Monthly Archives: October 2015

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Stairs

Marin mugshotThis was one demonically-possessed set of stairs. According to mom Kaitlyn (some documents say Katlyn) Marin (right, in mugshot), the stairs not only reared up and made her three-year-old daughter Brielle Gage tumble down them time and again, they also attacked Marin her ownself, twice. In an illustration of just how cruel and heartless the judicial system is, the murderous stairs walk free (uh, get walked on free?) whilst John Law has set upon the bereaved mom, just cause her little daughter’s dead.

Of blunt force trauma.

Not consistent with a fall (or falls) down stairs. So, the law does have that. 

Marin told police that Brielle was not feeling well on Nov. 24, and that when Brielle woke to use the bathroom, “she appeared to have a seizure where she fell down the flight of stairs,” court documents state.

Marin said she attempted to grab Brielle, however she also fell down the stairs. She told police she splashed water on the girl’s face and brought a futon into her daughter’s bedroom to monitor her for the night.

“According to Katlyn, she woke three or four times to check on Brielle, who was responsive,” court documents state. The following morning, Brielle was having trouble walking, and she again fell near the stairs, striking her head on the floor, Marin told police.

“Katlyn picked up Brielle to carry her downstairs, lost her footing and both she and Brielle fell down the stairs (again),” court records say. After the girl was unresponsive, Marin called 911.

Despite all this stair tumbling allegedly experienced by murderous mom and doomed kid alike, the kid had been pretty thoroughly tuned up, and the mom, as you can see from the mugshot, was pretty much unbruised.

Explains why defense attorneys want to suppress their child-killing client’s statements to police.

Dr. Thomas Andrew, the chief medical examiner who conducted the child’s autopsy, concluded that Brielle’s injuries were not consistent with falling down the stairs. He instead told police that they should be looking for a baseball bat or other object such as a door knob or dresser drawer knob.

via Nashua mom claims falls killed tot | New Hampshire.

In addition to the blunt force trauma that killed her, little Brielle had marks for durative abuse, including bruises to the chest consistent with punches, broken ribs and a finger, and “her ears had been manipulated so roughly that it caused bleeding to her scalp”.

Marin, an unemployed and idle professional welfare recipient, had been entangled with the state’s ineffectual child-welfare bureaucracy (is there an effectual one anywhere?), the DCYF. The Department had removed Brielle and her four half-siblings about a half-year before the murder, over previous charges of abuse, but returned the kids to their violent mother.

Court records showed the girl, along with her four brothers, were initially removed from Marin’s Nashua home in the spring of 2014 after allegations of child abuse first surfaced. But all of the children were eventually sent back home despite a pending second-degree assault charge pending against Marin for allegedly beating her 8-year-old son with a studded belt.

The Brielle Gage case has led to legislation which would restrict DCYF’s ability to dump kids back into abusive situations, absent a court determination that there is “no threat of imminent harm.”

The surviving kids were taken into DCYF custody again, finally — when Kaitlyn/Katlyn Marin was arrested for the murder of Brielle Gage.

Two Coming Auctions from Rock Island

We’re not affiliated with them in any way, except as a satisfied customer. But RIA has two auctions coming up that may be of interest to you. Even if you are not a buyer now, you can benefit greatly from the catalog photos and descriptions, and they can be highly entertaining reading.

Note that in our experience all auctioneers’ estimates on most lots are lowballs, designed to encourage bidders.

RIA Online Auction Friday 6 November

First things first: you can get your bids in now (and sign up, if you like, for Outbid Notification) for the nearly 900 lots in this upcoming auction. Of interest to our readers, perhaps, is this unusual piece of history, a Remington-made French Mle 1907/15 carbine.

Remington 1907-15

French weapons are under-loved by collectors. But this is a rare Remington foreign contract gun, a much rarer survivor than the Remington Mosin-Nagants which didn’t leave on schedule, which means it’s likely to sell well despite being in what might be called, uncharitably, beater condition. (Indeed, it has a crudely applied recoil pad, so it may not be a factory carbine at all, but a Bubba sporter. The sling swivel looks aftermarket, too). Still, it’s a century-old artifact that comes with several stories you can use it to tell — WWI production by “neutral” US for the Allies; Remington contract manufacturing; the loss of a generation of French youth in fruitless trench war, leading to mutiny in the short term and French enervation in the long. Or you could tell the story of the “sporterizers” that Bubbafied a generation of military rifles in the 1950s through the 70s. All these stories and more can be told with the prop on hand, one short rifle that would have its own story to tell, if only it could speak!

