns, is geolocation. The gun knows where it is — and tells the office, many times a second. This complicates things for those criminals who would murder a cop for his gun (like Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnayev did after they bombed the Boston Marathon finish line). It’s one thing to have a gun that’s so hot it’s radioactive, but it’s a whole other game to have one that’s constantly phoning home and otherwise subject to electronic track & trace.

Of course, it also complicates things for cops who would spend their shift cooping behind a strip mall, or unofficially 10-7 at Krispy Kreme. If you’re That Guy, the relative smartness of your gun is not going to affect your police work in any way, anyway.

Problems with iProtect?

Unlike Armatix, iProtect is not a play to disarm the public; it’s a play to increase the information flow in police dispatch offices. There it runs into a problem, in US law enforcement: the Beretta system is best used by intelligent cops and intelligent, expert even, dispatchers. But many large metro departments in the USA — exactly the target market for iProtect — have upper as well as lower bounds for cop IQ. (These departments also tend to have low closure rates on cases requiring in-depth, imaginative investigations, oddly enough). But at least the typical cop is a man or woman of average smarts. The dispatchers are a different thing. It the USA it’s a low-paid, low-status occupation, and it tends to attract people who are a half-step above the welfare lines: the same sort of people who work, if that’s the word, in the DMV or other menial clerical jobs in local government. One consequence of this is the periodic dispatch scandals like this one, a rather trivial violation that went, as usual, unpunished; or this more serious one that ended with a dead caller, a fired dispatcher, and one more illustration of the sad fact that when seconds count, police are minutes away. Literally none of the dispatchers at a modern urban police department has a place in the high-tech, high-demand dispatch center envisioned by iProtect.

The 80-IQ dispatcher is a mountain that iProtect must climb if it is going to sell here in the USA — and it’s a mountain it probably can’t summit. But even the dispatcher problem is secondary to the real Achilles Heel of iProtect: it’s a proprietary, closed system. It not only works with the PX4i, it only works with the PX4i. It only works with Beretta’s own high-tech undershirt. It only works with the Beretta communications and dispatch system.  It requires the agency to recapitalize everything at once. Line cops don’t think of budgetary and logistical problems, but chiefs and commissioners spend most of their time on them.

It’s also self-evident that iProtect has no real utility at this time for the private or individual owner, or even to the rural sheriff’s office or small-town PD: it’s only of interest to large police departments, the only users that can resource it properly. (In the long run, the sheriffs of sparsely populated counties might really like the geolocation capability, though; it goes beyond geolocating the police car, something modern tech already can do, and tracks both the officer and his or her sidearm. That’s a big deal for situational awareness if you’ve got a wide open range and very few sworn officers).

So what’s the verdict?

iprotectIn sum, the iProtect system is an ingenious adaptation of modern communications technology to the police defensive-firearm sphere. It poses no direct threat to gun rights, although cops may find being monitored all the time a little creepy. (Welcome to the pilot’s world, pal). But as it sits there are obstacles to its adoption. These obstacles are organizational, cultural and financial — we don’t yet know how well the system works, but assuming arguendo that all Beretta’s claims about it are true, there don’t seem to be technical obstacles holding it back.

Like the plain old dumb guns that just sit there until animated by human will, the good or evil of a smart gun is in the intent of the mind behind it.

Five NEVERs of Self-Defense

There are some things you must never do when confronted with an armed assailant. We mean never, ever, not because these events never end well, but because they usually don’t, and because violating these hard and fast rules takes the agency of your survival out of your own hands. You owe it to Adam and Eve and all the rest of your bloodline to preserve your life.

  • #1: NEVER go with the assailant to a second location. Why do you think he wants you to go there?  (There are actually several possibilities, but they’re all bad).
  • #2: NEVER give up your gun. This standard Hollywood trope, where the hero gives up his gun because the villain is threatening Sweet Polly Purebred or whomever, and then manages to free them both through some brilliant stratagem, only works in the hands of a trained and certified member of the Writers’ Guild. Don’t let him have your gun: just “Let him have it.”
  • #3: NEVER get in a car with someone threatening you with a gun, or even with someone who might threaten or harm you or who has an incentive to harm you.

Here’s what happens to real people who violate Nevers #1, #2 and #3, from the non-fiction movie The Onion Field (1979).

