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This Date in History: September 22


Werner von Fritsch

Werner von Fritsch, Army Colonel General, born August 4, 1880 in Benrath/Düsseldorf, winner of Iron Cross 1st Class in World War I, commander in chief of the German Army until 1938, dismissed from his post due to accusations of homosexual conduct, killed in action on September 22, 1939 outside Warsaw, said on the relationship between the Supreme Commander and the General Staff: “No one can expect a Commander-in-Chief to win battles if he is working on a concept with which he does not agree.”  (2,000 Quotes From Hitler’s 1,000-Year Reich)


Rolf Schamp.  Born September 22, 1921 at Weilburg/Lahn in Hesse, Schamp finished secondary school and passed the AbiturSS-Sturmmann Schamp stood 5’9” tall, he had SS number 490242. At Kursk, Rolf commanded Tiger 1324 in the Second Platoon, until July 9.  He received the Iron Cross Second Class on October 14, 1943 and the Panzer Battle Badge in Silver.  He departed the 13th (Heavy) Company on December 17, 1943.  (Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk: The Men of SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 & 3 in Operation Citadel, July 5-15, 1943)

This Date in History: September 222023-08-31T16:49:41-05:00

Forged in Fire

The 2nd Amendment: we mostly think about it as firearms, but in the American Revolution, swords were also important weapons.  American cavalrymen carried long sabers, frequently as shock troops who charged at great speeds.  Infantrymen were often armed with a short sword measuring around 25 inches in length, known as a “hanger” that served as a secondary weapon to the musket.  As a result, swords were plentiful when the Constitution was written.

Today, probably no one would choose a sword over a firearm for most self-defense situations they might face, but it is incumbent that we force the opponents of our God-given right of self-defense to defend their entire foolish and naïve would-be bans or limitations on our right.  We must demand to own other self-defense weapons, including swords.

You may not have contemplated swords since you were a wee tike running around with a small wooden one playing pirate, so let’s quickly look at some characteristics of today’s long blades.  Swords changed over the last several millennia, primarily because the character and conduct of warfare (the type of enemy – such as mounted versus dismounted and what formations they used; tactics; metallurgy; the armor worn by your opponent, and so forth) constantly changes.

Today, the character and conduct of your fight could be combat inside your home, or outside.  The guy probably trying to kill you will likely have neither a sword of his own, nor wearing armor, most-likely be a single opponent, or at most a small group, but not part of a large, packed formation such as a Greek phalanx!  If outside your domicile, if he has a gun and you don’t, you have a problem – unless you can strike first, while inside the house, you know the terrain which is a huge advantage.  But again, this is not an argument to trade in your Browning 12 gauge for a Renaissance-era Zweihänder (two-handed) long sword – not that a blow from the latter won’t disable an attacker, but swinging that bad boy inside and you’ll find out what collateral damage is!

So here are some general types of swords you could own, and you aren’t limited to just one!  Just like with firearms, you have to practice, practice, practice: you and two other buddies just can’t saunter out in the back yard one afternoon, swinging your swords expecting to become the Three Musketeers.  And these are not wood or dull; they can will cut you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Slasher.  The Japanese Katana (above; sometimes called a Samurai sword in modern culture) is one of the best, if not the best, slashing swords available due to the stability, flexibility, and precision provided by the handle and soft curvature of its single-edge blade.  The downside?  You’re looking at years to get good with it – which is true for many swords ! – and it’s pretty long for inside-the-house use!

Cutter/Chopper.  Cutting strikes are different from slashing, as they look to sever body parts (sword-fighting is bloody; get used to it).  The best cutter/choppers have broad, sturdy, blades with a forward center of gravity that focus all of their power on the single-edge blade.  A Chinese Dadao (above) is a good choice.

Thruster.  While it can slash, the whole point of the thruster is to bury the blade’s point deep into the chest/guts of the other guy.  Nothing did that better, for a longer period of time, than the Roman Gladius, the sword of the Roman legion.  Blade length is about 20 inches; inside the house is doable, because you aren’t swinging it, you’re stabbing.  Remember!  Since the blade can be 2.6″ in width, the wounds are often fatal.

Jack of All Trades.  The above three types were designed for fighting, but a machete can serve many other purposes, cutting bushes, small trees, ropes, and even digging the ground when necessary, and be a slasher if need be.  They love getting dirty.

StealthCane Swords provide you with that crucial 2 seconds of getting it into the fight – because your attacker has probably never encountered one before.  But laws concerning them are so nebulous, so often mis-quoted, that while I feel confident that used inside your house you might be OK, outside – well, we must push lawmakers allow them for self-defense anywhere.  Cold Steel makes several economic models, while Burger Custom Canes produces ones so exquisite that your kids will fight over it in your Will, and let their siblings have the lake house and your beloved 1966 GTO.

