Tuesday, March 31, 2009

China: Measuring us for the knock-out blow.

Those of you who have been reading my stuff for a while know that I view Taiwan as the canary in the coal mine of international liberty. Just as in the run-up to World War II, when larger predatory nations began gobbling up smaller, weaker ones -- Ethiopia, Manchuria, Czechoslovakia -- if Taiwan is absorbed unwillingly into the PRC without effective international opposition, then the dominoes, to use another metaphor, will begin to fall.

China has in its suite of persuasive tactics a number of carrots and sticks already. It has now found another shiny, new and deadly stick to get what they want.

Here's the new shiny big stick they found.

Don't invest in Taiwanese real estate.


Report: Chinese Develop Special "Kill Weapon" to Destroy U.S. Aircraft Carriers

Advanced missile poses substantial new threat for U.S. Navy

U. S. Naval Institute

March 31, 2009

With tensions already rising due to the Chinese navy becoming more aggressive in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy seems to have yet another reason to be deeply concerned.

After years of conjecture, details have begun to emerge of a "kill weapon" developed by the Chinese to target and destroy U.S. aircraft carriers.

First posted on a Chinese blog viewed as credible by military analysts and then translated by the naval affairs blog Information Dissemination, a recent report provides a description of an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) that can strike carriers and other U.S. vessels at a range of 2000km.

The range of the modified Dong Feng 21 missile is significant in that it covers the areas that are likely hot zones for future confrontations between U.S. and Chinese surface forces.

The size of the missile enables it to carry a warhead big enough to inflict significant damage on a large vessel, providing the Chinese the capability of destroying a U.S. supercarrier in one strike.

Because the missile employs a complex guidance system, low radar signature and a maneuverability that makes its flight path unpredictable, the odds that it can evade tracking systems to reach its target are increased. It is estimated that the missile can travel at mach 10 and reach its maximum range of 2000km in less than 12 minutes.

Supporting the missile is a network of satellites, radar and unmanned aerial vehicles that can locate U.S. ships and then guide the weapon, enabling it to hit moving targets.

The ASBM is said to be a modified DF-21

While the ASBM has been a topic of discussion within national defense circles for quite some time, the fact that information is now coming from Chinese sources indicates that the weapon system is operational. The Chinese rarely mention weapons projects unless they are well beyond the test stages.

If operational as is believed, the system marks the first time a ballistic missile has been successfully developed to attack vessels at sea. Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.

Along with the Chinese naval build-up, U.S. Navy officials appear to view the development of the anti-ship ballistic missile as a tangible threat.

After spending the last decade placing an emphasis on building a fleet that could operate in shallow waters near coastlines, the U.S. Navy seems to have quickly changed its strategy over the past several months to focus on improving the capabilities of its deep sea fleet and developing anti-ballistic defenses.

As analyst Raymond Pritchett notes in a post on the U.S. Naval Institute blog:

"The Navy's reaction is telling, because it essentially equals a radical change in direction based on information that has created a panic inside the bubble. For a major military service to panic due to a new weapon system, clearly a mission kill weapon system, either suggests the threat is legitimate or the leadership of the Navy is legitimately unqualified. There really aren't many gray spaces in evaluating the reaction by the Navy…the data tends to support the legitimacy of the threat."

In recent years, China has been expanding its navy to presumably better exert itself in disputed maritime regions. A recent show of strength in early March led to a confrontation with an unarmed U.S. ship in international waters.

Praxis Request: Sources of Bulk Foods?

Speaking with a long-time companero in the the gun rights movement, he asked: "Do you have any info on companies selling pails of rice, beans, etc.?"

No, I told him, I was not up to date on bulk food sources. But I thought I knew where I could find someone who was.

Ideas? Experiences?



Sipsey Street Health Report and Itinerary

Well, folks, I came back from the doctor yesterday with one of these on my right foot. Nothing broken, but I have a condition subsequent to my diabetes called Charcot foot and am currently dealing with infected spots on the sole of my ass-kicker. My doctor's opinion is "everything heals faster in plaster" so here I am, gimping again.

In any case, I will still be at Knob Creek, Kentucky this weekend for the machine gun shoot. Oleg Volk will be shooting some pics of me and others for the book cover. See you there, on crutches.


The Cockroach and the Lightswitch: A Spotlight on the Gunshow-Loophole-Mexican-Narco-Nexus Lie

THIS is a lightswitch.

THIS is a common American cockroach.

THESE are uncommon lying American political cockroaches.

HERE are some more.

What do they all have in common, these cockroaches? They are allergic to the light of truth.

Bill Conroy, over at The Narcosphere blog here here has flipped the lightswitch on the cockroach lie of "the gun-show loophole-supplying-drug-cartels" meme of the disarmament lobby and their government stooges like Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder. I reprint this in its entirety because it is a. vitally important and b. darn near unreadable in its original form.

Read, and ask yourself: Do you think the left-wing media will pick up on THIS story? Sez, I, not bloody likely.


(A big tip of the boonie hat to Don P.)

Posted by Bill Conroy - March 29, 2009 at 3:18 pm

More Than $1 billion In Private-Sector Weapons Exports Approved For Mexico Since 2004

Mainstream media and Beltway pundits and politicians in recent months have unleashed a wave of panic in the nation linking the escalading violence in Mexico, and its projected spread into the U.S., to illegal weapons smuggling.

The smokescreen being spread by these official mouthpieces of manufactured consensus is that a host of criminal operators are engaging in straw (or fraudulent) gun purchases, making clandestine purchases at U.S. gun shows or otherwise assembling small caches of weapons here in the states in order to smuggle them south of the border to the “drug cartels.”

The Obama administration is now sending hundreds of additional federal agents to the border in an effort to interdict this illegal arms smuggling to reassure an agitated middle-America that Uncle Sam will get these bad guys. The cascade of headlines from mainstream media outlets printing drug-war pornography assures us in paragraphs inserted between the titillation that the ATF’s Operation Gunrunner and other similar get-tough on gun-seller programs will save America from the banditos of Mexico.

To be sure, some criminal actors in the U.S. are smuggling small arms across the border. But the drug war in Mexico is not being fought with Saturday night specials, hobby rifles and hunting shotguns. The drug trafficking organizations are now in possession of high-powered munitions in vast quantities that can’t be explained by the gun-show loophole.

At least one report in a mainstream media outlet deserves credit for recognizing that trend.

“[Mexican] traffickers have escalated their arms race, acquiring military-grade weapons, including hand grenades, grenade launchers, armor-piercing munitions and antitank rockets with firepower far beyond the assault rifles and pistols that have dominated their arsenals,” states a recent story in the Los Angeles Times. “The proliferation of heavier armaments points to a menacing new stage in the Mexican government's 2-year-old war against drug organizations. …”

Narco News, in a report last December [“Juarez murders shine a light on an emerging Military Cartel”] also examined the increasing militarization of narco-trafficking groups in Mexico and pointed out that U.S. military-issued ammunition popped up in an arms cache seized in Reynosa, Mexico, in November 2008 that was linked to the Zetas, a mercenary group that provides enforcement services to Mexican narco-trafficking organizations.

Rather than address that valid question head on, the mainstream media, and now even the Obama administration, have been attempting to paint lipstick on the pig, trumpeting, in the words of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the “courageous efforts undertaken by [Mexican] President Calderon.”

And the “courageous” Mexican President Felipe Calderon, for his part, redirects the blame for the Mexican narco-organization’s increasing firepower back to the U.S.
In a story published by the Associated Press in late February of this year, Mexican President Calderon is quoted alleging the following:

We need to stop the flow of guns and weapons towards Mexico. Let me express to you that we've seized in this two years more than 25,000 weapons and guns, and more than 90 percent of them came from United States, and I'm talking from missiles launchers to machine guns and grenades.

But no matter how hard Calderon and U.S. officials try to disguise the pig, it still oinks.

A Narco News investigation into the flow of arms across the U.S. border appears to lead right back to the systemic corruption that afflicts a vast swath of the Mexican government under President Felipe Calderon and this nation’s own embrace of market-driven free-trade policies.

The deadliest of the weapons now in the hands of criminal groups in Mexico, particularly along the U.S. border, by any reasonable standard of an analysis of the facts, appear to be getting into that nation through perfectly legal private-sector arms exports, measured in the billions of dollars, and sanctioned by our own State Department. These deadly trade commodities — grenade launchers, explosives and “assault” weapons —are then, in quantities that can fill warehouses, being corruptly transferred to drug trafficking organizations via their reach into the Mexican military and law enforcement agencies, the evidence indicates.

“As in other criminal enterprises in Mexico, such as drug smuggling or kidnapping, it is not unusual to find police officers and military personnel involved in the illegal arms trade,” states an October 2007 report by the for-profit global intelligence group Stratfor, which Barron’s magazine once dubbed the Shadow CIA. “… Over the past few years, several Mexican government officials have been arrested on both sides of the border for participating in the arms trade.”

