4 Apr 02
Rifle information from a friend in the South African military:
“Our SADF (South African Defense Forces) used R1’s in 7.62X51 (308) until the mid-seventies, and a few units still used them into the early eighties. The R1 is a locally made copy of the FAL. They were wonderful rifles and loved by all who used them. MANY of us wish we had them back.
All units since then have been issued our R4/5/6s, which is the a locally made copy of the Israeli Galil. It is chambered for 5.56X45 (223). These rifles are extremely reliable and do work well in the urban/police application. However, in heavy bush the 5.56 round is a poor performer.
There are many Kalashnikovs in private hands in SA. Most are in 7.62X39. Its popularity is mostly due to availability. Like everything emanating from the (former) Eastern Block, they are rude and crude, but functional and reliable. One could do worse!
My first choice for an all-around battle rifle is still the FAL. For range and penetration, it can’t be beat.”
4 Apr 02
I received from a friend, It is an internal USAF field report, dated 21 Feb 02. Here is a summary:
This is a report on a shooting involving USAF personnel who were assigned guard duty at a USAF installation in Qatrar. The incident took place on 7 Nov 01.
A local vehicle (Honda Civic) approached a checkpoint manned jointly by one USAF guard and one local police officer. USAF personnel were armed only with pistols (Beretta 92F). Locals were not armed at all. Without saying a word, the driver jumped out of the car with a Kalashnikov rifle, pointed it at the guards, and started shooting. Both guards took cover. The USAF guard drew his own pistol and returned fire.
The USAF guard continued to fire, falling back to successive covered positions, as the shooter continued to advance on him. The shooter eventfully toppled. He was DRT. Help arrived within minuets, but the fight was already over. No USAF personnel or local police were injured.
Sounds like a happy ending, but the colonel who authored the report went on to make several interesting comments:
He points out that USAF personnel carry their pistols in a flap holster and that drawing the pistol from the holster in emergencies is, incredibly, NOT included in any training program. In this case, the guard fumbled for critical seconds trying the get his pistol out. Fortunately, the suspect was a poor shot, and there was only one.
I don’t know if the guard carried a round chambered or not, as there is no discussion of this in the report. I suspect the chamber was empty, as that is the only way I’ve ever seen them carried stateside. If that was the case, another half second was squandered getting a round chambered.
He also points out that accuracy was poor. The range was ten meters and closer. The guard was courageous. He made a decision, used cover effectively, and fired a total of fifteen rounds. But, only four actually struck the suspect, three in the abdomen and one in the chest.
In addition, he points out that the 9mm hardball ammunition used turned in an unsatisfactory performance. The suspect stayed on his feet and traversed over fifteen meters, shooting the whole time, after the first shot hit him.
The colonel, now putting his career on the line, then goes on to recommend (of all things) realistic training, not just pointless “qualification” exercises run by bored, MTU people. He also recommends issuing high-performance, hollowpoint pistol ammunition. He even hints that we ought to give these kids rifles AND pistols when they are manning remote check points, even if the “host nation” finds that upsetting.
Needless to say, this report never saw the light of day. I was buried, along with many others, as bad news is never popular in any bureaucracy. Nothing has changed.
One thing that jumped out at me was that pistol training IS important. Many times a pistol is all you have, either by personal choice or because that is the way things are done there. We all need to realize that we are ON OUR OWN, whether we’re manning a remote check point or running an errand. Help is never going to arrive in time to make any difference. The battle must be won in the short term. We have to plan on finding a way to win, all by ourselves.
5 Apr 02
From a friend in the middle of things in the Mideast:
“The group of ‘peaceniks’ who were allowed into Arafat’s isolated compound had written down, in great detail, descriptions of all nearby IDF positions and weaponry. They gave the information to Arafat. That appears to have been their only purpose”
Lesson: We are hopelessly naive if we believe these people don’t have an agenda.