Perhaps less interesting to you, but remarkable to us, is a collection of derringers and small pistols including a knuckle-duster and a Remington-Eliot four barrel, and quite a few wall-hanger vintage and antique shotguns like this Parker Brothers Damascus-barreled 12-gauge:

Parker Brothers shotgunThat, hung over your mantel with your own BS story about how it was Great Uncle Ichabod’s, would instantly vault your stock higher with the upland hunters around here. Guns of this era are also interesting to study as examples of the gunsmith’s art in an era when most machinery ran from steam, water power, or the smith’s own muscle and sinew. Of course, this 1889-era antique is not safe to fire, but isn’t every home better for the incorporation of original art in its decor?

There are dozens and dozens of Winchesters, including this 1907 Police Rifle that just shouts, “Stop in the name of the Law!”

Winchester 1907 police rifleTake that, evildoers.

There’s also 14 Walther lots, 76 Colt lots, 12 Mauser pistols including 4 Broomhandles, a lot of three Mauser rifles (a WWI G.98, a WWII K.98, and a K.98 converted to a single-shot .22), and all kinds of other oddities and endities.

December 4-6 Premiere Auction

If the Rock Island online auctions are cool, the Premiere Auctions are absolute zero. It’s a bit mind-boggling. Want a rare Volcanic pistol? They’ve got two to choose from, of this incredibly historic firearm that is the nexus between the legendary names Winchester and Smith & Wesson. More of a long gun guy? They have a rare Volcanic detachable-stock carbine — but no, not exactly; they have consecutively numbered pair. (Alas, the stocks are missing from both).

There are over 400 Winchester lots, including many rare and unique pieces.

To parallel our statement about the online auction, the Premiere auction offers 29 Walther lots, including this rare-as-unicorn-ivory VG1 “last ditch” rifle:

Walther-coded VG1 rifle

….and a P-38 prototype, 830 Colt lots, 69 Mauser pistols including 7 Broomhandles, and all kinds of other oddities and endities, almost all of which are finer, rarer, or better provenanced than their online-auction counterparts.

The Rock Island Auction Blog is a great way to stay in touch with upcoming auctions, and they have great little historical articles.

OT: Happy Halloween from Hog Manor

Perhaps you want a Goblin Goblet? No, dummy. Take the candy. Leave the goblet. Thank you!


The Goblin Goblets started as a way to have a self-service, honor system Halloween decorated station. So that everyone else doesn’t have to be there when the kids dressed as frightening concepts like vampires, Sith lords, ghosts and President Trump show up.

1 Goblin Goblet = goodies for one kid, mostly chocolaty stuff, heavy on Hershey’s (disclaimer: we have a position in Hershey’s stock [NYSE: HSY], and we’ve taken a bath in it — the stock, not the chocolate). Kid dumps Goblet in goody bag, replaces Goblet on table, inverted. (We start with one inverted Goblet, and they automagically get the idea. We got it from the Doolittle Raiders, who did that with their own cups in a suitably Halloween-y bout of ghoulishness).

Goblin Goblets have turned out to be a fine holiday tradition, so long as one of the staff remembers to police up the upturned Goblets and reload them as necessary. We can interact with the little dears or not, as it amuses us to do so. The doorbell never rings (although Small Dog does usually detonate as the kids step onto the lawn). The kids, of course, love it, especially when we sic Small Dog on ’em.

We have lived in neighborhoods where we could not do this — especially not with silver goblets. (We think they’re just silver plate, actually. But the statement still applies).


A paranormal researcher has pointed out to us that a ghostly apparition can be seen in the lower left of the picture, and that Hog Manor is haunted. Small Dog says it’s only him, but what does he know? He’s a dog.


Someone Knows Who Killed This Man

He was, at the time of his death, a young man with a turbulent life and a place in the gun culture. We started to write about it at the time, almost three years ago, and then set this report aside, to finish when the case broke.

The case never broke. It’s still an open case today. But no one’s ever been fingered, charged, indicted, arrested. The authorities have said little. They certainly know more than they’re saying. But it seems unlikely that they know much more than they’re saying.


We first saw a blog report — we didn’t write down which blog, unfortunately — that said:

Keith Ratliff, the manager of FPS Russia, the 3rd most popular youtube channel was found dead yesterday, tied up to a chair and shot in the back of the head.

In retrospect, that seems to be asserting information that was not accurate. Subsequent stories have indicated that Ratliff was not tied up, and the police seem to have said only that he was shot in the head — not from which direction. They have never, as far as we know, publicly identified the firearm used to kill Ratliff. They have only said that it was not at the scene of the crime — even though other firearms were.

