New from TrackingPoint

TrackingPoint has refreshed its AR lineup in three calibers (5.56, 7.62, and .300 Win Mag) and also offers three things calculated to increase the appeal of their precision-guided firearms: lower prices, financing, and a virtual reality glass device, the Shotglass.

If you ever wanted to break the last taboo and enjoy a shotglass while shooting, now’s your chance. This one doesn’t hold a precise measure of amber nectar brewed by Scotsmen, though:

shotglass

The Shotglass can be used to aim and fire the weapon from complete concealment cover. It can record video. It’s most likely use in the real world, though, is as a way for the spotter to direct the sniper on target. We expect we will see more of these used with TrackingPoint’s long-range bolt action rifles than with its ARs, but time will tell. If you buy a TrackingPoint PGF by 30 November 2014, the Shotglass is free; after that, it’s an additional $1k. We’ll probably discuss it in greater depth when TP puts up their Shotglass video; for now, we can’t imagine anyone who wants or has the gun turning the Shotglass down.

The lower prices are relative — they’re still nosebleed-high, just not arterial-nosebleed-high any more. For example, the 5.56 AR is $7,495.

tp_ar-newest-use-me_1

For that, Tracking Point offers:

  • Perfect impact on targets out to 0.3 miles, moving as fast as 10 miles per hour.
  • The same Tag-and-Shoot™ technology found in fighter jets
  • Advanced target tracking technology
  • Comprehensive, purpose-built shooting system.

We’ve discussed the TrackingPoint technology before, but the implementation in the ARs differs from that in the bolt guns. First place, you don’t need the guided-firearm voodoo to just shoot. The optic comes up with a crosshair reticle with mil-dots and a red dot at center. Different TP releases have called this “Standard” or “Traditional” mode. Note that the interface does give you range in this mode, but not wind speed or direction.

tracking_point_trad_mode

Next up is “Freefire” mode, which is present, so far as we know, only in the gas guns, not the bolt guns. In this mode, you range something near a group of targets, and the scope adapts to that range and to the atmospherics (note that the wind speed is displayed in this mode). The reticle cues you that the Freefire Mode has been selected, and it eliminates the mildots. Those are not necessary in this mode, because your point of aim is computer adjusted to equal your point of impact. In “Freefire” mode, the Guided Trigger is not activated: the trigger works like any AR trigger.

tracking_point_freefire_mode

In Advanced mode, the reticle changes yet again. In this case, it takes several shapes depending on whether and where the Tag has been applied. In advanced mode, the tag is applied with the red button, and then the reticle changes color and shape. The illustration below shows a tag applied to the running coyote. The blue reticle indicates that the shooter is not ready to take the shot: he is not holding the trigger back. When he holds the trigger to the rear, the color changes to red, and the weapon will fire when it is in proper alignment. At any point, the shooter can safe the gun by releasing the trigger.

tracking_point_advanced_mode

Advanced mode does something that was considered impossible for centuries: it removes most sources of human error from marksmanship. This is the sort of thing that becomes possible, when you embed a complete Linux computer in a rifle optic, and tie it in to the physical rifle several different ways.

You’ve probably noticed that TrackingPoint expresses distances in decimal tenths of a mile, rather than the yards or meters common in the shooting world, which suggests that they may see their customer base as coming from outside the present limits of the shooting world. (To which we say: welcome! While it’s cool to have a gun that can calculate all this, it’s incredibly empowering to have a head that can calculate all this, and yet, it is possible and available to you. So may your new TrackingPoint firearm be a gateway drug to a new plane of existence for you).

In any event, 0.3 mile is about 480 meters (which the US Army considers the effective range of the individual rifle platform) and 530 yards.

The guns each have a limited effective range which seems like it was programmed into the weapon as a maximum “lock range” (the system has an integrated rangefinder and environmental sensors). This may be intended to ensure that shooters have a positive experience with the precision-guided firearm, but it may also serve to ensure that the ARs don’t cannibalize the higher-end sniper and hunting rifles.

precision-guided-300-wm-semi-auto_0

The top of the AR line, the .300 Win Mag monster, offers the same claimed benefits as the 5.56 version, except that it offers “perfect impact on targets out to 0.5 miles, moving as fast as 20 miles per hour,” for a more-than-your-pickup-truck $18,995. (Our pickup, anyway: 4-banger, 2 wheel drive). (Half a mile is 800 meters or 880 yards). Unfortunately, now that somebody’s actually built an AR that’s perfectly sized as a bayonet handle, there’s no bayonet lug.

