Category Archives: Unconventional Weapons

Original and Reproduction Liberator Pistols

A few years ago — well, maybe a quarter century ago — Liberator pistols were extremely rare. Originals are still uncommon. While many thousands of the disposable firearms were made, with the intention of dropping them onto occupied territory there is little evidence any were so used.

FP-45 Liberator for Sale 2

Two things could be gained by dropping arms like this behind enemy lines: the first is that they might be used against the enemy as intended. But the second, more subtle, intent was psychological: certainly some, probably most, of the dropped weapons would fall into the hands of the enemy, inducing a great worry about partisans, perhaps even a debilitating paranoia. (There are several historical examples of faux guerrilla operations used either to bedevil enemies or to get loyal enemy leaders shot as traitors).

In the end, the US and UK conducted massive airdrops to partisans in France and Norway, but the drops were of more militarily useful American and British arms and ammunition. (There were also airdrops to “partisans” in Holland, but these turned out to be pseudo networks run by Abwehr counterintelligence. Most of the agents dropped by SOE were interrogated and shot on arrival. It’s that kind of business).

FP-45 Liberator for Sale 1

The Soviets dropped supplies to the partisans they supported in the East, but we have seen no evidence they dropped any lend-lease weapons, or were privy to the classified Liberator project — at least officially. The Liberators were sent, in small quantities, forward, to OSS elements in the China-Burma-India theater and the Mediterranean at least. None of these seem to have done anything but tinker with them, and those samples seem to have been the source of all existing free market Liberators.

Business end. Original Liberators were unrifled, unmarked, and intended to be used at contact range.

Business end. Original Liberators were unrifled, unmarked, and intended to be used at contact range.

This example is offered on GunBroker. The auction text (from the reputable collector-gun dealer, Jackson Armory) asserts that these guns were dropped to resistance elements. While we agree that they were made for that purpose, we’d need to see evidence that any were so dropped — and we haven’t seen any such evidence.

Calling the sights "rudimentary" is an insult to rudiments.

Calling the sights “rudimentary” is an insult to rudiments. (Actually, they’re more prominent than on many contemporary pistols, but any alignment they may have with the path of the unstabilized bullet is a matter of coincidence).

The sellers say this of the gun:

RARE WWII FP-45 “Liberator” .45 Pistol. Stock # MMH282805RT. No Serial #. This is a genuine (NOT a post-War reproduction) FP-45, .45acp “Liberator” pistol, a crude pistol made by the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors. These guns were air-dropped to Resistance Fighters in Europe during WWII. The all-metal pistol has lots of patina and tarnishing, the bore is dark, the action functions correctly

via Genuine WWII FP-45 “Liberator” Pistol .45acp. 45 : Curios & Relics at

The question arises is, is it genuine? Now, in 1990 the answer would have been “definitely.” It  was considered, at that time, too hard to copy, having been made by an industrial stamping process that would require very expensive dies.

Then, there were a small handful of Liberators circulating among collectors and museums — no more than a couple dozen, maybe at a stretch 100. (Some say a couple thousand, with about 300 still new in the box, but that seems astronomically high to us). These had all passed through some grey area between manufacture under US Government contract and present modern ownership without any sign of an official, legal sale; they were never sold through the NRA or DCM, unlike .45s and M1917 revolvers, but they may have been given away by officers with authority to dispose of surplus property while winding up operations. We are not lawyers here and are not about to teach a class in property law, but we’d just like to point out that many firearms passed through such a valley of shadow in their history; it doesn’t so much weaken the claim of the current owner — in our distinctly non-legal opinion — as it simply introduces a break in provenance.

Trying to prove provenance of a firearm like this, that was conceived in darkness, stockpiled by two clandestine agencies with an interregnum in between, and proceeded to the civilian market by unknown paths and in unknown hands, is a challenge like proving one’s descent from classical antiquity: the conventional wisdom is that it can’t be done. Somebody may be running around with Julius Caesar’s blood in his veins, but you can’t prove it’s you.

The risk of fakes finally arose with the production of new Liberators.


Vintage Ordnance Liberator reproductions

The makers of the reproduction, Vintage Ordnance, who actually reproduce three versions of the Liberator, including the final production version (like the original one for sale by Jackson Armory) and two engineering prototypes (!), are keenly aware of the utility of their product to fakers, and so have taken measures to make their reproduction harder to transmogrify into a fake.

Our reproduction has a rifled barrel and discrete markings to comply with Federal law and hopefully prevent it from being unscrupulously sold as an original antique. We mark the serial number on the front of the grip frame and our company information, model and caliber designation on the underside of the barrel behind the trigger guard. All characters are the minimum 1/16” high.

