2 June 06
“The reason the American Army does so well in wartime? War is chaos, and the American Army practices it on a daily basis.”
-from a post-war (WWII) debriefing of a German General
Yes, physical conflict, in general, is indeed chaotic, and the NTI is designed to confront each participant with a series of tactical and moral decisions, within that context, all of which must be addressed quickly, decisively, and with all the skill one can muster. There are few opportunities to change your mind. Leave delusions of perfection, as well as your ego, at the hotel!
I shot the 2006 NTI event Wednesday, here in Harrisburg, PA. Best one yet! Skip, Jim, and crew deserve, as always, a grand thanks from all of us fortunate enough to be invited to participate
It was hot and muggy! All of us were sweaty, grimy, and exhausted by the end of the day. As usual, there were four, force-on force (Simmunitions) drills in Asta Village, and six, live-fire exercises in various shoot houses. In addition, there are enlightening lectures, panel discussions, et al, all of which contribute to a wonderful, educational experience to which I look forward every year.
This year, the theme was DISASTER! All scenarios adhered to the idea that we were operating in an area victimized by natural disaster. All participants had to adjust their thinking accordingly!
Many, in addition to their usual complement of gear, carried “go-bags,” which contained water, Leatherman tools, IBDs and other first-aid supplies, and additional ammunition. It was my decision not to carry a go-bag, as I assumed I would be caught pretty much “as I was” in a disaster. Everyone had to decide how he wanted to approach this issue.
Live-fire targets and non-targets were, as always, all three-dimensional, clothed, hit-sensitive mannequins. Multiple, simultaneous threats were common! Participants are instructed to engage threats with gunfire until they collapse or withdraw (run away). As is my habit, I shot all threats, zippering up from the navel, multiple times, often exhausting most of a magazine. Several targets required brain-stem shots, and, when delivered, went down instantly. I was compelled to transition to my backup guns more than once!
I carried two, Cold Steel Knives, and my Harkins-Triton automatic knife, Fox OC, the Talon device (plastic brass knuckles), and a flat sap by Boston Leather (which came in handy several times!). My backup pistols were my small Detonics in my Alessi shoulder holster and my Kel-Tec 380 in a Comp-Tac neck holster. I used four, different main pistols, changing them between drills: my new S&W M&P in 40S&W, my SIG 229/DAK in 357SIG, my G38 in 45GAP, and my Detonics 9-11-01 in 45ACP. All were carried in Comp-Tac C-Tac IWB holsters (ky-dex), except my G38, which was carried in Brian Hoffner’s “Minimalist” IWB holster. All worked just fine! I shot all events with Cor-Bon DPX ammunition, as that is what I normally carry. Concealment garment was my CCW Clothiers vest. Belt was fabric, by Wilderness.
Live-fire drills included: (1) Asta’s Gooda Pizza, (2) Hersh’s House of Zen, (3) the Standard Skills Demonstration, (4) Help-Fool House, (5) Asta Village Relief Center, and the (6) Elysian Field Airport and Evacuation Center.
Pull-over, concealment garments, like sweat shirts, work poorly in conjunction with shoulder bags! Several participants found their draw seriously compromised by the presence of a shoulder bag. Those with open-front, concealment garments had a much easier time of it.
Worn normally, baseball caps will prevent you from seeing things high on the horizon. I did not see a threat that subsequently charged me, because he was positioned high on a rise as I exited a door. When I repeated the drill later (I had the opportunity to do several drills twice), I had my cap turned around. This time, I saw and identified the threat instantly. I concluded that, any time I draw my pistol, I’m going to automatically turn my cap around (assuming I am able under the circumstances). One needs to look UP now and then, as well as looking around and behind.
As you’re navigating through a building, looking for a injured family member, what do you do with suspicious persons who don’t currently represent a threat? You can try to persuade them to leave the area, but most of us are uncomfortable just abandoning them there and moving on. I decided to knock them out, using my Boston Leather flat sap. Suddenly striking them on the jaw knocked them cold and got them out of my life!
At the NTI, there is always a “Mystery Gun” exercise. This time, one was compelled to move through a dark building with only a bulky flashlight with mostly-dead batteries, and a found, Model Twelve, pump shotgun, with a magazine plug, so that rounds (7.5 shot) had to be loaded into the chamber, one at a time, directly through the ejection port! I started by trying to charge the magazine tube, only to discover that it would not accept even one round. My thinking was muddled! I should have loaded the chamber first, then attempted to charge the magazine. Organizing one’s own thoughts, under pressure, is something none of us exercise often enough, as I discovered!
