What’s in Your Gun Safe? No, Besides the Guns?

We’ve discussed physical security a lot here, and have also discussed gun safes at some length. In the course of normal operations, things other than guns may come to lodge in your gun safe. This is, in general, not a good idea, unless the safe is a commercial safe, professionally installed, and therefore very difficult to brute-force open.

A typical gun safe can only trouble a burglar by imposing delay, inconvenience, and the necessity to break such noise and light discipline as burglars may possess. These things are still worth doing, but against this you must set the fact that you have consolidated a great deal of burglar bait in one place. There are things that we do not advise storing in a gun safe, and things other than guns that should be in your gun safe. Threee basic rules apply:

  1. Do not put anything in your gun safe that narrows your spread of risk.
  2. Do not put anything in your gun safe that increases the hazard (including humidity or fire hazards) to your guns.
  3. Do put things in your gun safe that make it easier to use, more secure, and less likely to damage your firearms.

Don’t Put This in There

  • Things like jewelry. They may be a hair safer than in your master bedroom (the first place that burgs generally hit) but they’re not all that safe, and does this mean that someone else is opening and closing your safe? Tell you what, check it now to see if she spun the dial when she closed it. We’ll wait.
  • With enough burglars and a few tools, they take the whole thing with them. You did bolt it down, right?

    With enough burglars and a few tools, they take the whole thing with them. You did bolt it down, right? And the inventory isn’t inside, is it?

    The only copy of the safe inventory. What if they boost the whole safe?

  • Important papers like a title deed, a will or power of attorney, citizenship or adoption papers, original DD214s. Or any papers at all. This is not because Cleofus the Wealth Redistribution Engineer will have any interest in your papers, unless one of them is an oxycodone prescription, but fire is another story. Your safe should contain nothing that’s more inflammable than the stocks of your firearms, or as little as possible.
  • Ammunition. More than one gun collection has been destroyed in a survivable fire because the ammo stockpiled in the safe reached combustion temp and let go. This doesn’t blow the safe up like a cartoon explosion, but it does burn up as much as the available oxygen supports. Keeping ammo in a separate, locked (and ideally, nondescript-looking) container is a capital idea. Ammo in a locked box is safe enough; it burns, and will not blow up. We like the metal job boxes you can get at home stores. We chain them to stuff to complicate the stealing thereof.

Do Put This In There

safe light

  • safe litA light, or two lights. A dark safe is a safe where the rust gremlins can get up to their magic. We like these: they’re cheap, and the batteries (AAA, not included) last a long time. To the right, there’s a shot of a safe with one side lit by one of these, and one not: it’s motion activated and stays on for a minute, unless you gesture. (You can also set it to work manually). Reading the reviews, there are two squawks with these el-cheapo Chinese made light units: (1), a significant number of them have the motion detection DOA, so buy it where you can return it. (They don’t croak after a while — either they’re born dead, or they work fine, right out of the bubble pack). Ours have worked fine. And (2), the provided attachment methods stink, which we can confirm by hands-on practice. The velcro is fine, but the adhesive on the velcro will not stick to your safe wall or shelves. Short fix with MDF or wood shelves: staple the velcro on. Right fix is to screw the retaining base on with wood screws, but the supplied screws are tiny and won’t do the job, either, so you’ll need screws of your own — with small and/or countersunk heads, or they’ll prevent the light from going on to its bracket at all. Because of the strength of the typical MDF shelf, we made pilot holes for the wood screws with a 5/64 drill in a drill press (but holding the work piece by hand; however, the press still ensures an orthogonal hole).
  • A rechargeable dehumidifier. The cheap way to do this is with a can of silica that you reheat every once in a while in the oven. If Herself does not like you monkeying with her oven, there are electric ones that plug in and recharge in a few hours. This unit is cheap (the same Chinese gadget is available with many brand names, at many prices).

Rechargeable safe dehumidifier

It’s also a good idea to have a dehumidifier in the room. In a basement, humidity can get very high (in ours, it’s routinely in the 70s) and a dehumidifier is available cheap and runs cheap, and keeps our basement sub 50, just with the factory settings. No fancy dehumidifier, just a WalMart special by “Haier,” which we assume means “Long March People’s Sweatshop No. 32767.” This dehumidifier removes about 7.5 gallons of water from the air down there in a 24 hour period. You can have a kid dump the bucket, or nowadays most dehumidifiers can run a hose right to your sump.

Before you do that, check operation of the sump pump(s).

The external dehumidifier reduces the burden on the internal one you put inside the safe.

A Century of Canadian Submarines

For a while there, it didn’t look like they’d make it, but our cousins to the north celebrate in August 2014 the centennial of the Canadian Submarine Force (which has had different names over the years; but what all the organizations and reorganizations have in common is Canadian crews and subsurface combat vessels). During the period Canadian naval officers call the “Decade of Darkness,” when political hostility to the sub force (and the Navy, really) combined with the budgetary realities of a nation of small population and vast coastlines, it really looked like there would be an end date to set against August, 1914. An ambitious plan to buy SSNs — nuclear boats, giving Canadians a sub-ice capability their Navy has never had — was torpedoed by budgetary realities and political opposition, either of which, alone, might have sunk it. The elderly Oberon-class subs would have been the end of the line, with submarines joining bombers, aircraft carriers, and cruisers as weapons systems the Canadian armed forces used to operate.

Instead, Canada lucked into a British policy decision that the Royal Navy would, for reasons of logistical and operational philosophy, take its sub fleet all-nuclear. And four spanking-new Upholder class modern diesel boats were being retired. The Royal Canadian Navy didn’t by any chance…? The hell they didn’t.

