3 Jan 01

The Little Big Horn, Saturday, 25 June 1876

The biggest problem American Indians faced with European immigrants was that they kept allying themselves with the losing side! During the French and Indian War, Indians allied themselves with the French. The French lost. During the Revolutionary War, Indians allied themselves with the British. The British lost. So, by the middle of the 1800s, not surprisingly Americans had precious little sympathy with Indians, all Indians. They were all seen as godless devils. Contemptuous disdain for Indians and Indian culture would thus drive American Politics for the rest of the Century. Primitive man would have to move, or be moved, out of the way, so that western expansion could proceed. Indian Tribes had few allies in Washington. They couldn’t vote, and they were constantly “in the way.” Civil War hero, Phil Sheridan, coined the expression, “The only ‘good’ Indian is a dead Indian!”

Indian “chiefs” were thus located and persuaded to sign away vast tracts of land, without ever consulting with sub chiefs or adjacent tribes. “Civilized” tribes, like the Cherokee, who had tried their best to accommodate European settlers and amalgamate with the new culture were never given a chance. They were carelessly lumped together with all other Indians and casually pushed out of the way. Warriors from belligerent tribes fought an intermittent and disorganized battle against encroachment, but the ultimate outcome was never in doubt. There were no new Pontiacs, Little Turtles, or Tecumsehs to unite the tribes. Western expansion, in fact, was taking place so rapidly that “reservations” were hastily created, mostly to keep settlers out, not Indians in.

By 1876, with no major war to capture headlines, the regular army had, once again, deteriorated to a low level, both in numbers and morale. Only 26,000 troopers were on the roles. At any one time, a substantial number were AWOL. In fact, as is so often the case, the regular army had become a refuge for “users, boozers, and losers” whose rowdy and foul personal conduct would never be tolerated on the outside. A soldier stood a far greater chance of dying of venereal disease or being killed in a drunken brawl than he did of being killed in combat.

Of all army officers in the post Civil War era, the one name most remembered is George A Custer, which is exactly as he would have wanted it! Inactivity made him crazy. Such an incorrigible glory hound was he that, when the Civil War ended, he considered joining the Mexican army, so that he could take part in an actual, shooting war. His uniform and personal appearance were always overstated and he usually looked more like a thespian than a soldier. On a darker side, Custer was unfeeling and cold-blooded. His uncaring attitude for the welfare of his subordinates was manifested on many occasions. He craved only personal glory, and had little concern for the people with him. Though married, he kept a number of Indian and black mistresses.

In 1868, a bored Custer charged into Black Kettle’s Indian village on the Washita River in Oklahoma, killing a handful of warriors along with many women and children and several dozen horses. Not surprisingly, Custer inflated the causality figures to purport that well over one hundred warriors were killed. Also not surprisingly, he sent a small patrol to reconnoiter a hidden area on the river, then forgot about them! They were all killed by Indians, but Custer never bothered to find out what happened to them. Their lives obviously meant nothing to him. As a result, his command was thereafter sharply divided into pro-Custer and anti-Custer factions.
President Grant hated Custer, as did just about everyone else in Washington. Grant’s administration had been plagued with scandal, most of it revolving around his sleazy brother, Orville. In an act which alienated him completely, Custer was persuaded by ambitious politicians to publicly speak out against Grant. Because of that and a host of other indiscretions, Grant was so enraged he wanted Custer decommissioned and drummed out of the service. Only Custer’s longtime friend, Phil Sheridan, shielded him from Grant’s wrath.

In the nick of time, a major military campaign began to take shape. Lakotas, under Sitting Bull, Gall, and Crazy Horse, had left their reservation and invaded an area in the Montana Territory that had been assigned to the Crows. It was June, and the various political parties in Washington were selecting candidates to run in the fall elections. Politicians naturally wanted to be perceived as being in control of “the Plaines.” Several newspaper editors were eying Custer as presidential material. So, General Crook was sent north from Ft Laramie. Colonel Gibbon was to proceed east from Helena, MT. General Terry would advance west from Ft Lincoln, SD. Custer, assigned to Terry’s command, was ordered to take his regiment further west to the Yellowstone River, then south.

