22 October 2014


I would like to think that I'm not a coward, but when it comes to war, I'd much rather kill the enemy in a manner not resembling a fair fight at all. That is why I love snipers so much, the allow us to detect the enemy and kill them before they know what hit them.

I've written before about various "insurgent snipers" on this blog. But when the "sniper" in question isn't school trained, equipped, or supported, you can end up with something like this. Looks stupid, but works. Doesn't work optimally, but it beats having nothing.

No cheek weld, no concealment, no muzzle blast mitigation, no helmet, no problem evidently

Photograph from http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/10/21/bubbad-mosin-nagant-spotted-syria/

If you are going to be "that guy" with a slapped together designated marksman rifle, at least be the "that guy" that made a cheek piece out of duct tape and foam. To be honest, the lack of a cheek piece is my only serious complaint, as everything else falls under the "it works" category.

Knowing the Kurds, what he lacks in equipment, support and training he makes up for in sheer guts. Now neither of the shooters pictured are "snipers" in the sense of school trained and specially equipped, working as part of a sniper team, but there is always a place for precision fires at the tactical level.

Compare to this guy...

Note the field expedient cheek piece, muzzle not over loose dirt, and the presence of a helmet.... Photograph U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson
Now this is a better set up in terms of getting the most from the rifle. This guy is not a sniper, he is a Squad Designated Marksman, or SDM. He is basically using the same solution for a rifle, what was a standard infantry rifle with a stock designed for iron sights but is now scoped.

So the lesson should be clear, having precision fire capability is more important than looking cool. Precision fires always have a place in the tactical toolbox, even if it comes from an ugly old rifle with a scope slapped on top shot by someone who learned to shoot the hard way.

After all, the first real "modern" sniper rifles were just infantry rifles with an optic on top, such as the K98, Swede M41, and Mosin-Nagant PE/PU sniper rifles. Cheek weld was not much of a consideration at the time, simply gaining the advantage of precision aiming through an optic was enough.

Last time I shot my M41 clone, cheek weld was a "chin weld" at best.

21 October 2014

The Low Ready

First the Condition1/Condition3 kerfuffle and now this:


The "low ready" is a lot of things to a lot of people.

But you SHOULD use the low ready when:

1, you aren't the number one guy in the stack.
2, you are moving into in tight quarters and don't want to project your weapon to where someone could grab it before you could react.
3, when competing in a CMP EIC Pistol event and you don't have a table to rest your pistol on before the fire command.
4, when you are using all your senses to detect a threat and don't want your hands, arms, or gun disturbing your line of sight.
5, when you have not identified a specific threat and don't want your muzzle to cover something you don't want to destroy.

You should NOT use the low ready when:

1, you are the number one man in the stack.
2, you are moving in tight quarters where there is even just barely enough room to properly pie the corners.
3, when you have identified a threat.

A lot of people in the military train to the low ready because for some reason the enemy likes to wear camo, hide behind cover and concealment, so detecting the enemy becomes more important than going around with your gun up all the time.

A lot of folks in the defensive pistol training circles say that if you've drawn your heater, it should be pointed at threat, not at the dirt.

If you are a cop, a low ready position gives you a faster time to shoot than a gun in the holster, and give the officer more time to bring clarity to an uncertain situation. Investigating a weird noise in a dark building, or providing backup to someone making a drug bust are both examples where the low ready would be an appropriate posture for self protection without unduly risking someone elses life (such as the cop actually doing the bust).

If I'm the first guy in the stack, I don't want the guys behind me to flag me with their muzzles. If I'm raided by SWAT I really don't want anyone to trip on their way in, because cops have a tendency to kill innocent people when they get the wrong house and accidentally trip doing a dynamic entry. But if you die it is ok, your life was just the cost of someone else to go home at the end of their shift.

The low ready has a place in your tactical toolbox. It shouldn't be the only tool in your toolbox by any stretch.

19 October 2014

Understanding risk and risk mitigation.

With all the drama about carrying round in the chamber, verses chamber empty I thought I would dedicate a third post. This post is really about the process of understanding risk and mitigating the effects of doing risky things. I am simply using carrying a pistol as the vehicle for explaining the process.

Most of the people who are advocating for carrying a round in the chamber are not veterans of multiple pistol fights and random knife attacks. I'm not either, but what I am is someone who has had to deal with the aftermath of Soldiers having negligent discharges where they either killed themself, or someone else.

Anyone who says that the risk of shooting yourself can be eliminated by proper training doesn't understand risk. Risk can be mitigated, minimized, and addressed, but it cannot be eliminated. That being said, the process of risk management is to identify risks, frequencies, and come up with strategies to minimize the enduring risk after mitigation strategies are implemented.

Here are the two most dangerous risks associated with carrying a round in the chamber that I've identified.

