Monthly Archives: February 2012

A New Kalashnikov: AK-12

The AK-12 rifle with the 60(?) round 4-column mag. Image: Russia Today

One of the earliest stories this blog covered was the Russian Ministry of Defense’s cancellation of further AK purchases. They made a bunch of noises about the obsolescence of the old anvil; we thought at the time that it was posturing for budgetary reasons (bet that never happened in Uncle Joe’s day, when the AK was new). The factory that makes the AK-74, Izmash, didn’t take this lying down, and according to Russia Today has introduced a new version. The AK-12 (for 2012; the AK-74 was adopted in 1974 and its forerunner in 1947) seems to borrow from Western practice: it has a burst mode, and what appear to be Picatinny rails for optics, although they may be a Russian variation of the same concept. The stock both slides (for adjustment) and folds (for compactness). The bolt carrier looks different, with its charging handle about 30mm further forward; it’s unknown whether this means the gas system has changed.

They promise greater accuracy and modularity:

The new weapon is as reliable as the AK-74, the Izmash factory CEO Maksim Kuzyuk says (We believe he’s the guy standing behind the rifle in the photo above – Eds.), but the dynamic characteristics differ significantly. It considerably increases the accuracy of shooting. The rifle is capable of firing in three modes: single shot, three shots and automatic fire mode.

Also, AK-12 is capable of using magazines of various types and capacity.

The basic feature of the new rifle is its modularity. It will serve as a basic platform for designing of over 20 modifications of small-arms weapons of various purpose and calibre.

via Kalashnikov 5: Brand-new AK-12 rifle unveiled (VIDEO, PHOTOS) — RT.

As far as the promise of more accuracy is concerned, one thing that will help is the AK-12’s longer sighting radius. Its foresight remains mounted on a front sight tower behind the muzzle device, but its rearsight is moved to the rear of the receiver cover, in Valmet/Galil style.  The rearsight remains a an open sight with a ballistic ramp for range adjustment, conceptually unchanged since Mosin-Nagant days.

The "bulbous-AKSU" type compensator. Image: Russia Today

Returning to the muzzle device, there are at least two types: a bulbous compensator reminiscent of a cross between the AKSU comp and the XM177 moderator, and a slender AK-74-like muzzle brake that’s has two open ports on the sides.

Another boost in aimed fire comes from the Russians’ late-but-not-never adoption of semiautomatic as the first click off safe. The rotating, ambidextrous thumb safety goes from safe (with the thumb safety to the rear) to 1 to 3 (for three-round burst capacity) to “AB” which is Cyrilic for “avtomatickiy” or automatic. Cyclic rate appears very high.

The rails, which can be used for optics, a grenade launcher, or other accessories, are found on the receiver cover, the cover over the gas tube, and both sides and bottom of the forend. Plastic covers cover the forend rails when not in use. It’s impossible to tell from the photos released to date whether the receiver cover lifts off, or is hinged like in an AKSU (Krinkov).

AK-12 selector. It's on Automatic, Safe is at the other end. Image: Russia Today

No word on caliber, and multiple calibers are promised for the future, but the core design is probably Russia’s standard 5.45mm. One magazine shown with the new rifle is thick and suggests a four-stack deaign, like the Suomi 50-round box (a magazine well known to Russian designers) or the new Surefire 60- and 100-round AR magazines. Magazine release is ambidextrous paddle-and-pushbutton.

The Russia Today story has more detail, more photos, and a brief video (including factory production video, and some range shooting, including a brief shot of a US M16A1) which can be streamed or downloaded.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Brownell’s

The problem with regular features is this: you have to remember to do them regularly.

We almost missed this one, and so we’re sending, in haste, a website we visit nearly daily: Brownell’s.

Brownell’s is our first stop for gunsmithing tools. Even if we learn of something elsewhere, we’ll often go to Brownell’s to buy it. They say they’re the “”. While we’re not sure we but that (what’s Numrich, chopped liver?). It’s also got complete kits, if you want to take on new tasks like anodizing at home.