All four columns were to simultaneously converge at the Little Big Horn River in present-day Montana, where the recreant Lakotas were believed to be. The intent was to round up the entire contingent of trespassing Indians, and then escort them back to their proper place. The expectation was that, faced with overwhelming force, the Indians would all be rounded up like so much cattle.

Custer declined to take four Gatling Guns, because he contended they would slow him down. However, he did insist on taking the regimental band! General Terry immediately vetoed that idea. Colonel Gibbon chided Custer, “Don’t be greedy. Wait for us!” Custer’s response (as he rode away) was, “No I won’t!” His reply could have been taken two ways, and the colonel never got a chance to demand a clarification.

Custer’s column resembled a picnic outing rather than a military unit! Custer’s younger brother Boston and a teen-age nephew, Autie Reed, joined the group as tourists. Mark Kellogg, Custer’s publicist, was also invited to come along. Custer was himself flamboyantly dressed in a long-frilled, buckskin coat and carried two British Webley revolvers and a hunting rifle. A third of his 480-man contingent were raw recruits with virtually no military training. They were unfamiliar with their rifles and had no marksmanship training. They should have been completing their training, not matching wits with nimble and cunning Indian warriors who had been fighting all their lives. They surely had no business being part of any serious military operation. Few of them were in any kind of “uniform.” The issue rifle was the 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield in 45-70 caliber. It was functional piece, but it was a permutation of a sporting rifle. It was accurate, but not designed for high-volume fire. When it got hot, it would fail to extract and thus quickly become non functional. This would prove a fatal shortcoming. Few troopers carried sabers. The smart ones carried multiple revolvers!

Prior to that time, the most Indians anyone had ever seen in one place was fifteen hundred. There was no reason to believe that the “Lakota Sioux,” who were themselves a ragtag, disorganized amalgamation of a number of different tribes, numbered any more than that or would be capable of any kind of organized military action. The word, “Sioux,” was an Ojibway term meaning, “enemy.” It was adopted by solders as meaning any Indian.

Custer sped ahead! He intended to arrive at the Little Big Horn a full day ahead of the other units. As they approached, his scouts warned him that the Indian camp was far bigger than anyone had thought. They were able to discern the size from the number of ponies they could see grazing on a hillside. That is not what Custer wanted to hear, so he discounted their warnings, accusing them of having cold feet.

Custer was urged to pause by his two chief subordinates Marcus Reno and Fred Benteen. Even his own brother, Tom Custer, who was also one of his subordinate commanders, advised great caution. Saying, “We’ve caught them napping!” Custer rejected their advice and decided to attack immediately. He sent Reno to charge the camp from the south. He sent Benteen off to take an ill-defined “blocking position.” Custer himself was to lead a charge directly into the middle of the Indian camp, although Reno had been lead to believe Custer would be right behind his (Reno’s) group. Both Reno and Benteen were part of the anti-Custer contingent within the command, particularly Benteen, and he was probably sent away from the action mainly to assure that he did not play any significant role, and would thus not merit space in newspaper headlines.

The Indian camp was the largest in history, containing six thousand Indians, far larger than anyone had expected! Custer’s famous note to Benteen said, “Come on. Big village. Be quick. Bring packs (ammunition). PS Bring packs.” For Custer, it was too late. Reno’s charge had barely begun when it became obvious that he was in way over his head. The attack immediately bogged down, and, trying desperately to salvage as much of his command as possible, Reno ordered a series of retreats. Reno lost half of his troopers, but he managed to get the rest on a hilltop and there set up a parameter defense.

Custer in the meantime never got a chance to charge the Indian encampment. They charged him! Instead of establishing a dense, perimeter defense on a hilltop, Custer ordered his 215 men to spread out over a half mile of indefensible terrain. That was a fatal mistake. His units were attacked one at a time and defeated in detail. When the remnant finally retreated to a hilltop, it was too late. They were overrun and all killed. It took less than twenty minutes! Many (probably most) committed suicide rather than being captured. Many of their overheated rifles were jammed and out of action. According to the Indian version, Custer was himself killed or mortally wounded early on and was literally dragged to the top of the hill by his brother, Tom.