Of course, an immediate answer wouldn’t have been in keeping with Canadian politics, so there ensued nearly a decade of dithering (with enough drama that it actually makes an engaging book, Julie H. Ferguson’s Deeply Canadian: Subs for a New Millenium (note: the Google book link is to the 1st edition, the current Kindle edition is an improved 2nd)an excellent companion to  her Canadian sub history, Through a Canadian Periscope, which even covers Canadian proto-frogmen in the Royal Navy in WWII), but in the end, Canada said yes in 1998. They worked an incredibly clever lease-to-own deal that put the subs in Canadian hands for next to nothing: the price came in adapting the British boats to Canadian weapons and systems, which the Canadian submariners preferred. The Canadian-specific modifications have been more involved than initially appreciated, and one boat was a casualty almost immediately, spending a decade out of service after an onboard fire during its delivery voyage.

Canada’s submarine missions are familiar to any sub operator worldwide: anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, minelaying, and covert operations (including surveillance and intelligence collection, and SOF insertions, extractions and support). ASW has long been a specialty of the RCN, and her frigates and destroyers (and the large helicopters they embark) are among NATO’s best at that art. Stealthy diesel subs take that mission to another level, and their utility in special operations goes without saying.

CC1 and CC 2, lying in port.

CC1 and CC 2, lying in port.

The Royal Canadian Navy had barely stood up when the First World War forced it to dive into submarines. On 5 August 1914, the government, not of the Dominion of Canada, but of the province of British Columbia, purchased two submarines from a Seattle shipyard. The subs were given the utilitarian names: His Majesty’s Canadian Ships, CC 1 and CC 2. Since then, Canada has commissioned 13 more submarines, and Canadian officers and men served in British submarines from 1914 to 1965, as well as in the Canadian boats.

The story of the first Canadian boats is a remarkable tale. CC 1 and CC 2 were built in Seattle for the government of Chile, but the Chileans, whose government had changed since the order was placed, was reluctant to pay for them. JV Paterson, of the Seattle Construction and Drydock company, mentioned this to Canadian members when he was a guest at the establishment’s watering hole in Victoria, BC, the Union Club. The Canadians perked up: the British Commonwealth had only one elderly cruiser, HMCS Rainbow, and two armed sloops, HMS Shearwater and HMS Algerine, on the West Coast when war broke out. With the US still neutral, the German Far Eastern fleet had the Allies outgunned. Would Canada be interested…? The Canadians were, but the government in Ottawa couldn’t move quickly.

BC’s premier Sir Richard McBride was soon informed. An avalanche of telegrams ensued, involving Victoria, Ottawa, and London, but little could be accomplished in the few days remaining before the imminent outbreak of war and a resulting American embargo on the provision of war materials to combatants. In this crisis, McBride took a courageous decision to use provincial funds to get possession of the much-needed submarines before it was too late. On his own initiative he decided to advance the purchase price demanded, just over $1.1 million. This was an enormous sum, twice the annual budget for the entire RCN for 1913-1914.

There was still one more problem: the deal McBride cut with Patterson was illegal in the USA, under the terms of the American Neutrality Act. The Canadians met Paterson’s terms – twice the Chilean price, cash in advance – and spirited the boats out of Seattle in the dead of night. Paterson was good to his (expensive, it’s true) word, and traveled out on one of the boats for a hasty offshore inspection and acceptance by Canadian naval officers. The White Ensign went up, and despite the risks taken by all, the results came out well: Sir Richard McBride was reimbursed for his off-the-books expenditure of provincial cash (and a subsequent enquiry by a Royal Commission (.pdf) into “[t]erritorially widespread and voluminous accusations of wrongdoing” cleared him of any wrongdoing and commended his “patriotism, and conduct.” For his part, Paterson turned two white-elephant subs commissioned by a deadbeat buyer into a windfall for his shipyard and a $40,000 commission, a staggering sum in 1914. And the Canadian sub force, created in a special operation of sorts, was underway. With two modern subs, there was something to guard that long west coast.

From that day to this, the story of the Canadian sub fleet has been one of close scrapes, desperate straits, and challenges, and all have been met by pluck and imagination. And that’s just the budgetary and parliamentary end of it!

VADM Mark Norman, Commander of the RCN, made the following statement on the occasion of the anniversary:

For 100 years Canada has benefited from the stealth and lethality that only a submarine capability can contribute to the maritime security of a nation such as ours. As the most decisive capability in any naval fleet, submarines not only dominate the seas but provide unrivalled deterrence. The dedicated members of Canada’s ‘silent service’ operate in the most demanding and unforgiving conditions. They truly represent some of the very best of our fighting service. As we look ahead to the challenges of the coming decades, we do so in confidence, knowing that Canada has submarines. I wish all of our submariners, past, present, and future, my deepest appreciation and a heartfelt BRAVO ZULU!

The Oberons, which Canada operated from 1965-2000, were British-designed and -built boats; state of the art for 1960, they were a major British export success, with Australia, Brazil, and Chile also operating them. The Oberon has a distinct silhouette with a prow seemingly designed for surface operations, and a sonar dome or blister on top of the nose; none of the 27 is still in operation (only one was a casualty, sort of: Brazil’s Tonelero, which sank at its dock after retirement, worldwide, all are retired). Canada operated three Oberons, and received two additonal ex-RN boats, Olympus as a non-commissioned training aid, and Osiris, which was parted out to keep the three Canadian boats, HMCSes Onondaga, Okanagan, and Osiris, sailing. HMCS Ojibwa is a museum exhibit in Ontario, and Onondaga in Quebec. All Oberon operators, except now-all-nuclear Britain, now operate new classes of diesel boats.

Diesel boats are not the “obsolete technology” that Hyman Rickover would have you believe. For one thing, because they lack the nuc’s constant cooling-water requirement, they can be far more silent and stealthy. The Victorias, like the Oberons before them, were state of the art in silent running. Their stealth is also enhanced by their small size. Naturally, better stealth is better in almost all of the missions of a submarine.

HMCS Victoria. Note how much smaller she is than British or American boats.

HMCS Victoria. Note how much smaller she is than British or American boats.

