Some Things Never Change. Should They?

Some things never change. Since the firearm became the standard weapon of the infantry, and it ceased being a pike that could fire a couple of volleys, it’s been about a meter long and weighed about 4 kilograms — call it a yard and nine pounds on the English system.

Why should an M4, or, especially, an M27, be about the same size and bulk as a 1903 Springfield……(which was within a fraction of an inch and a pound of its cousin, the Kar. 98k)?

Sure, the guns that are contemporaries are very similar in size, weight, caliber and effect, because they’re shaped by the technology of the day, but why should a new gun be proportioned roughly like one of two centuries ago?

Because that’s about what a man can conveniently carry and manipulate in combat, while executing foot maneuver under enemy observation and fire. So that weapon size is a natural size, dictated by biology as much as anything.

For as long as recorded history has been written, the fundamental unit has been about 100-150 men. Here’s a British wargame guy explaining how that’s a natural size, dictated by biology — neurological and social biology perhaps.

Can you think of some other examples of weapons sizes, shapes and performance envelopes that are defined, one way or another, by the limits of human biology?

70 thoughts on “Some Things Never Change. Should They?

  1. jim

    Handguns are the obvious answer…the size and weight that an average person can wield with one hand (ideally two) and carry on their person relatively easily. The only major changes have been shorter average barrel lengths (a response to better propellant efficiency) and the capacity and power of a given size of handgun.

  2. Keith

    The historical foot bow v. the bow used by horse men. They were different lengths because of the different platform being fired from.

  3. Sommerbiwak

    Swords, sabres, maces, battle axes, falchions and other implements for melee are all roughly the same size and weight, because that is what is easily swung by its wielded. Daggers and knives fall into a similar size envelope since the bronze age. Spears have not changed much since their invention. And are still used for hunting at times and look very similar to examples wielded by medieval boar and stag hunting parties.

    shoulder fired rockets, missiles and such have all a maximal size dictated by what one man can shoulder.

  4. DSM

    Grenades were the first thing to come to mind. With the exception of “stick grenades” their basic size and shape has hardly changed in over 100 years for the high explosive variety, and even the thousands of years for the baked clay devices filled with the various concoctions of the day. The soldier’s ability to transport and effectively deploy them are limited by his strong arm strength to huck them at the bad guy.

    And then protective equipment. The helmet. Fundamentally unchanged save for style and material. I can mold and attach appliqué armor that’d stop a rifle round but it’d weigh far too much and would probably snap your neck if it ever took one.

  5. Klaus

    Actually ,I feel weapons(small arms) are smaller and lighter now mainly because man has become larger and heavier. The American soldier carrying a jäger rifle or Brown Bess during the revolution was at least 6″ shorter and a 50lbs lighter on average.

    1. Kirk

      Weapons size in the old days was generally dependent upon technology; the Brown Bess and her sisters were the size they were because that’s what worked with the technology of the day. They couldn’t go up in size, because the weapons were already at the upper end of the envelope for what the average man could carry and fire effectively. When technology improved, the size dropped, and the soldier’s load for other items went up.

      And, while modern man is physically larger and heavier, I’m not sure that means he’s also stronger and sturdier; far from it. The smaller men of yore were likely more muscular, and had stronger bones, due to the work-hardening effect of their much more physical daily lives.

      Of course, on the flip side, they were also a lot less healthy, and lived shorter lives. You win some, you lose some… Our guys of today can likely shrug off illnesses and wounds that would have killed someone from the days of the Brown Bess, and that’s not just because of better medicine. You shoot a hole in someone who already has poor nutrition, worms, and a whole host of other parasitical diseases weighing them down, and you’re gonna kill him from the added stress. Someone with todays more robust baseline health? Might just survive it. Hard to say without comparative testing we can’t do, however…


        No way. Our revolutionary forefathers endured strain and wounds beyond belief considering their health and food. Tougher men used to privation in daily life from birth to the grave.

        1. Kirk

          Mmmm… No.

          Go back and look at the induction records for the WWI era, for example; most adult males were physically disqualified from military service due to health issues. Same-same with regards to the Civil War, and earlier. What we put into uniform wasn’t a cross-section of society, at all–And, despite today’s issues with health and weight, the modern teen-ager is exponentially healthier and better suited to military service. You have to remember the mortality rates for that era, and how few kids actually made it to adulthood.

          1. LCPL Martinez USMC

            That’s a very good point, Kirk!

            And reminds me of a similar fallacy, the US only sends inner city or rural poor to war. I’m for sure inner city , and there are rural poor as well, also suburban poor (ie. from the Rust Belt mostly),

            but there are quite a lot of high middle class type guys who joined. I would venture to say middle class types are more in our military than poor, many in my boot camp were high school athletes.

            So going back to the 1800s, sure maybe I won’t be able to do what Leonardo Dicaprio’s character did in the Revenant (the true story), nor much of the Pioneers (ie. Donner party or that other party that ate it in the Death Valley in similar predicament), but

            I’m sure I’d have kicked ass in the 1800s just fine, many in my high school who never joint the military too. Nutrition, muscle mass, education, aside, I think the bulk of what looserounds, looking for is actually RESILIENCE , and i’d argue

            that’s something many already have, regardless of era.

          2. Kirk

            The point I should have made is that while the individual back in the day may have been tougher, the general population was not, in the aggregate. You were able to go out and grab up a selection of individuals who could serve, but the ones who could not…?

            The mortality rates in the old days weren’t just due to bad field hygiene. A lot of the individual soldiers were health-compromised before the recruiting sergeant got their mitts on them. Somewhere out there is a paper I read on what they found when they excavated one of the mass graves from Napoleon’s retreat from Russia. Holy crap, but was that an eye-opener–The level of congenital and chronic diseases those poor bastards had going was epic. One of the reviewers mentioned that if most of those poor bastards had shown up for conscription in modern France, they would have been hospitalized instead of taken into the Grand Army. Worms, chronic long-term malnutrition, and a host of other issues were endemic. The wonder wasn’t that they died on the retreat, but that they had even made it into Russia in the first place.

          3. DominicJ

            “Go back and look at the induction records for the WWI era, for example; most adult males were physically disqualified from military service due to health issues.”

            My great grandfather in law joined the British army at 16 in 1946.
            He had a 26″ chest.
            I dont even know how thats possible….

            There was also a “rate of fire” difference as well, a musket armed soldier might fire his weapon 20 times in a day, even in the biggest battles.

          4. LCPL Martinez 29 Palms

            Definitely agree.

            Just like, not everyone took up arms against the British, not everyone made it out West. Not everyone likes discomfort.

            But if you take take from that pool of folks who’d rather stay home, and really test them, I think there’ll be more than less , that will rise to the occasion. I didn’t use to think this way,

            though the Marine Corps’ concept of elite is more inclusive, than say SF/SEALs,etc. that’s more exclusive, there’s still a lot of civilian shaming. But since working with more and more civilians (or those who’ve never served the military), I’m fast understanding that physical fortitude is just one aspect, and a tiny one at that,

            whilst RESILIENCE is the key (all mental), and this I’ve seen in Children’s Hospital just last week (both patients and staff); the tsunami rescues in Asia (both); refugees, etc.

            Whether you train for hardship/war, etc. or hardship befalls you while unprepared, RESILIENCE is the unknown variable. I’ve seen people that train and train, only to crumble at the face hardship; and college students who just happened to be there, get tested, and persevered.

            Maybe RESILIENCE is genetics?

  6. Bert

    Combat aircraft? Limited by what a human pilot could take in acceleration and remain conscious for the last 60 or so years… And now, the remote piloted (or autonomous) drones are supposed to break the mould?

    Meh. Skynet, here we come.