I attempted a brain-stem shot at fifteen meters during the Airfield Exercise, and my S&W M&P delivered in spades. The bomber went right down with the first shot. I’m really getting to like this pistol!
Participants were obliged to use a found Kalashnikov during one drill. I was subsequently compelled to shoot a target at close range, with the rifle, while holding a limp, family member in the other hand. Since the muzzle was down, and I maintained a strong, shoulder index, this was easily and deftly accomplished. Had I carried the rifle muzzle-up, as did some, I would have been disarmed before I could shoot. The lesson is clear: keep your muzzle down! Muzzle-up carry positions are all gun-give-aways!
The hardest threat to see is always the one BEYOND the threat that currently has your attention! Looking PAST the threat is an important, tactical habit and one that most participants, including me, universally fail to exercise. Security and speed of movement are always mutually antagonistic. Stalling is fatal. Moving recklessly is equally fatal. One must operate somewhere in between the two extremes. I’ve firmly resolved to habitually look past all threats. It remains to be seen if I’m able to keep my promise!
I shot to death a person who, as it turns out, did not represent a threat! In a restaurant, I was alerted to the presence of lethal threats and, of course, drew my pistol. Suddenly, a man appeared from behind a wall and confronted me. Range was three feet! The man was holding a knife. Without hesitation and without any kind of verbalization , I zippered him up the middle, shooting him eight times. As it turned out, he was the chef (he was wearing an apron) and was merely coming out to see what was happening. He had been chopping onions and still had a kitchen knife in his hand. Did I do “the right thing” or a “wrong thing?” I’ll probably never know. What I do know is that I made an irrevocable decision and acted quickly, without hesitation and without looking back. I decided it was too late to negotiate and too close to do anything else. Others chose not to shoot.
Ultimately, it’s your call!
Debriefing is tonight. More later!
2 June 06
From a friend in the UK:
“The English press (who tell our politicians what to do) is now on a new crusade to rid the Isle of ‘knife violence.’ One rag ran a headline, ‘In The Shadow of the Knife,’ with photos displaying a steak knife, an ordinary table knife, and a kitchen knife. The hand-wringing text lamented about how police have ruthlessly snatched these horrific weapons from the hands of misguided citizens.
A local, self-appointed ‘expert’ referred to ‘knife violence’ as ‘epidemic,’ but then sheepishly admitted that knife attacks are actually decreasing. Never dissuaded by facts, one politician is calling for a two-year, minimum, mandatory prison sentence for the mere possession of any species of knife.
As in the States, media fear-mongers have found yet another new, manufactured ‘evil’ to foist off on the public, and our lapdog politicians are only too happy to grovel along. It’s so much less dangerous to disarm defenseless, innocent citizens than it is to go after genuine VCAs. Our Sarah-Brady-wannabes have decided to ride this wave for personal gain, which is, of course, the only reason they ever do anything!”
Comment: Anyone in this country who naively believes our anti-gun liberals will stop with Canadian-style, universal registration is a fool. You’ve only to look to the UK to see what’s coming next!
3 June 06
NTI 2006, Team Exercises:
This morning, participants organized into teams of two and did the force-on-force, team event:
In the first scenario, I arrived at my brother’s house. There has been a disaster with wide-spread lawlessness in its wake. My brother calls to me from the inside saying he has been shot. I move to where he is as fast as I can, gun in hand, checking corners and closets as I go.
When I reach him, I find him with a gunshot wound in the leg, saying something about how some woman shot him in his own home. He had no idea whom she was, nor did he know where she had gone. We got direct pressure on his wounds, but he was unable to walk without my help. It was my judgement that we had to get out of the house as fast as we could, through the back door, as there were looters in the front.
As I got him to his feet, looters came in the front! I couldn’t see weapons, but I confronted them at gunpoint, ordering them out. I was successful in running them off! I then checked out the back room and started moving my brother toward the back door. We got through just as a neighbor, armed with a pistol, suddenly appeared. Seeing no sign of recognition from my brother, I grabbed him, spun him around, and drove him to the ground, doing my best to control his gun hand, simultaneously demanding to know whom he was. He told me, with his face in the dirt.
The woman who had done the shooting had been hiding so deep in a closet, I had not seen her. As it turns out, she was also a neighbor and had shot my brother accidentally as she was scrounging for food. She explained that, since I seemed to be interested only in leaving, she had not emerged, nor had she shot me in the back, which she could have easily done.
