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This Date in History: July 31

Expedition Report

Company M and the 7th Cavalry Regiment camped near the mouth of the Powder River on July 31, 1873 as part of the 1873 Yellowstone Expedition.  (Custer’s Best: The Story of Company M, 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn)

**********

Alois Mücke.  Alois Mücke was born on August 1, 1923 in what was then termed Mährisch Ostrau in Czechoslovakia (today Moravská Ostrava.)  Prior to the end of the Great War, the area had been Austrian, and this is undoubtedly what Alois Mücke believed himself to be.  After the incorporation of the area into the Third Reich in October 1938, Mücke joined the Hitler Youth on April 20, 1939 and remained in that organization until April 20, 1942.  Single, he entered the Waffen-SS on July 15, 1942 and became a radio operator.  During the Kursk Offensive it is believed that SS-Sturmmann Mücke served as a radio operator on a Tiger in the 9th (Heavy) Company in the Totenkopf.  Alois Mücke was killed in action on July 31, 1943 assaulting Hill 213.9 east of Stepanivka on the Mius front.  (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: July 312021-06-17T11:16:00-06:00

Dare to Dream

Luis Ángel Colón World Record Cuatro

Sometimes you run across a person with a special talent, and even if you don’t know that individual well, you want success for them.  Such is the case of Luis Ángel Colón, whom I met while researching for maybe a new novel on Puerto Rico.  He lives in a modern, wooden house high on a hill outside Barranquitas.  He built the house because that is what Luis does – build incredible things with wood.  Not only houses, he may be the best craftsman currently constructing the Cuatro Puertorriqueño.  Known as a Cuatro for short, it is Puerto Rico’s most popular melodic instrument, and is played in both secular and religious music.  It sort of looks like a violin, or more accurately a violin-shaped guitar.  The Cuatro originally had four double-strings (hence cuatro for four) but at the end of the nineteenth century a fifth was added as its popularity rose on the island.

Cuatro by Luis Ángel Colón

Luis’ Cuatros are wonderful instruments, but don’t take my word for it.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City [Accession Number: 2003.216.1] has one of Luis’ creations.  An artist himself, Luis is proud when Cuatro-players around the island tell him what a great instrument he has made for them.

But like almost all artists, Luis dreams big and at first that meant creating the world’s largest-playable Cuatros, which he did several years ago.  The result was a 30 foot-long, Puerto Rican cuatro that weighs 1.4 tons.  Up to 15 people can fit inside Luis’ giant instrument, which you can actually tune, and play its chords with a giant guitar pick.  However, Luis is not finished.  In addition to building a second house, crafting exquisite  regular-size Cuatros, and also producing the Guiro Clásico Puertorriqueño, Guiro, a hollowed out gourd, about sixteen inches long, that has been dried and treated so that it can be used as an instrument.  Notches are carved on one side of the gourd, and the musician uses a stick or tines to create various raspy tones.  Johnny Pacheco was a famous Guiro player.  Janis Joplin was a famous singer who tried to play the Guiro, they key word being tried.

Guiro by Luis Ángel Colón

“Do It Again,” by Steely Dan, has prominent Guiro tones, as does “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” by Stevie Wonder.  If you are a Santana fan, you know all about this instrument; “I Ain’t Got Nobody That I Can Depend On” is a great one, as is “Guajira.”

Luis’ Dream — A Cuatro Museum and Restaurant

However, Luis has his sights set higher…much higher.  He has begun to organize architectural drawings of an entire building shaped as a Cuatro, possibly solar powered, here in Puerto Rico, that might be able to serve as a combination Cuatro museum and restaurant (with dishes named after parts of the Cuatro) in a unique fusion of music and food.  Luis Colón just might have an idea for you.

Create your own dream by checking out Luis’s dreams.  If you are a guitar player, broaden your horizons with your own Cuatro, maybe even one built by him.  Play along with Stevie, or Carlos and Jorge Santana with your own Guiro – you can get a good one for a very reasonable price.

Or just maybe you want to spend some quality time down in the Caribbean and want to open a one-of-a-kind restaurant.