Some of these, like marking and rifling, are required by law; the OSS didn’t need no stankin’ laws (and the marking law didn’t come about until 1968). Other changes in the materials and manufacture of the reproduction make it, while good enough for a Hollywood close-up, different in physical properties from an original.

Liberator for Sale in the Linked Auction.

The Vintage Ordnance repro in Hollywood close-up. This one is cocked.

These measures complicate the life of any low-life intending to convert a Vintage Ordnance reproduction to a phony “authentic” Liberator (indeed, they compound his fraud with the felony of defacing a serial number), and give the inspector something to look for; but even with a seller we trust (Like Jackson Armory), we’d want a hands-on inspection before laying out $2,400 for this firearm.

Shooting a Liberator was once one of the perks of going through SF weapons school, but a funny thing happened: over the years, they all broke, and no replacements were forthcoming. (After sitting for years in a warehouse, most of the Liberators had been scrapped). The zinc alloy (Zamak-3?) cocking piece is subject to both fracture and corrosion.

Zamak cocking piece is the firearm's weak point.

Zamak cocking piece is the firearm’s weak point.

The Liberator was designed to be, literally, disposable; the intent was to fire one shot and then throw it away, in favor of whatever the fellow you shot had been carrying. If you needed to reload it, you’d better have brought your friends with their Liberators to cover you.

Breech open. Seen here on the reproduction (note telltale rifling).

Breech open. Seen here on the reproduction (note telltale rifling).

It is all at once unpleasant to fire, with tremendous muzzle blast and recoil; slow to load; inaccurate beyond contact range; and, not remotely safe. It’s not only not drop safe (indeed, it’s likely to fire if dropped in a loaded state!), but it’s also liable to fire if the cocking piece slips out of your fingers. There’s no real “safety,” you can just rotate the cocking piece to the side… it makes the “safety” of the Mosin-Nagant rifle look like something from the pages of the Journal of Contemporary Advances in Human Factors.

The way to get through a whole box of ammo with a Liberator? Bring enough friends! Or go to a busy range. Everybody wants to shoot it once.

The availability of both originals, occasionally, and reproductions make a Liberator collection something to consider. For under $5k you could have new models of each engineering version, plus an original for the authenticity cachet, and with some placards you’d have a show-winning display (if there are any shows that welcome educational displays any more).

In the end, it’s a novelty gun, a footnote to history, for the price of a nicer 1911 variant that will provide much more durability and comfort to the shooter.

It’s a Knife! It’s a Gun! It’s… Any Other Weapon

Any Other Weapon is a portmanteau category in which the ATF throws things that it wants to discourage, using one of its most powerful tools: the Pigovian tax and glacial bureaucratic delays of the National Firearms Act. The most common AOWs are things like ultra-compact shotguns and disguised weapons like cane and belt-buckle firearms. This unusual device, the GRAD RS1, conceals the action of a .22 revolver in the fat grip of a knife that roughly resembles an AK bayonet.

Grad RS1 knife pistol

ATF says:

The GRAD RS1 is a knife with a revolver concealed within the handle of the knife. The revolver will hold 5 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition (some models will hold 6). The projectile is fired over the top of the blade by depressing the trigger into the handle of the knife. Only a handful of these were made.

The GRAD RS1 is considered an “Any Other Weapon” under the NFA.

This particular Grad is from the ATF’s reference collection, and the photos are ATF official.

Nuclear Attack, for Real (Nagasaki)

"Bockscar" at the USAFM in Dayton, OH (it embiggens)

“Bockscar” at the USAFM in Dayton, OH (it embiggens)

This is Los Alamos National Labs’ archive film of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb as dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945. It comes to us via the Restricted Data1 channel on YouTube.

To us one of the most salient discoveries is that you can’t nuke a city without duct tape, or as we called it in the Army, “100-mile-an-hour tape.” Bockscar was probably traveling at well over 100 (over 200 in fact) indicated airspeed when it released Fat Man, but Fat Man still had the seam around his nose sealed with the ubiquitous tape. (At about 0:40 in the video).

The author of the RD Channel, Alex Wellerstein, describes it like this:

This silent film shows the final preparation and loading of the “Fat Man” bomb into “Bockscar,” the plane which dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. It then shows the Nagasaki explosion from the window of an observation plane. This footage comes from Los Alamos National Laboratory. I have not edited it in any way from what they gave me except to improve the contrast a little — it is basically “raw.” I have annotated it with some notes on the bombing and what you can see — feel free to disable the annotations if you don’t want them.