The 7.62 AR offers slightly less performance (0.5 mi, moving targets to 15 mph) for slightly less money: $14,995. If these prices seem high for ARs, well, they are, but no other ARs do these things, this well.

precision-guided-semi-auto-7.62-new

 

 

When TrackingPoint first announced the AR line this spring, there was a .300 Blackout version available. A prototype, using a Daniel Defense upper, was clearly visible in their first AR video, but the gun is not on their price list today. The TrackingPoint technology offers the potential to have a firearm that automatically corrects its zero for the Point of Impact shift common with suppressors; it can also, potentially, store several load profiles. (The ballistics-adapting capability of the weapon depends on it being fired consistently with a load whose performance parameters are known to the software).

The bolt-action rifles, which have not been updated, offer similar performance, actually, in similar calibers. Only the mighty .338 LM extends range to 0.75 miles (1200m — 1320 yards). The bolts are priced differently than their semi-auto kin, a little lower in 7.62 but the highest-price version of the .338 is near-as-dammit $28,000. With great power comes great liabilities, Spider-man. In addition to that, you might want to think hard about budgeting for the extended warranty and the software maintenance contract — software maintenance alone is a stiff $2k/year.

The electricity to drive all this juju comes from batteries in compartments in the stock or the AR and in integral battery compartments in the optics of the bolt guns.

TrackingPoint’s managers are keenly aware that the prices of these guns are an obstacle to sales, and so they have a financing program with decent terms: 10% down, 36 months, 10% interest. (They don’t say how it’s compounded or what the APR is). There’s also a 30-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee, “You can feel completely confident that TrackingPoint stands behind its products.”

We’re not sure it’s really, in their words, “the most incredible shooting system known to mankind.” But we are sure want one of these pretty badly. Just not $18-30k badly. Yet.

For $2k you can spend the day at TrackingPoint in Pflugerville, Texas, meet the staff, see the plant and fire the gun. If nothing else, you’d learn how to pronounce, “Pflugerville,” and maybe even who Pfluger was.

Breaking: Pol’s Kid Got a Navy Deal You Couldn’t, Blows it.

Er... yeah, in this post, that logo's sarcasm.

Er… yeah, in this post, that logo’s sarcasm.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that one of Joe Biden’s sons has come to the end of a rather brief Navy career, a piece of information the Navy and Blair House have been sitting on for most of a year. Hunter Biden was selected for a Navy  commission after a nationwide search, despite needing not one but two waivers, one of them for drug abuse.

How did his career end? Write this down: “The best guide to future behavior is past behavior.” Young Hunter was holystoned right off the decks, out the scuttles and overboard after a day-glo piss test. True, the ads used to say, “Things go better with Coke.”

But that was Coke a capital C, dumb-ass. Not Bolivian marching powder.

Hunter Biden, who is currently a lawyer for some former Soviet mafioso/plutocrat or other, wanted the Navy commission to burnish his resume for a future political campaign. Both of Biden’s sons (and his daughter) have naked political ambitions; both of them inherited their dad’s rather limited intellect, but they got “celebrity admissions” to top colleges. Biden’s other son, Beau, also served (after a nationwide search) in a zero-risk, resumé-polishing military job, as an Army lawyer. (That’s about the same thing as enemy forces; spending your time grilling firefight survivors to see if you can send one to Leavenworth).

Beau is the brighter of the two, which isn’t saying much, but at least he wasn’t doing lines the night before checking in to a new unit and being handed a plastic cup with his social security number on it.

WASHINGTON—Vice President Joe Biden ’s son Hunter was discharged from the Navy Reserve this year after testing positive for cocaine, according to people familiar with the matter.

Hunter Biden, a lawyer by training who is now a managing partner at an investment company, had been commissioned as an ensign in the Navy Reserve, a part-time position. But after failing a drug test last year, his brief military career ended.