Intimidator.  Nope, not Dale Earnhardt.  It’s the Khukuri.  Think Gurkha.  Think “Ayo Gorkhali!” (“Here come the Gorkhas!”)  Yes, deterrence will not always work, but if it doesn’t, this bad mama-jama looks like it is going to hurt somebody really bad – because it will.  I can’t say enough about Himalayan Imports, that makes these over in Nepal.  I own a bunch.  Some are 30″ long, but you want one 15-20″ as its easier to control.  5160 Straight Carbon Spring Steel leaf-springs off of large cargo trucks, preferably Mercedes or Saabs, past their operational life, are retooled into blades.  The Ang Khola model is almost unbreakable; some can even serve as a prybar.  Does what a machete and ax can do.  When I bought mine, they provided the name/info of the smith (kami) who forged each; I hope they still do.  Even if you never want it as a weapon, you should consider owning one of these.

Throughout history, a quality-made sword spoke of the unique character of its owner; in some cultures, only the bravest could possess one.  Be that protector of your own house and family.  Find your Excalibur.

Forged in Fire2023-08-25T10:47:49-05:00

Getting the Right Boom for the Baby Boomers

It is a cruel irony that senior citizens, who have an even more pressing need for self-defense capability – because they are viewed by criminals as being easy targets – often find it ever harder to utilize those tools of self-defense in any fashion, from hand-to hand-skills to weapons of all kinds.

My heart breaks every time I go to a gun range and see a senior citizen couple (who are my age in the interest of full disclosure) who have decided, often after six-plus decades of not owning a firearm, to finally purchase a pistol for home defense or self-defense away from home.

Because invariably, quite a few of us might buy something that will be (select all that apply): difficult to load; uncomfortable to shoot (too much recoil, not the right fit in the hand, too heavy to aim, too much muzzle blast, slide “biting” the web of your hand during recoil, etc.), inherently inaccurate, or too difficult – if it doesn’t fire as advertised – to apply immediate action to get it working again when a bad guy is trying to kill you.

The most fundamental problem is that a shooter must have a certain amount of strength to hold up their weapon at arm’s length, and to hold on to it throughout firing.  Depending on your strength, for a long gun (shotgun), that essentially might be impossible, and even lightweight handguns might be challenging.  This presents a two-pronged dilemma, because as weight of a weapon decreases, to make the firearm easier to lift and hold, recoil increases.  (Note: you can help with this by practicing every day holding a 2-3 pound small dumbbell with both hands, arms extended as you would a pistol and keeping that position for at least 10 seconds, working upward for longer times, and so you don’t shake while you are doing it.)  YOU CAN DO THIS!

Then there is the dreaded coordination, or manual dexterity, that seems to vanish with each passing year.  Fingers don’t work as readily or as smoothly as they used to, and manipulating tiny, detailed control levers, or loading a magazine into a semi-auto, or reloading the cylinder in a revolver, can be so challenging that not even John Wick could do it on his first take.  In short, here are the challenges:

  • Difficulty in inserting cartridges or magazines
  • Manipulation of controls (magazine release, safety, etc.)
  • Retracting slide to load or clear (known as racking the slide)
  • Holding pistol up at arm’s length
  • Maintaining adequate stability for the gun when firing

And these are often difficult to quantify, unlike weight, size, capacity, ballistics.  If I became a gun range owner with an FFL (so I could order you the exact model you want), I would have several pistols available for you to fire at the range BEFORE you make a decision on what to buy.  You have to feel the difference yourself in firing, not just take anyone’s advice as Gospel, not even mine.  I would urge you to fire enough ammunition (that you obviously pay for) through each weapon that is forces you to reload it twice, so you can check out the ease or difficulty in doing that.  We’re talking 30-40 rounds per pistol.  In 40 rounds, you’ll know if the gun is fun to shoot, or is painful, or too heavy to hold steady.  Normally, you would rent each pistol, which is money well spent, but I would suggest to range owners that if you subsequently buy a new one of these four models, the hour-long rental fee would be waived.

Here are a few pistols I would have available at the range: semi-autos and revolvers, because each type has certain advantages, which you will experience for yourself when you fire them.  Have tried to keep similar calibers: .380 for semi-autos and .38 for revolvers.  Longer barrels result in somewhat greater muzzle velocity which is a component of stopping power.  But the most-important component, in my opinion, is bullet placement on the bad guy.  And you can only do that through practice, practice, practice.  And you won’t practice, if firing the weapon is uncomfortable, let alone painful.

Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ

Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ.  .380 Auto.  Semi-auto.  8-round magazine.  3.68″ barrel.  4.5-lb. trigger pull; single action only.  Weight 21.6 ounces loaded.  Easier-to-rack slide, easier-to-load magazine, and easier-to-clean design.  @$450.

Girsan MC 14T

Girsan MC 14T.  .380 Auto.  Semi-auto, double action or single action. 13-round magazine.  4.5″ barrel.  Double action trigger pull 7.5-lb; single action 4.7-lb.  Weight 30.6 ounces loaded.  No racking required; barrel tips up allowing for manual loading of first round as shown above.  Magazine functions better with 12 rounds instead of 13.  This weapon has just come out –@$498.

Smith & Wesson 637 Airweight.  .38 Special (+P rated).  Revolver: double action or single action.  Double action trigger pull 9-lb; single action 2-lb.  5-round capacity.  1.875″ barrel.  Weight 15.5 ounces loaded.