1. Trigger is pulled by equipment or foreign object (stick/antennae/belt end/strap).
2. Pistol discharges following a tumble.

The first risk, that the trigger gets pulled by something other than your boogerhook, can be mitigated by choosing a holster that also covers the trigger and trigger guard. If you carry a pistol with a manual safety, try to choose a holster that also covers the safety from unintentional manipulation. I will come back to this point again.

The second risk can be mitigated by ensuring that the trigger pull is not lightened beyond a safe pull, and that trigger pull length is not shortened, and all springs and engagement surfaces are in spec. If you are using a factory stock pistol this is the default mitigation as long as everything is in good working order. After 5000 rounds a parts kit to keep everything in spec is probably in order.

The second risk can also be mitigated by using a holster with positive retention. But positive retention also brings about the risk that it can slow or deny your draw if the retention system fails to let you pull the pistol in time. I think positive retention is better suited to open carry than concealed carry based on a risk analysis of that feature, but your choice may be different.

Now that is the process, identify a risk, identify a strategy to actively mitigate that risk, and then go forth and do great things.

But getting back to risk number one, the unintentional trigger pull caused by something other than your boogerhook, the risk really isn't with the pistol but in the interactions between your gear and the environment you are in.

If you are carrying concealed consistently in the same place, with the same holster, without adding or subtracting mission specific equipment then one risk assessment is all you need. But when you move the pistol to a different holder, to a different location, you need to re-assess the risk for that configuration.

A lot of Soldiers like to carry a pistol on their hip around the FOB, then transition the pistol to their body armor for going on missions. A couple of holster makers have made it simple by making adapter plates for the pistol/holster combination to get unsnapped from the belt and snapped on to the body armor. This is good, but you need to ask yourself if that radio antenna is going to trip the trigger where it sits on your gear. And you need to organize your gear so that you minimize the risk of shooting yourself by going back through and checking out exactly what the risks are in that configuration.

I will specifically recommend temporarily not carrying with a round in the chamber for the following people in the following scenarios.

1, you are carrying a new to you pistol (different make/model, significant service or repair).
2, you change holsters for a pistol you've carried for a long time.
3, you change the location of where you carry the pistol.
4, you add a new piece of kit to your carry routine (or vastly change the clothes you are wearing).

Once what is new becomes something old, and you've figured out the best way to configure everything, by all means load the chamber and continue to carry. I won't say that you need to carry in condition three for any specific length of time, because the length of time should be dictated by how long it takes you to figure out how your gear is going to interact so that you don't experience a negligent discharge.

This could be a few minutes checking yourself out in a room before going out, this could be a few days for someone who is trying to be really thorough. The time doesn't matter so much as the process.

In this case, I do want people to make my choice, and that is to make a conscious effort to see how their gear interacts with their carry piece. At the end of it, whether you choose to carry with a round in the chamber, empty chamber, concealed or open, in a minimalist holster, or a double positive retention holster, is all on you. As long as you go through the process to arrive at a level of risk that keeps you as safe as you are going to be, rock on with your bad self.

18 October 2014

The most ineffective military ever at firing senior officers is firing senior officers at an alarming rate.

So the "military purge" meme keeps coming up on the book of face, so I will address it here, again, and maybe you can spread the word to stop with the conspiracy theories.

Two years ago Thomas Ricks gave this interview to NPR two years ago I nodded along. He is correct, we rarely dismiss a Division or Corps commander any more. Except that GEN McChrystal was sacked two years prior to that for the Rolling Stone incident in 2010.

A more in depth review of Ricks' work can be found here:


But how do you square that data set with the "unprecedented" number of senior leaders who have been removed in the last four years?



On a more personal note, the Officer Separation Board and Enhanced Retirement Separation Board have given over a thousand Captains and Majors the pink slip.

These two points seem very contradictory until you realize that:

1, Ricks is correct in that Generals are not being fired like they were in WWII. They were fired then for ineffectiveness and or cowardice, now they are fired for some sort of misconduct.

2, The military is being "purged" of Officers from the ranks of O3 to O6 simply due to downsizing. Shake the blanket and Officers with derogatory marks in their file are the first to go.

3, I have witnessed no ideological purge. Some of the most religious and political conservative leaders I've had have moved up the chain without a hitch. The military as a whole is a lot of "Motherhood and Apple Pie" true believers who think of the profession of arms as a calling. There are more and more like me who view it as a job, but we are still a distinct minority, in my experience.

Massive downsizings happen when wars draw down. If you don't like it contact your Representatives and Senators.

17 October 2014

The Tueller Drill

It is common wisdom that the Tueller Drill is all the justification you need to carry a pistol with a round in the chamber and no safety. Because everyone knows that inside of 21 feet a knife beats a gun. I don't believe in things that "everyone knows" so we are going to some videos to look at the how time and space play out in a contact weapon verses firearm actually plays out.

