Monthly Archives: August 2012

W4: Hamada and Son

Hamada & Son Limited, of Tokyo, Japan, is the answer to a question we asked a while ago, and there will soon (within the next day or two, certainly) be a post about that.

In the meantime, we thought the website was fun to explore — being innocent of the ability to read a single character of Kata or Kanji — given the firm’s interesting history as a gun dealer under the Empire, the Occupation, and the current democratic system. Japanese gun laws are strict, and military collectors don’t seem to be any part of Hamada’s business these days, but their ornate shotguns and selection of used rifles and shotguns suggest that the upper crust of Japanese sportsmen shop here.

The weapon we feature here is something from their used rack. Did you recognize it at first glance? It’s an M1 Carbine, modified for sporting purposes.  And here’s also something new — a W.W. Greener shotgun.

If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. But you can always go to Hamada & Son’s website and look at it to your heart;s content.

Blaster from the Past

Joshua Nieves of sleepy Greenland, NH, isn’t going to be home for a while. The local police, working with agents of ATF, bagged him with a true blaster from the past: an Ingram MAC-11 submachine gun.

Portsmouth, NH police captain Corey MacDonald, called in from vacation to help the dragnet, found Nieves hiding in his car. Backup came quickly and Nieves surrendered without a shot. Seacoast Online reports:

Police from the responding agencies were then deployed to Gosling Meadows where Nieves was taken into custody without incident, said DuBois. In the car with him was ammunition and a MAC-11 machine gun that was loaded and “ready to go,” DuBois said.

That weapon, according to the police chief, fires 20 to 30 rounds rapidly with a single trigger pull, but becomes less accurate with each shot because of its light weight. DuBois said a special permit is required to possess that weapon, which is typically owned by collectors and dealers, “not someone looking for a place to sleep in Gosling Meadows for the night.”

File photo of MAC-11-9 with a factory suppressor. It’ unclear whether Nieves had this 9mm model or the earlier MAC-11 .380 version He was not reported to have had a suppresor.

For a cop, who’s not expected to be a weapons man, the description of the Ingram isn’t wildly off the mark, and so is his description of who legally owns most machine guns and other Class III weapons. Not perfect, but we’ve seen far worse, and we’ve noted in the past that this tiny little regional newspaper chain (the anchor city, Portsmouth NH, has a population oonly  ——- and nearby towns like Greenland, Rye and Exetsr are much smaller) does an excellent job of shoe-leather reporting.

The Ingram’s heyday was in the 1970s, and it and its designed-alongside MAC/Sionics suppressor were a staple of 1980 crime movies. The weapon’s bigger brother, the MAC-10,  had a shorter, and less Hollywood, career in special mission units before being replaced by better shoulder-weapon options.

Thing is, it never was much besides a high-speed high-volume bullet hose, and even with the suppressor didn’t fit any military niche very well. Police departments didn’t buy it; something about it made them recoil. But, like many blowback-operated pistol-caliver SMGs, there wasn’t a lot to it, and it was easily cloned in underground shops or converted from semi-auto knockoffs (themselves made popylar by the movies’ use of Ingrams).

Source: Felon with machine gun arrested in Gosling meadows, say police |

Update: we’ve since learnt that prior to his capture, Nieves told several folks that he wasn’t going to be taken alive, and that a local dope dealer who killed a cop and wounded four others was his inspiration, but, “I woulda shot more cops.” When it came right down to it, he wasn’t as brave as he said he’d be… fortunately (for everybody but him… and we’re finding it really hard to be concerned about him).

USS Constitution Technical Follow-Up

After posting the story on the technology of USS Constitution on Tuesday, we were pleased to discover (if slightly frustrated by the timing) a technical paper on the design of the ship, published in 1997 and explaining both Joshua Humphreys’s original design criteria and decisions, but also how the rebuilders successfully restored Humphreys’s vision during the then-recently concluded two-plus-year drydock period. Here’s an excerpt.

As history can attest, Constitution represents a successful design. Joshua Humphreys, the designer of the Navy’s first six frigates, that included Constitution, had two criteria to satisfy, to out gun the next rate ship and to out-sail adversaries. The solution required a never-before-built design.