Mr. Biden, 44 years old, decided to pursue military service relatively late, beginning the direct-commission process to become a public-affairs officer in the Navy Reserve in 2012. Because of his age—43 when he was to be commissioned—he needed a waiver to join the Navy. He received a second Navy waiver because of a drug-related incident when he was a young man, according to people familiar with the matter. Military officials say such drug waivers aren’t uncommon.

Mr. Biden was commissioned as an ensign on May 7, 2013, and assigned to Navy Public Affairs Support Element East in Norfolk, Va., a reserve unit, according to the Navy.

Well, easy come, easy go, kid. Anyway, that was last year, so he had a bit of a career, didn’t he? Eh, maybe not:

In June 2013, after reporting to his unit in Norfolk, he was given a drug test, which turned up positive for cocaine, according to people familiar with the situation.

So he peed hot reporting in to his first assignment. That’s stupid even by drug-user standards.

Wait, though: that was over a year ago. Did it take the Navy this long to outprocess this dopehead nepotism case and release the information?

Well, no on the “this long to outprocess” question:

Mr. Biden was discharged in February, the Navy said.

via Biden’s Son Hunter Discharged From Navy Reserve After Failing Cocaine Test – WSJ – WSJ.

And no on the “release the information.” Turns out, the Navy didn’t release the information, treating it with more security than communications intercepts or submarine patrol areas. Until the Journal had it, and the jig was up.

Well, maybe the Navy can be excused for not making a press release. They were shorthanded one public affairs ensign, after all.

Some Insights into Drone Warfare

mq9 and JDAMsDeskbound managers, who have replaced leaders in most military operations these days, are extremely enthusiastic about drones. Combat leaders are somewhat less so, leading us to this:

Drones will not be late to briefings, start fights at happy hour, destroy Officers Clubs, attempt to seduce others’ dates, purchase huge watches, insult other military services, sing “O’Leary’s Balls,” dance on tables, yell “Show us your tits!” or do all of the other things that we know wins wars!

This quote is attributed to one “Ace” Jewell, CDR USN, Ret. about whom the source email says,  “Now about 88, Fighter Pilot in 3 wars and LSO extraordinaire.”

Those things he mentions do win wars. Do we need to explain why?

Zombie Headshots with Jerry Miculek

It’s amazing, but we can’t even keep up with all the gun stuff that’s coming out. So in order to get a post up that doesn’t require a ton of writing, we’re going to fob off another Jerry Miculek video on you. In this one, Jerry tries to reenact some of the script-driven trick shooting of the AMC series, The Walking Dead — using the same weapons some of the actors in the show use.

We have to confess, we watched The Walking Dead’s first two — or three? — seasons. The first season was fairly engaging, for a zombie flick, but the second season – or was it the third? – left us cold. The season that turned us off, whichever one it was, was one characterized by the former leader Rick spending all his time brooding, sighing, and generally acting morose. He looked like some escaped Royal Hospital for Overacting patient, emoting lugubriously amid his teethmarks on the scenery. The leader of a band of survivors in desperate times does not have the freedom to go moping about like the unwanted turkey-baster baby of Alanis Morissette and Sylvia Plath in a world without antidepressant meds. Who really cares about that? Not us, anyway.

We’re a little bemused by the whole zombie thing. Our best guess is, in the same way that Japanese monster movies of the 1950s were a distortion of the fear of nuclear war, that couldn’t  really be addressed by filmmakers at the time, the zombies are a decent proxy for Moslem terrorists, who Hollywood PC renders unusable as screen villains. It’s OK to whack zombies: they’re already dead, after all.

But we’re always in for some good killin’, or re-killin’ as the case may be.

And Jerry addresses a question that every shooter has to ask himself — are those running headshots even possible? Even Jerry, it seems can make a mistake, but when the Zombie Apocalypse strikes, he seems like a pretty good guy to have in your redoubt. He hits the walkers with AUG w/EoTech, “backwards-rotating” Colt Python, Mossberg 12-gauge pump, a Cold Steel Katana, and, naturally, a Barnett Crossbow. Laughing, naturally. Does he hit ‘em? Watch and see. (some good high-speed video, too).