In the meantime, Benteen luckily found Reno’s bedraggled group and joined them. Several attempts were made to break out and find Custer, but all were quickly repulsed. By the following day, no more shots were heard, and Reno and Benteen realized all the Indians had left. Even then, they had no idea of what had happened to Custer. It was General Terry’s command, arriving that same day who discovered Custer’s body and those of the rest of his contingent. The last of the bodies was not located until 1958! The Indians killed most of the cavalry horses, having no use for them, since they required grain for subsistence. Grass-fed ponies were much smaller but eminently more suitable for their purposes

Great courage was displayed by both sides, but brilliant tactics were displayed by neither. Custer’s presumptuous and hair-brained plan was doomed from the beginning. Crazy Horse was involved in some credible cavalry maneuvers, but the “charge” of Custer’s position simply involved running up a series of gullies. A herd of sheep would have done the same thing.

The Lakotas were as surprised by their lopsided victory as was everyone else! However, they knew they couldn’t stay and were fearful of what would happen to them all. Most fled to Canada. In Canada they found refuge for a short time, but soon discovered that the Canadians didn’t want them any more than the Americans did. Gall was killed by Reno’s men early on in the battle. Crazy Horse turned himself in and was promptly murdered by his captors. Sitting Bull became a circus star! The land was returned to the Crows, who have it to this day.

Had he survived, Custer would surely have been court-martialed. As it was, poor Marcus Reno was selected as the most eligible scapegoat. He was acquitted, but never recovered. He was a broken man and died a pathetic alcoholic. Even in death, Custer was generally (and correctly) regarded at the time as an incompetent egomaniac. There he would have remained, had it not been for his long-suffering wife, Elizabeth (Libby). Libby Custer is the one who, through strong media connections, resurrected her late husband’s image and eventually made him a Hollywood hero.

Lessons: “Don’t mistake a bull market for brains!” is a common warning emanating from the lips of stock brokers and financial planners alike. The foolish and the self-deceptive will consistently confuse a run of good luck with divine providence! When the winning streak goes cold, they think it is unfair or that God has abandoned them. Both conclusions are absurd. There is nothing wrong with good luck or with bad luck. There is a great deal wrong, in either case, with thinking you deserve it!



3 Jan 01

Isandhlwana, Tuesday, 21 Jan 1879

At the close of the Nineteenth Century, Britain’s formidable sea power had brought about an expansive, albeit fragile, colonial empire. Some former colonies, like the United States, had wrested independence from the Empire, but most hadn’t. It was an Empire upon which “the sun never set,” and it was the envy of France, Germany, and Russia. However, the precariously thin spread of Britain’s military strength was a matter of great concern in London, as was the fact that Britain’s economic primacy was now under serious assault from both the United States and Germany.

Two centuries earlier, the Dutch had beat Britain to the southern tip of Africa, important because of its geographical position on the sea route to India. The Cape Colony was established in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company. Staunchly religious (Calvinist) Dutch farmers, and French Huguenots (fleeing religious persecution in France), who had settled the Cape Colony, in the eyes of the British, lacked the political sophistication necessary to exploit the area properly. More disturbingly, they were much more friendly to Germany than to England.

So, the Cape was important, strategic real estate and, in the eyes of the British at the dawn of the Nineteenth Century, ripe for the picking. Like the Romans before them, it was inconceivable to the British that anyone would not want their brand of civilization. They really thought they would be welcomed in south Africa. They weren’t! Cape residents resisted the British expeditionary force but were quickly defeated by General James Craig at the battle of Wynberg in 1795. By 1810, armed resistance had faded away. The Netherlands formally ceded the Cape Colony to Britain in 1814. However, smouldering resentment on the part of the Dutch never weakened and would explode once more at the end of the Century during the Anglo-Boer Wars.

Indigenous Cape populations consisted mostly of Khoisan (Bushman) tribesman, of which Hottentots were the most prevalent variety. The Dutch referred to them as “Kaffirs,” meaning “unconverted.” Even the British adopted the term. Hottentots accepted the presence of the Dutch and readily interbred with visiting sailors. White women were scarce! Mixed-race babies became commonplace.