Counting Commerce

The U.S. State Department oversees a program that requires private companies in the United States to obtain an export license in order to sell defense hardware or services to foreign purchasers — which include both government units and private buyers in other countries. These arms deals are known as Direct Commercial Sales [DCS]. Each year, the State Department issues a report tallying the volume and dollar amount of DCS items approved for export.

The reports do not provide details on who the weapons or defense services were exported to specifically, but do provide an accounting of the destination countries. Although it is possible that some of the deals authorized under the DCS program were altered or even canceled after the export licenses were issued, the data compiled by State does provide a broad snapshot of the extensive volume of U.S. private-sector arms shipments to both Mexico and Latin America in general.

According to an analysis of the DCS reports, some $1 billion in defense hardware was approved for export to Mexico via private U.S. companies between fiscal year 2004 and fiscal year 2007 — the most recent year for which data was available. Overall, during the same period, a total of some $3.7 billion in weapons and other military hardware was approved for export under the DCS program to all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In addition to the military hardware exports approved for Mexico, some $3.8 billion in defense-related “services” [technical assistance and training via private U.S. contractors] also were approved for “export” to Mexico over the same four-year period, according to the DCS reports.

That means the total value of defense-related hardware and service exports by private U.S. companies to Mexico tallied nearly $5 billion over the four-year window. And that figure doesn’t even count the $700 million in assistance already authorized under the Merida Initiative [Plan Mexico] or any new DCS exports approved for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 [which ends Sept. 30].

Following is a sample of the types of arms shipments approved for export to Mexico through the DCS program during fiscal years 2006 and 2007 alone:

• $3.3 million worth of ammunition and explosives, including ammunition-manufacturing equipment;
• 13,000 nonautomatic and semiautomatic firearms, pistols and revolvers at a total value of $11.6 million;
• 42 grenade launchers valued at $518,531;
• 3,578 explosive projectiles, including grenades, valued at $78,251;
• Various night-vision equipment valued at $963,201.

A troubling revelation about the DCS program, which has direct relevance to the drug war in Mexico, is contained in a fiscal 2007 report issued by the State Department. That report summarizes the results of the State Department’s Blue Lantern end-use monitoring program for DCS exports.

That Blue Lantern report found that "the Western Hemisphere (especially Latin America and the Caribbean) continues to be a region with a high incidence of unfavorable cases involving firearms and ammunition." The unfavorable finding indicates that fraud may have occurred and those cases "may be subject to civil enforcement actions or referred to law enforcement for criminal investigation."
For the entire DCS program, and this is a disturbing figure, of the 634 Blue Lantern cases closed in fiscal year 2007, a total of 143, or 23 percent, were deemed “unfavorable."

The Blue Lantern report does not mention specific transactions in detail, but does provide case-study examples. One included in the report indicated that a Latin American firearms dealer acted as a “front company for another Latin American company.”

“[The] owner admits that [the] company exists only on paper…,” the fiscal year 2007 Blue Lantern report states. “[The] host country authorities had temporarily suspended the firearms import licenses to [the] parent company because of its link with small arms smuggling to gangs in [a] third country.”

Given Mexico’s strict gun laws with respect to private individuals, it is likely most of the DCS program defense hardware approved for export to that nation was directed toward the military or law enforcement agencies. But it is precisely that fact which should be raising some alarm in Washington.

Mexico, by Calderon’s own admission, is dealing with a serious corruption problem within the ranks of Mexican law enforcement.

From a December 2008 report in the Los Angeles Times:

Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Tuesday said his government was making strides against corruption but warned that graft remained a threat to the nation's efforts against crime.

Calderon’s rival in the 2006 Mexican presidential race, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in recent open letter published in the Mexican newspaper Por Esto! and addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, is even more blunt in his assessment of the extent of corruption within the Calderon regime.

You surely know that all of this began when a group of about 30 traffickers of influence and corrupt politicians, using the cover of so-called neoliberal economic policies, took control of the Mexican State, as well as a good part of national and so-called public goods. And these policies of pillaging that has enriched a minority in an exaggerated and obscene manner, in a way that has not occurred in any other part of the world, has condemned the Mexican people to exile and survival.

And that corruption is not limited to Mexican law enforcement. Sources provided Narco News with a PowerPoint presentation prepared for the DEA that indicates the following:

Between Jan 2000-Dec 2006: More than 163,000 military members were criminally processed during former president Vicente Fox’s 6 years term of office. The majority of the crimes were: [the list includes abuse of power, homicide, embezzlement, kidnapping, bank robbery, illegal possession of firearms and health crimes [essentially organized crime].

Another slide in that same DEA PowerPoint presentation states that the Mexican military reported an average of 1,200 desertions per month in 2006.

And it should not be ignored that the Zetas, one of the most violent drug-organization groups in Mexico right now, was founded by former elite Mexican special-operations troops — many of whom received some training in the United States.

[The two most recent DCS reports can be found at these links: FY2006 and FY2007.]

The Elephant in the Room

A former senior U.S. Customs Inspector, who asked that his name not be used, provided the following reaction when presented with the DCS data:

I would agree entirely [that] DCS (and DoD gifted, as opposed to DCS sold) weapons are obviously the simplest explanation for the massive rise in the number of fully automatic weapons, grenades, rockets, etc., obtained by the narcotics gangs. … That is to say, they are obtaining their weapons from their own, Mexican, government, by various illegal means.

… The Mexican government has a long and well-documented history of corruption at all levels, from city to federal. Most of the weapons being "displayed" [in the media] are simply not available for sale to American civilians, particularly including the grenades — both 40mm and hand types.

… The source of these weapons can be easily traced by ATF. … All foreign sales must be reported to ATF prior to shipment, just in case the government wishes to hold up a shipment to a particular country, etc. Tracing the serial numbers would be easy, with US government assistance, of course.

But that assumes the Mexican government, and our own government, really want to trace those weapons. A November 2008 report in the San Antonio Express News, which includes details of the major weapons seizure in Reynosa, Mexico, that same month involving the Zetas, reveals the following:

Another example of coordination problems occurred this month. Mexican authorities in Reynosa across the border from McAllen, seized the country’s single largest stash of cartel weapons — nearly 300 assault rifles, shoulder-fired grenade launchers and a half million rounds of ammunition.

But weeks later, Mexican authorities still have not allowed the ATF access to serial numbers that would help them track down the buyers and traffickers on the U.S. side.
To be sure, cartel corruption and intimidation of Mexican law enforcement at every level and in every agency has caused some dysfunction.

A former DEA agent, who also asked not to be named, says the shipment of military-grade weapons to the Mexican government under the DCS program, given the extent of corruption within that government, is essentially like “shipping weapons to a crime syndicate.”

At least one individual with long connections to U.S. intelligence agencies is convinced that the corrupt transfer of arms between the Mexican military and narco-criminals in Mexico is more than theory.

Tosh Plumlee is a former CIA contract pilot who flew numerous missions delivering arms to Latin America and returning drugs to the United States as part of the covert Iran/Contra operations in the 1980s, according to public records. After becoming troubled by those government-sanctioned missions, Plumlee decided to take his concerns to Congress.

Plumlee was eventually called to testify before Congress on a number of occasions, only to find that the Congressional committees hearing his testimony ordered it classified — which meant if Plumlee later spoke about it publicly, he would be violating the law.

Plumlee, however, still has deep contacts in the spook world, some of whom, it seems, want him to bring some information forward concerning the nature of the drug war in Juarez, Mexico. As a result, Plumlee says he recently made a journey with individuals he described as “sensitive sources” to a small warehouse in Juarez — located just across border from El Paso, Texas. Plumlee says he agreed to accompany the sources because he is currently doing research for a book he is writing about the drug war.

Plumlee says it was clear to him that the warehouse was not part of a Mexican military operation, yet it was packed with U.S. military weapons — including grenades, grenade launchers, LAW anti-tank weapons [essentially high-tech bazookas], M16 rifles and night-vision equipment.

Plumlee says his sources indicated that the U.S. weapons in that warehouse — as well as another warehouse located elsewhere in Juarez that he did not visit — were now under the control of a narco-trafficking organization, which had obtained the munitions from corrupt elements of the Mexican military.

Plumlee concedes he does not know why he was allowed to step inside that warehouse and later walk out alive. All he can say for sure is that he was being used to get the information out and suspects that those weapons have since been relocated.

As incredible as Plumlee’s story sounds, it cannot really be surprising that there would be stores of weapons in clandestine warehouses in a city like Juarez, which, since the beginning of 2008, has produced about 2,000 of the estimated 7,000 murders in Mexico’s bloody drug war. And whether anyone chooses to believe Plumlee’s information or not, it is clear he has a long history of being a player in the netherworld of black operations, and might well be trusted by some players who still engaged in that dark art.

Mike Levine, a former DEA agent who has years of experience participating in dangerous undercover operations overseas, says Plumlee is who he claims to be.