He also maintains an excellent blog, of the same title, at this location: Further details on the Nagasaki raid —  and this video — at the Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Do read the comments as, with a couple of exceptions, Alex’s blog, like this one, benefits from an informed and thoughtful commentariat.

Elsewhere on his blog, he also addressed a historical mysterywhy was Kokura, home to Kokura Arsenal known to every collector of Japanese firearms, and Fat Man’s primary target, spared; whilst Nagasaki, the secondary target, was destroyed?2

Terrain model of Kokura Arsenal, the primary target. Saved by 10/10 obscuration on the day of the raid.

Terrain model of Kokura Arsenal, the primary target. Saved by 10/10 obscuration on the day of the raid. (USAAF official via Nuclear Secrecy blog).

His cautious conclusion: while there’s a case for obscuration due to an earlier fire-bombing raid on an upwind city, and a case for deliberate obscuration by Japanese defensive measures, two of which possible measures he describes. Ultimately, he concludes:

In the end, it doesn’t really matter which of these things happened. The bare fact is that Kokura didn’t get bombed and Nagasaki did. But I find looking into these kinds of questions useful as a historian. Too often it is easy to take for granted that the explanations given in narrative works of history are “settled,” when really they are often resting on very thin evidence, thinner perhaps than the historian who writes them realizes. I don’t think we really know what happened at Kokura, and I’m not sure we ever truly will.

His first sentence reminds us of something we say to people who have disturbing memories or survivor’s guilt: “In combat, there’s no right or wrong, there’s just what happened and what you did.”

Alex’s is an elegant and responsible historical blog — much recommended.


Pity They’ve Stopped Making These

Has Hognose slipped his moorings? you may think. Since when have they stopped making 1911s? Well, they haven’t of course, but they’ve stopped making 1911s like this, and it’s a crying shame:

wooden 1911

What’s special about this 1911 is that it’s not a gun, but it’s made from wood, in this case, Gaboon Ebony.

wooden 1911 01The black, smooth surface of the ebony makes it hard to believe it’s wood. But the gun is as wooden as the case:

wooden 1911 02

While it’s hard to believe the ebony version, one made of black cherry, walnut and figured maple is a little easier to recognize for what it is:

wooden 1911 03

The amazing thing is that this CNC’d Colt, copied from the craftsman’s grandfathers WWII gun, is as accurate inside as it is out. wooden 1911 04

Unfortunately, no more of the replica 1911s are being made (the first one had 650 hours of CNC machine setup and process engineering in it). However, you can see them online at, and you can buy, if not t he guns, the incredible 1911 cases:

1911 display case

The case retails for $395. The guy also uses his impressive CNC skills to make OEM and replacement rifle stocks, also. You can find more information at

Hat tip, Katie Ainsworth at The Firearm Blog.

Unrelated Bonus (well, unrelated except in coming from TFB): if this didn’t tickle your fancy, this interesting TFB post by Nathaniel F., on machine human interface and the quest for the Average Human, probably will. We knew usability engineers usually design things to be usable for the middle 90% of the human race (from the 5th to the 95th percentile range in any relevant dimension), but we didn’t know how that got started. Mirabile dictu, the Air Force did it).

Achtung Minen! The Rattenkrieg.

We think everyone from Russia to China and around again knows what the German expression Achtung Minen!, seen all over Europe on little triangular signs in the 20th Century, means. Danger, Land Mines! And historians know that Rattenkrieg, Rat War, was a German expression for house-to-house fighting in destroyed cities like Stalingrad — and later, Berlin. (Sometimes, in war, what goes around comes around, Fritz). Because fighting from building to building through holes blasted in walls and through sewers was, truly, a rat’s war.

This Rat War, however, has taken place mostly in Africa and the heroes are real rats. The rats are a singular species, the African pouch rat or African giant rat, and they have three extremely useful things — an ability to smell far beyond what we bipeds are capable of, a powerful ability to dig, and (just as importantly) an ability to be trained to dig on encountering specific smells.

Like the smell of land mines. The rats may not be brave as humans are brave, but the EOD techs who follow the rats and disarm or (more usually) blow the mines in place are, at least, nervy. Unlike the rats, who are too light to shift the mines’ pressure plates, tilt rods, or other initiators enough to get a bang out of them, the humans definitely can.

The humans become rather attached to the rats, naturally. They call them Hero Rats. And there’s a definite need for demining many former conflict areas.