Dare to Dream2021-07-30T14:27:18-06:00

West Point, Class of 1974

1974

Admitted

1967 – 1

1968 – 1

1969 – 12

1970 – 819

Graduated – 833

Time at West Point:

Upon arriving at West Point in the summer of 1970, the question every new cadet tacitly pondered was whether they would serve in Vietnam at some point during their time in service.  The country was deeply divided over the war, and nationwide anti-war demonstrations came to a tragic climax with the killing of four and wounding of nine other unarmed Kent State University students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970.  Despite division over the war, 1377 new cadets entered the Academy out of over 6,000 applicants.  On his way to perform for the troops in Vietnam, Bob Hope and his entourage, stopped at West Point on December 15, 1970, for a special Christmas show.  And on May 29, 1971, President Nixon visited the academy with a message of assurance that no graduates from the Class of 1974 would be deployed to Vietnam, although this news was a little late for our future First Captain Jack Pattison, who had fought on Hamburger Hill in that conflict before attending the Prep School and subsequently West Point.

French & Dad at Graduation; it had been a LONG way from Summer School for Chemistry

While most of the class members were on summer leave, a few to summer school, army orientation training, or airborne school, a federal appeals court ruled on June 30, 1972, that mandatory chapel was unconstitutional, thus ending a years-long tradition at West Point.  On July 1, 1973, President Nixon fulfilled a re-election promise by ending the draft and ushering in the era of an all-volunteer army.  Distinguished scholars among the 833 graduates included Andrew Green and Thomas Downar recognized with the Hertz Foundation Award; Dwight Helton and Willis Marti awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; Kerry Pierce awarded the Rhodes Scholarship; and Michael Reopel awarded a White House Fellowship.

Dave Petraeus and fiancée at graduation

Environment upon Graduation:

The Class of 1974 entered a peacetime Army divided between draftees and enlistees who served in Vietnam, and volunteers who had no combat experience.  Graduates were immediately challenged to address post-war issues such as low morale, racial tensions, and unit readiness as the Army transitioned from the Vietnam war to more defensive missions in Western Europe and South Korea.  The class also provided exemplary leadership regarding the integration and development of women into combat support units.  Missions and training broadened to include desert warfare in anticipation of conflicts in the Middle East.

Receiving Diploma from Superintendent, Lieutenant General William Knowlton. The “Supe” was probably more surprised than I was!

Career Highlights:

Members of the Class of 1974 served in assignments around the globe and played a key role in providing frontline combat leadership in the Gulf War (1990-1991), the Iraq War (2003-2011), and the Global War on Terror.  No members of the Class were killed in action or died while in captivity.  Twenty-five members of the Class became General Officers, including four 4-star generals, three 3-star, eleven 2-star, and seven 1-star.  Completing over forty years of active service, GEN Martin “Marty” Dempsey served as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1, 2011, until September 25, 2015.  GEN Keith Alexander, serving in the United States Army for nearly forty years, served as director of the National Security Agency, chief of the Central Security Service, and commander of the United States Cyber Command.  GEN David “Dave” Petraeus served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency after serving 37 years in the United States Army.  Highlighting nearly thirty-seven years of service in the United States Army, GEN Walter “Skip” Sharp last served as the Commander, United Nations Command, Commander, ROK-US Combined Forces Command and Commander, U.S. Forces Korea.  After retiring as a Colonel, Matthew S. “Matt” Klimow (who was Keith Alexander’s roommate at West Point) went into the U. S. State Department; his career there culminated as the U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan.  Keith Alexander, Marty Dempsey, and Skip Sharp were each awarded the USMA Distinguished Graduate Award in 2016, 2017, and 2019, respectively.

West Point, Class of 19742021-06-28T19:22:58-06:00

The Battle of Algiers

Movie poster for The Battle of Algiers

What if I were to tell you that a movie, with a budget of only $800,000 made in 1966, was so profound that it significantly influenced revolutionaries throughout the world like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Fidel Castro, the Black Panthers (as a training manual for violent uprising,) the Provisional Irish Republic Army, and the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front to such an extent that the 120-minute film was banned in France for five years, that the Israeli government banned the film until 1975 for fear that the emerging Palestine Liberation Organization would use it as an inspiration for attacks on Israelis, but on the other hand, the movie was even screened at the Pentagon by the Directorate for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict in 2003/2004 with respect to the insurgency in Iraq?

Director Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers is a guidebook for how to build a secret organization (in this case the Algerian independence movement, National Liberation Front, Front de Libération Nationale, FLN) as the most lethal means of striking civilian targets, which often leads to a successful revolution.  Pontecorvo greatly details the methods of indoctrination in these groups – techniques that if most Chicago street gangs do not acknowledge where they learned them, they should be sued for plagiarism.

