About that Keene, NH Bearcat

This is Keene's Bearcat. There are many like it, but this one is Keene's. Without its Bearcat, Keene is useless. Without Keene, the Bearcat is useless...

This is Keene’s Bearcat. There are many like it, but this one is Keene’s. Without its Bearcat, Keene is useless. Without Keene, the Bearcat is useless…

Keene, New Hampshire, is a sleepy college town, left-leaning as NH goes, and the subject of a great outcry two years ago because the police purchased (or rather, had your Federal taxes buy, so maybe “requisitioned”) a Lenco Bearcat armored personnel carrier. We were part of that outcry.

Keene’s justification for the vehicle was that they needed it to defend large gatherings, like the Pumpkin Festival.

This made the entire town the laughingstock of the Western World, and parts of the Old World stretching back to the furthest conquests of Alexander the Great (we concluded, “Somewhere in North Waziristan, Gulbuddin Hekmatayar is laughing his ass off at us.” back in 2012).

Before we bring the story up to date, note that a large number of the inmates of Keene are college students at Keene State, the designated Party School of the NH System. That helps to explain What Happened Next.

So how do the people of Keene demonstrate how the police in their leafy burb don’t need any riot control vehicle? By rioting, naturally.

At the freaking Pumpkin Festival.

We are Not Making This Up®. We’d be ready to go back to that 2012 post and eat our pixels, but…

We just got done talking to a Keene cop, and they used all their resources to control the riot, except one. Which one? You got it: the Bearcat.

A perfect chance to grind patchouli-scented hippies (not to mention drunks in their fourth sophomore year) under the Bearcat’s run-flat tires, and they go all restraint, like. Lord love a duck.

Somewhere in North Waziristan, Gulbuddin Hekmatayar is laughing his ass off at us.

(Not Making This Up® is a registered trademark of Dave Barry. Used without permission -Ed).

 

Some Ranger Halloween Humor

We plucked all these photos off of the Regiment’s twisted Twitter feed, which we found thanks to Lee Williams. We start off more serious, and quickly get less serious.

Would you like to meet this guy in a dark alley? Why, he’s not even wearing his reflective belt!

Ranger Sniper

Judging from the way he’s armed, you might encounter him in a dark alley, but you wouldn’t be seeing him.

The other hand, judging from his arms, he’s already on the bubble, as the Army’s tattoo nazis try to weed guys like him out of the service.

I’m not sure these fellows are Rangers. They are, however, posing like Army Guys:

Clowning Around with Army Guys

And speaking, as we were a moment ago, about dark alley apparitions:

Ranger Alien

You thought Alien was science fiction. This guy thought it was a visual Ranger Handbook. He’s just about at a sci-fi level of kit-out, however: SCAR Mk17, Elcan w/Docter, M320 GL, etc. But the Hollywood combat mask and out-of-this-world dreadlocks make him pretty memorable.

The Regiment originally didn’t like the SCAR but it’s grown on them a lot, probably because of the high marks other ARSOF units have given it, especially with the 10.3″ barrel for CQB. The soldier above is well-situated for targets from anywhere within powder-burn range to 800 meters out. For targets beyond that? That’s what radios are for.

 

A King’s Ransom (Rest)

You could not read The American Rifleman or other high-end gun periodicals in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s without noticing that, when the writers were serious about measuring the accuracy of a handgun, they used a machine rest, and often mentioned it by name: the Ransom Rest. A Ransom Rest is a handsome assembly of machined castings, and its purpose is to take much of the human factor out of accuracy testing, much like the more complicated and heavier machine rests the military uses for acceptance testing of rifles. Bolt it down to a bench, and human shooters’ individual variation in pistol accuracy is erased. This is what the base Master Series Ransom Rest looks like:

Ransom Rest

To use it, begin with a cleared and triple-checked pistol. Remove the grips from your pistol and with an appropriate grip insert mount the pistol in the rest, using the three “star nuts” on the left plate. There is a sequence to tightening the nuts, explained in the instructions. Adjust the trigger lever (big red handle) and the trigger release finger (small red plastic-covered rod) so that the release finger contacts the trigger at center and the trigger lever is about level behind the firearm. Then adjust the gun onto target with the bolts, and bolt it down. There are some small differences in setting up the rest for revolvers and auto pistols; Glocks and other polymer pistols need more settling shots than steel or alloy-framed pistols from which the grips are removable.

