Graveley & Wreaks Bowie Knife



Graveley Wreaks Bowie 1

Graveley & Wreaks marked knife circa 1838

John Graveley and Charles Wreaks lived and worked in the high rent district of New York City, ordering a variety of elegantly mounted Bowie Knives from the best cutlers of Sheffield, England and selling them to customers in the United States.   The New York City Directories for the period show that the firm of Graveley & Wreaks existed for three years, 1836 through 1838, doing business in the Astor House at the intersection of Broadway and Barclay in New York City.  With that address and the John Jacob Astor connection they undoubtedly catered to the carriage trade with high end merchandise.

Before we go any further, some readers are going to look at the picture above and say: “That’s not a Bowie Knife.”  That is in part because most people who read about Bowies have in their mind’s eye a picture of what this knife should look like, often with a very long blade of the clip point variety (having the appearance of the forward third of the blade “clipped” off) and a cross guard.  But back then, many, many knives were called Bowies — clip points (straight or concave), spear points and drop points; even the basic butcher knife was sometimes called a Bowie Knife.  Some had cross guards and some didn’t; some were quite fancy; some looked really rough.  Handles came in different materials and shapes.  One shape was known as a coffin handle — macabrely fitting for a knife that put so many men in one.  So for this article, we are using the expansive definition.

The directory reveals the following.  In 1833, Charles Wreaks sold goods as a merchant at 82 William Street; in 1834 or 1835 he became an importer at 7 Platt Street.  It appears that John Graveley came to New York in April 1836; from 1836 to 1838 he lived at Number 1 Park Place, one street north of Barclay.  Wreaks and Graveley established their partnership in 1836; by 1839, however, there was no further mention of the tandem in the New York City Directory.

A John Graveley sailed from Liverpool, England to New York City, arriving on April 1, 1836; his age was listed as 31, so his birth year was about 1805.  This may have been his second trip to the U.S. Another man with the same name and birth year arrived in New York City on September 28, 1828.  He traveled to England and returned in September 1846.

Additional research indicates that Charles Wreaks was born in Sheffield, England on April 4, 1804, the son of Joseph and Judith Wreaks, and sailed from Liverpool to New York City, arriving on November 19, 1828.  Joseph was a merchant and involved manufacturing tools including a cutler’s grinding wheel, saws and later knives.  Several of Charles’ siblings also came to the United States; his younger brother Richard died on March 20, 1842 in New Orleans, Louisiana, while his older brother, Henry, passed away in New York City on May 4, 1843.  Richard may well have been an agent for the company as earlier he too had resided at 7 Platt Street and his occupation was listed as “agent.”  It appears that Charles became a naturalized American citizen on April 9, 1844 in the Superior Court of New York County.  The Sheffield Independent reported on April 2, 1867 that Charles Wreaks had died in New York City on March 11, 1867 from “ossification of the heart.”

Advertisement in the New York Morning Post on April 16, 1836

Graveley & Wreaks advertisement in the New York Morning Post on April 16, 1836

The young men understood the value of good advertising and ran advertisements in the New York Morning Post on April 16, 1836 and May 2, 1836; the New York Morning Courier on May 7, 1836, August 29, 1836 and November 28, 1838.  The Graveley & Wreaks advertisement, placed in the New York Herald on May 23, 1836 began with: “NEW CUTLERY ESTABLISHMENT, No. 9 ASTOR HOUSE, NEW YORK.”  The presentation left no uncertainty as to the product – “ELEGANT BOWIE & HUNTING KNIVES.”  Two months later, another advertisement in the same newspaper expanded the list of products to include “ARKANSAS, TEXAS and HUNTERS knives… butcher, cartouche and scalping knives.”

According to Bill Worthen, Historic Arkansas Museum, when a visitor walked into the Graveley & Wreaks showroom in 1836, he would see a knife marked “Arkansas toothpick” on the blade of a weapon that had no crossguard, sported a coffin-shaped handle.  Other knives in the establishment featured other slogans; these were advertised as “Bowie,” “Texas” and “Hunters” knives.

Business became so lucrative that the pair decided to expand their operations outside the northeast – to areas where the Bowie Knife would have an even larger following.  In January 1837, the company ran an advertisement in the Nashville Republican in Tennessee, which informed the readers that one partner, now in England, arranged to supply their New York cutlery establishment with an extensive and rare assortment of goods.  These goods, the advertisement continued, would arrive in time for the spring trade and included a variety of “HUNTING & BOWIE KNIVES” that could be elegantly mounted in a new style.

The offering included other types of knives, as well as razors, shears and pistols.  This partner back in England was undoubtedly Charles Wreaks, as records show that Charles arrived back in New York City from England, on the ship Roscoe, on March 27, 1837 – undoubtedly with the knives in tow.  Sensing in even bigger market, the advertisements not only ran in Nashville, but also in Louisville, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, covering the mighty Ohio River trade route.

Sales appear to have been brisk, but storm clouds were gathering and the gale that followed would lethally flood the company.  The demise of the firm was caused by circumstances beyond the two men’s control.  The “Bank Panic of 1837” and 1838 caused many businesses to close their doors.  However, there was another, more ominous development than pure economics for the weapons’ entrepreneurs.  As the popularity of the fighting Bowie knife increased – after the celebrated story of Jim Bowie and his legendary weapon at the Alamo in 1836 – it resulted not only in a marked growth in the number of these weapons, but also the deadly use of the Bowie Knife in murders and duels by the entire spectrum of society – ruffians and gentlemen alike.

By January 1838, caused by an alarmed public and legal furor, even the state of Tennessee – never mistaken as the home of gentility – passed “An Act to Suppress the Sale and Use of Bowie Knives and Arkansas Toothpicks in this State.”  Alabama and Mississippi Laws, passed in about the same time, were not as strict as in their northern neighbor, although the laws curtailed the advertising and sales of the Bowie Knife, Arkansas Toothpick and dirks.

The sales of Bowie knives continued in the frontier states of Arkansas, Louisiana and the Republic of Texas, but the bottom fell out of the market.  A high-end Bowie Knife valued in double digits in 1837 sometimes sold for only $1.50 in 1838.

Graveley & Wreaks attempted to broaden their stock to compensate in the loss of the Bowie trade.  On April 8, 1838 they ran an advertisement in the New York Morning Herald.  They mentioned products from prominent English manufacturers Josh. Rodgers & Son, Crooke & Sons and Wostenholm; they mentioned pocket knives and cork screws, cheese scoops and Champagne openers but there was no mention of Bowie knives.

And so, on November 28, 1838 Graveley & Wreaks announced the dissolution of its co-partnership stating “The partnership heretofore existing under the firm of GRAVELEY & WREAKS is this day dissolved by mutual consent.”  However, Charles Wreaks added this notice:

“The subscriber (late of the firm of GRAVELEY & WREAKS) will continue the Wholesale Cutlery business as heretofore, and solicits a continuance of the patronage of his old friends.  In addition to which he proposes to carry on a commission business for the sale of Sheffield and Birmingham Hardware, and now solicits consignments, flattering himself from his practical experience both in Sheffield and Birmingham Hardware, and a 10 years residence in this city, he can command equal facilities as any house of the trade.”

Charles Wreaks then listed his “Counting House at present” was at No. 14 Gold Street, upstairs. The Sheffield Independent reported similar news on December 29, 1838.

On April 5, 1839, Charles Wreaks placed another advertisement in the New York Morning Courier; this ad offered saws, joiners, hammers, braces and anvils for sale.

Bowie knives stamped Graveley & Wreaks were made in 1835 to 1837.  Reading the advertisements indicates that a great variety of older style and newer style knives were offered.

Dr. Jim Batson, an expert on Bowie knives, makes a compelling case that a primary purchaser of Graveley & Wreaks knives was John Jacob Astor, as Charles Wreaks and John Graveley were tenants of Astor in the Astor House.  Astor had established the American Fur Company in 1808 and later formed subsidiaries: the Pacific Fur Company and the Southwest Fur Company.

Bowie 2

One of Astor’s key contacts in the fur trade was Auguste Pierre Chouteau, a member of the Chouteau fur-trading family, who established trading posts in what is now the state of Oklahoma.  A.P. Chouteau was among the first young men to be appointed to West Point by Thomas Jefferson; Chouteau graduated in 1806 with the grade of ensign in the United States Infantry.  He briefly served as aide-de-camp on the staff of General James Wilkinson.  The following year, A.P. commanded a trading expedition up the Missouri River accompanied by a military unit under Nathaniel Pryor.  This Chouteau-Pryor expedition was a direct outgrowth of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

A.P. resigned from the Army in 1807, but served as captain of the territorial militia during the War of 1812.  Jim Batson believes that Auguste Pierre Chouteau provided designs for fur-trade knives – to include Bowie knives – to Astor, who gave them to Graveley and Wreaks, who in turn presented them to cutlery firms in Sheffield, England for execution.  Given his engineering background from West Point, designing knives would have been well-within the capabilities of A.P. Astor, the “Fur Titan,” is known to have provided August Pierre Chouteau with Indian trade goods at Chouteau’s trading post at the Three Forks of the Arkansas River (Arkansas, Neosho (Grand) and Verdigris Rivers) above Fort Gibson in Oklahoma, transporting the supplies from St. Louis via the Missouri and Osage Rivers and by pack trains and wagons (The fort guarded the American frontier in what became known as Indian Territory beginning in 1824 and when constructed lay farther west than any other military post in the United States, protecting the southwestern border of the Louisiana Purchase.)  That relationship with A.P. ended on December 25, 1838, when Auguste Pierre Chouteau died at Fort Gibson.

However, John Jacob Astor had maintained a larger relationship with the Chouteau family.  In 1828, where the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers joined, Astor’s American Fur Company, with help from Pierre Chouteau, Jr. built what became its most famous fur trade post to engage in business with the Northern Plains tribes Assiniboine, Plains Cree, Blackfeet, Plains Chippewa, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara.  Built at the request of the Assiniboine nation, Fort Union Trading Post, then called Fort Union, emerged as the Upper Missouri’s most profitable fur trade post; in 1834, the Pierre Chouteau, Jr. and Company bought all the Missouri River interests of the American Fur Company.

In their short business life together, Graveley and Wreaks featured knives made by several prestigious blade-makers from Sheffield.  One specimen has the following marking: “Manufactured by W & S Butcher for Graveley & Wreaks, New York”.  Another known marking is a crown over the word “ALPHA” over the words “GRAVELEY & WREAKS” over the words “NEW YORK”.  The most frequently encountered marking is simply “GRAVELEY & WREAKS” over the words “NEW YORK”.  Sometimes the “GRAVELEY & WREAKS” is shown in an arc (as in this example); sometimes it is flat (horizontal.)  Craftsmen stamped these markings into the blade during the forging operation, before heat treating, indicating that many of the knives were custom orders.