It’s good to have him walk through the stage after shooting it, and explain what was going on.

Is it repeatable under stress? I dunno. They wasn’t attacking me. I was attacking them.

The coolest detail of all comes at the end: Jerry’s got a new reality show, Shootout Lane, in the works.  2nd Coolest detail? If you use the discount code JERRY10, you can save 10% on Zombie Industries targets (the ones in his zombie stage).

Miculek.com, where the zombies are afraid of the humans – and that’s the way it should be.

(Hat tip: Guns Save Life. Thanks).

When Guns Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Satan

There are murders that are just the routine day-by-day slovenly lives of the ghetto. And there are murders that shock the conscience. And there are murders that make you wonder what the hell the Burger Court was thinking when they limited the application of the death penalty to people like these two pictured rotters who just. Need. Killing.

Algarad satanist and burch satanist

But let’s begin with a moment of silence for one of their victims, Josh Wetzler, and his mother, Martha, from WSOC-TV in Charlotte, NC:

Martha Wetzler… last spoke to her son in June 2009.
….soon after his disappearance…  police started looking into Pazuzu Algarad – a self-proclaimed Satanist.

Algarad’s home in Clemmons is painted with pentagrams, and his tongue is surgically forked.

Family members said he bragged about killing people and burying them in his backyard.

Boy howdy, is this guy sending all the signals of “I’m’a gonna get me SSDI for unemployability!” or what?

Neckbeard… check. Jobstopper tattoos and body mods… check. Phony-baloney name, “Pazuzu Algarad”… attention-whoring check. Bogus scary religion that says “look at me, I’m a unique and special snowflake”… check. Boasting about killing people, and boasting about where he buried them… freakin’ priceless.

Five years ago, police searched the backyard and found nothing.

Never underestimate the detective ability of PC Plod.

Recently, there was another murder investigation at the same home.

Meanwhile, five years of boasts about the deaders in the yard, so Plod comes back to look again.

This time, they found the remains of Joshua Wetzler and another man, Tommy Welch.
Algarad allegedly killed Wetzler, and Algarad’s wife, Amber Burch, allegedly killed Welch, according to arrest warrants.

Ah, so that’s where the body was… where the murderer said he left it! Imagine that. As Martha Wetzler notes, “They couldn’t have searched very well.”

Of course, imagine PC Plod finding poor Wetzler’s remains back in 2009. Algarad would be in Alcatraz (or the nearest thing NC has thereto) and Tommy Welch would not be any deader than the rest of us.

Algarad and Burch are each charged with one count of murder and one count of accessory after the fact to murder, police said.

Authorities believe the couple helped each other bury the bodies.

via Satanist and wife killed men, buried them in yard, police say | www.actionnewsjax.com.

Young romance, it’s so… special. How tragic that these two beauties will be confined in separate prisons.

Fortunately, the ACLU will help them get a Satanist chaplain (think we’re making that up?) and who knows, maybe they’ll be able to rack up a few more human sacrifices whilst they’re in the slammer.

Of course, don’t they need some test dummies for ebola treatments? What Would China Do?

One Thing Tells You how the Bergdahl Investigation Went

mad-magazine-trading-private-bergdahlOne thing reveals the truth of what the Army discovered during its investigation of the alleged desertion of SGT Bowe Bergdahl: the Army won’t be releasing the report.

You may rest assured that if the report reflected well on Bergdahl, his unit, or the Army in general, the politicians-in-uniform at the Pentagon would have released, or at least leaked, the results by now. The absence of reporting means it’s bad news for one or more of those. Our informed guess is, it’s bad news for two of the three, but whenever it does finally come out, it will be spun to deflect most of the blame onto Bergdahl’s non-deserting comrades.

The Hill:

The Army has no plans to release the results of an investigation into Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture by the Taliban in 2009, a spokesman said Friday.

“We recognize the importance of the media and the public understanding of our investigative process, and look forward to future discussions on this issue. However, the Army’s priority is ensuring that our process is thorough, factually accurate, impartial, and legally correct,” Army spokesman Wayne Hall said in a statement.

via Army won’t release Bergdahl review | TheHill.