Khoisans, as well at Pigmys, who were all hunter/gatherers, had themselves been pushed out of most of the rest of south Africa by aggressive Bantu farmer/ranchers, coming down from west Africa. When they pushed north and east from the Cape, Dutch frontiersmen encountered the first of the Bantus, the Xhosa. The Xhosa were much more contentious and territorial than the Khoisan. Conflict was violent as new territories were actively contested. The “Kaffir Wars” went on more or less continuously for the rest of the century.

Back at the Cape, Dutch settlers, like so many other colonists, swiftly developed a sincere dislike for the British, British governmental institutions, and the English language. The British had an annoying habit of making second-class citizens out of all non-British. So, many Dutch left the Cape for the south African interior. Others pushed eastward up the coast. All wanted to get out of the reach of British influence. In fact, the “Great Treck,” starting in 1836, took on a profound religious significance with the Dutch. At the Battle of Blood River in December of 1838, Dutch “Voortrekkers” decisively defeated a large Zulu army. They took this as a sign that their presence in the interior of south Africa was sanctioned from on high.

The term, “Zulu,” meant “the heavens” and referred to a tenuous amalgamation of Bantu tribes. The mixture was ruthlessly held together by a dynasty of strong, military chiefs. Through an aggressive, amoebic foreign policy, Zulus terrorized neighboring tribes and gradually became the dominant force in the interior of south Africa.

Native African horses, like Zebra, were never successfully domesticated, and, unlike American Indians, neither the Khoisan nor the Bantu ever developed an interest in horses and horsemanship. No one knows why. That was their ultimate undoing, as Dutch settlers were skilled horsemen and used their superior mobility to consistently outmaneuver tribesmen (and later, British infantry), who could only walk or run.

In the 1840s (the “hungry forties”) the Irish potato famine dried up British army recruitment in Ireland. In 1854-56 Britain was at war with Russia. In 1858, there was a substantial revolt against British forces in India. In 1868, British troops invaded Ethiopia. Maintaining and expanding a colonial empire keep the British busy! However, constant armed conflict also kept both the British Army and Navy at the top of their game. They were not about to let valuable colonies slip away.

Accordingly, no matter how hard the Dutch (called “Boers”) in south Africa tried to get away from the British, the British moved in right behind them and promptly recolonized the new neighborhoods. An autonomous, Dutch state (sympathetic to Germany) within south Africa was seen as being in direct conflict with British interests.

However the Boers had become a significant military force in their own right, and, in 1852, the British Governor of the Cape, Sir Harry Smith, under the threat of Boer military intervention, reluctantly signed the Treaty of Sand River, in which considerable autonomy was granted to Andries Pretorius (the hero of Blood River) and his Transvaal and Orange Free State. Bliss was short lived! When diamonds, and later gold, were discovered in the Orange Free State in the 1860s, trouble started all over again.

Ignoring their own treaty, the British annexed the diamond territory in 1871 and ultimately all Dutch-controlled areas. In 1880 the Dutch rose up in rebellion (the First Anglo-Boer War) and were astoundingly successful. Armed conflict lasted less than three months. The British were stunned! Prime Minister Disraeli was ousted as a result, replaced by Gladstone. The end result was muddled. Gladstone reinstated Dutch autonomy to Transvaal, but it remained a British colony. It was an utterly unworkable situation, and, predictably, war again erupted (the Second Anglo-Boer War) in 1899. This time, it would not end until 1902.

In Europe, the Boer Wars were pushed off the front page by the Boxer Rebellion in China. Likewise, Americans were more concerned with the Spanish-American War in Cuba and the Philippines. Russians were consumed with the Russo-Japanese War in Manchuria. So, the Boer Wars were regrettably consigned to an obscure corner of history. Most people today have no idea they ever took place.

At the dawn of the Twentieth Century, Dutch settlers in Africa abandoned the label of “Boer” (meaning “farmer”) and started calling themselves “Afrikaners,” and their Dutch dialect was dubbed “Afrikaans.”


In the midst of all these global developments, the Battle of Isandhlwana (the centerpiece of the Anglo-Zulu War, one of the never-ending Kaffir Wars) took place in January of 1879, less than three years after the Battle of the Little Big Horn in America.