And this is how it’s used (there would probably be sand or shot bags on that board, if it were not bolted down; C-clamped beats shot bags, and bolts beat C-clamps):

Ransom in Action

After each shot, the muzzle will flip up. This is the Ransom’s recoil-absorbing design, and you return the rest (not touching the pistol or the trigger lever) to horizontal.

You should fire a cylinder or mag of rounds just to set the Ransom in, and adjust if necessary. (It’s amazing how recoil exposes what you thought was “tight enough” and really wasn’t). As a rule of thumb, it will take more rounds to settle a more powerful pistol. Until it has settled properly, the rounds will string along the vertical axis.

Ransom Rests are still made in today. The manufacturer appears healthy, and they stand behind their product; they’ll refurb your old Master Series rest or other Ransom rest at a fair price.  You can buy new Ransoms at Midway or Brownell’s. But you don’t see them nearly as much in gun reviews, these days. Why is that? We see several reasons:

  • Certainly part of it is the long-running cultural shift from revolvers to auto pistols. As we’ve shown in the past whilst quoting old magazines, revolvers had a much bigger market and mind share thirty years ago, and the Ransom Rest was originally conceived in the day when target shooting was dominated by revolvers. Even when they were supplemented and even replaced it was only by a single auto-pistol at first, the M1911, to which the Rest was readily adapted. Modern polymer pistols have been harder for the Rest to come to grips with (pun sort of intended).
  • With an auto pistol, the Rest is less accurate than a good shooter firing from a sandbag, unless it is re-sighted every shot (which it probably should be, anyway, but many reviewers don’t do that).
  • The shift in the center of gun-culture gravity from professional reviews to enthusiast reviews over the years has meant a corresponding decrease in data-driven information collection. Even as chronographs have become more affordable and usable, fewer reviews of guns and ammunition contain meaningful chrono data, and very few of them are atmospherically normalized to an ISO standard atmosphere, even though the math is trivial (and some of the e-chronos will do it automagically).
  • Fad and fashion. A lot of reviewers monkey-see, monkey-do their reviews. (Nothing wrong with that, if the review you’re copying is a thorough one. Everybody has a first day on the job).

Finally, they’re expensive. But the Ransom Rest is a pretty useful thing for several purposes. The company also makes a series of rifle rests that the benchrest community swears by.

Imura-san gets the shaft — two years’ imprisonment

3D imuras guns

Imura’s printed guns, seized along with his computers and printer when he was arrested.

Japanese 3D-printing gun activist Yoshitomo Imura was convicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison for printing guns.

The Yokohama District Court handed down the sentence to Yoshitomo Imura, a 28-year-old former employee of Shonan Institute of Technology who made a number of guns with a 3D printer in his home in Kawasaki outside Tokyo last year.

Imura was arrested in May on a charge of illegal weapons possession in what media reports described as Japan’s first such case involving 3D-printed firearms.

In a very Japanese ruling, the judge seemed as upset with Imura-san’s nonconformity as he was with the guns, and condemned Imura for “flaunting his knowledge and skill”:

“This has shown that anyone can illegally manufacture guns with a 3D printer, flaunting their knowledge and skill, and it is an offense to make our country’s strict gun controls into a dead letter,” public broadcaster NHK quoted judge Koji Inaba as saying in the ruling on Monday.

Prosecutors had demanded a prison term of three and a half years for Imura. Defense lawyer Akira Noguchi had argued that Imura did not know his acts were illegal. After the ruling, he said that an appeal had not been decided upon yet.

via 3D-printed gun maker draws jail term in Japan | PCWorld.

Imura's Zig-Zag Revolver. He only fired it with blanks, but that didn't keep him out of durance vile.

Imura’s Zig-Zag Revolver. He only fired it with blanks, but that didn’t keep him out of durance vile.

Despite the legal findings, our information is that Imura designed and manufactured his “guns” to fire only blanks, which are available in Japan in calibers and cartridges that have no commonality with any live ammunition, like the 8mm blanks popular in Europe.

Mind you, we understand why Japanese officialdom gets upset when the subjects start “flaunting their knowledge and skill.” The last time somebody tried that, his name was Isoroku Yamamoto and he wound up getting their country nuked.