Scene from The Battle of Algiers

The classic film is based on events that actually took place during the 1954-1962 Algerian struggle for independence from France.  The action follows a small group of FLN rebels, and their charismatic leader, Ali La Pointe, who use all means at their disposal to induce the French to leave their country.  A petty criminal serving a two-year prison sentence in Algeria in 1954, Ali was recruited in the infamous Barberousse prison (US prisons are also hotbeds for terrorist recruitment) by FLN militants, and became one of the FLN’s most trusted lieutenants in Algiers, the capital of Algeria – until French security forces killed him there on October 8, 1957 in the Casbah.

The FLN, created in March 1954, merged numerous, separate opposing factions of the nationalist movement so as to better wage war against French colonial presence in Algeria.  A modern comparison would be if some overarching anarchist group in the U.S. formed and was able to subsequently unify: Antifa, Communist Party USA, Earth Liberation Front, La Raza, Youth Liberation Front, and so forth.  Add in American cells of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas, Hezbollah – all anti-American with a bloody history.  And what if they also united with basic criminal street gangs, super gangs like Los Zetas, Aryan Brotherhood, and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), and elements of Central and South American drug cartels?

You might say, “That couldn’t happen here,” but the FLN started small, initially with just twenty-two members, and an “exterior delegation” in Cairo, Egypt to solicit foreign support, including funding (there were George Soros’ back then too.)  They divided Algeria into five zones and placed a colonel in charge of each.  Their primary mission was to provide “ideological awareness” backed by violence, so for each Algerian killed by the security forces, a French citizen would be killed by the FLN.  The FLN organized as a cell-based pyramid structure, so a member only knew a maximum number of three other insurgents.  Thus, if an insurgent were captured and tortured, he could only give up a few fellow terrorists.  You’ll also see in the movie that the FLN followed the motto of “snitches get stitches.”

Through the use of terror, the FLN was able to persuade regular, non-violent Algerians, that not only were they NOT French, but that France had to renege on its core values.  Sound familiar?  Today’s anti-American anarchists stress hyphenated-Americans instead of American unity.  They spit on American core values such as the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and trample American history at every turn – attempting to stifle freedom of speech that defends American values.  Disagree with the mob and Facebook, Twitter or other social-disease media platforms ban you.  The Naródnyy komissariát vnútrennikh del never had it so good.

The novel, The Centurions, written in 1960 by Jean Larteguy, presents much of the same subject.  The story, centering on some French Legionnaires, begins with the fall of the French fortress Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, and subsequently leads to Algeria.  It’s central theme is: how is war waged in a new global order, when the “age of heroics is over.”  I first read this book at West Point for a Revolutionary Warfare elective, and if you like to curl up with a good read, here’s one.

You can get both the movie and the book online.  Organize a Watch Party!  You can – and should – see this movie because America’s enemies, both foreign and domestic, almost certainly already have.

The Battle of Algiers2021-06-28T15:48:48-06:00

In the Land of the Blind, The One-Eyed Man Is King

Henry .45 Long Colt

Sometimes you have everything you need in fighting a war.  Overwhelming troop strength; some kind of technological advantage; holding the high ground and a whole bunch of other factors make it a lot easier to defeat your opponent.  But sometimes, you just have to be a little bit better and you can win.  In regione caecorum rex est luscus is an old Latin saying that I’ve adopted for looking at things in a different way, but since I don’t speak Latin, “In the Land of the Blind, The One-Eyed Man Is King” will have to do.

For example, let’s just say that the politicians decide that semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic rifles, and semi-automatic shotguns should be prohibited from civilian ownership.  If those types of weapons go away and that’s all you had before the laws took effect, you are now living blind in the self-defense world.

But even though, in our scenario, you do not have a semi-auto anymore, if you have revolvers as  handguns, lever-actions as a carbine/rifle, and a pump or double barrel shotgun, you may have a reduced capability (figuratively one eye instead of two), but you can defend yourself really well, if you are proficient in these older-style weapons.  And you aren’t limited to just one.

In fact, you will have significant advantages with these “less capable” weapons, but first let’s dispel a few myths.  There aren’t any zombies.  The odds of you having to defend your home against hundreds of firearm-equipped attackers are staggeringly low.  Two, almost any individual attacker will not go kamikaze on you after running through multiple hits to his body.  Pain deters; if it doesn’t, then just decline Novocain next time at the dentist.  And meth-heads have diminished combat capacity when they put that junk in their bodies.

Let’s take revolvers.  Most hold six rounds; a few snubbies hold only five; and newer models over the last fifteen years can hold up to seven or even eight (an S&W Model 617 holds ten .22LR.)  If you can’t hit center of mass on a guy’s chest with one of 6-7-8 rounds you haven’t practiced enough.  Its important you hit because reloading a double-action revolver – except for Jerry Miculek – is painfully slow.  And reloading a single-action revolver is lethally slow.  And revolvers generally have more “felt” recoil because they don’t have a slide eating up part of that.

