Monthly Archives: March 2014

ATF, Ballistics, and a plaque to be proud of

Typical NIBIN workstation

Typical NIBIN workstation, the IBIS scope.

Here’s something that the ATF has done that we all can applaud and support: it honored Allegheny County, PA (think Pittsburgh) for making a 2,500 “hits” in the NIBIN ballistics database.

According to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association (FLEOA) website, Pittsburgh SAIC Sam Rabadi of ATF presented a plaque to the county for the county Medical Examiner’s Office’s Firearms and Toolmarks Section near-record “hit count.” A “hit” is a match between an investigational projectile, casing or toolmark, and one in the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). This lets investigators match recovered guns to unsolved (or solved) crimes, to determine which of multiple shooters fired wounding or fatal gunshots, to support prosecutions and even to clear innocent suspects.

NIBIN is less used in ATF’s pursuit of paperwork violations and technical crimes, but is crucial to Federal and local cops in solving violent crimes. Rabadi noted, “NIBIN is instrumental in linking shooting incidents from recovered ballistics evidence in efforts to identify and remove violent trigger pullers from our neighborhoods.”

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald notes that only New York and Chicago have recorded more hits in NIBIN than Allegheny County. Maybe it’s because they’re gun-free zones?

Let’s Get Down to Cases, or One Case


Arika Hainsworth’s murderer was brought to justice thanks to ballistics evidence. Her sons have that, at least.

While the ATF release, the FLEOA release, and the county release all celebrated the achievement, none of them records the actual benefit of a specific case. Here’s one to consider.  The 2011 Arika Hainsworth case was a tragic event: a police-gang shootout, with multiple shooters on both sides spraying 40 or more shots, left a 21-year-old mother of two young boys dead of a single gunshot wound. The police insisted the shooter must have been a gang member, because the police aimed their shots. “Community Organizers” insisted the shooter must have been a cop, because racism.

As Dr Karl Williams, the county ME, put it, “The obvious question with multiple guns being fired is what was the origin of that bullet? What gun did it come from?”

Because of the relative position of the criminals (second floor, shooting down and through windows) and the angle of the bullet that killed Ms Hainsworth, the slug was probably from one of the gangbangers. Spectrum analysis matched glass powder on the slug’s nose with the crime scene windows. Then, the bullet’s distinctive marks were compared to the guns recovered from the gangbangers, and the guns used by the police.

Hit. That hit identified the murder weapon exactly, and put one Amir Ferguson behind bars, convicted by a jury of his peers of Arika Hainsworth’s murder. Now this was a local hit and could have been done without NIBIN, but imagine if the Pittsburgh PD hadn’t caught Ferguson and recovered his gun on this scene, but six months from then he got bagged on a traffic stop in Johnstown. He’d go into the system there for gun possession — until his gun was compared to ballistic evidence in open and closed criminal cases, using NIBIN.

In the current budgetary environment, the ATF and Congress have been cutting back on NIBIN, in part because the proprietary workstations installed in the 1,000-odd NIBIN client agencies cost the agency a lot of money to maintain. Yet this is the sort of basic blocking-and-tackling of police work where ATF resources can, as SAIC Rabadi notes, lay the long arms of the law on those bad-guy trigger pullers and lock them up, with cases built on solid physical evidence. Senior ATF leaders prefer to conduct high-profile, press-oriented stings and short-term undercover operations (although they do a crappy job of backing up their UCs when they come in from the cold). But here’s an ATF operation that ought to be a no-brainer for the agency’s leaders and the agency’s sometimes opponents in the gun culture and industry to join hands and support.

ATF’s PR flacks, who spend most of their time writing reports for the handful of reporters willing to be spoon-fed that way (Richard Serrano, LA Times, come on down!) really missed a chance to use this presentation to highlight some of the actual violent crimes solved by NIBIN hits.