The satellite site, AR Builder, is also a good one, especially for all of your AR-building Walter Mittys out there. You can design the gun of your dreams, or dial your needs back to the gun you can afford — and order the parts right from Brownell’s. What could be cooler than that?

While there’s a lot of fun to be had just using guns, it’s very rewarding to build your own. Of course, Brownell’s also has all the stuff you need for maintenance and cleaning, and things like magazine.

It also pays to keep an eye on Brownell’s sales. That’s a great way to save money, especially on stuff you wanted to order anyway.

Stolen Valor faces the Supreme Court

If you read this blog, you know that phony soldiers, like John Giduck, are everywhere. Phonies use their claims to advance themselves one way or another, but many people –especially lawyers and media types — see this kind of lying as no big deal, and laws criminalizing it as First Amendment violations.

The Associated Press, always a soft touch for a fake veteran and a relentless promoter of phony heroism and atrocity stories, is in the strange position of participating in the case (as an amicus curiae) while supposedly reporting “objectively” on it. Yeahhhhh…. riiiiight. But even the AP, heck, even the guy’s own lawyers, admit that the guy before the USSC is a scumbag:

Even Alvarez’ lawyers acknowledged their client sometimes has trouble telling the truth. “Xavier Alvarez lied,” they declare in the first sentence of their Supreme Court brief and go on to recount six separate lies in the next few lines.

He lied when he claimed he played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, married a Mexican starlet who made paparazzi swoon, was an engineer, rescued the American ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis and was shot when he went back for the U.S. flag. Alvarez also lied, they said, when he talked about his military service.

via High court examines lying about military exploits EarthLink – U.S. News.

Their point is that lying is no big deal, that everybody lies about everything (it’s understandable why reporters and lawyers believe that) and that there should be no consequences for lying. And that if the courts ban lying about a military record, what speech will they ban next?

Several lower courts have overturned the law and the best-informed obeservers seem to think that the Supreme Court will, too. The bottom line is that the sort of people who become judges have different values from, and no respect for, the sort of people who become veterans. There’s almost no intersection between the two sets today.

It’s worth noting that the mythical case where the phony merely lies and gets no benefit from his lies doesn’t exist in the real world. Every one of these guys we’ve ever seen has been cashing in on his fraud somehow, as Giduck has done with his seminars and books. Even though Alvarez’s lawyers brazenly claimed that he gained nothing by his serial fabrications, in fact, he gained elective office. (Yeah, his lawyers are lying, but they say that should be OK. After all, it’s what lawyers do).

While the reporter does not seem to get why vets get wound up about this, and hews to the AP party line that “it’s just a little fibbing”, his story is worth reading for the interesting tale of how the law came to pass in the first place. It started with a woman who went back to school at 40 and wrote a term paper for her political science class — really.

Beretta M9 Hands On Part 3: Maintain the Gun

This is the third step in your journey to get the most from a Beretta M9 or M92 series weapon. The five parts of the series are (with the past ones linked for you, in case you’re playing catch-up):

  1. Embrace the gun
  2. Understand the gun
  3. Maintain the gun
  4. Master the basics
  5. Master the gun
Monday, you were advised to Embrace the Gun; yesterday, to Understand it. Today we look at how to Maintain the Gun.

Maintain the gun

There’s a famous old saying, “only accurate guns are interesting.” Only working guns are useful, and maintenance ensures your gun will be useful when it alone stands between you and eternity. Fortunately, a Beretta is well designed, well protected from structural corrosion, with a chrome bore and chamber and good anticorrosion coatings. You don’t need to do much to maintain it. (You could probably get away with throwing it in a drawer for ten years and it would still work, but that’s a hell of a gamble to take. Not recommended!)

Inspections

You should visually inspect the pistol overall every time you take it and strap it on, and every time you put it away. This is analogous to a pilot’s preflight inspection. You know what right looks like from your familiarity with the weapon; look for anything out of the ordinary. Pay special attention to the locking recesses in the slide, through which you can glimpse the locking block ears. Are they OK? Do the sights look like they’re still in the right place? Is the weapon loaded properly for where it’s going? (mag and chamber if you’re carrying, ditto if you’re positioning for home defense — assuming kids can’t get it — and empty if you’re storing it).

