Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Hog Gets Some Long Overdue Media Recognition

Blogger, lawyer, writer, author, cook, general all around sybarite, and internet acquaintance Steve H. was on Fox News this morning, promoting his new book "The Good, The Spam, and the Ugly", and believe me he hates the title as much as the rest of us do.

Unfortunately, you can't link directly to the video; at least not as far as I can figure out, so click over to Steves post on the appearance and follow his directions on the bottom of the post to see it.

UPDATE: I figured out how to link to the video launch page at least.

Oh and Steve, yes I did deliberately get a picture of you looking like you were trying unsuccessfully to swallow a mouthful of shit; that's jsut the kind of friend I am.

I'll be honest, I don't like the humor in the nigerian book, and I won't be buying it. Sure it's funny, smart, and well written (it is Steve after all), but I jsut don't care for the whole concept.

That said, his humor/cookbook "Eat What You Want, and Die Like a Man" was hilarious (plus, the food is damn good); and he's coming out with a new expanded edition in a couple months, that I'll be buying at least a dozen copies of, to give to friends and family.

Ahhh, reminds me of home

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Only Thing I'm Gonna Say About the Oscars...


Oh wait, actually, I can't resist saying two more things.

First, Al gore, and "a convenient lie"... since when did a not particularly good powerpoint presentation merit an Oscar? Yeah, its all about politics and always has been.

Secoond, anyone who ever thought the Oscars were about artistic merit, or ability, or really anything other than hollywood politics, I have one sentence for you:

The best song award went to a mediocre tune from a "married" lesbian, which was in a mediocre politically correct movie; while the THREE spectacular songs nominated from "Dreamgirls" went unrewarded.

The Best Plan for the UN Yet

Monday, February 26, 2007

Okay, so why DID we choose 5.56?

Countertop recently wrote a letter to the Talking Points Memo (no link for them thankyouverymuch), for writing somethign ridiculous about the NRA, and gun bloggers.

It's a very good letter, except for this one little paragraph, in which an enduring untruth is repeated:
First, The .223 round which an AR fires was developed not for the military but as a “varmint” round for hunters that was later adopted by the military because (a. it injures rather than kills, in the field of battle an injured solider actually takes out 3 of the enemy, the one injured plus to to care for him whereas a dead soldier only eliminates one; and b. it is small and therefore soldiers can carry more of them than traditional high powered cartridges).
The first part is true, the 5.56 nato began life as the .222 remington, a varmint and small game cartridge. The last part is true, the 5.56nato is very small and light, and a soldier can carry a lot of them...

The problem is that middle bit... which is actually also partly true, in that a severely wounded soldier takes three people out of the action instead of just one if he's dead (the wounded use a lot more resources than either the dead, or the healthy). Every good myth, has a lot of truth to it, and this one is no different; it's a very good myth, but it just isn't true. We didn't adopt the 5.56, because it was designed to wound; in fact the 5.56 nato chambering WAS NOT designed to "wound not kill".

I take no exception to the intent of the letter, and I support it; I just need to correct this myth wherever it pops up.

This is one of the widest spread, and widest believed myths in firearms. In fact, a lot of people who should really know better, like a lot of varminters, and a lot of soldiers (who deal with the round quite a lot doncha know).

Actually, for anyone who knows the history of the round, the myth is kind of funny, in a bittersweet ironic sort of way; because when the 5.56 was first created, it was touted as having incredible killing power; far out of proportion to its size. People were said to be shot in the calf and have their leg blown to shred up to the buttocks (this was an actual field report on the chambering from SF in the field in Viet Nam prior to the wide adoption of the M16 rifle).

So, I'm going to talk about how and why the 5.56 nato round was created, and adopted by the U.S. military; and why we forced the rest of the world to adopt it.

It all begins about 70 years ago...

In 1960, the typical deer rifle round was the .30-30 (which was already over 60 years old at the time), pushing a 150gr or so bullet, at about 1800fps. If you were hard core, you might use a .30-06 pushing a 150gr bullet at 3000fps, or maybe a .270 or .308 at about the same energy levels. It was only "crazies" like Roy Weatherby hunting with "high velocity" loadings, like his .257 weatherby; pushing a 75gr bullet at nearly 4000fps, or a 115gr bullet at 3400fps (and producing some truly impressive results by the by).

It was only from the mid 30s through mid '50s that "high velocity" and "hyper velocity" chamberings really started becoming popular, with chamberings such as the .220 swift (designed in 1935, firing 45gr at 4000fps).

Of course I say "only", about 30 year stretches of time here; but you have to understand how generally conservative the firearms world is. The most commonly shot chamberings in pistols in the US today are .45acp, 9mm, .38spl and .22lr; which were respectively designed in 1908, 1903, 1884 (in blackpowder form), and 1857 (in short form).

From the late 1600s, until the mid 19th century, battle rifles fired mostly fired bullets in the .50 to .65 caliber range, mostly moving along at under 1500fps. When the self contained cartridge came along, the bullets shrank a bit in diameter down to the .40 to .45 range, but they remained fairly stubby and conical but rounded.

It wasn't until the invention of smokeless powder, and new hardened but not brittle steels (both in the late 19th century) however, that we started seeing smaller diameter, longer, pointed, aerodynamic bullets fired at higher velocities (the Swiss-German "spitzer" or "spire" point, invented in about 1880-1884 in fact).

Eventually, right around the late 1890s and into about 1900, most countries settled on something in the .30 to .35 caliber range; and then started mass production. Every major combatant in WW1 (and ww2 for that matter) used a round of between 6.5mm and 9mm; mostly in the 7mm-8mm range (.284 to .315). Most of these rounds fired their bullets in the 2500-3000fps range; about twice as fast as the pre-civil war era rifles and muskets fired their large heavy ball ammo.

At the time of their adoption, these velocities were unheard of; and their wounding mechanism wasn't well understood. Everyone could see that a half ounce ball of lead 2/3 of an inch across would do a hell of a lot of damage; but no-one was quite sure about how exactly these little pointed cylinders, half the diameter and less than half the weight of their predecessors, but moving at two or three times the velocity; actually worked.

They didn't understand how, but they obviously did work, and they worked very well, out to ranges previously thought impossible. For example, the primary official U.S. service rifle of WW1, the 1903 Springfield, is chambered in .30-06 (caliber .30 adopted in 1906) has an effective kill range (not accurate, but still lethal) of well over 1000m; and with a good rifle and a good rifleman behind it, you can hit a man sized target at 800 yards.

The .303 British, and .30-06 killed or wounded about 6 million men in WW1 (most of the rest on the losing side were hit by artillery); and by the end of the war, there was a lot of information about how the cartreidges, and rifles, had worked in combat. In the early 1920s, taking the experiences of and data from WW1, ballisticians and firearms designers in the U.S. and England started looking at the strengths and weaknesses of various small arms cartridges.

What they found out, was that the typical .30 caliber or so rifle rounds, with 2.5" long cases filled with powder, were "too powerful"; in the sense that the average infantryman didnt need to shoot at a man 800 yards away. These rounds required large, heavy rifles to be controllable; and they required a good sized, strong man to carry that rifle, and the ammunition load for it.

So, they started looking at smaller diameter bullets, fired from shorter cases; which were lighter, cheaper, easier to manufacture, and easier for soldiers to control.

The Brits and Americans both settled on experiments with cartridges in the .280 range, in fact both in the mid 20's coming independently to produce very similar 7mm (.284") cartridges, the .276 pederson, and what would eventually (30 years later in fact) become the .280 Enfield (also called the .280 British). Development of these cartidges was somewhat slow however, because both countries were hit hard by economic depressions, and had huge stocks of surplus arms and ammunition from the war.

Unfortunately, on March 16th 1935, Hitler announced that Germany was abrogating the treaty of Versailes; and re-arming. At that point, or soon after, anyone not blind and stupid figured out that there was a war heading this-a-way right quick, and maybe adopting new ammunition wasn't the smartest idea right then.