    1. DSM

      Good point on aircraft. I can offer only anecdotally but a conversation with an F16 pilot many years ago offered that the aircraft’s capabilities were limited by the pilot, along with up to a third of the weight of an empty aircraft being solely for the pilot; O2, ejection, control and the associated equipment to keep him alive and in controlled flight.

      Which in terms of drones makes me wonder why we spend money turning these things into QF16s and dusting them over the Atlantic range and in the Gulf when we could turn them into a functioning UCAV. Use them up that way, they’re already paid for.

      1. bloke_from_ohio

        The economic case for the QF-16 and the QF-4 before them is not that they have already been paid for. Rather, we need something to shoot at that does not have a pilot in them. It is currently cheaper to convert existing old and busted fighters than it is to build a new full scale target drone. Converting and operating these drones has a very real cost since you have to add a lot of things to them. At the same time, disposing of the old fighters at the boneyard is not free either.

        At the end of the QF-4 program it cost less to clean up the mess from a “splashed” drone than it did to fly them back to the boneyard and recycle them. Drone ops at Tyndal and Holoman were therefore self destructing targets rather than recover the drone intact when ever they could.

        Unmanned target drones do not have anywhere near the capability of their manned brethren. Nor do they come close to the likes of Predators and Reapers. This makes sense given the QF-16s and the QF-4s that came before them are not UAVs in the sense the most people think of UAVs. They are really little more than targets for weapons testing. Think less Predator UAV and more IDPA silhouette with wings. The QF series are not weapons.

        To the point of UCAVing up formerly manned fighters, it would probably be more expensive than just building an armed combat drone from scratch. In either case, the bulk of your cost is going to be sensors and communications kit. Target drones use a combination of ground based tracking radars and telemetry feeds. This requires a lot of ground based infrastructure not likely available outside formal range complexes. There is no predator style camera ball on these drones, nor do they use satellite links. Also remember that any conversion will have both the performance penalties inherited from the needing to keep a person alive, and the limited situational awareness and soda straw effect inherent in remote sensing systems. Since the QF-16 is intended to replicate manned aircraft, the performance hit is immaterial. The limited SA problem is solved through the use of things like chase planes and careful airspace de-confliction.

        As they stand now, I would not want to be anywhere near one of those things if it was actually going to shoot at something. I guess you could troll an IADs with them though. But, I pity the poor sots that would get stuck ferrying those old busted birds to the jump off point.

        1. DSM

          Oh I wasn’t implying the QF16 or the older QF4s have the same capabilities as a manned version of their former selves. It’d need much changed software for certain. I spent some time down at Tyndall and got to hang out with some of the folks from the test range and heard some of their stories. Was also the first time I got to see the then new F-22s and despite all the hype, that really is a badass fighter.

          The F16 already requires bolt-on components to employ PGMs so in terms of sensors, targeting pods and the like it’s not an undoable situation. Though as you note those things aren’t currently stand-alone they’d have to be developed to the task. As an orbiting bomb truck it can carry ordnance out of the capabilities of the MQ1 and MQ9 and as you say, swarming to create a breech in a SEAD mission would fit perfectly. If all I’m going to do with them is shoot them down then let the other fellow waste his missiles to do it.

  7. Kirk

    The things that haven’t changed are the basic characteristics and capabilities of the human body. The Roman legionary might not recognize the things we carry today, but he’d damn sure recognize the weights, shapes, and control surfaces–None of which would be familiar, but which would likely explain themselves readily in terms of what you were supposed to do with them. The grammar of shape, surface, and weight will always be with us–You pick up a Roman tool, and it feels familiar. Because, I’m afraid, you just can’t build a different pick or shovel for a human form. Innovations in the form of things like wheelbarrows? The Roman legionary would take one look, and immediately think “Why the hell didn’t I think of that!?”. The use of it would be immediately apparent to him, however.

    Now, what has changed, and will continue to provide the bulk of future changes? The things like sensors, command and control mechanisms, and the like. A modernized black powder rifle, for example? Caliber and size are much the same as a Brown Bess, but the sights and other aids are what are truly significant, in terms of improved performance. Likewise, the guys from Vietnam who might have been plunked down into a basecamp in Afghanistan or Iraq would have recognized much of what the modern guys were carrying, but the add-ons would have left them in a state of jealousy that would likely know no bounds.

    The future is going to be the same, particularly in the social sphere. Most of what we are doing today would be recognizable to a Roman legionary, in terms of organization. Much of what we will be doing in the future is going to be something totally different, and likely even difficult for us to imagine at the moment. But, rest assured, it will come. Human organization is going to experience the same sort of augmentation and change that the rifle has seen, with the benefits of the microchip adding capabilities which were science fiction a few years ago.

    In the realm of social interaction, the sort of thing I expect to see is an implementation of a more ad-hoc, ephemeral organizational scheme, one which is a lot more entrepreneurial and short-lived, organized around the mission and not the institution. Instead of large static organizations filled with deadwood, there are going to be groups of small teams that swarm projects or missions on an ad-hoc basis, following vastly more open Auftragstaktik-styled operational techniques. The day when we construct a company by filling out a static MTOE with cookie-cutter produced men and leaders is going to be done in fairly short order, and what we will likely see is a rise of more open architecture, where a commander is put in charge of a mission, and then builds his unit around his vision of how to accomplish it.

    A lot of social changes coming down the pike are going to mandate this; more and more of our civilian organizations are going to reflect this way of doing things, and you’re going to see a death of the static bureaucracy as more people work their way into what the modern economy is demanding, the so-called “gig economy” where people don’t belong to large, static organizations with fixed organizational charts. The civil economy is going to be a lot more free-wheeling and less static than the one we are familiar with; military organization is naturally going to have to adapt and follow along with that change, or it won’t be manned. A lot of adaptation is going to have to occur, along with a great deal of cultural change.

    All of this is going to be enabled by that ubiquitous object, the so-called smart phone. What these things actually represent is the first incremental step towards actual effective networking of the human mind via modern technology. Right now, these things are mostly being treated as toys; when we finally figure out and implement the their true potential, a great deal is going to change. We all know, for example, that the map of an organization is mostly bullshit–The organizational chart is a happy fiction we all tell each other, knowing full well, for example, that if you really want something taken care of over in Charlie Company, the guy to talk to is SGT Smith, the OPS NCO, while in Bravo, the guy is the XO. This informal network of the “connected effectuators” isn’t documented, officially acknowledged, or even compensated for. But, we all know that when SGT Smith goes on leave, Charlie Company goes to shit, and can’t get even simple shit like running ranges right. The smart phone is a tool we could be using to track and document this informal system that we actually survive on, and make it something that we actually use as oppose to screw up with things like PCS moves and centralized promotions.

    As well, the potential for these things to change operations is huge. Currently, there’s a huge structural overhead we have to have in order to just pass orders around, and keep things headed in the right direction. If that overhead could be converted from “tail” to “teeth”, imagine how many more actual combatants we could field, and how much more effective they would be?

    When you get down to it, military operations are mostly information operations; the transmission of targeting data to weapons systems is what wins us our battles. I once watched two mechanics, a Specialist and a PFC take a radio out of a shot-up vehicle during a training rotation at the NTC, climb up on a hillside, and proceed to call in targeting data to their TOC that essentially destroyed what would have been a devastating attack by an OPFOR MRR. Those two crystallized something I’d long suspected; if you could get every single soldier actively engaged with the enemy, and thinking constantly about how to attack him, while enabling their efforts throughout the organization…? Much of our current structure would be both unnecessary and obsolete. Ubiquitous smartphone communications and networking has the potential to begin a shift towards that sort of thing, and as we get further and further along with networking human beings into the “noosphere”, as it has been called, we’re going to find less utility in our current structures, and a lot more benefit from approaching everything with an ad-hoc informality we’d find mind-boggling today.