Levine now hosts a radio show in New York City on a Pacifica Radio station [the Expert Witness Radio Show] and Plumlee has appeared on that show several times over the years.

Here’s what Levine has to say about Plumlee’s credibility:

Before I invited Tosh to come on the air, because his story was so incredible, I vetted him through government agents, all of whom said he is the real thing. I have a copy of the air map he turned over to a San Diego Weekly newspaper, bearing notations of all his drug flights, which first sold me on the guy.

After he had made many revelations on-air in New York, and mainstream media continued to ignore him, Congress was apparently listening. I had been told by my own sources that agencies like CIA were regularly recording our show. (I used to remind them, on air, to make sure they pressed the red button to record.)

So Tosh calls me one day in around 1997 and says that Congress had asked him to testify about his experiences, in closed-door session. I told him, "If you do that, they are going to do nothing but classify your testimony making it illegal for you to tell your own story."

And that, indeed, is what did happen, according to Tosh.

Could it be that Plumlee was used as a type of message in a bottle because, like has happened so many times in the past history of this nation, the normal chain of command and our politicians in Washington, D.C., simply don’t want to hear the truth, don’t want to risk rocking the boat of international relations with Mexico or interrupting the free-trade flow of a multi-billion dollar “legal” arms business?

After all, if our government had to concede that the Mexican military is so wracked with corruption and beyond the control of Mexican President Calderon that it cannot be trusted to control its own weapons, then how can U.S. cooperation with Calderon’s government have any hope for success in what many would argue is an already ill-conceived drug war?

In fact, if that is what we are now confronting in Mexico, it is likely that U.S. cooperation with Calderon’s government, when it takes the form of U.S. weapon shipments, is likely only going to fuel further bloodshed and put U.S. agents and operatives now in the field assisting in those efforts at grave risk.

Narco News did seek to get comment from officials at both the Department of Justice and the Department of State about the issues raised in this story. To date, those queries — both by phone and e-mail — have been met with dead silence.
Stay tuned ….

Praxis Question: "What do you pack for your 'out of town bag'"

From Chris in Fairbanks I received this email with a pertinent question:


Thanks for the blog! Lot's of good stuff!

Got a question for ya that might be helpful for your readers to.

I have to travel to mult. states via airlines for medical reasons. I'll be treated as an outpatient and will be staying in hotels and renting cars. Fly, rent, drive, stay, fly and so on. Sounds like a traveling salesman. I'm sure others besides me have to do this too.

So, what do you pack for your "out of town bag" when your traveling by common carrier and have to deal with TVSA/Federal law/state law/airlines/hotels? (I've had hotels ask me to leave or lock my gun in my car trunk, I left)

My wife will be joining me this trip. Besides regular luggage we have our personal protection picks, her glock19 and krink, my glock23 and SBS 870. With 3a vests, extra mags, flashlights, holsters and ammo it should prove fun with TVSA and Alaska airlines. Now I would rather have it than need it but there is a weight limit.



Monday, March 30, 2009

Patch Update from Raven's Wood

Raven's Wood Enterprises has shipped all orders received as of March 30, 2009. Any orders received from March 31, 2009 will be delayed as we await a new shipment of patches.

New Options: 3 color Desert will be offered in addition to the Woodland patch.

If you've sent an order that you think might be received on or after March 31st, please be patient as we will ship them as quickly as we receive them. Also, please remember that if you choose to send anything other than a USPS Money Order, your shipment will be delayed by 7 to 10 days as we await your instrument to clear the bank.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding your order, please send a note to: ravenswoodent@sbcglobal.net Please include the your name, the street address, and the amount of patches you ordered.

Thank you!

Raven's Wood Enterprises, LLC.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Praxis: Lessons of Urban Combat (Re-learned)

Marines fighting in Seoul, 1950.

From Strategy Page we have this article about urban fighting lessons re-learned. another article of interest can be found here.

The Lessons Of Gaza And Iraq

March 29, 2009: Israel in Gaza, and the United States in Iraq, have both learned, or re-learned, the same tried and true combat rules for urban fighting. These include;

Tanks are a necessity, unless you want to take very high infantry losses (5-7 of your troops for every enemy soldier). The ratio of infantry to armor vehicles should vary from 30 to 100 infantrymen per tank.

The most useful armored vehicle is the D-9 armored bulldozer. This beast is large enough, and powerful enough, to plow through buildings, or to shake buildings to set off booby traps or force civilians (and sometimes fighters) to clear out. You've got to protect the D-9 with infantry, as it is not invulnerable to anti-tank weapons.

It's better to fight at night, as U.S. and Israeli forces have better night fighting equipment and train to use it. This includes the night vision gear on your tanks and armored vehicles. By cutting off the electricity in the enemy held city, you have a significant advantage that should be used.

Grab the high ground, meaning the roofs and top floors of buildings. About all helicopters are good for is to use their guns to clear the enemy off roofs, and to land your troops up there.

Deal with the underground. The sewers will be used by the enemy to move around. You will have to blow up portions of the sewer system. It's not worth the casualties to go down and fight in the sewers.

Snipers are the biggest problem, followed by machine-guns and booby traps. The troops have to learn to stay under cover at all times. And if they smoke at night, don't do it anywhere that an enemy sniper can get a shot at you. Most snipers will be in the upper stories of buildings (but not the roofs where your helicopters can get at them.) A smart foe will booby trap the ground floor entrance and arrange for another escape route, so that if you send troops into the building, the sniper will escape and your guys will run into the trip wires and explosives. The antidote for this is to take the high ground first and use your own snipers to take out the enemy snipers. This is where night operations are essential. The sniper cannot hit what he can't see, and enemy snipers will have a lot fewer clear shots at night. When you do encounter a sniper, take him out with your own snipers, or tank fire, or take the building he's in down with a smart bomb.

Obstacles can work for you. The enemy will try and set up barricades and other obstacles that will lead your troops into a trap. Follow your own plan and plow right through obstacles. You can also use obstacles, especially trenches, to contain the enemy and prevent them from using vehicles to move troops around.

One Israeli experience contradicted American doctrine, which urges troops to advance in the middle of streets to avoid ricochets from walls. The Israelis found that getting shot in the center of the street was more of a danger than ricochets. The U.S. has largely switched to the Israeli method.

Helicopters are very vulnerable unless they keep moving. Even then, they will get hit. You must be careful using helicopters, and use them only at night when possible. Helicopter weapons aren't as useful as you might think. Their machine-guns can't penetrate most walls, and they rarely get off a good shot with their missiles. Choppers are good at keeping the enemy off roof tops.

Intelligence is very important. UAVs are particularly useful because they can observe an area constantly and stay out of range of enemy weapons. SIGINT (listening in on enemy cell phone and radio conversations) is another valuable source of info, but you have to have enough translators familiar with the local dialect. The enemy may also use a lot of code words, which your intel people will have to try and quickly decode, or have the code in advance. It's also possible to get a lot of valuable information from the local civilians. If they are hostile to you (as the Palestinians were to the Israelis), this is difficult, but not impossible. If many of the locals are friendly, you are going to get a lot of life saving information. Use this source of info as much as possible. If the locals are friendly, try and recruit line crossers (people who will go into hostile areas for info.) The enemy will use this ploy, and will make use of kids (usually 10-12 years old, as these are old enough to know what they are doing, and young enough to qualify as children.) The kiddie spies, although usually unarmed, can be particularly deadly, as they are good at what they do and tend to be fearless.

Flashlights are more valuable than you think. Make sure all the troops have them, and a good supply of fresh batteries.

If the battle goes on for more than a few days, sleep becomes a weapon. Trained and disciplined troops are better able to get sufficient sleep to keep the battle going. These troops take turns fighting, and then sleeping. The undisciplined and poorly led enemy does not, or cannot, do this, and the enemy fighters become slower and sloppier because of the fatigue. This is an ancient technique. The Romans, two thousand years ago, trained their troops to engage in close combat for 10-15 minutes, then to fall back and rest, while another line of swordsmen advanced and went at the enemy (who got worn down quickly because they fought until killed, without being relieved by fresh fighters.)

Praxis: Lose weight or die.

Heavily laden Marines move forward during Fallujah fighting.

Here's another discussion about combat loads from Strategy Page. I'll have some comments after the article.


Lose Weight Or Die

March 24, 2009: After years of complaints from the infantry, including everyone from officers to NCOs to the newest grunt to arrive, the U.S. Army is going to try something drastic about the weight situation. A battalion in Afghanistan is being equipped with the lightest substitutes the army could find for body armor, packs, boots and other gear, while simply leaving some stuff out entirely. This resulted in twenty or more pounds, depending on the mission, being removed from the soldiers combat load. The effectiveness of the battalion will be monitored, along with the injury and casualty rates. The troops (including officers and NCOs) will also be interviewed, to get a better idea of just what happens, good and bad, when the weight is reduced. After all that, the brass will decide how far to go in reducing the load permanently, and going for even more cuts.