The British had over 2 billion (yes, thats billion with a b) rounds of .303 lying around; and the Americans had several (I've read 13 billion, but I can't verify that) billion rounds of .30-06 left over from ww1. We WERE going to make use of those surplus stocks, because there was no way to tool up for production of new weapons and new ammunition in a new, smaller chambering, fast enough or cheap enough to be ready for the war that was coming.

So folks, those of you who believe the M1 Garand is the ultimate battle implement (and if it isn't, it's not far off), just remember, it was designed to be, and originally built as, a .276 Pederson rifle rather than a .30-06

Well, "they" say that war is the best incubator of technology, and WW2 proved "them" right in an incredible and unprecedented way. The 10 years of war production (preparation for war started in the U.S. and Europe in 1935, and war production didn't end until 1946) advanced technology faster than any period before it in the history of mankind; a pace which has only been equalled in a limited way by information technology since 1976... and in fact that same information technology revolution was kicked off by the war effort to make computers for calculating artillery trajectories, and bomb characteristics.

Well, relevant to our story, in the middle of the war production years something really interesting happened.... actually two very similar somethings, in two different countries.

The first actually started in a prison in North Carolina in 1928, with a guy named David Williams; and the second in 1941 with a guy in Germany named Hugo Schmeisser.

WW2 saw the first use of the Paratrooper (or Falschirmjager, as the Germans would call them); as assault troops who would jump in behind enemy lines, and attack the enemy from the rear etc.. etc... Anyway, at about the same time some bright guy over in Germany, and some other bright guy in North Carolina, figured out that Paratroopers needed a light machine gun; but that even light machine guns were kinda heavy; and if you made them lighter, they were hard to control.

Well, both bright guys had a solution in the submachine gun, and the Germans LOVED the things (as did the Russians by the by), but they weren't really powerful enough to sustain an assault; and overall the American war department didn't care for them (though we made a fair few on our own as well, and our troops loved them)

So anyway, the American guy had a bright idea, let's make a light, handy rifle, that fires an easily controlled round, much more powerful than a standard pistol, but much less powerful than a full sized rifle.

The war department asked a bunch of manufacturers to submit designs for a light rifle, suitable for issue to paratroopers, and to tankers and support troops whous duties didn't include carrying a full sized rifle. They considered designs for three years, but didnt find anything satisfactory.

Eventually, Winchester sent in a design that was started by John Moses Brownings brother Ed, and finished by a convicted moonshiner and cop killer named David Williams; what became the M1 carbine.

No folks, this story couldn't have been any better if I made it up. That is seriously what happened, and gunnies still laugh in amazement at it today.

Now, the M1 carbine is a great little rifle; it's very light, very quick to the shoulder, and easy to fire. It's reasonably accurate, and it's basic round is far better than a sub-machine guns pistol round. Unfortunately that round is still not very powerful' it's really a 100yard gun; and the M1 wasn't fully automatic, so it couldn't replace either the light machine gun or the submachine gun.

Of course that didn't take away it's good qualities, and the ordnance department loved the things, ordering about 7 million of them by the end of the war (including about 600,000 in a fully automatic configuration, but it didn't work out too well).

The Germans had a little different idea. The German trooops REALLY loved their submachine guns, and they didn't want to give up that full auto capability, plus they really liked the caliber of their basic infantry round, the 8mm mauser (actually 7.92mm); it was just too powerful to be used in a light weight automatic gun.

So, Hugo Schmeisser (the guy who came up with some of the submachine guns the troops loved so much), figured they could cross a submachine gun, with a light machine gun; and make a fully automatic rifle, that was short, and light; and fired a less powerful round than a full sized rifle or machine gun, but more powerful than a pistol or submachine gun.

They took the 8mm mauser round, cut it down in length by almost half and called it the 7.92mm kurz (short). Then they crossed the operating system of two different SMGs, and a Semi-automatic rifle (the Gewehr 41); and made the design as cheap and quick to produce as possible.

The result was the Machinen Pistolen 1943, which the troops loved; but Hitler didn't like the idea of. He had previously ordered that all small arms production be directed towards making sub-machine guns. So, to get around Hitlers dictum, the clever folks behind the little rifle just called the thing a Machine Pistol (which is what the germans called their SMGs).

Well, eventually enough of these amazing rifles got out there, and the troops loved them enough; that Hitler heard about them. Hitler asked some of his commanders in the field if there was anything he could get them, and they asked him for as many of that new rifle as they could make. Well of course Hitler hadn't aproved any new rifles, so he was confused; until they told him it was the Mp43. At first he was pissed off, but after he saw a demonstration, and saw how effective troops equipped with the thing were, he was thrilled with it, and he insisted on naming it himself. On Hitlers orders, the MP43 then became the StG. '44, or Sturm Gewehr model of 1944.

Yaknow what Sturm Gewher means?

Assault Rifle.

Funny that.

Aaanyway, back to our story.

So, after the war, the ballisticians and weapons designers got back together again, and re-analyzed their data, along with the new data from WW2, coming to the same conclusion: Bullet in the 6.5mm to 7mm range, fired at medium velocities, from medium length cartridges; were just as effective at wounding and killing the enemy; but were cheaper to produce, easier to carry, and easier for soldiers to shoot.

Welll... the Army REALLY didn't like this idea. In fact, they hated it; but they were told by the defense department that they would have to adopt it for their next war rifle.

The Army disliked this idea so much, they decided to come up with a new round, that was indeed shorter than the old .30-06 (by almsot 3/4")... but it would be ballistically identical. By raising the pressure of the round and using better powders then becoming available, the Army could keep their 800yard accurate man killing riflemans round, AND pretend to be adopting the new "intermediate" cartridge philosophy.

This is the beginning of the assault rifle vs. battle rifle war that I've written about before.

The basic opposition to the assault rifle concept is simple:

Some people believe the proper way for infantry to fight, is as individual riflemen, taking aimed shots at long ranges, against other individual riflemen. The proper instrument for this is a round that is effective and accurate out to 600-800 yards; and a rifle suited to firing it accurately at those ranges. Automatic fire may be useful under some circumstances, but is mostly a waste of ammunition.

The basic proposition for the assault rifle is also simple:

Modern infantry combat involves small groups, engaging at ranges under 300 yards (in fact almsot all infantry combat now occurs at under 100 feet, never mind 800 yards). It is more useful to be able to lay out a volume of small arms fire from an entire combat element, accurate to 300 yards, with a chambering and rifle appropriate to that purpose. The ammunition should be light and easy to carry, and easy to control in automatic fire, because you are going to be using a lot of it.

These two positions have formed the central controversy in small arms since 1927, before the term "assault rifle" was even invented (yes, really, they've been fighting about this subject since 1927, and there is as of yet no resolution. I told you, gun people are extremely conservative, and equally stubborn).

Anyway, it was in '48 that the Army decided to implement the new "smaller"
round; unfortunately things weren't very settled yet on either the home or international front, and the resources couldn't be dedicated to bringing a new round to production. Also, the British had perfected their .280 enfield round, and were strongly supporting IT as the proper direction for future small arms (along with a radical new concept, the bullpup rifle, but that's another argument altogether).

Well, then we had another little war in Korea from '50 to '53, and there was no time to adopt a new cartridge, so the .30-06 saw service in it's third major war (actually more than that if you count Mexico, Shanghai, Nanking, Nicaraugua, and Honduras... but generally we don't, unless wyou're talking about the marines in which case they remember every one of them, but I digress); and the .30 carbine its second war.

Well, in Korea, once again the .30-06 was too much, and the .30 carbine was not enough. Stories actually went around that the .30 carbine round wouldn't penetrate the heavy winter clothing the Koreans and Chinese wore. They weren't true, but they were widely believed, because the round jsut didnt have a lot of guts, especially at longer ranges (the probable genesis of the stories were reporters watching troops take potshots at the north Koreans, and Chinese from several hundred yards away; far greater than the effective range of the chambering).