    A lot of people aren’t going to be comfortable with that sort of world, but they’re going to be left by the wayside by those that are. I suspect that the greater efficiencies and synergy available with the future “ad-hocracy” we’re working towards is going to be truly game-changing, in the same sort of way that pre-literate societies were outdone by literate ones with better organizational skills. The bureaucracy is an artifact of the times; soon, it will be a dead letter. Although, I strongly suspect the damn things are going to be really, really hard to kill, in practice.

    1. LCPL Martinez 29 Palms

      “A lot of people aren’t going to be comfortable with that sort of world, but they’re going to be left by the wayside by those that are.”

      Great post and the above sentiment specifically, Kirk!

      I’d just add that those who are seemingly not into discomfort, when serendipitously placed in a world of discomfort , many (the actual statistics, I’m really curious) of them also tend to rise above.

      I’m a big fan of organization and leadership books, Kirk, and just finished reading Ed Catmull’s “Creativity, Inc.” (about the things he learned heading Pixar), and read it along with Gen. McChrystal’s “Team of Teams”, two awesome books,

      if you have a booklist similar to the 2 above books, that would be swell, thanks, man, you seem to be a student of this stuff too.

      1. Kirk

        Thank you for the pointers, and I’ll try to put something together. This sort of thing has fascinated me since forever, when I was a young private taking notes about all the “things I’ll never do, when I’m in charge…”.

        If I could go back and say anything to that young man that I was, it’d be “Guess what, cupcake? It ain’t as easy as it looks…”.

        A lot of the conclusions that I’ve reached about this stuff stem from observation, thought, and a lot of reading. You look around the military, and you could come up with subjects for a good dozen case studies in just a few moments, ranging from what First Sergeant “X” has been doing with his charge-of-quarter’s instructions to the whole LCS/F-35 fiascoes in procurement. Let’s not even get into the societal dysfunctions reflected in our ADD military, which is constantly chasing after whatever current bugbear is under the collars of the brass.

        I have a vision of how things might well work, under the conditions I see developing around me. I think we are really living at a dramatic inflection point in history, akin to the change from oral transmission of folk memories via storytellers and the dawn of the written word. And, I think that it is that profound–These tools we carry around, and which we are using as mere toys are things with incredible potential that we haven’t even begun to tap–And, they represent only the very leading edge of a profound set of changes coming within the next few generations.

        Smart phones? What the hell happens when we’re plugging in implants that give us capabilities we can barely imagine right now? Care to imagine the implications for being able to flow what you can see to your partners on a work site, or in a firefight? How are we going to integrate all that data, make sense of it, and then use it effectively?

        Even the civilian applications for the sort of thing I see coming down the pike are enormous. Something like Google Glass, but actually usable–Imagine the impact on a construction crew, in terms of increased efficiency and safety, if you were able to “flow” the view that the guy trying to guide the support column into place over to the crane operator? Or, when the foreman can “see” the work being done as it is done?

        We’re going to have to come up with a whole new way of working together, and doing so collaboratively, so that Joe Schmoe the shit carpenter knows he has to actually perform and take part in the team, in order to stay employed. No more sandbagging, or half-assing. Similarly, we are going to have to get used to transparency in the workplace–What happens when HR can actually go back and “review the tape” over some imagined slight you were reported to them for?

        There are a whole set of values and mores that we are going to have to develop for dealing with this stuff, and the effects on the organization. How are backstabbing Courtney Massengales going to function, when their bullshit becomes something everyone can see? Will they give up the bullshit, or just become more subtle and skilled at their games of petty power politics?

        All of this, all of it, will affect how we run and organize our military. The fixed structured hierarchy we’re used to thinking of as being essential is something that I think is going to die first, replaced by something much more entrepreneurial in spirit and conduct. Mid-level management may become something entirely different, as commanders at that level state the mission, allocate resources, and then “put the mission out to bid…” with their subordinate leaders, who might then go out and build a unit for a specific mission and a specific time-defined role during a deployment. We’re already seeing this sort of thing start to happen, in that we’re building specificly organized task forces for specific missions, but we’re throwing those units together with no attention being paid to either interest or suitability for them, in terms of who is running things. Nor are we empowering those guys to do the mission the way they want to, with the personnel and equipment they want to take to the fight.

        I think it’s almost inevitable that we change how we approach these questions, and how we organize to do things. What I’d envisage would be a situation where the Army or Marine Corps operates with an attitude geared more towards what could be termed “Auftragstaktik on steroids”. People would be happier, and I think it would be a hell of a lot more efficient, done properly. It’s going to mean a huge sea change in how we do things, and what we expect from people at all levels, though.

    2. Quill_&_Blade

      Mister, that’s so cool, superlatives fail me. Or maybe I need other words; frightfully accurate, prophetic, all the above? I can say that with certainty because I’m already living part of it. I think part of what drives these changes is economic. The devaluation of the dollar, the loss of jobs, people have to be self employed. What I’ve been telling young people for years is similar to General Curtis LeMay’s “We Are At War Now!” He wanted people to know that a nuke war would be over so quick that one must be always very ready. I tell them: You are self employed NOW! Even if you have the dream job, it probably won’t last more than 3 years. Then you might have to do individual projects for 9 months, till you find another job. Or one of those projects will be a big one that lasts 14 months.
      An essential part of this new reality is self documentation. FB is common, but don’t settle for that. Know what’s involved with renting your own hosting space, and securing the domain name you need. A basic learning curve at first, but with a CMS like WordPress, it couldn’t be easier. Really. I was learning Drupal for awhile, but wish I had started with WP. Good stuff for guys like me. The economic reality is that these days a family leans on two incomes to make it. Thank you J M Keynes. I do not want to send my kids to the public school abomination, so the wife home schools them. That means I have to get more than $9 per hour, a bit more. It all works out OK because not only do people not have to pay me wages year round, but they don’t need me around that much. I go here to do a restoration, there for some floor stripes, back home to knock out a Rat Rod.
      One of the upcoming blog posts I want to write about is technology in our lives. If you gave this stuff to a guy 40 years ago, he would probably use it to improve his efficiency. I clearly remember having the locations of pay phones memorized. I used to take 35mm pictures of my work, and put them in my portfolio to get more work. Or secure the work, anyway. I remember when 1 hour developers came out. I used them when in a hurry. I think most people do use the new stuff as toys, or, to do less work. Of course, my Lord said that I should first consider the beam in my eye before looking at the splinter in someone else’s eye. So.. do I use it as well as I could? Good question. For years I’ve had a very beneficial thing I do with Open Office software. It’s free, and I recommend it.
      Usually, every_single_job is different, there’s no easy pricing system. The really fast way to lose my shirt is to price off the cuff. Disaster. I know full well what I have to get as a shop rate; but the killer is not remembering all the steps involved. Open Office (any office program?) lets me quickly make a graph with about 5 columns and 20 rows. What’s sweet is that I use the same file over and over, I just rename it (save as) as soon as I open it. Anyway, the way it works is to list every_single_stupid_little_step in the rows. Drive time, load tools, you name it. that way, nothing gets left out. The columns are for different pricing methods. You don’t need to use all of them on every job. The idea being to at least consider more than one. For instance, the first column is hours the second column for days, the third one for square foot price, the fourth column for what the market will bear. So I look at the first step in row one, maybe it’s draw paper pattern. That’s easy to know, so I write 1.5 hours in the box where row one intersects column one. the next step, pounce pattern, is only 15 minutes, but hey, be sure to write .25 in the same column, row two. The next step is where the cross reference comes into play. A quick guess says that it will take about six hours to letter this job, but, upon looking at column two, days, I realize that six hours is unrealistic, this is an all day job, so mark 1 in row three, column two. Sounds complex, but only because I don’t have it drawn out for you.
      Has this helped? You bet, but only so much. the real follow through, wait, I mean follow up, is to see how many hours and days I actually have into a job, after it’s done. A Royal Pain In The Neck, if you plop down for a rest after work, or move straight to the forty-eleven errands that need doing. So the beam is still in my eye, but wait, my cheapo smart phone has this quick note feature. The old dog is now making himself record the time involved in the steps of a job, so I can compare it to the original bid.
      Don’t think it’s because I’m Mr. on the ball, rather more the opposite, things get rough economically, I need to be as serious as I can. But yeah, you’re really on to something here Kirk, thanks once again for a cool insight.