The biggest, and heaviest, problem is body armor. Although the new armor offers better protection, it is heavier and bulkier, thus inducing fatigue and hindering mobility. This often led to battlefield situations where a less tired, and more agile, infantryman could have avoided injury. Military and political leaders usually do not appreciate this angle. But the troops do, as it is a matter of life and death for them.

Senior commanders are under a lot of pressure to keep friendly casualties down, so they tend to insist that the troops wear all their armor all the time. Despite this, some subordinate commanders look the other way when troops shed their armor temporarily to get some needed speed. The new protective vests have a quick release feature, that makes it easier to get the vest off, and back on again.

Many soldiers and marines point out that the SOCOM operators (Special Forces and SEALs) will sometimes go into action without their protective vests. Again, that is done because completion of the mission is more important than covering your ass when a reporter goes after you for "unnecessary casualties." Many of the troops are willing to take the risk, because they believe, for example, that taking down a sniper when you have the chance, is worth it. If you don't catch the guy, he will be back in action the next day, killing Americans.

Currently, the lightest load carried, the "fighting load" for situations where the troops were sneaking up on the enemy and might be involved in hand-to-hand combat, is 63 pounds. The "approach march load," for when infantry were moving up to a position where they would shed some weight to achieve their "fighting load", is 101 pounds. The heaviest load, 132 pounds, was the emergency approach march load, where troops had to move through terrain too difficult for vehicles. As in the past, the troops often ignored the rules and regulations and dumped gear so they could move, or keep moving.

In Afghanistan, the problem is made worse by the high altitudes (up to 5,000 meters) the troops often operate at. The researchers found that in Afghanistan, even though the infantry were in excellent physical shape, troops would sweat nearly 20 ounces of fluid an hour while marching at high altitudes in bright sunlight in moderate temperatures. That meant more weight, in water, had to be found to keep these guys going.

A lot of the weight carried is essential stuff. Weapons, for example. The Army saved two pounds in the 1960s when they switched from the M-14 rifle to the M-16. A lot of weight was saved in ammo carried as well, because a hundred M-16 bullets weighed two pounds less than a hundred M-14 ones. Troops usually carry 200-300 rounds of rife ammo with them. Plastic canteens replaced metal ones and lighter sleeping bags showed up, as well as lighter clothing. Lighter food (pouches of MREs instead of cans of C Rations). But heavier stuff was added, like the 17 pound "Interceptor" bullet proof vest and the heavier Kevlar helmet. Special Forces troops often go into action without body armor, and keep the load under 40 pounds. But that's only in those situations where the Special Forces calculate that speed and achieving surprise are worth more than the protection the vests provide. Most troops do not have that option, but they do need less weight on their back to remain competitive with the enemy they fight in rural Afghanistan.

While it is true that the M14 was heavier than the M16 when initially issued, with all the stuff hung on the weapons as issued in Iraq now, the current version often weighs more than older, larger caliber rifle. In any case, the rebirth of M14s as Designated Marksmen rifles in Iraq proves the utility of the 7.62 NATO cartridge over the 5.56.

For the armed citizen, much of this discussion is moot for the overwhelming majority of us do not possess body armor, nor are we likely to procure it anytime soon. Still, the light rifleman, able to shoot and move with maximum accuracy and maximum speed, is I think the best guarantor of his or her own safety. Comments?

Marine with M14 rifle (and little else) during combat operations in Vietnam.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nosmo freaks out and takes me to task.


Nosmo has taken me to task for using the above illustration, untitled and unattributed at the end of my post below, Spaceballs: As If We Don't Have Enough To Worry About.

Here is his criticism. My reply follows.

Nosmo has left a new comment on your post "As if we don't have enough to worry about, now its...":

Scott said:I like how you slipped in that GeoStar photo ... without caption or comment. Clearly illustrates your whole post in one photo.
Well done.

March 26, 2009 11:48 PM

Well done?

Does using a fake photo really add to your street cred?

If you get taken in by internet hoaxes like that photo, how much more of your information is questionable?

The truth is out there, take the time and research it, it may not be as fatalist or as "hard hitting" nor produce the sense of urgency that you wish to instill on us.
But You MUST take great pains to be factual, or you are no better than the liars in Government and media that you decry.

I look at the messages with a jaundiced eye, I look at the credibility of the messengers and ask Que Bono?

Are you any different from the Montana Militia snake oil salesmen of the 90'S? Are you a just a well spoken Judas Goat? You claim to be the real deal, yet you publish stuff like this which just detracts from the accompanying message.

Are you helping or hurting America, and who's view of America benefits the most from your apparent candor?

I visit sites looking for factual information, not for echo chamber opinion. If I want that I can hang out at the counter of the local gunshop and hear all the rumors and urban legends I care to hear. You write a good yarn, but is it pure fantasy? Have the praxes been tested? are they real? or is they Tactical Tommy day dreaming?

Give us the real gouge, and you will be serving our country far better than the fictional fatalism that is common on most practical sites.
Don't become one of those sites.

Uh, I don't think I'm in danger of being mistaken for either Alex Jones or Mark Koernke here. I did not know that the photo was fake when I used it, but as usual one of my sharp-eyed readers spotted it. Quoth TJP:

There's really not a whole lot anyone can do about something like this, save for the short term.

That picture is fake, by the way.

The real ones can be found here:


As I must enable each and every comment, I posted this as well. I wasn't trying to pull off a slick one, Nosmo. I figured that posting TJP's comment was enough to set the record straight. Since the article is all conjecture anyway, using a faked photo to illustrate it is hardly a mortal sin, even had I known it was a photoshop.

Extrapolating from there to cast doubt on my Praxis articles or compare me to the MOM is a long reach. You could also have criticized this one from the same article

on the theory that there is no real Dark Helmet nor, for that matter, a John Candy space dog.

If I must take the time to put disclaimers on all my illustrations, this is how it would work for a recent one:

How "Cold Fusion" Takes Place: SPLC Stooges Write a "Militia Intelligence Report." (Sorry, we couldn't show private parts, this is a family-friendly blog.)

DISCLAIMER: Warning! "Cold Fusion" is a scientific theory and has not been demonstrated to be real. Warning! These are not real stooges of the Southern Poverty Law Center, but are in fact a fictional comedy troup from the mid-20th Century known as The Three Stooges. Warning! These characters are not writing a militia intelligence report but are in fact pretending to be incompetents washing clothes using an old-fashioned machine. Warning! The great island nation of Grenada does not sanction this blog, nor the use of the photo above.

Nosmo, take a breath. Really. Through your mouth, slow and easy. In and out. Quit hyperventilating. You'll feel better. Anybody got a paper bag?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Parasitic Predation and the Rule of Law.

"The key dynamic underlying all of this -- the linchpin that allows it all to happen and, historically, the primary hallmark of a deeply broken nation -- is the total elimination of the rule of law for the ruling class, with a simultaneous intensification of the law as a weapon against the citizenry." -- Glenn Greenwald, Salon.

Go to Global Guerrillas here to read John Robb's post below and link to the cited references, including the Greenwald quote above.


Friday, 27 March 2009


Some Boydian logic -- a new construct for decision making -- to brighten your day.

Back in 1974, the long running connection between improvements in worker productivity and wage growth was severed. Median per capita wages for individuals have stagnated since then, replaced with measures of growth in house hold income (two workers instead of one) and growth derived from growing the labor pool (mostly illegal immigration). During this time, the money derived from productivity improvements over the last decades (which would have doubled the incomes of American workers under the post-WW2 to 1974 social contract), was shunted to capital markets under the ideological assumption (seen in Greenspan's thinking) that these markets would make better investments in future prosperity than individuals. That assumption has been proven false. The money was gambled away or spent on lavish increases in the lifestyles of oligarchs and their underlings.

However, it would be bad enough if it ended there, with the realization that two generations of American wealth was squandered by capital markets in a frenzy of excess. It won't. There is increasing evidence that this group of "oligarchs" has ideologically captured all forms of US governance in a situation similar to what we have seen in emerging markets. The situation in the US today, particularly to those that saw it first hand while at the IMF, is very similar to what they saw in past crises in Argentina and Russia (in their view, our situation is worse than Japan).

Here's a couple of posts that warrant further reading:

The Quiet Coup by Simon Johnson (the Atlantic)

Re-emerging as an Emerging Market by Desmond Lachman (Washington Post)

Comparing the US to Russia and Argentina by Glenn Greenwald (Salon)

This development has major implications for those of us that think about the future of warfare. The devolution of the US economic system into crony capitalism, replete with the parasitic predation of oligarchs, paints a picture of warfare punctuated by:

rampant crime, rapidly declining military/government budgets, rapid withdrawals from foreign adventures/development efforts (money for this dries up), corporate armies, deep urban decay, spot starvation/health crises, broad privatization of public goods (theft or fire-sale prices), widespread poverty, etc. To think that this won't and can't happen here, despite factual evidence to the contrary (trillions of $$ given away to bank/hedge funds/etc. without the slightest reform or accountability), is a failure of decision making due to doctrinal/ideological rigidity.