8 Apr 02
On bullet performance from a friend in the Royal Marines:
“At all extended ranges, a hit from a 7.62 was required to permanently anchor Argentinean soldiers. The concept of merely ‘wounding’ the enemy, so as to manufacture a logistics burden for them, only works if the enemy is especially worried about treating their wounded. Our logic was thus flawed, because we assumed the enemy would be operating under the same set of morals we were. Always a foolish mistake!
Our recon troops thus quickly swapped their issue M-16s for FALs and immediately put them to good use.”
Lesson: We all need to worry less about “the rules” and more about playing with our grandchildren.
9 Apr 02
From an active-duty friend in Korea:
“You and I both know inadequate equipment is a real problem for us. I’ve not used the issue holster (except for parades) in years. I routinely use a personally purchased Safariland 6004.
In this part of the world, my bosses are tolerant of alternate holsters and have been so for quite some time. Moreover, soldiers see leaders doing what is reasonably necessary and follow suit. Of course, they all grumble about spending their own money on TAC gear, but I patiently explain to them that its money well spent if it keeps them alive long enough to spend the rest of their check!
Ever so slowly, the Army is getting smart. We’re now issuing TACLITEs, good slings, etc, all those things we bought with our own money when we were young. Good holsters are now showing up en masse in MP units. Line units can’t be far behind.
This is an issue folks in our grade can influence, at some risk of course, but we should whenever we get a chance. There is hope in small deeds. Too bad nobody asks us when contracts for small arms and ammunition are written.
All remains well on this frontier.”
Lesson: SMALL DEEDS DONE ARE BETTER THAN GREAT DEEDS PLANNED. We may not all have the opportunity to be a hero, but, nearly every day, we all have the opportunity not to be a coward.
9 Apr 02
From another active-duty friend, currently serving overseas, on the subject of infantry rifles:
“I share your concerns about the current trend toward small-caliber ‘battle’ rifles. Time and again we’ve seen the requirement to shoot through things, in order to get at the bad guys on the other side, go unmet with our issue rifle and ammunition. On those rare occasions when we’re asked, we keep pressing decision makers to fix this forty-year-old procurement mistake.
Unfortunately, the current craze is to ‘fix’ these failings by strapping countless gadgets onto the existing M-16, converting it into a ponderous, floundering, clumsy clunk. We would rather them simply admit their mistake and field a suitable rifle and caliber that can meet the challenges of fighting in a wide spectrum of military environments. We Americans need a genuine, thirty-caliber rifle.”
This is just one of many similar notes received on this subject.
12 Apr 02
Interesting incident from a student in NH:
“Last week, along with my date, I attended a dance at a local nightclub with several friends. As one enters the particular club, he is ‘screened’ for weapons. This includes being ‘wanded,’ patted down for some. This, I understand, has become common practice at this kind of establishment. I didn’t like the idea, but my friends insisted we go in.
In light of the entry screening, I left my pistol locked in my car. As I expected, the ‘party’ was a frightful bore. I finally announced to my friends that I, along with my date, was leaving. It was after midnight. My friends wanted to stay, so we parted.
The moment my date and I walked out the door, I observed that we were being shadowed by a slovenly individual. We hurriedly walked to my parked car. I finally turned to confront him, as he was closing fast. Assuming an interview stance, I asked him if he needed help. He abruptly stopped, almost falling over forward. After looking me over, he mumbled something, turned around, and walked away. We got into the car and left immediately.
As we were driving away, it struck me that this individual had been standing around waiting for people, more correctly: potential mugging victims, to exit this club. His assumption was that anyone exiting the club has probably been drinking and, owing to the entry screening, can be presumed to be unarmed.
I decided, then and there, never to go into a place like that again. Lesson learned!”
Lesson: When it can be presumed that you are unarmed, your likelihood of being selected for victimization goes up exponentially. Establishments like the one described above are good places to stay out of.