The Victoria class (ex-Upholder) has had, as mentioned, seen some heavy sledding on its way to operational status. The four ships, now named after Canadian cities, are HMCS Victoria SSK 876, whose motto is “Expect no Warning,” HMCS Windsor SSK 877, “Silent Pride,” HMCS Corner Brook SSK 878, “We Rule the Sea,” and HMCS Chicoutimi SSK 879, “Maître du Domaine.” They were formerly the HMS Unseen, HMS Unicorn, HMS Ursula, and HMS Upholder, and were paid off by the Royal Navy mere years after their completion. Their Canadianization has actually taken as long or longer than their original construction; Canada insists on locally available equipment, some Canadian electronics which were developed in the Oberon-class boats, and prefers American-designed Mk48 torpedoes, also something they used in Oberon days.

Chicoutimi gets a lift. After years of repairs and refit, she commissions this year.

Chicoutimi gets a lift in 2005 or so. After years of repairs and refit, she commissions this year.

Corner Brook was damaged in an underwater grounding in 2011, and entered a drydock period this summer. Chicoutimi, the hard luck boat of the set, has not yet been commissioned in the RCN. The boat suffered an underway fire en route to Canada in 2004; an officer was killed and nine other submariners injured, and the boat was disabled and had to be towed back to England, making the journey to Canada as deck cargo on a heavy-lift ship. She was, however, repaired at the Canadian Sub Maintenance Group facility from 2010-2013, and is preparing for commissioning this year. The Canadian objective is to have three subs in commission and one in refit going forward, with bases on both Canadian coasts.

HMCS Windsor leaves Barrow, England in 2001, enroute to her new Canadian refit & mission.

HMCS Windsor leaves Barrow, England in 2001, enroute to her new Canadian refit & mission.

The Canadian subs and their crews have demonstrated remarkable capabilities; Windsor, the first to patrol, recently completed a very remarkable 174 days at sea. (Remember, these are diesel, not nuclear, boats). Windsor, in fact, only docked to repair a generator that could not be fixed at sea, or it might have accomplished the half-year. While the ships and crews have managed feats of endurance reminiscent of their allies’ nuclear boats, the diesel-electric sub, other things being equal, will always have the edge in stealth. Windsor, again, has demonstrated this by tracking an American fast-attack sub. During RIMPAC 2012, Victoria slammed a Mk 48 torpedo into a drifting target ship, the former USNS Concord, off Oahu, sending the target beneath the waves in 17 minutes. (The video below is only 2 minutes long, and silent).

Did you even know that Canada has a sub fleet? (As Ferguson writes, “Mention the Snowbirds… and they immediately know that you are talking about the Canadian air force. Mention HMCS Onondaga and you are met with a blank stare.”)

The sailors who fly Canada’s Maple Leaf (on those rare occasions they put up a flagstaff and make port) have come a long way from the sailors who raised the Dominion’s White Ensign on CC 1 a century ago, but they’re doing the tradition proud.

Cartel Grenades Explode Back into the News

Reanimated M67 training or dummy grenades recovered in Mexico.

Reanimated M67 training or dummy grenades recovered in Mexico.

From the equivalent of the “Early Bird” sent to Federal LEOs earlier this week:

MEXICAN CARTELS USING GRENADES. The International Business Times (UK) (8/18, 173K) reports that ICE officials have observed a “trend increase” in the use of grenades by Mexican drug cartels in recent months. James Phelps, an assistant professor in the Department of Security Studies and Criminal Justice at Angelo State University in Texas, is quoted saying, “The reason you’re seeing so many more [grenades] this year is because much more heavily-armed drug shipments are coming into the United States…With Border Patrol so heavily distracted doing paperwork and watching the mass flood of people coming into the country, they don’t have as much time to do what they used to do — drug interdiction.”

But wait: It’s Not News

The IBT article is here (it was linked in the original, too) but what struck us is not what’s new about this, but what isn’t. Customs and Border Patrol has been seizing grenades on the border for a long time. ATF has been tracking this since the nineties, and has been on it hot and heavy since the early oughts. We have access to a long-ago-leaked 2011 LES presentation on Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) use of both surplus and improvised grenades.

Texas_Improvised_Grenades.pdf

One interesting thing is that not all cartels have good sources of military grenades, hence the back-up of improv ‘nades.

Slide 1

Reports indicate that Los Zetas historically try to seek grenades from sources in Guatemala, due to their control of many areas in that country. The Gulf Cartel has historically attempted to acquire their grenades from Mexican military sources, whereas the Sinaloa Cartel has sought to acquire improvised grenades.

Sinaloa was supported to that end by the ATF’s gunwalking program, which included walking grenade components, as a sideline to the main project of walking guns. The military grenades that the cartels are swapping off tend to be leftovers from 80s and 90s unrest and insurgencies in Central America, plus the Mexican military’s ongoing loyalty problems. The ATF alleges that, “90% of grenades traced in Mexico are over 20 years old.”

grenades_seized_2010But grenades walked by ATF’s cats-paw Jean Baptiste Kingery were used in 2013, along with other weapons which may or may not have been ATF-walked, to murder three officers of the Jalisco State Police in the village of Tepatitlan.  According to an ATF Significant Incident Report by liaison officer Jonathan Ortiz in the Bureau’s Mexico City office, one of ten grenades was attributed positively to Kingery by the Mexican officers, based on unspecified “evidence,” with no information on the other nine available.  Here’s the SIR:

ATF SIR Kingery Grenade 20131010.pdf

Within days of the SIR’s transmission, CBS had a story about it by then-CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson (caution, autoplay video). It was kept off the evening news, but appeared on a morning show.

More grenades. In this case a mixed bag of reanimated M26 and M67, plus some GI M67s and 40mm rounds.

More grenades, seized by Mexican cops. In this case a mixed bag of reanimated M26 and M67, plus some GI M67s and 40mm rounds.

The history of the Kingery grenades is instructive. Kingery sourced his parts in the USA, then brought them to Mexico for final assembly and delivery. He was under ATF observation (although they thought he was under their control, a very different thing), from 2004 to 2010, when he made aliyah to his Sinaloa pals. He remains in Mexico; he was arrested there but ATF and DOJ has been remarkably uninterested in extraditing him.