After Korea, the Army then decided to put it's "new" round into production; and had Winchester develop the concept into a full production ready chambering. They had been working on it since 1948 (actually Savage had been working on it since 1925 as the .300 savage. Winchester then modified the concept further), and released it commercially in 1952 as the .308 Winchester; which was adopted by the U.S., and NATO as the 7.62x51 NATO in 1954.

Along with the new round, the Army adopted a fully automatic re-design of the M1 garand rifle, the T44 (which they had been working on since 1944 as the John Garand designed T20, and had almost ready to go with a final re-design by Earle Harvey in '48-'50 before Korea broke out) which was re-classified the M14.

When the U.S. officially adopted the 7.62 round, they forced it on NATO at the same time. Of course the NATO allies were all looking at smaller, lighter, easier to control rounds like the .280 enfield, but the U.S. was calling the shots, and everyone had to toe the line, or not recieve U.S. small arms support and ground troops in the event of a Russian invasion.

Strong incentive there eh?

So, everyone scrapped all their true "intermediate" cartridge designs, and rushed wholesale to find, or design rifles chambered for the new round. About 3/4 of the world ended up adopting the Fabrique National Fusil Atomatique Legere (Light Automatic Rifle), or FN-FAL.

The FAL was originally designed by Dieudonne Suaive (the same guy who co-designed the Browning Hi-Power with John Moses Browning) in 1947, to fire the first assault rifle round, the StG. 44s 7.92 Kurz. Then in 1949, it was redisgned to fire the .280 enfield round, and submitted to the British as a possible service rifle. Finally, in 1951, they rechambered it for the new 7.62 round the U.S. was going to adopt (yes, it was out before the U.S. officially adopted the M14, or the 7.62 nato round was even officially announced); and when we made our announcement that everyone in NATO would have to switch to the new round, basically everyone bought the FAL.

No, I'm not kidding, almost everyone all around the world adopted the FAL. Basically every U.S. ally except Germany and Spain (who had their own rifle design already, the CETME/G3) used the FAL for at least a few years. It was the first automatic rifle sold on the world market chambering the new 7.62 nato round, and it was a very good rifle, so it pretty much took over the world. In Africa, it became known as the "right arm of freedom", because it was the weapon that equipped most of the armies of the newly independent colonies; and is in fact still by far the most common military rifle seen in non-communist countries other than the U.S. (the commie countries of course are dominated by the AK-47, as are most of their neighbors, friends, relatives, acquaintances... hell, the AK is like the plague; it spreads with the rats, and seems to reproduce itself as if by magic).

So, every country in the west is forced by the U.S. to adopt this new cartridge in 1954; and by 1959 at great expense they all managed to do so.


There's still this little problem. See, all these rifles are fully automatic, and they're a bit lighter and shorter than the rifles of WW2; so they should be handier and easier to control and use that fully auto capability right?


Thing is, they're all firing what is essentially the ballistic equivalent of that same WW2 battle riffle round.

Same bullet weight, almsot the same velocity... but with a lighter weapon... that means that they are even LESS controllable. In fact, unless you're on a bipod, or have arms like a gorilla; firing a 7.62 nato rifle in fully automatic mode is damn near useless.

Not everyone is a corn-fed Iowa farm boy, 6'2, 185lbs and with the upper body strength of a linebacker.. Actually though that may be the image the Army wants to project of the American soldier, not even our boys are like that for the most part. Certainly the troops over in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia aren't.

The countries adopting these new rifles all figured this out pretty quickly; even the thus far boneheaded US. In fact, many of them disable the fully automatic capability of the rifles, and almsot all of them train their soldiers not to use it, except for suppressive fire.

In the mean time, ballisticians and weapons designers are still working on the intermediate rifle cartridge concept that the Germans had come up with in 1941. They've figured out that you can make a round MUCH lighter, much smaller, and much FASTER (which means both accuracy and power), without giving up killing power. The tradeoff is effective range, but they know from their studies that infantry combat doesn't happen at 800 yards anymnore, in fact it doesn't even happen at 300 yards anymore.

As early as 1948, research boards such as the U.S. Army Operations Research Office, were recommending moving to a fully automatic 5.5-6.5mm intermediate chambering; in a light weight rifle designed to be fired in fully automatic mode.

The ORO projects final recommendation, issued in 1952, was that a 5.9mm round firing at 4000fps be developed for the armed forces.

Of course as I said, the Army hated this conclusion, and they kept it buried, until 1958; when the realization around the world that the 7.62 nato cartridge wasn't working as planned had become apparent to almost everyone, except the Army Ordnance Board.
Now, let me take a moment here to talk about the M14, and 7.62 nato.

I personally believe, that there is no single greater choice of rifle and chambering, for an individual marksman firing against an individual enemy at medium to long ranges, than the M14 in 7.62x51 nato. It is an incredible weapon; accurate, reliable, and having great killing power.

What it isn't is an assault rifle; and our infantry as it is trained and organizaed today, requires an assault rifle.

Some may argue that we shouldn't be organized that way, they the marksman concept is better, and that we should be using it as our general infantry philosophy; but argue as much as they want, it's not what we do today, and so long as we use assault infantry tactics and training, the M14 and the 7.62 nato cartridge, will not be the appropriate issue weapon to the mass of our infantry (for designatd marksmen, definitely, but not for mark one mod zero grunt).
All that aside, we needed an assault rifle, which is by defnition, a short, handy, light weight automatic or select fire rifle, firing a cartridge of intermediate power.

At the time, ballisticians were absolutely fascinated by hypervelocity "shock", created by small, very fast bullets. In 1952, there was a project, headed by Gerald Gustafson, to create what they called an SCHV round (Small Caliber High Velocity).

This team started by looking at the .220 swift, and .22-250 cartridges; both of which were originally developed as varmint cartridges, but which had through the experimentation and advocacy of several very motivated individuals (notably Frank Chamberlain, and J.B. Smith), developed a reputation for producing highly destructive and disabling wounds in larger game, while still having low recoil and toher desirable characteristics.

These “hypervelocity” rounds were thought to do massive amounts of lethal damage, because of their “shock” capabilities. We now know that for most bullets (those that impact their targets at less than about 3500fps) this was an incorrect wounding model, but it’s one that many people still believe today.

The basic idea, is that at very high velocities, light weight bullets can transfer a large amount of energy into the tissue of their target on impact. This energy transfer creates a large temporary "stretch" cavity in the wound, and sends shock waves through the tissue surroudning the impact.

This much is true.

It is further believed, that these shock waves cause extensive tissue, organ, and systemic neural damage in the target; causing immediate shock and death.

Unfortunately, though this CAN be true in some cases, this is not consistently true; especially at impact velocities of under 3500 feet per second.

At the same time as Gustafsons team was working on the SCHV concept, the chief of the ballistics division for the ORO Norman Hitchman, was developing what he called the "burst fire" concept; believing that the most effective means of producing a rapidly disabling wound, was firing three high velocity rounds into the target in rapid succession.

From these two lines of research, the SALVO project was founded.

At first, the project came up with a lot of strange concepts; like three barreled weapons, shotguns firing flechettes etc... but in 1953 they came up with a .224 bullet in a shortened 7.62 nato case. They tested it and liked the reults, so they applied for funding to develop the concept further.

Well, their fundig was turned down, with the note that they werne't in the business of developing new cartridges... which gave Gustavson et all some ideas.

Basically, what they were doing was taking 55 to 68 grain bullets, and firing them at 3200-3600 feet per second right? Well, there were already commercial cartridges that could do that; why not invesitgate those as a possiblity.

Now, at this same time, fairchild Armalite was trying to sell its AR-10 rifle to the Army. I've recounted that saga elsewhere on this blog before, but suffice it to say, the results were not pretty.