At the time, we were aware of FPS Russia. Ratliff, the dead man, was not the main actor you see in the videos, Kyle Myers, but was a business partner. From the first time we heard the guy open his mouth it was pretty clear that he was an American southerner ineptly faking a Russian accent. We never much liked their videos, which struck us as juvenile clowning with guns, but they have been extremely popular.

The FPS stands for First Person Shooter, and Myers started off playing violent video games, particularly the Call of Duty franchise. From there he developed interest in actual firearms, which he’d often deploy in the videos with more brio than skill.

Ratliff did appear onscreen in some videos, but was generally a behind-the-scenes player in the FPSRussia business.

Ratliff was found shot dead in the company offices in Carnesville, Georgia. The case is under investigation by the local Sheriff and the GBI. As far as we know the ATF has not actively assisted in the investigation; they have also investigated FPSRussia, but that was in a stretching attempt to find a way to charge the popular video channel’s personnel with Destructive Device violations for using Tannerite in videos.

Who killed Keith? Speculation runs the gamut. There have been conspiracy theories suggesting that this is some program of black-bag violence against pro-gun voices. You hear questions like: “why was he murdered mob style?” People blame his women,soured business counterparties, some creep who just hates FPSRussia. (We don’t care for the videos, but there’s no capital offense in ’em. They’re certainly popular, with millions of subscribers).

Why was he murdered “mob style”? Well, let’s wait and see if he was. An alternative theory or two suggests itself. First, it could have been suicide. The police are investigating a homicide, but they’ve never ruled suicide out. No gun on the scene? Someone tampered with the site, perhaps. Or it could have been an accident. We realize that suggesting that guys who have built a business around clowning around with guns might have had an accident is going to be seen as “out there” by all those people who grew up watching TV and expect every mystery to be resolved in time for the commercial break, ideally by pinning the murders on a CIA conspiracy. Again, the absence of the gun and the absence of any evidence of intrusion suggests to us not that it was done by the Silent Ninja Platoon of General Gaylord’s Homosexual Brigade (“Death from Behind!”), but more probably that someone authorized and expected to be there removed the firearm — and, possibly, used it to kill poor Ratliff.

Did the CIA do it? It’s pretty doubtful that anyone at CIA knew who these characters are, or in the case of Ratliff, were. Same goes for any other Federal agency.

This is a radio news report on the ID of what was originally a John Doe body. The information here from Franklin County, GA, Sheriff Stevie Thomas, seems credible. And Thomas is being very cautious.

That caution has continued. Almost no information has been released in the case. FPSRussia is back in production, but its soaring trajectory seems to have been adjusted downwards by the murder and the interruption in service that followed.

Here’s a video documentary — a short one — using the whole bag of 60 Minutes ambush interview tricks; most of the footage they got was edited out, and the whole thing, as presented,  is as inconclusive as the actual investigation has been.

We did get an impression of who the video producers think might be responsible. We weren’t impressed with their investigational skills, or their journalistic ethics. They will go far in the network environment.

The most interesting performance on the video comes when one of the other behind the scenes personnel from FPS Russia unloads on her interviewer. Yes, the press can make a bad situation worse for crime victims, and seldom fails to do do. “You’re doing this for entertainment,” she says, and it’s the most true and clear statement on the video.

Whoever killed Keith Ratliff seems to have understood the basics of How to Get Away With Murder:

  1. Give time for the grievance that motivates you to be forgotten by others.
  2. Whack somebody who has a bunch of potential whackers, so the cops fix on them and not you.
  3. Do it someplace remote, and don’t touch anything.
  4. Remove the murder weapon from the scene and dispose of it permanently.
  5. Don’t tell anybody. Not that you’re going to do it, or that you did it. If you come to take Vienna, take Vienna. And then shut up about it. Don’t tell anybody. Ever.

Murderers get caught because they strike in hot blood, leave a mountain of evidence, and, most of all, run their mouths. One thing we know about this murderer is hat he was smart enough not to do that, and so he’s free.

For now. But sometimes at nights, he hears the beating of wings. The wings are the angels of justice, and as long as that Georgia sheriff does not quit, they are coming for the killer, some day.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Principals.

Darwin fishNo, not “principles.” If they had principles, they probably wouldn’t be outlaws. No, we mean principals, the school-principal kind.

North Port High School Principal George Kenney admitted that he hypnotized 16-year-old Wesley McKinley a day before the teenager killed himself in April 2011.

A subsequent investigation found that Kenney hypnotized as many as 75 students, staff members and others from 2006 until McKinley’s death. One basketball player at the school said Kenney hypnotized him 30 to 40 times to improve his concentration.

The one-in-25 chance of winding up at ambient temperature if you were one of this guy’s hypnosis “patients” is a hell of a lot worse that the risk of unleashing concealed carriers in your jurisdiction or business, that’s for sure.