Charter Arms Undercover Lite

Charter Arms Undercover Lite.  .38 Special.  Revolver: double action or single action.  Double action trigger pull 10-lb; single action 3.6-lb.  5-round capacity.  2″ barrel.  Weight 12 ounces.  @$400.

I do not own any of these weapons, but use, instead, a Smith & Wesson 351 PD, .22 Magnum revolver.  It holds 7 rounds and fits my needs at my age.

But I am intrigued by the Girsan MC 14T .380 Auto.  The other three may have incremental improvements over my 351 PD, although five rounds is not a lot of room for misses.  But with the Girsan’s tip up barrel design, which can eliminate racking entirely, combined with a hefty capacity, the Girsan may prove to have revolutionary improvements, and I want to test those, so I know for myself – not having to rely on someone else’s opinion.

Getting the Right Boom for the Baby Boomers2023-09-07T16:11:29-05:00

Everyday Carry Knife

Back when my ancestors lived in caves and were scared of saber-tooth cats, I’m pretty sure that old gramps never left home without his trusty knife.  And while Mr. Saber-tooth is long gone, never leave your own “cave” without your own knife, commonly known today as an EDC – Every Day Carry.

Choices are many and can sometimes depend on your normal uses for it.  If you’re in an office and 90% of its use will be to slice open letters or delivery boxes, the knife you choose to carry every day may be far different than if you work on a farm.  Here are basic considerations.  Pick a knife you want to carry every day.  Choose a knife you don’t mind getting messy or dirty.  Choose a knife that is easy to carry, which basically revolves around size and weight; nobody wants a brick in their pocket, so the lighter and easier to carry the knife is, the more likely you are to carry it.  Choose a knife that is fun and practical to use.

We aren’t talking knife combat.  While almost any knife could provide some degree of defense, an EDC isn’t primarily that, except for, perhaps, if you are in our military and have “a very particular set of skills.”  Second, I personally buy American on these, as American makers often more fully-divulge key parameters like type of steel used for the blade.  But if you have something from a maker such as Boker (Böker), made in Solingen, Germany, you have a great knife so don’t worry.  In any case, you’ll need to start looking at knife qualities including: edge retention (ability to hold its sharpness during use); toughness (ability to resist chipping or complete failure [it snaps] during really hard use, like “batoning” using a baton-sized stick to strike the spine of a knife, to drive it through wood, something I would never try): hardness (ability to resist deforming); corrosion resistance (a steel’s capability to resist and prevent corrosion such as rusting, especially in humid conditions); ease of sharpening.  Read multiple sources, as its interesting.  The rub is that some of these characteristics work against each other!

Now to the blade’s steel.  You’ll start seeing terms like D2, M390, S30V, S35VN, S90V, Elmax, and so many more it will make your head swim.  But never fear, most discussions on the Internet also use diagrams that compare two sample steels.  Because it is the type of steel in your knife blade that will determine its cost and character.  So if you are looking at a knife and cannot find the type of steel used, you may want to move on, because without knowing the steel, you could be guessing how it will turn out.  Would you buy a firearm, without knowing its caliber?

Here is a diagram comparing S35VN steel to S90V with respect to toughness, edge retention, ease of sharpness, and corrosion resistance (VERY important if you live near bodies of water or in a humid climate.)  The further away from the center of the diamond, the higher that steel is rated in that particular category.  In this case, S35VN has higher ratings than S90V in everything but edge retention, but if edge retention is really important for you, you might end up wanting that.


Sometimes a diagram looks like this next one, which in this case presents just one category, corrosion resistance, and then shows five types of steel and how well they do in this.  Again, the further away from the center the rating is, the stronger the rating.  Vanax is the best of these five steels shown, but all five score high in this category.

Let’s get to five makers.  Benchmade (Oregon)  A premium company, all kinds of steel and products, known for their AXIS lock where the blade remains more secure.  Free LifeSharp maintenance (they’ll re-sharpen it!)  Downside?  The get expensive in a hurry.  But at least visit their website because it doesn’t cost to look.  Here’s the Osborne model.

Buck (Idaho).  Been around a long time.  BUCK Forever Warranty.  Extremely reasonable prices.  Downside?  Some can be a little heavy.

Case (Pennsylvania).  Also known for making small folding multi-blade knives, and if that fits your EDC needs, get one.  Lots of S35VN.  Kinzua line looks fascinating.  Mid-range prices.  Downside?  One variation is all camouflage, including blade.  If you drop it, will you be able to find it?

Emerson (California).  Lots of 154CM.  Known for fighting knives, but several models are EDC.  Downside?  Can be pricey.

Microtech (North Carolina).  AWESOME knives.  With almost every variety, its tough narrowing down what you want.  Downside?  Can be pricey.  Microtech does not commit to a specific steel type for a given model; rather, they constantly switch the steel from what they have available.  Sometimes it can just be labeled Premium Steel.  But with some research you can find out the particular steel that you are holding.

Then you’ll decide on blade length, type of opening such as manual or automatic (following legal requirements where you live).  OTF means the blade comes out the front in an auto knife.  Hold it, and try opening and closing it, BEFORE you buy it.