Well, in 1956, the SCHV SALVO team approached the Fairchild AR-10 team, and asked them to chamber their rifle in a commercial chambering approximating the performance they were getting with their experiments.

The fairchild people settled on the .222 remington; which fired a 55gr bullet at 3000-3200fps. That wasn't quite fast enough, but remington also had a .222 remington magnum, which was basically the .222 with the shoulder blown out for more powder capacity. Unfortunately the magnums shoulder geometry didn't feed well in the automatic rifle design, so the SALVO team and Fairchild went to Remington with their design, asking them to slightly stretch the .222 to match the performance of the magnum version; which they promptly did, initially calling it the .222 special, or the .22 nato.

After two and a bit years of testing, various changes to requirements, bullet weights, pressures, velocities, people, rifle designs etc...the SALVO team releases their report, which made some rather wild claims of effectiveness, far beyond what the data justified; based on their wounding theory, of hypervelocity shock, and burst fire effectiveness.

In 1959, the .222 special offically became the .223 Remington, which the company began selling commercially as a vermint round (and it is probably the most commercially successful varmint round of all time).

In the mean time, the Army had continued building up a good head of hatred regarding these various small caliber projects. In fact, the army ordnance board offically declared the .223 unsuitable as a replacement for the 7.62 nato THREE TIMES.

Unfortunately, by 1960, as I have recounted in "Who's at fault for the m16", the AOBs credibility was shot with the defense department. Fomr 1960-1964, the AOD was ordered by the DOD to test various lightweight automatic rifle concepts in smaller calibers.

The AOB deliberately dragged their feet on tehse tests; and in many ways pout their thumbs on the scales. They eventually legitimately concluded, that the proper choice for a replacement for the 7.62 nato was a 6.5mm cartridge, firing a 100-120gr bullet at approximately 3,000fps; but by then, it was too late. They had wasted all their credibility and good will sabotaging the .223 and the AR15; and the defense department ordered them to adopt both, unchanged, immediately.

This was a disaster; because as regards what became the 5.56 nato, they were correct. The round wasn't a suitable replacement for the 7.2 nato. It had been denegrated as a varmint round, not even big enough to hunt deer with in msot states, and they were right.

So if the army was right, how did the SALVO peopl, the .220 swift people, and the .22-250 people get it wrong?

Well, the big assumption was the shock wounding theory. It turns out, that although sometimes a target will see shock effects, sometimes they wont. The crossover point for 55-68gr bullets seems to be at about the 3500fps mark. If the target is hit in the right location at or above 3500fps, and the bulelt doesnt disintegrate, then the shock effects will tend to produce disabling wounds. A three round burst multiplies this shock, as well as increasing the chances of a vital area hit.

The problem is, the .223 as finally reached production, isn't capable of hitting above 3500fps from an m16. In fact a 20" m16 will typically hit 3270-3390fps from standard NATO ammo, at the muzzle. At 250 yards, that same bullet is going to be just about 2500fps; and if you make the barrel shorter, you lose between 25 and 50 feet per second of velocity, for every inch of barrel, as well as about 25 yards of effective range.

So then why were there such great results with the initial testing of the round?

Well, at this point the 5.56 wounding mechanism is now well understood. At the time, the assumption was that hypervelocity wound shock was the primary wounding mechanism, but we now know the actual primary wounding mechanism is high velocity fragmentation.

At or above impact velocities of 2500fps in human flesh, the 55-68gr 5.56 bullet tends to penetrate 4-10″; then break up into several large high velocity fragments, similar to small shotgun pellets. This creates very bloody, very messy wounds, and may cause vital damage.

With a 20" barrel, the standard NATO loads stay above 2500fps well past 200 yards, and will fragment on penetrating a body; but below 2500fps, this doesnt happen, and the 5.56 has about the same wounding capability as a sharp pencil.

The thing is, even if fragmentation occurs, it isn't a reliable mechanism for producigng disabling wounds. If hit near the face, throat, heart, lungs, or liver it's very likely that the target will go down; but in other locations, even fi fragmentation occurs the reuslt will usually jsut be a loss of mobility. In burst fire modes, where there are multiple impacts, those impacts are usually spread around the body, resulting in far greater potential for a vital hit, and more overal shock from blood loss etc... but that is counting on multiple hits, which is only likely at short range, ro when time is taken to establish proper aim.

This is why the 5.56 rounds is a very good killer, but a poor stopper (the enemy dies, but they may be able to shoot back at you for several minutes before they do); and why our short barreled assault carbine, the M4, has a problem at long range. The bullet starts out with a lot less velocity to begin with (about 2700-2900fps), and loses it faster than the same bullet would fired from a longer barrel.

Thus, the problem with the 5.56 is one of consistency. If hit with three rounds above 2500fps, a target is going down quick. Just one or two rounds, or below 2500fps… maybe yes, maybe no.

So, what about the myth?

Actually, near as I can tell the myth originated as a slander against our troops in Viet Nam. It was made up by a reporter to portray the U.S. as cruel heartless baby killers. The Russians even filed protests, saying we were using ammunition that was designed to cause undue suffering.

But it wasn't at all true.

The reason the 5.56 was adopted wasn’t this inconsistent wounding mechanism, designed to wwound not kill; it was because the 5.56 is light weight, compact, cheap, and has very little recoil.

This means that a soldier can carry a lot more ammunition for less weight (more than twice as much as with 7.62 nato), and less money; and they can fire their weapon a lot faster, and more controlably (especially in full auto). Also, the weapon itself can be shorter, lighter, and cheaper; because it doesnt have to resist the forces of a larger, more powerful round.

Yes, we adopted the 5.56 with a flawed wounding model, but in fact McNamara and the DOD didn't care about the counding model at all. What they were concerned about was that the 5.56 was light, and cheap. A soldier could carry 2.55 times as much 5.56 as 7.62 nato, but they cost the same.

Combined with the incorrect wounding model thought to apply to the round at the time, and the defense department (though not the military itself, especially the Army Ordnance Board), thought it was a win-win situation.

Well, it turns out they were wrong; and they knew they were wrong pretty quickly.

The DOD forced the army to adopt 5.56 as the official service round in 1964; also forcing it on NATO that same year; jsut ten years after foring our allies to adopt the 7.62 round they didnt want.

Well, our allies in the main refused to change to the round (except for Japan and Taiwan, who had the most trouble with the 7.62 round and their smaller statured soldiers), until the early to mid 80s.

In fact, even then most of them didn't want to adopt the round, preferring to redevlop the intermediate chamberings they abandoned when they were forced to adopt the 7.62 in the first place; or to concetrate on developing even smaller, higher velocity loadings for use in personal defense weapons with very high rates of fire, that depend on large numbers of hits for their wounding mechanism.

By 1968, the U.S. had already gathered enough data to know that the 5.56 wasn't working as advertised. In fact, starting in 1974, we began looking for a replacement. We've been looking every few years ever since.

Recently, the Army has been testing the 6.8spc round; a development off the old .35 remington cartridge, by Remington, for special operations forces. They've found that their MK262 heavy 77gr high pressure loadings in 5.56 were quite effective, and wanted to follow that trend a bit farther to see where they could balance out the needs of an assault rifle for power, range, wounding capability, light weight, and ease of controlability.

By all reports the 6.8spc, and a similar round the 6.5 grendel, are nearly ideal for an asault rifle. Both have significantly lower recoil then the 7.62 nato, and are more controlable; but they have superior ballistic (both external and terminal) performance to the 5.56 in all areas (and in fact sometimes superior performance to the 7.62).

Oh and remember that report the Army came up with, about a 6.5mm bullet at 300 or so fps being near ideal? The one that got crushed by McNamara and the DOD? Yeah, I'm guessing Remington and Alexander arms might have taken note of that conclusion at some point.