Among those who were hypnotized were 17-year-old Brittany Palumbo and 16-year-old Marcus Freeman. Palumbo killed herself in 2011. Freeman was in a fatal car crash after apparently self-hypnotizing, a technique Kenney taught the teenager, also in 2011.

via Florida school board reaches $600G settlement over principal who hypnotized students | Fox News.

We dunno. Hypnotized of not, killing yourself is one way to enter the Darwin Award stakes. Are people blaming the nearest available weirdo because their kids Planned Parenthooded themselves? As far as the kid who hypnotized himself prior to driving… we heard about a guy who was hypnotized by the lights in front of him on the Mulsanne Straight at about 180. Problem is the lights that hypnotized him were doing maybe 140. FOOM! He survived, but went on to provide pretty solid testimentary evidence that hypnosis and motoring are a bad mix.

What About SecDef Priorities?

prioriy_listA while back we were agog at the priorities of outgoing Secretary of the Army John McHugh. Since he’s just an Indian in that tribe, we assume some of that nonsense came from higher. We searched in vain for any listing of the Secretary of Defense’s priorities. Unlike McHugh, who boldly admitted his priorities were related only to “social justice” and not to preparing the national defense, SecDef Ashton Carter has not put anything down in writing. He did, however, give a speech shortly after his appointment, from which his priorities may be derived

Mr. Obama would be in need of “the best military support” as he makes tough decisions in the coming months.

It’s all about personal service to the Cult of Personality. We suppose that Carter has discovered now what everybody else in and out of DC has known for a while: the President is not interested in military advice, not from professionals, let alone from another zero-point-zero-zero-miles-under-rucksack politician. Like other famous personality-cult godheads in history, the President knows he’s a better general than his generals. The German acronym for it is Gröfaz. 

The new defense chief made the comments during an all-hands-on-deck meeting in the basement of the Pentagon two days after he was sworn into office. Mr. Carter is Mr. Obama’s fourth defense secretary and the second Pentagon chief to be tasked with destroying and defeating a violent extremist group known as the Islamic State.

Funny… that does not seem to have been something Carter prioritized, or even pays any attention to.

“It’s a rough world out there,” he said. “There’s a lot going on.”

One is reminded of Homer Simpson’s dictum: “Life is a bunch of stuff that just happens.” Emphasis in the next line is ours.

Mr. Carter briefly mentioned the barbaric acts taking place in the Middle East and “historical throwbacks in Europe” as his prime concerns.

whiteflagHistorical throwbacks? Does he mean the mohammedan invasion? Probably not. More likely, he’s referring to fear of a native European backlash. That’s his “historical throwback.” Or maybe he means Vladimir Vladimirovich’s saber rattling? That has been met on the US side solely with determination to raise the white flag higher. How’s that working out so far?

But as miserable as all that may seem, there are “tremendous, bright opportunities” on the horizon for the military and nation, Mr. Carter said.“We are not only the finest fighting force in the world, but I think we’re the brightest beacon of hope in the world,” he said. “If you want evidence of that, take a look at all the friends. … Our antagonists have none or few, and that’s a reflection of the fact that our values and our conduct and our leadership are followed.”

You mean, “friends” like the Iraqis and Afghans, our coin-op BFFs who have already, at least in the case of Iraq, discovered that the USA talks a good game but the Russians and Iranians come to play ball?

That force needs to be protected from financial woes and resource challenges tied to a congressional budget plan known as sequestration, Mr. Carter said. In order to achieve that goal, the Pentagon will have to “convincingly make the case” to the American public for the need to spend more on the military, he said. Sequestration must not be a threat to the Defense Department, Mr. Carter said.“That is unsafe. It’s dangerous. It’s wasteful and it’s unwise,” he said. “You’ll see me doing everything I can, everything a secretary of defense can do to try to bring our country together and get us out of the wilderness of sequester. We don’t belong there. That’s not what our people deserve. That’s not what this institution deserves.”

via Ashton Carter priorities as defense secretary include Pentagon funds, Obama advice – Washington Times.

OK, so that’s his priority, that’s his hill to die on. To fight against Congressionally-imposed budget cuts so that he can implement executive-preferred budget cuts instead.

At least he seems aware that (1) there are wars on that our guys are in, unlike McHugh, and (2) there is trouble on the high seas that we might get into, unlike Mabus. But for somebody that wants to be Secretary of Defense, that’s not exactly high-functioning. It’s more like a partial brain stem function. Most of his own Administration would write him off as a veg and euthanize him, on this basis, if he weren’t useful to them.

For what, we’re not entirely sure.