That’s the sour news; now the good.  You can conceal small revolvers.  You have more caliber choices in revolvers than you do in semis.  .357 Magnum comes to mind, and yes there is a Desert Eagle but those are really expensive and almost nobody has one and after a ban on semis, you won’t either.  But you can easily have a .357 revolver, which also will shoot .38s and .38 Plus, which means you have a greater chance to find ammo in an ammo-shortage era.  Ruger, Colt, Smith and Wesson and others make some pretty good models that I would stake my life on.

That’s because in a self-defense fight, you can’t afford any technical problems.  Most encounters will not be under optimum conditions (read low-level light, cold temperature – so you are wearing bulky gloves – initial surprise disadvantage, etc.)  The last thing you want is a failure to extract, failure to feed, or failure to fire – all three of which can happen in a semi-auto.  A failure to fire (firing pin hits the primer in the rear of the case but the powder fails to detonate) can happen in a revolver, but if that rare event happens (especially in factory ammo; I would never trust my life to ammo I had reloaded), you just pull the trigger again.  No need to re-rack it.  There are a few guys online that assert revolvers are less reliable.  Go ahead and believe that if you want.  But in this scenario that you can’t have a semi-auto, you basically can have a revolver, or nothing, so make your choice.  In regione caecorum rex est luscus.

Oops; I forgot.  There are Bond Arms derringers that are obviously not revolvers; I have fired Bonds in .410, .45LC, 9mm, and .38/.357 and all were really well-made and fill a small niche in anyone’s arsenal.  A very small niche that might be counter-car-jacking or something like that, because they have just a two-round capacity and are also slow to reload.  But since you can buy replacement barrels that all work on the same frame, they may be the most flexible firearm to have during ammo shortages because of that.

Now to carbines/rifles.  So if we can’t have a semi-auto, might want to consider a lever-action.  They come in a lot of calibers but seem limited in 9mm and .45ACP.  Why am I singling those two out?  Well, if you have your rifle in the same caliber as your revolver it makes it logistically easier on you.  Henry weapons generally hold about ten rounds give or take.  They used to be a pain in the rear to reload in the tubular magazine but maybe the gals and guys at Henry anticipated this situation and now many models also have side loading gates.  Also, when you have a 16 to 20-inch barrel, rounds like .357 and .44 pick up a whole lot more velocity and become even more lethal.  If you don’t care for a Henry, Marlin or Winchester are great also.

And most of the optics you can put on a semi will work on a lever-action, especially newer ones that have Picatinny rails on them.  For shotguns, you go through the same logical process; heck, treat yourself and have a pump, an over-under and a double barrel side by side.  Or a really cool German or Austrian combination weapon that might be an over-under shotgun/rifle like something from Ludwig Borovnik or Johann Fanzoj.  You’ll need to get one used, and you’ll need to be REALLY nice to your better half, and when you see the prices you’ll know why!

With weapons getting scarcer in stores try GunBroker.com, GunsAmerica.com, or Gunsinternational.com so at least you can see price ranges and determine what’s reasonable.

In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to have this discussion.  But we don’t live in an ideal world; in fact, we never did, because life isn’t that way.  So make the best of it and be that one-eyed shooter when a lot of folks are going to be “blind” because they haven’t prepared.

In the Land of the Blind, The One-Eyed Man Is King2021-06-15T17:56:31-06:00

Night Vision (2)

View through a Thermal Sight

In Night Vision (1) we started discussing night vision.  We’ll continue that now, as there are a lot of threats you may run into that require even more sophisticated equipment than just Night Infrared (IR).  Or as Bela Lugosi remarked as Count Dracula: “Listen to them, the children of the night.  What music they make!”

Today it’s all about detecting HEAT through Thermal Imaging.  All objects absorb, reflect, and sometimes transmit energy at different levels.  Different materials give off heat or cold energy at different rates.  Thermal imaging devices detect small differences in heat; they do not require visible light to produce an image, so can be used day and night (unless the manufacturer says not to in daylight.)  Mammals generate heat; birds and reptiles absorb heat, so all are often warmer than their surroundings, and can be detected at greater distances with thermal imaging than with basic night vision.  Cars, trucks, and boats generate heat.  With thermals, you see engines and exhaust pipes brightest, because they are the hottest; if a car has been outside on a sunny day, the hood and roof will stick out.  Tires and brakes are often warm from friction.

