20 Feb 01

This from a student who completed a Basic Defensive Handgun Course with us late last year:

“I’m the last one in the world one whom I thought would ever have to use the instruction I received. Happily, it worked!

Last week, my father and I were in a large metro area away from where we live. We were there to attend a funeral. We stopped at a 7-11 late in the evening on our way back to our hotel. We needed something to drink.

The 7-11 had locked their doors, but they had a walkthrough window. As I was waiting by the window for the clerk to get our soft drinks, two men walked up to the front door and tried to open it. It, of course, was locked, but they rattled it with great force. In their frustration, they started yelling with a threatening tone to the clerk to open the door so that they could use the ATM machine on the inside.

The clerk, of course, refused. They then turned to face me and demanded that I tell the clerk to open the door. I assumed the interview stance, made eye contact, and said, “I don’t think I can help you, sir.” They suddenly became quiet, looked at each other, and then abruptly left without saying another word.

I was not carrying a gun, but my posture alone was apparently enough to make them nervous.

As is usually the case, I’ll never know what would have happened if I had done something else or had done nothing. In any event, we picked up our drinks and returned to our hotel without further incident. We never saw them again”

Lesson: The best way to win a war is by reputation. In poker, far more money changes hands due to bluffing than due to good cards!



21 Feb 01

Africa, 2001:

I just returned from a nearly three-week stay with my friends in South Africa. I conducted three training programs, got to meet an ex-president, and did some great hunting. My friends and instructors make it all possible, and I am very fortunate to be able to know them.


Politically and economically South Africa continues on a frightening, downward spiral. When I entered the country at the beginning of this month, the exchange rate from Rand to US dollars was 7.9:1. When I left three weeks later, it was 8.2:1. The ANC, which dominates politics, owes much to the Communists for their support over the years, and the Communists thus have a great deal of influence. Local labor unions are all run by Communists.

The ANC has shown no interest in sharing power with anyone, particularly the white population. Racist policies at the national level are rampant and expanding, with white business owners finding it impossible to continue doing business without their companies being owned or taken over by blacks. The South African equivalent of the IRS works on a COMMISSION BASIS! Thus “tax collection” has become little more than uncontrolled extortion. Incompetent and utterly unqualified people are routinely appointed to top bureaucratic positions simply because of their skin color. Whites and have been systematically excluded.

In short, the white population (including Portuguese, Indians, and Asians) has become marginalized. They are much like Jews in Nazi Germany in 1935, openly hated and unrepentantly persecuted, clinging to the desperate and improbable hope that the situation will improve or that someone will help them. The predictable result is that South Africa is now in the middle of a large-scale, white-flight crisis. Doctors, in droves, are fleeing to Canada (which is actively recruiting them). Engineers and teachers are fleeing to the UK. Australia and New Zealand are actively and unapologetically encouraging emigration of skilled people from South Africa, running large ads in local newspapers. The ads, in an anything-but-subtle manner, convey the idea that in Australia and New Zealand whites are welcome and safe from persecution. In short, South Africa is rapidly losing all the people it can’t afford to lose. Many of my friends believe anarchy and armed dissonance, as is occurring right now in neighboring Zimbabwe, are inevitable and impending.

Violent crime against whites, particularly farm owners, is rampant and all but encouraged by the government. Farm owners have been told that they will receive no protection. “Investigations” of farm attacks are a joke, and few arrests are ever made.

Private security forces have completely displaced public police in all upscale, residential and business areas. Public police are universally regarded as incompetent and clueless. In fact, crime statistics are so alarming that the government has decided to make them all secret! All crime statistics and police records are now classified. Newspapers and broadcast media are prohibited from reporting them. Bad news is not cool.

Any form of self defense is now a crime, particularly if the attackee is white and the attacker(s) is black. Anyone who uses a gun to defend themselves can plan on going to jail, which is a death sentence in itself. All I talked with indicated that, if they ever shot someone, they would simply walk away. If it occurs in their home, they dispose of the body and say nothing.

The new gun law limits everyone to three guns, a pistol, a shotgun, and a rifle. If a gun breaks, tough luck! All guns are registered at the national level, and permission to own a gun can be arbitrarily withdrawn at any time. Buying one usually takes ninety days or more. Fortunately, the law in largely unenforceable, and a substantial number of citizens are ignoring it. Shooting ranges are being shut down, and ammunition manufacture is being regulated out of business. High performance, defensive ammunition is nearly impossible to find and is prohibitively expensive. Most of my students came to me with home-made, lead reloads which were underpowered, inaccurate, and filthy, and they even had precious little of that. I had to curtail the number of rounds consumed to half of what I would specify over here.