15 Apr 02
I have received a number of unfavorable comments on my recent postings regarding individual military rifles, pistols, and ammunition and the mistakes that have been made, and are being made, by the current military bureaucracy. Everything from, “Mind you own business” to “Don’t rock the boat.”
All bureaucracies function like termite mounds. They predictably post a hoard of expendable sentries out front whose job it is to insultingly disparage anyone who would dare speak out in opposition to the Party Line. Central to the Party Line is, of course, the dogged insistence that the bureaucracy has never done anything wrong and is, indeed, incapable of error. It’s something commentators and private-sector trainers like me have come to expect.
None of the foregoing is particularly important except that, in the present international circumstance, it strikes me we are becoming victims of our own successes. We’ve been successful in Afghanistan, to the point where we have overlooked serious cracks in our armor. Because we are successful in the short term doesn’t mean everything we do is as good as it could possibly be. It is not just when things go wrong that we need to look for ways to improve our system. We need to look with even more discernment when things go right. As my friend and colleague, Jeff Chudwin, points out, “Success often reinforces bad tactics.” This is true particularly in the minds of the naive and self-congratulatory.
In 280BC, King Pyrrhus of Eprius, a military genius equal to MacArthur in our time, after his grandest victory, the Battle of Asculum, was approached by a host of well wishers congratulating him on his momentous (but cripplingly costly) accomplishment. They blabbed to no end about his wonderful victory. In response he said, “Many more such ‘victories,’ and I shall be undone!” Ever since, the term “Pyrrhic victory” has referred to a situation where the battle is won, but the war is lost. As I have tried to illustrate, during the American Civil War, the battles of Chancellorsville and Cold Harbor were classic Pyrrhic victories.
A “War on Terrorism,” like the long-forgotten “War on Poverty” is far too unfocused to long remain in the public consciousness. History has provided us with many examples of grand and presumptuous armies, drilled in obsolete tactics, being ‘undone’ by unconventional irregulars who have identified and capitalized on glaring weaknesses that the conventional army has foolishly and arrogantly refused to acknowledge. I wonder if we too will become so infatuated with our fleeting successes that we will fail to make the changes that need to be made.
18 Apr 02
From an old friend in the concealment holster business:
“Since September, we’ve been swamped! We are astonished here at how many police officers, from every part of the country, are ordering concealment holsters on an emergency basis. They explain that, after many years with the department, they are now carrying regularly FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THEIR LIVES!
It is amazing how many working police officers don’t carry on a regular basis. It seems they are finally getting the long-lost message of their responsibility to themselves and to their office!”
Lesson: A casual and nonchalant attitude toward one’s own safety and his duty to his family and community is a personality trait which should automatically disqualify anyone from police service. We’ve been lax, and now we’re scrambling to get back to where we should have been all along.
19 Apr 02
Woman prevails in carjacking attempt; from a friend and instructor in South Africa:
“This lady is an acquaintance but not a student. She carries a pistol (Taurus 9mm, loaded with hardball) regularly but has never had any formal firearms training. She knew what to do nonetheless.
She drove alone to Capetown last week in order to attend a sales meeting. It was still dark when she parked her car in a lot. Two carjacking suspects rapidly approached her car as she was touching up her makeup in the rearview mirror. One opened the driver’s side door, grabbed her by the hair and pushed her head into the steering wheel, all the time shouting at her to keep quiet. This is a common carjacking tactic over here. The suspects were trying to prevent her from getting a good look at them.
Her pistol was in her handbag, which was between her feet. She carried it in transport mode (chamber empty, magazine inserted), because she didn’t know any better. She grabbed her pistol, chambered a round, stuck the muzzle up under her left armpit and then twisted her torso around so that the pistol was pointed at the suspect (right-handed steering in SA). Unaware, the suspect continued to repeatedly bang her face into the steering wheel.
She fired two rounds, one striking the first suspect in the groin. The bullet ranged upward and ultimately lodged in his lower back. It never exited. The suspect screamed and, at once, let her go. He fell backward, then got up and ran away. The second suspect also ran. No word on where the second bullet ended up, but it did not strike either suspect.