Printing, Scanning, Milling, Making: Oct 2015 Update

Today we have a roundup of things loosely connected to home gunsmithing and new technologies: what folks are printing, a well-deserved award for a free radical, an amazing bit of nonsense at a gun range, and general additive technology news including a reasonably-priced 3D scanner, reasonably priced modeling instruction, a power grab by the Librarian of Congress (what’s in the water in Washington?), a DIY (partly printed) rail gun, and desktop 5-axis CNC.

People are Printing…

FOSSCAD Hermes lower w Suppressor 3

That’s a FOSSCAD Hermes lower, assembled into a very nice AR with an equally home-grown (although not 3D-printed) suppressor with a stainless-steel core and titanium alloy tube. Homegrown, but decidedly not low tech.

Ah, but can it shoot?

FOSSCAD Hermes lower w Suppressor 2So far so good. 250 rounds downrange.

How about some practical accessories? A lot of 3D-printing gunnies start with grips. Here are a couple with a twist.

MOE punisher gripThe Punisher! A bit gaudy for our taste, but de gustibus non disputandum est, eh? It’s interesting how the layers of 3D printing (set up for a pretty coarse, therefore rapid, print) resemble wood grain.

MOE gtip printed in laywood

This one’s an MOE styled grip printed in Laywood material — filament containing actual wood fibers. It feels “wooden.” It looks different. The next is probably one of the most practical simple prints a beginner can do (although the files are not released yet).

Keymod hand stop

It’s a hand stop for a Keymod handguard/rail system.

The next print is something you hope you don’t need… because it means your state went Full Retard. It’s a mag coupler for joining two 10-round magazine base to base, for a legal flip-to-reload 2 x 10 round unit. If you’re stuck in Cuomostan…

NY legal magazine coupler

Here it is in place, in a ban-state AR. (On, naturally, a ban-state legal AR). Is there nothing the AR cannot do? Well, there are many things it can do, including making ban-happy politicians’ brain waves go nonlinear.

NY legal 2 x 10 magazine w couplers


Bill of Rights Award for Cody Wilson

From the Citizen’s Committee fpr the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and the 2nd Amendment Foundation.  Wilson’s reply:

Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse

But some Jobsworth at his local range managed to eject 3D-printed firearms enthusiast ArmaDelite for not violating the Undetectable Firearms Act, anyway. He responded, with the text of the law.


Meanwhile, we have found a use for the officials and workers of the Transportation Security Administration, who worry about undetectable firearms while their mouth-breathing “security officers” miss detectable firearms in tests. (Not all of them… they just miss 95% of them). We’ve discovered that they’re useful for checking if the floor is level: they drool out of both corners of their mouths!

Smartphone Hosted 3D Scanner

It wouldn’t be a 3D roundup without something on Kickstarter, and this time, it’s this wazoo new 3D Scanner from Australia, mate, that attaches to your smartphone, and exploit’s the phones chipset and I/O.

The Eora 3D Scanner doesn’t have a lot of applications we can see to weapons work, not even to reverse engineering (although its claimed specs are better than any other consumer priced 3d scanner). It’s just pretty neat technology. Check out the bluetooth-connected turntable. It’s also interesting how they’re manufacturing it, from precision-machined 6061 extrusions. Who has some good ideas on how to apply it?

Want to learn to model?

We missed out on this when it was on Kickstarter, but HoneyPoint3D has an excellent course of tutorials that work with Autodesk’s free (as in beer) Meshmixer software.

They also have a two-hour overview of 3D printing for $20.

Is it Against The Law to use Your Own Filament?

Another office that wants to regulate 3D printing, the Librarian of Congress (who died and made her Queen?), says: it depends. A recent opinion caused by Stratasys’s desire to not only lock people into its overpriced, underperforming filaments, but to control what they print with Stratasys (or Makerbot) printers, says resoundingly that if you own the printer, you can put your own filament in it.

That is, unless you want to print something that might be regulated, somewhere. You know, like gun parts — which Stratasys, all-in for gun control, doesn’t want you to print.

Yes, this is totally irrational, not to mention borderline National Socialism, but you say that like it’s a bad thing. Stratasys and Makerbot execs, not to mention DC bureaucrats, think having control of your prototyping is a good thing. Because they’re not like the little people.


Michael Weinberg has tried to make sense out of this ruling. If he hasn’t succeeded, it may be because thee just isn’t a lot of sense there to be had.

Plasma DIY Railgun

This homebuilt railgun was in the news recently. Make Magazine has a nice run-down on it and its creator. He had to solve all the same problems that big aerospace and defense prime contractors who have worked with this tech have done, but he did it on a beer budget. The inventor, David Wirth, is a bit diffident about the whole “gun” thing, but his ambition is notable, even if his idea of range safety is a bit on the weak side. The unstable projectiles dissipate their energy very rapidly, fortunately.