On top of all that, the AIDS crisis is still out of control, killing people as rapidly as in any of the plagues of the second millennium. Regrettably, government at all levels is in unequivocal denial, insisting that there is no epidemic and that no one needs to worry. There is also a deadly cholera epidemic going on right now, particularly in townships (slums) around Durban. Thousands have died. Yet, there is an absolute news blackout. I didn’t find out about it until I returned home. There was not a word about it on the local news while I was there. News manipulation is surely not beneath the ANC.

Speaking of which, you’ll never hear any of the foregoing reported in the American news media. So afraid (and cowardly) are they of any subject which could have racial overtones, the crisis in South Africa is being ignored. Locals are amazed that Americans know so little of the situation.


Most of my police students came to me with CZs. Old and worn out, they still functioned for the most part. There are many accidents when people try to manually decock the weapon. I thus encourage students to carry it cocked and locked. The new version of the CZ, which has a manual decocking lever, has yet to make its appearance.

One group of private security people had H&K USP Compacts in 45ACP. Excellent pistol, however students with big hands kept inadvertently pushing out the slide stop pin, which immediately caused the pistol to stop functioning. We sometimes see the same thing with 1911s. In any event, we had to coach them not to put pressure on the right extension of the slide stop pin as their trigger finger went into register.

There were a few Browning Hi-Powers and some locally-made Vectors and RAPs (Republic Arms), but serious students all had Glocks. I makes me cringe to see lead reloads shot through them, but that is all that is available. They become a gummy mess is short order.

Norinco makes a copy of the old Ithaca pump shotgun (bottom ejecting). We had several in classes. They work well! I’ve never seen one in the States.

There is a fledgling kydec holster industry in South Africa. Crude by our standards, they are still functional. I saw a number of Fobus holsters. They are popular. I brought some Elderton Ky-Tac holsters for my friends. Everyone wants them!


Again this year, I had the opportunity to hunt on the sprawling Nellskrall Game Ranch in the Karoo desert, about one third of the way from Capetown to Johannesburg near the town of Beaufort.

This time, we went after red hartebeest and blue wildebeest. As was the case last year, I used a borrowed Bruno bolt gun in 270 Win. I was fortunate to have an excellent guide and tracker, without whom I would have never seen an animal. I got a shot at the hartebeest first. Range was 175 meters, and it was an uphill shot. African plains game never stop running, and, when they finally pause, its rarely for more than two seconds. When the hartebeest bull finally paused for two seconds, it turned out to be one too many! I started my compression sequence as soon as he slowed down, holding on the point of the shoulder. There was a gusty wind, and, when the shot broke, the bullet was blown forward, toward the neck, by three inches. In any event, the bullet hit him in the neck, and he went down with one shot, never to get up again (unlike the orex last year!). He weighed 350 pounds.

I was using hand loads featuring Barnes X bullets. It was a 130 grain monolithic bullet which contains no lead. I’ve never used them before, but I was surely impressed with their performance! The front opens up, but the entire rear of the bullet stays intact. I believe virtually no weight was lost. We didn’t recover the one from the hartebeest, as it went through and through. We did recover the one from the wildebeest, which I shot the following day.

Like hartebeest, blue wildebeest never stop running! When I finally got a shot the range was 225 meters. Again, I held on the point of the shoulder, but the bullet was again blown a few inches forward into the neck. Again, he went down with one shot. I was thrilled and relieved that I didn’t disgrace the regiment! His weight was 500 pounds. Wildebeest are big animals, and tough!

I delivered two finishing shots into the wildebeest with a G19. The first was a Gold-Dot 125gr. The second was a Cor-Bon 115gr. Both made splendid, ten-inch wound channels, tearing up lung and heart tissue impressively. However, the Gold-Dot bullet ejected its core. We recovered only the expanded jacket. The Cor-Bon bullet stayed together. Jacket and bullet, perfectly expanded, were intact and bonded together.


Through one of my politically-connected friends I had the opportunity to meet ex-president, PW Botha, in person. Now in his eighties, he is a controversial figure, but he received me graciously, and we had a wonderful conversation about the history of the African Continent. He gave me an autographed book, and I gave him a copy of my latest handgun volume

Travel Tips:

When in South Africa, I was advised not to smoke Camel cigarettes and not to use Zippo lighters! Camel cigarettes and several other American brands are expensive, and people smoking them are identified as well off and thus suitable candidates for mugging. Zippo lighters are likewise associated with “rich” people. I don’t smoke anyway, but its good advice for people who do.

That is the latest. I hope to return next year, if the situation over there still permits it.