The grenades, like the Iron River of ATF-sourced guns, were delivered to the cartels and to Mexico with the approval of Phoenix Group VII (SA’s Voth and McAllister inter alia), and the local US Attorney and an Assistant (Dennis K. Burke and Emory Hurley). The grenade-walking was also blessed by every layer of ATF and DOJ supervision. This included the Phoenix SACs and all management levels up to then-director Kenneth Melson and AG Eric Holder. Particularly responsible, apart from Voth and McAllister, were Phoenix field division SAC Bill Newell and Current Director Byron Todd Jones participated in the planning of the gun- and grenade-walking from his position in faraway Minnesota, as a trusted intimate of Holder.

The objective of the grenade-walking seems to have been to support the gunwalking; the intent of the gunwalking was to produce a series of crimes in Mexico that would justify new anti-gun laws and new powers for the ATF in the USA. The Mexican Government maintained plausible deniability on the operation. Several ATF agents pointed out the likely result: cops being killed in the USA and in Mexico, but those named managers were indifferent to the deaths; after Border Patrol officer Brian Terry was murdered by an ATF-furnished weapon, and first dozens, then scores, then hundreds, of Mexican lawmen were slain, David Voth was “giddy” over the bloodshed.

One wonders if Voth is still giddy, as more and more Mexican law officers keep getting deadened by his work product. (Like most gunwalking figures, except for Melson and Burke, Voth was promoted to HQ after the scandal broke).

How Do the Bad Guys Reload Grenades?

They start with training grenades. These grenades resemble the real thing, but produce a loud bang and a puff of smoke and zero fragmentation.  Because they have a fuze optimized to do that, no frag material (usually), and no filling. The grenades are reusable for training by simply discarding the old fuze and introducing a new one. To prevent too-easy conversion, and give the report of the fuze someplace to go, the training ‘nades have holes in them where the factory grenade has a thick welded-on or cast-in base plug. Training grenades also lack the internal fragmentation liner of most newer grenades (on the old Mk II “pineapple” grenade, fragmentation was supposed to be promoted by the scored lines, and the training grenade is similar to the frag, except for the extra bottom hole).

improvised_cartel_grenadesA normal defensive grenade like the M67, standard from the end of Vietnam on, has fragmentation material (often in a sleeve or liner) and a filling of high explosive (for an M67, Composition B). It has a fuze that contains a percussion cap and hammer mechanism to start the fuze train going, a delay element, and then a cap, gaine or booster which detonates with enough force to produce detonation in the relatively stable explosive filler.

The cartel-improvised grenades always lack the frag sleeve, and usually substitute black powder (or another easily manufactured low-explosive improvised filling) for the HE. (Technically, the difference between LE and HE is the velocity of the detonation front: in HE it is supersonic). As a result, they’re less effective than factory grenades, and are more like offensive grenades than defensive ones. A further result is that factory grenades are preferred to improvised grenades by most cartel sicarios. 

The following picture is from al-Reuters and was one of the illustrations used by the International Business Times in the story picked up by the DHS-DOJ Early Bird. Note that along with a Smith .357 and a Tec-9, this particular cartelitito, bagged in 2012, had nine M67s, three M26s, and eight Mk IIs. Oh, and an M72A2 LAW. These weapons appear to be almost all factory, not improvised (note the safety clips on the spoons of the M67s, something rarely seen on improvised ‘nades).

weapons-seized-zetas-cartel-reutersJust to remind everybody: Mexican law enforcement thinks this kind of thing is caused by the 2nd Amendment, and if we had the strict gun bans that they have, we’d live in a paradise, like they do.

Why Is It In The News Now?

If the cartels’ ‘nades are an old story, why are they in today’s news? For instance, in:

We don’t know for sure, but this sudden reanimation of an undead necrostory from years ago suggests that its battlefield prep by regulators, the administration, and their junior varsity in the media. It suggests an anti-dummy-grenade legislative or, more likely, regulatory initiative is in the works.

The ATF has eased its focus on gunwalking, but it’s never given up its desire for more authority. So you’ll see a spate of stories like those linked above, then editorial calls to unthinking action: Act Now! For the Children! They will certainly never admit that these criminals have these weapons (all, you will note, US military issue weapons) because the US furnished weapons to nations and insurgents with rotten inventory control, and definitely don’t want to mention ATF’s role in gunning up los sicarios. They are unlikely to give up their underpants-gnome theory of criminal organization takedowns, but are still stuck on the bit where the enhanced criminal organization commits more crimes.

OT: The Medicare Wheelchair Scam

After the accident, Felipe was determined to make it back to cruise night.

After the accident, Felipe was determined to make it back to cruise night. Fortunately, Medicare bought him a powered wheelchair.

An absolutely fantastic report at The Washington Post goes into depth about a long-running Medicaid fraud — and the feeble attempts by the .gov to stop it. It reminds us that the incompetence and cupidity of the VA doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it’s the norm of DC agencies. Any expectation for them, other than failure, probably isn’t reasonable.

This summer, in a Los Angeles courtroom, [scam participant turned prosecution witness] Bonilla described the workings of a peculiar fraud scheme that — starting in the mid-1990s — became one of the great success stories in American crime.

The sucker in this scheme was the U.S. government. That wasn’t the peculiar part.

The tool of the crime was the motorized wheelchair.

The wheelchair scam was designed to exploit blind spots in Medicare, which often pays insurance claims without checking them first. Criminals disguised themselves as medical-supply companies. They ginned up bogus bills, saying they’d provided expensive wheelchairs to Medicare patients — who, in reality, didn’t need wheelchairs at all. Then the scammers asked Medicare to pay them back, so they could pocket the huge markup that the government paid on each chair.

A lot of the time, Medicare was fooled. The government paid.

Since 1999, Medicare has spent $8.2 billion to procure power wheelchairs and “scooters” for 2.7 million people. Today, the government cannot even guess at how much of that money was paid out to scammers.

Now, the golden age of the wheelchair scam is probably over.

But, while it lasted, the scam illuminated a critical failure point in the federal bureaucracy: Medicare’s weak defenses against fraud. The government knew how the wheelchair scheme worked in 1998. But it wasn’t until 15 years later that officials finally did enough to significantly curb the practice.

