Losers Fight the Last War Late; Winners Fight the Next War Early

You may be wondering why the pundits in the media always seem to get it wrong predicting winners and losers in wars or how long these wars will last.  It’s because they only look at the rational factors in war, like how many aircraft each side has, the strength of their armies, levels of technology and so forth that can be measured.  These “armchair admirals” and “barstool brigadiers” wouldn’t understand Clausewitz if the old boy came back from the dead and personally instructed them.  But you can get a National War College education right here and right now.

Carl Clausewitz

“Dead Carl” Clausewitz, his nickname at the US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies, knew that wars are influenced by rational factors, and also by irrational and arational factors.  Irrational factors are emotional.  Had Santa Anna not killed all the defenders at The Alamo, maybe the rest of Texas wouldn’t have gotten so mad that they unified and kicked his butt.  After the Japanese did their sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, and compounded that later at the Bataan Death March, the U.S. became so driven by emotion that we ended up nuking them.  So irrational emotions have to factor in, but what weight do you give them?

Arational factors can be all kinds of chance events, like the weather, or the natural death of an enemy leader.  You can predict the weather, but you never get it completely correct.   Typhoon Cobra in December 1944 in the Pacific killed 790 US sailors, sank three destroyers, and heavily damaged nine other US warships.  In 1762, Frederick the Great of Prussia was about to get whipped by the Austrians and Russians when Russian Empress Elizabeth suddenly died and her successor not only ended the war with Prussia but also offered Frederick the use of a Russian corps for the remainder of his war against Austria!  Predict that!

Grant (left) and Lee (right)

Then there is the nature versus the character and conduct of war.  The nature – that wars are bloody and governed by rational, irrational and arational factors – is constant.  But weapons, tactics and strategies are always changing.  Those that anticipate these changes have a better chance of winning, hence “Losers Fight the Last War Late; Winners Fight the Next War Early.”  Bobby Lee fought the Civil War the way Napoleon would have fifty years before – concentrating on out-maneuvering the Union Army and being tactically superior in every battle.

That worked until Abe Lincoln brought Sam Grant and his sidekick Uncle Billy Sherman on board to “fight the next war early”; ironclads replaced sailing warships, railroads allowed for rapid troop movement, arms-producing factories in the North became more important than horse-raising farms in the South, and the new battlefield lethality meant that through attrition Grant might indeed lose more men than Lee, but he and “War is Hell” Sherman would not only bleed the South dry in the process, but also conduct a scorched-earth campaign through Georgia  destroying the South’s ability to produce weapons.

Finally, pundits often fail to understand the Law of Unintended Consequences – those results of an action that aren’t anticipated.  Sometimes unintended consequences can be avoided by more rigorous analysis; others are truly random or unpredictable.

Take the British Royal Navy before World War I when battleships and battlecruisers were king.  Battleship admirals insisted that gun crews on these ships concentrate on shooting faster than their potential rivals the Germans.  Fast gun crews were rewarded; slow-pokes were punished.  So wise old Chief Petty Officers, many of whom had been in the Royal Navy over ten years, decided to cut a corner here and there to be faster.  Shells and highly-combustible cordite propellent were usually stored deep in a ship’s armored magazines and brought up to the turret on hoists through fireproof doors closed until the moment of transfer.  These CPOs figured they could shave valuable seconds off their times by keeping those doors open.  And then, another other old seadog thought if you stored the cordite inside the turret, you wouldn’t waste time hauling it up.  So they did.

Jutland 1916

Then came the 1916 Battle of Jutland, and despite having twice as many ships, the British lost a whole bunch of them, when – after they had been hit in the turrets by enemy shells – the fires spread to the magazine causing catastrophic explosions, in some cases killing everyone aboard.  I wonder why that happened?

So the next time some retired old general, who commonly relied on smart majors and lieutenant colonels to conceive his battle plans, or a Harvard geek, tells you what’s going to happen in a war, bet the “over” on duration, and that it won’t likely unfold the way they prognosticate.



Losers Fight the Last War Late; Winners Fight the Next War Early2022-04-19T16:23:27-06:00

What Happened to the Moskva?

Talking heads and “experts” on television drive me crazy.  Many have no true experience or subject matter expertise; they also demonstrate no system to assess accuracy of their conclusions.  You can do better in assessing accuracy by assigning levels of certainty to it.  The highest category of accuracy is one with a “100% certainty” to it.  The sun comes up in the East is one of them, most events aren’t this certain.  A little less certainty, but still a great deal, is “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal trials.  While I’ve never seen a judge assign a numerical value to that, it seems that “beyond a reasonable doubt” is in the 85% to 99% category of certainty.  It does not mean there is no doubt, only that it is so small as to be unreasonable.