      1. Kirk

        Sounds like we’re in the same line, construction contracting. I’d be interested to see what you’re doing, with that spreadsheet.

        I’m convinced that the way forward is going to be the “gig economy”, and that we badly need to think about how we support and enrich folks doing these things as free agents. I don’t see much out there, in terms of support or mentorship, let alone information exchange along these lines.

        It’s coming though, and I think all us little guys are gonna be doing in the corporate dinosaurs that have run things into the ground around us. Sure, go ahead–Outsource the job we used to do to a bunch of cheap-ass H1Bs that can only do rote work. I’ll go out on my own, do my own thing independently, and you’ll find that I’m taking a shitload of the work you used to do with my help away from you. Why? Because I have to, and I’m better at it than those H1Bs you’re hiring for commodity wages. And, when those guys get tired of being the rat in the wheel? They’ll either go home, or join me. Either way, the corporation is going to find itself in the position of the dinosaur when the nimble little hungry mammals started eating their eggs…

        What’s your website, btw? I’d like to take a look at it.

        1. LCpl Martinez 29 Palms

          *** “I’ll go out on my own, do my own thing independently, and you’ll find that I’m taking a shitload of the work you used to do with my help away from you.” ***

          Exactly, man. and also ideally too, it’s former military doing this stuff. There’s a lot of former military taking their act on the road, just living in vans or trucks, and just coming up with different ideas, new communities along the way, and new ways of doing things.

          Gone are the days of sedentary lifestyles, people are more like turtles now taking there homes along with them, moving around. Not since the 60s/70s did this happen.

          I do agree, Kirk, there will be more Made in USA tags, and this will counter all the cheap stuff coming from Asia (by US corporations) , it’s all about small batch, quality and artisanal micro manufacturing, made to order, customized, personalized type of making things,

          so much for Ford’s bright idea. I’m very excited to see what Ivanka and Jared (and his little brother) will advise Pres. Trump.

        2. Quill_&_Blade

          I have a handful of sites, for different purposes. This is my latest version of the commercial one:

          Look to the pages on the sidebar to see a page about a VW truck I finished on the 23rd. This is the older site, which I made with Drupal; it has more info than the other site.

          I don’t think the graph I was talking about is a data base, it’s just a static office file. It’s easy to make, so I won’t put it where people can get it; I’ll just insert a screen capture of it here: (This is the one I use to bid on equipment painting jobs. Tasks are added or omitted per job)

    3. Scott

      I guess I’m a glass 5% empty sort of guy. I read that and think (variously) of:

      1. Who owns / controls / monitors / secures / monetizes the communication network(s)?

      2. EMP / Carrington Event.

      3. Forgery / fraud. Am I really contracting with XYZ, or is it a façade of a Nigerian hacker or a Russian bot?

      4. Ideally going to need flexible ad hoc payment clearinghouse. (Then see #1 and #4.)

      5. As you note, protestations from the buggy whip manufacturing consortium will be non-trivial.

  8. Kirk

    Bloody hell… WordPress delenda est. It’s sucked up another post, so if you see this, Hognose…? Could you please release it from durance vile?

  9. RostislavDDD

    >>>the fundamental unit has been about 100-150 men.
    The units company level – 150-250.
    platoon level with a few exceptions – 30-50.

    The Roman “centuria”, platoon level – from 30 to 100 legionnaires.
    “Manipula”, company level – 60 (Triarius) of up to 200.
    Enomotia – 32
    Double Enomotia – 64
    Pentiokostis -128
    Loch – 256
    Mora -1024

    Athens (by Xenophont)
    Loch – 25
    Taxis – 100
    Chiliarchia – 1000

  10. Dienekes

    Hefting a (replica) Dragoon Colt and holding it out at arms’ length give you new respect for those smaller men who used them in the mid-19th century. For that matter, Clint Eastwood must have been a fairly tough hombre to sling a pair of Walker Colts around in “Outlaw Josey Wales”.

    Hell, even Pajama Boy could shoot a Glock nowadays.

    1. morokko

      Dragoon and Walkers are not really representative, when it comes to typical handgun of the era. They were advertised at the time as holster pistols – cavalry handguns carried in a holster strapped to a horse. These were meant to replace either traditional cavalry pistols issued to troopers in braces or single carbine and generally were not designed to be carried on person. They had to be sturdily built to withstand charge heavy enough to be shot at 50 and more meters range – just like carbines. For the personal carry Colt and other manufacturers had what they called belt and pocket line or handguns. The belt revolvers like Colt navy, army, Whitney, Remington or Adams-Beaumont are only about 20 percent heavier than modern full size service pistol with steel frame. Those belt guns are very pointable and not tiresome when hold in one handed mode. Even before the dissemination of revolvers, most single shot caplock and flintlock pistols (aside from special cavalry versions) were compact enough to be carried tucked into belt or in frock pocket. Just look at the various sizes of french military flintlock handguns issued to various branches – from heavy club-like things meant for cavalryman to compact guns the foot gendarmes were issued with.
      Funny thing is, even the earliest renaissance wheel lock pistols from XVI were manufactured in compact sizes as well. Sometimes they were tiny enough to be carried as pendant – more a sign of wealth and status than even a token defensive weapon.

      1. Dienekes

        Point taken. Colt sold a LOT of their .31 caliber revolvers, and the ’51 and ’60 percussion revolvers sold like gangbusters. The Dragoons were dropped not long afterwards. Jeff Cooper once observed that carrying two Dragoons would have been like carrying two camp axes around,

        Be that as it may, some of those old-timers–Hugh Glass comes to mind–were incredibly tough!

  11. Carey

    Every mechanism/system we use or employ is determined by our biology. We’re limited in our abilities be they physical or mental. If the handle of a hammer were shaped like a traffic cone, every carpenter would be worth their weight in shit.

  12. Mike in Canada

    I’ve often thought about bullet sizes and weights. It seems that the best size for use on each other is something in the .30 range, plus or minus. It satisfies the competing imperatives of portability and effectiveness. Smaller and you trade speed for energy; bigger and the reverse happens. The next step would seem to be in materials, which is what is driving the 4-pound M4 (I saw a picture of one not too long ago), although physics and thermodynamics will have their say.

    Interesting question.

    1. Hognose Post author

      There have been a lot of studies that seem to center on the 6.5-7mm caliber as optimum, a little lighter than most nations’ WWII calibers.

      1. DSM

        Have you done an article on the Army’s 6mm SAW round? It wasn’t much different than a 243 IIRC.

  13. docduracoat

    Lindy Beige on Weapons man!
    I love Lindy Beige
    His rants on crap archery in the movies and his series on male and female psychology are hilarious!
    He does an informative video on light, medium and heavy machine guns and pokes fun at Americans for calling it 50 cal and not 12.7 mm
    Calling him a gamer does not give him full credit

    1. bloke_from_ohio

      Lindy Beige is a fantastic youtuber to say the least. Some of his stuff on ancient stabby stuff might be conjecture, but it is always well thought out conjecture. You could do much worse than waste an hour or two watching his channel.