AmmoGrrl’s “Thoughts from the ammo line”

Ammo StockpilePowerLine is a mostly political, legal and cultural blog started by three middle-aged lawyers. They manage to keep an interesting balance of stuff, but when they talk about guns, it’s almost always in the legal-case or political context. We were amused to see what we hope is a new feature in the blog, occasional reports from Susan “AmmoGrrl” Vass, who’s an actual comedienne, which is rare, and a funny one, which is vanishingly rare. And a regular shooter, so how rare is that combination?

In any event, she reports on the diversity of her new village in AZ, compared to her old pied-a-terre in Minnesota, which was as white as you might expect (“diverse” people have more sense than to endure -20ºF winters?), including the diversity of the folks in the ammo line. First, though, why’s everybody so happy?

My dusty little village in Arizona is the most diverse place I have ever lived. There’s obviously so much intermarriage that people no longer fit neatly into Census Bureau boxes. But, you’ve got your Native-Americans; you’ve got your African-Americans; you’ve got your Latinos, many of them legal; and you’ve got your Geezer-Americans, retirees of every hue and creed, dumping their Social Security checks into the slot machines and supporting the Native-Americans in a beautiful Circle of Life.

Everybody gets along. Everybody eats at the same three local diners. Everybody is polite. Everybody is smiley and friendly, even teenagers! Why?

Because everybody is armed to the teeth – cowboys, geezers, Iraqi vets, tattooed Latinos, nuns.

You see ranchers ambling through Walmart with .45 caliber 1911s on their hips in glorious Open Carry and nobody even bats an eyelash. In Minnesota, someone would dive under the Size 4XL Clearance Rack and call SWAT. In Arizona, you say “Good morning,” and the cowboy tips his Stetson and says, “Ma’am.”

See what she did there with the 4XL Clearance Rack? Lady does know the Upper Midwest.

A cousin visiting from Los Angeles who travels almost exclusively in metrosexual circles, looked in wide-eyed wonder at the much-maligned denizens of Walmart and exclaimed: “Oh my God! ACTUAL MEN!!”

This one is an absolutely mandatory Read the Whole Thing™er, if only for her closing paragraph where she describes her fellow ammo-liners, and explains what’s the deal on the white guy who isn’t there to buy ammo.  (Yes, that’s a tease. Go read the jeezly thing. WeaponsMan’s still going to be here, at least through the end of the day).

(Aside rant: Where in the name of Niffelheim is all the .22? Even the online sources don’t have bricks of .22LR? Even the crap Mexican Aquila has dried up?)

Not that Susan Vass can tell us. But we sure hope she’ll be sharing more “Thoughts from the Ammo Line” in the future.

Are your hands and feet “registered as deadly weapons?”

Guam is a strange place. A few years ago, a Congressman was concerned that if more Marines were posted to the island, it might capsize — which says more about the intellects in Congress than it does about the island, we reckon.

This certificate is phony… and it's $140 more than Guam's.

This certificate is phony… and it’s $140 more than Guam’s.

But law professor Eugene Volokh has found a place where the old urban myth about “hands and feet registered as deadly weapons” is actually true: the US Territory of Guam. He quotes the statutes (law profs are always doing that!):

Any person who is an expert in the art of karate or judo, or any similar physical ar[t] in which the hands and feet are used as deadly weapons, is required to register with the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

A karate or judo expert required to register by the provisions of this Chapter shall be a person trained in the arts of karate, judo or other hand-to-hand fighting technique, whereby the hands, feet or other parts of the body are used as weapons, who shall have completed at least one level of training therein and shall have been issued a belt or other symbol showing proficiency in such art.

via ‘These hands and feet are registered as deadly weapons … in Guam!’.

Then, if you whale the whey out of some islander with your kung-fu, hai-ku or what have you, you can be charged with aggravated assault. He didn’t mention a penalty for not registering, although the actual statute says failing to register is a misdemeanor. It’s hard to imagine Guamanian cops going from door to door seeking incriminating black belts.