Within the type of environment depicted above, a move to the primary loyalties of manufactured tribes (gang, clan, sect, etc.) by a large segment of the population will be almost inevitable. Many of these new groups will both defend and advance their interests through violence.

Posted by John Robb on Friday, 27 March 2009 at 08:49 AM | Permali

From WRSA: Let's Win

From my good friend Pete at WRSA, we have the following advice: "Let's Win." I feel strongly about his points and reprint them here. I am also sending this to my private email list. Read, think, act.


Let's Win

Last July, I responded to a question from Kevin Baker of The Smallest Minority as follows:

And the alternative [to voting] is...

what, exactly?

Be specific. And detailed.

Because I really want to hear it.

My reply:


The people in this country who truly cherish freedom in all of its manifestations (thought, guns, speech, religion, association, private property, etc.) had better darned skippy get used to the idea that we are a cursed minority and will be for the foreseeable future.

The simple formula is this:

- We're screwed

- There's gonna be a fight

- Let's win

Your posts on the courts and freedom issues in general mean that I don't have to make the case for "we're screwed" with you.

BTW, thanks for all that you have taught me through your writing.

So we move to "there's gonna be a fight".


Ain't no way that the transnational socialists can leave an armed, educated, defiant remnant intact to cut and slash at their Utopian schemes at every opportunity. The tranzis have to do everything in their power to disarm (literally, perhaps, but certainly educationally and psychologically; see generally Snyder, Walter Mitty's Second Amendment) everyone they can.

The reality is that the fight has been on for some sixty (or more) years.

You know that, per your writings.

So on to the fun part - "let's win".

Step one in "let's win" is to refuse any further collaboration in our demise. That's Billy Beck's point - delude yourself all you want with your participatory democracy fantasies, but leave me the hell out of it.

Withholding collaboration takes many forms, however. It involves getting physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared for the really hard stuff. Specific steps include the following:


1) Fix teeth
2) Lose weight
3) Start walking at a fast pace regularly (1 mile 4x weekly)
4) Start working 25 yard jogs into your walks
5) Eat less and eat better
6) Get a complete physical
7) Stockpile any needed maintenance drugs
8) Start weightlifting by doing rifle dry-fire snaps (start with rifle at low ready, bringing up and dropping hammer just as sights align on light switch) 25 reps for strong side and weak side 3X/weekly
9) Integrate a light (20 lb.) pack into your walk/jogs
10) Bring one's spouse along as much and as quickly as possible.


- read and assimilate the resistance canon (Heinlein, Ross, Vanderboegh, Bracken, Suarez, Royce, von Dach Bern, etc.)

- read and assimilate the economic canon (Hayek, von Mises, etc.)

- read and assimilate the political canon (DoI, USC, BoR, Spooner, DiLorenzo, Bovard, etc.)


- Get square with God as you understand Him. Even if atheist or agnostic, one needs a Larger Context in which to place the upcoming suffering and struggle.

- Sort the sheep from the goats in one's immediate circle. In some cases, that may mean divorce/separation, estrangement from children, parents, or other relatives, and the loss of friends. Better now than when the excitement has begun.

- For those remaining, get them up to speed on all fronts as much and as quickly as they can handle. Your associates' ability to digest all of the bitter medicine that they must swallow will no doubt be a source of frustration. Keep trying.

- Understand, at a profound level, how our lives as mortal creatures are both fleeting and as meaningful or as meaningless as we make them. Commit to yourself and to your ideals that you will spend the remaining days of your life wisely and in furtherance of those eternal truths.

Now, compared to that list, do you really think it matters whether one votes for McCain, Obama, Barr, or the write-in candidate of one's choice?

I respectfully submit that it matters not one whit.

Declare yourself into freedom, just as the Founders did 232 years ago.

Then do everything you can to defend that freedom, even unto death.

And I mean everything.

Remember too the cannibal's paradox - that the time spent in overcoming a taboo can so debilitate the prospective actor that the action taken fails for being too late.

Keep bashing on, amigo.

Yesterday, a commenter on this post asked:

OK, but what is the average John Q Public to do?

The list above is a pretty good start, and I would add the following elements upon further consideration:


Psychological Toughening/Stress Inoculation: Start to wrap your brain around the fact that you will likely be committing multiple felonies, misdemeanors, and regulatory violations as part of your personal path to victory. Those folks who plan to survive in the new reality but currently pride themselves on being good, law-abiding citizens had best get over that silliness forthwith. After all, as Ayn Rand pointed out more than fifty years ago in Atlas Shrugged:

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Look around and tell me that we have not crossed that legal Rubicon.

Given the current situation, 'tis best to get on with your new life as a criminal. As a warm-up exercise, I'd suggest violation of at least one malum prohibitum law per day -- be it speeding, tax avoidance, unauthorized concealed carry of a deadly weapon, removing the flow restrictions on showerheads and faucets, tossing a rock through an appropriate statist window, or any other of an almost-infinite number of other meaningless rules.

Embrace the life of a malum prohibitum criminal every day, and insist that others in your tribe do the same.


I am not going down the list path in this post, other than to remind you that you'd best be getting your "Six Bs" finalized before the the current "rip-your-face-off" suckers' rally ends in the financial markets.

What are the Six Bs?

Beans: Food for a minimum of one year for each member of your tribe.

Bullets: A bare minimum of a long arm capable of killing a man at 100 yards for every tribe member over the age of 10, along with a bare minimum of 1000 rounds of ammunition for each long arm. Every adult (16 and above) should also have a centerfire pistol and no less than 500 rounds of ammunition for the sidearm. Holsters, slings, and webgear will be essential as well.

Bandaids: Medical supplies to allow your tribe to survive disease and/or injury without reference to existing medical systems.

Brains: Training and reference works to operate and sustain all of the bean/bullets/bandaids elements above.

Balls: Courage and sheer willpower will be dispositive. Strengthen yours and that of each tribe member.

Buddies: You will need a minimum of 14 like-minded people to stand even a basic lookout watch on a 7/24/365 basis. Got real friends? You're gonna need 'em.


The bug-out/bug-in debate is handled ad nauseum elsewhere. My point here is that wherever you are, you'd best have a detailed plan (along with several back-up plans) for how you and your tribe are going to defend your space. Remember, too, that defending space (i.e., fixed positions) is how hajii has been dying in droves in Iraq and Afghanistan; many of the people coming to hurt you will have had experience in the "fix 'em and then kill 'em" tactics used by the .mil in those struggles. Ergo, best to have a "going mobile" component to your plan -- or, as a wise man once told me, "Don't plan on being where they know you live if you want to keep living."

When John Q Public is squared away on those items, I'll bet this blog's smart readership will have other "to-do" lists to keep the Public tribe moving towards victory.

And defining "victory"?


1) Survive the first die-off.

2) Keep your kids alive.

3) Kill the enemy.

4) Keep fighting.

5) Stay alive.

Any questions?

Audentes fortunat iuvat.

Praxis: "Civilians buy the dam things on a daily basis."

M24 Sniper Rifle, available in 7.62 NATO and .300 Winchester Magnum.

Just as the Madcap Militia Munitions Works (a wholly owned subsidiary of NITMIL Labs) is gearing up to load several hundred .300 Winchester Magnums with AP projectiles, comes this article from Strategy Page:

Magnum Reach Required

March 24, 2009: Once again, the U.S. Army is responding to requests from snipers for a longer range weapon, but not one as bulky and heavy as the .50 caliber rifle. In response to these requests, the army is modifying existing M24 rifles to fire the power powerful .300 Winchester Magnum round. It was felt that this gave the snipers all the additional range they needed, without requiring a much heavier rifle. SOCOM has been using this approach since the early 1990s.

The calls were loudest from snipers operating in Afghanistan, where U.S. Army and Marine Corps shooters wanted a sniper rifle that can consistently get kills out to 1,800 meters. The current 7.62mm round is good only to about 800 meters. There were three options available here. The most obvious one is to use a 12.7mm sniper rifle. But these are heavier (at 30 pounds) and bulkier than 7.62mm weapons, but can get reliable hits out to 2,000 meters.

Another option was to use a more powerful, but not much larger, round. For example, you can replace the barrel and receiver of the $6,700 M24 sniper rifle for about $4,000, so that it can fire the .300 Winchester Magnum round. This is longer (at 7.62 x 67mm) than the standard 7.62x51mm round, and is good out to 1,200 meters. Another option is to replace the barrel and receiver of the M24 sniper rifles to handle the .338 (8.6mm) Lapua Magnum round. Thus you still have a 17 pound sniper rifle, but with a round that can hit effectively out to about 1,600 meters.

