Monthly Archives: December 2014

Please Note New Page: Gun Design Books

Please note the new page, Gun Design Books and Resources. It went live at 0600 this morning, but because it’s a permanent Page rather than an ephemeral Post, it doesn’t post to the main page. (We’re probably missing some obvious way to make it do this).

You can access it from the margin of the site, above, or by simply clicking the link in this sentence.

It is our intent to provide a comprehensive listing of books for the would-be gun designer or design engineer. We’re aware that we’re a long way from comprehensive as it stands, and we even have some sections that are unpopulated, apart from headings. But we believe that we have listed the key resources available, both online and in hard copy, with a bias towards currently in-print or available sources.

We’re also very, very interested in your suggestions for additions.

We hope you find the page enjoyable and informative.

Army Will not Prosecute Deserter / Traitor Bergdahl

You read it here first: US Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his unit in combat and aided the enemy with information they used in subsequent attacks of his betrayed unit, is not going to be prosecuted by the Army.

That’s the message sent between the lines by a preparation-of-the-battlefield leak to one of the favorite leakers of the lame-duck SecDef, and of administration DOD political appointees in general, Lolita Baldor of AP.

Baldor has been given a background briefing on how rare prosecution of deserters is, in advance of the announcement. The subtext is, there’s nothing special about this guy, this is all just routine Army administration. 

That subtext is, if we need to say it, bullshit.

The U.S. Army has prosecuted about 1,900 cases of desertion since 2001, despite tens of thousands of soldiers fleeing the service in the face of deadly combat, long and multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and strains on military families.

The data reflects how rarely the military takes desertion cases to court. And it underscores the complexities of such cases as a top military commander reviews the investigation of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who left his Afghanistan post in 2009 and was captured and held by the Taliban for five years.

That’s really rare? Most of the 20k deserters DFR are guys who walked off after basic training, or in their first unit. It’s very doubtful that the nearly 2,000 prosecuted were all overseas or combat desertions. Indeed, Bergdahl is the only  combat desertion we’re aware of, and the only one who went beyond bugging out to aid the enemy.

In some circles, that makes him a hero. Those would be the same circles that bow to our enemies.

More than 20,000 soldiers have been dropped from the rolls as deserters since 2006, Army data show. Totals for earlier years weren’t available, but likely include thousands more.

In trial cases over the last 13 years, about half the soldiers pleaded guilty to deserting their post. Another 78 were tried and convicted of desertion.


Soldiers who avoid deployment or leave posts in combat zones are more serious cases, particularly if the deserter is responsible for standing guard or protecting others in dangerous places.

via Army Data Shows Rarity of Desertion Prosecutions – ABC News.

The point being, when they let Bergdahl slide they’re not doing anything special.

There’s also one outright falsehood in Baldor’s column: Army spokesman Wayne Hall is quoted  claiming that GEN Mark Milley, commander of FORSCOM, has “broad discretion” in the decision about Bergdahl. Anyone who believed Milley has free hands in this has less understanding of the Army than we’d expect from someone like Lolita Baldor (who has been writing nonsense about the military for her whole career). In fact, the decision is a political decision, and Milley’s hands are tied; he’s merely the delivery system for a decision that was made in Washington, and almost certainly in the White House.

The problem is, fundamentally, that the President, his advisors, and the lame-duck SecDef are well-attuned to the sufferings, if any, of Bergdahl, and put much less value on those of his unit peers whom he condemned to injury and death when he turned coat. Indeed, they’re much more sympathetic to the views of the five top Taliban and Haqqani Net terrorists they swapped for him. Being the in Acela Corridor crowd means you can transcend obsolete concepts like Duty, Honor or Country. To those people, Bergdahl is a “hero,” in a rare unironic use of the word, for them.

The Bergdahl trade needs to be rehabilitated, after some of the terrorists released on his behalf were implicated in the Taliban’s murder of 140 Pakistanis, mostly schoolchildren, in a Peshawar school. Connected Army folks think it’s going to happen in the next few days, when eyes are not on DC.

Fortunately for the Taliban, for the politicians who value them more than our own soldiers or their families, and, especially, for traitor Bowe Bergdahl, there are people in the press willing to be their Sons of Ham, “the hewers of wood and the drawers of water.”

Like Lolita C. Baldor of the Associated Press. Whose phone rings every time a Big Lie needs some polish, and wide release.

Kid Calls for Nuking Norks

BLOWING UP PARADISESome of you may recall our occasional references to Kid, a 15-year-old who’s actually an Ex’s spawn, but is a pretty good kid and partner in gun tinkering. Like many such yoot’s, he’s a devotee of video gaming, and his Christmas list included stuff like a controller and the latest version of the Call of Duty series, called Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

So, today, Christmas Day (when we were not going to post, honest), he’s fulminating against the Norks, whom he blames for the PlayStation Network being down.

Online game networks Xbox Live and PlayStation Network have been offline much of Christmas Day in an apparent DDos (distributed denial of service) attack.

Taking credit for the takedown: a group called Lizard Squad, which previously claimed credit for August attacks on the PlayStation Network and online games World of Warcraft and League of Legends.

The network status Web pages for Xbox Live and PSN both list the networks as offline.

It caps off a rough holiday season for Sony, which saw its Sony Pictures subsidiary hit by a cyber-attack last month over the upcoming release of The Interview. A hacker group called the Guardians of Peace threatened a 9/11 type attack on theaters if the movie was shown.

via PlayStation Network, Xbox Live offline due to attacks.

kim-jong-il-team-america_crNow, the Norks have no love for Sony, makers of Kid’s PS4, but one wonders if the Norks have the capability to pull off even a script-kiddie’s level of Distributed Denial of Service attack. In a DDOS attack, zombie PCs controlled sub rosa by a malicious master are formed into a botnet and each machine makes numerous attempts to connect to the target servers, overwhelming them regardless of firewalls or load-balancing measures. Botnets are hired out for money by the criminal organizations that build or acquire them, and others are used by national-level intelligence and security assets.

They can be used for money-making either indirectly (for instance, a botnet master may have shorted Sony or Microsoft stock before attacking the PSN or the XBox network. If so, it was dumb to do it on a day with the markets closed) or directly (extortion: “nice network you got here, guy, be a shame if…”). Or they can be done out of pure malice, either the kind that characterizes North Korea’s primitive monarchy, or the kind that animates the sort of teenagers who once pulled wings off flies.

There are numerous countermeasures available to the server managers, some of which the botnet managers have counter-countermeasures for. For example, there is always some characteristic of bot traffic that is different from legitimate traffic, and these characteristics can be used both to harden servers, and to track perpetrators.

In the USA, folks who do this and get caught get long breaks from computer access, not to mention everything else you can’t do while locked up in Federal prison.

Meanwhile, there’s a least one Kid who has a good grounding in building real guns that’s really, really perturbed at whoever’s messing with his ability to wring out the new capabilities of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, like an exoskeleton that lets the game-player make prodigious jumps.

And if it isn’t the Norks, it’s not like anybody’s going to miss them, is it?

The Christmas Gun

winchester christmas“He wants a whaaat?” Mr Eliot said. Mr Eliot’s family had been in town since shortly after they filed off the Mayflower, but despite that had befriended the new family in town, even though they were suspiciously ethnic, and even, it must be said, Catholic.

But Mr Eliot prided himself on his ability to rise above the prejudices of his class and station, despite the fact that Mrs Eliot (who went to Wellesley, a fact that came up, fortuitously, sooner or later in each of her conversations) clung to hers. And that Kennedy fellow didn’t deliver us whole into the hands of the Pope, after all, did he? So one could invite Catholics to one’s Christmas Party, as long as they were the Right Sort. Just like one invited Dr Fischer, because “breeding” is a matter that’s not as related to bloodline as one might think.

“For Christmas. Extraordinary,” Mr Eliot continued, without giving the Right Sort of Catholic any chance to reply to his question — which was really an exclamation of surprise.

“Well, that was once something that was done,” he explained, “but nowadays, we’re suburban, not rural. A gun! Where would he use it?”

“His uncle has taken him shooting at the gravel pit, and of course there’s the municipal range in Big City,” the RSoC replied.

“I mean, it’s not like this is the wild west, you know,” Eliot said. “It’s not…” and one could almost see the steam coming from his ears as he cogitated about the geography of Indian Territory, which began somewhere along the Worcester — Paterson — Frederick line, and continued unbroken to Salinas and Bakersfield. “It’s not Wyoming.

“Well, that’s what he wants. A .22 rifle. I suppose I can get it at Sears.”

Mrs Eliot could hold her tongue no more.

“Guns! They’re nothing but trouble. Murders, and robberies, and killings, and assassinations, all because of guns.”

“Mother, please — ”

(If it seems peculiar to you to call your wife Mother, we bet you didn’t come on the Mayflower. The rich are not like us, at least not the anciens riches).

“Surely, sir, you don’t like guns.” Her automatic volume control had apparently failed, and the others at the party all stopped their own conversations to look.

“Well, I don’t, particularly, but my son has asked for…”

“Well, you can’t just give him what he wants. You have a responsibility to uplift him. A gun will set him on the wrong track. It will change him. It will make of him a slayer of cats and birds, and a smasher of telephone-line insulators, and — ”

She didn’t stop, but people seemed to tune her out. Both Mr Eliot and his guest looked dismayed, and the host gave his guest an apologetic look and led his still-fulminating wife off to the side.

“It will change him!” she repeated in a near shout, over her shoulder. “It will change him forever.”

It took some time, but the susurrus of neighbors exchanging pleasantries and enjoying the holiday season gradually filled the room again. The host couple were still having a heated discussion, but everyone was trying to avoid being seen ignoring them too obviously.

The guest who precipitated the whole thing was, fairly or not, in a similar bubble of social invisibility for a time. Indeed, he was calculating whether enough of a decent interval had passed as to allow him to leave, when another guest approached him. The man was unknown to him, but he was dressed in chinos and a tweed sportcoat, one that did not come off the rack fitting him like it did. He was clean-shaven with Brylcreemed salt-and-pepper hair. He looked distinguished, and something about him seemed… trustworthy. Solid.

“So your kid wants a gun.”

The man nodded glumly. This was supposed to be a Christmas party — not an interrogation. He wanted to change the subject, but as the new guy, he didn’t dare. His wife, at least, seemed to be having a good time.

“Well, I’m a bit of a hunter.” It was a small understatement — the man had bagged the Big Five, which neither Mr Eliot nor the other guest had ever heard of, and he wasn’t the sort of man to boast about it, anyway. If you came to his home, his trophies would do the talking. “Does he know what kind of gun he wants?”

The man was relieved. This wasn’t an extension of the Two Minutes’ Hate.

“I don’t know. He showed me an ad for something called a Ruger. I couldn’t find it at Sears.”

“The Ruger 10/22. Not what I’d give a kid for his first gun — I’d start him with a bolt action or even a single-shot, if it was me, but today’s kids don’t have the patience we did. And I’ll tell you what — don’t go to Sears. Sears is great for a box of shells, but let me give you some advice.” The distinguished man drew out a very slender billfold and slipped a business card over, turning it over before the father could see what it said, and wrote in precise, careful block letters.

“Go to this place. You’ve probably seen it on Route 9. See this guy and tell him I sent you. Tell him what you want it for, and he’ll steer you right. And you might pay $2 more than you would at Sears, but you’ll know it’ll be the right gift for your boy, and if that’s not worth $2, what is?”

The guest murmured his thanks. On the card was written

The Gun Room
Peter Dowd
Tell him I sent you!

The man smiled, and caught someone’s eye across the room, and then he was gone.

At this time, Mr Eliot came back.

“Sorry about that. She gets like this sometimes. What did the Judge have to say?”

Judge! He didn’t say he was a judge. He probably thought I knew him. “I think he just gave me a very valuable tip,” the man said.

He turned over the card.

Hon. Elbridge G. Pickerell
Judge, Superior Court
Col, USAR (Ret.).

As it happened, the guest’s wife was having such a good time they stayed at the party another hour and a half, taking care not to be the first nor one of the last to leave. At some point, Mrs Eliot apologized to him, very graciously, and he tried to be half as gracious in his response. And they were, indeed, invited back, where for years he’d enjoy, among other things, the judge’s stories of African safaris and amusing occurrences in courtrooms military and civil (if anything happened of greater consequence that a good laugh in his courtroom, Judge Pickerell certainly never told the story).

And a teenage boy had what he called, “The Best Christmas! Ever!” a few days after that.

He never did commit the “murders, and robberies, and killings, and assassinations!” that so concerned Mrs Eliot, but she was right about one thing.

It did change him. Forever.


Merry Christmas from our family to yours.



This post has been edited. Some lines inadvertently deleted from the description of Judge Pickerell’s hunting career have been restored, and one typo has been fixed. We regret the error. –Ed.

Er, another typo has been fixed. Keep those cards and letters coming, fans. –Ed.

Starting to Look Back on WeaponsMan’s 2014

We may or may not do a real year-end wrap-up. We’re doing analog stuff right now and won’t be on the computer much; there will just be a single post Christmas Day, much like we do on Sundays, although this one will be a post that tells a Christmas story.

It’s not a unique or rare story, really. One suspects many of our readers have a similar one , or their fathers do.

We had a busy 2014. When the dust settles, we will have posted over 1,300 posts, containing over 90,000 words of ad-free content — about the length of a short-end-of-average genre paperback. We will have received around 9,000 comments (although that count includes trackbacks and our replies). We will have discussed hundreds and hundreds of weapons, from arms and armor of antiquity to the science-fiction armaments now being made real in labs and workshops.

We actually spent much less range time in 2014 than in 2013. That’s a bad trend that we will look to reverse. On the other hand, we did welcome some interesting new hardware and tools, and have even more cool stuff on order.

We wasted too many recycled pixels, we think, on politics and on international affairs, but both of them have been rather fraught as of late. The US is underperforming the disastrous Ford & Carter years of the 1970s in the world, and that’s a failure that translates to real people losing their lives and their freedom — as it did in the 1970s. We thought it would be bad, although we didn’t know how bad. What does that make us, some even-worse Cassandra who didn’t believe our own prophecies?

In any event, a machine off center can only center itself, or destroy itself through vibration. Interesting times lie ahead.

We would like to think we upheld the standards of our Regiment, but only the Regiment can judge that; we wouldn’t be so presumptuous to make the claim.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week:

Page for one of the reenactor units

Page for one of the reenactor units

Even on Christmas Eve, we don’t want to miss giving you all a W4. So go and check out

First, the bad news: it’s all in Russian. (Somewhere in Russia, Max Popenker shrugs. “What’s the big deal about that?”).

And he’s not the only one. The officers of the 54th Minsk Infantry Regiment are cool with that. Here they are, in one of the pictures on the site. The Polkovnik and his senior officers appear to be front and center. Apparently, you needed whiskers to be an Imperial Russian officer:


Now, the good news: is a treasure trove of primary documents we haven’t found elsewhere, including reproductions of Russian equivalents of what in the US Army are technical manuals (about stuff, like rifles and cannons) and field manuals (about how to do stuff, like fight with bayonets or employ an infantry unit in combat).

So what? We can hear you thinking. That Soviet doctrinal stuff is all over the net, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that this isn’t Soviet stuff. In fact, it’s older: it’s Tsarist doctrinal material from the era of the Russo-Japanese War and World War I, mostly. We were able to negotiate it with our thready and weak Russian language skills, but you could also attack the site through Google Translate, always bearing in mind the Monty Python Hungarian Dictionary Sketch. “Your hovercraft is full of eels!”

Now, as you might expect, Tsarist doctrine went a long way to form early Soviet doctrine; entire units changed sides in the Revolution and Civil War, and they brought their way of doing things with them. The Soviets talked a good game about “a new way of war,” but that’s mostly what it was, talk. (One thing they did do is decrease the hereditary and increased the meritocratic input to officer selection, which brought Russia into line with other modern nations).

Whether you’re interested in this period or the later, Soviet, period, this next document should be especially delightful to you Mosin-Nagant fans who wonder how Ivan really intended to use that bayonet:

Both include the original plates illustrating the fighting positions and moves. Unfortunately there’s no whole-document .pdf download.

The site \ belongs to a group of historian-reenactors who call themselves “Mountain Shield,” and they are as fascinated and obsessed by the technology and culture of the pre-revolutionary Imperial Russian Army as any reenactors anywhere are fascinated by their  chosen period. Compared to even the Russian Civil War or the Russo-Polish War (let alone the Great Patriotic War, as Russian historiography styles their fight for survival in World War II), the military culture of Tsar Nicholas II is a historical black hole.

And some of it is just… mysterious. This 1905-dated photo, which appears to have been scanned from halftone in a book, shows Russian troops lounging in an unidentified port, possibly Port Arthur, on top of a Jules Verne vision, which the caption defines as an “underwater boat”. Russian, or Japanese? Ya neznayu.

1905 submarine with Russian soldiers. Anyone know more?

1905 submarine with Russian soldiers. Anyone know more?

It looks like a stouter CSS Hunley, actually. It’s part of a gallery that begins on a page described: Equipment of the Russo-Japanese War (“Niva,” 1905). Another picture from that page shows a soldier in a plowed field, about to handle an unexploded 11-inch battleship shell, with a smaller Japanese shrapnel dud next to his leg.



As anybody from EOD can tell you, after the first couple ounces, all the rest of the explosives are “free.”

The following is captioned, “In position. Mounted machine gun before an enemy attack,” and is credited to “Special Correspondent V. Taburin” of “Niva” (presumably a news magazine of the period).   (Link).

niva01_29_1905The mount of the Maxim is very interesting, as is the gun itself which may be a bought British-made gun, not a Russian-produced M1905. The mount looks like it may have had a matching limber for ammunition, and been drawn by draught horses or by men. It’s also interesting that the crewmen do not have fixed bayonets. The casual stances of the officers on the right suggest that this photo was taken nowhere near the threat of enemy fire, caption notwithstanding.

In another photo taken behind the same gun, you can see that the rifles are definitely Mosin-Nagants. And in yet another photo, from a different gallery of Russo-Japanese War pictures, you can see a marksman taking aim (“at the enemy,” the caption assures us). His Mosin clearly has the bayonet mounted. If you blow up the picture you see that other soldiers formed a human ladder to assist him and the binocs-using officer up the tree.


Treasures like this are why we like Perhaps you will, too!


Bombay 2008: A Failure of Analysis

Recall a case where the attack recipient’s intelligence services had all the clues, but didn’t put them together? Yeah, there’s been a few. Pearl Harbor. Operation Barbarossa. D-Day. The Battle of the Bulge. The Nork invasion of South Korea. The Chinese invasion in support of the Norks. Suez. The Six Day War. The Tet Offensive. The Yom Kippur War. The collapse of Imperial Iran. The Russian invasions of Hungary/Czechoslovakia/Angola (true, it was Cubano proxies)/Afghanistan/you name it. Russia’s H-Bomb. Sputnik I. The collapse of the USSR and European Communism.  9/11. The Bali bombing. It might as well be a motto of governments everywhere: “We never saw it coming!”

To that list of operational con jobs (and the implied list of bamboozled intelligence agencies), you can add the 2008 small-arms attack by Lashkar-e Taiba terrorists on Bombay, India.

Once again, an “intelligence failure” turns out, when closely examined, to be an intelligence analysis failure. India (and Britain, and the UK) had all the raw intelligence information necessary to anticipate LeT’s move — but they never processed the sweepings of surveillance into usable, actionable, analyzed intelligence.

[T]he British were spying on many of [Lashkar-e Taibi planner Zarrar Shah’s] online activities, tracking his Internet searches and messages, according to former U.S. and Indian officials and classified documents disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

They were not the only spies watching. Shah drew similar scrutiny from an Indian intelligence agency, according to a former official briefed on the operation. The United States was unaware of the two agencies’ efforts, U.S. officials say, but had picked up signs of a plot through other electronic and human sources, and warned Indian security officials several times in the months before the attack.

What happened next may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft. The intelligence agencies of the three nations did not pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance and other tools, which might have allowed them to disrupt a terror strike so scarring that it is often called India’s 9/11.

“No one put together the whole picture,” said Shivshankar Menon, who was India’s foreign minister at the time of the attacks and later became the national security adviser. “Not the Americans, not the Brits, not the Indians.” Menon, now retired, recalled that “only once the shooting started did everyone share” what they had, largely in meetings between British and Indian officials, and then “the picture instantly came into focus.”

via Big clues were missed in 2008 Mumbai terror attack – Worcester Telegram & Gazette –

So, if we’ve got this right, we’ve built a surveillance state that reaches into every PC worldwide — but when it comes to the terrorists who are supposedly the cause of all the intrusive spying, it can’t find its ass with both hands and a GPS grid.

Do read the whole thing. It’s a New York Times report, but by sending you to the Worcester, Mass., Telegram & Gazette website, you dodge the Times’s paywall.

Simple Sabotage Field Manual

simple_sabotage_field_manual_coverWe thought for sure we had featured this already, but if so, we can’t find it on the site. This is a sabotage manual  dating to 17 January 44 . It was classified SECRET but was declassified long ago — 14 June 76, to be precise.

It is only 32 pages long, typeset but with no illustrations. It’s rather typical of OSS training materials in that it seems to use a sort of Socratic method, where the book, film or other training method is not aimed to teach people simple rote skills, but to spur deeper discussions and thought.

Despite its limits, there is a lot to be had here, including from the introduction by BG William Donovan to the closing suggestions, “General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creat­ing Confusion.” (And yes, it does seem like that last part of the manual has been in use by everyone in DC for quite a few years).

Some of the suggestions border on the whimsical:

Saturate a sponge with a thick starch or sugar solution. Squeeze it tightly into a ball, wrap it with string, and dry. Remove the string when fully dried. The sponge will be in the form of a tight hard ball. Flush down a W. C. or otherwise introduce into a sewer line. The sponge will gradually expand to its normal size and plug the sewage system.

Here is the book in .pdf:


Or, if you want it in .mobi for Kindles and Kindle-reader apps, or, in .epub for iBooks, or several other file formts, you can find it at



A Christmas Layoff to Celebrate: New York Times

New York TimesThis delightful Schadenfreude-activator is an excerpt from a thumbsucker at the New York Observer, about the 10,000 lb. gorilla of city journalism, the New York Times. The NYO is upset that the NYT is downsizing again, terminating such vital personnel as the “advertising writer,” by which they mean someone who writes about advertising, not someone who writes advertising and thereby fulfills some economic function.

Aw… you’re breakin’ our heart. (Cue Harry Nilsson).

Monday, December 1 marked the deadline for 100 New York Times journalists to accept a buyout package before facing layoffs. As the New York Times prepares for the latest culling of the most talent-rich newsroom in America, the sad march has already begun. David Corcoran, a Times near-lifer who runs the beloved Science Times section, has reportedly accepted a buyout, as have legendary business reporters Floyd Norris and Bill Carter, labor reporter Steven Greenhouse, arts reporter Carol Vogel, staff editor Jack Bell, plus at least six photographers and picture editors, the silky writer Robin Finn, and about 50 others, according to Capital New York’s depressing “buyout watch” column. The Observer reported that longtime advertising writer Stuart Elliott was among those joining the exodus. And now, firings have commenced.

Oh dear, the herd of fabulists, prevaricators, fabricators and four-flushers in Munchhausen Hall has been thinned. Alas and alack. We are sorely aggrieved.


Unfortunately, newspaper reporters heading for the exits is not news these days.

Unfortunately? For them, perps. For us? Well, one man’s ill fortune may be another’s delight.

What’s different this time, however, is the degree to which Times stakeholders, including current employees, exiting employees, and former employees have had it with business side decisions, including one in particular that’s costing enough to keep more than a dozen journalists gainfully employed.

We've actually celebrated this layoff before. Again? Why not, it's still good news!

We’ve actually celebrated this layoff before. Again? Why not, we celebrated Christmas last year and we’re planning to do it again this year. Good news is still good news!

The beef the journos have is with the number of no-show and low-show no-effort million-dollar (some, multi-million-dollar) sinecures for various inbred cousins of the Sulzberger extended family. It is a bit unseemly to see overpaid writers squabbling with overpaid executives about a zero-sum division of the filthy loot they’re always pretending to be above caring for. For definitions of the word “unseemly” that are synonymous with “hilarious.”

And, of course, all these inbred Ivy hothouse flowers think they’re “the voice of the little man” who fearlessly “speak truth to power,” when most of them wouldn’t recognize the “little man” as the delivery driver they just stiffed on a tip, and their ideas of “speaking truth” never involve any form of speaking it to someone who has power over them. 

There’s some history here. Earlier this year, the Observer ran a front-page story about severe dissatisfaction within the New York Times directed at the Times‘ opinion page. The reaction was instantaneous and over-the-top, becoming one of the Observer’s best-read stories of the year and generating thousands of shares on social media. Not everyone was thrilled; Times executive editor Jill Abramson called the piece a “crazy rant.” Despite her loyalty, three months later, on May 14, Ms. Abramson was fired—unceremoniously dumped without even the chance to say goodbye that had been granted to previously departing editors, from the sacked Howell Raines to the sainted Bill Keller.

Do go Read the Whole Thing™. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh to the brink of incontinence.

Meanwhile, the 100 latest unemployed New York Times journalists await your suggestions for new careers, which we invite you to offer them in the comments.

The M3 Medium Tank’s Fixed Machine Guns

Back in the Secondary Armament discussion, one of the commenters reminded us that early marks of the M3 Medium Tank had fixed forward-firing machine guns. That’s quite true.

This illustration shows the initial design layout for armament in the M3 Medium Tank.


There’s a sponson-mounted, 75mm M2 cannon, a high-velocity 37mm (called by the British a 2-pdr) which was still believed to be better medicine for enemy tanks (by 1941 it was already obsolete), no coaxial MG, a commander’s MG in a turret-on-a-turret (a recurring American design theme) and two  fixed forward-firing machine guns.

Like the wedding-cake turret stack, which returned to American tanks in the postwar M48 and M60 tanks (mostly out of NBC concerns), the forward-firing fixed MGs were once standard American design language. Britain and Russia had also built multi-turreted, landship-style tanks in the interwar years, but had given it up by 1941. But nobody else went all-in for fixed MGs.

While the idea of machine guns that the driver could aim by aiming the tank sounds a bit like the forward-firing guns that interrupter/synchronizer gears made possible on airplanes, the problem was that, unlike an airplane, a tank crawls in a 2-dimensional environment whose third dimension is dictated entirely by the terrain, making it impossible to aim the guns in elevation. Thus, they were nothing but useless noisemakers.

Making enough noise has never been a tanker’s problem.


Nonetheless, the US medium and light tanks of the interwar period all had a couple of fixed forward-firers, and these persisted into the M3 light tank (in the image above, you can see a ghosted MG, just left of drawing center; one was located in each sponson) and the M3 medium. They were often deleted in the field and not included in later production units of these tanks.

One of the It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time file.

The M3 Medium, an interim, stopgap tank, is remembered today largely for its failings and as a stepstone on the way to the superior all-round Sherman. Its suspension was noisy by tank standards, its riveted armor prone to launching rivets around the inside of the tank under fire, its very high profile rendered a hull-down position an impossibility and gave even the most nearsighted German a target he could scarcely miss. It had no fume extraction, so filled with toxic fumes during combat — there are plenty of pictures of British crews running the tanks and even fighting with the large side doors open, both for ventilation and because there was no other way to get rid of fired shell casings.

But when the first M3s arrived in the Western Desert, the British tankers loved them. It was significantly faster than any British tank, far more reliable mechanically (especially compared to the British Crusader tank), had a more powerful gun than any British tank, and had a large, comfortable (by 1942 tank standards), interior, with copious stowage space.

But they never did make use of those fixed machine guns.