  14. Scott

    The ergonomics of triggers (non-snowflake edition) seemingly haven’t changed much.

    Open sights have enjoyed some variation, which seem, as the range capabilities of the ammunition / platform increased, to have improved to match. (On both rifle and handgun platforms.) Optical sighting seems to be the future, as ranges increase and the capability / need for longer range effectiveness is no longer the exclusive domain of snipers. Economics of the optic solution plays a part as well.

  15. Larry Kaiser

    When you look at medical standards and failures from past eras you have to consider that some things have changed. Vision standards have gone down because a great many soldiers and sailors will be in jobs where they can wear glasses. Hernia repair is much better and long lasting and I am sure that there are other things for which people were DQed that can be fixed or are not as important. Flat feet also comes to mind. My favorite though, came up during WWII. A dentist was looking at the standards for teeth and noticed that while a recruit could be missing several teeth and still pass, he must have two sound canine teeth on the same side. That did not make sense to him so he looked into the standard and found that it dated from the civil war. You had to have good canines in order to bite the end off your paper cartridge in order to load your musket!

  16. 10x25mm

    Maximum weight of a shell an artillery man can shlep limits standard field artillery pieces to about 15 cm bore diameter.

    1. Aesop

      True, but only as long as you require someone to actually schlep them.

      Just like pilots in a/c, or pickers in fields, if you automate humans out of the nitty-gritty end of the process, any process, you can literally leverage machine proficiency to achieve orders of magnitude in results.

      I can sling artillery shells; I cannot schlep MLRS rounds, and my entire battery, on its best day, couldn’t do with a sustained volley what the MLRS can do to an entire grid square in about 12 seconds. And that’s 30-years-ago battlefield tech.

      The obviousness of this is that the Navy stopped depending on men to load cannonballs ages hence, and thus freed from the constraints of what a gunner’s mate could sling up to the muzzle, achieved naval artillery capable of astounding feats of accuracy, slinging Volkswagen-sized projectiles over the horizon.

      But the prime mover can’t hunker down under a net on a back road in a pine forest; there are always trade-offs.

      Where I’m seeing the human limits are the battlefield itself; units are the size they are, because when everything goes to crap, and the fog of war is powder smoke, and not metaphorical, units that size are about all a person can see, and directly command with voice and hand signals.

      Heinlein’s answer to this was Mobile Infantry, wearing powered armor, spread out over miles, able to shoot, move, and communicate, and bring weapons to bear “on the bounce” on an individual level that currently takes an AH-64 and crew to accomplish. Imagine the tech of an Apache gunship shrunk to one-man size, and then picture what damage a battalion of such troops could wreak over a battlefield the size of Texas.

      Lacking the tech to make such science fiction into reality, we stumble towards that sort of thing, but our current shortcomings are what constrain battles and the soldiers who fight them to a realm closer to Hercules’ time than Heinlein’s vision, in most instances.

      1. Kirk

        The realm of command, control, communication and intelligence (C3I) is where we are going to see the biggest changes, and what will be doing the most to increase lethality of the individual and unit. This will mirror the increase in individual weapon lethality and effectiveness brought on by ubiquitous opto-electronic sighting aids.

        In a generation or two, I don’t think most of us from a traditional conventional military background would recognize how the military will be conducting its business. Guys from an SF background, who are used to working in a collaborative atmosphere where hierarchy and rank don’t neccessarily mean much outside of administrivia, on the other hand? They will recognize an awful lot of things, having pioneered the flexible and adaptive operational techniques neccessary and customary to the coming times.

        Hierarchy and fixed organizational structures are creatures of the past, and increasingly demonstrate their inherent inability to decisively function in today’s reality. Whether it is Hewlett-Packard or the NSA, the modern organization paradigm is demonstrating its inability to cope with the modern world. Change is coming, and the way we organize and fight will neccessarily change with the culture to reflect that change.

        1. Aesop

          Also, we tried that exact approach.
          Google “Vietnam”, “McNamara”, and “whiz kids”.

          I’m not a fan.

          cf.: When you are victorious, don’t forget to tell the enemy.

          1. Kirk

            You are seriously going to try to imply that the top-down McNamara regime, the one where he listened to no one outside his office and close coterie was somehow even remotely analogous to what I’m talking about and describing?

            People like McNamara are going to have no place in the future’s organizations. Pipelined hierarchies, which he was a perfect personification of, are not going to survive a reality where nimble, purpose-driven ad-hoc temporary organizations eat their lunch.

            You want an example of what’s wrong with the US military, McNamara personifies the mentality and the flawed culture that makes men like him and the results they create nearly inevitable.

            Instead, the future is going to belong to highly adaptive and flexible structures that come into being in order to solve a specific problem or task, and then dissolve after that task is complete. The mentality we have that creates these huge ossified gargantua like Microsoft or the Defense Department is going to go bye-bye, because the majority of the population won’t be wanting to work for them, and will find participation in them to be both pointless and boring. I don’t know how long it is going to take for the root structure of society to begin reflecting these realities, but you can see the bare outlines of it out there right now.

            Time was, the path to success meant tying yourself to some major organization, and being the gray-suited corporate drone that organization demanded. How has that worked out for these organizations, over the long haul? Is IBM the force it was, even a few decades ago? Is there a single organization on the ‘effing planet that has managed to function in the world of today, and remain relevant? Look at Nokia; they owned a huge chunk of the world’s cell phone market. Once. Now, they are a niche firm, having sold the vast majority of their IP and business line to Microsoft, who promptly pissed that away.

            McNamara personified this MBA bullshit that’s not working around the world. Something is growing up, right now, that will eventually replace all this ossified BS, and utterly change how we organize and do things. That something is a basic shift in the culture, where more and more people are opting out of the whole damn structure. Why give your loyalty to Disney, to Intel, when they’re just going to sell your job out to some Indian sub-contractor?

            In a lot of ways, the old corporations are committing suicide, and don’t even realize they’re doing it. Take a look at the number of people who get laid off by these companies, and who then have to be brought back on board as independent contractors to do their old jobs, because the vaunted higher returns their replacements were supposed to bring never materialized?

            No, McNamara and the rest of his ilk represent the problem, not the future solution. I can only see the bare outlines of what is going to come, but it will happen, and when it does, the current system is going to die a lingering death, one that it fully and richly deserves.

          2. John M.


            Are you familiar with Steve Denning’s writings? He blogs at Forbes and repeats himself a lot, so two or three months of his output will give you a good feel for a lot of his themes. He’s a total lib, but hits on a number of the themes you bring up here.

            You may also be interested in holacracy dot org if you’re not aware of it already.

            -John M.

          3. Aesop

            The McNamara regime, and the military fiasco he and LBJ own, are what happens when people think technology trumps the rules of warfare since Hammurabi.

            The problem with a technophile military organization is assuming the best and brightest actually are, and will only be the ones who’ll wield it. Human nature dictates we’ll far more often have the worst and dumbest. Of which McNamara et al. are the ne plus ultra exemplar.

            And if you get rid of the military organizational structure itself, you’ve created the exact headless horde that’ll destroy your society, once they realize their only ultimate loyalty is to themselves. The essence of the military is hierarchy, by design.

          4. Kirk

            Aesop, you’re almost deliberately missing the point I’m making, here.

            The change vector isn’t going to stem from the technology; it is going to stem from the changes that society makes in response to that technology. Organization the way we are doing it right now is inherently prone to a huge number of vices, mostly related to the ossification of bureaucracy necessary in large hierarchical organizations.

