Hi all. Sorry for the delay in updating. We have been moving forward on a bunch of things.
First of all, if you are planning to attend Kevin’s celebration of life on Sunday, June 11, in Rye, NH, and you haven’t RSVPed, please do so by sending an email (subject line: RSVP) to [email protected] I have a feeling there are many people who are planning to attend but haven’t RSVPed. (And just a reminder, everyone in the Weaponsman community is invited.)
Second, if you know somebody (maybe another teammate) who has mentioned that he is coming, but is not a Weaponsman reader, tell that person to RSVP.
Why do I care so much about RSVPing? Because we are only going to have food and seating for the people who have RSVPed. You don’t want to be the hungry standing guy who didn’t RSVP.
I don’t think Kevin mentioned it much in the blog, but in the last few years, he had become interested in cooking. This is the guy who thought “oven” was always preceded by “microwave” up until about 2012. He really liked cooking for other people and did some interesting experiments. They didn’t all work, but he made up for the occasional error by always making a lot of food. Sunday dinner at our house might be burgers and tater tots. Dinner at his house was a seven-course extravaganza.
My point is that he would really feel bad if people came to his party and there was nothing to eat. So RSVP!
Now for some bullet points.
We got to visit Zac (Small Dog) yesterday at his new home. He’s doing great! My sister-in-law and her husband, who are wonderful people, have a lot of experience with dogs and they’ve made him very comfortable and happy. How much does he remember about his life with Kevin? Hard to say. But I hope he’ll always remember, at least a little.
We really need to get in touch with a friend of Kevin’s named Joseph Cunningham. If any of you folks know Joseph, would you please ask him to reach out to me through the [email protected] email address?
We won’t need any help paying for the celebration or blog upkeep, such as it is, but thanks so much to all those who have offered.
Does anybody have a simple way of getting a copy of a DD-214? We can’t find Kevin’s.
It may take a while, but we expect Kevin’s final resting place to be at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery, which is in Boscawen, NH.
I’m now updating the blog with my own account, which is awesome.
Keep the pictures and stories coming, and if you’re coming June 11, don’t forget to RSVP!
Hi all friends of Kevin, I have some updated information you will want to read.
First, I’m gratified by the number of people who have written some variation of “Don’t take down the blog!” It’s great that you believe his work should be preserved online. So we will find a way. Rest assured that absolutely nothing will happen to the current blog for at least a month. It seems to me the obvious choices are a) keeping it alive at weaponsman.com and b) handing the content over to one of the many tech-savvy folks who have commented.
I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do, not because I’ve been intimidated by hundreds of people with military training and serious firepower. Heh.
Second, we have specifics on Kevin’s celebration of life. It will be on Sunday, June 11, at the Abenaqui Country Club in Rye, NH, from 10:30 am to 2 pm. All are invited. I hope you will come. I’d especially love to see a heavy turnout from Kevin’s SF teammates, 122, USAFSA, Afghanistan, other Army buddies and fellow members of SOA. I have already heard from a number of those guys.
We will need a firm headcount to provide Abenaqui. So when you know you can make it, please email [email protected] with “RSVP” in the subject line. Let us know how many people will be in your party.
This is also a great opportunity to meet new friends with shared interests or reunite with old friends. My wife and I will be hosting an informal get-together at our house the day before and you are all invited to that.
I would not be at all surprised to see some of you guys plan other informal meets. Will you let me know about them (where and when)? I’ll try to stop by.
The New Hampshire seacoast is absolutely beautiful and is a popular tourist destination in the summer. This is my way of telling you to book your hotel early. We may also be able to provide “sleeping bag” accommodations at Kevin’s house. We can provide advice about things to do, where to eat, etc., for anyone who asks.
Now, about the official celebration. We want it to be a positive affair. Please feel free to speak. It’s okay to make jokes at Kevin’s expense. He would have done it to you.
I am hoping to have a blessing and some military recognition at the celebration. One friend of Kevin is a retired three-star general (nice work, bro!) who might be able to help with the latter.