Finally, don’t do what I did.  No matter what you think you know, if you have ANY knife on you, or in a carry-on bag going through TSA at an airport, they will almost certainly confiscate it!  And if you bitch, they might go bad-ass and not let you board the plane.  Plan ahead or lose your EDC.  Because there’s nothing sadder than losing a faithful friend.

Everyday Carry Knife2023-08-25T10:49:44-05:00


General George S. Patton was a walking quotation machine. His colorful image, hard-driving personality, and success as a military commander were at times overshadowed by numerous controversial public statements. On top of that, he is often difficult to understand, in part, because he is almost a one-of-a-kind historical figure, and because a senior military officer in the United States, like Patton, could not exist today. In my over three decades of military service, the only officer I saw that possessed even a small Pattonesque persona was General Norm Schwarzkopf. And today? George Patton wasn’t “woke”; and the military establishment would have prevented him from even sniffing a promotion to flag rank, let alone ever achieving that.

Be that as it may, Patton made some remarkable observations, one of which would become true concerning Company B of the 39th Infantry Regiment. One evening, in a tent with other officers, during the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers, a pensive Patton shared his thoughts on the war he knew would surely come:

“I’m worried because I’m not sure this country can field a fighting army at this stage in our history. We’ve pampered and confused our youth. We’ve talked too much about rights and not enough about duties. Now we’ve got to try and make them attack and kill. A big percentage of our men won’t be worth a goddam to us. Many a brave soldier will lose his life unnecessarily because the man next to him turns yellow. We’re going to have to dig down deep to find our hard core of scrappers. That takes time and time is short.”

As George would later see first-hand, the 39th Infantry Regiment on a large scale, and Company B within it, would be a key part of “our hard core of scrappers.”



Walther WMP .22 Magnum

Loading Them Up and Putting Them Out – The Walther WMP

Been shooting a new Walther WMP (Walther Magnum Pistol) a lot lately. It’s a .22 Magnum semi-auto, full-size, easy-to-shoot, lightweight, 15-round magazine capacity weapon; and since it is made by Walther headquartered in Ulm, Germany, you know it’s high quality.

Many weapons perhaps do one thing exceedingly well, and the WMP is no exception. And in this case, it’s this: the WMP can lay down a wall of suppressive fire. There are several reasons for this ability: large magazine capacity, minimal recoil of the .22 magnum cartridge, sensitivity of the trigger pull, the ergonomic fit of its full-size (more surface area to grip,) and it’s 46 ounces with a full 15-round magazine, so the weight and semi-auto action “eat up” some of the felt recoil – remember that is small anyway with a .22 magnum – so you can keep the weapon on target and rapidly fire again, and again, and again.

To put down a base of fire, the weapon has to fire reliably, and sometimes rimfire cartridges do not, even when struck by the firing pin. They can also be finicky cycling in semi-automatic weapons. Walter understands this and has tested probably every make of .22 magnum ammunition, along with their various muzzle velocities, and bullet grain weight – in this case weights of between 30 grain and 50 grain. With every new weapon (and online at their website) they include a list of several dozen different .22 magnum rounds and rate them as follows: “works OK,” “works well,” “works very well,” “works best,” and the two dreaded categories “inconsistent,” and “not recommended.”

Every individual firearm has a unique ability to fire some rounds more reliably and more accurately than other rounds. Some of that ability is driven by the ammunition, but there are often other factors. How do you hold the firearm? How do you squeeze the trigger? How often do you clean the weapon? When you do clean it, how thorough is that process? How much lubricant do you keep on the weapon? With semi-autos, how much detail do you spend loading the magazine with rounds? And last, I believe that almost every weapon has its own tiny variations making it unique. Some come during the manufacturing process, but others include how many rounds have already been fired through it in its operational life, and how rough it has been handled, so maybe it is tighter or looser than even the next firearm originally made on the assembly line years ago.

Walther understands all that, and they probably fired more rounds of every type of ammunition through the prototypes to finished products than you or I could ever fire in a lifetime of shooting. And yet, some reviewers – who may or may not know what they are doing, what their motivation is, or even if they are on the payroll of a competitor, fire some number rounds (under conditions that the reader does not fully know) and proclaim that a weapon is not reliable. If the manufacturer tells you that ammunition Type A is “inconsistent,” or “not recommended,” believe them.

For the particular Walther I have shot, the most reliable rounds have been (first) Hornady Critical Defense .22 WMR, 45 grain FTX (classified by Walther as “works very well”) and (second) Federal Small Game 50 grain JHP (which Walther says works well.) Probably have put a couple hundred rounds of each through it, with no failures, no jams, didn’t fire, didn’t chamber. There are a couple of types of ammunition that Walther rates even higher: Fiocchi, Shooting Dynamics, 40 grain, JHP; and CCI MaxiMag 40 grain JHP and MaxiMag 40 grain Target.

Why would someone even consider suppressive fire as an attribute for a civilian firearm? Certainly that is a good quality for a military small arm – and even artillery fire is used to suppress targets – but what circumstances in a civilian environment would require that? First, rule out a zombie attack; that makes for great TV and movies. And, if zombies ever do attack, looks to me like you have to blow their heads off with well-aimed shots, as they don’t worry about being suppressed!

