J.P. Sauer and Suhl, Germany


J.P. Sauer 3000 Lux, German 12 gauge/7x65R Drilling

J. P. Sauer und Sohn GmbH (Sauer & Sohn) is a German manufacturer of firearms.  Founded by Lorenz Sauer in 1751 in Suhl, Thuringia, “The Green Heart of Germany,” the company is the oldest recorded firearms manufacturer still active in Germany.  The company’s production remained in Suhl for two centuries through numerous accomplishments.  Lorenz Sauer went into partnership with J. S. Spangenberg in 1774. 

In 1815, Johann-Gottlob Sauer started managing the firm; in 1820, he began manufacturing weapons of war as well as percussion and needle-fire hunting arms.  Johann Paul Sauer became the manager of the company in 1835 and founded his own workshop.  Three years later, he founded the company Spangenberg & Sauer with Ferdinand Spangenberg.  The firm expanded in 1849 to be known as Spangenberg, Sauer & Sturm, Suhl.  The gun designs of the company were entered at several world fairs beginning in 1851 and won numerous prizes and medals, as Johann Paul Sauer and his son Lorenz created the new name of J. P. Sauer & Sohn and utilized a trademark of a standing giant with a club, associated with the name in 1873.

The firm decided to produce hunting weapons in 1880 at a branch located at Französischestrasse 40-41 in Berlin.  A year later, they produced their first drilling, a three-barreled weapon.  In 1895, with Franz Sauer serving as the sole owner, the first self-cocking three-barreled gun with a separate cocking lever for the rifle barrel was introduced.  The company’s branch in Berlin moved to Jägerstrasse 59-60 in 1900.  By 1915, the luxurious version of the Model XVIII double shotgun, also known as the Meisterwerk shotgun, was produced for Sauer’s most demanding customers.  By 1940, the German military was responsible for the majority of the company’s sales.  The M 30 Luftwaffe-Drilling became a hunting arm of almost mystical popularity.  After the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, the partition of Germany by the victorious Allies left the city of Suhl – and the Sauer firm – in Communist East Germany.

The new J. P. Sauer Company was founded on March 26, 1951 by Rolf Sauer, and investors who saw the value of the Sauer name and reputation.  They decided to build a new factory in Eckernförde in Schleswig-Holstein on the Baltic Sea between Flensburg and Kiel.  An important research and development facility of torpedoes for the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) in World War II was located here and had employed seven thousand skilled workers that were out of work when the facility was razed in 1948.  The construction of the new Sauer factory began in 1951 among the rubble and 200 of these skilled workers were hired, together with 70 skilled craftsmen from Suhl and the original Sauer factory who were able to leave the Russian occupation zone.

The Sauer Drilling became the most popular arm of its type in the world in 1956, in part because the Sauer Drillings were the first rifles to have revolutionary new hammer-forged rifle barrels.    From 1960 through 1999, the model 80 Sauer Drilling was produced for the Colt Company in Hartford-Connecticut and became known as the Colt-Sauer Model 3000 Drilling.  This was a basic Anson & Daly type drilling with a Greener safety as they had already been made formerly in Suhl.  It was available with 16 gauge, and 12 gauge shotgun barrels and six different rifle calibers. 

The basic Model 3000 or Drilling 3000 was produced from 1955 to 1997 in shotgun calibers 12, 16 and 20 with a variety of accompanying rifle calibers.  The gun featured a Blitz action, pistol grip with cheek piece, Purdey double sliding bolt with Greener cross bolt and Greener safety on the side.  The scalloped action has a straight ending towards the stock, loading indicators on the top strap, double triggers and extractors.  The Model 3000 was made in at least two versions: standard (STD), and premium (LUX); lightweight with alloy action (DUR), and barrels of Böhler Antinit Stahl (ANT).  The Lux version featured more decorative wood pieces and an engraved receiver.  The final versions of the Model 3000 had separate handling of the lock for the rifle barrel.

In 1965 the Murmann Family became the new owners of the company.  Rolf Sauer, who had led the rebirth of the company, died in 1972.  In the year 2000, Michael Lüke and Thomas Ortmeier acquired the company.  They also own the Blaser Company and the new Mauser Company.  In 2009, J. P. Sauer was re-founded in Isny im Allgäu, a town in south-eastern Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where Blaser is located.

In March of 2013 a new modern manufacturing facility was started in Isny that combined Sauer, Blaser and Mauser under one roof.  Barrel production and SIG Sauer pistol manufacturing have remained in Eckernförde.  Currently, the Lüke and Ortmeier Gruppe own the company and have its headquarters in Isny im Allgäu, Germany at Ziegelstadel 20.

This particular J. P. Sauer & Sohn Model 3000 Luxury West German drilling is in caliber 12 X 12 X 7.65R.  It is rated as having 98% plus original condition.  With a serial number of G3533, the weapon was produced in 1967 at Eckernförde.  The weapon has 25″ solid matt ribbed barrels.  A tang barrel selector that raises the rib leaf sight when pushed forward to select the rifle barrel; rear sight designed for a 100 meter shooting distance.  The front trigger is a set trigger when using the rifle.  

The excellent condition shotgun bores measure at full choke and half choke and accommodate 2 3/4” shells.  All barrels are Nitro proofed.  The coin finished game scene on the engraved receiver shows an elk on one side and a deer on the other.  The gun has a Blitz action and Greener style side safety.  The streaked and checkered European walnut stock has a matching one piece checkered and full beavertail fore-end with a Deeley style release.  The weapon measures 14 ½” length of pull.  There is a Sauer factory butt plate.  The left bore diameter measures .719”; the right shotgun bore is .728”.  The left bore restriction measures .032” while the right is .035”.  The drop at heel (DAH) is approximately 3”; the drop at comb (DAC) is approximately 1 ¾”; the DAF is approximately 2”.  The unloaded gun weighs 7 pounds and 8 ounces.  It is fitted with sling swivels.

The 7x65R is a rimmed bottleneck cartridge designed by famous Leipzig arms and ammunition manufacturer Wilhelm Brenneke in 1917, providing an edged version – for easier extraction – of his already popular 7×64.  It uses a case 65mm (2.559”) long.  The shoulder angle is 20.25 degrees and it uses standard 7mm (.284”) bullets.  Norma offers four factory loads for the 7x65R, three with 170 grain bullets and one with a 156 grain bullet.  The Norma 156 grain Oryx bullet is loaded to a muzzle velocity of 2723 fps and muzzle energy of 2569 ft. lbs.  The 200 yard figures are 2200 fps and 1678 ft. lbs.  The 170 grain Vulkan load has a muzzle velocity of 2657 fps and muzzle energy of 2666 ft. lbs.  The 200 yard figures are 2143 fps and 1734 ft. lbs. (very similar to the .308 Winchester.)

Leupold introduced their four-star-plus, VX-3 1.5-5x20mm Illuminated Reticle (IR) riflescope in 2010 and one is on this weapon.  It is the All-American interpretation of a European/African safari or dangerous game scope, boasting a one-piece, 30mm main tube, illuminated reticule and a 1.5x minimum magnification to maximize the field of view.  VX-3 optics are fully multi-coated using Leupold’s proprietary Xtended Twilight Lens System that specifically matches the lens coatings with each lens element, based on its glass type and index of refraction.  The lens edges are blackened to reduce internal reflections.  Highly abrasion resistant DiamondCoat2 is applied to all exterior lens surfaces.  Like all Leupold Gold Ring scopes, the VX-3 is made in Beaverton, Oregon USA. The tubes and adjustment turret are CNC machined from solid 6061-T6 aluminum bar stock for maximum durability.  The front of the tube and the rear of the ocular bell are threaded for Leupold Alumina accessories.  All Leupold Gold Ring scopes are covered by Leupold’s industry standard setting Full Lifetime Guarantee, regardless of whether they are still owned by the original purchaser, with no receipt or registration card required.  Note that this is a flat-out “lifetime guarantee,” not a “limited lifetime warranty.”