A Bit of Cold War History

CIA SealOver at the CIA’s FOIA files, there’s a remarkable 1983 letter (.pdf) that more or less predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, predicting the fall of the Soviet Union was a Cold War hobby of many people of many nationalities. Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik even wrote a book, Can the Soviet Union survive until 1984? Amalrik answered his question in the negative. He wasn’t so much wrong, as a few years ahead of the game.

A lot of people, especially among those with hands-on experience in the Soviet and slave-satellite system, predicted the fall of the USSR. But in the US intelligence community, those predictions were rare (and were resisted by the Soviet desk analysts). “Rare” is not the same thing as “nonexistent,” though, and today’s document is one of those rare exceptions.

This letter, from National Intelligence Council Vice-Chairman Herbert Meyer to the Director and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, was shocking in its prescience. He began by noting a marked uptick in violence and threats of violence in the late summer and fall of 1983: KAL 007, the Beirut bombings, the coup and US countercoup in Grenada, the now-forgotten Libyan invasion of Chad, terrorist murders of South Korean and Filipino politicians. Many of these events were aided, if not commanded, by the Soviet intelligence services.

He notes that the Soviet system was within decades of collapse, enumerates why, and points at some indicators of insecurity in the Kremlin:

Two Kremlin actions provide a good measure of Moscow’s domestic impotence. To boost the birthrate among Russian women — who average six abortions, according to recent, highly credible research — the Soviet Union has decided to offer Glory of Motherhood awards to women who bear large families. And to reform the world’s second-largest economy, Kremlin leaders last month ordered the execution, for corruption, of the poor devil who managed Gastronome Nº. 1, Moscow’s gourmet delicatessen. These feeble and pathetic actions are not those of a dynamic or even a healthy leadership responding to national emergency. They bring to mind neither Roosevelt in 1933 nor Reagan in 1981, but rather Nicholas II in 1910.

Meyer points out that Soviet officials who saw the possibility of Cold War victory slipping away — more likely fellows a few rungs down from the top, rather than the top-level leaders — might lose many of their inhibitions. Nevertheless, he considered the Cold War as good as won.

It has long been fashionable to view the Cold War as a permanent feature of global politics, when that will endure the next several generations at least. But it seems to me more likely that President Reagan was absolutely correct when he observed in his Notre Dame speech that the Soviet Union – “one of the histories saddest and most bizarre chapters” – Is entering its final pages. (We really should take up the President’s suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its people won’t disappear from the planet, and we have not yet thought seriously about the sort of political and economic structure likely to emerge.) In short, the free world has outdistanced the Soviet Union economically, crushed it ideologically, and held it off politically. The only serious arena of competition left is military. From now on the Cold War will become more and more of a bare-knuckles street fight.

How not to Park your Fighter

Landing at Baton Rouge on 8 October 14, a pilot of a vintage taildragger locked up his brakes and dropped his nose expensively into the tarmac of Runway 13. Hey, it happens. But this time, it wasn’t a Cub or Taylorcraft doing a nose stand, but a multi-million dollar Focke-Wulf 190, one of a handful of airworthy examples of the Germans’ second most numerous WWII fighter.

FW 190 how not to park

The nose stand in the ultra-rare, restored fighter plane was terrifying and perhaps embarrassing for the pilot (although we don’t know if it was pilot error or mechanical failure that caused it), and expensive for the owners, but no one was hurt, and it made for some spectacular photographs.

FW 190 how not to park3

Nobody’s taken a snap like that since, what, May of 1945?

The damage to the aircraft is probably restricted to the engine, propeller, and cowlings. This particular example is powered by a Russian Shvetsov Ash-82T engine, which is common enough (that is why it is used instead of the rare original BMW 801. Both are twin-row 14-cylinder radials of just under 42 liters’ displacement; the Russian one is a downsized twin-row development of the single-row Wright Cyclone, which Russia built under license as the M-25). But the propeller was reportedly a one-off reproduction of the original, modified to fit the Russian radial. So the list of airworthy FW 190s is decremented by one for at least a year or two.

How Rare Is it?

We called it, “ultra-rare.” How rare is it? Perhaps one in a thousand of the original 20,000+ survives today, and most of them are under glass in museums, never to feel the force of lift again.

This is what the plane, N4190, looked like in a more conventional three-point attitude.

