3 Aug 03

From an LEO friend in the Midwest:

“We had a fatal shooting here on 22 July. The (dead) suspect was probably trying to commit suicide. In any event, he was a construction worker who was hanging around one of our local banks late in the afternoon.

Using a pistol, he kidnaped a bank officer and held him at gunpoint, but then let him go and walked away after only a few minutes when the bank officer explained that he was taking his pregnant wife to the hospital (The story was true! The bank officer’s wife delivered a healthy baby boy later that evening)

Four of our officers soon located the suspect as he walked away from the bank building. As they commanded him to stop, he turned to face them with the pistol in his hand, and all four officers simultaneously fired their pistols at him. Range was twenty-five feet. A total of nineteen shots were fired at the suspect by our four officers. Of nineteen, only four hit, and all four were fired by the same officer. All fifteen shots fired by the other three officers missed. Suspect was struck in the torso. He took a few steps backward and collapsed. He went DRT within a minute.

The officer who did all the hitting is one of our range officers and an extremely competent shooter. Not known for his speed, he is known for his deadly precision. He was shooting a G21. I don’t know the brand of ammunition. All other officers were shooting G19s.

Subsequent investigation revealed that one of the participating officers (who missed) had not been to our shooting range in over a year. We’re all now trying to figure out how that could have happened!

All officers have been cleared by the DA, and no one (aside from the suspect) was hurt, although several of our errant bullets did cause minor property damage. Most were not found. The suspect never fired a shot.”

Comment: Of four ostensibly trained police officers, only one was competent enough to decisively end the fight. He carried the fight for the other three and may have saved their lives. To be sure, all were courageous for answering the call and for being there, but courage does not substitute for competence. Personal competence cannot be acquired without personal effort and personal commitment. The department can provide the trappings, but the individual must provide the requiem personal devotion and determination. On this group of four, only one did.



3 Aug 03

Fox OC works! This from a friend with the Capetown Traffic Police:

“Saturday, I was manning a roadblock during a big soccer game at our local stadium. The post was set up at one of the main pedestrian exit points. I was standing there in uniform after the game while hundreds of exiting fans streamed by. I had a can of the Fox OC in my weak hand and my Streamlight tactical torch (flashlight) in the other

I locked on to a large male approaching me. He was obviously drunk, and he was holding a glass bottle in one hand. As he approached, he rushed toward me, raising the bottle, and shouting, ‘Ek gaan jou moer,’ (loosely translated, ‘I’m going to make a mess of your face).

I immediately turned on my Streamlight and directed the beam into his face, as I moved sideways, off the line of force. He instantly became disoriented and had no clue as to where I had gone. Next, he got a face full of Fox!

One step backwards, and down he went, dropping his bottle, and ‘flopping like a fish,’ as you might say. He was no threat to anyone from that instant forward. The group he was with scooped him up, and off they all ran. None of the others seemed interested in sampling their friend’s plight! It all transpired so fast that my partner wasn’t even aware of what had happened. A few passers by started coughing, but most had no idea of the drama that just took place in front of them.

Although Fox OC has about the same ‘percentage’ that the crap they issue to us, its knockdown power and overall effect are vastly superior, which is why, I’m sure, they don’t issue it to us. However, I’ll never be without it!”

Comment: A powerful flashlight and a bottle of Fox OC makes a formidable, non-lethal combination. The alliance surely worked in this case!



4 Aug 03

Unhappy story from SA, from a friend and student there:

“One of my (and, by proxy, your) students owned a security company here that specialized in high-risk movement of cash (“AIT,” or Assets in Transit). Rudolph trained extensively and had taken five courses with me. On the job, he always wore body armor and two pistols.

Last week, Rudolph went to collect money from a local Pick & Pay store here in Johannesburg. He arrived early in the morning, went to the back door, and unlocked the security door that protects the inner door. He entered and locked both doors behind him, as per standard procedure.

Once inside, he collected cash boxes from the staff. Then, someone knocked on the outer security door. Rudolph, apparently thinking it was one of his staff, opened both doors. He was greeted by six armed robbery suspects, three with Kalashnikovs and three with pistols.

