Monthly Archives: January 2014

Don’t miss Enlisted tonight at 9! NOW!

Ladies and gents, the good news is, last week (no doubt thanks to our plug here) the touching and clever comedy Enlisted, set on a stateside Army post while most of the troops are deployed, had its best ratings week — over 3 million viewers. That sounds great, and the fact that the show’s up week overt week is good, but it isn’t enough.

This show is what a lot of you guys say you want: it’s a depiction of the military that shows soldiers as real people, and that treats military values with care and respect. The cast and crew worked their hearts out to bring 13 episodes to Fox.

So go out and watch it (or DVR it, for crying out loud, you kids) so that there are more viewers this week, too. And next week… so that the advertisers want to be on this show. And the network executives greenlight next year’s episodes, and all the talented folks who work on the show are rewarded for their efforts and their decency towards us. 

An Insider’s History of HK USA

Not from us, but from HK USA’s former Government Sales guy (later, VP of Military Programs), Jim Schatz. Jim spent 20 years with HK, and was on the inside of almost every single significant H&K development during that period. He prepared these slides for an HKPro gathering in 2008. Like Schatz’s presentations at NDIA, it’s direct, informative and has the potential to be controversial. Of course, since it’s six years old, the H&K buffs have wrung all the controversy out of it by now. He calls it The HK Decades(.pdf), but it’s really an insider’s history of the company’s USA growth through its long “Because you suck. And we hate you” period.

Screenshot 2014-01-07 14.06.40









During this period, Heckler & Koch went from a supplier of military arms primarily to European NATO countries, to a world trendsetter. They came this close (Maxwell smart hand gesture) to selling the USA their not-ready-for-prime-time G11 caseless rifle, and then this close again to selling the Army the XM8, and Schatz was at the center of these projects.

In the first case, HK simply pushed the technology farther than it was able to go. The G11 offered some interesting theoretical benefits, both tactically with its very-high-rate three-round burst, and logistically with its compact caseless ammunition. But it fell short of delivering the theory as something practically useful in the hands of ordinary riflemen.  

In the second, it’s hard to pin down exactly what happened, but it does look like a group of US Army senior leaders nearly inflicted on the service a new infantry rifle which was, by most measures, no better (and perhaps, no worse) than the existing arm. The project petered out when the XM8 underdelivered on its proponents’ overpromises, and its in-house champions rotated out into retirement before installing it as the service rifle. Schatz still defends the XM8 quite vigorously in this presentation.

His comments on the rise and fall of the MP5 are right on. CT elements used to work with handguns in CQB, and discovered that going to an MP5A3 gave them more rounds (both before a reload and total), and more importantly, more hits. But a few incidents — never having to do with the reliability of the gun, more with the limitations of the round — made US military SOF dust off Vietnam-vintage Colt carbines and call for a renewed version of that platform. SOF-driven updates and upgrades to the M16 carbine (later, M4) raised the bar that any US service rifle replacement must meet, leaving H&K and many other vendors of quality assault rifles with weapons that may be better than the M4, but are not better enough to justify a massive rearmament program. (They did secure the Marine M27 IAR program with a variant of the 416, so there is that).

Unfortunately, this document is the slides without the (undoubtedly more interesting) talk that went with them. But it is frank and unfiltered output from an industry insider, that some of you may never have seen. How cool is that?

Police Shooting Disaster, San Francisco

Sergeant Tom Smith, BART PD. End of Watch 21 Jan 2014.

Sergeant Tom Smith, BART PD. End of Watch 21 Jan 2014.

Riddle us this: someone shot a cop, everyone knows who did it, but no one is charged. What happened?

His partner shot him.

A BART police officer was fatally shot by a department colleague Tuesday afternoon during a probation check in the East Bay, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

KRON has confirmed that the officer, Tom Smith, 42, of Hayward, was a 20-year veteran of the BART police department.

“BART has been informed that one of our officers has died from wounds sustained during a shooting earlier today,” BART officials said.

The shooting was reported at 1:03 p.m. at the Park Sierra Apartments at Iron Horse Trail at 6450 Dougherty Rd. in Dublin.

Smith and several other officers had forced their way inside one of the units during a probation check when the shooting occurred. The subject of the search was on probation for a crime committed on BART property and was not at the residence at the time of the incident.

Both officers were wearing bullet-proof vests, according to officials.