One suspect, painfully wounded, was arrested. His partner is still at large. The woman suffered cuts and abrasions but was not seriously hurt”
Lessons: >Without “The Spirit,” all the fighting skills in the world are of little value. This woman didn’t panic, spend her time looking for an excuse to lose, or lapse into denial. She confronted reality squarely, made a plan, remained focused, and went forward boldly. She fought back, and she was victorious.
>Bullies are not “fighters.” In fact, when it looks as if there is going to be a fight, they quickly lose interest. In this case, when the first shot was fired, the carjackers’ bravado abruptly disintegrated, and they fled like mice. In the final analysis, criminals are all cowards.
>Half the battle is failing the selection process! The woman was selected for victimization because: (1) She was alone in a parked car, (2) The doors were unlocked, and (3) She wasn’t paying attention. Fortunately, with the help of her pistol, she was still able to turn the tables on her attackers.
25 Apr 02
I spent Monday Morning in Salt Lake City with Alex Robinson or Robinson Armament. I had a chance to examine his line of VEPR rifles. They’re Kalashnikovs, made in Russia, and finished by Alex and his staff. They’re available in 223, 7.62X39, and 308. The 308 version takes M-14 magazines. (“VEPR” is Russian and, loosely translated, it comes out to “Wild Pig” in English). Nice guns, and reasonable.
Alex first started shipping rifles from his plant in 1999. I have a copy of his RA-96, and it is the most reliable 223 rifle I own. Next year we’ll see an upsized version in 308 that takes FAL magazines.
My favorite two makers of military rifles are DS Arms in Illinois and Robinson Arms in Salt Lake City. Both companies have made a heavy financial commitment to quality and have consistently superior customer service. Other companies make similar rifles, but their customer service is so poor I won’t mention them.
Bob Weir of ACE Inc in California makes excellent folding stocks for the RA-96 and a number of other military rifles. I consider a folding stock to be a great asset when traveling with rifles. The RA-96 now fits nicely into a tennis racket case. Highly recommended!
26 Apr 02
Rifle endurance tests from friends in South Africa:
“We did high-volume testing of 223 and 7.62X39 rifles here last week. We fired one thousand rounds through each as fast as we could insert magazines. We used various brands of ammunition, including Norinco, Russian surplus, and local reloads. Here are the results:
Norinco 56S (Chinese Kalashnikov with a folding stock). Fired one thousand rounds with no stoppages. Forend was warm, but could still be grasped comfortably.
H&K93 (223) went down at seven hundred rounds. No parts breakage. It just stopped working.
Ruger Mini-14 went down at five hundred rounds with a broken recoil spring.
Colt AR-15. Fired one thousand rounds with no stoppages. However, the forend became too hot to grasp.
I wish we had other rifles to test, but these are the ones that are common over here.”
Lesson: During the development of the space program, NASA and its Russian counterpart both decided that astronauts would need a writing instrument that would work in zero gravity. As one would expect, NASA spent millions of dollars developing a pen that could write in space. The Russians just used pencils!
The foregoing describes the difference between Russian and Western technologies. Western designs are typically complicated, slick, technologically advanced, but temperamental. Russian designs are typically rude, crude, aesthetically offensive, but monotonously reliable.
29 Apr 02
From an LEO friend in a local town in an adjacent state:
“Last week, at 4:30am, an armed robbery suspect held up one of our local Mini Marts. His weapon was a small, carpenter’s hammer. This suspect is local trash and well known to us. Halfway through the robbery, a store customer tackled the suspect from the rear, and the suspect, quickly losing interest, dropped his hammer and ran out of the building empty handed.
That should have been the end of the story. We would surely have picked this crook up before the end of the shift. However, a local citizen, who had (past tense) a valid CCW permit, was carrying a pistol at the time, and had just pulled into the parking lot, witnessed the suspect running from the building. The store customer who had just tackled the suspect saw our armed citizen and yelled at him to ‘stop’ the suspect.