The robbers quickly forced their way inside, making everybody lie, face down. Then, they searched each individual for keys to the cash boxes. When they got to Rudolph, they disarmed him and, upon seeing that he wore body armor, obviously presumed him to be a threat. They immediately shot him in the back of the head with a pistol and twice through his soft body armor in the back with an AK. They then picked up the cash boxes and escaped. None of the others there were harmed. Suspects are still at large.”

Lesson: You can do everything right a thousand times, then let your guard down only once. In Africa, few get second chances. Desperate, determined, and wholly evil men lurk everywhere.

Sometimes, we all may be faced with this formidable choice: I can die fighting here and now, or I can be murdered on my knees after I have been rendered helpless. In a case like that, you may as well go for it, because you’re probably going to die anyway. Everyone needs to think about this unhappy situation in advance. For my part, they’re not getting me without a fight!



5 Aug 03

At a Defensive Handgun Course in Colorado last week, Bob Brown of Soldier of Fortune Magazine decided to join us. I’ve know Bob for many years. In fact, we were in Vietnam at the same time.

Bob’s magazine created quite a stir years ago when it was first published. Like Hugh Heffner, Bob has endured probing and disapproving looks from several administrations and, of course, the perpetually liberal media.

Bob is seventy now, but spry and every bit as enthusiastic as he ever was. He gets right out there and shoots with the rest of us. I asked him to lecture the class about some of his adventures. What a life he as lead! He has been to places I can’t even pronounce.

Above all, Bob is a man of honor, an incorrigible purveyor of the truth, no matter how much others would like to ignore it. I am proud to call him my friend, and we all hope he goes on publishing forever.

Good show, Bob!



7 Aug 03

Yesterday, I handled a S&W 1911 at a retail gun shop in Nebraska. Like the one I handled in Orlando, and unlike the one my friend handled in Colorado, this one was slick, and everything on it worked well. I’m making it a point to handle every one I can. S&W is obviously working on quality control, and deserve credit for that. The one in Colorado may have been an aberration.

This same gun shop had for sale several SigPro pistols with a two-position, slide-mounted, manual safety! I had never seen this arrangement before. The pistols also had the traditional, SIG single-state decocking lever. The clerk explained to me that SIG made a run of pistols for a foreign government, and the buyer insisted that SIG install a manual safety lever, even though a manual safety on this particular pistol is a silly redundancy.

The safety lever faces forward, and must be pushed down to get it into the “off” position. Only the largest of hands can accomplish this maneuver without compromising the master grip, so, for most shooters, this manual safety isn’t useable as such. This is an example of bureaucrats, who know nothing about guns or fighting (and couldn’t care less), buying serious, defensive firearms for police officers who will actually have to use them.

We’ve had many SigPros in courses, and, like all SIG pistols, they work just fine. These special ones were all reduced in price by $100.00. If I owned one, I would simply leave the manual safety in the “off” position. I sincerely hope that is what the ultimate users of these pistols do.



8 Aug 03

HBAR and Tritium sights from an LEO friend in the Midwest:

“We got HBAR versions of Armalite AR-15s. The rifles are heavy and forward balanced. If he had to do it all over again, we would get standard barrels. Guns promises from Armalite in ninety days actually took nine months to deliver.

Better luck with Bushmaster. We purchased Bushmaster M4s for our beat cars. Other than a cracked gas tube and a couple of gas keys working loose, we’ve had good luck with them. We got front sights with tritium inserts in them for use in low light, but there is a problem. If the lighting conditions are such that the sun is over your shoulder, the light reflects off the glass cell in the tritium sight, distorting your sight picture and usually causing you to shoot high. It wasn’t really an issue until I got past 100m. Annoying, however.”

Comment: We’ve also had good luck with Bushmaster and DPMS. Less than good luck with other brands. Tritium sights are fine, but, as with everything else, there are drawbacks.



8 Aug 03

TiAIN Coating

“I just had a 1911 treated with TiAIN (titanium aluminum nitride) by Molecular Metallurgy here in CA. My Colt is now a uniform, dark matte charcoal gray, almost black. Job was great, but I ordered a matte finish on all parts.