The lesson here is that, not all people with guns in their hands are evil doers who need to be engaged with gunfire immediately! In a disaster, lots of people will be armed, and strategies must be developed to enable civil contact without instantly establishing a hostile/lethal environment. Gave us all a lot about which to think.
In the second exercise, I played the part of an unarmed hostage and had little opportunity to interact with bad guys. I looked intensely for opportunities to disarm the hostage taker, but none appeared. I was ultimately rescued by other participants.
The lesson I learned is: Fight when you can! Options dry up fast as you are captured, disarmed, and then eventually tied up and murdered.
Banquet is tonight, and then the 2006 NTI will be at an end once more. Lots of good exercises and lessons to ponder, as always. This is an event every competent gunman should attend!
7 June 06
Good comments on gaining control of combatants, from a friend who is head bouncer at a big, gentlemen’s club:
“Early yesterday morning, we had we had three, Hispanic males in a fist fight with a fourth male of unknown ethnicity. By the time I became involved, the three were chasing the shirtless and bloody fourth actor through the club. All were exchanging threats.
Using verbal commands, and my collapsible baton, it started to break up the fight. Of the four, none were impressed with my baton, even after a substantial strike to the shin of one. However, the same actor who was not impressed with the baton was VERY impressed with a blast of Fox OC. He abruptly disengaged and stumbled away, wiping furiously at his face! Seeing their comrade thus incapacitated, the other two Hispanics lost cohesion. Suddenly disorientated, they just gawked at their distressed comrade.
Taking advantage of their dithering, my officers and I, now brandishing ERDs, ordering them all off the property. All actors quickly departed. The show was over!
Once again, quick and decisive action, combined with an appropriate choice of weapons as well as stern, clear, and loud verbal commands is required to gain control of these situations. Uniforms and badges, by themselves, seldom impresses violent actors. Believe me. I know!”
Lessons: (1) Who dithers is lost! (2) Gaining control always requires quick and decisive action. (3) Fox OC works just fine!
8 June 06
Comments on pain/compliance, from a well-known martial artist and friend:
“It might be interesting to see what experiences those on the list have had with pain/compliance and what opinions they have. My personal experience is that pain/compliance is too variable to trust. However, it is still widely taught to correctional officers and LEOs and is routinely represented to be a reliable means to compel cooperation. I think that is dead wrong, but others may disagree.”
Comment: Pain/compliance is only effective on those who (1) are rational, and (2) have a pain threshold within the “normal” range. That probably describes most people under most circumstances, but it leaves out many mentally ill and those under the influence of drugs.
When trying to establish control, unlawful force should always be met with appropriate, superior force. Pain/compliance may have a place. However, when one is fighting for his life, he needs to, without delay, break bones, cause copious bleeding, and/or knock out his opponent.
As TR said, “When you must hit someone, put him to sleep!”
8 June 06
More on the XCR:
A renowned gunsmith and friend in PA has been testing my copy of the Robinson Arms XCR for the past few days. Here are his comments:
“We ran every brand of ammunition we could find through the XCR, including much steel-case. Gobbled it all up without a hiccup! A dozen or so friends and students shot it extensively. It is not troubled by heat nor airborne grit. Light, short, handy, this rifle was instantly liked by all who used it.
I love the way it field-strips! It fairly falls apart and then falls back together again! No small parts. No tedious reassembly. It cannot be put back together wrong, and the whole process takes just a few seconds. It would be hard to break, as there is nothing about it that is likely to break.
I’m going to have to get one! This wonderful, new rifle has earned my approval.”
Comment: We are utterly unable to find something about the XCR we dislike. Recommended!
12 June 06
Excellent comments on AQ’s current strategy from a well-connected friend:
“I am uncomfortable with the term of ‘terror incident,’ because of its implication. My discomfort arises chiefly from the individuals who are involved, not the political costume in which they currently choose to display themselves, in a decrepit attempt to posture legitimacy.
In the 60s and 70s, we had Black Panthers. Their membership was a collection of bestial thugs, who had scant interest in any species of conventional politics. They vainly tried to promote the pretense of political motivation, but it largely failed, except among small groups of naive lightweights. What AQ has now brought to the table is the concept of organizing and training brutal, criminal gangs with nationwide reach, once more with cruel savagery as their hallmark, thinly veiled with a political coating.
The inescapable conclusion is that Americans in America may well escape the kinds AQ incidents we hear about overseas. When we face AQ, it will be in the form of local thugs, recruited to victimize local Americans. As you have said repeatedly, ‘We will be on our own!’ Police will be quickly overwhelmed and/or sit outside the parameter. Those inside the parameter will be compelled to do or die. The naively unprepared, unequipped, and incompetent will make useful victims, as always!”