N4190

After a long restoration in France and the USA, the plane flew for the first time since WWII in 2011. Here’s a video of its first and second flights, by Karl Plausa who’s affiliated with Flug Werk (see below). The video includes some steep turns, and at about the 7 minute point he drops the gear and decelerates to a power-off stall. At about 9:20 he makes a low pass, and then brings it back for a landing. At about 13:40 a very satisfied Plausa passes on a debrief on the flight (“This is the best one I’ve flown! Nothing rattles…”) for owner Don Hansen, who shows up just about then, beaming with pride. (Technically, the plane is owned by an LLC, but it’s Hansen’s money that made this bird go).

It’s hard to say what the exact number of airworthy 190s is, because the number of museum and flying aircraft is growing, and in the 1990s a German company, Flug-Werk, committed to manufacturing 20 new FW-190s to airworthy status, with Russian engines. Flug-Werk’s Nachbau or reproduction aircraft are made insofar as possible on original tooling, and some stored original parts (notably tailwheel assemblies) have made it into their reproductions. They receive continuation serial numbers. Are they FW 190s, or not? But wait, having the original tooling, Flug Werk has supplied parts for many airworthy and museum FW 190s.

At least 5 original aircraft have emerged from restoration shops in the last five years; soon there might be 30 FW-190s loose in the world, not counting the Flug Werk repops.

Because of the conditions in the arctic, most of the surviving original FW-190s served with the Luftwaffe’s 5th Fighter Wing, JG5 Eismeer. They were recovered variously from the forests and lakes of Norway, Finland, and Russia. The Soviet Union’s economic backwardness had the silver lining of preventing the discovery of many Russian, Allied, and German aircraft on Russian territory until they had become worth restoring; most Russian recoveries happened after the fall of the USSR in 1992.

The FW 190 as a Weapon

The FW 190 was designed by a veteran of ground combat in World War I, Dr-Ing. Kurt Tank. Tank wanted to build an airplane that was biased towards combat service, at a time when most fighters were biased towards raw performance. “Nicht Rennpferd, sondern Dienstpferd,” was the way he put it to his engineers and draftsmen: “Not a race horse, but a service horse.” The airplane was designed overall to reduce the pilot’s workload, leaving his mind free to plan the fight. Dr Tank’s design philosophy meant the FW was disadvantaged at high altitudes (for example, in the defense of Germany from bomber raids), but lower down (for example, where most of the fighting on the Russian Front took place) it was a superior performer. When first introduced in 1941 it shook British complacency in the superiority of the Spitfire; the Spit, with its elegant elliptical wing, could out-turn the FW, but the FW 190 A was superior in every other performance measure.

The FW was also designed for production and maintenance — the Spitfire’s performance came from that beautiful elliptical wing, a planform dictated by optimizing aerodynamics, but fiendishly difficult to manufacture. Tank got most of the performance with a straight tapered wing, not 100% optimal from a best lift/drag to structural weight viewpoint, but close enough, and vastly easier to construct in the factory and repair in the field.

Tank’s philosophy, when it became known in the West after the war, informed the designers of the North American F-86 Sabre, as well as their own experience with the P-51 Mustang (also built to be a war horse, not a race horse).

Of course, the FW 190 wouldn’t have been a German machine if it hadn’t contained some revolutionary technology, and it did: in the form of a lever sticking up in the side of the cockpit where a small forest of levers grew in most contemporaries. Here’s a story from Aviation History on the restoration of the only one surviving with a BMW 801 and a working Kommandogerät single-lever controller. The K-gerät, or “control device,” deserves some discussion. The article mentions how special it was:

Most notably, the 801 had a remarkable single-lever power control system that automatically managed rpm, prop pitch, mixture, timing and supercharger setting according to throttle position and altitude—a system that Porsche, not surprisingly, reinvented for its PFM Mooney lightplane engine in the mid-1970s.

If you’re a pilot, you know what a big deal this is. Most high-performance piston planes of the period, and today, have at least three control levers: Throttle, which controls the flow of fuel-air mixture to the cylinders; Mixture, which controls the amount of fuel in that mixture and has to be changed as altitude and desired speed change to keep the mixture stoichiometric for the changing atmospheric conditions and performance demands; and a prop lever that controls the pitch of the prop, acting like a transmission does in a car. In addition there were various controls for various mechanical and turbochargers in the WWII era. Some pilots had to manage them on and off, some had to adjust a waste gate, some had more demands on them than that — plus, juggling the other three levers, and fighting the plane. With experience, a pilot develops the muscle memory to operate prop, power and mixture.