You should inspect the pistol thoroughly when it’s disassembled. This is like the 100-hour or stage checks they do on airplanes — it’s a lot more detailed than the  Look for unusual wear patterns, anything broken, or hairline cracks.

You should thoroughly inspect a weapon that you are considering buying used, including under a magnifying glass. This is like an annual or pre-purchase inspection on an airplane. Pay particular attention to the stress areas where the locking block engages the slide (both slide side and block side). There’s no need to worry about the area where the underside of the block engages the steel bumper in the receiver.

Look at the condition of the barrel. Normally, you shouldn’t need to headspace-check or check the muzzle or throat erosion — there are gages for this, but unless you’re going to fire 40,000 rounds out of the thing, immerse it in salt water for long periods, or swap critical parts with abandon, you should never need them. But give a gun that will be new to your locker a thorough going-over, under magnification.

Know how to do a function check — safety, and semiauto function — and do one from time to time.

Along with the knowledge that your weapon is safe and solid to fire, frequent and systematic inspections increase your bond with the weapon and move you along towards mastery.

Preventive Maintenance

Nothing special is needed for PM for the Beretta beyond the inspections, unless you have a very heavy firing cycle. Whether you do or don’t, for any weapon it’s a good idea to maintain a logbook recording shots, groups, and especially malfunctions. You don’t need anything fancy to do this — a little green pocket notebook is perfectly OK. If your malfunction profile changes, you might need to consider repairing or replacing parts ahead of time.

To be absolutely sure, you can replace critical stressed items (barrel, slide, and locking block, most importantly the locking block) at a specific round count, say 5,000 or 10,000 rounds. (Most private users will never fire 5,000 rounds from a centerfire pistol). In the late 1980s, the Army was replacing slides at 3,000 rounds, which is — in most cases — overkill. Except for the early weapons, the bulk of M9s are designed to fail in a safe mode if the slide fails. If you do replace the block, it’s a good idea to replace the slide also, otherwise you’d be putting a fresh part against a worn one, producing faster-than-expected failure.

Magazines

The Berettas supplied under the contract to USG were shipped either without a magazine or with one magazine, and a contract for magazines was let separately. Contract magazine suppliers have included Mec-Gar, Check-Mate and Airtronic; in addition, unit arms rooms often contain mags bought commercially, from Triple K or Mec-Gar. Mec-Gar is the Italian firm which supplies the magazines to Beretta in the first place. GI magazines tend to have a heavy black parkerized finish, a finish that feels rough to the touch. These mags, especially the Check-Mate production ones,  have acquired a bad reputation in the field. Current production mags from Airtronic have a dark plated and dry-lubed finish that is smooth to the touch.

Taurus magazines may be modified to fit the Beretta, but in most cases that is not necessary as magazines are plentiful and cheap. The measure of a magazine, though, is this: does it work? So do what you should be doing with rifle magazines. Label each one with a number (on the body and baseplate, light colored Sharpie works) and keep a running log of malfunctions. If any of them appears to be a problem child, see if an examination will tell you why. Use that magnifying glass.

Do not do what most people do and keep a mag that doesn’t feed with your practice or defense loads in your defense mag rotation. Do not take counsel of the fact that it came with the gun or cost $50 (that’s what economists call a “sunk cost.” It’s gone now, regardless). That’s why you numbered your mags, so you can see who the problem child is. It’s OK to keep a bad mag in your training rotation. Have a friend mix up the mags so that you don’t know where the bad one is when you’re ptacticing… three-mag Monte style. But leave it in your range bag for next time. Color coding works for some people but “bad mag” in Sharpie is unambiguous.

The Sharpie is also good for, after thirty guys have shot the same gun on a range, finding your own mags. If OPSEC is a concern, use a code or a symbol. Think of it as branding your dogies so they don’t get rustled.