Thermal devices often have a switch that in one position the warm/hot image is bright white, and the surrounding is dark, or the picture is reversed, and the warm/hot image is black.  You may  have a third option of color where objects are in red, orange, and purple tones.  Different targets show up best in certain options for me, so try and get one with all three, because we all see differently.

The more you play with thermal sights, the better you’ll understand what you are seeing (i.e., a mammal’s chest has more heat than its ears or tail.)  Thermal sights often have zoom magnification, but sometimes at higher magnification the image blurs a bit; you’ll figure out the right power by using it.

Sixty years ago, U.S. Army scientist John Johnson developed a system to evaluate thermal sight capabilities by three measurements:

Detection: detecting whether an object is present.  Usually expressed in yards or meters (for our purposes meters and yards are about the same.)  “Something is there, and it bears watching” is my equivalent.  The better the device, the further this is and can approach 3,000 yards.

Recognition: recognizing which class an object belongs to, such as a house, boat, truck, animal, or man.  This will be less than detection range.  In a 3,000 yard detection range device, recognition range may be 1,300 yards.

Identification: identifying descriptive details of the object, whether a vehicle is a car, Jeep,  pickup or minivan.  With practice, for a human, you can often determine number of men, if they appear in uniform, and if they appear to be holding rifles.  In our 3,000 yard detection range example, identification range may be 700 yards.

For some excellent info on thermals, go to www.atncorp.com.

Now it’s time to answer your first question: what do you want this thermal device to do?  Hunting feral hogs or vermin on a farm?  Detecting would-be criminals?  Detecting heat leaks in buildings?  Power line maintenance technicians locate overheating joints, and sometimes faulty electrical wiring.  Firefighters use thermals to see through smoke, find people and localize fire hotspots.  They are also common tools used by many home inspectors; even home-buyers are realizing that thermals can save them thousands later.

Will you be stationary in your activity or moving?  A thermal sight can get bulky; if you are stationary, that is less of an issue.  What is your climate?  Rain and heavy fog can severely limit the range of thermal imaging because light scatters off of droplets of water.

Since we are often looking at $1,500-$4,500 for a thermal device (sometimes more), we need an acquisition strategy.  If you need more than a night sight (IR), delaying thermal a little bit may allow you to buy a better capability later.  And consider buying both night vision (IR), and thermal from the same manufacturer, so accessories will almost always fit both.  For a thermal sight there is one more consideration.  Find a legitimate business use for the thermal.  Then toward the end of the year determine if the tax break of the thermal is more advantageous this year or whether you should buy it early next year.

Either way, remember In regione caecorum rex est luscus.  With a thermal sight, you will be able to see an enemy at night much, much better than he will be able to see you, if he can see you at all.  Let him be the blind man.

Night Vision (2)2021-06-15T17:42:06-06:00

Night Vision (1)

IR Image at 89 yards at night

Show me the man or woman who says that they are not afraid of walking alone in the dark of night and I will show you a fool, a liar, or someone with night vision equipment.  Because in the dark, there’s a lot of opportunity to run into things that go bump in the night.

Flashlights are great; everyone should have one in the car, when out walking, and in several areas of your house – with spare batteries and periodic function checks.  If you have a flashlight and a bad guy does not, you have an edge, with one exception: as soon as you pop it on, everybody knows where you are.

Maybe it’s time to get an extra CAPABILITY rather than buy your ninth pistol, so let’s shed  light on seeing at night.  Were it possible that I could tell you exactly what brand of night vision equipment to buy, it would be easy, but I can’t!  This is because each of us “sees” differently, and then our brains “translate” that vision in their own way, so what works for me may or may not work the same for you.  In an ideal world, before buying you could field test night vision equipment, but in reality you probably can’t.  You may find a video online showing the view through a device, but in the absence of handling one for a night, you need to know some fundamentals.

Today we’re visiting night vision scopes, binoculars, or monocular (basically half a bino) that rely on some ambient light, such as moonlight and starlight.  Many come with internal infrared (IR) illuminators, or an external IR which looks like flashlights but transmits light that cannot be seen by the naked eye, but can be seen by the night vision device.  Within range, you’ll see phenomenal details.

Night vision devices with IR have been around a while.  The Germans fielded one, aptly called “Vampire” in 1945, but its problem was weight.  The rifle weighed 11 lb.; the scope and IR source 5 lb.; and the battery and backpack 30 lb.  Today, this capability generally weighs 2-4 lb.