People have asked about contributing to a cause in Kevin’s memory. I’m inclined to direct such contributions to the Green Beret Foundation, unless someone has an objection. FYI Kevin was not a fan of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Finally, I missed some opportunities to thank people. Obviously I’m grateful to all of you for your support and love of Kevin. The doctors and medical staff at Portsmouth Regional Hospital did their very best to stabilize Kevin when he was first brought in last Friday afternoon. The doctors and medical staff at the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston did their very best to save Kevin’s life, and when we all realized that would not be possible, they were supportive and kind with us until the end.
Weaponsman commenter Mike_C is actually “Dr” Mike_C, a trained cardiologist and internist who does medical research in Boston. He gave up his Easter Sunday to join my dad and me at the Shapiro Center and explained everything.
That’s all for now. Hope you can join us for June 11!
I’m sorry to have to tell you all that my brother Kevin O’Brien, host of this blog, passed away peacefully this morning at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Let me start with some housekeeping. First, the email address [email protected] remains active and you may get more and better updates there. I say this because frankly I’m having trouble posting here. I don’t know Kevin’s WordPress password and I’m afraid that if I restart his computer, I will not be able to post any more because the password will not autofill. Therefore I can’t guarantee I will be able to make more updates on the blog.
We are planning a celebration of Kevin’s life for all of his friends some time in early to mid-June, here in Seacoast NH. I will have details in a couple of days. All those who knew and loved Kevin, including all Weaponsman readers, are welcome, but we will need an RSVP. Again, I will make details available to those who write to [email protected] This is not restricted to personal friends of Kevin, but space will be limited, and we will not be able to fit everyone. It will be a great opportunity to share memories of Kevin.
We will be looking for stories and pictures of Kevin! Please send to the email address.
I expect that some time after the celebration, I will be shutting down the blog. No one other than Kevin could do it justice.
Finally, you should know that Small Dog, whose real name is Zac, has found a home with other relatives of ours. Of course the poor guy has no idea what has happened to his beloved friend but his life will go on.
Now I’d like to tell you more about Kevin and how he lived and died. He was born in 1958 to Robert and Barbara O’Brien. We grew up in Westborough, Mass. Kevin graduated from high school in 1975 and joined the Army in (I believe) 1979. He learned Czech at DLI and became a Ranger and a member of Special Forces.
Kevin’s happiest times were in the Army. He loved the service and was deeply committed to it. We were so proud when he earned the Green Beret. He was active duty for eight years and then stayed in the Reserves and National Guard for many years, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2003. He told me after that that Afghan tour was when he felt he had made his strongest contribution to the world.
Kevin worked for a number of companies after leaving active duty. He had always loved weapons, history, the military, and writing, and saw a chance to combine all of his interests by creating Weaponsman.com. I think the quality of the writing was what always brought people back. Honestly, for what it’s worth, I have no interest in firearms. Don’t love them, don’t hate them, just not interested. But Kevin’s knowledge and writing skill made them fascinating for me.
Kevin and I really became close friends after our childhood. We saw each other just about every day after he moved to a house just two miles away from mine. In the winter of 2015, we began building our airplane together. You could not ask for a better building partner.
Last Thursday night was our last “normal” night working on the airplane. I could not join him Friday night, but on Saturday morning I got a call from the Portsmouth Regional Hospital. He had called 911 on Friday afternoon and was taken to the ER with what turned out to be a massive heart attack. Evidently he was conscious when he was brought in, but his heart stopped and he was revived after 60 minutes of CPR. He never reawakened.
On Saturday, he was transported to Brigham and Women’s where the medical staff made absolutely heroic efforts to save his life. Our dad came up on Sunday and we visited him Sunday, Monday, and today. Each day his condition became worse.
As of last night, it was obvious to everyone that he had almost no chance of survival; and that if he did by some chance survive, he would have no quality of life. Kevin’s heart was damaged beyond repair, his kidneys were not functioning, he had not regained consciousness, and he had internal bleeding that could not be stopped. We made the decision this morning to terminate life support.
I’m not crying tonight. I got that out on Saturday. What I feel is a permanent alteration and a loss that I know can never be healed. I loved Kevin so much. He was brilliant, funny, helpful, kind, caring, and remarkably talented.
At dinner tonight, we agreed that there are probably many people who never “got” Kevin, but there could not be anyone who disliked him. Rest in Peace.
Please feel free to express your thoughts in the comments and to the [email protected] email address.