We’ve long suspected that Bergdahl deserted with some ill-formed or half-baked intent to collaborate, only to find that an infidel’s Taliban welcome — even a traitor’s — was less warm that Afghan hospitality usually tries to extend.

The swap for Bergdahl was a good deal for the Taliban. They got rid of a guy who was no use to them, and a hassle to feed and keep safe, and picked up five of their own guys who were in captivity. (From the Taliban point of view, it was a hostage rescue — their guys held hostage by us). It was a bad deal for the USA, unless you’re a closet Islamist or a peace-at-any-price white-flagger. Or Bowe Bergdahl’s mom, perhaps.

The Army, and Dahl, seemed to be trying very hard not to investigate Bergdahl.

This is not the first time. In the aftermath of the return of the Vietnam War, the military wanted nothing to do with prosecuting deserters and traitors among the prisoners, some of whom had gone over to the NVA for comforts or privileges or to get back at SROs in the camps. (SRO Ted Guy had brilliantly arranged for several loyal prisoners to infiltrate the Peace Committee, so the identities of the “ducks” or traitors were well known and there was a great deal of available evidence against them). The outrage of several of the loyal prisoners began to force the issue, and seven identified and named turncoats were selected for possible prosecution. Ted Guy filed charges, then another officer did likewise.

When it looked like a court-martial might actually happen, one of the guilty traitors, ex-Marine Abel Kavanaugh, spared the Corps a trial and shot himself in the left temple. Kavanaugh had made propaganda statements and broadcasts, and assisted the NVA in rooting out escape plans, in return for food and privileges. The Washington make-no-waves crowd was far more upset over this than they’d ever been about the torture and murders of prisoners. Then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird (the same DC crapweasel who thought the Son Tay Raiders deserved no more than the Army Commendation Medal(!), at the time the service’s lowest award), quickly pulled the plug on the court-martials of the remaining seven collaborators.

Abel was one of only two former POWs to commit suicide in the five years following their release (the other guy was not one of the 8 collaborators).

After the Korean War, many more Americans had collaborated (two hundred-odd out of ~7,000 taken captive, of whom some ~2,500 were murdered in captivity) but very few were put on trial (the Army alone court-martialed collaborators, 15 of them, one of whom had murdered at least three fellow prisoners).  The other services dealt with a few cases of similar misconduct administratively.

In any event, it was always, and remains, extremely unlikely that the military would prosecute a prisoner/collaborator, no matter how egregious his misconduct. After all, in 1954, the court-martials of the Korean War collaborarors were expremely controversial; in 1973, court-martials were too controversial even to try; the nation is no more united, nor interested in martial values in 2014 than it was forty or sixty years ago.

So the fix is in for Bergdahl, but they won’t go public until after the election.

Don’t Take Our Word on Dry Fire. Take Keith’s.

Keith Sanderson, a reformed Marine, is a pretty good shot. Good enough to go to the Olympics. He doesn’t have any of the hooah tabs we got. He doesn’t have the hooah tab we haven’t got (Sapper). He’s got the tab that’s not so hooah, but that’s king of them all: the President’s Hundred tab. In these videos he doesn’t so much show you what he does, as he coaches you on how he got to be ranked #1 in the world, with minimal live fire (350-400 rounds total) in the 6 months prior to the two back-to-back World Cups he won.

There’s some good advice here. Do you know what you can get from dry-firing with your eyes closed? The first video will explain.

Shooting Practice at Home

This was shot on the range with a bunch of Marksmanship Unit students, so there’s a little wind noise, and an interruption when he busts a guy’s chops for having his cell phone out.

“I’m going to give you two drills that are the most important things youre ever going to do. One is dry fire…” The other is holding drills: one minute on, two minutes off, eight times a day, for seven days. (This cures the shakes from tiring holding up the pistol).

“Accept nothing but perfection.”

“Be intensely critical during dry fire; accept nothing but perfection. When you put bullets in your gun, you’re not critical any more: you’re just trying to do it as best you can.”

Dry Fire Practice

“Two types of drills I do for live fire: dry fire and holding drills.”