Comment: Much of the rest of the world sees America as a tottering, rotting-from-the-inside, depraved, “has-been” civilization, on the brink of collapse. They smell weakness and vulnerability, and they want sincerely to rush in, push us aside, and claim the spoils. This is nothing new in the course of world history. In this world, civilizations come and go!
However, conventional invasions may be giving way to “internal invasions.” When AQ can merely recruit local no-goods to do their dirty work, they may see this as the best way to go. They know, as we do, that the American criminal justice system is chronically unable to effectively dissuade violent criminals. They may well have persuaded themselves that they have only to “Kick in the door, and the whole, rotten structure will come tumbling down,” to quote Hitler.
‘Among the enlightened and virtuous, none will tamely surrender liberties, nor can any be easily subdued. But, when the people are ignorant and debauched in their manners, they will sink under their own, rotting weight, without the aid of foreign invaders.’”
13 June 06
EOTech and full-auto:
At a military base on the East Coast last weekend, we conducted an Urban Rifle Course. Several of my military students brought EOTech-equipped M-4s. The EOTech system is popular in military circles, for good reason. Like me, they like the wide field of view and uncluttered reticle. In fact, my personal RA/XCR is now equipped with an EOTech, and it makes a deadly combination indeed! I like my EOTech forward-mounted and out of my face, easily accomplished with the XCR.
I often wondered how well the EOTech would work when firing full-auto. Specifically, I wondered if one could actually stay in the sight during longs bursts. I found out! Firing several, long, full-auto bursts through my students’ M-4, I was able to keep the reticle on target and simultaneously see what was going on around the impact area. This was all from a standing position. A useful capability, and one not shared by the ACOG!
Rain droplets on the screen still degrade the EOTech’s usefulness, as is the case with glass in general, but, of all rifle optics currently available, the EOTech surely has a lot going for it!
13 June 06
News from a friend in the Federal Air Marshal (FAM) Program:
“We’ve had bad publicity lately, as you probably know. We FAMs desperately want to remain in deep cover, blending in seamlessly with the general, traveling public. We don’t ‘activate’ except in the event of a skyjacking attempt. Our job is to precipitously shoot to death skyjackers before they can jeopardize the aircraft. Until then, it is critical that we remain invisible. We’re not there to make arrests! No one, not even crew-members, know our identity, and that is exactly the way we want it. That is also the way we want to keep it! Unfortunately, our weak-knee ‘management,’ unwilling to stand up to pressure from airline industry executives and others, is trying to turn us into semi-uniformed, ‘courtesy police’ and aircraft cabin bouncers!
Airline executives want us all in coat and tie, even when it causes us to stand out on many flights. They also want us to routinely break cover and get involved with unruly-passenger incidents. They even want to issue us batons! They call it ‘semi-covert,’ a ridiculous contradiction of terms on its face.
AQ’s current plan for airline takeover is to first identify FAMs, which will be no problem now. Four terrorists will be assigned to each FAM. Once airborne, they will suddenly and simultaneously rush the FAMs, pin them in their seats, immobilizing arms and legs, take their pistols, shoot them, and then take over the aircraft at their leisure. None of the foregoing is classified. It is all common knowledge, available from dozens of sources.
We FAMs are concerned with this current, dangerous trend. We want Congress to can our current gaggle of so-called ‘managers,’ replacing them with people who actually have a clue as to what we’re supposed to be doing. Our program, and is mission, are in real trouble!”
Comment: Anyone listening?
14 June 06
Two important points from Skip G’s lecture at the 2006 NTI. Skip is involved with the criminal justice system daily, and these two points should be kept in mind by all of us:
In the wake of a deadly-force incident in which you were involved:
(1) Let your lawyer do all the talking!
(2) “Self-defense” is a justification only available when your actions were intentional. “Self-
defense” may not be invoked to “justify” accidents!
Your lawyer can have his facts all mixed up. He can tell outrageous lies. You can fire him on Monday morning, and probably should! However, when talking with investigators and prosecutors, HE CAN GET YOUR SIDE OF THE STORY BEFORE THEM WITHOUT STATEMENTS THAT ARE ATTRIBUTABLE TO YOU! You needn’t worry about what he says, to anyone. You need only worry about what you say. It’s your statements, even inadvertent ones, that will come back to haunt you.