Smith was transported to Eden Medical Center where he died from his injuries. The identity of the officers are not being released at this time.

Officials said that today’s fatal shooting is the first time a BART officer was killed in the line of duty.

via BART Police Officer Fatally Shot By Fellow Officer « KRON4.

BART police are transit cops in San Francisco. The department at first refused to ID the shooter, except to say that he’s a 10-year-veteran and “extremely upset” — so upset that Chief Kenton Rainey wasn’t pushing to interview him. The shooter was later identified as Detective Michael Maes, also a veteran (12 years at BART and 14 at a previous department).

Maybe he mistook his partner for someone else, the Sheriff’s Department’s sergeant JD Nelson said. Or maybe it was just a negligent discharge. Nelson, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department charged with the investigation, and Chief Rainey don’t seem to be in a hurry to find out.

Hey, maybe he and his lawyer just need more time to get their story together.

Tom Smith is out of time. Selection and training of police officers has consequences. And a culture of impunity for reckless negligence also has consequences.  For 40 years, the BART PD got away with it. It probably doesn’t seem worth it now.

Exercise for the reader: find a cop fired for a negligent discharge.

UPDATE I: Media Report

Contra Costa Times:

Rainey also would not address media reports, citing anonymous sources, indicating that Smith was shot by a startled Maes when Smith exited a different door from the one he entered during the search. The apartment’s bathroom has dual entrances, according to its floor plan.

Maes, the shooter, was reportedly not only a co-worker but a friend of Smith. Maes fired one shot and Smith was hit once in the armpit area (outside the coverage of his vest). The chief has now put tighter restrictions on when the unit in question can serve search warrants, and who must sign off on such searches.

(Note the common result here: actions that would not have prevented the mishap being taken, for the sake of Do Something!! At times like these, don’t just do something… stand there. Then figure out if there is something you can do that would have prevented the shooting — like stress inoculation training, and force-on-force with lots of shoot/no-shoot calls, for all officers).

Finally, the press is insinuating that the uniformed officers’ vest cams were turned off at the time of the shooting.  This may just be press boo-jit. But if it was really so, that’s a real dumb move — cameras have saved a lot more officers from false accusations than have exposed real wrongdoing, probably because false accusations are a lot more common that real wrongdoing. (Was there ever a miscreant lugged that didn’t cry out, “Police brutality!”?)

UPDATE II: Memorial Fund

If you would like to help the Smith family, an account has been set up:

The Tommy Smith Memorial Fund has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank. Deposits can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank, Account # 5148561086 under Kellie Smith. Or they can be mailed to:

Tommy Smith Memorial Fund C/O Wells Fargo
11020 Bollinger Canyon Road, Suite 1
San Ramon, CA 94582

Hagel folds to Hasan: Muslim Beards are In

hasan_beardedThis is from a week or two ago, and we’ve been having trouble believing it, but it’s real (.pdf). He’s still on track to get executed, but Nidal Hasan wins: SecDef Hagel has caved on his beard, and on any other extremist Mohammedans, and on any other bizarre religious style, affectation or disfiguration.

So Hasan has beaten the Army twice: once when he shot up dozens of people, and once again when the Secretary of Defense elevated Hasan’s religious whims above good order, uniformity, and discipline. Heartless Hasan has to be laughing his, again bearded, face off.

The Pentagon on Wednesday is expected to announce widespread changes to rules governing religious items and religion-based physical attributes that service members can maintain while in uniform — including beards, some religious tattoos, and turbans.

NBC News obtained an early draft of the new Department of Defense instruction which states that the military will make every effort to accommodate “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs” (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) of service members.

It goes on to say that unless doing so could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, health and safety, or any other military requirement, commanders can grant service members special permission to display their religious articles while in uniform.

Requests for religious accommodation can be denied when the “needs of mission accomplishment outweigh the needs of the service member,” the directive will explain.

Earlier this month, a major in the U.S. Army who is a Sikh American took his case to staffers on the Hill, explaining how he and other Sikhs should be able to serve in uniform and still maintain their religious beliefs, including wearing turbans and unshorn hair, including beards.

The new directive will explain that if the articles of faith or physical attributes interfere with the proper function of protective clothing and equipment, the request could be denied.  For example, a beard or unshorn hair cannot interfere with gas masks or helmets.