I should have specified a polished finish on the barrel throat and feed ramp. When I first took the old Colt to the range to test fire it, it wouldn’t feed anything, not even hardball! Rounds kept hanging up on the matte finished feed ramp.

When I got it home, I tried to clean up the feed ramp with a Dremel buffing wheel and some polishing grit, but couldn’t make any progress. It seems about the only thing that will scratch TiAlN is more of the same. So now my final cleaning procedure for the Colt is to manually cycle half a dozen or so hardball rounds through it to ‘lube’ the feed ramp. As long as I do that, it remains reliable.”

Comment: When you have something done to a serious gun, but sure that the people doing the work know what the gun is for and that you life may depend on it. All serious guns need to be thoroughly tested before being placed into service. The world is full of surprises!



12 Aug 03

On Sighting Systems for Serious Rifles, from a Friend and Student:

“I am just back from a three-day tactics course with Louis Awerbuck. There were nine other students in attendance, and all were competent operators, with both rifle and pistol. All students brought ARs. All rifles, except mine, had coaxial flashlights mounted on the forend. All rifles, except mine, had some sort of trendy, high-tech optical sight. Optics included three Aimpoint M2s, three AGOG Compacts, two Trijicon Reflex, and one Tasco Dot. During the course, every one of them developed significant problems, significant enough to be life-threatening in a real fight.

As soon as it got dark, ACOGs and Reflexs washed out to the point of impotence with white light usage. The stark background light (created by the rifle’s own white light illumination) washed out the amber pyramids (several optics were thereupon immediately and unceremoniously jettisoned). One rifle (a fancy/custom AR with a tubular, aluminum forend) did not have back-up irons, so the shooter contemptuously discarded it, relying solely on his handgun from that point forward.

One Aimpoint M2 went dead (battery) at the start of the night session, even though the battery was okay when checked earlier in the day. Another student was mystified when his optic didn’t work. He realized (too late) that he forgot to remove the lens cap and turn on the switch to the ‘on’ position!

In contrast, I had no disadvantage with my iron sights under any environmental condition or distance, out to our maximum of one hundred meters. I won the man-on-man challenge and was one of the few to hit consistently at all ranges. I used the small aperture at fifty meters and greater, and the large one at twenty-five meters and in. Between twenty-five and fifty meters, either one worked.”

Lesson: Serious, fighting rifles need iron sights, and serious riflemen need to know how to use them. The only optical sight I recommend for a serious rifle is a plain-vanilla scout scope (no batteries). Any optic that requires batteries is a nonstarter, as is any optic that is high profile, fragile, and/or temperamental. These “operators” need to do no-nonsense testing before placing this competition/kiddy trash into serious service.



15 Aug 03

Police here and there:

A friend and student from the UK recently attended a course here in Colorado. He greatly enjoys shooting and realizes the importance of firearms skills, but, of course, in the UK any kind of defensive shooting training is nearly impossible for anyone but the politically connected. So, he joins us in the mountains once a year.

He shared with the class an interesting observation: He said, in observing American police officers, he noticed their attitude is one of “service.” They look upon themselves as “public servants.” Conversely, in Europe (even Western Europe), police look upon themselves as “public regulators.” They are told their job is to “modulate” the public and, most of all, provide protection for government officials.

Some might call it a subtitle, even inconsequential, difference, but, coming from his mouth, it caused us all to realize what a great country we live in. Government officials and employees looking upon themselves as “public servants,” rather than “public regulators,” what a concept!

Not surprisingly, all tyrants and tyrannies see themselves as “benevolent,” but, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out, the will of man is thus not shattered by “beneficent regulators,” but it is slowly softened, bent, and, in the end, asphyxiated. Men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power may not destroy in the physical sense, but it prevents true existence. It prevents one from claiming his own magnificence. It may not exactly tyrannize, but it squeezes, enfeebles, extinguishes, and ultimately smothers a people, until they are reduced nothing better than a flock of timid and fearful sheep, of which the government is (of course) the shepherd.