The so-called Wars of Liberation in Africa were the source of the mines the Hero Rats are working on at the moment. Liberation movements like FRELIMO in Mozambique, ZANLA and ZIPRA in Rhodesia, and MPLA in Angola were trained to use mines by Russian, Chinese and Cuban advisers. Like the soldiers of any civilized nation, these advisors not only taught how to emplace mines, but how to mark minefields and document mine locations for postwar retrieval.

The Africans completely blew off the paperwork part, and placed the mines individually and haphazardly as terror weapons. Having won their wars, more or less, they inherited nations they’d seeded with death.

Naturally the African Union, the UN, and all right-thinking people everywhere declared it the fault of various Western nations that had nothing to do with it, and of white people in general. Demining these deathlands became the responsibility of western-funded NGOs.

One wonders if the whole 1990s brouhaha about mines would have been necessary, if African irregulars only matched European, Asian or American standards of discipline in deploying mines. But they didn’t, so ultimately there’s no point pursuing the counterfactual.

Amazingly, the demining has proceeded through a great deal of NGO turnover. The rats are the latest recruits to demining, and they have (well, their humans have, let’s not anthropomorphize the useful little rodents) completed the demining of the vast territory of Mozambique.

Next? Zimbabwe, if the failed state doesn’t harass, jail, hold for ransom, or apply any of its other bag of tricks to the demining teams.  After decades of “socialist plenty,” those rats are going to look like meat to a lot of Zimbabweans, too, so the deminers had best put a guard on them. The Mugabean kleptocracy may not be ready for demining yet, but the deminers pulled it off in Mozambique, which is only a little better organized and run.

And if they ever get everywhere demined, what happens to the rats? “They’ll live in honored retirement,” one of their handlers promises. But they might have further missions. It seems the sharp-nosed rats can also be trained to detect turberculosis in humans (BBC video on YouTube).

Finally, if you’re a fan of Sesame Street-type songs, the rats have a theme song (1:20, with video of Rats in Action). If you’re not a fan of that kind of music (or six years old) , don’t click:

Psychotronic Guns? Whaaat?

Back in 2012, a British tabloid reported that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has ordered full steam ahead on the production of psychotronic guns. We started to write about it at the time, but never finished, and now we thought we’d revisit the psychotronic arsenal of Mother Russia.

Not just any pychotronic guns, mind you: mind-bending psychotronic guns.

Yeah, we said “whaa?” too, and we’re supposed to be the go-to gun guys. We just aren’t that up on guns that mess with people’s brains, other than by opening up their protective braincases and letting blood and stuff out, and lead and air in. That bit we can do, but the Russians are claiming to have some sort of weapon that messes with the mind, but leaves the organism intact. Or technically, the British journalists are claiming the Russians are claiming — eh. It gets kind of mind-bending.

Of course, the comparison to a certain Hollywood meme is inevitable:

Let’s see what the Daily Mail had to say:

Mind-bending ‘psychotronic’ guns that can effectively turn people into zombies have been given the go-ahead by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The futuristic weapons – which will attack the central nervous system of their victims – are being developed by the country’s scientists.

They could be used against Russia’s enemies and, perhaps, its own dissidents by the end of the decade.

Sources in Moscow say Mr Putin has described the guns, which use electromagnetic radiation like that found in microwave ovens, as ‘entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals’.

Mr Putin added: ‘Such high-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons, but will be more acceptable in terms of political and military ideology.’

Plans to introduce the super- weapons were announced quietly last week by Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov, fulfilling  a little-noticed election campaign pledge by president-elect Putin.

Mr Serdyukov said: ‘The development  of weaponry based on new physics principles – direct-energy weapons, geophysical weapons, wave-energy weapons, genetic weapons, psychotronic weapons, and so on – is part  of the state arms procurement programme for 2011-2020.’

Specific proposals on developing the weapons are due to be drawn  up before December by a new Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Research into electromagnetic weapons has been secretly carried out in the US and Russia since the Fifties. But now it appears Mr Putin has stolen a march on the Americans. Precise details of the Russian gun have not been revealed. However, previous research has shown that low-frequency waves or beams can affect brain cells, alter psychological states and make it possible to transmit suggestions and commands directly into someone’s thought processes.

High doses of microwaves can damage the functioning of internal organs, control behaviour or even drive victims to suicide. Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Military Forecasting Centre in Moscow, said: ‘This is a highly serious weapon.

‘When it was used for dispersing a crowd and it was focused on a man, his body temperature went up immediately as if he was thrown into a hot frying pan. Still, we know very little about this weapon and even special forces guys can hardly cope with it.’

The long-term effects are not known, but two years ago a former major in the Russian foreign intelligence agency, the GRU, died in Scotland after making claims about such a weapons programme to MI6.

Sergei Serykh, 43, claimed he was a victim of weapons which he said were ‘many times more powerful than in the Matrix films’.

Mr Serykh died after falling from a Glasgow tower block with his wife and stepson in March 2010. While his death was assumed to be suicide, his family fear there was foul play.

Last night the Ministry of Defence declined to comment.

via Putin targets foes with ‘zombie’ gun which attack victims’ central nervous system | Mail Online.

This actually sounds somewhat derivative of US research, as is the Russian establishment of a DARPA, imitation being the sincerest, etc. The US has developed a variety of weapons that have CNS effects but has aimed our research more at making riot-control and nonlethal weapons of that sort.

They’re not all that new. A Doktor Inginieur Wallauschek supposedly developed a devastating sound weapon for the Nazis, with which they won the… oh. Never mind.

Actually weaponizing and deploying these weapons has proven to be somewhat difficult. For one thing, they’re not highly directional or precision guided. (The stuff in our safe that can affect your brain is quite to the contrary, to about 1/4 MOA at best). A psychotronic weapon that couldn’t be aimed would also zombify its own operators… which could make it kind of hard to turn off once you got it going. (That was actually one problem with Wallauschek’s weapon that killed by sound. Despite its directionality, it affected anyone near it, making it kind of hard to train on any moving target).

The US has deployed some of these weapons systems overseas but has been unable to come up with good situations and targets, and so has never used them. The Long Range Acoustical Device is one example.

So we thought, the Russians are some smart Ivans, if they’ve been working on this since 2012, surely there’s been something reported in the four years since. But a Google search found us only the pack journalists of 2012, plus these two stories:

Tentative conclusion: Vladimir Vladimirovich is not going to turn us into zombies any time soon.

Bonus: search for “psychotronic” anything, and Google serves you ads for quack products and nostrums to save you from the brain waves.

Fortunately, the well-shielded egg heads of MIT are all over it. (Bonus Video).

Caching your Guns for a Civil War, Parts I and II

Many people are talking about the possibility of a civil war. Some people are acting as if one is going to happen. The intersection between those sets is almost zero.

Part 1: Some obstacles to caching

Three can keep a secret, if two are dead. All the Haganah underground operatives kept the secret of this cache in Northern Israel. It was discovered by accident after they had all died.

Three can keep a secret, if two are dead. All the Haganah underground operatives who knew the secret of this cache in Northern Israel took it to their graves. It was discovered by accident in January, 2014, after they had all died. (Story at The Blaze with links to Israeli media, some in Hebrew).

First, if you live in a state with licensing and registration, you’re screwed. Even if they don’t have all your weapons in their files, they know you have weapons. They can come and shake down your home and curtilage at their leisure. Registration and Licensing doesn’t solve crimes, and it certainly doesn’t prevent them. It is one thing only: a cheat sheet for confiscation.  For that, it’s the cat’s pajamas.

We’ve heard a lot of bravado about boating accidents and long-ago sales to a tall short black guy with red hair and freckles. You can pull this off in one two-pronged case: no one else at all knows about your weapons and your plans, and you can resist intense interrogation. (Unless you have been trained in interrogation resistance in a resistance training lab, you probably can’t). This is completely without torture or threats to relatives, both of which will be available and in use in a civil war. Those two techniques can usually break even the trained resister.

Second, don’t rely on Oathkeepers bluster (another word beginning with “b” also fits). They mean what they say now, but things will be different then. Police will have no problem cracking down on you because (1) most cops will follow any plausibly legitimate authority; (2) human beings are born to rationalize; and (3) you’ll be demonized long before you’re raided. They won’t whack you, they’ll be whacking your indescribably monstrous straw man evil twin.

Every totalitarian state in history made liberal use of the ordinary cops for its political roundups, and no police element has ever mutinied or walked off the job when faced with that task. For example, the Gestapo and SS did not need to round up the Jews in occupied France: the ordinary French beat cops were glad to do it. None of them was ever punished; they transferred their loyalty seamlessly and unquestionably from the 3rd Republic to Vichy to the occupying power to the 4th Republic. Likewise, the Weimar cops became Nazi cops, who in turn became East or West German cops, and now unified Federal German cops. Hitler? Stalin? Who cares, we can retire at 45 with a good pension, and no one will miss a few Jews.

Third, don’t expect most people to back you. For every active resister, there are 20 dedicated, clandestine supporters. For every dedicated supporter there are 20 active and open collaborators. You active resisters will be outnumbered 400 to 1 by the Quislings. And even they will be a minority. Most people will hunker down and try not to be involved. The side that pressures them will get their loyalty and compliance — as long as it outpressures its opponents, and as long as the pressure is applied.

Still wondering why civil wars get ugly, fast?

Fourth, if you’re fantasizing about this civil war, stop now. We’ve seen civil wars, and we’ve seen how a place can go from civilized to Hobbsean state of nature in jig time. The American Revolution has been sanitized in our history but even it, the cleanest and most civil of civil wars, was unbearably nasty. The victors wrote the history; the losers, the Tories or Loyalists, took ship. Or died. After losing everything. A new Civil War might look more like the last one, with new Mosbys, Booths, and certainly new Andersonvilles. Or it might resemble the Spanish Civil War, or the French Revolution. When Americans unhappy with government think of the French Revolution, they think of their opponents in the tumbrils. Remember the fate of Robespierre and the Jacobins was no different from that of the Girondins or the Bourbons. Remember that practically none of the Old Bolsheviks died of natural causes.

But if, after all that, you still want to be prepared for survival or resistance, read on. The lessons learned you are about to receive here are distilled from thirty-plus years in the practice of insurgency, UW, FID, and COIN, and a very great deal of study. They also incorporate the lessons learned from a sensitive — once, highly classified — strategic cache program that was meant to arm clandestine stay-behind forces and the resistance armies they would raise.

Part II: The Enemies of Cached Weapons

The enemies of your cached weapons, dear insurgent, are many. They are rust, and its valkyries water and air; construction and development; discovery; documentation; human frailty; and obsolescence.

These weapons, buried during the League of Nations mandate and recovered only last year, were well preserved.

These weapons, buried during the League of Nations mandate and recovered only last year, were well preserved. Careful packaging and Israel’s arid climate protected them from Air, Water and therefore Rust.

Rust is a term for corrosion in ferrous metals. Essentially, iron plus air (especially damp, moist air) yields iron oxide, which is everything steel is not: weak, crumbly, almost worthless (well, you can make an incendiary mixture with it. But your guns are not the best feedstock for that; it’s not like rust is hard to come by).

You protect weapons from rust with permanent coatings like paint or parkerizing, temporary coatings like grease, vacuum-bagging them if you have the capability, and storing them in naturally or artificially dry places.

Even non-ferrous metals and supposedly “stainless” metals will corrode in the right conditions.

Water is principally a problem because of its propensity to accelerate rust. But it also has two other properties: it tends to wick into almost anywhere, and if it’s flowing, it can wear through anything. The Grand Canyon? That’s nothing but applied water and time.

Air is a problem because it contains all the ingredients for rust except the iron: water vapor and oxygen. It also can contain pollutants that accelerate corrosion.

Development is a threat to a surprising number of caches. Europeans periodically wake up to a news story of a cache of weapons or other stuff from the Cold War or World War II. The Nazis cached hundreds of tons of arms for a Werwolf resistance that fizzled out, partly because the Nazi state’s defeat made its ideology much less compelling, and partly because all four Allies had no compunction at all about shooting Werwolf suspects, even children. These unused caches get unearthed in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic by urban and rural development all the time. They’re usually old, forgotten, neglected caches in bad shape.

Apart from concealment, which was often good, the Werwolf caches were a pretty good example of how not to conduct a strategic cache program.

While some hazards are easy to defend against — you can “set ’em and forget ’em” — defense against development requires long-term curation. If a cache is implanted, someone must monitor it, and when development encroaches, move it. Therefore, the caches that are discovered are the ones that are haphazardly monitored or that were implanted by defunct organizations that never took up, or failed at, monitoring.

It is also helpful to emplace caches in locations that are away from either axes of likely future development, potential high value positions or targets in civil or general war (such as key terrain), or potential bivouac locations of hostile forces.

Discovery is the accidental location, exposure, or penetration of the cache, not as a result of counterguerrilla or counterespionage activity, nor as a result of development-related excavation. Your likely discoverers are hunters, hikers, and, especially, kids.

Guard against it by placing the cache on difficult terrain, and concealing the cache well.

There appears to have been no documentation of the Haganah cache. It was concealed well enough that the discovery came almost 70 years after the Haganah's clandestine war was won.

There appears to have been no Documentation of the Haganah cache. It was concealed well enough that its Discovery came almost 70 years after the Haganah’s clandestine war was won.