British snipers in Iraq, and especially Afghanistan, have found the Lapua Magnum round does the job at twice the range of the standard 7.62x51mm round. The 8.6mm round entered use in the early 1990s, and became increasingly popular with police and military snipers. Dutch snipers have used this round in Afghanistan with much success, and have a decade of experience with these larger caliber rifles. British snipers in Afghanistan are also using the new round, having converted many of their 7.62mm sniper rifles. Recognizing the popularity of the 8.6mm round, Barrett, the pioneer in 12.7mm sniper rifles, came out with a 15.5 pound version of its rifle, chambered for the 8.6mm. But the U.S. preferred the lighter magnum 7.62mm solution.

This is not the first time the U.S. Army has quickly responded to sniper needs. Two years ago, in response to requests from snipers operating in urban areas of Iraq, the U.S. Army began issuing the M110 SASS (Semi-Automatic Sniper System). Urban snipers often have multiple targets, at relatively short ranges. They needed a semiautomatic rifle.

Previously, many snipers have had success using tuned up M-14s (from the 1960s) as sniper rifles. While semi-automatic and rugged, the M14 wasn't designed to be a sniper rifle. The M110 was a better semi-automatic sniper rifle, since it is inherently more reliable and accurate. As far back as World War II, it was known that there were many situations where a semi-automatic sniper rifle would come in handy. But it's taken over half a century to solve the reliability and accuracy problems.

The M110 is a based on the AR-10 rifle. The U.S. Navy has been buying a similar weapon, the SR25. This is also known as the Mk11 Sniper Rifle System (SRS). These new semi-automatic sniper rifles are 7.62mm weapons based on the designs of M-16 creator, retired USAF Colonel Gene Stoner. The basis for the M-16 was the AR-15, and a 7.62mm version of that weapon was called the AR-10. About half the parts in the SR25 are interchangeable with those in the M-16. The Stoner sniper rifles achieved its high accuracy partly by using a 20 inch heavy floating barrel. The "floating" means that the barrel is attached only to the main body of the rifle to reduce resonance (which throws off accuracy.)

The M110 weighs 17.3 pounds in combat, and about 70 pounds with all components of the system. The M110 can use a ten or twenty round magazine. The 40.5 inch long rifle can have a six inch tube attached to the barrel, which reduces the noise and flash made when the rifle fires, and largely eliminates nearby dust rising into the air, which often gives away the snipers position.

The M110 will gradually replace many of the bolt-action M24s, while the remaining M24s will be converted to fire the .300 Winchester Magnum.

From Army Times last August, here is another discussion of the subject, including some problems with the M110 SASS.

M110 SASS (Knight's Armament SR25)

Army, Corps seek longer-range sniper rifle

By Matthew Cox - Staff report
Posted : Wednesday Aug 6, 2008 14:59:52 EDT

For decades, 7.62mm has been the sniper standard for long-range killing. But after more than six years of war, today’s snipers also want a more potent caliber capable of killing enemy fighters well beyond 1,000 meters.

Army and Marine Corps weapons officials recently announced that they wanted a long-range sniper rifle designed to kill an enemy from as far out as 1,800 meters. The Marine Corps-led program is aimed at selecting an anti-personnel sniper weapon to complement the standard 7.62mm sniper rifle, which is effective out to 800 meters.

But there is also a lower-profile effort going on in the 25th Infantry Division to upgrade the venerable M24 sniper rifle from a 7.62mm NATO round to the more powerful .300 Winchester Magnum, a change that would give snipers the ability to hit an enemy out to 1,200 meters.

Late last year, the Army began replacing the bolt-action M24 with the M110 Semiautomatic Sniper System to give snipers a rapid-fire weapon for engaging multiple targets in urban areas. Many in the sniper community were critical of the decision, arguing that the M24’s simple bolt-action design has fewer moving parts and is more accurate than a more complex semi-auto design.

This prompted 25th ID officials in Hawaii to write an Operational Needs Statement that involved sending their existing M24s to the gun’s maker, Remington Arms Co. in Madison, N.C., to be retrofitted to .300 Win Mag instead of turning them in to the Army, said Maj. Chaz Bowser, logistics support element commander for U.S. Army Pacific.

The caliber upgrade for the M24 is not a new concept. Special operations units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment have been shooting M24s chambered in .300 Win Mag since the late 1990s.

And there were plans to eventually upgrade the M24 to .300 Win Mag when the weapon was first adopted in 1989, Bowser said, adding that that plan became a “forgotten concept” because the Army wasn’t involved in a protracted war as it is today.

“We weren’t fighting bad guys; we were shooting ... at the National Training Center,” Bowser said, referring to the Army installation at Fort Irwin, Calif.

Capt. Jason Lojka, who oversees Army Sniper School as commander of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, at Fort Benning, Ga., said he was not aware of the 25th ID effort, but he acknowledged that “there has been talk of changing the M24 to a .300 Win Mag.”

Capt. Keith Bell, Lojka’s predecessor at Sniper School, agreed. It’s an easy fix that requires minimal changes to the M24 and will result in a much greater capability, he said. Bell is assigned to a military transition team at Fort Riley, Kan.

“It’s a whole lot easier to hit a target between 800 and 1,200 meters with a .300 Win Mag,” he said, describing the round’s flat trajectory and reduced resistance to wind.

Many snipers see the upgrade to .300 Win Mag as a way to hold on to the M24, a weapon they say they believe is more reliable and accurate than the M110.

The M110 relies on the same gas system as the M16 and M4 carbine. When the round is fired, it directs the gas created down a tube into the weapon’s receiver, and cycles the weapon.

The M24’s action requires snipers to manually feed a round into the chamber after each shot with the weapon’s bolt.

“I would just rather rely on my right hand and a piece of metal” to cycle that weapon as opposed to a gas system, Bell said. “A gas gun is going to fail more often than a bolt gun. Period.”

To date, the Army has fielded about 500 M110s. Although it’s still early in the process, some snipers have criticized the durability of the Knight’s Armament Co. weapon.

A sniper section leader, who asked to remain anonymous, recently told Army Times that his unit has had to ship his section’s three M110s back to Knight’s Armament to be repaired.

“They’re all broke, all three of them,” he said. “Two of them started firing two- to three-round bursts.” The third M110 won’t fire at all, he said.

Army weapons officials said they are aware of these problems and one M110 at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, that suffers from the same problem of so-called “double firing” on a single trigger squeeze, said Rich Audette, deputy project manager for soldier weapons.

Several snipers have told Army Times that some special operations units have experienced the same problem with the MK11 MOD 0 rifle, an earlier version of the M110 that Navy SEALs have used since the late 1990s.

Trigger assembly

The problem may have to do with two special screws in the trigger assembly that are set at the factory, said Bob Galeazzi, product director for sniper systems under Product Manager Crew Served Weapons.

The Army experienced problems with the trigger screws moving during endurance testing on the M110’s original design, said Reed Knight, owner of Knight’s Armament.

As a fix, the Titusville, Fla., company made the screws harder and changed the threading during testing in 2005.

Knight said he was surprised that this problem has surfaced in three M110s.

“I am a bit disturbed, because we think we have solved the problem,” he said. “We have gone through two 5,000-round tests.”

If there is a problem with these M110s, Knight said, they will be “fixed and sent back to the field.”

“We don’t want anything out there that is not what it should be,” he said.

Some snipers have said they want to be trained so they can fix their M110s themselves. Army officials maintain that snipers are trained to make small fixes such as replacing the firing pin or extractor, but any major fixes on the M110 have to be done at the unit armor level or at Knight’s Armament, Audette said.

In addition to reliability and durability, Bell and other snipers said they believe the M24, because of its simpler design, is more accurate than the M110.

“When you want to squeeze that last bit of accuracy out of a weapon, you want a bolt gun,” Bell said. “It’s not that the [M110] is a bad weapon; it just shouldn’t be the only weapon.”

The 25th ID’s upgrade effort involves sending the existing M24s to Remington, where they will be fitted with a new barrel, a new bolt face, a special folding stock and a more powerful optic. Each upgrade would cost about $4,000, said Mike Haugen, director of international military and law enforcement sales for Remington. Standard M24s cost about $6,700, he added.

The 25th ID’s leadership has approved an operational needs statement, Bowser said, but it still will have to be approved by senior leaders at the Pentagon.

Small-arms officials at the Infantry Center also are working to give snipers a new longer-range sniper rifle in addition to the two weapons they use now.

Greater distance

Both the Marine Corps and the Army have completed separate assessments that reached the same conclusion — snipers need to be able to take longer-range anti-personnel shots, said Col. Robert Radcliffe, who heads up the Directorate of Combat Developments at Benning.

“We agree we would like to have a longer-range antipersonnel system,” he said. “We haven’t figured out how to solve that yet.”

Both the Army and the Marine Corps use versions of a .50-caliber sniper rifle that is effective out to 2,000 meters, but the 30-pound weapon is mainly intended to destroy large nonhuman targets such as light-skinned vehicles.

The Army and the Corps want a weapon comparable in weight to the Marine M40 series sniper weapon, the M110 and the M24, all of which weigh about 17 pounds.