The single-control-lever drastically reduces pilot workload, especially in regimes of flight where power settings change a lot (like, say, combat). More recent attempts at a single-lever system have been impeded by regulatory and legal inertia — Porsche withdrew from the aviation market and recalled and scrapped every PFM after getting a taste of America’s ambulance-chasing legal culture. In the long run, the single-lever control, with the intricate clockworks of the K-gerät replaced by microprocessors and electronic fuel injection, is such a good idea that it will overcome the resistance of the FAA, which has been impeding it.

What will Happen to the Mishap Aircraft?

It will certainly be restored to flight. The damage is not superficial, but it’s not irreparable. You’d be amazed what some flying WWII aircraft looked like before their restorations began. Basically, as long as it’s just “crashed,” not “crashed and burned” or “fragmented,” these guys can rebuild it. That’s not as surprising as you might think: even in World War II, fighter-plane production was largely done by hand, and those skills are strongly maintained in the restorer community. Restoring World War II aircraft, or working on them, makes little economic sense, but there’s a seemingly bottomless pool of volunteers and below-market-rate workers who thrill to work on these pieces of living history.

We wish Don Hansen all the best in bringing Red 1 (Wk Nr 173 056) back to its flying glory.

One Side Note:

We heard someone claim that the mishap aircraft is the one owned by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, a collector of weapons like this, who wants to ban weapons for you. We want to make this clear:  It is not. The Allen machine, operated by his Flying Heritage Collection, and recovered from Russia where it flew with JG54 and was downed, perhaps, by sabotage, is interesting as the sole survivor flying with a BMW 801 engine and the Kommandogerät, but according to our information it is safe in its Washington State home; this mishap plane is the Hansen aircraft.

 

Sunday Slackin’

This is a Sunday for doing the most routine things around the Manor, like replacing the kitchen faucet (wait, aren’t we supposed to have people for that sort of thing?), blowing the leaves and mowing them up, and that sort of thing. So we took our sweet time putting up the Sunday nothing-much post. (And didn’t even look at a few overdue Saturday posts we have).

This may be our last unseasonably warm weekend of the year, and the bicycle sings out its desire to be ridden, and the dog needs a walk, and looking at glowing rectangles seems like an awful use of the day. So we won’t.

They come here searchin’ for:

"The game is afoot, Watson!"

“The game is afoot, Watson!”

According to the new stats plug-in (Rich Counter remaining dead as a mackerel) we’ve been serached out by various users of Google and Bing (alas, nobody from Baidu yet… where’s our Chinese gun bros?) using a variety of search terms. Some of them make more sense than others:

  • 1944 m1 carbine – We’ve written ’bout these from time to time, but we don’t think we’d be the most informative target of that search.
  • tactical shelf plans – We’ve shown pictures of such things and links to their makers, but no plans. Sorry ’bout that.
  • arfcom bolt carrier group –  Is there such a thing? And it’s better than a GI BCG exactly how?
  • PSP GLOCK 45 — (caps his). Yeah, we’ve probably had more detail on the Pennsylvania State Police’s hard-luck pistol program than anybody. For example, here and here. That is, it’s hard luck if you believe in luck. We think people make their own luck, mostly. Incidentaly, they’re still hunting Eric Frein, and he’s still on the loose, but we have a feeling it’s in the end stages for Frein.
  • yarborough knife history —  We don’t think we’ve written this up, but probably should, now that it’s been around for a few years the legends are already growing. On the other hand, we’re old enough to have received our SF certificate from the hand of Yarborough his ownself, which is kind of cool. A lot of classmates didn’t realize just how cool it was.
  • gunsmith classes – frequent subject of discussion here. Hope we hooked the guy up.
  • weapons man – now, there’s the search engine doing like it’s s’posed to! This one comes up a lot.
  • NRA Life Membership Deal – we offered up one of these years ago, and are not sure it’s still valid. We’ll check.
  • 5.56 documenting reality – There is a site called Documenting Reality that has linked here in the past — not sure why, as it’s basically a war-gore site, a descendant of a site called nowthatsfuckedup.com which was shuttered in 2006 because the first amendment apparently doesn’t apply in Florida. (Now that’s … you know what). Anyway, it’s a membership site so we don’t know exactly what’s up over there.
  • young naked – [Gunny voice] Some perv wound up on the wrong blog. [/Gunny]  But it turns out we have several blog posts that include the words “young” and “naked,” including one about a perv busted by cops (wait, he was a cop too: a chief of police, actually), one about a busted cop who was a perv, and one with the text of a well-known Great War poem, by a poet who was arguably a little light in the loafers. NTTAWWT; he was a success as an infantry officer and as a poet, at least so long as his poetry dwelt on the war. His postwar poetry was rather pale, although he had a pair of decent prose romans à clef.
  • no limits hairy armpits — We don’t think this is the blog that cat is looking for, either.
  • eaten by dogs idema — yeah, we knew Keith Idema, and that’s one of the rumors about his death. (Also, that he died of AIDS in Mexico. That is, in fact, what his death certificate says). We wrote it up here, and were deluged with quasi-literate Idema fans. He was the most greatest special opstitute ever, they explained. Sure.  We don’t believe he was actually eaten by dogs, we believe the US Department of State made some arrangements or other for his remains.

