…then I want to get dibs on Bono’s voice.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
When President Obama and Candidate Hillary succeed in imposing their Australian plans to confiscate pistols and ban ammunition, dealers in banned substances will have an easier time supplying their customers: everyone will use the same caliber ammunition. “Hey man, I’ll take some weed, a couple hits of coke and throw in a box of nines.” One stop shopping, like having a Wal-Mart in the trunk of a tricked-out Buick. Handy.
Let’s not kid ourselves, we know what’s at work here and it has nothing to do with ballistic science.
John Browning gave the world true pistol stopping power when he invented the .45 ACP and nothing invented since is as effective at delivering raw knock-down power in a controllable low maintenance hand-held package.
But it takes a big hand to wrap around the .45, a strong grip to control it, and strong will to calmly place 7 shots in vital spots rather than spray-and-pray in a panic. The .45 is fine for well-trained soldiers which is why special forces love it; not so good for small FBI chicks which is why the feds first adopted the watered-down .40 S&W and now are going to the even softer 9mm.
I don’t dispute that modern 9mm home defense hollow points work better than 9mm military ball ammo. They should: they’re designed for a different purpose. The military round wounds a guy so his buddies must carry him to the field medics, taking three soldiers out of a battle that my soldiers then win by attrition. The home-defense round puts a guy on the floor now, because I have no soldiers and can’t afford to suffer any attrition. So sure, the modern 9mm self-defense round works better than the old 9mm military round. But is it better enough to switch down from the .40 S&W, must less the venerable .45 ACP?
Let the argument begin.
The amount of training it takes to overcome the natural human response to an adrenaline dump is amazing – and they’re finding out that people who get through selection for units like the SEALs, Delta, the SAS and the like are born with a biochemical trait that allows them to drive, rather than be driven by, adrenaline.
All by way of saying – being a regular schlub who is most definitely driven by adrenaline, I’ll take a big magazine over big caliber.
If I have to choose.
Which, currently I do not.
And let’s us good guys and gals all bear down and keep it that way.
This is really pretty much me:
Today’s “hot gear” is, along with the Bowie knife and the K-Bar, perhaps the most legendary piece of cutlery in the business – the Khukri.
The Khukri is a strange knife, to western hands; oddly-balanced, weirdly-shaped, more of a machete than a knife. It looks, and to western sensibilities, feels odd.
So clearly, the legend is less in the hardware than in the software.
The Khukri is the traditional blade of the “Gurkhas” – members of tribe from rural Nepal that, in 1815, not only stymied a British/Indian invasion, thus securing Nepalese independence, but so impressed the would-be conquerors that it led to an agreement to allow the Brits to recruit tribe members into the British Army. Being selected into a Gurkha regiment is not only one of the greater honors in the tribe – it’s also the only career path that doesn’t involve farming and raising yaks.
Given a choice between living more or less the same way they did a thousand years ago, or jetting into the 21st century (or 19th, for that matter), getting into the Army is an incredibly competitive process. And it shows; the Gurkhas have been an elite force in the British Army for the 200 years since. Sometimes they step beyond “elite” to just plain legendary.
But here – learn some more:
Back in the storied history of this blog, there was a liberal blogger who fancied himself a transit advocate – indeed, was alleged to have taken money from light rail interests to attack, using his various sock-puppet blogs, not only opponents of light rail, but proponents of any competing type of transit.
Among some of his many howlers over the years, the leftyblogger claimed – repeatedly – that I was a supporter of “Personal Rail Transit”, notwithstanding the fact that I repeatedly wrote I did not. “His” “reasoning” was apparently that Michele Bachmann once parenthetically noted some interest in PRT, and Bachmann is a conservative, and I’m a conservative, so I must also support it. To be fair, it wasn’t the least logical the little fella ever got.
But I always opposed PRT.
Part of it is, and has always been, that I think PRT’s supporters underestimate or underreport the technical challenges of having “just in time” personal rail service on a city-wide network of tracks. Also the costs.
Part of it is that I don’t care; I’d rather have a steering wheel in my hand.