This is one where you really ought to Read The Whole Thing™. And watch the video, which isn’t simply a duplication of the text. Investigative reporter David Fahrenthold, definitely a talent to watch, has really done a fantastic job on this (many other Post reporters and support staff seem to have helped, too).

When they cover our subject, the press usually stink. And when they try to cover for government agencies, they usually stink. But once in a while you see a story like this that is a little glimmer of what newspapers used to be.

From Nimitz to Numbnuts: RIF Poison Pills in Action

You're Fired!

Wake up, Bumstead! You’re Fired!

Thanks to all who read the post on the Army’s Officer Retention Board and the way the ongoing Reduction In Force is being used to shape a New Model Army (sorry, Ollie) of knob-polishing yes-men (and -women, and -people-of-no-fixed-gender-identity. “Progress” is… interesting, and it’s a damned good time to be retired).

We thought we’d follow up with links to a couple stories of individuals whose careers were terminated by the same Poison Pill — long past alcohol-related incidents.  One is a combat-decorated (Purple Heart) Army officer sacked by this exact ORB. The other, illustrating that this is not an Army or officer corps problem alone, is a Marine NCO with the Silver Star Medal, which is awarded for “gallantry in action, while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.”

We have expressed concern that this ongoing, all-services RIF would, if badly managed, have results like the disastrous post-Vietnam RIF. More and more that is looking like a best case scenario. Post Vietnam, there were still places off the books for the warriors to hide (one of those was Special Forces). Nowadays those bolt-holes have also been brought under the purview of the personnel mismanagers. While the Army officer below is a case where there’s a colorable argument on both sides, the Marine NCO case is the sort of “own goal” we see more and more.

An Army Officer Tells His Tale

The first, a former Army officer’s letter published by the genially anti-military reporter Tom Ricks, tells the human story of one of these “rejects.”

I was selected for the recently convened Officer Separation Boards for the Department of the Army for a mistake over eight years ago. The mistake was a DUI in which I received a General Officer Memorandum for Record in 2006. Since this incident, I strived for excellence in every job that I performed.

I trained soldiers for deployments to Iraq as part of the surge into theater from 2006-2008. From 2008-2011, I attended and completed Ranger School, Air Assault School and earned the Expert Infantryman Badge. I commanded troops in combat in Afghanistan where I earned the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Purple Heart for actions against a determined enemy in RC East. After the deployment, I was selected as the executive officer for the deputy commander for the Combined Arms Center of Training at Fort Leavenworth serving in the capacity as the daily assistant for a general officer. The following year I was selected among a field of majors to attend the Commanding General and Staff Officer College at Fort Leavenworth, as well as the school of advanced military studies. Both prestigious institutes serve as the educational nexus for field-grade officers. Upon graduating from SAMS in May 2014, I was notified that I would not receive an assignment due to being assessed as high risk the GOMAR in my restricted file.

The officer in question, Major Charles V. Slider, was ejected from the Army this summer.

Slider also notes:

[M]y interpretation of this entire process is that it involved no critical thinking…. the board process chose individuals for elimination that met all of the requirements, but possessed one black mark. …. This created a system in which officers were selected based on a mistake rather than their overall contribution to the Army. One lapse in judgment does not constitute a pattern of misconduct, nor a judgment of overall character.

I believe that we should be judged on our body of work, not one isolated incident.

Usually Ricks is not worth reading, but in this case he just stepped back and gave his pen to Maj. Slider. Slider is clearly very upset (enough that it’s affected his grammar). Do Read The Whole Thing™. Read the comments too, most of which tend to be along the lines of: “F him, he got a DUI, *I* never did that because I maintain laser focus on my career 24/7.” (That cheeser must be a real delight to serve under). One unwritten subtext to the moralizing is that Army officers are disproportionately members of certain abstemious sects and religions, some of which encourage them to attempt, by fair means or foul, to make their religion your religion too. It’s not the enormous problem that militant atheist Mikey Weinstein (who would like to make his lack of religion your religion, too) makes it out to be, but it’s there.

One commenter also noted that black officers (like Slider, did we mention that about him? Probably not) were more likely to be binned by OSBs than whites, and one of the organization-defenders demanded data. It’s actually in the slides: “too much” melanin doubles your chances of being bilged. This is probably, given the crude and mechanistic way the OSB was just a purging of men with a black mark, just because minority officers are more likely to have one of the Four Poison Pills. (As did Slider: the GOMOR).

An Enlisted Marine’s Experience with a Poison Pill

Jesus says youre firedWhile dismissing Slider can be defended on several grounds, the next case seems to be the Marine Corps, which is mistakenly thought to be a smarter institution than the Army, actively rejecting an NCO who is a model to his subordinates (and to those of his superiors who are alert).

As a rule of thumb, things that are career killers in the white-glove world of the officer corps have been less so in the enlisted world: second chances are real there, and a guy can soldier his way out of a junior screwup. But just in the way that pointless, ticket-punch and content-light “schools”  have seeped down into the NCO corps, the “zero defects” system of personnel-management has done so as well. Consider Frank:

Frank… selflessly exposed himself to blistering enemy fire to search for targets with his MK 11 sniper rifle in order to alleviate pressure on the Marines in the kill zone. Frank was able to positively identify an enemy fire team moving through the trench to flank the Marines in the kill zone with three RPGs, an RPK and a PK machine gun. With no regard for his personal safety, Frank ignored the fire being directed at his position, controlled his breathing, relaxed, and began engaging targets.

Frank destroyed two RPG gunners with rounds to the head and another with a round to the sternum. In return, an enemy machine gunner targeted him with long barrages of machine gun fire that impacted within a foot of his position. Frank made corrections for wind and distance and killed him with a single round to the torso. At this point the RPK gunner attempted to break contact but Frank was able to strike him down with a round from his MK 11 before he reached cover, killing him with his second round.