This particular VX-3 scope has an overall length of 9.6” and weighs 13.3 ounces.   The red dot reticule (left) provides accuracy for shooting the rifle, while the surrounding red circle shows an excellent approximation of the expected 12 gauge shotgun patterning.   It has a field of view at 100 yards of 66.5’, with the scope set on 1.5x.  The highest magnification actually is calibrated at 4.5x.  The battery providing illumination is a CR-2032.  The images seen through the VX-3 are crisp and clear, with good contrast.  Flare and coma are well suppressed, as are all other visible optical aberrations.  Color rendition is accurate and well saturated.  Compared to other scopes of its type, the VX-3 1.5-5×20 Metric has good center sharpness and very good edge sharpness.  The degree of illumination of the reticule can be set to four daytime settings and four low-light settings.

J.P. Sauer and Suhl, Germany2015-08-17T11:53:34-06:00

Johann Fanzoj and Ferlach, Austria


Johann Fanzoj Combination 16 gauge/7x57R over-under

The art of gun-making in Ferlach dates back to the 16th century.  Austria’s southernmost province, Carinthia, became threatened by periodic attacks from the Venetians to the southwest and the Turks from the southeast.  To defend the valuable area, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I ordered that a powerful arsenal be built in the major town of Klagenfurt; the project was completed in 1566 by his son Maximilian II.  Max decided that he needed an arms industry that would trump the Trompia Valley center that supplied the Venetian Republic.  Thanks to the nearby natural resources of iron and timber, water from rivers cascading down the Karawanken mountains and an already well-established workforce of skilled iron- and metalworkers, a weapon industry evolved that would soon become world famous.  For more than nine generations the Fanzoj family has played a significant role in shaping this proud tradition.

In the early days, weapon production was organized as a “house industry.”  The manufacturing process was divided strictly into several different tasks.  Every master gunsmith had a specialized skill and a weapon went through many a master gunsmith’s hands before it was offered for sale.  Master gunsmiths learned the trade from their fathers, and passed the knowledge on to their own sons.

In 1750, having moved to the valley (known as the Dale of Roses) from Holland, the name Fanzoj appeared in the chronicles for the first time as a local gunsmith; this was the same year as Holy Roman Empress of the Habsburg Dynasty Maria Theresa created the first set of guild rules for the gunsmiths of Ferlach.  A 1781 census showed that there were 203 master gunsmiths in the village.  By 1793, Emperor Francis II granted an exclusive trade mark to the Guild of Ferlach Gunsmiths to protect the “authenticity and quality of the arms from Ferlach.” 

By 1845, the number of gunsmiths in Ferlach had grown to 308.  By 1876, the craftsmen founded the “Association of Master Gunsmiths,” en elected body that helped procure parts and distribute profits.  Two years later, the “Imperial Professional School for the Arms Industry” was founded.  One of the future leaders of the Fanzoj firm, Johann Fanzoj, received a Certificate of Gunmastership in 1885.  Over the next two decades, Ferlach ceased manufacturing military weapons and began to concentrate on hand-crafted hunting rifles, shotguns and combination/drilling guns.

In 1906, Johann Fanzoj (VI) designed the Ischler – a short, lightweight, single-shot rifle with an external striker – which he dedicated to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, who was a passionate and prolific hunter.  The Ischler reportedly never left the Emperor’s side on a hunt and Johann Fanzoj often accompanied him during his legendary hunts.  Johann thus became a Purveyor to the Imperial Court of Franz Joseph I.

In the last century, World War I and II hit the Fanzoj family hard economically, with some family members even emigrating to the United States of America during the Depression Era (there were 308 gun-makers in Ferlach in 1934 which dropped to 80 in 1946), but after a short period of stagnation in 1945, the demand for hunting weapons rose once again.  Even during the peak years from 1965 to 1980, Fanzoj produced only up to 200 weapons per year.  Johann Fanzoj (VIII), then Senior Manager, saw the handwriting on the wall and succeeded in expanding the company to world-wide recognition with new areas of business and trade by contracting production volume even further and concentrating on the top of the top of the line.  

Due to his untiring dedication, innovative commercial talents, and investments in the production facilities, Fanzoj weapons today delight hunters around the world.  It did not hurt that he became the first Ferlach gunsmith to go on a safari to Africa in 1969 and on his return initiated the era of large caliber double rifles in Ferlach; these quickly became highly esteemed working tools valued among professional hunters in Africa – weapons that could be relied upon in true life and death situations.  By 1989, the number of gun-smiths in Ferlach had dropped to 56.  Johann Fanzoj continued to be a highly-regarded member of international hunting associations and ethical commissions, and served as the Prior of Carinthia for the International Order of St. Hubertus.

In 1998, Daniela, the daughter of Johann Fanzoj (VIII), succeeded him as company director, after studying in the United States, Russia and Croatia.   Together with her younger brother Patrick, an accomplished engineer in charge of the manufacturing process, they form a young and dedicated team that has forcefully implemented their commitment to handcrafted products of superior quality, adding two showrooms – in Zagreb (Croatia) and Ljubljana (Slovenia) and strengthening the firm’s image as international experts for hunting and shooting worldwide. 

The company takes on only about 20 commissions each year as a custom-made firearm can take as long as three years to design and craft, ranking among the very best in the world and demanding premium prices.  Basic models start at €40,000, but custom-designed rifles cost more than 10 times that amount.  These prices, in turn, have elevated older Fanzoj weapons into protected heirlooms and highly-desired flawlessly functioning weapons of masterful craftsmanship worth far beyond their original price, when they do appear on the market.

The Fanzoj philosophy is quite simple but elegant – build fine hunting arms – unique, individual pieces of highest artistic and technical value – handcrafted by true masters of their trade with only one goal in mind: to realize the personal vision of the individual Fanzoj customer.

The company is managed by family members who love hunting and have a deep understanding of guns and what a hunter requires of his or her gun.  They continue to design and build every precious part of a Fanzoj with one thing in mind – the hunting experience.  Currently, there are eleven gun-makers (among which is famed master gunsmith Florian Mutenhaler) and craftsmen that work at the Fanzoj facility in Ferlach.  Average gun-making experience per worker is 25 years.  Fanzoj weapons have been purchased over the years not only by Emperor Franz Josef, but also former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Fanzoj firm works in the niche where most of the very few remaining high end producers of hunting weapons cannot follow.  This is because every single piece of their guns is crafted meticulously by hand and that continues to make their products a worldwide success.  Additionally, many Fanzoj creations stretch existing technological limits, for example, in their new bolt action Mauser 98 that they construct not of steel – as had been done since the gun’s inception over 100 years ago – but of titanium.

This particular example of a Johann Fanzoj weapon was made in 1962, a combination over-under gun (known as a Bocksbüchflinte) that married a shotgun with a rifle.  This Fanzoj 16-gauge/7x57R, serial number 21 822, has an additional number 2461.62, which means that it was the 2461st gun to be inspected and proofed in Ferlach that year of 1962.  Featuring double triggers, it has a 14 inch length of pull; overall length of the weapon is 40 inches.  The drop at comb is 1 ¾ inches; the drop at heel is 2 ½ inches.  Without the scope, the weapon weighs 6 pounds and 9.6 ounces.  Concerning the triggers, known as a German stecher system, the rear trigger is used to lighten the pull and to cock the front trigger.  Once engaged in this manner, the front trigger will fire with just slight pressure, increasing accuracy. 

The 16-gauge shotgun upper barrel is marked Böhler Blitz Stahl and rifle barrel is marked Böhler Blitz Stahl Spezial G55; it is chambered for 2 ¾ inch shells.  The stock is made of dark European walnut; front and rear sling swivels provide a solid point of fixture for whatever sling the owner desires; the butt of the weapon has a horn plate to provide snag-free shouldering of the gun.  The weapon features a Kersten breech that is characterized by two flanges sticking out of the barrel unit in the rear to the left and right.  These flanges slide into fitting cutouts in the breech and are bolted there by two cross bolts.  Such a system is very strong.  The coin finished weapon is engraved on the right side of the receiver with a male deer in a forest.  On the left side are three Auerhahn, the largest member of the grouse family and an endangered species in Germany and Austria, in low shrubs. 