But the biggest reason I’ve never supported PRT was that I believed that the private market will provide a way to power cars from hydrogen and guide them with software decades before the government can put tracks of any kind, ultralight and personal or heavy and East-Germanlike, from anywhere people are to anywhere they actually want to go.
And, as usual, I’m right.
Not that I’ll ever buy one. Trusting my safety and schedule to a bunch of programmers is only marginally better than trusting them to government transit employees.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Stole this from Brad Torgersen’s Facebook page (he’s a SF writer, one of the people who ran Sad Puppies).
It’s probably only funny to those of us old enough to remember, but I found it hilarious . . . .
I wonder if my kids would even remember what a floppy drive is?
After a year or two ofdabbling I pretty much swore off Food Porn shows. They’re all pretty much the same, and the whole “foodie” culture has come to annoy the bejeebers out of me.
Since I stopped paying attention to the whole genre years ago, I wasn’t familiar with Food Network star Alton Brown.
Reading this profile in the NY Times, I wish I had encountered him earlier. He eschews “foodie” culture – at least partly on religious, as well as aesthetics, grounds – and is want to show businesses few “out” shooters.
It’s worth a quick read..
Well, more than most marketeers I’ve dealt with.
I’m on board.
The biggest story in the world today? As ISIS saws off Christians’ heads, and Planned Parenthood does the same for babies, and the nation lurches toward a Presidential election that, if it were held at this moment according to the results of junk media polls taken six months before caucuses and 15 months before the election, would be a contest between the star of a real reality show and the co-star of a virtual reality show?
Ashley Madison’s data breach.
Ashley Madison is, of course, a website purportedly devoted to helping married people find extramarital amoreuses. And the hint that some of the people ostensibly busted in the breach were famous “family values” crusaders (notwithstanding the high likelihood that they were fake accounts) had the usual social-lefty suspects aroused to a fever pitch; social conservatives straying from their message is the social-lefty’s hard-core pornography.
What this episode shows us is that lots of Americans – including many who design and build websites – are illiterate about data security.
Tech tabloid editors are foaming at the mouth, just thinking about finding something that’ll implicate someone they know. You’ll have hundreds, if not thousands, of people downloading the torrent file to see if their loved ones, or boss, local priest, sister, father, scout leader, or public figure’s names are in the cache. It’s hard to feel even a morsel of remorse for any cheating hack husband, wife, or partner who gets caught out.
But, even the worst people in this society should expect — and deserve — privacy.
It’s certainly hard to defend a cheating spouse.
But I’d nominate a few other people – drug-cartel hit men, late-term abortion providers, serial killers, Sidney Blumenthal, pedophiles, people who hack off other peoples’ heads – for “Worst People In Our Society”.
When I was in high school, I may have been the last generation to actually spend any time watching instructional films. Not videos – productions shot on film.
Now, my beef is not with the medium on which the production was shot; video versus film is an aesthetic argument, and not one that I’m particularly involved in.
But along about time time video supplanted film, computer animation began to replace an older, more fascinating art – the building of explanatory models.
Explaining complex processes, equations, and mechanical concepts is difficult. And in a way, I’ve found the plethora of computer-based animations used to do the explaining today are almost too accurate to do a job of explaining complex concepts.
Filling that gap, long before there were any computers, was the operating model.
An operating model took a complex concept, mechanism or process, simplified it, magnified the important stuff while omitting (or deferring) the minutia, and explained it.
And it’s kind of a lost art.
Which was why I loved this film – which explains the function of the auto differential, a bit of mechanical engineering that always amazes me…:
…and this one, which is as good an explanation of pretty much every firearm operating system in the business:
And I can watch them for hours.
If you follow Great Britain at all, after a while you start to realize that if there’s one thing they’re short of, it’s enough alcohol in their lives.
And you wonder; if there was only a way Brits could only get more booze, faster.
Well, fear not. While Britain may be a shadow of its former political, military, industrial and social self, when it comes to finding ways to ingest alcohol, Britannia still rules the waves.