The Wreaks family was related to Jonathan Crooke, a well-known blade maker in Sheffield.  In 1827 the Jonathan Crookes Company became Jonathan Crookes & Son.  One of the advertisements states that the firm imported knives from Crooke, Rogers and Wostenholm knife firms.  However, not all knives marked as associated with Graveley & Wreaks were made in England; some were produced here in the United States, although the percentage of U.S. knives offered by the company is unknown.  A logical assumption may be that the more elegant a Graveley & Wreaks marked knife is, the more likely it was made in England; therefore perhaps more of the knives produced for the fur trade, where style and appearance took a far back seat to strength and heft, were made in this country.

In addition to clients in the northeast, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and many other states, Graveley & Wreaks appears to have had one more customer – the United States Army.  From 1815 to 1832 the Army had no formalized mounted unit and at the start of the great westward expansion that was a intolerable situation.  On June 15, 1832 that changed and the service created the United States Mounted Ranger Battalion.  The unit served from Illinois to Arkansas, fighting numerous Indian bands to include Comanche and Wichita.  Never an efficient force, the unit dissolved one year later, but Congress had already authorized the creation of a mounted regiment and the United States Regiment of Dragoons was formed; the unit would later be renamed the First Regiment of Dragoons.  On May 23, 1836 the Congress added the Second Regiment of Dragoons to the Army.

These two regiments immediately began the task of frontier protection – the First Regiment of Dragoons along the southwest border of the frontier in Arkansas, while the Second Regiment of Dragoons soon found itself in the middle of the Seminole War in Florida.  As has been the case in many of America’s conflicts the Army found itself somewhat ill-equipped for the character of the fighting required.  Thus, among other items of kit, in the late 1830s the U.S. Government issued a requirement for a large fighting knife to be issued to companies of “riflemen” in the Army.  The contract, with its specifications of the knife requirements, numbers to be manufactured and the number of sources to produce the knives, has not yet been found in the National Archives.  One existing example that was part of the contract came from the Andrew G. Hicks Company of Cleveland, Ohio.  This knife, shown in The Bowie Knife: Unshielding an American Legend, by Norm Flayderman (page 174), has the following characteristics: 14 inches overall, with a 9.5-inch slanted spear point, single edge, straight blade; reinforced elliptical brass crossguard; wooden grips.  The maker mark is “A. G. HICKS/MAKER/CLEV’D O.”

In 1848 the U.S. Ordnance Department contracted with the Ames Manufacturing Company in Cabotville, Massachusetts for 1,000 knives for a specific “Regiment of Mounted Riflemen.” This was almost certainly the Third Regiment of Dragoons, which had been formed the previous year.  An existing example of this buy has an overall length of 12 inches, brass crossguard, wood handle and a maker’s mark on one side and a “U.S.” stamped on the other.

Recently, this study has uncovered a second example of a knife that could have been part of the initial supply of knives to the Army in the late 1830s.  Marked “Graveley & Wreaks” and “New York” on one side of the blade just above the crossguard, and “U.S.” on the other side of the blade in the same position, it has the following extremely-similar characteristics of the A.G. Hicks knife: 13.5 inches overall; with a 9.25-inch spear point blade; reinforced elliptical brass crossguard; wooden grips.

This example sold at the Burley Auction Gallery in New Braunfels, Texas on October 25, 2014.  In 2015 at the Tulsa Gun & Knife Show, Mr. Floyd Ritter, past-President of the Antique Bowie Knife Association, purchased the knife and subsequently sold it to Mr. Allen Wandling, owner of Midwest Civil War Relics.  Nowhere during this chain of ownership was information concerning the knife’s background – other than it was sold by Graveley & Wreaks in the late 1830s – presented.

This study believes that there are three possibilities concerning the early days of this weapon. The first possibility is that Graveley & Wreaks contracted for a U.S. company to make this as part of an unknown quantity of fighting knives to be issued to companies of “riflemen” for the U.S. Army and delivered them as required, after which they were distributed to the First and Second Regiments of Dragoons.  The second possible early history of the knife is that it, and an unknown number of other knives like it, were produced for Graveley & Wreaks, sold to John Jacob Astor’s fur trade and delivered to the Chouteau trading post at the Three Forks of the Arkansas River near Fort Gibson.  The Chouteaus, seeing they had more knives than they needed and knowing that the First Regiment of Dragoons units at nearby Fort Gibson required knives of this type, resold the knives to the Army at a profit, at which point the Army added the initials “US” on each blade.  The third possibility is that the knife was sold by Graveley & Wreaks and many years later came into the possession of the US Government; perhaps the Mexican War, the Civil War or even later.

Bowie 1

Graveley & Wreaks marking; the firm sold a wide variety of knives made in the US and England during its short lifespan

Regardless of which option actually occurred, the weapon’s later life remains shrouded in mystery, as do most Bowie knives.  Did the dragoon who may have owned it make a career in the Army, fighting in the Mexican War?  Did he take his knife with him when he left the service, and if so, where did he go? Could it have served in the Civil War?  While we may never know exactly how this knife later lived, we know a great deal about its initial life and how this Bowie and the small firm of Graveley & Wreaks helped shape the US frontier in the early days of our country’s history.


Graveley & Wreaks Bowie Knife2017-05-15T12:23:55-06:00

Defeating the Terrorists

Terrorists in Brussels airport moments before detonating their bombs

Terrorists in Brussels airport moments before detonating their bombs

Not sure how many of these mass-casualty terrorist attacks the world in general, and the United States in particular, have to withstand, before the people rise up and demand that their leaders take effective action to stop them.

I am also not sure that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, but I do know that it is pretty stupid and almost guarantees that your opponent — be that in a sport, or at the national security level — will probably defeat you.

A whole lot of Americans are getting pretty much tired of the political correctness that suggests that these terrorists are misunderstood; that it is our fault that they attack us; that we must not take drastic measures to defeat them, or they will have won.  These pathetic attempts have not proven effective and we now have a major terrorist attack almost every month.  Fort Hood, Boston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Paris and now Brussels have entered our lexicon as locations of mayhem and death.  Before, most Americans associated Belgium with waffles; now they link it to terrorism and murder.

The Europeans may be beyond salvation in this fight, unfortunately, because their populations have ceded way too much power to their own national governments, and on top of that have tried to pound a square peg into a round hole in submitting to an “uber-government” called the European Union.  If you understand that the further away from the people a government is, the less it will respond to the people’s wishes, why in the world would anyone think that a governing body higher than the federal level would be of greater assistance to the average man in the street?

It is also obvious that we have had a crop of too many military leaders who were more interested in appearing sophisticated thinkers and Georgetown party-goers than they were interested in kicking ass on the battlefield, but that is what you get when you attempt to conduct years and years of political and social experimentation with your military.

Having said that, we here in the United States may have one last opportunity to preserve our sovereignty and way of life against an enemy that has been an anathema to our ideals for over a millennium.  Without getting too far into the weeds, and not hearing any coherent plan from our current crop of political hacks, let me offer the following three-tier strategy.

“Point of the Spear”: take the fight to the terrorists.  Intel agencies (like the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, etc.) combine with the military, and the other elements of power for offensive operations outside the US to not just defeat but eradicate the threat.  Design rules of engagement to enhance our forces’ ability to find, engage and destroy the enemy, whether that is active terrorists, or those who provide haven, logistical support, or morale support.  If you support the terrorists, you may find yourself part of what is called collateral damage.  Deny the enemy safe haven anywhere in the world by offensive action and my linking a foreign country’s relationship benefits with the US to the aggressiveness that country deals with terrorists inside its borders.  This fight is not designed to nation-build, as that would put US forces on the ground in one area for a protracted time, when what we want is a quick re-cock and the flexibility that provides; it is aimed at dismembering the terrorist organizations and personnel of those who would attack us.

“Not in our house”: defend the actual homeland.  Law Enforcement (the Federal Bureau of Investigation, state, local police) and permissible intel (intelligence agencies that are allowed by law to operate inside the US) prevent attacks, and when that is not done, responding rapidly to an attack.  Homeland Security and the State Department limit the influx of potential/actual terrorists into the country by protecting the border and effectively screening who attempts to get in, by using the simple and logical rule: when in doubt, keep them out.  Use effective profiling techniques unfettered by political correctness, to identify threats especially among those individuals who demonstrate an unwillingness to assimilate into American culture.  And we need to come down hard, by passing laws that make a life in prison without parole sentence the most frequent outcome for anyone convicted of taking an active part in a terrorist attack (or providing material support to terrorists be that money, intelligence, sheltering, etc.) whether that is a foreign terrorist or an American citizen that perpetrates those actions abroad or here at home.

“Goal Line Stand”: harness the inherent courage and initiative of the American people as individuals, who when faced with a threat take immediate action such as the passengers in Flight 93 to eliminate or reduce the effects of that attack.  Support of the 2nd Amendment, even expanding it if necessary, and the encouragement of concealed carry by law-abiding citizens.  Support efforts at community policing in Arab and Muslim enclaves in the US.  Reduce gun-free zones that now just invite attacks.  Establish laws to indemnify citizens who respond in good faith to terrorist attacks.  A good last line of defense can overcome temporary power-brokers in Washington who make bad decisions — be they incompetent or dishonest — as well as foster the key goal that we are all in this together.

Every anti-terrorism effort must fall into one of these three defensive tiers or they are a waste of time and money; that is called unity of effort.  Our society needs to marginalize those who would commit national suicide by tying the nation’s hands behind its back.  Terrorism is here and not going away any time soon unless we circle the wagons and unify in the effort to defeat it.

We Are at War headline in German magazine

“We Are at War” headline in German magazine

Defeating the Terrorists2016-03-27T10:58:53-06:00

Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP

Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP

Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP

(Re-Posted February 28, 2016)  From the first time you see the Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP, you know you WANT to buy it.  Now I’m going to tell you why you NEED to buy this pistol.

Designed by Herr Horst Wesp (who joined the firm in 1994) the weapon is made by one of the historically best – if not the best – German armaments firm, Carl Walther in the city of Ulm an der Donau (which translates to Ulm on the Danube River.)  PPQ stands for Police Pistol Quick Defense, PP being in German “Polizei Pistole” – a term first used on a Walther weapon in 1929 and going strong for almost ninety years.  Remember, the Germans make great cars, great optics, great toys and great weapons; you can’t go wrong here.

Designed initially for European police forces and in selected militaries (if I had to guess, I believe that our own special operations community is at the very least testing the Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP and maybe even already using it,) let me tell you what it really can do for you: protect you from simultaneous multiple attackers, all intent on killing you.  Here is how it does that:

Accuracy: I am a decent marksman, but you are undoubtedly better.  Let’s just say that I am pushing Social Security age and that Ray Charles was a better marksman in The Blues Brothers.  After firing one hundred rounds to become familiar with the pistol, I was able to put all twelve rounds of a magazine into the ten-ring on the B27Q-Blue-Half-Size Police and FBI Training Qualification Practice Target at a range of fifteen feet.  At thirty feet, I am able to put six (50%) of the rounds into the ten-ring.  With practice you’ll be able to meet or exceed this because the Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP is a natural pointer and has an excellent 3-dot sight system.