            My sister worked at Microsoft in procurement for over a decade; you listen to her discuss the dysfunction in that organization, and then compare it to my military experience? The same syndromes of bureaucratic capture and systemic failure take place, just on a different scale and in a different way. You hear the same crap described by my mom, who worked in the local school district, and you can observe it going on right this very moment as the same incompetent drones that made her life hell try to manage a multi-million dollar school construction project.

            What we are doing is not working, at a lot of levels and in a lot of vitally important ways. Something has to change, or we’re going to drown ourselves in red tape and bureaucratic incompetence, the same way that the Ming Dynasty Chinese did, when they decided that Zheng He’s Treasure Fleets were an unnecessary expense and shut them down. You need only look at the history of China to see where that led.

            The culture is either going to undergo a massive shift in how we do things, or we’re going to choke ourselves out on our own entrenched bureaucracy.

            Just like Microsoft didn’t see the Internet coming, as an organization, neither did the US Army see the IED war or the change in rear-area battle. In Microsoft, there were heretical voices that were saying that they needed to get on board the Internet, and build the company to take advantage of that. They were ignored, and the company took an enormous hit, one that might have become an existential threat. Likewise, there were warning voices in the Army about the potential for IED and mine warfare to drastically affect conduct of campaigns, and that the rear area was no longer something we could assume was safe. Nobody wanted to own the issue, nobody wanted to do a damn thing about it, and we got what we got with the 507th Maintenance Company and the IED campaign in Iraq.

            Both of those organizational failures can be directly traced to the inflexible hierarchies we have built up around the corporate world, and which we mirror in the military.

            A truly effective organizational schema would do away with the ossified bureaucracies that typify what we are doing right now. Effective decision-making and operational technique would have meant that Microsoft at least explored the potential inherent to the Internet, instead of ignoring it. Similarly, those of us who were agitating for the Army to pay attention to rear area battle and counter-IED work would not have had to wait for a few hundred casualties to light a fire under the bureaucracy’s collective ass.

            What we are doing is not working. Fixing it is something that I believe is going to have to mean doing away with the pipelined hierarchies we’ve built up–Perhaps not entirely, because they do serve some useful structural and logistical purposes, but something has to be done about recognizing and overcoming their inherent flaws.

            Just about anywhere you look, wherever there is organizational failure, dysfunction, and decay–You will find that there were dishonored prophets internal to the organization who were ignored and sidelined. Whether it was Kodak, Hasselblad, or Microsoft, someone knew that there were problems on the horizon, and tried to draw the hierarchy’s attention to those problems. Most of them got shut down, for their trouble, and then watched the organization to which they’d given their loyalty to, and invested so much of their lives in crumbled under the onslaught of change.

            We can do better, and we have to. The complex challenges awaiting us in the future demand that we do. What shape this response takes, I can only speculate, but we better get busy trying things out for size, or we’re going to have our asses handed to us by fate and circumstance.

          5. LCpl Martinez 29 Palms

            *** “The fixed structured hierarchy we’re used to thinking of as being essential is something that I think is going to die first, replaced by something much more entrepreneurial in spirit and conduct. Mid-level management may become something entirely different, as commanders at that level state the mission, allocate resources, and then “put the mission out to bid…” ***

            I totally agree, Kirk.

            “Strong combat leadership is never by committee. Platoon commanders must command, and command in battle isn’t based on consensus. It’s based on consent. Any leader wields only as much authority and influence as is conferred by the consent of those he leads. The Marines allowed me to be their commander, and they could revoke their permission at any time.”
            ― Nathaniel Fick, One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer

            I thought that quote above was apt. There’s a constant push and pull between those who see leadership as such, and those who think their rank is automatic. Along with that we learnt early on in bootcamp of these two seemingly opposing forces, represented by our NCOs and Os, that of troop welfare and mission accomplishment and the constant balancing act.

            And in the middle is the Commander’s Intent, or concept of operations. Which all circle backs to what Nate Fick wrote above. How do you convince people of your vision?

            I’ve had the pleasure of working under Naval Academy types, of ROTC officers and under Mustangs. And then NCOs, who could have just as easily come from Annapolis or any private university in the US, who consistently out-shined their commissioned counterparts.

            At the end of the day there is a constant and pervasive bureaucracy, and though one lone wolf type entrepreneur or a posse of such officers/NCOs, or unit, at the end of the day the bureaucracy will justify its existence, and push back…

            hence Gen. McChrystal’s recommendation to commission Silicon Valley managers and executives, tech types, (I’m unable to find the article) to inject non-Military type thinking into the military, sort of like the way the OSS recruited from prisons, the streets, as well as Wall Street.

            I for one have become very interested in all this DIY, survivalist, urban homesteading, off-the-grid, movement. For example, hooking up an induction cooktop to an inverter to a couple of solar panels. So commission some Tesla/Solar City project manager to streamline induction cooking, portable, self-sustaining, etc.

            It can be argued that there’s really no need for induction plates out in the field, but my point here is the hybridization of military and new ideas, like DARPA but generated from outside and at the squad level. There’s a bunch of former military that are now getting into all this DIY, off-grid stuff, even ultra-light camping, hiking, where the motto is that less is more, get them in the mix as well.

            Goes back to H. John Poole’s true light infantry that can exist autonomously for long periods of time. Let’s undercut this old notion: The essence of the military is hierarchy, by design.”. it’s high time , we’re seeing it in society as a whole, it’s time to heed Poole’s call for quite some time now.

            Hell, I saw the Revenant and the Martian on the same day, and thought both movies were essentially the same, just different venues (or planets, LOL!) But the point is , it’s time we think in terms of humanure, solar panels, etc.

            thanks for all your comments, Kirk, you’ve given me a lot to chew on.

          6. LCpl Martinez 29 Palms

            John M.

            This holacracy link is good stuff, thanks! and reminds of what a Capt. had us do regularly, which he called the Harkness method (the method of teaching via a round table in Exeter high school, where he attended, before going on to some Ivy league school then on to become a Marine officer).

            Essentially we learned how to present, discuss, debate and dialogue using this method.

  17. John M.

    Weren’t Japanese planners prior to WWII concerned about the fact that the average Western GI’s additional size and strength relative to his Japanese counterpart meant that Western forces would likely have advantages in terms of small arms? I think I might’ve read that on

    Then again, the folks who brought us the Nambu probably should’ve been spending more time on the phone with Walther and less time worrying about the size of Western GIs.

    -John M.

  18. Aesop

    Perhaps, but I’m not seeing that. A grunt in Fallujah or Kandahar had as much or more in common with Marius’ Mules or the Roughriders in Cuba than with that future.
    I think things will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, for some good time if not perpetually, mainly because the guys in the meatsuits, and the necessity of same for the efforts, haven’t appreciably changed in six millennia.

    1. Kirk

      Except that the lowliest grunt in Fallujah or Kandahar had access to more raw firepower than Caesar ever dreamed of, as well as having far more ability to screw things up for him.

      Caesar didn’t ever have to worry about some legionary putting the lie to his propagandistic “Commentaries…”, either. Nor was it likely that the typical Roman civilian would have cared, were one of those stalwarts to have done so…

      There’s been a huge shift in things, in terms of communications. The French Foreign Legion didn’t have to worry about one of their guys at, say, Camaron, getting on a satellite phone for a tearful good-bye to mama as the fight went on with the Mexicans.

      Today’s soldier has a huge potential for influence in spheres so far removed from the realities of yesteryear as to make them a totally different creature. Expeditionary forces are no longer a black box to the people at home who are feeding and financing them, and this makes for a huge difference in scale and possible effect on the battle. Just as Joe can now get on a satellite phone to call for fire, he can also get on the damn thing and permanently screw over your war aims with a single call to a news agency. That hasn’t happened yet, but we are inching our way there, bit by bit. Who would have thought that a single shift of idiots at a military detention facility could have so warped the post-war effort in Iraq?