…or at least musicians…
…who stayed awake in science class…
It was about this time seventy years ago that World War II was heading toward its climax; Germany had surrendered; Marines and soldiers were mopping up on Okinawa. The world didn’t know about the atomic bomb yet.
And the idea of Air Power was at its peak; after three years of strategic bombing over Europe, and about a year’s worth over Japan, the idea that one could bomb ones’ opponents out of a war – very much in vogue before the war – still held great sway.
Of course, strategic bombing over Europe had had a ghastly toll; the US Army Air Force lost more men in the air than the Marines did in the entire Pacific War.
And the bulk of those casualties came among the crews of the roughly 6-7,000 bombers lost over Germany (among the Americans alone; the Brits also paid a horrific price).
There was the most famous, the Boeing B-17…:
…with its legendary toughness without which the toll might have been vastly worse.
And the B-24 Liberator – newer, faster, but less popular, and generally regarded as less tough…
…and the B-29, which costs as much to develop as the entire Manhattan Project, carried most of the weight in the Pacific.
Why do I bring it up?
Because as we discuss the idea that our younger genration of twenty somethings, raised during the Obama economy by helicopter parents and made into a cause – the “Millennials” – by a generation of Baby Boom media who want to have someone to poke and prod the way they were poked and prodded and examined – many of whom are out in the streets protesting for $15 an hour to run a shake machine (for a while, maybe), it’s worth remembering this; the officers, the pilots and navigators and bombardiers who flew these planes, averaged 22 years old.
Their enlisted crewmen? The flight engineers and radiomen and 3-4 gunners on each plane? They averaged 19 years old.
And this was what they did just to get the planes – in this case, the B24 – into the air.
As the sales of my first book, Trulbert!, continue to outpace my meager expectations, the question “what next” is occupying more and more of my time.
I’ve been thinking about compiling my Twenty Years Ago Today series into an e-book, for all the people who’ve asked me about it over the past decade (and there have been quite a few). I am strongly thinking about putting that out this September, in time for the tenth anniversary of the series.
But in terms of original books, as opposed to “Hewitts” (books compiled from blog posts)?
There are a few contenders:
- “An Accidental Conservative”: how a guy who by all rights should have been a liberal, became a conservative. Then a libertarian. Then a libertarian-conservative again. And why. Pros: that book is largely also already written. Cons: I have to dig through a little over 12,000 blog posts to assemble it.
- “Josef Sklrbczsz, American”: The story of a young man from an Eastern European goat-town whose entire knowledge of America comes from the mass media. Then, he comes to America.
- “Purple Sunset”: An expansion of my “Secession Diaries” stories, from ten years ago. Pros: It’d be a fun piece to write. Cons: What? Me, write a book of absurdist speculative political fiction?
The Twenty Years Ago one is kind of a no-brainer.
Beyond that? The sky is the limit…
Via our old friend King Banaian – old coding languages that refuse to die.
There were some on there I didn’t know. And I suppose it’s mildly heartening that they didn’t list Smalltalk.
Spotify put together of the top Fourth of July music in their playlists.
And some of the results are a little surprising:
The heartland is, perhaps a little unsurprisingly, into Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”.
I was a little surprised to see Illinois go for “ROCK in the USA” by John Mellencamp – while Mellencamp’s native Indiana chose Greenwood over their rabid-blue favorite musical son.
A bit less surprising? California and Florida chose “America! F*** Yeah!”, from Team America: World Police.
The high-quality shock? West Virginia going with “American Girl” by Tom Petty. West Virginia – f*** yeah!
And while New Jersey went with Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, I was gladdened to see New York State opt with “Fourth Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”, from Springsteen’s 1974 The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle album. Kudos, WV and NY!
But the one that opened my eyes? North Dakota, New Hampshire and Maine going with Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”.
This struck me as odd. So I dug deeper.
And I found this map:
You’ll note that these are three of the five states in the lower 48 where Spanish isn’t the second most popular language.
The inescapable conclusion?
Latinos hate Miley Cyrus.
…I was going to buy a GM car any time soon (over overall vehicle quality, not to mention the bailout)…
…but this adds wood screws to all the nails in the coffin.
Guide to all the world’a hot dogs.