It looks like Wirth, a UCLA MS/BS in Aerospace Engineering, is moving on (to metal 3D printing) after demonstrating proof of concept. “I love the feeling you get when you’re the first person to do something,” he confessed to Make’s Gareth Branwyn.

His gun, the Wirth Experimental Portable Railgun Version 1 (there probably won’t be a 2) uses two machined rails and a very high voltage from an array of high-voltage capacitors to fire small, unstabilized conductive projectiles.

This latest video — posted a couple days ago — has so many failed attempts to launch a teflon (PTFE polypropylene) slug (with a conductive, sacrificial copper ring that’s supposed to form plasma) that the experimental nature of the project is never in doubt.

If you watch all the videos, you can see that many of the components are 3D printed. Previous tests of the railgun have fired various projectiles — and temporarily fried the Arduino control board with electromagnetic pulse. (It recovered, suggesting our homemade gadgets will survive the attack of Skynet).

5-Axis Desktop CNC

Here’s a post that promises a 5-axis CNC for $5k. We investigated at the machine’s actual website and its Kickstarter page, and we found (1) like Cody Wilson and DefCAD, they found CNC to be less than a slam dunk, and (2) unlike the GhostGunner, this is going to be really limited in size, power and rigidity. If you have parts to make of aluminum that are smaller than about four inches in any dimension, this tool might work for you, or just as a way to learn multiaxial CNC.

The V8 block is an impressive demonstration of the unit's capabilities. It's also about the size of your big toe.

The V8 block is an impressive demonstration of the unit’s capabilities. It’s also about the size of your big toe.

It’s interesting that the parts for these little CNCs ate made on honking big CNCs, so the knowledge transfer initially went the other way!

Thinking about it overnight, we woke to the realization that the sweet spot for this thing might not be in cutting jewel-like aluminum pieces at all, but in making wax patterns for investment-cast short-run parts or prototypes. We still like 3DP better as a production way of doing that — 3D Systems makes a printer especially printing wax, and Pinetree (one of Ruger’s casting subsidiaries, or some similar corporate relationship) installed at least two of them last year.

Correction & Update

Correction: Due to an editing error, the end of the last sentence was cut off originally. It has been restored.

Update: in the light of Tam’s comments below, this short video, received just today from, makers of the 1-meter-square-by-50-cm-high-build area 3DP1000, seems to be on target.


Ave atque Vale: Flying Avro Vulcan

Even the name was over the hill: Avro, the company named for dawn-of-flight founder A.V. Roe, went the way of one firm after another: merged into a soulless, nationalized conglomerate in a series of Socialist-policy forced consolidations of the British aircraft industry. In the end, they wound up sending British aero engineering talent to Canada, and Canadian bungling (with the Canadian Avro company front and center) banked them off and down to the United States, where they were critical to the success of Apollo. The Avro Vulcan was the last of the line that began with spindly triplanes of bamboo and muslin and that rained terror and death from the night skies over Germany.

Last touchdown of the last Vulcan. Ave atque vale!

Last touchdown of the last Vulcan. Ave atque vale!

“If a single bomber gets through,” boasted Hermann Göring, today dismissed as a buffoon but a leading World War I ace, “you can call me Meier!” And a single bomber didn’t get through, but hundreds, and then a thousand — Handley-Pages and Vickers and, chief among them, Avros, every night the weather enabled flying, and some nights it really didn’t, and by day the Americans gave the repair crews and fire brigades no rest.

In the late 1940s, Britain was a nuclear power, and it had one of the world’s most powerful navies and a first-class air force. The British nuclear deterrent originally comprised a fleet of bombers, and for this purpose, three new airframes were designed, the “V-bombers,” the name redolent of V-E Day and referring to the plane’s names. Three airframes were chosen because the performance demands were so high that some of the engineering teams were taking great risks. One jet was a very conservative design (the Vickers Valiant), in case of failure of the two using radical wing planforms: the sickle-shaped “crescent wing” Handley Page Victor and the delta-winged Avro Vulcan. All three planes succeeded, but the performance of the Victor and Vulcan ensured a short life for the Valiant.

A Vulcan, as they initially flew. This is a different serial.

Vulcan VX770 was the prototype Vulcan Mk 1 and was nearly a textbook-true delta wing. It was destroyed in an airshow crash in 1958. Early Vulcans were painted gloss “anti-flash” white in anticipation of a nuclear bombing role.