Let’s examine two environments present in non-military events in which you might find yourself. Out in the wild, you might be treated to an unplanned encounter with a few feral dogs, wild pigs with babies, something that might be rabid running at you – in short, unprovoked, quick-developing, potentially deadly, shocking situations where your goal is to get out of there by deterring the pack and getting to your car PDQ (pretty damn quick.) You aren’t concerned about humane kills; this isn’t hunting, but self-defense. Granted, a single .22 magnum round probably won’t drop porky or a rapid dog. But fifteen “hornets” stinging everything they hit, coming from something spitting flame out the front presents the animal with its own decision to avoid more pain and leave PDQ. And since Walther gives you an additional 15-round magazine, the hornets have more buddies.

Now for the two-legged threats, and here it gets more complicated. First, let me get a personnel peccadillo off my chest. In the over fifty years researching various military armies, and participating in two wars (not as a hero mind you) I believe that most human beings will not attack you in kamikaze-style attacks, or drug-fueled charges, where they feel no pain and keep coming after multiple rounds hit them. Bullet wounds hurt. Few things control human behavior like pain. If the aggressor is hurt badly enough he or she will usually stop. The reason that kamikazes in the Pacific were effective to the degree they were is that they went against almost all previous military tactics and thus gained surprise, which gave the Japanese a temporary psychological edge, until the US figured out how to combat them. Even the vaunted Waffen-SS hunkered down at Kursk under heavy Russian fire, and those boys were as fanatical as they get.

“Combat in cities” is what thousands of Americans face every day across the country. Chicago, Detroit and St Louis all seem to be vying for the worst murder rates in the country year after year. What do we know about urban killings? Many are gang-related, conducted by dangerous, but tactically inept marksmen and cowards who go after those who cannot defend themselves – often children and senior citizens. They beat women smaller than they are. These killers are not brave, and certainly not willing to die for the honor of the gang. They are not going to charge you while their homies are dropping around them. They are frequently alcohol or drug impaired.

Their biggest tactical asset is that they are familiar with the terrain in which they prey like hyenas, but like hyenas, they run from lions, whom they call pigs, the police who fight back. Their other characteristic is that they have intimidated their peaceful neighbors into remaining silent; snitches get stitches. Often it is more than stitches. His own gang, the Black Disciples, killed eleven-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer because it feared he might become a police informant.

“Yummy” Sandifer’s grave

“Gangstas” (street gangs, often known as nations,) often use a pistol sideways just because in their world it looks cool. They usually don’t worry about holsters in concealment; they often shove their pieces in their coats or pants pockets, or pull their pants up and “Mexican carry” (carry in the front or back without a holster).

So what can you do? Most effectively, stay out of danger zones. Each individual gang is divided into sets which are territories spanning blocks or neighborhoods that may be divided further into subsets. The police in every city and town will tell you what areas to avoid. If you live in a bad one, try and do whatever it takes to move out, and never come back. If you do not live there, there is no reason for you to take a chance and visit. Do not, sightsee, shop, dine, or do any other voluntary activity. Do not drive through them; they are the home of stray shots that may never have been targeted at you, but you were there at the wrong place at the wrong time. Concerning your profession, refuse to work in these areas, or even drive a delivery truck into them, but rather seek employment in safer areas. This isn’t an issue of race. Violent criminals come in every stripe, color, gender and every other characteristic.

If you must reside or work in these areas, you need to be armed, and maybe the characteristics of the Walther WMP may be right for your situation, although it is a bit large for easy concealed carry on your body. You do not want to kill one of these punks, even though in the scheme of life they are pretty worthless. You just want to wound your attacker and cause him to flee, which may be 3-4 attackers, all of whom may be armed. Hitting an attacker with a .44 magnum, .357 magnum, 10mm, or other big “manstopper” round is probably going to kill him if you hit him with a round center of his chest, which is what you train to do (Remember, head shots are for Hollywood.)

With the WMP’s barrel length, Hornady Critical Defense .22 WMR, 45 grain FTX will penetrate a human 13-14 inches, as tested by the FBI, and often expand to .40 inches. That means that many rounds will not penetrate all the way through the bad guy, which translates to a lower probability that someone behind them, and thus not involved, will be hit.

But a couple of .22 magnums in the arm and maybe 1-2 in the leg? His attack on you is very likely over, and the police have better things to do then find out which gang-banger shot another gang-banger, especially if no one gets killed. Cook County, Illinois, States Attorney Kim Foxx has even refused to bring charges over shootings involving “mutual combat” arguments – even when one person was killed! These gang members are not going to go to the police and admit that they were trying to rob someone, and got shot in the process. That makes them look weak; and weak street gang members are often eliminated by their own bosses, because there’s no real retirement plan.

Suppressive fire may be just the key, especially in situations where it is unlikely that there are innocent bystanders who might be hit by your fire. But if you practice, something the gangs in Illinois cannot truly do, because they have criminal records and cannot own a firearm legally, or buy ammo, or visit a range, you can control the situation, not just fire wildly, but a controlled suppression fire that can turn the tables on them. They are not well-versed to determine what type of weapon they are facing. Hearing multiple shots fired leads many people to believe they are facing multiple opponents. They are not seeking that.