My votes: Kansas City, Argentina and Vietnam.
Ben Beaumont-Thomas of the Guardian on the Roland TR808 drum machine, which turns 35 this year:
It struck a chord as an instrument that truly reflected the 80s. “Home computers were coming on the scene, and it just fitted in with that,” says Joe Mansfield, a drum machine collector who wrote this year’s pictorial history Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession. “It sounded futuristic, what you thought a computer would sound like if it could play the drums.” It began to seep into the mainstream, as the backbeat to Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, and across the Atlantic to the UK into, firstly, the industrial and post-punk scenes, where Graham Massey of Manchester acid house act 808 State first encountered it.
“It had that industrial heritage, but had that soul heritage,” he says. “The Roland gear began to be a kind of Esperanto in music. The whole world began to be less separated through this technology, and there was a classiness to it – you could transcend your provincial music with this equipment.” Massey made hip-hop with the 808, and then, because he couldn’t afford anything else, used it for house too, making “dense, jungle-like” tracks that also deployed the 909. “On the 909 the kick was a bit more in your chest, a bit more of an aggressive drum machine. The 808 almost seems feminine next to it … the cowbell on the 808, that’s the thing that says mid-80s R&B to me – SOS Band, big dancefloor anthems, which were a massive thing in the north-west of England. It wasn’t just nerdy DJ culture, it was a ‘ladies’ night’ kind of music.”
It was a commercial flop – but the TR808 has influenced music of the 1980s through 2010s the same way the Fender Stratocaster influenced the fifties through the seventies.
No, really; you’ve heard it, whether you know it or not:
When I bought my first multitrack recorder (a Fostex four-track cassette machine), I got the next generation – smaller and cheaper, not more authentic-sounding. And while the sound quality of digital sampling drum simulators, software and hardware, has improved, they haven’t done much to improve the control a producer has over the way his “drummer” plays. Trying to make drum “loops” on a computer just isn’t the same.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Didn’t read this article in The Economist about Artificial Intelligence, what caught my eye was the photo.
Soon as I saw it, I thought to myself: “You must know Apple’s version will be a proprietary, non-standard size plug.”
and it will largely be used by espresso guzzling hipsters with ironic granny glasses.
The automobile is one of the great inventions of all time.
There’s nothing shooters like more than a good fish story.
And there is no group of shooters that participates in legend-mongering with as much glee as partisans of the Colt M1911A1, which was the service handgun of the US military for over eighty years, and over 100 years after its development is still one of the world’s premier defensive firearms.
But 72 years ago today, this story – possibly but probably not aprocryphal – may have established itself as the grand-daddy of all handgun legends.
In 1943, the Tenth Air Force was the smallest, most isolated, and most under-reported unit in the US militiary. Flying out of airfields in rural India, they hauled supplies over the Himalayas – “over the Hump” – to support US and Chinese troops cut off from the coast by Japanese invaders; they also harassed the Japanese supply lines.
On one of those raids, by the 9th Bomber Squadron of the 7th Bomb Group, was against a railroad bridge between Rangoon (today called “Yangon”) and Mandalay, in Japanese-occupied Burma. One of the planes – at the right wing of the squadron leader – was a B-24 “Liberator” flown by 1st Lieutenant Lloyd Jensen. His co-pilot was 2nd Lieutenant Owen Baggett.
On the approach to the bridge, the formation was attacked by Japanese fighters. The squadron leader was badly wounded; Jensen’s plane took severe damage. After an uncontrollable fire broke out, Jensen ordered the crew to bail out. Five of the nine man crew escaped before the plane exploded.
The Japanese pilots then began shooting at the airmen in their parachutes, killing two of them, and grazing 2LT Baggett’s arm with a bullet.
The pilot who had hit Baggett circled to finish him off or perhaps only to get a better look at his victim. Baggett pretended to be dead, hoping the Zero pilot would not fire again. In any event, the pilot opened his canopy and approached within feet of Baggett’s chute, nose up and on the verge of a stall. Baggett, enraged by the strafing of his helpless crew mates, raised the .45 automatic concealed against his leg and fired four shots at the open cockpit. The Zero stalled and spun in.