The successful integration of the two design criteria demanded an innovated technical solution to the problems of strength of materials and hull design. Humphreys understood that optimization of the two criteria became mutually exclusive when building a hull. The fine entry and run required for sailing qualities and the weight of a heavy armament causes particular problems for wooden hull sailing ships. Combining the weight of the guns and the buoyancy curve of a fast sailing hull results in a force that distorts the hull. The distortion known as “hog” is the bending along the length of the keel. It is the same curve that resembles the curve of a hog’s back. With minimal buoyancy, the ends of the ship tend to drop down under the weight loads of the guns, while the center midbody, being more buoyant, rises upward. Humphreys recognized the need to stiffen the hull to resist the forces causing hogging.

From historical research, five components were identified to have been part of Constitution’s original construction.

via USS Constitution Rehabilitation And Restoration.

To discover what the five components were, how and why they’d been engineered out of the design in the intervenining centuries, and what measures were taken to engineer them back in, read the whole thing.

It will help to have some understanding of nautical terminology and woodworking techniques, for example, what keelson, joggle and bird’s mouth mean. It’s also notable that the wood that Constitution was made from — old-growth oak from hundreds-of-years-old trees — is no longer available in the sizes used in 19th Century shipbuilding, and laminated wood was substituted.

‘Do you feel lucky… punk?’

Michael Jacobs thought it was his lucky day. The door he’d kicked in, in Dora, Alabama at three o’clock in the morning, didn’t have a big, ugly guy on the other side of it — just a petite blonde and her two even smaller daughters. But as the old saying goes, “it’s the size of the fight in the dog, not the size of the dog in the fight.” Jacobs’s lucky day took on another meaning, when he didn’t die from the gunshot wound Martha Lewis left in him. It was more like, “Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

If he had gotten past the pistol-packing southern lady, he’d have had to deal with her daughters, who had also decided not to be crime victims — one had taken up a butcher knife, and the other, an axe. So it could have been a lot worse for the 25-year old criminal than it was: he wound up in stable condition in the hospital… with no parts lopped off, and the police watching over him and holding alternative lodgings open for him, when the hospital releases him.

Ms Lewis gave an interview to WVTM-TV, and The Blaze reported her story (and has video of the interview at their site). Picking up where she heard a loud noise which turned out to be Jacobs’s violent entry into her home:

Lewis said she called the police and grabbed her gun, then went to her daughters’ room and told them each to get something to defend themselves with. She said one grabbed an ax and one got a butcher knife.

They were at the top of the stairs when they saw a man standing there at the bottom.

“I knew when he stepped on the landing that I would have to shoot him,” Lewis told the station. “He starts like coming up the stairs and he said, ‘would you shoot me?‘ And I said ’I don’t want to have to but I will.”

via Alabama Woman Martha Lewis Shoots Home Intruder to Protect Herself and Her Daughters | Video |

Jacobs, in a display of poor judgment that began with the door-kicking (if not earlier), continued his advance, and Ms Lewis hauled off and drilled him one. She was glad she had the gun, which she acquired several years ago for self-protection.  She was under no illusions about the steep odds facing a small woman in a physical altercation with a large man. “There’s no way I could have fought him off,” she told the TV station.  But while God may have created man and woman in sexually dimorphic forms, Sam Colt, as the saying goes, made them all equal.

Jacobs faces an array of violent crime, property damage and drug charges, and the police have made it clear that there’s no reason for them to charge Lewis. Asked if she was hesitant to defend herself and her daughters, the feisty lady said no:

“It wasn’t like, oh can I pull the trigger? It was like when should I shoot? When will he be close enough that I know I won’t miss him? That’s one of the things that was going through my mind.”

Well played, Ms Lewis.

In fact, she did just about everything right: called police, armed herself and — as a mercifully unneeded backup — her daughters. And then, because the situation allowed it, she gave Jacobs all the verbal warning a wiser man would have needed to get hat and begone. She stood her ground — flight would have let him overtake and overcome her — and she fired without hesitation and with accuracy.

One expects she’s a celebrity in Dora (a small town in rural Walker County, population about 2,500) now, and one supposes that Mr Jacobs is, too. Perhaps he can spread the word among his new peers in prison, that sometimes a little woman just up and decides not to be a crime victim, and when that happens it’s just plain bad luck to be a criminal.