18 Aug 03

More of Rifle Sights:

We did a Rifle Course here in Michigan last weekend. Here is a comment from one of our students:

“The reason I took so long shooting that course yesterday was because when I got to the line, I shouldered my AR normally but, but I had great difficulty finding the correct eye-relief. After what seemed like an eternity, it occurred to me that I hadn’t extended my collapsible stock, and my face was thus too %$#@!~ close to the %$#@!~ scope! I thought, ‘Geeee, if I unshoulder and extend now, twenty people will see what a boob I am. Then, I remembered the words of my teacher, ‘Don’t whine about it. Just work through it’ So I did…”

Lesson: Telescoping stocks on ARs, combined with close-eye-relief scopes, can generate a potentially dangerous delay. Once again, when one gets away from iron sights, he tiptoes through a minefield!



20 Aug 03

More comments on equipment from several colleagues:

“I often see students here carry their CAR-15s with the stock fully collapsed (shortened). When in a deployment drill, they invariably forget to extend the stock and then subsequently drive their faces into the rear sight, or, like your student, fumble around trying to find the correct eye relief.

Our fix is to wrap a piece of electrical tape around the recoil spring tube just forward of the first or second notch extension. This maintains the correct index and prevents the shooter from collapsing the stock fully. I caution students not to carry the weapon on duty with the stock fully collapsed, as they will, without fail, experience the above problem at the worst time.”

“Problems with telescoping stocks, optical sights, lasers, and sights falling off ARs point out a systemic problem in our field: Gun writers and publishers are in bed with manufacturers, so every new attachment, ‘enhancement,’ and silly gadget receives glowing press in gun rags. Voices that reflect experience and common sense seldom have a national forum. That’s rational, because manufacturers of all manner of after-market trash support periodicals with advertising that ever targets a twelve-year-old readership. Capitalism is wonderful!

Humanity loses little if expensive and useless tinsel toys fall off the weapons of naive gunshop commandos. It is another matter when people (who are mistakenly taken seriously) recommend things like forward slide serrations on autoloading pistols and then go on to teach techniques that lead to fingers being blown off. How difficult (or controversial) is it to know that the front of the pistol is where the bullet comes out, so one is well advised to keep his hands away from there?

When we all were preparing for the delusory Y2K disaster, somebody asked me what they really needed. I said ‘a rifle that works and a canvas sack full of extra magazines and water.’ Of course, lacking glitter, batteries, glamor, and sex, that advice never made it into the press. What a surprise!”



21 Aug 03

I visited my old friend and colleague, Lou Alessi, in Buffalo, NY yesterday. Lou makes wonderful leather holsters, best ankle and shoulder holsters anywhere. Has for years.

Lou prefers leather, although he readily concedes the advantages of kydex.

He is busy these days, as always. Lots of military orders, mostly from individuals who have grown weary of waiting for someone else to equip them.

More than any of the foregoing, Lou is a gentlemen. His word is good. He is a man of honor and dignity, from the “old school.” I’m proud to call him my friend.



22 Aug 03

More Rifle comments from a LEO friend in the Midwest:

“We purchased Ruger Mini-14s last year and put them in all the cars. They ‘feature’ Ruger’s awful factory folding stock. We have them in racks in the cab, but we’ve never trained to deploy them.

We just had a murder-suicide locally that occurred in the early afternoon. All three of our beat cars responded. Our guys exited and found positions of cover as they set up a perimeter. Suddenly, it occurred to one of them that he had a rifle back in the car and that it might be useful. He went back to get it. Neither of the other two officers even remembered the rifles until the situation was over.

The fact that we had never practiced taking the guns in and out of the cars was painfully obvious, and it is therefore no wonder that it never occurred to anybody to actually take the rifle along on the call.

The lesson here is that, at the moment of truth, it is too late to practice!”