The Randall Knife

Singer-Songwriter Guy Clark with “The Randall Knife.”

It’s a kind of talking blues/folk/country thing, sentimental if not schmaltzy; not entirely to our taste, but the subject matter redeems it. You know there was a Randall knife in Clark’s house. You know he  knows the feel of the Randall in his hand.

You know his father was, by God, a man.

 

A man can make up a song, but he couldn’t make up this song out of whole cloth.

The Randall wasn’t an SF knife, before Vietnam. Since then, it has been, and both Randall Made Knives and Special Forces have benefited by the partnership. Sure, there’s now the Yarborough knife for SF grads (old-timers who are SF-Q’d can get them, too, although it’s a hair more complicated because your bona fides has to be checked).

It was just one of those things, like a Seiko or Rolex watch. Like owning a car that would go unreasonably fast, and getting a reputation for going unreasonably fast in it.  Like having access to a veritable petting zoo of the world’s most famous firearms, and still buying your own to plug real or imagined “training gaps.”

What TrackingPoint Must Do to Sell to SOF

Tracking Point ProductsWe think the guys running TrackingPoint know what they have to do. In fact, we think they’re already doing these things. But here’s what, from our point of view, is missing from the current iteration of TrackingPoint hardware and software for real penetration into the upper tier SOF market.

So, Who Do You Hit First?

SF Recruiting Poster pick it upIf we were their marketing consultants (we use our MBA, but not like that), we’d also press them to focus on sell-in to certain SOF elements that are image leaders in the international SOF community. Sell, for example, to SAS, and you will have Peru, the UAE, the Netherlands, and many other nations very interested in your product line (Indeed, sell to SAS or to their US counterparts, and you’ll get sale after sale, worldwide). It’s important, also, not to over-discount the stuff to your lead customers: confidentiality agreements are fine and good, but they probably can’t keep, say, American shooters from telling the foreign shooters they’re training with or competing against, what a good deal you gave ‘em.

Another possible launch customer is FBI HRT. As their history of reckless shots and whacked non-targets shows, they could use the marksmanship boost. Meanwhile, despite their record, they’re very influential on local police procurement. Tag/track/release technology is just the ticket for police marksmen who never get enough time for training, and yet have to make more consequential and more constrained shots than a lot of military snipers. (A military sniper, outside of some rarefied CT or HR gigs, almost always has the option to no-shoot. FBI or police sniper, scope-on a crim threatening a hostage, might lack that luxury).

Who Don’t You Hit?

While the Marine Scout Snipers could use the hell out of this thing, it’s too foreign to Marine marksmanship culture, which is a master-and-apprentice culture that demands effort, even hardship, and eschews automation or corner-cutting of any kind. So we’d put these excellent Marine precision marksmen way down the list, right now. We’ve worked with enough 8541s to know that they like to do things the hard way, and they take particular joy in doing it the hard way faster than an Army guy can do it the easy way, and take a positively indecent glee in breaking the dogface’s easy-way technology. Bringing this to the Marines first means that they will use their considerable intellect and energy to break your machine and send you away with a duffel bag of expensive pieces (so they’re great for finding unimagined points of failure — there is that). Bringing it to them after selling it to the Army is not a panacea. It might be even harder, because they will be energized to demonstrate that the Army did Something Stupid, because if Marines believe three things about the Army it’s that: we have too much money, too little guts, and way too little brains.