Watch the video below. If you've seen it before, go ahead and watch it again. 

In the first part of the video, where the cop approached the suspect, would have carrying a live round in the pistol prevented the officer from getting stabbed or slashed? Obviously not.

In the second part of the video, where different distances are examined, you see that it is possible to draw and fire on an attacker inside of 21 feet successfully, but not every time. At 7 yards, drawing from a holster and engaging a charging target is completely feasible.

Now compare that with the video below.

If your first instinct is to say, "well there wasn't any knives involved" please understand that fists are considered lethal weapons too, and there is no "hierarchy of lethality" if you subscribe to Massad Ayoob. For training purposes, a fist is as good as a knife for working on reaction time and responses.

Now for a real world video.

Notice that the successful defenders control the space, and unsuccessful defenders don't? Successful attackers close the space, and unsuccessful attackers don't?

Also, how many of the real world attackers used such a manic slashing motion as the original training video that popularized the Tueller Drill? If you answered, not many, you would be correct. You can expect a stab more often than not. If you work in a prison, you can expect a stab way more often than not. The manic slashing is designed to overwhelm the victims OODA loop to keep them from getting to the "decide/act" part of the Boyd cycle, but it isn't something you see very often in reality.

The take away is this, surviving a fight is more about situation awareness than whether or not you are carrying with a round in the chamber. Space is your friend, space gives you time. If you let someone into "halitosis" range with your guard down it doesn't matter if you have a round in the chamber or not.

What matters is the same thing that has always mattered, getting off the line of attack to create space, then choosing to close the space and engage, create more space and engage, or flee.

To end with, here is Chris Costa telling a war story about situational awareness. To sum up my thoughts, I don't really care whether you carry a round in the chamber or not, just know that if you don't have the situational awareness to use the fraction of a second that it buys you, might want to spend more time training on how to increase your awareness and control space in a fight.

16 October 2014

Seriously, stop helping

Sometimes I have a glimmer of hope for the "Patriot" community. I envision learned men and women who read Hobbes, Plato, Spooner, Jefferson and Madison. I think of men and women who look at complex problems and come up with workable solutions. I think of men and women preparing for the worst while praying for the best.

Sometimes I delude myself into thinking that the Patriot community can grow beyond the reputation of backwoods yockels wearing tinfoil hats claiming the government is always out to get them.

Other times I'm presented with the reality of things like this:
Marines and Airman install concertina wire. Not evidence of a conspiracy.
I mean seriously, this is a picture of service members laying a basic force protection barrier. It might be stretch to say I've laid miles of the stuff, but I've definitely laid more than enough to know that when there aren't enough concertina gloves to go around, sacrifice the thickest pair you've got to save your hands. Also I think they didn't place the pickets close enough together and the stretched part on the left side of the picture is too tight to be an effective obstacle.

So that is what the picture is. There is a very long list of what that picture is not. Basically that picture is not anything Tom Gonzalez said.

It isn't evidence that anyone in that picture is a useful idiot. It isn't evidence that this is a roadblock. It isn't evidence that guard towers will be installed (though they should be, or at least have vehicles with crew served weapons placed where the towers would normally go). And it is most definitely not training for any operation designed to attack the American people.

If you know people like "Tom Gonzalez" please tell them to have a nice tall glass of shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down, and stop helping.

Follow the money

Hat tip to Mississippi Rebel who pointed me in the direction of something that seems a little off for lack of a better phrase.

Now the NRA is a single issue organization, it ranks politicians solely on their support for gun rights, which is how Harry Reid continues to get NRA support. So that may in part explain how A rated politicians can start taking money from Bloomberg front groups despite having an "A" rating from the NRA.

The questions that I have about this aren't about the money per se, but whether or not the NRA ranking system really means anything.

If you support youth hunting, should you still get an "A" rating for supporting more stringent and unnecessary background checks? Will the NRA update White's ranking after she took money from Gun Sense Vermont?

Now I've paid my life member dues simply because as a competitor in disciplines governed by the NRA it makes sense to be a member. But I realize that I am in a very small minority of NRA members in that regard, the training and competition budget is very small compared to the legislation and lobbying arms of the organization.

I have no complaints about how the training and competition side is run, but how the NRA keeps being slow off the line against state level anti-gun rights initiatives (such as I-594 in WA) makes me think that either the national organization needs to understand that state organizations need proactive national support.

Especially in Vermont which served as the original "Constitutional Carry" model for the rest of the nation. Vermont proves that "as goes California so goes America" isn't always true. At least not in the short term.

So, my proposal, any politician who refuses to return a filled out NRA positional form needs to be rated "F" right off the bat. Any politician who has something to hide from the NRA doesn't need an "A" rating.

UPDATE: Herschel Smith at The Captain's Journal also notes issues with the NRA politician grading system: http://www.captainsjournal.com/2014/10/14/notes-from-hps-83/