Hi, this is Brendan, Hognose’s brother. I wanted to let you know that Hognose is dealing with a serious medical situation and has had to step away from the blog. He cannot answer email or texts or take calls at this time.
I am not planning to post or moderate comments during this time and I will not be providing details here.
Hognose loves you guys, but I feel certain he would not want all the details of his situation shared with everyone. However, I do want to reach out to his many friends who know him beyond his status as a blogger, especially anyone who comes here and served with him in the Army or knows him from one of his many other activities over the years.
For that reason, I have set up an email account at [email protected] Please email to that account if you are a personal friend of Hognose’s. You can prove this by including his first and last name and a detail about how you know each other. I will write back with more detail.
We’ve been troubled by the apparent increase in the number of brazen FFL robberies and burglaries lately, and started tracking them to see if we were just seeing more reporting, or just seeing more spectacular thefts that got more media coverage — or whether these crimes are really up.
Well, ATF answered our question with a new report on thefts and losses from FFLs in the United States, and the answer is: hell, yes, thefts are up. In the last five years, the number of actual crimes is up 48% for burglaries and 175% (!) for robberies. Robberies are still much rarer than burglaries, because most criminals are not brazen and stupid enough to rob a place where armed people may expect them, but there were still 33 FFL robberies last year. And more guns are being taken in these thefts, too. Here’s a graphic depiction (source):
Along with the robberies and burglaries, larcenies are up. What’s a larceny? A theft that’s neither a robbery or burglary. In FFLs, these are often employee thefts — “inside jobs”. FFLs are plagued by shoplifters, but relatively few of these larcenies are that kind of theft. The shoplifters mostly steal small and highly portable items that are displayed openly, like ammunition or accessories.
There are many reasons for an upturn in FFL victimization. Crime is increasingly driven by organized gang activity, and gangs are well suited for some of the dynamic smash-and-grab burglaries we’ve seen in the last couple of years. Most gun shop burglars go uncaught, despite the common practice of rewards (usually, ATF will put up a reward and NSSF will double the money), so the probability of being caught is not much of a deterrent.
Judges and prosecutors tend to treat robberies and burglaries as beginner crimes, and “discount” them deeply, so the consequences of being caught is not a deterrent. The very large delta between burglaries and robberies may exist in part because the fear of being shot by a store owner, worker or customer, is a deterrent.
ATF is certainly more concerned this year than last. Last year’s infographic was focused on alerting FFLs to their reporting duties (source):
Reporting a lost or stolen inventory item, of course, is a lead-pipe guarantee that you will be assisted in doing 100% inventory by your friendly neighborhood Industry Operations Inspector.
The ATF is taking FFL thefts extremely seriously
Part of the ATF core mission is to protect the public from violent crime involving the use of firearms, including firearms stolen from FFLs and used by violent offenders in the commission of crimes, posing a substantial threat to the public and law enforcement.
A total of 18,394 lost or stolen firearms were reported nationwide last year from FFLs. Of those firearms, 9,113 were reported as lost. Firearms are considered lost when an FFL takes a firearm into its inventory and later cannot account for the disposition of the firearm from its inventory during an inventory reconciliation.
Losses (some if not most of which are certainly thefts, but can’t be proven to be thefts) are up much less than thefts. Here’s the the 2015 version of those 2016 stats in the previous paragraph:
A total of 14,800 firearms were reported lost or stolen nationwide last year from FFLs. 8,637 were reported as lost. 6,163 were reported as stolen.
Tentative conclusion: thieves have found thieving effective, and will continue thieving.
There are about 140,000 FFLs, and normally IOIs only get to about 9,000 of them in any given year. Their major focus is on documentation, regulatory compliance and inventory control.
One interesting table in the report breaks down firearms lost, burgled, robbed or larcenized by type. It’s interesting to see that (as you might expect) thieves really prefer pistols. It was a surprise to us that machine guns were stolen by burglary, but an even bigger surprise that over two dozen machine guns were lost by FFLs. As the table makes clear, pistols are more likely to be stolen than lost, but more uncommon firearms are much more likely to be lost than stolen.