The only problem is the sunk cost. As with the .30-06 in ww1, ww2, and Korea; we have billions of 5.56 in the pipeline, as well as billion of dollars worth of parts and accessories to support the 5.56. At this point, changing to a different chambering is nearly impossible. It would require an outlay of hundreds of billions of dollars, while we're trying to fight a war, and that jsut isn't going to happen.

In the mean time, our guys are out there fighting with what can be a very effective chambering, but just isn't consistently so. I find that worrisome myself (and I did when I carried one for that matter, knowing it as a great varmint cartridge that was too light for deer, never mind people).

Now, I've written before here many times about what I think we should do; but it just isn't going to happen, until there is a high enough penalty for the failure of the 5.56 to get the politicians to spend the billions.

Maybe we'd be better off, if the myth were true...
NOTE: yikes, 6,400 words, and the last third needs to be re-written; probably longer by ANOTHER 1000 words.

Please note guys, I am leaving out a HELL of a lot of detail, and summarizing or glossing over a lot more; or this thing would be 20,000 plus words. There are entire collections of books written on this subject.

In the last third, I started rushing a bit because it was 4:14 in the morning by the time I finished this, and I want to go to bed. I wrote 10 words at 7:30pm, saved it as a placeholder, and then started really writing at 11:07 and publsihed at 4:14)

Friday, February 23, 2007

62 Years ago today

Gee, here's a shock

You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

Someone needs a lesson in separation of powers... AGAIN

Well now, take a quick look at this bill, and see if you can tell me what's wrong with it:

HR 563 IH


1st Session

H. R. 563

To vacate further proceedings in the prosecution of certain named persons.


January 18, 2007

Mr. HUNTER (for himself, Mr. POE, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. TANCREDO, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. GOODE, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, Mr. ROYCE, Mr. DUNCAN, Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland, Mr. HERGER, Mr. COLE of Oklahoma, Mr. BARRETT of South Carolina, Mr. CARTER, Mr. PORTER, Mr. MCCOTTER, Mr. BURGESS, Mr. GERLACH, Mr. MICA, Mr. SAXTON, Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky, Mr. SESSIONS, Mr. CANTOR, Mr. HOBSON, Mr. LAHOOD, Mr. WALSH of New York, Mr. TERRY, Ms. FOXX, Mr. HASTINGS of Washington, Mr. WELDON of Florida, Mr. BISHOP of Utah, Mr. KIRK, Mr. ROGERS of Alabama, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. STEARNS, Mr. RENZI, Mr. BONNER, Mr. BAKER, Mr. PETERSON of Pennsylvania, Mr. EVERETT, Mr. CANNON, Mrs. CUBIN, Mr. SHADEGG, Mr. SHIMKUS, Mr. COBLE, Mr. ENGLISH of Pennsylvania, Mr. GILCHREST, Mr. HAYES, Mr. LEWIS of Kentucky, Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky, Mr. DAVID DAVIS of Tennessee, Mr. PEARCE, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California, Mr. LOBIONDO, Mr. TIBERI, Mr. WHITFIELD, Mr. LATOURETTE, Mr. YOUNG of Florida, Mrs. BLACKBURN, Mr. PITTS, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey, Mr. SULLIVAN, Mr. MANZULLO, Mr. MCHUGH, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. MCKEON, Mr. AKIN, Mr. KINGSTON, and Mr. TIAHRT) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Homeland Security, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


To vacate further proceedings in the prosecution of certain named persons.

Whereas the conviction and sentencing of United States Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean for the pursuit and shooting of drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila which is the subject of a Federal criminal case in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas represents an extreme injustice: Now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Congressional Pardon for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean Act’.


It is hereby ordered that the conviction and sentences of Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are vacated. The release of the defendants from the custody of the Government is hereby ordered, with prejudice. No further criminal prosecution or other proceeding against these named individuals with respect to the circumstances giving rise to the convictions and sentences vacated by this Act shall take place.


It is the sense of Congress that the Department of Homeland Security review the rules of engagement presently utilized by the United States Border Patrol.


If you guessed it had something to do with the title of this post, you get a gold star.

So, a little background for those of you who don't know.

Ramos and Compean were Border Patrol Agents on the U.S. Mexican border, along the El Paso section; which happens to be one of the busiest smuggling regions, as well as one of the more dangerous.

Border patrol rules of engagement specify that BP agents are not to enter into armed confrontation with smugglers. Well, Ramos and Compean did; and they ended up shooting one in the back.

Oooh no, in the back, those foul evildoers...

Yeah it's bull. Anyone who knows anything about a violent situation knows that when shooting starts, you don't pay attention to anything other then staying alive, and stopping the threat. If he's still moving, he's still fighting; but that's neither here nor there.

The problem is, after shooting at said scumbag (who was attempting to smuggle 800lbs of Marijuana that day) 15 times (they apparently only hit him once), they figured "ehh just another dead smuggler", and they didn't report the incident.

Now, that is a seriously big no-no. Very bad ju-ju. They violated their ROE, and they knew it, so they decided to hush it up. Grounds for dismissal certainly, and possibly a minor prosecution; but probably nothing really serious.

But the scumbag wasn't dead; and he complained to his own government about being shot. The Mexican government then complained to our Department of Homeland Security (who run the Border Patrol), who at the behest of the Mexican government told the U.S. Attorney for the western district of Texas that these two agents had "Committed a conspiracy to commit murder against a Mexican citizen".

Anyway, the El Paso U.S. Attorney looks at the ROE, looks at the criminal drug smuggling bastard shot in the back, and then looks at the pressure from Homeland Security and the Mexican government; and of course he sees where his bread is buttered, and decides to crucify Ramos and Compean.

They were charged with and convicted for, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder; and they each got 12 years... actually 11 years and 1 day, and 12 years respectively (not sure what the calculation was on that).


They were of course beaten nearly to death within hours, before being put into protective custody.

Now, SOP for a cop who gets sent to prison, is that they are NEVER put in with the general population, because if they do, it's effectively a death sentence. How this was ignored... let's just say is smells.

Let me just say something: I know for a fact we didn't get the whole story out to the public. I have family in the Border patrol who tell me this whole thing stinks to high heaven. BUT, based on what evidence was presented, this wasn't attempted murder or assault, this was a JUSTIFIED line of duty shooting.

What it comes down to is, the BP agents in question were so scared of the bureaucratic bull, and attitude of the Border Patrol management, that they decided to pretend it never happened. Their fear of their own bad management is what created this problem, not any improper action in shooting said drug smuggling scum bag.

Anyway, off my soap box for a minute.

Now, look at this little section from the bill above:


It is hereby ordered that the conviction and sentences of Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are vacated. The release of the defendants from the custody of the Government is hereby ordered, with prejudice. No further criminal prosecution or other proceeding against these named individuals with respect to the circumstances giving rise to the convictions and sentences vacated by this Act shall take place.

Now, here's the big problem.

Congress can't do that.

The constitution provides clearly delineated separation of the powers of the branches of government. Congress Makes the Laws, the Courts interpret and apply the laws, and the Executive branch executes and enforces the laws.

Pretty cut and dried.

Congress could write a new law, saying that what Ramos and Compean did isn't illegal; but it wouldn't change their case because what they did WAS illegal when they did it, according to the interpretation of the courts.

The courts could overturn their conviction, and dismiss the charges.

The Executive branch is the enforcement branch, and as such the privilege of executive clemency is their purview; so the president could pardon them.

But Congress cannot, "By act of Congress Assembled", vacate a conviction, or grant a pardon. Oh they can do it symbolically with a "sense of congress" resolution, or they can ASK the president to issue a pardon, they can even by act of congress ask the supreme court to consider the case (as they did with the Terry Schaivo issue... though the way it was worded they overstepped their bounds there as well)...

But congress can not vacate a conviction, or issue a pardon. In fact, they can't order the courts, or the president to do ANYTHING; except to follow the law. It is not within their constitutionally delegated powers to do so.