In August of 1877, Sir Bartle Frere was appointed governor of the Cape Colony. Frere was anxious to open up farmland in south Africa and at the same time put down revolting tribesmen, who were a constant nuisance to existing farmers. Past experience with local Bantus of the Hlubi and Putuni extraction had convinced Frere that none of them were capable of credible resistance. He had shot them down by the thousands and enslaved the rest, even though slavery was supposed to be illegal in all British colonies. General Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Barron of Clemsford, know to most simply as “Clemsford,” had fighting experience in Ethiopia in 1868 and had been personal aid to Queen Victoria. With a general like that, Frere was confident he could now proceed to northern section of Natal Provence and take on the vaunted Zulu Nation itself.

So, on the flimsiest of pretexts, Frere notified Chief Cetshwayo of the Zulus that he must surrender at once. He then declared war on the Zulu Nation without even waiting for a reply! Clemsford was directed to organize an invasion force and proceed without delay. In an eerie replay of the Little Big Horn disaster, Clemsford hastily threw together a task force. Planning, coordination, and training were all deficient. Supplies too were woefully inadequate, but he pressed forward anyway. On 11 Jan 1879 Clemsofrd’s force entered Zululand.

Soldiers were armed with a Martini-Henry, breech-loading rifle in 45 caliber. Like the trapdoor Springfield, it was an accurate piece, but basically a sporting rifle. It overheated during high-volume fire, causing spent cartridges to refuse to extract. When their rifles thus went down, soldiers were left with only bayonets and pistols.

Zulu warriors were armed with a skin-covered shield and a short, stabbing spear, called an assegai, which they used in a low, stabbing motion similar to that used by Roman Legionaries many centuries earlier. However, Zulus were masters of massed formations. They could, in unison, run, shift directions, and go to ground as if operating on one brain. In unison, they could chant, stomp the ground, and strike their spears against their shields. The din was deafening! Most frightening, they could absorb hideous casualties and still keep coming as if nothing had happened. They were confident that they could be effective even against British infantry, particularly when they were spread too thin and were armed with rifles that overheated!

Mount Isandhlwana, deep in Zululand, looks like an iceberg jutting out of the prairie. Its nearly vertical sides are unscaleable. It could be seen for miles and served as a convenient landmark for Clemsford’s task force. Leaving a company to protect Rorke’s Drift (ford), he went forward toward the mountain. Unknown to Clemsford, Chief Cetshwayo had taken the invasion threat seriously and had assembled an army of 10,000 warriors, far more than anyone had imagined! Clemsford had fewer than one thousand regulars and assorted local militia, and he had them spread out so thinly that mutual support was impossible.

One of Clemsford’s mounted scouting patrols, chasing some tribesmen over a hill, blundered into Cetshwayo’s army. The Zulus immediately charged in unison. Lieutenant Colonel Pulline’s regiment was directly in their path, and Pulline was hopelessly unprepared. Like Custer before him, he had only thin lines of infantry standing in the open. Ammunition that would shortly be desperately needed was far the rear and had not even been unboxed. A dire message was sent to Clemsford, “For God’s sake, come back. The camp is surrounded!”

In four hours the entire regiment was overrun. Red uniforms were submerged is a sea of black flesh! Of 915 white soldiers at Isandhlwana, only fifty-five survived and only by escaping on horseback. Two thousand Zulus were also killed.

Clemsford did receive the message but discounted it as just a frightened, inexperienced officer in a state of foolish panic. Only hours later, when he bothered to check on Pulline’s camp, did he discover the full scope of the disaster. He and his entire command were horrified at the sight! The entire regiment, including Pulling himself, had been massacred. No one in a red uniform had survived. Many rifles were found with spent cartridges stuck in the chamber!

The company left at Rorke’s Drift did survive, only because they formed dense lines of riflemen behind parapets. Thus deployed, they were able to stop the Zulu charges.

Frere was recalled. Discredited, he died five years later a broken man.

Clemsford had another chance at the Zulus a few months later. This time, he formed dense squares of infantry with Gatling Guns on the corners. Zulus were mowed down like wheat, and the downfall of the Zulu Empire was assured. However, he was recalled to England. His friendship with the queen saved him from court martial, but his blunder was well noted, and he was consigned thereafter to ceremonial posts. He would never again have a command.

Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders of Rorke’s Drift, as that was the part of the battle everyone wanted to remember. Isandhlwana was quickly forgotten. A year later, the British would have their hands full once more, this time with the Boers!

Lessons: “From history we learn that we’ve learned nothing from history.” Arrogant men with condescending disdain for their opponents set themselves up for disaster. The lessons of Little Big Horn were there for everyone to see, but they were ignored.

On the other side of the coin, even though no one gave the Zulus much credit, they found a way to win, even against a technologically superior foe. Those who take the time to look for a way to win usually find it!



15 Jan 01

This from a friend who trains foreign nationals:

“We were conducting interior-of-building exercises with Simulations. I was playing the role of a burglary suspect:

‘Boris’ (from Russia), who shot me in the face as I had my hands up trying to surrender, brusquely made the point: ‘In Russia, the police and the courts have better things to do than worry about the welfare of common criminals.’

‘Mike,’ a Mexican national who is the local director of operations for US corporation, shot me without warning on the grounds that he needed me out of the way before he could get to my partner, who he knew was in the next room. Afterward. I mentioned that forensics would clearly show that I was posing no credible threat when I was shot. ‘No problem,’ he replied. ‘You simply pay a fee (bribe) to police personnel. I am an honest citizen with plenty of money. I have just shot a lowlife criminal in my own house. The police in my country are poorly paid, and they are badly in need of money for their families. I give them the money they need. The problem goes away. Everyone is happy. The system works, eh?”

Lesson: “Justice” is relative. It depends upon the prevailing philosophy in the place you find yourself. Other people and other cultures operate under different rules than we do in the USA, even though “justice” is always the stated goal.



17 Jan 01

This from a friend at Beretta:

“Why do we do a chamber check every time our pistol is holstered?

A short time ago a Beretta pistol (92F) arrived at the factory from a small police department. It was locked up tight. We could not move the slide, trigger, decocking lever, magazine release, or the takedown lever. Gunsmiths had to use a mallet to field strip the gun. It was loaded.

The officer who was issued the gun discovered the problem when he went to do his twice-yearly qualification.

The chief called us and was angry, because this could have cost the officer his life. We’d done an initial examination and suggested that the officer must have cleaned his gun with contaminated solvent because, as our tech put it, ‘It’s as if the gun has been drenched in super glue!’

The chief then recalled that the officer in question was going through an unsavory divorce. Sure enough, a subsequent examination revealed that the gun had been glued shut with a strong adhesive in every joint, pin, moving part, etc.

The officer had not checked the condition of his gun since the last time his department qualified six months earlier. So, he was walking around, ON PATROL, with a gun which could not be made to fire for as long as six months!

The good habit of performing a chamber check prior to holstering or putting on the gunbelt would have revealed the problem the next morning!”



17 Jan 01

Follow up from a LEO friend in Wyoming:

“After you take your gun apart, make sure it works after you reassemble it! A friend (Sheriff’s deputy) recently detail stripped his series 80 Colt 45 auto. When he put it back together, he mistakenly got the firing pin safety parts in backwards. He then carried the pistol ON DUTY for five months before he discovered it was completely inoperable when he attempted to shoot it during a training exercise!”

Lessons: Check your carry gun daily. Shoot it often!



22 Jan 01

From an attorney who also teaches defensive shooting:

“Responding to your email about the Wyoming officer who reassembled his Colt pistol wrong, then carried it in an inoperable condition for five months, I believe manufacturers or instructors should develop, and agencies should teach, a basic “Function Check” which can be performed by the user to determine that his firearm seems to be functioning properly, short of actually live firing it.

One standard function check for the twelve-gauge, pump shotgun has involved removing the barrel, then holding a copper penny against the bolt face while pulling the trigger to check that the firing pin indents the penny. For a pistol, the same can be done more easily using the “Pencil Test.” Hold the UNLOADED pistol with barrel pointing straight upward, and insert an unsharpened pencil, eraser end first, into the barrel. Disengage all safeties and pull the trigger. The pencil should move upward out of the barrel at least one foot. This test confirms, among other things, that the firing pin is unbroken, the firing pin channel unobstructed, and — very important in the case of pistols with firing pin safeties — that the firing pin safety is disengaging properly.