Jewish service members can request permission to wear a yarmulke while in uniform. Muslim service members can request to wear a beard and carry prayer beads. Even Wiccan service members, those who practice “Magick,” can seek accommodation — the directive covers all religions recognized by the U.S. military.

via Pentagon to relax rules on personal religious wear — including beards, turbans – U.S. News.

Hood_victimThe Pentangle did indeed make the announcement, and you can read the regulation change here (.pdf). It reads as if it was drafted by anti-military lawyers.

It was probably inevitable once you realize the Administration views the military as a workplace like any other. After all, Hasan’s attack was simple “workplace violence.” And General Casey responded that the death of a few soldiers was no big deal, but it would be terrible if we let a few deaths threaten the overriding greatest value, “diversity.”

We have a diversity of ideas on that. And we reckon none of them would be pleasing to GEN Casey, or any of the other politicians, suited or uniformed alike.

Follow-ups and oddities and endities

This is the time where we address various things that we’ve covered before, but have developed new information on; or that don’t rate a post on their own.

A Nice Report on H&K/OSS MR556SD/MR762SD

HK-MR556A1-SDWe covered it while SHOT was still going on (our man on the ground says, “Thanks heaps for dissing my photos, you *^$%#%^ ingrate!”). We think that guns like this, and SIG-Sauer selling MPX-SDs in semi to the public, are one wave of the future. Brendan McGarry at KitUp has a nice write-up and includes a video of an HK guy demonstrating the MR556. The gun is manufactured right up the road from Hog Manor, it turns out. We know we want one.

A Little More on Norman Rockwell’s Cop

Last one we showed you was a study; this is the final illustration.

Last one we showed you was a study; this is the final illustration.

We mentioned previously that the guy was a real State Trooper, and a beloved one (something that today’s cops will tell you doesn’t come automatically with the badge and boots). His name was RIchard J. Clemens. Dick posed for the famous Saturday Evening Post cover illustration in early 1958, and for the rest of his life in and out of the police he was followed by Rockwell’s good-natured image of him, a work titled “The Runaway.”

Dick Clemens visited the 79th State Police recruit training academy class to inspire the young troopers to serve, as he did, and be remembered, as he was. He passed away on 6 May 2012.

Yep, he was a Felon in Possession

Brian Croall, rockin' the Sleepy-the-Drawf beard. Newington NH PD photo.

Brian Croall, rockin’ the Sleepy-the-Drawf beard. Newington NH PD photo.

And Brian Croall, whose story we covered back in July, is about to admit that and take his medicine, which will be a still-unspecified stretch in the State Pen. His story is that he inherited the guns from his father. (If that is true, he still isn’t allowed to take possession. A third party can sell them for the grantor’s estate and let the beneficiary felon have the proceeds, but he can’t have the actual guns).

He doesn’t seem, from the news stories we linked back then, to have been a guy too worried about coloring inside the lines.

Not the Kind of Popularity We’d Want

Charles Normil mugshotWe covered the criminal career of one Charles Normil, part of a two-man career home invasion crew that committed a heinous crime in New Hampshire as well as enough others to be  a very popular fellow with a variety of New England states’, and Federal, prosecutors:

A Hillsborough County grand jury indicted Normil last September on 13 counts, ranging from attempted murder, first- and second-degree assault, four counts of forcible rape, burglary and falsifying physical evidence.

Normil is accused of breaking into the Bedford home of Dr. Eduardo Quesada and his wife, Sonia, on Nov. 24, 2012. Normil allegedly maimed Dr. Quesada, 53, by stabbing him in the head with a screwdriver and sexually mutilated and partially blinded Sonia Quesada, 29.

She died six weeks after the attack from a prescription drug overdose; her death was not ruled a homicide.

That’s from the latest update, which has Normil standing trial in Massachusetts for another home invasion first, before he comes to Hillsborough County, NH to answer for this one. Dr Quesada is brain-damaged and crippled for life, which may have been a factor, along with her own victimization, in his young wife’s despair. The paper notes that the Federal authorities (who also want a piece of Normil) are keeping the name of his accomplice secret, although we’ve mentioned his usual partner previously here. Most probably they’re keeping the other home invader close to the vest so they can use him as a jailhouse informer, or release him to help some TLA bag more people, regardless of his history of violent crime. A bad business all around.

Massachusetts, which treasures its criminals more than its noncriminal citizens, is unlikely to punish Normil much, and has been dragging its feet on his trial.