Pistol Permit Marks Students as Second Class at CU

When attorneys told him that the Colorado Supreme Court overturned Colorado University’s unilateral and universal gun ban, rumor has it that University of Colorado-Boulder Chancellor Philip DeStefano responded with a burst of profanity that shocked the attorneys, and a promise that the students who sued for their rights would be sorry.

(Boulder is CU’s main campus, most famous for phony Indian,phony scholar, and phony war hero Ward Chuchill).

And with the issuance of DeStefano’s new policy, it’s clear what he meant. He intends to trump the Colorado Supreme Court decision with one from the US Supreme Court. Plessy v. Ferguson ruled that discrimination in education is perfectly permissible, as long as the segregated groups received equal treatment. In Boulder, the gun-permit bearing students will be segregated in separate housing. It won’t be equal, exactly (in fact, at least some of it will be more expensive), but DeStefano’s lawyers are paid with unlimited quantities of taxpayer money, and he’ll happily spend every dime of their money before he dials back the discrimination that has been a hallmark of his regime.
That’s not how he puts it, of course. He, or more likely his PR team, likewise flush with tax dollars, said this:

“I believe we have taken reasonable steps to adhere to the ruling of the Colorado Supreme Court, while balancing that with the priority of providing a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano.

You can read the CU-Boulder flack’s official spin on it at via that link.

Ryan Parker and the Denver Post were not misled. Their headline nailed the policy:  CU to segregate dorms for students with… permits.

In his thoroughly-reported story, Parker recounts that both campuses (UC-Boulder and -Colorado Springs) will establish a residential ghetto for students over the age of 21 with permits. They will not be allowed entry to other dormitories.

In Boulder, the armed students will be required to live in family housing off-campus, they will be required to store their weapons in approved safes (of which exactly zero models are approved) and their numbers are capped at a quota of 50 for the convenience of the administrators.

Colorado Springs will allow a one-dorm on-campus “gun ghetto,” but will assign random roommates, and gives the roommates an absolute veto on student carry.

As an alternative, CU spokesman Bronsson Hilliard suggests that students simply store their weapons with the campus police, keeping the campus as much as possible a Victim Disarmament Zone.

Needless to day, there is some disagreement about this. Patrick O’Rourke of the UC Board of Regents says the segregation policy is lawful. His legal credibility is somewhat undermined by his saying similar things about the last two CU gun ban policies slammed down in Colorado courts. Kurt Muller of Students for Concealed Carry told Parker that “it’s not surprising that the campuses are trying to circumvent the Colorado Supreme Court ruling.”

All in all, it adds up to a Plessy v. Ferguson educational experience at CU. Or, as the memorable phrase from that landmark decision said, “separate but equal”. (With a stage wink at the equal). Of course, Plessy was decided in 1896, and was overturned almost 60 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education. 

But hey, the victim disarmers have the Supreme Court on their side. Even if it’s a long-dead, repugnantly racist Supreme Court.

We couldn’t reach Bronsson on Friday afternoon to determine what color triangles the permit-holding students will be required to sew on their outer garments.

Old Ironsides: High-tech, 1812.

Constitution makes sail. Boston Herald photo.

In 1997 we watched with awe as USS Constitution, under nearly full sail, sailed from its berth in Boston Harbor around Marblehead Neck into Marblehead Harbor, and back. The original plan was for her to go all the way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, an important Revolutionary naval and privateer port, but the transit was cut short. It was the ship’s first trip under sail in over a century, and we soon learned, it was to be her last, period: Navy engineers monitoring her ancient timbers ruled she’s just too fragile for it any more.

After all, Constitution is the oldest warship in the world that is still in commission and able to sail (HMS Victory is in commission, but permanently drydocked), manned by a selected US Navy crew and commanded by a full Commander,  invariably someone the Navy has its eye on for flag rank. Most ships her age are retired, museums, and don’t go out into even sheltered water.