The only enforcement power that congress has, is to cite someone for contempt of congress (either for not following a law, or for not responding to the requests of congress expressed in their powers of subpoena to compel evidence and testimony); or to institute impeachment against the president (and in fact, they don't enforce that: the supreme court, acting on the authority of the senate, vacates the office of the president, and then the next in line of succession takes over).

Of the bills 87 co-sponsors, most of them are lawyers, who one would assume took constitutional law at some point or another. Many of them are congressmen of long service, who really should understand their constitutional authority, role, and powers.

Perhaps we are asking too much of our congressmen to understand their jobs, or the constitution.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris

Psalm 103:8-14

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fat Tuesday

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Damn... now I want a Beignet and a Bananas Foster...

Monday, February 19, 2007

A rash of cookies

I've got a bunch of stuff to say today, about Zumbo, and ARs and AKs, and M1 carbines... unfrotunately I am patchily swollen and piebald lobster red at the moment.

Mel made some valentines cookies a couple days ago, and I hadn't had any until this afternoon. I ate about 6 of the little cookies (they're like 1.5" across and 1/8" thick pressed butter cookie wafers); and then about an hour later my hands and feet started itching. Within a few minutes from that, the swelling redness had taken over.

Anyway, the only thing different Id done today was to eat the cookies...

Well, actually tht's not true, because yesterday Mel got her nails done; the first time she's ever had long nails (they glow in the dark, which we thought was hilarious). We though at first maybe the nails were the culprit, because she's had those nails all the places that broke out.. but lets just say all the places she'd had her nails didn't break out... thank god.

Anyway, it had to be the cookies, and the only thing different about this batch from the others was the food coloring used, so we did a skin test.

Apparently I am quite allergic to Wiltons Christmas Red food coloring.

Thankfully, I buy Bendaryl in bulk jsut for such occaisons; but I've got enough in me at the moment to make me mroe than a little loopy. In fact I've had to retype jsut about every line of this post twice.

When my rash, and mental clarity both recover, I shall return.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Okay, I could see that...

Your results:
You are Apocalypse

Dr. Doom
Mr. Freeze
The Joker
Lex Luthor
Green Goblin
Poison Ivy
Dark Phoenix
You believe in survival of the fittest and you believe that you are the fittest.

Click here to take the Super Villain Personality Test

HT: Gadfly

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Last Minute

Actually, I'm writing this now ebcause she's finally asleep.

Mel and I don't do "hallmark holidays", and St. Valentines day is most certainly that i our modern world.

We spent our evening alone together, with no tv, no internet, no computer, and no books; just she and I, snuggling in bed for about six hours.

My wife nows how much I love her; I make sure I tell her a dzen times each day; and god knows I know how much she loves me. We don't need a special day jsut to remember how much we love each other.

But on this last minute of the day; let me just tell the whole world once again, I love my family more than anything. My wife and our kids are what keeps me alive, upright, and on the right side of mental health.

Honey, I love you.

Worshipping the "Victim"

Two years ago today...

I published these words:

Monday, February 14, 2005

First Post!!!!! Ok folks, people have been telling me to write my own blog for two years now, so finally, here it is.

Yeah I said I'd get around to it before, but I'm lazy, what can I say. The initial content is mostly going to be stuff I've written for other peoples blogs, and fora etc...

Suggestions, praise, worship, and deification are all welcome.
Wow... man, two years already...

Ok, so the numbers.
  • 1378 posts (not including this one)
  • Over 500,000 words
  • Over 535,000 unique visits
  • Almost 900,000 page views
  • One Fatwa
  • Hundreds of death threats
  • Thousands of liberals annoyed
  • One new dog
  • Two new cats
  • Three new contracts (9 months on this latest one)
  • One new wife
  • Two new kids
  • Two great years of writing, and reading, and sharing my thoughts with all of you
It's been a hell of a time this past two years; and I hope I can keep this run going. I'll keep writing... well I was going to say as long as you keep reading, but I was writing even when no-one was reading me... but anyway I'll keep writing so long as I can see the screen and work the keys.

Thanks for reading; now go about your business, shows over, nothing to see here, move along.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Qualifying your load

One of the questions I get frequently, is how to choose the right ammunition to use with your gun (or guns).

That's a pretty interesting question (that I've partially addressed before). Particularly, it's a complicated and kinda hard to answer one. For one thing, there are a lot of performance tradeoffs; and that question I've already talked about elsewhere, and will again; but I'm not going to take the time to talk about it here except in the most basic way.

What I do want to talk about, is how do you know how a particular load will shoot in your gun?

The short answer is, you don't until you try it.

The most important criteria for any carry ammunition is reliability. You have to be 100% sure that when you squeeze that trigger, the weapon will fire, and it will cycle and fire the next round, and the next after that. The loudest sound in this world is a click where there should have been a bang.

The second most important criteria is precision. No, not accuracy; accuracy is the tendency for a bullet to impact close to it's point of aim, and it's important; but REPEATABILITY is more important. Repeatability is also called precision; and it's the tendency for multiple bullets to impact the same spot time after time (which makes groupings). Point of aim can be adjusted to produce the desired result, but if a given load could impact anywhere in an 8" circle of where you are aiming at 10 yards, then there's a lot of ways for you to miss.

The third criteria is controllability. If you can't control the weapon, with reliability and precision; at all angles and speeds of fire; then that load is not suitable for you, with your weapon.

Finally, the last criteria is terminal performance; and really that's just a guess. There are multiple wounding theories out there, and very little scientific understanding of the details of terminal performance; but you can speak in certain generalities:
  • Modern premium jacketed hollowpoint ammunition is generally better than FMJ

  • Within a given caliber, faster is better

  • Within a given caliber, heavier is better
So, the fastest, heaviest, premium hollowpoint; that is reliable, and precise (and it's a plus if it shoots to point of aim), and that you can control well, is the load you should choose.

I could tell you which is more important; faster, or heavier; but no-one is really sure, because in different circumstances and with different bullets, either one could produce a better result (I've written a lot more about this elsewhere, as have hundreds of others). Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much about it. I choose the heaviest +p or +p+ load that I shoot well, and that each gun likes; and I'm confident that it will produce a good result.

So back to that question, how do you know what load is going to be reliable, and shoot well in your gun?

Every gun is different, even the same identical make and model weapon, and will shoot differently with different ammunition, and of course every shooter is different; so the data I collect for my HK USP, may not be useful for your particular HK USP, and almost certainly wont be useful for your 1911.

Well, that's not quite true. If velocities are consistent with my gun, they are likely to be consistent with your gun, presuming the guns are the same (or very similar) types; because consistent velocities are an indicator of well assembled ammunition with good quality control. Conversely inconsistent velocities are often an indicator of poor ammunition; unless the inconsistency spreads across multiple loads (in which case you should see a gunsmith).

So, what does that mean? Yup, you guessed it, it's testing time.

This is the fun part... expensive, but fun.

When I get a new hand gun (the process for rifles is similar, but more anal, and thankfully involves fewer rounds), the first thing I do with it, is shoot 200-500 rounds of generic practice ammo or practice handloads through it; to break it in, and to get a reliability and functionality baseline.

In that first batch, I will typically follow a basic break-in procedure for the first 100 rounds (5-20 rounds, then a quick clean with a bristle brush and bore snake, to get any filings that come off with the break in, and keep the initial powder and copper fouling loose; then another string etc...); then I’ll shoot the rest without cleaning at all, to test reliability when dirty. I will test the weapon in adverse positions, in rapid fire, etc… to get a feel for the weapon, and again to help understand the basic reliability.

Be careful what you read into that reliability or accuracy data though, because the weapon may be plenty reliable with premium defensive loads, but unreliable with the white box loads (for any number of reasons).