Several sources have told Army Times that the Marine Corps has considered the .338 Lapua magnum, an extreme long-range round that is proving increasingly popular with special operations units. The .338 has an effective range of about 1,600 meters.

Marine Lt. Col. Tracy Tafolla, program manager for infantry weapons from the Marine Corps System Command at Marine Base Quantico, Va., acknowledged that the Marine Corps has looked at the .338 along with other heavier calibers, but he said “we are not dictating the caliber” for the long-range sniper rifle program. “It’s performance-based.”

The Marine program is leaving the door open for a weapon that could hit targets out to 1,800 meters, but Benning officials said they are looking at a requirement of 1,500 meters.

“After 1,500 meters, you are going to have problems identifying targets with the optics we have today,” Bell said.

It will likely be about eight months before industry will see a request for proposal for this new system, Tafolla said.

In the meantime, Benning officials are considering a possible reversal of the decision on the M24 and to allow units to carry both it and the M110. For now, units will continue to turn in their M24s when they receive the M110s.

Although it’s still only in the idea phase, Radcliffe said, “what we are talking about, conceptually, is we want to retain the M24 in the sniper team.”

Keeping the M24 would give sniper teams two precision weapons until it could eventually be replaced by the longer-range antipersonnel system, Benning officials said.

There is no timeline for when a decision might be made on the M24, but Radcliffe acknowledged the criticism from many snipers in the Army on the decision to phase out the M24.

Part of the backlash is driven by emotion, Radcliffe said, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

“It’s real, and it is important that we pay attention to that,” Radcliffe said.

Finally, from Sniper Country comes this testimony from Rick Bowcher about the development of the M24. I especially like his anecdote at the end. I have left the spelling in the original intact, under the theory that his meaning is clear and I don't want to unnecessarily anger a man who can kill me at 1500 meters.

Fred - I was on the planning and testing board for the M24. It was in deed designed to change over to 300 Win Mag. The M24 was first designed for SOF only until the regular army got involved. SOTIC built the original prototypes and had General Guest fire them at Camp Butner, NC. By the end of the day he was convinced that the "new sniper rifle" (since M24 wasn't its designation yet) was the way to go. The problem was the fight with Ft. Benning paper shooters. We wanted only a few to be changed over down the road, as a medium range weapon (900 to 1100 meters). Fort Benning wanted them all changed over. This fight continues over 10 years later. In the mid 80s we were still looking at several other rounds, the .338/.416 being one for even longer ranges, the .50 for hard target 800 to 1500 and the 14.5mm for past 1500. The Naby jumped in and muddled the waters with a rapid purchase, of the Barrett. My question was why not the M2 MG for the Navy and EOD since it weights about the same and does the rapid follow on shot, is more durable, and a heck alot more accurate. The .300 has advantages in night sniping as wind is not as critical, and does reach a speck further than the .308. We really wanted something that was more than a baby step past the .308 and was looking at the 300 Win Mag more as a stop gap until more study was made on the bullet issue. I know this will get some noses out of joint so jump in wherever you guys want. Lucky for me I kept copies of all the paperwork that flew about during that deal. SOCOM let Benning in so that they wouldn't foot the whole bill. I think some of the guys at Rock Island still remembers me from when I threw a Pelican case across the room when they were talking about 5 years for the bullet, 3 years for the barrel to match the bullet, and another 5 years to develop the end product. The Pelican case contained one of our guns and I said the civilians buy the dam things on a daily basis.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Here they go again.

TO: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov
RE: Question for PIO on ATF "forward trace initiative" open letter

I am in receipt of this alleged open letter from the ATF to manufacturers regarding the ATF's "forward trace initiative." It has been sanitized of sender and recipient to protect from ATF retaliation the manufacturer who forwarded it. It seems to me that ATF is asking licensed manufactures to voluntarily turn over all of their records. [What they made, who they sold them to]. Congress has expressly forbade ATF from establishing national firearm registration, yet they seem to be attempting to do so in the name of "protecting the public".

Please confirm that this is an ATF document and explain what the "forward trace initiative" is supposed to do. Explain also how this does not build a nationwide data base of firearms which is contrary to federal law.

Mike Vanderboegh
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126


I would like to take this opportunity to describe the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) nationwide forward trace initiative. As you know, Federal law, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, requires Federal firearms licensees (FFLs) to maintain and make available certain records for inspection by ATF. Among those required records are the acquisition and disposition (A&D) book and ATF Forms 4473 for sales of firearms to individuals. Verifying this information is critical to our mission of protecting the public as it is the starting point for a FFL retailer accounting for firearms received. Through partnerships with and the continued cooperation of the firearms community, the forward trace initiative was implemented by ATF to ensure firearms are properly accounted for by FFL retailers.

The program focuses on types of firearms that are diverted by the criminal element from legal commerce. ATF Industry Operations Investigators (IOI’s) will visit manufacturers and ask for their assistance by identifying specific firearms makes and models and ask for the name of the distributor to whom they were sold. We then “follow the gun” to the eventual retailer. Any information requested by ATF IOIs as part of this program does not presume any wrongdoing by those firearms industry members contacted but simply will be used as a tool to ensure accountability for firearms received by FFL retailers. Cooperation by the industry with our forward trace requests is voluntary and not considered an ATF inspection under Federal law and regulations.

Industry members supplying any information are requested by ATF not to initiate any action as a result of our inquiry because it could potentially impact any ATF inspection or investigative effort. As always, if a manufacturer, importer or distributor has concerns regarding any retailer they should contact the nearest ATF office for assistance. Our continued open dialogue and partnership with the firearms industry makes for a safer America.

As if we don't have enough to worry about, now its Spaceballs: "The Earth can't cope with the plasma."


Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe

23 March 2009 by Michael Brooks

IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

It sounds ridiculous. Surely the sun couldn't create so profound a disaster on Earth. Yet an extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in January this year claims it could do just that.

Over the last few decades, western civilisations have busily sown the seeds of their own destruction. Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.

The projections of just how catastrophic make chilling reading. "We're moving closer and closer to the edge of a possible disaster," says Daniel Baker, a space weather expert based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and chair of the NAS committee responsible for the report.

It is hard to conceive of the sun wiping out a large amount of our hard-earned progress. Nevertheless, it is possible. The surface of the sun is a roiling mass of plasma - charged high-energy particles - some of which escape the surface and travel through space as the solar wind. From time to time, that wind carries a billion-tonne glob of plasma, a fireball known as a coronal mass ejection (see "When hell comes to Earth"). If one should hit the Earth's magnetic shield, the result could be truly devastating.

The incursion of the plasma into our atmosphere causes rapid changes in the configuration of Earth's magnetic field which, in turn, induce currents in the long wires of the power grids. The grids were not built to handle this sort of direct current electricity. The greatest danger is at the step-up and step-down transformers used to convert power from its transport voltage to domestically useful voltage. The increased DC current creates strong magnetic fields that saturate a transformer's magnetic core. The result is runaway current in the transformer's copper wiring, which rapidly heats up and melts. This is exactly what happened in the Canadian province of Quebec in March 1989, and six million people spent 9 hours without electricity. But things could get much, much worse than that.

Worse than Katrina
The most serious space weather event in history happened in 1859. It is known as the Carrington event, after the British amateur astronomer Richard Carrington, who was the first to note its cause: "two patches of intensely bright and white light" emanating from a large group of sunspots. The Carrington event comprised eight days of severe space weather.

There were eyewitness accounts of stunning auroras, even at equatorial latitudes. The world's telegraph networks experienced severe disruptions, and Victorian magnetometers were driven off the scale.

Though a solar outburst could conceivably be more powerful, "we haven't found an example of anything worse than a Carrington event", says James Green, head of NASA's planetary division and an expert on the events of 1859. "From a scientific perspective, that would be the one that we'd want to survive." However, the prognosis from the NAS analysis is that, thanks to our technological prowess, many of us may not.

There are two problems to face. The first is the modern electricity grid, which is designed to operate at ever higher voltages over ever larger areas. Though this provides a more efficient way to run the electricity networks, minimising power losses and wastage through overproduction, it has made them much more vulnerable to space weather. The high-power grids act as particularly efficient antennas, channelling enormous direct currents into the power transformers.

The second problem is the grid's interdependence with the systems that support our lives: water and sewage treatment, supermarket delivery infrastructures, power station controls, financial markets and many others all rely on electricity. Put the two together, and it is clear that a repeat of the Carrington event could produce a catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen. "It's just the opposite of how we usually think of natural disasters," says John Kappenman, a power industry analyst with the Metatech Corporation of Goleta, California, and an advisor to the NAS committee that produced the report. "Usually the less developed regions of the world are most vulnerable, not the highly sophisticated technological regions."

According to the NAS report, a severe space weather event in the US could induce ground currents that would knock out 300 key transformers within about 90 seconds, cutting off the power for more than 130 million people (see map). From that moment, the clock is ticking for America.