Dropping a magazine on a concrete range floor will do it no good, especially if it lands on the feed lips.Bent feed lips are often a cause of malfunctions, especially double-feeds and failures to feed (where the round jams nose-first into the magazine instead of tracking into the chamber). You can bend the lips straight but we recommend that you do not ever trust that mag again. This is an exception to the main rule: know magazines by their performance. Performance yes, but history too. If it’s let you down once, it becomes a range-bag mag, not a go-to-war mag.

Improvements

The two most common improvements are a trigger job, and spring changes including altering the recoil spring weight. Wolff sells an entire set of springs. In most cases, they are not necessary (it’s nice to have the Wolff spring set if you are fitting a suppressor, however, to tune the system for the added recoiling mass). The steel trigger used in most 92s and M9s can be improved by a smith. The recent plastic trigger, not. We have been told that the older trigger does not retrofit into the new guns, but we’ll try it and get back to you.

Spare Parts

The most important spare part to have on hand is a barrel with locking block (they come together). Locking block failure is very unlikely, but its consequences are very severe: if it happens to you, you’ve got an awkward club instead of a precision firearm. Spring sets are commonly held, but seldom needed. We keep trigger-group parts, but have seldom needed them.  There are surplus slides available on GunBroker and in gun shows, but they tend to be military surplus or police surplus and come to you with an unknown round count.

One thing you might want to think about, even if you have no desire to own a suppressor now, is a threaded barrel. What if you change your mind in ten years, but the Beretta is less popular and the threaded barrels are hard to find and very expensive? If you think you might ever want it, now is the time to salt one away. And if you do that, get the Wolff spring set.

With those few parts, and a lot of ammo, you’re prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. Head shots.

Tomorrow: before you master the gun, you must Master the Basics.

Tennessee college, cops, panic over movie prop

Khyber Pass knock off of an obsolete Enfield. The rifle in this case was a genuine one.

No good deed goes unpunished — at least, not in Tennessee.  A comedy of errors landed an East Tennessee student in legal hot water, and has one of the college’s administrators swearing to throw her out of school?

So what did Brittany Shope do? She lent a rifle — a beaten-up old Enfield, of World War One vintage — to a friend who was making a student film. After getting his shot (no pun intended), he brought the gun to Brittany’s office to give it back to her.

But Brittany’s office was in the school newspaper — on campus. She tossed the rifle in the back of her office, meaning to take it off campus on a weekend, when it wouldn’t alarm people. Bshe’d already quit, before she remembered the old rifle again.  So on the 10th of February, she texted someone whom she had mistaken for a friend at the paper, Amanda Milstead.

“About three weeks ago, some guy came to the East Tennessean office … and I saw this guy hand a gun to Brittany [Shope], and he said he had been using it to shoot a movie. [Shope] said she was going to take it [the rifle] home with her that night,” said Milstead in a statement to public safety.

The police were able to contact Shope later that evening. Shope was charged with carrying or possession of a weapon on school property, and was scheduled for arraignment on Monday.

The campus mall-ninjas (20 cops, 7 dispatchers, and a bunch of Sexurity Guards, Night Patrol Officers and  meter maids, it says here) and the administration are pleased as punch they’ve secured this deadly weapon of war, which was sending out bad vibes from its resting place in Brittany’s old cubicle. It makes up for their dismal performance on the campus’s rapes, assaults and burglaries, most of which go unsolved.

“Any situation involving a weapon on campus will be investigated by the campus police,” said Dr. Joe Sherlin, vice provost for student affairs. “A student who has a dangerous weapon on the campus is subject to arrest and criminal charges. In addition, the student is subject to a university disciplinary review.”

via Rifle used in film found in student office – News – East Tennessean.

You know, in an awful lot of the world, including just about all of the United States, ownership of a firearm, especially a rusty old rifle, without actually hurting anyone with it, is not only not a crime, it isn’t even worth noticing. What’s in the water at East Tennessee State University?

ETSU Logo. A similar Army acronym of the 80s parsed as: "Eat This $#!+ Up". Source: ETSU Website.

I mean, Barney Fife would have known to pick up the rifle, bring it to the owner, and tell her it’s forbidden on campus, don’t bring it back or you get in trouble. That didn’t seem to occur to the ETSU “Public Safety” mall ninjas.