Still under intense enemy small arms and machine gun fire, Frank observed enemy fighters reinforcing the trench line from compounds to the north, targeting his fellow Marines who were pinned down in the trench to his east. He engaged fourteen enemy combatants with fourteen rounds, wounding two, mortally wounding another eight and killing four outright.

Frank repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire with no regard for his personal well-being during a decisive point in the battle to effectively neutralize and destroy twenty one enemy combatants. He continued to engage and destroy enemy targets as our platoon surged forward in a vicious counter attack that drove the Taliban from the battlefield after inflicting over a hundred casualties on the enemy. He was later awarded the Silver Star for the exceptional heroism he displayed in this battle.

What a great story right? Here is the punch line. While most of you are probably wondering when this exceptional Marine will become Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, you may be surprised to find out that he is being forced out of uniform. Frank has reached service limitations because he has been on active duty over ten years and the Marine Corps will not promote Frank to Staff Sergeant. Does that make any sense to anyone else? I certainly can’t make any sense of it. I forgot to mention a small detail. Frank used to have a bit of a drinking problem.

Frank racked up two alcohol incidents, was reduced from Sergeant to Corporal, and went to rehab and dried out — six years ago. Been dry ever since, got his Sergeant stripes back, but in today’s zero-defects USMC the man who fought in that engagement described above — and that’s far from his only one, you must Read The Whole Thing™ — is not what they’re looking for.

Now, imagine this: you are a Marine officer preparing an element to deploy, who has been granted, by the beneficent shade of Chesty, a boon no Marine officer gets: you can choose your gunny rather than take the one hand-receipted to you by the Corps. Your two options are, a guy who has never transgressed, and whose membership in an approved abstemious sect keeps him from being any kid of a DUI risk, or Frank.

The Marines chose the other guy.

Future Marines will suffer the consequences of that decision. But that’s the way all the services roll, these days; the Marines were merely the last bastion of warrior-hood to fall to the tea drinkers.

It means that the service, then, is more and more like a Turkish water-pipe full of opium: the more you suck, the higher you go. As a result, first-time screwups (especially officer screwups) happen at higher and higher levels. What used to be the tolerable 2LT dumbs is now the rather more consequential COL or BG dumbs. And instead of mentors and confident subordinates to keep him straight, that senior officer has, careerlong, been surrounded by superiors he has toadied to and juniors who toady to him, and who would sooner walk the plank than utter a word that might be taken as criticism of their lord and master.

There’s a lot of bullshit from the personnel managers about how they consider “the whole man” during the 3.5 seconds an officer or NCO’s file is on their desk. It’s bullshit designed to cover for a mechanistic system that produces mediocrity (at best). In a centralized system, all the incentives are for a mechanical, quantifiable, check-the-box approach, and mirabile dictu, that is what we get. In a decentralized system, which has not existed, perhaps, for a century, we get whining (from the same toadies who excel under the current system) that it’s not faiiiiir.

Note Nimitz's grade when he autographed this picture of DD-5 USS Decatur.

Note Nimitz’s grade when he autographed this picture of DD-5 USS Decatur.

Once, a young naval ensign recovered from career damage after being convicted at court-martial of “hazarding his ship.” It was an open-and-shut case: the overconfident young man had run USS Decatur aground, nowadays such a career killer than some officers shrink from shiphandling. This took place, mind you, 107 years ago. You know him as Adm. Chester Nimitz; the Navy of a century past didn’t see a problem with  Today’s armed services have concluded they need no Nimitzes and more numbnutses.

This is What Happens When You Call the Cops!

This is what happens when you call the cops — you get your rights violated and you all get shot. Rap video, so it’s not to everyone’s taste. (It’s good as rap goes, though: catchy).

Never heard of this guy, Rob Hustle or his co-star Liv. But then, rap isn’t exactly our world. He actually looks like a guy named Rob we served with in 20th Group — not a very likely candidate for rap stardom.

We posted this because the Seabrook cops we’ve covered before have a starring role (they’re the ones bouncing a suspect off the concrete block wall). In their defense, what the video doesn’t show is that the 6’2″, 140-lb doper kid was trying to spit on the 6’7″, 270-something-lb cop, which makes his Come-to-Jesus meeting with Officer Cinderblock a little more understandable, if not exactly justifiable. Mind you, the union is holding this (and the following coverup) out as model police work, but that’s what cop unions do — stand up for the bad cops and dirtbags. On the other hand, the media will never tell you the kid was alternating between being compliant and spitting on the cops (although the report that’s available at the Weaponsman link does say that, if you read it. Which most of the media must not have done).

Anyway, we liked the video, and we’ll still call the cops if we need ‘em. Although maybe not in New Jersey.

Hat tip, Clark at Popehat.

2nd Amendment Writer Howard Nemerov Hangs Up his Pen

You had to read to the end of Howard Nemerov’s recent column on the primary victory of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to learn that Howard, whose writing has been entertaining and informing the gun culture from a position at Pajamas Media since 2010, is calling it quits:

On this high note, I’d like to thank you for reading my columns over the years. I almost lost an important business contact over my Second Amendment writing. Due to many business factors, I’m discontinuing my journalistic endeavors. I don’t like the political aspect of this decision, but it’s clear that writing isn’t going to provide the income stream I need to secure our finances, though it risks thwarting that goal.

Well, a wise man once said, “No one but a fool wrote, except for money.” And so it doesn’t work, without enough money. We wish Howard success in pursuing the money; we fools will try to hold up the writing end.

He notes that his signature data-driven articles were not rocket surgery:

Perhaps somebody else can step in and do research like I did. It’s a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Here’s what they said.
  2. Here’s what the data says, provided by the same government we’re told will protect us if we disarm.
  3. If they continue pushing their agenda despite the overwhelming evidence that they’re…uh, mistaken…can we trust they’re telling the truth that we’ll be safer?

Like many in the gun culture, Howard initially started out on the other side:

I began over a decade ago because I was one of those well-meaning liberals who believed the propaganda that we’d be safer in a disarmed society. I believed that gun owners were the problem. I believed that the Brady Campaign were the good guys.