Burglary Firearm Count
Larceny Firearm Count
Robbery Firearm Count
Loss Firearm Count
Any Other Weapons
Here is one of the more brazen burglaries of 2016:
At least some of those gang members were bagged soon after the crime.
The tactic remains popular, as does the simple smash-and-grab, like this burglary in Montgomery County, Maryland last month:
You can find literally dozens of these videos on YouTube, and it is plausible that criminal organizations have learned and been inspired by the criminal equivalent of tactics, techniques and procedures as displayed in these shows. Note for instance that they’re gloved and masked, suggesting at least a minimal awareness of investigative techniques. They also proceed with minimal conversation.
Without knowing how many weapons the FFLs are holding, it’s not possible to develop usable rate information. That is a pity, as the ATF provides by-state breakdowns of losses and thefts that would be fascinating to compare to FFL numbers and inventory totals… but we can’t.
There are presently about 136,000 FFLs of all types nationwide. That makes these lines from the ATF report all the more interesting:
ATF data provides that the 10 FFLs with the most firearms reported in Theft/Loss Reports are associated with 2,582 firearms reported lost or stolen. This data is limited to Type 01 (Dealer in firearms other than destructive devices) and Type 02 (Pawnbroker in firearms other than destructive devices) FFLs.
ATF data provides that the 100* FFLs with the most firearms reported in Theft/Loss Reports are associated with 7,664 firearms reported lost or stolen. This data is limited to Type 01 (Dealer in firearms other than destructive devices) and Type 02 (Pawnbroker in firearms other than destructive devices) FFLs.
* There were 8 FFLs tied in the final ranking of the 100 Type 01 and Type 02 FFLs resulting in 107 total FFLs.
Using the 18,394 total loss and stolen number, then, 10 FFLs (0.0074% of the total, seventy-four ten-thousandths of a percent) were the source of 2,582 firearms, 14% of the total lost or stolen.
100 FFLs (0.0735%, seventy-three point five thousandths of a percent) were the source of 7,664 firearms, 41.67% of the total lost or stolen.
But those percentages might be meaningless… perhaps those 100 FFLs stock over 42% of the total firearms inventory? (It seems unlikely, but it’s possible).
Note that this report only counts firearms that disappear from FFL inventories. Firearms lost by or stolen from the Feds (hundreds annually), State and local Law Enforcement (thousands) and private citizens (untold tens of thousands) also swell criminal armories.
In any event, as long as hitting FFLs is rewarding for criminals, we can expect to see more of it.
How to separate the pistol’s potential from the pistolero’s: the Ransom Rest and a grip insert that fits the firearm.
There are several ways to test fire a handgun, whether for function, for accuracy, or for any kind of instrumented testing, like chronograph load development or strain-gage pressure measurement. In ascending order, these are: by hand, from an improvised rest such as a sandbag, or from a machine rest.
The best commercially available machine rest is the Ransom Rest and it has been for a long time. It is, as you might expect, premium priced, and it also takes quite a bit of installing and setting up.
The Ransom Rest has been around since 1969, and really is the gold standard for gun/ammo testing.
I was building a new Caspian 1911 .45 ACP last month and needed to test it, and obtained a new Ransom Rest and insert for the 1911 from the fine folks at Brownell’s. Getting the most from a Ransom Rest means building a mounting board for it, that way it can be secured to the shooting bench at your local range. Most ranges have shooting pedestals made from cinder block with a concrete top. This is a very sturdy basis for attaching the mounting board with the Ransom Rest attached.
Siebert’s setup with a target 1911. Even the trigger contact is mechanical on a Ransom.
Note his mention of “insert for the 1911.” The Ransom Rest grips handguns in a sort of vise, and for that it must have custom jaws to fit the particular gun, in Ransom terms “inserts.” (Current ones are blue). This can be a considerable expense of its own, with the inserts costing $60-70 each now; but the bigger problem is that they are only available for the most popular sidearms. Especially for the ones popular when the Ransom Rest was introduced, like the 1911 and the S&W K-Frame!
(And no, this is not just sniveling because they don’t make an insert for the CZ-75 — they do. Like all the non-1911 non-Smith inserts, it’s a month or two special order, so you need to plan your Ransom Resting well in advance).