It’s hard to figure out who’s the bigger bozo here — one is tempted to go with the campus cops, just because campus cops tend to come from the lower left corner of the law enforcement bell curve. These guys will be giving each other medals over this “dangerous weapon” all year. Or Brittany, for assuming that a campus journalist wouldn’t be a gun-fearing wussy. Or the various mentors and advisors and faculty members who threw their panic into the pot. Or maybe “Dr” Joe Sherlin (if he can’t practice medicine, he’s Mr, and if it’s an Ed.D he reads and writes at high school level). After all, those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t even teach — well, the world of administration is open to you.

No, the biggest bozos are the parents who are letting their kids be exposed to this environment. East Tennessee State University can’t be the worst in the nation, but if this is how they roll, you’re not coming out any less dumb than you went in — at best.

Want a Genuine CAR-15?

Here’s a blast from the past, or perhaps we should say, a blaster from the past. Here’s a weapon for sale, at GunBroker naturally, that stands at the nexus of history. The CAR-15 was developed for Special Forces and served with SOG, on the A-Teams, and on the Son Tay Raid, among other historic operations. It is the ancestor, the grand-daddy if you will, of all today’s AR carbines, from the issue M4A1 to the HK416 and beyond.

Sometimes GunBroker descriptions are a little off, because not every seller is an expert in the guns he owns, but this one is quite accurate:

This is a very Rare COLT Model 639 stamped on the receiver with the short 11 1/2″ barrel, moderator/flash hider must also be transferred, original collapsible telescoping butt stock, and forward assist please refer to SAR Vol.1, No.7, P.34-April 1998. This model was the end of the CAR-15 program. The XM177E2 was issued to the Vietnam MAC-SOG teams in late 1967, early 1968. The model 639 was the commercial version. This original CAR and Moderator are in Excellent Plus Condition and are each transferable on a Form 3. Price: $22,000 plus shipping.

via COLT MODEL 639 COMMERCIAL XM177E2 : Machine Guns at GunBroker.com.

What makes this admittedly rare and historic gun worth $22,000… plus two $200 transfer taxes, and for that he won’t even eat the shipping? Two things, rarity and government distortion of the market. Second point first.

In 1986, the NRA’s Elmer Fudds cut a dope deal with the anti-gun politicians that controlled both houses of Congress. The resulting McClure-Volkmer law banned most future registrations of legal machine guns, in return for clarifying a couple points about what the NRA, McClure, Volkmer and most Senators and Congressmen agreed was a limited and revocable grant of gun ownership as a privilege from the Federal government. The anti-gun pols got the A ratings the NRA gives to most incumbents, the NRA got some fundraising talking points, the regular gun owners got nothing special, and the MG community went under the bus.

(There has only once been a murder committed with a registered machine gun. The owner, and murderer, was a policeman).

So since 1986, while the demand curve has risen (more shooters, and more of them getting interested in Class III weapons) the supply curve has slightly declined. So there are many buyers chasing very few original CAR-15s.

But even if the Hughes Amendment to McClure Volkmer, the line banning new machine guns, were repealed tomorrow (unlikely), the supply and demand equation for this CAR-15 wouldn’t shift much. Such a repeal would scare the hell out of Class III dealers who have many thousands and even millions invested in rare inventory, but rare weapons like this CAR-15, a 1921 or 28 Thompson, or an MG42 would continue to appreciate. Look at what non-Class-III weapons of similar historic impact and rarity have done.

This commercial CAR-15 is a close cousin of the weapons taken on the Son Tay Raid, which were also commercial CAR-15s (although without a forward assist). It is a time capsule from 1968-69, which seems like yesterday, but wasn’t really: an imported car was a Beetle, the top recording act was the Beatles, Elvis was making a comeback, and the Cadillacs he liked were still a prestige nameplate, not a badge-engineered Chevy.  There were up to three television stations in your city, there was only one Telephone Company, and the only computers that interfaced over long distances ran national air defense, which deployed hundreds of manned interceptor planes against an expected attack of hundreds of nuclear bombers. Some folks were pushing the envekope to say “Hell” and “Damn” in the movies, but you wouldn’t say it around women
. Tricky Dick was president, and Vietnamization was the word of the day. The sons of the guys whose Army career started that year are ready to retire from their own Army careers. It was a while ago.