Despite the nay-saying of 1997, the 215-year-old ship took sail again last weekend, although with (if we remember our nautitcal terminology) only her topsails set, with only the foretop fully set, with the main- and mizzentops partly reefed. In the light breeze, this minimal rig produced a sedate cruise of three knots, far from the pounding 11-knot speed she could make under full sail — and she did, 200 years ago to the day, in her battle with the British warship Guerriere.   The Boston Herald reports:

“To be the captain, and to be doing the same thing war-fighting captains got to do in 1812, there’s nothing I’ve done in my naval career that lived or will live up to this,” said Cdr. Matthew Bonner, the old warship’s captain.

The USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat in the world, was towed out between Deer Island and Castle Island, where she loosed the lines to the tugboats, spread canvas and sailed west for 17 minutes at about 3 knots, said Chief Petty Officer Frank Neely.

The 215-year-old ship fired a 21-gun salute toward Fort Independence on Castle Island. This is the first time the Constitution has sailed under her own power since 1997, during the warship’s 200th birthday festivities, when the ship took a longer trip up to Marblehead, the home of many of the sailors from her original crews.

via Old Ironsides struts her stuff –

Normally, she just is turned around once a year by tugs, so that she weathers evenly at her post in Boston Harbor’s Charlestown Navy Yard. There, buses of schoolkids, curious tourists, and tape-measure-bearing naval modelers and historians walk her decks daily, asking questions of her Naval crew, every member of which is selected to give the public a good impression of the sea service.

Captain (CDR) Bonner in 1813 uniform. US Navy photo.

So Bonner is right to be proud: hundreds of living men have skippered aircraft carriers, and thousands have commanded nuclear submarines, but he is one of only two men alive who commanded USS Constitution under sail.That’s really something. Constitution’s early skippers were a who’s who of the early Navy, including the Navy’s greatest hero of that period, Stephen Decatur, and the victor over Guerriere, Isaac Hull.

The battle with Guerriere was of great imporance for the United States and her fledgling Navy. Britain was the undisputed world naval power in 1812, and nothing in the world could stand up to the Royal Navy. When Constitution faced Guerriere and forced the British vessel to strike her colors (figuratively; by the time the British captain yielded, he had no more masts to fly colors from), the message was not only that the Navy’s heavy frigates, but the United States Navy and the United States itself must be taken seriously.

Constitution was the high-tech of her day, and her technological advantages helped her defeat Guerriere and the four other British ships she bested in the war of 1812. Naval Architect Joshua Humphreys designed a ship to be long and narrow (and therefore fast), yet to carry heavier-than-usual oak planking (the armor of the day; the special oak came, by ship of course, from Georgia) and heavier-than-usual guns (originally forty-four in all, a mix of ship-crushing 32-pounders and rangey 24-pounders). The combination of armor (21-inches of hull thickness), armament and speed were designed to put the ship in a sweet spot between British and other capital “ships-of-the-line”, which could not catch an American frigate, and British and other frigates, which could not beat one in a fight .

One technological advantage of Constitution was her diagonal scantlings, reinforcing frames that reduced the wooden ship’s flexing despite the great forces acting upon the hull and keel: the sea, the wind, the impact of enemy shot. Constitution’s class of six frigates introduced this innovation, which was soon copied worldwide.

Because weight of shot delivered was crucial to naval battle in the early 19th Century, captains did all they could to up-arm their ships. When Constitution met Guerriere, both were carrying extra guns:  the American 55 to her designed 44, and the Briton 49 versus 38.

This represents an upgunning of about 20 percent, which is probably the practical limit. The nunber of guns is constrained by the weight-bearing limits of the ship, and the fact that the guns must be served by ammunition and men, who must in turn be provisioned: the limited volume of a 19th Century warship forced a naval architect’s version of the aeronautical engineer’s Breguet Range Equation: adding more of one thing means something else must be left ashore.

The other way a 19th Century captain could increase the volume of fire of his ship was, of course, by better training. The muzzle-loading, smoothbore guns of 1812 had poor accuracy and a slow rate of fire. Training couldn’t do much about accuracy, but speed was subject to improvement. A well-drilled gun crew could fire three rounds to every two from a crew that had to think about each step. Drills also reduced errors by giving the men patterns of habit — muscle memory — to fall back on in times of chaos and fear.
Gunnery training in those days consisted primarily of crew drills, and discipline in both navies was harsh, corporal, and somewhat arbitrary. The Royal Navy considered itself the absolute master of this art, and its seamen were treated so inhumanly that the service could fill its ranks only by impressment, which more closely resembled violent hostage-taking than the 20th Century draft. An impressed sailor who escaped was subject to hanging as a deserter, without any such effete ceremony as a trial, if British authority ever got their fingers on him again. (Indeed, British impressment of Americans was a major casus belli in 1812, and only British defeat in the war would bring it to an end).