But remember; you cannot talk your way out of many, if not most, attacks. Your attackers do not care about you. You are prey. Unless you are a rival gang member, they may have nothing against you. You might even just be an initiation target that a new gang member has to kill to get full membership in the gang. And ditch that sentimental gentleman in you if you are male; a recent study found that in Chicago, 8 percent of female students reported they were in a gang at some point between sixth and tenth grades, compared with 13 percent of boys. In either case, if they are trying to hurt you, you are in danger of losing your life, so turn the hornets loose on them.

Walther WMP .22 Magnum2023-06-21T11:08:52-05:00

Dead Man Walking

There have been a great number of recent articles about the future of Vladimir Putin, but as Winston Churchill once described Russia as a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” who really knows what is going on?

“Any fool can commit a murder, but it takes a true artist to stage a natural death or suicide,” said KGB defector Walter Krivitsky in 1941.  A recent drone-attack supposedly against Vladimir Putin raises questions on the gentleman’s future.  He says the Ukrainians did it, but maybe it was the Russian military or someone close to him.  The Russians seem pretty clumsy in many walks of life, but whacking their own has long been a fine art.

Joe Stalin had a real thorn in his side with Leon Trotsky.  Once, thick as thieves in the old days of Marxist intrigues in Mother Russia, after the successful revolution against the Tsar, Bolshevik takeover, and death of Lenin, Leon ran afoul of Joe and was exiled.  He continued to yap against Stalin, who finally decided Leon had to go away permanently.  By 1940, Leon was in Mexico City and in bad health, fearing that he would suffer a cerebral hemorrhage.  Would he ever!  One day, Spanish-born NKVD agent Ramón Mercader, approached Leon from behind in his study with a mountain-climbing ice axe and planted it a couple inches into his brain.  Adios Leon.

Thousands of other significant figures in the bloody last one-hundred years of Russian/Soviet history were murdered as well, such as: Yevhen Konovalets (Ukrainian,) 1938, explosive hidden in a box of chocolates; Lavrentiy Beria, 1953, shot through forehead; Sergei Kirov, 1934, shot back of the head; Grigori Rasputin, 1916, a combination of cyanide-laced cupcakes, poisoned wine, three gunshots, and drowning.

So how might Vladimir Putin meet his end sometime soon, thus is already a dead man walking?

Vlad, stay away from windows in tall buildings.  It is amazing how many Russians have recently died “committing suicide” or “accidentally” falling out of high windows.  Marina Yankina (high-level Russian defense ministry official,) St. Petersburg; “law enforcement agencies haven’t ruled out that she took her own life.” Ravil Maganov, (chairman of Russian oil giant Lukoil,) 6th floor, Central Clinical Hospital of Moscow; “It’s unclear why Maganov was in the hospital in the first place.”

I don’t know if you have any one-story ranch-type houses over there, Vlad, but if so, they’re pretty nice and you don’t have to climb stairs.

Vlad & Alina

Vlad, get rid of every rope.  In your office, the house, dacha, or love nest with Alina in your penthouse at Korolevskiy Park in that resort city Sochi on the Black Sea.  (Hey, Vlad, if I know, everybody knows.)  Hanging seems to be the demise of numerous oligarchs lately, and if there aren’t any ropes around, you are halfway to safety.

Vlad, don’t accept any statuettes as gifts.  You know what happened to pro-war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky at a St. Petersburg café, where he had been attending a patriotic meeting with supporters as a guest speaker.  Kaboom!  Vlad, you probably aren’t getting an Oscar anytime soon.  Have people who want to give you trophies or other gifts, leave them on a big table about 100 yards from where you are sitting or speaking – further away if you think it might be a suitcase nuke.

Snaiperskaya Vintovka Chukavin sniper rifle

Vlad, get really familiar with that Snaiperskaya Vintovka Chukavin sniper rifle.  You know, the SVCh, that you all replaced your old Dragunov SVD with, and that you personally took a peek through, and maybe even fired.  That bad boy has a maximum range of more than 1,600 yards.  The Chukavin, mostly chambered in 7.62x54R, also comes in .308 Winchester and the high-powered .338 Lapua Magnum.  The Lapua version has an estimated effective range of 1,640 yards.  Why is that important?  Because the Russian sniper that bags you is going to try to throw off suspicion.  Lapua ammunition is made in Finland.  Finland just joined NATO and they hate Russians.  You feeling me, Vlad?

The shooter, who will bag you from almost a mile away, is based at the 161st Special Purpose Specialist Training Center in eastern Moscow.  You’ve probably already met him; he knows you – your size, your gait, the bench you sit down to rest for a moment while walking, all your routines.  You should have paid attention to him; steely eyes that don’t blink much is my guess.  He belongs to Unit 29155; you know, Andrei Vladimirovich Averyanov’s boys.  Andrei has direct communications with both the chief of the GRU (military intelligence, which has its own spetsnaz [special ops]) and to the Kremlin.  Wonder who Andrei talks to, Vlad?  He drives a 1996 VAZ 21053, a rattletrap Russia-made sedan.  Maybe you ought to buy him a new car.  Just sayin’.