For example: When you intimate or even suggest, however subtly, that your use of deadly force was, in fact, accidental, from that point forward “self-defense” will no longer be available to you as a justification for what you did. An ND that results in an injury or death is a negligent homicide, and it cannot be subsequently converted to “self-defense,” no matter what the person was doing when he was shot. STATEMENTS AS INNOCENT-SOUNDING AS, “I’M SORRY.” “I DIDN’T MEAN TO,” OR “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS HAPPENED” ARE ALL THUS PERNICIOUSLY INCRIMINATING. Such statements must never leave your lips!
Those of us who go armed neglect the foregoing at our peril.
15 June 06
Refinements, from a student who is a well-known and respected criminal defense attorney:
“I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard a client say, ‘They wanted to interview me, and we talked a little, but I didn’t tell them ANYTHING. I was very careful.’ Then, I get the discovery, including the report on the interview. It invariably includes a full confession, plus additional damaging statements, repeated multiple times. Great beginning for our defensive strategy!
The only thing that I believe a person should tell police who arrive at a hot scene (not all lawyers agree) is:
(1) ‘Thank heaven you’re here!’
(2) ‘I’m the one who called.’
(3) ‘A man broke into our house and tried to murder us.’ (tweak as necessary)
(4) ‘I’ll be happy to answer all your questions, as soon as my lawyer is here.’
The only additional statements I advise are:
Tell arriving officers about: (1) active threats, (2) innocent people in the area (3) evidence, and (4) witnesses. These are important to the case, to the safety of officers and others, and may not be obvious.
Those statements, while still not risk-free, are appropriate and reasonable, and I think there is a moral duty to provide information which DIRECTLY effects the safety of officers and the discovery of truth.”
16 June 06
We had two women, both in highly-paid professional positions, attend a Basic Defensive Pistol class last year. Neither had ever owned a gun before coming to us, but they had moved to a rural area and, on their own, decided to acquire defensive pistols and attend our training. They were referred to us by a local attorney. Still wrestling with their anti-gun, liberal upbringing, both indicated repeatedly that they would probably be the last to ever have to use their pistol skills. Well, when it’s least expected, you’re elected:
“Last week, one of my dogs, a Rottweiler, for reasons I’ll never know, precipitously went after Kathy, biting her in the ankle. At the time, Kathy was relaxing on our back porch. He wouldn’t let go, so I grabbed his testicles in an attempt to distract him. That caused him to let go of Kathy, but he then immediately went after me, biting me in the thigh. His incisors went in all the way!
Since moving out of the city, I had gotten into the habit of carrying my pistol (H&K P2000, in 40S&W, w/Cor-Bon PowerBall, per your recommendation), concealed in an IWB/belt holster most times I was at home. I am comfortable doing so. In this state, CCW permits are hard to get, but there is no regulation pertaining to carrying in one’s own home. I consider the practice a non-issue in our rural county.
It was a good thing! When the dog bit into my leg, I drew my pistol and, being careful not to shoot myself, shot him several times, at contact range, in the body. I was unable to shoot him in the head without shooting myself. Even so, my shots were instantly effective. He yelped, let go, and then fell away. He was dead within a few seconds. PowerBall worked as advertised! Of four rounds, all hit, and none exited.
My leg required surgery, and I may end up with a limp, but I learned from the surgeon that the dog’s incisors missed my femoral artery by less than an inch! Had I not ended the attack when I did, I would surely have easily sustained additional serious injury and/or bled to death at the scene.
I am still in the ‘coping stage,’ but I am in the process of rethinking the dog subject. My dog’s attack was completely unexpected, and I have no idea what was going through his mind. My perspective on dogs has changed forever!
Fortunately, my training taught me to be prepared and decisive, even in the sudden presence of this unexpected menace. Thank heaven my pistol was within reach, fully loaded, and ready to go! Thank heaven I had the skill and determination to see through my panic and think clearly enough to act, when it needed to be. I’m glad to be alive, and I’m glad I was prepared, even though, at the time, I wasn’t sure why!”
Comment: Once again, we carry pistols as a means of dealing with UNEXPECTED threats! That is why they have to be continually (1) close at hand and (2) in a high state of readiness. My student fearlessly acted at the critical moment. She is a hero. She saved her own life and probably the life of her friend.
None of the foregoing will ever be seen in a headline, nor will it ever be reflected in any statistic quoted by a politician. But, in this business, it is happy endings like this that we live for. Good show!
17 June 06
Knife Attack in Nicaragua, 15 Feb 2006:
“The suspect arrived at the police station, shouting threats, among which was, ‘Fifty police cannot stop what I am going to do.’ Police had been at this man’s house many times on domestic disputes and were familiar with him. The suspect had a large knife which he was displaying threateningly.