Here, the “Pencil Test” would have revealed the problem. It’s part of both the Para-Ordnance LDA (double-action pistol) User’s Function Test and Armorer’s Inspections we are teaching in law enforcement classes for that system.”



22 Jan 01


I just completed an Urban Rifle/Shotgun Course in south Florida. The Robinson Rifle continues to work well. Unfortunately, the factory muzzle compensator is inefficient. There is a fireball at the muzzle in low light. I will probably replace it. No malfunctions. Very accurate. All magazines, plastic, aluminum, steel, work well.

Chris Vursels at H&H Range in Oklahoma City installed a Patternmaster on a 11-87 Police Shotgun I was using. The Patternmaster works as advertised! It greatly restricts the spread of 00 buckshot pullets, extending 00 buckshot range from twenty to thirty meters. No effect on slugs. They work normally.

To work, one must use shotgun shells with a plastic, shot cup. Patternmaster has no effect on S&B buckshot, which uses conventional wads. Smokey and erratic, S&B ammunition is not recommended in any event.

Chris replaced the Remington “locking safety” with a conventional, manual safety. Chris is a good shotgun guy! Recommended.



24 Jan 01

This from a friend in the Midwest:

“Yesterday, I was in a stall of the restroom of a local MacDonald’s restaurant. When I removed my pistol (S&W 3953) from the holster prior to lowering my trousers, the magazine dropped out! When it hit the floor the baseplate and retaining plate flew off, loudly scattering eight rounds of Cor-Bon 9mm 115gr all over the floor! Luckily, no one else was in the bathroom at the time.

I quickly rounded up my things. Not wanting to be unarmed, I then tried to put the magazine back together but found that one of the retaining lips had sheered off. So, I had to load my pistol using my spare magazine before going on my way. Both pistol and magazine were brand new, so I’m sure S&W will replace the magazine.

I believe the magazine-release button was inadvertently depressed by the seatbelt buckle in the driver’s seat of my car. It must have happened as I exited.”


>Check you gear after exiting a vehicle! Magazines being released unintentionally on guns in belt holsters is a common problem when people are buckled into car seats.

>Always carry at least one spare magazine. If the one in your pistol becomes inoperable, you’ll be stuck with a one-shot gun if you don’t routinely carry a spare. In the case of a pistol which “features” a magazine safety, you’ll have a no-shot gun!



25 Jan 01

Follow up from several friends:

“Our department has had a rash of similar incidents, all involving the Glock, plus-two magazine baseplate. It broke regularly. We have since removed all plus-two baseplates (of any manufacture) from all Glocks in the department. The problem has gone away.

We have also had a number of M96 Beretta magazine baseplates shear in a similar manner. I have not yet seen this problem with the new style Beretta magazine, which has the polymer baseplate. We have made that change department-wide also.

We have not seen the problem with any SIG magazines.”

From a friend at S&W:

“Even an empty magazine hull can still be inserted into a S&W pistol equipped with a magazine safety. Once even a nonfunctional magazine is thus locked in place, the pistol will be enabled and can then be loaded with individual rounds (directly into the chamber) and fired, albeit one round at a time.”



25 Jan 01

From a friend with a Midwestern PD:

“We have discovered that a substantial percentage of the noise associated with the use of our indoor, pistol range is actually the bullets themselves striking the steel bullet trap surface. Do you know any way of cutting down on the noise?”

Rubber bullet traps are become popular for that and a number of other reasons. The best, working example I’ve seen is Tom Givens’ Rangemaster Range/Gunshop in Memphis, TN (address below). Tom is the author of the excellent book, Fighting Smarter, and has been in the business for quite a long time. He has been a good friend for a long time too.

I did a Course at Tom’s range last fall. The entire floor and back wall are in large, rubber globules. The range can be used for both pistol and rifle training, and it is astonishingly quiet. One still needs hearing protection, but there is almost none of the “thudding” common with conventional, indoor ranges.

It’s the was most future ranges are going to go, and we all need to be familiar with it.

Tom Givens
Range Master
2611 S Mendenhall Rd
Memphis, TN 38115
901 370 5600,