Then, at the behest of a law enforcement client, I set out on my own research journey. I learned that gun control is both racist and sexist in its impact on the real people who have to live in disarmed societies. That offended my liberal sensitivities: I was outraged. So I began to write, first for small local sites, and then for progressively large sites. PJ Media was kind enough to hire me to write features in 2010, and it’s been a good run.

via The PJ Tatler » Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Wins Primary.

One wonders if he is related to the late Howard Nemerov, WWII pilot and poet, author of The War in the Air:

Seldom the ghosts come back bearing their tales
Of hitting the earth, the incompressible sea,
But stayed up there in the relative wind,
Shades fading in the mind,
Who had no graves but only epitaphs
Where never so many spoke for never so few:
Per ardua, said the partisans of Mars,
Per aspera, to the stars.
It is worth finding, to read the whole thing; that is perhaps half.

Army: Screw Congress, we’re all in on new camo. Again.

operational-camouflage-patternHey, just because some dumb Congressmen passed a law saying no more bottomless flow of money so that every new service chief can play GI Joes with his troops, doesn’t mean the Army has to follow the law. They’re adopting a new camouflage called the Operational Camouflage Pattern or OCP. It looks a lot like the old OEF Camouflage Pattern or … OCP… but it’s different for reasons we will explain.

After an extensive and long lasting camouflage improvement effort, the U.S. Army has decided to adopt the new Operational Camouflage Pattern as a replacement for the Universal Camouflage Pattern popularly known as UCP. The Army Combat Uniform will still be utilized with the new OCP Pattern. The new pattern is known as Scorpion W2, but will be named OCP for official purposes. Uniforms will start being issued in the Summer of 2015.

via Blog.

The original OCP is a knock-off of Crye Multicam, which is a copyrighted design. The Army wanted to adopt Crye Multicam, but didn’t want to pay Caleb Crye. So they made a couple of small changes in the new OCP, and they won’t. As you can see when you embiggen MSG OCP above (doesn’t he look like the guy in Heartbreak Ridge who says, “Me an’ the Major is buildin’ an eeee-light fightin’ force!”), it’s pretty indistinguishable from Multicam.

But it was redesigned by Army lawyers to screw over its actual designer. Niiiice.

Not very ethical, but you know the guys who made this decision gave each other top OERs. The Peacetime Army is fully upon us.

Now We See It! Taurus 85VTA

One gimmick of the new Taurus 85VTA View, as the last word in its model name suggests, is transparency: the tiny, ultralight personal defense revolver has a clear plastic sideplate letting you see what goes on inside. The other gimmick is size and weight: it has barely any of either, thanks to judicious selection of materials and relentless trimming of its barrel and grip.

85VTA

Nope, not actual size. And if you click to embiggen, that’s way bigger than actual size….

“Trimming” may not be the word. It’s more like what’s-his-name the chain-saw movie guy was turned loose on one of Taurus’s Chief’s-Special-sized five-shot .38s, hacking off a half inch of barrel and an inch of grip.

The barrel is a mere 1.41 inches of titanium, and the cylinder is made of the same material, for some of the same reasons it made up most of the structure of the SR-71. The frame is aluminum alloy. The hammer is bobbed — the gun is double-action only — and plated with a gold-colored metal; the trigger is polished stainless steel. The sideplate, made of the same polycarbonate that’s best known by its DuPont trademark name, Lexan, seems to be more a marketing gimmick than an effort at weight reduction. The gun has no sharp or even crisp edges to flag its shape or snag on anything. The exotic materials and expected low-rate production of the revolver make for a pretty high price: an SRP of $600, and they’re trickling into shops and to online retailers with asks from a low of $500 to $585. (These may ease once the gun becomes more common),

One 85VTA View feature that doesn’t show up in any other Taurus (yet) and can’t be seen in the factory pictures is the asymmetrical curve of the gun’s Manx-cat grip. Looked at from nose- or tail-on, the grip has a bend to the left to assist concealment for a right-handed carrier. It looks awkward, but isn’t; you don’t really notice it when drawing or firing the revolver.

As a pocket pistol, it can’t be imported from Taurus’s Brazilian homeland under the Gun Control Act of 1968. Instead, it’s made in the USA, in Miami.

85VTA-2

Taurus revolvers have a reputation for being prone to wear and difficult to service when they develop the timing problems that all worn revolvers eventually do. Compounding the company’s reputation for so-so quality, Taurus has earned a poor reputation for warranty service. But no one will put thousands of rounds through one of these.

For one thing, it’s too unpleasant to shoot. The DAO trigger is okay, and the gun is more accurate than a belly gun really needs, but the barely-over-a-half-pound weight (9.4 ounces to a Chief’s Special’s 19.5) and ultra-short barrel (even the Chief’s got 1.875″ to the Taurus’s 1.4″) produce hand-hammering recoil and impressive fireballs when fired at night.

(Like a Chief’s Special, the 85VTA is not approved for .38 Special +P rounds. The Taurus manual, which is shared among all Taurus revolvers and not specific to the model, contains dire warnings of the hazards of +P ammunition, and outright forbids the use of so-called +P+ in all Taurus revolvers. Unlike the Chief’s Special, where we know of many people who have blithely ignored this restriction, we can’t imagine anyone stuffing +Ps in the featherweight Taurus).

Also, the short grip leaves you with a couple fingers of your gun hand dangling in the air, like a self-conscious bricklayer at a tea party. Not optimum when the .38 Special’s recoil slams the little Taurus into your hand whilst snapping it urgently skyward. This is one bull that has a spectacular kick on the opposite end of its horns.

If you want to develop calluses on your palms, firing a half-dozen boxes of ammo out of this in one session may or may not be easier than hard manual labor. But if you want to develop a flinch, that’s just the ticket.

So, if it’s an unpleasant beast to shoot, why make it? Ah, because someone at Taurus understands some basic home truths about carry guns:

  1. One you don’t carry is no damn good to you.
  2. The smaller and lighter, the easier it is to carry.
  3. The simpler it is, the less there is to go wrong.
  4. Most people don’t drill much with their carry or backup piece.