The ships had met the month earlier, when Constitution under Capt. Isaac Hull found herself pursued in calm winds by Guerriere and four other warships. (How did a sailing ship travel in calm winds that would not provide even steerageway? By the sheer human muscle power of her sailors. In the shallows, where this took place, they would row out ahead carrying an anchor in their boat, which they would drop at the extreme limit of the anchor chain; other seamen aboard ship would put their shoulders to the anchor capstan, pulling the ship to the anchor’s position, an act known as kedging… whereupon the rowboats would repeat the effort).

After that narrow escape in July 1812, Capt. Hull and Constitution met British Captain James R. Dacres and Guerriere again on August 19, east of the island of Nova Scotia, a British possession. The battle began with the two ships, on paper evenly matched, sailing downwiud side by side, Guerriere’s starboard broadsides answered by Constitution’s portside ones. And to the surprise of the British, the American gun crews matched them broadside for broadside. Worse, the superior technology of Constitution began to have effect, as Guerriere’s lighter 18-pound guns couldn’t penetrate the American’s hull, while Constitution’s heavy 24 and 32-pound shots holed Guerriere’s hull and shattered her rigging. Her mizzenmast (third of three masts) fell into the sea, causing her to turn sharply astarboard and slam bow-first into the rear quarter of constitution. Now the Briton’s broadside could not be brought to bear, but the American’s raked the length of the British frigate.

Disentangled, Constitution opened the distance and then crossed the T in front of the wounded Guerriere. Further gunfire from Constitution brought down the two remaining masts.  Captain Dacres did not have a flag to strike at that point, and surrendered by gun signal. The survivors of Guerriere were taken off and Hull’s officers assessed her potential as a prize. Finding her too far gone to be brought back to port, they set her afire and she burned and sank the next day.

Some parts of Constitution’s technology were purely standard for the era, but still interesting. As any boatman knows, wood has been replaced by more modern aluminum and composite construction for most pleasure boats these days, and by steel for ships. Wood is prone to many maladies, including dry and wet rot and invasion by parasites such as wood worms. In 1797, none of the new materials was at hand, but hand-hammered copper sheathing protected the wood hull from the invasion of wood-boring parasites. The initial batch of sheathing came, ironically, from Great Britain, but sheets used in early overhauls came from Paul Revere’s smithy.

Constitution’s official website is here. One of the services that the ship’s company offers is to fly your US, State, or official unit flag, or of course the Navy Jack, over this historic vessel. (No, not your Confederate flag, wise guy. They lost, get over it. Likewise, nice try on the Union Jack but HMS Guerriere gave that one her best shot. No foreign flags). You get the flag back, along with a certificate signed by the commanding officer.

The Bicentennial of the War of 1812 has several more events ahead; despite the war’s single-year name, it was not over until the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, which took place after the peace had been signed but before the combatants could be informed, in those pre-telegraph days.

Military and Absentee Voters cut off in FL

Malfeasance or misfeasance in two United States Post Offices in Florida has zeroed out the ballots of over a thousand Florida voters, including hundreds of servicemen and -women. The administration, working from polls that show a minority of military personnel support the President’s reelection, has made a number of attempts lately to suppress the military vote. (The best reported of these is an Ohio lawsuit opposed by a who’s who of military veterans groups, including the Special Forces Association).

It’s unclear if this is the latest of these, or if it’s simply more of the usual standard-issue government incompetence. The veterans’ groups will suspect the former, but Occam’s Razor points to the latter.

Election Law Center has learned that 1,100 Florida voters will not be able to participate in today’s state primary because of snafus by the government.  300 absentee voters in Martin County (FL) and 800 in Indian River County (FL) did not receive their requested absentee ballots in time to participate in today’s important primary election because the United States Post Office treated the bulk absentee ballot mailings as third class mail.  The ballots were deposited by Martin and Indian River County election officials with the United States Post Office nearly three weeks ago, but the USPS office in Jacksonville treated the absentee ballot mailings as third class mail.