21 Feb 01

This from a friend I just saw last week in Africa:

“Here is a reason to be always armed that you may not have thought of. It never crossed my mind until it happened:

Last winter (May-Aug) I was hiking with some friends on a mountain trail near my home (the Cape area). There were six of us. We were suddenly accosted by a troupe of baboons who had been waiting for us at a blind spot on the trail. There were several dozen adults, along with many juveniles.

Baboons here have lost all fear of humans. They are aggressive, vicious, and extremely dangerous, even the small ones. They have long incisors and are much stronger than any human. They routinely kill guard dogs with little effort. Their mouths are extremely septic, so any bite invariably brings on a nasty infection.

They break into homes and cars looking for food. It has become a real problem here. They know how to operate door knobs and handles as well as window sashes. They also know how to break window and car glass without hurting themselves. They will aggressively approach humans and take briefcases, lunch boxes, etc.

Concerned for our safety, we all picked up rocks in an effort to drive them away. It was touch and go for nearly an hour. We were finally able to back down the trail and get to our cars. None of us were armed. Baboons are extremely fearful of ARMED humans. They know what guns look like, and the scatter immediately if anyone produces one.

I firmly resolved that day that I would never again go anywhere without a gun, particularly around here!”

Lesson: It is the UNEXPECTED that we need to prepare for most earnestly. The expected isn’t nearly so scary!



25 Feb 01

Compact pistols:

During a program in Oklahoma City last weekend, my Glock-36 developed a spring problem. The pistol uses a captured, double-concentric, recoil spring system, as do many compact, autoloading pistols.

After a number of students used the pistol in a stoppage drill (in which pistol get slapped around a good deal), I noticed that the slide was not moving normally.

When we field stripped it, I discovered that the larger of the two, concentric springs had slipped out of its alignment sleeve. The premises gunsmith was able to fix it, and the gun was returned to service right away. My friends at Glock, whom I can always count on, instantly replaced the part, although I don’t think it was necessary.

The lesson here is that one pays a price when he selects compact autoloaders. The G36 is delightful to carry. It may not be much slimmer than a G19, but I can really tell the difference as I carry it in my Elderton IWB holster.

However, it may be that double, concentric recoil spring systems are not as inherently reliable as single spring systems found on full-sized autoloaders. Comfort and compactness comes at a price!



27 Feb 01

From a prominent gunsmith friend who does a lot of defensive handgun smithing:

“I don’t have much faith in the dual spring, recoil systems. This is why I don’t go shorter on the slide length than the Commander on all my ‘O’ frame pistols. If one considers that the easiest part of the pistol to conceal it is the slide, I would rather endure a few extra ounces of weight and slide length in order to realize (1) a significant increase in reliability, (2) an adequate sight radius, and (3) respectable pointability.

In manufacturing ‘subcompact’ pistols, I think many gun companies are simply trying to invent something new for a market of folks who don’t even carry pistols and who use them only for recreation. As brevity is the soul of whit, simplicity is the heart of function.

I have a Colt Commander that Armand Swenson built in the mid 70s. It is still perfectly functional after 125,000, plus rounds. By contrast, the ill-conceived Officers’ Model features an inherently impractical layout, doubtless designed by someone who hadn’t the foggiest idea of what a carry pistol is for. It suffers from a poor barrel/bushing system which generates endless feeding problems, and the recoil spring system only lasts 750 rounds before bending and losing tension.

I continue to believe that the mating of the Commander slide with the Officers’ ACP frame is the best system for ‘O’ frame carry, other than the original Government Model itself.”

Well put! Subcompact pistols still have a valid place in the lives of some, but, as I said, all that “compacting” comes at a price!



28 Feb 01

Adowa, Ethiopia, Friday, 28 Feb 1896

In 300BC, the famous Roman general, Scipio, swept through northern Africa, conquering all before him and claiming vast tracts of land for the Roman Empire. Included was the Empire of Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia), a sophisticated kingdom that had foreign relationships with many countries. In fact, ancient Israel and Ethiopia had a close relationship as early as 1000BC, and Israelite missionaries traveled to Ethiopia and converted many to the Israelite religion. So important was Ethiopia that, in 400AD, missionaries from Rome would reconvert many there to Christianity. In 900AD, Islamic missionaries would sway many to their religion.

Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs, Turks, Portuguese, and later Western European countries like France, Britain, and Spain also all clamored after African colonies for centuries. As the Nineteenth Century drew to a close, the scramble for African Colonies began anew among the newly unified countries of Europe, namely Germany, Belgium, and Italy. All distrustful of each other, control of important sea routes around the horn or Africa (as well as the Cape) loomed as a critical advantage to prime ministers and kings alike.