You can always despair over what might have been, but an alternate world where Eduardo or Sonia Quesada had a revolver would be a better world, both in terms of the good they would have done in years ahead, and the bad that a stone-dead Normil would not.

Man Bites Dog Chronicles: Con Doesn’t Like Prison

A celebrity Norwegian mass murderer whose name we won’t mention (because, F him), now doing 21 years in Norwegian slammer, thinks the screws are, well, putting the screws to him:

Norwegian [utter waste of sperm and egg whom we’ll call “Jitbag”] has complained that he has been subject to hundreds of strip searches, many involving “grabbing inspections”, in a 30-page letter sent to several news organisations and an anti-torture watchdog.

In the letter, [Jitbag], who was convicted in 2012 for twin terror attacks which claimed 77 lives, also said in the letter that he was being censored and did not have enough fresh air, showers or exercise. 

[Jitbag’s] lawyer Todd Jordet confirmed that [Jitbag] had written the letter.

Prison authorities spent far too long considering whatever they could before [the letter] could be sent out,” he said.

Awwwwww. The big old meany warden’s always pickin’ on poor little old him. Shall we all play tiny violins in unison for the dude?

He did kill 77 people, mostly kids, mostly in a Victim Disarmament Zone in Oslo. But hey, that was then, this is now. And besides, we wouldn’t like him when he’s angry:

In the letter received by the Wall Street Journal, [Jitbag] reportedly boasted that if he wanted to retaliate for his poor treatment, he knew how to build weapons out of items he was allowed in prison, such as his Sony PlayStation 2, long screws and plain sheets of paper.

However he claimed that the violent phase of his struggle against Islam and cultural Marxism ended in 2011.

He struggled against Islam by shooting six and a half dozen, roughly, Norwegian kids dead, and wounding a whole bunch more. (Meanwhile, NORSOF has killed a number of actual terrorists. But terrorists shoot back, so that’s not how this guy rolls).

He claims to have written a book about his philosophy (Hey! Why not call it My Struggle like that other jitbag?) and his mouthpiece says a publisher has already optioned it. Because nothing thrills the sunken chests of publishing world weenies like a real live barbarian.

Beretta to build new plant, R&D facility

beretta USA logoFirst, the good news: Maryland’s anti-gun, and anti-growth, governor Martin O’Malley can congratulate himself for landing 300 good, high-paying design and manufacturing jobs.

Now for the bad news: trouble is, he landed them in Tennessee. Beretta USA announced a new $45 million manufacturing and R&D facility for Gallatin, Tennessee. All of the jobs are in preference to expansion in Beretta’s HQ in Accokeek, Maryland; some of them may replace Maryland workers, especially as R&D shifts from the hostile state, where Beretta’s products, and its workers, are unwelcome.

Of course, Beretta gets other benefits as well. A harder-working work force, lower taxes and regulation, and lower energy costs will keep the Italian company, which has produced guns  since 1526, competitive in the US market. But the biggest single reason was that the politicians of Maryland were hostile to their business, executives, and employees; and Tennessee has rolled out the welcome mat.

For much of the past year, Beretta has been scouting for locations for a manufacturing facility after the state of Maryland passed stricter gun legislation, company officials said. The family-owned, Italian company had expressed frustration about the new laws and said it might be looking for a new home for a factory currently located in Accokeek, Maryland.

Jeff Reh, general counsel for Beretta, said the company was looking a state that supported Second Amendment rights,and had other key attributes, including a competitive tax environment, good quality of life and was focused on corporate recruitment.

“From the moment when we started to consider a location outside of the State of Maryland for our manufacturing expansion, Governor Haslam and his economic development team did an excellent job demonstrating the benefits of doing business in Tennessee,” said Franco Gussalli Beretta, executive vice-president and a director of Beretta U.S.A. Corp. “We are convinced we could find no better place than Tennessee to establish our new manufacturing enterprise.”

Mr Beretta is one of the family members still involved in the ownership and management of the venerable company, who are the fifteenth and sixteenth generation of family owner/managers.

Of course, the $45 million in construction costs also won’t be wasted on presumably anti-gun Maryland contractors and workers, but spent instead on their more gun-friendly mountain cousins. They should all drop Mr O’Malley a thank-you note.

O’Malley told the press last year that Beretta was bluffing. “Berettas don’t bluff,” General Counsel Jeff Reh replied at the time.