But it is a reminder that the ultimate weapon is a trained human mind, the weaponized Brain Housing Group that’s the key to employment of all weapons, including the weapons God gave you.

Volokh has some fun with the idea that Guam could make some serious money selling registration certificates to off-island karatekas. It’s not like people aren’t already doing that with utterly meaningless certificates. By all means Read The Whole Thing™.

Hey, we know ching-chang-bang. Does that count?

C&Rsenal’s WWI Rifle Chart


This picture embiggens, but only to 10% of the actual document’s size. Go to C&Rsenal (links in the text of this post) to get the original.

The impresarios of C&Rsenal have done it again, with a chart that features a to-scale line drawing of every major rifle used in World War I (by the major and minor combatants), complete with a silhouette of a typical 5’7″ rifleman of the period to give scale.

It’s not 100% perfect. For example, you’ll see none of the substitute or obsolete weapons the Russians used, as their ability to produce Mosin-Nagants, and even buy them overseas, was outstripped by the war’s demands for riflemen. But it is a great resource for the historian — or visual checklist for the Great War collector!

The image itself, in all its fifty-million-pixel glory, is here: (Kind of makes you wonder why they didn’t put it up as an SVG, but maybe they’re having the same problem with SVG plugins to WordPress that we are).

The C&Rsenal story about it is here, and there are two relevant Reddit threads, an Ask Historians Anything about WWI small arms, and one in the guns subreddit that offers some specifics on the infantry rifles. The second subreddit includes a post by Othais that is, to all intents and purposes, a key with specifications to the graphic.

While the specialists may argue about the relative strength and weaknesses of the different actions and rounds used, at the remove of a century the most interesting thing is the similarity of the weapons. With a couple of exceptions, they were bolt-action weapons loading five rounds of small caliber, smokeless ammunition from some type of clip (stripper or en-bloc), they were 40 to 50 inches long and took a bayonet of 10 to 20 inches.

The rounds were a minimum caliber of 6.5 millimeters and a maximum of 8.0, and were from 50 to 63 millimeters long — with chamber pressures of 40,000 to 50,000 psi in their factory loads. (Today’s SAAMI pressures for a lot of these guns are lower, because of the US ammo industry’s excess of caution about vintage milsurp metallurgy. For example, SAAMI limits the 7.92×57 to 35k psi).

As you can see, for the rounds as well as the rifles, these details are more alike than they are different — they only vary across a narrow range.

Some of this is due to the convergent evolution of the state of the art. If you accept that the definitive WWI action is the 98 Mauser, most nations have something similar (the US and Japan, Mauser copies; Britain had attempted and failed to replace the SMLE with a Mauser copy, the P14; the Russians, a partly-indigenous design that offered similar performance). Nations that tried to leapfrog technology or strike out on their own tended to be punished for it — Canada’s straight-pull Ross, and the French RSC 1917 semi-auto (the first military autoloading rifle fielded on a large scale) had well-documented problems.

If you were to look at the state of the world’s small arms 40 years prior to August, 1914, you’d see completely different guns and technology, but a similar global small arms convergence. In 1874 the gun was a single-shot, breech-loading, black-powder rifle. Go back another 40 years, and the gun of 1834 was a percussion smoothbore musket — worldwide. In 1794, same thing, but flintlock. If you go the other way, 1954 sees a messy transition underway to semi-auto and select fire rifles, and 1994 to compact intermediate rifles firing smaller calibers between 5.4 and 5.8mm caliber in 39 to 45 mm case lengths. Different specs but the same concept of international convergence holds.

If a true breakthrough happens, and it appears to offer a combat advantage, it travels around the world at the speed of procurement. There is a tide in the events of men, to be sure, but that tide also lifts men’s creations, such as rifles.

Static Sunday

For a change, nobody is going anywhere big this Sunday. (That’s coming Wednesday, so we’ll try to preload the blog with stuff for while we’re off pursuing other amusements).