As for the price of the unit itself, well, that’s why they call it Ransom. The Ransom Rest, Windage Base and one set of inserts will hit you about $750 at Brownells, today. (You can save about $100 off that at Champions Choice, but we’ve ever dealt with them. They also seem to offer a different selection of inserts than Brownells). But it takes the major source of inconsistency — us humans, or as Small Dog Mk II thinks of us, Trained Feeder Monkeys — out of test firing.
The sine qua non of good results with the Rest is the setup. It has always come with good instructions, which now have a visual supplement in Siebert’s article.
Remember, you’re trying to remove as much movement as possible, in order to make sure the pistol returns to the exact same spot for each shot. If the bench you’re attaching the mounting board is wobbly, you’re just wasting your time.
We don’t know how old Sieberts’s article is; for all we know, it’s as old as the Ransom itself, but really, it’s timeless.
For most target shooters, the stock inserts will cover you. For the rest of us, the insert problem actually looks like a perfect place for 3D printing and possibly, small-shop injection molding.
The biggest beef we have with the Ransom is that we’re not sure where ours is. Would be a drag to replace it (although that would guarantee finding the old one). The next biggest? That there isn’t a rifle version. We haven’t found anything nearly as good for long guns.
A Delaware woman proved once again that you don’t need a gun to whack somebody. All she needed was her husband’s own drug habit — injecting anabolic steroids — and common antifreeze.
(Some assembly required).
Jamie L. Baker was sentenced Thursday morning in front of nearly 50 of her husband’s family members and friends in Kent County Superior Court, according to Deputy Attorney General Jason Cohee.
What’d she do?
A 47-year-old Smyrna woman will spend 40 years behind bars for killing her husband by spiking his steroid bottles with antifreeze.
Our doctor always said steroids were bad for you, but I don’t think that this was what he had in mind.
Baker’s 42-year-old husband, James D. Baker II, was found dead Sept. 16, 2013, on the bedroom floor of their home by his wife, police said.
An autopsy found that his kidneys contained ethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze that can crystallize in the kidneys and eventually kill a person if taken in small dosages.
Not only that, but once it crystallizes, it completely loses all its anti-freeze properties!
The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by poisoning after bottles of steroids found at the scene were tested at a laboratory and found to also contain ethylene glycol.
Police later learned that James Baker, who was a competitive weightlifter, had ordered steroids in June with a friend over the internet and had them shipped to the friend’s house.
The friend told detectives that the steroid bottles were not tampered with when they arrived and that James Baker kept the steroids in a locked toolbox in a closet of his home, police said.
Famous physical security shibboleth: “locks keep honest people out.”
“There was ample time in those three months to get him help,” Cohee said. “Even the day before he died, when he was very sick, the defendant would not call 911 when prompted by their daughter. She chose to let him die.”
Why would a murderer try to get the victim help?
Almost a year after his death, Jamie Baker admitted to police in an interview that she had used a hypodermic syringe to extract antifreeze from a container stored in the garage and injected several bottles of steroids with the antifreeze, police said.
The lengthy investigation ended in March of 2014 with Baker being charged with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon during a felony.
See, it’s official — antifreeze is a deadly weapon. Now the ATF has reason to shoot everybody’s dog. (Well, maybe not Angelenos. Do any of them have antifreeze in the garage? Doubt it.
In February, she pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of second-degree murder.
OK, so it isn’t officially official, because she didn’t plead to the weapons charge. Lazy prosecutor — you could have had a precedent!
According to James Baker’s obituary, he worked as an environmental specialist for 22 years at the DuPont Experimental Station. He had been married to his wife for 21 years and had two daughters.
We’ve had a post yesterday on the the US attack on a Syrian air base. The best part of our post, perhaps, is that there are a lot of interesting links to various sources of reporting, analysis and opinions in the comments. But we found that these posts by Scott Adams (of Dilbert comic fame), that as far as we know no one linked, made us think a bit.
We recommend that everyone read them in order, including our Russian and pro-Russian readers.
Adams concludes, in the first post, that we probably won’t ever know what is really happening over there. After throwing out some intriguing suggestions, and pointing out something that Russia’s partisans and agents have noted: a chemical attack would be illogical for Assad, since he was winning conventionally. If not Assad, then who?
If faked, by whom? For what reason?