The US Postal Service, a quasi-governmental corporation that works to privatize profits for its workers and other insiders, and socialize losses for the tazpaying public, is technically insolvent and will soon need an enormous bailout — or bankruptcy reorganization.

How convenient that ballots suspected of being heavily loaded against the author of bailouts are the ones that are having difficulties. But it’s probably just the simple fact that the Post Office, which retains a government-worker entitlement culture for all its alleged privatization, retains the .gov ability to **** up a junkyard.

Some of the voters just today (August 14) their absentee ballots by mail, and today is the day of the election.  According to attorneys knowledgeable with Florida election law, these ballots may not be faxed, emailed or otherwise returned electronically.  That means 1,100 voters who sought to participate in the election will not be allowed to participate.

via Election Law Center: Exclusive Breaking: 1,100 Florida Voters Disenfranchised Today.

The other thing to consider is that this election is “only” a primary. That means, in the best possible view, they can get it sorted out in time for the general election; a primary is not that big a deal (except, perhaps, to the men and women running in it). In the worst possible view, this was a dry run for a greater electoral fraud coming.

A Sunday Tradition

Sunday, of course, is named after the Sun God Apollo (which is not, dear readers, Texican for a chicken). Apollo was a pretty big charioteer in the crazy word of pagan Greco-Roman worship. One supposes that the earliest Christians celebrated a Saturday sabbath, like the Jews they originally were, but the expansion of Christianity into, to blaspheme ever so slightly, the gentile market in the early first century caused a sabbath shift.

Nowadays the Sunday day of rest is, after 2,000 years, a curious artifact of lost worship modality, in a world largely reverted to pagan practices in all but name. The new Caesars of the 20th and 21st centuries are jealous gods indeed.

Still owing: That Was the Week that Was, and several previous TW3’s and Matinees. This week we’ll have some cool new stuff for you.

Saturday Matinee: The Front Line

UPDATED: Oops. This was written, saved and supposed to run Saturday at 1400. We found out midmorning Sunday that it didn’t go. We then backdated it to the correct 1400 Saturday slot. Sorry ’bout that. -Eds.

Been a while since we had a Saturday Matinee (we have a couple half-done ones overdue to back-fill you), but we have one today, on time [Zug. -Eds.], and what’s best, it’s a good one. The Front Line is a Korean war film, about the waning months of (what else?) the Korean War. Like our last Korean war/War film, Tae Guk Gi, it’s a stylized story set amid the bleak hills of the contested area, with the writer’s and director’s emphasis upon the interplay of the characters, more than upon the action (although there’s a great deal of action).

It’s interesting to see how Koreans, our “junior partner” in a war that destroyed nearly their entire country and killed incalculable numbers of their countryment (the movie mentions a butcher’s bill of 500,000 South Koreans), see their war. As in Tae Guk Gi, Americans aren’t much of a presence here, appearing only as disembodied radio voices or CGI aircraft (which are mercifully better rendered than the horrible job done on TGG). Instead it’s a Korean story, and without delving into spoilers — if you’re going to drop from $12 to $30 on a subtitled DVD you deserve to get the surprises as they’re coming to you — it’s a pretty bleak and depressing one, a story of suicidal assaults, industrial butchery, and pointless cruelty and suffering. It is, in fact, reminiscent of Western cultural and literary treatment of the Great War 1914-1918. So be forewarned: what you’re going to see here is more a World War One drama set in Korea than it is (to use the filmmakers’ own comparison) Saving Private Ryan.

It’s a good film, but let’s just say if they ever do a sequel they’re going to need to write a whole lot of new characters.

We were a little bothered by the Hollywood-like moral relevance of the movie. It could just as easily have been a film about a bunch of North Korean grunts on their side of the frontline trace, and to the extent the film has a conclusion, it’s the rather disturbing idea that the war had no reason. It’s impossible for us to compare the two Koreas that have emerged on opposite sides of the DMZ and conclude that the war writ large was “a war about nothing.” What the war was about was obvious to many at the time, and should be obvious to anyone today. Now, the years of stalemated static warfare after the front stabilized, the part of the war that’s depicted in the movie, accomplished nothing for either side — but it may have been necessary to convince at least one of the sides that it was impossible for them to accomplish their original war aims.