From a friend in South Africa:

“I do not allow collapsible stocks, only fold-ups. Stock is either extended fully, or not at all. Agents are taught to use their rifles with stocks deployed unless maneuverability is an issue, such as in a vehicle. A limited number of my rifles have been fitted with electronic sights, but they are not first-line weapons. Iron sights remain on all rifles. Although, like you, we have found some electronic sights to be of high quality, my experience is that Murphy’s law creeps in when you expect it the least, and I am therefore not prepared to gamble with them. Our agents are involved in active shootings every day. We can’t afford to play games over here!

In the same vein I have a problem with carrying handles. Several years ago, while in the military, I ordered my troops to tape down the carry handles of their FN-FALs (later, the R4), as I found that carrying such weapons by the handles prevented rapid deployment. We were in contact more or less continuously, and I saw soldiers get shot, because they were not quick enough in shouldering their rifles. We learned fast!”

Comment: Let us all learn from the bitter experiences of these two courageous warriors on opposite sides of the globe, so we don’t have to get our people hurt learning what they already know.



24 Aug 03

We conducted a Defensive Urban Rifle Course here on the East Coast this weekend. In case I’ve neglected to do so thus far, let me list two items that don’t work and should not be part of any professional gunman’s inventory:

The Ruger Mini 30
40-round magazines for the AR-15

We’ve seen a number of Ruger Mini-30s in courses, and we had another this weekend. As we have come to expect, it was “malfunction junction” from start to finish! This rifle just doesn’t work well, with any kind of magazine or with any species of ammunition. The student who owned it was completely frustrated and vowed early on to get rid of it as soon as he got home. I concurred!

Another student had a Bushmaster AR-15, but he was using two after-market, 40-round magazines. Neither worked. Failures to feed were rampant, particularly involving the last few rounds. Next day, we switched him over to 30-round magazines, and problems instantly disappeared. The rifle functioned perfectly from that point forward. The two 40-rounders ended their unhappy careers in the trash barrel!

Lesson: The training range is the best place to discover flaws in technique and equipment. These two students had the courage to face facts squarely and make the corrections necessary. They’re going to be okay!



26 Aug 03

More rifle comments from another colleague:

“In Vietnam nearly forty years ago, I carried a Colt Car-15, as did you. After several days on patrol in the rain, and not having made enemy contact, our colonel decided that we should be picked up and reinserted in a different area. When I entered the helicopter, I attempted to push the manual safety to the ‘on’ position, only to discover that the safety lever was frozen solid. Pounding with a knife butt finally caused the lever to come loose.

Back at base camp, inspection revealed that detent holes in the safety body had filled with water and had subsequently rusted shut. The cure was, of course, to clean and lube, then apply grease, filling the holes and groove completely. The problem never again reared its ugly head.

Never, that is, until decades later when I was going through a course at Blackwater during a rainy week, again with a Car-15, this one manufactured by Bushmaster. Once again, at the end of the day, I could not move the safety lever. Inspection revealed the same problem.”

Lesson: The above mentioned incidents could have occurred with any rifle. During active operations, weapons must be function checked constantly. During long periods of inaction, continuous inspection is even more important. Rust and corrosion affect any species of metal. The unexpected incessantly stalks the unwary.



28 Aug 03

Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, PA on 3 July 1863 and Rawlinson’s Charge at the Battle of the Somme River in France, 1 July 1916. Same tactics. Same result. The two catastrophes separated by only fifty-three years, almost to the day!

Lee had attempted to roll up Union lines on Cemetery Ridge south of Gettysburg from both ends. Unfortunately, his best generals were nearly all dead by the summer of 1863 (most notably, Tom “Stonewall” Jackson, killed at Chancellorsville), and both attempts had failed by mere inches, but failed nonetheless. Now, he had no choice but to attack the Union center, or withdraw from the battlefield in disgrace. It would be a long and desperate rush over open ground, but he had the best artillery in the business, and his chief of artillery had graduated at the top of his West Point class. Lee convinced himself that his artillery would dislodge and disorganize Union lines, paving the way for a decisive and crushing bayonet charge. With his army thus conclusively routed in their own territory, the latest in a long and dreary litany of thrashings at Lee”s hands, President Lincoln would have no choice but to negotiate. Murderous fighting, that so characterized this conflict, would finally come to an end!