Looking through night vision (IR), you generally see images in shades of gray (such as above of the wild hog) or green.  An animal’s eyes will often glow.  You can see hair, fur, movement, but it is not a pure optical view like a daylight scope; you are looking at something like a tiny TV screen that shows the image.  Generally, you see things a few hundred yards away, depending on the power of the IR light.

Night vision IR can “see” cars, boats, buildings, and trucks.  You see animals on the edges of cornfields, but generally not too far inside the cornfield.  Night vision IR devices have zoom magnification, but sometimes at higher magnification the image blurs a bit; you’ll figure out the right power and what you are seeing by using it.

What do you want this device to do?  Hunting feral hogs at night?  Looking for vermin around a grain silo?  Detecting would-be criminals bent on breaking and entering?  Detecting heat leaks (thermal can; night vision can’t) in insulation?  Finding your pet dog if he runs outside?  Looking for rats and mice does not require long range.  But concerning criminals in a rural area, the further out you see them, the longer you have to make a decision what to do.

Many devices have GPS, are Wi-Fi capable, can record what you see and transmit that in near real time to your associates – or even the police.  Many have range finders and one-shot zeroing.  Some can withstand recoil up to a .375 H&H or .416 Barrett, but verify before you buy.  And you can use them on a weapon or off.  Go to www.atncorp.com.  Their videos are typical of possibilities, especially the one on ATN RADAR.

Will you be stationary in your activity or moving?  A night vision scope, with an external IR, on a rifle can get bulky; if you are stationary, that is less of an issue.

Since we are often looking at $500-$1,000 for a night vision device (sometimes more); and $1,500-$4,500 for a thermal device (sometimes more), we need an acquisition strategy.

Consider buying night vision (IR) first.  As you’ll read next month, advances in thermal technology occur frequently; delay buying thermal may allow you to buy a better capability later.  Plain night vision does not seem to be making these rapid advances: IR is IR, and will be less expensive.

Most importantly In regione caecorum rex est luscus.  With night vision IR, you will be able to see better than almost any adversary out there.

 

Night Vision (1)2021-06-15T17:48:15-06:00

Don’t Look Up

Osama bin Laden’s Compound

In the Land of the Blind, what if a few men had a billion eyes?  What would we call them?  Well, we’re about to find out.  In one of my old jobs, I used to surf the net and pick out 20 articles per week, copy them, put them in seventeen binders and provide those binders to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard and fourteen other folks around Washington, DC.  All the articles were “open source” – unclassified – the key was knowing where to look for pieces of information they needed to make decisions, and probably wouldn’t get this info from their subordinates who processed data in traditional Washington ways, where sometimes the boss doesn’t find out what’s going on.

Nowadays, sometimes I go geeky and surf around like the good old days, and I found this article from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which is full of geeky folks researching geeky things.  Its about satellites; how there are at least 768 commercial ones up there zooming around; how US federal regulations limit images taken by commercial satellites to a resolution of 25 centimeters, about the length of a man’s shoe; how their orbits pass over every place on Earth sometimes 15 times a day.  Then it discussed a company called BlackSky Global that promises to have their satellites fly over most major cities up to 70 times a day.  As MIT says: “That might not be enough to track an individual’s every move, but it would show what times of day someone’s car is typically in the driveway.”

Now go to Google Earth Pro.  Type in your address, and voila you’ll see your house from above.  But what is really interesting is it has a feature that shows you the overhead views beginning many years ago.  Look to see how the resolution gets better over time; what you couldn’t see in 1995, you sure can see in 2010; and what you couldn’t see in 2010, you can see now; that evolution isn’t going to stop.

German SAR-Lupe reconnaissance satellite inside a Cosmos-3M rocket

That’s just commercial; military and national intelligence satellites (ours and other nations) have resolutions and linked recognition software that make commercial satellites seem tame.  In an open source, US astronomer Clifford Stoll,  former systems administrator at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, remarked that a really good satellite platform, orbiting at 155 miles up, could have a resolution of “a couple of inches.  Not quite good enough to recognize a face.”  But that disclosure was several years ago, and technology always marches on.

That’s just satellites.  What about ground imaging cameras?  Well, it is estimated that by the end of this year, there will be 1 Billion ground imaging cameras on Earth.  That is one camera for every eight people.  You may well have some in your home security system, or the trail cameras you set up to spot that Boone and Crockett Club record buck you just “know” is out there.