In fact, the value of this weapon comes almost entirely from its historical position in the CAR-15 program and as the highest embodiment of the ur-carbine that fostered all carbines. It’s unlikely a new owner will shoot it much, or at all, just the same way that legendary designer and car collector Ralph Lauren does not  frequently take his Bugatti Atlantic for a spin. Yet our laws persist in treating this arm as if it is most desired for its practical use. Curious.

An modern, exact copy of this CAR-15 is not economically possible today. The rare and complicated Moderator is no longer made (I understand that this replica has internal differences) and the vinyl-acetate coating on the buttstock was produced by an industrial process that is now banned by OSHA. But even if copies were — and something close could probably be sold for several thousand dollars — the ATF would not let you build one. And while people tend to blame the ATF, the agency only has power to enforce and administer the laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.

Beretta M9 Hands On Part 2: Understand the Gun

This is the second step in your journey to get the most from a Beretta M9 or M92 series weapon. We’ve divided the series into five digestible parts, and yesterday started you off. Our guide to the Beretta, think of him like your Virgil in Dante’s Divine Comedy, begins in the Inferno of ignorance and leads you on through five steps of Purgatorio to true Beretta Mastery.

  1. Embrace the gun
  2. Understand the gun
  3. Maintain the gun
  4. Master the basics
  5. Master the gun
Yesterday, you were advised to Embrace the Gun. So you are now feeling at least some affection towards the inanimate object with which you are now bonded, and whether you’re head-ovet-heels in irrational gun-love, or resigned to an arranged marriage for the sake of the family, we’re ready to move on and Understand the Gun.

Understand the gun

You can take a few steps towards understanding a gun by reading about it and looking at picture. That puts things in your conscious memory, some of which you might need and others that are easily derived by looking at the weapon. (“Hmm, the last sighting hole in the magazine is numbered 15, I guess if I see brass I have fifteen rounds and the mag is loaded.”) But shooting is a physical, not cerebral act. Not to disparage knowledge per se — it’s important, but it only takes you half way.

You need to energize not only your thinking brain but also your reacting brain, and the attached reflex mode of the nervous system. That only begins with the tactile sense of the gun: holding it, holstering and unholstering, disassembling it, working the sights. Understand how the safety works.  Understand it in your fingertips as well as in your head. Know the failure modes and immediate action for them.

Can you do a function check in the dark, or without looking at the weapon, with perfect confidence? Can you run your fingers over it and know a round is chambered and it’s ready to fire, without taking your eyes off the threat? Can you disassemble it and assemble it when you can’t see your hand in front of your face? (You will never disassemble it during a fight, but it’s part of building confidence with and knowledge of the weapon.

How fast can you field-strip and reassemble the gun? Can you do it faster than your buddy? Loser buys first round (whether that’s a round of beer or ammo is up to you. Both at once: not recommended).

And understand how it looks, feels, and smells when you fire it. Know how long it takes you to get off one shot, and two shots with a full recovery from recoil in between. Know how to handle it in your weak hand (what if there’s a burglar downstairs and your shooting hand is still in a cast from an accident?)

Tomorrow, we Maintain the Gun.

And understand its performance. Know what the bullets will do in the places you are likely to shoot it, and know what they’ll do — and what they won’t do — to a human assailant. Above all, know where the bullets go. Know how your gun prints on the target at every engagement range. (When you’re learning the gun, you get smarter faster shooting at bull’s-eye targets than man-shaped targets. You can change once you’re shooting tight groups into the bull’s-eye. The Marines, who alone among the services make a cult of marksmanship, shoot at bull’s-eyes and it doesn’t seem to stop them defending themselves). Know what it’s like to fire in all weathers and lighting conditions. If you have a laser, be ready to shoot with and without it. Don’t make it a crutch you need to stand on your own, make it a force multiplier of your lethality without it.