The story begins with CI officer Kang Eun-pyo pissing off his superiors and being sent on a traitor chase to the front. But the assignment, which is mostly a stick, does contain one carrot: his friend, the timorous Kim Soo-hyeok, whom he thought captured and killed by the Norks has survived and is assigned to the very unit he is going to, “Alligator” company of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment of the 10th Infantry Division.

Early in the war, the two friends had been captured, but a cocky North Korean captain released them: “We’ll have the war won in a week, and we’ll need you to rebuild the country.” He was wrong, of course, and he — somewhat burned out after three years — and his captives meet again at the film’s climax.

Alligator Company has a thorny existence. Kim is no longer a frightened private, he has risen — through attrition — to first Lieutenant, and become a merciless killing machine. He and the other officers lead the attacks and defense by which the South and North periodically exchange a piece of intrinsically worthless key terrain called Aero-K Hill. Kim remembers it changing hands 30 times but he isn’t sure he can count them all. They rotate out of the line to recover, then rotate back in for a cycle of pointless attack and counterattack reminiscent of World War I. They have a new company commander, who is one of the few characters to be all stereotype: the strutting, incompetent martinet. Suffice it to say he is a poor fit for the company, but they try to make him work.

Along with their ordinary North Korean opposite numbers, who are challenge enough for an infantry outfit, the Alligators face a sniper called “Two Seconds,” for the time that passes between the hit on one of their men and the sound of the shot. Kang does the math in his head: “That’s impossible! He’s shooting us at 680 meters.” He resolves to lead a patrol to kill Two Seconds, by dangling bait and then finding and calling an artillery strike on him. Two Seconds takes the bait — a popular, even beloved member of the company.

The unit also harbors crippled war orphans, an insane soldier, and intimations of something unspeakable that happened at the outset of the war, in the retreat from Pohang.

The tension builds throughout the movie, as the various stresses and peculiarities in the company are either released when facts are revealed, or build up and up. Meanwhile the tension outside the unit is building up, as the armistice negotiators near a conclusion and both sides throw everything into a last battle to determine which Korea will plant its flag on Aero-K Hill when peace comes.

The acting is excellent, not just from the lead actors whose characters we’ve named but also from the many character actors that flesh out The Front Line. The cinematography is modern and the editing fast, and probably goes too far overboard for hand-held shaky camera styles; the most effective shots in the assaults aren’t the hand-held, sub-second editorial snips, but the long shots on dolly or crane, smoothly moving the audience POV up alongside or above the struggling actors or extras.

Military equipment and weapons seems correct. The South Koreans are armed with US WWII-era weapons, the Norks with PPShes and Mosin-Nagants. Unfortunately, .50 caliber M2HB machine guns stand in for “antiaircraft guns” of the script, which seem from context to have been intended to be something beefier. A scene showing the destruction of captured and excess equipment in the retreat was quite good. The producers have avoided crude anachronisms in equipment (i.e., no M151 jeeps).

The Front Line was released in 2011 and seen by around three million South Korean theater-goers. It’s available in North America on DVD at Amazon, and possibly in other channels.

Korean cinema is coming into its own, as these two films (The Front Line and Tae Guk Gi) have shown. (We have another Korean war flick coming, too, although that one’s more a pan-Asian treat). These movies are bold, with strong characters and tough battles. The stories are a little bit “Hollywood,” and the moral relevance is at times disturbing, but they’re a lot better than the crap purporting to be war movies emerging from actual Hollywood these days. We enjoyed The Front Line (and avoided a case of depression with a soldierly wow, sucks to be him/them) and can’t wait to see what director Jang Hun does next.

For the ammo collector who has everything

Bet you haven’t got one of these. It’s an inerted, intact 16″ battleship main gun round. This was nearly the absolute pinnacle of artillery power (a few railroad guns, an unwieldy Atomic Cannon of the 1950s, and the guns on two Japanese superbattleships that now rest in Davy Jones’s Locker, were larger) and was the largest gun ever put to sea — or used in combat — by the United States.