To tease this week, here’s substantive stuff we want to put up:

  • Two of the rarest and most desirable US cartridge handguns ever happen to be for sale right now.
  • There are some awesome auctions coming up.
  • Want to own an M60 machine gun? How about a Hollywood star M60 — the gun that gave Chuck Norris his first big break?
  • Want to sit in on a one hour Squad Designated Marksman classroom lecture?
  • The Guerrillas of Greece, Part 3, the Greek Civil War, and Part 4, the Cyprus Insurgency.
  • Volkssturm carbines, Part 2 of 2.
  • 1st Quarter WeaponsMan statistics. How are we doing on our goal of 1,000,000 hits this year without compromising quality?

And of course, we’ll stick up a bunch of non-substantive stuff, too. That’s the price you pay to read the good stuff around here. Hey, it could be worse. We could have ads.

That Was the Week that Was: 2014 Week 13

That was the week that was TW3Ah, lucky Week 13. And posted on time on the last day of the week. Will wonders never cease? Not around here, they won’t.

This was a good week spent mostly in the home office. On the phone. Much was accomplished.

In the gun world, our AR prototype receivers came in and are at the FFL for pickup tomorrow. All is proceeding as we have foreseen.

The links to this week’s will all be live when the post goes live. Enjoy!

The Boring Statistics

Our article count was 28, a great rebound from last week’s weak 23. Word count likewise rebounded (or maybe regressed towards the mean), at 19,000 words up from a mere 13,000-odd. We had six posts that broke the long-post threshold of 1,000 words, but none of them were over 2,000. (That’s twice as many long posts as last week, though).

The mean and median post sizes were 679 and 610 respectively, suggesting that there were some unusually short posts. There is usually at least one sub-100-word post, but this time there were three; and 11 total sub-500-word posts. We widely exceeded our minimum desired post count of 19. So far this year we’ve almost 350 blog posts, and over 1800 comments.  

Comments are more or less normal at 118, as of press time; this is significantly higher than the previous week’s comment count, which was 96. This doesn’t include about 1,000 facebook-sourced spam comments. Don’t know why we got those, but they come in waves, and we shoot them down in waves.

Thanks for commenting! We always say this and we always mean it.

Most Commented Post of the Week

Our most commented post was the incredible Yee story: Gun-banning, murderer-releasing pol charged with gun trafficking, with 14 comments and runner-up was Tour d’Horizon — French for “too many links”,  with 9. These two posts represent only about 20% of the week’s comments; overall, this week, the comments were more evenly distributed across the posts.

The Week in Posts

Here’s the recap of our posts for this week:

We hope you enjoyed this week’s content. We enjoyed bringing it to you!

Here’s how we did on last week’s promises:

We had the same promises as usual, the same ones we make for next week.

  1. We didn’t catch up on much, and we still owe the Bull and Greek posts.
  2. We did make our minimum posting rules (and then some).
  3. We could have had more tech posts.
  4. We did get the WWWW up on time.
  5. And we did get the Matinee and the TW3 up on time.

For Next Week

Our goals are unchanged:

  1. to catch up the long-festering back posts mentioned above, now back up to just two features (Gerald Bull, and the Greek Insurgencies). We also have some other stuff that has sat way to long in the draft queue (there are 240-odd posts there right now, so we’re not curating it very well). We’re really serious about the two posts that finish the Greek series, and the second post of two on the Volkssturm Carbines.
  2. to post three times a day, six days a week, of which:
  3. one gun-tech or -industry post and one SOF, UW, or war-related post up daily.
  4. a WWWW, on Wednesday.
  5. a Saturday Matinee, and a TW3 before the week ends at midnight Saturday.

The draft queue is approaching 250, so it’s time to dynamite some of that stuff out and entertain you guys.

See you with a TW3 on Saturday! (Again!)