The lowest category of certainty is “more likely than not” to be accurate, the standard used in many civil trials, and for military Inspector General investigations.  Think 51% or more certainty and it is “more likely than not” it occurred.  On the other end, if you assess a 50% chance something happened, you’re flipping a coin; the further less than 50%, the more likely it is to be inaccurate.

Let’s apply that to the Russian cruiser Moskva, flagship of their Black Sea Fleet, that sank in the Black Sea off the coast of the Ukraine (at 45°10’43.39″N, 30°55’30.54″E.) on Thursday, April 14, 2022.  Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles which sparked a fire that detonated the ship’s ammunition.  On the other side, Russia’s Defense Ministry says a fire of unknown origin detonated the ship’s stored ammunition; the resulting explosions left the Moskva with structural damage; and then the warship sank amid rough seas as it was being towed to a nearby port.

Is this the Moskva after the missile attack, burning and seriously damaged?

So the central question to analyze is this.  Was it poor air defenses on the Moskva that allowed Ukrainian anti-ship missiles to hit, and cause a fire and/or explosion which was made fatal in scope by inefficient damage control?  If so, we can rule out an accidental fire caused by lax safety procedures.

I am not a naval expert, but I know a lot of people who are, including some who served on U.S. destroyers and cruisers similar in some degree to the Moskva, others who were submariners who were trained to hunt ships like the Moskva, and even one who was actually on a Russian ship very similar to the Moskva.  Here is an educated take.

Russian ship defense systems have major inadequacies.  While they do have a varied number of anti-missile systems, and they do have a battle center in the ship to control these weapons, they have never achieved the degree of systems-integration that US Navy ships have in a fast-response system such as a Combat Information Center (CIC), which collates thousands of pieces of information, using really sophisticated tracking and info-processing, and determines the best solution to neutralize any threat at the most advantageous distance from the ship, with backups in case of a miss, and not allowing a threat to slip through because it had not been tracked.

Combat Information Center of the “Battlestar Galactica”.  CIC on today’s US Navy ships put this one to shame

If the Ukrainians fired multiple missiles, maybe up to four or so, and used decoys or electronic warfare to confuse the Russian defenders, and given that these missiles fly really low (9 to 30 feet above the water), have a cross-section of about 16 inches (and a radar cross-section of even less with stealth “paint” when seen from the front), and all that makes it really hard to detect and then hit them, given Russian inadequacies in this area, it is “more likely than not” that at least one missile struck the Moskva.

If so, now the Russians have problems.  The warhead weighs 350 pounds; add in some of the fuel left in the 1900-pound missile and you are going to get “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a large explosion occurred per missile strike.  Both accounts conclude “100% certainty” a number of volatile and flammable explosives were nearby such as anti-ship missiles below.  But a lot of warships in history have had explosions or large fires and have not sunk.

Nearby sources for more fire and secondary explosions (Vulkan missiles, with their 750-pound warheads, in their firing containers; unless the missiles were armed with nuclear warheads!)

Except the Russians have major problems in damage control.  US Navy ships have many watertight compartments to limit the spread of toxic gases, fire and flooding in case of accident or attack.  Officers touring the Moskva saw no such extensive compartmentalization.  There were few watertight hatches between compartments.  Unless watertight hatches later were installed, it is “beyond a reasonable doubt”, probably approaching “100% certainty”, that the Moskva did not have adequate watertight integrity.

But it gets worse.  On many warships, painted areas on which sailors walk have special grip surfaces to prevent slipping.  That’s an added expense and Russian ships like the Moskva substituted tar for special “rough” paint.  Tar is highly flammable, and is easily tracked to other areas of the ship, so instead of trying to limit the spread of flame damage, it is “more likely than not” that cutting corners on Russian ship design made their warships even more susceptible to spreading fire damage.

Moskva heavily damaged; note two sprays of water; one pointing left is to put out fires; one pointing right toward the rear is getting water off , so the ship does not take on too much and capsize

However, a ship is only as good as its crew.  The Russian navy, and its ships, are run by commissioned officers.  They have very few non-commissioned officers (like petty officers).  US warship skippers swear by the professionalism, bravery and common sense of the corps of non-commissioned officers.  What if you didn’t have many on a ship?  Could just the officers have saved the ship, racing around and conducting necessary damage control?  What about the junior enlisted men?

Well, the crew size should have been about 510.  Because of a lack of non-commissioned officers, about 20% of the crew are officers, so about 100.  The enlisted sailors are conscripts, not volunteers.  How many who want to be there is unknowable. What is known is that their military service is 12 months.  It is “more likely than not” that the majority of the enlisted men can only accomplish basic damage control tasks, because 12 months is not enough time to get trained up and develop experience.  It is at least “more likely than not” that the 100 officers — assuming none had been killed in the attack and none were strap-hanger staff officers just along for the ride to get “combat time” and not part of the team — would have been an insufficient strength to save the ship.