Apparently not one to decline a challenge, the armed citizen, although he himself had not witnessed any crime, was not personally endangered, and knew nothing about the suspect, then chased the suspect on foot firing his pistol at him multiple times! Fortunately, all his shots missed the suspect and didn’t hit anyone else. All that is, except the last one.
The terrified suspect jumped into a car with his getaway driver, and the two drove off. Our citizen continued to fire, striking the fleeing vehicle five times. None of the rounds penetrated into the interior.
As he ran after the car, our armed citizen fired one last round. It finally found its mark. The suspect was struck in the back (9mm. No word on the brand).
Anyway, less than an hour later the suspect shows up at our local hospital. He was treated, kept overnight, and released the next day. His wound was not serious. We promptly arrested him and his driver, and the two are now sitting in jail, charged with armed robbery.
Sitting in an adjacent cell is our armed citizen. He is charged with aggravated battery. His real crime is, of course, ‘felony stupid.’
John, this is exactly the kind of thing you talk about in your lectures, and exactly the kind of thing I hope your students know better than to get involved in. Even if he does no jail time (which is likely), this armed citizen will probably be donating most of his future life’s earnings to the armed robbery suspect and his lawyer(s). Just goes to show, even in this state, where most people own and carry guns, this kind of idiocy won’t be tolerated.”
Lesson: This is the kind of incident that gives CCW laws a bad name. Good people don’t do evil things, but sometimes good people do stupid things, because they lack training, experience, and, in this case, common sense. Ownership of defensive firearms carries with it significant responsibilities. If one is unwilling to get the training reasonably required, he needs to pass on gun ownership altogether and go back to eating grass.
29 Apr 02
From a friend with the LAPD:
“One of our patrol officers officer was driving to work a week ago and learned about ‘off-duty’ incidents the hard way. He was driving north on the Harbor Freeway in South LA. He observed a gold Mercedes (paper plates) driving erratically. He decided to pull up alongside the Mercedes, display his badge, and motion to the driver to slow down.
The ‘traffic violator’ and his passengers responded by producing several pistols and peppering the crap out of the officer’s private vehicle. The officer was wounded in both legs. He did not return fire. He was able to pull off the freeway safely and get help. His injuries were not life threatening since, by the time the perpetrator’s bullets penetrated the car door, they were mostly spent. The ‘traffic violator,’ and his passengers were last seen driving north, undoubtedly reloading.
Since the officer did not return fire, his injuries have been declared NOT duty related.
I shared these BASIC lessons with the guys on my watch:
Off-duty entanglement in any situation in which you were otherwise not involved is a can of worms! No partner, no radio, no ballistic vest, no backup, armed with only one pistol, usually a small one. That is not a recipe for continued good health!
If you don’t return fire, you’ll probably not be considered ‘on-duty’ for medical insurance purposes, at least here in CA.”
30 Apr 02
On LEO rifles from a friend in the Midwest:
“Yesterday (Monday), most of our instructors and the chief attended a weapons demonstration at the county Range. There were AR-15 rifles there from Armalite, Bushmaster, Colt, and DPMS.
One of the salesman was up front about Colt, saying that Colt was difficult to deal with and had a delivery time of four months, minimum. He reported no complaints about quality, but indicated that Colt ‘customer service’ was an abomination and that Colt factory spare parts were nearly impossible to get.
The Armalite people got style points for being honest when they admitted that their delivery time was seven months! They can’t make rifles fast enough. They were also honest when asked about reliability problems. They explained that their original rifles had a SAAMI chamber, which was too tight. When they subsequently converted over to NATO chambers, most problems disappeared. Makes one wonder about the poor people who have one of their early rifles.
Factory reps were adamant about ammunition. They recommended only factory/new ammunition be used. Reloaded and remanufactured ammunition was not recommended by anyone.”