Saturday Matinee 2014 13: The Untouchables (1987)

Untouchables DVDWhat do you get when you take a hokey old TV show about the nation’s most lawless law enforcers, and stretch it to about two hours even? That’s the Jeopardy! Version of a one line review of this movie.

The Untouchables is a 1987 Brian de Palma film so you know it’s going to be soaked in cartooney violence — de Palma doesn’t disappoint (or maybe the correct term is, “doesn’t surprise”) on that expectation. It’s based on the 1959-63 Robert Stack cop show, which is based in turn on the posthumously-published memoir of Elliott Ness, a founding agent of the Prohibition Bureau, the agency that would become today’s ATF. Ness’s book, which we’ve never read (we just ordered a copy to rectify that error) was largely ghostwritten by sportswriter Oscar Fraley, and it launched Fraley on a new career of ghosting G-man tales, including at least one more by a member of Ness’s 11-man core “Untouchables” group.

The real Treasury agents got that nickname because, unlike Chicago’s local law enforcement (then, or now), they didn’t take bribes and cooperate with organized crime. Instead, they publicized and shamed bribe attempts. (This is shown in one scene in the movie, a scene that, once it gets started, is taut and on point).

The score deserves mention, because it doesn’t work. It’s by Ennio Morricone (of The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly fame). He’d lost the art of using the musical “rest” and, unfortunately, discovered the drum machine. It’s the Ugly, the Ugly, and the Ugly.

A Press Conference scene reminds us the only ones that Hollywood treats worse than the military, oddly enough, are reporters. But even though reporters as a pack are depicted as shallow and stupid, as individuals, they’re one of the phony city’s favorite hero types, and yes, there’s a Jimmy Olsen, Cub Reporter type – neither the part nor the performance rises above type – who’s the comic relief, sidekick type.

The blood-drenched movie ends with emo Ness shaking his head and intoning, “So much violence,” in a display of Hollywood hypocrisy right up there with any of them.

We just have to mention the Morricone score again, because throughout the movie it was utterly jarring, dreadful and distracting. It won a bunch of awards, but then, 1987 was in the midst of a cocaine epidemic, and that stuff’s supposed to be bad for your hearing.

Acting and Production

The big-name actors in the movie deliver big-name performances. Three in particular stand out.

Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness plays a sort of modern, anguished, vulnerable hero. ATF agents who celebrate the legend of the TV Ness will freak at the very idea of emo Ness. But if you’re going to have an emo Ness, the very underrated and expressive Costner is a good guy to play him.

Robert De Niro excels himself as Al Capone. Opening scene – over the top. Camera in ceiling as the mobster gets shaved and manicured. Later, he has a great reverse “save the cat” scene where he beats one of his underlings to death with a baseball bat.

Sean Connery has an Oscar-winning supporting role as an Irish cop, Jim Malone, who’s Yoda to Costner’s emo Luke Skywalker (Connery’s was the film’s only gold statuette).


He does have a pretty good line. When Ness tells him he’s a Treasury officer, Malone turns and walks away. “You just turned your back on an armed man!” Ness fumes.

Malone: “But you’re a Treasury officer.”

Ness: “But I just told you, I didn’t show you my badge.”

Malone: “But you said you’re a Treasury officer. Who would claim that who was not?”

A great deal of money was spent on this period drama, and it shows.

Accuracy and Weapons

This version of Ness carries an unlikely 1911. (The real Ness carried a .38 Colt Detective Special, once that model was introduced in 1927. The Detective Special is nothing but a Police Positive with a 2″ barrel). The cops are armed with revolvers, tommy guns, and pump shotguns (about right for the 1930s).


Along with the movie-only 1911 (they actually used Stars as substitutes in firing scenes, as they’re easier to make feed with blanks, and Colts in the non-firing scenes), Ness also picks up and uses a Colt Official Police revolver and uses it to chase Frank Nitti in the climactic foot chase. The actual movie Colt was later sold off, and can be seen on a prop-collectors’ website.