The Vulcan would serve 30 years; unlike the Victor, it was adaptable to a low-level conventional bombing mission, thanks to the excessive strength of its thick wings (the Victors were converted to the tanker role and had nearly as long a career).

XH558 showing off its bomb bay and the later "kinked and drooped" wing of the B.2 variant.

XH558 showing off its bomb bay and the later “kinked and drooped” wing of the B.2 variant.

As a nuclear bomber, the Vulcan never saw combat, but in the twilight of its service two Vulcans conducted raids on the Port Stanley airfield that closed the field to modern jets. At the time, they were the longest bombing raids in world history. (they were refueled, in part, by Victors).

Then, the jets retired and the roar of their loud, inefficient turbojets was heard no more. Britain’s nuclear deterrent was under the sea, in submarines. (Land-based ballistic missile designs all went the way of most post-war British defense inventions: budgetary cancellation). Nap-of-the-earth raids could be delivered by Typhoons.

But you can’t keep a good jet down — as long as there are three critical resources: trained pilots to fly it, experienced mechanics to fix it, and parts, or producers willing to make them. And, buoyed by funds from the National Lottery and thousands of small donors, and organized by a special charitable trust established for the purpose, the Vulcan returned, first to taxi (a peculiarly British way of displaying vintage aircraft with reduced risk) and then, triumphantly, to the air. (Indeed, two other Vulcans conduct taxi runs in the summer, XL426 and XM655).

Alas, one of those critical resources is running out and Vulcan XH558 is shown, here, landing for the last time.

Organisers had kept details of the final flight secret until the last minute over fears that dangerously large crowds would throng the airport for one last chance to see the aircraft.
A final nationwide tour held earlier this month was nearly cancelled over police concerns an influx of thousands of enthusiasts turning up at once would effectively shut down the small airport.

Hundreds of thousands are believed to have glimpsed Vulcan XH558 as it spent two days doing flypasts around the country a fortnight ago.

Martin Withers, who led the 1982 Vulcan raids on the Falklands, was the pilot for the final flight.

As he prepared, he said: “Everyone asks me what is so special about this aircraft and why people love it. Really the people who fly it are the wrong people to ask. It’s such a combination of grace and beauty of just seeing this thing fly.”

“Just to see it fly along, it’s so graceful. And then that combines with the sense of power and manoeuvrability you’ve got with this aircraft and the vibrations it makes. It just seems to turn people on emotionally, they really love it.”

Former pilot Angus Laird added: “I think it’s very, very sad but we all come to a time when we stop flying. She’s an old lady now and she’s stopped at the height of her popularity, which I think is brilliant.”

via Video: Vulcan bomber touches down forever after final flight – Telegraph.

The resource that ran out wasn’t guys like Martin and Angus, who could have readily transmitted their skills and tribal knowledge to a new generation of pilots. (After all, the Shuttleworth Collection flies an Avro Triplane from circa 1909). The problem was the greying of the cadre of maintainers. These unsung “erks,” (aircraftsmen, the bottom rung of mechanic in the RAF), the “fitters” and “riggers” in British terms (powerplant and airframe mechanics respectively, in American), are the last repository of a vast corpus of tribal knowledge, call it Vulcana, perhaps, or Vulcanology. As each one passes away or becomes too infirm to work on this old dowager, vital links in the neural network of Vulcan lore and expertise disappear forever.

Nobody thought it was dangerous to fly XH558 now — well, no more dangerous than flying any other jet warplane approaching a human’s retirement age. But there was a consensus that flying her was going to get more hazardous soon. 

The roar isn’t still, though — not yet. Next year’s airshow season, she’ll be doing high-speed taxiing at her home base. And XL426 and XM655 will be taxiing again next year, too.

Pity no one thought of doing this with the B-47, B-58, or the FB-111.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Knives

Isobel Zuluaga, 44, victim

Isobel Zuluaga, 44, victim. (Possibly an old photo).

This sad and cautionary tale from last month begins with a cop’s grim assessment:

“The fact that there was no remorse shown that we could see, it’s just an extremely unusual incident,” Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis said in a news conference Thursday broadcast by TV Station WIST. “I don’t have a good grasp of what he was thinking, why he did it and so forth. That would be pure speculation at this point.”

Geez, what did he do?

The child stabbed the mother with a long blade knife at 9 p.m. Monday and then told police he went to sleep.

Yeah, we always turn in after a job well done, ourselves, too.

He was awakened the next morning by a contractor who was hired to do some work on the house in Simpsonville, Loftis said.

“When the contractor came it startled him because apparently he did not realize a contractor was coming,” the sheriff said. “So he went under the crawl space to hide because he did not know who was knocking at the door.”