Uniformed officers poured out of the station and surrounded the suspect. The captain took charge and attempted to negotiate, commanding repeatedly that the suspect drop his knife. While so doing, the captain was holding a Kalashnikov rifle and had it pointed in the suspect’s direction.
The captain then moved closer, continuing to repeat his commands. He tripped over a wire, and, as he attempted to regain his balance, the suspect quickly moved forward and drove his knife into the captain’s neck. The blade entered the captain’s heart, mortally wounding him. The attack happened so fast the captain was unable to use his rifle to defend himself. He never fired a shot. Two other officers, rushing to the captain’s aid, were also ruinously cut. Both went down, unable to continue defending themselves. Neither of them fired a shot either. One was cut severely on the face and neck as well as stabbed in the back. The second was cut on both arms and stabbed in the chest. Both survived but sustained permanent disability and disfigurement.
The suspect then stood back up and was immediately greeted by a fusillade of bullets from the balance of the officers. He died several minutes after arriving at the ER.”
Lesson: I don’t know how many times this has to happen before we firmly establish the policy that the only appropriate force response to a suspect threatening at close range with a knife is gunfire, immediate and copious. Dangerous suspects need to be evaluated based on capability, not intent. “Negotiating” with a knife-armed suspect at close range is tantamount to suicide. These folks obviously watch too much American television!
18 June 06
Answering Investigator Questions, Comments from a Seasoned Investigator:
“Most 911 operators, and, later, investigators, are going to ask you, “Did you shoot him?’ after you report a burglary and shooting on your property.
Answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are equally ill-advised. Not long ago, two of our uniformed officers confronted a robbery suspect in a crowded bar. The suspect reacted by shooting at both officers, at close range, with a 32ACP pistol. Our officers immediately returned fire, killing the suspect (or so we thought, as he went right down). Both officers later told investigators that they were absolutely sure they had shot him, multiple times.
However, the autopsy revealed the suspect actually died from a single, self-inflicted, 32ACP gunshot wound to the head. Our investigation disclosed that both officers had missed with all their shots! The suspect had actually committed suicide while our officers were shooting at him! Neither of our officers, nor any of the other witnesses, fully understood what had happened.
So, the correct answer to, ‘Did you shoot him?’ is ‘I don’t know,’ even when you’re sure you saw the suspect fall. He may have fainted, or collapsed from a drug overdose, at the moment you fired. Someone else may have fired at the same instant you did. For that matter, you may only think you fired your gun. People have been mistaken about that too! When circumstances get exciting, you can’t even rely on your own perceptions.
Thus, one of the most important things to practice (along with shooting skills) is POLITELY DECLINING TO ANSWER QUESTIONS, with responses like, ‘Officers, I’ve already asked for my lawyer. I don’t want to answer any questions until he is personally present’ and/or ‘I’m not feeling well. I need to go to a hospital. Please summon an ambulance for me’
Once damaging statements come out of your mouth, neither you nor your lawyer can stuff them back in!”
Comment: As President Lincoln said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!”
21 June 06
Deriving its name from a nearby grove of Cottonwood trees, the Alamo, even in 1836, was an abandoned and dilapidated mission-turned-barracks (in present-day San Antonio, TX) sitting astride an ancient but isolated trade route. Americans, mostly of European origin, had poured into Texas after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821. Texas, then part of Mexico, was isolated, by-and-large barren, and had little to recommend it, except for the fact that spacious land grants were being gratuitously handed out by the Mexican government, in exchange for badly-needed, hard currency. This resulted in a large population in Texas of mostly former Americans. In the process, they become nominal Mexican citizens, learned to speak Spanish, and many married into local, Mexican families.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, though born in Mexico, had been a Spanish army officer of good repute. But, instead of going to Spain after the revolution, he remained in Mexico, became enthusiastically involved in politics, and began ruthlessly seizing power. A soldier all his life, Santa Anna quickly lost faith in Democracy, eventually characterizing himself as the “Napoleon of the West,” Once in power, Santa Anna scrapped the new Mexican Constitution, fashioned largely after the American one, and, like Napoleon before him, declared himself “Emperor.” As soon as he did, armed rebellions broke out all over Mexico, and, without delay, Santa Anna set out remorselessly suppressing all of them, one by one.