Finally, to bring you back to the cerebral realm, know your round and its performance from your gun. Before you have systematic, concrete information on your round in your gun, consider Chuck Hawks’s ballistics chart, and look at where your round is likely to print. Remember, that’s computer-modeled data for the most part, and can’t match knowledge you gain for yourself. But it can give you some basic data when you don’t have any, data to be confirmed or contradicted by experience once you get some.

Jeepers, we almost missed it: National Handcuff Day

Peerless Model 1 cuffs made by Smith & Wesson. Image: handcuffs.org

As anyone who’s ever stuffed a suspect in the back of a squad car, or been stuffed in the back of a squad car, knows, handcuffs are an essential part of police hardware. (In the Army, now, we just used plastic electricians’ zip ties, which we dignified with the term “flexcuffs,” but they were really just zip ties sold to the government at an outragrous mark-up by some entrepreneur.

But some people who are not presently involved in squad-car-stuffing on either team still manage to take handcuffs seriously. Those would include the members of the National Handcuff Council, which we envision as comprising mostly hot chicks in latex unmentionables. (Please don’t burst our bubble, NHC!). The NHC celebrates, and so should we all, National Handcuff Day on February 20th.  They claim rational reasons:

February 20th was chosen because it is the birthday of the modern handcuff. It’s on that date in 1912 that the US Patent office issued patent 1,017,955 to George A. Carney for a “swinging bow ratchet – type” adjustable handcuff. Before that handcuffs were heavy and bulky and there was no standard style. Carney’s design was always ready and was light weight compared to older models. Since that patent, most modern handcuffs around the world have been made with the same swing through design, with minor modifications. The Carney Patent was bought by The Peerless Handcuff Company of Springfield, Mass., and the first models were manufactured for them by Smith & Wesson.

via National Handcuff Day.

The Council points out that hndcuffs are used in law enforcement and corrections, are collected for their history and lore, and are even necessary to the acts of a whole class of entertainers — escape artists. (Heh. You were thinking about those chicks in latex again, weren’t you?)

There’s even a handcuff quiz, which we did rather poorly on (must have been those mental images), that enters one in a contest for a vintage pair of Peerless cuffs. Supply your own girl. Alas, we did not learn of National Handcuff Day on a timely enough basis to get you all swotting up on cuffs in time to ace the quiz, but we have marked National Handcuff Day on our calendar for 2013.

One of the sponsors of National Handcuff Day is Handcuffs.org, which is described as “the largest online handcuff enthusiast community.” Well, we went and looked, and if any of them are hot, female, and latex-clad it, er, escaped us. No pun intended. But if you’re curious about handcuffs, they’ve got the answers.

 

Pakistan and Bin Laden

Not many people pay attention to Pakistan, and not many who do understand the country. We’re not sure we do: much like the USA, it’s a complicated land of many ethnicities, competing interests, and divergent power bases that find themselves at odds. But the analogy to the USA does not hold up well: the rule of law and ordinary education are weak and thready in the state.

Pakistan was borne in violence, in Jinnah’s violent Partition from India and the brutal ethnic and religious cleansing that followed. The military is the power that at various times in the nation’s unhappy history has been behind, beside, or upon the throne, and it is the only institution that unites the various ethnic groups. Islam, the ostensible unifying force, divides as much as it unites. Apostasy charges and heretic hunts are common, with violence following suit.

With loyalty to family, clan, ethnicity and sect stronger than loyalty to nation or even religion-writ-large, corruption is everywhere. Most Pakistanis are quite decent people, but in the absence of the normal institutions of civilization to contain monopoly power under the rule of law, they naturally have to look out for themselves and their blood before being their brothers’ keepers.

So here comes the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, with a reported blog post riffing off David Ignatius’s shocking report that gambling was going on in this establishment the ISI can’t figure out who was protecting Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistan Army cantonment town of Abbotabad.

Part of the reason the commission may be late in releasing its findings is that it has spent a great deal of time investigating Pakistanis accused of aiding the Americans in their raid on Abbottabad, rather than on finding out who was hiding Bin Laden. A prime target of this witchhunt has been the now-former Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, who stood accused of issuing visas to American intelligence and military personnel.