As you can see, it’s a post-1950 colt (the ramp on the front sight, and the squared-off grip frame, are giveaways). Apart from such subtleties, the good guys have period-correct (mostly, as some of the Colts are post-1950) revolvers, lever-actions (Winchester 94s) and pump shotguns (Winchester 97s and 12s).

The criminals are armed with similar stuff, including too many 1911s. They are 1980s-armed crooks in a 1930s movie! Frank Nitti, for instance, has a gaudy nickel 1911 (which is a Star Model B, actually. You can see the extractor in shots showing the gun’s right side). The real Frank Nitti was partial to .32 revolvers. But then again, the real Frank Nitti was 5’4″, closing in on middle age, and plump; the movie Nitti is taller, lean and young. Hollywood magic!

Nitti - UntouchablesStar

Everybody has a few Thompsons. They all have drum mags (the first was common for the era, as both cops and criminals used this gun. The second was not, entirely; drum vs. stick mags appear to have been about 50/50 in both police and criminal use).

While there was a lot of gunplay in Prohibition Chicago, it was mostly crook-on-crook; despite the body counts racked up by the TV Ness (Bob Stack, himself a champion sports shooter) and this movie version (Costner), the real Elliot Ness never shot anybody, although he did fire warning shots, and was not above pistol-whipping a gangster. Most of the real Untouchables also carried small Colts; one, Barney Cloonan, carried a .45 ACP Smith & Wesson M1917 revolver. Cloonan was a WWI vet Marine, and he was not the only war vet on the squad.

One real-world Ness weapon makes an appearance in a Hollywoodized version: his specialized raid truck, reinforced for ramming through doors and walls, and equipped with ladders to land agents on the roof. The empty-cask raid appears to have been a Hollywood creation; the real Ness hit paydirt with his first raid and kept the raids coming, although sometimes the crooks got away, leaving only the booze and stills or breweries. (That’s why he created the raid truck).

The movie Untouchables are distilled down to four characters. There’s no scope for the range of the real men: some selected for athleticism, some selected for their ability to blend in anywhere, and bringing varied expertise in everything from the new discipline of tailing-by-car to the old standby of undercover operations. It’s true that Ness wanted single men, because he expected casualties. The canny Capone refused to play that; as one of the other Untouchables remembered in his old age, “he knew that if he killed one of us, he’d be replaced by two more guys, and probably tougher ones.”

Apart from the story, a lot of care was taken with period details. When the agents fly off to hit a booze shipment, they fly in a period-correct Ford Trimotor. There are a lot of authentic-looking 1930s vehicles in here, something that fills producers with dread (will they work when we need them?).

The depiction of Chicago of the 1930s—which could be Chicago today – shows what happens when an underground is fully embedded in society. Al Capone owned Chicago Aldermen, Chicago judges, most of the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago mayor. So in this case, it was a criminal underground, but some of the stories we read of occupied and totalitarian nations (especially the ones where resistance movements were successful) had a similarly pervasive underground. The techniques work the same way, regardless of whether you’re on the side of God or Devil.

The death of Frank Nitti is not only historically wrong, but almost incredibly, and not-almost laughably (as in completely, absolutely laughably) fake. The movie’s Nitti character is younger than de Niro’s Capone, reversing their original ages; and instead of meeting his end at the hands of incorruptible lawmen, a middle-aged Nitti drank himself into a stupor and then shot himself twice in the head with a Colt .32 revolver. But the death scene in the movie is not only completely different, but also ridiculously phony. If you can’t make special effects convincing, please, directors: kill the guy off camera.

The bottom line

Bottom line: too much money spent on a TV show, despite the stellar cast, some great moments (the script was by David Mamet, so there’s some brilliant dialogue), and enough violence to please Al Capone his ownself. This might have been a stronger movie if they didn’t use the names of historical figures and create a false impression of the movie being a true story.