The victims were LAPD officers. The dead guy’s partner lived, but he was finished as a cop and had problems all his life. He died young. The assailants died in prison. They were wrong about the Little Lindbergh Law (a California law, back during a brief moment of judicial lucidity in the Golden State, that made injuring or killing a kidnap victim a capital crime). It did not apply if the kidnap victim was released unharmed, and so was a positive incentive, if only the criminals had understood it. Instead, they misunderstood it as making murder no less capital than the kidnap they’d already done. (Write this down: as a class, criminals are not very bright, and violent criminals are usually the dullest of a dim bunch). The two murderers died in prison, despite the 1960s and 70s California courts’ many attempts to set them free.

The Onion Field killings not only led to a great book and good movie (of which the above is a chilling excerpt), but they changed police training forever. Now cops are told these Nevers. It shouldn’t just be cops who follow these rules: you should, too.

  • #4: NEVER let someone tie you up. He doesn’t mean you well to begin with, and you have just made the decision to outsource your survival to him. Being bound is an intermediate station of the cross on the way to dusty death for many homicide victims.

Here’s what happens to real people who violated Never #4, a non-fiction scene (with dialogue perhaps fictionalized, although the male victim survived) from the fact-based movie Zodiac (2007). We start 2:18 in to focus on the tying-up business — and where it leads. You can slider back to the start of the four-plus minute clip if you want to see where it leads.

Always, fight or run. The cop who ran in the onion field survived, by finally doing something right after doing so many things wrong. Run away from the assailant. If you think he can run faster than you, jink and dodge, and use terrain, obstacles, and darkness. IF you think you’re faster, run straight away on the most level, smoothest ground you’ve got.

What if he shoots at you? Consider this:

  1. He probably won’t shoot. Shooting complicates his life, while yours is pretty simple at this point (Run, Forrest, run!).
  2. If he does shoot, he probably won’t hit. Most criminals can’t hit the broad side of a barn, from inside the barn. Contrary to their portrayal on TV, they’re not IDPA competitors who spend their spare time doing ball and dummy drills.
  3. If he does hit you, it probably won’t kill you. You are not out of the fight (or flight) until you give up. Which brings us to the encapsulation of all rules, the one rule to rule them all:
  • #5: NEVER give up. Never give in. Never surrender. Run, fight, attack. In the aftermath of the Onion Field, LAPD Commissioner “Two-gun” Powers told his men to use any weapon they could, and pointed out that a #2 pencil can kill. (Exercise for the reader: how many ways can you kill someone with a sharp pencil? For extra credit: which way disables him fastest?).

New in the Library: Gun Design & Construction Tomes

This one turned out to be redundant.

This one turned out to be redundant.

The Weaponsman end of the Unconventional Warfare Operational Research Library has a few new volumes today. The problem with today’s Amazon dump is that finding the time to read these books will be problematical, especially as two of them are full of sheet music, and require that the problems be worked to really get the benefit of the book.

The first, though, turned out to be a reprint of an old Clyde Baker revision of Col. Townshend Whelen’s Amateur Gunsmithing. This version is called Modern Gunsmithing: A Manual of Firearms Design, Construction and Remodeling for Amateurs and Professionals and it dates from 1928. Most of it appears to be Baker’s work, with three or so chapters from Whelen on the art of barrel making; but despite the subtitle, there is hardly any information on firearms design. The sole exception appears to be Whelen’s thoughts on practical barrel design, and we already had an older hardcover of this book, with more illustrations, than this one.

Armament EngineeringThe second two books are by a Canadian engineering professor, H Peter. The Peter books are collegiate textbooks, which use as examples the conceptual design and engineering substantiation of artillery pieces and tank main armament, but they can be adapted to smaller-calibre guns. They are Armament Engineering: a Computer Aided Approach (2003) and Mechanical Engineering: Principles of Armament Design (2004), both are published on-demand by Trafford and available at Amazon. They show how to apply modern engineering methods using common software like Matlab and even Excel. Principles of Armament Design even includes a CD of Peter’s programs.

While the latter books are indeed aimed at someone who’s going to be designing guns with bores measured in multiple inches, there’s a ton of practical mechanical engineering methods that will educate and perhaps entertain the wannabe rifle designer as well. For the non-technical reader who is interested in concepts and history, rather than the very statics and mechanics of arms, these books probably get too deep too fast, and don’t include enough explanatory text.

Here’s an example: these are the headings of the first chapter of Principles of Armament Design, which is called “Design of Gun Barrels”:

1. General Considerations for Gun Barrel Design

Calibre-Wise Classification of Gun Barrels

Effect of Barrel Wear on Accuracy of Guns

Major Influences in The Design of Gun Barrels

Safety Factor in Barrel Design

Stress Effect of Recoil Forces on Gun Barrels

Vibrations of Gun Barrels

Heating of Gun Barrels

Bending of Gun Barrels

Cook Off

1.2 Theories of Failure of Gun Barrel Materials

Basis for Failure Theories

Theories of Failure Associated with Gun Barrel Materials

The Maximum Shear Stress or Tresca Theory.