“My ratio of dry fire to live fire is 100 to 1. I cannot overemphasize the importance of dry fire.”

“You can never dry fire too much.”

“Never underestimate it. Never think that you’ve trained too much dry fire. And never think that you need to go out and shoot live rounds to get better. Because you don’t.”

Like we said, there’s a ton of wisdom here, and your tax dollars already paid for it (except for our overseas readers; our tax dollars paid for it, so you can have double the enjoyment).

What the Well-Armed ISIL ASIL is Shooting

car_ammo_Count on the guys from ISIL to have rounded up whatever they could get their mitts on, in the way of small arms and ammunition. And count on the guys from Conflict Armament Research, who have already done a report on ISIL small arms (.pdf), to round up a few of ISIL’s rounds and analyze them. From their report on ammunition (.pdf of course), a snapshot of their methodology:

[The report's] findings derive from a series of Conflict Armament Research (CAR) field investigations conducted in the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq and northern Syria 22 July–15 August 2014.

In Syria, the CAR investigation team worked alongside Kurdish People’s Protection Units
(YPG) to document ammunition captured during offensives against IS forces—primarily near Ayn al-Arab (Kurdish: Kobanê) and Ras al-Ayn (Kurdish: Serekanî). In Iraq, the team worked closely with Peshmerga forces loyal to the Kurdish Regional Government to document spent cartridges from captured IS positions.

This recovered M16A4 was made by FN for a US FMS contract. ISIL presumably captured it from the Iraqi Army.

This recovered M16A4 was made by FN for a US FMS contract. ISIL presumably captured it from the Iraqi Army. A previous Conflict Arms Research report covered small arms like this rifle. 

So that’s the good news: they got on the ground in this area, and collected what rounds they could, often soon after the ISIL forces were beaten out of an area (during the summer, when these reports were made, the Kurds were holding their own. More recently, they’re retreating). And from those rounds, they drew some interesting conclusions, such as these:

The sample includes ammunition manufactured in 21 countries during a period of nearly 70 years (1945–2014). The variety and age of ammunition used by IS forces indicates a large array of ammunition supply sources, which is attributable to the group having captured materiel during numerous engagements, and against various opponents, across Iraq and Syria. China, the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, and the United States (US) are the top three manufacturing states represented in the sample. Ammunition in service with Iraqi and Syrian defence forces is also significant in the sample.

The sources of ammunition with recent headstamps skewed differently from the overall numbers. Note how small the number of recovered rounds really us.

The sources of ammunition with recent headstamps skewed differently from the overall numbers. Note how small the number of recovered rounds really is.

Turkish 9mm ammo, fresh from the factory to the pistols of ISIL executioners. But by what route?

Turkish 9mm ammo, fresh from the factory to the pistols of ISIL executioners. But by what route?

Given the rounds reported here, the two most common probable sources for ISIL’s ammunition are battlefield recovery and the international arms market. Particularly interesting were quantities of ammunition from Sudan and Iran, both nations under embargo, at least, theoretically. But as the table above shows, it’s hard to draw inferences from the very low numbers of cartridges recovered — that includes a whopping 2 cartridges from Sudan and 10 from Iran, not a case you’d want to take in front of a judge. More interesting, perhaps, are the recoveries of recent 9mm ammunition from Turkey (illustration on right). Is Turkey actively supplying the ammo? They certainly won’t admit it, but the enemies of their enemy Bashar Assad includes all of ISIL and the other groups fighting to overthrow him — and Turkey’s AKP party shares some aspects of Islamism with the shadowy wannabe Caliph leading ISIL.

Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.

The 5.56 ammo seems to skew from the middle oughts, when the US was supplying prodigious quantities to the Iraqi security forces.

The 5.56 ammo seems to skew from the middle oughts, when the US was supplying prodigious quantities to the Iraqi security forces.

The Conflict Arms Research analysts also noted that they recovered a lot of crew-served ammunition, and not quite so much for individual weapons. Very little 7.62 x 39 was recovered, and the recoveries of 5.56 NATO ammunition were all in Iraq, not Syria.