In view of the foregoing, Texans, as they now defiantly called themselves, quickly started putting together an army. They too had overtly rebelled, after a Mexican army detachment, under General Coz, was sent to seize a single, mostly-obsolete cannon from the town of Gonzales. The seizure was largely symbolic, and Coz naively expected scant resistance, but, under the banner “Molon Labe!” (borrowed from the legend of Spartan King Leonidas, when he defiantly told invading Persian King Xerxes to “come and take them” in response to the Persians’ demand that the Greeks at Thermopylae lay down their arms), brazen Texans not only prevented the seizure, they successfully drove the entire Mexican garrison out of San Antonio! When word of this ignominious trouncing reached Santa Anna, an armed confrontation between himself and the Texans was inevitable, and everyone knew it. Santa Anna would take care of this problem personally!
Texans immediately appealed to Washington for military assistance. Officially, the Jackson Administration rebuffed these requests, outwardly considering it a matter of internal, Mexican politics. However, Jackson contemplated, as did many others, a newly independent Texas eventually annexing with the United States. The American government thus began surreptitiously supplying the revolution and encouraging young men to arm themselves and head south to Texas, so they could join it. Many got the hint!
Lawyer-turned-soldier, Sam Houston, got the dubious title of Commanding General of the Army of Texas, an army that was, at the time, largely non-existent. Houston could plainly see that, in his march northward, Santa Anna could not bypass the Alamo. He would have to physically seize it. Houston also knew that the Alamo did not lend itself to a competent defense, and he therefore had no intention of defending it. Houston’s plan was one of slow attrition. As Santa Anna plodded northward, Houston would confront his army piecemeal, trading space for time, until Santa Anna’s supply lines became overextended, and Houston’s own army could be assembled and trained. He would then isolate, surround, and defeat Santa Anna. The Alamo played no part in Houston’s plan!
Jim Bowie, a sleazy Louisiana land speculator who was in Texas fleeing creditors, got himself appointed to the rank of colonel and was sent by Houston to the Alamo with instructions to evacuate it. Upon arriving, Bowie decided to disobey Houston and fortify the post! Bowie’s decision was made in the expectation that, with enough reinforcements, the Alamo could hold out. Like Houston, Bowie knew that, without seizing the Alamo, Santa Anna could proceed no further. When he heard of Bowie’s disobedience, Houston was furious and nearly resigned! However, he began to realize that Bowie’s plan might just work, particularly if the Alamo could be reinforced with Colonel James W Fannin’s detachment, in nearby Goliad.
Ever-dithering Fannin never arrived, but ex-senator Davy Crockett did, bringing with him a contingent of sharp-shooting “Tennessee Volunteers,” as did flamboyant ex-lawyer from South Carolina, William Travis. Command of the fort was muddled, with Travis and Bowie incessantly bickering. Bowie, an alcoholic, eventually became too sick to be actively involved, and nominal command defaulted to Travis.
Santa Anna wasted no time, arriving at the Alamo, with an army of two thousand, much sooner than anyone thought he would or could. With fewer than two-hundred defenders, it was becoming obvious to all that the Alamo had no chance of holding out. An irritated and impatient Santa Anna informed the Alamo garrison that, unless they surrendered immediately, no prisoners would be taken. He considered them not an army, but criminals and rabble, and all would be summarily executed. Travis answered the ultimatum with a precipitous cannon shot. The battle was joined!
Travis sent message after message begging for additional reinforcements. No more arrived. Some of his own garrison understandably bugged out, but only a few. In a display of deep-rooted courage, nearly all decided to stay and fight it out to the end. They began to see their somber mission as fatally delaying Santa Anna’s advance and inflicting so many casualties that his army, though victorious in the short term, would be crippled. They succeeded on both counts, though they were wiped out to a man! Paradoxically, Texas, on the second of March, had declared its independence from Mexico. Alamo defenders, at the last, were thus fighting as Soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Texas, although they probably didn’t know it.
It was said of the defenders, particularly Crockett’s Tennesseans, that their rifle fire was devastatingly precise. The Alamo thus held out for thirteen days, 23 February through 6 March 1836. Assault after assault was repulsed, but the end was never in doubt. Santa Anna’s casualties were hideous, but he pressed on. During the final assault, all remaining defenders were killed. True to his word, Santa Anna took no prisoners, although several women and children, dependants of defenders, were release unharmed.
A troubled Santa Anna, hurriedly burned the defender’s bodies, buried his own, and quickly marched on to Goliad. He knew that this unforeseen, thirteen-day delay had critically wounded his plan. Fannin’s detachment, numbering three hundred, surrendered to Santa Anna, an unwise decision, and, as it turns out, Fannin’s last. Fannin and his entire command were summarily massacred. Between the Alamo and Goliad, Americans everywhere became incensed. The tide had turned.