However the revolution in electronic security is not in image producers; it is in image interpreters – the artificial intelligence (AI) systems that are lashed up with the cameras.  Let’s look at the Chinese, pardon the pun.  The security system for the city of Guiyang, about 3,500,000 people, has the image of every single resident.  The cameras read faces, and the AI estimates age, gender, and ethnicity and matches every face with an ID card that every Chinese must have.  Chinese engineer Yin Jun says that the system can “trace all your movements back one week in time.  We can match your face with your car…match you with your relatives and the people you’re in touch with.”

A recent exercise, monitored by the BBC, took seven minutes for the system to identify and surround a new visitor to Guiyang.  But it gets better.  It appears that AI now includes Emotion Recognition to track traits such as facial muscle movements, vocal tone, and body movements in order to infer a person’s feelings.  Perhaps that could be used to incarcerate a person before they commit a crime – arresting them for their thoughts!

A few weeks ago we attended a wedding held outside.  During the service, I heard this buzzing above my head.  Thinking it was a hornet, I looked up, but it was a small drone taking photos of the wedding, mine included.  Then I wondered: what else is up there, so high no one would ever know it is there, or its purpose?  Was it also looking at me?  Does it know my name?  Does it know what I am thinking?

Don’t Look Up2021-07-11T11:38:19-06:00

Carjackings

Every 42 seconds there’s a carjacking incident in the U.S.  And it is on the rise.  Minneapolis police report that carjackings shot up 537% in 2020.  And “Chiraq” in Illinois?  The number more than doubled from 603 in 2019 to more than 1,400 in 2020, the highest total in nearly two decades.  Most carjackings happen between 10:00 pm. and 2:00 am.  92% occur when the driver is the sole occupant in the vehicle.  45% involve firearms, 11% involve knives, and 18% involve some other type of weapon.  Some 52% are successful nationwide.  All this we know.

But what about a carjacker who has in mind not only taking your car, but taking you in it – to some deserted area where he has some really nefarious plans for you?  We simply do not know this number, just as we do not know which carjackers have itchy trigger fingers.

So what to do?  There are numerous passive defenses; in carjackings, “passive” is not necessarily sub-optimal: park in a safe spot (back into parking spaces to easier see and get away) as close to the building door as possible; check the back seat before you get in; lock your car when you park (if you have an older vehicle whose doors do not automatically lock, manually lock them yourself; while at a drive-through ATM, keep your vehicle in drive, not in park; keep track of your keys; never leave your engine running when you go in a store; and stay alert while driving.  No car is worth your life; if it seems like the right move, give the guy the keys and get out of there.

Every time you email, or talk on the phone, or text in your car, whether it is moving or stationary, you run the risk of getting carjacked – because carjackers look for an easy target, individuals who seem weaker than the attacker, or who look like they will not resist.

Remember carjacking can occur while on the move; one way is the rear bumper tap.  When you get out to check for damage, a second culprit jumps in your car and drives off.  If you suspect anything, do not get out, but rather drive to the police station or a crowded area before you exit your car.  Another trick is when a “panhandler” puts a $20 under your wiper.  You get out to catch it, a second guy runs up and jumps in the driver’s seat.  Just drive away; the Jackson will still be there later.  Leaving a gap between you and the vehicle to your front when you stop is not only a good deterrent, but gives you room to maneuver if need be.

But what if it just doesn’t look right – that he isn’t interested in the car but in you, or worse your youngsters in the back seat.  What if flight may not be possible?

If you have a gun in the glove box, under the seat or in any other “convenient” location, getting to it during a carjacking probably won’t be a viable option.  A good way to ensure your gun is accessible is to wear it, which is another reason to have a concealed carry license.

Bond Arms .410/.45 LC

It will be short range, probably 3-10 feet.  Weapon is your choice; I’ve recently extensively fired a Bond Arms, 4.25” barrel, over-under derringer in .410 with various size shot and that looks like a real game-changer.  If you chose to shoot .410 (it can also handle .45 Long Colt — not .45 automatic), go with strait 00 buckshot because sometimes the fancy special defense rounds, that have a larger bullet and some small buckshot with it, seem to have a bad habit with the depth or primer with respect to the Bond Arms’ firing pin.  You only have two rounds, so you cannot afford even one misfire.

Remember all carry locations aren’t equal, especially when seated behind the wheel.  Some drivers prefer cross-draw (front left side for a right-handed shooter) because there are fewer fixtures to foul your draw.  But here’s the rub.  I’ve never visited a gun range where you can practice that – sitting in a car seat, with a loaded weapon on your left hip, cross-drawing it, swinging it upward to driver’s side window level, and firing.  As you know, if you don’t practice something, it may not work under pressure.