CAR is an international anti-gun group; you won’t go far wrong by thinking of them as Bloomberg with international aspirations. But there is one place where they diverge from such American gun-rights opponents as Bloomberg: they try to report what they observe straight down the middle, rather than beat their findings to fit some preexisting political agenda. And they are doing what no one else who reports to the public will do: go to conflict scenes and actually observe what arms and ammunition are being used. National intelligence services do that, but they don’t generally issue public reports.

We can suggest explanations for some of CAR’s findings:

  • Captured small arms are being used opportunistically, perhaps sometimes by defectors to ISIL from their enemies. Thus, you’d expect recoveries in Syria to be biased towards calibers the Syrian military uses, and likewise for Iraq. There’s no reason to haul 5.56 rifles and ammo to Syria when there are no shortages of individual weapons in Syria. This is exactly the pattern CAR documented. Opportunistic battlefield recovery arms and ammo will generally be used near the scene of their capture.
  • It’s not surprising that they recovered more crew-served ammo than rifle ammo. When an army (even an irregular one) is in retreat, it and its members tend to ‘lighten ship.” It is much more common to see non-standard ammo and crew-served ammo discarded at this time; when guerrillas turn in ammunition on demobilization, they usually turn in a much higher percentage of crew-served than of individual weapons ammunition. Thus 7.62 x 54mm far outnumbered 7.62 x 39 in CAR’s analysis.
  • Some of the findings they make are just not justified by the amount of ammo captured, either as a matter of statistical probability, or simply as a matter of common sense. This is not a trivial complaint. Inferences were drawn from a single Russian 7.62 x 54mm casing, and from a total of two cases with Sudanese headstamps. There’s just not enough meat in those quantities to hang a solid theory on.

The Court of Last Resort

the court of last resortBefore that was an Innocence Project, long before, there was The Court of Last Resort. Erroneous and false convictions have always been anathema to lovers of justice, and one of those justice lovers was a man named Erle Stanley Gardner, a man who had two highly successful careers.

If you remember the name Erle Stanley Gardner today (a lot of people remember him erroneously as Earl), it’s probably because of his second career: as a writer of legal and detective dramas. He was a hugely prolific writer, turning in 66,000 words a week, ever since he began writing for pulp magazines for 1¢ a word. (Later, his stories would run in the solidly respectable Saturday Evening Post, and he’d be paid much better). His best-remembered legal dramas featured his most famous creation, crusading defense attorney Perry Mason, who invariably got the real murderer to confess on the stand, setting his innocent client free. Gardner’s first career was as a defense attorney, so there might have been some wish fulfillment in his writing.

Even people who have never read a word of Gardner’s writing know Perry Mason, from the black-and-white TV series of that name, featuring Raymond Burr in the title role, that ran for a decade, 1957-66, and closely followed the Gardner/Mason formula. Impossible defense case, innocent client, courtroom confession, roll credits. Gardner was credited and paid as creator of the series; we don’t know how much writing he did.

(The show was successful to the end; it only ended because Burr was tired of playing Perry Mason, and the next season he was back as a detective in a wheelchair in a series named Ironside, also a long-running hit, this time in color).

But what has all this to do with The Court of Last Resort? Patience. We’re getting there. Before we return to Gardner, and Mason, we will say that in law, the Court of Last Resort is the highest authority on a given case. It is where you appeal to just before you’re all out of appeals. For a criminal defendant, it’s the last legal hope before “toothbrush day” (or before, in Gardner’s era, having your execution scheduled). Hold that thought while we discuss Mason some more.

We haven’t read the whole canon, but doubt that Perry Mason ever had a guilty client, unlike, well, every other defense attorney there ever was. Gardner had been one of these attorneys, one of the old-school guys who learned as an apprentice to a lawyer, and never attended a day of law school. He had seen guilty men walk and innocent men clapped in irons, and as a true son of the Constitution, the latter case bothered him far more than the former. But for most of his life, he could do nothing about it. It was only when his writing, originally done simply to supplement the uneven pay of a trial lawyer, made him wealthy and famous that he could do something about it. Let’s let his bio at IMDB take the story from here [brackets denote our edits]:

As a lawyer, Gardner became the bane of the legal establishment when he helped co-founding The Case Review Committee (colloquially known as the Court of Last Resort), a professional association of concerned lawyers who sought to investigate and reopen cases wherein a person might have been wrongly convicted [of a] serious crime. Beside Gardner, other founders included LeMoyne Snyder, a physician and lawyer who write well-regarded homicide investigation text books; Dr. Leonorde Keeler, a pioneer and authority in the use of the polygraph in criminal proceedings; former American Academy of Scientific Investigators President Alex Gregory (another polygraph expert who replaced Dr. Keeler after his death) [and] renowned handwriting expert Clark Sellers; and former Walla Walla Penitentiary warden Tom Smith. The Mystery Writers of America bestowed its prestigious Fact Crime Edgar Award on Gardner in 1952, for his non-fiction book The Court of Last Resort (1957), which detailed one of the Court’s first investigations.

That anachronism is in the IMDB bio. Our copy is a paperback version, dated 1954. Along with the book, The Court of Last Resort generated a short-lived TV show, sort of a reality show before reality shows were cool. The show began with a reenactment of the crime at issue.

The most prominent case the Court was involved with was the murder conviction of Dr. Samuel Sheppard, who staunchly proclaimed his innocence of the murder of his wife. The Sheppard case provided the basis for the fictional The Fugitive (1963) TV show.) During the initial phases of the Sheppard appeal, Gardner polygraphed members of the Sheppard family. He had hoped if the results were favorable, he would then administer the lie detector test to Sam Sheppard himself. However, when Sheppard family members were tested, the polygraph results indicated guilty knowledge. Consequently Gardner declined to test Sam Sheppard, and the Court of Last Resort withdrew from the case, even though Gardner believed in Sheppard’s innocence. Sheppard was later freed by a Supreme Court decision that held that Sheppard had not gotten a fair trial due to pre-trial publicity that tainted the juror pool. The Supreme Court case was won by F. Lee Bailey, who also won acquittal for Sheppard during the subsequent retrial. Polygraph tests have never been allowed into evidence in a U.S. court due to their unreliability. Gardner ended his active membership in the Court of Last Resort in 1960. The Court – which conducted preliminary investigations of at least 8,000 cases — eventually disbanded.

Some time ago we came across a copy of a possibly never-read paperback of The Court of Last Resort. Its covers were stiff and is pages brown and brittle, but we had to read it. It is striking just how closely the efforts of the Court of Last Resort in the early 1950s parallels the efforts of the Innocence Project and other civil rights efforts today.

So that was Gardner, then: a California liberal who never wanted to jail anybody, and who probably blamed the guns? No, that wasn’t Gardner. He was as keen on seeing the guilty punished as he was on seeing the innocent exonerated. And far from blaming guns, he was an enthusiastic sportsman himself, and an early activist against nascent anti-gun efforts of the 1950s and 60s.

The Law that LeakedOne example of this activism was a short story, The Law that Leaked, that ran in the outdoor magazine Sports Afield in three consecutive issues beginning in September, 1950. Almost as long ago (2007), Random Nuclear Strikes (what a name for a blog!) scanned the appropriate pages of Sports Afield and made it available to 21st century outdoorsmen. RNS has an introduction to the series, and a post that collects links to all the posts. The story is a good one — imagine a slightly more believable Red Dawn, thirty-plus years ahead of time. (In fact, if you do read the story, you’ll wonder if it wasn’t in the back of John Milius’s mind).

It’s amazing to think that 64 years ago, Erle Stanley Gardner was fighting the malevolent forces of registration and confiscation, and 64 years later we’re still fighting a new generation of the bastards. (Note that the Dave Kopel post on his recommended ten 2nd Amendment books has been nuked from volokh.com, but you can find it in .pdf facsimile of its America’s 1st Freedom print version on Dave’s website).

Erle Stanley Gardner became rich and successful and admired — and he was a college dropout. He shaped a generation’s view of the law, and he never spent an hour in a law-school class. He shaped many an American’s view of the courts and the law, and generally in a positive way.

Finally, Gardner thought that civil rights were important — all civil rights. We know this not because of what he said, but because of what he did. He’s been gone now for decades, but deserves to be remembered — and for more than just Perry Mason.