The 7 mm rifle lower barrel is regulated to shoot 4 cm high at 100 meters.  This, combined with the flat trajectory of the round, allows for accurate snap shooting from 50 meters to 220 meters.  Testing the firearm at 100 yards, using sandbag rests for stability, three round groups achieved a phenomenal accuracy of 5/8 of an inch.  The 7×57mm cartridge, also known as the 7 mm Mauser, was developed by Paul Mauser of the Mauser company in 1892 and adopted as a military cartridge by Spain in 1893.  It was subsequently adopted by several other countries as the standard military cartridge.  Although not used my military forces now, it remains in widespread international use as a sporting round. The 7×57mm has been deservedly described as “a ballistician’s delight.”   The rimmed cartridge, 7x57R, was developed from the 7×57 shortly after its introduction for use in break-action rifles and combination guns.  A rimmed cartridge greatly simplifies the issues of designing an extractor, particularly in a combination gun or drilling which must also be designed to extract rimmed shotgun shells.

This round became popular in Africa, where it was used on animals up to and including elephants, for which it was particularly favored by noted ivory hunter W.D.M. “Karamojo” Bell, who shot about 800 African Elephants with 1893 pattern 7×57mm military ball ammunition using Rigby Mauser 98 rifles, when most ivory hunters were using larger-caliber rifles.  Bell selected the cartridge for moderate recoil, and used 172.8 grain long round-nosed military full metal jacket bullets for reliable penetration.  The 7x57mm round was also used by the Indian hunter and conservationist Jim Corbett to put down the infamous man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag besides a few other Man-Eaters of Kumaon (tigers and leopards.)

This quality firearm deserved a quality telescopic sight and indeed received one.  The weapon has a Schmidt & Bender Hubertus fixed power 4×32/64 scope made from aluminum alloy, with integrated dovetail and front base plate, so as to fix to the weapon with German claw mounts.  These mounts allow the hunter to quickly mount or dismount the scope, depending on the situation.  Because the mount has such fine tolerances, once it is snapped on, no confirming rounds are needed to be fired before the hunt begins.  The serial number of the scope is 3580.  The scope, the optics in which are quite clear, features a German #1 reticule (works excellent at twilight hours.)  It is 10.82 inches long and weighs 11.62 ounces.   

Schmidt & Bender (often abbreviated as S&B) is a German company specialized in producing high end telescopic sights for hunting, sports, law enforcement and military arms.  The company was founded in 1957 in Bievertal, near Giessen in Hesse, by master instrument maker Helmut Bender and instrument maker Helmut Schmidt.  The company started with producing telescopic sights for large German (mail order) hunting equipment sales chains under various brand names and gradually started to produce telescopic sights under their own brand name.  Since its inception, much of the assembly process is done by hand, which is why the company can only turn out a limited number of scopes annually.

The original sale of the gun appears to have been to a hunting specialty store in Germany.  It was purchased from the store by a hunter from Bonn, along the Rhine River, in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen.  Hunting laws and regulations are much different in Austria and Germany than they are in the United States.  Landowners and forest masters (Forstmeisters) determine what is to be hunted and at what time of year, rather than state-produced hunting seasons.  Therefore, this weapon was designed for the hunter who might be offered an opportunity to hunt birds (flying and on the ground,) deer and foxes on the same outing.  The original owner, a businessman, owned a small game area along the Lower Rhine, in which he hunted European Roe Deer, hare, Gray Partridge and Wild Boar.  A German-American businessman, and big-game hunter, purchased the weapon in 2013 but did not have an opportunity to hunt with it.

Daniela Fanzoj, after checking the company records, believes that her grandfather, Johann Fanzoj VII, oversaw the construction of the gun. 


Johann Fanzoj and Ferlach, Austria2015-05-26T12:30:37-06:00

Finding a Strategy to Defeat Militant Islam


Strategy to Defeat Militant Islam

To develop a strategy to defeat ISIS, we must first identify the center of gravity of this enemy.  For competent strategists, the center of gravity, be it the bulk of the enemy’s army or other capability (although seldom an enemy leader), is the hub of all power and strength.  Destroy it and the enemy collapses.  The strategic center of gravity of every militant Islamic organization, from small terrorist cells to large conventionally formed and equipped armies, is the magnetism of certain tenants of Islam that attract an almost inexhaustible number of recruits that are prepared to do violence to non-believers and even die for their cause in their quest to expand their religion into a caliphate under Islamic Law.  Given that, the attached chart shows what must be done.  These actions are not sequential; they will often overlap and several may take decades to accomplish.  However, if we can follow these guidelines, we will prevail in the end.


Finding a Strategy to Defeat Militant Islam2021-06-27T16:22:52-06:00

Ludwig Borovnik and Ferlach, Austria

Ludwig Borovnik Drilling


Ferlach, Austria -- A Cradle of Gun-making

In the very southernmost valley of Austria is located the town of Ferlach.  About a dozen gun-making companies there craft some of the finest shotguns and rifles in the world.  This is the story of one of them and a unique firearm he produced.

Herr Ludwig Borovnik, who was born in 1824 and the mayor of Ferlach, turned his passion into a career and set up business as an independent gunsmith in Ferlach, Austria in 1848.  The company that he founded was later taken over by his son, Ludwig Borovnik II; it remained a small, family-run enterprise well into the 1930s.  

On April 14, 1942 the family fortunes were undone when all members of the family were deported to Germany on cattle wagons by German authorities.  After the end of the war, the family returned to Carinthia and found it in ruins.  Just a few years later, Ludwig Borovnik II died of ill health that had never improved since his return from Germany.  Ludwig Borovnik III, who had been born in 1925, assumed the role of head of the family and rebuilt the business from scratch.

In the 1950s, Ludwig Borovnik III made use of his language skills to import and sell timber from Yugoslavia.  Having got the business off to a good start, he was the first wood-seller in Ferlach to start trading stock wood and rose to become one of Europe’s largest walnut wood traders.  Much of the finest examples of the wood found their way to his gun shop as well.

In 1960, Ludwig Borovnik III first met passionate hunter Helmut Horten and his wife Heidi.  Their relationship blossomed into a friendship and business partnership that would last 25 years.  A great many hunting trips to Yugoslavia were organized, facilitated by Ludwig Borovnik III’s excellent relations with Marshal Josep Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia from the end of World War II until 1980. 

Ludwig Borovnik IV assumed leadership of the business in 1986.  In what was maybe the proudest business transaction of his career, he received Juan Carlos de Borbon, King of Spain, in his showroom.  The King personally inspected the guns that had been ordered for him and was delighted with the manufacturing detail and precise handiwork of the weapons.  U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush also ordered a firearm from the company.

Ludwig Borovnik IV headed the company proudly until 2004, when Ludwig Borovnik Jr. took over the responsibilities.

Crafting a Borovnik rifle requires extreme precision.  After four years at a special technical school, their gunsmiths also have to undergo more training supervised by the firm’s master gun-maker.  As a Borovnik rifle is 90% crafted by hand, without the use of any machines, it can take up to two years to complete.  The client is involved at every stage in the manufacturing process from gun-making and stock-making to engraving.  Personal wishes can therefore be taken into consideration at any time, and thus each of these precision guns becomes a unique masterpiece.

Expertise handed down through the generations turned the old trade of making war weaponry into the distinctive craftsmanship that has since made Ferlach’s gun-makers world famous.  In the hands of a master craftsman each stroke of the file goes towards giving the gun its own personality.  Expertise, experience and a love of the profession are however our master gun-makers’ most valuable tools.  The engraving is the gun’s face.  It gives it beauty and personality.  Often it tells of hunting, often of fauns, goblins and fairies and sometimes also of love.  Usually however it reflects the owner’s soul.  In the highest-end guns, Borovnik engravers invest up to 3,500 hours of work in cutting and chiseling their masterpiece in the steel.  The ambition to create a perfect work of art is the constant driving force for Borovnik’s world-famous engravers.

Years of experience and the art of reading the wood are the basic requirements for becoming a master stock-maker.  And only the best of them are allowed to work with our exquisite stock woods.  Each stock is selected personally by the client and custom finished to fit.  Borovnik holds one of the largest and most exclusive stores of stock wood in Europe.  All the wood of the weapon’s stock is dried naturally for at least 20 years before use and features highest quality and breathtaking beauty. 