Power: It’s a .45 ACP.  What else needs to be said?  For those into numbers, the 4.25-inch barrel will launch a 230-grain Winchester PDX1 Defender jacketed hollow point at 912 feet per second that results in 425 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.  Tests in ballistic gelatin that I have read show this same round expanding to .80 inches, and there are a lot of other excellent rounds that have similar results.  Now I sometimes get confused reading these tests as to how many layers of denim the bullet has to travel through to achieve certain expansion, but one thing I am sure of – the minimum diameter a bullet fired from the Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP, through any number of layers you want, is going to be .45 inches.

Speed: The Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP, like its 9mm and .40 caliber brothers, has no external hammer.  Instead, it uses a striker-fire trigger system (also described as a partially cocked single action) in which the initial shot feels like a double action trigger pull (about four pounds,) while for subsequent shots the trigger pull is short, crisp – and fast.  Those follow-on shots feature a trigger pull of a tenth of an inch and equate to a 15.7 ounce pull.  Speed is also enhanced by negligible recoil, so you stay on the targets.  The frame is polymer, but the slide weighs almost a pound and since it moves backward upon firing, it eats up felt recoil.  Less recoil is better.

Tailorability: Every shooter is different and each has special needs and wants.  The Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP comes with two size, easy to install backstraps to accommodate different hand sizes.  The button magazine release can be changed from the left to the right side of the frame to correspond to a left handed shooter.  The trigger guard is large enough so the shooter can where a glove in colder temperatures.  There is a small built in rail forward of the trigger guard from which you can add a laser sight or a flashlight.

The Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP is fun to shoot.  Recoil doesn’t bang you around and the 12-round-capacity steel magazines mean you don’t have to change them too often.  More importantly, a weapon that is fun to shoot means you are likely to put in the practice required to fulfill the weapon’s intent and that is self-defense.  Multiple common criminals, read street gangs, involved in a single incident are not that rare.  And ISIS or ISIL, or whatever we are calling this deadly militant Islamic jihadist group these days, has already said that they were going to attack inside America.  That has already happened at Boston, Fort Hood, Chattanooga and San Bernardino.  In half of these attacks, there have been multiple assailants.  In the hands of a capable shooter – you, if God forbid, are in the attack zone – the Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP can get you out of a multiple assailant attack in one piece.

Walther PPQ M2 .45 ACP2016-03-06T17:27:55-06:00

Night Stryke

The following slides show a hypothetical framework for operational-level raids against ISIS in Iraq and Syria (although it could also be used in other areas.)  I call it Night Stryke.  For the last ten years, U.S. Special Operations have been conducting raids against high-value targets, of which the attack against Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was most notable.  These attacks, for the most part, were against individuals or small groups of people, perhaps a few dozen at most.  Night Stryke envisions attacking ISIS facilities containing perhaps 100 fighters deeper than most of the attacks so far, and as proficiency increases, so would the prospective size of the target and the size of the attacking force that might ultimately be reinforced battalions or tailored brigades.


Below are the five facets of the intent of the raids.  Because of their scope, both special and conventional forces would be required.  Because the transportation is by air, attacks could be launched deep behind the forward progress of ISIS forces.  U.S. combatants would be on the ground for only hours (maybe a day at most), leaving no residual footprint to attack.  Finally, the ability to strike anywhere at any time would almost certainly add a disturbing psychological burden on ISIS veteran fighters as well as recruits.


The following is the center of gravity (in my opinion) for ISIS forces.  Every battle plan must attack an enemy’s center of gravity or else it is wasted effort.  You defeat this center of gravity by killing existing fighters and reducing new recruits.  There are non-combat strategies, such as turning a majority of Muslims against the militants and encouraging Islam to conduct its own reformation to eliminate it’s warlike tendencies, but those are strategies for the diplomats; this is a strategy for the warriors.


You don’t “take out,” you don’t “degrade,” you kill the enemy in large numbers until you break his will to fight.  It has been that way for millennia and despite a recent political penchant to fight bloodless wars, you have to be ruthless or the enemy will be.  Additionally, striking the enemy throughout the operational depth of the theater causes the defender to try and defend everywhere, and it is a proven military axiom that he who would attempt to defend every where, adequately defends no where.


Here is the basic concept.  Intelligence assets locate a remote ISIS site occupied by perhaps several dozen up to several hundred jihadist fighters — perhaps a logistical support area for ISIS convoys carrying oil, or an ISIS-controlled oil field.  Special operations forces locate and secure a forward operating base that includes terrain on which C-17 airlift aircraft or other platforms can land.  As this is 25-75 miles from the target, the ISIS defenders have no idea of an impending attack.

Airlift assets then land combat troops and vehicles, such as Strykers, and this force, perhaps a reinforced battalion, drives to, surrounds and begins to attack the enemy village.  Using direct observation, they pinpoint targets for attack aircraft (fixed wing, helicopters, drones, etc.)  Air platforms must serve as artillery in this fight because adequate ground artillery simply cannot be transported in enough quantity as they (and their ammunition) take up too much haul space.  If the defenders manage a call for help, the same air assets can hammer ISIS columns trying to come to the rescue of their comrades.

Once the ISIS force is eliminated — and the U.S. military simply must change its impotent rules of engagement if it wants to seriously prosecute this war — the force emplaces denial munitions and intelligence sensors to make enemy reoccupation of the facility dangerous.  I would argue that the enemy dead should be removed from the target for “proper” burial elsewhere; such a disappearance would further degrade the moral of ISIS fighters who may have signed up to die for their caliphate, but may not have come to terms with disappearing for their caliphate.  The ground strike force then rapidly returns to their FOB, boards their aircraft and departs for a secure base hundreds of miles away, perhaps even in another country.  Any subsequent media inquiries as to what happened should be met with operational security silence.


How much lift we have available must be balanced against world-wide requirements.  Conducting raids to achieve operational gains have been quite successful throughout military history, whether that was Union cavalry raids deep into the Confederacy, or the old Soviet Operational Maneuver Groups that terrorized German rear areas on the Eastern Front in World War II and that kept NATO war planners up at night for forty years in the Cold War.  Time to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, make him defend everywhere.  And keep ISIS fighters up at night wondering which of their outposts will be the next one to disappear.

It has already worked at the tactical level and by purely special operations forces.  In October 2015, U.S. and Afghan commandos, backed by scores of American airstrikes, attacked an al Qaeda training camp in the southern part of Afghanistan.  The assault, which took place over several days, pounded two training areas — destroying elaborate tunnels and fortifications, and killing as many as 200 fighters.  Because of the proximity to U.S. bases, C-17s were not needed.

It is time to take it up to the next level in size and scope.  It is time to go deep against ISIS and use all special operations and conventional forces at our disposal in even larger raids.

Night Stryke2016-01-05T18:13:21-06:00

Become a Hard Target


San Bernardino Terrorist Attack

The day after Nine-Eleven, had someone offered to bet me that we would not have another major terrorist attack in the United States for the next seven years, I would have mortgaged the house, hopped on that wager – and lost!  It might have been luck; it might have been skill (and as a military strategist I would add it was because we took the fight to the enemy where he lived;) it was probably a combination of both, but we essentially had a multi-fatality terror attack-free Homeland until 2009.  Today, however, we have a much more serious situation.  Not only has the frequency of terrorist attacks increased, the attacks now include the heartland in places like Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Dallas, Little Rock, Boston and Fort Hood.

I read an article the other day about the development of humans and it discussed the response to danger, such as immediately trying to run away from a saber-tooth tiger by a caveman.  There simply was not enough time for our early ancestors to ponder the situation (fight or flight) unless they wanted to become cat food.  So far, so good, but the article went on to say that today humans have no predators out after them.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  I would argue that we have more physical violence predators looking to harm us (I am not talking about predatory loan officers, computer scammers and the like) since the Middle Ages – and some might say the Dark Ages.  You may not think there are predators out there, but there are and, more ominously, they look at you as a “meal.”

We are talking about two basic forms of predators: common criminals (such as serial killers, robbers, rapists, drug dealers and the mentally unstable) and terrorists, who today are the soldiers of one group or another that espouse the tenets of violent Islam.  Certainly other terrorist affiliations and attacks have flourished in the past – Protestant/Catholic sectarianism in Northern Ireland comes to mind, but the current 800-pound gorilla in the room (although some refuse to see him) is militant Islam, be that Al Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, or any other of the dozens of splinter groups.  One might think there is no similarity between regular criminals and terrorists, but there is one commonality – they both prefer to attack soft targets.

A soft target has many characteristics: it is slow to react to an attack or does not react at all (commonly called the deer in the headlights look); it is not likely to be armed or to pose a physical threat to an attacker; it is often in an area that is unfamiliar to it; it is often alone; it has something that the attacker wants, be that notoriety achieved by attacking it, perceived money or valuables, or religious/ethnic/racial/gender hatred toward the target.

Criminals and terrorists avoid what we term hard targets, where the likelihood of the target capturing, wounding or killing the attacker is high.  The hardness of the target can be measured by the presence of weapons, the defensibility of the architecture (walls, blast resistant glass, sensors [such as remote cameras]) and the correct belief that the humans composing a hard target are quite willing and able to respond quickly with lethal effects.

Self-defense is a human right.

You could become a hard target by building a castle, spending millions of dollars for bodyguards and sensors, and never leaving your fortress.  That would be expensive and stupid unless you just like being a paranoid hermit.

You are by birth a soft target, but the following suggestions can help you become a hard target.

1.  Limit your out-of-home activities late at night.  Most hunters in the wild stalk their quarry at night, often late at night.  And remember, these hunters are stalking you.  If you are going to be out after 11:00 pm, you really need to ask yourself why.

2.  Avoid high terrorism and high crime areas.  Do you really want to take that summer vacation to Beirut?  Whether you are motoring through Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan or most other places in the Middle East, you will stick out like a sore thumb, when actually you want to blend in and not appear as a target.  We also know that certain areas of every major town, and city (here and abroad) are more dangerous than others.  Simply don’t go into those.  If you are unsure about that, go to the local police station and ask them frankly, “What areas should a person like me avoid?”  They’ll tell you.

3.  When you are moving, ditch the headsets, palm-held electronics (I-phone, I-pad, I-pod, Blackberry or anything else) and concentrate on staying alive, whether that is actually checking for traffic when you cross a street (never assume you have the right of way on anything), you are driving, or you are observing people moving toward you.  Look in their eyes; you can often spot some uncomfortable intent in a person’s “window to the soul.”  All this is called situational awareness.  PS. Alcohol, prescription drugs and recreational drugs diminish situational awareness.  Targets that are high get killed easier than targets that are not and bad guys know this.

4.  Humans are social animals.  Your chances of being targeted by a criminal go down if you are with a group.  Unfortunately, the converse is true with terrorism; terrorists normally want a big score of dead and dying victims.

5.  Now is where we get into arguments.  Buy three firearms if you do not already have any.  Even if you hate firearms, or are afraid of firearms, just buy them and put them away in a vault or safe deposit box.  One day, things may deteriorate so badly that you, or your kids, or your grand-kids (when they are adults) just might have a need for them.  There are plenty of trigger locks for safety; there are even some now where the safe doesn’t open unless a scanner reads your own fingerprint.  If you are so inclined, use a safe deposit box at the bank to store it, unless there is some law or rule that doesn’t permit this. 

6.  The three to purchase (and I’m not going to start an endless argument over caliber, make and model) are a pistol, a shotgun and some type of smallish rifle that is more than a single shot bolt action.  Some call that a carbine.  Each of the three is better at some types of defense than the others; you can read opinions all day long about which type of weapon is better at some tasks than others.  None of these will be fully automatic weapons no matter what the media tells you.  To get a fully automatic weapon you have to first get several permits that cost so much and have such lengthy and detailed background checks that almost no one has them (I have met only two people in my life who have one.)  What you want is a carbine type weapon that when you pull the trigger, one bullet is fired; pull the trigger a second time and the next bullet is fired, and so on until the magazine/weapon is out of ammunition.  Make sure you comply with all local and state laws as to how large a capacity that may be.  California, for example, allows much less capacity than most other states; it’s an ineffective law as witnessed by what happened when two Islamic terrorists attacked in San Bernardino, but it is on the books none-the-less.  If you are uncomfortable with a semi-auto action, consider a pump action or a lever action that will be a bit slower but effective anyway. 

7.  A firearm in a safe deposit box is not going to protect you at home or on the street and you or your descendants will figure that out, so have someone competent show you how to use it.  Then find a shooter-friendly range to practice safely.  Then practice, practice, practice; not for a month, but every month, every year.  Shooting skills erode over time, but if you keep at it you will get better and stay better.  Remember, you aren’t looking to become an American Sniper here, shooting hundreds of yards or more.  The distance at which you will consider shooting is that distance that a reasonable person is afraid that an assailant will kill them.  And remember, the court gets to decide that reasonable distance, if you kill an attacker and go on trial.

8.  Sign up and fulfill your state requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit.  As with all of these recommendations, the first imperative is to obey the law.  None of us know at this moment whether we will decide tomorrow night that the dog needs to be walked around the neighborhood.  If we own a pistol and do not have a concealed permit, dropping that weapon into our pocket when Sparky wants to go outside just might be an illegal act.  Having a concealed carry permit makes it legal, even if we never have to carry a weapon.

9.  Get in shape.  Ha!  Easier said than done, I know, but people in better overall condition can do things that people in poor condition cannot do: think quicker and clearer; run faster; traverse uneven terrain (stairs, up and down slopes) without falling.  If you are so inclined and physically able, try learning some unarmed combat.  I contemplated recommending getting a knife that can do some damage in a self-defense role, but that means that your attacker is really close, the odds are you could cut yourself if you don’t know what you are doing and it adds in a whole set of other laws you have to follow on blade length and how it opens; so I won’t.  A more expensive, but effective deterrent for a close-in confrontation and home defense is a German Shepherd.

10.  Visualize potential attacks – criminal and terrorist – against you and mentally prepare options.  There are several categories of a response to an attack and you need to rehearse in your mind what response provides you the best chance at survival.  In general you can: move away from danger; hide in place; attack your attacker; comply with your attacker’s demands; or create some kind of diversion.  No one size will fit all and what works one time may not work during another situation.  You visualize by asking questions: if something bad starts happening right now, what direction am I going to run?  Where was the last place I saw a police officer and how do I get back there?  Maybe I shouldn’t run at all if there is a great place to hide within a few feet of where I am or I can blend in with the surroundings.  What do I do differently if there is more than one attacker?  If I have a gun, where is the nearest position that will provide me some protection from the bad guy’s fire?  What if one or more attackers open fire before I sense their presence?  What if the room or building I am in catches fire?  Where are the fire exits?  What do I do if a car bomb down the street explodes?  If my family is out and about and we get split up, what is the plan to get back together if the cell phones don’t work? 

This may all seem like complex stuff and law enforcement and the military practice this all the time.  You won’t, and don’t want to become, a Rambo, just increase your odds that you and your family can survive in an increasingly dangerous world.  But remember, these punks — be they common criminals or Islamic terrorists — are not particularly good shots nor are they invincible.  They may be appear tough when they are dealing unarmed victims that are already tied up and waiting to be killed.  But against an armed enemy, who has mentally prepared how to defend and react — you — they are beatable.  They do not do well during the few seconds when you have the initiative and achieve surprise by doing something they do not expect — and they expect you to most often freeze and do nothing.  Our active duty military can only do so much taking the fight to the enemy.  Our National Guard can only do so much in responding to massive emergencies.  Our police and intelligence community can only do so much trying to defend the homeland.  The rest of us need to become hard targets and be the goal line defense of last resort to stand up to those who would do us harm.

Your only other approach is to say, “None of this bad stuff is ever going to happen to me”…

…until it does.

Become a Hard Target2016-01-01T11:33:16-06:00

Kumar Kobra Khukuri

Khukuris from Himalayan Imports (top Kobra, middle Ang Khola, bottom Tin Chirra)

Kumar Kobra Khukuri

A Khukuri (alternately spelled kukri, khukri, kukhri, cookri or kookeri) is the traditional knife of the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal.  It is also the weapon and general-purpose tool of choice of the Gurkhas, the world-renowned legendary fighters from the foothills of the Himalayas, who have served the British Army with great distinction since the early 1800s and who have fought in decisive battles in both World Wars on battlefields around the globe, as well as in the Korean War and in Afghanistan. 

Dracula: a victim of the khukuri

The khukuri is truly an ancient weapon; when the first Japanese katana was brand new, the khukuri was already at least a thousand years old.  The khukuri came to be known to the Western world when the British East India Company came into conflict with the growing Gorkha Kingdom, culminating in the Gurkha War of 1814–1816 (Anglo–Nepalese War).  The weapon gained literary attention in the popular 1897 novel Dracula written by Irish author Bram Stoker.  Despite the popular image of Dracula having a stake driven through his heart at the conclusion of a climactic battle between Dracula’s bodyguards and the book’s heroes, Jonathan Harker and Quincey Morris, protagonist Mina Harker’s narrative describes the vampire’s throat being sliced through by Harker’s khukuri and his heart pierced by Morris’s Bowie knife.

In real life, Gurkhas (Gorkhas) continue to serve as elite soldiers in the 3,640-man Royal Gurkha Brigade of the British Army, as well as in the Indian Army and the Royal Nepalese Army.  The Gurkhas display such loyalty, endurance, tenacity and incredible bravery that sometimes just the sound of their battle cry, Ayo Gorkhali! (Nepali for “Here come the Gorkhas!”), has caused enemy soldiers to flee in terror.

The weapon/tool is somewhat of an oddball here in the United States (although a small minority of supporters are quite vocal in their praise), but perhaps both the military and civilian markets should take a closer look at the khukuri for potential uses in our seemingly more violent and uncertain world.  In terms of utility, the khukuri is more of a cross between a Bowie knife and a Native American tomahawk, and would seem to be a natural weapon for Americans given the prominence of our history with these two other weapons.  Not only is it a slicing weapon; it is a smashing weapon as well. 

Indeed, the khukuri is a superior blade, both as a combat weapon and as a tool.  The unique shape of the khukuri makes it excellent both for chopping wood and for hacking through dense jungles and forests – serving as a combination of an axe and a machete, or anything else requiring a good knife.  The forward curve of the blade makes this an excellent tool for chopping when it comes to procuring fire wood.  The energy of the chop is centered at the inner apex of the curvature of the blade and focuses all the energy to that point for a penetrating chop.  This makes it a particularly ideal item for the outdoorsman, hunter, hiker or explorer, or anyone who needs a rugged multi-functional blade.  Standard-sized khukuris are between 12 inches and 30 inches overall.

Khukuris of five hundred years or more hang from the walls of Nepal’s National Museum, dating back to the Malla period.  Some have suggested that khukuri design is linked to the ancient Greek kopis knife and that the form was introduced into the Indian subcontinent by Alexander’s Macedonian army, which invaded north-west India in the 4th-century B.C.  If so, then the khukuri is perhaps also linked to the ancient Egyptian kopesh blade, likely the model for the Greek kopis, as well as to the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian seax.  However, it is also possible that the khukuri is simply a design native to the foothills of the Himalayas, perhaps originating from an agricultural tool.

                                                                      Kumar Kobra

The Kumar Kobra is known by some as the lightest, quickest khukuri in the world.  It most-often is made in three lengths (as measured in a straight line from the tip of the blade to the end of the handle, which is sometimes made of horn and also of various types of wood.)  The various length models weigh between about 18 ounces and 2 pounds, depending on the kami (knife-smith) who made it.  In any length, this type of khukuri is very suitable for martial artists and for self-defense.  Like other khukuris, the blade is propelled by momentum rather than “pushed” at its target like a fencer’s foil (which might endanger the fingers).  Once comprehended by the weapon’s user, the concept can be adapted to any angle of attack.

Kumar Bishwakarma in 1999

Kumar Bishwakarma, designer and maker of this 20-inch Kobra, is from the Dharan area of Nepal (110 miles ESE of Katmandu.)  Dharan, in the Sunsari District, is situated on the foothills of the Mahabharat Range in the north with its southern tip touching the edge of the Terai region.  It serves as a trading post between the hilly region and the plains of Terai region and was once the location of a recruitment center for the Brigade of Gurkhas.  In this first photo, taken about 1999, he was a young man, who was already producing very good unique khukuris. 


Kumar Bishwakarma in 2015

2015 found Kumar living with his second, younger wife; they have three children and the oldest boy will attend college in a year or so.  This event will be monumental.  The Nepalese caste system is complex and continues a tradition of social stratification of Nepal, even though legislation legally ended it.  The system broadly borrows the classical Chaturvarnashram model consisting of four broad social classes or varna: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra.  Iron workers, which include Khukuri makers (kami) are from the lowest caste, Sudra, and at one time would have been part of the “Untouchables.”  Thus, eighty percent of the kamis neither read nor write.  In September 2015 Kumar was seriously hurt making a knife, when apparently the blade flipped while polishing and cut both his forehead and an electrical line that seriously shocked him.

Many of the best khukuris are made by master kamis.  A master kami was born a kami in both caste and work.  For as long as anyone in the family can remember, his forefathers were kamis.  At perhaps age five or six, he began helping his father and grandfather in the arun, or workshop, where he learns to pull the chain on the bellows, gather charcoal for the forge and bring water for the quenching pitcher that tempers the blade.  He also learns the names of tools and procedures.  At around twelve years of age, he is using the hammer and does much of the pounding of heated steel that goes on in the shop.  He can make a few simple farm implements by himself.  Sometimes his effort produces a quality tool, sometimes not.  

By the time he is 20 years old, he can fire up the shop by himself and can produce many items.  He can make a decent khukuri by himself but it sometimes will not be perfect.  At 30, he is called an intermediate.  At around 40, depending on the person, he is just about ready for the status of master kami.  His grandfather has died and his father is too old to do much work, so it is on his shoulders to take over the operation of the arun.  At this stage he has made every farm tool that can be made.  He will make a perfect khukuri 99% of the time.  He understands steel and knows how to work it.  He also has made hinges for gates and cabinets.  He has made prybars and wedges in addition to sharp-edged tools.

By this time in his career, he has made sickles, scythes, axes, rakes and hatchets.  He can make rings, bracelets, ear rings, pliers, tongs, awls, nails, needles, metal baskets and rivets.  If you show him sketches of something you want made and give him a few verbal instructions he can produce what you want.

5160 Straight Carbon Spring Steel leaf-springs

The steel used in khukuris produced in the small forge in BirGorkha, Nepal is recycled from the 5160 Straight Carbon Spring Steel leaf-springs off of large cargo trucks preferably Mercedes or Saabs that are past their operational life.  Using “recycled” leaf-spring steel means that the steel has already passed numerous vibration stresses in its original use; it is also improved as a forging medium in that it has been “work hardened” or “work strengthened,” with countless flexing and jolts in the suspension have worked out the molecular flaws and alignments, to the point that even if it not useable as a spring any longer, it is still an excellent medium for hammer and anvil.  Much of the work involved in hammer-forging a blade is shaping, and then compressing the steel to eliminate “spongy” areas which would not heat treat or form properly. “Work hardened” steel goes through the process faster and easier, and makes a better blade.

                                                 Khukuri forge at Himalayan Imports

The kamis heat the spring at the length they want and use a chisel to cut off the desired length. They can guess within a couple of ounces without weighing even though scales are available.  They then start the forging process, heating and pounding, forming the blade from tip to tang (see left.)  During the forging process the basic tools of the master kami are a small hammer and tongs only.  Adjustments to keep the blade straight and headed in the right direction are done by the master kami himself throughout the process and this is done by the small hammer.  When he determines that the blade is close enough to completion the big hammer is no longer used and he will bring the blade to as near completion as he can, using his small hammer.  Then he moves to various small hand tools and file to get the blade into final shape and ready to harden.  The only high tech part of this process is using an electric fan to drive the forge and later an electric grinder to get rid of hammer marks.  When the blade is as close to final form as they want to get it, they harden it.

It is the heat treatment which effects certain changes in the steel, which gives one the desired end product.  Inferior heat treating of even the best steel will yield an inferior khukuri.  Hardness of steel is generally measured by units known as Rockwells on the so-called Rockwell “C” scale as follows: 20-25 Rc – this is the hardness found in mild steel and edge retention is poor; 30-40 Rc – some blade experts believe that this is the minimum softness that should be allowed; 40-45 Rc – this hardness level will have some spring qualities; 50-52 Rc – this rating gives a good balance between toughness (slightly soft, enough for shock tolerance) and hardness (for edge holding); 58-60 Rc – many experts feel this is the ideal hardness of differentially heat treated Chinese and Japanese swords.  An edge of this hardness can cut into most materials that are comparably softer.  Any rating over 60 ventures into brittle territory, although hardness does not make one blade better than the other.  Harder edges are more prone to chipping, and softer blades tend to roll and dent, so there are disadvantages to both.  Zone-hardened khukuris made at BirGorkha often have edges at around Rc60 with a slight fade on either side of the belly, especially on the larger blades, to Rc58.  Hardness of Kobra models is 59 to 60 Rc and will shave hair off the back of your hand (which is not recommended!)  However, hardness results vary, as every knife is truly hand-made.

Khukuri water quenching

The kami does this by first heating it to proper color and then water quenching by a slow pour from a pitcher.  This is the most critical stage of the process, the zone hardening.  Here is where the years of experience will help the kami, who knows only too well if he misses his mark here the entire project is a loss (a master kami will have a success rate of 99%+.)

Then the kami makes the handle from a block of wood or a piece of horn or antler.  When the handle is almost done, the kamis makes the bolster and butt-cap.  All told, it takes up to two days to produce a single khukuri by one kami.  Then the knife is polished by an apprentice.  Final inspection comes last and if it passes muster, off it goes to the sarkis for a leather and wood scabbard.

This is the situation that was found in the late 1970s by Bill Martino, then a middle-aged Peace Corps volunteer, who first traveled to Nepal in that capacity.  It took about two minutes off the plane at Tribhuvan Airport for Bill to realize that what Nepal needed most was some employment opportunities and a few Yankee dollars flowing in not as government handouts, but as capitalism.  He finally found one of the few things the Nepalese could manufacture – and manufacture well – the khukuri, and Himalayan Imports (which should have more accurately been called Himalayan “Exports”) was born.  

At first he tried to deal directly with individual kamis, but found this gave no real product line; there were also problems with scabbards and small handles, made for Nepalese, not Americans, and thus often too small.  Coordination was doubly difficult as more than 15,000 kamis have been involved in the making of khukuris in Nepal in recent years.  In Nepal, Bill and his Nepalese wife Yangdu – daughter of Kami Sherpa, who served in Company C, Fourth Battalion, of the Assam Rifles in the Indian Army for many years – were searching for a way to standardize their khukuri.  They discovered a shop in southeast Nepal that was making khukuris for the tourist market, but the operator was capable and more than willing of making a high quality, Gurkha-grade, khukuri to Martino’s specifications, instead of tourist souvenirs.  

The two men would attempt a joint venture, making a top quality khukuri (with a decent sized) handle aimed at the United States and world market. They agreed to make the best that could be made and pay the price.  All of their khukuri and knives would be handmade in Nepal by true craftsmen of the kami caste; the first was sold about 1988.

The more they sold, the more Bill advertised and promoted, keeping the price of the khukuris steady.  Himalayan Imports gained customers and soon many of the sales were repeat orders, as their khukuris began to attract attention.  After five years of struggle they were showing a profit.  However, Bill Martino wanted more; he wanted to treat his workers with respect and conduct the business within his own understanding of Dharma.  For example, when the khukuri craftsmen are ready to begin work, each kami goes to the manager and requests permission to make his next knife.  The men agree on a price which is paid to the kami before he begins work.  If the quality of his work is poor, the kami must do the job again for no additional pay.  If the quality is to the standard, which both he and the manager know it should be, another assignment is given him and he is paid again.  If the quality is exceptional, the kami will receive a bonus.

In addition to the pay, Himalayan Imports provides food, money, clothes or whatever might be needed to kamis who might be having troubled times.  If a kami gets sick, the company sends him to the doctor or hospital and gets medicine for him (their health insurance plan.)  Bill often loaned money to kamis who might need something extra like tuition and books for children’s school, so they could climb out of the caste system.  In short, he looked after the kamis as though they were his own children.  When Kumar was seriously injured in 2015, Yangdu sent him medical treatment funds.

HI workshops open every day at 7:00 and close at 6:00 – seven days per week.  If the kamis want to work the shop is there for them to work.  If they do not want to work they do not have to. Interestingly, almost all the kamis are waiting patiently every morning for the shop to open and rarely miss a day except for perhaps a wedding or a funeral.  They are very happy they are able to work and earn some of the area’s highest wages, plus unheard of employee benefits, for 150 workers associated with the BirGorkha factory, a rarity in much of Nepal.

Khukuri makers who work for Himalayan Imports, or who have worked there, include the following:

The Royal Kami Lal Bahadur Bishwakarma (“Bura”)

Kumar Bishwakarma (Sunsary district; Dharan)

Nara Bishwakarma

Raj Kumar

Bhakta Koirala (Khotang district; Dhiktel)



Ganga Bahadur (Sunsary district; Dharan)


Keshar Lal Bishwakarma



Lokendra Shasankar (Sunsary district; Dharan)

Murali Dhar Bishwakarma

Nabin Rai



Prakash Bishwakarma


Purna Sankher Kami (Sunsary district; Dharan)




Sanu Bishwakarma


Shankar Bishwakarma

Sher Bahadur Bishwakarma

Sgt. Khadka dai

Tej Bhahadur Gatani (Sunsary district; Dharan)

Thamar Bahadur

Tilak Bishwakarma (Diktel Bazar)

Tirtha Randham (Sunsary district; Dharan)



The system of bestowing the descriptor “Master Kami” appears to be of different format than what might be done in other cultures and includes a general understanding of an individual’s high skill work, and by word of mouth.  Certainly, the first four names on the above list would be in this status and many others might be as well, such as Thamar Bahadur and Purna Sankher. 

Bill Martino died some ten years ago.  His widow runs the import end of the business from her home in Reno, Nevada.  A few years before his death, Bill made the following assessment:

“I know that Himalayan Imports is doomed to extinction.  Kami, Yangdu’s dad and the owner of HI is old, I am old, our master kamis are old and when we go so will Himalayan Imports.  But, it is my hope to last as long as we can and continue to do what we do the best we can.”

Having now seen, felt and used this knife, I believe that Bill Martino may have drastically under-estimated the staying power of Himalayan Imports.  This particular Kobra khukuri is 20¼ inches long overall; the blade, with the curve, measures 13¼ inches in length.  The width of the knife along the upper (non-cutting) edge at its thickest point is 25/64 inch (0.39”.)  The weight of this example is 1 pound 13 ounces.  It has the maker marking of Master Kami Kumar Bishwakarma on the blade, a six-pointed star.  The handle is made of dark wood, is 5¼ inches long and is fitted with a brass end cap.  The height of the blade at its primary cutting area is 1.5625 inches.   It is a fighting khukuri, not a chopping khukuri that would be used to cut tree limbs.  An Ang Khola, World War II Style, M-43 or Ganga Ram Special model would be the best types for this heavier work.  As to prying loose boards off of their mountings, only the Chiruwa Ang Khola should really be used according to the lifetime warranty program at Himalayan Imports.

                                                               20-inch Ang Khola


Purna Sankher Kami

By way of comparison, a 20-inch Ang Khola khukuri is a traditional chopping tool to remove tree limbs and even to cut tree trunks.  This particular example was made by Purna Sankher Kami, also from Dharan in the Sunsary district.  This is a heavy weapon, weighing 2 pounds 6 ounces, with the width of the blade on top at its thickest point being 30/64 inch (0.47”.)   The length of the blade is 13¼ inches.  It is fitted with a brass end-cap as well.  Purna (who won the first prize in 2015 at Himalayan Imports for the best produced knife) began working for HI in October 2014.  His trade mark sign is a small bull head etched on the blade near the handle.

                   Ang Khola Tin Chirra — three grooves

Another powerful knife is the Tin Chirra.  “Tin Chirra” means three groove in Nepali.  It looks just like an Ang Khola with an additional spine below the regular one, but it feels a bit heavier in the hand than the Ang Khola.  The chirra, or fullers, allow a blade to have more strength than a flat bar blade of the same dimensions, with much less weight.  They can be positioned along the blade to effect changes in balance, as well.  Because of the complexity, a Tin Chirra can only be forged by a master kami.  In the retouched photograph of the blade, the green, red and gray areas are depressed, while the ridges are highlighted yellow. 

                                                          Tin Chirra Ang Khola

This particular model is 17½ inches long and weighs 1 pound 11 ounces.  The width of the blade on top at its thickest point is 19/64 inch (0.29”.)  The length of the blade is 12 15/16 inches.  Thamar Bahadur was the craftsman who made this khukuri; he understudied for several years with Lal Bahadur Bishwakarma (“Bura.”)  Thamar is from Gorkha, Nepal (40 miles WNW of Katmandu) and lost his house during the earthquake disaster in Nepal in 2015.  He began working for Himalayan Imports in 2014.

Thamar Bahadur

If I were still on active duty, I would be seriously examining how these khukuris could be introduced into the force – and I would be carrying one myself during training maneuvers and combat deployments in addition to my bayonet, as I did in Germany, Panama, Alaska and the Middle East with my Randall #14 – Attack, whose blade was made in Solingen, Germany.  Clearly, Combat Engineers, Mechanized Infantry and Light Infantry would be prime candidates to have the sturdier khukuri, such as the Chiruwa Ang Khola, to assist in preparation of defensive positions and certain tasks in urban warfare. 

There are two obvious downsides to the weapon but can be overcome.  5160 steel has 0.7 to 0.9 percent chromium, not enough to cause the metal to be corrosion resistant (to reach a more stainless steel requires >12% chromium.)  Carbon steel knives, just like a rifle, need some care and attention to keep surface rust at bay.  But it is tough and almost indestructible.  Second, the weapon is extremely sharp and anyone using one needs to focus their attention and practice so they do not cut themselves.  Gurkhas can knife fight with the weapon because of extensive training and daily use familiarity.

Give a few of these frontline units the khukuri and they will find all kinds of uses, and serve as an honest test bed for wider applications.  Special Operations Command, given its separate funding stream and accelerated “off-the-shelf” acquisition ability, probably has the khukuris already – at least I would hope so.  Much of the effectiveness of special operations comes from their marvelous reputation for cold-blooded efficiency combined with cerebral tactics and techniques; strapping a 20-inch razor-sharp fighting knife around the waist certainly will not “soften” that image to America’s enemies!

And for those of us back home, when your favorite ISIS punk comes calling, you can open the door, look at their knife (which, by the way, they only have confidence in using against victims who are already hog-tied) and say, “That’s not a knife,” as you draw your Kumar Kobra; “that’s a knife.”

For more information on these fantastic examples of weapons’ craftsmanship see:

Himalayan Imports






Kumar Kobra Khukuri2015-10-26T20:48:22-06:00

Concealed Carry – Smith & Wesson Model 627


Smith & Wesson Model 627, .357 Magnum, 2.625-inch barrel

Now let’s examine what type of firearm you may want away from home, whether you are traveling out of  town or doing routine day-to-day activities near where you live.  First, respect all the laws in your area concerning open carry of weapons or concealed carry.  Concealed carry is where firearms cannot be seen by the casual observer.  Other definitions include: “carried in such a manner as to not be discernible by the ordinary observation of a passerby.”  There is no definition of passerby, although I would submit that a law enforcement officer would “sense” the presence of a concealed firearm much more readily than my dear old grandmother!  There does not seem to be a requirement that there be absolute invisibility of the firearm or dangerous weapon, merely that it not be ordinarily discernible.    Open carry refers to the practice of “openly carrying a firearm in public.”  I will not list the states in each category because it seems as if they are always changing – or at least changing pieces of their laws.

I also will not try and “hard sell” you on one type of weapon or another.  Here are a few general rules, though.

The worst gun in the world is the one you chose not to carry and you then find yourself in a situation where you need that weapon but do not have it.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of forgetfulness, but in most cases, a person does not take the weapon because it is too heavy or bulky and thus is uncomfortable to carry on your person.  So you don’t carry it, and maybe 99.999% of the time it’s no problem; but that last .001% can be disastrous.

The second worst gun in the world is the one you are carrying, but it is one that either the ammunition or weapon does not function reliably.  It could be too old and prone to small parts breaking; it could be unreliable ammunition (especially if you are firing reloads); or it could be a weapon that you are not truly familiar with and so you do things such as improperly seating the magazine, or leave the safety on when you want it off, or you freak out if it has a failure to fire and you cannot clear that, etc.  You can get past this by having an experienced gunsmith inspect your firearm, use highly-rated ammunition, become extremely familiar with the weapon and keep it cleaned and lubricated.

The third worst gun in the world is the one you are carrying, which reliably functions, but you cannot hit the broad side of a barn with it.  We are talking really bad here, as the range that you will generally be protecting yourself is not 100 yards, not 50 yards, but something less – often much less.  That is not to say that you should never practice shooting at 25 to 50 yards, but start close, get proficient there and then work your way out instead of the other way around.  So what can make your firearm inaccurate at close range?  Perhaps the gun itself; perhaps the ammunition; but the most likely reason is that you are not practicing enough or that you are uncomfortable with the muzzle flash, the noise or the kick (recoil) of the weapon.  To overcome any of those, try and practice your way out of it; the more you fire, the more you will become used to the effects.  Make sure you wear hearing protection whenever you practice, as well as some type of safety/shooting glasses.  You can do some simple weight training exercises to build up the strength in your hands, wrists and arms.  We are talking about guns that weigh a few pounds; the heaviest pistol (we’ll use this word in place of handgun even though aficionados term semi-autos differently than revolvers) in the world is only about seven pounds.  Get an expert to teach you.

Your genetics will determine the size of hands you have; and those individuals with smaller hands will generally – but not always – find it harder to control larger caliber pistols that those with bigger hands.  However, even if you practice every day, there will be a caliber limit above which almost every person does not like to shoot – although that varies for each individual.  But it leads to the fourth worst gun in the world: the one you have that is both reliable and accurate, but whose bullet is of insufficient caliber and velocity to cause your attacker to cease attacking you after it hits him.  First, let us assume that you are shooting at the center of mass of the attacker – the center of his chest.  That way, rounds spot on will hit things like heart and lungs (which quickly “dissuades” most attackers), while rounds that are a couple of inches off the absolute center will still hit vital life-support areas such as other internal organs and large blood vessels.  Leave all the fictional novel and movie shots – such as head shots – for trained shooters.  You can achieve the same effect in one of two ways.  Either hit the center of mass with one, two or three rounds of a powerful caliber, or hit the center of mass with a whole lot of rounds of lesser caliber, because at some point the quantity of rounds hitting your attacker’s chest will have a lethal effect all their own.  Of course, during the time it takes for you to hit your attacker with many rounds, allows him to be firing back at you. 

This leads to perhaps the most-argued point in concealed carry handgun use – caliber selection.  Ideally, you have been able to borrow handguns of different calibers – both semi-automatics and revolvers – and have fired enough rounds through every one that your friends are starting to complain that you are going to burn out their barrel (a specious claim unless you make competitive shooting your life’s work.)  Many ranges, such as The Bullet Trap in Macon, Illinois, let you rent different firearms; that is a good way to avoid buying a handgun that you subsequently find you do not like.  You know what caliber and type of weapon you can control and with which you can hit your paper target, or perhaps metal silhouette, time after time in generally good lighting conditions, but not under the level of stress you will encounter in a real-life dangerous situation.  Can you remember what sequence you need to follow to shoot the weapon without fumbling around?  Can you make adjustments after the first shot if it is not center of mass and quickly make a follow-up shot that is accurate?  Can you reload it quickly?  In lower light conditions (sometimes a range will let you do this if you are supervised and no one else is on the range) are the factory sights still useful?  Can the weapon you intend to buy later be fitted with a laser sight, such as one from Crimson Trace, should you want to try that method of low-light condition shooting?

I have shot thousands of pistol rounds over my lifetime, from calibers of .22 Long Rifle, to .45 ACP to .44 Magnum.  I have shot other weapons in combat in the Army, but have never shot a pistol to try and kill another human being.  I am a pretty good shot in training conditions; I like to go to the range and my lifestyle allows me to practice whenever I wish.  I have fired both semi-automatics and revolvers; my guess is that I have fired 60% of all pistol rounds through semi-autos and 40% through revolvers.  I have never fired a derringer.  It was only a matter of time before I obtain a laser sight, because as the years go by I can see its benefits.  As I assess what the most likely danger I will face with my lifestyle (I don’t stay out late at night in high-risk areas,) and having been in high pressure situations, I know how stress works and for me that means I need a very simple weapon, a revolver.  I also assess that if I am in a shooting situation, it will generally be one or two assailants trying to rob me, or – if the national security situation continues to deteriorate – with ISIS jihadists in this country trying to kill active or retired military, either lone attackers or in groups of two (the greater the size of each group the more likely it is that it will be exposed before it acts; two individuals, or lone wolves, can remain pretty secret.)

So for a maximum of two targets, in which the worst case is that they are actively trying to kill me, I believe that by choosing a .357 Magnum revolver, with an eight round cylinder, I should be able to end the engagement within those eight rounds, probably half that, but better safe than sorry.  The .357 Magnum should be powerful enough that one center of mass hit will likely incapacitate or kill the attacker and two center of mass hits certainly will.  I’ll have a speed loader just in case I am trapped and cannot get out of the area, and if there is a group larger than two, I should be able to see their presence earlier that will permit me to evade them and call the situation in to authorities.  Given the expense and vagaries of the legal system, it is a lot easier for me if the legal authorities kill these punks and not me.

Yes, there are always outliers.  In one incident a few years ago, a Chicago police officer fired 33 rounds at an assailant; the gang member was struck 14 times with .45-cal. ammunition – six of those hits in supposedly fatal locations.  The fourteenth and last round killed him.  But the only way to eliminate all outliers would be to carry a flamethrower and my better half would nix that right away.

That whole lengthy (perhaps too lengthy!) diatribe led me to try a Smith and Wesson Model 627, .357 Magnum, with a 2 5/8 inch barrel, courtesy of The Outpost Armory, located near Murfreesboro, Tennessee at Exit 89 off I-24.  They have a huge selection of firearms, ammunition, gear, and reloading supplies (615-867-6789.)  What convinced me?  Again, simplicity is most important; if one of the eight rounds were to fail to fire, I simply squeeze the trigger again and the cylinder rotates with another round.  Secondly, I can use a little less expensive ammunition (.38 Special) to practice.  Now given the short length of the barrel, which aids in “carryability” (remember the worst gun is one that you don’t carry,) the velocity the rounds coming out of this are going to be slower than a pistol with a longer barrel.  Many .357 Magnum 125 grain jacketed hollow points have a muzzle velocity of 1702 feet per second from a six-inch barrel, while the muzzle velocity in a 2 5/8-inch barrel is only 1193 feet per second.  For 158 grain .357 Magnum jacketed hollow points – another popular self-defense load – those fired from a four-inch barrel, for example, will have a muzzle velocity of 1293 feet per second, as compared to 1053 feet per second in the shorter barrel.

Those numbers show a difference to be sure, but how does that translate to common terms and is that reduced velocity still effective?  In gelatin tests that replicate the human body, the Winchester .357 Magnum PDX1 125 grain jacketed hollow point bullets penetrated a layer of denim (simulating clothes) and then 13.5 inches of gel, the diameter of the wound channel being much greater than .357-inches for the first five inches of penetration.  Given that this performance was from a .357 Magnum with a shorter 2-inch barrel that indicates to me that the Model 627’s short barrel will do just fine and that it was interesting to go through a wide variety of .38 Special ammunition, .38 Special +P ammunition and .357 Magnum ammunition to see what is ideal for both the pistol and this shooter.  Remember, no matter what caliber you end up with, the round must have enough energy to reliably deliver an expanded bullet (one that  mushrooms, becoming a larger diameter to do more damage) – deep enough to do its job to cause enough injury to stop the attacker.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of extra energy – it just has to be enough.

OK, now about the pistol itself.  The Model 627 has an empty weight of 37.6 ounces.  If it is loaded with 125 grain jacketed hollow points, add another 4.16 ounces (0.52 ounces per) for a total weight of 41.76 ounces.  If you are firing 158 grain rounds, that will increase to 42.15 ounces.  The length of the barrel is 2.625 inches; overall length of the weapon is 7.625 inches.  The overall appearance, perhaps in part because of the unfluted cylinder, is chunky, with a “There is no way I can conceal carry this,” thought crossing my mind.  The stainless steel frame and stainless steel cylinder have a matte finish; it is an N-frame, the same platform the company uses for its .44 Magnum.  If you are ordering one, the SKU is 170133, which will ensure you get the right model.  The front sight is a dovetail red ramp, while the rear sight is an adjustable white outline.  The trigger is both double action and single action capable.  The 8-shot cylinder is recessed to be able to use full moonclips for reloading.  The Model 627 is one of the S&W Performance Center products, which the manufacturer indicates are made to a higher standard (“the ultimate expression of old-world craftsmanship blended with modern technology”); S&W has figured out supply and demand and because they do not churn PC products out in large numbers, wait times are often long.

The piece has a transfer bar safety mounted on the frame; this thin strip of metal rises once the trigger is squeezed, allowing the hammer’s energy to be transferred to the firing pin and then on to the primer.  What this allows is for the shooter to load all eight chambers, as the technology (which is not confined to only Smith & Wesson) eliminates the small chance that the hammer could get snagged on clothing and then drop accidentally on a round discharging it.

The first thing we’ll do is see what the accuracy of the piece is when fired from a supported position; we want to take as much human error out of the shots, so I will rest my wrists on sandbags on top of a sturdy table, sit on a nice chair, so there is no twitching or jerking from my end of things.  I have very good protective hearing headsets, to eliminate the noise factor.  The lighting conditions are bright in the indoor range; again, we want to see what the Model 627 will do in as perfect an environment as we can make it.  We will begin with single action firing to take even more human influence out of the equation.  We will start with the factory grips (believe they are “Secret Service” style) that are wood and have two finger grooves, leaving my little finger off the weapon; I can tell that I will be uncomfortable with this as with every other pistol I have liked firing – even the diminutive Walther PPK – I have been able to get all my fingers on the grips.

Smith & Wesson 627

Smith & Wesson 627 with Crimson Trace

Went to the range and sure enough, my concern was well-founded; I simply could not control the weapon and the checkered grip bit into my right hand at every opportunity.  I quickly obtained a Crimson Trace Lasergrips, the Model LG-314 for Smith & Wesson N Frame round butt revolvers.  They went on easily and provided two positive results.  First, the rubber overmolded grips provided apace for all fingers, as well as made the weapon easier to control.  Second, they assisted in accuracy.  The test session at the range with the new grips proved outstanding.  Firing at B27Q—Blue Half-Size (human silhouette) targets to add a bit to the difficulty factor, I found that firing at distances from 21 feet to 45 feet – using both iron sights and the laser – for every eight round cylinder, I averaged six rounds in the ten and nine rings and two rounds in the eight ring.  These shots were taken 50% supported on sandbags and 50% from standing unsupported.  This included .38 Special rounds, Remington .38 Special +P rounds, some Western Super X .357 Magnum 158 grain, and even some Buffalo Bore .357 Magnum 180 grain hard cast lead.

Renowned gun writer (and shooter) Elmer Keith once stated that a short barreled revolver was no less accurate than one with a six inch, or longer, barrel.  This Model 627 really looks promising, so let’s start experimenting with how to best carry it.  Two methods of carry stood out.  The first was a shoulder holster from Armory Express Outlet in Coral Gables, Florida.  The owner, Tom Gucciardi, worked with me and the end product is an excellent horizontal carry, with the pistol under my left arm and two speed reload pouches under my right.  The straps are thick and wide which is important as its a heavy pistol.  The weight is well-distributed; you won’t forget you are wearing it with a revolver this size, but once I applied some R.M. Williams Saddle & Leather Dressing from Australia, the straps became so pliable it added a great deal of comfort. 

The second holster I have found quite useful is from Diamond D Leather in Wasilla, Alaska.  From them I obtained a Guides Choice leather chest holster.  This holster puts the pistol in the direct center of your chest and was developed for hunting and fishing guides in Alaska, who might require a pistol quickly in case of an unexpected encounter with a dangerous animal.  The design is open carry and I will carry it that way each time I go fishing in Montana with my old Army buddy Hank; in fact it allows (at least for me) the fastest method of drawing this particular weapon.  In addition, I have found that it can be carried in this guide holster concealed if you wear a light dark-color windbreaker over it.  In short, its a great revolver, a hard puncher and an excellent eight-round capacity, combined with an excellent sight and wrapped in two excellent holsters.


Concealed Carry – Smith & Wesson Model 6272017-05-15T13:35:11-06:00

A New Knights Templar? (Part 4)


Maasai warriors hunting a lion

Although the primary mission of the original Knights Templar was military combat action, relatively few members were combatants.  The majority of its adherents acted in support positions to assist the knights and to manage the financial infrastructure of the organization.  Once Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a leading Church figure, lent his support, the Templars became the favored charity in all of Christendom.  Templar headquarters in many lands received land, money and businesses.

In 1150, the original Knights Templar began generating letters of credit for pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land.  These pilgrims deposited their valuables with a local Templar office before embarking.  In return, he would receive a document indicating the value of the deposit; he would use that document upon arrival in the Holy Land to retrieve their funds in an amount of equal value.  In return, the Knights Templar received a small percentage of the wealth, an arrangement that was an early form of banking and may have been the first formal system to support the use of these forms of documents.  The system thus not only improved the safety of pilgrims by making them less attractive targets for thieves, but also contributed to the Templar coffers.

Today, a New Knights Templar organization would require a different system to meet a much-more complex world.  As before, the most efficient organization of the New Knights Templar would be by country, as there is no real reason to have an international control body.  The New Knights Templar is not going to defeat ISIS and other evil militant Islamic organizations alone.  They are not going to command large forces, disperse billions of dollars or compete against nation states on the world stage.  No, a New Knights Templar will probably evolve as a much smaller entity, consisting of numerous units, each of which would probably be no larger than regiment in strength (1,000 to 2,000 individuals.)  The organization may find that it has adequate volunteers from Country X to form a regiment; Country Y to form a battalion (500 individuals); and from Country Z only a company (100 individuals) can be formed.  Additionally, because of the norms, skills and heritage, the unit from Country Z may be a medical organization, while Country X is fielding an infantry unit.

Fielding by country provides several advantages.  First, there is generally no language barrier within a single country.  Second, there is a built-in support structure back home to reinforce those Knights Templar at the front.  Third, a nation’s laws and political objectives may change over time.  Should a nation shift its views against its citizens being members, the cut-off of volunteers from Country X will only affect the New Knights Templar units from Country X, not all units if citizens from Country X had been spread across the force.

The New Knights Templar would have three major ongoing tasks to accomplish, and accomplish well.  In each nation, the organization will need personnel to raise funds, help recruit, provide some type of military training (within the context of what is legal to do in that country), conduct supporting public affairs activities and work behind the scenes with political leaders to increase – or at least maintain – support for the organization.

A second group of New Knights Templar in each country would be responsible for the transportation of New Knights Templar personnel, and selected equipment, from the home country to the area of foreign operations.  This group would also procure selected equipment and ensure it was legally and properly transported; they would then “marry” this equipment to New Knights Templar volunteers on the ground, which would include equipment familiarization.  Finally, this second group would be responsible for re-deploying front line New Knights Templar to their home countries.

The third group, obviously, are those New Knights Templar are the actual fighters, translators, logisticians, medical personnel and civil affairs experts that actually go on a tour of duty overseas.  Each nation providing volunteers for a New Knights Templar will find its own best way to recruit volunteers.  One overarching principal will likely be that every volunteer can find an area in which to help; that all contributions are valuable; and that each volunteer must balance the degree of personal service in the organization with his or her ongoing personal and family commitments.  If those commits preclude service overseas, than whatever the volunteer can contribute should be valued.

For those volunteers that seek active overseas duty protecting the innocents and directly fighting the Evil, the sending countries would do well to remember Colonel Ardant Du Picq, a French Army officer and military theorist of the mid-nineteenth century.  Du Picq’s analyses stressed the vital importance, especially in contemporary warfare, of discipline and unit cohesion.  He also believed that the human element in war is more important than theories.  Before his death in combat in 1870, du Picq had already published Combat antique (Ancient Battle), which associates later expanded into the classic Etudes sur les combat: Combat antique et moderne, most often referred to by its common English title of Battle Studies, which was published in part ten years later, although the complete text did not appear until 1902.  A thorough study of all of du Picq’s thinking boils down to one of his fundamental truths:

“Four brave men who do not know each other will not dare attack a lion.   Four less brave, but knowing each other well, sure of their reliability and consequently of mutual aid, will attack resolutely.”

New Knights Templar organizations should strongly consider recruiting volunteers from among four people who already know each other well; they could have served in their own nation’s military together; gone to school together; or in some manner already know each other.  They should deploy together, work together overseas and re-deploy together home.  New Knights Templar organizations will quickly find that individual replacements cause nothing but problems.  A group of four volunteers – perhaps that will be termed as its own “Lion Team” – will work well together, be that as a medical unit or direct combat formation.

Training opportunities for volunteers for combat units will undoubtedly be limited and expensive, both in the home nation and once the volunteers are deployed.  Therefore a second consideration for volunteer selection – at least for combat duty – is previous experience in a nation’s armed forces.  Combat veterans have a stabilizing effect that cannot be over-estimated.  opportunities to fully train on host nation soil may be limited, so the higher the level of skill a volunteer brings in, the better.  Additionally, the enemy that the New Knights Templar will face will have months, if not years, of their own combat experience, albeit most of it was against defenseless women and children and those who could not adequately defend themselves.  With the formation of a New Knights Templar, that will be about to change.  To be continued…


A New Knights Templar? (Part 4)2021-06-15T17:59:56-06:00

A New Knights Templar? (Part 3)


Max Weber: Monopoly of Power of the State

The 800-pound gorillas in the room that could make the establishment of a New Knights Templar difficult are nation states.

One could easily make the argument that the history of mankind has been a violent one.  In ancient times, kings and queens could send their empires to war or order the execution of a criminal or political opponent with as little as a nod of the head.  Within empires, local tribal leaders often held similar power over life and death.

By the time of feudalism – during the period of the Crusades – European kings depended on loyal vassals to do their bidding and so often turned a blind eye when these vassals sometimes felt the need to do violence to one another over a slight or family grudge.  At the same time in Europe, the Catholic Church held great power, and often in consultation with secular rulers, could urge the faithful to “take up the Cross” and go on Crusade with the full knowledge that violence would result.  Religious courts also could try individuals on perceived religious violations – such as heresy.

With the rise of the nation state, governments desired to be the sole arbiter of the use of legitimate violence within their borders.  This phenomenon was perhaps best described by German philosopher Karl Emil “Max” Weber.  The modern state, he believed, emerged from feudalism by expropriating the means of political organization and domination, including violence, and by establishing the legitimacy of its rule.  Writing during the period 1890 to 1920, Weber – in his work – Politics as a Vocation, Weber defined a concept he termed Gewaltmonopol des Staates (Monopoly of Power of the State) as any organization that succeeds in holding the exclusive right to use, threaten, or authorize physical force against residents of its territory, which was most seen at the level of a nation state.  According to Weber, this could only occur via a process of legitimation of that organization.  He then went into detail that this social authority was most often seen in three forms, which he labelled as charismatic, traditional, and rational-legal.

According to Max Weber, the state was the source of legitimate physical force, with the public police and the military as its main instruments; he also added that private security could also be used with state authorization.  Weber delved into several levels concerning the monopoly of force, believing that this did not mean that only the government could use physical force, but that the state was the only source of legitimacy for all physical coercion or adjudication of coercion. This would provide citizens with the backing of law when individuals found themselves in a situation requiring the use force in defense of self or property; the right derived from the state’s authority.  This fits with other philosophers’ views that the state can grant another actor the right to use violence without losing its monopoly, as long as it remains the only source of the right to use violence.

As nation states progressed, many expanded on this theory and in many cases desired that they have a monopoly on the potential to use force.  Starting with totalitarian régimes, governments began to limit ownership of firearms – stating that weapons were the root cause of violence – but in actuality believing that an unarmed citizenry will be a docile citizenry.  Over the last half century, these policies have been adopted in traditional democracies.  England – the home of the Magna Carta, actually enacted The Unlawful Games Act in 1541 that required every Englishman between the ages of 17 and 60 (with various exemptions) to keep a longbow and regularly practice archery.  It was repealed in 1960 by the Betting and Gaming Act.  Great Britain now has some of the tightest gun control laws in the world.  Only police officers, members of the armed forces, or individuals with written permission from the Home Secretary may lawfully own a handgun; in all other cases, handguns are prohibited weapons.  Rifles and shotguns require a certificate from the police for ownership, and only after a number of criteria are met, including that the applicant has a good reason to possess the requested weapon.  The government has determined that self-defense or a simple wish to possess a weapon is not considered a good reason.  Furthermore, secure storage of rifles and shotguns is also a factor when licenses are granted; this has devolved to mandatory overnight storage of a shotgun not in the owner’s home, but at an authorized shooting or hunting club safe.

Nation states also are fairly reluctant to permit their citizens to fight for any group that is not the armed forces.  The United Kingdom has laws preventing their nationals from enlisting in foreign armed forces, and they are examining the loss of citizenship for those citizens that join terrorist organizations.  Prior to now, the legislation hasn’t been used much; for example, way back in the Greek War of Independence, British volunteers fought with the Greek rebels, which could have been unlawful; it was unclear whether or not the Greek rebels were a “state” per the Foreign Enlistment Act, but the law was clarified, saying that the rebels were a state.

Both the British and American governments turned a blind eye toward their citizens’ participation in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.  The United States has laws that seem to both make fighting as a mercenary or fighting as part of a non-US entity overseas legal and illegal at the same time.  The United States has not banned Americans from fighting with militias against ISIS, although it considers the Turkey-based Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist organization.  The Kurds have turned to the Internet to find foreign fighters, creating a Facebook page called “The Lions of Rojava” with the stated mission of sending “terrorists to hell and save humanity.”  The United States has pushed recently for a legally binding United Nations Security Council resolution that would compel all countries in the world to take steps to “prevent and suppress” the flow of their citizens into the arms of groups considered to be terrorist organizations. 

This is where the problem may arise.  The government of the United States, as well as governments in many European countries, has been extremely reluctant to name militant Islam as an enemy, fearing to antagonize any Muslim that may take offense.  Rather than target groups that are true terrorists – calling a spade a spade – it will be tempting to broaden the category to include about any group that is armed and fighting in these conflicts.  Should such a broad definition be adopted, it will be the nation states attempt to kill a New Knights Templar in its cradle and could put any volunteer in legal jeopardy.  To be continued…

A New Knights Templar? (Part 3)2021-06-15T18:00:19-06:00

A New Knights Templar? (Part 2)


Pope Francis: stopping aggression is legitimate

Certain conditions would have to exist before a New Knights Templar be formed in such a way that it could endure for the long haul, as the battle against militant Islam will not be won in the near future – in fact, it may become the Second Hundred Years War.

A New Knights Templar would likely differ from the original version in many respects.  The Catholic Church officially endorsed the first Knights Templar in 1129; the New Knights Templar – while it may contain many Roman Catholics – could very well consist of non-Catholic Christians, Jews, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and members of other faiths; it is not inconceivable that Atheists might even join.  The commonality of volunteers for the New Knights Templar will not be religion – which was the common denominator of the “Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon” that later became known as Knights Templars.  The common denominator will not be nationality, just as it was not in the original warrior group.

The most-likely common characteristic of all would-be volunteers to participate in the New Knights Templar would be a belief that there is both Good and Evil in the world and that militant Islam – such as ISIS – has demonstrated on a daily basis that it is Evil.  Furthermore these volunteers, brave men and women from around the world, would likely believe that Good should be triumphant, that Good must defend those who cannot defend themselves and that each individual can make a difference in this struggle against Evil.

Not every would-be volunteer for the New Knights Templar would be a member of an organized religion or would even be interested in what the leaders of major religions might think of the concept of the New Knights Templar taking up the sword to combat militant Islam and defending those innocents in its path.  However, for some volunteers, it would be important to have the moral support of those leaders and it appears that they will.

Enroute to South Korea on August 14, 2014, Pope Francis commented on the military victories by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) that have resulted in persecution and murder of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities.  Earlier, a papal communique against this violence was sent to all the nunciatures and the Pope wrote a letter to the United Nations’ Secretary General.  The Pope, additionally, met with the governor of Iraqi Kurdistan and named Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as his personal envoy to Iraq.

Pope Francis made the following remarks on that flight with respect to ISIS/ISIL in Iraq: “To stop the unjust aggressor is licit…One single nation cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor…Stopping the unjust aggressor is a right that humanity has, but it is also a right of the aggressor to be stopped so he does not do evil.”

In April 2015, the Community of Sant’ Egidio, a Catholic lay movement focused on ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue as well as conflict resolution, called for the creation of “safe havens” for Christians in Iraq and Syria, as well as the creation of an international police force capable of identifying and apprehending the authors of terrorist acts.  In May 2015, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York marked  the desperate plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria with an urgent plea for Americans to take action before it’s too late.  “When it comes to the persecution of Christians, we are talking about an… international emergency.”

For would be volunteers for a New Knights Templar that are Roman Catholics – or other denomination Christians that take interest in the words of the Pope – it appears that the pontiff’s words would clearly permit men and women of conscience to stop the unjust aggression of militant Islam so it does not do evil.  It is equally clear that the Pope is leery about a single nation determining the level of force that it will use to stop aggression, probably because that nation may allow selfish national objectives to cloud the issue of how much force is adequate to stop the aggressor versus how much may be too much.  That concern, while valid, probably would not applicable for members of a New Knights Templar, whose volunteers will be from many countries around the world, not just one.  Each individual would bring the norms and values of the nation from which he or she comes.  No single country would hold sway on the activities of these volunteers.  As will be described later, a New Knights Templar would probably have no world-wide governing body; the power of the organization would rest in the individual conscience, spirit, initiative and creative talents of each member, and every level of bureaucracy layered above the individual would have a stifling effect.

Leaders of Protestant Christian faiths seem to be in the process of making their own declarations that good men and women have their full blessing to fight evil and defend the innocent.  In September 2015, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby decalred that the aerial bombig campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) was a just war.  He stated that military action was justified on the humanitarian grounds that te victims of ISIS needed help in escaping the barbarity of Islamic extremists.  The Archbishop, principal leader of the Church of England and the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, went on to state that: “There is justification for the use of armed force on humanitarian grounds to enable oppressed victims to find safe space.”

If they wish to support the fight against militant Islam, similar proclamations need to be made by leaders of other faiths and some have already come on board.  Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, born in Israel but now a prominent public figure in New York said the following: “A child who grows up with a Torah education knows that there is good and evil in the world, and knows that he is expected to strengthen the good and counter the bad.  Wrote King David in the 97th Psalm: “Ohavei Hashem sin’u ra” – if you love God, hate evil!  That is the moral passion that Judaism has encouraged for 3,500 years – and that is why those who are imbued with its values understand that the evil of this world is very real indeed, and that all of us have an obligation to do our best to fight it.”

For a New Knights Templar to come into being, with a chance to be viewed as the good of humankind, Muslim Imams must endorse that groups such as ISIS and other militant Islamic entities should be fought by all true Muslims of good faith, along with their brothers and sisters of other faiths.  In March 2015, Imam Syed Soharwardy, the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, created the edict which condemns radicalization and recruitment for ISIS.  Muslims around the world have long been condemning ISIS, but this is the first time there will be an official fatwa stating so.  Within days, 38 imams and Islamic scholars from across Canada signed the fatwa.  It is a start.

However, another hurdle to the formation of the New Knights Templar would be that entity of which Pope Francis was concerned – the modern nation state – and that will be addressed next.  To be continued…

A New Knights Templar? (Part 2)2021-06-15T18:00:37-06:00
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