The Maximum Distortion Energy or Huber-Von Mises-Hencky Theory

Two-Dimensional Stress Case

1.3 Conventions Used in Gun Barrel Design

Gun Pressure Codes

Computed Maximum Pressure (CMP)

Rated Maximum Pressure (CMP)

Permissible Individual Maximum Pressure (PIMP)

Allowable Stress

Elastic Strength Pressure (EST)

Safety Factor (SF)

Allowance for Eccentricity

Droop, Attachments and Manufacturing Influences on Gun Barrel Wall Thickness

A big honkin' gun on the cover... that was a good start.

A big honkin’ gun on the cover… that was a good start.

The remainder of the chapter walks a student through the design of a monobloc large caliber gun barrel (Peter defines “large caliber” or “heavy armament” as >30mm, with smaller caliber weapons going into a “small arms and cannon” bin). All of Peter’s design examples are for large caliber weapons and their equipment, such as recoil-management apparatus, and mechanical and powered elevating and traversing gear.

One important note for readers and students worldwide is that Peter uses exclusively international units (the metric system). The French Revolution might have failed at everything else, but they did introduce a lasting system of weights and measures.

The computing demands are not too exotic, and the math is college-freshman math. The computer here is a helper at doing the mathematics, and no fancy engineering computation (such as finite-element analysis) comes into play.

If math makes your hair hurt, and you don’t have any ambitions to design anything, you might still learn a good bit about artillery design and construction today from Professor Peter. But these books probably aren’t the best choice for that reader.

PS. A Non-Weapons Entry in the UWORL

We also have a new book, Bright Light, by Steve Perry, another New England SF vet (although he grew up in California). Steve served in MAC-V SOG at FOB 1 and was a relative rarity, a recon-running medic. Bright Light, which gets its name from the code name of personnel recovery missions in the Vietnam War, is Steve’s memoir of his SF and SOG service. You can learn more about Bright Light and Steve, and buy the book, here. (We bought the book and the e-book. We believe in supporting SF authors. Like us, they joined a minority group).

Europe is the Sick Man of Europe

Artist's impression of the lost satellites. Image: ESA.

Artist’s impression of the lost satellites. Image: ESA.

And the European Space Agency is one of the pathogens. Every space program lays a few eggs, after all, and space launches are very difficult things, even 90-120 years after orbital satellites were originally conceived by Tsiolkovskiy, Goddard, and Oberth (in roughly that order, but more or less independently). But this is just embarrassing:

Everything started out looking great. At 9:27 am on Friday, August 22, a Soyuz rocket operated by Arianespace lifted off beautifully from French Guiana, making the ninth successful launch for the company using their Soyuz rockets. On board were two ESA Galileo satellites, the 5th and 6th of a planned 30-satellite constellation. …

Shortly after the two new satellites were placed in orbit, however, it became clear that something had gone wrong. Observations of the two satellites seemed to show that they were not in their targeted orbit.

“The targeted orbit was circular, inclined at 55 degrees with a semi major axis of 29,900 kilometers,” the company said in a statement. “The satellites are now in an elliptical orbit, with excentricity of 0.23, a semi major axis of 26,200 km and inclined at 49.8 degrees.”

The Galileo program is a European vanity program duplicating the capabilities of the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Globalnaya Navigatsionaya Sputnikova Systema (GLONASS).

Yes, the satellites they put in the wrong place are navigation satellites. There’s something meta in that, eh? They were the first two Full Operational Capability Galileo sats, and the ESA is trying to figure out whether anything can be saved from their launch.

Stylized view of the conceptualized Galileo constellation. Image: ESA.

Stylized view of the planned Galileo constellation. Image: ESA.

Now, there are benefits to another sat constellation, of course: a system which could use all the available sats from all three operators (the Chinese also have their own system, Beizhou/COMPASS, so there are potentially four satellite constellations) would have many more above-horizon sats to work with, maybe a dozen. That means higher accuracy than a single-constellation nav receiver can manage, and it means fewer coverage gaps and terrain / structure shadows. And the orbits of the Galileo satellites are, on average, more highly inclined than their competitors, suggesting that Galileo might have better coverage in the Arctic than GPS or (surprisingly) GLONASS.