Many people mistakenly believe that Ferlach is a trademark – it is not.  Rather, Ferlach is a small village where a gun guild was started as early as 1558.  Ferlach (in Slovene: Borovlje) is the southernmost town in Austria, about 17 km south of the Carinthian capital Klagenfurt.  It is situated in the Rosental Valley of the Drava River, at the base of the northern slope of the Karawanken mountain range.  Just south of these mountains is the country of Slovenia.  Thanks to the nearby natural resources of iron and timber, water from rivers cascading down the Karawanken mountains and an already well-established workforce of skilled iron- and metalworkers, a weapon industry evolved that would soon become world famous.  Nowhere else on earth is such a collection of gun-smithing talent as there is in this little town in southern Austria.  Neither is there anything that compares to the gun-smithing school (Höhere Technische Bundeslehranstalt Ferlach) where a young man or woman at the age of 15 to 16 can enter a four-year course in firearm design that makes it possible to build a rifle from scratch with hand tools and graduate with a four-year degree, or five-year course in engineering.  Upon completion of the four- or five- year course a graduate can build a rifle, any rifle, be it sidelock, boxlock, double rifle, over-and-under, drilling, bolt-action, side-by-side – you name it – with any stock design and then engrave it or provide inlays of gold or silver.  If any gunsmith in the U.S. can compete with the average graduate of Ferlach’s gun-smithing school, there is a good chance he graduated from Ferlach.

The history of the town is depicted in its coat of arms: it features a tree, bee cone, two crossed silver nails and a rifle.  Since the 15th century, Ferlach was known for its firearms manufacturers, the main armorer of the Habsburg Monarchy.

In the 1500s, it was absolutely necessary that all the people involved in fabricating a firearm were located together in close proximity.  This enabled the barrel maker, the stock maker, and the lock mechanism maker to work together closely to ensure that everyone was performing their task(s) correctly, effectively and efficiently.  In 1558, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I (who was also the King of Bohemia and the King of Hungary and Croatia) assigned 100 gunsmiths from the Habsburg Netherlands to Ferlach for the purpose of producing arms.  According to legend, two Schaschl brothers left Liege, Belgium and were the first to settle in Ferlach to start a gun factory, which was in operation until 1818.  During the 30-Year-War (1618 – 1648) arms production in Ferlach went through its first “boom” and capacity expanded.  Weapons from Ferlach soon became renowned throughout Europe.

As the individual skills became better and more refined, more and more firearms were manufactured.  Eventually, individual gunsmiths began to put their name on the barrel or frame of those guns which they had either manufactured solely or with the help of their fellow Ferlach craftsmen.  Since all Ferlach firearms are essentially hand-made per individual special order, very few are exactly alike.  In the past, the gunsmiths of Ferlach have produced almost every type of shoulder arm imaginable, including such modern weapons as superposed and juxtaposed rifles and shotguns, hammerless drillings, repeating rifles, 3 barrel rifles, combination guns, four-barrel combination guns (called vierlings), hammer guns of every type, etc.  Some of these specimens represent the highest refinement in the gun-makers trade.

In 1946, there were 56 gunsmith companies in Ferlach (at one time there had been over 100), but the numbers dropped continuously.  In 1989 only 16 gunsmiths remained and in 2008 only seven active gunsmiths continued producing guns, although this number has increased slightly in the last few years.  Most guns manufactured in Ferlach today are by individual special order with a wide range of calibers/gauges and other special features and options.  As of this writing, these existing gunsmiths in alphabetical order appear to be: Ludwig Borovnik (1848), Johann Fanzoj (1790), Wilfried Glanznig, Josef Hambrusch (the oldest firm beginning in 1752), Karl Hauptmann, Christian Hausmann, Gottfried Juch, Josef Just, Jakob Koschat, Peter Michelitsch, Johann & Walter Outschar and Herbert Scheiring.   Legendary firms that are no longer in business include Josef Winkler, Franz Sodia and Johann Sigott.  Top engravers who have lived in Ferlach and who work on individual pieces for the gun-makers have included such names as Mack, Krondorfer, Orou, Schaschle, Singer, Maurer, Widmann, Stogner, de Florian, Plucher and Oblitschnig.

Each of the master gun-makers does some things a little differently from the other and they might also offer some things, which the other gun-makers do not.  All use Böhler Antinit, Böhler Blitz and Böhler Super Blitz steel, which are so strong that they allow the thickness of the barrels to be reduced, thus reducing the final weight of the weapon.  The gun-makers also make their own actions (with the exception of bolt-action rifles).  They tend to be a little secretive about some of their processes and methods of manufacture, even from each other.  A customer, who decides to visit Ferlach to have a gun made, should allow a week in the village to visit every gun-maker, if the client has not already picked out a gun-maker.

Ferlach received town privileges in 1930 and today remains a center for the production of hunting rifles.  Currently the town has 7,377 inhabitants.  The Ferlach Guild (Genossenschaft) represented most of Ferlach’s gun-makers until it was dissolved in 2004.  Current prices reportedly range from $25,000 to $500,000 per piece, which take six to ten months to produce; at the high end, production can take two years.  Only Beretta has been making guns longer than Ferlach and is still in business.  The gun-making industry brings in $8,500,000 to $10,000,000 to the town annually. 

One of the classic combinations of weapon made in Ferlach is of two shotgun barrels arranged on top of a rifle barrel, known as a “drilling” gun.  The drilling is not intended for target shooters, but predominantly used for high-seat hunting, driven hunts and game bird shoots, making it a gun that fulfils all expectations and lives up to pretty much any hunting situation.

The example we will review today is a Ludwig Borovnik 20-gauge/.222 Remington Magnum drilling, serial number 40 3017, was crafted in Ferlach, Austria in 1969.  The number 40 was the sole proprietorship number for the firm of Ludwig Borovnik and is found on their arms.  The weapon has side-by-side 24¼” barrels (full/modified chokes for the shotgun barrels.)  Featuring double triggers, it has a 14 ⅝” length of pull; overall length of the weapon is 41 ½”.  Without the scope, the weapon weighs 6 pounds and 12.8 ounces.  Shotgun barrels are marked Böhler Blitz Stahl and rifle barrel is marked Böhler Blitz Stahl Spezial G55.  The rifle barrel is also marked Ludwig Borovnik-Ferlach.  The weapon also has a marking of 128.69 indicating that it was the 128th weapon to be proofed in 1969 by the Ferlach Genossenschaft to ensure its safety and quality control.  The weapon has two triggers with a Blitz Action – a design where the moving parts of a break-open gun’s action are mounted to the trigger plate.   The receiver locking system is a Greener Crossbolt, a tapered round bar, operated by the opening lever, passing transversely through the standing breech and a matching hole in a rib extension; to strengthen the lock-up. 

When the drilling is set for the shotgun mode (Sch) on the top switch, the front trigger fires the right shotgun barrel and the rear trigger fires the left.  The lower butt-stock of the weapon has a special compartment that holds five .222 Remington Magnum rifle rounds under a sterling silver access door.  The coin finished drilling is engraved on the right side of the receiver with two deer (male and female) in a forest.  On the left side is a pair of ducks over a pond.  The pistol grip cap features a likeness of the Auerhahn, the largest member of the grouse family and an endangered species in Germany and Austria.  Other areas of the receiver have floral engravings.  Today, Ludwig Borovnik’s shop in Ferlach is: Ludwig Borovnik KG, Präzisionsjagdwaffen Gewehrschäfte Aller Art, at Bahnhofstrasse 7.

The weapon has a Pachmayr Decelerator Recoil Pad that was probably installed after the weapon was received by Flaig’s Custom Guns in 1970.  Flaig’s (just north of Pittsburg in Millvale, Pennsylvania) commissioned Ludwig Borovnik to produce several drillings and combination over-under shotgun/rifles in American calibers for export, although the numbers were small considering the time it took the small Borovnik shop to make it each weapon.  In this era, Borovnik made 168 total weapons per year.  To date, this 20-gauge/.222 Remington Magnum combination by Borovnik is the sole example to appear on the secondary market and may be the only weapon Borovnik ever made in this caliber pairing, given that most of his weapons were sold in Europe and these are not popular European calibers.   This weapon has Flaig’s motif engraved on the trigger guard.  Charles Flaig died in the early 1990s and his store closed soon afterward.  During this era, 98% of few Borovnik arms imported to the United States went through his firm.  A rear sight rises into the “up” position, when the tang selector is moved to the rifle (K) setting.  In this setting, the front trigger fires the rifle. 