Finally there is the bravery factor.  Every American Navy veteran I have ever met says that from the first day in service they have drilled into them, “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” the dying words of Commander James Lawrence during the War of 1812.  It takes a ton of bravery to run toward raging fires on a badly-damaged warship.  I do not know the Russian translation of “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”  But I do know that if a great number of conscripts on the Moskva did not want to be there, they may have known the translation, but it is “more likely than not” they wouldn’t have followed its meaning, because 12 months is not enough time to overcome a fear of fire.

Access to classified information would increase our certainty one way of the other, but using good, old-fashioned logic and observation, and you can reach a better solution than a talking head – or an “expert” with an agenda.

The Moskva — in all her Motherland Glory

What Happened to the Moskva?2022-05-12T12:34:54-06:00

Versatility – A Jack for All Trades

In regione caecorum rex est luscus

In the Land of the Blind, the One-eyed Man is King

Versatility – A Jack for All Trades

Glock 40 MOS 10mm

You’ve heard the phrase: “A Jack of All Trades, Master of None.”  However, in the world of firearms, versatility – the quality of being useful for or easily adapted to various tasks, styles, and fields of endeavor – often means that a single weapon can be a Master for All Situations.

It may not be a function of caliber, nor the capacity of the magazine, or the optic on top.  It is a function of ammunition.  And there are two weapons that stand head and shoulders above most others in this respect – the shotgun and the 10mm pistol.

The ubiquitous shotgun; it has been around for over 400 years and is often called a scattergun, or historically as a fowling piece.  Calibers have been many; for this discussion we will stick with the always-popular 12 gauge and what a variety of ammunition we have!

Birdshot is probably the most common type of 12-gauge shotgun load, comes in at least 12 sizes, and allows hunters to target small to medium game (or skeet and trap shooters to hit clay “birds.”)  For birdshot, the larger the number, the smaller the pellet (size 8 has more, but smaller diameters of pellets than a size 6, for example.)  But wait!  Many 12 gauge shotguns now come with the ability to fire three chamber sizes – 2.75-inch, 3-inch and 3.5-inch.  The longer the size, the more pellets there are inside, plus the velocity is often higher which extends the range a bit.  Then there is BB shot that comes in at least 3 sizes, used for larger birds like ducks and geese.

Leaving the search for aerial targets and going to the ground gets us into buckshot and there are five rounds in that (#4 buck, #1 buck, 0 buck, 00 buck and 000 buck.)  For example, #00 buckshot throws eight or nine balls (some magnum loads contain 12-15 balls!), #1 buckshot holds 16 and #4 buckshot has 24 to 27 balls.  Then there are the “tweeners” like T-shot that I put in the category of hunting large waterfowl like geese.

Finally are the slugs that are used for deer, and really any other large game; some hunting guides even opine that a 12-gauge slug is the best antidote for an attacking bear.  Almost every 12 gauge round can kill a man; there are tragic hunting accidents every year involving even very small size birdshot rounds.  For the intentional dispatching of an armed criminal trying to kill you, buckshot is probably the best way to go.  The versatility comes in when analyzing the environment of the shot.  Inside the home or outside?  Is the attacker on foot on in a motor vehicle?  Behind a barrier?  What is the expected distance between you and your would-be killer?  More than one assailant?  There will be an optimum-size shotgun round for every situation.  That is what gives it the ultimate in versatility.

But you know that already.  The second weapon with immense versatility is the 10mm pistol – which you may not be familiar with – and it also centers on the large variety of ammunition available for it.  MidwayUSA lists sixty-six 10mm rounds (unfortunately most have to be back-ordered, but that’s a different issue.)  By my count, 10mm rounds range in weight from 100 grains to 220 grains, which is close to a .380 auto round weight on the small end, to a .44 Magnum on the large end.

10mm rounds come in various bullet shapes, each with a different purpose in mind: hard-cast-flat-nose and lead-round-nose for large game hunting; jacketed-hollow-point, full-metal-jacket, “fluted”; bonded-jacketed-hollow-point; and fragmenting-hollow-point; full-metal-jacket-flat-nose.

Just a few 10mm options

But it is velocity that provides even more versatility.  Muzzle velocities range from about 1030 feet-per-second to 1875 feet-per-second.  There is one type of round, an RBCD Performance Plus out of San Antonio, that advertises a 10mm 77 grain total-fragmenting-soft-point that comes out of the muzzle at 2420 feet-per-second, but I can’t find any for sale, which might be a good thing.

What versatility does velocity provide you?  Well, in potentially crowded urban areas, in a self-defense situation where you don’t want your bullet going through your erstwhile killer – and subsequently killing an innocent person, you can do your homework and pick the round type and velocity to ensure it doesn’t “over-penetrate.”  In rural areas, you can use heavier and faster rounds, because you are not concerned with bystanders, but are concerned about dangerous four-legged animals, as well as two-legged ones.

I wish I had figured out the versatility of a 10mm years ago.  I have been firing a 12-gauge shotgun for four decades and a 10mm (with 18 different ammunition types and speeds) for just four weeks.  But who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

Versatility – A Jack for All Trades2021-12-31T20:22:48-06:00

Bonnie and Clyde

In regione caecorum rex est luscus

In the Land of the Blind, the One-eyed Man is King

Bonnie and Clyde

Lately I have been reading a lot about the days of Bonnie and Clyde, and what we can learn from back then.

The country was a mess.  This “Public Enemy Era” spanned from 1931 through 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression that crushed the economy, and the Dust Bowl – a period of severe dust storms that greatly damaged the agricultural output of the American and Canadian prairies – that caused mass hunger.  10,000 banks went out of business, taking $3 billion of depositor’s life savings with them, leaving account holders penniless.  With 80% unemployment in some areas, those unfortunates would remain destitute, unless they took matters into their own hands, and some turned to crime.

Today, rampant government spending is out of control, leading to increasing inflation that steals buying power.  We have some wealthy people, but as I travel around the U.S. – my latest trek a 1,081-mile drive from Decatur, Illinois to Worcester, Massachusetts, I’ve seen a lot of help-wanted signs; undocumented illegal aliens working for far less than minimum wage; obscenely-high gas prices; rental cars that have over 40,000 miles on them and are in constant need of maintenance yet sometimes costing $100 a day; and infrastructure problems (read bad roads, run-down bridges) that will remain poor, because these big spending programs always end up targeting pet projects of the rich and voting constituencies of the lazy.

For the first two years – 1931-1933 – it was a stupid era.  Prohibition in the United States, beginning in 1920 and ending in 1933, was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages.  While some people regarded the attack on alcohol as a noble cause, an overwhelming number did not, and Prohibition single-handedly caused tens of millions of Americans to view the law as lacking any moral obligation to follow it; they became felons overnight and they felt no remorse at doing so.  This disregard for law and order became a cancer in society; one day citizens refused to follow Prohibition; the next they began to support organized crime to provide the illegal goods they wanted.

Today’s version of Prohibition aims at stripping Americans of their right to bear arms, another stupid idea.  Were it to get close to happening, tens of millions of us – maybe more – will become felons overnight, because we will not comply, and organized crime will start a shipping tsunami of firearms into the country, just like it did booze.

Bonnie and Clyde

For the first years of Bonnie and Clyde, most regular folks hated the police and were on the side of the renegades, even though they were a far cry from modern day Robin Hoods portrayed in movies.  It was only after several murders of police, including one trooper on his first day of the job and another scheduled to be married in three weeks before he was cut down by Clyde in cold blood – the bride-to-be wore her wedding dress to her fiancée’s funeral – that attitudes toward the police changed.

Today, police are equally disrespected – mostly in big cities from Portland to Atlanta.  I’d like to think that Champaign Police Department Officer Chris Oberheim didn’t die in vain, and it seems like many folks in central Illinois know that too, but this country is in a whole lot of trouble right now with its negative view of the thin blue line.  What doesn’t help is when senior FBI personnel start helping one political party against another, though.

There’s another takeaway from Bonnie and Clyde.  In our era of concealed carry and the ubiquitous Glock-this and Glock-that, maybe we put too much emphasis on pistolcraft – not that we shouldn’t be proficient with these weapons.  But Clyde Barrow didn’t terrorize people with a pistol; he did it with Browning Automatic Rifles, BARs, whose .30-06 rounds would go through one side of a car and out the other, killing anyone in between.  And when the law finally did catch-up with Bonnie and Clyde one morning on a Louisiana dusty dirt road, what put finis to the two marauders were a couple of Remington Model 8s, a BAR, a Colt Monitor, and some Remington Model 11 semi-automatic 12-gauge “riot guns”.

Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (played by Kevin Costner in the excellent movie The Highway Men), who led the posse that nailed Bonnie and Clyde, was a big believer in the old phrase, “A handgun is for fighting your way to a long gun you shouldn’t have left behind.”  While he was an excellent shot with a .45 Colt and a .44 Special, mostly it was a long gun that got Frank’s bacon out of the fire.  We might want to consider that today.


Bonnie and Clyde2021-12-24T11:33:22-06:00


In regione caecorum rex est luscus

In the Land of the Blind, the One-eyed Man is King

Don’t Look Up — Satellites 

Osama bin Laden’s Compound — A Good Use of Satellites

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.  Think Swamp.

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.

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 months 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?


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


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.


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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