Jensen, Baggett and one of the gunners were captured by the Japanese. And it was in a POW camp that Baggett learned the unbelievable:
A few months later, Col. Harry Melton, commander of the 311th Fighter Group who had been shot down, passed through the POW camp and told Baggett that a Japanese colonel said the pilot Owen Baggett had fired at had been thrown clear of his plane when it crashed and burned. He was found dead of a single bullet in his head. Colonel Melton intended to make an official report of the incident but lost his life when the ship on which he was being taken to Japan was sunk. Two other pieces of evidence support Baggett’s account: First, no friendly fighters were in the area that could have downed the Zero pilot. Second, the incident took place at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 feet. The pilot could have recovered from an unintentional stall and spin. Retired Colonel Baggett, now living in San Antonio, Tex., believes he shot down the Japanese pilot, but because that judgment is based on largely indirect and circumstantial evidence, he remains reluctant to talk much about it. We think the jury no longer is out. There appears to be no reasonable doubt that Owen Baggett performed a unique act of valor, unlikely to be repeated in the unfolding annals of air warfare.
Try that with a .357 Magnum!
Between its partition from the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, and its down-the-river sale at the hands of Neville “Like Obama, Only Just Clueless Rather Than Malevolent” Chamberlain twenty years later, Czechoslovakia actually had a brief vogue as an a-list industrial economy, backstayed by a weapons industry that rivaled Europe’s most legendary names; Brno, Czeskoslovenska Zbrojovka and Skoda were in the same league with Krupps, Enfield, Bofors, Hotchkiss, and Springfield.
They were behind some of the premier weapons of the inter-war era. The Skoda Model 38 tank was among the best in the world at the beginning of World War II
So superior was it to contemporary German designs that after the annexation, the Wehrmacht took the tank into service; they played a major role in the conquest of France (Rommel’s 7th Panzer, which led the charge to the Channel, led it in Panzer 38s) and the first part of the invasion of Russia. Outmoded as tanks by 1943, the Germans converted them to self-propelled artillery, anti-aircraft vehicles, and the famous “Hetzer” tank destroyer, which served into the 1970’s in Switzerland.
In the early 1930s, the world’s armies were starting to re-arm; war was clearly imminent, and their stockpiles of World War I-vintage weapons were old and wearing out.
During the war, machine guns were either heavy, water-cooled weapons fed by canvas or metal-link belts, capable of immense sustained fire but weighing 80-150 pounds loaded…:
…or “light” guns extemporized during the war for infantry to haul around more handily.
The products of desperation, the “light” guns were rarely especially light, and often frighteningly unreliable, and incapable of much sustained fire before their barrels overheated, stopping them entirely.
The Czech Zbrojovka Brno – “Brno Weapons” – works developed a light machine gun in the mid-twenties which served as the starting-point for a new line of design. The “VZ26” was light enough for an infantryman to haul around…
…but heavy enough to remain accurate when firing full-automatic, it had one other radical feature; a quick-change barrel. After a few magazines of sustained fire (interrupted by magazine changes, which slowed the overheating process a bit), the assistant gunner could unlock and (while wearing an asbestos glove) remove the barrel, and replace it with a spare that he carried for the purpose. If the crew was in heavy action, they could swap the two barrels back and forth, allowing one to cool while the other was firing.
The British Army, looking for a new light machine gun to replace its World War I-era Lewis guns, held trials in the mid-thirties – and the ZB26 swept the field (as it did for armies all over the globe; it still serves, in modified form, in the Paraguayan Army).
The British made two key modifications; they added a handle to the barrel (in case a gunner lost his asbestos glove in the heat of battle), and they rechambered it to their .303 Enfield round – a clunky old round with a rimmed base that necessitated the curved magazine on top.
And, using the peculiar British habit of the day of making new compound words for their weapons, they named it the “Bren” gun – short for “Brno”, where it was designed, and “Enfield”, where it was built in the UK.