That rifle may have an American scope on it, or even a thermal sight that you all bought from the Taliban after the Americans unassed Kabul and left a few thousand.  It’s probably already been used in Syria, and has a ten-round magazine, but the shooter won’t need more than one.  Good news is he won’t target Alina and the kids, because the Finns wouldn’t do that (see above, Vlad.)

Your successor will just say that you shot yourself.  Or it was an accident when you were cleaning your own personal SVCh.

Do svidanya (до свидания)


Dead Man Walking2023-08-08T12:34:56-05:00

Air Janes

While researching Dying Hard, I came across some history that I had been unaware.  In World War II, thirty-eight ladies of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) perished in service to their nation piloting military aircraft, flying almost everything their brothers did including B-17 Flying Fortresses, one of which sported the feisty name of “Pistol Packin’ Mama” because the “Air Janes” were just as saucy as the guys.

Air Crew Pistol Packin’ Mama

The organization was a civilian pilots’ outfit, whose members were actually US federal service employees who became  trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft, and trained other pilots so as to free male pilots for combat roles.  Some 800 completed all training.  Here are some period illustrations relating to Air Janes:

Fifinella, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) mascot, created by The Walt Disney Company

Air Jane in a P-51 Mustang

Air Janes belonged to the Air Transport Command and wore this insignia

In 2009, members of the WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  There aren’t many left, so if you get to meet one, tell her thanks and see if she has a story to share with you.  It’s probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet a real live hero.

Air Jane in the cockpit

Air Janes2023-06-05T21:47:10-05:00


America’s soldiers in World War II come from all corners of America – the teeming cities of the northeast, the rural south, the golden sun of California, the farms of the Midwest, coal country of Appalachia, cold country of Minnesota and even from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation somewhere on the endless Dakota plains. Some are illiterate, needing their buddies to help them read letters from home; others are college boys from schools like “Ole Miss,” University of Maryland, Santa Monica Junior College, University of Kansas, and Bradley Polytechnic Institute.

Jay Lavinsky (now Jay Lavin)

But college boys are in the minority; most start work at an early age to help the family, and a lot of them are more familiar with hard manual labor than they ever wanted to be.  A couple have dangerous jobs up in towering treetops as lumberjacks, or deep underground as coalminers.  Several toil on hard-scrabble farms, another is a harbor dredger under the scorching Georgia sun.  One stands in front of a hot plate hoping someday to own a small restaurant; another crouches behind home plate chasing his dream of playing catcher in the Major Leagues.

A few are married; a few are spoken for; the rest think they are God’s gift to women.  Descended from Austrian, German, Italian, Russian, French, Scottish, Irish, Lithuanian, English, Danish, Canadian, Swiss, Mexican, Korean, Filipino, Swedish, Romanian, Ukrainian, and Polish immigrant parents, they have nicknames like Mac, Hawk, Kenny, Willie, Noodles, Timber, Doc, Vito, Candy, Greek, Buster, Bulldog, Porky and Russian. Not all are born across the fruited plain and are more than happy to tell you about the “old country” of Scotland, Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Poland, the Philippines, Greece, China, Norway, Canada…. or Texas.

They all would give their eye teeth to see their mothers just one more time; ladies with names of Pearl, Anne, Fern, Edith, Eva, Pauline, Rose, Tarcila, Grace, Estelle, Antonetta, Ruth, Lupe, Elena, Apie, Ella Fair, Margaret, Maria, Minnie, and Lillie Mae, because every mother thinks that her own son is the cat’s meow.  And while each son would trade a few of his tomorrows to be sitting at Mom’s kitchen table tonight, not a one of them one wants to become a Gold Star in her window.

Gold Star Mothers flag , in the window of Mothers who lost a son or ...

Jay Harvey Lavinsky, at the top of the page, was in Company B, winning two Bronze Stars with V for Valor, before being wounded by six German machine gun bullets outside a small village in Germany on March 4, 1945.  However, six days before that, before the dawn’s early light on February 28, something very tragic happened as Company B advances against small arms fire, mines and self-propelled gunfire at the western edge of Berg, two miles southeast of Nideggen.  Jay Lavinsky and Harry Nodell, who Jay calls “Brooklyn,” are involved in street-clearing operations.  In the dark night, Jay cautiously leads part of the squad, supported by a bazooka team, down the left side of a street, when he hears German drifting from a basement window and tosses a hand grenade through it.  On the right side of the street, Nodell spots a German half-track and approaches it, despite a cry of alarm from Lavinsky.  The vehicle’s machine gun drops Brooklyn with a lethal burst.  As other soldiers engage the enemy, Jay runs to his fallen comrade and holds him in his arms, screaming: “Listen you son of a bitch; you better not die on me!”  Harry looks Jay in the face, winks, smiles, and dies in his arms.  Jay will go several days before a change of clothes is available to swap for his blood-soaked uniform – drenched with the blood of his closest friend in the world.