For example, Winchester white box .45acp is typically loaded about 10% below SAAMI pressure standards for the round (not the top pressures, the standard pressure). I have two auto pistols that are built for .45 super, and they will sometimes have failures to cycle with that ammo, because the low pressure loads aren’t strong enough to be reliable with the high pressure springs in those guns. Remington green box hollowpoint rounds don't like to feed in those guns either, but in other guns I have work just fine. Magtech, Wolf, and Independence ammo both tend to be loaded to very low pressures (even below WWB), and also tend to have inconsistent velocities; which makes them both unreliable, AND imprecise, in a lot of guns (including mine).

On the accuracy side, most of my guns print exactly to point of aim with the +p and +p+ loads I carry them with; but they shoot low, and often a bit off to one side with the generic white box ammunition (no, I’m not sure of the explanation for that. It should be a bit low, but in the same vertical line, unless the pressures and velocities are WAY low. If they don’t shoot to POA out of the box with the load I’ve chosen, then I’ll adjust or reshape the sights -in the event of a sight that isn’t at least drift adjustable- so that they do; but that's later).

This is one of the reasons it’s so important to practice regularly with your carry ammunition; because under stress you will revert to training, and you need to train to shoot straight, not to hold Kentucky windage; and especially not to hold two different points of aim for different loads. It's also the reason why you want to thoroughly qualify a couple of loads (preferably those that group close to the same point of aim), then stick with them.

Once I’ve completed that process, I shoot for groups with the ammo I intend to carry the gun with (or shoot in matches if it’s a competition gun; but for IDPA I only use carry ammo; or reloads to the same spec for practice purposes. I don’t currently shoot USPSA, which is typically shot with specialty competition loads).

In particular, I will shoot for group with number of loads (at least five loads from several different manufacturers if possible) shooting at least four 5 shot groups per load (conveniently, one full box of premium hollowpoints) off a fully supported rest; to test how the gun functions with that ammunition, and to obtain useful accuracy information.

If possible, I like to shoot through a chronograph for this testing; so I can get an idea of the consistency of velocity (mean, median, standard deviation, and extreme spread). It's not particularly important by itself in a defensive handgun so long as the load groups well, but it's good to know.

Once I’ve narrowed the load possibilities down to two or three (they almost always end up being CCI/Speer, Cor-Bon, Hornady, or Federal premium/Hydra-shok), I will run at least 100 rounds of each load through; checking for function at all angles and positions, limp wristing, rapid fire, with my thumb riding on the slide etc… getting an idea of functional and feed reliability for that load.

Importantly, I’ll shoot each of these loads through all of my carry magazines for the gun (and all the practice mags if I can); and check for feed and cycle reliability.

I will also shoot controlled pairs, and controlled triples (mozambiques), as well as other drills, to get an idea of rapid fire controllability and accuracy.

If the weapon has more than one malfunction that I didn’t cause deliberately, or if it malfunctions too easily etc… then that load isn’t the right one for that gun. If the accuracy, precision, reliability, and controlability prove acceptable, then that load has been qualified.

I like to qualify at least two loads for every weapon, and I prefer three if possible, so that I am more likely to be able to find a qualified load wherever I go if I have to. I also like to make sure at least one of those loads is one I can get pretty much everywhere locally, and even in Wal-Mart if possible (most Wal-Marts don't carry much of a selection of premium hollowpoints, if any at all).

At that point, I’ll adjust the sights (permanently or otherwise) to shoot to POA with my chosen primary carry load; and then we’re done.

Yes, this is an expensive process. It usually costs me approximately $250 in ammunition to qualify a load with a gun; and that data is not useful to that load with another gun (though it is at least instructive). I've had guns where I had to spend over $500 in ammo jsut to find a laod that the weapon liked.

The most expensive bit was qualifying my guns with the Glaser safety slugs. I was only able to do so because I bought about 1200 of them (in various calibers) at auction for $200; and in fact I've only qualified four guns with them.

I don't recommend that anyone shoot Glasers through an auto pistol, unless they can test with at least 50 of them (and preferably 100); and at the current pricing that would cost somewhere around $200. Even with revolvers (where you don't have to be so concerned about function) I'd still recommend testing with at least 20 rounds, and probably more, because Glasers shoot to a RADICALLY different point of aim than conventional ammunition (they are far lighter, and loaded to a far higher velocity).

So yeah, it costs... but if I’m going to carry a weapon to defend my life, and the lives of others, I need to be ABSOLUTELY certain that the ammunition I choose is both reliable and precise.

That certainty is cheap at any price.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Has Anybody Here, Seen My Good Friend...

A friend of mine killed himself yesterday. He apparently went out to the beach just before dawn, watched the sun come up over the ocean, and popped himself.

He just turned 21 two weeks ago, he was in a high pressure college program, had a rocky relationship with his "redneck/traditional asian" parents, uncertain relationships with friends and women, but there were no indications of this coming...

It's almost a cliche really; he's the demographic suicide...

God it's offensive to say that, but it's true.

He was known for proposing these wildly bad ideas, like bullpup pump shotguns with riot triggers, or fire on bolt close mode for barrage fire rifles or other somesuch crap; jsut as thought excercises.

We all used to make fun of him for it, even coming up with a term for it, the "Bad Idea Thread".

A few days ago he came up with such a stinker I rponounced it his "worst idea yet, and tha'ts saying something...

Well, I changed my mind. Frank, this was your worst idea ever; and that's saying something.

We grieve, not for the dead who are beyond the pull of grief; but for the living.

Let us not grieve; but celebrate the life of those who have left us, and take joy in what they have done, and how they have touched our lives.

Rest in peace, Frank Chen, 1986-2007

Ferret Speaks the Truth

What happened?

These are some pictures, of a formerly beautiful, and really quite small but slightly rounded girl, who turned into a lollipop headed stick figure. Yesterday was her 27th birthday.

This is Christina Ricci in 1999, after she recovered from her first bout of Anorexia (I can't find any candids of her from before then.

In these pictures, she's 5'1" and about 125lbs. She's really quite thin, just a little round in the cheeks, hips, and breasts. Those are GOOD characteristics.

Then she relapsed, and just look at these pictures from 2001

Ok, in this first picture, she's very thin, but at least she's still got some softness to her face, and she hasn't lost her breasts. Just look at these pics from later in the year:

In a matter of months, shes gone down to well under 100lbs; and she looks almost skeletal. Certainly not attractive, especially in comparison.

By 2003 she had "recovered" again, and was looking, still very thin at perhaps 110-115lbs, but good. Her curves were at least partially bad, and her face didn't look hollow.

She is once again beautiful, and desirable; looking more like a woman again, and not like a plastic coat hanger...

Unfortunately, by 2005, she was sliding backwards again:

I think the best thing that could be said is, unhealthy looking... Spindly, sunken.. she looks to me like a cancer patient. Her head looks all out of proportion to her body, and her breasts are dropped and floppy. I would estimate her weight here around 95lbs at most.

And today.. or rather a few days ago, she looked like this:

She doesn't look as sunken in, as hollow here, but I think if anything she has even less fat; she's just put on more muscle. She has gone from under eating to over exercising. Worse, I'm reasonably certain she's been under the knife a few times.

Now, I ask you, would you rather have a woman who looked like this:

Or one that looked like this:

I know what my choice is...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Who's at fault for the M16?

There are a hell of a lot of people who REALLY hate the AR family of weapons, the 5.56 nato round, and the M16 in particular.

I've addressed this hatred before; and there are some valid issues, some not so valid issues, and some issues that were once valid, but aren't anymore.

One of the groups that hates the M16 with the greatest passion, is veterans of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, who served in Viet Nam between 1964 and 1968.

They've got a very good reason; the M16, as issued, got hundreds, if not thousands of good soldiers and marines killed.

See, the M16 as issued at the time, was just as bad as everyone who hates it says it was.

But, why?