But the worker found the boy and told him to leave so he could get started on his work. But then he noticed blood dripping from above, went inside the house and discovered the dead body of 44-year-old Isabel Cristina Zuluaga.

via S.C. boy, 13, killed mother, then went to bed: cops – NY Daily News.

Stabby Boy was 13. The cops found him and he immediately confessed. Physical evidence in the blood-soaked house confirms him as the doer. He was an A student with a clean disciplinary record (well, before the murder); nobody seems to have a clue why he did it.

Bat guano crazy is as good an explanation as anything.

The victim suffered multiple injuries and died from stab wounds to the torso, reports TV Station FOX Carolina.

The kid was about the same size and weight as his much older mother, and although she seems to have been fit, he was much stronger. One oft-denied aspect of sexual dimorphism in Homo sapiens sapiens. (Which is, it seems, about two “sapiens” too many for this crumb).

Ms Zuluaga was found with defensive wounds on her arms — not at all unusual, more like routine, in knife homicides. These wounds tell the tale of a desperate and doomed fight for life. The words “fight for life” are used, these days, much more frequently in a figurative than a literal sense. But for Isabel Zuluaga, it was a literal fight for life.

It’s not good when you lose a fight for life.

A US Department of Defense spokeswoman said that this is all mistaken, and she kicked his ass, because the SecDef said so. “You go, girl.”

More Depth: TD Accident Fatalities

Thanks to more news stories and an informative email from a frequent commenter, we have more information on the individuals who lost their lives and the circumstances of the accident. The two men fatally injured were Steve Preston, 51, the owner of the tank and a Board member and Convention Chairman for the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, and Austin Lee, 22, a friend (or relative?) of Preston’s. Both were residents of Oregon CIty, OR; Preston owned Sergeants Towing in Portland.


As we noted, the vehicle was an M18 Gun Motor Carriage (tank destroyer). Preston bought the TD in Denver in 1999 and enjoyed displaying it — at car shows (“It’s a 1944 Buick!” he would say, parking it in the appropriate area) or for charity fund-raisers. He painted his wife’s name — Rachel — on the vehicle’s flank.

prestons vehicle name oregonianThe vehicle served in World War II for the US and had wound up back in the US after being surplused by the Yugoslavian Army. Preston, a school-trained mechanic as well as a pilot and philanthropist, also owned a DUKW amphibious truck, and, reportedly, an M5A1 Stuart light tank. He had owned a firearms dealership.

He old the Portland Oregonian once:

“The craziest thing I’ve ever done with it? At a car show in Portland, I showed up early and towed a 1984 Camaro with no engine in it into the middle of the grounds. Soon there were hundreds of cars there, and I had the announcer say: ‘Would whoever owns the 1984 Camaro, please move it, or we’re going to have it towed away.’ Of course, nobody moved it. With everyone watching, I fired up the tank destroyer and crushed that Camaro. The crowds loved it.”

Steve Preston in his M18's gunner's seat (Portland Oregonian).

Steve Preston in his M18’s gunner’s seat (Portland Oregonian).

For all his love of military vehicles, Preston never served in the military. He did take special pride in showing his vehicles to vets who had used similar machines, and giving them a chance to drive their old mounts again.

The other victim, Austin Lee, was an avid World War II buff who’d become fascinated by the great war as early as age 6 or 7.  He was a professional restorer of World War II vehicles, weapons, and equipment.

The two were firing live 76mm rounds for a film crew, making a film for an interactive exhibit. How the round exploded — if that’s what it did — inside the Hellcat’s open turret is under investigation. As the accident happened on the range of the Central Oregon Shooting Sports Association in unincorporated territory, the investigation will be led by the county Sheriff, L. Shane Nelson. ATF and Oregon State Police have provided investigative assistance.

An emergency call was made immediately. First responders found the victims in the turret; some stories say they still had minimal signs of life, but they were pronounced at the scene.

There has been no indication of whether they were firing continuously (which seems unlikely) or responding to a misfire at the time of the mishap. Overheating (cook-off) or a premature or mis-run misfire drill can produce out-of-battery firing, very bad news in an armored vehicle’s main gun. Mechanical failure can’t be ruled out, also: the gun was 71 years old, which shouldn’t matter much with a steel gun, but the ammunition may have been past its use-by date.

In the long run, this mishap may have consequences for every member of the small community that live-fires vintage Destructive Devices. In the short run, it is a tragedy for the families concerned, including Austin Lee’s parents and Steve Preston’s wife and two kids. May they find comfort, and may the accident victims find rest in peace.


The (Portland) Oregonian has especially good coverage:

The Wall Street Journal did a photo essay last month:

Additional media coverage:

Personal media: