Monthly Archives: January 2016

Who Taught You to Walk?

Who taught you to walk? No, not simply to locomote around the house on toddler legs — who taught you to walk in the woods? Do you remember?

For some, it was your dad or uncle, on hunting trips. For others, it was probably an NCO in your first combat unit. We didn’t have a lot of hunting relatives, so when we first got to an operational unit, the NCOs there quickly determined that we needed an informal block of instruction so as not to endanger the men, the mission, and the military in general.

Learning to walk -- US Army photo of modern 25th ID soldiers.

Learning to walk — US Army photo of modern 25th ID soldiers.

Think about it. Do you remember who taught you to walk?

There’s a lot to learn. There’s how to walk slowly, and as silently as possible; how to walk as quickly as possible while still making minimum noise; and how to cover ground that might be observed, or booby-trapped.

At low speed you walk on the balls of your feet. You feel for where you will (a) have solid footing, and (b) not make noise (dry leaves, twigs). Then you slowly lower your heels, perhaps with an exaggerated supination to rollll your weight along the outside of your jungle boot. Then, perhaps, you move your other foot close into the one that is now forward, bearing your weight, before it in turn becomes the forward foot and you stretch it, ball of the foot first, towards a safe and silent touchdown.

Hollywood has made a dry twig a cliché, (well, James Fenimore Cooper beat Tinseltown to it by a century plus, but moviemakers have belabored that image even more than Cooper did). But there’s truth in the cliché: it can get you noticed, and in our world, for, say, six men on foot 1000 kilometers on the enemy side of the FLOT, stealth was life. Apart from the cinematic twig, there are other things to watch out for: dry leaves, branches that whip back into your eyes. Catching a branch with your hand is better than catching it with your face; catching it with a weapon depends on this: does it make a distinctive noise?

In M16A1 days, the telltale whack of a branch against the plastic handguards was a dead give-away, an unnatural sound. There were (are, we suppose) ways to reduce this.

You stop a lot. You stop and listen. In the jungle, in thick forest, in the city at night, in all the environments that are safest for dismounted infantry, your best sense, vision, is limited by line-of-sight issues. So your new best sense is hearing. You can’t hear the other guy making noise if you’re making noise, so periodically you stop. And you make it a long stop — because if the enemy is stopping with you, you want him to lose patience first.

It’s not paranoid. In combat, they’re really out to get you.

Then there’s how to do all these things at night. Which is different — radically different. For example, on a very dark night, the best way to tell if you’re on a trail can be to look up to see if there’s a linear gap in the trees. You learn that the branches, despite being invisible, are invariably thickest and most impenetrable nearer to the trunk… so if you see two trees ahead, split the difference to reduce contact with branches.

Then there’s the differences between walking and patrolling. And the difference between doing these things with a combat load (maybe 25 pounds in those pre-armor days) and a sustainment load (usually over 100 lbs of lightweight gear).

There’s no block of instruction, no approved lesson plan, for walking in the woods. It isn’t part of AIT, or jump school, or Ranger School, or SFQC. Somebody has to up and take you and teach you, when you don’t even know what it is you don’t know, yet.

Some of this might have been taught to the guys at the in-country recon school or the 1-0 school in Vietnam. (SF guys generally didn’t go to the Recondo school. They taught there). Before you can lead, you have to be able to move through the vegetation, call it woods, forest or jungle, without sounding like an elephant caravan. And in combat, you haven’t got time (or enough pints of blood) to learn by trial and error. Somebody’s got to teach you.

Our teacher was a brilliant staff sergeant called Terry Douglas Damm. Terry, as we called him then (he’d later go by his middle name) was a typically outsized SF personality. He was truly expert at fieldcraft… stuck in a remote area for a couple days, he’d build a two-story treehouse, a bridge across a creek, or a massive throne for himself (he was also a typically modest SF personality). He could actually make a fishhook and line, which they taught everybody in survival school, but Damm did it for fun — and he actually caught fish, which impressed the hell out of us.

He started out as a radio operator in the MI Company, after doing some tours with the Army Security Agency, including Thailand during the Vietnam unpleasantness. Later, he’d be a team sergeant, including on a scuba team at Bad Tölz. His last-before-retirement gig was teaching future officers in the ROTC sub-program at Dartmouth College, and he retired from the military in that area, working as a cop and making custom furniture.

Over the years, we lost touch with him. But you never forget the guy who taught you how to walk in the woods.

Wonder where Doug Damm is these days?

The Czech “DUO” & Z Pistol, 1938-Present

Do you think little European 6.35 mm (.25 ACP) pocket pistols are boring? Hold on while we take you on a tour through the politics of 20th Century Mitteleuropa, with our host being this unassuming .25.

SONY DSC

Czech Duo, stripped and in fairly rough shape.

Same gun, reverse. Proofed in 1941.

Same gun, reverse. Proofed in 1941.

The Duo was designed by a man with a name that resonates in Czech history – František Dušek. That is not because the 20th Century firearms entrepreneur is famous in the Czechlands, but because he shares a name with one of  the great composers of the race, the underrated Baroque-period master František Xaver Dušek, who lived in the 18th Century. Both men often see their names Germanized to Franz (Xavier) Dusek or Duschek. The Czech pronunciation is DOO-shek.

Dušek’s business started as a small gunsmith’s shop and grew into a factory in Opočno, in northeastern Bohemia near the Moravian border.

Most every place in the Czechlands has a name in Czech and a name in German, that usually differ mostly in spelling and in pronunciation details. The more notable cities have an English name, or the German name tends to be used in English. For example, Prague is the English name for the city the Czechs (and the Slovaks, during the federal period) call Praha, and the Germans and Austrians call Prag. Opočno (pronounced OH-poach-no) is one of three small towns with the name in the Czech Republic today, and comes across into German as Opotschno. (Most common English usage is the Czech name without the háček or diacritical mark over the “c,” thus, “Opocno.”)

This Duo shows the quality of finish of these firearms. It's a wartime gun, produced and proofed in 1944.

This Duo shows the quality of finish of these firearms. It’s a wartime gun, produced and proofed in 1944.

František Dušek was born in 1876 and apprenticed as a gunsmith with a firm named Hojny. Berger also says he traveled “abroad,” which suggests Germany, for manufacturing and design experience (his Czech home being at the time part of the Habsburg Empire). Long before World War I he had hung out his own shingle in Opočno.

Berger describes the growth of his firm warmly:

Old Dusek brochures gave a founding date of 1905, which is probably the year he left his apprenticeship to start on his own.

Dusek worked hard and long, as only the owner can do. He put back all profits into the business, expanding at every opportunity. Dusek was anti-military during World War I refused to make weapons or components for the Austro-Hungarian government. At that time Czechoslovakia had not yet become a country.

After World War I, Czechoslovakia became an independent country, and by the mid 1920s Dusek’s products including rifles, shotguns, air rifles and gunsmithing supplies. Dušek struggled for independence by making everything possible at his factory, not depending on outside sources. In 1925, the workforce was 36 production workers and six administrative workers.1

Along with Dušek’s own work, he did an excellent business remarketing pocket pistols from Spain. These were marked with a variety of names including Ydeal, and were sold in the Czechoslovak Republic and throughout Eastern and Central Europe. The Spanish supply dried up in the 1930s, and so Dušek designed his own pistol and began producing it. In the interim, he acquired some pistols from the Mars concern and changed the markings to call them DUOs, his own trademark — the name standing for DUšek, Opočno. Duo-marked Mars pistols are rare and are different in some design features from factory Duos. (The Mars itself is descended from the PZK and the Slavia, and features a loaded chamber indicator that the Duo does not).

Number 120305 was produced in 1945, not long before the factory was overrun.

Number 120305 was produced in 1945, not long before the factory was overrun.

This is an interesting pistol because of its place and time, not really because of its design. If you look at it, you see an ordinary European .25 pocket pistol of the sort produced in great numbers and great variety between the Alpha of John Browning and FN popularizing the small auto pistol in 1900 or so, and the Omega of postwar Europe shambling down the path of gun prohibition after World War II. Indeed, it looks like a close copy of the Browning-designed FN Model 1906 pocket pistol.

The Duo is not a true copy. The parts don’t interchange. But designer and factory owner František Dušek was inspired by the Browning-designed FN 1906 .25 in his design of the DUO. This design may have been inspired indirectly by the Browning, through the Mars/Slavia or through the Spanish eyeball copies of the Browning that Dušek imported before the Spanish Civil War cut off his supply. So you could say, in a way, that the Duo was “born in the Spanish Civil War,” but that locution might have offended old Dušek. A pacifist, he not only refused to make arms for the Austro-Hungarian Royal and Imperial Army in World War I, and likewise refused to collaborate with the Nazis when they occupied Czechoslovakia. The pistol remained in production; the Nazis simply ousted Dušek and effectively nationalized his plant.

During the Duo’s long life it has been produced in seven different countries2 — several of them without the factory moving an inch — with at least ten different marking variations. The Czech-made Duos we have seen, several dozen (wish we’d been recording serials then!) are invariably of high quality; even when the quality deteriorated during the later years of the Nazi occupation they were better guns than the Spanish ones Dušek has been selling.

The guns were a success for Dušek. They shipped from Opočno throughout Europe and the world. By 1938, his factory was the largest private gun manufacturing plant in the entire Czechoslovak Republic, as the other big names (ZB, CZ-UB) were national arsenals. But the CSR itself was on borrowed time. Throughout 1938, Nazi aggression and international spinelessness led to the dismantling of the Czechoslovak Republic piecemeal. First, they lost the border area, what the German speakers called the Sudetenland in the Munich Agreement. Then, a few months later, the Third Reich occupied the rest of Bohemia and Moravia, and placed Slovakia under the control of quislings.

In the gun factories, only the rollmarks changed (and, perhaps, some of the customers). Many Czech guns were already being marked in German for export, so it was no big deal. The pistols continued to be proofed and proofmarked to Czech standard.

The German occupation Duos were made in several marking variations, including specialty versions for specific German retailers. (This last was a continuation of prewar practice). Other makers would make their own mark on the slide, frame or trigger guard.

This is a 1942 Duo from Nolle's collection.

This is a 1942 Duo from Nolle’s collection.

There were several common holsters used with these pistols, similar to the hardshell and softshell types known by P.38 and Luger collectors. The gun tended to be used by senior and rear-echelon military and police officers, both in the Czech military and the Wehrmacht, more as a symbol of command than as any kind of a defensive pistol. As armaments go, a .25 is the original “better than nothing” firearm, with less energy than a .22 LR round, and until long after the war, only roundnose lead and roundnose FMJ were the only loads available. What they lack in firepower, though, they make up for in simplicity and reliability.

CZ Duo with Hardshell

After the war, Dušek resumed production in Opočno, and postwar guns returned fully to prewar quality. He would be ousted a second time when the Communists took over Czechoslovakia and nationalized and rationalized the gun industry. All handgun manufacture was to be centralized, and after a short further run, the tooling at Opočno was packed up.

That wasn’t the end of the Duo, though… it stayed in production, with, normal business for the Duo, new rollmarks. The factory was now a Národní Podník, “national enterprise.” Soon all handgun  production shifted to the Uhersky Brod factory, and the gun was now a “Z” with the old Zbrojovka Brno trademark, the letter Z in a circle that is, on close examination, a rifled barrel, taking the place of DUO on the grips.

 

This is a "Z" pistol made in the CZ-UB plant in 1949.

This is a “Z” pistol made in the CZ-UB plant in 1949.

Most of the Duos and Zs that were imported into the United States came in as wartime bringbacks (wartime and prewar Duos) or were imported during a brief period when Czechoslovak firearms were imported (1948-52 or so). Post-1968, they are not importable because of the Sporting Test the United States adopted from a 1938 Nazi gun law, with further restrictions by the American admirer of Nazi policing who wrote the bill, Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut.

Despite the many marking variations of the Duo, which might also be called a Z, Singer, JAGA, or Ideal, or bear the marks of a German sporting-goods store, the only substantial change before 1970 was brief availability of a longer barrel in 1938-39 or so. This longer (190mm) barrel changed the class of licensure of the firearm in the Czechoslovak Republic, and became moot when German laws supplanted Czechoslovak after the Munich Accord. (These long-barreled Duos are extremely rare in the USA; Berger describes them, but we’ve never seen one, and we suspect he never had, either; he’s working of a catalog description). Even the transfer of manufacture and trademark from Opočno as a Duo to Uhersky Brod as a “Z”, did not materially change the pistols.

Berger published photographs of Dušek’s home and the somewhat run-down original plant in Opočno, long since converted to other uses, taken in 1981.3

In 1970, the Z was redesigned to slightly modernize its shape and it was renamed Pistole Vz 70, not to be confused with the CZ Pistole VZ 70, a .32 caliber police pistol.

For all versions, disassembly for field-stripping is identical to the common M1906/1908 Browning/Colt hammerless .25.

Duos and Zs are well-made, usually well-finished guns (if not to FN standards; toolmarks are not completely polished off the frame sides, for instance). Even the occupation guns are usually safe to fire, although an example with shortened firing pin that will not engage a primer has been observed, perhaps evidence of wartime sabotage by a Czech or foreign forced laborer. The firing pin is somewhat vulnerable to failure and, unlike most center-fire guns, this pistol should not be dry-fired. (Nor should the unrelated Little Tom and CZ 36/45/92 pocket pistols).

Notes

  1. Berger, p. 77.
  2. The countries were: the Czechoslovak Republic (1918-38); the rump Czecho-Slovak 2nd Republic (minus the Sudetenland, Carpathian Ruthenia, and parts of Silesia and Slovakia), 1938-39; the Reichsprotektorat Böhmen u. Mähren, 1939-45; the 3rd Czechoslovak Republic (1945-48); the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1948-90); the 4th Czechoslovak Republic (1990-93) and the post-Velvet-Divorce Czech Republic (1993-).
  3. Berger, p. 82.

Corrections

Multiple typographic errors, one historical error in footnote 2, and a missing sentence have been corrected. See the comments for details.

Sources

Berger, R.J. Know Your Czechoslovakian Pistols. Chino Valley, AZ: Blacksmith Corporation, 1989.

Buffaloe, Ed. “Two Czech 6.35mm Pistols”. UnblinkingEye.com, n.d. Retrieved from: http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/2CZ25s/2cz25s.html

”Kirby the OG.” OG’s Curio and Relic Page: Czechoslovakian Firearms. Formerly at: http://www.geocities.com/kirbytheog/czech.html now defunct. Retrieved from:

“Nolle”. Nolle’s Guns: Czech Pistols. Retrieved from: http://www.nollesguns.be/Czech_pistols.htm (Flemish language).

When the Cop is a Crim

handcuffs_1An Oklahoma City cop who practiced “Badge-Enhanced Speed Dating” got good news and bad news from his sentencing judge. The good news: he gets to take his time served already — he’s been in jail on an astronomical bail — off his prison sentence. The bad news: considering the sentence he got, it isn’t going to do him much good. The Oklahoman:

An Oklahoma County judge Thursday sentenced a fired Oklahoma City police officer convicted last month of on-duty rapes to 263 years in prison.

The former officer, Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, 29, of Oklahoma City, was charged with 36 counts that accused him of sexually assaulting 13 black females between December 2013 and June 2014 while a police officer.

After a six-week trial, a jury found Holtzclaw guilty on Dec. 10 of 18 sexual offenses, including four counts of first-degree rape, involving eight victims.

The sentence is a harsh one, although we doubt you’ll quibble with it. It fits, in part, because of the general principle of hammering someone whose misconduct involved perverting the trust placed in him under color of the law, and in part, perhaps, because he was sometimes reported in the press as an example of The Great White Defendant, and his victims were classically powerless underclass black women. (He’s actually mixed race, but facts don’t matter when there’s The Narrative™, which must be sustained at all costs).

The Washington Post and AP managed to get a No True Scotsman fallacy out of the DA after the conviction. The Post:

“I think people need to realize that this is not a law enforcement officer that committed these crimes,” Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said, according to the AP. “This is a rapist who masqueraded as a law enforcement officer. If he was a true law enforcement officer, he would have upheld his duty to protect these citizens rather than victimize them.”

Sorry, no. This was an LEO, and one who thought that granted him unqualified immunity. And it came very close to doing so. Here’s a little detail from another story, from early in the case:

By the time the investigation concluded, the detectives had assembled a six-month narrative of alleged sex crimes they said started Dec. 20, 2013, with a woman taken into custody and hospitalized while high on angel dust. Dressed in a hospital gown, her right wrist handcuffed to the bedrail, the woman said Holtzclaw coerced her into performing oral sex, suggesting her cooperation would lead to dropped charges.

“I didn’t think that no one would believe me,” she testified at a pretrial hearing. “I feel like all police will work together.”

All told, Holtzclaw faces 36 counts including rape, sexual battery and forcible oral sodomy.

One additional accuser who came forward after Holtzclaw’s arrest later was charged with making a false report. Supporters of the former officer who congregate on social media express hope that others’ claims will be proven false, too, and friends wear T-shirts that say “Free the Claw.”

(The main thrust of that story is that ~170 state and local officers are delicensed annually for sex crimes, nationwide, minus a few states that don’t bother counting — like NY and CA. Now, this is out of millions of cops, but still, oh, brother).

Well, The Claw will be free, it says here, in 2279. A little too late to be much use to him. A jury thought 18 of those charges were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. (For some accusers, they convicted Holtzclaw on all counts, and for the others, they convicted him on no counts, so it’s likely the credibility of the accusers played a role in the convictions).

That t-shirt is probably not going to be worn at The Claw’s release party.

Cops like this are rare, but they’re out there. We tangled with a cop like this guy once, Paul V. Meaney Jr. It was a delight to see Meaney go to prison, even though he didn’t get 263 years. (It was Massachusetts. No criminal gets too long, because he needs to be back out voting for the Democrat of his choice). Meaney, too, told his rape victims that no one would believe them, because he was a cop and from a politically connected family. All it took was one of at least eleven victims we knew of to tell her mom (most of Meaney’s victims were adult women, but this one was a girl child) and the ball began to roll.

Why do cops ever support bad cops like Holtzclaw and Meaney? Well, in the end, they don’t: these two badged rapists went to prison, and cops from their own departments were instrumental in putting them there, and have no sympathy for them. But also, cops are always accused of stuff they didn’t do, by the sort of down-and-outers they haul in for substance issues, small property crimes, and prostitution. That creates a presumption of noncredibility of small-time criminals, and no one wants to believe the guy on their shift, whose wife and kids they know, is a serial rapist. So an unprincipled Holtzclaw or Meaney can get away with it for a long time before the hammer falls.

But in the end, the hammer falls. It only takes one victim who has a backbone and one other cop and one prosecutor to stand up for principle, and most cops and prosecutors will do that. We said the cops have no sympathy for the bad cops, and it’s true, but they’re going to feel pretty rotten about the impact of the crimes and punishment on the officer’s family, especially in a case like Meaney’s where his kids are attainted — not under law, but in the private estimation of the townspeople — by his misconduct. In the younger Holtzclaw’s case, the impact is on his parents, and it’s hard not to have sympathy for them — however they raised him, it wasn’t to be a serial rapist.

But if he’d given his family a thought, he wouldn’t have been. It was not the punishment that hurt his family, it was the crime and its inevitable consequences.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Fists

Fist of deathHave you ever considered what you would do if some boozehound in a bar thought it was funny to lick your face? Most folks haven’t, but when they do think about it, “Punch his lights out” is usually a top-three response.

Well, 36-year-old Marine Corps vet David Bales did just that when Jeremiah Rafford licked his face in an OKC bar. And then the troubles began. Because, for Rafford, the lights never came back on.

(For the record, the bar doesn’t appear to have been the kind where the whole point is to encourage men to exchange bodily fluids. In case you were wondering).

Bales pleaded no contest to one count of first-degree manslaughter in the Aug. 15, 2014, death of Jeremiah Rafford, 27, of Oklahoma City. The state medical examiner reported “Rafford suffered a fracture of the orbital plate, causing bone to penetrate his brain and causing the death.”

Bales briefly described the night at the Cove Bar to The Oklahoman outside the courtroom before his sentencing.

“I was sitting down when (Rafford) licked my face. I stood up and hit him in the face,” Bales said. He called the hit a “one-punch homicide.”

Bales complained that someone else at the bar had hit Rafford at least five times that night before his altercation. That person didn’t get any of the blame, he said.

via Oklahoma man gets 90 days in jail for “one-punch-homicide” | News OK.

A strange homicide produced a strange sentence: 90 days’ incarceration and 10 years’ probation. As weird as the sentence may be, it seems to be becoming the norm in OK for an unintentional one-punch manslaughter.

The range of punishment for first-degree manslaughter is four years to life in prison. Bales’ 10-year sentence was deferred, meaning he’ll spend time out of prison on probation.

Even though Bales’ punishment is considered unusual, it is not the first time a man has received only months of jail time in an Oklahoma County manslaughter case.

In July, a 65-year-old man was sentenced to 90 days in jail for a deadly punch at an Edmond bar.

What’s strange to us is this: Bales belting Rafford? That’s perfectly normal, really. But Rafford licking Bales? What the hell was he thinking?

We’ll never know now, but one thing’s for sure: his licking begat a licking he wasn’t looking for.

Just a Reminder: the VA Creates a Local Low-Pressure Area

VA-veterans-affairsCreates a local low-pressure area, in terms of gas laws. You know, like an Electrolux.

In a comment occasioned by the President’s declaration that all was tickety-boo at VA (during the State of the Onion Address, which is why you, we, and everyone not in the business of Washington grift missed it), the Washington Examiner rattles the bones of the VA scandal:

…[T]his practice of cooking the books at the expense of veterans was widespread, not at just a handful of VA facilities but at more than 100 of them. How many people have been fired for this? You might well ask. The answer is — three.

In the meantime, as the Washington Examiner’s Sarah Westwood reported last month, the Obama Justice Department decided not to pursue any charges against VA staff in 46 of 55 known cases in this network of official malpractice. To this day, veterans who were promised benefits in exchange for their military service still have appointments and benefits delayed by malingering bureaucrats.

Bad though these details are, they do not encompass the full extent of this agency’s perfidy. Several other scandals were already roiling the agency by the time this one emerged. Top officials in Pittsburgh concealed an outbreak of Legionnaires disease in 2011 and 2012, resulting in at least half a dozen deaths. Other VA officials were caught bilking the agency’s pay system by demoting themselves and taking large, inappropriate bonuses to relocate.

And the VA cannot get its story straight about how many people have been fired for all of these failures, as Westwood reported this week. The agency’s new secretary and his top aides have contradicted each other. The truth remains elusive — hardly the rosy picture that Obama peddled to the nation this month.

via Let veterans bypass federal crooks and see a doctor | Washington Examiner.

Their ultimate suggestion is a good one, but it doesn’t go far enough: let vets have a sort of voucher system, and go to real doctors. In our view, they should close the whole wasteful boondoggle down, and take those few things where VA Is doing care that has little application to civilian medicine, like TBIs and amputee care, and research, and transfer them to DOD and the research academy.

Also, they should simply stop promoting and paying bonuses to any employee who is not a veteran him- or herself. There’s a lot of contempt for vets in VA ranks. (A lot of it is directly caused by vets gaming the system for bogus disabilities, but that’s another rant for another time).

Pistols & Optimizing vs. Satisficing

Probably more ink gets spilled, and more pixels get launched onto LED screens, on the subject of is-this-pistol-better-than-that-one, than on any other subject in the gun world. There are many approaches to the question of which-handgun-is-best, and it’s a mug’s question, because at some point you have to decide: best for what? What’s best for a hideout pistol is not what’s best for a cop’s service pistol, and in turn a military service pistol might demand a whole different approach.

We’re going to suggest a radically different approach:

It doesn’t matter.

For most people, the question to answer is not which pistol, but pistol.

For most personal defensive uses, any pistol that meets certain threshold requirements is good enough. And no pistol is the approach that is not good enough.

The cop who doesn’t get a dedicated off-duty gun, but lugs his G17 around, printing like a doofus, is not necessarily acting irrationally. He’s got a gun, right? In Mayberry, everybody knows he’s a cop, anyway, and so he doesn’t gain anything but expense and complication by carrying a G26 or G43.

On the other hand, the guy who must have the very best per use is illustrated in this fascinating article by Duncan at Loose Rounds on the short-lived Glock Gen3 RTF2 pistols. He takes some time getting to the features that make the RTF2 frames, the most important of which is the grip texture which is different from any Glock before or after, and concludes:

In my opinion the RTF2 frame is the pinnacle of the Glock line for a duty, home defense and training firearm. It is also the best feeling and handling Glock made frame.

“Pinnacle” — that word is a marker for an optimizing approach. Optimizing comes natural to most people — it describes an approach to making a decision or selection which requires you to:

  1. Define the characteristics of the “best” choice; and,
  2. Select the best choice according to that definition.

And Duncan runs right into one of the problems of an optimizing approach: what makes something the best choice for one task may not make it the best for another. He finds that the Glock RTF2 is a bit of a “horses for courses” specialist, and one of its less optimal courses is the one that most people select a handgun for, for concealed carry and self defense:

Now, if you are looking for a daily conceal carry handgun, The RTF2 framed Glocks are not ideal. If you are trying to conceal an RTF2 Glock, having it right next to your skin is not going to feel great. You will have to wear a layer of protective clothing. Also, the RTF2 frames are extremely rough on all clothing, gloves and even your seatbelt. For a training course, duty carry or home defense firearm, the RTF2 is the best of the Glock offerings, for a very positive grip.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. A gun that’s optimum for this may not be optimum for that. It requires a compromise, but then, so does every gun. So whether you are a huge army trying to select a service pistol, a PD trying to equip your patrol officers, or a single individual looking for a gun you can carry to make a positive contribution to the safety of yourself and your loved ones, you can’t just pick one characteristic and give it ultimate weight. An optimizing approach either devolves into a matter of guesswork, or results in building a complex weighted matrix (such as a Pugh Matrix, explained here at the American Society for Quality), where every weighting value is a new point of possible error injected into your calculations.

A lot of time, optimizing is used not as a decision basis, but as a means to rationalize an a priori decision. As human decisionmakers, we are all great rationalizers.

satisficing approach sets a minimum threshold, and then accepts the first acceptable alternative that presents itself, or the best of a few that present at once. It’s meant to get you most of the way up the curve without expending a lot of time, money, brain cycles or combination of the above to try to get close as possible to the ideal. It recognizes that the ideal is an asymptotic value: you can only approach closer to it at ever-rising expense, but never actually achieve it.

The guy or girl who holsters a .45, or a Beretta, or a Glock, or an M&P, or a Chief’s Special five-shot revolver, for that matter, and closes the book on pistol selection can get on to the more serious business of pistol training and practice. The principle resource that satisficing can buy you is time, which is the one resource you can’t buy or produce more of, and the one resource that is ever in short supply.

Are you armed with the perfect gun? Probably not. Are you armed? Then you may be armed with something close enough to the perfect gun… to satisfice.

Sunday Sleeping In

As you read this, your humble blogger is sleeping off a long Saturday (and still owes the TW3, but did get a review of 13 Hours up. If that review is tl;dr for you, just go see it. 

Most everybody in the community knows guys who went to GRS, DSS and similar operations, and this movie tells the story of what they have to be prepared to do.

Aesop was right; just go see it. But we did watch it before reviewing it, so we’re probably drummed right out of whatever regiment has such low standards as to let the movie critics in.

We hope to have some gun tech stuff up this week, in an around Hog Manor maintenance and airplane building. (Last night we actually riveted the doublers to the stub spars, so progress on the wings is on like donkey kong, and Blogbrother will be ordering the next kit (fuselage) soon.

When its time to mate the wings, tailcone, fuselagr, and empennage, the project moves from the catacombs of Hog Manor to a proper hangar, probably at Run Down Former Air Force Base. With a runway of nearly 12,000 feet, that’s practically a cross-country for the RV-12. Seems like the safest place to run the test cards on a new build. But that’s a long way and a lot of rivets ahead.

Saturday Matinee 2016 03: 13 Hours (2016)

13_Hours_poster13 Hours has been  political football, which meant two things: everyone who hasn’t seen it has an opinion about it (we did before seeing it, too), and because of the perception that it poses a threat to the coronation of the next dynastic overlord of the Imperial City, her minions in the press have savaged it — many of them, from the reviews, without watching it.

The negative reviews took their toll on the film’s early box-office, but perhaps it’s coming back. Two of us saw it in half-full cinema, at a 3:15 Saturday showtime.

13 Hours tells the riveting story of a very small CIA personal security detail that’s the only back-up for an extremely underarmed, underdefended and underprepared diplomatic mission.

It is an Alamo-like last stand, with the singular exception that the defenders ultimately slip away and deny the enemy the chance to do the sort of bestial things he does to captives and enemy remains.

It was an Alamo-like last stand. Note accurate depiction of muzzle flashes.

It was an Alamo-like last stand. Note accurate depiction of muzzle flashes.

The show moves with breakneck pace and seems shorter than it’s roughly 2 1/2 hour running time. There’s very little exposition — perhaps too little, as a couple sitting next to us kept asking what was going on — before the movie cranks up the tension of being a third party national in a city wracked by sectarian and political civil war. Once it’s been established that Benghazi in 2012 is a scary, hairy place to be, we learn about the mutual lack of respect between the case officers and the security officers. (All this is quite true to life).

Tension

Tension. Think you have a difficult workplace. Glock and SIG are correct.

And then the anniversary of 9/11 comes, and whether the anniversary motivates the enemy or not, it’s game on. And the further other persons and assets are from the handful of former troops fighting in the two Benghazi compounds, the less concerned they are with what’s happening on scene. In AFRICOM, in the Pentagon, in the White House, in Foggy Bottom, and in Langley, nobody seems to care.

The movie covers the pulse-pounding action and creepy lulls of the actual fighting. It has nothing to say about the aftermath, the one where heartless politicians would sneer, “What difference does it make?”, wearing their indifference as if it were the ermine of divine right. That aftermath — which is still going on — is not what this movie is about. The courage, committment, sacrifice, and fidelity of the men on the ground: that’s what this is about.

Acting and Production

You may know the actors in 13 Hours, but we didn’t. That made it easy to see characters, not actors.

The actor who plays “Bob,” the weaselly Chief of Station, deserves particular mention, for he brings to near-three-dimensional life a part that is destined to be disliked by the audience (no spoiler. You will dislike him the moment he opens his mouth. It takes a heck of an actor to play such a drip, and his comment about Agency people from Harvard and Yale is the essence of many Agency managers).

The actors who play the operators play the parts well; there’s no Charlie Sheen Navy SEALs in this film.

Michael Bay has come a long way as a director, and he pulls great performances from his actors as well as delivers fast-paced action. You won’t believe that this was done by the same guy that delivered the steamer that was Pearl Harbor. (Of course, he has better, if presently less famous, actors in this film). It is the nearest thing in many years to Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, which is the benchmark of a true-life action film. The action is less sprawling and the players fewer, which lets them all have depth and development. (Even “Bob” has significant development, without ever going out of character).

Accuracy and Weapons

We’ve already held up Black Hawk Down as an example, and having read the books in both cases, we can say categorically that 13 Hours makes fewer departures from the book than its film grandpappy. This film is accurate in many ways large and small.

The degree to which the movie sets replicate the combat locations of the diplomatic compound and the annex is uncanny and bespeaks hard work by researchers and below-the-line technical crew.

Most of the firearms as carried by the GRS and State DSS shooters are quite correct. Some capabilities of ISR systems are exaggerated or “Hollywood.” Tracers are all right and RPGs and grenades are all wrong, and Bay’s pyrotechnicians couldn’t resist good old Hollywood fireballs. There is, generally, more flame and less smoke than probably occurred that miserable night; the reduced smoke is probably a concession to the storyteller’s art.

We do get a classic Bay follow-the-projectile shot or two.

13H mortar shell

Guest star: 82mm mortar shell, in a brief but energetic performance.

The weapons shown in the hands of the purported 1st Battalion 10th Group Commander’s Intervention Force team (hi there, guys) were not right; for the record, they’d be armed more like the operators. Since, as anyone who followed the story knows, that element never went anywhere but were held across the Med and Adriatic by NCA/JCS level decision makers (uh, maybe “decision duckers” is more correct here), the botch of armament is immaterial.

The portrayal of client/PSD relations (including the near-suicidal cluelessness of those Harvard and Yale types when doing meets) is so accurate it’s uncanny. Did that really get cleared for publication in the book? It did. And it made it into the movie. Uncanny.

Perhaps a reason for the unusual level of accuracy is the unusual degree to which the director, cast and crew involved the actual men portrayed in the movie in the production. Whatever they did, it worked.

13-hours actor and real guy

Dominic Fumusa, playing John “Tig” Teigen, gets some tips from the real Tig.

The bottom line

The critical establishment hates 13 Hours, to the point where they’re reviewing it without watching it. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is not going to give it any cookies; nobody’s transgendered or questioning, and the bad guys are Hollywood anathema, real bad guys saying bad guy stuff (“allahu akbar”) and carrying the black flag of regression. Somewhere under the LA smog, some jerk is already pitching a remake with the villains changed to European neo-nazis and a general who’s secretly the Kosmic Koalscuttle of the KKK.

13H patrol

But all the reasons that institutional Hollywood hates it are reasons you should see it. And it’s a big, splashy picture best enjoyed on your friendly neighborhood big, loud screen. It’s sad that institutional Hollywood hates it, because the cast and crew personify institutional Hollywood. They just stepped far enough off the reservation to make a solid film about men in combat, abandoned by the leaders of their nation, facing a desperate fight against terrible odds. For that reason, the director, actors, producers, and entire crew are due much respect.

See this film while you still can.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • Amazon.com DVD page (preorder only):

http://www.amazon.com/13-Hours-Secret-Soldiers-Benghazi/dp/B018IDVB5S/

You can also find Blu-Ray at that link. Amazon also has the book on which the movie is based:

http://www.amazon.com/13-Hours-Account-Happened-Benghazi/dp/145558228X/

(Interesting to note: most of the reviews max the book out, four stars. But there are some one-star reviews. Or are there? When you click on the one star to read them, they are mostly very positive. Apparently if you ignore the stars when reviewing, Amazon defaults to one star).

 

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4172430/

  • IMFDB page:

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/13_Hours

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (60%):

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/13_hours_the_secret_soldiers_of_benghazi/

  • Wikipedia  page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/13_Hours:_The_Secret_Soldiers_of_Benghazi

  • NEW! History vs. Hollywood Page. (We hope there’s one of these for every “true” war movie soon).

http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/13-hours/

Notes

none

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Surfboards

Decedent Dan Dafoe. What's weirder -- 40-something surfers, or white guys aping gang signs?

Decedent Dan Dafoe. What’s weirder — 40-something surfers, or white guys aping gang signs?

Well, to tell the truth, nobody knows if the board killed him. Might have been the shore, some debris, or the surf itself. But a bunch of kids out for an educational field trip in San Francisco, where guns are pretty much outlawed, came across a ripe body to teach them one of life’s most important lessons: everything comes into life owing God one death, and guns or no guns, God is going to collect that debt when and where it suits Him.

A teacher with a National Park Service education center was leading a group of children along the beach when they spotted the body around 11:25 a.m., said Alexandra Picavet, a Golden Gate National Recreation Area spokeswoman.

Marin County Coroner investigators analyzed the body’s fingerprints and positively identified them as those of San Rafael resident Daniel Lon Dafoe, said Chief Deputy Coroner Darrell Harris.

The search for Dafoe’s body was called off Thursday after crews combed the waters and the coastline without finding a trace of him.

Dafoe was last seen at 5 p.m. on Wednesday after he was hit and knocked out by a large wave while surfing at the north end of the beach, officials said. Fellow surfers initially reached him, only to lose contact with him when they, too, were struck by a big wave, officials said.

via Body of surfer found at Marin County beach where he vanished – SFGate.

Now, we’re not surfers nor fans of California’s frigid waters, so forgive us for thinking that being “struck by a big wave” was what the big idea was, at least, from a surfer’s point of view. It seems to us to be a strange West Coast pastime that peaked when Brian Wilson still had all his marbles. Who knew it could get a guy croaked, and leave a bunch of misfortunate schoolkids with an unforgettable experience?

Ah well, he died doing what he loved, in the prime of his life, and not in assisted living, frightened and confused, with an array of tubes up his nose. There is that.

Some Early 1960s Jet Bomber Action

Here’s some classic black and white jet bomber videos, from a time before most of you guys were born.

First, a pilot who was a hero and a goat, all in the same mission. He overrotates on takeoff, blowing up his fuel pod — a gigantic tank for fuel and weapons that was aerodynamically integrated in the supersonic B-58. The fuel fire destroys one of his main gear bogies. He can take the plane somewhere safe and eject the crew — or he can try to bring it back to Carswell AFB, rolling the dice on survival, but saving the plane. If his skills are up to it. And he’s really lucky.

And yeah, that’s all fire on takeoff, in the YouTube splash screen:

Second, a pilot runs his B-52 out of gas. This happens only after every other conceivable problem occurs. The short (two or three minutes) briefing film includes color reenactments, and some black and white photos of what’s left of the plane. The crewmen escaped and survived, some with injuries. (For reasons known but to the guy that maintains the embed code, the link below will not embed the video, so we set it up as a clickable link instead).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc-s9dhF3hE

A fellow could get hurt doing that. One wonders if there are Russian, British and French films of this era, just waiting to be found in a closet and declassified.

Ah, well, here’s one from 1976, when the Royal Navy had carriers and whacking great Blackburn Buccaneers (the first real precision all-weather low-level bomber, the prototype of them all).

First, scenes from the 1976 BBC documentary, and then, interviews with the pilot who was struggling to land his jet, and the squadron commander, that reveal a secret: the positive, upbeat debrief in the documentary was fluff for the cameras: the real debrief took place once the cameras were gone, and the pilot who boltered a half-dozen times before getting aboard apparently took quite a thrashing from his commander and peers!