The Nashville Tennesseean notes that Remington, also besieged by politicians in its home state, looked at Nashville-area locations last year before shortlisting sites in other states, but that Beretta is the first out-of-state gun company to relocate some operations to Tennessee. (Barrett Firearms Manufacturing of Murfreesboro is home-grown).


(thanks to The GunWire).

John Richardson at No Lawyers has excerpts and links to Jeff Reh’s speech, and reminds us that Beretta downchecked West Virginia because of their anti-gun Senator, who pretends to like gun folks every six years, Joe Manchin. John also has a roundup with lots more links to political and other reaction. Martin O’Malley’s is that the grapes were probably sour anyway.

In other Beretta news, they’ve updated the version of the ARX 160 they provide the Italian Army.

Breaking: The VA is from the Government…

VA-veterans-affairs…and they’re here to help… somebody. Mostly their own employees, managers and contractors. If they help any veterans, well, they’ll crow about it — but it’s incidental to their perception of their mission.

They didn’t do veterans any good with this:

On Friday, 17 January 2014, there was a breach of the eBenefits website that is run by the Department of Defense (DOD)  and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA is conducting an independent investigation. If you are a veteran registered  with this website, you can call the VA directly at 1.800.827.1000 to learn whether your eBenefits information may have been  compromised.


  1. Some underling from VA will make an insincere apology, probably in the passive voice, for their lack of security on vets’ personally identifying information. (This is not the first time. Hell, it’s not the 30th time, either).
  2. The vets are the ones who take it in the shorts.
  3. There will be no consequences, not for the hackers, nor for the VA payroll patriot who left the door standing open.

We’d love to be wrong about these, but they run a pretty standard script for these things.

The guy who is Secretary of the VA is a former general officer whose only achievement in three decades in uniform was awarding the then-Ranger beret to the entire Army, in the largest tee-ball social promotion in military history. But he was a success there, compared to his tragically clumsy service at VA.

This is what Intelligence is spending their time on

Screenshot 2014-01-30 01.11.26The document has a serious and sober title: “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” and it was seriously and soberly offered to the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence yesterday by DNI James Clapper. But if the people working on this were working in all seriousness, their names were Moe, Larry and Curly, and they were drunkdrafting the entire thing. Don’t take our word for it; read it for yourself.

  • ITEM: They’re still banging the gong for Global Warming as a major, existential threat, although they defensively note that they’re not using climate models to reach this conclusion, a backhanded slap at Michael “Piltdown” Mann, the climate scientist at the university most famous for its kiddie-diddling football program.
  • ITEM: They manage a long discussion of the cyber threat without mentioning the damage done to US national security by the intelligence organizations’ overreach — and incompetence. No mention of how A low-level contractor walked off with more documents than all the spies in the history of espionage; no mention of how the connected beltway bandits hired to vet Snowden and tens of thousands of other contractors simply pencil-whipped the work — and received ten plus million in performance bonuses for failing to do the work. Clapper? Mussolini without the timely trains.
  • ITEM: The document defines modern technologies, generally, as things used for crime and therefore to be crushed, or at least, crushingly surveilled — approached it tries to mainstream for Bitcoin, biology, and 3D printing.
  • ITEM: The lead item in terrorism? “Homegrown Violent Extremists.” That’s, er, you. Although the example he uses is scarcely homegrown: the Boston Marathon bombers. In fact, what they represent is a failure of US immigration policy (we need Chechens why?) and, much more so, a failure of Clapper’s polyincompent intel empire: he was tipped that these guys were up to no good by the Russian FSB.
  • ITEM: Mentioning the “difficult environment” in the post-Arab Spring Middle East, without mentioning how that is the product of (1) the US cutting previous allies loose, seriously diminishing the perceived value of allying with us, and (2) the US supporting extremist Moslem Brotherhood organizations in one country after another. Holy crap, support violent extremists and (1) you get more extremists and (2) the guys who are not extremists lose interest in you as a partner.
  • ITEM: The whole section about Iran is a battered-wife’s fantasy: Rouhani is a moderate. The Iranians are just building nukes for national prestige, like a big monument or something. The Iranians aren’t real sure they want to make nukes.
  • ITEM: The authors of the report are economically illiterate, suggesting that inflation will ruin debtors (inflation lets debtors pay for pennies on the dollar, and ruins creditors).
  • ITEM: The whole thing is written as if the recipients were retarded. (Well, it is for the Senate, so there is that). Example:

Overall international will and capability to prevent or mitigate mass atrocities will likely diminish in 2014 and beyond, although support for human rights norms to prevent atrocities will almost certainly deepen among some non-government organizations.