Documentation is a double-aged sword. It allows for the recovery or relocation of caches even if no responsible individual is available (a real risk in UW). It is useful in the demobilization phase after victory has been achieved; or in an underground or dormant phase after a major defeat. But it also allows hostile forces to find and recover caches, or even worse, surveil them and roll up networks.

To counter these risks, documentation should be kept to a minimum and safeguarded, possibly with such measures as clandestine writing and encryption. Cache reports should never be transmitted by or filed on computers or electronic devices. (Assume all computers are bugged).

Human Frailty (memory and weakness) is what happens to most caches — not to put too fine a point on it, somebody rats them out.

The way to combat this is to enact strict positive vetting, need-to-know, and compartmentalization. No one should even know that there are caches unless the person’s trustworthiness has been established beyond doubt. No one should know any more about caches than he or she needs to, and that information must be given to the smallest practical number of people. And finally, no one should know about caches not relevant to his cell, mission, or location.

Obsolescence is the final problem with caches. If, mirabile dictu, things are so well packed and preserved that they’re not at risk, the canny old wizard we call Time still has one ace up his sleeve: obsolescence. You don’t know where it’s coming from; small arms development proceeds by a pattern of punctuated equilibrium. You can’t tell when technology will overthrow your stored ordnance. Rebels who buried their guns in 1800, or in 1900, would still be armed like a national army forty years later, but if they buried their guns in 1840 or 1940, they would dig up a bunch of very outdated hardware in 1880 or 1980. (We were, in fact, digging up — for inspection — caches planted in the 1940s periodically through the 1980s). But small arms performance plateaued enough in the 20th Century that the guns are the least of your worries. A guerrilla band armed today with Garands and MP.40s would still have considerable lethality, but there’s no hope for the crystal and tube radios of the 1940s for practical field communications. Likewise, medical equipment stored even a decade ago has been replaced in the real world by improved devices and products of new research.

There is no easy way to combat obsolescence. You have to be prepared to service the cache as we did during the cold war, a difficult and expensive undertaking fraught with risk to the servicer, the cache, and the security of the program.

To be continued in Part III: Types of Caches and IV: Cache Best Practices

We will learn that, as useful as it may be to consider the risks above, you’re going to find that if you want to use the cache or caches, you’re going to have to accept considerable risks beyond those. Indeed, the use of the cache is ever in tension with the security of same (a tradeoff with many, many parallels in the insurgent’s world).

And anything you can do can get you scarfed up. No pressure, though.

Look for Parts III and IV next week.

How Diplomacy Guarantees Nonproliferation


FOOM! What could possibly go wrong with encouraging desperate nutcases to build bombs.

Anti-military politicians love diplomacy, and ascribe to it incredible powers. For instance, consider the President’s statement on the Iran framework:

Good afternoon. I am pleased that the United States and Iran yesterday reached agreement on the text of a framework document on Iran’s nuclear program. This agreement will help to achieve a longstanding and vital American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Persian Gulf.

This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world. It reduces the danger of the threat of nuclear spreading in the region. It’s a crucial step toward drawing Iran into the global community . . . This agreement represents the first step on the road to a nuclear-free Persian Gulf. It does not rely on trust. Compliance will be certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The United States and Iran have also agreed to ease trade restrictions and to move toward establishing liaison offices in each other’s capitals. These offices will ease Iran’s isolation.

Except… while that does have an eerie echo of what President Obama said about Iran, it actually is President Clinton’s 1994 statement about the nearly identical deal he cut with North Korea, “the first step on the road to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.” We rather naughtily went in and changed the country name and geographic references — which appears to be what Mr Obama did to update and adapt to Iran Mr Clinton’s historic agreement. You know, the one that guaranteed the Norks would not get nukes.

How’d that work out?

Pretty much the way every Nork hand in the Agency, State and the think tanks predicted: thanks to Clinton’s supine policy (and Bush’s equally supine policy that followed) the Norks got their nuke faster than ever, with our aid. And now they claim to have set off an H-bomb.

Without his TelePrompTer, we suspect the President can’t distinguish an H-bomb from an F-bomb. And the Iranians — how are they doing on integrating in the world community? Oh, they just destroyed an embassy.

They were uncivilized when Leonidas fought them, and they’re still uncivilized today.

Hat tip, David French, who noted the “eerie similarity”  of the two sets of empty rhetoric. Is anyone expecting anything but an eerie similarity of outcome?

China Deploying Blinding Lasers?

An interesting report. If it’s true, it indicates something that should surprise no one, except for everyone in the State Department, and everyone in the current administration’s Pentagon: China will do what Chinese leaders think is in China’s best interests, not what they are obligated to do by International treaties.