The Brits had intended to adopt a rimless round – like the German 7.92 Mauser (which the ZB 26 used) or the American 30.06 – but their staff judged, correctly, that time didn’t permit such a radical change before the war would likely start (they didn’t finally retire the .303 from front line service until 1957).
No matter – the Bren worked just fine with the new round. They were built in mass lots, and equipped the British Army (and the parts of the Canadian and Australian armies that went into action) by the beginning of the war.
Reliable, relatively simple to manufacture, and ideal for its role – providing covering fire to a squad of 8-12 men as they leapfrogged forward and backward and around enemy positions, the Bren served out the war.
And then, like most “light machine guns”, it was supplanted by the latest military fad. The German military had dispensed with the separate categories of Heavy and Light machine gun, and generally equipped the Wehrmacht with just one machine gun – the MG34 or, later in the war, the dreaded MG42:
That was it. They hung a tripod from the barrel, and issued it to their squads (of 8-12 men) for relatively light close-up covering fire; they’d mount it on a tripod, and issue it to crews of 3 men to haul it and its ammo around as a heavier fire-support weapon for companies of 160 or battalions of 800 men.
The world’s militaries jumped on that bandwagon hard. When the Brits re-tooled their ammunition and retired the Bren and Vickers guns, they adopted the Belgian FN-MAG as a “General Purpose Machine Gun”…:
…capable of going into the field with a bipod as a squad support gun and a tripod in the weapons platoons of larger units.
The US adopted the M-60, which served from the early sixties into the nineties, but is probably most famous to non-serving Americans of a certain age range…:
…in Sylvester Stallone’s hands.
But along the way, an interesting thing happened.
During and among the world’s various brushfire wars of the sixties and seventies, infantrymen had a word or two with the world’s military theorists; the “light” version of the General Purpose Machine Gun wasn’t all that light when one was hauling it, a load of person gear, and a few belts of ammo through a jungle, or through the backstreets of Belfast.
And quietly, some of the world’s military units that had the clout to do so (or, conversely, the lack of clout that allowed them to get away with it), went back to the past. The British military – especially the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines – who depended on foot mobility, and needed something lighter than the clunky MAG for use in their rifle squads, quietly pulled the Brens out of the armories, and re-chambered them for the modern 7.62x51mm NATO caliber (same as the MAG and M60), and built some straight-walled magazines, and re-issued the Bren to elements of the British Army that needed a light, light machine gun:
And it served in British reserve units through the 1990s, and in reserve units of the Irish army until 2006.
And that bit of tapdancing to fill a need for lighter, handier, but still reliable and powerful weapon at the squad level led to a wave of design of genuinely *light* machine guns, including the US’ modern “M249 Squad Automatic Weapon” – which is another light machine gun.
“But wait, Mitch”, you may say. “Hot Gear Friday is supposed to refer to hot gear – guitars and firearms, mostly – that you’ve personally used, yourself. What gives?”
Well, you’re right. But we’ll be fixing that tomorow, with any luck. Rumor has it that a .303 Bren is among the pieces for rent at Bill’s Gun Shop and Range – where I’ll be tomorrow for the Shooter Show. And I’ve been putting away a couple bucks a months since last March, getting ready to light up some targets with it, about this time tomorrow.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
We’re restoring an airplane that was built in the 1950’s and parked in the desert for a decade . . . because we don’t have enough flyable airplanes to defend the nation without it.
look at the bright side – and there are some bright sides. A government program – “The Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona – worked as designed; an aircraft in long-term storage is actually brought back from reserve. And it cost far, far less to do it then it would have to build a new airplane…
… even if the American defense industry were capable of building another aircraft like it. Which it’s not, without going through the Pentagon’s long, costly and disgracefully wasteful procurement process.
Call me un-Minnesotan if you’d like – I’m fine with that – but the idea of standing on a dock, sitting in a boat, or huddling in an ice house watching for a line to bob for hours on end doesn’t especially grab me.
I joke I’m not much of a fisherman because “the heavy shot loads destroy too much meat, and the light loads skip off the water”. It’s tongue-in-cheek, of course…
…but I read about this take on fishing, and think “this actually sounds like fun“.