Belgium seized the disease-ridden Congo, simply because no one else wanted it. Germany seized vast tracts in west Africa (present-day Tanzania). However, only the Italians truly saw the importance of controlling the ports of the horn of Africa and thus the Red Sea passages. When the Suez Canal was built years later, the Red Sea passages would take on critical, strategic importance.

Therefore, beginning in 1881, the Italians started their move into Ethiopia. They immediately suffered a humiliating and devastating defeat (actually a massacre) at the hands of swarms of Ethiopians at the Battle of Dogali. Coming only two years after Isandhlwana and five years after Little Big Horn, this event should have been taken as an important warning that “primitive people” were not as “primitive” as everyone thought.

Fifty-year-old General Oreste Baratieri then became Italy’s new point man in the Ethiopian campaign. He immediately engineered a series of local victories and was promptly celebrated a hero by a newly emerging nation of Italy, desperate to recall the heady days of Rome, and thirsting after an “empire” once more. He was hailed like a conquering hero, and it went to his head. Like so many generals before and since he was on a roll, and he thought it was all due to some inherent goodness and virtue on his part. Like so many generals before and since, he would soon discover that glory is a fleeting, temperamental thing, as fickle as the weather.

In late 1885, Baratieri started his grand invasion of Ethiopia. Backed by his political commissar in Rome, Crispi, who supplied him with a modern army of 20,000, Baratieri was looking forward to a grand victory which would propel him into such political strength that he could return to Italy and promptly lead another army against the Austrians in order to finally reclaim disputed territory in Northern Italy, something of which he had dreamed his entire life.

His soldiers were equipped with the Vetterli, magazine-fed rifle, as well as excellent artillery, and a few copies of the new Maxim machine gun. They were able to communicate via telegraph and heliograph. They were confident!

Baratieri’s opponent was the charismatic Menelik, an experienced and savvy commander who had called for a holy war to repel the invaders. He had an army of over 100,000. Most were surely not equipped with modern weapons, but they were unafraid and would go wherever they were directed and would fight to the last man.

Baratieri’s campaign got off to a rocky start. At the battle of Amba Alagi on 7 December 1885, one of his battalions became isolated and was subsequently surrounded and overwhelmed by Menelik’s army. They put of a heroic defense but ran out of ammunition. A few broke out, but most were killed. On 6 January 1896, Menelik surrounded another Italian garrison, this one occupying the fortified town of Makalle. Having no interest in a prolonged siege, Menelik offered it’s commander, Lt/Col Galliano, safe passage if he would simply leave in peace. His offer was accepted, and Menelik was good to his word. Galliano left in peace with his command.

These were just the kind of set backs that Baratieri didn’t need. He started to worry that, when the news filtered back to Rome, Crispi would sack him for another general. Baratieri concluded that he had to do something spectacular in order to regain the confidence of Crispi and of his command, and he had to do it quickly! He decided upon a massive night march and a surprise attack the following morning.

Actually, Menelik’s entire army was out of food and was about to disburse on its own. Had Baratieri waited just a day or two, he could have marched into Menelik’s territory unopposed. Unfortunately, Baratieri’s intelligence network was not thorough enough to provide him with this information. He was winning the war of logistics. He just didn’t know it.

On the morning of 28 Feb 1896, after a night of exhaustive marching, Baratieri’s units were dangerously separated and out of communication with each other. Seeing his opportunity, Menelik started attacking one Italian unit at a time with his entire command, easily overwhelming them in sequence. In the course of a day and a half, Baratieri’s entire army was defeated in detail.

Italian soldiers fought bravely and inflicted substantial casualties, but they were hopelessly outnumbered, and units were not in a position to support each other. Most units elected to fight and die in place rather than surrender. Artillery crews stayed with and defended their pieces until they were all killed.

While all this was going on, Baratieri himself was in a state of paralysis. Dithering about his tent for hours and mumbling incoherent orders, he was clearly not in command. Only when he personally witnessed his own line start to collapse, did Baratieri finally issue a coherent order. It was to retreat. He had lost over half his army and all the territory he had planned to claim for Italy.

Baratieri survived physically, but, along with Crispi, his military and political career ended abruptly. The new Italian government negotiated with Menelik for the release of prisoners in exchange for officially recognizing him and his people as a sovereign nation. It was a festering humiliation that would smolder in Italy until 1935 when Mussolini reinvaded Ethiopia, this time with airplanes, tanks, and poison gas. World War II would follow shortly.


Critical information won’t find you. You need to find it. Bravery alone will never adequately make up for blindness.

Even a mediocre decision in the nick of time is better by far than the best possible decision a moment too late.

When fighting for your life, you hold nothing back! You must bring to bear all your force upon the enemy simultaneously, lest you be gobbled up one small chunk at a time. The military term is “defeat in detail.”