First to go - immediately for some people - is drinkable water. Anyone living in a high-rise apartment, where water has to be pumped to reach them, would be cut off straight away. For the rest, drinking water will still come through the taps for maybe half a day. With no electricity to pump water from reservoirs, there is no more after that.

There is simply no electrically powered transport: no trains, underground or overground. Our just-in-time culture for delivery networks may represent the pinnacle of efficiency, but it means that supermarket shelves would empty very quickly - delivery trucks could only keep running until their tanks ran out of fuel, and there is no electricity to pump any more from the underground tanks at filling stations.

Back-up generators would run at pivotal sites - but only until their fuel ran out. For hospitals, that would mean about 72 hours of running a bare-bones, essential care only, service. After that, no more modern healthcare.

72 hours of healthcare remaining
The truly shocking finding is that this whole situation would not improve for months, maybe years: melted transformer hubs cannot be repaired, only replaced. "From the surveys I've done, you might have a few spare transformers around, but installing a new one takes a well-trained crew a week or more," says Kappenman. "A major electrical utility might have one suitably trained crew, maybe two."

Within a month, then, the handful of spare transformers would be used up. The rest will have to be built to order, something that can take up to 12 months.

Even when some systems are capable of receiving power again, there is no guarantee there will be any to deliver. Almost all natural gas and fuel pipelines require electricity to operate. Coal-fired power stations usually keep reserves to last 30 days, but with no transport systems running to bring more fuel, there will be no electricity in the second month.

30 days of coal left
Nuclear power stations wouldn't fare much better. They are programmed to shut down in the event of serious grid problems and are not allowed to restart until the power grid is up and running.

With no power for heating, cooling or refrigeration systems, people could begin to die within days. There is immediate danger for those who rely on medication. Lose power to New Jersey, for instance, and you have lost a major centre of production of pharmaceuticals for the entire US. Perishable medications such as insulin will soon be in short supply. "In the US alone there are a million people with diabetes," Kappenman says. "Shut down production, distribution and storage and you put all those lives at risk in very short order."

Help is not coming any time soon, either. If it is dark from the eastern seaboard to Chicago, some affected areas are hundreds, maybe thousands of miles away from anyone who might help. And those willing to help are likely to be ill-equipped to deal with the sheer scale of the disaster. "If a Carrington event happened now, it would be like a hurricane Katrina, but 10 times worse," says Paul Kintner, a plasma physicist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

In reality, it would be much worse than that. Hurricane Katrina's societal and economic impact has been measured at $81 billion to $125 billion. According to the NAS report, the impact of what it terms a "severe geomagnetic storm scenario" could be as high as $2 trillion. And that's just the first year after the storm. The NAS puts the recovery time at four to 10 years. It is questionable whether the US would ever bounce back.

4-10 years to recover
"I don't think the NAS report is scaremongering," says Mike Hapgood, who chairs the European Space Agency's space weather team. Green agrees. "Scientists are conservative by nature and this group is really thoughtful," he says. "This is a fair and balanced report."

Such nightmare scenarios are not restricted to North America. High latitude nations such as Sweden and Norway have been aware for a while that, while regular views of the aurora are pretty, they are also reminders of an ever-present threat to their electricity grids. However, the trend towards installing extremely high voltage grids means that lower latitude countries are also at risk. For example, China is on the way to implementing a 1000-kilovolt electrical grid, twice the voltage of the US grid. This would be a superb conduit for space weather-induced disaster because the grid's efficiency to act as an antenna rises as the voltage between the grid and the ground increases. "China is going to discover at some point that they have a problem," Kappenman says.

Neither is Europe sufficiently prepared. Responsibility for dealing with space weather issues is "very fragmented" in Europe, says Hapgood.

Europe's electricity grids, on the other hand, are highly interconnected and extremely vulnerable to cascading failures. In 2006, the routine switch-off of a small part of Germany's grid - to let a ship pass safely under high-voltage cables - caused a cascade power failure across western Europe. In France alone, five million people were left without electricity for two hours. "These systems are so complicated we don't fully understand the effects of twiddling at one place," Hapgood says. "Most of the time it's alright, but occasionally it will get you."

The good news is that, given enough warning, the utility companies can take precautions, such as adjusting voltages and loads, and restricting transfers of energy so that sudden spikes in current don't cause cascade failures. There is still more bad news, however. Our early warning system is becoming more unreliable by the day.

By far the most important indicator of incoming space weather is NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE). The probe, launched in 1997, has a solar orbit that keeps it directly between the sun and Earth. Its uninterrupted view of the sun means it gives us continuous reports on the direction and velocity of the solar wind and other streams of charged particles that flow past its sensors. ACE can provide between 15 and 45 minutes' warning of any incoming geomagnetic storms. The power companies need about 15 minutes to prepare their systems for a critical event, so that would seem passable.

15 minutes' warning
However, observations of the sun and magnetometer readings during the Carrington event shows that the coronal mass ejection was travelling so fast it took less than 15 minutes to get from where ACE is positioned to Earth. "It arrived faster than we can do anything," Hapgood says.

There is another problem. ACE is 11 years old, and operating well beyond its planned lifespan. The onboard detectors are not as sensitive as they used to be, and there is no telling when they will finally give up the ghost. Furthermore, its sensors become saturated in the event of a really powerful solar flare. "It was built to look at average conditions rather than extremes," Baker says.

He was part of a space weather commission that three years ago warned about the problems of relying on ACE. "It's been on my mind for a long time," he says. "To not have a spare, or a strategy to replace it if and when it should fail, is rather foolish."

There is no replacement for ACE due any time soon. Other solar observation satellites, such as the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) can provide some warning, but with less detailed information and - crucially - much later. "It's quite hard to assess what the impact of losing ACE will be," Hapgood says. "We will largely lose the early warning capability."

The world will, most probably, yawn at the prospect of a devastating solar storm until it happens. Kintner says his students show a "deep indifference" when he lectures on the impact of space weather. But if policy-makers show a similar indifference in the face of the latest NAS report, it could cost tens of millions of lives, Kappenman reckons. "It could conceivably be the worst natural disaster possible," he says.

The report outlines the worst case scenario for the US. The "perfect storm" is most likely on a spring or autumn night in a year of heightened solar activity - something like 2012. Around the equinoxes, the orientation of the Earth's field to the sun makes us particularly vulnerable to a plasma strike.

What's more, at these times of year, electricity demand is relatively low because no one needs too much heating or air conditioning. With only a handful of the US grid's power stations running, the system relies on computer algorithms shunting large amounts of power around the grid and this leaves the network highly vulnerable to sudden spikes.

If ACE has failed by then, or a plasma ball flies at us too fast for any warning from ACE to reach us, the consequences could be staggering. "A really large storm could be a planetary disaster," Kappenman says.

So what should be done? No one knows yet - the report is meant to spark that conversation. Baker is worried, though, that the odds are stacked against that conversation really getting started. As the NAS report notes, it is terribly difficult to inspire people to prepare for a potential crisis that has never happened before and may not happen for decades to come. "It takes a lot of effort to educate policy-makers, and that is especially true with these low-frequency events," he says.

We should learn the lessons of hurricane Katrina, though, and realise that "unlikely" doesn't mean "won't happen". Especially when the stakes are so high. The fact is, it could come in the next three or four years - and with devastating effects. "The Carrington event happened during a mediocre, ho-hum solar cycle," Kintner says. "It came out of nowhere, so we just don't know when something like that is going to happen again."

Severe Space Weather Events - Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts (National Academies Press)

When hell comes to Earth
Severe space weather events often coincide with the appearance of sunspots, which are indicators of particularly intense magnetic fields at the sun's surface.

The chaotic motion of charged particles in the upper atmosphere of the sun creates magnetic fields that writhe, twist and turn, and occasionally snap and reconfigure themselves in what is known as a "reconnection". These reconnection events are violent, and can fling out billions of tonness of plasma in a "coronal mass ejection" (CME).

If flung towards the Earth, the plasma ball will accelerate as it travels through space and its intense magnetic field will soon interact with the planet's magnetic field, the magnetosphere. Depending on the relative orientation of the two fields, several things can happen. If the fields are oriented in the same direction, they slip round one another. In the worst case scenario, though, when the field of a particularly energetic CME opposes the Earth's field, things get much more dramatic. "The Earth can't cope with the plasma," says James Green, head of NASA's planetary division. "The CME just opens up the magnetosphere like a can-opener, and matter squirts in."

The sun's activity waxes and wanes every 11 years or so, with the appearance of sunspots following the same cycle. This period isn't consistent, however. Sometimes the interval between sunspot maxima is as short as nine years, other times as long as 14 years. At the moment the sun appears calm. "We're in the equivalent of an idyllic summer's day. The sun is quiet and benign, the quietest it has been for 100 years," says Mike Hapgood, who chairs the European Space Agency's space weather team, "but it could turn the other way." The next solar maximum is expected in 2012.

Michael Brooks's latest book is 13 Things That Don't Make Sense (Profile, 2008).