Got that? No? Shorter version: “The US will stand by and let people be massacred, and international do-gooders will demand we do something!!!” Got it now?

  • ITEM: They’re still supporting, as noted above, the MB/extremist faction in Egypt, excuse us, the “democratically elected” terrorist group.
  • ITEM: Most of the assessments demonstrate nothing more than the writers’ keen grasp of the bleedin’ obvious. Example: “Sub-Saharan Africa will almost certainly see political and related security turmoil in 2014.” No $#!+, Sherlock? Is there a year in the last fifty where that wasn’t true? Does anyone seriously expect a year in the next fifty where that will not be true?

If this document were any more lightweight, you’d need to tie it down with ropes like a Zeppelin.

Overt, Covert, and Clandestine

Spy-vs-Spy-fullThe three are three regimes of operations. Not all elements of an armed force can operate in all three. (Relatively few can, actually). Elements of national-level intelligence services cannot generally operate in all three regimes (some nations like Russia and Iran are exceptions, with intel agencies that also field armed forces of their own).

The three are often defined erroneously. We link here to the official DOD definitions, which differ in important details from some seen on the net.

Overt Operations

The DOD Pub 1 definition is: “An operation conducted openly, without concealment.”

This is the modus operandi of field armies. When the 2nd Guards Tank Army punches through your cavalry cordon, the 2nd Ranger Battalion seizes your airfield, the 2nd Legion routs your Teutonic horde, there’s no doubt about what happened, who did it, or why. A known enemy has conducted a combat operation, and you can basically answer the 5Ws of that operation. In the fog of war, you might not know all the details, like the name of the commander or the enemy units True Unit Identifier, but you know in general the shape of the operation and the forces involved. Indeed, unless your combat intelligence staff is slumbering, you saw it coming to one extent or another.

An operation is overt even if the operator takes great measures to maintain operational security and secrecy prior to and during the operation. If, when the fires are out, the enemy knows what was done to him and pretty much who did it, the operation was overt. D-Day was overt, then, even though it was attended by an enormous deception, concealment, and operations security effort that did succeed brilliantly in misleading the enemy leadership.

Covert Operations

The DOD Pub 1 definition is: “An operation that is so planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor.”

Covert operations are largely special operations, whether by dedicated SOF troops, task-organized general-purpose forces, third-nation personnel or non-military assets. Note that concealing the identity prior to or during an attack, for example by painting out identification numbers or insignia, doesn’t make the operation covert. Note also that relatively few special operations are actually covert.

Note, certainly, that “plausible denial” falls far short of “impunity before a court of law or public opinion.”

One famous, ill-fated covert operation was the Bay of Pigs invasion. Its covert nature was a key factor in its failure. It was too small to succeed without going overt, yet too big to sustain plausible deniability, so it didn’t. If what you expect from your operation is impossible, you will be disappointed every time.

A much more successful covert operation was the long-standing SOG strategic reconnaissance program in the denied areas of Southeast Asia. In time, the enemy came to know who they were dealing with, but the US maintained deniability of these missions until, in some case, less than a decade ago.

Clandestine Operations

The DOD Pub 1 definition is: “An operation sponsored or conducted by governmental departments or agencies in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment. A clandestine operation differs from a covert operation in that emphasis is placed on concealment of the operation rather than on concealment of the identity of the sponsor. In special operations, an activity may be both covert and clandestine and may focus equally on operational considerations and intelligence-related activities.”

These are missions that leave no trace that the operation ever happened. Some examples of these are obvious: espionage missions. Special missions to pilfer cryptographic material, a staple of world special operations forces and spies for centuries, are also a perfect example. If Alice steals Bob’s code that he uses to communicate with Charlie, it’s a much bigger calamity for Bob if he doesn’t know she has done so, than if he does. In the latter case, he has the embuggerment of establishing a new secure communications system; in the former, he is unwitting that his private communications are not so private after all.

Why we’re posting this now

It has a bearing on the ongoing discussion of Operation Red Wings. Ideally, a long-range reconnaissance patrol conducting an SR mission (“Reconnaissance and surveillance actions conducted as a special operation in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments to collect or verify information of strategic or operational significance, employing military capabilities not normally found in conventional forces. Also called SR”) does so as a covert or clandestine mission.

Red Wings, with its objective to neutralize a particular Taliban-allied militia element, could not have been a covert or clandestine operation, but the associated SR mission could have been. (It needn’t have been, perhaps).

There are obviously hazards to this and trade-offs. (Consider the signature of a helicopter, which are often used for convenience and time factors on infiltration). US SOF have done some great work by walking in, and by using other means of infiltration that do not have the visual and auditory signature of helicopters. Those means have their own limits. Any decent chopper pilot, for example, can set you down safe as houses on a mountain peak. (If his copter can hover OGE at that altitude, anyway). A parachute landing in mountainous terrain is much riskier (although there are means of mitigating some of the risks). And, of course, a helicopter can pick you back up. The AFSOF guys long had a capability to do that fixed-wing, but gave it up in 1996 over a throw-down with the Army over funding. Once you go out the door of the fixed-wing transport in flight, you’re committed to being on the ground for a while.

There are all kinds of interesting hybrids of overt, covert and clandestine operations possible. (Imagine a unit in position to do X, unaware that their real major function is to provide cover for an embedded element tasked with Y).

It is always complicated, costly, and exhausting to operate at the higher levels of deniability. So it’s often best to stay overt as much as possible.

Is it possible the lightly-armed SR team on Operation Red Wings was trying too hard to be clandestine or covert? Out of force of habit, or rigidity of template?

We have no way of knowing, but we’re pretty sure that the SEALs themselves have been discussing this a lot. (They had similar discussions after the Grenada and Paitilla Airfield operations, after all).

Bubba the Gunsmith™ “Improves” a 1911

Bubbas 45Welcome to the lastest installment in The Continuing Adventures of Bubba the Gunsmith ™. Please keep your hands, feet, and metal-cutting tools inside the ride at all times.

OK. We understand that there was a time when a 1911 was just a gun, they were two-for-a-case-of-beer-and-you-can-owe-me-the-beer, and all that. Still, every once in a while you see a weapon so violated and mutilated that its metal soul cries out for release. Like the puppies in ASPCA videos, it begs you to give it a forever home — even in a Bessemer Converter. Just to put it out of John M. Browning’s misery.

There’s an auction up on GB with a gun like that. It was someone’s brain-dead idea of a target gun. He started with a rare Colt M1911 (not A1), a gun produced only from 1911 to 1918, and then in small numbers until 1926. Then he added an el-cheapo, crudely machined aftermarket “Triangle” brand rear sight, a large front sight, and a tighter-fitting aftermarket barrel bushing. Someone — maybe Bubba, maybe one of the GIs or other owners whose clumsy hands it may have passed through over the last ninety-odd years — apparently used everything but the right size screwdriver (no kidding, Bubba, screwdrivers are not one-size-fits-all) to remove the grips.

Bubbas stipple jobIf he was done then, any actual gunsmith could have restored the 1911 to its original pre-Bubba configuration. But no, the .45’s grip frame needed that new, ultramodern “stippling” treatment. Which Bubba that applied with a chisel, an ice pick, or some other steel tool. In the sort of straight lines that he walks when Officer Friendly is making him do the sidewalk Olympics after he’s been hitting the ‘shine a little too hard. It’s like gun acne, but that’s a bad analogy, because acne is temporary. It’s more like Bubba has given this poor old .45 gun smallpox.

Smallpox, of course, is marked by its high mortality rate. Q.E.D.

It seeems highly likely that before he started that stipple job, Bubba proclaimed, “Y’all hold my beer, and watch this!”

The guys who are selling this firearm know what they have, and they’ve priced it accordingly: rock bottom for a genuine 1911. But it’s really a gunsmith special — for a gunsmith comfortable with welding, we’d think. Not that we want to give Bubba any ideas.

Bubbas 45 off plumbOh yeah. One more thing. That Bubbafied “target” front sight? Might be the perspective in the image, but it looks to us like it isn’t exactly square. Suggesting it might have been silver-soldered on after alignment by Mark I Eyeball, Bubba, One Each.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. At least, not in the messed-up, tossed-up, never-come-down world of Bubba The Gunsmith™.