If you do like a classic gangster film made with modern production values, check out our review of 2012’s Gangster Squad with Jeff Brolin, a similar romp that does violence to history but at least entertains a viewer.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • DVD page:

  • IMDB page:

  • IMFDB page:,_The_(1987)

  • Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator:

  • Wikipedia  page:

America-hating Piers Morgan signs off with gun-control screed

History repeats.

History repeats.

Supercilious Brit Piers Morgan, who escaped from England with the hounds of Scotland Yard on his heels for his participation in the wiretapping culture of England’s crude lower-class tabloid press, finally came to the point of his last show.

Far from regretting his show’s cancellation, due to abysmally low ratings driven in some part by his doomed anti-gun crusade, Morgan doubled down on loathing for America and its gun culture during his last report.

[T]hat’s where I think guns belong – on a military battlefield, in the hands of highly trained men and women fighting for democracy and freedom. Not in the hands of civilians. The scourge of gun violence is a disease that now infects every aspect of American life.  Each day, on average, 35 people in this country are murdered with guns, another 50 kill themselves with guns, and 200 more are shot but survive. That’s 100,000 people a year hit by gunfire in America.

Now, I assumed that after 70 people were shot in a movie theater, and then, just a few months later, 20 first-graders were murdered with an assault rifle in an elementary school, that the absurd gun laws in this country would change. But nothing has happened. The gun lobby in America, led by the NRA, has bullied this nation’s politicians into cowardly, supine silence. Even when 20 young children are blown away in their classrooms.

This is a shameful situation that frankly has made me very angry. So angry, in fact, that some people have criticized me for being too loud, opinionated, even rude when I have debated the issue of guns. But I make no apologies for that.

via Piers Morgan | final show | gun control | NRA.

This is the third sacking for Morgan, if we’re counting correctly. Once for running a hoax impugning the British Army, once for the wiretapping scandal (the paper he helmed actually went out of business), and third time, at CNN, may be for keeps.

During his swan song, Morgan whined that he really would love America, if it would just be more like Britain on the gun issue. Well, we’d love you too, if you’d be more like Marcel Marceau and shut your pie hole.

Meanwhile, why not go back to Britain and face the music for your tabloid career of bugging celebrities’ phones? (In our country that’s a felony, unless — unfortunately — it’s the NSA doing it. We’re guessing that tapping Paul McCartney’s ex’s phone, as Morgan admitted doing, was a felony over there, too. Reporters working for him also bugged the Royal Family). So head on back to Britain, Piers. We’re sure they have a cozy new situation for you. Maybe we’ll come see you at the appropriate time.

CNN’s replacement for Morgan will have higher ratings, even if it’s this:

CNN Soviet Test Pattern(Soviet “Tablitsa 249” test pattern, circa 1970, a knock-off of a 1950s Telefunken test pattern).

Update: TV personality Dana Loesch called for a Piers Morgan Range Day today. Many tweeted their own participation. Heh.

Why the Army camo project failed, and is failing

Soldier Systems Daily has one answer. This guy:

“This guy” is COL Robert Mortlock, a guy who hasn’t been with troops in 20 years, and then was a platoon leader in a chemical battalion in Germany. (He did have a company command, but of support troops pampering the caddidiots at West Point). He subsequently became an acquisitions officer, where he’s worked just about exclusively on failed big-ticket programs: several schedule-an-invention missiles, and the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Future Combat System. These were ill-conceived and badly-managed programs that turned entire 463L pallets of money into vaporware.

Now he’s brought those same skills to bear on the camouflage program, and what we’ve got is a massive, one-size-fits-all, four-hundred-moving-parts boondoggle, with an earmark for every congressional district and a bonus for every beltway bandit, and nothing for the combat troops but another screwing and a chance to go to war in the abominable day-glo ACU.

They already have a perfectly good camouflage pattern, OCP, or Crye Multicam. The principal problem, for a Beltway guy, is there’s too little growth, graft, and gratification in it; last year, Crye was willing to sign off a license for under $700,000. And this was after a four-phase competition which Crye Multicam won. If the Army wanted unlimited rights to modify the pattern, which it did, the cost went up substantially (to over $20 million)… but that was less by far than the hundreds of millions spent in on-again, off-again testing (all of which has confirmed the unsuitability of Universal Camouflage Pattern of the ACU, always the worst pattern tested and much worse than solid colors or any other camouflage), or the $10 Billion squandered procuring UCP uniforms and equipment, all of which expose our troops to detection and fire.

Even the combat-shy Mortlock admits that the troops like OCP/Multicam. Crye explained a few weeks ago to SSD how the Army — which means Mortlock — has been double-dealing with them right along. If you want the whole tragic story of this inept quest for less day-glo camo, read the whole SSD camo category from oldest to newest.

Tank Go Boom

Everybody knows about RPGs — the ubiquitous Russian anti-tank weapon that began as a few improvements to the last few German Panzerfaust antitank grenade launchers, and now are one of the characteristic arms of every war large and small. But the 1950s vintage RPG-2 and its much improved 1960s scion the RPG-7 are long out of date in the service of Russia and its close allies and weapons customers; the last several AT weapons have actually contained the rocket inside the tube in the fashion of western bazookas (or the Panzerfaust’s 1944 competitor, the Panzerschreck). The current AT weapon is the RPG-29 Vampir.

This video purports to be a Syrian rebel attack on Syrian Arab Army T-72M1 tanks using an RPG-29.

The tank crews are at two very serious disadvantages here. While they’re under direct observation by the rebels (and the rebel videographers), they seem to be without infantry support. We know some tankers, and nothing gives them the heebie-jeebies like being in close terrain full of hostile infantry without any friendly grunts.

The second is that they’ve withdrawn under their armor. (As we’ll see, at least one of them didn’t have his hatch dogged down, which procedure violation saved his life). But buttoning-up means that they’re very close to being blind. If you’ve ever spent any time in a tank or AFV, the contrast between the situational awareness a TC can have when up in his hatch, and the SA he can develop while sealed in the can, is enormous.

The tanks’ lack of rifleman support is why they’re oriented the way they are. Clearly they expect trouble from the right, but the foreground tank is facing back to cover their vulnerable rears — with its own vulnerable rear backed up against a building to deny the rebels a shot. It’s a fairly good formation for taking on a thankless operation like MOUT in a main battle tank.

When the RPG-29 round hits, its first warhead of the tandem pair initiates on the rear of the engine deck, and the main shaped charge fires seemingly instantaneously. The Vampir’s warhead has over double the penetration of the common PG-7V round for the RPG-7. The crew? They stand no chance as the round ignites the tank’s ready ammunition. The temperature and pressure inside the fighting compartment (and the driver’s compartment, which is not isolated from it) are instantly more like the inside of a gun barrel than a shirtsleeve environment.

The exception is one of the turret crew, identified as the gunner by Russian analysis (a meatball machine translation of one of those analyses is here). He either bailed out or, more likely, was ejected through the above-mentioned unsecured hatch; you see him pull himself together and run off to the building on the right, the tatters of his clothes trailing behind his burnt body. And he’s the lucky one.

It will be hours before the tank is cool enough to be approached and for someone to take on the thankless, ghoulish task of removing the incinerated remains of his fellow crewmen.


The RPG-29 has a diameter of 70.2mm and, as mentioned above, a tandem warhead which defeats reactive armor. It’s scored penetrations and kills on some of the world’s best MBTs, including the M1A1 and the Challenger; it has more range, more accuracy, and more penetration than the familiar RPG-7. And it’s not the last word. The RPG-32 is an updated reusable anti tank ballistic rocket system, that offers further advantages over the RPG-29; meanwhile, a parallel line of development has produced updated disposable launchers as well. The RPG-30 is a disposable launcher with a parallel self-contained decoy to defeat active protection systems, and a tandem warhead to defeat reactive armor also.