China’s military has equipped its forces with blinding laser weapons in apparent violation of an international agreement signed by Beijing.

“China has been updating its home-made blinding laser weapons in recent years to meet the needs of different combat operations,” the official military newspaper PLA Daily reported Dec. 9.

We’ll have some photos from that report, with the nomenclature of each weapon, embedded here.

PY132A Blinding Laser Weapon

PY132A Blinding Laser Weapon. (Yes, that’s its official name).

A State Department official expressed concerns that the weapons appear to violate a provision of the United Nations 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The convention includes a 1998 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons banning their use in combat.

“The United States is committed to the CCW and expects all parties to uphold the convention and its protocols,” the official told the Washington Free Beacon, using an acronym for the 1980 convention.

The United States seems to have a remarkably woolly idea of what exactly treaties do.

The most common Chinese laser weapon appears to be this WJG-2002.

The most common Chinese laser weapon appears to be this WJG-2002.

China agreed to follow the prohibition in 1998, according to the convention’s website.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment about the laser weapons.

WJG-2002, displayed as components

WJG-2002, displayed as components

Jack Daly, a retired naval intelligence officer who suffered eye injuries in 1997 from a laser that was fired at his helicopter by a Russian intelligence-gathering ship near Port Angeles, Washington, said he is concerned the Chinese laser arms could end up in the United States.

We well recall the incident (and the Flash and other high-priority traffic it caused). But if his biggest worry with these things the risk that Bubba and J.D. gon’ get aholt of one, well, he just reinforced about a million stereotypes of intelligence officers.

Here's the WJG-2002 in use by a People's Liberation Army soldier.

Here’s the WJG-2002 in use by a People’s Liberation Army soldier.

“The U.S. already has a problem with laser pointers being directed at in flight aircraft,” Daly said. “If these laser guns make their way here, we are very likely to see aircrews actually blinded during flight and possibly worse.”

via China | Laser Weapons.

Making a blinding weapon is a challenge, but it’s not rocket surgery. Turns out that the Chinese, capable rocket surgeons that they are, have made quite a few different versions of them, and have been promoting them at international trade shows for years.

This one also has a name that suggests a treaty violation: BBQ-905 Laser Dazzler

This one also has a name that suggests a treaty violation: BBQ-905 Laser Dazzler

The Price of Expeditionary Potential: Ranger Dies in Live-Fire Exercise

Andrew Aimesbury official photoThis one strikes close to home. This young man was from a few miles from stately Hog Manor, and at 21 he was a tabbed, combat experienced Ranger leader… a man at the top of one craft with several pathways to greatness ahead of him. But all that potential greatness never came to pass, because young Andrew Aimesbury got whacked in a training accident.

It’s a risky business, folks. He planned and rehearsed the live fire with his team and the rest of the guys, and something went wrong, and now he’s 21 forever.

May God have mercy on his soul.

Cpl. Andrew A. Aimesbury, a Strafford native and Dover High School graduate who died Wednesday after suffering injuries in a live-fire exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga.

Aimesbury, 21, was seriously wounded during the exercise and airlifted to a treatment facility where he died from his injuries, the Army said.

The Army has released few details about how Aimesbury was injured. A spokesman said only that the incident is being investigated.

Aimesbury was a Ranger team leader assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia.

“Cpl. Andrew Aimesbury was an exceptional Ranger leader and an extraordinary man. He was universally liked throughout the battalion for his competence as a warrior and his caring nature. This tragic event has affected us all and our hearts break for his family. Cpl. Aimesbury will always be a member of 1st Ranger Battalion and his memory will make all of us better men,” Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, commander of 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, said in the press release.

Aimesbury is survived by his parents, Carl and Karen Aimesbury, and his sister, Abigail, all from Somersworth.

via NH Army Ranger dies after injuries suffered in live-fire exercise | New Hampshire.

Like we said, this strikes close to home. Somersworth is close enough to home for the Blogbrother’s family to own property there; it’s a working class old mill town full of salt of the earth Americans, and we’d bet any amount that Andrew’s family are like that.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

That verse, everyone remembers. They were the quatrain of Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen that Binyon wrote first. He was a marvelously talented and notably hard-working poet, despite being the Poet Laureate of England, and yet these lines came to him with little effort. As if they came from some supernatural source.

Here is the closing of the poem, We think that, although less well-known, the closing is also powerful.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Stand easy, Ranger. Your name is now inscribed on the Regimental Roll of Honor for all time; your star will be bright when we are dust.