      You could get away with a bunch of numbnuts in the ranks, back when. Now? Everybody has got to be switched-on, all the time, and fully read into the mission and the potential for screwing things up at the national level. Can you think of a single example from earlier history where a couple of idiot non-coms and a few privates did as much damage to a major war effort as those idiots at Abu Ghraib? In one evening of delirious misconduct? Hell, LT Calley needed an entire company and an actual war crime to do as much damage…

      Things have changed, and the rate of change is only going to speed up. Adaptation to that change, as well as how we train and acculturate the raw material we turn into soldiers, is going to have to come. The enablers for most of this change are already here; we just haven’t reached out to use them, as of yet. There is a lot of continuity between yesterday, today, and tomorrow, but not so much that yesterday’s soldier could even begin to grasp the implications of the current reality.

      Try to imagine having to explain to a Roman legionary that he’s gonna have to cut back on the rapine, pillage, and slaughter that he thought was his due, because of the way it would look back home to the civilians… Granted, the typical Roman civilian might have thrilled to watch the rape of Gaul in real time, but the idea that such a thing was even possible, let alone a concern…?

      There has already been a major, world-shaking change in this regard, and most of us haven’t even noticed it. Nor have the institutions really digested the implications, or come up with true compensatory mechanisms…

      That “strategic corporal” the Marines were so fond of talking about, a decade ago? Yeah. That guy. The reality is that we have to concern ourselves with the “strategic private”, the idiot kid(s) who could screw things up for a huge swathe of things, with one relatively minor screw-up. Mahmudiyah ring any bells, for you? That, right there, is a perfect example of what I’m talking about–And, the institution that put those idiots into that position failing to adapt and comprehend the realities of the modern world. Steven Dale Green should never have been in uniform, and once he was, and identified as raving loon? He should never have been taken with the unit to Iraq; yet… He was. Organizational dysfunction personified.

      In a truly effective organization, Green’s supervisors would have been listened to, and he would have been identified as a sociopathic personality before being put into that position. He was a known problem child, and yet… The decision was to take him with, in order to pad the numbers for deployment. How much manpower would have been saved, had someone actually done their damn job?

      1. Aesop

        That all only applies in the West, and by choice. Primarily to our military alone.
        No one is going to undo the war aims in the Russian, Chinese, or Indian army with a sat phone call.

        They’d simply be volunteering to take it in the neck in a matter of hours.

        This is less a “new reality”, than a justification of rigid control of information during wartime, especially through the media.

        Someone pulling some of that crap even in the British Army, would find themselves on the draconian punishment side of the Official Secrets Act in about the time it would take to throw said squaddie into a deep hole, and then they’d throw away the hole.

        This is why most other societies, and their militaries, point and laugh at what we let get our panties in a twist.

        1. Kirk

          It will apply, and already does.

          Care to forecast the Chinese people’s response, when Lu Bing is tearfully calling back to say good-bye to mama and papa, and he’s the sole hope for any form of retirement and family continuity for the parents and two sets of grandparents?

          China’s “One child” policy has left it in a situation that is profoundly risky. How long do you think the Chinese Communist Party will maintain the “Mandate of Heaven”, were it to expend a few thousand precious only children in some risky foreign adventure the Party screws themselves into?

          It isn’t only the US that has these potential problems; other countries have them, just as much. The Indians got railroaded into a response over a couple of recent incidents in Kargil and the Kashmir area, with expats and natives demanding action. In a connected world, the connections have implications and reach a lot of us just don’t consider. Local family of Sikhs has a young cousin who is in the Indian Army. Care to consider what the results will be, should that young man come to a bad end on duty? Think the Indian government doesn’t have that sort of thing carefully calculated, when these incidents happen?

          Warfare in the modern age is a hell of a lot different from the historical precedent, and we only dimly see the outlines of that. Think that someone could get away with managing the Battle of the Somme today? Hell, no–You’d be seeing the effects of those piss-poor decisions taking place in real time, right in the living room. This places a certain constraint on things, and opens up a whole other vista for making war. What you’re seeing performed by ISIS and al Qaeda represent their attempts to leverage these information sources against us, and we’re really not even fighting that fight. There should be a whole division of public relations flacks and anthropologists on the internet, managing the YouTube “theater of operations”, and “getting our story out”, which would go a long way towards neutralizing a lot of these “extremist jihadis”. Instead, we’ve presented our flank to the enemy, and are steadily losing ground.

          1. LCpl Martinez 29 Palms

            Riddle me this , Kirk.

            Of all the 50 states, why doesn’t Florida have a solar strategy? Ironic that the sunshine state is without solar no?

            How do you wrest power from those who neither want evolution or revolution, and content to be ostriches with heads in sand.

            Hell in Nevada another sunny place, the utilities companies attempted to stop rooftop solar. China and India are ramping up their solar, and back in the US, fossil fuel powered companies are hampering solar’s development.

            WTF, over? That’s American manufacturing that we’re essentially surrendering to China, India and EU.

            I’ve always wondered why there are no solar panels in the ME used by US forces , even in the deserts of NV and CA (well these days there are some now, traffic lights, some roofs, etc.) but why wasn’t this around 2003-2004 in Iraq, or even earlier?

            Kinda like Pres. Carter’s solar water heater which he installed on the White House, which Pres. Reagan happily took out… you guys know where it ended up? in China! LOL! the irony,

          2. John M.

            “There should be a whole division of public relations flacks and anthropologists on the internet, managing the YouTube “theater of operations”, and “getting our story out”, which would go a long way towards neutralizing a lot of these “extremist jihadis”.”

            Scott Adams (yes, the Dilbert guy) has written a lot on persuasion, particularly related to Trump’s election, which he predicted early in the primaries. He believes that the fight against ISIS is primarily a persuasion fight and believes that Trump will start engaging with ISIS at that level.

            -John M.

          3. Kirk

            I’m kinda cynical about the potential for wind and solar, to be quite honest. You run the numbers on a lot of these so-called “renewables” , tracking back to the industrial feedstocks necessary to build them, and then subtract all the government subsidies we’ve given them, and what you find is that, in all too many cases, you’d have been better off burning the money and oil you spent for heat and light, instead. Life-cycle costs are a thing, and once you subtract the energy cost for manufacture and installation, your net gains aren’t very high. Solar makes sense, in some applications, but there is no way you’re going to be able to run a modern civilization on nothing but, at the current levels of efficiencies. What we are doing kinda makes sense, if you think of it as bootstrapping the tech, but I think we are going to have to take a long, hard look at what we have to show for our efforts here, and decide whether the return is worth the investment.

            I’m actually not too disturbed by the Chinese dominance in solar, at the moment. They’ve invested massively in the old technology, which isn’t anywhere near efficient enough to be affordable in the real world. What comes after isn’t likely to be based on the same sort of gear, and once it is developed, their dominance isn’t likely to last.

          4. Aesop

            Warfare in the modern age is remarkably like warfare in ancient times.
            Parity fights look like Gettysburg, the Somme, Jutland, or the 38th parallel.
            Momentary tactical brilliance from non-parity foes like blitzkriegs or Pearl Harbor leads to strategic schlongings like Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.
            (And the fact that we didn’t glass over large swaths of SWAsia shows we neither felt our survival was threatened by 9/11, nor regarded the latter as a fight to the death, let alone a challenge equivalent to Pearl Harbor – rightly or wrongly. If that changes, Mecca and Medina will be smooth enough to land gliders on about 5-30 minutes later, depending on whether the USAF or USN gets the nod.)