Gee, those imperatives almost look like they’re drawing a set of design parameters for an ultra-small, ultra-light .38 revolver, one with a simple manual of arms, and few protrusions to snag on anything.  The sights are rudimentary, but this gun was not made for pursuing X-rings, even though it’s surprisingly accurate, shot from a rest, something it will never have if it is called on to do its duty. It was meant to solve pressing social problems at contact range, and to be borne throughout the activities of daily living for 10,000 hours without intruding on the carrier’s lifestyle for even a moment.

The 85VTA View is, even to a lover of the sort of mechanism the polycarbonate sideplate displays, not an aesthete’s firearm. It is optimized for the role of daily carry (or daily backup) firearm, and the bob job applied to it, along with the homely plastic grips and industrial-grade finish, invite you to neglect it like a red-headed stepchild. Its form follows its function, and it has all the eye appeal of a garden trowel, floor jack, or Sawzall: it’s a tool.

But What’s That in the Punchbowl?

For all that, there is one detractor from Taurus’s purposeful design, and that is the lawyer-designed Taurus Security System, a key-operated hammer lock that prevents the weapon from firing when engaged. While we’ve only heard one credible report of a Taurus revolver’s lock failing, we consider any lock a Really Bad Idea. Taurus’s lock has taken a lot of criticism because S&W’s lock is really, really bad; if you spend one day a week at a range, you’ll see a Smith lock fail at least once a year, sometimes in really hazardous ways. No one should ever carry a S&W revolver with the S&W internal revolver lock for self-defense. We will faintly praise the Taurus lock in that, unlike Smith, whose then-owners had lawyers design their lock without engineering input as a wet kiss to the Clinton Administration, Taurus seems to have run their lock brainstorm through Engineering before cutting metal, making Taurus’s “rare failures” actually, you know, rare. 

The locks appeal to customers as a (pseudo) method of child-proofing guns, and are required in some anti-gun jurisdictions. One serious problem is that the locks can apply themselves (the design of the Smith lock almost guarantees this will happen in high-recoil revolvers).  Again, this is rare on Tauruses, but has happened. Note that Taurus’s lawyers, the same soulless drones who injected this bit of legal CYA into gun design, take pains to disclaim any promise that the lock will actually work. From the manual (p.14):

 

Never fully rely on any safety or security mechanism. It is not a substitute for safe and cautious gun handling. No safety or security mechanism, however positive or well designed, should be totally trusted. Like all mechanical devices, the safety or security system is subject to breakage or malfunction and can be adversely affected by wear, abuse, dirt, corrosion, incorrect assembly, improper adjustment, repair, or lack of maintenance.

Moreover, there is no such thing as a safety which is “childproof” or which can completely prevent accidental discharge from improper usage, carelessness or “horseplay”.

 

That is the company saying, “we don’t guarantee our lock will work, and we sure don’t stand behind it.” It makes you wonder what they know that you don’t know.

So, given that even Taurus doesn’t trust their lock, what use is it? We would leave that as an exercise for the reader, but first, we note that while actual failure of the lock, either “open” or “closed,” is a serious problem and one that Taurus takes pains, as we’ve just seen, to disclaim any responsibility for, it’s not the most serious or the most likely failure mode with such a lock. The most likely failure mode is either of the two human-factors failure modes that result from having the human in the loop: either leaving the gun available when you want it locked (i.e. to prevent child access) or leaving the gun locked when you want it available (in a defensive situation). Taurus wants no piece of that responsibility, either. From the manual, p. 10:

WARNING

Securing your firearm may inhibit access to it in a defense situation and result in injury or death.

So, what good is the lock?

Fortunately, it can be easily removed (and unlike the S&W abortion of a lock, which leaves an unsightly hole in the sideplate, it can be done with little trace the lock was ever there).

Note that this may become in issue if you ever find yourself in a civil suit after a defensive gun use, or especially in civil or criminal cases you may face consequent to an accidental discharge. This is very much a case where Big Boy Rules are in effect, and removing a locking mechanism, even an unsafe one like the Smith version, is one of those “catch-me, f*** me” rules: if circumstances lead some to catch you, they may well you-know-what you with the proverbial barbed-wire condom. (A healthy fear of our litigious society is why many smiths will now no longer do the once-standard safety improvements of removing the cavalry-mandated grip safety on the 1911, and brain-damaged European magazine safety on the Browning Hi-Power). Here’s Massad Ayoob on just this:

I did not remove the internal lock, for the simple reason that I’ve seen a prosecutor raise hell about a deactivated safety device when trying to establish the element of recklessness that is a key ingredient in a manslaughter conviction. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the defendant was so reckless that he DEACTIVATED A SAFETY DEVICE ON A LETHAL WEAPON, and so arrogant that he thought he knew more about the gun than the factory that made it!” That’s a mountain I’d rather not have to climb in court, nor debate in front of twelve jurors selected in part by opposing counsel for their lack of knowledge of firearms.

Ayoob recommends that, if you do disable a lock, you save all the information you can find on lock failures in case you ever need to defend against that kind of thing. (If Ayoob’s case is the one I’m thinking of, it was a blocked grip safety on a 1911, but he clearly sees the same risk coming up if someone removes one of these bad revolver locks).

Apart from the lock, which at least is not as bad as Smith’s My First Gun Design version, the Taurus 85VTA View is a pretty good set-it-and-forget-it carry gun. If it did not have the lock we would recommend it for a carry or backup gun, with decent (non +P!) .38 HP loads. We would insist on the proviso that it be fired for familiarization annually and an analogous but heavier and less punishing gun be used for regular practice. We cannot recommend any firearm with a key or combination lock of any kind as a defensive weapon: it’s false security.

UPDATE

For more on just how craptastic the Smith lock is, even giving all possible sympathy to Smith, read this thorough exploration by Chris at LuckyGunner. We’re much more willing to call an Arc Light on the S&W revolver lock than Chris is, but he does hit the high points and links to some pretty credible guys (Michael Bane, Grant Cunningham, etc.) who’ve seen Smith locks do that thing they do.