Haqqani, you’ll remember, was the ambassador who lost his job when he stood accused of conspiring against the Pakistani military…. Mansoor Ijaz… alleged that Haqqani wrote a memo seeking help from the Pentagon to prevent a Pakistani military coup. If he did, of course, this would make him a Pakistani patriot, not a traitor….

via Pakistan Can’t Seem to Figure Out Why Bin Laden Was Hiding in Abbottabad – Jeffrey Goldberg – International – The Atlantic.

Osama's Hideout. Click to Enlarge. Source: CIA

Pakistanis, as Goldberg hints, are much more upset that the US whacked bin Laden than they are that their own government sheltered him. Support for terrorism is popular here; the Bombay small-arms attacks were widely celebrated. They were perpetrated by the “Kashmiri terrorist group” Lashkar-i Taiba, an outfit that has no independent existence, and is not merely sponsored, but is a controlled cat’s-paw of the ISI.

Ignatius, for his part, finds no smoking guns but turns up enough clues that you don’t have to be a TV detective to wrap this one up in time for the commercial break. The buried lede of his story — found and made headline by an Indian paper, which has no love for Pakistan —  is that features of the compound where Osama holed up, presumably its security features, were designed by an architect on the ISI payroll. But the general thrust of Ignatius’s piece seems to be that the Paks have figured out, but don’t dare say,  that former dictator Pervez Musharraf and all levels of the Pakistani establishment were protecting bin Laden.

One fact the ISI investigation seems to have secured, at least according to Ignatius, is that the longstanding rumors that Osama bin Laden was suffering from kidney failure and required dialysis were false and seem to have originated in the Pakistani government.

Wanted Poster. Source: FBI

Now, Americans can’t be too terribly dismissive about the Pakistanis’ corruption and dysfunctionality: we’re the country that shipped at least 2,000 and perhaps as many as 10,000 modern rifles (partly, at least, paid for by those chumps, the taxpayers, through the FBI and ATF) to Mexican insurgent drug-trafficking organizations. Like the ISI’s spastic support of Afghan and international terrorists, this was apparently done at an uncertainly high level of the security services for its effects on domestic politics.But still, we might want to think hard about the billions we’ve been sending to our supposed “ally.”  Among other things, it’s freed this irresponsible government to sponsor international terrorism, and to build its nuclear arsenal. Childish government, nuclear weapons. Not good.

SF guy cleared of C-4 charges

It isn’t completely official, yet, but Trey Atwater, the SF NCO who was arrested in Texas while trying to board a plane with his family, has been cleared of criminal charges for attempting to smuggle explosives.

SFC Atwater needed an extra bag for a family trip from the Fayetteville area to Texas, and grabbed a bag he’d used in Afghanistan. At the Fayetteville airport, the TSA found a harmless, but prohibited, smoke grenade in the bag, and Atwater sheephisly let them take and destroy it. He then assumed that, since they’d checked the bag, it had to be OK, right? Wrong. On the way back, another batch of TSA geniuses found the C-4 high explosive block (manufacturer photo, left) that the first batch missed. As the Odessa, Texas paper reported:

Atwater, 30, was originally arrested and charged with one count of attempting to board an aircraft with explosives on or about his person after he was stopped Dec. 31 at Midland International Airport with two 2.5-pound blocks of the military-grade explosives lodged between padding in the lumbar area of the backpack he was carrying.

Atwater and his family were attempting to board American Eagle flight 3283 to fly back home to Hope Mills, N.C., after visiting family in Midland when federal agents found the explosives and evacuated the Midland airport.

via Motion to dismiss charges against C-4 soldier | charges, dismiss, motion – BREAKING – Odessa American Online.

Now, it’s not signed, sealed and delivered officially yet, but it looks like Trey can stop sweating and get on with actually doing what the TSA can’t, taking part in the preparation for and execution of the war on terrorists. He’ll probably receive some kind of nastygram in his file from his chain of command, for violating the overarching SF rule D2S2, but when he was looking at the possibility of many Christmases in Club Fed, he – and his wife and kids — must be very relieved right now.