            And I wouldn’t draw too many lessons from ISIS; the fact that they’ve had a fifth columnist in the Big Chair on our side the last 8 years explains about 130% of their “successes” to date.

            Schwarzkopf just 25 years ago would’ve used them as live strafing targets for A-10 squadrons, and their day in the sun would’ve been just about 24 hours of daylight long.

  19. Badger

    To the question posed, LMG’s, unit mortars, etc., over quite a period of time seem to have not changed much in terms of being defined often by a finite number out of that basic “unit” largely dedicated to their tranport/implementation. More/bigger? Sure, but at a cost of a dedicated rifle. Of course, this doesn’t count the next piece of high-speed/low-drag/good-idea-faerie s**t to come down the pike required to be put on the individual mule’s LBE.

  20. Squid

    Information overload is our new limiting factor. The modern aircraft can present far more information than the displays that fit into a cockpit can display. When it is all crammed into the display in a usable manner the human operator cannot processes and comprehend the important from the trivial. Our sensors have outstripped our human interfaces. The limiting factor in data fusion is that what is vitally important on one mission is not important on another. This makes it very hard to program the sensors and mission computers to blend and synthesize information in a useful manner. There’s lots of talk of artificial intelligence in the cockpit and no end of vendors willing to sell it but it becomes a limiter in the fog of war.

    One fun thing to do is to feed contradictory information into the sensors (jamming) and watch the whole system lock up. Information Operations is an out of style term but it still works.

  21. bloke_from_ohio

    This is probably related to Dunbar’s number. According go the theory, people can probably only maintain stable relationships with about 150 or so people based on cognitive limitations. It is pretty fascinating stuff actually.

    1. Kirk

      Dunbar’s Number is an example of something I see as becoming variable, as we offload more human cognition onto various aids and support mechanisms.

      If you research things, there appears to have been an upper limit on how big and complex a purely oral society could become. An equivalent “studier of things” from that period of human history would likely have scoffed at the idea that a society could attain the complexity and scale of, say, a Sumerian city-state, no doubt while acknowledging the possible potential for these new-fangled tally marks and the sticks people were finding useful…

      We are actually at about that same stage, with regards to these new electronic devices. And, just like that oral society of ancient times, we really can’t even guess where this stuff is taking us.

      And, just as Sargon found writing and record-keeping to be essential to his military, it is all going to show up out on the battlefield. Eventually. And, probably by complete surprise, as one of these new-age electronically networked army things thrashes the hell out of one of the old-line forces.

      It should not be forgotten that the thing which made the German Army of WWII so damn effective on the battlefield wasn’t necessarily there technological prowess–It was more that they had better “organizational software” running on their ancient, creaky, and cobbled-together forces. I mean, for the love of God, something like 85% of their forces were foot- and horse-based, even at the height of their powers. How the hell was this even a fight, given the force ratios involved?

      Yet, the sick bastards came damn close to ruling a huge chunk of the Eurasian land mass…

    2. joshua

      I served on a half dozen Coast Guard High Endurance cutters- the crew size varied between 120-175- about the size of a company. I was surprised to realize that yes, I knew everyone onboard, and if they were in my department, I almost certainly knew their wife or girlfriend’s name, number of kids, previous assignments, etc. However, I knew almost no one on the ships tied up fore or aft, even though they were otherwise identical ships containing my peers- folks I was going to work with in the future.

      I have often noted the difference in camaraderie between crews of Coast Guard cutters and that aboard larger, more impersonal Navy ships. Now I have another answer to explain that difference

      1. Hognose Post author

        Yep. In Special Forces you know everybody on your team, most of the guys in your company (84 men on paper), very well. You know a few guys in your battalion and a few of the support guys that back you up like supply or parachute riggers or the MI guys that brief and debrief you. But you would be hard pressed to name five guys in the other two battalions in Group. There are guys that stand out, like Bill who owned the Porsche or the other guy who was taking flying lessons or night classes, but most of ’em are just faces you see around.

  22. LCPL Martinez USMC

    *** “I’m kinda cynical about the potential for wind and solar, to be quite honest.”“Solar makes sense, in some applications, but there is no way you’re going to be able to run a modern civilization on nothing but, at the current levels of efficiencies. “ ***


    I totally agree, man. At this time, it’s more a local, personal experiment. The photovoltaic stuff, the tech’s still young. But the solar heating that Pres. Carter put up the White House was simple solar heat stuff, non-photovoltaic, as a matter of fact the miners in the late 1800s experimented with similar technology in eastern California, western Nevada and Death Valley area (first done out here in the West)—– just simply heating water by the sun’s heat.

    Now that’s something you see on every rooftop in the ME and Asia (all made in China)… along w/ radar dishes, LOL! Plenty of those solar water heating are now being used by DIY and off-the-grid types, just to get warm/hot water. Photovoltaic stuff, I just got into, and I’m still trying to figure out all this amp and wattage stuff, I’m a Luddite when it comes to this stuff.

    But thanks to buddies on the road, ie. living in vans and volunteering for say Team Rubicon, I’m getting valuable feedback re use of solar photovoltaics… inverters and batteries for me are more a headache, so I’ve had some help getting set up with some used solar panels and generator (used Goal Zero stuff)… am confined to space (so it is a bit of an experiment only, I’m still reliant on the grid, though I’ve gone camping using Goal Zero gear).

    And you are correct, this stuff will require lifestyle adjustments, I’m not sure regular folks will likely buy into, but probably yeas. Just like in WWII where people were encouraged to donate resources and grow freedom gardens, I think the convincing citizens portion of all this is very do-able, BUT (and this is the big BUT) the way the current system is set up is for us to be consumers only and not producers.

    If Trump’s tweets of Boeing and their Air Force one is any indication that things are changing, plus malls emptying out as more online shopping rise (add mall brawls into the list of why not to go to malls) , I think there is a change coming (similar to your views) , wherein all this Made in China crap is finally realized as a joke, and more people like Quill_&_Blade decide to be producers.

    I agree, wind compared to solar (photovoltaics) is somewhat dubious, I read you have to tap into the grid just to get the fans spinning. But maybe this is more a design issue. And also maybe this is self-sabotage since the subsidies we are giving are to fossil fuel companies for them to do wind energy, maybe that money is better spent with start-ups. I have a buddy that generates wind as he drives, having connected a fan to a small turbine to some batteries, same guy that drives around with rectangular/flat water tanks attached to his rig, collecting rain water as he moves around the country.

    As I write this, I just realized, rain water catchment is the best analogy. Look at Israel, the only nation in the ME that exports water to neighboring countries. Guess what they don’t do, water their cars in drive ways, they don’t have traffic islands where watering mechanisms break down and water just floods out, dilapitated water mains that break sending tons of water to the storm drains. Not so sure if Israel’s making strides with desalination technology though (but I wouldn’t be surprised).

    So all this requires lifestyle adjustments, WWII & Israel are great examples of influencing citizens to become producers and not consumers (this is essentially what all this boils down to, producers vs. consumers).

    But IMHO if what fossil fuel companies are doing , all the cute stuff they are doing to attempt to dissuade citizens, in both AZ and NV and especially Florida. I think they are losing money, since regular folks are producing their own electricity, hence all these sabotaging efforts. I don’t know how else to read their shenanigans, aside from the fact that solar works, and it’s affecting their bottom line… Yeah, it’s not an end all, by all means of course not, but

    solar, etc.

    it’s just one step farther from that entrepreneurial spirit you’re writing about, Kirk… I’m simply calling it producer vs. consumer mentality. I think we’re tracking on the same path here (by they way, I’m all for nuclear energy too, fusion I’m hoping is just around the corner). Poole’s true light infantry, the ability to live off the land untethered to big Army/Marines is the idea.

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