The 16″ Mark VII guns were used in Iowa class battleships; earlier marks were used in earlier battlewagons. Earlier variants were also used in coastal artillery installations in the US (for example, at Battery Seaman in Portsmouth, NH, guarding the approaches to the midriver island naval base, there were two 16″ guns in individual casemates) and around the world. The coastal artillery tubes were built for battleships that were never laid down due to interwar disarmament treaties.

After World War II almost all these guns, and the ships that were armed with them, tumbled into the smelters of postwar productivity to reemerge as car parts and household appliances. The guns in land installations were uprooted and met the same end even as the concrete casemates, too strong for economical demolition, still stand. Only a handful of these big guns remained in service in the Navy, as battleship admirals fought a rear-guard action against, first, naval air power and then, strategic nuclear air power as the cure for all possible threats.

In the Korean War we learned that atomic near-monopoly didn’t equate to eternal peace, and the surviving Iowa Class battleships were back on the line shelling Godless communists, an act that one of the ships, New Jersey, would reprise in the Vietnam War. (New Jersey returned to mothballs because of these actual guns.  It fired so much naval gunfire support to Marine forces in I Corps that the barrels needed maintenance. The Navy discovered that it had no more barrel liners for the guns, the barrel liner being a wear part that is meant to be routinely replaced. Manufacturing new liners for 16″ barrels was beyond the ability of Naval arsenals or, for that matter, US industry by 1968. By the time a Navy clerk discovered an overlooked stash of liners at China Lake, the members of the ship’s company had all been ordered to new billets elsewhere at sea or ashore, and the mothballing process was too far along to reverse).

Three of the ships were taken out of mothballs in the 1980s, and updated. For the gunnery system, the update included a pulse doppler radar system that sensed the velocity made good of each departing round and made fine adjustments to the computerized fire control for subsequent rounds. That gave the weapon 150-meter accuracy at an extreme range of over 30 kilometers (!) — and the ships could deliver a fifteen-round broadside, twice every minute. It was the last flowering of the capital surface ship, but apart from a few desultory rounds meant to punctuate diplomatic messaging in Lebanon, and some interesting fire missions in the early days of Desert Storm, they never fired a shot in anger again.

The 16″ gun was a model of its technology. It was 50 calibres long and fired a very heavy projectile, compared to other large battleship guns, that put it on a range and striking power par with the mighty 18″ of Yamato and Musashi. Rather than repeat all the technological data found on the excellent, we’ll just link to the site.

So why are we even talking about this? Because of the projo that’s for sale on GunBroker, naturally. Five feet of steel with a copper/brass driving band, it would look great in our gun room (we’re not sure the floor would hold it, though. It weighs a ton — literally. We probably have  more ammo than that, but it’s not concentrated on a 16″ base). The guy also wants more than $2,500 for it, and that’s FOB Paris. Paris, Tennessee, of course.

We’re pretty sure putting this puppy in the back of the pickup would void the truck’s warranty.

Anyway, here’s the blurb, and go here for more pictures (and, perhaps, to bid).

Original US Navy 16″ inert high explosive projectile. This projectile would have been fired from the US Navy’s Iowa Class battleships and symbolizes the pinnacle of naval firepower. To be in the presence of the projectile is extremely impressive, as it stands 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs almost 2,000 pounds!!! And to try and wrap your brain around its ballistic performance is a hard thing to do…….this is a 1,900 pound “bullet” traveling at a speed of 2,700 feet per second….which means its muzzle energy was around 215 MILLION foot pounds!!! On top of all that kinetic energy it carried 153 pounds of high explosive to its target…..up to 20 MILES AWAY…..using 660 pounds of gunpowder!!!

via US Navy 16″ Iowa class BATTLESHIP projectile shell : Large Bore, Inert & Cannon Ammo at

The more you learn about these old warship weapons the more two things occur to us: (1) the guys who invented this stuff were really good, and (2) there isn’t enough incentive in the hemisphere to get us into the Navy. While launching these things might have been a blast, being on the receiving end, not so much. And they were far from the biggest thing launched at your quivering pink body and its thin grey armored boat. (Ask the few Indianapolis survivors what they think about the performance of the 24″ Long Lance torpedo).

And for those of you who miss these weapons: the world’s navies retired them, even though they were the pinnacle of the naval ordnancer’s art,  because they now have better stuff. It just isn’t all about guns any more.