The caliber .222 Remington Magnum is now out of standard production, the last rounds made in mass in 1998, although selected manufacturers make limited numbers every few years.  The caliber is just slightly more powerful than the .223 (50 to 100 feet per second faster at the muzzle.)  

The weapon has a Zeiss telescopic sight.  On November 17, 1846, 30-year-old mechanic Carl Zeiss opened a workshop and a small store in Jena’s Neugasse 7.  In 1892, Carl Zeiss built the first telescopic sight (based on Beaulieu-Marconnay design) for sniper rifles and machine guns.  Zeiss designed the C-series for the American hunter with integral objective and ocular bells and an integral adjustment turret.  The one-piece construction allows perfect lens alignment, micro-precise adjustments and structural integrity, with quick focusing, rubber armoring at the eyepiece, T-Star multi-layer coating and parallax setting (free at 100 yards.) 

A Zeiss Diavari-C 1.5-4.5x 18mm Rifle Scope serial number 204031, manufactured in 1987 in Wetzlar/West Germany, is mounted on the drilling using special German claw mounts manufactured by EAW – Ernst Apel GmbH, Würzburg/Germany, made in their factory at the village of Gerbrunn – ensure the scope is automatically bore-sighted, whenever it is mounted – which eliminates the need to fire a confirmation shot in the field.  It is a variable power from 1.5-magnification to 4.5-magnification.  Eye relief is 3.54.”  When set on 1.5-magnification, the scope has a field of view of 72 feet at a range of 100 yards.  The length of the scope is 12.28.”  The weight of the scope, which has the older steel tube instead of aluminum, is 16 ounces without the claw rings.     With the scope mounted, the weapon weighs 8 pounds and 12.8 ounces.

An Austrian hunter would use a weapon of this nature to hunt birds with the shotgun barrels and perhaps a fox or large hare with the rifle.  In the United States, with our different hunting laws, and depending on the state, the weapon could be used for turkey or pheasant with success.


Ludwig Borovnik and Ferlach, Austria2015-08-17T12:14:37-06:00

A New Knights Templar? (Part 1)


New Knights Templar?

Nation-states are not the only potential actors on the stage against militant Islam.  Nation states are slow to act; it often seems that ISIS is one or two steps ahead of any nation state would-be coalition against them.  However, from their inception centuries ago, modern nation states desire a monopoly on violence.  They are loathe to have other military forces on their sovereign territory and many, many nation states – including unfortunately some administrations in our own government – desire to limit even the ownership of weapons inside their society.  Nation states are comfortable with their own military and police being armed, but not many are confident enough to allow their own citizens to own arms.

In the Middle Ages, nation states were just beginning to be formed from feudal society.  Kings and queens still exerted power and, at least in much of Europe, the Roman Catholic Church delved deep into political issues.

Pope Urban II, for example, in March 1095, received an ambassador from the Byzantine Emperor requesting assistance against Muslim (Seljuk) Turks who had taken over most of formerly Byzantine Anatolia.  That November at a great council, that would become known as the Council of Clermont, attended by numerous Italian, Burgundian and French bishops, the summoned the attending nobility and the people to wrest the Holy Land, and the eastern churches generally from the control of the Seljuk Turks.  The Crusaders, those who went on the First Crusade to liberate the Holy Land, captured Jerusalem in 1099, but in most of the Crusade era, Muslim military forces held the upper hand in the region, making pilgrimages to the Holy Land uncertain in the best of circumstances.

In 1119, the “Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon” were formed to help protect these pilgrims in their journey.  These Knights Templar were officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church around 1129; beginning as a small group, they originally helped protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land and later became significant combat assets, fighting in numerous battles.  A Cistercian abbot, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, soon popularized the Knights Templar in his manuscript New Knighthood.

Not all Knights Templar were warriors; most of their ranks were filled with those who would support – acquire resources which could be used to fund and equip the small percentage of Knights Templar who were fighting on the front lines.  Often serving as a small shock force in an army that was predominantly non-Knights Templar, the warriors achieved successful results in many battles until 1187, when they were soundly defeated at Battle of the Horns of Hattin, where many were killed in combat and those that were captured were put to the sword.  The order made a resurgence the next decades, but after the Siege of Acre in 1291, the Templars were, in the main, forced off the Holy Land and retreated to the island of Cyprus.  A few stronghold fortresses remained, but by 1300 the order was clearly in decline.

Powerful bankers and advisors, the Knights Templar were often viewed with distrust by some in the nobility and the church.  While they still had a base of operations in Cyprus, and controlled considerable financial resources, the Templars became an Order without a clear purpose or support, and this unstable situation contributed to their downfall.  King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of dozens of French Templars at dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307.  Under torture, they confessed to numerous crimes.  The Templars sought help from Pope Clement V; it was in vain.  The predominant historical view is that King Philip was jealous of the Templars’ wealth and power, and frustrated by his massive debt to them, he sought to seize their financial resources by bringing blatantly false charges against them.  After the Council of Vienne in 1312, Pope Clement V issued an edict officially dissolving the Knights Templar.  Two years later, several leaders of the Order were burned at the stake.  However, in their heyday, the Knights Templar had proven to be a formidable force in the protection of thousands of unarmed pilgrims seeking to fulfill religious requirements by visiting the Holy Land.

In future years, could a new version of the Knights Templar (perhaps called something different) of individuals from around the world, banding together in a para-military force, protect innocent non-combatants of every faith – including Islam – in the Middle East?

Although it would be portrayed as a “Christian Army” by the jihadists and some of the western secular media, could an organized group of defenders of the innocent (that included not only military capability but also doctors, nurses and civil engineers from many faiths who decided to stand up and protect those who cannot defend themselves) actually be a unifying factor in the region?  Such a dynamic would not be a mercenary army; it would be a force of individuals of conscience motivated primarily by a desire to protect the would-be victims of militant Islam, fully cognizant of the brutal treatment they would receive if captured by ISIS elements, but motivated to fight nonetheless.  Could a new Knights Templar embody what the United Nations first believed it could do, but that has now become so mired in politics that it is almost always a day late and a dollar short?  Could a new Knights Templar make the conflict not just that of the United States and some selected other nation states, but one of the entire civilized world against the jihadists?  Could a force of this nature — a new Knights Templar — with volunteers from around the globe, create this dynamic?  To be continued… 

A New Knights Templar? (Part 1)2021-06-15T18:01:19-06:00




Wars with religious undertones have occurred over recorded human history.  Many of these conflicts have been characterized by acts of significant brutality, recorded all-too-frequently by chroniclers as “putting the population to the sword.”  Today, these shocking accounts have morphed from the pages of history text to graphic beheadings and burning to death on videos on the internet.

The Peace of Westphalia signed in 1648 resolved the Thirty Years’ War, one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history – and initially a war between Christian Protestant and Christian Catholic states in the fragmenting Holy Roman Empire.  Christians continued to brutally fight one another, most recently evident in the civil wars in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Islamic factions – Sunni and Shia – have fought each other almost from the start of Islam and continue to this day.  Finally, the era of the Crusades (1095-1285) demonstrated the ferocity of Christian-Muslim conflict.

Western historians seem to fall into three categories concerning the character of this two-century medieval clash: some see the Crusades as part of a purely defensive war against Islamic conquest; others view the struggle as part of long-running conflict at the frontiers of Europe; a third tranche has concluded that the wars were caused by aggressive, papal-led expansion attempts by Western Christendom.  Muslim historians – and more importantly the average Muslim man or woman on the street – have quite a different view.  As far as the Muslims in the Middle East during those two centuries believed, the Crusades were simply the latest stage in Frankish imperialism that had already manifested itself in North Africa, Sicily and Spain.