Clearly the M16 of today is a very different beast (though of course the 5.56 round is still not an optimal anti-personnel choice, and the gas system has its issues); and there's no way the weapon would have been adopted as widely as it was, if it was so bad by design...

The post I wrote yesterday about tumbling bullets , and the earlier post about stabilization myths, brought this subject to the fore of a number of folks mind. Some have commented that they won't buy a Colt product, and still blame McNamara; for cheaping out on the M16 to make more profit, because they didn't care if the troops got a shoddy weapon, or even for bribes and kickbacks (a suggestion which I find ridiculous by the way).

Well, there are a hell of a lot of things to blame McNamara for (in fact, I hold him responsible for much of the way the Viet Nam war was conducted); and certainly he and his "whiz kids" share some of the blame; but really, the majority of the responsibility and recriminations should not fall on his shoulders.

You shouldn't really blame Colt either. They were following the specifications and recommendations of the people who are truly responsible for the deaths of all those men.

No, the people responsible for the early M16 and its faults, were the Army Ordnance Board. They are the ones who changed the twist rate, changed the powder, and told colt not to chrome the bores.

They did it, because they were trying to sabotage the M16. They saw this black plastic toy, as being forced on them by McNamara and Curtis LeMay (com gen. of the Air Force, who bought them for the air force security police); when they wanted to continue using the m14.

Now, specifically a lot of folks blame McNamara, because he forced the Army to adopt the rifle, and is reported to have said "If it needed a chrome bore, Eugene Stoner would have designed it that way".

It may have been true, and I’ve certainly heard the quote before; but it was definitely not Colts fault, or McNamaras fault even that the changes were made, or more importantly that the required changes to make the M16 combat ready for the jungles of Viet Nam, were not made until 1968.

If you read up on some of the stunts the Ordnance Board pulled during the acceptance trials, they boil my blood.

The AR platform was first tested (as the AR-10) by the Army ordnance board in 1956; and it was rejected, for various stated reasons only one of which was true. The original AR10 had a light weight composite barrel, which would shatter in heavy rain or extremely cold temperatures. During the original ordnance board trials, Stoner decided that the one legitimate complaint the board had was that the rifle needed a conventional barrel, and the bore needed to be chrome lined (in fact, Stoner had always thought so. The lightweight aluminum and compsite barrels were not his idea, they were forced on him by the president of Fairchild, John Sullivan).

In ‘58, the board held the cold weather trials, and rejected the AR platform again, because of it’s “inadequate performance and failure to meet standards in harsh environments”, based on a ridiculous series of rigged tests, using deliberately sabotaged rifles.

Eugene Stoner reported that the commander of the tests told him that there was no way his rifle would pass, and that he didn't understand why Stoner was trying to destroy the Army with his rifle. That he believed Stoner was unpatriotic, and honestly wanted to destroy the Army and possibly America; just because of this rifle.

These were not the sentiments of a rational and objective man.

Stoner also reported that when he arrived to oversee the trials, the rifles used for the test had all their pins removed and replaced with machine screws that had the heads ground off; that springs were deliberately clipped; that sights had been deliberately knocked off true etc... The army ordnance board was simply not going to allow this rifle to even be considered.

Maxwell Taylor, at the time chief of staff of the army (then chairman of the joint chiefs), personally hated LeMay to an unreasonable degree and "blamed" this new rifle on him. Taylor also directly intervened in the testing process to express his disapproval of the new weapon, preferring instead the more traditional M14; and leting his people know in no uncertain terms he expected the plastic toy to fail completely.

So, the AR was rejected again; and Stoner left Fairchild/Armalite to work with Colt, and Cadillac Gage. In 1961-62 he started working on his next design, the Stoner 62/63 weapons system, and later the Bushmaster cannon, leaving the AR to Armalite (the trade name the M16 is known under throughout most of the world).

In 1960, after seeing a demonstration of the AR15 at a barbecue in Texas, Curtis Lemay ordered 8,500 M16s for the Air Force (initially countermanded by McNamara, but later allowed to go through); believing that the light, handy rifle was perfect for air base security.

ARPA (the advanced research project agency) also acquired a quantity of the rifles, and sent them to Viet Nam with SF a teams; to be used as personal weapons, as well as to arm indigenous irregular troops. This order was allowed to proceed; and ARPA reported (with some unbelievable hyperbole one might note), that the rifle was an unqualified success.

McNamara stopped the M16 order for several reasons, including believing (rightly) that LeMay was too big for his britches; but his primary justification was the initial army ordnance board reporting. After the order was suspended, ArmaLite corporation (which was founded and spun off by Fairchild, who were Stoners employers when he created the AR design),who had licensed the design from Stoner, filed a complaint with McNamara about the original tests, which caused him to initiate an inspector generals investigation into the trials.

Two years after that, and after receiving an IG report showed that the original M16 trials were rigged; McNamara halted production of the M14 and ordered the M16 adopted; officially because economic and production analysis by the “whiz kids” showed the M14 was uneconomical (production costs were too high, and production could not be economically increased), vs the M16.

Actually, much of why McNamara made the decision, was because he was supremely pissed off at the Army Ordnance board at their deception (and they were continuing to insist the trials were legitimate even after the report came out). McNamara felt that he needed to force the board to heel.

Initially the AOB absolutely refused McNamaras order that the M16 be adopted. McNamara forced the AOB by direct order to retry the weapon, with ARPA as an overeseeing agency. The board dickered so much, and insisted on so many changes to the rifle; in fact saying that even with the changes it was unsuitable; that McNamara ordered that they adopt the M16 as is, with no changes, anyway.

Those changes were actually rather important; including the chrome bore, the forward assist, and a different twist rate for the rifling. They would later be implemented in the M16A1 (and later revisions); but because of the boards hostility with McNamara, they were not put into the intial production models as issued.

After McNamara overruled the board completely, they went about deliberatelyt making sure the M16 would fail; because they wanted it to be a spectacular disaster, so they could go back to the M14 and give McNamara a black eye.

The first, and most important thing they did, was chang the powder from stick to ball; without testing the new powder, or changing the springs, gas port diameter etc... as would be required to properly function with this change.

...But it didn't take changes in the rilfe or ammo to sink it.

Even with the wrong powder, the weapon COULD have been a success. The board did something far far worse. Colt was advertising the civilian versions of the rifle as "self cleaning", and so natural and intuitive that anyone coudl shoot it with no training. THe board thought they would throw those claims back in Colts face, and they specified that the rifle not be distributed with cleaning kits, didn't have kits or supplies put into production, and didn’t create training manuals or standard procedures.

In fact, they didn’t even distribute armorers manuals (something done with any and all devices the military uses); and the flysheets that they DID distribute, instructed armorers to issue the weapon without kits, telling soldiers that they didn’t need to clean the weapon; that it was self cleaning (Colt picked this up as sales propaganda, but the AOB certainly knew better).

When the weapon initially went to field units, no training was conducted. Troops were given “field expedient familiarization”, which consisted of firing a few magazines off into the tree line. There was no training in stoppage drills, how to break the weapon down, how to field or detail strip it, how to maintain it at all etc… The weapon was first issued to troops in late ‘64 and early ‘65, but cleaning kits and manuals weren’t issued until 1967.

What we CAN blame McNamara for however, is not listening to the troops reports of the weapons failures. He still believed that it was the AOB falsifying the problems in order to make the rifle fail. He was half right.

In 1968, finally realizing that they had lost the M14 fight, and that they had to respond to the issues the troops were having; the Army began issuing the revised configuration M16s (the E1, E2, and what was finally classified as the M16-A1), incorporating those changes initially recommended; as well as creating new manuals, procedures, and training; as should have been done in 1964.

All of that was a direct result of the ordnance board, and their desire to keep using the M14; and all of that resulted in the deaths of hundreds or thousands of good men. It's not Colt or McNamaras fault, you can lay the blame squarely on the Army Ordnance Board from 1958 through 1968.