Adams’s “persuasion” prism is a very useful way of looking at things that are caught up in propaganda.
Like the proud hammer owner who saw each problem as a nail, we tend to project our own tactical equipment, skills and training on to potential adversaries. Symmetry. But tactically, symmetry is a false pursuit.
Some examples of symmetry as practiced in training and planning:
Fighter pilots train extensively as if their primary mission is to fight other fighters;
Tankers expect to fight tank-on-tank;
Any sniper will tell you the best way to disrupt an enemy sniper is to countersnipe him;
Most armed self-defenders train for the one v one encounter.
But these things “everybody knows” are not necessarily true. For example, fighter-on-fighter combat started because the fighters of each side in WWI wanted to scratch their enemy’s eyes out — in the form of his reconnaissance planes. The canny fighter pilot declines combat with enemy fighters to go after those aircraft that are actually enabling the enemy’s overall war aims. Or as the leaders of The Few insisted, “Go after the bombers!” While tank-v-tank makes a great sporting event, tanks win battles and wars when they blast through the enemy’s armored carapace and run rampant in his innards, or rear area: Patton, Guderian, and Zhukov all instinctively grasped this, as did many others.
Take countersniping. As the Australian Army battled the Japs for the archipelagos north of Australia, their arsenal at Lithgow struggled to make the sniper rifles they needed to countersnipe the Japanese soldiers — who were, the Aussies grimly admitted, pretty good at sniping. Lacking the patience to await Lithgow filling their open orders, the Australians improvised countersniper teams with what they had. One man would use a helmet or other item as a decoy, to induce the sons of Nippon to fire. Rather than plunk a .303 slug into the Japanese sniper’s braincase through his lens set, as Hollywood would have it, they’d simply fill his leafy perch with lead from a BREN Gun. The lack of precise address for their poison-pen letter would be overcome by junk-mailing the entire block, in other words.
If it’s crude and it works, is it really crude? The BREN magdump approach usually resulted in a surprised oriental gentleman tumbling dead from his tree.
Sure, setting a sniper against a sniper can work, but the BREN Gun works even if you only get an approximate idea of where the enemy sniper is hiding.
But people still want symmetry — to match like to like. In the real world, you want to exploit asymmetry, not try to merely match what the enemy is doing. You want to overmatch him. You want to tumble him, deader’n disco, from his tree.
This works at strategic as well as tactical level. Little Japan wasn’t permitted (by interwar arms-reduction treaties) to build as many battleships as England or the USA. So the Japanese went all-in for naval aviation, and surprised not only slumbering America but also the world.
So why do we still match like to like? A lot of this flows from Hollywood single-combat mythos. You know, the way every action movie from before the talkies to the ones in the cinema now, ends just the same way — with the hero squaring off in mortal single combat with the villain. Sometimes, the hero theatrically discards a weapon to put himself on the same level as his opponent — to fight fair.
In the real world, nobody with half a lick of sense fights fair. Or, as the instructors at SF school were inclined to say, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.” This pithy folk wisdom has an important corollary: “If you get caught, you’re tryin’ too hard.”
If you’re ever brainstorming out a combat or self-defense approach, it’s a useful brain housing group exercise to work it out both symmetrically and asymmetrically, and see which one more nearly meets your objectives.
Most of the time, it will be the asymmetric approach — if you dare to use it.
This is something odd: we’re linking to one thread of a forum, the Canadian-based milsurps.eh (just kidding, milsurps.com), and what’s more, it’s one thread that only has one post.
Why in the name of St. Gretzky would we do that?
Well, it’s what a post it is! The post links to more than two dozen technical articles by former British armorer, Captain Peter Laidler. If you want to know more about the Lee-Enfield, British telescopic sights, or even BREN Gun parts, Laidler’s your huckleberry:
Capt. Peter Laidler is the senior Armourer in the UK Military, now retired, but based as a Technical Officer at the UK Military Small Arms School. On behalf of MILSURPS.COM members, we’d like to publicly thank him for his support of this forum, as well the broader Lee Enfield collector community in general.
There’s a great deal of information there for those interested in British weapons development, technology and maintenance of the 20th Century. Go to the link, and start working your way through some historic British technology. Enjoy!