However, what is most important is not what Christians and Muslims thought 800 years ago, but how they continue to view these events today.  The Christian West has quite simply forgotten the Crusades.  They are an event that happened, but not one that still elicits emotion.  Almost no Christian holds a public grudge that a distant relation fighting in the Crusades was killed by Muslims.  In short, there is no utility in modern western life to be concerned with just another increasingly distant chapter in a dusty history book.  The opposite occurred in the Muslim world.  Initially – at the time of these events – Muslim scholars believed that there was nothing of value to learn from the Christian/Frankish barbarians who came from Central and Western Europe.  Not only were Muslim historians uninterested in what Christians did, there were also indifferent to what Christians thought.  Muslim feelings – in the exact obverse of Christian views – seem to be more concerned with the Crusades today than they were in the centuries immediately following the wars.  Today, Muslims recall the Crusades as an offensive Christian undertaking with one or more goals of: humiliating Islam; defeating Islam; eradicating Islam.  The Muslim view of the Crusades is that it is the wound that will not heal; it is original sin that no Christian may wash away.

Relations between Islam and Christianity did not improve to a brotherly love level over the last several hundred years, but for the most part did not involve attempting to destroy the other en mass, although periodic religious wars in the Balkans were certainly extremely violent.  However, the fire between Islam and Christianity/Judaism rekindled with the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.  In fact, one could easily argue that the current war by militant Islam against Christianity and Judaism – now 66 years old – began on this date.

It has become popular to attribute current unrest in the Mideast to a lack of good governance by many nation states in the region (i.e. lack of adequate health care, rampant corruption, inability to protect citizens from crime, substandard education, lack of jobs, etc.)  While problems in good governance certainly are a contributory factor, they are not the root cause of the violence.  England has good governance and they have a large number of jihadists, and it is becoming evident that so does the United States.  

The root cause of the death and destruction throughout an alarmingly high proportion of the Muslim world are the beliefs of a substantial number of the faithful that the Qur’an (Koran) calls on them to subjugate and kill non-Muslims as part of the expansion of Islamic faith and culture.

The idea of fighting for God, although not confined to Islam, has given service in Muslim terrorist organizations a special attraction, which leads to a discussion of the Center of Gravity of ISIS, Al Qaeda and all other militant Muslim groups, regardless of their name or home location.  For our purposes, let us define militant Islam as either Muslim nation-state sponsored terrorism or non-nation state terrorism, directed at non-Muslim targets.  Muslim on Muslim violence (Shia-Sunni) is certainly violent, but it is something a little different.

Prussian military strategist, Carl von Clausewitz, believed that a fundamental requirement in war was to identify the enemy’s Center of Gravity and attack it vigorously.  He stated in part, “the force at which our blow is to be aimed requires that our strength be concentrated to the utmost… therefore a major act of strategic judgment to distinguish these centers of gravity in the enemy’s forces and to identify their spheres of effectiveness.”  This center of gravity, be it the bulk of the enemy’s army or other capability (although seldom an enemy leader), is the hub of all power and strength.  Destroy it and the enemy collapses.

Listening to the Secretary of Defense and senior military generals talk about ISIS but never mention the term “center of gravity” is troubling.  War is governed by certain tenets and principles and its nature is unchanging (although the character and conduct do change.)

It is this paper’s opinion that the strategic center of gravity of every militant Islamic organization, from small terrorist cells to large conventionally formed and equipped armies, is the magnetism of certain tenants of Islam that attract an almost inexhaustible number of recruits that are prepared to do violence to non-believers and even die for their cause in their quest to expand their religion into a caliphate under Islamic law.

Attacking this strategic center of gravity is a multi-faceted process.  Over the long term, these select violent tenants of Islam must be “demagnetized” in an effort by which they lose their appeal to potential recruits.  It will be a complex process, as we must create the conditions in which they will convince themselves that violence is not the answer.  A second way to attack this hub of all power, which should begin immediately, is to simply kill the jihadists in as large numbers as possible.  Unfortunately, that brutal solution may extend to succeeding generations seeking to emulate their elders, if these young jihadist “wannabees” cannot be convinced to drop the sword.

However, there is an additional course of action to only killing current jihadists and that is in the realm of psychological warfare.  We must discover that which frightens the jihadist.  What causes him to wake up in the middle of the night screaming in terror?  Most religions and cultures have their own boogie men, infant-snatchers and vampire lore; how can we use these legends to psychologically dislocate the jihadists and their core supporters?  

We must additionally separate the foot-soldier jihadists from their leaders.  Our information campaign must create the story that the sons of these leaders rarely become suicide bombers (that is only for the lesser value men) and that the leaders often skim millions of dollars of wealth from the cause for their own personal benefit.  More importantly, we must study with responsible Imams those terrorist acts that will cause the jihadist to be “excommunicated” from the faith and that there is no heaven for these men – and ensure that information is widely disseminated, if only to peel away some of the less-radical foot soldiers. 

Not all jihadist groups are created equal and we must prioritize the levels of danger presented by each.  Concerning the current iteration of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), the center of gravity at the operational level is the group’s ability to generate significant funds to procure weapons, supplies and influence; the group is thought to have at least $2 billion and the sum is growing daily.  Whether this is destroying or capturing oilfields under ISIS control, hacking into ISIS financial accounts or closing the flow of the Hawala money transfer system, it is imperative that ISIS be deprived of significant funding.  This is because the leaders in militant Islam understand that while they can use a strategy of attrition to possibly defeat U.S. and western forces operating in the Middle East (and thus wearing down the American home front with seemingly endless casualties) – ISIS needs nuclear weapons to truly go on the offensive and actually expand the caliphate.  This means purchasing such weapons, as ISIS does not have the scientific or technical ability to make their own.  Make no mistake; when terrorists, with an end of days’ Yawm al-Qiyāmah philosophy, obtain nuclear weapons, it is only a matter of time before they gladly use them.

Unfortunately, this current war may well last into the next century.  This is because breaking the magnetism of those violent tenants of Islam will require a Muslim “reformation,” whatever that looks like, powerful Fatwas and active dissuasion of violence from “the pulpit.”  Islam must go through a self-generated process to eliminate the violent portions of its theology, while at the same time healing the rift between Sunnis and Shiites and that will take time – decades at the least. 

To begin a strategic campaign, we must first be able to identify the enemy in order to tailor a strategy that will be successful.  Militant Islam is not workplace violence; it is not a tiny minority unsupported by the vast majority of Muslims.  Militant Islam cannot co-exist.  It is not primarily a law enforcement issue; it is war.  At the current time, militant Islamic prisoners of war cannot be reliably “cured” of violent tendencies; they are killing machines.  That is why terms such as degrade are imprecise and dangerous.  Despite the protestations of the barstool brigadiers and armchair admirals that never fired a shot in anger, the nature of war is violence and the character and conduct of this war will also be violent.  It is no coincidence that Islam never spread northeast.  In 1219, Genghis Khan invaded Khwarezmia, which was governed by Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad, and during the conquest killed millions of people across the land.  The Mongol adversaries took a back seat to no one in their application of violence and Islam never forgot.  In most wars, the victor actually does kill his way out of it, inflicting so much pain on the enemy that the opponent surrenders or agrees to terms. 

The second objective of this initial strategic campaign is not to lose before we have marshalled the will and resources to win.  There are four conditions that could cause a situation that would preclude ultimate victory.  The United States loses if it simply quits the fight and withdraws inward, sustains a significant weapon of mass destruction (WMD) attack that puts the national economy in peril, fails to support Israel to such a degree that Israel is destroyed, or seeks to accommodate the tenants of militant Islam such as Sharia Law.  The current administration may feel that it does not have the time left or the stomach to do what must be done offensively.  However, it can still make a contribution defensively: to protect the country from a WMD attack over the next two years, by first stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The next administration and the next generation of political leaders have their own roles to play and will have to ramp up the struggle.  First, both major political parties must go against their own petty self-interests and work to unify the country as one.  Second, taking counsel of sound senior military advice, they must rebuild the U.S. military to provide those capabilities that will prove successful in the fight – such as an even greater increase in special operations forces and intelligence gathering capabilities.  Both support the operational Center of Gravity of the United States military – the ability to quickly and accurately place overwhelming fires anywhere in the world on land, sea and air across the spectrum of conflict.

Finally, as we contemplate a lengthy war, we must consider the composition of the military.  The nation made a mistake after Nine-Eleven and did not implement actions to elicit shared sacrifice from our population.  The last dozen years of war have been fought by the volunteer professional military, often described as the one-half of one percent.  Nothing like the old Victory-Bond drives came into being after that fateful September morning.  No special war taxes were implemented.  No common, shared sacrifice was demanded.  To a great degree, the conflict has been fought with a very small tip of the spear, albeit a razor-sharp one. 