“Brooklyn” Harry Nodell

“Brooklyn’ Nodell left a wife and two young daughters behind.  Mollie never remarried.  He became a Gold Star in his mother Agnes’ window.  Jay survived the six bullets and subsequent five operations, and is now almost 99 years old.  He is in a wheel chair and in the last fight of his life, because at least here on this Earth, a person cannot avoid “the Grim Reaper.”  The Veteran’s Administration worked miracles and got Jay into long-term care at their West Palm Beach facility, and Jay is taking that fight to the later rounds in boxing terms, because there is no quit in Jay.  He knows all about that because when he was young, a family friend in his hometown of Philly is like an uncle to Jay – Barney Lebrowitz, who boxes under the name of “Battling Levinsky,” former light heavyweight champion of the world.  Jay learns as much of the “sweet science” as he can from “Uncle Barney” and departs for England on April 5, 1944 to fight for America in some pretty rough places like the Hürtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge and the Siegfried Line, where German machine guns are nicknamed “Hitler’s buzz saw” or the chilling-nickname “bone-saw,” one of which got Jay.

So if you live in Florida and see Jay Lavin (his father changed their name after the war,) or see a World War II veteran anywhere you live, reach out and give them a hand — in thanks but also in helping them do the little things in life like walking out to get the newspaper, or even cutting the old-timer’s grass.

Over 400,000 military personnel made the ultimate sacrifice for us in that war.  Just don’t just say “thanks for your service”: do something special for them.


The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

A Bob Lee Swagger Novel

Simon & Schuster, 2013

(February 14, 2023)  I just re-read, for probably the fifth time because it is so well-written and a real pager-turner, The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter.  Part of the Bob Lee Swagger series, this fiction book transcends that genre, which I’ll address in a moment, and is clearly on my all-time top ten fiction book list.

It would probably not spoil the book, which I have carefully stored in our hide-away in Puerto Rico so that I may read it every year when we are down there, if I mentioned that it is about the John F. Kennedy assassination in Dallas in 1963.  Kennedy’s picture is on the front dust jacket of the hard cover edition of the Simon & Schuster book (while Lee Harvey Oswald’s picture is on the back dust cover.)  On the front title page is a photograph of the murder weapon, the infamous Mannlicher-Carcano Model 38 carbine with its cheap and poorly attached Japanese-made scope, and on both the front and rear inside of the hard cover are detailed sketches of Dealey Plaza – which probably has no significance for 99% of all Americans except for being the site of JFK’s murder.

The book begins with the hit-and-run death of an author (a “gun-guy” that wrote about snipers and weapons,) which being a writer myself obviously caught my undivided attention.  The man’s widow does not believe it was an accident, so she contacts Bob Lee Swagger, who had been a sniper in Vietnam, who has had additional gun-related escapades in his later years, and whose body has so many old bullet wounds that it makes Swiss cheese look solid.

I will leave the story there and apologize to Mr. Hunter if I have said too much already.

Reviewer Lee Child (Jim Grant, Jack Reacher series) said of the book, “it might even be true,” while noted author Vince Flynn – who died shortly after The Third Bullet was published – opined that the book “answers the question ‘What if?’ in astonishingly plausible detail,” so if my modest writing skills remain unimpressive, at least you know that those two literary heavyweights liked Hunter’s book as well.

From Mark Lane (Rush to Judgment,) almost immediately after the assassination, to tomes published to this day fifty years later, authors have attempted to show that this group or that – with or without Lee Harvey Oswald’s participation – brought off the crime of the century, and some would say the most significant crime in the entire history of the United States.  Most of these books, while they add bits and pieces to the general body of knowledge surrounding the assassination, often fall short in two areas: the technical capabilities of the firearm (maybe more than one, you’ll have to read the book) and bullets in question, and that the route of the presidential motorcade did not become known until a short few days before the event.  Large, complex organizations do many things well, but doing them quickly is usually not a characteristic of the ponderous, as the author shows.

In short, after reading and re-reading Hunter’s work, one quickly concludes that the author truly understands firearms in all their complexity – and sometimes simplicity, such as a tour-de-force description of what the Mannlicher-Carcano was originally designed to do when developed in 1891 – as well as a consummate ability to leave no loose ends in the theory at the heart of the story.

However, there is another level to the novel that I mentioned earlier.  Later in the work, the main character, Bob Lee Swagger, is informed by several literary experts that people who loved to read great literature often develop a sense of how they could insert puzzles and clues in their work (be that writing or espionage, etc.) that some people might find, while others miss them; some of these puzzles – which were key to understanding “who done it” – were in plain sight, while others had multiple layers of detail and nuance; some of them followed a clichéd formula, while others are undramatic and small.

Why is this dialogue important?  Because the discussion is really not a focal point of finding “who done it.”  That revelation is already known in the first third of the book.

No, I believe that Stephen Hunter slid this conversation of literary puzzles into the book intentionally for someone to find much later in reading The Third Bullet – maybe decades from now after Hunter and I and those of us who were living in 1963 are long gone – and conclude:

“This story is not total fiction.  In fact, it is probably 70% true, maybe even more, and the author stumbled across it and promised his source that he would portray the book (‘Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination…’, humma, humma, etc.), as PURE fiction, when it is anything but a work of fiction at its heart.”

Read The Third Bullet yourself and see what you think.  Is it simply a work of fiction that is so well-conceived and adroitly written that Stephen Hunter hit it out of the park, or is it something more?

The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter2023-08-08T12:36:18-05:00
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