Fifty-three years later in France, British General Rawlinson was also a man under pressure. The “Great War,” that had been welcomed by so many as a “great patriotic adventure,” had, since 1914, deteriorated into a stagnant, self-perpetuating, pitiless massacre that showed no signs of ending. Trenches in Western Europe had stagnated. Commanders repeatedly persuaded themselves that, with just “one more push,” German lines could be broken, a breakthrough could be established, and they could then rush to the rear. Months came and went, and no breakthrough happened, despite innumerable attempts. But, Rawlinson had artillery, lots of it, and lots of shells, many made in America. Like Lee, he was convinced that his artillery could not only drive Germans from their trenches, but that it could also cut through and blow away the endless layers of barbed wire that protected them. German barbed wire was so thick, it was said light could not shine through it. With Germans all killed or driven away and barbed wire gone, his infantry could then casually walk across no-man’s land and drive to the German rear. The long-awaited breakthrough would finally be at hand!

Both charges failed catastrophically! Both wars would go on for two more murderous years. Both generals could not bring themselves to confront the fact that their vaunted artillery bombardment had failed to do what it was intended to do.

At Gettysburg, exhausted Confederate artillerymen sent most of their projectiles over front line Union trenches. Rear areas were thus decimated, but the front lines came through the barrage largely intact. Confederate infantry, along a two-mile front, were subsequently wiped out. The few that made it to Union lines were killed or captured there. The Union line held, and the remnants of Lee’s infantry staggered all the way back to their starting point on Seminary Ridge. Lee was forced to withdraw from Gettysburg and salvage what remained of his army. George Meade, the opposing Union commander, failed to pursue, and Lee escaped to fight once more, but the outcome of the war was now certain.

Rawlinson”s artillery also did not deliver the miracle he had been assured it would. One-third of the 1.5 million shells fired over the five-day artillery preparation never went off at impact. German infantry positions were far deeper and stouter than anyone thought, and German barbed wire was unscathed by the bombardment. Rawlinson”s own patrols had told him this, but, since that is not what he wanted to hear, the information was brushed aside.

German machine gunners quickly manned their Maxim Guns as soon as the bombardment shifted to the rear. British infantry units, on a fifteen-mile front, snaked through gaps in their own barbed wire and reassembled on the opposite side in smart ranks, facing no-man’s land. They were then scythed down like so much wheat by German machine guns. The slaughter went on all day, with few British soldiers advanced more than a few hundred meters. The Battle of the Somme was to last 140 days, but the first day alone would see the deaths of 20,000 young British soldiers. Three times that number were wounded. An entire generation of British youth were wiped out. It was to be the largest loss of life ever in a single day of fighting, before or since.

Lesson: Any time you are told of miracles, miracle weapons, miracle ammunition, miracle fighting techniques, etc, never allow yourself to be taken in. Never be reluctant to face facts. The enemy may not be impressed with your “superior technology.” When your bluff is called, you had better not be bluffing!



29 Aug 03

On the Stealth Existence from a friend in GA:

“On the way back from an IDPA match today my car broke down, and I had to have it towed. The tow truck driver was kind enough to drop me at my house en route to dropping the car at my local mechanic’s garage. Of course, I had to unload all my ‘equipment’ at the end of my driveway and carry it to the house.

Fortunately, my ‘gun bag’ is a tool box from Home Depot. My ‘ammo can’ is a one-gallon paint can, and I carry my shotgun in a lacrosse racket case, as I learned from you. I was happy that I didn’t have to unload a bunch of obvious gun stuff, such as hard rifle case, OD ammo can, and typical range bag at the end of my driveway in front of my neighbors, their kids, and the tow truck driver. Instead, I looked like a guy on his way back from helping a friend with a home improvement project, which is, in fact, my usual cover story.

The stealth existence makes life tolerable and entails few sacrifices, except maybe ego-gratifying style concerns.

Lesson: The stealth existence must be regularly practiced by all of us. We don’t want questions or curious looks. What we want to do quietly slip under the radar.