The nation needs to debate returning to a draft.  We currently have numerous ethnic and racial groups that have little contact with or understanding of other groups; this leads to senseless mistrust and disunity.  Societal evolution has led to many children raised in one-parent families and having no sense of either authority or of the collective good.  Militant gangs replace absent fathers.  Violence on America’s streets is rampant; Chicago, based on dozens of gang-related shootings every weekend, has acquired the new deadly moniker of “Chiraq” and this viciousness is not confined to large cities.  Returning to the draft – and this does not mean deploying draftees overseas to fight jihadists; the character of the conflict is such that we can do that with a professional core – would produce shorter-term soldiers, who can assist with natural disasters at home, guard the borders of the country and ensure that all Americans have a stake in the outcome of the war.  Equally important, we might be able to save what is appearing to be a lost generation.

For too long we have used terms such as target servicing, degrading capabilities and incarceration so as not to offend the ill-placed sensibilities of some in the media and the general public.  Again returning to Clausewitz, the theorist wrote, “Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat the enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war.   Pleasant as it sounds; it is a fallacy that must be exposed:  War is such a dangerous business that mistakes that come from kindness are the very worst.”

We must contemplate unpleasant measures if we are to defeat an enemy that is as brutal and tenacious as militant Islam.  CIA estimates go as high as 31,000 active enemy fighters, while Kurdish sources put the number at 200,000.  On the legal front, we must engage the international law system to emplace laws that take away as many human rights of terrorists as possible; we should attempt to deny the terrorists all rights under the Geneva Conventions.  Given that on the battlefield jihadists often pretend to surrender only to attack when our guard is lowered, that we are often loath to use the death penalty in judicial proceedings, that terrorists recruit new terrorists in prison and that released terrorists from Guantanamo confinement are likely to return to violence, we must examine our own procedures and rules to determine when it is simply too dangerous to capture them.

We should also contemplate closing confinement facilities, not because of the tired arguments that these centers serve as recruitment propaganda, but rather that the prisoners in them remain in the public eye.  They write letters; they are potential bargaining chips such as the five Taliban leaders that were released at the stroke of a pen in 2014.  We need to develop a system where uncertainty creeps into the minds of the terrorists.  We should never return the remains of deceased terrorists to their relatives; in fact, we should never confirm what has happened or not happened to them when they disappear from the battlefield.  We should not even give them a Muslim burial or place them in marked graves; their brutal acts caused them to forfeit that consideration (we did that with executed Nazi war criminals.)  Additionally, since it is only a matter of time before the terrorists figure out how to create biological suicide “bombers” infected with Ebola, Small Pox or other deadly contagious diseases, we should assume that every dead terrorist is already infected and his remains should be handled accordingly.   

Along these lines, we must immediately stop telling the jihadists what we will or will not do and where we will do it.  We must refrain from explaining in the public forum, for example, why ISIS troops massing at the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria are becoming lucrative targets for attacks from the air; let the enemy find out the hard way that his tactics are in error.  Uncertainty is our friend, causing the enemy to believe they must defend everywhere.  As strategist Sun-Tzu opined:  “To defend everywhere is to defend nowhere.”

ISIS/ISIL and Al Qaeda, left to their own devices, became killing machines.  It will take a superior killing machine to drive home the terrible conclusion to every jihadist and every jihadist-supporter that there will be no glory in murdering innocents and no glory in dying for a hateful God.  There will be no jail cell or halfway house, from which they might someday be released, for the purveyors of evil.  There will only be a certain, agonizing, lonely, pointless death in the shadows of darkness in a manner that precludes even their memory from being cherished by their family and friends…their entire corporal and spiritual self will simply disappear for all time.



Marksmanship Training

Skeet Range (Fort Stewart)

The best years of my life were spent in the United States Army Infantry.  I was lucky enough to be a rifle platoon leader for fourteen months and then a weapons’ platoon leader for three more.  Then, undoubtedly because the lieutenant colonel who was the battalion commander was leaving and would not have to put up with me, I became the scout platoon leader for the battalion.

In these positions (I hesitate to call them jobs because I was having too much fun), as I look back, I can see that I did not spend as much time as I should have ensuring that every soldier in the platoon was a crack shot.  I should not have been satisfied when one of our soldiers qualified sharpshooter, or God forbid, marksman.  I should have made the whole platoon shoot until everyone achieved expert or dropped down exhausted.  I was always able to achieve this level, but that was because I loved to shoot and would buy ammunition out of my own pocket to fire as often as I could, and if I was not the best pistol shot among the officers in the battalion, I was darn close.

The same feeling should have been present when I was a company commander at Fort Benning and an armored cavalry troop commander back in Germany.  But the higher you go, the more requirements are placed on your unit and you seem to have even less time for the really important things.

As an older officer, I was able to read about pivotal battles throughout history and one thing that struck me was that the side that could shoot the best most likely would win the battle.  This conclusion really struck home when I walked the Little Bighorn half a dozen times in preparation for writing Custer’s Best.  Seeing the skirmish lines in the valley and atop what would later be called Reno Hill, both locations occupied by Company M of the Seventh Cavalry, it became obvious that most of the troopers in the company couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with their rifle shooting.

“Most” isn’t really accurate; my conclusions were that maybe only four or five men were actually expert with their weapons and that included the company commander and the first sergeant.

After I retired and spent time out east, we moved back to Illinois and I met a few guys who urged me to go skeet shooting with them, a sport I had never tried before.  Of course, the first few times I was terrible.  I was firing a shotgun of course, with each shell discharging perhaps 500 tiny pellets, but the targets were all moving very fast.  These little disks, called birds, came almost straight at me on some shooting stations and went away from me on others.  Often they cris-crossed in front of me, requiring that I shoot two targets in a matter of just a couple of seconds.

I got better and better and then it struck me.  We should have shot skeet in the infantry; in fact, every soldier in every branch should have shot skeet.  First, skeet forced me to keep both eyes open when I shot, which greatly increased my field of vision and my awareness of what was going on around me.  Second, I finally started to understand the concept of lead and how the intent was not to fire directly at a moving target, but to fire at a point where I believed the target would be when the round got out there to the same point.

Third, skeet was fun and competitive, which makes anyone do better, especially soldiers who are quite competitive by nature.  Fourth, shotgun ammunition is a WHOLE lot cheaper than rifle ammunition and this would really count with unit training budgets seemingly shrinking year after year.  Finally, skeet pellets travel only a small fraction of the distance a rifle bullet will travel.  This makes it easier to set up a skeet range and can be done with available distances as little as a couple hundred yards instead of the large range fans that traditional small arms need.

Many military posts have skeet ranges.  Try your hand at it and then take some non-commissioned officers out to shoot skeet and watch them compete against each other in marksmanship as if their lives depended on it.

Because on the battlefield, it will.

Marksmanship Training2015-08-17T12:19:28-06:00

The Best Military Theorist

Many students at the National War College – and even a few folks today – have asked me who my favorite military theorist is.  Many scholars of military history, strategy and politics have heard of Carl Clausewitz and Sun Tzu and both were indeed influential thinkers.

Carl Clausewitz was a German officer and military theorist in the early 1800s, who stressed the moral and political aspects of war; we would say today that this included the psychological aspects of warfighting. His most notable work, Vom Kriege (On War), has been studied by thousands of military officers around the world; ironically, the book was unfinished at his death and may have been completed by his wife.  He stressed the dialectical interaction of diverse factors, noting how unexpected developments unfolding under the “fog of war” (i.e., in the face of incomplete, dubious, and often completely erroneous information and high levels of fear, doubt, and excitement) call for rapid decisions by alert commanders.  These special commanders were said to have a finger-tip feeling for war. 

Clausewitz also discussed the relationship between three elements that later became known as “Clausewitz’s trinity.”  These are “composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason.”

Clausewitz also wrote at length about the concept of center of gravity.  This process was to identify the enemy’s hub of all strength, in other words, what characteristic or element led him to victory.  It might be a strong alliance in support; it might be the enemy’s ground forces, etc.  Very rarely was the enemy’s center of gravity a single person or leader, although many intelligence efforts in the past focused on eliminating that one “indispensable” person.  The U.S. was caught in that trap when Seal Team Six killed Osama Bin Laden and many high-ranking leaders opined that this was the end of Al Qaeda; of course we know it was not.  Whenever you see a politician, or a senior military leader for that matter, not address the center of gravity of the enemy, you know that you are listening to a rank strategic amateur, regardless of his pay grade.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period of ancient China, about 500 BC.  He is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, an extremely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy.  Sun Tzu has had a significant impact on Chinese and Asian history and culture, both as the author of The Art of War and as a legendary historical figure.  The Art of War presents a philosophy of war for managing conflicts and winning battles and is accepted as a masterpiece on strategy, frequently cited and referred to by generals and theorists.

The work very succinctly presents the tenets for developing and executing a strategy that will defeat the strategy of your opponent.   It is presented in lists and recommendations such as: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

Perhaps Sun Tzu’s most famous quotation has been: “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

While both these theorists have been extremely influential in modern history (and for Sun Tzu much longer), and while I have re-read each numerous times, my absolute favorite military theorist is Colonel Ardant Du Picq, a French Army officer and military theorist of the mid-nineteenth century whose writings – as they were later interpreted by other theorists in the First World War period – had a great effect on French military theory and doctrine.

Ardant du Picq was born at Périgueux, France on October 19, 1821.  On 1 October 1844, he graduated from the École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr, the French equivalent of the U.S. West Point and was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in the 67th Regiment of the Line.  As a captain, having previously transferred to the 9th Battalion of Foot Chasseurs, he saw action in the French expedition to Varna during the Crimean War, but he fell ill with cholera and was evacuated to France. Upon recovery, he rejoined his unit in front of Sevastopol and was captured during the storming of the central bastion of the fortress in September 1855.  Released in December 1855, he returned to active duty, first with the 100th Regiment of the Line and later as a major with the 16th Battalion of Foot Chasseurs.  He later served in Syria from August 1860 to June 1861, during the French intervention to restore order following Maronite-Druze sectarian violence.

Du Picq saw extensive service in Algeria from 1864 – 1866, and in February 1869 was selected colonel of the 10th Regiment of the Line.  At the outbreak of war with Prussia on July 15, 1870, he led his regiment to the front.  Directing his men along an elevated road on August 15, 1870, an overhead burst by a Prussian artillery shell fatally wounded him in both thighs and his stomach near Longeville-les-Metz.  He died four days later at the military hospital in Metz from his wounds.  Ardant du Picq’s last words were, “My wife, my children, my regiment, adieu!”

Before his death 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.

His analyses stressed the vital importance, especially in contemporary warfare, of discipline and unit cohesion.  Du Picq believed that the human element is more important than theories.  War was still more of an art than a science.  One popular quote demonstrating this conclusion drawn from numerous battle studies stated, “Nothing can wisely be prescribed in any army… without exact knowledge of the fundamental instrument, man, and his state of mind, his morale, at the instant of combat.”

Du Picq also thought that great strategists and leaders of men are marked by inspiration. “Generals of genius draw from the human heart ability to execute a surprising variety of movements which vary the routine; the mediocre ones, who have no eyes to read readily, are doomed to the worst errors.”

All of du Picq’s thinking, in my opinion, 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.”

Training, discipline, bravery, teamwork, independent action – everything a young leader needs to know to create a successful organization can be found by reading Ardant du Picq.

The Best Military Theorist2015-12-04T11:52:26-06:00

Home Defense Weapons – Try a Shotgun

Browning Maxus, 12-Gauge, Semi-Automatic Shotgun

Folks are always asking me what firearms I recommend; I guess they think that since I served in the Army all those years, I probably fired a great number of different weapons.  And, in fact, the service provided me with a wide variety of opportunities, including firing many types of firearms in the U.S. inventory, as well as many used by other NATO countries in Germany during various shooting competitions.  Interest in history led me to examine other weapons used in previous conflicts.  As a cadet at West Point, we were able to check military weapons out of the West Point Museum for a week in almost the same way we checked books out of the library.  I recall my squad leader’s surprise to see a fully functioning MG 42 World War II German machine-gun in our plebe room once!

The first question I ask when quizzed on my opinion concerning various weapons is, “What is the purpose of the weapon you are considering?”  Home defense is obviously different from skeet shooting, hunting or just “plinking.”  Having said that, here is the first installment:

Home/Family Defense.  If you have to ever defend hearth and home, it will probably be at night, when you least expect it, when there is a great degree of confusion and when you cannot afford to get it wrong – and remember what can go wrong, will go wrong.  For this, you need something simple that will incapacitate someone trying to hurt or kill you and that the operation of it will remain easy, even when Adrenalin is pumping through you.  You will obviously need to be very familiar with the firearm, but most people do not have time to religiously go to the firing range and maintain a high level of proficiency, so again, keep it simple.  In my opinion, your choice will boil down to a revolver or a shotgun (over-under, pump, semi-auto or side-by-side barrels.)  Shoot all to find out which works best for you.  For a pistol, I like the Smith & Wesson Model 19, with a 4-inch barrel, chambered for the .357 Magnum, which can obviously also fire .38 Special ammunition (clean it between sessions when using different ammunition.)  It has a kick with .357 Magnum, but not as much as a .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum or something bigger will have.  The .357 Magnum will put the assailant down if you hit him center of mass (in the middle of his chest) and practicing with .38 Special will be a bit cheaper.  Use brand-name ammunition; do not trust your life to cheaper reloads, because one of those might just be the one that does not fire when the firing pin strikes it.  If you are a practiced, skilled pistol shot, then you might want to examine semi-automatics, but for the novice who is not a gun aficionado, stick to a revolver, a Smith & Wesson Model 19, .357 Magnum is a good choice.

Smith & Wesson Model 19

Smith & Wesson Model 19

The other route to go is a shotgun.  Keep it simple for self-defense.  Automatic shotguns and pump shotguns are almost-always reliable, but when it has to be 100% reliable, you need a plain old double barrel shotgun, a 12-gauge is best.  It is easy to load and reload, but you need to practice anyway.  Firing shot (which is why they are called shotguns) causes a pattern of smaller projectiles going toward the target, so the odds are increased that a few of them will hit the adversary.  Shot sizes are numerous and reflect what your target is; shot size when shooting skeet or ducks is not the same as a self-defense load.  For self-defense, I would recommend #1 buckshot or #00 buckshot.  #1 has 11 pellets per ounce of shot; #00 has 8 pellets per ounce (i.e., the #00 shot is a little bigger than #1, but there are less of them.)  The number of ounces is based on whether you are shooting 2¾-inch shells or 3-inch shells.  You want a shotgun that can fire either length, so check that before you buy it.  The number of ounces of shot will be written on the box of shells.  A nice weapon is either the Stoeger 12-gauge Coach Gun (which is a side-by-side barrel shotgun) or the Stoeger 12-Gauge Double Defense Shotgun (which is available side-by-side or over-under.)  This model has the added features that you can later add a small flashlight under the barrels or a special sight on the top if you find that helps you aim better (The older I get the more help I need with an aim point.)  See how each style feels to you, how you look down the top of the barrel at the front site and how the break-action works to load/reload it.  Ideally, you would want to try both types at a range, which is easier said than done; find a local gun range and explain what you want to the manager and someone may be able to assist you.  Having fired shotguns for many years now, I am very comfortable with a Browning Maxus 12-Gauge Semi-Automatic, which can really crank out the firepower (and which I will cover in a later update), but that is because I believe that if a malfunction should happen, I could quickly fix that in the dark and keep shooting.  Whenever I go duck hunting with my friends and there’s a Maxus available, I grab it fast.  If you have any doubt, stick with a simpler double-barrel shotgun.  But whatever you end up with, practice, practice and then practice some more…every month if you can carve out some time.

Stoeger Coach Gun


Stoeger Double Defense 12-Gauge Shotgun

Always remember that when you NEED a home defense weapon it will not be in a calm setting.  Your body will be tense, you need to be able to hit your target in the dark and this is no place to be screwing around; you have to be prepared to kill someone and that is a serious matter that will affect the rest of your life  – but it may be your life or his, so keep it simple.

Home Defense Weapons – Try a Shotgun2015-09-08T15:29:24-06:00
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