What about pepper spray?  You could have that in some easy-to-reach place.  Pepper spray power is measured in Scoville Heat Units, just like peppers you eat – or avoid eating.  The more (5,000,000-plus SHU) the better, but some pepper spray companies “message” the heat rating.  Your best tip is to go to your nearest police precinct, tell them you know that giving your keys to a carjacker and then fleeing would be best for you 98% of the time, but what do they recommend you carry for that critical 2% when your gut says, “this guy is going to kill me.”

And if you want more of a Tiger tank, contact Bulldog Direct (www.bulldogdirect.com) for bullet resistant glass, door panels; it’s an interesting read.

But again, if it’s just the car, let it go.

Carjackings2021-06-14T16:30:56-06:00

How Much Ammunition Is Enough?

500 round can 9mm 147GR Ammo - Durkin Tactical

How much is enough?

In the “Land of Not Enough Ammunition,” how much ammo should you truly have on hand?  There may be no precise answer; maybe it’s a thousand answers, but there really is a way to analyze what you need.  Hoard it through impulse buying and you are truly blind; think it through and you’ll be king.

You need what is called a Basic Load for every caliber.  Compute that on a one-year requirement – that is, if you could not buy, beg, or borrow any additional ammunition, what amount – per caliber – would last you the next 365 days to train/practice, hunt and defend yourself?  Not all Basic Loads must be the same size; what you determine for 9mm is almost certainly not the same as for .30-06.  All calibers require practice; some are great for hunting, some not; and for self-defense, some are better than others.

Second, you need a mechanism, on paper or in the computer, so you always know what you currently have.  I use an extremely easy Excel spreadsheet that automatically adds or subtracts totals.  Maybe it’s overkill, but inside each caliber, I divide that by bullet size and bullet type, because some rounds are better for self-defense than others, etc.  If you have four weapons that  fire the same caliber, you still only need one Basic Load for that caliber.  Remember, it is much better to keep all calibers at Basic Load level, than to be short in several calibers, but way over in one.

Look at your requirements.  Practice: I try to hit the range 1-2 times a week, but not always with the same caliber.  For me, practice is maintaining muscle memory, so I pull the trigger the same way all the time, switch magazines the same, and improve accuracy so each pistol round I fire from 50 feet down to 7 feet is a disabling shot on an armed attacker.  I find that I can do all that with 20-30 rounds of the same caliber per range session.  Above that is fun, but doesn’t get improved results for me – if firing more rounds per session makes you better, have at it.  So for 9mm, my annual practice requirements of 30 rounds, once per week, over 50 weeks = 1,500.  I have better calibers for hunting, so that component is zero for 9mm.  Even if we went to a worst-case scenario, I can’t see more than 500 9mm rounds for the year for defense (because I have other weapons that are good defenders also) so my total for 9mm = 2,000.  It’s the same for me in .45 ACP.

Hunting for me includes regular hunting trips and local opportunities we currently have.  I add in the possibility of food shortages that may drive people to shoot wild game for meat that they usually don’t now.  That’s where the .22 Long Rifle comes in.  When you have to feed young-uns, sportsmanship goes out the door, shooting pheasants and ducks on the ground is kosher, squirrels and rabbits are meals, and a .22 attracts much less attention than a 12-gauge.  And yes, unless you are diplomatic about it, farmers could get really irate if you don’t negotiate, but concerning the 2nd Amendment, we’re all on the same team, so work it out before any triggers are pulled.

For traditional hunting-rifle calibers, Basic Load is very small compared to pistols.  You need to annually confirm your zero and make sure the scope is aligned correctly.  For me, 100 rounds per rifle caliber = Basic Load.  Shotguns require you to subdivide rounds because what is good for pheasant (#5 shot) is not for geese (BB) concerning traditional hunting, and you’ll need buckshot for self-defense.  Semi-auto rifles (what the media calls black rifles/automatic rifles/assault rifles) can be used for hunting or self-defense, require practice, and will have a higher Basic Load than a bolt action.  Some oddball calibers, like 7X57R, could have a Basic Load as low as 50.

On my spreadsheet I record what I have and what I think I need per Basic Load, per caliber.  Once I get to my Basic Load number, I stop buying that caliber.  When I drop below Basic Load level, I write it down on a card, so I know what I really need to buy, instead of impulse buying.  Don’t spend more on hoarding, buy a Mantis X10 Elite training kit good for pistols, rifles, and shotguns, dry or live fire.  It, and other training devices, can save you thousands of practice rounds, just in case your numbers prove incorrect!  But they won’t be because you have thought the numbers through.

How Much Ammunition Is Enough?2021-06-14T15:26:14-06:00
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