Houston, now with a real army, caught up with Santa Anna at San Jacinto. As predicted, Santa Anna’s army had become precariously strung out, had outrun its supply lines, and was dangerously isolated. This is precisely what Houston had hoped for all along! When attacked, the entire Mexican army precipitously fell apart, was quickly routed, and, during a frightful rage of vengeance, wiped out, nearly to a man. The attack took less than twenty minutes! Amid a chorus of “Remember the Alamo,” Santa Anna’s North American adventure came to an abrupt end!
Santa Anna himself, in disguise, escaped, but was discovered and captured the following day. All wanted to shoot or hang him on the spot, but a calculating Houston decided he would be more valuable alive. Instead of killing him, Houston persuaded Santa Anna to sign an agreement granting independence to all of Texas. The new Republic was instantly, officially, and conveniently recognized by the United States and, nine years later, annexed.
Released by the Texans, Santa Anna returned to Mexico and promptly became involved in yet another war, this one with France. Cited numerous times for bravery, and fading in and out of political popularity, he garnered a large, cult following, despite losing a leg to a bullet wound, and his continuing affinity for opium and teen-age girls. He was eventually forced out of the political arena and, in 1876, in Mexico, the flawed, but durable, soldier/statesman died at the age of 82, outliving Sam Houston by thirteen years.
Not surprisingly, Sam Houston served at the first President of the Republic of Texas and thereafter as a US Senator after annexation to the Union. He successfully ran for governor, as a Unionist, just as the Civil War was beginning, but the State of Texas voted to secede, and he was forced out of office. He died in Alabama, his wife’s home state, in 1863, at the age of seventy. His body was eventually returned to Texas, where it is buried today.
Lessons: We fight in the expectation of victory, but sometimes we must stand and fight, even when there is no chance of victory, because there are principles we hold dear, and they must be defended, even in the face of certain death. The Alamo defenders clearly saw their duty and their place in history. They did not die doubting!
Accurate rifle fire was, and still is, the most important, single, fight-winning commodity.
Competent rifleman are worth their weight in gold!
When, for the first and only time, the real Napoleon met Russian Czar Alexander in the City of Tilsit in Russia in 1807, he pointed to a badly-scared member of his vaunted Imperial Guard and said to the Czar, “What do you think of a man who can endure such wounds?” The Czar cleverly retorted, “And, what do you think of men who can inflict them?” The grizzled Guardsman himself, interrupting both heads of state, volunteered, “They’re all dead!”
When we have men like that, who can be against us?
22 June 06
In its latest “study,” the Pentagon has, once again, assured us of what they have been insisting all along: the 5.56mm M855 rifle round is “adequate” for military purposes. This comical charade is the Pentagon’s jittery response to chronic complaints from the field about the round’s well-known lack of range, poor penetration, and second-rate fight-ending ability. They’re trying to assure the latest generation of exasperated combat veterans that they’re just “shooting too low,” and maybe not often enough. We heard all this same sorry crap forty years ago!
The message is clear: “We want input from the field, so long as it makes us all look like geniuses. Bad news, on the other hand, will not be tolerated. When equipment doesn’t work, it must be your imagination!”
The Pentagon’s credibility receives yet another self-inflicted wound! I wonder whom they think they’re kidding.
27 June 06
At a Patrol Rifle Course in the Midwest last week, we used frangible 223 ammunition. Because it doesn’t strike our steel rifle targets with much force, it doesn’t generate the distinctive “thwack” sound that we have come to expect from ball ammunition. It is thus particularly unsatisfying, as hits and misses are difficult to distinguish.
In addition, we had many functional problem with our AR-15s. In several cases, the frangible bullet broke off at the case mouth during feeding. The errant bullet fragment then wedged in the bolt locking recesses, causing a subsequent failure to feed. Adding to our woes, “no-lead” primers proved unreliable. We tried to use up our entire supply of frangible, just to get rid of it, but eventually we had to switch over to ball, because we were squandering too much time..
My opinion of frangible ammunition, particularly 223, remains negative! Compressed-dust bullets are not durable enough for any kind of serious use, and, even in training, they break in half, wasting much valuable training time in the process. Leadless primers are unsatisfactory. I will never trust them.
28 June 06
Cor-Bon has generously extended a ten-percent discount to all DTI students. You can call them directly at 800 626 7266. Tell them whom you are, and I’ll verify that you’re one of us.