You’ll probably need a Marine sniper on board to sell to Marine snipers. Once you do, you won’t get quite the global reach that you do by selling to SAS or its American counterparts. But you get in with the world’s greatest military image machine, and there is that. 

You have to be very careful about selling in to Hollywood. (One TrackingPoint precision guided rifle is already in the hands of the most successful firm that supplies movie and TV weapons and armorers). The reason is that an inept display of your product can hurt sales. (It would be very Hollywood to put the TrackingPoint system in the hands of a villain, to be overcome by someone like a Marine sniper or James Bond willing to use superior skill and old school firearms).

What’s Missing From 1st-Gen Tracking Point

While the extant system has undeniable SOF applications, it also has limits, and some technical improvements — none of which are impossible or require TrackingPoint engineers to schedule an invention — would increase its marketability in military precision riflery circles.

Emission Control / Encryption / ECCM

It’s great that you have a computer in a scope, and it’s the wave of the future. But the computer can be located by enemy SIGINT. The video and wifi links need strong encryption, and in addition they need to be controllable so that emissions can be closed down. Even third world enemies often use electronic support measures these days, and so you need some RF low-observability measures, and you also need to have electronic counter countermeasures to ensure usability of the system in an electronic environment.

Two-way communications

This one engenders some risk, but there should be a capability for the opetator to hand off control of the PGM’s optoelectronic systems to someone’s telepresence from a support station. Or even from another field station.

Intelligence gathering MASINT capability

There is everything in this weapons system that’s needed, for instance, to remotely measure a prison camp or a suspected SS-20 missile TEL. This capability would also tie in beautifully with the improved communications and encryption capabilities mentioned above.

A Ballistic Development Interface, SDK or App

Now that we have that in-scope computer, fully integrated with the hardware of the firearm, we need to have a way to make it more adaptable to different ammunition loadings, including one-time, single-mission loads. And that has to be done at the unit level; otherwise you’ve got a potential breach of compartmentation.

tracking_point_trad_mode

This is a sales stopper with top tier units. They develop their own long range capabilities, including, at times, loads, and they do it because they think they, like benchrest shooters, can handload a more consistent, higher-precision round than even premium ammo suppliers can do.

Demonstrated, Documented Durability

The running joke is that a soldier or marine can break a ball from a ball-bearing — just leave him alone in a room with it, and you’re a half hour from looking at a broken ball, and hearing, “Uh, I dunno, sarge. It just broke!” (Bearing-ball, hell, these guys could do that with a wrecking ball). You want your machine to be wrecking-ball strong.

Demonstrated “Fail Safe” mode.

The capability of the system has to degrade gracefully. If you’re sneakin and peekin’ on Day 38 of a “14-day mission,” dead batteries can’t leave you in shoot-randomly mode (let alone, can’t-shoot mode). Even an ACOG, which is probably harder to break than the gun it’s atop, has cast-in backup sights. But with a TrackingPoint gun’s scope being dependent on a CCD display at the shooter end, you can’t afford to have dead batteries.

Full Auto Stabilization Mode

We can’t be the only ones who looked at this and thought, “tag, track & x-act really could up the game of a door gunner and/or Boat Guy.” Hell, those Chenoweth sandrails might come back from the dead, if the gunners in them could actually hit things instead of just contribute morale-raising decibels to a fight. Imagine this Hollywood concoction, except real, and with the boost in hit probability than TrackingPoint promises.

You know you want one (more on the movie gun soon).

Note that these are just for the military employment of tracking point, as combat weapons technology. We haven’t even addressed the utility of tracking point for big game hunting, which is what the thing was developed for in the first place. Its applications for everything from African plains game to heliborne predator control seem self-evident. We haven’t even hinted at the potential for a rimfire TrackingPoint squirrel slaughter system, something that would sell itself once the price comes down.

As we all know, the guys running TrackingPoint are not stupid. They are probably thinking of most if not all of these things already. If not, hey, our rates are reasonable; drop us a line.